Dec 1st to Dec 7th—Advent Week 1: Introduction, The Invitation, The Call

Reading: Introduction; Chapter 1–The Invitation; Chapter 2–The Call. (p. 11 to p. 50)

It is into this deeply tired world of ours that God sends Jesus to speak
the voice of love. Jesus says, “Follow me. Don’t keep running
around. Follow me. Don’t just sit there. Follow me.”

– Henri Nouwen, (p. 12-13)

Thank you for all the wonderful introductions as we gathered.  It is always good to learn a little bit about the people sharing their Advent journey together. We have members in our global virtual community from all across Canada and the United States, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and as far away as the United Arab Emirates.  We are enriched by your participation and the presence of those who are following along silently.

This week we jump into the text, and there is much to reflect upon. Henri begins the Introduction by asking a profound question of us and himself: “Are you following
Jesus? . . .  Are you a follower? Am I?” (p. 11) He later tells us, “This book has been written to help you and me to . . . hear that voice that whispers in your ear, “Follow me.”  (p. 13).  Henri hopes to guide us as we change from a life of restless wandering or boredom to one in which we follow Jesus and discover our true home. This week we hear the invitation to “come and see” and we have the opportunity to accept or ignore the call to “come follow me.”  Will we hear? How will we respond?

Here are a few questions that may help get the discussion going, but please don’t feel bound to them. You are encouraged to share and discuss whatever came up for you in the readings. You are also welcome to share your reflections and insights prompted by the comments of others. The thoughts and insights shared by the participants provides the heartbeat for every Henri Nouwen book discussion.

1. In Chapter 1 Henri illuminates Jesus’ invitation to enter the House of God. “This image of God inviting us to his home it used throughout scripture.” (p. 20) “Home is what the incarnation is all about.” (p. 21) “(W)e realize that we are God’s home and we that we are invited to make our home where God has made God’s home. We realize that . . . we are the place where God can dwell.” (p.22)

  • Ponder Henri’s understanding of the House of God. What is your response?
  • Does Henri’s view change your understanding of God’s presence in your life?
  • What practices do you already follow or will you adopt to, as Henri says, “waste time with Jesus?” (p. 27)

2. In Chapter 2 Henri asks us to imagine that we are in the crowd while Jesus is preaching about the Kingdom of God. And then Jesus shows the disciples what it means to live in the Kingdom world.  Henri says we should “take small steps away from ‘me’ and ‘my fears’ and toward the Lord. (p. 43) He continues, “Following Jesus means to live our life in his spirit, in his light, in his heart, but with our spirit, our light, and with our heart.” (p. 47)

  • What is your response to Henri’s suggestion to “take small steps?” How are you doing that in your life today?
  • What new small steps are you prepared to adopt to allow you to follow Jesus more closely?

3. Finally, in the Editor’s Note Gabrielle Earnshaw posed an important question that we will return to throughout the discussion: Do the issues Henri brings up connect with your own experience? If so, how?

We look forward to a wonderful week of sharing. Thanks again for being here.

Peace and all good.
Ray

P. S. (Added Wednesday) In comments below, both Holly and Elaine M mention the new movie about Mr. Rogers and his friendship with a journalist. You might be interested to know that Henri and Fred Rogers were friends. In the 2016 book Love, Henri – Letters on the Spiritual Life, also edited by Gabrielle Earnshaw, Gabrielle writes, “Fred
Rogers. . . befriended Henri in 1984. The two men shared a friendship of letters and visits for the next twelve years.”

That book includes a letter by Henri to Rogers in response to some criticism Fred had received. Henri writes (in words that are certainly related to Following Jesus), “It has always struck me that the real pain comes often from the people from whom we expect real support. It was Jesus’ experience and the experience of all the great visionaries in the Church, and it continues to be the experience of many who are committed to Jesus.” Here is a photo of Henri and Fred in 1992.

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88 Responses to Dec 1st to Dec 7th—Advent Week 1: Introduction, The Invitation, The Call

  1. Chuck says:

    Good morning all. What beautiful dialogue.For some time I really didn’t understand what Henri and so many other Saints were trying to convey when he says waste time with Jesus. I came to understand that the things that we do that have no means to an end has a higher value because it is beautiful and good in itself.Contemplative Prayer and mass are for sure examples.As Henri suggests ” just be there” he is suggesting that spending time in worship for the sake of worship seems counterintuitive but is of high value . In this mode love is freely flowing.” Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to him.”
    I will be taking the small steps to changing my bad habits . Having the humility to recognize my weaknesses and bring them to pray is the first step.Anger and disrespect that can be way to free . Knowing that I need help and can’t do it alone and partnering up with God is another step.Recognizing, reviewing, and reflecting on these behaviors each day is still another step. Finally, knowing I am human and in relationship with a Merciful God allows me to renew my effort as I may continue to come up short. As Henri says” you have to trust that if you take these steps of faithfulness in your thinking,in your acting, you can make a long trip with small steps. You will hear the call louder and louder and know where you are going.”

    • Liz Forest says:

      This and other posts here affirm for me that “Every journey starts with one step.”
      May we walk in the light of the Lord.

  2. Ray Glennon says:

    In a comment below, Patricia Hesse mentions Henri’s most popular book, The Return of the Prodigal Son. Patricia’s comment resulted in a number of replies including this from Pat Martin, “After reading all these recommendations for The Return of the Prodigal Son, I know that I will be reading it for myself soon.”

