A “Going Deeper” Special Series: “Walking With Henri Nouwen To Easter”


IMG_0715 - Version 2Well, friends, our walk through some of Henri Nouwen’s reflection on the life we live as Christians–as God’s beloved–is finished. If you’ve followed along I’d love to know. I hope, too, that it’s been worth your while: useful, challenging, hopeful…whatever. May God be with us as we’re with each other and the world. May we be at home in the love of God wherever we find ourselves.

If you want to share in the comments section any insights you’ve had, or let us know if this series was worth your while, feel free to do so. Maybe we’ll have others like it in the future.




Walking With Henri Nouwen To Easter “Spiritual Direction: “Movement From Absurdity to Obedience” (Part I of II) 


A number of themed compilations of Henri Nouwen’s work have been published. One of these, In My Own Words, was compiled by Nouwen’s long-time friend, Robert Durback. (Durback wrote a forward to one edition of Beyond The Mirror, a book we looked at just a couple of weeks ago.) In the section of the book we’re quoting, below, Durback relies heavily on Nouwen’s work Spiritual Direction. Both these books are available from Amazon, and very likely on the shelves of your local used bookstore, too.

IMG_0715 - Version 2Today’s devotional is the first part of a two part series. While Nouwen talks of “an absurd life” today, on Friday–Good Friday–we’ll read about its alternative, an “obedient life.” Good Friday reminds us of many things; Jesus’ own obedience to his calling and mission in the world is just one of these. Ironically, of course, Jesus’ death as a necessary and obedient thing has always struck people as itself “absurd.” But more about that in a few days…

Here, for now:

The spiritual life is a life in which we struggle to move from absurd living to obedient living. The word absurd includes the word surdus which means “deaf.” Absurd living is a way of life in which we remain deaf to the voice which speaks to us in our silence. The many activities in which we are involved, the many concerns which keep us preoccupied and the many sounds which surround us, make it very hard for us to hear the small voice through which God makes God’s presence known (see 1 Kgs 19;12). It seems that the world in which we live conspires against our hearing that voice and tries to make us absolutely deaf. It is therefore is not surprising that we often wonder, in the midst of our very occupied and preoccupied lives, if anything is truly happening. Our lives might be filled with many events–so many events even that we often wonder how we can get it all done–but at the same time we might feel very unfulfilled, and wonder if anything is happening which is worth living for. Being filled yet unfulfilled, being busy yet bored, being involved yet lonely, these are symptoms of the absurd life, the life in which we are no longer hearing the voice of the One who created us and who keeps calling us to a new life in God. This absurd life is extremely painful, because it makes us feel as if we are living in exile, cut off from the vital source of our existence. (In My Own Words, p.89)

There’s little I could add to Nouwen’s “own words,” here. What is your response to this? I find myself led to prayer, asking, as I mull this over, “Lord…how deaf am I to you? And why?” And do I want to know the answers to these questions…?

Walking With Henri Nouwen To Easter: Bread For The Journey


Nouwen was invited to write a daily devotional called Bread For The Journey (Available here: http://astore.amazon.com/hennousocusab-20/detail/0060663766/178-3659070-5197431). It’s kind of a weird piece of work: People very familiar with Nouwen’s life and thought can immediately connect a day’s entry to some larger book, where he more completely explored the idea at hand.

IMG_0715 - Version 2That said, it’s really really good for exactly this reason. A reader gets snippets of insight and wisdom that can be launching off points into deep life change.

Today’s entry comes from the “February 10th” entry. It’s not cheerful, but it’s really, really honest, and it follow the themes of Lent that we’ve already been considering. Nouwen writes, in a devotional titled “Dying Well,”

We will all die one day. That is one of the few things we can be sure of. But will we die well? That is less certain. Dying well means dying for others, making our lives fruitful for those we leave behind. The big question, therefore, is not “What can I still do in the years I have left to live?” but “How can I prepare myself for my death so that my life can continue to bear fruit in the generations that will follow me?” 

Jesus died well because through dying he sent his Spirit of Love to his friends, who with that Holy Spirit could live better lives. Can we also send the Spirit of Love to our friends when we leave them? Or are we too worried about what we can still do? Dying can become our greatest gift if we prepare ourselves to die well. 

