Do you have a few more gifts left to purchase, but not sure what to give? Consider one of the following four book recommendations from the VP3 team. Merry Christmas friends…
#1 – Shauna Niequist, Present over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living
A great book for busy women! Niequist shares through short essays the story of how she found freedom, peace, and health in saying no to the constant doing and proving-yourself life. She provides guilt-free encouragement to simply be who you were made to be right in the middle of all of life’s messes. This is a freeing book.
#2 – Eugene Peterson, Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best
If you are looking for a deeper dive into Scripture and into your life, we recommend this exploration into the life of the prophet Jeremiah. Peterson invites us to both reflect upon and live our lives at their fullest; distinctive lives of meaning, passion, and deep engagement with God and the world.
There is a Hebrew saying: “Hold a book in your hand and you’re a pilgrim at the gates of a new city.” A really good book gives shape to a new horizon, stretching our imaginations of what is good and important and possible in the world. So this summer, whether we lounge by the pool, the lake or we find ourselves at the beach or simply sitting on our back deck, let us be pilgrims this summer. Here are four recommendations for some good reading from our VP3 offices. Blessings.
Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art
Most folks have been introduced to L’Engle by her wonderful novel A Wrinkle in Time. In this set of twelve “memoir-like” reflections she thoughtfully explores the relationship between her life as an artist and her life as a Christian. Whether one considers oneself “an artist” or not, L’Engle gracefully challenges us all as God’s image bearers to engage the world with creativity and compassion. This is a beautiful book.
Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
True to Gladwell’s unique writing style, he provides some remarkable stories of people who seemed “lesser,” who against the odds overcame crazy obstacles and achieved what they only dreamed possible. David and Goliath provides inspiration for one’s own journey in overcoming personal obstacles, as well as situations one might face that need to be overcome. Perspective, faith, perseverance, and surprise will bring you much hope.
One definition of the word “catalyst” is “a stimulus to change.”
What happens when someone becomes a catalyst for any type of change? Maybe you’re the catalyst in your home for a change to healthier eating. Or maybe you’re the catalyst in your church for a move toward more intentional discipleship.
I recently made a trip to Indianapolis, Indiana where I met with pastors, facilitators, and financial partners of VantagePoint3. Quickly I found a common denominator in what I was hearing. One name, Beth Booram. Almost all of the people I met had been pointed to VP3 through the influence of this one woman who believes in the impact God is making on lives.
At one of our team meetings a few months ago, Emily presented a quote from Henri Nouwen’s Making All Things New as part of her devotional “Focusing Thought”. To be honest, I don’t remember what quote she read, but I do remember thinking, “I need to read the rest of that book.” Now, a few months later, I have finally read it and there were a few things that really struck me…
One thing that Nouwen wrote about has been a theme that I have experienced in my conversations with church people (laity and leadership) as well as in my own personal experiences with VP3 processes, both as facilitator and participant, in my own church.
Loneliness is without doubt one of the most widespread diseases of our time. It affects not only retired life but also family life, neighborhood life, school life, and business life. It causes suffering not only in elderly people but also in children, teenagers, and adults. It enters not only prisons but also private homes, office buildings, and hospitals. It is even visible in the diminishing interaction between people on the streets of our cities. Out of all this pervading loneliness many cry, ‘is there anyone who really cares? Is there anyone who can take away my inner sense of isolation? Is there anyone with whom I can feel at home?’
It is this paralyzing sense of separation that constitutes the core of much human suffering (Nouwen, 32).
Society is filled with lonely people. I know there are countless articles and blogs written on the perils of our technological, “social media society” that is both infinitely more connected while, at the same time, more socially isolated than ever before.
My point is not to sing that same tune.
My point is that we, as the church, should be different…
Unfortunately though, we fall into the same rhythm as the rest of society.
My hope is that we, as God’s church, may be able to create a new current of authentic community. I know “authentic community” has been a buzz term in churches for years, however, I feel we have missed our great opportunity…
Community has little to do with mutual compatibility. Similarities in educational background, psychological make-up, or social status can bring us together, but they can never be the basis for community. Community is grounded in God, who calls us together, and not in the attractiveness of people to each other (Nouwen, 82-83).
We have been so focused on creating opportunities for people to connect that we have neglected what (who) truly unites us as one.
My experience has shown that true, authentic community occurs when we place God in the center of a table surrounded by people who are hungering and thirsting for something more. I have seen how The Journey has helped create a place and an opportunity for a group of very different people to unite around our God. Through my Journey groups, I have seen and experienced God’s love, grace, mercy, compassion, discipline, refining, transformation…
How do we overcome this new kind of pervasive loneliness that, at first glance, doesn’t actually seem like loneliness?
We gather around God’s table with others who may or may not be anything like us in
any way, except for the fact that we have all come to the same table with a similar desire to get to know more fully the One who sits in the center.
I am reminded again this December through the person of Jesus Christ that life is fundamentally gift. The incarnation as theologians put it; or more simply said, “When God gives a gift, he wraps it in the form of a person” (William Lane). God’s grace comes to us freely and abundantly in a person, a person who was born and grew and lived, a person with a face that we could have stared at and look into if we lived in first century Galilee; we could have bumped into Jesus and conversed and eaten with him. I pray that amidst the hurry and flurry of your December activities that you may take time for remembering, reflecting, and celebrating God’s grace wonderfully expressed in the person of Jesus.
Earlier this morning I re-read a portion of a book by Frederick Buechner
Kathleen Norris writes a gem of a little book entitled The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and “Woman’s Work” (Paulist Press, 1998). By “quotidian” she means that which belongs to the everyday or the commonplace. She reminds us that it is amidst the ordinary stuff of our lives that we must be attentive to and expectant of God’s loving presence. This is no easy work. For more often the everydayness of our lives leads to distraction ratherthan attention to God. Yet she encourages the reader to simply consider God’s presence throughout Scripture and see where it is the God often shows up. Ponder her words here in light of your weekly activities.
The Bible is full of evidence that God’s attention is indeed fixed on the little things. But this is not because God is a Great Cosmic Cop, eager to catch us in minor transgressions, but simply because God loves us—loves us so much that the divine presence is revealed even in the meaningless workings of daily life. It is in the ordinary, the here-and-now, that God asks us