Friday, February 27, 2009

Book: The Return of the Prodigal Son

In The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen shares about his experience when he sees a poster of Rembrandt's painting Prodigal Son. Something in the painting captures his imagination and becomes the catalyst that draws him on a 'long spiritual adventure' toward something the felt like 'home'.

He searches his own life in the gentle light of the New Testament story this painting portrays -- exploring the themes of homecoming, affirmation, and reconciliation. Anyone who has ever felt the feelings of the 'lost' prodigal son, or the pining father, or the resentful elder brother will find this book a powerful and transforming read. And should you be interested in the painting itself, the author offers some interesting things on that line too.

Excerpt 1, p. 37... 
"Home is the center of my being where I can hear the voice that says: "You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests" -- the same voice that gave life to the first Adam and spoke to Jesus, the second Adam; the same voice that speaks to all the children of God and sets them free to live in the midst of a dark world while remaining in the light."

Excerpt 2, p. 42
"As long as I keep running about asking: "Do you love me? Do you really love me?" I give all power to the voices of the world and put myself in bondage because the world is filled with 'ifs'. The world says: "Yes, I love you if you are good-looking, intelligent, and wealthy. I love you if you have a good education, a good job, and good connections. I love you if you produce much, sell much, and buy much." There are endless 'ifs' hidden in the world's love. These 'ifs' enslave me..."

Excerpt 3, p. 73
"Joy and resentment cannot coexist."

Excerpt 4, p. 81
"Each child of God has there his or her unique place, all of them places of God. I have to let go of all comparison, all rivalry and competition, and surrender to the Father's love... As long as I stay outside in the darkness, I can only remain in the resentful complaint that results from my comparisons. Outside of the light, my younger brother seems to be more loved by the Father than I. ... In the light of God I can finally see my neighbor as my brother, as the one who belongs as much to God as I do."

Excerpt 5, p. 115
"Somehow I have become accustomed to living with sadness, and so have lost the eyes to see the joy and the ears to hear the gladness that belongs to God and which is to be found in the hidden corners of the world. I have a friend who is so deeply connected with God that he can see joy where I expect only sadness. . . .When he shares his experiences, he tells about the hidden joys he has discovered."

Happy Reading!


  1. good thoughts to ponder...I have a prodigal son but he hasn't returned yet...

  2. Keep the faith, Lin.... I'm hearing so many amazing stories of families being restored, I know there is hope for yours too!

  3. #5 spoke to me the most as the past few years have been particularily difficult in my home with the economic challenges we are facing with job loss etc. I've learned to count my blessings each day or it is easy to step out of the joy we receive knowing him and live in worry and fear.
    Thank you to you for taking the time to write all of these out!
    Blessings on your weekend!

  4. I love it when I go to Amazon or some other online bookstore and see the "Look Inside" option. It helps tremendously, as does the selection-mining process you present here.

    Prodigals ... I've been one, and have had two of my own. Thank God He always walked the property line until He could see me far off. It gave me hope to walk my own hopeful steps as I waited for my wayward ones to return. They did.

    I'm glad you dropped by my blog earlier. Have a blessed day!


  5. Brenda, I love these quotes. Nouwen was so simple yet profound. His book The Life of the Beloved had a huge impact on my life.
    thanks for your comments on my blog, I'm always glad to connect with a kindred spirit.

  6. TERRI, That whole chapter in the book where that #5 quote nestles is a wonderful chapter on Joy.

    I have found it a real encouragement in troubled times. It confirms my own ponderings on the topic, as I've asked the question many times, who says that sadness should be the heavier weight in our emotions and lives?

    I truly believe joy should have at least equal time, if not way more. Yes, we experience both, but why should sadness in one area take over and dim the joy in another? Especially when we know that the Joy of the Lord is our strength, and we know that Joy is a fruit of the spirit (I don't see anywhere that sadness is a fruit of God's kingdom)....

    (I could wax eloquent on that topic for a while, I've pondered it a long time -- smile!)

    KATHERINE, I love your imagery of God walking the property line until He can see us afar off --- it sends thrills up my spine.

    KERI, I too was impacted in a huge way by reading "The Life of the Beloved". I remember sitting there when I first found it, with waves upon waves of Love surrounding me.

    I had caught many glimpses in the past of His personal love for me (each of us), but Henri really caught the essence for me of how beloved and dear each one of us is to HIM.

  7. #2 is the passage that gripped me. It's sad to be in that lonely spot where we look to the world for love and acceptance. What a glorious thing it is when we discover, and ACCEPT, the Savior's total, complete, unconditional love for us...wherever we are, what ever condition our hearts and lives may be in.

    You have piqued my interest. I already have a stack of books waiting to be read and digested scattered around the house. And Spring is around the corner when I spend more hours outside in the flower gardens, and more time assisting people in building foundations under their dreams. I lose hours of the precious reading time that I enjoy in the "house bound" months of the year.

    Another mouth watering post... Thanks Brenda.

  8. Wow, I'm flattered that you liked my passages. I thought it would be interesting to keep a place where I list them so that from time to time I could re-visit the book again. I absolutely loved the ones you listed, especially true that is? It isn't enough to know God loves us but for the most part we don't receive unconditional love from anyone we? How true is #3!!! Passage #5 is very thought provoking for me. I've been living with a lot of sadness that I know for a fact that I've missed out on many happy times!!!

    Thank you, my friend, for being so kind to me!

  9. The minister of my church recommended this book and I bought a copy two years ago and haven't read it.
    You are inspiring me to pick it up and read it. Thank you.


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo