Posts Tagged ‘Robert Benson’
Books and more books…
It has been awhile since I’ve posted any book reviews. I’ve got some catching up to do as it pertains to my actual reviewing, but my reading has been in full swing. In fact, I’ve got several reading projects going on at the moment. One of my present study interests is Benedictine Spirituality. For the past couple-three months I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and meditating on this subject. I’ve savored over several awesome books and have about another half dozen lined up to continue my studies. All of the titles I’ve read up to this point have been very, very good and I have good cause to believe the next few I have lined up will be just as good.
First up, The Rule of St. Benedict by St. Benedict – edited by Timothy Fry, this edition is the actual Rule translated in English with an excellent preface by Thomas Moore. While the rule is written with a specific purpose and audience in mind, there is ample wisdom that can be applied equally to our lives outside the monastic community. Life is, in fact, about relationships and community… St. Benedict has much to teach us on this subject. I found having an actual translation of the Rule handy for reference a very helpful resource as I was reading “about the rule” and its application to those of us living outside the monastery very, very helpful.
Two more books, both by Robert Benson, A Good Neighbor: Benedict’s Guide to Community and A Good Life: Benedict’s Guide to Everyday Joy were also exceptional reads on practical application for the “everyday Joe” Christian. Both of these books focus on living and practicing the presence of God right where you are in whatever circumstance of life you are found. The Rule is utilized as it can be paralleled with life outside of the monastery… submission, obedience, humility, subservience, meekness, and more all are applications that exist in whatever form of community we are found; whether that community is family, neighborhood, occupation, local church, etc… the rule applies in some form and some fashion. I found the books by Robert Benson delightful in their insight and pragmatic approach to this deeper walk.
Next was a very small and very short, but very down-to-earth approach to the Rule of St. Benedict. This work titled, Always We Begin Again: The Benedictine Way of Living by John McQuiston II. McQuiston took a very different approach to his translation and application to Benedict’s Rule making the attempt to be universal in its reach and stretching across any and all religious chasms and/or barriers. While seemingly unorthodox, I appreciated his efforts and thought much of his application and illustration very profound. I appreciated very much the quotes and sources cited in this work. I was spurred on to seek out additional titles from McQuiston’s references for my future studies. I really enjoyed this little book.
The final volume mentioned in this post is from Esther de Waal; Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict. This is a most excellent work. Once more I have to mention the excellent resource list and bibliography provided in this work. This is another small book consisting of only ten chapters. At the conclusion of each chapter are prayers and devotional thoughts to help in additional reflection upon the material presented. I have really appreciated the thoughtful presentation of the greater aspects and over-arching theme of the Rule from Esther de Waal. I have spent the most time reflecting and meditating on this particular book and to a slightly lesser degree, McQuiston’s Always We Begin Again.
I don’t want to make a single recommendation… I think the books present their greatest benefit as a sum of the whole. On their individual rights, I’m sure they are great; however, read together they are exponentially greater. I look forward to adding to this list in the coming days. You can find the next reviews by searching Benedictine Spirituality or Books.
I’m so glad I got to review this book, The Echo Within. Len Sweet commented on it in an endorsement saying, “In this so beautiful book, Robert Benson provides the sky in which your soul can soar. You can fly.” He says it much more poetically than I could, but the end result is the same; this is a wonderful and beautiful book. I’m sure I will be processing it for some time. There are so many profound “one line” thoughts…that capture the essence of a lifetime of experience and conversation.
Over and over, with each turn of the page, my heart was resonating with affirmation, agreement, and understanding of the words that I read. I realize this is the goal of the poet-writer, to elicit this type of response, but I also know this is not a gimmick for this book. The Echo Within is real. The Whisperer and the Voice is real; I have heard it and I am following it even now as I write this review.
I enjoyed the casual and friendly writing style of Benson. Coincidentally, I recently had ordered and received another book by Robert Benson. I have yet to read the book, In Constant Prayer (Part of the Ancient Practices Series Edited by Phyllis Tickle), but it is on my bookshelf having recently arrived just a couple weeks before the opportunity to review The Echo Within presented itself. It is interesting to me that this sequence of events has unraveled in the context of the story of finding one’s calling and life vocation. Interesting indeed.
