We couldn’t be happier to tell you about four absolutely fabulous new books on spiritual formation. I will review them more thoroughly over at the monthly column—I’m reading and writing as fast as I can—but had to at least announce them now. They’ve each been in the shop just a few days (although I had an excerpt of one for quite a while.) I realize the goofy irony of reading books like this quickly, but that’s my occupational hazard. Should you choose to buy them, you may want to rush, too, to get to ’em, but please don’t. This is rich, good sapience and deserves to be read with care.
Firstly, I was truly touched, found great enjoyment and learned quite a bit from the brand new Brian McLaren book called Finding Our Way: The Return of the Ancient Practices (Nelson; $17.99), the first in the new “Ancient Practices”Â series released by Thomas Nelson publishers. Over the next few years eight books will be released—-from authors as diverse as Dan Allender and Phyllis Tickle, Scot McKnight and Nora Gallagher, and I am sure they will be wise and helpful and inspiring. Each will explore a particular ancient practice, and Brian’s book is the first to set the agenda for the others. What a nicely done, conversational, insightful call to recapture true spirituality in this age of disorientation. It was the most pleasant and interesting book on spirituality I’ve read in a long time. Not as intense as some, nor as mystical, it made these grand, complex matters very attractive and placed them not only in historical context, but in ordinary 21st century life. It did just what it should as an introduction to this series. More later!
The second book in this series, the first after Brian’s overview, arrived also, and it is graciously written, a charming introduction to the practice of fixed hour prayers. Who better to share the history and benefits of this classic custom of “praying the divine office”Â than Robert Benson, who gives us In Constant Prayer (Nelson; $17.99.) Phyllis T writes a wonderfully little preface, and his first chapter or so has already won me over to reading about this practice that I (truth be told) I have little inclination to pursue. I will explain more of the book’s charm and the significance of the “Ancient Practices” series in the full review, soon.
A very long-awaited book has finally arrived this week, a book that some of us have been awaiting for a year or so, Life With God (HarperOne; $24.95) by none other than Richard Foster. What a great book this will be, by the man who in many ways helped start the renaissance of contemplative spirituality in this generation. Here, he offers his writing on how to read the Bible for spiritual transformation. I will have more to say about this one, too, in the monthly column (soon.) For now, just now that this has the sorts of blurbs on the back that you’d expect, from across the range of the church: J.I. Packer and Walter Brueggemann, David Neff and Lauren Winner. Willimon calls is “radiant”Â and Publishers Weekly reminds us that it is a “deep reflective guide to spiritual rumination and growth.”Â
Leighton Ford is a well-respected evangelist, a Presbyterian leader and solid author. Here, though, he has turned in the book of his illustrious career, a book about the deep spiritual habit of paying attention. The Attentive Life: Discerning God’s Presence in All Things (IVP; $18) is not just about paying more attention to the voice of God–although it is—but it is a profound exploration of Benedictine spirituality, vocation, discipleship, and, yes, aging— living into the seasons of life with grace and Godliness. Luci Shaw calls it “a primer in how to respond actively to Jesus’ challenge: Behold! Look! Listen! Take notice!”Â John Ortberg says he was “both pierced and healed by longing in the reading.”Â Here is a great little interview, with Ford sharing the way in which praying the daily offices–and using these “hours” as a metaphor for the stages of faith development–has helped him in this new phase of life. It is short, but really lovely (especially if you are a dog lover!) Check it out.
any two (or more)
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