Dec 1st to Dec 7th: Becoming the Beloved – Taken

Reading:  Becoming the Beloved  I. Taken

Today we officially begin Advent!  After a wonderful week of discussing the truth that we are the Beloved, Henri now calls us to become the Beloved!  This is definitely a journey rather than a flick of a switch, and the journey is challenging.  Although God has granted us the irrevocable status of being His Beloved, he asks us to apply the disciplines to “become the Beloved in the common places of [our] daily existence” (p 45).

This week we specifically explore what it means to accept that we are chosen (taken).  We recognize that every person God put on this earth, He put here for a reason, for a unique purpose, however “great” or “small.”

1) Think of some of the people of the Bible, or spiritual heroes of the past, who were chosen by God for a specific purpose:
a) Did they generally feel worthy and prepared for their calling?
b) What was the result of their obedience?

2) Does a part of you protest the idea of being chosen?
a) What things come along with being chosen, which you’d rather avoid?
b) If you were to admit that you are chosen by God for a purpose, what might that stir in you?  Require of you?
c) Can you imagine the beauty, excitement, peace, joy etc. that might also come along with accepting that you are chosen?

If you are ready to discover, embrace and live your purpose, a good question is “how?”

3) Henri reminds us that if we listen to the voices of this world, we will most certainly get distracted from our purpose, and get “caught in the net of a suffocating world that accepts or rejects us according to its own agenda of effectiveness and control” (P57-58).
a) If you were totally free from the external voices telling you what you should do, what would make you significant, what would earn you respect or love … if you were free to choose from your heart, what would you do or be or give or contribute to yourself and the world?

4) Finally, Henri gives us three very practical guidelines to help us live as a chosen son or daughter of God:
a) How might you establish a way that you can easily remind yourself of your Belovedness on a daily basis, and when needed?
b) Do you have a community, a friend, a mentor, or a guide that reminds you that you are chosen, and encourages you to live your purpose?  If yes, how did you find them, and how have they been significant to you? (To encourage others who may be looking).
c) Finally, how can you further integrate gratitude into all of your life’s circumstances?
INVITATION:  Choose one new way to express gratitude to God, to others or to yourself this week.  Tell us how it goes!

Looking forward to another great week together!

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100 Responses to Dec 1st to Dec 7th: Becoming the Beloved – Taken

  1. Sally-Ann Timbrell says:

    ‘Being chosen’….so much in this passage reverberates and resonates with my life experiences. In reading it several times I am encouraged that in reality such reverberations are quite ‘normal’ for many of us.

    It is so easy to be lost within a world constantly seeks ‘top ‘ people. But I do believe that we have a choice about how we respond to such calls. We can allow ourselves to be swamped by the shrill of rejection or we can choose to reaffirm our chosenness. That is an active response, an active decision and very often requires ‘head knowledge’ rather than heart feelings. For it is in developing that robust head knowledge that we can grow and become the extra-ordinary people God intended us to be.

    Many, many times I have resorted to this ‘head knowledge ‘ and learned to accept that ‘feelings’ can in fact be liars. Our emotive responses are so often not a reflection of what is really real! And that in reality we are ‘called by name’….chosen, indeed.

    • Bob says:

      A great truth of life, ‘feelings in fact can be liars.’ Yet so much of our culture is based on feelings dictating the choice. Thus, so many choices are based on lies. Scary! It does take a conscious choice to rise above that popular tendency. Thanks, Sally-Ann.

  2. Noelle says:

    I am a recovering alcoholic and as such, express in my prayer, ten blessings I am grateful for each day. In my ageing years, I have come to know that I am loved through a few close and very dear friends. One signs herself in her daily communications to me
    -Beloved, be loved,

  3. Ed says:

    To be “taken” is to be “chosen.”

    Being chosen is not for free – it includes blessings and woes.

    My being chosen isn’t at the expense of others, nor is their being chosen at the expense of mine.

    A sign of a healthy community of the chosen is when inclusive trumps exclusive.

    HN’s three guidelines mean this for me:

    1) When I feel hurt, offended or rejected for who I am, then this is an encounter with the Great Lie. I need the truth that I am chosen as I am.
    2) I need to keep looking for people and places where my truth is spoken and where I am accepted and celebrated as chosen and can help others do so as well.
    3) Living in a spirit of thanksgiving is the first and best fruit of a life of one chosen. It also expresses the truth that each person is chosen and helps to make the Truth attractive to others.

    Finally, being committed to the Life of the Beloved requires patience with self and others. Henri’s story about Helen reminded me of this.

    Come, Lord Jesus.

  4. Colette Toland says:

    Hi and sorry to be late in making my entry-which was already forwarded to my local group of Greystones Parish.
    I have read the 1st chapter two times. The Beloved is a good book that is for sure.

    I found the early introductions of other participants as so far making for interesting and enjoyable reading, particularly our American counterparts. I hope to read these submissions again as it was a very hurried review on my part.
    In particular the reference to Nouwen’s other work on grief as being helpful and mentioned by two persons more recently bereaved as being notable. I hope to get hold of a copy of this book for a close family member more recently bereaved in widowhood-in July 2013 who is relatively young and with a young family.

    Some of Nouwen’s ideas and views expressed in his first chapter would resonate with some of my own personal experiences particularly around the aspect of trying to develop an identity offered by God who sees us as his-”beloved” in a cherished way which is not necessarily backed up or borne out in our interpersonal experiences in secular day to day living.
    The concept or experience of living as a disciple of Christ -where we are called to serve him “..as I am sending you out as lambs amongst wolves” is an easy parallel to this.
    In addition today’s gospel reading-of the 27.11.2013- referring to the experiences of being oppressed by others because of our relationship with Christ is also poignant. Christ goes that step further to encourage us to persevere and his power is then made transferable to aid us to continue upholding our values as he declares its potency and unfailingness and so this gives us hope and the strength to help us to keep going on the road that we are called to follow.

    Nouwen’s development of themes expressed through his personalised relationship with Fred is an enlightened approach which makes it much easier to understand his beliefs showing a greater generosity of spirit on his part in the empowerment of his friend. The transferring of this knowledge to Fred who is needing to be built up on a valued base made Nouwen’s thinking all the more powerful because of this. I am not sure where I stand in relation to the concept of the ” propensity towards self-rejection” and whether the real experiences of being wounded by others can result in an injured psycho view of one-self per se and in itself and so I am not sure if this would be entirely accurate to the truth of my own experiences here. In stating this however I don’t oppose the idea either. In addition I do favour Nouwen’s referencing of Fred and us as being enjoined by the Beloved contrasting and negating against the negativity of life’s experiences as defined by Nouwen.

  5. Marinane says:

    It is a well known statement of Henri Nouwen’s that “the most personal is the most universal.” I notice how many of our group members share with us the abuse they suffered in their past. It probably took a lot for each member to type it out – or to begin sharing about it in the past and yet this very experience is what many group members have shared started them on the trek to claiming their beloved status with Christ. Thanks be to God.

  6. Penny says:

    This book is so encouraging to me but also challenging. Sometimes, spiritual books are written in such a way that I feel condemned or just not quite spiritual enough (or faithful enough) to “get it.” It’s been so nice to feel like (and know) I can rest on Gods chest, “be still” and reclaim the truth of my chosenness. How refreshing and freeing!
    I am quite challenged with the 3 guidelines especially because it calls me out of my complacency and inconsistency.
    I am so grateful for the things I am learning through this book discussion. Thank you.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I too am challenged by the three guidelines. I put a “name” to all of them in the first one, now I will pray about each of them by looking to other places and people to celebrate God’s love for me.

      • Marianne says:

        Penny, all of Henri Nouwens books are like this – less law, more gospel. Luckily, there are a lot of his books too so you won’t run out of the message!

