Advent Creates Anticipation for More Reality

On this second Sunday of Advent, waiting expectantly for the Babe in the Manger to show up mysteriously and gently into my life and the lives of my family and friends, I am encouraged by my favourite spiritual life guide, the late Fr Henri Nouwen.
Unlike many believers today who have capitulated to the secularizing of The Christian faith, I choose with Fr Henri to believe there is more than trying to make heaven on earth. There is another Reality I and millions of others long for as did Fr Henri and others who have departed this life.
Call me naive, call me a fool, call me whatever you want but I long for More than this life gives.
You On this second weekend of Advent I choose with Fr Henri to claim my identity as one of God’s beloved sons, and live fully today with a view to meeting Jesus face2face someday, and sharing the story of how my life and His worked themselves out over however long I am blessed to live.
Quoting  Fr Henri on life after this life—

Even though I often give in to the many fears and warnings of my world, I still believe deeply that our few years on this earth are part of a much larger event that stretches out far beyond the boundaries of our birth and death. I think of it as a mission into time, a mission that is very exhilirating and even exciting, mostly because the One who sent me on the mission is waiting for me to come home and tell the story of what I have learned.’†

Thank you Fr Henri.

An Endangered Virtue–Respect for One Another

For any community to function there must be rules. Yes. Rules. We like to think we can function without them but unfortunately it seems to me the ‘rule of respecting one another’ is no longer, if it ever was, humans’ default in challenging relationship situations.

While at the Venice, Florida YMCA today I saw this photo. 


What it said to me was that for our ‘Y’ to work exceptionally, we must all own these 8 rules.

As I read these I thought these would have been good for recent presidential election.

In a sermon a few weeks ago pastor Bill Hybels highlighted 10 rules he wanted to see restored in his community and our world. 

In their community 1000s of people are engaging over these ’10 rules’ for treating each other with respect.

1. See People As Image-Bearers.

Every person who crosses your path bears the image of God. We have never locked eyes with someone for whom this is not true. All people matter to God. Furthermore, there is no person on earth for whom Christ didn’t die.

2. Differ without Demonizing.

Respectful people learn how to hold differences well. We must train ourselves to respect others while disagreeing rather than devaluing, diminishing, or demonizing them.

3. Believe the Best.

It is simple to judge people before ever meeting them. However, we are taught in 1 Corinthians 13:7, among other things, to believe the best of everyone. This requires an open mind and one without cynicism.

4. Don’t Interrupt or Dominate.

Respectful people genuinely want to hear the opinions and feelings of others and demonstrate this by listening rather than controlling the conversation. They are curious to know how others think so they might be sharpened themselves.

5. No Incendiary Words.

Those who show respect are very careful in choosing their words. Proverbs 15:1 states: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words make tempers flare.” It is the wise and respectful person who takes stock and decides to use words that will adequately reflect who they want to be. Ephesians 4:29 reminds us: “Let no unwholesome words come out of your mouth but only words that build up others.” Respectful people only use words that build up others, even when writing in the context of social media where it may be easy to be careless with words.

6. Courteous to Everyone.

Respectful people are kind and inordinately courteous to others. They demonstrate kindness in seemingly little ways like opening doors for others and noticing people that might otherwise be overlooked.

7. No Stereotyping.

A stereotype diminishes the value of a person by categorizing them, rather than valuing their God-given uniqueness. Learning to respect others means to absolutely refuse to stereotype a person or people group.

8.Apologize Quickly.
When we have wronged another person, the right thing to do is to apologize. Respect is demonstrated when we apologize quickly because we recognize the other person, as a fellow image-bearer that we have slighted or harmed.

9. Form Opinions Carefully.

Respectful people practice the discipline of considering many viewpoints as they form opinions. They also prayerfully revisit an issue and consider changing their mind when new information becomes available.

10.Prompt and Faithful.

Those who respect others show up on time and do what they say they’re going to do. If someone is late, the message given to others is: I am more important than you. Honoring others’ time and following through with what you promised to do is a tangible way of respecting others.

