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.”
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 →
In Eugene Peterson’s memoir, The Pastor, he humbly searches for a word to best describe the ins and outs of being a pastor over time. To that end, he chooses the word, “witness.”
“A witness is never the center but only the person who points to or names what is going on at the center — in this case, the action and revelation of God in all the operations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” (1)
Not all of us are pastors. However, we are all witnesses to the ever present action of God in our midst. If we but pay attention.
I had the privilege of being a witness at the VantagePoint3 Enriching Retreat in Green Lake, Wisconsin recently. More than 40 adults gathered to consider how they could nurture the spiritual growth of other adults in their unique settings, as well as being interested in growing more deeply and richly and slowly in their own life of faith.
One of the most challenging aspects of Kingdom work is simply “getting people together.” Perhaps this is because when adults DO gather…some significant things happen. 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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
Anne Lindbergh’s words reminded me this morning of the proclivity so many of us have forliving crowded, cluttered, and consequently, anxious lives. We have said yes to far too many projects and lunch appointments and soccer games and meetings and birthday parties. Our souls weigh heavy with an anxiety that is particular to men and women whose lives are piled with too many “good” things. We are overwhelmed, fatigued, and maybe even a bit afraid. We have failed to focus.
The picture Lindbergh paints in her classic book Gift from the Sea (1955) spoke into my life. Continue reading →