Tuesday, May 19, 2009



Making Life Decisions: (Journey in Discernment) by Geoff Pound (2009).

Good books about discernment - or 'guidance' as our forefathers preferred to call it - are not common. Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak has a beautiful illustration of the Quaker model of group discernment, and Marva Dawn's Joy in Divine Wisdom is a collection of 'group wisdom' from many cultures on this important topic.

Geoff Pound's approach is to combine the personal and group quests for discernment, spread over forty days plus perhaps seven group sessions.

Each day's discipline begins with an 'Approach' where we centre down and 'focus our lives before God.' Then there's a Scripture, a time for silence (that's a challenge for mind-busy Evangelicals and noisy charismatics!), a Reflection, suggestion for journaling, selecting a 'souvenir' (something to keep in mind for further reflection), a time for prayer, and finally a commission: something practical to take away on our journey.

In terms of the group meetings, the excellent suggestion of making this exercise a church-wide one is good. (I found when a practising pastor this sort of coordinated activity gives folks something other than a sporting event to talk about 'after church'!).

People like me make judgments about whether an author is worth reading by looking at her/his endnotes. Geoff combines the best of a broad range of Christian traditions, though his approach is predominantly what I would call 'progressive evangelical.' Someone who finds John Claypool, Thomas Merton, Sam Keen, the Book of Common Prayer, Richard Foster, Richard Rohr, Karl Barth, and Frederick Buechner - among many others - worth quoting, plus a lot of Bible, is my kind of mentor!

Geoff now lives not far from a middle eastern desert. He's lucky. All the biblical leaders spent significant chunks of their lives in deserts. Finding a desert in cities and suburbs (i.e. where you can't hear a phone or door-bell) is a great challenge.

I would highly commend this book to individuals and church-groups who want to 'go deeper' into the quest for discernment. I've begun a forty day journey-with-coffee each morning with the help of this manual.

Google Amazon.com or AbeBooks to locate a copy.

Rowland Croucher

Friday, May 08, 2009

'They Told Me I Had To Write This' (Kim Miller)

Parker Palmer, in his brilliant little book Let Your Life Speak, bemoans the fact that many/most of us live lives 'other than one's own'. We allow what happens to us - especially the wounds inflicted deliberately or unintentionally by others or by circumstance - to rob us of our true/free self. As a result, no punishment anyone might inflict on us can be worse than what we inflict upon ourselves: we thus 'conspire in our own diminishment'.

Kim Miller's latest book, 'They Told Me I Had to Write This' (Ford Street Publishing, 2009) is a brilliant narrative-commentary on Parker Palmer's wisdom, written as a teenage boy's conversations with himself via letters to his grandmother - about school, friends, fights, teenage romance, sexual abuse, relating uncomfortably to a single-parent father (whose wife, the boy's mother, died as she was giving birth to him: that's a key to just-about-everything-else...).

And how does one deal with all these painful loose ends? Tim Miller's wise suggestion: through the help of skilled and caring significant others who help us face our demons, do a thorough job of 'reality-checking', and facilitate reconciliation with the important people in our lives.

This is a book I planned to skim, but I got hooked, and read every word. It's a terrific read. But for whom? I'd give it to intelligent teenagers and their parents/teachers - indeed anyone who wants a glimpse into the lives and vocabularies (heard of ODB - 'oppositional deficit behaviour'?) of contemporary adolescents. There's a couple of counselling verbatims between teenagers and a school-teacher and priest that are worth the price of the whole book. Thanks Kim!

Rowland Croucher
May 2009


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Husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, pastor, teacher, writer, used-to-be-academic... See here for more: http://jmm.org.au