Blessing One Another On US Election Day 2016

While in Venice, Florida for some work and vacation I, like many others, have become weary, even sick at the way people have ripped each other apart on various social media platforms, and to see the way the presidential candidates have not been able to rise above their inane accusations against one another, is also disheartening.
Can you imagine if Hillary and the Donald and all their surrogates and ‘handlers’ could be in a room together, graciously disagree, but still offer each other a blessing–to speak well of each other for only a moment.

As the adage says, speed of the leader, speed of the team.

I have relatives I am at odds with because of my inability and their inability to be gracious in our disagreement.

I need this soul medicine of blessing more than anybody. Our proclivity to insist on our rightness creates friction, factions, grudges and an overall incivility.

So how do we give a non religious but necessary blessing as a way of life? Listen to Fr Henri.

 To bless means to say good things. We have to bless one another constantly. Parents need to bless their children, children their parents, husbands their wives, wives their husbands, friends their friends. In our society, so full of curses, we must fill each place we enter with our blessings. We forget so quickly that we are God’s beloved children and allow the many curses of our world to darken our hearts. Therefore we have to be reminded of our belovedness and remind others of theirs. Whether the blessing is given in words or with gestures, in a solemn or an informal way, our lives need to be blessed lives.

Who needs your blessing today?

Bless them with words, thoughts or deeds, or all of the preceding before the day is done.

Stages of Marriage

 

The day after Valentine’s I got reflecting on nearly 40 years of marriage, sitting in our local Starbuck’s. I was reminded that marriage goes through many stages, but three stand out to me. I have been through the first two, and on occasion slip back, but strive for stage 3.

Thanks to some old sermon notes from Rick Warren, these were the ‘high points’.

The happy honeymoon stage–characterized by intensity, idealism, indulgence, infatuation, and yes, ignorance😁

The party’s over stage is characterized by dullness, disagreements, defensiveness, disapproval, and alas disappointment

The maturing love stage is beautifully characterized by tenderness, respect and responsibility, understanding, security, trust and raw honesty, and of course lots of fun.

Oh for more of 3 and less of 1 and 2 stages.

“This is what love is”

I woke up this morning thinking about one of my favourite romantic love stories called Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001), starring Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz.  Although Cage plays a lousy Italian, the story is still well told.  And the scenery is breathtaking and the people so winsome.

There’s a beautiful scene in the movie when Pelagia’s (Cruz) is being ‘coached’ by her physician father Iannis about what love really is. She is torn between two loves, a local greek fellow who has gone off to war, and now this mandolin playing and singing Italian soldier, Corelli.

Here’s the dialogue that I think so well sums up the potency of real love by her father.

Iannis: When you fall in love, it is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake, and then it subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots are become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the desire to mate every second of the day. It is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every part of your body. No… don’t blush. I am telling you some truths. For that is just being in love; which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over, when being in love has burned away. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? But it is!

After I posted this a friend of mine, Josette Pappadakis, who is actually married to a Greek fellow, wrote the following about ‘what love really is’.

So between Corelli and Josette’s hubby, we have a great example of practical love.

Over to Josette, who a couple of weeks ago broke a bone and disabled her for a few weeks.

Being married 50 years I can attest to all of the above. True test of love come when you fall and break a bone and you have your husband helping uncomplainingly to shower and dress you. Even putting your socks on and serving me breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tucking me in bed at night with a smile and a kiss. That is true love! I am so blessed. Thank God this is a temporary situation and I am beginning to do more little things for myself each day. 

 

Dealing With Temptation to Settle in 2016

 

Just over one month into the New Year….with all the energy and hype well past us, I want to ask you, with some help from Steve Carter of Willow Creek, a big question–

“Are you moving or have you settled in to the familiar rut that has plagued you for months, maybe even years”?

“Many people are in a rut and a rut is nothing but a grave – with both ends kicked out.” Vance Havner

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We’ve all had moments where we have ‘settled’……and not because we feel we are in God’s sweet spot for us…. but more because we have become comfortable. We know we are not living inspired lives, or living up to our God given potential.

If you are feeling that way, you are not alone.

The Old Testament recounts the story of the Israelites going on an 11 day journey that lasted 40 years after having left the enslavement of Egypt. By year 40 they arrive at a mountain called Horeb. They are camped out there for a year. It became a place that was safe and comfortable for them. They knew where to find water. They knew where to trade and get food. They knew how to deal with their issues. They created a “comfortable” lifestyle while camped out at the mountain. Life was good at Horeb.

