March 9th to 15th: “All These Other Things”

Reading:  Making All Things New, Chapter I:  “All These Other Things”

Welcome to our first full week of the discussion.  We begin with a challenging, but crucially important chapter.  Henri asks us to go deep into ourselves and bring an awareness to our current experience of life.  If we are not happy with the actual state of our lives, Henri asks us to challenge the assumption that we have to just accept things as they are (p22).

1) “Our first task is to … look critically at how we are living our lives.  This requires honesty, courage, and trust.  We must honestly unmask and courageously confront our many self-deceptive games” (p22). 
a) Consider carefully the ways you think, speak, feel and act in your day to day life.  How might some of these expression, both the negative and the positive, actually be a subtle expression of hunger for the Spirit of God?
b) Have some of your ways of thinking, speaking, feeling and acting held you back from living the full life in the Spirit that Jesus came to give you?  Are you ready to question/challenge these limiting beliefs, expressions, feelings and actions?
c) Take some time to consider if you are ready for change.  Ready to seek and discover the joy, peace and abundance that are yours in Christ Jesus, yours even amidst the “pains and joys of the here and now” (p21).
d) Do you believe change is possible for you?

2) Henri uses two words to describe the experiences many people have in their day to day life.  The first one is being “filled” – and this can mean being busy and or being preoccupied (worried).  The second one is being “unfulfilled” – a sense of boredom, resentment, and depression.  
a) How does being “filled” (busy and/or preoccupied) serve you?  What benefit do you get from it?  How does being “filled” keep things safe?
b) How can being “filled” be a limiting factor for your spiritual life?
c) How can a life/mind that is filled in either of these two ways lead to a heart/spirit that is unfulfilled and lonely?

3) The good news is that “Jesus responds to this condition of being filled yet unfulfilled… He wants to bring us to the place where we belong.  But his call to live the spiritual life can only be heard when we are willing honestly to confess our homeless and worrying existence and recognize its fragmenting effect on our daily life.  Only then can a desire for our true home develop(p37, italics added).
INVITATION:  Give some dedicated time this week to allow a desire for your true home to develop.  Take 30 minutes each day and bring these questions, along with all of your own, before Jesus.  Ask him to help you see the honest answers, to give you the courage to acknowledge your current reality, and the trust that he has something much better in store for you.  Share your experience with us, if you choose.

As I wrap up I want to share, for those who don’t already know, that Henri truly understood the struggle to put worry in its place.  At times it was a powerful force in his life.  But he didn’t accept that as the inevitable.  You too, no matter how powerful the force of worry currently is in your life, can make a choice for something different.

Finally, please, as always, feel free to share whatever comes up for you in the readings.  These questions are meant to guide us and get the discussion flowing, but we are not bound to them.

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135 Responses to March 9th to 15th: “All These Other Things”

  1. Brynn Lawrence says:

    Hi Joanne, and all who are “catching up” 🙂

    Nice to hear from you, and you are welcome to join us at any time.

    I do ask that you post new comments in the newest post… so that people see it. Even if you are referring to an earlier post, please make the comment in the newest post.

    I’m closing this post to new comments, but we DO want to hear from you.


  2. joanne says:

    Since I live a “busy” life, I am just finding time to review your comments today! I especially appreciate your descriptions of your specific prayer practices. It helps me consider ways to enter that silent listening part of my practice. I especially need to listen for the holy spirit/God/Jesus and to hear the deepest wisdom available, when I am stirred up with irritation and anxiety. Thank you. Blessings to you all.

  3. Joanne says:

    My days seem very filled. They are either filled with work or worried about getting enough sleep, eating the right foods,and losing weight, tossing “stuff”, spending time with my spouse. It seems that I have very little alone time, which means that I have left little time for God. That is what I am working on this Lent, and actually this year.

  4. Brian F says:

    The 2nd question struck me personally. I do find myself filled with life and busyness; but I also sense it masks an unseen reality in me of laziness. Sure I look busy, but I also find myself wasting time during the work day! Both limit the spiritual life in me because they cause me to avoid resting in Jesus. When I experience either, I ant to stop and recognize Jesus’ presence and be grateful.


  5. Ray Glennon says:

    Another article on “Busyness” from Friday’s Washington Post that speaks to the problem that Henri frames so accurately. “Why being too busy makes us feel so good”

    “Somewhere around the end of the 20th century, busyness became not just a way of life but a badge of honor. And life, sociologists say, became an exhausting everydayathon. ” So apparently the problem is even greater than Henri envisioned and, consequently, the need for the peace that only the Lord can give even greater. I’m looking forward to the next week of our Lenten journey together.


  6. Deb Hubenthal says:

    As with many a regret, it starts with “If only.” If only I had read Nouwen’s Making All Things New years ago, and taken Jesus’ direction,”Do not worry” to heart, my experiences would have been radically different. But instead, I thought worry was my shield and dagger against fear. As worry increased, so did anxiety, sadness, and depression. I learned the hard way that worry is destructive to myself and disrespectful to others. By worrying about them, I was sending the message that, first, I knew the right way to handle something, and, second, I didn’t respect them enough to be able to work out solutions in their own way to life’s problems. As A.J. Cronin wrote:” Worry never robs today of its sorrow, it only saps today of its strength.”

  7. Connie says:

    Hi. I am been reading along and have enjoyed all the posts. Thanks Brynn for leading this discussion group. This is my third. I find it amazing. The phrase that jumps out on me is “great paradox of our time is that many of us are busy and bored at the same time.” It makes so much sense, when we consider the words of Augustine,”Our Hearts are Restless until they rest in You”. There is so much to say and so much to learn.
    Thank you everyone,

  8. Ray Glennon says:

    Here is a NYTimes article I found while searching on “busyness” that describes the 21st Century “The Busy Trap.” Thought you might find it interesting.

  9. Kristal says:

    My favorite line in this whole chapter is at the very beginning – “The spiritual life can only be real when it is lived in the midst of the pains and joys of the here and now.” I work with college students and one of the things that we constantly wrestle through together is that life is not about getting it perfectly right…that is not going to happen this side of eternity. But the thing I try to communicate to them so often is that what matters in our walk with Christ is that we live that walk in the pains and the joys today…that we don’t wait for spiritual formation to happen once our life is all together. I’m so grateful for Nouwen’s work as God used him to teach this to me over the last decade.

  10. Kathleen says:

    I am sitting here on a Saturday morning with a house that hasn’t been really cleaned in weeks, my niece’s wedding to attend this afternoon, some calls that I have promised to make, grandchildren and children to check up on for various reasons…
    As with other Lenten seasons, it seems my busyness gets ramped up. I am conscious to not use the word busy and even talk to people about all I have to do but that doesn’t seem to slow me down. As described by Henri, there are always lists of things waiting for me to do. Always waiting as I seek to spend time exclusively with God. Another Nouwen book I’m reading expresses that if I carve out time for God, then He will honor that time even when I’m distracted. I am thankful for that as I seek to give Him time into which nothing else creeps.
    Thanks to all of you for your insights and sharing.

    • Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

      Thank you, Amy. Being is so much harder than doing. 🙂 Hope the wedding is fun for you. Kathy

  11. Amy says:

    I read the first chapter myself and then ended up reading it aloud to my husband!
    Each time I gleaned so much! I keep hearing the phrase ,”filled yet unfulfilled” in my head as I go about my daily tasks. I’m thankful for Nouwen’s further explanation that this doesn’t mean to drop out of the world! It means to be centered on Jesus IN this world and we will be fulfilled.
    I have a son who is struggling with depression and has turned away from Christ. So much of what I’m getting from this first chapter has given me tools to help him and hopefully guide him back to The Lord!

  12. Ray Glennon says:

    I have read many of Henri’s books over the years and this chapter has touched and challenged me like no other except for Return of the Prodigal Son–a book that I purchased after Mass outside a Catholic Church in Singapore during a time of personal crisis more than a decade ago.

    I can readily identify with the “busyness” and “boredom” and I painfully recall a time where my loneliness did degenerate as Henri describes only to cause much harm to myself and those I loved. (It was at that time that I was blessed to find Nouwen’s book in Singapore.) Now, many years later I am in a much better place and I have a wonderful home, yet I remain both filled (busy) and unfulfilled (searching). I am looking forward (with some apprehension) to the next chapters in this book and I pray that I will hear the Spirit through the words of Henri and that I will chose to open my heart and seek his kingdom.

