Advance Praise for A Spiritual Life

A Spiritual Life: Perspectives from Poets, Prophets, and Preachers (Westminster John Knox Press), will be published in early 2011.

“Don’t look for a traditional approach to faith or a unified voice in this diverse collection. You can, however, count on graceful prose and an honest, reflective search–and that, I found, was enough to make my own pilgrimage seem more authentic and less lonely.”
Philip Yancey, author of What Good Is God? and Prayer: Does It Make a Difference?

“In A Spiritual Life, Allan Hugh Cole, Jr. has assembled an impressive group of twenty-four “poets, prophets, and preachers” to write about that elusive thing called their spiritual life. What emerges is not a tight and tidy definition of the spiritual life but a glorious topographic collage of the ways in which people infuse their lives with God. These two dozen compelling writers expand not only our notion of the depth and breadth of the spiritual life, but maybe even our understanding of God.”
Sybil MacBeth, author of Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God

“Too often Americans think of “spirituality” and “the spiritual life” in ways disconnected from the quotidian challenges of our daily lives. This rich collection offers a powerful and poignant counterwitness, displaying the complexities of engaging God in the midst of the ordinary. You will be stimulated, comforted, and challenged by these wonderfully gifted writers.
L. Gregory Jones, Duke University, author of Embodying Forgiveness

“A spiritual banquet, prepared by some of America’s finest writers and thinkers. If you’re looking for a fresh wind to blow through your life of faith, look no further than this gem of a book.”
Philip Gulley, author of If Grace Is True and the Harmony novels

“These meaty essays, generously spiced with personal stories, provide valuable food for thought about ministry, preaching and everyday life in Christ. What a rich feast! Savor this book.”
Lynne M. Baab, author of Sabbath Keeping and Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World

“One of the great gifts of my work is that I often get to ask the question of friends and folks I’ve only just met, “What is God up to in your life?” There are few things I’d rather do than listen to an honest response to that question. Here is a book full of responses by folks who write both honestly and well. Like so many of the folks I’ve listened to face-to-face, these authors give me hope that the Spirit is stirring to bring new life, even in the most unexpected of places.”
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of New Monasticism and The Wisdom of Stability

NEW REVIEW of Good Mourning: Getting Through Your Grief

Book Review: Good Mourning: Getting Through Your Grief
BY KATE PARKER

good mourning Allan Hugh ColeGood Mourning: Getting Through Your Grief
by Allan Hugh Cole Jr.
Published 2008 by Westminster John Knox Press

 

Note: The author suggests it might be in your best interest to postpone reading this book for a few months after your loss. It often takes a few months of natural grief before we reach an emotional point where we are able to begin a mourning process.

Grief is encompassing – experiencing loss can lead to a state so exhausting you can’t see on to the next day. In Allan Cole’s book, Good Mourning, he encourages those familiar with loss that through the course of proper grief, there is hope. Good Mourning is a journey through the process of mourning as a path to restoration.

Part one addresses the effects loss can have on us. Though people grieve in different ways, loss affects an individual’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. He includes a list of common feelings associated with grief, encouraging readers to pay attention to these reactions and to develop an understanding of the hurt so they can begin the healing process.

Part two is designed to help with this endeavor, offering the equipment needed to mourn in a constructive and healthy way. Cole begins the second half of the book with a portion from scripture: I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow (Jeremiah 31:13). This is an appropriate launch to the second portion of the book, a reminder of the role faith can play in mourning. Cole dedicates an entire chapter to the role of faith and reminds us that the “Christian faith suggests a powerful link between our own suffering and God’s suffering.” In this relationship, we can find great encouragement. As you experience grief you may feel the urge to turn from your faith, but God wants to deliver you from sorrow. Part of the practice of Good Mourning is prayer. Cole suggests many postures of prayer—alone, in company, engaged, and quiet.

Spiritual comfort and encouragement are necessary means for coping. To supplement spiritual support, Cole has comprised a running list of approachable strategies to help handle mourning as you encounter grief. Mourning can often lead to an estranged relationship with God, but mourning constructively can lead to just the opposite. This book is useful for those who have recently lost a loved one or could be used by a support group. It could also provide fresh ideas and good resources for pastors, chaplains or counselors helping those who grieve.

Buy the book>>

Kate Parker writes for HopeandHealing.org.

