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Leaders Attend Funerals

Have you ever talked yourself out of attending a funeral?
Conversations in your head go something like this…

-“The person I really care about is dead, so it won’t matter to them.”

-“There will plenty of other people present so I won’t likely get to say anything to the family, just shake their hands and hope they don’t cry on my shoulder.”

-“I’ll talk with (spouse/children) next week after the rush is over and life gets back to normal and people start to forget about their loss. After all, that will be more meaningful (for both them and myself).”

casket-picI recently attended a memorial for a dear old lady who worked in various employment roles in an educational institution, as well as volunteering with the school and other community groups. Her children all attended the school, as did a number of her grandchildren. Yet to my horror, there was no one at the service representing the school.

Maybe various leaders at the school talked themselves out of attending the memorial service… like I sometimes do.

But leaders need to attend funerals. I realize the current administration may never have worked with this elderly lady or attended school at the same time as her children or grandchildren, yet when you are one of the beneficiaries of the memorial gifts, can’t someone from the organization find a way to attend the service?

First, leaders attend funerals because it is right. This person contributed to your organization and it is appropriate for your organization to acknowledge that contribution to family and friends. At the end of a person’s life, they never say, “I wish I had spent more time at work” but sometimes they say, “I wish I had spent more time with my family” (and possibly less time at work). This is an opportunity for an organization to recognize the time and energy they gave, sometimes instead of giving to family, was appreciated.

Secondly, leaders attend funerals because they hear a person’s story from a different angle or perspective(s). As you listen, you appreciate the multiple ways the person made a difference in the world, not just in your organization. It can inspire you. Encourage you. Maybe even challenge you. There may even be stories of the person’s involvement in your organization that you never heard before that you can then pass on. These stories can become a part of your organization’s stories and culture.

Finally, leaders attend funerals because it keeps life in perspective. Not only do you hear about a different side(s) of an individual’s life, you see the big picture perspective on life itself. All of us will die at some point. No person lives forever. As a leader, the challenges of leadership you are currently facing may not appear quite as overwhelming in light of the reality of death.

As minor or major as the deceased person’s contributions to your organization, only two things remain: the memories they have left with others (good or bad) and the legacy they have left for the generations to follow.

Leaders, people are dying to see you. Are you ready to be a comfort and encouragement to the family and friends of a former colleague or employee by attending a funeral?

PS What is the most important thing you have learned attending a funeral?


Book Review – Improbable Planet by Hugh Ross

I timprobable-planet-cover-hugh-rosshought this book would be a good spiritual and mental “stretch” for me as the promotional material indicated, “This fascinating book helps nonscientists understand the countless miracles that undergird the exquisitely fine-tuned planet we call home–as if Someone had us in mind all along.” It definitely was both – a mental stretch and a faith challenge.

Dr Hugh Ross is a brilliant scholar and has taken the time to sift through countless articles on astrophysics, geology, biology, and anthropological articles (aka reading that leaves 99% of the world’s population either confused or sleeping) and described how planet earth is uniquely and intricately, and perfectly created for life, beyond any reasonable “coincidence.” Comparing the development of the universe to plans for building a house, Ross methodically sets forth how different aspects of science demonstrate how the necessary construction materials were available (chapter 3) for planet earth to be built in the right neighborhood (ch. 4), with proper cite preparation (ch. 5), at the proper time (ch. 6), with the right foundation (ch. 7). He continues to show how the “dwelling space” developed below (ch. 8) and at ground level (ch. 8) with air-conditioning (ch. 10), heating and ventilation (ch. 11), even to the finishing touches (ch. 14), and was made ready for occupancy (ch. 15). All this is overwhelming evidence of a Master Designer orchestrating the creation of planet earth.

To say that Ross’ work is a compelling argument for Intelligent Design theory is stating the obvious. Nonetheless, to say that his arguments are for “nonscientists” is slightly deceiving… nonscientists like myself can grasp the general structure of his argument because of the chapter headings and guess at the structure and flow of the argument because he uses effective and clear transitions between paragraphs. However, the  plethora of scientific details are overwhelming, bordering on incomprehensible. For example, after discussing the Kuiper Belt, Saturn’s rings and moons and some facet also related to Neptune’s in chapter 6, he concludes one section by saying,

“In relation to Earth, the LHB did more than just load up our planet with more of the highly siderophile elements (HSEs). It altered the tilt of the Earth’s rotation axis by as much as 10 degrees… In other words, it reconfigured earth’s atmosphere, crust, mantle, outer core, and inner core so as to enable Earth’s surface to eventually support advanced life.” (p. 69).

I understood the last eight words of the sentence and so could get the general argument, but I was lost wading through the precluding details. So, while on the whole, I was able to grasp the argument and structure of the book and see that Ross achieved his thesis, to say that a nonscientist could understand the book is overstating the point. For the serious scientist considering Intelligent Design, I believe this would be a beneficial and invigorating read. I believe it is too technical for the nonscientist to truly enjoy.

