are you “a declarative” or “a contemplative”?

early morning at Maul-Hall

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10

Let the one who is wise heed these things
and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord. – Psalm 107:43

Morning Devotions:

IMG_8503This year Rebekah and I have made a shift in our morning devotional pattern, switching to a series of daily readings from the writings of Henri Nouwen.

I still look at my Upper Room devotional, read the Bible Gateway verse of the day, and delve into the scriptures from all angles, but we decided that a deeper dive is in order when it comes to setting the trajectory for the day – together – in terms of living faith.

Henri Nouwen:

If you are not familiar with Nouwen I enthusiastically recommend him. He was one of the great late-20th Century Christian thinkers, with an accessible style that invites even the least scholarly reader to absorb the sacred in a way that sets the tone for a more holistic journey.

512+t+nC6YL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Nouwen died in 1996, when he was only 64, just as I was beginning to discover his work. His writing is hard to categorize because it is at once spiritual, academic, psychological, devotional, inspirational, theological, sociological, mystical, and practical.

But if I had to choose one idea that comments on his writing, his speaking, and his living of faith out loud, I’d say Nouwen’s signal contribution was that of demonstrating what it looks like to be a Contemplative in this modern era.

We all know what it means to contemplate; contemplate is a verb, an action word. A Contemplative, however, is an individual, a person defined not only by contemplation but by living in response to this posture of deep reflective faith-oriented thought and prayer and meditation, a way of being that moves beyond philosophy and into a direct experience of the divine.

We stand at a crossroads:

We stand at a critical crossroads here in America. After the first couple of days of this week the level of divisive, hateful, polarizing rhetoric has notched up yet again and with no sign of any redemptive redirection going forward.

So what can we do as authentic, faith-filled followers of Jesus? I’d like to recommend taking our cue from Henri Nouwen and re-orienting ourselves from being what I am coining Declaratives to – instead – Contemplatives.

IMG_E8523Instead of constantly making declarations (bombastic, extreme, judgmental, self-righteous, unyielding) let’s live in response to deep, reflective, faith-oriented thought and prayer and meditation – a way of being that moves into a direct experience of the divine, one that informs not only our thoughts but our actions too.

In love, and because of love – DEREK


  1. Derek,
    I truly love this post. I see myself in your words. I was a “declarative” for a very long time. In fact, I used “declarations” to establish the kind of false front that would get others to leave me alone to do what I wanted. This was much more prevalent during my rebellious years, which included active addiction. I manipulated, lied, and masqueraded as a follower of Christ who was in step with the Word of God. Not surprisingly, I was a hypocrite during that time. My declaration was not limited to my spoken words; it included my behavior. I woke up after several bad “falls” and got down to the business of seeking God and His kingdom first. Tithing as I should. Living to bring honor and glory to Him. Today, I am a “contemplative.” It’s no wonder my master’s level studies in theology are so meaningful and inspiring! Have a blessed day. Steven.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for you helpful thoughts, Steven. That’s a powerful testimony! I think the key to being “a contemplative” is the transformation-in-action that necessarily follows our encounters with God.. Peace – Derek


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