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PART ONE
Preparation to Listening

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I. OUR SOULS ARE LIKE STAINED GLASS WINDOWS TO HEAVEN

1. FORMED: Each one of us is intricately formed from the infinite and joyful variety of the Loving Heart of God. Our souls were made to be windows into Heaven that could illuminate this dark world with the light of His love. He created us equipped perfectly for His divine purposes, He has formed our inmost beings and fashioned us in the depths of the womb. He knows our souls full well and the limitations of our frame. Each of us are individually and wonderfully made, carrying with us the seal of His Holy Will, at birth. We are sent into the world to become a gift to our generation and an instrument of His inscrutable plans.

2. AGREEMENTS: There are agreements between our spirit and the Lord Jesus, as to the circumstances, sufferings and possible outcome of our lives, including a fore shadowing of the rewards He is preparing for us. These agreements are rarely perceived in the soul or intellect, but by God's intervention they are sometimes made known to the soul. They make possible supernatural hope leading to salvation, and the success of our mission. In advance His eyes have seen our actions, and our days were limited before one of them existed. His designs on our lives is weighty and profound.

3. THE GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES: The lives of the holy men and women gone before us serve as stained glass windows brightly illuminated by God's grace. They are the light of the world gone before us, and we are the light of the world that must yet shine before others, that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Heavenly Father. Their many virtues and good deeds illuminate the church with vibrant and inspiring color, in a way timely to God's agenda of salvation. They have learned to move away the dark clouds that prevent God's brilliance from shining through their souls with radiant light, because they cooperated with the graces given to them. They kept their hearts only for Him.

"The wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever." —Daniel 12

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II. THE SHADOWS CAST BY OUR CULTURE AND PLACE IN HISTORY

1. GOD'S CHOICE There are no miscalculations, He already has a profound understanding of the circumstances and timing of our lives. He has created us fully equipped, to save ourselves from this corrupt generation, and the sometimes destructive influences of;
a. parents and family
b. culture and peers
c. personal and social challenges to fulfilling His Holy Will

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III. THE CLOUDS OF SELF WILL AND PRIDE

The Church, in her wisdom, teaches that the entire purpose of life is to know, to love and to serve the Lord. "Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind and with all your strength... and your neighbor as yourself." Any attempts to do otherwise, living selfishly, obscures the light sent from heaven to illuminate the world and draw all men unto Himself. We all struggle against stormy clouds driven by our passions provoked by the world, the flesh, and the devil, but it is our attitude of cooperation with grace that determines the outcome. For the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it, nor shall it ever overcome to the end of time, because where sin abounds grace abounds ever more.

A Christian's GNP is personal holiness

1. The World: With the world we must constantly be on guard against selfish ambition and striving to increase our self worth by its transitory standards and the false standards of other Christians who are in bondage to visible results and honors. Mother Theresa told her sisters that God doesn't expect results from them, only obedience, in an attitude of love. The results are His business. We are conditioned from childhood to measure our self worth by our productivity, our output and social standing, bank account and assets. If we buy into this earthly wisdom, we become servants of our flesh and the world, and anyone who choses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

What the Lord is asking of us is personal holiness. He examines our behavior and motives, not accomplishments. A Christian's GNP is personal holiness. He saved His scathing indictments for the religious leaders of His time who loved money, the root of all evils which causes us to stray from the faith and pierce ourselves through with many pains. Pains that have nothing to do with personal growth in holiness, but rather lead us away from the love of God and neighbor.

And pains that will lead us to a day of judgment when the quality of our work will be tested by fire and if done with selfish or fleshly motives, be consumed with the wood, hay and stubble. We will suffer great loss, keeping intact only our salvation while passing through the fire

If you don't know how to swim, you may suddenly
find yourself in deep waters...

2. The Flesh: A temptation to believe that if I don't have experience or expertise in a certain area that the Lord wants to move me into, I can't do it. In other words, relying on our flesh to accomplish something. This can lead to lack of faith and the sin of despair. Pushing our own personal agendas, and the way things must be done also come from self preoccupation. It is healthy and humbling to observe throughout the history of the Body of Christ that God can do anything with anyone, no matter how unqualified they are or seem in the eyes of the world. Mother Theresa was the most unlikely to accomplish her God given mission, due to poor health and a heart condition.

