Reading: Living as the Beloved and Epilogue
We have been on a most excellent journey together, for which I thank each of you who actively participated, as well as each of you who quietly walked with us. In this final week, as we reflect on the incredible way Jesus came to earth to reveal God the Father to the each heart, Henri invites us to actively respond to Him and choose to live the life of the Beloved.
1) Henri invites you to “think of yourself as having been sent into the world… a way of seeing yourself that is possible if you truly believe that you were loved before the world began… a perception of yourself that calls for a true leap of faith!” (p131).
a) When you consider how Jesus came to the earth, do you believe he came for you? That you were loved by Him before the world began?
b) Can you think of yourself now, as being sent into the world? How might the way you live each day, and the way you interact with people around you be transformed by this belief?
INVITATION: Continue to set aside quiet time with God each day this week. As you ponder the coming of the baby Jesus to the world, consider that you were on his heart when he came. Consider that you too were sent into the world.
2) Keeping all that we have learned and explored close to heart, Henri now calls us to live the life of the Beloved, to live life as “an unceasing ‘Yes’ to the truth of [our] Belovedness (p133). It may help to flip back and do a review of what it means to be taken, blessed, broken and given.
a) Can you describe a time or an experience in your life in which you lived this “Yes” to the truth of your Belovedness? Even if it was a brief moment, please share it with us.
b) What is one specific thought or habit that you want to take away with you, to help you to more intentionally live the “Yes” to the truth of [your] Belovedness?
Finally, I would like to affirm, to say “yes” to, the Belovedness of each of you. May each of you be blessed this Christmas, and in the New Year to come. May…
The Lord bless you, and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.
Number 6: 24-26
The late American author, Raymond Carver, wrote in his poem, “Late Fragment” (1984): “And did you get what / You wanted from this life, even so? / I did. / And what did you want? / To call myself beloved, to feel myself / Beloved on the Earth.” Oh, to be able to say such words at the end of one’s life…or even in the beginning.
My thanks too, to Brynn for what was a very engaging and helpful time of sharing and reflection.
For me, I think the main lesson for me, is to try and introduce into my routine a daily time of quiet contemplation in addition to prayer and reading. This reading and reflection has reminded me of this importance of this as the source of energy and inspiration for my work in the church, rather than simply my own actions and energy. This is something I have done before, but never really kept it up, it certainly doesn’t come easily or naturally for me.
Many thanks to all who contributed
This afternoon, I listened to “the Life of the Beloved” read by Henri J.M. Nouwen.
Just wanted especially to hear him tell the story of his relationship to Fred in his own voice. I heard what I believe is genuine love all the way through and disappointment at the end but nowhere a tone of condemnation or judgment. In fact Henri Nouwen seemed to receive from their relationship a greater desire to understand more deeply his own relation to secularity and how he might have expressed himself even more fully. I would have loved for the ending to be where Fred and Henri really fully understood each other (the fact that both of their lives were much happier was something I am extremely thankful for and a positive outcome of God’s Work in their lives I believe) but maybe, as far as helping us to be faithful to God, us readers becoming more and more aware that we only extend a helping hand, we aren’t the Creator of people, nor the author of their relationship to God, well maybe the true ending of the story is actually more positive for us than some sort of current fairy tale ending–though I always hold out hope that somewhere along the line God is bringing us altogether in some way where there won’t ultimately be any divisions. Appreciated the love Henri and Fred had for each other–whatever their thoughts, in their hearts they were truly the beloved. Just being able to love secular people in the secular world and not condemn or judge them means a lot to me in trying to follow Jesus.
It is always hard to wrap up such a beautiful time of sharing and learning, but the good news is there will be another discussion in just about two months. Watch your email for news from Maureen of the HNS Lenten book discussion.
Many many thanks, and blessings upon each of you!
So many thanks, Ray, for your kind response.
