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The extra mile

Recently I was asked, “𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐝𝐨𝐞𝐬 𝐢𝐭 𝐦𝐞𝐚𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐠𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐱𝐭𝐫𝐚 𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐞?”
A scripture from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:41 came readily to mind… “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”
Back in the times of Jesus, a Roman soldier could compel a Jewish male to carry their hefty packs, armour or weapons for one mile (it was the law after all).
I am certain that back then the paths would be sweltering, dirty, difficult to travel and many (if not all) of the Jews must have detested carrying the items.
But then Jesus taught them to “go with him twain.” …meaning to carry the soldier’s packs for two miles.
What does that mean for us today?
In this verse of scripture, Jesus was teaching us one way that we can love and serve others.
We don’t carry Roman packs anymore, but the principle applies to every area of our lives today.
When we go the first mile, we are only really doing what is expected of us.
But when we go the second mile, we are giving freely of our time and service to others.

Here is a little personal story.

Shortly after arriving in the Netherlands, one experience taught me a lot about going the extra mile.
Due to corona, the number of missionaries we had serving was at approximately 20% of our complement.
All of the missionaries were swamped with things to do.
I recall a missionary called me one day and asked “President, you know that we are very busy. Can we get up one hour earlier every day, so we can get everything done?”
My heart melted.
I must admit to shedding a tear or two.
I replied, “Of course but remember to be careful and take time to rest.”
The first mile is often required of us, in many things that we do.
The second mile however, is only made possible by being obedient to the first mile.
You cannot go the second mile without influencing others.
It only takes one second miler to impact others lives.
I shall ever be indebted to Daniel Andrade for the lesson he taught me that day. Thank you.
James E. Faust said “Some of the most rewarding times of our lives are those ‘extra miles’ hours given in the service when the body say it wants to relax but our better self emerges and says, ‘Here am I, send me.’”
How can you apply this principle and go the second mile today?

Is love the answer?

𝐈𝐬 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐰𝐞𝐫?
Celebrating my 57th birthday this week, I received several lovely cards and gifts from family and friends.
One particular gift came from the missionaries.
A folder of 60 pages, 109 letters, 30 photos and a few sketches too.
As I read through the album on Thursday evening, I must admit to being moved.
The letters and photos simply touched my heart.
I shed a few tears of joy.
Think of the last time you experienced joy.
Real joy – that deep enduring feeling that seems to warm your entire soul.
I felt of their love, one by one.
“God’s love is always there for you, whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there.” – Thomas S. Monson.
Arriving in the Netherlands nearly a year ago now, in a few meetings Monic and I have frequently sung together (also with the help of missionaries too) “Love One another.” It is always a beautiful experience.
In the book of John, Jesus spoke to His Apostles about love “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you…. By this shall men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
“Love is the greatest of all the commandments—all others hang upon it. It is our focus as followers of the living Christ. It is the one trait that, if developed, will most improve our lives.” Joseph B. Wirthlin
There are a number of ways you can feel the Saviour’s love.
Its different for everyone – but the missionaries can help you along the way.
“Love is the greatest power and will have the most powerful influence. – Elaine S. Dalton
May we love Him and love one another.

Coincidence or Tender Mercy?

Looking Back and Moving Forward.
When – April 2008 (16 years ago)
Where – Conference Centre, Salt Lake City, Utah.
What – General Conference Weekend
Who – the Kleijwegs and the Watsons
Why – I met Chris Kleijweg and Kenneth Johnson for the first time in October 2005, when they extended a call to me to serve as President of the Dundee Scotland Stake. A few weeks later Chris challenged me to attend General Conference with our new Stake Presidency, together with our wife’s.
A year passed by, and Chris’s church assignment changed.
We lost contact.
Little did he know that we were planning a trip to Salt Lake City for the conference sessions in the spring of 2008. It turned out to be the weekend when Thomas S. Monson was sustained as President of the Church.
And then the coincidence. Or was it?
Walking out of the conference centre, that holds 21,000 people, who do we bump into, in the crowds? – the Kleijweg’s!
It was a beautiful reunion.
Little did we know that they would be there!

Coincidence?

Recently, I shared this quote from Gerald N. Lund and I want to share it again… “Sometimes blessings come in such an unusual manner and with such precise timing that they accomplish something in addition to blessing us. They so clearly confirm the reality of God’s existence that they buoy us up in times of trials.”
I believe that a coincidence is not a coincidence when the Lord is involved in what happens. It is in fact His hand, His divine signature if you will.
He is much more involved in our daily lives than we give Him credit for. His Heavenly influence can and does impact the direction of people’s lives, and those things that move God’s work along amongst His children.
As the years passed by, we were both assigned in Public Affairs & Communications, in the UK and the Netherlands respectively.
Recently the roles were reversed, when I called Chris to be a counsellor in the Presidency of the Belgium Netherlands Mission, along with a new friend, Jurgen Hoole.
I know that some of the sweetest experiences in my life have come as I feel His promptings as He directs His work.
Likewise, I also know that when we are striving to do God’s will, He is anxious to bless each one of us with incredible “coincidences” – or in scriptural terms, “a tender mercy of the Lord”.
The Lord’s house is a house of order, and I know He is in charge.

