• Strahan Coleman "Beholding: Deepening Our Experience in God" | Episode Transcript

    Karen Pascal: Hello, I’m Karen Pascal. I’m the executive director of the Henri Nouwen Society. Welcome to a new episode of Henri Nouwen, Now and Then. Our goal at the society is to extend the rich spiritual legacy of Henri Nouwen to audiences around the world. We invite you to share these podcasts and our free daily meditations with your friends and family. 

    Today, I’m joined all the way from New Zealand by award-winning musician Strahan Coleman. Strahan is the founder of the popular ministry, Commoners Communion. Strahan has written a very beautiful book titled Beholding. And through this, he invites readers into a deeper, richer friendship with God. The book was birthed out of Strahan’s own journey of pain, depression, and anxiety, which ultimately moved his relationship with God to a much deeper level. 

    Before we dive into the conversation, I’d like to preface this by letting you know that we faced some sound and buffering issues in this podcast. I hope you listeners will listen through, since I can honestly say it’s a wonderfully rich, honest, and meaningful conversation. 

    Strahan Coleman, welcome to Henri Nouwen, Now and Then.

    Strahan Coleman: It’s just an absolute pleasure to be here with you on the podcast. A real honor. So, thank you. 

    Karen Pascal: Thank you. Strahan, you wrote me a letter this spring and you said, “I’m a solo musician turned writer, thanks to a long journey of chronic illness, but I’m passionate about prayer and about the kind of prayer that soaks up all of life, catching us up into God. I’ve given my life to that calling.” 

    Tell us about this calling on your life and help us understand what “beholding” prayer is all about.

    Strahan Coleman: Yeah, so, I’m actually one of those people that have become a happy accident, really in my life. I was a musician for so long, doing a lot of travel, doing a lot of ministry, really, and just loving the creative life, loving that kind of lifestyle, when I had this collision with a long journey of chronic illness. And the process for me was – I mean, there’s a lot in there we could get into – but it was essentially a whole-life crisis, sort of mental, physical, spiritual. And in that process, kind of out of that collision, I came to this place of realizing that I’d misdiagnosed this whole God thing; that I had really had this working relationship with God when he desired a deep, deep friendship. And so, in that process, I ended up having myself rewired and my life rewired, and out of that just kind of felt this deep sense of wanting to share prayer with others – I guess because prayer is really the heartbeat of the relationship with God.

    You know, the word “prayer” for me, you could use “intermingling with God” or “union with God,” or “intimacy,” or “friendship.” All of these things are interchangeable. And I just kind of came out of that season thinking, “Man, I’m going to give my life to helping others to understand and hear the story of my transition, to find in themselves that deep longing for God and to access that through knowing him in their life and in prayer.” And really, that’s what “beholding” is. Beholding is our gazing lovingly into God as he gazes lovingly back into us. It’s a life lived in the divine gaze. And so, the book kind of tells my story of how I sort of hit a brick wall at a hundred miles an hour and found a more beautiful way of life and prayer. And then, it’s sort of unwinding this concept of beholding. And what if we could see prayer differently? What if prayer became this beautiful life source for us and not a burden or something that generates anxiety or stress or wears us out?

    Karen Pascal: You certainly spoke to me, to be quite honest. As I read, there was subtlety in it, but my, there was also such honesty. And so, I have journeyed with you through the book. I love – do you mind if I read a quote here? Your friend, John Mark Comer, wrote the introduction to the book and he said:

    “My friend Strahan has written a liturgy for the ache. He’s put lyrics in music and melody to the deepest desire of the heart, the desire for God, not just to know about God as a cliche goes, but to know God by direct experience.”

    And it’s interesting, because I think in order for that to in a way be true, you’ve had to peel away things, peel away the false way we know God in prayer. Take us on that journey. Tell us how you got there. Can you just break it down a little bit for me so that we can understand? I want people to come away from this going, “Oh my, there’s something there for me,” and I want them to come away going, “I want to buy this book.” And I really truly want them to buy the book, because having read it, I was pleased; as soon as I was finished it, I ordered one for a friend, because I went, “This is good stuff.” So, just take us on this journey a little bit.

