November 30th to December 6th: Solitude, The Invitation & The Call

Reading from Spirituality of Living: Solitude
Reading from Spirituality of Homecoming: The Invitation & The Call

Welcome to the first week of Advent!  It is an amazing community that has come together for our virtual journey toward Christmas.  Thanks to each of you for joining us and for sharing such warm introductions and encouraging support.

Last week we pondered the invitation to “create space” for God in our lives.  As many of us expressed, this is something we love to do, know we should do more often, and want to do more often.  Henri affirms to us this week that solitude is indeed a discipline and an act of obedience, but we also explore God’s heart behind this calling on our lives.

Solitude with God is “important because it’s the place in which we can listen to the voice of the One who calls us the beloved… To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of our being and permeate our whole life” (p23).  Only when we hear this voice can we truly “walk freely in this world” (p24).
a) What are some ways you are trying to prove your worth in your day to day life?  Big or small, where do you notice it?  How much of your energy does it take?
b) Think of a time, or even a moment, when you “heard” the voice of God calling you the Beloved (and please share it with us :).
c) What would it be like to live that way, knowing truly and deeply that you are the Beloved of God?  How would that change the way you experience each day?  How might it change the way you engage others around you?

In “Homecoming”, Henri shows us that we can enter into solitude by accepting the invitation and the call to follow Jesus.

In The Invitation Henri writes, “Be with Jesus. Be quiet. Listen to the one who invites you home…. By dwelling with the Lord in prayer, we can live in a hostile, violent, competitive world and be at home” (p 21).  He says we need to pray for the intimacy to know Jesus as a friend. 
a) How are you responding to the Lord’s invitation to get to know him as an intimate friend and how does that aid you in living in the world?

According to Henri, “Our response to The Call is to take small steps away from “me” toward the Lord… The secret of the spiritual life is that the person who is in touch with the Lord knows what the little steps are” (p 27).  And those “small steps” toward the One we love often bring us into solitude. 
a) What “small steps of faithfulness” are moving you ahead on your spiritual journey?

We are both so excited to hear from you all this week!  New joiners are always welcome, and, of course, feel free to share whatever comes up for you in the readings.

Ray and Brynn

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91 Responses to November 30th to December 6th: Solitude, The Invitation & The Call

  1. Lorraine says:

    a) What are some ways you are trying to prove your worth in your day to day life? Big or small, where do you notice it? How much of your energy does it take?
    When I do not keep my word clean and impeccable – in other words when I sin with my words after vowing to be Christ’s witness this day – it take energy to not beat myself up in my disappointment with myself.. I can be harder on myself instead of asking for forgiveness and acknowledging I make mistakes and moving on..this inner tension takes my focus and energy and my joy.

    b) Think of a time, or even a moment, when you “heard” the voice of God calling you the Beloved (and please share it with us :).
    After going to daily mass this morning(Friday) and finding out reconciliation was not available after mass, I went to sit in the adoration chapel and do an examination of conscience anyway. I was able to journal and God lifted the heaviness in my heart. My mothers heart want my adult children to return to church and the message I received was “it is not my job to work out the details of their return , it is my job to walk my walk faithfully so I can be a genuine witness in my faith..” I asked for forgiveness where I have failed ( my word) and our compassionate God took away the heaviness in my heart. I went desiring reconciliation to remove any distance I have made between me and God thru receiving the sacrament of reconciliation but God is so loving – he reached out and lifted my burden anyway..

    • “it is not my job to work out the details of their return , it is my job to walk my walk faithfully so I can be a genuine witness in my faith..”

      These words are so true. I have similar longings for two of our adult children. Thank you for reminding me/us of this.

    • Kim says:

      What a blessing, I have felt that at mass after the Our Father. But am also experiencing 2am wake up tp silence and a cuppa just sitting in God’s company not a lot of words etc, but a spiritual director has been guiding me to write as i am deeply wounded. Interesting that a lot of people are waking in the night and sitting silently with Jesus.

  2. Diane C. says:

    I am home from the hospital and am so grateful for all the love and light that was sent my way through this community. God did indeed send me His angels…in many forms!
    My older daughter flew in from Colorado to be with me and we talked quite a bit about the angels in our lives. They appear to me in so many ways if only I would have the eyes to see them. Lately…..in the doctors and nurses both before and after my surgery, in the love of my husband and daughters, in the care and concern of my friends, neighbors and co-workers, and in the kindness of strangers. And always…in a very special way in the wonders of nature. These ‘angels’ are all reminders of God’s love for me.
    While my daughter was home I was sharing an ‘angel story’ with her that I’d like to share with all of you as a way of showing you all how much I appreciate your love and prayers.
    Here is my story: I was raised in a dysfunctional home where love was not given unconditionally and where I was abandoned physically, spiritually and emotionally by both mother and father. The exception to this was my grandmother “Nana” who helped raised me and gave me nothing but love and kindness and caring. And yet, I was so broken that I did not appreciate my Nana and often stood by while she suffered emotional abuse from my mother. I took her so for granted and I have been haunted by guilt and regrets about this. Not long ago, my Nana was constantly on my mind and a lot of old wounds were opened up. Painful memories kept surfacing and I spent time praying to Nana for forgiveness and thanking her for all she did for me. During this time, I had a day off from work and attended the 9am mass at my church. As the priest invited us to share God’s peace with one another, a tiny little Italian grandmother, who looked uncannily like my Nana, walked over to me, looked me right in the eyes and said to me “you are a good and kind person”. I had never seen this lady before and have not seen her since and there is no one who can convince me that she was not an angel sent by God to soothe my weary soul and remind me of God’s unconditional love….and my Nana’s love and forgiveness.

    St. Francis de Sales said “Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit; for without being seen, they are present with you”

    God’s peace be with you all……we are all wounded healers.
    With love and gratefulness, Diane

    • Gilly says:

      Diane so glad you are HOME in more ways than one!! It is so good for us to share and understand our memories and experiences of dysfunctionality and how they have been healed as we look back over our lives .God was ever present and we did not even realise .BUT we do now and can confidently know all guilt and fear are wiped away in our new freedom in and with Him as his beloved.

      Praying for your continued recovery and angels
      Gilly

  3. Greetings again to everyone,

    I wanted to respond to your question about a time in my life when I felt loved unconditionally by God. These days, I often feel God’s love wash over me, but the first time was so special that it is the story I want to share here. And, like the gift that keeps on giving, this same story became current again for me, as I reached out just a couple of weeks ago to help a young friend of mine .

    For decades (those early years before my children and husband), I wondered why I jumped from relationship to relationship. I would start out delighting in showering someone with all my energy and affections, only to tire of them after a month or a year or two. They weren’t the problem. I was always a nice enough person, but I always knew there was something substantial, something important, missing in me, something that I just didn’t get.

    Even though I was told repeatedly in many different settings that God loved me (aren’t most of us told this? “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…”), the meaning of the message—how it all works on the ground—for some reason just didn’t connect for me.

    But praise God, I finally I got it.

    It was in a Bible study I attended (nearly 25 years ago now). In it, we focused for nearly eight weeks on the lesson, ‘We love, we are loved by others, we are Beloved (loved unconditionally) of God.’

    That class was an important turning point for me. In fact, my angel (whom I’ve only seen twice in my life) put in an appearance during one particular meditation to rejoice with me and shower me with warmth and with a new realization of how much I was loved. She invited me to join with her and continue my search. I sensed at the time, even as it was all happening, that I was moving into a deeper level of understanding.

    Over the 25 years since this class, I have internalized the knowledge of being loved by Him unconditionally and, because I am (we are), I am not only better able to love others without the expectation of reciprocity, but I’ve become better able to accept what they offer as gifts from Him through them…without wanting more…or less.

    Henri Nouren in The Inner Voice of Love, describes it this way:

    …Only when you know yourself as unconditionally loved—that is, fully received—by God can you give gratuitously [without need]. Giving without wanting anything in return is trusting that all your needs will be provided for by the One who loves you unconditionally…

    …The danger is in pouring yourself out to others in the hope that they will fully receive you…

    …A lot of giving and receiving has a violent quality, because the givers and receivers act more out of need than out of trust. What looks like generosity is actually manipulation, and what looks like love is really a cry for affection or support.

