Because it is Hard…

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It was before my time, but I’ve heard and read ‘the speech’ many times. It inspires me every time I do. JFK made the speech at Rice University on Sept 12, 1962. If it’s new to you, he was talking about the outrageous idea of putting a man on the Moon. America had unexpectedly fallen behind the Soviet Union in the space race and putting a man on the Moon was the only way for America to regain prominence. Losing to the Soviets in anything was seen as a failure of democracy.

Here’s my favourite part of the speech:

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.

I remembered the speech this morning as I was describing my current work situation to someone. I’ve taken on a new, more significant and much more complex challenge than what I’ve ever done before. It’s taking time to sort out how we will proceed and what it will look like as we move forward. I’m making more time to wait and to ‘be’ in the moment as I watch for what I don’t know I’m looking for. I can’t describe it yet, but I’ll know it when I see it.

While I wait, I’m brainstorming, sharing and reflecting with friends and colleagues who understand the road that I (and we) are walking together. The easy way to do my new job is to pursue the same low hanging fruit that everyone else is going after. It’s easy and comfortable, but it won’t give me the kind of impact that I’m looking for, so I’m choosing the hard option. I’m choosing the road where we think that the doors might be closed but could swing open with the right approach and ‘knock’ if we’re willing to try. I’m choosing a road that will stretch both our team and me. We will be better for it because stretching will increase our capacity for more effective and fruitful ministry.

We are choosing our version of going to the Moon. We call it establishing our work in Ottawa. It will require the best from us and a flood of God-sized miracles. I can hardly wait to see it unfold!


2020 Vision? You Can Do Better!

I bought this journal a few years ago because the message on the cover leaped out at me. I don’t use it anymore but I keep it on my desk because of the words on the cover. (Lesson in passing, people (or at least I) will keep you in my world because of the message you carry, but I digress!)

Today marks the first day of 2020. It’s not just a new year, but a new decade and 2020 vision is a quick and easy theme if you’re looking for one. My social media steam has been filled today with posts, memes and 2020 vision quotes. They’re mostly cute and ‘pithy’ puffed up with a touch of bravado. It’s probably worth saying that if a 2020 meme is appealing to you, it’s gleam will fade pretty quickly unless you’ve got clarity around your plans and strategy. Bravado is a fantastic call to action, but it’s not sustainable, and more and more people are opting out of following leaders whose primary skill is chest-thumping because they’ve been disappointed too many times before.

The message on my journal cover brings me back to several touchstones that keep me focused and grounded.

‘It always seems impossible’ reminds me of the scope of a compelling vision.

A vision must be big and ‘impossible’ in the sense that it calls us to something so challenging and demanding that it requires more from us than just us. In broad strokes, your vision (even your 2020 vision) is too small if you can do it by yourself.

Vision also needs to be sustaining. There are good days, and there are bad days as we pursue our vision. Your vision needs to be exciting and important enough to you that you show up with passion on the day after your most challenging setback or disappointment. If you didn’t have that in 2019, it’s not likely that the change of the calendar is going to give it to you for any length of time.

The second part of the message points me to perseverance and persistence. The day I started training for my first half marathon I hadn’t run a kilometer in years. I found a training plan, committed to it and ran… rain or shine and most days in the dark. I prepared for months. On the morning of my first half marathon, I was nervous and a bit unsure of myself. Up until that day, the farthest I had run was 18km. I’ll never forget passing that marker and thinking that every step I took after that was a new personal best. A year earlier, that distance seemed impossible until it was done. A few years later, I lined up for my first marathon. My longest run in training was 35kms. A full marathon is 42.2. Even though I was well trained, a marathon is demanding, and I wondered if I could finish. At 30kms, I developed severe calf cramps that required me to stop and stretch and eventually walk until they recovered. There were times in my last 10kms when it felt impossible, but I persisted, and then, it was done.

Today marks day 1 of my 15th year of building a chaplaincy to support politicians across Canada. It’s been harder than I thought it would be and has taken me much longer to get to where we are than I thought it would. We haven’t arrived, but the vision is a lot less impossible than it was 15 years ago.

Here are some things I’ve learned about ‘impossible’ along the way.

If your vision doesn’t present the legitimate possibility of complete failure, it won’t be big enough to keep you coming back. Dream BIG!

Clarity matters. Make sure your vision is crystal clear and that you can articulate it in a couple of sentences that include your why. Keep it simple and clear enough so that people who hear it for the first time will say, ‘that’s awesome!’

Seeing impossible happen is more about persistence and perseverance than it is about a series of quick miracles.

The miracles that make the impossible happen come because of persistence and perseverance. Lightning sometimes strikes, but it’s mostly in response to faithfulness.

Bravado might stir a crowd, but it won’t keep you getting up in the morning. Give yourself to a vision that is marked less by chest-thumping and more about strategy, intent and focus. You’ll be happier with the results!

Happy 2020!

Seeing Past Nothing

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I’ve heard or preached more Christmas themed messages than I can recall. Yesterday morning as our pastor preached a great message, I was reminded about the way God does His work. Except for less than a handful (I count 4) people who were on a ‘need to know basis,’ no one had any indication that God’s plan to redeem the world was unfolding right in front of them.

We look for signs. We long for signs. God prefers very few signs and instead works behind the scenes until He’s ready to show us what He’s been doing!

There are times that all we see on the surface is nothing. There is nothing to indicate that our prayers, faith and good works are having any meaningful impact at the time. These can be difficult and trying times, especially if it’s been that way for a while.

God does this on purpose. He does it to grow our faith and to stretch us. Imagine how shallow life would be if God operated like a vending machine. He uses ‘nothing happening here’ to test and teach us the value of holding on to Him and His promise until we see it come to pass.

Not everything we believe for comes to pass. Sometimes God has better, bigger or even completely different plans for us than what we are able to ask Him to do. Sometimes those plans are heartbreaking, confusing and shocking. Those moments are just as important a part of His plan as the joy-filled moments! God’s plan is always good!

You may be in a ‘nothing to see here’ season where it feels like God has forgotten your name and address. See past the nothing in front of you and look for Him in His faithfulness and goodness. Nothing is just a season we walk through!

In case I don’t get back in time, have a very merry Christmas!

Living A Dream

I’m living a dream this week.  It’s not THE DREAM because that’s still to be achieved, but today has been a remarkable day of seeing faith become sight.  From the earliest days of Leading Influence, the vision has always been to establish a chaplaincy ministry in every provincial capital across Canada.  While none of it has been easy, the biggest challenge has been how would we establish our work in Quebec?  The easy thing to do would have been to just ‘skip over’ Quebec, but how do you skip over Canada’s oldest province that also happens to be our 2nd largest province.  It just didn’t seem like it was the right thing to do.

We decided to wait and pray and on a day in September God did something remarkable!  I had done an interview on a TV show in August about our National Prayer Campaign.  A pastor in Quebec was watching it online in mid-September.  She was looking for some prayer material a prayer event for their local church.  She saw the invitation to register, paused the program and signed up.

At the same time, I was in BC trying to find people from Quebec to participate in our daily prayer campaign.  I had been given a good contact to help me but we couldn’t seem to find a way to connect.  In a moment of desperation/weakness I breathed out a prayer that went something like ‘Jesus, I really need Your help now!’ and then checked the email account that got our registrations, because I needed some good news right about then!

I checked the email one minute after the Quebec pastor had registered with us.  I saw the church name and city, checked to make sure I wasn’t imagining any of it, sent a personal email asking if they would help and had a response back within minutes.

That conversation turned into ‘tell me more about what you do’ and 6 weeks later I spent the day with my new friends walking through the Quebec National Assembly.  It’s been a day of laughing, dreaming, encouraging and envisioning what could happen if this is God’s plan and heart for them.  We had fun.  We like each other.  We are eager to spend more time together and to become better friends.  Nothing is settled.  There are no announcements.  We are walking out a journey together anticipating that God will order our steps according to His plans and purposes.

Here are some lessons from the journey.

  1. Stick with the vision.  We are just a few weeks away from starting our 14th year as a ministry.  The longer I do this, the more what I saw by faith 16 years ago is becoming sight.  In the past 9 months, we’ve added 3 new staff members, launched 2 new chaplaincy locations (Edmonton and Ottawa) plus we are laying a foundation for a new Leadership Development Course for people considering giving themselves to serving in the political arena.
  2. Learn to wait.  I used to think that ‘waiting’ was over-rated.  Most people I knew who were waiting on God, weren’t getting much of anything done.  I’ve come to conclude that waiting is a brilliant strategy as long as you stay focused on the big picture while you are waiting.  Waiting is as much about God getting YOU ready as it is about Him getting things ready that you are aren’t able to see.
  3. Hold things loosely.  I’ve been disappointed more times than I care to think about by being too eager too soon.  My important lesson learned mostly too late is that holding things loosely is a much better approach.  It’s made me a stronger and more secure leader.  I no longer have ‘recruiting relationships.  Now I am making new friends along the way.  Some will join our team.  Others won’t and I’m happy either way!
  • This is the Great Adventure!  I’m convinced that following Jesus is like riding a roller coaster.  There are times that you might be upside down or feeling several G’s in a hard turn, but there are other times when you are hands up, going down a steep hill and laughing all the way!  There are days this journey has been terrifying and stretching and there are days (like today) that have been all about the wow factor!  You don’t get one without the other!
  • Keep dreaming!  Your potential isn’t in what you can do.  It’s in the impossible thing that God calls you to do!

Chamomile Tea Anyone?

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Can I get you some Chamomile Tea?

I’m not a tea drinker, but I’m ‘woke’ enough to know that Chamomile tea is known to calm people down and help them relax. (I know there are other herbal options that provide the same results, but I’m sticking with tea!)

I generally enjoy social media, but this past week has felt a bit like that time when you discover the tiny piece of tin foil attached to something you’re chewing. It’s shocking, jarring and leaves you feeling a bit raw. My friend put it this way ‘It feels like everyone is yelling at everyone about everything.’ It’s an accurate observation.

My ‘friend’ list is populated mostly by people who identify as Christians. I’m not exclusive and have many friends who aren’t followers of Jesus, but Christians are the vast majority. I’m mostly disturbed by the yelling that my Christian friends are doing. I’ve admittedly done my share of ‘yelling’ on social media but a wise friend gently told me that I needed to tone things down and today I’m pretty much down to posting pictures of sunsets and puppies with the occasional good natured banter about small town rivalries in Saskatchewan. (Go Millionaires!)

I realize that we have ‘disconnect’ moments in our lives where we aren’t thinking about how what we say represents ourselves or in this case, our Lord. I’ve read shared posts this week and concluded that the person who shared it, didn’t read it before they shared it. I know this, because I know them. I know who they are and what they are about and that their values are contrary to what the post communicates. They were caught up in the moment, hit share without giving any consideration to how the content represented them or the Person that they follow.

Here are a few thoughts on how to manage social media ‘outrage’ as a Christian (or even as a good person).

  1. Words matter. Choose yours and your ‘shares’ carefully. What you say online or in a conversation lives on long after the sound has left the room and the post disappears from your newsfeed.
  2. Stop yelling! The loudest voice in the room is rarely the most respected. Speak softly so people have to listen to hear you. Less is always more.
  3. Building bridges is always a better option than burning them. Joining the mob might feel good at the time, but it rarely produces long term results.

Drink chamomile tea as required!