Dec 13 – 19: Imperatives 50 through 63

Reading: Imperatives on pages 89 to 113 (Imperatives 50 through 63)

This week we are reflecting on fourth set of Henri’s spiritual imperatives. And what a meaningful and insightful journey we have been on together–thanks to everyone that is participating in whatever manner you deem appropriate.

It is worth remembering how these imperatives came to be.  They are  insights Henri gained during a period of  “mentally and spiritually debilitating anguish” that caused him to leave his new home at L’Arche to surrender to his spiritual guides who, over a six month period, were able to lead him to a new freedom resulting in his return home and the recommitment to his ministry and writing.  As Henri explained in the Introduction, “Nearly every day, usually immediately after meeting with my spiritual guides, I wrote a ‘spiritual imperative’–a command to myself that emerged from our session.  These imperatives were directed to my own heart.  They were not meant for anyone but myself.” (p xvi-xvii)  Nor were they meant to tell a story or to be read in any particular order.  We have ordered the readings solely to focus the discussion.

Beginning next Sunday we will take the last few days before Christmas to look back across all four weeks to see if there are any common themes or opportunities for growth that arose for you during our Advent journey.  But that is next week.  This week’s readings provide plenty more to reflect upon.  Remember that you certainly  don’t have to read and reflect on all the imperatives!  As Henri said, “These spiritual imperatives are meant to be like salt for the meal of your life.  Too much salt might spoil it, but a little at a time can make it tasty.”  Considering Henri’s advice, we once again offer this process if it is of help to you:

  1. Briefly look over the 14 imperatives assigned to this week (50 through 63), either by simply reading the title or by lightly skimming the text.
  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

Anticipating another rich week together!

Ray and Brynn

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53 Responses to Dec 13 – 19: Imperatives 50 through 63

  1. Pamela says:

    This week, there are three imperatives that speak of love and coming home.

    “Jesus has called you from the moment you were knitted together in your mother’s womb. It is your vocation to give and receive love.” And then, “At every moment you have to decide to trust the voice that says, ‘I love you. I knit you together in your mother’s womb’” (Psalm 139:13). And finally, “The spiritual life is a long and often arduous search for what you have already found…The desire for God’s unconditional love is the fruit of having been touched by that love.”

    I am reminded of St. Therese of Liseux who said, “My vocation is Love.” And then Fyodor Dostoevsky who wrote, “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.” I pray for awareness and surrender to the One who is Love. I pray to be able to listen to that voice of Love and turn from the deceptive voices that would pull me away. I pray for the ongoing conversion to Love.

  2. Charles says:

    This may be an eleventh hour post this week, but I have been contemplating the readings, and perusing the other posts.

    This has been a really neat discussion, I liked the format. And it has helped me focus in on a few important aspects of my life. Especially now, when I feel I have been going through one of those “dark” times when I have felt distance from God. A priest once told me that God does that as a test of our Faith.

    In any event, this week the section entitled “Give Your Agenda to God” really struck home. I am one of those folks constantly on the go, always trying to do more, never having enough time. I am one who is never bored. But I also get frustrated, feeling that I am running out of time. That I won’t be able to do all that I want to do while I am here. So this section sends a good message to me. That it is not about me, and my time, but about God, and God’s time. I need to start letting Him guide me along, and most important, begin listening and being receptive to what he wants me to do. Then I will be doing His work, and not just my work.

    I kind of did that this morning. I wanted to get this post up, and have been thinking about it all week, and what I wanted to say etc. But this morning, I stopped for a moment (unusual for me!), and listened. And oddly enough, I am going to finish where I was directed, to Psalm 139, and here are the parts that jumped out at me. God’s Word confirming that it really isn’t about my Agenda, but His agenda!

    “LORD, you know it all.
    You formed my inmost being;
    you knit me in my mother’s womb.
    My very self you know.
    Your eyes saw me unformed;
    in your book all are written down;
    my days were shaped, before one came to be.”

