The Power of Legacy

This video was filmed for the Alberta/NWT Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada Minister’s Gathering last week. I was happy to share about David Demchuk, a godly man who has left a legacy of leadership in my life. He mentored me in my early years of ministry, and his wisdom still rings in my ears as I pastor today.

Thank you Dave!

Who has left a legacy in your life?

From Weakness to Strength

Living with Anxiety

My buttons were popping with pride and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I was sitting in the front row, and on the platform at our church was my wife Melissa speaking to a gathering of about 150 people. We reversed roles. She was at the microphone and I was in the shadows. Her topic? The yo-yo journey she has been on with a severe anxiety disorder.  Her wrestling match with anxiety since age 11 had the audiences full attention.

Shortly after we met Melissa shared with me that she suffered from an anxiety disorder.  She could have said that she suffered from just about anything. I would not let this cool our romance. She stretched me in so many ways, and as far as I knew I was more than up for any challenge she may throw my direction. So what if she got anxious from time to time? I was able to convince her to go on both roller coasters at the Pacific National Exhibition (even I was anxious about that!) and she would ride on elevators with me, something she had avoided for years. I figured I would break her of this anxiety. It would all work out and smooth over. She could trust me. All would be ok.

We married in December 2004. The world was our oyster, with limitless possibilities of where we might live and what the future might hold in store for us. Shortly thereafter I became the Associate Pastor at North Pointe Community Church, and she finished her Masters of Science in Physical Therapy at the University of Alberta. We were both happy doing the things we loved-helping people our areas of calling. Things were looking up.

The Phone Call.

It seems most bad news comes in the form of an unexpected phone call at the most inopportune time. I was working and in meetings, and Melissa was on her way to visit her parents in nearby Wainwright, Alberta for an overnight stay. Because I was in busy I had my phone on silent and missed the several calls from Melissa and from my brother-in-law Chad. When I finally got through to Chad he assured me that everything was ok, and that Melissa was at their house recovering. She had a massive panic attack and was rendered paralyzed on the side of the highway, unable to drive; unable to think. She thought she would die. Chad was her rescuer, and now I was on my way to pick up the pieces.

To this point Melissa had been very good at covering up her anxiety through prayer and scripture memory, therapeutic exercises, regular medication, and her silver bullet pill called Ativan. Whenever she felt things were unravelling out of control she knew that it would help calm her so that she could move, think, reason. But for the first time it let her down. After taking 5 pills she was still stricken with fear and was unable to move. Her lifeline had let her down. Prayers didn’t work. She had hit a new low.

Tough Times.

Life from that moment got very restricted for her. She had to be around me or her mom for comfort and security. We were her “safe” people. She couldn’t drive in the dark, even with me, and was unable to drive outside of the city by herself. For months I had to drive behind her to the university so she could get to work at the hospital without a full blown panic attack. Not only did her world get small, mine did too. I would be invited to speak at camps, retreats or conferences and would have to turn them down either because she wasn’t mentally able to fly or because the distance that I would be from her was too great. I found myself covering up a lot, and making a lot of excuses. Most people have the same understanding that I had about anxiety. It’s ok, it will go away. You’ll be ok. To mention that my wife couldn’t bear the fact that she was separated from me or her mom, or later, the kids can be difficult to explain. Especially to a Christian crowd.

You see, for years Melissa has prayed, fasted, placed Bible verses up around the house, car and anywhere else they can be seen as a constant reminder of the power and presence of God. She has pleaded for God to remove the anxiety and do a miracle of Biblical proportions. She only heard silence. Even well meaning people added fuel to the fire, some suggested that she needed to pray harder, and truly give this to God. Or perhaps she was oppressed or possessed by the Devil. Mental illness is so desperately misunderstood. People would never say these things to someone who had cancer or a broken leg, but depression, anxiety or any other mental health issue seem to be the realm of the spiritual. After years of this daily battle it led to a crisis of faith. Melissa took a break. Not from God, but from trying so hard. In that time the Lord spoke to her like he did to the Apostle Paul who pleaded that the Lord would remove the thorn in his flesh-evidently a condition in his mind, body or spirit that was overwhelming for him. Melissa’s answer came in the same form as Paul’s; “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Hope.

