Monthly Archives: April 2006

The Profile

OK, so I have tried my best to work with the technology that I can manage.  Here is in three parts a copy of the article written by Ann Molloy.

Enjoy.  Especially you Erin!

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I have begun reading The Genesee Diary  by Henri Nouwen.  The thing that strikes me most about the book is its simplicity.  It is a journal of his daily life.  He lets us in on so many of his feelings, good and bad, frustrating and inspirational. It is striking in its honesty and in the way he expresses his feelings just like I would, not like the saint I sort of expected.


I struggle with the ordinariness of my daily existence.  It is hard to comprehend that this routine life is pleasing to God or that this is how he created us to be.  Well, maybe he intended for our existence to be more “whole”, not so full of messiness, but that is only a distant longing in reality. 


What would my journal be like if I was writing in a way similar to Henri Nouwen?


This morning I got up and spent some time reflecting on Psalm 25. 

Show me the path where I should walk, O LORD;
       point out the right road for me to follow.

Lead me by your truth and teach me,
       for you are the God who saves me.
       All day long I put my hope in you. (vs 4,5)

I wonder if I put that into practice today.  Did I listen for God’s direction?  More likely, I just went about my day as it was programmed, without much thought – other than what to take for my lunch.


I try to pay some attention to the fact that my patients are loved and cared for by God every bit as much as I am. 


God sends me one of my long time patients – a very simple woman.  She tries hard to care for herself but is not very successful at it.  Still, she does much better now than when we first met.  Life has not been easy for her. 


Then there is the guy with the really gross mouth.  It is hard to see the “belovedness” with which God loves him.  


Returning home there is supper to prepare.  I am asked to feed and baby-sit my grandson.  Somehow this task is more easily done – more palatable – at least until I have to go and change the very poopy diaper.


And my evening is spent tidying up the office.  To tell the truth, I have misplaced a paper I need.  After everything is checked through, without finding what I need, I do ask God for help.  I feel like a child who has by their own fault left a job to the last minute so that they have to go to a parent for help.  I guess God understands my dependence and likes me anyway.  And there are the papers.  I feel as if he has just taken care of me – as a father would his child.


And to wrap up my day, I am asked to help straighten hair for Sara.  She is getting ready for her big trip to California over the Easter vacation – going on Calbreak with YFC.  She will have fun.


What have I learned from my day? Looking back over it, it has been good.  Mostly just ordinary and busy but there have been places where I have also seen God. 


Now to bed.  Sorry Fans – no time to scan the paper.  I will try tomorrow.  Tomorrow will be no less busy, no less long.


To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

I trust in you, my God!  (vs1)

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Nouwen – More on the "Downward" way

The idea of living in simplicity, letting go of the things that come with success in this culture, is not new to Henri Nouwen.  Henri chose to live out this calling at L’Arche Daybreak in Toronto.  The choice for him to live at Daybreak was not the only such occasion he chose to follow the “downward” path.


Michael O’Laughlin states,

“Generally, Christians have learned to live with this ambiguity and regard the call to move downward as a saintly option that does not apply to middle-class people struggling to make ends meet.

Therefore it took a special ability or insight and a real desire to be faithful to the gospel for Henri Nouwen to not only present the descending way to those around him but actually begin to live it out.  In fact, I would be less interested in Henri Nouwen’s teaching about downward ability and how it relates to Jesus if I had not observed Nouwen practicing what he preached.  With Henri Nouwen, it was not merely an idea.  Henri’s willingness to throw aside concerns about money or his own prestige and his embrace of persons of humbler status was something that I witnessed over and over again.

…Henri’s remarkable personal generosity was one of his greatest gifts to the world, not only because of the joy he brought into many lives, but because it was such a rare and inspiring expression of freedom. (p 139, 140)


I guess the choice of this great man to spend his later days at L’Arche attending to the needs of the handicapped was always a source of puzzlement to me.  I would think that I understood his desire to serve others, but did not really get the extent of his desire to do this as an expression of his choice to follow Jesus.  The author has helped me understand how fundamental this was to Henri Nouwen’s deepening faith.  I think I am beginning to understand this call towards the “downward” way.  Understanding this call of Jesus to each of us that claim to follow him, and actually following would transform us and the world. 


Henri learned that the secret at the center of the downward, descending way was to identify with Jesus.  I think, in fact, that he was not so much interested in simplicity or poverty for their own sake, but as part of the mystery of Christ.  For Nouwen, the gospel was becoming not just a message explaining how God long ago brought into being a new spiritual reality through Jesus; he was coming to see it as a blueprint for how we might live our lives and find God today.  Downward mobility was becoming a new way for him to enter into the gospel story. (p.143)


Now, to learn from Henri’s example, to attend to the Holy Spirit as to what that means in my life, since each of us lives our own set of unique circumstances, mine including a husband, children and family.  

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Last night I spent a pleasant hour with a reporter from our local newspaper.  Mostly we talked about life in the Congo.  In some ways that seems so long ago.  Yet it was only in 2004 that the girls and I made a summer trip back there. 

