Dec 16 to Dec 22: Family, Relationships, & Who We Are

Reading: Here and Now, Chapter IX to Chapter XI (p. 155 to 200)

Our true identity is that we are God’s children, the beloved
sons and daughters of our heavenly Father… We are
God’s beloved… because God freely chose us.
Here and Now, Who We Are, Two (p. 189) & Three (p. 192)

Thanks, once again, to each of you for joining us and participating in this meaningful and Spirit-filled Advent journey.  All of us, whether commenting online or not, have all been greatly blessed by the thoughtful and inspiring responses to Henri’s meditations on living in the Spirit.   According to Henri, “If we truly  believe that God loves us with an unlimited, unconditional love, then we can trust that there are men and women in this world who are eager to show us that love.  But we cannot wait passively until someone shows up to offer us that friendship.”  (p. 184)  We who belong to this loving and supportive Advent virtual community have chosen to believe in God’s love, to  trust in each other, and to gather together and share with each other here and now.  We are grateful for your presence, your participation, and your friendship.

In the Introduction post as we began our discussion, Nouwen archivist and editor Gabrielle Earnshaw’s  observed, “Here and Now is Henri Nouwen’s statement of faith. It covers almost everything he ever thought and experienced about the Christian spiritual life.”  During the past few weeks Henri has shown us key aspects of living a spiritual life, often focusing on actions we can take and disciplines we can adopt. This week Henri asks us to reflect on the importance of healthy relationships–with family and those we choose as friends. He writes, “All human relationships… are meant to be signs of God’s love for humanity, as a whole and each person in particular.”  That leads to the concluding chapter where Henri poses the question, “Who are we?”  His compelling answer, shown in the quotation at the top of this post, is central to his understanding of the spiritual life. Discovering the truth of who we are, believing that truth, and living in that truth and sharing it with others is what it means to live a spiritual life.

There’s much to reflect on in the readings this week.   You are especially encouraged to prayerfully consider your answer to the question “Who are we?” in light of Henri’s meditations. The reflection process from prior weeks is shown below.  We look forward to you sharing whatever touched your heart to the extent you are comfortable. Finally, all comments are welcome be they long or short, simple or complex, or from a regular commenter or someone commenting for the first time.

Let’s have a blessed discussion this week and don’t forget to return next Sunday for the Afterword and a chance to wrap up our Advent journey together.

Peace and all good.


Here is a process that you might find helpful as you explore the readings.

  1. Concentrate on one chapter per day.
  2. Read all of the meditations in the selected chapter in the order presented to gain insight into Henri’s approach to this element of the spiritual life.
  3. Select a few (perhaps 2 or 3) of the meditations that stand out to you, and read them thoroughly, perhaps several times and reflect on what they are saying. Consider:
    1. The thought or concept that stands out to you
    2. How does it relate 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?  Henri turned to scripture daily and that is reflected in many of these meditations.  You might find it fruitful  to seek out  the Scriptural truths that Henri mentions or that God is speaking to your heart.
    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 apply this element to strengthen your spiritual life?
    5. Pray!
    6. You might also consider the questions in the Guide for Reflection (p. 203)
  4. Move on to another chapter.

60 Replies to “Dec 16 to Dec 22: Family, Relationships, & Who We Are”

  1. We read on page 194, from chapter 11-Who We Are, section 4-No Victims of Clock Time the following:

    “Each time we claim for ourselves the truth of our belovedness, our lives are widened and deepened.”

    Such astounding words. We are so easily caught up in the limitations of our personal perspectives on any topic we can allow our minds to roam. We can become judges making decisions on what is right and what is wrong. In so doing our lives are drawn into ever narrowing ways limiting our freedom to frolick in the fullness of God’s love. In Psalms 18:36 we read:

    “You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn”

    As Henri Nouwen shows us we let loose of our narrow ways, which hobble us or sprains our ankles lessening our desire to go beyond where we now find ourselves, as we claim or return to the place of realization that we are beloved by God. From this place God does broaden our lives and our limitations of personal perspectives give way to vast open spaces God draws us toward.

    As the Jewish theologian, Abraham Joshua Herschel states in his book titled “God in Search of Man” he explores the topic of awe as follows:

    “The meaning of awe is to realize that life takes place under wide horizons that range beyond the span of an individual life or even the life of a nation, a generation, or an era.”

    “The danger begins when, completely caught in one perspective, we attempt to consider a part as the whole.”

    “Awe, is the sense of wonder and humility , inspired by the sublime or felt in the presence of mystery.”

    Henri Nouwen encourages us to realize that our real identity is rooted in God’s everlasting love. And to understand that our “clock time”, the time we live now in the world, is not all that there is to live. He says when we look from below we become preoccupied with the outworking of the present but when seen from above that our present is “embedded in the timeless embrace of God”. Oh God, please draw us ever more into your embrace so that your everlasting love floods us to overflowing, where your love surrounds us in each step of our lives.

    1. May God’s love support us in each step… Above, below, before, behind. on the left and right. Thinking of St Patrick’s Prayer asking for surrounding love of God. We may suffer myopic vision…don’t see the Big Picturecaught up in a narrow view. How often do I need to remind myself that God is bigger than what I can see. I’m surely in need of guidance to keep on the broad path… don’t want to turn my ankle. I’ve sprained my ankle more than once. It’s very painful.

      1. Another picture of living in the tight places is living in the ruts. I have been in Nebraska and Wyoming seeing the wagon wheel ruts from the Oregon Trail Crossings in the 1800’s. The ground has hardened leaving the ruts intact. You can see them when flying over them. The wagons which followed after the ones that made the crossing just found a rut and remained in it. The horses and oxen pulling the carts were confined in their pulling of the wagons in a direction forward with the wheels confined to the ruts served as the rudder.

        Likewise we have the potential in not being able to discover the wonder of God’s mysterious broad places beyond our comprehension if we choose to remain in the old, established and settled ways. May God bless us to ever be searching beyond what we now know and experience and not settle into the ruts of a journey.

    2. I, too, have found much wisdom and beauty in Abraham Joshua Herschel’s writing. Both he and Henri extend our focus to the beyond. Your post helped me see how they both look above and past time. It has been some time since I’ve read Herschel’s words –I think one of his books will be part of my new year. I love his book, “The Sabbath.”

      1. Patricia,
        At the recommendation of a colleague, I just bought his book, “The Sabbath.” After seeing your comments, now I am even more eager to read it!

