March 29 to April 4th: Epilogue and Conclusions

Reading:  Epilogue Living the Painting

1) In the epilogue Henri reflects back on his encounter with Rembrandt’s painting.  We similarly have the opportunity to reflect back on our encounter with this book – A Story of Homecoming.
a)  How this “encounter” has impacted you and influenced you on your journey?

2) Henri takes this opportunity to further explore and clarify his call to become the Father.  He writes, “True fatherhood is sharing the poverty of God’s non-demanding love.” (p 138)  And he concludes this way, “As I look at my own aging hands, I know they have been given to me to stretch out toward all who suffer, to rest upon the shoulders of all who come, and to offer the blessings that emerge from the immensity of God’s love.” (p 139)
a) Has this Lenten journey changed your understanding of “fatherhood” or “motherhood”?
b) What can you do to stretch out your hands to your family and friends?  Your church and community?  Those you encounter on your journey?

3) Henri also encourages us to consider ways we are called to move forward on our journey.  Of his own experience he says “It is comfortable to be the wayward younger son or the angry elder son.  Our community is full of wayward and angry children, and being surrounded by peers gives a sense of solidarity.  Yet the longer I am part of the community, the more that solidarity proves to be only a way station on the road…” (p129).
a) You are invited to consider ways you may be lingering in a place of waywardness, anger, suffering, because it provides a sense of solidarity with others around you.
b) Where is God leading you to now?

We want to express our deep gratitude to all who have journeyed together this Lent.  It has been an incredibly rich time, and we look forward to hearing your concluding reflections this week.

Ray and Brynn

58 Replies to “March 29 to April 4th: Epilogue and Conclusions”

  1. Joni, thank you for your post. The other two verses are also positive about God`s continuing love and care for each one of us who believe in His name.
    Every Day He gives you a brand new start
    Every Day He comes to touch your heart
    Every Day He frees you from your sin
    and Every Day He breathes new life within

    Come What May, He`ll hold you in His palm
    Come What May, He`ll rescue you from harm
    Come What May He`ll walk along your way
    and Come what may, He`ll love you Day by Day

  2. Thanks to all for the very fine discussion during the lenten season. I read all the posts and found them helpful and insightful. Blessings to all!

  3. It’s been a great study. Blessings to all of you. If I may, I would like to ask you to pray for and end to my migraine headaches. I start radiation for Cancer treatment on Wednesday.

    1. Of course our prayers are with you. I had 8 weeks of radiation almost 7 years ago. I celebrated March 28 my anniversary. I think one who has walked the walk finds it easy to pray for others with faith and without doubt. Blessings to you and all who suffer from cancer, either you yourself, or a loved one who shares in the suffering.

  4. A blessed and joyous Easter morning to each of you. He is risen!

    I want to join Brynn in expressing my heartfelt thanks to each of you for joining us for this Lenten journey. By your presence and your participation in whatever manner you chose you have created a welcoming community and a safe place to share our unique experiences of “homecoming” as we reflected on Henri’s words and Rembrandt’s painting.

    May the Lord give you peace and may you experience the presence of the living Christ today and every day.


    P.S. We are planning to hold another Henri Nouwen book discussion this summer. Details coming soon.

    1. I’ll be there! Will also try to join in discussion on Daily Meditations. However, because of time difference I Think I miss out on some of the comments. Any way to view more than one day at a time? This blog as been ideal for me because I enjoy reading the posts from the whole week.
      Would love to be able to do that with Daily Meditations also.
      Thanks so much to both of you for making this an extremely blessed Lent.

  5. As we prepare to celebrate Easter Sunday tomorrow I am thinking of each of you. During Holy week my church had extended times of prayer and I was often praying for everyone in this group. Praying that the deep and unconditional love of the Father, demonstrated so clearly through His Son, would permeate your hearts with joy and courage.
    This has been a very rich discussion and I’m so very grateful for each of you and the wonderful ways you’ve shared, encouraged and given of yourselves to build this community. I’ve been rather quiet in the comments the last few weeks, but no less with you. Thank you.

