I’m on the other side of the marathon I ran in Winnipeg, Manitoba June 19th, healed up and oddly enough wondering when I could do the next one.
Some have asked, “Why run a marathon in Winnipeg?” It was my birth-place and it fit my schedule. To be honest I was hoping it was not going to be my death-place on June 19th, although that would have made for a cool story.
Some have asked, “Why run a marathon?” I ran my first and only marathon about 20 years ago when I was feeling prompted to “sell the farm” and move to Southern California to pursue my doctorate at Fuller Seminary. I knew then, and in part prompted during my marathon run that the Lord was up to something in my heart that would somehow connect to what the Lord was up to “out there.” About a year ago I felt a prompting to get ready to run another marathon curious if the Lord was going to prompt me again, and just to see if I could do it again.
For those of you keen on such things I ran the Manitoba Marathon in 4 hours 36 minutes. My goal was to hit somewhere between 4:15 and 4:30. Not bad for 54. If you’ve done a marathon you know that the halfway point isn’t 13.1 miles, but mile 20. For me it felt like up to mile 19 was a long warm up for the next 6.2 miles. Although I had to stop a few times after mile 19 from cramping and feeling like I was going to flake out from the humidity, I eventually made it across the finish line exhausted but deeply satisfied.
The Lord did prompt a few things at various miles during the race:
• At mile 9: I need the encouragement of others to run the race well. Susan is at the top of the pile as my encouraging and attractive cheerleader. Having Liam and my sister Cynthia and brother-in-law Kevin cheering me on was so good. I recalled the number of friends, family…saints really who have encouraged me on. So grateful for how the Lord has blessed me with people rich in love and encouragement.
It is quite a deal when you discover something new from something familiar. You may have driven by that section of the forest a 110 times, and yet this time you noticed that one particular tree slightly hidden but somehow on this one day more obvious than all the others. The unique color and type set it apart from the rest. It is so obvious. Makes you wonder why you had not really seen it before. Your perspective of that familiar bush is slightly and refreshingly different because of the one very obvious tree that caught your attention.
It is helpful from time to time to take a closer look in order to see the tree in the forest. And when we do it often has the capacity to change the way we see the forest, making it seem refreshingly new.
19 years ago I followed a nudge to do what I could to help pastors and the leaders in local churches pay greater attention to the development of their adults. At the time I knew part of the concern was a leadership one, and so much of what I put my hand to was couched in the language of “leadership development.” And, in some respect, I was on to something.
The word kairos means a moment in time. It holds a different meaning than chronos, which is how we typically think of time in terms of a sequence of seconds, minutes and hours ticking along. Kairos has more to do with a right opportunity, or a ripe season, or the progression of something toward a perfect moment in time or even striking the right moment. This week five amazing people from the VantagePoint3 tribe came together to begin a timely learning opportunity for their continued growth as leaders. They are part of a creative cohort approach to seminary education sponsored by Sioux Falls Seminary called The Kairos Project.
The other night we were out for a walk in our neighborhood and noticed the early signs of the fall season. The grass felt stiffer with a few more rusted leaves to kick around, the air was cooler and smelled fresher, the horses in the pasture across the road seemed a bit more mischievous, and Wall Lake had a growing number of a certain type of sea gull choiring their noise before continuing their journey somewhere south. I was trying to explain to Liam (now 13) how the fall is often a time for remembering favorite times, places, people, new beginnings and stuff that seems more central.
Susan (my wife) and I decided to tag team leading a Journey group in our church. Seven strong women (Judy, Jayme, Carla, Hannah, Rebekah, Andrea, Susan) as well as Seth and myself (we felt much less strong at times) made up our group. Everyone who leads a VP3 group believes they have the best one, and that would be true in my case. We quickly became a trusted community, learning more fully who we were as persons in the good company of each other.
Something shifts during the narrative sharing time. And it shifted for us. A level of honesty surfaced from the fathoms of our lives…an honesty that brought with it stories of visions and broken dreams, accomplishments and failures, cozy places and harsh desserts, influential heroes and painful abusers. All of it somehow used as tailored curriculum by the Spirit of God to etch out who we really are, and to prepare us for what is yet to come.
What caught my attention when Hannah shared her story was her written prayer–a prayer that reflected her courage to question and to confess. Hannah agreed to share a part of her story and her prayer. May both be a reminder of the One who draws near in those vulnerable moments of honesty.
My brother is one of my favorite persons. Over the past many years he has been an odd blend of friend, priest, absolute favorite guitar player, and sometimes has even played well the role of annoying brother.
One time he said to me, “I think there are rare moments when we are so in-step with the Holy Spirit that it is like cutting through paper with scissors without squeezing the blades together. When all you need to do is lightly push.”
Over the past number of years I have had the privilege of spending time with pastors, staffs and sharp lay leaders discussing how the VP3 processes have created a good sort of stirring. The amount of consistent lives changed has cued them to scootch up to their balcony to get a broader perspective of what is happening within their setting regarding the formation of their adults.
When I met with these good people, I would often think of other good people who were hanging out in their particular balcony, and believed that somehow these same perspective seekers could learn from one another. As good as it was to visit each of their settings offering a question or word of advice, I felt the nudge to invite them to come together away from their setting in order to pay attention to what they noticed from their balconies, to trust what they found themselves caring about, and to come up with a way to address what they now noticed from the balcony.
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…
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.