Saturday, January 30, 2016

Keeping Up Appearances

Over the last month, my wife and I were immersed in the conclusion of a two year adventure to bring home our infant adoptive daughter Layla to be with her forever family.

This final leg of the journey involved us spending a third of a month away from our older 3 children over 2 different trips to the United States.

We had lots of time to think, pray, learn, observe and grow together and separately.

One of the things that struck me the most about our southern neighbour's culture and community was the over-arching desire to seemingly have to keep up appearances. We saw people invest tremendous amounts of effort to mask their pain, their questions, their confusion and their ineptitude in a variety of different ways. We met others who were attempting to live counter culturally to this seemingly natural American expression, which reminded us of something we were pursuing in our own family.

About 8 years ago my wife Bonny and I sat down and crafted together some values that we wanted to be the guideposts for our family in the present and the future. One of these values is authenticity.

"If it's not real, it's not worth it" - one of our favourite phrases

As we've stitched this notion and practice into the fibre of our family, we've found a tremendous sense of freedom from the desire to keep up appearances. We have more energy, more capacity and more opportunity to invest ourselves in things that actually matter.

What we've discovered in this journey is that friendships have been more difficult to find and nurture than we thought.

You see, the challenge with authenticity is that you need to face your own pain, your own short comings and your own pride. You need to admit to yourself and to others that you are not only imperfect, but you are in need of the aide others can offer you in order to continue to grow emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and physically.

And that is the challenge.

Admitting that we need something other than our own ability to create a stable present or future.

But I wonder how different life would be if we each of us found the courage to remove our masks and get real with life and with each other?

I don't have time to waste trying to be something or someone that I'm not. So I don't bother with it anymore. I am who I am...the Creator who made me knew what He was doing when He authored my life to come to be.

How about you? Are you aiming to be real, or to be something completely different?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Do Your Best

My dad is one of my heroes in life.

He and I couldn't be more different.

He is a jack of all trades...and me, well, I'm not very good with my hands in terms of handyman type work. I can get a job done, but not nearly to the degree of excellence that my dad can.

I can remember going on a missions trip with my dad when I was in grade 11. There was some light construction work we were doing, and my dad's advice to the team was simple: "Do your best. Pretend like you are working on your home."

These are words that I have shared with others over the years.

They are words of empathy. If you can identify with the set of circumstances that another person is experiencing while you are helping them out, you will not only meet their need, you will also inspire hope.

The next time you are helping someone out, ask yourself the question - are you doing your best?

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Way Forward

One of my favourite biblical leadership stories is found in the thirteenth chapter of the book of Numbers (read it here).

Here is a brief summary:

  • The Israelites (God's people) were headed to their new home...the promised land
  • All this generation had known was slavery to the Egyptians
  • This promise of a new home was a chance to start again, to create a new present/future
  • The land they were invited to live in by God was full of other tribal groups, meaning they would have to fight for their present/future
  • 12 men were chosen to go explore the land and report back to the entire community
  • 10 men reported that it would be impossible to find a way forward
  • only 2 men had the courage to inspire the community to consider the possibility despite the perceived challenges that lie ahead
  • The nation of Israel chose to remain in the space there were familiar with (living on the run)
  • The future promise of this new home didn't come to fruition until an entirely new generation rose up to take hold of what they new to be true.

Leadership is full of all kinds of different challenges! There are two major responses to tension that leaders face.
  1. Compromise
  2. A Way Forward
The way any leader chooses to approach the challenges they face will not only define their present, but their future impact as well. Here are some deeper thoughts I'm learning about these two major leadership strategies.

Compromise is a Killer

Compromise promises something that it cannot deliver...consensus and buy-in. What might seem like a good idea at the time ends up being a passive tactic or attempt to delay the inevitable.

Compromise leaves people unsettled. There is no promise that when another challenge or hurdle emerges it won't create an even more chaotic response or leadership position. Compromise is nothing more than a short-term, static, cumbersome response to the issue at hand.

A Way Forward

These are some of the most powerful words someone can speak to themselves and to others in the middle of a leadership tensions, personal crises or other ill-fitting space that someone may find themselves in.

The way forward may not always be the most obvious or popular response to the situation at hand...but it is the way forward that provides the vision and lens through which hope can give birth to a new present and future reality.

The way forward is a long-term, dynamic solution that is meant to create stability and hope while making the future more attainable than what you originally might perceive. 

So What Now

The next time you find yourself facing tension in your world, consider what your response might be. Are you seeking to compromise, or are you open to a way forward through the obstacle you are facing? The solution may not seem obvious at first. Drill down. Find the root. Think of what could be so that what will be is the place where you truly desire to end up living in.

If you aren't willing to find a way forward, someone else will...and that might mean that you miss out on the preferred future you once desired. Think about it. Find the courage to lead and live differently. Live the story that is unfolding before you.