Posts Tagged ‘Henri Nouwen’
Book Review: Show Me the Way
Author: Henri Nouwen
Publisher: Crossroad Publishing Co. ISBN: 9780824513535
Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings
Henri Nouwen is one of my favorite spiritual writers; I have no less than nine of his works in my personal library, so I was looking forward to spending time with this collection of writings during Lent. I was not disappointed as my expectations were met in abundance.
The book is arranged for daily readings beginning on Ash Wednesday and running through Easter Sunday. The days are arranged in themed weeks; for instance, Week One is titled Only in God and features the topics of hospitality, prayer, forgiveness, and love as the subjects of the meditation. The following weeks have similar themes leading up to Passion Week, Holy Week, and Easter Day.
I particularly enjoyed the structure of this devotional guide. Each day’s reading begins with a Scripture verse followed with a thoughtfully probing devotional from Henri Nouwen and concludes with a prayer. I do not recall any day that exceeded four pages in length, so I feel confident in saying the time commitment for these readings is minimal. This is not to say more time cannot be devoted to them, but for those persons whose schedules are busy, this might be a worthy consideration.
Perhaps another reader might see something different, but I noticed a recurring theme or maybe it was THE theme for the devotional. I think that that theme was attentiveness to God. One particular day seemed to capture this idea very well for me. (Other samples can be found here)
Thursday of the Third Week of Lent
Through the practice of a spiritual discipline we become attentive to that small voice and willing to respond when we hear it.
Jesus’ life was a life of obedience. He was always listening to the Father, always attentive to his voice, always alert for his directions. Jesus was “all ear.” That is true prayer: being all ear for God. The core of all prayer is indeed listening, obediently standing in the presence of God.
A spiritual discipline sets us free to pray or, to say it better, allows the Spirit of god to pray in us. (pp. 94-95)
I make no apologies for my bias and favor toward Henri Nouwen, but bias and favor aside, this was one of my favorite devotional books for this season. If you have never experienced the gentle and pastoral writing of Henri Nouwen, I recommend this book for a first experience. I don’t think it necessary to wait for Lent to pick it up for reading. I know that I will be returning to it again regardless of the season, I was and will be inspired by it over and over again… of this, I am sure.
Readings: Deuteronomy 26:1—30:20
“But if you will not obey the LORD your God…then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you… Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and with gladness of heart for the abundance of everything.” (Deuteronomy 28:15, 45-47)
I proceed with my reading through the Book of Deuteronomy and find the words in chapter twenty-eight absolutely chilling. The chapter begins with God reestablishing His covenant promises with the people of Israel and declaring a blanket of blessing over their lives and livelihoods. All the people of Israel need do is enter into faithful relationship with God and follow the righteous path for living he has instructed for them. The way of blessing is fairly straight-forward, so God’s instructions continue with an explanation for what happens to the people who fail to enter into faithful relationship Him.
It is difficult to fathom the depth and breadth of the curses God announces to the Israelites, but there is something I have considered as I’ve thought about this narrative account. I wonder how much the curses were actual peals of punishment upon the disobedient as opposed to the promised, and natural, fruit of their sin and disobedience. I think the answer might be in-between, but I also lean toward these being natural (according to the rule of God’s righteousness) occurrences based on the legacy of disobedience and selfish promotion.
Several additional readings have been strongly influencing my reflections and meditations. These readings are from Oswald Chambers (The Relinquished Life), Thomas `a Kempis (The Royal Road), and various excerpted writings from Henri Nouwen. The common theme with all these writings is the desire for utmost devotion from us toward our LORD and God.
“There will always be many who love Christ’s heavenly kingdom, but few who will bear his cross. Jesus has many who desire consolation, but few who care for adversity. He finds many to share his table, but few who will join him in fasting. Many are eager to be happy with him; few wish to suffer anything for him. Many will follow him as far as the breaking of bread, but few will remain to drink from his passion. Many are awed by his miracles, few accept the shame of his cross.” -Thomas `a Kempis
Total and complete devotion is what God desires in us. We will be the victims and bearers of our own sin, if we are unwilling to deny self and follow Christ.