    Strahan Coleman: So, I think, what happened to me was, when I became sick (and I became sick for quite a long time), I spent almost two years sort of. . . I probably would’ve spent maybe 70% of my time in bed, you know, just full of illness. And I was spending hundreds of dollars on vitamins, thousands of dollars on doctors and alternative doctors and treatments, all trying to diagnose something that they couldn’t figure out. Still haven’t actually really figured out what happened. And I think what happened in that process was, you know, we come to God with so many ideas about who he is and what he wants. And we have, I think, we have been shaped so much in the consumerism of our world. You know, everything is a product to be consumed. Everyone is an opportunity for gain. 

    And so, when we come to God, I had brought this consumerism to him. I had come to God seeking things like meaning in life, or healing, or music, or ministry, and all of these things. But I’d also assumed that God wanted things out of me. That I was a product to be consumed. That what God most cared about was what I did for him, who I told about him, how I loved, what I knew, how often I went to church. And so, when you’re just sick all of this time and I could no longer perform for God, I had no metrics. There was no way for me to say, “Here’s the good things that I’m doing.” There’s only so much repentance or intercession before you run out of prayer, you run out of your list. And I think I got to the end of that list and I got to end of those works, and I had to ask myself the question: Does God love me or not? Because I have nothing to give, outside of my existence as a very sick, struggling person. You know, at that time in my life, I had two kids. We had no money. I thought I was dying. You know, I was having panic attacks sometimes two or three times a day. Just, am I dying? Am I leaving my family behind? What’s going on? And God wasn’t speaking to me in the way that I was used to. He wasn’t healing me. There were no answers. And so, there were two questions: Does God love me as I am, or doesn’t he? And then the second question was: If God is good, then he’s a kind of good that I don’t understand yet. 

    And so, what happened for me was, I accepted that God was good and I went on a journey of discovering him outside of the things that he offers me – outside of him healing me or making sense of my situation or providing. It was like God has to become the most beautiful thing for me, otherwise this gospel feels a little bit lost. 

    And when I think of the gospel, I think so many of us have been taught that the gospel is about Jesus dying for us. And that’s true. But the widest story here, and this is what I love about Henri Nouwen’s work. I remember reading The Return of the Prodigal Son. And it was so mind-blowing to me, this whole concept that God desires friendship and welcoming and forgiveness and reconciliation. The greatest invitation of God is friendship. And so, when I went through that experience, I kind of dropped this consumerism. Okay, if God is good, then he has to be good in and of himself, not just what He gives to me. And actually, that’s where prayer and communion really opened up. He became so much more mysterious than I’d ever imagined, but also so much more beautiful and kind and compassionate. I found that he was sitting with me in my sickness and my weakness and my despair. And as we sat together, I began to be transformed. And yeah, so I think for me, the greatest invitation in all of that is can we know God for just who he is outside of our boxes and paradigms and what he offers us, and just learn to enjoy him forever.

    Karen Pascal: And now I’m just going to say to our listeners: You’re hearing a little bit of buffering because, keep in mind, we’re the other side of the world. My friend Strahan is in New Zealand, and I’m in Toronto, Canada. And so, I just encourage you not to give up, but listen on. I love what you’ve got to share, Strahan, and I don’t want us to miss it. And so, I would just encourage people to hang in there. Okay. Hang in there. There’s good stuff coming. 

    One of the things that was so striking to me about, in a sense, the shift in the understanding that you had of God was, it wasn’t just about forgiveness, but it was about reconciliation. Help us understand why that’s so different, but so core to our relationship. What does it mean to be reconciled? Lovely, big word. What does it mean to you?

    Strahan Coleman: Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s so helpful to contrast the two. You know, forgiveness is a clearing of debt. It is a legal thing and it’s important, right? I mean, if someone came into my house and stole my things and I discovered them, I’d have two choices to make. I could take them to court and make them pay or, out of a pure act of love and grace – and it is grace – I could say, “I forgive you your debt,” and I could send them on their way and they would be fine. And I think a lot of people see what Jesus did as pure forgiveness, and so the main topic of conversation is always sin. It’s just always forgiveness of sin, dealing with sin, shame, guilt, and coming to God in a legal sense. 

