Journaling As a Spiritual Practice: Encountering God Through Attentive Writing  -     By: Helen Cepero
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Journaling As a Spiritual Practice: Encountering God Through Attentive Writing

Inter-Varsity Press / 2008 / Paperback

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Product Description

Whether you are a longtime journal keeper or someone who has never kept a journal at all, this book will help you go below the surface of your life with God. It is not about the art of writing, but about how journaling can form us spiritually. Every chapter combines descriptive text, illustrations from journals and the author's own experience with journaling practices integrated along the way to help you bring your own life and world into sharper focus.

God wants to surprise you with the beauty of your own life, growing and alive, filled with movement, light and shadow. This is the book to do just that.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 160
Vendor: Inter-Varsity Press
Publication Date: 2008
Dimensions: 8.25 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 0830835199
ISBN-13: 9780830835195
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

Whether you are a longtime journal keeper or someone who has never kept a journal at all, this book will help you go below the surface of your life with God. It is not about the art of writing, but about how journaling can form us spiritually. Every chapter combines descriptive text, illustrations from journals and the author's own experience with journaling practices integrated along the way to help you bring your own life and world into sharper focus. God wants to surprise you with the beauty of your own life, growing and alive, filled with movement, light and shadow. This is the book to do just that.

Author Bio

Helen Cepero (M.Div., North Park Seminary) trains spiritual directors at the C. John Weborg Center for Spiritual Direction at North Park Seminary and is co-program director of the Spiritual Direction Formation Program at the Journey Center in Santa Rosa, California. She is a spiritual director for the Academy for Missional Wisdom, and a consultant with the Transformational Listening Center. She is an adjunct instructor at North Park Theological Seminary and Multnomah School of the Bible. A frequent retreat leader, she is ordained in the Evangelical Covenant Church. She is the author of She and her husband, Max, live in Anchorage, Alaska.

ChristianBookPreviews

Helen Cepero, seminary professor and director of spiritual formation at North Park Theological Seminary, has written this book as part of InterVarsity Press’ Formatio Books. Formatio is a division of IVP dedicated to the promotion of the ancient traditions of the church to aid in spiritual formation (Spiritual formation is a channel through which contemplative practices are entering the church). For those acquainted with this language, you will recognize that IVP is introducing and repackaging the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions drawn not from Scripture but from the ideas of people. This type of “spiritual formation” has become immensely popular since Richard Foster wrote The Celebration of Discipline about three decades ago. Since then, and more so recently, the Christian community has been flooded with the call to return to ancient practices and traditions. Journaling as a Spiritual Practice is one such call, this time to the discipline of journaling. What should be observed from the outset is that Cepero does not draw her understanding on journaling from the Scriptures, for nowhere in the Bible is such a practice taught. Whatever she has to offer comes from post-biblical tradition and/or the imagination of more recent times.

Having said this we must ask whether journaling is wrong. The short answer is no. Many of the great saints of God throughout the years have written diaries and journals to aid them in their walk with God. Admittedly, there are other methods that believers practice to expedite their spiritual development which do not come directly from a chapter and verse. Certainly the Lord allows latitude within biblical parameters to find and use methods to help us worship Him and understand His ways. Writing down our thoughts, insights, struggles, and understanding and application of Scripture can have great benefits. Still, it must be remembered that there is no mandate in Scripture to journal, nor is everyone predisposed to do so. For those interested in journaling, this book offers much in the way of helpful advice, practical suggestions and encouragement.

That’s the good news. The devil, as they say is in the details. Journaling attempts, as many books of this genre do, to use Jeremiah 6:16, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths…” (p. 92) as biblical support. But, of course, Jeremiah was calling the people back to the ancient paths of God as taught in the Word. Cepero is calling her readers back to the ancient paths of Roman Catholic and Eastern monastic and mystical practices which were not even on Jeremiah’s radar. Her book is filled with methods and references to and quotes from those who developed and are followers of this system: Henri Nouwen (p. 21), Nouwen’s L’Arche community in France (p. 21), Quakers (p. 78), Stations of the Cross (pp. 117-118), spiritual directors (pp. 123, 151), Thomas Merton (p. 148), Ignatius of Loyola (p. 72) and his examen prayer (p. 81), etc. As I said, Cepero is not taking her reader back to Scripture but back to Roman and Eastern Orthodoxy.

In addition, we find many troubling statements and practices throughout: Yoga (pp. 16, 62), “God comes to the place where we are and says our name” (p. 31), “God our beloved, born of a woman’s body” (p. 61), “the body does not lie” (p. 63), “our sexuality can lead us into an intimacy that speaks of God’s own presence” (p. 65), use of symbols to aid journaling (p. 74), naming our wounds can help heal them as we grieve over them (pp. 125, 131). “I am good because God created me” (p. 127), “If we name God as our lover” (p. 127), “May the presence of the Holy Spirit fill your sleep and speak in your dreams” (p. 133), “The voice of God tends to be gentle and soft” (p. 149). Each of these and others deserve analysis and challenge by the discerning Christian.

