Leadership is Influence?

The great leadership guru, John Maxwell, teaches that leadership is influence – nothing less and nothing more. This week I listened in on some rigorous debate about this statement. Some of my colleagues agree with Maxwell, that to lead is to influence – and we are all created to do this, in some fashion. Others disagree, saying that the mark of leadership is on some and not others.

Maxwell makes the important differentiation between leadership and management. He says that the mark of a true leader is the ability to bring about positive change. he says that a manager is able to maintain status quo, and get compliance – but a true leader inspires followers towards a compelling vision and that builds value into the organization, and everyone within it. Princess Dianna rallied hundreds of thousands of people around causes to empower marginalized and vulnerable people with her influence, even after she was no longer the official princess. Was she a leader? What about Mother Teresa, as she served in Calcutta?

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Anyone can be great, because anyone can serve.” Christian author Kevin Hall writes, “Your gifts are not about you, your leadership is not about you, your purpose is not about you. A life of significance is about serving those who need your gifts, your leadership and your purpose.”

The fall season will soon fade into Christmas celebrations and stars and lights will point towards the coming of the Servant King. There were many people who would not have classified Jesus as a “leader”, but He has managed to lead the entire world  into advancements in education, medical care, virtue, and transformation. Romans 8:29 says that God has predestined people to be conformed to His image – that is the highest human purpose.


It was early in the morning. I was on my way out the door when I realized I was missing my earphones. I don’t enjoy the gym without a podcast, so I began the wild search for my new Bluetooth beauties. I hunted high and low. I explored every bag, pocket, drawer and corner. I scampered up the stairs and down – and then back up again. After an hour, I was irritated. I had no time left for the gym, and I gave up.

I hate losing things. When you lose something, your mind continues to stew about it subconsciously until you find it. There is no peace for the searching. The search for headphones doesn’t compare with the human search for identity. The fundamental human question: Who am I?

So often, we try to answer this question with definite answers.

Job titles. Are you a teacher or an accountant?

Personality types. Introvert or extrovert?

Traits. Shy or outgoing?

Gifts. Creative or clear and organized?

It is a powerful thing to know your strengths, your personality and your preferences. It is essential to know yourself so you can maximize your skills and gifts for God’s purposes. However, you must know: You are not a title, a relationship or a tendency. You are in Christ and in order to carry out His mission for you – you will need to be flexible and adaptive. You will need to embrace uncomfortable tensions and dichotomies in the world and within yourself.

Jesus wore humility and confidence … Truth and grace.

Yes, you can be both…

Bold and gentle.

Kind and honest.

Shy and strong.

Ambitious and surrendered.

Patient and eager.

Fun-loving and wise.

Dependable and risk-taking.

Brave and limited.

Take Charge and meek.

Don’t search to define yourself primarily by compartments, titles or associations. Your true identity won’t be found by knowing yourself, but by knowing the God who lives in you. He calls himself, I AM. I AM gives you flexibility, adaptability, and a growth mindset so you can change, learn and live mighty. I AM gives you discernment to know how to act, to whom to speak, and what to say, depending on the situation at hand.

I AM says: Abide in me to access this wisdom. My wisdom is the answer to all your searching. You are filled with it when you spend time getting to know me.

His life in you cannot be contained by any barrier, definition, or compartment.

You have been given everything you need for life and Godliness… (2 Peter 1:3)

You have been given flexibility.

You have been adorned with adaptability.

You do not live within rigid walls.

When you live with a keen awareness that I AM lives in you, you will discover the exquisite and surprising truths about who you are, in Him.

What Do You Value?

My art teacher used to speak about paintings saying, Values do all of the work – and the colors get all of the glory! In art, value deals with the lightness or darkness of a color. Clear and consistent values bring cohesion and beauty to a painting. The same is true for life.

