Tag Archives: Henri Nouwen

Prayer, Hoping for a New World…

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, November 12, 2018

Rev 21-5 all things new

Prayer, Hoping for a New World…

Resentment. Oh, how pervasive it is!

Resentment, frustration, cynicism. And finally, resignation. What’s the use? What good will mere praying do? The structures of this fallen, imperfect world certainly seem to be set in stone. I’ll never be able to budge those structures, or practices, or attitudes, or groups. “Oh, well,” I say to myself, with a melancholy, half-cynical grin.

“And yet, you are Christian only so long as you look forward to a new world, only so long as you constantly pose critical questions to the society in which you live, and only so long as you emphasize the need for conversion both for yourself and for the world.” [1] How much faith does Father Nouwen have! How much resilience and wherewithal did he harbor, deep within.

Sometimes, I do not see how I can continue to have this sort of hope, the hope in a new world that Father Nouwen so clearly had.

I saw several questions taken from Henri Nouwen’s writing, quoted today on social media. These questions arrested me, and started me thinking. (Are these the types of questions Nouwen mentions here in his book With Open Hands?) The questions run as follows:

“Did I offer peace today?
Did I bring a smile to someone’s face?
Did I say words of healing?
Did I let go of my anger and resentment?
Did I forgive?
Did I love? These are the real questions.”

Instead of feeling beaten down and defeated by the societal structures, common practices, and overarching attitudes of this world, I can concentrate on these personal questions. I might be able to use them in personal interaction. One on one, person to person. That is the only way I can try to affect change, anyway. One kind act at a time, one gentle word at a time. So help me, God.

Dear Lord, forgive me for my resentment, frustration and cynicism. I think. I hope. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 103.

Prayer and Frustration…

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, November 12, 2018

hugs, hearts

Prayer and Frustration…

If I truly believe in prayer, and in a God who answers prayer, that whole premise can be frustrating. I realize that many people have a “vending-machine” idea of a God who grants wishes. For some, like a huge cosmic Genie, except we are not limited to one three wishes.

Why do I believe in prayer, anyway? It doesn’t work. People still get sick, and have horrible diseases, and devastating accidents. Just look at a pediatric ICU ward. (Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers for those suffering, in and out of hospitals and care centers.) Or, stroke unit, or burn unit, or homeless shelter. Or an inner-city police station. Or refugee camp. Or disaster relief center. The list goes on and on.

As Father Nouwen says, “We realize that our world need to change and that no change will ever happen without action, but we often feel lost when it comes to the question of ‘how?’” [1] Actually, two pertinent questions come to mind: “How?” and “How long, O Lord?”

Such desperate frustration does get people up in arms, or confuses them, or causes them to protest, or—in defiance or a wish for oblivion—do nothing, or flee to the bottle or to drugs. Yes, so many are forced to live out their lives in poverty, or pain, or homelessness, or in some other deeply hurting place of body, mind and spirit.

Dear Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. In frustration and agony and surrender, these words come to mind. These words let God know that I realize my dependence on God’s love and mercy and forgiveness. Yes, life is often frustrating! And, yes! God has promised to be with me, every step of the way.

Sure, as Nouwen said, there are ideals of freedom and justice, yet they “are trampled underfoot in everyday practice.” [2] Gracious God, I seek peace, calm, and Your presence. Show me Your love, mercy and forgiveness. Help me to have renewed faith in You, who wants a relationship with me above all else. Even above giving me a soft, easy life, even above any personal frustration I feel on a regular basis. Lord, Your highest goal is to have a relationship with me That’s it. Help me—help us to focus on that aspiration, on that goal. To be loved and known by You, not to get stuff, or money, or power, or prestige. Help me to focus on the things that You want me to. So help me, God.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 100.

[2] Ibid, 101.

Prayer, Critically Speaking

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, November 3, 2018

candle, prayer, hands

Prayer, Critically Speaking

I realize I have been praying—on and off, and it seems more off than on—for a number of years. A long time. I have been engaged in a continuing conversation with God since my teens. But when Father Nouwen made one particular statement in his slim little book on prayer, I felt as if I could not measure up. No way, no how. He said, “As your life becomes more and more a prayer, you not only come to a deeper insight into yourself and your neighbor, but you also develop a better feeling for the pulse of the world you live in.” [1]

I am sorry. I cannot see any way I can measure up to such a person of prayer as Father Nouwen describes. What can I possibly do to atone for my shortcomings in prayer? I keep telling God I will spend time in God’s presence, but I just don’t get there. It doesn’t happen. I keep missing my appointment times.

