Pay Attention to Leighton Ford's The Attentive Life (A Book Review)
"Pay attention" is the watchword of this book. And "pay attention" is what I would like to challenge the reader to do. Pay attention and awaken to who Ford once was. Pay attention and awaken to who Ford now is. In addition, pay attention to "the hours of our lives, " and to the "ones who pay attention." Finally, pay attention to the poets, authors, priests, and contemplatives Ford champions.
Pay Attention to Who Ford Once Was
Many of you, as did I, recall Billy Graham's familiar radio program "The Hour of Decision." As a child part of our Sunday afternoon ritual consisted of listening to Billy. I can still hear the ending of the program, "That's all the address you need, 'Billy Graham, Minneapolis, Minnesota.'" I can further remember that, now and then, rather than Billy preaching, a young evangelist named Leighton Ford ably proclaimed the gospel in Billy's place.
Pay Attention to Who Ford Now Is
So imagine my complete shock, when reviewing the Ruth Haley Barton book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership I read Leighton Ford's foreword which he was writing, from a Roman Catholic oratory garden, while seated beside a pagan labyrinth.
How did Ford get to such a place as an oratory? Ford tells us, in this book, in his own words. Ford begins, "My work has largely focused on evangelism- 'making friends for God.' ... But a shift has taken place." "But now," Ford relates, "is a time to pay more attention to my own heart, to deepen my own friendship with God, and to walk with others who want to do the same." Ford also shares, "The deepest longing I have is to come home to my own heart ..." (p.10-11)
Ford goes on, "If the first part of my own journey involved longing, the second has encompassed mainly looking --coming to important parts of my soul, bring my real self before the real God, and discovering prayer, as Simone Weil put it, as 'absolute attention.'" (p.12) To achieve these goals Ford writes, "It has meant exploring other ways: silence, stillness, art and poetry, reading Scripture not by going through great chunks but by meditating on smaller portions, listening carefully to God and my own heart, having a trusted spiritual companion as a friend on the journey." (p.14)
Pay Attention to the Benedictine Hours
Ford introduces us to "The Benedictine Hours" and to Benedict who became, according to Ford,
"a shepherd of souls." This soul shepherd became "St. Benedict" to whom Catholics now pray and worship. Consider this "Novena to St. Benedict" which begins "Glorious St. Benedict, sublime model of virtue, pure vessel of God's grace! Behold me humbly kneeling at your feet. I implore you in your loving kindness to pray for me before the throne of God. ... I therefore invoke your powerful intercession, confident in the hope that you will hear my prayer and obtain for me the special grace and favor I earnestly implore (name it). ..." (p.20)
Pay Attention to David Steindl-Rast's Connection to The Benedictine Hours
Ford tells us that his first experience of the hours came at a retreat at the lovely monastery--Mepkin
Abbey in the low country of South Carolina. But, it wasn't just from Mepkin that Ford learned about the hours. It was from a book-- The Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey through the Hours of the Day by David Steindl-Rast and Sharon Lebell.
In his notes Ford records, "It's well worth reading The Music of Silence to understand 'the canonical hours.'" (p. 213) Yes, it is well worth reading, not to note the canonical hours however, but to examine precisely who Steindl-Rast and Lebell really are, and what they are all about.
Preview the book at Amazon.com books. Pay close attention to whose endorsement is front and center below the book image--prominent mindfulness proponent Jack Kornfield. Then read Kornfield's comment, "Music of Silence shows how to incorporate the sacred meaning of monastic living into everyday life by following the natural rhythm of the hours of the day. The book tells how mindfulness and prayer can reconnect us with sources of joy ..."
Steindl-Rast writes The Music of Silence with Sharon Lebell. Lebell is best known for her philosophical book: The Art of Living by Epictitus Transaltion. Endorsements on the back by Jack Kornfield, Slyvia Boorstein, and Huston Smith tell us more about Lebell. Korenfield says, "A treasury ... of good advice, wise as a grandfather, earthy as Tao." Smith writes, "This ... classic -- is the West's counterpart to Buddhism's ... Dhammapada-- ..." Boorstein notes, "Epictitus sounds like the Buddha."
In the introduction foreword writer Kathleen Norris (p.XVII) enthuses, "Brother David Steindl-Rast challenges us to recognize that this appreciation of time is available to anyone willing to see what Buddhists term 'beginner's mind' and simply pay attention."
In Music of Silence the authors write, "From the monastic perspective, time is a series of ... encounters. We live in the now by attuning ourselves to the calls of each moment ... " The authors also state, "In the monastery everything in space and time is so arranged that it fosters mindfulness ..." (p.5)
Spirituality and Practice's Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat in their review of The Music of Silence say, "The text is designed to speak to the monk in each of us, tapping into our yearning for a full appreciation of the present moment ..."
