Spiritual Parenting (a.k.a. Mentoring/Discipling): How not to Blow It!

Spiritual Parenting (a.k.a. Mentoring/Discipling): How not to Blow It!

Lately, there has been a lot of talk in Christian circles (at least the ones that I'm involved in) about mentoring ... in particular, older women mentoring younger; older men mentoring younger. 

And hasn't that always been true, no matter the term used? Discipling, spiritual parenting, sharing the Lord ... Of course, we think of Jesus with His disciples, then Paul with his Timothy (and not to forget, Mom & Grandma with their Timothy), also Naomi with her Ruth, etc. You get the picture.

But as we transition from May the month of moms, to June the month of dads, I would like to share about my all time favorite Biblical example when it comes to mentoring.

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A Brother's Personal Story: Mentoring Gone Awry!

Dear Readers In my last post, we discussed the difficult and often painful subject of mentoring that has turned into control rather than freedom and maturity in Christ.

A dear brother responded with his own story. David Bolton writes scripturally, deeply, and yet clearly on his outstanding website, Christ-Centered Christianity. David gets it about the supremacy of Christ in all things, so when he shares, I listen.

cropped-potters_wheel

God desires to, as David has said, "restore this aspect of spiritual fathering and mothering in His family, as it is as important in the spiritual realm as it is in the natural for raising up matured sons and daughters. It is good to share our stories in this regard for we know the enemy ever seeks to distort what God has designed for His glory. We overcome him, though, "...by the word of our testimony!"

Listen with me as David recounts his own journey as a young believer.  May the Lord use this to open the eyes of those who may be caught in the throes of a spiritually unhealthy relationship with another believer.disciples

David's testimony in his own words:

Thank you, Jan, for posting on this subject.  I too had a spiritual father/son relationship early on in my walk that initially was a great blessing to me, but also went awry over time.  A spirit of control grew stronger and stronger as time went on and got to the point where I had to make a decision to come out from under it. That process was very difficult because I didn’t want to be rebellious on the one hand, but it also began to involve other people in a consequential way, and so I/we had to make a break.

A few truths from Scripture were very helpful to me in discerning the true nature of the relationship at the time, which wasn’t easy while in the midst of it as a young believer. The first was Romans 8:15 which says, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “”Abba,” Father.” I realized that the relationship that I had with my spiritual father had become marked almost entirely by the first part of that verse rather than the second. Spiritual sonship should never be based on a spirit that makes us a slave again to fear, but one that evokes a loving, trusting heart which cries “Abba”, Father! Since that is true in our relationship with our heavenly Father, it should, likewise, be true in our relationships with the spiritual fathers and mothers He has given to us.

The second truth I discovered came when I searched the Scriptures carefully concerning the relationship that Paul had with Timothy, and also with Titus, whom he owned as “sons” in the Lord. I noticed that Paul referred to them an equal number of times as “brother” as he did “son”. That was an important insight for that balance seemed to be absent in my relationship with this older brother. It had become all father to son authoritarian. I believe that in Christ, we are first and foremost “brothers” and “sisters”, and secondly we may become fathers, mothers, mentors, teachers, pastors, etc… to a few, but never to the exclusion of the equality of brotherhood that is foundational and essential in Christ. Keeping the right balance in this regard is key to a healthy relationship and a good safeguard against undue control.

In my situation, I ended up appealing to one whom this brother owned as his spiritual father, and this godly man encouraged a separation, at least for a time.  We later worked through a number of attempts at reconciliation and were able to finally come to a place of mutual respect and peace, though the closeness of fellowship we once knew was never fully restored.

I share these things in hopes that they may be an encouragement to others, either as a mentor or a mentoree.  These relationships are some of the greatest gifts that God gives us if they are walked in in the right spirit. May we all have wisdom and grace to follow Christ in His humility and love!

Thanks for sharing your story and for tying in the lessons of John the Baptist. He is a great model for us to follow!

So good! Thank you, David.walking with jesus

Brothers and sisters, feel free to share your stories here in the comment section below.