    We normally don’t announce our Lenten book this far in advance, but it seems appropriate to inform you that in Lent 2020 we will be reading The Return of the Prodigal Son. We last read this book during Lent 2015 so it’s time to revisit this classic Nouwen text. I hope that all of you will join us for what promises to be an illuminating, rewarding, and fruitful Lenten discussion. We will begin on Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020.

    Ray

  3. Linda P says:

    When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he is saying, “Leave that place of the self.” Jesus says,”Leave it.”Leave it so that God can enter into the center. Pg 30 Oh, how I have struggled to leave me and follow! Henri touched a nerve within me by these comments. Actually, it was a nudge and a challenge for me to “let go” and leave the self within me that wants to wander aimlessly, in other words, hold onto Control! When I stop and move into the silence, the quiet, I can hear! I can listen without anxiety, without fear and leave me outside and listen in a space that brings peace and calm.

    In chapter 2, Nouwen suggests, “Be Aware.” You have to trust that if you take these steps of faithfulness in your thinking, in your speaking, in your acting, you can make a long trip with small steps. Pg44. For me, awareness has been the gift that I have received that slows me down, so that I can slow down, so that I have the opportunity to listen to the voice that loves me and all who I am connected too.

    The Invitation has been given “To Follow,” do I accept “The Call?” Yes, with the gift of awareness, I can stop, listen and follow the desires that God has planned for me.

    • Patricia Hesse says:

      Linda, my leaving is hindered by my arrogant belief that those I love can’t make it without me –therein, lies my struggle. It is difficult to “let go” when attempting to holding tightly to others. I am convinced my loving help quite often interferes with the greater good the Father is working in their lives…

  4. I’m struggling with what it means to be a Christian in a culture where people are polarized and abuse and violence is a daily norm. I find no prophetic voice like a Martin Luther King, Jr, nor powerful Godly character like Fred Rogers and Henri Nouwen.
    But to Henri’s words “following [Jesus] does not “mean imitating or copying someone’s behavior” (46). Still, I’m looking for a clue for what it looks like to be Christian in contemporary culture.

    Maybe I need to keep the focus on myself and not look to others. To dig deeper and cultivate closer intimacy with Christ companioned in the Holy Spirit. Instead of imitating others, Henri invites me to “a movement of the heart… from the deepest place of our person” (47). To live my life authentically finding my “own unique form and incarnation to God’s love” (48).

    I like his qualifier to “not dramatize it” (46). If I stay small and drop my ego listening from the sacred center, I will hear the still small voice speaking and “you will know what your next move is” (46). Taking small steps toward love and speaking truth with an economy of words might be a magnetic way to be Christian in a time such as this.

    • Chuck says:

      I struggle with the polarization as well. Bishop Barron( word on fire) has a talk with Arthur Brooks about this topic. You can listen or Arthur wrote a book about this topic called Love your enemies how decent people can save America from the culture of contempt. I Highly recommend.

      • Beverly Weinhold says:

        Chuck,

        Thank you for your comment. I actually bought Arthur Brook’s book some months ago when I was struggling with this very issue of loving my enemies. In this case, it was a family relative which made loving my enemies up close and personal. I need to take another look at this book and I’ll also find Bishop Baron’s talk with Brooks. That would be good to listen to.

        • Ray Glennon says:

          We will all have the opportunity to reflect more closely on what it means to love our enemies during our discussion next week. I think you will find it both challenging and, hopefully, comforting.
          Ray

  5. Pat Martin says:

    In chapter two Henri Nouwen reflects on the actions of those who listened to Jesus as he preached from a boat on the Sea of Galilee. “When the sermon is over the people do what we often do. They say ‘Now let’s go and do what we were doing before. We know about this! We’d like to go on where we were’” (page 35.) A pretty apt description of me; I will read a book written with true insight, see something in myself (often with a feeling of satisfaction that I already knew about that,) buy then go back to what I was doing before. So I resisted reading yet another book and only grudgingly purchased a copy of Following Jesus so that I could read enough to begin on Dec 1st.

    So yes, Gabrielle Earnshaw, to my surprise and delight I connected deeply with Henri in the first lines of the introduction (page 11.) I had been wondering whether I am a follower of Jesus or merely a fan since I was first asked that question. Wondering who and where I am but unable to put a name to this until Henri’s words “People who wander from one thing to another.” Still on the first page of the introduction, I realized that I have been “wandering” the way someone on a hike with others will be sidetracked by something and stray from the trail for a while as others go on ahead.

    • Pat Martin says:

      “Follow me.” In my head I have always heard those words with the emphasis on FOLLOW, as though I am standing still and Jesus calls me to get moving. Now I hear the emphasis on ME as though I am following someone or something other than Jesus. “Stay on this trail along which I am leading you. Follow ME!”

