Review: Spiritual Rhythms in Community
In the last few months since working with the ideas in my e-book The Jesus Rhythm, I’ve found my mind wandering back to the idea of rhythms and how they affect our life of formation into Christ-likeness. It’s good sometimes to know you aren’t alone – that you aren’t crazy.
Well, at least I know I’m not the only one thinking about this. The latter question is still up for debate.
Keith Meyer’s book Spiritual Rhythms In Community (IVP) is a book-in-time for a culture that is bent on high pace, constant motion, and inevitable distraction. Meyer instead invites us to join in the “dance of the Trinity” (19) through disengaging from the world we typically operate in so that we may be renewed and refreshed by God, only to engage that world again as a community with a new sense of vision and purpose.
The structure of the book favors a long read – the kind of reading where you let each chapter sit for a while before moving on to the next. Each chapter begins with a reading from a particular Psalm and a series of thoughts that help us to engage that Psalm. The chapter then deals with one particular way of disengagement (Part 1) and engagement (Part 2) with the everyday life we live.
The strength of the book is in the simplicity of Meyer’s analysis coupled with the uniqueness of his experiences. Heavily drawing from Ignatian spirituality with its emphasis on examination of motives and thoughts, Meyer leads the reader inward then outward with practices that give time for both personal and theological reflection. The suggestion in the book for individuals and groups meditate on the “Storm on the Sea” icon will no doubt be new to some evangelical readers but for a visually oriented culture the role of the icon in spiritual formation is an apt practice to rediscover.
The weakness of the book is in line with the weaknesses of other books in the “spiritual formation in community” family. Part 1 of the book, dealing with the internal or “disengage” practices will delight and enrapture every contemplative personality type. Part 2, dealing with the “engage” practices, moves much more quickly and lacks some of insight found in Part 1. For example, Meyer talks at length in the first chapter about creating a portable “retreat center in the heart” (40), but the idea seems to fade in its implications in the “engage section.” Some questions that are left unaddressed in Part 2 have to do with the implications of the “engage” practices on the local church and how to sustain the formation of a community that would embody and live in the rhythms Meyer suggests. I realize the scope of the book doesn’t allow for turning every stone, and perhaps the absence of these thoughts being more directly illustrated is to provide space for the reader to engage the questions themselves.
I would recommend this book for individuals and groups who are looking for a way to set some practices and rhythms which they can share together. Small groups will find the layout of the book appealing, especially if used on a chapter-per-week format. Individuals will find this book easy to use in personal reading and reflection times as the questions asked at the end of each section provide great food for meditation and challenge throughout the day.