    But reconciliation is the restoration of friendship. It actually goes a step further. And so, in that same example, it’s not just, “Hey, you know, I’m not going to take you to court for stealing my stuff.” It is, “Tell me about your part of my life. Come and meet my family. Let’s go fishing together. Let’s spend time.” 

    You know, we wouldn’t do that with anyone. Reconciliation is totally unsatisfied with the status quo. It wants to embrace; it wants to engulf. And the story is that God is now homed in us, that he didn’t just say, “Okay, go along your way. I’m not going to hold it against you anymore.” He said, “I long to live inside of you. I want to be so close. I want to make my new temple your body so that we can be in absolute closeness and belovedness and intimacy together.”

    And so, reconciliation is God chasing us. It is God seeking us, longing for us, and when he gets us, taking pleasure in us and longing for us to take pleasure in him. If it’s just about forgiveness and then all our prayers are transactional, we’re just getting things done. We’re clearing debt, we are making progress, we’re asking for others’ debt to be cleared. But as soon as you walk into friendship, prayer becomes about coexistence and silence and beauty and intermingling in a deep sense of belovedness in God. And that’s a wild adventure. 

    Karen Pascal: You know, I just have one of the phrases I came across in your book, which just struck a note with me: “Some of us believe we’re forgiven, but we don’t think we’re liked.” And it seems to me that you don’t have a real friendship unless you really trust that God likes you. That this one that you’re reaching out to worship and adore and commune with actually likes you. Can you just open that up for us a little bit?

    Strahan Coleman: So, I mean, I don’t know why we say this. We say the saying all the time: “I love you, but I don’t like you right now.” And I’ve never understood it. You know, it’s one of those things that you kind of create a rule that it’s possible to love someone and not like them. And I guess I understand the sentiment. There is something in there that I do get. But I think we can work back to God that way. We can, I think, make this idea in the church, especially in the way we talk about God, where we think God had to die for us and God did what he had to do to make things right. Like his arm was twisted because we were so bad. It just lacks so much of the trueness of who God is, that his arm wasn’t twisted. He loves to and longs to chase us. 

    And I think about songs because, you know, songs are a strange thing. They kind of come out of nowhere. They’re quite mystical and then they sort of come out of you. And a good song, you see all of yourself in it, and in some ways none of yourself. It becomes something else once it’s there. A bit like a child, actually. And when I think about a song, it doesn’t matter to me whether a song is perfect or someone may like it, someone may not. It’s a part of me, it’s a part of my creativity, my expression. And I love it for all of its intricacy, all of its frailty. And I just see us as the same.

    Ephesians talks about us being God’s masterpiece, his poem. And I think there’s the sense in which God just finds so much beauty in the poem of each one of us, of who we are. And he takes pleasure in us. And it’s so horrible to reduce that to, well, “God loves me because he has to, but he doesn’t like me, as in, he doesn’t really like being around me. I’m a bit of a jerk sometimes, you know. I’m bit grumpy in the morning.” But actually, God anticipates us waking in the morning and he’s singing over us as we sleep. And he just looks at us like a parent looks at their child and says, “My child, my son, my daughter. I want to spend time with you. I like you.”

    And I think that’s hard for so many of us to wrap our heads around. But that is the true miracle of the loving Trinity. It’s profound.

    Karen Pascal: Now, you write something in this book that just is absolutely so original, and it comes right out of New Zealand, right out of the Maori tradition. Please tell us about the, I don’t even know if I’m going to pronounce it right, but the divine hongi. Is that how you pronounce it? Tell us about that. This is just absolutely fabulous. You’ll love it. Listen to this.

