Friday, August 28, 2009

Facing the Challenges: Reflections on Henri Nouwen's Words

Henri Nouwen, esteemed thinker, priest, previous professor at Harvard, and--eventually--member of a community for handicapped persons--explored his own inner life and the workings of the world in profound ways. One of his books, Reaching Out, houses reflections about moving from fear towards love.

In Chapter 4 of this volume, Nouwen writes, "Our preoccupations help us to maintain the personal world we have created over the years and block the way to revolutionary change. Our fears, uncertainties and hostilities make us fill our inner world with ideas, opinions, judgments and values to which we cling as to a precious property. Instead of facing the challenges of new worlds opening themselves for us, and struggling in the open field, we hide behind the walls of our concerns holding on to the familiar life items we have collected in the past" (Nouwen, 1986, Doubleday).

How true.

Perhaps one of the greatest difficulties I experience--and many others I know--is the notion of sustaining or presenting an openness. Far too often, we build our lives with large rocks, and once they are in place, we rehearse their formation continually so that we will will memorize their placements and never have to worry about moving them. In other words: we become tied down by our outdated opinions and beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world. I like Nouwen's thoughts, here, because they advocate for "facing the challenges of new worlds opening themselves for us" rather than remaining where we are.

Though painfully difficult to leave the shore, so to speak, it is the way in which I want to seek to live.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Camping with Baby

Jennifer and I just returned from our first camping trip with our nine-month old, Tyler. Prior to having Tyler, jen and I had gone on numerous camping trips, the l;ongest being a National Parks Road Trip a couple years ago where we camping in or near many of the great, Western National Parks.

Campfires, reading by rivers, journaling with mountains in view, liong conversations with cups of coffee brewed by percolation on our trusty Coleman camping stove--purchased by Jennifer for four bucks at a tag sale.

These are the recollections that come to mind when I recall camping with my wife. Camping with Baby on this most recent foray into the Adirondack Mountains, however, was a bit of a different story.

Jen and I joked that our moments of peace would have to become much more efficient. As we hiking up to the top of Roaring Brook Falls, a gorgeous 100 foot waterfall at the base of Giant Mountain, we soon realized that when we peaked, Tyler might allow us 20 minutes at most: we'd have to optimize our time for peace. Fit it in.

And yet.

And yet: there was still peace. We still saw the Falls; our bare feet still found their way to the cool rushing water of the river, the slopes of the slippery rocks.

At one momet on top of Roaring Brook Falls, I had walked over to the edge, where a view is afforded of the mountains in the distance, as well as the top of the waterfall. I stood there, looking off into the wide expanse of land and water--the fresh air, the beauty of it all.

And then I looked in the other direction, up the river. There: Jennifer sat holding Tyler, cradled in her arms, his head close to hers. Her feet touched the cool water, and together, the two of them were a more beautiful sight than I have ever seen. More spectacular than any waterfall; more awe-inspiring than any array of trees; more peaceful than a full day of journaling by a river.

Camping with Baby is definitely different, and I can't promise you that we'll be rearing up to go for another camping trip with Tyler right away. (The lure of carpeted hotels for Tyler to roll around in is strong.) However, Camping with Baby is definitely possible--even peaceful, if we're willing to find that peace shortened just a bit, more concentrated, but also more powerful.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Reflections on Rain, Marriage, and Children

Jennifer and I have had ample time to go on long walks in the morning, late morning, early afternoon, afternoon, evening, and pre-bed nighttime walks.

You may have already guessed it: Tyler loves the outdoors. If he is ever fussing, we simply throw him in the backpack--a cool sort of outdoorsy thing which allows Tyler to be on my back at the level of my head and grab fistfulls of my hair when he gets really psyched about something--and out the door we go. Interestingly, Tyler's seemingly insatiable desire to get outside and walk has afforded Jennifer and I lots of time to talk, connect, dream and laugh together. Today was one of the most fun walks we've had: it began pouring as we walked, and we simply decided to keep on chugging along. Tyler squealed with delight and Jennifer and I found ourselves laughing in glee as we became soaked by the cleansing wash of warm rain on a midsummer's day.

Soon, Jennifer and Tyler and I are heading to the Adirondacks for our first family vacation. There is a waterfall there--called Roaring Brook Falls--at which I camped the night before I drove back east to ask Jennifer to date me. That night, alone in the woods with no company other than the moon, the stars and the sound of the rushing falls, I remember hoping she would say yes.

We'll go back there and tell Tyler that he's here because--in no uncertain terms--his mom said "yes."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

On Leif Enger's Novel, Peace Like a River

I just finished reading this beautiful novel. Years ago, I saw the book in paperback at a Barnes and Noble in Flagstaff, Arizona. After reading the back cover, the opening lines, and the blurbs (one gorgeous blurb provided by Frank McCourt), I knew it was a novel I needed to read.

