Jean Vanier – “simplicity on the other side of complexity”

Oliver Wendell Holmes(1841 -1935) said, “I wouldn’t give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my very life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” This quote comes to mind when I think of Jean Vanier, Canadian philosopher and Catholic social innovator. He is truly a wise man. After finishing a doctorate in moral philosophy he invited two men with Down’s syndrome to leave the institution and live with him in 1964. This act began what would become the L’Arche movement, an international organization “dedicated to the creation and growth of homes, programs, and support networks with people who have intellectual disabilities.” His words and life of kindness and community offer…

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Prayer, self-knowledge & courage: The Emerging Journey Stage 2 process

The assumption that runs throughout Scripture is that God is up to something good in this world, in our communities, and in our lives. Our primary burden or task is to pay attention to what God is already up to, and then secondarily, to participate in what He is up to. Our Stage 2 process of The Emerging Journey is, in essence, a narrative exercise in using one’s life as a case study for what God has been up to in our lives. It is an extended exercise in paying attention.
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Where is ‘the breathing space’ in our lives?

The Spiritual Formation Retreats of the past two weekends, one in Olympia, WA and the other in Crestline, CA afforded me an opportunity to reflect and converse with a number of Emerging Journey participants around this simple poem, “Fire.”  It is often very simple images that can cause us to think or re-think where we find ourselves. Amidst all the stuff of life—demands and tasks, relationships and expectations, intentions and decisions, etc—we often need perspective. This poem provided many a window into their pace and their work and their attentiveness in life.

Simply allow this poem to stir your thoughts as you read it aloud 3 or 4 times …What jumps out?Where does this poem take you?

Fire What makes a fire burn is space between the logs, a breathing space. Too much of a good thing, too many logs packed in too tight can douse the flames almost as surely as a pail of water.   So building fires requires attention to the spaces in between, as much as to the wood.   When we are able to build open spaces in the same way we have learned to pile on logs, then we come to see how it is fuel, and the absence of fuel together,  that make fire possible.   We only need to lay a log lightly from time to time. A fire grows simply because the space is there, with openings in which the flame that knows just how it wants to burn can find its way. by Judy Brown

Sam M Intrator and Megan Scribner, editors, Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003), 89.  Possible Questions for Further Exploration: • When did you learn to start a fire? What do you remember of these early lessons? • What in the world does this have to do with your life of faith? • “So building fires requires paying attention to the spaces in between, as much as to the wood”, what are some of the things you are being invited to pay attention to today? • Where is there” breathing space” in your life? in your family’s life? in your community’s life? in your team?

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Our Great Lack

I was recently reminded of the importance of the work we do here at VP3 while re-reading a short column by Pastor Gordon MacDonald entitled “Leader’s Insight: So Many Infant Christians” (October 1, 2007,  MacDonald’s thoughts flow from his musings upon a quote by Martin Thorton, which begins this article. Thorton observes,

“A walloping great congregation is fine and fun, but what most communities really need is a couple saints. The tragedy is that they may well be there in embryo, waiting to be discovered, waiting for sound training, waiting to be emancipated from the cult of the mediocre.”  

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Multipliers vs. Diminshers

A friend sent a video clip this week that has got me thinking. It introduces a fairly recent book on leadership entitled Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter (HarperBusiness, 2010).  Co-author Liz Wiseman was interviewed at a recent conference in which she summarized the findings of the research that is reflected in the book.  At the core is the distinction between two kinds of leaders: (1) multipliers and (2) diminishers.

