Sometimes I get bored with spiritual writing. That may seem like a crazy foolish thing for me to admit, for after all, I am a “spiritual writer” myself. But it’s true. I can only take so much gentle, kind, inspirational prose about discovering our inner authenticity and learning to let God’s forgiving love transform us so that we can in turn bring compassion and forgiveness to others…. yada yada yada… I believe it all, it’s all true, but sometimes it just gets a little boring. It’s kind of like contemporary Christian music. Some of it (the David Crowder Band leaps to mind) is authentically creative and worthy of repeated listens. But so much of it feels rather constrained by the essential politeness of its message. It may be good, and honest, and true, but it lacks passion, and risk, and danger.
The solution to such boredom, of course, is to make sure we don’t have a steady diet of religious prose (or music). But this doesn’t always have to be an either/or proposition. Sarah Arthur and Paraclete Press have recently produced a wonderful devotional book called At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time — which is, as the title suggests, a collection of literary writings arranged to foster a lively devotional practice. Set in a 29-week cycle (long enough to cover the period from Pentecost until Advent), this book features excerpts of poetry and prose from a wide array of authors, including George Eliot, Herman Melville, Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy — as well as authors we might more intuitively think of as “spiritual,” like George Herbert, John Donne, Julian of Norwich, George MacDonald, and Dante. The book is set up so that you can use it as a daily devotional, or for a longer, weekly sampling of the literary treasures it contains. Each week has its own contemplative theme: “In the Stillness,” “The Intimacy of Grace,” “Communion of the Body” and so forth. Basically, this is a book for bringing a love for fine writing into your practice of prayer (and vice versa). It’s well worth checking out.