I mistakenly (ignorantly?) thought the book would also deal with the earth’s age and history, not only the universe’s design. I’m not sure there were any references to Scripture throughout the whole book, something one might have expected, even as a footnote.

Book was provided to the reviewer courtesy of Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an unbiased review.

Book Review – Your Powerful Prayers by Susie Larson

Your Powerful Prayers coverAlthough I was not familiar with Susie Larson’s books, I want to find more of her books after reading the encouraging and biblically and theologically articulate Your Powerful Prayers (Baker, 2016). After briefly reflecting upon different prayer perspectives she took as her faith matured,she indicates her purpose for the reader: “Lord willing, by the time you’re done with this book, you will have bulldog faith, tenacious hope, and a profound sense of your unchangeable identity in Christ.” (p. 21) In the following chapters, she describes how this biblical triad of beliefs – and their lack – will powerfully impact our prayer life.

Larson weaves good illustrations into each chapters, demonstrating clearly and graciously the erroneous thinking many seem to believe in the way they approach God and/or prayer. Not afraid to admit her own mistakes, she honestly shares the ways her prayers showed she was not believing God’s Word and standing in her position as a Christian.

When I see a title Your Powerful Prayers, I’m immediately concerned about a health and wealth message. Again, I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged at no hint of this false doctrine in Larson’s writing. She very clearly points out prayer is not a means to manipulate God. Rather, given a biblically informed understanding of God’s character and His view of each person and plan for their life, prayer is a requirement at all times, including times of testing and trial. Those experiences are not something to be avoided, but are required for the Christian to mature.

Each chapter concludes with a short summary prayer (“Let’s pray”) related to the content of the specific chapter, then provides a chance for the reader to write out a personal prayer based on a Scripture verse included, followed by “A Powerful Word,” and some personal and group group reflection questions – obviously lending itself to a study.

I would highly recommend this book, whether for personal growth or for a group study. It is definitely one the best books I have read on the topic of prayer recently.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

You never know who’s in your class

As a new school year begins, a reminder to teachers: You never know who is in your class and how on any given day, your comments and discussion may have an eternal impact broader than you could ever imagine.

For those of you involved in teaching K-12 students…

  • Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell shared about the impact his quirky high school English teacher had on his writing skills and life here.
  • A grade 5 boy says, “I credit my education to Ms. Mabel Hefty just as much as I would any institution of higher learning.” We know that boy now as President Barack Obama.
  • My friend, neighbour, and all-around funny guy Phil Callaway tells about Mr. Bienert, also a high school English teacher, who saw his talent for communicating and as Phil describes “was the first teacher who actually wanted me in their class.” Mr. Bienert also took Phil, myself, my brother, and many other students over the years to junior hockey games and tournaments and taught us many life lessons outside the classroom.

For those of you who teach in post-secondary institutions, did you know…

  • WillowCreek church (and the WillowCreek Leadership organization) began because “At Trinity College, 20-year-old Bill Hybels sat captivated by the beautiful picture New Testament professor Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian painted of the first church as described in Acts chapter 2. “When I left Dr. B’s classroom that day,” Bill says, “I went out to my car, put my head on the steering wheel, and cried. The dream of being part of such a church had taken root in my soul.” (from website)
  • The founders of Together for the Gospel, Dr Don Carson and Dr. Timothy Keller (also pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York city) recently offered appreciation for the teaching ministry of Dr Alec Motyer, a much less well-known Bible teacher & scholar. See full tribute here.

So as students of all ages return to school this week, remember teachers: You never know who is in your class today and how God will use the person in the future.

Lack of Evidence is not the Problem

After having the privilege of reviewing the movie God’s Not Dead 2, I was struck one vital parallel between the two movies that was not explored in the sequel. Both “antagonists” – those portrayed as attacking Christianity – experienced deep personal tragedy. Those this was explored very basically in the original God’s Not Dead movie when philosophy professor Jeffrey Radisson (Kevin Sorbo) explained the reason he did not, or could not, believe in a Supreme Deity. The passing of Brooke Thawley’s (Hayley Orrantia) brother – and obviously her parent’s only son – is superficially noted in the sequel. Yet I would contend, this sudden human tragedy is a significant factor, not only in Brooke’s spiritual seeking, but her parents’ anger against God and the cause of beginning the legal challenge.

Gods Not Dead prof.png

Rather than get frustrated, angry, or exasperated with those professing atheism and arguing against faith and/or God, Christians need to understand the lack of evidence and rational arguments for God are not really the reason for lack of faith. They are simply an excuse.

As the God’s Not Dead movies hint, atheism is often an emotional response to a deep sense of loss and injustice. A loved one who is not healed. A relationship that is lost or broken, possibly on “spiritual”grounds. Mistreatment or abuse at the hands of a trusted person, possibly again spiritually “justified.” As a person of faith, I must spend time listening to a person’s story (not peppering them with proofs) to hear their real “argument” against God.

Furtgods not dead 2 courtroomhermore, the Christian must constantly realize the devil intentionally blinds the eyes of individuals so they cannot see the evidence for God’s existence. He may use multiple tactics to distract or dissuade a person from seeing the plethora of indications our world did not come to be or continues to exist randomly or by chance. As people of faith, our primary task is to be pray God would remove their blindness and open their eyes to the truths around them and give them faith to believe. While the Enemy is defeated, he is not yet dead either.

Likewise, Christians need to avoid trite or patronizing answers to individual’s real pain. There may not be a good answer as to why God did not heal Jeffrey Radisson’s grandmother (as in the original God’s Not Dead). There are biblical truths that apply to every situation, but they are not necessarily a good answer(s) to the question being asked or the pain being felt. They remain true, and at some point the individual may come to accept them, yet the Christian’s task is to demonstrate the compassion of Christ to another person remains the same.

Shortly after posting, I found two more excellent resources dealing with this same topic:

  • Andy Stanley’s series of messages on Who Needs God? at NorthPoint Church Community Church.


Benefits of being a Disabled Dad

Do you know some “hovering” parents? Parents who are constantly watching over their children, making sure nothing ever goes wrong, that their child’s feelings are never hurt, they are never spoken to harshly or criticized? Some researchers have suggested there is a whole generation of children who have grown up with “hovering” parents.

Being a disabled dad, is I cannot be a hovering parent, even if I want to be (and I’m enough of a “control freak” I can see myself doing this, unwittingly!) Physically, I would run to rescue when I see my falling child… but I couldn’t catch them, even if I could somehow get there fast enough. I would love to stand beside my child as they learn to ride a bicycle and keep them steady, but I can’t walk that far or hold them or their bicycle steady.

Steve Anna WheelchairHowever, another benefit of being a disabled dad is my kids have the coolest ride in town and everyone knows who is travelling. Admittedly, this is partly because we live in small town, Alberta, but not many kids get to drive around town on the back of a power wheelchair. Likewise, we get good parking at most places because of my handi-sign and when we go to some places, the wheelchair line often gets priority.

Some other benefits of being a disabled dad include…

Because I cannot do many physical things with/for them, they have learned at an early age to help their siblings or other friends – whether in the back yard on the swing, or in the swimming pool pushing other children in a “boat.” Usually a parent will give you an under-duck or push your “boat” in the swimming pool. But since my oldest has to do that for his siblings instead of dad, he has learned to help others. They did not learn this because we were trying to teach them to help others – though that is an attitude and skill we try to teach – but because helping was the only option to doing nothing.

Similarly, as they get older, they are learning more responsibility, doing some things that usually adults do around the home (ie. mowing the lawn, helping carry various items up & down stairs, etc).

Our children have learned to play independently or play with acquaintances, rather than rely on an adult to always have someone to play with. We enjoy playing board games or card games indoors, but outside events are almost always with dad watching. And while its frustrating for me, it has helped them to learn to play with others or creatively alone.

These are life skills most parents want to teach their children. Having a disabled dad, dad maybe helped them learn them a bit faster, or at least in a different manner than others. So while being a disabled dad does have its frustrations & dangers, it also has its benefits!

Movie Review – God’s Not Dead 2

Gods Not Dead 2 coverAfter being intrigued by the original God`s Not Dead movie, yet disappointed in the sudden and uncreative resolution to the tension, I was nervous to watch and review God`s Not Dead 2.

High school history teacher Grace Wesley’s (Melissa Joan Hart) response to a student’s (Hayley Orrantia) question about Jesus lands her in big trouble, leading to an epic court case that the student’s parents believe should cost Wesley the career she loves, and decide once for all that any talk of faith should be expunged from the classroom and the public square. Unlike the original, the sequel did not disappoint.

Each character played well, from the arrogant counsel for the plaintiff (Pete Kane) to the inexperienced yet thoughtful lawyer (John Metcalfe) for the defendant. Keeping my attention throughout, the movie presented the increasing dilemma of a Christian`s ability to speak in the public square without going over the top in fear-mongering. With cameos by Lee Strobel (author of The Case for Christ) and Jim Warner Wallace (author of Cold Case Christianity), God’s Not Dead 2 offered a compelling argument for an individual being able to speak of their faith as a constitutional right. The fact that a few story lines and characters from the first movie continued through into this sequel was also beneficial.

I would highly recommend the movie to any person of faith, not just Christians, concerned about the freedom of religious expression. The writers do a commendable job demonstrating the real issues being challenged in Western contexts in the 21st century and contrasting them to other global realities relating to faith.

Movie has been provided courtesy of Sony Home Entertainment Canada and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

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