Getting clear about your values marks a pathway for you to make decisions in alignment with your purpose, passion and calling. Being clear about your personal values equips you:

1. To act in the ways you want to, deep down, when you are taken off guard.

2. To avoid the slow fading of values that happens slowly over time without you realizing it.

How do you get clear about your values?

-Get alone in a place that inspires you

-List all of the things that are really important to you and ask yourself: What is deeply fulfilling for you? What do traits do you admire most in others?

-Circle the top 10 words on your list

Are these 10 words reflected on your calendar and finances?

If your answer is yes, you are letting your values do the work – and the colors that shine forth from your life will be absolutely luminous! The color will get the gory but the values will do the work. Our values help us to move forward, and make decisions that satisfy our deepest longings, so we live fulfilled.

As a child of God, I know my deepest longing is to know Jesus and to be known by Him.

When we know his presence, we are empowered by the truth: Greater is He who is in you than the problem before you.

This is the highest value God calls all of us to hold.

Here is a list I penned a few years ago:

Awe (I want to experience the presence of God), connection, curiosity, education, integrity, vision, grace, family, fun, and generosity.

I’d love to know what yours are too!

Gospel Goals for Generations

The vision for One Hope Canada, a collection of Bible camp ministries across the Nation, is to “To intentionally equip present and next generation leaders to be Gospel-centered, and to aggressively pursue new ministry strategies that recognize cultural and geographical realities.”

The next generation of leaders, influencers and decision makers will be strengthened and stretched at Bible Camps across Canada this summer. One Hope Canada includes camps in ten provinces and has been engaging Canada with the Gospel for over 90 years.

As a teen, I spent my summers being equipped at one of these camps. Yesterday, I spent a nostalgic Canada Day reminiscing at that Camp’s 85th Anniversary.

As part of the celebration, there was a Canon Ball Fundraiser to support the finishing bathroom project at the camp to compliment the brand new pool. I spent two summers Program Directing there alongside Camp Director Marilyn Kirk. I remember when she began dreaming about the building of a new pool on the campgrounds, because the old waterslide and tiny cement pool needed to be closed down permanently. Luseland Bible Camp is rustic and the proposition of a brand new pool in the middle of the field sounded ludicrous and impossible.

Yesterday, at the celebration, Saskatchewan One Hope field Director Terry Kerr, spoke about Marilyn’s radical determination. Marilyn had a God-sized dream, but she didn’t try moving forward with a dream alone. She worked hard to develop a plan with the camp board, camp staff and One Hope Canada. Then, with all her fiery passion, and all God’s miraculous power, her God sized dream began to take shape.

Denzel Washington writes, “Dreams without goals are just dreams and can ultimately fuel disappointment.” Marilyn had vision, she set realistic goals with her key teams, and she moved forward with resolve.

Goal-setting is good, but it was not the key to Marilyn’s success. A goal becomes particularly powerful when the purpose is not to achieve the goal, but for the goal-setter to grow. One Hope Canada aims to grow Gospel-centered leaders, and the Great Gospel goal is to know God and make Him known.  Every goal you make will shape and change you positively or negatively. That’s why it’s important to ask before setting a goal: Will this goal help me look more like Jesus? Will achieving this goal move my family, my community or my nation to know Jesus? 

Yeseterday, as I wrapped my body into a canon ball, along with twenty-nine other jumpers, I looked around at the diverse group gathered to plunge. The goal was to build the pool – and it had been done. But the purpose of the pool, and of One Hope Canada, is ultimately to disciple people so they can be change agents for God’s Kingdom. I saw a post this morning written by one of my fellow canon ball jumpers. The jump was a challenge for her, and she had developed courage, and overcome barriers to take the great leap. The goal, the building of the pool, is already producing it’s purpose… for people to be changing and growing to look more like Christ in courage.

