December 21st to 27th: Conclusions

Reading 1 (Living): The River
Reading 2 (Homecoming): Hidden Work

We have been on an incredible journey together this Advent, and we want honor each of you for engaging it so fully and with such honesty and openness.

In these final short readings Henri invites us to ponder how all that we’ve read and shared here can bear fruit.  He reminds us that the disciplines we discussed will bear fruit when we live them in surrender to God:

“There is a moment in our lives when we stand before the desert and want to do it ourselves.  But there is a voice that comes to us, ‘Let go.  Surrender.  In this parched land, I will make you fruitful.  Yes, trust me.  Give yourself to me” (p55, Living).

“So let’s wait for the Spirit to be revealed more fully to us, teaching us how to be at home in God’s home, and calling us to new forms of community and new acts of service” (p 58, Homecoming).

a) You are invited to take a moment to reflect on this discussion, and articulate what you will take away with you, and apply to your life.  Please share your “take away” with us.

Again, we are so very grateful for each of you, and the Spirit of God who has moved in and through you.  We trust that this time we have shared will indeed bear much fruit.

We also want to remember in gratitude John Mogabgab, who did such an excellent job of sharing Henri’s teaching through these books.

Each of you is warmly invited to join the Lenten book discussion – we hope to “see” you again in February.

Yours sincerely,

Ray and Brynn

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42 Responses to December 21st to 27th: Conclusions

  1. John says:

    Thanks Cel & Ray for the suggestions.
    I believe a brief mission statement is a good idea and perhaps more appropriate than New Years resolutions. I will write mine & put it as the first thing I see on my computer when I open it each day.

  2. Liz Forest says:

    I will borrow Mary’s Magnificat to say:
    I want to be blessed because I hear the word of the Lord and believe in what God promises. I hope that my daily response will be “yes” to whatever the Lord has in store.
    I will pray each morning as I draw the curtains, ‘Lord, be a light unto my path and a lamp on my feet.” I will hope to bring the light to others.

  3. My life sort of got away from me as Christmas neared and family (with a new grand baby) joined us for two weeks, so I haven’t felt the ability to offer thoughtful responses to this week’s questions. On a happy note for those suffering from fractured relationships, the family that has joined us were estranged from us for nearly 5 years. Prayer and gentleness with one another finally showed us our way back together. We’ve all been incredibly grateful for Henri Nouwen and Fr. James Martin and other writers who have helped us find our way.

    The stories and discussion here, prompted by Ray and Brynn’s thoughtful questions, have been such a blessing this Advent season — helping me appreciate, focus, prepare, and to give thanks.

    Today for us and the family with us this Christmas is an especially poignant day. It is the day their first baby girl was born just two years ago now. She was born much to early to sustain life on her own and could only be with us for a couple of hours. But she taught us so much, nonetheless, about the importance and fragility of life and love. Our priest called her our own special saint in heaven.

    Blessings on each of you and on your journey. I look forward to meeting all of you again along the way.

    Mary Adrienne

  4. Cel says:

    Did anyone pursue that idea of writing our own personal mission statement? That idea has been percolating in the back of mind this week and this morning jelled into something I can “place on my forehead” as did the Israelites, or even “frame and hang on the walls of my inner room: as was mentioned early in this study.

    Here’s my mission statement, thanks to this beautiful Advent study:

    My mission is to open myself fully to God so as to experience in every part of my being the love he has for me as I am right now. Out of that sense of being His Beloved, I will become the kind and gentle person I dream of being, and let that love flow out of me as through a conduit to embrace all of life. I will live in that love with all who inhabit our beautiful earth, from people down to the smallest particle of matter that makes up our world, blessing every aspect of life because I have first been blessed, and striving to make life better for all.

    I would love to hear if anyone else wrote a mission statement. Blessings in 2015.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Cel,
      Although I didn’t call it a personal mission statement, the penultimate paragraph to my comment “A final thought…” on Dec 26th at 5:25 p.m. is my answer to the question, “How shall we live?” and it is, in effect, my mission as I see it now. Thanks for your suggestion which prompted my thinking about this.
      Ray

      • Charles says:

        Excellent work Cel! I am still formulating mine, but I really like Ray’s comment above. Thanks to both of you for clarifying some things.