  7. Maeve Binder says:

    I am ready to read this week’s chapter. Having been away last week, I just now finished reading all the comments from that week and found them so helpful, so inspiring, so beautiful. I know this discussion will continue to grow and deepen and I am so happy to be a part of it. I left some comments/replies for last week as I read all. I will be back after I read the current selection. I pray that the Holy Spirit is with each of us as we study this book, that our hearts will be open to God’s great love for each of us.

  8. Liz says:

    While I prefer the word chosen to taken, it does have a drawback, which Henri alerts us to. Chosen can imply that chosen-ness is only available to some but not all. Yet I believe that God chooses all. As Henri says though, we have to claim for ourselves that we are chosen. And be careful that we don’t see our chosen-ness as a means of excluding or rejecting another. Henri goes on to say that our minds struggle to get this, maybe only our hearts can understand this. I sat with a guy today who said that all he has ever wanted to hear was that he was special but he knows that he is not. He was caught by surprise when I said that I know that he is special and with tears in his eyes he said I was the only one who had ever said that to him.
    Because I have had the very profound experience of both knowing myself as the beloved, as chosen, and then in the depths of my being coming to realise that each and every person I encounter is also the beloved, chosen, I know this permeates the way I am in the world, and in particular who I am when I am with inmates and staff inside a large remand centre. The challenge for me is how can I encourage others to discover this sense of chosen-ness (beyond being a witness to that reality)?
    Brynn’s reflections above provide me with some additional possibilities. In particular looking at those who were chosen in scripture. Jonah and his reluctance to see himself as chosen comes to mind. And encouraging others to see their chosen-ness through developing an attitude of gratitude. Even in jail there can be much to be thankful for if we can bring our attention to it. It is so easy to only see the bad, mad and sad, yet what about the warm cup of coffee, the shape of the clouds, the phone conversation with a family member.
    However for most of those I encounter the messages from parents, families, media, society at large and the experience of being incarcerated are constantly rejecting rather than accepting. There is little experience of being chosen so coming to see themselves as chosen by God is so much, much harder. Maybe, just maybe through some experience of prayer- be it meditation, reflecting on scripture, praying the rosary, they may come to hear God saying “this is my beloved in whom I delight”, they may hear Jesus asking “what are you you looking for” and then hear him utter their name, may be they can come to see prayer as more about being in God’s presence than saying correct words. Maybe their brief encounter with me may show them some does care, that they are worthwhile, they may also get a glimpse that they are chosen and can claim for themselves their chosen-ness.
    I know that the more I sit with these guys, the greater awareness I have of the chosen-ness of all, myself included. That is their great gift to me. That is God’s gift to me. I am truly thankful.

    • Bob says:

      Liz, I look forward to your thoughts and reflections from the vocation to which God has called you. Truth be told, we are all incarcerated in some way or another when we sell out ourselves to anything that falls outside the lines of being chosen. So when you share your experiences with an inmate, I, too, am the inmate. His incarceration is physical, mine is spiritual. Thank you.

      • Liz says:

        Yes Bob, that is truly my experience. From the moment when I first experienced the call to prison ministry, at which time I did not know anyone who had been in jail, the question was “who are prisoners anyway?”. At that time my father was suffering Alzheimer’s and my mother was very frail. I was imprisoned by my own expectations and much more. Yes we are all imprisoned in someway and my liberation is intimately tied up with the liberation of others.

        • Penny says:

          “yes, we are all imprisoned in some way and my liberation is intimately tied up with the liberation of others.” Wow. thought provoking! thanks.

      • Dottie L. says:

        Bob, thank you for the insight of spiritual incarceration…you’ve put a name to a malady I have had. A friend of mine says that knowing what a problem is makes it easier to handle, much in the way that a diagnosis leads to proper treatment.
        Oh my, as I type, I remembered that during a time of trial , my counsellor asked me a question which resulted in my having an image of myself as being in a jail. My response to his question left me feeling as though the bars of the jail had fallen down, and although I was under them, I knew I would be free once I moved out from under them. I felt such hope in that image. Funny how the image came back and still inspires hope.

  9. Bob says:

    Henri lays out so nicely and cleanly this concept of being chosen. The world around us chooses a person because he/she is better than others and it is often made clear to those who are not chosen that they lacked something. With God, being chosen is because of uniqueness which does not make anyone better than anyone else, just especially created for a purpose. What a much better attitude for living in community.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I feel I need to put this in the first person and really focus on three thoughts: 1, unmask the world around me for what it is: manipulative (black Friday to shop for the Christmas season, really?), controlling, power-hungry, destructive. Think of all the ways the world around you does this to your spirit? 2, I have to find people and places that will remind me of my identity as a beloved chosen one of God, where do I look for this? 3 Celebrate! I am chosen by God, thank God every moment. What can I do to show my gratitude? Advent is the time to be someone else than what the world tells you about the season…

  11. Janet McDonald says:

    I was pondering on how I get ‘caught in the net of a suffocating world’ after reading this section. I get caught up in all kinds of things which exhaust my brain and my emotions and make me feel obliged to do all kinds of things.
    Then on 1st December I was given a lovely present of a little candle holder, and 25 tea tree lights, each with a number on for advent. On 1st December I lit the first one, with a big ’1′ on the top, and noticed that within a few seconds the number had melted away and the beautiful candle burned on. I was struck by how I wake each day thinking of my ‘to do’ lists, or the things I am anxious about that day, or all the unresolved worries in my head. If I charge into the day trying to do it my way, then it is like the unlit candle – the numbers and the agendas still on top. But I’m learning that I need to start my day coming to sit with God, and then I feel a bit more like the candle – all those things are held by God and understood by God, but what I am left with is sight of the light, and not the agendas!
    So, I’ve been trying that a bit more these few days……..and that has really blessed me.

    • Maeve Binder says:

      Janet, I can relate to your comments. The idea of starting the day with the candle light, sitting before God, and coming away with the light rather than the day’s agenda is so peaceful. The time I spend praying, reading spiritual books, meditating, attending Mass, etc., all puts me in a peaceful place, so much so that I crave it daily. A day in solitude with God is truly a gift for me.

    • Christine says:

      Beautiful image, Janet. Thank you for sharing that. I’m the candle, burning with the help of God’s love.

  12. Chuck N. says:

    Henri’s third guideline involved showing gratitude, first and foremost to God for our having been chosen. Saying “thank you” to Him every day in some fashion. However, I think there is something deeper here, that we should be showing gratitude to all of those people with which we cross paths. God dwells in all of us. Showing gratitude to others is showing gratitude to God. So, this week I am going to try just that, to show gratitude towards others, starting right now. And it is still early in the week, being only Monday night!

  13. Maeve Binder says:

    I like to think of each person I meet throughout the day as if I am meeting Jesus. I may smile, I may speak, or I may silently pray for the person. When I am stuck in traffic, I pray for all those in the cars surrounding me. There is an energy and a love that connects all of us, and that I believe is Jesus.

  14. Liz says:

    “We can decide to be grateful or to be bitter.” I am coming to recognise more and more that we have the power to make choices, be they life giving choices or life denying choices, power that we so often fail to see. Where do I allow my gaze to fall? I choose to gaze upon the world, upon circumstances and upon individuals with grateful eyes or judgemental eyes. What will I choose this day, this moment?
    Henri goes on to say “that when we persist in looking at the shadow side we will eventually end up in the dark.” I question whether this is always the case if we truly know ourselves as chosen. I am thinking of a recent personal experience. Yes I have a wonderful understanding of myself as the beloved. And I have been struggling with feeling comfortable with my body and being touched and in this regard I have been working through some childhood experiences of abuse. Now by choosing to look at this shadow side, this painful and dark place of partial self rejection, while still holding on to being the beloved, I have been able to take this to prayer, ask for God’s healing and in particular reflect upon the story of the woman with the haemorrhage and its invitation to me. In other words, from this place of pain I can come to feel myself being healed and made whole, even though I will probably carry some of the scars for years to come. So I suppose, because I know myself to be chosen, I can then look on my shadow with love and acceptance , knowing that it has much to teach me if I let it.