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Charles,
      Thanks for this timely reminder — especially on the last Saturday before Christmas — when it seems that there is no time to listen to the Lord or anyone else.
      Ray

    • Charles says:

      Charles I agree contemplative living is where we should be. Psalm 139 should always be in our pocket. Thank you.

  3. charles says:

    permit your pain to become the pain gave me good insight.your pain is the concrete way in which you participate in the pain of humanity.Jesus’s suffering was the suffering of all humanity. his pain was the pain.healing means moving from your pain to the pain.in this shift your suffering becomes easier to bear. it becomes a ” light burden ” and an “easy yoke”( Mathew11:30). let the theo drama that i am immersed in include a sensitivity and compassion for any pain of my neighbors.Lord ,let my spirituality always be communitarian. let my search be a communal search to see your face.

    • Charles says:

      Hello Charles, you know I must acknowledge the other Charles in the group!

      Great insight, thanks for making me see that a bit different. I never really put that together, experiencing pain as a means of connecting not only to the pain of others in similar circumstances, but to the pain of all humanity regardless of the type or cause. I shall remember this. Thank you.

  4. Jan Greene says:

    I am so blessed to have been reading and following along. This is a hard time for me. A client who I worked with for many years who struggled and was helped by me as a therapist. But, of course, I loved her and her hero’s path to raise her children and inspire them despite emotional and financial issues. And her words and perceptive self inspired me and kept me hopeful. As she has now moved away, I am terribly sad but also angry that in the end she made what I see to be a wrong choice. Despite always trying and reaching for God’s loving grace and guidance, I see now that in many ways I wanted to control her choices.
    So all that Henri writes seems to go to my core and I am often crying. The section on befriending the lion and lamb parts seems where I am now. That we have opposing sides which if we trust deeply in our hearts, Jesus draws together and unites our parts. This helps me feel less ashamed of my anger and ready to make way for God’s will here. I am resting in this and avoiding taking anything but God’s love for me and for her. It is difficult to not act. God is the peacemaker in my heart as I let go of control and stay with the pain of loss. I pray for good days ahead for her and acceptance of these events without judgement in grace alone.
    Hope you all have a good day!

  5. Linda says:

    Thank you to all who are posting. There has been so much going on in my life over the past 2 years. My copy of this book is full of highlighted passages. Almost every imperative has a relevant word for me. This book and all of you are a constant reminder that I am not alone on this difficult journey. God has provided signposts, lighted paths and companions as I face each day praying to grow in faith, love, peace…..
    Life is as life is….days of joy and days of weeping. I am learning to trust that everything belongs and that the Lord is with me in everything.
    This has been an unusual Advent. In the past, I have had a great time of waiting in anticipation for Emmanuel in my life, family, work…all focusing on the blessed time and gift of God. This year has been a difficult climb up or down, with a path full of boulders and thorns. These dark days have held more fear for me than peace while I wait in the silence for the star to signal that all is well and will be well. I am weary.
    The example that Henri set is one of perseverance and hope. God also provided guides for him and I pray I will keep my eyes open to see the ones sent to me and that I will have ears to hear and set my will to follow Him wherever He leads.

    • Owene says:

      As I journey through these imperatives with a beautiful group of women, Advent takes on a fullness greater than Advents past. Henri was so right about just a few at a time. In an hour we can barely get through three, and we end our time together more deeply connected with each other, our hearts and God. Thank you for setting up this website and for encouraging us on this journey. I would be remiss if I didn’t offer the film Journey of the Heart which tells Henri’s story. Oh my it is scrumptious!

