KALIANNA BOOK REVIEWS
Cursillo Book Reviews:
AN ANTHOLOGY OF BOOK REVIEWS FOR CURSILLISTAS
Collated by Murray Lloyd, Editor, Kalianna, Newsletter,
Canberra and Goulburn Diocese, Anglican Cursillo Movement
In 2004 I began my editorship of Kalianna, the newsletter of the Canberra and Goulburn Anglican Cursillo movement.
Corinthians 1.14.11 was presented as a theme to open a series of book reviews that reflected my long interest in the theme of communication.
"Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me". (KJV)
This challenge leads to the concept that Cursillistas, as leaders in their communities, need to equip with a new language; one which can engage with the current largely secular generation as it searches for meaning and ways of finding resilience in a changing and hostile world.
This perspective was expressed very neatly in the March 2006 Brisbane newsletter
“On Wings like Eagles” by spiritual advisor, the Reverend Terry Booth.
“Observers of society suggest that younger generations who are actively seeking spirituality generally don’t find it in traditional churches” He concludes ”Let us pray that those seeking spirituality may find it within our church communities.”
The series of books reviewed over the past four years have been placed sequentially to provide a starting point for this suggested journey of adjustment.
Murray Lloyd, Editor, Kalianna
1. Concepts of contemporary spirituality book references
Reviewed by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna December 2004
Recently there have been some books that can be seen as opening a gateway into the area of contemporary spiritualty and its concepts and languages. A large percentage of the community is using this language outside the religious sector as it searches for meaning and ways of finding resilience to live in their troubled world. Those of us fortunate enough to have the strength of a working Christian faith can avoid the position described in 1 Corinthians 14.11,
“Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.”
if we accustom ourselves to this new contemporary language and interact with it.
Books that have been found very helpful to this the writer are:
- The Spirituality Revolution: The Emergence of Contemporary Spirituality by David Tacey 2003 Harper Collins,
- Resilience by Anne Deveson 2003 Allen & Unwin,
- An Authentic Life by Caroline Jones 2001 ABC Books,
- Songman: The Story of An Aboriginal Elder of Uluru by Bob Randall 2003 ABC Books,
and a wonderful pocketbook to help develop the skills and patience to reach out and hang in there,
- Encouragement The Key to Caring (with its key phrase: “the more precise the understanding, the more encouraging the words”) by Larry Crabb & Dan Allender 1984 Zondervan Publishing House,
and if you find your energy flagging for the task, try playing track 12 of the CD by Josh Groban 'You raise me up', followed up by whatever version you can find of the hymn
'Be still for the Spirit of the Lord is standing in this place.'
2. Hush Hush. Whisper Who Dares
by Michael Leunig
Reviewed by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna May 2005
Michael Leunig has a unique way of making us think. His conversations with ducks help us to explore territories that need to be debated if we are to find comfortable ways of using our “Apostolic witness” in a strongly secular Australia.
His recent book, When I Talk to You: A Cartoonist Talks to God, can be seen as full of ecological spirituality–a sense of connection with nature that moves us closer to God along the pathway defined by the “Piety” strand of the Cursillo tripod.
For anyone like me who finds themselves not fully comfortable with prayer, the Leunig approach comes as a comfort and an inspiration. It has the power to help me feel closer to God in a very real way.
This book presents as a bridge to work that is going on in many parts of Australia. Their aim is to introduce the word “spirituality” into the workplace in its fully human meaning that covers both the sacred and the search for meaning aspects of daily living.
Many have written about the dark night of the soul. The Leunig prayer below presents us with another approach. It gives us a wonderful way to use the precious moments when the rat-race retreats and we can explore our sacred conversations without distraction.
We give thanks for the darkness of the night where lies the world of dreams. Guide us closer to our dreams so that we may be nourished by them. Give us strong dreams and memory of them so that we may carry their poetry and mystery into our daily lives.
Grant us deep and restful sleep that we may wake refreshed with strength enough to renew a world grown tired.
We give thanks for the inspiration of stars, the dignity of the moon and the lullabies of crickets and frogs.
Let us restore the night and reclaim it as a sanctuary of peace, where silence shall be music to our hearts and darkness shall throw upon our souls. Good night. Sweet dreams
3. Resilience by Anne Deveson.
Reviewed by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna September 2005
This is a remarkably helpful secular account of the resilience and humanity of both Anne and her partner as they travel through the passage of his slow death from cancer.
It is illustrated with many extracts from the literature that highlight that the concept of resilience promotion is important for individuals, communities and the helping professions.
The following quote brings the philosophies of the book, Resilience, into relevance for our religious practice at both a personal and a congregational level.
“Having a sense of connectedness and meaning in life gives us resilience, but this connectedness comes in many different ways, not only from the blueprint of a particular religious institution.”
Particularly in harsh times, the inspiring words of the 23rd psalm have been a source of invisible strength and connection with our Lord. However an understanding and practice of the many sources of resilience that have been identified enables us to provide a more prepared climate for us to receive the wonderful benefits of God’s Grace.
Recent scientific studies on the health-promoting properties of a positive religious faith have confirmed statistically that balanced religious practice produces longer life.
But it has also been acknowledged that there can be some facets that can be isolating (disconnecting) and harmful. We cannot just float along without contributing some of our own acquired wisdom.
Resilience promotion is a concept that has immediate relevance to Christian practice. Anne Deveson’s book acts as an excellent introduction to pursuing the sharp clear instructions about connectedness in Paul’s Letter to the Romans 12:13 “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality”.
4. Two books about “peacemaking”
The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
Going the Distance by Bishop Peter Brain
Reviewed by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna November 2005
There are many way in which active Christian practice can be expressed. Sometimes action may be taken that uses recognised skills and experience. Many other times, however, it may be opportunity and a particular presenting need that determines how and when, particularly as Cursillistas, we get involved.