    Twitter: @RayGlennon

  13. Lori says:

    I feel so humbled reading all your entries, your honest examining of yourselves, your hunger for depth in Jesus. I am struggling to look at myself honestly but can’t seem to get past the masks. I look so damn good. But I’m not, only I can’t quite see it. I know it is deep and I am blind. Please open my eyes dear Jesus and show me just what I can take so I can change. Be more like you. Be more humble and less of a know-it-all, more soft and less hard.

    • Beverly says:

      Ah, Lori, you touched my heart and expressed so honestly thoughts from my own heart and mind. This, to me, is the beauty of this blog and Lenten study. Thank you!

  14. Liza says:

    Being busy, we think should make us feel fulfill. So I keep myself busy and promise to make time for solitude and quite time. There is a hearing in me for something more! Knowing in my head all the right disciplines but yet not actually practicing them. I pray that I will be open to what the Spirit is saying to me and where she is leading me.

  15. Lata Hall says:

    First of all Thank you Brynn for sharing your personal journey. Life is a journey and decluttering life is a life time journey. We come with nothing and we leave with nothing, ‘Yet, we like to keep on building as if we are here for ever and eat as if there is no tomorrow,’ said a wise old uneducated village Greek women to me, who knew no English and I knew no Greek, but she knew her granddaughter and I were talking about prayer life and trust in God. Her words were translated for me. Well, how did she know? The Holy Spirit must have inspired her to speak. Our Greek Yaya taught us to give up worrying and making too many plans and just pray.
    It is 10 years ago, when, I first read this little book by Henry Nouwen., which we are reading now. I started to find ways to stop worrying, by looking back how the Lord had provided for me in the past. I am a child of the partition In India. Those of you who have watched the movie Gandhi would know it. We lost everything. We lived on dry Indian bread and some lentils. We lived with my maternal grandfather who was in the safe part of India. We were over 20 families living. It was a very big house as he was the physician to the Maharaja of the State. Slowly, we all moved away from that place and started our own homes again, but we could never have more than a certain amount, getting education was the most important thing and once I had a job I started to build up my little empire, came to UK worked for a while had my home and always felt empty, always remembered how I never felt that at age 7 yrs. when my prayer life was simple. My grandfather, who was a prayerful man had taught me about all religions, and taught me to always pray and treat all people as equal, with all my heart.
    I knew my prayers had become mundane as the heart was missing, I would be dreaming of what next. Got married had children and here comes more worry, more clutter? I had no church affiliation at this point as my husband did not believe in God and yet I yearned for that innocent connection I had with God growing up. But God never abandons us dear friends. I was asked to be a godmother by a friend and I said I have not been to church for many years, she went and asked the priest, his answer was well, this a wonderful way to invite them and bring them back, so a new journey started for the entire family as we all had gone to the baptism, my husband was so impressed to hear a sermon from a female priest, our children were baptized and we were confirmed. Life began to change, seeking university prestige we left behind and we felt very different, almost euphoric. Since then it has been along journey, we became pastoral care visitors for the Church and then palliative care workers and since then we have added L’Arche to our lives. Sounds very grand, but every where the Lord has always pulled us back and took us into the desert when we were feeling very important or constantly worried about the work we were involved with. We spent 8 years back and forth to Ottawa from our home in Halifax as our son was first seeking divorce and he had a baby daughter and later he was very sick. In that lonely time I read any book I could find by Henri Nouwen, as our priest had most of his books. Henri became our spiritual guide. We had very few friends as Ottawa is not a friendly place, unless you were born there. Our friends were some lonely clergy people like our selves and we learnt how little we needed to live. We always had our friends here in Halifax praying for us and we would talk to them. So my husband I begin to grow spiritually. We had lot of time as we had no house just an apartment. We learnt to talk to the Lord at that time. My husband and I would say in the morning,’ Oh Lord! I do not want to live this day without you. Be with me. “On a difficult day, we would say, “Lord, we can not do this alone.’’
    Life is a constant journey of going into the desert to empty the world out of us and be energized again. Jesus is always there to carry our burden with us. Am I now at a place where it is no more worry and no problems, NO, I still worry, but the span is shorter as I remember who has brought me thus far. I still do volunteer, but as physical abilities limit me, I have to pace my self. Do I worry for how much misery there is in this world, Yes and NO. I have learnt from my older Veteran friends,’ It is God’s world and not mine. He lives for ever, I will not. As many of you have written, I also can only do my little part, but the big part I must do daily is to sit at the feet of the Lord and listen. I start my day by reading something from Henry Nouwen. When I am very distracted, I apologise and ask the Lord to help me refocus. I listen to gentle classical music by Bach or Gregorian chants and I have the photo of the Prodigal son and I put myself in the arms of father in the picture till all is calm with in me.
    It is wonderful to read that I am not alone in this journey we are all pilgrims on this journey ‘Together’. I have felt very blessed by each one of you that on a day like today when I have more time I have managed to read every comment and taken the time to ask the Lord to bless you all and I know and we all know,’ Our Redeemer Liveth.’ I thank God for sending Henry to help me in this journey of my life. Lata

    • Kathleen says:

      Thank you for sharing your story and for your prayers, Lata

    • Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

      Oh Lata, Thank you.
      “Life is a constant journey of going into the desert to empty the world out of us and be energized again. Jesus is always there to carry our burden with us.”
      Your wisdom is energizing. We are one in our God of Love. Kathy

    • Marti says:

      Thanks for sharing your story. My husband is also from India. He is Hindu. I am Catholic. We respect each others religion, and he frequently attends mass with me and our son, but sometimes it’s very hard to reconcile it and I feel sad my husband has not been baptised. Perhaps my great worry is I’m to do my best to help him get to heaven. I am glad you have found a common faith together, and can support each other in your life journey. Thank you for your blessings.

  16. Herb and sue Hansen says:

    The readings brought back to mind the large number of my cohort who, when retiring from what would be thought of as ‘important occupations’, suffered premature deaths!

  17. Sharon K. Hall says:

    After a day of searching all over for the book, and praying and being upset and worrying, it turned up in a pile of things. page 37 “But his call to live a spiritual life can only be heard when we are willing honestly to confess our own homeless and worrying existence and recognize its fragmenting effect on our daily life. Only then can a desire for our true home develop. It is of this desire that Jesus speaks when he says, “Do not worry…Set your hearts on his kingdom first…and all these other things will be given you as well.” Man, have I needed to read this book and work on the disciplines that will help me to be less of a worrier!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

      So glad for your little miracle~finding the book was the first step in the right direction. Now on to the rest of your challenges with trust and hope and love. All will be well. 🙂 Kathy

  18. Sharon K. Hall says:

    I read the whole book. I am a worrier and also a pleaser, looking for affirmation from others, especially during times of conflict. Now, at our church we are offering, for the community a Junior Master Gardener Volunteer class, children 8-11, 4 weeks in April/May and we have adult Master Gardeners from the community and experienced gardeners from the church giving presentations. The dilemma is, for people who have different faith backgrounds and for people from the church, can we actually provide a space where everyone is comfortable? In church things I am very comfortable with all of our praying and worshipping and studying the Bible and fellowshipping but in an interfaith situation, even it’s in our Fellowship Hall of the church, I feel very uncomfortable with doing anything that seems to impose a religious thing on others who are coming to learn gardening, though others from the church want to share prayers and their spiritual selves very openly throughout the classes. It’s a dilemma and I’m very worried and fragmented over it all. In fact now, I can’t seem to find Henri Nouwen book–have searched everywhere, where on earth could I have put it–though do have here on my desk the “Heart Speaks to Heart” book. I appreciated that you shared, Brynn, that Henri Nouwen had times of serious worry and at the same time didn’t believe worry was inevitable and, besides agonizing over which direction hopefully all the volunteers–community and church–will go in this matter of how religious the classes should be, I’m praying that God will help me find the book again and help me with the more serious matter that I don’t always trust him, nor do I always trust that others will listen to Him and follow His wisdom and Will in all things and then start being so thankful that Jesus was able to carry the cross for all of us right through to completing His mission and to give us all the help we need to not worry ourselves to death over these kinds of matters. Praying to feel more peaceful soon.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      As another pleaser who looks for affirmation from others, I can certainly understand your (in my mind, justifiable) apprehension regarding the conduct of the interfaith master gardening class. I would suggest that the words of St. Francis may prove useful here: “Preach the Gospel daily. When necessary use words.”