Saint Therese, who lived only to her early twenties and had no education beyond age sixteen, none the less was given the title of Doctor of the Catholic Church, for her "little way" of doing every single task each day as an act of love for Jesus. God is always looking for the willing and obedient, not necessarily the qualified. He rejoices in supplying the qualifications so that all credit and glory can be returned to Him. Humility and willingness, for this reason He loves to throw His poorest servants into water way over their heads. If you don't know how to swim, you may suddenly find yourself in deep waters.

The Lord Himself set the standards when He deliberately chose to be born into a poor uneducated family. He could have chosen to be of the priestly or ruling class. But He made an enduring statement by all the choices of His life. At His coming He chose to be separated from the comfort and security of His family. He was repeatedly rejected, door to door, and finally found rest in a shelter meant for livestock. For parents, He chose a lower class family, and most of the men He called to be apostles were from the working class. He healed beggars and forgave prostitutes, was condemned as a false prophet and executed like a criminal between two thieves.

So if we consider our own calling, it is not to be wise by human standards, nor powerful nor noble. Rather, to be foolish in the eyes of the world. By the power of God working through us we shame the strong and reduce to nothing the gods of this world.

If a voyage is one degree off course
you will never arrive at your destination.

3. The Devil and his devices:

a. Miscalculation and distraction: When transversing the ocean a miscalculation of one degree may predictably land you on the wrong continent. To reach the shores of God's inscrutable will, we must constantly check our coordinates to stay on course. Satan knows that we have set our hearts on doing what is right and good.

So he will try to present another good very slightly off course to prevent us from reaching our destination. This other good will take so much time and energy that our original assignment will never be accomplished. If a voyage is one degree off course, you will never arrive at your destination.

One moment you were prepared and ready for action...
then out of nowhere, comes this obstacle
bearing down on you like a comet

b. Counter Attack: A favorite tactic of the enemy is the counter attack. You come out of prayer or a very positive meeting, ready for action. Ready to implement God's will. Perhaps you have even been under oppression for some time, and you have finally broken out by God's intervention. Then all of a sudden out of nowhere, (or so you think), comes this obstacle bearing down on you like a comet. This is actually a good sign. You are right over enemy territory. Proceed as planned and keep on going. The graces you received with your commission, will carry you through and this was just a skirmish sent to knock you off course. As soon as it is over, refocus and get busy with what you were given from God.

Counter attacks come in many different forms. It could be from a close friend or spouse who absolutely does not believe in a course of action, or someone you have always looked up to for direction. Perhaps it will be an aggressive direct attack to prevent you from walking out the door on your way to a divine appointment with grace. It may take the form of criticism aimed at provoking you to jump in on a project that could wait. There may also be an attempt to cripple you with anxiety or a false sense of responsibility, and to tempt you to become impatient thereby sinning in thought, word, or deed. In all of these scenarios, the goal is to prevent ministry from taking place either by canceling your plans or feeling debilitated through guilt or self pity. Any of these things may "suddenly pop up" before a prayer group that God was counting on you to attend, either to give or receive ministry.

"Lord, I don't want to feel this way, please take this from me."

4. LETTING GOD HANDLE YOUR TEMPTATIONS: When I find myself caught in the iron web of some passion or pressing predicament, my only recourse is to cry out to God, "Lord, I don't want this, take it from me, please!" This has always worked to remove anger and resentment, selfish ambition, pride and many other struggles I cannot even name. If I sincerely persist in this prayer, within a few minutes or hours, the temptation is gone, and recognized as another comet from left field to tempt me to sin or to be sidetracked by a right activity at a wrong time. At other times I ask the Lord to take it away from me when I receive the Eucharist.

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IV. ATTITUDES THAT CLOUD AND OBSCURE: All of these struggles can potentially provoke compromise in our lives and then we will either try to amend what God wants us to do, or develop a case of spiritual deafness in order to protect ourselves against threats to our concept of security, and personal holiness as well as our mission in the church. The heart and mind set in which we cope with these struggles is our attitude. Certain attitudes only pull our souls deeper into the mire of our humanity and compound our troubles, obscuring even more, the Light of the World that could have shown through us as a gift to mankind.

