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God's Friends: An Introduction to Devotional Classics

 This discussion oriented class focuses on the great devotional classics in the Christian tradition.  After an overview of the nature and use of devotional literature, each session considers one of the classics.  Participants read excerpts from the work of a different writer each week and share reflections based on a short study guide for each work.  Selections from Confessions (Augustine), St. Francis of Assisi, Letters of John Wesley, Brother Lawrence (The Practice of the Presence of God) and The Imitation of Christ will be included in the course. One great spiritual master suggests that if you want to "grow in openness to God, you ought to seek the company of God's friends."  This class is designed for that purpose!

Session One:  What Are Devotional Classics and How Do We Read Them?   

          Partial notes for Session One:   Markers for the Journey .pdf

Session Two: Confessions, Augustine of Hippo

Because God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. - Saint Augustine        
  Saint Augustine. (n.d.). AZQuotes.com. Retrieved October 20, 2018, from AZQuotes.com Web site: https://www.azquotes.com/quote/355395
Readings for Session Two: Confessions:   Excerpts from Confessions (DWD).pdf
         Discussion/Reflection Questions for Session Two:  Confessions Discussion Questions.docx
         Richard Foster, Article reflecting on insights gained from studying Confessions:  Foster on Augustine Confessions.pdf

Albert Outler's translation of Confessions, updated by Ted Hildebrand. This was used, with some further editing, for the excerpts printed and distributed for class reading.  The footnotes in the readings can be seen in this online version of the complete text of Confessions:   https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/spiritualformation/texts/augustine_confessions.pdf   (The full audio book of this translation is available on YouTube)       

         A Study Guide to Confessions.pdf   (This offers a detailed review of the entire Confessions) 

An extensive amount of material related to Augustine's Confessions may be found online, including some older translations of the complete work. 

Wheaton College is using Confessions as a "Core Book" for their student body in this academic year.  This link to the website will show you many other helpful resources, including a brief introductory video:  https://www.wheaton.edu/academics/the-liberal-arts-at-wheaton-college/christ-at-the-core-liberal-arts-at-wheaton/core-book/

These two Wikipedia links provide access to considerable information about Augustine and Confessions.

The three-volume commentary on Confessions by James J. O'Donnell is regarded as a foundational scholarly treatment on this work.  The introduction to the volume is helpful to beginners; the rest of the work, based on the Latin text of Confessions, requires more work on the part of the reader.  Here is link to O'Donnell's work if you would like to check it out:

Session Three:  Selections from Francis of Assisi


         Session Three Class Handout:  "Selections from the Writings of St. Francis of Assisi"  Arranged and Edited by           J. Minton Batten. Nashville: The Upper Room, 1952.  Excerpts from Francis of Assisi.pdf

         Discussion/Reflection Questions for Session Two:  Francis of Assisi Discussion Questions.pdf

         Brief Biographical Account of Francis of Assisi  http://newadvent.org/cathen/06221a.htm

          "What Would St. Francis Say Today?"  Gordon MacDonald, another favorite contemporary author, lists Francis as one of the people in history he would most like to interview.  In this article he poses his questions and draws on his wide knowledge of Francis to offer what he regards as the likely answers.  You will enjoy this article.  It originally appeared in a journal for pastors.  https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2010/november-online-only/saytoday.html
         The Collected Writings of St. Francis    https://www.franciscans.ie/the-writings-of-st-francis/          

        "The Words of Sacred Admonition"  (Full text)  http://www.thenazareneway.com/st_francis.htm

           The Rule of St. Francis (Full text)  http://www.thenazareneway.com/rule_of_st_francis.html
          Little Flowers of St. Francis (14th Century)  The first English translation of the Fioretti di Santo Francesco d' Ascesi, that of Lady Georgina Fullerton, appeared in the year 1864; and the first American translation, that by Abby Langdon Alger, was published in the year 1887. This is a good four centuries after the princeps edition of the Fioretti (Vicenza, 1476), and a half century after the "standard" Italian edition by Antonio Cesari (Verona, 1822).  Here is a link, in the public domain, of an early English translation. 