At the end of the book its publishers' Seastone/Ulysses Press advertise such titles as Einstein and Buddhism; The 7 Healing Chakras, What Would Buddha Do? among other similar titles.
Now, Ford references Steindl-Rast fourteen times in The Attentive Life with much of his work built round The Music of Silence. How very sad that someone with Ford's background and history would use such a book--what a total travesty!
Pay Attention to Steindl-Rast's Past Connections to Buddhism
Who is Steindl-Rast really? To begin, he's been a Benedictine monk of the Mount Savior Monastery in Elmira, New York for over fifty years. And as a Vatican endorsed delegate he's been into Buddhist-Christian dialogue. Besides, as a recipient of the Martin Buber Award, he's been a bridge builder between religions. He's also studied with well-known Zen teachers such as Shunyru Suzuki Roshi. He's also co-authored The Ground We Share: Buddhist and Christian Practice with Robert Aiken Roshi.
Pay Attention to Steindl-Rast's Present Connections to Mindfulness
Presently, reports Gratefulness.org, Brother David serves a world wide Network for Grateful Living. Some of Brother David's recent events have included: "The Greater Good Gratitude Summit" with mindfulness advocate Jack Kornfield (June, 2014); "Wisdom 2 Conference" with conversations in yoga and mindfulness with speakers as Arianna Huffington, Eckhart Tolle, Roshi Joan Halifax, Jon Kabit-Zin and more (February 2014); and "Beyond Religion" with the Dalai Lama and Fr. Thomas Keating (October 2012).
Pay Attention to the Rock Hill Oratory
I first read about Ford at The Oratory in Ford's foreword to Ruth Haley Barton's book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership (2008). In that foreword Ford describes The Oratory like this, "... I'm at: The Oratory, a retreat and ministry center in Rock Hill that has become for me a regular sacred place of listening and renewal for my own soul." (p.9)
Is "The Oratory" just a retreat, a ministry center as Ford relates? The answer would be no; for The Rock Hill Oratory is a Roman Catholic religious society of secular priests who live in religious communities but do not take vows.
Pay Attention to the Oratory Story
The Rock Hill Oratory was founded in 1934, and is part of a federation of sixty independent houses across the United States. Rock Hill has the distinction of being the oldest and largest house in the United States. Rock Hill also serves other churches including Our Lady of Grace, St. Mary Catholic Church, St. Philip of Neri Catholic Church, and four others.
This religious society was founded by St. Philip of Neri in Rome who was canonized in 1622 along with St. Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Isidore the Farmer. St. Philip is known for his catacomb prayer time when it's recorded that the Holy Spirit descended into his heart as a fire ball. From that time Philip felt his heart had dilated and filled with heat. After his death, it is said, an autopsy showed his heart was enlarged and that two ribs were broken to make room for it.
Pay Attention to the Oratory Spiritual Director
In The Attentive Life in chapter three "Daybreak" Ford introduces us to "my friend David, whom I was asking to be my spiritual director." (p.66) Ford also relates that David is "my spiritual companion." (p.67) Exactly who is "David?" Ford's "In Attention to Gratitude" (p.224-225) unlocks a bit more when Ford acknowledges that "David Valtiera, a special companion on my journey, has helped me to pay attention." Where did these meetings take place? "at The Oratory, Rock Hill, South Carolina."
Further information as to how often he frequented the Oratory can be found in his 2011 booklet "The Mentoring Community of Leighton Ford Ministries" by Leighton Ford. He states, after a period of dark times, and dark waters, "I eventually discovered a small community called The Oratory, the center of a Christian ministry to the city and nearby university (Winthrop University). David Valtiera was their spiritual leader and became my own spiritual companion. Several times a year for over a decade I spent a day at The Oratory, in quiet reflection and prayer, and in conversation with David." Ford does not tell us that David was a Catholic priest, nor that The Oratory is a Catholic organization.
With a bit more digging into The Oratory Story one can read that "David" was Fr. David Valtiera, CO who served as the Winthrop University Newman Apostolate Director; he was also a sacramental priest of St. Mary's. Fr. David also directed The Oratory's Center for Spirituality.
It's quite interesting to note that Ford, upon launching his present "Mentoring Community," mentioned that " ... it was fitting ... that a small group of us met at the Oratory to plan and to pray for his new initiative." (p.11)
Fr. David had a special admiration for Cardinal Newman. Ford, too, seems to have adopted this admiration for he features John Henry Cardinal Newman's prayer from A Catholic Prayer Book in
The Attentive Life Appendix. (p.210)
A Discernment Memo: In many contemplative books the true identity of various people such as monks or priests is hidden. And this is one reason why one should always take time to check into the backgrounds of people, places, and practices named in current books. To be an earnest contender requires one, as Proverbs 2:3 says, to cry out for discernment-- to want to go the extra mile to ferret out truth!