God opposes the proud...

a. Pride: Pride leads us to believe that we can decide better what our life goals and spiritual progress should be, even in the smallest arrangements. It is extremely difficult to detect, except for an uneasy feeling in our hearts that we are guilty of a self-righteousness attitude, while being critical of the shortcomings and failures in the lives of those around us. We can also suspect it when everyone else around us is being blessed and used by God and we feel passed by.

When we are in pride, we listen to any voices that will reinforce the illusion that we know best. Pride also encourages us to take for granted or take credit for a particular grace on loan from God.

b. Egotism: Egotism provokes us to justify ourselves for fear of losing self worth, as well as establishing a mode of behavior that is always seeking to be right, the authority. The soul who is secure in their worth, knowing that, “What a man is before God, that he is and nothing more,” is under no compulsion to correct, be right, or “in charge” because he is securely in the arms of his Beloved Lord and wishes all men to be at peace, and considers himself, least of all.

c. Self Righteousness: Self righteousness blinds us to our weaknesses and opens us to a spirit of deception. We can see clearly to remove the splinter in another’s eye but not the log in our own. If it becomes a long-standing habit, we begin to live in denial, ignoring the truth about ourselves.

but gives grace to the humble.

d. Fear: Fear of man, and insecurity can provoke us to please men vs. God. Fear of suffering, of all varieties; spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, tempt us to abandon the spiritual path and revert to the instincts of the flesh towards self preservation, or disappear into our own make believe world, denying that these threats even exist.

Grace comes knocking, Self Pity bars the door.

e. Self pity: Self pity leads to hopelessness and the sin of despair, as well as laying the blame on others and excusing ourselves, it may also mask a chronic pattern of sloth, spiritual or otherwise. Grace comes knocking, Self Pity bars the door.

2. OVERCOMING: In dealing with all of these destructive attitudes, if we are resolute we have only to ask Our Lord to take them from us, and cooperate with the graces He gives us. When dealing with defeat, or a sense of total inadequacy and helplessness, we have only to ask Him to do it through us. This nips depression and inaction before it becomes a pit.

IN CONCLUSION: Since then, what we are before God is all that we are, and our appointment with death is certain, we have nothing to loose in the present moment by taking the bull by the horns right now and amending our ways, while there is yet still time.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us..."

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PART TWO
Listening to God Courageously
and Very Carefully

Part One, Preparation for Listening, was a checklist for our hearts, so we will hear what God lovingly wants to speak, enabling us to act obediently, and confidently, centered and established in His Holy Will. Once we are familiar with the possible obstructions to hearing and knowing God's will, we can lovingly work with ourselves, asking God in prayer to remove every hindrance and change old counterproductive habits. In Part Two, we begin to learn the process of listening very carefully.

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I. DISCERNING THE UNIQUE COLORS OF YOUR WINDOW

1. Dispositions: Your God given dispositions and callings from the heart will be discovered as you look into your childhood and remember the activities that brought you the most joy and that you seemed to be naturally good at. Many of these pastimes and experiences were arranged for you by providence as part of your future vocation. There may even be some skills you have completely given up on and need the courage to resurrect, but they were planned by God to be a part of your mission and future in the Body of Christ.

2. Desires and talents from the past: Sometimes God brings up certain desires from the past to stimulate your choices in His direction for a specific task. Other times these are temptations from the fleshly nature and the enemy to throw us off the track. We must be extremely cautious to discern whether an inspiration is from a worldly beacon or His light on our path.

3. A pattern emerges: As you begin to sort out and confirm your discernment by certain holy readings and prayers, you will begin to see a pattern emerge. Like an archeologist gently brushing the sand away from a piece of pottery, certain pieces will be found that fit with others making the vessel complete. The findings may seem incomplete one day, but if you meditate and take your time allowing Him to confirm day after day, event after event listening and watching very carefully, at His appointed time all will be made clear.

