Monday, August 13, 2007

Book Review: Listen: Finding God in the Story of Your Life

In Listen: Finding God in the Story of Your Life, Keri Wyatt Kent pulls together the classical ideas of spiritual formation into a practical understanding that can be incorporated into our daily lives. Listening to God's work in our lives, to his Word and to others in community are all key components of this much-overlooked facet of the Christian life. Kent shows how learning to listen is critical to many of the spiritual disciplines and, through her personal experience and with reference to many of the great spiritual writers, challenges her readers to become skillful listeners.

The first section immediately captured my attention, as well as my heart, as Keri challenges us to actually listen to our lives. What do we love? Where do we struggle? What are our desires? My tendency has been to ignore my past and deny my desires. To look away from my own story and hope God was doing the same. I've come to realize that God is not only intimately aware of my struggles and desires, but that he speaks to me through them.

In the second section, Keri communicates the importance of listening to others. We all long to be listened to, but are we available to listen to others in the same way? Listening to others allows us to both minister as well as be ministered to, as we open ourselves to the wisdom and encouragement of others. Without true listening, can there really be community as Jesus intended?

The final section covers listening as it relates to the spiritual disciplines of silence, scripture reading and prayer, although Keri is quick to point out that "all of our spiritual practices are transformed by listening." I'll admit that,where Bible reading and prayer are concerned, my efforts have been mostly one-sided, much like the man James described who looked into a mirror and walked away unchanged. It's only been recently, through resources such as Listen, that I've come to understand that God really wants to meet me in these times. Keri challenges us to begin making space for God in our lives by learning to listen deeply, rather than just follow rituals.

Keri's passion for spiritual transformation is quickly evident in her writing, and her engaging manner makes it easy to relate to what she's talking about. Listen is one of those books that warrants more than one reading and should probably be read with a pen in hand. It would lend itself well to a group discussion as well, as she poses a few thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter.