Henri Nouwen on “Blessing”

“To bless means to say good things. We have to bless one another constantly. Parents need to bless their children, children their parents, husbands their wives, wives their husbands, friends their friends. In our society, so full of curses, we must fill each place we enter with our blessings. We forget so quickly that we are God’s beloved children and allow the many curses of our world to darken our hearts. Therefore we have to be reminded of our belovedness and remind others of theirs. Whether the blessing is given in words or with gestures, in a solemn or an informal way, our lives need to be blessed lives.”

– Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

You are Valued

House_SparrowIn Matthew’s gospel, we read the words of Jesus:  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)”

Now this is where I write some words that are as applicable to myself (maybe even more so) as they are to anyone else who may read them.  It is so easy for most of us to have a negative opinion of ourselves, to devalue our accomplishments, and see ourselves as unworthy.  After all, not many of us are perfect, not many of us are “Hollywood Star” beautiful, and most of us are not at the top of our fields occupationally.  And these last few sentences show us where the problem lies.  It is found when we compare ourselves to others.

Henri Nouwen once wrote the following:

Often we want to be somewhere other than where we are, or even to be someone other than who we are. We tend to compare ourselves constantly with others and wonder why we are not as rich, as intelligent, as simple, as generous, or as saintly as they are. Such comparisons make us feel guilty, ashamed, or jealous. It is very important to realize that our vocation is hidden in where we are and who we are. We are unique human beings, each with a call to realize in life what nobody else can, and to realize it in the concrete context of the here and now.

The task before each of us is not to weigh ourselves in some cosmic balance scale against our fellow travelers and find ourselves lacking.  No, it is to find our unique calling in life; to discover what it is that we can do in our own contexts that no one else can do, and then to live that calling out in our daily lives.

In my situation, I know that there are better pastors out there in the world, pastors with great interpersonal skills and overflowing compassion.  There are certainly better preachers.  And since I am no saint, I know that there are plenty of people whose lives are more holy and more closely aligned with God’s will and desires.  But no one else is the pastor of First UMC in Pottstown.  That is my calling, and mine alone at this time.  If the people of my church are to be ministered unto, it is up to me to do the ministering.  In the same vein, no one else can be the father of my daughter Desiree.  If she is to know the love and care of a father in the here and now, I am the only one called and empowered to give her a father’s love and care.  I could go on, but I think you get my meaning.

How about you?  What is, or are, your unique calling(s)?  What can you do that no one else can do?  Are you willing to live out who you are, rather than trying to be someone you can never be?  You are of infinite value, and when you begin to see this and live this truth in your life, you make all the difference in the world to those around you.

Making God Visible

“A mosaic consists of thousands of little stones. Some are blue, some are green, some are yellow, some are gold. When we bring our faces close to the mosaic, we can admire the beauty of each stone. But as we step back from it, we can see that all these little stones reveal to us a beautiful picture, telling a story none of these stones can tell by itself.

That is what our life in community is about. Each of us is like a little stone, but together we reveal the face of God to the world. Nobody can say: “I make God visible.” But others who see us together can say: “They make God visible.” Community is where humility and glory touch.”  – Henri Nouwen