American Rick Warren’s popular book, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?, has now been used as a group study resource by at least five parishes in our diocese. He makes many suggestions for active Christian life—some more practical than others for our very different Australian context.
In his chapter “Restoring broken fellowship” he refers to the importance and challenge of peacemaking “Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the sons of God.”
He writes “Peacemakers are rare because peacemaking is hard work. Because you were formed to be part of God’s family and the second purpose of your life on earth is to learn how to love and relate to others, peacemaking is one of the most important skills you can develop. Unfortunately most of us were never taught how to resolve conflict.” Warren reminds us that, “It is a sacrifice to patiently absorb the anger of others especially if it’s unfounded. But remember this is what Jesus did for you. He endured unfounded, malicious anger in order to save you.”
In another chapter “Protecting your Church” he suggests that peacemaking by members of the congregation is an important way of sharing the impossible task that the minister has been given.
“There are no perfect leaders, but God gives leaders the responsibility and the authority to maintain the unity of the church. During personal conflicts, this is a thankless job. Pastors often have the unpleasant task of serving as mediator between hurt, conflicting or immature members .They’re also given the impossible task of trying to make everyone happy, which even Jesus couldn’t do!”
In his recent book, Going the Distance: How to Stay Fit for a Lifetime of Ministry, Bishop of Armidale, Peter Brain, does not just speak to the clergy with his words of warning about burnout.
In his chapter entitled “A word for local church leaders”, he presents material that should be read by every church council. He offers a check list of words of encouragement that should be presented to both their pastor and the congregation.
Four interesting items are
• encourage their pastor to spend time with spouse and family and to remember that he or she should not attempt everything
• encourage the congregation to confront problems and problem people and to question those who want to control the pastor.
He opens up and underlines territory that is important to those who are committed to exploring a deeper dimension of their Christian witness at a time when the Church is encouraging a programme for growth...
“Church leaders are in a position to help interpret and explain the pastor to people, and people to the pastor. When understanding grows, mutual appreciation grows. This is turn can create a situation where unrealistically high expectations are not easily superimposed on one or the other. When expectations are earthed in mutual respect and a genuine understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, a more health common life will follow. In a sense, church leaders become brokers of mutual understanding when they pursue this kind of leadership. In Jesus’ words, they become ‘peacemakers’ who bring blessings to themselves, their pastor and the church. (James 3.18) expresses this ministry in this way: ‘a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace’”.
By taking on these difficult tasks we are creating opportunities for our own personal growth as well as our congregations.
Ultreya! Onwards and upwards!
And remember the chorus of the popular Gospel Song 'You raise me up':
You raise me up so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be.
5. Sex, the Ring and the Eucharist by Father Dave Smith
Reviewed by Trish Lord, W12, Kalianna November 2005
This morning I started reading, Sex, the Ring & the Eucharist: Reflections on Life, Ministry & fighting in the inner-city (Rev. David Smith). This is ‘real stuff’. Father Dave is Sydney’s ‘Fighting Father’ who is sharing a series of snap shots from his life – hard hitting and straight talking. The language will shock some; others may be put off by Dave’s criticism of the established church and our legal system. He shares the hard, the sad, the funny, the ironic sides of the real people with whom he interacts and ministers.
God is doing real work in a tough place through a person who was struggling with their own faith/life dilemmas. Dave found that the discipline and the effort in boxing ring shows what’s really in someone’s heart – whether they are as self-controlled and free from anger and ego problems as they say they are. I can’t put it down, but I must, to do the chores and other ‘fourth day’ stuff. First published in 2003 by Fighting Father Ministries P/L. Go for it!
6. Widening our understanding and use of rituals by Dorothy McRae-McMahon
Reviewed by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna April 2006
In his letter in this edition, Bishop George has encouraged us all to be more imaginative in the rituals and ceremonies we celebrate within our families.
Dorothy McRae-McMahon, retired minister of the Uniting church in Australia, is internationally recognised as a creator and writer of practical rituals.
In her book, Rituals of Life, Love and Loss, (Jane Carey Publishing, Paddington 2003) she extends our understanding of the mystery and importance of ritual well beyond the familiar sphere of religion.
She provides short frameworks for 30 situations that greatly widen horizons of how we, as potential carriers of Christ’s message of compassion, can unite people and help them to find strength in adversity.
Some of her interesting list of suggested situations are challenging and thought provoking:
• A milestone birthday
• Compassion for yourself (as a helper)
• Celebrating our country
• The end of a marriage
• Settling someone into care
• Facing the drought
She gives invaluable insights into the types of feelings people may experience in this wide range of situations. The ritual format shows the way into the mystical ambience that can accompany such sharing.
Creating opportunities for this to be shared in a small group without embarrassment is a special dimension of the healing power, empathy and connectedness that are catalysed by the symbolism of ritual.
The rituals are designed to be used by counsellors, pastors or therapists or groups of friends.
Her summary of the outcomes of the use of ritual in groups is great encouragement for all of us to understand the importance of properly organised ritual in our lives and Christian practice.
“Gathering up our special life moments in ritual can be about:
• Having someone to take you through a caring journey of reflections when much of the rest of the world does not seem to have noticed the significance of a particular time in your life
• Giving due respect to deep pain or grief or marking a moment of celebration in a way which goes beyond simply having a party
• Setting aside a special time to stop and reflect on what is happening to us and how we are feeling.”
This book can serve as a comforting reference when our lives or those of others are disrupted. It provides guides in some of the feelings that are hard to identify and defines practical steps that we would normally not consider or feel hesitant about organising. It is highly recommended for reading, thinking about …..and using.
7. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Reviewed by Bill Cutcliffe, M12, Kalianna August 2006
I am re-reading one of the most life-giving books I have ever read. It’s called, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey.
The author is a churchgoer. One of his central values is love. He doesn’t spell out values for us to own, but you gather by reading between the lines that this is a value of his.
