Book Review: Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us

Author: Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg
Publication details: Downers Grove: IVP, 2005

Summary: Calhoun uses ‘WORSHIP’ as an acrostic to organise over 60 spiritual practices  drawn from the breadth of the Christian tradition into 7 groups: ‘Worship’, ‘Open myself to God’, ‘Relinquish the false self’, ‘Share my life with others’, ‘Hear God’s word’, ‘Incarnate the love of Christ’, and ‘Pray’. For each practice she includes a tabled summary, a few pages of discussion, reflection questions, practical steps to help the reader experience the discipline, and finally a list of further resources. The book also contains an excellent introductory section on exploring desire, and useful appendices on a variety of related issues, such as suggestions for spiritual mentors and postures for prayer.

Evaluation:  Urging people to just ‘pray and read your bible’ is rarely a helpful approach to encouraging the  vital nurturing of spiritual health; natural variance in spiritual temperaments and life seasons mean people are looking for a whole host of ways to foster spiritual authenticity in their journey. Whereas texts such as Foster’s Celebration of Discipline or Willard’s Spirit of the Disciplines focus on just a few classic disciplines and require a concerted effort to work through,  Calhoun offers a highly accessible pathway into a wide range of spiritual practices that lay people can flick through and use as an entry point into further discovery. She maintains a healthy balance between personal and communal practices, and includes practices such as ‘Unplugging’ which have particular contemporary relevance. Every faith community should have a copy in their resource collection. Highly recommended.

 Reviewed by: Bruce Hulme

Lecturer in Spirituality and Practical Theology, Tabor Adelaide


Foundations for Pastoral Care: Practical and Personal Availability

Image Bruce Hulme, Lecturer in Spirituality and Practical Theology
Christians often discount themselves from the ministry of pastoral care because of a perceived lack of knowledge and skills. ‘What would I say? What would I do?’ Although knowledge and skills are important for pastoral carers to develop, even more foundational is the gift of presence that comes through two forms of availability.

Firstly, practical or pragmatic availability is the presence of sufficient margins—e.g. time, physical/emotional energy, finance—to enable a caring response to another’s need. We often succumb to fast-paced, frenetic and distracted living, leading to marginless, ‘just-in-time’ lives. When opportunities to care happen upon us, our response is limited if we are simply too busy, exhausted, or broke. A lack of margins is always a good cue to ask ourselves: am I living as a called or driven person?

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