Category Archives: Learning

Practicing Presence

This was first published in the Fellowship Church eNews on 2018-02-28.

In high school I was a trumpet player. Trumpet players have a brash and brazen reputation, like the sound of the instrument itself. There are, in fact, hundreds of jokes that highlight this stereotype. For example:

Q: How many lead trumpet players does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Fifty. One to do it and the others to stand around and say, “I could do that better.

Not only was I a trumpet player, I was the first chair trumpet player. Being first chair means that you literally sit in the first chair of the section of instruments. You get this spot by being able to play the assigned music or scales better than the rest of the people in the section.

I discovered that by being just a bit better than the rest of the players in my section I could earn first chair. I did not need to be the best in the world, just a bit better than everyone around me. Over the past few years, I have reflected on how unhealthy this viewpoint was. Rather than seeking to be the best I could personally attain in order to help the band, inspire others, and grow my skills, I was limiting my development to the level of those around me. This was an act of pride as I sought recognition and status.

This past Sunday Pastor Lindsay preached a sermon based on John 13:1-17 where we see a way of being that is the opposite of pride. Jesus intentionally put himself as a servant to the disciples by washing their feet. He literally postures himself below his disciples. He then challenges them to do the same with one another. Pastor Lindsay highlighted that this act required the disciples to let Jesus serve them and demonstrated how to love and be loved.

I often feel like pride and shame get in the way of being able to selflessly love others or receive the love of others. I think of pride and shame as:

  • pride = look at me, I deserve it
  • shame = don’t look at me, I am worthless

For me the alternative to pride and shame is presence. Presence requires me to fully participate in the world by paying attention to God, others, and myself. It often forces me into uncomfortable situations where I have to respond rather than react, receive rather than control, and feel rather than shield.

What might it look like to not raise yourself above others or to hide from them and instead fully experience life abundantly in Christ by staying present, selflessly loving others, and humbly receiving love?

In the coming days read about this counter-cultural life in Romans 12 and think of how you might apply it to your life and relationships. Here are a few highlights:

  • (2) Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
  • (9) Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.
  • (10) Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other
  • (16b) Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
  • (20) If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.

Read the rest of Romans 12 here

Coulda, woulda, shoulda

Our family was traveling back from Nashville recently and I saw the following billboard:

Imagine life without

Don’t you think this is a wonderful vision for life? The way to get it, according to the billboard, is by playing the local lottery. Yes, the lottery promises a rich life without coulda, woulda, shoulda. Sadly, I know from personal experience how hollow life is when I seek happiness through money or purchasing things. My frequent trips to Goodwill is a sign of how often I have fallen into that trap.

This past Sunday, Pastor Lindsay told us about the story of Abraham and Isaac from Genesis 21:1-3 and Genesis 22:1-14. In this passage, Abraham is asked by God to do something that is truly disturbing, offer his son as a sacrifice. Thankfully, this isn’t how the story ends. Rather, we learn that God provides a replacement sacrifice at just the right moment. The place where this happens actually gets named, “The Lord will provide.”

This is a very different way of living than what we see and hear around us. Instead of relying on the lottery to provide, we are challenged to live a life where the Lord will provide. What a wonderful reminder as we all go through seasons of challenges, change, celebrations, or course corrections. The only way I have found to live a life without coulda, shoulda, and woulda is when I have put myself in a posture of saying, “The Lord will provide” instead of believing that, “I will provide.” Over the past months, I have been particuarly aware of this as I see the people God is putting in place to lead and serve at Fellowship. I’m hoping that you, as you read this, might be able to look at life and see where you need to trust in God’s provision or where you might be feeling stirred by God to meet the needs of others.

This is a life without coulda, shoulda, woulda.

  • Where in life are you trusting in your own thoughts, strength, or talent?
  • This week, where might there be a situation you could enter by saying, “Lord, I trust that you will provide.”

#GLS17 Opening Session – Bill Hybels

August 10, 2017

My 30 second summary:

  • We should be looking at people of all ages and speaking leadership into them as we see it. Help them see themselves as leaders.
  • Also, this is a time where civility is important. Talk with those around you about what civility rules you might follow in order to treat each other with respect, always. This is not a time to just tolerate each other. Rather, it is a time to seek to understand one another.
  • It is of vital importance to spend every day, first thing, in solitude in order to spend time with God and reflect on life and leadership.

Here are my notes:


Who believed in you as a leader before anyone else? Who planted the leadership sead in us?

“As leaders we must take responsibility to plant leadership seeds in young people.”

Reflect on who the people are that spoke life and leadership into us. Write them a note of thanks.

