Category Archives: Devotional Reading

From Nouwen

Growing Beyond Self-Rejection

One of the greatest dangers in the spiritual life is self-rejection. When we say, “If people really knew me, they wouldn’t love me,” we choose the road toward darkness. Often we are made to believe that self-deprecation is a virtue, called humility. But humility is in reality the opposite of self-deprecation. It is the grateful recognition that we are precious in God’s eyes and that all we are is pure gift. To grow beyond self-rejection we must have the courage to listen to the voice calling us God’s beloved sons and daughters, and the determination always to live our lives according to this truth.

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More from Nouwen

We truthfully belong together in God. This is the spiritual basis of solidarity.

Here too we find the ground of all Christian action. As prayer leads us into the house of God and God’s people, so action leads us back into the world to work there for reconciliation, unity, and peace…. All Christian action – whether it is visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or working for a more just and peaceful society – is a manifestation of the human solidarity revealed to us in the house of God. It is not an anxious human effort to create a better world. It is a confident expression of the truth that in Christ, death, evil, and destruction have been overcome. It is not a fearful attempt to restore a broken order. It is a joyful assertion that in Christ all order has already been restored. It is not a nervous effort to bring divided people together, but a celebration of an already established unity. Thus action is not activism. An activist wants to heal, restore, redeem, and re-create, but those acting within the house of God point through their action to the healing, restoring, redeeming, and re-creating presence of God.

Nouwen, Lifesigns, Image Books p. 35

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Moving deeper

The deeper our prayer becomes the closer we come to this mystery of God’s love. And the closer we are to this mystery the better we can live it out in our daily life. It frees us to appreciate other people’s talents without feeling diminished by them and to life up their uniqueness without feeling less unique ourselves. It allows us to celebrate the various ways of being human as a sign of the universal love of God. (Nouwen, Lifesigns p34)

At church council last night we talked about spiritual direction a bit. One comment was that it would be mainly for those who know God and wish to go deeper. That is true although anyone can be seeking a deeper spiritual life without already knowing God in Christ. In fact, some of my deeper spiritual conversations have been with people who do not even know what they are seeking. I see God at work even when they remain oblivious to who it is that is drawing them towards him.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits to the Christian community of the work of spiritual direction is that as one goes deeper and draws closer to God in prayer one becomes more aware of this “mystery of God’s love.” And the experience of this mystery compels us to live out this love of God in our daily human lives. God calls us to live as lights in our dark world and I believe that our lights will together shine more brightly as we move deeper into the mystery of God.

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Speaking words

Speaking Words of Love
Often we remain silent when we need to speak. Without words, it is hard to love well. When we say to our parents, children, lovers, or friends: "I love you very much" or "I care for you" or "I think of you often" or "You are my greatest gift," we choose to give life.

It is not always easy to express our love directly in words. But whenever we do, we discover we have offered a blessing that will be long remembered. When a son can say to his father, "Dad, I love you," and when a mother can say to her daughter, "Child, I love you," a whole new blessed place can be opened up, a space where it is good to dwell. Indeed, words have the power to create life.

From Henri Nouwen via


I don’t come up with quite the quality of words that Nouwen did.  But I recognize that even my words are important.  As I speak them I am either speaking love to people or, well I guess the opposite is hate.  I always hope my words are not quite so strongly negative to be taken as hateful but I know that when I speak words quickly, without thinking, without caring about the person I speak them to, they can hurt.  There are occaisions when I deliberately say things to hurt another in anger. 

I always end up regretting those angry words.  And they can’t be taken back.  I can try to make amends for them but I can never really take them back.

I was reflecting on my day yesterday – a pretty normal day at work.  There were lots of patients that forgot their appointments and one mother bringing her child for sedation who confessed that her child had had some cereal and juice that morning – which means they are automatically cancelled for safety reasons. 

Sometimes I regret that I am not more of a person of words.  But I wonder if angry words would come more easily then too.  It would not have been helpful to the child in pain for me to berate her mother with words.  It would not have been helpful to the three young women who came in with far too much decay to berate them and make them feel belittled.  They would have left with a message but it would likely have been that they weren’t worth much in my eyes.

