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Reflections on a life-long journey of faith and work
among the world’s poor

by Jerry Aaker


How to Use This Book—Notes from the Author

Each chapter focuses on a distinct theme and concludes with a
reflection on the subject matter, often with quotes from other authors, followed by a scripture text and a few questions. You can use the book in several ways. One is for personal learning, private devotions and meditation. Second, the material can
be used for reflection and discussion in a group setting. After you have read each chapter, I suggest the following:

  • First, reread the short reflection at the end of each chapter, watching for your reactions to the theme presented in the chapter as well as the thoughts put forth in the reflection.
  • Meditate on the Scripture passage by reading it slowly several times; taking a few minutes of silence to notice what thoughts, images and prayers this text stirs in your heart. If you are reading this in private, you may want to keep a
    journal of your musings. In a group, individuals can share their thoughts and images aloud.
  • Use the questions to stimulate thoughts and discernment. Again, in private this might lead to journaling or a time of silent meditation. In a group, allow everyone, if they are so inclined, to respond to the question(s). Allow some
    time for each person to share without interruption in an attitude of prayerful listening.

In either case, you do not need to read the chapters in the sequence in which they are printed in the book. You can pick and choose the themes that are most pertinent and interesting. For groups, this will depend on the number of sessions you
plan to meet. For individual readers or for couples, I suggest that you read with patience, perhaps taking one chapter a day and using the Scripture and questions for daily devotions and reflection on your own spiritual journey.

Most likely, there are more themes and chapters than can be used during the typical cycle of a study or prayer group. Thus, consider several options and be flexible. For example, a study of the spiritual journey and personal disciplines might use
several chapters from Part 1: The Journey and Part 5: Developing a Rule of Life. Or you may wish to have a series of sessions on spiritual practices by choosing five or six chapters from Part 2: Spiritual Practices. Select several chapters from Part
3: Spirituality in Action for a series on themes of service and action in the world. For themes and stories of faithful service, choose from Part 4: Encounters on the Journey—or mix and match any of the themes that particularly interest you.

Suggestions for couple and group study

Why are groups studying this book together?

  • The format is ready-made for group exploration. It makes the leader’s job easy.
  • Each chapter includes scripture texts, thought provoking quotations and open ended answer-it-yourself questions that encourage group discussion.
  • The author’s personal observations encourage group members to reflect on heir own experiences, and the format encourages an easy, accepting style of group interaction.

Options for use with groups:

  • Potpourri —A series of sessions on spirituality and discernment. Group members select topics of most interest.
  • Lenten Study —A weekly study of various spiritual practices.
  • Peace and Justice —Discussions of themes related to service and social justice for the poor.
  • Meditation —A reflective meditation group using an adaptation of lexio divina.

An adult education class:

I led an eight-week guided reading and conversation, adult Sunday school class, using this book. We did not read thechapters in any specific order. Rather the group chose topics of interest. The Reflection and Meditation sections at the end of each chapter are excellent, relevant, and thought provoking. I continue to use the book to help me journal and respond more deeply to the reflections and insights it offers.
Carolyn Kelly, Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, Amarillo, Texas

Carolyn Kelly

A men’s weekly book group:

Grumpy Elderly Men of Advent Lutheran Church, Madison, Wisconsin

Men's group

Fifteen retired men meet weekly to discuss books of spiritual, ethical and cultural relevance. During each of the eight weeks we spent using A Spirituality of Service as our focus, we began by inviting each person to share the most meaningful spiritual insight he had gained from that week’s reading. Sometimes we barely got around the whole group once in the allotted 90 minutes. This experience changed the way we interact with each other and generated a sense of deep friendship. As a result we scheduled an overnight retreat to share our life stories with each other.

Why are many individuals using
A Spirituality of Service for
personal reflection?

Because the book . . .

  • Invites you to walk alongside the author and reflect on your own journey and spiritual understandings
  • Offers 35 topics related to spirituality
  • Prompts reflection on each subject followed by a scripture text and in-depth questions for discussion and meditation
  • Helps you to slow down to read and to reflect

Gregory Rake

Gregory Rake, a Christian
working with landless poor in India

Personal devotions

This book is about walking together—walking in a close relationship with God, with others and with creation. Every morning for 30-odd days I woke up and knew that with my coffee I would have another great conversation with Jerry. Every day I looked forward to taking this “journey,” and I have kept a journal and prayed.

A couple’s sharing for devotions
and spiritual growth:

My husband, Alan, and I took one chapter at a time and alternately read aloud each paragraph. Then we read the Reflection section and moved into the Meditation questions. Some of the questions brought to the surface thoughts we had never before put into words and certainly had not discussed with each another. This process provided us with a revealing and a wonderful exercise in listening to one another.

Joanne and Allen Heggen
Madison, Wisconsin

Joanne and Allen Heggen

Download the PDF with suggestions for use in groups

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