Pay Attention to "The Qualities of Attentiveness"
Ford writes, in chapter one, "Poets, writers, artists, naturalists all help us to understand what it means to "attend" and to think of attentiveness in many ways." Ford, I might add, should also name contemplatives, mystics, and priests and nuns which he frequently uses. In fact, of the lengthy list of persons that he considers models of attentiveness few could be considered genuine born-again Christians. Over, and over I am struck by the kinds of people Ford uses as examples; and by the potential paths they lead naïve readers down. (p.37) Colossians 2:8 sounds a warning to each of us to "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ."
Note Ford's first quality of attentiveness--"Being fully present to the moment." Speaking of "attentiveness" Spirituality and Practice* has an ABC list of spiritual practices starting with "Attention" which is defined like this, "Attention is also known as mindfulness, awareness, concentration, recollection. It is a primary practice, and not just alphabetically."
*Spirituality and Practice is a New Age, or Spirituality multi-faith site filled practices/spiritual teachers that discerning Christians can immediately red flag as pursuits/persons we must steer clear of. Very sadly, many of the people and books Ford quotes can found at this site warning the reader that if Spirituality and Practice sanctions them run!
Other attentiveness qualities listed by Ford include: looking long enough; looking freshly at what is familiar; being available; becoming aware; waiting with expectancy; being mindful; and being wakeful. (pp.37-39)
Ford follows his attentiveness qualities with a section entitled "Stepping into Attentiveness" where Ford writes "attentiveness" certainly is a call of God, and he hopes to awaken more and more to it. Here he suggests we pay attention to the words of professor emeritus of the University of St. Mary at Mundelein Seminary, Sr. Agnes Cunningham SSCM. Cunningham is the Mother Superior of the Holy Heart of Mary Convent in Champlain, Illinois. Sad so sad, Ford uses words from a Catholic nun to teach us how to be attentive. (p.44)
Pay Attention to Some Who Practice Mindfulness
Belden C. Lane
Ford quotes Dr. Belden C. Lane, Presbyterian pastor and professor emeritus of Theological Studies at St. Louis University, in an article "Desert Attentiveness, Desert Indifference: Countercultural Spirituality in the Desert Fathers and Mothers from Cross Currents as saying, "No one lasts in the desert without constant attentiveness to exterior and interior landscapes alike. One must keep an eye out for landmarks." (p.44)
In his notes (p.215) Ford adds more of Lane's quote where Lane stresses the importance of staying attuned to one's inner condition, or as the desert fathers and mothers called it agrupnia, the spiritual discipline of 'wakefulness' ..." (p.215) Ford also includes a Belden Lane story from his book:
The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality. (p.105/p.218)
Who is the real Belden Lane you may ask? "Mindfulness at Moonshine Hollow," (September 16, 2014) from Tricycle magazine will enlighten us. In it Lane explains how he hikes into the Moonshine Hollow glen to practice mindfulness. He also says he comes to practice contemplative prayer-- that kind of prayer that "gets you out of your head entirely." This prayer is a deeper practice of mindfulness instructs Lane. He writes, "The mindfulness that wild terrain evokes is actually a sort of 'mindlessness,' an end-run round rational analysis that seeks an immediate presence."
Lane continues, "The mindfulness that wilderness provokes is able to draw me out of the buzz of my incessant, internal conversation with myself. Like Vipassana meditation in Buddhist practice, it urges my seeing reality as it truly is." This article was printed from Lane's soon to be released book: Backpacking with Saints: Wilderness Hiking as Spiritual Practice. In short, Lane is just another in Ford's long list of those we must not pay attention to!
David G. Benner
Ford quotes Benner positively (as well as his wife Juliet Benner) in his book. (pp. 84/97) Ford also names Benner/Crabb's book: Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship and Direction, IVP, 2004 as a resource one would find helpful in spiritual mentoring. ("Some Frequently Asked Questions from online booklet The Mentoring Community of Leighton Ford Ministries. (p.52)
If you've read my previous Benner blog book reviews you'll be familiar with how dangerous and deceptive Benner is. Presently, Benner has deepened his deceptive writings by delving into mindfulness and heartfulness. In "Heartfulness" (August 1, 2014) Benner notes, "Interest in meditation has introduced many in the West to an extremely valuable spiritual practice--mindfulness. However, there is another closely related practice ... I call it heartfulness. ... To be heartful means ... to have brought your mind down into your heart."
How can one become heartful and practice heartfulness? "Just release the egoic mind," writes Benner, "and with deep exhalation, sink into your center--a place where you-in-God and God-in-you cannot be easily teased apart. This is the place ... Centering prayer ... takes you. It is already within you. ..." This comes from a new book Benner is writing which is provisionally entitled:
Human Being and Becoming. Reader, beware of mindfulness and beware of so called 'evangelicals' as Benner. Beware of The Attentive Life/The Mentoring Community that will lead you onto dangerous paths.
