Number 176

Over he last few decades we have been inundated by a torrent of words.  Wherever we go we are surrounded by words: words softly whispered, loudly proclaimed, or angrily screamed; words spoken, recited, or sung; words on records, in books, on walls, or in the sky; words in many sounds, many colors, or many forms… words which flicker off and on, move slowly, dance, jump, or wiggle.
~Henri Nouwen


A twenty something rambles on about living life… really living life, he says.  His words bubble like a bottomless Coca-Cola, sweet and sticky.  He spills them on internet pages and podcasts.  They’re splashed across screens just like this one.  He is aspiring.  He’ll tell you, even if you don’t ask.


Mike calls, tells me he’s heard about a family struggle.  He listens to the story, offers “mm-hmms” and the occasional “I’m sorry.”  When I’m finished he says nothing, allows the silence to hang.  Then he says, “I have no words, but I’ll sit with you if you want.”  The silence hangs again, and I feel the shaking cedars still.  I feel my bones harden like steel.  I feel the possibility of solidarity, the endless proliferation of hope.

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14 Responses to Number 176

  1. sethhaines says:

    And just so everyone knows… family situation is working out. It was health related and I think we’ve gotten to the bottom of it. All that to say, no worries.

  2. *word,* seth.
    i’ve been trying to think more before i type, for the power of words is worth respecting.
    i believe it was the great philosopher thumper who said “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” or something like that.

    where did this nouwen quote originate? i would love to read more.

  3. Chris Thornton says:

    Once again.. thanks Seth… praying for you my friend…

  4. chadly says:

    I read that little book over a decade ago. It was one of my favorite Nouwen books. I appreciate how he brings the best of christian mysticism together with contemplative personhood.

    Hope all is well with you; we have a mutual friend winging his way here in a few weeks.

    • sethhaines says:

      Completely agree. This book is setting me straight in many a ways.

      I am very hopeful that when said mutual friend comes this way, we sit down to watch a bull fight. I’ll provide the nuts if the two of y’all will provide the entertainment.

  5. Seth- I just stumbled across this from a High Calling Tweet, and I am so glad I did.

    This is a big question for me in the blogging world. With so many words out there, are mine really adding value? It’s a question worth asking regularly.

    Thank you for sharing the story of your friend. It is convicting to think of the many times I have spoken, when I should have remained a silent listener. It makes me think of Job’s friends- how they rambled on for pages and pages, offering their ideas of why Job was suffering- when what he really needed was compassionate ones to sit in the ashes with him.

    – Steph

    P.S. I have a friend named Melody, who is blogging about her experiences visiting a monastery. She recently wrote about meeting with a friend who helped her heal. Your post reminds me of her words. She said “I talked. She listened. It was a sacred holy moment where true church happened – ekklesia.” You may be interested in reading her reflections.

    • sethhaines says:

      I’m glad you raised this issue of “added value.” It’s a question I ask a good bit too. Why put words in space?

      I’m glad you followed the link and showed up here. I’ll check out your friends space, especially since you typed the magical word “monastery.”

  6. thank you for your usual thoughtful pondering in this space, seth.

    • sethhaines says:

      Thank you for the encouragement. Amber and I were talking (good) about you last night, about how we’d like to ask you 20 questions over dinner. Maybe some day?

      • Absolutely. Someday I actually hope to visit Arkansas (right?) – I have family history there. My dad was born in Hot Springs. In the meantime – ask away, anytime you like.

  7. Prudence says:

    This makes me if the possibility of solidarity like you talk about here, means more at times than promises of prayer.

    • sethhaines says:

      No doubt. especially when I think about the times that I could have offered solidarity but instead I promised prayer… and then didn’t follow through.*

      In our community, it is rare that someone says “I’ll pray for you,” and doesn’t stop right then and there and DO it. It has stretched me in the best of ways.

      *confession of the day.

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