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Lifesigns: Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective [Paperback]

By Henri J. M. Nouwen (Author)
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Item description for Lifesigns: Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective by Henri J. M. Nouwen...

The author explores three vital aspects of Christianity, showing how, together, they offer an essential key to a life free from the domination of fear and filled instead with hope and love. Illustrated.

Publishers Description

"You cannot read "Lifesigns" and not be moved... This book will undoubtedly find its place among the classics of twentieth-century literature."
--Grand Rapids Press
The inspirational writings of Henri Nouwen have touched millions of readers all over the world. Much beloved as a lecturer, spiritual guide, and especially as an author, he communicated a profound message of hope that finds great resonance in today's world.
In his now classic work "Lifesigns," he explores what he saw as three of the most vital aspects of his ministry. The first of these is the Gospel invitation to intimacy, which Nouwen describes as communion with God and relationship with others. The second is the call to fecundity, exhorting us to be open to a fruitful life of change and growth. And the third, the experience of ecstasy, extends the Gospel promise "that your joy may be full." Inspired by L'Arche, the worldwide network of communities where handicapped people and their assistants try to live together in the spirit of the Scriptures, Nouwen shows how these three elements offer the essential key to a life free from the domination of fear and filled instead with hope and love.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Image
Pages   128
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.5" Width: 5.25" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   0.3 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 23, 1989
Publisher   Image
ISBN  038523628X  
ISBN13  9780385236287  

Availability  17 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 19, 2017 09:39.
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More About Henri J. M. Nouwen

Henri J. M. Nouwen Henri J. M. Nouwen has found a wide receptive audience to his books on modern spirituality. He was a teacher of pastoral theology at Notre Dame, the Yale Divinity School and at Harvard University. He was also a frequent visitor and "family brother" at the Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York. His many books include The Return of the Prodigal Son, Reaching Out, Clowning in Rome, With Open Hands, Making All Things New, Out of Solitude, and The Genesee Diary. He died in his native Netherlands in 1996.

Henri J. M. Nouwen was born in 1932 and died in 1996.

Henri J. M. Nouwen has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Modern Spiritual Masters

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1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Authors, A-Z > ( N ) > Nouwen, Henri > General
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Reviews - What do customers think about Lifesigns: Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective?

Directions from a spiritual master  Feb 14, 2007
Psychologist--Priest, Henri Nouwen is the author of 40 books on the spiritual life read widely by Catholics and Protestants. His book The Wounded Healer is required reading for psychotherapists. He taught at the Menninger Foundation, Yale, Harvard and in his last years shared his life with the developmentally disabled at the L'Arche Daybreak community (referring to Noah's ark) in Toronto, founded by Jean Vanier. Here he found in the small society of the handicapped a paradigm for a society governed by fear.

Vanier said to Henri Nouwen at a retreat, "Working with mentally handicapped people, I have come to recognize that all human beings, whatever their condition, are called to intimacy, fecundity, and ecstacy." Jesus refers to this holy triad in John 15 4-17: "Remain in me, and I will remain in you." (15:4) This certainly is an invitation to intimacy. "If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (15:5). This is a call to fecundity. "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." (15:11). Here we have ecstasy. In this book Nouwen shows how the relationship of these three Christian elements are essential to a life of love and hope.

Intimacy is a divine gift allowing us to transcend fearful distance as well as fearful closeness, and to experience a love before and beyond all human acceptance or rejection. The opposite side of the coin of intimacy is solidarity. We cannot claim intimacy with God if we ignore our fellow human beings. It becomes our task to strive toward harmony among all people thereby our "intimacy manifests itself as solidarity and solidarity as intimacy." (Nouwen, p. 45).

Ecstasy comes from the Greek work "ekstasis" where "ek" means out of and "stasis" means to stand still. Nouwen observes, "To be ecstatic literally means to be outside of a static place. Thus, those who live ecstatic lives are always moving away from rigidly fixed situations and exploring new, unmapped dimensions of reality. Joy is always new." (P.,,,,) We can have old pain, old grief, old sadness, but we cannot have old joy. Joy is not being happy with some passing pleasure, but an inner bubbling up which permeates the entire body.

The rarely used word, Fecundity, means fruitful but it is not to be confused with productivity. Students complain of too much homework, deadlines for papers, and preparation for tests. Interestingly, the word "school" comes from "schola" meaning free time. Schools were originally meant to interrupt a busy schedule and make time to contemplate the mysteries of life. Being fruitful I have to give up my defensive life and become vulnerable. When I realize that you and I share some weaknesses and can confess that with each other, then I am vulnerable. This levels the playing field. we have emphasized productivity to the point where competition rules, television advertisements must be adhered to (or you are not going to be good enough), making your quota, earning more money, buying more things and even in our most intimate and vulnerable moments we need to deliver

