April 13th to 19th: Conclusions

Reading:  Heart Speaks to Heart III “Look, here are my hands…” and Epilogue, as well as Making All This New Conclusion

We have been on an incredible Lenten journey together, and I am deeply grateful to each and every person who has journeyed with us (either actively or silently).

As with any journey, it is important to take the time to solidify what we have learned, and how we have grown, to be sure that we take it with us.

1) “Thank you for letting me believe more every day, hope more every day and love more every day” (Heart Speaks to Heart, p 57).
a) Below I’ve inserted a portion of a letter written by Henri in September of 1991.  May it remind you and inspire you to give God your full “yes” more and more every day.

Nouwen_letter_Sept_3_1991_adjusted

2) I invite you to take some time to look back over the previous six weeks and remember the most important things that Jesus spoke to you about.
a)  Please share with us the one or two things that you really want to take with you and integrate more fully into your life from here on in.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3: 20-21

In gratitude to each of you,

Brynn

Posted in Lent 2014 | 28 Comments

April 6th to 12th: “Set Your Hearts”

Reading: Making All Things New: Part 3 “Set Your Hearts”

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  Lamentations 2: 22-23

As we draw near to the end of our Lenten journey, Henri wisely guides us to bring all that we have reflected on into the every day of our lives.  So that our hearts can speak to the heart of Jesus every day.  So that He can make things new in us each day.

In order to do this we develop a “spiritual discipline … the concentrated effort to create some inner and out space in our lives…” (p68).  Henri urges us towards two disciplines of prayer:  solitude and community.

1) “Without solitude, it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life.  Solitude begins with a time and place for God, and him alone.”
a) When you think about setting aside regular times of solitude to be with God, what kind of resistance comes up in you (or used to)?
b) Do you find yourself afraid of the inner chaos that can erupt in such times of solitude?
c) Are you among those who have discovered the joy and healing that comes from time alone with God?  What is your daily time of solitude like?  Please share your journey with us, so that others who are just starting out with the discipline of solitude can be encouraged.

2)  “Solitude is not a spontaneous response to an occupied and preoccupied life… therefore we must begin by carefully planning some solitude” (p71).
a) If you ready to move forward in your spiritual life, begin now by planning regular times of solitude with God.  Even if you need to start with ten minutes a day.  Plan it.  Schedule it in.  Protect that time.  You are invited to share with us your commitment, so you have a sense of accountability.
b) What can you do right now to prepare a place where you can easily go for your time of solitude?
c) For those who are a little more experienced in this discipline, is there a specific Psalm, or word of Scripture that you have found to quiet your heart and focus your attention on God?
d) What are some of the other forms of solitude that you have found helpful in focusing your attention on God?

The second discipline Henri refers to is the discipline of community – “the effort to create a free and empty space among people where together we can practice true obedience.  Through the discipline of community we prevent ourselves from clinging to each other in fear and loneliness, and clear free space to listen to the liberating voice of God” (p 80-81).

1)  “Community is grounded in God, who calls us together, and not in the attractiveness of people to each other” (p83).
a) Consider the community you are in right now, marriage, friendship, family, religious life etc.  You may feel at the moment that you are not mutually compatible.  But ask God why He has called you together, ask Him what your true identity as a community is.
b) To help with question a), Henri invites us to hear the word of Scripture together in a communal silence (see page 85).  No debating, discussing, sharing or arguing.  Just a quiet listening together.  An attentiveness to each other, and an awareness of the caring presence of God.
c) Please share some other disciplines of community that you have found that help your community (marriage, friendship, family, religious life etc.) “be an act of true obedience … responsive to the way we have heard God’s voice in our midst” (p88).

Again, there is much to reflect upon in this chapter, and I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Posted in Lent 2014 | 43 Comments

March 30th to April 5th: The soldier “pierced his side with a lance…”

Reading:  Heart Speaks to Heart, Chapter II The soldier “pierced his side with a lance…”

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Colossians 1:13-14

So far on this amazing journey we are sharing, we have sought to create a conscious opportunity for our heart to speak to the heart of Jesus, free from the many things that distract us, and last week we took the time to specifically invite His Kingdom to be first in our lives.  This week we have the opportunity to reflect upon, and receive, the sacrifice Jesus made in order to bring each one of us into His Kingdom.

1) “You have given everything.  You ‘have emptied yourself, taking the form of a slave; you have humbled yourself by accepting death, death on a cross.’ Your body has been fully given for me; your blood has been fully poured out for me.  You who are love have not held back anything for yourself, but have let all your love flow from your heart to make it bear fruit in me” (p36). 
a) How do these words speak to your heart?

