Hang in there!

I am missing sailing, and my first mate.

Our family loved our sailboat and for sixteen years we would be out on the ocean as often as we could. Today, I kept noticing my head raised up to look at the weather. What do I look for first? The wind. It is the wind that gets the attention of sailors, and this was one of those days.

In a sailboat, you cannot get back to port quickly should something go awry. This fact breeds self-reliance among those of us who love the sea. You learn to look at all the elements, to study the weather, to do a walk around your boat before casting off, and to understand where you are going and all about navigation.

Laughing now at the thought of how many times I would drive my car 100 kilometres per hour to get to our sailboat at Point Roberts WA so that I could get on board and proceed at seven knots towards some unknown destination. All the while, adjusting the sails, tweaking the sheets and scanning the water trying to get one more tenth of a knot out of her.

Perspective

Sailing, for me, has been the one thing I do that puts everything in proper perspective. I see it as the ultimate expression of freedom – perhaps exactly because I have chosen to place myself in a position where there is no forgiveness for mistakes. This causes you to become very aware of what’s going on.

Annalong

This is Annalong. She was named after a small fishing village in County Down, Northern Ireland where the Pue family are from. In fact the Presbyterian church at the top of the road has the Pue family gravesite with many of my ancestors named. It is also a meaningful name to us as my mothers name was Anna and we purchased the boat shortly after her death.

We don’t own her any longer. She is off on adventures with another family, but I sure miss her. Along with sailing her, I miss writing in the salon, making coffee at sunrise and sipping it outside in the cockpit during my quiet time. As the sun rose I would continue to sit there, my mind coming slowly to rest like I was in a sacred sanctuary.

Annalong was to me as I imagine going to a cabin is or others. But let me tell you, when you put up the sails and the hull moves through the water with waves lapping her side – there is nothing like it.

Being on a boat that is moving through the water it’s so clear… Everything falls into place in terms of what’s important, and what’s not.

James Taylor

Mentoring moment…

How is the COVID pandemic like being out on the ocean?

How has it made you more aware of what is going on, and what’s important?

I’d love to hear from you.

Where Did Everyone Go?


COVID Leadership Lesson #2

During the global pandemic, Dr. Carson Pue has been mentoring Christian leaders around the globe. In doing so, he has made some observations.

These are their stories.


Photo Credit: The Irish Times

Ministry organizations I am mentoring and coaching are now working with fewer people on staff. Staff members are absent due to sickness – either themselves or loved ones for whom they are caring. Others have left because they are caring for children home from school or due to furloughs or layoffs caused by the impact of closures and reduced revenue.

My friend Bob Kuhn, in conversation the other day, said the challenge ahead is discerning how to maintain the mission while modifying the methods. Not only a catchy phrase, but Bob also speaks wisely about the role of leaders in organizations and businesses today. In the book Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner considers “fewer things done better” as the most powerful tool for effective leadership. Essentialism, written in 2014, is perhaps the exact theme needed in 2020.

– Robert G Kuhn
Photo by Mark Arron Smith from Pexels

When asked by leaders how they are supposed to cope with all the reductions they are experiencing, I propose some questions to help think through what is essential, and how to maintain the mission with fewer paid staff and reduced financial resources.

Questions Leaders Can Ask

  1. What are the essential services we offer? Can we limit any other services or activities and put more resources into our essentials?
  2. With fewer staff, you cannot expect to do all you have done before COVID-19. Can we reduce the number of service hours we are open?
  3. Do you have any area of your organization where only one person knows how to do a critical part of your work or ministry? If a crucial member of the team became ill or indisposed, is anyone cross-trained to keep the organization going?
  4. Do you have any former staff or volunteers whom you might call on to ask for help during the pandemic?
  5. Is there some new service, resource or product that you might be able to retool with fewer workers and generate new revenue?
  6. What about you? If you were to become ill, have you identified who could make critical decisions in your absence?

I have been very encouraged by leaders who are not trying to be heroes, and who are inviting team members into leadership roles during this time.  I think in years to come we will look back and realize how this Covid-19 season re-calibrated teams and revealed previously unrecognized strengths within them. 

Keep your heart up,

Carson

Bee In The Greenhouse:

COVID Leadership Lesson #1

During the global pandemic, Dr. Carson Pue has been speaking with Christian leaders from around the globe. In doing so, he has made some observations.
These are their stories.

A bee followed me in through the door.

Last summer I was staying at a beautiful wee home in Northern Ireland. One of the features that I enjoyed was the garden off the kitchen. Beyond that, through the garage and across the lane, was a secret garden. This hideaway had a weaving mowed pathway back towards a grove of trees with benches situated to catch the sun at various points of the day.

The secret garden also concealed a small green house for starting plants and in it two chairs which proved delightful for relaxing and reading as it rained every day while I was there.

On one of my visits to the greenhouse, a bee followed me in through the door. After a short buzz around small glasshouse, it seemed confused about how to get out. I kept the door open and wanted to help the bee but instead of retracing its path, the bee insisted on pounding itself on the ceiling. Over and over again the bee would bounce off the clear glass. I imagined it wondering what on earth was happening when it could see through to the plants and trees beyond – a much more friendly place.

Finally, the bee slid over to the open vent and I was excited to anticipate its escape through the gap. However, the bee didn’t escape and went back to practising the same behaviour as the previous four minutes. Over and over again the bee banging itself against the clear glass as seemingly ignoring the large gap that would provide freedom.

After numerous attempts, the bee collapsed on the frame of the window and stayed still acting like an exhausted runner catching its breath. I was worried about the poor things life but after a few minutes, there was movement again. No flying this time, the bee was just crawling along the frame. Finally, the frame led it to the opening and spreading his wings he flew off into the world of trees, flowers and freedom.

Getting grounded was the path to the answer.

This image has stayed with me for months. I believe that the first thing a leader must do to make decisions is to get grounded. That is true at least for making the ‘right’ decisions. So in a time like the pandemic, many leaders feel like their feet have been knocked out from under them. They are no longer grounded and a form of panic can set in making you bump your head against the glass that prevents you from finding the answer.

The majority of leaders I have spoken to since the pandemic started have experienced this. The global crisis has hit us in waves, and each time a new wave comes, leaders have to pivot and change. This impacts us personally and organizationally. If we respond by symbolically hitting ourselves against the ceiling we will upset our team as they are looking to you for leadership in these times. Personally, it can induce fear and uncertainty that shakes you to your core. As a result, many feel like quitting or saying to me that they sense “God is moving them on”.

The leaders I am mentoring are by all measure successful. They are used to living with complex decision making and seemingly unending demands. As the frequency of decisions has intensified, throughout the pandemic many have not been prepared to deal with this.

Even though we have been in isolation, time seems to be absorbed with all there is to do, because the world keeps changing daily applying even greater demands on you. People speak about the world having stopped, but not so for leaders. We struggle to stay grounded in all aspects of life – our job, family and friends, our broader community and our faith life. Inevitably, you will have to make trade-offs as Andy Stanley describes in his book called “Choosing to Cheat”. You may see Andy speak about this here.

Staying grounded is important

Mature and seasoned leaders are aware of the importance of staying grounded. It is what keeps them from riding the roller coaster of emotions between “I am so great and have got this!” to “I am such a loser, and I think God is calling me on or right out of this ministry thing. What do they say they do to stay grounded? Here are some typical responses:

  • Spend time with family
  • Draw close to your best friends
  • Get some exercise
  • Practice spiritual disciplines like prayer, solitude, worship
  • Have an attitude of gratitude and thank God daily for your blessings
  • Serve others
  • Go to your spot, where you feel God’s calming presence

It is in practicing these that leaders can return to a stated of being grounded, and being grounded is essential to you being productive, authentic and integrated. This grounding is vital to their effectiveness as leaders because it enables them to preserve their authenticity.

So let me ask you this. Are you letting frenetic activity dominate your days and weeks? It happens easily, but let me encourage you to stay grounded. Do what works for you. Rest on that window frame and walk along with it slowly. Doing so will eventually reveal the opening that you need, just like that bee in the greenhouse.

Being the Leader in These Times … something no-one wants to be.

It doesn’t matter what training or experience you have. Nothing has prepared you for these leadership days of COVID-19. I have had mentoring calls with Christian leaders in the marketplace, ministry and not for profit organizations globally. There are some common themes in these calls.

Over the next while I am going to share observations from these conversations with leaders and pass on some mentoring insights to help you with your leadership.

What is your role?

Leaders are getting so caught up in the adrenaline powered hour by hour changes that they have abandoned their key role – leading the organization. Leaders are there to make hard choices for the sake of the organization and to honour your team. Your job is not to protect your people, it is to lead them through this as you care for the overall ministry or organization.

Perhaps more than at any other time your team need to see you lead with confidence, faith and skill. Allow your people to grow through this in their faith, and skill. Treat them with honour, dignity for who they are – even if they are laid off. No one was prepared for this.

Seeking Wisdom

Christian leaders are usually very compassionate people. I love that. It is just that sometimes it can get in the way of you having the space needed to make tough decisions. I coach leaders to find the space you need where you can ask God what to do. He has the wisdom that you need right now. The Bible reminds us in James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” And remember, this is coming from a God that cares about you and everything that concerns you.

But how do I know if the answer is of the Lord?

A question that often follows when I encourage praying for wisdom is, “But how do I know if the answer is of the Lord?” Two responses. One is that if it isn’t clear, then ask God to make it clear to you. The other is that we should look for His peace (shalom) to be upon us. Colossians 3:15 in the Amplified Bible states, “The peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers]. And be thankful [to God always].”

Volatile, Uncertain, Complexity, Ambiguity

These are wild (VUCA) times: Volatile, Uncertain, Complexity, Ambiguity. Remember that you are not alone in this. Think of someone else in your line of work and give them a call. Encourage them in their leadership, share best practices, help each other with problems. get over yourself and reach out for help.

A windy Northern Irish Day

There is a great need right now for what is called spot coaching. It is a ten to fifteen minute call to help hold up the arms of leaders facing these challenges. I am going to offer FREE coaching to as many as I possibly can in the month of April and maybe beyond. My next post will have the details of how to book a time to talk, pray, cry, decide or be encouraged – whatever you need. Until then, as my mentor Barry Hawes used to say at the end of every call, “Keep your heart up.”

“But If Not” Book Offer for 100 Huntley Street (30% Discount)

Did you know that 100 Huntley Street is Canada’s longest running TV Talk Show? After decades of serving Canadians it is still a place men and women tune into to hear the stories of real people. With thanks to Lorna Dueck and her team I was invited to share a little about Brenda’s book and our family journey in grief after cancer.

Lorna is so easy to talk with I hardly noticed the cameras and lights. She and Brenda were close. In Brenda’s Bible she had a list of some leaders she prayed for each of the seven days in a week and Lorna was one of those leaders.

There is special offer for book purchases through 100Huntley to help share this story of courage, hope and trust with other men and women suffering with cancer or any terminal disease. To order click here to go the Arrow Leadership Store 

  1. Click on ADD TO CART
  2. Then Click VIEW CART
  3. Enter COUPON CODE using 100Huntley and the click UPDATE CART and a 30% discount will appear.
  4. Note your Cart total at the bottom of the page with your discount applied and PROCEED TO CHECKOUT
  5. At CHECKOUT fill in your billing data and you may safely use your credit card with Arrow’s PayPal system.
  6. Arrow will ship your books quickly.

Thanks to both Arrow Leadership and 100 Huntley Street for helping to encourage and comfort people during times of great testing.

The Long Goodbye – By Jon Pue

10517458_10154301682260591_5107217845092285928_nTonight my mom died.

We were getting ready for the evening, about to take turns by Mom’s bedside throughout the night. Jer and I were going to have a glass of wine, but then opted for something a bit stronger. We poured our glasses as Kristin came downstairs and said that Kirstie was crying. There had been a lot of tears over these last couple days but somehow I knew that this was different. We all gathered quickly around Mom to be with her. Her breathing was different, struggling more so than before.

The doctor had joined us and assured us that she didn’t feel any pain as we watched her breathe. Each breath was full of anticipation and wonder, is this the last breath? Minutes turned into hours and the hours felt like moments suspended in time.

We cried. We laughed at memories. But mostly we waited and were not sure what to do. My family and I were just content to be present. Everything had been said, love from each of us was well known to her. We held her hand, her arm, stroked her head in comfort- for ourselves and for her. Her breaths were shallow, and short, and the space long in between. The small breaths lingered like watching a bubble slowly climb into the air until it eventually burst.

On what was her last breath, the doctor listened for a heartbeat, searching and waiting for any sign. But there was nothing to be heard, and he turned to us and said, “she’s passed”.

For all the days I had to get ready, nothing really prepares you for that moment. She was gone. And in an instant, in one moment, she moved from a living and breathing saint to someone who dwells not just in heaven but also in all of us. She remains now in our memories, in our minds and actions, and in pictures that hang suspended from the walls.

Grief and sorrow take over. A sudden realization that life is no longer the same. Everything is altered. I said goodbye with a kiss on the forehead, that was unexpectedly cold for someone whose love was so warm.

Already, as a family, we had leaned on each other greatly. Now more so than ever. What’s ahead? Conversations that come far too early with precious nieces and nephews, and for me the fear of now trying to live without an anchor that has grounded me for years. Seems overwhelming…and it is.

I take comfort in knowing that Mom died exactly how she would have wanted to- at home peacefully, with loved ones close at hand.

It still seems so surreal, like having a bad dream and waiting to be scared awake to reality.

Already, I long for Mom to know my sons and daughters. That they could know the woman she was. I wish she could love them and guide them through this life as she did with me. I rue the times when I go to call her while I drive simply to see how her day was. I must tell myself that I did the best I could with the time that was given to us. And to not fall into the guilt of how I used my time, did I work too much? Should I have called or visited one more time? Rather, I can trust that she knows the deep and unrelenting love I have for her. The moments we have had will never be replaced and never lost.

I thought I was ready. But I was not.

Today marks the beginning of learning how to live again.

Day 588: Brenda’s Passing Through

  Just after midnight this morning, surrounded by love from her entire family, Brenda answered the call and slipped into heaven. 

Our loving warrior teacher has gone ahead of us and we look forward to joining her in glory one day. 

  The celebration of her life will be held August 22nd, 1:30pm, at “CLA” Christian Life Assembly (21277 56 Ave. Langley. All are welcome (typical of Brenda). Come be inspired by the life of an amazing leader in life, family and faith. You will leave a better person as a result. 

In lieu of flowers please consider a donation in her memory to Arrow Leadership Ministries or Barnabas Family Ministries. 

Dweller on the Threshold

When the doctor told me it would be good to gather the family my knees began to wobble. While I’ve have had more than a year and half to absorb my Brenda’s living with cancer this brought a solemn view of time for me.

thresholdMy father before his death used “dweller on the threshold” to describe his understanding of where he stood – between this world and heaven.  This aural poetry from Northern Ireland is a vivid image of end of life days. Brenda is there now, standing on that threshold with the door open awaiting her to step across at the appointed time. Knowing how much my dad loved her, he will likely be fighting to be right behind Jesus greeting her entry into heaven.

Our family are all together now in one big sleep over. The love, prayers and care is beyond description. It is Brenda’s desire that she be able to die at home and our doctor and incredible medical team are helping make that wish reality. Shifts between all our sons and daughters ensure that Mom is never alone. There is nothing left to be said – just love to be felt, actually felt. It is an amazing privilege.

There is only One who numbers our days and that is the Lord. Brenda knows this, and has taught us this, by exceeding all of the medical predictions and giving us so many new memories to cherish. Memories we will collect even today, and they will never diminish.

More reflections, and more of the story, will follow but presently we want to be left alone to savour the hours – remembering this actually is how we should live life everyday.

Dealing with Small Things that Drain Your Energy: Ask Madeleine

Love this and not just because of the boating illustration – it is so true of leaders.

Blanchard LeaderChat

Propeller with barnaclesLast week, I responded to a question about putting up with way too much. I introduced the idea of tolerations, those small, seemingly inconsequential things that drain your energy. They have a way of accumulating like barnacles on a ship—a few aren’t a problem, but layers and layers over the years take a toll on a vessel’s speed and performance. Even well-adjusted, extremely successful people have tolerations, often quite a few. Why? We accrue tolerations for the following reasons:

We want to keep up a good attitude. We don’t recognize that we have them or how much they are bothering us. To admit we are tolerating a lot may feel like whining or complaining. Dwelling on tolerations and complaining about them without taking action would be negative. To tell the truth about what’s bugging you is not complaining, it is exposing your legitimate gripes to harsh light, and creating…

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Eleven Days Too Long

Brenda has spent the past elIMG_9037even days in hospital. We are certainly glad to have her back home now. She went in to have a tube put into her body cavity so they could drain the build up of pleural fluid present there. This unfortunately was followed by a partial lung collapse, a change of hospital and then into lung surgery and recovery.

So in the midst of this stress filled whirlwind our dear friends J John and Killy sent us a song that Dan Pringle had written and wanted it passed along to Brenda. Dan is an accomplished songwriter and producer from Australia. He and his wife Leah Haywood run “Dreamlab” and hang around with award winning artists like Celine Dion, Miley Cirus, Lady Gaga and many more. Now he has really helped Brenda Pue by sending her a song that touched us deeply. <Big Smile>

Now in my years of ministry I usually cringe when someone said they have a song the Lord gave them for me – they often did not give me much hope for the heavenly choir if that is how they were going to sound. LOL However this song was different. It was a message from God for Brenda and right when needed.

Brenda received permission from Dan to post the song so here it is on her Caring Bridge blog tonight.

If you are sometimes feeling tired, exhausted, frustrated and wondering if you can go on – you need to listen to this.

Thanks J and thanks Dan

Carson