Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Sacred Year

I found Michael Yankoski's book, The Sacred Year, profound and transformative! I have read many books on spirituality and have taught courses on spiritual formation in seminary, retreats, and churches, and this book is one of the best I have encountered from a modern writer. Michael spent a year engaging some of the ancient spiritual practices, such as silence, solitude, simplicity, confession, and attentiveness. He wrestles with their meaning, struggling to understand their purpose, and ultimately embraces them as essentially formative for his spiritual life. He devotes a separate chapter to each discipline and describes his initial indifference or ignorance, his journey of discovery, and the impact of the practice on his own formation as he undertakes to experience it. With each chapter, he builds on the previous one, so that the cumulative effect of the book is to encompass the entirety of life, both inward and outward, in a new and more meaningful kind of existence. 

I was particularly touched by the idea of writing gratigraphs, letters of appreciation to people who have blessed our lives, from his chapter on gratitude. When I was in high school, my dad encouraged me to write letters of appreciation to certain teachers around Thanksgiving time, and they were well received. However, in recent years I have become lax about writing and tried to express verbally such appreciation to people in my life. Just as Michael discovered, I learned that people often feel embarrassed or self-conscious with verbal expressions. Writing a letter allows the recipient to read it privately, and re-read it over the years, savoring the knowledge of having made a difference in our lives. Now that even a simple "thank-you" note is rarely written, a gratigraph can bless our friends over and over.

Another area Michael explores where I need work is creation care. I know so much more than I do about this issue. Just since reading this book, I find it impossible to ignore an electrical device I see plugged in that is not being used. I feel compelled to unplug it and end the phantom energy drain. I realize this is such a small thing, but having had my consciousness raised by Michael's convicting words, I'm striving to become more responsible toward creation and my fellow creatures in other ways as well. 

I can't think of anyone who couldn't benefit from reading this book and engaging with the topics Michael explores. Certainly, most committed Christians will find this book engaging, disruptive of complacency, and challenging to the status quo of much contemporary western Christianity. I rarely re-read books, but I have already begun a second reading of this one. I have shared about it on Facebook and Twitter, recommended it to others, and ordered extra copies as gifts for friends. It will remain on my "Re-read Often" list. I have found it compelling, persuasive, and life-changing. Thank you, Michael Yankoski, for blessing my life by sharing what God taught you through your sacred year. 
(I received an advance copy to read through Net Galley.)

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