Most holy God of heaven, you who paint the shining center of the sky with the brightness of fire, illumine our hearts, banish sordid things,, release the chain of guilt, and make void our crimes. O God, hear my cry! From the end of the earth I call. Let me dwell in you tent for ever. For You, O God, hear my prayer. I will always praise your Name.
+ In the name of the Father, and in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Prayer: Henri Nouwen — Tuesday of the First Week in Lent
This found its way to me this morning. It is too good not to share. I am so grateful I was awakened several years ago to this greater understanding and dimension to prayer. It has changed my life, spirituality, and greater relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit completely. To God be the glory.
In your prayers do not babble as the gentiles do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matt. 6:7-8
For many of us prayer means nothing more than speaking with God. And since it usually seems to be a quite one-sided affair, prayer simply means talking to God. This idea is enough to create great frustrations. If I present a problem, I expect a solution; if I formulate a question, I expect an answer; if I ask for guidance, I expect a response. And when it seems, increasingly, that I am talking into the dark, it is not so strange that I soon begin to suspect that my dialogue with God is in fact a monologue. Then I may begin to ask myself: to whom am I really speaking, God or myself? . . .
The crisis of our prayer life is that our mind may be filled with ideas of God while our heart remains far from him.
Listen to your heart. It’s there that Jesus speaks most intimately to you. Praying is first and foremost listening to Jesus, who dwells in the very depths of your heart. He doesn’t shout. He doesn’t trust himself upon you. His voice is an unassuming voice, very nearly a whisper, the voice of a gentle love. Whatever you do with your life, go on listening to the voice of Jesus in your heart. This listening must be an active and very attentive listening, for in our restless and noisy world God’s so loving voice is easily drowned out. You need to set aside some time every day for this active listening to God if only for ten minutes. Ten minutes each day for Jesus alone can bring about a radical change in your life.
You’ll find that it isn’t easy to be still for ten minutes at a time. You’ll discover straightaway that many other voices, voices that are very noisy and distracting, voices that do not come from God, demand your attention. But if you stick to your daily prayer time, then slowly but surely you’ll come to hear the gentle voice of love and will long more and more to listen to it.
Deep silence leads us to suspect that, in the first place, prayer is acceptance. People who pray stand with their hands open to the world. They know that God will show himself in the nature that surrounds them, in the people they meet, in the situations they run into. They trust that the world holds God’s secret within it, and they expect that secret to be shown to them. Prayer creates that openness where God can give himself to us. Indeed, God wants to give himself; he wants to surrender himself to the person he has created; God even begs to be admitted into the human heart.
Why, O Lord, is it so hard for me to keep my heart directed toward you? Why does my mind wander off in so many directions, and why does my heart desire the things that lead me astray? Let me sense your presence in the midst of my turmoil. Take my tired body, my confused mind, and my restless soul into your arms and give me rest — simple, quiet rest.
The Above Posting has been excerpted from:
Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri Nouwen; Crossroad Publishing Company, copyright 1992, 2011.
(The Daily Office—Year 2; The Book of Common Prayer)
♦ Psalm 55 ♦ 138, 139:1-17 (18-23)
“Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” –Psalm 55:22
We have observed extended reflection on the themes of hope, peace, and joy during the past three weeks of Advent. Tomorrow begins week four and our theme changes to love as we light our fourth candle. Even now my mind is swirling with thoughts about the love of God for me and all that it entails and implies. The Bible says things like, “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16), and “Greater love has no man…” (John 15:13), and “While we were yet sinners…” (Romans 5:8).These are all wonderful examples revealing the love of God for men, but what boggles my mind even more is the promise and experienced reality of God inhabiting the souls of men through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God and man joined… Christ sharing the glory that he had before the world… with men. Incredible. This is the coming of Divine Love; God and man in holy union, joined now and joined for eternity. Wow!
This week I will focus my thoughts and heart on what this love means to me today and how this love translates to the world around me. What is the transformation God desires to affect in me as His Spirit, which dwells in me, perfects and makes me into the reflected image of the SON, our Savior, Jesus. May it be so in His Name for His Glory. Amen. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus, Come.
Quite often out of an intimate encounter with God encounters with other human beings become possible… If you are the beloved of God, if you start thinking about other people’s lives, you start realizing that they are as beloved as you are. One of the profound experiences of the spiritual life is that when you discover yourself as being the beloved son or daughter of God, you suddenly have new eyes to see the belovedness of other people.—Henri Nouwen.
Believe me, the kingdom of God is at hand; I tell you solemnly, your Savior will not delay his coming.
O God, Creator and Redeemer of human nature,
who willed that your Word should take flesh
in an ever-virgin womb,
look with favor on our prayers,
that your Only Begotten Son,
having taken to himself our humanity,
may be pleased to grant us a share in his divinity.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(The Daily Office—Year 2; The Book of Common Prayer)
♦ Psalm 50 ♦ [59, 60] or 33
I must admit the following words from Henri Nouwen ring very true in my heart and mind today:
“Pere Thomas keeps telling us in his sermons that the days before Christmas must be days of deep prayer to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. We must be really ready to receive him. Christ wants to be born in us, but we must be open, willing, receptive, and truly welcoming. To become that way we have Advent and especially the last days before Christmas…
This morning I thought the day was completely free and open for prayer. Now it is evening, and I don’t know where the time went. Somehow the externals of Christmas—presents, decorations, short visits—took over the day and drained away like water through a poorly built dike. How hard it is to remember… the difference between the urgent and the important.” -Henri Nouwen, [The Road to Daybreak]
1 The Lord, the Mighty One, is God, and he has spoken;
he has summoned all humanity from where the sun rises to where it sets.
2 From Mount Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines in glorious radiance.
3 Our God approaches, and he is not silent.
Fire devours everything in his way, and a great storm rages around him.
A pretty graphic image is portrayed by the psalmist in these first few lines from Psalm 50… He is the perfection of beauty, shining in glorious radiance. God approaches…and he is not silent; a storm rages around him and fire devours everything in his way. There is something calming and terrifying all at once in these words. I think I will continue to meditate upon them.
Christ is the wisdom and power of God, and his delight is to
be with the children of men. With confidence, let us pray:
Draw near us, O Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ, you have called us to your glorious kingdom,
- make us walk worthily, pleasing God in all we do.
You who stand unknown among us,
- reveal yourself to men and women.
You are nearer to us than we to ourselves,
- strengthen our faith and our hope of salvation.
You are the source of holiness,
- keep us holy and without sin now and until the day of your coming.
Lord, lead us out of the prison of our sin into the freedom of your saving love; lead us out of darkness into the light of your grace; lead us out of the shadow of death into the promise of eternal life. Amen.
[12DEC2011] Advent – Week 3: Readings, Reflection, & Prayer
♦ Psalm 41, 52 ♦ 44
I am like an olive tree,
Thriving in the house of God.
I will always trust in
God’s unfailing love.
I will praise you forever, O God,
For what you have done.
I will trust in your good Name
In the presence of your
Faithful people. -Psalm 52:8-9 NLT
The apostles took every care not to be drawn from the right path. They kept watch, observing the universal precepts their master had given to his disciples so as to be ready when he came again. Consequently we must always be on the lookout for Christ’s twofold coming, the one when he comes day after day to stir our consciences, and the other when we shall have to give an account of everything we have done. He comes to us now in order that his future coming may find us prepared. -Paschasius Radbertus [ninth century Benedictine]
Incline a merciful ear to our cry, we pray, O LORD, and casting light on the darkness of our hearts, visit us with the grace of your Son. Stifle the empty clamor of this too-often secularized Christmas season, and set us free to reject the greed and waste so prevalent around us. Let us confirm our convictions without speech, praising you with our actions and our lives as dazzling witness to Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(The Lectionary —Year B; The Book of Common Prayer)
♦ Psalm 126 ♦ or Canticle 3 or 15
♦ John 1:6-8, 19-28
“Grant me the dew of your grace, Lord. Forgive my sins. But above all, may the glory belong to you.” Rabbula of Edessa
1 When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem,
it was like a dream!
2 We were filled with laughter,
and we sang for joy.
And the other nations said,
“What amazing things the Lord has done for them.”
3 Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us!
4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
as streams renew the desert.
5 Those who plant in tears
will harvest with shouts of joy.
6 They weep as they go to plant their seed,
but they sing as they return with the harvest.
