Thursday, October 8, 2009

Leadership Patterns have Roots

I read a great quote the other day from Parker Palmer. He said, “A leader is a person who must take special responsibility for what’s going on inside him or herself, inside his or her consciousness, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good.”

When I spend time thinking about this quote I quickly concur that the act of leading oneself is far more demanding than leading an organization or any group of people. If I fail to look inward, evaluating my own habits and ways, I will have moments of uncontrolled outburst in front of those I lead that are rarely rooted in the present, but in the past, in some recess of my sub-conscience.

Ruth Haley Barton puts it well in her book called Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. She says, “Part of the reason that leadership is crucible is that if we stick with it past the initial euphoria, the demands of long-term leadership usually push us to a place where our patterns are clearly revealed. The demands of ministry (or other), keep our face pressed up against the mirror until we are able to acknowledge the hidden dynamics that are driving us.”

What has been your experience in connecting the dots between your leadership behaviors today and your past experiences that helped form you, be that good and bad?


Monday, October 5, 2009

Decisions Decisions

Just finished a book that I started a few months ago and had a couple of chapters to complete. It’s called How We Decide by Johan Lehrer. I really enjoyed reading this book and thinking about how our brain works when it comes to decision making activities.

I enjoyed figuring out my own patterns on decision making and thinking about those of the people that I lead. The other day I was sharing with a colleague about my decision making habits and it brought to mind this book and that I had not completed it yet.

The way my particular brain works is that I am quite analytical about things. I am always for more details, more information so that I can make the right choice. This is just fine for those of us analytical types, but the book talks about when landing on the decision, your best decision will usually be from the gut and not from the raw data. After reading and evaluating the way I come to decisions, it’s not too far off what the book is talking about. While I drive those crazy around me looking for all the inputs to a problem, I still respond to the solution with my gut instinct.

The book is telling me that this is actually the best way to go! It doesn’t mean I ignore all of the inputs, on the contrary, I take them all into consideration. What I have learned from reading this book is that most of our intuitions are based on sub-conscious knowledge. So if you and I perform due diligence on fact finding, then follow our gut instinct, we will find more often than not that we choose right.

How do you make decisions? Fast, slow, never? What is the biggest thing you wrestle with when making decisions? The aftermath of second guessing?


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Change in Blogs

Hi everyone,

I've split off into two other blogs now and want you to feel free to visit them as you wish. This blog will get the odd post once in a while, but it will mostly be related to my personal life and anything I choose to post here in that regard. You may only get a post or two a month so don't hold your breath.

The first blog I want to introduce you to is specifically for CrossRoads Church. I will be posting once a week to this blog and give you a little bit of church life behind the scenes that you might not otherwise get reading our Crossing magazine or the bulletin on a Sunday morning. Each time I create a blog I'm going to ask you a question that allows for you to interact with me and others that may read it. Some of these questions will be a great help to the leadership in planing the way forward for CrossRoads.

The second blog is an attempt to start a leadership blog for me to get my thoughts down on paper around some of the lessons I am learning and of course, looking forward to what lessons are coming around the corner for me and anyone else that might be reading. This too is probably a weekly blog and will end with some thought provoking question that you might want to engage. It's called Leadership in View.



Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Well I had a light hearted "funny-thing-happened-to-me-one-day" story and it got pulled by the legal department. :)

So perhaps something new tomorrow.

Blessings and peace!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Personal Boundaries

Okay, so this last question that I'm going to post on Lebanon might get me in trouble with some of you. So be it. We will all feel better tomorrow.

What were some of the things that stretched your boundaries?

First let me make clear that I believe that there is only one way to God, that being through Jesus Christ and His work on the cross and His resurrection. You can’t move me off of this position. (If I didn’t say all that then you wouldn’t have read past the next paragraph and I would lose you as a reader for good!).

Now having said that, I find it amazing how God leads people differently to that same knowledge and understanding, and He seems to do this through the culture in which you find yourself living within. Before this trip I would have not accepted the term “Muslim Believer”. Today I believe that God is bringing Muslims to himself and showing them the finished work of Christ, yet not asking them to give up their Muslim culture, just their Muslim beliefs.

It’s true, they are slowly giving up those rules and laws that have bound them for many generations, but the traditions and key cultural points remain very important to them. For most of these new believers, it’s still a very long road to move from rules and regulations to a practical view of grace and freedom in Christ. But it’s still happening. They will always respect the Koran but they have a new love of the Bible and the words of Christ and it’s changing them.

So I come home thinking how many times I was quick to judge the bartender that came to know Jesus that was still bartending, or the couple that came to Christ and still lives together, or the . . . . well, I’ll let you finish the line with your own judgments. The fact remains that the Holy Spirit changes us all into the likeness of Christ at each our own speed and not necessarily everyone at the speed that I think it should happen, or God forbid, we would all be in trouble.

For our Muslim brothers and sisters in Christ (did that hurt your head?!), they will always feel uncomfortable around “Christians” but very comfortable around “believers” no matter where you come from in this world. (The word “Christian” means something completely different to them than the word “believer”.)

Pray for them with me. Many are losing their lives for Christ, for they are not ashamed of this new Gospel that has completely set them free.

If you made it this far in this blog then I'm sure I just stretched your boundaries a bit. Smile, take two pills, read some scripture and call someone in the morning.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Likes and dislikes

What did you like the least about this trip?

Probably the food. There are a lot of breads but much the same kind, like large pita breads. Lots of variety but my system was just not use to it all. My plate at home has 3-4 items on it. Maybe 5. But never 20+. I didn’t think that I’m that fussy of an eater in general, but over the past 4 months I’ve been working real hard to bring my weight down under control. So I’ve been doing it by not eating the thing I enjoy. Desserts and various breads, quite a few less potatoes, etc. So it’s been very challenging but very rewarding at the same time. I had dropped my weight by around 25 pounds leading up to the trip to Lebanon. So while in Lebanon, I found myself eating things I was not crazy about and gaining weight the whole time. Frustrating!!!

So I leave for home thinking I’ve gained 5-10 pounds. I get on the scale the first morning back and found that I had lost 4 pounds while I was gone. I laughed at myself. I suppose a different diet just made me feel differently.

I wonder how many times my perception is off and I just don’t have a scale nearby to bring me down to earth and show me the realities of the situation.

Lord, you be my scale. Show me the realities from your Word that I can stand on and know that all is okay.

What did you like the most about this trip?

I’ve got three things that I think Iiked the most.

1. The team I got to serve with. No exception, they were all great and I'm glad I got to do this with them. Check them out here.

2. Thr cedars on the second last day. You can read about it here if you have'nt yet.

3. The Chidren I got to speak with and laugh with. I wrote about it here.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

God's heart, my heart

Couple more quesions:

What have you learned about God’s heart for the nations?

I believe that God has a lot of love and compassion for the nations. If I can say this - I had the overwhelming feeling that He was fully present there, in the middle of all the heated action, caring for those who were suffering and for those who were putting their lives on the line for Christ, but . . . not so much present back here in Red Deer. It’s like, where’s the action here? It’s boring. No bullets. No Bedouins. No deaths. So God doesn’t come by as often, but rather, He spends most of his time overseas where His people take bullets for him and people are in high physical and spiritual need. He has big dreams for those nations but for Canada? I doubt it. We don’t need anything.

Okay, that was a load of ….. I said all that with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.

So really, here is what I have come to think.

I have become convinced that this same God that loves and engages fully with the nations abroad loves and engages the people of Canada and yes, that means here in Central Alberta too. Our broken world here in Red Deer hides the ugly stuff underground and the less-ugly stuff is just woven into our culture and made acceptable to the mass while it all still continues to break the heart of God. Our world here is in desperate need of a God of action. A God of love and compassion pouring Himself out of our nation through His people.

So I believe that If you and I would ask God for a greater understanding and likeness of His heart for our nation, then we would begin to see just how much action and suspense exists in our own back yard through our lives being spent for God, taking bullets (figuratively) for Jesus here in Central Alberta.

So while I saw His heart for the nations, I have a renewed sense of His heart for our nation and our people.

It’s time to join Him in the action already underway.

Was there anything that broke your heart during this trip?

You mean besides no Tim Horton’s?

I would say that I felt as though there was a blanket of spiritual darkness across the whole land. Everyone seems caught up in their own sense of justice, their own political soap box and religiosity. On the first day Matthieu and I went to find takeout lunch for everyone on the team and we were refused service because we were Christian and not Muslim. I got the impression that no one trusts anyone else. Suspicions run wild. The political corruption is rampant.

