Category Archives: Fellowship

He kicked my butt!

A few weeks ago I spent a week at a retreat center near Asheville, North Carolina. It was a School of Spiritual Direction with Dr. Larry Crabb.

The schedule was designed to include evening sessions but did allow for a three-hour gap in the afternoon. So on that first afternoon I located a map of trails and headed out.

The longest trail was just three miles long and promised a nice view from a higher elevation. My thought process went something like this:

“I’ve just lost 40 pounds and have been bike riding with my wife for nearly four months now. We’re up to 18 miles a ride and this past week I did a solo ride of 27 miles – my longest to date. It’s only a three-mile hike. No problem.”

To say that I misjudged the effect of elevation on a three-mile hike would be a gross understatement.

It kicked my butt!

About 2 1/2 hours later I dragged myself back to my room and quickly showered for supper. For three days my thigh muscles SCREAMED at me every time I moved.

The same thing happened spiritually with all that took place that week as our group of 31 people explored the nature of our journey with God.

I was captivated by God as the Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit – existing in perfect, loving community. And I welcomed the invitation to journey further into the fellowship enjoyed by the Trinity.

But the price of admission is a humble and broken spirit. On several occasions the Holy Spirit brought me face-to-face with some of my “false gods” and sinful relational patterns. He kicked my butt – spiritually speaking!

That portion of the journey was brutally painful. And to be honest, I was ready to cut and run more than once.

But the corresponding freedom that came as a result of being embraced by what the Spirit was doing in me was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

The Holy Spirit didn’t confront me with my sin in order to beat me up or heap on guilt and shame. He did it – does it daily – so that I’ll come to the end of my own efforts and more fully rely on His work in me.

This is exactly what Paul describes in Romans 7 and 8. In chapter 7 Paul is totally frustrated with his struggle against the fleshly, sinful nature and wonders who can help him. Then in chapter 8 he’s celebrating the Spirit’s work in us.

5-6 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead-end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. ~ Romans 8 (The Message)

My relationship with God – Father, Son and Spirit – has been very different these last few weeks. And relating to family and friends has been very different as well – more open and healthy; more God-focused.

I believe I’m getting a taste of the real life Jesus came to make possible. And reflecting more of God’s relational glory in the process.

No offense intended, but I hope we all get our butts kicked today by the Holy Spirit!

***

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under Authenticity, Brokenness, Christianity, Discipleship, Divine presence, Fellowship, Glory of God, God, God the Father, Holy Spirit, Humility, influence with the world, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Joy, Love of God, Loving God, Loving others, Morphing, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Surrender, Trinity, Trusting God

My first real taste…

I’d heard of it, read of it, dreamt of it but never really experienced it.

I’m speaking of real community like what we read of in the second chapter of Acts.

I just spent the last 8 days at a retreat center in the hills near Asheville, NC with 35 people hungry for God. It was a School of Spiritual Direction led by Dr. Larry Crabb – a.k.a. – Zorro, of New Way Ministries.

I can’t begin to describe what we experienced but it involved transparency, authenticity, crying together, laughing together, eating together, hiking together, praying together, listening intently together, celebrating together, encountering new freedoms together and offering words of life to one another.

It was like nothing I had ever experienced!

It left me captivated at the image of the Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit – engaged in perfect community and inviting us into Their dance.

It shook me to the core with newly discovered layers of sinful patterns in how I relate in ways that disrupt that same divine rhythm.

And it left me humbled by the overwhelming love of a Trinitarian God who is at this very moment, and every moment, relentlessly pursuing us to enjoy us.

I am so very grateful for the chance to have shared such a journey with 35 people I’d never even met before, but hope to meet again before eternity.

And it restored my hope that we can experience a deeper, richer fellowship than what typically takes place on a Sunday morning in most churches.

Real community is not limited to or directly tied to this particular event. It can happen anywhere that people come together in brokenness and invite God’s Spirit to move among them.

May we all come to share in such a taste of heaven and may it change our world as others are drawn to the dance of the Trinity!

***

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

4 Comments

Filed under Authenticity, Brokenness, Christianity, Divine presence, Fellowship, Freedom, God, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Laughter, Loving others, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Worship

The best part of our trip was…

Last week I blogged about A chance to learn something new when my son Josh and I left for a 5-day parent/teen extreme camping trip. This was the sixth time for me but the first for Josh.

That’s Josh and I on the right side.

I was excited about what we might learn about ourselves, each other and God while sharing in some challenging and fun experiences.

Josh rock climbing like a mountain goat!

Josh had done some of these things before: The giant swing, the zip line, camping out under the stars and even cooking over an open fire.

But some were new experiences: rock climbing, rappelling, high ropes course obstacles, caving, hiking the New River Gorge and white water rafting.

Josh on the giant swing! Lower arrow is the platform; upper arrow is Josh!

