Friday, July 13, 2012

God is near and we need to notice!

book coverSometimes in the midst of our distractions we may wonder: where is God in all of this? Richard Peace, professor at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, in his new book, Noticing God, (IVPress, $15, offers answers as he calls us to notice God’s presence and activity in our lives every day.

Peace says that we may find God in mystical encounters; in the ordinary; in the still, small voice; in the power of community; in the written word; in creation, culture and creativity; and in church. These are his chapter titles and he guides the reader, offering his thinking on how we may discern God’s presence, both in all God has created and in our own corner of the world; and how we may know God’s voice in our lives.

In his chapter on mystical encounters, Peace reminds us of C.S. Lewis’s explanation of a deep longing that no experience in this world can satisfy, and Peace thinks that many of us have felt such a longing. He calls it "brushes with God." And he asks, "If we have such experiences, what did they teach us? What was God telling us? What did God want us to do then?"

Peace also says we need a God of ordinary life and in chapter two he discusses how we may come to know God in daily life. He writes about spiritual disciplines and practices such as the prayer of examen or, as Ignatius called it, "examination of conscience." He also explains Ignatian contemplation and spiritual exercises.

In chapter three, Peace recommends retreats. We must listen to God, and a retreat may be the right place for us to sit quietly and listen to God’s still, small voice.

In the chapter on the power of community, and Peace reminds readers of St. Benedict and his Rule. The first word in the Rule is "Listen...." Benedict taught that the presence of God is everywhere, and two spiritual practices to make us aware of that are the use of the daily offices of prayer and lectio divina. Benedict also taught the importance of hospitality and that Christ is to be met in other people.

On the written word, Peace discusses how the Bible helps us notice God, how it serves as an avenue to God and how we access the written Word in ways that lead to God. In the Bible, we meet Jesus. In this chapter, Peace gives more detail about the process of lectio divina. It is a process of four steps: reading or listening, meditating, praying, and contemplation. Peace says, "the Bible is the primary means by which we encounter the voice of God."

There are two more chapters and more good stuff in this book. Peace offers his Conclusion and A Guide to Personal Reflection and Group Discussion, as well as a good list for further reading, and extensive notes on each chapter.

As Dr. Peace tells us: "God is near. He is not hiding. We don’t know where to look or what to expect. We need to learn to notice." This book helps us do that.

—Lois Sibley