So today I finally finished this puppy. Now I sit here listening to some Haydn concerto as I try to digest a year’s worth of learning and reading down into a blog entry sized book review.
Let me tell you, it’s tough.
I owe a lot to Brian McLaren, and I mean A LOT. If it weren’t for him, I’m not sure I’d be where I’m at now. Some years ago I heard an interview with him on an atheist podcast of all things, and I was impressed. The night I listened to that interview he made the first crack appear in the wall I had built between myself and my family, myself and the church, between myself and anything that even smacked of “religion,” and ultimately between myself and the love of God. That crack didn’t burst open immediately, but God was willing to bide his time until I was ready to come around, and boy I’m glad he did! Since that time I’ve read many of McLaren’s other books, found a church home, rekindled the Spirit in me, and been introduced to a totally different way of looking at Christianity.
This book, “We Make the Road by Walking,” is basically year long weekly devotional that can be done as a group thing or an individual study. Now I didn’t know this when I bought it, I just saw “OOH NEW BRIAN MCLAREN BOOK!” My heart kind of sank when I opened it up because, you see, I’m kind of A.D.D. with books and life in general sometimes. It can be hard for me to commit to a daily devotion or even a short 4 or 5 week study because usually something pops up and I say “OOH LOOK AT THE SHINY THING OVER THERE! I WANT TO LEARN ABOUT THAT!”
So, needless to say I was not enthused about my prospects of making it through a year long devotion/spiritual journey.
But I did make it! Yes there were a couple of weeks that I had to double (or triple) up, but I’m here now, and I’m the better for it!
The book basically follows the liturgical year and is meant to start in early fall. It’s divided into 4 parts:
I: Alive in the Story of Creation
II: Alive in the Adventure of Jesus (includes Advent and Christmas)
III: Alive in a Global Uprising (includes Lent, Holy Week, and Easter)
IV: Alive in the Spirit of God (includes Pentecost)
As you can tell, this book is all about BEING ALIVE. McLaren wants us to take our faith out of the Sunday morning pew, out of those cute little daily devotions and LIVE IT! Being alive in the Spirit and in Christ should be about how we FEEL. It should be about what we DO EVERYDAY. It should infuse us and affect how we treat the creation that surrounds us, our own selves, and the people with which we share our lives!
It’s a great concept and a fascinating feeling when you buy into it, even for just a minute.
Each weekly session includes Scripture readings, a reflection written by McLaren, study questions for individuals or groups, study questions for kids, and some chapters (especially the Advent, Lent, and Easter stuff) includes a bit of liturgy as well. You see, I’m a kind of a traditionalist in that regard. I spent quite a few years as a cantor in a large Catholic parish, and I LOVE liturgy. I really enjoyed what he threw in here, especially for the Holy Week chapters.
It’s a great book, and I encourage you to try it out. We’re getting close to the time where the liturgical year comes full circle again, and the book is now out in softcover. It’s a perfect time to pick it up! I’ll definitely be using it again in the future, and I’d love to try it in a group setting!
Look, if you’re not a fan of McLaren’s this book probably isn’t going to change your mind. If you’re one of those folks that just can’t stand anything that even seems like “progressive Christianity” (oh what labels we tag ourselves with!) then you might not get a ton out of it. However, I think if you dive in, be open to God’s message in Scripture and interpretation, you just might be surprised!
Personally I can’t wait for Brian’s next book!