Posts Tagged ‘Book Review’
Book Review: Pilgrim Road
Author: Albert Holtz, O.S.B.
Publisher: Morehouse Publishing ISBN: 9780819222510
This was not the typical devotional piece that I am accustomed to; actually, it was for this reason that I purchased it. I think I would best describe Pilgrim Road as the sum of many parts: personal journal, Christian devotional, monastic rule, spiritual discipline, liturgical calendar, and artistic creation. In some ways it almost bordered sensory overload for me, and in other ways it was a very refreshing change of pace.
There is a lot of “movement” in Pilgrim Road…much is happening. Maybe it is my personality type, but I felt as though I really needed to pay attention to keep the “dots connected” through the journey. This is not to say the book was difficult to follow, it was not; I simply did not want to miss anything and there seemed a lot was going on. I should explain what I mean with a little more detail about the premise of the book.
The author, Albert Holtz, is a Benedictine monk and structures this book, Pilgrim Road, around four different journeys. The first journey is Christian Pilgrimage, the second is the Lenten Journey/Experience, the third is the Inward or Spiritual Journey, and the fourth is a Sabbatical Holiday/Trip. Brother Albert describes the convergence of these journeys in the following words:
This book weaves the threads of four journeys into a single spiritual travelogue: Lent’s journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter serves as the spiritual framework, my sabbatical trip provides a geographical locale for each meditation, the medieval pilgrimage provides the unifying theme, and the journey into my inner self with Christ gives the whole enterprise its ultimate meaning. (From the introduction—p.vii)
I should point out that I counted another thread in this tapestry of journeys as Brother Albert weaves in an element of the Rule of Benedict with each meditation. He might be counting as part of his inner Christian journey (he is after all a Benedictine monk), but seems valid to me that is a thread its own—part of the overall tapestry, but a thread its own nonetheless. Credit is due as Brother Albert does a remarkable job of keeping the weave tight in this tapestry of journeys and stories. The unity of the storyline remains almost seamless as he stitches location to location, reflection to insight, and insight to theme; the integrity of continuity remains throughout.
The structure of the daily devotional writings is well done. Each day’s writing is approximately four pages long. The day begins with a new location; for instance Arles, France, Assisi, Italy or another site along the way of the Brother’s pilgrimage. A brief narrative sharing the day’s observation from that locale is followed by a spiritual reflection connecting the day’s events with the inner journey. The reflection is completed with a Scripture reading and an excerpt from the Rule of Benedict.
My overall impression is lacking a bit and this is my fault. My reading list was somewhat heavy during this Lenten season and was the cause of distraction while reading the Pilgrim Road. I intend to go back and read it again with less distraction. I think it deserves more attention from me. This was a different style of devotional reading than I am used to, but I found great enjoyment in it. I think after another more intentional reading, I will have an even deeper appreciation and respect for the artistry of Brother Albert as he shares his journey and his wisdom.
Book Review: The Awakening of Hope
Author: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Publisher: Zondervan ISBN: 9780310293385
It is a little disappointing to me there are not more reviews and commentary about this book, although it doesn’t surprise me there is not. This book is about fully embracing the teaching of Jesus and covenanting with a community of believers to make every effort to live out those teachings in daily life. I think many, perhaps a majority, of “believers” aren’t ready to make that commitment and that’s why I think there’s not more conversation about this book.
I connected strongly with Awakening of Hope; I was nodding my head in agreement with almost every point of each chapter. The book is formed around a series of common practices that faith communities join in together as they endeavor to live out the teachings of Jesus. Each of these practices is talked about in individual chapters; Why we eat together, Why we fast, Why we make promises, Why it matters where we live, Why we live together, Why we would rather die than kill, and Why we share good news.
