Nov 29 – Dec 05: Imperatives 17 through 32

Reading: Pages 26 to 55 (Imperatives 17 through 32)

As we enter into week two of our discussion we want to express such gratitude to each of you who are journeying with us, and have shared and/or listened with such grace and honesty.  It is a source of encouragement, just as Henri’s honest sharing is such a source of encouragement.

As we open up a new set of imperatives this week, it is worthwhile to reiterate that these imperatives were written in a very raw time in Henri’s life.  A number of people last week suggested that they expected more from Henri, or were surprised that he didn’t seem more solid in his aspects of his faith.  Remember, as Henri explains in the introduction, he was in a time of “intense purification,” not intending to be leading or teaching anyone else.  You’ll find the powerful and solid insights that came out of this time in Henri’s The Return of the Prodigal Son (pxviii).    What is so powerful about this text, and what we can so clearly learn from, is his desire to draw closer to the heart of God even during the most difficult of times.

This week we again offer the following process to follow as you reflect on the readings, but of course you are always welcome to share in your own style.

  1. Briefly look over the 16 imperatives assigned to this week (17 through 32), either by simply reading the title or by lightly skimming the text.  Don’t feel you need to read them all.  Remember Henri’s advice on p xxi…too much salt can spoil a meal!
  2. Select a few (perhaps 2 or 3) imperatives that stand out to you, and read them thoroughly, perhaps several times.
  3.  Consider:
    1. The thought or concept that stands out to you
    2. How does it relates to your personal experience?  Look at your experience with the benefit of Henri’s insight.  Does that help you to see things differently or to know yourself better?
    3. What is God speaking to your heart? What do the Scriptures say?*
    4. How you will respond?  Carefully (prayerfully) consider how your heart responds to the insights gained during your reflection. Are there small steps you can take to incorporate these insights and to move toward spiritual freedom in your life?  Perhaps you would like to write your own Spiritual Imperative.
    5. Pray!
  4. Please share with the group to the degree you are comfortable

Very much looking forward to hearing from you,

Ray and Brynn

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110 Responses to Nov 29 – Dec 05: Imperatives 17 through 32

  1. charles says:

    keep moving toward full incarnation spoke to me. specifically , the image of the cone and the open doors as a movement to our full incarnation.the image of journeying from the flat base to the apex( the highest point) of the cone stuck with me.the cone becomes narrower the deeper you get always seeking to get to the highest point. the highest point is where we are unified with Jesus.in our journey there are many escape routes. will we escape or will we have the steadfastness to close the open exit doors? do we commit ourselfs to go deeper into your heart?close the door of immediate satisfaction. thank you Jesus. close the door of distracting entertainment .thank you God. close the door of busyness .thank you Lord. close the door of guilt and worry .thank you Holy Spirit.close the door of self -rejection .thank you Abba.Thank you for the gift of courage.Thank you for journeying with us.Thank you for your Grace.we are journeying deeper into the heart of God. which is why we were created. created in his image and likeness.the true self.our full incarnation. you must trust the depth of God’s presence in us and live from there. As St . Augustine said,God has created us for himself . thus , we will be restless until we rest in him.i think we should Keep moving towards the full incarnation unless we like to be restless.

    • Thank you for this image and these words, Charles. This really speaks to me right now, in conjunction with the imperative I’m working on responding to. I’ve copied your words into my notebook, to reflect on and work through.

  2. Julie says:

    Tell Your Story in Freedom
    The years that lie behind you, with all their struggles and pains, will in time be remembered only as the way that led to your new life. But as long as the new life is not fully yours, your memories will continue to cause you pain.

    Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; See I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers. For I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink, the people I formed for myself.
    Isaiah 43: 19-20

    Indeed the old life seeps into the present again and again, that old childhood story. The promise of something new gives me great hope this Advent, as I seek to begin again, and to forgive myself for remnants of the old story that I have retold.

  3. Jennifer Paterson says:

    I seem to be rather slow….

    Page 19
    Rely on your Spiritual Guides
    In my experience even the most discerning of people cannot always understand what is happening to you. It is hard when you are vulnerable to explain. You must be discerning yourself and…
    Page 13
    Remain attentive to your best intuitions
    It can make you even more vulnerable to hand complete control to someone else.

    Page 20
    Go into the place of your pain
    You have to live through your pain gradually
    This is good advice for me. I do tend to get swamped once again when I enter that place of pain.
    I will continue with this advent course but a may take a year.
    Thank you for pointing the way.

    Jennifer

  4. Janet says:

    Listening to Isaiah’s words this morning at Mass (Isaiah 30: 19 – 21, 23 – 26) and reading Henri Nouwen’s reflection for Devember 5th beautifully tie in for our son’s thirty third anniversary of his death. He was 21 when he died and it has been a time of searching and longing, but the Lord heals us, gives us the strength and courage for acceptance in our lives.
    Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton and many others, including this book discussion, and of course, our prayerful spirituality, help us to live our days to the fullest. As we continue in our Advent journey, may we all be blessed with God’s mercy and hope.
    Giving Permission To Die – Henri Nouwen. – December 5th http://go.shr.lc/1OFrXYo

    Janet

  5. Linda says:

    After reading the new posts, it is good for me to have been reminded to go back to the imperatives that spoke to me from this section. It is hard for me to believe today that I can go back to the road and pick up where I stopped before the detours. It seems more like the labyrinth lately….round and round, backtracking to circle and come around again….even, at times, winding way away from the goal in the center. How to honor and embrace the true me, how to put all my trust in the One who is worthy of that trust and how to humbly join with other pilgrims as we pass by and pass by and pass by again?? Will we meet in the center?

    • Cel says:

      I’m doing the same thing – reading everyone’s posts then going back to reread the imperatives. I didn’t like the format of this study at first but now really appreciate it, mostly because of the incredibly rich postings from the group. Thanks, everyone!

  6. Ray Glennon says:

    Friends,
    Like Diane (see below Dec 4th, 8:44 a.m.) I was drawn to the Imperative “Open Yourself to the First Love” and to the same paragraph as she was. “God has given you a beautiful self. There God dwells and loves you with the first love, which precedes all human love.” I posted a brief response to her comment that I won’t repeat here.

    When I read those words, I immediately recalled the beginning of Henri’s book Life of the Beloved written several years after this one (and, therefore, one of the fruits of the experience Henri is sharing with us this Advent). Writing to his friend Fred, and sharing with each of us, Henri says: (It is my) “…inner conviction that the words ‘You are my Beloved’ revealed the most intimate truth about all human beings.” (p10) Henri emphasizes that these are the words that Jesus heard from the Father after his Baptism and that, just like Jesus, these words apply to each of us individually.

    Henri’s insight that “You are the Beloved” is central to my understanding of Henri’s legacy and one that has been important to me for quite some time, but today it touched my heart in a new way. Let me try to explain.

    A quick story. In our Confirmation small group, my wife and I use a clip from Star Wars — The Empire Strikes Back. You may recall the scene where Yoda is training Luke in the ways of the Force. At one point, while Luke is learning to use the Force to move rocks, his fighter sinks in the swamp. (Sounds like another of the Imperatives for this week.) Yoda encourages Luke to “use the Force” to raise the fighter–and Luke fails.. So Yoda steps in and the fighter slowly is raised and placed on dry land. In utter amazement Luke says, “I ‘don’t believe it.” And Yoda responds, “That is why you fail.” So what does this have to do with our reading this week?