      Your group is clearly preaching the Gospel by conducting the class at all and providing an opportunity for a community to gather and share the goodness that is God’s creation (as brought forth at the hands of his gardeners). And it is very likely that in such an environment where the love and respect that your community has for each other is obvious, someone will ask to hear and will be open to your response. A great invitation to “use words” to preach the Gospel.

  19. Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

    Thank you all for sharing~ this is such a beautiful gift. Blessing to all. Love, Kathy

  20. These comments have been so helpful. I, too, feel that being able to look at myself in truth, with the desire to become as authentic as possible, has only been possible through letting “masks” fall away. Part of that, for me, has been living what I call the “people pleasing” life. I have a greater desire to be a God pleaser now. And I can only see my own motivations when I learn to live a life of solitude and a life where prayer is a lifeline to my Creator. It is the way that I’ve truly been able to embrace that I am Beloved. And it also helps me to carefully look at my actions. Also, through life experiences being able to truly embrace what it is to “surrender” has been a key for me in giving up control, and truly following Christ in a deeper way than I have ever experienced.

  21. Perpetua says:

    The conversion of St. Paul is a prime example that there is always hope and joy to follow Jesus. Fixing my heart and hope with Jesus vanquishes most negativity in life,

  22. Maggie from Wisconsin says:

    I can relate to so much of what has already been written, wanted to make a difference, to make a contribution to the world that makes it a better place; the busyness with family, home, work, doing, “fixing” ; read books , taking in simmers, you name it… I was hungry to learn how to love and follow JC etc. As I sit with these questions I wondered what I am still running from, being “out there” instead of sitting in silence with the Holy? I have started to be in daily meditation this year, yet I am not good at it. Yes at first I was “doing” so “they/others” needed me, what I did, till me that I was a “good girl”. I thought I named that and had moved past it. I now was just “doing” because people need each other. I help/love others with my gifts and others are JC loving presents to me. So then why am I still so “filled”/busy and not feeling ok about it, still unfulfilled? It came to me (I unmasked and other self-deceptive game) that as an incest victim I had not been validated in my home and the relations ship “out there” validates me. However I am still depending on others to validate me, till me, I am loveable instead of knowing that I am loved by God, just for being a Beloved daughter. … Darn it.
    And /Or is my preoccupied life (worry) keeping me from boredom … fear? I didn’t think I was a worrier which may be wrong… I sense something is changing, I am being invited to let go of the known and trust in the flow of God… that is scary! As I name my” games” the need to keep playing them has left. I since I should let go, move on … but to what? This feeling is like what I experienced the last years I worked before retirement, it was time to end my work life. I didn’t leave, so it was done for/to me. These last years have been good for my spiritual journey and have become comfortable … however I am not home yet and I find my busyness keeps me from being conscience, of address my suffering and fear of another death, an ending to what I know… Dose any of this make sense? It is still a mystery to me… and … it feels like and invitation.

    • Sue says:

      sooo appreciate your authenticity and honesty with yourself and with us here! thank you for opening up. I feel so much of this ‘river of thought’ you are describing and yet still not brave enough to jump out of my pride and name it all before others. So I just wanted to say thank you for your bravery. 🙂

    • Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

      So much sense~ so familiar in so many ways Maggie and I love your final thought~ an invitation~ we all have this special invitation~ again we come down to choice~ do I choose to accept??? “Live in My Love”~Bloom in the Fruits of the Holy Spirit: Love, Joy,Peace,Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self Control OR the alternative- no brainer just hard to do!
      Keep on keepin on fellow seeker. Love,Kathy

      • Maggie from Wisconsin says:

        Thanks Sue & Kathy for your kind words!

        The more I am conscience of these questions the more I see that I am to be present, the more I see the invitation to spread my wings, like a butterfly and fly, be my true self.

        The busyness, fullness of being and doing for others have been a place of opportunity to receive unconditional love, a place I was able to be my self, using my god given gifts as I took off the mask of my falus self, the person I felt I needed to be for others to like me – to value me. These last months have been in a playing field were I could practice and slowly come to know the wonderful gift that I am. I am not special, I am just me, I am a value, too who? — God — and that is what matters. I am a part of the whole, the body where the grace of God can flow through me, even if it is just to my cat, the earth that I walk on and the people I meet daily.

        I am coming to know it is time to let go, to surrender, to die to that need, to become absent to that “playing” field, the practice field and move out to what is next… which is both scary and exciting. I have already noted; I’m sensing the “old” is dying to me. My old needs to “fix” are slowly going away and I am seeing that is Gods job… and I am to receive the gift it offers me but not be the one “fixing”. I am beginning to see myself as part of the whole, as part of the BODY of God, no longer as separate. This will not be easy to do and it is scary.

        I have come to know that I need to be here – to be conscience – to be present… as I did that his morning I heard the birds outside my window. I sense being a cell of Gods body, developing as I slowly put aside the fauls self of sparseness and become 0ne whole. I am being realigned from being two to one and doing the caterpillar/butterfly dance of transformation. I am on a trust walk to know God, his love which eventually will allow me to fall trustingly back into my true self… I come to believe that life is not about “atonement” but life is about at-one-ment.

        • Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

          wow Maggie~ you speak my language~ your words are the words floating around my brain~ they resonate in me, thank you
          Oneness with All~ Being in All~ Opening to ALL~ thrilling BUT still kind of scary too~
          Although I have much to atone for I love the different take~ at-one~ that was a reflection yesterday on Richard Rohr’s daily meditaion website. He is another one of my valued teachers. There is such commonality in the message that not only Henri and Richard and so many other sages preach. Their unity in message all stretches back to God’s own Great Messenger, our Savior, Friend, Companion, Jesus.
          I am with you Always~Be not afraid.
          Love and Peace to you this gray and overcast Saturday morning~ Kathy Thank you!

  23. Brynn Lawrence says:

    I truly honour each of your for your honesty and courage to share so deeply from your hearts. As you can see it is a great blessing to all.

    Anxiety was a word that defined me for many years of my life. You wouldn’t necessarily have known it just by looking at me, but there was always a tenseness inside of me. I usually woke up with it, and it flavoured my experience of daily life. At times it reached such intense levels that I felt totally crushed under the weight of it.

    It was clear to me how much anxiety hindered my daily life and my spiritual life. I knew that Jesus came to give me a life of abundance, and my fearful life felt anything but abundant (John 10:10). Anxiety tends to draw us inward. We get wrapped up in our fears, and often we are paralyzed by them. It is very hard to overflow with love and good things to others in this state.

    I distinctly remember a moment when I said “I cannot live like this.” In the years to follow I would regularly cry out to God for help to change. In the good times and bad, regular time in his presence was my saving grace! He taught me and led me to things I needed to learn. I was more than a little confused that he didn’t just “take the burden away,” but I now see he wanted to do a deeper work of change and understanding in me (I can now see he was being so thorough with me, so that I could help others who are on a similar journey). Many years later I am deeply grateful to report a dramatic change in the way I experience life.

    I share this brief testimony as a form of encouragement. I really meant it when I wrote (above) that “You too, no matter how powerful the force of worry currently is in your life, can make a choice for something different.” I believe the change will happen through the power of the Holy Spirit working in you, but you must choose to embark on the journey of change. And, it likely will be a journey, so you don’t need to feel guilty if it doesn’t disappear all at once.

    Finally, I just thought I’d share one little tidbit, and I hope it makes sense. One powerful thing we can be aware of is what we choose to focus on. In Philippians 1:18b-22 Paul says “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d] 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.”

    Paul was going through some seriously hard times, but he was able to rejoice because he was focused on the good, beauty and fruitfulness that would come out of it.

    • Maggie from Wisconsin says:

      Tthanks Brynn for sharing, this is encouraging to read.

    • Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

      Thank you Brynn,
      Your words make so much sense to me ~ all is so real. I especially like-“You too, no matter how powerful the force of worry currently is in your life, can make a choice for something different.” Every moment of every day we have to decide to make the choice to live deliberate lives of hope and trust in a God who loves us. The rest then~ good ,bad and at times ugly is only temporary and fleeting~ all will be well!

