ian adams latest book running over rocks came out over the summer. i read it on holiday (our holiday started out sharing a meal with ian and gail before cycling from south to north devon so it was nice to catch up with ian as well). it's a lovely book of spiritual practices.
there are a number of reasons i like the book.
the first is that i think i have become more and more interested in how to live a life. that is perhaps a glaringly obvious thing to say. is there any other option? in the summer john drane was reflecting with some of our pioneer students that the old adage believe-belong-behave had been reconstructed some years back as belong-believe-behave but now the front foot is perhaps on behave-belong-believe. i can think of a thousand argumenst to have with that phrase anyway which is not the point - the point is that it reminded me that lifestyle or how to live out a life as a human, as a person, in community, following christ, that somehow makes a difference in the world is what many people are seeking after. in other words its a life that is embodied, lived, practised. i certainly am interested in a life of faith that enables me to live in a more christlike, prayerful way, paying attention to the world, god, others.
the second is that i think ian has a great way with language - he seems to talk about faith in a way that is open and welcoming and accessible and creative. i am sure he has thought hard and worked carefully on this. it's no mean feat.
the third is that the practices are really good and helpful. there are 52 in total and they are organised into sections - like earth and body, stillness and movement, possibility and so on. you can dive into any section or any practice. you could pick a practice each week of the year. i think it would make a good book for a community to go through in a season like lent. the practices are also a good mix of ancient tried and tested along with creative and fresh ideas. here's how ian describes practices in the intro
Practices are the earthy business of encountering ideas, then working out how they might take shape in us. They help us move from aspiration to reality. They work slowly over time. We shouldn't expect immediate results, but we can expect that through them the change for good that we seek will come, gradually forming something new within us.
the fourth is that ian has great wisdom. he has soaked himself in much of the understandings of those who have navigated the religious life and draws on it in a way that is accessible but has depth. the section of practices of descent is a good example.
the fifth is that ian has written a poem for each practice so there are over 50 poems which is a delightful addition.
practice takes practise - in other words this is not a book to read like i did - in a week! it's one to try out and practise. in my defence i have kept the book with my journal having read it so that i will come back to many of the practices. it reminds me a little bit of anthony de mello's book sadhana a way to god - which is a book i have come back to so many times with its spiritual exercises.
ian and gail are leading a retreat in may which looks like an absolute bargain if you would like a weekend to be introduced to some of the ideas.