henri nouwen

When I Preach

When I preach or speak, I hope for the inner-dialogue from those who listen to resonate with the words of Henri Nouwen in his book Creative Ministry.

"What you say loudly, I whispered in the dark; what you pronounce so clearly, I had some suspicion about; what you put in the foreground, I felt in the back of my mind; what you hold so firmly in your hand always slipped away through my fingers. Yes, I find myself in your words because you words come from the depth of human experiences, and therefore, are not just yours but also mine, and your insights do not just belong to you, but are mine as well." (35)

This will only happen if I am willing to be known as pastor and preacher, and only if I am willing to be fully available in relationship and connection. The pastor is still a fellow man, and the moment a pastor forgets that reality, they are not a pastor. They are a performer.

When desire runs dry

SONY DSCHenri Nouwen wrote, "Those who think they have arrived, have lost their way...An important part of the spiritual life is to keep longing, waiting, hoping, expecting."

Today my heart and mind are tired and weary from waiting. I am worn out from hoping and longing. Yet I must continue. These are my feelings, but my feelings do not determine my faith and confidence in God. While I am weary and tired, I have to maintain desire for more of Christ. I have to continue to desire for God's action and presence. If I cannot do this, I am utterly lost.

When my desire to pray is lacking, I have to pray for the desire to pray. If God gives desire to the human heart, and He gives if we ask according to His will, then I have to ask for more desire in the dry and weary places.

E.M. Bounds wrote, "Prayer is the oral expression of desire...the deeper the desire, the stronger the prayer. Without desire, prayer is meaningless mumble of words."

When that desire runs out, I have to pray and ask for more. I never fully arrive, and I certainly need more and more of Christ in my understanding, my looking, my speaking, my thinking.

Missing returns

The church today is full of younger prodigal sons who are broken and beat down after retreating away.  They retreated after they realized that God and the church itself do not always meet their expectations. The church today is full of older brothers who sit and watch the broken prodigals come crawling through our doors.  They watch with indignation and disgust; realizing that they have been obedient and honorable this whole time while the prodigals live a life of sin.

The church today fatally lacks Fathers who run to the broken with joyous tears and arms.  The absent father would be a refreshing open tenderness and mercy for those in the church today.  We greatly need but equally lack fathers and mothers who rejoice at the return of a prodigal and still proud of the older brother.

There are two problems!

ONE:  I myself am a prodigal and an older brother, but rarely a father.

TWO: The church is full of prodigals and older brothers but lacks Fathers.

Past encouragement for today: old journal entry

I had just lost my job, Tonya was in Zimbabwe, and a promised position was pulled from under me. So I left for a weekend to Bowman Lake up past the Yuba Gap. The only things I brought with me were a tent, a journal, a Bible, The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen, a bit of food, and a six pack of beer. I had no idea what was going on in my life. I found my last journal entry from that trip... Interesting how these things are perfect encouragement today as well.



I climbed up on the rock face behind my site to watch the sunset over the lake. Well, actually, the sun sets behind the mountain in front of my site, but I can still experience the sunset if I don’t see the sunset. I climbed up on top of the rock face and looked out over the lake at the mountains that spring up on the other side. I watched as the shadow cast from the mountains in front crept up the mountains behind my site. I just sat and watched for a while. It kind of reminded me of a canary being put to sleep. It was as if God were putting the mountains to sleep for the night.

You look at these mountains and they even LOOK old and tough. They look like they have put in a long day’s work. All day long I have watched these mountains in amazement. To amaze a guy in the 21st + century is a pretty daunting task. We need to be entertained by bigger and better things, and for years to this day, mountains have been bigger and better. Even now they are bigger and better than most things. They have succeeded in amazing me all day long, and that is no easy task. So they deserve the sleep and rest. So God put the mountains to sleep like a little canary.

You see the blanket draped over the cage, but you know there’s a bird in there. This is why after the shadow covers the mountains entirely, the moon will come up and cast its special light upon them to make them silhouettes. They just look like big black masses beyond the deep blue space of water, but you know there are mountains over there. They’re just sleeping!

While God was putting the mountains to sleep, he spoke to my heart words I needed to hear. I just sat and listened for a while. He sounded a bit like a conversation a friend of mine had with Brennan Manning a few years ago over cigarettes and coffee at the Anderson, IN Waffle House. My friend and I (along with others) had been digesting Brennan’s words for a couple years at that point. My friend had established a comedy/drama team based heavily on the writing of Brennan Manning and the songs of his ‘soul mate’, Rich Mullins. My friend asked Brennan for any advice to offer a group of young guys who wanted to serve God and spread his love through comedy and drama.

