By Ruth Haley Barton
Intervarsity Press, 2006
Reviewed by Faye Reynolds, Director of Women’s and Intergenerational Ministries
I have done quite a bit of reading on Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Disciplines but when Tom Lavigne recommended Sacred Rhythms: Arranging our Lives for Spiritual Transformation to me, well, I had to add one more book to my list of must reads.
Ruth Haley Barton has written an excellent guide for finding and establishing one’s own rhythm of spiritual practice and discipline. She explains well the different ancient disciplines and how she has found them valuable from the Lectio Divina to the personal Examen as well as the value of the Christian community in one’s spiritual journey. I found her descriptions easy to grasp and methods simple to implement. At the end of the book, she gives a guide of questions that help determine how one might establish their own routines and rhythms and it is my desire to work on this in the summer.
In Chapter 6, she weaves the practice of self-examination around Psalm 139 and this was particularly helpful for me as I could see within Scripture a pattern for looking at my days and weeks to increase awareness of God’s presence and work in my life. I was able to use this to guide at a women’s gathering to lead them through the process and it was very effective in a group setting.
Her primary emphasis is to understand the deepest desires of our hearts and then to build our lives around meeting those desires. If our pure desire is to know God and live in better awareness of his constant presence and love, then there are ways that we can structure our lives to fulfill that desire in a practical way that can be nothing less that transformational. It is so easy to let other things in life take center stage when that is not our true love or desire. Instead of letting life take us over, the challenge is here is to take hold of life and form it toward the heart of God. I highly recommend this book for an introduction into Spiritual Disciplines or as a refresher course to deepen personal practices of prayer, personal and Scriptural reflection.