Their worth in my eyes – hmmm.  I need to remember that each one, each person is loved by the one who lovves me most as well.  God never drives us away because we have not met his expectations – because we can’t really.  And he just keeps loving us anyway, delighting in what we do accomplish. 

And my family; I am glad that I can express my love to them in words.  And in hugs.  And in time spent with them.  I hope they learn to do the same with their children – even when the kids don’t want them around.  Just keep on loving and finding occaisions to say it with actions or with words.

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This morning I was reading the morning office and the words from Psalm 12 caught my attention.
 1 Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing!
      The faithful have vanished from the earth!
 2 Neighbors lie to each other,
      speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts.
 3 May the Lord cut off their flattering lips
      and silence their boastful tongues.
 4 They say, “We will lie to our hearts’ content.
      Our lips are our own—who can stop us?”
 5 The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless,
      and I have heard the groans of the poor.
   Now I will rise up to rescue them,
      as they have longed for me to do.”
 6 The Lord’s promises are pure,
      like silver refined in a furnace,
      purified seven times over.
 7 Therefore, Lord, we know you will protect the oppressed,
      preserving them forever from this lying generation,
 8 even though the wicked strut about,
      and evil is praised throughout the land.
This is one of the Psalms that I really love.  David really gets what God’s intentions are for the human community and regrettably what we all too often experience in this distorted world.  
There is part of this psalm that along with another passage from Zechariah 13:9 that talks about God’s promises and about his people in terms of precious metal.
      This third I will bring into the fire;
       I will refine them like silver
       and test them like gold.
       They will call on my name
       and I will answer them;
       I will say, ‘They are my people,’
       and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’ "
And all the talk of precious metal makes me think of the attraction to shiny things that my daughters have.  
God’s promises should be dangling off us like precious jewelry.  And I guess they should be attractive. 
The passage from Zechariah then goes on to describe that we ourselves will be as gold and pure silver. And we too are called on to become precious and pure as we allow God to refine our lives.
It makes me think of the word “Bling”.  How different the sense of that word is from what God intends us to be.  We are not to just be showy and ostentatious. Our attractiveness comes from the way we wear the promises of God – how we respond to them and live them out.  So lives of integrity, not sham; lives that show God’s pure love for the oppressed and needy, not just empty glitter.  
I am not one for wearing a lot of jewelry but I think I would like very much to be wearing the promises of God to the needy in ways that show.  I would like to be refined by God till I am solid and pure and precious – an ornament of attraction – drawing the eye of an onlooker to God as well as a delight to God who fashioned me.

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From Henri Nouwen – Can You Drink The Cup?

Todays meditation from Henri Nouwen is

The Cup of Life
When the mother of James and John asks Jesus to give her sons a special place in his Kingdom, Jesus responds, "Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?" (Matthew 20:22). "Can we drink the cup?" is the most challenging and radical question we can ask ourselves. The cup is the cup of life, full of sorrows and joys. Can we hold our cups and claim them as our own? Can we lift our cups to offer blessings to others, and can we drink our cups to the bottom as cups that bring us salvation?

Keeping this question alive in us is one of the most demanding spiritual exercises we can practice.

I recall reading this passage in Nouwen’s book Can You Drink The Cup?  and being profoundly moved by this thought, "The cup is the cup of life, full of sorrows and joys. Can we hold our cups and claim them as our own? Can we lift our cups to offer blessings to others, and can we drink our cups to the bottom as cups that bring us salvation?"


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Psalm 86:11

“Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your name.”

As I read this in the morning, I was reminded of both the intimate closeness and the great and awesome majesty of God. It seems a contradiction to talk of being knit to God – joined intimately, woven in as one of two threads, the other being God – and fearing God at the same time. Being out in nature reminds me of this often. I have a hard time understanding this; like trying to join a dichotomy in my mind. I know God’s spirit dwells in me and yet when I look at the power of the wind and snow in the storm like we had yesterday, I know that my God is also the creator of the weather including the fury of the storm. He seems too big for me to be knit to. I cannot contain him; I am too small, and yet he wants to reside in me.

He is truly a mystery.

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