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove does excellent work in presenting the challenging teaching of Christ in the context of real-world living. He begins every chapter with introductions to real people and real communities of people who have committed to live out the ways of Jesus with one another. For instance, chapter three introduces us to Don and Carolyn Mosley and the Jubilee Partners Community. Don, Carolyn, Jonathan, and others teach us about the reasons for a fasting together as a community. Another example, this from chapter four, about covenant and promise, Wilson-Hartgrove introduces us to Benedict of Nursia, Augustine, and Evagrius Ponticus to help illustrate the nature and the need for trust and commitment to the promises of God and the promises we make to one another in the name of God. One quote continues to speak deeply to me, Wilson Hartgrove writes the following:
“The challenge of faith isn’t so much to trust God’s promises when we hear them as it is to continue trusting t hem when it does not appear to our best judgment that they are being fulfilled.” (p.74)
My favorite chapter is six, Why We Live Together, where we are introduced to “David” from Reba Place Fellowship, a community in Evanston, Illinois. This particular chapter brought to my mind memories and recollections from other books about the ministry of communal living and shared resources. This is a topic very close to my own heart and perhaps why I was so captured by the stories and teachings from this section. Words from pg. 128 continue to reverberate in my mind and heart; “We live together, then, to realize our true vocation in Christ.”
The book includes a thought-provoking study guide and there is also a 6-session (90 minutes) DVD available that can be helpful with group discussions or as another medium for personal study. This is a challenging book, let there be no mistake. If you’ve ever thought Jesus might have been serious about the lifestyle he taught of in his Sermon on the Mount, The Awakening of Hope can give you a peek into several communities and their reasoning for the how and why of trying to live those teachings out.
By: Miroslav Volf
Publisher: Brazos Press ISBN: 9781587432989
I’ve been meaning to review this book for quite some time now, but it took longer to read it than I thought it would. At just over one hundred fifty pages (not counting the notes section), it is not that long of a read. The point of it taking me longer to read than anticipated was my feeling “over my head” quite often. There are over two-hundred references noted in the book and most of them unknown or unread by me. It was necessary for me to put the book down on more than a few occasions to reflect and research on what I had read. I must say it was worth my time and worth every minute of my effort. I appreciate the challenge the book was for me to read and I appreciate the challenge to me personally with the call to exercise and integrate my faith in ways and in places I might not have been so eager to enter previous to reading Volf’s thesis in A Public Faith.
Volf relates the sum of the premise for this volume in his introduction stating; “My contention in this book is that there is no single way in which Christian faith relates and ought to relate to culture as a whole. The relation between faith and culture is too complex for that. Faith stands in opposition to some elements of culture and is detached from others. In some aspects faith is identical with elements of culture, and it seeks to transform in diverse ways yet many more. Moreover, faith’s stance toward culture changes over time as culture changes. How, then, is the stance of faith toward culture defined? It is—or it ought to be—defined by the center of the faith itself, by its relation to Christ as the divine Word incarnate in the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” It is with this contention that Volf seeks to explore three questions he poses within the pages of A Public Faith. The questions follow:
- In what ways does the Christian faith malfunction in the contemporary world, and how should we counter these malfunctions (chapter1-3)?
- What should be the main concern of Christ’s followers when it comes to living well in the world today (chapter 4)?
- How should Christ’s followers go about realizing their vision of living well in today’s world in relation to other faiths and together with diverse people with whom they live under the roof of a single state (chapters 5-7)?
Personally, I found chapter one, Malfunctions of Faith, fascinating. Volf frames this piece in a framework he calls “ascent and return” malfunctions and bases the discussion on the prophetic illustrations of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. To quote Volf’s definition of these points, he describes ascent malfunctions as “the result from breakdowns in the prophet’s encounter with the divine and reception of the message.” He goes on to say, “Every ascent malfunction is at the same time a return malfunction.” If my paraphrase is correct, the return malfunction further compromises the message or word of God by transforming it in their own name or in the name of some alien god… or god of their own making. This chapter is full of brilliant thinking I had previously been unexposed to; for instance, he describes the concept of idolatric substitution as one of the ascent malfunctions using the golden calf story from the Exodus narrative. It is the introduction to some of these (for me) new concepts using stories I understand or am familiar with that was helpful in preparing me for the next chapters of the book. I will say again, this first chapter was fascinating to me.
