Posts Tagged ‘Henri Nouwen’


Posted: November 28, 2019 by Ty in Spirituality
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The last few days I have received my daily meditations from the Henri Nouwen Society, and they have been centered on community. It is a unique time of reflection as my life opens up for the new vocational call (I have pasted the 2 meditations at the end of the post for your own contemplation), as my family prepares for the Advent practice of reading the Gospel of Luke. I have read in my own contemplation the other two synoptic gospels (Matthew & Mark), which compliment into Luke’s take– all three focused on building the Kingdom here. That is stepping through the thin space, and making it a reality in the here and now. That is the summation of the Laws & Prophets that Brother Jesus lived, see… he created Holy Community by removing the falsely imposed barriers of society dictated by labels.

Yet, it was only possible in the realm of choice. It is complimented by two other experiences this week. One is David Mack’s (2017) Star Trek Titan  Fortune of War that touched on how the Dominion War had affected Federation officers and citizens. The obviousness of the struggle of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder still existing in the 24th Century makes sense. See, trauma is our body’s systems response to what happens in the flight-fight-freeze and where our resilience takes us. Are we stuck in any one frame when stress arises? It can be caused by one event, or a series of events, can be suppressed from early years, or triggered by another health emergency that resets or breaks our self-care resilience regime up to that point and cause the entirety of the past to come back.

“it was like being in…prison, only locked up in your own mind with all the terrors”

-Barry Allen, The Flash (The Last Temptation of the Flash Part 1 now streaming on NetFlix).

Which was brought home by this week’s Flash episode, heading towards the Crisis cross over (google it, it’s a live action take on an epic 80’s maxi-series). This is the moment when Flash, knowing he is doomed to die in the Crisis (sorry dudes not a spoiler, ending is like established 35 years ago). The story leading up is what is going to happen, how he is handling it. The villain Bloodwork, is infesting him and tempting him turn to evil to save everyone. The Speed Force, that which gives him his power encouraging him to stay the course, and his family/community holding him to be who he is meant to be and supporting them.

What a powerful metaphor for the struggle of PTSD. Whether you have taken it in through anxiety-depression and it can be debilitating, or through a conversion disorder, that is debilitating. You have become like Barry, trapped in his own mind, fever rising, on the med bed needing to make a choice. Where do you go? What do you choose?

See, faith and God play a role in it. It is a bedrock of existence on what makes you you (and yes there can be bedrocks of values and faith that can carry one through that aren’t in this vein, but for me it is). The faith is represented by the Speed Force (who has taken the form of Barry’s departed Mum–quite a Marian theology reference if there ever was one).

This is the thing, there are many things that are placebo out there. That one can choose not to deal with their trauma by doing. Addiction. Hiding. Manipulation of trauma informed care, so that how we are becomes normal and acceptable, but we don’t have to follow the healing path laid out. Anger. Violence. Crying. Debilitation. Accepting suffering as normal for some deep spiritual rebirth experience. Using pseudo-science and other spiritual practices to absolve us of doing the actual work. Accepting that we will not have deep relationships, or that people simply leave. There is a bajillion reasons to not stare the trauma in the face.

Trust me.

I have stood in the darkness unable to see the light.

It is the crossroads of choice.

Our last temptation.

See speaking openly and boldly about the struggle of mental health carries huge stigma still.

Do we let the gremlin voice of stigma freeze us?

Do we let the loss of toxic community cause us to take flight?

Or do we decide we are worth it, because we are created very good and blessed, and it is time to fight through the suffocating darkness?

It is time to enter the cocoon. That point in time where we are dissolved to our primordial selves, and rebuilt into something completely new. Healing is not about becoming who you were, because who you were was shaped by the trauma and toxic. Healing is about new creation. New you.

Like the gospel story of Transfiguration.

It is done by the hard work. Work with PhD. psychologists equipped to walk with us through things like ART & EMDR to rewrite our minds, so our souls and hearts can be unburdened.

So in the Holy Waiting. The Sacred Journey. The Pilgrimage to the new centre of you.

“It was what made him deserving of the name, “Hero”.”

-Iris West-Allen (The Last Temptation of the Flash Part 1)

Standing in the heart of who you are, and knowing you deserve the calling of wholeness. Of Love.

And answering it.

For are we not, the hero, of our own sacred story?

Appendix: The Community Reflections:

Community Makes God Visible
Nothing is sweet or easy about community. Community is a fellowship of people who do not hide their joys and sorrows but make them visible to each other as a gesture of hope.
In community we say: “Life is full of gains and losses, joys and sorrows, ups and downs—but we do not have to live it alone. We want to drink our cup together and thus celebrate the truth that the wounds of our individual lives, which seem intolerable when lived alone, become sources of healing when we live them as part of a fellowship of mutual care.”
Community is like a large mosaic. Each little piece seems so insignificant. One piece is bright red, another cold blue or dull green, another warm purple, another sharp yellow, another shining gold. Some look precious, others ordinary. Some look valuable, others worthless. Some look gaudy, others delicate. We can do little with them as individual stones except compare them and judge their beauty and value. When, however, all these little stones are brought together in one big mosaic, portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? If one of them, even the least spectacular one, is missing, the face is incomplete. Together in the one mosaic, each little stone is indispensable and makes a unique contribution to the glory of God. That’s community, a fellowship of little people who together make God visible in the world.
Henri J. M. Nouwen
Waiting in Community
Christian community is the place where we keep the flame of hope alive among us and take it seriously so that it can grow and become stronger in us. In this way we can live with courage, trusting that there is a spiritual power in us when we are together that allows us to live in this world without surrendering to the powerful forces constantly seducing us toward despair. That is how we dare to say that God is a God of love even when we see hatred all around us. That is why we can claim that God is a God of life even when we see death and destruction and agony all around us. We say it together. We affirm it in each other. Waiting together, nurturing what has already begun, expecting its fulfillment—that is the meaning of marriage, friendship, community, and the Christian life.
Henri J. M. Nouwen

