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Information leads to Inspiration

โ€œ๐†๐จ๐จ๐ ๐ข๐ง๐ฌ๐ฉ๐ข๐ซ๐š๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง ๐ข๐ฌ ๐›๐š๐ฌ๐ž๐ ๐ฎ๐ฉ๐จ๐ง ๐ ๐จ๐จ๐ ๐ข๐ง๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ๐ฆ๐š๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง.โ€โ€“ Russell M. Nelson
Serving as mission leaders, our time is planned around a โ€œtransfer cycleโ€ of 6 weeks or 42 days to be precise.
This last transfer cycle has been unquestionably the most active of our mission thus far.
With mission conferences, meetings, travel, tours and sadly a period of sickness this transfer, time was always, extremely precious.
During the transfer, every missionary has a 1-1 interview.
Each interview provides us with good information.
In preparation for the next transfer cycle, Iโ€™d normally sit down about 10 days in advance to pause, reflect and study things out in my mind, all of the necessary moves required to accommodate the arrival of new incoming missionaries.
This transfer was different.
New arriving missionaries werenโ€™t confirmed until very late in the process, plus with only 5 days left in the transfer cycle, we were still completing the last of our interviews.
Subsequently, the information gathering process was hampered.
This last week, we met together to review the transfer moves and did our best to complete the exercise of new assignments and moves.
Admittedly, we felt a little discomfort, that stretched our spiritual capabilities.
Life has taught me that you cannot force or compel spiritual things, you just have to let things develop, nurture them, and allow them to grow in their own time.
A couple of days later (Friday, only 2 days ago) interviews were completed.

Listening

And then I stopped to really ๐’๐’Š๐’”๐’•๐’†๐’.
As yet I still donโ€™t fully comprehend the working or wonder of it all, but pausing once more and studying it out in my mind again, vivid impressions came.
I wrote out the thoughts, noted my feelings and followed through with the actions I was prompted to take.
Reassignments and moves for the next transfer cycle were completed and shared yesterday.
My experience is simply thisโ€ฆ
I have complete confidence now, that good inspiration can only come from good information.
How does good information, help your inspiration?

Warnings!

โ€œThere it goes againโ€ โ€“ 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 โ€“ 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 donโ€™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 โ€œWaarschuwingsstelselโ€
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 โ€“ 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 whoโ€™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 โ€œThat means itโ€™s time to put your clogs onโ€ฆ itโ€™s the law.โ€
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?

Being Heard

๐€๐ซ๐ž ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ž๐š๐ฌ๐ข๐ฅ๐ฒ ๐๐ข๐ฌ๐ญ๐ซ๐š๐œ๐ญ๐ž๐?
Years ago, when training to be a coach, one of the first exercises we were encouraged to do in our practice sessions, was listening to another person for five minutes.
After listening for five minutes, the roles were reversed.
It involved paying close attention and actively listening.
As the short activity was debriefed, I can recall two insightful takeaways.
Firstly, during the short activity, some kind of internal distraction occurred, allowing the mind to drift, which took the attention of the listener away, even for a few nanoseconds at a time.
Secondly, when listening to someone intently, there was a strong tendency to want to add or share your own views on the topic being shared by interrupting.
For instance, have you ever sat in a cafรฉ somewhere and been distracted by someone at another table, or been tempted to listen into someone elseโ€™s conversation instead?
Whilst listening intently to otherโ€™s it easy to get distracted by another thought popping into your head.
So โ€“ what can we do about it?
All of us at times are liable to be distracted.
The key is to notice it instantly and, in that moment, decide to let the thought go, rather than pursuing it further.
Real listening only happens when we pay attention and have a real desire to understand what we are hearing.
In turn, when people feel heard, they are more willing to listen.
Do you want to be heard?
#distractions

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, ๐’“๐’†๐’‚๐’๐’๐’š ๐’‰๐’†๐’‚๐’“๐’….
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 canโ€™t happen unless we have a sincere desire to understand what weโ€™re hearing.
Sometimes โ€“ that isnโ€™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 โ€“ I know better.
Or that frustrated impatient feeling in your heart which says โ€“ I already know how.
When actually โ€“ we donโ€™t know better or how at all.
We may think we do, but we donโ€™t!
Listening to someone means getting out of your own head and trying to understand another personโ€™s mind.
Itโ€™s all about empathy.