    Well, in passing Henri’s book on recently to my young friend (with whom I have always felt a sense of déjà vu, as her life challenges seem so familiar), I finally realized I’ve received the answer to my long-standing question – “where did I get lost along the way!?”

    My parents studied a host of books on religious thought as I was growing up – everything from the Bible to Buddhism, the Hindu Vedas and Upanishads, and Islam. Along the way, I ended up with a sort of academic understanding of God, but no real understanding of His love — that was what was missing. It was that simple.

    What I didn’t realize until passing Nouwen’s book along to my young friend was the cause-and-effect connection between my lack of understanding of God’s love and the failure of my early relationships.

    I not only had a very limited sense of His love for me back then, but I had a strong sense that I could figure it all out on my own – outside church teaching, outside community … outside … period. What a sad, unnecessary waste of time when there is a more direct route?

    Going to God, believing in His love–even when people tried to tell me about Him–always seemed too simple, too simplistic. (For years I even used to joke that I wouldn’t want to simplify anything I could over-complicate!) What I wanted most in my youth was to be seen as capable, adult, self-sufficient.

    Sure enough, one of my big life lessons was formed: It took me years to learn that caring for oneself–going it alone–is not ‘all that,’ as my kids say. I was ‘outside’ living life unhappily on my own all that time, while I could have simply given into God’s love – believed I was loved fully and unconditionally by Him – and skipped all the intervening pain and hardship.

    Accepting God’s love is that simple. And that challenging for some of us.

    • Anthony Paul says:

      Mary Adrienne:

      I was particularly struck by these words: “I was ‘outside’ living life unhappily on my own all the time, while I could have simply given in to God’s love… and skipped all the intervening pain and hardship”.

      I would humbly suggest that without that “pain and hardship” you would certainly not be the person you are today nor the person you will grow to be tomorrow. I have come to believe that our pain and suffering, the cross which each of us must bear in our lives, will be with us always, even to our glorified bodies and they will be the very signs and symbols of who we are as unique daughters and sons of a loving God. (I believe Henri said that somewhere, so I can’t take credit for it but the idea gives me great comfort as I hope it will for you as well) We should not despise our pain, but learn to embrace it and even be grateful for it because the resulting scars and wounds may well serve our glorified bodies one day before Jesus just as Jesus’ wounds and scars have glorified Him before The Father.

      • Wow…you know Anthony, I’ve only recently read the same concepts of Henri’s on embracing our pain, and I have not yet begun to apply this thinking to my understanding of earlier times in my walk.
        You’re right, of course. What you’ve written here resonates with me as true. I have work yet to do to re-write my understandings of my past in light of this truth. Thank you!

      • Liz Forest says:

        Wounds and scars surely do shape us…the book,Can you drink this cup…by Henri comes to mind…holding all the past pain in the cup of life and asking God to bless the years lived and truly giving thanks for all…what a grace…and our God of mercy is happy to grant such grace.

  4. Hello everyone, I am pleased to introduce you to Leonne . . .

    Hello!
    I am excited to be part of this group. It is the first experience of this type for me.
    I have been following Henri Nouwen since the mid seventies when I was a new mother and discovered a tape he published on Marriage and the importance of Solitude in marriage. Actually, I wore it out until my recorder ‘ate it’ and I await, patiently for its reappearance on disc. Since then Henri has been one of my spiritual guides and I have introduced him to my now grown children.
    In 2001, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. As I walked that journey with him to his passing back to God, we listened many times to Henri Nouwen’s tape on The Return of the Prodigal Son as we drove to acupuncture treatments. I treasure that tape even more now each time I listen to it. The special feature of that tape series is that it is in Henri’s own voice.
    I have learned that making space for God has to happen in the morning before going downstairs. Once I go downstairs the day gets hold of me and I don’t always make it back up to my prayer corner. The rest of the day my thoughts go quickly back and forth but solitude and quiet seems to have to happen in the morning.
    I have ordered the books and will have to catch up on the readings. In the last ten days I have been privileged to support my very good friend as she journeyed with her husband to his union with God: Blessings were bountiful during that time.
    Thank you for this opportunity.
    Leonne

    • Christine says:

      Welcome, Leonne. I was very touched by your description of your husband passing back to God. In January it will have been six years since my 31-year old son died quite suddenly and unexpectedly. Because of the suddenness of his death , it took me some time to make that journey to understanding that yes, he had passed back to God to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

      Still, preparing for Christmas is always a bit of a trigger for me that brings up some feelings of grief and sadness at those no longer here to share the holiday.

      One of Henri Nouwen’s teachings that I turn to then, when thinking about my loved ones who have gone on to “union with God” is from “Life of the Beloved”: “our brief, easily forgotten journey in this world will continue to give life to people through all times and places. The spirit of love, once freed from our mortal bodies, will blow where it will, even when few will hear its coming and going.” I often feel that Henri Nouwen’s spirit of love still blows here in this space.

      Thank you, Leonne, for reminding me of God’s bountiful blessings even in loss.

    • Jean says:

      Thanks for sharing what must be incredibly poignant for you Leonne. You sound as if you are one of those precious friends who are able to ‘comfort others with the comfort with which you have been comforted!’ On a very small practical point, could you tell me how to source the tape or book on marriage and the importance of solitude? I am a much more recent discoverer of Henri, though The Inner Voice Of Love has helped me at a time of great heartbreak, and The Return of the Prodigal has challenged and blessed me. My husband and I are trying to ‘ recallibrate’ our marriage and it is hard to change the habits of a lifetime of a relationship. We want to find a way to make our marriage a beautiful home for God to dwell in, and this sounds as if it might be a valuable aspect to include. Thanks. Jean

  5. Ray Glennon says:

    I want to echo Brynn’s comments about this compassionate and spirit-filled community. It is a great joy to be able to gather with fellow seekers several times each year to reflect on the love of God through the work of Henri Nouwen and to benefit from the insights and encouragement that are so freely shared. Thanks to each of you.

    I was particularly taken with the close connection between the readings in our two books this week. Let me link together some excerpts to show you what touched my heart. Henri writes:

    “Solitude is being with God and God alone. In every human heart there lives a deep hunger for communion… the decisive factor in our lives… In and through the Spirit we become full participants in the communion of the love that Jesus shares with the Father…. Jesus spent the whole night in communion… listening to the Father calling him the Beloved…. Jesus says to you and me that we are loved as he is loved… Who am I? I am the beloved. If we are not claiming that voice as the deepest truth of our being, then we cannot walk freely in the world… That is where the discipline of prayer comes in. We are called to pray not because we feel like praying or because it gives us great insights, but simply because we want to be obedient , to listen to the voice that calls us beloved… (I)n solitude God will speak to us–not as a magical voice but as a knowledge that grows gradually over the years. And in that voice from God we will find the inner piece from which to live our lives… ” (From Living)

    Why do we desire solitude? “The Lord wants to be our home… Jesus came to make us into his home and to invite us to dwell in his house. Suddenly all those biblical images of God’s hospitality come together and we realize that we are God’s home and that we are invited to make our home where God has made God’s own home. (emphasis added). (From Homecoming)

    That is why the great spiritual masters across the centuries and Henri Nouwen call on us to be “at home” in solitude. And as many of you have expressed, at times I find it difficult to be “present” in the “presence” of the Lord in prayer. But I have the desire to pray. As J.J. O’Leary, SJ has written, ” Spiritual writers all agree that an infallible sign of God’s presence is a desire for God. If you want to pray, you are already praying.” That’s a helpful reminder for me. Through the encouragement of this wonderful community, I hope to deepen my prayer life this Advent.

    May the Lord give you peace.

    Ray

    • “If you want to pray, you are already praying.”

      Such an important reminder, Ray. The often-missed blessing of prayer (for me) is the next step, when we realize that our Lord is right there in that very moment that we desire Him, desire His presence. And in that moment, when we realize that He heard us, we realize He is already preparing a great feast and celebration for us in the midst of all the heavenly host.

      Just saying it makes my heart leap for joy.

      This forum is such a blessing Ray and Brynn. Thank you.

      • Ray Glennon says:

        And thanks to you and all of the other active and silent participants without whom we would not have this beautiful community and discussion.
        Ray

  6. Brynn Lawrence says:

    It is always such a gift to see the community that forms in these discussions, and our current group is no exception! Thank you for all the care and support you show each other.

    As I was reading the chapter on solitude I was touched anew by what an amazing, loving God we serve. Yes, he calls us to the discipline and obedience of solitude, but he does that because he really really wants to make sure we have time to hear His voice of love.

    A number of years ago (almost ten now) I was living in S. Korea. I came home for Christmas, and on the flight home got news that my Dad was dying. I’m so grateful for the time I had with him, and for the chance to be with him when he died. But it was a hard time. I returned to S. Korea where I was working at a Christian international school. I jumped back into work the next day, but my principal in his wisdom new I needed some solitude. I took a long weekend and traveled on a train four hours into the mountains, to a place called Jesus Abbey. It is a place of prayer. I was there to be with God and process my sadness.

    The first morning I was there I got up and looked outside… to see that God had surprised me with a sparkling blanket of white, beautiful, fluffy snow. In that moment I “heard” and “felt” His love for me.

    That might seem strange to some, but the first snow fall has always been a magical event for me, and where I was living in Seoul we rarely got more than a dusting. So, for me, this unexpected, magical, giant snow fall, in a lovely cozy place, was a way for God to invite me to stillness, and whisper His love in my ear.

    I’ve had other moments like these, but this one came back to me as I was reading Solitude, and it was good to remember.

    Brynn

    • Susan says:

      I understand how you felt God’s presence in the first snowfall, how you felt God’s presence in Nature.
      I too once was in the countryside , not feeling particularly connected to God, feeling quite angry to be honest. It was raining. The sky was grey-green. And a double rainbow appeared. And I knew it was God. I felt loved by God. i felt connected to God.
      The anger went away.

  7. The first question posed for this week slowed me down. I felt a bit stumped for an answer. How do I try to prove my worth in my day to day life? How much energy does it take.

    It has been a long time since much of my life was spent actively trying to prove my worth to anyone. In part this is because except for a small contract, I am mostly retired. For this small contract I do need to demonstrate my value to folks who pay me—it is work, after all—but, it’s mostly stress free and takes little of my energy – maybe five or 10 hours a week.

    To make things even easier, I do this work from home where I am by myself during the day and where I have many hours to tend to my relationship with God and what I believe he’s calling me to do and to be.

    As a result, I feel incredibly loved by Him, not only in my solitude when He and I “chat” or when my heart is filled with gratitude for all the ways through which He has blessed my life, but when I am out and about in the world, talking (or more often these days, texting) with my children, shopping, driving to appointments, meeting people throughout my community with whom I do business of one sort of another, or just passing people I encounter along the way.

    I feel Him continually blessing me with His love: through others who share their affections with me (my husband, children, friends, etc); through the smiles and greetings of acquaintances; through those times when I feel I might have made another’s day a bit lighter with a word or a smile or some other message of my own of good cheer; and through consoling moments when I look about me and allow myself to be amazed with wonder at the beauty of the world He has allowed me to live.

    More challenging has been to feel His love and blessing during times of sorrow for loss of loved ones, maybe; or to feel the ability to welcome His correction and guidance during times of painful relations with others; or to praise Him and the opportunity to be feel His loved deeply during times of rejection, when I or someone close has been pushed aside or forgotten. These times are like moving to a heavier weight workout at the gym, when I’m building my spiritual muscle for a new level of strength, a deeper level of understanding and relationship with Him.

    During these times I have to work harder. I have to cling more firmly to my faith that His ability to see what’s best for me in the future is so much better than anything I could imagine or plan for on my own. I have to trust that He is loving me through every circumstance of my life—happy and difficult—and learn to rely more and more fully on Him. Each day during these times seems to require a more conscious, more fervent recommitment to Him hour-by-hour and to my faith that He will lead me where I need to go.

    One writer I enjoy wrote in recent months that ‘worry is not the same as prayer.’ It was an important message for me at the time. I was reminded to pray, not fret; pray, not nag; pray, not whine; sing for the joy of His love, not cry or mourn my loss; know that He is loving me in exactly the way I need to be loved by Him right this minute, showing me the way, leading me in my journey back to Him.

    During these more challenging times, I find I need to get back to basics, take baby-steps, pay attention to all of His message-markers along the way – the words of others that seem to speak to my heart, the passages in my reading that draw my attention and offer me a sense of peace and consolation, His signs to me for this special time of ‘watchful waiting.’ I find I must listen intently with a heart waiting to be filled only with His love, thereby to be fulfilled in His love; I must be alert to His continual presence with me and in me and allow Him to guide me gently, perfectly, lovingly along the way He has charted for this time.

  8. Marianne says:

    I so much enjoyed both of these chapters. I don’t know of any other writer who has the gift of explaining how much we are loved by God and how accessible his son Jesus is to us.

    One thing about having Cancer and taking Chemotherapy is that you are pretty much leveled. For the past six months, in the first week after my Chemo treatment, I was very helpless. There was no proving my worth! Thankfully, my husband is on leave and was able to look after me. I normally get a lot of positive perks from my work as a Clinical Educator. When you are sick and have a lot of time on your hands, the only thing you have to rest in is your worth to Jesus Christ.

    I’m done the tough Chemo now – still taking an IV treatment every three weeks. I’m waiting to see a surgeon and for surgery to be booked. It’s even tougher now that I feel a bit better but really can’t do much because of fatigue. I’m glad my books arrived yesterday because I really needed to be reminded that I’m worthwhile even when I can “do” very little.

    In “Homecoming”, p. 24 – 27, I just love Henri’s reminder that “when Jesus appears, there is more than we need.” I have experienced this to be true in the Husband that I managed to choose (Ray, I know you feel the same way about Dawn), about my church family, my children’s jobs – the list goes on. I had a realization this morning too that where my Cancer is concerned, Jesus will provide more than I need. That’s a tough one to rest and relax with! I have personally experienced small steps leading on a long and dramatic journey. For coping with my Cancer, p. 28 Henri reminds that “We need to keep our eyes on the Lord of abundance. The purpose of all prayer and meditation is to help us keep our eyes on his face.”

    I practiced Solitude this morning, and lets just say, “I suck.” I think I will just start with 5 minute increments and hope to get better at it.

    From “Living” p. 29 Henri says, “When we discover our belovedness, we begin to see the belovedness of other people and call that forth.” Wouldn’t it be nice if people around us could see that we love God because, like the early church, people could see how we loved each other – including the ones who are not “exciting, attractive or compatile people.” Have a good week, people.

    • Gilly says:

      Dear Marianne
      Thank you for coming alongside my current need in such a powerful way. It was uplifting. I have been struggling over the past year with pain and know a different kind of fatigue .Your words focused me the reality of both our belovedness and keeping our focus on our Lord’s presence. He will provide for our need in abundance.

      Last year I undertook the Ignatian Examen under the guidance of a local catholic priest (I am an Anglican from across the pond) Its provides a pattern of daily thanksgiving, review ,shedding light and looking forward and is tremendously helpful .

      I think you are wise to build up the solitude .This morning I initially practiced a calming few minutes by imagining waves lapping on a favourite Irish beach and kept my breathing in rhythm with the waves. It stills my mind. Then I go through the examen a simple version for me and eventually I experience that peace that passes all understanding by allowing myself “to just Be” in that love. I usually just imagine I ‘m sitting at the feet of Jesus I ,m ,very small close to the hem of his garment and feeling the light of his love.

      It’s at moments like these that you know you are being gently drawn closer to a home in the heart on God and that there is nothing to fear .

      You have a truly God filled Day love and prayers Gilly

    • Elainemm says:

      Marianne, we continue to admire your valiant struggle and the energy you manage to throw into your heartfelt, well-considered reflections on the words of Henri Nouwen. Indeed, every illness, every emotional or financial setback, every heart-rending disappointment can lead us to wallow in self-pity, or it can turn us around to face “the Lord of abundance” –the true abundance of his gifts to us. You have miraculously chosen the latter path.

      As I sit here writing my reflection, I have access to a refrigerator still stuffed with the leftovers of a lavish Thanksgiving feast, access to enough cozy outfits to withstand another Colorado winter, and access to the lush forest that surrounds me. I have access to the abundance of a 22-aisle supermarket, hundreds of hiking trails, and thousands of cultural resources on the internet (yes, they do exist). Currently I enjoy the abundance of energy that good health affords. Will I, however, always remember to be grateful for such abundance? Will I remember that such abundance must not be hoarded but shared with others? Will I let the abundance of my world distract me, or will I remember that such abundance is but a tiny reflection of God’s generosity, beauty, and comfort?

      Marianne, you are certainly “proving your worth,” as you say, in sickness and in health. God knows it, and through your reflections on this site, all of us can appreciate you too.

  9. Anthony Paul says:

    Dear Andrew:

    I believe that what Henri would have said about your situation is simply that by the giving of yourself to this young man and his family in their time of need, you may, in fact, receive something far greater in return. The giving and the receiving are always almost magically intertwined even though we mostly tend to see our actions as pertaining to either one side or the other in any given situation.

    • Andrew John says:

      Thanks Anthony Paul: Over the years, I have worked with teenagers on the autistic spectrum of conditions and although I have no formal certification, training or secular sheepskin to acknowledge this, a series of happenstance circumstances with family members and friends and strangers revealed to me that Our Lord had given me a natural gift to be empathetic with special needs children of this type and be a catalyst for improvement in their lives.

      The young man’s uncle phoned me last evening as his nephew is progressing pretty well right now. The boy’s uncle shared with me that the extended family is so happy at this new direction he has taken. His English teacher has been in touch too and is pleased with the improvement.

      For me, this is the best Christmas gift I can give in the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ to a family, many of the members I have not yet even met. The uncle said to me last night that it is clear to the family that God has brought us together.

      I told the uncle that in working with Asperger’s Syndrome boys in the past, similar sentiments have been expressed: I tell the families, God just brings them to me. I do not seek them out.

      I have a sixth sense so to speak and once when I was at Mass in a very small rural town in a parish of about 100 families, I was seated next to a family and a young man that I sensed was afflicted with this special need. During the sign of peace in the liturgy at Mass, I turned to the young man, took his hand, shook it, and wished him peace.

      A few weeks later his parents came up to me after a First Friday Devotion at the parish, and thanked me profusely. For what? I asked? They told me that no one had ever wished their son peace at Mass before because he’s “strange”, “different”, “not all there”… etc. Geez, what hell must some of us live in not to be able to receive (or give) such a Christian gesture as Mass??

      • Anthony Paul says:

        Andrew:
        Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It really made my day to see how God works through people just like you. You say you have no formal training in the field… but you have much more: a wonderful gift from God; which is to say you have both the wonderful ability and the desire to help these families through a very difficult process. In doing so, you are a blessing to them as they are a blessing to you because I do not believe any of this could happen without the basic ingredients of compassion and love which you obviously have for these young people and they for you. This brings to mind something Shakespeare once wrote about the quality of mercy which I believe to be applicable here as well (If I may paraphrase):
        The quality of mercy [compassion] is not strain’d,
        It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
        Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
        It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

        My prayer for you, Andrew, is that you will continue to be a blessing to many more people as you journey on… and that in so doing you will be blessed as well.

  10. Jean says:

    Sorry I am a little late in joining in because I’d had difficulty sourcing the books in UK. This is the first time i have joined in anything like this. I live in a small Essex market town, having retired from teaching in London and then teacher training. I know I really need God to help me find a new focus for my sense of self worth so these readings about hearing the voice of God calling me the beloved are freshly meaningful. The introduction to to The Spirituality of Living challenged me about the three disciplines of solitude, community and ministry, in that order. Then the Homecoming chapter about Jesus making his home IN us has given me a whole new context in which to explore the verse I pray daily, “one thing I have asked of the Lord, this is what I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life and to behold the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” I had puzzled about what this should mean for Christians in post – temple times. I started by understanding the temple as the church, and seeking the beauty of the Lord there (sometimes easier than others to do!) Then as my husband and I have been working on rebuilding our shattered marriage, I applied the idea of ‘the house of the Lord’ to the microcosm of the church which is a Christian home, and try to see the beauty of the Lord there and cultivate it. All those instructions in the epistles about how to love one another in the church life, also should apply here too! Now I wonder if it is legitimate to also see my own heart as the house of the Lord, and seek his beauty there as I make space and time to cultivate the intimacy of him calling me beloved and being at home with me. So maybe I have come eventually to a simple truth that Henri takes as a starting point

    • Amy Werner says:

      Jean…what a beautiful journey you’re on! I really love the verse that you’ve explored in such depth. To think of the dwelling place of God in each of those 3 descriptions you gave is just so rich. So perfect, landing at home with the dwelling of God right there in your heart as He communes with you, His beloved. Such comfort…such peace! I’m blessed by what you shared.
      Blessings,
      Amy

    • Ruth says:

      Welcome, Jean! Thank you for sharing how God has led you to finding your heart being His home. Beautifully written; I’m grateful you’ve joined our community!

      Grace & Peace, Ruth

    • Liz Forest says:

      Home is where your heart is…I see that you have a place there for the One who loves you Divinely…glad to have you with us on our journey.. keeping you, Jean and your husband in prayer.

  11. Andrew John says:

    This is what Fr. Nouwen would have done, isn’t it? Share himself?

    This time of year I normally do not want to take on new projects with so many holiday preparations and parties etc. vying for attention. I do not even consider myself that social or extroverted, yet, it just seems to happen whether I want it to or not.

    A God thing unfolded last week and I reluctantly started a new project. A family contacted me to step in with their son who is a junior in high school. He is struggling with high school English and is need of intensive tutoring. The week before Thanksgiving, I invested much time on the telephone with the boy’s uncle, who is making the arrangements and also with the high school and the English teacher.

    So, during Thanksgiving, probably about 5 total hours on the phone just to assess and prepare and get everyone on the same page. Then, reserving a tutoring room in the library at a nearby university and making arrangements for the student and his uncle to get onto campus to park and meet and walk into the library. Yesterday, we had our first two hour session and it went quite well. The uncle was so pleased he paid me for future sessions and my work thus far.

    This is wearing at a time of year when I do not have a lot of extra energy or “self” to share. However, I could not turn this down as I prayed long and hard about it and I know that if it is NOT HIS WILL for me, there will be a way out, an exit ramp. More is not given to us than we can handle.

    Everything that came back to me from prayer was that I needed to share myself, my time and my skills with this young man. His parents are not capable of doing it and it takes a village to raise our children. In so many cases, parents need assistance.

    This is what Fr. Nouwen would have done, isn’t it? Share himself?

    • Marianne says:

      Andrew John, it is great that you prayed and felt you should fulfill this need for this family.

      One perspective I can offer as a parishoner is that the kindest thing a pastor or priest can do for their congregation is to make them interdependent on one another. The pastor will not be there forever but the congregation will. They need to have strong bonds with each other to withstand what the world is going to throw at them. We keep encouraging our pastor to save himself for the things we cannot do. Burn-out is something that People of the Cloth need to guard against.

    • Liz Forest says:

      God knows the best way for you…yes, God makes a way out (like the Exodus) if you get yourself in over your head! I have done tutoring and I know the kind of preparation you speak of but hen you see the fruit of your labors with this student, you will be happy!

    • Christine says:

      Andrew your question of “sharing yourself” struck a chord with me. The question for reflection that has been niggling me is how I try to prove myself. I’m pretty much an introvert and am most comfortable in the quiet. I can easily accept the idea of solitude being beneficial, but I think of it more as a comfort than as a discipline.

      Sometimes when I read about or see how busy others are, ministering to others in many capacities, in their jobs and/or in their churches, it makes me feel inadequate. I am part of a church community and I do step out in small ways, usually one-on-one to minister with small actions, such as providing a listening ear or even just cooking and sharing dinner with my son and grandkids…nothing too dramatic there, nothing to visible.

      The portion of this chapter on solitude that helped me was the way Henri used to story in Matthew 4 of Jesus being tempted to worldly action by Satan. Jesus said in answer to Satan’s offers of fame and power and influence, “No, I don’t have to prove anything, I am already the beloved.” I was also struck by Henri’s bold idea, “our identity is that we are the beloved.” My identity does not rest in what others think of me or who they perceive me to be, but in the fact that I am beloved of God.