    In Christ,


  6. I have enjoyed your comments thoroughly as I have enjoyed reading this Nouwen book for the first time. A devout Chinese Christian mentor introduced me to Henri’s books 2 years ago and I am hooked. Sometimes I feel like I AM Henri Nouwen with all his insecurities and desperate need for connection! My son in law at Fuller Theological Seminary says that Nouwen’s works have pervaded that Univeraity as well which I was glad to hear.
    Having been a homeschooling mother ( my kids are now 23 and 26), I have experienced a bit of Gods desperate love for His children. I gave them my all. Every ounce of my energy, denying self daily, and embarrassingly, gaining 60 pounds in the process! Now they are grown and productive and serious about their relationships with our Lord… But they have moved away from me and their dad! The balancing act is overwhelming sometimes. How do we give selflessly and unconditionally without inserting ourselves into their lives too much? They don’t need us anymore! We have to hope that we have raised them in such a way that they will regularly CHOOSE to include us in their lives from time to time just as our Heavenly Father waits for us to seek His face on a regular basis.
    But in the meantime, since parenting has allowed my husband and I to experience the joys of nurturing we find that we HAVE to continue to nurture SOMEONE so that we don’t suffocate our kids with our attentions. To me this is a living example of how our Heavenly Father is desperate to express the love that is His nature and is waiting for us to cry out for it. The letting go part of love is so very painful but I have found great joy and contentment nurturing elderly now who regularly actually need my attentions.
    As far as the extra weight I gained while homeschooling, My Lord has empowered me to take off all 60 pounds through a spiritual food addiction fellowship like AA called “Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous” or “FA.” Missing my children and being willing to call my over-eating an addiction 4 1/2 years ago has driven me deep into fellowship with my Lord and brought me more joy in this period of my life than I’ve ever known, surprisingly, in the midst of the pain.
    I have lived elements of both sons and the Father in the course of my 59 years and chose to focus the remainder of my spiritual journey on becoming the compassionate Father “for the joy put before me” full well knowing that this is impossible for me. But “God can do all things through Christ…”

    1. Kim, thanks for your beautiful insights about the loving, nurturing, maternal side of God. I had not thought about the “letting go” part of a God whose heart aches for the adult child to recognize his or her need for that loving parent. As you “let go,” your children will continue to hang on to the lessons you have taught them about how it is we are to live. Believe me. They still need you, and you have reminded me that I need to more consciously acknowledge my continuing need for God, my Father/Mother.

    2. Kim, thank you for your sharing, especially about children not needing their parents anymore. The challenge of “letting go” of people, places, even ideas and opinion is there for everyone. For me, living in community where people “need” you only on their terms and many a times one has to embrace the solitude of the Father, this Lenten journey has offered valuable lessons and encouragement to continue to become the ever nurturing, welcoming, undemandingly loving Father.
      Your post has encouraged me in my struggle. Thanks.

    3. Thank you for your comments Kim.
      You have struck a chord with me as I too am a homeschooling mother with kids beginning to leave home.
      I have just realized that as they leave, I need to be like the Father, waiting patiently and not demanding their presence for them to come to me. It is painful to let go and a difficult journey to wait and not be demanding. I hear your heart aching as mine is.
      I am thankful that you have found others to pour yourself into. I am sure you have a lot to give. I will pray for you as you learn to let go, and perhaps you could pray for me as I begin and that I will find others to serve.

      Thank you and may God bless you richly as you continue to serve Him.

  7. Good morning. It is Good Friday morning.
    I like to say “thank you” for all who shared life stories. I read the stories two or three times not to miss the meaning of the stories, due to limited English understanding. It was good to read and learn how much we are loved by God. Thank you all. Hope to hear from you on web in the future.

  8. Quest 1: How has this encounter empacted you and influenced you on your journey?
    As we bring this study to a close, I am a bit overwhelmed – I think I will be in a much better position to answer the question next year, after the seeds that have been planted here have an opportunity to rest awhile in my soul, to develop deep roots and eventually to blossom in ways I cannot even imagine. I would like to say that this group has helped me to “see with new eyes and hear with new ears.”
    Quest 2: Has this Lenten journey changed your idea of father/motherhood?
    I would like to think so, but then again, “the proof is in the pudding” so to speak…only time will tell if true understanding has begun.
    What can you do to stretch out your hands to family, friends et al?
    I believe for me the key will be to truly “see with new eyes.” As I read and write this morning I can’t help but recall how my first encounter with Henri was 40+years ago through his book “With Open Hands.” Reading, re-reading and praying with that book set me on a lifelong journey of discovering a different approach to prayer.
    My hope and prayer is that this book and this journey here with all of you will do the same to “grow” my understanding of father/motherhood.
    Quest 3: You are invited to consider ways you may be lingering in a place of….
    Lord, you know I have been there, done that! Please light my path to move beyond that place to the next way-station on my journey.
    Where is God leading you now?
    I have no idea! 🙂 However, I do have a very deep sense of hope and trust. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide each of us on the path He has chosen for us. May we be faithful to the still, small voice within to guide us.
    Heartfelt thanks to all of you! God Bless

