DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Holy Ground

Written by: on September 11, 2019

How does one start to unfold the many possibilities that a book like Discernment Reading the Signs of Daily Life by Henri Nouwen conjures up? Especially when it comes to putting it into practice in a place like London and Oxford. A place of which my only experience is based on books that I have read; TV and news shows that I have viewed or a few surface conversations I have had with people. A place that is full of history, as well as, a place that has seen centuries of change. A place that is familiar yet foreign.

The challenging premise of Nouwen’s book to see how God is active in all of life is easier stated than achieved.  “Spiritual discernment is hearing a deeper sound beneath the noise of ordinary life and seeing through appearances to the interconnections of all things, to gain a vision of how things hang together.”[1] I say this is often easier stated than achieved because it requires me to step away from my own heuristic bias[2] and be open to new processes and broader definition of understanding. We all have our own thought processes and patterns that allow us to make snap judgements and reduce the risks of our choices. In many cases these thought processes serve us well. But when facing new experiences, one must be willing to look “beneath the noise of ordinary life”. Change and growth are two sides of the same coin. To do what you’ve always done and expect a different result is the definition of insanity not discernment.  That is often why I tend to look for common ground with people as a foundational jumping off point. Hearing and experiencing the heart of God in subtle uncommon new ways as part of this journey is an exciting possibility.

Stepping out of a world controlled by clock time especially with the many events that are scheduled in both London and Oxford will be a challenge. Nouwen rightly expresses that “time becomes a burden unless we convert it into God’s time.”[3] Time is a human constraint that often becomes an unforgiving dictator. As a coach I play down the concept of time management and balance for the concept of harmony and life management.  I have never met anyone who can create or control time short of God. To me balance is more an assessment of value that often doesn’t represent the reality that many of the things that compete for our time are not of equal value. On the other hand, things can be out of balance in life but totally harmonious with God’s plan and purposes. Finding God’s intended purpose for me during this journey cannot be discovered without seeing every moment as an opportunity to see God’s divine purpose first. There are exciting possibilities that come with seeing this journey through God’s time frame. Learning goes beyond the head and travels to the heart. Though only a distance of 18 inches the journey from head to heart can in some cases take a long time. I believe it is here where God will expand and broaden my understanding of His call on my life.

One of my favorite studies when taking Hebrew was the Shema. The central focus of the Jewish prayer time focused on Deuteronomy 6:4 frame. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” Nouwen’s concept of discernment in many ways is a form of the Shema. Like Israel we are called to recognize that we have a personal God. We are called to love Him with all our heart, all our soul and all our might. We are called to obey His commands. The concept of teaching, talking and living our beliefs on a daily basis is as vital to the Shema as it is to discernment. Just as Israel was called to see life through God’s time frame, we as well are challenged through Nouwen’s Discernment to see life through God’s time frame.

In a broader concept what comes to mind is a sense of legacy. In many ways as I walk through life with friends and family, read the scriptures and study I am often surprised by the legacies that have been left behind. Whether discussing the Shema as the foundational instructions for life or the call to living a life of discernment I believe the hope is one of leaving a legacy. London and Oxford are places of legacy. While reading Sullivan’s The Secret History of Oxford it wasn’t the obvious rich history that occupied my mind. It was the legacy that has been established through the lives of those who attended there over the centuries, as well as, the lives they in turn touched. In some small way I can hope that through this trip to London and Oxford I can become part of the legacy that was established through the centuries of growth and change. And is some small way I pray I can pass part of this legacy along.

So how does one start to unfold the many possibilities that a book like Henri Nouwen’s Discernment Reading the Signs of Daily Life conjure up? For fear of sounding overly simplistic I can only unfold them humbly one day at a time. When these possibilities have the ability to unfold the eternal heart of God the concept of holy ground comes to mind. Nouwen’s advice to start with “listening and responding to that place within us where our deepest desires align with God’s desires” is a good place to start.[4]

 

 

[1] Nouwen, Henri. Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life. New York. Harper One. 2013. viii

