Thoughts on Becoming Human by Jean Vanier

Thanks to the encouragement from a few friends, I recently read Becoming Human by Jean Vanier. I had read a few books by Henri Nouwen, who was deeply influenced by Vanier, but hadn't read any of Vanier's work until Becoming Human. He is known for founding L'Arche, communities of men and women with intellectual disabilities, which now exists in thirty-five countries around the world.

There have been several times in my life when particular books came along at just the right time, and that was defiinitely the case with this one. Through it, I have been reminded that every human being is to be valued, regardless of social or economic status, beauty, intellectual abilities, eloquence, artistic abilities... and that each person is created in the image of God.

Vanier takes the reader down a path of greater understanding of the lonliness we expereince as humans and the pain such lonliness causes. He then highlights the importance of belonging to a community of "others", while also drawing attention to the fact that communities can also be dangerous if they become exclusive.

He then focuses on the power of healing that comes from open, honest relationships. He says, "When we are in communion with another, we become open and vulnerable to them. we reveal our needs and our weaknesses to each other".

His words challenged me to consider what it really means to be human, when he said, "We tend to reduce being human to acquiring knowledge, power, and social status"... instead of realizing that it is "love that reorients us from our self-centeredness, revelaing to us and to others the basic beauty of humanity, empowering us to grow".

Finally, Vanier encourages the reader to pursue forgiveness, which removes barriers we put up to protect us from being hurt in relationships again (which is inevitable). On forgiveness, Vanier says, "To forgive is... the greatest of gifts, because it is a gift of liberation from all the hurts of the past, hurts that prevent us from living fully and loving others".

I've been encouraged by the words of this book to seek greater freedom in my life from expectations of power, success, control and a self-centered life (even though I believe the challenge to fight these things is a lifelong pursuit), and to seek to be open and honest in relationshps with a community that is inclusive, and to fogive and release others to live free of unforgiveness.

"To be free is to put justice, truth, and service to others over and above our own personal gain or our need for recognition, power, honor, and success. When we cling to personal power and success, when we are frightened of losing social status, then we are in some way denying our humanity, we become slaves to our own needs. We are not free."

Miyah's New Thing

All of the sudden, about a week ago, Miyah just started climbing up the frame of the doorway into our living room... on her own. Cherie and I were talking to her while she was doing it this morning and when she got about halfway up, she turned to us and said, "I gotta stay focused" (with a serious look on her face).

The Idea Camp DC - One Week Away

A week from today I will be in Washington, DC to attend The Idea Camp DC - A Collaborative Movement of Idea Makers.

The Idea Camp is a FREE, open source hybrid conference designed to help people move from the realm of ideas to implementation.

We are gathering some of the most innovative and creative leaders from around the country (this means YOU!) to share ideas, intentionally network, and move collaboratively into idea-making. Whether your passion is church leadership, non-profit work, social entrepreneurialism, technology, media, creativity, culture making, church planting, spiritual formation, compassionate justice, etc., this is the conference for YOU.

The theme of the DC Idea Camp is "Justice and Compassion", and what I love about the concept of the conference (besides the fact that it is FREE), is that it is a collaborative effort. Just as much value is placed on relational connections made in the hall between sessions as is placed on listening to someone speak from the stage during a session.

Along with attending and collaborating with others who share a passion for issues of justice and compassion, I also have the opportunity to facilitate one of the workshops at the conference - Macro and Micro Views of Compassion & Justice.

I'm looking forward to meeting and interacting with people who I have respected and followed from a distance, like Don Golden of World Relief, Dave Gibbons of NewSong, Dave Ferguson of New Thing Network and others. I am looking forward to learning from representatives of organizations I have a lot of respect for, such as, Mission Year, ONE, Leadership Network, and charity: water. I'm looking forward to meeting Eric Stowe, from A Child's Right, in person for the first time (Eric was our primary contact through our adoption agency when we adopted our daughter, Miyah, from Nepal).

I'll be making the drive to DC with my friend, Chris Marlow of H.E.L.P., who is also my new neighbor. And I'll be meeting up with Lemonade International board member, Ray Strecker, and my good friends, Donnie Long and Damon Reiss, who will also be attending the conference.

This should prove to be a great time. If you are able to... please join us in DC.

It will be well worth your time.