Thursday, August 13, 2015

"Crucial Conversations" Book Recommendation




The last few weeks in Alberta have been lovely and hot.  I say that from the perspective of someone who is comfortable with +30 C weather and no air conditioning!  The only issue I have with the heat is running in it.  It's then my stamina gets up and goes home, where it waits patiently for my return.

I outsmart it by getting up early and running before it hits 20 degrees and by making sure I stay hydrated along the way.  This past Saturday held all the promise of a day when every sane person holes up in the air conditioned mall until the cool of evening descends.

To beat the heat I was up and running by 7:30 a.m.  At the moment I’m running an hour in 10 minute intervals; run 10, walk 1.  All was good. 

I was into my second run cycle when I felt something trickle down the back of one knee.  This was odd.  My brain launched into identification mode, “I wonder why the backs of my knees are sweating so much.”  

Another trickle, “They don’t generally sweat this much.  I’ve run in hotter weather than this.”  

A trickle down the back of my other knee was followed by an alarming longer stream that reached the top of my sock and ran down onto my foot.  “Am I peeing a little?!?” (I know all you women of a certain age have asked yourselves this question at one point or another…don’t deny it!)  Quick inventory of bladder.  “No, all systems holding steady there.”

Another long trickle into the sock.  “Maybe I’m bleeding.  Should I stop to check?  But my run’s going so well.  I don’t want to mess it up by stopping now.  There’s no pain.  If I was bleeding there would be pain.  I'll keep running.”

Finally the 10 minute run cycle ended and I had a minute to assess the situation.  No urine, no blood…good.  I pulled my water pouch out of its holster at my back and squeezed it for a drink.  Water jetted from a pin-sized hole in the seam at the bottom of the pouch.  Well, I found the source of the mysterious knee sweat.  Now I had to figure out how to get through the next 40 minutes of my run without my water draining away.

My minute was up so I got creative.  It can’t leak if no water gets to the hole.  I flipped the pouch upside down and crammed it down into the holster.  I was off and running…literally!  Problem solved.

Problems come our way all the time from places we don’t understand.  We can ignore them and hope they’ll go away, but that’s like FEELING the water leak out of the pouch and doing NOTHING about it.  Which I tried for a bit, but if I continued to ignore the problem I wouldn’t have had any hydration for the remainder of the run and my strength would have leaked away faster than the water in my pouch.

Occasionally problems are simply opportunities to make a situation better.  But sometimes they’re bigger and require more effort, more strength, and more time to solve.  Not only that, they’re quite often associated with lousy communication.

I know very few people who actually welcome the tough conversations it takes to resolve some of the BIG problems in life.  So I thought I’d share a book I read this spring that helps navigate those tough conversations.

The book is called “Crucial Conversations”.  You can find their website at vitalsmarts.com/crucialconversations . 

I’m one that runs from conflict faster than a turkey flees a Thanksgiving dinner table, but this book helped me identify how I respond in some of these situations and what I can do when I recognize these responses; then how to move forward and address the conversation head on.

There are a number of on-line tools for assessment and practice that can be used in a team setting or individually.  We can all get better at problem-solving through better communication. 

There are still a few weeks of summer left.  Why not add “Crucial Conversations” to your summer reading list.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:

What problem or conversation have you been avoiding that you need to address?

Share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

 
 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Very Hairy Berry Hibiscus

Every now and then we need a good laugh.  There’s nothing better than sharing a giggle with great friends. 

If you’re lucky what starts out as a giggle morphs into a guffaw, followed by a chortle.  Then it happens…somebody snorts!  At this point it’s all over.  One snort leads to another.  On rare occasions, you might get to witness the ever elusive triple-snort!  Soon you’re doubled over, holding your sides and roaring with laughter while tears stream down your cheeks!

People don’t laugh enough.  I know I don’t.  I tend to take life rather seriously, but periodically something appeals to my bizarre sense of humour. 

Case in point….