I met a fellow one day in a store that was very friendly, kind and helpful. We chatted for some time. He said Lebanese are like the fingers on your hand. In Canada we use the term “two faced” to describe a person that is not very authentic. This man described the people of Lebanon as a hand with 5 fingers. Every finger has a different size and shape. Not two faced but multi-faced. You never know what you have in front of you when you chat with someone. You are being categorized and the interaction calculated based on the assumptions made. (I speak in general terms. We met some really beauitiful people as well that are quite authentic.)

This created great sadness for me. Authenticity takes a back seat to respect. And to gain or maintain respect you put on the appropriate face or choose the right talk you need for the occasion.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Things I learned and didn't learn

Here are a couple more quesions that Anton threw our way.

What have you learned about yourself during this trip?

I’ve been asking myself this question for the past 5 days and have not come up with anything. I’ve learned a few things to add to my life, but nothing really new about myself.

(My wife is calling to me over my shoulder telling me she learned that she loves to flush toilet paper. In every corner of Lebanon there are garbage cans sitting right beside the toilets. You don’t flush any paper down the sewer; rather you just wipe and place your paper in the garbage. Someone will eventually remove it later in the day or week . . . or month. She quipped off a few other things she learned about herself but I’ll keep them to myself. Very funny stuff.)

Since the team didn’t know me that well, I’m sure they all learned a few things about me that they didn’t know before. I got the odd look that would suggest disbelieve in what they just heard or saw me do. D’oh!

We had fun together.

What have you learned about God during this trip?

God is a God of great love for his children. Particularly for me.

We are quick to “teach” and encourage others about the grace and love that God has for them but not often do we stop and reflect on his love for ourselves as an individual. When God comes up close and personal with His love, all of a sudden life get’s very real and we have a choice to make. We can see ourselves as unworthy scum and push God away, or we can relax and just let the love of God land on us and do its work in us.

After being very sick for the first trip to the cedars (check out the blog on this day), He provided a second opportunity to go to another part of Lebanon to see the cedars on our second last day of the trip (check out the blog after this day). I had completely come to terms with my disappointment the first time, and rested in the fact that I would never see the cedars on this trip and the likelihood of seeing them before the new earth was also slim. I knew that for some reason, God’s reason, this was the way it was to play out.

So when I heard a few days later that we were going to take some time at another cedar location, my heart was not elated, but cautiously optimistic. When it actually happened and I found myself in the middle of the forest I was overcome with the love that God has for me. That He would gift me with something that I thought he didn’t want me to have. He wanted me to see this forest and not the other. This forest blew me away. It was fragrant, it was beautiful, it was mysterious, it was magnificent, and it was a picture of great strength.

Thank you God for your love for me; that you would give this good gift to me is beyond what I am worthy of, but I receive it with great joy and I love it.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Material what!!??

A couple more questions asked ....
What did you learn about material possessions while on this trip?

The culture in Lebanon is quite different from our own, yet we were never really exposed to abject poverty. The country is filled with those that have and those that have not, perhaps more noticeable than here in Canada.

Some things they didn’t have were quite surprising because I would have thought that most people could have afforded some of the basic things yet still chose to do without. Why, well, because you could.

For example, I have a broom and a mop for cleaning my house. Our host home didn’t seem to have these items, and I’m thinking that it was not because they couldn’t afford it, they just never saw the necessity of it like we see here in Canada. So some things were less clean than a Canadian would want it to be, yet they were content. They found other ways to keep things presentable.

In the compound where we worked there was a noticeably shortage of tools to work with. Basic screw drivers, wrenches, pliers, hammer . . . completely non-existent. All that could be found was one flat headed screw driver and one oversized hammer that would not be used to hammer a nail. It was more like a small sledge hammer.

So I think some things are just not thought as being very necessary and not always because they couldn’t afford it. The one home we visited was spotless. I have no idea how they kept it that clean but I’m thinking that their creativity is far greater than ours to solve the same problems. We buy things for convenience. We even celebrate inventions that make life simpler. This type of thinking is not even on their radar. They find existing things to use in which to accomplish their objectives, and if no creative solution exists then perhaps it wasn’t that important after all.

(Lebanon has a 40% unemployment rate. Some of these people work, they just don’t report it to the government.)

Did you resolve to make any changes in your own life in this regard?

I can most certainly do a second take next time I “think” I need something. I usually run to the store for just the right tool to do the job at hand. I am good at spoiling myself.

I can use a little more creativity and probably solve my problem without the purchase. This is going to be a huge challenge for me because I love to go to Home Depot early on a Saturday morning and look at the tools. Many times I leave with something that I somehow justified in my mind. I don’t think I’ll do that anymore.

Feel free to join me.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Smells, sights, sounds and tastes +

Anton has asked us to work through some reflective questions after our two weeks in Lebanon. I'm going to post a few of the questions and my thoughts over the next few days. Here are the first couple of questions.

1. Take a moment to describe as many sites, smells, sounds, and tastes as you can from your trip.

Bullet holes everywhere. Buildings riddled with gunshot and others with gaping holes from bombs.

No wood construction. All brick and mortar. Rebar sticking out of everything. I hear you don’t have to pay land taxes if there is rebar sticking out waiting for an addition.

Hint of sewage smell everywhere. Garbage is prolific. No recycling here. Plastic bottles will degrade over time, I’m sure of it.

Honk Honk!. The sound of the road. No traffic signals, no lines, just horns. Used to let people know you are mad at them, or that you are coming along side and butting in, or if you want someone to watch out for you.

Lots of Roman ruins. Cool stuff. 2,000 year old structures.

Fruit! The valley is filled with all kinds of fruit and vegetable farms. Beautiful. Vineyards everywhere.

No houses! Everything is apartment based.

Huge billboards of faces. Faces of those assassinated and lost their lives for Lebanon. Many are Christian. Many say “We will never forget.”

Tastes are many. A Lebanese meal has multiple flavors and textures. Lots of yogurt and sour cream mixtures. They say “meat” lots! Whenever I asked what kind of “meat” they just stare at me with a blank look. I would say, “Beef, mutton, pork, dog or horse?” The blank looks never go away. They couldn’t figure out why it mattered.

Lots of parsley and garlic, not a lot of spices. Lots of goat cheeses to choose from. Some stronger than others. All good.

2. What did you find most shocking or surprising about Lebanon?

The political landscape is much more complex than I originally thought it would be. You are one of many sides. Every side has a color so every color has a meaning. Don’t put on the wrong colored t-shirt, or wear the wrong colored scarf. It’s a statement of who you are for, or who you are against.

There are political lines that are religious driven, but then there is also nationality and surrounding country factions. Are you Syrian? Are you Palestinian? Are you Bedouin? Are you Lebanese? Are you female or male? Are you registered with the government and have papers? Do you know anyone in power? Are you Muslim? And if so, are you Sunni, Shia or Druze? Are you Christian? And if so, are you Greek Orthodox? Greek Catholic? Armenian Orthodox? Armenian Catholic? Evangelical Believer? Each of these titles have further definitive sects. I’ve even heard the term Muslim Christian here.

There is a vast matrix of political, cultural, and religious diversity here and everyone seems to navigate it with great skill. They know who to shun, who to hate, who to tolerate, who to love by the look in their eye, the way they dress, the way they talk. A country of 5 million people, all living together in a form of chaotic rhythm and order.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Great people

I’m now at home on my couch typing this up. Seems like the past two weeks just flew by when I look at it from this side. I’ve got a few reflections that I am going to be working through over the next few days but first I want to tell you about these wonderful people that I was able serve with.

Albert: What a wonderful guy. Full of joy. Easy to make laugh, easy to be the cause of laughter. He worked real hard at a couple of key projects and did a wonderful job. But more than that, he made instant meaningful connections (relationships) with our host. He has this way about him that is both kind and gentle, yet he has the courage of a lion. Both Albert and Glen brought wisdom and insight to the men’s program.

Glen: I really like this guy. He is a steady rock. Deep thinker. Fun to hang out with. I know that he probably didn’t want to be painting for two weeks since that’s what he does at home, but he was the one key person that made our time productive on the painting front. Many worked hard, but he was most definitely our painting leader and our model. In a world where tools are scarce, he rose above all of them and showed us that we can do it, and do it well. Thanks Glen.

