Monday, April 30, 2012

What you say? - Discipleship 171

I've been overwhelmed by the steep learning curve that I've been immersed in when it comes to the topic of communication. Here are four things that I'm pondering in my life:

1. If it isn't real, it isn't worth it. Timothy Keller is quoted as saying, "you can't traffic an unfelt truth." We've all known people who just like to talk, but nothing they say really mattered or had any quality of depth to it. If I don't have anything good to say, and if what I want to say isn't real, then I simply shouldn't say it. Communication is about connecting with other people. I cannot develop a true connection unless I'm being real. All my communicative interactions must be saturated in authenticity, otherwise it isn't worth the effort in trying to communicate.

2. Consistently be consistent. This is a big one. There is so much messaging in our world today. We are bombarded with all sorts of advertising, opinions and rhetoric. The challenge is this emerging "loud" culture is to remain consistent in what you are trying to communicate. Communication is a two way street, it needs to be both given and received. The consistent message is easier to receive than one that is constantly changing. Stay the course and be consistent with your messaging.

3. Keep it simple. Language sometimes gets in the way. If I say the world apple, some people think of food, while others think of technology. This gets even more convoluted when you think about anything like marketing, teaching, or sharing honestly. I don't think communicators need to be master linguists, but we do need to understand our audience and ere on the side of simplicity in order to ensure that clarity is a result instead of complexity and confusion.

4. I have two ears, and only one voice. Great communication begins with learning to listen well. When I listen, I earn the right to be heard. Imagine if each of us had someone in our lives who loved spending time listening to what is happening in our worlds? I think we might see a significant decrease in things like stress, frustration, anger and annoyance if we simply took the time to really listen to one another.

What about you, what are you learning about communicating?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fun has value - Discipleship 170

I'm learning lots about how to have fun. Being a father of 3 pre-school aged children and a pastor to youth and their families has allowed me to be submersed in a great learning environment that welcomes experimentation.

Growing up I was under the impression that I needed to choose to be serious or to choose to have fun in life. It's only now, in the early middle stages of my adulthood that I'm learning these two elements can actually coexist. Here are the top three things I'm learning about the value of having fun.

1. Fun is essential in helping to build community. This isn't rocket science. If you don't enjoy being with someone, why would you continue a relationship with them? I agree that fun must be balanced with moments of depth, but fun should never be fully abandoned when attempting to build community.

2. Learning to have fun is a lot easier when you don't take yourself too seriously. I'm so grateful to my children who teach me the value of this every day. It's ok to unplug, let one's hair down and simply enjoy the "lighter" side of life. Anything I have in life doesn't belong to's a gift that has been given to me by God. As a recipient of these gifts, I'm blessed and these blessings are meant to be used to bless others. It's not about me, it's about investing on people. If I'm letting my hair down only to help someone else catch a greater glimpse of the hope that exists in life, then that is ok. As a leader and a parent, I often set the tone for others to follow. If I'm not enjoying the blessing of life that I've been given, how can I expect anyone that I lead to enjoy their lives?

3. Pick your spots. The writer of Ecclesiastes said it best, "there is a time for everything." The same can be said for pursuing and having fun. My role as a parent and a leader is to know when to cut loose, and when to buckle down. Being goofy all of the time will allow people to write me off as someone who isn't keen on developing a depth of character. In the same way, being serious all of the time doesn't allow others to see that life is more than hardship.

Fun has value; it's an essential part of our lives. If we weren't meant to enjoy the blessing of life we've been given, why would we have been created with the ability to laugh? My hope and prayer is that I would continue to learn how to balance moments of being serious with moments of pure enjoyment so that my kids and the others I have the privilege of impacting would be inspired to live life to the full through the hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Freedom - Discipleship 169

I voted in our provincial election today. The democratic system that we live in as Canadians is something I do not normally think about until I have the opportunity to lend my voice to a greater cause. I'm thankful and grateful for the opportunity that I have to be involved in the freedom of speech that is democratic voting.

As a follower of Christ, I also have the benefit of another form of freedom...something called grace. Here are three things I'm learning about God's grace:

1. Grace comes with responsibility. Now hold on a minute. I am not suggesting that we need to earn God's grace. What I am suggesting is that because this grace is freely given, we have the responsibility to steward this grace wisely. This means that I cannot and should not abuse this gift, but instead live out my life with a sense of deep gratitude and thankfulness for the freedom that I have been given. Think about the movie Saving Private Ryan. Five guys give their lives in order to save one. The guy who is saved lives out his life with a deep sense of gratitude and thankfulness due to the sacrifice these others made for Him. As followers of Christ, we should do the same.