Now Melissa has chosen to focus less on praying for herself and more on praying for others. She is open to a miracle that would eradicate this anxiety from her mind, but in the meantime she has chosen to reach out to others and share her story. I’m sure it’s painful at times, but she has chosen to embrace her pain in order to bring relief to others. Hers is a story of faith, hope and love. And her ministry is flourishing. I know that God’s strength is being made perfect in this weakness, and she will be the bearer of hope to some of the 20% of Canadians who will deal with a mental health disorder of some sort over the course of the next year.[1]

As for me, I am ashamed that I wasted years feeling resentful, sorry for myself, or even feeling at times that it wasn’t as real as she was making it out to be. I was selfish and ignorant. I just didn’t understand. Thankfully in this weakness of mine the Lord has also given me strength. I am convinced that her “weakness” saved me from over commitment and distraction for our family and ministry. I can now echo with conviction the words of Paul in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” “All things” includes mental illness (and selfishness). Thank God that He is at work in both of our lives.

Now when I look to the future a smile spreads across my face. Once again I realize world is truly our oyster.

 

[1] Smetanin et al (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041.

You CAN Change Your Personal Habits and Leadership!

It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of mediocrity. Even the world’s best and most experienced leaders have to change their leadership style and poor personal habits to stay fresh and relevant. I have seen a real-life example this year in John Tortorella, one of the NHL’s most controversial and polarizing coaches.

Tortorella was famous for his fiery personality. He rarely smiled, and was quick to yell obscenities at opposing players, refs and coaches. Although he has had a winning resume with other teams, the Vancouver Canucks fired him after the dismal 2013/14 season. The team failed to make the playoffs, and his antics, such as trying to brawl the Calgary Flames coach in his dressing room, got him a 15 game suspension from the league. His NHL career was in jeopardy. He was too much of a hothead, and while that style of coaching may have been effective in the past, it wasn’t winning the hearts of his players or management around the league.

But he did get a second chance with the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets. The team has only been able to break through to a playoff spot in two of their fifteen seasons. But this year they have been awesome. They had a 16 game win streak (the second best in league history), and they look to be on course to make a playoff run. What changed? I think it has a lot to do with their reinvented coach.

At age 58, John Tortorella has mellowed out, and he even cracks an occasional smile. He still has a fiery personality, but he has learned to reel it in, and take things in stride. In an interview with thestar.com he revealed that he stepped back and did some evaluation and assessment, and now he lets his human side show through. He even tries to enjoy the wins, something he didn’t do enough in the past.

You Can Change Too!

Do you feel the need to make some changes? Try these proven methods today!

  • Take a breather.

Sometimes when we are in the middle of the rat race it is hard to get perspective. Take a Kit Kat break now! Reflect on areas you are stuck. Consider the issues that continue to hold back your life and leadership.

  • Invite feedback.

Ask a trusted friend or colleague to give you honest feedback. Or open yourself up to a 360 review. You will get unfiltered responses that may kick your butt into reality. Self-evaluation is a first step, but we can easily fool ourselves into thinking we are doing better than we actually are. You need another set of eyes to see the reality of the situation.

  • Make the changes.

Too many times we do nothing with the honest feedback we receive. Maybe it is because of pride, or because we don’t know how to change. Or maybe we don’t know what it will look like if we actually do what seems unnatural to us. The best way to find out is to just do it. What do you have to lose? Your job? You will likely lose it if you DON’T change! Like an old boxer once said, “It’s always better to go down swinging!”

Speaking of boxers, take to heart the inspirational words of Rocky Balboa from the movie Rocky IV: “If I can change and you can change, we all can change!”  If Cold War enemies (and a fiery NHL coach) can change, so can you and me!

Now go get ’em Rocky!

 

 

Make a Fresh Start Every Moment

There is something special about a fresh start, blank slate (what is a slate?), or cleaned desk.