Rita: She is a such great person. She put the web site together for Bridges of Love and we hope to see it in production real soon. I saw the initial design and it looked great! It’s hard to say who was the hardest worker on the team. But wow, she worked hard. Every time I saw her she was carrying a broom, a paint brush, a paint roller, etc. Besides the work projects, she also helped Debra with the women’s program. I know she had an impact on the hearts of some of those women. She has a tender heart too like Albert. I like her.

Rebekka: So young and full of life! She was our youngest yet she fit in with the rest of us all very well. Picture with me a crazy mix of painting, cleaning, and women and men programs, with 15+ children running through everything all day long. Our first day was crazy until we asked Rebekka to invest some time with the children and keep them busy and out of our hair, but also build relationships with them. She did both very well. She was our blessing.

Debra: A woman of God. Wants to honor Him in all she does. And she did an amazing job with the women’s program. It takes a special kind of leader and facilitator to get people to share deeply. Someone who is able to help others feel save to share. That’s Debra. She also helped out in a lot painting. Always had paint on her! I got to paint a couple times with her and enjoyed our conversations.

Kurtis: A man who thinks deeply about the things of God. Kurtis was the brunt of a lot of kidding. He wears it well, but in reality, all of us greatly loved and respected this guy. I loved visiting with him, talking about life, parents, work, God, Bedouins, etc. He made me smile often. Not because of the kidding he took, but because whenever I thought of him, I was proud to be on a team with him. He’s a great person.

Kathleen: I might be a little bias on this one, so I’ll try and be fair. She is drop dead gorgeous! If I
can say that! I love her creativity. She did such a great job of putting the murals together. She had to juggle many women who wanted to partake in painting a part of the mural. So between teaching, directing, redirecting, and helping she never got to do much hands-on painting. Yet she produced something beautiful through so many hands. Good job! She also lead two major children programs with Kurtis and Rebekka and did a great job with all the children, who were totally nonstop hyper.

Anton: This guy held us all together. He knew when he needed to join with us in a task of painting a wall or cleaning. He authentically modeled the whole way through the two weeks what he expected of each of us. He was honest about his own thoughts during our debriefing times, he modeled for us the work ethics he asked of each of us, he prayed for us, he encouraged us when we needed encouraging. He was sensitive to our needs when we became stressed and responded with grace. He prepared us well for how flexible we needed to be throughout the two weeks. In a world where there were many expectations from many directions, that being our team, the school, the BOL Team and Matthieu, I felt as though he showed exceptional balance. Well done

I know that I could never do all these wonderful people justice by writing this, so please take everything I wrote and know that I short changed them on their greatness and servant-hood. If you see them this Sunday at church, be sure to bless them with a smile and a hug.


Monday, September 7, 2009

From one child to another - love and compassion

Before I left for Lebanon I had a young girl from our church ask if she could send some of her clothes to Lebanon for someone that could use them since she had out grown them. I said sure, I’ll take them and see what I could do.

On the last Friday we spent in the Bedouin village I asked Siham and the wife of our host if they knew of anyone in the village that would need these clothes, some sunglasses, an English bible, and a stuffed toy dog. It was easy for them to come up with family in need.

This family is without a father. He has been out of the picture for a little over a year. A single mom with 10 children of which there was more than one set of twins. Siham and our hostess brought two little girls from this family into the compound and into a room where I could visit with them a bit. I could see in their eyes and by their actions they were both shy and yet curious. No smiles. They were wearing some clothes that looked a little grubby. Siham later told me that their mom had dressed them in their best clothes before she sent them over to the compound.

We began to see what might fit each of the girls, one a little older than the other. It wasn’t until they received an article of clothing in their hands did we begin to see some smiles. A couple of articles were a little too small and our hostess told us that they had a little sister that could use the clothes that were too small. Then we gave the youngest one the toy dog and the sunglasses. She beamed from ear to ear. Neither of them spoke a word through this whole time. Siham spoke to them and asked them to share the dog and the glasses with each other. They were happy to do so.

We added to their gifts some pencil crayons for the older one, wax crayons for the younger, candy, scissors and glue and some paper for coloring.

I spoke to Matthieu later about this exchange and he filled me in on a little more about the family. A little over a year ago the father had become a new believer. Just two days after asking and receiving a bible from Matthieu he was shot to his death on is way in to town. Many here lose their lives here after confession of faith in Jesus Christ. Now our host, chief of this Bedouin tribe takes care of this family as best he can with the limited resources he has.

So from around the world a young girl at CrossRoads understood all on her own what it means to give life to another person in a foreign country. She has impacted three little girls, showing the love and compassion of Jesus in a very practical way. I’m sure there is also one more mother in Lebanon now that has received some encouragement and hope as she sees a little joy being inserted in the lives of her children.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Cedar of Lebanon, His Cedar.

Yesterday we finished up with tea and coffee with our wonderful hosts and exchanged some gifts. I was given some royal threads and made an honorary chief of a Bedouin tribe. The team pointed out to me that I didn’t have any people in my tribe but I told them I’m starting out with a cute blond with glasses. Today Matthieu told me that he has never seen them do that for anybody so he said we made a huge impact on them and they really appreciated our efforts. I asked why me and Matthieu just said they know who. . . ?

After that we took off up the mountain to see the cedars of Lebanon! The cedars we saw this day were much different that the ones that I missed seeing last week with the team. The team said these were far greater to see. Thanks Lord, for giving me this amazing opportunity.
The air was thick with mist swirling through the trees. It was an amazing sight. It was like someone started a huge mist machine for us on that mountain side and it created a sense of mystery and beauty.

Some of these great cedars are over 3000 years old. The tops on mature cedars break off and fall to the ground or just snap to the side and keep growing. Psalms 29:5 says that the voice of the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. It’s like the only way to get to a certain level of maturity, it takes something big to happen. A breaking, a moment of stress, but then after this moment the branches start to spread out in all directions and create a huge amount of shade for the forest. Psalms 80:10 talks about the shade that comes from mighty cedars. Hosea 14 talks about the shade that a person gives to many others when a repentant heart is healed, cared for and loved by God. I think the best verse is from Psalms 104:16 where the Psalmist states that god himself planted the cedar seed and watered it and cared for it through all times. Good and bad.

He breaks it in its time and it matures and never stops growing.

I hope I’m one of those to God. A cedar of Lebanon, His cedar. Worthy of being a part of His temple, producing a fragrance that glorifies Him and draws others to some shade.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Hockey Night in Lebanon

(Best to read the blog on the team and then come back to this blog.)

So this family mentioned in the blog, ( yes, you must read the blog so go do it!) has a young boy that was wearing a Montreal Canadians shirt and shorts. Over the conversations that were taking place I caught his eye from across the room and pointed to my shirt and his shirt and smiled and attempted a weak gesture to see if he knew what that meant. He ran out the door. D’oh! I scared another one!

About 5 minutes later and a little more tea, I see the boy re-enter the house. This time I ask the interpreter to ask the boy if he knew what that name meant on his shirt. He started to head for the door again but this time all eyes and ears were centred on him and he had nowhere to go, his brothers and sisters had blocked the door.

So I asked him if he would like to know and if he did, then come and sit in front of me so I could tell him. He did. So for the next few minutes, all attention was on him and me as we spoke together through the interpreter. I asked his name. He gave it, I pronounced it wrong, he laughed, everyone laughed, I finally got it right. Then I started to explain ice, and skates, and a stick. The puck was hard to describe. So I went with a round ball, squished flat on opposite sides. Everyone laughed. I was serious! No one had a better way to explain it so I eventually won through the interpreter. So once I explained it in brief, I talked about it as a team game and there are 6 professional teams in Canada. (He knew we were from Canada.) I then told him about the Canadians, the Maple Leafs, the Senators. Then I said that the best team was the Flames. I got a few groans on that in the background. Then I talked about the Oilers and the background noise seams to improve. Sheesh! I forgot to check that factor before I signed up for this team!

So the conversation ended a short while after that. I’m thinking now that he probably wondering what we did with the puck, how big the ice surface was, what’s a professional team, and who the heck is Tim Horton.

After a visit outside, the man of the house startles us and invites us to a feast. He is willing to kill a lamb and prepare a large meal for us tonight. This is a great honor. The cost of a lamb for him would be very high. Their whole family may eat meat only once or twice a month. I’m not sure of the exact cost, but I’m reasonably sure that the cost of such meal for them would be greater than a month’s salary. It would significantly impact their yearly cash flow plan.

