A Guidebook to Prayer: Twenty-four Ways to Walk with God [A Review]

The difference between talking about prayer and praying is the same as the difference between blowing a kiss and kissing. – G.K. Chesterton

I am learning how to pray. Like Jesus’ original, questioning disciples, I am in need of some schooling in the ways and means of prayer. As the Chesterton quote above alludes, talking about prayer is a world apart from actually praying and I find myself frequently firmly planted in the talking about camp rather than the praying camp.

In this learning process, I’ve come to realize how my apathy towards prayer has lead to my antipathy regarding prayer. I have an aversion to prayer. It’s so boring and seemingly non-consequential. My mind wonders as time is wasted. In the end, all the talk about prayer was compounding my distaste for it.

And this in a world where I’d been taught the central place of prayer for life itself. Like many facets of the Christian life, prayer is a given in many discussions albeit an arduous road less traveled. Yet, my conversion to a life of prayer was borne out of life of actually praying. It wasn’t until I actually began praying in regular ways that I began to question how to pray, the efficacy of prayer, and the true central role it has for all of life. As I continue to learn and press through this antipathy – for it has never gone away completely – I find myself yearning for more of the God I encounter.

Thankfully, this book by MaryKate Morse landed in my mailbox. It is a variegated antithesis to all things stale and pallid in the life of prayer. Its multifaceted approach does what it says: it guides us into myriad of ways of getting on with prayer with an attentive gentleness outdone only by listening to Morse’s voice in person. (I have done so and have been bettered for it.)

The book gives us means of engaging with God in a uniquely trinitarian way.

The purpose of this book is to move from the lament to the joy of praying…Prayer is more than a practice. It is a living adventure with a relational and risen Lord. God created us to be in a relationship with God expressed in the Trinity. God is the Creator and Covenant Maker. Jesus Christ is the living embodiment of God’s love and is the Redeemer who heals and forgives us. The Holy Spirit empowers us and intercedes on our behalf. – p. 14

Taking her cues from the Divine Community, Morse has broken her book up in three sections focusing on one Person at a time: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Each section, therefore, reflects the being and doing of each person. As such, prayers revolving around the Father discuss creativity, work, blessing, and worship; the Son on service, simplicity, forgiveness, and play; the Spirit, conversation, healing, and rejoicing. These are just a sampling of the prayers given and fleshed out among many others.

Within each chapter – i.e. creativity, simplicity, healing – exercises are given for the individual, groups, and partners. Thus, as one reads, not only is information amassed, but concrete practices are embodied. Furthermore, she does not foresee this work being used primarily as “an occasional tool for different ways to pray, but it is primarily designed to help us become people of prayer.” (p. 19) To this end, stories are given from folks who have gone ahead of the reader(s) in the specific type of prayer being addressed. These are helpful encouragements that play a prominent role in the book; they’re not just supplemental add-ons. In them I found my own story and circumstances echoing back to me in the common hardships and pleasantries of life. In other words, don’t skip them.

If you’re one who has grown tired of speaking of prayer, I suggest this book. If you’re a leader of retreats looking for fresh material, I suggest this book. If you’re a pastor/priest looking for both teaching material and exercises, I suggest this book. Regardless of where you find yourself, I suggest this book. From its plethora of prayers, to its beautiful trinitarian structure, to its personal stories, this is a resource rich in both diversity and the potential to unify.

May it help you – and me – in our transition to being people of prayer.

Purchase it here.

Full Disclosure: I received this book for free from InterVarsity Press with the condition I would read it and write a review. I was under no obligation to write an endorsement for the book; nor did I receive any monetary incentives. All words, unless cited with a page number, are my own and are not reflective of the authors or IVP.


Repent of Christianity and Follow Jesus: The Unkingdom of God [A Review]

Empire is a strong word. For many it brings up mental images of darkness, tyranny, and oppression. Simultaneously, however, it is a word absent from the imaginations of many. And this absence is the impetus leading to empires’ gains in momentum and perpetuation because empire works best unquestioned, unnoticed, or veiled in uncertainty.

