on March 10, 2011
Just finishing up my pre-release copy of Brian McLaren's upcoming book. " Naked Spirituality." I first have to say I was caught a little off guard by this book. I know Brian was working on a new project right after, " A New Kind of Christianity " came to life. So many of his books over the last decade have challenged us to think deeper theologically, and stretched us beyond our doors in terms of orthopraxy. After ANKoC which stretched the evangelical theological conversation to the breaking point, I thought maybe he would have upped the ante and thrown in his poker chips with 10 even more profound questions. But, I guess not. Brian seems content to let everyone look at the theological cards they are holding, and wait and see whose going to pick new cards, and who might fold.
So Brian engages us in the pursuit of spiritual practice. This from a guy that always seems to have a working manuscript for a new book with in arms reach. A guy that you almost need to be constantly monitoring with a GPS to actually pin-point where he is on the globe. And also the gravitational force from emerging/missional conferences seems to pull Brian into everyone that pops up. So, I'm think when does this guy have to time to practice any ritual...especially something spiritual.
It soon becomes very apparent that my preconception of what spiritual practice is and isn't...is very different from what Brian has in mind. This is an " everyday " spirituality. I can't help put think of Eugene Peterson's interpretation in Romans 12 ;
So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life'your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life'and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Some how I think Brian McLarens, Naked Spirituality is found in the simplicity of everyday life. I think to0 often we're looking for the Shazam! Spiritual experience...the Saul to Paul trip. Somehow we might be walking down the exotic food section of the local supermarket. And suddenly something catches our eye on the lower shelf. We reach and touch...the can explodes like a flash bulb and were blinded. Strangers whisk us out of the store, throw us in a van, taking us to a hide-way...a cabin, on a mist filled mountain top. After three days someone lays hands on us, we see again...but, we are not who we once were.
" Naked Spirituality " is not Shazam spirituality. It is not spirituality for the religious elite. It is not destination spirituality, where you need to spend years in a monastery. And foremost, " Naked Spirituality " is not confined to the restraints of anyone religion. It is the simplicity of " everyday ", for everyone.
Brian opens the book with his first spiritual experience. You're probably rubbing your hands together thinking this is going to be powerful. I mean this from the guy who is hailed as one of America's 25 most influential evangelicals. It's really not much different than Elijah expecting to hear God's voice in the earthquake, the hurricane, or the fire...but finally hearing it in the whisper of the wind. Brian is consumed by the God of all creation in the expanse star light of a summer night. It is what Brian calls the " Here ", of the moment in which awakens to spirituality.
In the profound redemptive beautiful mystery of " Here ", of " us " here...and " God " here, Brian McLarens Naked Spirituality unfolds. It does not unfold like a spread-sheet. It does not unfold like a program...or a mathematical spiritual formula to be solved and repeated. It unfolds as creation, as the days, as the years unfold. Naked Spirituality unfolds like the profound mystery of the seasons. In seasons there is a continuity, distinct identifying characteristics. But there are also those unexpected anomalies...when winter storm crashes into a beautiful fall day. This is the reality of Naked Spirituality...that it can take by surprise, and often does.
Brian McLaren's Naked Spirituality takes on a journey through 4 seasons: Simplicity, The Season of Spiritual Awakening; Complexity, The Season of Spiritual Strengthening; Perplexity, The Season of Spiritual Surviving; and Harmony, The Season of Spiritual Deepening.
Just as each season in nature captures it's own environment that shapes us and our surroundings. So do the seasons of Naked Spirituality. We must capture " all " the each season has to offer. We must allow it to shape us, and our understanding of God. The season must be lived to it's fullness before we can move into, and understand the next season.
It is a journey from infancy, to maturity. It is a journey from building certitude; to seeing cracks, and leaks; to rubble, debre...to why, and finally to mystery and peace. But there is on strand that holds Naked Spirituality, not a fragile thread...it is the chained linked reality of Love. It begins with Love, and ends with love...and which we are continuously surpised by love in every season.
This book is filled with so much wisdom, quotes like sucquelent tasing morsels that you will want to savor and just let melt away. This one still melts in my mind as Brian talks about Naked Spirituality.
In Naked Spirituality...
Love begins with presence ( here ). It appreciates ( thanks ). It adores ( O ). It regrets all that wounds or obstructs love ( sorry ). It interprets need - in oneself or in the other- as an occasion for loving connection ( help, please ). It sees delay or distance ( when, no ) as opportunities for intensifying desire. It dares hope in the beloved when all hope is gone ( why ). In the end, it sees without judgment ( behold ), surrenders to tender proposals of the beloved ( yes ), and finally finds no greater joy than simply being together in slilence. Love is the last word.
Into this profound matrix Brian weaves his life, his experience and stories. Naked Spirituality really is practicing the fullness of life...more than a ritual. Unlike other spiritual rituals, like the anology of a potted plant. The journey becomes very internal, it becomes root bound a struggle just to survive. But Naked Spirituality in not just internal, it's roots grow into the mystery of our neighborhoods, the world, all of creation. Naked Spirituality is not just the constant personal struggle of trying to reach the next rung on the ladder to God. Naked Spirituality changes us, causing us to change the world.
I highly recommend this book...for the searcher, the seeker, the pilgrim, the struggling, those ready to throw in the towel...those with a long rope ready to plumb the depths of mystery. Naked Spirituality....spirituality in the midst of coming and going in an everyday life, and discovering God is in the midst of the mystery with you.
on June 19, 2011
I enjoyed reading Brian McLaren's "Naked Spirituality". I also enjoyed reading "A New Kind Of Christianity". Actually, the two books compliment each other. In "A New Kind Of Christianity" he shares his concepts of Christianity and Dogma and the need for change inorder to meet the challenges of the modern world. In "Naked Spirituality" he shares with us his spiritual consciousness and the ways he has changed through the years. He tells us of his high and low points in his spiritul experiences and how the ever changing realities of life has impacted his walk of faith. Although he uses 12 simple words to describe a life with God, he makes it crystal clear that it's not really so simple after all. These simple words that he uses are guideposts or road markers along the way that can help us get our bearings. He shows us that there are "seasons" in ones spiritual life, and each season has it's own unique atmosphere as it unfolds. In effect he is saying, you can't jump from Summer to Spring, you must pass first through Fall and Winter. Regarding our spiritual progression he says, "We must celebrate the rich heritage of our religious traditions, but those traditions are now the foundation on which we build ,not the ceiling under which we are trapped". As he speaks of listening as we wait before God, he says "Let God be God to You". I take that to mean, He is different in the way He expresses Himself to each of us, according to our individual needs and circumstances, as well as our capacities to understand. He also says "you are loved nakedly, and grace is the warm blanket that enfolds you" pg,232. Brian has done a great service to the church, and Christianity at large in the writing of this book. He has beared his heart to us, and I hope thousands of people read this book. Thurman L Faison, Author "To The Spiritually Inclined"