IVP - Strangely Dim - February 2013 Archives

February 15, 2013

The Bouncy Ball: A Farewell Note

by Suanne Camfield

So I have this bouncy ball in my coat pocket.

I found it earlier this winter when I stuffed my hands in the pockets of a coat I hadn't worn since last spring. You know how it goes, the discovery of random items that leave you scratching your head. For me, it was a few disintegrated tissues, a gum wrapper, a hair tie, a handful of spare change, and one bright green and yellow camouflaged bouncy ball. I put the hair tie on my wrist, slapped the change on the counter and was about to toss the ball in the trash when my spirit gave a little flutter.

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A few years ago, my kids went through this bouncy-ball-obsessed phase. They'd snag them from gumball machines, birthday parties, dentist's and doctor's offices, and with unrivaled enthusiasm marvel over sizes and colors, sparkles and swirls, and--of course--bounciness.

For months I dodged the balls as they flew through my house, taking erratic turns as they leaped off floors, tables and walls. I'd step on them on my way to bed and curse. I'd uncover them, caked with dust, in every corner of the house. One got stuck in my Shop Vac. Another one hit me in the eye.

I hated those dang bouncy balls.

And yet there I stood, holding one in my hand, tears stinging my eyes, and I couldn't help but smile. The bouncy ball has come to remind me of the bittersweetness of life, the way it bounces us around in ways good and bad but that never stays the same. I stuffed the ball back in my pocket as a reminder to live fully in the present, and to hold onto those experiences and people and moments that mark seasons of life, bring us joy and shape who we are. Above all, it's become a reminder to continually be grateful for a savior who, regardless of any bumps and turns life throws our way, always--always--remains the same.

Today is my last day at IVP. I've worked here just shy of three years--a flash in the pan considering the tenure of some of my colleagues. But, for me, it's been a significant three years. Years that have helped me find my professional footing after eight years as an at-home mom. Years that have given me the privilege of sharing meals with inspired and prophetic voices I never dreamed would be more than ink on a page. Years that have been full of meaningful experiences, rich ideas and gracious colleagues that have shaped the way I interact with my faith and move through life.

When I set out to write this post, I envisioned naming, specifically, a long list of those things: coworkers to whom I'm indebted (Dave Zimmerman, for example, who in addition to serving as my supervisor, editor and friend, has listened to me drone endlessly about my five-year plan without once telling me to shut my yap), books I wanted to rehash, authors whose real-life character has spoken more volumes than they could write in a lifetime.

But, frankly, I've run out of time. Quitting a job is time-consuming stuff. Emails keep coming, to-do lists lengthen, interruptions abound.

And so, instead, I'll say thank you here to all of IVP--its staff, its authors, its audience and its friends in the publishing industry--for being the kind of people that I'll put in my pocket and carry with me, gratefully, wherever I go.


Posted by Suanne Camfield at 9:24 AM | Comments (10) are closed

February 1, 2013

Direction for Life

A guest post by Lisa Rieck. First posted at InterVarsity.org.

You've been a Christian your whole life, I told myself in a mini pep talk. You should know how to have a meaningful quiet time, a deep prayer life, a correct perception of God. But the truth was, the practices that had been helpful in the past no longer were.

The deeper truth was that I--a trying-to-be-a-perfect-adult, would-like-to-do-it-all-on-my-own-thanks, twentysomething pastor's kid--needed some assistance.

So I sought out a Christian spiritual director, a woman named Wai-Chin who lived near my office. It seemed like a nice, respectable, relatively low-risk and low-commitment way to find the help I was after.

When the day of my first appointment came, however, I wasn't quite sure how the whole baring-my-soul-to-someone-I-don't-know-that-well was going to work out.

As it turned out, my six-plus years of meeting with Wai-Chin for spiritual direction and prayer were one of the most significant factors in changing my perspective on who God is and how he sees me.

What Is Christian Spiritual Direction?

At root, Christian spiritual direction is a practice in which one person helps another see God's work in their life. In The Practice of Spiritual Direction, authors William Barry and William Connolly define it more specifically as "help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God's personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship." It provides an opportunity for personal, caring guidance in our walk with God in the context of a safe, sacred relationship.

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The task of the Christian spiritual director is mostly to listen--to the other person and to God. As spiritual director Adele Ahlberg Calhoun says in the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, "A spiritual director listens with one ear to God and the other to the directee, always encouraging the directee to recognize where God can be found throughout the journey. . . . The Holy Spirit is really the Director of the time together as both parties pay attention to God's movements and call."

And he shows up in some very transformational ways.

Seeing God

My monthly sessions with Wai-Chin took place in a back sunroom in her home. She would serve me hot tea, light a candle to represent Christ's presence with us, and then invite me to be silent--always a welcome respite in my day. After she closed our time of silence with a prayer, I would recount to her the past month of my life--the moments of joy, the frustrations and points of pain, places I saw God's work, and instances that left me wrestling with him.

Mostly, she listened. Sometimes she asked a clarifying question, or prompted me to expound on a certain statement. Sometimes she read a passage of Scripture to me, or led me through a short lectio divina exercise. Sometimes she related a story from her own life, or had me meditate on the lyrics and melody of a particular song. And sometimes she sent me outside--one of my favorite places to encounter God--to listen for his voice. Almost always she'd offer a suggestion for a discipline I might practice in the month ahead, or a Scripture passage I might sit with, or a book I might read and reflect on.

And in those hour-long appointments (which often stretched closer to two hours), I met Jesus.

I realized that God speaks to me, in ways I hadn't imagined he could speak.

I recognized and confronted idols.

I cried.

I confessed and repented.

I saw my finances and family and job and ministry in a new light.

I worshiped.

And, over and over again, I experienced the goodness and mercy and love of Jesus.

Even in months that had been particularly painful or discouraging, where I came to our appointments with many more questions and feelings of guilt or anger than stories of God's goodness, I left knowing that I was known and loved by the triune God--Father, Son, and Spirit.

Seeing Myself

I also came to know myself--the "true" me, the person God created me to be, as well as the "false" me, the me who tries to find significance and worth apart from Jesus' love--in much deeper ways.

Having space and time to name joy and pain from the month--the intentional act of remembering and then speaking out loud to someone else where I saw (or didn't see) God--helped me make connections between events, or gave me deeper insight into what was going on inside myself. Those insights then empowered me to walk a little more closely to Jesus, and live a little more deeply out of my identity as his child.

Direction for Us All

You might be feeling stuck like I was. Or maybe you're still walking in the afterglow of a conference like Urbana. Maybe you're feeling a need for alone time with God. Or maybe you're longing for the kind of help a Christian spiritual director could bring. In any case, we hope that, not just in January but throughout 2013, you'll pursue Jesus by committing to practices that open you to him. Moving toward him, deeper into him, closer to him, more like him--that's the direction we want to move in together.

To find a spiritual director, click here or contact churches in your area.

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Read more from Lisa here.

Posted by Lisa Rieck at 1:07 PM | Comments (2) are closed

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a writer and copyeditor on the communications team for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. She likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a founder of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs occasionally at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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