      • Cel says:

        Christine, I’m like you. My home is my refuge. I have recently, though, begun realizing that I can carry all the inner busy-ness with me into my physical place of silence and peace and thus not really have the spiritual solitude that refreshes because it’s spent with God. I can still have all those monkeys jumping up and down in my inner tree even though silence surrounds me. So I’ve been working to become ever more and for longer periods of time actually PRESENT to the Lord when I’m in prayer, to the point where I discipline myself to re-read a passage when I realize some thought of something to do or decide has claimed my attention. I have realized how often I’ve been distracted when I thought I was praying. I’ve been especially aware of that this week as I’ve been creating and inaugurating the program of children struggling with their reading skills beginning to read to therapy dogs at the library. First the walk through the library and visiting with staff with my two therapy dogs on Monday; then on Wednesday an actual practice with staff members’ children reading to my two dogs; yesterday another practice involving three dog/handler teams I’m certifying as therapy dogs. This morning already I’ve been contacting the next three dog teams needing certification to arrange their screening. And this afternoon the program actually opens to the public with four children scheduled to read to my dogs. With all the phone calls, e-mails and rushing to town this week, I feel I’ve lost my retirement peace. I’ve been tired enough by the end of the day that I’ve fallen asleep while trying to do some reflective reading, both for this forum and my regular reading. And all kinds of thoughts from the excitement of creating something new – what if we do this? how about this for the dogs? shall we make bookmarks for the kids? and so forth have bombarded me during the day. All this has made me remember what I was like while I was working – and how much I prefer the inner and outer peace that retirement has brought. I’m most definitely taking comfort that this was the week for busy-ness, policy has been set and the program begun, so that after today I can re-wrap myself with silence and still my mind and heart so that I can enjoy the rest of Advent. I’m going to remember how easy it is for those monkeys to activate!

        • Christine says:

          yes, Cel, sometimes or probably often times my mind gets busy when trying to make space for God. Sometimes I think God just smiles at his children’s efforts and says something like, “there goes her mind wandering again.” I think of how my granddaughter loves to sit close and “snuggle” but she has a hard time sitting still. She wiggles her feet or stretches her arms, or tries to get the dog to sit with us too. I know, though, that she wants to spend time close to me and I smile.

          I also love the idea of children reading to therapy dogs. I that a program you came up with or is it something that is organized nationwide?

          • Cel says:

            I love your comment about God smiling over our attempts to stay focused on him. It’s SO true. I’ve often had the image of God just shaking his head and smiling over some silly thing I’ve done. Growing up in a family where I just didn’t seem to “fit” with their idea of who I should be, God was always my refuge, my person that I could count on to understand me and just plain love me.

            Children reading to therapy dogs is a popular program around the country. Many schools incorporate it, with the participating children being recommended by the teacher for the extra help.

            In January 2000 a group called Intermountain Therapy Dogs started a pilot program at
            Bennion Elementary in downtown Salt Lake City. The children who participated were
            selected by the reading specialist as the ones who were struggling most, not only their reading, but also social skills and difficult circumstances at home. The pilot study revealed not only rapid increases in reading comprehension and skills (as much as two to four grade levels), but other intriguing results as well. Compared with their previous performances, the participating children:

            • began demonstrating greater confidence and self-esteem in their relations with classmates,
            • completed and turned in their homework assignments more frequently,
            • were absent and/or tardy much less often,
            • demonstrated improved hygiene, and
            • developed strong, empathetic relationships with the animal

            It hasn’t been done in our area, and the librarians turned to me to put together a program that would fit our community because I’m the only tester/observer for a therapy dog organization anywhere close to us (which means I test potential therapy dog teams) and am the only long-time person with therapy dogs here. I had the first therapy dog in Wyoming, back in 1981, and have visited the nursing homes and other places regularly over the years. I’ve been asked to take my dogs to classrooms but never to have children read to them. We’re hoping it will become a pilot program that moves into the schools.

  12. Dorothy Sherwood says:

    Feeling Beloved. Those fleeting, but powerful moments when our Father says to me ‘ I got it covered, all of it’. And the burden become light. As one of my favorite preachers said during a sermon- walking with God is like skating around the pond in the arm of an olympic skater, where if you were by yourself, you would fall. Thank u all.

    • Jo says:

      That’s how I feel at the beginning of the winter when we start skating again. I hang on very tight to my husband’s arm and have all the confidence in the world but if he were to let me go…I’d be wobbly, gasping for breath & floundering around. With him to hold onto I feel safe, secure & have a great skate. Of course by the 3rd time out I’m able to go on my own.

      Thanks for that imagery!

  13. Ruth says:

    Praying for you right now, Diane, as His angels hover over you this very moment. May the Gentle Healer superintend your surgery, providing wisdom to the surgeon and peace to your inner being.
    Ruth

  14. Diane C. says:

    It is the eve of my surgery…11:20pm and I have to be at the hospital by 5:30 am. I really should be sleeping but it is not to be so I turn to Henri. I’ve just read “solitude” for the 2nd time today and am deeply moved by God’s love for me. I am the beloved. Henri says “we have to listen to the voice that calls us the beloved”. I am too often distracted, riddled with anxiety, busy busy busy, to hear God’s whispering those words to me. I long to “walk freely in the world” knowing that deepest truth…I am the beloved. And so…I thank Him for this time of recovery and recuperation and waiting. This is a very special Advent for me. I am grateful. Thanks Gilly for the poems…especially “Three Gratitudes” Here are mine: I am grateful for this surgery. I am grateful that my daughter is here. I am grateful for the gift of music, which soothes my soul.
    Peace to you all…We are all wounded healers.
    I welcome your prayers for my surgery. I’m picturing angels hovering over me in the operating room!

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Diane,
      As St. Francis said to those he met along the way, “May the Lord give you peace.” May the Holy Spirit be with your doctors and other caregivers tomorrow to guide them in their healing mission. And may the ever-present love of Jesus comfort and protect you during your recovery.

      Continue to picture those angels… And Fear Not!!!
      Ray

    • Elainemm says:

      Hi, Diane. I am sure that all of us are praying for a successful surgery and speedy recovery for you. Your faith, grateful attitude, and resilience will go a long way to facilitate your healing. Thank you for the healing balm of your soulful reflections on the readings.

    • Hello Diane,
      Holding you close in thought and prayer.
      Maureen

    • Gilly says:

      Diane have been praying for you .Rest and recover in His love
      Gilly

  15. Anthony Paul says:

    My prayers of late have basically centered around this one thought:

    “Abba! Show me Your Heart… Teach me to love as You love.”

  16. Jo says:

    “Last week we pondered the invitation to “create space” for God in our lives. As many expressed this is something we love to do, know we should do more often, and want to do more often. Henri affirms to us this week that solitude is indeed a discipline and an act of obedience, but we also explore God’s HEART behind this calling on our lives! ” Wow! That really stood out to me! God’s Heart…calling me to be with him! It struck me that God wants me to spend time with Him and reflect on matters that He deals with…like a partner. He wants to share His Joy and His suffering. He wants me to see things as He sees things. I’ve known that intellectually but the reality of God wanting me as His Partner just hit me in a deeper way.

    “Think of a time, or even a moment, when you “heard” the voice of God calling you the Beloved.” When I “Announced the Covenant” with L’Arche it was like making a vow within my marriage vow and a moment I’ll never forget and continue to live. Times when He calls me to the river and other times when I see Him in my husband’s love.

    “What would it be like to live that way, knowing truly and deeply that you are the Beloved of God? How would that change the way you experience each day? How might it change the way you engage others around you? I certainly would be greeting each day with higher expectations and give love more freely to everyone I meet. There’s a certain confidence that goes with a deeper relationship with Christ so there would be more expectations on Him & myself. For example to-night I am eager for my nephew to visit because God is bringing him and how can I show him my love. It’s exciting!

    “What small steps of faithfulness” are moving you ahead on your spiritual journey?
    Henri led me to this and away from another matter I’ve been involved in for 8 years. In desperation one night I asked him to help me discern what to do about a particular involvement and the next AM I wrote an email with my resignation. He made it clear it was time to go in another direction. I Knew Henri guided me and I felt liberated.

    This experience is making Advent lively and full of expectations. Thank-you everyone!

    Jo

  17. Andrew John says:

    THIS JUST IN! ” I am not created to be alone “ according to this headline just in from the coordinator of the Mens’ Faith Sharing group at my parish! LOL.

    I am not created to be alone! from scripture?? 😐 Yikes! Conflicting messages.

    I am feeling guilty now for wanting solitude? Can I strengthen my faith by getting together with these guys or will solitude strengthen my faith more?

    Wait a Sec! This scripture that is making me feel guilty right now could be taken out of context?

    If its from Genesis 2, it is describing God creating woman to be with man, which is Biblical of course but where does it say I have to get together with all the parish men this Saturday? LOL??

    SOLITUDE?? What Solitude?

    Blessed Solitude versus Solidarity with Others?

    How do I choose? What do I want?
    What do I need?
    What is His Will for me?

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Andrew,
      Your question, “Can I strengthen my faith by getting together with these guys or will solitude strengthen my faith more?” is actually pointing us ahead to the discussion we will be having next week when Henri focuses on “Community” in the Spirituality of Living. We will see that we need both Solitude and Community.
      Ray

  18. Jody says:

    I liked when Henri spoke of a “spiritual night”. I always feared that concept, as if it I was predestined to go through a emotionally traumatic time. That’s not it. My spiritual “night” is simple listening to Him tell me that he loves me in times of stress. Just to listen and believe.

    How transforming! When we believe that we are loved, we can offer that some full acceptance to others. Wow.

  19. Andrew John says:

    grrrrrrrr. too much to do at this time of year. grrrrrr. LOL.

    No family photo with Santa this year!

    At my parish this Saturday, one of my favorite things to do is coming up. Family photo with Santa Claus!

    We have a parishioner who owns a photography studio and he sets up in the parish center for a few hours. Another parishioner dresses up in a Santa Claus costume and his granddaughters dress up in elf costumes etc. etc. with a backdrop and some decorations.

    Its really a fun thing to do and the parishioner who dons the Santa Claus outfit does it every year as part of his pro-life ministry. A donation of any amount can be made at this event for the photograph. The photograph is emailed to the parishioners and if they desire prints of the photo a partnership deal is made with a local printer for that as well. Proceeds from the event benefit a local shelter for women.

    Well, long story short….this year, photos with Santa conflicts with a banquet Christmas Party I am attending. So, this is one thing off my list.

    No photo with Santa this year!

    I don’t feel too bad about it and am relieved that something came off the TO DO LIST without me really having to do anything to accomplish that. God is good. Thank you Jesus! 🙂 Peace and no disappointment.

  20. Gilly Beardmore says:

    “take small steps away from “me” toward the Lord… know what the little steps are”

    Yesterday I had a deliberate quiet day listening to and noticing the opportunities to make small steps within a day at home.
    I discovered two new steps ,This poem by Carrie Newcomer

    “Three Gratitudes”
    Every night before I go to sleep
    I say out loud
    Three things that I’m grateful for,
    All the significant, insignificant
    Extraordinary, ordinary stuff of my life.
    It’s a small practice and humble,
    And yet, I find I sleep better
    Holding what lightens and softens my life
    Ever so briefly at the end of the day.
    Sunlight, and blueberries,
    Good dogs and wool socks,
    A fine rain,
    A good friend,
    Fresh basil and wild phlox,
    My father’s good health,
    My daughter’s new job,
    The song that always makes me cry,
    Always at the same part,
    No matter how many times I hear it.
    Decent coffee at the airport,
    And your quiet breathing,
    The stories you told me,
    The frost patterns on the windows,
    English horns and banjos,
    Wood Thrush and June bugs,
    The smooth glassy calm of the morning pond,
    An old coat,
    A new poem,
    My library card,
    And that my car keeps running
    Despite all the miles.
    And after three things,
    More often than not,
    I get on a roll and I just keep on going,
    I keep naming and listing,
    Until I lie grinning,
    Blankets pulled up to my chin,
    Awash with wonder
    At the sweetness of it all.

    and the second by Rilke

    Quiet friend who has come so far,
    feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
    Let this darkness be a bell tower
    and you the bell. As you ring,
    what batters you becomes your strength.
    Move back and forth into the change.
    What is it like, such intensity of pain?
    If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.
    In this uncontainable night,
    be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
    the meaning discovered there.
    And if the world has ceased to hear you,
    say to the silent earth: I flow.
    To the rushing water, speak: I am.

    May we all step forward to notice and give thanks to Him in the ordinary moments of today and then also lean into the darkness as a bell moving back and forth into the change.

    Have a God filled Day Gilly

  21. Twyla says:

    Advent week 1 : Solitude. Meditation & Prayer with Jesus, Listening ONLY to HIM…. Letting Jesus gently release me from constant and intense Striving. Listening to Jesus tell me HE did the work…. so HE will still love me when I am not Perfect. ( and then, listening to THE Holy Spirit when HE keeps on whispering & echoing THAT to me)
    …. and DARING to believe it…. 🙂
    what would it be like to Live that way ?? RELAXING & Peaceful.

    The Invitation & The Call. Thankful forever for the Lord calling me to be HIS intimate friend…. Forever, shocked and awed 🙂 How does that aid me in living in this world ? It changes EVERYTHING …. now I can Forgive, Love, and not give up.
    and Jesus give me the abundance to love, care, and keep on giving in a world that will many times not appreciate it… and just demand it without gratitude…
    But, With Jesus, My steps of responding to HIS call helps me to make progress each day toward living the way HE wants me to. AND, when I Look toward Jesus, I notice less, the nastiness of the world…. and when I do notice it…. I can let it go. and keep on serving Jesus anyway, by continuing to serve others. One small step at a time. Henri is right, over time…. it adds up and I find I have gone down the path toward Our Lord much further than the path toward “me”.

  22. Gina Oliva says:

    Hmmmm….Let’s see…..I want to talk about solitude, a topic I have been mulling over pretty regularly for at least a few years — let’s say the whole idea of solitude and HOW MUCH I LIKE IT AND WANT IT has been on my front burner for some time. As a writer and artist, as a “late-life introvert” and I have to say as a “wounded person” it is understandable that I seem to like, need, crave, a lot of solitude. But these readings by Henri have me thinking about solitude as an intentional state of being so that one can be in communion with “the one who calls us His Beloved.” Now THAT is a new and radical idea IF one really LIVES IT day by day. I like it.

    I do try to let my solitude by guided by Him. Do I intentionally sit for 30 mins and patiently wait for Him to tell me something? Umm, no. Heck I am human LOL. But, I find myself taking little breaks from whatever is occupying my mind and hands — I think those little breaks might be leading me somewhere. Maybe those little breaks are from God tapping me on the shoulder and saying “ease up, dear, you don’t have to work like a sweatshop person from the early 20th Century!!” “I want you to stop, get centered, Listen to me.” Sounds good as I write it now and makes me want to see if I can make my “breaks” more intentional. Or at least use them as “signals to listen.” Thanks for reading!!! 🙂

  23. Ray Glennon says:

    From Jeanne
    I am from the central coast of California. I am lost. I am hoping very much to center myself once again in my loving Lord during this Advent season, and with Henri Nouwen bestowing his spiritual insights to my soul. Pray for me!

    • Dear Jeanne,
      Please be assured of our prayers for you. We are so glad that you are here with us – you are in the midst of a kind and compassionate community!

      Blessings,
      Maureen

    • Amy Werner says:

      Praying for you right now Jeanne…that God would continue to draw you into deep relationship with Him and that you will truly find your rest, peace and life in Him. I’m so grateful you’re here and that you allowed us a window into your heart by asking us to pray for you. What a privilege. Truly.
      Blessings,
      Amy

    • My prayers are with you, Jeanne, during this time. You aren’t lost to the Lord; He knows right where you are and longs for you to rest in Him. That is my prayer for you.

  24. Josepha Babendreier says:

    A family member recently challenged me to name one great thing that I have ever done. I thought of my relationship with Jesus and how for me, during times of both turmoil and joy, seeking solace in his word allowed me to accept and appreciate the fact that my small accomplishments and acts of kindness are just as significant as any one persons accumulation of wealth and influence. For some reason, the reading John 14:2 comes to mind “in my father’s house, there are many rooms.” Just as Jesus prepares a room for us, we must prepare room in our hearts and souls for him. So let us all take time during Advent to dwell in his presence no matter where we find ourselves.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Josepha thank you for sharing this story and for reminding each of us that the great thing–the most important thing–we are called to do in this life is to enter into an intimate relationship with Jesus and to follow him. And the way to enter into that relationship is, as you wisely write, “…we must prepare room in our hearts and souls for him.”
      Ray

  25. Sharon K. Hall says:

    Things that you have shared, Charles, Phil and Steve, regarding expectations of others and how oppressive they can be, really resonated with me. The sentence in Spirituality of Homecoming on page 19 “And sometimes we need to really listen because the people who point to Jesus may not be exciting, attractive or compatible people. We may have certain opinions about them. But we need to listen to them even if we are not comfortable with them because they are too poor or too rich, have a strange accent, dress differently, or speak another language. If we want to find Jesus, we need to spend time with people who are not the same as we are. And we have to listen to them.” I was really interested to read, Charles, about the happy outcome you had with one of your co-workers and how even to this day you remain friends, even though you no longer work for the same company. My dilemma often is not being able to discern between the accepting voice of Jesus and the voice that comes from some people who continuously want me to do more and especially to do more of the things that they believe God’s call on my life are to do. My self-identity is sort of wobbly and actually that shows up in the home of my husband and myself which always seems to be crazy and cluttered and many times can’t find things, etc., etc., etc. and especially being busy, busy, busy. I absolutely love this whole chapter on “The Call: To Follow Jesus is to participate in the ongoing self-revelation of God” and to read about Jesus’ invitation to come to Him in His Home and then the scripture about the mansion. Basically, I know that my spirituality is not in the most healthy place and I need to practice disciplines and am looking forward to reading and thinking and listening and getting stronger in my identity of truly following Jesus. How many times does one find “home” written about so eloquently as Henri Nouwen does!!! Very, very hopeful.

  26. Steve T says:

    What are some ways you are trying to prove your worth in your day to day life?  Big or small, where do you notice it?  How much of your energy does it take?

    This sounds exactly like something that happened over the holiday weekend. I spent some of my extra time reading and researching some technical topics I had been wanting to learn about for a long while. I expected that this would be refreshing, but I ended up feeling more anxious instead – which was confusing. What did I do wrong? I wasn’t even really responding to expectations of others, just my own interests.

    I think it really came down to my “looking someplace else to make me the beloved” – I wanted refreshment (communion) – but I was not listening for Him – but listening to all the other interesting things in the world – and there are so many!!

    So this week’s reading is helping be to remember to take some time to listen for Him first – I am hoping to be able to take some of this time each night or each morning this week. One day down…. 🙂

    (and Phil – you are not alone in battling depression in the face of entering the expectations of life and work – and yearning for some way to just ‘be’ without all the expectations. After years of struggling with that, it seems to be lifting. Keep trying to be still and listen, He is faithful and will always be with you.)

  27. Phil says:

    Just read solitude. I know I have crowded God out recently. My life has become so busy as a result of my, and others, expectations of my work. It has really depressed me and I cannot find a person to talk to … Everywhere I turn, someone has a vested interest in me “succeeding”. Recently I drove to work and suddenly felt overwhelmed. I sobbed my heart out. It was then that I felt the calm,small voice of God. I have had this a number of times over the last few years. Each time , the warm embrace of God has brought me back, despite my distant journeys from his love. I really enjoy the call to reflect on my relationship with God in the work of Henri … It is my rock in a tempestuous world. From the sharing of the inner mind that Henri so beautifully shares with us, I find the strength and conviction to carry on in building the kingdom. I look forward to the rest of the advent journey in the company of the friends I read about in “Drinking the cup”. It was a real blessing to me this summer. This community is very important to me and I thank all who read this and consider, for one brief moment, my situation, and wish me well. We really are the family of God.

    • Charles says:

      Phil, I sincerely wish you well in all of your efforts. Your plight sounds very familiar to me. I spend all day doing all kind of things for work, our parish, and other matters, and at the end of the day I can’t seem to find time for God. My hope this Advent is to find and make that time, to carve it out of the day, sometime, somewhere. With me it is pretty much limited to very early in the morning or late in the evening. I feel your frustrations. Just remember, you are not alone!

    • Ray Glennon says:

      From Patrick Watters
      Press on in His strength and especially His Grace Phil. There will be other seasons to embrace and not just endure, as you live in the world, but in the Kingdom here and now as well.

    • Jody says:

      Oh Phil, I understand.

      • Marianne says:

        Phil, you’ve found a safe place to share your frustrations. It makes me wonder if I’ve put too much pressure on my children to “succeed.” It’s more important to ask and hear what God wants them to do first. Then if God’s purpose lines up with everyone elses idea of success, it’s fine to pursue that route. There is nothing wrong with worldly success in one’s vocation. God can use that too.

    • Phil, I long to have the words to console you, but I know your struggle is yours and unique from mine and others. Yet, we’re all headed for the same destination–to love and be loved by our Lord. I pray for your strength in finding times of solitude; to find, even in your busyness, that loving sense of God’s presence with you, as He walks along beside You longing to help you shoulder your cares and burdens.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Phil,
      I want to echo the wise words of those that have already commented.

      And I would recall what Henri wrote in Solitude this week… “That (e.g., when we crowd God out, as I know I do) is where the discipline of prayer comes in. We are called to pray not because we like praying or because it gives us great insights, but simply because we want to be obedient, to listen to the voice that calls us beloved… Solitude is where Jesus listened to God. It is where we listen to God. It is where community begins.” (And Community is our focus next week.)

      Peace and all good.

      Ray

  28. I suppose it should not surprise me that these separate readings are actually deeply linked spiritually. In solitude we find the key to hearing (listening) the invitation to come home, not only for the first time or temporarily, but for good. }:-)

  29. Ray Glennon says:

    From Sharon
    I live in San Diego and I married and have three children. I teach one child at home and devote my remaining time caring for my family, reading, painting, taking photos and swimming. This is my second book discussion. I did the Lenten series last spring.

    My intentions and hope is to create space during Advent for God in my own contemplation, to make space by intentionally giving my time, to sit, receive, listen and to discover the never ending mysteries of his love and peace and grace. I truly hope to make God central to the season and am so grateful to experience this with a community that appreciates, encourages, and desires to make a disciplined time to discover His goodness. My fears would be that I might let the hectic schedule of the season infiltrate my time and thoughts. Like Henri writes “An undistracted life is one in which we want to lead all we see, all we hear, and all we do to the center…or…to the heart.” I know that when I make the time to rest with God I am able to be more loving and understanding, because I have been with the One who accepts me as I am, and can care for me like no one else. He knows me the best and most intimately. And in turn, I more readily accept others and situations with a gentle and compassionate spirit. So I am hoping and anticipating “a journey of prayer in which (I) can stand in the presence of God with a listening heart.”(Homecoming pg. 13). So grateful for this opportunity.

    • Elainemm says:

      Sharon, thank you for a wise and powerful message. I am especially drawn to your image of a God of love, understanding, acceptance, care, compassion, and gentleness. Our hearts can certainly be at rest in the presence of such a God. And while I love the image of a heart at rest, (as if wrapped in the blanket of God’s love), it is a little scary to think about the almost paradoxical image of the never-ending “journey” to a God that I must face “standing.” If I can be strong in the conviction that God loves me and believes in me, I should be able to stand on my own two feet and proclaim my love and commitment by my actions. Through the “journey in prayer” I should be able to “journey” into the cold world that is far from restful and reassuring. That is the part that is scary. I just need to learn to listen better.

  30. Ray Glennon says:

    From Nancy E.
    Blessings to all of you! Originally I intended to read and chew on Henri Nouwen’s writings, the questions posed and be inspired/challenged by your comments and thought that would be “enough” without commenting. But your candor and depth of relationship to God and your commitment to open yourselves that others might also grow have touched the deepest core of me. All that I can say to each and every one of you is THANK YOU.
    Who am I? A 76 year old God-seeker, nurtured by a faith community who practice Lectio Divina and by the works of Henri Nouwen, Thomas Keating’s centering prayer and contemplation as well as by material from Richard Rohr and Sr. Ilia Delio. I live in Columbia South Carolina where I am a life-long Catholic active in my faith community and also blessed to participate in a spiritually diverse sharing group called Women of Many Faiths of SC. What do I fear? settling for being lukewarm.

