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

Our deepest longing

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

“Detectives of Divinity”

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

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

The Practice of Silence

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

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

The “third-third” of life

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

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