Author: Paula Gooder
Cover illustrator: Jack Seymour
Published by: Hodderfaith.com
Price: RRP £14.99 (£11.35 on Amazon)
Good for: anyone wanting to learn more about and reflect on the Psalms. The book is aimed at adults, but could be used by 12+ and families if facilitated by parents
Best bit: The combination of thought-provoking commentary by Paula coupled with space to write and draw as you reflect.
Worst bit: The cover is gorgeous, and I would have loved more of Jack’s artwork inside, although this could put off some people from drawing in the book themselves.
Oh, and the physical weight of the book in lighter than I expected. I’d’ve loved a heavier version, but I can see the practicality of a lighter book.
This book is stunning – a hardback journalling book with commentary by one of my favourite theologians on one of my favourite parts of the Bible: Psalms.
I first met Paul Gooder when I was working with Scripture Union. She led a theology session on the place of children in the faith community. Aware she was surrounded by people with theology degrees who had been working in the field of childrens’ ministry for many years, she choose to facilitate an exploration of two passages: one very well known: Jesus welcoming the children, and one less so: a passage from Zephaniah about old people and children being in the streets.
Instead of standing by a lectern with notes, she sat on a table at the front of the room, and spoke with us as if there were just two of us in the room, informally, gently, like a friend. She has obviously done a significant amount of study of the two passages, but mostly what she gave us were questions. She invited us to interrupt her with thoughts and questions whenever we wanted (and people did!), and she responded to the questions offering by both offering insights and asking more questions. It was a brilliant session.
In this book Paula offers the same combination of interesting and useful insights from her rigorous study, including comments on the original language (Hebrew), which I love. But she starts with open-ended questions, inviting the reader to consider their own response to the Psalm before reading hers:
“Read the Psalm slowly. What words of phrases jump out at you?”
I love that the Psalms are printed in the book, as this means I can write and draw and highlight and underline to my heart’s content.
After reflecting on the Psalm ourselves, we’re invited to ‘stand back’ and look at the psalm as a whole. Paula tells us a few choice things, then gives us something to think about (and space to write or draw about it if we choose.) We then go on to ‘zoom in’, looking a specific words and phrases in details, again with questions and space to reflect.
This journal is well balanced and could easily be used for alone, as a family or in a small group, although if working with others it would be worth either getting copies for everyone, or at least a blank journal.