DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Nouwen, Discernment (Introduction, Ch. 1-3, 5-7, 9)

Written by: on September 10, 2019

 Discernment is a book that I would be reading entirely because of the book sensitive topics that are very close to my heart. There is no doubt that Nouwen took his time to integrate precious aspects in his approach to the issue of Discernment. In my opinion, the author takes a very comprehensive perspective and incorporates essential elements that profoundly resonate in my life. He speaks on spiritual discipline as a means to know how to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit for our ministry. 

 Nevertheless, there is a tendency to lean towards our abilities and resources. We tend to base our decisions on the obvious and the logical. After reading Nouwen, I think of my new journey with the doctoral studies in part leads me to question how much is emotion, and how prayers went into discernment. We will always have doubts but what helps us to find peace in our heart is to maintain that full consciousness in God through the spiritual disciplines of which the author submits.

 “Discernment is a spiritual understanding and an experiential knowledge of how God is active in daily life that is acquired through disciplined spiritual practice. Discernment is faithful living and listening to God’s love and direction so that we can fulfill our individual calling and shared mission.”

Nouwen, Henri J. M.. Discernment (p. 3). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.  

 I like what the author says that we tend to maintain spiritual deafness that makes us unable to recognize what God is doing. He suggests that the solution to this problem is, therefore, to acquire that spiritual maturity through spiritual disciplines which takes time to desensitize. That is very true, and I admit that I am a victim of the spiritual deafness and get stuck in my endeavors of life. Only the blows, the challenges, and the problems stop me in the eagerness of life. Only in this way can I sit still, I believe that only in this way can God grab my attention.

  “When we are spiritually deaf, we are not aware that anything important is happening in our lives.”

Nouwen, Henri J. M.. Discernment (p. 5). HarperOne. Kindle Edition. 

 One aspect of the spiritual discipline of which I have a lot of difficulties is in concern with the idea of discernment in solitude. That approach implies that I have to look for the time to be alone in the presence of the Lord.

“Communion with God alone in prayer leads inevitably to community with God’s people, and then to ministry in the world.”

Nouwen, Henri J. M.. Discernment (p. 10). HarperOne. Kindle Edition. 

Matthew 6:6-7 Revised Geneva Translation (RGT)

“But when you pray, enter into your chamber. And when you have shut your door, pray to your Father Who is in secret. And your Father, Who sees in secret, shall reward you openly.

 One time I went to a convent to pray, and at first, I really had a hard time concentrating with all the distraction and noise. My mind was wandering around and unable to focus. An hour later, I picked up one of the books that the nun asked me to read. I was not sure if she was going to ask if I read the books after my time was over, so for respect, I decided to leaf through the pages. The name of the first book was Mi Corazón se fue tras Él: Diccionario Doctrinal de M. María Inés-Teresa Arias by Juan Esquerda Bifet. The other was The Deceiver: Our Daily Struggle with Satan. As always, obedience paid off and I was blessed by what I read.     

     As I found myself in a cold and strange place, yet one full of the glory of God, I was able to be silent and listen to God’s voice as He led me into a time of reconciliation with my vague intimacy with Him. Through the book of Mi Corazón se fue tras Él, The Holy Spirit taught me that a consecrated life in Christ represents a healthy marriage. It is full of commitment, responsibilities, and intimacy. The author asserts that this compares to marrying Jesus and living consecrated with Him in prayer. In the first chapter of the book The Deceiver, the author argues that life is a struggle but the passion of Christ and a consecrated prayer life is indispensable in spite of the struggles. 

   “When we are truly listening, we come to know that God is speaking to us, pointing the way, showing the direction. We simply need to learn to keep our ears open. Discernment is a life of listening to a deeper sound and marching to a different beat, a life in which we become “all ears.”

Nouwen, Henri J. M.. Discernment (p. 5). HarperOne. Kindle Edition. 

 In conclusion, I am encouraged by the author to remain attentive. To be sensitive to the ongoing connectivity with the Holy Spirit in the many ways already address. I pray that during my busy time of studies, I can discern carefully and pay attention to the Holy Spirit as He will be speaking to me in the many ways subjected. 