Yes, this is a continuing conversation I’ve had with God for decades. I keep apologizing, and then apologizing for the apologies. The Lord must be so sick and tired of my foolish speech and thoughts. (Even now, I feel so apologetic, and I am really sincere about it.)

At least God knows I feel the need for communication, and I also feel the lack of it. I badly feel the absence of God at my side, the desire to know the closeness and intimacy of God’s presence. Yet, I keep forgetting to pray. (But, then, I’ve been forgetting to call my doctor all week to get the results from a routine test. I know those results will be there, but I keep on forgetting…)

Dear Lord, gracious God, I thank You for Your forgiveness and grace. I throw myself—again—on Your abundant mercy. I know You must be getting sick and tired of me and my excuses, my forgetfulness. Forgive me, Lord. Thank You for Your love. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

 

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 99.

Compassion, Born of Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, October 21, 2018

compassion, cursive

Compassion, Born of Prayer

“If your compassion is born of prayer, it is born of your meeting with God who is also the God of all people.” [1] Wow. Father Nouwen certainly has a way of hitting his points home. And I mean, hitting me right between the eyes.

As the election and campaign rhetoric here in the United States heats up more and more, I notice the opposing parties becoming more and more nasty. I have even seen some candidates use inflammatory language toward others who have different skin color, or countries of origin, or the opposite side of the train tracks. Would Fr. Nouwen’s definitive statement (quoted above) inflame matters even further?

As I read this page, Henri Nouwen clearly states that when his readers “fully realize that the God who loves you unconditionally loves all your fellow human beings with the same love,” [2] then and only then does a new way of living open to any of us who have this realization.

Alas, as sinful, fallen humans, we can be terribly nasty to one another, and even get violent. The precise reasons why do not matter. It is the inner garden of love—that of intimate prayer—that Fr. Nouwen talks about. Hiding and skulking does not do any good. Unless you and I take the opportunity to acquaint ourselves with meeting God intimately in prayer, we could quite possibly miss this marvelous chance. We could completely miss this intimate relationship that God offers freely, to anyone who opens themselves to God.

This intimate conversation with a loving God, therefore, “means a simultaneous conversion to the other persons who live with you on this earth.” [3] Fr. Nouwen reels off a varied list, among whom are the worker, the prisoner, the farmer, the sick, the oppressor, the oppressed, the patient and the healer—in short, just about any person you might think of. In other words, ALL people. Every person. God is a God for ALL people.

I pray for all people who are divided, in terms of politics, at this election time of the year. I pray that people may rise above the division and the inflamed rhetoric, and seek the face of God. I pray that we might fully realize that God is, indeed, a God for ALL people. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 94.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 95.

Praying, Sharing Humanity

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, October 13, 2018

compassion, word cloud

Praying, Sharing Humanity

Compassion. That’s what today’s section of Henri Nouwen’s book With Open Hands is all about. Amazing insight with such brevity. Father Nouwen says such sensible things, I cannot believe they never crossed my mind before. Like, “Compassion grown with the inner recognition that your neighbor shares your humanity with you.” [1]

I cannot help but compare Father Nouwen’s words here with the basic outlook and principles behind Fred Rogers’ treatment and attitude towards everyone he dealt with. It did not matter what sort of person Mister Rogers met—age, height, ability, ethnicity, status (or lack of status), or any other kind of difference or separation. Those differences did not matter to Fred Rogers. I do not think those differences or separations mattered to Father Nouwen, either.

Fr. Nouwen clearly states “Across all barriers of land and language, wealth and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, we are one, created from the same dust, subject to the same laws, and destined for the same end.” [2] I don’t know how Fr. Nouwen was able to do that, but there was an equitable, caring, open attitude he had towards everyone he encountered, just as there was with Mister Rogers. That kind, caring attitude and openness are what I strive for, God willing.

