March 23rd to 30th: “His Kingdom First”

Reading:  Making All Things New Chapter II: “His Kingdom First”

It has been an incredible journey together so far!  In our first week we got honest about the current state of our hearts, expressing worry, fear, depression, loneliness etc.  Last week we took some time to consciously create an opportunity for our heart to speak to the heart of Jesus – to be honest with Him, and to open our hearts to receiving the great love He has for us.

This week Henri invites us to make a shift in our focus.  When we are caught in our worries or fears, it is often because we are focusing on all the negative possibilities or outcomes.  Henri reminds us to put our focus on the Kingdom of God.  Jesus came to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth, and he did so through listening intently to the Father, and acting only in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Our lives are similarly meant to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth, and we do so in the same way.

1)  It is very important that we start off by establishing that “the radical transformation of our lives is the work of the Holy Spirit” (p53).  When we live the spiritual life “successfully” in our own strength then we get the glory.  When we let the Holy Spirit do the transformational work, He gets the glory.  What is required of us is the full “yes.”
INVITATION:  Set aside 7 quiet minutes to listen to the song “I Belong to You” and give the Holy Spirit your “yes.”  Click on the words “I Belong to You” and the song will open in YouTube.

2) Henri reminds us that our “yes” involves actively shifting our focus to the Kingdom of God.  Again, transformation comes through the power of the Holy Spirit (and often is a journey), but we have a role in giving Him the opportunity to do His work in us, in part by choosing where we put our focus.
INVITATION:  Consider a difficult/worrisome situation that is on your heart, you have the opportunity to focus on one or more of the following …  

a) How might the Kingdom of God be furthered through this experience/situation?
b) What opportunity for good, or what possibility does it/could it/did it create?
c) I am totally and completely loved by my Father in Heaven (see scripture verses from last week), how can I respond to this situation out of that unshakeable love?
d) Why is my heart worried about this?  What is it really hoping for / asking me for?  Is that desire in line with seeking first the Kingdom of God?

3) As a form of encouragement to others, and to make these reflections real and understandable, please share an example of someone who lived a very difficult circumstance in life, but kept their focus on “His Kingdom First” and thereby allow God to use the circumstance for profound good (you could think of a historical figure, someone you heard about or someone you know (including yourself!).

As always, feel free to share what came up for you in the reading this week.  There is a lot to reflect on, and I look forward to hearing from each of you.

 

This entry was posted in Lent 2014. Bookmark the permalink.

56 Responses to March 23rd to 30th: “His Kingdom First”

  1. Perpetua says:

    The person I associate myself and I am deeply move is Mary Magdalene. For me she is an epitome of transformation second to Mother Mary. I use her picture as my gravatar to remind me if she can be transformed as the first female apostle of Jesus Christ, so can I.

    As for saying “yes”, I kept a prayer card from the Cenacle Crusade of Prayer.
    I don’t know how or what put the question
    I don’t know when it was put.
    I don’t even remember answering.
    But at some moment I did answer YES to Someone or something
    and from that hour
    I was certain that existence is meaningful
    and that, therefore my life,
    in self-surrender had a goal ~~ Dag Hammarskjold

    Pax Tecum.

  2. Melissa says:

    Saying Yes to God and to the work of the Holy Spirit can be a real wrestling match. Sort of like Jacob wrestling with the Angel (God). In my own life I can tell you that saying yes meant that I had to die to something I felt I could not live without. I didn’t go down easy. I kept trying to clean myself up so that I could convince God to give me back my security blanket. When I finally realized that God was allowing me to be broken me so that he could rebuild me, I eventually stopped fighting. I began to acquiesce to what I knew God was asking of me. Little by little I walked thru the Valley of the Shadow of my own death. It was a long journey full of twists and turns. Grief, I learned during this time, is not linear. It is all over the map. As I began to emerge from my “dark night of the soul” new life has been present all around me in abundance. Profound blessing has been poured out over me, but had I resisted the Spirit, had I continued to cling to my own demands and agenda, had I not been finally willing to stop wrestling and surrender, my life would look very different than it now does. This was a long, painful journey, but I wouldn’t trade a minute of it for what I have gained on the other side. My encouragement to those of you out there struggling to let go of something you know God wants you to release is simply to release it. Trust Him. Let go. Surrnder. Give it up. No matter how hard it seems. Then trust Him to help you to not take it back up. You won’t be sorry. God’s dreams for our lives are always bigger and better than we can begin to imagine. But we will never realize them until we surrender our own.

    • Maria says:

      Love your last sentence, we must surrender our own dreams. It goes against what the world views as our purpose for living. And as my mother always says..our purpose for living is to know Him, to Love Him and to serve Him.
      Thanks for sharing!!