As I watched Marilyn observe the canon ball action, I knew it had happened in her too. Through the process, she was given vision by God, made plans, sets goals – and saw the power of God bring it to pass. With men and women like this on the ground leading Canadian Bible camps, One Hope Canada can move forward in the midst of uncertainty and celebrate this Canada Day weekend, knowing that God will continue to bring his vision to be: “To intentionally equip present and next generation leaders to be Gospel-centered” … and he will do so for generations to come.

“Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.” – Psalm 119:90


What Are You Building? Who Owns Your Watch?

“People who regularly spend about a quarter of their hours each day with family and friends are 12 times as likely to report feeling joyful rather than feeling stressed and anxious.” – http://news.gallup.com/poll/107692/social-time-crucial-daily-emotional-wellbeing.aspx

This week the Pastor preached, “Build legacies, not just memories.”

But memories are important – we are wired for social interactions and relationships are at the very heart of the Gospel. Love God. Love people.

I recently visited my cousin as he and his wife welcomed a new baby girl into the world. Her hair is thick and eyes, still unfocused – but she is the apple of his eye. By spending hours preparing for and caring for this new tiny girl – my cousin is building.

He used to build on our tree drizzled prairie farm too. As little explorers, my sister and I would follow him around carrying the wood pieces he chose to build with. And we would cheer him on as he assembled with nails and branches the finest tree-mansion an eight year old could imagine.

Anyone can build.

How do you know when you’re building memories that make a legacy?

That tree fort became my haven for songs, books, adventures and creativity. Climbing the claws of tree bark inspired me and brought value to my life. After spending time in the sky I would come down with more to offer world.

The day he pounded nails to make that fort – we built a memory I won’t ever forget.

The memory became a legacy because it changed me and the structure continued to change me.

When people change, a legacy emerges.

It took my cousin a few hours to build that house.

Time creates memories and holds both legacies and destinies.

What you are building depends on who owns your watch.

What factors determine how you spend time in a day? Does your email drive your schedule? Your cell phone? A rigid routine? Distractions?

When you own your watch – you can choose to spend hours making ladders for people to so they can climb and experience creativity, discover their gifts and find courage to try new things.

Legacies are not created by building something great – but by building great people. Jesus himself was the best example of this kind of extraordinary living. He came with a mission to invade every corner of the world with irresistible love, and he started with a rag tag team of twelve men. Fishermen and tax collectors. He built memories with them and helped them climb in faith, character, perseverance, hope, confidence, resilience and strength – and He set them free to leave a legacy that continues to change the world today – this is the Gospel.

What are you building? Who owns your watch?

Measure Better this December

What are you trying to measure this December? A work out and healthy diet plan? Caloric intake? We all love to track and see progress. In fact, when we can see our own success – this is the best motivator for someone to continue striding towards the goal!

Measurables, numbers and results are concrete and tangible and we can draw a clear path that shows exactly how to reach our goals – a concrete plan. This helps all of us to feel in control and on top of things – like we have it together.

We often feel December is a month to have things together (gifts, feasts, friends and family). But in reality – it can be a month of unraveling (to-do lists, Christmas parties, pies and fancy social media posts can crowd and scatter any heart and head). On this first December day – The good news is – we all have choices.

And when it is all said and done, you can measure the results.

Measurables matter. They steer us and help us grow. They show us where to focus our internal and external energy, we’ve only got so much.

But, choosing what should be measured with highest priority is more important that the commitment to measuring. What about the things we rarely stop to measure? What if they may be most important measurables of all?

Trust. Relationship. Love. 

I recently left a trey of donuts in an unwanted area at my workplace. By the time I realized – they had transformed into untouchables! When I went to clean my thoughtless mess – someone had cleaned the stinking decayed sight – and in it’s place was my lovely trey, shiny and bright. I still don’t know who cleaned the mess – but the trust and love I felt from my staff team in that moment is tough to measure. It’s something deep. A heart full.

My students tell me they cannot learn in a classroom without trust. They don’t feel safe to answer questions, they are disinterested in the content and they count down the minutes until they can escape the room. In a learning space with trust – they say they are free to be real, make mistakes, look foolish and thrive. We rarely measure how students feel in a classroom. It’s hard to tag a number on trust.

