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262 of 267 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stopping and listening...
One thing that our world does not encourage very well is stopping and listening -- stopping and listening to each other, stopping and listening to life around us, or stopping and listening even to ourselves. This is a skill that, given our cultural conditioning, must be cultivated. That is one of the things that this book by Parker Palmer, `Let Your Life Speak: Listening...
Published on July 14, 2003 by FrKurt Messick

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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A poetic and spiritual guide to vocational choice.
This book, only about a hundred pages long, deals with career choice -- Parker calls it vocation.
Most young people make the mistake of choosing their career by figuring out what's available "Out there". Instead they should look inside to figure out who they are what they enjoy doing, and let their career grow out of their own personality. At the...
Published on November 9, 1999


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262 of 267 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stopping and listening..., July 14, 2003
This review is from: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Hardcover)
One thing that our world does not encourage very well is stopping and listening -- stopping and listening to each other, stopping and listening to life around us, or stopping and listening even to ourselves. This is a skill that, given our cultural conditioning, must be cultivated. That is one of the things that this book by Parker Palmer, `Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation', strives to do -- to help the reader, the seeker, to be more attentive to life.
Palmer is a well-known author in the area of vocational care and consideration. I first encountered Palmer's writing in another book, The Courage to Teach, as various of us explored the meanings of our vocations as educators in the fields of theology and ministry.
Palmer states at the outset in his Gratitudes (a wonderful substitution from the typical words Preface or Introduction) that these chapters have in various guises appeared before. However, they have been re-written to fit together as a complete and unified whole for the purpose of exploring vocation.
Chapter 1: Listening to Life, starts as an exploration through poetry and Palmer's own experience in vocation. What is one called to do? What is the source of vocation? Palmer states: `Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about -- quite apart from what I would like it to be about -- or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.'
The very word vocation implies both voice and calling. Crucial to this understanding is that one must be present and attentive to hear that voice, that call.
Chapter 2: Now I Become Myself, continues, through the words of May Sarton, Palmer's self-exploration and self-discovery of the vocation not as an achievement but rather as a gift. One must be ready to receive the gift.
Many people, and Palmer is no exception, go through a period of darkness, despair, and depression before reaching a clear understanding of the vocation to which they are called. It requires courage. It requires diligence. It requires (and again Palmer uses the words of Sarton) the understanding that this will take 'time, many years and places'. It requires patience.
Chapter 3: When Way Closes explores one of the frequent problems along the vocational trail -- what happens when something stops or closes? Is it as simple as thinking a window opens when a door closes?
Sometimes it is not so simply identifiable. Our vocation sometimes propels into action or inaction because what we are doing rather than what we should be doing. Palmer says we must learn our limits, and sometimes we subconsciously force ourselves into action by closing off the past.
Palmer used the example of having lost a job. Palmer was able to discern, through reflection, that he was not fired from that job because he was bad at the job, but rather because it had little to do with his true vocation, and his heart would never be in it. His vocation required that he lose that job.
In stopping ourselves from dwelling on the past, beating on the closed door, but rather looking at where we are and where we can go from there, that our vocation opens for us.
Chapter 4: All the Way Down, deals with that depression we often face on the way. While it may sound cliche to talk about hitting bottom before being able to progress, there is a truth behind the cliche.
Depression ultimately is an intimately personal experience. Palmer explores the mystery of depression. He frankly admits that, while he can understand why some people ultimately commit suicide in their depression, he cannot full explain why others, including himself, do not, and recover (at least to a degree).
Chapter 5: Leading from Within talks of Palmer's return from depression into a world of action. Quoting from Vaclav Havel, the playwright-president of the Czech Republic, he says, `The power for authentic leadership, Havel tells us, is found not in external arrangements but in the human heart. Authentic leaders in every setting -- from families to nation-states -- aim at liberating the heart, their own and others', so that its powers can liberate the world. `
By unlocking those places in our hearts -- places that include faith, trust, and hope -- we can overcome fear and cynicism, and move to a firm grounding where we can be leader of our own destiny by following our true vocation.
Chapter 6: There is a Season winds through a treatment of the seasons of nature in relation to the seasons of our lives. We in the modern world have forgotten the basic cyclical nature of our ground of being. Decline and death are natural, yet we always flee from these and treat them as tragedies beyond understanding. We see growth as a natural good, but do not trust nature (even our own self-nature) to provide the growth we need for all.
The various chapters are remarkable in their sense of spirit and flow. For a book of only barely more than 100 pages (and small pages, at that), this book opens up a wonder of insight and feeling that helps to discern not one's own vocation, but rather how to think about discerning a vocation. This is, in many ways, a book of method, by showing a personal journey combined with other examples, principles and honest feelings.