    Strahan Coleman: Yeah. So, the hongi is a Maori tradition here in Aotearoa. If you’re listening, you may have seen it sometimes, especially if foreign leaders come to New Zealand. It’s the pressing of the forehead to another, and in that there is this kind of intentional intermingling of breath. And so, Maori will hongi one another. They’ll often hongi a pākehā, which is someone who’s a non-Maori, as a way of welcoming them into a marae, their kind of gathering-place, or even into the country. And it’s very intimate. I mean, you’re literally, you know, face-to-face, touching face-to-face with a complete stranger. If you’ve got bad breath, you notice that. It could be like a few seconds long. I’ve been hongied for minutes long before. But the whole idea is that you are each intermingling your breath and sort of. . . there’s a unity there. There’s like an otherness. In my culture, in western culture, pākehā culture, it’s like kia ora, you know, welcome, shake hands. It’s very transactional. But this is very relational, and so, it reminded me of Genesis, where when we awake to creation and it says, God breathed his breath of life into our nostrils, and we became a living being. And I kind of imagine this as a divine hongi in which God sort of gets down on his hands and knees and spreads himself out across us. This kind of lump of clay; we’re just there, this inanimate, soiled object. And he breathes, he hongis us, presses his face against ours, which is deeply intimate, and he hongis us and his breath enters us and we awake and our eyes open. And the first experience we have is of this face-to-face-ness with God, of complete like a child coming out of its mother’s womb and being wrapped around the chest.

    It’s like we are wrapped around the chest of God in this divine hongi. And you know, in the hongi, you’re welcomed not only into that person, but into their community and into the land. And so, I kind of see this divine hongi as God saying, “Welcome to the world with me. Welcome to my life.” 

    And I try and make the point in the book that what God has done, what Jesus has done, doesn’t take us back to the Fall. It takes us back to that moment that restores. And you’ll see Jesus later on, this weird example where he breathes into all the disciples after he’s resurrected. And I kind of tip my hat to it and say, again, he’s reminding us of this divine hongi, which is, “I am restoring to you that kind of life, that face-to-face-ness, that intermingling of breath.” And I just think that’s such a beautiful image for the gospel, for reconciliation and friendship.

    Karen Pascal: I love that image. It was fresh to me. But immediately, you do see him returning to the disciples and breathing on them, knowing that it was the God who breathed into us life in the first place. It is absolutely beautiful. This book, Beholding, is really peeling away, I think, some of the barriers in our minds, in my mind, to God’s love. It’s very, very intimate. It’s very life-giving, really. 

    You have some interesting things that you invite us to look at. One of them is “other-seeking.” Maybe just explore that a little bit. What do you mean by other-seeking?

    Strahan Coleman: I think once you start to gaze upon God, and I’m sure so many have had this experience, where as you become vulnerable toward God and you recognize all of your shadows and ickiness and all, and you receive God’s love there and you can kind of maintain this gaze with God, this loving gaze where he sees all of you and loves and accepts that. And then you see all of God and love and accept what you can’t understand, it starts to build this muscle for starting to see others in the same way. It starts to help you to… So, if the gospel’s all about sin and transaction, that’s all we will essentially see in the other person. If we are sin-obsessed with ourselves, the first thing we’re going to see in anyone else is their shortfalls and their brokenness.

    But if through prayer and through beholding we can practice to see God for who he is beyond our understanding, and to receive his love beyond our shortfalls, then we are kind of practicing the spiritual muscles for seeing the image of God in others before we see their distortion and their brokenness. And so, I spent a bit of time in the book talking about how this kind of prayer actually rewires our brains and rewires our souls so that we begin to seek the image of God in others, and we can look at someone and the first thing we see is we are able to celebrate the beauty and the wonder, almost like kind of a divine anthropologist, where can we find God in this person or in this culture, or in this way? And I actually suggest in the book that I wonder if this is part of the reason we have so much destructive dialogue in the world – it’s that we have reduced God to someone or something we can understand.

    And therefore, when we can’t understand something, we sort of disown it or we rail against it. And actually, practicing prayer can help us to see others and seek God in others in a new and profound way. And I make the case that that was a strange phenomenon in my life. It was a beautiful surprise that my enemies started to become my friends and I started to weep for people that before I just couldn’t understand. And it wasn’t necessarily there was any other massive understanding change. It was almost like a change in my person through prayer. And it was a beautiful outcome.

