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Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  1,038 ratings  ·  112 reviews
Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life features the wisdom that spiritual leader and counselor Henri J. M. Nouwen brought to the essential question asked by every Christian and seeker: What should I do with my life?
Nouwen emphasizes listening to the Word of God—in our hearts, in the Bible, in the community of faith, and in the voice of the poor as a way to discern G
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 25th 2013 by HarperOne (first published January 1st 2011)
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Austin Bauer
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am a Christian from a non-denominational, Pentecostal, and evangelical background. This book is amazing. There is so much good stuff about hearing and discerning the voice of God in this book!

If you have never read Henri Nouwen, this is a great place to start. This is a posthumous work edited by some of Nouwen's students. It is very well put together. One of my favorite things they put at the end of each chapter are the "exercises for deeper Discernment." These really helped think about what
Aug 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
The third of a posthumously published trilogy planned by Nouwen, the publishers recommend _Discernment_ for an Advent or Lenten study. After reading it, I agree, they would be fine for those times, but even more important in Ordinary Time. Why? That's when we need to practice discernment the most: every day. Holidays and fasts and feasts have their expected liturgies public and private, their practices and traditions. But it is in the ordinary days that we tend to get lost, to struggle to know o ...more
Ann-Marie "Cookie M."
Setting this one aside for another time.
Bonnie Niu
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It can be my book recommendation of the year. Before this one, I've read 3 of Nouwen's books, all of them enchanting, fascinating and down to the ground. There is always something peculiarly attractive in his works which I find deep connections with, he is not afraid of showing his weaknesses and struggles yet magnify the immense healing power from the Father. Some chapters of the book are highly connected to his Catholic background where I first found a bit hard to connect with, but all the poi ...more
Apr 09, 2021 rated it liked it
Aside from disagreements on theological points such as ecumenicalism and the divinity of man (this reminded me of things I didn't like when I read the later works of Richard Rohr), Nouwen still has a lot of wisdom to share in his practices for recognizing the presence of God. They are time-and-tested practices from as early as the 3rd to 4th century. I appreciated the sharing of these ideas.

Despite learning these theological positions of Nouwen, I am still thankful for his other work, namely, "H
Matt Maples
Henri Nouwen books are usually very thoughtful reads that cause me to reflect on my approach to my faith. This book was no different. Most, if not all of us have struggled with the question of what God's purpose for our life is and what job I should do. Henri takes this a step further and rather focuses on your life mission rather than a vocation. This is an insightful book that has been very helpful to me. ...more
Henri Nouwen was a beacon to many people who try to live the spiritual life. He was famous as an educator - at places like Yale and Harvard. But what Nouwen did best was to share his story, showing all of us that the spiritual life is an adventurous way to live. Laird and Christensen have edited Nouwen's writings, both public and private, to show us, in a seamless and intimate way, Nowen's own struggles and the discernment processes he followed to grow in his relationship with God and the world. ...more
Feb 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2015
I originally bought this book before I knew the other two existed, and I'm glad I was able to read it and see his perspective on how God talks to us through our days and how we can discern what is/is not said.

He was a Catholic Monk with what many would say was a very universalist liberal theology. It made me smile. Again, as with the first two books in this trilogy, it is suggested that the book be read in community and I think that would be an awesome thing. The discussion that could come from
Mar 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
The first few chapters of this book were my favorites, I have gone back and reread all that I underlined in the first half of the book. In some spots and mostly in later chapters I found that I differ significantly on a few theological issues. This did not hamper my appreciation for the wisdom contained in the book. Though not written by Nouwen but taken from his diaries and writings the book revealed such a personal, transparent and vulnerable journey that I could easily identify with the searc ...more
Keith Uffman
Nouwen isa must for those in the 2nd half of life.... brilliant. His biography is excellent, too
Early on, Nouwen defines his conception of discernment. To him, discernment is finding the spiritual answers that help us live our lives from day to day. Even more, he says--and this seems to be his purpose for writing--discernment is listening to the voice of God to find a purpose for our lives.

