Strength in unity

Why should less be more?

A few days ago, we received a letter indicating the Belgium Netherlands Mission had been chosen to pilot a programme to integrate service missionaries into the traditional mission structure.

It is an exciting opportunity to reduce duplicity of effort, have more aligned reporting structures and to be more unified in our missionary labours – together, as one.

As we unite, we will create an even stronger missionary force to spread the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As we read in Ephesians 4:13; “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

The Forth Road Bridge

As I considered the transition over the last few days, my thoughts returned to Scotland and the Forth Road Bridge, which is only a short distance from our home.

It was opened in 1964 and at the time was the longest suspension bridge in Europe, spanning 1005 metres across the Firth of Forth.

Suspension bridges have to be strong and tough enough to overcome a number of extreme obstacles – long distances, high winds, and water.

A suspension bridge is held up by individual wires, which when spun together make strands.

 

Several strands are then combined into giant wire cables that can hold thousands of tonnes of weight.

In a like manner, speaking figuratively, this principle is evident in our new mission structure, allowing us an opportunity to discover new strength in unity.

Unity grows when we serve together, teach each other, and encourage one another. Our hearts can be “knit together in unity and in love one towards another” – Mosiah 18:21

When it comes to structure, less, frequently is much more.

There is beauty in simplicity.

What blessings have you seen by being unified?

#Unity

A little wink

Do they smile back at you?
Last weekend, Monic and I were visiting Brussels.
We had the opportunity to speak in church services on Sunday.
Whilst Monic was speaking, I noticed a little boy, around 6 years old, looking directly at me.
In that split second, I made eye contact with him, tilted my head slightly to one side, smiled, and gave him a friendly little wink.
He smiled back and tried a little wink too.
For a brief moment in time – we enjoyed our little connection and smiled together.
It was an innocent thing.
In that instant, a thought entered my mind when I was his age.
Immediately, in my thoughts, I dismissed my well-rehearsed, prepared talk, already provided to the translators in advance and shortly thereafter apologised to them.
As I stood up, I shared the impressions of my heart and mind.
Slowly, I told my simple story.
Look out for little impressions and ideas, if you are listening, they always come.
The power of a little wink.
Be careful how you use it though, you just never know who may smile back at you!

Learning takes practice.

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐝𝐨𝐞𝐬 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐤?
Growing up in Scotland in the 1970’s was a fun place to be.
I was oblivious to many of the challenges of the era, but I do recall one occasion at Primary school when I was around 9 years old, that I’ve never forgotten.
An announcement was made in class that a recorder group would be starting in school and that anyone interested to learn how to play should come along to the next practice.
I had grown up listening to my dad playing regularly on his chromatic mouth organ and like him I wanted to do something musical – he always seemed to be having so much fun!
The day came and along I went.
I was given a small descant recorder and duly started practicing in the weeks that followed.
Through lots of lessons, my playing began to improve, and I learned to read music too.

Lessons Learned

I began to understand that
  • Growth and development take time.
  • Learning takes practice.
As time passed by, one day I recall being picked upon and bullied by several boys.
“You’re just a big namby pamby, a big sissy” they’d say to me, along with a few other belittling terms.
Why?
I was the only boy, playing the recorder amongst a group of around 15 girls.
Despite the regular taunts, insulting and smart-alecky remarks, I continued playing the recorder throughout my school years and developed a resilient spirit to the comments.
Playing simple melodies, always brought joy to my youthful heart. And it still does!
In later years, in a little tender mercy, I discovered that like me, Monic too played the recorder.
Sometimes in life we have to persevere when opposition comes our way.
Oftentimes, its listening to the feelings of our heart, that can overcome the challenge of the day.
What challenge might you face today?
What does your heart think?

Attitude

“How do I remain 𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞, when so many around me are negative”?
Our attitude can make all the difference in our lives.
Said another way, so much in life, really depends upon our attitude.
M. Russell Ballard speaking many years ago commented that a “good attitude produces good results, a fair attitude fair results, and a poor attitude poor results. We each shape our own life, and the shape of it is determined largely by our attitude.”
During our time on earth, challenges will certainly come, they are after all, a natural part of life. We all worry at times. And of course there are times of concern and anxiety too.
But we can choose to be positive and cheerful.
The way we choose to see things, the way we behave or the way we respond to others can and will make all the difference.
Remember; “A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine.” – Proverbs 17:22
I love these observations by Charles Swinton about attitude …

Attitude

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.
It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say or do.
It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home.
The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day.
We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.
We cannot change the inevitable.
The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude…
I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
And so, it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes”

Some top tips for those around us who may be a little negative.

