Rob oversees educational design at VantagePoint3, a ministry seeking to foster depth and empowerment in local communities through the development of lifelong approaches to discipleship and Christian leadership formation. He is coauthor a book entitled Deep Mentoring: Guiding Others on Their Leadership Journey (InterVarsity, 2012). He lives with his wife Sarah in Sioux Falls, SD.
I found myself thinking and praying this afternoon for the many participants who are currently working through Stage 2 of The Emerging Journey. And along the way I remembered a story that I shared a few years back in an online meditation for The Joshua Foundation. So here’s the balloon story, a story told for all those walking through the narrative process this fall.
August 1, 2005 — So I was driving the other day and a blue balloon floated at a distance across my line of vision. Some one hundred feet or more above the freeway, the balloon with its string-tail drifted from my right to my left and I said to myself, That balloon has a story. It must. It has come from somewhere. There is a story with that balloon. And I
remembered another balloon story.
Two summers ago my dad and I were leaning against a car in the front of my sister and brother-in-law’s home in Broomall, Pennsylvania. It was the afternoon of July 4th and we were a bit tired after having partaken in all the fun and heat and noise and food of the morning’s parade festivities. We were listening to my six-year-old niece, Sarah, chat on about what she enjoyed most from the parade. Details of fire engines and cotton candy and convertibles and parade floats filled her speech. She was interrupted when her four-year-old sister, Bekah, came skipping and whirling around the corner of the house, proudly swinging a red balloon. She stopped in front of us and posed with a big smile. She held onto the string of the balloon floating a few feet above her head.
I think we all had the same thought because my dad asked, “Bekah, that sure is a beautiful balloon. Can I tie it to your wrist so you don’t lose it?”
“Nope.” And off she spun with her smile and her red balloon trailing behind her, returning around the corner of the house, out of our sight.
After which Sarah remarked, “She’s going to lose that balloon.”
We live such busy, lonely, and anxious lives. But we long to know God more deeply. The
psalmist writes, “As the deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2). St. Augustine famously writes in his Confessions – “You stir us to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us
for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Amidst the everyday ordinariness of your lives, is your heart restless? Do Augustine’s words reflect your experience today? Do you long and thirst for God? Or are your desires a little more muted, your attention a bit more divided? At times, we live such distracted lives that this deep longing for God is not so readily apparent. Peter Kreeft tells us of Augustine’s test for this God-longing.
The great Augustine…proposed the following little thought experiment to show you, his reader, that your deepest desire is indeed the desire for God [Augustine, Ennarationes in Psalmos 127:9]. Continue reading →
Kathleen Norris writes a gem of a little book entitled The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and “Woman’s Work” (Paulist Press, 1998). By “quotidian” she means that which belongs to the everyday or the commonplace. She reminds us that it is amidst the ordinary stuff of our lives that we must be attentive to and expectant of God’s loving presence. This is no easy work. For more often the everydayness of our lives leads to distraction rather than attention to God. Yet she encourages the reader to simply consider God’s presence throughout Scripture and see where it is the God often shows up. Ponder her words here in light of your weekly activities.
The Bible is full of evidence that God’s attention is indeed fixed on the little things. But this is not because God is a Great Cosmic Cop, eager to catch us in minor transgressions, but simply because God loves us—loves us so much that the divine presence is revealed even in the meaningless workings of daily life. It is in the ordinary, the here-and-now, that God asks us Continue reading →
Deep Mentoring: Guiding Others on Their Leadership Journey (InterVarsity Press, 2012) arrived in the mail last week. We wrote this book with the simple desire to help others come alongside others as a guide and friend, investing in their spiritual formation. For those familiar with the different VP3 processes many of the invitations in the book will be familiar, although expressed in new and different ways.
For those unfamiliar with VP3, Deep Mentoring provides a great introduction to what we care about and how we go about responding to these challenges of following Jesus in today’s world.
Eugene Peterson’s “Foreword” to the book has been a highlight for both Randy and me. Continue reading →
One saint from the early church, Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-211), defined prayer as “keeping company with God.” In this sense, Jesus invites his listeners to a prayer-ful life—life in the company of his divine community. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me… (Matthew 11)
“Come to me…Learn from me…” Jesus says. He stresses that this prayer-ful life must be learned. We cannot simply reach out and grab such a faithful and wise life. It is not a life that can be purchased or picked off the shelf. We cannot read it in a manual and then simply follow the directions. Rather this sort of life demands that we immerse ourselves in a relationship of learning with the mentor. Continue reading →
I just got a look at this short video yesterday. A group of Emerging Journey participants at Tabernacle Presbyterian Churchin Indianapolis gathered to share via film their experience. It is such a clear and encouraging reflection of what this eight-month spiritual formation process can invite in people’s lives. Take a look at their conversation. Wonderful!
As the Willow Creek Leadership Summit approaches in a week or so, I found myself thinking about last year’s Summit. One presenter’s thoughts about the practice of silence particularly stands out in my memory. “Mama Maggie” Gobran, a Coptic Christian from Cairo, Egypt, who is a 2012 Nobel Peace Prize nominee for her efforts in founding Steven’s Children, a ministry serving the poor in Cairo, captured the audience with her sincerity and spiritual authority. In particular, she stressed the value of silence to being able to do what God’s wants you to do. She shared with the audience, Continue reading →
The most significant book I have read in the past two years has to be Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor: A Memoir. It is the story of his formation and his vocation as pastor. If you are not acquainted with Peterson or only acquainted with his contemporary translation The Message, then The Pastor would be a great place to start getting to know this important author. The book provides so many directions for fruitful reflection, conversation and prayer whether you are a pastor or not.
The one thought in particular that keeps on grabbing my attention is in his Letter to a Young Pastor found at the end of the memoir. Continue reading →
Why does it seem like such a rare find when we discover someone who keeps on growing and learning all the way to the finish line?
Cultivating prayerful reflective thinking is such a critical element of a maturing person’s life. This is no less the case as a person enters into the later chapters of his or her life. Terry Nyhuis describes the “third-third” of life as a time when significant life contribution is still likely, but can only come when one is “fully present” in that particular stage of life. Rather than hoping to get by with what we already know, a person must be open to God’s unfolding lessons in these new chapters. Continue reading →
In Ephesians 4:7-16 the apostle Paul communicates a vision of maturity that one New Testament scholar has summarized this way, “each member contributes to the growth of the body.”[i] This is the mystery of how God’s Spirit nurtures us as Christ’s body. If we are to mature it will be done in the company of others. It is truly a “life together” that God has in mind.
One of the concrete ways in which we can learn to live this “life together” amidst today’s individualistic culture is through the practice of friendship. Spiritual friendship does not naturally grow out of the fast-paced and competitive lives so many of us live. In reality, our professional priorities, and our household busy-ness many times stand against the cultivation of deep friendship. Continue reading →