  3. Ray Glennon says:

    Thanks for pointing us to “I Belong to You” on YouTube. A simple, yet powerful and potentially life-changing prayer.

    Watching video brought to mind another prayer that I have always liked, that of St. Richard of Chichester:
    Thank you Lord Jesus Christ,
    For all the benefits and blessings you have given me,
    For all the pain and insults you have born for me,
    Merciful Friend, Brother, and Redeemer,
    May I know you more clearly,
    Love you more dearly,
    And follow you more nearly,
    Day by day.
    –St. Richard of Chichester

    Of course, this prayer became even more popular as the basis for the song Day by Day from the musical Godspell. Here it is as recorded by the original Broadway cast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWQEUzOACm4

    And here is a second version of Day by Day I found this afternoon that clearly shows the joy that results when we truly say, “I Belong to You.”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgQOivT42yg

    Ray
    Twitter: @RayGlennon

    • Michelle says:

      That is one of my all time favorite songs ever since we did Godspell in junior high. I never knew it came from a prayer. Thank you for that and also the flash mob video – that was a lot of fun!

  4. Ray Glennon says:

    St. Maximilian Kolbe, OFM Conv. is an inspirational figure for me.

    In August, 1941 in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, friar-priest Maximilian Kolbe sacrificed his life to save the life of fellow prisoner Franciszek Gajowniczek. Forty one years later, Gajowniczek was present in St. Peter’s square when Pope John Paul II canonized their fellow Polish countryman as a martyr of charity. St. Maximilian Kolbe’s story is one that I love to tell to young people that I take on pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City, MD where they can see the statue of St. Kolbe that was present in St. Peter’s square on the day he was canonized. St. Maximilian Kolbe is a saint that we can identify with in our world today.

    For a brief biography of St. Maximilian: http://elvis.rowan.edu/~kilroy/jek/08/14.html

    You might find this short YouTube video on St. Maximilian Kolbe suitable for meditation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rXx0UTQ5SA

  5. Sharon K. Hall says:

    I belong to a small congregation with a liturgical worship. We have a new Pastor, her first call. We live in a demographically changing community where there are many people who have not come from church backgrounds with liturgically worship styles. Also many of the people in the surrounding community are used to different music than Western music. Our Pastor is making changes in the worship–we all are trying to focus on what God is calling us to be and do in working for His Kingdom. It’s all pretty confusing and destablizing. Henri’s insights are very profound to me “When we let the Holy Spirit do the transformational work, He gets the glory.” Also that we have a role to play in giving Him the opportunity to do His work by choosing where we put our focus. Actually, I’m trying to look at the whole situation as not one where I give up music or theology or worship style but as one where I allow myself to come closer to Jesus’ heart and allow different music and worships styles to also bring me to the cross and embracing it and finding peace in it which I haven’t always thought I could do. Actually Pope John Paul II is an example to me. I don’t know what’s going to happen in our congregation but all the controversy has only shown me how attached I can be to a traditional worship style and react to change. During this Lenten season, this has caused me to be much more sympathetic to the Pharaisees and their upset with Jesus and I’m trying to follow after Jesus and definitely not the Pharaisees who wouldn’t accept change but don’t condemn them for their humanity.

    • MAGGIE says:

      Thanks for sharing. What a wonderful example of how the Holy Spirit works to bring us to compassion.

  6. Brynn Lawrence says:

    I came across this scripture this evening, and I thought it was very fitting with our focus this week:

    “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”
    1 Thessalonians 1: 4-9

  7. kathy w salem says:

    Thank you all for sharing~ Thank you Brynn, Perpetua,Melissa, Ray and Sharon. I come sometimes so reluctantly to prayer. I feel like such a jerk and phoney sometimes. I get caught up in the pleasures of the moment and personal gratification. Not just now while I am traveling and visiting with my daughter and her husband and going off to visit with some special friends but anytime. It’s just more evident at this minute that I want to be about frivolous and gratuitous pleasures and not focusing on Jesus and my bigger picture.
    Thank you God, something~ Holy Spirit gratefully calls me and I go to the well. Today that well was this website and all of you. Starting with Brynn’s reflection suggestions, I got hooked- thank you, thank you for the song meditation~ I belong to You. Then reading the rest of your input little by little, I was once again where I want and NEED to be. Finishing with Ray’s suggestion of the Day by Day flash mob presentation, once again I am ready to BEGIN AGAIN with gratitude and renewed focus. I am a child of God. I am loved with a love I can’t fully imagine and I am grateful! Thank you. Peace and Love, kathy

  8. Donna says:

    The summer of 2011, my sister’s only child, Thomas (9), was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Surgery removed much of it and radiation followed. You can read his inspiring story at this link: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/thomasmcgirr
    His illness united Protestants and Catholics, Christians from all across the world, and touched the hearts of many unsaved. God used Thomas’ illness to heal many wounds – the Holy Spirit’s power of transformation was evident. Today, Thomas is 12 and healed from cancer, but continues to tell his story of God’s working in him. He attends Fayetteville Christian School in Fayetteville, NC and is a member of the Middle School Praise Band. To God be the GLORY!