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Tuesday Team Meetings: “The Resurrection”

We had our weekly team meeting this morning. it was good to be together and wrestle through some of things that are on our plate as an organization. Each Tuesday meeting we begin with a short devotional sort of time. This morning we let James Autry’s poem “The Resurrection” center our conversation and prayer. It was timely since a couple of us are reading Eugene Peterson’s most recent book Practice Resurrection: A conversation on growing up in Christ (Eerdmans, 2010). Autry’s poem helped us get our heads and hearts around some of Peterson’s thoughts.  So I thought I would share the poem…May it be a gift to you as you sit with it…  “The Resurrection” by James A. Autry This story is about a little girl who died on Easter Sunday and about her father who could no longer whistle. Everyone knew at once, the family, the neighbors, that life would never be the same without the little girl, but it took a while for everyone to realize that life would never be the same without the father’s whistle.   No one tried to talk him into it because they understood the whistle was somehow with the little girl, gone, it seemed, forever.   Nobody knew what happened that day at the plant, or if anything did, but even before he arrived home a neighbor lady called to say how much it meant to hear the whistle. “Your father has started whistling again,” the mother told her son, who then carried the father’s tune in his heart until one Easter Sunday many years later and many miles away, in a sermon of resurrection, the son was able at last to tell this story, and to whistle.   And the spirit of his father was released as a blessing to all who heard it.   Questions for reflection & discussion • What stands out to you personally? • Who have been the “whistling” people in your story? the resurrection-people? • Are there places in your life where God is inviting you to “whistle” yet again?
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Our new home…

One of the gifts of the past couple months has been our move of offices. We had been on the look out for a more suitable office space when Sioux Falls Seminary invited us to utilize some space they had available. They have been very gracious to us with affordable office and storage space, as well as the use of their classrooms for various trainings and gatherings we will host in the future. Just in August we were able to host here on our turf a Facilitator Training Retreat for Emerging Journey facilitators. We find ourselves deeply grateful to get to share in the unique life of this extended Sioux Falls Seminary community and ministry ( We are coming to learn and appreciate the rhythms of the administration, faculty and students as well as the work of Sioux Falls Psychological Services and the Heritage Foundation. We trust that these new offices here will strengthen our capacity to provide transformative and in-depth processes that help churches invest in the maturing of their adult believers. Our offices can be found on the east hallway of the main level of the building. If you are in our neck of the woods, stop on by… 2109 S. Norton Ave Sioux Falls, SD 57105.  

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Where are you? Conversations

Genesis 3. Adam and Eve have just eaten of the tree from which God had forbid them to eat. The story goes on to say that their “eyes were opened” and they became “ashamed of their nakedness.” Then Adam and Eve hear God walking in the Garden and immediately they hide among the trees, “away from the presence of the Lord God.” God responds by calling out to Adam, “Where are you?” Philosopher Martin Buber tells a Jewish story in which an imprisoned rabbi is asked by a guard the meaning of this question. The guard asks, “How are we to understand that God, the all-knowing, said to Adam: ‘Where are you?’” The rabbi says to the guard,
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Henri Nouwen’s “Being the Beloved”

“So what’s defining you nowadays?” Each fall Emerging Journey groups come upon a discussion of this question in Session 5: Paying Attention to Character. We each answer this question not so much by filling-in-the-blank on a piece of paper, but by living it out with our lives. For it is amidst the demands of the everyday that we reflect a working definition of who we are. Much, if not most, of the time we are not conscious of our working definition. It operates below the surface of our thoughts and intentions, our priorities and relationships.  Spiritual writer Henri Nouwen insightfully points out that we typically live out an answer to this question in one of three ways (1) I am what I do (2) I am what others say about me, or (3) I am what I have. In a series of talks given in the early 1990’s Nouwen unpacked the way in which God is inviting us to understand and claim a truer identity as loved children of God. Allow Nouwen’s words on these series of video clips to stimulate both thought and prayer around how you are currently defining yourself…and how God’s Spirit may be inviting you to embrace your true identity as a loved child of God (Ephesians 1:3-6). Blessings…

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Growth without Depth?

We thought we would begin to more regularly capture some of the thoughts, concerns, and activities of our life together as the VantagePoint3 community. May our blog conversation serve to be a deepening and igniting influence among an extended community of people who seek a more relational approach to life and ministry today… It has been over ten years ago now that Randy and I traveled to Eastbourne, England for the International Consultation on Discipleship. We continue to be gripped by our recollection of John Stott’s keynote words that Fall 1999 on the state of the Church. Stott remarked,

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