  15. Bob says:

    In sitting with the thought of being chosen, of being so wonderfully fashion by our Creator, my thoughts went to my being before I was born. Too often we are overly concerned about where we will be post life, but where were we before our birth? The answer is beyond understanding but this thought on being chosen suggests we were under the influence of the love of God. Does this mean I am eternal in God’s love? My initial thought on that possibility is similar to Julian of Norwich’s thought, ‘all is well, all has been well, all will be well, all is well.’ Does anything else matter?

    • David Walsh says:

      A family story might help here. When my fourth child was a toddler and looking at photos of her older siblings , she asked “where was I Mammy ?”. To which my wife replied “you were just a twinkle in your daddy’s eye” Perhaps we were all twinkles in God’s eye, from all eternity. That is why we are beloved and precious.

      • Bob says:

        Excellent thought! Thanks, David.

        • Lisa says:

          Yes, for me too it is easier to relate to being beloved through the eyes and experience of children. In conversation with my 8 year old grandson, I was telling him that God is even crazier about him than I am. He laughed and seemed to consider it for a bit, then asked, “am I, like his favorite?” I told him we are all God’s favorites, and in that moment both he and I believed that with all our hearts!

  16. Brynn Lawrence says:

    Good morning all,

    I came across these verses this morning and thought they fit well into our discussion this week:

    “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever – do not abandon the works of your hands.” Psalm 138: 8

    “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
    His love endures forever.
    Give thanks to the God of gods.
    His love endures forever.
    Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
    His love endures forever.”
    Psalm 137:1-3

  17. Judy says:

    Dear Friends,

    I have not been able to find any reference in Life of the Beloved so far to God putting each of us here for a reason, for a unique purpose, however “great” or “small.” My understanding is that the divine choice He made for each is unconditional. In New Age circles there is frequent reference to one’s “soul purpose.” Maybe that is not what is meant by “for a reason or a unique purpose” in our context here?

    Here are Nouwen’s words that I did find:

    • P. 58: We are not chosen by anyone existing in time, but rather by the One who has chosen us with an everlasting love” from all eternity and throughout all eternity;
    • P. 60: You are not an “accident” but a divine choice.
    • P. 65: We are precious in God’s eyes, each life unique, priceless and irreplaceable.

    Could I please get some help with this confusion on my part?

    I thank you to the moon and back,

    Judy

    • Brynn Lawrence says:

      Hi Judy,

      I do apologize if you feel I’ve added something that isn’t in the text – I do try very hard to not do that. I definitely did not intent to throw a New Age idea into the discussion! Rather, I was trying to articulate Henri’s point that we are all chosen by God… and each is chosen “in their own uniqueness” (p55).

      As Henri says “When love chooses, it chooses with a perfect sensitivity for the unique beauty of the chosen one…” (p54).

      The way I articulated the statement also flows from Bible verses such as:

      My frame was not hidden from you
      when I was made in the secret place,
      when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
      16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
      all the days ordained for me were written in your book
      before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:15-16)
      and
      “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever – do not abandon the works of your hands.” Psalm 138: 8

      It just seems to me that if God has chosen us, and ordained our days, then there is a unique purpose for those days. The nature of that purpose I cannot say. Is it specific? Is it general? Is it simply to love God with our whole unique hearts? Perhaps there are times when God does ordain someone’s days for a specific purpose, like Esther in the old testament who God gave the position of Queen in order to aid her people.

      But really, I didn’t intend for the statement to suggest any further ideas about what being chosen means.

      I hope this clarification leaves you feeling that the statement is in line with the text, but more importantly with God’s Word. If not, please let me know!

      Thanks!!

      Brynn

      • Judy says:

        Thanks so much, Brynn, that really takes care of it for me. Not just New Agers but Jungians (such as James Hillman’s book The Soul’s Code) have talked of a specific calling /soul purpose (which I have seen make some people feel inadequate–I had to spend a long time with my deceased partner explaining he could just be his ordinary angelic self and need not have a grand vocation of some sort!)

        I do like Origen’s concept of a divine plan (okonomia in Greek) for each of us, which we are free to align with or not. But he did not necessarily mean by that a specific purpose we were each expected to fulfill.

        Thanks so much again,

        Judy

        • Brynn Lawrence says:

          Hi Judy,

          Yes, I can totally understand what you are saying. Even in the example of Esther, the text reads like this:

          14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

          Mordecai is saying to her… maybe God put you in this time/place/position to fulfill His purposes… are you going to respond to this opportunity He has given you?

          It makes me ask myself the same.

          Brynn

          • Bob says:

            Thank you for this exchange of ideas. I have found over the years in an effort to determine what is actually intended when it comes to God, it is not a matter of ‘either…or’ rather, ‘both…and’ and in some infinite way, many times beyond my comprehension, they beautifully come together. In the process, everyone’s uniqueness makes them partially right. And when we listen to someone in his/her uniqueness who has a totally different understanding, we become more right in our understanding. Within this thinking, being right is not most important but being one with each other is.

          • Judy says:

            The reply link is missing for the comments below–please know they meant a lot to me.

            Maybe somehow the idea of needing to have, and to come to know, a special purpose for one’s life has entered the collective consciousness.

            Even after my partner agreed it was not necessary to have a grand vocation, he kept harking on what his soul purpose was. So I asked what percentage of the world population he thought were as kind to others as he was, going down in increments. Once he agreed he was among a minority of 5% in his loving-kindness, I said well, maybe that’s your soul purpose—to be angelic. For several days he went around exclaiming “I have a soul purpose—hooray!” (Totally without vainglory—though maybe as a needed validation of his worth).

            Notice that his newly discovered soul purpose was what Christ expects from us all, but my partner needed it to be exceptional to count as his purpose in life.

            Shortly after these conversations, he died of a freak accident at age 59.

            Oh, the many paradoxes in the spiritual life.

            So very grateful for this retreat,

            Judy

          • Judy says:

            Brynn, thanks so much for you reply! I am learning a lot, though not yet writing about myself. An hypothesis is slowly developing, and may have to wait for the later chapters, especially the notion of operating under a curse.

            Psalm 27
            Your goodness fills my life.
            In fidelity of heart I wait,
            I wait to share the vision of your love,
            to savor the sweetness of your presence.

        • Ed Wojcicki says:

          You raise a really great question about purpose. I think this can be too easily twisted into thinking we must find success, a job, a project, a position, or something like that. I don’t think that’s true. I wonder if my purpose, today, is to realize that God has chosen me today and to be thankful for that, and then to respond as if that’s really true. The world might say our purpose leads to important projects. I think that’s a lie, and I’m still trying to learn this.

          • Penny says:

            Ed- Thank you for your words.

          • Bonnie J says:

            Ed, I really like your idea of my purpose being as simple (or is it as profound?) as “realizing that God has chosen me and being grateful for that.” There is so much pressure on people today to do, to create, to produce, to impress, and all God really needs from us is to be, ….with Him. And I give thanks for that.

