The Value of Things
When things are valued too much, they lose their value because they nourish a never-satisfied craving for more. Conversely, when things are received as gifts from God and used obediently in service to God, they are enriched with gratitude. As sages have said, contentment lies not in obtaining things you want, but in giving thanks for what you have.
Source: How Much Is Enough?
Any form of Christianity which is not incarnational, which does not celebrate “the Word made flesh,” which tries to separate us from our own bodies, the bodies of our communities, the body of this earth, is not the Christianity of … Jesus Christ. In Christ, the walls of hostility, the walls of division and fragmentation within us and among us are encountered, touched, healed.
Flora Slosson Wuellner
Source: Prayer and Our Bodies
That’s What Love Does
God loves us so perfectly he lets us be the heroes. God lets us wrestle with the angel of Yahweh, lets us struggle with God and win. When we try to let go and give our life to God, God gives it back to us. Should we be surprised? That’s what love does. That’s the only thing you can get excited about when you’re in love–giving your life to the other and seeing enjoyment in the other. That’s the union toward which God is calling us. The lover delighting in the beloved and the beloved delighting in the lover.
Source: Job and the Mystery of Suffering
A Window on Our Spiritual Lives – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey
Even though our emotional and spiritual lives are distinct, they do influence one another profoundly. Our feelings often give us a window on our spiritual journeys. When we cannot let go of jealousy, we may wonder if we are in touch with the Spirit in us that cries out “Abba.” When we feel very peaceful and “centered,” we may come to realise that this is a sign of our deep awareness of our belovedness.
Likewise our prayer lives, lived as faithful response to the presence of the Spirit within us, may open a window on our emotions, feelings, and passions and give us some indication of how to put them into the service of our long journey into the heart of God.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen
Naomi Shihab Nye
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
Source: from “Kindness” in Words Under the Words
Lord, not you, it is I who am absent.
belief was a joy I kept in secret,
into sacred places;
a quick glance, and away — and back,
I have long since uttered your name
I elude your presence.
Source: from Flickering Mind
Crossing the Road for One Another – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey
We become neighbours when we are willing to cross the road for one another. There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.
There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles. We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbours.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen
The Litmus Test
The religious traditions were in unanimous agreement. The one and only test of a valid religious idea, doctrinal statement, spiritual experience, or devotional practice was that it must lead directly to practical compassion. If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic, and impelled you to express this sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel, or self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God’s name, it was bad theology. Compassion was the litmus test.
Source: The Spiral Staircase
“Here,” she said, “in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard.”
I rejoiced when I heard them announce,
“The time of warfare is past.
No more will brother hate brother
or violence have its way.
No more will they drown out God’s silence
and shut their hearts to his song.”
Pray for peace in the cities
and harmony among the races.
May peace come to live on our streets
and justice within our walls.
With all my heart I will pray
that peace comes to live among us.
For the sake of all earth’s people,
I will do my utmost for peace.
Source: The Psalms (translated by Stephen Mitchell)
Let us leave a little room for reflection in our lives, room too for silence. Let us look within ourselves and see whether there is some delightful hidden place inside where we can be free of noise and argument. Let us hear the Word of God in stillness and perhaps we will then come to understand it.
Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.
It is never too late to be what you might have been.
Source: Pseudonym of author Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1880
Today, Like Every Other Day
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
Source: translated by Coleman Barks
Watch What Jesus Does
God isn’t looking for servants. God isn’t looking for slaves, workers, contestants to play the game or jump the hoops correctly. God is simply looking for images! God wants images of God to walk around the earth…. God wants useable instruments who will carry the mystery, who can bear the darkness and the light, who can hold the paradox of incarnation—flesh and spirit, human and divine, joy and suffering, at the same time, just as Jesus did. Watch what Jesus does, and do the same thing!
Source: Things Hidden
To Be Thought of Kindly
How Time Heals – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey
“Time heals,” people often say. This is not true when it means that we will eventually forget the wounds inflicted on us and be able to live on as if nothing happened. That is not really healing; it is simply ignoring reality. But when the expression “time heals” means that faithfulness in a difficult relationship can lead us to a deeper understanding of the ways we have hurt each other, then there is much truth in it. “Time heals” implies not passively waiting but actively working with our pain and trusting in the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen
To be “thought of” kindly by many and to “think of” them kindly is only a diluted benevolence, a collective illusion of friendship. Its function is not the sharing of love but complicity in a mutual reassurance that is based on nothing. Instead of cultivating this diffuse aura of benevolence, you should enter with trepidation into the deep and genuine concern for those few persons God has committed to your care.
Source: Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
I have discovered that the religious quest is not about discovering ‘the truth’ or ‘the meaning of life’ but about living as intensely as possible here and now. The idea is not to latch on to some superhuman personality or to ‘get to heaven’ but to discover how to be fully human.
Source: The Spiral Staircase
Song of the Builders
On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God—
a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside
this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope
it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.
Source: Why I Wake Early
Only One Voice
Only one voice,
but it was singing
and the words danced and as they danced held high—
oh, with what grace!—their lustrous bowls of joy.
Even in the dark we knew they danced, but we—
none of us—touched the hem of what would happen.
Somewhere around a whirl, swirl, a pirouette,
the bowls flew and spilled,
and we were drenched, drenched to the dry bone
in our miserable night.
Only one voice,
but morning lay awake in her bed and listened,
and then was out and racing over the hills
to hear and see.
And water and light and air and the tall trees
and people, young and old, began to hum
the catchy, catchy tune.
And everyone danced, and everyone, everything,
even the last roots of the doddering oak
believed in life.