2) “Your broken heart… there  all suffering has been suffered, all anguish lived, all loneliness endured, all abandonment felt and all agony cried out” (p37).
a) In deep trust in His love for us, we once again have the opportunity to bring all of our suffering, anguish, loneliness and abandonment to the heart of Jesus.  Let your heart speak to His.

3) An additional opportunity this chapter brings us is to realize that we need not get stuck in our pain.  “Your precious blood flows from your broken heart to heal my broken heart, and the broken hearts of every man and woman in every time and place” (p42). 
a) To those of you who have experienced the how the blood of Jesus can heal a broken heart, please share with us your story, so that others can be encouraged, and understand how to bring their broken heart before their Healer.

4) “O Jesus, I look into my own heart and at my own hands.  There, too, I find blood… So often they have been instruments of greed and lust, of impatience and anger, of accusation and recrimination” yet “your heart knows no revenge, only forgiveness,” “the blood flowing from your heart is the blood of the innocent Lamb by which the sins of the world are washed away “(p40, 41 & 42).
INVITATION:  Come before Jesus with a heart of repentance.  Be honest with him about the “blood” on your own hands, and ask Him to wash them clean.  If you are a visual person, perhaps you can see the blood of Jesus flowing over your hands, and cleansing them.

5) “I adore you, Jesus… I thank you.  I praise you.  I love you” (p 44 and 45)
INVITATION:  Listen to your favorite song of adoration and praise (and share it with us too!), and just take time to adore Him.  You may also appreciate the song “Worthy is the Lamb” this week.

I very much look forward to hearing from you all!

Posted in Lent 2014 | 34 Comments

March 23rd to 30th: “His Kingdom First”

Reading:  Making All Things New Chapter II: “His Kingdom First”

It has been an incredible journey together so far!  In our first week we got honest about the current state of our hearts, expressing worry, fear, depression, loneliness etc.  Last week we took some time to consciously create an opportunity for our heart to speak to the heart of Jesus – to be honest with Him, and to open our hearts to receiving the great love He has for us.

This week Henri invites us to make a shift in our focus.  When we are caught in our worries or fears, it is often because we are focusing on all the negative possibilities or outcomes.  Henri reminds us to put our focus on the Kingdom of God.  Jesus came to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth, and he did so through listening intently to the Father, and acting only in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Our lives are similarly meant to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth, and we do so in the same way.

1)  It is very important that we start off by establishing that “the radical transformation of our lives is the work of the Holy Spirit” (p53).  When we live the spiritual life “successfully” in our own strength then we get the glory.  When we let the Holy Spirit do the transformational work, He gets the glory.  What is required of us is the full “yes.”
INVITATION:  Set aside 7 quiet minutes to listen to the song “I Belong to You” and give the Holy Spirit your “yes.”  Click on the words “I Belong to You” and the song will open in YouTube.

2) Henri reminds us that our “yes” involves actively shifting our focus to the Kingdom of God.  Again, transformation comes through the power of the Holy Spirit (and often is a journey), but we have a role in giving Him the opportunity to do His work in us, in part by choosing where we put our focus.
INVITATION:  Consider a difficult/worrisome situation that is on your heart, you have the opportunity to focus on one or more of the following …  

a) How might the Kingdom of God be furthered through this experience/situation?
b) What opportunity for good, or what possibility does it/could it/did it create?
c) I am totally and completely loved by my Father in Heaven (see scripture verses from last week), how can I respond to this situation out of that unshakeable love?
d) Why is my heart worried about this?  What is it really hoping for / asking me for?  Is that desire in line with seeking first the Kingdom of God?

3) As a form of encouragement to others, and to make these reflections real and understandable, please share an example of someone who lived a very difficult circumstance in life, but kept their focus on “His Kingdom First” and thereby allow God to use the circumstance for profound good (you could think of a historical figure, someone you heard about or someone you know (including yourself!).

As always, feel free to share what came up for you in the reading this week.  There is a lot to reflect on, and I look forward to hearing from each of you.

 

Posted in Lent 2014 | 56 Comments

March 16th to 22nd: “Come to me…”

Reading:  Heart Speaks to Heart, Chapter 1: “Come to me…”

Last week was an honest exploration and expression of where we are at.  We expressed worries, guilt, depression, emotional and physical pain, fears that keep us busy and busyness that we just don’t know how to calm, or whether or not we should try.  Jesus is not afraid of, or overwhelmed by, any of these things.  Rather, He invites us to bring it all before Him (Matthew 11:28-30).  In Heart Speaks to Heart, Henri guides us to speak from our heart to the heart of Jesus.