  1. Counteract their negativity, with your positivity.
  2. Focus on their virtues, not their faults.
  3. Even if they have some negative comments, look for the positive in them.
  4. Be honest with them and share how their comments make you feel.
  5.  Discuss with them what’s going well in their life.
  6.  Set your own boundaries and ask yourself how much you are going to allow others to influence you.
We live in challenging times, however, lets choose to accentuate the positive and see the good in those around us, if we slow down and look, we will find plenty to be positive about.
How can you choose to be 𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞 today?
#attitude

A stranger here

𝐃𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐰𝐢𝐬𝐡 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞?

This week marked a significant anniversary for Monic and I.

12 months ago, we arrived in the Netherlands.

Those months have simply flown by, so incredibly fast.

We have travelled throughout Belgium and the Netherlands, visited with lots of family, reacquainted ourselves with many old friends, made many new friends from all across the world and testified of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in many towns and cities.

Yesterday, we met up with fellow Scot – Mark Stewart, an Area Authority Seventy, as each of us fulfilled assignments to speak at The Hague Stake Conference in Zoetermeer this weekend.

Reflecting this morning, I was reminded of a scripture in Ephesians 2:19.

At the time the Apostle Paul was fearlessly traveling into lots of different lands and meeting many new people.

Writing to the members of the Church, or Saints as they were called and are called today, he reminded members of the Church of the blessings of belonging, when he told them, “Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”

What do you think of when you think of “strangers” or “foreigners”?

Mark and I are both Scottish, growing up on opposite sides of the country.

Speaking last night, our mother tongue, dialect, cultural background, and lifestyle may be different from the Dutch, but we were no strangers or foreigners – we were indeed fellowcitizens with the household of God, the Saints, here in the Netherlands.

In our day, in these turbulent times in which we live, strangers and foreigners are coming to us – daily.

We don’t have to look far. They are all around us.

Are you welcoming?

In fact, I was a stranger here not too long ago, yet I have always felt welcome here.

I know that no-one is a stranger to Jesus Christ.

In Romans 8:16-17, the Apostle Paul explains further…

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.”

Try as we may, we cannot separate ourselves from each other.

As children of God, we are not strangers to one another, we are all in fact brothers and sisters.

I hope that we will remember that we are all children of God and part of His family.

Have you ever felt like a stranger?

#HearHim

Being heard

Have you ever met someone who not only listened to you but really tried to understand you?
How did you feel about the person?
Have you been heard recently?
I mean, 𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒚 𝒉𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒅.
You may have to think long and hard about that question.
It may have been quite a while since you feel that you have been heard.
Can you remember what it felt like?
What words come to mind?
We can all seek to be heard beyond simply the words that we are speaking.
As a coach, frequently I find that coachees want me to know and hear the feelings of their heart.
Sometimes that can take a few sessions to achieve.
My experience has taught me that if you have been heard, then you are much more willing to listen.
Real listening can’t happen unless we have a sincere desire to understand what we’re hearing.
Sometimes – that isn’t easy for many of us, including me too!
Why? Because we also need to suspend our judgement.
You know that voice in your head that says – I know better.
Or that frustrated impatient feeling in your heart which says – I already know how.
When actually – we don’t know better or how at all.
We may think we do, but we don’t!
Listening to someone means getting out of your own head and trying to understand another person’s mind.
It’s all about empathy.

Here are some tips…

1. Slow down.
2. Let go of your own thoughts and opinions
3. Listen with your whole body, not just with your ears, eyes, and head, but by mirroring their body movements (without being too obvious.)
4. Be genuinely curious, by focusing all your attention on the other person and being present.
5. Become comfortable with silence, allowing the other person space and time to access their inner wisdom.
6. Don’t interrupt and wait until the other person is ready for you to speak.
Listening is crucial to presence.
Why not take a moment, reflect on the tips above and help someone to be heard today?
#heard #presence #listening #empathy #silence

Understanding

Let me dispel the misunderstanding…
Today I will be attending church in Utrecht (again).
I first attended there over 28 years ago, on Sunday 5th September 1993.
It was my first Sunday in the Netherlands.
I had no knowledge of the language and struggled throughout to understand.
Thankfully Monic was on hand to help my understanding a little.
Consider for a moment the word 𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠.
It is defined as – “to know how something works or to know what something means.”
As everyone knows, I am religiously active as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In my efforts to promote understanding, perhaps I can be a bit annoying and even unduly enthusiastic about my faith at times!
I certainly understand how easily that can happen, as the subject of religion can be a little touchy for many people.
Have you ever wondered why I am so anxious to share my views?
Like me, you may worry about the conflicts in the world, the political turmoil, the economic instability, and the pressures of living in a world where illness, or the death of a loved one may have taken their toll on you in all kinds of physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional ways.
I certainly do not understand the complexities of all of the volatility and turmoil in the world.
Through it all however – your family are probably the most important thing in the world for you.
As you look to the future, you may be anxious what it may hold for you, your partner, your children, and your grandchildren.
At times, I am.
But then I stop and remember my why.
My understanding of a much greater plan, which I believe to be immensely important for everyone.
It centres around my belief in Jesus Christ.
He always brings peace and safety.
My faith in Him it is not passive; it is very active.
Like so many others, maybe you are searching for something?
Just as Monic helped me understand Dutch a little all those years ago, our missionaries can help you come to understand a little more about the purpose of life, why you are here, the plan of salvation and even answer that question that troubles so many – is there life after death?
Perhaps it’s time, once and for all to understand these things, to let God prevail – He is no great mystery after all.
I promise – you too can 𝒖𝒏𝒅𝒆𝒓𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒏𝒅.
#HearHim

