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.
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.
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
What are the essential services we offer? Can we limit any other services or activities and put more resources into our essentials?
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?
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?
Do you have any former staff or volunteers whom you might call on to ask for help during the pandemic?
Is there some new service, resource or product that you might be able to retool with fewer workers and generate new revenue?
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.
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
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.
Continuing my series on leading during COVID, I want to share an observation about leaders and their teams. When I ask about organizations and employees, I often hear leaders saying, “They are all keeping busy.” Then I pursue this, “What they are doing?” Their answers are often, “I don’t know,” or “They are doing what they have always done.” Allow me to speak to both.
What are your team working on?
If you, as the leader, do not know what your team is doing, then I would want to talk about what is going on – with you. Several things may emerge. • Consider your state. Things are not as they were, and you are in an altered state as a leader. Considering your concerns, how are you doing personally? • It may reveal that you have not been overseeing your team well before this time of crisis.
The people you manage are a direct reflection on you. Every member of your team is inwardly looking at their role in the organization and wondering if they might survive any layoffs necessary. So, of course, they want to be needed. You have probably noticed most of your team with their heads down and busy. The question that needs asking is if they are working on the right things. Without intentional supervision at this time, many just keep doing what has always been or gravitate to those things they really like doing and are good at. The problem is that things are not as they once were, and what we did before makes no sense in the immediate situation.
So what can we do?
This pandemic is going to change how you and your organization function both now and into the future. It is the time to double down on team meetings. Communication is so important to keep your people involved. There are few businesses or organizations that will escape not losing team members.
So, here are somethings we as leaders can do: • Don’t hide from your people. Show them you are still the leader and that you are working hard to figure out the next steps. • Help your team understand what leadership is working through now and keep them updated. • Treat your people with respect. No one has done anything wrong here. The reality is our economy is experiencing devastation caused by the pandemic. • Remember that it is not just about making the right decision, but it is how you communicate it. • Show empathy. Your decisions affect the lives of individuals and families. As a Christian, I pray for team members privately. Sometimes, with permission, I even pray with them.
These are such challenging days for leaders. Suddenly we are not leading. In fact we are being led by circumstances and they seem to change every three hours. We get exhausted because even simple things seem so difficult. Please take care of yourself. Reach out for help if you need it. These are not times to be all tough and proud. Put some boundaries around your days and find a few life-giving things you can still participate in and enjoy. We need you as the leader for such a time as this.
Antarctica. This vast continent of ice and rock has been drawing me towards her shores for the past seven years and now she has forever changed my life.
When Bob Kuhn and I were completing a three month trip around the world in the global south we shared our last supper in Aukland New Zealand. Bob was going to meet Renae in Palm Desert and I was leaving for Kauai to be with Brenda so we could unpack that experience with our wives.
Bob and I left the restaurant talking pensively about our trip and how it was sad to be splitting up the next day. In the midst of this we both said, “We should have gone to Antarctica.” It was the only continent that we have not travelled to together.
From that moment on, we would frequently look at each other and say “Antarctica” giving it a special power to invoke hope and vision. This year, we did it. We are here, and the impact of this adventure will stay with us for the rest of our lives.
My journal is filled with notes and observations that will provide fodder for future blogs and keynote addresses. I’m presently quite speechless about what we have experienced here. Others have described visiting Antarctica as like going to the moon. We are looking at the immensity of a part of the world largely untouched by human beings. What we are seeing is a dramatic series of contrasts between ice and stone, appearing just as it has been from long long ago.
It is going to take some time of reflection before I can share more, but I will.
I was in Northern Ireland with my close friend and ministry colleague Martin Sanders on the fourth anniversary of Brenda’s death.
Martin’s wife Dianna died five years ago also in the month of August and we have been walking with each other through the grief the journey of grief and it has been so good to share life together.
The fourth anniversary of Brenda’s passing did not feel like the third. Being in Ireland this year was the first time away from my family on the anniversary. The family are doing well. This summer we had been together talking at Barnabas about how we were doing so I am comfortable with that – I just miss them when I’m away.