If you care to read the story of another brother in the Lord, Frank Viola, as he also shares of his mentoring experience gone awry, click here A Tale of Two Mentors

Mentoring Gone Awry

He must increase, but I must decrease.John 3:30 ESV

Have you had a mentor, a spiritual father or mother? Do you have one now?

spiritual fathers

I have had a few.  For the most part, they were godly, sincere, vulnerable believers who shared the Lord freely and in a spiritually healthy way.  But recently, I have been shocked by one of my long term "fathers."

Because of our differences in interpretation of several passages of Scripture, he totally cut off fellowship with me, wanting no further contact.  This aging saint had said that he was "shocked, disappointed, and somewhat traumatized" by my "rejection" of his interpretation.

To say the least, I was shocked that a mature believer would handle differences in minor points this way.  But I've found that I am not alone. In fact, two of my friends have experienced the exact same kind of thing for the same reason.

So how does spiritual fathering/mentoring go awry?  Is it control? Insecurity? Pride?

As one of my friends aptly said of his own rift with his mentor,

The main issue [was] no freedom to disagree. My journey with Jesus couldn't progress without absolute freedom to follow wherever He led.  My dear mentor required uniformity of thought/belief which is unhealthy. --Rennes Bowers

Since I am at the stage of maturity where I have the honor of coming alongside other believers, I want to learn from all of this. And maybe you do too, whether you are a mentor or being mentored!

Well, there is good news! There is a gem of a spiritual father tucked away in the gospels, one of my heroes of the faith, John the Baptist!  He shows us what a true "spiritual father" is like.

Take a few moments and read through chapters 1 and 3 of the gospel of John to see...

john the baptist pointing

Spiritual Fathering at its best

I have observed three things about John:

1. John knew who Jesus was.

John was Jesus' cousin, yet John didn't really know who Jesus was until the Holy Spirit revealed directly to John,

Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God. John 1:32-34

Once John knew Jesus as the Messiah, he was totally "all in."  Even though a prophet is without honor in his own country, John's cousin Jesus had the priority and honor due Him.  Look at some of what John knew through divine revelation about the Lord Jesus:

Jesus is the Light ...the One who is coming, who ranks ahead of him, because He was before him ...the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world ...the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit ...Christ the Messiah, ...the Bridegroom who has the bride ...the One who comes from heaven and is above all ...the One who speaks God's words ...The One who has the Spirit without measure

The Lord Jesus Christ and all he knew about Him was what John focused on and proclaimed. John heard from the Father about Jesus the Promised One, and then John spoke from that continuous revelation.

2. John knew who he was.

John had no delusions of grandeur. When asked by the priests and Levites sent from the Pharisees who he was, John right away responded,

I am not the Christ!

Who then?

I love John's response,

I am the voice of one crying out:  'Make a straight road in the desert for the Lord.'

John knew he was a voice, unworthy to untie the sandal of the One coming after him.  His job was to testify to the Light that was coming into the world. John was a witness. That was his role, and he knew it and embraced it.

3. John never confused the two.

I am amazed at how John never deviated from his focus, despite the fact that his disciples were leaving him to follow Jesus.  He had no "Messiah complex," so to speak.  He freely released his followers, pointing them toward the Christ.

I love the imagery John used when he described himself as the "friend of the bridegroom who rejoiced at the bridegroom's voice."  He knew Jesus to be the Bridegroom who has the bride.  So John's joy was complete to point the way to Him!

As John so beautifully stated,

He must increase, I must decrease!

 walking with jesus

What can we learn?

Whether we are the mentors or the ones being mentored (even by messages we read and hear), we need to keep these truths in the forefront of our minds:

1. The Lord Jesus Christ is All!

As John knew, Jesus Christ is the Light, the Promised One, the Savior of the world.  He is the Bridegroom who has the bride (the "church," believers, the body of  Christ). He is the Sum of all Spiritual Things, as our brother Watchman Nee so aptly put!

2. We are all His!

All of us believers have the indwelling Christ through the Holy Spirit...from the youngest believer in the Lord to the most mature saint of God.

