Author's Forward

With this book I want to introduce you to a special education project.  This material was originally designed as a correspondence course, to help deepen the spiritual life through use of selected and tested materials.  This book is intended to be used at home in the midst of everyday activities and not only in special times set apart for contemplation, retreats and spiritual training.  The original group of participants, approximately forty persons, represented different age groups, occupations and religious beliefs.
The first participants made a daily minimum commitment of twenty minutes over a fifteen week period barring unforeseen circumstances,.  This commitment of time was to be used for silence, prayer and meditation using previously selected materials, generally a biblical text.
The question asked in the beginning of this project was whether it was possible for a group of people to be led to new spiritual experiences through such a correspondence course.  Was it possible that some participants could come to significant spiritual discoveries that could help them, in the beginning at least, come to new understandings of inner attitudes and dynamics frequently present in the spiritual life?  How might they become aware of these experiences in themselves and also in others?
Now in looking back over our common effort, I am grateful I can give an affirmative answer to these questions.  Nearly every participant discovered new dimensions of their inner and outer faith journey in working together with others.  For many a depth of spiritual experience was reached that went far beyond my hopes.
 When this happens it is not "achieved" simply because of certain methods, but it is always a matter of God's grace.  There is no question about that!  This entire book is based on that conviction.  Even when we have done everything possible to prepare the soil where the seed of God's Word can "fall" (to use a biblical image), it still remains God alone who gives the increase of growth, maturation and fruit.
 Since in this project God had given deeply felt, almost tangible blessings, I saw this as an obligation to continue to make available to a larger audience what we had attempted in our small groups.  To do this we had to discontinue the direct correspondence program.  This book is directed to those searching for a deepened spiritual life either as individuals or in small groups who desire to go this way together.  This book is also intended for pastoral counselors who would like to be spiritual companions for others.  Although the correspondence aspect was abandoned, the direct contact with the reader is not lost, for even in this more formal approach it is clear that the intent of this book is to be a living conversation with the reader.
May God's blessing be upon this effort and may God accompany all who enter the journey out of a longing and yearning for God and a new fulfillment in life.
Finally, I want to thank all those without whose help this book would not have achieved its present form.  Above all my family who relieved me of many tasks during this work deserve thanks.  Likewise, I want to heartily thank all the participants of the correspondence course.  Through their collegial involvement, their faithfully returned assignments and their alert critique they contributed substantially to the new shaping of the course in the form of this book.
I want to thank especially those who held the copyrights of quotations and pictures for their permission, often given generously, for the publishing of this material.  I must also say thanks to those whose prompt typing of the manuscript allowed me to meet my deadline.  And not least I want to thank the publishers for all their help and my reader, Ms. Christine Müller, who invested her energy fully  into the completion of a good end product.
Karin Johne, 04-04-2004

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