Our rather provocative titular reference above is nonetheless a good place for us to start, because this is a book about pursuing God with a single-minded passion. And you’ll have to discover the story that goes with it for yourself.
In a way, it’s unfair to review this until I’ve done the work it recommends. And in fact, there’s a very good chance I’ll come back to this review and update it three months later, once I’ve done the work. But marketing considerations are marketing considerations, so for now let me just say that Keith Meyer’s latest is a very intentional next step in that “curriculum for Christlikeness” direction his first full book Whole Life Transformation vigorously pointed toward. And, it proposes a way to do that journey together. Again, this isn’t so much a book that’s meant to be read as a book that’s meant to be done, and done together.
Keith Meyer. Spiritual Rhythms in Community: Being Together in the Presence of God. 160p., $15.00, IVP Books.
The 12 sessions are divided evenly between “rhythms of disengagement” designed to develop a sense of quietness and centeredness in God, and “rhythms of engagement” where we practice outward disciplines such as forgiveness, service, and living in community.
The Psalms are the vehicle for this journey into spiritual formation that Keith takes us on. Readers/group members are encouraged to work through a psalm each week, letting it sink in and (eventually) addressing applicational questions connected with it. For example, Psalm 131 becomes a self-meditational exercise about learning to slow down in every aspect of life (or “soul-shushing”).
Following that is a chapter-length devotional expanding on the idea developed in the psalm (in the above case, it’s “Wasting Time Just Being”). Then comes the (mostly) group part, where a discipline or activity is undertaken or discussed among the group. Activities range from day-long retreats to watching a movie together to taking a field trip to a criminal court. It’s safe to say a group that undertakes all these activities together will never be the same.
I think that gives you a good idea of what you (and your group) will be getting into. The approach here is very creative and yet doable, for a a group that’s willing to make a decent time commitment. Keith does give different approaches at the end; I’m thinking the 6-month approach (1 week discussion/1 week activity) could be handled easily by most groups. But the proof is in the pudding. And again, I expect to report back in a few months with how my pudding tasted. 🙂
OK, so I changed my strategy. I’m thinking it’d be a good exercise to add my thoughts as I’m working through this. As such, they’ll be a little fragmented and raw, but they’ll also reflect what I’m actually thinking and feeling in the moment….
Week 1: The reading of Luke in one sitting not only helps immerse our heads in Kingdom mode, but very deliberately helps us to observe rhythms of disengagement and (re-)engagement that Jesus himself employed in His own life—and which we should observe in ours.
Week 2: A reminder that I need to slow down. Doesn’t hurt that I’m writing my own retreat material while working through this. 🙂 I remember the sacred space of Huntersfield Christian Retreat Center in Prattsville, NY, and still long for a similar spot in Colorado (although Colorado in general can inspire one). Quote worth remembering: “We grow as we mature in the use of the disciplines, realizing that they are not the best measure of how we are growing.”
Week 3: Instead of watching the movie Into the Wild (not that you shouldn’t—it’s a good movie), I instead chose to take a 7-mile hike through the high-desert “wilderness” of Colorado’s steppes & foothills, about 10 minutes up the road from here. Basically:
- 1 mile of prairie;
- another mile climbing 500 feet to the top of one ridge;
- another mile descending and walking through the valley between ridges (not the valley of the shadow of death — in fact, there was no shadow at all for 99% of the hike — but it did feel very psalmlike nonetheless, especially on the way back);
- a mile loop around the next ridge and back to the valley;
- then back again.
Did feel like I was beginning to hear God more on the way back, especially as I prepared to go back up the first ridge. (Note to self: Let’s see who I’m working for/with come September.) Got back to the ridge and stopped under the only bit of shade available the whole way. Looked up, and on the other side of the trail, in the only other shaded spot, was a herd of mule deer — maybe four or five at first, then joined by another handful as I sat there. We spent a good five minutes just looking at each other. I then gave them a mini-sermon, a la St. Francis (I’d just finished the Little Flowers a week ago).
Finally, someone else came up the trail. I put a finger to my lips, then pointed over to the herd; he was about to miss them as well. We both just enjoyed that “sacred space” for another couple minutes, then we both moved on, him thanking me as we headed in opposite directions. I think I made the right choice. 🙂
Week 4: This week’s assignment was tough — basically, a modified version of a daily examen, but specifically geared to reflecting and showing gratitude toward God. To be honest, I’m not built that way. But it’s always healthy when I do it. And it was good preparation for the following week (i.e., after 15 months, I finally have a job again! Thank you, Lord!)
Week 9 (yeah, I know, I haven’t been good about writing stuff down here lately): Really appreciated the “Wednesday” review questions that went with Psalm 130, regarding the depth of sin in my life and how it affects both me and others, as well as the willingness to be examined and questioned by others. Lots to consider.
Week 11: Found the “Virtue walk” very helpful. Focused on patience—which, interstingly, is the same word translated “endurance” here. Wonder why I can’t seem to be more godly? Bam.
Week 12: Psalm 121 was the right place to end this, as well as just what I needed to hear. God’s got us. And thus, our pursuit continues…
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