On the morning of the twelfth, Martin and I were invited for “a cuppa” by Dr. Arthur Peebles. (That is Northern Irish for coming by for a “wee cup of tea.” ) There we were, three doctors together in a quiet well lit Irish sitting room sharing together about the loss of our soul mates. Arthur lost his Ann four years ago and he and I have spoken of this on previous visits. Martin’s Dianna died five years ago August 22nd, and of course I also experienced the second loss of my fiancé Ruth.
We are all reasonably intelligent men and understand that the experiencing of grief is normal, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple. As we shared we discovered it hasn’t been easy for any of us. Often the most common shared experience was the longing for the companionship we once shared with our wives.
Science has demonstrated another dimension of why we crave companionship so strongly. When your loved one is alive, the comfort of their very presence sets off neural reward activity in your brain. After they pass away, adapting to the loss is compounded by the disappearance of this stimulus/reward activity. Over time, we learn to cope with the death and don’t expect this same reward. But if you struggle with complicated grief, your brain continues to crave it.
Dictionary.com defines craving as something you long for, want greatly, desire eagerly, and beg for.
We have come to take the perspective that God made us to crave so we’d always desire more of Him.
The day hung on me like a millstone. I could feel it pulling me deeper and deeper into memories and feelings.
It was the one year anniversary of when I was to remarry to Ruth Blake. Most observers called it a “GOD” connection and in just eight months our love for each other threw our lives into visions of hope, inspired our faith, and provoked so much laughter. We felt like teenagers and were so happy. Emphasis on the word ‘was’.
If you are new to my story, Ruth died just 26 days before our wedding day also from cancer. This slid me onto a downward trajectory emotionally, physically, spiritually. It was inexplicable. How could I possibly face this twice in my life? It rocked me to the depths of my soul, leaving me feeling unbalanced, and plunging me into a deep dark place in search of how I could possibly live my life again.
As I shared in my previous post, I have experienced a remarkable healing and a new perspective on all of this. I didn’t drown in my sorrows – although I was certainly sorrowful. Losing a wife to cancer after 40 years of relationship then losing a fiancé of eight months – inconceivable! (I know, you cannot read that word without ‘hearing’ the voice of Vizzini from Princess Bride).
I have talked to other widowers in the past year who cannot believe I am still standing. Yet here I am, able to only in Christ alone. But being able to stand does not mean that the anniversary of our wedding day did not linger on me . It was after all, the death of a dream.
Memory Muscle Cramps
The night before our ‘anniversary’ I had friends over for supper. I enjoyed the cooking and great conversations around the table. But as I was cleaning the kitchen and putting away dishes, my mind-traffic was all about how nice it would be to be entertaining and cleaning up with Ruth. We had dreams of how we would entertain regularly, inviting others into our home. I thought of how she would have loved the young adults gathered here – young adults were her passion and her ministry. Those memories are like experiencing a muscle cramp, a reminder of the death of a dream.
Loss involves pain, and that is unavoidable. Our pain is proportionate to our love, so if you love someone deeply it is going to be more painful should they die. While I have experienced a lot of pain this past year I’ve also learned a great deal. Here are some of my reflections:
Learnings on Grief and Loss
Death is a reality of life. The most precious commodity we have now is our time, and we can give that to others as a gift. When we do, be fully present, and let them know they have been heard.
I realize that true love transcends all things physical and is what sustains us through our lives, with or without our loved ones.
Many people journey through their own sometimes brutal and perplexing life issues. Each day forward provides an opportunity to do at least one good thing for those around me. I can choose to live each day, loving and encouraging others.
Multiple losses creates an opportunity to re-evaluate: Faith, grace, friendships, family, how we spend time, what we invest in. Don’t waste that. Set some time in your planning for reflection and being intentional.
Men suffer more from being bereaved. In a 2001 study by psychologists Wolfgang and Margaret Stroebe they found that men actually suffer more from death of a loved one. So men stop trying to be stoic, admit you are suffering and enter into the healing that follows.
Find some time to laugh. I have seen how laughter is healing. When I’m together with my sons and we get telling stories about their Mom we often end up in joyous laughter at the memories. Even though we still miss Brenda, her influence and life lives on through the joy of her life.
Lean into the pain. We oscillate a great deal on this journey. Some hours avoiding the grief because it hurts, other times wanting to talk about it and draw near. Stay with it until you sense God’s presence with you.
Death of a loved one gives you the opportunity to unzip your soul and let the pain do its work. Do this with a few trusted friends or family. Keep them up to date on how you are journeying and when it hurts. Trust them and allow them in – they will benefit as much or maybe even more than you will. The irony of grief is that the person you need to talk to about how you feel is the person who is no longer here.
I am a pastor, a mentor of Christian leaders but through this season of loss in my life I have a new understanding of what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Over the past year, I have come to know that I can: experience grief but without despair; sorrow but without defeat; sadness but without hopelessness. As Christ followers, we grieve genuinely but hopefully because our grief is temporary. Our grief will come to an end and we (Brenda and Ruth and myself) will be reunited before the Lord together – forever.
The irony of grief is that the person you need to talk to about how you feel is the person who is no longer here.
My mother loved pearls. Brenda loved pearls and was seldom seen without them. So I got looking into them one time and found that ‘pearl divers’ are a real thing. It’s a job! They have this amazing ability to swim for a long time underwater with no equipment. They scour rocks and sea bottom for bi-valve mollusks like oysters that just may have a pearl inside. The most valuable pearls in the world are found in the wild, and are often at the deepest depth for these divers.
To help the divers stay deeper they put on weights like a belt enabling them to sink down faster and deeper. There they are then able to stay on the bottom longer extending their search – and that is where they find pearls of great price.
This is like a metaphor for me as I feel like God strapped some weights to me last year causing me to sink to the bottom, but while there I have discovered some pearls.
So the next time you sink to the bottom in life, take a look around. God is there with you and he will reveal to you more of his splendour, grace and love.
Have you had an experience when you hit rock bottom, but then discovered there was some treasure of great price to be found?
What are some of your reflections on loss in your life?
It’s a game, a sport. There are winners and losers all the time in atheltics. Why do I have tears?
My team, Trinity Western University Spartans Women’s Volleyball, lost our first game in the Canadian national championship to our cross town rivals UBC. If you follow me on social media you know this is my team. I am known as “One Sport Carson” at the univeristy.
You can say, “But Carson, one team had to lose.” Yes, and that’s the reality of sports. But today, deep down, I believe it should not have been my team that lost.
I have cried a great deal in the past four years experiencing great loss in my own life. Through this have come to recognize that there are different kinds of tears. Sad tears. Shrieking grief tears. Uncontrolable sobbing tears. Angry frustrated dry tears. Tears you cannot stop that seem to last forever. I’ve got a cold, tears. Hormonal tears. Lovingly surprised tears like when you receive an unexpected visit from a loved friend. Symbiotic tears of compassion. Scientists have actually studied the microscopic structure of tears and found that our tears are indeed different.
No microscope was needed to tell me that my tears today were tears not of grief for the loss, but of heart felt compassion for the team.
This is the end of the season. For the team, their volleyball season is wrapping up. For me, it is also the end of a season. I am completing my contract with the university shortly and moving on to a new adventure. I wanted my team to win the nationals as this was my last year. That might have been part of my tears, but I know from whence these tears came.
#SpartansWVB is not just some athletic team. It is a group of women for which I have utmost respect. For their athleticism, scholarly accomplishments, humour, and service. But most importantly, I love their character. The team has become a community. They laugh together. Today, they cried together. They enjoy hanging out with one another and support each other through lows and celebrate accomplishments together. These women are going to change the world on and off the court as they live out their callings.
A large smile comes across my face as I walk across campus and have our tallest women calling my name and waving hello. It’s not hard to spot them in a crowd. This routine started after I travelled to China with the team four years ago.
After the death of my wife Brenda, and then suffering another loss with the death of my fiancé Ruth last year, many from this team have reached out in caring for me. They ask how I am doing, send me notes of encouragement and pray for me. When my granddaughter comes to watch games, they indulge a proud grandpa by allowing Ellie to get a picture with them.