But the most concerning teaching in Cepero’s book is reserved for what she calls “dialogue journaling” (pp. 104-112). Here, the reader is taught to wait for God to speak and reveal His Word and Self to us through some sort of inner voice or thought. For example, the reader is told to write in their journal the word “God” and then wait for a response (p. 104). On one occasion God responded to her, and she wrote in her journal, “Helen, welcome back, I’ve missed you” (p. 105). Cepero explains, “All journaling, but perhaps especially dialogue journaling, is dependent on the good use of imagination” (p. 108). Why these imaginary words from God are seen as superior to the infallible Word of God is truly a mystery to me. But herein lies the great danger of the book. When we turn from the revelation of God to inferior traditions of the past and the imaginary, and possible cultic, communications of the present we turn from the rock solid Word of truth to the quicksand of human ideas. For this reason Journaling as a Spiritual Practice is truly a dangerous work.

NOTE: It should be noted that a pre-publication version of this book was used in the review. The page numbers may be somewhat different in the final publication.

Gary Gilley, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com

Endorsements

"The wisdom and guidance of Helen Cepero's book is irresistible. Using poetry, Scripture and stories, she guides the reader into journaling activities that uncover the presence of God in the writer's life. Those who are beginning will discover the richness of journaling as a spiritual practice. Those with experience will find new ways to delve into their depths. A wonderful book." —Rev. Jane E. Vennard, author of A Praying Congregation: The Art of Teaching Spiritual Practice

"Helen Cepero's book is warm and unassuming, full of wisdom without any showing off. A wonderful introduction to journaling." —Tim Stafford, author of Shaking the System

"This is a book which should not be (merely) read. It should be done. Her book is a vast smorgasbord of particular experiences in the practice of journal-keeping, each one inviting the readers to 'taste and see' the presence of God in their lives. This book opens up the rich potential in journaling, warns us of the patterns of thinking that threaten to derail this practice and provides the tools to make it a valuable means of pursuing relationship with God." —Evan B. Howard, author of Praying the Scriptures

Author Bio

Helen Cepero (M.Div., North Park University) is director of spiritual formation at North Park Theological Seminary. She is also a retreat leader and spiritual director. She has published a number of articles and an essay in the book In Spirit and in Truth.

Publisher's Weekly

According to Cepero, director of spiritual formation at North Park Theological Seminary, we come to know God more deeply by paying attention to our own reality, and in doing so, learn to "tune our hearts to hear God's transforming Word for us." In this lively, encouraging and pastoral book, Cepero shows readers how to journal in a way that moves past simple recitation of events, to writing that reveals God at work in a life. Brief chapters recommend areas to explore, including one's past and present story; suffering; hopes for the future; noticing God in daily life, and addressing the past. Cepero teaches strategies and techniques throughout with examples from journals and her own experiences. She also provides suggested exercises to help writers find focus, particularly beginners or those who feel stuck with their writing. An especially insightful chapter explores how physical movement or exercise frees the mind and spirit to write. Finally, Cepero suggests ways to cope with common barriers to journaling, including our inner critics and censors. An appendix includes helpful guidelines for group journaling. (July) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Editorial Reviews

"Helen Cepero argues that journaling can help us hear God better and experience spiritual transformation."
"Helen Cepero has done a great service for spiritual directors who want to encourage their directees to 'go deeper.' By using the guidance provided in this excellent book on journaling, we can suggest a structured yet inspiring method of sifting through human experience to find the gold of God's presence. By framing journaling as a prayer practice, Cepero has focused this work as a path to spiritual and personal authenticity.

I recommend this book as an inviting, reflective tool to help us find the Holy Mystery hidden beneath the rushing surface of life."
"Lively, encouraging and pastoral. . . . Cepero shows readers how to . . . [move] past simple recitation of events, to writing that reveals God at work in a life."
"This is a book which should not be (merely) read. It should be done. Her book is a vast smorgasbord of particular experiences in the practice of journal-keeping, each one inviting the readers to 'taste and see' the presence of God in their lives. This book opens up the rich potential in journaling, warns us of the patterns of thinking that threaten to derail this practice and provides the tools to make it a valuable means of pursuing relationship with God."
"The wisdom and guidance of Helen Cepero's book is irresistible. Using poetry, Scripture and stories, she guides the reader into journaling activities that uncover the presence of God in the writer's life. Those who are beginning will discover the richness of journaling as a spiritual practice. Those with experience will find new ways to delve into their depths. A wonderful book."
"Helen Cepero's book is warm and unassuming, full of wisdom without any showing off. A wonderful introduction to journaling."

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    July 20, 2010
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    This work is written by a person of deep insight and personal authenticity She somehow imparts a passion for truth and urges each person to find their own personal style of journaling.
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