And like John, we each have a role to play.  God opens the way so that we can serve others in a unique way and be served by others in the body of Christ in Jesus' name.

And so, as the Lord spoke to my heart many years ago,

Respect the Holy Spirit in yourself and other believers...even young ones!

3. A healthy detachment characterizes healthy believers, young and old!

Each of us individually can learn to hear and follow the Lord day by day. Jesus Himself said,

My sheep hear [keep on hearing] my voice and I know them and they follow [and keep on following] ME! John 10:27

We can encourage each other to do that very thing, releasing our brothers and sisters to follow HIM even when their path may be different from our own.  John the Baptist did this well, didn't he?

Our own freedom to follow and our giving that freedom to others is at the heart of spiritual growth. As Andrew Murray said of abiding in Christ,

...independent of all else, because dependent on Jesus. Abide in Christ

Lord, Thank you for the brothers and sisters you have placed strategically in my life. They have loved me and taught me about you and your ways. Teach me to release others to You in Your name. You are our All and in all! Amen.

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. Hebrews 13:7 NLT

 

A Spiritual Father: Abba's Child

Before I bring this series to a close with my last post ("Spiritual Fathering Gone Awry" -- don't miss it next week!), I just want to share one more believer who "fathered me" into a deeper experience of the unconditional Father love of my God...Brennan Manning. I would like to repost the blog I wrote just after this dear brother went home to his Abba.  It is entitled,

Welcome Home, Brennan: Abba's Child April, 2013

Brennan Manning
Brennan Manning

I've always been a worker bee...a religious, spiritual worker bee...but sincerely so. A God who was straight-faced, hardly cracking a smile, was the One I served. Despite that, I still loved Him, but I wanted Him to smile upon me.My journey took me through the "do & don't" list of my "birth church" to a convent for several years to evangelical Christianity, all the while exchanging one "do & don't" list for another...sincerely so, "born-again" so,...but working, ever working, not for my salvation, but for my sanctification...but sincerely so! Then after a health breakdown and all, I got to know the Living God...the great I AM! And you know what? He was smiling at me! Why? Because of Jesus and the love of His Abba and MINE!!!! So when I discovered Brennan Manning's books, way back when, they were pure joy and delight! They were like the sweetest of "fertilizer" for the young plant beginning to grow of "being loved and embraced by my Abba" no matter what!So I am grateful to God for this "fellow runner" in the "race of faith." He has been one in the magnificent "cloud of witnesses" surrounding me. Hebrews 11-12

I've quoted Manning several times over the past two-plus years at a branch in the Vine. I'd like to share one of my favorites with my Congratulations to a dear brother on his graduation to Glory! You will be missed, dear brother, but we know you would never want to come back!

We are not cowed into timidity by death and life. Were we forced to rely on our own shabby resources we would be pitiful people indeed. But the awareness of Christ's present risenness persuades us that we are buoyed up and carried on by a life greater than our own.

The Christ within who is our hope of glory is not a matter of theological debate or philosophical speculation. He is not a hobby, a part-time project, a good theme for a book, or a last resort when all human effort fails. He is our life, the most real fact about us. He is the power and wisdom of God dwelling within us.The Rabbi's Heartbeat, Brennan Manning

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I just found this "book trailer" on a link advertising Manning's last book, All is Grace. To my delight and surprise, I noticed that he retired in Belmar, NJ where my mother, brother, and sister live. In fact, it looks like he may have preached at my mom's church, St Rose in Belmar, at some time in the past. Take a look and follow this link to order his book.

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You might also like the series, Abba's Child...some of these posts are based on Brennan Manning's writings.

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A CD by Rich Mullins was playing in my car this week. I thought it would be appropriate to share this song of his (one of my favorites) in memory of Rich's mentor, Brennan Manning. Rich had named his band the Ragamuffin Band after Manning's classic book Ragamuffin Gospel. Both Rich and Brennan are now in heaven, "getting caught up!" Enjoy!