      • marge says:

        Thank you, Pat for sharing your surprise and delight…for me, your sharing provides a finishing touch as we move into chapter 3 tomorrow….staying on the trail with Jesus, with other followers…

    • Patricia Hesse says:

      You words “follower of Jesus or merely a fan” are powerful

  6. Jacky Lowe says:

    In chapter 1 I loved Henri’s idea of God’s house as I believe that it is everywhere, not just the church which is where we meet with the community. God created the world so he is everywhere. In chapter 1 Henri’s ideas help to reinforce the idea of God’s presence in my life that I simply have to trust and to be open and aware of his presence every minute of every day. In 2018 when I first came long term to Madagascar I struggled with why was I here and what did God want me to do after much prayer and meditation it became obvious that I was here to be a prayer warrior for the women and to teach a little, I though I had come to teach full time but God had another plan but it took several months of pain and suffering for me to get it. During that time I read Henri’s book Gracias and it was a great help.
    Wasting time with Jesus is a great phrase I love it, I am a Contemplative and pray i silence daily but I will spend more time just being at the moment I love to sit outside in the afternoon and just observe the birds, butterflies and the flies who are way to friendly.
    In chapter 2 Henri tells that , Jesus says come follow me, and that is not easy as we all like to be in control, and following Jesus does not mean you have to go be a missionary, his work is everywhere. To do this Henri tells us to forgive, be positive, listen, choose love, and be the person God created you to be.Live your life in the spirit of Jesus but with your own spirit, not an easy task but with perseverance one can do it.

  7. Kristine Drumm says:

    Something that amazes me in Chapter 2 is how illogical God is. When Jesus told the fishermen to put down their nets it made no sense to them. Also when he fed the five thousand it was illogical. Jesus seems to have a sense of humor in both scenes. Then to top it all off there were leftovers. The nets overflowed and baskets filled. The illogic of God, how I love it!

    • marge says:

      Yes, what seems illogical to me, is quite logical in the kingdom of God…with God, all things are possible…I marvel in that truth, and the truth of a kingdom overflowing in abundance…”Choose Me (Jesus) in Whose Presence there is abundance”…..trusting that for today.

    • Andrew says:

      Yes, I am noticing the idea of “waste” here… I try to be so efficient with time and resources, planet-friendly, whatever… what about all those fish those guys dragged onto the shore in their sinking boats? “They left everything and followed Jesus.” What’s with all the extra food after the 5000 had lunch? Wasted? “Waste time with Jesus”–the 2 new disciples spent the day with him, seeing where/how he lived. The abundance of God–to trust Him with it–I don’t think Jesus was promoting waste, but rather underscoring how much we can trust God with our whole lives.

  8. Fran says:

    (Chapter 2)
    This year I have been struggling with anger. In the safety of my home, I find myself mentally reciting cutting come-backs and indulging in imaginary in-their-face self-justifying tirades. I know these thoughts just wind me up and make me more angry and unhappy, so I have tried to just let them go, but it’s hard.
    The part of this chapter that connected with me was the advice to just take a small step away from fear and toward love, which is toward God. I am encouraged by the message that, each time I step away from anger and toward love, I will be following Jesus. I hope that the reminder that I can rely on the abundance of Christ’s strength in taking small steps toward love will help me avoid becoming resigned to being too weak to love those who threaten me.

  9. I’m already appreciating Henri’s reminder of focusing my heart to listen to the still, small voice instead of the “earthquakes and fires.”

    One missing experience for many followers of Jesus is the reality of the indwelling Holy Spirit. For too long, I believed that truth on a theoretical basis and wasn’t open to the “voice of love” that Henri encourages us to hear and receive.

  10. Christine says:

    Henri wrote, “We realize that right where we are, right here in this body, with this face, with these hands, with this heart, we are the place where God can dwell.” These are powerful words. They remind me that, no matter the circumstances, God’s is constant, perhaps simply waiting to be invited in.

    Henri made many references to John’s gospel in chapter one. I think of the four gospels, John’s speaks to me the most intimately. For instance John,17:22-23, “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one…” – Perhaps my advent discipline will be to spend time with these two verses each morning.

    • Barry Sullivan says:

      Hi Christine,
      I echo your comments about John’s gospel, which I often find most most helpful in making those intimate connections in my life. As Henri notes, “Listen carefully: Jesus wants you and me to become part of the intimate family of God” (p. 22). And he goes on with this quote from John, “Just as the Father loves me so I love you” (John 15:9).

      Somewhere I believe I read that John was the gospel most frequently quoted in Henri’s writings. Anyone here, correct me if I am wrong on that!

      Barry

      • Ray Glennon says:

        Barry,
        The Gospel of John was Henri’s favorite gospel. Henri’s friend Robert A. Jonas writes this in The Essential Henri Nouwen (Shambhala (c)2009 p. xxxi): “In his teaching at Harvard, (Henri) focused on spirituality, especially the Gospel of John. Henri’s focus on John comes as no surprise, since of the four Gospels, John’s is the most mystical. But it is also the Gospel of least value for those interested in the historical-critical approach to the Bible, which is generally the perspective promoted by the Harvard Divinity School.”
        Ray

        • Christine says:

          I’ve been reading Nouwen’s books for quite a few years now, and this is the first I noticed Henri’s affinity for John’s gospel. Thanks for your validation and your question, Barry, and, Ray, for your illuminating answer.

          I find that I learn something new each time I read or reread one of Nouwen’s books.

          Last night, rereading Chapter 2 of Following Jesus, this jumped out at me: “To follow Jesus is to hear his call as a very personal call.” And this: “Discipleship—giving expression to God’s love—takes many forms.”