Would I give away a month’s salary to a stranger that knocked on my door and asked to visit me? I’m immediately put out if a couple of Mormons drop by. Or a couple of JWs. Do I show this kind of honor to those that cross my path? No. . . . Usually it’s an inconvenience to my current plans. Yet that’s all he was doing. Showing honor to me and my friends. Then one of his wives grabs Kathleen and wants to give her a dress. They are totally giving people, of possessions that I’m sure they cannot afford to part with. They are giving away out of their own needs supply.

When was the last time I gave out of my resources that were to meet my basic needs? . . . . Perhaps somewhere in the distant past, . . .maybe. I know that I regularly give my tithe and then sacrificed extra dollars over and above that tithe on a few occasions. But that’s not the same as taking a hit on the core resources that I`ve built up to meet my family`s basic needs in life. I’m not sure what that looks like for me.

I’ll have to do some serious thinking about that over the next few days.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bedouin Ways

(Yesterday's blog, late post.)

The work continued today with Anton and I meeting with Matthieu on the ministry plans ahead. Rita would work on the web site, painting, murals and cleaning would continue. The big thing today that we were all looking forward to was the Bedouin feast that was being planned tonight in our honor.

We have been invited to participate in something that is very rare. A lamb would be killed, and the day spent preparing many foods for the evening meal. There were guests invited, us, and the chief’s extended family. Others were invited but they took a second seat to us, and ate either before or after the main meal.

The table was set, which consisted of two table cloths on the rugs in the large community room. Bowls and plates were set out. The bowls were all filled with yogurt and sour cream mix. The chief showed us how it is done. He reached into the plate of lamb and rice and grabbed a fist full of food squishing it into a solid mixture and then popped it into his mouth using some kind of special action. I don’t think I mastered it well. I have no idea how many hands got into the bowl.

Most of us tried to use our spoons as often as we could, including them.

I ate lamb tongue, lamb brains, someone told me I ate an eye but then it turned out to be something else. The food was good. The salad was amazing. There was limited tongue available so Albert and I got to split it. It was an honor. Really. Or so I was told. . . . While everyone watched and laughed.

Music and dancing took place after the meal. We were also celebrating a little girl’s birthday. It was a good night.

Later that evening I took a walk with Matthieu around the compound. I went because it was with Matthieu so it should be safe. It was dark. As we left the compound a group of kids collected around us and followed us for a few houses. Matthieu shares about the houses on the right. They were cow shelters before we turned them into houses. We turn the corner and the kids disappear. We walk on in the dark for about 100 yards. We pass two family buildings along the way. One building was structure in progress. They build in stages. This house was a room that got a second floor at one time, and then another room on the ground floor was bricked in with a second floor kind of started. Probably preparing for a couple of sons that would one day have a wife and family. He’s been slowly working in the house for probably 10 years. We get fairly far down the road and Matthieu tells me we need to turn around and go back. The next section belongs to another tribe of Bedouins that do not share in our efforts. Over the last month two have been murdered by fellow tribe members because they had become believers and told their family. One was a 14 year old girl.

We get part way back up the road and a vehicle slowly passes us, but then stops and speaks something to Matthieu. The vehicle moves on slowly down towards the other tribe. I ask what was said and Matthieu says to not bother with it. We keep walking and get to the entrance of the camp and we turn left and walk by homes, some are still pretty rough looking, others are brick and cement. Matthieu keeps looking over his shoulder.

We talk about employment. Unemployment in the camp is around 90%. No one will hire a Bedouin. The kids can work in the fields surrounding the camp for 3+ dollars a day. They pool their funds and life goes on. He has been able to get some microfinance happening for a couple of the families. A honey operation; a delivery service. The costs of microfinancing here is high.
I ask him about the little groupings of tin houses just outside the entrance to the camp and he says that those people are Syrians. Another type of tribe, but not Bedouins. They are living in little tin shelters that are nothing greater the 6-10 feet across, back to back with a three foot dirt/sewage walk way between the rows of shacks. The bathrooms on the outskirts and look like outdoor showers that we would create in the woods while camping. Some plastic and anything else they could find to create a little privacy.

We get to the end of the camp and turn down another road and he stops and says he can’t go anymore. Needs a rest. Matthieu’s heart is giving him some pain. He suffered a heart attack a few months ago. He continues to push himself physically and is suffering more that he should allow himself to suffer. The last few days I’ve seen him struggle with strength. Pray for him as you read this.

We rest. We talk about his dreams for his family, for the Bedouins.

On the way back we pass a wide open grassy area that is not being used for anything right now. I ask him what this is to be. He tells me that about 10 years ago this Bedouin tribe were living in the same type of tin make shift housing that the current Syrian tribe is in, and it was in this area. Over that time, we got them moved into permanent structures of bricks and concrete that you see most of them now living in. He tells me about the time when they (he) was finally able to clean this area up and get rid of the tin structures and clean up all the sewage and filth that existed.

As we get close to the compound we finish talking about the things I wrote about in the previous blog regarding compassion. These people do not want compassion that comes from pity. If they receive any compassion, they would as that it be out of love.

A long day, but a good one.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Wedding Feast Joy

The day is done. I won’t get this up to my blog for another day because Kathleen and I have relocated to one of the Bridges of Love Team’s home near the Bedouin camp. Up to this time we have been traveling back and forth each night from Beirut. It takes about an hour and 20 minutes to cover 50km. Back and forth, up and down, start and stop, HONK! HONK!, no traffic lights, no lanes, many check points, . . . and about 4 million other vehicles in similar motion.

So the day after the day doing loops between the bed and the bathroom went okay. I woke up feeling feverish but at least the stomach had settled down and I was good to go for the day. I remember distinctly waking up to a deep yearning for a piece of toast with some butter. Not a toaster or loaf in sight. Every piece of bread here has a weird shape and it would be sin to attempt to toast any of it, I’m sure. I never accomplished much today for the team but I was vertical and walking. Jordan dehan!

I had many people praying for me and I was so grateful. I’m writing this at the end of the day and I don’t think I have any symptoms right now. Wow! Thank you Lord!

I’ve been thinking a lot about what we are doing here and wonder about our North American ideas of compassion. Do we have compassion that’s birthed out of pity on those who have far less than us? Or is our compassion of another form? One that sees suffering in a fellow human and we choose to serve that person out of respect? Respect or pity?

I think our general way is pity until you come face to face with that other human being that is suffering in some way (in our limited perception of suffering, these people would not see themselves as suffering) and you come to know them, their hopes and dreams, and in that encounter you begin to see that they are far greater than you. They are far more adjusted to the circumstances of life around them that you ever would be. They have far more faith for their daily needs than you have, and they have far more love and compassion to give away than you have. You come to have a great deal of respect for them and out of that sense their greatness.

I think Philippians 2:1-5 corrects all our thinking on this matter. It states that as we come into a full realization of the unity that we have been given in Christ, and having experienced the comfort of His love, and have come to deeply know His tenderness and compassion, that we are compelled, not by duty but by a deep seated desire to do likewise to absolutely every person we encounter. (Freely we have received, freely give.) Value every person you encounter as greater than yourself. Out of this view comes the love and respect that is due these people we meet here in Lebanon. It’s out of this view that I can love my neighbour or that person in my life that causes me grief, etc. You name yours. I’ll name mine.

The day has passed and I’m left thinking that these wonderful people, the Bedouins, will be among the greatest in heaven. As they come to love Jesus like I have, they have more courage, more faith and more passion for the things of Jesus than I could ever hope to have. It will be an honour for me to meet them at the wedding table where I hope to have the privilege of serving them as they sit close to where our Saviour is seated.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cedars of Lebanon

5:30am now. Yesterday was not a good day. I woke up sick with a bug I picked up some where the day before. Might have been some food, don’t know. So early morning I started heaving . . . and other things . . . . hoping that everything will be okay by 9:30 when we leave for a tour of the cedars of Lebanon. Something I’ve been looking forward to for a couple of months.
It was not to be. The fever just got stronger.

