Monday Monologue, Availability, May 14, 2018 (Podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I share a Mother’s Day prayer and a review of Robert Wick’s Availability.

To listen, click on the link below.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

Monday Monologue, Availability, May 14, 2018 (Podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2018_Ascension

Continue Reading

Hernandez Explores the Polarities and Tension in Nouwen

Henry Nouwen Polarities

Hernandez Explores the Polarities and Tension in Nouwen

Wil Hernandez. 2012. Henri Nouwen and Spiritual Polarities: A Life of Tension. Mahwah: Paulist Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

When I was a scout, I loved working with map and compass. Out in the wilderness armed with map and compass, how do you find your location and plot progress towards your destination? Stories of survivors of plane crashes in remote places often have the theme that those who survived plotted a course out to the horizon while those that died walked around in circles following their own instincts. Because our spiritual journey often bears a resemblance to these survival stories, how do we  interpret the tensions and polarities that we encounter along the way? Wil Hernandez in his book, Henri Nouwen and Spiritual Polarities, takes up this challenge.[1]

Introduction

Hernandez describes himself as “a retreat leader, counselor, and spiritual director” who also teaches at various colleges and seminaries[2]. He finished his doctoral degree in practical theology at Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, California) in with a special concentration in spirituality/spiritual formation.

Hernandez states his purpose as:

“This book is about the tension-filled journey of Henri Nouwen and centered around his inward, outward, and upward (or Godward) resolve to live out the dialectical tensions that characterize much of spiritual life.” (xxi)

Three key points arise in this statement.  First, the journey is Nouwen’s journey. Second, Hernandez sees Nouwen at work to resolve the tension in the journey. Three, the tension itself further divides into three dimensions—inward, outward, and upward—which Hernandez describes as a trilogy—psychological, ministerial, and theological (xxiv).  He sees Nouwen adopting a “both/and modality, moving closer to the center, and working towards integration” (116-117).

For Hernandez tension arises: “when we face various elements of irony, anomaly, absurdity, opposition, or contradiction in our experience” (2).  He asks how come:

“God is portrayed in Scripture as both transcendent and immanent, hidden and revealed, unknowable and knowable, unreachable and accessible, universal and local?” (1)

Opposition

While he acknowledges that this is the nature of the mystery of God, Hernandez is careful in his introduction to define three concepts of opposition:

Paradox“a paradox is characterized by a self-contradictory proposition that can appear absurd or nonsensical.” (2)

Antinomy: “As in paradox, the same element of contradiction is present, except that the appearance of contradiction does not reside in the clever phrasing of the language, but rather is constituted in the very nature of the proposition being articulated.” (3)

Polarity: “Polarity, at its simplest, refers to the presence of two opposites.  When two contrasting principles are placed side-by-side or invoked simultaneously, tension predictably rises.” (4)

Following Preston Busch, Hernandez distinguishes two types of spiritual polarities:  conversional and cooperative. In the first, natural movement is from one pole to the other, while, in the second, movement between poles is back and forth (4-5). While he sees Nouwen’s work in Reaching Out as an illustration of a conversional polarity (from loneliness to solitude, from hostility to hospitality, and from illusion to prayer), the emphasis in this book is on cooperative polarities—such as breathing in and breathing out (5). The reason being that Hernandez sees Nouwen having a proclivity towards integration (6), as mentioned previously.

Hernandez’s focus on this proclivity is highly ironic because, having focused on cooperative polarities, he organizes his chapters around the same trilogy—inward, outward, and upward—articulated in Reaching Out, which he describes as conversional.

Because Hernandez uses this trilogy—inward, outward, and upward—to organize the chapters in his book, let me focus on each in turn.

Inward

Nouwen (1975, 23) sees the inward journey as a movement from loneliness to solitude. Like Nouwen, Hernandez sees the Christian walk as a journey from the false self in ourselves to true self in Christ. Here Hernandez writes:

“Integral to the notion of loving ourselves is the capacity to accept and embrace the totality of who we are—good and bad, true and false. Lodged into our very depths is an ongoing interplay of light and darkness.” (16)

Hernandez interprets Nouwen as seeing the opportunity to re-channel negative energies into “more positive forces” (19).  This re-channeling of the negative is possible because “In God’s economy, nothing is ever wasted, but all is redeemable.” (20) He sees self-knowledge, especially knowledge of our own sin and brokenness, helping us reframe our fallen condition under the curse to become a blessing (24, 41).

Outward

Nouwen’s outward movement journeys from hostility to hospitality (Nouwen 1975, 63). Nouwen hospitality uniquely describes hospitality as offering “a hospitable place where life can be lived without fear and where community can be found” (Nouwen 1975, 65). Like Nouwen, Hernandez sees the inward and outward movements closely bound, perhaps even in tension, for example, when he cites Bonhoeffer:

“Let him [sic] who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. But the reverse is also true:  Let him who is not in community beware of being alone and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in the fellowship.” (48)

Closer to earth, opposite to a ministry of presence is Hernandez outlines a ministry of intentional absence or, what Nouwen refers to as, “creative withdrawal”. He writes:

“The rational for such withdrawal is to pave the way for the Spirit of God to work freely in a person or situation without us potentially getting in the way.” (75)

Perhaps the way to think of it is as an outward counterpart of solitude.

Upward

Hernandez sees our tension with God caught between Christ’s suffering and his glory which we, in turn, mirror (83). He cites a verse dear to my heart:

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death (Phil 3:10)” (83)

Nouwen (1975, 111) starts in a slightly different place talking about a movement from illusion to prayer.[3] Nevertheless, I prefer Hernandez’s perspective because of the temporal component that he takes from John Dunn’s “already” and “not yet” (93)—while we suffer with Christ today, we also look forward to sharing in his future glory.

