We are continuing the Henri Nouwen book.
The votes are in and our summer book is Here and Now by Henri Nouwen. I have ordered a few copies from Amazon for $13.41 each. If you want one of the copies I ordered, let me know and I will bring it to you. The book was back -ordered so it has taken us a little longer to get them than I anticipated!
We are choosing a new book for Book Group. Here are the options we are considering. Please let me know which book you are voting for us to read. (Click on the blue title and it should take you to the amazon page for each book if you want to read more about the books before voting.) Also, I am glad to place one big Amazon order if it easier for you if I order the book. Make sure to let me know if you want me to include you in my order.
Here are the options:
Here and Now - Living in the Spirit by Henri Nouwen
A second book by Henri Nouwen about Spiritual Living. Not a faint memory, but happening right here and now, spiritual living takes place in the present; the Spirit meets us in the ordinary. These inspirational reflections by Henri Nouwen succeed in convincing us that God’s presence is reliable.
A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L’Engle
A journal with personal reflections about life and faith. This journal shares fruitful reflections on life and career prompted by the author's visit to her personal place of retreat near her country home.
Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament by Ellen Davis
Davis’ book is an invitation to dig deeper into the richness of the Old Testament Scriptures as our teacher for what it means to have an intimate life with God. She explores a combination of poetry (Psalms & Ecclesiastes) and narrative literature.
The Return of The Prodigal Son
The Younger Son
The Younger Son Leaves
Nouwen discussion of the younger son leaving is more heartbreaking than we might imagine it based on the way this parable is told in Sunday School. It is much darker than the cautionary tale thrown around in youth group to warn teenagers away from partying. The piece that I find lost in the the cultural translation of this parable is the son’s request is tantamount to wishing the death of his father. Nouwen’s request is that we allow ourselves to be drawn into the story of the son and to recognize our own figure being embraced by the Father.
Nouwen describes his search for love in faraway places as the greatest tragedy of his life. (39) In fact, he identifies this search for love and acceptance in the faraway land as his point of connection with the younger son. In his journey he identifies the voices of others as the most damaging pieces of his journey because those voices drowned out the voice of God in his life. But there were many other voices, voices that are loud, full of promises and very seductive. These voices say, “Go out and prove that you are worth something”...Those same voices are not unfamiliar to me. They are always there and, always, they reach into those inner places where I question my own goodness and doubt my self-worth. They suggest that I am not going to be loved without my having earned it through determined efforts and hard work. They want me to prove to myself and others that I am worth being loved, and they keep pushing me to do everything possible to gain acceptance. They deny loudly that love is a totally free gift. I leave home every time I lose faith in the voice that calls me the Beloved and follow the voices that offer a great variety of ways to win the love I so much desire. (40) Do you relate to Nouwen, is there a particular voice that sends you on a journey into the far country? Can you name that “voice” and what triggers it for you?
Nouwen makes overt comparisons to this parable with the story of Jesus. In The Father’s embrace of The Prodigal, Nouwen imagines The Prodigal to find an eternal peace resting against The Father while he bestows an everlasting blessing on his child: You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. Nouwen pulls the words straight from the story of the baptism of Jesus. How does it feel to hear Nouwen draw a direct comparison between you, The Prodigal, to Jesus as we are both named God’s Beloved? Do you accept the direct comparison Nouwen is making?
In contrast to Nouwen’s description of addiction is the acceptance of The Father whose arm are perpetually outstretched. Can you imagine that image? What does it mean to you? Does anything change for you and in you as you meditate on that image?
- What else is speaking to your heart and mind in this reading?
I’ve spent sometime reading through the introduction of The Return of the Prodigal Son this week. I will confess to you that I am not a student of art. I like art and there are works of art that have captured my imagination or reached out and grabbed hold of my spirit. These occasions are not reflective of the norm for me. They are occasional occurrences. I have never been as captivated by a work of art as Nouwen has been of Rembrandt’sThe Return of the Prodigal Son. His love of the painting has inspired me. I want to go visit the painting in person. Is anyone else is up for a Field Trip to St. Petersburg? I want to see the painting but I think they might be the one place on earth that has more snow than we do.
