I’m not often a fan of Christian fiction, but this book was just delightful. It’s an easy read, and you’ll soon be caught up in the story of four women: Hannah, a pastor on sabbatical; Meg, a widow and empty nester; Mara, caught in an unhappy marriage, and Charissa, an ambitious and high-achieving graduate student. They meet during a weekly spiritual retreat and find themselves becoming friends. You’ll probably see a bit of yourself and your own spiritual struggles in each one.
You’ll also learn something about spiritual disciplines, as the author discusses walking the labyrinth, the daily examen, lectio divina, reading the Scripture with imagination, having a rule of life and spiritual direction. Since I’ve done most of these things in the past, it was a good refresher course. It brought back many good memories from my own spiritual journey and encouraged me to think deeply about the disciplines I’m currently practicing and what changes I might make.
Each character develops and changes through their interaction with one another and with God. You’ll find yourself drawn into their lives, and pondering the landmarks of your personal faith journey. There are discussion questions at the end, making it a good pick for a book club.
VERDICT: 5 Stars. I’ve already requested the second book in the series from the local library!
For more book reviews of Christian fiction see these posts:
The Beloved Daughter by Alana Terry — Book Review
a long time comin’ by Robin W. Pearson — Book Review
white picket fences by Susan Meissner–Book Review
What makes a person spiritual? Too often these days “spirituality” is associated with New Age or Eastern beliefs, and some even insist that “I am spiritual, but not religious.” For Christians the true meaning of spirituality is inexorably linked to the Holy Spirit, who indwells all believers. In our most recent class on the Holy Spirit we learned how the Spirit works in the lives of individual Christians. The Spirit convicts us of our sin, brings us into fellowship with God and others, and works through our sanctification to make us more Christlike.
According to the Bible, there are three types of people:
- The natural person — this is how we are born
- “People of the flesh”– people who know Christ, but are still living as spiritual infants
- Spiritual people– those who are led by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:11-12); who are spiritually minded
Every believer receives spiritual gifts for the building up of the church (1 Peter 4:10-11) as well as spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3). Believers are meant to be spiritual stones, built into a spiritual house where they dedicate their lives fully to God. (1 Peter 2:5).
Herbert Lockyer, (1886–1984) a minister and best-selling author of more than 50 books, lists these characteristics that identify a truly spiritual person:
- They are misunderstood by most people
- They show signs of development in their faith life (spiritual growth)
- They accept the truth of Scripture
- They are discerning, able to correctly understand spiritual truth
- They are compassionate, putting their faith into action
- They live a life that is confident in the knowledge of victory in Christ
Take a close look and evaluate yourself. Are you a spiritual person?
For more about spirituality see these posts:
Streams of Living Water by Richard J. Foster–Book Review
Developing Spiritual Habits
What Damages our Spiritual Life? (according to Hannah Whitall Smith)
This is a great book for many reasons. Too often spirituality is discussed without reference to the institutional church. Richard Foster, on the other hand, believes that our spirituality must be moored in a Christian community and so he traces the major spiritual streams that feed into and have influenced the church. They are:
- Imitatio (the imitation of Christ): the divine paradigm
- The contemplative tradition: prayer
- The holiness tradition: virtue
- The charismatic tradition: spirit-empowered
- The social justice tradition: compassion
- The evangelical tradition: the Word
- The incarnational tradition: the sacraments
In each section, he selects and presents the life of a biblical person, an historic figure and a more contemporary example, each of whom exemplify and have influenced that tradition. For me, it was a much easier way to study church history than the usual recitation of facts, people and dates. At the end of the chapter, there is a list of the major strengths and pitfalls of each stream, as well as ways to put it into practice.
You will see how these different streams have also rubbed against and affected each other. (it reminded me of something I learned about music and discussed in an previous post The Rub). Jesus, of course, as the “author and perfecter of our faith” combines the characteristics of all the traditions.
At the end of the book are appendices on critical turning points in church history, as well as notable figures and significant movements in the church. There is a wealth of information, presented in a style that is both interesting and easy to follow. I’m certainly recommending this one be kept in our church office so it can be loaned out to others.
In case you are wondering, Lutherans will identify most strongly with the evangelical and incarnational traditions — the evangelical because of it’s emphasis on the Word (solo scriptura) and the incarnational idea that all of our work and lives can be devoted to God (springing from Martin Luther’s linking of the religious sphere with everyday life).
VERDICT: 5 Stars. If you are interested in spirituality and church history, check this one out.