Let Your Life Speak

By Parker J. Palmer

This is my second pass through Let Your Life Speak. Thank you Parker Palmer for the insights into the "voice of vocation." "Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening," writes Palmer." His contention: How we are to listen to our lives is a question worth exploring. This book will help you listen! It is a vocational must read!

Palmer is not going to give you an ABC or 123 step-by-step plan, but his insights into vocation are great road signs to point you in the right direction. Here are a number of my takeaways:

10 Takeaways:

1. The Hasidic tale of Zusya: In the coming world, they will not ask me: 'Why were you not Moses?' They will ask me: 'Why were you not Zusya?' (yourself). I never forgot that from my first reading years ago. We find our authentic callings by being who we are, not trying to be someone else. "Ask me whether what I have done is my life." So good.

2. The Clearness Committee: See pages 44ff, 92. Having participated in a Clearness Committee, I can testify this is a powerful practice. Sitting among a small group of trusted advisors who are prohibited from offering "fixes," but instead can 0nly ask probing questions to help the one seeking clarity come to their "inner truth."

3. Frederick Buechner's definition of Vocation: The place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need. From Wishful Thinking: A Seeker's ABC, p. 119.

4. The heart of my vocation: Teaching is at the heart of his vocation and will manifest itself in any role he plays. I'm asking: "What is the at the heart of my vocation that will manifest itself in whatever I do?" I will discover, create, equip.

5. Vocation as something I can't not do. Vocation at its deepest level is, "This is something I can't not do, for reasons I'm unable to explain to anyone else and don't fully understand myself but that are nonetheless compelling." 25 "Our strongest gifts are usually those we are barely aware of possessing." 52

6. Truth through weakness. We are led to the truth of our vocation by our weaknesses as well as our strengths. I must "take an unblinking look at myself and my liabilities." 28 "There is as much guidance in what does not and cannot happen in my life as there is in what can and does -- maybe more." 39; -- Contrary to popular belief, you can't be anything you want (see 44ff). How do your limitations (nature:physical makeup, personality; context: place and season of life) help define and clarify vocation?

7. Burnout: "One sign that I am violating my own nature in the name of nobility is a condition called burnout." 49 That thought is worth a lot of thought!

8. Depression: Chapter 4, "All The Way Down" is very helpful for understanding depression, how to process it and how to help others in the midst of it. Depression became part of God's means to help Palmer determine vocation. Such helpful insights in these pages.

9. Leadership: "A leader is someone with the power to project either shadow or light onto some part of the world and onto the lives of the people who dwell there." 78 "Good leadership comes from people who have penetrated their own inner darkness and arrived at the place where we are at one with one another, people who can lead the rest of us to a place of 'hidden wholeness' because thy have been there and know the way." 81

10. Identity: Identity does not depend on the role we play or the power it gives us over others. It depends on the simple fact that we are children of God, valued in and for ourselves.