We could get bogged down in the theological precision of what Nouwen says here, but that’d make bad use of this little passage.

His question, “How can I prepare myself for my death so that my life can continue to bear fruit in the generations that will follow me?” is one that is relevant no matter what our age. I doubt it’s one that feels important, though, for many of us: the urgent stuff of life wins for our attention. Like many things, to die well for Nouwen is tied up in living well in the relationships we have now.

Does Nouwen’s concern feel irrelevant or is it–for any reason–something that’s on your mind right now? What does it practically mean to live in such a way that our lives bear fruit even after we die? That our friends are connected to God through our passing, somehow? I’m thinking of forgiveness, of blessing, of nurturing relationships… You?

Is this relevant at all?

~Post Written By Rich Hagopian

Walking With Henri Nouwen To Easter – Introduction & A Cry For Mercy


Twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays) during the season of Lent, we’ll be highlighting quotes from a number of different works by the well-known author Henri Nouwen. Each post during this Series will contain some brief reflection, as well as a challenging question or two to consider, and perhaps even an activity or action that we can try to make real the insights Nouwen has for us.

IMG_0715 - Version 2Nouwen, a Catholic Priest who spent the last years of his life in service to a community of people living with mental and physical handicaps, wrote a number of books in his lifetime–with many more collated and published following his early death in 1996.

In a book called Here and Now, Nouwen wrote “My hope is that the description of God’s love in my life will give you the freedom and the courage to discover God’s love in yours.” It’s the belief that God can make Nouwen’s hope real for us that drives this devotional series. If you’re interested in Henri Nouwen’s life, a complete of his books, or anything Nouwen-related, visit the Henri Nouwen Society at www.henrinouwen.org

In A Cry For Mercy: Prayers From The Genesee, penned while Nouwen was on his second Sabbatical to the Abbey of the Genesee in 1979, Nouwen wrote the following. It was an Ash Wednesday, and he was reflecting on Lent:

O Lord, it is a great grace that I can be in this monastery during Lent. How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of this season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death?

Yes Lord, I have to die–with you, through you and in you–and become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess. O Lord, I am self-centered, concerned about myself, my career, my future, my name and fame. Often I even feel that I use you for my own advantage. How preposterous, how sacrilegious, how sad! But yes, Lord, I know it is true. I know that often I have spoken about you, written about you and acted in your name for my own glory and for my own success. Your name has not led me to persecution, oppression, or rejection. Your name has brought me rewards! I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different form the other ones. Let me find you again.

Henri Nouwen. A Cry For Mercy: Prayers From the Genesee, 34-35.

Lent, in its best case, is an opportunity for Christians to remember Jesus’ suffering and the truth that, unless Jesus returns before it happens, we’ll all die. It’s also an opportunity to choose to “die to ourselves” in very practical ways. Some Christians “fast” from things during Lent: meat on Fridays, coffee, chocolate or a particular entertaining diversion, sexual activity, or destructive habit. Almost anything that has become something “you just can’t live without” can, in giving it up for awhile, remind us what’s really essential to our lives.

In this passage, Nouwen presents a few things that “need to die” inside him: “false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess.” Most of us could relate to the need to allow these things to “die” in us. I’ve been considering how “absent” I am lately, and how difficult it is for me to be present to those I’m around–really engaged in their joys, concerns, and stories. So often, I’m mentally (if not physically!) restless, and, as Nouwen puts it “self-centered, concerned about myself.” The truth is that this distracted, restless way of living needs to die, and I’ve been trying during Lent to reject this as much as I can by trying to continually pray a brief prayer of attention and saying no to those distractions that help me divert my attention to places other than where I am (smartphone, anyone?)


What in Nouwen’s personal prayer connects with you? Why?

What in your life, aside from God, do you think you “just can’t life without?”

What in you needs to die and why?

Feel free to answer the questions in the comment section. Consider sharing with someone you trust the way Nouwen’s prayer has started your mind going. If you do want to “do something” for Lent, and haven’t yet, reach out to the Christians around you to see what practices they’ve taken on.