For Mark Van Steenwyk, the time has come for exposing the Empire known as Christianity.

Not just exposing, but, to use his own language, naming and then repenting from this empire. Rather than focusing on the “logistical workings of empire”, Van Steenwyck proposes a light be shone upon “the ethos of empire.” Through the questions, “How does an empire understand and justify itself?” along with “[H]ow does the logic of empire (which is about security, domination and control) become intertwined with Christianity?” he directs our attention towards that which has gone on unquestioned, unnoticed, and veiled in uncertainty. He states,

Our proximity to power and affluence gives us a strange perspective from which to read the gospel. The logic of empire is the expeditious, organized pursuit of security, prosperity and control; and the best way to ensure these things is through domination. Our entire way of life depends upon this pursuit. Yet it is contrary to the life and teachings of Jesus, who foreswore security as he walked among the marginalized and challenged the civil and religious authorities; who offered people freedom and confronted those who sought to control others; who upheld and loved the weak rather than dominating them. We find ourselves trying to justify our way of life while worshiping One who challenges our way of life. (p. 28)

If Jesus’ life and work stands in stark contrast to the ethos of empire, how have we seemingly strayed so far? Many lay the blame at the feet of Constantine, but Van Steenwyk points us further back in history. Prior to the Constantinian nuptials of religion and Empire, there were decades of corruption found in the wealth and influence of bishops. The coalescence of imperial praxis with imperial theology allowed for the domination of the marginalized to flourish.

And this domination is not purely aimed and enforced upon humans. No, it is a totalitarian act engulfing people and resources because of the inherent relationship between the two. He who controls the one controls the other. The land does not escape the eye of the Empire.

Beyond this early and historical account of Christian imperialism, Van Steenwyk offers us a look at how the gospel was imperialized as Jesus was plasticized. Rather than being a gospel challenging Empire, it became “gospel of empire.” (p. 39). The taming of Jesus has opened up room for the pursuit of the American dream. This domestication has given us permission to shut Jesus up as we turn our ears to consumerism and individualism, among others. It is something we see everyday.

The solution Van Steenwyk purports is a repentance of this Christianity.

Repentance is not an event or an emotion, it is an ongoing invitation to engage the world differently – to see the world the way God does and act accordingly. Repenting of Christianity means adopting a posture of honest confession as we seek a better way. (p. 76)

We repent of this Christianity in order to follow Jesus further into his way of love that stands in stark contrast to Empire. This Jesus is not a mere historical person, but is a participant within the Triune God. We cannot address “the Compassionate Christ” (chp. 8) without “Encountering the feral God” (chp. 7) or “the Subversive Spirit” (chp. 9).

Moreover, the repentance offered here is not an intellectual account alone. It is a combination of both the mystical and the practical. Van Steenwyk offers us a spirituality tethered to an actual life carried out in concrete practices. Each chapter gifts us with exemplary practices aimed at attuning us to view the world the way God does and to act accordingly.

I highly recommend this book as it is a weaving together of justice and hospitality, theology and praxis, deconstruction and reconstruction. It doesn’t hold back in its naming the powers nor does it let us off the hook for our complicity. Thankfully, I have been graced with running in some of the same circles as the author and have heard many attest to the embodiment of the words found on these pages. If you are looking for a radical – truly radical: getting back to the root – approach which cuts to the quick, get this book. Read it, embrace it, allow it to challenge you, and then practice the nuggets of gold mined from within.

Purchase it here.

Full Disclosure: I received this book for free from InterVarsity Press with the condition I would read it and write a review. I was under no obligation to write an endorsement for the book; nor did I receive any monetary incentives. All words, unless cited with a page number, are my own and are not reflective of the authors or IVP.

Books of 2013

P1020476It’s hard to believe 2013 is almost at its end. It has been a good year for my personal reading and I hope the following list will be of as much help to you as it was to me.

As always, the books aren’t in any particular order. I’ve read all of them in their entirety, which makes this list different than previous ones that contained partially read books. Regardless, these books have shaped my imagination, posture, and practices in one way or another. I pray you might pick some of them up and, if you do, make sure they don’t remain contained solely within your head. Allow them to travel to your heart and hands; share them with others; discuss their material with your friends.

May your story be continually formed by Jesus as we continue to learn together.

Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith by Fred Bahnson

The Missional Quest: Becoming a Church of the Long Run by Brad Brisco and Lance Ford [My Featured Review at Englewood Review of Books: here]

The Attentive Life: Discerning God’s Presence in All Things by Leighton Ford [Review]

The Wounded Healer: Ministry In Contemporary Society by Henri Nouwen

Engagement with God: The Drama of Christian Discipleship by Hans Urs von Balthasar

What Are People For?: Essays by Wendell Berry

The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture by Wendell Berry

Free: Spending Your Time and Money On What Matters Most by Mark Scandrette [Review]

Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight by Norman Wirzba

The World is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good by Tyler Wiggs-Stevenson [Review]

Becoming Human by Jean Vanier

Why God Won’t Go Away: Is the New Atheism Running On Empty? by Alister McGrath

Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying With Icons by Henri Nouwen

Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works by James K.A. Smith

Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology by Andrew Louth [Review]

Farming As a Spiritual Discipline by Ragan Sutterfield

Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food by Frederick Kaufman

Soul Banquets: How Meals Become Mission in the Local Congregation by John Koenig

The Gospel After Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions edited by Ryan Bolger

Free: Spending Your Time and Money on What Matters Most by Mark Scandrette (A Review)

Many of us are too busy or distracted to sustain a life of compassionate engagement. We lives lives of hurry, worry and striving, finding little satisfaction in our manic work and recreational activities. Instead of being free to create beauty, nurture relationships and seek the greater good, many of us feel stuck in lives dictated by the need to pay bills or maintain a certain (often consumptive) standard of living. We can’t have it all – the prevailing level of consumption, a life of deeper meaning and relationships and global equity and sustainability. To realize these good dreams we must adjust our values and practices and seek creative solutions. Mark Scandrette (p. 15)

If you’re looking at the title of this book and thinking you’ve read a hundred books on this topic, might I ask you to think again. Please don’t dismiss this book as another time and money accountability/competency resource. It is not. It is much, much more than that.

Method, Purpose, Goals

Three core beliefs have shaped this book and are taken from the invitation of the gospel:

1. We were created with a purpose, to seek the greater good of God’s loving reign.

2. We have enough.

3. We can make intentional choices about how we spend our time and money.

What would it take to realign our lives around these three beliefs?

At its core this is a book about doing just that: aligning our resources – time and money – with our values and talents. Part theology and part praxis combine to make a whole comprised entirely of experiment. Unlike some resources out there that focus solely upon “financial freedom” or obtaining “financial abundance,” the Scandrettes challenge us to pursue the holistic purposes of the Creator through simplicity, gratitude, trust, contentment, generosity and sustainability on personal, communal, and global levels. This call isn’t a mere intellectual assent to particular principles, but, as is characteristic of Scandrette, is to be followed through in the mundane of our everyday lives.

Moreover, this isn’t a call to individualistic freedom. We are urged to do this with others – spouse, friend, or small sized group. Not only does this allow for accountability, transparency, and honesty, it allows for the encouragement and sustainability communal practices embody. Videos, discussion guides, and more are given within the book and/or are found online to ease us into building community.