I shed tears today not because this is just “some team” that lost. To me, they are Meaghan, Kristin, Alexis, Dora, Michaella, Hilary, Olivia, Ansah, Ashtyn, Micaylee, Sedona, Jessica, Alison, Avery, Savannah, Brie, Emma, and Mikaelyn. They wanted to win today, especially for their team mates who are in their last year of elgibility. But that didnt happen, and there were tears. So feeling like I am an extension of the team, I teared up too.
Next year, I’ll be back (he says with an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent). I love this team unconditionaly – win or lose. I’ll support my TWU volleyball team. We are all Spartans.
At the end of April 2019 I will complete my role assisting the president and my closest friend Bob Kuhn at Trinity Western University. I have been spending time praying and asking God what He would have me do in this next season of my life – wondering my future role after all I have been through.
During the summer I experienced a remarkable renewal in my life. I’m whistling again and want to do something! Hope welled up within me once again and I began to dream – but what would it be? There were plenty of opportunities – but I wanted to experience a fresh call.
Bob Kuhn, when I was talking to him about this, said that it was highly unlikely God was going to call me to do anything drastically different than how He has used me all my life – mentoring people. His statement sat with me and was a major influence in my decision about the future. In a remarkable series of events I know what I am going to do now. I am going to focus on mentoring and will be working with my friends at Barnabas Landing on Keats Island. I’m joining the team as Special Assistant to the President (a title I have come to love from my time at Trinity Western University).
Those of you who know me well are aware of my family’s relationship with Barnabas. It holds a very dear place in our hearts and we have been engaged there for decades. Brenda always described it as her favourite place on earth – and she had seen a lot of the earth in her lifetime. So, in the new Station building being built our family have sponsored a room in her memory.
Then, there is the more recent loss in my life, that of Ruth Blake. I was engaged to Ruth and she too was taken from us by cancer just less than a month before our wedding. Ruth is Rob’s sister and was a key element of the ministry to young adults at Barnabas.
What will I be doing?
I will spend 50% of my time working alongside Rob Bentall. We will be investing in an initiative where up to a dozen young adults will live on the island for a guided mentorship experience. The participants will be called Barnabas Landing Stewards and together we will learn what it means to live as Christians in a post Christian world. From September until April we will live, work and grow together in community.
In addition the Barnabas Landing mentoring initiative will hold retreats for the baby boomer generation teaching how to recover the role of elder and how to mentor. The Stewards will assist in the training. From May until September I will be working with others creating a mentoring flow that I am very excited about.
The other 50% of my time I will be able to do more writing, executive mentoring/coaching with leaders and organizations, pastoral counselling, and conference and retreat speaking on God’s pursuing love and grace. I also love working with Truefaced and other boards I serve with.
The thought of being able to welcome friends and family to visit on the island thrills me – and of course my grandkids can come anytime!
I am also excited about the creation of new rhythms this next season will usher in. It will settle out over time but presently looks something like this:
September to April living on Keats Monday through Thursday and back into the city with family and friends Friday to Sunday.
Between May and September I will be going to Ireland for a month for creative time, and restoration. I also plan to spend some weeks out on the ocean and of course preparing for the next intake of Stewards.
Daily rhythms will involve more quiet time, focus on health and the encouraging of others.
And of course…being on and near the water as much as possible.
Following is the release that Barnabas have sent out. I’ll be writing much more about this in the future. – Carson
For Immediate Release
January 17, 2019
Barnabas Family Ministries Appoints Carson Pue to Lead Mentoring Initiative
Keats Island, BC – The management and staff of Barnabas Landing are pleased to announce that Rev. Dr. Carson Pue has accepted the appointment to the role Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director Rob Bentall.
The appointment fills an important role after the premature death of Ruth Blake, Rob Bentall’s sister and Carson’s fiancé. Ruth’s passion was ministry to young adults and it seemed clear to all that this vision was not to stop but rather be enhanced. A mentorship program called “Barnabas Landing Stewards” has been developed and Carson will act as the director.
