What God Wants for Your Life: Changing the Way We Seek God's Will


A Practical and Engaging Guide for Changing the Way We Seek God's Will

How do we know God's will for our lives? This question lies at the heart of Christian life. And yet, attempting to understand our greater purpose can become a source of frustration as we look for help when making important life decisions. Spiritual retreat leader and Episcopal priest Fred Schmidt reveals how we can better recognize the difference between God's will and our own, deepen our ability to hear ...

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What God Wants for Your Life: Finding Answers to the Deepest Questions

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A Practical and Engaging Guide for Changing the Way We Seek God's Will

How do we know God's will for our lives? This question lies at the heart of Christian life. And yet, attempting to understand our greater purpose can become a source of frustration as we look for help when making important life decisions. Spiritual retreat leader and Episcopal priest Fred Schmidt reveals how we can better recognize the difference between God's will and our own, deepen our ability to hear God's voice, and sharpen our powers of discernment.

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Editorial Reviews

Presbyterians Today
“This book will delight mystics and heady intellectuals alike with its plain talk.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060834494
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/27/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 808,874
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Frederick W. Schmidt, an Episcopal priest, is the director of Spiritual Life and Formation and associate professor of Christian spirituality at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He is the former canon educator for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where he was the director of programs in religious education. He earned his Ph.D. from Oxford University and is a frequent lecturer at major Episcopal and United Methodist churches, national denominational clergy meetings, and spiritual retreat centers across the country.

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Read an Excerpt

What God Wants for Your Life

Changing the Way We Seek God's Will
By Frederick Schmidt

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Frederick Schmidt
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060834498

Chapter One

I-Questions and

When you fathom the life of things and of conditionality, you reach the indissoluble; when you dispute the life of things and of conditionality, you wind up before the nothing; when you consecrate life you encounter the living God.
-- Martin Buber

Tradition holds that in the deserts of Egypt a small group of men sought out Anthony the hermit, who was widely regarded for his sane and sensible approach to life. They wanted to know how to achieve spiritual perfection. Their conversation began in the evening and, it is said, lasted most of the night.

Anxious perhaps to demonstrate their own wisdom, they quickly offered answers to the question they themselves had raised without allowing the old hermit to speak. One argued that fasting and the keeping of vigils would accomplish the desired goal. Another recommended abandoning attachments to this world. Some thought that the key to achieving perfection lay in solitude and secrecy. Still others urged the opposite, recommending that perfection be sought in engagement with the world and the practice of charity.

Finally, Anthony spoke. "Allthe things that you have spoken about are necessary and helpful to those thirsting for God. But those who have been most zealous have often suddenly fallen prey to illusion. Discernment is that which above all else leads to God. It keeps us from presumption and excessive fervor on the right and from carelessness, sin and a sluggishness of spirit on the left."

I am convinced that we ourselves are much like Anthony's interrogators. We are anxious to know the will of God and yet far too anxious to supply the answers without listening. What should I do? What am I able to do? How can I prepare? Where will I go? Moreover, in our fast-paced ADHD world we want answers to these questions now.

So, as we seek to find God's will, instead of turning to the anxious questions that we so often ask and answer without listening, let me suggest that we begin by asking different, deeper questions. In doing so, I am convinced that we can find a greater measure of spiritual balance and a way to nurture lives marked by greater signifi- cance. When we come back to the questions about ourselves--and I promise you that we will--I am also hopeful that we will have better answers. To get there, however, I want to do four things:

  1. Introduce a basic distinction between "I-questions" and "God-questions"
  2. In light of that distinction, define what I mean by the practice of discernment
  3. Give you two basic strategies for asking your own Godquestions
  4. Illustrate why the distinction matters

Distinguishing Between I-Questions and God-Questions

Twelve of us had been asked to serve on the senior staff of Washington National Cathedral. The number, I think, was a fluke. Besides, we all reported to a thirteenth member of the staff who served as our immediate supervisor.

In those early days we did lots of team-building exercises. We jumped off a tower, each of us strapped into a harness hanging from a zip-wire, and went hurtling down a mountainside--okay, hillside --one by one. We went on trust-walks, blindfolded and led by another member of the staff. And we took the Myers-Briggs Inventory to discover a sense of how each of us responded to the world around us. We were a diverse bunch, and we came from a variety of work worlds, including not just the academy and the church but the worlds of advertising, nonprofit work, accounting, business administration, social work, and public relations.

But almost all of us also shared a frightening common denominator. Out of the twelve, eleven of us were firstborn children, and the one who was not was an only child. When he discovered the ugly truth about our team, our supervisor dropped his head into his open hands and wailed, "I don't believe it! I'm working with a group of people who have spent their entire lives asking, 'Can I do extra credit?'"

First children may be particularly bad about it--I know that I am--but we all live in an increasingly first-person-singular world where questions about extra credit dominate. We value and celebrate individual enterprise. We reinforce it in the way we market higher education, and we surround ourselves with the language and consciousness of personal initiative. We live in a world of applications, aptitude tests, and examinations designed to test our preparation for the solitary achievements that lie ahead, and we are ushered into a world that is deeply shaped by asking and answering I-questions.

I remember it well. At times the succession of challenges issued by parents, teachers, and others felt like an invitation to adulthood-- a well-meaning welcome to the world where decisions were made and problems were solved. At other times those challenges felt like gauntlet with unidentified traps nestled among the ones that were already clearly labeled. The effort to graduate from high school gave way to the task of finishing an undergraduate degree. Finishing that degree gave way to applying for graduate programs. Finishing a graduate degree gave way to anxiety over finding a job. Through it all the first-person-singular dominated, and far from seeming selfish or selfabsorbed, overachieving, action-oriented lives and good answers to first-person-singular questions seemed to be the measure of responsibility.


Excerpted from What God Wants for Your Life by Frederick Schmidt Copyright © 2006 by Frederick Schmidt. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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