Finding Our Way: a book review, not a cartography course

Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Ancient Christian practices are so hot right now.

That might not be true.

It might very well be true, I just have nothing to confirm or deny it. There seems to be a trend towards "rediscovering" the way church was done in the past as in ancient practices, but I have nothing to back that up but a hunch and what I've heard on the internet.

When I saw the title for Brian McLaren's book "Finding Our Way Again: the return of the ancient practices" I got really excited.

I picked it up expecting it to be filled with wonderful things I dreamed I would try: practices that would align my daily life in 2011 with the lives of saints of old.

It wasn't everything that I expected.

I was expecting to read about how I can more practically incorporate those ancient practices into my daily life. I was expecting a breakdown--more than that, a list--of practices, and a simple 1, 2, 3 step approach for beginning them.

McLaren didn't deliver. Well, to be fair, it wasn't his intention to deliver those things. This book stands as an introduction to a series of books. The subsequent volumes, written by other authors, will share more of what I thought I wanted. This introductory volume seems to exist to lay the framework for why us, the readers, should care about spiritual practices.

I say that I thought I wanted the expectation highlighted above. I came to realize as I read, that I was getting something better, and something more in line with what I needed.

McLaren highlights four reasons for writting this book (found on page 201 of my copy), and I hope I'm not giving anything away here: "First. spiritual practices help develop character, the kind of character we see in Saint Francis standing as a man of peace before the sultan. Second, they help us be awake and alive and more fully human, as this singer of songs, lover of birds, embracer of lepers, and carrier of joy so clearly was. Third, they help us experience God, or as we have said more recently, they help us join God so that we glow with Francis like holy embers radiant with the fire of God."

And there is a fourth:


More specifically, McLaren is pointing readers to an understanding that despite many differences between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, there are similarities in both ancestry (Father Abraham) and spiritual practice (such as fixed hour prayer) among others.

His desire is that we, meaning the adherents of the three faiths, would give more consideration to these similarities, and less to the differences. While we might all have very different opinions of Jesus, we need to "pursue the ancient way in which we learn to practice peace, joy, self-mastery and justice: because the future of the world depends on people like you and me finding it and living it and inviting other to join us."

I understand that some people have strong opinions of Brian McLaren. This is the first book, of his that I've read. There were parts I didn't agree with, but there was much I did. And more than that, much of what I read challenged my thinking.

I got from this book, not what I expected, but instead what I needed. I have a greater understanding of how life today can connect with the ancient practices of old. I'd say that chapters 15 through 19 were worth every bit of time put into the book. While the whole book is well worth reading, I'd recommend it to other just for those five chapters alone.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255