          • Christine says:

            Ed, your post articulated some thoughts I was having when reading these chapters and when considering Brynn’s 3rd question. Having retired from the world of paid work I’ve struggled with this idea of being considered valuable for what I do. At work I was valued for my ability to work with numbers and help with the company’s goal of maintaining and making monetary profit.
            In reading these two chapters I am coming to understand I am beloved by God for who I am, not for what I do. This realization is a sort of “unmasking of the world” (page 59) and alleviates my worry about fulfilling an expected role in that world. God’s purpose for me isn’t a working role. It is growing, I think, fully into my fullness of being.
            An example Henri’s 2nd guideline, finding others where my “truth is spoken” came as a gift to me as I sat with my family at our Thanksgiving dinner. My son, with whom I live, went around the table and gave thanks for each of us gathered there. He gave thanks for who we are as part of his family, not for what we do. I felt a true sense of being loved in having someone I love give thanks for me – “just me” as Henri said. I am reminded that God loves “just me” too.
            This leads to gratitude for being who I am, where I am at this place in time. I can accept and be grateful for the fact that I am a “unique stone in the mosaic of human existence – priceless and irreplaceable.” (pg 65)

          • Ray Glennon says:

            Adding a little more on “purpose” or God’s will.

            In “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything,” Fr. James Martin, SJ tells the story of Walter Ciszek, an American-born Jesuit priest who was sent to work in Poland in 1930, imprisoned by the Soviets in 1941, and finally released and returned home in 1963. In his book about how he survived, Fr. Ciszek wrote this about God’s will: “God’s will for us was the 24 hours of each day: the people, the places, the circumstances he set before us in that time. Those were the things God knew were important to him an to us at that moment, and those were the things upon which he wanted us to act, not out of any abstract principle, or out of any subjective desire to "do the will of God." No, these things, the 24 hours of this day, were his will; we had to learn to recognize his will in the reality of the situation… The plain and simple truth is that his will is what he actually wills to send us each day, in the way of circumstances, places, people, and problems."

            And to all of this, I think Henri would add that Fr. Ciszek was uniquely Chosen as the Beloved of God even in his trials and challenges–and that as the Beloved, Fr. Ciszek was never alone…a fact that Fr. Ciszek clearly recognizes himself.

            Blessings to all.

  18. Theresa Nedry-Molinaro says:

    I have found it easier to build bridges towards others than walls protecting myself from others when I truly believe I am and others are beloved of God.

  19. Ray Glennon says:

    I’m going to provide my initial response here and then go back and reflect on the posts that precede mine. This is a very challenging chapter for me and there is so much here to reflect on.

    For me it begins with Brynn’s seemingly self-evident statement that “We recognize that every person God put on this earth, He put here for a reason, for a unique purpose, however “great” or “small.” This is certainly what I aspire to, however, I am one of those that Henri writes about that must, “Dare to reclaim the truth that we are God’s chose ones.” I know this in my head, but as a result of my childhood experiences it remains difficult for me to accept this truth in my heart and I recognize in myself the tendency to allow the darkness of self-doubt and low self-esteem to enter my life and interfere with the joy the Lord is calling me to experience.

    I recognize my chosenness most clearly when involved in activities with a faith-based community either in our local parish or the charismatic Catholic covenant community that we belong to. This is true whether my wife and I are facilitating a group discussion of Fr. Robert Barron’s wonderful DVD series CATHOLICISM, serving as a Confirmation small group leader, or preparing for lessons and carols at the community Advent party. In any of these situations I feel like I “fit in” and I know that God is present and Jesus is alive. My challenge–that is becoming ever clearer through these reflections–is to develop my prayer life so that I take the time in the presence of the Lord every day and to really open myself to honestly share my life with Jesus. And in doing so, I will truly experience myself as Chosen.

    What particularly struck me about this chapter is Henri’s comment, “Gratitude is the most fruitful way of deepening your consciousness that you are not an ‘accident’ but a divine choice.” This is an idea is that I can readily identify with. Then Henri pointedly reminds us that “Where there is a reason for gratitude, there can always be found a reason for bitterness.” And he continues saying, “It is here that we are faced with the freedom to make a decision.” This presents us with both a blessing and a challenge. We are chosen. We know that–at least in our head. However, we must chose to accept our chosenness by choosing gratitude and not bitterness as we journey through life. This is a choice of the heart. This can be a challenge for me at times.

    On Thanksgiving Day Fr. James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) posted this on Twitter: “If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is Thank You,
    that would be enough.” –Meister Eckhart, 13th-14th Century Dominican theologian and mystic. This is certainly consistent with Henri Nouwen’s point about the fruitfulness of gratitude and is something I think he would wholeheartedly agree with. This is the discipline that I need to adopt and make my own this Advent– to simply say “Thanks you” to God for choosing me and to be grateful for the countless gifts with which I have been blessed. That is my first step to becoming the Beloved.

    May God give you peace. Twitter: @RayGlennon

  20. Sharon says:

    I’ve struggled over my life with the same distress that Fred had–unfullfillment of work–and struggled with trying to come to grips with exactly what fulfillment might exactly be like, what it might look like, what it might feel like.
    Some things in this chapter gave me much to chew on: Henri Nouwen, writes “When love chooses, it chooses with a perfect sensitivity for the unique beauty of the chosen one….” Brynn quotes “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me, your love, O Lord endures forever,–do not abandon the works of your hands.” Psalm 138:8
    again, Henri writes, “I take bread, bless it, break it and give it.” This seems to me to be a marriage of heart and hands, giver and receiver, indicating only the attitude of the giver in that he is “blessing the bread” and not the attitude of the receiver.
    Somehow, in my life I have read quite a bit about “craftsmanship”, about people who have trained and disciplined themselves to “craft” unique and lovely items with their hands. And I have a great amount of admiration for people who have been able to do this in the world, what they have contributed to the world from their own hearts and which so many others, me included appreciate so wholeheartedly. My own deep wish is to somehow learn how to design, sew and fit garments for disabled and wheelchair user women and I have been taking classes to learn to do this. But, while my deep wish is there, there is also a part of me which protests the idea that I may be chosen to do this sort of work and I wonder why I am so ambivalent and so divided within myself over dedicating myself to this. When Henri Nouwen takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it, is he clearly doing this without some degree of being torn and used inside, of being afraid of the consequences of his action and the unpredictability of the relationship that is ensuing or being brought into being, especially through the offering of bread from his hands? Brynn asks the question, “How might you establish a way that you can easily remind yourself of your Belovedness on a daily basis, and when needed?” I don’t know if I will ever get so good with my hands at sewing, but do sense some kind of reality within me that I need to try –much as Henri is posing to Fred that he needs to try to write that book he is dreaming of–and that using my hands in service to others will also remind me of my Belovedness on a daily basis, and when needed–of my unique calling in community, coming from the Lord who formed me by His Hands.

  21. Bob says:

    For me today, I simply sat and enjoyed being chosen. It was a very blessed experience. Very simple but very blessed.

    • Ed Wojcicki says:

      Bob, this is one of my favorite posts this Advent season. Thank you. For me, sitting–just sitting for a few minutes–is one of my favorite activities. Along with it might come a bit of fleeting but meaningful reflection, or snoozing, or reading three great sentences like yours. Such sitting often keeps my soul quiet for hours after I re-enter a very noisy world.

  22. The more I reflect on how the Holy Spirit works in my life and the lives of others to “make all things new” I see a definite pattern at work. I didn’t come up with this pattern on my own. But when I heard it, the words immediately rung true. I heard it in an interview with Henri Nouwen conducted several years ago when he was asked to discuss his views on a variety of topics. When the topic of Communion came up, I was blown away by what I heard. Henri talked about the picture created by communion being a metaphor for the life of Jesus and ultimately the life of all who follow Him.

    And since hearing the colors that make up the palette of that picture, I have come to see them at every turn. They are vivid in the lives of many. And the result is a beautiful portrait.