    • Cel says:

      Linda, my married name is “Hope” and I’ve spent years trying to live up to what I write every day. It’s been a challenge, just like you say, to try to be a person of hope, but it has also been something to hang on to in those dark, discouraged days. I have found myself noticing every time the word appears, anywhere, and find myself paying special attention to each quote, expecting it to give me a new piece of the puzzle of just what it means to live as a person of hope. Sometimes I’m disappointed, but sometimes i find a treasure. For years I was the only person of that name in our small town, so I’d tell people, “I’m the only hope this town has!” and we’d laugh, but it did help me form an identity, give me a goal to hold up on the bright days and something to cling to on the dark ones. On January 1st each year a friend of mine picks one word (virtue, value, whatever) to reflect upon that year and seems to do the same thing–notice its use everywhere, reflect on it, try to live it more deeply. It becomes her theme and she says it’s a great practice. This was the first year I tried that, but I picked two qualities I wanted to improve on: I focused on becoming more kind and gentle. Just like the word hope, those two jumped out at me everywhere this past year, showing me how unkind and ungentle I can be in my small ways. I think I’m going to again continue working on them, as well as my perpetual efforts to be a person of hope, this coming year. It’s been a good practice for me; perhaps you may want to try it, choosing just one (maybe 2?) words from Henri’s imperatives to cling to until the light floods into your soul. I’ll be praying for you.

  6. Adele Baxter says:

    Be a Real Friend page 80
    “True friendships are lasting because true love is eternal.”
    Many years ago I had a true friend, Diane, who lived her life like our Lord Jesus.
    She taught me to how to love people in a genuine way with the love of Christ. She passed away several years ago, but her loving ways are still with me to this day. Her friendship was such a gift to me and our family. “Love between people, when given by God, is stronger than death.” “When you have loved deeply, that love can grow even stronger after the death of the person you love. That is the core message of Jesus.
    I believe her influence of love continues in my life today.

  7. Ray Glennon says:

    Friends,
    Just a brief note to express our gratitude to everyone sharing this Advent journey with us, whether you are actively commenting or reading and reflecting in the quiet of your own heart.

    This is a particularly challenging book and the imperatives that were so personal for Henri are also personal for many of us. That is certainly the case for me. And, for some, reflecting on the imperatives may lead (as it did in my case) to posting somewhat lengthy comments, and that’s okay–but it’s also not an expectation for others. Everyone is invited and encouraged to comment in your own way, or to continue to reflect privately. If a particular idea touches your heart and you would like to share a comment of whatever length please do so and our virtual community will benefit. I just want to re-emphasize the invitation from the first week: This group is here to listen, encourage and support. You are free to share whatever comes up for you in the readings–regardless of how short or long your sharing may be.

    Thanks and may the Lord continue to give you his peace.
    Ray

  8. Pat Howai says:

    This week the imperatives that stood out for me were: “Permit your pain to become the pain”, “Live your wounds through” and “Keep choosing God'”.

    I found this week’s reflection very challenging. It was difficult for me to even understand what Henri was saying in the imperative “permit your pain to become the pain”. I had to re-read it several times before the meaning and implications became clear. I wept. I sobbed. I guess that was the letting go of “the specific circumstances” of my pain and moving to THE pain of humanity. I love the line “…the deeper truth is that the situation which brought about your pain was simply the form in which you came in touch with the human condition of suffering.” This made me ‘see’ my pain differently. Instead of seeing the who, what and when of it, I saw instead that the abandonment, rejection, loneliness, etc. that the situation brought about was common to all humanity, even though the specifics are different in each case. Most importantly, Jesus bore the pain of humanity, His pain was the pain. It was truly a moment of freedom and peace when I finally understood this.

    The second imperative confirms the experience of the first. Henri says that “the great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through, It is better to cry than to worry, better to feel your wounds deeply than to understand them.” In the past, I always sought to understand and rationalize what occurred and I know now this is why relief was always temporary. After I cried I felt at peace. My scripture is “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes with the morning” Ps 30:5. Henri says that “…you can live them (your wounds) through and discover that they will not destroy you. Your heart is greater than your wounds”. It is said that the heart is the place where love dwells, and in the Song of Songs 8:6 it says “The passion of love bursting in flame is more powerful than death”. So as Henri says, you must be “gentle with yourself, and let your heart be your loving parent as you live your wounds through.”

    Henri says “your future depends on how you choose to remember the past”. So true. Before I read this book I was already tired of the ‘same old story” but felt stuck in it. I did not know HOW to change. This is so liberating and I am grateful for this journey and all the sharing which I find so inspirational. Henri warns though that “you are facing a real spiritual battle. But do not be afraid….. you are loved… and protected. What is of God will last….Choose it, and it will be yours.” My scripture for this is “why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? and you labor for that which does not satisfy? …… eat that which is good. And let your soul delight itself in fatness” Isa 55:2. I have eaten enough “junk food” and was hungering for something nourishing, thank you God for leading me to Your table. I pray that I keep on choosing You.

    • Cel says:

      Pat, what a beautiful post, especially the first two paragraphs. Thanks so much. You said everything so beautifully that my heart throbbed as I read your words. You expressed very well what I’ve been pondering and I’m sure what many others have thought. Blessings!

    • Holly says:

      Pat, I very much appreciated your reflections. I have had a few breakthrough moments when I understood what Henri meant about feeling the Pain of humanity. It was a very different experience of pain as compared to my self absorbed pain and I understood how the latter can be a type of quick sand. I’m not sure what caused those breakthrough moments to emerge but I know it has given me an awareness that I never before experienced.

    • Kathleen O'Neill says:

      Dear Pam, Thank you! Your insight gleaned from Nouwen’s words about “living our wounds through” was such a consolation to me, and an Advent gift!
      Kathleen

  9. Ray Glennon says:

    Friends,
    Three imperatives touched me this week: Keep Trusting God’s Call, Know That You Are Welcome, and Keep Choosing God. Henri is describing my personal experience when he writes “Your insecurity, your self-doubt, and your great need for affirmation make you lose trust in your inner voice and run away from yourself.”(Trusting p 89) And what does it take to stop running away? As Henri writes, “You have to choose for life. At every moment you have to decide to trust the voice that says, ‘I love you… Everything Jesus is saying to you can be summarized in the words ‘Know that you are welcome.’ Jesus offers you his own most intimate life with the Father.” (Welcome p 101). For me the challenge in accepting the reality that I am welcome and loved by God is in taking what Cel called (in her earlier comment) taking “the longest journey… from the head to the heart.” I need to believe in my heart and “act according to the truth that you are very, very welcome” — the same way way that the loving father welcomed both the prodigal son and the eldest brother home. (The prodigal accepted his father’s welcome home; did the eldest ultimately ‘come home’?)

    What does it take to “come home?” It is a simple and as difficult as this: Keep Choosing God. “The question is whether you choose for God or for your own doubting self… It is you who decides what you think, say, and do. You can think yourself into a depression, you can talk yourself into low self-esteem, you can act in a self-rejecting way. But you always have a choice to think, speak, and act in the name of God and so move toward the Light, the Truth, and the Life.” (Choose p 114). And it is critical for me to remember that in making those choices I am never alone for Jesus said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20).

    Henri then reflects on his impending return to his community that we will read about next week in the conclusion. Here he writes, “…you can also choose to remember it as the precious time when God began new things in you that need to be brought to completion.” (p 114) For me, this book and this imperative in particular help bring to completion something that God has worked in me for over a decade. It was in 2004 that I first found the Prodigal Son after Mass in Singapore and read it on the way home to the U.S. That book was a key factor in decisions that I made over the following year “when God began new things in me…” that enabled me to return “home.” I read this imperative this morning on my commuter bus to Washington, DC and was deeply touched by the conclusion: “Remember, you are held safe. You are loved. You are protected. You are in communion with God and with those whom God has sent you. What is of God will last. It belongs to the eternal life. Choose it and it will be yours.” And I wrote in the margin, “The bookend to the flight home from Singapore.” I believe that I am completing the journey that I began that morning outside Singapore’s Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. Are there more challenges ahead? Certainly. More graces too? Hopefully. And am I better prepared for the journey ahead through the experiences and words of Henri Nouwen? Thankfully.