  2. I liked this quote: “Our inner life often looks like a banana tree full of jumping monkeys!” (from Who We Are) I was also impacted by Henri’s earlier account of Mother Teresa’s answer (spending an hour adoring her Lord). It’s so hard to carve out time to be quiet; I’ve lost some of the drive to do so that I had in my college years. But a few more minutes each day remembering Who I Am would likely save me a few hours jumping around my monkey tree 🙂

    1. That monkey image is a good one for getting me to “stop and smell the roses” or just to take a snippet of time for a word with God. One short prayer I like is “Lord, have mercy on me.” There are many favorite verses from Psalms that I know by heart which I use for prayer. Awhile ago I wrote them on index cards to memorize. Guess now you can collect them and use as wallpaper on you phone or computer. I am grateful for he daily messages from Henri that come to my email. How often the words speak to my life situation. Yes, an hour adoration time means taking a chunk of time, not easy with a work schedule. Yet those short sacred spaces daily are precious gifts.

  3. I like the imagery Henri Nouwen uses with a tent in chapter 10-Relationships, section 5, pages 182-183 as follows:

    “God calls man and woman into a different relationship. It is a relationship that looks like two hands that fold in an act of prayer. The fingertips touch, but the hands can create a space, like a little tent. Such a space is the space created by love, not fear. Marriage is creating a new, open space where God’s love can be revealed to the ‘stranger’: the child, the friend, the visitor. This marriage becomes a witness to God’s desire to be among us as a faithful friend.”

    I have done a lot of tent camping over the years. I once was a Boy Scout Scoutmaster for five years. So, tents are something I enjoy. The tent itself is in the elements both harsh and pleasant. Tents encounter the blunt of wind, rain, hail, snow, etc. Both the tent and the people in the tent together weather out the storms. They do not find a way to escape them. Inside of the tent we may be “safe” to some extent from the elements but we are sill observing them with our senses. However, the inside of a tent even with the pounding rain and the wind whipping the canvas we find some respite. We don’t get as wet even though some water may find its way in. Henri Nouwen calls being found inside of the tent as being in a sacred place. Something transpires in us where our focus is not directed on the natural elements or the calamity of life but we find a rich communion with God and with others we are married to. I think we can expand this sacred place beyond a marriage to the kindredness found in friendship.

    What do we experience in this sacred place?

    In the Apocrypha (NRSV) from Tobit 13:10 we read:

    “Acknowledge the Lord, for he is good, and bless the King of the ages, so that his tent may be rebuilt in you in joy.”

    In Psalms 104:2 we read:

    “He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent.”

    In Isaiah 54:2-3 we read:

    “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes, for you will spread out to the right, and to the left…”

    Back to the question of what do we experience in the tent, in the sacred space? JOY. And a joy which is forever increasing and expanding. The influence of the storms of life diminish as joy increases. Added to joy Henri Nouwen includes love which dispels fear.

    Helen M. Lemmel (1863-1961) wrote the following chorus for her song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”:

    Turn your eyes upon Jesus
    Look full in His wonderful face
    And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
    In the light of His glory and grace.

    I think Helen knew something about the sacred place of tents.

    1. While I was a Girl Scout, my camping was relegated to the backyard where we put up a tent for the excitement of sleeping outside. One night my older sister came home from work late, armed herself with a lighted candle, stuck her hand between the flaps and started making scary sounds! Right away I recognized her hand and began laughing along with my camp companion. My image of a tent as a sacred space is based on OT verses about the tent as a tabernacle or place of prayer. The phrase tent of meeting is used in the Old Testament, specifically in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, as the name of a place where God would meet with His people, Israel. The “tent of meeting” was used as another name for the Tabernacle of Moses
      before the tabernacle was constructed, God met with Moses in a temporary tent of meeting: “Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the ‘tent of meeting.’ Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. . . . As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses” (Exodus 33:7, 9).
      Paul, the writer of Hebrews, make a distinction between a heavenly tent and an earthly tent, between what was “built by human hands” and what is “not part of this creation” (2 Corinthians 5:1; Hebrews 9:11). Hebrews 9:1–10 describes the earthly tabernacle, or “tent of meeting,” as a place into which the priests would go to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. Christ is shown to be a better “high priest” who entered once through the “greater and more perfect tent,” referring to His body, to offer a sacrifice.

      May we make a suitable dwelling place within us as we carry the sacred presence of God wherever we go.

    2. The last chapter titled “Going Home” reminds me of the song with same title. In “Turn your Eyes Upon Jesus” song, Helen Lemmel echoes the idea of seeing Jesus face to face, all things of earth are done and how we will bask in the glory and grace of God. There are many whose loved ones have gone to meet the Lord and will not be at the Christmas dinner table. Yet we know they are sharing in the Bread of Heaven.
      Hear the song: Going Home

      1. Yes, both the song “Going Home” that you provided a link to and the section of “Hearing and Now” titled “Going Home” (pages 198-202) speaks of the open door to be found ushering us into the embrace of God more than the embrace we now find ourselves in. Thank you for sharing this song.

  4. It’s another week of thoughtful sharing and meaningful dialog. It’s a privilege to be here with you.

    This article for the third week of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) in The Dialog, the newspaper of the Diocese of Wilmington (Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore), includes several of Henri’s quotes about joy taken from Here and Now. I thought you would reading the piece.

    Thanks to Will Finlay at the Henri Nouwen Society for finding and sending this along.

    Peace and all good.

    1. Thank you for sharing this Ray. I appreciated reading about Pope Francis’ encouragement to be found in joy even when the storms of life rage as stated from the article as follows:

      “Well, even then we are encouraged to remain in joy, says Pope Francis. In an Angelus address for Gaudete Sunday last year, he encouraged us to remain joyful “even when things do not go according to our desires. Anxieties, difficulties and sufferings permeate our lives, and so many times the reality around us seems to be inhospitable and arid, like the desert in which the voice of John the Baptist resounded, as the Gospel of today recalls.”

      I think a challenge for us is determining which eyes we use to discern the surrounding calamities of life. Through our natural eyes or through our spirit. In Romans 14:17 (NIV) we read:

      “For the kingdom of God is (not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy) in the Holy Spirit.”

      The parenthesis above are mine and not found in direrent translations. It has been shared with me some years ago that the intent of this passage is that the kingdom of God dwells in the Holy Spirit and not circumstantial evidence we see around us. And, that as we likewise dwell in the spirit embracing communion with God that righteousness (a right relationship with God), peace and joy take root in us.

      Again, thank you for sharing this article.

