Tag Archives: Henri J.M Nouwen

The Journey of Brokenness

Our life is full of brokenness – broken relationships, broken promises, broken expectations. How can we live with that brokenness without becoming bitter and resentful except by returning again and again to God’s faithful presence in our lives?

~~~ Henri Nouwen

Brokenness is something we all face in our lives. We experience brokenness in our relationships, lack of success, health problems and many other situations that we face. Having difficulties and struggles is a part of living, and no one is exempt. Those who cry without ceasing to be spared become depressed and paranoid, they begin to feel that they are always being singled out or persecuted. Such attitudes lead to an unhealthy state of brokenness.

Henri Nouwen says, “In a strange way the spiritual life isn’t “useful” or “successful,” but it is meant to be fruitful. And fruitfulness comes out of brokenness.” What a great concept- fruitfulness comes out of brokenness! Life could be so much better for all of us if we embraced that remarkable idea. The scripture teaches us that we must surrender ourselves to our creator in order to find truth and life. Essentially, we must be broken to the idea that we are capable of being totally self-sufficient. How can we turn brokenness into fruitfulness? Here are a few thoughts.

Perhaps a good way to understand the function of brokenness is to accept our own frailties. It seems that all of us strive to be the best at all we do. When that does not happen, we just fall apart. Most of us have a hard time accepting that we cannot do everything. We are not all going to be great artists or scientists, but through our broken dreams we can discover our true selves. It is by suffering the frailties of our being that we come out of the other side and become fruitful. As we become fruitful at the window of brokenness, we begin to offer blessing to others who are experiencing frail moments in their lives.

Rise everyday believing that God has the best in store for you. This is a hard one. When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death it is almost impossible to believe God is with you, but he is. This is an especially important piece of the puzzle. We must believe that our creator has great things in store for us. He does not abandon us when we are broken but is the one who carries us through. His love shows us how to walk through our valley of brokenness knowing he has great things in store for us.

We must learn to practice the art of self-love. Many people believe that self-love is the same as selfishness. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are created in the image and likeness of God. It would be quite arrogant to suppose that we are equal to God or, conversely, worthless. Many people spend their lives trying to “prove” themselves and reap a great deal of misery for it. We think that our failures and disappointments are signs that we are worthless. They are perhaps definitive signs that we have not loved ourselves as God has loved us. We have not given due love and respect to who we are in God’s eyes. He created us for beauty and fruitfulness. We need to be broken down enough to see that and love ourselves as God loves us.

Brokenness can be a hard concept to accept when we are not experiencing it, but an understanding of the role of brokenness in our lives can be lifechanging. God allows us to walk through this time of brokenness to temper us to be ready for the wilds of the world that we experience every day. He is there to strengthen us and guide us through the weakest and darkest times of our lives. These dark times bring strength and fruitfulness. We learn so much from these moments.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

~~~Zechariah 12:10


Lord, As we travel through the times of brokenness in our lives let us have the trust in you that carries us through. You have given us brokenness so that we may see you in a different and greater light. We invite that light into our broken and shattered lives. We embrace our brokenness as the way that we pass through to greater times and new understanding. Comfort us this day and bring us into tomorrow.


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It is important to become aware that at every moment of our life we have an opportunity to choose joy. Life has many sides to it. There are always sorrowful and joyful sides to the reality we live. And so we always have a choice to live the moment as cause for resentment or as a cause for joy. It is in the choice that our true freedom lies, and that freedom is, in the final analysis, the freedom to love.

~~~Henri Nouwen

If it seems evil to you to serve Yahweh, choose today whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh.

~~~Joshua 24:15

Life is full of choices. We must choose things as simple as what we will wear today or where we will eat. More important choices come in the form of our finances, behavior and relationships. Our choices can lead us to harm or produce great good.

