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1951-xmas-humbug-scrooge I just recently saw Disney’s A Christmas Carol. It is one of my favorite stories, rendered by numerous directors with their own “take”. I am not quite sure what makes this story so popular. Perhaps it’s the idea of reflecting on one’s life. Maybe watching a grumpy old man get haunted is attractive. Some might like the conclusion of the movie – watching a human do a 180 with their life. Whatever it is, this story is both entertaining and inspirational.

In this story, there are 3 ghosts that visit Scrooge – the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present, and the ghost of Christmas future. Each ghost reveals haunting elements of each stage of Scrooge’s life – elements that Scrooge deeply wishes he could change. As I have been reflecting upon this story, I realized that each ghost presents a portion of our life that can be haunting. In fact, sometimes the life “seasons” that these ghosts represent can actually paralyze leaders.

For some, the “ghost of the past” can cause paralysis in leadership. Mistakes of the past are the most common “haunting” – minimizing the confidence of a leader. “How can I lead when I did…” becomes the question that stirs us at night. For others, the “glory days” cause us to compare everything that exists to an idealized past. The healthy balance is to observe history to learn from mistakes and successes.

For some, the “ghost of the present” is most haunting. Many leaders complain about the “lot” they have been given in life. All that surrounds them provides plenty of reason for a lack of growth, development, or inspiration. In the words of U2, these leaders are “Stuck in a moment” and they don’t know how to get out of it. While life can definitely provide some undesirable realities, true leadership looks challenges in the eye and determines a path forward. True leadership avoids “present paralysis” by asking “What factor CAN I change?”

Finally, some are haunted by the “ghost of the future”. Worry permeates the minds of many leaders, elevating fear to a unhealthy place. Stress fills our society as people mentally wrestle with issues that have yet to happen. I have watched many leaders stopped in their tracks simply because they are unable to move past a presumed negative future. All they can see is the glass 1/2 empty…and they have no idea how to fill it. True leadership will always see into the future with optimism, believing that God has provided the right people to address the issues that never catch Him by surprise.

So, the next time one of these “ghosts” begins to haunt you…look them straight in the ah and say “Bah Humbug!”

snow soccerJust over a week ago, I played my last regular season soccer game. It was a unique night for one reason – it was extremely cold. In fact, the temperature that night was just above zero Celsius.  Each of my team mates warmed up with all the extra layers required to keep us warm that night. Yet, as we took the field, the extra layers were shed in order that we fell into line with the FIFA rules for apparel. I was involved in the first play of the game – a typical pass to the left wing, wear I play, in an attempt for me to use the only thing I have to offer my team, my speed. With very little pressure, the standard play looked like a house league moment as I went to push the ball up the field in front of me…only to kick it out of bounds! To be fair, this blunder was not due to a lack of skill but rather, to the fact that my “boot” was frozen causing my strike to go awry! After about 10 minutes, I had defrosted and played with as much heart as ever.

As I talked with friends later that week, I shared about my soccer night, trying to convey the reality of the temperature, without verging on “evangelistic” story methods. Over and over again, I heard the same question and statement from my friends – “Why?! You can’t enjoy it that much!” My response was quick and passionate, “I do!” The fact is, I enjoy soccer so much, I’ll bare the elements for a game. I even remember playing at 3:00pm in Thailand a few years ago in scorching heat with shoes that were too small – leaving me with the worse blisters I’ve ever had. The bottom line is, regardless of the pain, I will play soccer simply because I enjoy it that much.

I am amazed at the number of leaders I meet who don’t seem to enjoy ministry that much…well, at least not as much as I enjoy soccer. Each time I meet them, they are complaining about…well everything! Now, I don’t want to downplay church situations, because there are definitely some things worth complaining about, but for many, the trivial ministry are robbing them from the joy of ministry. I have watched way too many people “quit the game” or at least “sub-off” because they can’t take the “elements” of ministry. They forget the call. They forget the moments of celebration. They forget the reason they got onto the field in the first place. Some of these leaders will remain on the field, but you sure wouldn’t want to pass the ball to them – they are so focused on the conditions around them, they are guaranteed NOT to score for the team. The objective is shadowed by the conditions with which they are required to meet the objective in!

I want to challenge all leaders…it’s time to enjoy ministry again. It’s time to place greater focus on the goal than on the conditions around us. It’s time to allow our Coach’s encouragement to raise above our voice of complaint. It’s time to run down the field with frozen boots, numb hands and a smile that reflects the joy of the “game”. Why? Because if we don’t model this…who will step onto the field in the future? And who will push the ball down the field and attempt to win the game for our Coach?

