Noticing is Hard Work {Book Club}

Two things before we dive into our discussion today. First, Sarah found this podcast interview with Barnabas Piper and wanted you to know about it. I’ve downloaded it and look forward to listening to it this week. Second, today we are going to have  bit of fun and you will have a chance to win a copy of our next book.

But before that, today’s chapters (4-6) in The Curious Christian: How Discovering Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life by Barnabas Piper invited me to think about what it means to be present in and curate a life.

Piper reminded us on page 63 that “Christians should have a different value system.” While we, on the field, espouse valuing what God values, we too need to stop and evaluate our lives every so often. He continued, “But we still fall prey to the cultural value systems that says knowledge is only as valuable as what it will gain you. We still look for the earning angle, the pragmatic angle.”


I love much about being an American (just as if you love much about your passport country). But I can see how my default on “value” is tied to being “useful.” Being useful does reflect part of God, it does. Several times in this book, Piper talks about binary thinking—when something is this OR that. Part of curiosity is related to challenging binary thinking when we encounter it. How often have we from the west been trained to think in terms of opposites? The opposite of hot? Cold. The opposite of tall? Short. The opposite of rich? Poor. The opposite of useful? Ah, binary thinking limits us.

Piper pushes us to move beyond something being useful to it being formative. Does this knowledge, experience, conversation form “our intellect, our mood, our work, our faith, our outlook, our awareness of the world.”

I absolutely loved on page 66 when he talked about being curators of our lives. I came upon this idea last fall during the presidential elections in the U.S. A podcast I listened to challenged people to be curators of their life—to be the gatekeeper of what got in and who you listen to. Instead, too often we let something like our Facebook feed or a certain new station decide for us what gets in.

You know as well as I do, that many of those places are based on driving numbers, so they have to go for the inflammatory, the binary thinking, the horrors of the world. We do need to be informed on atrocities and deal with them (just think of what we can learn from our Catholic brothers and sisters and how sexual abuse was handled for years), but we also need to curate in the way that Piper discusses.

“A curator is the person who not only organizes and keeps recored of a collection but also sees where the gaps are and looks for new items to fill them. And that’s precisely what we will learn to do—see the gaps and fill them, learn what is valuable and how to care for it.” He goes on to explain that without curiosity, we cannot be adequate curators.

I also loved to hear how his parents helped him to think through whether to engage in a part of the culture or not.

His list of questions when it comes to the media was helpful! For any of you homeschooling or teaching a media class, this section could provide the basis for a helpful discussion. The teacher in me is turning her wheels!

Before we move on to the part of the book related to this week’s theme of Personality, I wrote several questions in my notes related to binary thinking. Where do you see binary thinking:

  • in yourself?
  • in your organization?
  • in your host culture?

On the flip side, where do you see yourself, your organization, and your host culture being curators of life?

In Chapter 6, I loved the sentence, “Noticing is hard work.” It is! Finding the point of tension between being flooded in a situation and believing you already know takes practice. I appreciated how Piper teased out the difference between notices and experts. We need both! I can see how I am more of a noticer—I go broad in life, but not nearly as deep as experts. In your family or team, what is the fix of noticers and experts?

How does having only one type, or the other, or a mix strengthen you? How does it slow you down or get in your way when it comes to curiosity?

This chapter was the impetus for this week’s theme: Personality. I love personality tests. Two I would recommend is the Strength Finders test and the enneagram. Kimberly We will be talking about the enneagram on Friday so I won’t say more about it here. If you are not familiar with Strength Finders, God has wired 34 different strengths within humanity and the test (worth the small fee), will let you know your top 5. When I took the test several years ago and got my top five, it helped me have language to understand myself and see my strengths in action (and also why certain situations were very frustrating to / for me).

This is why it matters to be curious about ourselves and others we are in relationship with: “The thing about curiosity is that it sees endless opportunities for discovery, for learning, for relationship. It seeks truth in all places. Where others declare doom, it looks for light and opportunity. It does not settle for the easy or lazy. It takes action with heart and mind with whatever means, whatever methods, and whatever propensities the curious one has at his or her disposal.”


Now for the fun! Share a bit about your personality in a comment and be entered to win one of five copies of Facing Danger: A Guide Through Risk by Dr Anna E Hampton, our next book. Potential questions:

  1. Share something from a personality test. Do you know your strengths? What’s your enneagram number? Are you a Myers-Briggs junkie? How about the DISC? (Um, I know my answer to all four, so, I think I might be obsessed with personality).
  2. What’s the personality makeup of your family or team? For instance are you a lone introvert amongst extroverts?
  3. How does your personality make more sense on the field? How can you see that God was wiring you from early on for where you live now?
  4. Any parts of your personality you feel are too much?

Share any or all of the above! I look forward to the comments.

What stood out to you from these chapters? Have you taken any personality tests? What insights did you gain on yourself and others?

See you in the comments!


Reading plan:

September 12: Intro – Chapter 3
September 19: Chapters 4-6
September 26: Chapters 7-11 (Next week we finish the book!)

Our October and November book will be Facing Danger: A Guide Through Risk by Dr Anna E Hampton


  1. Felicity Congdon September 18, 2017

    I am an INFP (idealist) Enneagram Type 4 (individualist) and I’ve had mixed results on the DISC test, so not sure there.

    Was just stopping by to check what the next book would be because I’ve been trying MIA in language school for a while. And I saw the giveaway! I hope I can participate in oct/Nov!

  2. Sarah Hilkemann September 18, 2017

    For a long time, I’ve been too afraid to be curious. In the podcast linked above, Piper talks about how we are often scared of the “slippery slope”. If I start asking these questions, what might it lead to? What if I have a crisis of faith, etc? Or if I start to learn more about a belief/religion/experience that is different that me, what if I start down that road? Or what if I start learning about myself and don’t like what I see? I thought it was important how Piper pointed out that we don’t necessarily have to fear that. We can ask questions and learn about ourselves or other people or God Himself and still be grounded in who we are but also leave lots of room for growth. He said, “If we do not expand our horizons, we are missing out on the people who love those horizons and the artists who create them” (Kindle page 86). I love how this fit with the reading challenge you did this summer, Amy- expanding our horizons to read new things. 🙂

    I absolutely love learning about personality and more about myself through the different inventories. I first took the Myers-Briggs my freshmen year of college, and honestly it changed my life. I went to a college where incoming freshmen were required to take (or at least sign up for) a 1/2 semester class related to vocation and calling. Most people dropped the class after the first week or two, but being the always-follow-the-rules person that I am, I stuck it out. 🙂 We all took the Myers-Briggs and Strengths Finders inventories, and then talked them over with someone from the career development center. When she explained particularly the introversion/extroversion continuum and the judging/perceiving continuum, it was like EVERYTHING in my life made more sense. I realized that the reason I got so exhausted from big parties or why I wanted to avoid them altogether was because I was high on the introversion scale. I realized that the reason being called on in class terrified me was because I was processing the conversation and answers internally, and I might not have gotten all the way through before the teacher called my name. I realized why I thrived in situations with a lot of structure, and loved organizing things was because I was high on the Judging side of the continuum. I’m an ISFJ, and I LOVE finding out what other peoples’ Myers/Briggs letters are- not to put them in a box, but so I can more compassionately and intentionally understand who they are!

    I just recently discovered the enneagram, and I’m most definitely a 6. 🙂 It’s been fun learning more about that too! I follow @yourenneagramcoach on instagram and she gives lots of advice from a Christian perspective.

    1. Ruth September 19, 2017

      That’s a great enneagram resource! I’m not as familiar with the enneagram, but have friends that love it. I am an INFJ, and it has helped me understand myself and why I react to things the way I do. The most recent thing I realized is that getting overstimulated by noise/people/smells/etc. is part of my personality, so I need to minimize them, for better functioning.

      1. Sarah Hilkemann September 19, 2017

        Ruth, overstimulation is huge for me too! It is SO noisy all the time in Cambodia, and that is super draining to me. I have to prepare myself to go the market: still-live fish, all the chaos of people packed all together, and even the colors and variety of all the veggies can be super overwhelming. I have my routine and go to the same sellers whenever possible to minimize the craziness when I can! 😀

  3. Kiera September 19, 2017

    My favorite chapter in this section was Ch. 5, particularly where Piper talked through all those different sections – media, culture, the arts, literature etc. (I’m listening to the audio book, so I can’t tell you the specific references, but you’ll know what I mean.) Reading this book is reminding me to be curious – I think I already am to a certain extent, but I have been noticing more since I began listening to this book. For me, this section reminded me of all kinds of things that I would like to know more about. It made me think of books I want to read (or booklists I want to look at) and topics I would like to learn more about. In the noticers/expert (non)dichotomy, I am more of a noticer. I have always thought of myself as a jack of all trades type more than getting really good at any one thing.

    I have a love/hate relationship with personality tests. I am intrigued to find things out about myself, but I feel like it often conforms to what I already know and/or I fear that I skew the tests to what I want them to be. I feel like I find out more about myself from situations I encounter and how I respond. I also have a dislike of being labeled and put in a box. That said, I will venture to tell you that back in the day before I moved overseas when I took the Myers Briggs, I was an ENTJ, however I think that it has been softened by living overseas. That binary thinking that Piper talks about is hard to maintain when you live overseas, I think, because you are seeing the other side of so many things. On Strengths Finder one of my top strengths is Input and another is Learner which is possibly one reason that I like this book so much. I also got Communication. I love how the description for that one starts out with, “It’s very likely that you are loquacious — that is, fond of talking.” Oh yes, so true. Responsibility and Harmony were my other two.

  4. Aubri Casey September 19, 2017

    I am an INFP but relate to an INTP as well. I admit, that scares me a little! I could lean toward sociopath for sure :). My enneagram is a five: investigator which fits me pretty well! My Strengths Finder strengths are input, learner, intellection, achiever, adaptability. So I’m your basic nerd! ? And loving it! I hope to always be a student in one way or another and to share that love of learning with my kids. Curiosity is so intermingled with learning. There is always something more to discover. That pushes me to keep stretching myself here in new ways. I also find overstimulation a challenge because I take everything in: sights, sounds, smells, textures and sometimes just the proximity to people. Americans need their personal space! ?

  5. Esther September 19, 2017

    1. I have not taken a StregnthFinders test. In the enneagram I am a 5w6. I am definitely a Myers-Briggs junkie and I love trying to figure out what type people are. As Sarah said, not to put them in a box, but to better understand and relate to them. I am an INTP. My DISC style is a blend of S/C.
    2. If I’ve typed my team correctly, we are INTP, ISFJ, ESFP, and ESTJ. It is hard being the lone iNtuitive!
    3. To be honest, my personality does not fit very well with what I’ve been doing on the field. The organization and jobs are structured in a very SJ manner, so there’s not a lot of room for the investigation and systems-building that are characteristic of my type.

  6. Raven Cruz September 19, 2017

    I love love these types of things! Undeniably an INFJ and love trying to figure out what type people are as well. Enneagram Type 1 and a blend of S/C. Last year our whole team did the DISC together. It was great seeing lightbulbs go off as some were beginning to understand each other on a deeper level; understanding a bit better why people do the things they do.

  7. Rachel Kahindi September 20, 2017

    I’m an INFP and enneagram type 5 or 9 (investigator or peacemaker). I love learning about my personality so that I can make the most of my strengths and weaknesses!

    I love the discussion about putting knowledge to good use. I like learning and often wonder whether I’m just packing myself with useless information or actually using what I learn. I’m a noticer who dabbles in expertise in a few subjects.

    One last thing about this section – I want to stand up and cheer with every binary thinking alert. I’ve noticed binary thinking in arguments much more in the past few years (and the past couple of presidential elections). I wonder: How much of a role does social media play in binary thinking? How can I encourage those around me to see the complexity of issues?

  8. Phyllis September 26, 2017

    I am an INFP. It actually took me a while to realise that I’m in introvert, because my husband is SUCH an introvert, that when I compared myself to him (and other extreme introverts) I seemed like an extrovert. And with the classic question about what energises me–time in a group or alone?–I always want to say both. But I now know that I am an introvert and I guess I can say an ambivert. 🙂

    Now I’m getting very curious about the enneagram. I haven’t been able to figure it out at all before. In the comments on the VA the post about it, someone suggested that I might be a 9, and I’m thinking she might be right. I’ll be reading more, though.

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