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The Heart is a Noisy Room by Ronald Boyd-MacMillan

25 May 2018

Attend to your clamour, says Anne Spalding

THIS is an easy read, but it may be a challenge — and perhaps a relief — to busy Christians. Dr Ronald Boyd-MacMillan first stirs us (using plenty of bold print) to become aware of our internal voices. These are the words in our head giving powerful perspectives and emotional feeling. He gives personal examples and describes other characters such as Successful Sally and Not-good-enough Nigel to illustrate how our internal voices work for good and ill. In the remaining chapters, Boyd-MacMillan gives ways in which we and God work with these voices.

The starting-point is stillness, so that we can notice what is going on. Then naming gives focus. For example, “Sceptical Voice” explains away any scripture that speaks to the heart, saying it is “nothing but . . .”, thus denigrating any experience of God. Until such a voice is named, we cannot find ways to keep the voice in a proper place — doubt and questioning have a valuable place, but not as the only response to life.

Boyd-MacMillan argues that our voices normally absent us from ourselves, from the present moment, and so from life. They also dismiss our experiences of God and life, and/or deflect us from the depth of these experiences. But he argues that our voices can also help us find out who we are, and they may help us find what to do.

Unlike mindfulness, which gives the internal noise no attention, the strategies here include talking back to the voice, befriending the voice, and asking God to share the burden. To inform this, the author draws on different parts of the Christian tradition, the worldwide Church, and other insights.

I recognised the noisy heart that he describes and have tried some of his techniques with benefit; so this book could, I think, help the many driven Christians I currently know.

Dr Anne Spalding is a member of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis, and lives in Suffolk.

The Heart is a Noisy Room
Ronald Boyd-MacMillan
Hodder & Stoughton £14.99
Church Times Bookshop £13.50

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