Or was it?

In Deuteronomy 1:6 the Israelites got a ‘word from God’ via their ‘Coach’ Moses.

“ The Lord our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.”

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In many ways we are so very similar. If not careful we will find ourselves “managing life” in such a way that keeps us comfortable. We “camp out” on our own “mountains”, and stay too long.

Consider these questions:

Can you name your mountain where you sense you have stayed too long?
Can you name where you have found yourself stuck? There is no growth. It’s just more of the same.
Your mountain feels familiar. It feels comfortable. Even though it may be spiralling you into bad habits or patterns, you try to manage it and control it. It’s not working and it is definitely not exciting.

I refer to this as the “Mountain To Get Over”. These are places and or attitudes where you have stayed too long.

I am indebted to Steve Carter of Willow Creek Church for this list of “mountains’ you and I may need to move on from in 2016–

9 Mountains To Consider:

Mountain of Overstaying. Have you have stayed in your role too long. Is it time to move?
Mountain of Overtime. Are you are working too much? Are you always accessible to your phone?
Mountain of Over-spending.

Are you consistently living outside of your means? Are you over stressed because you have little to no margin? How do you spell relief for your time and money – B U D G E T!
Mountain of Over-commitment. Are you unable to say “NO”? Do you have so many plates spinning that you are unable to offer your very best?
Mountain of Over-eating. Perhaps you have an unhealthy relationship to food and eating. And perhaps in moments of stress and feeling alone and sadness, you turn to food.
Mountain of being Over-revved. Perhaps your RPM’s are out of control and you are amped up and on high alert all the time. Are you driving yourself and the people around you a bit “crazy”? What it’s like being ‘on the other side of your ‘reved-upness’?
Mountain of Over-reacting. Do you have irrational responses to things that don’t meet your expectations? Are people tip toeing around the chaos you create, walking on egg shells, afraid that you might lash out at them?
Mountain of Overwhelm. Are you a person who constantly feels overwhelmed? To be overwhelmed can look like this: Stressed + Lack of Resources (perceived or otherwise) + Feeling pressure+ Not enough time.
Mountain of Left Overs. Are you living off of what God has done in years past but there’s nothing new. You haven’t been connected to Jesus in years. Has your connection to Him gone stale, almost non-existent? Does it feel like you are just going through the motions? Is your most boring hour of the week at church.
If you want to make 2016 something remarkable, it begins with naming your mountain where you have stayed too long.

Here are some helpful words that God tells the people through Coach Moses.

“Break camp and advance into the hill country…. See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land….” Deuteronomy 1:7-8

Football coach Jim Harbaugh offers this advice for ‘breaking camp and advancing’,

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‘Attack each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind!”

One of my mountains for 2016 is my compulsion to Over Commit. I am discovering that this mountain, is in part, driven by my need to be ‘liked’, to receive the approval of others. I am currently working on this.

So let’s get off the mountain and move out!! Are you with me?

A Maverick Application:

Take a few minutes to go through the list of ‘overs’. Which ones can you name for yourself? Are there any ‘overs’ missing here that you still feel you are stuck at?
What mountain needs your attention right now? What ideas are coming to mind about how you can step into this ‘over’ in your life?
Moses had Aaron and Joshua and a few others to support him. Who are the ‘Aarons and Joshuas’ that you can enlist to support you, as you look to tackle those mountains in 2016?

My #1’s for 2016

I find these few days just before and after New Year’s Eve slightly stressful.  So much internal self imposed pressure to get my goals nailed down.  I actually dread the process.

Don’t get me wrong. Setting goals you want to pursue and attain is a great exercise, but, ‘should’ing’ on yourself to do goals because you SHOULD is killing to one’s psyche.  I do enjoy getting a cup of tea, sitting on my couch with my friend called Moleskin and writing away as I did today.

The feeling of ‘should’ing’ was alleviated by enlisting Brian Tracy’s “identify your #1 thing exercise’ exercise.  This is something I enjoy.  For me it’s always about the journey not just the result.  I need to ‘enjoy’ goal setting, or ‘start and stop’ process. I can’t dread it or my creativity shuts down.

So here goes…..