Friendship

What new friendships have you made this year?
Reflecting this morning, on the year gone by, I got to thinking about all my friendships anew.
There have been many, all across the world.
A friend cares.
A friend is honest.
A friend reaches out.
A friend listens.
A friend loves.
To all my friends old and new, I discovered a poem that encapsulates how I feel about each of you. I have no idea who wrote it. Enjoy.

“𝐀 𝐅𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐝 𝐋𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐘𝐨𝐮”

There’s a tenderness comes stealing
O’er this heart of mine today
And a warm and happy feeling
That can never fade away;
Just a feeling that is growing
Every day each long year through –
It’s the joy that comes through knowing
That I have a friend like you.
Round my heart are memories clinging
Of the golden days of old.
And they set my soul a-singing
With a happiness untold.
Yes, our pulsing heart throbs, treasured
Through the years of friendship true
Make me prize the love unmeasured
Of a good old friend like you.
Every passing day I wish you
All the joy your heart will hold;
May success be always with you
As the coming years unfold.
That the fast-approaching morrows
May see all your dreams come true
And contain but minor sorrows,
In my wish, dear friend, for you.
May our friendship grow and strengthen
In the misty years to come,
So that when life’s shadows lengthen
And our mortal race is run,
We may still be friends united –
Still be comrades staunch and true;
That our ways may e’er be lighted,
Yours by me and mine by you.
To all my friends old and new, I hope that 2022, brings you all your hopes and dreams you could ever wish for.
From one good friend to another – Much Love. 💕

Christmas Memories

This Christmas season has brought many opportunities to spend time together making memories.
Over the last few months, there have been a number of missionaries who have brought the piano in the mission home to life by playing some wonderful musical numbers.
In our family, over the last couple of days each of us have shared our piano skills.
Yesterday, patiently, lovingly, carefully, Cristi spent an hour or so, practicing some simple Christmas melodies on the piano.
Very slowly and with a little more attention, her confidence grew.
It was the first time she’d sat in front of a piano for many years.
I watched, I listened, I encouraged and occasionally annoyed her too! Dads are good at that sometimes! But for me, I enjoyed the music and simplicity of the tunes. It’ll be an abiding memory that will stick with me for many years to come.
Through it all was family time, with loved ones both near and far.
Catching up, telling stories, playing games, enjoying a delicious meal, video calls and reminiscing on Christmas’s past. It’s just about spending time together, talking, laughing, sharing, serving, loving, and making memories.
There were far fewer gifts this year, but what I learned is that creating good memories are real blessings.
The spirit of service was very real in our home yesterday.
May we give as the Saviour gave.
I learned too that families don’t really want or need anything from you, but your love, your time, and your memories.
Think on your own life.
What abiding memories do you have of Christmas past and present?

Light the World

“Big bobbles at the bottom and small ones at the top” said Cristi, as she outlined her strategy for the Christmas tree.
That was part of our conversation as we enjoyed some catch up time with Kyle & Cristi at home in Scotland last night on our weekly video call.
Many years of observation, listening and practice with mum had taught her well. Both Monic and Cristi have been busy the last few days, with a regular tradition of decorating the Christmas tree.
Already Christmas decorations seem to be everywhere. It is of course a huge part of celebrating the season.
Yesterday, Monic put lights on the tree and was busy creating a number of beautiful candle decorations around our home. Sitting in the living room this morning, there is a beautiful menagerie of her creative talents on show and under construction on the dinner table. How grateful I am for her thoughtfulness and desire to light our life with these wondrous symbols, reminding us of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Light

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught: “Many of our memorable and enduring Christmas traditions include different kinds of lights—lights on trees, lights in and on our homes, candles on our tables. May the beautiful lights of every holiday season remind us of Him who is the source of all light.”
Indeed, light is one of the most beautiful symbols of the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ. In fact one of His many names and titles is “Light of the World.” He taught, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Christmas candles and lights can remind us that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World. They can also remind us to be lights to others and to help others come unto Christ. The celebrations of Christmas can help us to remember Him.
I am especially looking forward to having our family time this Christmas season with our children, as each of them are shining lights to me.
I hope that as we start to count down the days to Christmas, each of us will remember the light that Jesus Christ brings into your life and choose to lighten someone else’s life through a kind act of loving service.