  5. Lata Hall says:

    Here we are, either sitting quietly with our families or friends or by ourselves communing with the Lord Jesus whose birth we just celebrated. It has been quite a journey the last few weeks with you all. Many many thanks Brynn and Ray for helping us grow by selecting these two books so wisely. I have read every chapter at least 4 times and over. I needed to live it, think and follow. When I am lost or feel low, I will have to read it again. I read the two books as soon as I got them, but in depth only when I studied with you all.
    During those times of solitude, I felt the love of God very deeply (mostly saying my rosary) and the response to love those who are hard to love became easier and easier. I would be decorating the house and saying to myself, I am the beloved and He is my beloved and He loves every one, so I must remember that. As soon as I felt like saying something unkind to someone, I had to say, now what would Jesus say to them. I would stop and THINK and then respond. I was not afraid to say that I needed to think about it either.
    I have different communities where we gather and do loving acts, now I call them our loving acts and no more charities. No more Pity, but simply loving each other. The hardest part was the next step, FORGIVE! To get over the old irritations and hurts and to love those who had irritated me or hurt me. I still have at least 4-5 such people as they keep on doing the same. I have stopped answering back and in my quiet time I ask our Lord to show me the way or just take this hurt away. It has not failed and I Have made progress. Before reading these two books together, I did not want to talk about it and I would say,’ Lord you deal with them, take them away, far away from me and give me your Peace.’ But our Beloved Lord God never takes it away but shows us the WAY slowly and gradually. Thank you Lord!
    I have put these two books in my prayer bag, which has my Rosary, my prayer list for the sick and few of my prayers. I will read a chapter or two again when I am stuck at Forgiving. The stuck river in the big desert will flow as the Lord will move the river of my heart, which will get stuck at FORGIVING (the so called desert). And I know I will be home one day, a room which has been prepared for us by our Lord Jesus with others who have said YES to His Love.
    You have been in my prayers as I read your blogs and May the Lord bring us together again and prayerfully many of you, who have been sick, will be back with us again in good health. God bless you all and let there be the Lord’s Peace in 2015 in this world. Let us do our bit in making that Peace and let the Lord do His part and He will do that. Let us not get in His Way by creating little wars or big wars.

  6. Ray Glennon says:

    A final thought…

    Reflecting on what is truly important, Henri wrote, “What counts in your life and mine is not success but fruits.” (Living p.55). In a similar way, when asked about the difficulties she faced in serving the poorest of the poor, Mother Teresa often responded, “God has not called us to be successful. He has called us to be faithful.” In the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel we read Jesus’ promise, “”And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20).

    How do we live faithful lives that bear fruit? By believing that we are the Beloved and trusting in Jesus’ promise, by turning to the Lord in solitude, by building community to share the spiritual life, and by doing the Father’s will through ministry (service) to those we meet on our journey through life. My goal in 2015 is to do just that.

    Once again, thanks to each of you for making this such a meaningful Advent journey.

    Ray

    • Charles says:

      Thank you Ray for your insightful comments. You always get me thinking, and get me to focus on what is important. And a Big Thank You to both you and Brynn for running these sessions. I think I got more out of this round than the others for some reason, to a large degree I think as a result of your focus on certain issues.

      Thanks again, and Merry Christmas as we are now in the season!!

  7. Ray Glennon says:

    A blessed, joyous, and merry Christmas to you and yours.

    Enjoy this beautiful Christmas reflection that Henri wrote forty years ago this day on Christmas 1974. Excerpt from the The Genesee Diary http://conta.cc/1xOTwXJ

    Dawn and I are off to my oldest daughter’s home for our family Christmas celebration with all our children and grandchildren.

    Ray

  8. Cel says:

    I left this week’s reading until I finished getting my Christmas cards out (last night) and had time to curl up and soak myself in more of Henri’s wisdom. I was SO disappointed to find only a couple of pages! I consoled myself with the thought that I’d definitely find wisdom in plenty on the blog. I was not disappointed. I will be praying for all of you at Midnight Mass and giving thanks for your willingness to dive beneath the surface and interact with all of those kernels of wisdom from Henri–and for your openness in sharing. Hopefully we’ll meet again in the Lenten study.