He talks about being value driven and centred on correct principles. As Christian people we have a storehouse of correct principles – we hear them each Sunday in the Gospel and epistle.
He describes effectiveness as being able to produce golden eggs, while at the same time being able to maintain our well-being and happiness. There needs to be a balance between the two. If we produce too many golden eggs and neglect our well-being, we aren’t going to be effective. We won't be effective either if we spend too much time on our well-being and don’t produce any golden eggs.
With the first habit he talks about being response-able. As human beings we have endowments which enable us to respond to stimuli with a response that is in line with our values.
Second habit. We need a mental picture of what we detect to be our mission in life. He suggests writing a personal mission statement and describes how we can do it.
The third habit is ‘live it’ – live in a practical way the creation we have arrived at. To ‘walk our talk’. He talks about integrity – translating the expectations we have created in our mental picture, into our daily life – keeping the promises we have made to ourselves.
With these three habits he promises us ‘private victories’,
With habits 4, 5 and 6 ‘public victories’.
Habit 7 is about renewal.
8a. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
8b. An Authentic Life: Finding Meaning and Spirituality in Everyday Life by Caroline Jones
Reviewed by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna August 2006
Viktor Frankl provided the foundation of the contemporary understanding of how the human spirit functions when he gave us the phrase ‘Man’s search for meaning’. The approach he recommends involves identifying a future goal to be used as a source of hope and energy in times of adversity. It is interesting to set this ‘method against the strengths and advantages of an active Christian life’.
Australia has been remarkably fortunate in having Caroline Jones to carry Frankl’s message into our community. Her books and ABC programmes, and especially, An Authentic Life: Finding Meaning and Spirituality in Everyday Life, have allowed us to share the strength and resilience of people she has interviewed on the radio or whose triumphs over adversity have been shown on the ABC TV programme Australian Story.
Viktor Frankl’s book provides an introduction to the need for Cursillistas to be comfortable with a broader type of language about spirituality so that we can engage more effectively with the searches and needs of our younger community. Exploring the 179 pages is not only personally helpful but enables a more understanding approach to be expressed to those needing support in their life travelling.
9. Keeping Spiritual Balance as We Grow Older by Mollie and Bernie Strode
Reviewed by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna November 2006
In her 2003 book, The Spiritual Dimension of Ageing, the Revd Dr Elizabeth MacKinlay surveyed the spiritual needs of older people. She concluded that many have difficulty in taking the journey that will protect them from the vulnerabilities and uncertainty of older age.
Excellent programmes that will close this deficit have been developed for the residents of Retirement Villages. However, starting earlier in life clearly has important advantages; ones that will promote the resilience required for whatever difficulties lie ahead.
Into this educational field Molly and Bernie Strode have made a solid and digestible contribution with their book, Keeping Spiritual Balance as We Grow Older: More than 65 Creative Ways to Use Purpose, Prayer, and the Power of Spirit to Build Meaningful Retirement, 2005, Woodstock Skylight Paths Publishing.
They are a couple with a fascinating story and they write in an attractive and helpful style. They believe that the ‘something more’ that many people are searching for can be found by identifying the place of spirituality in our lives—finding and keeping spiritual balance.
They commence by establishing the concept that, attached to our physical body, we have a spiritual body that needs to be nurtured. This ‘body’ is on view whenever we see the qualities of our Divine Parent that reflect goodness.
The second part of their book presents everyday situations and ‘leads to a reflection with spiritual perspective on such subjects as war and peace, the gifts of nature, prayer and meditation, gratitude, serving others, the challenges of ageing, the importance of the present moment, and other issues we all face in daily life’.
Chapter 26 ‘Creating a Spiritual Holiday’ is an excellent example that covers the Christmas season we have just entered. Here are a few of the tips offered.
• ‘As my hand becomes tired writing and my eyes cross looking at the more than one hundred addresses, a small attitude adjustment within converts this chore to a prayer. Now, as I write each person, I hold love and a prayer for their good in my heart.’
• ‘Light seems to be a special symbol of this holiday season. Every light is a symbol of the light of God’s love that is constantly there for all of us.’
• ‘Everything we do and see in the holiday season has a spiritual message Perhaps we can make it a habit as that season arrives each year, to pause for a few moments and reflect on the meaning of what we are doing’
• Affirmations: As I prepare for the holiday season, I find the spiritual meaning of my activities. All that glows and glisters reminds me of the unseen spiritual gifts of God. I am a loving light to all at this season.’
This chapter typifies the inspiring and down to earth tone that the book identifies; productive reading for any age group, particularly Cursillistas.
10. Australian Soul—Religion and Spirituality in the 21st Century by Gary Bouma
Reviewed by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna March 2007
I found this a heavy book to read but its interesting facts and attitudes spurred me on because of their relevance to the Cursillo leadership role.
We are given a picture of the situation from the balanced perception of a very experienced sociologist; one that fills the gaps in the book, The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins that was excellently reviewed recently in the Anglican News by Bishop George.
I have placed significant passages, from Gary Bouma’s book, in sections to highlight the importance of understanding where the community is seen to be coming from. If we are to be effective salespeople for our faith we have to absorb information about the needs of the customer.
“As it is used in Australia today, the ‘spiritual ’refers to an experiential journey of encounter and relationship with otherness, with powers, forces and beings beyond the scope of everyday life. To be spiritual is to be open to this ‘more than’ in life, to expect to encounter it and to expect to relate to it.” p12.
“At the core of spirituality is the encounter with the other, some other, be it God, nature, a tree, the sea, some other person or the core of our own being.” p12.
“A closer examination reveals that religions work by providing action frames, patterns of interaction and social networks that link people, encourage movement towards hope, enable the hurtful past to be left behind and restore the fabric of human interactions, thus providing an experienced basis of hope.” p19.