God speaks to us, he says, directing us as we discover what we're passionate about. And once we've determined what it is we're passionate about, God directs us to fulfill our purpose in His Kingdom. Voc
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is another of the several posthumous collections (mostly) of Henri Nouwen's unpublished writings which have been conducted by several colleagues of this highly influential spiritual writer, who died in 1996. It focuses on how one discerns God in one's everyday life and gives a glimpse at Nouwen's thoughts on the subject, especially in light of his move to L'Arche in Toronto in the early 90s. It is a helpful book for anyone considering discernment in its many guises and connects the reader w ...more
Rev. Linda
I decided a re-read was in order after a bud replaced my copy that someone else had borrowed and forgotten to return. If you do any advising/coaching for those seeking guidance on how to discern their ministry vocation (or actually, any vocation), this would be a helpful book for you to add to your library. ----From the Publisher: Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life features the wisdom that spiritual leader and counselor Henri J. M. Nouwen brought to the essential question asked by ever ...more
Brad Dell
Aug 06, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021
I hadn’t realized this was a posthumous knitting-together of Nouwen’s writing. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but the result disappoints. The writing felt structurally disjointed, overly complex, and redundant — it lacked polish.

Typically I’m underlining half the words on a Nouwen page, but in this case, a single line only every few pages. It simply lacked his usual brilliance, and instead relied heavily upon Thomas Merton’s ideas and life, supernatural Roman Catholic saint legends
Valerie Ohle
When I started reading Discernment, I did so with a sense of remorse. I had been moved by the first two books in the posthumous trilogy and I knew this was the last. A big part of me didn't want it to end. About a quarter of the way into the book, I was caught off-guard by the difference between Discernment and the other two books. Where they were more "instructional" sounding in nature, this one was much more personal and I would forget at times that it wasn't his autobiography. In the end, tho ...more
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life is an excellent guide compiled from the writings and course materials of Henri Nouwen. In his words: "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 was a Roman Catholic priest, but his though ...more
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another thoughtful book by Nouwen. God is always speaking to us. Discernment is the spiritual practice that discerns what God is saying. It requires us to cultivate trust, love, faith, hope, and courage.
* Divine guidance can be found in the books we read, the nature we enjoy the people we meet, and the events we experience.
* Our God is a God who cares, heals, guides, directs, challenges, confronts, and corrects.
* A person honestly seeking to know God's will and way will choose to be in community
Jodie Pine
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was an insightful and thought-provoking look at how we can discern God's leading in our lives. I especially appreciated Nouwen's exploration of whether working among the poor in Latin America was the best fit for him.

From the book's description: "Nouwen emphasizes listening to the Word of God—in our hearts, in the Bible, in the community of faith, and in the voice of the poor as a way to discern God’s plan.
Although the late Henri J. M. Nouwen counseled many people during his lifetime,
Ben Fike
Jun 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: spiritual-growth
This collection of Nouwen's writings on discernment was complied by friends and students after Nouwen's death. I found it a helpful exploration of Nouwen's writings and teachings on discernment. It is well organized and I imagine would be especially well suited for a small discussion group. It also offers a look at how Nouwen "practiced what he preached" by detailing some of the ways Nouwen himself discerned Christ's presence in his life and led him on his own journey. For those already familiar ...more
Apr 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book was so good. I felt like I had to pace myself by reading one chapter a day or else I'd fly right through the book. There is so much wisdom and insight into discernment and the voice of God. This is definitely one of those timeless Christian books like Mere Christianity that I'll continue to come back to. This is not one of those Christian-esque self-help books but a book that will challenge you to really pursue God in the silence and grow your relationship with Him through spiritual di ...more
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Living your purpose in kairos time

Not all theoretical practices but author shares his own experience of discernment, of how discernment is an act in waiting (passion), of how we should first know who we are (beloved child of God) before we asked what is God's purpose for us. Author is grounded in human experience and is empathetic that following Christ is not easy. However it is possible if we believe and understand that Christ is with us till the end of time. Reflection questions at the end of
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Nouwen begins this book with the disclaimer that it is an exploration of the discernment process, rather than a step-by-step instruction manual directing readers towards any particular career choice/life path. Despite the disclaimer, this book helped me discern my vocation! People from all backgrounds and across most stages of life will find useful points here, whether or not they are in the midst of making major life decisions. Although I typically prefer borrowing books from the library, I pur ...more
Jan 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good for Group Study