If I Stand Rich Mullins

There's more that rises in the morning Than the sun And more that shines in the night Than just the moon It's more than just this fire here That keeps me warm In a shelter that is larger Than this room

And there's a loyalty that's deeper Than mere sentiments And a music higher than the songs That I can sing The stuff of Earth competes For the allegiance I owe only to the giver Of all good things

CHORUS: So if I stand let me stand on the promise That you will pull me through And if I can't, let me fall on the grace That first brought me to You And if I sing let me sing for the joy That has born in me these songs And if I weep let it be as a man Who is longing for his home

There's more that dances on the prairies Than the wind More that pulses in the ocean Than the tide There's a love that is fiercer Than the love between friends More gentle than a mother's When her baby's at her side

And there's a loyalty that's deeper Than mere sentiments And a music higher than the songs That I can sing The stuff of Earth competes For the allegence I owe only to the Giver Of all good things

CHORUS(2x)

And if I weep let it be as a man Who is longing for his home

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View Brennan's obituary and video tribute on his website:

http://brennanmanning.com

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A Spiritual Father: a Modern-day Prophet

My husband John and I were students at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in the mid-1970's.TOZER  It was during our student days at Moody that we were introduced to A.W. Tozer.  My impression of Tozer at that time was that he was a somewhat controversial Chicago pastor of recent years who had a unique gift for being very sound biblically but at the same time shaking up the conservative evangelical "troops." I bought a set of his volumes entitled, The Tozer Pulpit and enjoyed his fiery words.  He said such things as...

One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organization do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team. . . .

We might be wise to follow the insight of the enraptured heart rather than the more cautious reasoning of the theological mind. The Knowledge of the Holy

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. Pursuit of God

Current evangelicalism has...laid the altar and divided the sacrifice into parts, but now seems satisfied to count the stones and rearrange the pieces with never a care that there is not a sign of fire upon the top of lofty Carmel. But God be thanked that there are a few who care. They are those who, while they love the altar and delight in the sacrifice, are yet unable to reconcile themselves to the continued absence of fire. They desire God above all. They are athirst to taste for themselves the "piercing sweetness" of the love of Christ about Whom all the holy prophets did write and the psalmists did sing.

There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy.

Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the Living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts. Pursuit of God

Tozer has fed my soul for years with his classics Pursuit of God and Knowledge of the Holy.  When I was trying to get free of, what I call, to do list Christianity, I rediscovered the Pursuit of God.  That precious little volume, hastily written by Tozer on a train ride, became my regular reading year after year for many years.

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When asked why I kept reading the same book over and over again, I replied, "because I want to brainwash myself with spiritual truth.  I've already been brainwashed with the lie of the Christian to-do list. Now I want God's way to do life."

And so now when I come back to those treasured words in that well-worn volume, it's as if coming back to a beloved friend. I'm forever grateful!

So let me tell you a bit about A.W. Tozer...

A.W. Tozer

Aiden Wilson Tozer was an American evangelical pastor, speaker, writer, and editor. After coming to Christ at the age of seventeen, Tozer found his way into the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination where he served for over forty years. In 1950, he was appointed by the denomination's General Council to be the editor of "The Alliance Witness" (now "Alliance Life").

Born into poverty in western Pennsylvania in 1897, Tozer died in May 1963 a self-educated man who had taught himself what he missed in high school and college due to his home situation. Though he wrote many books, two of them, "The Pursuit of God" and "The Knowledge of the Holy" are widely considered to be classics.

A.W. Tozer and his wife, Ada Cecelia Pfautz, had seven children, six boys and one girl.

You can read Pursuit of God in its entirety right here.  Each chapter has been a favorite for me at one time or another. So you too can take your pick.  My guess is that every time you read, it will be a different one for whatever God is saying to you at that given time.

Here are just a few of my favorite quotes from Pursuit of God, just to wet your appetite:th-2

About Life and Faith:

Jesus calls us to his rest, and meekness is His method. The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has long ago decided that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort.

Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.

religion

About Religion:

Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart. The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and that servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all...

When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the "and" lies our great woe. If we omit the "and" we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing.open bible

About the Voice of God and the Scriptures:

One of the great realities with which we have to deal is the Voice of God in His world. The briefest and only satisfying cosmogony is this: "He spake and it was done." The why of natural law is the living Voice of God immanent in His creation. And this word of God which brought all worlds into being cannot be understood to mean the Bible, for it is not a written or printed word at all, but the expression of the will of God spoken into the structure of all things. This word of God is the breath of God filling the world with living potentiality. The Voice of God is the most powerful force in nature, indeed the only force in nature, for all energy is here only because the power-filled Word is being spoken.

The Bible is the written word of God, and because it is written it is confined and limited by the necessities of ink and paper and leather. The Voice of God, however, is alive and free as the sovereign God is free. "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." The life is in the speaking words. God's word in the Bible can have power only because it corresponds to God's word in the universe. It is the present Voice which makes the written Word all-powerful. Otherwise it would lie locked in slumber within the covers of a book.

The Bible will never be a living Book to us until we are convinced that God is articulate in His universe. To jump from a dead, impersonal world to a dogmatic Bible is too much for most people. They may admit that they should accept the Bible as the Word of God, and they may try to think of it as such, but they find it impossible to believe that the words there on the page are actually for them. A man may say, "These words are addressed to me," and yet in his heart not feel and know that they are. He is the victim of a divided psychology. He tries to think of God as mute everywhere else and vocal only in a book.

A Spiritual Father: Abide in Christ in Faith-filled Surrender

How do I abide in Christ? How do I live the Christian life if it's by faith and not about "doing?" What is faith?fruitful vine These were questions that circled around, on and on in the midst of my confusion...that is until I "met" Andrew Murray.  Actually, I had read him early in my Christian walk, but that was during the time that "faith formulas" and "to do lists" and "theological systems" were more the answers to my quests than was Christ Himself (although I didn't realize it at the time).

In fact, it wasn't till the Christian life didn't work for me any more -- health breaking, those closest to me not believing me, assuming God was judging me for not "having my act together," that I discovered again, as if for the first time, my dear Andrew Murray.

Who is this saint of the past?

Andrew Murray (9 May 1828 – 18 January 1917)Andrew_Murray was a South African writer, teacher, and Christian pastor. A prolific preacher as well as writer, he authored more than 240 books, pamphlets and articles. Often his books were made up of 31 short chapters, one for every day of the month.  His major theme was absolute dependence on the God who does all.

I love Murray for this.  In my zeal to do the Christian life "right," I had lost sight of the God of grace Who does the doing in and through me as I let Him (the surrender of faith).

So if I have to pick one "father" from among the many God has led me to, I would pick him...and here's why...God used his sweet little volumes to answer some of those gut-level, Christian life not working for me, questions.

He gave me a "definition" of faith that I could live by:

Faith is "...confessed helplessness casting itself on God and His promises..."

Murray also was responsible for what became my "motto" and my life verse (and inevitably the name of my blog):

I'm just a branch...but a beloved one!

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5 ESV

Enjoy some of these quotes from Andrew Murray, my father in the faith:

Abiding in  Christ

“As surely as the Husbandman made the Vine what it was to be, will He make each branch what it is to be. Our Father is our Husbandman, the Surety for our growth and fruit...

He insists upon the truth: Not of itself can the branch bear fruit; except it abide, it cannot bear fruit. “No more can ye, except ye abide in me.”

Let me learn the lesson. Abiding is to be an act of the will and the whole heart...

You are the branch.—You need be nothing more. You need not for one single moment of the day take upon you the responsibility of the Vine. You need not leave the place of entire dependence and unbounded confidence.

Abiding in Me is indispensable, for, you know it, of yourselves you can do nothing to maintain or act out the heavenly life...

It is the wholehearted surrender in everything to do His will, that gives access to a life in the abiding enjoyment of His love. Obey and abide...