Here are some tipsโ€ฆ

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. Donโ€™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

Curiosity

Out for a walk in the Scheveningse Bosjes yesterday, โ€œthatโ€™s an unusual looking dogโ€ we said to each other.
It looked a little bit like a labradoodle.
Curiously we asked the lady walking her dogโ€™s โ€œwhat kind of dog is that one?โ€
โ€œHeโ€™s a curly haired retrieverโ€ she said.
Weโ€™d never heard or seen that breed before.
Many curious questions followed, and the conversation flowed easily.
Curiosity was driving our questioning.
Curiosity โ€“ โ€œA strong desire to know or learn something.โ€
Curiosity is a genuine spirit of open enquiry, mixed with a keen desire to learn, all of which is centred upon a willingness to discover new things.
Prior to serving here in the Netherlands as missionaries, genuine curiosity, was an essential part of my coaching practice.
Frequently we learn by simply being curious like a child.
Yesterday, curiosity was driving our questions to the lady about her dog. Subsequently, I researched a little more about the breed.
In a similar manner, many people often ask us questions about our church service here in the Netherlands.
โ€ข Why are you here?
โ€ข What do you actually do?
โ€ข How long do you serve?
โ€ข What is the Book of Mormon?
โ€ข Do you believe in Jesus Christ?
โ€ข What does your church believe about life after death?
โ€ข Why do you build Temples?
All these are great questions driven by curiosity.
So โ€“ what are you curious about?
If youโ€™d like to find some answers to these questions or more, simply pm me. Iโ€™ll be happy to answer any genuinely curious question about our faith and service in Belgium and the Netherlands. ๐Ÿ˜Š
PS – post mission life, this may be the type of dog we’ll be looking for!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The difference between a good and a great leader.

Recently I was asked “what is the key to becoming a leader?”
In considering a helpful reply, several thoughts came to mind.
In my experience, the first principle of leadership is ๐’๐’๐’—๐’†.
Yes, it is that simple, lead with love.
Love makes the difference between a good and a great leader.
As you love those whom you lead, it somehow magnifies every other principle of leadership, as you show concern for others, including building trust, serving and teaching others, creating a vision, communication, building a team and dealing with change.
When others know you will put their interests ahead of your own, they wonโ€™t hesitate to trust you.
Showing interest in others, being sensitive to their problems, and conveying compassion increases peoplesโ€™ capacities to trust in you.
I have learned that great leaders donโ€™t set out to be leaders, they simply set out to make a difference.
I have also found that the best leaders also tend to be the best learners.
The more you are committed to learning the more successful you are at leadingโ€”and in turn, just about anything else.
What can you do to increase your love for others?

Devotion

What are you devoted to?
What happens when you live by what you are devoted to?
๐ƒ๐ž๐ฏ๐จ๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง – “an ardent love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person or activity. A strong attachment, an eager inclination, an animated zeal, a loyal affection.”
Later this morning, I will begin my weekly activity of responding to email letters sent to me by each of the missionaries serving in the mission. Every preparation day (P-day – a Tuesday in our mission), every missionary sends an email letter to the Mission President.
Every week, I take some time to sit down, read each of the letters, one by one and prepare an appropriate response for each missionary.
Prior to starting, I prayerfully consider the activity at hand, and seek guidance from on high as to how best to respond by preparing a personal reply to each of the missionary letters.
Preparing for my day ahead, the word “devotion” has come gently to mind once more.

