"Soaring in the Spirit..."

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Chuck Conniry writes...I wrote Soaring in the Spirit for people who have not yet experienced all they had hoped to experience in the life of faith—which includes most of us, if we are honest about it. Here's what I say in the preface:

"This book is about experiencing the presence of Jesus Christ in the moment-by-moment "nows" of daily life. I do not romanticize the spiritual life by promising that our journey of faith is marked by unbroken, upward progress or that intimacy with Christ leads to a more fulfilling end. Life in the Spirit does not always take us where we want to go. I do not idealize life in Christ by suggesting that the way of the cross holds the key to 'spiritual success,' nor do I minimize the complexities and paradoxes of the Christian life by distilling them into a simple formula that is readily understood and easily applied."

Some writers oversimplify the way of Christ. They proffer things like, "five easy steps to a more fulfilling life in Christ" or "seven healthy habits for victorious living" or whatever. But the truth is our spiritual lives are bruised by personal failures, conflict with others, and an endless assortment of trials. In its best form, our walk with Christ undulates between periods of intense spiritual passion and frigid indifference to the things of God. What's worse is that we are often afraid to share the full scope of our lives with each other. Some faith communities market a brand of "victorious spirituality" that nobody really lives up to...and that induces us to put on facades instead being real with each other. Life in Christ is, in a word, complicated because life is complicated.

One thing I tried to do in Soaring in the Spirit was to give each other permission to share the dirt about themselves. If we can't talk to each other about the stuff that's dragging us down, who else can we go to? One of the great distractions that keeps us from bring real with each other is the fixation on "believing the right things" and "behaving rightly." I devote several chapters, replete with personal stories, to this crippling distraction.

Another thing I tried to do was to put some handles on that slippery thing we call 'mystery.' One of the primary characteristics of so-called Christian mystics is their capacity to recognize the presence of Christ in ordinary life. In my book I explain what caused us to become so suspicious of mystics and how deeply rooted in Scripture the way of mystery really is. It is in fact the key to escaping the excesses associated with "the way of knowledge" (i.e., right belief) and "the way of piety" (right behavior).

Finally, I tried to reinforce the centrality of the church in Christ's redeeming work in the world. Some high-profile church leaders have proclaimed that "the local church is the hope of the world." While I appreciate the sentiment behind that statement, I have to disagree. The church is not the hope of the world...JESUS IS THE HOPE OF THE WORLD. But the church is central to what Jesus is doing in the world. I speak candidly about the weakness and failings of the church—especially the modern, Western church. However, I believe that redemption begins with the church. It is a mistake to write the church out of the script. The church is the Body of Christ—a point that Jesus brought home to me in an unforgettable way (see chapter 12, "The Church's Dual Citizenship").

I look forward to the conversations about these and other topics!