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II. ATTITUDES THAT PRODUCE RESULTS

1. Forgiveness. Forgiving yourself and others for past mistakes that have injured, releases you to leave the past behind and move into the future without the weight of resentments and bitterness, which will surely affect what God has planned for you, and all the relationships along the way.

2. Humility. Laying all the decision making at His providential feet and trusting Him to make all the right choices at the right times. I cannot over stress TRUST in this cooperative venture with God. You will find yourself continually tempted to take the reins of control back as situations progressively meet with delays, contradictions and opposition. God writes straight with crooked lines. His power is perfected in our weakness, His edifice is constructed with the building blocks of contradiction, and when it is finished, there is no doubt about Who did it.

God writes straight with crooked lines...
"In his mind, a man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps."

3. Obedience. Obedience in following perfectly the path He lays out and confirms. Keep in mind that pride inspires us to hold onto our own opinions of how God is to accomplish His will in our lives, and it will sometimes masquerade in the guise of confusion, "Lord, I don't understand what You are saying." In which case we need to ask God to purify our hearts and motives. If we are trying to push our agendas through, and are being blocked by the Lord's representative above us, such as our pastor or spouse, it may be God's safeguard to protect His work from a premature move, or mistake. If we do not honor the office, we are not honoring God, what He has allowed, and what He is doing through this opposition.

We are not bound to obey anything that violates our conscience, goes contrary to the Scriptures, or our vows before the Lord.

"Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God."

4. Detachment and sacrifice. We cannot perfectly belong to Him if we are still holding on to the purse of our own opinions, or the things of this world. We must be willing to sacrifice what is most dear to us, if called upon to do so. Be confident that He never asks us to do anything that He is not willing to supply the grace to back up. Purity of heart coupled with faith is the single most important attribute in correctly discerning the voice of God in our hearts.

"My grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect weakness."

5. Commitment and endurance. We have to be in this for the long run, never turning back, but running the race to win, even as athletes punish and buffet their bodies to win an earthly reward, we are to do the same, for the love of God.

Those who do not learn from the failures of their past....
are bound to repeat them

6. Courage. Looking back over our past and confronting mistakes can be a very painful and discouraging process. But if we want to change the course of our lives, we must look at what went wrong and courageously commit to learning a better way. If our precious Lord is taking us on a journey into the basement of our hearts, it is because He wants to bring closure to the past and launch us in a new beginning. Surely we must weep for our sins, repenting and asking healing for those we have injured, but eventually it is time to get back up off our knees and go on. A very wise woman once advised me not to be held captive by the tyranny of memories.

"For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope."

But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit just as it has taught you, remain in Him. —1 John 2

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PART III
The Method,
Responding to the Holy Spirit

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I. GETTING YOUR BEARINGS

1. A SIMPLE PRAYER: Pray simply from the heart or intention, with or without words asking, "Lord, help me to receive Your thoughts, will and intentions for today."

You may also ask for the grace to carry them out, but He always accompanies His Holy Will with the graces needed, even prompting us to ask for actual graces in the moment when they are most necessary. I find that I am sometimes in water over my head and am reminded to ask, "Lord please help me to do this today." or "Do this through me, for you see that I cannot."

2. PRAYERFULLY, CALL UPON THE HOLY SPIRIT, and open your holy book, or Bible. Read both sides of the page or the entire chapter if it seems relevant.

3. LISTENING, VERY CAREFULLY: As you read, try to be sensitive to exactly what is quickened just for you. This may mean only a few words, or perhaps an entire chapter, such as in a short book like the Imitation of Christ. Don't hesitate to mark your readings with colorful highlighters. Many times it is the colorful drawing accompanying the reading that speaks to me so vibrantly.

Certain readings have a way of building a history in your life, and are themes that repeat themselves. God may be preparing you for a great work that was promised many years ago, and you know when you get a certain set of readings that the present trial by fire is part of that important preparation.

4. WRITING IT DOWN: In order for this guidance to become more concrete and formative, it is necessary for you to make it a part of the physical world so you can continually meditate upon it. I like to use index cards and place them around the house to remind me during the day, and may even draw silly cartoons on them to help me retain the precept. At the end of the day I put them in a card file box, that I will prayerfully draw upon later for Holy Spirit inspiration.