Josh loved every part of it and we enjoyed seeing some old friends along with making new ones. Worshipping with just a guitar and a sky full of stars is simply amazing. And the chance to share about our journey with God and encourage one another was priceless.

Other parts of our trip were not so fun as we got: stuck sleeping on some slanted ground, run off the river one day by a bad storm, and had to deal with wet stuff in the tent because of that same storm… but that’s all part of the adventure.

Ami, Josh and Anna during our hike.

I anticipated sharing with you some great, new insight learned during our outing, but the best part of our trip was simply the chance to be together.

Sometimes I obsess with looking for or wanting to share some new insight and forget that the real core of life is about the relationships we have in the midst of the journey.

Years from now the mention of just a few choice words will make us laugh and smile as Josh and I relive the moments we shared together. Those are the kinds of moments that make life rich and full.

Are you enjoying those moments with your loved ones?

***

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under Children, Family, Fellowship, Life in General, Loving others, Parenting, Priorities

Church should be like…

A while back a former gang member came to our church. He was heavily tattooed and rough around the edges, but he was curious to see what church was like. He had a relationship with Jesus and seemed to get fairly involved with the church. After a few months, I found out the guy was no longer coming to the church. When asked why he didn’t come anymore, he gave the following explanation: “I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week—we were family.” That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church is intended to be. It saddened me to think that a gang could paint a better picture of commitment, loyalty, and family than the local church body. The church is intended to be a beautiful place of community. A place where wealth is shared and when one suffers, everyone suffers. A place where when one rejoices, everyone rejoices. A place where everyone experiences real love and acceptance in the midst of great honesty about our brokenness. Yet most of the time this is not even close to how we would describe our churches.

– Francis Chan

 

1 Comment

Filed under Christianity, Church, Fellowship, involvement with the church, Loving others, Religion and Spirituality

Longing

I want neither a blood-’n’-guts religion that would make Clint Eastwood, not Jesus, our hero; nor a speculative religion that would imprison the gospel in the halls of academia; nor a noisy, feel-good religion that is a naked appeal to emotion.

I long for passion, intelligence, and compassion in a church without ostentation, gently beckoning to the world to come and enjoy the peace and unity we possess because of the Spirit in our midst.
~ Excerpted From The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Church, Compassion, Fellowship, Holy Spirit, involvement with the church, Jesus, Peace

Our need for honest feedback

The Last Czar is a biography about the life of Czar Nicholas II, the last emperor of Russia. While his generals were brutally suppressing dissent, they told him civil unrest was the result of foreign influence and assured him his own people loved him.

The Czar didn’t have any other source of information so was completely unaware that his generals were not being truthful with him. Not a good position to be in.

When the Communists took over, he was caught by surprise and forced to abdicate. Sadly, the Bolsheviks eventually executed him and his entire family. It is a sad and tragic story.

Few of us are czars, but the same lack of honest feedback can be devastating. We need truth tellers around us in two critical areas.

The first area is horizontal and pertains to our relationships with people. We fill the role of friend, spouse, son or daughter, parent, employee or boss, coach or teammate.

The second area is vertical and pertains to our relationship with God. Our core identity is that of being a child of our Creator; embracing a new identity in Christ.

Maybe it’s because I hit 50 last year or maybe it’s because I have two grown sons living far from home, but I’ve been reflecting more and more on what got my attention in the last 30 years. Relationships are what make our lives rich and we all need feedback to make them as strong as possible.

The area of our relationship with God is perhaps even more critical. All of us live with a gap between what we profess or live outwardly and what is really going on in our heart. For some, this gap is small but for others the gap is rather large.

The danger is that this largely invisible gap is easy to conceal because we tend to focus on managing our external behavior with a highly trained filter. Dress nice, smile and be nice around church friends, drop some money in the offering plate and help out occasionally.

All those things are good but they don’t always accurately reflect what is going on beneath the surface. We need traveling companions who will ask us the hard questions and give us honest feedback.

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” ~ Proverbs 27:17

God’s design to make us more like Jesus happens best when we journey together and engage in honest feedback.

Who are your traveling companions?
***
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

4 Comments

Filed under Accountability, Authenticity, Children of God, Courage, Discipleship, Fellowship, Friendship, God, God's Will, Heart, intimacy with the Lord, Morphing, Relationship with God, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Truth

It’s sharing the journey that makes it worthwhile!

The last time Eli, our oldest, was with us on a family vacation it was the summer of 2008 – just prior to his senior year of high school. Since then his college and summer work schedule has made it impossible for him to join us. So being with him a couple of weeks ago at Disney World was extra special.

Eli and Goofy

He’s always been a good kid but the changes that happen between 17 and 21 years-of-age are significant. He is a sharp young man and yes I’m biased but I could provide you a long list of others who would agree.