  1. What’s the #1 thing I could start doing today, that if I did it consistently, would have the most positive impact in my life? (Then do it.)
  2. What’s the #1 thing I could stop doing right now, that, if I stopped doing would have the greatest positive impact on my life? (Then quit doing it.)

My # 1’s to start doing:

  • Minimum 15 minute ‘chair time’ alone with God, reflecting, meditating, journaling, praying.
  • Daily check in time with my best friend Rosetta, my wife.
  • Be a positive influence on my adult kids and their kids on their terms.
  • Keep sharpening my coaching capacity and competence with my mentor coach and joining CAM.
  • Coach men to be life givers in their relational and work world’s.
  • Keep focused on being an above average encourager and people builder.
  • Keep growing margin financially, emotionally, and physically.
  • Be ruthless with managing my weight and getting to 192Ibs

My # 1’s to stop doing include:

  • Stop complaining and stop speaking critically of others when they aren’t around.
  • Stop eating ‘fatty, crappy’ food and avoid starch like the plaque.
  • Stop focusing on what I can’t do and focus on what I CAN do in regards to advancing my coaching practice.

And that’s it for now.

I plan to take football coach Jim Harbaugh to heart–to attack each day with enthusiasm unknown to mankind.

God helping me, I will!!

sharpen saw photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Missing Ingredient for Personal and Professional Growth

Over the years I have wondered why some people’s growth accelerates while others either plateau or drift into mediocrity.  Although there are a good number of things that could be listed, I think one stands out above all–a lack of teachability.  In fact, author/pastor Matt Keller wrote a whole book on the subject called The Key to Everything: Unlocking the Secret to Why Some People Succeed and Others Don’t.  I am not sure if this is absolutely true but it does resonate with me.

I am on my way to improving my coaching ability and I attribute that to a couple of things–one is my own hunger and drive to want to be an effective and useful coach, but the other is my growing teachability, especially towards my own mentor coach.

My own coach doesn’t hold back in his feedback. I think I’ve demonstrated over the last couple of years that I want to learn so he gets right in there and isn’t afraid to use phrases like,

“Luch, slow down. One thought at a time.”

“Stop stacking questions.”

“Don’t run away from me.”

“Luch, you need to wallow but eventually you need to swallow because frankly, nobody cares” 

“Let me finish before you interrupt me.” (Ouch)

I think over the years teachability has served me well, whether as a competitive runner, a school teacher in training, a pastor/ mentor in the making. In all these roles and more, whenever I have chosen to set aside my ego and not give into my ‘china doll feelings’ I have benefited from the one giving me the correction or instruction.

I am the first to admit that being teachable as a way of life is not easy.  The older you get it seems the harder it is to receive any kind of feedback from anyone, especially your spouse or kids, or even friends who care about you.

A piece of Jewish wisdom says, “If you accept correction,  you will be honoured.” Proverbs 13:18

When someone makes a suggestion to your or a critique of something you’ve done, what’s your response?

Do you resist and ‘ya but’ yourself out of getting the correction? Or do you receive it humbly and say, “Thanks for that. Anything else?”

One way to begin to move into the arena of being teachable is to actually ask people you trust and who you perceive have your best interest at heart to point out anything in your life that may concern them.  I know that sounds heavy but if you are serious about character growth, that’s a good place to start.

A couple of years ago I asked each of my adult children to provide me constructive feedback. I started by saying, “Over the years I know I have been ‘large and in charge’ in your lives, and that at times I may have overstepped my self in my overzealousness to be a good dad. Is there anything you remember that I did or said that left any bad effect on you? Please let me know.  I am all ears. Really. ”

And you know what, they have each had something to say to me that has been extremely useful and had a positive effect on our relationships into their 30s.

i have to admit that receiving feedback  is not always easy. In fact, C. S. Lewis says it well,

“Learning is not child’s play; we cannot learn without pain.”

A final question…..

A very old school house chalk board

Summer Time and the Livin’ is Supposed to Be Easy

When I wrote this, I was on the eve of leaving for our annual family vacation.

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While getting ready my wife asked me, “So, are you going to be working while we’re in Southampton or are you going to be able to rest?”  She went on to add, “You won’t have any coach appointments next week, will you? I hope not.”