Our attention is called to developing practical skills by which we can align our resources with our goals and values. Seven steps are given as the book unfolds in chapters by the same names:

1. Name what matters most to you.

2. Value and align your time.

3. Practice gratitude and trust.

4. Believe you have enough.

5. Create a spending plan.

6. Maximize your resources.

7. Live generously and spend wisely.

Within each chapter, stories of the Scandrettes’ journey mix with action-reflection steps. These action-reflection steps come in the form of experiments and tasks. Each experiment takes between 15 and 45 minutes and are various. The underlying design of each experiment is “to help you become more conscious of your thoughts, motives and behavior, and to risk an action that might open you up to new possibilities.” (p. 21) Due to the variety of experiments, one is able to, well, experiment. One exercise might not be pertinent, another might be much needed. “The key is to do something tangible and measurable to see what effect that action has in your life. Be specific and know that intensity is important.” (p. 21)

Tasks are longer in duration and are “specific assignments to help you develop a tangible plan for spending your time and money.” (p. 21) For each task you should devote between 2 and 6 hours as they will require more reflection and long-term thinking. By the end of the book, if you’ve completed all the tasks, you will have a thoroughly detailed and comprehensive resource for actively pursuing a life marked by freedom. Staying on track is much easier since you’ll be able to look back at your values, talents, and goals.

In the end, their hope is to give guidance and encouragement towards a life of freedom found in simplicity. Rather than the prevalent tendencies of challenge through guilt or over-the-top recommendations, their angle is that simplicity is “‘choosing to leverage time, money, talents and possessions toward what matters most.'” (p. 37) This won’t happen all at once, or by ourselves, or through reading through this book once. It is a life-long process of repetition, reflection, and action.

Personal Reflections

I loved this book. Let me say it again: I loved this book. It is simple, but not simplistic. It is challenging, but not burdening. It is difficult, but in the good sense of pushing me beyond the status quo.

This is due to the place in life my wife and I find ourselves and the book’s holistic view of life. We are in the throes of transition and “what’s next.” We now have 3 children and are facing future-oriented questions and realities unlike ever before. The timeliness of this book is tangible as it has allowed us to step back and truly ask the questions of life. Values, talents, and practices are getting honed through the extensive and penetrating experiments and tasks. All areas of life – physical, relational, spiritual, etc. – are up for reflection and action, bringing an interconnected picture of our life into view.

Practically speaking, I read the book first and then my wife. Now, together, we are working through the material with paper and pen. We will eventually type up our answers in a more cogent manner and place the resulting actions somewhere visible. 1 year goals will begin to be worked on as we work in the everyday to maintain and obtain the goals we mutually come to. Revitalization of some latent hopes, dreams, and talents in both of us have been warmly received.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone wondering what’s next, feels stuck, or is hearing, like us, the whispers of simplicity. Find some friends, a small group, your spouse, and begin the excavating work this book provides. You will be greeted by experienced and wise sojourners – Mark, Lisa, their children and like-minded friends – who speak from years of testing, trying, and applying the thoughts found on these pages.

Purchase the book here.

Full Disclosure: I received this book for free from InterVarsity Press with the condition I would read it and write a review. I was under no obligation to write an endorsement for the book; nor did I receive any monetary incentives. All words, unless cited with a page number, are my own and are not reflective of the authors or IVP.




“Typographic America”: Chapter 3 of Amusing Ourselves to Death

This is the third installment of a dialogue I’m having with Neil Postman and his book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. I’d love for you to join me; consider this your formal invitation. Here is the first part, which is a general introduction to this work. This is the summation and thoughts on the first chapter. And here is the working through of the second chapter. I’d love for you keep coming back as journey into this modern classic.


There was a revolution brewing in the early years of the sixteenth century. It wasn’t a violent uprising seeking the head(s) of tyrants, although they were certainly happening. It wasn’t an international conflict, pitting one country against another, although, again, they were certainly on the horizon. Rather, and perhaps underneath the aforementioned scenarios, another shift was taking place:

Beginning in the sixteenth century, a great epistemological shift had taken place in which knowledge of every kind was transferred to, and made manifest through, the printed page. (Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, 33.)