Chapter two continue with greater detail and explanation describing practical malfunctions of faith. Specifically, chapter two addresses the malfunction of idleness as it regards faith. Volf shares three main reasons for faith’s idling: (1) for some people, the faith they embrace demands too much, so they pick and choose, as in a cafeteria, filling up their tray with sweets but leaving aside the broccoli and fish. (2) Believers find themselves constrained by large and small systems in which they live and work; to thrive, or even to survive, they feel that they must obey the logic of those systems, not the demands of faith they embrace. (3) Concerning the faith itself, the faith either is not applied to new circumstances or does not seem relevant to contemporary issues. Volf goes on to provide counters to idleness with suggestions on how we might understand and practice an active faith through blessing, deliverance, guidance, and meaning.
I must admit I got a little bit bogged down in chapters three and four having to stop several times, put the book down, and really think through what I was reading. I was relieved when Volf neared the end of chapter four with this summary recap of part one of the book:
Most malfunctions of faith are rooted in a failure to love the God of love or a failure to love the neighbor. Ascent malfunctions happen when we don’t love God as we should. We either love our interests, purposes, and projects, and then employ language about God to realize them (we may call this “functional reduction”), or we love the wrong God (we may call this “idolatric substitution”). Return malfunctions happen when we love neither our neighbor nor ourselves properly—when faith either merely energizes or heals us but does not shape our lives so that we live them to our own and our neighbors’ benefit, or when we impose our faith on our neighbors irrespective of their wishes.
The challenge facing Christians is ultimately very simple: love God and neighbor rightly so that we may both avoid malfunctions of faith and relate God positively to human flourishing. And yet, the challenge is also complex and difficult… (p.73)
Amen. Complex and difficult indeed.
Chapters five and six are two more extraordinary discourses on very practical applications of living the Christian faith in a pluralistic society. Chapter five, Identity and Difference, addresses the identity of the Christian within the context of a society or community. The context being realized as having an identity that is different from the mainstream of the community…remaining unique, being seen as different, but not being separate… able to contribute without being completely absorbed: This is my paraphrase. Volf summarizes his thoughts as follows; “To become a Christian means to divert without leaving. To live as a Christian means to keep inserting a difference into a given culture without ever stepping outside that culture to do so.”
Chapter six is titled Sharing Wisdom and also ranks as one of my favorite chapters of the book. Volf’s ideas about sharing wisdom was affirming and convicting at the same time for me. The past few years has taught me much in the vein of what is shared in this chapter. I continue to be stretched in my faith and my learning to be Christ-like with teaching like I have found in this chapter. I think anyone reading this book will be stretched similarly if they can maintain an openness to hear what is shared in it.
I think this is an important book; timely in nature, sobering and challenging in its message, and hopeful with its suggestions for correction. I pray it falls into right hands, leaders who are humble, intelligent, vocal, and confident about what God is doing in the world. I’ll close my review with a final quote from Volf on “sharing wisdom.”
Sharing religious wisdom makes sense only if that wisdom is allowed to counter the multiple manifestations of self-absorption by givers and receivers alike and to connect them with what ultimately matters—God, whom we should love with all our being, and neighbors, whom we should love as ourselves. (p.117)
A great book; it may not appeal to a broad demographic, but for those who are willing to endure the challenges it presents, there is “much gold to be mined.”
A few recommended reviews:
Book Review: The Christian Writer’s Market Guide 2012
By: Jerry B. Jenkins
Publisher: Tyndale ISBN: 9781414363479
This is a book I am increasingly thankful for. The Christian Writer’s Market Guide 2012 is exactly what its subtitle professes to be: Your Comprehensive Resource for Getting Published. This book is truly a “one stop shop” for the aspiring writer of Christian literature.
I encountered the Christian Writers’ Market Guide for the first time with the 2009 edition. At that time the book was still being authored by Sally E. Stuart, who had been the author of the guide for over twenty years; this is the first year the task of compiling the guide by someone other than Stuart.
