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 we will have the reading schedule posted soon.

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

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 4 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 | 1 Comment

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 | 55 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 | 90 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

We are pleased to announce the facilitators for our Advent book discussion that begins November 23rd!

Warm greetings from the Henri Nouwen Society!

We are deeply grateful to Brynn Lawrence and Ray Glennon for their willingness, in fact eagerness to co-facilitate our Advent book discussion! Many of you know Brynn and Ray from previous book discussions and have been blessed by their wise and gentle leadership. Here is a little background on each of them:

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 in 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. He has a variety of experiences facilitating group discussions, including our most recent online discussion of Henri’s Can You Drink the Cup?. 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.

BookstoreTogether Ray and Brynn 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. So, we hope you will return to this blog on Sunday November 23rd to begin your Advent journey with Bookstoreus. To purchase A Spirituality of Homecoming and A Spirituality of Living, two of the titles in the Henri Nouwen Spirituality Series, please click here.

We will be dedicating our Advent discussion to the memory of John Mogabgab, editor of the Henri Nouwen Spirituality Series. John was a student of Henri’s at Yale Divinity School and later worked for Henri as his assistant and editor. Our beloved John was a member of the Henri Nouwen Society Board since its inception; he passed away on August 8th of this year. To learn more about John’s life and legacy, please click here.

Posted in Advent 2014 | 35 Comments

August 3rd to 9th: Conclusion & Epilogue

Reading: Conclusion–The Answer & Epilogue–One Cup, One Body
“As we drink the cup, we drink the cup that Jesus drank, but we also drink our cup.”

We have been on an incredible and spirit-filled summer journey together, and I am deeply grateful to each and every person who has travelled with us, both actively and silently.  We have all been blessed by your participation, your sharing, and your prayers.

And as we complete our journey, it is important to take the time to reflect on the experience to see where we have been, to treasure what we learned, and to understand how we have grown so that our time together with Henri as our guide may be truly memorable and, perhaps, even life changing.

In my professional life I am often called on to prepare PowerPoint®  presentations that attempt to show in a few words the highlights of work we accomplished (note: work that is never as meaningful, enlightening, or rewarding as reading and reflecting on the the writing of Henri Nouwen).   It occurred to me this week that Henri himself poses Jesus’ question “Can you drink the cup?” and then he provides us with the PowerPoint highlights of his answer if we simply use his chapter titles.

We can drink the cup that Jesus drank by…

  • Holding… The Cup of Sorrow …The Cup of Joy
  • Lifting… The Cup of Blessings… To Life
  • Drinking… The Cup of Salvation… To the Bottom

Like many things in the spiritual world, it is both that simple and that difficult.   Henri reminds us that Jesus’ question will have a different meaning for us every day of our lives and he asks, “Can we embrace fully the sorrows and joys that come to us day after day?”  Then Henri assures us that if make the commitment and persevere in the three disciplines  “…we are transformed into the one body of the living Christ, always dying and always rising for the salvation of the world.”

I invite you to take some time to look back over our time together and remember the most important things you learned or heard in your reflections.   If you are willing, 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.

In closing I would like to thank Maureen at the Henri Nouwen Society, regular book discussion facilitator Brynn Lawrence, and in a special way each of you for making this summer discussion such a rewarding experience for us all.  If you have found this to be worthwhile, I encourage you to participate in the next book discussion this Advent.

And in the words of St. Francis, “May the Lord give you peace.”

Ray

August 8th Update:  As we come to the end of the final week of our discussion I once again want to thank each of you that travelled with us on this spirit-filled journey.   It has been a blessing to read and reflect on the heartfelt sharings.  I have spent this week at the Deer Valley YMCA Family Camp with my wife Dawn, my daughter, son-in-law and three grandsons.  This was my 11th summer here.  I was led to Deer Valley in 2004 at a very difficult time in my life–and the experience of returning each year has been transformative.    We are Week 8 campers and we have a very special summer “community” here.   Arts and crafts is one of the many family-friendly activities at DV.  In 2004 I painted a bisque cup that I later realized accurately portrayed the challenges I was facing at that time.  This year–10 years later–I am in a much different and better place, and sharing the  writing of Henri Nouwen in online discussions with people like each of you on this journey had a lot to do with it.  So I decided to paint another bisque cup that illustrated where I hope I am heading on my spiritual journey.  It is shown in the photo below.