1) Henri recognizes the immense and divine love through which the Father sees us, and which Jesus came to show us.  Yet he also struggles to accept it deeply.  “It is so hard for me to believe fully in the love that flows from your heart.  I am so insecure, so fearful, so doubtful and so distrustful.  While I say with my words that I believe in your full and unconditional love, I continue to look for affection, support, acceptance and praise among my fellow human beings, always expecting from them what only you can give” (p21).
a) First of all, and this is important, I ask you to search out and share scripture verses that share the truth of God’s great love for us.
b) In your quiet time, or on your commute to work, or while you are making dinner, take these verses before Jesus and, like Henri, be totally honest about your doubts, questions, and fears.  Just put them right out there before Jesus, from your heart to His.

2) “O Lord, all you ask of me is a simple “yes,” a simple act of trust, so that your choices for me can bear fruit in my life.  I do not want you to pass me by.  I do not want to be so busy with my way of living, my plans and projects, my relatives, friends and acquaintances, that I do not even notice that you are with me, closer to me than anyone else.  I do not want to be blind to the loving gestures that come from your hands, nor deaf to the caring words that come from your mouth” (p26).
a) If Henri’s words here express your heart’s desire, then express the simple “yes” to Jesus in your own way.
You may choose to ask Jesus…
b) For help and awareness.
c) To set your heart on fire with love for Him and a desire to be in His presence.
d) For strength and endurance in your pursuit of Him.
e) To allow your life to be fruitful for Him.

3) “Help me to close the many doors and windows of my heart through which I flee from you or through which I give entry to the words and sounds coming not from you, but from a raging, screaming world that wants to pull me away from you” (p27).
a) For those who are visual this may be a helpful visualization.  When you are spending time in God’s presence, but distractions come your way in the form of worries, negative thoughts about your worth, “to do” items etc, you can imagine yourself, very gently, closing that window, or door, and thereby leaving the thought muted on the other side.  Then return your attention to Jesus/ the scripture you were pondering.
b) For me I find it very helpful to quickly jot the thought/worry down on paper, and promise to attend to it at a specific time, and actually return to it at the promised time.  Of course, if you want to bring the thought, worry, or “to do” item before Jesus, that is fine too.

4) “O Lord, you kneel before me; you hold my naked feet in your hands, and you look up at me and smile.  Within me I feel the protest arising, ‘No, Lord, you shall never wash my feet.’ It is as if I were resisting the love you offer me.  I want to say, ‘You don’t really know me, my dark feelings, my pride, my lust, my greed… No, I am not good enough to belong to you… But you look at me with utter tenderness…” (p28).
INVITATION:  Set aside a few minutes, and allow this experience to be yours.  As you read Henri’s description, sense Jesus before you.  He is holding your naked feet, ready to wash them with clean, warm water.  What protest rises up in you?  Tell Him.  And then listen to how He responds.

In reality each of these four “questions” are invitations.  Our goal this week is to create a conscious opportunity for your heart to speak to the heart of Jesus.  Looking forward to hearing from each of you!

Posted in Lent 2014 | 99 Comments

March 9th to 15th: “All These Other Things”

Reading:  Making All Things New, Chapter I:  “All These Other Things”

Welcome to our first full week of the discussion.  We begin with a challenging, but crucially important chapter.  Henri asks us to go deep into ourselves and bring an awareness to our current experience of life.  If we are not happy with the actual state of our lives, Henri asks us to challenge the assumption that we have to just accept things as they are (p22).

1) “Our first task is to … look critically at how we are living our lives.  This requires honesty, courage, and trust.  We must honestly unmask and courageously confront our many self-deceptive games” (p22). 
a) Consider carefully the ways you think, speak, feel and act in your day to day life.  How might some of these expression, both the negative and the positive, actually be a subtle expression of hunger for the Spirit of God?
b) Have some of your ways of thinking, speaking, feeling and acting held you back from living the full life in the Spirit that Jesus came to give you?  Are you ready to question/challenge these limiting beliefs, expressions, feelings and actions?
c) Take some time to consider if you are ready for change.  Ready to seek and discover the joy, peace and abundance that are yours in Christ Jesus, yours even amidst the “pains and joys of the here and now” (p21).
d) Do you believe change is possible for you?

2) Henri uses two words to describe the experiences many people have in their day to day life.  The first one is being “filled” – and this can mean being busy and or being preoccupied (worried).  The second one is being “unfulfilled” – a sense of boredom, resentment, and depression.  
a) How does being “filled” (busy and/or preoccupied) serve you?  What benefit do you get from it?  How does being “filled” keep things safe?
b) How can being “filled” be a limiting factor for your spiritual life?
c) How can a life/mind that is filled in either of these two ways lead to a heart/spirit that is unfulfilled and lonely?

