By Jeremy Linneman

A Vision for Spiritual Maturity





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A Vision for Spiritual Maturity
By Jeremy Linneman • Issue #2 • View online
Nutrients for your spiritual life. An essay newsletter on spiritual formation, community, and culture.

Before any new endeavor, whether it’s planting a garden, writing a book, or learning play an instrument, we have to begin with a grand vision. 
When our oldest son (Joseph) expressed some interest in learning piano, my wife (Jessie) wisely began not with hand placement or musical scales, she began with a vision. She found online videos of child prodigies, full of freedom and joy, dazzling audiences with their mastery of the craft.
After a few videos, Joseph ran to the piano to begin. Then and only then, Jessie explained the basics: Start with your hands here, here’s what notes are, and make sure you begin with these exercises. 
Begin with the end in mind, then start at the beginning.
A vision enables us to see where we’re going and why it matters. Without a vision of success, it’s so easy to get discouraged—or to not even begin. 
As we explore the soil conditions necessary for (spiritual) formation and growth, it’s essential to first have a vision for life in full bloom. In other words, we begin with the end in mind.
What does a plant or tree or person look like in maturity—when the soil has been properly watered, nourished, and protected? Good fruit! 
St. Paul’s simple statement gives us a vision of a person in full bloom (Galatians 5:16, 22-23, 25):
So I say, walk by the Spirit… The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control… Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Eugene Peterson paraphrases in The Message
What happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Dallas Willard described the process of spiritual formation in terms of Vision, Intention, and Means. Begin with a Vision of where you want to end, make an Intention to get there, and then commit to the Means that will get you there. 
This is the vision:
A deeply rooted life, drawing on the hidden nutrients of God’s Word and presence, will produce a full-bloom experience of love, joy, and peace.
Once this vision is established and our desires rise to meet it, then we can move on to the intention and the means. We’ll get there soon! 
For now, spend a moment reflecting on these questions: 
What do you want your life to look like? What’s your vision of fruitfulness? 
What are the two or three spiritual fruits you long to see increasing in your life?
What is your intention? What would it look like to commit to this vision? 
A Father/Son Trip to NYC
For the last few years, I have been telling our three boys: For your 10th birthday, you get a father/son anywhere in the country within driving distance. Joseph turned 10 last week, and although he pressed the definition of ‘within driving distance,’ he picked New York City. We stayed near Central Park, went on bike rides, did the all classic NYC stuff (Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Times Square, the High Line, Chelsea Piers), and spent a day in Washington DC on the way home. We both had a blast.
We don’t have a lot of rituals in our society. We don’t have major life-transition celebrations. We have no bar mitzvahs and no quinceaneras. So this is what we came up with: When you turn 10, you are now a Big Kid, and being a Big Kid comes with many responsibilities, privileges, and expectations.
If you’re a parent, I encourage you to consider your own kids’ ages, the unique nature of your family, and how you can celebrate each of them as they enter big-kid-ness and young adulthood.
Three Good Reads: Creativity
I used to not consider myself a very creative person. I’m into sports, numbers, systems, and results; I don’t have much capacity for staring out a foggy window while listening to emo music. But thankfully, I’ve grown to understand that creativity is far deeper. Having been created in the image of God, we create, dream, innovate, build, and refine things to his glory. I may not be the most artistic person, but embracing creativity has been a rewarding spiritual and vocational practice. Three good reads have helped open me to creativity.
Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art has become a go-to book for me, and I recommend it to every church planter I talk to. In every creative endeavor (and in the pursuit of spiritual growth or the expansion of the Kingdom), we face resistance. But we can use it. He writes,
Like a magnetized needle floating on the surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point us to true north—meaning that call or action it most wants to stop us from doing. We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others. Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron puts creativity in spiritual terms and gives us several practices to cultivate and maintain our creative impulse.
Logic brain is our brain of choice in the Western Hemisphere. It is the categorical brain. It thinks in neat, linear fashion. Logic brain was an is our survival brain. Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possibly dangerous… Artist brain is our inventor, our child, our very own personal absent-minded professor. It puts odd things together. Artist brain is our creative, holistic brain… Teach the logic brain to stand aside and let artist brain play.
Third, one of my favorite musicians, Questlove, the lead drummer/visionary of The Roots, has written a new book called Creative Quest. (I will forgive you if you only know The Roots from Jimmy Fallon’s show, but at least look up some of their music!)
Pay attention to seeds. We’re back to botanical metaphors here. Big ideas grow from those little things. Writers tend to be people who are sensitive to words. Artists are sensitive to color and line. If you want to encourage your own creativity, try to pay attention to the creative acts of others. More than that: try to pay attention to the way in which the things that you didn’t think of as creative acts are actually perfect examples of creativity.
Fidelity Sports: There Is No Offseason
Welp, I was wrong about Kawhi. In the inaugural edition of GOOD SOIL, I predicted that Kawhi Leonard would return to the world-champion Raptors on a two-year deal. Within 24 hours, I was wrong: He signed with the Clippers and brokered a trade for Paul George. For all the insider knowledge and conspiracy theories floating around the NBA, somehow no one saw this coming. Now the Raps are decimated, the Clips are stacked, and the Thunder have 15 first-round draft picks in the next seven years. The NBA Offseason is now just as much fun as the rest of the year!
Now, that the dust has mostly settled, here is how 2019-20 will play out. (I’m never wrong, remember?)
Tier 1 (Championship-level): Bucks, Clippers, Nuggets
Tier 2 (Deep-playoff-run teams): Sixers, Celtics, Blazers, Raptors, Warriors
Tier 3 (Not there yet, but will be very good soon): Nets, Mavs, Pelicans, Thunder
Tier 4 (Teams I refuse to watch): Lakers, Rockets
From Wendell Berry, “The Real Work,” in Standing By Words:
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and when we no longer know which way to go
we have begun our real journey.
Thanks for reading GOOD SOIL. Peace be with you. 
Next time (Friday, August 2nd)—My 5 Rules for the Enneagram, 10 Commitments for Church Planting, and more Fidelity Sports. 
Did you enjoy this issue?
Jeremy Linneman

Nutrients for your spiritual life. An essay newsletter on spiritual formation, community, and culture.

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