Thanks again for your presence and participation.

Ray

Posted in Summer 2014 Can You Drink the Cup? | 33 Comments

July 27th to August 2nd: Drinking the Cup

Reading:  Part Three— Drinking the Cup
I shall take up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. (Psalm 116:13)

Henri beautifully captures the shared experience of this extraordinary online community when he writes: “When we are fully committed to the spiritual adventure of drinking  our cup to the bottom, we will soon discover that people who are on the same journey will offer themselves to us for encouragement and friendship and love.  It has been my most blessed experience that God sends wonderful friends…”  Thus far on our journey we have held our cup–and seen our joys hidden in our sorrows in the cup of blessings; and we have lifted our cup–for the community to see and celebrate the cup of life.   This week Henri encourages us to drink the cup of salvation to the bottom and he offers three disciplines to lead us to this spiritual freedom.

Here are three thoughts you may find helpful to begin unpacking the reading.  As always, please feel free to respond to any of the ideas below, to share your reflections on something that touched you,  or to read and reflect silently.  We are blessed by your presence.

1.  Henri writes, “Spiritual greatness has nothing to do with being greater than others… True sanctity is precisely drinking our own cup and trusting that by thus fully claiming our own, irreplaceable journey, we can become a source of hope for many.”  (p. 89)  Sounding a similar theme, Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  Consider your own journey–the joys and the sorrows–and reflect on those times when you did small things with great love and became a source of hope for those whose lives you touched.

2.  Henri tells us, “Jesus drank the cup of his life… He knew that drinking the cup would bring him freedom, glory, and wholeness” and offer all humanity the promise of salvation and life everlasting.   Consequently, Henri can confidently write, “Drinking the cup of salvation means emptying the cup of sorrow and joy so that God can fill it with pure life.”   This “pure life” is real freedom from our addictions, compulsions, and obsessions, or our self-indulgence.   Henri reminds us that “…this freedom comes to us every time we drink from the cup of life, whether a little or much.”    Look back on your life experiences and examine those times when you chose to drink from the cup of life you were holding at the time and identify and be grateful for the freedom that resulted from your choice.    How did God take the cup that you emptied and fill it with pure life?

3.  At the outset of this crucial chapter, Henri writes: “It is important, however, to be very specific when we deal with the question, ‘How do we drink the cup?’  We need some very concrete disciplines… to find in them our unique way to spiritual freedom…  the discipline of silence, the discipline of the word, and the discipline of action.”   Henri emphasizes that these are the disciplines we should follow to “drink our cup of salvation.” Prayerfully reflect on Henri’s description of each of the three disciplines and assess how well you are are living that discipline today.   For each discipline, identify the areas where you are the most comfortable and self-assured in your practice of that discipline and how that leads you to spiritual freedom.   Then consider the uncertainties, insecurities, or questions you may have in the practice of each discipline.  What concrete, specific steps can you take to make the practice of that discipline a more meaningful part of you life?  You might write those steps down for yourself and place them at the foot of the cross to ask Jesus for assistance.

We are all called to drink the cup.  Henri Nouwen points the way.  We look forward to hearing from you this week.

July 29th Update: Maureen at the Henri Nouwen Society found the photograph of Henri and his close friend Trevor (see Chapter 5) shown below.  Enjoy!

Henri Nouwen and his close friend Trevor.
“When you’re happy and you know it… lift your glass.” 

WithTrevor1987 (1)May the Lord give you the same peace that Henri found with his friends at Daybreak.

Ray

Posted in Summer 2014 Can You Drink the Cup? | 42 Comments