    Chosen is the first part – Jesus was called to preach freedom to the captives. At the start of his public ministry, Jesus read from Isaiah and confirmed that the prophet’s words were about Him. He was chosen by God to appear as a man. Called for a mission of mercy and grace. Jesus was chosen to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. His calling was specific, personal and powerful.

    We were recently watching the Ron Howard Film, Cinderella Man, and I saw the pattern again. Based upon a true story, the boxer James J. Braddock was chosen to be a fighter from a young age. Braddock was blessed with success in the 1920’s as a boxer, a husband and father. Seemingly, with the stock market crash of 1929, Braddock’s career and life came crashing down. He was a broken man. And he almost lost everything. He even suffered a broken hand. Through his brokenness, he learned the value of everything and his life was purified so that he could be given to the world. And he gave hope to a nation that was in great need of inspiration.

    Our lives as beloved of God certainly have a story arc or pattern. Henri talked about chosen, blessed, broken and given as the pattern most often used by God to make us servants.

  23. Marianne says:

    I have quite a few thoughts underlined in this chapter.
    I remember when I found out that Moses did not feel sufficient for his calling and yet he was a mighty man of God who led the Israelites with all their complaining. It helped give me confidence that I might not feel adequately equipped for every task, e.g. parenting, but to proceed forward trusting in God for the wisdom to do what I have been called to do.

    Just as true from the Bible is that in many cases, others didn’t necessarily recognize the calling of others. When King David was going to be chosen, everyone assumed it would be the oldest brother who was chosen but every brother was passed up until it came down to the youngest. The older brothers were flabbergasted when their youngest brother “out tending sheep” was the chosen one. Even Jesus said, “A prophet is not known in his own town” when people recognized him as being the boy of Joseph from Nazareth. So we can’t necessarily count on those around us to celebrate our calling with us. This underscores Henri’s second practical advice p. 59 to “Keep looking for people and places where your truth is spoken and where you are reminded of your deepest identity as the chosen one.

    I really liked the statement p. 60 “so we must dare to opt consciously for our chosenness and not allow our emotions, feelings or passions to seduce us into self-rejection.”

    I’m still thinking about how, on a daily basis I will choose to: 1. Unmask the world, 2. Seek like minded people and 3 Celebrate your chosenness constantly. Of course this is easy on Sundays!

    One last great quote, p. 64 “It is impossible to compete for God’s love.” What a great thought. There’s more than enough to go around!

  24. Jonathan says:

    This section, seems to speak of how we indulge in the fruitless task of comparison with others, and of the world’s judgement of me, or perhaps even more likely, my own self-judgement. Once when sinking in self-rejection someone tried to help by comparing me favourably with others “see we are all like that”. It was no help, all that made me feel was “I knew I was right about the world, it is a dark place too, just like me.”

    True liberty comes only as we take on board what Henri speaks of here, that it is not the judgement of others, or even of self that matters, but God’s judgement of me, his assessment. And what is his judgement? He has chosen me and loves me – unconditionally!
    This is what Paul is saying in 1 Cor. 4:3-4 “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court ; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”

    • Lata says:

      Comments

      I have been reading the comments faithfully, along with the chapter, which I have read a few times and I am amazed how the Lover of our souls, (call Him/her by any name) for me God my Father, who sent His only son that we may come to know His love for us through him; has been pouring His love and healing in so many of us as we read’ Life of the beloved.’ I can only thank Him for all of you and pray that those of us who have been so deeply hurt by others will come to know Him/Her, that they will have peace. Oh sure, as long as we have breath we will be hurt by the harsh words, What breaks or hurts in us, is what the Lover of our souls uses it to heal others and finally brings healing in us again. Having sat by the bedside of many a dying people in the last 24 years, I have seen how tenderly our Lord comes to receive each person back to Himself/Herself. My Palliative care work has been with the wounded 1st and 2nd World War Veterans. Some of them I got to know for a long time and some for a short time. They taught me a great deal. The ones who were bitter the Lord worked through ordinary people like me and others and lead each one of them to Himself.

      Henri was and still is to many of a guiding Star. In this book, he makes it so simple. One needs to accept that one is loved by his/her Creator God and once we accept that, God’s Holy Spirit does in us the next step. Accepting the first part is the hardest. Our son has great difficulty with all this because of his broken marriage. To him prayer meant and still does that God gives only good things. Very passive role that is. As if we have no will in it. Yet, the way the Holy Spirit is guiding him and leading him back to his great Source of love, my husband and I can see, but we dare not discuss this, We can smile and just express our gratitude to the Lord for His everlasting sustaining love for him.

      All this never means that we do not feel hurt and jealous or are Holy. Only that we can claim, we are the beloved and get back to being the beloved who like Jesus responds to what ever we are asked to do, not just guided by the feelings, but sitting in prayer with the Lord and by talking to Him/Her. Some calls are tough, I can see at time how Mary, Joseph, Moses and Jeremiah felt, some can decide quickly and others need the prayer time. There the niggling and leading is done by the Holy Spirit.

      It is fascinating journeying with you all through this book. May we all become better lovers of the Lord. Blessed, broken and given.

      We are always being guided by God into a more excellent way and into a more excellent realm, a future where the past is redeemed by our faithfulness in the present.

  25. Ray Glennon says:

    A Brief Aside —

    Last week Liz mentioned the difference between the Greek and Hebrew views of perfection as discussed by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser in his recent book “Prayer: Our Deepest Longing” Franciscan Media Cincinnati Ohio, 2013. I purchased this book after reading Liz’s post and have been reading it in parallel with “Life of the Beloved.”

    I’m about ⅓ of the way through this short (68 page) book and it is magnificent and a perfect complement to the book we are reading. (FYI–Fr. Rolheiser is a follower of Henri Nouwen and often refers to him in his own writing.)

    Here is one excerpt among many that I could cite that is directly related to the our reading this week: “We take for granted that anyone who sees us as we really are (in our unloveliness, weaknesses, pathology, sin, insubstantiality) will, in the end, be as disappointed with us as we are with ourselves… Because we think God is disappointed in us (my note: He’s not), especially at those times when we are disappointed in ourselves, we fail to meet the one person, the one love, and the one energy–God–that actually understands us, accepts us, delights in us, and is eager to smile at us.” In other words, (as Henri might say) the one God who has chosen us and called us the Beloved.

    For me its back to Henri’s book now. But if you are looking for something else to read, I highly recommend Fr. Rolheiser’s book. (Brynn and Maureen — Sorry for recommending a non-Nouwen book. :))

    • Brynn Lawrence says:

      No need to apologize Ray! It’s great. Anything that moves us closer to the heart of God.

    • Bob says:

      Thanks for the recommendation, Ray. It is now in my Kindle. Should we set up an auxiliary discussion group :-)

  26. Ellen says:

    I have always felt that I was the “unchosen” one. In grade school through high school, I was the one who was always picked last when choosing teams. I was the one who was never invited to classmate’s parties. The one who was laughed at or talked about. As I grew older I became the employee who was always overlooked for a promotion and whose ideas were never considered. I always felt that God made me invisible. That no one could really see the good that I could do or hear what I had to say. As a result throughout my life, I never considered myself good enough for anything. I always felt “stupid”. Self rejection….that was me. But thankfully, through all of that, I always had my best and only friend to turn to….Jesus. Without knowing Him, I am not sure where I would be today.

    One of my favorite passages in the bible is Jeremiah 1:5. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” I think of this many times during the day as I counsel women and men who come into the crisis pregnancy center where I work, who are leaning towards or have decided to abort their baby. But Henri Nouwen’s book has opened my eyes a little more. That God also knew ME before the existence of the world…..He CHOSE me long before anyone in this world rejected me. How comforting to know this, not only to know it but live it. Nothing can be more challenging than to live in this world and be detached from it at the same time. But for me, knowing that God loves me, cares about me, is with me every single second of my life, and CHOSE ME (yes me) brings comfort and peace. …even now when the world tries to reject me.

