Swiftwater Journey

faith, culture, and growing up in a rapidly changing world

Journey Through Lent Week 7 March 20, 2016

Filed under: Spiritual Transformation — billmacphee @ 2:51 pm

pedro-orrente.pg_Thank you for joining with me as together we have walked with Jesus on a journey of [re] discovering the ancient texts promising God would return to Zion and bring deliverance to his people through his chosen vessel. The Gospel record and other New Testament letters have given insight into Jesus’ own understanding that he would fulfill God’s promise, but in a way no one had considered.

Today is Palm Sunday, and we traditionally use this day to celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem during Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The cries of “Hosanna” we hear today will quickly turn into threats of “Crucify him” as our week nears its end. May God enrich your Easter understanding and celebration these next few days, and may you discover anew the reality that the resurrection of Jesus simply changes everything.

Here are the final Lent Readings for Week 7 | March 21-27, 2016

 

Journey Through Lent Week 6 March 14, 2016

Filed under: Spiritual Transformation — billmacphee @ 9:33 am

read books“We are going up to Jerusalem … and the Son of Man will be delivered over … [they] will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.” Mark 10:33-34

Here are the Lent Readings Week 6 | March 14-20, 2016

 

Journey Through Lent Week 5 March 6, 2016

Filed under: Spiritual Transformation — billmacphee @ 9:30 pm

readingSometimes it is a relief having someone else choose what we read. When I engaged the grueling journey through my Doctor of Ministry degree at Fuller Theological Seminary, Dr. Chapman Clark chose the 17,000 pages we were required to read. Yes, that is a lot of pages. But in many ways it was delightful to await the reading list at the beginning of each of the three years in the program. My tendencies often choose “safe” and predictable books and authors. But Chap pushed us into new arenas, intentionally exposing us to thoughts and paradigms new and insightful.
Our Lent readings serve a similar purpose. The journey with Jesus to the cross is not comfortable, but the chosen Scriptures lead us to the raw truth of commitment to the sacrificial and unconditional love of God for the world.
I trust you will enjoy the Scriptures chosen for you in our Lent Readings Week 5 | March 7-13, 2016

 

Journey Through Lent Week 4 February 28, 2016

Filed under: Spiritual Transformation — billmacphee @ 8:15 am

Jesus10“One can begin one’s [spiritual] quest by attending to the desires of the heart, both personal and communal. The Spirit is revealed in our genuine hopes for ourselves and for the world. How brightly burns the flame of desire for a love affair with God, other people, the world? Do we know that to desire and seek God is a choice that is always available to us?”

–Elizabeth Dreyer (quoted by Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms]

It was Dallas Willard who reminded us that while “grace is opposed to earning, it is not against effort.” The commitment to grow deeper in our love and trust relationship with Jesus is a gift from God, it is a grace. It is the Holy Spirit that prompts us to pay attention to the desire he places deep within us that longs to know and be known by the Father, through Jesus. But we don’t need to shy away from discipline, even regular and systematic attention to habits that can form our character to respond the way Jesus would if he were in our situation.

I am grateful for the way God leads me, even through baby steps, to meet with him, with my Bible open, and my heart attentive to what he wants to communicate … while on the way to Jerusalem and his cross. I am also grateful to journey with you. I trust you are enjoying our communal reading of selected texts, which I trust is prompting a growing understanding of God’s relentless action toward salvation.

Here is our Lent Reading for Week 4 | February 29-March 6

 

Journey Through Lent Week 3 February 21, 2016

Filed under: Spiritual Transformation — billmacphee @ 2:51 pm

jesus-and-disciplesLegendary theologian and author, J. I. Packer, gives the perspective of traveling a dusty road from two vantage points: the view from the balcony of a fine hotel; or on the ground level tasting the dirt and engaging in intimate conversation with fellow travelers. The invitation to follow Jesus this Lenten season, and learn from him as he relentlessly walks toward Jerusalem and the cross, is not a cerebral information-gathering observation from the safe distance on the hotel balcony. Instead it is given from the road, on the road, in the dust, among fellow and sometimes weary pilgrims.
Our Scripture reading pathway is intended to be a transformational engagement with the text — really the story — where we let Jesus talk with us, guide us, and ultimately change us. How have these Scriptures been challenging and changing you?
This third week of Lent, let’s allow the dust of the rabbi get into our clothes, even become grit in our teeth and ignite our imagination as we read this week.