A few weeks ago I was on my way back to the office and decided to pop into the Starbucks drive thru.   It was a warm summer day, so I decided to have one of their berry refreshers.

You all know how complicated ordering a drink at Starbucks can be.  All I had to get out were the words “Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher”.  Four words.  Easy right?  Apparently not.  I pulled up to the speaker, confident in my linguistic ability and proceeded to order a very HAIRY berry hibiscus refresher.

My ever helpful brain immediately conjuring up a graphic mental image of a Starbucks cup, personified complete with Duck Dynasty beard, and green eyes peering out from beneath scraggly fur-like hair.

I completely lost it!  My whoop of wild laughter quickly dissolved into hysterical giggling.  A long pause emanated from the other side of the drive thru speaker.  I made another futile attempt at gasping out my order between fits of giggles. 

I finally managed to choke out the words, “that pink berry drink”, then gave up, driving up to the window instead.  The person at the drive thru window was doing her best to keep a straight face, but seeing me hanging over the steering wheel, gibbering helplessly about the “hairy berry drink” was too much for her.  The two of us had a good laugh!

I suspect my little verbal faux pas made her day.  I know it did mine.  Every time I thought about it I giggled hysterically.  Hopefully you are by now, too. 

Remember the next time you go to Starbucks it’s a VERY BERRY HIBISCUS…hold the hair!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Proud To Be Canadian

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.  As a result I spent Sunday afternoon basking in the sun watching an air show with the Rocky Mountains as a back drop.  What more could you ask for?

The line-up included a variety of planes doing aerobatics, parachute demos, and a body-vibrating demonstration by the CF-18 fighter.  The Canadian Forces Snowbirds brought the show to a graceful close with their highly skilled, nine plane flight demonstrations.

The CF-18 was painted to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the battle of Britain.  The thing that amazes me about this plane is you don’t know it’s there until it’s gone.  The angry roar of its engine vibrates through your body and you look up to see its tail disappearing in the distance!

The noise and vibration of the fighter exhilarates me, but I close my eyes, trying to imagine what it’s like for someone who sees it, not as a demonstration on a relaxing Sunday afternoon, but as an enemy bearing down on them, ready to belch out the deadly cargo in its underbelly.

The mental image shakes me more than the snarl of the fighter on its return pass and I open my eyes, watching as people flock to the runway to take pictures of the now grounded jet as it taxis toward the display area.



I look at the Canadian flags fluttering bright red and white against the afternoon sky.  How blessed we are to live in a country where CF-18 fighter jets are heard only in demonstration flights at air shows, and not at night as we lie in bed wondering when the next attack will come.

 

The Snowbirds take to the sky and I’m awed by the beauty and grace nine Tutor aircraft can display.  Flying at a speed of 600 km/hr they maintain a tight formation with only 4 feet between them.  The Snowbirds are a Canadian icon and I feel my Canadian patriotism welling up.  These are some of the best of the best in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

We live in a country full of freedoms other cultures only imagine or dream about.  We have some of the most beautiful scenery in the world right in our own back yard; the Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes, the flat, grain covered prairies, and the pounding surf on the East and West coasts. 

Canada is an amazing country and I’m proud to be Canadian!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What To Do About Jesus

“What shall I do, then with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”  This is the question Pilate asked an unruly crowd many years ago.  The response to this question led to the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus; a series of events that has caused people around the world to ask themselves the very same question.

I went to church for years without asking myself that question.  I believed in God and prayed to God, but Jesus was just kind of there in the background.  I couldn’t really articulate what I believed about Him, and I was OK with that.

Eventually I realized if I was going to call myself a Christian, I needed to make a decision.  Did I believe Jesus was the Son of God, crucified and risen?  If I did what were the implications of that?  And what if I got it wrong?  It was a decision only I could make and it was time to choose what I was going to do with Jesus.

