Decision Making & Spiritual Discernment: The Sacred Art of Finding Your Way

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Stay spiritually grounded and open to divine wisdom as you shape your life.

"To make wise decisions, we need the aid of that wise and loving Spirit whose wisdom and light exceed our own. With the Spirit illuminating the complexities of our decisions, we can see and understand more about ourselves and our choices."
—from the Introduction

Spiritual discernment is the traditional name for listening and responding to divine guidance. In this book you will approach decision making as...

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Stay spiritually grounded and open to divine wisdom as you shape your life.

"To make wise decisions, we need the aid of that wise and loving Spirit whose wisdom and light exceed our own. With the Spirit illuminating the complexities of our decisions, we can see and understand more about ourselves and our choices."
—from the Introduction

Spiritual discernment is the traditional name for listening and responding to divine guidance. In this book you will approach decision making as an active participant, a co-creator with God in shaping your life. Drawing on twenty-five years of experience as a psychologist and fifteen years as a spiritual director, Nancy L. Bieber presents three essential aspects of Spirit-led decision making:

• Willingness—being open to God's wisdom and love

• Attentiveness—noticing what is true, discerning the right path

• Responsiveness—taking steps forward as the way becomes clear.

With gentle encouragement, Bieber shows how to weave these themes together to discover the best path for you.

Each chapter is enriched by practical spiritual exercises to help you understand yourself and your specific situation, as well as to strengthen spiritual discernment as a daily way of life. An appendix includes a detailed guide for using the book in group study.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Prayerfully and skillfully facilitates the readers' recognition of 'truths (they) already know ... hidden anywhere in life,’ thus opening us to the heart of discernment as the process of living the values of our lives."
Rose Mary Dougherty, SSND, author, Discernment: A Path to Spiritual Awakening; co-director, Companioning the Dying: Opening Fully to Living

“Weaves practical insights for cultivating discernment with page-turning stories and repeatable practices. [It] will create ... healthy decisions that are the ripe fruit of ongoing practices for discernment.”
Kent Ira Groff, founding mentor, Oasis Ministries; author, What Would I Believe If I Didn’t Believe Anything? and Facing East, Praying West

“A brilliant lead and many lessons.”
Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, founder, Center for Action and Contemplation; author, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See

“Compelling and beneficial … filled with insight and wisdom, as well as practical practices in discernment. This is a volume you’ll return to often.”
J. Brent Bill, Quaker minister, retreat leader and photographer; author, Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment

“Offers readers clarity and practical tools—just what we yearn for when facing uncertainty and change…. It will reassure those seeking to understand their own experience of being led by the Spirit.”
Eileen Flanagan, author, The Wisdom to Know the Difference: When to Make a Change—and When to Let Go

“Balancing self and other, honoring self and other, embracing self and other is a great challenge for many of us. [This book] helps us take up that challenge in a manner that moves us further along the path of godliness. Read this book. And, more importantly, practice its method.”
Rabbi Rami Shapiro, translator and annotator, Ecclesiastes: Annotated & Explained; author, The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness: Preparing to Practice

“I loved this! A priceless book for living a spiritually centered life. User-friendly and reassuring … the practices offer gentle guidance for making any decision, large or small. A must have for everyone on a spiritual path as well as anyone supporting that journey.”
Kay Lindahl, author, The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice; founder, The Listening Center

Wisconsin Bookwatch

Where does one's heart and life lie? "Decision Making & Spiritual Discernment: The Sacred Art of Finding Your Way" delves into the search for enlightenment and finding the right path for one's life. Nancy L. Beiber encourages readers to find their inspiration and path in their lives through the principles of being open to God's wisdom and love, truly seeing his intent, and following through with the path that both you and God want. Simple and responsive wisdom, "Decision Making & Spiritual Discernment" is a must for any religious and spiritual reader, highly recommended.


Every year the market is inundated with new books on Christian spirituality: prayer, fasting, meditation, lectio divina, vocation, spiritual direction, and healing. Every year it becomes increasingly more difficult to sift through the wheat from the chaff and quite frankly it can be overwhelming. However, two recently published books are essential for serious readers seeking thoughtful reflective books on the various spiritual issues among Christians.