  5. The “Who We Are” chapter is so vitally important to our conversation and to each of our lives, it seems to me. I want to claim my identity as God’s Beloved, as Henri calls us to do. I know he is right! But I must confess this is a daily struggle.

    It is challenging to not be distracted by linking my identity with what I do, what others say about me, or what I have (see page 188). In particular, that second one, what others say [or I think they are thinking!] about me, is especially distracting. This may occur based on what students say about me in course evaluations (I still teach part-time), what my Sunday school collogues say (or don’t say!) about my classes, or what others I meet in my daily walk say or think. This tendency or weakness detracts from my wish to claim my fundamental identity as God’s Beloved. Of course, I need to take into account positive or negative “grades” communicated from others and take appropriate action; however, I must still remember my fundamental identity.

    A key lesson: “Jesus revealed to us that we sinful, broken human beings are invited to that same communion that Jesus lived, that we are the beloved sons and daughters of God just as he is the Beloved Son, that we are sent into the world to proclaim the belovedness of all people as he was and that we will finally escape the destructive powers of death as he did” (p. 191).

    I would be interested in knowing how others here transcend this world’s temptations to identify ourselves with something other than God’s Beloved.

    If you wish to view and hear a recording of Henri’s messages regarding our true identity as daughters and sons of God, here is a YouTube video of Henri Nouwen’s 1992 sermons at the Crystal Cathedral in California:
    You may have to rewind this to the beginning. For some reason, it keeps going back to where I left off last night when listening to it, even though I listened to the rest of it today on my morning walk.

    These three sermons draw on readings in his books, including the one we are reading. I am not sure which came first, but I find it illuminating to listen to Henri’s oral message as he also communicated it in his written works. This particular YouTube video is one of a few from the Chrystal Cathedral talks. In the past, I have listened to previously published versions that were a bit longer. This one has been edited some but seems to retain the main three messages he gave.


    1. Barry,
      The link you gave works fine. As soon as I saw Henri so animated telling his large audience and me that “You are the Beloved” I was assured that he was a person infused with the Holy Spirit. Several years ago I listened to these talks but now I think I appreciate them more.
      While I believe what Henri proclaims, I am pondering how a person loved by parents who show how God loves us, can then turn so radically against every goodness taught by his parents. My friend’s 30+ old son has taken a path of dark twists and turns, from no career path to spending time playing poker in casinos. His messages to home are filled with his needs, his problems, his failures. I feel the heartbreak of his parents as they struggle to steer him off his dead end course.
      Sure help is available to him for breaking his habits but he has to want the help to change. So sad…

    2. Barry, you said,”I would be interested in knowing how others here transcend this world’s temptations to identify ourselves with something other than God’s Beloved.”
      To live life counter to our culture is not easy. The Way of Christ is not the way we hear the media tell us to live. The ads bombard us with which pill to take, which vehicle to buy, etc. in order to be happy. I think life was simpler when technology did not rule every empty space of our minds. To go against the prevailing political moods, to see injustice, or prejudice I need to see with my Third eye as Richard Rohr describes seeing as God sees.
      Henri points out that we need to accept that others are beloved of God just as we are. Wearing the lens of a Christian means we will be left out of the prevailing winds of time, but we will have Blessed Assurance that Christ is in the boat with us during stormy times. Having a perspective based on Gospel truths only happens for me when I spend time daily in the Word, Lectio brings me to conversation with the One who leads me on, step by step.
      As for what others think or say about me, I used to be concerned about the opinions of others who liked to criticize or tell me how to do it right. My “golden years” has relieved me somewhat of that weight. Not that I don’t value what others think or say, but I am able to admit when their opinions do not match mine and we can agree to disagree. I’m not too proud to learn wisdom from others such as we are here and now sharing.

      1. Liz,
        Thanks very much for your insights. I too rely on Richard Rohr to help me stay on the kingdom path as “Gods Beloved.” Also, your emphasis on developing perspectives based on Gospel truths is so important. It might mean we will be “left out of the prevailing winds of time,” as you state it, but it is the path we must try to stay on.
        Blessings to you on this cold winter day (at least where I am)!

    3. Barry,

      Thank you for sharing this video. I am in the midst of preparing a six session adult faith continuing education program for presentation in February and March in Frederick, Maryland. The working title is Henri Nouwen and A Spirituality of Living (as the Beloved). I was already planning on incorporating media clips and these talks are just what I needed.

      For those of you whom may not have followed the link yet, I highly encourage you to do so. There are three talks, each about 20 minutes long, that can be viewed separately. In fact, Henri was a highly regarded and sought-after speaker and teacher before he rose to prominence as a spiritual author. These talks present the heart of Henri’s spiritual message delivered in a passionate speaking style that was uniquely his own.

      May you be richly blessed.

      1. Ray,
        You are most welcome. Yes, I would agree that videos of Henri would seem ideal to include in your adult faith continuing education sessions.
        Blessings on this first day of winter!

  6. This is my second book study. I believe I participated a year ago October. I have felt calmness and heard much that speaks to me in this study. The story about the son with the “fuzzy girlfriend” spoke to me because I lost two sons to heroin. The big thing in substance abuse treatment is “don’t enable.” Maybe the same message in the meditation guide, ” not to intervene.” My heart tells me that this line of thought has a dead end – yes, the father needs to stay healthy, spiritually and mentally. Yet Henri talks about “chronos” and “kairos.” I believe God wanted me to be there many times when my boys suffered. The ” not to intervene” can be rule based, and be a hope that not intervening is the way to healing, “chronos” healing. As a parent, I was there with
    comfort, living with me, talking, sharing hope and despair with my sons. Henri assures me that they are with their Father today. I have a personal understanding of the struggles of people caught by addiction. Our human bodies and minds are frail. Today I do volunteer work at places set up for hungry or searching people in the very human condition of mental illness and poverty. Has Henri would want it, and as God wants it, I believe, that I am taught by them.

    1. Gretchen, I understand you continuing to share hope with your sons. I had a daughter who suffered from an eating disorder years ago. I read all the books –tough love recommendations, etc.. Yet, I found I could not go that far. I did not enable her, but I continued to share my belief that she would get through it. At times it was ugly and heartbreaking, but with two stays at a Christian treatment center and calluses on my knees, she eventually got better. I’ve often wondered if perhaps she watched me during that trying time, to see if I would give up my hope –to see if I still believed she would get well. I do know this –sometimes, in our darkest hours when hope seems to have fled, seeing that someone else still believes all will be well, keeps us going. Like your precious sons, sometimes the outcome we pray for does not happen, leaving us pain and scars, but I am certain your boys were blessed and comforted by your loving presence –they knew you were there. Looking back at that time with my own daughter, I believe that the comfort, the talks, and our shared despair were God’s gift to me. I never regretted that sharing and found comfort knowing she knew I believed in her. The part of your response that touches my heart is, “I have a personal understanding of the struggles of people caught by addiction. Our human bodies and minds are frail.” Those who have suffered much with those they love are the most caring, nonjudgmental and giving people I’ve ever met. God bless you and the work you do.

      1. Thank you so much, Patricia. I will be leaning on Henri’s wisdom, forever in this world. You shared despair with your daughter! Maybe the sense you had of her watching you is connected to the wisdom of “you are the beloved.” Knowing that you understand, without judgement, feels like an embrace.

  7. Who Are We?

    We are the chosen, everlasting, beloved children of the heavenly Father who knit us together in our mother’s’ womb. All our days were ordained before even one of them came to be (Psalm 139). We are the beloved; God’s love for us is unconditional, unlimited, and not dependent upon anything we do or do not do. Our lives are directed by the Father’s Divine wisdom and purposeful, loving discipline, preparing us to discover the joy in serving others.

    We are loved with an active love that is ever-present. When we foolishly and in false pride, seek to follow our own will, leading us to paths of destruction, we are rescued, cleansed of our foolish sin, and find comfort in God’s open arms. As the beloved, we do not need to worry about our unfaithfulness, for God is faithful even when we are not. As the beloved, we are loved with a love beyond our comprehending.

    We are comforted when darkness and suffering come. As the beloved, we can confidently and without fear that God’s will may not be our will, pray, “Thy will be done,” knowing God’s wisdom knows the depth of our need, what is best for us in our situation, and in His compassion and power, works all things for our good. As the beloved, we do not need to worry about tomorrow and the oppressive problems we face living in a fallen world. As the beloved, we know that God will help, and that He will help us until He helps, honoring His perfect timing for us.

    As the beloved, God binds us together with His other beloved children, building our faith, providing us strength in our challenges, and magnifying our joy as we learn and share together.

    As the beloved, we are redeemed with the life, death, and resurrection of God’s own perfect son –we are strengthened and comforted with the Holy Spirit living within us. Throughout eternity, we will forever remain the beloved.

  8. Henri’s thoughts regarding “relationships” (Chapter X) focus on a challenging area for many of us. We are reminded that “there is an immense fragmentation in human relationships” (p. 172). In that chapter, Henri provides many insights into these fraught human relationships as he reminds us about the limitations among all of us as we seek lasting love and try to provide it to others. As we see around us, often imperfectly!

    A central lesson, it seems to me, is Henri’s insistence that, “All human relationships must find their source in God and witness to God’s love. One of the most important qualities of God’s love is faithfulness. God is a faithful God…” (p. 179).

    Especially apt for this Advent season, Henri reminds us that this faithful God not only wants to be a God for us, but also a God with us: Jesus, the Emmanuel!

    FYI: Going back to a previous week, Henri recommended methods for helping us to focus our minds and hearts on the kingdom. He noted that, in addition to the “attentive repetition of a prayer…another [method] is the contemplation of the daily Gospel” (p. 126).

    For some time now, I have tried to set time aside to read and reflect on each of the church’s readings for the day. Also, in addition to the actual daily readings, I sometimes turn to reflections and meditations from others regarding these readings. One of those is from Pray as you go or
    Their daily reflections and prayers are not always from the Gospel for the day; sometimes they will instead focus on one of the other readings. The link I provided above should (I hope) take you to today’s (December 19) recording, which does relate to the Gospel reading of the day

    If interested, they also have an app for your smart phone (iPhone or Android). I generally use the app on my phone and listen to the daily prayer session as I go on my daily walk.

    As described on their website: “Pray as you go is a daily prayer session, designed to go with you wherever you go, to help you pray whenever you find time, but particularly whilst travelling to and from work, study, etc.
    A new prayer session is produced every day of the working week and one session for the weekend. It is not a ‘Thought for the Day’, a sermon or a bible-study, but rather a framework for your own prayer.
    Lasting between ten and thirteen minutes, it combines music, scripture and some questions for reflection.
    Our aim is to help you to:
    • become more aware of God’s presence in your life
    • listen to and reflect on God’s word
    • grow in your relationship with God
    It is produced by Jesuit Media Initiatives, with material written by a number of Jesuits, both in Britain and further afield, and other experts in the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola. Although the content is different every day, it keeps to the same basic format.”

    I hope some here might find this resource of help in our daily walk.

    1. Barry, thanks for this additional resource and for the idea that we might use it as a tool for meditative walking. I am a part of a group that practices walking meditation, and I sometimes listen to short YouTube lectures by Father Richard Rohr and others as I do morning yoga. Your resource may be a nice addition to my repertoire.
      I am sometimes still disturbed by a conversation I had with a priest who told me that it was just not possible to pray without ceasing. Although I feel he may have just meant that sometimes our minds must be totally focused on a serious or even mundane task at hand, I still feel in my deepest soul that I need to stockpile as many tools as I can to trigger an almost spontaneous spiritual response to any situation: running the water to brush my teeth, chopping fresh vegetables, watching the sunrise on my commute, giving a hug, folding laundry, laughing or crying with a friend. If I can remember that God is Emmanuel (God with us), then maybe I can move toward praying without ceasing.

      1. Elaine, I agree with your efforts to pray without ceasing. It can be challenging at times, of course. As you note, however, let us both remember on our walks and elsewhere that God is Emmanuel (God with us).
        I also listen to Richard Rohr’s YouTube lectures on my walks!

  9. The most poignant passage is “Children Are Gifts”- p. 118. When I faced the “empty nest” in 1989 as both of my children left for college ( they are twins) this meditation brought me such comfort. We must give our children their freedom— “one of the greatest acts of trust in God is letting our children make their own choices and find their own way”. So true. They belong to a God.

  10. In chapter 10 titled “Relationships” there is so much to ponder. I think at the core we see our need for intimacy with God so that we are able to be fountains of his love that is offered or witnessed to others in relationships we encounter. Without an ever deepening communion with God our roots remain partially in the fragmentation of our world. Henri Nouwen says on page 178:

    “When we live as if human relationships are ‘human-made’ and therefore subject to the shifting and changing human regulations and customs, we cannot expect anything but the immense fragmentation and alienation that characterize our society. But when we claim and constantly reclaim God as the source of all love, we will discover love as God’s gift to God’s people.”

    In one way this encourages me not to become alarmed with the fragmentation which surrounds us in our world. It tells me that this fragmentation is to be expected because not all of us desire the sweet communion that God draws us to. In another way I see God planting me in the midst of this fragmentation as a seed. Not to rail against it but to do what a seed does – break through the hard crust of the soil and grow and thrive.

    Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (NIV) says:

    “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

    Whatever grows from the seed is not alarmed with its surroundings whether harsh or pleasant, whether in calm or storms nor concerns what chooses to reside in it. It just grows. I think Henri Nouwen wants us to be like seed that God drills into the ground which thrives and extends it reach to his light as it breaks through the ground allowing others to to be nourished.

    1. I’m basking in your imagery of the seed, not alarmed by its surroundings. That shouts out “Emmanuel” God is wit us in the calm and in the storm.

      1. I agree with everything you are saying. Thank you.

        A book you may like is titled “Agape Road: A Journey into Intimacy with the Father” by Bob Mumford. It is available at Amazon.

    2. Thanks for planting this life-giving seed of hope…not to be alarmed or rail against the fragmentation, the “ shifting and changing”…but to “claim and constantly reclaim God as the Source of all love, we will discover love as God’s gift to God’s people.” Perhaps that’s what celebrating Jesus birth each year gives me opportunity to remember and embrace in the here and now, and live into a new year as I seek to…”Live confidently in the assurance that the One Who has directed our steps to this moment is worthy of our complete trust for the days ahead.” William Croft 1678-1727

      1. Hey Marge. I want to add to my earlier comments since you have spoken to not being alarmed or found railing against the fragmentation around us. I do not think that God worries about this fragmentation as we do. Our minds, eyes, and hearts easily gets caught up in the fragmentation as we make efforts to reduce it. We can be involved in our communities politically, culturally, benovently, etc. to try to smooth the rough edges of what we perceive to be injustice. Nothing wrong with this. However, change may not occur to meet our expectations and we become despondent. This is where the picture of seed comes into force for us to understand. Can we offer ourselves to causes trying to help people and not become disillusioned because the need is larger than we can correct. As planted seed we desire to nourish what God brings to us and become content.

        A larger dynamic going on beyond the needs that we see is that the confusion of this world and its fragmentation is a shaking of everything and the emergence of that which cannot be shaken. We read about this in Hebrews 12:26-29 as follows from the NIV:

        “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken-that is, created things-so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

        So, a kingdom, a new earth is emerging out of the kingdoms made by mankind with their own hands. These kingdoms are not necessarily geographical. They can be political, religious, governmental, intellectual, national, cultural, opinions and ideas, etc. The writer of Hebrews says this new kingdom and earth cannot be shaken. He tells us that observing this shaking should not alarm us but result in thanksgiving, reverence and awe for God.

        This shaking is a mystery to be perceived not with our natural eyes and inclinations for they are rooted from below and we know from reading “Hear and Now” that we have been encouraged to see from above. We need eyes and ears from our heart yielding to the ever quiet voice from our Lord to see and become rooted in this mystery of God’s shaking. As Paul shows us in Ephesians 1:9-10(NIV):

        “And he (God) made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment-to bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ.”

        Can we see that the result of fragmentation and shaking is the formation of the unity of “ALL THINGS” subject to God. For this reason we can say Amen and remain in awe towards God that the fragmentation around us is allowing the emergence of a unity, a kingdom which cannot be shaken.

        We may live out our lives and not see the unity overcoming the fragmentation in this world. Even so, this does not negate the fact that this unity is marching ever forward. Not as countries expand their boundaries or influence on this earth, but as lives changed coming into communion with the father in our/their hearts and spirits. For God’s kingdom is not one observed in this world but seen and lived in the spirit, in our hearts. Do we remember that when Pilate wanted to know about God’s Kingdom that Jesus told him:

        “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 17:30, NIV).

        Prior to this encounter he told a group of Pharisees who had asked when the kingdom of God would come he told them:

        “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21, NIV).

        Let’s pray that God quiets our minds and strike down our fears, anxieties and concerns to hear God’s voice in us pulling us into his embrace so that we are able to embrace those imprisoned within our fragmented world.

        1. Chris, thank you for expounding farther, taking me deeper into God’s word….in my own limited way, serving as church board chair through a transitional year, I get this fragmentation, shaking “is the formation of the unity of “ All Things” subject to God…to say “Amen and remain in awe towards God that the fragmentation around us is allowing the emergence of a unity, a kingdom which cannot be shaken” gives me such hope as I begin to summarize 2018 for an upcoming business meeting in the new year. Yes, today, before reading your response, Chris,, I had asked God to help me relax, practice a gentle release (Rohr, daily reading) all day long, surrendering…now adding, ”praying that God quiets my mind, and strikes down my fears, anxieties, and concerns to hear God’s Voice, so…”, praying this for my church family as well.

          Truly, God’s fullness of time (Nouwen online devotional) is at hand….thank you all!

  11. Relationships – Chapter X

    Recently, we had a terrible scare with my sixteen year old granddaughter talking to someone she did not know over social media. Thankfully, God, in his mercy and grace intervened and prevented what could have been a terrible outcome. Previous to this, I had been very concerned about the “relationships” on social media I was hearing about from even elementary and middle school students. My scare with my granddaughter made me realize it was time to share with parents what I was concerned about. I sent an honest letter to each parent, honestly explaining what happened to my granddaughter, and then explained my concerns for their children and what I have learned from 40 years of teaching. Part of that letter follows:

    “One day, during this difficult week, I sat down and listed what I believe is so important for us to remember as we guide our children and teens. I believe these truths are crucial for equipping kids with the strategies they need to handle the demands of this hectic world and form healthy relationships that are meaningful and provide safety and growth. These suggestions come from years of teaching, parenting, grandparenting, reading, and observing:

    * Always make sure you speak in a calm voice when disciplining your child and talking to them. Boys do better if you do not speak face to face –sit beside them and look straight ahead.

    * Remember, your children watch how you handle disappointment, conflict, and stress. Make sure they are seeing you handle those times the way you hope they will.

    * Pray every day. Despite doing the best you can, life in today’s world makes growing up not only hard, but dangerous.

    * I would never allow an elementary student to have access to any type of social media. Period. Social media for teens, too, has the potential for putting students at risk. We would never hand our children a loaded gun. Think about that. There are regular cell phones that enable you to communicate with your child –elementary students do not need smartphones.

    * Never assume that if your child seems to be doing great, that he or she is doing great. No one, absolutely no one, ever knows what someone is thinking. Confident outward appearances, especially smiles, can be deceiving.

    * When your child is at his/her worst, that is the time you must be at your best.

    * Allow your child to fail. There is a term called “helicopter parenting” that means hovering around your child ready to stop anything and everything that would cause the child unhappiness. Kids need to learn to handle frustration, beginning at an early age. Several years ago, my sister and I were talking about this. She said: “Parents would better serve their child if they would help him/her learn to adapt to the demands of the world instead of trying to make the world adapt to their child.” She was right. Life is hard and gets harder. Kids need to feel the uncomfortableness of problems and failure that occur on a much smaller scale when they are young. They need to talk to you and hear you ask them, “How do you think you can solve this?” What this accomplishes is powerful. You show them you have confidence in their ability to solve a problem. By listening to their ideas and talking with your child about those ideas, you help them develop the thinking that goes into growing up. As your child gets older, that practice will enable him/her to successfully solve their own problems and make decisions… it is never too late to begin this.

    * Research has proven that in teens, the emotional part of the brain is super-charged, yet the frontal cortex, which is the decision and rational part of the brain, is just forming and will not be complete until the early to mid-twenties. It can, therefore, be expected that teens will and do emotionally overreact at times and make impulsive, rash decisions as a result of their overreaction.

    * A child’s emotions are valid –they are real and are felt deeply. It is harmful to expect your child to disregard how he/she feels. Instead listen your child, acknowledge you understand how he/she feels, and talk with your child to help him/her think about different ways to handle what is causing the emotion. Explain that there are times you, too, feel sad or angry, etc..

    * Most perfectionists are girls that are often “pleasers.” Most people do not understand that being a perfectionist does NOT mean everything is always done perfectly. Perfectionists will either do things perfectly or not at all –many would rather have a “D” or “F” than a “C.” The “C” says “I wasn’t good enough” –something hard for them to accept. Perfectionists tell themselves, “Everyone will be disappointed in me. They will think I’m weak.” Surprisingly, some perfectionists believe the “D” and “F” say, “I could have done it perfectly if I had wanted to, but I just didn’t try.” The risk of trying and failing is daunting to a perfectionist.

    * True STORY about a teen girl who shared this information about her grades and her parents: “I do not try and make ‘A’s.’ If I do, and I make an 88 on a test, my parents say, ‘You need to study harder –that is a B, and you won’t keep an A on your report card,’ or if I make a 92, they say, ‘You need to study harder …a 92 is almost a ‘B.’” She went on… “There is no wiggle room for me. If I set the standard too high, I get in trouble if I don’t do well on a test. But… if I make an occasional A and make mostly B’s, they get excited about the A. So that is what I do.” Grades are important, but they are not everything.

    * I am not saying you should never discipline your children when they clearly have crossed the line. Let pre-established consequences and natural consequences do the teaching, not angry words. Lecturing never works. Saying the same thing over and over again because it helps relieve your stress, accomplishes not one thing. Say what you need to say one time in a calm voice, explain the consequences, and then move on. Don’t feel the need to bring it up again later and then again later and then again later…

    * Always listen.

    * Do things with your child, outside of sports and other group events, etc. –make time to be together without others around. Just you and your child…that’s when talking and sharing happens.

    * Tell your children and teens every day, “Always remember I love you –not your grades, not your achievements, but you. I am proud of your hard work, but you are enough just as you are.” Compliment your son/daughter’s hard work or choices that led to the accomplishment –not the accomplishment itself. This always works –the girl who became homecoming queen can be complimented on being friendly to her classmates and her involvement with different types of students.

    * Tell your children, “There isn’t and will never be anything you can do or not do, and that causes you problems, that we cannot solve together.” Don’t say this once. Say it often throughout your child’s growing up years and then follow through by showing you mean that.

    * Tell your child, “No matter how you mess up in life, I will always be here –always.”

    * “Speak to your children as if they are the wisest, kindest, most beautiful and magical humans on the earth, for what they believe, they will become.” (Brooke Hampton)

    I learn so much about life from children –joy, caring, vulnerability, bravery when you feel frightened, and the most humbling thing of all –accepting help from others when you need it. Parenting is hard, growing up is hard –especially during the teen years and in today’s world. Human beings, regardless of age, are dependent beings. We were created for relationships. Our realization that we are not truly independent teaches us to be more loving, more empathetic of others, and more willing to set aside our pride and find the comfort of another’s touch. Having problems is unpleasant, but having no problems is by far more troubling. When challenging times come our way, we often notice those around us that also are in a place of consuming worry and stress. They were there all along.

    Always remember, I care about your child.
    Patricia Hesse

    1. Patricia,
      Thank you for sharing this beautiful and wise letter. It’s advice that every parent can take to heart.

      As I read it, you are saying treat your children as if they are the beloved sons and daughters of God–because that is who they are. We strive to do that because, as Henri tells us in The Return of the Prodigal Son, we are all called to be the Father. And when we inevitably fall short as parents, we can turn to our Father, because we too are God’s beloved sons and daughters.

      To be the beloved is at the heart of a life-giving relationship.

      Peace and all good.

      1. I have given Henri’s, “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” to others and chose it for our book club to read several years ago. The section on the Father is what I go to when those I love are struggling. It keeps me from attempting to intervene and instead, reminds me of my role as a nonjudgmental, praying encourager. I love each page Henri wrote and have a large framed print of Rembrandt’s painting hanging in my dining room –when I see it, I remember…

        1. My wife and I also have a copy of Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son hanging in our main living area. And during the Advent / Christmas season the Christmas crèche is on the table immediately below it. It somehow seems fitting.


          1. Hello, Ray–
            I’ve been reading along with the group this Advent, but haven’t posted. When I saw your comment about the Rembrandt painting, I could not help but wonder just how many of us who appreciate the work of Henri Nouwen have the prodigal son painting in our homes. My wife and I were able to see the original in The Hermitage (in St. Petersburg at the time) many years ago. We purchased prints for each of our boys. My copy hung in my office until I retired. We have an enlarged copy in our living area. Guests sometimes inquire about it, offering an opportunity to tell the Good News of the Father’s love and grace. Thanks to you and all the others for the very fine comments in the discussion over the last few weeks. Blessings!