    1. I loved what you said, Joni. I could have written it. I am never sure of where I am with the Lord. I just keep walking towards the light, then wonder if it is the light–lol! Or just my imaginings. Yes, I agree, “the proof is in the pudding” because I think I’m doing the right things. I think I re-learned again to follow the path, but will I wander astray? Will I need another gentle reminder? Let’s continue these group discussions to “pull me” back to the correct path.

      These postings have given me much to ponder and much to pray about for others as well as for myself, and much gratitude for the gifts given to me and my family. I see many blessings more clearly which I seem to have ignored until reading the book and reading the postings.

      Wonderful group of faithful pilgrims I was fortunate to be with this Lent.

  9. To those of you who wrote to me following my post I offer my heartfelt thanks, some who who found it helpful and others who sent such wonderful words of encouragement.
    Some years back our Creator Father God gave me some insights which I`d like to share with everyone who reads this blog. We`ve all been blessed.
    Father God
    Your love falls like the gentle rain from heaven
    Father God
    tears born of tenderness You cry for me
    Father God
    Your healing streams flow out to set me free.
    Praise You, Father God
    The Hand of Father God is waiting to hold you
    the Heart of Father God is waiting to love and forgive
    the Healing Touch of Father God is waiting
    to give you peace and comfort.
    Father God is waiting for you to turn to Him.
    My prayer for each of you is that you will find strength and comfort from these words. God inspired them and it is my responsibiity to share them with you.
    They are on a website
    alongwith some stories Roy wrote just before he died and some thoughts about bereavement.
    May the Lord bless you as you read.
    With love and gratitude

  10. Friends,

    Last weekend while working with Brynn to prepare the concluding post for our Lenten discussion, I learned of this New York Times video via Twitter.

    As I wrote to Brynn at the time, “I think this video is a beautiful metaphor for the compassionate love (care) of the father that leads to healing, rejuvenation and new life. And it is also about a ‘homecoming.'” I just watched it again, and I believe that it is a fitting and uplifting way to recall our Lenten journey together. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and that, perhaps, you find it touches you in a meaningful way as you reflect on your life’s experience.

    May you and yours have a blessed and joyous Easter.


    1. Ray, thank you for sharing this video, a promise of New Life to those who have been battered and bruised by life`s journey.

      Prayer After September 11th, dedicated to those who died or who suffer in anyway from its consequences:
      From the depths of our innermost being
      we cry out to You for the death of so many loved ones.
      For the wife who no longer hears her husband`s key in the door,
      for the children who have no father (mother) to romp with on the floor,
      for the parents in mourning for their daughter or son,
      for the friendships shattered because of what`s done,
      for the lives that are lost before they`ve begun..
      we lift them Lord to You.

  11. Friends,

    I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit led me to find this book in Singapore in June 2004, just as the same Spirit led Henri to find the poster in France in 1983. Paraphrasing the Epilogue, “When I first …read The Return of the Prodigal Son … I was so deeply touched… by this book describing Henri’s reflection on the …image of the life-giving embrace of the father and the son because everything in me yearned to be received in the way the prodigal son was received. That encounter turned out to be the beginning of my own return. (emphasis mine)” And so it was.

    My spiritual journey has continued since then, aided in no small part by, again paraphrasing Henri, “The warm welcomes I have received in by participating in many fruitful Henri Nouwen book discussions that have allowed me to experience the younger son’s return.” This discussion was no exception and I want to thank and honor each of you for your contribution to making this a blessed Lenten journey.

    Here is my personal takeaway from our time together. In order to accept my spiritual fatherhood and to welcome others home, I need to truly forgive myself for the times when I have acted as the younger and the elder sons and to accept that I am God’s beloved. Only then will I be ready to become the spiritual father for the people in my life. “As a self-rejecting person always in search of affirmation and affection,” it is both a daily challenge and a life-giving calling. Thanks to each of you for your inspiration along the way.

    May the Lord give you peace.


