Dec 20th – Dec 26th: Conclusion

Reading: Conclusion ( p 116 to 118)

We are nearing the end of our Advent journey together and we want to express our deep gratitude  to each of you for joining us along the way.  Because of you and the words and spirit of Henri Nouwen, a beautiful community has gathered and grown in faith and understanding–the fruit of your participation in the discussion, both by posting comments and quietly reflecting in your heart.

In our reading this week  Henri looks back on the spiritual imperatives with the perspective of eight years of “radical changes… (moving) through anguish to freedom, through depression to peace, through despair to hope”  and he concludes, “I have heard the inner voice of love, deeper and stronger than ever.”

This week, in what for many are the hectic final days before we celebrate the birth of Jesus,  you are invited to give yourself the gift of time to once again reflect on the spiritual imperatives that touched your heart during our time together.  You might prayerfully consider the following questions:

  1. Were their any connections or common themes in the imperatives that touched your heart?   If so, what were they and why are they important to you now?
  2. Why did these imperative touch you at this particular point in your life?
    a) Was it a result of something happening now?   If so, how does the imperative help your challenge you to grow?  b) Or did you recall a personal experience from an earlier time? If so, can you see how you have grown as a result of that experience?
  3. Have the imperatives that touched your heart helped you to hear the inner voice of love and how will you respond? 

As always, you are invited share your responses and other reflections with the group to the degree you are comfortable.

Once again, we want to thank you for joining us and for enriching our Advent experience and book discussion.  We wish you and yours a blessed and joyous Christmas season.

May the Lord give you peace.

Ray and Brynn

P.S.  And we hope that many of you will join us for our Lenten book discussion beginning in mid-February.  Be on the lookout for more information.

42 Replies to “Dec 20th – Dec 26th: Conclusion”

  1. Before midnight on this 26th day of December, I want to thank you both, Brynn and Ray, and all of you across the globe who participated in this discussion. Quite amazing, truly!, to communicate at such a vital level through technology. None of your faces have I seen or ears heard, yet the depth of soul shared by Henri Nouwen and all the written and unwritten postings has prompted me toward Him “who is before all things and in Him who holds all things together.” (Colossians 1:17).

    Your decision to become involved in this discussion has been a gift to me from the Heart of God. Thank you!

    I will continue to read this Advent book and the recent posts over the next few days; however, respecting the reality of endings, this will be my last words…until perhaps I join a 2nd book discussion. Until then, Henri will be gently reminding me, as well as many of your posts, that the restlessness I daily experience is an indicator of my search for God who is already fully present. My sense of His absence is actually a sign of His Presence. And He alone can satisfy my hunger for more. Though I will continue to sense my own insufficiency in countless ways until I die, I can also live now in His All-Suffiiency as I keep choosing Him. Selah.

    1. Thank you Jacky for your beautiful summary of why this community gathers several times a year. We hope that many of you will join us for our Lenten discussion beginning in mid-February. Watch for more information.

      Peace and joy.

      Ray & Brynn

  2. It is Christmas Eve. Ten years ago I would not be “celebrating”. The story is long so I will not tell it. But I too like Henri Nouwen was in such a state of depression because of a loss of someone close to me. I remember crying and crying to God for answers, and changes. I held close to God in my prayers and faith but one answer came clearly to me and that is God told me: ” I gave everyone a free will and even I cannot make people change. I hated the celebration of events for so long. But I do believe God has made me stronger and more faithful by letting me suffer. Nothing has changed with the “situation” but I have changed to accept that God is love and I am his beloved child. May God bless each of you with that love that passes all understanding. Merry Christmas.

    1. Elizabeth, and a Merry Christmas to you as well! You said something very intriguing, something that I think many folks never do figure out. You talked about your situation, and how that has not changed, but that you “have changed” to accept that God is love, etc. …… I keep thinking of a few of the imperatives that jumped out at me over the past few weeks, the notion of our powerlessness, and that we need to give up our agenda to God. We are not going to change circumstances, and we are not going to change other people. Therefore, as you so aptly put it, we are the ones that need to change. I don’t know you or your situation, but I see someone who has made great strides, and who has demonstrated a lot of growth. A Merry and Joyous Christmas to you Elizabeth.