Ouch!!

Actually, I did have a couple of things I had planned to respond to while away.  Yet, after reflecting on her question, I called those people and rescheduled.

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to totally disconnect from work-mode.  Mind you, when I do finally disconnect, I love it.   However, it takes me awhile.

The ancient Greeks had a saying that I remember when I am resisting rest…

“You will break the bow if you keep it always bent.”

We all need time away from work to relax and recover.

The late Tim Hansel wrote in his classic “When I Relax I Feel Guilty,”

“When work becomes a person’s all consuming interest, even if the work is good and necessary, it is idolatry.”

Strong words, but words worth taking to heart.

How can we keep our work from becoming a form of idolatry in our lives?

I suspect that as part of our Mavericks’ community, you are not a slouch!  I also suspect that while you work hard, you also know that you are to “rest” – really rest.   You know that honouring the Sabbath is to be part of who you are as a leader.  You desire that to be the case, and yet, if you are like many I know, this may feel far from reality.

Here are a few thoughts to help inspire you to give yourself permission to do some deliberate leisure – to find some rest!.

The word ‘leisure’, from its Latin roots is ‘licere’ – which means ‘to be permitted’. If we are ever going to install leisure into the hard drives of our lives, we must give ourselves permission to do so.

For me, it includes taking care of myself in what I call my RPMS

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I have 3 practices that help me ensure my RPMS is in a solid place:

  1. Divert daily
  2. Withdraw weekly
  3. Abandon annually

Everyone achieves relaxation and leisure in different ways. What relaxes me might give you a tension headache and visa versa!

For me it involves regular downtimes—releasing the bent bow – putting limits on my work schedule and getting away for regular weekends.

Whether you consider yourself a spiritual person or not, it’s informative to look at the Hebrew idea of Sabbath. The way the Hebrews understood the concept of ‘Sabbath’ was that the Creator had built into our physical makeup a need—even a requirement—for a day each week for rest, play, reflection, worship, and change of pace.

Taking care of your body is as much a spiritual discipline as is prayer, singing and Bible study. God wants you to rest. Rest your body and, in the process, recharge your mind, spirit and relationships.

The Apostle Paul says:

“God helping you, take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life — and place it before God as an offering”  Romans 12:1 (MSG).

When you take care of your body, you worship God. It’s never too late to begin this important journey in your life.

If you need permission, look to our Saviour Jesus. He knew about the rhythms of rest and work.  He invites us, as He did His disciples, to come away with Him and rest.  In essence He was saying,

“If you don’t come apart, you will come apart”.

“The apostles then rendezvoused with Jesus and reported on all that they had done and taught. Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat.  Mark 6:30-31 (MSG)

The iPhone Effect Research and Negative Impact on us All

In his book, “Are You Fully Charged?”, author Tom Rath calls the constant use of our smartphone technology a ‘digital pacifier’. No doubt these ‘tools’ are useful when used appropriately but they have become a source of constant distraction.

To me they are usually an indication that someone isn’t living a purposeful life. It can sometimes appear that one’s purpose is to answer their phone or other device. I have fallen into this trap and this book and research has kicked me out of the stupor of being pacified by my device.

In fact, a 2015 study titled “The iPhone Effect”, shows how the mere presence of smartphone can ruin a conversation. (from the book)

I would add it not only ruins a conversation but can also be the source of ruining any relationship, even a marriage, or child parent relationship.

An experiment with 200 participants revealed that simply placing a mobile device on the table resulted in detrimental conversations. While the device was present, the quality of the conversation was rated as less than fulfilling when compared with conversations that took place in the absence of mobile devices.

People reported having higher levels of empathetic concern when phones were not visible.

If you want to know more about this, purchase Rath’s Are You Fully Charged?

As well, you can explore further this ‘hot topic’ by exploring the research called The iPhone Effect.

The one thing I have decided to do as a result of reading Rath’s book and this research is to leave my phone in my car when I go to a meeting, and to remove my phone from any group interactions I have with clients, family or one to one relationships.

I want to be sure that the person or persons in front of me know that I ‘see’ them and that they matter to me more than any device, even if it’s a ‘smart device’.

http://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/internet/iphone-effect-social-interaction-quality-mobile-device-presence

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