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

The balloon & the stage 2 narrative process

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 all agreed and even chuckled a bit. Continue reading


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

When Adults Gather …. Significant Things Happen (Part 2)

I uncovered in graduate school, and now practice almost every day, the deeply held belief that when adults gather together, “the answers are in the room.”

My favorite adult education professor would tell you “the answers are in the room” means that the rich experiences which shape the lives of adults gives us the capacity for outstanding problem solving and the ability to see into our settings and know far more than we initially deem possible.

At a recent VantagePoint3 Enriching Retreat in Green Lake, Wisconsin, I witnessed this depth when adults work together. More than 40 adults who care deeply about their churches and people, confirmed once again that “the answers are in the room” but much more than this.  They confirmed the evidence for the Spiritual Kingdom that is already alive in the hearts of believers.

Let me explain.

At the close of the second full day we were processing together what we were each seeing and learning.  I was leading the group through pretty complex layers of reflection on individual spiritual growth, care for others, and care for our church settings.  I asked everyone to simply write down on an index card what they were seeing and learning while the session was finishing up.  We wrote in silence. Continue reading

When Adults Gather….Some Significant Things Happen (Part I)

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

“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

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!