Tag Archives: Henri Nouwen

Prayer—No Easy Matter

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, April 20, 2018

honest definition

Prayer—No Easy Matter

When I read this first reflection on prayer by Henri Nouwen, his words penetrated me deeply. (Again, I might add. I have a feeling this will happen to me again and again as I read through this short book.) I am unashamedly a fangirl of Fr. Nouwen. His profound writing and superb choice of words consistently hits home. Now, if I could just get his words to remain in my brain and imprinted on my heart…

He speaks of a deep relationship, a no-holds-barred relationship between me and the other. (Or, should I say the Other? I have always honored God with capitalization, as much as possible.) In any case, Fr. Nouwen talks of a deep resistance, as well. Giving the illustration of a woman admitted to a psychiatric center [1] who absolutely refuses to open her fist until it is pried open to reveal a coin…makes me think hard. How much am I trying to hide from God?

As Fr. Nouwen says, “When we are invited to pray we are asked to open our tightly clenched fists and to give up our last coin. But who wants to do that?” [2] This can be such a painful process. Even though some may cry out of that deep place of pain and anguish, the whole process can be painful. Just deciding to begin to pray can be filled with anguish. “You feel it is safer to cling to a sorry past than to trust in a new future. So you fill your hands with small clammy coins which you don’t want to surrender.” [3]

Dear Lord, how difficult it is to be totally honest. Even though You know everything already, just like a wise, benevolent earthly parent, I feel awkward, and shy, and ashamed, and resentful. Disappointed, jealous, sad, and angry, too. Why is it that deep emotions get in the way of my relationship with You so readily? Clutching these yucky emotions to my chest as if they were treasures is not in my best interests. Lead me to understand this deep truth that Fr. Nouwen brings to my attention.

Let us pray. Gracious God, loving Heavenly Parent, You are patient and merciful. You are also all-knowing, so I cannot hide from You—as much as I want to. As the psalmist reminds me, even if I flee to the depths of the sea or the highest mountain, You are still there. You are still with me, no matter what happens. Help me to be honest with You. You love me. Help me emblazon those words on my heart. In Jesus’s precious 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, 1972), 3.

[2] Ibid, 4.

[3] Ibid.

Bring Prayer into My Life

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, April 14, 2018

hands folded in prayer

Bring Prayer into My Life

Going back to the original reason for this blog, I want to pray on a more regular basis. Yes, I realize this is a never-ending odyssey for me, in my spiritual life. Yes, God and I have had many conversations about this lack or deficit, for decades. And, I am going to try again. (Somehow, that quote from Yoda in the original Star Wars movie, “A New Hope,” comes to mind. “No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” )

Dear Lord, taking a snippet from popular culture—and from Yoda (whom I love), I want to do. Not try, but do.

Over the next little while, I am going to read one of Henri Nouwen’s marvelous books called With Open Hands. In this slim volume, he examines his own personal experience with prayer. And as he says, “…could it be that what is most personal for me, what rings true to the depths of my being, also has meaning for others?” [1]

This book is distilled down from a number of conversations with twenty-five theology students. Father Nouwen and the students variously prayed, conversed, and contributed. As Fr. Nouwen says, this book “took form during many hours of intimate conversation, which could possibly be called hours of praying.” [2]

I already know Nouwen’s work. I have read (at various times) five other books he wrote. I am very much looking forward to this one. I know how faithful Nouwen was to his spiritual disciplines, and I pray I can be half as faithful.

Dear Lord, as I embark with Father Nouwen on this journey of prayer, I want to pray regularly. I want to get closer to You. Help me remain consistent. Knowing that Jesus is right by my side every day, I pray all of these things. 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, 1972), vii.

[2] Ibid, viii.

Excuse Me, Fr. Nouwen. I Am Praying For Myself.

A special #BestOf #matterofprayer for February 28, 2016.

I am reposting this blog post from the third Sunday in Lent, last year. It touched a chord as I read it. I hope it touches hearts, now.

Third Sunday in Lent – Excuse Me, Fr. Nouwen. I Am Praying For Myself.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, March 8, 2015

pray pray pray

Third Sunday in Lent – Excuse Me, Fr. Nouwen. I Am Praying For Myself.

I love Fr. Nouwen’s writings. Really, I do. I read something from Fr. Nouwen’s book A Cry of the Heart in the devotional book I have. Yet, my thoughts kept going back to one of the scripture readings for today.

Yes, Fr. Nouwen wanted to alert his readers to prayer. Being led to pray to God, and even taught to pray by God. Yes, dear God. Teach me to pray.

A very good brief reading, but my mind kept wandering away. Wandering toward Psalm 42.

I connected with verses 3 and 4a. “My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’  These things I remember as I pour out my soul.”

Suddenly, vividly, as I read these verses I remembered several times in my life when I was so very sad. So disappointed. Submerged in anguish. Including, one fairly recent time when I was in the ocean depths of despair. Lord, where were You? It’s so dark. I felt all alone. Almost . . . worse than all alone. Such despair and hopelessness.

I knew, intellectually, that You were with me. True, I could not feel it. Not for some time. I still am not sure quite how, but I got through that horrid time of depression and dire despair.

A key feature to continuing through the Slough of Despond? One day at a time. One hour at a time. Even, ten minutes at a time. If I can just make it through the next little while, then I’ll be okay. I hope I can. I think I can. I pray I can.

I guess Fr. Nouwen was right after all. Teach me to pray, dear Lord. Reach out to me. Teach me to pray.

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

 

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

Joy! Jesus is our Joy!

