About Me

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I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Questions to Aid in Discernment

In keeping with the theology offered in my previous post about discernment and discipleship, I am beta testing” with communities of younger adults (18-27 year olds) a series of questions that I’ve found helpful in trying to get at the call to genuine, grounded discipleship for each of us – It may well be that they work for people beyond the church context, too, but I believe these, or related questions, are helpful for learning to listen for the presence of God, the “push” of the Holy Spirit, the call of Christ (whatever language works best with your experience of the holy). I’d appreciate feedback on these, especially from any folks in this age group or near it who may be lurking out there (though I think they also work for other age groups)!

1. (“PROFILE”) QUESTION: What is the identity I present, superficially, to the world, -- answers to questions like “What do you do?” “What is your major”?

2. (“PEOPLE”):
Where is my community? (Or where are my communities?) When I say “We,” who do I mean? Who are the important people and relationships in my life? What about faith community, spiritual companions? What group(s) of people sustain me, affirm and challenge me in ways that I value?

3. (“PURPOSE”):
What is the work or activity that makes me feel most whole and alive when I am engaged in it?

4. (“PASSION”)
What MUST CHANGE: When I look at the world, either the commuity/organizations close to me or the world at large, what is it that makes me passionately desire change, so much that I might even be willing to suffer in some way to see that change happen. Where do I say “Something has GOT to be done about this”?

How do I pray? What are my spiritual practices (the things that I do because of what I believe or because of my sense of spiritual identity?)

6: “PLAY”:
How do I take “Sabbath time” in my life – resting and relaxing for the sake of refreshing yourself and renewing energy. How do I play?

I would suggest, is what God is doing with the answers to ALL of these questions together. What insights come to you from the process of reflecting on these questions? What can you learn by discussing your answers to these questions with trusted friends?


  1. Unfortunately, I am far outside of the age range you want to hear from.

    I do like the set of questions that you are working with, even if the six "P" format is a bit contrived. I will take some time to reflect on whether this covers the spectrum.

    My one disagreement is that you place Sabbath time under "play," when I think it belongs under "prayer and practice." I agree with the traditional focus of sabbath on God. Not that play does not belong on the sabbath, since play can be a way to celebrate God. But play belongs in every day. And it also cuts across the others.

    Hmm, I am making it into a matrix, which means I am overthinking it.

  2. I disagree -- Isn't sabbath time supposed to represent some kind of rest, whether it be time designated for prayer or leisure? For me, that would be engaging in a rich and meaningful conversation with a caring and kind friend -- To go along with question #6, I will say that I always find myself feeling rested and refreshed after such an occurrence.

  3. Interesting - I'll need to reflect on this about "play." I appreciate both your comments, knowing where they come from - more later.

  4. Thank you - I found this a very helpful framework. The assistant rector at my parish pointed me to this post and recommended giving these some thought. I did end up reflecting on them at my blog, though I'm a little bit older than your target audience. I appreciated the framework, though.

    And you know what? I'm absolutely fine with "play." Sabbath can mean so many things, and I think putting the word play in there was very important. Rest is one form of refreshment, and play and fun are another.

    Thanks again!