Dec 15th to Dec 21st – Advent Week 3: The Reward & The Promise

Reading: Chapter 5 – The Reward; Chapter 6 – The Promise (p. 91 to 133)

The mystery of life is that Jesus came to suffer with us so that we could be joyful. He didn’t come so we wouldn’t suffer but so that we could taste
the eternal life, that lasting joy that is of God, that is already
in this world, already now, already precisely here.
– Henri Nouwen p. 104-105

Thanks to each of your for another wonderful week of sharing. Many of you mentioned Henri’s emphasis on the first love or the original love. Henri’s understanding of the first love deepened in the years after these talks in 1985. He recognized that the words Jesus heard at his own baptism–“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”–are the ultimate manifestation of God’s first love. Perhaps Henri’s core spiritual insight is that the words Jesus heard are equally true for each of us as children of God. In 1992 Henri put it this way, “‘You are my Beloved’ reveal(s) the most intimate truth about all human beings whether they belong to any particular tradition or not.” (Life Are the Beloved, p. 30.) Our challenge is to claim our belovedness and to live it out daily. And the way to do that is by following Jesus.

This week we conclude our reading of Following Jesus. Having reflected on who we follow (Week 1) and how we follow (Week 2), this week we explore the reward and the promise of following Jesus, or why we follow. Jesus came that his joy might be in us and that our joy might be complete. (Jn 15:11). Joy is the reward for following Jesus. And our joy will never end since Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us, has promised, “I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20)

As we rapidly approach Christmas, it is a time for celebration. As Henri writes, “Celebration is, first of all, living out of joy. Celebration is what we are called to.” (p. 106). I found these to chapters to be particularly exhilarating. You may want to celebrate with us by responding to one of these questions or by sharing your thoughts and insights prompted by the reading. We are also grateful for those reading and following along silently.

1. In Chapter 5 Henri writes about an icon of the Risen Lord by Andrei Rublev that became the centerpiece of his chapel at home at Harvard. Henri brought this icon with him when he moved to L’Arche in 1987. Henri writes, “By praying to the Lord of history, and by following the Lord of history, you will be drawn into the mystery of God’s eternal love.” Below are photos of Henri’s altarpiece and Rublev’s icon that I took this spring at L’Arche Daybreak north of Toronto. Place yourself in this chapel. Pray with this icon. Share what you experience.

Altarpiece and icon in Henri Nouwen’s chapel at L’Arche Daybreak

2. A recurring theme of Henri’s work is the presence of God in our world today. In Chapter 6 he writes, “We have to live fully in the present, because God is always the God of now, of here. . . . The great art of spiritual living is to pay attention to the breathing of the Spirit right where you are and to trust that there will be breathing of new life. The Spirit will reveal itself to you as you move on. That is the beauty of the spiritual life.” Take some time for yourself to sit with the Spirit in these hectic last days before Christmas. Be quiet. Be present. Breath deeply and slowly. Listen. . . . Listen. . . . Be grateful for the your time with the Lord. If you are willing, share your experience.

3. As always, we’re interested in hearing how the issues Henri brings up connect with your own experience.

In these last days before Christmas, Henri offers us a great gift. May we all take some time to savor it and share with each other.

We’ll return next Sunday for a wrap-up for those that are able to join us. I want to take a minute now to thank each of you for sharing your Advent journey with us. May you follow Jesus each day for the rest of your lives. And may you and yours have a blessed and joyous Christmas.

Ray

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35 Responses to Dec 15th to Dec 21st – Advent Week 3: The Reward & The Promise

  1. Barry Sullivan says:

    Thanks to all for this Advent discussion. The comments and reflections of so many here added significantly to my reading of this book. Henri’s insights from many years ago are, as always with him, still very timely in our era. His words are much in need as we all seek to find “our way home in an age of anxiety.”

    Help me to remember, Lord, those guiding principles set forth by Henri near the end:
    “Prayer and service are what life is about. It is how the Spirit of God reveals God to you. Prayer and service are at the heart of following Jesus” (p. 132).

    Thanks again to Ray and everyone here for the stimulating discussion.
    Merry Christmas!
    Barry

  2. marge says:

    As I finish reading, I know my growing is unfinished…..My vow at this juncture, “Don’t be impatient. Don’t go back and pull out the seed to see if it is growing….trust….” p. 124.

