March 1st to 7th: The Younger Son

Reading:  Part I The Younger Son (p21 to 53)

Last week was an incredibly rich time of sharing and reflecting together.  Henri did a marvelous job of preparing us to enter more deeply into the parable, and this week we focus our attention on the younger son.  There is a lot to reflect upon in the text, so please feel free to share whatever comes up for you.

1)  Henri writes, “Home is the center of my being where I can hear the voice that says: ‘You are my beloved…’  Yet over and over I have left home… searching for love.” (p. 37, 39)
a) Is there a special place in your life that is “home” for you?  Are there times that you have been unable to “hear” God’s voice and have left home?
b) How and when did you hear the call to return?

2) “Even in the midst of his debasement, he had clung to the truth that he still was the son of his father… The sword was there to show me that, although he came back speaking as a beggar and an outcast, he had not forgotten that he still was the son of his father.  It was the remembered and valued sonship that finally persuaded him to turn back” (p42).
a) Is there a Bible verse, a symbol, something in nature, that is a reminder to you of your place as the Beloved child of God?  How can you keep it with you always?

3) Henri distinguishes between “a self-serving repentance that offers the possibility of survival” (p47) and a repentance that involves a breaking “away from my deep-rooted rebellion against God and surrendering myself so absolutely to God’s love that a new person can emerge…Receiving forgiveness requires a total willingness to let God be God and do all the healing, restoring, and renewing” (p 48).
a) How do you understand the difference between these two kinds of repentance?
b) Have you experienced the later?  Can you share your experience with us?

4)  Henri calls the Beatitudes (Matt 5: 1-12) a self portrait of Jesus and says they “…offer me the simplest route for the journey home…”  (p 54) He then presents Jesus as becoming the prodigal son for our sake—a portrayal that goes beyond the traditional interpretation.  “The young man being embraced by the Father is no longer just one repentant sinner, but the whole of humanity returned to God.”  (p 58)
a) Does considering the Beatitudes as Jesus’ self portrait help you to better understand the Beatitudes? Jesus?
b) How do the Beatitudes point the way for humanity to follow Jesus and return to God?

We eagerly await your comments on these questions or anything else in the reading you would like to share  and we look forward to the gifts that will be revealed through each of you in the week ahead.

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 47 Comments

Feb 22nd to 28th: Encounter with a painting

Readings:
The Story of Two Sons and Their Father (p 1-2)
Prologue (p 3-15)
Introduction (p17-20)

Welcome to a new week!  The Parable, the Prologue, and the Introduction of this book offer a great deal to reflect on.  Please feel free to share whatever came up for you through the readings.  You may also choose to reflect on some of the questions below:

1) For Henri Nouwen, Rembrandt’s painting is a window through which he can step into the Kingdom of God.  As you read the parable of the prodigal son, take in Rembrant’s painting and listen to Henri’s story:
b) Can you see areas where you have been the younger son?  …the elder son?  …the father?
c) Do you sense a calling to enter the mystery of homecoming in a way you never have before?  What excites you about this prospect and what scares you?

2) In reflecting on the painting, Henri says seeing  “… the old man’s hands—as they touched the boy’s shoulders that reached me in a place where I had never been reached before” (p4).
a) How have you been touched by the hand of the Father in your life?   How did your life change?

3) Henri was given a very unique opportunity to view this painting, an experience which God used in a profound way to invite him and many others home. 
a) Can you recognize ways that God has gone to great lengths to arrange details,  circumstances and experiences (including painful ones) in such a way as to draw you home?
b) How might these experiences of your life also be used to draw others home?

4) Henri very honestly explains that “certainly there were many hours of prayer, many days and months of retreat, and countless conversations with spiritual directors, but I had never fully given up the role of bystander” (p 12)
a) What do you think keeps you in the role of bystander, instead of taking the next step towards being in the center of God’s love and plan for you?
b) What if you decided to take one step closer to the center?  What would that look like?

We very much look forward to hearing from each of you this week!

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 112 Comments

Feb 18th to 21st: Introductions

Reading:  no text assigned for this week.  You can find the link to the reading schedule in the black navigation bar, which is located directly below the photo on the top of this page.

A very warm welcome to each of you!  You will find here, in the weeks ahead, a caring community of people who encourage each other in their desire after the heart of God.  Henri Nouwen is our guide, as we study his books and legacy.  We as facilitators do our best to make the space for this community to form, and it is truly each of you that actually creates it.  If you’ve joined us before you’ll know how incredible these times are.  If this is your first time – welcome!

This Lent we are very excited to be studying The Return of the Prodigal Son.  Some of you may remember that we studied this same book two years ago.  We believe you’ll find it well worth while to study the book again at this time.  If you are the type of reader who likes to underline and make notes, you might consider getting a fresh copy of the book.

Before we jump in, it is always helpful to provide some information on how this online discussion flows.  Each Sunday you will discover a new “post,” indicated by the bold title, on the blog’s Home page. This post will have discussion questions based around the week’s readings. It works best if you always add any new comment to the newest post, even if you are referring to an earlier post. That way, everyone will see your comment. After you submit a comment, either Maureen, Ray or Brynn need to “approve” it, so it may take a few hours before it actually appears on the blog page. If you have any further questions about how the blog works, please feel free to ask.

After that long introduction, we would love to hear from you!

Please introduce yourself.  You may choose to share:
a) Your general geographic location
b) To whom or what you dedicate your days or energy, and why
c) Whether or not you’ve read The Return of the Prodigal Son before, and if so, how it was significant to you at that time
d) Considering the analogy of a “homecoming,” where you feel you are currently at in your journey with God

We very much look forward to hearing from each of you!

In gratitude,

Ray and Brynn

RAY GLENNON: Ray actively volunteers in his parish Confirmation and Adult Faith Formation Programs. He and his wife are members of a Catholic charismatic community where he also chairs the school board. Ray first became familiar with Henri’s work over 20 years ago. He came to know and trust Henri’s written word in a special way in 2004 when he found The Return of the Prodigal Son for sale after Mass at the cathedral in Singapore at an important point in his life.  If you have any questions for Ray, please contact him at ray.glennon@1972.usna.com and you can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/@RayGlennon.

BRYNN LAWRENCE: Brynn is a life coach and an experienced group facilitator. She has been helping to preserve Henri’s Legacy for the last five years, through her role as project coordinator of the Nouwen Archive Letter Project, and also by facilitating many of our online book discussions. Brynn is a Strategic Intervention Life Coach, and the founder of Abundant Life Coaching. If you have any questions for Brynn, please feel free to contact her at nouwen.letters@utoronto.ca or through her website.

 

Note on Comments:  This post is now closed to comments.  Please come over to the newest post, and add your comment there (including an introduction if you are just joining us).  The newest post can be found by scrolling to the top of this page and clicking on the word “Home” found in the bar just below the large image. On the Home page, the newest post is always at the top, and indicated by the bold title which will always include the current week’s date.

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 208 Comments

Journey With Us This Lent

We are so pleased and grateful to welcome back Brynn Lawrence and Ray Glennon as co-facilitators for our upcoming book discussion on Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. We hope you will join us from February 18th to April 5th as we explore and reflect on the three parts of Henri’s encounter with Rembrandt’s painting: “The Younger Son”, “The Elder Son” and “The Father”. Please note that we have had to change our initial choice of Home Tonight to The Return of the Prodigal Son. We encourage those who already have Home Tonight to work through that either on your own or in conjunction with The Return of the Prodigal Son; these two books are deeply complementary.

We invite you to participate in this Lenten journey with us in any way that is comfortable and spiritually nourishing for you. There are no requirements, no registration, no obligation for you to post. You may prefer to keep a journal this Lent or gather friends in a ‘face to face’ group. This is a worldwide community of compassionate and thoughtful readers and seekers who desire to deepen their experience of Lent and to connect with and support others on the road home.