    • Ruth says:

      My mother lived a difficult life but I didn’t realize it until I was older because she rarely complained. She didn’t come to know Christ until I was 13, and I personally witnessed a glorious transformation in the way she obediently followed Jesus. Her language cleaned up, and I saw her often at the kitchen table reading the Scriptures. My father was a very harsh man who we learned close to the end of his life was bi-polar. My mother was verbally and emotionally abused as was my brother and I, but it was in the midst of the pain, as well as the beauty of Mother’s example, that my faith continued to grow and I understood how much the Father loved me. Daddy finally came to Jesus, and all 3 of them have now gone Home. I was really blessed to have my mother as an example of living in the Kingdom in the midst of great pain.

      • Johnny McConnell says:

        I am in the middle of a situation like this which will have some partial resolution Thursday. I began doing as suggested last night and am trying to turn this experience into an adventure with the Lord. I will report how it is going but His peace is coming to me as I go. Thank you. Johnny

        • mary says:

          I am whispering a prayer for you and your loved ones Johnny. Trust in HIM alone!
          mary

          • Doris says:

            “Plant seeds of love for they will bear the fruit of righteousness”
            This incredible journey with Jesus is one of love. As we walk with Jesus let us be honest with Him in our thoughts, feelings. His Holy Spirit comes and transforms our lives. When God speaks to us we must listen and say yes. We change our focus from self to the needs of others. Consider those difficult days – filled with burdens that you had not planned on. Where do you turn – to Jesus for He is in control of every situation. Think how you can change your life and thoughts. Follow the path of Jesus

          • Johnny McConnell says:

            Wow! All I can say is thank you…so beautifully put

        • Maria says:

          Keep your eyes on Jesus, as the apostles did on the boat during the storm. This is our salvation, our guiding light our peace and our joy. Sending prayers your way.

      • Donna says:

        So good for us to have a truly Holy Spirit transformation story! Thanks for sharing and encouraging!

  9. Donna says:

    Words from the reading that speak to me today: Jesus’ obedience is not one of fear but “a total, fearless listening to His loving Father” and all in the name of love. Also, that all is rooted “in one thing” – “listening to the Father in the intimacy of perfect love.” True, intimate relationships are not rooted in fear, rather love. Our relationship with God is not different, except that His love is EXTRAORDINARY! Our life experiences do not always help us understand love – and God’s PERFECT LOVE truly exceeds us. What an offering to each and all!

  10. Marianne says:

    I’m happy to say that I have had fewer migraines lately – so from 2 or 3 per week to about 5 per month. This makes a big difference for us in our lifestyle and it helps with the work load in our home so I am able to do more of my share in making meals, cleaning etc. During the times of illnes and discouragement, the Holy Spirit comforted me and there were lots of small confirmations and several large ones along the way that God is real too.

    Near the end of the chapter, Henri writes, “What matters is to listen attentively to the Spirit and to go obediently where we are being led, whether to a joyful or a painful place.” I’ve talked a lot about painful places, now I’m ready to talk about joyful places! IN the valley, I learned to trust God and to look for him all around me because he is there. We need to have joy in the church too!

    So this is a joyful time of coming toward Christ for us. Blessings on your week!

  11. Nadja Croft says:

    What this reading shows so readily is that following Christ and living in and from the Kingdom of God, is something that will come more naturally to some than to others, but if in constant engagement with the simple formula and thus by actively seeking the Kingdom in all situations, there is so much good that can be accomplished and so much “evil” that can be avoided! It is so crucial and unfortunately, not enough people know or think about how very sensitive life, relationships, and our actions can be.

  12. Connie says:

    How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
    His Kingdom First. Lord Hear our prayers.