    “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. God has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

    p. 122 “The Spirit frees us to be at home wherever we are sent.”
    p. 123 “In the Gospel to have patience means to stay fully where you are, to live the moment to the full, to trust that all you need is where you are.”

    So grateful for this Advent planting

    • Liz Forest says:

      Thanks for the reminder about patience while growth takes place unseen. I am pondering the text when Henri says,”Underneath all our fluctuations is a deep solid divine stream that is called joy. The love of God that touches us and informs us is a love that we can trust is there.” (p. 104)
      This is what I’d call Blessed Assurance as the hymn titled so sings. The action of grace goes on often unnoticed. That stream called joy cannot be stopped.
      Maybe a temporary “fluctuation” while I’m focused elsewhere. Another hymn comes to mind “Amazing Grace” with such powerful words and melody.

      Then we go to the Scripture and find the promise made: “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” – Luke 1:78-79
      Thanks to all the good writings we have and all here with inspiring posts.
      May we enter the Christmas celebration humbly, assured we are beloved,
      and with the happy feet of the messenger who brings Good News. Ah yes, another hymn “Go tell it on the mountain.”

      • marge says:

        Liz, all the songs you mention…reminds me of a line in a cantata song from another time….”and the heavens exploded with music everywhere and the angels spilled over heaven’s edge and filled the air and the Father rejoiced for He did not lose His Son, but He gained to Himself forever those who’d come”….. not sure of the writer, I need to take some time to check those details out, but Liz, all the music you speak of seems to be filling and spilling out…thank you! Yes, truly, JOY!

      • marge says:

        The details….from “Unto Us A Child Is Born” by Ronn Huff…the last song, “That Night” written by John W. Thompson…arranged by Ronn Huff…..thank you, thank you thank you,Liz…..another line…”When the cry of a baby pierced the universe, once for all men (women) were shown their worth”…..

  3. Jacky Lowe says:

    I shall read all your amazing comments again next week to get more insight from you all. I found Henri’s words on joy very insightful, “Joy is a spiritual gift and is hidden in human pain”. It is unusual to think of joy in pain.
    I sat with the icon in prayer and found the mark on the icon’s face reminded me of Jesus’s blood in the crucifixion, but I also found a great peace from praying with the icon and was totally absorbed with the icon so much that a loud noise startled me. The peace emanating from the icon made me think of hope, trust , faith and love. The icon also said to me take time and all will be well and God is with you in the suffering.

    God is in the present moment, not the past or the unknown future and many people find this concept difficult in the busyness of life. Sitting outside in the shade in the afternoons helps me to understand this idea. Monday it was very windy and the trees were swaying and groaning in the strong and forceful wind. I always imaging the spirit in the wind and today it was saying God is your strength and support during difficult times. It is summer here in Madagascar and the birds were very vocal about the strong wind and how it was disturbing their trees, but they were making a joyful noise.
    Tuesday afternoon as I sat under the gently moving trees the spirit was present in a very quiet, calm wind. A very different experience than the previous day and in the quiet wind the spirit was saying, be still and know that I am God and this gave a feeling of great peacefulness.
    These two afternoons with God were preparing me for a very difficult event that took place at 5am Thursday morning in the compound where I live. We all lived through the experience knowing that God was present in the suffering. Henri says this in his book ‘ There is nothing that God does not share with us. God is with us in every aspect of our lives.
    This morning one of my devotions started with the reminder, let go and let God ad included Psalm 55:72, Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you. A reminder that God is in the present evening in our suffering . As many of you have mentioned the Psalms and wonderful words for daily living

  4. Jacky Lowe says:

    Thank you everyone for your amazing comments I shall read them again next week to get more insight from you all. I found Henri’s words on joy very insightful, “Joy is a spiritual gift and is hidden in human pain”. It is unusual to think of joy in pain.
    I sat with the icon in prayer and found the mark on the icon’s face reminded me of Jesus’s blood in the crucifixion, but I also found a great peace from praying with the icon and was totally absorbed with the icon so much that a loud noise startled me. The peace emanating from the icon made me think of hope, trust , faith and love. The icon also said to me take time and all will be well and God is with you in the suffering.