    God has given me (and each of us) a beautiful self and told us individually “You are the Beloved.” It is very difficult for me to see myself that way–likely due to my dysfunctional childhood (see my comment to Diane below). Here was the insight today. I wrote: God and Henri say, “You are the Beloved.” And I respond (as I have in the past), as Luke did: “I don’t believe it.” And, echoing Yoda, I wrote “That is why you fail.” But the words continued to flow and I wrote: “Because you don’t believe, you fail to experience the joy you desire; the joy that is my gift to you. Your failure to believe (that “You are the Beloved”) is the source of your heaviness of heart and depression.” And I heard the Lord speak to my heart and I wrote, “Have faith and believe that I love you.” May the prayer of the father who asked Jesus to drive a spirit out of his son be my prayer too: “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24) May each of us know that we are Beloved and experience that reality daily.
    Ray

    • Rebecca Goodwin says:

      Wow, I can so identify! I have a hard time believing He sees me as His beloved and I can’t seem to move past this. I too think a lot of this comes from the messages I received as a child. I will follow your example and pray,”I do believe, help my unbelief”! I choose a word to concentrate on for the year and “believe” is the word I had already decided on for 2016! I’ve not read Henri’s book, “Life of the Beloved” so will start that in the new year, too. Thanks so much!

    • Nuala Doherty says:

      Thanks Ray for those words – I really needed to hear them because I too am a doubter!!!! “I believe but help my unbelief”.

    • Cel says:

      Ray, you really hit a chord there! My “aha!” moment came in our Advent study last year, an incredible experience of being loved by God. From childhood I have felt the “odd man out,” one who didn’t measure up – to my parents, heartbreakingly in my marriage, and generally on all points in between, and of course that filtered into my relationship with God. Henri triggered an experience of being loved unconditionally by God and really deep down believing in it. Then, at the very end of the study, someone suggested we write our personal mission statements. I poo-pooed that suggestions at first but a few days later the beginnings of it came in a flash to me. I wrote it and began starting each morning’s prayers by slowly reading it. After the glow of the experience faded, as they always do, I found that reading my mission statement is helping me hang on to believing in being God’s Beloved in spite of discouragement and doubt. Over the months I have added to and refined my mission statement and learned to read it at the beginning of my nightly examination of conscience if the day has seemed a total loss and I feel an utter failure. It helps re-ground me so that I can find something good in the day, some way I have cooperated with God s grace and lived the day out of the experience of being Beloved. Blessings on Henri and the participant who posted the suggestion. I recommend this to anyone!

      Here is my mission statement:

      My mission is to open myself fully to God so as to experience in every part of my being the live he has for me as I am right now. Out of that experience of being his Beloved, I will not worry or allow myself to be drug down by the setbacks in life but will concentrate on living in joy, seeking wisdom and becoming the mind a d gentle person I dream of being. I will let God’s love flow out of me as through a conduit to embrace all of life. I will live humbly in that love with all who inhabit our beautiful earth, from every person down to the smallest particle of matter that makes up our world, blessing every aspect of life because I have first been blessed, and striving to make life better for all.

      • Jane Harper says:

        Thank you so much Cel for sharing your Mission Statement, and for also sharing how praying it daily has so helped you in way you see yourself. Your bravery and humility has really touched me deeply, and challenged me to write my own.

    • Patricia Wilkerson says:

      I too was impacted by the imperative Open Yourself to the First Love for I have always know my first love,God my father and mother and God has always gifted me with people who loved me. I have never felt the absence of God’s love and yet to that I would say ” why me Lord?”. Today I think I finally got the answer. God gifted me so I could be gift to others. Although I have never felt great pain,I have been a companion with many who suffer greatly and I stick with them. Today I prayed a deep prayer of the heart for my friends and may I always be faithful to them.

    • Thank you, Ray. You’ve inspired much thoughtful reflection for me.

    • Pat Howai says:

      Thank you so much for sharing!

  7. Marge says:

    I was led to ponder more of God’s Divine Design as I watched “As I Am”, Mateusz…and of course, made the connection immediately with “15 years ago”, when I was broken, hopeless and without any clue how to move forward with life.

    Now, I realize as I read “Inner Voice” with all of you in a community of faith, and again realize the universal experience of brokenness…..I am aware of how this strange and holy gift of brokenness keeps on giving, and giving, and giving! In some ways, all of you are helping me claim and “remain anchored in community” as I “visit people with great needs and deep struggles that you (I) can easily recognize in your (my) own heart”. (p. 45)……

    Reading Richard Rohr: “The person who has been in a place of no control…..comes out larger and more alive…..thus able to invite others into this larger field”…..thanks be to God, Who continues, faithfully working in the hearts of humankind, giving me hope through courageous people like Nouwen, Mateusz who are most able to “freely give” ……exemplified more completely through Jesus Christ….

    Praise be to God…..that living alive in Christ is even possible! Choosing to believe the “impossible” this Advent 2015…….

  8. Diane says:

    This is my second time reading through “The Inner Voice of Love”. Several years ago when I read it for the first time, I wrote notes and underlined parts of each chapter, chronicling my thoughts and emotions to what Henri was saying….as I always do when reading his books. It is so interesting for me to read what I wrote at that time and compare where I was then with where I am now in my spiritual journey. It’s a testimony to the timelessness of Henri’s writings that I am still being touched deeply by his words…it doesn’t matter how many times I read the same passage. Indeed, even from day to day re-reading the imperatives, different things hit home and something new, sobering, affirming, enlightening, and even a little scary, will be revealed. This morning Henri’s words from “Open Yourself to the First Love” are what most touched me…”You carry your own beautiful, deeply loved self in your heart. You can and must hold on to the truth of the love you were given and recognize the same love in others who see your goodness and love you”. Wow! I can’t describe how meaningful these words are to me today….why not yesterday? I believe that God meets me “where I’m at” on any given day and graciously provides me with exactly what my lonely, people-pleasing, insecure, anxious heart needs. I needed those words today. I understand intellectually that all of the above parts of myself come from a childhood with 2 alcoholic parents who abandoned me, either physically or emotionally and doled out what can only be described as “conditional love”. I get that. But God “get’s that” too about me and He is traveling this journey to wholeness and peace with me…the grace is there each and every day. I’m reminded of one of my favorite scriptures:
    Lamentations 3:22-23 English Standard Version (ESV)

    22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
    23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

    Peace to you all this new day. We are all wounded healers
    Diane

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Diane,
      Thank you for your sharing. It touched me as I am preparing my own sharing for this week and I was drawn to the same Imperative as you. I too am a child of a dysfunctional family where physical and emotional abandonment was prevalent. And your honest description of yourself is something I could write about innermost being (if I were as honest as you are) because your words describe me perfectly–“…my lonely, people-pleasing, insecure, anxious heart…” I pray that I can learn from you, Henri, and the others in this community to truly believe, using your words, “…that God meets me ‘where I’m at” on any given day…”
      Thank you again and may the Lord give you peace.
      Ray

      • Diane says:

        Ray…thank you for your affirmations. Henri calls us “wounded healers” and I cling to that description…it gives me great hope. I can tell you honestly that you have been that for me and I am grateful to you for sharing so much of your own journey with all of us in this very special community.
        Blessings, Diane

    • Cel says:

      Beautiful! I resonated with what you said. Thanks.

  9. Patti says:

    In addition to slowly reading these imperatives, I am also slowly reading the comments from my fellow travelers. These speak to me of our common humanity, fragility, weaknesses, strengths and hopefulness. Advent to me is a time of great hope and I’m often reminded of a tiny picture a dear friend gave me many years ago. It is a framed saying, “God’s promises are new every day.” and I often look at it during the day.

    In the readings and the comments, I’m finding so much wisdom and feel my heart opening to God’s love more and more. This week I’m finding myself reflecting on the Imperative to Live Patiently with the “Not Yet”. I’ve been reading it over and over. In particular the concept of being my own home. How can one be their own home? It is an extraordinary idea to me that this is possible and yet I can see that it is possible. I am just beginning to understand that I can be whole. And further, that it is in that oneness that I will find Jesus waiting for me.

  10. Marianne says:

    I can’t believe I almost forgot that there is an Advent devotion!! Especially since it helped me re-claim my Christmas a few years ago.

    I live in Western Canada. I’m a Clinical Nurse Educator. I was caregiving my Mom and Dad but my Dad passed away in October. He had Alzheimer’s Disease, so it was quite a relief when he went. I have also just finished my treatments for Breast Cancer and received my first test saying that everything is OK. I’m transitioning back to work and it takes quite a bit of energy.

    I am just reading the writing slowly. I’m very surprised at the level Henri was able to get to when he was in such distress. I intend to read the writings very slowly so they might sink in! I know that I need to stop looking for acceptance from others and just come on home to the Spirit of Jesus living inside me.

    Have a blessed week!

  11. Brynn Lawrence says:

    Hello Everyone,

    I just came across this video, and felt it was quite relevant to this book, our discussion, and definitely this season:

    L’Arche has a new monthly web based film series titled “As I Am.” You are invited to view this month’s beautiful film:

    “People with intellectual disabilities live in the shadows of a persistent view – present in all cultures – that they are the undesirables. This is one of our world’s significant injustices. It is one we can change. L’Arche International’s web series, As I Am, is an invitation to imagine the world differently and to rejoice in who you are as you are.
    Meet Mateusz from
 L’Arche Poland

    There is a gift in brokenness… if you can find it. In this episode, Mateusz Jaworski from L’Arche Poland shares an inventive way of giving.

    • Pamela says:

      Brynn,

      I was sitting in a coffee shop doing bit of writing and opened the link you posted to the L’Arche video, Meet Mateus From L’Arche Poland. I couldn’t stop the tears from sliding down my cheeks, despite the number of fellow caffeine fiends around me. The world might like at a Mateus and think, “Oh, he’s so pitiful–or undesirable”, if they take the time to look at all. Christ gives us the eyes to see Mateus’s gift of joy and being at home in his body. This is the gift Christ gives to all of us–the call to come home to the beauty of ourselves as Christ sees us.
      Thank you, Brynn for this gift.

    • Stuart says:

      Thank you, Brynn
      Years ago, Henri invited a group of us (including my wife) to visit him at L’Arche in Richmond, ON for a Friday Eucharist. It was the gathered community and their assistants. Henri celebrated; his assistants were two members of the community. It was such a profound experience for every one of us; when Henri later asked our little group, “What did you think of it?”, we were all at a loss for words.
      The video you posted above brought me back to that time and place, and reminded me of what Jean Vanier has tirelessly taught, and my own brokenness has led me to understand: that God cherishes the broken and His love shines through us.

    • Patti says:

      Such a moving film. These simple acts of love speak in such a quiet voice. We are told that God speaks to us in a whisper or a breeze. Almost in passing when we least expect it. Thanks you so much for sharing this.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Thank you Brynn for this beautiful film.

      In Matthew 25:40 we read, “…whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” And it is easy to think of Mateusz as one of the “least brothers” and to want to “do” something for him. In this beautiful video Mateusz shows us the reality that each one of us, in our own way, is a “least brother” and we are called to do as Mateusz does and reach out in love to those we meet on our journey. We are all “least brothers and sisters” called to serve and be served by other “least brothers and sisters.” Mateusz shows us just what that means.

    • Brynn Lawrence says:

      I agree with you all! When I first watched it I thought “wow, that is so deeply, purely beautiful!” I tear up just thinking about the love in Mateusz’s heart, and how he gives it to others.

    • Kristen says:

      Thank you for this post and site.

  12. Joanne says:

    Last week I was considering the choices I am drawn to and the choices I make. My first imperative this week is ‘Acknowlege your Powerlessness’. And herein is my hardest choice. Always. Every day. To surrender. To give up my desire to control and to fix. To surrender to my abyss which is my fear of my own deep silence and to surrender to the deeper love of Christ who whispers in that silence as I choose to cry inward. To surrender, to die and be resurrected.

  13. Adele Baxter says:

    Tell Your Story in Freedom. 34
    Somehow through some tragic events, a precious 12 year old left us because of the disease of leukemia. Then years later my beloved husband of 32 years passed away after 9 years of lung cancer. More tragic events, our 29 year old son ended his life.
    This reading helped me to realize that I have come through all this pain and it no longer has a hold on me. “I do not feel victimized by them any more” I am no longer there, the past is gone, the pain has left me and I no longer depend on my past to identify myself. The compulsion to tell my story is gone. Thank you Henri. What a blessing!

    • jacky says:

      Adele, what a witness of truth you have given us here that pain and loss are not our final story! Thank you! And thank you, Henri!

      I am especially grateful after reading an email earlier this morning from a dear friend who lost her husband to a heart attack two years ago while the two of them were sailing in the South Seas. She wrote that her life “feels like a downward slide with mundanity”.

      Oh, God, our Wounded Healer, Jesus Christ “in Whom all things hold together” (Colossians 1), First Cause and Final Hope, the Alpha and Omega, move on her soul that she would hear that same Voice call her by name and follow His footsteps home.

  14. Sharon says:

    My husband and I live in a suburb of Detroit. I have been participating in these book readings for a few years now. The section of this book which really impacted on me was “Seek a New Spirituality”. My community is changing demographically. Also, I grew up in Iowa in a community which was very homogenous. Then we lived years and years in university settings where there was a great amount of diversity. The suburb we live in also does have diversity but more and more it is becoming an overwhelmingly African-American community. The church I go to still has a lot of people who drive in to worship but likely it will also become largely African-American–that is if the congregation can adapt and survive. The reason I appreciated so much what Henri Nouwen wrote is that this situation is propelling me to admit that “I have not brought my body home”. When all around me or mostly everyone was White, I didn’t have to even think so much about my body. But now, more and more I do have to think about my body and also my boundaries. I tend to feel responsible (because of my race and the history of our country) for the institutional racism that exists–White privilege and all of that. This means I’m not very confident of myself. This whole paragraph means a lot to me: “A new spirituality is being born in you. Not body denying or body indulging but truly incarnational. You have to trust that this spirituality can find shape within you and that it can find articulation through you. You will discover that many other spiritualities you have admired and tried to practice no longer completely fit your unique call. You will begin sensing when other people’s experiences and ideas no longer match your own. You have to start trusting your unique vocation and allow it to grow deeper and stronger in you so it can blossom in your community.” Henri Nouwen really described my need now and I hope and pray that other insights–through the book/blog and what comes from people around me will truly help me to “bring my body home” and live a constructive and faithful life. He really was a gifted and insightful theologian and I too am thankful for everyone who keeps the work he started going.

  15. Brynn Lawrence says:

    I too was struck by “Keep Moving Toward Full Incarnation.” Henri describes this very simple yet profoundly important process of “shutting the door” to the many things that distract us from going deeper with Jesus. I seem to need to hear this over and over again (and Henri thankfully continually reminds me of this!). I’m tempted to either be busy with many things or be distracted by worries or fears… but there is a discipline that involves “closing the door.” I see this as either stopping to turn my eyes upon Jesus, or choosing to focus on His word, or quieting my heart to pray… and thus going deeper into the heart of God. I agree Pamela, so simple… yet so essentially profound.

