This morning we began the new year as a VP3 team by returning to a poem we discussed during a meeting last January. Much has occurred since we last visited with these words. And perhaps these words are more timely now then they were 12 months ago.
Our sights for 2017 remain set upon the Holy Spirit’s gracious and deepening work in the world. We have been called, in particular, to cooperate with the Spirit’s work by helping men and women discover more deeply who God is, who they are, and what God desires to do through them. An urgent work; a patient work. I suspect “Patient Trust” will continue to speak into our lives and efforts as we look ahead to 2017 and beyond.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown,
Yet it is the law of all progress that is
made by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.
One of the more powerful experiences in the VP3 Pathway of processes is the composing and sharing of life narratives. So many good things emerge in people’s lives as a result of engaging in intense and prayerful self-reflection, in sharing of life stories, and in hearing the others’ stories around the table. Something seems to actually shift in people’s hearts and imaginations. Honoring the particular in every person’s story has transformational impact—we do not remain the same.
Few greater gifts can be offered to a person in today’s largely anonymous and hurried social reality than an honoring awareness of his or her particular life story. Cistercian monk Michael Casey puts this so eloquently:
When a group of folks gathered to remember Randy and pray the afternoon before his Celebration of Life service on August 19th, Matthew Burch—a close friend of Randy and VP3—prefaced his thoughts by reading a short excerpt from Eugene Peterson’s Run with the Horses. Peterson’s observations of a life of faith, shared in the light of Randy’s story, have surfaced over and again over these past several weeks. I share them with you as an invitation and a challenge to live a life alive to God. Peterson writes,
The Bible makes it clear that every time there is a story of faith, it is completely original. God’s creative genius is endless. He never, fatigued and unable to maintain the rigors of creativity, resorts to mass-producing copies. Each life is a fresh canvas on which he uses lines and colors, shades and lights, textures and proportions that he has never used before.
We see what is possible: anyone and everyone is able to live a zestful life that spills out of the stereotyped containers that a sin-inhibited society provides. Such lives fuse spontaneity and purpose and green the desiccated landscape with meaning. And we see how it is possible: by plunging into a life of faith, participating in what God initiates in each life, exploring what God is doing in each event. The persons we meet on the pages of Scripture are remarkable for the intensity with which they live Godwards, the thoroughness in which all the details of their lives are included in God’s word to them, in God’s action in them. It is these persons, who are conscious of participating in what God is saying and doing, who are most human, most alive. These persons are evidence that none of us is required to live “at this poor dying rate” for another day, another hour.
(Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best, IVP 1983)
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.
About 30 followers of Jesus gathered together last weekend. We went to a beautiful place (Banff, Alberta) to discuss a difficult topic, “Walking with God and Others through Pain and Suffering.”
We quickly realized that most everyone in the room was experiencing pain of some kind – from the loss of a loved one to challenges with children to unexpected health issues We were encouraged to acknowledge our own suffering first, allowing us to better help others, a bit like putting on your own airplane oxygen mask first. “I am always first a sheep. The day I forget that, I’m a fool,” said Scott Shaum (our retreat facilitator from Barnabas International).
Scott set the foundation of the weekend with a challenge to always being “tethered to the Father” – relationally, biblically and theologically. I like the word “tethered,” because it gives me a picture of never being out there on my own. God’s love and strength are available to me, if I choose to stay connected.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians. 1:3-4)
Scott’s solid teaching connected with each one in the room. And as we thought about the many versions of pain we see in those around us, his words resonated:
I absolutely love learning. Sign-me-up-Sally for the next opportunity! So over the years, as I’ve accumulated a degree or two, it’s been a humbling thing to frame the diploma only to recognize that God has shifted my career trajectory and I don’t have the ideal credentials.
This humbling wave rolled up to my doorstep again last week as we gathered for our annual VP3 Team Days. This is only my second year at the Team Days table and the focus for more than half of our time together: THEOLOGY!
What the rest of the team didn’t know is that every time I hear a Pastor or colleague say, “that’s a question of theology….or theologically speaking…” I question if I know enough to contribute to the conversation because I don’t have the right degree. I even looked up what “theology” meant earlier this summer during one of my private waves of insecurity.