There are wonderful nuggets throughout the book that were bonuses for me. I loved the excerpts and quotations from Thomas Merton, Annie Dillard, and Robert Mulholland in particular. I was also introduced to the Academy for Spiritual Formation (I was unaware this organization existed prior to reading The Echo Within). I have no doubt that I’ll be sharing other words influenced by this book in my journal and on my blog; still lots to be unraveled in my head and heart from this read. Read the rest of this entry »
The Deep Well: February 25, 2009
Trusting God is on my mind today. Here are a few things shaping and stretching me in this day’s meditations…
The Echo Within by Robert Benson – (hopefully a full review by tomorrow or Friday). A couple of “one-liner” quotes that are really working for me right now follow:
- With regard to hearing the voice or leading of God, Benson writes; “…we can be going too fast to hear clearly. Hearing clearly often requires waiting patiently.”
- “Knowing who we are might keep us from trying to be someone else.”
- “There is within each of us an echo of the Voice of the One Who whispered us into being. We must listen for that echo and to that echo; we must listen fiercely, and faithfully and fearlessly. Within the echo fo the Voice that spoke us into being is the sound of our own true voice.”
Learning to “TRUST” the Voice is one of our greatest challenges as a disciple. An excerpt from one of Augustine’s sermons hit home with a thought as he gives us reflection upon the life of Abraham. Augustine writes; “The right thing to do, brothers and sisters, is to believe God before he pays up anything, because just as he cannot possibly lie, so he cannot deceive. For he is God. That’s how our ancestors believed him. That’s how Abraham believed him. There’s a faith for you that really deserves to be admired and made widely known. He had received nothing from him. And he believed his promise. We do not yet believe him, though we have already received so much. Was Abraham ever in a position to say to him, ‘I will believe you, because you promised me that and paid up’? No, he believed from the very first command given, without having received anything else at all.” (Augustine -Sermon 113A.10)
Where does my strength, where does my help come from? “I look up to the mountains -does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth…” (Psalm 121)
A beautiful and sobering truth from the Jesus Creed Blog centering our hearts on trust and God grabbed my attention this morning. In this blog post, Scot McKnight shares several wonderfully insightful thoughts. One stands out and continues to echo in my brain from this morning when I first read it; he writes, “To trust God you gotta believe God exists.” Be sure to check the rest of this post.
Next, comes more of my weekly meditations from Deep-Rooted in Christ by Joshua Choonmin Kang. This week’s meditation has been the Deep Well. Here are a few excerpts that pull together the application of trusting in God…that is, “hearing the Voice” and recognizing the Voice does not lie. We can trust the Voice that “whispered” through HIS Own Breath, life into us. We trust Him by Faith as Abraham gave testimony and example to. It is interesting to me how these thoughts, seemingly scattered and random, come together to make a whole…at least in my mind and to my thinking they do. Hear what Pastor Kang writes:
“Those who believe in Jesus have everything in the world. Jesus lives in them; His knowledge abides in them. Our challenge is to draw out that divine power… Christians empowered by the Holy Spirit are fed from a very deep wsell. They don’t fluctuate or change. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, our inner world is stable in spite of the shifting world outside. Christians are deepened by the trials they undergo. They rise above their challenges. Environment doesn’t dictate their behavior; instead, they transform the environment they live in. A deep well is untouched by changes in climate.”
Jesus is the Deep Well, the Echo Within, and the Voice we can trust.
Chronological Reading : Leviticus 17-25
This entire month of February has been challenging reading. My Bible reading plan has carried me through Exodus and Leviticus over the last four weeks. No, this isn’t the first time I’ve read these books/accounts, but I am really wrestling with application. I don’t think that every “jot and tittle” of the Levitical code is applicable for us today, but I am really having a difficult time with how to determine what is applied today and what is not. Probably the most disconcerting aspect of this “wrestling match” is the nagging question of whom or what arbitrates the decrees and regulations set forth by God.
I enjoy the study of Biblical interpretation and have been challenged time and again in the way I process Scripture. Most recently, I have been challenged to rethink my processes and test my hermeneutics again. Late summer I read Scot McKnight’s Blue Parakeet (Click here for that review). In that book, Scot challenged our interpretation skills with the premise that “we pick and choose” what we obey and/or agree is applicable for today. I don’t want to go into detail about all the implications and discussion that might ensue from that premise, but recommend the book very highly. At any rate, my thinking and my interpretation of Scripture has been challenged…and that’s where I’m at for now. What does all this mean? Well, like I said, I’ve been reading for the past month through Exodus and Leviticus… Exodus poses some problems for me, but not to the degree that I am unable to deal with them. Leviticus, on the other hand, is a whole other ballgame.
Let me start with this premise; I don’t think we are subject to every decree and regulation today. On the other hand, I think because some of the commands have been superseded, we have a tendency to toss much out that we might still be accountable to. I know my statement might seem convoluted, but I’m trying to be unbiased and open in my “wrestling” so I might better understand. So, here’s some of what I’ve been processing…Scriptures follow: Read the rest of this entry »