3) The good news is that “Jesus responds to this condition of being filled yet unfulfilled… He wants to bring us to the place where we belong.  But his call to live the spiritual life can only be heard when we are willing honestly to confess our homeless and worrying existence and recognize its fragmenting effect on our daily life.  Only then can a desire for our true home develop(p37, italics added).
INVITATION:  Give some dedicated time this week to allow a desire for your true home to develop.  Take 30 minutes each day and bring these questions, along with all of your own, before Jesus.  Ask him to help you see the honest answers, to give you the courage to acknowledge your current reality, and the trust that he has something much better in store for you.  Share your experience with us, if you choose.

As I wrap up I want to share, for those who don’t already know, that Henri truly understood the struggle to put worry in its place.  At times it was a powerful force in his life.  But he didn’t accept that as the inevitable.  You too, no matter how powerful the force of worry currently is in your life, can make a choice for something different.

Finally, please, as always, feel free to share whatever comes up for you in the readings.  These questions are meant to guide us and get the discussion flowing, but we are not bound to them.

Posted in Lent 2014 | 135 Comments

March 5th to 8th: Introductions

Reading:
Making All Things New – Introduction
Heart Speaks to Heart – Prologue

A very warm welcome to each of you. I’m so glad you’ve decided to join us! Our journey together over the next six weeks will surely be full of sharing and deepening.  For those of you who are returning, you know how incredible this community is, and for those who are joining us for the first time you will soon discover its blessing.

Let me quickly share how the 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 (link to reading schedule in the image above). 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 or I 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.

This is the first time we have explored two books at the same time, but they flow so well together we will gain immensely from the combination. While Making All Things New guides us to let our knowledge of Christ descend into our heart and thereby affect our daily lives,  Heart Speaks to Heart will invite our awakened hearts to be touched and healed by Jesus.

Over the next few days you are invited to 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

Please also feel free to share any thoughts, ideas or stirrings that come up for you you as you read the Introduction/Prologue of these two books.

I very much look forward to hearing from each of you,

Brynn

Posted in Lent 2014 | 233 Comments

Walk with us this Lent as we reflect on Henri Nouwen’s HEART SPEAKS TO HEART and MAKING ALL THINGS NEW

We begin our Lenten journey together on March 5th and we are very pleased to announce that Brynn Lawrence will return as our facilitator! For those of you who don’t know Brynn, here is a brief bio:

BRYNN LAWRENCE is a life coach and experienced group facilitator. Throughout the Lenten book discussion she will work to create a safe and welcoming space that provides the opportunity for participants to reflect on the readings, and to share thoughts and encouragement with others. Brynn has come to know and trust Henri’s written word through her part-time position as project coordinator for the Nouwen Archive Letter Project. Brynn is also a Strategic Intervention Life Coach, and the founder of Abundant Life Coaching International. If you have any questions for Brynn, please contact her directly at nouwen.letters@utoronto.ca or through her website.

How do you participate in this reflection? Simply return to this blog on March 5th to read Brynn’s first post; there is no need to register. Everyone is welcome at any time during our six weekBookcover_MATN2014105x156 journey, to participate in any way that is nurturing for them. If you want to read along with us but not post your thoughts, that is just fine. You may prefer to keep a journal of your own during this time. For those who enjoy posting their thoughts and responding to others in the group, we look forward to hearing from you. Regardless of how you participate in this Lenten reflection, please know that you are a part of a compassionate and thoughtful community. The level of sharing and caring that took place within our Advent reflection community was beautiful and so life-giving and we hope you are looking forward to the Lenten reflection as much as we are!

Bookcover_HSH_110x151If you need to purchase a copy of Heart Speaks to Heart or Making All Things New, you can visit our bookstore. Please note that purchases from this bookstore are in US dollars and are shipped from the US. These titles are also available in Kindle editions and you can find Henri’s books at local bookstores and libraries.

You will find a link to the reading schedule for our Lenten reflection on the top navigation bar.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Blessings,
Maureen_148X68
M.E. Wright
Nouwen Legacy Manager
admin@henrinouwen.org
1-866-226-2158

Posted in Lent 2014 | 19 Comments

Dec 22nd to Dec 28th: Living as the Beloved/Conclusion

Reading:  Living as the Beloved and Epilogue

We have been on a most excellent journey together, for which I thank each of you who actively participated, as well as each of you who quietly walked with us.  In this final week, as we reflect on the incredible way Jesus came to earth to reveal God the Father to the each heart, Henri invites us to actively respond to Him and choose to live the life of the Beloved.

