Books, Spiritual Formation

BOOK REVIEW: Sacred Chaos by Tricia McCary Rhodes

(In addition to cross-cultural relationships, another side interest of mine is spiritual formation. I wrote this for some other sites and thought I’d include it here.)

By Tricia McCary Rhodes, 2008. Intervarsity Press.

While I’m an enthusiastic fan of the spiritual formation movement, one of my hang-ups with it is the lack of space in my life to implement practices like silent retreats or prolonged times of contemplation and meditation. It’s not that I don’t long for such times. It’s just that, with two small children, a job, marriage, and household to manage, there is hardly enough concentrated space in my day to use the bathroom alone, let alone carve out extended quality time to spend with God. I might catch a half-hearted 15 to 20 minute quiet time once or twice a week, and then spend the other days feeling guilty that I didn’t stop to read my Bible or say a prayer longer than two or three sentences.

Such is the background on why a book entitled Sacred Chaos: Spiritual Disciplines for the Life You Have caught my eye. In the first few pages, Tricia Rhodes relieved a good portion of my guilt explaining the blur of her own life, and how she would wearily attempt to read her Bible and end up falling asleep. She tells how God orchestrated inevitable chaos in her daily routine in order to take her out of her comfort zone. “He was drawing me into new territory, expanding my borders by exposing my tendency to be far too focused on hours set aside for prayer as the barometer of my relationship with him,” she writes. “What I experienced in ways I’d never imagined was God entering the fray, injecting my busyness wit respites of peace in his presence, punctuating my chaos with the stunning sense that he was drawn near.”

The book offers many concrete and practical ways to integrate practices of the spiritual disciplines into daily life. Each chapter is short, and focuses on one specific way of connecting with God throughout the day. Each chapter also ends with a short practical activity. Throughout the book are ideas for specific ‘experiments’ in spiritual practices. As I read through the book, I kept a quick-reference notecard recording Rhodes’ suggestions for “making the chaos sacred”. Samples of these suggestions include:

  • · Using feelings as a springboard for prayer
  • · Praying about God’s presence in your daily schedule
  • · Praying for spiritual insight about others
  • · Practice lectio divina. Read. Meditate. Pray. Contemplate.
  • · Breath prayers

While I’ve read some books in the spiritual disciplines genre that either too ethereal or too common-sense-y (i.e. ‘I could have googled ‘spiritual formation’ and written the book myself’), Sacred Chaos is simple yet profound, practical yet deeply spiritual. Don’t let one more “Sacred ___” title scare you away. This one’s a keeper.

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