Spiritual Disciplines

Entering into the Ash and Dust…

Thursday the day after Ash Wednesday

Entering into the Ash and Dust…

It’s only day two and this is already seeming a different Lent for me. It will be interesting to see where the Spirit of God leads and what the Work of God does with me as I offer myself in this act of contrition and surrender.

I have outlined several disciplines I plan to engage in this next forty days (not counting Sundays), and making time to write and journal my thoughts more often is one of them. Another exercise I plan to engage is meditation and reflection on a series of self-examination questions, which I plan to share on the blog. The past couple years have been pretty lean with regard to my writing time and blogging efforts. I’ve wrestled with trying to push through my lack of desire and shortage of inspiration, but did not feel like forcing myself to write. There have been other challenges and more profitable ways to use my energy in the most recent season of my life. I have felt a bit more inspired lately and hope that I am able to find the energy, inspiration, and time to share the songs of my soul once again. We will see where this season takes us.

I begin this Lent 2016 blog with a prayer and an examination question.

Lord, may your Spirit guide me to seek your loving presence more and more. For it is there I find refreshment from the busy world.

Question: “How do I see God at this point or season of my life?”

I sat with this question for some time before actually engaging it and writing out my thoughts. Actually, I’ve been sitting with this question for the better part of a month now as it is one of the questions that I’ve offered to some of the discipleship groups I lead. It is interesting that the idea to blog through the list of questions came to me as I began to step into the Lenten Season. It’s interesting because of my response… Lent brings with it a sense of somberness. We are called to recognize our mortality; “Remember, it is from dust you came and it is to dust you shall return.” We are called to contrition and penance. We are called to reflect upon and share in the suffering of Christ as he journeys to and through his Passion. As I pondered my response to this question about “how I see God…” I was a bit surprised at the incongruity of my thoughts with expected feeling this season often brings.

From my journal…

I sense God is my always-present Counselor-Guide. I am not overwhelmed as often as I once was by the Divine, but I do not consider that a negative or irreverent thing. I don’t mean to convey that I am apathetic or without awe, because that is not true. I believe that God’s Presence with me has become familiar in a very good way. I am still swept away by His Glory at times and I am in awe at the grand mystery of a God who would dwell with and within me—but I am equally comforted and pleasantly “relaxed” in His Presence as I abide with him and he abides with me. I think this is how it is supposed to be and I am grateful and humbled that God has allowed me to experience this relationship with such joy and peace.

I think one of the more joyful and wonderful changes in my relationship with God and how I see Him in this season of my life is this:

I no longer drown in a sea of self-doubt, guilt, and shame. I do not worry about whether I “measure up” to God’s expectations (or what I believe are God’s expectations) of me. I do not feel mired or marred by sin. The Word of God teaches those who believe, receive, and follow, that he will wash away and separate us from our sin—His Word also promises that perfect love, who is Jesus, will cast away all fear. I am fearlessly loved and in love with my God, Jesus the Christ! This very real realization has changed everything about me and the way I see and perceive God. The yoke I carry as a bondservant to Christ is very light. The confidence I have and the knowledge of who I am has never been more powerful or clearer than at any other time in my life. This is all due to how I have come to know and see God in this season of my life.

So, I enter this season of penance and contrition feeling a bit lopsided. My heart sings and I want to continue my shouts of Alleluia, but I will honor the tradition of the Church and keep my alleluia quiet until Easter. I will offer the joy that God has given to me as an offering of sacrifice during this next forty days. I will share in his suffering and share in his Passion. This sacrifice will be part of my Lent.

One of my Scripture readings today came from the prophet Habakkuk. It was interesting to me as I read (Hab. 3:1-18), I found what I thought was a parallel of my own spiritual paradox of emotions with Habakkuk who writes the following:

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even when the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD!  I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me sure-footed as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. (Hab. 3:1-18 NLT)

 I love this from Habakkuk. I’d love to say I really identify with his words, but seriously, I’ve not been where he was. I’ve had a pretty easy life compared to most of the inhabitants of this world…even on my worst days. Nonetheless, I can identify when I look at the big picture that includes the realm of spirit and eternity. This life cannot compare to what God has intended for us. We are His children! We are stardust! We are comprised of the Mystery of the Divine! Made in the Image of God!