Looking at early colonial American history, the nature of books in society becomes evident: there was an equal amount of reliance upon the written word as there was in its ubiquity. This was especially true of our New England forebears.

Whatever else may be said of those immigrants who came to settle in New England, it is a paramount fact that they and their heirs were dedicated and skillful readers whose religious sensibilities, political ideas and social life were embedded in the medium of typography. (p. 31)

Thoughts, axioms, and all other forms of reasoning were distributed through the typographic word. Political reform, religious doctrine, and social program were all given to the masses in the form of books. They were everywhere. And despite the strong Christian influence of the day, the books in print were not solely of Christian persuasion.

…the famous Bay Psalm Book, printed in 1640 [is] generally regarded as America’s first best seller. But it is not to be assumed that these people confined their reading to religious matters. Probate records indicate that 60 percent of the estates in Middlesex County between the years 1654 and 1699 contained books, all but 8 percent including more than the Bible. In fact, between 1682 and 1685, Boston’s leading bookseller imported 3,421 books from one English dealer, most of these nonreligious books. The meaning of this fact may be appreciated when one adds that these books were intended for consumption by approximately 75,000 people then living in the northern colonies. The modern equivalent would be ten million books.

In the midst of this shift, it wasn’t long before education took a new direction as well. During this time learning became known as “book-learning.” Moreover, due to the pervasiveness of books, schools began to be just as prevalent. Yet, unlike our current thought of education being the ticket to financial abundance and opportunity, literacy rates and the proliferation of books didn’t give birth to an aristocracy. Rather, all classes were literate and able to articulate reasoned thoughts and beliefs. Postman brings this to our attention with a quote from Jacob Duche in 1772:

‘The poorest labourer upon the shore of the Delaware thinks himself entitled to deliver his sentiment in matters of religion or politics with as much freedom as the gentleman or scholar…Such is the prevailing taste for books of every kind that almost every man is a reader.’

In matters of sheer volume alone, the quantity of books and other typographic material distributed is astounding. Furthering the above statistic in New England along with the literacy of the population despite class designation, we find that Thomas Paine’s Common Sense sold more than 100,000 copies between January 10, 1776 (its date of publication) and March of the same year. In the time of Postman’s writing – 1985 – it would take a book selling 8,000,000 copies in two months to be on the same level. Insane.

The only competition books had to face during these early years was its cousins newspapers and pamphlets. Bringing the printing press to America resulted in a proliferation of newspapers and pamphlets as printing presses popped up across the landscape. So much so that in 1786 Benjamin Franklin quipped “that Americans were so busy reading newspapers and pamphlets that they scarcely had time for books.” (p. 37) Their ease of dissemination and cost allowed every person to be informed regarding the happenings of their locality. Circulation did not require much effort allowing both farmer and city-dweller to equally informed.

Thus, by the time the 19th century began to be ushered in, America was solidified as a print-based culture. Libraries could be found in all regions of the States; not just general libraries, but “mechanics’ and apprentices'”(working class) ones as well. Congress had lowered the postal rates in 1851, which allowed for “the penny newspaper, the periodical, the Sunday school tract, and the cheaply bound book [to be] abundantly available.” (p. 38) Authors of now classics were revered and held in awe due to their continuous thought and story telling. For example,

When Dickens visited America in 1842, his reception equaled the adulation we offer today to television stars, quarterbacks, and Michael Jackson. (p. 39)

Dickens himself wrote of how his time in America could not be rivaled by emperors and other royalty. So splendid and overwhelmingly lavish was his reception all because of his writing prowess. Although she never received the same welcome, American writer Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin “sold 305,000 copies in its first year, the equivalent of four million in today’s [1985] America.” (p. 39)


The influence of the printed word could not be held within books, newspapers, pamphlets and the like. Concurrent with the printing press’ power was the attraction and authority of the lecture hall. Similar to the printed word’s transcendence beyond class, lecture halls opened their doors and speeches to all. As Alfred Bunn, an Englishman visiting America in 1853, reported “practically every village had its lecture hall…It is a matter of wonderment…to witness the youthful workmen, the overtired artisan, the worn-out factory girl…rushing after the toil of the day is over, into the hot atmosphere of a crowded lecture room.” (p. 40) Audiences were captivated by a smattering of the day’s authors, intellectuals, and humorists – who were all writers in and of themselves.