Brainstorming ideas with event planners gets me thinking on trust, too. We recently evaluated a previous event – and trusted one another enough to openly share ways we can improve. Trust helps us be better and stick together. Meaningful relationships make work vibrant and alive.

I play music with a fun crew and trust is the glue. When my ideas are rejected (sometimes more graciously than others) it’s not a big deal when I choose to believe the hearts of the team are always for me – and we are united around the purpose of our playing: to give God glory.

Trust is the foundation for the flourishing of individuals, teams and communities. Trust is also the train tracks for the fulfillment of any great mission.

Patrick Lencioni, author and business consultant writes, “When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth, an attempt to find the best possible answer.” – The Advantage

Love. Relationship. Trust.

This measurement fills all others.

Could these words be the largest scrawled on your December calendar this year? The highest priority measurable? These words have mighty power to invade meetings, celebrations, concerts, shopping bustle, decorating and deadlines.

Mary knew how to measure a full heart. She carried Jesus full term. He fulfilled prophecies set generations before his birth. He extends fullness of love, relationship and trust from the stable cave to every human heart, and the supply is unending. You don’t have to generate your own love, relationships and trust. Draw freely from his, drench your December calendar with it – and believe that all of the numerical measurables you hope to achieve will add up as God intends – as you measure better this December.

Telling Taglines

Telling Taglines

Bring on exam season! School and university hallways are thick with pressure and people wanting to acheive! Final marks will soon be rolled out and much is on the line. I posed the question to students this week “How do you feel when you receive negative feedback from a coach, parent or teacher?” Most said they feel badly about themselves and it puts a damper on their day. It’s de-motivating. I can relate. It is rare to find people who can attach negative feedback to the task that they do – and not to the person they are – but research shows this is the key to success and to long lasting joy.

Shane Snow, after researching hundreds of success stories, identified important patters in the lives of those who were able to do incredible things in short periods of time. He suggests that we all should seek #fastfeedback. For him, this is a life tagline. If we get feedback fast, don’t take it personally, and adapt and improve before veering too far off course – we will be most successful!

“In a recent study, research showed that experts – people who were masters at a trade – vastly preferred negative feedback to positive. It spurred the most improvement. That was because criticism is generally more actionable than compliments. Crucially, experts tended to be able to turn off the part of their egos that took legitimate feedback personally when it came to their craft, and they were confident enough to parse helpful feedback from incorrect feedback. Meanwhile novices needed encouragement and feared failure.” – https://www.nateliason.com/lessons/smartcuts-shane-snow/ 

Debates around the topic of feedback and assessment in the classroom continue to swirl in the world of education. What is most effective?

Ultimately, feedback effectiveness depends more on the attitude of the person receiving it than the particulars of the feedback itself. Is that person able to apply the feedback to the task? Or is it taken as a personal blow, inhibiting motivation and confidence? In school and life, it is important not only to be a fact learner – but also to learn to learn – and to get #fastfeedback and apply it without fear of feeling like a failure.

But we all know we feel better when we succeed – so what is they key to staying motivated to improve in the face of disappointing feedback?

There are certainly tactics and ploys to honing a mindset ready for growth and learning. However, as long as our value is dependant on our performance – this mindset cannot be maintained. However, when we find a sense of worth from the perfect source of Christ and his full acceptance of people through the cross – we know we are free to enjoy lives of learning, adventure, failures and feedback while maintaining a deep-rooted confidence in Christ. The first missionary Paul found the keys to this confidence saying,… I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:11-13

One woman who knows and lives this kind of confidence is the Zoe Network Coordinator, Leanne McAlister. The ZOE Network exists to empower, activate and mobilize women to live out their God-given commission on earth. Leanne works with several teams and on various projects locally, nationally and globally to push Kingdom power forward and bring flourishing to earth one life at a time. It sounds glorious, and at times, it is. At other times, it’s downright tough. She told me between laughter and stories this week that a popular tagline on her team is this: #wetrythings. She sees that successful teams take risks, strategize new ideas and step out of comfort zones – and when results are not glorious – they step back, collect feedback and confidently continue forward with the bold, fun and free montra – #wetrythings. Shane Snow would likely add, #wegetfastfeedback #weattachittothetask and #wetryagain.

