This is the 3rd chapter of Discernment called, "Read the Way Forward" is into the second part of the book called, "Discerning Guidance in Books, Nature, People, and Events." One main point as we started this chapter was hearing that we do not discern alone. We turn to religion, traditions, and reading other's stories and the recorded wisdom they gained during their own journey. The other key to start us off in this chapter was that "spiritual reading" is different than reading for knowledge or gathering information. Reading spiritual writings in a spiritual way is part of discernment. There is truth in knowing we can become very knowledgeable about spiritual matters and not become spiritual people. Discernment is a practice of opening our hearts and listening to what God is saying to us.
At times I realize how, "not present" I am in my daily life as I think and plan far ahead or dwell on things past. Listening and discerning draws my focus to the present moment and to the action of what God is up to in my midst. There are many ways to read in a spiritual manner. I think back to Lent as a time when I was intentional about engaging our public practice of reading the scripture during worship and then asking, "What did you hear? What did you notice?"
Another practice is to read a passage of scripture aloud numerous times and sometimes by different people. Holding silence between each reading allows time to listen and let the reading sink in. Sometimes we may ask a different question during each silence like: "What caught by attention?" "What am I prompted to pray about?" "What gift is offered that I might receive?" "How is God guiding me in our relationship?" This is similar to Lectio Divina, a practice of spiritual reading, which I have heard summarized as asking these questions of a scripture. What does the text say? What is God saying to me through the text? What do I want to say to God about the text? What action am I moved to do?
A final thought to share is as part of our sharing in the group we recognized that some of the people mentioned were from Northern Africa, specifically the Egyptian desert abbas and ammas (fathers and mothers) known for their wisdom. This would mean that they would not look exactly like us of European and Scandinavian heritage. Like our depictions and images of Jesus often have similar characteristics of our own group, I remember thinking many of the saints I learned about were old white guys. Really we get to see in hear over a long history that there are young and old, men and women, rich and poor, powerful and powerless people that have and continue to live faithful lives in relationship with God. May we see the ways we and those we are connected with in this community are part of God's story.