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

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.


Ray and Brynn

March 15th to 21st: The Father

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