5. THE JOURNAL: In the beginning as you are getting accustomed to hearing from God in this way, it is good to write down your present circumstance and the readings. Days or weeks later when doubts assail you, go to your journal and rekindle your faith. Sometimes we find ourselves in life forming decisions and crossroads, and having your directions written down to review as developments occur gives you good reference points and the confidence to act on faith, rather than fear. As you go to different books for readings they will line up and point in a very particular direction. At some point you may feel inspired to answer the Lord by writing down your responses, this can easily lead to the beginning of a conversational relationship with Him, if He gives the graces and you respond.

6. NAVIGATING: When sailors navigate the high seas, they are without any visible reference points other than the stars on a clear night. In our real life situations we are learning to see as God sees, the realities beyond our comprehension. As He forms us, we will find it necessary to take more than one navigational reading in order to pinpoint our where-abouts and make the appropriate adjustments to our course. I take several readings from different sources to help me pinpoint what God is saying. Please refer to "Books to Use for the Formation of Our Conscience" for suggested books and their special uses.

In our real life situations we are all learning to see as God sees, the realities beyond our comprehension.

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II. ERRORS IN DISCERNMENT
There are more reasons than we can ever imagine or think of, but here are a few that I have found to be common and consistent.

1. BLIND SPOTS: We may have the right reading but not hear what God is saying, because we are biased by our attitudes and have a blind spot in our thinking. In the beginning years of this discipline it was very difficult, but as time progressed I was able to listen more carefully, because I had become acquainted with my own particular patterns of denial and accusation that would allow me not to confront the truth about myself. And this is an ongoing process like peeling back the layers of an onion. What I see today may be found anew next month.

2. CIRCUMSTANCES OUTSIDE OURSELVES: He may be alerting us to a certain brewing situation that is brewing that needs our prayers. We all go through trials where God purges us, in these times He often exposes or lets others see the most obvious faults, that we cannot see. This is not for the sake of judging or condemning one another, but so that we can pray. It has been my sure experience that as I judge, so shall I be judged, and I'm setting myself up for a fall.

3. PRIDE: If we are in pride, denial or judgment the Lord may allow us a deceiving spirit and all our readings will line up in a direction that will cause us to fall flat on our faces. God deliberately sent a deceiving spirit to Ahab when it was time for him to die.

(In I Kings 22 verses l9-23) the prophet Micaiah said, "I saw the Lord seated on His throne, with the whole host of Heaven standing by to His right and to His left. The Lord asked, 'Who will deceive Ahab, so that he will go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?'

And one said this, another that, until one of the spirits came forth and presented himself to the Lord saying, 'I will deceive him.' The Lord asked, 'How?' He answered, 'I will go forth and become a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets.' The Lord replied, 'You shall succeed in deceiving him. Go forth and do this.' So now the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours, but the Lord himself has decreed evil against you." ( The king believing the false prophets went into battle and was slain. )

When He wants to move us onto higher ground and out of deep seated counter productive patterns He may allow this deception to go on for months, or years, in order to give us a better grounding in humility.

"I will go forth and become a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets."

4. A WORD ABOUT FALSE PROPHETS: There is a teaching circulating in the Body of Christ, based on a particular interpretation of the Scriptures, that says, if a person prophecies (receiving personal or private revelation) and it does not come to pass, that they are a false prophet. I believe that only the Lord Himself is perfectly accurate, one hundred percent of the time and that all of us, no matter how saintly, are subject to error. Many great men and women of God have been humbled by their errors in discernment, only later to be raised up again by God, and go forward with a fruitful ministry. To say that any man or woman of God is perfectly accurate one hundred percent of the time is to put them on equal footing with God and set the prophet and the Body of Christ up for a tragic fall.

5. WHAT HAPPENED LORD?? I can remember the times I've said, "But, but....I got confirmations from Your Word, and events lined up and resources, everyone cooperated and there were green lights? What happened?" I have so far discovered these causes:

a. Sin in my life, He's dealing with me about something He wants changed, and He is waiting for profound life changing repentance.

b. Timing, it isn't His time yet, and that could be by months or many, many years, but I feel deep peace in my spirit and the willingness to wait.

c. Cooperation of another soul was part of the realization, and they weren't willing. (Be careful on this one, it can lead to denial or judgment.)

