Vulnerability Is A Game Changer

Vulnerability has been a theme running through many of the readings we have done through the Apprentice Experience.

My friend Kris has taken vulnerability on as a calling and has seen great progress in his own life and among others willing to do it. He encouraged me to be more vulnerable on the blog and I have tried to tell more of my story instead of just passing along nuggets of expertise.

But what is vulnerability?

James Bryan Smith discussed the book The Cure with us at Gathering 2. He addressed a section called “Living With Nothing Hidden.” This section had this to say about vulnerability: “Instead of pretending we are “doing fine,” give others an opportunity to love us…and they will.”

I know that I would much rather tell people I am doing fine than have to get into the complexities of my Dad’s battle with Cancer or the stress of being an Interim Director of a College Library. I have this fear that if I do give people the opportunity to love me, they will blow me off or give superficial responses or barely listen or quickly move on to themselves.

I have to realize that the benefits of being vulnerable far outweigh any rejection or lack of validation that might come from taking the vulnerability risk.

I have tried being more open, I have tried to tell more of my story, I have tried taking responsibility for my failures as well as my successes. And I have received back true connection with people, true encouragement, and opportunities for growth in my own life.

Most of all, I have felt closer to the will of God. Vulnerability has led me to take risks and to let God guide me instead of me trying to manage every circumstance. This has brought deeper friendships, rewarding ministry opportunities, better blogging, and a deeper understanding of myself.

Are you willing to give others an opportunity to love you and to give God a better chance to work through you?

Then try a little vulnerability.

The Peculiarly Good Life

In one of the readings for the Apprentice Experience, James Bryan Smith quotes St. Augustine and this fascinating concept, “good things peculiar to the good.” Basically, there is a treasure of goodness found in God and with God that Christians experience that those outside of this faith know nothing about. The idea being that nonbelievers and even those practicing evil may experience some good things but will never experience the kind of good that comes from a life with God through Christ.

I have thought about this phrase many times over the weeks since I read it. I have begun to think about the peculiar good that I have experienced since Christ started working in my life in a more powerful way 16 years ago.

  • patience in the face of career uncertainty
  • creativity and ingenuity in the midst of challenges
  • daily encounters with God
  • hearing God’s voice
  • finding God in the bleakest of circumstances
  • compassion for others
  • plans and purposes in unusual circumstances
  • tolerance of my own shortcomings
  • joy in simple blessings
  • walking in God’s will
  • seeing miracles first hand
  • deeper understanding of Scripture
  • trust
  • encouraging others in Christ’s name

I am sure I could go on but you get the idea. Sure, there are times when the items above are not my present reality and I have to relearn what I have already learned, but that is just a part of Growing Up.

If Christ is helping you Grow Up, then you have a similar list or one that is peculiar to you. Take a moment and reflect on the good that is peculiar to the good in your life. Then step back and recognize how rich that goodness is and how it can only come from a “good and beautiful God.”

How The Holy Spirit Helps You Grow Up

Each week, I will be providing a glimpse into the discipleship training program that I have just started. This is a way for me to show you what I am learning and also allow you to progress along with me. For more information, I encourage you to read this. Also, if you like what you are reading, will you consider donating so I can continue with the program and be able to provide more interesting content so we can all reach true Christian maturity.


I often have been confused by the role and responsibility of the  Holy Spirit in Growing Up.

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Last week, we looked at the four essential components of Growing Up presented by James Bryan Smith in his Apprentice book series. The center piece of the Triangle of Transformation is the Holy Spirit. Smith describes the work of the Holy Spirit like this:

The Spirit leads us to Jesus, reveals the Father, exposes falsehood, offers correction, and gives us the needed encouragement that make growth and transformation possible. The Spirit helps us change our narratives by leading us into truth, enlightens us as we practice the disciplines, and binds us together in community. If not for the work of the Holy Spirit, transformation simply will not take place.

 

The Holy Spirit is so essential to our faith, that scripture says that no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. We need to understand that trying to Grow Up without the Holy Spirit is like trying to nail a board to a wall with a Fischer Price hammer. It might happen but it is unlikely.

So it is our job to work in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to make change possible. We can do this by making ourselves available to the work of the Holy Spirit. Invite the Holy Spirit and acknowledge that any desire I have for growth, any movement towards God, and progress in the spiritual life is coming from the Holy Spirit.

