Henri Nouwen wrote books that sold.
He was a renowned professor at Harvard, Notre Dame, and Yale.
He spent the last years of his life and ministry as a priest with "challenged" people at the communities of L'Arche in Toronto.
He met Bill during that time.
Bill was used by God to transform his understanding of life and ministry.
He wrote about it in In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership.
I read it in the first months of publication (1991).
Ignoring it as carnal contradiction to His caution, counsel, and commands in recordings like Matthew 15 and 23 in pursuit of a professional ministry remotely coincidental to His suffering servant enfleshment, I had already climbed to the top of the ladder of ecclesiastical success by my late 20s and early 30s; only to discover my life and ministry were leaning against the wrong building.
I had achieved everything that was important to me: fabulously well-to-do opportunities, high steeples, big staff, adjunct professorship, adoration, jealousy, $, and sooooooo much more...
It wasn't always that way.
I started in 8th grade with a vision to point people to Jesus so I could join them in changing the world and church by loving Him by loving like Him because He is saving Lord.
Like a forerunner of AS/DV, I fell...to the seductions of the dark side.
I kept falling until...
Maybe that's why I gave a metaphorical name to my pony: Return.
As Return plods to pasture and I trust Him to provide, maybe that's why I will give a more precise metaphorical name to her/his kerygmatic not gender-specific successor as graced to favor: Return2.
I'm not saying I'm not falling anymore.
I still fail and fall.
I still need Jesus to bridge the gap between my carnality and His best desires for me.
I'm still challenged.
I've always identified with Paul.
Not just Swedlund and Watermulder.
In just about every way.
Comprehensively...yet especially as someone who can speak clearly about sin because I'm so well-acquainted, desiring to do good and not desiring to do bad yet having done more bad than good too often, almost too eager to take on the neo-Pharisees/Sads who have poisoned the mainline, usually fearless in the face of the apostates who've slithered into churches/communities/countries/denominations, obsessed with increasing holiness over longings, advocating ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei with minimal inclination to compromise or accommodate, and preferring to be with Him beyond time than remaining in time with all of the...
But here's His truth through him that has buoyed me in a Matthew 7:24-27 kinda way through the good, bad, ugly, and desperately returning: Romans 8:28: "All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according..."
Hence, I was not surprised when, after years of preparation punctuated by Nouwen's book and confirmed during October 2011, God caused/compelled me to exit the professional ministry enabled by those factories of professional ministry (denominations and their seminaries) and pray and really, really, really try more than ever before to follow Jesus by the book instead of the imaginings and reimaginings and rationalizations and bastardizations of Jesus in books about the book.
Then Billy came into my life about 8 years ago.
He will use him to educate me for real life and ministry - undershepherding - until my deepest longing with Paul is satisfied.
Billy is a Special Olympics world golf champion.
I spend lots of time with him; and I will spend more time with him; as promised to his mom and previously to sister and dad who've gone home to Jesus.
Anyway, "challenged" is a word that has been tossed around by lots of ignorant people. When a person has an emotional, intellectual, or physical "challenge" considered different from so-called "normal" people, they are labeled thusly.
Yet, Nouwen's Bill and my Billy cause us/me to question these definitions.
If "normal" describes the majority of pewsitters, pulpiteers, politicians, and other kinda people who have responsibilities for ordering church and society, I'm having increasing reservations about who is "challenged" and who is really "normal"; unless, of course, "normal" is the evolution of "abnormal" or "challenged."
Here's what I mean.
Billy can't lie.
He doesn't cheat, take mulligans (i.e., improve his lie), gossip, or look for opportunities to screw anybody.
He's always asking about the welfare of my children, wife, parents, sister, friends, and our family of faith.
He knows when we hurt and wants to help.
He would never bite, beat, batter, bomb, or butcher anybody.
He's a lover; just ask Jana.
I don't think so.
Praise the Lord!
Who the heaven wants to be "normal" if it means...?
I'm still challenged...by Jesus...through Nouwen...and Billy.
Now take a deep breath...and absorb...
Excerpts from one of the few books not trying to water down or rationalize away the book...
"The more willing I was to look honestly at what I was thinking and saying and doing now, the more easily I would come in touch with the movement of God's Spirit in me, leading me to the future."
"I moved from Harvard to L'Arche, from the best and the brightest, wanting to rule the world, to men and women who had few or no words and were considered, at best, marginal to the needs of our society."
"The desire to be relevant and successful will gradually disappear, and our only desire will be to say with our whole being to our brothers and sisters of the human race, 'You are loved. There is no reason to be afraid. In love God created your inmost self and knit you together in your mother's womb.'"
"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."
"The way of the Christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross."
I'm becoming sooooooo challenged.
I pray every day that I'm never again labeled as normal by anybody; especially Jesus if you know what He means.
I want to love Jesus by loving like Jesus.
Billy is teaching me what I didn't learn in/from...
Blessings and Love!