In chapter five, "The Active Life," Leighton Ford begins with a Linda Stone quotation: "We live in an age of continuous partial attention." Dr. Stone, however, is an advocate of mindfulness to counteract "continuous partial attention." Mindfulness Training Toronto states, "Linda Stone, a successful business professional coined the phrase 'Continuous Partial Attention' ... the way many of us spend our time and use our ability to attend to our task on a daily basis. ... Daily mindfulness practice, both formal (sitting) and informal (being mindful on a moment-to-moment basis during any task) offer us an alternative to this state of being always- somewhat there ..." Stone's quote, you might note, is above one from "Dallas Willard" and "Jesus." (p.100)
Fr. Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O.
Ford refers to Father Thomas Keating six times. In "Practicing Attentiveness: Guard of the Heart" Ford writes Thomas Keating recommends a practice he calls "guard of the heart" which could simply be called "mindfulness." (p.160)
Ford writes Keating practices "guard of the heart" as "a way to note and release emotions that weigh us down." According to Keating one way to deal with these emotions is to turn back to whatever we are doing. Ford expresses it this way, "So I pay attention to the feelings. Accept them. Let them go. And turn my attention to what comes next."
Spirituality For Life "Contemplative Path" commented on the "guard of the heart practice" like this. "Practice mindfulness. Keating uses the words, 'practice guard of the heart.' This is the practice of releasing upsetting emotions into the present moment."
The Garrison Institute, Garrison, NY, of which Keating is one of the institute's founding spiritual advisors, and a co-founder of the international Centering Prayer movement, published an interview (2008) entitled "Mindfulness and Heartfulness: An Interview with Father Thomas Keating." Keating was asked to give similarities and differences between Centering Prayer and mindfulness meditation. Keating replied, "Mindfulness is a wonderful practice and has been refined and honed over the ages. ... Mindfulness meditation is about consciousness, it emphasizes the mind. Christian contemplative practices emphasize the heart and Heartfulness."
Keating's definition of heartfulness was: "Heartfulness is the cultivation of interior silence in relation to ultimate reality, what in the Abrahamic traditions is called God." The interviewer asked what the relationship was between "mindfulness" and "heartfulness?" Keating replied, "According to my understanding of Hebrew religion and mindfulness, they are meant to include both mind and heart in the deeper seat of human consciousness. ... Contemplative traditions are moving toward the integration of both sides--mindfulness and heartfulness." So says the interviewer, " ... do you see a convergence between 'meditation' and 'contemplation?'" Keating answers, "What the Eastern traditions call meditation is called contemplation in the Western tradition called contemplation. They are basically the same thing."
Discerning reader: Beginning with David Steindl-Rast, and throughout the book pay attention to the mindfulness threads that are woven into this book.
Pay Attention to the Portable Prayer Labyrinth
In chapter two, "The Birthing Hour" we find Ford introducing the reader to "The Labyrinth." This particular labyrinth was canvas with an embroidered rose in its center, and modeled after the labyrinth embedded in the floor of the ancient cathedral in Chartes, France.
Ford indicates this "prayer walk" was held at a local church --perhaps Myers Park United Methodist Church, Charlotte, NC-- of which Ford is quite familiar having spoken there. Ford's own home church, by the way, is Myer's Park Presbyterian (U.S.A.) Find details of Myers Park UM's labyrinth
under its "Spiritual Formation" section.
Ford says the labyrinth leader of the day explained that labyrinths weren't "a fad," nor were they "New Age." The labyrinth, Ford informs us, "is a spiritual tool, a prescribed path, a sort of 'embodied prayer' meant to help us put aside our chattering and cluttered mind, and walk deeply in the presence of God." (p.51)
Not "New Age?" Carl Teichrib in The Labyrinth Journey states otherwise. (p.4) Teichrib writes, "...it's been (the labyrinth) part of the esoteric world for a very long time. Which is why, today, labyrinth walks and 'prayer journeys' are being promoted by Rosicrucian groups, at New Age festivals and celebrations and throughout the neo-pagan New Age World ..." Even "the Pagan Spirit Gathering at Wisteria, OH, holds a nighttime Summer Solstice Labyrinth ritual, ..." (pp. 4-5)
Ford's labyrinth definition mentions "embodied prayer." What is this? According to S. McArthur, of
First Presbyterian Church, Silver City, N.M.: "it is connecting with our bodies as instruments of prayer, and opening to the Spirit who resides both within and beyond our bodies." Jon M. Sweeney also writes of embodied prayer from such spiritual traditions as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. And Daniel Wolpert says, "Embodied prayer is about awareness and listening, in this case the body." Fr. Thomas Ryan even suggests "Yoga Prayer." Bottom line, beware of "embodied prayer"-- do not embrace it!