This man who we all were pretty convinced could walk on water with Jesus, whose words we had sucked all we could from said a rather unexpected thing. He said, “Get a job!”

God spoke a similar message into my heart tonight. A bit more tenderly, but the same idea! He said:

“I know you’re worried and you’re scared. I know you are questioning why you left a profession you love to follow a path that had not lead back to that profession. I know you are scared about what you are going to do, and that you feel like your passion has been removed. I know all of this, but I have a new and different plan for you. You are going to do bigger and better things for me, but you are not ready yet. You have some passions in your heart you have not paid attention to. You have passions you do not know about yet. I will show those to you when you are ready, but you are not ready right now. In the time being, while I am preparing you and raising you up, get a job. Get a job, pay your bills and support your family. This job does not need to be a career or even something you are passionate about; I am preparing you for that and remember you are not ready yet. You will find what that is in time, but go on looking hard after me. I have bigger and better things for you outside student life. You will reach more people for me. You will bring glory to me through new things in the future, but for now you need to work and support your family. You need to pay your bills and continue learning. Look further for those passions you have ignored and the ones I will reveal to you in time.

I love you PC!

Metal Drawer

I remember an old metal desk I once had when I was much younger.  Green. Shaky. Short-lived metal desk with two small drawers.  I don't recall what ever happened to the desk, but I remember having one of the drawers years later.  That drawer may even still be in an attic somewhere in Wisconsin for all I know.  The drawer was very important because it contained treasure. It was the place I collected only the most important things to me at the time.  To most people, it would have been filled with worthless junk.  In fact, I am not too sure I would want any of it NOW (I don't even know where the drawer IS.)  But each item in that drawer was well thought out and discerned with care of its worth and warrant as  determined by me at that time.  I was careful to think long and hard about what should make its way into my drawer.  All other items were unworthy of the drawer.

Whether or not the items are of any value now, they were important enough to be sure I kept hold on the drawer even after the desk was long gone; even after several family moves later.  I was devoted to taking care of that drawer because it contained important items, and those items made all the effort worth the work and care.

I remembered a little metal drawer after reading through Philippians 4 today, specifically verses 6-8.

The last couple weeks, I have read my Bible a lot, but I cannot say I have really "come to God's word" today.  I have been disciplined at reading a book the last couple weeks, but not disciplined in connecting with God in that reading or much of anything for a couple weeks.  Philippians 4:6-8 has struck me to the heart to realize how important that time needs to be.

My heart and mind are little metal drawers, and that time I set aside to read through scripture or do ANYTHING needs to be approached with that in mind.  There are all sorts of things that pass through my heart and mind in the course of a day; thoughts and ideas about God, myself, others, the world... Which of those things make their way into my heart's drawer?

"Because," says Henri Nouwen, "in this useless hour in which you do nothing 'important' or 'urgent', you have come to terms with your basic powerlessness...you will find out that your many projects, plans, and obligations become less urgent, crucial, and important and lose their power over you.  They will leave you free during your time with God and take their appropriate place in your life."

Sticky authors

Without thinking too much about it.  Fifteen authors (poets included) who have influenced me and will always stick with me. Brennan Manning Anis Mojgani Henri Nouwen Dietrich Bonhoeffer Phillip Yancey Tony Campolo Derrick Brown Donald Miller Mortimer Adler Francis Chan Augustine Adam Duritz S.D. Gordon Oswald Chambers Dr Seuss

What are yours?? [you can't sit and think about it]

Readers Also Read

"Listeners also bought" is a favorite phrase of mine. It is a similar, but not quite the same, feeling I get when I go to log off of iTunes in a coffee shop to discover someone is connected to my shared music. (And no, I am NOT sure I want to quit if someone is enjoying my music.)

There is something interesting to know there are similar interests. But this section began to make think some more. If I wrote a book, what would I want to be listed in my "Readers also bought" section?

I would want that section to read:

Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning Matthew Paul Turner (or jesusneedsnewPR) A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller Ragamuffin Soul by Carlos Whittaker Donald Miller Henri Nouwen Songs by Rich Mullins Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (just to make people think, "What???")


If you wrote a book or made an album, what would you want to see in the "People Also Bought" section?