Discovering Our Spiritual Identity is not just an ordinary book on Christian faith but one which encourages the reader to stop, reflect, and then act. Trevor Hudson is a pastor in the Methodist Church in South Africa and is the author of numerous books, most recently Listening to the Groans. He also works closely with the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Institute and travels to the United States several times per year to lead retreats and small conferences.

Hudson created this book as a workbook. Every chapter concludes with a series of four or five questions for further reflection. Ample space is provided within the book itself for writing. I envision this book being used for small groups and personal devotion and would make an excellent resource for a parish or small prayer group.

The book is divided into sixteen chapters each of varying length and each chapter has an identical format: Signpost, Reading, Holy Experiments, Following the Signpost Together and Reflection Questions. The easy-toread format allows for slower reading and reflection, this book is a not a quick read. Hudson forces you to stop and savor every chapter as if it were a fine meal, sharing his thirty plus years worth of pastoral stories and vignettes. Hudson is certainly well-equipped to write such a wonderful volume and should be commended. I must confess that on my first reading I did not stop and answer the questions but will go back and slowly ponder each chapter, thinking and reflecting on those questions for "deep reading."

Hudson's book would make a good compendium to Bieber’s Decision Making and Spiritual Discernment. Both books are similar, but not identical. The books actually compliment each other nicely. While Bieber is not a pastor as is Hudson, her many years in pastoral counseling and coaching provide her with the wisdom to write this book. Decision Making and Spiritual Discernment includes ten chapters on the process of how we make decisions in life. Like Discovering Our Spiritual Identity, Bieber’s book is very practical, leading the reader through steps such as facing our fears, listening to our heart, paying attention to friends and family, and the importance of attentiveness. Bieber deals with big decisions in life such as vocation, job, and family and I could envision this book to be used among college students seeking advice on their future vocation or careers or in a Christian formation group seeking advice on living a faithful life in Christ. Like Hudson’s book, Decision Making includes many questions after each chapter as a way to continue the conversation. I found however that Bieber includes a lot of useful information at the conclusion of the chapter, more so than in Hudson’s book. Both books include a thorough reading list for readers who seek more information, and both books are superb for those interested in Christian spirituality and particularly issues of guidance and discernment.

Intelligencer Journal: Lancaster New Era - Jo-Anne Green

Psychologist, counselor and spiritual director Nancy L. Bieber often recommended this exercise: Imagine you are on your deathbed. What do you regret never having done?

When she at last posed that question to herself, the answer was: writing. One month later, an editor asked the Lancaster-area resident to write a book. "Decision Making & Spiritual Discernment: The Sacred Art of Finding Your Way," Bieber's book has just been released by Skylight Paths Publishing.

Bieber recounts this experience in the book's introduction, marveling, "Would-be writers just don't receive those kinds of phone calls — especially just after deciding to be a writer." She writes, "The inner voice that insisted I write was the Spirit nudging me." She'd long been ignoring it. But now, feeling trepidation, she was forced to make a decision.

Her book "presents a spiritual process for wise decision making and for beginning to live out the decisions we've made," she writes. "Making decisions is inherently sacred work," she continues. "To make wise decisions, we need the aid of that wise and loving Spirit whose wisdom and light exceed our own. ... Spiritual discernment is the process of opening our lives and decisions to God and being attentive to what we see with the aid of the divine Light."

A practicing Quaker who leads retreats at Pendle Hill and for Oasis Ministries and who teaches at Lancaster Theological Seminary, Bieber understands "God's will" or "God's plan" for human lives as "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."

To that end, the 195-page paperback, priced at $16.99, addresses three parts of the process: willingness, attentiveness and responsiveness. Chapters cover concerns such as "Facing Our Fears," "Testing Our Decisions" and "When We Have to Wait." Throughout, Bieber draws examples from her three decades of experience helping people facing personal crises, as well as the lives of herself, family and friends.

Tellingly, the first chapter is titled "Opening With a 'Yes.' " Each chapter includes spiritual exercises to help in decision making. These include posturing the body, writing in a journal and practicing visualization. The appendix includes a guide for groups using the book, as well as suggestions for further reading. "It's been an amazing journey this last year," Bieber said in an e-mail message about the experience of living the thesis of her book as she was in the process of writing it. And as fellow author Rose Mary Dougherty notes in a back-cover blurb about the book, she completed it "prayerfully and skillfully."