So in the midst of pressure times or heavy study seasons, remember that the life taglines playing on repeat in your brain are remarkably important. it’s worth taking the time to set them well and be set free.

For more details about ZOE Network and the empowering work they do, check out http://www.zoenetwork.ca!




Vision Ripples

A few years ago, I moved to Saskatoon to jump into university life alongside an incredible childhood friend. One of our favorite adventures was attending wildly inspiring worship services at the Third Avenue United Church hosted by the Saskatoon Worship Community.

I remember seeing faces from university classes, sports teams and advocacy groups in the city! I couldn’t believe how many people from various groups and backgrounds had gathered around one power vision. I also couldn’t believe how many of them were interested in a night of worship. The numbers and passionate voices loving God motivated and inspired many to leave these gatherings believing they could take Christ empowered passion and change their worlds where they had been planted. People came from all church denominations, and many simply because they were hope hungry. The inspiration of the movement transformed and strengthened people and is still positively impacting the community of Saskatoon and beyond. People attending had different ideas, interests, viewpoints and strengths – but they rallied around a vision.

A powerful vision changes everything. Vision is an aspiration that gives clear direction, and direction takes us places.

The Vision of the Saskatoon Worship Community was this: To bring people together in unity, to foster healthy relationships and build each other up, and to share the love of God.

With this vision in focus – the worship services become a remarkable reality!

The diversity of people at the worship nights was vast but the harmony of voices and shared celebration of The Gospel was rich and ferocious! Many strengths, contexts, viewpoints, and contributions united people to make a difference in their world.

Clear vision brings change for individuals, churches, organizations, institutions and political parties – and aren’t these the very change agents of our world? So what are the visions you own, live and love? Everyone has vision whether scripted or not – we all have aspirations. Taking the time to jot and share it gives a vision life!

A study by Bain and Company indicated that organizations with clearly defined Vision and Mission statements always outperform those who do not. This is true for an individual’s life too.

Andy Stanley says in the most successful purpose-driven groups and organizations, every person knows WHAT the group exists to do and WHY they do it. They also have a power-one-liner that defines their individual contribution or responsibility within the purpose-driven-crew. Confidence, strength and passion build when you know what you are doing and why – and you know that your contribution makes a difference!

Last Saturday, I went to visit that same childhood friend who had experienced the Saskatoon Worship Community with me a few years ago. Now newly married and farm-settled, she is seeing new vision for her life and God’s Kingdom in the place she is planted. On Saturday, she was a part of a similar worship service called Tunes at Timber Ridge. Hope swelled on that beautiful Saskatchewan ski-hill as confidence filled people through song and one God-inspired vision.… And the ripples will echo into the future of every life present and the lives they touch.


Play A Part

Most of us have a secret love bubbling below the surface. For some it’s chocolate, for others, its basketball shoes. Mine is words. I love the way they can mix and mingle to make a statement to the world. I don’t get kicks from studying grammar and proper sentence structure. I love words because language is the carrier of ideas – and you can’t communicate your thoughts or opinions without it. Language is power.

If you can read and write words, you have the ability to advocate for the disenfranchised, to protect the defenseless and to make positive change. Some societies do not allow citizens to exercise freedom of speech – and language shapes a society. In the book Escape from Camp 14, Shin Dong-hyuk tells his story of growing up in the present-day North Korean concentration camp. Shin says the words “love” and “freedom” was forbidden in the camp and before his escape he had never heard them. This is how an entire nation can be controlled. Words carry meaning; therefore, if a society looses a word, it looses the meaning. Yes, language is powerful and your words count.