Leave it to the fact that the essential things of life often end up waiting longest that I have procrastinated until now regarding my reading of Peace Like a River. However, in that odd sort of way in which life fulfills itself, it has been entirely worth the wait.

As I read the final lines of the novel tonight, I found myself filled with an indescribable hope; if I had to translate this hope into language, it would have to take shape as a prayer: "Thank you, God, for this book--and for what it represents." It felt strange to read a novel and feel closer to God for having done so; it somehow provided the realization that the beauty of language and the power of storytelling are nothing less than divine--miracles, you might say.

After finishing the book, I simply held it in my hands a while. Then, I turned to the first pages, wanting to relish its opening once more. Part of me wishes it had never ended.

During the reading of Enger's novel, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird came to mind time and again. Jerimiah Land--the father in Peace Like a River--shares many beautiful similarities to Atticus Finch--Lee's courageously humble father in Mockingbird--and yet is entirely his own character.

The only thing left to say is this: anyone who wants to write should read this book. Anyone considering what it means to believe should read this book. And anyone who knows that stories spark with humble flames that possess the possibilities of lighting fires in our hearts should surely read this book.

Friday, July 17, 2009

On Frank McCourt

Yesterday evening, Jennifer and I were saddened to read the Associated Press report that Frank McCourt--famed author of Angela's Ashes and a long-time English teacher in the New York City public school system--is facing "imminent" death. Frank's brother, Malachy, made a statement which said, among other things, that his brother's "faculties are shutting down" and that Frank McCourt is currently in hospice care.

As I read the news item, I felt tears well up in me. Had I ever met Frank McCourt? No. So why was I so saddened, and with such immediacy? The answer resides in a single word Mr. McCourt e-mailed me about two years ago when Jennifer and I were beginning the long journey of editing an anthology of original work whose profts would be donated to The Save Darfur Coalition, entitled Dedicated to the People of Darfur: Writings on Fear, Risk, and Hope.

Jennifer and I had been contacting authors whom we admired to ask if they would contribute original pieces written especially for this volume. Many authors we asked were quite famous, while many others were little-known and some were even entirely unpublished. Most of the famed authors rejected our query. (Of course, their lives are incredibly busy--and most likely they are inundated by requests such as ours, also for good causes.)

However, what stands out regarding Frank McCourt's response to our invitation is a single word.

This, in sum total, was the e-mail Mr. McCourt sent us in reply to our query--would he join this anthology and write a new, original piece to benefit The Save Darfur Coalition?

"Dear Luke:


Frank McCourt."

Fast forward two years: Frank McCourt's essay arrives in my e-mail inbox, and I read his glorious, insightful words.

Frank McCourt is a man whose soul is sweet, whose heart is good, and whose willingness to help, to teach, to write, and to love is unbounding.

Thank you, Mr. Frank McCourt. Thank you so very much.

Walking with Astonishment

My wife, Jennifer, and I are consistently amazed by our nine-month old son, Tyler. This morning at seven, as I pushed him in his stroller around our apartment complex, that amazement pinnacled in one glorious moment.

As we approached another early-morning rambler, Tyler's arms extended wide from the berth of his stroller, and as I peered around to see his face, it held an expansive grin, his mouth hanging open. When the young man came close to us, Tyler began to scream in excitement, as if he were saying, Holy cow! Another person! Look, Dad, there's another guy walking around! Wow! Wow! As corny as my recitation of what Tyler might have thought sounds, it feels right, true.

Tyler looks at the world around him in astonishment. He is consistently amazed by: the people he sees, the feel of water, heat and cold, food, colors, sounds. In the face of our nine-month old son, I see what a life lived in wonder looks like--and seeing this empowers my own soul.

Indeed, at times, the child is the teacher.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Jennifer's Website Up and Running!

My wife, Jennifer Reynolds, recently got her website up and running. It is called Moms With Passion and it explores how moms can continue to follow their own dreams even as they care for their children. Check it out at

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Story of Olga & Harold

Click on the link above to listen to the story of Olga & Harold--an intrepid, amazing story of popsicle stick log cabins, hands lost in the war, and phobias regarding the crossing of state lines.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Life with Baby

Too much time has passed since I have posted to this blog. Suffice it to say: my wife, Jennifer, and I had our first baby last October. Well, she technically had the baby, and I had the glory of standing beside her and watching the most mircaulous and painful and stunning event I have ever witnessed in my life unfold.

Tyler David reynolds, our little man who's currently at 99% on the weight and height scale, is now almost eight months old, yet wears 18 month old clothes and can talk like the dickens. My wife and I will often be in the middle of a conversation, and Tyler will pipe up with the B sounds and the D sounds and sometimes just the raspberries of spitting because they sound so darn cool.

Among many lessons, here's one thing I've learned from my son: life affords us the capabilities to make those delicious and freeing raspberry sounds in any circumstance.