Since he’s lived down there for several months now, working at Disney, it was like we were visiting his home turf and he loves being there. Eli wasn’t just with us he was delighting in showing us around and acted as our personal tour guide.

He wanted to make sure everyone was having a great time and he routinely asked everyone what their favorite part was so far. After some of the bigger events he would turn to me with eyes twinkling like a kid in a candy store and ask, “What’d you think, Dad?”

It was so fun watching him interact with his younger siblings and listening to what they most enjoyed. He even coaxed Brynden into riding Mount Everest – a backwards roller coaster, mostly in the dark – with the promise of a special Disney souvenir.

I didn’t have any one favorite activity, though the late evening “Wishes” event at the Magic Kingdom was breath-taking. For me, the best part was taking it all in with my family. None of it would have been as special without them and even small things were special because of them.

Whatever it is that’s happening, where ever it is you’re headed, it’s the people sharing the journey that make it special. Take time today to stop and appreciate them. Let them know how much they mean to you.

And thank you for sharing the journey of this blog! I appreciate it more than you know!

***
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

6 Comments

Filed under Children, Family, Fellowship, Friendship, Life in General, Parenting

We did not get where we are on our own

Yesterday I blogged about our family packing up last week for a vacation to Florida. Our primary reason for going down was to see our oldest son who is working at Disney World as part of a college internship.

We spent three days at Disney theme parks, then a fourth day at Cocoa Beach and Downtown Disney (shopping stores outside the theme parks).

There were a few things that stuck out to me right away as good material for a blog post but I decided to ignore them and just enjoy being with my family.

It’s easy to get preoccupied and lose the moment. I’ve done that before with taking pictures or video. You get so focused on capturing the next pose that you forget to enjoy simply being with your family and taking it all in.

So I did a week of blogs before we left for Florida and just took time daily to respond to comments.

Then on the last day Susan mentioned that a certain event would make a good blog post and that I should blog about our trip. So I took a few minutes to jot down some ideas and then promptly put them aside.

Now that we’re home I want to do some blogs about our time in Florida because trips are a great source of new stories and it will be a great way to remember special moments of our trip.

My first observation is that we had help getting to Florida.

Of our four vehicles the newest is 15-years-old and our van, the vehicle we would use for such a trip, is 20-years-old. Since we don’t have a vehicle we trust to go that far (1000 miles) and we couldn’t afford to fly, we borrowed my father-in-law’s Honda van (pictured above).

As we soaked up all the sun and fun of being in Florida we were keenly aware that we did not get where we are on our own. And the same is true in our journey with God.

Stop and reflect for a moment on where you actually are in your journey and who has played or is playing a significant part. The older you are the longer the list will be.

Some encourage. Some comfort. Some teach. Some push. Some pray. Some challenge. Some inspire. All play a part in our journey.

We did not get where we are on our own!

Sharing the journey is not an optional pleasantry, but an essential necessity. It’s a God-designed part of our journey toward maturity in Christ.

Who has played a part in your journey? How can you thank them? How can you pray for them? What are you  waiting for?
***

P.S. – Thanks for the use of your van Dad Howard!

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Family, Fellowship, God, Gratitude, Loving others, Morphing, Relationship with God, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth

The best kind of fellowship

So I have this friend…

We are similar in age, similar in interests, similar in values, similar in our faith, even similar in our backgrounds.

We have no trouble interacting with people on a daily basis, but we tend to be slow in opening up to others about deeply personal issues.

We use to get together for lunch on a regular basis but life circumstances have changed and our paths don’t cross as often.

One day last week God rearranged my agenda for me without my permission and against my wishes; imagine that! As a result, I was able to meet my friend for lunch and we ended up talking for 3 and 1/2 hours!

We obviously needed the chance to catch up with each other and share some deep soul issues that we’re wrestling through. The fascinating thing is that after all that time together… nothing got solved! But it was some of the best fellowship I’ve ever experienced.

As a society we tend to pride ourselves on being able to solve most issues. The phrase “Do-It-Yourself” has become a commonly used acronym – DIY; even in the realm of Christianity.

But what if God has in mind for us a higher objective?

After 3 and 1/2 hours of pouring our hearts out to each other we walked away with no concrete solutions but with two essential realizations.

1. We realized that we were not alone in our struggles! Knowing that you have someone to share the journey is priceless in terms of providing a sense of hope. God never intended us to go it alone, but that tends to happen when we keep our struggles to ourself.

2. We realized that God is still with us right there in the midst of all the mess! We tend to want quick and concrete solutions from God but often times He wants us to wait and trust. Our fellowship was a chance to invite God into the dialogue and help each other see things from His perspective.

May we all find fellowship with friends who remind us that life is God’s story and we can trust Him with the details!

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under Divine presence, Fellowship, Friendship, Hope, involvement with the church, Loving others, Trusting God