The Secret of Learning…beware to the reader!

Sleep-learning I just finished a provocative video that was recommended to me via a person I respect in the field of communication.  I really feel that any teacher, speaker, communicator, even parent (any individual who has the role/function of teacher) cannot sit on whatever laurels they may have accomplished in reality or in their own mind over the years.  You see, it is easy to limit oneself when it comes to communication and teaching by falling into traps of familiarity and habit.  In fact, just like it is with many things in life, you can reduce yourself and your teaching passion/gifts to the "lowest common denominator"..which, truth is, is simply laziness.  In other words, it is easy to keep up your time-treasured, familiar and easy to navigate habits than to work hard at learning something new. 

What I've discovered over the years is that teaching is hard work…why?  Because the focus of teaching cannot be on the teacher but has to be on the "student"…in other words, are THEY getting it?  You see, many times in our culture, the teacher is the focal point of the learning process.  It is their expertise, their education, their ability to communicate (or other things like power, authority, etc.) that becomes the necessity in the learning process.  Unfortunately, that just doesn't cut it.  Now, that shouldn't come as too big of a surprise to you because you really know that in the depth of your soul.  You really do…because YOU learned and YOU grew when YOU owned the process.  That's the secret…how do we get students to own their own learning process and to do the work of growth and formation.  As parents and mentors, how do we get the child or mentee to monitor their own behavior and make responsible decisions?  That's really the crux of the matter, isn't it?  That is really the HARD WORK of teaching…getting the "students" to own their the process.  Now, I know that inspiration is all good…I love inspirational messages and teachings…I love good ideas and they spark my desire to learn and grow.  But eventually it is ME who does the work…or as the video link I provide below says, "work your a** off until you figure it out"…OR in other words, the secret to learning is working your tail off to build a new skill (the video shows the "skateboarding" principle to learning – he failed 57 times in order to do ONE TRICK well on the 58th try).  So, is what I am doing not only inspiring students but putting the work in their hands and within their own responsibility so they can take ownership for what they need and want to learn?  Am I allowing them to experiment, fail, get encouragement, fail again only to eventually learn and succeed (and apply, or grow, or transform, or learn)?  That's the question…

I had a great experience over the weekend that illustrated this for me…in other words, I saw it clearly AGAIN.  I was leading a morning study on a letter from the New Testament.  I admitted up front (at the beginning of the session) that I loved teaching…I loved the "sound of my own voice" and that it was easy for me to "take off" and head on through my agenda for hours because it pumped me up with enthusiasm and energy.  In other words, I fell into the "teacher's trap"…I was enamored with "me".  Unfortunately, I told the group, MY energy and passion for the material needs to be matched up with the group's ownership in the learning and growing process…in other words, I knew that in order for that to happen, I was going to have to be quiet for a bit and allow the group to work through the material in order to see how it was affecting/effecting their lives.  You see, sometimes you have to be reminded in the learning process that there are times to "shut yo mouth" and allow others to share. I think a hybrid of John the Baptist's famous words, "more of Jesus, less of me" is relevant in this regard – but it reads like this in the learning process if you are a teacher – "more of them and less of you".  Oh yeah, and I also saw this alive and well with my wife Vicky as she is learning a new "business" and computer program…I could help her by doing the work or let her learn on her own (with a few pointers here and there) and let her become her OWN expert.  Which do you think has the lasting result? 

So, I'm learning…I am working my butt off in being challenged on the communication/learning process and journey.  I've read a several books this year on communication, problem solving, change dynamics, etc…and I've got pages of notes and good ideas that I'm attempting to implement (all that take TONS of time, by the way…it would have been easier and less time consuming to simply stay with my "treasured" educational methods and habits).  Even so, sometimes you need to have a simple reminder – that learning and growth is something that eventually is the responsibility of the one who wants to learn and grow.  We can't continue to perpetuate what the video says is the "dehumanization" process of education (you can see that for yourself if you want to).  What is that old cliche – you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink?  Yeah, I've lead alot of horses…the question is, are they still thirsty? 

If you want to check out the video I watched on learning and education, here it is (CLICK HERE).  It is a good one for teachers, leaders, and communicators.  NOTE – you will need to watch it and "contextualize" it to your "discipline" or your specific educational/learning context (teacher, communicator, preacher, trainer, boss or parent) but ask yourself about its implications – it has implications for anyone in the "growth" business!  So, look for those application points and enjoy!