          Growing up, in the late ’50’s/early 60’s, I was entrenched in the Catholic culture. Church and school occupied most of my time, six days a week. I felt more compelled to toe the line than invited to respond in my own unique way to the call of Jesus. That was just the way it was back then, and the plus side was that I felt very much a part of community.

          Now, all these years later, retired with all my time my own, I sometimes feel at loose ends. But with his lovely prayer to a loving Gid, Henri reminds me to pray, “Let me celebrate my life in a spirit of gratitude. Grateful that I am here and grateful you are my God.”

          • Liz Forest says:

            Christine,
            As a cradle Catholic, I can relate to your post about being caught up in church of the 60’s.
            Those days bring back fond memories, also the stress on “good works” and “earning” God’s love.
            Brother David has a site called gratefulness which may interest you. I find the attitude of gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving.

          • Janet B Edwards says:

            Christine,

            I was also struck by the line about how discipleship is giving expression to God’s love and how it can take many forms.

            I really love that! I grew up thinking of discipleship more as studying and learning about the Bible, which is not a bad thing, of course, but I think expressing God’s love is the main point. Sometimes I find myself comparing myself to other people and feeling I am coming up short, so it is so good to be reminded that we each have our personal, unique ways to follow Jesus and they start with small steps.

            Thank you for sharing”

        • Barry Sullivan says:

          Thanks! I didn’t mention it but was thinking I had read that from Jonas.
          Barry

  11. marge says:

    Listening this morning, praying the prayer at the end of Chapter 1….this song came for me, and helps me “to enter more deeply into Your silence and listen…hear how You call me”……..today, with my daughter-in-law with MS, yesterday with my special needs grandson, and a brief visit with an older friend in the nursing home dying of cancer…..continuing to listen….
    https://youtu.be/gBPA4mIJ5NY

    • Tina says:

      Thanks so much, Marge for this link. I always think of this as a funeral song, but as Henri stated in chapter one we need the silence to follow Jesus right now in our chaotic lives. I loved that prayer too!

      • Pat Martin says:

        My thanks too, Marge. I haven’t sung or heard David Haas’ song in a long time and after spending these past days with Henri Nouwen I realize why it always ministered to me very deeply.

  12. Melanie says:

    Little steps. I had a hard time sleeping last night – I woke up around 2 and instead of tossing and turning I opened up and read chapter two. It was the best gift for my restless, middle of the night worried and kind of sad heart. Henri writes a message of great hope. “Always stay close to the invitation, “Come and see”, because if you really see, if you really look around and you really become familiar with the beauty of Jesus, you will see that the beauty of this person is his invitation to love. It is an invitation to go where he calls. And then it will be easy.”
    Spending time with the Divine – saying yes to the invitation every day is such a game changer.
    I really enjoy reading everyone’s reflections. It is a real pleasure reading, sharing and experiencing with you all.

  13. Kim Klein says:

    Dallas Willard (Renovation of the Heart) and Henri Nouwen, both authors, have opened my eyes to Jesus’ communication that His Kingdom is here and now (pages 34-35.) I have never sat under a pastor who communicates much more than the Kingdom to come when we die. But the Kingdom preached in Matthew 5, 6 and 7 is definitely here and now! An “entirely new way of being,” “if you are ready to listen from your brokenness then something new can come forth in you.” “[Jesus] wants to move [us] very concretely from the old way of being to the new way of being.”
    I find as I am aging (63YO) that I’m looking for adventure after my full and secure life. God’s Kingdom on earth flowing through me is definitely satisfying this! No more status quo life for me. I’m accepting the challenge to consciously “step away from mine” and toward the Lord one step/choice at a time as He opens my eyes to my self-centeredness. I am broken, but a joyful work in progress together with my Lord.

    • Holly says:

      Kim, I really resonated with the latter part of your comment. I am the same age and retired several months ago out of frustration and an unwillingness to participate in an environment I felt was no longer professional. I describe myself as being in a new world in which my old self no longer fits. Everything about me is changing as I loosen my controlling grip and practice seeing the world with understanding and compassion.

      • Tina says:

        Holly, I too left a position that instead of feeding my spirituality was quashing my prayerful peace. I am enjoying thus Advent season as never before! What a blessing my employment loss has been!

    • Liz Forest says:

      Listening from brokenness urges me to direct my attention away from my pain to pay attention to the healing love promised by God here and now. Not always easy when the pains of an aging body cry out, becoming louder than the voice of God.
      Like the bleating lamb caught in the brambles, bleating in pain, the Good Shepherd bends low to lift it up. I have a picture near my desk of that little lamb carried safely in the arms of the Good Shepherd. Visual reminders do help.

  14. Fran says:

    (Chapter 1, The Invitation)

    There’s a wonderful friendliness about Nouwen’s message about spending half an hour a day just being with God. He writes, “Just be there. Sit there and do nothing. Waste time with Jesus. … Don’t say, ‘I am too busy.’ Don’t say, ‘I have better things to do.’ Just be there.” (p. 28) It’s as if Nouwen had experienced all the joy I have had in “wasting time” with Jesus, and had also experienced all my reasons for skipping my daily contemplation. As I recommit to that daily practice, I am happy to have Nouwen’s company, and his quiet reassurance that this is the way to be guided to the life I hope to live.

  15. Ray Glennon says:

    From Liz Forest
    Just today joining in this discussion. I have participated several times before here with Henri and have been enriched. The foreword by Rohr reminds me how we bless one another by our sharing. He surely was blessed by conversation with Merton and Likewise Merton was blessed by Henri. In this big metropolis called the “big Apple” we are often crammed elbow to elbow on transit, hoping that the commute will go smoothly. Just yesterday while riding subway, I saw almost every head pointed down to a device. Only one person was reading a book and another was sleeping. Though packed in like sardines we can be in our own little world, oblivious of surroundings. Following Christ in the hustle and bustle requires a slower pace, a broader view, and some kind of encounter. May we hear and see what Isaiah promises as we reflect here and now.

    • Yes, I too, live in the Big Apple and sometimes feel as if every human here was a world of her own, disconnected from the rest. I find that I need to look into someone’s eyes, and smile. That is all it takes, in a crowded subway or bus, or walking down the street. I am a fisher of smiles. I am not surprised that most people smile back and even say hello. There IS no disconnect; we all share that common thread of humanity and kindness, even in New York City!

      • Holly says:

        I am reminded of a line from the new movie about Mr. Rogers. During a telephone call between Fred Rogers and the journalist, FR asks the journalist if he knows what the most important thing FR is doing at that moment. The answer by Fred Rogers was “talking to you.”
        Isn’t the willingness to give people our full, undivided, attention one of the the best gift we can give them?

        • Elaine M says:

          Henri Nouwen knows human nature well. Yes, I sometimes succumb to distractions and “useless wanderings” and “just sitting.” His depiction of Jesus as one who loves me and invites me “even when I am antsy and anxious” is reassuring, for s it seems hard to believe that even a merciful God would be that patient. Henri’s God is not a fearsome figure on a n throne. He is the Jesus who lived a simple life, offered simple meals of bread and wine, and offered a simple though challenging message to love God and one another. He is a Jesus who invites us to follow him in a way that fits our individual talents, personalities, and hearts.
          I too thought of the Mr. Rogers movie, which I saw with my daughter, who watched the TV show regularly as a child, and her son, who was not born until after the show went off the air. My daughter and I reminisced about how the show always aired right after Sesame Street and Electric Company, both of which offered more sensory stimulation and high energy. Watching Mr. Rogers was like coming home, winding down. Mr. Rogers knew what might be worrying his viewers and offered reassurance for kids who had lost a pet, been bullied, or felt anger or frustration. Mr. Rogers was a patient listener, an accepting friend. The film offers an example of his calming down an adult friend in crisis by asking him to just sit still for one minute and center himself in positivity. It is a rare filmic moment in which absolutely nothing happens except Mr. Rogers smiling quietly at the friend—a moment without a blaring sound track or high action. One reviewer noted a perceptible cleansing sigh among audience members at the end of this scene. While I am not suggesting that Fred Rogers is a Christ figure, he surely models the small steps toward simplicity, listening, and welcoming to which I aspire.

          • Patricia Hesse says:

            Did you see the documentary film, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” that came out in theaters about a year ago? It is wonderful! Contains actual footage, including his Senate testimony and several of the times he addressed controversial subjects on his show.

      • Liz Forest says:

        Thank you for your take on the city that never sleeps. Even with those who toil daily in retail, a smile can give the encounter at the check-out a positive charge. While waiting in the doctor’s office, a kind word to the staff who at times need roller skates to keep up with patient flow helps to make things brighter. Kindness counts!

  16. marge says:

    A little surprised….when Henri speaks of Samuel, p. 25, it took a bit for Eli to recognize that God was speaking/calling Samuel…..the call for me beginning this Advent journey is to affirm “God is speaking to you”…pointing away from self to Jesus…perhaps like Eli, Nouwen helps me hear…”Without John the Baptist, John and Andrew would not have looked at Jesus. We have to listen to the people in our lives, even the broken ones, and take them very seriously.” Listening…..

    • Liz Forest says:

      Thanks Marge for the reminder about listening. With surround sound of multi-media I appreciate the “mute” button. Someone said our noisy world is like standing in front of multiple tv sets in Best Buy or any other store. You’d be blasted out of your mind because of the high volume. To add misery to it, each set is tuned into a different channel. Where is the mute button?
      Loving God, give me the quiet and peace in my heart that helps me to hear and feel your great love for me. Open my ears to those you place in my life, and help me to believe in the impossible promises of Isaiah and of your great, unimaginable and personal love for me.

  17. Kristine Drumm says:

    Good Morning,
    I love how Henri points out on pages 24 & 25 that God uses all types of people to tell about Jesus. I first had someone tell me in 1970 when I was at a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers. An extremely difficult time in my life. I would sit on the floor by the counselors chair and cry. His response, what about Jesus.

  18. Patricia Hesse says:

    I immediately saw a parallel between Chapter One’s, “The Invitation,” and the Father in Nouwen’s, “The Return of the Prodigal Son” –another example of what Henri calls, “the great illogic.”

    On page 19 of “Following Jesus,” Henri states: Jesus says, “Come and see.” He doesn’t say, “Come into my world.” He doesn’t say, “Come, I will change you.” He doesn’t say, “Become my disciples,” “Listen to me,” “Do what I tell you,” “Take up your cross.” No. He says, “Come and see. Look around. Get to know me.” That is the invitation.