I started on a faith journey, searching for answers to mysterious questions.  Everyone’s faith journey is different.  Mine happened over the course of the last few years and I’m still on it.  But early on, after reading and reflecting on the gospels in the Bible, my decision about Jesus was made. 

I do believe Him to be the Son of God.  I believe He voluntarily died on the cross so I can be forgiven of my wrong doings.  I believe He rose from the grave and is alive in me in the form of the Holy Spirit.  And I believe that one day I will join Him in eternal life.  That’s my choice.  I believe.

There are many different opinions about who Jesus was.  Even when He was alive He was controversial and people had varying opinions.  Some listened to Him, saw Him perform miracles, and chose not to believe.  Others, never having met Him, chose to believe He was the Son of God.  And some were swayed one way or the other by popular opinion, or the influence of religious leaders.

I think of the Roman soldier who watched Jesus as he died an excruciating death by crucifixion.  I wonder what he saw in Jesus' death that made him exclaim “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39; Matthew 27:54)

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
Where are you on your faith journey?  Have you answered the question, “What will you do with Jesus, the one called the Messiah?

Share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The New Testament - Stuff I Never Knew

I have four weeks left in my New Testament Introduction course.  It’s scary how quickly it’s gone by, but I’m really enjoying it.  I thought I’d share a few interesting facts I picked up along the way. 

1.       Phylactery – You know when you read segments of scripture that say something like this, “fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads”?(Deuteronomy 11:18)

This wasn’t just a figure of speech.  Pious Jews actually wrote down scripture, mounted it in small cases and wore the cases on their foreheads or left arms.  This was called a phylactery.

2.       Apparently we’ve gone away from using the terms BC (before Christ) and AD (anno domini or after death) as designations when referring to calendar dates.  The terms BCE (before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era) are now used, at least in the world of academia, when referencing dates.

3.       I now know the difference between Pharisees and Sadducees.  Pharisees were based in rural areas and factored greatly in Jesus’ ministry in the Galilean region.  They were associated with the synagogues and were primarily teachers.  They focused on maintaining Israel’s relationship with God through strict obedience to the law and believed in resurrection of humans to life after death.

Sadducees were the upper class, mostly residing in Jerusalem, and were associated with the temple.  They were primarily priests and were committed to maintaining Israel’s relationship with God through the sacrificial system.  They did not believe in resurrection to life after death.  They were primarily responsible for the plot to have Jesus put to death.
 
About the only thing the Pharisees and Sadducees had in common was the fact that they both believed Jesus was a threat.

4.       The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Jewish Bible and is abbreviated as LXX.

5.       The letters from Paul in the New Testament are arranged from longest to shortest.

6.       An amanuensis was a secretary or scribe who was trained in letter writing.  Most people in the Roman Empire were illiterate so the process of letter writing generally was designated to someone skilled in that area – an amanuensis.

7.       There are four different “Herod’s” in the New Testament:

Herod The Great – ruled all of Palestine on behalf of Rome and was in power when Jesus was born.

Herod Antipas – Herod the Great’s son - ruled the territories of Perea and Galilee.  Was in power during the time of Jesus’ ministry and death.  Had John the Baptist beheaded.

Herod Agrippa I – ruled Judea and Samaria.  He is the Herod mentioned in Acts 12 that persecutes the believers and kills the apostle James. 

Herod Agrippa II – The last ruler of the Herodian dynasty.  Paul appears before him as a prisoner in Act 25.

8.       I now know what eschatology means – the study of “last things” like the return of Christ, the final judgment, and other things associated with the end times.  I’d heard the word used, but didn’t know what it meant.

9.       I didn’t know all the gospels were anonymous documents.  We are able to track back through historical documents to support various authorship of each gospel, but the original documents were anonymous.

This is probably not new information for some you and I’m sure you’re wondering if I’ve been living under a rock.  When it comes to historical knowledge, yes, I have been living under a rock.  But I’m loving learning all this information and getting a better understanding of the New Testament.
 
