Wednesday, July 8, 2009

On My Bookshelf: An Invitation

To seek to fill a book with words about moving beyond words into solitude and silence is a daunting task; it is laughable really, if one sees the irony in it all. I have found myself . . . drawn to the task and yet somehow strangely resistant. On the one hand, I have been drawn to the task because my journey into solitude and silence has been the single most meaningful aspect of my spiritual life to date. . . . On the other hand, I am aware of the continuing challenge solitude and silence represent in my own life. Even though it has been well over ten years since I first said yes to God's invitations to enter more intentionally into these disciplines, I still find it challenging to protect space for these times apart which so deeply satisfy the empty places of my soul.

- Ruth Haley Barton

For those of us who are wanting to learn more about the benefits of quiet time, there is a slim volume entitled An Invitation to Silence and Solitude. In this little book, Ruth Haley Barton shares openly about her own personal discoveries from sitting still with God. The book earns it's 2005 Book Award from Christianity Today through it's crisp and elegant writing, it's universal appeal, and it's relevance to our lives. I found Barton's honesty deeply engaging. It was hard to put down the book.

I am richer and wiser through Barton's sharing, and I have been inspired to move into the landscape she has traveled. Although I have read reviews warning against the expectation that God would speak to us personally by giving us impressions, convictions, or ideas, and even against Barton's book in particular, I did not have any problems theologically with her story or her helpful suggestions. Barton is clearly in the center of centuries of Christian and Jewish traditions and is on sound scriptural ground. In addition to this, her voice is authentic and vulnerable: she does not ask us to do anything she has not done. She is not telling us what to do; rather, she is sharing from the perspective of a fellow traveler on the spiritual landscape.

I like, very much, some of her practical ideas to try. They can be used just as they are, or serve as a springboard for your own spiritual exercises. If your prayer life seems to be lacking something, this may be just what you've needed to help you move into a richer relationship with God. The book is short, and therefore very achieveable. The ideas are deep, but they are simply presented, and easy on tired eyes and minds.

Please note: I did not receive any compensation or free merchandise in exchange for my written review or my opinion about this book.

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