The Congo will always touch my life.  I guess it is an important part of who I am now and who I am still becoming. 

God was good to give us that part of our lives.  It has enriched both Leo and I. 

So I will be profiled in our local paper on Monday, I guess.  I wonder how I will come across!

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Merci Nzambe

I came home tonight pretty tired.  It was a long and busy day and the days lately have been too full – work, taking care of my aunt’s move, wrapping up loose ends, kids and their stuff, sick grandson and having to call his mom in sick to be excused from classes.  Lots of little busy details that I have to remember to take care of.  Glad for my PDA that helps me keep organized. 

So, arriving home tired, I sat down at the computer to quickly check my e-mail before making supper.

I never expected the news I read – Massa is coming.  Not just a notice of the positive decision to send him here but dates and flight numbers of the plane he is coming on. 

Waiting.  It has been 8 long years of waiting, paperwork, waiting, repeating the paperwork, waiting.  Praying.  Reminding ourselves that God had led them to the place they were at.  Praying and waiting.

I haven’t seen these guys since we left the Congo in a hurry back in 1991.  They were Eric’s best friends, like brothers.  They were always around.  The cement cooking stand on my back porch made a good seat when there was no charcoal fire burning there.  Someone was always hanging out there and these guys were often there.  All young guys like chocolate cake or just a drink of water after a soccer game.  There were always soccer games.  And there were the spoils after hunts or fishing trips and I had a freezer. 

There are so many memories.  Having Massa arrive will be like having one of my own boys come home after being apart for 15 years.  It will be so good. 

But we still wait.  We have good news about Massa but there is still Younde waiting in Cameroun. 

Bring him home too, God.  Merci Nzambe.  Na motindo na yo, yaka na ye awa noki.

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More on Nouwen

There are some outstanding things about Henri Nouwen I learned from Michael O’Laughlin’s book. 


One was the decision made by Nouwen to identify himself with Jesus even if that meant being humiliated and scorned by those active in the academic world.  Henri came out strongly advocating that Jesus was “the Son of God come down from heaven” and the central point in Christian spirituality.  Tolerance of religious belief was something Harvard was proud of.  Celebrating Christ’s divinity was not politically correct and Nouwen began to experience rejection.  He was criticised for “spiritual imperialism” by the students. 


Needless to say, this stimulated doubt and depression but at the same time prompted new insights into the “downward” nature of Christian belief.  The road that he was taking did not lead to the “upward mobility” espoused by a generation seeking to become successful and prosperous in the eyes of the world.  It led downward towards humility and simplicity.  Nouwen wrote:

“In the gospel it’s quite obvious that Jesus chose the descending way.  He chose it not once but over and over again.  At each critical moment he deliberately sought the way downwards.  Even though at twelve years of age he was already listening to the teachers in the Temple and questioning them, he stayed up to his thirtieth year with his parents in the little-respected town of Nazareth and was submissive to them.  Even though Jesus was without sin, he began his public life by joining the ranks of sinners who were being baptized by John in the Jordan.  Even though he was full of divine power, he believed that changing stones into bread, seeking popularity, and being counted among the great ones of the earth were temptations. 


Again and again you see how Jesus opts for what is small, hidden, and poor, and accordingly declines to wield influence.  His many miracles always serve to express his profound compassion with suffering humanity; never are they attempts to call attention to himself….”



Henri Houwen began to experience more and more of what it meant to follow Christ on this descending path, finding more solidarity with the poor, oppressed and handicapped.



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God’s Beloved, A Spiritual Biography of Henri Nouwen

God’s Beloved, A Spiritual Biography of Henri Nouwen

By Michael O’Laughlin


One of the reviewers has said of this book, “A biography of a soul – it shows us not how we can be more like Henri Nouwen but how, like him, we can become our own true selves: beloved of God.”  That was my experience as I read this book. 


I think some of the psychological tools used by the author to enhance the understanding of Henri Nouwen will be foreign to the general reader.  As I was reading through the chapter where he goes on at length about the personality type that described Henri, I wondered where he was going and why he spent so much time with this.  Later he does explain himself saying that he wanted to show how Henri was no exception to the traits of personality that shape us.  


“I have relied heavily on the MBTI in writing this chapter because it sheds so much light on Henri’s surprising combination of greatness and weakness, vision and vulnerability.  I believe that a good number of the more puzzling aspects of his personality can be explained as aspects of the ENFP personality type.  By this I am saying that Nouwen was probably much more psychologically healthy than even he himself suspected.” (p 76)


The author then goes on to encourage each of us to be true to the personalities we have been given, not to simply follow in the footsteps of Henri Nouwen.  I like that.  Each of us has been given gifts of personality.  We need to come to an acceptance of this and let God transform us in the ways he wants, use us in  the ways he has for us, rather than trying to live to a standard of another person who may be fundamentally quite different than us.  We will always learn from the experiences of another person but we are not expected by God to be like them.  We are loved by God for who we are.

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