Nouwen writes much in this book about fear and how it governs our lives. Fear gives our power to act away to another person, a mob or a demagogic government. We echo the refrain "What if. . .?" Fear is a weapon we turn on ourselves. Fear reproduces itself, and like a muscle, gets stronger with use and its prodigy are anger, despair, depression, cruelty, isolation, destruction, and war. When St. John writes "Perfect love casts out all fear," he is talking of God's love. This love, this knowing, grows a feeling of belonging, a feeling of home. "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23)

If we can be disciplined in our spiritual life, we can come closer and closer to home. This involves intimacy with self (through solitude), knowing our Self, our shadows and listening to God. It is here, at home in God, that we can unmask and see through the illusions created by our fears. And finding this home reauires prayer: "Those who have made the prayer of the heart a daily practice come to experience it as a simple, yet beautiful way to their true home. It gradually leads us away from the house of fear and moves us closer to the house of love, God's house." (p..40)

Let me end with the word on one who knew fear and how through her life and work kept it at bay through her love and devotion to God. Ester "Etty" Hillesum was, like Nouwen, born in Holland. Before she and her family were murdered at Auschwitz, she kept a diary that was published posthumously. In it she wrote this prayer:

"Dear God, these are anxious times. Tonight for the first time I lay in the dark with burning eyes as scene after scene of human suffering passed before me. I shall promise You one thing, God, just one very small thing: I shall never burden my today with cares about my tomorrow. . ... I shall try to help You, God, to stop my strength from ebbing away . . . All that really matters is that we safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves. .. . l. defend Your dwelling place inside us to the last. ... And there are those who want to put their bodies in safe keeping but who are nothing more now that a shelter for a thousand fears and bitter feelings. And they say, "I shan't let them get me into their clutches." But they forget that no one is in their clutches who is in Your arms." An Interrupted Life, New York: Pantheon, 1984, pp. 151-52).
A commentary on John 15  Jan 10, 2007
I was reading John 15 one day for my quiet time about 5 years ago. I read about the abiding and the joy. I decided that I did not often feel "at home", nor was the joy discribed here very tangible to me. I decided to hang out on this chapter until I felt some sense of home and some joy. I had found this book for $1.50 at a used book store. I bought it because I loved Nouwen's other books. I put it on my "to read later" shelf. I did a search on the internet for John 15 books and this one came up. I remembered I had it. I read it, slowly. Fr. Nouwen has many great insights into what abiding in Christ (or making yourself home in God as some translations put it) really means. This book moved me big time, and eventually led me to start a practice of centering prayer, where I just hang out with God. In this place I feel this "home" with God that is discribed in John 15. Much joy has come in that place. I try to go there several times a day. I stayed in john 15 and in this book for sometime (over a year) as I tried to put into pratice the priciples that are suggested in this book, it was well worth it.
Fear is the manifestation in negative of faith  Sep 1, 2006
fecundity means consciousness

Fear is the manifestation in negative of faith.
Whenever a person feel fear they are using all the techniques for creation in negative degree.
The person will pronounce the words that describe their fear, will probably visualize with great clarity that which could happen to them, will feel on their body the reactions that fear produce and finally if we insist on this process the manifestation of that which is feared will very easily
come true.

When the author refers to our "home" or holly space is an internal place. where we can trust God unconditional love and
see the bigger purpose runnig behind the scenes through which we manifest all degrees of fear.
This is a very good lesson that repeats on me  Mar 4, 2006
I go back to this book from time to time. I believe that I first saw the citation for it in Sandra Wilson's book "Into Abba's Arms". I read it first as I was separated from my wife. It was a painful time. Jesus used to the book to lift my spirits, and change my outlook. The book also showed me some reasons why intimacy was hard to achieve (because I wasn't trusting in God's love), and why I would get trapped in striving (to please, to be noticed, to get attaboys) because I wasn't really fruitful (because I wasn't trusting in the Father's love), and why I thought that as a good Christian that enjoying God's blessings in a hooting and hollering way was, well just not proper (because I didn't know how much an Abba delights to see the grin on his son's and daughter's faces). A part of the real good news of Jesus Christ is both the abundant life (more to be intimate with, more fruitfulness, more ecstacy, and sometimes more suffering -- but in love) and the fact that God's love when it runs its course, drives out the fear. Though not addressed much in the book, I also covered fear with anger which made me feel powerful, but sometimes hurt others. Far better to let God's love replace the fear. I almost didn't buy the book because I didn't know what fecundity meant, and I feared the book would not be understandable. I found it very approachable, and easy to understand. I am glad the Lord kept after me to buy the book.
A solid, inspiring book  May 13, 2000
Henri Nouwen has never written a bad book. If you're a fan of Fr. Nouwen, you'll again be touched by this simple, practical and penetrating book.

I especially liked the chapter on fecundity, a word not much used these days. He focuses on the difference between being fecund or "fruitful" vs. productive. In our post modern culture, we have the daily, desperate experience of living without bearing fruit. We are busy producing but little is life giving or fruitful. He has some good thoughts and practical solutions. He is so very warm and enjoyable to read.

I'm looking forward to reading this book again.


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