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Why I love Henri Nouwen

In this age of the constantly firing microscopic synaptic connection and interlocking neural networks, information cascades ceaselessly into our lives. We don’t lack information or access to it – what we lack is the means by which to sort it all and make sense of it. That’s the job of wisdom. …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

In this age of the constantly firing microscopic synaptic
connection and interlocking neural networks, information cascades ceaselessly into our
lives.

We don’t lack information or access to it – what we lack is the means by which
to sort it all and make sense of it. That’s the job of wisdom. And that’s why I love Henri Nouwen.

He’s one of the wisest writers around. I get his morning devotional email and every
morning, it’s amazing what he can do with a paragraph or two.

Take this meditation on
friendship and giving for example:

The great paradox of life is
that those who lose their lives will gain them. This paradox becomes visible in
very ordinary situations. If we cling to our friends, we may lose them, but when
we are nonpossessive in our relationships, we will make many friends. When fame
is what we seek and desire, it often vanishes as soon as we acquire it, but
when we have no need to be known, we might be remembered long after our deaths.
When we want to be in the center, we easily end up on the margins, but when we
are free enough to be wherever we must be, we find ourselves often in the
center. Giving away our lives for others
is the greatest of all human arts. This will gain us our lives.

I often spend my day making decisions that impact many people’s lives – I need that kind of wisdom. How about you – where do you find wisdom? Proverbs enjoins us to seek it. The older I get, the more I look for it and
value it.

Even knowing which decisions
are the important ones requires wisdom. A
few of the decisions you’ll make in a given year will probably be more important in your life than all the others combined – decisions like who you’ll hang around. What job
you’ll do. What you’ll read and think
about.

We don’t really need more information so much as we need to a better job of managing it.
We need wisdom and we need people like Henri Nouwen in our lives. Nouwen authored more than 40 books chalk full of wisdom and he showed a simpler way to live, leaving his professorship at Yale to join and serve a community of handicapped adults.

To get his daily devotional email, sign up here. If you’re going to buy one of his books, let me recommend The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life, or select one from this list.

Comments (7)

  • Thanks Seth,
    My favorites are “Can you Drink the Cup” and “The Only Necessary Thing”.
    Lord bless your day.

  • I’ve been meditating on that cup theme for the last several days. His stuff always challenges me.

  • Yes, because what do I do with this information:

    – 62,000 to 100,000 deaths in Myanmar from cyclones, 1/3 of which are likely children.
    – 12,000 dead in China after Monday’s earthquakes.
    – Estimates of 151,000 Iraqi’s killed since the US invasion.

    How do you manage that kind of information?

  • Thanks for the prompting. I was given “Life of the Beloved” about 5 years ago. Time to dust it off and get reading. Thanks for sharing your sources and wisdom.

  • Joe, I respond to it where I can have impact. We have a team helping in China. Myanmar is on the front of the AIM web site. We are not impotent here. All God is asking us to do is to impact our corner of the world, beginning with widows and orphans. I’m still responding to an earthquake that killed tens of thousands in Pakistan 3 years ago. And we’re still working to help the victims of an earthquake in Peru.

    The most important thing to do when the offering plate is passed is to step in it with one’s life.

  • I highly recommend “Gracias.” Changed my whole perspective on missions just when I was starting out.

    I can hardly believe he’s been dead 12 years now. His words still influence me.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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