The purpose is His, He will carry it out; the fruit is His, He will bring it forth; the abiding is His, He will maintain it.” ― The True Vine

Living by Faith

You know how Scripture teaches us that in all God's leadings of His people, faith has everywhere been the one condition of the manifestation of His power.

Faith is the ceasing from all nature's efforts, and all other dependence; faith is confessed helplessness casting itself upon God's promise, and claiming its fulfillment; faith is putting ourselves quietly into God's hands for Him to do the work. -- Abide in Christ

...the life of faith [is] a life in which, every moment, everything is expected from God. -- The Two Covenants

...the true nature of the branch-life; its absolute dependence, and at the same time its glorious sufficiency -- independent of all else, because dependent on Jesus. -- Abide in Christ

Relationship between Grace and "Doing" (Law)

It is impossible to speak too strongly of the need there is to know that, as wonderful and free and alone sufficient as is the grace that pardons, is the grace that sanctifies; we are just as absolutely dependent upon the latter as the former.  We can do as little to the one as the other.  The grace that works in us must as exclusively do all in us and through us as the grace that pardons does all for us.  In the one case as the other, everything is by faith alone.

...the one difference between the Old [Covenant, Law] and the New [Covenant, Grace] is that in the latter all is to be done by God. -- The Two Covenants

A Spiritual Father: Bread for my Soul's Journey

One of my spiritual fathers was still alive on this earth when I first "met" him. HenriNouwenHenri J. M. Nouwen (January 24, 1932 – September 21, 1996) was a Dutch Catholic priest and writer who authored 40 books on the spiritual life.

Our "meeting" came in two ways. A mentor friend of mine pointed me to Nouwen's classic work, The Return of the Prodigal Son. This is an amazing book based on meditations on Rembrandt's painting by the same name. (See my previous post for a favorite quote).

The other "encounter" came through a gift from my friend Penny.  The precious volume she gave me came at a very significant time.  Our young adult son was in the hospital going through a long surgery for thyroid cancer.  It was then that Nouwen's Bread for the Journey became bread for my journey through the days that followed.

As a result, I fell in love with Nouwen's writings and began to read whatever I could find that he had written.  Henri Nouwen helped me learn to embrace my broken humanity as the place where I could meet the Lord.

Here is today's selection from Bread for the Journey.  What follows are memorable quotes from Nouwen's best loved works.

Bread for the Journey, June 04

by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Being Clothed in Christ

Being a believer means being clothed in Christ. Paul says, “Every one of you that has been baptized has been clothed in Christ” (Galatians 3:26) and “Let your armour be the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). This being “clothed in Christ” is much more than wearing a cloak that covers our misery. It refers to a total transformation that allows us to say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and yet I am alive; yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Thus, we are the living Christ in the world. Jesus, who is God-made-flesh, continues to reveal himself in our own flesh. Indeed, true salvation is becoming Christ.

Bread-for-the-Journey

Jesus was a revolutionary, who did not become an extremist, since he did not offer an ideology, but Himself. The Wounded Healer (1972)

Prayer is not a pious decoration of life but the breath of human existence. The Wounded Healer (1972)

When we walk in the Lord's presence, everything we see, hear, touch, or taste reminds us of Him. This is what is meant by a prayerful life. It is not a life in which we say many prayers but a life in which nothing, absolutely nothing, is done, said, or understood independently of Him who is the origin and purpose of our existence. The Living Reminder: Service and Prayer in Memory of Jesus Christ (1977)

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. Here and Now: Living in the Spirit (1994), pg. 175

We often confuse unconditional love with unconditional approval. God loves us without conditions but does not approve of every human behavior. God doesn’t approve of betrayal, violence, hatred, suspicion, and all other expressions of evil, because they all contradict the love God wants to instill in the human heart. Evil is the absence of God’s love. Bread For the Journey (1996)

I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. In the Name of Jesus (1989)

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. Out of Solitude

People who pray stand receptive before the world. They no longer grab but caress, they no longer bite but kiss, they no longer examine but admire. Encounters with Merton

