Dec 22nd to Dec 28th: Living as the Beloved/Conclusion

Reading:  Living as the Beloved and Epilogue

We have been on a most excellent journey together, for which I thank each of you who actively participated, as well as each of you who quietly walked with us.  In this final week, as we reflect on the incredible way Jesus came to earth to reveal God the Father to the each heart, Henri invites us to actively respond to Him and choose to live the life of the Beloved.

1) Henri invites you to “think of yourself as having been sent into the world… a way of seeing yourself that is possible if you truly believe that you were loved before the world began… a perception of yourself that calls for a true leap of faith!” (p131).
a) When you consider how Jesus came to the earth, do you believe he came for you?  That you were loved by Him before the world began?
b) Can you think of yourself now, as being sent into the world?  How might the way you live each day, and the way you interact with people around you be transformed by this belief?
INVITATION:  Continue to set aside quiet time with God each day this week.  As you ponder the coming of the baby Jesus to the world, consider that you were on his heart when he came.  Consider that you too were sent into the world.

2) Keeping all that we have learned and explored close to heart, Henri now calls us to live the life of the Beloved, to live life as “an unceasing ‘Yes’ to the truth of [our] Belovedness (p133).  It may help to flip back and do a review of what it means to be taken, blessed, broken and given.
a) Can you describe a time or an experience in your life in which you lived this “Yes” to the truth of your Belovedness?  Even if it was a brief moment, please share it with us.
b) What is one specific thought or habit that you want to take away with you, to help you to more intentionally live the “Yes” to the truth of [your] Belovedness?

Finally, I would like to affirm, to say “yes” to, the Belovedness of each of you.  May each of you be blessed this Christmas, and in the New Year to come.  May…
The Lord bless you, and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.
Number 6: 24-26


Dec 15th to 21st: Becoming the Beloved – Given

Reading:  Becoming the Beloved – IV Given

This week we explore the fourth aspect of becoming the Beloved – to be given.

1) Henri shares his experience that “it is only as people who are given that we can fully understand our being chosen, blessed, and broken.  In the giving it becomes clear that we are chosen, blessed and broken not simply for our own sakes, but so that all we live finds its final significance in its being lived for others” (p105).  
a) Do you ever find yourself holding back from giving to others?  What causes us to hesitate?  What do we fear most in giving?
b) Is that thing we fear the truth or could it be a lie?
c) What happens when we hold back from giving, especially in our most intimate relationships?

2) Henri encourages us that “we become beautiful people when we give whatever we can give: a smile, a handshake, a kiss, an embrace, a word of love, a present, a part of our life… all our life” (P106) and later writes that “…friendship, kindness, patience, joy, peace, forgiveness, gentleness, love, hope, trust, and many others… are the true gifts we have to offer each other” (p114).
a) Has a stranger ever gifted you a smile, and it lifted your spirit?  Or vice versa?
b) Who in your life needs you to truly share a part of yourself with them this week?  INVITATION:  This week, every day ask God to help you see the person who needs a smile, a handshake, a word of love, or just some part of you.  The invitation includes acts towards strangers (except maybe the kiss ;)), but be especially aware of what you can give to those closest to you, “especially on days when you experience distance between yourselves” (p109).

3)  Finally, Henri also wants us to consider how our death can be a gift to others.  “If love is, indeed, stronger than death, then death has the potential to deepen and strengthen the bonds of love” (p117).
a) Will your death, be a celebration of a life lived with love?
INVITATION:  Consider what Murray did to prepare himself for his death (although he didn’t know when he would die).  Ask yourself how you want to live now, so that when your time comes it will be a gift to others to reflect on your life and be inspired by it.  “You and I have to trust that our short little lives can bear fruit far beyond the boundaries of our chronologies.  But we have to choose this and trust deeply that we have a spirit to send that will bring joy, peace, and life to those who will remember us” (p120, italics mine).

