Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Refreshing Invitation to the Presence of God

Just this morning I finished Dr. Richard Peace's new book, Noticing God. Here is my review.

The title of this book--Noticing God--suggests something astonishing to the average reader: That God is everywhere, and noticing him is a possibility.

Dr. Richard Peace takes a slippery and often miscommunicated topic--the awareness of God's presence and actions in the world--and makes it accessible, reasonable, and hopeful. While there are familiar tours through some classical spiritual disciplines and practices, Dr. Peace also recognizes that God sometimes appears to people in some very ordinary places, such as quiet voices, dreams, worship, and community.

This is no muddled journey through pantheism or foggy mysticism, but rather an embrace of the story of God's engagement with human beings through the narrative of Scripture, the accounts of saints throughout the ages, and experiences of contemporary pilgrims. Dr. Peace confesses his own cautions and concerns about claims made by some people (cautions and concerns that I share as well), and in doing so gives the reader permission to hold loosely to assertions about things God might or might not be doing in the world, and offers tools for processes of discernment within the Christian community.

One does not have to look far for books that tell stories of explosive encounters with God. Whether or not those stories are true, they can sometimes leave people with a sense of personal inadequacy, assuming that their own apparently meager (or non-existent) encounters with God cast them into second-class citizenship in God's kingdom. Dr. Peace heals that wound by considering the diverse and creative ways in which God reveals himself to people, and encourages even the most reluctant Christian mystic to open both eyes and ears to the possibilities of God's movement in both the dramatic and the ordinary.

This is a book designed for real people in real communities of faith. The exercises and questions at the back of the book offer valuable frameworks for group and individual engagement with the text, and also open the expectations of faith that anticipate a life that experiences the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--the one so supremely revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.

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