So my day was filled with sleep, bathroom runs . . . and attempts to get as much water into my body as possible. The team got back last night about 7:30pm and they had a great time. They had communion under some cedars. There were some Bedouin believers that came as well.
Cedars are amazing trees. Did you know that the temple was built with cedars? Cedar walls, cedar ceiling, cedar beams. Everywhere but the floor, which was juniper (1Kings 6:14). The temple always portrays the presence of God. If you wanted to be near to God you would go to the temple. I love the smell of cedars and so every time I have an opportunity to breath in this aroma I take it all in slowly. It reminds me of God’s presence.

I like the picture of repentance in Hosea 14 where God’s response is to heal, love and be like the dew. Dew brings blessings and growth to everything it encompasses. And it’s complete and all encompassing. It’s like God is saying that he will bless me fully with his presence.

Hosea goes on to say that the repentant heart will be like a cedar of Lebanon. Fragrant and regal. A cedar that is continually growing upward, ever increasing in strength. A sweet fragrance to God and everyone that passes by. And with this great size comes the ability to be a great shade to others providing relief and comfort from the elements. This is quite an amazing thought. If I have a repentant heart, the impact is far more reaching than just my own life. I will be used in the lives of others to provide comfort and peace.

I wish to be like a cedar. Full of God’s presence, fragrant, full of beauty, having value and providing shade to others. To be rooted as a cedar where I am unmovable in my faith. To have the same vigour as one of these great cedars where new shoots are always presenting themselves and leading to new growth.

The Lord will be like the dew, I will be like the cedars. All that I am as a cedar comes from his ever abiding presence.

When I feel like I’ve been robbed of my beauty, filthy from sin, He restores beauty.

When I feel robbed of my strength, feeling week an unable to continue, He restores strength.

When I feel robbed of my value, feelings of worthlessness, He restores value.

This is a picture of great abundance.

I never saw the cedars yesterday but I’m okay with that. Another day perhaps. My day was spent reflecting on God’s presence in my life and the abundant fruit that is promised from such a gift.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Student of Jesus

Up early here in Lebanon. I started writing this around 5:30. Kathleen and I had a bad night’s sleep. I think it was something we ate last night that didn’t quit agree with our stomachs.

Kurtis and I had a great conversation with a fellow yesterday while we were painting. By the way, the Arabic word for “painter” is “dehan”. “De” as in the sound you make for a d. . . . “Du”. . . . and “han” is pronounced “hun”. Dehan. Say it! Dehan. So Kurtas and I were a couple of dehans yesterday. So you wouldn’t say “Jordan the dehan”, you would just say “Jordan dehan”. It’s got a ring to it that Kurtis Dehan does not. I was proud of that and Kurtis spent most of his day laughing at it all. Okay, maybe me too.

So back to the conversation with this young fellow. This young man is 28 and loves Jesus. We use the term “follower of Jesus” and he uses the term “student of Jesus”. That was sweet. So we get talking about marriage and discovered that all three of us would be shamed in their culture. I’ve got no boys (Faye and Ami! I love and adore you! No need for a boy!) and both Kurtis and the young man are single at such an old age. The importance of having a family here is huge and not just in a Muslim culture, we are talking about a larger culture that encompasses many people groups here in Lebanon. When I sit around the table with Matthieu and Siham I am struck by the family atmosphere, the love for one another, and the attention they give one another. It’s very hard to describe.

This young man is a Bedouin. There are few believers among their tribe. His heart is determined to find a women that has the same heart as he does towards Jesus. A student of Jesus. The rarity of a female believer is much higher than finding a man that has become a believer. In this culture the men come to Christ first, then the family follows but the wife has to confront the fears and realities of telling her Muslim parents what she has done. Because the life of a female is less than that of a male, it is not a safe thing to do. So Kurtis and I were able to drop our dehan titles for a while and prayed for him and asked Jesus to bless him with a wonderful wife that was a student of Jesus like he was.

If you think you can, please take a moment right now to pray with me for this young man.

(Maybe Kurtis too!)


Friday, August 28, 2009

Grace filled life

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit with a group of men, of which one of them was a brand new believer. We had a great discussion on grace and what it means to be fully forgiven, no atonement needed as Christ took care of that for us on the cross. Muslims look at sin as something that must always be compensated for. So if I steal from someone, what would be an offsetting act of goodness that I could do to compensate for that sin? When a new believing Muslim comes to understand the grace that has been gifted to him, they are completely set free.

So I was blessed to spend time with a young man that was flying high because of this new knowledge. He was full of the joy of the Lord. Today when I go to the camp I hope to see him again.

Yesterday was a good day.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Birds on a wire

I’m sitting on a balcony right now at Matthieu’s home in Beirut at5 about 6:00am. I’m high on a hill so I can see all of Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea stretching out in the west as far as I can see before the heavy smog envelopes it. I’m in the “Christian” area. Everything is sectioned off. It’s a beautiful city from where I sit, yet full of pain and suffering in each of the segregated areas. The fighting and loss of life throughout the city remains evidenced through the ruins on the hill side and throughout the city.

I’m just sitting here reflected on my day yesterday. I was shovelling some gravel in the “back yard” of the compound. Well, back yard as in a gravel pit with a bit of sewage residue, some tin, and wood with nails. They have plans to make this a playground for the children that would come to the school. It’s a space that is maybe 12 feet by 30 feet. Sewer drain at one end. So a few of us were cleaning up and I finished alone with some gravel levelling using a shovel they had there. Along the side of this area is a wall that is about 4 feet high separating the compound from the rest of the Bedouin camp. I’m working at one end and I finish and turn around and there is about 8 kids from the camp sitting, some standing, on the wall. They are all watching me and laughing and giggling. Being my usual social self with plenty of charisma (NOT), I decided to visit with them for a while.

They were so full of life. They knew a little English because they had attended the school last year. They were all shapes and sizes. Little ones that might have been 2 and older ones that might have been 8. One little guy tried to get me to say “tree” in Arabic. It sounded something like Zeus. They all laughed at my attempt and then they started to throw other words at me, many words coming at me, two or three at a time. I started to laugh and that made it all the funnier for them. It got worse.

(No one is around, just me and the kids and I felt like time had just suspended itself for this moment to continue as long as I would allow it)

Then the little guy that taught me how to say tree also decided to tell me how to say “nose”. I think it was something like miloucah . . . . Yah, no kidding. They laughed, I laughed. I might have even let out the odd giggle, but I was glad no else was there to catch that. Then the usual head, eye, nose, ear, mouth, teeth discussion ensued. I was lost.

One little girl was sitting at the end of the wall. (They are all perched up on the wall like a bunch of birds on a wire. The compound where I was working was off limits to them so they stayed on the wall.) She just sat there smiling through all of the conversation and so I finally worked my way down the wall to speak with her and asked her what her name was. She was maybe 3. She said something that sounded like Helen. But it had something a little extra in it, but no mind, she became Helen to me. The one name that almost made sense to me!

They couldn’t get my name. I don’t know how many times I said Jordan. I found out later that if I would have dropped the “J” they would have instantly got it because they pronounce the Jordan River and the country without the “J”.

Matthieu showed up a little later to kick start time again and ran back to get the video camera. He returned and caught a few moments. Perhaps someday you might get a glimpse of my time with these kids if the video makes it back home.

My heart was lifted and I headed for home that night with a smile and a great memory.


At the camp

First day in Lebanon we got a tour of downtown Beirut. So many ruins all around from the war in the eighties. Bullet holes still in the structures although some have been resurfaced or restored where necessary. Homes still in ruins on the hill sides. The history here is both amazing and intriguing. If you are interested, check out the war details at

So after an amazing speedy drive through traffic with no lights, no lane markings, with a million vehicles scampering two ways, sometimes four, we made it to the crest of the Lebanon Mountains where we could see the Bekaa Valley spread out for miles running north and south in front of us. Syria to the east, Israel to the south. Matthieu explains to us along the way all of the internal and external strife that still exists and lays percolating just below the surface.

As we get down into the valley we get to the town of Saadnayel and having passed through it we came to a little community on the outskirts, a Bedouin tribe. As we drive down the road toward the camp we see a few kids, maybe 6, playing in the ditch alongside the road. The ditch has a little water and then some garbage floating on the top. They all stand up and with curious smiling faced they check us out as we pass by.

We pass more kids, they seem happy and content with their lot.

Once inside the compound we are greeted by the chief, and given the royal tour of his compound which includes a community centre ( a room where chapel can be head), washrooms that needed some TLC, okay, a LOT of TLC, and 5 school rooms for the children, whose school year begins near the end of September. We receive some tea that is loaded with sugar, and then a second course of very strong coffee. A coffee that tasted something like I’ve had before in Jamaica. (I’ve had a few cups now and I think it’s growing on me!)