NOTE:  I think all here will intuitively know this, but taking ones own life can never, ever, be a gift to others.  Henri does not suggest we hasten our death, only that we prepare well for it.

4) Finally, I wanted to share this special letter written by Henri over twenty years ago.  It is a simple letter, but touches on so much of what we’ve explored together this Advent.  The woman he was writing too was someone who sent Henri and his community cookies and fresh bread every now and then… by courier, I assume.  This woman, if I understand correctly, struggled with a chronic and debilitating illness for much of her adult life.  Yet, in her simple act of care for another, we see how she was chosen, blessed, broken and given:

Screen Shot 2013-12-14 at 11.02.54 AM

This letter is a reminder that it doesn’t have to be complicated… it just has to be from your heart, and done in love.

As always, you are invited to share whatever came up for you in this week in the readings.  I very much look forward to hearing from each of you!

p.s. apologies to all who have a different version of the book, and therefore the page numbers don’t match… I only have this one version, so I couldn’t cross reference.

Dec 8th to 14th: Becoming the Beloved – Blessed and Broken

Reading:  Becoming the Beloved – II. Blessed and III. Broken

We have before us a very rich and full week!  In our first week we explored that we are the Beloved of God.  Last week we had the opportunity to embraced that we are actively chosen by God, each of us in our uniqueness.  We now have the opportunity to choose to receive God’s blessing upon us, and also to give it to others.

Henri reminds us that we have a part to play in receiving God’s blessing upon us.  If we are not active in receiving God’s blessing we will most likely believe the many lies that tell us we are among the cursed.  It is easy to believe these lies, unless we actively and regularly confront the lies with God’s truth.  Henri has two very important suggestions to help us hear and claim the truth that we are blessed by God:

1) Henri emphasizes the importance of regular quiet times in God’s presence, as a key to knowing and recognizing His voice – the voice the blesses us.  
a) How does Henri explain what a blessing is?
b) Have you had the experience of being filled up and affirmed in God’s presence?
c) What do you think keeps us running, and avoiding such times of solitude and silence?
d) Is there a specific Scripture verse, or prayer, that helps you remain quiet and focused in God’s presence?
INVITATION:  Commit to reserving one half hour every day this week to be in God’s presence.  For this week, let this time be a quiet time of just listening.  You may choose to have a Scripture verse or prayer to help quiet your mind and keep your focus, and remind you that you are blessed.

2) Henri also invites us to cultivate our ability to be present, to be “attentive to the blessings that come to you day after day…” (p79).
a) Are you willing and able to receive the blessings offered to you by others, and/or by nature, and/or by the Holy Scriptures?
b) How might you more actively receive the blessings that are “there, surrounding [you] on all sides” (p81)?
c) As you begin to receive and claim your own blessedness – how might you begin to actively bless others?

In the very same week that we explore our blessedness, we are also going to explore our own brokenness.  Henri explores the many ways we can feel “rejected, ignored, despised and left alone” (p 89).  Fortunately, Henri gives us two concrete suggestions for how to respond to our very real experience of brokenness:

3) “The first response, then, to our brokenness is to face it squarely and befriend it” (p92), and to embrace “the deep truth that our human suffering need not be an obstacle to the joy and peace we so desire, but can become, instead, the means to it” (p96).
a) How do we befriend our pain?
b) How can we develop the trust that God will give us the strength to stand in our pain?

4) Henri suggests that to befriend our pain is to put it under the blessing.  
a) How does our perception of pain and brokenness change when it is put under the blessing?
b) What new meaning does pain or brokenness take on? (see page 98).
INVITATION:  Think about a difficult experience of pain / brokenness you have had or are having.  Instead of focusing on all the negative aspects of this experience, I invite you to focus on some of the positive results or opportunities this experience brought you.  This is not to negate how difficult, or even horrendous, the experience was, but to empower you to choose the meaning you give to the experience, by bringing it under the truth that you are blessed by God.