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Center for Action and Contemplation
Discerning What is Ours to Do
Discerning What is Ours to Do

Spirit-Led Action

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

CAC teacher Brian McLaren shares the power of ongoing discernment, allowing ourselves to be ever drawn by the Holy Spirit into service and action on behalf of others:

The Spirit leads us downward. To the bottom, to the place of humility, to the position and posture of service . . . that’s where the Spirit, like water, flows. . . .

If you listen to the Spirit, here is what will happen to you. You’ll be at a party and you’ll notice on one side of the room all the beautiful people laughing and having fun together. In a far corner, you’ll notice a person who is alone, feeling awkward, not knowing anyone. The Spirit will draw you to the person in need. You may become the bridge that connects the outsider to the insiders—and in that connection, both will be better off. . . .

Here’s what will happen to you if you listen to the Spirit. You will realize that someone is angry at you or resentful toward you . . . or worked behind your back to do you harm. Everything in you will want you to write them off or get them back. But the Spirit will draw you toward them in humility. . . .

Here’s what will happen if you listen to the Spirit. You will see a person or a group being vilified or scapegoated. Everyone is blaming them, shaming them, gossiping about them, feeling superior to them, venting their anxieties on them. . . . But the Spirit will draw you to differ courageously and graciously. . . . You will risk your reputation in defending the person or people being scapegoated. And in that risk, both you and they will know that God’s Spirit is alive and at work in your midst.

If you listen to the Spirit, here’s what will happen to you. It will be late. You will be tired. There will be dishes to do or clothes to pick up or trash to empty. Someone else should have done this, you will think with anger. You will rehearse in your mind the speech you will give them. And then you will think, But I guess they’re just as tired and overworked as I am. So maybe I can help. You won’t do this as a manipulative ploy but as a simple act of service. . . .

There is a prison near you. A hospital. A park or a bridge or an alley where homeless people sleep. . . . There’s a country in great need or a social problem that few people notice. If you listen to the Spirit, you will be drawn toward an opportunity to serve. At first, the thought will frighten or repel you. But when you let the Spirit guide you, it will be a source of great joy—one of the richest blessings of your life.


Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation (New York: Jericho Books, 2014), 231, 232, 233–234.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Untitled (detail), 2020, photograph, Bellingham, used with permission. McKenna Phillips, Free Hands (detail), 2018, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper, Untitled (detail), 2020, photograph, Albuquerque, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: What is next?  We may want to know, right now. We may want this suspended droplet of water to drop, right now, but it will take its own time. It is beyond our control. We are invited to trust the suspension of liminal moments.

Story from Our Community:

I know I exist to love everyone I encounter actively and without judgment. Fr. Richard’s call to universal love has sparked in me a journey of anti-racism and a need to work each day to create a beloved community for all beings. —Joseph R.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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