Then to the roof. From there you can see the camp and the many types of housing structures that are used. Some are tin shelters, and then a few sheds that are covered with large canvases or tin, anything to stop the rain during the winter season. A few goats and cows spot the camp and then of course is the widespread impact of sewage running freely throughout the camp. A trough was built some time ago, but it overflows into the land where the kids play and the homes are erected. Remember the picture of the kids playing in the ditch with a little water and garbage? Well, the water is not all water. We see the farmers, (not the Bedouins) watering the crops at the outskirts of the camp and we are thinking that we could just drill some wells for water. But we were informed that the tests showed that even out that far the water is contaminated and no good for consumption. Many of the men have a job working for minimal wages to bring home to the family. From what I can tell, work is very important to them. The majority of the camp is Muslim with a few believers mixed into the group. We serve them all when we will begin working on the classrooms and bathrooms.

These people are lovely and gracious. I am fighting to remember their names correctly, but will keep trying. My mind is on major intake right now as I consider all that is happing here in the camp and with my friend Matthieu. I trust that as I learn about life and God’s heart within this environment, God will use me in some small way.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Flight time

(on a plane, posted after arrival)

Matchbox city up here.

Heading to Doha. It’s about a 13-14 hour flight from Houston. We’ve got about 3 hours left. I’m amazed at the stats you can get on these things. Some computer feeds the screen in front of me with the altitude, the air speed, the temperature outside. It’s -55 Celsius. Like I care. It’s a balmy 21 inside, slight breeze, food, movies, music, cute blond with glasses . . .

I wonder if the plane goes down whether all the stats are still displayed on the screen in front of me. The big dip in the altitude, the temperature changes, the ground gets closer .... Do they have preloaded a jpeg of a plane with an engine burning or a plane with no wing? I would have. Why not sim it in real time. Take the mind off one’s immediate problems.

I’m going South-East-East right now.

Listening to Pink Floyd . . . D’oh! I just let you know too much.

Okay, now worship music on my iPod.

If you ever get a chance to fly Qatar Airlines then take it. This is great service. They treat you like a prince with all the stuff they give you. When I got on they had a pillow and a blanket on my seat. Imagine that, not having to ask for one. Amazing. Then they gave me a little pouch with some socks, a toothbrush and some paste, an eye mask for sleeping, . . . and something else I can’t remember. Then before dinner they brought each person a hot washcloth for you to wash your hands and boy did it feel good on the face. Too bad for those with makeup!

They just brought me a Tim Horton’s coffee!

Okay, I won’t do that again. Just the thought! It’s going to be 15 days before I taste another one of those.

Okay, breakfast time.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Off to Lebanon

Well, today Kathleen and I are off to Lebanon. I’ve had so many things in the air that I’ve been juggling that I’ve not really had much time to think about this trip and what it might mean to me, Kath, or Matthieu and Siham (the couple we have come to know and love form Lebanon leading the NGO – Bridges of Love). I suppose I’ll have some time on the plane! I think we are 4-5 hours to Huston, then a one hour overlay and then 15 hours to Doha, Qatar. We stay the night and then off to Beirut the next day. Yep, lots of time to think.

The team of 9 will be working on a dilapidated old school building for a Bedouin camp. We will fixing and painting. Then once some of the rooms get painted, Kath gets to go in and paint some murals. She is really looking forward to that! Another lady with us, Rita, will be helping Bridges of Love with their web site. I’ll also get to work closely with Matthieu and his team doing some leadership development and some strategic ministry planning.

Also in the mix of all that, we will be putting on a Children’s Program, a Women’s Program and a Men’s Program. I can fill you in a little more about that later.

So I actually have my bags packed, and just a couple odds and ends to do before I head to the airport. It feels a little weird!

You can follow us on the trip through this blog, the team blog perhaps Anton’s blog (not sure on his).

Later ...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Things That Are Not

This past Tuesday I was reading Romans 4 and came to verse 17 where Paul states that Abraham was our father in the sight of God. God – who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

Romans 4:17 (TNIV) As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

I’ve always looked at this verse as a statement that God gives life to us through Jesus and then the part about "calling into being things that are not" was primarily a statement declaring God as creator. It’s all of this, but it became more for me this day as I read on into the next few verses.

As I read down to verse 19 I realized that when Paul talked about being dead in verse 17 he was referencing Abraham and Sarah. Abraham’s aged body was as good as dead and could not provide the seed necessary for an offspring. Sarah’s womb was also dead because of her age. Yet because of Abraham’s faithfulness to God, God called into being that which was not – that being Isaac!

I have experienced times in my life where I felt completely spent with nothing left to give. Perhaps you’ve had those feelings as well. Where you have moments when you question your significance or your ability to actually make a difference in your own life, the life of your family, or place of work.

These verses refreshed my spirit this week because I know that if I remain faithful to God in what he has given to me regardless of how I feel in the moment, then He will use it to call into being that which is not. . . . No, Kath and I are not planning more children. But I am confident that God is great and it’s in Him that I move and have my life and out of my faithfulness to Him he will call into being that which He needs to accomplish his good plan. I play a part in God’s story of redeeming mankind.

God chooses the foolish things and the weak things of this world (that would be me) to express His greatness to this world. I’ve been found secure in Christ, who is my righteousness, holiness and redemption. So I’m going to boast in my God all the days of my life, especcially in the middle of my weakknesses. (1 Cor 27-31)


9 for 49

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Books Books Books!

I read a few books while I was on vacation. Here is a quick recap in case you want to pick one of them up.

The Furious Longing Of God by Brennan Manning
This was a fun read. I’ve got a few of his books and this one is my second favorite of all of his books.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
A novel of a young lady looking for some inner peace from being abandoned by a mother and raised by a mean father. Good, not too mushy.

Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger
Great book on understanding the things we need consider in today’s post-modern age. I’ll reference this book often. Talks a lot about creating environments where life growth can happen. I’ll be getting my pastoral staff to read this book.

A Class with Drucker by William A. Cohen
A great leader’s book. Most of this I’ve heard before, but there was a couple of gems that will change the way I lead and my way forward in life. I’ll test some of it and begin to practice it a bit before I blog on it.

Quantum – A Guide for the Perplexed by Jim Al-Khalili
I love this book. I’m not quite done yet, but it’s so much fun to read. If you want to read a book that is as close to the laymen’s language as possible, if that is even possible, to the world of quantum mechanics then this is the book to read. Quantum Mechanics fascinates me and is one of the most important theory’s known to man about our world and its sub-atomic structure. If I ever write a book it’ll be called Quantum Leadership. You would think they don’t go together but I am finding so many parallel lessons. To get a taste of what I am talking about then read anything my Margaret J. Wheatley. I'll be blogging on this kind of stuff.

Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott
This is a great book. I’m not done yet, but what I’ve read through so far is very helpful in understanding the technological age we are in, and what that means in how we communicate and stay relevant with the new generations coming up behind us. I’ll be recommending this one to my “older” pastoral staff.

Axiom by Bill Hybels
Has many things in it that I've already gleaned from listening to Bill over the years. If you've never had much opportunity to hear Bill, then this would become a valuable resource for you as a leader.

Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, 1 Peter, 1 Timothy
All good stuff. Books of life. Pick these up for sure.


8 for 31

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pain and Sacrifice!

While we were gone over the last two weeks in Phoenix we had our 30th anniversary. (Maybe that’s where that last post came from!) I thought I would do something special for Kath on that day so I decided that the best think I could do for her would be to pluck my nose hairs. Oh the pain and sacrifice! I sneeze every time I do this, and then I always give up. But this day, this was the one day when I would suck it up and completely finish the dirty deed.

So I did it.

I was so proud of myself.

We had a great day planned. Some shopping, a really nice lunch planned, and a few other things we had on our list. It would be a great day. So we get in the car and I can’t contain myself anymore for fear that she would not notice my nose. So I said, “You know dear, I pulled all my nose hairs this morning for you so that they were not sticking out.” She looked at me and smiled and said, “Oh, that’s so special sweetheart.” She had that look that suggested to me that she was half smirking and half appreciative of my efforts. It was enough for me to grin and feel good about myself and the huge sacrifice I had made.

