Our July Book of the month is Reaching Out: The Three Movements of The Spiritual Life by Henri Nouwen. It is one of his first books and most important. We will have a zoom gathering to discuss it next Thursday, July 23 at 7 p.m. Here is the link if you’d like to join:

The heart of the book is Nouwen’s reflection on moving from Hostility to Hospitality: “In our world full of strangers, estranged from their own past, culture, and country, from their neighbors, friends and family, from their deepest self and from God, we witness a hospitable place where life can be lived without fear and where community can be found. Hospitality is the creation of a free and friendly space where we can reach out to strangers and invite them to become our friends.”

Nouwen’s conviction is that this movement is a process of maturing from our fear and self-centeredness to becoming a listening, opening inviting person for others. He says, “Our most important question as healers is not, ‘What to say or do?’ but, ‘How to develop enough inner space where another’s story can be received?'”

The word he settles on in a positive way is Poverty: “Poverty makes a good host.” He is talking about poverty of mind and heart: “When we say, ‘Please enter — my house is your house, my joy is your joy, my sadness is your sadness and my life is your life,’ we have nothing to defend since we have nothing to lose but all to give.”

Henri’s conclusion is that “Real hospitality is not exclusive but inclusive and creates space for a large variety of human experiences.”

I wonder, as we see endless Church leadership conferences — where are the Christian conferences focused on hospitality, on servanthood, bursting at the seams? As followers of Jesus, why are we not more enthralled with emptying ourselves out rather than filling ourselves up? When am I going to learn that “Training for service is not a training to become rich but to become voluntarily poor; not to fulfill myself but to empty myself; not to conquer God but to surrender to his saving power…our fulfillment is in offering emptiness, our usefulness in becoming useless, our power in becoming powerless…it is not the movement from weakness to power, but the movement in which we become less and less fearful and defensive and more and more open to the other and their world, even when it leads to suffering and death.”

I’m spending a lot of time in my driveway lawn chair contemplating the call and opportunities of an emptied out life — a decluttering of spirit, an open heart, ready to listen, wanting to love. Jesus did share that riddle about finding your life by losing it. and his own journey became a parable of hospitality extended to us through his own poverty.

Work on it. Do some deep digging. Get moving. Reach out. And pray with longing for hostility to go hang, and hospitality to fill the days of our lives.

Hope to see you on the screen next Thursday!

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