When I was the pastor of First UMC Mansfield, Louisiana, I was called out on Christmas Eve early in the morning to minister amid a tragic event. A young firefighter had been killed when his truck was struck by a train and immediately burst into flames. The event was sad enough, but the circumstances made it worse. It was Christmas and he was newly married with a baby on the way. If that were not bad enough, the chief told me that he did not have to respond to the call. He made a choice and it ended tragically. Sometimes we do not even have a clue as to what might happen as a result of our choices. I realize that this event is simply a random act, but we are in control of so many things. We cannot protect ourselves from things which we do not know, but we can make choices that better our lives. Bear in mind that the results of our choices can be incredibly significant.

The young man made a choice that he thought was the right thing to do, but chance took his life away from him. We all have choices to make about our daily activities, and there are things that are out of our control. We must remember that there are quite a few choices that we enter with our eyes wide open. Let us look at a few of them.

We choose how to react to situations, both good and bad. It is purely your choice whether you turn the other cheek or strike back. Are you going to continue an argument or move forward? We are faced with these types of choices every day. Joshua refers to the greatest of all choices. Choosing God determines much about how we make every other choice. Who do we serve-God or the world? This choice is where we begin.

As servants of the true God we choose a path in life that brings blessings. Many times in our lifetime, we have a path or direction to choose. These choices come in the form of a job opportunity, a chance to move to a bigger or smaller home or choose a good over evil. Life is full of these types of decisions, and we must make the most of them.

I feel that the biggest choice we have is how we react to an offence or a hurt. Statistics bear out that personal argument and disagreement are involved in many violent crimes. What does that mean? It means that how we react to hurt feelings, insults and unfairness is a great determining factor behind violence. Make the right choice and move forward. Nouwen stresses that choice gives us true freedom. A freedom to live life in a way that we determine. That is what choice really is-freedom.


Lord, You have given me the freedom of choice in my life. Help me to make the right choice and to always bear in mind that my choices have grave consequences. Protect me from the temptation to be led away from you by the lure of the world. Keep me on the path that will usher in your goodness to my life.


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Complete Joy

Joy is essential to spiritual life. Whatever we may think or say about God, when we are not joyful, our thought and words cannot bear fruit. Jesus reveals to us God’s love so that his joy may become ours and then our joy may become complete. Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death – can take away that love

~~~Henri Nouwen

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

~~~Romans 8:38-39

Can you remember a time in your life that you were just exploding with joy? It would be hard for me to narrow down a joyous occasion that was greater than any other or the greatest. I will tell you about one of my big ones Six years ago, we purchased what is our “forever” home. I can remember very vividly walking into it for the first time with the realtor. It was so clear to us that this was the right place for us, we told him to put the paperwork together on the spot. Our offer was accepted, and I remember the joy we felt as we got the keys and entered our home. There were many repairs to be done, but the joy made the work seem miniscule. Every nail that was nailed and wall that was redone was pure joy. It is uncanny what joy can do for you.

When we experience joy, we can take on the world. We become confident and strong. Tasks that would have seemed insurmountable become achievable. Joy makes us feel invincible in a positive way. We know who we are and why we are here. This confidence allows us to learn new skills and tackle tough tasks. When joy enters our lives, it casts out low self-esteem and self-depreciating behavior.

An experience of joy heals hurt. It is estimated that 16.2 million adults in the United States, or 6.7 percent of American adults, have had at least one major depressive episode each year. Often the source of this depression is hurt. We all have hurts that we carry around with us. Disappointment and hurt are normal occurrences in life. These hurts will rule us if we do not allow the joys to lay their claim on our lives. The joy of what God has given you can heal your greatest hurt.

Joy opens the portals of love and the ultimate portal of love is found in discovering the length breadth and depth of God’s love for us. He created us for his joy and wants us to experience that joy. He also created us in his image so that we might have the ability to share his love and joy to all who cross our paths. Jesus said,”. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” He created us so that we may share joy with one another.

Let us wake up each morning and discover the joy of being loved by God and spread it to the world.


Lord, Fashion me into one of those people that complete your joy. Give me that confidence to trust you fully and use that trust to lead others to see your joy. Lead me to places that will allow me to share my joy with others. At times when I am down, I ask that you allow me to feel and experience your joy. For in it, I find healing and peace. May that joy fall upon me this moment.