  16. Pat Howai says:

    My first imperative for this week is “Acknowledge your Powerlessness”(19). Henri writes “Think of yourself as a little seed planted in rich soil. All you have to do is stay there and trust that the soil contains everything you need to grow.” This is reflective of the process of Christian Meditation which I have been practicing for the last three years. I sit still, in silence and repeat interiorly my prayer word “maranatha” which means “come Lord Jesus” for 20 minutes. This has helped me tremendously with my healing. My scripture verse for this is Ps131:2 ” …… I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child at its mother’s breast”.
    The second imperative “seek a new spirituality”(20). Henri notes that “as you bring your body home, you will be more able to … understand and appreciate and appreciate” other people’s spiritual experiences “without desiring to imitate them”. I am beginning to sense that “other people’s experiences and ideas no longer match my own”. Henri further stated that “you have a unique vocation that is worth claiming and living out faithfully.” In reflecting on this imperative I realize that “my body is coming home” after many years of rejection due to childhood trauma. Praise God!!!
    Finally I was deeply touched by the imperative “keep moving towards full incarnation”. I love the passage ” every time you close another door – be it the door of immediate satisfaction, the door of distracting entertainment, the door of busyness, the door of guilt and worry, or the door of self-rejection – you commit yourself to go deeper into your heart and thus deeper into the heart of God.” All these things I’ve been battling and little by little I feel the bonds loosening. Henri ends this imperative with these words “You must trust the depth of God’s presence in you and live from there. This is the way to keep moving towards full incarnation.”

    • Gilly beardmore says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts their particular focus shed great light on my heart and possibilities for another step closer

  17. Pamela says:

    I love the quietness and stillness the Advent season can render. As I prepare for the Annunciation and the Incarnation I really was struck by this imperative:

    Keep Moving Toward Full Incarnation
    “Every time you close another door—be it the door of immediate satisfaction, the door of distracting entertainment, the door of busyness, the door of guilt and worry, or the door of self-rejection—you commit yourself to go deeper into your heart and thus deeper into the heart of God. This is a movement toward full incarnation. It leads you to become what you already are—a child of God; it lets you embody more and more the truth of your being; it makes you claim the God within you.

    I like the embodiment and incarnational language in this imperative. Nouwen’s insight (and struggles) moves me, body and soul, towards who I already am in Christ. The message is so simple and stunning that it takes my breath away.

  18. Rebecca Goodwin says:

    First of all, thanks to everyone for sharing so vulnerably! It’s such a comfort to know that I’m not alone in my struggles. “Let Jesus Transform You”, I can relate with the despair, doubts, and fears and not feeling equal to other people. I love Henri’s suggestion to simply enter into the presence of Jesus, just as I am, and let Him transform me by His love instead of continuing so hard to try to change myself! “Live Patiently with the Not Yet”, I’ve been in recovery from the effects of growing up in a dysfunctional, alcoholic family and have tried to embrace my lost little girl. This imperative gives me so much clarification! I have a hard time praying and experiencing the love of Jesus because He dwells in that lost, fearful part of myself that I so easily reject. As a continuation of week 1 for me, I can invite that vulnerable, true self to “come home” so that we can live instead of just survive. Hebrews 4: 15,16 For we do not have a God who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses…

  19. Beth Hewson says:

    It was a little easier reading through the imperatives. Maybe I have gained some familiarity with the process- after one week (!)
    It was the last imperative Receive all the Love that Comes to You that integrated two other significant imperatives for me – Seek a New Spirituality and Keep Returning to the Road of Freedom.
    I appreciate the image of the turbulent river –the journey towards the center of truth and love can be unsettling and unruly. I imagine wearing water safety gear – life preserver, flippers and a mask. In a “faithful, disciplined life” the safety gear for me is prayer, study, worship and service.
    Henri Nouwen talks of hope in this imperative. By walking straight on the road – though there will be times when we are on the shoulder of the road – when we get back on the road, we pick up from where we left and we are stronger. I like the image of the shoulder and appreciate those times I am sidelined-hopefully not into the swamp (! pg 39). When I am sidelined the concepts, ideas and experiences swirling around causing the turbulence come together as one. There is an integration of body, mind and spirit. There is an integration of my being. So really the shoulder might be a very inviting place to be (!) as bleak as it is at times.
    When I think of scripture…I remember the times Jesus would leave urgently from the crowds to pray, desperately. Then strengthen by God’s love he would return to the road of freedom.
    Again good reading.

  20. Ann says:

    This is my second book study. I did the summer one and was so uplifted by Nuala, Cel, Sharon, Ray, Charles, Elaine, and many others. This was during the time our granddaughter’s roommate died from Takayasu Arteritis at the age of 21. Shelby still grieves so often that it breaks my heart for her. I could really identify with Imperative 6- Always come back to the solid place. For several years I have taken care of my elderly parents who are both 91 now. They do not live with us but I am there daily to take my dad across the street from his assisted living facility to see my mother in the nursing home. She has vascular dementia and needs skilled nursing care. This is my life until they both go to there Eternal home. It is a privilege to be able to do it. I feel I fail many times to be as patient as as loving as I need to be. I pray each morning that God will guide my words and my body language. I often feel like God is disappointed in me so I have to remember to come back to the solid place and remember to say yes to God’s love- even after every perceived failure. God loves me and God’s love is enough. Blessings to each participant.

    • Ruth says:

      What a wonderful daughter! God is never disappointed.

      • Michael says:

        So true, Ruth, so true. But I can relate to her feelings, I try to remind my self, that saints are sinners who accept what they did, pick themselves up, and go on…..often times, easier said than done…..but she did, as we all do, and we move on. I am reminded of this line that a Jesuit psychologist shared with me: “On the journey from immaturity to maturity, we are necessarily immature.” It is part of our process. I needed this reminder today, thank you to all.

    • Nuala Doherty says:

      Dear Ann,
      Just to say, you are doing a great work caring for your parents. I looked after my mother full time for two years and it was not easy. I lost my patience and temper with her on many an occasion but I kept going. My Spiritual Director reminded me at the time that I was exercising “agape” love, which as I understand it, is loving even when you don’t feel like it. Also I am reminded of the words in a song, “Jesus didn’t die for us because it was fun, he lay on the Cross because it had to be done”. So as they say in this part of the world (Ecuador), Animo!!!!

    • Cel says:

      Hi, Ann. I’m glad you’re I was able to help in some small way last summer. The holidays are so hard for those who grieve – and the young grieve so intensely – that I will pray especially for Shelby this month. Your cup seems pretty full, too, so I’m glad we have such a deeply caring group in this study. I’m getting so much out of everyone’s profound posts that I haven’t been moved to say much. What an inspiration our group is particularly this time! May you, and through you your entire family, b.e encircled and uplifted by god’s comforting presence.

  21. Elaine M says:

    Like many of you, I am still searching—even in my “early old age”– for the best way to use the unique gifts God has given me in service of others. I would like to “trust” that I do indeed have a “unique vocation that is worth claiming and living out faithfully” in my upcoming retirement years. In this sometimes confusing search for discernment, I would like to believe, as Henri also says, that “growth takes place even when you do not feel it.” If I do have a rock-solid guiding principle of life, it is that God appreciates any sincere search for truth and meaning, no matter how messy that process may get. The God of mercy and love cannot help but feel compassion for the one who searches in earnest. In a spiritual version of Socrates’ presumed words that the “unexamined life is not worth living,” we solidify our faith as we struggle to push past our doubts. Faith is hard work.

    Henri calls us to develop “a solid, inner base from which [we] can speak and act—without apologies—humbly yet convincingly.” I do see this as “coming home”; I am just not sure of the exact road to take to get there.

  22. Nuala Doherty says:

    The imperative “Live Patiently with the “Not Yet”” really spoke to me this week. Especially the words: ” My grown up self has to become very childlike (hospitable, gentle and caring) so my anxious self can return and feel safe. As long as your vulnerable self does not feel welcomed by you, it keeps so distant that it cannot show you its true beauty and wisdom. Since your intimate self does not feel safe with you. But when you become more childlike, it will no longer feel the need to dwell elsewhere. It will begin to look to you as home.”I have always been a fearful person (fear of rejection, fear of expressing my opinion, fear of failure, fear of joining a book discussion……). To know that Henri, a respected priest, author and professor also felt anxious was encouraging for me. It was only after the third time of reading these words though,that they really hit me and spoke to my heart!! I realized that I had blocked out this fearful part of me. I had thrown her aside, disowned her. I had told her she no longer belonged. I saw this frail, waif of a thing, abandoned, starved of affection, starved of love and it brought tears to my eyes, it broke my heart.I opened my arms out to her and welcomed her back. I told her I was sorry for not accepting her. It was a tearful but joyful re-union, a real homecoming!! Thank you Henri for showing me that it is OK to be a committed catholic of 35 years (a religious for only 15) and still not have it all together. To still be, as the sign says on a building site, a “work in progress”. Thank you Ray and Brynn for facilitating this discussion. And thanks to each one of you in this forum for giving me this space and freedom to express my inner thoughts.

    • Molly says:

      Nouwen gave me new insight on Jesus’ saying “unless you become like one of these (a child) you cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven”? That’s it, more or less, and I’m sure it’s phrased differently in the different gospels.

  23. Linda says:

    Just did a quick skip through all the postings, including the first day Introductions. I feel blessed and privileged to be traveling with such a group of daring and curious people…waiting in anticipation and trust and believing in order to believe….I am filled with delight and awe….and very humble to be a part of this journey together.
    I wonder if sometime we can set a day and time (GMT or whatever is set) so we can all be praying at the same exact time…for Emmanuel, for each other, for ourselves and those we love. Any ideas on that?

    • Rose says:

      Sounds beautiful! I am only a relatively quiet presence this time but do pray for all very often. Reading the honest and heart felt sharing makes us so bonded on this difficult journey toward eternal life. God Bless you all. (EST) …may I suggest 12 Noon EST and 3pm (PST) ….. Some of us pray the Angelus at noon and Divine Mercy at 3 …just a thought Linda!

  24. Michael says:

    WOW, what a blessing this book is! My name is, Michael, live in No. California, in the Bay area. I read all today’s comments, till I hit the “Leave a Reply” note at the bottom. The very first imperative “Work around your abyss,” and “Cry Inward,” spoke to me immediately. I found that even though I have spoken about taking another path to avoid the hole in the road, I still fell into it, thank you, Henri, for the reminder, sorely needed. “Cry Inward” is another reminder that I am crying outward, when I really should be sharing these things with God. I think, too, that going into another country is also about setting boundries for myself, and paying caring attention to above imperatives. I was married for almost 20 years, divorced even longer, spent much time looking for love, affection, attention, in all the wrong places, but He got through to me, and I moved out, on, and forward, with His urging, caring, and supporting pushes and pulls. This opportunity to read, listen to, and share, is a part of the pushing and pulling that I have responded to and I thank God for this. I will probably keep this book next to be bed, and read parts of it nightly for the rest of my life. May these Advent blessings remain in and with each of us throughout this year of mercy.

  25. Charles says:

    After reviewing this week’s readings, I was drawn to the imperative entitled “Acknowledge Your Powerlessness.” Twenty years ago, as I began a spiraling downward resulting in the loss of everything I worked for, giving up power and control was the furthest thing from my mind. However, by the time things had run their course, I came to the realization that I really had no power and control, that it was not up to me, and I needed to trust that God was taking me somewhere unknown, but to a better place. Once I acknowledged that, things began to happen. Not that things were by any means easy, but eventually, acknowledging that powerlessness took me to a much more fulfilling existence, one that at the time I could not imagine. To this day, to stay in the right place, I often times have to remind myself of my powerlessness, that it is not up to me at all, that I really don’t have power and control. I never did have it, although there was a time when I thought I had. I like things now much better.

    • Brynn Lawrence says:

      Hi Charles,

      Your comment spoke to me quite powerfully today. Perhaps later I can write more details as to why… but it is true that I’m not in control, and it is also true that I am glad for that! So thankful that He is!!

      Brynn

  26. Stuart says:

    I am so grateful for this advent opportunity, and particularly this book of Henri’s. I appreciate how simple and challenging the imperatives are, and how honest Henri is in conveying them. I am particularly grateful for the friends who encouraged him to publish it. “Return of the Prodigal” was a wonderful book, and a fitting return for Henri after his ordeal, but “Inner Voice” is a companion in the desert, the counsel that Job never received. It is a gift of vulnerability, and proof that weakness and descent are the path.
    My own challenges in this week’s reading are to both go into the place of my pain and stay with my pain. I particularly like the corollary that we are not equipped to do so unless we have at least tasted and are in some way able to access our Belovedness. We cannot accept that our pain has anything to teach us while we still identify our being wth that pain, and worse, as Henri points out, we will be damaged by staying with that which we cannot handle.
    My other two challenges have to do with the journey itself: Be patient with the not yet, and keep returning to the road to freedom. A number of us have written about this journey. It is refreshing to hear Henri talk about the setbacks that occur as we seek to establish new ground in Belovedness. So few spiritual leaders acknowledge that there is no straight line to G*d. This is something that the first chapter of Matthew ought to teach us, but this world does not suffer well, or even credit, the meanderings of the saints, and so we forget, we forget….
    My wife and I are in a small group that is studying Richard Rohr’s book “Everything Belongs,” as a way of encouraging the practice of centered prayer. There are wonderful parallels between Richard and Henri’s understandings of the psychology of spiritual practice, and while “Inner Voices” is far more acute and personal, both are practical guides to an understanding and practice of Belovedness.
    I am grateful for Ray and Brynn’s leadership and for everyone’s participation, both silent and spoken.

  27. I’m still working on the imperative I chose from last week; and I need to go deeper into it, without burdening myself with new assignments. So, I’ll skim the imperatives for this week, while reading everyone else’s comments, because it does my heart such good, and encourages me to sink deeper into God, when surrounded by others who desire to do the same. Thank you all, for sharing your insights, thereby bringing more light into my confusing, scary present situation. I keep wondering why I’m not terrified and weeping all the time; but actually, most of the time (22 out of 24 hours) I’m feeling buoyed by the promised peace which surpasses understanding.

  28. Julia Marks says:

    I think I’ve had a breakthrough.

    Today, after noon prayers, I read number 27: Remain Anchored In Your Community.

    He begins with what I found to be a rather startling statement: When your call to be a compassionate healer gets mixed up with your need to be accepted, the people you want to heal will end up pulling you into their world and robbing you of your healing gift.

    And the response I wrote to this sentence was: People are dangerous.

    I think one of the problems I have had with this book is that it continually confounds my general impression that I’ve had all my life of Henri Nouwen. He seemed to have come from a fine family. He was well educated. Had more friends and colleagues and admirers than the sands on an ocean beach. Had “important” jobs. Was well respected.

    Yet here he is saying, If you let your need for acceptance get mixed up with the wrong people, you could be stripped of your healing powers!

    And as I read further in the text, I realized that he was speaking about evil. About those other people who feast on other people’s soul energy because their supply has dwindled painfully for them.

    I’ve been studying soul structure for so many years I have forgotten how many. And reading this brought back my thoughts about how healing the soul is the key thing that we should be bringing into our reality.

    We have healings of the body, of the “mind,” of emotions, etc. But we overlook what happens in our souls. The damage that can happen there. And how that damage can affect our lives in very serious ways. After some trauma, we have to struggle to heal. And sometimes we are not successful. And we don’t know why.

    And it’s because we don’t address the soul.

    I’ve been wanting to actually study this on “real” people for a long time now.

    There is a prayer that I say at Mass: Lord I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof. But speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed.