Jerry Jenkins has taken on the responsibility of continuing Stuart’s work and has kept the outline and information flow of the Guide almost identical to that of the original. This is good news for folks who have used the guide in previous years…and good news for newbies alike. The original work had been perfected over the two plus decades of publication and doesn’t make a lot of sense to change something that works so well simply for the sake of change itself. I commend Jenkins for the wisdom of this decision.
The value of this book/guide cannot be overstated. The compilation itself is monumental in the amount of work and time that it saves the person-writer who needs the information contained in its pages. As an aspiring writer myself, I am keenly aware of the rapid changes that have taken place in the publishing world with the recent leaps in technology and how that affects the publication industry. It is important to know and follow the respective guidelines for each publisher when submitting work for consideration and this guide is invaluable in those regards.
The Christian Writer’s Market Guide 2012 doesn’t begin and end with a list of publishers and their submission guidelines; there are a number of other helpful tools and pieces of information that can be of use to the aspiring author as well as the seasoned writer. A few of these specialized pieces of information can be found in part four of the book, Helps for Writers. In this section are several chapters sharing some great resources. A couple of chapters, for example, that are of interest to me are chapter ten—Christian Writers’ Conferences and Workshops and chapter fourteen—Contests.
This Market Guide for 2012 is a faithful continuation of the original work and previous users can be assured of the integrity of content this volume and version contains. New users can also be confident that the information shared in the guide will be a guaranteed boost to their efforts in submitting successful queries to potential publishers as the information is relevant, accurate, and up-to-date with requirements and contacts. Thank you, Jerry Jenkins for carrying on this faithful work.
Book Review: Christian Apologetics Past & Present-Vol. 2
Edited By: William Edgar & K. Scott Oliphint
Publisher: Crossway ISBN: 9781581349078
This is a book I am highly pleased to add to my library. At just under seven hundred fifty pages it is not a “light-weight” book, but because of the way it is written and the fact it is a compilation keeps it accessible and easy to read. Additionally, because it is a compilation and divided into several parts, I am comfortable pulling it from the shelf to read for brief periods of time and using it as a frequently-called-upon resource tool.
Christian Apologetics Past & Present is subtitled “A Primary Source Reader” and is the second of a two-volume set. This volume spans the Christian timeline from year 1500 to present. It is exactly as it proclaims itself, a primary source reader. There are writings from over twenty-five theologians included in this compendium with quite a few more mentioned and cited throughout the book. I personally know of no other source that lists and included the diversity of theological thought in a single volume. It thrills me to have such breadth, depth, and diversity of theology in one book. This diversity does have its trade-off; however, in the fact that there is not time, space, or opportunity to go into great detail of explanation of the theologian’s writings. The benefit is in providing the high-level introduction to some of the most important Christian writing over the last five hundred years since the Reformation.
The writings in the book are well cited and referenced providing the reader with all the information needed to dig deeper should they desire. The sections are broken into four primary parts with sub-sections or chapters devoted to some of the greatest contributors to that particular period of thought. For instance, Part One is Reformation, Post-Reformation (Protestant), and Catholic Reformation and includes works from Martin Luther, John Calvin, Robert Bellarmine, and John Owen. As I have said, representative of a very diverse group of thinkers. Subsequent sections include the following: Modernity and the Challenge of Reason, The Global Era: Christian Faith and a Changing World, and Issues Today and Tomorrow.
I am greatly impressed with the editors’ decisions on who to include in this volume although I was a little surprised by some of the theologians they opted not to include. In fairness, I understand that there has to be a criteria established and a line has to be drawn somewhere; it is with this mind that I do not envy or fault the editorial team for their decisions. Also, to the credit of Edgar and Oliphint, they do not offer a lot of commentary or opinion related to the writing or belief of the theologians included in this body of work, but they allow the writing of the theologians to stand on their own accord. It should also be noted that the majority of these pieces are excerpted from more comprehensive pieces. This means that your interaction with the writer may require your reading the theologian’s thoughts in full disclosure by going to the source publication.