“Four of the twelve nominated characteristics of Australian religion and spirituality: * A serious distancing from authoritarian leaders, persons promoting sacred causes and sacrifice for principle. *A serious openness to the experiences of others, but a suspicion of high-minded oratory and empty form. * Serious tolerance of difference flowing from a commitment to seeking a fair go for everyone and keeping an even keel. * Those who want newly arrived Australians to behave and think like Australians seem more interested in wanting them to calm down, perhaps reduce the intensity of their religious commitments and be themselves, rather than enforcing a particular viewpoint. But then calming down and letting be is a view point reflecting this commitment to tolerance. Australians are intolerant of the intolerant.” p47.
Census information about religious identification
“71,000 Australians responded to the ‘ religious question’ by writing responses linked to the Star Wars movies—I agree with Barron that these cinema based religion responses are grounded in exceptionally popular movies that have developed a well structured cosmology and ethical system and should be treated as spiritual responses.” p62.
“Mega churches with congregations in the thousands have emerged. They offer a more emotionally charged worship style, draw people from a much wider geographic area and provide a wide diversity of religious and social services tailored according to social characteristics of participants: age, gender, family stage, and level of induction into the faith.” p97.
“God as the great ‘know it all’ is not the God in demand today. Rather people seek the God who has experienced it all, who has been where I am going and who knows what it feels like because God has been through it.” p101.
“Today people seek direct encounter with the transcendent. They want to experience the numinous and the presence of God. People are not convinced that clergy can or are willing to help them to do this. This has profound implications for ministry and ministry training, but most religious groups are a long way from taking this on board.” p100.
“There are huge variations in theology, liturgy and social outlook among religious groups and among particular congregations, assemblies or other local organisational forms. Some demand long sermons, others want rousing addresses, others prefer no sermons at all., but focus on connecting with the transcendent through rituals, the sacraments or meditation.” p201.
“Since the 1990’s the term spiritual has become popular, while the appeal of the term ‘religion’ is waning. Because of its association with formal organisations the term ‘religion’ has taken on a rather negative connotation.” p10.
“I detect among Australians that God is distant, able to be got around and, while useful for last minute appeals, not quite relevant to daily life.” p 42.
“We are now witnessing a reaction against the merely verbal and the rise of demands for open, participative, experiential religion. Pentecostal Christianity and many of the New Age religious groups are religions of self-help, offering success theologies, focussed on wholeness for the person and requiring emotional honesty rather than intellectual vigour—celebration, not cerebration.” p92.
“Tacey sees the spirituality revolution as a response to the fact that ‘our society is running on empty and has to restore itself at a deep primal source which is beyond humanity and yet paradoxically at the very core of our experience.’ This hunger for something more than the material is fed by experiences that draw the person into relationship, out of and beyond self, through encounters with forces, powers and visions that are beyond the mundane and yet deeply present in the everyday.” p12.
“Religion and spirituality in Australia is about hope, the production and maintenance of hope through actions, beliefs, practices and places that link the person and/or group to a reality or frame of reference that is both beyond the immediate perceptual and material frame and deeply imbedded within the person……The maintenance and celebration of hope in the face of despair , injustice and unexplained pain and tragedy remains a critical feature of life The most developed responses to the need for hope have been found in community life, expressed in religious symbols and rites and nurtured through spiritualities.. They are also found in storytelling, myth making and the sharing of life journeys.” p206.
Summary–a positive forecast
“Australia’s future seems certain to include religion and spirituality including both new and traditional-that is, new yesterday forms. They will neither be weak, insipid nor irrelevant; nor will they dominate the landscape. Participation will remain low compared to the USA and some other places, for that is the Australian way. Hope will continue to be nurtured and quietly celebrated—a shy hope in the heart.” p212.
If you aren’t ready to buy the book, a full set of student extracts from this reading is available on firstname.lastname@example.org
11. Creative Journal Writing by Stephanie Dowrick
Reviewed by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna August 2007
In the November 2005 Kalianna, two books were reviewed whose theme was peacemaking. Extracts were used from Bishop Peter Brain’s Going the Distance and the topical The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.
Stephanie Dowrick’s recent book, Creative Journal Writing: The Art and Heart of Reflection, 2007 Allen & Unwin is very relevant to the task of training ourselves to develop the self awareness and tolerance for others that equip us for this task of spreading peace.
The recent “Happiness and its Causes” Convention in Sydney highlighted that Buddhism and Christianity share the mission statement of deepening our capability of being compassionate and, through this, improving our tolerance of the awkward behaviour of others.
However, an old social work dictum notes that “the deprived self cannot give itself away.” It is also well accepted that the nature or ego that we develop to protect ourselves from life’s dangers can be self-centred and negative. This sets up an unfortunate barrier to our attempts to be practicing Christians.
In her first book “On death and dying”, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross directed us to the importance of self-care. She asked a key question that suggests that it is common to neglect our inner life:
“One of the most important relationships in your life is with your soul. Will you be kind and loving to your soul or will you be harsh and difficult?”
Stephanie Dowrick’s book gives a key to answering this question by suggesting that:
“Creative journal writing frees your spirit. It liberates insight. And while it makes your mind dance, it soothes your soul”.
A summary of the dynamics of journal writing that she defines is set out below.
Journal writing will teach you to:
• Value and create detail.
• Identify emotions, drives, desires, satisfactions.
• Look beneath the surface of events.
• Observe yourself somewhat dispassionately, p147.
It does this by:
• Engaging you with your feelings from the inside, p15.
• Writing something down makes room for other processes to proceed, p15.
• Becoming curious about a situation rather than being overwhelmed by it, p15.
• Finding out what you really think and feel, p16.
• Developing your right brain strengths—lateral problem solving, intuition, creativeness, emotional skills, p27.
• Developing a sense of self mastery and inner stability—gives you room to know yourself at depth, p27.
