“You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out—perhaps a little at a time.’

And how long is that going to take?’
I don’t know. As long as you live, perhaps.’
That could be a long time.’
I will tell you a further mystery,’ he said. ‘It may take longer.

- Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

May 08

Letter from James Bryan Smith and Chris Hall

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In case you missed the email announcement about Renovaré and Apprentice partnering for The Apprentice Gathering in 2015, we are posting the letter from Chris Hall, President Renovaré USA and James Bryan Smith, Executive Director, Apprentice Institute.  As you might imagine Apprentice is very excited

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In case you missed the email announcement about Renovaré and Apprentice partnering for The Apprentice Gathering in 2015, we are posting the letter from Chris Hall, President Renovaré USA and James Bryan Smith, Executive Director, Apprentice Institute.  As you might imagine Apprentice is very excited about this partnership between these two organizations that share so much in common.

Dear Friends,

We are excited for the upcoming Apprentice Gathering, a partnership event between the Apprentice Institute and Renovaré.  This unique event is more than a conference, it is an event infused with the Holy Spirit for a time of interaction, ministry, practice and process.

The 2015 Apprentice Gathering will cast a vision for seeing “The Joy of Kingdom Living.”  This theme is based on Jesus’ parable of the treasure hidden in a field, where a man went—in his joy—to give all he had to possess it.  Too much Christianity is sour and dour.  As Dr. Willard often said, “God is the most joyous Being in the universe.”  That is something many Christians have a hard time believing.  They believe the false narrative that God is simply angry all the time, chewing antacids, just trying to get through the day.  Jesus—the exegesis of God, the one who reveals his character—was a man of joy.  He told his disciples he would give them his joy (John 15:11).  And apparently they did not turn it down!

The structure of the Apprentice Gathering is built on the six Renovaré streams:  the Contemplative tradition, the Holiness tradition, the Charismatic tradition, the Evangelical tradition, the Social Justice tradition, and the Incarnational tradition.  These streams of living water have nourished the Church and her people for two thousand years.  We hope to offer a balanced vision and a practical strategy for joy-filled Christ-followers.

One of the great things about two organizations—the Apprentice Institute and Renovaré—partnering on an event is that we are stronger together than we are alone.  Even more, we are afforded the opportunity to demonstrate how two ministries can actually love each other through mutual support and sacrifice.  This is rare.  Often ministries (dare we say churches) compete rather than cooperate. Learn more about the Apprentice Gathering at www.apprenticegathering.org.

We do hope you will gather with us on Oct. 8-10, 2015.  It will be an event to remember.

Blessings,

James Bryan Smith                                              Chris Hall
Executive Director, Apprentice Institute       President, Renovaré USA

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Apr 28

We Win

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Always with you--hands grasping

“A few years ago several friends and I threw a surprise birthday party for a dear friend who had experienced several difficulties over the past several years. She had lost dear family members and gone through a painful divorce. Each time I saw her she

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Always with you--hands grasping

“A few years ago several friends and I threw a surprise birthday party for a dear friend who had experienced several difficulties over the past several years. She had lost dear family members and gone through a painful divorce. Each time I saw her she had a pained look on her face, but she did her best to be positive and not complain. We planned the party for months, and when the big night came we all crammed ourselves into a room at a local restaurant where she thought she would be dining with a friend. We had a huge birthday cake aflame with candles. When she came through that door and we all yelled, “Surprise!” and then sang happy birthday, tears flowed down her cheeks. It was a beautiful sight. The pain of recent years faded in this moment of glory. She knew she was loved, and she glowed.

That is the image we need to see when reading Colossians 3:4. On the day when Jesus takes us in his arms, our life will be celebrated. It may be at our moment of death, or it may be in this life, should he return before our earthly life ends. But that day will come. We can be certain. Not because of what we have done or deserved, but because Christ, who is our very life, gets the last word.

Till then, we must remind ourselves each day that we win. It makes all the difference. There is nothing we will face today—illness, loss, divorce, death—that will not be overcome in the final victory of Jesus. And this is not wishful thinking.

Jesus’ resurrection secured this reality. If he rose from the dead, can he not also subdue all creation in final victory? The whole of the cosmos—the cosmos he himself made—will fall back into his hands and under his reign. It is a certainty. He won, and because we are in him, we win.”

Soul Training– Reflect on or memorize Revelation 7:16-17 today.

“Never again will they hunger;

never again will they thirst.

The sun will not beat down on them,

nor any scorching heat.

For the Lamb at the center of the throne

will be their shepherd;

‘he will lead them to springs of living water.

‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

 

Taken from Hidden in Christ by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2013 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com


Dr. James Bryan Smith (M.Div., Yale University Divinity School; DMin Fuller Seminary) is the Executive Director of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith is currently a theology professor at Friends University, in Wichita, Kansas, and an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. He is the author of eight books, most notably The Apprentice Series (InterVarsity Press), which continue to shape the work of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith’s other titles include Devotional Classics (with Richard J. Foster), Embracing the Love of God, Room of Marvels, and Hidden in Christ.

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Apr 21

Spiritual Formation and Superhero Thinking

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One omnipresent question when it comes to Christian Spiritual Formation is why spiritual practices appear to affect some individuals more than others. A second is why some Christians show such little interest in engaging in spiritual practices at all. The underlying reason for both may

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One omnipresent question when it comes to Christian Spiritual Formation is why spiritual practices appear to affect some individuals more than others. A second is why some Christians show such little interest in engaging in spiritual practices at all. The underlying reason for both may be in the mindset of the individual.

Confession is good for the soul. “The book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. motivated this installment.” Wow, that felt refreshing! Having identified my inspiration, I highly recommend her book. Since opening its front cover (or rather swiping through its pages on Kindle), I have been sharing insights with my sons, students, and colleagues. It is like seeing the spring grass and flowers anew following an atmosphere clearing thunderstorm.

I want to identify the core idea from Dweck’s book for the reader and then suggest how understanding this idea might make a difference for those of us who seek to help others with their own spiritual formation. Dweck labels her two mindsets Fixed and Growth. The key point of Dweck’s work is that a person’s mindset is not permanent; a mindset can be modified and manipulated by oneself and others. To summarize her distinctions between the two, “children with the fixed mindset want to make sure they succeed . . . But for children with the growth mindset, success is about stretching themselves.” (p. 17) To extend her thought into Christian Spiritual Formation, for Christians with a fixed mindset Spiritual Formation is about being like Jesus and for those with the growth mindset it is about becoming like Jesus. Since the first sees talents and abilities as innate, any struggle or setback leads them to stop trying, while for the second each challenge is viewed as an opportunity to grow a bit more like the Master.

“People with the growth mindset know that it takes time for potential to flower.” (p. 28) The inverse is that people with the fixed mindset don’t use the word “potential,” one either has IT or they don’t. As the author herself notes, “Until I discovered the mindsets and how they work, I, too, thought of myself as more talented than others, maybe even more worthy than others because of my endowments.” (p. 29-30) A fixed mindset considers that “effort is for those who don’t have the ability.” (p. 40) In one study with children some were praised for their ability while others were praised for their effort. “Since this was a kind of IQ test, you might say that praising ability lowered the students’ IQs. And that praising their effort raised them.” (p. 73)

A final note of clarification from Dweck: “Perhaps it’s because, as Malcolm Gladwell suggests, people prize natural endowment over earned ability. . . . We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.” (p. 90)

What does this have to do with Spiritual Formation?

We should recognize first and foremost that a fixed mindset is detrimental to spiritual formation. Because of this reality, it is crucial for CSF directors to be cautious of the language they use in describing formation. We don’t help others if we indirectly reinforce their own fixed mindset. Formation directors must also learn to see a fixed mindset in those they are leading and consciously move them toward a growth mindset in other avenues of their life as well. These conversations can focus on the worlds of the two mindsets. In the world of the fixed mindset, “success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself.” However, in the world of the growth mindset, “it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.” (p. 16) This is where a conversation can begin with other directors you know.

What language do you use? How might you rephrase your language to develop a growth mindset in a mentee?

Second, it is critical for those of us involved in spiritual formation to avoid creating our own superheroes. The spiritually mature have not always been where they are today. We applaud them for their status, adore them for their spirituality, and admire them for their seeming superiority. In so doing we reinforce a fixed mindset in ourselves and remain behind a self-imposed barricade to our own journey. If I have a fixed mindset (which I discovered is a default for me) then I see in others the same qualities. I easily forget the years they spent undergoing transformation. I have learned to recognize that my “spiritually formed” friends have not always been so. Their lives have not been a smooth road protected from difficulty. Some have tragically lost a child; others suffered from unspeakable childhoods. A few have suffered physical illness in their body, while one dear friend was the lone survivor from her family of a car accident. These individuals were formed through time, trials, and trust in a merciful god. The true danger of creating spiritual superheroes is that we relegate them to a solitary life because they can no longer walk among us as regular humans who themselves are in the process of being transformed by God. We risk stunting their spiritual formation

How do you speak about the authors you are reading? Do you impose on them fixed traits? Do you validate yourself by seeing them as having this static spirituality?

A third application of Dweck’s material for spiritual formation may be less obvious. One characteristic frequently identified as the Greek virtue unique to Christianity is humility. I wonder whether the fixed mindset with its concern for maintaining superior positioning based on an innate quality can actually practice humility. It seems that the growth mindset with its better recognition of abilities and areas for improvement may have the upper hand in actually living a life of humility. This might also help explain Paul’s admonition to the Philippians in 2:5 “You should think among yourselves in the same way that Christ Jesus thought!”

Does the unrealistic self-identity associated with a fixed mindset hinder the development of humility? How do you understand humility to be developed?

Finally, I must recognize the real danger a fixed mindset presents to spiritual development. Dweck notes, “In the end, many people with the fixed mindset understand that their cloak of specialness was really a suit of armor they built to feel safe, strong, and worthy. While it may have protected them early on, later it constricted their growth, sent them into self-defeating battles, and cut them off from satisfying, mutual relationships.” (p. 232) Armor we have worn for decades is not easily removed. Quick and easy is not the way of Jesus. Faithfulness over the long haul reflects the narrow pathway of discipleship.

Do you see yourself as being transformed by God as you journey with God through this life or as having already arrived? Is your mindset one of growth or is it fixed?

 

Mindset The New Psychology of Success Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., Ballantine Books, 2006


 

harstine

An educator since 1984, Stan Harstine is convinced that his career consists of “teaching students to think.” He has engaged in this career since 2002 at Friends University using biblical studies as his medium. His greatest accomplishment for 2014 was having 3 sons graduated from college, gainfully employed and not living at home.

 

 


 

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Apr 07

Where are You?

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My husband Fred had been ill for several weeks.  By the time he was finally hospitalized, a lung infection had spread to his kidneys and to his brain.  After about two hours in the emergency room, he became non-responsive.  We talked to him, called his name, and asked

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My husband Fred had been ill for several weeks.  By the time he was finally hospitalized, a lung infection had spread to his kidneys and to his brain.  After about two hours in the emergency room, he became non-responsive.  We talked to him, called his name, and asked him questions, but he didn’t answer. His eyes followed us at some points, but there were no words, no responses when he was asked to move his arm or turn over.  He was there, but he wasn’t there.

Early in the morning a day later, I walked into his room and stood near him, calling his name. Finally he opened his eyes. A minute later they came alive and then filled with tears.  “Thank you!  Thank you! Thank you!” he repeated as the tears rolled down his face.

“Why?” I asked.  “I didn’t do anything.”  Then, thinking he meant that he was grateful to be feeling better, I said, “The doctors and the nurses were the ones who helped you.”

He shook his head, “No, I mean thank you for being you.  I’ve been in a very dark place. You are the first person I recognize!”  And then the questions came. “Where am I? Why am I here? Why are they doing all this stuff to me?” After about an hour, as more clarity came, he sheepishly said, “I didn’t know anybody so I asked for a phone, but I didn’t know anyone to call.”  We both laughed and he went on. “The only way I figured out who I am was by seeing you.

A few days later I heard a sermon on Genesis 3 and listened again to God’s poignant call to Adam, “Where are you?” When Fred was non-responsive, we were all calling him, essentially asking him, “Fred, where are you?” It occurred to me that my sense of loss when the Fred I knew and loved was “missing” must be something similar to God’s reaction when Adam was hiding from him.  Where was this creature he knew and loved?

Since then I have thought a lot about this parable of the lost Fred.  I thought about how often we go “missing” from God, so far gone that we don’t hear his repeated calls.  I thought about how far on “the dark side” we travel as we walk farther and farther from God’s voice.  I was jolted by the fact that we, like Fred, concoct useless plans to try to fill in what’s missing when God’s missing.  And how true it is that we cannot know who we are unless we know who God is.   And how grateful we are when we finally hear God’s voice and realize that God has been there all the time!

MULLING IT OVER:  Can you think of a time when you wandered away from God?  How did you find your way back?  Is God wondering where you are now?   When we spend a lot of time with someone, we learn to know their voice.  How can you learn to know God’s voice better?


Karen Bables is a wife, mother, and grandmother living in Holland, Michigan.  Recently retired from work as a Director of Spiritual Formation, she now spends her time writing.  She blogs atwww.livingasapprentices.com.

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Mar 31

A Priest Who Prays

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“Jesus completely finished the work of reconciliation, but that does not mean he is up in heaven taking a long nap. One of the most beautiful parts of the theology of the ascension is that Jesus is now praying for us. Jesus is our great

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“Jesus completely finished the work of reconciliation, but that does not mean he is up in heaven taking a long nap. One of the most beautiful parts of the theology of the ascension is that Jesus is now praying for us. Jesus is our great High Priest who intercedes for us. Having been reconciled with us through his death, Jesus is now laboring for our healing through his prayer: “Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34 nrsv).

What does this mean for you and for me? It means that not only do we stand forever forgiven, but Jesus is also forever praying for us. And what is he praying for? He is praying that you and I would be completely new people, people in whom he can make his home.

When Paul asks the Colossians to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God,” he is urging them to reflect on the wonder of Jesus, the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world (John 1:29), and the splendor of Jesus, the High Priest who now prays for us. This is how God is “making all things new.”

The glorious Trinity (Father, Son and Spirit) is on a mission to transform every one of us. That does not happen by anything we do of ourselves. Jesus did it all. And Jesus does it all—by continuing to pray for each of us. But we do participate in this transformation. We set our minds on these truths: we are forgiven, and Jesus is praying for us. And when Jesus prays, things happen. He will not stop until he has made us all new people.

Soul Training – Changing Narratives:

Make a small notecard today with the following 2 phrases; “I am forgiven” and “Jesus is praying for me”. Place the card in a place that you will see it over the next week. (Examples: Next to Computer Monitor, Refrigerator Door, Bathroom Mirror, Phone Screen Background or Coffee Table)


 

Taken from Hidden in Christ by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2013 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

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