It isn’t that these lecture halls employed something of a competing form with the printed word. Rather, their orality was resolutely formed by the printed word. This wasn’t just the case with lectures and other forms of speaking. It was true of all of society due to the monopoly of the printed word.

But from the seventeenth century to the late nineteenth century, printed matter was virtually all that was available. There were no movies to see, radio to hear, photographic displays to look at, records to play. There was no television. Public business was channeled into and expressed through print, which became the model, the metaphor, and the measure of all discourse. The resonances of the lineal, analytical structure of print, and in particular, of expository prose, could be felt everywhere. (p. 41 emphasis mine)

For the imagination and practice of the everyday person in this time period, the printed word was not just a medium, it was, in Postman’s words, a metaphor. It didn’t supply information; it constituted the manner of engaging the world through a given epistemology. To say that it simply influenced the form of public discourse wouldn’t be saying much.

How does typography act as a metaphor? What is the inherent epistemology the printed word hands the world? The next chapter, “The Typographic Mind” dives head first into these explanations. Come back as Postman continues to pave a way towards how we presently are “amusing ourselves to death.”

Are the above stories and stats surprising to you? Why or why not?

What can you infer about typography’s metaphor and epistemology?

In your own life or the culture of your community, does the power of the written word still stand?

The Attentive Life: Discerning God’s Presence in All Things by Leighton Ford: A Review

Attention has been something on my mind quite a bit as of late. Perhaps it is my work with special needs students for whom attention is a constant struggle. Perhaps it is my three little girls all 4 years old and under and their constant need for attention. Perhaps it is my own struggle to be attentive in a world vying for my attention through all things flashy, new, and alluring. It is more likely than not that the synergy between all of these (and more factors, I’m sure) have come to a head in my current stage of life. Regardless, this confluence of seemingly disparate things is the essence of my life and my attention needs to be given to all of them. Even more so, however, I need to be attentive to the God who is working through, in, and among my life events as God pays attention to me.

That is why I am so thankful for this book by Leighton Ford. It has truly been a gift to read and digest. In a time in my life when presence, constancy, and vulnerability – components of attention – are most needed, this book has been a soothing resource.

Structure and Method

There are three areas of exploration Ford wants to bring to the fore in this book:

We will look at attentiveness itself: what is it, and why is it important?

We will see God as the Great Attender, the One who pays attention and calls us to attention.

We will look at the hours of our lives, whether the hours of our days…or the various seasons of life and our spiritual journey, and the kind of attentiveness that each phase calls for. (p. 13)

He does so as a combination of both information and reflection. Each chapter is an explanation of an hour of prayer developed by St. Benedict as he traverses through the entirety of one day of prayer. Hour by hour, Ford gives us not only what the particular hour means for our prayer lives, but also how each one points our attention in specific directions. From waking at 3AM for Vigils, through noontime Sext, and closing the day with Compline at bedtime, each hour is pregnant with opportunity to pay attention to the God who pays attention to us.

A continual thread through each hour is Ford’s reflections connecting the hours with stages of life. Thus, he not only informs us about the history and praxis of each daily hour, but also its deeper significance in our travels through life. Sprinkled throughout are poems, aphorisms, and other words of beauty; some are Ford’s own writings, others are prayerful exhortations to be attentive.

And, finally, every chapter is accompanied by a story of “one who paid attention.” Theologians, missionaries, and authors such as Lewis, Weil, Nouwen, and Mother Teresa fill in gaps with attitudes, events, and postures, making each hour (daily or season of life) potent with both information and reflection.