2. Grace must be shared. Because of God's grace which grants us freedom, we should extend grace, mercy and freedom to others. What this means is that each of us who claims to be a friend of Jesus has a moral and biblical obligation to get involved with issues of human injustice...we CANNOT live in grace without being willing to help extend this same grace to others.

3. Grace is all consuming. I don't earn it; I don't deserve it; and I can't really understand it fully. What I do understand is that every facet of my life is subject to God's grace. Freely given, freely received. I must remember that it is because of grace that I have a reason, hope and purpose for life. Instead of seeking to consume new experiences, my ultimate goal in life should be to be consumed by God's grace which is given freely to anyone who chooses to receive it.

These are three lessons I'm learning about grace. What are you experiencing about God's grace? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Discipline of Joy - Discipleship 168

It looks like Thursdays are my new post days for here we go again!

Over the last couple of weeks I've had the privilege of being a part of several incredible conversations. Some of these conversations contained subject material that was incredibly inspiring, while others have been more humbling in nature.

In each of these conversations I'm learning incredible things about joy. Here are the top three takeaways that I've had:

1. Joy is not a feeling, it's a filter. You've probably heard the saying that perception is everything...and that might be true to a point. Regarding the pursuit of joy, I'm learning more about how it's not about a feeling but it is able a filter, perception and discipline. I must intentionally choose to focus on the good or the potential good of any situation or set of circumstances that I'm faced with. In doing so, I become filled with joy, rather than filled with something entirely different.

2. Joy begins with a conscious cognitive decision that leads to confident and determined action. A healthy state of mind means little unless it's put into action or activity....kind of like that calculus class I took way back in high school...not so helpful in pastoral ministry or as a parent!! For a decision to truly have meaning and purpose, action must reinforce the decision being made. With regards to joy, I must not only choose to focus on the positive side of my set of circumstances, I must also be willing to act on this conscious choice.

3. As much as joy is a discipline, joy is also a gift. True joy and the ability to life a joyful life is a gift from God. Some of us are naturally hard-wired to live in joy, while others of us (ahem) struggle to do so. Gifts are freely given, but am I willing to receive what is being offered to me? Something to think about the next time someone would like to bless you with something and you are hesitant about receiving their gesture of love, joy or hope.

What about you, what are you learning about joy?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Persuasion or Inspiration - Discipleship 167

Being a father and a pastor has provided me with the opportunity to learn a lot about leadership, failure, success and a variety of other subjects.

The current topic du jour that is occupying my brain space is that of persuasion and inspiration.

These are two leadership strategies that parents and leaders unknowingly or knowingly utilize on a daily basis. Leaders (and I define parents as leaders also) are constantly petitioning their audience in some way, shape or form. The desire and longing is to motivate or cause a shift or change to take place. Parents desire to motivate their kids toward a desired outcome. Leaders desire to motivate their followers towards a preferred future. In these moments of petitioning, the leadership challenge is knowing which motivation strategy is needed for the current situation.

Here are 3 things I'm learning about how to persuade and inspire:

1. Inspiration is more powerful than persuasion. Inspiring others is about motivating them to make their own decision that may or may not align the leader's desired outcome. Persuasion is about convincing another person to agree with a decision that has already been made. The parenting strategy with younger children is predominantly built on persuasion. But as children get older, persuasion must morph into inspiration so that kids may be able to think critically and choose wisely. As a leader, do you hope that the people you serve are choosing wisely, or simply accepting the decisions you've already made for them?

2. There is a time for everything. There are times when a leader must use persuasion in order to avert disaster or minimize conflict. There are other times when a leader needs to inspire his or her audience to think beyond themselves towards a preferred future that will require them to make a conscience choice to change. The challenge is knowing when its' appropriate to inspire and when its' appropriate to persuade.

3. A leader must be moved. Unless you are willing to be persuaded or inspired by someone else, you cannot expect others to be persuaded or inspired by you. I find myself drawn to biblical leaders that inspire me to live differently, in addition to contemporary leaders who persuade me to think differently. Persuasion concerns the transformative pursuit of the intellect, and inspiration concerns the transformative pursuit of the will. Utilizing these leadership strategies demands both growth and movement from the leader and the audience.

Persuasion or inspiration? Which do you think is more powerful or relevant for today's leader and parent?