2 Challenges:

  • Thank someone who spoke into your life as a leader
  • Recommit to planting seeds in young leaders


  • Book “Mastering Civility”
  • We are near a crisis point with civility in society
  • The solution to civility issues begins with us
  • respect everyone always…we do not get to choose who we respect, all are made in God’s image
  • 10 rules for leaders
    • set the example of how to differ without demonizing
    • have spirited conversations without drawing blood
    • don’t interrupt those who are talking or dominate conversation
    • refuse to use volume or incindiary words in talking about others
    • set the example of being coureous to all
    • never stereotype
    • immediately apologize when wrong
    • be open minded and form opinions carefully
    • show up on time and do what is do
    • form rules of respect and enforce them relentlessly (write written rules of respect)
  • Don’t just tolerate each other…seek to understand each other (Randolph Stephenson from AT&T)
  • Have a conversation with your team to write rules of civility


  • Questions
    • Who?
    • When? Setting the date makes the difference and keeps things moving
    • How? How will the process be led
  • Phases
    • planning
    • internal candidate? (Higher chance of success)
    • external candidate?
    • transition
  • initial learnings
    • having a well thought plan/document is very important
    • keep journey bathed in prayer and keep personalities and politics out of it
    • when a succession plan takes too long it hurts the vision
      • hard to restructure during process
      • takes an emotional toll on the senior leadership
  • Proverbs 11:14


  • trust in God’s custom plan for my life
  • God will write a better script for my life than I can write on my own
  • there are seasons in our lives…we must be able to discern times when God is writing the ending for a particular season in our life
  • endings matter, too
  • Book “Necessary Endings” by Henry Cloud

Challenges from Bill

  • spend 15 minutes each morning to read and reflect on your life, leadership, faith, character, family, read the Bible and think about who we are becoming (chair time)…we need reflection time
  • choose an organization in the community that is meeting a deep need and get behind their work “mere financial success should bore you”
  • measure the health of your organizations culture and increase its health…it will only be as healthy as the top leader wants it to be
  • Do you have a personal betterment plan for the coming year?
  • Are you leading on the home front as well as you are leading at work

No Agenda

This is an article I wrote recently for a weekly email mailing for Fellowship Reformed Church of Holland

I recently took a trip to New York City with our daughter to visit a college. We drive through the night in order to make it to our hotel by around noon on the Friday. As we entered New York State, we talked about what we wanted out of our visit to the city. Strangely, we both were so focused on the actual trip and visit that we hadn't thought about how we wanted to spend our time. It turned out that we both just wanted to experience the city for what it was and not run around trying to catch popular tourist attractions.

We bought 7 day unlimited subway passes so we could travel wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. This allowed us to get anywhere in a relatively short time. Our weather couldn't have been better, and on Saturday, we took the subway to the northernmost part of Central Park and then walked our way through the entire park. We experienced peaceful gardens, bright flowers, quiet paths, boisterous buskers, sleek radio controlled sailboats, and a wide diversity of people and animals.

Along the way we saw a large group of children listening to a storyteller. She spoke with an enthusiasm and passion that held everyone captive. Not an easy task when surrounded with so many distractions in the center of a bustling city. This image of a storyteller is what struck me as I listened to Pastor Lindsay share the the story of Naaman from 2 Kings 5:1-14.

We heard about how Naaman wanted to be healed in the way he envisioned. His plan was to follow some grandiose ritual prescribed by Israel's leaders. Instead, he was told to jump in a dirty river. Only after some convincing by his servants, was he willing to try this simple act. In his stubbornness, he almost missed out on being healed.

Naaman got trapped into trying to author his own life and experiences rather than being open to what God might do in him and for him. Pastor Lindsay applied it to our lives by saying, "When we write our own stories we miss out on what God has planned for us." It is so appealing to think through how everything should go rather than how we should be.

What might it be like to live in a way where we are open to the experiences God has for us rather than trying to script everything? What might it be like to be captivating storytellers who share what God has done rather than trying to be God? Who, that we least expect, might show up in our lives to speak truth? My sense is that we might experience a greater joy and peace than we ever thought was possible. I'm looking forward to hearing your surprising adventures as we all learn to live into the stories God has written for us.

Holland 100 2017

This past Saturday, July 15, 2017, I completed the Holland 100 for the third year in a row. Strangely, I think this was the hardest of all of the years. More about that later. Here are my notes to self as I think about future rides.

The Holland 100 is meant as a fun ride where people can choose 18, 35, 67, and 100 mile routes. One of the unique aspects of this ride is that all routes include a pancake breakfast at East Saugatuck Christian Reformed Church. Here is a copy of the route as captured by my Apple Watch:

I started the day by eating 2 sausage, egg, and cheese burritos that we made up at home. We then headed out to the Herman Miller Greenhouse facility. I started my ride at 7:30am. The first 30 miles felt great. I was keeping a steady pace at around 15 miles per hour and the weather was sunny and in the 60's. I skipped the first rest stop, 11 miles in, since I felt so good. This meant that I was committed to a 32 mile loop before returning to the same rest stop.

