Sunday, November 20, 2005

Book Notes: Sacred Pathways, Introduction

So I've started digging into Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it. If you are reading it with me, I encourage you to check out the discussion questions from Gary's website:

My notes from the the introduction (direct quotes in italics):

It is my pleasure to serve as Gary's marketing director. After hosting Gary for the last few days at work, reading his book this time is more like reading a letter from a friend. And the content of this book is exactly what I most need to hear from my friend, as Proverbs 27:17 comes to life: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (TNIV). Gary's words are sharpening my ability to connect with God after a season of silence.

* [For those in valley seasons] Their love for God has not dimmed, they’ve just fallen into a soul-numbing rut. Their devotions seem like nothing more than shadows of what they’ve been doing for years…They finally wake up one morning and ask, “Is this really all there is to knowing God?” –p.15

* In fact, by worshiping God according to the way he made us, we are affirming his work as Creator. – p. 18

I love the wide view of worship. I think at times, especially when we are disappointed or disillusioned, it's easy to fall for the temptation that God is mean spirited or spiteful. Sometimes, as we seek His will, we find it hard to believe that God would truly delight in allowing us to delight. We think that if something is enjoying or fulfilling, it must not be God's best because we aren't suffering for Him: this job must not be serving God because I like it, I'm good at it and I'm paid well to do it; maybe this relationship is a distraction because I enjoy it too much. What freedom I find in the knowledge that I can both love God and love what He allows me to experience.

* On historic movements within the church: All four players—Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Anabaptists—were trying to love God, but with unique expressions of that love. Many differences had theological roots, but some were also related to worship preferences. – p.19

It's become to so popular to mock our differences in the church. I'm reminded of a quote by St. Augustine: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; and in everything, love."

* “doctrinally neutral worship preference” – p. 21

* God has given us different personalities and temperaments. It’s only natural that these differences should be reflected in our worship. – p. 21

* What is a sacred pathway? Put very simply, it describes the way we relate to God, how we draw near to him. Do we have just one pathway? Not necessarily. Most of us, however, will naturally have a certain disposition for relating to God, which is our predominant spiritual temperament. – p. 21-22.

* 9 pathways (2.22-29)
Naturalists: Loving God Out of Doors
Sensates: Loving God with the Senses
Traditionalists: Loving God through Ritual and Symbol
Ascetics: Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity
Activists: Loving God Through Confrontation
Caregivers: Loving God by Loving Others
Enthusiasts: Loving God with Mystery and Celebration
Contemplative: Loving God Through Adoration
Intellectual: Loving God with the Mind

* If you are in a spiritual malaise, it might be that you just need a change in your spiritual diet. If you just can’t seem to leave that one particular sin, you may find that the answer is very simple: You don’t know how to be nourished according to the way God made you so you’re seeking spiritual “junk food,” in the form of sin or addictions, somewhere else. Finding fulfillment in God is the most powerful antidote to any sin. – p. 30

I'm really looking forward to experimenting with new ways to connect with God. The junk food analogy really makes sense. In the early months of recovery from my head injury I craved beef jerky and peanut butter because my brain needed a lot of protein to heal. Even now, when I am situations that tend to make me sympomatic (traveling, changes in my schedule, stress), I crave steak. I've never thought of my spiritual hunger in the same way.

* According to Jesus, four elements are essential to every true expression of faith. It is essential that we love God with all our heart (adoration), soul (will), mind (belief), and strength (body). The intellectual is not excused from failing to adore. Neither is the contemplative excused from harboring wrong beliefs about God. Complete Christians—which all of us are called to be—should exhibit adoration, belief, commitment, and service. – p. 30-31

This makes a lot of sense. In the same way, each believer has spiritual gifts, but the lack of a particular gift doesn't negate the need to cultivate the character of that gift.

How do we learn to love God, day in and day out, through the seasons of life? How do we keep this love fresh? How do we grow in our adoration and understanding of God. We do it by spending time with him. And once we understand the myriad ways that Christians have cultivated this relationship, we’ll have more ideas than we need to walk closer, and more constantly by his side. - p. 32

One reason I respect Gary's writing is because he has a wonderful way of elevating everyday life into a spiritual discipline. For example, with so many books on marriage or relationships, I think, "this will be helpful if I get married." When I read Sacred Marriage, it was the first book that made me want to get married. It taught me that I could see from the peaks and valleys of my spiritual life than peaks and valleys are to be expected in my emotional life, not only with God, but with my friendships and other relationships. There is great freedom in that understanding. And I am liberated by the truth that even in the silent seasons of my faith, I can strive to learn to recognize different nuances of God's voice.

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