Bradley Jersak has done it again!

Bradley Jersak has done it again!

Bradley Jersak’s A More Christlike Way: A More Beautiful Faith is another great book looking at how to follow Jesus through the chaos of our current time. Check out the below video for more details about this great...
“The Inner Life of a Counselor” by Robert J. Wicks

“The Inner Life of a Counselor” by Robert J. Wicks

Over the past few decades Dr. Robert Wicks noticed an uptick in the promotion of mindfulness and positive psychology among counselors.[1] While helpful, these concepts seemed to ignore the “wisdom literature of world spiritualities”[2] that addressed the same concerns long before the rise of modern psychological movements. Accordingly, Wicks decided to write the book The Inner Life of a Counselor to “provide encouragement to professional helpers”[3] to let go of the nonessentials while embracing a greater focus on mindfulness and engaging in practices that enhance a healthy perspective of life no matter what is happening around them.[4] Though I found myself enjoying and agreeing with the all practices promoted by Wicks, it was the concept of humility that found fertile ground in my soul. Wicks defines humility as “the ability to fully appreciate our innate gifts and our current ‘growing edges’ in ways that enable us to learn, act, and flow with our lives as never before.”[5] As someone with a high ‘learner’ and ‘input’ theme on the CliftonStrengths assessment,[6] I have a desire to seek information which can lead to a paralysis of action due to my appetite for knowledge. Paradoxically, these same strengths can cause me to assume I know something when I really don’t. By adopting a “sense of equanimity”[7] through humility, the hope is that I can learn to appreciate the growing edge of my desire to learn while also embracing the reality that I don’t have to know everything. The words of Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki as retold by Wick were of special importance to me. In the retelling, Shunryu Suzuki told his disciples...
“The Roots of Christian Mysticism” by Olivier Clement

“The Roots of Christian Mysticism” by Olivier Clement

Christianity has changed a lot since its early days with “distortions and caricatures…constantly being hawked about.”[1] Clement’s book is an effort to remind people of the mystic roots of Christianity.[2] To that end, the book includes large portions of text written by the early Church Father with Clement’s own words being used to connect the passages along with some brief commentary on the material.[3] Topics addressed within the book include, but are not limited to the mystery of God, the church, the Eucharist, passions transfigured, prayer, contemplation, and love. The primary theme throughout the book is that our lives, hopes, dreams, and prayers should be centered around Jesus of Nazareth. It is a “spirituality of resurrection”[4] that starts today and goes beyond death. [1] Olivier Clement, The Roots of Christian Mysticism: Texts from the Patristic Era with Commentary (Hyde Park, New York: New City Press of the Focolare, 2017), 9. [2] Olivier Clement, The Roots of Christian Mysticism, 9. [3] Olivier Clement, The Roots of Christian Mysticism, 11. [4] Olivier Clement, The Roots of Christian Mysticism,...
“On the Incarnation” by Saint Athanasius

“On the Incarnation” by Saint Athanasius

Saint Athanasius’ primary focus is to explain why the Creator God had to take on bodily flesh for the salvation of humanity.[1] To that end, he first addresses the dilemma of life/death and knowledge/ignorance before looking at the death of Jesus and his resurrection. The final two sections of the book deals with the Jewish and Gentile objections to the incarnation and resurrection. Athanasius ends the book with a request for the reader to not only study the scriptures, but to live a “life modeled on the saints”[2] so that they can fully understand the words of the scripture. This ending effectively drives home the point that the incarnation cannot be fully understood by those who are not actively following Jesus and allowing the Spirit to cleanse their soul. [1] Athanasius, On the Incarnation, trans. John Behr (Yonkers, New Jersey: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2011), 49-50. [2] Athanasius, On the Incarnation,...
“Pastoral Care” by St. Gregory the Great

“Pastoral Care” by St. Gregory the Great

In 590 C.E. St. Gregory the Great was elected as the bishop of Rome after the death of Pope Pelagius II.[1] Though he initially tried to avoid the position, he eventually agreed to serve the church and the people of Rome in that role. A year later, Gregory released his book Pastoral Care as “an apology for [his] wish to escape the burdensome office of a bishop.”[2] Within its pages, Gregory outlines the difficulties and challenges one must face in the office of a pastor along with some character guidelines for new recruits. As it happens, the book would become the “standard handbook of pastoral care” [3] for the next thousand years with priests and pastors around the world diving deep into its pages.             The text itself is divided into four parts with each part building upon its predecessor.[4] The first part is focused on difficulties of pastoral ministry and the character traits required of the office. The second part “sets forth the inner and outer life of the good pastor.”[5] The next selection is the longest part of the book were Gregory outlines how to deal with “nearly forty different classes of people.”[6] The final part is a brief chapter reminding pastors to take care of themselves and refrain from pride as they are but humans serving others through the grace of God. I first read St. Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Care about a decade ago when I timidly stepped into the role of an associate pastor at a small rural church. Though I enjoyed parts of the book, I found Gregory’s advice to be heavy handed...
“Care of Souls in the Classic Tradition” by Thomas C. Oden

“Care of Souls in the Classic Tradition” by Thomas C. Oden

After years of teaching pastors and Christian leaders about the merits of modern psychotherapy, Thomas Oden became “painfully aware of the so-called outcome studies reporting the dubious effectiveness of average psychotherapy.”[1] This awareness lead Oden on a circuitous journey that ultimately concluded with him turning towards the psychological insights held within the pastoral tradition “expressed by the ecumenical consensus of Christianity’s first millennium of experience in caring for souls.”[2] The book under question is the result of this journey with Oden actively promoting the pastoral soul care teachings of the early church.             The first chapter of the book is devoted to unpacking Oden’s personal research showing the shift in the early 1900’s away from classic tradition of soul care to the teachings of modern psychologists and psychotherapists.[3] The result of this shift is that, in Oden’s option, there is no longer any “distinction between Christian pastoral care and popular psychological faddism.”[4] The problem with this shift is not just a theological issue, but a practical one as the modern psychotherapy cure rate is about the same as what would happen if nothing was done.[5] The answer to this crisis isn’t to forgo modern research, but to develop an approach to pastoral care that blends both the modern and ancient insights into the human soul.[6]             After this stage-setting chapter, Oden shifts gears to exploring the life and message of the most influential writer on pastoral care in the history of Christianity.[7] The person in question is none other than St. Gregory the Great (540-? C.E.), whose Pastoral Care became the “standard handbook of pastoral care” [8] for over...