I started feeling tired at 40 miles and made a point to stop for refreshments and to rest my legs. I parked my bike and found some grapes and blueberries to eat. I also topped off my water bottles with water and Gatorade. To my surprise my family came running toward me. They tracked me down using the Find my Friends app on our iPhone and brought be a large half-cut iced tea from McDonalds along with an sausage mcmuffin. This was a huge boost to my spirits and meant that I wouldn't need to spend much time at the pancake breakfast stop. I continued on for the next 20 miles and felt challenged by the hills. My pace started to slow down. I stopped at Saugatuck Church and grabbed a cup of dark roast coffee and some watermelon. Once again, I topped off my water bottles. I had started the day with 2 bottles filled with fresh sweet tea. My thighs were feeling incredibly tight at this point so I took time to stretch which helped quite a bit.

I got back on the bike and the ride became more challenging as much of it was going into the wind. Mentally, I was feeling pretty down and wanted to give up so I put in some headphones to start listening to podcasts as a diversion. As I listened, which helped a lot, I then found myself looking at my bike computer every 30 seconds and getting discouraged that it didn't show more progress. I made a deal with myself to only look at the screen when I reached intersections. This gave me a boost of actually seeing progress when I did look at the screen. While all this was going on the sun was out in full force and I found myself fighting a headache and needing to drink many liquids. I took time to drink my slow release corn starch, water, Gatorade, salt mixture. It is a bit disgusting to look at, but seems to help fuel me well. I ended up only drinking 16 ounces out of a 32 ounce bottle.

The rest of the ride was more of the same: tight legs, headache, sun, drinking liquids, sore rear, and needing to stand up on the bike frequently. I stopped at the Fenn Valley Winery rest stop (mile 78) and topped off my water bottles, drank some pure maple syrup I had brought with, drank more of my corn starch mixture, and ate many grapes and blueberries. I also took time to do more stretches. From here it was only 8 miles to the last stop where I had promised to stop by and see Tim from Rock and Road Cycle. I had him take a picture of me holding a water bottle from Joel Krause. Joel is the one who taught me, 3 years ago, how to do road riding and how to train for long distance cycling events. Sadly, he passed away this year and I'm thankful that his wife, Karlene, allowed me to use one of his bottles in his memory. I shared this story with Tim while he took my picture and it made me weep. I skipped grabbing food at this stop in order to push to the end.

My family tracked me down shortly after this stop and yelled words of encouragement. This helped me get through the final miles which also included numb toes and a blister in the webbing area of my hand between the thumb and index finger. I finished the ride at 4pm. It was a long day where I faced many mental and physical challenges. What would I do differently for the future?

  • Make sure to stay on my bike multiple times a week prior to the ride
  • Get a long ride of 75 miles or more 2 weeks prior to the Holland 100
  • Don't bring extra food (just maple syrup and my corn syrup mix)

Training was hard this year because we were gone over a couple of weekends prior to the Holland 100. I did bring my bike on one of the trips and got in 30 miles of hill training on gravel but this didn't make up for just getting a lot of hours on the bike. In general, my training for these rides starts with 20 miles one week and increments up by 10-20 miles per week until I get to 75 miles. This year my longest ride was 65 miles. I also try to do as much commuting by bike as possible to keep active. I'll need to stay focused until the end if I don't want to fight the same mental and physical battles during the ride. Either way, I do these challenges because they are hard and it is very possible that I won't be able to complete them.

Believe it or not, I can't wait to get back on the bike.

TedXMac 2017: Jon LoDuca, Competitive Advantage of EQ

Jon LoDuca, Competitive Advantage of EQ

  • artificial intelligence has learned how to learn
  • world is dividing between AI & EQ (head vs. heart)
  • EQ: identify own emotions, gauge others, adjust to come to common ground
    • it makes commerce tick
    • “We suck at being robots”
    • if our value proposition (job/business) can be reduced to an algorithm then it will face challenges
  • 2 business models
    • Product-based:
      • we have a product and let’s find a market
      • goes wide
      • share of market (loves AI and technology)
    • Client-based:
      • aligning around shared story and needs connecting with a tribe
      • goes deep
      • loves EQ
    • Going between the 2 business models is where business’ die
  • Laws of successful EQ companies
    • law 1: total authenticity
      • fear gets in the way
      • need to know your values and world view
      • have confidence and faith that a market exists for you
    • law 2: radical empathy
      • love and care about their clients
      • watch out for focusing on ourselves (imposter syndrome, future, past, and not being Here)
      • remember your mission and truly bear witness to the other human being (truly listen)
    • law 3: humbly irreverent
      • be irreverent to the rules and the laws that get in the way of doing the right thing
      • respect the client and solve problems in order to serve them
      • watch out for paying too much attention to the competition
  • Let’s go ahead and be empathetic to each person around us
  • break any rule that keeps us from serving people
  • “Whatever is coming, we don’t know, it will be our humanity that saves us”

TedXMac 2017: Steve Marshall, Beauty & Astonishment

Steve Marshall, Beauty and Astonishment

  • why a trick works is more important than how it works
  • astonishment happens every time you experience for the first time
  • “Astonishment is not an emotion that’s created. It’s an existing state that is revealed.” Paul Harris
  • the easiest person to fool is a scientist…children are the most difficult to astonish
  • the feeling of astonishment can be found all around us
  • a little mystery is a good thing
  • rise table rise
  • see something you did’t see before…pay attention and look with new eyes
  • “How much better could your life be if you were astonished every day.”

TedXMac 2017: Meika Weiss, People-Friendly Cities

  • “Places that are made primarily for people work better than places made primarily for cars”
  • “pivot toward people”
  • Past
    • streets were markets and thoroughfares where people walked
    • streetcars and cars came onto the scene
    • car manufacturers pushed to remove people from the streets
  • Present
    • challenges with mass transit in our areas
    • being able to get around is necessary for all people
  • Keys:
    • People-friendly cities invest in many types of transportation
      • affordable to government and citizen
      • accessible to all people
      • maintain air quality and quality life
    • People-friendly cities prioritize safety over all (especially speed)
      • death is not an acceptable outcome of our transportation decisions (Vision 0 in Sweden)
    • People-friendly cities are willing to make change
      • transform communities to make streets more people friendly
  • What is next?
    • we know our system will change
    • our decisions now matter
  • Create a more livable community
  • Choose one thing you might engage in to support a people-friendly city

TedXMac 2017: Mike Harris, Shifts Coming in Business and Work

Mike Harris, Shifts Coming in Business and Work

  • gap between businesses and workers is widening
  • Is it the millennial?
  • The discontent generation
    • highest unemployment
    • largest generation
    • least engaged
    • 3x more job changes
  • Values through the ages:
    • Industrial Age (creation)
    • Information Age (efficiency)
      • “automation allows us to automate the automaters”
    • Relational Age (outcome)
      • businesses will succeed if they deliver outcomes to people that they desire in their life
      • workers will want jobs that deliver outcomes that they want in their life
      • Gen X/Boomers want success, advance, independence, goals, & results Millenials and Gen Z want gifts, passion, fulfillment, and growth
  • You don’t need a new business you need a new interface that focuses on impact, passion, & beliefs. How?
    1. State your passion: How do you impact the world?
    2. Align on outcomes: What’s our shared interest?
    3. Give them a voice: Innovation through risk, risk through trust – Alignment!
    4. Create advocates: Let them wear the T-shirt (employee advocates)
    5. Growth through coaching: let them drive (They will care AND it will free you)
    6. Believe: People follow people (as a leader, you must believe in what you do)
  • Doing this will allow you to outperform everyone else

TedXMac 2017: Dean Whittaker, Jason Sosa: Back FROM the Future

Dean Whittaker, Jason Sosa: Back FROM the Future

  • most of us do not think past 5 years
  • 50% of US jobs at risk because of automation (robots and artificial intelligence)
  • changes to the baby boomers: globalization, demographics, technology
  • technology = revolution
  • we can’t adapt fast enough so we must learn to anticipate change
  • human adaptability is not matching the rate of change in technology
  • change is revolutionary vs. change is evolutionary
  • the ‘gig economy’ working on multiple projects and with diverse teams around the world
  • this time is different
    • automation will replace workers (self service and augmented reality)
    • reality itself will change
    • the entire work force will need to be retrained
    • “robe advice” “robe doctors”
    • machines will be able to outperform humans at almost all tasks
    • be continuous learners and retrain self
    • abundance for some and hardships for others
    • communities will lose financial resources
  • “we need radical mindsets for this radical time”
  • technology might displace us from our jobs
  • “Gig economy” value freedom and flexibility and can do work from anywhere
  • Hope and preferred future
    • rapidly deploy new skills
    • acquire wealth through skills
    • Wisdom from the past, leadership of the present, and vision for the future
    • value diversity
    • own the robots
  • there is a human advantage
  • “as a community, will we choose to embrace change”
    • develop a learning center to re-skill our work force 24×7
    • connectivity is a key
    • implement model community initiative
    • be daring to try new ways of working and networking
    • accept failure as learning
  • “our future is determined by the choices we make today”
  • create the preferred future that is meant for us since we know with 80% certainty where it is headed