Sunday, April 10, 2005

Review: THE SEEKER'S WAY

Reading The Seeker's Way by Dave Fleming has been an experience in itself. Forget about trying to write a review; I just need to soak a bit in the thoughts that there's not only a proverbial MORE out there, but it's there for those who look for it.

I almost put the book down over this excerpt:
Our common need to seek is an intentional part of our design. It is the centerpiece of our existence, placed in us by the Divine Mystery. (p. 3)
and this footnote below:
Divine Mystery is the name I will use often for God. (p. 3, footnote)
Substituting "Divine Mystery" for "God"? That was looking too new-agey, too out there for even me. But I kept reading, mainly to see if Fleming brought the prose back around from a feel-good-mysterious sentimentality to something I'd be able to stomach. I wasn't disappointed, turning the page and finding this:
Even your particular religion is not my concern. Like you, I have intellectual beliefs about the world and life. I have a strong affinity toward certain spiritual ideas and systems. My faith tradition is Christianity. I embrace it as the path home. Yet I have grown uncomfortable with the view that God cannot or will not work in a person's life until that person has embraced my tradition. My aim is not to impose a religion on you but to invite you to a wonder-filled journey towards home. (p. 4)
Where some readers might see, "oh my goodness, is he going after pluralism?", I think I see Fleming simply saying that God is big enough and loves us enough to draw us to Himself no matter where we might be missing the mark. And the premise of this book might just be "we're all seekers - so let's seek together and figure it out with the help of One who wants us to find Him more than we want to find Him" - or something like that (he's the author, not me).

The first thought process that messed with me in reading this book was in chapter two, From Answers to Experience.
Perhaps the first step away from an answer-driven spiritual life is to view answers in a new way. What if answers became more like doorways into another space where the search can continue? Instead of ending the search with finite and rigid answers, these new insights can move us deeper into life's realities... [A] belief in God was never meant to create a smug sufficiency but rather to deepen my pursuit of the Divine. A belief in God is not an answer that ends the search but one that makes it possible to broaden and deepen the search. (p. 20)
I am on that journey, with my whole call to ministry pretty much being wrapped up in asking questions, leading others by getting them/us to look at life through different and better questions. I've come to accept my "skepticism/cynicism" as a "gift" that forces me to look at issues differently, to bring reality to bear in new and meaningful ways. That means looking for answers that will almost always lead to better, more significant questions.

Another freedom-giving thought came from the chapter titled "From Performance to Expression". Maybe it's the artistic authoring bug that drives me to write that looks for new ways to enlighten folks about old concepts that have dried up or been left out of our mainline Christian traditions. But I grab onto the thought that I don't need to "perform" in order to feel accepted or necessary in the kingdom:
[We] feel an unhealthy pressure to perform in any given moment. Whether because of internal pressure or because of others' expectations, the desire to get life perfect can be intense. the stress of it all can seize our emotions and wreak havoc with our bodies. (p. 106)
Being encouraged to live out an expression of Christ's love in my life, rather than perform to a set of fairly arbitrary and often fluctuating standards, is something that's still working through me.

I don't think I can recommend this book to everyone I meet, to everyone I know. I can't even articulate what these passages and others have done to me internally and how they're being worked out in real life. There are certain books you would tell a stranger about, certain books you'd tell your pastor about - and I don't know if this is that book or not. I'm just recognizing that this book will stretch and pull in fairly specific areas of our lives, and if you're already moving or deconstructing in those areas, this book might bring some new thought, some new growth, some new encouragement. That's what has happened to me, but I realize that not everyone's on that path. Yet.

7 Comments:

Blogger MaryAnn M said...

reading quite a few books like that lately...the kind that mess with my "tradition" and all my "answers"...and not really sure how to recommend this to someone who is basically happy in their tradition and religion.

they have brought me to another place on this journey. A place that means more peace...in the midst of storms. A place that can sit at the Father's feet and just gaze at Him. He got "bigger" and "closer" throughout all of this.

11/4/05 7:43 AM  
Blogger JackieLou said...

I think this is a wonderful post, as it touches upon many questions I've been asking myself. Many, many times it has been decidely "non" Christian books that have brought me back to faith in God, and I'm probably not wording this in a very coherant manner, but those pesky fruits of the spirit I was taught so much about have led me to pay quite a bit of attention to many people on the outside of the popular Christian circle.

What do I want to say? Really, thanks for a wonderful blog not afraid to tackle tough questions.

11/4/05 8:06 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

thanks for the feedback. this is a "christian" book - or at least set in the christian tradition, but it's also not typical and makes folks squeamish for not toeing the line. i like being challenged, and this one (and a few others on my sidebar to the left) have done just that.

thanks for the kind encouragement, too - make me get the big head. don't tell me wife - lol.

11/4/05 8:12 PM  
Blogger DaNutz said...

I ran across your blog and have enjoyed the book reviews (we seem to have a mutual interest in Brian Mclaren). I will add this one to my list. It sounds as if Dave Fleming may be willing to nudge a little further out than Mclaren which is something I've been feeling but haven't been comfortable pursuing.

Please keep the reviews and insights coming. I have so few friends that embrace any "emergent" or "progressive" views about Christianity. Often I feel that reading blogs from afar is about as close as I can get to a community of peers.

12/4/05 8:29 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

thanks for that - and yeah, right there with you alot of the time. though i am finding more flesh-and-blood folks to hash through this some.

fleming might be pushing further, but i think it's just the way he's processing some of the same stuff.

12/4/05 8:33 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I have read a quite a few articles from Dave Flemming. He has a great way of stretching your thinking. The one thing I think about people like him and Brian McLaren and Tony Compolo is that while some of the statements they say make me mad, that emotion keeps the thoughts rattling around long enough to be changed from my little box of thinking I have it all figured out. Sometimes we just need a little stirring.

14/4/05 3:12 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

very well put - if nothing else, re-wording the statement is usually enough to make it come alive and be meaningful again.

14/4/05 3:21 PM  

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