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Monday, October 9, 2017

"Emotionally Healthy Relationships Day by Day" (Peter Scazzero)

TITLE: Emotionally Healthy Relationships Day by Day: A 40-Day Journey to Deeply Change Your Relationships
AUTHOR: Peter Scazzero
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017, (272 pages).

Brother Lawrence teaches us to practice the presence of God in the midst of work and doing our daily chores. Advocates of the marketplace ministries assert that Christian living need not be restricted to just Sundays or weekends. Benedictine monks through the centuries have practiced the daily office and liturgy of the hours so that they could saturate the day of work with prayers and praises. All of these are ways to instil a sense of being mindful of God's presence in all of our daily lives. Strictly speaking, the "Daily Office" is about fixed time prayers throughout the day, where prayers and devotions are the first work of the day, and interspersed at regular intervals for the rest of the day. St Benedict structured eight daily offices so that the community could order their lives around it. Using this ancient spiritual practice, author Peter Scazzero has creatively arranged his bestselling "Emotionally Health" themes to help us grow in emotional health within a 40-day period.  This is spread out in eight weeks to parallel the eight daily offices.

  • Week One: Take Your Community Temperature Reading
  • Week Two: Stop Mind Reading and Clarify Expectations
  • Week Three: Genogram Your Family
  • Week Four: Explore the Iceberg
  • Week Five: Listen Incarnationally
  • Week Six: Climb the Ladder of Integrity
  • Week Seven: Fight Clean
  • Week Eight: Develop a Rule of Life to Implement Emotionally Healthy Skills

Scazzero says that these tools have been used at New Life Fellowship Church and is sharing the resource with others. Each day, there are two offices, one for the morning/midday, and the other for midday/evening. Each office comprises five elements. There is the Silence and Stillness to point our hearts and minds toward God. Whether it is singing, praying, or dealing with distractions, this is a foundational first step to ease us into the daily office. In our modern world of distractions, this is a challenge. Scazzero gives us various tips on how to do that. He even gives us a "Top Ten FAQ about Practicing Silence." The reading of Scripture helps us to receive the Presence of God. Instead of gorging on chunks of Scripture, we are encouraged with "less is more" mentality. Learn to read slowly, deliberately, and patiently. The key thing is to allow our hearts to keep pace with the Holy Spirit. The Devotional engages with God. We could read other materials or spiritual writings to complement our understanding of the Scripture. In the same way, we read the materials slowly, deliberately, and patiently. The Question to consider is an invitation to apply what we have read and learned. After a few times of going through the devotional, readers would be able to come up with their own questions as well. There is no rocket science needed, just an awareness of what God is speaking into our hearts. Finally, the prayer is a summary step to commit our time to God.

The first step is often the hardest step. We are inundated with smartphones, tablets, WiFi, and electronics that demand out attention all the time. They are seductive with their pings, prompts, and sounds. It is hard to avoid them. Anyone who is rushing for time would most likely skip this all important step, which would turn the whole exercise into another reading exercise altogether. This very use of the daily office is meant to be a way to reign in our ill-disciplined ways. I would even recommend up to ten minutes of quietness and meditation, beyond the recommended 2 minutes. If necessary, take a longer pause. Before that, silence our phones and digital devices. Jesus taught us to go to our closets to pray. Why the closet? That is because it is a protective environment to keep us focused on God. Why close the doors? That is because we need to keep out the distractions of the world from interfering. I like the way the Bible passage is printed directly within the devotional. Sometimes, I am conflicted with the use of Bibles and devotionals. Should the publisher print the passage for us or is it better for us to use our own Bibles? Will the flipping and switching from Bible to devotional and vice versa become a distraction in itself? For this case, since the passage chosen is relatively shorter, I believe the publisher has done the right thing to include the passage for the convenience of readers. The devotional comprises a story to give a perspective of where the author is heading. I find that there is a powerful human attribute that Scazzero tries to connect with. Not many but usually one per day. That is wise indeed. After the prayer, the conclusion with silence is an apt way to finish the exercise. I suppose every individual would have to know what is best for them. For some, it could be one of the five different phases of the daily office. For others, it might be more or all. All things said, this book helps combine ancient spiritual practice with contemporary spiritual health, which makes this devotional unique.

Peter Scazzero is founder of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York City. He is best known for his books about the Emotionally Healthy Church, and the series about emotional health. He is married to Geri and is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Zondervan and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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