So, find your copy of The Return of the Prodigal Son and return to this blog on February 18th. Brynn and Ray will introduce themselves, invite you to do the same and then they will post some questions for reflection. New questions will be posted here each Sunday and you will find the link to the reading schedule on the top navigation bar of this page.

PLEASE NOTE:
To purchase Henri Nouwen’s books in Canadian dollars, please click here.

To purchase Henri Nouwen’s books in the UK, please click here.

Questions? Call toll-free 1-866-226-2158 or write to: admin@henrinouwen.org.

Many blessings,

Maureen's signature

M.E. Wright
Nouwen Legacy Manager

 

Our Lenten discussion is now underway.  You can find the newest post by scrolling to the top of this page, and clicking on the “Home” tab – which you will find directly below the image.

The comments section for Journey With Us This Lent  is closed.

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 65 Comments

Happy New Year and Thank You!

Many thanks to Brynn, Ray and this beautiful and compassionate community of readers and seekers for this past Advent journey. I have been deeply touched by the sharing and caring of this community during our reflection on A Spirituality of Living and A Spirituality of Homecoming. Merton once said, “There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” I hope you believe that you are ‘shining like the sun’ – that is how I think of all of you!

We are so blessed to have the gentle and wise leadership of Brynn Lawrence and Ray Glennon and it is with deep gratitude that we welcome them back for our Lenten discussion. Consideration of book titles is underway. If you have a suggestion, please contact us at: admin@henrinouwen.org.

May you have a healthy and prayerful new year!

Blessings,
Maureen Wright
Nouwen Legacy Manager
1-866-226-2158

Posted in Advent 2014 | 4 Comments

December 21st to 27th: Conclusions

Reading 1 (Living): The River
Reading 2 (Homecoming): Hidden Work

We have been on an incredible journey together this Advent, and we want honor each of you for engaging it so fully and with such honesty and openness.

In these final short readings Henri invites us to ponder how all that we’ve read and shared here can bear fruit.  He reminds us that the disciplines we discussed will bear fruit when we live them in surrender to God:

“There is a moment in our lives when we stand before the desert and want to do it ourselves.  But there is a voice that comes to us, ‘Let go.  Surrender.  In this parched land, I will make you fruitful.  Yes, trust me.  Give yourself to me” (p55, Living).

“So let’s wait for the Spirit to be revealed more fully to us, teaching us how to be at home in God’s home, and calling us to new forms of community and new acts of service” (p 58, Homecoming).

a) You are invited to take a moment to reflect on this discussion, and articulate what you will take away with you, and apply to your life.  Please share your “take away” with us.

Again, we are so very grateful for each of you, and the Spirit of God who has moved in and through you.  We trust that this time we have shared will indeed bear much fruit.

We also want to remember in gratitude John Mogabgab, who did such an excellent job of sharing Henri’s teaching through these books.

Each of you is warmly invited to join the Lenten book discussion – we hope to “see” you again in February.

Yours sincerely,

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Advent 2014 | 42 Comments

December 14th to 20th: Ministry, The Reward & The Promise

Reading from Spirituality of Living: Ministry
Reading from Spirituality of Homecoming: The Reward and The Promise

This week we have another set of challenging and enriching readings, and once again this week there is a wonderful connection between the two books.  In Living we reflect on ministry and in Homecoming Henri shows us the reward and the promise in ministering to others.

1) In the reading from Spirituality of Living, Henri helps us understand, and live out, our call to ministry.  Henri reminds us that “all disciples of Jesus are called to ministry.”  But he goes on to say that “ministry is not, first of all, something that we do…” (p44).
a) Did your understanding of ministry change through this reading?  What was your previous understanding of ministry and what is your current understanding?

