Threshold of Discovery

A Field Guide to Spirituality in Midlife

L. Roger Owens

Jan/2019, 160 Pages, Paperback, 6 x 9

ISBN-13: 9781640650503



Thoughtful exploration of midlife spirituality through the prism of nature walks

Roger Owens, facing a “dark night of the soul” as he turned forty and entered midlife, was encouraged by his spiritual director to think of it instead as a “threshold of discovery.” Rather than go on a grand adventure like walking the Appalachian Trail or the Camino de Santiago, he decided to mark his fortieth year by taking forty walks in a nearby nature preserve. With patience and attention, he explored the concerns rising with him: the inevitability of death, his boredom with life, and the reality of his changing faith, changing images of God, and changing sense of self. The result is forty short chapters that weave together insightful stories of his walks with accessible history and practices of Christian spirituality and the lives of saints.

This field guide to the spirituality of midlife facilitates readers’ personal journeys through questions of faith, purpose, and relationships. It is not solely a memoir, but a work of wisdom literature that uses engaging first-person narratives to explore universal themes and spiritual inquiry. Wise and imaginative, and with study questions for each section, Threshold of Discovery is the companion guide for a thoughtful Christian journey.

L. Roger Owens is associate professor of Christian spirituality and ministry at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Before his academic career, he was the pastor of United Methodist congregations in North Carolina. He is the author of three previous books, and a regular writer for Duke University's Faith and Leadership and Christian Century. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA.

"Reading Threshold of Discovery makes me feel like I am walking slowly down a nature trail with a thoughtful friend and theologian who is sharing rich insights about how to stay vibrant and hopeful when facing some of the daunting questions that arise in midlife. Roger Owens's writing is attractive and inviting—deeply personal and pastorally sensitive. His insights are grounded in his own experience and illuminated by the wisdom of Christian tradition."—Wilkie Au, Ph.D, author of The Enduring Heart: Spirituality for the Long Haul

"'Midlife' has an ominous ring to it. But this insightful book takes us on a journey of self-discovery with an author whose authentic faith provides no easy answers. Yet, like Jesus, he asks just the right questions that can open us up to God's guiding us as we live into the next stage of life."—Dr. Todd L. Lake, Vice President for Spiritual Development, Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee

"There are many books on the midlife passage, but few as inviting as Roger Owens' Threshold of Discovery. Join Roger on forty walks as he converses with you, his wife, and his three children about facing changes in life, prayer, and personal vocation. Steeped in wisdom from writers on the spiritual life, you'll find your guides as life changes unfold. This book is a treasure not only for people in midlife, but for all of us engaging in the continuing transitions of adult life."—Rev. Dwight H. Judy, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Formation, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois and author of Discerning Life Transitions: Listening Together in Spiritual Direction

"Roger Owens invites the reader to accompany him on walks through the transitional questions of mid-life. This proves to be a walk into the land of wonder, common sense, wry wisdom, honesty, and kindly attention to the daily realities of being a spouse, a parent, a son, a professor, a pastor, a bird watcher. I finished this book with a sense of gratitude for words well-smithed and for the gentle willingness to attend to God's presence, right here, right now. This is a book to read slowly, and to return to. Highly recommended--even for those who aren't in mid-life."—Mary Earle, Episcopal priest, writer, spiritual director and retreat leader. Her nine books include Beginning Again: Benedictine Wisdom for Living with Illness and Days of Grace: Meditations and Practices for Living with Illness.

"L. Roger Owens' Threshold of Discovery: A Field Guide to Spirituality in Midlife is superbly crafted; not only in terms of its structure and lovely prose, but in the gentle way he invites us along, somehow in a voice that's at once intimate and authoritative, to accompany him as he walks a winding path into midlife, ever on the lookout for "the hidden God." This spiritual memoir belongs right alongside the classics he references in its pages; Owens' wisdom, superior gifts as a writer, and humble observations will be a source of comfort and hope to readers who find themselves entering the liminal space of midlife."—Jennifer Grant, author of Maybe God Is Like That Too and When Did Everybody Else Get So Old?

"One might call this a book of walking meditations. Each chapter "Trail" is comprised of particular "walks"—actual hikes, meditated upon. The author beautifully evokes the terrain he travels, externally and internally. Rarely have I seen the challenges and opportunities of midlife so honestly explored. Owens' informal prose, deceptively easy to read, breaks open frequently into deep metaphors and meanings. He invites us to step with him into the movement from exercising spiritual practices to experiencing daily life—in all its extraordinary ordinariness—as prayer. A book to savor."—Marjorie Thompson, author of Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life

"When we find ourselves at one of life's thresholds where what once was sure and reliable now feels ambiguous and unfamiliar, what we often want is someone to tell us how to resolve the discomfort. What we really need, however, is reassurance that we are not lost or alone and the courage to stay the course long enough to receive the gifts that will carry us through the next phase of our journey. We need a companion guide who will patiently walk with us. With an attentive mind and an open and honest heart, Roger shares his own experience of walking into mid-life in a way that provides such trustworthy companionship and some helpful signposts for engaging our own threshold-crossings. As a fellow pilgrim on the mid-life journey, I am grateful to Roger for this book."—Johnny Sears, Director, The Academy for Spiritual Formation Emerging Ministries, The Upper Room

"Thresholds of Discovery belongs on your shelf with Lauren Winner's Still and Richard Rohr's Falling Up, great books about the spirituality of the 'middle.' Wandering the park land near his home, Owens enters the mysterious terrain of midlife, the in-between space where we begin to wake up to who he really is -- faults, wounds, gifts, and all. What might at first feel like a time of endings or a phase of melancholy and regret becomes the beginning of a new kind of strength. Owens builds more than physical stamina in these woods; he builds the resilience and hope that we all need to be more fully present to God, to ourselves, and to each other as we enter the second half of life."—Jessica Mesman, editor of Image Journal's podcast and blog, Good Letters, and the author of Love and Salt: A Spiritual Friendship in Letters

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