    God is in the present moment, not the past or the unknown future and many people find this concept difficult in the busyness of life. Sitting outside in the shade in the afternoons helps me to understand this idea. Monday it was very windy and the trees were swaying and groaning in the strong and forceful wind. I always imaging the spirit in the wind and today it was saying God is your strength and support during difficult times. It is summer here in Madagascar and the birds were very vocal about the strong wind and how it was disturbing their trees, but they were making a joyful noise.
    Tuesday afternoon as I sat under the gently moving trees the spirit was present in a very quiet, calm wind. A very different experience than the previous day and in the quiet wind the spirit was saying, be still and know that I am God and this gave a feeling of great peacefulness.
    These two afternoons with God were preparing me for a very difficult event that took place at 5am Thursday morning in the compound where I live. We all lived through the experience knowing that God was present in the suffering. Henri says this in his book ‘ There is nothing that God does not share with us. God is with us in every aspect of our lives.
    This morning one of my devotions started with the reminder, let go and let God ad included Psalm 55:72, Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you. A reminder that God is in the present evening in our suffering . As many of you have mentioned the Psalms and wonderful words for daily living

    • Barry Sullivan says:

      Jacky,
      Thanks for all of your reflections. In particular, I found your comments about praying with the icon of interest. The peace you felt emanating from the icon has prompted me to pay more attention to that method of prayer, something I haven’t done much in my life. Great insights!
      Barry

      • Barry Sullivan says:

        Jacky, I meant to say, praying with icons is something I haven’t done much in my life. Though I have prayed often, your comments about the use icons provides me another “method” (if that is the best word).
        Thanks again
        Barry

  5. Ray Glennon says:

    From Beverly Weinhold
    Despite today being Dec 19, I’m still pondering Week Two. Henri’s movement from ‘who’ we follow to ‘how’ we follow Jesus is one of the most compelling and concrete invitations I’ve experienced. It needs to be said again out loud that we are wounded. Because contemporary culture has contempt for weakness. So people hide rather than disclose.

    To reflect on relationships as an “interlocking network of wounds” (56) is eye opening. It evokes compassion for others whose wounds are as deep as our own. It reveals why we can’t get our needs met in one another leaving us not just disappointed, but rejected.

    Only in returning to my first love, a theme echoed in Revelation 2: 4, can I experience my Belovedness. That said, it’s not a ‘one and done.’ But it’s a deepening practice of prayer: sitting in silence, seeing God seeing me and remembering my baptism in that interior hold I experience God’s gaze galvanizing my true self one glance at a time.

    No one like Henri sees the plight of people so crystal calling us all to follow Jesus and return to our first love. I am grateful for his life and legacy. And though I never knew him personally, his writing keeps calling me to a vow of stability when I veer off track.

  6. Elaine M says:

    Henri:
    “Fear makes people cling to security….To be joyful means to jump out of that place of safety and to try something new” (97-98).
    “Trust that a promise is given to you and that it is hidden in the soil on which you stand” (124).

    I was drawn to this book because I am always drawn to the Henri Nouwen discussions but particularly to the book’s subtitle “Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety.” I have never been a particularly courageous person. In any decision I tend to weigh the pros and cons to the nth degree. I try to plan ahead and carve out contingency plans. I want to know the how and why of everything in my life. I currently want to see ahead to the outcome of my husband’s illness. I want to see if my advocacy for social justice will play any role in effecting change. Thus, whenever I don’t feel some sense of control or agency, I feel anxiety even as I make an attempt, however feeble, to “let go and let God.”

    And maybe that is why as I was reading Henri’s reassurance in this book, a recent article about Mary Szybist, National Book Award-winning poet and author of Incarnadine, so impressed me. Her poems deal with the Annunciation, the visitation of Mary by the angel Gabriel, described as an “encounter between the human and something beyond human understanding.” Although Mary may have had every right (in human terms) to fear the angel’s words and the implications for her future (society’s potential reaction to her pregnancy, Joseph’s reaction, the appearance of this other-worldly being), Mary trusted in God. The poet Mary says that she has always been drawn to the sainted Mary for whom she was named and strives to acquire the same kind of trust in God. She says that she doesn’t demand concrete answers: she even “embraces perplexity.”