Focus on this moment, Note day and time, and describe where you are sitting to write and also something about how you feel right now about your physical environment,
Note what emotions are bubbling up. Be aware of what’s going on in your body
Tune in to all your senses, p151. Write a letter to yourself.
Using expanding questions
“What am I not asking?” “What’s happening beneath the surface of things?”
“The detail that most brings this day to life for me is”
“The insight I value most is……” “It was fascinating to discover that……”
“I want to know more about……” “The action I need to take is……”
“I am most grateful to see that……” , p248.
Journal writing requires determination. But the possible gains are inspiring ones, particularly to the apostolic witness of the third strand of our Cursillo commitment–and as a contribution to our own personal happiness and the aura we carry into the community in every day life.
This book is recommended for its wisdom, clarity and a wealth of tips on how to make journal writing part of daily Christian routine.
12. The Five Love Languages by Garry Chapman
Reviewed by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna December 2007
If you look at the subjects of the regular book reviews that have been offered in Kalianna in the last 2 years, a constant theme emerges. All but one are encouraging self-development and better relationship with others. How does this fit into the Cursillo pattern with its emphasis on leadership? You could say that more is expected because of the training that has been given under the Cursillo banner.
Here are the topics that have been recommended as important reads:
• Praying Leunig Style
• Understanding More About Resilience–Anne Deveson
• The Importance of Ritual
• The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
• Keeping Spiritual Balance as We Grow Older
• Going the Distance: How to Stay Fit for a Lifetime of Ministry
• The Purpose Driven Life
• Australian Soul: Religion and Spirituality in the 21st Century
• Creative Journal Writing
With the exception of the “Australian Soul”, (about where our society is at spiritually) there is a constant theme here. It is about the importance of using well-tried methods of knowing your inner self more deeply and then, with this preparation, getting out there and, in risking loving others, thereby learning even more.
On this backdrop, a book on delivering love, by American counsellor, Gary Chapman, has something new and refreshing to add. It is a book that is hard to put down. It has some interesting revelations that have immediate practicality to anyone of any age group, but particularly those who are meant to be ‘specialists in love’.
Here are a few attention-attracting quotes:
“Scott Peck (of The Road Less Travelled fame) concludes that the falling in love experience is not real love. He gives three reasons: 1. It is not an act of the will or a conscious choice–we cannot make it happen. 2. Falling in love is not real love because it is effortless–it requires little discipline or conscious effort on our part. 3. One who is ‘in love’ is not genuinely interested in fostering the growth of the other person”
Chapman states that the “‘love experience’ is short-lived (usually two years or less) and seems to serve for humankind the same function as the mating call of the Canada geese.” His experience is that if spouses have not learnt to recognise and use one of the five love languages that he has identified the end result accounts for the high breakdown rate of marriages in our society. We are called to love one another as a key pivot to our Christian practice. The frightening divorce statistics are clear evidence that there is something more to be learnt to overcome our human frailties. and protect our families from the disruption of the lives of both adults and children when a separation occurs.
Chapman identifies 5 primary ways of showing love for a spouse.
Words of affirmation Quality time Giving gifts Acts of service Physical touch
His illustrative stories of client examples show that being able to identify and ‘feed into’ the dominant type of love need so as to ‘replenish the love tank’ of the partner can save cooling or crumbling marriages or, in preventive mode, create more resilient families.
The qualities and potential of Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, are reflected in his last paragraph–words that this review echoes strongly as a goal for the 21st Century Cursillo Movement.
“I dream of the day when the potential of married couples in this country can be unleashed for the good of humankind, when husbands and wives can live life with full emotional love tanks and reach out and accomplish their potential as individuals and couples…. If it were possible, I would hand this book personally to every married couple in the country and say, ‘I wrote this for you. I hope it changes your life. And if it does, be sure to give it to someone else….’ Since I cannot do that, I would be pleased if you would give a copy of this book to your family, to your brothers and sisters, to your married children, to your employees, to those in your civic club or church or synagogue. Who knows, together we may see our dream (homes filled with love and security) come true.”
13. The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel
Reviewed by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna April 2008
Two of my grandchildren (aged 20 and 18) sitting at the dinner table stunned me recently by asking me questions about how my religion works for me. They had lived in England for 4 years and wanted to compare the UK model with the Aussie one.
I don’t feel I did this unexpected opportunity justice. But I’m comforted that I was subsequently able to give them a book that was revelationary material for me some years ago, Good Goats: Healing Our Image of God, by Dennis, Sheila and Matthew Linn.
A recent book by Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ, provides urgently needed insights into the types of statements that emanate from cyberspace and the media as they create what can be seen as an ‘attacking a tall poppy’ programme.
As evangelists in modern times we need to be able to refute this propaganda with facts that are as clear and fact-based as possible.
Journalist Lee Strobel visited recognised authorities to get answers to the following questions; ones that may well be troubling our grandchildren in particular with their enormous access to hazy misinformation on the web.
He nominates six challenging statements that he set out to explore and clarify (bear in mind the impact of these Da Vinci Code type statements on those wanting to explore their religious belief system):
1. Scholars are uncovering a radically different Jesus in ancient documents just as credible as the four Gospels.
2. The bible’s portrait of Jesus can’t be trusted because the church tampered with the text.
3. New explanations have refuted Jesus’ resurrection
4. Christianity’s beliefs about Jesus were copied from Pagan religions
5. Jesus was an impostor who failed to fulfil the Messianic prophecies
6. People should be free to pick and choose what to believe about Jesus.
In his summary appendix, Strobel gives short and very satisfying answers derived from his many interviews about these statements. This is a good place to start to decide whether to take on the whole book.
I found this book wonderful food to calm the scientific component of my mind. It gave me material that made me ready to answer contemporary questions much more directly. It also strengthened my faith in ways I don’t expect myself to understand!
This is a great book–but you need your own copy so you can take it slowly.
