Decision Making & Spiritual Discernment – Review
by Nancy Bieber
reviewed by Rocky Garrison
Spiritual discernment, broadly defined as listening, relaying observations to others, and acting on divine guidance, is at the core of spiritual practice for our Society of Friends. In Decision Making & Spiritual Discernment: The Sacred Art of Finding Your Way, Nancy Bieber describes the discernment process in this way:
I feel that God’s path for our lives is constantly being developed. It rises within us and is something we develop in partnership with God as we learn to see and understand more clearly. (p. 5)
Bieber combines years of experience as a psychologist, a spiritual director, and a retreat leader in this powerful and practical book, from Skylight Paths Publishing in 2010.
The book is divided into three parts: willingness, attentiveness, and responsiveness. Each part contains several chapters, and each includes detailed and practical spiritual exercises, involving practices and meditations that are written in a format familiar to Friends: the query. Bieber notes that the book’s three parts “. . . weave together again and again, creating a strong rope to grasp onto, a clear practice for making life decisions.” (p. 6) While this book focuses on individual decision-making, I find Bieber’s three-part discernment process also to be beneficial as we strive to infuse the holy spirit into our meetings for business and as we strive generally to live our lives in accordance with our inner light.
My own monthly meeting, Bridge City Friends Meeting in Portland, OR, used this book recently in two related meeting activities. We used some of the queries from the book for our “Friendly Sevens” monthly potlucks, which met three times last spring, with each meeting focusing on one of the aspects of discernment described in this book. Then in early summer, we gathered for our annual retreat, which included three worship-sharing sessions, also focused on Bieber’s three aspects of discernment.
Even though we covered similar ground in both of these meeting activities, Bieber’s book offers enough queries that we were able to consider quite different aspects of her process during the two rounds of worship sharing.
In addition to providing enough queries for six worship-sharing sessions, the book also provides a number of inspirational quotations and thoughts, which we used to open each session. A total of thirty-nine spiritual exercises are described in detail in this book. Bieber begins each section of the book with a poem of her own; she begins each chapter with a relevant quotation; and the book is sprinkled throughout with stories of people using the discernment process to make decisions.
Decision Making & Spiritual Discernment is an enlightening and practical read. It is also essentially a weekend retreat in a single volume. ~~~
Rocky Garrison is a retired psychologist and former clerk for his meeting, Bridge City Friends Meeting in Portland, OR (NPYM).