October 07, 2009

The Way Of The Heart - Henri Nouwen

About 3 pages away from finishing The Way Of The Heart by Henri Nouwen. Subtitled, "Connecting with God through prayer, wisdom, and silence." This was a small book to read with much to think about within the pages. Maybe one of my favorite quotes from the book,

"There is seldom a period in which we do not know what to do, and we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say, or do are worth thinking, saying, or doing. We simply go along with the many "musts" and "oughts" that have been handed on to us, and we live with them as if they were authentic translations of the Gospel of our Lord."

A couple more quotes that resonated with me.

"Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self."

"We have, indeed to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw every day, shake off our compulsions, and dwell in the gentle healing presence of our Lord. Without such a desert we will lose our own soul while preaching the gospel to others. But with such a spiritual abode, we will become increasingly conformed to him in whose Name we minister."

"When I visited Mother Teresa of Calcutta a few years ago and asked her how to live out my vocation as a priest, she simply said: "Spend one hour a day in adoration of your Lord and never do anything you know is wrong, and you will be alright."

"...ministers frequently find themselves in fierce competition with people and institutions who offer something more exciting to do than they do.
But our task is the opposite of distraction. Our task is to help people concentrate on the real but often hidden event of God's active presence in their lives. Hence, the question that must guide all organizing activity in a parish is not how to keep people busy, but how to keep them from being so busy that they can no longer hear the voice of God who speaks in silence."


I loved this book for so many reasons. It is based on the experience of St. Anthony and the Desert Father's, men and women who were called to solitude just hundreds of years after Christ walked the earth. Being called into solitude for 20 years is not realistic, nor even appealing but there are some things that we can learn from these that have gone on before us.

Most of all I think this book has reminded me to the importance of not allowing busyness to take over. If I were to look back on my life in 20 years or 40 years would the activities that I participate in whether meaningful or not have brought me to the place of character formed through Christ that I wish to be. Will I have ridden the escalator of life up, then down, then up again, with no thought to what I will have put in my days. And will my kids have grown spiritually and in love for others through intentional impartations that I have allowed into their lives.

I hope to teach my kids about silence, solitude and prayer I wish Henri Nouwen would have written a book for teen/pre-teen crowd : )

I also want to address the last quote from the book about Ministers being in competition with all of our distractions, it does seem like churches as a whole are leaning to the "place to be" with all the different events going on. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, so I don't want that to be what comes across by putting that quote up on my blog. I think that we are all human and we are doing the best we can, but it is the own persons responsibility to have discernment about where they are being called to spend their time. Once we come to know Christ and have been saved we have His Holy Spirit indwelling in us that can lead us to where and what we need to be involved with. I just need to discern what I am being called to participate in. There are places we are called to serve, but Christ will never call us to serve so much that we have no time for Him. If our busyness is keeping us from times of solitude, silence and prayer where we can hear God in the silences to be refueled by Him every day in order to be an effective disciple filled with His love and forgiveness for others, then we can take the opportunity to pray to God to and ask to be guided in such a process.

Times at church for me are about serving, fellowship, spiritual education, a place where iron sharpens iron, but the transformation to become who God calls me to be takes place in the quiet times with Him, in His Word, prayer and solitude.