Some Highlights from the Apprentice Conference

This past weekend Susan and I had the chance to take in the Apprentice Conference in Wichita, KS.  The theme of this year’s conference was “The Story of God & US:  The Importance of Narratives for Christian Spiritual Formation.”  It was great to represent VP3 at the conference, and to be able to share some things we’ve learned over the years with the use of narratives in our own processes.

If you can zoom in on the above picture, you can catch a sense of the rich depth of perspectives shared about the topic of narratives.  The time for me was a mix of listening to key-note speakers, leading a workshop, visiting with some good folks by the VP3 display, and a handful of good “coffee line” conversations.  Here are 5 highlights from the time in Wichita… Continue reading

Pause

When the Thanksgiving holiday came around in Canada, which was usually the second weekend in October, I saw it primarily as a long weekend.  In order of importance were:  a day off school and eventually work, one extra night to stay up late and an extra morning to sleep in, for-sure church attendance that Sunday (Mom’s idea), and of course the signature turkey meal.

I remember my first American Thanksgiving in Missoula, Montana.  I took a year off from the electrical trade to travel around North America with a ministry team of college agers.  We would visit churches performing concerts, dramas, door-to-door visitation and discipleship training.  I was the sound man.  For the life of me I could not figure out why there was such a big to do by the Americans on the team regarding Thanksgiving, and why they felt so disheartened about not being able to be home with their families to celebrate what was obviously a major deal. Continue reading

Prayer, Jesus & Denise Levertov’s “Avowal”

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 meLearn 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

Being Led

The Reeses decided our vacation time this summer would include time spent in one of the most beautiful parts of the homeland of Canada, Banff National Park.  Just before you get into the park along the #1 Highway you come to Canmore, Alberta.  An impressive little town with ginormous sentinel mountains surrounding the town.

One of those mountains is called Ha-Ling Peak, named after a Chinese cook for the Canadian National Railway who in 1896 was double-dog-dared for fifty bucks to plant a flag at the top of the mountain.  Those wagering the fifty bucks said he couldn’t do it in less than ten hours.  He started at 7am and was back in time for lunch, planting a large enough flag for the doubters at the local watering hole to see.  That was before any paths were cut to make it “easier” to get to the top. Continue reading

Read this book

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

Good Words From A Good Pastor

Jason Koleba is the lead pastor at Cochrane Alliance Church in Cochrane, Alberta.  If you get a chance to hang out with Jason, before you reach the end of your grande coffee you get a sense that he is a person in love with Jesus and His way in the world.  In fact, a concern for unleashing the church to live more missionally is a significant part of Jason’s signature, and why he knows the importance of investing in the deepening and empowering of those who call Cochrane Alliance their home.

The following are some words of encouragement and challenge he offered to those whom he had been walking alongside over the past three years, helping them discover more deeply who God is, who they are, and what God desires to do through their lives for the Kingdom.  To be honest, I find myself prayerfully hoping for similar words and letters to be given by more pastors across North America.  The church would become an attractive community again if such “walkingalongsideness” were practiced. Continue reading

Things May Be Different Than They Appear

I have been re-reading the Bible.  It’s been a while since I’ve read it from ding to dong.  Usually my intake of the Word is guided by a bit of a gut check to be honest with what book of the Bible or passage I need to land on for a bit.  And I have never been disappointed in the Spirit’s way of timing what I read with the particulars of my life.  Maybe that’s part of the “living and active” thing.

I’ve been making my way through Genesis over the past several weeks.  There have been many foundational blocks laid in Genesis that our faith has been built upon, held together by the mortar of God’s Spirit.  Quite frankly, I have found myself saying to myself many times on this read through, “Holy moly. Talk about your crazy narratives and timelines!” Continue reading

Who are your friends?

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

A Few Good Practices

It is a good practice to glean what you can from those who know how to practice well.  Last week VP3 hosted a webinar called, “Best Practices in Local Church Leadership Development.”  Three panelists joined our time to share what they have learned over the years regarding an investment in the formation of those within their local communities.

Pam, Kent and Beth are seasoned at knowing how to notice the particulars of those whom they walk alongside.  All three know how to “call out” what they see dormant in peoples’ lives.  They are careful, yet direct in making appropriate and tailored prescriptions, helping people move toward a better place of maturity and a truer place of service.  Quite frankly, I was impressed with the practices they keep in this sometimes misunderstood deal of leadership development.  Their practice grows from a conviction that leadership development from a Christian perspective is first and always tethered to helping people tend to their followership to Jesus Christ.  You will benefit from listening in on what they said.  Here are some highlights… Continue reading

A Gathering of Saints

Last week twenty-seven of us gathered together in Sioux Falls for a retreat.  By the end of our two days together we realized we were no ordinary group of twenty-seven people.  We became a remarkable community of brothers and sisters in need of some space, perspective, words, silence and friendship.  The theme for our gathering was “A Sacred Heart.”  The hope for the gathering can be heard in David’s prayer, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me (Ps 51:10).

There are no shortage of things that get us entangled and snared along the way of this deal we call ministry.  This unusual gathering of saints had plenty of tangles and snares to share, but more so plenty of presence, experience and from time to time a word or two to offer. Continue reading