6. PERSEVERANCE: Most of us can remember our first attempts at riding a bike. It all started with a tricycle, then progressed to training wheels, and finally the big day, just two wheels. As we learned more about riding, we progressed from low to the ground kiddy bikes to full sized ten speeds. Along the way we fell and injured ourselves and sometimes others, but we wanted to master bike riding, so we never gave up. In the beginning we fell a lot, had bad injuries, got laughed at by peers who watched us, and had secret doubts as to whether or not we had what it took.

Discerning God's will is no different. The Lord said, "My sheep hear My voice." If we are Christians, we are sheep and we can be taught to hear. How can we serve a master who never speaks to us clearly? If the purpose of life is to know, to love and to serve the Lord, then the enabling equipment of communication, must be included. That doesn't mean from us to God only, that means two way communication, we must be able to hear Him as well. So we don't give up when we fall, when our peers see it and laugh, when we hurt others by our mistakes, and in the secret recesses of our hearts we feel like failures.

Without sincere heartfelt humility, you cannot implement spiritual knowledge into your life, producing virtue, before God

In the Christian life, without sincere heartfelt humility, you cannot learn. You may understand the concept all right, but you will never be able to truly implement it, so that standing before God, (not our peers), He will see the virtue in your life. Humility allows us to say, "O.K. I made a mistake, I'm not perfect after all, and You allowed it for my good. Lord help me admit my fault, apologize and repair the damage. Please heal the injuries I cannot repair. With Your help, I'm going to get back up and try again." (a little wiser for the experience). Here is where it is so important to seek Him and find out what went wrong. He may permit you to stay in the dark, because you are not ready to hear the truth. But eventually He will show you how and why it happened.

7. AND YOU WILL HAVE PEACE: And finally, when you have discerned correctly, you will have deep interior peace.

The signature of the Holy Spirit,
is peace, deep interior peace.

Your whole world could be collapsing around you, you could be seriously ill, feel aching remorse for your sins and failures, and be deserted by those closest to you. You could also feel the weight of God's justice upon your shoulders. In all of this, if you have discerned God's will correctly, you will feel unshakable security and Peace. When you have arrived at this place, where your interior conversations with God have so anchored you in His reality, that you can move forward with great confidence, living your life for Him in His perfect will, to the best of your ability, your greatest concern will be maintaining that intimacy through the daily discipline of your time with Him as well as faithful obedience to His every wish.

You will continually have to be on the lookout for the subtle and insidious traces of pride and self righteousness. These sins are so detestable to God in a chosen vessel, that He will frequently withdraw His presence and leave the soul on their own to feel His absence. Many times we cannot do anything about this except humble ourselves before Him in prayer begging for His Mercy. We are as yet blind to what caused Him to withdraw. If He convicts us of these things, we must repent completely. It is the little foxes sneaking in day by day, unnoticed that despoil the vines. The enemy knows we will easily detect a major move so he plans tactics that will induce complacency and result in "quiet damage", that when discovered will have accomplished its goal.

The entire focus of what the Lord has taught me is to navigate through these difficult times we live in where the church is dealing with a new crisis everyday, new doctrines are being proposed and confusion has sown tares amongst the wheat. In these times of apostasy, to survive as a Christian, we must necessarily have a strong and well formed conscience, and be able to discern His Holy voice from the many others that the enemy uses to throw us off course.

"But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." —John 16

"As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you."

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PART IV
BOOKS TO USE FOR
THE FORMATION OF OUR CONSCIENCE
AND A QUICKENED WORD FROM GOD

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THE NEW AMERICAN BIBLE: I like this edition because it contains the Deuterocanonical books. It also works well with a NIV concordance. I prefer a Bible that is clearly printed, easy to read, well organized and has headlines for topics, even when that subject is divided by a chapter heading. The main consideration is that the translation is accurate and speaks to your heart. We need to live and breath the Word of God, and a language barrier is for many, an hindrance to this living relationship with the living God, through His living Word. I also encourage marking the Bible passages given to you by the Holy Spirit for your own encouragement. I even draw rainbows, doves, trees, lightening, etc. alongside the pertinent chapters.