1189187_thinking_and_smilingFor Canadians, we just finished our Thanksgiving weekend – a 3 day “holiday” set aside to celebrate all that we are grateful for. While it is easy to get lost in simply having time off, I made sure I took a few moments over the weekend to reflect on what I was thankful for. This was not a difficult task as I enjoyed my family, had great meals and beautiful fall days. It was also easier to do since it is almost compulsory to be thankful on this weekend – putting aside all the grumblings that can frequent our conversations.

Yet, there are many times in leadership when I am less than thankful. There are times when objectives are not met, followers…well, stop following, people are angry with my decisions, or the process seems to be taking way too long. I’m sure I could make the “problem list” much longer for those of us who lead. After all, as long as we work with imperfect humans, there will always be problems…and there will always be things to complain about.

Unfortunately, I watch way too many leaders quit when the problems seem to pile up. These leaders hit peak moments of frustration that cause them to see everything through a problematic lens. When all your hard work only seems to produce problems, it is no wonder that one feels like quitting. Yet, the truest test of a great leader is not whether they can survive the good times, but whether they can survive the difficult challenges of leadership. So, how do we survive these seasons to reach the highest echelons of leadership?

In every area of my life there are times of problems. This occurs in my health, marriage, children, job, and even leisure activities. What causes me to keep going in these vital areas is that when problems occur, I choose to celebrate the good elements – in other words, I choose to be thankful for the good in each of these areas despite the problem before me. I choose to be thankful for what is good in every area of my life rather than “celebrating” the negatives. As I do this, I realize that there is way more good than bad. In fact, the negatives are merely momentous or seasonal. I believe that survival in any area of our life is based on being thankful – celebrating the good. As leaders, when the challenges come and we want to give up, we must shift our focus to the blessings of what we do and celebrate the positives. Those who will survive the biggest challenges will be those who are most thankful!

Going Solo

alone

WARNING – The following blog will get personal, be transparent, and may offend some readers – but most of you should read it anyways!

I am fed up with people going solo. I have watched way too many leaders who act independently, choosing to arrogantly ignore the voices around them because they differ from their personal opinion – an opinion that places these leaders in the upper echelons of superiority in their pretend world. These leaders declare the importance of “the team” but reveal that “the team” is only important if they agree with the opinion of the day. These leaders may even ask for advice, hoping to hear a mirror concept of the one they value. Yet, if the sages suggest something that runs against the grain of their view, these wise counselors are replaced by donkeys that have little to say. In fact, I heard Andy Stanley recently say that “When we fail to listen to those around us, we will find ourselves surrounded by people who have nothing to say” – donkeys.

James Surowiecki wrote a masterpiece called “The Wisdom of Crowds”. The premise of this book is that the collective wisdom within any group is always greater than the wisdom of the smartest person in the room. As I read this book, I was constantly reminded of the need to always seek counsel – even from those I don’t want counsel from. The truth is that people offer insights that have been shaped from their experiences  – and these experiences are often different than ours. Many have insights because they have already walked the path we are on. These paths have written books for these individuals that cannot be purchased on Amazon and yet, need to be read by so many others. There are even moments when those from whom we seek counsel lack answers but merely provide the arena of conversation where the right solution can be found. This arena offers nothing but silence for the soloist.

As I reflect on the tragedy of flying solo, I think about all the illustrations that reveal the disaster of this practice. The quarterback who thinks he can beat a team by himself. The musician who tells her band to stay at home. The restaurant owner who fails to hire cooks and waiters. The foreman who lays of her crew…or the pastor who ignores her board…the youth pastor who ignores the advice of his pastor…the leader who ignores those who’ve dealt with similar situations before…and the list goes on.

While I am ultimately responsible for the decisions I make, I am not responsible to make them alone. In fact, I am actually irresponsible if I make decisions in a vacuum. I’d love for so many leaders to actually listen to the advice I’m giving about seeking out counsel…but I know that they don’t need my advice – they’ve got it covered…

boat2This summer, my wife and I decided to take some saved money and invest it in a 16 foot bowrider boat. We had planned on going on a holiday, but decided to re-allocate the money so that we could invest in something as a family that we could enjoy beyond one week. The fortunate element to the timing of this purchase was that I did not need a boating license until September 15. So for a couple of weeks, my family enjoyed boating on Rice Lake – without any license.

However, that ended on September 15. As of that date, I knew that if I was going to enjoy our purchase, I needed to finish reading the boating book, do some memorization, pay the fee, and write the boating exam. Each night, I would read a bit of the book and practice the sample test at the end of the chapters. Each night I would pull into the drive-way and pass the boat, desiring to get back on the lake – but knowing that I couldn’t enjoy this pleasure until I did what was required. This past weekend was particularly “painful”, with beautiful weather on both Saturday and Sunday – the ideal for boating. But, I hadn’t completed what was required and so my family was disappointed, as was I – knowing that until that exam was taken, we could not enjoy boating.