The Barnabas board is very encouraged to have Carson Pue join the staff team. He knows Barnabas well, and his values and expertise around mentoring and community align well with our vision and will enhance young adults and our staff. The Stewards will also be helping teach Baby Boomers how to be effective mentors in this new initiative. Carson will be a great encouragement as special assistant to Rob Bentall, coming alongside with skills in organizational leadership, fundraising, and pastoral help in maintaining the spiritual core of our ministry to families of all ages.
“I am not sure I could have thought up such a timely, meaningful way to serve those I love at Barnabas,” says Carson Pue. “My love, passion, and vision for young adults has grown while at Trinity Western University and I feel called to do all we can to encourage them moving into adulthood and learning how to be and live as Christians in a post Christian world. What better way to learn and grow than by living together on an island in the Pacific.”
Carson will assume the role of Special Assistant to the President in May 2019. While Barnabas serves as his center, Carson will continue his executive mentoring and leadership work with boards and Christian leaders. Barnabas Landing Stewards will start the first cohort of guided mentorship in September 2019 through April 2020.
Rob Bentall says, “I can’t believe how God has directed and brought all this about. I am thrilled to have Carson as a new addition to our team and I believe that this will forward our ministry to strengthen, educate and encourage families for decades to come.”
ABOUT BARNABAS LANDING
Established in 1986 as a non-profit Christian ministry, Barnabas Family Ministries is dedicated to strengthening, educating and encouraging families through Christian retreats. Barnabas Landing strives to create a place where young adults, couples, families and Christian leaders can retreat from the demands of life. In this atmosphere of rest and authenticity, we believe relationships and faith can flourish. It is place to refocus on what matters the most—your relationships and faith.
When I think about the past year I barely have words. Twenty eighteen began with emotions of being in love again, and the delights of a teenage crush with Ruth Blake. Our engagement in March of last year gave birth of new hope for a future together with a wedding the end of June. Her death from cancer in May shocked all around her. As I sat with her for those eight days in hospital I felt nothing but love, however that was to change. How do you explain two deaths, two loved ones in such a short period? How do you possibly understand, and deal with, the death of dreams?
In the weeks following Ruth’s memorial service I found myself on a downward trajectory. It was extremely hard. Even though I had served God most of my life, I was done. We no longer had a working relationship (he says smiling as he reflects on that thought).
After the darkness…
Those two paragraphs represent the darkest first half of 2018. But it was not to remain like that. Through an invitation by my friends Tim and Suzanne in Port Stewart, Northern Ireland I escaped everything here and ran into the arms of their friendship and love. What I was not anticipating, or seeking, was God’s pursuit of me.
While there with Suzi, in my darkest lowest moment, I experienced “the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God “ as Cory Asbury sings. “Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine.” I cannot share the whole story of healing I experienced. It is after all an Irish story and that would take at least an hour!
Needless to say, I returned a different man. I’m whistling again! I have energy, hope and have shared with friends that I feel like I am twenty years old, just became a follower of Jesus, and want to change the world.
The second half of last year was filled with more hope. looking forward and dreaming again. I spent time out on the ocean with friends going further north than I have ever gone before to The Broughtons. I also went back to Ireland with a best friend and Jeremy and Shari. It was an amazing time together – and of course we got to see Suzi and Tim again.
As I anticipate 2019 there a things that I am going to do differently. My contract at Trinity Western University completes at the end of April when the President completes his term. I have so appreciated my time serving the university and it has rekindled my love of young adults (and watching women’s volleyball LOL).
My contract completion creates a transition point and I am envisioning a new focus and lifestyle for myself. In the coming year I see myself mentoring young adults; coaching executive leaders in both business and ministry where I can add value and encouragement; writing more; and intentionally nurturing my deep friendships. I also plan to take a tour to Ireland again – maybe two – to trace the footsteps of St Patrick. And of course maintaining my passion for Africa will be continuing to serve the Abundant Leadership Institute in Kigali Rwanda.
After a long break due to my circumstances, I will be opening up my calendar for speaking at conferences and retreats in 2019 and 2020. You can bet that a theme for this year will be the pursuing love of God. I will be making an announcement with more detail shortly.
Our family have been looking at reflection questions from the Muskoka Woods Leadership Studio and thinking about the things we would like to focus on in 2019. One of the question adds: “What would need to be simplified, discarded or delegated to make room for these?” It presupposes that if we are going to do something new, we need to make room for it.
So that leads me to ask you, if you are going to do something new this year how will you simplify, discard or delegate to make room for these?
I woke up thinking: I should be on an island getting dressed in my new Tommy Bahama shirt and linen pants for our Keats island wedding. A wedding that was birthed out of a relationship with Ruth that seemed absolutely perfect – a “God thing.”.
We had our future all dreamed out: A home on Keats Island, a home in the city. Writing several books we had thought about and discussed. Enjoying writing and quiet times together on the island. We had a great evening thinking about names for the beach house and really laughed at Sea-Esta. We wanted to travel together so I might show her the world. I had already booked trips to San Diego, Alberta, Toronto, Ireland and she was going to come to Rwanda with me in the new year.
Ruth was wide-eyed at the prospects. We saw ourselves ministering together together with a focus on young adults and helping Barnabas however we could. Ruth and I enjoy being grandparents and loving our kids so family would be a big part of our new life together. Entertaining, concerts, holidays, Disneyland, speaking together about our beautiful story, encouraging hope in God. All of these exciting dreams. We had a plan!
All these dreams, and all were threatened with the diagnosis that Ruth’s cancer was back. It was back with a vengeance and eight days later she passed through surrounded by her family and loved ones.
Blueprint for future life
You and I all have plans/dreams for our future. I was cherishing and nurturing dreams with Ruth, holding them close to my heart. She and I finally had a new blueprint that we would attempt to build our future lives according to. I’m sure you, in your quiet moments away from the busyness of day to day living, have some dreams that you are cherishing and that you desperately hope for. Well I’m 63 this year and, over the experience of life, have come to know that we don’t always get our way. God, haven’t I learned that already? I would have thought that the death of Brenda (my wife) and other twists and turns in my life and leadership would have taught me by now. Yet I still find the desire to try and meticulously plan the details so nothing is left to chance.
This quote from Steve Kellmeyer, Catholic author and culture commentator, caught me with the accuracy and potency of his words.
“There is a war that each of us fights within ourselves. When unforeseen difficulty arises, when our initial choice demands of us a sacrifice we did not foresee and when this sacrifice we unknowingly chose strikes at the very heart of what we cling to, what will we do?”
What will I do?
What will we do when we are shaken to the very core of who we are by something we could not possibly have anticipated. When our faith, hope, excitement and happiness are challenged so strongly that it paralyzes, what will we do?
Over the past weeks I have gone to some dark places in my thoughts. Places where what I claim to believe has been once again, put to the test. Places where I wanted to abandon what I have committed most of my life to. I wondered if I would ever find the strength to believe and hope again knowing that answers to all my “why” questions would end up falling into the answer category of Job 36:26, “Look, God is greater than we can understand.”
Will I have the courage and strength to take all the pieces of what I thought was a perfectly future and place them in the realization that our lives are beautifully imperfect.
The way you answer the question, “What will I do?”, can or will be the making of us. Surrounded and accepted by my family and close friends I feel supported this day in choosing not to lose confidence in myself, or in God. Today, most of Ruth’s family and grandchildren gathered together will all my clan. We just wanted to be together. It’s unusual because we are not family, yet we are very much family. We realize that what we will do is a choice, and we want to encourage the best decisions based on faith.
I want my faith to arise.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, I have decided to take some time to mourn. To give permission to go to peaceful places, remembering our memories and our dreams. To wrestle with God about further areas I need to submit to him. To not be afraid to admit my feelings and keep talking to God until I rest in the fact that somehow, he is going to work this out for good.
I want my faith to arise. I have encouraged many while mentoring not to let your setbacks define who you are. I don’t want this setback to do that to myself. After all, I’m a child of God and that is my identity. Learning to submit to God means learning to trust and follow him even when you don’t think his way makes sense. So today. I choose today to trust him regardless of the outcome.