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Warnings!

“There it goes again” – I thought.
At that moment yesterday, I knew the exact date and time.
All over the Netherlands, the public warning sirens are tested at exactly 12.00 noon on the first Monday of every month (except on national holidays)
The siren sounds for 1 minute and 26 seconds without interruption. (I am not sure why it is that precise period of time – perhaps a Dutch person can tell me why?)

Why do they do it?

It is a test signal, so if you know what it is, there is nothing to worry about!
If you don’t (foreigners like me) then that is another matter!
I can remember hearing it for the first time 12 months ago in Leeuwarden, it was a little disconcerting, as I had absolutely no idea what it was. Yet people were just going about their business as normal.
It is certainly a great way to identify tourists!
There are approximately 3800 sirens across the country.
They are a constant reminder to take action – if necessary.
The Dutch word for it is “Waarschuwingsstelsel”
The Government tests the sirens regularly, so people living here know exactly what they mean, and what they should do if there was indeed an emergency of some kind.
If the sirens are heard on any other day of the month, then it is not a test and people are advised to go inside – immediately, shut all doors and windows and turn on the television or radio for further instructions and updates.
There is now an additional system which sends a text message to every mobile device, which is tested twice a year.
For people who’ve never heard the test before it can be a confusing and slightly worrying 90 seconds.
Warning signals are everywhere – do we heed them?
What constant reminders to take action do you hear?
I have heard a few teases about the alarm.
One of my favourites was “That means it’s time to put your clogs on… it’s the law.”
Perhaps there are a few gullible folks, who may just believe that one!
How did you react on hearing it for the first time?
Do you have any unusual traditions where you live?

The Enos Challenge

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐝𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐲?
“Studying – the act of texting, eating and watching Netflix with an open textbook nearby” – that’s one definition at least!
Growing older, I’ve discovered that I love to study, i.e., “devoting time and attention to gain knowledge” – perhaps that is a more traditional definition!
In Doctrine & Covenants 88:118, the Lords describes how to learn the gospel “…yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
Reading and studying are both part of the learning process.
So – is there a difference between the two?
Another definition I found suggests that – Studying means to concentrate and devote time in completing or researching any task; while reading means to understand and grasp the meaning of any content without devoting much time to it.
In simple terms, “you’re only going to get out of this what you put into it.” – Boyd K. Packer.
Whilst listening to a podcast in our pre-mission training, we were encouraged to take the Enos challenge.
The invitation was to study the one chapter of Enos in the Book of Mormon for 30 days.
My immediate thought was “How can I study Enos for 30 days, there are only 27 verses!”
However, I accepted the challenge and learned many wonderful lessons, as I slowed down and studied those verses, one by one.
The book of Enos is like a pure journal entry and is a very personal chapter of scripture.
There was indeed much to learn.

The Process of Studying…

The process of studying the scriptures has three important parts:
1 – Understanding the background and setting of the scriptures.
2 – Identifying the principles and doctrines being taught.
3 – Applying those truths to our own lives.
I learned that studying is better when you take your time, by looking out for key words, you’ll discover that truths about Jesus Christ are everywhere.
Recently I invited all of the missionaries to complete the Enos challenge.
I love this piece of street art graffiti in Friesland.
It was a timely serendipitous find by Tess Flake upon her completion of the challenge!
Have you ever taken time to study the scriptures?
Enos may be a good place to start!

A still small voice.

𝐈𝐬 𝐢𝐭 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐬𝐞𝐞, 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐨𝐫 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐥?
I am surrounded by people who speak different languages.
Dutch, English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German and many more are a constant in my life.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to communicate and understand.
Yet, the language of the spirit helps us distinguish truth from error.
“For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” – Matthew 13:15
Do you want to be healed?

