Discerning Something to Read

Prior to classes officially beginning, I attended two orientations. One was the school’s general overview of studies and programs. The second was actually a retreat, of sorts, to introduce and address the importance of our Spiritual Formation class. It was an all day event (I only mention that so you would have pity on me and the others for having to sit in a chair all day listening to one person speak).

Before the retreat, we were to have read What God Wants for Your Life: Changing the Way We Seek God’s Will by Frederick W. Schmidt—he led the retreat and is the director of Spiritual Life and Formation at Perkins. I must tell you I enjoyed the book far more than I enjoyed getting to know my plastic chair (even with complimentary breakfast and lunch). It took me two days to read the 225 pages. The only reason I bring that up is because I bought the book late and read it the two days before the retreat. The first day, including obviously the first half of the book, seemed to fly by. There are plenty of underlines, highlights, questions and comments in my copy of the first half. Now, I’m not quite sure what happened. It might have been me, and I know it was, but those markings didn’t number as many for the last half (also represented by the late night before the retreat).

It’s a book I’ll recommend to your reading. What the idea melts down to is that our lives are better centered on the will of God when we learn how to ask the right questions about it. So many times, as probably rambled on in this blog before, we tend to be pretty self satisfying—everything is about us. Even in our attempts to honor and follow God the most faithful among us can resort to what is described as the “I-Questions.” We must learn to begin with asking the “God-Questions” first. Go figure—wanting to do the will of God and beginning with Him! Then we move from God-Questions to “We-Questions.” Finally, we work our way to asking the I-Questions. Sure, that sounds pretty much like a DUH! thing. It is easy, however, to find our arrangement of these inquiries out of order. Here are a few lines to consider:

  • Discernment is that which above all else leads to God. It keeps us from presumption and excessive fervor on the right and from carelessness, sin and a sluggishness of spirit on the left. p2

  • Discernment is the task of process of distinguishing the spirit of presence of God at work in the world from other, competing spirits in an effort to determine where the spirit of God may be moving. p9

  • The experience of life is the place where we all struggle to find and do the will of God—if we seek God’s will at all. p33

  • Because the prophet (Habakkuk) is passionate about understanding and confident that God is gracious, his search for answers is safeguarded by the very God whose behavior, at times, is in question. p 55

  • Trusting God is never predicated on God’s giving satisfactory answers to our questions, but on God’s steadfast faithfulness and tireless desire for us. 56

  • Reckless people who seek signs and wonders are often unable to accept the commonplace as a gift that is not so commonplace. p74

  • There is another sense, however, in which the decisions we make have a transcendent significance that depends less on the choices we make than on the way in which we make them. p121

  • …we are not here to prove ourselves, to probe and discover our own needs. Instead, we are invited to ask: What do God and others need of us? To find the answers to that question is to find and do the will of God. p127

  • We find it easier to talk about what we think of the spiritual life than to experience the spiritual life. p156

Happy reading. Stay blessed…john

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