  3. The two themes that touched me throughout this reflecction were the ones about being a “Beloved child of God” and about trusting in His call. When I begin the downward spiral of self-doubt and self-rejection I need to to stop in my tracks and remember my true identity: a beloved child of God, an equal among equals. When the “waves” of sadness, feeling rejected and anxiety start to engulf me, I need to remember to focus on the One on the waves, tenderly saying to me “Courage.It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” (Mtt 14,27). I am learning to”catch the darkness early” as Henri says in the conclusion.
    Thank you all for participating in this blog and making it such an enriching experience. Thanks also to Ray and Brynn for co-ordinating it so beautifully. As they say here in Ecuador “hasta el próximo” (until the next one). God bless you all. Have a joyful Christmas and a happy New Year.

  4. I really enjoyed this Advent Book Discussion! What intrigued me was how you can find various threads traced among the imperatives depending upon one’s current situation or life experience. For me, I saw some themes emerging. Acknowledge your Powerlessness and Give Your Agenda to God are two that jump out at me together with a few others that seem to be related to those imperatives. For a guy who always needed to be in control I kind of learned the hard way that it is way bigger than me, and that I am really not the one in control of my own destiny. Once I stopped fighting that fight things settled down a lot in my own life. But I still have a long way to go.

    I was also interested in Henri Nouwen’s comments in the conclusion about the existence of God. He comments to the effect that there was a time when he was uncertain whether God was real or something that his imagination created. Reading that was almost a relief, as I often struggle with issues not dissimilar. And here a priest who wrote a multitude of books on religion and spirituality raises the issue! Somewhat comforting, even if I still face the struggle on occasion.

    I got a lot out of these discussions, not just my own personal reading and posting, but reading everyone else’s postings, thinking about what was said by others, and occasional responding. Thanks to Ray, Brynn, and everyone who participated for making this a fulfilling Advent!

  5. Friends,
    In reflecting on these imperatives for the first time this Advent, my situation is similar to Henri’s in the conclusion when he looked back from a distance of eight years to his time of anguish. For me, the greatest challenge in my life took place in the 11 months following June 2004 when I first read The Return of the Prodigal Son until I made several life-changing decisions to return “home.” These imperatives helped me to better understand that difficult time of transformation and healing. And, again like Henri, upon my return, I was welcomed by “…those who, instead of being embarrassed by what I had gone through, gave me their confidence and trust.”

    I have printed my comments from this Advent discussion and will be reflecting on them in the coming weeks and months to reinforce the lessons I learned on this journey. For me, Henri’s final imperative “Keep Choosing God” is the one that stands out. He shows me that I am constantly facing the choice between God and my own doubting self. God says to me, “I love you, I am with you, I want to see you come closer to me and experience the joy and peace of my presence.” And I will often respond (if I hear it at all) by saying “I don’t believe it.” And on page 114 Henri puts it clearly, “It is you who decides what you think, say, and do…. But you always have a choice to think, speak, and act in the name of God (my note: or as Jesus would) and to move toward the Light, the Truth, and the Life.” I pray that I can do just that.

    Finally, and most important, I want to thank each of you for participation and for your beautiful, touching, compassionate, and spirit-filled sharing and support of this entire community. It is both a privilege and humbling to walk with you and to see how the Lord touches and works in your lives and the lives of those you serve. It is from you that I learned, “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…” So many of you are well along on that journey and I hope to join you in 2016 through the practice of prayerful meditation. Your beautiful sharings this Advent prove the value of the trip.