In summary, I am delighted to have a copy of this book. While it may not be the end-all source for Christian apologetics, it is absolutely the best collective overview that I’ve ever held in my hands. If I have any con or regret over this book, it will be that it cost me quite a few dollars in purchases toward the primary source of some of the writings I was introduced to and the purchase of Volume One in this Christian Apologetics set, Christian Apologetics Past and Present (Volume 1, To 1500). I consider this set a “must” for any serious Christian Library.
Book Review: 40 Ways to Get Closer to God
By: Jerry MacGregor Publisher:Bethany House
I really enjoy devotional books and always keep an eye out for new and challenging titles to add to my library. There are several things that I look for in these devotional collections, with each having specific purposes for the style. I also appreciate classic Christian writings as well as collections that span the history of the church and I favor devotionals that present a challenge to the reader, especially those which engage the disciplines that promote spiritual formation. 40 Ways to Get Closer to God by Jerry MacGregor in many ways, touches almost everything I like in a spiritual devotional collection. The title itself is an invitation to a challenge… and I like a challenge.
The book is organized into forty days of readings with each day presenting a specific task designed to help the reader-participant get/grow closer to God. These tasks aren’t the type of activities that are all “warm and fuzzy,” but are seriously challenging activities that will push and press the most seasoned spiritual journeyman. Each day’s challenge requires a check-off in order to proceed and there is a very small area to record a few notes from your experience. If there is any fault that I found with the book, it would be this area to leave notes. It is not nearly big enough to share or journal one’s experience, but this can be rectified by keeping notes in a separate journal.
The quotes and excerpted contributions to the writings for each day’s activities are well known in the circles of contemporary spiritual formation. I consider them highly respected although this is my personal and biased opinion. Contributors include the following: John Ortberg, Henri Nouwen, Philip Yancy, Adele Calhoun, Francis Chan, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, David Benner, C.S. Lewis, Rob Bell, A.W. Tozer, John Piper, Jonathon Edwards, Shane Claiborne, Soren Kierkegaard, Brennan Manning, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and many, many more! This listing I mention above is very diverse and theologically deep. As I mentioned, this isn’t a “fluff” work…
I don’t really see this book as just a 40-day exercise regardless of how it is set up, it will probably take the person who is serious about completing each assignment a longer time than forty days to complete. Some of the assignments require thought, planning, and some may involve “spiritual wrestling matches” where surrender on our part may not come easy. I plan to include these assignments as part of my 2012 Lenten experience this coming year.
I’m thankful for this book and count it a very worthy addition to my collection and library. If you’re looking for a challenging devotional book full of exercises that will indeed help you Get Closer to God, look no further… Jerry MacGregor has produced another nice work for the community.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from BethanyHouse Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. 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 Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
By: Emilie Griffin
Publisher: Harper One ISBN: 9780060633615
I have been greatly blessed through the years by the resources produced by RENOVARE and Wilderness Time, also produced by RENOVARE, continues that string of blessings. Emilie Griffin is the author of this guide for spiritual retreat and has put together a very readable and practical guide for the retreat experience. As down-to-earth as Griffin is with practicality in her writing, she also writes with sensitivity and awareness to the heart and spirit of the retreat experience. I read this book as a person with experience both leading and participating in personal and corporate retreats. I found Wilderness Time a satisfying resource for the beginning retreatant as well as full of well-grounded reminders for the seasoned retreatant.
The author follows a thematic approach to the retreat experience and segments her instruction into three classic styles of retreat: retreating inwardly, retreating outwardly, and retreating corporately. Each of these styles is detailed with specific examples of how the retreat might be pursued and/or directed. For instance, the inward retreat might focus on the disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, and study while the corporate retreat might include disciplines better practiced in group (eg., worship, confession, guidance, and celebration).
After the brief explanation of various styles of retreat, Griffin shares pointers for designing the retreat and follows this chapter with three suggested templates for a one-day retreat, the three-day retreat, and a seven day retreat. These are all great suggestions and can be helpful for the retreat planner in organizing their own retreat; I’m fairly certain I will be using these guides.
The completion of this Guide for Spiritual Retreat includes a chapter of “encouragements,” inspirational reminders that might be helpful in removing some of the weight of responsibility of the retreat from the leader and participants… after all, God, the Holy Spirit, is truly the leader and guide for our retreat. Also included in these final chapters is a collection of texts for reflection and a recommended reading list. Overall, I found this little guide to be a hearty and handy resource for the spiritual retreat experience and another trusted resource from the RENOVARE Group.
Book Review: The Kingdom Life
By: Alan Andrews; Gen. Ed.
Publisher: NavPress ISBN: 9781600062803
I like this book; I like this book a lot. I don’t fully understand why it doesn’t seem to have gained more traction or popularity on the “spiritual formation” reading list. Maybe this book is more popular than I imagine, but as a person who stays fairly up-to-date with books circulating in the field of Christian education and spiritual formation, I simply haven’t heard a lot about The Kingdom Life. If my suspicions are correct, it is sad because I believe this is an excellent piece of work and I plan to use it as a primary resource for teaching the basic elements of spiritual formation. I have not found a single resource that can match the elements of process and theology contained in this one book. Best of all, I believe it is accessible to every person wherever they may be in there spiritual journey and wherever they may be in their maturity thereof. I have been working on curriculum and study presentation where I plan to use this book for both 101 and 201 level teaching and it is for that reason I am baffled that more hasn’t been written or reviewed for this book.
The contributors of this book are a veritable gold mine of experience and knowledge, many of them having authored books individually on various topics and teaching involving spiritual formation. This collaborative work came out of the formation of a group named TACT (Theological and Cultural Thinkers Group). It seems the group experienced a number of growing pains, but through perseverance and humility was able to come together with diversity of background, experience, and tradition to compile this book which represents a generalized common experience for believers on the path of spiritual formation.
The book is separated into two main sections; Part One consists of the Process Elements of Spiritual Formation and Part Two consisting of the Theological Elements of Spiritual Formation. Each section features specific “elements” which lend shape and substance to the theology and the process of spiritual formation. For instance, under the process elements there are chapter titles discussing the Gospel of the Kingdom as it pertains to spiritual formation, communities of grace, and transformation. While the theological elements are discussed in chapters titled The Trinity, the Holy Spirit, and The Bible to name a few.
At the end of each chapter there are questions and points for reflection and discussion. While these can be used for individual study and edification, I believe a small group or class setting would be most beneficial allowing for social interaction and diverse points of view (this in my personal opinion). Also included at the end of each chapter is a list of titles for further reading relevant to the material covered in said chapter. Finally, the book is very well cited and documented with resource material; this annotated index is included in a “notes” section at the end of the book.
As I mentioned, I don’t know why I haven’t heard more about The Kingdom Life…perhaps it may be that it reads somewhat like a textbook and that may be true, but it should not be discounted or put aside for those reasons. This book is full of great information and resource material and would be an invaluable addition to the library of anyone working in the area of discipleship.
Book Review: Dictionary of Christian Spirituality
By: Glen G. Scorgie; Gen. Ed.
Publisher: Zondervan ISBN: 9780310290667
I’ve only had a week to spend with this Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, but I know that I will refer to it often. I think it is very good and I’ve had to remind myself on the few occasions where I have been critical over items I found missing which I thought should have been included, that the book is (1) a compendium and not an exhaustive resource (2) a single volume and not a library. I make this comment because I have found the efforts of the editing team and the great team of contributors (over two-hundred) to be very impressive. I think this especially with understanding of the breadth and the depth of the subject covered (Christian Spirituality) and the diversity represented in the various “streams” of Christianity. I certainly would have appreciated a more comprehensive work, but understand there have to be parameters when restricted to a single volume. I believe this is a laudable effort when considering what the editors were aiming for with their finished work.