Service

It strikes me that in reading and responding to all of these letters for the last 20 weeks or so, without fail, I find that each of these young missionaries have an unwavering commitment to their calling as a missionary. They are indeed as the dictionary definition of the word ๐’…๐’†๐’—๐’๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ outlines, filled with “an ardent love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person or activity. A strong attachment, an eager inclination, an animated zeal, a loyal affection.”
It strikes me too, that as they have lived by what they are devoted to, their lives start to change. By that I mean, ๐ข๐Ÿ ๐ฐ๐ž ๐ฅ๐ข๐ฏ๐ž ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐†๐จ๐ฌ๐ฉ๐ž๐ฅ, ๐ฐ๐ž ๐ฐ๐ข๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐ฅ๐จ๐ฏ๐ž ๐ข๐ญ, ๐ข๐Ÿ ๐ฐ๐ž ๐ฅ๐จ๐ฏ๐ž ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐†๐จ๐ฌ๐ฉ๐ž๐ฅ, ๐ฐ๐ž ๐ฐ๐ข๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐ฅ๐ข๐ฏ๐ž ๐ข๐ญ. Day in, day out, week in, week out, I see exceedingly strong evidence of that in each of our full time missionaries and in those whom they teach the Gospel too.
Being a missionary isn’t easy, in fact it is down right tough! Yet on the flip side it is also filled with the most miraculous of daily experiences.
Daily, each missionary devotes their lives to the service of others and helping so many to draw closer to Jesus Christ. Oftentimes, they place the needs of others, above their own.
It is clear that a devotion to something gives each of us a sincere enthusiasm about life and an ardent love for those things we are responsible for. I believe that when we have a strong devotion to something and it lies at the very centre of our life, then somehow our lives become much more worthwhile, filled with purpose and meaning.
Shortly, I’ll begin my weekly devotion to missionary responses.
What would you like to be devoted to?

Mission Service

Recently, I have been asked this a few times; โ€œWhat do you do as Mission Leaders?โ€

My response was โ€œMany things!โ€

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

Let me explain furtherโ€ฆ.

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 โ€œlistenโ€.

The word has six letters. Rearrange them and the word โ€œsilentโ€ is formed. In Dutch the six letters become even shorter, with only four โ€œstilโ€

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 donโ€™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 โ€œBe still and know that I am Godโ€ฆโ€ 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 โ€“ 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

Understanding

“Do you understand what I mean?” he asked.
In many relationships, one of the big barriers to understanding is a lack of communication, a lack of talking things out, a lack of keeping things in the open. Oftentimes whilst counselling, one half of a relationship will sit in brooding silence, hugging any grievances close to their heart, rather than being open and honest.
Pressures can mount, small things are magnified and frequently much more than is true can be imagined in their minds by either party. Fragmentary listening, misinterpretation of ideas, and mistaken meanings of words can cause misunderstandings. And so there is much not knowing, much mistrust, much heartache, much unhappiness and sitting hurting, in silence. Happiness will not survive in pent up places.
So how do we strengthen these relationships?
We need to engage in meaningful conversations.
It all starts with the greatest of all the communication skills, and that is being an effective listener. That means slowing down. Being listened to is one of the highest forms of respect and recognition. Really listening is not about gaining information, rather it is to gain understanding.
Some years ago Marvin J. Ashton said โ€œCommunication is more than a sharing of words. It is the wise sharing of emotions, feelings, and concerns. It is the sharing of oneself totally.โ€
Regularly setting aside time to talk where there are no distractions can help to solve problems.
Why not start today and resolve to listen a little more.
When will you set aside time to communicate and really listen?

Safety, Instruction and Preparation

Jumping, or more accurately, ‘falling’ out of a plane is easy, but the carefully delivered instruction, leaves you in no doubt of the risks involved.
Finally, on Saturday, Cristi and I completed a tandem parachute jump for Mary’s Meals, raising ยฃ2K to boot. I’ll share a video and images later this week, but I want to say something about the rigorous due process of instruction and safety.
Before stepping on the plane, we read several Health & Safety documents, completed a risk assessment of virtually every kind of risk known to man.ย  We declared ourselves COVID free and then spent time going through our basic training, before being signed off, ready to take off. We were both left in no doubt about the serious risk to life of a parachute jump, hence the strict training instruction and multitude of safety checks that followed.
The training covered the essential things we must know, including the safety harness, a detailed overview of the main parachute and the reserve. It was reassuring when the instructor said that he’d never had to deploy the reserve “in over 2000 jumps”. Then he quipped “so I’m overdue one now!” – we all laughed, nervously…
Key was exiting the plane, position in free fall and lifting your legs on landing, so you don’t break any bones.
Our exacting preparations were key to our success, as it is with many things in life…
More to follow…..