I love my faith! It is wholly a gift from God, and fully rooted in Him. I love the narrative of the Holy Scriptures that God has provided for those who will believe Him and believe in Him. I love the wisdom of God’ word and O love how it awaken my soul and affirms that God is with me, with me, and eternally for me. Praise Him. Amen!

My Prayer excerpted and personally modified from Psalm 37:1-24

I will trust in the LORD and do good. I will live safely in the land and prosper. I will take delight in the LORD, and he will give my hearts all its desires. I will commit everything I do to the LORD. I will trust him and he will help me. God will make my innocence radiate like the dawn. I will be still in the presence of my LORD, and I will wait patiently for him to act. I will not worry or be angry about evil people or their wicked schemes. I am learning that it is far better to be godly and have little than to bee evil and rich. Day by day the LORD takes care of the innocent—they will receive an eternal inheritance. The LORD directs my steps and delights in every detail of my life; though I stumble, I will never fall, for the LORD holds me in His hand.

Glory be to God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Book Review: Enemies of the Heart

Book Review: Enemies of the Heart

Author: Andy Stanley

Publisher: Multnomah ISBN: 9781601421456

I have appreciated the communication skills of Andy Stanley for years. Personally, I think he is one of the great communicators and teachers of our day. I have often marveled at his ability to repackage timeless teaching and contemporize it for the present audience. Enemies of the Heart is another sterling example of this gift that Stanley has.

While Enemies of the heart touts “Four Emotions That Control You,” the primary teachings that it draws from seems to come from Evagrius’ and Pope Gregory’s teaching on the Eight/Seven deadly sins. Stanley addresses four major challenges to the Christian life (five if you count lust from the final chapters in part four), guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. The original “Deadly Sins” codified by Evagrius and Gregory the Great follows: Lust, Gluttony or waste and over indulgence, Avarice or Greed, Sloth or Apathy, Wrath or Anger, Envy or Jealousy, and Pride or vanity and narcissism. The teachings of the ancient fathers of the church stated that “guilt” was the result of culpability to these major sins. I think you can see the parallel of Stanley’s premise from Enemies of the Heart and this ancient treatise on the sins of man.

In part three, Stanley addresses the sins by offering counter disciplines and attitudes to change the behavior of the persons plagued by guilt, anger, greed, jealousy, …and lust.  This is not unlike the disciplines introduced by the church fathers to similarly deal with the issues of these core sins. They offered the following pursuits to eradicate the deadly sins: chastity to overcome lust, moderation to control gluttony, charity to counter greed, diligence to abate sloth, patience to smother anger, kindness to temper envy, and humility to sate pride.

I am thankful for people like Andy Stanley who can repackage classic teaching and help to expand the audience of such. This is a great introduction to the issues of sin and classic spiritual formation. Those who would like to delve deeper might consider the writings of the Philokalia.

Book Review: Seeking Spiritual Direction

Book Review: Seeking Spiritual Direction

Author: Thomas Dubay, S.M.

Publisher: Servant Books ISBN: 9780892838103

Seeking Spiritual Direction: How to Grow the Divine Life Within

I’ve appreciated the writing of Fr Thomas Dubay since the first works that were recommended to me. It seems odd to me in the context that his books were recommended, I was studying for certification in the field of spiritual direction, that this very book wasn’t one of the required readings. I was fortunate to have stumbled upon it in the library of a monastery that I frequent and I am so very, very glad I found it.

What sets this book apart from others I have read on the subject of spiritual direction is the straight-forwardness of the conversation. Fr Dubay is very clarifying in setting foundations, establishing definitions, and clearing up blurred lines and misinformation with regard to this neglected and needful gift to the Church.