    • Ann says:

      Thank you Brynn for your word of encouragement. Pursuing change through God’s empowerment by the Holy Spirit and not allowing “all these other things” to take control of us. Letting go and letting God minister to our hearts. All this sharing is so enriching.

    • Jenny Linnell says:

      Thank you, Brynn for your insight and encouragement. And thank you to those who promised prayer for me; amazing how God’s communion of the saints reaches out far and wide! For several days I experienced peace but today is a challenge.
      I remember one of Henri Nouwen’s Daily Meditations in which he mentions how our minds are always busy; there’s not a moment when we don’t think and he urges that instead of just random thoughts our thoughts be on Jesus. I would love to learn how to do that. It is so hard for me to concentrate; my thoughts fly all over the place from one thing to the next so that even focusing for 30 minutes of the day is a battle!
      One of the entries by Claire G really speaks to me and is such a comfort and resonates with truth!
      Claire G says:
      March 10, 2014 at 12:26 pm I feel compelled to comment on your entry, Nicola. In many ways you remind me of myself as I have struggled with “have I done enough; have I prayed long enough; have I done enough to help others; do I love God enough; what can I do so God will love me more”. The truth that has been communicated to me by a spiritual director is that God already loves me with an infinite, everlasting Love that will neither decrease or increase dependent on anything I say or do. Something that has helped me is the knowledge that I already have what I desire. So I try to focus on all God has done for me, how much God loves me, and that nothing I say or do or fail to do can change that. So now I can focus on gratitude and responding to God’s Love. I know God is with me and within me and walks every step with me on my journey. Everything I have said is true for you also and nothing you do can change that. God bless you!

      • Claire G says:

        I praise God that some of the words imparted to me by one I trust for spiritual direction have been helpful to you. I also experience times when, if a put a time amount that I should be in prayer, I feel I must hold to that without distraction or interruption or I am a failure. But God loves me through my distractions and even if I cut my prayer shorter on one day or do not put a time amount on my prayer at all, my prayer is loved and accepted by God. I tend to be a legalist, a perfectionist, which leads to scruples. God does not want me to burden myself with such thoughts but rather to rest in God’s Love always within God’s presence and God within me.

      • Marti says:

        This is where it all begins, but the hardest part is resting in the the truth that God truly loves us where we are right now. I used to get so hard on myself for not being perfect. But I’ve spent the last year trying to bring the truth of His great love into my heart. It is the foundation to build upon. We can’t skip past that. In order to confront our self-deceptive games, Nouwen is trying to make us realize that we can rest in Gods unfailing love. As he said ” being honest and courageous will not lead us not to despair but a new heaven and earth”.

    • Dottie L. says:

      Brynn, your comments spoke to and for my heart. I thought I realized during the Advent reading session that I needed to seek God’s kingship over me. Funny (or not) how quickly I forget. Anxiety, as you pointed out, keeps me focused on myself, not God–and I have to remember this. Thank you!

  24. Donna says:

    The phrase that catches my attention (pg 28) “Our occupations and preoccupations fill our external and internal lives to the brim. They prevent the Spirit of God from breathing freely in us and renewing our lives.” We must always leave room for the Holy Spirit. My agenda can often shut the door to the urging of the Spirit. I like meditating on the [Spirit of God breathing freely in] me!

    • Ruth says:

      Donna, this is the same thing I’ve been meditating on all week: Constantly inviting the Spirit to breathe freely in me; how do I give Him more room?

    • MAGGIE says:

      I like this! Thanks for the reminder.

  25. Perpetua says:

    Let everything I do begins and end with YOU (GOD).

  26. Dawn says:

    I also believe Lata that prayer can be done at any time. When I think of someone, then I will turn my worry and concern into a prayer. Reading your story about the elderly woman is very helpful to me. I attempt to pray for every client I meet with before our session. I work with military combat veterans. I have discovered that my prayer also helps me focus.

  27. Dottie L. says:

    All my life I have wanted to make a difference, to make a contribution to the world that makes it a better place. For a long time I have been disappointed in the little that I have accomplished towards this end. Recently I embraced Mother Teresa’s adage to “Do small things with great love,” and have found happiness when I am mindful of others and present to people around me. But when life gets too busy with my commitments, and I need quiet time, I get resentful if I have to be with people. I get past the resentment by thanking God that I have people to love, and my focus improves. But I sometimes wonder if I do these things to be loved in return–more later.

  28. Amy says:

    This chapter is proving to be so very encouraging to me. I am a worrier! The line that said worrying is probably the main reason for most suffering really hit home! And also, that Jesus said directly that we’re to not worry!

  29. Ann says:

    I am so encouraged by all of the comments. God’s timing is perfect. This is my first time joining the reflection. This week’s reflection really spoke to me personally. I moved to the States about 3 months ago when my husband got posted. Before I moved, I had a good career, comfortable home, family & friends, a church and ministry that I support. I was struggling through out this period – I felt empty and lonely in a foreign land. I prayed daily seeking inner peace with God and myself. Most of the time the flesh overpowering me. I long for the busyness and filled lifestyle. After reading these books, I am convinced and convicted that I should appreciate the time I have now. I shall seize the opportunity to feast at Jesus’ feet and not filling my time with “all these other things”. I know where I belong. I need to be at home where real peace, love and joy can be found.

  30. Lata Hall says:

    I just read Jenny Linell’s comment and first of all I want to say Jenny that I will pray for you. I organise a prayer group, which is interdenominational. I am almost 74, so I do understand a fair bit of being limited. From a very active woman, I am just active now. My hands hurt a lot in winter and very hot weather. I learnt more about prayer from a blind Veteran friend of mine in the local hospital, where I volunteer.

    Merdina was 80 when she came to live in the Veteran’s facility. She had lost her sight due to diabetes. She told me how from an active woman, her life became inactive. Confined to an apartment and living with help. She used to volunteer in the children’s hospital, in the neonatal unit as she was a retired nurse. She prayed as to what she could do. In her words,’ I talked to the Lord just as I am talking to you Lata, and told Him, I still wanted to live fully and not be frustrated.’ Then she laughed and said, ‘the answer was ‘You will serve me if you want right till the end your life Merdina.’ The next day, she had a phone call from the Neonatal unit who knew Merdina, if she would pray for premature babies and they will always let her know how they were doing. Merdina was thrilled and she told me proudly the Lord had answered every prayer of hers and no baby who’s name she was given to pray for ever died, they all went home. She prayed for the babies while she cooked as she had enough sight to move around with a walker. Merdina came to us in the Veteran’s hospital when she was completely blind. She had now more free time. I read to her every week, and my husband read to her or she listened to talking books. Merdina still took the names of the premature babies to pray for and prayed for all the nurses who cared for her. She had a wonderful memory

    Then one day she said to me she would like to try to crochet as she missed not doing so and wants to use different colours. We even figured that out. We had plastic ice cream tubs and balls of different colours went into them. The hole from where the thread came from the tub they were different sizes holes and that is how she recognized the colours. She sent shawls to the children’s hospital when they were finished to be given to the premature babies. She was a pillar of strength right till the day she died and I happen to be with her along side her son and his wife. Since that time I have learnt to pray while I work, no matter where I am. It is the most fun thing my husband and I do.

    I do hope this will encourage you Jenny as prayer is something which can be done any time, even while peeling the potatoes and thanking God for giving us the strength in our hands to be able to peel the potatoes for that meal even. Lata Hall

    • Gina Oliva says:


      I am so touched and in awe of all of this. At just 63 I am so aware of aging and mortality. In my 30’s 40s’ 50’s I taught aerobic exercise, played racquetball, rode my bike really fast (!!!) Now at 63 I am finally accepting being in my 60’s and moving into a “new physiology” where different physical activities bring me pleasure, namely Zumba Gold (a certain class at a senior center taught by a man a few years older than me) and (Gentle) Yoga. How fast I will ride my bike this time around remains to be seen as Spring Approaches.