  13. Sue says:

    Sharing from my own experience in the past. 31 years ago, God blessed us with a child.. a month later, this baby went into the Presence of Jesus. A month later, unbeknownst to me, I still had another child in the womb’ and I also miscarried that child. A follow up sonogram revealed I STILL had another baby alive in the womb. I carried him, Michael Tim, until his 23rd week. He was born too early for medical intervention. But he was ‘alive’ in my arms, and my two children, husband and relatives came in and beheld the miracle baby who was only about 12 inches long. We all tearfully released him to the Father. Through that time of losing babies, I learned some very hard and also precious lessons. I learned that I had a mysterious Father, that He could use this time for His purposes, even though it was painful. I was able, the day of Michael’s birth, to give comfort to two other women in the hospital that day whose babies died. I was able to share my faith with my Midwives, Dr’s and nurses. I was able to write a book called Born Too Soon, and God uses it still ,even though it’s out of print. I believe it was all for HIM to be shown and glorified. I didn’t feel I was anything other than a woman who was in pain, was authentically honest about the pain, and felt ‘held’ by the Father and my family and church during that time.

    I hope this doesn’t seem I’m reflecting from pride that “I” did this.. I mean that HE did all this through me. 31 years later, I still ache over the children I didn’t get to watch grow up, but I also smile over thinking of the reunion in heaven. I see how God worked in my heart then to say YES to Him, even when I didn’t want to! I see how tenderly He met the needs of my heart. I saw how much He loved me, even when I went through all the stages of grief and of course went through a time of anger. He still loved me. He was so kind and loved me in it all.

    The love and mystery of His Sovereign Will is still living in me and I am so very thankful for how His seeds of life live on through many ‘deaths’ in my body and in my spirit at that time.

    Thank you thank you for this group, and all those who share and those who may not comment but are praying ‘with’ all of us.

    Today I sat and listened to the I Belong to You song again, and was reminded again that saying Yes to Jesus means ultimate peace, yet also sometimes deep pain that He holds my hand through.

    Blessings of peace are sometimes held in Mystery, aren’t they?
    Sue

    • Donna says:

      God’s mystery and majesty overwhelms. Reading how God used your suffering for good feeds the soul! Thank you for willingly sharing your pain and God’s goodness.

    • mary says:

      Dear Sue,
      I too lost a son. It was a most painful experience. Tommy was buried while I was in a coma. One gift from the Lord was that ten years after my son died, my grandmother died on this very day. I was with her in her passing, and I took wonderful comfort knowing that my son was there to welcome her into the kingdom. I too am excited for the day that we are all united, but with the communion of saints….I speak with them today. It’s wonderful to know that we are all part of the body of Christ. The pain and the wounds don’t always make sense as we enter into the suffering, but the graces that bless us for uniting the sufferings with Christ’s suffering on the Cross uphold us then and well into the future. I don’t always embrace the opportunities of suffering as gracefully as I would like…and I guess because the nature of suffering is so very difficult. I pray to continue to grow in this way. God invites each of us to Calvary at some time. Thank you for turning your sorrows into dancing. May God continue to bless you!

  14. Jon says:

    Hi,
    I’ve been playing catch up a bit. I found this week and last week really challenging.
    The reading from Heart Speaks to Heart,“Come to me…” seemed to describe me – all too closely. I think it said it was an exaggerated example to make it clear. I didn’t find it that exaggerated, it seemed quite accurate to me.
    Then this week “His kingdom first” appears to offer a way forward, a better way. The trouble is I don’t really get it. I think that it is saying that it’s not necessarily doing less, nor is it really about doing more “spiritual” things instead – more prayer, more silence. Rather it seems to equate putting his kingdom first to a different attitude and priorities. I feel this could be quite important for me, in many areas of my life.

    But I am struggling to really understand what that attitude is, I can’t put a name to it. Subtlety and ambiguity is never easy for me. I work better with the head, with specifics, something I can tie down. At the moment I’m reaching for it, but it seems just beyond my grasp. Can anyone help me define this attitude a bit better please?

    • Ruth says:

      Vulnerability, transparency, humility…Phil 2.

    • chuck says:

      truth, goodness,beauty.our lives are destined to become like the life of Jesus. this contemplative spirit( deep relationship with Jesus) is the same relationship Jesus has with the Father. this is the truth. this is the” one necessary thing”.we are now our true self as we were created to be. now we see the beauty of God in all things. we see the goodness of God in our fellow man.this is a radical transformation.

    • Maria says:

      Try to focus with your heart and “lean not on your own understanding.” Ask the Lord to reveal himself to you. Spend quiet time with him in prayer and/or adoration.
      And allow him to speak to your heart. It is about the soul not the mind, so I think the first step is to let go of the earthly perspective and set your sights on high. I hope this helps!