New Downloadable Resources for Ministry by Allan Cole

New Resources for Church Leaders and Congregations are Now Available:

* Hospital Visitation (free)
https://www.thepresbyterianleader.com/Media/HospitalVisitation.pdf

*Suicide Prevention and Care
http://www.thethoughtfulchristian.com/New%20Site/Main/ProductDetails.asp?txtProductID=5276&txtCatID=3

*What Helps Us Cope With Loss?
http://www.thethoughtfulchristian.com/New%20Site/Main/ProductDetails.asp?txtProductID=5261&txtCatID=203

Christian Century Reviews BE NOT ANXIOUS

Be Not Anxious: Pastoral Care of Disquieted Souls
reviewed by Arthur Paul Boers
Wm. B. Eerdmans, 224 pp., $20.00 paperback
As any pastor knows, anxiety permeates church life and the work of pastoral care. Sometimes it seems as if the entire job of pastoring can be boiled down to a matter of managing anxiety: that of the pastor, individual congregants, various committees, sometimes the church as a whole. Throughout history, theologians from the Desert Fathers and Mothers through Martin Luther and right up to Paul Tillich in the 20th century wrestled with the meaning of anxiety and asked whether Christians can do away with it. Yet as informed as today’s church is by psychology and family-systems thinking, it is difficult to find recent in-depth theological examination of anxiety.Anxiety, according to Allan Hugh Cole, is neither worry nor fear. It is a soul condition involving the entire person. Closely related conditions include anguish, dread and angst. Anxious people are disquieted souls, deeply ill at ease with who they are and with their relationships with others, including their relationship with God.Faith communities, appropriately enough, draw and attract disquieted souls, and Cole celebrates the unique offerings of pastoral care as “cure of souls.” He hopes that pastors will not defer too quickly to nonclergy professionals because pastors are uniquely positioned to recognize disquieted souls, and the church has many resources for them, such as prayer, scripture, counseling, worship and hospitality. Cole advocates blending cognitive-behavioral therapy with narrative theology, helping people root their individual stories—and their attendant anxieties—in the larger Christian story of “God’s creative, transformative, and redemptive acts throughout history.”We can overcome anxiety and worry when we are connected and related to realities that are bigger than we are, Cole explains. We need to be part of social systems, historical traditions and transcendent realms. We are not meant to be isolated and alone; being rooted in deeper realities consoles us, reassuring us that final and ultimate realities will not let us down.

Cole is no advocate of Rogerian nondirective counseling. He believes that disordered thinking—including some theological thinking—needs to be challenged and reordered. Cognitive therapy reframes how people think and teaches them “to identify, understand, and modify their thoughts on their own.” The goal of working with those who are anxious is not merely therapeutic consolation but theological conversion, according to Cole.

Pastors should probe, diagnose and challenge in several areas: attention to the holy, belief about providence, depth of faith, perception of grace, gratefulness, ability to repent, capacity for communion and sense of vocation. Such probing is done mostly through gentle questioning, with the hope that anxious people might see the implications of their beliefs and practices: “What keeps you going?” “Where do you find peace and hope?” “How can this get better?” “Where is God in all of this for you?”

Ultimately, we are called to locate our personal narratives within the Christian metanarrative. By telling and listening to individual stories in the wider church context, we come to better understand our place in the world and before God. “Pastoral care of disquieted souls,” Cole writes, “requires assisting anxious persons with exchanging one world, the anxious one, for a world that offers more peace.”

Cole also calls for improving self-awareness, modifying and replacing negative imagery, paying attention to emotions while anxious and “restructuring assumptions about three major life concerns: acceptance, competence, and control.” He notes that many anxious people have an automatic series of thoughts and reactions. A man hears a siren and quickly assumes that his own house must be on fire. A woman drives past a church and within seconds recognizes her fear that God wants to punish her. The caregiver can help people to recognize their deepest, underlying fears. Questions are key: “What’s the evidence for your anxiety?” “What’s a different way of looking at the situation?” “So what if that happens?” People can also be encouraged to name and then interrupt automatic thinking processes. Finally, the caregiver can nudge them to know the Christian story, to examine their experiences in that light, and to claim the reassurance that the Christian story offers.

Just as important as one-on-one work is engaging people in a matrix of Christian practices. Such practices connect people more deeply to God, others and self, reimmerse them in the Christian story, and help them to embody the Christian narrative in the rituals and habits of their lives. Christian practices alter perception and imagination regarding matters that cause anxiety. Cole commends church membership, service to others, and regular worship, prayer, scripture reading and confession.

A mark of nonanxiousness is willingness to enter calmly into neglected or overlooked matters or into contested areas of conversation—think of Barack Obama’s March 2008 discourse on race. Cole’s book models nonanxiety as he explores his topic with a seamless blend of personal experiences, psychological and theological considerations, and reflections on various situations in which he has ministered; he warmly and invitingly portrays how we can exchange anxious views of life and the world for the grand narrative of Christian faith.

Arthur Paul Boers teaches pastoral theology at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary.

The Christian Century Commends GOOD MOURNING: GETTING THROUGH YOUR GRIEF

The new issue of The Christian Century, it’s “Fall Books” issue, lists Allan’s book, Good Mourning, as one of ten best books in practical theology.   The Century says of the book:  “A solid and compassionate guide to grief and mourning, this is the kind of book that ministers will both benefit from themselves and feel comfortable giving to those who are in a season of mourning.”

All materials © 2018 Allan Hugh Cole, Jr. Web site by Websy Daisy.