Things To Think About
Is there something in the bible you've been wondering about?  Ask your pastor to help you figure it out.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Important Components of Christ-Centered Ministry

Last week I handed in an essay for my New Testament Introduction course.  The purpose of the essay was to identify key components of Paul’s ministry, based on his writings in the New Testament, and discuss what components are necessary for someone in ministry today.

 
I thought it was a great assignment, so I’m sharing the summary list I came up with in my essay.
 

1.      Paul views himself as an “apostle of Christ” (Rom 1:1, 1 Cor 1:1, 2 Cor 1:1) who is called to preach the gospel.  In his mind he has no choice BUT to preach the gospel.

 
2.      It is Christ who does the work, not Paul.  Paul realizes the weaker he is, the more he must rely on Christ to accomplish the mission.  “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong. “  (2 Cor 12:9-10)


3.      Paul feels it is his responsibility to provide ongoing pastoral support to the churches he plants.  He encourages, supports, corrects, and guides them in their Christian journey.  He’s not afraid to speak boldly and truthfully to ensure his converts follow Christ faithfully.


4.      Prayer is a vital part of Paul’s ministry.  Paul prays for the churches and for the spread of the gospel.

 
5.      He leads by example, demonstrating solid faith in salvation through Jesus Christ.  Paul wants to be a role-model for the churches he plants and strives to live faithfully in Christ.

So what’s important for ministry today? 

In order to hang in there and echo Paul’s sentiments, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4:7) a sense of divine call or appointment is crucial.  Without the deep-rooted sense that there is nothing else God has called one to, it becomes very easy to leave ministry when things become challenging.

Prayer is essential.  Without a continuous connection to God through Christ and the Holy Spirit, ministry is doomed.  How can a ministry be Spirit led if no one listens to the Spirit?

I’m always amazed by the guts Paul shows in writing his letters.  He doesn’t sugar coat his message.  If he was sending an email the entire body of some of these epistles would be all caps and bolded!  He rants, he raves, he exhorts, he uses sarcasm, and I’m fairly sure he yells in some parts.  He speaks the truth for the good of his congregation.  And he does it because he loves them and genuinely wants what is best for them.

Oh that I could be as courageous as Paul!

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:
What do you think is important for someone in ministry today?  Share your thoughts by clicking on “comments” below.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Pure Flix - Do You Believe? - Movie Thoughts

A year ago Pure Flix Entertainment released their movie “God’s Not Dead”; a hit among
Christian movie goers.  This weekend their new movie, “Do You Believe” hits movie screens across Canada and the U.S.

I attended a pre-screening sponsored by 105.9 ShineFM in Edmonton and highly recommend you put this movie on your “must see” list.

Gun fights, car crashes, tear jerking moments, family strife, action, drama; this movie has it all.  Not once did I think, “This is two hours of my life I’ll never get back.”  Trust me there are lots of movies out there where that’s about all I can say about them, but “Do You Believe” isn’t one of them!

“Do You Believe” challenges you to answer real questions.  Do you believe in Jesus Christ?  Do you believe in the power of His death and resurrection?  Do you trust Him for your salvation?

One bit of dialogue stayed with me long after we’d left the theatre.  A first responder leads a dying man to Christ, giving him a small wooden cross.  The cross becomes “exhibit A” in a lawsuit the man’s wife files against the first responder. 

He must make a decision…does he stand up for his belief, or deny his faith to gain the backing of his union.  The prosecuting attorney looks him in the eye and speaks these words, “This cross is gonna cost you.”

“This cross is gonna cost you.”  How true!  Following Jesus doesn’t guarantee a life exempt from pain, sorrow, anguish, heartache, and illness.  Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”  (Matthew 15:24-25 NIV)

The cross will cost you.  The cross will challenge you. 
The cross will save you!

Do you believe?  And if you do…what are you doing about it?

Check out the “Do You Believe” movie trailer and don’t miss this faith challenging movie opening this weekend.