Thinking Out Loud

March 1, 2018

Cricket, Cricket

Many of us aren’t fans of the part of the church service where someone leads us into a pause for silent reflection. Part of us dies inside waiting for the sound waves to begin re-commencing. We become aware of our own breathing and then we swallow. Someone coughs. We hope we turned our phone off, as this would be the worst time for our particular ringtone.

I’m currently starting four mornings this week with The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom and Silence, a short book written by Henri Nouwen  in 1981. The book was written primarily to church leaders, but I love how he nails it on this subject in terms of what we all experience in such moments, which, as the rest as the rest of the book explains so well, is something much needed.

One of our main problems is that in this chatty society, silence has become a very fearful thing. For most people, silence creates itchiness and nervousness. Many experience silence not as full and rich, but as empty and hollow. For them silence is like a gaping abyss which can swallow them up.

As soon as a minister says during a worship service, “Let us be silent for a few moments,” people tend to become restless and pre-occupied with only one thought: “When will this be over?” Imposed silence often creates hostility and resentment.

Many ministers who have experimented with silence in their services have soon found out that silence can be more demonic than divine and have quickly picked up the signals that were saying: “Please keep talking.” It is quite understandable that most forms of ministry avoid silence precisely so as to ward off the anxiety it provokes.

~Way of the Heart, pg. 52

I was intrigued by the line, “silence can be more demonic than divine.” I wonder what other well-intentioned forms and elements in our worship services are producing the opposite effect to what is intended because of the way we’re wired? 


There was another line in this section where Nouwen spoke of “driving through Los Angeles, and suddenly I had the strange sensation of driving through a huge dictionary. Wherever I looked there were words…” (p. 38) We crave constant input now more than ever.

There’s another excerpt from the Prologue to this book being posted tomorrow at our sister blog, C201.

A revised version of the book was published in 2003.

A few years ago I compiled a number of quotations from Henri Nouwen. They are collected at this link.

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November 12, 2014

Wednesday Link List

 

We continue our scintillating series of celebrity photos with this dinnerware shot by Matthew Paul Turner

We continue our scintillating series of Christian author photos with this dinnerware shot by Matthew Paul Turner

Welcome back to classic format Wednesday Link List…

Here’s a cartoon left over from our weekend look at Beetle Bailey:

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March 15, 2009

Christian Radio Without Heart — and — Henri Nouwen — Candidly — On Prayer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:29 pm

Driving around today we were forced to confront the sorry state of christian (small c) radio on weekends. It’s one thing to have an automated format wherein the announcer is not physically present in the studio, but it’s another thing entirely when the announcer just pre-records ‘liners,’ not knowing what songs they are going to match up with. We heard many good songs, but there were no intros or extros, just a pretend announcer pretending to really be there in the studio. We figured we’d at least find out what city they were broadcasting from, but the weather forecast was equally non specific. Just a bunch of temperatures with no location attached. As my wife said, you have to care to do Christian radio. It was just totally sterile and heartless. Are you listening, W[name of station omitted to save them embarrassment]? On the other hand, congrats to all of you out there who understand the heart of radio and try to do things right.

And now for today’s bonus item…

way-of-the-heart-nouwenFor many of us, prayer means nothing more than speaking with God.  And since it usually seems to be a quite one-sided affair, prayer simply means talking to God.  This idea is enough to create great frustrations.   If I present a problem, I expect a solution; if I formulate a question, I expect an answer; if I ask for guidance, I expect a response.   And when it seems, increasingly, that I am talking into the dark, it is not so strange that I soon begin to suspect that my dialogue with God is in fact a monologue.   Then I may begin to ask myself:  To whom am I really speaking, God or myself?

Sometimes the absence of an answer makes us wonder if we might have said the wrong kind of prayers, but mostly we feel taken, cheated, and quickly stop “this whole silly thing.”   It is quite understandable that we should experience speaking with real people, who need a word and who offer a response, as much more meaningful than speaking with a God who seems to be an expert at hide and seek.

~ Henri Nouwen, from The Way of the Heart; quotation is from the original edition (HarperCollins) while the photo is a revised edition (Ballantine).

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