To pray means to open your hands before God. It means slowly relaxing the tension which squeezes your hands together and accepting your existence with an increasing readiness, not as a possession to defend, but as a gift to receive. Above all, prayer is a way of life which allows you to find a stillness in the midst of the world where you open your hands to God’s promises and find hope for yourself, your neighbor and your world. In prayer, you encounter God not only in the small voice and the soft breeze, but also in the midst of the turmoil of the world, in the distress and joy of your neighbor and in the loneliness of your own heart. Prayer leads you to see new paths and to hear new melodies in the air. Prayer is the breath of your life which gives you freedom to go and to stay where you wish and to find the many signs which point out the way to a new land. Praying is not simply some necessary compartment in the daily schedule of a Christian or a source of support in time of need, nor is it restricted to Sunday mornings or mealtimes. Praying is living. It is eating and drinking, action and rest, teaching and learning, playing and working. Praying pervades every aspect of our lives. It is the unceasing recognition that God is wherever we are, always inviting us to come closer and to celebrate the divine gift of being alive. In the end, a life of prayer is a life with open hands where we are not ashamed of our weakness but realize that it is more perfect for us to be led by the Other than to try to hold everything in our own hands. Only within this kind of life does a spoken prayer make sense. A prayer in church, at table or in school is only a witness to what we want to make of our entire lives. Such a prayer reminds us that praying is living and it invites us to make this an ever-greater reality. Thus, there are as many ways to pray as there are moments in life. Sometimes we seek out a quiet spot and want to be alone, sometimes we look for a friend and want to be together. Sometimes we like a book, sometimes we prefer music. Sometimes we want to sing out with hundreds, sometimes only whisper with a few. Sometimes we want to say it with words, sometimes with a deep silence. In all these moments, we gradually make our lives more of a prayer and we open our hands to be led by God even to places we would rather not go. With Open Hands (1972)

Henri Nouwen http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Henri_Nouwen Wikiquote

Spiritual Fathers: Dead and Alive

I am writing to you, fathers,because you know him who is from the beginning. 1 John 2:13,14 ESV

Since the month of June is Fathers Day month,  I'm thinking about spiritual fathers.   I've been blessed to have some.  My life has been forever enriched by being "spiritually fathered" by these people of God.

So this month, I would like to share a few of them with you. But first, let's think together about "spiritual fathering."

In his first letter, the fatherly aged apostle John penned a tenderhearted passage on the growth stages in a believer's life.  He describes for us spiritual childhood, then young adulthood, and finally fatherhood:

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 1 John 2:12-14 ESV

Did you notice that he repeats two times the exact same description of the "father stage" of spiritual growth?

"...you know Him who has been from the beginning."

"You know GOD in His pure Person...the great I AM, the Burning Bush God, Jehovah!"  Nothing else is needed...nothing else distracts.  There's a total focus on the Ever-Present God and what HE is doing...especially in the lives of people.

Henri Nouwen, in his wonderful book The Return of the Prodigal Son talks about how we are each ultimately called to be the "father (or mother)" in others' lives.

...my final vocation is indeed to become like the Father and to live out His divine compassion in my daily life...every son and daughter has to choose to step beyond their childhood and become father and mother for others.  It is a hard and lonely step to take... Return of the Prodigal, p121.

Nouwen talks about three ways to truly compassionate fatherhood:  grief, forgiveness, and generosity.  All three of these characteristics require a heart completely empty of self-seeking, a heart that steps over our own stuff  and pours itself out for others.  This is where the Father seeks to take His children as they "grow up" in Him.

I love the image of "stepping over our own stuff."  It has helped me many a time in conversation or in situations to remember that as I mature in God I must be willing to step over this conflict, that slight, the other hurt, etc.  That's the way of the Father...and the way of fathers and mothers who walk in His way on behalf of His children:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

Do you have any spiritual fathers (or mothers, for that matter) in your life?  If so, thank God and imitate their faith!  If not, ask God for some...they are treasures!  And then grow to become one!

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7 ESV

*More in the coming posts about some spiritual fathers, both dead and alive :)