  12. Nouwen speaks of friendship, p. 158. Just sharing a gem that made its way into my heart and mind during an offering of “O Holy Night”, 2nd verse….”The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger, in all our trials born to be our friend. He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger. Behold…..” so many behold moments as I read both book and online conversation, living the ordinary in God’s time….thank you, friends of Jesus

  13. On my mother’s side of the family there are four generations of broken families, broken marriages radiating out into siblings amongst some of the generations. In my own generation amongst my siblings and some cousins this pattern continues replicating the pattern set by our parents. So much brokenness and tragedy straining relationships. I have found a great treasure with this cycle being broken in my life and my marriage.

    In Psalms 67 verses 6 and 9 serve as book ends. In verse six we read: “God sets the lonely in families and leads forth the prisoners with singing.” And in verse nine we read: “You gave abundant showers O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance.”

    We are God’s inheritance and with his abundant grace he chooses to refresh us from the parched lands we traverse. It is a blessing for us when we chose to drink from his well of life instead of the brokenness which surrounds us.

    On page 163, Henri Nouwen tells us:

    “The great mystery of leaving father and mother is, indeed, that the limited love will multiply and manifest itself wherever we go, because only so far as we leave, can the love we clung to reveal its true source.”

    Part of receiving God’s refreshment is the realization that our families ability to love us as we want them to love us is limited and probably will not satisfy our expectations. At such a juncture God’s mercy sets us in families which do not disappoint since the source of shared life is rooted in the love of God. I have been the recipient of additional friendships that have become families or communities of tremendous encouragement. Some of these friendships are deeper in communion then my own blood relations. I find myself no longer defined by brokenness in the relationships of my parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins. I can pierce through the disappointments and provide a loving heart even if it is not returned back to me. When reconciliation occurs it is a gift. If it does not occur I don’t lose my peace.

    I remember reading the following from one of the emailed daily devotions recently with Henri Nouwen’s words:

    “Whatever we do in the name of Jesus, we must always keep the peace of Jesus in our hearts. When Jesus sends his disciples out to preach the Gospel, he says: “Whatever town or village you go into, seek someone worthy and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, may your peace come upon it; if it does not, may your peace come back to you.” (Matthew 10:11-13).

    “The great temptation is to let people take our peace away. This happens whenever we become angry, hostile, bitter, spiteful, manipulative, or vengeful when others do not respond favorably to the good news we bring to them.”

    There are times when we are kind and forgiving when it is not returned. We can remain forgiving in our posture but if it does not reap a desired return we are encouraged to not allow it to effect our peace and joy. Henri does say that “a house may not deserve our peace” but to keep our peace in us regardless of being welcomed or not. When this occurs in our lives God is refreshing his inheritance.

    1. Chris, I am grateful for your generous sharing and the wisdom that you have worked so hard to attain. No doubt, your story will bring comfort to many of us who are taking this online Advent journey with you.

    2. Thanks for sharing your family brokenness. On my maternal side was a grandfather who was not a happy person, full of preduice passed down from Belfast origins. He married a Catholic my grandma Lizziewhich set sparks flying. As a result she took serious steps to practice her faith and to raise her children in that faith. Often they’d quietly leave for Sunday Mass while Gramps slept, having late runs as livery driver and then stop for brew before coming home. You can imagine the scene when they returned from church to his heavy hangover. Such events from religious difference.
      May we find unity in God’s Love.

  14. I will address a key aspect of Henri’s mediations regarding family and also focus on Ray’s encouragement to consider the question regarding “Who are we?”

    Near the end of Henri’s insights regarding “family” he considers our “worrying minds.” Certainly, this would seem a universal human condition—something he captures so poignantly as her recalls his mother who, whether he was eighteen or forty years old, would stay awake worrying until he came home and was in bed! I am sure many of us can relate to his mother’s worries.

    Henri’s final thoughts in this chapter provides good guidance regarding what we can do to worry less and have more peace: “‘Set your heart on God’s kingdom first.’ That gives us a hint as to the right direction” (p. 170).

    Additional guidance regarding how to deal with our worries, it seems to me, comes from yesterday’s readings for the third Sunday of Advent. Paul calls all of us to:
    “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be made known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7.

    This is one of those passages I have committed to memory. It helps me with the daily worries of life and, I pray, it provides a foundation for considering the question “Who are we?” Or who I am trying to be. I seek to be one that lives internally and expresses to others externally the call to “rejoice in the Lord always.” I don’t always succeed, mind you. But “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” I keep trying!

    May the peace of God enter your hearts now and forever!


    1. That passage Philippians 4,4-7 is a favorite of mine, too. In another translation from the New American Bible, worry is changed to anxiety. Seems minimal to talk about worry bc we all have these in daily life. Anxiety puts punch into the advice: do not let your worries burden you to the point of making you anxious.
      I want to be in the peace God promised. Only when I trust in God’s love will that peace guard my mind and heart.
      One other difference in the NAB wording is “gentleness” is changed to “kindness.” I’ll take either and pray that I’ll be gentle enough to show kindness.
      Reminded of saying: “If you can’t sleep, give your worries to God. God is awake 24/7.”

      1. Hello Liz,
        Good point about the differing translations, and perhaps “anxiety” might be a better word that addresses 21st century understanding and concerns. In addition to the New American Bible, the ESV, says “do not be anxious.” Moreover, in the ESV commentary, they remind us that in verses 6-7, “Paul echoes Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 6:25-34) that believers are not to be anxious but are to entrust themselves into the hands of their loving heavenly father, whose peace will guard them in Christ Jesus.” This echoes your important comments about “trusting in God’s love.”
        Thanks very much!

