Friday, May 05, 2006

The Other Side of Silence

Author: Morton T. Kelsey
Publisher: SPCK, London
ISBN. 0281 029849

An excellent book written as a guide to Christian Meditation. It focuses on the discipline from both Western and Eastern tradition and considers meditation in the light of other spiritual traditions, Zen and TM to name just a couple as well as the psychological paradigm of Jung. The 'Checklist' is especially of note. His comment here on the importance of relational theology it timely. It is full of anecdote and illustration. It has particular good sections on the use of 'time' as well as on the interpretation of dreams. I found it surprisingly easy to read.

'A complete religious life involves more than one element. It needs to be rooted in the traditional practices and beliefs and morality of the Church. At the same time it also needs to seek the bliss and contemplation of God that provides the essential meaning to these traditional practices and the motive to share that meaning with others. Finally, the whole structure depends upon the individual’s continual growth and ability to bring all parts of the being into the religious process and keep integrating them so that more and more of the love of God is brought into himself and then into the world. This last process, in particular, involves the use of images and imagination.'

Morton T. Kelsey, ‘The Other Side of Silence’, London, SPCK, 1976, p.155.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Finding a Spiritual Friend

Friendship is essential, according to Eugene Peterson, for 'developing spiritual depth'. Timothy Jones, formerly associate editor of Christianity Today, has produced a book which is trully a literary Barnabas. This little book will encourage you to see how friends and mentors can make your faith grow. 'True spiritual help is more than a human enterprise. God is the central actor in the partnership' writes Jones. Recall, He was the one that said, 'It is not good that man is alone' and as the writer of proverbs 13:20 counsels, 'Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise'.

The cover here is of the reprint, I have an earlier edition. It is published by Scripture Union, 1998, ISBN 1 85999 3362

Adventure Inward by Morton T Kelsey

Publisher: Fortress Press 1980

It wouldn't be to much of an exaggeration to say that is very much a practical manual on journaling as a spiritual discipline. Its chapter on the possible dangers in journaling is of great help. Whilst the book can just as easily be read and appreciated by someone from a non religious background it is a good guide for Christians. He understands that the journal, in this regard, is not the end but the means to the end, the scaffolding around the construction of our relationship with God. I don’t think his conclusion that those who can read and write will never come to the depth of relationship with God that is there for them if they do not write a journal.

He also issues a warning that the keeping of a journal will not in and of itself develop our relationship with God unless we are willing to put into practice the insights we have arrived at in the process of reflection. Writing,

‘One can keep an exciting and delightfully written record of one’s inner life, and it can still end in a dead-end street religiously. It may be playful, charming, full of fun, and yet come in the end to despair and disillusionment. If one knows how to follow playfulness and humor God, one can find the way; but this road does not inevitably lead there. The great existential writers like Camus and Sartre lead usually to despair.’ (page 29).

He rightly believes that God has placed within us all the potential for growth in relationship with Him as well as our own personal growth, through that relationship, in order that we attain the full measure of sons and daughters in Christ that He desires us to be.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Christian Spirituality - Five views of sanctification

Perhaps one of the best books I' ve read recently - it will give you a reasonably good background to the various views on the topic of sanctification within the Protestant perspective i.e. Contemplative, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Reformed and Wesleyan. It is basically dealing with the call to be holy in the light of God's grace to us and our responsibility to have it worked out in our daily living for Him. Each section is presented and then debated by the individual contributors. These are from the faith alone perspective, represented by Gerhard Forde (Lutheran) the faith and the believers participation in the process represented by Sinclair Ferguson (Reformed) and Glenn Hinson (Contemplative). And then the unique role of the Holy Spirit in the process is taken up by Laurence Wood(Wesleyan) and Russell Spittler (Pentecostal).

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Keep the Change

Author: Becky Tirabassi
Publisher: Integrity, Nashville, 2003

This books subtitle, 'Breaking Through to Permanent Transformation' reflects the holiness aspect that is promoted in an non-agressive manner. Although the book may be accused by some as using secular techniques it is still none-the-less, in my opinion, clearly Christian in its witness. Keep the Change encourages you to take an honest look at what makes you tick(includes a personality profile questionnaire), what inhibits and what will help you develop into the person that could be. It helps you gain perspective by developing strategy, taming your temperament, telling the truth and establishing accountability.

A nice easy read with plenty of anecdotes.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Life of God in the Soul of Man

Author: Henry Scougal
Publisher: Christian Heritage, 1995

A classic on the subject of holiness and personal reflecton. This book, initally printed as a pamphlet to help a backslidden friend, was passed by Susanah Wesley to her son Charles in Oxford who in turn gave it to George Whitefield and was instrumental in bringing him to faith. The third section: 'The Aids to True Religion' is particularly helpful. J.I. Packer forwards this modern reprint sighting it as being one of the most influencial books that he has read. A quick search through the internet will show you what a great impact this book had shortly after its initial printing, influencing, I believe the Wesley Holiness Movement, particular in the early days of the Holiness Club and subsequent development and through Whitefield touched many a life in the USA. Wesley used it there also, reading from it as an alternative to the attractions of a ball that was held in Georgia.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

Author: Donald S Whitney
Publisher: Navpress, Colorado Springs, 1992

Don Whitney explores the various disciplines, well know to the Puritans of old, for the promotion of spiritual development. The book has good general introductory chapters on the following disciplines:-

Scripture reading; Prayer; Worship; Scripture Meditation; Evangelism; Serving; Stewardship; Scripture Application; Fasting; Silence and Solitude; Journaling and finally Learning.

He maintains that discipline without direction is drugery - who could argue? He has quite a good website, although the pictures are a bit naf!

Soul Friend by Kenneth Leech

Author:Kenneth Leech
Title: 'Sould Friend. Spiritual Direction in the Modern World'
Publisher: Darton, Longman and Todd, London, 1998.

He is an Anglican priest and community theologian. In this book he tackles what he calls the dangers of the ministry being, 'trivialised, professionalised and enclosed within an elitist and inward looking enclave.' According to George Carey, who writes the Foreword, 'It places spiritual development firmly within both the corporate and sacramenetal life of the Church.'
'Christians are not seeking a solitary walk with God, a private mystical trip, a flight of the alone to the Alone. They are involved in a corporate search for humanity, renewal, the Kingdom of God, the transfigured cosmos, the Body of Christ. It is within the context of the flock or the Body that all mystical theology is practiced, and there are very serious hazards and danger when the spiritual quest occurs outside that framework. That is not, of course, to deny the fact of spirituality outside the confines of the church. But the great teachers of the spiritual life in almost all traditions are one in warning of the dangers of the spiritual ego-trip, the search for enlightenment which ignores the common life, the human community, the demands of justice and peace. In the fourteenth century, Ruysbroeck had harsh words to say about such seekers. Whereas “the enlightened loving man flows out [1] to all men in charity in heaven and on earth…these men go their own way.”On the other hand, the spiritual masters stress that “Christian perfection is perfect justice, and perfect justice is perfect charity… If the perfecting of our spiritual life be nothing else than growth in justice and charity, then its essential law will be progress.’ [2]