    I am not quite there yet. I need to trust in God’s plan without full clarity about the future. Though it doesn’t make total “sense” in finite human terms, I need to embrace the perplexity that a perfect God could still perfectly love us imperfect beings, that a loving God calls us to find meaning in suffering, that the seeds of something new and wonderful may yet spout and blossom within us imperfect humans.

    • Patricia Hesse says:

      Elaine, I will be reading Mary Szybist book after Christmas. Something that has stuck with me over the years when struggling with “wondering” is this (found on the body of a victim of the Holocaust): I believe in the sun, even when it’s not shining. I believe in love, even when I feel it not.I believe in God, even when He is silent.” I always tell myself that even on the cloudiest of days, the sun is still up there –so is its Creator.

  7. Catalina says:

    “Trust that a seed has been planted”.

    • Liz says:

      That seed is the love of God! In 1992 Henri put it this way, “‘You are my Beloved’ reveals the most intimate truth about all human beings whether they belong to any particular tradition or not.” (Life Are the Beloved, p. 30.) Our challenge is to claim our belovedness and to live it out daily. And the way to do that is by following Jesus.
      If only each person lived as the Beloved of God, what a wonderful world we’d live in.

  8. Christine Smith says:

    “When you know yourself as fully loved, you will be able to give according to the other’s capacity to receive, and you will be able to receive according to the other’s capacity to give.” – This, from today’s Henri Nouwen daily meditation on the freedom to love, had me pondering my own ability to receive love.

    It also had me considering how this is connected to other wisdom from Henri in Chapter 4 and two verses from Luke 1 that have been on my mind over the past few days:

    “Underneath all our fluctuations is a deep solid divine stream that is called joy. The love of God that touches us and informs us is a love that we can trust is there.” (p. 104)

    “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” – Luke 1:78-79

    God’s capacity to give love is boundless. I am not so sure my capacity to receive that love comes close to God’s capacity to give it. – Lord, give me ears to hear and a heart that is open to receive your messages of love and joy – especially during this season that anticipates and celebrates your most precious gift of unmitigated love.

    • Liz Forest says:

      Thanks, Christine, for your focus on receiving what grace God wants to give. Often I’m hesitant to receive and more likely to be the giver of time, talent and treasure to another. Yet I rely on the Holy Spirit, give of gifts, to light a fire in me, opening me up to receive. On my walk to Sunday worship, I ask for that Gift to be open to receive the blessings God has in store for me in the Liturgy that day. Psalm 51, 10-12(My version) Create in me a pure heart, O God,
      and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Give me your Holy Spirit to fill me
      with the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

      • Christine Smith says:

        Thank you, Liz. I love the Psalms and, apparently Henri Nouwen did too. I found this quote online from The Genesee Diary:

        “The Psalms will keep my spirit alive, the Psalms will allow me to comfort others, the psalms will prove the most powerful, yes, the most revolutionary weapon against the oppressor and torturer. How happy are those who no longer need books but carry the Psalms in their heart wherever they are and wherever they go.”

    • marge says:

      Thank you, Christine, for drawing my attention to receiving…like you, I wonder about my own capacity to receive…..a couple of Sundays back, my husband led our congregation in singing “Oh how shall I receive Thee” and your comment has me remembering and revisiting that song text..truly, for me, much like the icon by Andrei Rublev for Henri, speaks of reward that Nouwen offers in his anointed, nurturing words…..the last verse….

      “Thou comest Lord in gladness, in mercy and good will, to bring an end to sadness and bid our fears be still. We welcome Thee our Savior, come gather us to Thee, that in Thy light eternal our joyous home may be.”

      A lead in to Chapter 6, maybe? Waiting to receive…for now, I find myself anticipating God’s welcome and my own welcoming of this “precious gift of unmitigated love.” as you express, Christine. Receiving and releasing, extending the same glad welcome today as I go about preparing for a visit from my newest granddaughter and her parents, and as I move in and out among those gathered at the coffee shop and the small gift shop nearby.

      • Christine Smith says:

        Marge your post reminded me that the peparations we make as Christmas approaches – the tree, the lights, the festive decorations – are ways we “extend a glad welcome” to the babe into our homes and our hearts. We want to make it a celebration, something like we might do in welcoming a family member home after a long absence.