    Ray

  10. Beth Hewson says:

    There are three imperatives that ran together that were significant for me. “Keep Choosing God” that incorporated the other two “Give your Agenda to God” and “For Now Hide Your Treasure”
    The bottom line is to “trust God all the time that God is with you and will give you what you most need.” Sometimes I get so exasperated with myself – that so often I am returning to his theme. When I feel a knot in my stomach or things just are a little off…I try to remember to repeat the mantra to choose God. Another point was that God only wants the best for us so that exhaustion, burn out and depression are not part of the regular diet in a relationship with God.
    The hopeful statement for me was your future depends on how you remember your past. The fact that our understanding of past events can change as I feel God’s touch and love deeply.
    Another hopeful theme was that the turbulent rivers of emotions will become calmer the more frequently I choose God. A phrase I heard once was: God saying: “Come home we are waiting for you.” It is a matter of knowing we are missed by not coming home.
    The scriptures about Paul’s life journey relates to the treasure imperative. Denying the treasure (as Saul persecutes the Jews); accepting and cultivating it (Damascus experience, then leaving for three years) and finally sharing the treasure (his life as a disciple, missionary trips) is helpful for me to see how one person makes the journey to finally always choose God.

  11. Marianne says:

    Exhaustion, burnout, and depression are not signs that you are doing God’s will.

    This is from the Imperative “Give your Agenda to God.” Since I’ve had my cancer, it has been easier to give my agenda to God however, with changed behavior comes changed feelings. Now my job is to fully accept that I can still do a good job even if I don’t work extra hours. People are not used to me passing up oportunities to be on new committees and new projects. I also need to be ready to respond to those questions and comments from peers. Instead, I met with my manager and decided on the important areas I should be focussing on. Then I just “sit on my hands” during staff meetings. Hope you all have a good day.

    • Lori Jo says:

      I am keeping you in my prayers, Marianne. If you are the same person that was in the previous study, I do remember your sharing of faith based ideas helping me to have a deeper understanding of God’s love. With appreciation, Lori Jo

  12. Rebecca Goodwin says:

    “Know that you are welcome” For me, a continued theme throughout the imperatives has been to choose to listen to the voice of the One that says “I love you. I knit you together in your mother’s womb” Even though I have strong memories of my mom showing preference for my older sister and being labeled “Rebec the Reject” in Junior High, this is NOT the truth! The Prince of Darkness wants me to believe that my life is a mistake, but I can say, as often as necessary, “Lord, Have Mercy” and move closer and closer into His marvelous light!

  13. Cel says:

    I was really touched by “Know That You Are Welcome.” It put a name to something deep within me from my experiences most of my life. I was “odd man out” in my family of origin, the only one of us three girls who totally resisted our mother’s attempts to form us into Southern ladies but who escaped the house at every chance–to be outside and wander the woods; the one who hated playing with dolls and other girly things but who begged for a horse instead; the one who absolutely hated all the dance lessons the other two loved and who was awkward and klutzy where they were graceful; the one who fled Texas for Montana in what my parents described as foolishly rejecting civilization and who has never really been forgiven for my disloyalty in leaving the Great State of Texas. In my faith journey I have also taken the “other” way, becoming involved in peace and justice issues, preferring solitude to parties and faith discussions to frivolous conversation. I know that the choices I have made are true to who I am and in response to God’s call, but deep down I still have this sense of being “different”, of not fitting in, of not being truly welcome–and the underlying doubt that maybe I really have lost my way is always lurking. Henri, in his simple words, released something deep inside me as he said in still another way, discussing being welcome, that the only important thing is to believe that I am God’s Beloved and to live life and make decisions out of that experience without second guessing everything.
    Then I turned to the next imperative (Permit Your Pain to Become the Pain) and was challenged to see my pain (and doubts) as not so much finite individual ones but as “the concrete way I participate in the pain of humanity.” Wow! Quit naval gazing, quit concentrating on individualism, but be content to be part of all of humanity, a family somehow joined together by the fierce love God has for each of us individually, a family where I feel the pain of others and they feel mine. I need to be frequently reminded that regardless of my pain at the moment, there is someone somewhere in much worse shape and probably handling it better than whiny old me.
    That reflection prepared me to read “Live Your Wounds Through” so that it really hit home. Here we go again, being pushed to get past the intellectual approach so as to live through the heart. I’m a great one for analyzing everything and thus safely distancing myself from actually dealing with the challenge presented by that pain or failure or doubt or whatever. Truly the longest journey is that from the head to the heart, and I need to be reminded to leave the safety of words and thoughts and rationality that allow me to be in control and instead be gentle and patient with myself, move wounds to my heart so that they may be healed and so that I may free-fall into the arms of God.

