Review: Spiritual Rhythm, by Mark Buchanan

Spiritual Rhythm, by Mark Buchanan (Zondervan, 2010)

If spiritual life is measured by fruit, seasons make a good metaphor. Winter, spring and summer are all needed to produce a good harvest in the fall.

Just as one year’s growth cycle leads into the next, Mark Buchanan suggests our own trip through the seasons will be ongoing. This has been my experience, and I’m glad I’m not alone. Mark, who’s farther ahead in his spiritual maturity than I, began this book in a hard, cruel winter.

I suspect that  many who feel themselves most in need of this book’s help will be in wintertime. Perhaps that’s why chapter one opens there.

Recognizing and accepting the season we’re in—whether we progressed naturally from the previous one or were thrust into it by circumstances beyond our control—frees us to begin tending our spiritual lives in ways most suited to the time.

The first half of Spiritual Rhythm looks at the four seasons of the heart and at what life might look like in each one. It offers suggested activities (and inactivities) to make the most of each one and to encourage a healthy progression into the next. And it points us to Jesus, the Man for all seasons.

“I seek two things: Christ’s presence in season and out, to know that even the darkness cannot hide him and that by his light I see light. And Christ’s wisdom in season and out, to know how best to meet him, how best to make the most out of each season and each moment.” (Spiritual Rhythm, pages 18-19)

In the second half the focus is spiritual rhythm, covering topics like balance, abiding, seeking the Kingdom, walking in the light, perseverance, gratitude, worship, the Bible, prayer and friendship.

The seasonal activities and spiritual practices are practical and down-to-earth. The book also includes 29 short selections called “Time-ins” which allow readers to explore specific areas where we might benefit.

These aren’t touchy-feely questions, nor are they abstract theorizations. They offer the chance to go deeper into topics that may help. With that many to choose from, there should be a few that will resonate with anyone. If you’re inclined, you can work them through in a journal. If that scares you, just think about them a bit. Or at least read them. They don’t bite.

The book can be read straight through, or readers may dive in where they most feel the need. There’s minor recapping of previous material in places, so that a reader beginning there won’t miss the benefit.

No review of a Mark Buchanan book is complete without mention of the author’s lyrical writing style. Spiritual Rhythm even includes some of his poetry: brief, evocative, and real. His books are refreshing because of their spiritually-nutritious content and their beauty of delivery.

Mark knows how to tell stories that connect with ordinary people. Stories of ordinary people and of those who’ve walked paths many of us will safely avoid. He shares his own stories with an engaging transparency, and never lingers on them long enough to sound self-absorbed.

Spiritual Rhythm may be my favourite Mark Buchanan book yet. I’m not ready to be finished reading; I need to go back and revisit sections that still have more to say to me.

Mark Buchanan is a Canadian pastor, speaker and award-winning author. His previous books are Your God is Too Safe, Things Unseen, The Holy Wild, The Rest of God and Hidden in Plain Sight. Keep an eye out for Your Church is too Safe: Turning the World Upside Down, coming out in 2012, and Mark’s first novel, David, in 2013.

You can find Mark at his website. His sermons are also available as podcasts from the New Life Community Baptist Church.

Spiritual Rhythm is available in hardcover and ebook formats, online or through your local bookstore. You will want a copy you can highlight or underline.

[A shorter version of this review first appeared in Faith Today, Nov-Dec 2011. Review copy from my personal library.]

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