    Karen Pascal: I want to go back and ask that question about the word “beholding.” It’s an unusual word that you’ve chosen. It’s the cover of the book and it’s very sweet, because it says here, “Deepening our experience in God.” Why beholding? Why that word? It’s kind of unusual, to be quite honest. I thought it was unusual. Tell me: What was behind that choice?

    Strahan Coleman: It was just the word that came to me, I think. I was looking for a language for just staring at God, but staring feels so disconnected and, you know, weird. And so, how do you kind of present prayer as a looking upon God? And beholding for me raised sort of memories, thoughts of a beautiful vista. You know, beholding, it’s sort of this sense of you’re not just looking, but you’re actually trying to hold it. You are being held and you are being a person that holds. It’s a sense of, how do I carry this image in my life? How do I carry this beauty and this presence of God? And beholding for me embodied that. It sounded more like just, you know, it’s not just a conscious mental dialogue. It’s not just staring at God. It is the sense of learning to hold him and all his beauty and goodness and truth within myself. And so, the word just kind of bubbled up and I actually found out there’s a bit of a tradition to the word. Others have used it in the past, which is really cool. I didn’t realize that until after I wrote the book, and it felt like a really happy learning when I found that out. But yeah, that’s sort of what it means for me.

    Karen Pascal: It’s interesting, because one of the things that I could sort of feel as I read the book was I kind of felt the similarity of our backgrounds. I felt that you had come out of probably what might have been a charismatic, evangelical, Protestant background. But what is so wonderful in the book is your discovery of all these beautiful, rich, deep traditions that are speaking to your life in any way. And so, the book has mysticism and contemplativeness and so many things that to me were genuinely almost like fresh discoveries for you. Maybe tell us a little bit about that part of this journey.

    Strahan Coleman: You’re right. I do come from a charismatic background, which I’m deeply grateful for, and is just so much a part of my DNA still. But I think that there is this sort of anti-historical undergirding there. And I don’t think it’s very spoken. It’s just more, you know, highlights the spontaneous and the fresh, and history kind of starts at Azusa Street, or Jonathan [Edwards], [George] Whitfield and that. So, when I started to discover things like the Jesus prayer, which is a very, very ancient, meditative prayer, you know: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” 

    And the repetitiveness of that prayer or of silence and solitude and how ancient it was, it didn’t at all strike me like I had to give up one for the other. They felt like invitations into a deeper experience of God. And so, I was like a kid in a candy shop, man. I’m like, “What?” You know, there’s all these prayer books. I’m discovering that there’s all these prayer books, and this tradition, and this beautiful language, especially in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and language of how to approach prayer, and the Catholic tradition of belovedness and intimacy. And oh, I was just stunned. And I’d started to just read these books like I was drinking water, and it just felt so beautiful. And so, I did feel like, man, where has this tradition been my whole life, of practices like silence and solitude and the Jesus prayer and sort of liturgy, and beholding in contemplations. And it felt like it layered in so perfectly with my charismatic background. Again, it just felt like I was getting deeper and deeper invitations to participate in really what the charismatic heart is, of God. It’s a very cool, very cool experience for me.

    Karen Pascal: It’s interesting to me, because one thing that just reminded me so much of Henri Nouwen. Henri loved to celebrate the Eucharist, and he did it every day, and he invited the people that were with him to join in. And I have just the sense that that was central to his life. And you begin to really, in a fresh and in a deeper way, explore the eucharistic life, and really have a deeper understanding of what that table is about and what the elements are about. 

    I think this kind of very honest and genuine discovery that you share in the book, it makes it a book that’s going to be valuable for everyone, because we can be celebrating all those little details, and yet we can have, in a way, lost the profundity of what they bring to us, and the way in which they are our tools of communing with our Father and with Jesus and with the Holy Spirit. I really enjoyed that, and I just found myself thinking, “This guy and Henri would just be really good friends.” 