2) Henri talks about two disciplines of ministry:  gratitude – to help people become grateful for life even with pain, and compassion – suffering together.
a) How do you see these two disciplines fitting together?
b) Do you naturally tend towards one or the other?
c) How might one practically develop these disciplines?

3) In Homecoming Henri reminds us that the reward of following Jesus is knowing His joy, and we can live that out through celebration.  The promise we have in following Him, and ministering on His behalf, is that he will be with us always. 
a) As you reflect back on 2014, have you celebrated the joy of the life that God gives you?  Can you recall special moments that you knew were a gift from God?
b) After participating in this Advent journey, are you more aware of practicing the presence of God through prayer and service?  How can you take this into the new year?

As always, please share whatever you find meaningful, whether based on these questions, the readings, and your reflections on our journey thus far.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Advent 2014 | 56 Comments

December 7th to 13th: Community, The Challenge and The Cost

Reading from Spirituality of Living: Community
Reading from Spirituality of Homecoming: The Challenge & The Cost

We began our Advent journey by talking about the importance of creating space for God in our daily lives.  Last week we explored God’s heart behind the discipline of solitude – that he wants us to hear and know deeply that we are his Beloved.

1) This week Henri invites us to reflect on the discipline and blessing of community, because “solitude always calls us to community (p33, Living).
a) Why do you think solitude calls us to community?
b) Who makes up your current community?
c) Are you experiencing a time of loneliness?
d) Are you feeling stirred to deepen your current community or widen your community?

2) The discipline of community seems to involve a process: first Henri us invites to recognize that other people in our community are not God, and simply cannot love us perfectly.  He invites us to release them from this expectation, and also to forgive ourselves for not being able to love in this way.  From the strength that comes from solitude we can have the perspective to trust the good intention behind the behaviour of those around us; “I know you love me…” (p 37).  Finally we are called to actively celebrate and call forth the gifts of the those around us.
a) Have you had someone in your life who saw and drew forth your gifts?  How did it affect your life?
b) Have you had the opportunity to draw forth the gifts of another?  What was happening in your times of solitude that gave you the resources to do this?

In Homecoming he reminds us that living in community comes with a challenge and at a cost.

3) In The Challenge Henri writes, “An enemy is someone we have defined as being against us, in contrast to those who are for us.”  Therefore, to live in community–any community, a church, a school or workplace, even a family–is to have “enemies” at times.  And how are we to live with our enemies?  Henri challenges us to take the difficult steps to pray for them and to do small acts of service for them.  
a) This week reflect on who your enemies might be and how specifically you can respond to the challenge.  If you are comfortable, share what you discover.

4) Moving to The Cost we learn, “The cost of following Jesus is to take up our cross.”  We each carry our personal cross of “the small things, the little irritations, that occupy our mind the whole day like a toothache.  It can be a person, a situation, or an unfulfilled hope.”  Henri calls us to merge our cross with that of Jesus and he suggests a prayer that includes, “My burden will be your burden, and your burden will fill me with life and new hope.”  
a) This week strive to make Henri’s prayer your own and, if comfortable, share your experience.

We very much look forward to hearing from you all this week!

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Advent 2014 | 53 Comments

November 30th to December 6th: Solitude, The Invitation & The Call

Reading from Spirituality of Living: Solitude
Reading from Spirituality of Homecoming: The Invitation & The Call

Welcome to the first week of Advent!  It is an amazing community that has come together for our virtual journey toward Christmas.  Thanks to each of you for joining us and for sharing such warm introductions and encouraging support.

Last week we pondered the invitation to “create space” for God in our lives.  As many of us expressed, this is something we love to do, know we should do more often, and want to do more often.  Henri affirms to us this week that solitude is indeed a discipline and an act of obedience, but we also explore God’s heart behind this calling on our lives.