In my core, I long to be captivated in the way Nouwen describes. I long to have his type of deep, spiritual experience. Cognitively, I know that I cannot simply replicate his settings to achieve my own spiritual experience, I must go on my own journey. I must open my own heart and allow myself to be captivated in a way that is authentic to who I am and where I am in my own life.
Isn’t this one of Nouwen’s points early in the book? That when we mine other people and their life experiences for nugget encounters with the divine, we miss the full picture, we miss out on our own journey.
For many years, I tried to get a glimpse of God by looking carefully at the varieties of human experience: loneliness and love, sorrow and joy, resentment and gratitude, war and peace. I sought to understand the ups and downs of the human soul, to discern there a hunger and thirst that only a God whose name is Love could satisfy. I tried to discover the lasting beyond the passing, the eternal beyond the temporal, the perfect love beyond all paralyzing fears, and the divine consolation beyond the desolation of human anguish and agony. I tried constantly to point beyond the mortal quality of our existence to a presence larger, deeper, wider, and more beautiful than we can imagine, and speak about the presence as a presence that can already now be seen, heard and touched by those who are willing to believe….I have been led to an inner place where I had not been before. It is a place within me where God has chosen to dwell. It is the place where I am held safe in the embrace of an all-loving Father who calls me by name and says, “You are my beloved son, on you my favor rests.” It is the place where I can taste the joy and the peace that are not of this world. (Nouwen, 16)
I suppose that is my invitation: To open yourself up to your own spiritual experience where you are captivated by the God of the Wander, the Brother of the Beloved, and the Spirit of Journey.
Thoughts while Readings:
Nouwen mentions that when looking at the painting, he was struck by the fact that he had always played the role of observer. By the time he was writing these words, he had spent a great deal of his life as an active, devoted, faithful Christian; yet he comments that he’d spent most of his life as an observer. (p12) He came to the startling realization that he preferred the role because it was the “safer” role. Being the observer allowed him a greater sense of control. I wonder what it was like for him? What is it like to realize that your life of faith has been marked by being more of an observer than a participant?
Certainly there were many hours of prayer, many days and months of retreats, and countless conversations with spiritual directors, but I had never fully given up the role of bystander. Even though there has been in me a lifelong desire to be an insider looking out, I nevertheless kept choosing over and over again the position of the outsider looking in. Sometimes this looking-in was a curious looking-in, sometimes a jealous looking-in, sometimes an anxious looking-in, and, once in awhile, even a loving looking-in. But giving up the somewhat safe position of the critical observer seemed like a great leap into totally unknown territory. I so much wanted to keep some control over my spiritual journey, to remain able to predict at least a part of the outcome, that relinquishing the security of the observer for the vulnerability of the returning son seemed close to impossible. (Nouwen, 12-13)
Do you recognize yourself reflected in Nouwen’s story? Do you see yourself as a different character? What do you think it would be like to open yourself up to experiencing the Divine Embrace differently?
Jesus says, Anyone who loves me will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home in him. (John 14:23) Nouwen is taken with the idea that he is God’s home. It is an interesting concept to ponder, God dwells in us. What does that mean to you? What does it mean to you on days the days when you do not particularly like yourself?
What else is speaking to your heart and mind in this reading?
We are reading, Return of the Prodigal by Henri Nouwen.
Amy is planning to lead a Winter Book Study BEFORE church the second Sunday of every month from 9:00 – 9:45.
Our first book is The Return of The Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. The book is available on Amazon. (Click Here) You can purchase the book new on Amazon for a little less than $10.00 or used for as little as $1.12 plus shipping fees. If you want to be part of the study but purchasing a book is outside your budget, please contact us and we will figure out a way to get a copy of the book for you.
We will Read Part 1 for our first meeting: Chapters 1-3. (The 1st chapter is only a couple of pages).