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The Hub

In my home country, the Netherlands, you still see many large wagon wheels, not on wagons, but as decorations at the entrances of farms or on the walls of restaurants. I have always been fascinated by these wagon wheels: with their wide rims, strong wooden spokes, and big hubs. These wheels help me to understand the importance of a life lived from the center. When I move along the rim, I can reach one spoke after the other, but when I stay at the hub, I am in touch with all the spokes at once.

~~~Henri Nouwen

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

~~~John 14:6

When I think of the word hub, I think of the binding center of an object or business. A hub is a focal point or center from which other things evolve. We often hear of airline hubs which are places where airlines concentrate passenger traffic and flight operations at a given airport. It means that you can go to a hub airport and literally go anywhere in the world, often nonstop. Nouwen images the wagon wheel hub as a place where you can be in touch with the entire wheel. It goes without saying that our relationship to Jesus as Lord is the hub of our faith. As Christ followers we need a hub of practice.

Let me suggest that the hub of our relationship is communication with God, and that communication is prayer. Without communication there is no understanding or action. We can learn all we can about a famous person, but until we communicate with them, we do not know them. The hub of being a follower of Christ is our commitment to study and service to the world, but these are meaningless without a personal relationship that is established with regular prayer. Prayer is not a luxury or an option, but the “hub center” from which all else in our relationship evolves. How should we pray?

We pray by setting aside time to communicate with God on a regular basis. This could be regularly attending a time of worship. In worship we are taken away from the distractions of the world and committed to a time to be with God. While we are in worship, we have the perfect opportunity to communicate with God. Worship is truly a time of other worldliness. In worship we are inspired by the mere fact that in worship we are not alone and gain strength from the communion of the saints, both past and present. In worship we are given specific times and ways to pray, and we are strengthened by the community that surrounds us. Worship is a time for prayer.

Prayer can also be a time of silence and reflection. This is a time that we can individually set aside to be in communication with God. Try to take just five minutes a day to listen to God and invite his peace into your spirit. You can start this with a simple repetitive prayer, such as the Jesus Prayer. Repeating the words can bring us into focus with God, and he will then he acts within our spirit. This works best when a time and /or a place is set aside. A room, a chair, a tree, anywhere you can be silent and focused..

Prayer can also be highly active. The use of written prayers, prayer beads of some sort or Christian icons can allow you to get in touch with God. Let me urge you to make prayer the hub of your practice as a Christian. The more you communicate, the better you will understand him and the fuller your life will become.

The scripture reminds us that all communication begins with our relationship with Jesus from whom all else comes. (John 14:6)

Prayer BannerLord, I want to communicate with you. May I come to know that prayer is the way that is accomplished. I implore you to help me to learn to pray regularly and effectively. May I see that prayer is the true hub of my relationship with you. Let my prayers be the center of my life and work as one of your followers. This I faithfully and humbly ask of you.


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Present in the Moment

It is hard to live in the present. The past and the future keep harassing us. The past with guilt, the future with worries. So many things have happened in our lives about which we feel uneasy, regretful, angry, confused, or, at least, ambivalent. And all these feelings are often colored by guilt. Guilt that says: “You ought to have done something other than what you did; you ought to have said something other than what you said.” These “oughts” keep us feeling guilty about the past and prevent us from being fully present to the moment.

~~~Henri Nouwen

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

~~~2 Corinthians 5:17

We all live with a certain level of guilt for our past failures and fear of what we may face in the future. A recent article in Psychology Today points out that guilt is a natural reaction to harming another physically or emotionally. We can not avoid all guilt. but we can keep it from being the guiding force of our lives. Nouwen reminds us that guilt of the past can make us absent from the present. Guilty people become angry and lash out at the nearest target. They become paralyzed with fear and usually overreact to situations.

Guilt also taints our future actions and causes us to have a fear of fully living our present day. We are so afraid that we will repeat our mistakes that we do just that. How many times have you sat dazed by something that you have done in the past and missed an opportunity in the present? Our unresolved guilts are like a “snoozing alarm,”and they are just waiting for a chance to go off again.