  12. This “encounter” had been an amazing and rewarding journey for me. Henri’s soul stirring and thought provoking insights, his lucid elucidations Ray and Brynn’s questions along with my fellow pilgrims’ candid and honest sharing helped clarify and enlighten my thoughts. They put my struggles to becoming the FATHER in right perspective. I offer heartfelt THANKS to each one of you. I had taken each one of you into my daily prayer. Some of your struggles have touched a nerve in me and I grieve with/for you. I hope and continue to pray that your yearning for healing will be soon fulfilled by our ABBA. Each of your sharing has enriched me and I feel that this Lenten journey was a meaningful one because of this. You have encouraged me to continue my struggle of becoming the Father courageously. THANK YOU. I wish I needn’t have to say good-bye, that the study has not completed, but reality has to be accepted.
    This Lenten journey has definitely deepened my understanding of “fatherhood” and in a practical way I had to strive hard to “share in the poverty of God’s non-demanding love”. To stretch out my hands in blessing means first of all accepting the reality that exists in living in community. To quote Henri “Community life has opened… the struggle to keep moving toward the light precisely when the darkness is so real”; then it is accepting the loneliness of the Father – the loneliness of compassion; when everyone goes wherever they want, I have to be home to welcome them in blessing; when they share their woes, I have to listen non-judgmentally; when they are weary I have to soothe them with caring love; all the while embracing a ‘solitude’ only God can fill.
    God is leading me where I dare not go on my own: He is asking me to embrace the solitude of the Father, put on the non-demanding love of the Father and wait in compassion to bless those in community, those who approach me for counseling, to listen compassionately to those who call me. By myself I will not be able to do it but, “he who called me is faithful and he will do it “(1 Thessalonians 5:24).

    1. Sister, once again your words hit me in the middle of my heart! I too have kept this little flock in my prayers every day since we first began this journey.
      I feel so connected both to those of you who write, and our choirs of friends who read and pray with us.

      I think I may be going through withdrawals next week when I can’t come home from work amd check for new posts, and one of my favorite things, on Saturday mornings I would re-read all of the posts from the week amd be fed in a new way by what God is doing among is.
      Heart felt gratitude to each of you, will try to answer the questions later, but right now my heart is too full to tackle the, yetL. Blessings, Joni

  13. Even as we attempt to become the father, we still need in some ways to be the son who creeps home with humility and never forgets his human fallibility. The prodigal son, I think, is more likely to be the empathic son in the end, more willing to tend to his human father in his dotage or perhaps to nurse the old man through a terminal illness, for this son understands the meaning of human connection, interdependence, and gratitude. He will remember the power of the homecoming embrace and respond in kind. I worry that the elder son, who has worked so hard to create an image of utmost competence and superiority, would find an aging father’s vulnerabilities repellant. Would he ever have the patience or empathy to care for the old man? It’s not in his game plan.

    I agree with Henri that the elder son will have “enormous resistance against receiving” the father’s mercy, but such a son will also be reluctant to offer mercy to those he considers undeserving, those whose vulnerabilities he finds distasteful. As I work with and for the poor, I become so frustrated with those who generalize that poverty is the result of laziness and poor choices and that one deserves to “reap what he has sown.” Compassion means to “suffer with,” but that is not possible for those who respond to any form of human suffering and misery as “not my problem.”

    Even before rereading this book for the third time, I had been thinking a lot about the suffering of God the Father and, by extension, the suffering of those who share the “beatific vision” of heaven. Are the saints, despite their placement in a condition of unadulterated joy, still suffering in the knowledge that the living continue to inflict the worse kinds of suffering on themselves and one another?

    So here are the questions with which I end this Lenten journey: Am I willing to accept the vulnerabilities of myself and others, as so many of you on this blog have done with such grace and courage? How can I increase my compassion, even though it means that I will increase my own suffering and discomfiture? How can I avoid insisting on my own personal playbook as the elder son seems to be doing?

    Thanks again to Ray, Brynn, and my companions on this Lenten journey. Let’s occasionally meet up in Henri’s daily reflection until we meet again for the next book discussion. You will forever be in my prayers.

      1. I would love to establish this regular practice. Thanks, Marianne. Would anyone else like to participate in Henri’s daily blog, perhaps on Sundays?

        Thanks, everyone, for your powerful insights.

