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.

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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

https://www.facebook.com/Studio1TwentyYXE/

 

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.

Settle In Uncertainty

Uncertainty. Question marks and nagging queries. Unsolved problems and unfinished projects. Confusion, mix-ups and waves of guessing and estimation. This is no one’s favourite place to live. It can feel like peace cannot survive here -not until uncertainty dissipates and clarity comes.

A few days ago I ascended and soared until the lake fountains of Saskatoon looked like tiny drinking drops sprinkling down below. The clouds were gloriously puffy in my window and the sunshine brilliant. While this sounds beauteous (and it was!) the reality of turbulent winds were having a hay day with the position of the plane, and I simply wasn’t enjoying the ride. (I apologize whole-heartedly to the passengers stuck beside me who pretended to be zonked as I periodically jabbered to lessen my own feelings of anxiety. Of uncertainty). 

John Maxwell writes a person’s life is 10% about circumstances and 90% about attitude. I am thankful that it is my attitude I can control, instead of circumstances – as circumstances are just 10% of my life puzzle.

While the plane jumped and jolted, it dawned on me. I did not have to wait for the turbulence to stop in order to have peace. What if I chose to settle down in the uncertainty of the turbulence? (The turbulence was persisting after all, and wishing for it to stop didn’t seem to be helping me).

I admit that clarity feels good, and it will come as you move forward through uncertain times. However, you don’t have to wait for the uncertainty to end in order to have the peace of God. He offers it in all circumstances, and we all can choose to have an attitude of trust … Choose to believe fervently that He knows what He is doing, and He is separate from nothing that happens in our lives. Nothing.

Jeff Goins writes, “Action always brings clarity.” As you wade through uncertain times, you can have deep assurance that clarity will come, and that although you cannot see around the corners of life, God can. Trust-worthy God. Reliable God. Faithful God. Unchanging God. Infinite-Love-Incarnate-God. He has his hands on the wings of your life – directing your vessel through uncertain turbulence. It’s okay for you to settle in right where you are. Right in the middle of it. It’s okay to let go of control and choose to trust Him even before the rough ride calms down. He is peace. He is enough. So sit and settle on in with me today, choose to trust the Great Navigator and feel yourself be empowered to face and embrace uncertainty with supernatural peace.

 

 

Map It Out

A map brings clarity to any journey. It makes a traveler feel confident they are moving in the direction they want to be, and washes a driver with sweet internal peace (Nobody likes the grouchy navigator). The production and possession of an effective map allows a person to relish each leg of a voyage knowing they are not travelling in vein.

In life, it’s actually quite easy to veer off the tracks you had hoped to be on. Mapping life out begins with reflecting. Where do you want to go? How do you want to grow? Who do you want to be? You can’t follow a plan you don’t take the time to generate … and an unrealized dream won’t become reality.

Teaching is my thing … and I have received many pokes and jokes when it comes to reflection for teachers in training. While it may be true that there were certain assignments requiring excessive internal examination (or so it seemed at the time), reflecting and planning is a key component when it comes to living out your purpose. Vision is the tunnel to reality. If you can see a pathway, you can stay on it.

A few weeks ago I endeavored to clean and clear all things unnecessary from my closet (I am officially a hoarder no morder). I came across an old assignment called “Vision and Volition” where we were required to write out the ways we wanted to grow emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. Here are some deep “Education Reflection” excerpts for you to savour (and perhaps make a fun of … just a little)

  1. Emotionally – “I hope to grow in emotional strength by believing the truth God says about me and focusing on the positive things in life. I want to be a rock for others to lean on during difficult times.”
  2. Spiritually – “I hope to grow in my Christian faith by spending time with God and learning more about Him. As I do this, I believe that what I say will align more and more with how I act and think. I want to be a person of integrity in this way.”
  3. Mentally – “I want to grow mentally, to be a sharp and attentive learner and an engaged citizen of Canada. I want to spend less time in the shopping mall and more in the library.”
  4. Physically – “Although I exercise regularly, I would like to eat healthier and get enough sleep in order to feel better and have more energy to invest in the people around me.”

As I read these goals (that I hardly remember writing), I was astounded to realize the leaps and bounds I have made growing towards each. Vision gives motivation and grows passion and excitement. God has given us brains so that we can think, reason and dream with Him. God instructs us bold and clear in Proverbs 14:15 to take time to think about where we are headed and why by saying, “Be smart and know where you are headed (CEV).”

When your priorities, calendar and wallet correspond – peace and purpose grows. They say you are 80% more likely to reach a goal you write down (Who is “they” anyways?) … Take some time to scribble out an aspiration or two, and allow that map to bring clarity and peace to the highways of life you choose.