J. Brent Bill is a popular retreat leader, a Friends (Quaker) minister, and the author of Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality and Mind the Light: Learning to See With Spiritual Eyes. On the first page of this cogent and illuminating book on discernment, he states, "Many times I wish God spoke as clearly and as obviously as Mapquest or Google Maps or a GPS. But God doesn't."
We must find our way using what Bill calls "our sacred compass" which operates in our souls and calls us to a life full of adventure and meaning. The standard operating procedure for a spiritual person is to carefully listen to God who speaks to us through our bodies, our stories, imagination, inclinations, opportunities, dreams, authenticity, seasons, hearts, voices, and days. These leadings are in sync with a prayer by St. Patrick:
God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be in my end, and at my departing.
Bill calls those on this path pilgrims, not tourists. There is a serious intention here to discern the plan that God has for our lives. Like the pilgrim we must constantly watch for signs and guideposts. And at times we will lose our way. To a tourist that spells catastrophe, whereas to a pilgrim it is seen as another opportunity to ask the right questions and to grow in grace.
The way may also take us to unexpected places. That is okay since the pilgrim can learn a lot through surrender to mystery and openness to the unknown. Along this path, we come to rely on spiritual mentors and friends who provide inspiration, encouragement, and hope. Quakers call those who support us as "weighty." We rely upon whatever wisdom they can provide. In addition to one-to-one spiritual friendship, there are clearness committees, a simple "gathering of a group of spiritual friends with the holy aspiration to help a person reach a sense of sacred clearness." Bill closes with a helpful resource collection of hiking equipment and First Aid supplies.