Shaping the Heart

Reflections on spiritual formation and fruitfulness

Pamela Evans

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Make sure you have a pencil handy, there are lots of questions and thoughts you will want to mark to ensure you come back to reflect on them. If you allow Pamela Evans' questions to dig deep into your heart you may well discover some nuggets of spiritual gold enriching your life.
Canon Michael Cole, Editor of Living Light

Content

'Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.'
Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

It is no secret that the influences that shaped parents may well go on to shape their children - and potentially also their children and grandchildren. In her new book Shaping the Heart, Pamela Evans highlights the gradual trend in 20th-century education, moving away from regarding education as an opportunity to develop moral character and towards the promotion of individual psychological well-being and replacing long-standing shared community values with personal moral frameworks - an approach that has probably affected not only 21st-century rioters and looters but all of us, perhaps more than we know.

But there is hope! People are not passive products of the past; we are not doomed to live out a course predetermined by others. We do need to return to a greater awareness of character formation, and to aim for more intentional character building within families and in educational settings. It's a strong message the Church can offer our troubled society.

But before the Church can take this message of hope to broken Britain, Christians need to be willing honestly to examine what is being most influential in their own character development. Pamela invites readers to reflect on the potential of unbidden and often barely detectable secular influences, which may be moulding minds in ways that undermine our ability to live Christ-like lives and to be salt and light in communities. She points to the lapping of an insidious tide, well illustrated by the millions who are subliminally 'educated' through soap operas regarding what is or is not cool, normal or to be feared. These and other entertainments are surprisingly influential, not only on the thinking and decision-making of Christian communities, but also on many Christians' heart-responses to people and to the options open to them.

Central to the hope running through Pamela's book is the work God does by his Holy Spirit, renewing foundations and bringing healing. Pamela encourages reflection upon various aspects of life in the light of Christian teaching, including learning to trust, handling adversity, and the transformation that comes through prayer and worship. Throughout the book, it is made clear that God is ready to touch and transform people as they draw closer to him through trusting obedience - steps that will lead to their becoming more fruitful disciples, a people ready to help their communities towards deep and lasting change for the better.

Contents list:

  • Introduction
  • Foundations
    Love
  • Learning to trust
    Joy, peace
  • The school of adversity
    Patience, kindness
  • Transformed through worship and prayer
    Goodness, faithfulness
  • Trusting obedience
    Gentleness, self-control
  • Fruit that will last
  • Epilogue
  • Bibliography

How may we pray when life has run us ragged? At one such time, Pamela Evans set aside politeness and propriety and, through the earthy honesty of the psalms, discovered a renewed intimacy with God. Read the full article from Christian Leadership Magazine

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Endorsements

Make sure you have a pencil handy, there are lots of questions and thoughts you will want to mark to ensure you come back to reflect on them. If you allow Pamela Evans' questions to dig deep into your heart you may well discover some nuggets of spiritual gold enriching your life.
Canon Michael Cole, Editor of Living Light

Author info

A retired doctor with experience in counselling, Pamela Evans is involved in writing, teaching and spiritual direction. Her other books are Driven Beyond the Call of God (1999) and Building the Body (2002), both published by BRF.

Reviews

From Heart of Sussex Newspaper - July/August 2012

As a holiday read this is not the type of book you take on the beach to relax, but, it could be a very helpful tool if you choose to spend the time on holiday reflecting and letting God speak to you more deeply than you usually have time for. It calls us to address the deep well-springs of our actions, which are in our hearts, and to allow God to show us where our motivation and thinking have become conformed more to the world around us than to the truths of the Gospel. It's about tough, nitty-gritty discipleship issues and calls for transformation.

That said it is written with inbuilt pauses for reflection all along the way, so that it can be absorbed in bite-sized pieces. It is also suitable for use with a group or for a retreat or quiet day. A challenging read but well worth the effort.


From The Church Times - May 2012

'This book is just a tool. To be of any benefit, it must be used.' With these words, Pamela Evans urges us to read Shaping the Heart differently from the way in which we usually read books.

Her work is an interesting exercise in learning to think, feel, listen, and wonder a little more as we read. Too many of us read as an entirely linear experience, cantering through a narrative from beginning to end. Evans, by contrast, calls us to slow down and pause, to pray and reflect, as we make our way through her book.

It is described by the subtitle as Reflections on spiritual formation and fruitfulness. Evans shows how frequently modern life is subtly inimical to growth in virtue and holiness. We can repeatedly change the provider of almost any service we buy, at the click of a mouse, and endlessly shop around for the best price or the quickest result. In that context, it is a significant challenge to rediscover the value of concepts such as long-term fidelity, endurance through difficult times, or patience when we do not get our way.

Evans begins by pointing to some of the conflicts that lie at the heart of being a Christian in a post-modern world. She shows how, in a culture that exalts the temporary and the disposable, we often struggle to form loyal relationships that are capable of reflecting the love of God. It can also be counter-cultural, she argues, to place ourselves at the service of others when the principal religious commitment our society most often displays is the cult of the ego.

In response to this situation, each chapter in Shaping the Heart explores an area of the spiritual life crucial to our growth as mature, sensitive Christians. Each ends with biblical texts suggested for reflection. Throughout the chapters themselves, however, Evans sprinkles a series of 'lay-bys', in which she calls us to stop, pray, and reflect on the topic that she has been discussing.

It has to be said that these occasionally verge on the whimsically sentimental, such as the occasion when we are urged to think over one point while kneading bread. The lay-bys contribute, however, to what is probably the book's greatest strength, namely, its flexibility and adaptability.

We start with basics such as learning to know that we are loved by God, and to see ourselves in the light of that love. Evans also correctly points out that we need to change and grow constantly in order to experience God's grace afresh, in each day of our Christian discipleship, and to live it out. The author presents Christian faith less as intellectual assent to theological propositions than as a deep trust in God's faithfulness, out of which emerges the creative space to grow into Christ's likeness.

The book also explores the notion of life as a school of adversity, in which we need to challenge the modern world's inability to cope with delayed gratification, or with the way in which God sometimes seems silent in the face of human trouble. Waiting, listening, and persistence draw us to the places where we experience the fruits of trust in God's faithfulness.

Shaping the Heart is also insistent that worship is one of the most important things that form us: it reminds us of the basic vocation that the whole of humanity shares in offering praise and prayer to God. The author offers helpful tips about how growth in prayerfulness is often a much simpler and more practical experience than we might imagine.

Evans writes from an Evangelical perspective, and in many ways she seems to presuppose an affinity of theological outlook with her intended audience. I suspect that a reader coming from a more Catholic background might find some of its more significant theological gaps a little frustrating. There is, for example, a surprising absence of almost any mention of the sacramental life of the Church. I felt this gap most acutely in the chapter on prayer and the liturgy, which did not once mention the Eucharist.

That said, I could imagine using this book in a wide range of contexts. It lends itself to being the focus of a reading circle or discussion group, but is equally suited to individual reading, or to being taken away on retreat.

In the pages of Shaping the Heart, Evans invites us to embark on a sensitive and thoughtful process of reading, thinking, praying, and reflecting, which many will find refreshing. It is a book that has the capacity to bring us to new knowledge and insight, as we encounter afresh the God who saves us.

The Revd Peter Anthony is Junior Dean of St Stephen's House, Oxford, and Junior Chaplain of Merton College, Oxford


From Christian Today - January 2012

What better start to the year than to take stock of your faith and tend to any weeds that may have crept in over the last 12 months? Shaping the Heart is a fantastic new book from author Pamela Evans to help you do just that.

An experienced counsellor, Evans cuts through culture, confusion and unhelpful mindsets to what it means to have fruitful faith - and how we might all get there in the midst of this thing called life.

'It's vital to keep in mind at every stage that the aim of spiritual transformation is not the production of well-formed exhibits for God's showcase,' she writes.

'He seeks our cooperation as he forms us into women and men who show the family likeness, so that we may fulfil our appointed role and bear fruit for his Kingdom.'

Evans has helpfully summed up the areas of focus for fruitful faith. These include laying strong foundations by learning to love God and others; learning to trust in the goodness of God; embracing adversity; transforming ourselves through prayer and worship; and demonstrating obedience. Evans' years as a doctor have set in her in good stead not only for identifying the problems Christians can encounter in their spiritual formation, but also in suggesting the remedies of tried and tested verses, practical exercises, and helpful insights from other Christians who have walked the path.

