The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


The Discerning Heart and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants


The Discerning Heart: Exploring the Christian Path by Wilkie Au and Noreen Cannon Au explores an important subject for many Christians who are often at a loss when it comes to the development of a discerning heart. We are willing and able to see the activity of the Divine in the lives of prophets, disciples and saints. But discerning the counsel and guidance of the Spirit in our own lives? That’s a different story.

Wilkie Au is a professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, where he teaches spirituality and pastoral ministry. Noreen Cannon Au is a practicing Jungian analyst and a faculty member of the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles. Together they present an overview of holistic discernment as both an art and a gift.

We can consciously come up with different ways to listen for God’s guidance, but we have to acknowledge that effort alone cannot make it happen. Grace is the mover and shaper of our lives.

The Aus give an illustration: “Regular practice of discernment sharpens sensitivity to the creative Spirit hovering over our world. Living with a discerning heart requires ongoing practice, much like maintaining the proficiency of a concert pianist.

At the height of his career Arthur Rubenstein, one of the world’s most renowned concert pianists, said: ‘If I don’t practice for one day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, the orchestra knows it. If I don’t practice for three days, the whole world knows it!’ The same can be said for living spiritually attuned lives based on discernment. The authors discuss being led by the Spirit and finding your personal path (Paulist Press, 2006).


The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, based on the bestselling novel by Ann Brashares, is one of our favorite movies for summertime entertainment. This charming film is for anybody who has found friendship to be one of the delights of life.

Four teenage girls have been best friends since childhood. They keep in touch during a summer of separate adventures by passing around a pair of jeans. Brashares explains this unusual plot devise: “I’ve always liked the idea that clothing can hold emotions and memories or connections to other people, so it wasn’t a stretch to imagine a pair of jeans could be a physical repository for a living friendship.”

After finding jeans that fit perfectly on each of them, the girls create a ritual for the pants. They agree never to wash them, to never say or think they are fat while wearing them and to never let a boy take them off.

During the coming months, the pants travel to Lena, who overcomes her shyness while on vacation in Greece; to Tibby, who gets in touch with her emotions while making a documentary; to Bridget, who reassesses her competitive nature at a soccer camp; and to Carmen, who renegotiates her relationship with her father. This film proves that friendships are deeply enriched by rituals, and more by shared stories (Warner Home Video, PG).


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February issue


Embracing diversity