Archives For Henri Nouwen

One of my uncles died last week. He was 67. My dad is also 67.

I turned 35 today. If you cut my years on this earth in half and went back in time, it would be the summer between my junior and senior year of high school.


Now I’m 35.

If you double the years I’ve already spent on this earth, I’ll be 70.

Blink blink.

It’s been a reflective couple of weeks for me. It’s a reflective time when I start realizing my parents and their siblings are the generation of people who are dying. Like when I was in 3rd grade and my grandpa died. I was sad, but also gained a pragmatic understanding: that’s what old people do, they die. Continue Reading…

What does the Bible say about anger?

Ditch Your Goals for Adventures, Ditch Your Anger for Peace

I’ve struggled with anger for most of my life.

There are generally two types of anger.  One is projected toward a specific person or persons like the spray of a machine gun, the other is brooding and internal and tends to explode when disrupted; like impatience slathered in gasoline.  A spark is bound to find it eventually.

Both wreak havoc in families.

Both wreak havoc in relationships.

Both are huge blockades to peace.

Both seem impossible to manage or control.

It’s one thing to hear a great sermon on anger and say, “Yes.  I will stop getting angry.” Continue Reading…

Do you have “Christian Fatigue Syndrome?”

Are you tired of helping other people enjoy God while wondering if you’ll ever enjoy him again?

Do you feel like you’re on a spiritual treadmill?

Does God feel academic, cognitive and sterile rather than personal, intimate and close?

(I would have said yes to all of these things in January 2015)

Read these 4 books.  I hope and pray they have the same impact on your life and relationship with God that they have had on mine:  (The two Nouwen books take less than 2 hours to read)






the way of the heart

The USA Today section of my Lansing State Journal has an article in it with the startling title “Multitasking teens pick texting over sleeping.”  The article goes on to say how teens spend around 9 hours a day on “entertainment media” which includes social media, music, gaming or online videos, (i.e. time on their smart phones) which is more time than they spend sleeping.

What struck me most about this is the power of culture to mold us and shape us.  Every generation has their “When I was your age…” story, to which the younger generation always rolls their eyes.  These stories are in response to how culture has molded and shaped the next generation in a way very different, and typically seen negatively, than the older generation experienced.

The more I think about what “culture” actually is, the more I am seeing it as a slave owner.  Pretty much anything culture tells us to do, we do.  In America, being a Christian typically just means taking a normal-looking cultural life and tacking Jesus on to the end of it.  Talking to a Hindu about Jesus is interesting because they worship a million gods and have no problem adding Jesus to this group.  It can often feel the same way with American Christians, myself included.  Our gods are just must more amorphous.

I just started reading The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen and can already tell it will be a book that changes my life.  In it he explores the Desert Fathers and Mothers, the 4th and 5th century men and women who fled to the Egyptian desert to live in solitude with the Lord rather than drown in the “shipwreck” that they saw society as. Continue Reading…

at a crossroads behind the curtain ministry podcast noah filipiakRuth Haley Barton is the award winning author of 7 books and the founder of The Transforming Center.  Her book Sacred Rhythms won the Logos Book Award for Best Book Award on Spirituality and her book Invitation to Solitude and Silence won the Christianity Today Book of the Year Award for Spirituality.  In this interview, Noah Filipiak interviews Ruth about how to deal with success and failure, burnout, ego, ambition, technology, pace, false self and true self, finding who we truly are in Christ versus the facade strategies we have learned to protect ourselves, and much more.  Ruth and her Transforming Community team have extensive experience helping Christians and ministry leaders find their true self in Christ and are uniquely gifted and called to this essential work in today’s hectic, cluttered, performance-driven culture we live in.  If you’ve ever struggled with having a dry devotional time with the Lord and wondered if there was more to experience from God than you currently know, God has led you to the right person by now connecting you with Ruth Haley Barton and the Transforming Center.

I’m a relatively critical person and do not give out compliments flippantly.  No hyperbole, Ruth’s book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership has been the most transformative book for me as a Christian and a pastor that I have ever read.  Period.  I wrote about my experience with the book here.

I highly recommend that you read up on Ruth’s books and if you connect well with them and with this podcast interview, that you consider joining a Transforming Community, a cohort of 70 people who meet in the Chicago area over a period of 2-years for 9 quarterly retreats.  I’m currently in a Transforming Community (just finished retreat 2 of 9) and I highly recommend this process as an essential training piece for ministry leaders.  I had a great seminary experience and with all due respect to higher education, I would say that a Transforming Community is the most important training a pastor or ministry leader can undertake.

Listen to the Ruth Haley Barton interview here: (or subscribe on iTunes)

Ruth’s Books Referenced in Interview:

Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation – This is the book Ruth recommends to start with.  Get in touch with your spiritual desire and begin to get in touch with the spiritual practices that correspond with it.  It’s not an “ought to” to do these practices, it’s how to get in touch with your spiritual desire and move toward spiritual practices that are good for your soul.  Practices covered include: solitude, silence, prayer, Sabbath keeping, discernment, establishing a set of sacred rhythms, Scripture, and honoring the body.

Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence – If you’re feeling drawn to solitude and silence, Ruth acts as a spiritual director here.  She takes you by the hand and walk into solitude and silence together with you as a guide.  This is a very personal book for Ruth and her journey which reflects on a period of her life of being out of control and not being transformed.  Based on the story of Elijah.

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Spiritual Practices that Nourish Your Soul and Transform Your Life – Connects the dots between solitude and leadership.  A false bifurcation has developed between solitude and action as if just those “contemplative types” practice solitude and silence.  This book says no, this is the key discipline for all in Christian leadership.  How are my private spiritual disciplines fueling my public life as a leader?  Based on the story of Moses.

Life Together in Christ: Experiencing Transformation in Community – This book lays out Corporate Leadership Discernment as a spiritual practice.  It teaches how to discern God’s will together at a spiritual level; how a leadership group can discern as a community how to do the will of God.  Solitude.  It looks at the question of what is the role of community in our transformation process?  Based on Emmaeus Road story.

Other resources mentioned in the interview: where you will find many articles written by Ruth and her team, along with information on Transforming Communities, and much more.

The End of Absence: Reclaiming We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris