by Christine Sine
It’s time to think of a new Godspace theme. Our Read life differently has provided many inspiring insights and ideas and I appreciate all who have contributed over the last couple of months either through posts or comments. I have even changed some of my own practices as a result, digging into the ideas I suggested in The Gift of Wonder and expanding them as the inspiration of awe and wonder continued to flow. I have shed my shoes and walked barefoot (not quite game enough to try Andy Wade’s idea of a barefoot walk round the neighborhood though). And on the west coast of Vancouver Island my beach combing adventures gained new significance, though now I have a new collection of items I need to find a home for. I would love to hear how this theme or your reading of The Gift of Wonder has changed your thinking, or if it has created a new practice for you too.
Discerning a New Theme.
So how do we come up with a new theme?
This time it all began when I met with our associate rector, Danae Ashley a couple of weeks ago. She was busy putting together discernment circles and asked me to help facilitate them, a privilege that unfortunately is impossible with my present travel schedule. What if we make how do we discern the path ahead? the topic for the next few months I wondered? That thought was especially inspired by this profound quote by Henri Nouwen;
(Discernment) is about listening and responding to that place within us where our deepest desires align with God’s desire. As discerning people, we sift through our impulses , motives, and options to discover which ones lead us closer to divine love and compassion for ourselves and other people and which ones lead further away. (Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life xv)
Hilary, my assistant thought it could be a little restricting, so I started mulling over another theme: what nourishes your soul? Then I came across a sketch that I created a couple of months ago with the words What does your soul long to do? I felt it brought my promptings above into focus as understanding what our soul longs to do requires both discernment and soul care. So what does your soul long to do? is our theme for the next couple of months.
I think that the process that I have gone through to define a theme for the next couple of months is the kind of process that we need to consider in all our decisions and directions. As Nouwen says
while discernment begins in solitude, individual seekers of God always come together in community, for Spirit gathers all believers into one body for accountability mutual support. A person honestly seeking to know God’s will and way will choose to be in community (Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life 13)
Begin in solitude
Frame the question that you want to come to a decision about. (For me – What should our Godspace theme be for the next couple of months?)
Relax into the presence of God and open yourself to listen quietly to the presence and instruction of God.
I found this one of my prayers to be helpful at this early stage of the process:
May my heart beat to the rhythm of eternal breath,
My spirit be filled with the wonder of eternal presence,
My life embrace the joy of eternal love.
May I know the Eternal in me, around me, before and behind me,
And welcome the Triune God into every thought and word and deed.
It was a good prayer to help me center myself on the eternal presence of God as a guide in the decision making process.
Listen to Community
My embrace of community in this decision was a little different from my usual kind of process. I needed to listen not just to the nudges of God rising up from within my spirit but also from the diverse voices around me that formed the community that could help me discern.
On this occasion the community that I needed to embrace was unexpected. Our church leadership is outside my usual circle of community, but as Danae and I talked I realized that God had directed me to her (or her to me to be more accurate) to help me discern the way ahead. Her discernment circles inspired me, but I realized that I needed input from the Godspace community before I “set in concrete” the theme we would use.
One of our writers had suggested soul care or What nourishes your soul to me, and I wanted to be able to incorporate or at least honour that suggestion. And when I talked to Hilary, my assistant, she liked that suggestion too.
Then I came across a doodle I created a couple of months ago with the words What does your soul long to do? on it. That’s it I thought. I ran it by Hilary and she was very enthusiastic. So What does your soul long to do is our theme for the next couple of months. I feel it is a question that requires soul nurture and discernment to answer. God continually seeks to reshape our hearts, our live and our participation in community and that is only possible when we take the time to open ourselves to both discernment and soul nurture.
Set Your Heart in the Right Direction.
To want to know God’s plan and purpose without regular prayer and engagement with scripture and God’s people is like trying to bake a cake without assembling the various ingredients. Discernment grows out of the life of faith rooted in community. (Nouwen 16)
Henri Nouwen’s book is such a valuable resource that in some ways I don’t feel I need any others except for the Bible, but here too I realize that a “community” of books and diverse opinions are helpful. So I have pulled out my books on spiritual direction, soul care and discernment. I have asked Facebook friends for their suggestions too. I like to involve as broad and diverse a community as possible so that each of us has the opportunity to discern what God is saying to us, as our spirits are nurtured and strengthened by our own study and our interactions with community.
Last week I reposted an updated version of our Spiritual Direction reading list. Tomorrow I will post one on Discernment. Next week hopefully another on soul care will be added. If you have suggestions for any of these lists let me know.
So my question for today is: What are you doing for soul care and discernment at this season of your life?
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Hebrews 4 v12 says the the logos Word of God includes: “a discerner of thoughts.” I think that 2nd Coritthians 10 v 5 is how we do it: “Are all our thoughts like Jesus”? If not we need to take
captive every one that isn’t. (This requires knowimg Jesus’s thoughts in the Gospel. The best
book that helps me is “Jesus Speaks” by Steven K Scott. Where he takes Scripture and what
Jesus personally says to us.) (I bought my book on the internet.)
Yes – scripture and especially the words of Jesus are a very important part of this.
On the list of books on spiritual discernment, I hope you will include: In Tune with God: The Art of Congregational Discernment by Sally Weaver Glick (Faith & Life Resources, 2004).
I will add it to the list.