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

Our book has arrived!

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

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

Take The Journey!

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!

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

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