I appreciate the diversity of Bible translations used in the quotations and citations; among the versions used were: TNIV; Today’s New International Version, ASV; American Standard Version, ESV; English Standard Version, KJV; King James Version, NASB; New American Standard Version, NRSV; New Revised Standard Version, and the RSV; Revised Standard Version. Similarly, there is respectable diversity in major sources used for the dictionary. Some of the representations included the following: Ancient Christian Writers Series, Ante-Nicene Fathers, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Classics of Reformed Spirituality, Classics of Western Spirituality, Theological Dictionary of Old & New Testament (Botterweck, Ringgren, and Kittel), and The Westminster Theological Journal. As mentioned earlier, there are over two hundred contributors to this work also impressively diverse representing “the full spectrum of Protestants, including Calvinists and Wesleyans, Episcopalians and Anglicans, Pentecostals and Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists and Dispensationalists; also some Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox; and even a few who are not going to church at all right now” (pp 10-11).
The dictionary is presented in two major sections; Part One is titled Integrative Perspectives and consists of thirty four short essays spanning a broad range of spiritual theology topics. There is coverage of general terms and ideas (Spiritual Theology, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit), coverage of the historical development of Christian Spirituality (generalized, geographically, and culturally), and there are there are essays addressing experience and practice of Christian Spirituality as well. I have not found any of these essays that I’ve read to date uninteresting and I’ve appreciated the thorough list of sources cited as well as recommendations for further reading that are included at the end of each essay.
Part Two of the Dictionary of Christian Spirituality consists of nearly seven hundred alphabetized dictionary entries. There are some terms, names, and subjects that I have found missing, but believe the collection is more than satisfactory for an overview of Christian spirituality.
I think the editors of this resource hit the target they set for themselves. There are more comprehensive resources available; this is true, but it might be difficult to find a more accessible, academic, and affordable resource in a single package. This Dictionary can be equally useful for the scholar or new explorer. It is worthy of any bookshelf.
Book Review: Invitations from God
Author: Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
Publisher: InterVarsity Press ISBN: 9780830835539
I love this book!
I was introduced to the writing of Adele Ahlberg Calhoun around three years ago when I was teaching classes in spiritual formation. I used her book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook for some of research and preparation for my own teaching. I loved the format of the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook and was grateful for the expansive breadth of range and coverage of disciplines that were listed in it. I was left a little bit wanting because of the lack of detail and depth, but realize that was not the intended purpose of the book. I mention these points because I feel that where the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook left off, Invitations from God picked up.
For the sake of clarification, Invitations from God is not specifically geared toward the spiritual disciplines, although there are some “invitations” that are usually considered as primary disciplines for spiritual formation (eg., Rest, Pray, Love). What I have received as understanding about Invitations from God is more inclusive of practicing the overall surrender and awareness to the presence and working of God in every moment of life. This reminder has been the greatest gift from this book for me.
I’ve enjoyed each and every chapter of this book and marveled at some of the delicate yet deep word pictures crafted by this author. Each topic has sent me on an adventure of reflection and helped me to be more consciously aware of the great many invitations that are offered to me during the course of a single day…every day. And this is the test; we are given hundreds and thousands of invitations each day, some solid, shocking, and life-changing… others are more sublime in the form of a fleeting thought or brief daydream. The point being with each of these invitations we decide whether we follow God or whether we pursue a distraction that leads in a direction other than God. Sometimes it is not so easy to distinguish which invitation leads us to or detracts us from, but focusing on exercises shared in Invitations we are better prepared for that discernment.
Each chapter opens with a table (similar to the tables found in Spiritual Disciplines Handbook) that lists a summary description for the particular invitation that is discussed. For example, the invitation to participate in your own healing is an invitation to cooperate with the Trinity in my growth, healing and emotional maturity. Continuing through the table, there are corresponding Scripture references, potential roadblocks, points of awareness, and specific practices or exercises that can be employed to aid growth and maturity in identified area (ie., invitation). Calhoun provides these tables for each invitation; I found them invaluable and plan to use them in my own teaching and retreat settings.
I have nothing but good to report for this book with one exception; I only wish it weren’t so long in coming behind the last book. My hope is that Adele Calhoun will continue to share her wisdom through her gift of writing in a timelier manner. Thank you, Adele, for this edition and the reminder of the many invitations from our God. Please don’t make us wait for six years again.