Let Your Life Speak

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

By Parker J. Palmer
Jossey-Bass / 2000 / 117 pages

Parker Palmer is an author, educator, and activist who writes about teaching, life in community, leadership, spirituality and social change. He is the founder and senior partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal, based in Seattle, USA. couragerenewal.org.  Palmer is a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

This book is constructed around a searching question:  “Is the life I am living the same as the life that wants to live in me?”  With this, Parker Palmer begins a thoughtful meditation on finding one’s true calling.  Let Your Life Speak is a candid reflection on how to find truth and fulfillment while living authentically amid the complexities of the 21st century.  No matter how lofty a person’s intentions may be, Palmer argues that vocation comes from listening to and accepting the “true self,” with its limits as well as its potentials.

Every journey, honestly undertaken, stands a chance of taking us toward the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.

Palmer’s career trajectory has taken him from earning a Ph.D. in sociology; to serving as community organizer in Washington, D.C.; to living in Pendle Hill, a Quaker commune, for a decade; to his present-day work as a writer, consultant, and traveling teacher. He shares that he has been able to refine his understanding of life-choices by various experiences such as quitting seminary, getting fired from a job, and dealing with a bout of severe depression.  Telling stories from his own life and the lives of others, he shares insights gained from seasons of darkness as well as times of personal fulfillment and joy.

Writing with compelling vulnerability, Palmer helps illuminate positive pathways for those seeking to find their true calling; their vocation.  Parker Palmer’s writing is like a walk through a sunny forest glade – fresh, lucid and live-giving.  He gives the reader valuable insights for the journey forward. Let Your Life Speak will be of interest to those with serious questions about their future direction. “Vocation is not a goal to be achieved but a gift to be received.”

Selected quotes from Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak:

“If we lived close to nature in an agricultural society, the seasons as metaphor and fact would continually frame our lives. But the master metaphor of our era does not come from agriculture – it comes from manufacturing. We do not believe that we ‘grow’ our lives – we believe that we ‘make’ them. Just listen to how we use the word in everyday speech: we make time, make friends, make meaning, make money, make a living, make love.”

“Every journey, honestly undertaken, stands a chance of taking us toward the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

 “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”

“Each time a door closes, the rest of the world opens up.”

 “Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”

“But if I am to let my life speak things I want to hear, things I would gladly tell others, I must also let it speak things I do not want to hear and would never tell anyone else! My life is not only about my strengths and virtues; it is also about my liabilities and my limits, my trespasses and my shadow. An inevitable though often ignored dimension of the quest for ‘wholeness’ is that we must embrace what we dislike or find shameful about ourselves as well as what we are confident and proud of.”

“Our strongest gifts are usually those we are barely aware of possessing. They are a part of our God-given nature, with us from the moment we drew first breath, and we are no more conscious of having them than we are of breathing.”

Gregg Finley


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