Living in Mystery

Do you remember the Peanut cartoons? The old TV versions had a scene that played out rather often. Lucy would have a football. She would encourage Charlie Brown to attempt to kick the ball while she held it for him.  Lucy assured Charlie she would not move the ball. Charlie would buy in and back up to make the run up for the kick. Just as he got to the ball, sure ‘nuf, Lucy would yank it out of the way. Charlie’s foot would fly up into the air and he would land on the ground with a thud. As he lay there staring into the sky, his discouragement would be rather evident. He had been duped again.

 

Sometime ago I heard a speaker say in passing that “God is not Lucy with the football.” I had an immediate emotional reaction to that seemingly benign comment. I thought, “That’s it!  That’s how I see God right now!”  I was rather shocked. I know this is not true. I know our God does not do a “bait and switch” on us. I know he does not set us up for a let down. Our illusions do that for us. But still I was feeling duped. My emotions did not portray reality, but they did reveal my heart to me. As I have journeyed into my 8th year with chronic illness, I have wrestled deeply with God over it. I know he can heal me. I know he can resolve this. But he hasn’t, and it does not appear he will. I have felt varying degrees of “crummy” for the past 2500 days in a row. No exaggeration.

 

Some years ago I sat with a man who was providing me spiritual direction. I spoke candidly of my deep desolation over my chronic illness. The first comment he made after I had spoken for several minutes was, “I have never seen a conversion apart from suffering.” By “conversion” he did not mean coming to Christ as a new believer.  Rather, he meant a significant, inner transformation; a profound inner shift to a deeper arena of spiritual depth and insight. That statement alone ought to stop us in our tracks. He repeated it emphasizing the word never, I have never seen a conversion apart from suffering.”

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A front row seat on life transformation

Alice Shirey has had the opportunity of facilitating over 40 folks in multiple A Way of Life groups over the past two years. These are people who have completed The Journey and taken the next step to walk through our A Way of Life process. I asked her to reflect upon what she had been noticing in these groups, what’s been standing out to her as she considers the many different people that have participated. Here are Alice’s reflections: 


AliceShireyAs a two-time facilitator of A Way of Life, I have had a front row seat at some of God’s best work; the transformation of lives. It never ceases to amaze me, and often brings me to tears.

 

A few things are especially sweet:

 

     1. The honesty in the room.

 

I don’t know if it is the overflow of vulnerability from the shared experience of The Journey class, or the nature of the curriculum, but I have not witnessed much “faking it” over the last two years. Even in large group discussions, the honesty, vulnerability and trust have been palpable. When this kind of environment occurs in the church, growth is often inevitable.

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Living in Mystery (Guest Contributor–Scott Shaum)

Do you remember the Peanut cartoons? The old TV versions had a scene that played out rather often. Lucy would have a football. She would encourage Charlie Brown to attempt to kick the ball while she held it for him. Lucy assured Charlie she would not move the ball. Charlie would buy in and back up to make the run up for the kick. Just as he got to the ball, sure images-2‘nuf, Lucy would yank it out of the way. Charlie’s foot would fly up into the air and he would land on the ground with a thud. As he lay there staring into the sky, his discouragement would be rather evident. He had been duped again.

 

Sometime ago I heard a speaker say in passing that “God is not Lucy with the football.” I had an immediate emotional reaction to that seemingly benign comment. I thought, “That’s it! That’s how I see God right now!” I was rather shocked. I know this is not true. I know our God does not do a “bait and switch” on us. I know he does not set us up for a let down. Our illusions do that for us. But still I was feeling duped. My emotions did not portray reality, but they did reveal my heart to me. As I have journeyed into my 8th year with chronic illness, I have wrestled deeply with God over it. I know he can heal me. I know he can resolve this. But he hasn’t, and it does not appear he will. I have felt varying degrees of “crummy” for the past 2500 days in a row. No exaggeration.

 

Some years ago I sat with a man who was providing me spiritual direction. I spoke candidly of my deep desolation over my chronic illness. The first comment he made after I had spoken for several minutes was, “I have never seen a conversion apart from suffering.” By “conversion” he did not mean coming to Christ as a new believer. Rather, he meant a significant, inner transformation; a profound inner shift to a deeper arena of spiritual depth and insight. That statement alone ought to stop us in our tracks. He repeated it emphasizing the word never, I have never seen a conversion apart from suffering.”

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Managing vs. Receiving (Guest Contributor-Pamela Edwards)

This past Friday one of our board members Dr. Pamela Edwards opened our VP3 Board Conference call with a short Advent devotional on Mary. It set the tone so well for us as a staff that we wanted to share it with you.
Pam is on staff at Cedar Valley Community Church in Waterloo, Iowa where she serves in the areas of spiritual formation and adult ministries. We hope you find this as helpful as we have around the office. She writes,
My favorite bible character is Mary, the Mother of Jesus.  Though she has many admirable qualities, the one that I find myself thinking about the most these days for those of us in ministry leadership is the way that this ordinary, Jewish woman RECEIVED the angel Gabriel’s news that she was going to be the mother of the Messiah. She was initially confused and disturbed and asked some good questions about how this was all going to work out for her, which I appreciate.  However, she RECEIVED her call and without knowing all the answers, she said, “I am the Lord’s servant, and I’m willing to do what you want.”

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