  14. In the end, the book is about unselfish, agape love. Christ demonstrated love for all, and our call is to do the same as we “become the father.” The question is asked “Can I give without wanting anything in return, love without putting any conditions on my love? The answer for me is provided in the following sentence: “Considering my immense need for human recognition and affection, I realize it will be a lifelong struggle. As the author also states: “There is a dreadful emptiness in this spiritual fatherhood. No power, no success, no popularity, no easy satisfaction.”

    I approach the end state of my Stage IV cancer having been a commuter airline captain at age 23, a senior executive in the FAA at age 33, and having attained a doctoral degree in education, I realize that my striving for success has brought me considerable recognition throughout my life, that contrasts deeply with “the dreadful emptiness in this spiritual fatherhood.” On the other hand, I have learned to appreciate the true gift I have in the unselfish love of a spouse that mimics in a sincere way Christ’s care and support for me each day, and it fills my life with joy that is beyond the recognition any accomplishments or the world can give.

    This book is very powerful. It is one I am sure I will continue to reference. In the end, it is all about agape love – love with no expectation of return. Striving to do that each and every day, with everyone I meet, is an especially deep challenge for all of us, and certainly for me as I struggle with chemotherapy, palliative care and an unknown future. Knowing the love of Christ, and the beautiful story of “The Return of the Prodigal Son” has been a true blessing at a most important time in my life.

    1. Tom,
      Thank you for sharing your personal story and inspiring struggle with cancer during this Lenten journey. Your presence has blessed us all.
      May the Lord give you peace during this Holy Week and Easter season.

      1. Ray,
        Thanks so very much for your kind comments and for the opportunity to participate.

        All the best,

    2. Thank you, Tom, for sharing. Your comments are very helpful. May you feel God’s presence always.

      As a quadriplegic, continuing to weaken due to post-polio syndrome, and knowing my best friend and primary caregiver is also at the very painful end stage of Stage IV cancer, it is good to share. His compassionate and constant care helps give his life meaning and keeps him going during this difficult time, while at the same time I am blessed by him. We are both growing spiritually as we travel this road together. Each day is a physically painful struggle for him, but he is so determined to keep going and care for me. We are still able to share the joys of singing in the church choir, along with other activities, for which we are very grateful. Day by day we wonder how long we can do, who will take care of me when he is gone, or will it be a nursing home, and many other questions. We don’t know. But. . . We do have faith we are are in God’s hands and He will provide. He always has. As you do, we feel His Spirit within.

      1. Judith, you continue to inspire me. Thanks for your sharing. Our faithful God will surely guide and guard you. May he envelop you in his during this Easter season. God Bless!

      2. Both you, Judith, and Tom amaze me. What lovely faith. God Bless you both and all who are in similar situations. You truly humble me as I walk my own path that seems so shallow after reading your postings.

    3. Thanks for your sharing Tom. May our compassionate Father enfold you in his undemanding love. May the peace of the Risen Lord fill you during this holy season. God Bless!

  15. What a Hard, and yet Lovely path we have been on this Lent together…. We brothers & sister in Christ ~!!
    All of us sharing our weaknesses and triumphs in trying to follow The Father. Looking back on this experience I think The Father would smile on us all. The brave ones who shared, the quiet ones who maybe didn’t talk through writing, but prayed, the gentle ones who nonjudgmentally listened and the good ones who learned, and the compassionate ones who verbally wiped the others tears.
    Doing what good families do…. Caring for each other in many ways. This Lenten Journey has been an experience being part of the Family of Christ. Laughing, Loving, Learning, Crying and doing the hard Reparation work of soul searching to try to become more like The Father.
    I was honored to be a part of it. And I thank you ALL.

    May The Lord Bless You & Keep You.
    May The Lord make His Face to Shine upon You,
    and May The Lord be gracious unto You,
    and Give You Peace ~!!
    (Numbers 6: 24-26)

  16. This is the first time that I’ve sat to write on this blog and it is with some trepidation that I now do so. The past few weeks of rereading this book and your comments have caused me to think more deeply. I have no theological expertise but would share with you something of my life. I’m now 69 and have lived with clinical depression since my late teens so I can fully relate with Henri when he writes about it. During these years I’ve experienced five breakdowns, each longer and darker than the one before. It is at times like this that I’ve known the love of my late husband, family ( no children) and Christian friends as well as hanging on to my faith by the “skin of my teeth.”
    It’s now six years since Roy was promoted to glory, as a Salvation Army friend expressed his passing, during which time life has been difficult. Grief is so very personal. Each of us has to walk our own road until we once more walk in the light of a new life with its fresh opportunities. For these years deep peace has been elusive, that is, until a week ago. Thanks to some advice from a ninety year old Christian e-friend I wrote a letter to Roy recalling the good times, how much I miss him, also asking him to forgive me for the times when I’d been “horrible” towards him. You see, he was a full quarter lower limb amputee, always in pain, spending his last few years confined to a wheelchair. What with my depression and his bi-polar there were times when things were rather explosive. But we knew deep down how much we loved each other and that the Lord was dwelling with us in our home. Having written that letter great sobs ensued for half an hour, sobs from deep within, such as never before experienced. Then on my knees asking for God’s forgiveness too. That night was the best night’s sleep for six years! And now such deep inner peace, a gentle calm covering my heart, mind and soul.
    Now I can walk in the light of that new life with its fresh opportunities for serving in the Lord’s name, secure in the belief that I’m His child who has been forgiven. A child who has much experience of life and, God willing, will reach out the hands of our Father/Mother God to those who need the touch of His hand on their life.
    Thank you for these past few weeks when your leading and sharing has led me to this point in my journey with God.
    Day by day, The Lord understands your needs
    Day by day His Holy Spirit leads
    Day by day He hears your every prayer
    and Day by day He keeps you in His care.

    1. Jennifer,
      Thank you for this honest and deeply moving sharing. You bless us by your presence. May the Lord continue to give you his peace–day by day.

      1. May you feel Jesus presence and Love MORE more often than you feel the sadness of clinical depression…… and, may you feel Jesus right there beside you when you are in the blackness of sadness and at least KNOW that you are not alone and that you are not Unloved, no matter how you are feeling each day.

    2. Thank you for your story. Reading your story, I think I will write a letter to my husband who died last year. I am still grieving for his death.

    3. I am so glad you shared. As I’ve said before, our beloved son also suffered bi-polar illness, so I like insights to what he suffered. His 50 birthday was yesterday when you posted your feelings. God Bless you! I pray for your continued peace of mind. I understand your “sobs” as I also had deep tears a few months following our son’s death–once the numbness left me. Much compassion for you–and you needn’t have studied theology to share the depths of you feelings. Best to you–SA

    4. Jennifer, I am deeply touched by your sharing I rejoice with you that peace has overtaken your dark depression. I pray that you continue to experience peace especially during this season of the Lord’s victory. Yes, the Lord do understands your needs.AND HE WILL CONTINUE TO KEEP YOU IN HIS CARE. God Bless.

    5. Dear Jennifer,
      Thank you so much for sharing your life experience with us, in such a beautiful and humble way. Your suffering touches us and the way you are trying to live and integrate it, inspire us with our own personal losses.
      You have shared that you not only “hang on to faith by the skin of your teeth,” but some of the ways that you have chosen to do that, which opens doors for us as well. Thank you.
      Your effort, (and I can only imagine what a huge effort it was,) to compose your letter to Roy and to express all the feelings that you carried for so many years, is truly heroic, and I am so grateful you allowed us to share it. The profound grief and the amazing joy – followed by peace! What an experience of liberation for you.
      Just as Henri leads us to the Father, so you, with your words, have supported us on the inner journey of crossing the desert from burdensome inner slavery to the freedom of the children of God.
      With deep gratitude,
      Sue Mosteller, for the Henri Nouwen Society.

      1. Jennifer, it’s Saturday night here in Germany, Easter has begun! I am re-reading our posts for this week, one of my favorite things to do! I was blessed when I first read your post, as a victim of depression myself, I joy in your victory. But tonight, it was the little prayer at the end that really blessed me. I have written it in my little “catch all” notebook which contains everything from notes to self, recipes, book suggestions and little things that touch my heart. As I re-read the notebook in the months and years ahead, I will carry your heart in mine!
        Happy Easter everyone, Christ has risen. ALLELUIA!!!