In this same labyrinth explanation Ford says this prayer path will "help us put aside our chattering and cluttered minds." Similar meditative terminology can be found in Nancy J. Napier's Sacred Practices for Conscious Living chapter "Mindfulness" where Napier talks about the monkey mind that scampers here, there, and everywhere distracting our meditation. Most assuredly, Leighton Ford is leading his readers and mentees down dangerous paths.
Pay Attention of Two of Ford's Favorite Poets
Ford is enamored with Unitarian Universalist poet Mary Oliver who partnered with literary agent Molly Cook for forty years. Oliver's "Instructions for Living:" really move Ford. In fact, they made such an impression he shared them with readers of The Attentive Life, as well as with an incoming Gordon Conwell Seminary president.
Isn't it a pity that someone whom Ford so admires and quotes is a lady who says she doesn't know how to pray, writes of the Buddha, states salvation is unknowable, and hopes one can have faith. Besides, she's a poet that's often featured on Buddhist and Mindfulness web pages.
Check out "The Only Chance to Love This World" from Buddhist Mindfulness in Mary Oliver Poetry by Gisela Ullyatt.
Seven times Ford names May Sarton's poem: "Now I Become Myself" as something he especially relates to. Reminiscent of Ruth Haley Barton, and David G. Benner, Ford, as he reads the poem, ruminates about his deepest self, his true self, and his own heart.
May, like Mary, was a Unitarian Universalist. For more about the real May Sarton read Dr. Mark K. Fulk's 2012 lecture "Sarton as Poet and Secular Contemplative." Spirituality and Practice also has a Sarton review.
Discerning Reader Note: To find out more information about Universalist Unitarians see:
Pay Attention to Ones Who Paid Attention
Leighton Ford has been wowed by activist, French philosopher, and mystic Simone Weil. Ford records in capital letters, "I OWE A DEBT TO SIMONE WEIL ... this remarkable French woman ..." Why? Ford informs us that it was Simone's definition of prayer as "absolute attention." But was Simone Weil a true "apostle of spiritual life" as Ford suggests in "Simone Weil on a Postage Stamp?" (p. 48)
Just who was Simone Weil? History records that she was raised in an agnostic Jewish family in France. In "An Encounter with Simone Weil" trailer Weil was named as a philosopher, labor activist, teacher, factory worker, journalist, revolutionary, soldier, anarchist, mystic, jew, and catholic.
Ford purports Weil became a "believer in Christ" most likely referring to Weil's ecstatic experience she had at Assisi where for the first time in she prayed. This was followed by a greater revelation while she was repeating George Herbert's poem "Love III" during which she said, "Christ came down and took possession of her." Ford also wrote that this time "when the presence came" she understood prayer was a special kind of attention. This kind of "attention" sounds a lot like St. Teresa of Avila's ecstatic encounters.
Ford said, "Weil never became a baptized Christian," or should we say a baptized "Roman Catholic." Ford went on, "she believed she could witness to her faith ... as a follower of Christ, as a bridge between the official church who was not enamored with formal religion." Ford would have us surmise that Weil was someone who was truly born again, and was a genuine believer. (p.48)
However, Wikipedia tells more of Simone's story. It says, "She was attracted to Roman Catholicism, but declined to be baptized; preferring to remain outside due to 'the love of those things outside Christianity.'" It goes on to say, "Weil did not limit her curiosity to Christianity. She was keenly interested in other religious traditions--especially the Greek and Egyptian mysteries; Hinduism (especially the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita); and Mahayana Buddhism. She believed that all these traditions contained elements of genuine revelation ..." Sandra Lipton posted a "Simone Weil Bibliography" entitled "Simone and Buddhism" listing some articles and books on this topic.
A Gratefulness.org (David Steindl-Rast's site) article "Simone Weil: Philosopher and Mystic" by Robert Ellsburg relates Simone's saga. Speaking of the fact she had chosen not to be baptized Ellsburg wrote, "There were other reservations that held her back from formal conversion. At heart she was attracted to the pure spirituality she perceived in Greek philosophy ... she was equally repulsed by everything contaminated ... by the spirit of Imperial Rome-- ..." Caryl Johnson in "Starvation of a Witness" adds, "She became ... --a convert--almost. The heritage of Rome--and that of the Old Testament--held her back ... The Old Testament remained for her a 'tissue of horrors'..." Johnson goes on saying, " ... She could not make it to the Resurrection: '... if the Gospel omitted all mention of Christ's Resurrection, faith would be easier for me. The cross by itself suffices me."
While Weil very well may be a fascinating figure, was Weil someone we should be paying attention to? I think the answer ought to be evident!