    • Bob says:

      One of the great days in my journey of life was when I was ‘not good enough’ to attend medical school. I am so thankful for that day because now I am doing what I was chosen for. I probably could have been a good doctor but now as a minister I am doing what I was chosen to do and it is all going so wonderfully. With hindsight (and with Henri’s thoughts), I was not rejected; rather, my path was adjusted by the love of God.

      • Chuck N. says:

        Bob and Ellen: I can relate to what Bob said here. I became an attorney and was quite successful, but after doing the work for 15 years a series of events unraveled all I had worked for and I lost everything. I was down to a bicycle, my clothes, and some books. Only then did I realize that although I had nothing, I had everything, and it paved the way to what I am now doing today, and I am informed rather well. You never know what path God has laid out for you. So, Ellen, when you talk about not being chosen (I wasn’t either!) you may never know the affect you may have had on others, who later reflected on your plight, and in turn changed their behavior in terms of their treatment of others. Just some thoughts after reading what both of your wrote above. Thank you for making me thing about this tonight!

    • Penny says:

      I needed to hear this today. Thank you.

  27. Elizabeth says:

    So the question comes to my mind, why? Why have I been taken by my God? I look to my “learning about this” and what comes to my spirit is that I have been taken to know, love and serve God in this world and to be with God in the next. Being taken is to accept that I have been created for a purpose, I have a place in God ‘ plan.

    • Marianne says:

      Sometimes when I feel unworthy, I think of the people I have looked after as a nurse who have MS and can only move their head or with Dementia and the person they were is reduced. When I ask myself the question, “Is this a valuable child of God?” I can easily and heartily say, “Yes! This person’s life still has a purpose and they are valuable to God.” So really, God’s love for me is not dependent on what I am able to be or do. That’s a hard jump for me.

  28. Ed Wojcicki says:

    I was so pleased that Henri identified gratitude as a way to celebrate chosenness. Elsewhere he calls this the discipline of gratitude. I find that on days I take the time to write down “three gratitudes,” my whole day goes better because my attitude is better. To feel grateful for very specific things is a deliberate act, a deliberate choice. Today I’m grateful to all of you in this conversation. For sharing a bit of your journey. Thank you. And to Brynn for leading the way. Thank you.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Ed,
      The discipline of writing down “three gratitudes” is one that I hope to adopt for myself. Thanks for the suggestion.

  29. Mary D. says:

    Slowly soaking in the words of this book, reading, re-reading and reflecting in my heart. Thank you for the guiding questions.

  30. Bonnie J says:

    1. I am “the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting embrace.” (p.59)Is there anything better than this?
    2. I am lucky enough to have a beautiful, supportive, like-minded prayer group. We were all volunteers in putting on an Alpha program in our parish. Every week before the evening’s program began we prayed together for about half an hour. Some of us had been in prayer groups before; others were brand new to this type of prayer. After Alpha was done, we all missed praying together and started a weekly prayer group. This is the place where “my truth is spoken and I am reminded of my deepest identity as a chosen one.”
    3. I celebrate my choseness right now. I give thanks for the opportunity for discussions such as this. I give thanks for the privilege of owning and being able to use a computer. I give thanks for my eyes that see, my mind that can listen and understand, for time to participate, for freedom to live in country where I can worship and pray as I wish. I give thanks for great writers, like Henri Nouwen, and the greatest Word, the Bible. I give thanks to Brynn and for each of you who has shared so lovingly and inspired my thoughts in this chapters and others.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Bonnie,
      Thank you for your reflection. My wife Dawn and I are members of a Catholic Charismatic covenant community and I certainly appreciate how much belonging to a supportive community contributes to my spiritual life.

      Here is what Henri wrote about our being the Beloved and other people: “To be chosen as the Beloved of God is something radically different. Instead of excluding others, it includes others. Instead of rejecting others as less valuable, it accepts others in their own uniqueness. It is not a competitive, but a compassionate choice.” (p. 55) And in the margin I wrote, leads to community too.

      We have a wonderful on-line community journeying together this Advent. Your presence is an early Christmas present to me.

      Peace and all good.

  31. Colette Toland says:

    Taken to Heaven:
    This week I returned to work after a period of some absence. I had longed to attend a local mass near my work place which is very suitable for my working day only taking ten to fifteen minutes in attendance. This mass unknown to me was attended by persons that I had thought for quite some time were lay people as I had no need to ever query their status previously. When I returned to the Mass on Tuesday one of the women previously known to me greeted me at the door and was in a daze talking to another lady whilst she then informed you remember Sister Josephine don’t you. Yesterday she was taken to heaven yesterday. In trying to remember who this person was then during the mass I realised and had a faint but distinctive outline in my head of a shadowy figure of a frailer elderly lady who was quite lame but was always peaceful and smiling usually positioned in a chair closer to the priest. I was then told Sister Josephine was 90 years old-and had died very suddenly on after complaining that she was not well-and then taken to local hospital where she later died. After sometime and further reflection I then came to realise that Josephine was part of a congregation of nuns in this location from the Order of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary; who were formed under Jesuits Priests during the French Revolution. They set up orphanages and helped children and families. This Order as part of their doctrine do not wear a habit or a ring and are always dressed in plain-clothes. Sister Josephine was buried today. I thought a lot about the lives of these women and how totally committed they are to our Beloved-their Beloved in such a quiet and humble way. It made me realise whilst in a small room celebrating Mass together how close we really were whilst we are all waiting in the chair as Sister Josephine was to be taken. She died peacefully-Rest in peace love. Lord help me to continue to be ready and to stay awake as I never know the time or the day when I too like Sister Josephine and so many others will be taken.

  32. Janet McDonald says:

    I wondered if you had come across this poem by Edwina Gately – I have really appreciated it, and was reminded of it today as I sat with that sense of being the ‘beloved.’ (I hope it is OK to post poems?)

    Let Your God Love You

    Be silent.
    Be still.
    Alone.
    Empty
    Before your God.
    Say nothing.
    Ask nothing.
    Be silent.
    Be still.
    Let your God look upon you.
    That is all.
    God knows.
    God understands.
    God loves you
    With an enormous love,
    And only wants
    To look upon you
    With that love.
    Quiet.
    Still.
    Be.

    Let your God—
    Love you.

    • Jan greene says:

      Be still….that is it, it is enough. In this busy time, stillness. I can feel my breathe ease and slow. Thank you for the lovely poem. Jan

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Janet,
      Thank you so much for posting this wonderful poem. For me it is a beautiful complement to what we are reading in “Life of the Beloved.” To accept that we are “Chosen” is to choose to “Let your God — Love you.” This poem is a poingnant reminder that we must listen to the “…soft, gentle voice that speaks in the silence and solitude of my heart…(and) calls me the Beloved…” (p. 34)

      May God give you peace.

      • Maeve Binder says:

        Just dropping by church in the afternoon of any week day to sit in the complete silence, knowing that God is right there with me gives me such peace. It is like escaping into another world, one that our hearts long for and need so desperately. Sometimes prayers come to mind, sometimes I read from a spiritual book, sometimes I just sit still in His presence. Best part of any day, being with God in His House (the church) and resting in a peaceful way in His presence. I long for Him and this beautiful peace, and only He can give it to me. Thus, I do feel beloved.

    • Joseph Piccione says:

      Thank you for the poem and its emphatic reminder of the demand for stillness so that our understanding of being the Beloved can emerge. I can’t write a reminder note to remember being Beloved as if it were a task. That which emerges from silence of our core identity has the greatest depth and power. Nouwen invites us to accept Beloved (the identity from God) as the core and not a core of self-rejection (the chatter around us at times). I find myself living with this invitation as ongoing relationship.