  15. Ana says:

    Jon
    I get it. I too am a “head” person. I like things straight up and honest, black and white. But Jesus is not black and white. All I can say is you are on the right track. Pray more, be in silence more, read the bible more and slowly you begin to understand how in your daily life it is not about doing less, but about doing what you are doing with God at the center. This will lead you to make different choices and you will realize that and say ” Hey, I consiously choose to put God first in this task or choice”.

    Participating in this bible study is a good start. Pray in the car, in the shower, on the airplane. Wherever, and your head will get it soon. It takes time so pray for patience. I too will pray for you.

  16. Lori says:

    I have been listening to the Holy Spirit and as I might expect, feel conflicted. I see judgement in my heart I never admitted to. I judge overweight people, people who eat junk food, the tea party, and those who differ on certain human rights issues I believe in. It is a dark ugly place in my heart and I don’t want it any more. “Holy Spirit come cleanse my heart and give me love for those I have deemed unworthy.”

    • Maria says:

      We are all sinners, so imperfect. I love St. Therese of Lisieux because she recognized all of her shortcomings and instead of allowing those to weigh her down, she offered them up to Jesus. He works in our imprecations, THANKS BE TO GOD!!

  17. Lata Hall says:

    Well, all ye blessed children of the Lord: I have just come inside after shoveling 30 CM of snow. I live on the east coast of Canada and everything is shut today. High winds and snow and drifting snow, you name it we have it. Yet, in all this there was this STILL Voice of the Lord; I was the only one shoveling as I like to do in shifts. I knew when I get inside and was warmed up it will be time to write. I was able to reflect how a shift had taken place in our lives about 35 years ago. My husband and I grew up in families where being a Samaritan was the normal way of life. Yet, there was emptiness inside us both. We were not serious Church goers and praying meant saying the prayers and carrying on what we wanted to do. Our souls were crying out it is time to fill me. One time, I heard this song on the radio, ‘Gently, gently Jesus is calling, come home, come home to me….’ I have managed to find one version of it on Y-Tube and now I listen to it before I sit down to pray and listen to the Lord. Jesus is always calling to us, and we do listen in the end or we are just unhappy
    http://www.youtube.com/attribution_link?a=_oTiQHvKrZM&u=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D1EgJxPbS9ds%26feature%3Dshare

    I remember saying to my husband, I think we need to talk to Fr. Fred about this restlessness. Fr. Fred, prayed with us, anointed us and prayed the Holy Spirit will bless us. We joined the Jesuit group and learnt to pray for the Grace to be able to listen to the scriptures through the voice of the Holy Spirit. It was a big lesson. We had to learn to sit in silence. Our life began to change. Any time we went into sort of self gratification, we were spoken to by the Holy Spirit through scripture. There was that SHIFT which we needed to fill the vacuum. We spent 8 yrs. going back and forth to Ottawa to help our son while he was going through a very painful divorce and helped him to bring up our granddaughter and his only small child. We read lot of books from our priest’s library in the church. We learnt, ‘No matter what, our Heavenly Father loves us and He knows what is best for us. And He will never abandon us, we are His beloved children.’ The Sermon on the Mount became alive for us. The road to Calvary became our road every Easter. We lived the agony of Jesus in the garden as we would read the scripture. Lo, He makes all things new as Fr. Henri says.
    We are still involved with many works outside the home, Palliative care and L’Arche mainly, but never at the cost of our time with the Lord. It is all a process of transformation like the life of the butterfly. Every bird in the garden, every butterfly, every flower, wind, snow, rain is enjoyed and we are able to talk to the Lord any where and be thankful, prayerful, and fearful any where. This reminds me of my favourite Hymn which I often sing with my friends in the hospital, ‘I come to the garden alone, when the dew drop is still on the roses…………..’

    Mary, the mother of our Lord, St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa have been my companions and will always be. It is lovely to read your stories and I enjoy praying for you all as I read your blog. God bless you all.

    I will not be able to contribute much as we will be away to UK and we will be looking after our grandchildren and will have very little time, I may be able to read every day, but not write. Thank you, Brynn for making this journey so beautiful and prayerful. Blessings, Lata

    • Brynn Lawrence says:

      Thank you Lata, for all you have shared. Have a safe trip, and we’ll trust you’re still with us, even if you can’t post comments.

  18. Kathy Anderson says:

    Thank you to all of you who posted comments. Your words have been an inspiration for me.