In a time of social and financial instability, she hands out page after page of good advice for dealing with the uncertainty of life and growing closer to God in the process. 'Primarily, it's our response to life's challenges, rather than the challenges themselves, that determines whether or not we grow through them,' she says. Evans is only too aware of the influence that today's shallow, materialistic and self-serving culture can have on believers.

Probing questions are asked throughout the book to help us pinpoint the areas we need to work on, such as in the areas of worship and prayer.

'Devoted attachment to inanimate objects is not only part of our culture but is also heavily promoted by the media. Ask yourself: what am I currently being assured I cannot live without?' Simply put, her desire is to see Christians becoming more like Christ and bearing fruit not only for themselves but for all those around them. And to Evans, that's not impossible. With God's promise and the Spirit's help, that's very, very possible!

She writes: 'It couldn't really be that good, especially in your case, could it? "Did God really say ...?" Yes, he did!'


From The Good Bookstall - November 2011

Subtitled Reflections on spiritual formation and fruitfulness, this book is aimed at helping us to be shaped by the scriptures, rather than the insidious influences of the world. It is 'for brothers and sisters in Christ who are seeking more fruitful discipleship, not just better informed discipleship', because, whether we like it or not, the next generation of Christians are learning how to walk with Christ by observing our examples.

To this end Pamela Evans covers the basic foundations of faith emphasising the importance of trust in adversity, worship and prayer, obedience and lasting fruit. Each chapter is followed by expositions of one or more of the Fruits of the Spirit and a trio of Bible reflections to meditate upon. It is, as the author points out, a tool, and of no use unless it is used, which can happen individually or in small groups. Encouraging and practical, Shaping the Heart contains some valuable insights and could be a useful way of keeping scripture at the forefront of the mind.

Reviewed by Diane Morrison


My copy of this is folded, marked, annotated, and has had tears wiped away from it..... this is the highest compliment! This title far exceeds five-star quality in its robust, gracious and challenging pathway toward Christian growth. Simply put:- I've been raving about this book to everyone!

There is a deconstruct around practical atheism, a pathway through adversity, worship and prayer, with the greatest yet gentlest of challenges posed in the chapter concerning 'trusting obedience.' If you like Dallas Willard or Eugene Peterson and care for your life and soul to be more formed in the pattern of Jesus, then as Pamela Evans prescribes your heart will be warmed wonderfully through this new title.

Resistance, stubbornness and heart-coldness will be powerfully affected through this most refreshing of books for people of faith and searching. Discipleship, depth and Christian beauty radiate from these pages. It's the kind if book that is a curiosity arousing, truth crunching and grace saturated work. Simply top class stuff.

Reviewed by Rev'd Dr Johnny Douglas, Christ Church Spitalfields, London.


A previous book by Pamela Evans which I read some years ago, "Driven beyond the call of God," positively exploded my thinking patterns, so I opened her latest book with some trepidation. I soon discovered it was also "spiritual dynamite." I loved it from cover to cover!

Because Pamela Evans is an experienced counsellor she is able to pass on to us many wonderful new insights into how we can become strong, fruitful and mature followers of Christ. This is definitely not a book for anyone who is content to be a mediocre Christian.

Her chapter on how our parent's attitudes, beliefs and ways of relating to us - and others is masterly. We can so easily grow up with faulty ideas about God built on the way our parents behaved towards us or felt about us.

She not only helps us to look back and correct faulty thinking which stemmed from past experiences but she explores issues of trust, adversity, worship, and learning the difference between obedience and compliance. In her chapter on Trust she shows us how our carefully constructed self-protective strategies can actually block out the grace of God (P. 58).

I love the way she doesn't 'preach' at us, but makes us think out for ourselves everything which she is teaching by the use of skilful, mind-stretching questions. She also illustrates abstract concepts with ordinary things such as TV aerials, bread-making and a Clematis climbing a trellis!

Because each chapter ends with Bible reflections and imaginative, thought-provoking questions this book would also be an excellent resource for small group discussions.

Reviewed by Jennifer Rees Larcombe

Book details

  • ISBN: 9781841017266
  • Published: 21 October 2011
  • Status:
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 176
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