Most books on spirituality focus on disciplines like prayer and Bible study. But this can mislead us into thinking that God can only be experienced when we are doing something "spiritual." Apart from private devotional times or church on Sundays, God may seem distant and even irrelevant to our daily lives.
R. Paul Stevens has a radically different view of Christian spirituality. True spirituality, he says, is down-to-earth--we encounter God in the ordinary, common stuff of everyday life. Taking his cue from the biblical story of Jacob, Stevens explores the Genesis narrative and uncovers how ordinary moments are made extraordinary, transformed by the presence of God in the midst of the mundane.
Dreamer, schemer, worker and entrepreneur, Jacob embodies a multifaceted life of earthy passion and gritty spirituality. Jacob encounters the sacred not only through visions of ladders to heaven and mysterious wrestling matches with angles. Jacob also meets God at home and at work, at meals and in sleep, in solitude and in relationships. From birth to death, through every passage of life, Jacob sees God in the routine details of his everyday experience.
"Everyday life is the spiritual discipline in which God continuously and graciously meets us," Stevens writes. And in this book, Stevens helps us see that what appears commonplace on the surface actually has great spiritual significance. When we least expect it, God surprises us by re-enchanting our daily experience and making every moment an opportunity to experience his blessing.
"Paul Stevens's passion for the wounded patriarch Jacob has found its full expression in this, his latest work, Down-to-Earth Spirituality. Stevens's unique approach of blending theological themes with the narrative story gives the book a heightened relevance for the modern reader. After decades of study and reflection, Paul gives us the fruit not just of Jacob's journey but, as a patriarch in his own right, of reflections from a lifetime of wisdom. Thus he is able to speak with authority regarding all the "earthly" contexts where God shapes the human soul. Who cannot identify with Jacob's longing to see God's face in dysfunctional families, oppressive work environments and in marriages where love has grown cold? I found Paul's book so valuable that it became my primary tool to train lay missionaries who will be teaching Jacob's story in Romania."
"A thought-provoking, heart-searching excavation in the rich narrative mine of the second half of Genesis. The family focus and the corrective and directive wisdom are brought out most strikingly."
Foreword by Charles Ringma
Introduction: The Earthy Spirituality of Jacob
1. Birth: the Story of Rebekah - Genesis 25:19-28
2. Eating: the Story of Esau - Genesis 25:27-35; 27:1-40
3. Family: the Story of Isaac - Genesis 26--27
4. Sleeping: the Story of the Angels - Genesis 28:10-22
5. Courting: the Story of Rachel - Genesis 29:1-14
6. Marriage: the Story of Leah - Genesis 29:14-30
7. Work: the Story of Laban - Genesis 29:14-20; 31:10-13
8. Conversion: the Story of the God-Man - Genesis 32:26-28
9. Sex: the Story of Dinah - Genesis 34
10. Home: the Story of Bethel - Genesis 35
11. Calling: the Story of Joseph - Genesis 37--50
12. Dressing: the Story of Tamar - Genesis 38
13. Finishing: the Story of Judah - Genesis 42--50
14. Death: the Story of Ephraim - Genesis 48:1-22; 49:29-33
Appendix A: The Family Tree
Appendix B: The Story in Brief - Genesis 25--50