Yet, compassion—according to Fr. Nouwen—is not only a positive, warm, fuzzy kind of expression and emotion. Compassion “also means sharing in joy, which can be just as important as sharing in pain.” [3]

Yes, we are human; yes, we all have the experience of pain. Some people experience pain more often than others. Yes, I have sat with individuals who go through painful episodes in their lives regularly. I know some have inner anguish, others have physical pain. Those painful emotions and situations did not make Fr. Nouwen care for those people less. Those negative experiences caused Mister Rogers to care even more for children and adults alike.

Dear God, when I grow up, I want to be like Fred Rogers. I want to have the attitude of Henri Nouwen. Help me—help us to offer others real support and comfort from our hearts. For real, not with false faces or fake feelings. Thank You for giving us such excellent examples as Henri Nouwen and Fred Rogers.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 92.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 93.

Professing in Prayer, Together

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, October 8, 2018

LordHearOurPrayer

Professing in Prayer, Together

Yesterday was World Communion Sunday, the first Sunday in October. I love World Communion Sunday. I love bringing elements from all over the world into our Sunday service, and reminding our congregation that people in different places do things in different ways.

Whenever a congregation joins together n worship and prayer, they are a bunch of separate individuals coming together. Even if they have worshiped together for a good amount of time, sometimes certain members of that congregation do not worship well or pray well with others. This reminds me of what Father Nouwen said in today’s short reading. “For in prayer, you profess not only that people are people and God is God, but also that your neighbor is your sister or brother living alongside you.” [1]

How difficult it is to overcome the separation and loneliness of being separate individuals! Of course, idiosyncrasies and differences between people challenge many of us in the neighborly art of getting along. Except, Fr. Nouwen suggests that prayer is the common ground, the place where all can meet.

We all can acknowledge that people are people, and God is God. Then, the following statement that our neighbor—we all know our neighbors, right?—I’ll say it again, our neighbor does live alongside of each of us. Our neighbor is, indeed, our sister and our brother; regardless of what kind of food they eat, where they go to worship, who comes over to their house or apartment, or how old/young/tall/short they are.

What a marvelous example for anyone who reads this short little book. It is filled to the brim with gems like this. We are, indeed, brought to the “painful acknowledgement that [we] are not alone, but that being human means being together.” [2]

Dear Lord, help me realize that I am brothers and sisters with everyone. Help us not only pray like we are one big family, but worship like it, and especially live like it. Help us to live in one big neighborhood (just like Mister Rogers would dream of). This is my earnest prayer. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 91.

[2] Ibid.

Prayer While Hiding

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, September 30, 2018

storm, waves drawing

Prayer While Hiding

I was struck by Father Nouwen’s descriptive words in this reading tonight. “When God asked Adam, ‘Where are you?’ Adam answered, ‘I was hiding.’ He confessed his true condition.”

Wow. Double wow. That is so true of me, too. I hide so much. I hide from other people, from obligations, from opportunities, from myself. Oh, yeah…I often hide from God, too. Why do I do that? What is my motivation? (Other than the obvious.)

One big motivation happens to anyone who is leading an organization. A large building under construction needs to be using an advance team, according to the daily news blurb. But, what about this particular large building? Are the workers at this particular building staying current with all official procedure?

We could look at Adam in the recently-completed Garden of Eden and compare him to the staff in the building in Evanston. Both had official things they had to do. Both had complaints made against them. What kind of complaints? Complaints of not following through, problems of shirking the assigned tasks.

Did both sets of employees know what they were doing? (Or, NOT doing, in either case.) Yes. Both were aware of NOT doing what they were assigned to do. In Adam’s case, he got all flustered, and afraid. Adam hid himself.

The Lord knows very well what happened. The Lord knows where Adam hid, and goes straight there. The Lord was gracious and merciful to Adam, and will always be gracious and merciful to any of God’s children who struggle with keeping to the straight and narrow.

What does Father Nouwen say? “Certainly praying takes some admissions. It requires the humble recognition of our condition as broken human beings.” [1]  When we realize that God loves us anyway, even though we mess up, even though we are broken and are in need to repair, God loves us anyway.

“If we cling tightly to our own weaknesses, faults, shortcomings, and our twisted past, to all of the events, facts, and situations which we would prefer to cut out of our own history, we are only hiding behind a hedge through which everyone can see.” [2]

Dear Lord, in Your mercy, forgive me. Forgive my sin. Forgive me when I run away and hide, just like Adam. Thank You for loving me anyway. In Your name we pray, amen.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 88.

[2] Ibid, 89.