Brother Vic Gordon, VP3 Board Member and founder of Gospel Depth was our guest teacher and he helped me SO much! Vic’s goal for our time together was to help us be better reflectors on God and his truth for a more fruitful relationship with others.
He explained that theology isn’t something we know about from the past,
theology is HERE AND NOW.
And, he explained, that every Christian is a theologian.
Brother Vic gave us a definition of theology as:
faith seeking understanding.
We are in the midst of the Facilitator Training Retreat season here @ VantagePoint3. 3 Retreats done (by the time this posts) – Glendora, CA, Kelowna, BC, and Indianapolis, IN. There are still 6 more Facilitator Training Retreats on the schedule…Atlanta, GA – in 5 days – and, in August, we will be in Dyer, IN (just south of Chicago), Grimsby, Ontario (the Greater Toronto Area, or, the southern end of “The Golden Horseshoe” ;), Sioux Falls, SD, Kelowna, BC, and Calgary, AB. So…It’s not too late to join us at one of our Retreats!
As we are nearing the “home stretch” for Facilitator Training Retreats, we are also thinking about what we can do to help all of our “Tribe” who has been trained to facilitate groups gather the people to experience the transformation that comes from intentionally walking with others through The Journey, A Way of Life, the Equipping Experience, or an Enriching Conversation.
Here is where we need help from you…
One thing we are working on to help our facilitators invite participants is a “Starting a Group” page on our website. The plan is to put sample invitations, ppt slides, notes, and letters that our partner churches have used in the past to invite participants and form groups. Ideally, these samples would be easy for people to download and edit with their church/organization information to personalize it for their unique context.
We at VP3 are really excited about a recent project that has come to completion and is now available. Imago Dei to Missio Dei: An Art Experience is a compilation of watercolors and reflections which in the words of the artist/author Preston Pouteaux, “I originally created these pieces as a gift for my church family. I hoped they would see in themselves and each other the beauty God sees through Jesus. Each piece I painted was a prayer.”
A couple years ago I received the substance of what you find in the pages of Imago Dei to Missio Dei in an email from Preston. I was immediately struck by the beauty, simplicity, and challenge of the work. I printed off a copy off and began to work my way through this “Art Experience.” The faces and stories in these pages capture a very particular collection of people from one local church community in Calgary, but they reflect more universally the dignity, mystery and uniqueness of all humankind, men and women created in God’s image. The more I sat with it, thumbing my way through the portraits and the meditations, the more I sensed Preston’s deep care for these people and for God.
In today’s day and age, many of us struggle at our deepest core with believing our lives really matter. The many voices of our culture have, sadly, led us to believe that we are less than what we are. This piece reminded me that the gospel graciously awakens us with the truth that our lives matter immensely because we have been created and loved by God. As C.S. Lewis put it, “There are no ordinary people.” And until we begin to embrace this reality—that we are God’s beloved creatures—we will not be fully freed up to share in God’s mission in the world, reflecting God’s always creative and reconciling presence in our communities; hence the title of this piece, Imago Dei to Missio Dei.
At our core, we at VantagePoint3 strive to be a learning and praying community whose life together (i.e. our processes, service, & team) invites others to vantage points where they can discover more deeply who God is, who they are, and what God desires to do through them. This October 24-26 in Banff, Alberta, we will be hosting a unique VP3 gathering that expresses our deep desire to both learn and encourage a more relational way of life and ministry with God and others. The theme of the gathering will be “Walking with God and Others through Pain and Suffering.”
Throughout the past couple years we have leaned into the importance of walking along side others on the journey, adopting more of a mentoring way to life and ministry. As we have entered into these many conversations we recognized again and again that the theme of suffering, and how we make sense of it, plays such a critical role in our maturing and mentoring. Growing up into Christ is never a simple, straight line from infancy to maturity. If we are to walk compassionately and honestly with others like Jesus did, then we must bring to the table our best thinking and praying about living wisely and faithfully amidst great difficulties. Consequently, we thought it would be a good time to invite people, who are interested, to engage in a conversation about suffering’s place in our formation and in our work of serving others.