Hwee Hwee Tan
Hwee, Hwee Tan is, writes Ford, --someone who pays attention--and some one, Ford says, we must pay attention to. Should we--pay attention to Hwee? Why not? For starters, the 2008 copy of The Attentive Life (pp. 198-199) said Hwee Hwee Tan was a "he." However, research reveals that Hwee Hwee Tan is very much a "she." Discovering this, I wrote to the IVP editor. I received a reply stating yes Tan was a she; and these errors were being corrected in the latest edition.
Next, in the notes I saw the essay title "In Search of the Lotus Land" from the Image Journal from which Ford took this example. Intrigued I read it. In it Tan speaks of traveling about searching for God in such places as a Safari Spiritual Quest, or a Feathered Pipe Ranch. But if one, like Tan, lives in the icky city we must learn like Christians and Zen Buddhists to see God in all things. That's why Tan says, "the artist is like a mystic."
Now, Tan's most regenerative trip, according to the essay, was taken in Rome, Italy. Here she learned the truth, "You are what you contemplate." From this experience we learn how Tan hops about from Christianity to Zen and back again. Also, we learn that Tan embraced mystical experiences.
Back in NYC, inside the Statue of Liberty, or the "copper lady" as Tan describes her, Tan is once again sightseeing when she has an "ecstatic epiphany." Tan mourns she is always desiring another fix, but maybe she ought to just be like a Zen monk happy in any place.
Hwee Hwee's Facebook pages, and blogs further show Tan as someone who is into positive thinking, and the prosperity gospel. She venerates such men as Joel Osteen and Joseph Prince. She quotes
Jesus Calling. At the same time, the "Eckhart Tolle Silent Group" is highlighted on her page. Is this woman someone we should pay attention to?
This example alone underscores how very important it is to do your homework--get into the notes, the quotes, and the background of such persons discerning whether they are Biblically sound! Remember as Jude asserts, we need to earnestly contend for the faith!!
Pay Attention To These Ford Favorites
Father Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I.
Just like Ruth Haley Barton, Ford quotes Ronald Rolheiser. But Rolheiser, as you can read in "Have I Been Saved" mocks the gospel, and does not see the need for salvation through faith alone. Rather Ronald Rolheiser asserted, Theresa (incorrectly spelled) of Avila suggests that we're mature in following Christ if our questions and concerns no longer have a self-focus: Am I saved? Have I met Jesus Christ? ... Our real question needs to be: How can I be helpful?"
Rolheiser in Pope Francis' "Ten Secrets to Happiness" synthesized the Pope's points in his own words. For point seven, "Respect and take care of nature." Rolheiser relates, "Christ came to save the world, not just the people in the world. Our salvation, like our happiness, is tied to the way we treat the earth." For point nine, "Don't proselyte, respect others beliefs." Rolheiser writes, "What we cherish and put our faith into grows 'by attraction, not by proselytizing.'" For point ten, "Work for peace." Rolheiser states, "Waging peace ... is to accept in God's house there are many rooms and that all faiths, not least our own, are meant to be a house of prayer for all peoples."
Ford calls Rolheiser's The Holy Longing a "fine book." A fine book- I think not! Further ponder these Holy Longing quotes from "Spirituality and Practice: Living Teacher's Project: Ronald Rolheiser" to understand why this work is decidedly unbiblical. (p.146)
The Meaning of Being Catholic
"What does it mean to be catholic? Jesus ... said: 'In my Father's house are many rooms.' This is not a description of a certain geography in heaven but a revelation of the breath of God's heart. ... God has a Catholic heart--in that catholic means universal, wide, all-encompassing. The opposite of a catholic is a fundamentalist, a person who has a heart with one room. Thus, any spirituality of the church needs to emphasize wide loyalties and inclusivity."
But, Matthew 7:13-14 reads, "Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate, and board is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
"Heaven, the scriptures assure us, will be enjoyed within the communal embrace of billions of persons of every temperament, race, background, and ideology imaginable. A universal heart will be required to live there."
Scriptures do not assure us that a universal heart will be required for entrance into heaven, but scriptures do say that there is but one way--for in John 14:6 Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me."
Deborah Smith Douglas--Camaldolese Benedictine Oblate
Ford mentions Deborah Smith Douglas in both chapters six, and seven. In chapter six "The Noonday Demon," Ford uses Deborah Smith Douglas' term for the midpoint of the day as well as the midpoint of one's life "the noonday demon" as his title. Notice, just above the Douglas reference Ford says that David Steindl-Rast refers to "high noon" as "the hour of the noonday devil." (p.116)
Ford also notes that Deborah Smith writes that as we enter midlife that we must stay awake, and remain faithful. Douglas reiterated this in her interview (below) by saying we must be present, and be faithful. (p.122)
A good overview of who Deborah Smith Douglas is can be heard on "The Student Life," a radio interview (2009) done by Judy Alexander. During the interview Douglas declares she would have been a Jesuit in another life. But, for now she is a spiritual director; retreat leader and speaker; Episcopal lay leader; Calmaldolese Benedictine oblate; Ignatian Spiritual Exercise follower; St. Benedict's "Rule of Life" proponent; essay writer for Weavings; The Praying Life author; Commonweal (Catholic magazine) author; "Friends of Silence" member; and Gratefulness practitioner. Interesting to note, too, that as a Gratefulness practitioner, Douglas quotes, David Steindl-Rast in her March/April 2008 article: "Thanks Be to God."
