July 26 to August 1: The Path of Living and Dying

Reading: The Path of Living and Dying (p 119-155)
For the complete reading schedule and instructions on how to submit and reply to comments, click on the Reading Schedule link in the bar immediately below the photo.

Thanks for joining us on what has proved to be a wonderful and spirit-filled journey! We have all been greatly blessed by Henri’s words and the heartfelt and inspiring sharing among our community. This week Henri challenges us to look ahead to our death at the end of our earthly journey–“our final passage, our exodus to the full realization of our identity as God’s beloved children and to full communion with the God of love.” (p 155)

Henri tells the story of his life-threatening and, much more important, life-changing experience after being hit by a car. “(I)n the midst of my confusion and shock I became calm, very “at rest” and there was a sort of “embrace of God” that reassured me and gently told me, ‘Don’t be afraid.  You are safe.  I am going to bring you home. You belong to me and, and I belong to you.'” (p 121) He goes on to say he “became aware of some of (his) life’s unfinished business” and describes his belief that he had “been given a gift of extended time to live my life more fully and to better prepare (himself) for his death”; Henri concludes, “I was deeply convinced in my heart that what I had experienced changed forever how I would live in the world.”

Haven’t we all had life-changing experiences, if not life-threatening ones?  Don’t we all have “life’s unfinished business” to address? And who among us doesn’t long to feel the embrace of God and to be told “Don’t be afraid”?  There is so much in this essay to assist us in reflecting on how we can respond to those events and tackle the unfinished business so we can live a life of fruitfulness that will allow us to experience a beautiful death like that of Henri’s friends who say, “I’m going to die.  I’ve had a beautiful life, and I’m grateful.  I give myself over to God and I want you to remember me.” (p 145)  However Henri reminds us that experiencing a beautiful death is almost impossible to do alone, hence Henri’s emphasis throughout his writing on the importance of community.  “We need other people whispering in our ears, ‘Don’t be afraid to die, because even when you die, you will stay with us in a very deep way.'” (p 146)

Henri delivered the presentation and gave the interview that were the source of this essay about a year before his unexpected death.  He said then, “At sixty-three, I am very aware that for me it is just a question of years, a few years.  I sense that my aging is a time for me to be thinking about my passage to more abundant life. I want to become grateful that my life will come to completion and to anticipate sending my spirit of love to all those I cherish… I want to befriend my death.” (p 154).  We that read and share his words are the recipients of his legacy and fruitful death; we are called to do as Henri did, to follow the path of Jesus during our lifetime.  Henri writes, “He calls to us, ‘Follow me.’  He assures us, ‘Do not be afraid.’ This is our faith.”

There are no specific “starter questions” for this week.  Our community has been together for some time now and the online discussion has been rich, inspiring, and fruitful.  You are encouraged to comment on anything that touched you in the essay, in this post, or to share your personal experiences.  We look forward to hearing from many of you as we also thank those of you that our following along in silence.

May the Lord give you peace.

Posted in Summer 2015 Finding My Way Home | 6 Comments

July 19th to July 25th: The Path of Waiting

Reading: The Path of Waiting (p 87-117)
For the complete reading schedule and instructions on how to submit and reply to comments, click on the Reading Schedule link in the bar immediately below the photo.

Welcome back as we continue our summer journey Finding My Way Home.  We have walked together on two of the four paths and have shared much along the way.  Thanks to each of you for your participation whether you have been actively commenting or following along silently. Know that your presence is valued.

The theology of weakness (The Path of Power) and the fellowship of the weak (The Path of Peace) point to The Path of Waiting that Henri explores this week.  He shows us the way to a life of active waiting with a sense of promise that is based on hope and trust in God. Henri teaches us what it means to actively wait, encourages us to wait in community, and shows us that in our waiting we must be willing “to be handed over” as Jesus was.  And we learn that just as we are waiting on God to define our lives, God is waiting on us to choose to follow him.  “God became human not only to act among us but also to be the recipient of our responses.” (p 110)

This is a sage, challenging, and rewarding essay.  As Henri writes, “The life of Jesus tells us that not to be in control is part of the human condition. His vocation and ours are fulfilled not just in action but also in passion, waiting… If it is true that God in Jesus Christ is waiting for our response to divine love… then we can learn to be obedient people who do not always try to go back to the action but who recognize the fulfillment of our deepest humanity in passion, in waiting.” (p115, 117)

We very much look forward to hearing from each of you this week. Your honest reflections are an encouragement to all who are journeying with us this summer. You may respond to one or more of the questions below or share anything that came up for you in the reading.