1) Henri invites you to “think of yourself as having been sent into the world… a way of seeing yourself that is possible if you truly believe that you were loved before the world began… a perception of yourself that calls for a true leap of faith!” (p131).
a) When you consider how Jesus came to the earth, do you believe he came for you?  That you were loved by Him before the world began?
b) Can you think of yourself now, as being sent into the world?  How might the way you live each day, and the way you interact with people around you be transformed by this belief?
INVITATION:  Continue to set aside quiet time with God each day this week.  As you ponder the coming of the baby Jesus to the world, consider that you were on his heart when he came.  Consider that you too were sent into the world.

2) Keeping all that we have learned and explored close to heart, Henri now calls us to live the life of the Beloved, to live life as “an unceasing ‘Yes’ to the truth of [our] Belovedness (p133).  It may help to flip back and do a review of what it means to be taken, blessed, broken and given.
a) Can you describe a time or an experience in your life in which you lived this “Yes” to the truth of your Belovedness?  Even if it was a brief moment, please share it with us.
b) What is one specific thought or habit that you want to take away with you, to help you to more intentionally live the “Yes” to the truth of [your] Belovedness?

Finally, I would like to affirm, to say “yes” to, the Belovedness of each of you.  May each of you be blessed this Christmas, and in the New Year to come.  May…
The Lord bless you, and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.
Number 6: 24-26

Brynn

Posted in Advent 2013 Life of the Beloved | 36 Comments

Dec 15th to 21st: Becoming the Beloved – Given

Reading:  Becoming the Beloved – IV Given

This week we explore the fourth aspect of becoming the Beloved – to be given.

1) Henri shares his experience that “it is only as people who are given that we can fully understand our being chosen, blessed, and broken.  In the giving it becomes clear that we are chosen, blessed and broken not simply for our own sakes, but so that all we live finds its final significance in its being lived for others” (p105).  
a) Do you ever find yourself holding back from giving to others?  What causes us to hesitate?  What do we fear most in giving?
b) Is that thing we fear the truth or could it be a lie?
c) What happens when we hold back from giving, especially in our most intimate relationships?

2) Henri encourages us that “we become beautiful people when we give whatever we can give: a smile, a handshake, a kiss, an embrace, a word of love, a present, a part of our life… all our life” (P106) and later writes that “…friendship, kindness, patience, joy, peace, forgiveness, gentleness, love, hope, trust, and many others… are the true gifts we have to offer each other” (p114).
a) Has a stranger ever gifted you a smile, and it lifted your spirit?  Or vice versa?
b) Who in your life needs you to truly share a part of yourself with them this week?  INVITATION:  This week, every day ask God to help you see the person who needs a smile, a handshake, a word of love, or just some part of you.  The invitation includes acts towards strangers (except maybe the kiss ;)), but be especially aware of what you can give to those closest to you, “especially on days when you experience distance between yourselves” (p109).

3)  Finally, Henri also wants us to consider how our death can be a gift to others.  “If love is, indeed, stronger than death, then death has the potential to deepen and strengthen the bonds of love” (p117).
a) Will your death, be a celebration of a life lived with love?
INVITATION:  Consider what Murray did to prepare himself for his death (although he didn’t know when he would die).  Ask yourself how you want to live now, so that when your time comes it will be a gift to others to reflect on your life and be inspired by it.  “You and I have to trust that our short little lives can bear fruit far beyond the boundaries of our chronologies.  But we have to choose this and trust deeply that we have a spirit to send that will bring joy, peace, and life to those who will remember us” (p120, italics mine).

NOTE:  I think all here will intuitively know this, but taking ones own life can never, ever, be a gift to others.  Henri does not suggest we hasten our death, only that we prepare well for it.

4) Finally, I wanted to share this special letter written by Henri over twenty years ago.  It is a simple letter, but touches on so much of what we’ve explored together this Advent.  The woman he was writing too was someone who sent Henri and his community cookies and fresh bread every now and then… by courier, I assume.  This woman, if I understand correctly, struggled with a chronic and debilitating illness for much of her adult life.  Yet, in her simple act of care for another, we see how she was chosen, blessed, broken and given:

Screen Shot 2013-12-14 at 11.02.54 AM

This letter is a reminder that it doesn’t have to be complicated… it just has to be from your heart, and done in love.

As always, you are invited to share whatever came up for you in this week in the readings.  I very much look forward to hearing from each of you!

p.s. apologies to all who have a different version of the book, and therefore the page numbers don’t match… I only have this one version, so I couldn’t cross reference.

Posted in Advent 2013 Life of the Beloved | 43 Comments