Saturday, March 20, 2010


"Be still and acknowledge that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). These are words to take with us in our busy lives. We may think about stillness in contrast to our noisy world. But perhaps we can go further and keep an inner stillness even while we carry on business, teach, work in construction, make music, or organise meetings.

It is important to keep a still place in the "marketplace." This still place is where God can dwell and speak to us. It also is the place from where we can speak in a healing way to all the people we meet in our busy days. Without that still space we start spinning. We become driven people, running all over the place without much direction. But with that stillness God can be our gentle guide in everything we think, say, or do.

Henri Nouwen Society

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Virtue of Flexibility

Trees look strong compared with the wild reeds in the field. But when the storm comes the trees are uprooted, whereas the wild reeds, while moved back and forth by the wind, remain rooted and are standing up again when the storm has calmed down.

Flexibility is a great virtue. When we cling to our own positions and are not willing to let our hearts be moved back and forth a little by the ideas or actions of others, we may easily be broken. Being like wild reeds does not mean being wishy-washy. It means moving a little with the winds of the time while remaining solidly anchored in the ground. A humorless, intense, opinionated rigidity about current issues might cause these issues to break our spirits and make us bitter people. Let's be flexible while being deeply rooted.

Henri Nouwen Society

An Honest Being-With

Being with a friend in great pain is not easy. It makes us uncomfortable. We do not know what to do or what to say, and we worry about how to respond to what we hear. Our temptation is to say things that come more out of our own fear than out of our care for the person in pain. Sometimes we say things like "Well, you're doing a lot better than yesterday," or "You will soon be your old self again," or "I'm sure you will get over this." But often we know that what we're saying is not true, and our friends know it too.

We do not have to play games with each other. We can simply say: "I am your friend, I am happy to be with you." We can say that in words or with touch or with loving silence. Sometimes it is good to say: "You don't have to talk. Just close your eyes. I am here with you, thinking of you, praying for you, loving you."

Henri Nouwen Society


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Counterfeit Christians

"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."1

A Daily Encounter reader asks, "How can you tell if a preacher is a fake-healer, or if a Christian is not for real?

Les Nixon shares how "at one time there was a Charlie Chaplin look-a-like contest being held and, always the practical joker, the real Chaplin decided he would enter. After deliberating long and hard, the judges unwittingly awarded Chaplin the third prize behind two impostors." So you often can't tell the fake from the real by outward appearances.

Pharisees were the religious elite of Jesus' day. They knew the Bible cover to cover; that is, the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament) as the New Testament hadn't been written then. They knew their doctrinal teachings by heart. They had all the outward trappings of religiosity . . . but for many of them it was an outward show. Furthermore, they loved their doctrines more than they loved people and used them to control people. Jesus not only knew the same Scriptures, but he was real and saw through these religious play-actors—and didn't mince words with them regarding their phoniness.

Sad to say, there is no shortage today of play-acting teachers, phony religious leaders, counterfeit Christians, and those who love their religion more than they love people—and use their religion to control people. In some countries some even use their religion to force people to convert to their religion and torture or kill those who fail to convert.

So how can we tell the false from the real?

Mary Jackson-Medrek, another Daily Encounter reader, said, "I work in a bank and one time I was reading about counterfeit bills (notes). The story said that FBI agents don't study counterfeit bills to learn how to spot one. They study real bills and know them so well that they can spot a phony a mile away. That's what we should do as Christians. Study God's word so that if we hear something that isn't right we can spot it immediately!"

Like Jesus, we also need to be real ourselves, know the Scriptures, and know what a real Christian is so well that we will also be able to spot a phony a mile away.

"Beware of false prophets,' Jesus warned, "who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."2

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please give me a love for and an understanding of your Word so that I will learn and always know your Truth. Also, please help me to be real and so like Jesus that I will be able to 'spot a phony a mile away'—and never become one. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. 1 John 4:1 (NIV).
2. Matthew 7:15 (NKJV).



"When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman [who had been caught in the act of adultery], He said to her, 'Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'No one, Lord.' And Jesus said to her, 'Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.'"1

Yesterday we talked about the jealous, religious bigots who wanted to do away with Jesus and brought the woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus for his judgment. Apart from making the hypocritical accusers look like idiots, Jesus teaches us a powerful principle in dealing with sinful acts that are self-destructive (which all sin is of course).

Can you imagine how terrified this woman must have been? The punishment for adultery in her day was death by stoning. And here she was caught in a deceptive trap and brought out in public. However, the crucial principle to understand is that before Jesus told her to go and not commit adultery again, he met the basic need in her life, the lack of which was driving her into acts of sin.

This is such a profound truth—it desperately needs to be understood. Counselors tell us that many a prostitute, for example, is a woman who has been hurt deeply by her father or another significant male . . . often having been sexually abused as a child. Thus she is very angry at men because she had been violated and her own needs for loving acceptance were never met. And now, as an adult (or teenager), she is not necessarily doing this consciously, but in one way or another she is hitting back at her father (or her violator) by becoming sexually promiscuous. She also may be desperately searching for the father's love she never received as a child and is thus looking for love in all the wrong ways and places, or she may be trying to prove to herself that she is wanted as a woman. This, of course, never works and only makes a woman feel more used and unloved for the simple reason this kind of sex is never love. (Some men do the same thing in looking for the mother's love they never received.)

When Jesus dealt with the adulterous woman, he looked beyond her outward sinful acts and could see her damaged emotions and unmet need for loving acceptance. While he didn't condone her sin nor condemn her for it, before telling her not to commit this sin again, Jesus first met the deep unmet need in her life—the lack of which was undoubtedly driving her into acts of sin—that is, the lack of loving acceptance. In all probability, for the very first time in her life this woman was loved and accepted by a man for whom she was—and not for what she had to offer. What Jesus did was meet her deep unmet need for a father's love. In so doing he healed her deep father wound, delivering her from her compulsion to act out in self-destructive sinful behavior.

How unkind, how misunderstanding, and how un-Christ-like it is of me to condemn people for their acts of sin without even trying to understand the cause or causes behind their behavior, let alone trying to meet their unmet needs. Added to our sinful nature is the lack of love that drives us into so many acts of sin; only unconditional love and acceptance will ever take us out again.

Keep in mind, too, the reason Jesus was able to help this woman was because she admitted her sin and didn't try to deny it—the total opposite of her accusers. Only those who admit their sins and faults can ever be forgiven and freed from them.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to admit my sins and faults and see the reasons behind my self-destructive behaviors . . . and lead me to the help I need to overcome. Also, help me to understand the same for others who admit their sins and faults, and use me to be a part of the answer in helping to meet the unmet need in their life . . . the lack of which is driving them into acts of sin. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. John 8:10-11 (NKJV).

*NOTE: Today's Daily Encounter is adapted from I Hate Witnessing—A Handbook for Effective Christian Communications, (c) by Dick Innes (2010 edition), pp. 166-167. Available at:



We spend an enormous amount of energy making up our minds about other people. Not a day goes by without somebody doing or saying something that evokes in us the need to form an opinion about him or her. We hear a lot, see a lot, and know a lot. The feeling that we have to sort it all out in our minds and make judgments about it can be quite oppressive.

The desert fathers said that judging others is a heavy burden, while being judged by others is a light one. Once we can let go of our need to judge others, we will experience an immense inner freedom. Once we are free from judging, we will be also free for mercy. Let's remember Jesus' words: "Do not judge, and you will not be judged" (Matthew 7:1).

Henri Nouwen Society