The road forward isn’t always clear.  Sometimes we are faced with choices that can’t be easily discerned.  The Clash, the punk rock band put it this way:

 ‘Should I stay or should I go?’

How do you go about making a major decision?  To take a new job…to give one’s heart to another…which college to choose….which medical treatment to select.

Sometimes we have no choice. Sometimes the choice is  clear.  Sometimes not.


Saint Ignatius of Loyola advised his fellow monks to make a list of pros and cons as a means of weighing options.  Ignatius put it this way:  ‘What is it that gives you consolation? What gives you a sense of desolation?’

To my daughters now grown,  my parental advice has often been,  ‘trust your instincts’.  If something feels right, go for it.  If it doesn’t…then don’t.

I think Ignatius and I are saying something similar.  Ignatius invites us to make our list and weigh the options.  But ultimately it comes down to what ‘feels right’.

The caveat is that this is an inexact science.  Sometimes we have mixed feelings… the pros and cons don’t offer clarity.  Sometimes its best to simply wait.

But sometimes, we simply need to jump…and hope and pray that all will be well…and if not, learn from it and move on.

Yet, I think there is another element to this process of discernment.  Being clear as to what is most important.  To understand and be guided by underlying principles and values that you hold dear.  Principles and values that are foundational to who you are and how you live.

It’s important to understand what these elements are, where they come from and to remain true.  Such values and principles serve to guide our path.  My values are rooted in my faith and in mentors who have guided me through the years.

Where do your underlying values come from?  What shapes your path?

William Stafford the great poet refers to that which guides as ‘a thread you follow….while you hold it you can’t get lost’.

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.




– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

not anyone else can travel
that road for you,

– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Oldest Dance Step

In the Bible there is a dance step known as the ‘not me shuffle’.  The dance goes like this: God calls us to step out in faith.  Our response? ‘Are you kidding me?’

Moses was called by God to speak a word of challenge to the Pharaoh: ‘Let my people go!’  Moses responds: ‘You can’t mean me!  I stutter.  I can’t string two sentences together.  How about sending my brother Aaron?’

Jeremiah was called by God to be a prophet to his own nation.  He knew that prophets get their butt kicked.  Jeremiah responds: ‘I’m just a boy. Surely you want someone with more experience.’

Sarah said she was to old. Mary said she was to young.

How about you?  Ever felt that God was calling/nudging/prodding you to move in a new direction or speak a word of truth?

Often I revert to the ‘not me shuffle’:  “I’m not smart enough, faithful enough, brave enough, good enough, ______.”

Richard Bach captures our reluctance well: ‘Argue for your limitations long enough and sure enough, they are yours.’

In contrast, God argues for our potential.  God sees strength where we see weakness.  It seems that God enjoys bringing out the extraordinary in that which seems ordinary, even wounded and broken.  We are invited to dance not away from but with our Creator.

photo of dancing feet

When I was fifteen years old, I sensed that God was calling me to be a pastor.  Me?  I knew I didn’t measure up to what I thought a pastor should be … notably serious guys in suits who spoke in oddly stilted language of ‘thee and thou’.  That wasn’t me.

Yet, I couldn’t shake the idea that God was calling me.  Imagine.

In college I pushed the boundaries, asked lots of questions and explored other faiths.  The call however remained…as if God were saying, ‘I choose you’.

Between my junior and senior year of college I had a conversion experience, a reaffirmation that the call I sensed at fifteen was still at work.  Forty plus years later I still sense God’s holy nudge.

With all my limitations that great mystery we call God continues to speak into my life and guide my path.  Sometimes  it is only in looking back that I can see I’ve been accompanied with every step.

The invitation of the Judeo-Christian tradition is that we are invited to see ourselves and others through God’s eyes.  Full of wisdom, beauty and strength.  We are called to stop arguing for our limitations.

What might God be calling/nudging you to do, to become?