1.  Henri writes, “A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, believing that this moment is the moment… Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there. “(p 97)
a)  Have you experienced the active waiting and patient living Henri describes in your life? What was the result?

2. Henri tells the story of Mary and Elizabeth to illustrate the strength of waiting in community. “Christian community is the place where we keep the flame of hope alive among us and take it seriously so that it can grow and become stronger in us.  In this way we can live with courage, trusting that there is a spiritual power… that allows us to live in this world without surrendering to the powerful forces constantly seducing us to despair.” (p 103)
a) How do Henri’s insights about waiting in community change your understanding of community?  of waiting?

3.  In considering active waiting and our world today, Henri asks,” In our world today, how much are we really in control?  Isn’t our life in large part passion?”  He then writes,  “Therefore it becomes increasingly important to recognize that the largest part of our existence involves waiting in the sense of being acted upon.” (p 115)
a) When have you experienced “being handed over” in your life?  How did you respond?  Would Henri’s teaching lead you to respond differently in the future?

May we have another blessed week of sharing.

Posted in Summer 2015 Finding My Way Home | 33 Comments

July 12th to July 18th: The Path of Peace

Reading:  The Path of Peace (p 51-85)
For the complete reading schedule and instructions on how to submit and reply to comments, click on the Reading Schedule link in the bar immediately below the photo.

Welcome back to our virtual, but very real, community to continue our summer journey. This week we will consider The Path of Peace and reflect on Henri’s words as he  tells the story of his friend Adam and “…let(s) him become the silent spokesperson of the peace that is not of this world.” (p 56) 

But first, let’s briefly consider the impact that Henri’s relationship with Adam had on his life. Henri tells us, “As my fears of making a mistake or hurting Adam gradually decreased and as I became more relaxed with his routine…I began to experience a mutuality of love not based so much on shared knowledge or shared feelings, but on shared humanity. The longer I stayed with Adam the more clearly I recognized him as my gentle teacher…” (p 59-60) Yet Adam was unlike any teacher the highly educated and world-renowned priest, writer, and speaker had ever known.  “Adam has never said a word to me. He will never do so. But every night as I put him to bed I say ‘thank you.'” (p 75)

Henri with his friend and teacher Adam (Photo by Zenia Kushpeta)

Henri with his friend and teacher Adam (Photo by Zenia Kushpeta)

Adam died on February 13, 1996 just as Henri was finishing the book we discussed last summer. There Henri wrote, “I dedicate Can You Drink this Cup? to Adam Arnett, my friend and teacher… I hope and pray that his life and death will continue to bear much fruit in the lives of all those who have known him and loved him so much.”  Later that year the Lord called Henri home and I am certain he and Adam were reunited in love.

Now let’s turn to the reading for this week.  Henri writes, “Adam’s particular gift of peace is rooted in his being and his heart and it always calls forth community.
(p 61) This is a rich essay with many ideas to ponder.

 

The three included here are offered to help get us started.   You may respond to these suggestions, share your thoughts on something that touched you, or follow along silently. Regardless of how you participate, you bless us with your presence in our community.

1.  “How simple the truth that Adam teaches me, but how hard to live.  Being is more important that doing.” (p 62)
In a world that values doing, what steps have you taken or would you like take to seek the peace that comes from being with the Lord and each other?

2.  Henri tells us that the heart is the center of our being where God comes to dwell.  He writes, “Adam keeps revealing to me, over and over again and in his own clear way, that what make us human is not primarily our minds but our hearts; it is not first of all our ability to think which gives us our particular identity in all of creation, but it is our ability to love.” (p 65-66)
What is your response to Henri’s insight as you look at the world today?  How are you living out your humanity in love?

3.  “Adam is gradually teaching me something about a peace that is not of this world.  It is a peace… rooted in simply being present to each other and working together in harmony, a peace that speaks about the first love of God by which we are all held safe, and a peace that keeps calling us to community in a fellowship of the weak.” (p 75)
Can you share about one or more “communities” in your life where you experience the peace we described by Henri?

We have a wonderful week of rich sharing ahead of us.

Posted in Summer 2015 Finding My Way Home | 42 Comments

July 5th to July 11th: The Path of Power

Reading:  The Path of Power (p 21-49).
For the complete reading schedule and instructions on how to submit and reply to comments, click on the Reading Schedule link in the bar immediately below the photo.

Thanks to each of you for joining the vibrant group of seekers forming this spirit-filled community. We had a wonderful first week of warm introductions and sharing.  It is a great joy to reconnect with previous participants and to welcome many others joining us for the first time.  Thanks to each of you for your contributions—whether you actively post comments or follow our discussion silently. We are all blessed simply by your presence.

Henri’s essay The Path of Power is thought provoking and, perhaps, transformational. Please feel free to share whatever came up for you through your reflection on the readings.  You may also choose to respond to some of the questions below:

1.  In describing power that oppresses and destroys Henri writes, “God knows the agony and anguish we have brought upon ourselves by wanting to take our destiny in our own hands and lord it over others.” (p 25) Taking it a step further he says, “The most insidious, divisive, and wounding power is used in the service of God.” (p 28)
a) Cite one or more events in in history, in our world today, or in your own life where someone has used power to “lord it over others”? What did you learn from the event that can guide us on our spiritual journey home?
b) What is your reaction to Henri’s criticism of “the devastating influence of power in the hands of God’s people”?

2.  Henri writes that our loving God confronted the evil in the world and showed us his divine mercy through powerlessness. “In Jesus of Nazareth, the powerless God appeared among us to unmask the illusion of power, to disarm the prince of darkness who rules the world, and to bring the divided human race to a new unity.” (p 31)
a) How does Jesus bring us to rest in the intimacy of God? Can you share your experience of God’s intimacy?
b) How does Jesus’ life of beatitude bring “the divided human race to a new unity”? What does this mean in your life today?

3.  In describing the power of God’s love, Henri writes, “A theology of weakness challenges us to look at weakness… as a total and unconditional dependence on God that opens us to be true channels of the divine power that heals the wounds of humanity and renews the face of the earth.” (p 40)
a) How do you respond to Henri’s challenge to look at weakness as dependence on God that renews the face of the earth?
b) How do  you live as a witness to a powerless God and help to build the kingdom of love and peace?

I’m looking forward hearing from many of you and to a rich and rewarding discussion. New joiners are always welcome, and, of course, feel free to share whatever comes up for you in the readings or to follow along silently.

Peace and all good.

Ray

Posted in Summer 2015 Finding My Way Home | 92 Comments

June 28th to July 4th: Welcome and Introductions

Reading:  Foreword by Wendy Wilson Greer and Preface by Sue Mosteller
(Note: The complete Reading Schedule is available by following the link in the navigation bar located directly below the photo at the top of the page.)

A very warm welcome to each of you–friends who have journeyed with us before and those joining us for the first time.  You will find here, in the weeks ahead, a wonderful group of seekers who encourage each other in their desire after the heart of God.  This summer we will be reading and discussing Finding My Way Home: Pathways to Life and the Spirit, a collection of four short Henri Nouwen essays  that complement each other wonderfully.  I’m glad that you will be joining us as we follow Henri’s lead on this spiritual journey.

Those of you that have participated before already know how rich and rewarding the exchange of ideas within our online community can be. If you are a newcomer, rest assured that your appreciation of this book will be deepened by the comments and insights shared among this welcoming group.   As the facilitator my role is to prepare a space and scatter a few seeds that, when joined with the seeds sown by each of you and nurtured by the group, will grow into a rich and fruitful exchange among a special and caring community.

Here is how we will proceed.  Each Sunday a new “post” will be added to the blog’s homepage that will include a title shown in bold, a reminder of the reading being discussed that week, and a brief reflection with several questions that may help to get our discussion started.  You can then add your comments to the post for the current week and reply to the comments posted by others.   What you share in your comments is totally up to you.  You may choose to respond to one or more of the questions, to share your reflections on the reading, or to comment more broadly from your life’s experience.  And if you would be more comfortable participating by reading along  and reflecting on the comments of others without posting yourself, that is fine as well.  Always click on the ‘comments’ link immediately below the current post (i.e., the first one you come to at the top) to leave your comment.  In this case, it is immediately below Ray’s brief bio.  Note:  To leave a “new comment” (i.e., not a reply to an existing comment by someone), scroll to the bottom of all existing comments to the “comment box” and enter your new comment there. 

Please note that when comments are submitted they are held for moderation so it may be a few hours before you see your comment posted.   If you have any questions about how to use the blog, please feel free ask.  You may contact me at ray.glennon@1972.usna.com or Maureen at admin@henrinouwen.org.

With that background out of the way, let’s get started!    You are invited to introduce yourself and to reflect on the Foreword and Preface.  In your introduction you may choose to share:

  1. Your general geographic location
  2.  To whom or what you dedicate your days and energy, and why
  3. Whether you’ve participated in previous book discussions, or if you are joining us for the first time.  For the first-timers, how did you learn about this book discussion?
  4. In the Foreword Wendy Wilson Greer writes, “Our journey, then, is a journey to discover the perfect love that only God can give us.”  What might “finding my way home” mean to you in the current stage of your life and spiritual journey.

I look forward to hearing from each of you as we share this wonderful book together.

Peace and all good,

Ray

RAY GLENNON: Ray is a lifelong Catholic who lives in Columbia, Maryland and is active as a lector and in his parish Confirmation and adult faith formation programs. He and his wife are also members of a Catholic charismatic community. 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. Ray has participated in these book discussions since 2010.  You may contact him at ray.glennon@1972.usna.com and you can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/@RayGlennon.

Posted in Summer 2015 Finding My Way Home | 116 Comments

We Begin a New Book Discussion June 28th!

Bookcover_FMWH_422X597Please join Ray Glennon and the Henri Nouwen Society as we embark on an exploration of Henri Nouwen’s Finding My Way Home: Pathways to Life and the Spirit. We will begin June 28th and conclude the week of August 2nd.

How does our book discussion work?
On Sunday June 28, our facilitator, Ray Glennon will introduce himself on the blog and invite you to do the same. Ray will post reflection questions on the blog each Sunday through to August 2nd in keeping with a reading schedule we have posted on this blog (see top menu for link to reading schedule). There is no need to register or sign-in.

Read, reflect, share your thoughts – participate at your own pace and in whatever way is most meaningful for you.

Need a copy of Finding My Way Home?
Click here to purchase in US$
Click here to purchase in CDN$
Click here to purchase in the UK from Darton, Longman & Todd

Finding My Way Home is a collection of four short essays, three previously published by Crossroad Publishing and here revised, that looks at different aspects of our spiritual life: The Path of Power, The Path of Peace, The Path of Waiting, and The Path of Living and Dying.

Henri with friend and founder of the Henri Nouwen Society, Wendy Wilson Greer.

In the book’s Foreword, Wendy Wilson Greer writes: “In Finding My Way Home, Henri Nouwen writes about ‘journey’ in [this] way:

Our spiritual journey calls us to seek and find this living God of Love in prayer, worship, spiritual reading, spiritual mentoring, compassionate service to the poor, and good friends. Let us claim the truth that we are loved and open our hearts to receive God’s overflowing love poured out for us.

We look forward to a fruitful discussion with friends new and old! Questions? Contact Maureen at admin@henrinouwen.org

Posted in Summer 2015 Finding My Way Home | 28 Comments

March 29 to April 4th: Epilogue and Conclusions

Reading:  Epilogue Living the Painting

1) In the epilogue Henri reflects back on his encounter with Rembrandt’s painting.  We similarly have the opportunity to reflect back on our encounter with this book – A Story of Homecoming.
a)  How this “encounter” has impacted you and influenced you on your journey?

2) Henri takes this opportunity to further explore and clarify his call to become the Father.  He writes, “True fatherhood is sharing the poverty of God’s non-demanding love.” (p 138)  And he concludes this way, “As I look at my own aging hands, I know they have been given to me to stretch out toward all who suffer, to rest upon the shoulders of all who come, and to offer the blessings that emerge from the immensity of God’s love.” (p 139)
a) Has this Lenten journey changed your understanding of “fatherhood” or “motherhood”?
b) What can you do to stretch out your hands to your family and friends?  Your church and community?  Those you encounter on your journey?

3) Henri also encourages us to consider ways we are called to move forward on our journey.  Of his own experience he says “It is comfortable to be the wayward younger son or the angry elder son.  Our community is full of wayward and angry children, and being surrounded by peers gives a sense of solidarity.  Yet the longer I am part of the community, the more that solidarity proves to be only a way station on the road…” (p129).
a) You are invited to consider ways you may be lingering in a place of waywardness, anger, suffering, because it provides a sense of solidarity with others around you.
b) Where is God leading you to now?

We want to express our deep gratitude to all who have journeyed together this Lent.  It has been an incredibly rich time, and we look forward to hearing your concluding reflections this week.

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 58 Comments

March 22nd to 28th: Becoming the Father

Reading:  Conclusion: Becoming the Father

We’ve been on quite a journey together over the last few weeks!  We’ve looked at the younger son in us, the ways we leave home, and the truth of our sonship/daughtership which draws us home again in true repentance.  We’ve explore the elder son in us, the call to liberation from resentments, and the invitation to the disciplines of trust and gratitude.  We’ve meditated on the depth of the Father’s love for us, and the unconditional love that invites us to joy in Him.  In this final stage of the journey Henri invites us to consider the call to become like the Father, which is perhaps the most challenging of all.

1) Henri writes, “…I came to realize that my spiritual journey would never be complete as long as the Father remained an outsider…”  (p 121)
a) Do you see the Father as an “outsider” on your spiritual journey?

2) “Perhaps the most radical statement Jesus ever made is: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.’ … becoming the compassionate Father is the ultimate goal of the spiritual life…”  (p 115)
a) Have you ever considered this before?  What is your immediate reaction?
b) How can you become the compassionate Father for those in your life?
c) Has this Lenten discussion offered any new insights that may assist you?
d) How does the life of Jesus lead you to move toward becoming the compassionate Father?

3) Henri helps us to understand that becoming like the Father includes releasing all the ways we look for approval from others, and is instead to “dare to stretch out my own hands in blessing and to receive with ultimate compassion my children, regardless of how they feel or think about me” (p117).
a) How do you understand this challenge in your own life?
b) How would it change the way you interact with those around you?

4) Henri draws a distinction between the authority of power and the authority of compassion (see p120).
a) Have you ever known someone who lived with the authority of compassion?
b) What was it like to be around that person?  What did authority of compassion look like?

5) Finally, Henri offers us “three ways to a truly compassionate fatherhood:  grief, forgiveness and generosity” p120.  “Grief, forgiveness, and generosity are, then, the three ways by which the image of the Father can grow in me.  They are three aspects of the Father’s call to be home” (p123).
a) Why do you think grief, forgiveness and generosity are the ways to a truly compassionate fatherhood?
b) Towards the end of the chapter Henri reminds us that this transformation is the work of God as much as any other spiritual transformation we go through, so how might we open ourselves to His work in these areas?

We very much look forward to hearing from each of you this week.  Your honest reflections are an encouragement to both of us, and to all who are journeying with us this Lent.

Sincerely,

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 52 Comments

March 15th to 21st: The Father

Reading:
Rembrandt and the Father (p87)
The Father Welcomes Home (p93)
The Father Calls for a Celebration (p103)

We’ve been on a remarkable journey so far, with deep and rich times of reflection,  sharing and encouragement.  We’ve considered the younger son, we’ve reflected on the elder son, and now we turn our attention to the father.

1) Henri writes “As Rembrandt’s own life moves toward the shadows of old age, as his success wanes, and the exterior splendor of his life diminishes, he comes more in touch with the immense beauty of the interior life” p 89
a) In your own life journey have you experienced the shift from looking to outward success/ beauty to seeing and celebrating the beauty of the interior?
b) What facilitated this shift in you?

2) Henri invites us to expand our understanding of God’s love, and consider our response to His love.  “The elder son’s dilemma is to accept or reject that his father’s love is beyond comparisons; to dare to be loved as his father longs to love him or to insist on being loved as he feels he ought to be loved…Will the elder son be willing to kneel and be touched by the same hands that touch his younger brother?  Will he be willing to be forgiven and to experience the healing presence of the father who loves him beyond compare?”  (p97).
a) Do you still insist on being loved as you feel you “deserve”?
b) Are you ready to dare to be loved as your Father longs to love you?  To experience the healing presence of the Father who loves you beyond compare?
c) How might this non-comparing love lead you to an experience of deep gratitude? (see p99).

3) In the chapter “The Father Calls for a Celebration” we are reminded of the deep joy that God wants to give us as we live each day. “Wouldn’t it be good to increase God’s joy by letting God find me and carry me home and celebrate my return with the angels?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to make God smile by giving God the chance to find me and love me lavishly?… Can I accept that I am worth looking for?  Do I believe that there is a real desire in God to simply be with me?” p101
a) What emotions, fears, thoughts come up for you as you consider the possibility of living with joy?

 4) Finally, Henri gives us a hint as to how we can welcome joy into our lives, by giving us an example of how his friend lived it.  “I have a friend who is so deeply connected with God that he can see joy where I expect only sadness…. He tells about the small wonders of God.  At times I realize I am disappointed because I want to hear “newspaper news,” exciting and exhilarating stories that can be talked about among friends.  But he never responds to my need for sensationalism.  He keeps saying: ‘I saw something very small and very beautiful, something that gave me much joy'” (p107).
a) What do you learn from this example about how to open your heart to God’s joy?
b) How might you practically begin to live this?

You all have truly astounded us with your thoughtful and honest sharing, and we look forward to hearing from you again this week.  As always, there is so much to be explored in this text, feel free to share what came up for you.

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 34 Comments

March 8th to 14th: The Elder Son

Readings:
Rembrandt and the Elder Son
The Elder Son Leaves
The Elder Son’s Return

Welcome! Before us is another week of rich exploration through which Henri takes us to a new understanding of ourselves as the Elder son, and leads us once again to lay our hearts before God.

1) Henri writes that both the younger son and the elder son needed healing and forgiveness and to return home to the father’s love.  “…it is clear that the hardest conversion to go through is the conversion of the one who stayed home.” (p 66)
a) Have you ever been lost while at still home?
b) Now that we have read about both the Younger and the Elder son, do you agree with Henri that the the hardest conversion to go through is the conversion of the one who stayed home? Have you experienced this in your life?

2) “Complaining is self-perpetuating and counterproductive… Once the self-rejecting complaint has formed in us, we lose our spontaneity to the extent that even joy can no longer evoke joy in us… joy and resentment cannot coexist…” (p 68)
a) Henri links our complaining with the self-rejection.  Have you experienced this?
b) How did you turn from self-rejecting resentment and complaining to acceptance of the Father’s love and the resulting joy?

3) Henri points us to the great hope of liberation from such resentments.  He gives us the very important reminder that “I can only be healed from above” and that “Jesus is God’s way of making the impossible possible – of allowing light to conquer darkness” (p71, p82).  He encourages us that we can prepare ourselves to be found and brought home through the disciplines of trust and gratitude.
a) In order to practice trust, how can you regularly remind yourself of the truth of God’s love for you.  How can you claim it? (We also talked about this last week).
b) How do you understand the discipline of gratitude?  Have you found a way to choose gratitude every day?
c) Henri reminds us of the Estonian proverb that says “Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.”  You are invited to choose something in your life, and share your sense of gratitude today.

4) Henri touches on his relationship with his father.  He recognizes he was looking to his earthly father for a kind of love that could not be found through an earthly relationship.
a) Do you have such a relationship in your life?  How might you take a step towards releasing that expectation, and instead opening yourself to a true dependence on the divine Father who says “You are always with me, and all I have is yours” (p78).
b) How might this free you to give and receive love?

As always, there is so much to be explore in this text.  We very much look forward to hearing from you about whatever comes up for you as you read and reflect.

In gratitude,

Ray and Brynn

Posted in Lent 2015 Return of the Prodigal Son | 54 Comments