Yesterday, all that changed. I had reviewed the book enough and felt I had a good grasp on the information. I threw caution into the wind and jumped on line and wrote my exam – and passed! When I got home and passed my boat, I was overwhelmed with a sense of freedom – freedom to legally enjoy something because I did what was required.

As I have reflected on this, I realize that as leaders we are often held back from enjoying more of ministry and life, simply because we put off doing what is “required”. We struggle with leaders because we fail to confront. We stunt our ministry because we fail to elevate our personal growth by the discipline of learning. We fail to see the supernatural because we are too busy to pray. We fail to hear from God because we fail to turn out the other noises. And the list could go on…

The fact is, many of the things we desire are limited to us because we have failed to do what’s necessary. Greatness requires great sacrifice. All of life’s enjoyments require certain “boat licenses”. So the questions are – what are you desiring AND what are you willing to do to get what you desire?

Young Men Become Old Men

I stopped by Tim Horton’s this morning to get a muffin – my wife had already provided me with my coffee (Starbucks made at home). As I stfathersonepped out of the car, I saw 3 older gentlemen who were dressed casually but looked somewhat distinguished. I was somewhat surprised when I heard one of them use an expletive. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised –  but I must admit, my expectation for those who are older are a little higher than those who are younger. As I walked into Tim Horton’s I was reflecting on this. As I did, the statement, “Young men become old men” came to my mind. I reflected on the reality that the older someone gets, the body may change, but the habits do not. Those who swear when younger will likely swear when they are older. The habit don’t change – they become more solidified.

The point of this blog is not to harp on the evils of poor language. I would rather reflect on the habits we create – for after all, the habits we form now will become more solidified as we get older. As a leader, one of the greatest areas of reflection must be on the habits we are forming. We must create healthy routines in our lives that help us to become the individual we desire to be. No one becomes something overnight. The greatest “successes” in life are individuals who are driven by goals that are realized through strict disciplines in life. The musician plays the basic pieces over and over again – discipline. The olympian chooses not to eat certain foods – discipline. The sought out leader is always seeking out new information – discipline. The kingdom revolutionary sacrifices moments of entertainment for moments alone with God and His word  – discipline. All people who accomplish anything significant in life start with discipline, knowing that the disciplines they grab hold of when they are young will be the disciplines they have when they are older.

After all…”young men become old men”. What disciplines and habits are you forming for the latter years of your life?

Forgotten Blog

1165446_blog_1I am currently at Jr. High Camp at Ottawa Valley Pentecostal Camp. I love this camp, I love the students, but I especially love hanging out with our youth pastors. A couple of them have been reminding me, with little grace, that I have not looked after my blog a lot this past year. I have tried to defend myself, but their harassment is warranted. I have forgotten about my blog.

I remember how passionate I was last summer to start this blog. I took forever trying to find the right name. I wanted to present something that was brilliant. I worked hard to make sure what I wrote was insightful. I looked after this blog for a while. It consumed my mind…and my time. I had to have a blog. Then after a little while, I moved on and forgot about it.

After being taunted today about this issue, I reflected on the difference between the desire I had 1 year ago for this blog and the desire I have had this past year. I was reminded how passionate we can be about something for a season and then simply move on. Perhaps my passion died because I was getting as many responses as I thought I would. Maybe my passion died because I didn’t regularly give attention to my blog. Maybe my passion died because I never was completely sold on BLOGS…but got caught up in the moment of “blog emotionalism”. Who knows what the reason was. What I do know is that there are too many times in my life where my desire for the important things in life dies. I forget about what really matters and stop doing what I did when the desire was alive. The truth is, even if I forget about the important things, those around me will always notice that I have forgotten. People remember seeing passion in others. They also notice when that passion is dead. There’s no faking it out. And, if there enough times when passion dies, people will stop following us in certain areas – or all areas.

Our passion must not die for what is important. People will follow those who keep passion alive. I can actually sway the lives of others through my passions. Regardless of how I feel, what results I get, or how the passion began…I must keep the passion alive by giving attention to what really matters. Leaders do not lead by mere actions. Leaders lead by actions that reveal desire and passion. Followers don’t follow words, they follow passion. So, perhaps, as leaders, we need to evaluate the “Blogs” of our life and see whether we have forgotten about what matters. Perhaps we need to jump back online and start blogging with passion once again…to lead where we are meant to live. I can’t promise that I will keep blogging regularly…but there are a few things that I need to get passionate about again!