Review: Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction

Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction
Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction by Margaret Guenther
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve read several works on spiritual direction and what I most appreciated about this was the author’s down to earth approach to these matters. She introduces herself as an “amateur” in these things, which carries both the notion of learner and lover. At points I’ve been put off by the professionalization of spiritual direction. Her test of a calling to this is simply that people begin to trust themselves deeply to one.

She begins by describing how she welcomes strangers, those new to a directee relationship. This was very practical, dealing with her own preparation, the preparation of both physical space and a safe atmosphere for direction.

Her next chapter is on the director as a good teacher. Most striking is that good teachers encourage play. While direction often explores serious matters, there can also be a lightness, a joy, and even laughter in this relationship. Good teachers also know the pupil’s limits, are hopeful, ask good questions, evaluate progress, and are themselves learners.

The third chapter explores the idea of director as midwife, the one who comes alongside a birthgiver to instruct and coach, and oft-times to simply wait as insight gestates. Most striking was her discussion of “transition”, a time just before birth where the birthgiver may totally lose a sense of control and how the midwife can give good direction and support at this time to lean into the hard work of giving birth to spiritual insight and growth.

The final chapter explores the direction of women as well as what it means for women to act as directors. Two critical elements here were helping women find their voice and not simply default to submission, and to face the sin of self-contempt, which Guenther especially sees in women. She concludes with an exploration of directing those who have faced abuse.

This is a slim and yet rich book that is probably one of the best treatments of spiritual direction I’ve read, especially valuable for its lack of pretension and refreshing “down to earthness”.

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Review: Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith

Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith
Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Delighting in the Trinity was indeed a delight to read! I’ve read several books on this truly delightful aspect of Christian belief that were turgid tomes that seemed to confirm the suspicions many have that doctrine is the dry, dusty stuff of human invention.

For Michael Reeves, the Trinity is a joyous essential of Christian belief. He observes how in fact the contention that “God is love” makes no sense if God is a unitary, singular being. He shows how in fact the good and beautiful relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit overflow into a good and beautiful creation. And when we used our freedom to love God to rebel, the Triune God worked to restore us with Father and Son acting as one to make atonement for us. Likewise, the Spirit of God brings us into the intimacy of relationship by not only making sense to us of the deep things of the Trinity but through actually residing in us and drawing us into the life of the Trinity.

Reeves contends that the problem in fact with God that so many atheists and “anti-theists” have is with a monotheistic conception of a God far removed from his creatures and creation, that is puritanically holy but with no real connection with his creatures. The Trinity gives the lie to this idea. He even argues that even the wrath of God is in fact the love of God fighting for his good intentions in the face of evil–or as Jonathan Edwards would say, his “strange work”.

This is a short work (130 pages) but one written with great clarity and warmth turning what is often thought dry and dusty and obscure into joyful truth that nurtures our love and intimacy with the Triune God.

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