    In the section titled, “The Younger Son,” in “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” Henri writes: But the Father couldn’t compel his son to stay home. He couldn’t force his love on the Beloved. He had to let him go in freedom, even though he knew the pain it would cause both his son and himself. It was love itself that prevented him from keeping his son home at all cost. It was love itself that allowed him to let his son find his own life, even with the risk of losing it.

    The son knew well the security and love of his father’s home, but he desired to discover what he viewed as the pleasures of the world –he longed to go and see at the world’s invitation. We grieve with the father and picture the son, longing for the pod’s the pigs ate, beginning his return. Going out into the world and seeing it as it truly was opened his eyes –he longed for home.

    I admit there are times I take for granted my home with the Savior –I find myself too busy, not busy, self centered, and fearful. As Henri so beautifully taught me, I, too, am the prodigal. Life has a way of opening my eyes too –making me long for the only place I am truly at home –with the Savior.

    Perhaps the logic that says we wouldn’t know hot without knowing cold, we wouldn’t understand love without experiencing hate becomes “the great illogic” in “The Invitation.” We experience God’s greatest love in the freedom He gives us to “come and see” –the freedom He gives us to reject Him –a freedom where something as simple as the pods fed to the pigs opens our eyes to see home.

    • Paul Q says:

      Have you read “The Return of the Prodigal”? I recommend it!

      • Patricia Hesse says:

        Paul –I even have a large print of the painting hanging in my dining room!

      • I was given the book by my sister in law in Argentina many years ago and read it in Spanish. Then, I bought it and read it in English. I dream about one day traveling to St Petersburg and seeing the painting live and in person at the Hermitage! In the meantime, I was not surprised to find a beautiful reproduction in a side altar of the church I attend in CT, next to the Miraculous Medal. It is a life-size reproduction painted by a parishioner! Jesus is everywhere (wow! even inside the church!) reminding us that hte Father/Mother will always receive us with open arms.

    • Pat Martin says:

      After reading all these recommendations for “The Prodigal Son,” I know that I will be reading it for myself soon. I haven’t yet finished chapter two because I read parts of the first two chapters of “Following Jesus” several times and want to go back to them yet again, but I am finding so much to think about in everyone’s posts that I am re-reading those as well. I too am a prodigal, Patricia, and realizing that I have been wandering on my own.

  19. Ana says:

    Hello everybody! Thank you for your posts. I am really amazed with the clarity in the distinction between the different ways to follow. I want to really follow Jesus changing the center from me towards Him; to listen, let go of my preoccupations, my fears and dwell with Him; just as a part of the Body of Christ. Nice way to begin this year Advent journey.

  20. Barry Sullivan says:

    Regarding Ray’s apt prompt from chapter 2: “Henri says we should ‘take small steps away from ‘me’ and ‘my fears’ and toward the Lord” (p. 43).

    Major insights in this book, which I find quite applicable to our current age, are those in this chapter, where Henri sees Jesus as calling us to “more away from the world of scarcity and fear,” which only compel us to pile up surpluses and “build walls around what we have hoarded” (see pages 38-39). As we see our environment and climate in danger (“climate emergency” is Oxford’s ‘word of the year’ for 2019,
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/20/arts/word-of-the-year-climate-emergency.html) and our excessive, unsustainable consumption, this seems a timely message. Also, his comments about “building walls” to protect what we have hoarded have obvious implications for our politics-driven incitement to fear others seeking refuge.

    These are large current issues under debate today, but Henri’s insights from many years ago still provide relevant considerations for how we might respond today (see pages 41-50).
    “letting go, giving away,”
    taking “a little step,”
    “listening,”
    “stepping away from mine,”
    “following Jesus,”and
    living “our lives as authentically as he lived his.”

    These are key takeaways for me from this chapter!
    Thanks
    Barry

  21. Catherine says:

    To be a part of your searching and learning is such a powerful gift from God. I thank Him daily for this unexpected source of grace, …and this community of believers. Bless you all! Henri Nouwen has been there for me in so many of his meditations and books.

  22. Catalina says:

    Prepare a way for the Lord.

  23. I love the movement offered by Henri here from ‘coming and seeing’ to ‘staying and dwelling. The prayer (p 31) shows me how to: “Help me move deeply into your silence, where I can listen to you and hear how you call me, and find the strength and courage to follow you.”

    This place of sitting in silence has been the turn-key from seeing to dwelling in my life. But its hard to do because it’s so humbling. To Calvin and Ignatius’s point, the more I see God seeing me, the more I see myself. That humbles me because I see I’m a sinner. But by God’s great grace sitting long enough I experience being Beloved.

    This posture of belonging to God and reciprocally dwelling with Jesus in God brings me home. From the sacred Center companioned by the Holy Spirit, I begin to listen to others and see them the Way God sees me. Sitting in silence empowers me to hear the call to follow Jesus to do small things for others with greater love and deeper gratitude.

    I am so grateful for these readings in Advent slowing me down showing me others.

    Beverly

    • Paul Q says:

      I appreciate the reiteration of the point. My days have been keeping up, not lagging, getting first hand information, hustle and bustle. I was busy with life but not tending to the business of my life… the care of the heart, mind, soul and body. Oh, I could take care of multi-million dollar projects and infants, animals and leaky faucet, but not myself. God is now teaching me how to do just this. It feels like a different life altogether. Strange! Foreign! The road less taken for sure. And I am completely uncomfortable in it!