The last line in the You tube was about Christ’s Resurrection giving us hope. Jurgen Moltmann extends that hope to the Parousia, rightly so. God’s work in overcoming evil and redeeming all those sufferers who died throughout history from tortured lives of little or no hope, is not yet complete. I just read an extraordinary article on this in THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO JESUS ed. by Markus Bockmuehl: “The Future of Jesus Christ” by theologian RICHARD BAUCKHAM. (I downloaded the book from http://www.Scribd.com).
Looking forward to joining you and others for Lent!,
I did also find the exercise very valuable but the last week very thought provoking. I got much value from the discussion although I didn’t contribute much. Thanks for all the sharing.
I know I am the beloved, I know I am chosen, taken, and without giving you my life history, I have been broken and given. I know all this in my head but I’m afraid not well enough in my heart.
Henri’s Epilogue gave me much to think about. I wonder if perhaps I am myself too secularised. Unlike Fred, I can relate to all Henri has said but that didn’t take me to where I feel I should be at. I have to do a lot more work on myself to really live the beloved. The pilgrim path is indeed on-going and up-hill.
Happy New Year to all and let’s continue to pray for each other on life’s journey
My thoughts this week often wandered to the idea that I have been sent into this world, and that I have the opportunity to give my “Yes” to God, my “Yes” to His love, each day. It is pretty crazy and amazing at the same time. This morning I did an overall browse through the book, and was reminded of so many important things Henri shared with us… but there is one thought I want to take with me, as we move into the the New Year. On page 123 Henri invites us to “believe that every little act of faithfulness, every gesture of love, every word of forgiveness, every little bit of joy and peace will multiply and multiply…” I have no doubt that this is part of my being sent – to look for and live these little acts each day. I also know that my ability to live this well can only come when I fill myself up in His presence regularly. As Henri said to Fred “The greatest gift my friendship can give to you is the gift of your Belovedness. I can give that gift only insofar as I have claimed it for myself” (p30). In these little acts I see a world of opportunity and purpose.
I wanted to join in on this last day to say thank you to you Brynn and to the others who shared over the past weeks on this book. I started out with good intentions of taking part in the discussion but I didnt give it the time it required or indeed deserved. There is a message in that in itself for me.
I did read the book covering the sections in the designated weeks and I did follow the discussion from the various contributors and found that helpful in internalising the book. One of the reasons I did not join in, was that I did not read the comments until I had read and reflected on the section myself. I usually only got to this on a Sunday night and therefore was late in joining in with the comments.
I got a lot from the book and found the epilogue a little shocking at first and then a relief. For someone like Henri to find that his writing and effort at touching into another person had missed the mark, for me, was encouraging.
The overall message I took from the book was about meeting people ‘where they are at’, and not assuming they can relate to the experiences that I have had. This came across quite strongly in the earlier chapter and discussion around accepting being the beloved and was emphasised again in the epilogue. I will carry it with me in my work.
Once again thank you for the opportunity to engage with this book and its ideas in such a deep way, so much better than just reading it on my own.
I look forward to the next one and perhaps in engaging with the online discussion more thoroughly.
May the fruits of our reflection energise us as we enter our new year of 2014.
Becoming and Living as the Beloved
As I share my final entry having completed the reading of Newen’s work of “Life of the Beloved”-I wish to personally thank Greystones Parish Worker, Paul Thornton for inviting local Parishioners to join the Advent Group and giving me access to this wonderful book and the opportunities to reflect and publish my own thoughts and insights on a weekly basis. I gained much from reading Newen’s work and enjoyed reading the weekly commentaries-and thank you to everyone for sharing such personal information about your own lives; which takes courage and humility. I have to be frank in that I got a bit stuck half way through -and abit overpowered and tied up with a personal difficulty that I consider in some ways isolated me from taking a more inclusive approach to my more recent commentary. Non- the less this did reflect my authentic personal experiences reflection at this time with my views not having changed with the hindsight and experience of additional time.
However of significance I recently heard about an Artist/ Poet when dying being questioned by his friend as to whether he had felt that any area of his life had not been fulfilled. His response had been “No, as this was due to his being able to call himself the Beloved and also in his being able to feel himself as being the Beloved.”-A truly empowered man in my opinion and one that I hope over time I personally would love to have the full confidence to emulate in my life choices, thoughts and actions.
This was a very startling and meaningful report which I had heard not long after my completing the reading of Newen’s work. I would also be certain that the dying man’s response was a genuine and honest one. Finally I will try to continue to discern the Lord’s will for my own continued pathway in seeking to search out authentic and effective ways to be a stronger catalyst for more significant social change/justice for the future as already touched on before in my most recent commentary.
I do however remain of the view that most of Newen’s work did cement for me the correct perspective in self-love and embracing the love of god as being the beloved -needing to be harnessed in our society with its much more critical and negative viewpoint. This is especially true of the view where we need to live our lives for others (those who are significantly oppressed with a poorer self-esteem/loss of love)-and in this way we can then empower others to hopefully have a more meaningful and positive view and experience of their own lives.
I would like to wish all the participants a very Happy and Blessed New Year. I would also like to thank-Henri Newen and his subject Fred for the publication of this book-which has helped me to think more widely on the subject and tap into other ways of contemplating deeper psychological/ spiritual concepts in a light and easy way to read and understand. I thought that Newen was a master of language in his ability to express difficult concepts in a way that could be easily understood. I found Fred to be an interesting character with a much more given ability to respond to Newen’s love for him and genuine interest in his life with his commentaries about the secular response as being a thought-provoking one showing also the measure of the man in Newen; where he had the courage to publish Fred’s views in this regard, where it was not the type of response that I was expecting from Fred. At least Fred was honest and Newen being the forever gentleman- loving and considerate person that he was must have enriched Fred’s life as he did too for me as his student of the past five weeks.-God Bless.
Some thoughts on the Epilogue:
In ten days my wife and I will begin the Confirmation preparation in-home sessions for a group of eight young people that will receive the sacrament later this year. They will be looking for answers to some of the same fundamental questions that Fred and his secular friends are concerned about: “Who is God? Who am I? Why am I here? How can I give my life meaning?” And much like Henri, “I feel within myself a deep-rooted resistance to proving anything to anybody.” But what I have learned is that I don’t need to “prove” anything. It is enough for Dawn and I to share our experience of God’s love with the young people–and that the best (the only?) way to do so is to share the story of Jesus with them. We are comfortable sharing our faith and the great story of Jesus in all it’s majesty with these wonderful young people. However, I am also learning that simply joining the faith journey of those seeking Confirmation may not be enough.
As Henri wrote, “Maybe the great challenge is to trust so much in God’s love that I don’t have to be afraid to enter fully into the secular world and speak there about faith, hope, and love.”–about Jesus. This is much tougher for me to contemplate and act on.
Here is where we complete the circle. Fred did enable Henri to write what believers in Washington and London (and those of us in the on-line discussion this Advent) needed to hear. And his friends posed the question, “Couldn’t you just be happy with that?” I believe that Henri’s answer today would be “No, that’s not enough. God used my secular friends to help me teach searching Christians that they are God’s Beloved. Now, those Christian disciples are to “trust so much in God’s love” that they are willing to be sent on a mission into the secular world to “preach the Gospel” by living the life of the Beloved and telling the story of Jesus.” I am called to be one of those disciples and I pray that I will have the strength to say “Yes” in answer to the call.
A final thank you for making this a most worthwhile Advent.
Sincere thanks to all who contributed to this book study. It was the most reflective Advent I have had in my memory. I will join you for the Lenten journey!
Brynn, would you consider additional book studies- maybe once per quarter.? I am so impressed with your guidance and the loving participation of the community. Much fruit has been borne! Blessings to all during this Christmas season.
I second Todd’s request for additional book studies. This has been such an enriching Advent for me. I am sad that the study has concluded. Thank you to all that shared so many deep feelings and those that prayed for all that were participating in this study.
I wrote 17 Christmas letters to my family telling them they are the “Beloved”. At times it is difficult to express your faith, feelings and love to those closest to you. The words may have seemed strange to some who are very ingrained in the secular world, but after praying for each person the right words seemed to just what they needed to hear. Thanks for the courage to be the “Beloved ” for my family that I love so very much. God Bless all of you!
the words seemed to be what each person needed to hear.
I will respond, not for Brynn, but as a participant in a number of these discussions over the past few years. The Henri Nouwen Society, with Brynn as the facilitator, did hold an additional Summer session in the recent past. As I recall, it did not garner the same level of participation as do the Lent and Advent discussions.
That having been said, I would also be a willing participant should additional discussions be scheduled.
Thanks to all.
It is wonderful to hear about all the fruit that is borne through these discussions. Of course Henri gives us so much food for thought, and then each of you bring this community to life!!
There will be a Lenten book discussion, most likely beginning on March 5th, 2014, so watch your email for that announcement. As to a summer discussion, perhaps we’ll wait and think about that after the Lenten discussion. As Ray mentioned, the summer discussions tend to have less participation.
Thanks, Brynn. I will look for those future discussions.
I was actually uplifted by Henri’s inability to convince Fred because of his deeply humble conclusion on pp.147-8: “Maybe the place where the gap has to be bridged is within me.” The sacred and secular are “aspects of every person’s experience of being human.”
I believe the secular, as hesitancy to embrace the sacred, stems in large part from the lack of an adequate theodicy, especially as suffering and evil increase and we approach or are already in the end times. Why so little discussion of this? In my area the Protestant laity and pastors all believe we are in the end times/ the hard transition to the Parousia, and are supporting each other in hanging on. It is the same with many of the Eastern Orthodox theologians I have been studying. My calling over the last few years has been loud and clear: to write an updated theodicy so people can reconcile with the idea of a loving God. This means looking at the worst of our tribulations, especially the untold suffering and die-offs from the ongoing spread of Fukushima radiation: http://www.enenews.com. And finding a way to trust that this is part of God’s plan for creation.
So this retreat has helped me to hang on as I do this hard work, and I thank Brynn and
our participants beyond saying. The level of both sophistication and faith has been extraordinary.
In his highly acclaimed Catholicism Fr. Robert Barron offers a profound and deeply moving presentation of the Problem of Evil in the third program “The Ineffable Mystery of God.” He concludes his discussion this way:
“Still unsatisfied? Good. Though all these images, perspectives, and insights are illuminating, none finally “solves” the problem of reconciling a loving God and a universe marked by great cruelty. For the Christian faith, the only adequate “resolution” of this dilemma is the one effected by God himself on the cross of Jesus Christ. On that cross, the darkness of the human condition met the fullness of the divine love and found itself transfigured into life. On that cross, God went to the limits of godforsakenness and made even death itself a place of hope. God, in his love becomes the answer to the problem of evil.”
You can see the complete nine minute segment addressing “The Problem of Evil” by following this link.
To bring this back to Henri and our Advent journey, God shares his love (note: the same love that is the answer to evil) with each of us by calling us the Beloved. And we each have the choice–in every moment of every day–to answer “Yes” or “No” to God’s call. As was mentioned by Chuck in an earlier post, the Blessed Mother serves as the preeminent example by her response “Let it be done…”(Fiat in Latin) or “Yes” to freely accept God’s invitation to bear the Messiah.
May each of you be blessed in the New Year.
Yes/and..it seems appropriate to conclude this discussion with the ideas about saying yes to God. I am also reminded that it is how we carry that yes with us that speaks the loudest to those who may be looking to us as models of living a “Life of the Beloved.” I think St. Francis of Assisi said something like, “preach the gospel, use words when necessary.”
I’m thinking Fred saw that “yes” in Henri and wanted to understand it and learn from it with his rational mind. Perhaps that is what generated his request to write something for him and his friends. What I’m finding for myself is that I, too, want to understand that “yes” rationally, but it is really my heart that needs to soak up the affirmation of God’s love for me.
Coincidentally, much of what was written in this book and was written in these reflections spoke directly to my heart. For that I am blessed and grateful.
Christine, you raise the “yes” as Ray did above. We know that we should say “yes” to God as we navigate through the secular, but don’t you think it is easier said than done? In other words, sometimes isn’t it difficult to discern what it is we must say “yes” to in order to conform to God’s will? We have the desire, but sometimes lack the knowledge to do so appropriately. It’s a difficult world out there.
Chuck, I agree that is very difficult to discern exactly what it is God is willing for me. Since I’ve retired and moved to a smaller community I have been wrestling with that question, “what next?” For me, I think God is patiently nudging me as I think he knows I need to grow in trust and faith and love. I know I need the time to regain some of those things, and I’ve been blessed with lots of quiet time for prayer and study, a supportive and loving family, and with a very welcoming local Catholic church that literally has told me “welcome home” after many years of wandering far from her doors.
It’s hard to explain, but I feel as if I’ve been set on a new path which is a lovely path and I am excited about the journey, but I know I need some rest stops for nourishment along the way if I’m to complete the journey. I’m also learning that joining others that I meet along this path helps me stay focused on the way forward. I’m not sure what is waiting for me around the corner, but I know if I keep walking I’ll get where God intends me to be.
I’m thankful for having been able to join with fellow travelers here for this leg of the journey. I’ve learned a lot and been uplifted by the sincerity and love that has been shared. It really is quite amazing to be able to share the gift Henri offered with the others here.
Christine, I am so very happy for you that you have found a welcoming Catholic Church. As Catholics, we have something very special in the Eucharist, and in the Mass itself. As such, you have the greatest companion on your journey, Jesus himself. I wish you the best not only in 2014, but beyond. Take Care, and God Bless.
I thank Byrnn and everyone for your heartfelt comments.
I have been on the sidelines yet very morning I have been journeying with you all. Knowing how much your sharings have affected me makes me realize how much my life, my choices, my own reactions and comments affect another whom I encounter. I do not have to do anything; I just have to be God’s beloved. I must trust that God is acting through mer and I am not in charge of any outcome. With each encounter I want to choose to radiate this knowing — that I and you are beloved. I want to honor this by resisting all the many temptations of self rejection. This is daily a daily challenge for me. Living alone it is so easy to fall into self pity. Each morning I want to choose to say yes to God’s love and not be afraid of His will for me.
Until we meet again,
Pace e Bene,
Thinking about how we say ‘yes’ to the call of being sent as the beloved, I was struck by how Henri describes his attempts with Fred to listen deeply and not be defensive. That has really made me think, and inspired me to hold this as a way of being in every day life. Too often I react when feeling hurt or upset, but having immersed myself in this book and the sense of being the beloved, I realise that if I am truly rooted in God’s love, then that will allow me to truly and deeply listen to the other without focussing on my own needs, or hasty reactions.
I also was struck by how Henri saw that God had used Fred to enable him to write the words which others needed – there is a letting go of ‘will’ and allowing God’s mysterious will to take direction. And also a beautiful reminder that every single person is loved and cherished by God, not just those who know of God or believe.
Thankyou so so much for this wonderful exchange of reflections. I have really enjoyed it, and will treasure all that has emerged as I go into this next year.
Marianne and Ray were both impressed by the way Henri identified the spiritual life with the simple but everyday “yes” to God and our own identity as God’s Beloved in Jesus. (Page 133, 2013 edition)
I would like to join them in finding power in this. With this exploration, Henri closes the loop of the book for me, for two reasons. First, the subtitle of the book is “spiritual living in a secular world” after taking us into some of the heights and depths of the human condition equips us to understand that spirituality is this yes to God, which he earlier reminded us takes a lot of work to do. Second, in the first chapter (page 31) Henri tells us that the greatest risk we run is self-rejection. And so by saying yes to God we can affirm ourselves as created to be Beloved.
Our spirituality still can be so other-worldly at times. Henri brings us to the yes of the moment….and the moment is never disconnected from the eternal!
Thanks to Byrnn and all for this experience of community. Peace be upon you.
I read through the last chapter and epilogue, but then went back and just picked out some random pages to review, and suddenly realized how much is packed into the last few pages of this book! To be honest, I’m not sure where to start. When I first went through this book I thought it was very open and honest of Henri Nouwen to share in the epilogue what he sees as a failure to convey his message to Fred and his friends. On the other hand, it illustrates the disconnect between the spiritual and the secular. We all know how difficult it can be to converse with someone wrapped up in the secular world, while we try our hardest to pursue a spiritual life as we navigate through the secular world. Henri Nouwen makes a good observation when he talks about being resistant to prove “anything to anybody.” He said that he doesn’t want to say to people that they need God to live a full life. Instead, he speaks of only saying that for him, it is God that calls him the Beloved, and that he has a desire to express to others how he tries to become more fully what he already is. Having had conversations with young folks who have grown up with no faith, I understand how difficult it can be to speak with them about religion and faith. They may have a desire for something more, and may be seeking something bigger than themselves, but they are starting at square one, and have a long way to go. What I come away with here is that we should simply go out into the world and do our best to live out our lives as authentic children of God, and provide an example for others. Maybe if they see something in us, the way we live out our lives, something different from what they are used to seeing, yet something they desire, will they begin to ask more questions of us and give us an opportunity to bring them along on their own path to God. After all, we do not know what path God has provided for them. That path may, and probably is, much different than ours.
Thanks to all for this Advent conversation. It helped me see that I am God’s beloved. But I have to say the thought of being sent is frightening. I much prefer to have my own goals and my own plans and to hope that God endorses them and then I could say that God blessed me. I struggle with considering that God might have a plan that feels too risky to me. But feeling beloved? Oh yes I do, and that gives me great comfort. And I enjoy being on the j0urney with others. I am at peace with that mystery and the daily journey.
Thanks Ed, as I read your comment on being sent I am reminded that I often pray the “Our Father” saying “your kingdom come, your will be done” while usually hoping at least to some extent “my kingdom come, my will be done”!
What a Christmas day I had! I was not really feeling it at all this season. It really struck me that I am the beloved and that we are all the beloved at mass today. I realise how easy is it for me to get caught up in the voices of this world, and how I reminders of being the beloved.
When I think about being sent into the world, I want to be able to return with my story, as Henri says on page 138-9. We all have our stories to tell. Now we are sent into the mission fields to live as the Beloved.
Thank you so much for this oportunity. God bless all of you. Thank you Brynn. Thank you Beloved Henri. May God bless you in eterninty.
I want to add my Christmas greetings and heartfelt thanks to Brynn and to everyone that participated in some or all of this wonderful Advent journey. This was at least the second and perhaps the third time I have read Life of the Beloved and it was by far the most meaningful for having shared the experience with each of you.
Here is my takeaway from the last chapter: “The change of which I speak is the change from living life as a painful test to prove that you deserve to be loved, to living it as an unceasing “Yes” to the truth of that Belovedness… That is the spiritual life: the chance to say “Yes” to our inner truth… And at every point of the journey there is the choice to say “Yes” and the choice to say “No.”
There is that word again–choice. God created each one of us with our individual gifts and talents–and he calls each one of us Beloved. We each have the choice to accept our call and to share our gifts and talents to build up God’s community, the Church. God has a plan; we have a choice. Participating in this Advent journey with Henri Nouwen and you has increased the likelihood that I will choose wisely in the years ahead. Thanks to each of you for sharing your Belovedness.
A closing thought. This evening my wife Dawn and I watched the 1954 classic Christmas holiday movie, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. One of my favorite songs from the show is the Crosby-Clooney duet “Counting my Blessings” with this refrain: When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep, and I fall asleep counting my blessings. A very simply lyric that means more to me now than it would have before we read this book together. To “count my blessings instead of sheep” is to choose to accept that I am the Beloved and if I make that choice then the peace that only God can give will comfort me as I “fall asleep counting my blessings.”
I look forward to joining many of you in the Henri Nouwen Society’s Lenten book discussion.
Thanks again to each of you. May God grant you peace.
Hello Ray, you make an excellent observation, and one that has profound implications. You said that “And at every point of the journey there is the choice to say “Yes” and the choice to say “No.”” Every moment of our life we have that choice, to serve God, or to serve the other. And I am talking about life in general, as we go through this secular world. Just because we operate in the secular world does not mean we cannot be saying “yeses” along the way and serving God. Ray, you speak of the “yes” and I am reminded of Mary’s “yes” at the annunciation. She had a choice, but she chose to do God’s will. She could have said “no.” But she didn’t. Out of her own free will she said “yes.” We never know when our time will be up. And in the closing of the Hail Mary when we ask Mary to “pray for us now and at the hour of our death,” I sincerely hope she does so in that last hour, if in no others, I am making choices for God and saying my own “yes.”
I am sitting here quietly on Boxing Day aware that the day after we celebrate the Incarnation, liturgically we fast forward several decades, skipping over the 30 or so years of life lived by Jesus, to the feast of St Stephen, the first “martyr”. Then I read that the original Greek meaning of “martyr” means “witness”. Now this makes a bit more sense. If I know myself as “belvoved” then my life will be a witness to this, as Henri’s was. While Henri seemed discouraged at Fred’s response, Fred was changed, as have many, many others, across the world and across time, who have been changed by Henri’s witness to his knowing himself as God’s beloved.
I know that for me, coming to see myself as Beloved, took many years- I was about 50 before I could name the experience, but once I became aware, my life changed. Initially I loved the feeling my belovedness, even though at times it scared me a bit. Then I realised that those I interacted with and in fact every human being, every living creature and all of creation were also God’s Beloved. Now this then dramatically changed the way I interacted with each person and how I viewed the world. And I believe it changed others around me and continues to change them and will into the future.
It was this transformation that then opened me up to hear the call to prison ministry, to say yes to God’s seemingly bizarre invitation and to be a witness of love, of the incarnation, within and beyond prison. I could not do what I do if I did not truly believe that I was beloved, that the inmate sitting with me- made in the image and likeness of God- is the beloved, and that those who administer the system (with which I have many concerns) are also the beloved.
I want to thank everyone for the great gift that this book study and discussion has been for me. Henri may not have seen his hopes for Fred fulfilled as he completed his book, but he has had and continues to have a profound impact on so many. I am so thankful!
Merry Christmas! I also want to thank you all for this beautiful experience of sharing our thoughts and heart guided by Henri Nouwen. Thank you Brynn for those special questions that came from above. We are not the owners of the results of our work. I think that´s the reason of the feeling of failure in Henri at the end of the book. We have to plant the seed and someone else will appreciate the fruits. We have to be fruitful, not successful. I learned that from Henri Nouwen. After his death we can see that what he planted is growing, even if he did´t notice that in his time.
It’s easy to believe that Jesus came to the world for me, and the thought of me being “sent” into the world is a very warm and affirming thought. It makes me wonder about other people with a similar up-bringing who have not claimed their life as the beloved and whether they are sent too or not.
I must say, though, I love the thought of being sent and I’m grateful for faithful parents who modelled life as “being sent.” They dragged us to services in the Senior’s centres and encouraged us to use our gifts at every turn in the church whether it was swinging a hammer on a building project or playing organ for Sunday Service. We shared what we had with members of our small faith community in many ways.