Silence has power

The world is getting louder.
There is a lot of noise out there.
In fact, the world is now in continual commotion.
Have you ever cultivated silence for yourself?
Perhaps it is time for a quiet reflective moment, to find some time to think?
Why not ditch your phone and take a walk through nature?
Or better still limit input!
Take a fast from social media and the news for a full day, resting from unending social media feeds or current events.
𝐒𝐢𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐩𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐫.
Silence is in fact golden!
Build some periods of silence into your day to refresh, replenish and renew – they are powerful times to reawaken.
Why not try it for a week and see the effects on your stress levels, creativity, and well-being.
Go on – give it a go!
#silence

The Book of Life

I was asked recently, “𝐃𝐢𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐰𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐞 𝐢𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐣𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐭𝐨𝐝𝐚𝐲?”
Did you know that some of the most important historical records are the diaries and other personal writings of individuals from all different walks of life?
Living in the Netherlands, I am often reminded of one the most significant diaries of our time – that of Anne Frank, the 13-year-old Jewish girl living here, who, at the age of 16, died in a German concentration camp.
Her diary, written whilst she was confined in an Amsterdam apartment house, shares her story of how she and her family went into hiding for two years to avoid Nazi persecution. Since her death, the words from her diary have inspired millions. And because of her diary the world has known all about the terrors of growing up during the Holocaust.
My journaling journey began early when I was a young 12-year-old.
It has been the first thing I’ve done every morning for as long as I can remember.
𝐏𝐞𝐫𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐬 𝐢𝐭𝐬 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞𝐠𝐢𝐧?
You do not have to write every day, even though this would be good. It could be weekly. It could even be as and when there is something that is memorable or moving or meaningful.
Remembering is an important part of life and journals help us to do that. They also help me to slow down!

𝑳𝒊𝒇𝒆 𝒊𝒔 𝒂 𝑩𝒐𝒐𝒌 – by Zelda Davis Howard

Life is a book made up of days
Each one of us writes one,
It’s opened when we come to earth
And closed when life is done.
No pen but ours ere touches it
In our own way we write,
Whether we fail or succeed
Turns with the page at night.
And there is no erasing it
To add or take away,
The yesterday’s account is closed,
Sealed within white or grey.
The morning gives another sheet
That’s broad and very white,
And oh, how glorious to have
Another chance to write!
No bad is there too small to show
No good that’s ever lost,
All that we do goes into Life’s book
In black and white embossed.
  • Every life is a tale worth telling.
  • Why not begin yours today?

The Right Thing

“𝐀𝐫𝐞 𝐰𝐞 𝐝𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠?” I asked…
Life has some strange turns – let me explain.
Recently I recalled an experience from some years ago, when I faced a difficult moment of truth, when my moral courage was challenged to do the right thing.
I was faced with a difficult decision of remaining quiet during a tough sales negotiation with a senior colleague, or correcting (what seemed to me) a deliberate glaring error that my colleague had made.
The error that was influencing the clients buying decision in a very positive way.
Correcting and embarrassing my colleague in front of the client was forefront of my mind – I didn’t want to do that.
So, I decided to wait for a break in our negotiations.
During the break, I pointed out the error to my senior colleague – who was not too pleased with me. I chose to hold my ground.
Some minutes later, it was determined to return to the negotiation table, share the mistake (at great cost to our deal), but secure the deal with our integrity intact.

We did “𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒓𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈.”

I was reminded by a quote by Gordon B. Hinckley; “The problem with most of us is that we are afraid to stand up for what we believe, to be witnesses for what is true and right. We want to do the right thing, but we are troubled by fears. So we sit back, and the world drifts about us, and society increasingly adopts attitudes and standards of behaviour that most of us do not approve of.”
My message today is – consider your moral compass and choose to do 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠!
Do what is right even though it seems that you will be alone in so doing.
Your conscience will always be clear and the truth will set you free.
Facing a tough choice today? Remember to do the right thing.
#integrity