Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Return of the Prodigal Son

I recently finished reading a great book by Henri J. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son. As someone who has grown up in the church and has heard the story of the Prodigal Son many, many, many times I was a little skeptical about reading this book because "what else could I learn?" I thought. As I began reading it soon became clear that this was going to be a refreshing new examination of this story. I am not going to write a book review or report here, I am sure that other more qualified and read writers have that under controle. I just wanted to share some things that I found myself identifying with and realizing as I read.
Nouwen is taken on this journey through his interaction with a famous Rembrandt painting Return of the Prodigal Son (seen on cover of book). Starting with the rebelious son, he talks through his process of identifying with each of the 3 characters. It is this that I wish to examin in myself as well.
Let me share with you a little about each of the things that grabed me most as I read this story.
It was not so much reading about the rebelious son that I found myself, though it is true that there are ways in which I do. It was mostly identification with the eldest son, and then the depiction of the great love of the Father that has really captured me at this point.
The older son was the one who worked for his father and did the things that were required of him. In the end he is found to be bitter and unable to enter into his Father's joy for the return of the younger son. Both son's are given invitations to enter into the celebration of the Father, the younger accepted, the elder is not sure what he will do. Will I let go of my bitter selfishness, and respond to the Father's welcome of relationship and blessing. Can I rejoice when others, who are probably not as righteous and good as me, seem to be the direct focus of God's love at a particular time? Can I stop seeing myself in competition for the Father's love and just recognize that there is an abundance available for all His kids. I guess I am just recognizing this subtle, maybe not so subtle, air of entitlement that I feel based on my good works. I have become a Pharasee without hardly recognizing it!
In light of this it was really something to understand the father's disposition in the story. The generousity and mercy and grace and patience and humility shown by the father is breathtaking. I was truely chalenged by the portrate of God in this book, and I don't feel I can really do justice to the way he is portrayed. What was interesting though, and what I will comment on, was the exhortation of the father teaching his son's how to be fathers. The call for us to not remain as we are but to learn from our Father and to become fathers ourselves. This is what has really inspired me from this book. What are the good things I have learned from Father God, and how can I help others participate in those same great revelations.

I really do recommend this one!

Bye for now,

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Entertainment Media Addiction

So the other week I went to this Catholic Spiritual Retreat Centre, called Marywood. I was there for a total of 24 hours. It was a great experience and I especially loved my times speaking with Sister Nina. But that is a different topic for a different time. One of the things that I noticed about myself while there was that I really didn't know what to do with myself in the midst of quiet reflection that is longer than 10 minutes.
My schedule at the beginning went something like this;
  1. I arrived at the centre at 1:00pm,
  2. got settled into my room
  3. had my first visit with sister Nina at 2:30pm
After that, supper was the only thing on my agenda. This was going to be great! I went to my room after my time with Nina and promptly fell
asleep reading in the recliner chair. I should note here for those who don't know, I should never nap during the day... ever! I am a wreck for the rest of the day. Anyways, I was then called for supper and up until this point I was feeling pretty good about my retreat.
At about 7:00pm it started to happen. I was really feeling the need to check some group status, or play some fun little game on the computer. Maybe I could find some sort of interesting thing to watch on a TV somewhere, or a witty radio program to listen to. It was a bit ridiculous how it was all happening in my head. I was there to read and rest and pray, and all I could think about was having at least my computer to twittle away some time. I felt really spiritual!
In an effort to combat my "need" I read. I read until I felt like I could not read any more. I read in my recliner. I read in a different room. I started reading in my bed and then I finally came to the conclusion that I should just lay down and go to sleep... it was 8:45pm.
It was kind of like the feeling I get when I have a really bad head ache, "if I just go to sleep I won't be in pain any more." It was so weird!
Because I had had an almost 2 hour nap in the late afternoon, my attempts to get to sleep went no where. I struggled for about an hour to fall asleep, and finally I remembered the words of my Bible Meditation instructor from Bible school. "If you are having trouble getting to sleep at night," she would say, "just read your Bible, you will be asleep in 10 minutes." It was something like that I am pretty sure. I read the Bible in bed until my neck was sore in any position, I could not fall asleep. I took the next logical step being that I was on a spiritual retreat, I started praying. This is what it sounded like, "God please help me fall asleep." Really spiritual I know.
During this whole process I could not shake the thought about wishing I had some sort of media device that would be able to help me become numb to the pain of my situation. I probably didn't end up falling asleep until about midnight. I also woke up every hour and a half. It was probably one of my worst sleeps that I can recall in years... and I have two kids.
It really was an eye opener to have had this experience. If I ever do it again I think I will start weaning myself weeks in advance, and not let myself nap in the afternoon. I have now started, I feel, to reduce the amount of time I am entertaining myself with technology. Not that I think it is bad or evil, it just needs to be reigned in. I don't know if there is a support group for this sort of disorder but I am sure it would be helpful, and well attended if there was.
All in all, I do feel that my retreat was fruitful and good for me. I would recommend it to anyone.

I would love to hear feed back on this, and invite you to share your own experiences with "digital withdrawal." please leave a comment.

Bye for now,