  31. Ray Glennon says:

    From Therese
    I have never participated in an online book discussion but have been so moved by everyone’s comments, I wanted to become an active participant! As we are all on a different point in our spiritual journeys, I know we can all read the same words and have a different message that Jesus is speaking just to us. Since reading about making space for God to work, I have found over and over, different situations where I continually do the exact opposite and am getting in His way. And I know this because everytime I go back to the “me” solution, things don’t really work out! To that point, I wanted to share something I read recently that just confirms this message to me, that I need to make this part of my Advent focus..”Sometimes God’s work involves a degree of destruction as we find our limited structures crumbling. Through hardship or struggle, we realize we don’t have everything we need to survive in this world. That’s when things get frightening and we react rashly. Yes it may seem that everything is falling apart but God is always by our side. He constantly assures us that whatever He dismantles, He will rebuilt-only stronger.” God bless everyone!

    • Holly says:

      Therese, Your message could not have been more timely. Thank you. I am going through another time of God induced destruction. It is terribly unsettling and can only feel the loss of the structures I have outgrown at this time. I can sense God shining a blinding light on the small steps –showing me endless opportunities for kindness, compassion, joy, forgiveness and acceptances. Yet I thrash around in a ill fitted suit of anxiousness, fear, petty resentment and jealousy. I have had several of these “God quakes ” before, and find that nothing, absolutely nothing, is more humbling. Thankful to be in community with all of you. Blessings to all.

    • Liz says:

      We’re all in the same boat! And Jesus is in that boat with us during the stormy seas of life. I use visualization to help me find a Divine message in certain situations.
      I have a photo showing the storm at sea when the Apostles were frantic and Jesus was at rest in the back of the boat. Google images will get you any pics you may want to find. “Lord, help me the weather is stormy!” or “Lord, be a light unto my path.” Let’s pray for one another’s Divine direction.

  32. Ray Glennon says:

    From Carol Coffin
    Hello everyone,
    I’m Carol, I live in Lancaster Pennsylvania,known for our Amish community.(and no I am not Amish) lol .
    I have owned a hair salon for 25yrs, and it has been a blessing to be a blessing,but even more it has been my place of refuge and security from all the storms life has thrown my way.(and I have had my fair share)
    I have in the past couple of years been focusing on daily prayer, meditation,writing and photography.My spiritual practice has lead me on a new direction in sharing my
    deep love with others through this. I had my first showing last weekend and it was received so well!
    This is my first on line book discussion. I have been inspired by Henri Nouwen’s writings and I am looking forward to sharing this journey with you all.
    Peace be with you.

  33. Ruth says:

    About 13 years ago when we were going through a particularly difficult stretch, in our lives and in ministry, the Lord began waking me up in the middle of the night. At first I resisted because I thought it strange that I just couldn’t go back to sleep, and that I was hearing His voice…I wasn’t sure it was Him. After couple of nights, I finally got up at 2am, made a cup of tea, sat on a comfy chair, and tried to pray. But my prayers kept getting interrupted by Jesus who was continually telling me how much he loved me. I still remember those nights where all I could do is just listen to him telling me the truth that I had known all my life, but really, really needed to hear. This went on for many, many weeks, like waves breaking over me saying how much I was beloved of the Lord.

    Eventually I began to sleep through the night once again, but I was very much changed by those interruptions. That experience continually reminds me of what Peter said in 1 Peter 5:10-11: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

    I share this to encourage all those truly hurting right now. I also share it because it helps me remember how much He loves me forever.

    Grace and peace, Ruth

    • Amy Werner says:

      Ruth…this is such a beautiful account. Thank you so much for taking the time to share it. So very encouraging!!
      Blessings,
      Amy

      • Jean says:

        Thank you Ruth for helping me change my attitude to recent insomnia which I was anxiously feeling needed to be ‘cured’. Maybe the middle of the night is the only time Jesus can get me alone to tell me I am beloved, as the 24/7 nature of life in retirement can provide little solitude or privacy

    • Cel Hope says:

      Ruth, this is so very beautiful. And inspiring!!! I’m going to “frame” it and place it on my inner wall.

    • Nancy E. says:

      I, too, am waking up in the middle of the night, almost every night – and that is not a normal pattern of my past. Reading someone’s thoughts about turning this time into “God’s time” last week, and now hearing God speak to your heart during the night, I am consciously choosing to listen for God’s voice and attend to God’s Presence in the darkness. Thank you for helping me realize this is a BLESSING!

  34. Charles says:

    One of the questions for this week intrigued me. The question was posed based upon “The Invitation” in “A Spirituality of Living.” The question posed was “[h]ow are you responding to the Lord’s invitation to get to know Him as an intimate friend and how does that aid you in living in the world?”

    Quite honestly my answer to that question is “not very well!” I wish could say otherwise. My prayer life is lacking. Not that I don’t study the Faith, and even teach it to others in our parish RCIA and other adult classes, but when it comes to a personal life of prayer I don’t do very well.

    My inner life is more like that being described on page 30 in “A Spirituality of Living” as “a banana tree filled with monkeys jumping up and down. That being said, Henri Nouwen’s words about focusing on certain words or a phrase from the bible for half an hour have inspired me. Particularly how he describes those words then imprinted on our inner walls, the place where we will go out and meet our colleagues and associates.
    I was reminded of a time several years ago when I found myself at odds with a co-worker. Sometimes we would get into heated arguments about how to proceed on certain matters. I finally decided to say a nine day novena. Basically out of desperation! In the novena, I prayed that this co-worker find what she is good at, and that she experience success in her work. Well, I suddenly found our relationship changing, we began working together instead of against one another, and we began getting along and helping one another. She did experience success just as I had prayed, and ended up getting a very good promotion. Even though we were on the same track, I was happy for her that she found success, even if she received the same position for which we were competing. Today she works elsewhere, but we remain friends.

    I see now what happened. My inner walls, through prayer, became a place I could accept this person, and it was life changing for both of us, all through prayer and the presence of God. But I had to take the step to open up the communication with the Lord. This is something I desire to duplicate, and Henri Nouwen has inspired me to do so. Hopefully, this Advent, I will be up to the challenge.

    Thank you for conducting this book study. Absent this forum, this probably would have passed me by this Advent season.

  35. Jeanne says:

    A point that struck me anew is Nouwen’s comment about little steps being important. I sometimes look at “the big names,” as it were, and feel very inadequate. What is my contribution? But as Nouwen so eloquently reminds us in these readings, we are beloved simply and unconditionally. Internalizing that idea and spending time “curled up with” God are vital to all our ministries, large or small.

    • Charles says:

      Jeanne, I understand what you mean about the little things, and feeling inadequate. At times you think “what is the point?” You often feel as if your contributions are minimal, and will have little if no impact. But it all adds up, and even the smallest of things we do can have a huge impact on someone else, often times an impact we never see or that we never knew occurred.

    • Judy Mohan says:

      I was struck (and reminded) by the call to solitude. When, I asked myself, have I been truly alone of late and truly present to the spirit? Like many of you, my life is filled with lots of daily details. But when do I stop and listen?
      That is what I hope to do this week – everyday for at least 1/2 hour – to listen.
      Judy

    • Jeanne,

      I too was struck by your comments about feelings of inadequacy or questions of what I can contribute. I was consoled just this morning by Henri’s writing in his book on Discernment. He said: “It took a long time to understand that I belong to Daybreak community. I thought my vocation was simply to serve the poor, but I learned that my deeper vocation is to announce God’s love for all people. I also became aware that my final destination is not a place; it is God’s eternal embrace. With that clarity, I can be with anyone at any place and enjoy the goodness, beauty, and love I see while remaining at home with my God, who sent me into the world to speak and act in Jesus’s name.”

      I have only recently begun to see my role as mother, wife, friend, fellow-member of my community as my calling–not as daily set of chores to get through so I can then go find to time to love and be with God, but as God’s unique gift to me; the way He has chosen for me to follow to find my way back to Him. The tasks can seem mundane and unimportant, until I remember (because I think the knowledge was there all along, even though I only recently discovered it again) that they are His gifts to me, His call to a ministry to family and community. Then my actions and words and touches become substantial, holy demonstrations of my love for Him.

    • Cel Hope says:

      That “little steps” comment is helpful in another way – sometimes we are paralyzed by the big picture, it seems too huge a problem to address or attempt to make – but if we focus instead on the first step we CAN make, all that intimidation goes away. A participant in our JustFaith study nearly every week was voicing frustration that she felt she was supposed to go out and change the world but how could she do leave her job and family obligations in order to make a difference to the poor and needy. I thought of her when I read “The Call” and shared it with her. She said it really helped her put everything into perspective.

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