By the way, if you do watch the video, I'd love to hear what you think…add a comment below or email me ( 

The Sacrament of THIS moment…

Quiet-moments “The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth of information but to face sacred moments.  In a religious experience, it is not a THING that imposes itself on man but a spiritual presence”  Rabbi Abraham Heschel

“God still speaks today as he spoke to our forefathers in the days gone by, before there were either spiritual directors or methods of direction.  The spiritual life was then a matter of immediate communication with God.  It had not been reduced to a fine art not was lofty and detailed guidance to it provided with a wealth of rules, instructions, and maxims.  These may very well be necessary today.  But it was not so in those early days, when people were more direct and unsophisticated.  All they knew was that each moment brought its appointed task, faithfully to be accomplished.  This was enough for the spiritually-minded of those days.  All their attention was focused on the present, minute by minute;  like the hand of a clock that marks the minutes of each hour covering the distance along which it has to travel.  Constantly prompted by divine impulsion, they found themselves imperceptibly turned towards the next task that God had ready for them at each hour of the day.  There remains one single duty:  to keep one’s gaze fixed on the Master one has chosen and to be constantly listening so as to understand and hear and immediately obey His will.”  Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment

We’ve all made life so complicated.  “To-do” lists, smart phones, calendars spread throughout the house…more and more and more stuff to do.  The fact is, we are so busy with living life that we never have a chance to savor a moment.  Most of us would say, “a moment…what’s that?”  For most of us, we have to look up the word on wikipedia or do a google search to really know what it means.  Seriously and practically, we can’t take pleasure in any one moment because we are either exhausted from the past moments that blew by or we are worried about future moments that are upon us in weighty manner.  Have you ever fantasized about what life must have been like in days gone by?  Ever wondered what your life would look like without commuting, television, electric lights, alarm clocks, computers, shopping malls, grocery stores, and all the other modern “conveniences” that rob you of capturing the sacredness of any given moment?  Did you know that there was a study that was present to the USA Congress back in the 60’s that said we would become so technologically sophisticated before the year 2000 that we would have to work only 5 to 6 hours a day.  The “experts” said that the big problem of the 21st century would be what to do with the over-abundance of leisure time.  Right?  We’ve been meaning to confront you on your leisure time! 

Seriously, when was the last time you cherished a moment?  When was the last time that the only thought that crossed your mind in a moment in time was how you were going to be obedient and responsive to the will and  heart of your God?  When was the last time you didn’t need instructions on how to spend time with God because all you needed was the moment?  When was the last time you didn’t need anything around you (a bible, worship music, a journal, etc…although each of those are great things) but only “the presence”?  Tell the Lord, your God, that you so desire the fullness of His presence in the following moments on this, your Sabbath!  If you need a guide to fill the moments with His presence and the enjoyment of your relationship with Him, use the following as your guide…it is a meditation based upon Psalm 23:

Say “The Lord is my Shepherd – Jehovah-Rohi – the Lord, my shepherd”

Thank your Lord that He knows you by name and wants to spend these moments with you.  Talk to Him about cultivating an ever-increasing intimacy with Him.

Say “in Him, I shall lack nothing – Jehovah-Jireh:  the Lord, my provider”

Thank your God that He provides all your needs.  Ask Him to carry your worries, burdens, and cares. 

Say “He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside quiet waters – Jehovah-Shalom:  the Lord is my peace

Thank your God for His attention to the details of life that you enjoy.  Tell Him you want to see Him more clearly in the details of your life.  Let Him speak to you.  Plead with your Lord to give you His peace.

Say “He restores my soul – Jehovah-Rapha:  the Lord is my healer”

Thank your God that He understands everything you are experiencing in life.  Thank Him for being your healer and restorer.  Recall in these moments the times where His restoration gave you life.

Say “He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake – Jehovah-Tsidkenu:  the Lord is my righteousness;  Jehovah-M’Kaddesh:  the Lord is my sanctification”

Thank your Lord for His guidance in your life.  Ask Him to reveal Himself in your life’s moments.  Thank Him for the complete acceptance that He has given you as a gift of His mercy and grace.  Ask Him for His righteousness to be revealed in your daily moments.