      I was most stuck by the entire posting by Brynn, but would like to draw our attention to this sentence: – “everyone whose feet have been firmly planted on a pilgrim’s path wrestles with all of these questions and then some.” It is really really heartwarming and affirming for me to learn of others like me in this regard!! I don’t really have any “real live friends” (meaning who I actually SEE in my local area) who are seeking as deeply as I am, or who draw wisdom and strength from Henri Nouwen, God’s messenger, at least to my knowledge. So I feel a kindredness with all here.

      Thank you, All,

      • Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

        Dear Gina,
        It IS amazing to be in the company of other Seekers. I too am so grateful to have found this sacred space. Thank you, Kathy

  31. Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

    Thank you all~ I am finding my prayer time is extending longer and longer each day and I am feeling more purposeful in my choices. So many of all of your comments pop into my mind during my day. I look forword to our ongoing connection in The Spirit.
    Blessings through your day, Kathy

  32. Diane says:

    It took years to come to this quiet place each morning, connecting to God, to myself, reading, writing. I spent years running, hiding, being “busy” with life and “stuff,” working, child caring (trying to be “Mom & Dad” trying to creating a safe place for them,) socializing, phones, facilitating group activities in my church, caring for family members, walking them “Home.” I tried to be “Mom and Dad” for years and create a safe place for my children.

    Now, I feel fully alive each morning…or most mornings for the hour or two that I spend reading, writing, listing before going off to work. I am finding myself, I am “in the living. Mornings are my best times. My most “alive” times. I am loving “being home” with no need to run out on the weekends. I have enjoyed this snowy cold winter, hibernating while I could. The urgency dissipating in the early dark mornings. Spring approaches as I walk in its conversions with lent and the practice of it, giving more space to my Triune God as he continues to develop this relationship with me. Joy…pure joy. Thank you. I am discovering the “I” that God loves so completely, just as “I” am. 🙂

    • Donna says:

      Your post describes the varied seasons our lives have – How wonderful to recognize this season He gives now, with more time to spend with Him!!! Most of us mothers either see ourselves or remember those days having a growing household. Like you, I am on the other side of that now and delight in the increased time!

  33. Jules says:

    Hi, I am a first time blogger too. I am a Minister of a church in South Australia. Determining priorities then sticking to them no matter what comes my way is one of my biggest difficulties. I am realising that if I do not have time to do the things I am most fruitful at, my life and ministry are less effective and fulfilling. I too will be using Lent to reflect on whether I am being dishonest with myself; do I want the peace and fulfillment without giving up my busyness etc? I have found that long term busyness and burdens without setting boundaries can cause anxiety to set in, which is then very difficult to get rid of…a treadmill that is sooo hard to get off, because of not even knowing how to. So, here is my chance!

  34. Perpetua says:

    Listen with an open mind, hoping to understand. Suspend judgement and disbelief.

  35. Bonnie J says:

    Very thoughtful questions. At first I thought ” there is nothing I want to change. There is just the right amount of being filled in my life.” I have been thinking about these questions for the last three days and am starting to wonder if my choices in filling my life are all right. I know they are good. But could they be better?
    I too have a brand new grandson, born five days ago. He is our sixth grandchild. The oldest is not yet five. (The products of three daughters.) We are truly blessed. And very busy helping to support these families. They live from 5 minutes to an hour and a half from us. So we are on the go lots and I love being able to help out and play with the children and hold and cuddle the babies. And I have felt that this was my role in retirement. Service to my family. As a result, some of the people I used to be in touch with, some of the elderly neighbours (yes I am Canadian as you can tell from my spelling) , for example, I have lost touch with. I even have less time to call to my sister and brother who live very far away. I just cannot do it all. I need to discern how much I can/should let go and how much I should retain. Is my need to be needed a hunger for God? Is my need to be needed a reflection of my homelessness? Or is it simply (as I would prefer to think) my way of doing service, of helping others who need me, of being the hands and feet and heart of Jesus? Things to ponder.

    • Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

      Dear Bonnie,
      Need to be needed~ struck a cord with me and maybe even hit a nerve~ I am also retired and have grandchildren~8. Three need our support financially, physically and emotionally because my duaghter is a single mother, scarred by a horrid divorce. They take a huge amount of my husband and my energy and time. They also fill the void created by roles no longer played.
      I worry~ am I being fair to my other three children and their children? Do my husband and I really have any energy for each other?
      Then in my quiet prayer time, I get my solace. Somehow I know that I am blooming where I am planted. I am attentive to what needs to be done. I let go of the guilts, the what if’s, and the resentments. Fear disapates and I settle into
      a calm that is only possible with Grace. God loves me right here and right now~in every moment of every mess I find myself.
      Right now the focus of one of my other spiritual support places is the line- I am who I am in the eyes of God- nothing more nothing less. I pray this line often and I am grateful and free. Thanks Bonnie for sharing.

      • Bonnie J says:

        Thanks, Kathy. Love that line, I am who I am in the eyes of God, noting more, nothing less. And another of my thoughts is: I am where I am supposed to be right now. Maybe one day God will direct me elsewhere, but I am where I am meant to be right now. I pray that when the Holy Spirit is always in the mix of our daily tasks, then what we are doing is what we should be doing. God’s blessings.

  36. Jenny Linnell says:

    Thanks Sue for expressing what I experience daily “my thoughts that are constantly spinning often on my own self focus and concerns”. I too feel often overwhelmed due to chronic health problems for more than 40 years..
    And so I accept the INVITATION
    INVITATION: Give some dedicated time this week to allow a desire for your true home to develop. Take 30 minutes each day and bring these questions, along with all of your own, before Jesus. Ask him to help you see the honest answers, to give you the courage to acknowledge your current reality, and the trust that he has something much better in store for you. Share your experience with us, if you choose.

  37. Sue says:

    Love reading the comments here and I resonate with so many. I feel so filled .. in my thoughts that are constantly spinning, often on my own self focus and concerns. I often feel overwhelmed due to chronic health challenges for the last 30 years, and also being an introvert and life coach :-). It presents its challenges. I have to do a lot of research in so many areas. I love Nouwen’s constant emphasis on the balance of being filled and unfilled. I am thankful for God’s grace to me when I feel that I will never really complete all I need to do, and to just rest in Him.
    Thankful for this journey, and appreciate the honesty of others.

  38. Marianne says:

    I’m taking the challenge to try to spend a bit of time daily reflecting to see what God really wants to say to me. Initially, I want to say, “There’s nothing.” but I know from past history, it will just take some contemplation and bravery on my part.

    I heartily agree with the writings of Nouwen in this chapter. I resonate with feeling busy but bored at the same time – overwhelmed with too much stuff yet no real sense of where to begin.

    False expectations and contrived needs – (I’m reading the Kindle book so it doesn’t have page numbers.) I see this all around me and unfortunately in our children. Discontent with material things that took a lot of (and possibly too much) time and effort to attain. Advertisements on TV to take out a line of credit to “cross things off your bucket list.”

    Although I read the Bible at that time, I wish I had this book back in early adulthood to explain in terms I could understand what scripture says. I remember feeling so alone and disconnected exactly as Fr Nouwen has described in this chapter.

    This chapter is a perfect expose of 2 Corr 4: 16-18. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though we are wasting away outwardly, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, for what is seen is temporal but what is unseen is eternal.

    • Kelli Shell says:

      Thank you so much for posting this. Busy, but bored. I too resonate with that deeply. And the scripture you posted is a great response.

    • Bonnie J says:

      Thank you for quoting that beautiful scripture.

  39. Geri says:

    The page 28 reference to being caught in a web of false expectations and contrived needs spoke to me. I realize that even if expectations are true and good from a cultural perspective, they can still be unnecessary distractions.

    I am reminded of Christmas when I try to live what is real and “of God” but even with that intention I lose my way. I am fully embedded in our civilian culture and to be honest there is much about it that defines my life, is safe and that I love.

    So then, why the persistent small voice of longing? Nouwen concludes on that page that, “they prevent the Spirit of God from breathing freely in us…” My heart, my soul are seeing meaning.

    • Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

      Geri~ feeling your words. Thank you, Kathy
      Come Holy Spirit send forth from heaven a beam of Your light from the Holy Trinity.

  40. Jenny Linnell says:

    Hello, I am from Ontario, Canada. I am still waiting for the books to be delivered but would like to join this blog; the first time for me. My husband and I are seniors (81 and 76). I have rheumatoid arthritis already for more than 40 years and my mobility is challenged as is my husband’s. Reading the second point about being “filled” or “unfilled” really hit home for me for it has been a source of concern the last few years. I honestly feel I have no choice but  being “filled” in my present situation; I constantly have to plan my day, hour by hour since I have to use my walker at all times. I cannot do without its safety support I need to have when doing tasks even in our apartment; consequently I move and work much slower than before I used to need a walker. With my disability and its limiting ways; i.e. I plan each task and try to remember to have the things I need to do them available and not forget something which makes me have to go back to get it/them. An example; getting dressed in the morning I need to have all my clothes near me; if I forget an item I have to return with my walker to the dresser/closet to get it. Similarly, cooking a meal; I easily forget an item from the fridge while working at the counter. I have to take the walker and go back and fetch the item. So yes, my days are “filled” but I don’t see a way out of this situation.
    I do have help from a PSW Personal Support worker and I do have cleaning help but the every day duties of cooking etc, laundry I do myself and grateful I can still do that.
    But as mentioned my mind is constantly busy organizing my days.
    I do want and need to live the spiritual life that Henri mentions in point 3 and being free from this “worrying existence”. So I’m eager to learn.
    I hope this post wasn’t too long. Thank you for listening!

    • Brynn Lawrence says:

      Hi Jenny, so glad you’ve joined us. I wanted to offer a note of encouragement. I do not undermine how challenging your day to day life is, but I do want to encourage you that it is possible to see a change in the way you experience day to day life, without necessarily having a change in your circumstances. It would be a good question for all of us to bring before Jesus this week. “What shift (in thinking or focus or…. ) might change the way I experience my day to day life?” I hope you’ll stay with us through this journey, and that your books will get there soon!

      • Marianne says:

        Brynn, this is a wonderful question for people like me who grew up in the “me” generation and feel entitled to many things. In my work, many employees complain about the Annual Education they need to do which they even get paid for. Yesterday an employee new to Canada said, “I can’t believe we get all this education AND I get paid to do it.”

        Today I’m home with a migraine but after reading this post, Brynn, have decided to use the day for prayer for my children.

        And blessings to you too, Jinny. It’s so easy to feel discouraged. I’ll pray for you today too.

    • Gina Oliva says:

      Hey Jenny,
      Just that you are here inspires me so. I am “only” 63 compared to you but already aches and pains and stiffness are limiting me, a woman who has been probably extraordinarily physically active for most of my adult life. I can see in my future days like yours, if the Good Lord deems that I should live that long and longer. So seeing you just BEING here and participating really warms my heart and I hope you find comfort and friendship here.

    • Donna says:

      As a physical therapist, I fully comprehend your need to organize your day. Often we see lives that are truly busy – with many necessary and productive tasks. When my family was growing up and I was working outside the home and involved in church and community activities, time seemed to melt. It was then I began to think of how to effectively spend the “random moments” life gives – the red lights – the car lines or bank lines – the stolen moments of silence. How can I spend these times with God? these in-between-times? God’s purpose for us evolves as we mature, both physically and spiritually. Brynn’s comments triggered my thoughts. Enjoy the journey!

    • Mary Jane Brazet says:

      Hi Jennie. I ordered the book on March 5th and I am anticipating its arrival in the mail. I am 76 years old and have had rheumatoid arthritis for 37 years! What a challenge this condition is for each of us! My solution is to focus on the present moment and attempt to be organized and grateful for the day! I believe in the presence of God in my life!

  41. Linda says:

    I will be pleased to read along even though I can only get one of Henri’s books just now. The idea of “being filled” inasmuch as people fill up their days with ‘stuff’ resonates; I know so many people who are rushing here and there, filling their lives with meaningless stuff and it’s sad to watch. I am grateful for this time in my life – that I have been blessed with a “retirement” season. I can spend four hours a day immersed in my Bible if I wish it. Often, I DO wish it and love just getting so lost in His company that I lose all sense of time. Precious! Sometimes I use other authors’ work alongside my Bible as mini studies, always checking that God’s work is my measurement. I will love reading all of your comments as we move through Lent.

  42. nancy T says:

    Hi from NW Montana,
    Thank you all for being present. I feel blessed to be on this journey with you.
    I am late in joining you because I experienced the birth of my first grandchild over the weekend. It did not go as smoothly as anticipated yet all is well and mother and child are safe and healthy. I truly felt God’s presence as we joyfully held and gazed at the newborn child of God. As I held him I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to be a channel of love in a new way. Having my own 4 sons within 5 years I was always preoccupied with details -too busy. Now all I have to be is love.
    Pace e bene

    • Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

      Congratulations~ enjoy! God is good!

    • Christine says:

      I loved your last sentence. “Now all I have to be is love.” It sounds like a way of life, also a little like something Henri Nouwen might say. It distills for me all this searching for the essence of Jesus’ message. When I think about it, that really is what Jesus was trying to show us through his walk on this earth. Lent reminds me of those final days leading up of his final acts of love for us and his adherence to and dependence on the love of his Father.

      Thank you for giving me cause to reflect. I wish you all good in these first days of the great adventure of grandmotherhood…one of life’s great blessings I think.

      • Beverly says:

        Thank you for singling out that “Now all I have to be is love” is indeed an all-encapsulating prayer and way of life. It takes me home, to Micah 6:8, “And what does The Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (NIV)

  43. jannie henkelman says:

    Could someone clarify for me the location of the above text from ‘Psalm 4:14-18’ please? It is so amazing, and I would like to find it in my Bible. Thank you!

    • Hi Jannie,

      I am using Nan Merrill’s book, “Psalms for Praying”. There is a link to the book at the bottom of the Lenten reflection. It is a different interpretation of Psalm 4 from what you will find in your Bible. What version of the Bible are you using?

      Nouwen Legacy Manager

      • jannie henkelman says:

        Thank you Maureen. I use both NRSV and JB. I will try to locate the book you mentioned, as it seems to beautifully expand the voice of the Psalmist.

    • Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

      Had trouble with that too~ loved the rflection though.

    • Marianne says:

      I’m not sure if you have a tablet or smart phone but these make searching the Bible easier! I use an Application called “You Version.” It has every version of the Bible imaginable and is great for study.

  44. Jan greene says:

    An honest facing ourselves where God meets us. That was a great thought and one that we are called to respond to in solitude and then express in community. A good but difficult look at ourselves in this Lenten season. I hope to keep these intentions not only through our discussions, but in the future.

  45. Darlene Tucker says:

    These are the questions that I need to keep asking myself! It is so easy to get sucked into the “busy” trap! I feel more validated and valuable when I am busy… When not busy the doubts and worries get louder. ..

  46. says:

    It is ok to read people’s books. But they do not necessarily have the answers. The first thing we have to do is become born again as Jesus mentions in the gospels. Trying to change your life without being filled with the Holy Spirit is very hard if not impossible. Jesus comes to live in us. We become His new home. John 14:27 says that Jesus will set your troubled hearts at rest banish your fears. Only way to find answers to life is by reading God’s Word and not just someone’s interpretation.

    • Marti says:

      Thank you for this comment. I often catch myself reading too much of authors’ interpretations, and not enough from the Bible.

    • Donna says:

      I believe God reveal Himself to us though the Scriptures. Yes, this is where God tells us how to live, describes giving us Jesus, and where we come to understand the anointing of the Holy Spirit. To neglect the Bible would be wrong; however, that said, I believe God increases His Kingdom by calling others to give testimony and bear witness for Christ. Reading other books often gives me insight, a new way to consider a truth. Sometimes, I also find myself questioning another’s words. Either way, God uses those thoughts. I to agree we should always be in His Word. In reading Nouwen’s work, I can see the work of the Holy Spirit and believe Henri Nouwen spent much time with God’s Holy Word.

  47. Diana says:

    I am at a good place, having let go of much of my propensity to worry by building a ministry of intercessory prayer. I don’t focus on myself when I pray for others. But, even this reflects our “busyness”and preoccupation with getting everything done. I can get really down on myself and depressed with such need in the world. And that becomes worry for illness, for pain, for neglect, for ugliness and evil. See, that feeling of emergency is hard for me to shake. This season is a time for me to soak in the presence of God. The discussion of the Sacred Heart are not part of my Protestant religious training, but, for the first time, I glimpsed the essence of this, and it felt so good to focus on the heart of God.

