Richard Peace, Noticing God A useful and wise guide to finding where God is at work…

IVP Paperback, 176pp.

If God is at work in the world through his Church, then being ready to respond to him is vital – but how to do that if we don’t see what he is up to? The topic of the title is both important and relevant. Peace displays mature advice in this book, written in order to show that God is alive and active, should we notice.

He begins by affirming that God occasionally uses mystical encounters, but more regularly “the texture of ordinary life” to reveal himself to us. It is in learning to notice God in daily life that we become alert to whispers of God. These whispers take shape as we learn to live in community and seek God together, helping one another to understand God better by guiding each other through the Bible.

Peace also investigates what we can learn of God through the wonder of nature, the human drive to create and the culture that develops.

Maybe reflecting a cautious approach – their nature harder to authenticate – he actually says quite little about mystical encounters, although he does note that these are something that a surprising number of people have experienced, if less readily talk about.

I have found the book more or less appealing, depending on what chapter I am in. The chapter on noticing God in Church seems to say very little of substance. He is limited to such a short space in which to cover the topic that he ends up being fast and shallow, pouring out commonly-understood content.

But throughout the rest of the book, I found flashes of wisdom, well-selected quotations and deep discernment.

In the excellent Still, Small Voice chapter, he recounts how, when facing a difficult career decision, he heard God say, “I do not care which choice you make. I will be with you in either instance. Each choice will have its own set of consequences / outcomes that follow.” To me, this is an important lesson for a church that often talks of life being pre-planned to the day, and that expects God to spoon-feed decisions. This sits more closely with a biblical vision of God, who wants us to grow up in our faith and who deals daily with repairing the missed cues of an entire planet.

In the chapter on The Written Word, he recommends making commentaries a last resort for after we have already grappled with the text ourselves, developing our own questions and praying through what it means. He explains why he recommends a two-part process of focused study and active reflection that uses both sides of our brains.

Other words of wisdom include the warning that our communities can sometimes be self-serving and we might need input from a wider source than just our own community.

While his content is mature, the writing style is less appealing. Firstly, numerous brackets could have been edited out. Also, one paragraph begins, “The second question involves….” With several overlapping sets of numbers I gave up trying to find what the first question was.

As Peace is strong on discernment, I would have liked more of his comments on making choices, a topic he addreses in the superb conclusion - and one that I'm sure could have been expanded further without padding.

This would be a fine book for new Christians, who would benefit from the wealth of advice in here, while those longer in the faith might find that they have to pick out the nuggets of gold from the stuff that they have read before elsewhere.

3nhalfDerek Walker