Our task is to resolve those guilts and live the present moment to the fullest. Paul told the Corinthian church that being in Christ was being a new creation. Such a new creation is blessed with the renewal of life. We cannot erase the past, but we can renew ourselves through the grace of God. As we trust in the grace of God to redeem us, we can be assured that the same grace will relieve us of the burden of guilt and allow us to live to the fullest. Nouwen speaks of the “oughts” of life that keep us guilty and frozen in the present and the future. Because Christ has redeemed us we need not be burdened with the “oughts” of life but to simply live the day, and the “oughts” will take care of themselves.

Going boldly and unreservedly into the future is a daunting task. We all carry our guilt to some degree like a weight upon our shoulders. Let me say again that we have the grace of God to solve this problem. He has promised us that as we live for him, he will make our lives grand. Today I ask you to put the past to bed with the soothing grace of a God who loves us so dearly. It is like an ointment that heals a wound.


Lord, The biggest challenge I face is to be present in the moment. My mind loads me down with guilt of past failures and fear of future failures. Make it possible for me to be present in this moment that you have given me, and know that you will continue to give me what I need to move forward. I ask you to bestow upon me the joy of this day so that I may journey victoriously into tomorrow.


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The “Oughts” of Life

Line 1It is hard to live in the present. The past and the future keep harassing us. The past with guilt the future would worries. So many things have happened in our lives about which we feel uneasy, regretful, angry, confused, or, at least, ambivalent. And all these feelings are often colored by guilt. Guilt says: “You ought to have done something other than what you did ; You ought to have said something other than what you said. These “oughts” keep us feeling guilty about the path and prevent us from being fully present to the moment.

~~~ Henri NouwenLine 1

It is hard to live in the present without the past and the future harassing us. Our past burdens us with guilt the future with worries. So many things have happened in our lives about which we feel uneasy, regretful, angry, or confused. And all these feelings are often colored by guilt. Nouwen tells us: “Guilt says: You ought to have done something other than what you did ; You ought to have said something other than what you said. These “oughts” keep us feeling guilty about the path and prevent us from being fully present to the moment.” We need to flee from this guilt.

When I was growing up, it seems that a lot of people had a plan for my life. When college came around there were people who knew without a doubt what I should pursue .Others knew what I ought to do, and if for some reason I disagreed they were disappointed and wanted me, by accident or design, to feel guilty. As you get older these things fade into the background only to be replaced by other “oughts,” but they continued to be the guilt producing hindrances of life.

The next great guilt producing ought is the future. What should I do to prepare for the future? Am I proactive enough to be truly prepared? Is my profession disappearing? These sorts of questions wreck happiness and productivity in the now. That is not what God wants for his creation. I am convinced of that beyond a doubt.

A few years ago Christian writer, Tony Campolo, wrote a book titled-Carpe Diem- Seize the Day. That is what our creator wants for us. He desires that we live each day to the fullest with optimism about the future and peace with the past. We must grab the day and live it for the glory of God and our own self being. We spend far too much time analyzing and not enough time living. The key is to grasp the idea that as we seek the kingdom of God all else will come clear. Our primary direction has to be looking toward a loving and forgiving God who forgives the past and holds the future. He told Jeremiah ,”For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” He went on to tell the exiles to prosper in the land where they were exiled.  We must accept the forgiveness of God , live the day, and not fear the future.

May God give you the strength to see life in such a way.

Line 1


Lord, I come to you in this time of fear and confusion and ask you to give me the strength to live this day to the fullest. Allow me to enjoy and relish the blessings that you have given me. Might I call upon your might to climb the hills and navigate the uneven ground that is before me. Might I never lose sight of the importance and blessing of each day of life.



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None is Higher than Hospitality

Midweek 14-2‌Henri Nouwen, the great spiritual writer, was going to a monastery for a retreat. The monks observed vows of silence and the retreat was to be meditative and prayerful. Nouwen was delayed and was late getting to the Monastery on a very unwelcoming miserable, rainy night. Upon his arrival, he rang the bell and was met at the door by one of the brothers. He warmly greeted Henri, took his wet coat, took him to the kitchen and made him a cup of tea. They chatted into the late-night hours and Nouwen began to relax and feel ready for the retreat. He knew this monk was supposed to observe silence, so he finally asked him, “Why are you willing to sit and talk with me?” The monk replied, “Of all the duties of the Christian faith and the rules of my order, none is higher than hospitality.”

The church is a community as well, and hospitality should be a primary focus. Today’s church should be a place of welcome to all who come our way. There should be no connotation that only “rule followers” are welcome at the church. I fear that we have forgotten the concept of radical hospitality and confused it with assimilation into our group. If the church is to practice true hospitality, it must practice inclusiveness. That means no one is barred from total participation in the life of the church. I am concerned that we have lost sight of a most important tenet of Christianity. I thank the monastics for giving us a reminder.

Not only the churches but our homes and personal spaces should be welcoming. We should be ready to help and greet those who come our way. In doing so, we welcome God and reap the benefit. I believe that hospitality is at the core of Christianity. It is of the highest of the practices of our faith.


Lord, help me to remember that the open door of hospitality can have eternal consequences. Let me practice the open door in my heart so that I may reap the reward of plenty that comes to those who truly share with their brothers and sisters. Give me the gift of never considering a stranger as strange and unworthy.


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A New Beginning

A new beginning! We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as an opportunity to make everything new. Imagine that we could live each moment as a moment pregnant with new life. Imagine that we could live each day as a day full of promises. Imagine that we could walk through the new year always listening to a voice saying to us: “I have a gift for you and can’t wait for you to see it!” Imagine.