Douglas is someone who clearly values Benedict's "Rule of Life" and Ignatian Spirituality. In fact, oblate Douglas frequents New Camaldoli Immaculate Heart Hermitage in Big Sur, California regularly. Douglas, along with oblate Paula Huston, and spiritual writer Pico Iyer, even spoke at the 1000 year anniversary at a Calmaldolese World-Wide Assembly.
Pay Attention to Ford's Mentoring Programs
Ford shares that the loss of his college age son, Sandy, in 1981 changed his life dramatically. In memory of Sandy, Ford and his wife established scholarships for younger Christian leaders. A spiritual mentoring community known as the "Arrow Leadership Program" was also started.
Now, as Ford has grown older, this program, still very much in existence, has been given over to others, and Ford has developed a smaller mentoring program known as "The Mentoring Community of Leighton Ford" under the Leighton Ford Ministries.
Ford details the founding of the initial Arrow Leadership Program as "a new ministry of spiritual mentoring for young leaders." (p.10) He further details this program in his booklet The Mentoring Community saying, "This new chapter was one of identifying and developing the emerging leaders of the world."
Ford recalls that although Arrow was teaching about leadership, evangelism, and communication as time went on the need for one on one time with the young leaders became more evident. "So," writes Ford, "our ministry -- in evangelism, and of developing evangelism leaders--has flowed quite naturally into the ministry of spiritual mentoring." (pp.15-16 The Mentoring Community) Ford calls his smaller groups by a Parker Palmer phrase: "circles of trust."
Here again, Ford mixes in a man like Parker Palmer who is on the board of Spirituality and Practice, and whose teachings are suspect. Read my older Ruth Haley Barton blog here where I write about who Parker really is.
It seems Ford began his mentoring program with the best of intentions to further leadership and evangelization, but as time went as the focus changed to spiritual formation and spiritual direction Ford departed into Catholic and contemplative pathways. And as you'll read The Attentive Life is a testament to that departure filled with references to Catholic saints, priests, nuns, and practices as well as references to secular persons of all stripes.
Pay Attention to These Long Time Mentees
One very prominent mentee, heavily influenced by Ford, is Pete Scazzero author of the
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and the Emotionally Healthy Church. Pete is the former
lead pastor of New Life Fellowship Church, Queens, NY. Pete presently travels widely pushing programs centered round his books. It's also interesting to note that Pete is also now an adjunct professor for the Alliance Theological Seminary, Nyack, NY.
And as Pete noted in his January 2014 blog he had just made a trip to North Carolina to visit his esteemed mentor of thirty-two years--Leighton Ford. During this visit Pete also presented his Emotionally Healthy Spirituality program to a group at Myers Park United Methodist Church, Charlotte, NC. Be aware too that Scazzero's latest updated book has a foreword written by Ford.
In his February 2014 blog Pete penned in "Finding Your Voice" that one of our tasks is to find our own voice. To help with this Pete suggested we prayerfully read Mary Oliver's lovely poem: "The Mockingbird" which Leighton had shared with him. When we know exactly who Oliver is, and what she practiced and believed how could we use her poem that mentions "his true self" as a jumping off point for a devotional?
Knowing that Scazzero (his wife too--she recently stated The Attentive Life was a gift that kept on giving) was so influenced by Ford for such an extended period of time one can't help but see how deeply Scazzero is into contemplative spirituality; and how very much like Ford Scazzero is with his daily offices, contemplative prayer, silence, and Catholic connections. Surely, Scazzero is part of Ford's legacy. This is sad indeed.
Shigematsu, currently a pastor of Tenth Avenue Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, in Vancouver, BC was first mentored by Ford through the Arrow Leadership Program. Presently, he's part of the Mentoring Community's Sigdor Group. As Shigematsu wrote October 12, 2014 he just recently met with Ford for Sigdor's annual meeting.
Shigematsu, author of God in My Everything (Zondervan, 2013), based on his doctoral work on Roman Catholic St. Benedict of Nursia who developed a basic "rule of life." And as Shigematsu
shares in his book it was all because of a ten-day pilgrimage with Ford to the holy places of Ireland--namely its monasteries--that he had a "second conversion" when he observed the simple habits of the monks practicing this "rule of life." From that journey he came home to take up his own practices, and in sharing these experiences he then wrote the book.