Say “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me – Jehovah Shammah:  God who is there”

Thank the Lord for His presence that calms every fear.  As Hebrews says, “I will never leave you are forsake you”.  Tell the Father how you feel about that truth.  Does it set you free?  Can you live it?

Say “your rod and your staff, they comfort me”

Thank the Lord for His authority in your life to discipline, correct and give you security within boundaries and limits.  Thank your God that you can never mess up so bad that you would fear punishment by Him.

Say “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies – Jehovah-Nissi:  the Lord is my banner of victory”

Thank the Lord for His strength and protection in your life!

Say “you anoint me head with oil.  My cup overflows”

Thank your God for His grace, mercy and favor.  Ask Him for the enjoyment of His presence during these moments of Sabbath.

The Spill!

Vaio_spill Yes, it finally happened!  After being a laptop user for years and being COMPLETELY OCD about having liquid near the computer, I finally had the spill…yep, it happens to a lot of people and NO, I am exempt from these types of tragedies.  Fact is, I've been having many "mishaps" of late.  I had an "issue" with my 5th wheel trailer and truck over a month ago…that baby cost me, oh, about $1500 (not including the hit that my insurance will take).  Then the SPILL!  I was juggling too much in one day…papers all over the table and a itty-bitty book hiding, precariously with evil intent, under the papers…just waiting for my tea cup.  Now understand that the tea cup is my NEW 32 oz. variety.  One that my treasured new friend and co-worker, Merlaine, gave me as a welcome gift to Peace.  But for a moment, just a micro-second, I took my "eye off the ball"…and it spilled…yes, over my prize Macbook Pro.  Well, after three hours of work trying to resurrect it (not including the drying I did for over 24 hours), the tech pronounced it DOA.  That means, I have to shell out a "few" bucks for a new one.  At least the hard drive wasn't damaged.  But that's the OTHER side of the story…apparently, since I did the latest Mac OSX download on Monday on the "dead" laptop, the NEW one won't accept the entire data migration for sure unknown reason.  So, the Apple techs are trying to figure it the meantime, NO laptop.  All I can say is "ouch".  Many of you have tried to console me…and I appreciate it!  Tomorrow, I might get the new one…Lord willing at least.  And then, my OCD will really go into hyper-drive around that new baby.  Interestingly enough, I'm learning new lessons in patience, suffering, endurance and joy.  And yes, it is absolutely of NO COINCIDENCE that those were the subjects I preached on last Sunday (two days before the Spill)…no coincidence at all.  "Consider it joy my brethren when you encounter various trials…"  Yeah, James 1.  Anyway, I wanted you to know…I'm using Vicky's computer to bang this out.  In case you see this, you know why I haven't been as "present" as I normally am.  That's it!  It is off my chest.  More to come…

Appreciating the Treasure of the Non-descript but they that are known to God!

Treasure_old_man_01 Scot McKnight pointed out this blog post on his "Weekly Meanderings" this past weekend.  I read it and said to myself, "man, I've thought about some of these things before."  There is something refreshing about proclaiming the obvious – there is excellent, God-honoring, Kingdom-building, Disciple-making, Jesus glorifying ministry going on everywhere even when the "spotlight" is not on it.  We are a celebrity driven culture…you know that!  I don't have to remind you about the fact that our culture is OBSESSED with the apparently popular and outwardly successful.  So, book deals, video series, and cultural "buzz" happens frequently regarding the so-called "successful/popular" ministries…now, let me state here what should be something that all of us realize – God is the One who makes His Body what it is…if God chooses to bring a larger "crowd" or bigger sphere of influence into a local ministry, that is His call.  We are called to be faithful with the gifts and abilities that God has given us in our sphere of influence and to trust that the Lord will "bring the increase" as He wills.  Remember, our responsibility?  Faithfulness, obedience, humility, openness, and a willingness to track with the leading of the Spirit.  What is honored in the sight of God is the "seemingly unseemly"…you can read about THAT in 1 Corinithians 12. 

So, when this pastor shares what he does, it makes sense to me – praise God for servants like this!  You've heard it said before about the "level" ground around the cross?  Let me tell you – it's true!

These are great words to read from someone who is captivated with the love and power of God…so thanks Scot! 

"If I were to list what I believe to be the top three habits of a life well lived, one of them would certainly be the practice of being a life- long- learner.   If you draw from that statement that I value good teaching very highly, you are quite correct.   And this past weekend I heard some of the best teaching I have ever heard.