Some of my favorite word matches are playful oxymorons that make your brain gears turn. Some examples: “Act naturally”, and “deafening silence”.

How about this oxymoron: Team Player

While it is important to embrace your individuality, and make your personal statements to the world – it is equally important to recognize that you are just one player on a team when it comes to your purpose. You are one player on God’s mighty team, faithfully doing your part – wherever you have been placed in this world. You have the opportunity to use your voice to call God’s Kingdom to earth along with the calls of many others. The pressure is off … you can actually enjoy the journey of being part of a team.When we make a statement alone or work to make something happen in isolation, our words and purpose lose power.

Last Sunday night, I was honored to be part of an incredible team that worked to make a beautiful event happen at Elim Church called Strength and Grace. This was a new experience for me (I have a whole new appreciation for you brides out there!), and I’m not exactly a details girl… However, I was floored to experience the power of this team. The dancers and musicians performed and worshiped with wonder, the tech team was diligent and wildly focused, the photographers and videographer were fun, freely capturing the evening. The decor team was brilliant, the money handlers worked swiftly and the food team made deliciousness beautiful! Community business generously donated all kinds of goods for the gift-give aways, the stagehands were patient, the women sharing testimonies were brave and real, the greeters and café workers were warm and welcoming, “The Brotherhood”, as they like to be called, might have ironically been the highlight of the women’s event! Many others played a part to make the event happen. Together, through the event, we raised thousands of dollars for a project called Mirror Mirror that aims to empower young women in the community of Saskatoon with a strong sense of self-worth. Incredible.

Yes, your energy, words and ideas are used best when partnered with those of others. Rest knowing that whatever it is you want to accomplish, God wants you to embrace the relationships and enjoy the journey with people. God’s priority is not for you to get things done today. Remember, loving God and loving people was priority number one for the God-man Jesus.

“Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer … locusts have no kind, yet they advance together in ranks” – Proverbs 30:24

These photos were taken by Jenna Rutherford



God’s Potential Filter

Fact: A good instagram filter can transform a mediocre snapshot into a captivating nugget.

Fact: “Show me your friends are and I will show you your future.” – Unknown

This age old quote is timeless and unchanging. The quality of human connection has always and will always dictate much about a person’s life. Do not underestimate the power of your key people.

In Developing the Leader Within You, John Maxwell says a person consistently lives up to the expectations held by the people closest to him or her. For example, if the people closest to you believe you will never achieve anything in your life, you likely won’t. If they believe you are gifted and capable of wonders, you are much more likely to discover and develop your strengths and abilities, use them to accomplish all God intends you to – and walk in your calling and destiny.

To view others through God’s potential filter is to exercise love. This is how God sees us. This is love in its purest form. Exquisite.

Viktor E. Frankl, Nazi death camp survivor, wrote this regarding love: “Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.” Man’s Search for Meaning

Be reminded: God is love.

Love sees the boundless potential in another. Love sees flaws, failures, selfishness, and mistakes – and responds by saying, Yes … I acknowledge you are imperfect, but I see who you were created to be. I love and accept you right where you are at, but I need to help you to see all of the unrealized possibilities of your future. All of the unspoken hopes. All of the God-given desires. All of the budding aspirations – the undiscovered aptitudes, interests and knacks. All of the untapped courage and outrageous laughter. All of the striking moments and vivacious years. All of the tears and resulting resilience … All of the abundance of a full life.”

Yes, this is the voice of love … Love hung on a tree to offer this to you.

Love says, “I will do everything I can to move you towards your fullest potential in every aspect of your life – relationships, schooling, career and experiences. Love says, “I want to see you deeply fulfilled.”

Love is God’s Potential Filter. Use this filter when viewing others – spend time with people who will peer through it to look at you – and watch this filter brighten the world.