Shigematsu, Leighton's special disciple, can only be following his revered mentor for Ford in
The Attentive Life based his book on St. Benedict's rule: "Pray and work;" and St. Benedict's "Divine Hours. (p.21) It was on a retreat at the lovely Mepkin Abbey Monastery that Ford discovered these hours. In his book he issues an invitation to his readers--ala Brother David Steindl-Rast--to practice the hours and to pay attention to God throughout our days. (p.22)
Of his own version of the Benedictine Hours which Ford practices, he wrote, "It is becoming (this practice) a way to rein in my wandering mind and to weave together the inner and outer threads of my life." (p.23)
Ford's referral to "my wandering mind" reminds me of Shigematsu who says he is so easily distracted with his "chimpanzee mind" with its thoughts rushing about through his head. So, how does Shigematsu tame his bothersome thoughts? His answer, "I practice meditation."
You can view Shigematsu's demo of this meditation here. Watch Shigematsu sit on the floor. Watch him hold out his hands, and close his eyes. Watch him as he breathes deeply. Next he uses the mantra "Wait!" or "Jesus!" over and over. Shigematsu demonstrates this during an interview podcast he did while he was at an Arrow Leadership gathering in June 2014.
And where was Ken Shigematsu this fall? Shigematsu was at New Life Fellowship Church, Queens at a leadership conference once more sharing his book and continuing the Ford legacy. For much more on Shigematsu look for my upcoming review of his book on this blog.
Pay Attention to Leighton Ford Now
Just what is Ford doing today? This short list of the past few years gives a little window into Ford's world today.
Oct. 2014: Met with Mentoring Community's Sigdor Group for a retreat.
August 2014: Ford, along with other Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders, signed on to a Presby-terian Church USA statement calling for renewed negotiations for a two-state solution between Israel and Hamas.
January 2014: Ford shared his five most important life lessons with his long time mentee Pete Scazzero. Number two said: "Listen to the voice most true to your heart." Three was: "Be willing to listen to other voices too (secular novelists, ... theologians that differ from you.)" Most certainly,
Ford's book The Attentive Life follows this lesson filling the book with numerous voices, that we as evangelicals, should not be paying attention to at all.
February 2013: Ford along with Miroslav Volf, and Enuma Okoro spoke at Myers Park, UM's "Mission to Ministers." Ford spoke first--and what a stirring talk this was--full of stories, anecdotes, and quotes mixed with scripture with many referrals to Billy Graham and the Billy Graham Organization. But, just as the discerning reader of The Attentive Life will uncover red flags every where, so will the discerning listener detect red flags as Ford quotes for example: Thomas Merton, Bernard of Clairvaux, Dallas Willard, and Richard Rohr.
June 2013: Ford highlights the Unitarian Universalist poet Mary Oliver's "Instructions for Living a Life" in his remarks to Dr. Hollinger at his inauguration as the fifth president of Gordon Conwell Seminary.
May 2012: Leighton Ford, Dr. Gary Benedict (11th President CMA), and Dr. John F. Soper
spoke at the Mid-Atlantic District Christian and Missionary Alliance Conference-- "Impassioned for Jesus"-- at Emmanuel Alliance Church, Frederick, MD where Ford did two presentations on The Attentive Life.
March 2011: Ford spoke at a Charlotte, NC YMCA Tribute Breakfast where he said that the letters "YM" in "YMCA" used to stand for "young men" but now many more were older, and many were women. And says Ford, "There are as many women as men at the Y, and especially in my Saturday morning A.M. yoga class." (From the Lausanne World Pulse)
2011: Publication of The Mentoring Community booklet by The Leighton Ford Ministries. Read this booklet on line. Note "The Mentoring Community" was launched in March, 2006.
Pay Attention to the Leighton Ford Legacy
Finally, recalling the Ford of the past--evangelist for the Billy Graham Association; and considering the Ford of the present--spiritual leader for The Mentoring Community one must ask what legacy will Ford leave behind? A second question, in light of this review, would be what impact will this book have on all of the future leaders it was designed to influence? After much reflection, and much research it would seem that although Ford may have once been an evangelist for souls, he now is an evangelist for contemplative spirituality--mentoring men and women onto paths of Catholicism with threads of mindfulness woven in.
Understandably the unsuspecting reader, and the naïve listener will be lured by his passionate prose, and oratory. Because of his charisma, and Billy Graham associations many will want to give Ford a pass; but be warned just about all of the ones Ford asks us to pay attention to in this book do not hold to the Word of God, nor to the simple gospel "by grace are ye saved through faith, and not of works."
We would do well to heed the words from Proverbs 2:1-6: "My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thy ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding: If thou seeketh her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding."
Learn to Discern Granny Verses: Proverbs 5:1,2
Pay attention to these verses! "My son, attend unto my wisdom; and bow thine ear to my understanding: That thou mayest regard discretion, and thy lips may keep knowledge."