This is a review of a book of a kind I have not read before, and would not normally choose to read! However, reading it carefully and eventually using it as designed – meditatively – has been an interesting and rewarding experience.
This book, published by SPCK, is “Simple Ways: Towards the Sacred” but Gunilla Norris. Norris is, according to the blurb on the back, a write, meditation teacher and psychotherapist in private practice. Her website can be found here, and she lives (appropriately perhaps!) in Mystic, Connecticut. This book is an interesting one – based on a series of poems, meditations and thoughts. It is a book about spirituality in the every day. God is writ large through the book – though more traditional or conservative Christians may be frustrated by the almost pantheistic tone and emphasis on God. That said, this is an engaging and interesting book.
The book is best summed up by a quote from its introduction:
“There is no need to read this book sequentially. Whatever the reader finds here that feels right could be a place to wonder, to experience, and to deepen.”
This is a book for picking up and putting down. Contemplating, living and thinking through. Its not a book in the sense that you can read through it and have learnt something new – in a very real way, its a kind of book that reads you! I mean that not in a cheesy, but a genuine way. I personally am not sure what I make of the whole spirituality/Christian formation thing, but this book, carefully considered, is good.
The main body of “Simple Ways” is made of thoughts – such as ‘To Speak’, followed by a poem, followed by ‘Considerations for the Heart’. This is where the meat is found – and where the book’s ability to transcend itself is found. This is a book worth mulling over. The ideas contained in these ‘Considerations’ are various, challenging and personal. Reflecting on how to live in and with God. I personally would have appreciated a bigger emphasis on Jesus and the Holy Spirit – but if you read it with an awareness, and a Christian intent, I see no reason why this could not be a useful and thought-provoking part of a full Christian life.
One of the best examples of these is “The Staircase” – the Considerations of which include the following
“Could I learn today that up and down is the way? Could I forgo asking which is better?”
“Might I remember each day that up and down are held equally in God’s embrace?”
For a Christian culture where we are so easily fooled by the myth of happiness, and ignore the reality of doubt, fear and uncertainty in faith, this sort of observation is incredibly helpful. We sometimes need to be people who are aware of the ups and the downs – with our eyes fixed on Jesus.
This is not the type of book I would regularly read – hence why I was so keen to read it. I’d recommend this book to those seeking a contemplative form of Christian spirituality – but perhaps not to new Christians. Read through an awareness of Jesus’ work, the narrative of Scripture, and in a life full of the Spirit, I think this book could be a very useful tool.