[2] A heuristic is simply a mental shortcut that we adopt through our lives that enables us to make quick decisions and solve problems. The risk is we tend to assume that if this short cut works for one decision it will work for every decision thus, we become cognitively bias. (http://verywellminded.com/what-is-a-heuristic-2795235)

[3] Nouwen, 84 (Nouwen does a good job explaining the difference between chronos and kairos)

[4] Nouwen, xv

About the Author

mm

Greg Reich

Entrepreneur, Visiting Adjunct Professor, Arm Chair Theologian, Leadership/Life Coach, married 39 years, father and grandfather. Jesus follower, part time preacher! Handy man, wood carver, carpenter and master of none. Outdoor enthusiast, fly fisherman, hunter and all around gun nut.

8 responses to “Holy Ground”

  1. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Greg, I’m glad someone decided to talk about kairos time. From my understanding, these are invitations into a moment “full of it’s intended meaning” as Nouwen writes. They are invitations into a connection with God, people, and place that are intended to shape us. This moments drop us into the Learning Circle, and when engaged properly, can be very transformational. This seems to appeal more to those with a mystical bent or preference. How does this compare to your understanding of kairos?

  2. mm Greg Reich says:

    Shawn great question. I am not sure I can give you a sufficient answer. Kairos in the NT greek normally depicts a set or proper time, such as a season or special event. It is the idea of taking advantage of an rare critical opportunity. Chronos usually depicts general sequential time. I agree that those who have a more mystical bent tend to see the super natural in everything. Since I see time as a human constraint and I believe in a God that transcends time and space, though not a Christian mystic, I refuse to limit God in any way. I have found that in order to lower God down to a manageable level the tendency is to raise up humanity to a semi-godlike level. We often forget we are part of the created order not above it. God lives outside of and is not limited to the box we call the cosmos. I am so thankful that He loves and choses to interact and move among His creation. To me this is where kairos takes place, in those moments where God shows himself. Not because we are divine or worthy but because He is God.

  3. Nancy Blackman says:

    Greg,
    “Finding God’s intended purpose for me during this journey cannot be discovered without seeing every moment as an opportunity to see God’s divine purpose first.” YES! I wonder if that is what Nouwen was referring to when he wrote the three points to look for, stay present and share. It helps us to “hear” the quiet noise underneath the surface of life.

    I also LOVE that you wove in the Shema. Beautiful.

    Your words were an encouragement for me.
    Nancy

  4. mm Greg Reich says:

    Bless you! I am glad you were encouraged. It is fun when God shows up outside of our paradigm and shakes us things up. How He works and who He uses never ceases to amaze me.

  5. mm John McLarty says:

    Not so much the history of the place, but the impact and legacy of those who had lived and studied there…

    Old buildings and historic places are interesting, but they are nothing without the story of flesh and blood human beings who built them or established them or worked in them. And to think about what these people accomplished or created or contributed to the world is what truly inspires me.

    Dylan wrote a piece this week about his excitement in being in the same place as some of his literary heroes. Imagining the conversations they were having over a pint. I wonder what world-shaping thing we might do in the places where we work or talk or eat and drink?

  6. mm Greg Reich says:

    John great question. I am not sure I spend enough time truly thinking about being a world shaper where I work. Great food for thought.

  7. mm Jer Swigart says:

    Hey Greg.

    The concept of kairos is so good and, yet, so challenging as it requires a pace and level of intention that, at many times in my life-stage, feels unreasonable. When you find yourself in the kairos flow, are there decisions you’ve made to pave the way for it or does settling into the God-time just happen to you?

  8. mm Greg Reich says:

    Jer I understand the challenge especially if your a type a personality. Due to who I am and my past I do not easily settle into a karios flow. For me it has to be an intentional act of obedience. My daily devotions, theological studies and prayer time focus a lot on joining God on His agenda instead of inviting Him onto mine. Of course I as a leadership coach, Realtor and adjunct professor have a designated plan and agenda but I do try to sit down at the end of the day to process the daily events and access how I did. I designate weekly time to think and process, as well as, dream. I have quarterly vision retreats and I have an annual focus for each year both personal and for marriage. As you can see I am very intentional but leave room and stay open for the Holy Spirit to rearrange things.

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