    Strahan Coleman: I read his books all the time and I’m like, “Man, I wish I could just sit down with a coffee with this person.” And the Eucharist, you know, I dedicate a whole chapter to the Eucharist in the book, because it had such a profound impact in reshaping the entire framework of my faith. And I think I see that same eucharistic spirituality, just, you know. . . Henri’s just got such a beautiful way of landing it in life, you know? I’ve always appreciated that about his work. It just, he can make some spiritual concept feel absolutely ingrained into community and existence. And I think that that passion for Eucharist, that’s where I see that playing out in the most beautiful way. And it’s been such a gift.

    Karen Pascal: Another thing that you bring in the book, which is so absolutely needed, at least in my life, but I think in everybody’s, it’s the word “un-noising.” Let’s just open that one up. Let’s explore that a little bit. Tell me why un-noising is kind of a vital aspect of prayer and beholding.

    Strahan Coleman: Well, for me, it was just, I mean, I’m a musician, so I’m, you know, for years it was all music and culture and art. And I mean, I just love that. But I think what I realized, I mean, becoming unwell, I was too unwell even to watch Netflix or listen to podcasts. And actually, for years, I didn’t even really read many books. And so, my life became incredibly quiet and not just in like a physical sense, but in just a mental sense, too. And I think what happened for me during that time was I realized how much of God I met and understood, and how much transformation took place over the slow distilling of my life. And the less noise in my life there was, the deeper the work that seemed to take place.

    And it wasn’t intentional. It was just, it was less going on. And therefore, I was able to reflect more on God and notice him more. And so, I talk in the book about un-noising, because we live in an insanely noisy world. John Mark Comer has done some work on this and bringing to light that we live in an attention economy. In other words, a hundreds-of-billion-dollar industry is deeply focused and obsessed with getting our attention. And so, we have the noise of the news, we have the noise of all the technology, we have the noise of a busy, post-industrial life, but we also have the noise of anxiety and depression and fear and shame. We have a lot of internal noise, too. 

    And so, part of my journey, and what I’m saying in the book, is we need to actually remove so much of that noise. Otherwise, when we do turn our hearts toward God, or when we do come to spend time with him, it will be like hitting a brick wall at a hundred miles per hour. Because God is not one to compete with our noise. He doesn’t shout over all of it. He’s the sort of gentle whisper that waits underneath us, waiting to be found, waiting to be discovered. And so, I found practices in my life like listening to less music or less podcasts. And you know, I can be pretty book hungry and spend all of my time reading books. And sometimes I have to peel back and say, “I’m just going to, actually, I’m just going to peel back from that – social events and overworking – and un-noising my life, so the bubbled voice of God could bubble up, and the silence, the quietness, the beauty can bubble up. And I can actually come down to God’s level rather than shouting around over all this noise, saying, “God speak to me and be with me.” And he’s like, “I do.” I want to slow my life down. I want to un-noise it, so that I can listen to the voice of God and become aware of him within me. And so, I think un-noising is actually the first place to begin with a prayer life.

    Karen Pascal: In the book, you talk about “welcome boredom,” and why would we welcome boredom? But it’s a really interesting thing. It’s like, how am I going to put space in my world for God?

    Strahan Coleman: Yeah. I mean, I make the statement that boredom is a human right. You know, that actually boredom is, we should, if we’re doing life right, we should have so many moments where we just go, “I’m bored.” And I think the main reason we don’t is purely because of our phones. You know, we fill up every moment, you know. We’re waiting in line at the supermarket, we whip out our phone. I mean, you sit at a restaurant and you watch people at a table. If there’s a couple, one goes to the toilet, the first thing the other person does is they get out their phone. And as an artist, actually – this is really an artist’s lesson for me – is that the more boredom I created in my life, the more songs I would write, the more poems I would write.