Each chapter concludes with a set of questions. Although good to read for the individual, this book seems more suitable for community, an ideal Nouwen promotes. The author's text reveals his quest for a deeper relationship with Christ and various efforts to find it. It reads in places like a diary of a late-life memoir. Nouwen quotes extensively from Merton, a little too much, I felt. He mentions many times the L'arche community in which he found his truest calling. I did fin
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book during the pandemic was doubly enlightening - both in terms of enriching my spirituality and shedding light on the hidden messages from God during this difficult time. God puts events and experiences in our path deliberately and discernment is the ability to recognize what the meaning of each event is in relationship to oneself.

Henri Nouwen is a sage who speaks to me in a forthright and clear way as a messenger of God. I look forward to my next encounter with Henri through his
Jacque Kelnhofer
Apr 16, 2020 rated it liked it
This was was a harder Nouwen read. The "aha" moments largely came in the Epilogue and Appendixes. It is tempting to dismiss what precedes these chapters, but that would be a mistake. Though dense and somewhat redundant in the efforts to use Nouwen's works as originally written, they lay the groundwork for a more thoughtful understanding of discernment, preference for the poor, spiritual journeying, the necessity of community, and the beauty of eucumenical faith. We are more alike than different! ...more
Sep 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ginib
Now was the time for me to hear what Nouwen had to say. My previous attempts reading this book ended after the first few pages.
Rather than a how-to book it's an affirmation that the reader, me in this case, is on the right track. Much of it is drawn from Nouwen's own experience as he discerned his way forward. So, it's more of a guide than directive. Some things you just have to work through and wait for the fullness of time. I don't do wait well.
Some of the appendices could have been omitted.
John Lester
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christianity
This book gave me a new lens on spirituality-- its emphasis on being God's beloved, the value of inner work, and the openness to learn from other people's spiritual journey. I recommend to read this at a slow pace-- pausing from time to time to give you room for reflection and processing.

Henri Nouwen's spiritual maturity will be felt all throughout the book. What a great privilege to learn from this spiritual leader!
Terrance Lively
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion, self
I am not really sure what I expected from this book, but it didn't really deliver much for me. I did find some of the advice from Nouwen to be overly complex or conflicting from time to time. Early on in the book, I felt the stories of others that he shared provided more insight into discernment, than his own stories. I do think he comes into his own in the last chapter of the book when he talks about waiting and action, but the book, while fair, just didn't work for me overall. ...more
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I began this book during Lent 2019 and here we are at the 6th week of the Easter cycle 2019. I thought it would be a great book for Lent. I was right! It turned out that it was thought-provoking, rich and accessible.
The readings are selections of Nouwen's work but they read as if they are meant to be together. Nouwen had a gift! The selections are timeless, inspiring and consoling.
Highly recommended for those new to this holy man as well as those who have read some of his work.
Joe Allison
Feb 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This may be Nouwen's most autobiographical book, as he shares how he tried to discern his vocation at various times in his life. He confesses his uncertainty and missteps along the way; more important, he recalls how he discerned the way forward by reflecting on books he read, individuals he met, and his everyday experiences in ministry. The Appendix essay by Michael Christensen lets us see through a colleague's eyes how Nouwen wrestled with these issues. ...more
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Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen (Nouen), (1932–1996) was a Dutch-born Catholic priest and writer who authored 40 books on the spiritual life.

Nouwen's books are widely read today by Protestants and Catholics alike. The Wounded Healer, In the Name of Jesus, Clowning in Rome, The Life of the Beloved, and The Way of the Heart are just a few of the more widely recognized titles. After nearly two decades of

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“Getting answers to my questions is not the goal of the spiritual life. Living in the presence of God is the greater call.” 6 likes
“In the Gospels, there are many examples of Jesus not giving a direct answer to questions put to him by his disciples and others. (For example, the mother of James and John asks whether her two sons might sit one at the right hand and the other at the left hand of Jesus in his kingdom, and Jesus responds, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” [Matt. 20:20–23].) He does this not because he has no patience with them but because their questions are the wrong questions; they are not the questions that live in God’s heart but belong instead to the fearful, anxious world of those who do not know who they are.” 5 likes
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