  17. From Rodolfo
    Because of God’s word, Abraham (before Abram) became the “father of all nations”, but he was tested when asked to kill his son Isaac. We all know how the story ends, so the lesson for me is that the way of love is a way of faith and rationality has not place; and as Ft. Jean-Nicolas Grov says: it is obscure and dark, and herein consists its merit. In my spiritual journey I surrender to the Father and have difficulty in becoming like him. I neither see him as Henri does: “as an authority or someone who punishes us” (rationalizing), nor I am fearful and paralyzed. I see Christ as my reference in order to remain in him. I hope that by imitating him I “may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father”.
    I believe that as I do the works of Christ, the Father is in me. However, I try to have present in my life Jesus’ words when he said no disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master. So it is a balanced game between accepting my limitations and acting as the Father does.
    I believe one becomes compassionate, as long as one accepts its own vulnerabilities and have a clear mission to fulfill in life. The importance of denying oneself in order to let one’s “neighbor” discover the love of God, is one of the insights I recollect from Henri’s book.

  18. These weeks have been a time of prayerful growth for me. More than I will be able to elaborate on, but mostly a sense of peace and yes, joy. Trust in God’s embrace and his/her presence with us on our journeys. I think we are always going, leaving, and departing. But, now these is more the trust of God’s love with us rather than shame at our staying or going. Sometimes we are encouraged to go and challenge ourselves and then grow deeply in trust and union with God’s will for us.
    I am deeply thankful to our group leaders and all who guided with their sharing and wise insights. Blessings at Easter to all of you!

    1. Jan, I think your words express how many of us feel. This week is bitter sweet, so aware of how much our sharings have helped us to grow, so reluctant to see this group end.

  19. From Bob Brittain
    The theme of the one-day directed retreat I attended on March 23, 2015 was ‘On The Road To Resurrection Through the Cross’. One of the facilitators noted “through the Cross, not around the Cross”, with the assurance that the Lord would get me (us) to the other side.
    In reading your sharings I am reminded we all experience a multitude of Crosses along our life/faith journey. Some small to those that stay with us for years. But the compassionate Father is with us, desiring to get us through them.

    Henri refers to ‘joy’ frequently. I realized in reading The Prodigal and supported by reflection on the retreat, I don’t know the experience of joy. I have experienced happiness, but I don’t think I experience joy. I think joy is a feeling beyond happy. The closest I think I’ve come to Joy is at the birth of each of our sons, and the birth of our granddaughter who was three months premature and had a 50/50 chance of living. I was very very happy and I had a sense of fulfillment, but I don’t know if that was joy.

    In reflecting on what prevents me from experiencing joy, these came to mind – self-rejecting, regret and remorse, unknowing, obstacles to Grace always at work, and I get into my head, trying to figure ‘it’ out. I questioned whether it is even possible for me to experience joy?

    Because I spoke of experiencing peace, the spiritual guide I met with on the retreat suggested I replace the word ‘joy’ with ‘peace’ to see if that fit, if it would work for me.
    I had difficulty relating to the joy Henri spoke of, but when I substituted ‘peace’ I could better appreciate what he was saying. I realize joy and peace are not the same thing, but I understand the sense of peace and this works for me.

    Joy and ______ (fill in the blank) cannot co-exist. I can’t help but conclude there have been a lot of ‘blanks’ throughout my life that were incompatible to joy. Thus the absence of joy. I know through this Lenten book review sharing, that self-rejection was certainly one of the stronger ones. I had erected Crosses that I was not aware of, but now I have begun seeing those Crosses. I am experiencing a sense of freedom through this.

    A quote referred to on the retreat from Richard Rohr, an OFM priest, “Joy is surrendering to the One who is in control of our life” was also a stumbling block for me, obviously the joy factor in this quote, but also…’the One who is in control of our life’.
    Henri refers to us having the freedom of making the choice – “The father’s love does not force itself on the beloved. We are still free to make our own choice to stay in the darkness or to step in the light of God’s love”; also “the choice of listening to the father or of remaining imprisoned in our self-rejection”. Wouldn’t life be so much easier if God made the choice for us. But God in his/her wisdom gave us the freedom to choose, I think with the hope that we understand that “God is always there, always ready to give and forgive, absolutely independent of our response.”

    Every morning I pray ‘God grant me the Grace to love tenderly, to act justly, and to walk humbly’.
    Since discovering my yet to be determined form of cancer (or hopefully some other curable disease), ‘and the Grace of Your Healing touch’.
    As a result of participating in this online book review, I have added to this daily prayer ‘ the Grace to welcome without questioning and without wanting anything in return’.

    Although I am facing this still yet to be named illness, I feel like I have a new lease on life. I believe I will get to my Resurrection through the Cross, because as I indicated in an early post, ‘I believed I was never alone, that God was looking out for me’ and ‘To this day I know the Lord is with me.’ I am on my way to becoming the Father.
    I am so grateful for all your posts and replies, and for those of you who participated in your own way.