    For the final time this Advent, May the Lord give you peace.
    (The greeting of St. Francis of Assisi to those he met on his journey)


  6. 1) “Were their any connections or common themes in the imperatives that touched your heart?” Every imperative touched my heart; the ones which most spoke to me were “be where God is” and “let deep speak to deep.” The theme holding them together is love–the breadth, length, depth and height of which, to me, remains incomprehensible, but also has always been the vocation I am called to live, with the promise that I will, at some time, comprehend with all the saints, the infinite goodness of God’s love (Ephesians 3:18).

    2) “Why did these imperative touch you at this particular point in your life?” I have been living through a very painful letting go of needing my husband’s affection and consideration as he journeys deeper into dementia and becomes less able to think about me. I am learning to replace my need for daily gestures of love, which he was always capable of fulfilling. I am starting to recognize that my true need (which this marital need only represented and prefigured, like a reflection in a mirror), is to dwell in the fullness of the love of God.

    3) “Have the imperatives that touched your heart helped you to hear the inner voice of love and how will you respond?” I have been filled with the shock of grief, fear, anger, and hurt, feeling like I don’t have the strength or courage to “do” this–to live with and take 24/7 care of a man who has lost his ability to express love for me. And my emotions, in his confused mind, only indicate that I’m losing MY mind (because his dementia is such that he doesn’t recognize his own impairment, and his perceptions of his reality–which are as real and truthful to him as mine are to me–can’t make sense of my emotions). But the imperative “let deep speak to deep” helped me recognize the love of God in this situation and where it abides. I remember now, that our love (my husband’s for me and mine for him) has from its inception been grounded in the love of God, through Jesus, and dwells, therefore, with Him, at his throne, where I can access it in prayer.

    Yes, there is a painful death (his slow physical decline and my own increasing death to self) that is necessary to find this hidden love, but now that I am accepting and embracing this dying, I am finding that I can still find our love, in that place where “deep speaks to deep.” And although my husband is becoming more incapable of expressing that love in words and small gestures, in the present moments when I think I need them, I miraculously know, and believe that I was and am deeply loved, not only by him in the past, but by God at all times.

    Because I am basking in this knowledge, for the past 2 days, he and I have been having a joyful, companionable time baking cookies together–to give away as gifts. And the aroma of cinnamon, ginger, nuts, and chocolate filling our home is the incense of love.

    I am so grateful for this study and this community, all of you have helped me, during this difficult time, to “set my mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” and to recognize where my life is, and where my strength comes from. My life, and my strength, are “hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3). And I am finding the inexplicable joy and peace that this Advent season promises will come to us, when we wait and hope, in faith.

    Bless you all, and I wish you, from the bottom of my heart, a joyful and blessed Christmas, with the love that helps us transcend whatever heartaches, troubles, and problems we are facing.

    1. Thank you for your moving testimony. And may the Lord walk with you and give you peace in your personal struggles during this holy season. Ray

  7. The most common themes for me throughout this period of reflection were choice and trust. When habits of mind become engrained it sometimes eliminate choice and one acts out of compulsion. Your ability to choose becomes impaired. Reflecting on the imperatives have given me the freedom to choose God, when old habits emerge.

    The image that comes to mind as I reflect on the imperatives that touched me is that of a jigsaw puzzle. Before reading the book the pieces of my life just seemed to be scattered about and I could not seem to make them fit. At the end of this journey it seems God has done the puzzle solving for me. I feel that “the One who has loved me, has brightened my way” (from song – City of God)

    I feel renewed now and I know I have to be disciplined and vigilant and “keep choosing God”. I realize that I have been hearing the inner voice of love but my self-doubt got in the way. After reading this book I know I can not only hear but also trust that inner voice of love. This is a book that will keep on giving as there is so much more reflection to be done.

    My sincerest gratitude to Ray and Brynn for facilitating this book discussion. This is been my most meaningful journey through Advent. My appreciation and gratitude to all the participants whose sharing touched me deeply. I wish you all God’s abundant blessings Christmas and the New Year.