 

Find your readings here: Week 3 | February 22-28

 

Journey Through Lent Week 2 February 13, 2016

Filed under: Spiritual Transformation,Uncategorized — billmacphee @ 5:00 pm

BibleI hope you are enjoying the Scriptures selected to help us begin our reading and reflection journey through Lent to the cross and empty tomb.

Remember,
Lent is a time for sacrifice and self-examination, for increased self-awareness and God-awareness, for spiritual refocus and renewing our conversion, for seeing our own need for Grace, and for opening our hearts to be more captured by Jesus’ love.

I discourage any practice in Lent that detracts from the work of salvation accomplished by Jesus on the cross. Yes, let the Scriptures push us toward humble acknowledgement that we, like Israel before us, have fallen far short of God’s ideal for what it means to be human. But by all means, let these sacred texts clarify that God is the relentless hound of heaven, pursuing you and me with an unquenchable love. He requires nor desires our attempt at appeasing him by acts that earn forgiveness.
Even this practice of reading can easily be turned into labor that makes us feel better about how God might view us. Read, reflect, rest, ponder, and let his words guide.

Here are the readings for Week 2 | February 15-20

 

Join Me Through Lent Reading the Scriptures February 9, 2016

Filed under: Spiritual Transformation — billmacphee @ 11:21 pm

The season of Lent has become encrusted with confusing barnacles of self-flagellation assuming we need to deny ourselves something to appease a God slightly ticked-off because of our less-than-holy living the rest of the year. The craziness of Fat Tuesday doesn’t help. We move through Lent toward Good Friday where we celebrate God’s initiative to provide salvation through the cross of Christ, always anticipating the good news of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, declaring there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. Giving up chocolate or red wine may be helpful in some ways, such as the beginning of some sort of spiritual discipline, but not to gain one inch toward salvation.

Scripture Reading

The big story of God is contained in the Scriptures, and a simple, but intentional reading of relevant texts that walk us toward the cross is a good use of time during Lent. By the way, Lent means Spring, so let’s celebrate the new life Spring brings by immersing ourselves in the big story of cross and resurrection.

Here are my selections for Scripture reading during Week 1 [February 10-14, 2016], and I thank my friend Kerry Olson for choosing the inspiring quotes along the way. Come back each week for more selections.

spring readings week 1

 

Teachers: Tend Your Heart This Summer June 4, 2014

Filed under: education,Spiritual Transformation,Time — billmacphee @ 10:44 am
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VCS Concentration Deans

VCS Concentration Deans

After an exciting, yet energy-sapping school year, take time to invest in your own health. May your summer be filled with life-giving joy, adventure and spiritual depth, all for the glory of the author of life, Jesus Christ!

 

Keeper of Spring[1]

There was a town in the Alps, straddling the banks of a beautiful stream, fed by springs high above. The stream was crystal clear, providing sanctuary for birds, children, rainbow trout, and picnics. It was a thriving town. High in the hills, far beyond anyone’s sight, lived an old man, known as the “keeper of the spring.” He carefully cleared the spring of anything that might choke the stream. Hired long ago, few remembered why he was there.

 

One day, the town Council looked at their expenses and decided they needed the old man’s paycheck for other priorities, so they fired him. The springs went untended; the stream clogged. For a time, no one noticed, but soon the water began to change, becoming toxic. The birds flew away, the fish died, the children weren’t allowed to play—some in the town even grew ill.

 

The life of the village depended on the stream, and the life of the stream depended on the keeper of the spring.

The spring is your heart. You are its keeper.

 

In Proverbs 4:23 Solomon offers advice from father to son.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” NIV
The original language actually says “from your heart flow the springs of life.”

 

Your “heart” is the part of you that connects on the deepest level with who you are and your reason for being on this planet [and serving students at school] … it is your life and you are its keeper. Lose your heart and you lose your life. It is difficult to over-describe the worth of your heart. After a long year, some might have lost touch with their heart’s value. Let’s be honest, our world gives small priority to the condition of your heart, and life can shrivel it like a raisin. So I say to you, guard your heart!