  19. Gina Oliva says:

    Fellow Travelers,
    I am enjoying and reaping fruit from participating with you other lovely people (I am thinking of the young man’s words in “Titanic” (ha ha) don’t ask me why. I have been trying to get rid of some unhealthy habits and replace them with healthier ones. Somehow in reading (re-re-re-reading) “His Kingdom First” gave me a bit of a “corner turn” last night. I marveled at my marks in this dog-earred copy I have, given so graciously to me about 7 years ago – the marks show how often I have read it.
    It was a shift in attitude for me. “Everything we know about Jesus indicates that he was concerned with only one thing: to do the will of his father.”
    I have been hemming and hawing and procrastinating and making excuses for months to avoid getting started on a book I feel called to write – I feel God has been nudging me — gently but persistently – to move forward with this project. So I made a decision to spend 2 hours a day every day doing this. And so yesterday and today I did that. And in fact I also did so last Saturday so wow, that means 3 days so far this week! Yeh!! And it does feel like obedience. Peaceful and grateful obedience. Me being me as He made me.
    Thanks for reading and sharing.
    Love,
    Gina

  20. Jacqueline says:

    After reading the Nouwen Daily Meditation for March 23 about what a friend is, I suddenly realized that the person who fit the category for me was my husband. I admit I don’t always feel this way but that evening it was very clear. I then began reading and thinking about “someone who lived a very difficult circumstance in life, but kept their focus on “His Kingdom First”, my husband was the “someone”. Some years ago he was unfairly dismissed from his position of nearly 25 years and at an age that made it difficult for him to find employment in the same field again. I recall he made the statement that no one wanted to hire a “dinosaur”! He had struggled so with breaking the news to the children and me and even admitted he had considered suicide. But he said he just couldn’t leave us with that. So he found work, not in his field, but work anyway and we adjusted to our new circumstance.
    A few years earlier we had bought a second home at the beach, next door to a small condo complex. Their manager had passed away and they asked my husband to consider taking the position. So we sold our property and moved to the coast. He had to be up very early in the morning to clean the condo pool and grounds and have everything in order for the guests. I commented that I thought the pool maintenance would be boring every morning because it was so slow and the exact same thing 7days a week. His reply was how much he enjoyed being able to see the sun rise over the ocean, that it was never the same, how he loved hearing the sound of the waves, the birds singing and feeling the cool morning breeze. He considered the morning preparations of the pool and grounds his part in contributing to the enjoyment the families would have on their vacations and the memories they would make.
    He has a new business and a new life here. So different than before. He is a servant of the community, a good steward of the earth and its treasures, a man who serves the body of Christ and is focused on keeping “His Kingdom First”. By his imitations of Christ I know “His Kingdom” has come. He is the someone I know who allowed God to use his life for “profound good” and he makes a difference in the lives of many.

    • Belinda says:

      Hi,

      I appreciated reading your post and hearing how your husband made the transition from one job to another. I admire his positive outlook. He is a great example of “bloom where you are planted”. It’s a blessing to have a husband, and a blessing to have a friend, but for that person to be the same person, well…it’s a double blessing! I know because my husband is also my (best) friend!

      Blessings to you both,
      Belinda

    • Patricia says:

      What a beautiful perspective on cleaning the pool! :) I am grateful to you for sharing it. Peace!

  21. kathy w salem says:

    I am Home wherever I am~ thank you all for reminding me~ each in your own unique way. My Home is with my God Who loves me always and anywhere just as I am.

  22. Sharon K. Hall says:

    Extraordinary sharing and so meaningful to me–the three babies not able to be born on earth but in heaven, the mother married to a man who had bipolar mental illness and yet had the strength to endure and help him and now they are both in heaven and the children are stronger in faith than ever, coping with living in the head and yet at the same time knowing deep down that the need is to not do more but to do everything with God at the center, pray more, be in silence more, read the Bible more so that especially I will be able to make different choices and say “Hey, I consciously chose to put God first in this task or choice.” This is all transformative reading on this blog!!!!! and I am so glad and thankful for everyone’s sharing!!!!!

  23. Brynn Lawrence says:

    I am overflowing with gratitude for each of you who has shared with us this week. Each story and each testimony has been a true encouragement to my heart, and therefore I trust it has been an encouragement to many hearts.

    For those who are feeling hesitant to share, please know that your story is not small or insignificant, nor is it too big . Living daily life faithfully, focusing on “His Kingdom First” is what we are called to do. So, if your story can be an encouragement to others, a demonstration of how we do this, please feel free to share.