  8. As I have reflected upon our month’s study, a couple of Henri’s simple, earthy statements keep coming to mind. I’m sure they will continue to do so, because I am a person deeply rooted in nature, who finds God’s whispers and shouts there often. One is from “Acknowledge Your Powerlessness”: One way you keep holding on to an imaginary power is by expecting something from outside gratifications or future events. As long as you run from where you are and distract yourself, you cannot fully let yourself be healed. A seed only flourishes by staying in the ground in which it is sown. When you keep digging up the seed to check whether it is growing, it will never bear fruit. Think about 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 growth takes place even when you do not feel it. Be quiet, acknowledge your powerlessness, and have faith that one day you will know how much you have received.
    The other is from “Keep returning to the Road of Freedom”: “Sometimes little things build up and make you lose ground for a moment. Fatigue, a seemingly cold remark, someone’s inability to hear you, someone’s innocent forgetfulness, which feels like rejection – when all these things come together, they can make you feel as if you are right back where you started. But try to think about it instead as being pulled off the road for a while. When you return to the road, you return to the place where you left it, not to where you started.”
    As I said earlier, during last year’s Advent study I received a huge insight into the reality of being God’s beloved and have spent al year trying to truly believe it and to let it move from an intellectual knowing into a reality from which I live. During this year’s study, Henri (and the great sharings of the group) have helped me gain peace about the inevitable defaults back to doubts in my lovableness that still exist in the dark corners of my soul. I shall return t the imperatives as I continue to grow into full confidence that I am deeply, passionately loved by God just as I am this very moment. Many thanks to Ray and Brynn for your leadership. I want to end with today’s quote from “Well for the Journey” (a daily e-mail reflection from Well for the Journey, a non-profit center offering spiritual nourishment for daily living,

    “Radical hope is found at the boundary where the outrageous gives way to the possible…It beckons us to step out with the belief that the action we take will not only bear fruit but that in taking it, we have already made a difference in the world.” Jan Richardson, Night Visions

    I’m praying for an absolute flood of Christmas blessings upon all who participated in this study. I hope to meet you again during the Lenten study. Thanks so much, everyone, for the honesty and depth of your sharings. Cel

    1. Cel, I always look forward to your beautiful crafting of language and your extensions of the readings. I love your observation about God’s “whispers and shouts” in nature–certainly in themselves reasons to give us hope. I also appreciate your observation about rootedness and the ways that our own frailties and our own responses to other people cause us to “lose ground.” This analogy surely applies to me! Like you, I struggle with the “inevitable defaults” that interrupt my unceasingly joy in God’s love. Thank you for once sharing your insights about our common humanity and God’s hopeful message.

  9. At first, I thought this book was an unusual choice for an Advent Study but now I see the wisdom that has emerged from the readings and comments. Thank you for enabling me to dust off my copy of this book and receive a deep and profound blessing. My conclusion comes from Henri’s words on page 109: “The simple fact that you are more aware of your wounds shows that you have sufficient strength to face them”. My reason for choosing this imperative is rooted in an eight year estrangement from my eldest daughter (and now little grandchildren) . It is a frantic separation for me as facing the fear of not having them in my life is more than I can comprehend. Tears and more tears as I let this pain change from “my pain” to “the pain”. In this month of readings, the situation has not changed. Yet, I see myself comforted by The Holy Spirit and moving in new and different very directions. Thank you Ray and Brynn as this Advent Study has been a lifeline of hope for me. LJ

  10. I want to thank you all along with our leaders for this deep and gentle discussion. More than anything to be in the company of such grace and wisdom has soothed my soul and quieted my recent struggles. ‘Avoid all forms of self rejection’ says Henri. This alone could be a meditation for a very long time. My hope and prayer in this season is that our awareness of God’s love and presence in our lives is ever near us. May each of you feel peace at Christmas and gratitude as I do for your words and participation .

