Daily Riches: What Drives Us (Henri Nouwen)

“When you keep going anxiously to the mailbox in the hope that someone [outside the monastery] …has thought about you; when you keep wondering if and what your friends are thinking of you; when you keep having hidden desires to be a somewhat exceptional person in this community; when you keep having fantasies about guests mentioning your name; when you keep looking for special attention from the abbot or any one of the monks …then you know that you haven’t even started to create a little place for God in your heart. When nobody writes anymore; when hardly anyone even thinks of you or wonders how you are doing; when you are just one of the brothers doing the same things as they are doing, not better or worse; when you have been forgotten by people – maybe then your heart and mind have become empty enough to give God a real chance to let his presence be known to you.” Henri Nouwen

Psalm 46 emphasizes God’s presence with us in chaos and crisis. We can relax in their midst (as Jesus did in his day) – receiving rather than grasping, and relinquishing control to God as a modus operandi. Our response in chaos and crisis, rather than being overwhelmed, can be to remember our limits and trust. The difference between striving, which here is condemned, and working hard, which elsewhere is commended, depends on what is in the head and heart in each case. Once might resemble the other, but the kind of peace found resting in God’s presence, striving cannot give. In its posture, pace, and motives, striving falls short. The mention of Jacob’s God is ironic since Jacob’s ‘preconversion’ name means ‘to grasp’ (cf. Gen. 25:26). It also encourages, since God condescends to use and bless Jacob – and by extension, us. This passage is my permission to ‘relax’ when it comes to work, finances, parenting, marriage – even spiritual formation. I can talk, walk and drive slowly. I can cease striving for control, healing, satisfaction, meaning, companionship, success and happiness – in other words, in all things.” William Britton

“Cease striving and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.

Yahweh of hosts is with us;

The God of Jacob is our stronghold.”

Psalm 46:10,11

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Life in a monastery doesn’t eliminates the desire to be exceptional, noticed and admired. Do such desires lead to striving in your life?
  • Can you differentiate between working hard and striving?
  • Are you learning to “relax” as Jesus did in the midst of chaos and crisis?

Abba, the “God of Jacob” is perfect for me.

For More: The Genesee Diary by Henri Nouwen

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If you liked this, please share it! – Bill

Daily Riches: The Value of Mental “Down Time” (John Hersey)

 “Fifty-eight percent of American adults have a smartphone today. The average mobile consumer checks their device 150 times a day, and sixty-seven percent of the time, that’s not because it rang or vibrated. …all you really have to do is go outside and see how many people can’t even walk without staring at a screen. …one thing is clear: Paying attention to our smartphones through so many of our waking moments means our minds don’t spend as much time idling. And that matters! We talked to boredom researcher Sandi Mann [who said]… ‘You come up with really great stuff when you don’t have that easy lazy junk food diet of the phone to scroll all the time.” Mann’s research finds that idle minds lead to reflective, often creative thoughts…. Minds need to wander to reach their full potential. During bouts of boredom our brains can’t help but jump around in time, analyzing and re-analyzing the pieces of our lives, says Jonny Smallwood, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of York. …inspiration strikes in the shower because it’s a moment when we’re not really looking at or focusing on anything else. Researchers have only really started to understand the phenomena of ‘mind-wandering’ — the activity our brains engage in when we’re doing nothing at all — over the past decade or so. ‘There’s a close link between originality, novelty, and creativity… and these sort of spontaneous thoughts that we generate when our minds are idle.’ [Smallwood] But when mental stimulation is a touch of the phone away? ‘That’s where daydreaming and boredom intersect,’ Smallwood says. ‘What smartphones allow us to do is get rid of boredom in a very direct way because we can play games, phone people, we can check the Internet. It takes away the boredom, but it also denies us the chance to see and learn about where we truly are….’” John Hershey
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“Pay attention, Job, and listen to me;
be silent, and I will speak.”
Job 33:31

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • We all have our reasons for moments of obliviousness to others. Is your phone one of your reasons?
  • Can you embrace some moments of boredom, or must you distract yourself? Can you be “reflective?” What does your answer say about you?
  • Can others get your undivided attention? Can God?

Abba, help me create “off” times when my mind is at rest.

For More: “Bored and Brilliant”

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”