    I think I am going to go back and reread the book through the lens of understanding what Henri is saying about the state of his soul. The evil he has encountered, perhaps, and is trying to recover from.

    I hope this has not been inappropriate to write here.

    • Elaine says:

      Julia, thank you for your thought-provoking post. It is interesting that you cite this passage: “Lord I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof. But speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed.” In a time of great emotional turmoil and pain, a good friend consoled me with this wonderful reminder of God’s power to heal. What is “the word”? the consolation of Jesus’ mercy as seen in the Gospels? the kind of wisdom we discover through Henri’s books and the thoughtful reflections we find here in our cyber community discussions? the word made flesh in the kindness and compassion of strangers and the love and commitment of friends and family? So often the simplest word or gesture can be transformative–if I would only keep alert to the ways God may be trying to speak to me.
      Thanks again, Julia.

    • Lori Jo says:

      Thank you, Julia, for sharing these powerful insights. Each paragraph of your comment spoke to me, soul deep. I see what you mean about rereading this book through a different lens. With appreciation LJ

    • judy smith says:

      See writings regarding the soul nov.30th from Janet..

  29. Brynn Lawrence says:

    Good Morning All!

    I was reading in the Psalms this morning, and was thinking about how the way Henri shares in “Inner Voice of Love” is similar to David’s sharing in the Psalms… with an honesty yet a faithfulness God….

    “Praise be to the Lord, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city. In my alarm I said “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.” Psalm 31:21-22

    “I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths … O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.” Psalm 30:1-3

  30. Molly says:

    So happy that Nouwen has taught me that recovery is not just a process, but a discipline. Many days I have that experience of feeling solid and loved, only to be thrown back unexpectedly into confusion and darkness. I love this line in “Keep Returning to the Love of Freedom,” “When you return to the road, you return to where you left it, not where you began.” Such encouragement to keep trying.

    Here are a couple of challenging ones for me: “Open Yourself to the First Love” and “Find the Source of Your Loneliness.” In my desire to move on, I had judged my previous experience as “denied it as dangerous and idolatrous”. I find this challenging “you do not have to deny the reality of the love you received…the task is not to die to life-giving relationships but to realize that the love you received is part of a greater love.” Also, I am fascinated with the source of my loneliness also helping me “discern something good about” myself. In terms of response: I don’t know what to do concretely. I just trust that if I keep embracing my belovedness and staying centered, that one day these things will grow and be revealed.

    I can vouch for the section: “Seek a New Spirituality.” You can be faithful to God, and be unconventional. God has called me away from a lifetime dedicated to the church. A lot of people don’t believe me, thinking that anything from God must mean getting more involved in the church. I try to remind them that the wilderness experience is repeatedly in scriptures, and it is what the desert fathers and mothers were trying to create in their lives: stripping away everything so that you come to know yourself as totally dependent on, and totally loved by God. This just confirms what I thought: I don’t really have to try and convince them. I can feel this solid path, so that’s enough.

    I’m just grateful for this vision that Nouwen gives me. So looking forward to when I can tell my story with the perspective of distance (“Tell Your Story in Freedom”) and without wanting the other person to magically heal or fix what they cannot (“Own Your Pain”). I’m already getting small tastes of it.

  31. Elizabeth says:

    “Find unity” with my heart & spirit, pain & suffering, joy & sorrow, love & happiness, work & leisure. Bring my whole self to God and giving myself to God and sharing this with others.

  32. Janet says:

    Meister Eckhart was mentioned several times a few days ago with reference to “Come Home.” I share with you another of his writings, which I sent to our children in memory of my husband’s birthday.
    ” My soul is as young as the day it was created, yes and much younger. In fact, I am younger today than I Was yesterday, and if I am not younger tomorrow than I am today, I would be ashamed of myself.
    People who dwell in God dwell in the eternal now. There people can never grow old.
    There everything is present and everything is new.” Meister Eckhart

  33. Kristen says:

    Through reading Henri Nouwen’s writings I have come to believe that painful lonely place is my source of knowing there is no other way but drawing closer to Jesus.
    Drawing closer, as for me, translates to becoming aquainted with His way for me even though I seem to depart from this very truth.
    Henri points to the mystical life being well ground in scripture. He encourages guarding the treasure of seeking closeness with Jesus and guarding that inner most place in ourselves.
    Each time the distractions that lead away from a pathway of this heart created in me I become more confident it is ok to say no to so many other ways.

  34. jacky says:

    After reading the recent posts tonight and reflecting on ones I’ve read earlier, I am profoundly convinced again how high, how deep, how wide is the love of our God for all the varied ways we experience the life He has given us. Oh my, how delightfully different your responses are.

    No doubt He will kick out the tent stakes when we think we can contain Him…or Him in us. And that sure ain’t comfortable camping. But oh how the landscape changes when He does.

    It wasn’t too long ago that we had no means of communicating like we are here. The fact that some of you are on the other side of this planet is evidence to me that our God intends to blow out our precious perceptions of who He is and who we are in Him, and topple all our gods that keep us away from home.

    It seems the pain of this process only intensifies if we resist Him; not sure we are always aware of this; but then I wonder if people with depths and desires like Nouwen feel the pain more, or possibly are called to expose and express it more directly for the those who cannot.

    Moving away from these ponderings, Nouwen says that going into your place of pain and emptiness will pull you away from where you want to go unless you know it is NOT the final experience. My prayer tonite to our High King and Humble Healer is that those of you who are in any pain for any reason (and there are many of you), that this forum can be a holding place for you to grow and know you are loved unfathomably.
    And though I know none of you except in this sacred cyberspace, I sense the Spirit at work as surely as when He hovered over the formless void in the beginning of time.

    So … we can all stumble along with you, Julia. It’s not the map, it’s the territory.

    • Thank you for praying, Jacky.

    • Elaine says:

      Jacky, I love your observation that our world-wide dialogue on this blog site is evidence “that our God intends to blow out our precious perceptions of who He is and who we are in Him, and topple all our gods that keep us away from home.” As a long-time participant in the Nouwen conversation, I have always appreciated the wisdom, honesty, and generosity of this very diverse group. We represent every part of the world, background, age, and religious affiliation (or lack thereof). Our bond is always our desire to grow spiritually and our knowledge that this site is a safe “home” where we will find acceptance and the consolation that we are not alone in our search for God.
      Thanks, Jacky.

    • Eileen says:

      Thank you. I am reading along during advent. This is the second time I have read this book. I am finding these posts very comforting. Thank you all for being there and sharing.

    • ” going into your place of pain and emptiness will pull you away from where you want to go unless you know it is NOT the final experience.”

      Just last week, in a counseling session as I was “going into a place of pain, my counselor reminded me this was not the final destination….it is a way through to a deeper understanding. I think this is what he is saying here. It is a comfort.

      I am just starting out late here, spending time reading comments tonight.

  35. David Girod says:

    I only started reading Henri in 1996. I find myself going back to him as one of my Spiritual guides, like the late Brother Roger of Taize. Henri and Brother Roger help me to listen to the inner voice of love – even if I have to get slapped right side the head – but today I was blessed to begin this season of Advent with my four grandchildren who ask me wonderful questions, like “How did Mary get pregnant?” or “What does the word ‘Advent’ mean?” If it were not for the inner voice of love from which they ask such things I might wallow in despair for the coming of the Son of Man. Today was the Sunday of hope in so many wonderful ways. Thanks be to God.

