"Being spiritually reflective is an ongoing process. It happens during the day as we are faced with both large and seemingly small choices. During those moments, we must remember the lessons we have been taught from scripture and our faith tradition. In addition, as we make moral and ethical choices, the counsel of good friends is invaluable.

"Discerning the future is not simply a process of weighing pros and cons and seeing how a choice might affect us financially, psychologically, or professionally. It is also about recognizing that while the voices of culture, self-interest, politics, and our professions may be good, they must also be put into perspective so they don't drown out the voice of God.

"The voice of God is not often a booming one, but it can still be heard if we take steps to be attuned to it. When we have a sense of expectancy and openness, we may hear God's voice during quiet prayer, in the midst of an encounter, or through the voice of a mentor. Such occurrences awaken us to look for clarity in ways that we could not have previously imagined.

"Once when I was taking a walk along the Shenandoah River with my mentor, I was interested in what he thought about a decision that I was facing, and I asked him for his opinion. In response, he surprised me by asking, 'Well, what does your wife think?' My first unspoken reaction was, 'What does that have to do with it? This is a discernment about what I might or might not do.' However, since he was my mentor, I simply told him what she had said when we discussed the alternatives before me. He replied, 'That sounds about right. Follow her intuition on this.' And so, knowing and truly entertaining the wisdom of two people I trusted, I did.

Funny how we hear but don't really listen to what God is telling us through so many sources. Maybe if we didn't prejudge, we would be better discerners. Consider the following questions:

"• When do we turn a blind eye to what our children are trying to show us?
• How often is something that is said in passing missed — something that could perhaps have pointed us in the right direction?
• When are we so full of our own ego, opinions, and ways of doing things that there is no space to unlearn something that no longer works?

"Being a discerning person is not so much knowing a lot of techniques but having an open mind — what some spiritual guides call 'beginner's mind.' When we have such humility, there is much we can learn about where God is calling us to go next, what to do, who to be. Without such an outlook, we may lead a good life, but we will miss the greater possibilities that life offers. Those missed possibilities are a real loss, not only for us, but those who turn to us for guidance and support."