        Henri wrote, “The great challenge is to claim the joy that Jesus offers us.” I’ll be making this my focus in the midst of all the holiday preparations.

    • Pat Martin says:

      Christine, I thank you for including the reflection from p. 104 because I had missed a significance of the word “fluctuations” to me. December 15th was Laudate Sunday (from the Latin word Gaudete “Rejoice,”) and the homily at Mass focused on Joy. As I listened I wondered yet again if I am among those in whom joy is absent because there has been a pervading sense of sorrow in my life.

      Henri Nouwen’s discussion of “joy” in chapter five led me into a deep healing of a pain that I had identified during his previous reflection on love of enemies and the carrying of a cross. During times when I have been upset or unhappy because of a situation I would suddenly let go of it and then feel happy again. I “fluctuate” between grief and what I can now identify as a “deep solid divine stream that is called joy.” I am so glad to be assured that neither the grief nor the joy is imaginary.

      • Christine Smith says:

        Pat, yes Henri’s use of the word fluctuations popped out at me, too. For me, mixed in with the holiday celebrations there are the memories of those no longer here to celebrate, particularly my youngest son who died at age 32 a few weeks after Christmas in 2009 –
        Being in another state to spend Christmas with my other son”s family, I missed that last Christmas with him. We had exchanged gifts before I left on my trip, and I still hold dear the CD he gave me then. And he still enters my mind and heart whenever I listen to it.

        Henri also wrote:
        “When we can face our own painful situation, we will discover that hidden in the pain is the treasure—a joy that is there for us to experience here and now.” (p. 104)

        In chapter 6, , Henri wrote about the importance of being present in the here and now: “The great art of spiritual living is to pay attention to the breathing of the Spirit right where you are and to trust that there will be breathing of new life.” (p. 124) … “You can be fully present to the moment and trust that even in the midst of your pain, in the midst of your struggle, something of God is at work in you and wants to reveal itself to you.”

        It occurs to me that as memories arise, they become part of the present moment. God is at work in our memories, as well, I think. He is with us in our grief and in our joy.

        • Pat Martin says:

          I like your last comment, Christine, that “God is at work in our memories,” and that “they become part of the present moment.” I am thinking now that some of my times of dwelling in the past have been times of the sort that Henri speaks of as presence being revealed through absence. (p. 117) Even sorrowful memories can bring sweetness and joy with them.

  9. Ana says:

    Thank you for your sharing. Today in mass we lit the third pink candle: the candle of joy. In the homily, the priest mentioned the joy not as that momentary happiness if everything goes well for us, but as the intimate knowing that God is always with us. In a very similar way that Henry explains the true spiritual joy as our deep connectedness with God in any situation.
    I remembered when my son went to Africa he told me about the children that were so poor they didn´t have pencils for everybody. Immediately I tried to organize a group to send supplies for the school, and he told me that I didn’t understand…they had this joy reflected in their games and in their dances, just celebrating they were alive…. a similar situation that Henry relates during his stay in Peru. I loved the way Henry defines service as an expression of gratitude for the love we already experienced, not an anxious need to save the world. (Like my response of immediately sending supplies for the people in need.)
    Ray, I was very surprised to see to the image of the Icon in Henri´s chapel that you uploaded; I have the same image of Christ Pantocrator besides my candle where I pray, thank you so much.

  10. Ray Glennon says:

    Friends,
    There were several comments made against last week’s post at the end of the weekend. You might want to check them out. You can navigate back to the earlier posts using the Recent Posts links to the right of the current post or using the Older Posts link at the bottom of the current post.
    Ray

  11. Meena says:

    Henri has shed beautiful light on Jesus’words that I wasn’t quite sure how to connect. “Come to Me all you who carry heavy burdens…..Take my yoke…my burden is light”. “It is not that God came to take our burden away or to take our cross away or to take our agony away. No. God came to invite us to connect our burden with God’s burden, to connect our suffering with God’s suffering, to connect our pain to God’s pain.” (read from last para p.79, to first para p.80). That is so profoundly beautiful and life affirming. Similarly his clarifying of Jesus saying to Peter that he Peter will be led to where he doesn’t really want to go…and that’s because love makes him do that. Henri makes succinct so much and helps me see the depth in Jesus’ words. ‘Take up your cross and follow Me”. Previously I had interpreted this solely as the hardship one encounters when choosing to follow and obey Him. Henri makes it clear in helping me see it is about suffering and pain in the whole of our life. I found all this so profound that I haven’t quite grasped it fully although it resonates so deeply. I will need to go back and read it again until I can truly internalise the truth of it all.

  12. Patricia Hesse says:

    The Absence of the Gospel

    When Henri talks about what he calls, “presence revealed through absence,” he shares how clearly he saw the love of his family because of his physical distance from them: “When I was home with them in the kitchen or the living room, it all seemed so ordinary, but when I took a step away, I saw something and felt something I hadn’t seen or felt before I left. My relationship with them deepened through absence.” He continues in another passage, “There is a new intimacy there that is only possible in absence, with distance.” In another paragraph he states, “It is so important for us to realize that Jesus had to leave for us to understand who Jesus truly was.”

    When I read this section my thoughts immediately jumped to something I’ve been experiencing with God’s Word. A little over a year ago, I purchased a journaling Bible with the purpose of reading a chapter in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament each day and then “writing” my prayers in the space provided, based on what the scripture spoke to me. I do this very early in the morning so there will be no distractions and have come to cherish this time with the Lord, when even the sun isn’t awake. What happened surprised me in a way I would never have expected. The New Testament, of course, is much shorter. I finished it and shifted my reading –reading a chapter a day from two different books in the Old Testament. At first, I didn’t notice anything different, but after awhile, I started feeling weighed down with the repeated rejection of God by his people. I found myself struggling as I read of the blatant practices of most of the kings –idol worship… sacrificing children. I skipped over to the prophets, expecting to find relief. While the prophecies were comforting, the continuous rebellion of God’s children, the exiles God lovingly used to return His children to Him, the destruction of the temple …all were disheartening. The stories of Ruth and of David and other heroes of the faith are uplifting, but the majority of the Old Testament focuses on a people who share my weaknesses and do that which is contrary to God’s will and His law, as I do –a people who fail to honor and fear the Almighty. I was seeing my sins, my rebellion clearer than ever before.

    About two months ago, I realized that leaving the New Testament and living in the Old Testament, had me longing for the words of Jesus in Luke and the inspired words of James and Corinthians. My longing for God’s fulfillment of the prophecies and the birth of the baby in the words of the New Testament revealed to me something I hadn’t seen or felt before leaving the New Testament. My relationship with the Gospel had deepened through its absence. Since Advent was only a little over a month away, I decided to continue in the Old Testament and wait and return to reading the New Testament at Christmas. In the Old Testament, the world was anticipating, hoping, and longing for God’s appointed Savior from the time of Adam and Eve up to Malachi.

    And now I go back to Henri’s statement, “It is so important for us to realize that Jesus had to leave for us to understand who Jesus truly was.” My time away from the New Testament, my leaving, has given me a very tiny, but effective glimpse of the longing for Emmanuel, of understanding who Jesus truly is to a lost world. It has helped me understand how very much I cherish the words of our Savior. I look forward to Christmas when I will return to reading the Gospels and the Epistles, appreciating and cherishing them in a new way.

    • Barry Sullivan says:

      Patricia,

      Your reflections beautifully capture my own feelings as I have read through the Bible over the years. Indeed, I too found that “My relationship with the Gospel had deepened through its absence,” especially after spending many days only in the Old Testament. You expressed my own sentiments very well!

      The Gospel message helps bring me closer to the “spiritual joy” that Henri communicates in chapter 5. This is a joy that will not allow us to escape the problems of the world, as Henri notes. “Joy is a gift that is there even when we are sorrowful, even when we are in pain, even when things are difficult in our lives” (p. 102). Moreover, the joy of God, I must remember and put into practice, “can be with us always…The joy of God is never going to leave us” (p. 103). I sometimes forget this fundamental lesson. Lord help me to remember this, especially during the most challenging points in my life!

      Barry

  13. Kim Klein says:

    I’ve decided through prayer this morning to do something concrete to demonstrate love to different ones of my “enemies” every day this week… a small homemade gift to this one, a phone call of support to that one, an offer for a ride for an errand for the one who doesn’t drive… God will show me the way. Anyone else take up the challenge with me?

  14. Elaine M says:

    p. 96- “Joy is connected to newness….Joy is life because life means something is moving away from the old static places to new dynamic places.”

    Two memories come immediately to mind:
    Memory #1:
    In the middle of the urban sprawl of north Texas, the Connemara Conservancy provides a refuge, several acres that feature five distinct natural habitats as well as discretely placed sculptures—all working in harmony as a testament to the handiwork of God and human artists. Several years ago the preserve featured a series of well-placed empty wooden frames placed on posts. The idea was to stand back a bit and view only the portion of the preserve that appeared in one frame, thus focusing the viewer’s attention on small details rather than a larger vista. Just standing still and concentrating on one small detail greatly enhanced the total experience. And so it is with a God-given life: to stop and breathe and focus on the joy to be had–one moment at a time.

    Memory #2:
    When I was on a high school retreat (eons ago), a priest described heaven as a kind of travel vacation in which the Divine Tour Guide led us from one spectacular vista or monument or natural wonder to the next—without jag lag or heavy baggage or homesickness. The vistas, of course, were analogous to God’s beautiful multi-faceted divine nature which we humans can only begin to imagine during our earthly existence. Joy at every turn. Life on earth may feel like the “same old, same old” of 9-5 work routines, ingrained bad habits, even loved ones whom we come to take for granted unless, of course, we can rip ourselves away from the inertia, see with new eyes, and travel to those new mental and spiritual places in which we can experience joy. Heaven is all of that—all of the time.

    • Patricia Hesse says:

      The use of empty wooden frames is powerful –God is in the vistas, but maybe even more so in the details. This is an image I hope to remember and draw upon to help me marvel in awe at God’s creation.

    • Liz Forest says:

      Thanks for drawing us into the “moment of joy” as you said: “so it is with a God-given life: to stop and breathe and focus on the joy to be had–one moment at a time.”
      Henri affirms your perspective: “We have to live fully in the present, because God is always the God of now, of here. . . . The great art of spiritual living is to pay attention to the breathing of the Spirit right where you are and to trust that there will be breathing of new life. The Spirit will reveal itself to you as you move on. That is the beauty of the spiritual life.”

      May I believe in the moments as God-given and see how God works in my life.

  15. marge says:

    Already, I recognize fear is the culprit of my “imprisonment”. I vacillate between routine behavior and rootless behavior….to name fear as the root helps me so much…I look forward to more understanding, awareness, seeing…..freedom….

    I did read Nouwen’s daily, online devotional today…he writes, “joyful persons see with open eyes the hard reality of human existence and at the same time are not imprisoned by it.”

    Connecting seriousness with accomplishment is a new thought p. 92….pondering….

    • Barry Sullivan says:

      Hi Marge,

      Thanks for sharing that statement from Henri in the online meditation. Truly “joyful persons” are not separated from the hard realities of our human existence. We all suffer and face death; however, we must remember to not be “imprisoned” by these realities.

      As Henri notes in our book: “joy is embracing sorrow and happiness, pain and pleasure…The mystery of life is that Jesus came to suffer with us so that we could be joyful…so that we could taste that eternal life, that lasting joy that is of God, that is already in this world, already now, already precisely here” (p. 103). We have no need to feel imprisoned!

      Thanks
      Barry

  16. Ray Glennon says:

    From Nanci Lee Patch
    Everyone’s comments are adding to the impact of this book for me. I have heard Nouwen’s thoughts before but have felt isolated in my community because of the emphasis on fear and original sin instead of original love. Hearing the thoughts you all have greatly adds to how i am processing the mystery of our faith. I would love to meet you all. This is church for me right now, and I’m feeling extremely grateful. Can we just start up another book study when this one is finished?

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Nanci Lee,
      Thank you for your comment. What you express about how the comments of the participants add to the impact of the book is exactly how I felt when I started in these discussions nearly ten years ago. And it’s why I feel privileged to be able to moderate them.

      Our next book discussion will begin on Ash Wednesday, February 26th. We will read and discuss the book that Henri is the best known for, The Return of the Prodigal Son. We look forward to having you join us.

      Blessings,
      Ray

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