THE IMITATION OF CHRIST, by Thomas A Kempis, any traditional edition. This book is like holding God's mirror before your face. Used selectively each day, one reading, will acquaint you with the Mind of Christ and how we are to pick up our cross and follow Him. I use it first since it is like a scalpel to cut to the heart of the matter, especially exposing my motives.

MY DAILY BREAD, an excellent little devotional divided by topics, offering solid counsels to use against the many battles we face each day in the world. Very similar to the Imitation of Christ, with more contemporary language.

TRUSTFUL SURRENDER TO DIVINE PROVIDENCE, Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure S.J., Tan Publishers. This book is a very strong remedy for the self reliant, independent, materialistic Modern mentality. It proves over and over again the absolute necessity of dependance on providence for the consecrated soul who is sincerely pursuing personal holiness in their life.

SURPRISED BY THE VOICE OF GOD, Jack Deere, A very balanced and thorough book on the methods God uses to communicate through prophecies, dreams and visions. The author is very candid about his own mistakes in discernment and obstructions in the body of Christ that hinder good listening (to the Holy Spirit).

LITTLE FLOWERS OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, the blue and white cover, or any good traditional edition without interpretations. Saint Francis was raised during an era of great corruption in the church. His profoundly pure response to the Gospel did much to rescue the Church and set the example for all Christians to follow if they would live as the early apostles did. It presents a new perspective for our warped and twisted morality of materialism which was no less a problem in his day than it is in ours.

JESUS, THE WORD TO BE SPOKEN, compiled by Brother Angelo, Servant Books, the exhortations of Mother Theresa to her brothers and sisters. This is a wonderful book to help us form proper attitudes about service; in Jesus, through Jesus, and to Jesus. As well as about virtue and charity in community life. There are many excellent books of hers available, the main point is to make her a part of our daily formation.

JESUS, CEO, Laurie Beth Jones. I highly recommend this book to Christians called to an apostolate in the modern world who feel inadequate, ill equipped, unsuited and poorly motivated. I know this is not a traditional book, but while we're arguing over whose tradition to follow, satan is taking the world by storm by sowing a defeatist attitude in the lowly instruments God has chosen. I am speaking of little ones that seem hardly the choice for the job and get very little encouragement from those around them. None the less, they are God's choice and this book will help to motivate and encourage. Mother Theresa said that we owe it to the Lord to become saints, St. Francis said, that if he could do it, anyone could do it. Ms Jones has a bit of the modern day entrepreneurial spirit that encourages us to reach for Heaven's best. Using Jesus as the perfect model, the Holy Spirit has used her book to pull me out of many a pit.

THE APOSTOLIC FATHERS: Edited by Jack N. Sparks, Thomas Nelson, Inc. An inspiring collection of teachings from the early church fathers. Very challenging to our western mentality, very purifying in its approach to the faith. Many object lessons that will provoke a deep examination of our walk with God.

STREAMS IN THE DESERT: A collection of short reflections from a missionary who lost her husband while abroad. They are very touching and instructive as we deal with day to day issues in the light of the Gospel and eternal values.

LETTERS FROM THE DESERT: Carlo Carretto, a powerful little book in which the author shares his hidden struggles with the intellect and heart, in his desire to live the Gospel. The counsels are solid and traditional.

SPIRITUAL DIARY, Selected Sayings and Examples of Saints: St. Paul Books and Media. Sayings collected together under topics such as humility, diligence, simplicity, etc. Each page contains rich quotations and stories from holy brothers and sisters gone before. I especially like this book because it is easy to discern exactly what God is getting at. Each paragraph is brief and to the point.

THE FILE CARDS. This is not a book, but a system. Your own personal system to be reached by the Spirit in ways that are totally at His control. This is a very fruitful tradition we have been using for only a few years but goes back to the concept drawing lots in the Scriptures.

