Monday, February 06, 2012

Book Review: Streams of Contentment

Streams of Contentment: Lessons I Learned on My Uncle's Farm
by Robert J. Wicks
Notre Dame: Sorin Books, 2011

Streams of Contentment: Lessons I Learned on My Uncle's Farm is a series of short essays on making the most out of life. Robert J. Hicks, who is a Doctor of Psychology working in Amish country, offers lessons he has learned from his professional work as well as from living in the country to offer some commonsense wisdom. These lessons are simple - there is nothing groundbreaking in these pages, but they are truths often lost in our busy, technology-driven world.

Wicks doesn't reject the desire for us to continue trying to be more, but he encourages us to take the "counter-cultural risk to appreciate who and what is already in my life . . . to be content with who and what I already am." He emphasizes the importance of self-knowledge, pruning, and transformation. At various times in our lives we are called to use different gifts. We also need to to decide what is truly essential when we are making decisions about what to do. He offers a five-step hierarchy with "very critical in life" at the top and "critical not to do" at the bottom.

How we treat others is of utmost importance. We may never know what our kindness or willingness to listen may have meant to another person. Even when we ourselves are hurting, we can still reach out to others. In dealing with others, he advises us to have "low expectations and high hopes." Sometimes, people just aren't able to be all that we would have them be at this moment. If we accept people as they are, they just might surprise us!

Wicks also addresses how to cope with criticism. While it is always hard to take, there is usually some truth in it that can help us improve if we let it. Having humility and being able to see ourselves honestly is important. And, while most of us fear it and hate it, failure can also be a very good teacher.

The last part of the book offers a thirty day retreat to help cultivate greater contentment. Each day offers a short reflection and a task to put into practice. Honestly, focusing on all thirty would be overwhelming. Choosing a few to implement in one's life would be greatly beneficial.

Streams of Contentment encourages readers to embrace a simpler way of living and to focus on what is important. That is a reminder all of us in this crazy world can benefit from.

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