Now I'm getting the chance to read books I didn't have time for before. Think of me whenever you see the slogan "So many books, so little time!" Now I've got the time.  Cheers, Fred.

We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation

Book Number: 
714
Date Fred Read: 
July 2017
Fred's Rating: 
5
Author: 
Brian McLaren
Total Pages: 
282
Publisher: 
Jericho Books
Year: 
2014

Brian McLaren is a Christian thinker, author, activist, and public theologian. A former pastor with a background in literature, he is an Auburn Senior Fellow and a board chair of Convergence (convergenceus.org). (For his books I’ve read, click on his name.)

The Amazon website for the hardback edition is

https://www.amazon.com/Make-Road-Walking-Reorientation-Activation/dp/145...

[None of the ISBN-10, ISBN-13, or ASIN numbers on Amazon’s websites for the three editions (Kindle, hardcover, or paperback) are recognized by Amazon, thus the ‘no image Circle' appears. I think this new change by Amazon is not good. However, you can see the images of this books' covers at the website above.]

The home page has an excellent summary (click on ‘Read more'). The book begins with a 4-pp Preface and an 8-pp Introduction. I recommend using Amazon’s ‘Look inside’ option for the hardcover or paperback edition to see the book’s 3-pp Contents. With 52 chapters in four Parts, which McLaren also calls quarters, you will see that each Part has 13 chapters plus a quarterly page called Queries. Each of the four Queries consists of a paragraph and seven questions (but eight questions for the fourth quarter).

The Kindle edition skips these three Contents pages, so shift now to the Kindle edition, for it has all of the Preface, Introduction, the 2-pp ‘foreword’ of Part I – Alive in the Story of Creation – and 3 of the 4-pp Ch. 1 – Awe and Wonder. So here I provide the rest of Ch. 1. [Comments by me are in square brackets.]

“Genesis tells us that the universe is good – a truth so important it gets repeated like the theme of a song. [Here I felt the beauty of the theme music of Chariots of Fire.] Rocks are good. Clouds are good. Sweet corn is good. Every river or hill or valley or forest is good. Skin? Good. Bone? Good. Mating and eating and breathing and giving birth and growing old? Good, good, good. All are good. Life is good.

“The best thing in Genesis is not simply human beings, but the whole creation considered and enjoyed together, as a beautiful integrated whole, and us a part. The poetry of Genesis describes the ‘very goodness‘ that comes at the end of a long process of creation . . . when all the parts, including us, are working together as one whole. That harmonious whole is so good that the Creator takes a day off, as it were, just to enjoy it. That day of restful enjoyment tells us that the purpose of existence isn’t money or power or fame or security or anything less than this: to participate in the goodness and beauty and aliveness of creation. And so we join the Creator in good and fruitful work . . . and in delightful enjoyment, play, and rest as well.

“So here we are, friends, here we are. Alive!

“And this is why we walk this road: to behold the wonder and savor this aliveness. To remind ourselves who we are, where we are, what’s going on here, and how beautiful, precious, holy, and meaningful it all is. It’s why we pause along the journey for a simple meal, with hearts full of thankfulness, rejoicing to be part of this beautiful and good creation. This is what it means to be alive. Amen.”

As he does for each of the 52 chapters, he follows the end of the text with six questions under the title ‘Engage’ – questions for the group to share with each other.. Here I shorten his six questions, giving just their idea: (1) thought or idea from the lesson; (2) share a story about awe or wonder; (3) most beautiful place you’ve seen; (4) easy questions for children; (5) Activate: choose a facet you love; (6) Mediate: pause, then think of a silent prayer of gratitude. [His plan is to do this for one hour on one day per week for 52 weeks – I discuss alternatives near the end of this review.]

There are brief ‘forewords’ at the beginning of each quarter of a year. For the first quarter it is available online in Amazon’s preview of the Kindle edition. Below are the forewords for the last three quarters:

For the second quarter, the foreword is ‘Alive in the Adventure of Jesus’. “In PART I, we explored what it means to be alive in the story of creation . . . a story that includes crisis, calling, captivity, conquest, and conversation. Into that conservation comes a man named Jesus, a man whose character, words, and example changed history. In PART II, we will explore what it means to be alive in the adventure of Jesus.