How encouraging to know that my growth doesn’t have to come from my own will power, my own talents and abilities, my own determination. Growing Up is a by product of the Spirit working through my limited capacities and humble attempts at devotion and formation.

What a gift.

 

photo credit: Chris Sloan

portions of this post were found in a previous entry

Essential Components of Growing Up

Each week, I will be providing a glimpse into the discipleship training program that I have just started. This is a way for me to show you what I am learning and also allow you to progress along with me. For more information, I encourage you to read this. Also, if you like what you are reading, will you consider donating so I can continue with the program and be able to provide more interesting content so we can all reach true Christian maturity.


Why am I writing this blog? Why am I spending so much screen space and digital characters on Growing Up?

Because Growing Up is hard to do and few people try to show you how to do it. Too many times, the only advice that is given is to pray more and to read your Bible more. There is nothing wrong with this advice, and much benefit can come from doing these two things but the advice neglects trying to understand how human beings work, our unique giftedness under God, and best practices from 2,000 years of Christian living.

James Bryan Smith, in his Apprentice book series, reveals what he calls the Triangle of Transformation. There are four components of the triangle – Adopting the Narratives of Jesus, Engaging in Soul-Training Exercises, Participating in Community, and the work of the Holy Spirit.

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Do you see how this is a much more well developed and robust approach to Growing Up?

Scripture reading and prayer are important parts of developing the right narratives and are essential exercises but they are just a few elements that make up the Growing Up process.

The four components of transformation show us how the Holy Spirit works through a small group of believers, how other spiritual exercises work the right spiritual muscles, and how learning from Jesus how he thought and spoke about his Father help bring clarity and focus to our attempts at Christian maturity.

What about you? Which component have you been neglecting? Let me know if there is an element of Growing Up that you might need some help with. I will be happy to show you what I know and am attempting to practice.

 

 

AE Journal: Chief Apprentice

Today, I start my chronicle of the Apprentice Experience, the 18-month training in discipleship that I am embarking on. I spoke more about this last week.

AE was started by James Bryan Smith, a professor of theology, author, speaker, and self described Forrest Gump of American Christianity. His background was not in the church, yet, he was picked out by Spiritual Formation maven Richard Foster to be mentored. He never really ran in Christian celebrity circles yet musician Rich Mullins showed up in one of his classes and ended up living in an attic apartment in Smith’s house. He often says that his sermons and messages are basically the same wherever he goes and that they lack sophistication yet he was told by the brilliant and much revered Dallas Willard that he was the one that should develop a Curriculum for Christlikeness. He also had the privilege to be mentored and taught by giants in the field of ministry and the Christian spiritual life – Henri Nouwen and Brennan Manning.

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Hopefully, what Smith will be most well known for is his Apprentice book series. I have read these through several times and have used them for Bible studies, small groups, and for mentoring college students.

The first book, The Good and Beautiful God, unpacks the character of God by looking at the way that Jesus described and thought about his Father. The second book, The Good and Beautiful Life, focuses on what makes a good life and takes the reader through a study of the Sermon on the Mount. The third book, The Good and Beautiful Community, works on living the Christian life in a social context of work, family, church, and community.

The framework found in this series is the anchor points for the Apprentice Experience and one that I find insightful, profound, and accessible.

I have found that Smith is not concerned with pushing some gimmicky plan or fad insight to make him look clever or sell more books. He simply wants to teach others ways to know the God he knows.

Through the Apprentice Series, he does just that.

Is There Help With This Change Stuff?

I often have been confused by the role and responsibility of the  Holy Spirit in

Cover of "The Good and Beautiful God: Fal...

Cover via Amazon

spiritual growth. One book that helped clarify this for me was James Bryan Smith’s Good and Beautiful God. In it he presents a model of four components to life change – personal narrative (the way we think), spiritual disciplines, community, and The Holy Spirit. He describes the work of the Holy Spirit like this:

The Spirit leads us to Jesus, reveals the Father, exposes falsehood, offers correction, and gives us the needed encouragement that make growth and transformation possible. The Spirit helps us change our narratives by leading us into truth, enlightens us as we practice the disciplines, and binds us together in community. If not for the work of the Holy Spirit, transformation simply will not take place.

So it is our job to work in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to make change possible. We can do this by making ourselves available to the work of the Holy Spirit. We can invite the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. Second, we can provide avenues for the Holy Spirit to work more effectively. This is where the spiritual disciplines come in.