~~~Henri J.M. Nouwen

What a concept for us to digest in these uncertain and difficult times! We all dream of a new beginning where we can leave all our anxieties and problems behind to never be visited again. Our new beginning means that we are fresh and, perhaps, reborn. Jesus does give us this promise in his discourse with Nicodemus when he says that a person must be “born again” to enter into the kingdom. The emphasis is one of a spiritual rebirth. Most of us can understand spiritual rebirth but what about a real new beginning.

I would venture to say that a spiritual rebirth is the beginning of our new beginning. What must follow is a faith-soaked belief that we are living as a new person. That indeed all things have passed away and are becoming new. The most difficult and demanding part of the Christian journey is to allow yourself to accept the grace of God and have a new beginning every day we live. Nouwen put it so beautifully when he says, “Imagine that we could live each moment as a moment pregnant with new life.” Picture that – a day pregnant with new life!

We can live a day that is full of promises that are all good. I am not trying to say that bad things will not happen, but I will say that God promises a good outcome. Our creator protects and equips us for all we encounter. The worst that the world can send our way, we can handle. We process all things by not allowing the darkness and gloom of past failure to bring clouds and thunder to our new day. With confidence we claim God’s grace and power this day and know that it is indeed a new beginning. That is the good promise of God.

God does have a gift for you and me. The gift is that he is with us always until the end of time. God’s gift is that his Kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. These are solid promises of Scripture that we often neglect. As we learn to not neglect them, we can achieve a new beginning every day, every hour, every minute because we are the crown of His creation. Our God wants us to live and thrive and show forth his image to the world.


Lord, This is indeed a day of new beginning. We begin each day with the freshness of the morning dew and the hope of the good we can experience and accomplish. Do not allow the evil of this world to pollute and taint that which you have bestowed upon us. Strip the evil one of the power of gaining control of us, and let your spirit so shine in us as to be a light for others to see. Give us opportunities to love and serve as we travel our journey.



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Let the Son Show the Way

“While my friend always spoke about the sun, I kept speaking about the clouds, until one day I realized that it was the sun that allowed me to see the clouds.”

—Henri Nouwen

What will your topic of conversation be today?


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The Voice

But what I would like to say is that the spiritual life is a life in which you gradually learn to listen to a voice that says something else, that says, “You are the beloved and on you my favor rests.”… I want you to hear that voice. It is not a very loud voice because it is an intimate voice. It comes from a very deep place. It is soft and gentle. I want you to gradually hear that voice. We both have to hear that voice and to claim for ourselves that that voice speaks the truth, our truth. It tells us who we are. That is where the spiritual life starts – by claiming the voice that calls us the beloved.


———Henri J. M. Nouwen

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