  11. Again, very thankful for having the opportunity to read Henri Nouwen’s book in the company of all of you–though I did not have time always to read through the blog. We are travelling to celebrate Christmas with family and I am taking the book with me, to reflect and meditate on it some more. A big imperative for me is on page 65-66 “Allow Yourself To Be Fully Received” These two pages are so germane to all the suffering I have experienced in my life. “A lot of giving and receiving has a violent quality, because the givers and receivers act more out of need than out of trust.” Having read of Henri’s relationship with Adam and others in his life, I think Henri did experience both sides of this meditation and came out on the side of completely trusting God to provide for all of his needs. But it’s not only that that occupies my mind but also that “for the good of the other” it is so necessary to give without expecting to receive. My hope and prayers are to be a peacemaker and not a spreader of violence in my community and in the world. Those two pages alone could require a year of meditating on their wisdom. Thank you for providing this Henri Nouwen Book Reading and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all the participants.

    1. I agree that one could meditate for a year on this imperative- and just about all of them this is a really good devotional book

  12. Thank you all for your willingness to be vulnerable. As the days grow longer, may we be graced to see His light and love increase as well. It has been an honor to walk with all of you. My prayer is for all of us to allow the Lord to mend our brokenness with gold and fill us with Life and Love to share with everyone around us during this coming year.

  13. Thanks to all that have been a part of this Advent book reading. I love Henri’s conclusion and look forward to a time that I can look back on this season of my life and say, without a doubt, that I’ve moved through anguish to freedom, through depression to peace, through despair to hope. No one could have told me a month ago when we started reading “The Inner Voice of Love” that my husband and I would have to make a very devastating decision concerning our adult addict daughter and her twin babies! In my morning devotional reading this morning it pretty well sums up my experience and journey with you all through darkness to light: “Look for a star of guidance in your own life, and be willing to follow wherever I lead.” I am the light from on high that dawns upon you, to guide your feet into the way of Peace. (Lk 1: 78,79)

    With gratitude,

    1. Your words touched my heart and I will pray for you and your husband. Decisions regarding adult children can be heartbreaking. I, too, am in the valley trying to sort of some issues with my own adult children. Thank you for including the reading from the book of Luke which I will review in my Bible today. We are kindred spirits on this faith journey. Christmas Blessings, L.J.

  14. As we conclude, I was reminded of one morning, bright and early, driving my son on his early morning paper route, when God broke into my anguish…..I heard, “O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free! Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me. Underneath me, all around me is the current of Thy love; Leading onward, leading homeward, to my glorious rest above.” And not just rest in the future, but rest in the present…..sometimes I forget, but so grateful for God Who works over and beyond….and grateful for persons like Henri, like Ray and Brynn, and all of you who enter into my story, by way of your own story………together in God’s story, truly “God is all in all.”… blessed…..bless……thank you!

  15. Dear Ray and Brynn,
    Thank you so much for this Spiritual opportunity. Although I have never felt the anguish that Henri felt, I believe Sophia wanted me to read The Inner Voice of Love because I am so near to ones who deeply feel anguish. I gained some understanding and was prompted to be more compassionate. In some small way I will be a better companion on the journey. Thanks to all who shared and prayed.
    May The Lord give you his peace and abundantly bless your work.

  16. Well we have come to that time where we all have written and discovered the inner power of our Lord. We all choose some measure of spirituality and, like Henri, I will choose God and His ways. Listening to that inner voice – hearing Him speak to us as we walk life’s path. Our Lord comes and sits with us as we pray and tell Him our thoughts and our feelings we need not fear for when things go awry He will give us peace, faith and love. He never walks away from our pain and sorrows. One thing we all need to do, and I am one of those, is to draw closer to God and enjoy His peace and His presence. It is a world of sorrow now and our prayers must reach out to those that are beset with things that they cannot handle. We must choose as Henri did to walk with God every minute of the day and not just when we feel like it. So I close thanking God for His love and presence and I thank those that have written their thoughts. How helpful all this has been and I also thank Ray Glennon and Brynn for their work and passion. So to God be the glory this Christmas Season and may we all be filled with His love and compassion. Thank you group, thank you very much…how I have enjoyed being here with you. I am sad to see it end…..

  17. I am struck by the profound problematic assertion that God is love. So wonderful, and our longing is to receive this more; yet God’s very nature opens up the very real and inevitable pain that will ensue. Still, I would rather choose for love.

    1. Kim, Thanks for sharing the Advent journey with us and for your thoughtful comment. Here is how this layman without theological training tries to reconcile the infinite love and goodness of God with the imperfect, often painful, state of the world and in the lives of God’s people. God loves us so much that he gave us free will–the ability to respond to each situation in a loving or an unloving way. It is the intersection of his love and our ability to choose that have led to our present state. And what is the way forward toward God? It is to do just as you say and “choose for love.” Thanks again.
      Peace and all good.

  18. Thank you everyone. This time I have been an attentive listener . Henri’s words and courage to share his darkness has given to much more power to the movement towards the Light of God’s love. We have encouraged each other and I am reminded of these words by John O’Donohue.” One of the most beautiful gifts in the world is the gift of encouragement. When someone encourages you, that person carries you over a threshold you might otherwise never have crossed on your own.”


  19. I sit in the still darkness of an early morning, reflecting on Nouwen’s wise words. The Inner Voice of Love has been a companion on my journey for many years now. I remember the first time I read it and thought, “Oh, a fellow pilgrim. I thought I was the only one who felt this way.” It was like reading the Psalms and hearing the voices of lament, complaint and praise all mixed together.

    I too feared the deep loneliness; longed for accolades and a sense of importance. I too felt God’s absence, even when I knew God was always there. I too longed for something “more.” It was only in the empty places where I learned to surrender. I began to understand my tears as sacred waters and as I let them flow, they began to be tears of healing. It was in a deep dark night of the soul when I lost sight of everything knowable that God’s Love began ever so slowly to seep into my heart, soul and body. Of course, that Love was always there, but now I was able receive it.

    I still have moments of panic, but they don’t last as long. I still get hooked into the desire for acknowledgments, but realize they are short-lived boosts. I still long for more, but recognize that “more” is Christ. This journey is a life-long one, but I am grateful for guides like Nouwen and the fellow writers here on this Advent discussion.

  20. Thanks to this wonderful organization for facilitating this Advent reading and reflection. I know that this book will continue to be a source of wisdom for me for many years to come.
    One of this things I’ve learned from these past four weeks is that love takes its own path in our hearts. Sometimes love is incredible and magical. Sometimes love is deeply painful. To me, this is our human journey which is why we can’t know God’s mind but rather must simply have faith that He is all.
    Most of the time, our wounded selves heal unevenly with ragged edges, a condition I believe we have to accept.
    I know that my wounds will be made clean when I am reunited with my Lord. Until then my wish is to never inflict hurt on another and never let my own hurt hold back my love.
    Peace be with you and thank you,

    1. Patti, very true on everyone having their own path, and they are all different. I had a priest tell me once to be careful and not judge others, as you never know what path God has laid out for them. That is basically what you allude to in your comment. And that is why I also liked the format of this discussion as we were able to “customize” if you will the process for ourselves. That made it even more enlightening for me. We didn’t have to fit our situation into the readings, but were able to fit the readings into our situation. A subtle, but big difference! Thank you for your comment.

      1. Charles,
        Thanks for your insightful comment. One thing we have always tried to do in these discussions is, as you so nicely put it, to “fit the readings into our situation.” As facilitators Brynn and I try to pose questions that might aid participants in reflecting on how the readings are related to their lives, and if that is helpful, so much the better. And it has been our experience that when members of the virtual community share their thoughts on the readings (whether in response to the questions or not), then other members, like yourself, further enrich and deepen the conversation. It is a great joy for me to be able to participate with each of you.

