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Monday, February 27, 2012

"A Place at the Table" (Chris Seay)

TITLE: Place at the Table, A: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor
AUTHOR: Chris Seay
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012, (240 pages).

This book is so appropriate for the season of Lent, and especially for those of us living in a materialistic world, that indulges in a consumeristic manner, and lives so individualistic lives that it is so easy to forget that the world is much bigger than our world. The needs of the world outside is much hungrier than our own needs. Our day-to-day problems take on a whole new perspective when we begin to realize that life is not just about us. Even for Christians who are pious and do a lot of good works in their neighbourhoods, it is an important reminder that not everyone in the world has the 3-4 meals a day like us. The problem of poverty and hunger, sickness and poor hygiene, and the lack of basic necessities in many parts of the world should have pierced our hearts and minds to release compassion and care.

Seay invites readers to take on a 40 days of various spiritual disciplines that basically deny ourselves intentionally of things we so often take for granted. In doing so, we begin a process of self-discipline, and adopt spiritual disciplines with the objectives of learning to look outside of ourselves and our own needs. We are called to move from consuming to sharing. We are persuaded to develop a heart of gratitude to God for our daily provisions. We are given many practical steps to help us fast well, and to see fasting as a legitimate and crucial spiritual discipline. Seay gives us a wonderful rhythm of fasting for 6 days and feasting on the 7th. Such a cadence will help to release any puffed-up air of legalism, to encourage us along through the relatively long journey, and at the same time enable us to give thanks for much as well as for little stuff. Seay's strategy for fasting is a win-win method. He encourages us to donate our money that we saved from our fasting toward the needy causes. This way, the poor wins because they receive more. We win because we hear more sensitively from God.

Each day begins with a reflection which can be biblical, a spiritual thought, or a contemporary moment. One of his days even has a reflection from the popular TV series, House M.D. The Scriptures used are from the latest THE VOICE Bible translation project of which the author is one of the key members of the team. Every day, there is a short segment of a particular country to pray for. What I find  helpful is the way the author uses his fasting and spiritual disciplines direct his focus back to God and toward the position of solidarity with the poor. The low times that he experience, he is able to turn it back to God. His high times can be seen through his praises and singing of songs. Along the way, Seay provides readers several insights into the different compassion organizations around the world.

Ideally, this book should be started on Wednesdays, that culminates on a Sunday which is exactly 40 days. Lent has just begun, and it is never too late to start. The dates may not fit but as long as the heart is ready, and the spirit is willing, there is always opportunities to move beyond mere talk about saying we care for the poor, to actual walking of our talk. For me, I feel that the biggest benefit lies with the one doing the fasting, the praying, and the spiritual disciplining. I note how the author begins to experience a gradual shift from physical to spiritual warfare. The 40 days enables him to face sin head on, to love neighbour more intentionally, and to experience God in our lack. It is interesting to note the paradox of spirituality. The more physical comfort we have, the less spiritually aware we become. The more we deprive ourselves of the physical comfort, the greater our spiritual sensors. This book is an excellent guide and opportunity for us to experience the wilderness especially fort hose of us living in a materialistic, consumeristic, and individualistic world. In 40-days, we battle these three principalities in one sweep.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

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