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, December 25, 2015

joy to the world blackboard

Joy! Jesus is our Joy!

As much as I love Henri Nouwen’s writing, he is by no means the only Christian writer I fangirl.

I need to make a confession. When I was considering the Advent season and the month of December (last month), I chose two writers of stature, whose writings I greatly respect. I ordered two books of Advent meditations featuring their writings. And, I said to myself, whichever book arrives first will be the one I use. Henri Nouwen’s book arrived first. So, that was settled.

However—Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book of meditations and reflections is also rich. Deeply moving and meaningful. Even though I couldn’t manage the whole season of Advent, at least I could finish up December with Bonhoeffer. See whether I can finish this year of prayer well. Bonhoeffer is certainly a heavy hitter, as far as prayer, meditation and devotion are concerned.

Joy to the world! That’s what I am called to consider. Joy to the world!

Bonhoeffer walks us through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ. Vignettes, in a brief glimpse form. Different ways in which Jesus revealed Himself to different segments of humanity. Until, at last, Jesus was resurrected for all of us, that Easter morning.

This hymn, “Joy to the World,” is full of theological detail from a broad scope, The vast sweep of eternity. Yet, I am drawn to consider the birth of Jesus. That specific moment in time, over two thousand years ago. Bonhoeffer makes reference to 1 Peter 1, especially “even though you do not see [Jesus] now, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.”

Yes. Jesus is my joy. I find joy in the entrance of the eternal God into this world. I find joy in God the eternal Son loving the world so much that He chose to empty Himself and become human. I find joy in God desiring a relationship with me. With me!

Thank You, God. I know I don’t deserve any of it. But, I try to be grateful. Thank You, God.

@chaplaineliza

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

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Immanuel. God with Me, and with You

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, December 24, 2015

IMMANUEL God with us stars

Immanuel. God with Me, and with You

Christmas Eve service can be special, moving. This year was no different. I had the joy of programming the evening service. Setting the scripture readings, and the special music, as well as the hymns.

Because this service was concentrating on Luke 2, this service concentrated on the Baby born in Bethlehem. All the music was set specifically for the Baby Jesus, too.

The Advent meditation for Christmas Eve reminded me of this, too. The Baby Jesus came into the world. Henri Nouwen speaks in this entry, about the Baby coming into the world of humanity.

Immanuel. God with us. I am not alone, and neither are you. After the weeks of Advent, Christmas is finally here, too. God has broken into this fallen world. Amen. And, let us welcome Him into our hearts.

@chaplaineliza

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

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

What Does Make Christmas?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas stained glass Luke 2

What Does Make Christmas?

The holiday season is coming to a crescendo. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Tomorrow will be a wonderful service at my church, and lots of warm and fuzzy feelings. Christmas carols sung, special music at the service, candles lit, closing with “Silent Night.”

Yes, all of those things, and more, are wonderful. Special. One of a kind, even.

But, Henri Nouwen’s words in today’s Advent meditation bring me up short. “Somehow I realized that songs, music, good feelings, beautiful liturgies, nice presents, big dinners, and many sweet words do not make Christmas.” [1]

So, what does make Christmas?

I feel like Charlie Brown at the Christmas pageant rehearsal. “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” I know Linus responds, “Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” He then recounts the Nativity narrative from Luke 2. Except—it doesn’t penetrate into Charlie Brown’s head. Yet.

I realize—intellectually—that “Christmas is believing that the salvation of the world is God’s work and not mine….it is into this broken world that a child is born who is called Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, Savior.” [2] Feelings do not come into the equation. It is, in fact, something far beyond all feeling and emotion, as Fr. Nouwen says.

Yet, God wants all of me. All of us. Intellect, physicality, emotions, and feelings, and all. The salvation of the world is, indeed, God’s doing. God wants to save all parts of us. Not just emotions and feelings. Thank God. Thank You, God.

@chaplaineliza

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

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen (Linguori, Missouri: Redemptorist Pastoral Publications, 2004), 50.

[2] Ibid.

Not Alone on the Journey

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, December 22, 2015

winter road

Not Alone on the Journey

I participated in a Blue Christmas service last night. This service was especially for people who feel disconnected from the holiday, for any number of reasons. Yes, grieving, but also losses. Fear, anxiety, anger. Any one of a number of negative feelings.

There was a time of sharing in the service, and several people mentioned feeling lonely. Even desperately lonely, even though they were in the midst of a crowd of people.

Have you ever felt that way? (I know I have.) Even though you knew the people surrounding you, there was a disconnect. A separation. A desperate loneliness …

That’s what it’s like in this fallen world. Disconnected and separated from each other, fighting, bickering, misunderstanding, jealousy, anger, fear. (And that’s just considering one representative person and their extended family.) Imagine that experience multiplied countless times. Now you are starting to realize the magnitude of the sadness, of the difficulty the God of love had in reconciling the world.

Henri Nouwen mentioned the mystery of Christmas “that continues to give us comfort and consolation; we are not alone on our journey.” [1] That is one big reason why God became man, why God emptied Himself and became a tiny baby named Jesus.

How unimaginable—that the God who created heaven and earth, who holds the universe between the span of the fingers on one hand, could empty Godself of all God-ness. How amazing. How miraculous. Jesus came to journey with us through life, to walk and talk and sit by our sides. So we wouldn’t ever be lonely again.

It is almost Christmas. Almost here. Emmanuel, God with us. Come, Lord Jesus! Maranatha!

@chaplaineliza

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

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen (Linguori, Missouri: Redemptorist Pastoral Publications, 2004), 48.