The example of the Prophet Elijah

In 1 Kings chapters 18 & 19, the Prophet Elijah had to flee for his life to escape the rage of Jezebel. In those chapters we learn about the language of the spirit and how he heard the voice of the Lord.
“A great and strong wind” surged and shattered rocks into pieces.
“But the Lord was not in the wind.”
After the wind came an earthquake.
“But the Lord was not in the earthquake.”
After that “a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.”
Finally, after these dramatic demonstrations of God’s power came “a still small voice.”
I know that we can all understand the language of the spirit as we hearken to the voice of the Lord.
He can communicate with all of us – if we will listen to our hearts.
The voice of the Lord is 𝒔𝒕𝒊𝒍𝒍.
The voice of the Lord is 𝒔𝒎𝒂𝒍𝒍.
The voice of the Lord 𝒘𝒉𝒊𝒔𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒔.
The voice of the Lord can touch our 𝒉𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒕𝒔.
I have learned that the voice is often felt, rather more than it is heard.
If you come seeking and listening, you too can be guided by the language of the spirit.
It should be listened to.
Please slow down.
Be still and quiet.
Consider what really matters most.
When we get ourselves quiet enough, we can hear Him giving us the direction that we need.
No matter what earthly language you speak, you too can hear and will feel the guidance of the language of the spirit.
It really is all about what you see, hear and feel.

Mission Service

Recently, I have been asked this a few times; “What do you do as Mission Leaders?”

My response was “Many things!”

One of our key responsibilities that Monic and I share is for the well-being of our missionaries.

Let me explain further….

Mission life is segmented into a 6-week transfer cycle.

Each cycle starts and ends with arrivals & departures of missionaries.

In between our days are regularly filled with preparation, planning, training sessions, conferences, leadership meetings, travel, medical issues, phone calls, zoom sessions and much more, not forgetting of course, our precious regular catch-up time with family time too, via Zoom!

Professionally, as a coach and counsellor, one of my favourite things to do in life has always been 1-1 coaching sessions. During the 6-week cycle, every missionary in the mission (currently 51) has personal 1-1 time with each mission leaders. In mission lingo, they are called interviews, but essentially, having sat through thousands of coaching sessions, that is exactly what they are.

The last few days have been filled with these sessions.

Each interview (mini coaching session) begins and ends with prayer.

In between, we slow down, talk, laugh, cry, catch up, share, consider, counsel, challenge, soften, teach, learn and ultimately, we listen.

Listening

In fact, we listen a lot.

Then we listen a little more.

Some time ago, I shared a thought about the word “listen”.

The word has six letters. Rearrange them and the word “silent” is formed. In Dutch the six letters become even shorter, with only four “stil”

Frequently, I find as I listen, oftentimes a missionary will suddenly go quiet. Years ago, I used to feel a little awkward when the first quiet spell sets in, but now I understand that these are the moments of real inspiration, when they are thinking.

I don’t know what they are thinking, only that they are thinking!

Experience has taught me that it is in these very quiet active times, when the least seems to be happening, that the most is actually happening.

In those quiet moments one missionary recently shared this verse of scripture, found in Psalms 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God…” Regularly, we hear the whisperings of the Holy Ghost to guide each of us in our missionary work. It is beautiful, reassuring and fills our hearts with love and pure knowledge.

Learning to be still

To listen and to be silent (still) are inseparably connected.

These short interview sessions are by design an opportunity to learn, to listen and grow.

What I have learned most in my life has come in many ways, but the largest part has come from listening to those with much greater experience than me. Generally, it tends to be those who have lived longer and learned many important things that I needed to know – one of which is learning how to be quiet, to be still and to listen.

Now however, we are being taught frequently by those much younger than ourselves. Daily we find, tender mercies from the Lord, as He has prepared these young people (18 to 26 years of age) to preach the gospel to the world. Indeed, it is a mighty miracle.

We are off to do some more mini-coaching sessions.

Please choose to slow down, be quiet, learn to listen, listen to learn, then you too will hear the whisperings of the spirit of the Lord.

#HearHim

Don’t just do something, sit there!

“Don’t just do something, sit there!”- is a phrase I have stumbled across several times recently.

It’s extremely difficult NOT to do something these days. In the frenetic pace of life, whether it is a work task, an urgent assignment, homework, something needs fixing, the school run – taking time to “sit there” and think, rarely (if ever) tops the list of things to do.

We think far too seldomly. Conversely, we tell ourselves not to think, by saying “don’t just sit there, do something!” In several coaching sessions and workshops recently, this theme has been a topic of some healthy conversation. Ultimately, our discussion peaks at the realisation that we need to think, before we act. The lesson is that we need to put the thinking in before the doing.

In my own life, there have been many times that I have felt a bit harried, time poor and harassed. Then, some years ago, I decided and chose to change. I realised that I needed to simply “sit there” for a while every day and declutter my noisy mind. As an early riser, the first hour of every day is my precious contemplation time. Those 60 minutes of thought and study are a daily gift to myself.

A little time set aside daily to think about what really matters makes all the difference.