    As for what I got out of this study, again I have to say the nudge to concentrate on being God’s beloved before I encounter life, search for community and move to ministry. As I’ve reflected on that, it has made me remember the low point of my life, when I left my husband because I was being destroyed as a person. I had never fit in with my family of origin and always felt like a square peg being driven into the round hole of their expectations. I thought I had found a square hole where I fitted when i met my eventual husband, but once the ring was on my finger I inherited all his anger at his mother how had ruled his dad and all the family. After trying for 8 years to build our relationship back into a “we” situation rather than “him vs. me”, I bailed, left ranch life and had to move close enough to a town to get back and forth from work. Thankfully our parish had a very wise priest who saw gifts in me that no one had ever seen. he began telling me over and over again that I was gifted, talented, a beautiful person and so on. It took months but I finally began to believe him, and my life totally changed. Looking back after this Advent’s readings, I now realize that was my first experience of being beloved. For years I was blessed to have him in my life and to learn ministry from him. Then he retired and, ultimately, died and gradually my sense of being God’s Beloved has died out. This study has reminded me of how exciting and worthwhile my total life was in those days, and I have resolved to learn to listen so well to the Lord in my heart that I never again lose the sense of being Beloved. I will trust, too, that all else will flow naturally as long as I focus on that – and I will be grateful for whatever comes. Thanks so much, Brynn & Ray, for facilitating this study, and to all who shared their hearts.

  9. Ray Glennon says:

    Friends,
    As we await the celebration of the Savior’s s birth on this Christmas Eve, let me echo Brynn’s blessing and prayer. Sharing this Advent journey with each of you, whether you joined us on the blog or travelled along in silence, has been a privilege and a joy.
    With sincere thanks,
    Ray

  10. Patty Wheeler says:

    My husband has been dying this Advent. I read the readings and came in and out of the blog as I could. When he entered his final coma, during my vigil keeping, I found the reference to the book “Poustinia” and downloaded on my kindle. What a blessing. I read that book as I kept vigil. It was a complete poustinia – that room, my husband and me. Thank you to the person who mentioned this book. My Jim died on Dec. 20. I go to Christmas Eve service today knowing that he is with the Lord.

    • Ray Glennon says:

      Patty,
      May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and your family in a very special way this evening and in this season. Your witness and your confidence are a testimony to the goodness of our God. We will remember Jim in our prayers at midnight Mass. Thank you for sharing this most personal journey with the Lord and with us.
      Ray

  11. Brynn Lawrence says:

    My heart wishes each of you a joyful Christmas! Whether you find yourself in solitude, community, ministry, or all three over the next few days, I trust and pray that God will bring good fruit from it.

    In gratitude,

    Brynn

  12. Phil says:

    I haven’t posted any comments through this Advent journey. I have been content to listen – something I should do more in my day to day life. Listening and reflecting has convinced me to not be so pre-occupied with my own “troubles”; minor when I reflect on others I have heard here. The reflection on the Grand Canyon was particularly poignant to me. I definitely need to move away from the “me”.
    I look now to be more grateful, to act with greater compassion and be of more genuine service to my brothers and sisters … though not taking I will be perfect at it! I don’t want to beat myself up for something else and not truly take up my cross.
    A very Happy and holy Christmas to all you good people who have contributed here – particularly Brynn and Ray for facilitating. As always I have deepened my knowledge of myself and my God thanks to the community inspired by Henri Nouwen.

  13. Twyla says:

    One of the best gifts I received from this Advent discussion group was the idea of :
    Trying not to strive so intensely all the time. and the idea that Striving does NOT have to be a goal as part of being a better Christian.
    Henri’s gentle reminder that we are the Beloved no matter what. That we are doing Ministry even just listening to someone who is in need or pain, or even sitting quietly next to them, with no words….by someone who is in pain. THAT IS part of ministry.
    again…. Doesn’t take so much STRIVING when we do not feel the need to FIX everything, all the time.
    also forgiveness…. If one just forgives and lets go of the offense and doesn’t worry about it, but releases it, and gives it to Jesus…. the stress & striving of figuring out how awful the “offense was, and what to do about it” largely goes away…. 🙂
    WHAT a relief !
    now, I am more free to gift others as a natural response to my being loved by Jesus, and I will be doing it more since I haven’t exhausted myself with intense and constant STRIVING.
    I have been Blessed by these Advent discussions…and we all know what Henri said…
    “The Blessed one ALWAYS BLESSES.” 🙂
    Amen & Shalom ~!!