Wil Herandez’s book, Henri Nouwen and Spiritual Polarities, provides a helpful and accessible commentary on the breadth of Nouwen’s writing, with special emphasis on Nouwen’s treatment of polarities. Nouwen is an important influence on my own spirituality and writing, yet on first reading I have not understood very well what he actually said. Hernandez’s writing has helped me move beyond that point.  Seminary students and pastors reading Nouwen will want to take  a look at this book.

References

Nouwen, Henri J. M. 1975. Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life. New York: DoubleDay.

Nouwen, Henri J.M.   2010.  Wounded Healer:  Ministry in Contemporary Society (Orig pub 1972). New York:  Image Doubleday.

[1] This book is the third in a trilogy focused on Henri Nouwen. The other two are: Henri Nouwen: A Spirituality of Imperfection (2006) and Henri Nouwen and Soul Care: A Ministry of Integration (2008). For a review the first, see: Hernandez:  A Spiritual Biography of Henri Nouwen, Part 1 (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-1ey), Part 2 (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-1eJ), and Part 3 (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-1eN).

[2] Back cover of his book. Also see:  http://www.NouwenLegacy.com/author.php.

[3] I might have expected Nouwen to offer a detailed theology of prayer with transcendence embedded in it.  Otherwise, I might be concerned that Nouwen’s view of prayer is another aspect of his inward journey, an example of psychology overwhelming theology.

 

Also see: Hernandez: A Spiritual Biography of Henri Nouwen, Part 1 

Continue Reading

Called Again: Of Bovine and Boxers by Reid Satterfield

Reid, April, and Emma Jane Satterfield
Reid, April, and Emma Jane Satterfield

Called Again: Of Bovine and Boxers by Reid Satterfield

This morning’s guest blogger, Reid Satterfield, writes about a learning experience as a missionary in Uganda.  Reid hails from Charlotte, NC.

Reflection on Cows

One evening—when we still lived in Northwest Uganda—April and I were awakened by the sound of footfalls just outside of our bedroom window.  Alarmed, I jumped out of bed, grabbed a tire iron, and rushed to our front door.  At that moment I was aware that the source of the noise was on the other side of the door.  Bracing for the worst, I opened the door to—of all things—the rear-end of a cow.  Peering around his hindquarters, I could see him munching on our grass, oblivious to me and to the fact that he’d just desecrated my doorstep and—nearly—my feet.  Agitated, I traded the tire iron for a walking stick and laid into that mangy cow.

As the cow galloped away, I returned to bed, satisfied he would not return and grateful for the ebony walking stick—a gift from an elder of a nearby clan.  Sadly, I enjoyed my satisfaction only a moment.  Within minutes the cow had returned and, again, I had to chase him out of my yard.  This cycle was repeated.  The third time he returned I was so angry that I ran outside, stick in hand, and chased that cow for about 100 meters.

Unexpected Outcome

When I came to my senses, I found myself in overgrowth—where recently I’d had a Wild Kingdom experience with rats and a large black mamba (an aggressive and highly poisonous snake)—wearing only boxer shorts and flip-flops. Chastened, I returned home to a rather amused wife and with another “teachable moment” to ponder.

Following Christ is not always glamorous…it can be downright degrading.  But, these little humiliations that we endure in Christ highlight an oft-overlooked truth that self-regard and humility do not go together.  Following Christ is a “downwardly mobile” pathway [1]. To serve Christ is to count yourself as the least among many; to serve Christ is to put other people’s needs ahead of your own.

So brothers and sisters, accept life’s many humiliations as Christ’s provision for the journey; a journey from self-regard to humility. 

The Apostle Paul’s Words to the Church at Philippi

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:1-8).

Biography

I grew up in Hampstead, NC, a small fishing community located in the southeast corner of the state.  Here I spent endless hours outdoors, fishing, hunting, camping, and exploring the salt marshes of the barrier islands. Through conversation and commitment, my mother and father introduced me to Jesus Christ.

During my last two years at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, I committed myself to a life of following Christ and got involved with Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF; www.intervarsity.org).  Here I developed an inner joy in being discipled and discipling others. My wife, April, and I met in IVCF and we ached to serve Christ in overseas missions. When we married in June of 1996, we were already on our way becoming missionaries.

Mission to Uganda

April and I were missionaries with the African Inland Mission (www.aimint.org) from 1998 to 2001.  Our daughter, Emma Jane, was born  in northwestern Uganda in August of 2000.  Working among the Aringa people, an unreached tribe along the Congo and Sudan borders, our dream was to share Christ’s love with people previously familiar only with famine, war, and exile.  We loved our little mud-brick house in the bush and planned to make it our life’s work.

In January 2001, rebel troops ambushed, shot, and left for dead a friend and I.  We survived miraculously, but my wounds forced us to return to the states in February.  A year later I entered Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (www.GordonConwell.edu) in Charlotte, NC and later (2004-2012) coordinated of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building for the Charlotte and Jacksonville campuses.

St. Patrick’s Anglican Mission

Today, I serve as the Coordinator of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation at St. Patrick’s Anglican Mission (http://StPatricksMission.org). I also serve as a certified lecturer for Perspectives, a nationwide organization that provides churches with educational resources for engaging in world missions and provide spiritual direction to various leaders in and around the Charlotte Metro area.

[1]  Henri Nouwen.  2007. The Selfless Way of Christ:  Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life.  Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books. (www.HenriNouwen.org)

 

Also see:

Reid Satterfield Commencement Address at GCTS 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

Continue Reading