The Day is Yours: Slow Spirituality in a Fast-Moving World
Author: Ian Stackhouse
Publisher: Paternoster Press
Book Review by Tim Davy, Reviews editor for Encounters and Assistant Lecturer in Biblical Studies, Redcliffe College.
Perhaps it is true to say that activism is as rife in the ‘mission community’ as it is anywhere else. Ian Stackhouse’s new book should, therefore, be required reading for anyone embarking on or engaged in cross-cultural work, as well as for the Church at large.
His previous book, the provocatively titled, The Gospel-Driven Church was a broadside against the kind of faddism that we Christians all too easily become infatuated with; an obsession with programmes and the ‘latest thing’ that in the end fails to deliver, leaving the Christian community weary and cynical.
In The Day is Yours Stackhouse encourages the reader to appreciate each day as a gift from God. But rather than giving us a ‘how to’ guide or a list of top tips, he prefers instead to set out a rhythm for living attentively to God. Crucial to this is the embracing of Sabbath, though he refuses to pin down exactly what this will look like, acknowledging that this will be different for each person.
One of the most interesting things about the book is that it is written by a pastor who has spent the last fifteen years ministering in the heart of London’s commuter belt. As a consequence the book engages with the ever-present tension between how life is and how it could be. To his credit Stackhouse does this in a realistic yet challenging way that leaves the reader inspired and able to make at least some changes to their attitudes and lifestyle that reflect a more ready appreciation of each day as being a gift from God.
A couple of interesting ‘interludes’ punctuate the book. Firstly, a sermon on Naboth’s vineyard that exemplifies the book’s critique of our ‘culture of commodification’. Secondly, a superb reflection on praying the Psalms. In the view of this Old Testament scholar, the latter, a mere seven pages, is almost worth the price of the book alone!
The reader is also treated to that rare thing; a theology of sleep. Why is it, Stackhouse wonders, that so little is written on the subject?
“Such a situation is symptomatic, in my opinion, of our general disregard for the day itself, and the rhythms we are enjoined to live by. Once we decide that life is ours to grasp rather than something to be grateful for, something to attack rather than a gift to receive, then it is little wonder that night-time becomes a problem. Night-time commits the ultimate heresy for moderns: getting us to stop. To sleep well one has to relinquish, to let go. And since letting go is not something we are good at, many of us don’t sleep very well.”
I also appreciated the chapter on the Lord’s prayer which picks up very helpfully on something of the political and economic flavour of Jesus’ words. Here Stackhouse also reflects, as a pastor, on the importance of exposing the young people in his affluent church to the realities of global poverty.
In The Day is Yours Stackhouse offers not an escape from the busyness of our days, but a way of living more attentively to God in the midst of them. His refusal to be overly prescriptive could make the book frustrating at times, but perhaps this only goes to illustrate our own impatience and the author’s wisdom in not pandering to our desire for bullet points and executive summaries.
Is the book successful in offering, as the subtitle puts it, a ‘slow spirituality in a fast-moving world’? On the whole I think so. It is an excellent and much-needed work of practical and spiritual theology by a pastor in the thick of things. Though acknowledging the demands of modern life The Day is Yours encourages the reader to be confident in the possibilities of a gospel-defined way of living.
Buy The Day is Yours: Slow Spirituality in a Fast-Moving World from St Andrew’s Bookshop.
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