 

A thriving heart, according to author Simon Sinek, starts by asking Why, before asking What.[2] This summer is a great time to re-clarify your Why. What questions focus on task; Why questions get you to mission. After a long year, you may have boiled life down to asking What questions: what is on my to-do list for today? What is my curriculum? What is urgent? What keeps me out of trouble?

 

The Why question comes from deeper in our hearts. It asks, Why am I living this story in the first place?[3] Tend your heart by learning to ask Why before you ask What.

Why-questions push the boundaries.
Why-questions embody a dream.
Why-questions inspire.
Why-questions change the world.

 

Health breeds health. Healthy adults = healthy students. As the leaders go, so goes a school. Healthy leaders guard their heart, and align life with their Why. But how?

 

5 positive heart-rejuvenating practices for your summer:[4]

 

  1. The Discipline of Rest
    • Retreat from the surge. Work hard, then rest.
    • Genesis 2:1-2 – God rested from all his work; Exodus 31:12 “observe my Sabbaths … so you may know that I am the Lord.”
    • Shut down for a third of the daily cycle. “Off-switch” given by God.
    • Unplug, be quiet.[5]
    • The difference between ‘doing’ and ‘being.’ Doing comes out of being.
    • Make deliberate choices toward restoration.
    • How will you truly rest this summer?

 

  1. The Discipline of Reflection
    • Not just reacting like a boxer to the volume of stuff – overloaded lives.
    • Build in margin in order to have time for rest and reflection.[6]
    • Mark 1:35 – after a busy night, Jesus was by himself to pray. Luke 5:16 “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Jesus’ Why came from alone time.
    • Bible reading and prayer in morning can be helpful, including journaling.
    • Take time to process, intentionally reflecting on what is happening, what does this mean, where is God in this?
    • In what part of your day will you invest in reflecting?

 

  1. The Discipline of Reading
    • We are what we read.
    • Reading is a form of rest and reflection.
    • We don’t do a lot of long form reading on the Internet – Twitter 140 characters.[7]
    • Tackle a book or extensive essay; it will focus your mind, and stimulate the brain.
    • Reader’s lead, and leaders read.
    • 2 Timothy 4:13 “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.”
    • What are you reading this summer?

 

  1. The Discipline of Recreation
    • Re-Creation.
    • Recreation includes play, having fun, working out, eating right, paint, guitar, fish, even golf.
    • There is a difference between amusement and recreation … a unique kind of ‘tired.’
    • Ephesians 2:10 you are “created to create.”
    • We are not just a consumer, but also a creator.
    • What kind of life-giving recreation will you enjoy this summer?

 

  1. The Discipline of Relationships
    • Maybe the most important practice. Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for the man to be alone.”
    • The Trinity is in relationship.
    • Online Facebook relationships don’t cut it. We sometimes get our identity from Facebook/social media.
    • Who are the 4 or 5 in-depth relationships that are restorative? Seek these people out and put them on your calendar.
    • They are a guardrail to going off the deep end, and provide protection from a loss of perspective.
    • With whom will you find life through investing in healthy relationships this summer?

 

But in case you leave this school year in a place of deep discouragement, or even a sense of failure, I am reminded of a story …

 

The Crooked Kiss[8]

Dr. Richard Selzer performed a difficult surgery on a young woman’s face, accidentally cutting a nerve causing her mouth to droop. In the recovery room she asked, “Will my mouth always be like this?” “Yes,” he said, “it will be. It is because the nerve was cut.” She nodded and was silent. But her young husband smiled. “I like it,” he said. “It is kind of cute.” Then he bent to kiss her crooked mouth, and the Dr. was so close he saw how her husband twisted his own lips to accommodate her, to show her that their kiss still worked.”

Living from your heart is not easy. Your journey to Why will be filled with trouble, even pain. I remind you of the beauty of your heart, and of the gospel. Jesus twists his own lips to accommodate yours, to show you that your kiss still works. You are a valuable part of God’s plan for the students in your world.

 

Guard your heart, discover your Why, change the world.

 

 

[1] Thanks to Chuck Swindoll, Improving Your Serve, and John Ortberg, Soul-Keeping.

[2] Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Thanks to Kimberly Inskeep, President and Chief Culture Officer at Carol Anderson by Invitation (CAbi) who introduced me to Sinek and asking why before what.

[3] May I suggest Donald Miller, Storyline: Finding Your Subplot in God’s Story, for your reading?

[4] Thanks to Michael Hyatt. http://michaelhyatt.com/the-four-disciplines-of-the-heart.html.

[5] See Martha Beck, The Joy Diet, chapter one, “Nothing.”

[6]Richard Swenson, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives.

[7] Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains.

[8] Thanks to Mike Yaconelli, from whom I first heard this story. Richard Selzer, Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery.

 

The National Day of Prayer at Village Christian School – May 1, 2014 April 29, 2014

Filed under: pastoral leadership,Spiritual Transformation — billmacphee @ 12:19 pm
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Village Christian School is observing The National Day of Prayer this Thursday by inviting you to set aside about 10 minutes to pray near the beginning of our Late Start schedule at 9:30 am. Whether you are leading students in a classroom, or working in another capacity on campus, we ask you to invest a few minutes to join with millions around the world seeking God through prayer.

Here is a Guide [national day of prayer 2014] which teachers can adapt for their classroom time, or others can use with an office mate or two. Parents, Circles of CARE, and others are welcome to join us at 9:30 am, Thursday, May 1.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, and intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone …” 1 Timothy 2:1

 

Jesus walked on my campus November 26, 2011

I fell off a 70 foot cliff while serving as a volunteer in a mountaineering class at San Carlos High School. I’ve decided to celebrate the friends who saved my life by writing some posts about the experience. I do not pass a single day without reflecting on November 16, 1981 and the courage it took for my friends to make decisions and take action that spared my life.

You can read part one here: the best job I could imagine – November 16, 1981. You can read all posts related to my mountaineering accident by searching the Categories for Accident.

 

Part Two: Jesus Walked on My Campus … and his name was John.

In addition to teaching outdoor skills to students, John Woodhall served as the head football coach at the San Carlos High School. John is by nature a gentle man, but demonstrated his capacity for strong leadership at practice and on the sidelines. Though he rarely raised his voice, he could get a linebacker’s attention when needed. John was strong, focused, disciplined, and deeply loved his students. His strength and care emerged out of a heart deeply transformed by the grace and compassion of Jesus Christ. I am not exaggerating when I say that John seemed to me to be the embodiment of Jesus walking about his campus. Kids loved and flocked to him. Students wanted to be near him and touch him. John made himself freely accessible to kids–all kind of kids. This is what set John Woodhall apart. He loved and cared for all kinds of students. Not just the strong athletes, or the Christian kids who mirrored his spiritual values. Every person found it possible to easily slide into his span of gentle care. This was especially true of the kids who desperately needed a mountaineering class to keep them engaged in the relentless and unforgiving grind of public high school.

I met John through the Student Ministries family at Peninsula Covenant Church in Redwood City, CA. The church has a long legacy of quality leaders in ministry to adolescents, including not only professional staff, but maybe more importantly, gifted and called volunteers. I tried to be sensitive to John’s schedule–as a teacher/coach his life was full. Add his deep commitment to his family and it continued to amaze me that he made himself available as a trustworthy volunteer youthworker at PCC. Through John’s faithfulness in ministry to students both at church and school, I came to be his friend and co-worker. In some ways, we had a reciprocal friendship–he served as a volunteer in the ministry I supervised, and I served as a volunteer in the classes he supervised. John’s involvement with students through church became a natural extension of his growing relationships with teenager’s all over our community. John would often invite students at school to join him at our weekly high school gathering. My involvement with John and outdoor mountaineering trips was a natural extension of the ministry I was carving out through the church. Our joint ministry was externally and outreach oriented–we kept the trajectory of our main weekly gathering on the widest range of students, especially those not likely to come inside a church building. In retrospect, the students enrolled in the San Carlos High School Mountaineering Courses were blessed and fortunate. They gained intimate access to a grace-filled teacher in John, and by extension, received the mentoring of caring adults whom John invited to help lead the “Field Study Projects.” As I reflect on my experience, I could not have been happier. I had boundless energy, considered it my calling to be with adults and students in ministry, and was invited to make my second office the mountains of California.

More to come …