The weight of ‘once was’ is behind us and the potential of ‘what could be’ awaits us. Humans are creative, and we naturally want to better ourselves. That’s why we make New Year’s resolutions each year, either informally in casual conversation, or sketched out in detail in a Moleskine notebook (the way I roll). Here’s my take on fresh starts.

Every day is new.

The writer of Lamentations says “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (3:22-23). This tells me God’s love and mercy are not only new every morning, they are new every MOMENT. He is always with us, always faithful, always holding things together.

What does this mean for us? Every moment is a chance at a fresh start. Gary Vaynerchuk recently posted an Instagram video where he described his love/hate relationship with resolutions. Essentially he said they are good but that we should resolve to be better everyday, not just wait for another year to go by. How silly is it to limit what we can do because of a glass ceiling like the invisible flip of a calendar year?

So, if you are out of shape, don’t wait until tomorrow to take the stairs or walk around the block. Just because there is a big family meal tonight doesn’t mean that you have to toast off a box of chocolates this afternoon.

Each year I set goals, I don’t make resolutions. And I hit a lot of my goals. Of course I miss some, but who cares? When I stumble and fall I dust off, and get back on track. Why limit my own potential when God himself, the Maker and sustainer of the universe is cheering me on to make a difference in my life, family and world?

Now grab a napkin, journal or the back of one of your kid’s drawings and make a plan.

  • Set a goal for your personal life, career and spiritual health…or something like that. I’ll leave it to you to set up your categories.
  • Ask WHY do I want to accomplish this goal? If your why isn’t strong enough you’ll never reach the goal. Move on until something really connects with your why.
  • Make the goal SPECIFIC. “I want to be healthy” is a good goal, but there is no way to measure it. A better goal would be “I want to train to run this 5k race in July.” Enter the race now, put it on your calendar, and Google “How to train for a 5k race.” Then do it.
  • Start now. When you miss a day of reading, exercising, or if you have a slack day at work or lose your temper at home, get back on the horse and ride. Remember…God’s love and mercies are new every MOMENT!
  • Review your goals every week to make sure you are on track. And put them in a place where you can see them.

Now quite surfing the interwebs and get going.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Words that Will Transform your Life

There are very few sure-fire ways that guarantee to improve your life and leadership. But believe me when I say that these two words will be the high-octane fuel you need to go further, faster. These words? Thank you.

I know, you wonder how I can be so naïve to think that a simple “thank you” will be the key to personal transformation? But it is! Hear me out! I won’t bore you with studies (there are plenty) that prove the benefits of thankfulness.  However, I do want you to carefully consider some of these fringe benefits and highlights of a thankful attitude.

Benefits of a Thankful Life

1) Grateful people are more optimistic and happy. Consider how much money people spend each year trying to buy happiness or how many self-help books they read in order to squash negativity. Thankfulness takes care of these issues.

2) Thankful people are less materialistic. Although they have unfulfilled desires, they are mindful of all the good things in their life. This means they are less envious and self-centered.

3) Thankful people don’t expect as much, or don’t feel that the world owes them something. Anger is a by-product of unfulfilled expectations.  But people with an attitude of gratitude don’t expect or demand as much from others. The result? They are kinder, have healthier relationships and they even sleep better.

The net effect? When you are thankful you are healthier, happier and have increased energy.

The Thankful Life Action Plan

Why not give it a try for yourself. This Christmas season call a friend or co-worker and tell them how thankful you are for them. It may be the best gift you could ever give them. And you benefit as well!

As I wrap things up on this post I think it’s a perfect time for me to say thank you for your support over this last year. Many of you have read my book “Sideswiped: Three Keys to a Fresh Start After Suffering a Broken Heart” and have written notes/emails encouraging me to keep writing. You have read and shared my blog posts and have given feedback that has helped me to hone in on the issues you want to hear about.

So because nothing should “go without saying” I am thankful for you, and I look forward to being a small part of your personal growth in the coming year.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours.