Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sacred Rhythms: Arranging our lives for spiritual transformation

By Ruth Haley Barton
Downers Grove IL, IVP Books, 2006
191 pages     Spiritual

Sacred Rhythms is Ruth Barton’s personal look at the traditional spiritual disciplines. Barton is a pastor, author, and seminar leader. She is a former pastor at Willow Creek Community Church and now runs the Transforming Center in Wheaton Illinois. 

The traditional spiritual disciplines as outlined by Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline are:
  • ·         Inward Disciplines of Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, and Study
  • ·         Outward Disciplines of Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, and Service
  • ·         The Corporate Disciplines of Confession, Worship, Guidance, and Celebration.
Authors tend to focus on only a few of these disciplines. In my teaching of the Companions in Christ curriculum, we speak of the spiritual disciplines as aspects of spiritual formation. We have studied forgiveness, prayer, scripture, discernment, and spiritual guidance. Each of these areas include some of Richard Fosters disciplines but focus more on formation rather than discipline.

Barton has made these spiritual disciplines personal, which is the beauty of this book. Each chapter discusses one of the spiritual disciplines: Solitude, scripture, prayer, honoring the body, self-examination, discernment, Sabbath, and rule of life. I particularly appreciated the chapters on honoring the body and Sabbath. I have a lot of growing to do in both of these areas, and I liked the honesty with which she addressed her own needs. She also discussed ways in which a person can discern some rules for living--another area where I could use some growth.

At the end of each chapter, Barton includes some suggestions for ways to practice the discipline, and apparently there are leader’s guides and participants books which can be used in training sessions. I found this book to be valuable as a stand-alone to remind me of the practices that are so very easy to get sidetracked from practicing.

One reviewer called Sacred Rhythmsa gracious and gentle approach to the use of spiritual disciplines.” I really liked the examples she used from her own life experiences. These are examples that I can relate to. Here is something I found startling: that the spiritual disciplines have become a part of the InterVarsity Press lexicon of books. I wouldn’t have expected that. However, in my search for reviews to utilize in writing this blog posting, I did find this review that didn’t like the idea of evangelical theology veering off into such touchy-feely stuff: “Sacred Rhythms serves as an excellent example of where the spiritual formation movement is attempting to take the evangelical church, which is back into Roman Catholic mystical experiences and practice because the movement does not emerge from the Scriptures.  It does not form biblical disciples of Christ and is ultimately destructive.”

Which—of course—makes me like it all the more.

Ruth Haley Barton’s Transforming Center Website:


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