  36. Ray Glennon says:

    From Pat
    Hi,
    I am struggling with what God wants from me too.
    I finished a Master’s Degree in Theology 4 years ago, became very active in my church and then knew it was not the right place for me. What the degree a waste of time? What was the purpose? I loved every minute of the process and thought I found my path, now I do not even know if church is the right thing for me at all. Just wanted to let you know we all struggle. Blessings to you.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      From Molly
      I know a good number people who got their Master’s without pursuing ordination. I started the discernment process after falling in love with the divinity school. The discernment process helped me realize that I have a deep love of learning about God, but that’s not the same thing as being a minister. Don’t worry about waste. God will put that degree to good use, even if it is in an area that isn’t directly about the church or religion.

      • Christine says:

        Dear Pat,
        I completed a Theology Diploma without having any idea why I was undertaking this study apart from the interest, learning and the enjoyment of the course content. 12 years have passed and I think it’s only now that I am called to use the knowledge I acquired in our recently formed Baptism preparation courses.
        Don’t worry God will call you in His timing.
        Christine
        West Yorkshire
        England

  37. Julia Marks says:

    I want to write something here. I hope that it does not offend anyone.

    I love this website. I’ve often considered signing up formally for one of these book reads. And so I did this time around. I ordered both the book and the audiotape of the book. And I set out reading, as the good scholar that I am. Regular times of reading: with my prayers in the morning, noon, evening, and at night. After noon prayer, listen to a section from the audiobook.

    All organized. All very neat. Successful, clearly, from one point-of-view.

    But there is was almost immediately: my repulsion at the writing.

    The clear separation from God that Henri felt and articulated over and over and over.

    And so I considered the possibility of just reading the book, but avoiding the discussion, and going on with my life. Whatever. Shrug of shoulders. No big deal.

    I kept trying to read the comments. To understand how others could relate so deeply to the writing. I felt as though as others were going into the book, I was walking away from it. I had other, better things to do. Get to the end, go on my way.

    But yesterday I said, This is one of the Advent commitments that I freely chose for myself. What is in it, even if it is annoying as hell to me, for me to learn about?

    So I spent a little time listening (while reading along) to the assigned passages. And then I came here, and read and read and read.

    And again, I felt the wall. The wall of people who were made to feel good things from this book, and myself.

    And at first, I thought, This is what I can gain. Understanding from people who experience life differently than I do. And that is a lot to gain, really. Understanding.

    But as I thought about that overnight I realized that just participating in this group brings up and pushes into my face the way I felt growing up: as the outsider.

    I was a mystic from the time before I even went to school. My whole world was God. I participated in family, school, and community life, but my reality was when I was alone, having visions. Learning about God and the universe.

    And I remember how awkward it became for me as I got older and would be standing with my friends at school and not have a clue why they were so concerned about what boys thought about them, or how someone behaved in biology class, or what we would be up to the coming weekend. I strove to fit it. But I knew that I was different. That all I really did was count the minutes until I could walk up the road from my house, sit underneath a tree, and think about God.

    So this is who I bring here: the girl on the other side of the fence, looking through the cracks at the world as it moves about in its dance of life. Listening to the laughter and the moans, the chatting, the anger, the questions. But not really being able to join in.

    I really don’t know what it is to feel separate from God. To not know unconditional love from Him. There were years when I tried to get away from it. Tried to live without God. But that period ended with a thump, and a roaring continuation of all things visionary and mystical.

    It has been my life.

    Perhaps being here is a sign that my life is changing. I can feel it in other ways, too. Coming back into the world after years of anchorite-like living.

    I will do my best. But mostly, I imagine, I will be just stumbling along.

    • Gilly Beardmore says:

      Dear Julia,
      Thank you for this.
      “I strove to fit in.” That echoed for me as my husband and I had a conversation yesterday about accommodating individual differences whilst not losing personal identity and integrity.
      We came to the conclusion that God accepts us just as we are in all our diversity. In so doing he offers us the opportunity to understand and use it to build the body of Christ. So perhaps the striving to is not to be the same but be unique and to find our place in that body where we can be used to build each other up in love.Just as you have done in your sharing and Henri does in his vulnerability.
      Sincerely and with thanks
      Gilly

      • Molly says:

        I love this. Perhaps the only way we can truly accept the “other” is when we have fully accepted ourselves (or at least, that is the journey I’m on right now). Thank you for your insight!

        • Doris says:

          I know what you are saying Julia, Gilly and Molly for I too am different from others. I have come to the place where I can say ‘it is okay, God made me this way’, we have our purpose that God has given. For me it is too keep walking, doing what God asks and some day in Glory we will all understand. God has made us all different, we all have individual duties for our Lord and to serve Him whole heartedly not dwelling on our differences. At least for me this works most of the time. It is like taking a trip we travel different roads, but we will come to our destination and we will see Jesus. I praise Him that I have come to the place of acceptance.

    • Molly says:

      It can be very tiresome to keep struggling to understand the “other.” I think you are wise in perceiving God’s call to you to embrace the grace of compassion and understanding: that sometimes it’s not so much what we can share with someone else, as it is what they can share with us. May you be filled with patience and trust that will help you get to that place of “communion” and not “other.”

      • Diane says:

        Molly…I just had to share that the Renoir painting that is your icon (“Girl with a Watering Can”) is hanging up in my bedroom and I can see it each night as I retire. I bought it when my now 32 year old daughter was a toddler because the little girl in the painting looks exactly like her! We just recently moved after 33 years in the same home and the first thing I hung up in my new home was that painting. Funny all the ways that Henri manages to connect us!
        By the way…I too am on a journey to truly and fully accept myself. It has been a long and winding road..many twists and turns and detours along the way. A blessing to be traveling this road with you, Julia, Gilly and everyone in this wonderful cyber-community.
        Peace…we are all wounded healers
        Diane

    • charles says:

      we need you.

    • Adele Baxter says:

      Your honesty is wonderful. I too have loved God since I was a little girl. I believed from the beginning. I am old now and many things have changed especially seeming different from other. I do love God and I do love people. I am enjoying being old and free!!! I’m enjoying being part of this Advent study. I hope you will continue and hope to hear more from you in the future. Bless you.
      Adele

  38. Elaine says:

    I praise God today for His omniscience and love. For He has ordained that I , too, read the imperatives for healing in so many areas. He draws close to me and the Holy Spirit
    whispers words or reassurance that I am His beloved, there is no fear of abandonment.
    What a wonderful God we may call Abba, Father. Psalm 23:1.

  39. Adele Baxter says:

    I just realized that I didn’t introduce my self yesterday. I am living in a small town in Texas close to the Gulf of Mexico. I am 84 and a grandmother of 5. I have two children in Heaven and 2 on earth. I cherish them all and pray for them on a regular basis. I love this book:The Inner Voice of Love and really enjoy the daily messages un my e-mail. I find it is giving me a new way to look at my life. I love going deeper into my faith. Henry does a good job of that. Thank you for this challenge to read and learn and reflect. I am still active in my parrish on the team of Adult Faith and Formation for Adults.

  40. Doris says:

    Doris –

    I search my deepest self at “Who Am I Lord?”… I come to the Father wanting to discern who am I really in God’s sight. He has given to me the gift of mentoring, and writing and thus unique the gift I ponder is this what my Lord really wants. I realize I must be more self confident and walk with my Lord in a deep awareness of what He wants of me, and who I truly am. Henri says to claim your vocation and live it faithfully. So I try, but then I always think I should affirm my thoughts/words with others. I sit here and write and think of Henri’s writings, and the trials he went through…..he kept on doing for the Lord. My deepest self must come to the Father and say Lord I am yours…..use me as your vessel for others. I put my confidence in the Lord.