All of Part One addresses various aspects of spiritual direction and clarifies definitions. It is appropriately called A Foundation for Spiritual Direction. A couple of the more pertinent topics dealt with in this first section are “What is Spiritual Direction?” and “Do I Need Spiritual Direction.” I like that Fr Dubay is very direct, yet his answers and points made seem very thorough.

Part Two of the book is a unique departure from the format of the first section. The questions presented, “Practical Questions and Problems,” are considered and responded to in an interview format. This worked very well for me as I felt myself drawn into a conversation; it was almost as if I were in the room with Fr Dubay and some anonymous interviewer. My attention was rapt and I learned much while topics such as Key Concerns in Spiritual Direction, Self Direction, and Problem that Come up in Spiritual Direction were discussed. Again, the content of the answers was very direct, but no lacking in detail and thoroughness.

Part Three, Making Progress, returned to the same format of section one; instead of questions, there were bulleted discussion points, which Fr Dubay shared insights. This section spoke to measuring spiritual growth and discernment in the process of spiritual maturity.

A very detailed notes section and an index are included helping the reader to have additional resources for follow up study and/or finding particular topics of interest in this book. It should be noted that the book and accompanying paradigm with which it is written is decidedly Roman Catholic. Let me state unequivocally that this fact alone should not deter reading if your background is that of another Christian tradition. There is a wealth, a cornucopia of spiritual wisdom in this book, Seeking Spiritual Wisdom. My background comes from the Protestant Evangelical stream of Christianity and I will continue to recommend this book with highest regard as one of the best books to clarify what spiritual direction is and the importance of its place and practice in the life of the Christian.

Book Review: To Be A Christian

Book Review: To Be A Christian

Author: Anglican Church in North America

Publisher: Anglican House Publishers ISBN: 9780986044120

To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism

As a pastor and a teacher in the ways of the Christian faith, I am always interested in the materials that can be helpful with my efforts to lead others in following Christ. This latest book from the Anglican Church in North America is a wonderful addition to my list of favorite resources.

About the Book itself:

Made of bonded black leather and embossed with gold lettering, the book is handsome with a clean aesthetic. It has dimensions of approximately 6″ X 8″ and weighs in with about 160 pages. It is not a thick book, but the weight of the paper and quality is such that it leaves me with no fears that I must handle the pages with a delicate touch to keep them from tearing. This book is meant to be used. There is also a single ribbon marker.

Content and Instruction Philosophy:

I love the premise for instruction and the flow of material presented. Truly, there is nothing new here and that is (in my opinion) part of the beauty. Likewise, I think there is an ecumenical bond when we hearken back to our most common denominators of the Christian faith. I believe this spirit is evident in the work produced in this Anglican Catechism.

The primary teaching tools included in this work follow: Part One begins with the Gospel and the primary teachings of Christ concerning salvation; Part Two proceeds with Believing in Christ and enlists the Apostle’s Creed as the center of focus for teaching “what we believe.” A format of questions and answers following each line of the Creed helps to detail and explain the essence of each belief statement. Part Three introduces what it means to belong to Christ, Being Christ’s, and teaches the basics of the Christian Life through the Lord’s Prayer. The same line-by-line format of Q&A used with the Apostle’s Creed is utilized in this section devoted to the Lord’s Prayer. Part Four, Behaving Christianly, ventures deeper into the lifestyle of the Christian and continues the very effective format of line-by-line question and answer, this time using the Decalogue or Ten Commandments.  While not novel, I think this “common denominator” approach is brilliant in simplicity and consists of the most basic foundations of our Christian faith. In a day of consumeristic zeal for newer, fresher, better, and improved… I think there is a beauty and a grace for this approach to making disciples of Jesus Christ. It has worked for two millennia; there is no reason to attempt to reinvent the wheel.

