Thinking Out Loud

June 5, 2017

Empathy: The Helper’s Most Powerful Asset

Filed under: books, Christianity, reviews — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:17 am

Some of you will remember that years ago I posited the idea that the reader who focuses only on the latest books would do better to alternate between current releases and classics. When opportunity presents itself, I like to get my hands on books which have been proven bestsellers.

Book Review: The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen

I can’t tell you how many copies of this book I’ve handled but had never actually flipped the pages until this weekend. Realizing that it was only 100 pages made the prospect of reading this a relatively simple task and I actually competed it in a single sitting.

The book’s title is a bit of a spoiler, not to mention that the book is often mentioned in sermons and lectures. Still, the idea of the “wounded healer” really doesn’t really come into focus until the last of the four chapters.

A Wikipedia search reveals that Nouwen — pronounced NOW-in — “was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian. His interests were rooted primarily in psychology, pastoral ministry, spirituality, social justice and community. Over the course of his life, Nouwen was heavily influenced by the work of Anton Boisen, Thomas Merton, Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh and Jean Vanier. After nearly two decades of teaching at academic institutions including the University of Notre Dame, Yale Divinity School and Harvard Divinity School, Nouwen went on to work with mentally and physically handicapped people at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, Ontario.”

Six years ago, we ran a collection of Nouwen quotations at Christianity 201.

At first I thought the book might be simply a collection of four disconnected essays. I was unsure where he was going with his first chapter, a description of ‘beat generation’ youth. (I created that term from the subsequent chapter where Nouwen quotes “an English beat group.” His actual term for the composite person in the case study is “Nuclear Man.”) Though the book was written in 1979, I thought one observation in that chapter was particularly applicable to us today, namely the idea that the young care more about what their peers think than what their parents might think. He sees such a person as having three major life options.

Once I got into the second chapter I began to see where the cohesiveness of the book was beginning to take hold. Again, though written nearly 40 years ago, it was interesting to note the parallels between the three characteristics of what he might term ‘next generation’ youth, and what is written today about Millennials.  

The third chapter was for me the most poignant. A young theology student visits a middle-aged man in hospital awaiting surgery the next day. His exchange with the man, although pleasant, doesn’t really offer much in the way of connection or hope. He returns to his chaplaincy supervisor and replays the visit word-for-word, and it as that point he — and we observers — are struck by the enormity of the failure in giving the man the desire to continue into tomorrow and beyond.  

The final chapter is in some represents the book’s title song; where the idea of the compassion and empathy needed is really driven home. It’s at this point I realized how this book has become a bestseller for so long. 

Some readers, especially Evangelicals, will wish the book was more Jesus-centric. There’s a line early in the book where a minister is told, “If, instead of reading your Bible, you had visited this young man just once and looked into his eyes, you would have known.” I can see how that, especially here out of context, could really grate on some people. However, Nouwen’s popularity today seems to be relatively the same between Catholic and non-Catholic readers. While book excerpts and quotations abound online, a good place to begin would be to check out The Henri Nouwen Society.

 

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February 10, 2012

How “Love One Another” Plays Out in the Real World

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:25 am

October 27, 2010

When is a Blog Not a Blog?

Normally, the Wednesday Link List would be here, and I’ve had comments both on and off the blog about how much you enjoy it.    Probably, it will be back next week, but today it’s not going to happen for two reasons:

  1. Although the comments have been most encouraging, the statistics tell another story.   Many people read the page, but only a handful actually click on the links in question.   I’m frustrated with that, and wondering how to change things.
  2. Some of the links have been to sites where I regularly visit and leave comments, and I’ve noticed lately there has been a recurring pattern where comments I’ve left have not been moderator-approved.   I think this is part of a larger issue concerning the “closed community” that has developed on certain blogs that I’ll deal with separately in a few days; but also the personal side inasmuch as I have dealt with various types of rejection from the Christian community throughout my entire life, so that on a subjective level, it hurts.

I’ve also noticed that there is an increasing tendency on some blogs to not allow comments, or just post the first half-dozen and then close comments completely.   One of the most glaring examples of this is Southern Baptist guru, Albert Mohler.    He likes the efficiency of using a content-management-system (CMS) to create an online presence, but isn’t up for the discussions that might follow.   I suppose if you see your page as nothing more than a “web-log,” that’s fine, but living as we do in a Web 2.0 world, the interaction is what makes this sector of the internet so meaningful.   In fact, I don’t know a CMS provider that doesn’t allow for the possibility of response.

So I poured this out in a heartfelt letter composed to Mr. Mohler, only to get back a form letter from his assistant saying he is too busy to respond.   But not to busy to post his daily encyclical.   Contrast this to Nashville multi-site pastor Pete Wilson, a guy who seems accessible on so many levels; or Thomas Nelson publishing president Michael Hyatt.   They’re busy, too; but they realize if they enter into this particular online world, it’s got to be a dialogue not a monologue.

The problem in so much of Christian endeavor is that people are dying to speak and have their views heard, but not so anxious to listen.     Many grew up in a world where Christian radio broadcast the message of preachers to a world that had no opportunity to respond.    Even today, the number of Christian radio and TV ministries that incorporate a “talkback” or “mailbag” segment is embarrassingly small.

If you don’t have time to listen, you need to reconsider the ministry of Jesus.   So many of his responses to people were in the form of a question; and in his case, questions for which he already knew the answers.

Although the comments-to-readers ratio here is somewhat lower than I’d like, I am so very thankful for the people I’ve gotten to know here, especially where the conversation moved off the blog.    I’m also thankful for being the recipient of the same hospitality from other blogs.   And I will continue to link to writers who have something to say even if they don’t reciprocate.

# # # #

FOOTNOTE 1:   The experiment in church planting that I did one hour east of Toronto — Transformation Church — had this as its advertising tag line:   “Ever wished you could put up your hand in church to ask a question?   Now you can.”     Interactivity is a feature today in many newer churches and the need for this is supported by many Christian authors.    But many are slow to catch on to this.

It’s also apparent in our evangelism efforts, where we ask people questions, but the questions have a pre-determined outcome.   (“So if you’ve told a lie, I guess that makes you a liar, right?”)   The end result is that we’re following the template of a set speech; we’re not speaking with we’re speaking to. That’s just so wrong.

FOOTNOTE 2 — Characteristics of Web 2.0

  • Openness
  • Modularity
  • User control
  • Modularity
  • Participation

For more information click here.

Here’s another way of looking at the “ingredients” of Web 2.0:


 


January 25, 2009

Eugene Peterson on the Difference Between Listening and Listening

Filed under: bible, Christianity, Church, God — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:24 pm

This appeared last week on the blog formerly known as Danno’s Dangerous Mind, now simply known as 12ddm.   He got it from a Christianity Today interview with Eugene Peterson:

clock-spiralIn the last class I taught at Regent, a young woman came up to me and was very irritated. “Dr. Peterson,” she said, “three times during the lecture you did not say anything for twenty seconds. I know because I timed you. I’m from Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, teachers go: Bang! Bang! Bang! I want my money’s worth.”

We’re going to have people like that, people who want very polished and efficient teaching. But when I see people in my congregation taking notes during the sermon, I stop and say, “Put your pencils away. I want you to listen. LISTEN to the Word of God. It’s not something for you to figure out; it’s something for you to respond to.”

It’s slow work, and pastors are not patient people.

I also found this quote interesting in light of the Michael Frost/Alan Hirsch book I mentioned last week, which has a chapter dealing the Hellenistic way of thinking vs. the Hebraic way of thinking; the western approach vs. the eastern approach.

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