  15. I have spent some time pondering Henri’s reflection on “leaving.” I have been blessed by so many experiences of asking for and receiving forgiveness from God and from loved ones, of witnessing the moving reconciliations of people who suffered long-time estrangements, of reaching peace with regard to those “who have trespassed against me.” When loved ones have preceded me in death, they have left the legacy of their lives of self-sacrifice and compassion. All previous misunderstandings and impetuous words pale in comparison.
    Some months before her death, one relative suffering from a debilitating disease asked me if I knew of any family member of whom she should ask forgiveness. Despite her physical pain, she wanted to be sure that she died with her earthly house in order. What a lesson she has left about how to approach life and death.
    Even for people of faith, there is the understandable human fear of leaving behind the people and things they loved in this world. Perhaps that is just a natural consequence of being people of grateful hearts. For some reason, I am reminded of the speech of Emily, the protagonist of Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town. Emily, a beloved daughter, wife, and mother who died in childbirth, speaks from the grave to her deceased mother-in-law (and to the audience, of course) of all she has left behind. Here are some lines from the play and from Father Terrence Klein, who reflected on Emily’s words in his article for America Magazine.
    When Emily asks to recall just one day in her life, her mother-in-law advises her to choose an ordinary day. “It will be important enough,” she says. And so Emily chooses to relive her twelfth birthday: “Oh, that’s the town I knew as a little girl. And, look, there’s the old white fence. Oh, I’d forgotten that! Oh, I love it so! ” Upon seeing her parents, she says, “I love you all, everything—I can’t look at everything hard enough….. Let’s look at one another….. It goes so fast. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Good-by, Grover’s Corners…Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking…and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.”
    As Father Klein reflects, “It’s from eternity that Emily truly sees earth. Our faith is founded upon an act of recognition. Everything depends upon our ability to recognize the Christ [in all of life]. To see Christ is to perceive two things:: our need for a savior and the beauty of the earth, ready to be redeemed. What does it take truly to see? When the hearts break open—sometimes in sorrow, sometimes in the face of splendor—we see. Before returning to her grave, Emily asks the stage manager, ‘Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?”
    ‘No,” he replies, “the saints and poets, maybe—they do some.”
    May we all appreciate what we have in life, what we will leave behind, and what have to anticipate in the next life.

    1. REALIZE life while we live it? Emily asks and perhaps the answer is to “Carpe Diem” or Seize the day. Or better yet to be in the moment. How simple but yet soften difficult to live the moment. Only when we lose a loved one do we fully realize how much that person meant to us. We cannot recapture the lost moments of quality time we wished we’d spent with that person. For me, I relish the memories of those who have left this world. I like to recall their sayings, actions, advice, etc. given to me when they were alive. I think the best way I can honor the life of a deceased loved one is to carry on with the goodness that person gave while here.

  16. Leaving home, for me, took on the theme of differentiating… to be oneself in the midst of many loved ones, keeping love intact, while discerning my particular place in family. As a middle child, often the most mysterious of birth order, I took on the role of peacemaker, not so strongly opinionated, quite adaptable. However, there came a time in the early 2000’s where I experienced an end to adapting, reached my limit…it seemed, all the familiar was falling away, crumbling, crashing, creating great anxiety that had a paralyzing effect…at any rate, God in His mercy and grace broke into my world, my awareness in a new way with affirmation of unconditional love that truly did bring release from old ways of relating, new ways of living in the midst of family, community… was not a quick, once done deal, but I can honestly embrace Henri’s good word, “Only to the degree that we have broken the ties that keep us captives of an imperfect love can we be free to love those we have left as father, mother, brother, or sister and receive their love in the same way.” Truly Jesus came to set the captives free, even me…so grateful that God did not give up on me, neither can I give up on anyone else…truly “offering a safe, loving place to grow to inner and outer freedom”, “And a good gift, as a proverb says, is “twice given”. The gift we receive, we have to give again.” The love of Jesus compels me to go and do likewise in the here and now….re-gifting, yes!

  17. As each of our four children left home to start their careers I was always encouraged by remembering Hannah. Hannah left her son Samuel with the corrupt priest Eli to raise. How could a mother leave her much prayed for son with Eli and go back home without great concern for him. The key was prayer. She went home and kept him in her prayers trusting God. That is what I have always kept as my mind & heart. After all God loves our children more than we ever can

  18. Family

    I think it no coincidence that the chapters “Living in the Present,” “Joy,” “Suffering,” “Conversion,” “Disciplined Living,” “The Spiritual Life,” “Prayer,” and “Compassion” precede this one. Each is of those is vital to family. This section contains passages that seem Henri was speaking directly to me. His words reach the very core of my questions, my very being. I want to honor his words by sharing several passages exactly as they are, without a story, without a reflection –for fear of lessening their power.

    One of the most beautiful things that can happen in a human life is that parents become brothers and sisters for their children, that children become fathers and mothers for their parents, that brothers and sisters become friends, and that fatherhood, motherhood, brotherhood, and sisterhood are deeply shared by all the members of the family at different times and on different occasions.

    The tragedy of our lives is that, while we suffer from the wounds inflicted on us by those who love us, we cannot avoid wounding those we want to love.

    …we come to the painful realization that –as we had to leave our father and mother, brothers and sisters –they too have to leave us to find their own freedom. It is very painful to see those for whom we have given our life leave us, often in directions that fill us with fear.

    Being a parent is like being a good host to a stranger! …They are like strangers who ask for hospitality, become good friends, and then leave again to continue their journey.

    They (our children) belong to God, and one of the greatest acts of trust in God is letting our children make their own choices and find their own way.

    Still, the final questions was not: “How to help this unruly teenager?” but “How to prevent the father from being destroyed by his son?” …”Whatever happens to your son, you cannot allow him to take away your sleep, your appetite, and all your joy. You must claim your own talents and gifts …live a life that is fully yours.” …In this way, if the son would return, he would find a healthy father at home.

    Jesus says, “Set your heart on God’s kingdom first.”

  19. Advent/Christmas Greetings to all.
    I am John, one of the readers of many Advents & Lents past, but not a frequent sharer. As I read Chapter IX – “Family”, I was blessed by incredible feelings of gratitude for this virtual family of which I am a part. Thank you all for being there as part of my family.
    Words which touched me deeply today: “One of the most beautiful things that can happen in a human life is……that fatherhood, motherhood, brotherhood and sisterhood are deeply shared by all the members of the family (includes all of us) at different times and on different occasions. But this cannot happen without leaving.”
    This reminded me of another of Henri’s books in which he tells the story of one member of L’Arche Community (Bill, I think) whom he often brought with him to lectures etc. And when Henri had to leave L’Arche for an extended period, ‘Bill’ in frustration complained: “People are always leaving. Why do people always have to leave?” To which Jean Vanier responded: “People leave to share the love they’ve been given in this community with others.” This is what this virtual community does every year.
    This is especially poignant for me today because I will soon be leaving a seasonal retirement community which has been a source of friendship and inspiration in my journey to “Becoming the Father” as Henri so thoughtfully articulates it in “The Prodigal Son”.
    I take special comfort today in your presence and will again during Lent just before I leave this family for another to share the love and family I’ve been gifted here by God. I will also carry the gift of this virtual family in my heart as I journey on with my wife. I am so thankful for your sharing and for Henri’s words. Peace and blessings to all.

  20. Henri believes there are men and women in this world who will show us the Love of God. I believe that too and that God provides those we need as friends just when we need them. I pray for discernment in choosing friends. In Proverbs 13, ,20 we are encouraged to “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm”.

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