14. How big is your God? - the freedom to experience the Divine
By Paul Coutinho
Book review by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna, August 2008
In “How Big is your God”, Indian Jesuit Priest, Paul Coutinho asks each of us to consider questions such as “Do you have a relationship with God, or do you just have a religion?” “Do you know God or do you just know about God?”
With his warm sense of humour and the talent for telling just the right story to drive home a point, Coutinho guides us to reconsider who God is and how we can have fellowship with God that can change the way we think, love and live.
An innovative advantage is the15 minute DVD accompanying the book. It enables the reader to feel much more in contact with the writer and the unusual background from which he comes.
Some of the striking statements that really stand out are set out below
“In my experience, I have observed that those who practice religion without an active relationship with God practice charity, while those who have a relationship with God live a life of compassion.”
“Jung believed that the spring of life-giving water is more readily found in our shadow than in our limiting ego”
Four experiences of God are defined as an opening point to his message. These are Priestly Yahwistic Elohistic and Deuteronomic “ If we want to go deeper into the river of divine, if we want to know an infinitely big God, then we too will have to transcend the images of god that we might have.” “Once you recognise your way of relating with God, find ways of deepening this relationship and of integrating the best of all four traditions”
The short chapter pattern of the book is admirably suited to daily reading/meditation. The titles are a guide to the wide-ranging approach taken as different authorities such as Carl Jung, Viktor Frankl, Buddhism, Hinduism and St Ignatius are incorporated in his perspective. Through these we are taught practical approaches that result in a closer walk with God.
Some of the chapter titles define these pathways “A disposable image of God”,
“Having a honeymoon with God”, “Life does not owe us pleasure—it offers us meaning”, “I need the love and approval of everyone—a damaging root belief’,”God does not interfere”.
This book is ideally suited to refresh our thoughts and attitudes to the first leg of the Cursillo tripod, Piety. It presents as a great asset for regular thought-provoking reading expressed in a very attractive and compelling way.
15. "Welcome to the wisdom of the world—and its meaning to you"
by Joan Chittister
Book review by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna, 2008
This book has a very readable and attractive style—in spite of the heaviness of its topic! It achieves this with its excellent prose, its clear grasp of a very broad and important topic—and its use in every chapter of attention- keeping parables.
It reviews the five great spiritual traditions in sequence—Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In each a set of 5 personal questions are asked and discussed. Such as
• "What does it mean to be a spiritual person?"
• "How do I know the right thing to do?”,
• "Why was I born?",
• "Why can’t I change?"
• "What is happiness?"
The epilogue that defines the roots of each tradition acts as concrete to the concepts through which we have learnt a multi-faith approach from this very experienced writer.
Here are parts of the definition of each of the five spiritual traditions.
"Religion, often the cause of worldwide division and danger, ironically is meant to be the glue that binds us together as a human race. But for that to happen, we must all come to know, understand, and respect the other as well as to take from all the very best answers they have to offer to the questions in our own lives.”
“For we are all seeking: we are all full of questions that no amount of rules and rituals can possibly answer but that, we hope, can be unveiled in the life and understanding of another.”
“Buddhism is not about beliefs or creeds or gods or rulebooks or rituals. It is about coming to understand the emptiness of the self.”
“ Torah study, acts of loving kindness, and Sabbath give the Jew a vision of life in which God is both the begriming the present and the end.”
“ This spirituality of equality, love and universal blessedness stands out to this day as a sign of hope in the God who wishes us all “ well and not woe,” both in this world and in the next. It is the task of Christians to love.”
“Islam has a simplicity of focus that demands a community to live it fully. Islam is not only a faith; it is a way of life, a continual struggle to know the will of God and to live it.”
This is a book to be digested, shared and discussed, confident that we are speeding along our personal growth and understanding of ourselves and others.
16. Four Resilience Books
Book review by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna, April 2009
There are four resilience-relevant books that I have reviewed recently.
Taken as a group, they clearly indicate a major shift in our Australian psychological culture; one that is relevant to our faith system and how it should impact on strengthening the society around us.
Question: Why resilience?
Answer: a. Because resilience promotion and spiritual nurturing are identical twins. (and note that Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, used the word six times in his Bush Fire Service address)
b. Supporting a person’s spiritual life responds to the question asked in our Reunions “How can we as individuals or as a group encourage others in our environments?”
16 a. "Rise"
by Ingrid Poulson
This is a remarkable book on the experiences of a very remarkably resilient lady. It covers most aspects of any resilience learning programme with very thorough and practical references.
Of particular interest is the section labelled “God, Angels, the universe”. She writes “Having a strong spiritual sense, a sense of greater meaning outside ourselves, is strongly correlated to life satisfaction and resilience.”
16 b. "Overcoming secondary stress in medical and nursing practice."
by Robert Wicks 2006
In a book dedicated to health professionals, Robert Wicks explores the territory of spiritual development and ‘the interior life’.
"There are several attitudes/ behaviours as well as individual and communal actions that are capable of nurturing the ‘spiritual’ dimension of life. Included among them, whether we are persons of a specific faith or not, are silence and solitude, friendship and community, and listening and reflection"
He reinforces this with a memorable quote from Abraham Heschel: “The inner life requires training, reflection, contemplation. It is not enough to join others; it is necessary to build a sanctuary within, brick by brick.”
16 c. "Authentic Happiness."
by Martin Seligman
Martin Seligman, internationally known as the leader of the Positive Psychology movement, in his book “Authentic Happiness” uses a series of self-assessments to help discover your ‘top strengths’ out of a list of 24 and then further evaluating whether they are ‘signature strengths’ or not. This is with a view to: “
Using your signature strengths every day in the main realms of your life to bring about abundant gratification and authentic happiness.”
It is inspiring to know that, with Seligman’s consultancy, the Anglican boarding school Geelong Grammar has for one year been implementing a positive psychology programme “ that will dovetail with existing structures and programmes.”