When will you “sit there?”

Are you asking the right question?

Asked any good questions lately? As a coach, I am constantly asking questions to help clients move forward.
For example…”What do you want?” “What do you need most right now?” “So what?” “Why now?” “How can you be more true to yourself?” “Can you tell me more?” “How are you, really?”
Querying something can be extremely powerful. They help us to think, feel and do things differently. The best ones usually start with “why.”
Some professionals like doctors, lawyers and journalists are taught how to ask great questions as part of their training. In my own professional career through sales and coaching, I have found it equally important to be able to formulate and ask the right question. Questions aid performance, close sales, help provide inspiration and direction, they even help to build trust and rapport. It is a useful skill to be able to ask great questions.
Its time to be a little more curious. Asking questions is an important part of life and learning, it shows that you want to improve.
What question will you ask today?

Council Together

I am grateful for the many opportunities to council together with friends, colleagues and especially family members this last year.

There have been many challenges to address over the last few months and as I look to the year ahead, I am certain there will be many more.

Meeting together as a family council, we set technologies aside, we listen to one another, we discuss concerns, we make plans, set goals, we support and strengthen one another. Jointly, we search for solutions to the problems of the day. When open and candid conversation is filled with love, patience, kindness and respect for the opinions of each other, the council has always been a success.

In addition, when each member of the family is invited to contribute to the discussion, they can and do feel part of any decision reached. In turn, this leads to positive reinforcement of their own feelings and supports our family to move forward in a unified manner, as we each take ownership of the issue.

Whether it is around the family dinner table, the work canteen table, or the board room table, the principles of sitting in council together are universal.

Why not give it a go today? Focus on an issue and ask – What can we do about it? What are your ideas?

Are you listening?

This past week it struck me that the word listen is made up of the same letters as silent. Coincidence?

Maybe we need to be silent to really listen a little more perhaps?

Yesterday I was busy redesigning a virtual learning workshop. As I was reflecting upon how much listening I do in my coaching career and as a facilitator, I realised… I listen a lot!!

Here are my top tips on active listening from my design work yesterday…

– Pay Attention! Don’t just listen to the words, or simply respond…hear the complete message, as Stephen Covey always used to say, listen to understand.

– Show that you are interested – nod, use facial expressions, use eye contact, make verbal comments like “uh huh” or I see.

– Listen to the other person’s story without being judgmental.

– Use empathy to understand and feel what the other person is feeling.

– Ask open questions to probe further, check for understanding and summarise.

– Don’t be afraid of silence – frequently that is when the most is going on.

How can you listen a little more today?

Spontaneous!

Familiar regular routine – that’s me! Yet, listening to that inner intuition, brought about a little spontaneity, helping me step outside of the norm.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently on presence and intuition in the coaching world.  On Friday morning, I started listening even more to that small little voice, it was telling me to mix things up a bit! Entering into my mind came this spontaneous thought to head off to St. Andrews for the day with my wife. It was beautiful weather after all and I didn’t have a lot to do anyway.

Spontaneity can scare a lot of people; routine is often the preferred (and safer) route for many (me included).

However, I shared the idea with my wife.  We both embraced it and off we went for a fantastic day together.  We loved it so much that when a similar thought arrived on Saturday morning to climb Alva Glen in the afternoon, we grasped hold of that idea too and off we trotted to go climb some hills.  What a wonderful day we had and coincidentally met some good friends along the way too!

“Spontaneous – having an open, natural, and uninhibited manner”

#Spontaneity – don’t silence those thoughts, relax – listen to them, value them, embrace them, share them, action them, have some fun and enjoy!

Go on – listen up and give it a go!

Life

In “A Tale of Two Cities” – Charles Dickens wrote these words to describe life in France and England in 1775, maybe they describe even better the conditions of our day.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.
It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.
It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness.
It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
We had everything before us, we had nothing before us”

In our day, we are daily witnesses to a sweeping panorama into the depths of despair, then upwards to the glorious heights of beautiful acts of kindness that lift our spirits and souls once more.

For many of us, it is unlike any other time we have ever experienced before. Eventually however, I believe these challenges will pass.

Now is the time to consider – what is really vital? What really matters most? What do I really want? What is my purpose here on earth? What is the highest priority in my life?

Why not take some time today, to pause and reflect upon these simple questions. As you listen for that still small voice, reach out for the insights and inspiration. You may have to wait a while, but answers always come.