The Process of Studying…
The example of the Prophet Elijah
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.
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.
“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?”
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?
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?
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!
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.