This book can, quite simply, make a difference in the life of reader. There is no higher praise or recommendation I am able to give than that.
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172 of 177 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For all those who live with a nagging doubt..., January 19, 2000
This review is from: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Hardcover)
For me, this book is less about vocation than it is about loving yourself. In my life (and to the world, a wonderful one) was empty and void. Having come from a verbally abusive childhood, I struggled all my life to "become". But it was never me. Recently, I hit bottom, as Parker did. And I discovered what he writes so eloquently about...you must love yourself first before you can see and cherish and give your gifts to others. For me, it was the end of a 19 year marriage. A change in what I would tolerate at work. And the people around me, most blessedly my children, notice a huge difference. I am me now, not driven by fears or other's boxes. I was pretty charismatic before, but you should see my light shine now. This book helps explain the journey I thought was just me. Parker Palmer has captured probably the most important concept in life...and one that you really should read. This is one of those books that you'll share with others, but you'll want them to get their own copy!
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138 of 143 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uplifting, thought-provoking--and not a "how-to" book!, November 17, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Hardcover)
Having read this book during my morning and evening train commutes, I found it to be incredibly inspiring and challenging at the same time. At first I was hesitant to read this book because I have become tired of all the "how-to" books on finding one's vocation and calling in life. I have found that someone else's 5-step plan to finding the right job hasn't always worked for me.
However, I like this book because it's very personal, yet without being preachy. Through reading Parker Palmer's own journey toward self-fulfillment, I have become inspired to examine my own path toward vocation. I think that finding one's calling in life is a very personal process, and following someone else's step-by-step plan can actually cause more harm than good.
In fact, I found myself reading as if I were conversing with a personal mentor. As a result I've become challenged to examine my own life in a way that a "how-to" book could never have provoked me to do. I plan to give this book as a holiday gift to a close friend who is facing a "midlife crisis." I think it will help him.
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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars some things you just can't avoid, May 12, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Hardcover)
Life is full of twists and turns that lead you all over the map. However, along that journey there are those things inside of you that are screaming to be released, and when they finally are they bring complete fulfillment to your mind, body and soul. Those things are gifts that God gave you when he planned out your life. Palmer invites readers to find those God given gifts and act on them. He invites readers through Let Your Life Speak to find who you are, and not who the world, teachers, culture, parents, media, and friends have forced you to become. I highly recommend this book for those who know they aren't doing what their soul tells them to do. Get ready for a ride though because after reading this short, but moving book, you will have to make some changes in your life. Some big, some small, but things will not remain the same.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quietly Paradoxical, July 20, 2001
By 
GAGIRL "MMW" (Atlanta, GA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Hardcover)
Parker Palmer creates a peacful arena for understanding our own lives by sharing what he has experienced and learned from his own. I found this book to be a "quick read" on the one hand and yet I keep going back and rereading parts of it ... and then rereading the whole section.
I came away from reading this book - the first time - with a peace about my life and how I have lived it. I better understand the lessons I have been taught and more faith about the path I am following. A whole lot for a little book to accomplish.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What so many other books try to be., May 9, 2001
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This review is from: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Hardcover)
This book is a true gem, one of the best I have read in my lifetime. Many authors try to be startling and insightful, to change their readers' lives; few truly have that power. Parker Palmer's small book rocked me to my core. He speaks simply and honestly. He tells his own story with startling truthfulness and quietly challenges you to look as honestly at your own life. He offers insights and haunting questions that turn you inside-out, strip away your self-deceptions, and leave you with a truer sense of who you are.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, provocative and inspiring spirit guide, January 21, 2006
This review is from: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Hardcover)
I first read this book at a time when I was deeply unhappy in my work life. I was hoping to find some answers or at least direction. Like Palmer, I was confused about my life's purpose and disturbed by the meaninglessness of my days. How could I feel so poor when surrounded by so much abundance? I wasn't looking for (and didn't need) some pop-culture fix; I was searching for something more meaningful to help me explore my life.

What *Let Your Life Speak* gave me was a clear and honest story of one man's search for meaning in the midst of plenty. I related to Palmer's frustrations, neediness, searching, and displacement. I learned about myself by understanding how he revealed his own myths and faced his realities.

And like Palmer, I found my life reinvigorated once I exposed and cleared away the underbrush.