    In gratitude,

    Brynn

  24. Deb Hubenthal says:

    Nouwen writes that we must have a “radical transformation”– sometimes quickly–sometimes slowly. This transformation is the Holy Spirit’s work, which transforms me into a daughter who can be in an obedient relationship with God, based on heart to heart love. As I prayerfully meditated on this possibility, I began to have certain understandings. * I am in God’s presence, because God is within me. * How do I stop worrying about “getting it ALL done! By realizing how ridiculous that concept is. What is the ALL I want done? * Listen, instead, to my heart and the stirrings of my soul. * If I’m not sure what to do, WAIT PATIENTLY until I can see where God is leading me. No Helter Skelter. Here! There! No Where! *Recieve the Peace God gives. Carry that peace on my face, in my hands, with my smiles, through my ideas, and always carried through in action with dedication. But don’t worry about the results. Results belong to God. “What matters is to listen attentively to the Spirit and to go obediently where we are being led.” Nouwen
    RADICAL TRANSFORMATION is only possible with God.

  25. Bruce and Barbara says:

    I think of situational responses in terms of the call to ‘radical transformation.’ The radically transformed approach to a difficult situation is to think as stated by Brynn, “I am totally and completely loved by my Father in Heaven (see scripture verses from last week), how can I respond to this situation out of that unshakeable love?”

    I believe that when I can respond like this, I can focus more on what God has done for me thus far, rather on what I want for the future. One step further, then, is to do as Nouwen suggests in this chapter to “‘Set your heart on the kingdom first’…when we worry, we have our hearts in the wrong place. Jesus asks us to move our hearts to the center, where all other things fall into place.”
    The mystery for me is how to get this radical heart transformation. I guess I’ll pray for it and see what happens! I like what Tim Keller said, “The key question in order to change you is not ‘What would Jesus do?’ but ‘What has Jesus done?'”

    • Pat Johnson says:

      I am a first time participant. I live in a suburb of Minneapolis, MN. I am a wife, mom & a grandma * retired teacher. I am doing this study with friends from my church & former small group as a way to focus on Jesus during this Lenten season. I have been a Christian almost all my life but worry has been a persistent theme. My mother would say that I’d be rich if I got paid for worrying. I am almost done reading Making All Things New. It is touching me deeply & convicting me that I must address this worry issue, now. I have studied scripture almost all my life through small groups, bible studies, lay training programs. I often feel as if certain sections or even verses are God’s direct way of speaking to my life situations. The page following the Table of Content are Jesus’s words from Matthew 6:31-33: “Do not worry; do not say…….Your Heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set your hearts on his kingdom FIRST…and all these other things will be given you as well. I have known this verse since childhood. Why now am I first ‘hearing’ it? Why now, in this tiny treasure of a book am I ready to set my heart on his kingdom in a deeper way. This scripture & Nouwen’s words have begun a turning point in my spiritual journey. It’s never too late. On page 22 Nouwen wrote: We often say, “I am not very happy, I am not content with the way my life is going. I am not really joyful or peaceful…..” That’s how I have been feeling for some years. I have an abundance of all good things life has to offer-I am filled but unfulfilled. Don’t get me wrong, I have known great fulfillment in a spiritual way but it has eluded me for a long time. Maybe I have ignored the Holy Spirit’s work in my life or worse yet refused it! To open to his work means letting go of ‘stuff’, of controlling outcomes & refocusing my life lenses. I will keep reading & expecting.

      • Dottie L says:

        Pat, you really spoke for my own feelings. Since I was six years old, my relationship with Jesus has been real and important to me, and I have grown and matured in it. I consider myself blessed in many ways.
        So why do I worry as much as I do? Why am I concerned so much àbout whether others approve of me?
        This week I Practiced focusing on the Kingdom instead of those thorns in my side. I was able to dismiss them when I breathed and remembered this week’s reading.
        It seems that all life, physical ànd spiritual, is process in which we are molded and remolded as the Father sees fit.
        Perhaps the prayer for folks like us is ” THy kingdom come, Thy will be done(in me ).”

  26. Jackie G says:

    Hi All, I am joining you for the first time as I’m catching up on the readings of both books. I am living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have just returned from 15 months abroad doing missions work so I am taking some time off and doing some reading and writing these days. As a long time fan of Henri’s work, I am looking forward to joining the discussion and reading your comments.

    I enjoyed the intro and prologue of both books. I liked the back story Henri included on how he ended up writing “Heart to Heart”. Often times God uses someone in my own life to tell me something I’m blind to or I’m not ready to hear, it’s that prophetic voice from Christ speaking and I need to be open and in tune to it. I am thankful for Mammie Vanier’s boldness and consistency in reminding Henri: “Did you forget?” Because if she didn’t, you and I would not be having this discussion today.

  27. Sharon says:

    I Belong to Him…I Belong to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I Belong to the Kingdom of God. I Belong to You, Sweet Jesus.