  21. Like many readers, I was unsettled that someone as wise, intelligent, and good as Henri could have gone through such spiritual agony just like any of us (although we do know that many of the greatest saints have also endured a dark night of the soul). As I read the concluding chapter, which was written in first person, I realized that part of the unsettling feeling of the rest of the book came from the fact that it was written in second person—as if Henri were standing outside himself trying to figure out who this troubled person could be. Of course, the use of “you” was also unsettling because it seemed so pointedly to be directing the commentary at me personally: How had I failed to see the love of God in my life? How had I been distracted by my own vain pursuits?

    The return to first person in the concluding chapter came almost as a catharsis after over 100 pages of intense self-examination. While Henri admits that “there is hardly a day without some dark clouds drifting by,” he has learned to “recognize them for what they are” and to “catch the darkness early.” He vows to “keep trusting in that [inner voice of love] and be led by it.”

    Dear fellow bloggers, as I have read your stories of painful searching and your celebrations of the voice of love in your lives, I pray that we too can hold on to Henri’s final message in this powerful book. Thanks to all for sharing your compelling stories and insights.

  22. I read the book in Netherlands and I agree with all comments, even though my English isn’t so good.
    I thank everybody for the wonderfull and healing words during the advent 2015!

  23. These readings and the writings of others have been a great blessing. Today I received an open invitation to come and sit a spell and listen to the voice of Jesus, do the readings. These readings, these writings have been the voice of love from Jesus and others Peace comes to us in the darkness that sometimes dwells within our heart and so our Lord Jesus will come and sit with us and talk about our needs and world, the troubles that are present. Jesus is wonderful – His Spirit lives within me. He tells me I am never alone no matter what the circumstances – that I must simply trust but I will never walk alone. He will never leave us or forsake us.

    So to the group that has written you have blessed me and the writings have been enjoyable. For those who put them together may our Lord bless you with great abundance. I am glad that we can do this, leave our thoughts, and hopes and love with the others that write. God bless all of you – those that write, those that do the work. You are all a special group. Have a Merry Christmas and God’s blessings to all.

  24. Now that we’re almost ending, I must confess to not having read more than a third of the book. When we began I had read the first third and posted that it would be so good for my former daughter-in-law Ann (not her real name). But alast! We weren’t speaking much since the divorce 18 months ago.

    As God does have a plan, shortly after the post, much to my surprise Ann phoned me. She cried for about 30 minutes on the phone asking for forgiveness for pain she had caused the family and especially my son and the children. Forgiving her was easy because I had already done that at the beginning of the divorce. Our family, including my son, knew the divorce was a result of Ann’s depression. We believed she was seeking happiness by her actions that hurt the family which included a step-grandson and granddaughter.

    Ann was heading for a complete breakdown in my unprofessional opinion when she called me. She was sitting in the church parking lot following a confession and feared leaving the church lot for fear her poor behavior would immediately return.

    I know from reading this season the deep internal struggle Ann is going through. When we talked on the phone she scared me saying she felt she didn’t deserve to live. We had already lost our oldest son to suicide at the same time Ann became a part of our family. Ann knew our pain. So of course I shouted at her that in spite of all God was always there to love her just as she loves her own children regardless of their misbehavior.

    I still was wanting Ann to read this book. As God would have it, the following week as I sat in the car reading and waiting for our granddaughter to be released from school, Ann came up to the car window to say “hi.” Another first in our relationship since the divorce. I leapt out of the car calling to her with my copy of the book in hand! lol ! We walked together for me to get her daughter and she got her son, my step-grandson.

    All the time I was telling her about Henri’s journey and forced her the book, not knowing if she would read it. However, next week we met at school at release time and she said she hadn’t started to read it, but just finished “The Shack” and gave it to me to read. Of course I started reading it in the hope that she also read Henri. The following week once again we met–now this is over a three week period since I only am at the school one day a week. She told me how good Henri’s book is and it’s helping her.

    I give Thanks to God and this group as we all journey towards our spiritual goal. I give thanks that Ann will one day be whole; that she will continue fighting her demons as Henri did. In faith we believe and we know God will protect all who come to him; and I believe even those who haven’t yet turned to him.

  25. From Pamela (copied from last week)

    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.

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