This book is not a "how-to" but a "think-deeply". Palmer writes clearly and candidly in a voice that is gentle and trustworthy. I've gone back to this book many times for inspiration and recommended it often.

This is a beautifully written contemplation on life and meaning.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Validating...., December 3, 2003
By 
melissa bride (Exeter, NH United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Hardcover)
This book is an inspiration for those feeling "the pull"--the struggle between "what society tells me I should be doing" and "what I feel I need/was born to do". Both my husband and I could not put it down. Palmer validated our feelings of "I don't think the rat race is what life is really about..." whereby giving us the confidence to pursue major life and career changes. Read a paragraph, stop and think...and then read on....
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A poetic and spiritual guide to vocational choice., November 9, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Hardcover)
This book, only about a hundred pages long, deals with career choice -- Parker calls it vocation.
Most young people make the mistake of choosing their career by figuring out what's available "Out there". Instead they should look inside to figure out who they are what they enjoy doing, and let their career grow out of their own personality. At the College of Art and Design (where I worked for ten years), the rule of thumb for an artists career was: "Do what you like doing, and eventually someone will pay you for it." It actually worked for a lot of people there (but it didn't work for Van Gogh).
On page 52 Palmer wrote:
"My gift as a teacher is the ability to "dance" with my students, to teach and learn with them through dialogue and interaction. When my students are willing to dance with me, the result can be a thing of beauty...Perhaps I can develop enough self-understanding to keep inviting the wallflowers onto the floor, holding open the possibility that some of them might hear the music, accept the invitation, and join me in the dance of teaching and learning."
Parker is somewhat of a poet, and has the little book sprinkled with some interesting short poems. (I love poems, especially when they are short.) If you are thinking about your own career, the book is interesting, and worth the read. It's a little heavy on the spiritual and poetic side for me, but it has some really good ideas, and the central idea is important: Who are you?
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "To thine own self be true . . ., July 30, 2000
This review is from: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation (Hardcover)
. . . And it must follow as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man."
I used to frown upon Polonius's words in Hamlet. They seemed muddled in the same kind of serve-yourself mentality that pervades much of pop psychology and much of our business culture. Polonius, after all, was usually a man big on words and short on wisdom.
With time, I came to understand those words more deeply. He's really saying, "Don't let others decide who you're going to be or how you're going to act or react." When you act from a clear sense of who you are--who God has created you to be--then your actions have integrity with your being. And you will be false--in the sense of being phony--to no one.
Using colorful metaphors, Parker Palmer takes this basic theme and fleshes it out with his own life. He focuses this wisdom on the choice of vocation in life, suggesting we put aside what we feel we "ought" to be and choose a vocation that expresses who we truly are.
Sometimes he's a little too fuzzy for me on the matter of truth, following the popular line of thinking in our American culture that we each have our own truth. If you're the kind of person who ascribes to that way of thinking, then you'll probably love every aspect of Palmer's book. For myself, I can only go so far with that. If by "your own truth" he means simply "the truth about yourself," then I whole-heartedly agree: we do each have unique truths about ourselves; and, if we know those truths, we can avoid some of the pitfalls in life. If he means, as so many do, that there's no objective or absolute truth, only what "works for you" and what "works for me," I find that kind of thinking popular but shallow, no matter how nicely you dress it up with words.
Still, in terms of vocation, I think he's right. The code I'm trying to accept for myself when it comes to vocation is "pursue your passion." That, in essence, is what Palmer describes. I could be misunderstood on that, just as I may be misunderstanding what Palmer's saying about truth. Some might think I mean "Do whatever feels good. Follow your lusts." What I really mean is that God's calling rarely comes from words one hears. God has created his calling within the very fiber of your being. If you pursue a career or path in life that follows those things you most deeply care about and desire to be and do, then I think you are being the person God has created. That, according to Palmer, is our true calling--to be the person God has created us to be and not the person everyone else thinks we should be--not even the one we think we "should" be--but the person we deeply want to be. If we believe our souls are uniquely created in the image of God, then we can acknowledge that God's pattern for our lives lies within ourselves. (Or--if you're an atheist--you can, at least, think of it as being true to the core of your being.)
That doesn't mean we can dispense with general guidelines for living, such as a moral framework for social interaction, but the particulars for deciding how we can meaningfully, joyfully, and helpfully engage with our world are imprinted within. Palmer points out that being president is not for him, but it may be just right for someone else. In that sense we have our own particular truth, and we must be guided from self-understanding if we're going to serve others in the most joyful way we can.
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Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer (Hardcover - September 10, 1999)
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