Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Recent readings and thoughts...

I have recently finished reading two books, RealLivePreacher written by Gordon Atkinson and In the Name of Jesus written by Henri J. M. Nouwen. They have both been so wonderfully forming books. Both are written by ministers who daily try to figure out what it means to follow faithfully. I have enjoyed reading both very much. I had connected with the stories of these two very different leaders. RealLivePreacher's book is a blog style archive of stories fictional and real. With poetic beauty he writes about struggles, joys and everything in between that comes into contact with his life and imagination. I found my self connecting with the stories. It is a fun ride and I love the deep thoughts and reflections that are found in this book. Because RLP's book is full of short stories there are many quotes and significant thoughts in it but one that stood out with me is a quote found in the story of a pastor writing an open letter to his congregation, I guess there are obvious reasons why I like it, because I am a pastor, because I am also a person (seriously!) and I struggle and I don't have all the answers and it just connects with how I feel sometimes:
" What do you want from me? Do you want me timid and wearing little spectacles, dronnig from a dusty prayer book while people not in the pews? Do you want a gentle eunuch, tamed and kept by the church gentry? Do you want to pull my chain and watch pretty Jesus words come out?

...What if I threw a Bible at you? Would you like that? What if I glared down at you from the pulpit and hurled a huge King James into a shrieking crowd...

...How about parlor tricks? A little sleight-of-hand and a candle behind the sheet. Is that what you're looking for? An empty wheelchair rolling down the aisle and a palm pressed against a forehand while I lean in close and whisper, 'lie down now, my child, for the cameras are rolling...

...What if my breath stank of grasshoppers and my chin dripped honey?...

...And what if I was all of these things and none of these things? What if I was deeply wounded and did not know why?....

...What if all I could do was limp after a Gentle Shepherd along a very narrow and dangerous way? Would you follow me down the path?"

Of Course to get the real flavor of the story and what I am picking out you have to read it, so these excerpts may mean nothing to you, and thats ok, they mean a lot to me.

The second book finished was In the Name of Jesus, which is Henri's reflections on being a priest, professor at Harvard and leaving it all behind to serve at L'Arche a community working with mentally challenged adults. These are his reflections on Christian leadership...This book is full of depth and wisdom, a call to servant living. Nouwen again and again brings to attention the importance of being willing to be led, to be a servant, to give up the desire to be powerful and embrace authority based on prayer and forgiveness... I must admit Nouwen's honesty with his struggles was refreshing and his honest look at what following Jesus looks like today is exceptional.

Here is a taste:

"What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life."


"The long painful history of the church is the history of people ever and again tempted to choose power over love, control over the cross, being a leader over being led. Those who resisted this temptation to the end and thereby give us hope are the true saints.

This book is packed with wisdom on leadership, that models that of Jesus, a leadership that is not about popularity, about drawing numbers or having the hottest latest pulpit trends, no it is about surrendering and being led and following in the footsteps of a Savior.

These two books have given me a lot to think about, have given and encouraged me to be ever so honest in my faith in my walk and in my ministry. How cool is that?

3 comments:

Never the same page said...

Paul, love your insights on Nouwen's book - my favority thing about him is his refreshing honesty. I remember reading once that he would crave the companionship of a friend, someone who could reassure and affirm him, after preaching or speaking to a group. I loved that he was needy and admitted it - and was still an inspiring leader. great post.
Kelly

Paul Morgun said...

Thanks Kelly! Those themes of companionship were clear in this book as well. I was very impressed with his honesty.

Real Live Preacher said...

Thanks Paul, for the kind words of encouragement.