Saturday, September 5, 2015

Falling Through the Ice: The Path of a Zen Methodist

Why a journey from Zen to Methodism? Two friends embark on a dual path of discovery while driving from Portland to Denver. The miles take them through the beautiful scenery of the Pacific Northwest as their souls traverse the spiritual landscapes of a lifetime. The journey begins in the San Francisco Bay Area of the 1960s with the nascent American Zen movement led by Shunryu Suzuki. From there it winds through the years, passing through Christianity and pop culture, John Cage and avant-garde music, the haunting beauty of Taizé worship, Celtic Christianity, spiritual naturalism, the painful failures of the modern church, and the promise the church may still hold. The barren landscape of southern Wyoming becomes a fitting backdrop for one friend's growing skepticism as the spiritual past seems more and more disconnected from the present uncertainty. Unexpectedly, the practical theology of eighteenth-century theologian John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, offers the possibility of merging these disparate spiritual experiences together into a single pathway. Transformation, however, inevitably involves loss when the friends find their roads diverging as the destination approaches: one branching towards hope, and the other towards despair.

''Falling Through the Ice is a page turner and a beautifully crafted autobiographical story that pulls one into mysteries of choice, and chance, and grace. . . . This life-journey, told as a road trip, deftly explores key features of the expansive and down to earth contemplative traditions taught by Shunryu Suzuki-roshi and Shalem Institute's Gerald May. Along the way, the precise account of Methodist Christianity's emphases makes clear that the subtitle 'Zen Methodist' is an expression of profound faithfulness. The end of the journey is clearly signaled from the beginning, and yet it contains both surprise and puzzle, neither of which will be soon forgotten.''
--Catherine L. Kelsey, Dean of the Chapel and Spiritual Formation, The Iliff School of Theology, Denver, CO

''Falling Through the Ice is a captivating narrative of journey and self-discovery located in both geography and metaphor. It traverses the western landscape of the United States and the interior recesses of the soul. The story takes one from Portland to Denver, from Zen to United Methodism, from the teachings Shunryu Suzuki to John Wesley. The book unfolds through a series of dialogues between two friends revealing foundational questions and struggles innate to the human condition and spiritual identity. It will cause the reader to think and laugh.''
--Steven Lewis, Educational and Ecclesiastical Consultant, Gresham, OR

''This is an engaging and deeply personal account of Hiestand's spiritual journey with and through Methodism and Zen Buddhism. He winds in and out of these two traditions, negotiating an authentic dual identity that is increasingly the norm in American religiosity. His honesty and humanity are evident on every page, and anyone also traveling such a journey will find in this book a warm and inspiring companion.''
--Jacob N. Kinnard, Professor of Comparative Religions, Iliff School of Theology, Denver, CO --Wipf and Stock Publishers

J. D. Hiestand was ordained a United Methodist elder in 2013. He received a Master of Arts in Music in 1980, and a Master of Divinity in 2011. In between, he worked as a computer programmer and music director in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado. His wife Vivian is also an ordained elder. They live in Colorado and have two sons, two grandchildren, and a Bichon-Frisé.

Most helpful customer reviews

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
5I re-read many passages in his book and am keeping it as a guide to remind me who I follow--and how I can live that love out.
By Mae Hamm
Hiestand's book explores looking for meaning in the diversity of organized religions and finding it in spite of the many "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde's" one encounters. Hiestands's description of his process from Zen-ism to fulfillment in Wesleyan Methodism shares a spiritual journey that invoked a deeper understanding of following Christ and the wholeness of God. He breaks through paradigms to the core of Christianity--Grace from God and living out loving each other. I re-read many passages in his book and am keeping it as a guide to remind me who I follow--and how I can live that love out.

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
5A Beautiful Book
By H. Saunders
This is a beautiful, well-crafted book. The author's journey is Everyman's in scope and fascinatingly unique in its particulars. He uses lyrical language to discuss with crystal clarity deep spiritual questions and truths, with a kick of humor to drive his points home. Topics range widely--from Jefferson Airplane to John Wesley, from Tolkien to Debussy--and he explores each one with an impressive intellectual discipline. At the same time, the book is easy reading, accessible and entertaining. I highly recommend it.

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
5I loved this book
By Ruella Kontour
I loved this book. A very different way to arrive at Christianity. It was interesting and gave me new ways to think about being a Christian. What an interesting life! I think everyone should read this book.

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