The Anglican Church has produced a beautiful and well-constructed catechism (discipleship tool). There are more exhaustive volumes available, but for the sake of simplicity and thoroughness as well as faithfulness to the core teaching of the Christian faith, I do not think you will find a better resource. You may find equals, but I am doubtful you will find better. This is a winner and I am blessed to add it to my favorite discipleship tools.

Book Review: Exploring Christian Doctrine

Book Review: Exploring Christian Doctrine

Author: Tony Lane

Publisher: InterVarsity Press

ISBN: 9780830825462

Exploring Christian Doctrine: A Guide to What Christians Believe

I am always on the lookout for teaching tools that will help me to share What Christians Believe. InterVarsity Press and Tony Lane have worked together to produce what is, in my opinion, an extraordinary systematic study in basic Christian doctrine.

Tony Lane (DD, University of Oxford) is professor of historical theology at the London School of Theology. One might suspect that systematic studies of Christian doctrine can be rather dry and academic, but Tony Lane has broken that stuffy stereotype and written a work that is interesting, edifying, and understandable across a broad range of learning styles and levels of Christian maturity.

One of the many things I appreciated about this compelling study was the theological stance of Tony Lane. He is self-described as “‘eclectic’ rather than ‘confessional,’ writing as an Evangelical Christian, but drawing upon a wide range of Christian traditions—Reformed, Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, etc.—without being tied to any specific one.” This attitude is pervasive throughout the study, from cover to cover; Lane shares insight and knowledge without bias and presents information as objectively and evenly represented between the Christian traditions as any resource I’ve ever come across.

The introduction sets stage for the purpose and format of the book. Lane writes; “This book originated as a series of Lectures for a first-year undergraduate Christian Doctrine Survey module. It is designed to be used by students at that level, either on their own or as a textbook for a whole cohort. It is also written to be accessible to the educated lay person who has no formal theological training.”

The format follows this basic pattern: (1) Chapter—the basic belief found in the doctrinal subject; brief historical account of the doctrine; important texts supporting the doctrine and any  creedal support; differences over doctrine between groups and interconnections of doctrine between groups; relationship of doctrine to the contemporary scene in both Church and culture (2) Interactive questions are sprinkled throughout each chapter with “What do you think?” invitations. Lane provides resources for the reader-student to engage and also includes his personal opinion on the subject. (3) Skeptic’s objections are discussed (4) Creedal and Confessional statements related to the doctrine (5) Errors to avoid regarding the doctrine (6) Issues creating tension and speculation are presented (7) Inclusion of aspects of participation in or with worship (hymn, liturgy, ritual) and prayer.

At the end of each chapter study, Lane includes a notes section and resources section that contains bibliographies for further study. Likewise, he provides a “question to answer” and suggests answers be limited to 100-words or less. He makes this recommendation to prepare the student to have a ready answer for man-on-the-street type questions where the listener may not be prepared or willing to listen to an essay styled response.

I have really enjoyed my reading through this presentation of Christian Doctrine. I do not exaggerate when I state it might be one of the finest I have come across in all my studies…especially, when I consider the range, depth, and diversity of presentation that it encompasses. I will likely be using this as a primary textbook for catechism with new disciples and likely engaging “old” disciples as well. As always, I continue to praise the work of InterVarsity Press with their tireless efforts to the ministry and education of God’s people.

District Assembly: Day Two and Close

08APR2014—Tuesday

Lent.34—District Assembly: Day Two and Close

Readings: Psalm 121, 122, 123  Exodus 5:1—6:1  1 Cor. 14:20-40  Mark 9:42-50

Today was the second and closing day of the Washington Pacific Church of the Nazarene District Assembly. It was, in my opinion, another sterling day. I thoroughly enjoyed the speakers, singing and praising God, and the general camaraderie between peoples with like minds, kindred hearts, and common goals. Those things were continuations of what I experienced yesterday, but what was really inspiring and heart melting for me was our closing session this evening when we took in new Elders, ordaining them into service and honoring those retiring from service. There were four retirees representing probably over one hundred fifty years of service. One gentleman had been in active service for forty nine years and left legacy of at least six church plants. Others retiring tonight had similar stories I’m sure. We also received thirteen people who were committing their life’s service to the ministry of the Church and God. Praise Him for those who answer this call. I pray God’s blessing on all those received and blessing upon those who have served. May God continue to prosper them all and protect them to His glory. I offer the prayer of Psalm 121 for these men and women, husbands and spouses.