About the Author


Joe Castillo

Los Angeles and we have four children’s, Joseph, Christy, Stephanie, and Angie. We consecrated to serve the Lord when I was 19th, and Lilyana was 17th. We have been serving the Lord for over 27 years. Ten of those years we serve in Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon with WEC Int. The Lord called us to plant churches amount the Baka pigmies. The Baka ware an unreached people group, but we praise the Lord that now they have the gospel and many churches have been planted. Currently, we work as lead pastors of Light and Life Sylmar church. L&L is a multicultural ministry with people from many nations.

8 responses to “Nouwen, Discernment (Introduction, Ch. 1-3, 5-7, 9)”

  1. mm Steve Wingate says:

    You wrote, “We will always have doubts but what helps us to find peace in our heart is to maintain that full consciousness in God through the spiritual disciplines of which the author submits.” It is interesting to me how God puts up with our doubts. I am coming to believe that God does not mind them, so long as our heart is wanting to understand but does not understand grace.

    With this, I want to interject a thought that we will not always have doubts. When we have no earthly distractions I doubt we will have doubts. And, yet, this conflict on this side of eternity doubts will try to affect us. They are a reality. Could it be that we can answer them with a transformational statement (e.g., God has something to say about that!).

  2. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    I love being exposed to authors and books that are out of my usual circles, so thanks for talking about Mi Corazon se fue tras El. Your frequent mention of the Holy Spirit leads me to believe that understanding the 3rd person of the Trinity and our relationship to him are of great importance to you. How was that instilled in your life and walk of faith?

    • mm Joe Castillo says:

      I grew up in a Pentecost context where the person of the Holy Spirit is given a very strong enfaces. AG church to be exactly where I learn to pray to the Holy Espitirt for guidance and wisdom.
      John 14:26 is one of my day scriptures in that regards.

      But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

  3. mm Greg Reich says:

    Solitude as well as some of the other more contemplative spiritual disciplines tend to be hard for many of us. Of course, they wouldn’t be called disciplines if they came easy. Discipline costs us something. Nouwen exposes the need to embrace these disciplines to get us beyond ourselves and the noise of life. Easy convenient Christianity doesn’t exist when seeking the deeper things of God. Could it be that the reason many of us struggle with the more contemplative spiritual disciplines is due to the fact that we fear facing who we really are inside? Are we afraid to ask the hard questions about our lives in a world that condones almost anything?

  4. Nancy Blackman says:

    I’m probably one of the wierdos that loves solitude. Maybe it’s because I’m an extreme introvert, but maybe it’s not. I find that if I don’t lean into quiet and solitude and contemplation that I do more of what you stated, ” Nevertheless, there is a tendency to lean towards our abilities and resources. We tend to base our decisions on the obvious and the logical. ” That being said, something I learned in seminary was that God created each of us in different ways. For some it is easy to listen to our abilities and resources as a way of hearing God. For me it’s not. Isn’t emotion part of how God built you? Is it okay for you to include your emotions along with your intelligence and prayers?


    • mm Joe Castillo says:

      I don’t know if that question is for me or not, but I caught my attention. We are made in the image of God, and He has given us the ability to reason and with emotions. Therefore he uses everything we are to communicate with us.

    • mm Dylan Branson says:

      “Isn’t emotion part of how God built you? Is it okay for you to include your emotions along with your intelligence and prayers?”

      This is something I have often wrestled with as well, and a part of me that I do not tap into very often. It’s one of those “head knowledge” things, where I know it’s okay to bring emotions into intelligence and prayer, but I find it difficult to actually implement.

      But your point about God creating us each unique and different to where we may use our reason and abilities as a way of hearing God is also important. I always found the Wesleyan Quadrilateral a useful tool in helping people understand how they connect best to God (whether it be Scripture, Reason, Tradition, or Experience).

  5. mm John McLarty says:

    Thanks for the reminder that in order to truly experience God’s leading through the process of discernment, we have to willingly set aside abilities and resources. Our tendency towards self-reliance can make us think we’ve got it all figured out, only to miss the most important things. Resources and abilities still matter, but discernment helps us better understand their purpose and potential impact.

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