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Spiritual Direction

Not too often do I find a book that spells out so succintly and wonderfully a picture of following God in the midst of life. L. Roger Owens has written a timely book that digs deep into the topic of spiritual direction. Owens lays out his desire in the opening introduction by writing, "I want to know what it's like to live in the house that is God's own presence, to live there today and tomorrow, this minute and the next" (xi). This goal is why Owens chronicles in the book his experience in having a local retired Baptist minister as his spiritual director. What I enjoyed a great bit about the book is that Owens gets into the nuts and bolts of spiritual direction from a practical and experiential perspective. When I first heard of the term 'spiritual director' I often think of a guru or a lone sage imparting wisdom from upon a hill, but I think Owens has a different perception in mind.

The first chapter on longing deals with the central experience of longing for God and for someone 'who could show me how to love God' (7). I really resonated with Owens here in this chapter as he talked about balking at the practical courses in seminary and instead going after the more robust theological ones. As pastors and teachers, we often think we have all the right things to say because of our training, but what happens is a realization of the 'poverty of my spirit' (9). Owens goes onto give two practical ways we can discern this longing and to see if it is line with a longing for God. By coming up with a list of 'wants' on a continual basis and see what things move you. As I mentally have been making this list, over time we realize that some of the things we want aren't all that special in the end. The next practical way related to longing is spiritual reading. Reading about the lives of great men and women of the faith has the ability to cultivate our longing for God and lead us in the right direction.

After relating the impact of the fall upon our lives as 'grabbers' coming into the world, Owens helpfully points out a very profound question by writing, "What am I holding onto that God is inviting me to let go of if I want to live freely and abundantly in the house of God's love" (50). Often this releasing of things that have our hold on us is a painful process but necessary in spiritual direction. In one sense, when you enter into a spiritual direction relationship, you are voluntarily yielding your life in all its warts and bruises to God and the person you in contact with. Owens has a unique way of bringing out the truth of some specific spiritual practices in a conversational manner. In talking about offering ourselves to God, he writes, "Here, God, here is my life laid bare before you....Help me see where you are in this mess" (81). These thoughts are things that I speak often in prayer and in my desires to follow God as well.

This book is not so much a how to book about spiritual direction but rather seeking to explain the experience of someone going through spiritual direction. In the middle of Owens' retelling of his experience with a spiritual director, you get a profound sense of the way God works through the act of having someone listen to the story of our life and speak wisdom back to us. Often in time that I have sought spiritual direction for big life choices, the time spent with another person has opened my eyes to the cobwebs in my own plans and given me new questions and desires to bring before God.

If you desire to know how the experience of spiritual direction plays out in the life a believer, this book is for you.

Much thanks to Paraclete Press for the review copy of this book.


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