I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

My Scripture challenge for the day: “…Everyone will be tested with fire” (Mark 9:49)

An Evening Prayer:

You, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name; do not forsake us, O Lord our God!

God our Father, you have been our guide and our help throughout this day: stay with us now throughout the night. May your light enlighten and purify our hearts, and keep them vigilant in faith, through Jesus, the Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Book Review: The Ignatian Adventure

Book Review: The Ignatian Adventure

Author: Kevin O’Brien, S.J.

Publisher: Loyola Press ISBN: 9780829435771

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life

I purchased this book over a year ago on the recommendation of a friend, shortly after returning from an extended visit to one of my favorite monasteries. I have been a student and practitioner of the Exercises of Ignatius for a number of years now, and I’ve leaned heavily on several resources to assist my teaching and leading in the Exercises. I was relatively comfortable with my collection of resources, but the endorsement of my friend for The Ignatian Adventure prompted me to order it out of sheer curiosity… I’m so very glad I did!

My first reading of this book was shortly after I received it and consisted mostly of a “speed read” and general comparison of content between a couple of my other Ignatian Exercises resource materials. I was reasonably impressed with what I found, but planned to spend more “practiced” time with The Ignatian Adventure before writing out a review. Now, after journeying through thirteen plus weeks with a friend, I feel that I have the hands on experience I was waiting for.

For the record, the following titles are my ready resources for teaching and leading others in the Ignatian Exercises: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola (there are various English translations and I don’t know that any one of them is necessarily better than the other), Inner Compass by Margaret Silf, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin, S.J., Journey with Jesus by Larry Warner, and The Ignatian Workout by Tim Muldoon. While each of these titles has its place in my resource list, I’m putting The Ignatian Adventure by Kevin O’Brien S.J. at the top of my list for the “go to” journey companion for working through the weeks of the exercises. Even with this affirmation, I think there are a few pro and con statements worth mentioning.

For the “pro” side, I think the methodology and instruction that O’Brien leads the retreatant through the weeks is better than any of the other resources I have in my possession. The instructions are clear, information regarding the process of the exercises is shared in “bite-size” pieces making them helpful in the meditation and reflection process, and he (O’Brien) sprinkles prayers, affirmation, encouragement, and anecdotal stories to help round out interactive elements of the experience. While I personally believe the Ignatian Retreat is best experienced with one or two people going through the Exercises together, the way Kevin O’Brien has ordered this guide makes it very accommodating for a single person experience (this also assumes that the single retreatant is reporting to or being guided by a spiritual director/companion who is familiar with the Exercises of St. Ignatius).

My only criticism is the lack of depth in background information surrounding Ignatius and the Exercises. There is information included in the Adventure, but it is surprisingly brief. It is for this reason that I think I would recommend supplemental reading or companion resources before recommending this book as a standalone resource. There is certainly enough background and information to get someone started, but because of my experience, enjoyment, and wisdom gleaned from other sources, I think a little more time spent in preparation and background instruction would be very helpful. On the other hand, if someone were in the position of choosing only one book for working through the Ignatian Retreat, this one would receive my hearty endorsement.


Book Review: A Guidebook to Prayer

Book Review: A Guidebook to Prayer

Author: MaryKate Morse

Publisher: InterVarsity Press

ISBN: 9780830835782

A Guidebook to Prayer: Twenty-Four Ways to Walk With God

I haven’t stopped smiling since I received this book. Every time I open its pages, my face breaks into smiles and my heart begins to warm.

