Anyone who has done any reading on the Christian spiritual disciplines has probably read the book by Richard Foster titled Celebration of Discipline. For some three decades this has been the modern authority on good writing about and practice of Christian spiritual disciplines. Foster's book presents 12 practices one might consider in one's pursuit of God, purpose, meaningful faith, a deeper sense of the spiritual, stuff like that. It was the first book assigned us in seminary. I've read it, and have always thought very highly of it.
Brian McLaren's newest book Naked Spirituality: A life with God in 12 simple words, is another book in the same vein as Foster's. McLaren typically writes mostly about theology, culture and how bad theology is influencing Christian culture. In a recent book A New Kind of Christianity he proposes just that, a new Christianity that is devoid of most of what he considers to be bad theology out there today. Because of this, McLaren receives, I can only imagine, a lot of criticism from Christians, especially from the conservative right, who like things just the way they are and are uncomfortable with any sort of theological change.
My guess is, McLaren wanted to demonstrate with this book that he, like his critics is also a spiritual person in pursuit of God, like the rest. His liberal theology is very tame in this book as he points readers rather toward their own spiritual path and offers encouragement for the journey.
Following in Richard Foster's example, McLaren offers 12 simple words, which represent 12 different spiritual practices that correspond to, and fit into, what he has identified as four seasons of the faith journey. The template looks something like this:
Simplicity: The Spring-like season of spiritual awakening
Here: The practice of invocation and presentation, awakening to the presence of God
Thanks: The practice of gratitude and appreciation, awakening to the goodness of God
O (like "Oh"): Practice of of worship and awe, awakening to the beauty and joy of God
Complexity: The Summer-like season of spiritual strengthening
Sorry: Practice of self-examination and confession, strengthening through failure
Help: Practice of expansion and petition, strengthening through weakness
Please: Practice of compassion and intercession, strengthening through empathy
Perplexity: The Autumn-like season of spiritual surviving
When: Practice of aspiration, exasperation and desperation, surviving through delay
No: Practice of rage and refusal, surviving through disillusionment
Why: Practice of lament and agony, surviving through abandonment
Harmony: The Winter-like season of spiritual deepening
Behold: Practice of meditation and wonder, deepening by seeing
Yes: Practice of consecration and surrender, deepening by joining
[. . . ]: Practice of contemplation and rest, deepening by being with (p. 26-27)
McLaren's approach or template of the spiritual life-cycle is similar to Foster's famous proposals in that each have 12 practices that one pursues to become more 'whole-y.' However, Foster's disciplines are more prescription-like: do this practice and you will grow. McLaren's approach is markedly different, and I'd argue more accessible, in that he clearly states that these disciplines are to be practiced or emphasized along with one's place in one's own spiritual cycle. If I'm in the season of simplicity, I may not be focused on the spiritual practice of lament and agony found in the season of perplexity.
McLaren is clear that this template is not a mountain to climb, that once you reach the season of Harmony you've reached the top of the mountain or highest rung on a ladder. Rather, this is a cycle, much like the seasons it parallels, that repeats time and time again within one's spiritual journey.
The author bears his own experiences in the book illustrating for instance that he has numerous times lived through the cycle. And I find myself agreeing with this approach. As I read through each season, I found myself saying that yes I've been there before. I resonated with most of the book, and especially with the notion that though I have been through each of these "spiritual seasons," I am still in process and will continue to go through them again.
I enjoyed the book, I'm proud of finishing another book, and I felt happily refreshed by it. McLaren is a gifted communicator who is able to write simply, presenting complicated ideas in accessible ways. If you are in a season of reading, perhaps you will pick this one up and consider it.