I’ve been working a while to get through this book: Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation. When I bought it a couple years ago, I was so excited, because some of the bloggers I follow and resonate with were reading it and loving it and recommending it. But then when it came in the mail and I began to dig in a little I realized the book began with some practices that were a basis for an InterVarsity retreat I found repellant/unBiblical during college a few years before.
It was just too soon to read and actually appreciate it.
So it’s been lingering on my shelf for a couple years and on my currently reading list on Goodreads for almost as long.
More recently I’ve been reading it a little more and am almost beginning to reach the ending (that phrase might seem to preambulatory, but considering the pace I’ve gone I might still have another month of “currently reading” it!).
Before I was stuck in the mindset that if the book/practices made me uncomfortable I just wouldn’t read it, but now I’m realizing that books like this are not meant to be taken without a solid dose of the Holy Spirit and consideration for your own personal inclinations and relationship with God. It’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario.
I have come to appreciate the book for what it is: a humbly thoughtful book of opportunities to become more familiar with how God can work in quieter and different ways if we let him. (And I’ve realized it’s not the exactly same as the frustrating IV retreat from years ago.)
So here’s a brief look into Ruth Haley Barton’s niche. Some might still find it too meditative as I did years ago, some might find it helpful. Diverse books and reactions are just part of how God ministers to and grows our hearts right where or when we need Him.
“Life in and around the Christian community does little to help us attend to our longings, to believe that deep within there is something essential that needs to be listened to, or to offer much hope that our deepest longings could take us somewhere good. At times the deeper longings of our heart are dismissed as mere ideealism – beyond the realm of possibility this side of heaven. At other times, subtle fear or outright discomfort arises in the face of such expressions of our humanity. The emphasis on human depravity in many religious circles makes it hard to know if there is anything in us that can be trusted.”
“In the end, this us the most hopeful thing any of us can say about spiritual transformation: I cannot transform myself, or anyone else for that matter. What I can do is create the conditions in which spiritual transformation can take place, by developing and maintaining a rhythm of spiritual practices that keep me open and available to God.”
On the Practice of Solitude:
“Jesus seeks to guide his disciples – then and now – into a rhythm of solitude, community, and ministry. In such a rhythm, solitude helps us stay attentive to the dynamics of spiritual exhaustion and attend to the deeper sources before they pull us under.”
“When we don’t attend to our vulnerabilities and instead try to repress it all and keep soldiering on, we get weary from holding it in. Eventually it leaks out in ways that are damaging to us and to others.”
On Lectio Divina
“We need a way of approaching Scripture that will move us very concretely from our overreliance on information gathering to an experience of Scripture as a place of intimate encounter. We need more than a method or technique that involves asking a different set of questions.”
“Referring to the material being read and the method itself, the practice of lectio divina is rooted in the belief that through the Holy Spirt, the Scriptures are indeed alive and active as we engage them for spiritual transformation (Hebrews 4:12).”
“While discernment is listed as a spiritual gift, it is also a mark of Christian maturity.”
“The capacity to discern and do the will of God arises out if friendship with
God, cultivated through prayer, times of quiet listening and alert awareness.”
“One of the great temptations of the spiritual life is to believe that if I were in another season of life, I could be more spiritual. The truth is that spirtual transformation takes place as we embrace the challenges and opportunities associated with each season of life.”
– Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms
And of course this isn’t nearly a proper summary or even introduction to this book. There are many other practices and disciplines that are just as interesting but harder to condense thoughtfully and clearly into a sentence or two. So read the book if you are curious.
May we continue to wonder at the ways of God and always be surprised by how He makes He will known.