I am an ordained minister in the Christian Church; while I might not be as well traveled as some, I do know that many Christians struggle with prayer. It’s not just the act of praying itself that is difficult for people, but the concept alone of prayer can be a mind-bender. This is why my heart warms as I engage MaryKate Morse’s Guidebook to Prayer. I believe one of the foundational principles for the book can be found in a statement she quotes from Richard Foster defining prayer; “Prayer is nothing more than an ongoing and growing love relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” How simple and how beautiful is that? A second founding principle is framed in a handful of questions found in her introduction. Morse presents the following questions to assist the reader with consideration of the relational aspects of their prayer life. She writes; “Rather than asking ourselves, ‘Am I praying each day?’ we should ask ourselves, ‘Am I in a love relationship with God today? Am I living like Jesus today? Do I smell the sweet breath of the Spirit today?'” What a wonderful framework for helping one another to walk with and relate to God!

Rather than simply list a bunch of prayer exercises, Morse has chosen to arrange these prayer encounters in a way that expresses deference to the Triune nature of God. There are three parts or sections to the book with prayer exercises modeled to explore and encounter God in the persons of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Examples of these “approaches to prayer” in their respective sections follow: Part One-God the Father, (1) Community Prayer (2) Creative Prayer (3) Work Prayer (4) Contemplative-Rest Prayer (5) Prayer of Confession (6) Blessing Prayer (7) Worship Prayer. Part Two-God the Son, (8) Daily Reflection Prayer—The Examen (9) The Lord’s Prayer (10) The Servant Prayer (11) Simplicity Prayer (12) Prayer in Play (13) Scripture Prayer—Lectio Divina (14) Relinquishment Prayer (15) Forgiveness Prayer (16) Sacrament Prayer. Part Three-God the Holy Spirit (17) Prayer Language—Tongues (18) Conversational Prayer (19) Breath Prayer (20) Healing Prayer (21) Meditative Prayer (22) Discernment Prayer (23) Watch Prayer (24) Rejoice Prayer. This list clearly expresses a very diverse pathway to meeting with God, but the list is not definitive. As MaryKate Morse writes in her introduction, “This guidebook introduces many ways for Christians to pray. It is not a definitive guidebook. There are still other ways to pray.” This Guidebook to Prayer is a starting point…and what a wonderful starting point it is!

Another very helpful structure Morse has included in her book is practical examples for approaching these individual encounters. Each chapter (prayer exercise) features guided suggestions for engaging the style of prayer in the context of an individual approach, partner, or group experience. Morse has thoughtfully included personal testimonials she has collected from people she has met and instructed during her years of retreat guiding and spiritual direction. Also, at the end of each chapter is a brief list of suggested reading for more in depth study in the particular prayer discipline that has been shared.

This really is a great little book. I have already recommended it for our prayer ministry in the church that I serve and attend. We will be using this guidebook as a resource tool for introducing our church family to a broader understanding of prayer and relating with the Godhead. As shared on the back cover, this guidebook is, “A treasure trove of both resources and encouragement, you will find this book to be an indispensable guide to your life of prayer.”  I say, “Absolutely!” Thank you, MaryKate Morse and thank you InterVarsity Press for helping to make prayer “less hard.”

 

Book Review: Soul Shaper

Book Review: Soul Shaper

Author: Keith Drury

Publisher: Wesleyan Publishing House

ISBN: 9780898277050

Soul Shaper: Becoming the Person God Wants You to Be

My first introduction to the writing of Keith Drury was January of 2005 with his book, Spiritual disciplines for Ordinary People. That book, and a few others like it, was responsible for setting me on a course that I continue, still today. I was recently made aware of a new book by Keith, titled Soul Shaper, and was very intrigued when I found out that it was a deeper study into the practice of over twenty spiritual exercises.