    And I also noticed that the more boredom there was in my life, the more that I felt God quote unquote “speaking” to me. So, I actually think the best thing we can do to get bored is just put our phones away, have really good phone habits, you know? Let’s not just open it up straight before breakfast or after dinner, or when someone goes to the bathroom, or when we’re standing in line and we’re bored for a moment. Let’s actually just take some time to just let our brains, all the activity of our brains and the sediment fall to the bottom, so that we can find clarity. And I think we just live in a society that thinks we have to be doing something all the time. And it’s the worst thing for our brains. And it’s certainly the worst thing for our communion with God, because we are just putting a time in our calendar and saying, “God, can you show up then, please?” And he’s like, “I want to live my whole life with you.” But we’re so unconscious, you know, we’re so unconscious in our life by keeping busy all the time. And I think boredom has to be reclaimed, man. Bring boredom back!

    Karen Pascal: I love that. Here’s a lovely quote from my friend, Strahan: “Building a prayer life is about one thing: a lived and continuous experience of the wonder that is God, but it won’t happen spontaneously or by accident, at least not in a lifetime. To create a life of communion, we need to slowly build habits into our lives that draw us near to him.”

    I think, Strahan, this book has some wonderful ideas about how to build those habits. And building those habits has a lot to do with letting go of some of the bad habits that maybe crowd out the presence of God, the communion that he’s offering us, the friendship, the intimacy that he’s offering. You have given us a real treasure here. I’m going to encourage people to go get the book. 

    Is there anything else you’d like to leave us with today?

    Strahan Coleman: If I had any final thought, it would be that, you know, so much of our lives, we spend our time hoping and waiting for God to appear or to receive his love. And I think the biggest lesson for me was just that God’s love is a reality that we just accept. It’s not something that we strive for or we burden for. The best thing we can do to bring a love from a theological concept in our mind that God loves me, into my being, is just to spend time every day sitting and just saying, “God, I accept and receive your love.” You know, we don’t need to ask for it. It is poured out constantly like a river. “Like the sun shines on the earth, so God’s love is for us.” And so, I just encourage anyone who’s listening, if you feel like you have a deficit of love in your life, just to begin with your coffee in the morning, and just sit there and say, “God, I receive your love, and I return it back to you. Would you be with me?”

    And I think that to me is the deepest meaning of life, and it’s the gift of God. So yeah, I encourage you with that.

    Karen Pascal: Oh, my goodness. You’re a treat. You’re a deep treat. 

    Strahan Coleman: Oh, thanks Karen. It’s really such a true honor to spend some time with you and to talk. And I’m just, you’re very generous, and I’m so sorry about the internet connection. It’s not normally like that. I don’t know why it’s done that today. It’s just always the way when the moment matters. But I’m so honored to be on this podcast and to talk with you, and so glad that you enjoyed the book, actually. It just means a lot.

    Karen Pascal: Oh yeah. No, really loved it. It’s a sure sign I loved it if I buy it for somebody, you know? That’s the way it should be, that you go, “This is the right book for this person.” And I was thinking particularly of somebody going through that valley of physical discomfort. Pain, really. Pain. It gets pretty miserable. What you’ve described, I have friends that are there, and it gets so hard to walk with God through that and then come out on the other side. So, that meant a lot. Anyway, bless you.

    Strahan Coleman: Thank you. You, too. All right, blessings.

    Karen Pascal: Bye-bye. I hope all of you listening to this podcast have enjoyed what Strahan has shared. I encourage you to buy the book, Beholding. It’s a beautifully deep book that opens us up to a profound dimension of reconciliation to God and offers us such intimacy with our heavenly Father. 

    I hope you’ve already signed up to receive our free, daily meditations written by Henri Nouwen. If not, you can do that on our website, @HenriNouwen.org. Remember, they’re free, and they’re a wonderful way to stay informed about the various things we have to offer to those who are enjoying the writings and the teachings of Henri Nouwen. 

    We’d also be so grateful if you would consider donating to the Henri Nouwen Society. Your resources help us share the daily meditations and these podcasts right around the world. 

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    Thanks for listening. Until next time.

In the words of our podcast listeners

"A wonderful podcast that does a deep dive into Nouwen's teachings & influence on other leaders."
Matthew, Canada
"It's a great podcast - that truly pierces your heart!"
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"Karen Pascal does a wonderful job interviewing. There is so much to ponder after each episode."
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