  14. Jean says:

    I have really found the journey from solitude to community to ministry with Nouwen’s insights a meaningful process, and thank you for the books, discussion questions and contributions. One ‘ take away’ that is still working its way into my life is the section in The Spirituality of Living , p 37-41 about the two disciplines in community of forgiveness and celebration. In the intimate community of a marriage being rebuilt, I have been learning how restorative forgiveness is in a relationship. I had learned that the 70 x 7 times that Jesus spoke of, need not necessarily relate to that number of offences, but that a single offence can have so many facets and repercussions that it seems almost as if that many acts of forgiveness can be needed ! It doesn’t mean that the first forgiveness is not genuine, but that as aspects of the hurt come to the surface or are repeatedly felt, repeated forgiveness is needed for fuller healing. However I had begun to feel that this process had the danger of unbalancing the relationship in an unhealthy way, by consolidating the roles of forgiver and forgivee. Ongoing gratitude and appreciation for forgiveness can be too great an expectation, a heavy burden for the forgivee and the possibility of either disappointment or a martyr attitude for the forgiver. Nouwen’s combining forgiveness with celebration brought a joyful way forward from this dilemma and I hope that it’s outworking will be one of the fruits about which Nouwen says in his conclusion ” Remain in Jesus; he remains in you. You will bear many fruits, you will have great joy, and your joy will be complete”
    The fruits may differ I our various different lives but reading the reflections this week it seems that fruitfulness is very real

    • Gilly Beardmore says:

      Forgiveness in marriage gradually leads to healing and the joy of experiencing what the other has become in the process

  15. Jo says:

    I’ve been able to pray daily in solitude something I had been neglecting to some extent. Situations seem clearer to me and I am stronger for having gone through Advent with all of you.

    My young nephew is dealing with throat cancer so is in need of our prayers. I sent him a card expressing the hope we live with in Jesus and the strength to do this comes from Henri who is guiding me in an amazing way. Thank-you Henri!

    He is sustaining my faith, giving me inner strength and enlightening me daily thanks to all of you who recognize his gifts to us.

    I’m really looking forward to a Lenten pilgrimage with everyone.

    The saints are with us. Jesus has given us many companions on our journey some we see some we don’t but reminders of their presence is a huge bonus so thank-you!

    Abundant blessings!

    Jo

  16. Diane C. says:

    This has been a very special Advent for me. For the first time, because of the gift of my surgery, it truly has been a time of “waiting”…isn’t that what Advent is supposed to be about? But usually I am so busy, stressed out and distracted. This time of rest and recuperation has also been a time of renewal for me and I am so very grateful for it. I have been blessed by this wonderful community and I thank you all, once again, for all the love and light you have brought into my life.
    I think my biggest “take-away” is a determination to continue down this path of renewal once I am back out into my very busy world. I will be going back to my stressful job (teaching 12-13 year olds) in the new year. I want to carry with me, in my classroom and in the halls of my school, the awareness that I am The Beloved and that God loves me just as I am. I want to be that “gentle and quiet spirit” who is so deeply connected to God that I can observe the craziness without being a part of it.

    “Remain in me, as I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, unless it remains part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.” John 15:4 (and the last page of “A Spirituality of Living”). This is my prayer…that I will remain a branch on the vine that is Jesus.

    Abundant Christmas blessings to you all until we “meet” again.
    Peace…we are all wounded healers.
    Diane

    • Gilly Beardmore says:

      Dear Diane I have had a similar journey for similar reasons Waiting together for the light to get nearer to us all has been a joy. I am a retired teacher and tonight at a Christmas Eve Crib service I am helping .We are celebrating in a community of all age families in an old beautiful English village church and with children at the centre The message of being beloved will be there .The Good news that God sent his son to teach us to be the best we can be for Him and his service ,that even if we make mistakes he is thrilled by our purity of heart and intentions .In fact although we can’t see him we can mysteriously sense his smile of pleasure in his creation . We learn in the sharing of ourselves to smile together with him. We are BLESSED

  17. Gilly Beardmore says:

    PREPARE HIM ROOM
    A friend has just shared the work of his nephew for a service this week .It resonates with our Advent Journey as being chosen, blessed ,broken and shared may we just prepare him a room
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6ycdxhMoRM

    • Ruth says:

      What a powerful work! As I sit here reading, praying, crying, loving, I am listening to the oxygen concentrator that enables my husband to breathe better at night, Christ is here — holding me, showering me with his love, singing over me. And I just want to share him to all who come near! Thanks to all who have been a part of my Advent journey this year. I am so grateful for each one of you!

      Grace & Peace, Ruth

    • Cel says:

      This is so beautiful. And so true! Thanks so much, Gilly!

  18. Marianne says:

    I didn’t post last week but last weeks’ readings certainly change my ideas about ministry – in a similar way to what Charles articulated. I like Henri’s urging on page 52 of Homecoming, that rather than holding Jesus as a historical character, to concentrate on a living and current relationship with Jesus. This helped me cope with my Chemo treatments as well as I did.

    On page 46 of Living, “We tend to divide the past into good things to remember with gratitude and painful things to accept or reject. ” of course the challenge in this is to begin to view past events in a less polarized way and exchange that for a new one that realizes that bad happens but the good is right beside it. An example of this is how learning how to cope with Chronic Migraines helped me to cope with my current Breast Cancer. I’ve been through the, “Why me?” And appreciate how our Father suffers when we suffer. I pray God helps me exchange a worldly view of success with a Biblical view of success in the Upside Down Kingdom. Interestingly, the Chemo stopped my migraines, Praise the Lord for that!

    On page 55 of Homecoming, the statement “Distractions in prayer usually mean we have left the present for the past or the future.” I am reading a book by Linda Carlson about using mindfulness to cope with cancer treatment. In the book she encourages readers to meld their faith with the concepts of mindfulness. I hope this practice can help me increase my times of solitude in communion with God as that is a take-home concept for me.

    These are excellent books to re-read. I want to also remember p. 34 Homecoming, “An enemy is someone we have defined as being against us….” I want to pray for my enemies and remember to do simple acts of service for them rather than ruminating about how much they bug me! : ) I’ll have a chance to put this into practice right this week!

    Thanks, Brynn and Ray for your leadership. Hope to see you all in Lent, I’ll be recuperating from surgery and beginning radiation by then, Lord willing.

    • Jeanette says:

      Thanks for your comments, Marianne. I too have had chronic migraines and the treatment that was diminishing them I have had to stop with my new breast cancer diagnosis. So that is one of my fears, that the migraines (enemies?) will return with force. Again, I see the need for trust that our Lord will continue to be with me. It is always easier to say than it is to do, however. But I’m getting better at it!

      Thank-you for mentioning the Linda Carlson book. I have also been reading the book by Ann Voskamp called “One Thousand Gifts” about thanksgiving and that it always precedes the miracle.

      I too would like to say thanks for Brynn and Ray and all the silent and verbal participants in this study. It has been deeply meaningful to me. Looking forward to the Lent study and I will be looking for you Marianne!

      Blessings to all on Christmas.

  19. Charles says:

    As other folks have mentioned, I too really enjoyed this discussion, and I took a lot away with me. I thank everyone for their insightful comments. Other comments often helped me focus in on my own thoughts.

    In any event, I have a few take aways on this Advent discussion. First, as I mentioned above to John, a recognition of the importance of solitude. That, unfortunately, I don’t achieve very well, but this Advent I am inspired to persevere.

    Second, is this notion of living in the present and experiencing God’s creation as it unfolds in the moment. Not the past, not the future. Not even thinking about or being distracted by the past or future. But being present in the here and now. This is somewhat akin to the Buddhist concept of mindfulness. And in a sense, it is related to solitude. Prayerfulness in solitude, being present with God, will certainly help us be present for those times when we are outside of prayer.

    Third, and finally, is a big one for me. I am always concerned about what I am going to be able to do between now and the time I am no longer physically on this Earth. But Henri Nouwen has made me realize that it is not important what I do per se, but what is important are the fruits of my actions. I am becoming increasingly “okay” with the thought of not being around to see the results of seeds I may have planted. Kind of like the analogy of the farmer plowing the furrows and planting seeds. The crop will grow and bear fruit, even long after the farmer has departed. Henri Nouwen is a great example of that himself. He is not physically present with us, yet he continues to influence how we think and what we do.

    Thanks again to Brynn and Ray for conducting a great discussion, and thank you to all who posted, I learned a lot.

  20. John says:

    Christmas greetings to all;
    “There is a moment in our lives when we stand before the desert and want to do it ourselves.” It seems I have been in the desert a long time. I always believed that after I retired it would be easier to be able to listen to Jesus and to pray. Not so, little distractions always come along. That is why I am grateful to all of you for being on this journey with me, my third with Henri & Jesus. It encourages me just to know that I am not alone in my quest to Jesus. I do not share much online but your presence is always in my mind and my heart. Thank you Brynn and Ray for your dedication.
    Several years ago, I participated in a Lenten sharing group. One of my assignments was a sharing about the “Prodigal Son”. After Lent, a member of the group and his wife thanked me for my sharing and presented me with “The Prodigal Son” by Henri Neuwon. I did not read it until much later, the distractions again. When I did read it, it touched my heart. Becoming the Father seemed so foreign yet so intriquing.
    Solitude with Jesus is also intriguing but evades me; a constant struggle to achieve. I sit there waiting for something to happen. Frustrating because it seems gratitude and compassion are difficult because the first step (solitude) did not happen. Once after reading about Solitude several times I went for a walk, just listening to soothing piano music. All of a sudden I found myself thinking about and listening to Jesus and realized that there is no exact prescription for solitude with Jesus, no urgency, no worrying, just faith that the Spirit is there for me and it will happen. That was my most recent moment of surrender. And that is my “take away” from this incredible journey. I pray the same experience for all of you.
    Prior to the Living series, I read “Spiritual Formation”, a posthumous work on Henri’s reflections. I urge all of you to take a look. Like all of Henri’s books, it is a good source for prayer reflection to read and re-read. I plan to read this again now. Until then, see you all at the Lenten readings. Merry Christmas.

    • Charles says:

      John, I am with you on solitude. That is one area in which I truly struggle. So I understand your frustrations. That being said, I can see how important it is, and that it is an integral component to our spiritual lives. So, I shall endeavor to keep trying!

    • “All of a sudden I found myself thinking about and listening to Jesus and realized that there is no exact prescription for solitude with Jesus, no urgency, no worrying, just faith that the Spirit is there for me and it will happen. That was my most recent moment of surrender.” And that is my “take away” from this incredible journey.

      This has been my conclusion, as well, John. While being alone often makes it easier to be with our Lord, I can feel His presence and have a sense of our oneness, when I’m in a crowd of people. Remembering that He’s there with me every minute is the most challenging part. I have begun to pray that God will help me remember Him as I go about my day.

      At this stage I shouldn’t be surprised that praying for His presence actually works, but does. And it always surprises me when it happens (that I’ve actually remembered, I guess). Then, the realization that He’s there with me causes me to smile…sometimes with a bit of embarrassment when I realize that He’s been watching me all along struggle with my world in one way or another. Then I get this warm sense of belonging and being loved; being reassured that I’m okay; that He’s there; that His strength will help me with whatever I need. And eventually the process resolves with my sense of connection with others around me.

      I don’t remember Him–His constant presence–all the time yet. But I’m working on it and I know that it pleases Him. As St. Alphonsus Rodriguez would say each time the door bell would ring, “I’m coming, Lord.”

      Blessings on you and everyone in 2015. I’m looking forward to joining with everyone again in Lent.

      Mary Adrienne

  21. Andrew John says:

    All: Thanks for being here. As I read the posts above mine here and reflect on them, I just wanted to share that the sun came out this morning. It is a weak December sun but nonetheless, there can be no mistaking that it is out today.

    This may not seem like that big of a deal but for our entire advent, thus far, the sun has not appeared here, not even once. Each day has been overcast and each successive day more overcast than the day before. It has been incredibly dark. The cloud cover has been thick and dense with no breaks for even a glimmer of sun to break through. These clouds combining with the recent solstice making the days the shortest of the year, I feel deprived of light.

    Our prayer could be that we never be deprived of Our Light, Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

    Merry Christmas, and to quote Tiny Tim of Charles Dicken’s fame: “God Bless Us, Everyone!”

    • Charles says:

      Thanks for all of your comments, I enjoyed reading them and learned a lot. I especially liked your comments a week or two ago about taking things with you to hand out to folks in need. You really got me thinking!

  22. Gilly Beardmore says:

    A TRUE CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR OUR CHURCH BABY PROJECT
    An 83 year old blind lady has already made us 4 crochet blankets for babies. They are put into baby baths together with other suitable gifts and given to the families of new born babies born into challenging circumstances .We heard this evening on delivery of two more of her blankets that she has recently had an operation on one of her eyes. Her eye sight has been sufficiently restored for her to see her grandchildren again. For the first time since losing her sight she shopped independently in a supermarket today. She is full of new hope and her humble lifelong faith despite much illness continues to sustain her.
    Thanks be to God for the gifts and skills shared by the medical profession for both those who deliver new born babies,those who are ill and those that enable the elderly to have a better quality of life .
    We pray that we may be a presence for Him in our ministry to the everyday ,

    and then we received this prayer request yesterday

    ”May I ask for prayer for my brother who is going through a divorce. He has abandoned our family and I believe is hurting. My parents are so torn up and upset especially my Mum. She is crying often and all I can do is listen for her. Thank you so much!”
    Father we pray for this family and others like them who are experiencing broken relationships during this Christmas season. If you give us the opportunity to touch their lives give us ears that listen and minds that consider everyday acts of gentle kindness that meet their needs. We ask this in your in your Son’s name .

    Having spent some time in solitude with Henri’s work and sharing in this Advent Community .I have received so much that with you I am BEING prompted to share where He gives me His opportunities.
    May the Prince of Peace continue to lead us together towards His Light .Season’s Greetings Gilly

  23. Kendra says:

    Jody, may you truly know (from the Promise last week)–the Jesus IS with you…ALWAYS….and that the breath of the Spirit is breathing new life into you right now.
    The message of Christmas–Immanuel–God is with us, God is with you.

  24. Doris says:

    I have not done much writing during this Advent season – but today I feel I must share what Henri Nouwen projects to me in his writings. First of all surrender can be an issue – but surrendering to Christ is a must for He is the one that is in control I have given myself to Him and wait for God’s spirit to enlighten my path. My understanding of ministry is that I must be a servant – helping others – the poor, the neglected the sick and hurting. It is the way of Jesus. The rewards of following Jesus are my peace of heart and mind and then one day being with Him in heaven. I have celebrated God’s love by giving my life over completely to Him and it is hard at times, but necessary. For you see “I have been bought with a price, the price of Christ’s death on the cross”. Can we do otherwise then give ourselves completely to Him?
    I come to solitude – Henri talks about. It is about being alone with God, listening to His voice within ourselves and doing His will. When in solitude all is quiet, just myself and God and I am glad that Henri taught this – it is a blessing. Solitude calls me to be in community with other Christians who feel as I do. Sometimes, I am lonely, lonely for more of Jesus, lonely for a world that is engrossed in self and selfishness – but this is not what I want in my loneliness I would digress the loneliness seeks others so that I will speak of my faith and hope in Christ. I realize we as humans cannot love as God loves we are not perfect. We should love our enemies by giving them our love for Christ. Easier said then done.

    There is a cost to following Jesus – but there is a huge reward. We put our burdens in front of our Lord and give them to Him. He looks at us tenderly and takes the load and helps us through all our difficulties. One good thing I must share and then will stop the writing. I met a lady in the airport, were sitting across from each other. Talked she had stage 4 cancer – treatment, not sure if it was healed. We shared our emails and write now. We write about knowing God better, walking with God and being what He wants us to be. It has been my blessing and she says hers as well. Well I will remember these Henri Nouwen opportunities for writing and sharing. Thank you so much all….and God bless and a very Merry Christmas and a blessed 2015.

  25. Jody says:

    This is “back-tracking” a little, as I have been reading but not responding online here. I just find the truth in the basic formula of ministry that Nouwen presents. Believe you are loved by God, believe others love you, and find gratitude in those things. Now you are equipped for ministry. It’s crazy how we skip those first three steps more often than not.

    “Nothing is as difficult as really accepting one’s own life”. This is something I want to work on over the holidays. Overall, I have a nice life. I own a little house, finances are stable, I’m young(ish), have a good job, and nice husband and a beautiful little boy (who is the light of my life!).

    But as 2014 comes to a close, I am mixed with gratitude and resentment. Is that possible? It must be possible, because that’s how I feel! I shall cling to the gratitude. I’m just glad that some things are over. My husband was unemployed for too long, my boss was harsh with me this year and made me worry about the stability of my position. I suffered a miscarriage. Two of my young friends, in their 20’s and 30’s, are dealing with life-threatening cancers that have almost devastated their lives. I’m grateful to see 2014 go! But I’m also grateful to say that I can “…Cry over your pains, and you will discover that I’m right there in your tears”. Jesus is there. And I’m grateful for his presence, I’m grateful for what I’m still learning.

    I struggle with resentment about some of those 2014 situations, but I know that He’s going to still be there in my tears. I suppose my goal is to shed the tears and feel gratitude in His presence instead of holding the tears in and growing more and more resentful.

    • Jeanette says:

      Jody, what you said in your post resonated within me. I thought you summed up much of what this study was about. When you speak about gratitude and resentment, I believe we choose one or the other. For a long time I chose resentment until something (God?.. yes) made me realize I was becoming bitter and hard and I was damaging my family. I still struggle with the choice between forgiveness and the anger that turns to ‘cold resentment’.

      This has helped me, taken from “Can You Drink the Cup?” ‘But as we gradually come to befriend our own reality, to look with compassion at our own sorrows and joys, and as we are able to discover the unique potential of our way of being in the world, we can move beyond our protest, put the cup of our life to our lips and drink it, slowly, carefully, but fully.’ p. 87 And this on page 90, ‘We can choose to drink the cup of our life with the deep conviction that by drinking it we will find our true freedom. Thus, we discover that the cup of sorrow and joy we are drinking is the cup of salvation.’

      My prayer is that we will all find the freedom that God allows if we invite him into our hearts. May your journey through 2015 be blessed with His presence, Jody.

    • I, too, have shared your gratitude-resentment challenge. I’m not sure the choice ever goes away. In several situations in the last year rather than choose either, I have asked God for the grace to see (sometime) what good He intends to come from them. We can’t always know the answers to our questions until the ‘fullness of time.’ But we can be assured that if we lean on Him, He will use all our life experiences for good.

      Blessings on your Christmas, Jody. I pray for healing and strength and joy for you and your family and your friends.

    • Cel says:

      Jody, it sounds like 2014 was really hard for you. It is so easy to let resentment sneak into our inner lives, where it busily poisons everything. Gratitude, on the other hand, requires a conscious choice to look for all the positives that perhaps the resentment blinding us to. Someone once told me it takes only one negative (criticism, misfortune, etc.) to drag us down, and it takes a good 40 positives (compliments, affirmations, blessings) to cancel out that negative. Our world hands out the negatives freely and positives very sparingly. It’s only through our experience of being the Beloved that we are able to hear all God’s positive affirmations and be able to close our ears to that which drags us down. I have always struggled with resentment; it seems like I allow it to color my world black for a while before I notice. As I’ve learned to look for things in my life for which to be grateful, and in the process learned to lower my expectations of others because they (like me) are wounded and limited in their ability to love, I have found I struggle less with resentment. One book that REALLY helped me, and which I re-read occasionally as a reminder, is Brother David Steindl-Rast’s, Gratitude, the Heart of Prayer.

      This Advent study has really benefited me, especially since the “Community” chapter in Spirituality of Living. As I posted that week, it was a huge “aha” moment for me and, since then, I’ve been focusing on really calling to mind all that Henri said each time I become critical of myself, discouraged of feel slighted. My only New Year’s resolution is going to be to remind myself over and over again that the only important thing is to deeply believe that I am God’s Beloved, and to let all of life flow out from that experience. I can already see a difference in how I’m relating to others and in my ministry. I’m hoping that eventually it will become a “given” in my life. Just as, years ago, I struggled at first to forgive my ex husband, only to realize that it was becoming easier over time and eventually, totally gone, I know that hanging on to this positive sense of being Beloved will grow easier with time. May you feel greatly blessed in 2015!

      • Ray Glennon says:

        Cel,
        Thank you for sharing your New Year’s resolution. It is one that I certainly need to make my own.
        Merry Christmas to you and to everyone that has journeyed with us this Advent–and to all those whose lives you touch today and everyday.
        Ray

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