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When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”

– Henri Nouwen (via Michael Gerson)

The secret to meaningful friendship

How tempting it is to disdain what God has created, and to retreat into a comfortable gnosticism. The members of the Heaven’s Gate cult regarded their bodies as obstacles to perfection, mere “containers” to be discarded on their way to what they called “a level beyond human.” The Christian perspective could not be more different; it views the human body as our God-given means to salvation, for beyond the cross God has effected resurrection. We want life to have meaning, we want fulfillment, healing and even ecstasy, but the human paradox is that we find these things by starting where we are, not where we wish we were. We must look for blessings to come from unlikely, everyday places—out of Galilee, as it were—and not in spectacular events, such as the coming of a comet.”

– Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries

The body as means to salvation

Every automobile bears on its license plate a number which represents the number of years that have elapsed since the birth of Christ. This is a powerful symbol of the ubiquity of God and the indifference of the human race.”

– Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC

The ubiquity of God

To live a spiritual life does not mean that we must leave our families, give up our jobs, or change our ways of working; it does not mean that we have to withdraw from social or political activities, or lose interest in literature or art; it does not require severe forms of asceticism or long hours of prayer. Changes such as these may in fact grow out of our spiritual life, and for some people radical decisions may be necessary. But the spiritual life can be lived in as many ways as there are people. What is new is that we have moved from the many things to the kingdom of God. What is new is that we are set free from the compulsions of our world and have set our hearts on the only necessary thing. What is new is that we no longer experience the many things, people, and events as endless causes for worry, but begin to experience them as the rich variety of ways in which God makes his presence known to us.”

(Making All Things New, pp. 56-7)

Henri Nouwen on the spiritual life

It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God some glory if being in his grace you do it as your duty. To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but a man with a dung fork in his hand, a woman with a sloppail, give him glory too. He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should.”

(quoted in Cornelius Plantinga’s Engaging God’s World)

Gerard Manley Hopkins on work