  24. Katie Rimer says:

    Good morning from Boston, Massachusetts. What a lovely Advent discipline this will be, following along with all of you. I will listen to the book during my commute to work as director of Spiritual Care at a Boston teaching hospital. I feel nourished already, for having found this.

    • Katie,

      I loved hearing you are from Boston! That’s my ‘home’ too. Long story short, I was called to KY in 2008. But I return to Boston once a year as my closest friends and primary care doc is at MGH. What a wonderful thing to listen to Henri in the cold mornings in your car as you prepare to give spiritual care. May these readings warm your heart and fill you with wisdom and love for your work.

  25. Maggie says:

    Chapter 1 – One of most transforming experiences in my life were the spiritual exercises in daily life. I came to them because my mom saw a notice in the parish bulletin that they were going to take place in the near future (I listened). I met with our leader before the started and I asked, and kept on asking. I stayed for the weeks of the EEDL and I’m still dwelling. I didn’t realized until I read this chapter of the strength of His invitation and I’m so grateful that I said yes. I think He felt compassion for me and knew what I would need for my life as a caregiver. What I like the most in our relationship is that He gets me. He knows what I need to carry out my mission. I couldn’t do what I do and stay reasonably sane if i didn’t have Him in my life. I would have jumped ship a long time ago. If I only let Him work in me more often….If I only let Him transform me, instead of fighting Him tooth and nail……

  26. Liliana says:

    I love Nouwen’s progression from “Where do you live?” to “come and see” to “they dwelled in him.” It tells me that I need to stop and listen, to experience Jesus in my own personal way and to slowly move toward “dwelling in Him.” as an everyday experience, not as a weekly practice in the church. I need to be open to the Lord pitching his tent in me!
    I do try to waste time with Jesus every day, sometimes with great success, some others not as much. As soon as I wake up, I take up my spiritual readings, some Nouwen, some Merton, a book by Richard Rohr, and I also read through the Bible. I have a prayer list of those who need it, and I just realized that I fail to ask the Lord to come and dwell in me, that I am not in my own prayer list!
    In Chapter Two, I love the advice to take the small steps, as I am not usually a small step person. I have to learn have to let go of the “I” and focus on the other, while at the same time loving myself. It is cold here in NYC, and today I will attempt to take the small step of preparing a meal for a homeless person and deliver it with a smile. May God bless all of us in our small steps.

    • Barry Sullivan says:

      I am inspired by your spiritual practices and by your fine example of an important “small step.”
      Thanks and may God bless you!
      Barry

  27. Meena N says:

    For years after I started following Jesus it was emphasised that God is separate and transcendent. In the past nearly ten years as I’ve been drawn to contemplative spirituality it’s a constant joy to discover we are God’s Home. It is learning to really trust and surrender, for me through the practice and discipline of centering prayer. I remember the surprise when I heard James Finley say “we are not God, but we are not other than God”. Henri’s inviting us to come and see, to discover that we are God’s Home helps much towards ‘seeing’ this paradox.

  28. Ray Glennon says:

    From Jacky Lowe
    Hi everyone my name is Jacqueline ( Jacky) Lowe and I have been reading Henri Nouwen for many years I just love his books. At the moment I live in Madagascar working with the Anglican community at a center for women in Toliara, Southern Madagascar.
    I am a retired school teacher and my home is in Pembroke Pines S. Florida, where my children and grandchildren live. I was born in England and left when I was 28 to teach in Jamaica.
    This is my first book discussion and I am excited. i know we are supposed to live with God in the moment but I find that hard to do, so I am hoping to learn from this book and all of your comments.

  29. Natasha Ridge says:

    In Chapter 1, I was touched by what Henri wrote about how Jesus calls us first to come and see before asking us to leave everything. There was a revelation for me of how gentle the Lord’s love is, how it doesn’t demand, doesn’t manipulate, doesn’t pressure me. He just says come and see, spend time with me, be around me. The idea that the God who made me longs for relationship with me, but doesn’t push me is astounding and humbling. It frees from the notion that God is demanding my affection but rather just asking me to hang out with Him, to get to know Him and just see.
    When Henri writes “We are invited to leave the familiar place and find God. We are invited to find God and trust that in God we’ll discover who we truly are. The emphasis is not “me” but the Lord.” I found this also so liberating but challenging, to focus more on Him and less on me, when I spend so much time focused on myself and my needs and wants.
    Going forward I want to try to take half an hour a day to just sit in the presence of God and even if my mind wanders to think more about the two passages presented in Chapters 1 & 2 and what they reveal about the character of Jesus and the love of God.

  30. Gregory Brucker says:

    Hi everyone. My name is Greg and I live in Minneapolis, MN. I was familiar with Henri’s writings but it wasn’t until I read his book The Return of the Prodigal Son that I really began to appreciate the power of his work. At the time, my son and I were estranged for many years which was a very difficult period in my life. A friend suggested this book and it so resonated with my soul that I continue to read it at least once a year. My son and I have since reconciled and I credit this book with giving me the courage to make this journey of acceptance and forgiveness.

    I am now entering a new chapter in my life as I leave my work as an engineer and consider how to continue my life journey. I was particularly drawn by the title of the book and its premise of responding to the invitation of Jesus. My hope is this Advent season and reading this book will bring enlightenment to the question of how I hear and respond to Jesus’s call.