I’m sitting in the driver’s seat during this little conversation, waiting to fire up the car and start the day. After my revealing announcement I see she is still smiling and admiring my efforts, and then I see her eyes go from my nose to my right ear and she says, “Dear, you missed the ears.” I laughed. Oh well, I thought to myself, perhaps next year I can take care of that for her.

I’m loosing my hair off the top and it’s all coming out the front and sides! What’s with that!

Sure this all sounds a little silly, but as you grow older with someone, and your love deepens, it’s the little things we do for each other that become more pronounced and appreciated rather than the big gifts I use to round up for her when I was younger. You can actually get points for just doing a simple thing for your wife. Amazing! And I’m sure that if I look around during my day, there are a lot of simple things I can do for her.

I think the simple things we give one another speak of something far deeper than anything large we could ever do. We don’t need to impress each other, but we do need to love, care and respect each other.

We are both content to do the little things for each other now. It feels good.

8 for 27

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's going to be a good day

One day last week in Phoenix I got up early and headed to a local coffee shop. I was sitting there at 7:00am with my coffee and reading a great book. I’m at a table against the window where the morning sun is pouring in and it felt warm and great. Everything was perfect. Coffee, book, sun, music on low, I think Leona Lewis.

I looked up from my book and just outside my window a couple drives up in a Jeep Cherokee. He parks the car and they talk for a minute. They are maybe 55ish.

I have one of those moments where everything went into slow motion and I became aware of everything that was happening around me. So I start watching this play unfold in front of me. He opens his door and gets out. She’s not moving, just sitting there quietly with a peaceful look on her face. He heads towards the back of the vehicle and walks around to the other side. Not fast, not slow, just the right speed like he was thinking. It’s like he was in this special moment enjoying the full experience of having the opportunity to show a bit of kindness and affection to someone of great value.

He arrives at her door and opens it for her, she steps out like the queen she is and stands up front of him and looks at him and then smiles. This was no special occasion to hold the door open, it was just coffee. But it was as if this was the norm for them. It looked like they just didn’t know any other way.

They walk together to the coffee shop. They are not walking like they are on a mission to have coffee. It’s like their mission was just to be together. There was something quite poetic about it all.

I had to turn my head and shoulders around so that I could still watch them as they approached the door to the coffee shop. Again, he opens the door for her. She steps in. It was then that I suddenly realized that my time with them had ended and so I reluctantly turned around and was once again with my coffee, a bit of sun and my book.

I think that today needs to be different than yesterday for me. I am going to show some kindness and affection to my wife and treat her like the queen that she is. Today I get to be in her presence. I’m sure it’ll be a good day. Tomorrow too!

EEKKIHSKEKEKEESKKKEKK!!!! (The sound of a turntable record that is being stopped and scratched)

Sheesh! I can’t believe I wrote that mushy stuff! Someone get me a beer!

Okay, I wrote it. But don’t go thinking I’m all mushy and stuff. I'm still going to have a great day with my wonderful wife.


7 for 24
No Tim’s yesterday. Sadness.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Back Up Plan?

So I’ve been away from home for that past two weeks and have had all kinds of Internet withdrawal fits. I’ve got a couple of posts to catch up on with some of my thoughts over those two weeks and then maybe I’ll get back down to business with something worth reading.

We came home yesterday on a flight that has those “two” compartments for all the people. You know the ones I’m talking about, first class and second class. Have you ever noticed getting on one of these flights and it’s just a natural thing to look at all the people you are passing on either side of you? But as you pass through the first class, these people are sitting comfortably in their spacious seats with lots of leg room and they are not looking at you. Heads down, they are attempting to read a book or a newspaper, working on a laptop, maybe sleeping (like as if you could sleep with 200 people walking by you), but absolutely anything they can grab right away so that they don’t have to catch your eye. Total avoidance! I’m thinking that they are either suffering from a huge case of guilt or they got attitude. I’m hoping the former.

As soon as you get by them and into the second class area, everyone is getting settled in with all the hustle and bustle. At least half are settled and are now looking at all those coming down the aisle wondering who might be sitting beside them. You can catch half of them directly eye to eye. It’s like they are thinking, “Hey, look who’s one of us!” And you’re walking down the aisle, aware of the first class area you just passed through, and you’re thinking, “Hey, I’m one of you guys!”

And then we all get nicely settled …. and the curtain closed.

I’m sitting there listening to the schpeel on preparing for a disaster, and there is a little sign on the back of the seat in front of me that says “Use your seat cushion as a floatation device if we go down over water.” (Or some such statement.) I’m thinking, so what do they get up there? They don’t have that sign! They must get one of those yellow floatation vests that go around your neck and keep you bobbing upright in the water. We get a square rubber cushion to hang on to as we try to keep our noses up and out of the water. They get a little cord to pull, and then a little back up hose to blow in if it fails. What’s our back up plan?

I laughed and then had a sleep. I was just thankful that I was only a few hours away from a Tim Horton’s’.


7 for 24

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Where did it all go?

Every wonder where all the rubber goes that wears off of the car tires?

Let’s use some conservative numbers here.

We’ll consider Highway 2 here in Alberta.

Using the stats provided from the province for 2007, there is an average of 91 million kilometers driven over the course of a year by all vehicles traveling various distances between Calgary and Edmonton. Don’t believe me? Here, you figure it out.

The average tire, (conservative at that) is a 16 inch tire that has 8.5 inches of tread. That means that if a tire looses .5 inches before it’s no longer useful, every tire would expel 335 cubic square inches of rubber. That’s also assuming that you could condense it all back into a hard form, but in reality, it’s now dust and could never be packed that tight. But for argument sake, let’s leave it as 335 cubic square inches per tire.

The average tire lasts about 70,000 kilometers.

So 91 million kilometers divided by 70,000 = 1300 sets of tires were wore out.

Every vehicle has at least 4 tires. We should be averaging more, but we will leave it at 4 to stay conservative.

So 1300 times 4 tires times 335 cubic square inches equals 1,742,000 cubic square inches or 1008 cubic square feet of rubber.

In a single year.

That’s a solid block of rubber that is about 10 feet by 10 feet by 10 feet. This is assuming it’s a solid mass. But it’s not. It all came off as dust so it would take up even more space. More than likely double.

Where is it!?

Where was it for 2007, and where did it go for 2008? Where did it go for all those prior years?

I’m thinking we should start seeing it somewhere.

And every year it just keeps getting worse.

So if we don’t see it in the ditches then maybe its floating around in the air.

Next time I drive somewhere I’m holding my breath till I get there! How about you?


5 for 18

Friday, February 27, 2009

The "Stuff" of Life

I had breakfast this morning with a friend. Our discussion reminded me of something I learned before I started in this role, thanks to one of my sisters. She pointed me towards the parable of the bags of gold from Matthew 25 (and Luke 19) where the master gave out 5, 2 and 1 bags of gold to three of his servants. Ever since I read this as a kid I viewed it as this lump sum of “stuff” we get as a human being to do life with, and when it’s all said and done and we have to give an accounting of our life, then God comes and determines your future state in heaven.

She pointed out to me that, no, it really means that what God has entrusted to me today, he expects me to use it well, and if I do, He comes along side of me and says “Well done, let’s go again!” There is also an implied partnership that should not be lost in these verses, but that’s a thought for another day.

So after she said this, my whole life flashed before my eyes where I saw myself in all of the various roles and jobs that I had experienced. I thought about my personal growth and the things I had learned through the good times and the not so good times, the increase in responsibilities that I had been entrusted with from job to job and also from role to role within the church setting. This was so cool because I saw all the points (I see charts and graphs in my head often!) where God had come alone side of me and said “Well done, let’s go again!”

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. While I had been trustworthy with what God had given me, I was in no way intentional about how I invested my “stuff”. My progress was completely done out of an intuitive mind set to seek out that which is greater than the last. It was the first time in my life where I sat down and had a good look at my “stuff” that God had given to me and ask the question, could I get a greater return that what I was currently getting? (This also implies an increase in risk! Right, another topic for another day).

Since this time I’ve come to land on three things that must happen in order to be highly intentional in my investments of the “stuff” God has entrusted to me.

1. I must know that which He has given to me. For me it’s leadership, administration and discernment. If you don’t know your “stuff” then get on with the search.

2. I must have a usage plan for each one of the gifts I’ve been given. We all have a number of roles we live and breathe within. A mom, a dad, husband, wife, volunteer roles, work related roles. If you think about it, you have huge opportunities all around you to exercise your gifts and be intentional about using them. When you get intentional, you’ll find yourself having out of body experiences where you are watching yourself doing things that blow you away. Often we are looking for that perfect “role” to make us happy and feel fulfilled, but in reality, using your gifts in the “now” will be instant satisfaction.

3. I must have a growth plan. Part of growth comes when God comes along side of you and say’s let’s go again and He throws you into something that is big and scary. You’ll always grow this way. But a large part of the growth comes from being in the moment, using your gifts and seeing the things you could do well and the things you could do better. It comes from reading and studying about your giftedness. It comes from observing others with similar gifts. It comes from trial and error. It comes from evaluating failure and success. I’ve discovered that the greatest growth spurts come from walking through a tough time. Every tough time presents itself with two opportunities for growth. One happened in the middle of the tough time where if you are aware, you get to test-drive your gift in new ways. Second opportunity comes after the tough time is over and you can take some reflective time thinking about what just happened and what you learned about yourself.

Be intentional with what God had entrusted to you here today. Enjoy it! If you are, then it will open up the path for God to give you even bigger things down the road. Don’t concern yourself with what’s next. It’ll be bigger than you can possibly imagine.


1 for 10

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Butter, Honey, and Crumbs

My mom is not doing so well these days. I was thinking about her today and some of my favorite memories.

We use to drive mom crazy before bed time. Us three boys would fight and carry on (just goofing around) and mom would get madder and madder because we were not going to bed. Sooner or later she would go to the cupboard and pull out the strap. A wide thick leather strap about a foot and a half long (or at least what my mind remembers it looked like).

We would all squeal and get scared and start running up the stairs and she would be chasing us, following us up the stairs too. Before she made it to the top she would start laughing and so would we. We never did get the strap (at least what I can remember) and we always went to bed once the little charade was over.

Mom was a great cook and many times we would come home and there would be fresh bread on the counter. Still warm. Mom is “fresh baked bread” for me. The aroma is so awesome. One day I came home alone from school to fresh bread. 6 loafs . . . They were still warm. . . No one was around. . . I love crusts. . . Mom’s crusts. Well, I proceeded to cut off all the crusts on all the loaves. Crusts, butter, honey and me. It was great.

I cleaned up all the evidence (butter, honey, and crumbs) and just walked away like I was never there. All was okay until later that night.



0 for 6

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Morning Blessing

This morning I was reading Job 1-3.

Satan says to God, “So, does Job fear God for nothing?”

And then God allows Satan to take everything away from Job. His oxen, camels, sheep, donkeys and even his children. Completely gone. Nothing left. What does Job so? He falls to the ground and worships God.

So I started to think hard on this. Do I fear God for nothing? If I lost all that I have, would I fall on my face before God and worship Him? In verse 2:10 Job responds to his wife, who had asked him to curse God, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”

If I had my dear sweet Faye and Ami taken from me, would I fall on my face and worship God?

If I lost my job, the house I live in, my wonderful wife, would I fall on my face and worship God?

If everything was gone, and I was left standing alone with just my pain and grief, would I still fall on my face and worship God?

Then I looked out the window and it was snowing and looked cold. I pictured myself out there in it, on my knees worshiping God, having no place to go, nothing to eat, still in my pain. But I was with God.

Is it enough for me to know God and to be known by Him? Is it enough for just me with my creator? What would keep me going in that moment? Would it be my total fear of an awesome God who holds me in the palm of His hand and can do whatever He wills with me?

Lord, today I want to thank you for all your blessings and want you to know that I appreciate all that you have given to me. But Lord, today I also want my fear of you to be deepened, knowing that I am yours to do with as you wish, and knowing that even in times of trouble, you love me and I’ll always safe in the palm of your hand.

So then in that moment of prayer I’m wakened to the sound of my cell phone ringing. I jumped up with a start and raced to pick it up so my wife doesn’t wake up. It’s a friend. He said he wanted to pray for me. So he did.

He prayed that I would have insight into God’s will for me that day. He prayed that I would have super natural wisdom and have the courage to follow through on whatever God would have me do today. Then he prayed that I would have a blessed day at work. He prayed blessings on my children, my wife, my home, my health. He wanted God to bless me in a great way. His last words were “Bless you”.

How can I not fear a God who knows me deeply, knows where I am and what I’m reading and thinking about. A God that summons His child to make a phone call so that He could speak into my moment in a profound way. This is such a God to fear.

I just sat in awe at what God just gave me. It was God coming close to me and saying, “Your safe with me, I know you fear me and nothing else, and this day I choose to bless you.” And then I got on my knees and worshiped Him.


0 for 3

Monday, February 23, 2009

Canadian Travesty

So a few years ago I sent this little note into the Calgary Sun and they printed it in the letters to the editor section. It was a time when Chretien was our PM and the liberals were spending way to much time on whether or not to leagalize pot.


Canadian Travesty

Well the great coffee scurry has finally come to an end for yet another spring at Tim Horton’s. It seems like only a few short days ago when I drove up to the window with buzzed (perhaps a coffee rush from the day before) anticipation of sipping from my first cup of the season, looking forward to that great taste topped off with a chance to Roll-Up-The-Rim-And-Win.

After a few wins and a few weeks, I think all Canadians start to feel the extra caffeine taking over their vital systems, which also including the staff at Tim’s. During the last week of the contest, on three different occasions and from two different Tim’s, I had just finished lapping up my last drop of coffee looking forward to the roll only to find my rim had already been rolled! I can’t tell you the devastation, violation, and feelings of deep depression that descended on my spirit. Somebody’s dirty fingers had touched my rim!

Somebody’s cheated me out of my free something-or-other! What do I do?! Who do I call?! Where do I go!? Is this something Chretien should deal with or is he busy with the pot thing!? Next year, Tim, please keep you fingers off my rims!

Jordan Polson

It was fun to write and even funner when they picked it up and printed it. I ran out and bought a few copies, which I still have today. A proud moment for sure. I have absolutely no idea what to do with them today!


0 for 1

Joy and Happiness!

Roll Up The Rim To Win!

What a great day!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Who Supports Me?

So I finished the book and wanted to bring forward for you one of the last chapters because it’s made me think a lot in the last three days. In chapter 24 Maxwell asked us to think about those that support us. I think you could do some translations from work to family to life in general, but I’ll talk here mostly from the context of my role and the staff that I lead at the church.

What kinds of support people do I have working for me? When I went through all of these questions I was able to plug a lot of my staff into them. So I’ll give you the questions and then talk a little at the end.

Who supports me at work?

Time Relievers – These are the people that save me time.

Gift Complementors – These are the people who do things I am not gifted to do and make up for those areas I am lacking. I need a lot of these kind of people!

Team Players – These are the people who add value to me and my team. They continue contribute and see themselves as part of something greater than just their own role.

Creative Thinkers – These are the people who solve problems and give me options. I can never get enough of these people and so I am always facilitating brainstorming sessions. I have my special people that I really love having at the table.

Door closers – These are the people who complete assignments with excellence. When I delegate something or create a project that get’s handed over, they bat it out of the park every time.

People developers – These are the people who develop and raise up other leaders and producers. Check out my other post here on Trading Up where I talk a bit about addition vs. multiplication.

Servant Leaders – These are people who lead with the right attitude. I’ve got a whole host of these kinds of people here.

Mind Stretchers – These are the people who expand my thinking and my spirit. Sometimes they create tension for me, but it’s always creative tension and never negative tension. I have come to really love these people in my life.

Relational Networkers – These are the people who bring other people into my life who add value to me. I’m really lacking people in my life that do this for me. This is the one area that I need to so some further thinking about to determine how I can acquire these kinds of people in my life.

Spiritual Mentors – These are the people who encourage me in my faith walk. I think I also need more of these kinds of people. They are hard to find in person. I have a few authors that give me substance, but not so much that one on one mentor.

Unconditional Lovers – These are the people who know my weaknesses, yet love me unconditionally. I need people in my life that I know are "for" me. I have a few of these. I’m thankful.

I am so grateful for my staff and from reading this chapter I realized even more all the wonderful people I get to work with. I’m not so good at letting them know how much I appreciate them, and with this list I’m actually able to put some verbiage around how they bless me.

I’ve gone through each of these types and wrote down the names of some of the people on my staff in those areas where they bless me. Over the next month I’m going to make sure they know what I think about them and how I appreciate them. Call me on it a month down the road and see how I did.

On to another book ...

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