16 d. "Authentic Marking Life's Stages."
by Don Bowak
This book provides an analysis of the core beliefs and practices gained by the late Don Bowak over his long experience with rites of passage programmes, particularly as a foundation member of the Pathways Foundation.
Of particular interest, are the ‘Honoring rituals’ and how they are used in every Pathways camp as an echo but modernisation of ancient practices. Their diffuse impact on family resilience is very clear.
“One of the most positive effects of the ‘Pathways” process was the boys’ improved relationships with their mothers. As more boys began to come within a single community, we have been able to involve their mothers in the ’leaving day’. The women designed a strong ceremony of separation and this became an integral part of the total process.
It was effective because it enabled the boys to return to a new and deeper relationship with their mothers. This, in turn, moved the women towards a decision to create their own rite of passage for mothers and daughters.”
17. "The Singer and the Song—an autobiography of the spirit"
by Miriam Therese Winter
Book review by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna, July 2009
This book leapt out at me in the excellent second hand bookshop at Mogo on the Far South Coast.
Miriam Winter recounts what she calls her ‘spiritual autobiography’ as she moves through some remarkable experiences as a choir maker and as a medical missionary in Ghana and supporting Khmer Rouge genocide survivors. More personally, she reflects on her breast cancer and on the attempted suicide of her seriously ill mother.
Each chapter uses an event in her remarkable travels to reflect on new aspects of community, eucharist, the word and spirit, water and the stars. She expresses very clearly how she faced the challenges to the basic Catholic approach that she learnt in her childhood and as a nun with the Medical Mission Sisters in America.
The extracts below give the opportunity to compare notes with how we experience our faith and the framework that has been built around the life of Jesus. In particular, her literal and metaphorical approach to singing will add a new depth to how we feel in the singing that is an integral part of Cursillo.
“Grace notes from the Divine Musician have shaped the contours of my life. God’s spirit leads the way and, as primary music maker, is sometimes singer, sometimes song.”
“There comes a time in every person’s life when moving forward into the future is best served by looking back. Happily ever after is integrally related to once upon a time. Steps we have taken, paths we have chosen, even paths that were chosen for us by others with or without our consent, and all those roller coaster rides of the heart are milestones on a spiritual journey that begins and ends in God.”
She describes what happened to her in a great moment of isolation and challenge in her career.
“Suddenly I had my answer, borne on the wind of a late spring storm as all of nature wept with me, acknowledging my defeat, holding within its fury my fear and an olive branch of hope. God is in the turbulence. God is in these changing times. God is in your helplessness. God will be with you as who God will be, as who and how you need your God.”
“Religion can carry us forward, or it can preach a false security that justifies standing still as we pay lip service through lifeless forms of obsolete theologies.”
“The church can learn a lot from Jesus about how to deal with differences, about how to handle critics, about how to be faithful in times of change when issues related to authority and practice disrupts equilibrium.”
This book has many tips that can contribute to our “Piety Pathway.” Which ones are felt most deeply will depend on the reader. But Miriam, Winter’s honesty and expressiveness make her book a trip well worth taking. It is readily available from Alibris.com.
18. "Modes of empathy and how to walk in the other’s moccasins"
by Revd. Dr. David Oliphant
Book review by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna, December 2009
In all three presentations to the Cursillo Refresher Workshops held in our diocese in the last 18 months, the paper "Modes of empathy and how to walk in the other’s moccasins" by the Reverend Dr David Oliphant has been used as a backup to his presentation.
As a result, 120 Cursillistas may already have this paper and its companion piece on leadership models. However, this review takes the opportunity to introduce it to Cursillistas in other dioceses. It also adds a model that David has developed, introducing additional components to the scheme that is directed at improving our abilities to ‘witness’ our Christian love in supporting others
A copy of the complete paper as well as the diagram are available by emailing email@example.com.
David’s "Trinitarian Schema" encourages us to self examine and learn how to recognise our two selves - the ‘Me’ with its head-based, intellectual and self protective control - and the ‘I’ with its heart based, empathic aesthetic approach. Each of these generates a different stance to our brother or sister in distress.
The third part of this human trinity is the ‘You'; the person that emerges as we relate to another - the part that has to think fast, self examine, verbally and physically react in the best way for the other - and perhaps consider the delicate proposition of whether they should be confronted with the reality of what may need correcting in their inner dialogue process.
I was drawn to review linking passages from the rest of the seventeen books that I have reviewed in Kalianna (see above, in this resources section of the website).
Here are some phrases that vibrate alongside how I translate David’s message to the Cursillo community:
“How Big is your God”, by Indian Jesuit Priest, Paul Coutinho
“In my experience, I have observed that those who practice religion without an active relationship with God practice charity, while those who have a relationship with God live a life of compassion.”
“Jung believed that the spring of life-giving water is more readily found in our shadow than in our limiting ego.”
Joan Chittister’s two definitions:
Religion in general
"Religion, often the cause of worldwide division and danger, ironically is meant to be the glue that binds us together as a human race. But for that to happen, we must all come to know, understand, and respect the other as well as to take from all the very best answers they have to offer to the questions in our own lives.”
"This spirituality of equality, love and universal blessedness stands out to this day as a sign of hope in the God who wishes us all “ well and not woe,” both in this world and in the next. It is the task of Christians to love understand, and respect the other as well as to take from all the very best answers they have to offer to the questions in our own lives."
Gary Chapman’s book," The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate", reflects in his last paragraph strong echoes for the goal of the 21st Century Cursillo Movement:
"I dream of the day when the potential of married couples in this country can be unleashed for the good of humankind, when husbands and wives can live life with full emotional love tanks and reach out and accomplish their potential as individuals and couples…. If it were possible, I would hand this book personally to every married couple in the country and say, ‘I wrote this for you. I hope it changes your life. And if it does, be sure to give it to someone else….’ Since I cannot do that, I would be pleased if you would give a copy of this book to your family, to your brothers and sisters, to your married children, to your employees, to those in your civic club or church or synagogue. Who knows, together we may see our dream (homes filled with love and security) come true.”