During our devotions, when the Holy Spirit anoints a very special word for us, from the Scriptures or from a pious book, we make a little three and a half by five inch file card with the encouragement on it, and place it into an open file card box. In the mornings when we get up to pray and are still feeling groggy, we go to this box, and ask the Holy Spirit to give us an instruction. We usually pull several such cards, and I cannot even begin to tell you what "out of context" readings we have gotten that day that turned out to be nothing short of miraculous counsel for an unexpected situation.

There is no doubt in my mind Who guided the fingers that picked that card. The catch is of course, we must go to God with a mind free from the entanglements of self-will, or we are likely to hear something the Spirit of God is not saying. We also use a copy of a book called "Bible Promises" when we feel the need to touch bases with the Mind of Christ while out on our day to day errands.

This approach to discernment may seem overly simplistic to some, and it can certainly be abused, but when combined with constant prayer and yielding to the will of God, and the solid spiritual works listed ahead of it, it becomes very useful. Again Our Lord is pleased with the innocent and childlike soul that comes to Him for guidance over every little thing, expecting answers that it can act on and fulfill the words He taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven." Amen

ADDITIONAL BOOKS FOR CATHOLICS

DIVINE MERCY IN MY SOUL, St. Faustina Kowalska. This book, a dialogue between a Saint and Christ is profoundly relevant for our proud and disobedient age. Her response to grace is so perfect that we could hardly have a better model (other than Mary). It is a soothing ointment to the soul after being confronted with shortcomings, its remedy is rest in God's Mercy.

THE OMNIBUS OF SOURCES OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI, Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago, Illinois. This book is much deeper and more detailed on the life of the early Franciscans. It is actually a collection of many books, Biographies of St. Francis by St. Bonaventure, Celano and Mirror of Perfection, Legend of the Three Companions, Little Flowers and Sacrum Commercium which is the classic allegorical dialogue with Lady Poverty that shows the splendor of this virtue. It has recently been reprinted into a two volume set.

THE DEVOTION TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS, Fr. John Croiset, S.J. This is an excellent book on the proper dispositions of heart necessary to authentic devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There are a number of beautiful promises made to those who practice this devotion authentically. Amongst them is the favor of the consolation of hearing and seeing the Lord in our souls that we may be directed in doing His Holy Will, as well as strengthening graces before and after trials. When opened with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is a source of great spiritual direction. When opened for reading it will sustain us in spiritual depth and wisdom, cleansing away the debris of worldly thinking that we collect each day.

TRUE DEVOTION TO MARY, St. Louis de Montfort. This treasure of wisdom explains in great depth and clarity, the necessity for a relationship and reliance on the Mother of God to reach holiness in our lifetime on this earth...and again to reach the pinnacle of favor with her Divine Son.

THE IMITATION OF MARY, Alexander de Rouville, Catholic Book Publishing I never fail to hear my Mothers heavenly voice when I open this book. The dialogue between disciple and Mary puts me intimately in conversation with her, This is the perfect companion volume to the Imitation of Christ. Mary's sweetness and uncompromising spiritual depth are conveyed with simplicity.

THE COMPLETE SPIRITUAL DOCTRINE OF ST. THERESE OF LISIEUX, Rev. Francois Jamart O.C.D. The littleness and childlike spirit of St. Therese is essential to our entrance into Heaven for it is written, "Jesus called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, "Amen I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven." She shares her struggles journeying in this "Little Way" that has earned for her the title "Doctor of the Church." I never fail to receive exhortation and encouragement to continue on in the battle against my flesh and self will, when I read this book. I also sense her presence very strongly during the readings.(She did say that she would spend her heaven doing good on earth.)

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MATERIALS NEEDED

Journal and Pen

Holy Books

Index cards and file box

One and one half to two hours uninterrupted and protected time,
when your mind is fresh and alert

An attitude of heart that is open and
ready for anything the Lord wants to bring up

Fortitude in searching our hearts for any attitudes and habit patterns that might separate us from being in perfect accord with Him

A commitment to action in following out faithfully for the Love of God, the guidance and counsels received in prayer that His kingdom may come and will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven

If we cannot whole heartedly be in this place then a sincere prayer, "LORD, I am not willing...but I am willing to be made willing."

If we do not have these dispositions our time of seeking God’s will and hearing His Holy Voice from Heaven will only result in confusion or denial.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."

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