    • Elisa says:

      Beautiful! It reminds me of the verse, “Be still and know I’m God.” And it ties in so well with being the Beloved. Thanks for sharing. I’m going to have to print it.

  33. Eleanor says:

    There are no accidents. I am grateful for every word spoken.
    Thank you for the poem. If I believe I am “chosen”…no doubt I am loved!
    It is in this prison of self rejection…the darkness of the desert…the tears fall.
    It has been with your responses to Henri’s words and gently guiding me through
    The painful dark night……I am grateful !Thank you!

  34. Tina says:

    This is my first book discussion and that in itself made me feel welcome. One evening I turned off the television, computer, read and reread parts of Life of the Beloved. I kept focusing on page 36/37-”I have called you by name from the very beginning…We are one.” My head settled into my pillow and I hoped that God would make me feel Beloved. He did. It was the most peaceful sleep I have had in years. I woke up refreshed and ready to face a challenging day. I have a hard time recognizing the movement of the Spirit around me so next I will focus on the four words-taken, blessed, broken, and given. Thanks for this opportunity!

  35. Liz says:

    This evening I am thinking of Nelson Mandela as spiritual hero. I give thanks for the way he said yes and followed his call. The way he was able to witness being chosen in a way that included all. It was only in 1990 that he was released from prison. What a significant difference he made to South Africa and the world.
    My favourite quote: as I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to freedom, I knew if I did not leave my bitterness and hatred behind I’d still be in prison. May I continue to be open to the wisdom of Nelson and Henri.

  36. Elizabeth says:

    On Wednesday I made a day’s retreat and the theme was to be quiet during this advent – sit quietly and let God love us. To read this beautiful poem the next day was such a wonderful connection and continuation of my retreat. An added connection was to have the confessor quote Henri Nouwen to me. What joy!

  37. Christine says:

    One sentence that I keep coming back to in the chapter on “Becoming the Beloved” Is p. 44 “I know that the fact that I am always searching for God, always struggling to discover the fullness of Love, always yearning for the complete truth, tells me that I have already been given a taste of God, of Love, and of Truth.” I have felt very much of late as if I am on that search – that hunger to not only be, but become the beloved child of God as He sees me.

    I lived many years with no thought of God really. I was too wrapped up in the day to day busyness of surviving in this world. Somehow, though, God finally got my attention. I think it was when I was in a very vulnerable state and cried out, perhaps subconsciously, for help. I can recall the rote, “Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, have mercy on me… have mercy on me…grant me thy peace” (that I learned in my younger years in a Catholic upbringing) – just running through my mind unexpectedly in the hours before sleep. They played a bit like a repetitive tape when I couldn’t sleep for worry or stress.

    I’m not even sure how or why, but I began to realize that I was praying in those instances and I began to attend more intentionally to what I was saying to God. Very slowly and over time and with the help of others, I began to recognize that yes, God was listening. He was there even when I didn’t acknowledge that he was there.

    Now, I end each day with 20 minutes or so of simple stillness, a sort of waiting, praying without many words. “Be still and know that I am God.” has become a sort of mantra for me. It is a time of peace now rather than stress. That time of quiet at the end of the day helps me hold on to the truth of being beloved. I think simply acknowledging that belovedness God has for me was the first step.

    Now, I am trying to continue those steps to not only being but becoming the beloved as I travel though my days. That for me is what Henri was describing in his thought on the endless search for the fullness and truth of God’s love. It is a journey I am grateful to be taking.

  38. Judy says:

    Like others here, I was programmed from child abuse to believe I was chosen for that purpose alone–”This is all you are good for” was actually repeated to me over and over. I recognize that it is only thanks to God’s grace that I moved forward in life despite that unconscious curse. But its remaining effects are the reason I am reserving much comment until later sections in HN’s book.

    But today I received enormous grace through 4.b. : I belong to a small online monastery within a larger one (www.monasteriesoftheheart.org : open to any Christian), which was established by a monk who lives on Mount Athos. Today he posted something very pertinent to our theme of being chosen:

    “The Truth is that the Lord of the universe has revealed His characteristics of infinite love and power in a helpless human baby named Jesus. Come, let us adore Him as we walk and pray! He keeps showing us that His greatest desire is to become reunited with the entire creation. You and I hold a place on the grand stage of the Grand Poet’s creation, and no one else can play our parts.”

    I can see dimly what is meant by this!, which is progress for me, and for which I give deepest thanks to this retreat,

    Judy

  39. Bob says:

    The Great Commandment closes with the admonition to love others as yourself. In stating it that way, Jesus is presuming a healthy self-love which according to our readings would be a full realization of being the Beloved and all that it means to be chosen (and there is more to come). When this is fully realized, the love of others will be most fully expressed. For the sake of others, I want to take to heart all that we have been reading and discussing.

  40. Barb B says:

    The 4th question this weeks asks how might you establish a way to easily remind yourself of your Belovedness on a daily basis. For years each day in the shower I bless myself with Aaron’s blessing from Numbers 6 saying

    May the Lord bless you and keep you
    May the Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you
    May he look upon you with kindness and give you peace.

    I think of the water showering me with grace to give me energy and courage to follow God’s plan for my day rather than following my agenda. I had never thought of this as claiming my “Belovedness” but I believe that is really what I have been doing. I am thankful for this insight and for the beautiful sharing of others in this group.

    • Bob says:

      A person once told me when taking a shower, to also be reminded of our baptism. And what where the words, heard at baptism? ‘You are my Beloved, with you I am well pleased.’

    • Barb B says:

      I should have added I mark my forehead with a small sign of the cross then lay my hand on my head as I say the blessing.

  41. Brynn Lawrence says:

    I’m incredibly grateful for each of you this morning – for your honest sharing, words of encouragement, and for your beautiful hearts that love God.

    I ‘ve been thinking about the idea of being chosen, and living out our unique purpose. It’s good to think about, to make clear within yourself what you are living for. Personally, I don’t think discovering our purpose has to be a burden, nor does it have to be very mysterious. Listen to your heart to see how God is stirring you. What makes you come alive? How do you want to engage others? How do you want to walk with and for God? Is there a specific area he is calling you to minister in? I think it is good to talk it out, write it out, and most of all pray about it. Keep tweaking it until it fits with you and all that God is speaking to you. Because when you have a clear purpose you can let it guide your decisions, and you can feel content right where you are (or adjust if necessary). I also think that our purpose can and likely will change throughout our lives. Someone might write:

    “To grow in a deeper relationship with God, and grow in love for Him every day. To be sensitive to His voice. To allow the light of God’s love to flow out of me to people around me, and to help them live the life of abundance that Jesus came to give each person.”
    OR someone else might write:
    “… to care for hurt animals in such a way that more love is brought into the world, and people can have a greater understanding of the way God loves us even while we are broken.”
    “…. to love and care for my spouse with a determined and sacrificial love, so that the world may see the unconditional love that Jesus came to give his bride.”
    “…. to create beauty through my care of the land (ex: gardening) and to invite others to experience God’s presence in the beauty and stillness of His creation.”
    “…. to invest in my grandchildren and lead them to discover a knowledge of God’s love for them.”
    “…. to learn how our physical bodies can discover health and new life so that I can share this knowledge with with others, and in health, they can be more effective in living out their calling.”
    “…. to be a witness to Jesus through my honesty, integrity and respect for others at work.”

    Just some ideas :)

    • Jonathan says:

      Hmm,
      Don’t think I can really ignore your prompting Brynn.