  41. Pat says:

    Hi, this is my first time responding even though I am following the study. I live in Northeast Ohio. I have struggled with my faith and Catholicism for it seems like my whole life. I am not sure I can be called a Catholic at this time since I question so many teachings that seem to go against how Jesus lived. All my friends are Catholic and seem so secure in their faith and the church’s teachings. The ‘Let Jesus Transform You’ reading was so inspiring to me. That a Catholic, former Harvard professor could still feel “not equal” to his peers made me realize I am not so different. “You cannot make yourself different,” writes Henri. I am who I am with my heart, spirit and mind. I guess that is good enough for God so it must be good enough for me.
    Thanks.

  42. Linda says:

    My 3 for this week: (with thoughts)
    1. Keep Returning to the Road to Freedom- find a way to set trail markers to turn back to (and keep the ‘doors’ closed that I have already closed…forward not back)
    2. Live Patiently in the ‘Not Yet’ – kind of a paradox of what I wrote above because it does include a going back…to seek out and find the ME I left behind. It will feel empty and lonely there until I discover the Me there, the ME I need to embrace and bring into the now.
    3. See myself truthfully–in my recent journey God revealed some Truths about Himself, then some truth about my environment, then some wonderful gifts His has given me and who I am because of these gifts…now I have a feeling it is time to take a look at the not so good parts of me…in His timing with His grace, I pray…
    Linda

  43. Ray Glennon says:

    Thanks for joining us for week 2.

    Just a quick comment to let everyone know that on Saturday and earlier Sunday there were a number of comments added to the last week’s post on Imperatives 1 t0 16–most of them responding to the comments of others. To see those comments you can scroll to to the top of this page and click on “Home” on the left in the black bar immediately below the photograph. When you are on the Home page you will see the post for the current week on top. Scroll down and you will see the posts for the previous weeks. Then scroll to the bottom of the post and click on the Comments link as usual.

    Looking forward to another great week.

    Ray

  44. Shirley says:

    I just recently became aware of Henri and his writings and I find his insights so helpful in my loss of my husband after 50 years of happy campanionship, love and marriage. I am truly lost in a way. Looking forward to this time as a way to heal my heart.

    • Janet says:

      Shirley – I understand and share your sorrow, as I, also, lost my husband after fifty years of a beautiful, loving marriage. I pray that the Lord will bless you with His Love and Peace at this time in your life. Your intentions will be remembered in my prayers.
      Blessings,
      Janet

    • Elizabeth says:

      We are never truly lost when we turn to God and pray from the heart within our center core. I will pry for you.

  45. Kim Craft says:

    How God…
    Why am I surprised at how God shows up in my life?
    Today I began the Advent Study (a little behind). It is a book that I have read “snippets” from before. I had not planned on going through this for advent but as we all know God’s plans are not always ours :).
    As I opened my email this morning, there was God! 
    I pondered these three questions:
    1. What is God saying to you?
    2. How will we respond?
    3. Pray about it all.
    As I began to read the first Imperative God was not just speaking to me He was confirming to me all that I have been pondering over the last month!
    I did not have to read past the first imperative; “Go into the Place of your Pain.”
    As I read Nouwen’s words “Live through your pain gradually –thus deprive it of its power over you.”
    It reinforced the picture story I have been feeling in my soul over the last few weeks.
    I have been visualizing a clear hose (my life) and it is filled with “gunk”, black chunky
    “gunk”, which has clogged everything up.
    The “gunk” at times over my life has tried to sputter out and for short times I have allowed it to. I have allowed just enough at times to get a trickle of clear pure water. When this occurs there is a freshness, a safeness and a purity that washes over my life. It is how I want to live but then the gunk starts to clog up again and for a while I have droplets and I so desperately hold on to those droplets not wanting the “gunk” to come forward. When this happens in panic I seek to stop the “gunk “and thus stop the droplets too. I don’t want the “gunk” so I shut it all down. The “gunk” darkens everything and I try my hardest to push all the “gunk” back in and make it stay clogged. This is where I have been over the last year the droplets can’t even find their way through and the gunk ha filled me up and oozing out.
    I have felt the Lord waiting on me to see if I am really ready to rid myself of the “gunk” and in order to do that I have to examine the “gunk”. What is it in me? Where has it come from and am I willing to yank it out so I can flow clear?
    As I continued to read Nouwens words, I could identify with these thoughts. I could see how living in these words, truly living in them could help dig the “gunk” out. These are truths that the Lord has for me, to set me free from the “gunk” so that I can flow clear ultimately for Him!
    1. “The old pains, attachments and desires that once meant so much need to be buried.”
    2. “Weep over lost pains to be free to live fully in your new place without melancholy or homesickness.”
    3. “The more roots you have in the new place, the more capable of mourning the loss of the old place.”

    Today the “gunk” is being dug out and with God holding me we will continue to dig it out.
    I don’t want to “clog” the gunk up and let a trickle out, I want a clear flow to begin with the occasional “gunk” to sputter out.
    I am weeping, burying and putting down roots in the new place He has brought me to so that I can live and flow fully for Him!

    I look forward to reading others thoughts and hearing from God in so many ways this advent.
    blessings to all.

  46. Our family went through a devestating betrayal and loss 18 years ago. It ended in divorce and estranged my relationship with my two daughters. Henri’s imperative “Go into the Place of Your Pain” makes me realize how raw this wound is and how much my need for family causes me to either try to hard or stay silent for fear of abandonment by my girls. Yesterday, my daughter came from the West Coast to spend the day. Our time together started well enough but ended on a bad note. Repeated attempts to repair this wound from the past caused me to read Henri’s “Acknowledge Your Powerlessness.” I am at my wits end about what to do. His words: “Be quiet, acknowledge your powerlessness and have faith…”

    • Linda says:

      Family is so important and can hurt us so deeply. Praying for you….my family is also in a time of testing.

    • Christine says:

      Dear Beverly I can empathise with your pain. I too suffered the reaction of betrayal and divorce by a man I loved dearly. Once I’d asked God to help me to forgive him The pain became less. This process had to be repeated many times and I also had to forgive myself and other family members. I recognised my dependence on God in this process and prayed, led a good life and kept my faith.
      Through Life we are continually faced with many challenges relationships are broken and mended and family ties are not always strong. I have learnt not to try too hard and to let go, and let God make the changes. I pray continually. I have changed my expectations of others as I’ve grown. I’m learning to take responsibility for myself and care for myself . I trust that God will show me how to live my life in His way because I know how much he loves me. He speaks to each one of us and I believe he lays upon our hearts the things he wishes us to pray for. I found the chapter on unity of Emotions, passions, feelings and heart on page 11. This is my prayer. I believe that not only will you find unity for yourself , but through this family unity. Be brave, be strong, be playful and YOU will win through.
      God Bless you
      Christine

  47. Suzanne says:

    “Follow Your Deepest Calling”: “Sometimes people who do not know your heart will altogether miss the importance of something that is part of your deepest self, precious in your eyes as well as God’s.”

    How true this is. It takes great courage at times, which I have to keep going back to God in prayer to ask for, to live that calling. It’s hard for me to give up the good opinion I want others to have of me, and yet the price of living for others instead of drawing near to God’s plan for me has been a kind of spiritual death.

    I really appreciate Henri Nouwen’s compassion for human frailties and foibles and the willingness to share so honestly his own meandering path toward God. More and more, I have come to accept that the spiritual life is one of gradual detachment from the concerns and values of this world. We are human and so we feel the pain of missed connections and being misunderstood, but I love the line in the “Anyway Prayer”: “You see, in the final analysis it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.”

  48. Elizabeth says:

    This book is why I love to read Henri, I to went through a period of pain becaues of a loss, it was 10 years ago. I, like Henri was in so much spiritual dispair. Henri has guided me through so much since I began reading his books in 2000. I try to share with others but have little success. This blog is great to share with others the depth of Henri’s wisdom he shared in his books. May this Advent discussion help all of us grow closer to Jesus…

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