|A Brief Review of Two Recent Books
on Guidance and Discernment.Decision Making and Spiritual DiscernmentBy Nancy L. Bieber.
Paperback: Skylight Paths, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]
Discovering Our Spiritual Identity:
Reviewed By William Mills.
Every year the market is inundated with new books on Christian spirituality: prayer, fasting, meditation, lectio divina, vocation, spiritual direction, and healing. Every year it becomes increasingly more difficult to sift through the wheat from the chaff and quite frankly it can be overwhelming. However, two recently published books are essential for serious readers seeking thoughtful reflective books on the various spiritual issues among Christians.
Discovering Our Spiritual Identity is not just an ordinary book on Christian faith but one which encourages the reader to stop, reflect, and then act. Trevor Hudson is a pastor in the Methodist Church in South Africa and is the author of numerous books, most recently Listening to the Groans. He also works closely with the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Institute and travels to the United States several times per year to lead retreats and small conferences.
Hudson created this book as a workbook. Every chapter concludes with a series of four or five questions for further reflection. Ample space is provided within the book itself for writing. I envision this book being used for small groups and personal devotion and would make an excellent resource for a parish or small prayer group.
The book is divided into sixteen chapters each of varying length and each chapter has an identical format: Signpost, Reading, Holy Experiments, Following the Signpost Together and Reflection Questions. The easy-to-read format allows for slower reading and reflection, this book is a not a quick read. Hudson forces you to stop and savor every chapter as if it were a fine meal, sharing his thirty plus years worth of pastoral stories and vignettes. Hudson is certainly well-equipped to write such a wonderful volume and should be commended. I must confess that on my first reading I did not stop and answer the questions but will go back and slowly ponder each chapter, thinking and reflecting on those questions for “deep reading.”
Hudson’s book would make a good compendium to Bieber’s Decision Making and Spiritual Discernment. Both books are similar, but not identical. The books actually compliment each other nicely. While Bieber is not a pastor as is Hudson, her many years in pastoral counseling and coaching provide her with the wisdom to write this book. Decision Making and Spiritual Discernment includes ten chapters on the process of how we make decisions in life. Like Discovering Our Spiritual Identity, Bieber’s book is very practical, leading the reader through steps such as facing our fears, listening to our heart, paying attention to friends and family, and the importance of attentiveness. Bieber deals with big decisions in life such as vocation, job, and family and I could envision this book to be used among college students seeking advice on their future vocation or careers or in a Christian formation group seeking advice on living a faithful life in Christ. Like Hudson’s book, Decision Making includes many questions after each chapter as a way to continue the conversation. I found however that Bieber includes a lot of useful information at the conclusion of the chapter, more so than in Hudson’s book. Both books include a thorough reading list for readers who seek more information, and both books are superb for those interested in Christian spirituality and particularly issues of guidance and discernment.
William Mills is author of A 30 Day Retreat: A Personal Guide to Spiritual Renewal.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com
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