Light to Read By

For several years I have longed to go to one of the workshops on spiritual discernment led by author Nancy L. Bieber. Finally, through her excellent book,Decision Making & Spiritual Discernment: The sacred art of finding your way, I was able to experience many of Bieber's insights and practical exercises at home.

Bieber uses open and inclusive language that allows this book to be helpful to people of all faith traditions. When appropriate she provides examples from her experience living out her faith as a Quaker, a tradition that has many practices that cultivate patient listening.

The ground for this helpful book is a belief that if we are willing and attentive, we can receive wisdom to help us make better choices and choose the right path. With 25 years as a psychologist and 15 years as a spiritual director, Bieber is able to provide concrete examples of a variety of situations in which spiritual discernment was used effectively or was ignored.

A willingness to trust in God and to co-create our lives with God serves as a foundation for spiritual discernment. With clear and simple language, Bieber advises readers to let love, not fear, be the guide because "being guided by love enlarges our vision for decision making."

Being attentive to our lives requires looking at our own life stories with tenderness and care, noticing our strengths and weaknesses, our passions and dreams. This self-awareness helps when it is time to make a decision, for we can sort out places where fear might emerge and prevent us from making a change.

Sometimes we receive an inward nudge, as if a voice is saying, “Do this.” These invitations to grow require our response, and in this book we have many tools to help us determine how to respond. Each chapter ends with a section of “practices for finding your way.” The suggestions are varied enough to meet the needs of diverse personalities and stages of life. A guide is included to help groups apply the book in a six-week study session.

I highly recommend Decision Making & Spiritual Discernment as a companion and guide to find the path to which God is calling you. After reading this volume through three times, I appreciate Nancy Bieber’s encouraging language, and I will be sharing this volume with many friends. You might wish to try one of her workshops at Pendle Hill, in southeastern PA.

The Messenger

When it comes time to make important decisions in our lives, it is very human to want to feel that the decisions we are making are good. When we approach decision-making as a spiritual practice, we are recognizing that we need the aid of the wise and loving Spirit whose Light exceeds our own.

This is the practice of spiritual discernment, the traditional religious name for listening and attending to God's guidance. While traditional religious language speaks of finding "God's will," the approach in this book is that we are active participants, co-creators with the Divine in shaping our lives. Drawing on twenty-five years of experience as a psychologist and fifteen years of experience as a spiritual director, Nancy L. Bieber presents three essential aspects of Spirit-led decision-making:

Willingness--being open to God's wisdom and love Attentiveness--noticing what is true, discerning the path right for us Responsiveness--taking steps forward as the way becomes clear.

With gentle encouragement, Bieber shows us how to weave these themes together so that they strengthen our decision-making process and help us find our path.

Each chapter is enriched by detailed and practical spiritual exercises, which serve as tools for our process of decision-making. An appendix includes a guide for using this book in groups, with reading assignments, practices and meditations for each session.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594732898
  • Publisher: Skylight Paths Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/1/2010
  • Series: Art of Spiritual Living Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 197
  • Sales rank: 790,624
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancy L. Bieber is a spiritual director, psychologist and teacher with thirty years of experience in working with individuals and groups in transition and change. She is author of Decision Making and Spiritual Discernment: The Sacred Art of Finding Your Way. A core leader with Oasis Ministries for Spiritual Development, she leads spiritual formation retreats and workshops around the country. She also teaches at Lancaster Theological Seminary.
Nancy L. Bieber is available to speak on the following topics:

  • The Sacred Art of Finding Your Way: Decisions and Discernment
  • Contemplative Practices for Daily Life
  • The Ancient Gift of Spiritual Direction. What Difference Does It Make?
  • Strengthening Spiritual Life in Community
  • Remembering Who You Are: The Prayer Pause
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Making a Start 1

Part I Willingness

1 Opening with a "Yes" 15

2 Facing Our Fears 31

Part II Attentiveness

3 Surveying the Situation 49

4 Listening to the Inner Self 65

5 Noticing God's Nudges 81

6 The Habit of Attentiveness 95

Part III Responsiveness

7 Testing Our Decisions 115

8 Step by Step 131

9 When We Have to Wait 147

10 The Harvest of Discernment 161

Epilogue: A Letter for Decision Makers 175

Guide for Groups: A Six-Session Course of Study and Practice 178

Suggestions for Further Reading 192

Acknowledgments 195

Index of Exercises 196

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2013

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