Sunday, March 01, 2009

Discerning Questions

I just returned from Memphis, Tennessee where I was presenting a series of workshops on "The Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment" at the Baptist College of Health Sciences. BCHS has about 900 students and focuses on undergraduate health care education. Karen Smith, the Director of Campus Ministries, did a wonderful job putting the program together and she and the students, faculty, and staff made me feel very welcome.

I ended each session by offering a "Query" for the students and staff to ponder -- based on the Quaker tradition of using questions for reflection and as spiritual exercises. The final session was titled "Discerning Questions" and I offered a whole host of queries that they could use as part of their discernment processes. And I offered them the opportunity to ask questions of me about spiritual discernment. Now, by and large, they were a pretty quiet group (I joked a time or two that I had done the impossible -- turned Baptists into Quakers -- that's how silent they were), so during the "Discerning Questions" session, I asked them to write their questions, which I would then try to answer. I hoped to get one or two really good ones and end our time together by answering things close to their hearts and souls.

I got more than one or two. And the time ran out before I could answer more than one or two. I didn't get a chance to read them all until after I got home, but when I did, I decided they were too good not to share. So here they are -- no answers, just the questions (well, most of them -- there were a couple along the lines of "Is it God's will for the Memphis Tigers to have a #1 seed in the NCAA basketball tourney?" That's just silly -- everyone knows God is Buckeye's fan).

The questions:
  • What do you think is the most important tool or tools to carry with you on your journey through life toward God's will?
  • In my prayers I include "Let God's will be done," but how do I know it's God's will?
  • What is God's will?
  • What should you do if you feel called to do more than one thing, or maybe many things. Okay, maybe so many things you don't know how you will do them all in a life span?
  • What is spiritual discernment?
  • Is it wrong to ask for a sign from God?
  • How, after make so many journeys that have failed, do you know what direction to go?
  • Why is it so much easier (or seem to be) for folks to discern God's will/plan for other people?
  • It seems easier to see God's involvement through "the rear view mirror." How do we discern where God is moving ahead?
  • What if you think you are going in the right direction but don't like it or feel empty about it?
  • How can you effectively listen to God related to the direction one might be going?
  • Should I always seek God's approval before I make any life choices?
  • How do I listen and hear what God wants for me in my life?
  • I feel like I'm being used to do God's work. But recently I have been feeling disconnected from God. How do I reclaim my connection to God -- to follow his plans for me?
Really good questions. Thoughtful. Important. Questions we all need to wrestle with.

As the session ended on Friday, I had time for one more question and one more PowerPoint slide (I gave a lot of my presentation on PowerPoint). The question was "How do you figure out what God's will is for you versus what you think your purpose in life is?" The final slide I had prepared to share was this, "The vocation for you is the one in which your deep gladness and the world’s deep need meet—something that not only makes you happy but that the world needs to have done. --Frederick Buechner."

I think that says it all. God brought it all together -- six sessions, caring staff and students, wise questions, and an answer that fits the Sacred Compass and its leading us to the face of our loving God.

-- Brent


Whosyergurl said...

kindred spirits? we use the same blogger layout.

Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

Oh, dear. Those questions remind me of the opening lines of an R. Crumb comic written back around 1970:

Shuman the Human went with his fine mind to find God. And believe me, he packed a lunch.

Yes, they're very good questions, from a human point of view. They should see the seeker at least through lunchtime.

But by dinner he may find he's hungry again.