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Spiritual Rhythm: Being with Jesus Every Season of Your Soul Hardcover – August 29, 2010
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“This is a delightful work that shows us how to claim each and every season of the soul as a rich opportunity for spiritual growth and a life-changing encounter with God.” -- Ruth Haley Barton
“Reading Spiritual Rhythm, I found myself feeling like the fortunate friend of a wise guide. . . . Through these pages, I felt heard and understood, and I was met with encouragement, grace, and guidance for my season of the soul. Be prepared to connect---deeply!” -- Mindy Caliguire
From the Back Cover
'Abide in me,' Jesus tells us, 'and you will bear much fruit.' Yet too often we forget that fruit needs different seasons in order to grow. We measure our spiritual maturity by how much we do rather than how we are responding to our current spiritual season.In Spiritual Rhythm, Mark Buchanan replaces our spirituality of busyness with a spirituality of abiding. Sometimes we are busy, sometimes still, sometimes pushing with all we've got, sometimes waiting. This model of the spiritual life measures and produces growth by asking: Are we living in rhythm with the season we are in? With the lyrical writing for which he is known, Mark invites us to respond to every season of the heart, whether we are flourishing and fruitful, stark and dismal, or cool and windy. In comparing spiritual rhythms to the seasons of the year, he shows us what to expect from each season and how embracing the seasons causes our spiritual lives to prosper. As he draws on the powerful words of Scripture, Mark explores what activities are suitable or necessary in each season---and what activities are useless or even harmful in that season.Throughout the book, Mark weaves together stories of young and old, men and women, families, couples, and individuals who are in or have been through a particular season of the heart. As Mark writes, 'I pray that this book meets you in whatever season you're in, and prepares you for whatever seasons await. I pray that it helps you find your voice, your stride, your rhythm, in season or out. Mostly, I pray that you, with or without my help, find Christ wherever you are. And that, even more, you discover that wherever you are, he's found you.'
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The 21st century, it seems to me, has spawned a broad demographic of readers who are too easily satisfied by books of insubstantial content. As an avid reader (and writer), I mean this not as a slight but as an observation. This is not the case with Spiritual Rhythm. The author unequivocally sticks to his inclination and gifting as a seasoned storyteller, thus garnering a readership marked by literary competence, creative appetite, and poetic impulse. People who enjoy being mentally, emotionally, and spiritually challenged will find this work illuminating.
Rarely have I found spiritual insights deciphered with such clarity and creativity. The author takes age-old biblical encounters and draws deep conclusions (or at least offerings) that I had never before considered. In his introduction, he states: "This book is about four distinct seasons—not in the natural world but within us. It explores the cycles in our hearts that, like the axial turnings of earth, mark out seasonal rhythms in our lives: flourishing and fruitful, stark and dismal, cool and windy, or everything coming up new.” The content of his work was to me both timely and inspiring.
A book like this is not meant to be read in a week (as I did if only to complete a goal of reading 52 books in a year’s time). There’s too much introspection to be had, too many emotions evoked. The message of the book bursts with rays from warm Spring sun after a long winter and elicits a prolonged response, one that traverses the seasons of the soul. At times, while reading, I simply had to pause for a moment, to take it all in, to consider the depth of this powerful yet simple message: seasons come and seasons go, each season calling the heart to respond in some certain way. We can neither change the season nor time-travel to another. But there are things we can do to respond accordingly in each season. Some have said that "this is actually two books in one." I do not find this to be true. Instead, I find that part two serves to empower part one. Part two grows the foundational message of part one with thicker, bushier truth and introspective thought, harvesting deeper truths that the reader may have missed.
I highlighted a large portion of this book yellow. The verbose creativity that the author is typically known for again challenges and inspires. It makes me a better thinker, and hopefully a better writer as well. I like to think that I have a broad vocabulary matched with some tinge of creative expression. The author makes me question this claim. No, more than that. Rather, he invites me to higher plains and elevates my creativity through his effortless storytelling ability.
Every chapter, as is the author’s trademark, ends with a statement, thought, or anecdote that inspires and causes one to pause and linger for a time. Woven throughout the entirety of this book, and especially in each chapter’s final conclusion or encouragement, I find beautiful language, provoking encouragement, and glorious revelation. The author is a discerning storyteller, an inventive poet, a true wordsmith.
Initially, I experienced a tinge of frustration, partially because the author illuminates places inside me where light has long been withheld. But frustration gave way to motivation because I too pine to pen many a rumination with similar masterful poetic capability. Upon deeper reflection, the positive impact that this book has generated upon my soul is poignant. Everywhere I go, everything I do, I am looking, observing, pondering—like the men of Issachar—for the times and seasons. I find that there is something to be had here, right now—and correspondingly not long from now—of the Kingdom of God. Its advent is as imminent as it is bone-shaking, tree-bending, root shaking. After reading this book, I think on the Kingdom of God more often, considering the biggerness of the King and His intents. "The kingdom shines through the mundane and the quotidian. The everlasting flits at the edges of the everyday.” I ponder the fruit of my life, how it germinates, buds, bursts forth, and the longevity it might possess. “…if Jesus wants us both to bear much fruit and to pursue the kingdom of God first—if to do one is, indeed, to do the other, and vice versa—then one of the best shifts we could make in our churches is to dismantle the model of spirituality that equates busyness with faithfulness and replace it with the simple idea that fruit alone denotes faithfulness, and fruit requires seasons.” I have been deeply impacted by this book and am grateful for the author’s insights into the seasons, and the rhythms they stimulate.
10 POINT RATING
I give Spiritual Rhythm a 10.
I must admit, my praise is somewhat biased. Like the author, I am a pastor. Like the the author, I love words. Like the author, I am on a journey with Jesus, in and out of seasons, constantly reflecting on the state of my soul. This book helped.
I found several aspects of Spiritual Rhythm refreshing.
+ The author wrote openly and honestly. He shared his own griefs and struggles as a pastor and Christ-follower. He painted a clear picture of life in scenic Canada. He referred regularly to the death of a dear friend that left a strong imprint on him and his wife. Finally, he debunked the myth that Christian spirituality is a steady climb to greater faith. No: Christians go up and down, hot and cold, in season and out, and not always in sequence.
+ The author employed a clever device - the "Time In" - to invite his readers into further reflection on a given topic. I am not sure how the "Time In" was designed in the print copy, but in the Kindle Reader, the hyperlink was easy to use (and ignore). The "Time In" forced me to slow down, curbing my naturally tendency to read one book as a hurdle to the next.
+ The author gave practical advice. In addition to the "Time In" where he encouraged moments of gratitude and repentance, Buchanan returned to the tried and true spiritual disciplines (deliciously called "Beers" after the Hebrew word for well) of Word, Prayer, Sabbath, Fellowship. Perhaps the most challenging model he provided was his efforts in Scripture memorization. While verse memory is not for every season (there is neither the time or attention), planting large sections of God's word in our hearts can sustain us through dry and trying moments.
The author neither dragged out his message or drew it to a close too soon. The short chapters provided opportunity for reflection or continuation. The structure - Part 1: Spiritual Seasons (two chapters for each season); Part 2 - Spiritual Rhythms -- is handy for referencing or bouncing around, if the reader does not want to take a linear approach (the author gives permission for this). Full disclosure, I enjoyed Part 1 (Seasons) more than Part 2 (Rhythms).
Overall, I may have I left the pages of Spiritual Rhythm thinking more about Mark Buchanan than Jesus, the Man of Every Season. This, however, is not a flaw of the author and his craft, but this reader and his search for good Christian authors. Eureka. I have found one.