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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An Upcoming VP3 Gathering – Join us!

In October 2014 we hosted A VP3 Gathering in Banff, Alberta and addressed the topic of “Walking with God and Others through Pain and Suffering.” Scott Shaum (Barnabas International) cultivated a deeply meaningful conversation about God’s person, character and shaping work, our life experiences, and our deep desire to walk well with others through darker times. We so appreciated the time together that when we got back to Sioux Falls we immediately began to talk about how we might offer this same gathering somewhere in the States in the near future. This April, the weekend after Easter, we will be hosting this same VP3 Gathering in the greater Chicago area. 

A VP3 Gathering

Walking with God and Others through Pain and Suffering

April 21-23, 2017

Cedar Lake, Indiana

 

Little did we know when we calendared this retreat, the meaning it would hold for us and the greater VP3 community. Personally it has been an utterly heart-breaking and stretching 5+ months since Randy’s passing, but also a profoundly meaningful time as well. The Lord’s dependability has been over overwhelming. 

 

I am more aware now than ever that growth in Christ is never a simple, straight line from infancy to maturity. Finishing well as a person is a beautiful thing, but it is not an inevitability. There are many barriers and obstacles and dynamics in the world that seek to derail, distract, and discourage us from a well-lived life of “seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).  If we are to persist at living well with the Lord and others, then we must bring to the table our best thinking and praying about living wisely and faithfully amidst great difficulties.

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A cord of three strands

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).Marilyn Miller pic 09.11.02

 

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:

 

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A Conversation Piece on Suffering & Hope

images-4For all who seek to walk with Jesus over the long haul, much time will be spent in what the Psalms calls “the depths.” Suffering is simply part of what it means to be human. Whether we ourselves are going through difficult times or we are walking with others through difficult times, we will find ourselves in “the depths,” in these unsettling times of pain or confusion or angst. The ways we respond to these times will determine much of the character of our lives.

 

“Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord!” the psalmist writes and thereby invites us to share the whole of our life with God. For if there is anything that resounds from a careful reading of the Psalms it is that there is absolutely no part of our experience that is out of bounds with God. The Psalms teach us and invite us to live everything before God.

 

Pastor Eugene Peterson reflections upon Psalm 130 capture our great need as individuals or as communities when we encounter these seasons in “the depths.” Allow Psalm 130 and these Peterson’s reflections to intersect with your own experience: What do they evoke or stir in your mind & heart? 

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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.”

read more

A VP3 Gathering: Walking with God and Others through Pain and Suffering

Beautiful-Scenery-in-Banff-National-ParkAt 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.

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