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus… May the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful. -1 Thess. 5:16-18, 23-24
Nothing about this side of eternity is easy; it is the reality of the path of tears mankind has tread since leaving the Garden. Every single day presents its challenges, distractions, exuberant celebrations, and grievous tragedies. Even on its very best days, life as we know it is exponentially less than what God had intended for His most treasured creation, humankind. It brings me no small amount of comfort then, to hear the words of the psalmist writing; “Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.” I love this. As we have walked the path of tears God promises us that those very tears that can be looked upon with despair and sadness can also be the seeds of joy! What an incredible Redeemer God! Every loss, every sickness, every second we spend grieving, every single hurt whether emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual … every “rip” and “drip” …every tear and tear of our brokenness is promised bountiful redemptive resurrection. “Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.” And, “God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful…”
I admit there are days I don’t remember this. Sometimes it takes every bit of energy combined from my “heart, mind, soul, and physical strength” to intentionally choose to exercise the faith God has given to me and be joyful-thankful-prayerful in every circumstance. It is in these moments though, when I exercise that faith to remember, reflect, and realize the awesome faithfulness of God who is always near me, who guides me from within my soul, who is never silent when I choose to hear Him in his many “voices” …it is in these moments when my joy begins to cause my whole body to tremble like a volcano before it erupts. The more I surrender my thoughts and my heart to God the more confident I am to know that His work in my life through the things I experience are perfecting me. The seeds of tears I sow are being watered by the rivers of the Holy Spirit and nurtured by the Master Gardener himself. On the day of harvest my soul will sing in the eternal chorus. This brings me unending joy… while I wait. He’s making me holy…blameless in soul and spirit. This is what my tears will produce. Thank you Jesus; Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus.
“For no one is going to turn away from sin and start behaving righteously unless he thinks about what he is doing. Not until he has been straightened out by practicing godly behavior will he actually possess the regard of faith: the crown of righteousness that Paul possessed, having fought the good fight. That crown is laid up not just for Paul but for all who are like him in this respect. This sort of meditation and exercise in godliness should be familiar to us, as it was to the saints of old. It should be especially so in the season when the divine word calls upon us to keep the feast. For what, after all, is the feast but continual worship of God, recognition of godliness and unceasing prayer all done from the heart in full agreement with each other? St. Paul, wanting us to be so inclined, urges us, ‘Always rejoice, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all things.’” -Athanasius, Festal Letters 9.
“I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God.” -Isaiah 61:10
Lord Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, let us be especially alert to your coming during this Advent. As a parent listens for the cry of an infant, as a sailor watches for land, as an astronomer scans the skies, as a doctor watches for signs of returning health, let us be attentive to your arrival. Let not our pride and arrogance blind us and put us to sleep. Give us the endurance to be true watchers of the night as we journey through this Advent
Stir up thy power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let thy bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, world without end. Amen.
[10DEC2011] Advent – Week 2: Readings, Reflection, & Prayer
♦ Psalm 30, 32 ♦ 42, 43
“Oh what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! The LORD says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.’ So rejoice in the LORD and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!” (Psalm 32:1-2, 8, 11 NLT)
“Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live. There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy. I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God!” (Psalm 43:3-4 NLT)
Joyful, joyful… we adore Thee.
Tonight we had a Christmas concert at our church. We have been practicing songs since August when Laurie and I joined. In the most recent couple of weeks since the season of Advent began, I have been meditating and praying through the lyrics of many of the songs from our concert. I cannot express with words the wonderful blessing I have experienced through these prayerful reflections over the songs. Each song has been so inspired with the fullness of God’s Good News of the coming Christ; the story full of hope, promise, and incredible joy! When God would come to earth and make a way for fallen and broken man to be remade, reimaged, and rejoined into holy union with his Creator! What a mind boggling story! This is joy! This is joy. As I was singing tonight with the choir, I experienced moments of inexpressible joy as I heard the words bubbling up from my heart as they made their way up into the air chambers of my lungs and passed through the vocal chords, rolling onto and off my tongue past my lips with Kerygmatic proclamation announcing the Story of Redemption as God became man for the sake of His Name and our reconciliation. Joy! Joy! God and man joined again as Creator and created, Father and sons, Savior and friends; One… The Father in the Son and the Son in us, his followers. “I have given them the glory you have me, so they may be one as we are on. I am in them and your are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” (John 17:22-23) Joy. Unspeakable inexpressible incomprehensible joy. Wow. This is our promise and this is our gift. It is ours now and it is why we look to this season with such hope and joy. God is here, God is in us and our joy is complete… while we wait for his ultimate return. Joy. Joy. Joy.