It got me thinking about the difference between a “teaching pastor” and, well, a “pastor pastor”.    I think one could probably make a pretty good case that in many instances, a teaching pastor is not a pastor at all in the sense that most people understand the word.   They are what in the secular world would be called public speakers.   Hired by churches that are big enough that they can do just one thing—teach!— they can create their message in an office according to the principles of good communication.   And there are no two ways about it—they do communicate very well, as the thousands of people who gather to hear them each week would enthusiastically attest.

But then there is the “pastor pastor.” I don’t know what else to call her, because a pastor is chiefly what she is.    A pastor spends his time going to the hospital and visiting the sick; he goes to the nursing home and spends time with people everyone else has forgot.   She spends long hours with those in crisis; sitting with them, crying with them, giving no gift so much as her presence.   He spends time most every day with the poor and the needy, listening to their sad stories, giving them money when he has it, and prayers even if he doesn’t.    She walks with people who are struggling in their marriages, or who never got married, or who are having a tough time with their kids, or a tough time with their parents.

He listens and ponders and prays, reflecting on the Scriptures he is reading as he tries to make sense of it all, turning it over and over as he goes to sleep, and sometimes even after that as he dreams.  It is his or her whole life.

The pastor pastor is not looking for something to wow the crowds; she is looking for something to give to Sally or Sue; to Jack or to John, who she knows desperately needs it.  He is looking for something for himself as well, becomes sometimes it is his own head he needs to keep above water. She does not craft her sermon with her mind alone but also with her heart.

It is not likely to be polished in terms of practiced delivery, but it will be polished through long years spent loving God in the lives of the people who come to him.   It will not be good enough to get written up in a book, to attract great crowds of people she doesn’t even know, or even to keep the people he does know coming back each week solely on the strength of the sermon.   But for those who do choose to listen, there will be a wisdom here that they will not find anywhere else.

I do not write this about myself, though this is what I aspire to.  I write it as I think about the teaching we heard this past weekend by a man who has been a pastor pastor for 42 years.  I have heard people who are widely regarded as some of the best speakers in the world, and for good reason.  I have benefited immensely from what they have said.   But I don’t know that I have ever heard better teaching than this.

And I guess if I am completely honest, I am a little bit saddened by the way so many of the masses will flock to the glamour of the one, failing to appreciate the real treasure that may be found in the small, aging building just down the street."



Hands I posted on my Facebook profile that today isn't about me…it really is about relationships…my wonderful partner and wife, Vicky…my incredible children (especially the photo hound Chaya)…my grandkids (yep, have 5)…my pals around the globe.  When you get these types of greetings and expressions of love, all you can do is bask in it…not so much for what "you" are all about but about the One who made this type of love, friendship, partnership, comradery, fun, and depth available to us as a gift.  If you experience love, you experience Jesus.  Bottom line…that's what I'm feeling today.  Appreciation, a touch of love that's a gift and the type of peace that truly comes not simply in a subjective, "I feel it in my heart" type of feeling but comes through the hands and hearts of those God has placed within our lives!  So, I'm grateful today…and if you are reading this because you are in my life in some way, know that you bless me beyond what I deserve and more than I can ever express! 

A now a word from my Canadian pal, Doug…his take on “Fierce Leadership”

Chris-blog-090904 Doug Doyle is a good man…I owe him my prayer support, my personal encouragement and thanks for he was one of the foundational mentors/leaders in a number of lives of those I love.  First of all my kid Aaron…Aaron spent a year under Doug's leadership as a Ministry Intern @ Redwood Church in Thunder Bay, Ontario (yep, that's the cold, North country my friends…where they hunt bear and moose like we shop at Target).  Doug was instrumental in being used of God to make Aaron into the person he is today. I also am a HUGE fan of my buddy, Nate Barnes who is leading a ministry in Barrie, Ontario and is a ministry partner of Doug's…then there is Ben Kroeker and Henri, and the Popowich bros and Tim and the list goes on and on…oh yeah, don't forget Christine!  I owe a huge thanks to him!