  31. Patricia Howai says:

    Greetings from Trinidad in the Caribbean.
    I’m looking forward to sharing this journey through Advent with you.

    Blessings,
    Pat

  32. Fran says:

    (Introduction)
    I especially connected with the prayer at the end of the Introduction (p. 14-15 in my copy). I wish to hear God’s quiet voice while I live in a noisy world. I wish to be guided by God to expand my circle of love and to bring peace and joy to my noisy world. I guess that’s why I’m participating in this book group.

  33. Janet says:

    Hello Everyone,
    I’m happy to join you. I’m looking forward all God has for each and all of us here.

  34. Janet B Edwards says:

    I am just getting started after a busy Thanksgiving time with our daughter and her family visiting with us. I was introduced to Henri Nouwen’s books many years ago and his writing really touches my heart and opens my eyes. I am looking forward to quietly reflecting on following Jesus during this busy season! I need reminding that I am God’s beloved child and nudging to listen to God’s voice.
    I am a retired early childhood educator. I live with my husband near Asheville, NC and we are former Baptists who are now members of an Episcopal church.
    I am looking forward to listening and learning from all of you as well.

  35. Ray Glennon says:

    From Don Dunnington
    I have been reading Nouwen for many years and have found his work to enrich my understanding in many ways. I have enjoyed following and participating in previous conversations hosted here and look forward to new insights during this Advent. I will be following from Oklahoma, (where the wind comes “sweeping down the plain”) where I am a retired college professor and administrator, wife to Jane for 48 years, and father to three sons, and grandpa to seven wonderful grandkids! God is good!

  36. Ray Glennon says:

    From Jimmy Locklear
    I just started reading this new book today. It has already been challenging and helpful in focusing my heart right now. I joined in one of the reading/discussion groups a few years back and always enjoy learning about new books from Henri’s pen. At last count, I had read over 37 of his published works. I first learned of his writings through a friend and family member, but became more immersed in his work as I joined the L’Arche community in Atlanta as both a volunteer and employee. I have often quoted Henri in my own books and blogs and reflections.

    Peace and love,
    Jimmy Locklear

  37. Adam Horski says:

    Hello everyone…I’m looking forward to sharing this book with others.

  38. Victoria says:

    Good morning,
    My name is Victoria, and I am looking forward to joining this group (last minute, but I feel lucky to have found it today!). I just graduated from Baylor University, and I am taking a year to study a bit of church history and systematic theology at a local Anglican church before pursuing more schooling. I first met Henri in a book about listening, and have since read excerpts of Nouwen’s many books, and have been able to fully read The Way of the Heart. I look forward to learning from this community.

  39. Dawn Ray says:

    I have been reading Henri Nouwen books since
    Late 90’s. I am single and have two puppies. I live inGeorgetown, TX and work with active duty soldiers at Ft Hood. I am a Clinical Social Worker.

  40. Cathleen Bouwsma says:

    Greetings I also am joining late but am happy for this help with reflection in my life.

  41. Ray Glennon says:

    From Lynn Burns
    I am following from central Ohio and I work with children in K-2 who have mild to moderate learning needs. It is my second career after staying home with my children for 12 years. I do not remember how I first discovered Henri’s writing but know his voice struck a chord and I dive deep into his books. I’ve participated in Online Advent studies with Jan Richardson and also Beth Richardson (not related). Both have given me an appreciation for contemplation and silence. I look forward to what Henri’s work has for me this Advent and learning what others discover as well.

  42. Paul Q says:

    Advent 1 – from Staten Island, NY. Born and raised in the Roman Catholic Church/Institution/Way of Community. That came to an end after college. I discovered the self-help genre of the 80’s – 90’s. In that era, I felt like a person in the crowd. I heard Jesus’ words for sure but did not see them nor was I part of a community who carried them out…at least in the way they reached my heart. I walked into a Protestant church in 1997. There I met a community that walked, talked and expressed themselves in a manner familiar to my life. I joined. Years later, I come to the the same conclusion…I joined a community that did not live out the Word at least as fully as I heard them in my heart. Then this.. can I be in community and live out the word the way it speaks to me at the same time? The Word challenges our allegiances, needs, wants, prejudices and hopes everyday. So, I take small steps, walking in Radical Hope.

  43. Ray Glennon says:

    From Kristine Drumm
    Hi, I am a 69 yr old grandmother currently living on Long Island with my son, daughter in law, seven yr old grandson, and 19 month old grandaughter.
    I first became introduced to Henri Nouwen after going through a horrendous time of depression and divorce. A Quaker family I worked with at a rural clinic in Alaska gave me The Inner Voice of Love. It literally saved my life.
    I am looking forward to this reading and sharing with others.

    • Barry Sullivan says:

      Hi Kristine,
      Your is a touching, important story about how great spiritual writers can help us in our darkest times, providing true light in the darkness. In so many of Henri Nouwen’s books, he urges us to find comfort that we are the beloved daughters and sons of God. He takes this from the baptism accounts in Mathew, Mark, and Luke as well as the transfiguration texts.

      An example from Matthew 3:16-17:
      “And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.'”

      Thanks very much for sharing this, Kristine.
      Barry

  44. Maggie Menendez says:

    Hi Ray,
    I’m coming late to the group, but looking to walk this Advent with you all.
    I’ll start the book today and see.
    Regards,
    Maggie

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