  48. Melissa says:

    The best thing about being a spiritual director ( and having one myself!) is that I am always standing in the midst of these questions and asking myself- what is really important? What brings me life? What saps my energy? Where do I feel the closest to God? How do I find more of Him and less of the other “stuff” that people think I should be doing? The journey I have been on over the past 3 years has been one of discovering these things and saying “yes” to those which bring life and “no” to those which do not. As I listen to others unfold their lives with and before me in the presence of the Holy Spirit what I can tell you is that everyone whose feet have been firmly planted on a pilgrim’s path wrestles with all of these questions and then some. This is the work of the spiritual journey. It is in the honest facing of ourselves where God begins to meet us.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you, these questions sound really good….

    • Sue says:

      Thanks Melissa for these questions. I love especially, “what brings life? and What saps energy?” I will think of these, and use them with those I work with also- good ‘open ended’ questions that I think will move me, and others, toward the healing Him. To the divine ‘Other’ for sure!

  49. Michael says:

    The quote presented in the first question truly resonates with me. It’s very difficult to take an honest look at ourselves without manipulating the information into what we want to look like. Or, as in another Nouwen book, know your own house, including all the dark corners and attics that we try to ignore. I know for me, in the past year I have authentically tried to differentiate between what I thought I desired and what I actually desired. It seems that alot of what I thought I wanted were just manifestations of wanting praise and acceptance of other people. However, in realizing this “my mind was renewed” and I was able to truly see that which God desired for me. Nouwen emphasizes that this transformation only comes to be recognized through solitude and prayer. Only in accepting that God loves us and truly calls us His Beloved, do we begin to trust that the pursuit of the authentic desires given to us will in turn lead us closer to Him.

    • mary says:

      I am with you on this one Michael. It seems to me that the temptation and weakness that I have experienced is desiring the respect and adulation of others. This trap for me is rooted in the false pretense that approval from others indicates that I am okay with the Lord. Jesus also received this temptation in the desert. Jesus has allowed me to examine my response to this temptation through undergoing a serious and unexpected operation. Through this opportunity, I have been confined to limited movement and dependence on others. I must learn to be the receiver instead of the giver, to walk or be more humble and to know that it is not necessarily in the doing that we are formed but in the being. I pray that through this lenten season, that I may get off of the treadmill of seeking approval of others and lead a more humble, simple life.

      • Marti says:

        Mary, I’m joining with you and Michael. I too, have discovered that my resentments lead back to my need to be recognized and appreciated. As part of my Lenten journey this year, I am daily praying the Litany of Humility. I truly desire to be free of pride; to humbly follow Him and put others needs before mine.

        I hope you have a speedy recovery from your operation.

        • Kathleen says:

          I too have discovered that being recognized is a temptation to me. I’ve never equated it with Jesus’ temptation. So true. I pray for a humble spirit and take comfort in the fact that I am loved well by my Lord and there is nothing more precious than that. The temptations keep coming but our God is big.

        • mary says:

          Thank you kindly Marti!

    • Kelli says:

      I find it so difficult to be objective about myself, but like you, I’m finding that as I open myself up more to God and allow myself to be a conduit, I too am feeling more “renewed”!

      • Jeanne says:

        One of the coolest things I’ve read by Nouwen, or at least it resonated with me, were the little passages in Bread for the Journey where he says it’s ok to have what we’ve historically been told are “bad” feelings and thoughts. He encourages us to embrace our whole selves and start from there to make changes. I think that I became more objective about myself and started moving toward a more intimate relationship with Christ when I stopped viewing parts of myself as “bad” ; that attitude actually worked as a block instead of as a springboard to change.

    • Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

      Michael, Loved “Nouwen emphasizes that this transformation only comes to be recognized through solitude and prayer. Only in accepting that God loves us and truly calls us His Beloved, do we begin to trust that the pursuit of the authentic desires given to us will in turn lead us closer to Him.”
      I have found for my undisciplined self the faithful commitment to solitude and prayer brings such amazing relief and release. I now can accept that I do have a God who loves me just as I am and only wants good for me and from me. So many wonderful opportunities are available to me by just letting God lead~ like this Lenten journey we are now sharing. Lenten Blessing, Kathy

  50. Amy says:

    The atmosphere of constant urgency caught my eye,too. Made me think of the phrase, “the tyranny of the urgent taking precedence over the important”.
    I pray I can and will slow down and listen to The Lord this Lent! That will be my particular focus this week.

    • Kelli says:

      Hi Amy!
      The “tyranny of the urgent” is felt so deeply in my professional world, and imagine it’s probably a feeling of most people… Add to that a good dose of perfectionism and it simply wears you out, doesn’t it?

      • Amy says:

        Yes, Kelli! It took me 50+ years to figure that out. However, I still worry way too much and look forward of gleaning from Nouwen on this.

      • Kathy Cooney says:

        Yes I agree. If I’m not rushing around for others, I’m doing it to fill by own need to be everything to everyone. I hate to admit it but I have not read a novel since I bought my smartphone three years ago! I hate to think what other moments I have missed due to self imposed constant distraction. I feel sure that the key to taking back my life from the distractions can only come from expanding my spiritual life.

  51. Theresa Lacey says:

    Hello Everyone!
    My name is Theresa and I fell in love with Henri Nouwen many years ago. I never tire of reading his books, and always get some new insight from them .This is my first blogging experience. I am looking forward to it. I have recently experienced a real hunger to get closer to Christ. My prayer is that this will become another tool to achieve this. I live in Durham,NC. and have recently retired. I was a nurse for about 35 years. Thanks for this opportunity!

    • Linda says:

      Theresa, your sharing of your locality moved me to share mine: I am in St. Thomas, Ontario Canada. I also do not have blogging experience and feel a real hunger to know more about Jesus. Increasingly I find myself longing for my real home; an impatience if you will, to be ‘there’ rather than here in the ‘shadowland’. Isn’t there always so much more to know?

  52. Beverly says:

    For me, Nicola (top post) expressed exactly what I experience on a regular basis. I am newly retired, and find myself feeling especially bored and depressed, with feeling of resentment surfacing frequently. In order to escape these feelings, I find myself engaged in meaningless activities, procrastinating what I think I “should” do and in truth simply avoiding, avoiding, avoiding, then subsequently feeling guilty and self-condemning. Once again, I see God speaking to me through Nouwen. As I walk this afternoon I will start by beginning to “honestly unmask and courageously confront my many self-deceptive games”. This reading provides ample meaningful meditation and discovery for the entire week.

  53. Jeanne says:

    I love Nouwen’s comment that societal forces seem to perpetuate an “atmosphere of constant emergency.” I once read that modern people process as much sensory input in a day as medieval people did in a lifetime. The challenge for me in this unfulfilling but filling type of life is to slow down, tune out the voices, and take time to be at peace with God. I feel pretty good about where I am, but I yearn for even greater oneness with the divine. That’s what I’ll focus on in my thinking time this week.

    • Kelli says:

      Hi Jeanne!
      I started listening to a book on Audible this week called RAPT. Deals with attention and focus. I’m finding it fascinating. Just thought I’d mention it to you too! 🙂

  54. Nicola says:

    Things that resonate with me in this chapter are to do with worry. I sometimes wake early in the morning and start to worry about the ‘what ifs’ that Henri lists (p 26). I also worry that I have not done enough to prevent some kind of disaster because I haven’t prayed enough about it. Of course once I get up and start being busy the worries largely recede and this is the seduction of being busy – it blocks out the worry. Then I reason that if I am not being busy I am being lazy. I feel guilty if I just sit and do nothing.

    Another difficulty I have is that we are often told to be thankful. I see the lives of people on TV and read about them in the papers and I feel that I should be very thankful that my home has not been flooded, my country’s politics is not in complete turmoil and that I am free to practice my faith without persecution. How can I not be filled with joy and gratitude that my life is so secure? So then I feel guilty that I am not thankful enough and the ‘mood of resignation’ (page 22) creeps in to tell me I should accept my lot with gratitude.