Well, Doug gets together with some guys in a Pastoral Small Group…it was they who introduced him to the books and blog of Susan Scott.  I don't need to go into anything that I know or don't know about her…I have never read her books…but I do subscribe to her blog and find her thoughts refreshing though not necessarily steeped in "churchy language" or appreciation.  Here's what Doug wrote about her on his blog:

"I was struck by how the virtues Scott espouses are so obviously Christian. I wondered what in her background contributed to an ethic that so often reflected the teaching of Jesus despite her obvious disdain for institutional religion as well as her colourful yet sensitive use of such language. Perhaps her expression “what fresh hell is this,” will not win her points with the average evangelical church goer, but I must admit I found it an original and winsome way to express the realities we continually encounter in church and family life."

Well, for our purposes here, I want to rip off a part of Doug's blog post that I read a few weeks back and share a few quick things among many that struck him as he read through her two books…I think that they are applicable to a Kingdom life…after reading these maybe you and me will want to take a peek at her work:

• Our work, our relationships succeed or fail one conversation at a time. We build our emotional wakes for the positive or negative, one conversation at a time.

• What each of us believes simply reflects our own view of reality … and reality is unforgivingly complex. In other words, no one person owns all of the truth.

• The person who can most accurately describe reality without laying blame will emerge the leader.

• If your behaviour contradicts your values, your body knows, and you pay a price at a cellular level.

• Authenticity is not something you have, it’s something you choose.

• What are you pretending not to know???

• We must recognize that humans share a universal longing to be known, to be loved.

• What we do at work that hurts people or alienates coworkers we also do at home, hurting and alienating those we love.

• When we keep important thoughts private, our ability to learn and make good decisions is lost.

• Feedback is invaluable. Anonymous feedback is not honest. Like all toxins, anonymity should be kept as close to zero as possible. Trust requires persistent identity.

• The goal is to have open, honest, face-to-face conversations, 365 days a year, with the people central to your success and happiness.

• A careful conversation is a failed conversation because it merely postpones the conversation that wants and needs to take place.

• A central part of my job is to build a culture that includes genuine affection for and an emotional connection with coworkers and customers.

• Master the courage to interrogate reality.

• The point of accountability is to empower the other person, not for you to become the new source for his or her power.

• Tell me what you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

No whining…just the “facts maam…just the facts”

Dominoes Ed is a good man…haven't met him but have followed his blog, his ministry, and read some of his books over the years.  We don't share a common religious heritage but that's OK by me…the man "gets it."  He understands the dynamics of life, Kingdom living and especially ministry within churches as we face a completely new era.  I like reading what he posts because he has a plethora of exposure to articles and interviews and books that I don't have time or energy to read and absorb.  In addition, he also understands what it is like to be a leader…

Download How Christian Consumers Ruin Pastors and Cheat the Mission of God by Ed Stetzer.  Click on the previous link and read the article yourself…if you are interested.  It meant something to me because a LONG TIME AGO (yep, I'm that old) a wise counselor told me to my face that "church work is the worse place you can be to grow to be the healthy person you need and want to be".  Yep, his exact words.  So, when I see an article like this…my eyes catch it quickly.  Now, I don't want to get too immersed in this subject today…I've learned a lot about boundaries, personal emotional health as well as many lessons on how to make sure I don't fall into the addictive interpersonal trap known as co-dependency…but I must add that the temptations are numerous to bite into it hook, line and sinker.  For those of you who are regular browsers of this blog and you are NOT in spiritual leadership, that's cool. You can take a peek at the article and think (and pray) for your favorite spiritual mentor/pastor.  If you can relate in any manner, you might want to check out what it means for you to struggle with co-dependency in your life.  Suffice to say, the article was worth reading for me…a deliberate and powerful reminder…

As I say at the top, I'm not whining…just showing the facts…and the facts are alarming.  Also note the context of how this codependency is developing…but alas, that subject will have to be saved for another time! 

A worthy article to read…college, families, students and crippling debt…

Debt-Relief Walt Mueller is one of my favorite people.  I've met him once…we aren't even acquaintances per se…but I do follow the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding regularly.  Fact is, if you have ANY investment in the lives of young people and families, CPYU is a necessary stop.  I have attached an article for you to peek at if you are interested…I am still doing the academic journey with college students…I know many students who are finishing up their years in academia and emerging into the world with absolutely devestating amounts of debt.  Walt Mueller interviews someone who has just finished a new book on finances and young people.  Definitely worth the time to look at if you have the interest… Download College and Debt