    Wow. Sitting and listening to that song and the words and reminding myself that I have surrendered my life to him. What freedom!! What relief!

    I listened to this early in the week, read the chapter and then trials, business and the whirlwind of distractions made its presence in my days and in my mind!

    I was more aware of making that active decision to say “yes” and turning my focus from the barrage of worldly worries and instead focused on Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit asking for help, and the revelation that I am part of a divine community at every moment!

    “This eternal community of love is the center and source of Jesus’s spiritual life, a life uninterrupted attentiveness to the Father in the Spirit of love.” (p. 49)
    I was amazed when I read this.

    “Jesus ministry is nothing less than to bring us into this most intimate community.” (p50).

    “The Spirit is love itself, eternally embracing the Father and the Son.” (p 49)

    I belong to that community …the Kingdom of God. That’s incredible!

    So how was the Kingdom of God furthered in my trials this week…I had to make a decision to turn to that center and remind my self that God is available in the situation to help me in my/our need, and He is praying on my behalf and my loved ones with groanings too deep for words. And when I needed relief I asked for prayer from my church community and that brought more peace and assurance as I heard others pray for the situation. And when a friend of mine who’s little girl had to have surgery this week asked for prayer, I sent her a prayer and we prayed as a family.

    I like the figure of Joseph in the Old Testament. His difficult circumstances with family, being sold as a slave by his betraying brother, being falsely accused for infidelity and thrown into prison. He remained faithful and stayed focus on God. Moreover, God healed the relationships and saved them from the famine.

    But mostly, I was overwhelmed with the knowledge that I am part of the “eternal community of love” and that is really attractive and comforting.

    “The kingdom is the place where God’s Spirit guides us, heals us, challenges us, and renews us continuously.” I want to be a part of that kingdom (and I am!) and when I invite the Spirit into my struggles, pains and worries I am relieved and comforted by their love and that brings me peace.

    Blessed by this group and the opportunity to share. Thank you.

  28. Dorene Kilburn says:

    This week has passed far too quickly, as every week seems to, but before it ends I want to say how grateful I am for everyone’s comments. I have gained new insights and new strength to pursue the path Jesus calls me to. A year and a half ago my husband succumbed to Alzheimers Disease. He was truly a person who set his heart on the Kingdom first. Now I am journeying alone, but I am not really alone…Jesus walks with me! I see evidence of this every day. Still I find it difficult to allow myself to be vulnerable to God’s grace, to put the Kingdom first…that might take me beyond my comfort zone! Henri Nouwen’s books have been my constant companion for over 30 years, and I am delighted to be able to ponder the thoughts of others, that have been generated by his writings. Thank you!

  29. Brynn Lawrence says:

    Yesterday some combination of factors that I still don’t totally understand left me feeling very stressed. It must have been a worry type of stress, because the actual events of my day were not the cause. I wanted to shift my focus to “His Kingdom” and I felt very strongly this morning that I needed to remember that I am totally and completely loved by my Father in Heaven, and to live from that place (rather than from fear). So I went back and looked through all the posts from last week, focusing on the many Scripture verses that speak of God’s love for us. Thank you for sharing them!!! I was deeply touched and reminded of the strength and endurance of God’s love for me/us. Here are just a few of the many that spoke to me:

    Romans 5: 5,8
    Romans 8: 38
    John 18:25
    Mathew 6:25-43
    1 John 3:1
    Psalm 118:1
    Hosea 2:19-20
    Zephaniah 3:17-18

    So thank you for sharing them!

  30. Jon says:

    Thanks for all those replies to my question. It has helped a little.
    I suspected it was down to attitudes. I guess my problem is that my own attitudes feel a bit like trying to get hold of slippery eels. What are my attitudes? The conscious reasons behind why I do things, or the more subtle less positive drivers on the edge of my awareness. Perhaps it is neither wholly one nor the other, but both. Not entirely pure and selfless and not entirely selfish? Maybe this self-doubt and self-questioning can be positive on one level, but can itself also become too much self-focus. Maybe this is the focus that needs to shift, from my own self (even self-doubts) to God and his kingdom? How to make the shift? – I guess I know the answer to that one, but if I’m honest I resist it – more time praying, instead of serving. Then my focus will be on my relationship of love with God rather than on my doing, my – self. Hmmm

  31. Kathleen says:

    My daughter has been a wonderful example to me of a life lived for Christ. It is very difficult for her to be in new places, in new positions, yet she continually follows God’s calling that has taken her to study in the half way around the world, serve abroad in poverty and to live and minister in the inner city. Life has handed her many things that are difficult to deal with yet she continues to serve and live as one of “the least of these”.

Comments are closed.