Today’s selection, A Cry For Mercy, is available for purchase through the Amazon Bookstore of The Henri Nouwen Society.http://astore.amazon.com/hennousocusab-20/detail/038550389X

Being who we were created to be


So this week Pastor Rich and Pastor Rudy co-preached a sermon for Easter Sunday as we had a bi-lingual service.  It was a great thing to experience and be a part of.  And although I really don’t understand a lick of Spanish, I am proud to be a part of a congregation that uses the gifts and talents of its people and is trying to reach out more than one people group.

In a way that is what the sermon was about too.  It was stated in the sermon that our lives are filled with meaning and what we do in this life is important to God.  I believe this to be 100% true.

mattGod has given us each talents, gifts, hobbies, things we enjoy and more…and he wants us to use all of that to the best of our ability.  We are created as unique individuals.  God wants us to enjoy this life and bless others while doing so.  Even the things that seem minor to us, sometimes God can use them when least expected.

I experienced that this week.  I was able to go to the Columbus Blue Jackets vs Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game yesterday.  As a CRAZY-WACKO SPORTS FANATIC it was awesome to say the least.  Sports is a hobby for me.  It is something I enjoy to the fullest.  Although I am not sure what role God played in making me like this, if any at all, I do believe that He can use it for His glory.

As we were driving to the arena one of the people in the car, all of whom knew I was a Christian, looked over at me and asked if I could pray for a family member of theirs.  I won’t mention the details due to the fact that it was asked to be kept private.  I was a bit shocked at first, then realized how cool of an opportunity that was.  I listened, I affirmed their thoughts, and I agreed to pray for them and the family.  The point being is that having the chance to bless someone else and glorify God in the process can come in the least likely of places and through the oddest of avenues.  My love of sports and being who God created me to be provided that opportunity to be used by God.

Are lives are filled with meaning and even the little things we do are important to God.  Enjoying our life now is a good thing.  God cares about it and so should we.  Because of the Resurrection we have a purpose.  Without it our lives as believers would be a meaningless existence.  Because Christ came back from the dead, we now have a reason to carry on.  That reason is to share the gospel.

We are to share that good news with everyone we know.  It may appear in small forms.  It may take time.  It may be just planting seeds.  But even a prayer for a family member of someone may brighten up their day and they may come to realize that their life has value too.  And maybe even if we enjoy the little things like our hobbies, it will allow the Holy Spirit to use us in ways we never thought possible.

Something Better than Circles of Life or Transcendence


My post for this week’s Going Deeper is actually a re-post of a blog I wrote before hearing Rich and Rudy’s sermon (I loved trying to figure out what the English was going to be from listening to the Spanish!). One standout idea to me was that death is not merely one point in “the circle of life” but the “last enemy” and that the “death of death” of which we see the first fruits in Jesus resurrection. It struck me that many of my reflections would be a re-hash of what I wrote for Easter and so I thought it simpler just to share that. So here it is:

Bob Trube2In the current movie, Transcendence, (which I have not seen) Johnny Depp’s character is mortally wounded by anti-Artificial Intelligence terrorists, and before he dies, his consciousness is downloaded into a computer by his wife. As is typical of such things, all sorts of mayhem results as his consciousness connects to the internet.

What is interesting is that this is not just the stuff of movies but that there is serious thinking and the beginnings of research with the goal of doing just this, as evidenced in the Wikipedia article on Mind uploading. Apart from the ethical questions raised by such efforts, my question is, why would you want to do this when there is a much better alternative?

What am I talking about? Resurrection–the idea of coming to life again after one has died in a new type of physical body that has continuity in some way with the one we have in this life but is subject to neither aging, disease, or death. Frankly, there is a good deal I like about embodied existence that a purely mental or even spiritual existence can’t hold a candle to. There are the experiences of the senses, glorious visions, beautiful music, delectable smells, the pleasures of eating, touching and being touched. There are the delights of using one’s body to translate our ideas into a gourmet dish, a song, a spoken word, a beautiful garden, a work of art, or even just this sentence. Some might argue that there are digital equivalents to this, but I’m not buying it.