Solitude with God is “important because it’s the place in which we can listen to the voice of the One who calls us the beloved… To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of our being and permeate our whole life” (p23).  Only when we hear this voice can we truly “walk freely in this world” (p24).
a) What are some ways you are trying to prove your worth in your day to day life?  Big or small, where do you notice it?  How much of your energy does it take?
b) Think of a time, or even a moment, when you “heard” the voice of God calling you the Beloved (and please share it with us :).
c) What would it be like to live that way, knowing truly and deeply that you are the Beloved of God?  How would that change the way you experience each day?  How might it change the way you engage others around you?

In “Homecoming”, Henri shows us that we can enter into solitude by accepting the invitation and the call to follow Jesus.

In The Invitation Henri writes, “Be with Jesus. Be quiet. Listen to the one who invites you home…. By dwelling with the Lord in prayer, we can live in a hostile, violent, competitive world and be at home” (p 21).  He says we need to pray for the intimacy to know Jesus as a friend. 
a) How are you responding to the Lord’s invitation to get to know him as an intimate friend and how does that aid you in living in the world?

According to Henri, “Our response to The Call is to take small steps away from “me” toward the Lord… The secret of the spiritual life is that the person who is in touch with the Lord knows what the little steps are” (p 27).  And those “small steps” toward the One we love often bring us into solitude. 
a) What “small steps of faithfulness” are moving you ahead on your spiritual journey?

We are both so excited to hear from you all this week!  New joiners are always welcome, and, of course, feel free to share whatever comes up for you in the readings.

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Advent 2014 | 91 Comments

Nov 23rd to 29th: Advent 2014 Introductions

Reading from Spirituality of Living:  Preface & Discipline and
Discipleship 
(p 13-18)

Reading from Spirituality of Homecoming:  Preface & Home in the Heart (p 12-14)

A warm welcome to each of you at this very special time of year.  Once again we anticipate the gathering together of a beautiful community of people.  We gather to help each other focus our hearts and minds on Jesus, and grow closer to Him during Advent and beyond.  Our guide on this journey is Henri Nouwen, as we reflect on his books and legacy.

We are excited to explore two very complementary books from the Henri Nouwen Spirituality Series:  The Spirituality of Living and The Spirituality of Homecoming.  As we do, we remember John M. Mogabgab who so lovingly and skillfully brought these books together from Henri’s unpublished materials.

Before we jump in, it is always helpful to provide some information on how this online discussion flows.  Each Sunday you will discover a new “post,” indicated by the bold title, on the blog’s Home page. This post will have discussion questions based around the week’s readings. It works best if you always add any new comment to the newest post, even if you are referring to an earlier post. That way, everyone will see your comment. After you submit a comment, either Maureen, Ray or Brynn need to “approve” it, so it may take a few hours before it actually appears on the blog page. If you have any further questions about how the blog works, please feel free to ask.

After that long introduction, we would love to hear from you!

1) Please introduce yourself to the group. You may choose to share:
a) Your general geographic location
b) To whom or what you dedicate your days and energy, and why
c) Whether or not you’ve participated in previous book discussions, or if you are joining us for the first time

2) In the reading from “Living,” Henri poses the question “how can we be in touch with the Spirit, hear the voice of the Spirit, and allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit?” (P14).  He then invites us to consider the need for discipline, which he simply defines as “the effort to create some space in which God can act” (p 16).
a) How specifically might you create some space for God to act this advent?  A space where you can hear, feel and experience the Spirit of God, and respond?  If you’d like to, please share your intentions with us.

3) In “Homecoming” Henri writes, “A listening heart therefore means a heart in which we stand open to God with all we are and have. That is a great act of trust and confidence.”  It  is an act that that requires moving beyond our fears and the distractions of modern life. 
a) Can you anticipate how fears and distractions might block you on your journey home to the heart to meet with God?  If you are comfortable, share what you discover.

These questions are meant to help get our discussion going, but please do not feel bound to them.  You are free to share whatever comes up for you in the readings.

We look forward connecting with you all this week!

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Advent 2014 | 175 Comments