Vestry Devotion: Discernment

Shane Jones.JPG

This month’s Vestry devotion is submitted by our Senior Warden, Shane Jones.

[1] Don’t Trust Your “Feelings”

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9

God has woven emotions into the core of our beings.  We are not to take them for granted. However, they should not cloud your discernment and dictate your actions or your principles. In today’s American lingo, we often hear phrases like these thrown around:

  • Be true to yourself.
  • Go with your gut instinct.
  • Listen to your heart.
  • Do what feels right.

These phrases might sound inspirational, but do you notice something that each of these examples of phrases have in common? They are all man-centered; all about “you” and/or “me.” There is no mention of seeking the God’s opinion on life’s matters.

Be careful not to base your rationale on cultural clichés, such as those previously mentioned. Instead, take God at His Word.

Guard Your Heart

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. – Proverbs 4:23

Throughout Scripture, the heart and mind are very closely connected. In fact, many places throughout the Bible connect our heart to every other aspect of our lives.

One example is the verse shown above, Proverbs 4:23. If you were to continue reading beyond this verse, you would see that the teachings of wisdom are related to the mouth (speech), the mind (thoughts) and the feet (actions).

It is crucial that we guard our hearts. What does this look like? A person guarding his or her heart is one who makes conscious choices in the direction of godliness, such as choosing to be faithful in the study of God’s Word, or choosing to keep him or herself from something or someone that causes them to lust.

If we work toward developing a discerning heart, the “springs of life” will flow more freely. We will, as a result, be more discerning with our speech, thoughts and actions.

Know the Scriptures

For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edge sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12

Even in today’s Christian culture, we are subject to deception and false teaching. The only real way to spot deception is to first know truth. And the source of ultimate truth is the Word of God.

The more time we spend studying the Scriptures, the more familiar we will be with truth. As biblical truth becomes ingrained in our hearts and in our thought patterns, we can then live a life of discernment.

The holiness of Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), like all holiness, was unique and never merely a copy or imitation. In his Testament, he tells his brothers, “No one showed me what I had to do,” [2] and then, at the very end of his life, he says, “I have done what is mine; may Christ teach you what is yours!” [3] What permission, freedom, and space he thus gave to his followers!

We are each unique incarnations of God, bringing to visible and tangible expression God’s presence in the world. Sr. Ilia Delio paraphrases Francis’ message from his Later Admonition and Exhortation:

When love transforms our actions in a way that Christ is “represented”— then we become mothers, sisters and brothers of Christ. This birthing of Christ in the life of the believer . . . is a way of conceiving, birthing, and bringing Christ to the world in such a way that the Incarnation is renewed. It is making the gospel alive. [4]

So, how do we discover what is ours to do? How do we connect with our sacred vocation in service to the needs of the world? How do we give birth to Christ in the world? How do we renew the Incarnation and give flesh to the Word? First, we must go through a process of discernment. Henri Nouwen explains:

Christian discernment is not the same as decision making. Reaching a decision can be straightforward: we consider our goals and options; maybe we list the pros and cons of each possible choice; and then we choose the action that meets our goal most effectively. Discernment, on the other hand, 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 us further away.

Discernment reveals new priorities, directions, and gifts from God. We come to realize that what previously seemed so important for our lives loses its power over us. Our desire to be successful, well liked and influential becomes increasingly less important as we move closer to God’s heart. To our surprise, we even may experience a strange inner freedom to follow a new call or direction as previous concerns move into the background of our consciousness. We begin to see the beauty of the small and hidden life that Jesus lived in Nazareth. Most rewarding of all is the discovery that as we pray more each day, God’s will—that is, God’s concrete ways of loving us and our world—gradually is made known to us. [5]

As we prepare to discern who will best serve Good Shepherd as our Priest In Charge, let us allow God to guide our speech, our thoughts and our actions.  Let us all be mindful that the process may reveal new priorities, directions and gifts from God.  As Ann Fleming mentioned to us at our interview training, at the conclusion of our discernment process, we should feel the joy, and the weight, of what God is calling us to do.   


[1] Joy Allmond, How to Have a Heart of Discernment ( 2010)

[2] Francis of Assisi, The Testament, line 14. See Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1 (New City Press: 1999), 125.

[3] Francis of Assisi, quoted by Thomas of Celano, The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul, chapter 162. See Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2 (New City Press: 2000), 386.

[4] Ilia Delio, Franciscan Prayer (Franciscan Media: 2004), 150-151.

[5] Henri Nouwen, Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life (HarperOne: 2013), 17.