    • Claire G says:

      I feel compelled to comment on your entry, Nicola. In many ways you remind me of myself as I have struggled with “have I done enough; have I prayed long enough; have I done enough to help others; do I love God enough; what can I do so God will love me more”. The truth that has been communicated to me by a spiritual director is that God already loves me with an infinite, everlasting Love that will neither decrease or increase dependent on anything I say or do. Something that has helped me is the knowledge that I already have what I desire. So I try to focus on all God has done for me, how much God loves me, and that nothing I say or do or fail to do can change that. So now I can focus on gratitude and responding to God’s Love. I know God is with me and within me and walks every step with me on my journey. Everything I have said is true for you also and nothing you do can change that. God bless you!

      • Judy says:

        Thank you, Claire, for your insight. Reading your words reinforced what I know is true….God loves each of us from our beginning and is with us every step of the journey with His constant love. Thanks for sharing your advisors thoughts, as it makes sense to me as I reread your words. Gods love is seen in many ways in our lives. We have to recognize it by personal prayer, openness to the working of the spirit, reading, etc. Our gratitude to Him can be seen in our actions and attitudes. Our acceptance of the “godspark” within ourselves is a good start. Thanks & Blessings to you.

    • Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

      Hi Nicole, Feeling your angst~ worry and guilt make such an endless cycle in our cluttered minds. The only thing that has given me any respite is coming to terms with the reality that there is so little that I can actually control. I have always loved the Serenity Prayer and after saying it for the “gazillionth” time it finally is starting to ring true.
      Right here in this here and now, there are things that I can truly effect~ certain things~ my attitude being the most crucial one. I will do the small positive things that I can do with love and gratitude and pray really hard for the Grace that I need to let go of all the rest. I loved ending this first chapter with Jesus own words” Do not be afraid”~ Great Resting Place~ Amen! Blessed Lent to you.

    • Ester says:

      Dear Nicola
      thanks for your post. I also feel a LOT of guilt and fear: worry/preoccupation all the time, that some disaster will strike my home with my husband and my baby and then I feel even more guilty that I feel guilty and scared while other people are in REAL danger… and feeling guilty of not being thankful enough..


      And a vicious cycle is born.

      I also feel so guilty that I fill up my life with distractions not to feel my emptiness and pain. Today my distraction was shopping. It tires me so much and I really long for Jesus to fill that hole in me, but the idea of sitting still for 30 minutes a day scares and bores me terribly!

      Bless you , and all the others


      • Nicola says:

        When I read Kathy’s comment above I thought it very helpful. Even if only one of my many worries can be set aside by accepting that it is in the category of things I cannot change it will be progress. We can’t expect to be able to banish all our worries at once but little by little perhaps the irrational worries will fade into the background. I hope, Ester, that you might be able to try this approach too. Best wishes and God Bless you.

        • Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

          Nicola~ surrender is a constant difficulty- actually a discipline and I am not good at self discipline. That is one of the reasons I KNOW God is with me~ supporting me~ sending Grace in the moment when I am most vulnerable. So glad to be sharing this Lenten journey with you. Kathy

      • Melissa says:

        And yet sitting still and sharing your heart with Jesus daily is exactly where you will begin to find that empty space filled. If you can’t manage 30 full minutes, you might start with 5-10. That is a good place to begin if you have fear and ambivalence about it. Just focus on your breath at first till you feel your anxious mind relax. Then think about Jesus sitting next to you and say just what you would to your best friend about everything you are carrying around. Finally- sit in the quiet and let him answer you. This is a simple exercise when you don’t know exactly how to go about sitting in the quiet. Hope this helps!

        • Maria says:

          Thanks Melissa for your beautiful suggestions. Just reading it calmed my mind. I found a turning point in my prayer life when I began to go to Eucharistic Aoration. The world is closed off and it just you and Jesus. The first time I went, I was unsure of what to do, so a knelt nefore the Blessed Sacrament and all of the sudden a river of tears came. They were not tears of sadness but tears of joy as i felt Jesus’ complete love. I encourage all who do not attend adoration to set aside an hour during Lent and go and spend an hour in silence with Jesus. Blessings.

          • Kathy ~Salem, Ma says:

            I have tried meditation many times. I can stretch the timer now to 15 minutes but it’s not pretty. I love your suggestion of sitting with Jesus as my companion. Thank you, Melissa for that suggestion.

          • Marti says:

            I too find great comfort at Eucharic Adoration. It’s the most, calm, peaceful places to be.There I find Jesus, my friend, and experience a union with the Triune God. Honestly I struggle to explain…maybe because it’s so personal.

            I agree with Melissa. I meditate on Him before me as talking my best friend, holding hands with Him, praying The Our Father. It’s the best part of my week.

        • Johnny McConnell says:

          Thanks Melissa. The simple suggestion of trying 5-10 minutes with Him helped me a great deal and I have done it.

      • Marianne says:

        Ester, I had the exact type of worry and preoccupation when my kids were small. I could barely go to the bathroom without being interrupted never mind sitting around for 30 minutes contemplating God. If I had 30 minutes, I was either napping too or cleaning like a white tornado or doing something creative to nurture myself. What worked for me at that time was spending the time in contemplation while out walking in the sun pushing a stroller, having a hymn book by my bed and reading over hymn lyrics which I could imagine. Be easy on yourself.

        Don’t know if you like Handel’s Messiah but there is a beautiful song called He Will Feed His Flock. Based on this verse.

        Isaiah 40:11 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arms (I hope I’m a lamb) and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.

        You are with young. Blessings on your day.

        • Bonnie Bar says:

          There is no doubt, Marianne, that you are one of God’s lambs. Thanks for reminding me of this verse from Isaiah. I am praying that I may crawl into the arms of our loving Father and receive all He has for me this Lent. I pray that each of you will openly receive all God has for you, too!

          I haven’t read about anyone on the blog mentioning depression, but I have found that my depression comes not from feeling like my life and occupation doesn’t contribute to society as mentioned in the book. My depression seems to come from judging myself after I feel I have not performed as well as I should have. This is really not much different that what is mentioned in the book. My individual performance is meaningless. I trying to let go and give it all to God. I pray God will teach me how to do this so I will not worry the depression will not come back.

          • Patricia says:

            Hello to All–I’m Patricia and I live in South Florida. I’ve participated in online classes in the past; this is my first book discussion with the Henri Nouwen Society.

            Bonnie Bar: You are not alone; depression is a part of my life, too. I’ve got good days and bad days. I tend to fold up and withdraw when I’m struggling. Add to that an introverted personality and social anxiety…God’s love, shown through others, has pulled me up out of myself many times. Speaking for myself, I think depression leaves me feeling vulnerable to feeling filled and unfulfilled more easily, and the feelings can end up amplified. I think, right now, I feel as clumsy and awkward before God as I do in front of everyone else…but, I trust that He knows I’m trying. Hope this helps…

        • Ester says:

          wow Marianne, thank you so much for taking the time to encourage me (and others). I looked up and listened to the song on Youtube. I loooove the Messiah.
          Thanks and God bless you this Lenten time.

          In Christ


    • Bonnie J says:

      I see a lot of my own thoughts in your description of your thoughts, Nicola. And like you, I worry that I don’t pray enough or pray well enough. Even when I am really trying (maybe especially when I’m really trying), I feel disappointed in my prayer performance. I love the advice “Don’t try to hold God’s hand; let Him hold yours.” How much more relaxed we can be in our relationship with Him, we we give it up to him, when we surrender, when we simply allow our hand to be held. I pray that we will receive the grace to do just that.

      • Christine says:

        Thank you for that, Bonnie. I can learn from that image of God holding my hand.

        Sitting quietly in prayer can sometimes be a struggle for me. I know at times I have gotten myself tangled up in different “methods” of trying to quiet my mind and get in touch with the Lord. Though I sometimes frustrate myself in the practice, I have come to look forward to taking time daily to quietly commune with God. It is definitely a process of growth for me. There is something to be said for simply setting aside the time daily to allow for this growth. I learn and grow through the consistent experience of it.

        One bit of advice that has helped me relax into sitting in silent prayer came from Ruth Burrows. She said, “Prayer is not a technique but a relationship.” The time I allow for sitting with the Lord is the time I give for building and nourishing my relationship with the One who “wants to bring us to the place where we belong.” as Henri so beautifully phrased it toward the end of Chapter 1 of this book we are sharing.

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