Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sacred Compass: An Interview with Brent Bill

This past weekend, I was at the FWCC’s section of the Americas annual meeting. And it was wonderful, and I plan to post something about it soon.

However, something has come up. One of the wonderful things about being in Indiana last weekend, was getting to meet Brent Bill and buy his book, Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment. It is a deeply Quakerly book, written in a way that is accessible to everyone, Quaker or not. It is an encouraging, comforting book, telling us we each have accessible a “sacred compass”-- a guide that points us homeward to God. And when we pay attention to our sacred compass, the whole of our life becomes a pilgrim journey of transformation. There is even an excellent chapter on helping others to discern their own way. I have very much enjoyed reading it this week, while I have been flat on my back in bed trying to recover from an awful cold… a blessing, because I would not have had time to read as much if I hadn’t been as sick!

Brent writes in the introduction: “When we travel through life attentive to the sacred compass, we find that God’s direction changes us. We discover that spiritual discernment is about sensing the presence and call of God, not just about making decisions. The process of following the sacred compass awakens us to a life of constant renewal of our hearts, minds, wills, and souls.”

So, this week, Brent announced a blogging contest, and asked everyone to send him interview questions regarding Sacred Compass. So far, Wess and Liz have posted their interviews. Since I can’t resist a request for a good query, here are mine. The questions are mine, the answers are Brent’s. Thanks Brent, for writing a book encouraging us to listen to and follow our Guide!

1) What led you to write Sacred Compass?
One of the main reasons I wanted to write a book on discernment was that it seemed to me there were way too many books about how to make the "right" decision regarding God's will for our lives and not enough that said "all of life can be a decision for God's will to be revealed." That latter idea was one I wanted to explore and thought that people would find helpful.

2) Who do you picture needing to read Sacred Compass?
The person I see picking up and finding it helpful is a person who is tired of the sort of 1-2-3 steps to finding God or 55 days of spiritual seeking or... a person who is looking for a deep affirming look at the presence of God's direction in his or her life. That includes the challenging times as well as the easy times. If a reader is looking for the 1-2-3 step sort of book, I don't think she or he will find Sacred Compass very satisfying. It doesn't offer clear, concise instructions or answers to our spiritual life's deepest questions. Rather it offers ways, practices, techniques for helping us find those answers -- all within the context of faith and our particular life situations.

3) Tell me about a time in your own life when you could have benefitted from the information in Sacred Compass.
Oh, there have been soooo many times. I especially wish somebody would have told me this when I was a teenager and trying to figure out what God's plan was for my life. And the emphasis was on "plan" -- not plans. This idea of a -- one -- plan is so destructive spiritually, I think, because it implies if you miss one part of the plan, you are doomed, at best, and damned, at worst. For all my Bible-based up-bringing, I had never heard the verse in Psalms (25:4) "Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths." The idea of paths for our lives, I think, is very freeing.

4) Tell me your favorite part of Sacred Compass... the part that always makes you smile, maybe because of something that happened while you were writing it, or because it seems so True to you that you can't hardly believe You wrote it.
One of my favorite parts is in the chapter called "West of Eden." I called it that, because as you know, Genesis tells us that the Garden was east of Eden. So if we're west of Eden, then we're certainly not in Paradise. Or at least that's how it can seem. And in this chapter, I relate a portion of how I, a city boy, ended up living on 50 acres in the country and how that move, at its onset and fraught with all kinds of family dynamics, did not seem like a move to Paradise to me. I smile now because, by allowing myself to be led in that direction (and honoring my good wife Nancy's leading to that place) many things opened up for me and indeed I have found a peace that comes from knowing that I am in the right place for this time of my life. God knows me better than I know myself. Imagine!! And so I read that story and I smile ruefully and delightedly.

5) Quick! The elevator door is about to open, the light is about to change, the fast-food line is moving, they're already running late for a meeting.... In a few sentences, what is the single most important thing about Sacred Compass that you would like to share with a potential reader?
“Our lives are journeys to the Divine. God calls us to love and life and light. The Sacred Compass is about making that journey in soulfully satisfying ways -- ways that bring joy and purpose to living, whether in good times or bad. Ways that lead to the face of our loving God.”


Allison said...

What exactly does "post modern" mean?

Shawna said...

Postmodern is an attitude, that I discovered was me.

I am running late for work right now, but I think you have just given me the topic for my next post. Many other people have written about it, but I think I ought to give it a try, too.

I will put up something tomorrow.

Laurie said...

Nice blog. I'm just visiting. I scored high on beliefnet for Orthodox Quaker and decided to look further into it. I will definately read the book you recommended. Sounds very interesting.

Shawna said...

Hi, Laurie! Thanks for dropping in.

I ended up mostly Orthodox Quaker on the beliefnet test too (99%!). "Orthodox" in beliefnet includes both the conservative branch and the FUM and Evangelical branches, although we have varying emphases of what we each think is most important.

I hope you enjoy Sacred Compass. I found it a very good book.
I hope to "see" you around again!