               Quotations attributed to St. Francis    https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/149151.Francis_of_Assisi

          The Complete Works of St. Francis, with introductions and notes  http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/assisi-the-writings-of-saint-francis-of-assisi   or here for a different, newer translation with introduction (and downloadable as a pdf document)  https://franciscan-archive.org/franciscana/peace.html

           Reluctant Saint  A one hour documentary on the life of St. Francis  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hYMLmSeEXs&t=486s
            Little Flowers of St. Francis (14th Century)

Though not written by Francis, this remarkable work of devotion and reminiscence (on the life and work of Francis), this popular 14th century work, has been reprinted in over 90 editions in the last 600 years, and is still in print today. It may be responsible for the conversion of many a wayward soul.  Here is a good introduction to that work as well as the first two short chapters (in pdf format):    


             Origin of the "Peace Prayer" often attributed to St. Francis  https://franciscan-  archive.org/franciscana/peace.html
           The prayer of St. Francis - Sung by Susan Boyle  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUI2EyYIEKs  
               Designing a Personal Rule.pdf  After reading about the Rule of St. Francis, you might want to learn more about developing a "rule" for your own life.  This article should be helpful!

Session Four:  The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis

Thomas à Kempis

           Session Four Class Handout: Excerpts from The Imitation of Christ, arranged and edited by Douglas V. Steere, (Nashville: Upper Room, 1950). Excerpts Imitatiion of Christ.pdf

   "The Imitation of Christ" A free, somewhat modern translation available to read online or download (https://www.ccel.org/ccel/kempis/imitation.i.html)

"Turn Away From the World: How a Curious Fifteenth-Century Spiritual Guidebook Shaped the Contours of the Reformation and Taught Readers to Turn Inward" by R. Jay Magill.  This is a helpful article on the background of Thomas a Kempis and the Imitation of Christ.                Article on Imitation of Christ .pdf

Session Five:  Practicing the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence

Brother Lawrence            

            Session Five Class Handout:  Excerpts Practicing the Presence of God.pdf

            Good article with additional recommended resources on Brother Lawrence and Practicing the Presence of God https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2009/september/limping-unceasingly-praying-brother-lawrence.html

               Complete text of Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God, online editionhttp://www.ccel.org/ccel/lawrence/practice

             Philip Yancey on Practicing the Presence of God   (Original article at https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1996/july15/6t8072.html)

Session Six:  The Letters of John Wesley 

Reading Christians are growing Christians. When Christians cease to read, they cease to grow. - John Wesley
             Session Six Class Handout: Excerpts from Letters of John Wesley

                Session Six Discussion Questions on John Wesley's Letters

             Devotional Life in the Wesleyan Tradition: A Workbook by Steve Harper is a fine review of important                        spiritual practices taught by Wesley and others in his tradition.  You can view it at this link.

             Multiple Resources on John Wesley from the BFC Elective "Christian Life in the Wesleyan Tradition"

Session Seven: Works from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer       
            Session Seven Class Handout: Excerpts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

               Session Seven Discussion Questions on Bonhoeffer 

               A Testament to Freedom:The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (Updated Edition, 2009)
             Short interview with Martin Doblmeier, Director of the documentary "Bonhoeffer:Pastor, Pacifist, Nazi Resister" 

Session Eight: A Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly

Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Centre, a speaking voice, to which we may continuously return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us with intimations of an astounding destiny, calling us home unto itself. - Thomas Raymond Kelly            

             Session Eight Class Handout: Excerpts from A Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly

             Session Eight: Discussion Questions on A Testament of Devotion

             Brief introduction to Thomas Kelly's work by James Newby: The Examined Life

             Full Text of A Testament of Devotion (this is an easy-to-read online library edition)

             Discussion Guide from HarperOne for the book, A Testament of Devotion

                "Life from the Center: The Message and Life of Quaker Thomas Kelly" (this is a nice collection of material from Kelly with a short bio of him at                the end of the document; edited by Kathleen B Wilson)

               "A Mysticism for Our Time" by Roger Owens on the work of Thomas Kelly  

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