This is why I celebrate Easter. Resurrection is not a speculation of futurists or a research goal for the near or distant future. When we say, “He is risen, He is risen indeed” in churches around the world, we celebrate the reality that the first man has already come back from the dead, not as a resuscitated corpse, but as a gloriously new, yet emphatically the same Jesus in the flesh. Beyond their wildest dreams, the first followers of Jesus empirically validated the reality that resurrection is possible. They saw, heard, even touched the risen Christ.

Not only that, but followers of Jesus believe that “resurrection” is already at work in us, dying though we are. The apostle Paul speaks of a “new creation” having begun in us, that we already have experienced a being raised from spiritual death to life. The resurrection of the body simply marks the completion of a process whose beginning was symbolized when I was lifted up out of the waters of baptism.

Death seems so final, and perhaps what motivates people who dream of accomplishing “transcendence” is to find a way to evade and transcend this final reality.  If you don’t believe in a hereafter, if all you believe is that when you die, you rot, then transcendence is the only game in town. I also wonder if for others, “transcendence” is the best shot at evading the hereafter, or so one hopes.

Death also seems not to be the way things were meant to be. The Bible speaks of it as the last enemy to be destroyed. No wonder we fight it so hard with all our medical technology! No wonder we sometimes try to deny its existence or thwart its impact upon our lives. The truth is, I love my life in this body. I loved my first cup of coffee today. I loved the spring freshness of the air as I worked to clean up my yard. I even love the twinges in muscles that tell me that I used them! Truth is, I don’t want to die. In fact, some training I’ve received tells me that one should be concerned and take action when a person speaks of wanting to die.

So I get the transcendence thing. But I’m not going there. Today I will be celebrating something I think is far better. The bodily resurrection of Jesus is empirical evidence that my bodily resurrection is possible, and that of my parents, and all those I love who have hoped in Christ. I am celebrating the hope that one day I will see them in all their physical glory, that I will be seen with a glory I’ve never had before, and above all, that I will see the glory of the risen Christ. Oh, what a day that will be!

What were all those people in my newsfeed talking about?


Here’s a sign you have a lot of Christian friends on social media: If you saw “He is risen” popping up in your newsfeed every couple of minutes, and had to fight back the urge to comment “He is risen indeed!”

But Easter is about more than just #heisrisen, though it’s not a bad message to be hearing over and over again.

Ben TrubeI think some Christians are more comfortable with the whole Christ died for our sins bit, then the whole he rose again three days later. This manifests in all sorts of ways, even in the crosses we see at the front of our church. Some have Jesus nailed to the cross so we always remember his sacrifice for us, and others have an empty cross emphasizing his triumph over death.

I can understand wanting to think more about Christ dying for us. This is something we can actually relate to. We die for causes, for loved ones, to protect those who are weaker than us. This is a part of Christ’s humanity to which we can relate. We get the idea of sacrifice.

But coming back from the dead is a pure God thing. Sure he was someone you could touch, and who got a hankering for fish when he was with the disciples, but if the TV and movies has taught us anything, it’s to be a little suspicious of those who come back. You never know what they might have brought with them.

In this case Jesus brought redemption, triumph over death, signaling our eventual triumph over death, yadda yadda yadda zombie Jesus.

Or we could go all modern science-y and say that three hours was kind of a short amount of time for someone who is crucified to die and he might have just been passed out for three days before he woke up, and oh yes, had the super human strength to roll away the boulder in front of his tomb. Well you did say he was fully God AND fully man, right?

Or I think some of us take the easy way out, shout “He is risen”, loudly reply “he is risen indeed” like someone replying I-O to an uttered O-H. Sure Jesus rose from the dead, he’s the good guy. Wouldn’t be a good story if he really was dead at the end.

Jesus rising from the dead is another uncomfortable fact of Jesus. Yes he did die and suffer for our sins. He took punishment that should have been ours. And then he came out okay on the other side. And we all know that the same wouldn’t have been true for us. We actually need this guy. And a lot of us don’t like to be reminded of that fact. Jesus can die for us, but he also lived for us.

Is living.

He is risen!