The church that does not change and grow is one that stagnants and dies.  Sadly one, that after a monumental, Gospel lived change like the ELCIC just experienced, continues to focus on a minority voice within the church and project these emotions onto all others is one that is using language to set up a death.  What of those that are overjoyed that themselves, loved ones, brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, can now fully be realized as the blessed beloved creation of God and there is no longer any barriers to answering the call God has set on their lives?

My challenge to the ELCIC in the days ahead, is to speak the story, fine, but as a body of Christ you have made a choice to embrace the new love, so live into it…and yes, like with any healthy change in a body, some of the bad cholesterol, and flab has to go away.

The actual text of the e-letter for your reflection follows.

Friends –

The November E-Message is found in the attachment below and is pasted into the body of this e-mail as well.  As always, make use of this as you see fit.  Blessings!  +RBM


Bishop’s E-Message for November 2011

No one knows better than the Synod staff and I that individuals and congregations in our Synod are wrestling mightily with the ELCIC National Convention decisions of this past July. I have said – and I believe it is no exaggeration – that our Church changed forever in July. Folks in our Synod are dealing with various levels of uncertainty and anxiety as they seek to determine what the Convention decisions mean, and how they will be lived out, in the local context of their congregations.  As I said in my September E-Message, this is necessarily each congregation’s work to do, as difficult as some may find that. In all of this, though, we must not let ourselves be sucked under in a whirlpool of despair.  The world of faith does not revolve around the ELCIC’s decisions, nor does our own faith.

The late Henri Nouwen once said that we cannot confess our belief in God the Father Almighty, Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord,  and the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life without at one and the same time confessing our belief in the one, holy catholic, and apostolic church.  This is something for us each and all to pause and ponder. When all is said and done, Jesus Christ is Lord of the church.  Whether the visible church is faithful or unfaithful, Jesus Christ is never anything but faithful to his body.

So while I am dealing on a daily basis with the plight and pain being experienced across our Synod, I am also reminding myself of Paul’s call to us to think higher, better thoughts: “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil. 4:8) I love this ELCIC that adopted me when my family and I chose it. I love the goodly fellowship I have experienced in community with all of you.  I may not be the happiest camper in the ELCIC tent right now, but I have enough wisdom and experience to know that this is the family of God into which I have been reborn and to which I will belong to my last breath. Not because it is perfect, and not because it always gets it right, but simply because I meet Jesus here in company with all of you.

Our colleague, Pr. James Hendricksen (St. Paul’s – Ellerslie) launched a website ( in October called “A Thousand Reasons”… a thousand reasons to give thanks for the ELCIC. I have a thousand reasons all on my own, and they have names and faces: yours.  So, my friends, we work with what is currently on our plate, but (I pray) not forgetting for a single second that “The Church’s One Foundation IS Jesus Christ Her Lord.”  Grace and peace, faith and hope, be with you all!

+Ronald B. Mayan, Bishop
Synod of Alberta and the Territories,
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

+Ronald B. Mayan, Bishop
Synod of Alberta and the Territories
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
10014 – 81 Avenue
Edmonton, AB.  T6E 1W8
Synod Website:


I have been exploring other expressions and understandings of God my whole life.  Recently I have come across the Unity gatherings, and their understanding of new thought which has led me to read a writer, Eric Butterworth.

For the more “orthodox” reader, we will move away from the Gnostic style understandings of faith, but will point out New Thought tends to lean more towards a Hindu/Buddhist synchronicity with traditional Christianity.

This is shown, in a rather unique reading of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), and one that bears contemplation, perhaps even taking these three questions while doing a Lectio Divina on it (3 hearings of the story, with meditation to follow):

1) Who am I as the Son?

2) Who am I as the Father?

3) Who am I as the elder son?

Why these three questions? Simple, Butterworth spends a chapter in his book, Discover the Power Within You on this parable.  The essence being a next step after Henri Nouwen‘s understanding that at any moment in our faith journey we play each of these roles for others, to Butterworth saying that all three of these roles exist in cognitive dissonance within us, and it is through coming to our “father” within that we are granted healing, release, and unity within and without.  Within ourselves, to our neighbour, and with our creator.

Essentially you can relay any psychological understanding to the 3 roles: Anima/Animus/Shadow; Super ego/ego/ID; Body, Mind, Spirit; etc. The goal is knowing the parts of you that are transcendent, eminent, and the darkness that is your weakness and how to work through and heal that.

So spend time during this Lenten season with the Prodigal Son and reflect on you.