    1. Bob,

      Thanks for your heartfelt sharing. I fully understand and empathize from personal experience with your statement “…but I don’t know the experience of joy.” And, in fact, the reasons you cite for your difficulties in experiencing joy are the same ones that I would cite. I also like substitution of “peace” and that really works for me as well. One of my favorite expressions is the one St. Francis of Assisi would use to greet those he met on his journey—“May the Lord give you peace.”

      Now if we do the reverse substitution it becomes—“May the Lord give you joy.” Peace & Joy: Complementary gifts of the Lord. And I have certainly experienced the peace of the Lord Jesus. And the peace that only comes from living in the presence of Jesus is certainly a reason for great joy–even if it doesn’t always feel like “joy.”

      May you have a peaceful–and a joyous–Easter season.


  20. Today as we celebrate Palm Sunday I look over the last few weeks of the sharing of others. I am happy they felt comfortable sharing their emotional pains and pray for all of us.

    I am especially glad to have read this particular book of Nouwen’s. He shared so openly. I have always found sharing difficult and can do it only with very trusted friends. Much of Nouwen’s pain I can in see my oldest son who suffered bipolar illness. I feel I now know him better even though he is no longer with us. I hope he and Henri can share in their eternal home. Both seemed very anxious about life. I know they now have peace.

    I am encouraged to read more of Nouwen’s books although I thought I’d already read most–I’ve discovered there are so many more!

    Reading the sharing of others I can see “cloudy” my journey. I think we never know for sure where we are walking or where we might fit into another’s journey. Nevertheless much self reflection has been opened for me. Sometimes I feel totally confused when reading the book as I wonder where I can identify.

    As a mother, I feel I relate to the Father. For sure I have been the elder Son, but not sure I ever felt I abandoned my “Father”. When I recall a time of my faith weakening, I stood by my husband whose faith seem very solid. As I watched him and questioned him , I believed because I could see he believed. Another time in my life when shocked by my pastor, I struggled with the church. I continue outwardly to be an example to my family, but inwardly I wondered where I’d find God.

    Eventually I got away from the pastor who was a poor example for his calling, became a part of a different parish not knowing it too had just gone through a deep pain with the previous pastor! It was almost laughable when I realized the history. But through the new pastor I felt so much peace. I’d cry with him and laugh as well. His faith got me to a new place, much like this journey we did with the readings and the post sharing.

    May God Bless each and all and their loved ones! Be with you again.

  21. This reading, reflecting and sharing together during the past few weeks, has been an encounter in many ways for me.
    With the help of the intriguing way Henri has described his own reflections evoked by the image of Rembrandt van Rijn, I felt like having boarded on a train that had no stations other than the final destination. Each week there was a moment, while opening the questions of Ray and Brynn, of doubt whether to go on or not. But it seemed impossible for me to stop and leave.
    This (not being “able” to leave) has been a real encounter with myself. I found so many ways to avoid difficult “issues” in writing , but most of the time I found also ways not to use them and write in a way that was loyal to my real feelings.
    Thanks to this, there was also the encounter with all of you. Many times I recognized the experiences, feelings or thoughts, and at other times I felt like disconnected. Both ways brought a living experience of the parable we were reading together. If words have the ability to paint a picture, I am convinced that all the words we have brought together, formed a painting as beautiful as Rembrandt’s one.
    Maybe I missed the Mother.
    Henri wrote about her, referring to the difference in shape of the hands of the Father. It has always been on my mind that Rembrandt’s intention with this was deliberate. Like a closure or a coming together of the caring (giving) love of the mother and the “receiving in love” from the father.
    Stretching out and being stretched for, both are, in my perception, two sides of the same coin. Sometimes being helpful, sometimes being in need for help. Being more and being less, I feel responsible for both “places in myself”.
    I’m not sure that this feeling will always last. But I am thankful for this moment, which I will always remember as a moment of reconnection.
    God bless you all, and enjoy coming Easter holidays, as far as you are able or willing to.

    1. Janna, you are right to predict that the feeling might not last. What is important is that you have been in this place of Gods wonderful community and you know it is real. God can easily re-create this Christian community when we approach Him and each other with honesty and a desire to know Him more. God bless you on your journey!

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