Book Description from the Publisher’s website:

Left to ourselves, we are pretty tough souls with rock-stiffened minds that we’ll never reform into anything resembling the new creation God designed us to be. But God has provided us the means to soften hard hearts. They are found both in his Word and through tried and true practices of the church: spiritual disciplines. God has given us meaningful, life-changing practices so our hearts and minds can yield, soften, and be miraculously shaped by his Spirit’s touch. Only then can we finally experience life the way it is meant to be.

Master teacher Keith Drury has taken the best from his two previous classics (Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People and With Unveiled Faces), and powerfully concentrated and updated it into this new and accessible book, offering the wisdom of ancient disciplines in simple, practical terms that today’s Christians can understand and apply.

There are several things about Soul Shaper that I think sets it apart from other books on the spiritual disciplines and spiritual formation. First, I appreciate the common and down-to-earth language used in writing the book. My Christian tradition is primarily evangelical and I am an ordained minister in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. While there is a resurgence of interest and growing popularity in the topic of spiritual formation-spiritual disciplines, much of the writing on the subject can be a little esoteric and ethereal at times. This is not a bad thing, but if you’re not used to the genre, it can be difficult and confusing to read. Keith Drury has been writing on this subject for over twenty-five years and doing so from the Wesleyan tradition in the Evangelical stream of Christianity. These details make this book, as most of the writing by Drury, very approachable and practical…definitively easy to understand. Second, with regard to the disciplines and exercises he writes of themselves, each is addressed with very concise and specific description and instruction. It is the rare teacher that I have read from, concerning spiritual exercises, that has written with such clarity and practical application.

Soul Shaper is a journey into the spiritual disciplines focusing the exercises into four categories. These are separated into Disciplines of Abstinence, Disciplines of Action, Disciplines of Relationship, and the Discipline of Response. Each category features a specific set of exercises by which to practice these soul-shaping disciplines of grace. The chapters are short, but packed with practicality and the wisdom of years from Drury’s experience as a teacher and a practitioner of spiritual exercises. His teaching is clear and his coaching is encouraging yet firm. In my extensive reading history and my very extensive personal collection of books on this topic, I have been greatly inspired by many writings and many authors. Soul Shaper is not only a book I feel I can recommend to almost anyone, it is also a book that will be easy for me to teach from. I am sure I will be carrying it with me for quick reference. The book can be used equally well for individuals or groups.

Big thanks to Wesleyan Publishing House and Keith Drury for excellent resources in the field of Christian spiritual formation.

Book Review: Catholic Spiritual Practices

Book Review: Catholic Spiritual Practices

Edited By: Colleen Griffith & Thomas Groome

Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781612612461

Catholic Spiritual Practices: A Treasury of Old & New

I love the format of this little book.

Catholic Spiritual Practices is a collection of essays describing various spiritual disciplines and practices, which can be helpful with a person’s development in the Christian faith. The format of the book is very easy to follow with the assorted disciplines grouped into three primary categories: prayer, care, and spiritual growth. The essays themselves are concise, but provide an understandable overview of each practice, their expected outcomes, and a high-level introduction or “how-to” so the reader can have an idea of how to participate in the practice. I believe the essayists and the editors have done an exemplary job of presenting such a rich collection of spiritual practices in a manageable and practical form.

If I were to offer any criticism of the book, it would be regarding the title. Not all of the practices included in the book are exclusive to the Catholic faith. Unfortunate as it may be, titling the book as it has been titled will exclude a significant number of people who could benefit from these spiritual practices.

Title aside, I would recommend this book for anyone. Admittedly, there are some disciplines included in the collections that are not fully embraced by all faith traditions; this should not be considered an insurmountable obstacle. My recommendation is to experiment with the practices that do not conflict with or compromise your tradition and allow yourself and your soul to be enriched by the results.

I am delighted to have come across this gem of a book. I have found new ways to present some of these ancient practices to others seeking to grow more deeply in their faith. I look forward to sharing them and I look forward to growing with them myself.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Paraclete Press to read and post a review on my site. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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