Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life by Henri Nouwen

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Nouwen emphasizes listening to the Word of God in our hearts, in the Bible, in the community of faith, and in the voice of the poor as a way to discern God's plan.

The premise of this book is that God is always speaking to us - individually and as the people of God - at different times and in many ways: through dreams and visions, prophets and messengers, scripture and tradition, experience and reason, nature and events. And that discernment is the spiritual practice that accesses and seeks to understand what God is trying to say. The books we read, the nature we enjoy, the people we meet, and the events we experience contain within themselves signs of God's presence and guidance day by day. 

Henri J. Nouwen, the world-renowned spiritual guide and counselor, understood the spiritual life as a journey of faith and transformation that is deepened by accountability, community, and relationships. Though he counseled many people during his lifetime, his principles of spiritual direction were never written down. Now, in association with the Nouwen Legacy Trust, Michael Christensen, one of Nouwen's longtime students, and Rebecca Laird, one of Nouwen's editors, have taken his coursework, journals, and unpublished writing and created the definitive resource on spiritual discernment. Stories, readings, and thematically organized questions for reflection and guided journal writing provide an uparalleled resource for spiritual development, both for individuals and for small groups. 

Discernment, the third book in the series, teaches us how to read the "signs of the times" in daily life in order to make decisions that are ultimately guided by God. Nouwen emphasizes listening to the Word of God - in our hearts, in the Bible, in the community of faith, and in the voice of the poor. Nouwen's thoughts on discernment begin to answer one of the biggest questions we face: what should I do with my life? 


Table of Contents:
Acknowledgments -- Preface: What This Book Is About -- Foreword: Henri's Way of Discernment / Robert A. Jonas -- Introduction: When There Is Darkness, Light -- Part 1. What Is Discernment? -- 1. Embracing the Practice in Solitude and Community -- 2. Distinguishing Spirits of Truth and Falsehood -- Part 2. Discerning Guidance in Books, Nature, People, and Events -- 3. Read the Way Forward -- 4. Read the Book of Nature -- 5. Pay Attention to People in Your Path -- 6. Discern the Signs of the Times -- Part 3. Discerning Vocation, Presence, Identity, and Time -- 7. Test the Call: Discerning Vocation -- 8. Open Your Heart: Discerning Divine Presence -- 9. Remember Who You Are: Discerning Identity -- 10. Know the Time: When to Act, When to Wait, When to Be Led -- Epilogue: Discerning the Hidden Wholeness -- Appendix A. We Drink from Our Own Wells: Discernment and Liberation / Henri Nouwen -- Appendix B. Henri Nouwen on Hearing a Deeper Beat / Michael J. Christensen -- Appendix C. Spiritual Friendship and Mutual Discernment / Robert A. Jonas -- Primary Sources and Notations -- Notes -- Credits.

Review Quotes:

"A fine book that delves into the answers to questions of what a Christian should do with his/her life....Nouwen's gifts as a writer for the spirit rarely failed, and this posthumous volume is as valuable as his other writings." -- Library Journal

"Henri Nouwen was one of the greatest spiritual masters of our time. This exciting new collection gathers together in one volume Nouwen's wisdom about, insights on, and practice of spiritual discernment. It is, therefore, a treasure for all believers." -- James Martin, SJ, author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything

"Discernment uses Nouwen's material to open up the way to deep listening that is both comfort and challenge. Using Nouwen's insights allows the reader to hone a sensitivity to God alive in our midst." -- Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK

"Henri Nouwen continues to inspire and enlighten. One gets the sense that Henri is talking directly to you, and touching you deeply. The book reads like a seamless piece of writing that on almost every page has something that enlightens the mind or touches the heart at a deep level." -- William A. Barry, S.J. coauthor of The Practice of Spiritual Direction

"Nouwen artfully explores how nature, our neighbors, and our own hearts reveal God's active presence all around us. Life-giving and beautiful, yet practical and wise, he invites all those who doubt, feel lost, wounded or broken to discover the beating heart of love at the center of world." -- Diana Butler Bass, author of Christianity After Religion

"An absolute gift to mind and soul. Christensen and Laird have seamlessly and thematically woven a luminous tapestry of both Nouwen's published and previously unpublished work on discernment. The result is an even richer and more accessible Nouwen than most of us have ever seen before." -- Phyllis Tickle, author of Emergence Christianity

"Henri Nouwen's writing is mystical, heartfelt, and wonder-filled. He has helped shape a whole generation of Christianity, and his legacy is still being written. I can't think of a better teacher on discernment. Read it, live it, and transform the world by doing small things with great love." -- Shane Claiborne, author, activist, and wounded healer

"Nouwen hits the mark with his commentary on discerning vocation, presence, identity, and time.." -- Spirituality & Practice

"For most people, the very word discernment implies something heady, private, and maybe even elitist. Henri Nouwen, as always, makes seemingly complex things personal, practical, intelligent, and very readable--all at the same time! This is a rich and helpful book." -- Richard Rohr, O.F.M., author of Falling Upward

"I knew Henri Nouwen well. He possessed a unique capacity to combine genuine wisdom with winsome simplicity, and could help people look deeply into themselves. In these writings these qualities shine through, and the down-to-earth practical hints on no-nonsense spirituality will be a source of refreshment for readers." -- Harvey Cox, Hollis Research Professor of Divinity at Harvard and author of The Future of Faith

"In this volume we listen to this master spiritual teacher illustrate what it means to discern in daily life. As we "listen in" on Nouwen's own continual discernment, we learn that we too, can listen for God in the big and little of our lives, day in, day out." -- Elizabeth Liebert, SNJM, author of The Way of Discernment

"I remember when I first encountered Henri Nouwen. He won my heart and became one of my mentors. In this new book, we gain insight into Henri's own mentors, and we have the sense that Henri is sitting beside us, helping us discern the signs of God in our lives." -- Brian D. McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christianity

"A book on discernment from the writings of Henri Nouwen--what could be better? Tender and true, Nouwen's distinct voice brings a fresh perspective to this ancient and deeply Biblical practice. Discernment, when it is given, is always of gift. So is this book!" -- Ruth Haley Barton, Founder, Transforming Center and author of Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leaders

"Nouwen successfully argues that God is everywhere and in everyone. People must make the effort to read the signs of his presence. Hopefully, this book will nudge some of them to do just that." -- National Catholic Reporter

"Nouwen lives on for us as a spiritual friend. He takes us by the hand down that road where we'll meet with the timeless dimension of Jesus Christ, the life that the crucified and risen Jesus shares with us now." -- St. Anthony Messenger