Rediscover Your Passion

Pick up a fountain pen and write this down!

I have a confession.

I’m an addict. And the drug of choice is fountain pens.

Ok, all drama aside, I love to write with vintage (and nu skool) fountain pens. The way the ink flows out of the pointed nib onto the paper is reminiscent of something from years gone by-when people actually wrote things by hand in a journal or even on a napkin. The smell of the paper and the ink, along with the feeling of a finely tuned writing instrument ignites the senses.

It was my good friend Dave who got me hooked on pens. You could say that he was my dealer. He is a collector par excellence, and he gave me MANY pens over the years. I used them daily, enjoyed writing with them…and then stopped.

I have no idea why.

Maybe it was because I was busy on my Macbook Pro, or maybe it was because I got lazy and didn’t want to rinse out pens or refill them when they ran out of ink.

Regardless of the reason, I lost the discipline of writing with a fountain pen.

Rekindling the Fire Within

Thankfully, over the last several months I have picked them up again. And now I can’t stop. I write with better clarity through pen and paper than on the computer keyboard, especially in the initial stages of a blog, sermon or book outline. I can draw arrows, cross out words, and scribble little notes and observations in the margins with a pen. Sure, all of this can be done digitally; it’s just not quit the same.

I have rediscovered the joys of handwriting with my MontBlanc, Schaeffer and Lamy pens. And I’m so glad I have. Now I wonder why I stopped in the first place, and why it took so long to get back to them.

What is your “Fountain of Joy?”

Is there an activity, hobby or sport that you have left dormant because of your work, family or general life busyness?

Is your life more greyscale than 4k color?

If so, maybe this is the reminder you need to go back to that love that brought joy and a diversion from the drudgery of the daily grind.

Go Back to Move Forward

In the book of Revelation Jesus calls his church in Ephesus to return to their first love (Revelation 2:4). The once vibrant relationship with Jesus and others the Ephesians enjoyed eventually faded out. They simply existed rather than living life to the fullest. So Jesus called them back to himself.

A Kellogg’s Corn Flakes ad from years ago encouraged people to “taste them again for the first time.” Kellogg’s knew that many kids who grew up on a steady diet of their cereal had not eaten their brand in years. This ad was a reminder to check them out again.

Jesus makes the same offer to us.

There is no better time than the present to taste Jesus again for the first time. The Psalmist cries out “Taste and see the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

So, pick up and dust off whatever sport, hobby or activity you have neglected.

And don’t forget to include Jesus!

 

 

 

 

Wisdom is Just a Call Away

Call before you dig.

That’s what billboards, radio ads and even web banners shout out to prospective excavators. If you don’t, you may dig a deep hole of debt (because you’ll be on the hook to repair the damaged cables underground). Or someone else will dig a deeper hole for your electrocuted body. Either way, the message is simple; it’s not wise to dig a hole without knowing what you might run into.

A Near Miss

About a year ago I rented a massive tent for an event at our church. I realized too late that it had to be anchored into the ground by 16 spikes that were 3 feet long. I was sick. The event was just two days away, and it would be unlikely that I could get anyone to mark out the area in time. A part of me thought Just go for it! There’s nothing out there in the field. Thankfully the wise part of me spoke louder …except for a pipeline. Wisdom won out, and I made the First Call. They did the job in a hurry and marked out the area. Nothing was in our way. We were good to go. The spikes went down and the tent went up.

The Source of Wisdom

The Bible tells us “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking (James 1:5).” If we are honest, we need wisdom on a daily basis. We are faced with decisions personally and professionally that require wisdom. We could all use a bit of knowledge and good judgment to guide us. Any good leader knows that it’s a sign of strength to ask questions, know what you don’t know, and to reach out to more seasoned veterans when you aren’t sure of the next step.

For over 25 years I have been going to God as The Source of wisdom, for Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment (Proverbs 9:10).” To fear the Lord is not to be afraid of the Lord, it is to give him reverence in our lives. I have been in the company of great men and women whom I look up to. But no one else deserves reverence like God himself.

Just Ask

So, if you are spending a lot of time scratching your head wondering what your next move might be, just ask. God will give you the wisdom you need. He wants to guide you and direct your life. He can be trusted. His nature and character are love, goodness, kindness, mercy and justice.

Reach out to the one who reaches out to you today with the offer of wisdom. It’s not a bother to him. And you will never be put on hold.

Don’t dig a hole for yourself. Make the First Call. Just ask.

The Capacity for Tenacity

What I learned from Phil, Elon and Tom

In the last few months I’ve read two biographies of successful business leaders, Elon Musk of Tesla/Space X/Solar City and Phil Knight of Nike. Both books were inspirational in their own way, and gave me further insight into the essential elements that drive successful companies. Elon and Phil have different backgrounds and pursuits, but they have at least one thing in common: tenacity.

What is Tenacity?

Tenacity is the quality or ability to grip something firmly. It’s determination and persistence. Elon inspired me with the way he overcame technical problems with Space X rockets or testing issues with the latest Tesla model. Similarly, Phil Knight’s determination floored me. He met with his angry banker monthly to get the necessary cash to grow his dream. These guys refused to quit!

Along their path to success there were many naysayers, and even more reasons why they should have cashed out and done something easier than shooting for Mars or taking on the powerhouses of the shoe industry. But they refused to give up. Their vision and dream of what could be was far more powerful than the reality of what was in the moment. They woke early, stayed up late, listened to helpful advice and tuned out anything that would take them off course of realizing their dreams (read the books Elon Musk and Shoe Dog for examples of this).

 Real Time Example

The perfect illustration for tenacity happened at the Super Bowl last month. By halftime it looked like the game was over. The Atlanta Falcons were celebrating, the New England Patriots began to look defeated and deflated (I couldn’t resist using that word!). But Tom Brady, the quarterback of the Patriots, refused to quit. He kept moving forward, challenging his teammates, believing they could make the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. I wrote them off (as did most of the viewing audience), but Tom was going to win or die trying.

And his tenacity paid off. The Patriots won. The comeback was complete. And everyone was shocked except Tom. He knew they could do it.

What’s Holding YOU back?

Whatever your obstacle is today, whatever you think is holding you back, it is time to power through. It is time to dig deep. Don’t run away and hide when the going gets tough. Don’t shut your laptop when you are stuck for words. Don’t mail it in and settled for ‘good enough’ when you get tired. Instead, remember why you wanted to do what you need to do. Think about the people you can influence and the way your life could change if you actually followed through on your plans.

So get to it. There is no greater joy that kicking fear in the mouth and finishing a project. Tenacity fuels our growth.

 

 

What Kind of Legacy do You Want to Leave?

This video was filmed for the Alberta/NWT Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada Minister’s Gathering in February 2017. It is my response to the legacy I want to leave in my life and leadership, and what I am currently doing to make that happen.

What are you doing today that will live on in the lives of others’ tomorrow?

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!