    • Ruth says:

      Thank you, Cel. Your last paragraph really hit home. Ah yes, the longest journey is, indeed, from the head to the heart. Blessings on all our journeys!

      • Cel says:

        And may that journey from head to heart get easier and faster the longer we practice what Henri so beautifully teaches!!!! I know I sure need the reminders – seems like that default behavior to use the head only is hard-wired.

        • Cel says:

          Don’t we all? Though i’m sure some of us struggle wit this more than ever. Henri’s gentle message to be patient with ourselves, not to dwell on our failings but to focus on choosing God, is really helping me let go of my frustration that I seem to learn these things so slowly and continue to fall into those old default behaviors way too easily.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Cel,
      I continually struggle with the journey from head to heart and my reluctance to leave behind the safety of words and thoughts and rationality. Thanks you. Reading the imperatives for this week on my commute this morning really touched me in that regard. More on that later.
      Ray

  14. Molly says:

    “For Now, Hide Your Treasure” pp 111-112

    Now I understand my instinct to protect my new-found treasure, to restrain from proclamations. Grateful for Nouwen’s insight that I need time to go out and keep selling what I have piece by piece to prepare myself to buy the whole field and fully own the treasure. “In is JOY he sold all that he had and bought that field.” Matthew 13:44

  15. Marge says:

    Simply, “It is your vocation to receive and give love” imperative 50……I’m reminded of the chorus, “Freely, freely you have received, freely, freely give….go in My Name and because you believe, others will know that I live.” (Carol Owens). I hear this song going through my heart and mind so often……and I am helped.

    This a.m. I also read “What is once cherished can never perish” (Sarah Ban Breathnach)….reminds me of John 3:16……

    And imperative 51….”The farther the outward journey takes you, the deeper the inward journey must be.” Encouraged to be faithful for outward/inward life for today….

  16. Nuala Doherty says:

    The two imperatives that really spoke to me this week were, Keep Trusting God’s Call and Say Often, “Lord, have mercy”. In the first, I remembered that as a child I had two dreams, the first was to be a Hollywood Film Star and the second was to be a Wimbledon Tennis Champion! In my youth I loved acting and being in the limelight. Before I became a religious I belonged to a Catholic community for evangelization and had lots of responsibilities (as well as lots of opportunities to perform dramas). My apostolate here in Ecuador is very different and of a” hidden” nature. The line “stay home, and trust that your life will be fruitful even when hidden”really jumped out at me. We are 3 Sisters in community. Two go out to work and have responsible positions (and receive a salary) while I “stay home”! I am reminded that working in the background (at home) is just as important as being on stage. Saint Theresa encourages us to do “ordinary things in an EXTRAORDINARY away” – with love. I remember too that most of Jesus’ life was “hidden” – and, hey, look at the fruit that it bore!! !When I accept God’s call to “hiddenness” I feel at peace and happily go about my daily chores. And when the temptation comes to “wish” myself back on stage then I have to turn from my ego and focus on Jesus and His call for me.
    In the second imperative I could relate very much to Henri. Sometimes I feel overcome by waves of feeling forgotten or anxious. I sometimes feel “like a powerless child abandoned by her mother”. I too, like Henri, need to make that conscious choice to move the attention of my anxious heart away from those waves and direct it to the one who walks on them and says, “Courage! Don’t be afraid. It’s me!” (Mtt 14,27). I need to keep focused on Jesus, trusting that he will bring peace to my heart. And keep repeating again and again, confidently, “Lord, have mercy”, knowing that He is very close to me and will put my soul at rest. May Jesus fill all our hearts with deep peace as we continue our spiritual journey.

    • Elaine says:

      Nuala, it is so interesting that you mention St. Therese. This morning on Matthew Kelly’s Best Advent Ever website, I found the following quotation from St. Therese, which not only complements your very fine reflection but also might suggest where we should arrive as we emerge from a period of feeling small or doubtful. As you so wisely point out, this process is something that we must consciously work on every day. Thank you.
      From St. Therese:
      May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise, and love. It is there for each and every one of us. (From Saint Therese of Liseux, Story of a Soul)

  17. Lori Jo says:

    Sometimes the mail icon starts jumping up and down on my laptop screen warning me to pay attention to a new email in my inbox, Likewise this Advent book study “made” my dusty copy of The Inner Voice of Love, jump off my shelf and into my hands! Meant to be! My imperative this week is “Know that Your Are Welcome”. A lifelong answer came to me in this one page reading. My new insight is a gift from God. I was the younger child by many years of older parents. Both parents passed when I was in my early 20’s. My only sibling estranged herself from me at that time (thirty-six years ago) and said “They never wanted you.” Ouch! My path of life lead me to a new country, new churches, new friends and now these studies. I have always had a hard time allowing myself to feel welcome and this causes me to isolate myself. Even participating in these book studies unleashes a fear of criticism and rejection. The imperative tells me that what I have believed about myself being unlovable is not true. I have spoken from my heart to those of you sharing this Advent journey and I appreciate how you have let me experience “being welcomed” into your spiritual online community. Interesting that in Henri’s struggles he could touch the core of my pain, as I read that he had a good childhood and a loving mother. Henri’s profound gift of being able to gently confirm that God lights our paths if we are willing to follow His direction, is what this study has taught me.

  18. Marie Huhn says:

    When I started reading “The Inner Voice of Love” I felt it to be depressing. Maybe I was feeling Henri’s feelings. Last week the pages of “Let Your Lion Lie Down With Your Lamb ” were very meaningful and helpful to me. I am an 87 year old widow, have a large family and many grandchildren. Things are not always ideal. People disappoint, illnesses threaten so there are many faith questions. Henri’s journey is assisting me with mine. My health is very good but I have to admit to slowing down. Thank you for making the book club available to all.

  19. Elaine says:

    I am in the throes of a big decision. I am leaning one way, but is it the direction God wants me to go? I keep praying that our current study will provide some illumination. It is uncanny that Henri says, “You are very concerned with making the right choices about your work. You have so many options.” So true. Having options can be a real luxury or the cause of the agony of uncertainty. Later Henri envisions God saying, “I want to give you a NEW heart and a NEW spirit.” Henri notes that God begins “NEW things in [us] that need to be brought to completion.” It is both exhilarating and frightening to change and grow and confront newness. However, Henri suggests the answer in an earlier chapter: “Once you discover you are called to live in solidarity with the hungry, the homeless, the prisoners, the refugees, the sick, and the dying, your very personal pain begins to be converted into THE pain, and you find the strength to live it. Herein lies the hope of all Christians.” That’s the ultimate answer; isn’t it?

  20. jacky says:

    The elements here in N. California this morning are wild, reminding me of the powerful, unpredictable, and untame reality within and without. After reading again the imperative from last week, Allow Yourself to be Fully Received, and several of the postings, I am both calmed and excited — calmed by that inner voice affirming, “You are mine, totally and forever” — and excited by the unlimited possibilities of that Reality in Him. Oh yes, I make plans, write “to-do’s”, and check off tasks completed, but oh how much greater is Life in Him.

    Today I will push my husband in his wheel chair out into the storm, drive to church, then to a brunch. Thumbnail sketch. But I am most anticpating His untame moves in and around me. Oh Father, open my eyes to see Your face!!

  21. Doris says:

    May I say Henri has blessed me and taught me in my readings of his book. I have looked at myself and seen who I am truly. I have followed Jesus a very long time and always unsure of who I really am. I have looked deeply and see that God has used me in many ways. I have written poems, mentored others and was never sure of what I was doing was right. Some liked my writings, some ignored and for me those were the moments of who I was I really?. But I have learned from Henri’s books I am who God made me to be. My deep love for God, and people that I care for, a world that is suffering deeply I felt the need to help. I am not yet where I want to be, I struggle and try to be the person God wants me to be. Sometimes I feel at a loss what can I do to change the world, the people who do not believe, the hungry and the homeless. I know that the power does not lie in me but in my dear God, so I leave it with Him. I thank Henri Nouwen Society for all that they do, for sharing to us and allowing us to share to them and others. May the Lord Jesus bless all of you who read and the Nouswen Society richly. My love to all who have written and shared. Best of all I have a Lord that helps me to sort out the life He wants me to live. Thank you all…..

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Thank you Doris for this profound insight: “But I have learned from Henri’s books I am who God made me to be.” My prayer today is that each of us may accept and joyfully live that reality.

      Peace and all good. Ray

  22. Ruth says:

    During the past 10 days I have walked through the loss of many co-workers, as 45% of our department was reduced. Gratefully, I survived the cuts, but out of 94 of us, only 54 remain. The impact is great for both those who lost their jobs and for those of us who remain — all of this just before Christmas. I cried with many, rejoiced with some, prayed for all. This has become a very unsettling time for me as I continue to learn of the “new model” of reorganization, in which I have very little say. My project is being transiitoned out of my department, so I don’t get to complete it, and I’m being given other projects to manage, which had a previous project manager, who was let go.

    The imperative, Give Your Agenda to God, SHOUTED into my soul. “You are very concerned with making the right choices about your work. You have so many options that you are constantly overwhelmed by the questions, ‘What should I do and what should I not do?'” This is exactly where I am right now — which way do I turn?

    So I start with not letting this issue possess me, remembering that God’s love is my source. I must fully surrender myself to God’s guidance in this, continuing to give my agenda to God. “Your will be done, not mine.” Oh, Lord, have mercy….

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Ruth thank you for your sharing. Here is a story that means a great deal to me that be of some assistance to you.

      Servant of God Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ was wrongly imprisoned in the Soviet Union during WW II and for the next 23 years he was held captive, the first five in the infamous Lubianka prison in Moscow followed by years of hard labor in the Gulag archipelago. When he returned to the U.S. in 1963 he was was constantly asked “How did you survive?” And his answer was, simply, “Divine Providence.” In his book He Leadeth Me, Fr. Ciszek writes of his understanding of God’s will and what it means to follow it: “[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 and 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 trick is to learn to see that — not just in theory, or not just occasionally in a flash of insight granted by God’s grace, but every day. Each of us has no need to wonder about what God’s will must be for us; his will for us is clearly revealed in every situation of every day, if only we could learn to view all things as he sees them and sends them to us.”

      May the Lord give you and your co-workers peace in this most difficult time.

      Blessings,

      Ray

    • Cel says:

      Oh, Ruth, my heart goes out to you and all your coworkers in this violent reshuffling of your lives. I’m praying that in the midst of your uncertainty, God will shower all of you with a peace that buoys you up and helps you adjust and still finish this Advent season and celebrate Christmas with peace.

  23. Sharon says:

    Hello

    I received my book just last week. So just introducing myself now. I am so grateful for these book discussions. I truly love this book and have bought and given it away as I find it so enriching to living an authentic life in Christ. Henry’s humble voice in these pages really penetrates my soul. I can so relate to many of these imperatives. God has brought me through much and I know now after struggling, allowing him to console me, receiving his care and love and grace and mercy … there is joy. But in the darkness it is hard to find it. Because he has given me so much through the process, I want to be able to care for those who are struggling and hurting to bring the grace and love that these imperatives offer, to be a person that others can find a listening and understanding ear. So glad to be encouraged to read this book again. A treasure that offers something for us at any time. So many great reminders and challenges to reflect on. Thank you.

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