“We begin with the story of his birth (during the traditional seasons of Advent and Christmas), and then we follow him through childhood to adulthood, as the light of God shines brightly through him (during the season of Epiphany). Our exploration will lead to this life-changing choice: will we identify ourselves as honest and sincere followers of Jesus today?

“You may need to rearrange the order of chapters so that Chapter 17 comes the week before Christmas. Then you can use Chapter 17A on Christmas Eve, and Chapter 18 the Sunday (or whatever day you gather) on or after Christmas. At the end of each of the first five chapters, you’ll be invited to light a candle. Whether you do so alone or in a learning circle, use that simple tradition as an invitation to joyful, hopeful, reverent contemplation.”

For the third quarter, the foreword is ‘Alive in the Global Uprising’. “Joining the adventure of Jesus is a starting line, not a finish line. . . . It enlists us as contemplative activists in an ongoing of peace, freedom, justice, and compassion. In PART III, we focus on what it means for us to join in his adventure.

“The first five chapters have been written for use in the traditional season of Lent. They are dedicated to Jesus’ most concentrated teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Rather than having multiple Scripture readings during this season, we will read one passage multiple times to encourage deeper reflection.

“Then, for Passion Week, we will imagine ourselves in and around Jerusalem. Beginning with Easter, we’ll travel with the growing company of disciples as their uprising spreads across the Mediterranean world.

“Because the date for Easter changes from year to year, the learning circle organizers may need to adjust the order of chapters so that chapters 32 and 33 are for Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, respectively. Note also that Passion Week includes lessons for special gatherings on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (chapters 32A, 32B, and 32C).”

For the fourth quarter, the foreword is ‘Alive in the Spirit of God’. "In the three previous sections of this book, we have placed ourselves in the story of creation, the adventures of Jesus, and God’s peaceful uprising against the forces of fear, oppression, hostility, and violence. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would take the work he began and extend it across space and time, creating a global spiritual community to keep welcoming and embodying what he called the reign or kingdom or commonwealth of God.

“In this final section, beginning with the season traditionally known as Pentecost, we ask this key question: how can we participate with the Spirit in this ongoing spiritual movement? That word ‘Spiritual’ means a lot of things, but for us, it will mean any experience of or response to the moving of the Spirit of God in our lives and in our world.”

This book has two appendices. The 13-pp Appendix I: Liturgical Resources – to me, it was interesting but a long liturgy to follow. The 2-pp Appendix II: Five Guidelines for Learning Circles – to me, it lists the respectful way that members of a learning circle should follow to make the experience a good one for all members of the circle.

This 52-week quest for spiritual formation, reorientation, and activation seemed to be structured for the young (and not-so-young) folks (and children) who did not have any biblical learning sessions or who did not have a good (hopefully progressive) version of such. He avoids theological discussions that would engage those who had classes like the disciple classes used in our church. Our disciple classes (I’ve learned much from three of them) have had about 34 two-hour weekly evening sessions. So our disciple classes involved a 68-hour commitment. This book by Brian McLaren speaks of 52 weeks of learning circles of about an hour. But, after reading it, I can readily envision several of his classes of more than an hour, so more than 52 hours. With no classes during the summer, my suggestion is to consider covering two of his weeks in two-hour meetings, thus covering his chapters in about six months (or a few weeks longer to allow for some chapters that would not easily fit in one session). Since he had a summary chapter after each 13-week quarter, I think that four such sessions would make for 14-week 'quarters', with these concluding chapters adding four sessions to his 52-hour chapter count, thereby covering his material in seven months.

I was unable to restrict myself to reading just one chapter at a time. Usually I read between 4 and 7 at a stretch, for I found his inspired writing made me want to read the next chapter. This book is a page-turner book even after the periods of meditation he suggestsint the chapter-ending ‘engage’ questions. Brian McLaren has a smooth, easily flowing writing style that I have enjoyed in the five books of his that I’ve read (so far). I rate this book at five stars. I recommend reading it even as I did – in the course of a bit under two weeks.