The word “listening” in Latin is obedire, and audire means “listening with great attention.” That is where the word “obedience” comes from. Jesus is called the obedient one, that means the listener. The Latin word for not listening, being deaf, is “surdus.” If you are absolutely not listening, that is where the word “absurd” comes from. So it might be interesting to note that somebody who is not listening is leading an absurd life…
Now, to become a listener, one way to do it is to say, “How can I let the ‘Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want,’” enter in from my mind to my heart? I can say it is here and that is just a statement, but it becomes prayer when I experience the shepherding presence of God in the center of my being…Listening starts precisely when you move from the mind to the heart and let the truth of your being center you down. -Henri Nouwen, “Discovering Our Gift Through Service to Others,” [Speech given to members of Fadica, 1994]
Lord, help us to rein in all the distractions that bombard us daily. Let us pay our full attention to you. Let us truly listen to your requests. Keep us from the shortsighted absurdity of bestowing our attention on the wrong things. Amen.
The Song of Mary–Magnificat
My soul doth magnify the Lord, *
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
For he hath regarded *
the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold from henceforth *
all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me, *
and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him *
throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm; *
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, *
and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel, *
as he promised to our forefathers,
Abraham and his seed for ever.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
During Advent the Church celebrates the messianic works of the Hebrew prophets, especially that of the prophet Isaiah. Advent emphasizes as well the promise of the second coming of the Messiah in kingly triumph.
Scripture Reading: Lectionary B
Our awe-inspiring heavenly Father knows our sins (Isaiah 64:1-9). Restore us, O Lord God, that we may be saved (Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19). God is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:3-9). We must keep an ever-present watch, for Jesus is coming again (Mark 13:24-37). Theme notes taken from The Ancient Christian Devotional (Lectionary Cycle B).
There are many who sigh to heaven, “Savior, come now!” But they are not sighing for the sake of God’s kingdom. They cry out like this only when they are in trouble and want God to help them. And they don’t know of any help that is more effective than to have a Savior come and put a quick end to their troubles. When it comes to the things of God, however, we must not be concerned for what is ours, but only for what belongs to Christ. We should do this not merely for our own edification; we must become workers for God. This leads us to God’s vineyard, a place where there is not a great deal of talk, but where everyone is intent on deeds.
This is what it means to prepare for Advent. Jesus says, “Be ready for action, and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet…blessed is the slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives” (Luke 12:35-48). Here Jesus is speaking of his disciples and their preparation for his coming. Take note that God’s kingdom is not formed by any human discovery or intention, however daring and noble, but by the coming of Christ. Our faith, our ardor, must be for this coming. Otherwise it would be better to put aside our meditations on Advent. The reign of God is a marvelous thing. To worldly wisdom God’s kingdom seems like foolishness, and yet it gives shape to the whole world, the whole creation, making it God’s eternal coming. -Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt; Action in Waiting
In the Midst of Our Dark World
“I keep expecting loud and impressive events to convince me and others of God’s saving power… Our temptation is to be distracted by them… When I have no eyes for the small signs of God’s presence—the smile of a baby, the carefree play of children, the words of encouragement and gestures of love offered by friends—I will always remain tempted to despair. The small child of Bethlehem, the unknown man of Nazareth, the rejected preacher, the naked man on the cross, he asks for my full attention. The work of our salvation takes place in the midst of a world that continues to shout, scream, and overwhelm us with its claims and promises”. -Henri J. M. Nouwen, Gracias! A Latin American Journal
Advent Action—Today I will look for one small sign that God is present in my daily life. I will give thanks for his presence. If he is absent, I will resolve to find out why.
Who sustains us? Christ Jesus, the Word and Wisdom of God. Moreover, he sustains us not merely for a day or two, but forever. -Origen