If you had time to slow down, you’d notice: You’re more easily distracted lately. You forget the details of your life more often than you used to. You get easily agitated and have trouble resting, even though you’re more tired than you remember ever being. Even your spiritual life is not immune: You struggle to pray, to read the Scriptures, to be still and know that God is God.
Welcome to now. Our technology has greatly improved much of our lives, but in the process our brains are being rewired on a daily basis, and our capacity to be centered in our souls, in our lives, is at risk.
Brain scientists are aware of this unprecedented change, but the solutions aren’t found in science: They’re found in the ancient practices of the faith. Tricia McCary Rhodes reintroduces us to the classic disciplines of Scripture reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation, not just as technologies to aid our faith but as tools to keep us focused and mindful in an increasingly disorienting digital age.
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As incredible as technological advancement is, Rhodes (Sacred Chaos) writes, it has pulled many modern seekers from the nature of spiritual formation. In this savvy prescription for reconnecting with the basics of faith, she proposes a simple but demanding solution: “Establish new habits of life.” Instead of succumbing to the ever-present temptations of smartphones, the Internet, and the 24-hour news cycle, Rhodes turns to the time-tested wisdom of Scripture to relearn habits that will declutter the soul and spirit, opening up space for a higher intimacy with Christ. She organizes this slim manual along the four ancient pathways of the lectio divina (sacred reading): reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating. “Lectio” encourages “slow reading and deep thinking”; “Contemplatio” offers pithy, poetic analysis. Following each part, she assigns homework and self-assessments, providing techniques for increasing reception and retention and strategies of solitude and action to cut through distracting pings and links. While reviewing recent studies about brains and neural pathways, Rhodes strikes a more worrisome tone, but her conclusions are uplifting, empowering, and pragmatic. For readers willing to unplug and listen, this highly readable how-to will provide plenty to contemplate.