Recently I read several heart-felt tributes to Bill Vaswig in the current issue of Conversations (a spiritual formation journal I highly recommend!) These articles by giants in the field of spiritual formation celebrating Bill’s amazing life and legacy brought back memories of a January evening at Spring Arbor University.
Our cohort in the on-line Master’s of Spiritual Formation and Leadership program was meeting in person on campus for two weeks. We were privileged to be taught every morning by Richard Foster. One memorable evening during those two weeks I was blessed by two brand new experiences: a Taize’ service followed by a healing prayer service, led by Bill Vaswig, one of Richard Foster’s best friends. I will never forget either occasion.
As I relived those memories, I was suddenly struck by the awareness that God had orchestrated several Forest-Gump-like moments in my life. I was in a class that was taught by Richard Foster. (I had even chatted with him at dinner one night. ) I experienced a healing service led by one of the pioneers of healing prayer, Bill Vaswig. I met Dallas Willard and talked with him about his famous acronym (VIM) before a speech at Calvin College. A colleague and I lunched for two hours with Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, author of The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, imploring her to teach us how to bring spiritual formation to Christ Memorial Church.
I had met James Bryan Smith, who signed my copy of The Good and Beautiful God with a wonderfully inspiring note. At Renovare conference in San Antonio, I sat at the edge of my seat as Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Eugene Peterson, James Bryan Smith, John Ortberg, and Chris Webb conversed on stage together – and taught me about “holy hilarity.” And just a few weeks ago, my Apprentice team had presented a day-long conference at the same conference where many of these same people were also presenting.
All of these moments took place when I was 60+ years old. How in the world did this happen! !
As I mused about these miracles, a tsunami of gratitude flowed over me. After years of disobedience and doubt and running from God, God orchestrated my life so I could be present with the very people who, through their writing and speaking, had brought me back to him.
And then, I was clearly reminded, “For everyone to whom much is given, of him [her] shall much be required” (Luke 12:48). Reflecting on the opportunities I have been given at Christ Memorial Church and beyond with the Apprentice Program, I felt “my heart strangely warmed” and a renewed call to share what I had been given.