Lent Book Discussion Ends

He is risen!

Thank you to all who participated in this very meaningful and timely book discussion. I am personally touched by the breadth and depth of the comments.

It is quite amazing, as some have pointed out, just how applicable In the Name of Jesus is today, nearly thirty years after being published.

I trust the book our Lent discussion has been a blessing to each and every one of you.

On behalf of everyone – all of our active participants as well as you silent, yet appreciative, lurkers – I wish to extend very special thanks to Ray Glennon for his gracious and faithful leadership. These book discussions wouldn’t happen without Ray and his co-facilitator Brynn Lawrence (hopefully, Brynn will be back with us for the Advent book beginning in November.)

I want to take a moment to remind you there will be two new publications in 2016 that I am sure you will enjoy. On May 10, HarperCollins is releasing The Spiritual Life, a compilation of eight of Henri Nouwen’s most significant works. You can pre-order the book here. It’ll make for wonderful summer reading!

And later this year a brand new publication titled Love, Henri (edited by our own Gabrielle Earnshaw!) will hit bookstore shelves. Henri was a prodigious letter writer. His letters were often deeply personal and pastoral. This new publication contains over 300 of Henri’s letters to friends and colleagues, all remarkably rich with spiritual insights and directions. Look for Love, Henri later this year.

Please consider joining us from June 9—11 for Way of the Heart, our first Henri Nouwen conference in 10 years! To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Henri’s death – and to celebrate his life and legacy, Way of the Heart is bringing together a host of incredible speakers and session leaders. What a great way to begin your summer. Details are available on our website.

We look forward to having you join us in November for the Advent book discussion. We’ll be announcing the book well in advance, so please check our website frequently.

He is risen, indeed!

Blessings & peace,

Posted in Lent 2016 | Leave a comment

Mar 13 – Mar 19: Conclusion and Epilogue

Reading: Conclusion and Epilogue (p 91 to p 101)

We are coming to the end of our Lenten journey together.  This week Henri offers us the opportunity to look back along the path we have traveled; to reflect on what we have seen, heard, and learned; and, perhaps more important, to look ahead to where we are being led In the Name of Jesus in our lives and ministries.

In the conclusion Henri summarizes the insights he gained in his journey of downward mobility from Harvard to L’Arche.  And for Henri it was truly a “journey of the heart”— to use the title of a wonderful video about the Henri’s life.   This week you are encouraged to reflect, as Henri did, on how the temptations to be relevant, spectacular, and powerful influence your life, ministry, and role as a Christian leader today.  (And remember, we are all ministers and Christian leaders in our own way.)    Then consider how  Peter’s final encounter with Jesus in John’s Gospel might help you better understand your true calling. Finally, ponder the disciplines of contemplative prayer, confession and forgiveness, and theological reflection to see how you might adopt them as powerful tools for Christian leadership in your life.   Having done so, you are invited to share your thoughts and insights to the extent you are comfortable.

In the Epilogue Henri tells “the rest of the story”*  of his trip with Bill Van Buren to present these “Reflections on Christian Leadership” in Washington, DC.  Henri beautifully and powerfully reminds us that Jesus sent his disciples out together; similarly, Jesus calls us to share our spiritual journey, our ministry, and our Christian leadership with others.  One last question you might want to consider:  Who are the Bills in your life—the people with whom you meet in Jesus name (Matt 18:20) to help you to spread the good news of the Gospel message?  Share your thoughts.

As always,  I want to express my deep gratitude and heartfelt thanks to each of you that have made this such a worthwhile Lenten book discussion whether you posted comments or read and reflected silently.  I also want to thank Will Finlay at the Henri Nouwen Society for his support in making these discussions possible.  Lastly, I want to thank long-time moderator Brynn Lawrence for her inspiration and leadership of these discussion for many years. Brynn did not participate this Lent to devote her time to her husband and new baby Leo.

Let me leave you with this.   Upon landing in Toronto after the flight home from Washington, Henri said to Bill: “Thanks so much for coming with me.  It was a wonderful trip, and what we did, we did together in Jesus’ name.”  Those words apply equally well to those of you that have gathered here to share this Lenten journey together.  May each of you have a blessed Holy Week and Easter season, and may you live the rest of your life, In the Name of Jesus.

Peace and all good.

*A phrase made famous by radio commentator Paul Harvey.

Posted in Lent 2016 | 32 Comments

Mar 6 – Mar 12: From Leading to Being Led

Reading: Part III – From Leading to Being Led (p 73 to p 90)

Once again, heartfelt thanks to each of you joining with us on our Lenten journey.  We are blessed by your presence whether you have posted comments or are traveling quietly.

This week we Henri guides us into the third stage of our exploration of Christian leadership in the 21st century.  He presents Jesus as a servant-leader—one who eschews power and becomes powerless out of love and leads others by humbly being led (to do the will of his Father).  Henri emphasizes that Jesus’ approach is so at odds with the ways of the secular world that leaders need to be trained to think with the mind of Christ if we are to lead as Jesus led.

You are encouraged to prayerfully reflect on the temptation posed by power, the challenge to be taken where you would rather not go, and the discipline of theological reflection and how they are related to your life and ministry, either now or in the past.  I’ve included three questions for your consideration.

1.  In introducing the temptation Henri writes: “The temptation to consider power an apt instrument for the proclamation of the Gospel is the greatest of all.”  Then he points to the common rationalization that power used in the service of God is a good thing—and that this rationalization led to many injustices done in the name of God.
a)  How do you respond to Henri’s view of power and the proclamation of the Gospel?  Have you experienced this on your spiritual journey?  What was the result?

2.  Henri describes a leadership of powerless and humility this way: “I am speaking of a leadership in which power is constantly abandoned in favor of love.  It is a true spiritual leadership.” Henri goes on to say that this refers to people who love Jesus so deeply they are ready to trust him and  follow him wherever he leads.
a)  Have you seen true spiritual leadership practiced and what was the impact on those that were affected?  What steps can you take to move toward spiritual leadership in your own life and ministry?

3. Henri sets a near impossible standard for Christian leadership writing: “…the Christian leader thinks, speaks, and acts in the name of Jesus…  (must) discern…how God acts in human history… identify and announce the ways in which Jesus is leading God’s people out of slavery…”  He continues saying leaders must respond to life’s challenges with “an articulate faith in God’s real presence.” 
a)  Have you seen evidence that Henri’s vision of theological leadership is beginning to be realized in the 30 years since this book was published?  What steps could you take to move closer to theological leadership in your life?

There is a great deal to ponder this week. As always, you are encouraged so share your reflections, either on the questions or anything that touched you or you were drawn to in the reading.  We look forward to hearing from you.

May the Lord give you peace as you continue your Lenten journey.

Posted in Lent 2016 | 15 Comments

Feb 28 – Mar 5: From Popularity to Ministry

Reading: Part II – From Popularity to Ministry (p 51 to p 70)

It has been a blessed Lenten journey thus far and I want to thank those that have enriched our book discussion with your heartfelt and meaningful sharing, in particular those who have recently begun sharing.  This week we turn our attention to Jesus’ second temptation, Peter’s call to ministry, and the disciplines of confession and forgiveness.

Knowing that we are all ministers in our own way,  you are encouraged to prayerfully consider the temptation, the question, and the discipline and to reflect on are how the truth of the Good News and the  discipline suggested by Henri may be related to your own life and spiritual journey.  I’ve included several questions that you may find helpful.  As always, to the extent you are comfortable, please share your thoughts and insights on these questions or anything you find meaningful in the reading this week.

1.  Henri tells us that his move from Harvard to L’Arche caused a significant change in his approach to ministry—from the individualistic ministry he learned during his formation and practiced as an educator, to the shared ministry that resulted from living in a close-knit community of caring and wounded people trying to live faithfully together.  Henri writes, “Jesus refused to be a stunt man.  He did not come to prove himself… When you look at today’s church, it’s easy to see the prevalence of individualism… Stardom and individual heroism… are not at all alien…” 
a)  What was it about Jesus that allowed him to reject the powerful temptation to be spectacular?
b)  What has been your experience with individualism and the tendency to stardom and heroism in your church community and its leadership?  In your own life and ministry?

2.  Henri draws our attention to John’s Gospel where Jesus gave Peter the task of ministry—that same task that we are given today.  Henri emphasizes Jesus’ intent that
“…ministry is a communal and mutual experience… We are called to proclaim the Gospel together in community.”  And he makes it more personal by writing: “The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.”
a)  How have you been chosen and called to ministry—to make your love the gateway for God?  Is your ministry a communal and mutual experience or is it more individualistic?
b) What concrete steps can you take to adopt the servant leadership mentioned by Henri and to proclaim the Gospel together in community?”

3.  In the challenging discussion of the discipline, Henri tells us that ministers must be,
“…persons always willing to confess their own brokenness and ask for forgiveness from those to whom they minister… (they are) called to be full members of their community… called to minister with their whole being, including their wounded selves.”  Yet Henri also emphasizes that for ministers to explicitly bring their own sins or failures into the pulpit or their daily ministries would be unhealthy and imprudent.
a)  Have you seen Henri’s vision of imperfect (i.e., human) ministers living as full members of the church community sharing their whole being, including their wounded selves, in a healthy and prudent way and what was the response?  What about in your life?

Thanks again to all of those sharing this Lenten journey with us.  We look forward to hearing from you this week.

May the Lord give you peace and may you feel his presence walking with you this Lent.

Posted in Lent 2016 | 29 Comments

Feb 21 – Feb 27: From Relevance to Prayer

Reading: Part I – From Relevance to Prayer (p 25 to p 47)

Thanks to each of you for joining us on our Lenten journey—whether you have posted a comment or are following along quietly.  We have been richly blessed by those of you that have opened your hearts and shared your experiences and insights so beautifully.

This week Henri leads us to look at our lives through the twin lenses of  Jesus’ response to the temptation to turn stones into bread at the outset of his ministry and the three-fold question “Do you love me?” that he posed to Peter—and to each of us—as his earthly ministry was ending.  Henri captures the essence of the Gospel and the challenge of our mission to build up the Kingdom of God when he exhorts us:

The great message we have to carry, as ministers of God’s Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of human life. (p 30)

And Henri then offers us the discipline of contemplative prayer to help us live our calling.

As will be the case for three consecutive weeks, you are encouraged to reflect on the temptation, the question, and the discipline and to prayerfully consider how they are related to your own life experiences—either now or in the past.  I will pose several questions that may help get you started.  Finally, please share your thoughts and insights on these questions or anything you find meaningful, to the extent you are comfortable.

1.  In reflecting on the temptation to be relevant, Henri describes the modern secular world  and the challenges it poses to Christian ministers, indeed to all Christian people.  (L)oneliness, isolation, lack of friendship and intimacy, broken relationships, boredom, feelings of emptiness and depression, and a deep sense of uselessness fill the hearts of millions of people in our success-oriented world… (M)ore and more people are suffering from profound moral and spiritual handicaps without having any idea of where to look for healing.
a) Does Henri’s characterization of the secular world reflect circumstances you observe in your own life or in the lives of others?  b) How are you or other Christian leaders you are aware of responding the challenge posed by Henri?

2.  In presenting the question, “Do you love me?” Henri describes the unconditional and unlimited love only God can give as “God’s first love.”  And the the broken reflection of that love that we receive from parents, our spouse, our children, and others in our community is the imperfect and sometimes painful “second love.”  Henri writes:
Jesus’ heart is the incarnation of the…first love of God…  Knowing the heart of Jesus and loving him are the same thing… And when we live in a world with that knowledge, we cannot do other than to bring healing, reconciliation, new life, and hope wherever we go.
a) How does Henri’s description of God’s first love and human second love align with your experience?  b) What steps have you taken or seen others taking to open your heart to Jesus’ heart and to bring God’s first love into the world.

3.  In describing the discipline of contemplative prayer, Henri says, The original meaning of the word “theology” was “union with God in prayer”… Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-formed opinions about the burning issues of our time.  Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus…
a)  What disciplines or practices do you or others that you know use to develop a heart that knows God intimately through “union with God in prayer”?   b) On page 45 Henri compares the Christian leadership of those rooted in a relationship with Jesus and those that are not.  Have you experienced these different approaches and what was the result?

We look forward to another rewarding discussion this week.

Peace and all good.

Posted in Lent 2016 | 27 Comments

Feb 14 – Feb 20: Prologue and Introduction

Reading: Prologue and Introduction (p 11 to p 23)

Thanks to each of you for joining the vibrant group of seekers forming this spirit-filled community. At the outset, I want to thank each of you for making this, as was noted in a comment last week: “…a safe space of open mindedness and support. What a refreshing change of pace from the snarkiness of so much of the outside world.” It is great blessing for me to be able to share his experience with each of you.

We have had a wonderful start to our Lenten journey with your warm introductions and heartfelt sharing.  It is a great joy to reconnect with previous participants and to welcome many others joining us for the first time.  Everyone is welcome and valued here; we are all blessed simply by your presence—whether you actively post comments or follow our discussion silently.

We learn in the prologue that this book is largely based on a talk Henri Nouwen gave in Washington, DC shortly after becoming the pastor at L’Arche Daybreak, a community for the mentally handicapped, having resigned his position teaching future ministers at the Harvard Divinity School. We also learn that he did not travel by himself, something we will return to in several weeks.  In our reading this week Henri reflects on his decision to move to L’Arche and how that changed his perspective on and approach to ministry. The issues that Henri confronted in his own life and ministry are those facing ministers today–and we are all ministers in our own way to the people in our lives.

The following questions are meant to prompt your thinking and to get the discussion flowing but, as always, you should not feel limited by them. Please feel free to respond to one or more of these questions or whatever comes up for you in the reading.

  1.  In preparing his 1986 talk Henri looks back 30 years and reflects that, “…nobody in the 1950s could have foreseen the situation of most priests today…” (p 12)
    As we look back 30 years to when Henri gave this talk, what challenges are you as a person and a minister confronting as a result of the relentless change since that time and how are you addressing them?
  2. Henri writes, “God is a God of the present and reveals to those willing to listen carefully to the moment in which they live the steps they are to take to the future.” (p 13)
    In our rapid-paced world, how do you experience the “God of the present” and what steps do you take to “listen carefully to the moment”?  How do you respond?
  3. In introducing us to Bill Van Buren, his friend and fellow minister of the Gospel, Henri writes: “…he felt deeply touched by Jesus and knew what it meant to be reborn by water and the Holy Spirit.” (p 16)  Henri asks,”Did becoming older bring me closer to Jesus?” and he realized “…my success was putting my own soul in danger.” (p 20)
    Reflect on your spiritual journey.  What is your experience of the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit?  Are you growing closer to Jesus as you age? Has the worldly call of “success” challenged you on your journey? Share to the extent you are comfortable.
  4. Henri tells of how God answered his prayer for “clear and unambiguous” direction writing, “In the person of Jean Vanier… God said, ‘Go and live among the poor in spirit and they will heal you.‘”
    How have you heard from God or experienced his presence in your life?  Have you prayed for and received God’s “clear and unambiguous” guidance?  What was the result?  If you are willing, share your reflection.

We’re at the beginning of our Lenten journey together and we look forward to the always meaningful thoughts and insights of those commenting and to the continued participation of those following along silently.

With gratitude for sharing our Lenten journey.


Posted in Lent 2016 | 46 Comments

Feb 10 – Feb 13: Lent 2016 Welcome & Introductions

Reading: None.
Note: The complete reading schedule and instructions on how to submit and reply to comments may be found by clicking on the Reading Schedule link in the black navigation bar, located directly below the photo on the top of this page.

A very warm welcome to each of you. We’re so glad you’ve decided to join us for the Henri Nouwen Society (HNS) book discussion. This Lent we will journey together to read and reflect on one of Henri’s ten most read books In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. For those of you who are returning, you know how incredible this experience is, and for those who are joining us for the first time you will soon discover its blessings.  

Every time we gather for a book discussion a caring and spirit-filled community emerges as you share your reflections, insights, and responses to the comments of others; as moderator I’ll do my best to assist you in this creative process. This Lent we will be without the deft touch of Brynn Lawrence, our other regular moderator. She and husband Francisco are focusing their attention on their first child, baby Leo, who was born just before Christmas. Congratulations! Brynn will be rejoining us in the future.

Long-time participants may recall that we last read In the Name of Jesus for our Lent 2010 discussion. It is based on a talk that Henri gave shortly after becoming the pastor at L’Arche Daybreak, the place that became his true home.  His simple, profound, and timeless message applies to each of us since we are all leaders in our own way.  You will be blessed by your Lenten encounter with this book  whether you are reading it for the first time or returning to savor it again.

Before we jump in, it is always helpful to provide some information on how this online discussion flows.  Each Sunday, beginning on February 14th,  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 Ray or William at the HNS need to “approve” it, so it may take a few hours before it actually appears on the blog page.  As noted above, instructions on how to submit and reply to comments may be found by clicking on the Reading Schedule link  If you have any further questions about how the blog works, please feel free to ask using the comment box or by sending an email to the address below.

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

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
d) Any hopes, aspirations, burdens, or special intentions that are with you this Lent

Enough from me.  Now it’s your turn and we look forward to your introduction.

RAY GLENNON: Ray lives in Columbia, Maryland  where actively volunteers in his parish Confirmation and adult faith formation programs  and serves as a member of the pastoral council.  He and his wife Dawn are also members of a Catholic charismatic community.  Ray first became familiar with Henri’s work 30 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.  Ray has joined in these discussions as a participant or moderator since 2010 and they have  become an important part of his spiritual journey.   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.

Posted in Lent 2016 | 67 Comments

Lent Book Discussion – 2016

Welcome to the Henri Nouwen Lent Book Discussion!

We are delighted to present In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership as this Lent’s featured book.

With the subtitle Reflections on Christian Leadership, one might think this is a book only for those in church leadership. It’s not. Its content is incredibly relevant to anyone and everyone who is serious about their spiritual walk. It’s a concise, easy-to-read book — but don’t be fooled. Nouwen packs the pages with more meaning and more thought-provoking material than can be found in most books ten times the size.

Returning as our discussion facilitator is Ray Glennon.  Our other regular facilitator Brynn Lawrence is deferring this time around so she and husband Francisco can enjoy being new parents to precious baby Leo! (Congrats Brynn and family!) Rest assured, Brynn will be back with us for future book discussions.

Things get underway from February 10 – 13. Please join us here on the book discussion home page (you might want to bookmark it) beginning on Ash Wednesday to introduce yourself and to meet and greet other participants. If you would like to read ahead, the reading and discussion schedule can be viewed by clicking on the Reading Schedule tab in the black bar beneath the photo at the top of this post.

We are looking forward to a meaningful and spirit-filled discussion. Be sure to tell your friends. Everyone is welcome.

Don’t have a copy of In the Name of Jesus? Order one by clicking here.

Posted in Lent 2016 | 49 Comments

Advent Book Discussion Ends

A big, hearty ‘thank you’ to everyone who participated – whether by commenting or by quietly reading along – in our 2015 Advent book discussion.

Judging by the number of comments, and by the depth and breadth of the content, this has been an amazing and deeply rewarding experience for all. On behalf of everyone at the Henri Nouwen Society, I extend a gracious thank you for coming along for the ride – and the read!

I know I speak for you all as I offer a very special thank you to our discussion facilitators Brynn Lawrence and Ray Glennon. As always, Brynn and Ray provided thoughful insight, gracious sensitivity, and welcoming leadership. Thank you, Brynn and Ray!

As most of you know, our next book discussion is scheduled for Lent – which is only weeks away. We will be announcing the next book selection in the next week or two. Come back to this discussion page, or check our website at henrinouwen.org for the announcement of the Lent Book Discussion title.

On behalf or Ray, Brynn and everyone at HNS, I wish you a wonderful, blessed, and peaceful 2016.

We’re looking forward to having you join us in a few weeks for our next online book discussion!

Blessings & peace,

Posted in Summer 2015 Finding My Way Home | Leave a comment

Dec 20th – Dec 26th: Conclusion

Reading: Conclusion ( p 116 to 118)

We are nearing the end of our Advent journey together and we want to express our deep gratitude  to each of you for joining us along the way.  Because of you and the words and spirit of Henri Nouwen, a beautiful community has gathered and grown in faith and understanding–the fruit of your participation in the discussion, both by posting comments and quietly reflecting in your heart.

In our reading this week  Henri looks back on the spiritual imperatives with the perspective of eight years of “radical changes… (moving) through anguish to freedom, through depression to peace, through despair to hope”  and he concludes, “I have heard the inner voice of love, deeper and stronger than ever.”

This week, in what for many are the hectic final days before we celebrate the birth of Jesus,  you are invited to give yourself the gift of time to once again reflect on the spiritual imperatives that touched your heart during our time together.  You might prayerfully consider the following questions:

  1. Were their any connections or common themes in the imperatives that touched your heart?   If so, what were they and why are they important to you now?
  2. Why did these imperative touch you at this particular point in your life?
    a) Was it a result of something happening now?   If so, how does the imperative help your challenge you to grow?  b) Or did you recall a personal experience from an earlier time? If so, can you see how you have grown as a result of that experience?
  3. Have the imperatives that touched your heart helped you to hear the inner voice of love and how will you respond? 

As always, you are invited share your responses and other reflections with the group to the degree you are comfortable.

Once again, we want to thank you for joining us and for enriching our Advent experience and book discussion.  We wish you and yours a blessed and joyous Christmas season.

May the Lord give you peace.

Ray and Brynn

P.S.  And we hope that many of you will join us for our Lenten book discussion beginning in mid-February.  Be on the lookout for more information.

Posted in Advent 2015 | 42 Comments