Personal Reflections

If you haven’t been able to tell yet, I loved this book. To be completely honest, it has been on my radar for some time now. I am beyond thankful to have received this copy for review from InterVarsity Press. Ford’s writing is profound and lucid in a way that was unexpected. There were never any forced, spoon-fed answers. Rather, he wrote in a manner that left me asking more questions than anything else. The aforementioned goals of this book are substantially met by Ford.

Moreover, I resonated highly with his use of the Benedictine hours. As one who finds grace and beauty within the ancient practices of the church, having a routine to give structure and import to my day is most welcome. I particularly found his understanding of Vespers and Compline to be as vital as they were calming. I have begun to (once again) incorporate the prayers of Compline into my nightly routine as I’ve also found resonance with his reflections on Compline as a season of life.

I would give some quotes from this book, but the copious amount of highlighted material is far too much. I’m pretty certain that I killed an entire highlighter reading this book. However, I will give a select few pertinent quotes from the opening introduction. If you are one who struggles with attention and/or wonders how to learn the discipline of attentiveness in a distracted and distracting world, I highly suggest this book.

Paying attention is not a way by which we make something happen but a way to see what is already given to us…’Lord, show me what I am missing.’ Let us start this journey together where we are, with that prayer, and see what he shows us. (p. 15)


Education: Freedom or Bondage?

As of Monday, subsidized student loan interest rates have doubled. You can read about it here and here. I’ve often reflected on my own journey through college and seminary (graduate school) and the cost I have accrued. I’ve said it before, but if I could go back and do it all over again, I would have done community college then a state school and then seminary. Not only for the changing tides from Christendom to post-Christendom and the need for an employable skill set outside of the Church, but also for the cost. Private, religious education doesn’t come cheaply.

But besides the financial restraints that come along with education, we must be aware of what sort of character bondage are we falling prey to. Institutions of education, whether public or private, faith-based or not, high school or college, are places of formation. They do not only make impacts on our wallets, but also on our being. They – along with everything else in this life – hand us stories and practices resulting in identities comprised of both character and skill: being and doing. If we aren’t walking through life with eyes and ears attuned to these stories and practices, we will be formed in ways that we are not cognizant of. And not always for the best.

So, in many ways, I wonder how education has either brought freedom or bondage to our lives.

Norman Wirzba brings this to our attention with the following quote. Notice how he ties together our financial costs to our current primary way of identification, namely as consumers. In a world deeply marked by individualistic consumerism, we would do well to ask in what manners education is forming us to become just that: individual consumers. As we perpetuate and participate in consumeristic stories and practices, our identities are subtly, yet profoundly, shaped to the point where consumerism simply oozes out of us. And, as inwardly bent consumers, we are often blinded by prices, efficiency, and ease; the very things which keep us buried beneath “ignorance and incompetence.”

In the end, we must begin to wrestle with the inextricable tie between all areas of life. We fool ourselves when we think our economic decisions (doing) don’t flow directly from our character (being). In a world striving after the proper credentials, we need to be strident in our simultaneous cultivation of our character.

Freedom or bondage?

Though we may produce remarkable communicators (often communicating little of value) or efficient managers (often managing sites that are exhausted or degraded), the fact of the matter is that current education does precious little to develop in us the basic competencies of life – growing and preparing food, raising a family, judging quality, maintaining a home, practicing hospitality, or making a toy – that are vital and indispensable to a healthy and successful life. Because many of our educational agendas are driven by “the career of money,” most basically in the form of corporate funding and in the promotion of the most lucrative (especially to corporations) fields of study, we should not be surprised that the most essential skill graduates must learn is how to write a check or lay down a credit card. Education, rather than leading us to freedom, fosters various forms of bondage as we move further into economic debt (beginning with our educational costs!) owing to our collective ignorance and incompetence.– Norman Wirzba, Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight, 134.