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

Love one another

As we looked across the street I saw our neighbour’s door wide open, “that’s strange” I said to Monic. Even stranger, keys were still in the lock and her car was gone.
Worriedly, we crossed the road, rang her bell, but alas no answer. We alerted her next door neighbour and after some discussion we all decided to go in and look around. We checked everywhere and thankfully, all was in order.
Next, we locked up her home, keeping the set of keys. A call was made to her mobile phone, but there was no answer, so a voicemail message was left. Another few hours passed. Later that day we found out that our neighbour had been completely distracted by a pressing matter and had simply left for work and forgot to close and lock her front door.
Thankfully, all was well.
When asked by a Lawyer which of the commandments was the greatest, our Saviour Jesus Christ answered by summarising all of the commandments as follows… “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” – Matthew 22: 37-39
I’d like to share three short experiences from this week, all of which happened whilst walking home. Each reminded me about how important it is to “love thy neighbour”.

#1

A few neighbours a little distance from our home were having a terrible argument on the street. It was just awful. There were raised voices, several expletives used by each other, name calling and accusations made. It wasn’t a pleasant thing to witness, before it all calmed down.

#2

Monic and I witnessed an old lady stumble and then fall across the road. Along with 1 or 2 others we quickly ran to assist, providing some tender care until she had caught her breath and could stand once more.

#3

Our own dear neighbour, who is approaching her 90th birthday, who we have grown to love and respect so much over the last 15 years, is becoming quite frail and poorly. She is the most wonderful christian lady and has been an incredible neighbour. Lately it has been quite difficult for her. Her family have rallied around and we too visit frequently to help as best we can. Arriving home the other day, I discovered that she had fallen on the garden path, whilst carrying her washing basket. In a tender moment, I reached down, cradled her in my arms and after a little while helped her back to her feet, clasping her fragile hands in my own.
How difficult is it to follow the Saviour’s admonition to simply 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫? Opportunities to serve and minister are all around us, if we will but open our eyes and see.
Through our own conduct, with warm hearts, tender acts of gentleness and kindness, lets take time to uplift all of those who whose hands may be hanging down and wearying. We too can follow the example of Jesus Christ and honour the two great commandments, by simply loving one another.

Unity

Joe Biden spoke last week on #unity. We all know that in society today, you don’t have to look very far to find disunity, disharmony and distrust.

Consider this story, shared by Barbara Lewis…

“A young boy visited his uncle, a lumberjack. At the lumber camp, the boy saw a huge tree standing alone on the top of a hill. He enthusiastically pointed the tree out to his uncle, saying, “Look at that big tree! It will make a lot of good lumber, won’t it?” His uncle looked down at the boy and shook his head. “No, son, that tree will not make a lot of good lumber. It might make a lot of lumber but not a lot of good lumber. When a tree grows off by itself, too many branches grow on it. Those branches produce knots when the tree is cut into lumber. The best lumber comes from trees that grow together in groves. The trees also grow taller and straighter when they grow together.”

Similarly, so it is with all of us.

We are better individuals, more useful timber, when we grow together, unified, rather than alone. Unity begins with you! With a common goal it is the glue that holds us all together.

We build unity when we serve others, showing that we genuinely care. Unity is a critical ingredient for harmony and success.

Let’s build unity and live without disputes among us.

Travelling the Road of Life

What a challenging year.
As I slow down for Christmas and reflect upon the last 12 months, I am reminded of one of my favourite old fables. Time and again it reminds me of what really matters most of all. Despite the challenges of 2020, I hope it will give you some clues to your own purpose in life.

The King’s Highway

“Once a king had a great highway built for the members of his kingdom. After it was completed, but before it was opened to the public, the king decided to hold a contest. He invited as many as desired to participate. Their challenge was to see who could travel the highway best.
On the day of the contest, the people came. Some of them had fine chariots, some had fine clothing, fine hairdos or great food. Some young men came in their sports togas and ran along the highway. People travelled the highway all day, but each one, when he arrived at the end, complained to the king that there was a large pile of rocks and debris on the road at one spot, and this had hindered their travel.
The Finishing Line
At the end of the day, a lone traveller crossed the finish line and wearily walked over to the king. He was tired and dirty – but he addressed the king with great respect, and handed him a bag of gold. He explained, “I stopped along the way to clear away a pile of rocks and debris that was blocking the road. This bag of gold was under it, and I would like you to help me return it to its rightful owner.” The King replied, “You are the rightful owner.” The traveller replied, “Oh no, this is not mine. I’ve never known so much money.” “Oh yes,” said the king, “you’ve earned this gold, for you have won my contest. He who travels the road best is he who makes the road smoother for those who will follow”… Author Unknown.
As you have served others this year, what have you discovered?
It is my sincere hope that as we serve and help others along their paths in life at home, in our families, in our communities, in government and business organisations we will be ever mindful of the greatest servant of all, whose birth we celebrate this Christmas Season.
It has been wonderful working with many familiar folks this year, making so many new friends along the way too. In addition, working with new clients and organisations as well in 2020 has been incredible. To each and everyone, may I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year.