Book Review: STIR
Author: Mindy Caliguire
Publisher: Zondervan ISBN: 9780310494829
It’s probably a great indicator of where my head and heart are in this season of life, but I’m giving this book a 5-Star rating and I’m positive it will be on my Top-Ten List of books read in my 2013 reading year.
It was the summer of 2009 in San Antonio, TX at the Renovare’ International Conference that I first met Mindy Caliguire. She was leading a workshop on the topic of Soul Care and I was anxious to learn all I could learn about this art and nurture of the spirit. In the years to follow, I would immerse myself fully into the apprenticeship of becoming spiritually formed in the image of Christ and learning what it means to be a spiritual companion to others… how to help others in the guidance of their soul. Soul Care became a way of life for me. I count Mindy Caliguire as one of the persons instrumental in helping to point me on the way (although I’m sure she is not aware of this). Now, almost five years later, I’m certified as a spiritual director and teach others in the ways of soul care and spiritual formation… all the while I continue to grow in my own journey.
Much of what I have written thus far has to do with my excitement and delight with STIR. My Christian experience has been largely formed in the Protestant Evangelical tradition where there has not been a large emphasis on the deep nurture of the soul. Consequently, as an ordained minister and certified spiritual director, I have realized a great need for this attention to soul care in the churches where I have been a part. The challenges I have encountered in my experience have been many, but one common question that arises is, “How do we change our existing programming?” There is no simple answer to this question and it isn’t as easy as just “bolting” on another class or small group ministry. This is where Mindy Caliguire’s STIR: Spiritual Transformation In Relationships shines so brightly.
STIR is about life together, faith together, and seeking Jesus Christ together or as Mindy has subdivided the book; Learning Together, Journeying Together, and Following Together. Mindy has extensive experience with her subject matter, serving on the executive board of Willow Creek, contributing to several leadership and spiritual care journals, and authoring several books on the topic of spiritual formation. As I mentioned earlier, she is also a well-respected speaker at spiritual formation-care conferences as well. In this book, STIR, Mindy has crafted a well-reasoned response to the findings of the REVEAL survey commissioned by the Willow Creek Association in 2007. REVEAL is an extensive and ongoing spiritual life research study that consists of survey responses from over 1,600 churches, representing 480,000 individual surveys taken in five countries. Among other things, the REVEAL study showed that more than 25 percent of those surveyed described themselves as spiritually stalled or dissatisfied with the role of the church in their spiritual growth (more information on REVEAL Spiritual Life Survey can be found at www.revealnow.com).
Caliguire outlines Spiritual Transformation In Relationships by categorizing the development of transformation in three distinct stages. In stage one, Learning Together, new believers enter into the initial stage of discipleship where they develop a firm foundation on which they can keep growing for the rest of their lives. She says, “In this stage, believers learn some important ‘rules of the road.'” This stage of learning is highly directive and includes instruction of Scripture, core beliefs, and ways of relating to God and others. It has been my experience, limited as it may be, that many people I have met in my Protestant Evangelical community do not move past this first stage of learning together. Caliguire has something to say about this…
“When individuals or whole churches get stuck in the Learning Together stage, everyone suffers. When they’re stuck, people can end up doing these three things: (1) become arrogant about what they’ve learned (to the point of harming the cause of Christ), (2) give up on any hope of growth and change, or (3) remain immature (p. 57).
In Part Two of the book, she moves into the description of the second stage of STIR or Journeying Together and it is here that the reader (or journey-er) is introduced to the exercises of spiritual formation. The significance of this stage of development in the spiritual formation process, writes Caliguire, “happens as disciples of Jesus take ownership of two very important immaterial things: (1) their day-by-day life with God, and (2) their interior world, including their journey.” Mindy continues her thought with the following words:
“Those who make this transition can become deep, centered individuals who are marked by increased humility, spiritual power, and natural expression of the character qualities of Jesus. Those who do not make this transition, sadly, remain locked into acquiring head knowledge about God but do not develop the capacity to be shaped by God. There are no shortcuts, but interior transformation is absolutely the goal” (p.66).
Chapter five begins the third section of the book and introduces Following Together, defined as follows:
“Growing to maturity in Christ, our goals is to run with perseverance and be ready to throw off anything that gets in the way of that unique race God has marked out for us… therefore, we need running mates who run beside us. Now in this final stage, we need companions who will help us stay the course in at least three key areas: (1) cultivating ongoing awareness of the inner journey, (2) practicing ongoing abandonment to God’s purposes, and (3) staying connected to others. These will serve as our goals of the Following Together stage of spiritual growth” (p.114).
Part Three was most assuredly my favorite part of the book; specifically, chapter six “blew my doors off” with the depth of wisdom shared in it. This was, for me, a very important chapter. Spiritual Direction or Spiritual Companionship is the key concept introduced and expounded upon in these later chapters. Because this style of ministry and relationship is so dear and close to me, I’m sure it is why I was so drawn to it, but regardless of my bias, I am sure it will be teaching that will resonate with the heart and experience of many others.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. I have had many conversations with people sharing a similar spiritual experience as my own; I am convinced there are others who are missing this deep relational connection with others in their ongoing Christian journey. This book will not have all the answers; human beings and life are far too complex to summarize a one-size-fits-all cure in a 185 page book; however, STIR is a great response to challenges many of us have experienced. It is certainly worth the read and definitely worth considering as a possible shift in how we live and relate together as disciples of Jesus Christ seeking whole life transformation and full reclamation of the image God intended for his people.