If you are someone who is feeling drawn to a time of solitude and silence and yet cannot begin to imagine how this could happen for you, this is your book. Ruth Haley Barton begins by writing that she did not know where to start either,and uses her learned experience toguide you into new depths in your relationship with Jesus. The book also recognizes the negative effects of being “dangerously tired,” and provides a “Practice” section at the end of each chapter that will usher you into a time of silence as you ponder the content. The book’s appendix also includes a self-help guide in the appendix for spending a personal day in solitude, and group guide for shared solitude.
Invitation to Solitude and Silence
Henri Nouwen said, “Without solitude, it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life….We do not take the spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside some time to be with God and listen to him.” Whether you feel drawn to this statement, or sense a kind of resistance, that is all the reason you need to try this book by Ruth Haley Barton. Solitude and silence can offer something to all of us, and this Christianity Today Book Award-winner, offers practical suggestions on how to get started.
What is the key to interior freedom? According to Paul, it is that which enables us able to say, “Now I rejoice greatly in the Lord …I am not saying this out of need, for I have learned to be content regardless of my circumstances. I know how to live humbly, and I know how to abound. I am accustomed to any and every situation—to being filled and being hungry, to having plenty and having need.” (Phillipians 4: 10-12)
Have you reached a place in your spiritual journey where everything seems kind of stale and meaningless? Does it feel like there’s nothing more for you in your relationship with Jesus? The Deeper Journey invites you to consider the possibility that ‘it’s not what you are seeking’ that is the issue, but rather ‘who you are in your relationship with Jesus’ that is causing the roadblock.
This is an excellent resource for pastors and church planters. Begin by watching the 35-minute video story of American pastor, Matt Canlis, who moves to a small town in Scotland to discover what it means to live the Jesus life in a church or ‘parish’. The video includes interviews with Eugene Peterson and N.T. Wright who mentored Matt and encouraged him to live at Godspeed. Then, move on to the 7 videos that companion the chapters in the study guide which is formatted for small group participation. Chapters in the book include: Place, Presence, Pace, Identity, Stability, Names, and Mission. You will be drawn into the small village of Methlick and fall in love with the people who have lived there all their lives, moving at God’s pace — 3 MPH — and learn the value of ’slowing down to catch up with God.’ This resource can also be used for small groups within the church who are desiring spiritual transformation.
Writing about this book by Jan Johnson, author Brennan Manning called it “a well-written and finely constructed introduction to the prayer of simple regard.” Author James Bryan Smith wrote, “The best recommendation anyone can give to any how-to book is this: It makes you long to do it yourself. That was certainly the case for me when I finished When the Soul Listens. It made me yearn for a deeper, wider and more consistent practice of contemplative prayer in my own life.” I (Mark Warner) couldn’t agree more. I listened to this wonderfully practical book while traveling on sabbatical and was moved by how accessible it is. The practice of Contemplative or Abiding Prayer is a central practice of Christian Spiritual Formation and Jan Johnson does a wonderful job of inviting the reader into a different kind of life with God.
Many Christians report that the single most-important thing that they did that brought lasting spiritual transformation to their lives was adopting the rhythm of doing a daily examen. The examen is a simple exercise, taking as little as 10 minutes, but with a little honesty and commitment, can yield transformative results.