26/02/2014

Naked Spirituality (by Brian McLaren)

I've enjoyed the other books I have read by Brian McLaren, who is a thoughtful and intelligent American Christian writer, somewhat outside the mainstream. So when I saw this book inexpensively on the AwesomeBooks site, I decided to buy it a couple of months ago.

'Naked Spirituality' has as its subtitle, 'A life with God in twelve simple steps'. It's a thoughtful book that aims to help individuals get to the heart of what it means to be spiritual, from the Christian perspective. It proposes stripping away, at least for a while, the trappings and symbols of organised religion (whether or not they are constructive), and letting go of our preconceived ideas about faith. Instead, the author encourages the reader to focus, one at a time, on twelve short words that can help us concentrate more easily on God.

These words are divided into four groups, each representing a 'season' of our lives, which the author refers to as simplicity, complexity, perplexity and harmony.  The first three, representing simplicity, are 'Here', 'Thanks' and 'O!' - words which remind us that God is with us, that we should thank him for much that he gives us, and that we should worship and adore him for who he is. Mclaren gives suggestions for doing these in a straightforward way, with Biblical references; he also gives alternative words that are roughly equivalent.

The author suggests that most of us go will through these various 'seasons', to some extent, many times in our lives (albeit not with the predictable regularity of the earth's seasons). By getting rid of the extraneous, we can find God in any circumstances; when times are hard, these simple words may help us find some motivation to keep going. He gives examples from his own life and that of people he has worked with.

It's an introspective book, which suits my temperament quite well. I did find it somewhat heavy-going in places; not that the concepts or language are complex, but there's a lot to ponder. I found that I could only read about ten pages a day, often pausing to think as I read.

I don't think that the specific words themselves are necessarily helpful to me right now; I'm not sure I could define any of the 'seasons' as a good match currently. But I like the way the book is structured, and the concept of simplicity - and can see that this may be a book to return to in future.

I would recommend this to anyone feeling overwhelmed by life, or other people, or church in general. However, this is not a book about avoiding community or even church services and congregational activities. Instead, it's about finding space and time for God on one's own, so as to enrich life in general.

Available in Kindle form as well as paperback, and often found inexpensively second-hand.

Review by Sue F copyright 2014 Sue's Book Reviews

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