I have gone on small mission trips to Central America and we tend to think of those as the ultimate “yes” to the truth of God’s belovedness. What I can tell you is what I experienced. It is far easier to be a light in those communities than it is at home. Here in North America where people are anesthetized by their wealth – where they can insulate themselves from almost any challenge with money is where living the “yes” is the most difficult. Knowing our own culture and the temptations that exist here make me more effective in being a light. Hopefully!
Bonnie, the epilogue made me feel encouraged because if Henri Noewen can’t evangelize a person with his writing, there is no way I could! I don”t know of another person who has/had the ability to explain the grace and freedom that we receive in Christ! I remember reading “Reaching Out” when I was in College and how it reignited an inner desire in my heart to know Christ.
I hope you all have a peaceful Christmas and I hope you all experienced the centring effect that this book study has on me. Thank you Brynn for your questions and sharing too. It’s very comforting to see some of the same names come up year after year on this Blog. We are our own little faith community. : )
Thank you Brynn for your leadership and to all for candidly sharing. I decided to spend this Advent listening more than speaking and have acquired a lot from many of you!
A few years ago when finally grasping that I am a Beloved child of a God who loved me unconditionally, and thus I didn’t have to do anything for that love, opened up new horizons and made it a little easier in many areas in life’s journey. It was also a very important foundation for me to let go of what any others thought of me. I just had to live my life and make decisions according to what I believed was the will of God and thus not worry about “public opinion”.
Wishing you many blessings during this Season of HOPE, JOY and PEACE. Joy is not the absence of suffering but the presence of God! For those not in a “fall a mood” due to heaviness due to loss or anything else, my prayer for you as I sit here in the presence of The Lord is for you to feel His Presence this Christmas and beyond…..
I, too, believe this is a great book. This section on living as the beloved, especially on page 134, “When feeling lonely and feeling at home both hold a call to discover more fully who the God is whose children we are, these feelings are more united than they are distinct.” and even more profound “When finally, both living and dying bring us closer to the full realization of our spiritual selfhood, they are not the great opposites the world would have us believe they are, instead two sides of the same mystery of God’s love.” Henri Nouwen has such a beautiful way of expressing Christianity and I find that, beyond feeling the comfort that I am with him in his vision, my Christian walk with Jesus, that at the same time I can be with other people and not be despairing when they seem lonely or otherwise burdened because I am constantly being led to be able to see the “two sides of the same mystery of God’s love” and the hope that comes from that vision. Especially, my need is to reread the chapter on “Taken” and the disciplines Henri Nouwen sets forth–his emphasis on disciplines really impacted upon me, too often I let my life get “cluttered up” with too much that is only coming from the world or my own inclination to become lax once again and need to realize again and again the importance of the disciplines that he outlines for living in a world where we need to stay Christ-centered and strong for relating to all the many people we have/are/will love and the challenges of that. As the new year, 2014, starts may you, Brynn, and all the people participating in reading this book be blessed in every way. Merry Christmas to you all and I look forward to the Lenten book selection when that becomes available.
Reading the epilogue made me feel a bit of discouragement for Henri and for all of us. It is a reminder that we alone cannot explain the mystery of Christ. Words will not do it. Even love with not do it. Only the working of the Holy Spirit will do it. I once laughed with my parish priest about not being very good at evangelizing, as I had not influenced my husband of many years to convert. He just looked at me and said “That’s not your job.” It was a relief for me. Although I hadn’t ever tried to “convince” or “persuade “my husband to accept my beliefs, I had thought that perhaps I should have been more forceful. I then realized that maybe showing my God to others by the joy and the peace I receive from being the Beloved is what I need to do.
These lines from p 146 really speak to me: I feel within myself a deep-rooted resistance to proving anything to anybody. I don’t want to say ‘I will show you that you need God to live a full life.’ I can only say ‘For me, God is the one who calls me Beloved, and I have a desire to express how I try to become more fully who I already am.’ But beyond that I feel very poor and powerless.
This is a great book and it was a privilege and a blessing to be able to share it with all of you. Thank you, Brynn, for the beautiful blessing from Numbers. May you all have a Blessed Christmas.