In looking deeply into the crystal ball of future Cursillo, it is hard to escape a conclusion that stems from the work in Pastoral Care that has centred on David Oliphant in our diocese: engaging in Pastoral Care training at some level represents a wonderful Fourth Day programme to pursue as we focus on the often difficult skills of loving not only others but our own outer selves.
Reviewed by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna March 2010
Communication and leadership skills were linked together in the recent three Refresher workshops held in our diocese.
The recent ABC Songs of Praise programme about Billy Graham in the UK in 1954-55 made an interesting point: Follow-up showed that many of those who came forward at his huge meetings reported that they had a long-term increase in self-confidence.
Belief in Jesus as a leader may be an essential component in defining whether or not we take a leadership role and stand up in public for the behavioural ethics that are intrinsic to Christian practice.
19 a. "Benedictus"
by John O'Donohue
In his book ‘Benedictus’ the late John O’Donohue acknowledged that we need mentoring. He gave us a beautiful benediction to guide us as we take risks up front: (p 165)
“For a leader:
May leadership be for you a true adventure of growth.
May you have the grace and wisdom to act kindly, learning to distinguish between what is personal and what is not.
May you be hospitable to criticism.
May you never put yourself at the centre of things.
May you act not from arrogance but out of service.
May you work on yourself building up and refining the ways of your mind.
May those who work for you know you see and respect them.
May you learn to cultivate the art of presence in order to engage with those who meet you.
When someone fails or disappoints you, may graciousness with which you engage be their stairway to renewal and refinement.”
19 b. "Quiet moments in the presence of God"
by Lila Empson (edit.)
The beautifully presented book for daily reading ‘Quiet moments in the presence of God’, edited by Lila Empson, under the heading of “Follow the leader” reminds us how to tap into our source of knowledge and strength:
“Your quiet time with God helps you keep your eyes on Jesus. You can see more clearly in him your call and purpose. You can take from him cues and signs that direct you to God’s will for your life. Jesus is your leader. Follow him closely”(p 340)
19 c. "The Maxwell Daily Reader" by John Maxwell
John Maxwell has focussed on leadership territory in a string of books. Two are designed for daily reading.
“The Maxwell Daily Reader” (2007) is secular. Quoting Poet Lord Byron “Adversity is the first path to truth”, Maxwell uses a Charlie Brown example to illustrate the point that growth in leadership requires pain: “Charlie Brown is at the beach building a beautiful castle. As he stands back to admire his work, it is suddenly consumed by a huge wave. Looking at the smooth sand mound that had been his creation a few moments before, he says,” There must be a lesson here but I don’t know what it is.”
The second daily reader ‘Leadership—promises for every day—a daily devotional.’(2003) is biblically based.
February 19th, as I write this, quotes Acts 27:30-31 : ”Some sailors tried to jump ship…. Paul saw through their guise and told the centurion,” If these sailors don’t stay with the ship we are all going down.”
The accompanying text uses four points to outline the importance of becoming a collaborative team
“Be supportive, not suspicious of team-mates—if you trust people you will treat them better”
“If you focus on the team and not just yourself, you will be able to pass the baton more successfully.”
“Create great victories through multiplication—collaboration has a multiplying effect on everything you do.”
The discipline of daily reading is a great way to start the day.
Setting a leadership emphasis may well turn out to be very relevant as we rub shoulders with reality and its unexpected challenges.
20. "Christianity alongside Islam"
by John W Wilson
Reviewed by Murray Lloyd, Kalianna July 2010
This very knowledgeable and readable book provides a great opportunity for Christians to learn about the different perspectives of Christianity and Islam.
“Why?” I hear you asking from your busy Cursillista life position.
An outstanding reason is so we can have an opinion about the other main God-worshipping religion and thus engage effectively in multi-faith dialogue with its aim of pursuing the task of creating bridges of understanding and friendship.
Another is expressed by author, retired Bishop John Wilson,
“Islam may even assist Christians to recover a more holistic vision of their own faith.”
Emeritus Archdeacon Peter Dillon discovered the book.
He found it “very informed with a style that is very readable and gracious. Importantly, he feels that it emphasises that, if we don’t realise that there are many variants of Islam as we move into our increasingly multicultural society, we can be our own worst enemies.”
There are many facts and statements in what is excellent value for money-- clear print, colour photos, maps, footnotes and extensive references.
Here are a few samples of items that stood out for me:
As we have seen, Islam’s various traditions and sectarian divides, as well as its ethnic and cultural differences, are numerous. It is therefore most unhelpful for non-Muslims to lump all Muslims together, as is often done by various secular authorities and in newspapers and books. (p 292)
33% of the world’s population consider themselves in some way to be followers of Jesus Christ. Muslims…account for 20 %. ( p 126)
Sunnis claim to make up 80% or more of Muslims across the world but Shiites make up the majority of the population in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and parts of Afghanistan. (p 126)
A list of 6 actions Professor Peter Riddell is quoted as urging Christian leaders and churches to take includes ”Churches should be encouraged to develop their contacts with modernising Muslims. This can be done through engaging at community level, forming individual friendships, cooperating on social issues and offering hospitality to Muslim neighbours and colleagues.” (p. 300)
An outstanding example of Christian peacemaking is the work of Andrew White in Iraq. As he shows conclusively, ‘if religion is part of the problem, it must be part of the solution.’ White (an Anglican priest) works with Sunni, Shi’ite and other religious leaders, as well as members of the Iraqi government and the coalition forces, in the face of constant danger (p. 272)
This is a disturbing and thought-provoking book, very suitable for those intent on growing in their understanding of faith-based systems.