      I having been feeling lately that in the may pastoral situations that come my way, God is asking me to work mostly with those whose pain I feel the most deeply.
      I hope I’m wrong!
      This is very different from the “professional carers” model, but I can’t help feeling that this is what Christ did, he bore our pain, wounds, and sorrows, died for us.
      It has caused me to read again Nouwen’s “The Wounded Healer”

      • Brynn Lawrence says:

        … sometimes the very thing that makes our heart come alive is also extremely uncomfortable at the same time, no?

        May the Holy Spirit guide your discernment Jonathan!

  42. Judy says:

    Dear Brynn,

    These examples are so very helpful!

    I thank you,

    Judy

  43. Owen says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to contemplate and share:

    When I consider being chosen, chosen specifically by God, I am humbled, I fight back every false message ever sent to me from within and without that tries in it’s weakness to defeat the light of truth that cannot be extinguished -not ultimately but that in our present (un)reality often is dimmed down to all but nothing.

    When I consider being chosen the the Lord of the universe become God-with-us, in us, in me such that I am chosen I feel emboldened but not as the world without Jesus understands boldness. No. Rather I am bold in this sense:

    “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb 4:16 NRSV – best read in full context, of course.

  44. Lata says:

    These are some wonderful ideas to live a life of the beloved. It is so simple and when a life is lived like this, there is a peace which settles in our homes, in our lives and others can come enjoy that peace. My grandparents’ home had that peace. Thank you Brynn for putting it so beautifully. God bless! Lata

  45. Dottie L. says:

    Good evening, beloved friends! A perennial late-bloomer and introvert, I tend to take a long time to figure out my feelings about topics in a discussion. So here I am, on the cusp of the next week’s assigned reading, and just getting to this week’s.
    As I drove to an assignment this morning for my diocesan newspaper, I reflected on being chosen. My initial response was feeling I have a sense of purpose, God-given for the good of the world, and also God-measured. No need for it to be grandiose; I understood perfectly Mother Teresa’s directive “to do small things with great love.” Maybe it was something like that movie “Rudy,” the story of the young man who wanted to play football for Notre Dame so badly, he didn’t care if he was on the practice team. I was useful to God and that was all that mattered. It gave me a sense of being centered, with my feet planted so that I can stand firm.
    My only concern about being chosen was fear of the human tendency to book an ego trip and to feel superior. Fortunately Henri built in a safety net when he wrote that being chosen is exclusive to no one–that all of us are in fact chosen, which gives birth to true humility. While the world’s meaning of the word leans towards one behaving with a sense of inferiority, its meaning is not about people being above or below another, rather everyone standing shoulder to shoulder, being with each other. This week pondering being chosen has left me in a state of calm, with no worries or anxiety, especially with relating to other people. I watched people receive Eucharist and prayed for them as I did so. All I could wonder was: do they know they’re chosen? Perhaps I have been chosen to pray that they learn that truth.
    How do I nourish my knowledge of being chosen? I will probably have to keep reading these chapters or some other pertinent Scriptures which I was given today at my assignment. Why am I amazed that as I covered a Women’s Advent Day of Prayer, meditations and talks dealt with being a highly favored daughter and chosen? Or that one of the songs repeated the line “Listen, Beloved”?

  46. Dr Connie says:

    Hi all

    I am enjoying reading the responses and reflecting on Henri’s words. This is not the first time I read this book, but it seems to me that this time around the word “claim” is coming out more and more.

    Becoming who I am – requires the constant claiming again and again of the truth of being the beloved. So, I must not get swept away by whether I feel it or not.

    It is in the act of claiming it- seems to be more like re-claiming it again and again and again. I am just beginning to think of ways to help myself do this. I hope to try a few things and have a little clearer picture of this by the end of the book.

    Thanks to everyone for your postings

  47. Liz says:

    This quote arrived in my in box today and it seemed very apt to our conversations so I want to share it with you all.
    … once we appreciate that the Divine Presence is everywhere, we come to realize that nothing is too small to be excluded from it. No gesture is inconsequential; everything has meaning – a falling leaf, a birdcall, the shape of a cloud. If this is true, we can barely imagine the implications of the things we do. This is how we cultivate awe
    - Rabbi David Cooper, God Is A Verb

    • Bob says:

      I am so grateful for people who share with me great thoughts that I would not otherwise encounter as I proceed down the path of my own selected readings. Thanks, Liz!

  48. Todd G says:

    A person from the Bible who was chosen and “unprepared” is St Joseph. We know that he struggled with Mary’s pregnancy and how to make sense of it. And of course that wonderful dream changed everything… I wonder what his level of understanding was?? But we know his obediance and honor. Of course the result of his being chosen, changed salvation history.

    As a father and husband I often feel overwhelmed and unprepared. I believe I have been chosen for this role. I need to emulate St Joseph with his quiet resolute integrity.
    I do believe that viewing these roles as vocation and being chosen can help shift my perspective when the choas of daily life occurs. I need to follow Joseph’s lead.

    • Bob says:

      Todd, I share with you a blessed devotional thought about Joseph I read many years ago. I was doing a devotional (I believe by Wendy Wright) on the songs of Christmas; Zechariah’s song, Mary’s Song, The Angel’s Song, Simeon’s song. Then I came to the chapter entitled Joseph’s Song. What? There is a song by Joseph? No Joseph never sang for in scripture there are no words of his recorded. No, Joseph didn’t sing, Joseph only danced. He danced in obedience to all that God asked of him. What a wonderful way of seeing Joseph!

  49. Carol says:

    When I think of the people in the Bible or spiritual heroes of the past, no, they did not feel worthy or prepared for their calling. The result of their obedience was an accomplishment worthy of God’s glory for the good of all. Very interesting questions!

    Yes! A big part of me protests being chosen. Being chosen means big changes. Yet, right now, I am going through changes in the way I respond to conflict within my marriage and with my son. Admitting I am chosen by God stirs up more change and what is required of me is letting go of that which is too big for me. Additionally, being chosen means accepting that I am not alone, trust, and asking for help. I do imagine the beauty that can come along with accepting I am chosen, however, part of me still runs from thinking like this.

    I don’t know what would make me significant nor earn me respect or love. I kinda think this is not up to me, if that makes sense. If I could choose from my heart, I would want others to know they are loved by God.

    I continue to work on reminding myself of my “belovedness” daily by telling myself I am one of God’s beloved. I follow with an expression of gratitude. I do have a strong church community that thinks highly of me. Of course, there are also folks who don’t think so highly of me, so, when I get to focusing too much on those who I imagine may be speaking badly of me, I remind myself to be grateful for people who do encourage me. I also have to work hard to turn off the voice within telling me there is something wrong with me and don’t belong. So far, expressing gratitude is going well! Great exercise!

  50. Bob says:

    On a day that the Catholic tradition celebrates the Immaculate Conception, these two verses from the readings fit so well with all that we have been blessed in discussing.

    Ephesians 1:11-12: In Him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of His will, so that we might exist for the praise of His glory, we who first hoped in Christ.

    Mary’s fiat in Luke 1:38: ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to Your word.’

    (As a protestant minister, I have longed to find blessing in the things my Catholic brothers and sisters are blessed by. Today, I was blessed.)

  51. Brynn Lawrence says:

    In gratitude to all for this amazing week!

    I’ve created a new post, titled “Dec 8th to 14th: Becoming the Beloved – Blessed and Broken.” If you come over to this new post you’ll find new discussion questions and comments focused on this week’s readings.

    To get to this new post you can scroll to the top of this page and click on the word “Home” located in the bottom left hand corner of the image of the snowy forest. Once on the home page you’ll see the link to the new post (the title in bold text that turns red when you put your mouse over it).

    Please join us in the new post, and add any new comments there (including comments in response to comments posted here). This way, everyone will see them.

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