When My Family Needed a Food Hamper


She said it so well it was worth saying again! Important words for the Advent season. Thanks Mindi.

Originally posted on Melinda Friesen:

food hamper1There have been two times in my life when I’ve been the recipient of a food hamper. Both times, we were in dire financial situations and we needed the help. It’s not an easy thing to accept. I wanted more than anything not to need it. I wanted to be able to run to the grocery store and pick up what we required on our own dime. How did it make me feel? Pathetic, ashamed, depressed. Poverty sucks your energy like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

This time of year, there is special attention paid to giving to those in need and supplying organizations that put together food hampers. My experience as a recipient makes me carefully consider what I drop into the food bank bin and I hope, after reading this, you will too.

Among some, there seems to be this “beggars can’t be choosers” or “they should be happy…

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Expectations & Potential

“We don’t expect you to win games, we just don’t want you to lose them.”

This was Troy Aikman’s sentiment as he commentated on Mark Sanchez getting a fresh start with his new team, the Philadelphia Eagles. In this quote he referred to how the New York Jets treated Sanchez during his time with them. He was the starter, but not allowed to truly lead the team. According to Aikman, this is the death of a quarterback, not being trusted to push the team to greatness.

Why is this true? Because a leader has been asked to maintain mediocrity. Even worse, in situations like this people are asked to maintain poor quality and a system that does not allow for growth. At the very best you have asked for a good manager to oversee a good system. The difference being that a good manager works well with a good system, but does not generally come into a situation to create and expand the overall horizon or purpose of all involved. A good leader can come in to establish something that is new, going through difficulty to grow and excel all who are involved.

“You just told your quarterback you have no trust in his abilities”

There is something debilitating for a leader to be asked not to lead. Many times this comes about when expectations are not properly stated or understood. A person without understanding will always strive for what they assume is the ‘right’ thing to do, or in the case Aikman refers to, an appeasement to those they answer to. If you are told to lead but have no idea of the restrictions in place until you run into them, it will plague your mind going forward. “What should I do to please them?” is not a visionary way of thinking, but with poorly stated expectations easily becomes the mission of a leader continually running into this wall.

Potential can be difficult to quantify. We often take people into new roles based on their potential. But that potential can be fleeting if we are not discussing the expectations on both sides. I can only imagine the excitement Mark Sanchez must have felt being drafted to the NFL and immediately named the starting quarterback for a team needing a new start. His potential was the hope of the franchise. And then he was told how he was supposed to play…not how he could play. There is a lot of fear involved in releasing a person to make mistakes as they grow into their potential.

Aikman saw potential realized by the Eagles, mistakes and all, and it would be hard to argue with what we see on the field and in the standings. I am sure we can all think of examples in our lives and ministries where we have seen this happen. I cannot remember every leader I have worked with, but I can remember those at either end of the spectrum: Those that walked away because the expectations were not clearly stated, so they failed. And those who rose above the rest because their potential was realized, and they excelled beyond expectations.

There are a number of biblical moments we can look to that apply here, such as Jesus’ stories of the servants and the talents with which they were entrusted. The one who risked and grew the talent count was praised, and the one who hid the talent was punished. These are great, but do not completely align with expectations and potential in leadership. The one that I come back to here is found in Matthew 10, where Jesus sends His disciples out with His new message. The key word: Authority. He gives the 12 disciples, who have heard the teaching, saw His power and believed, the authority to do the work. Oh there were instructions beforehand, but the implementation was up to them. And they did it.

Some have referred to this as the balance between responsibility and authority. A good leader knows where they stand on that spectrum, and they know that it needs to be maintained well from within in order to lead well. If you are responsible but not given authority in the situation, you will always wait for the boss’s instructions. If you have authority but not responsibility, you become the absent-minded tyrant. People have the potential to flourish when the balance is struck.

Clear expectations and potential lived out can be marks of great leaders, and this leadership can be found in any area of life. Sometimes, it just needs to be realized and released.

Brown M&M’s and @freakonomics


“FreakonomicsRadio” podcast, 7/10/14

This episode of FreakonomicsRadio struck me because it drew a parallel between two things that have a special place in my heart: Biblical Wisdom and Van Halen.

We all provide a ‘check and balance’ to what we do and what we expect to happen as a result, the question is how well it works and if it provides a clear picture of what is most important to us.

This episode is all about a part of ‘game theory’ which allows for errors and issues to be found easily, as well as quickly and discreetly. Certain traps or tripwires which ensure that attention to detail and correct action is taken. “Teaching your garden to weed itself” is how Levitt & Dubner refer to creating checks within a system that are not easily identified, but tell you what you need to know. Weeding out the truth if you will.
Do you have something in place that makes sure the right thing is happening?

The real life example? David Lee Roth, at the time with the band Van Halen, would place the requirement for M&M’s with all brown ones removed deep within the contract rider for all big concerts. It ensured that all promoters were approaching their large scale shows with the utmost care and diligence. The rider was 53 pages long, and some would skip over the details before signing on the line.
Brown M&M’s meant they needed to check the complex light and stage setup before they played.

The philosophical example of Solomon solving the problem of what to do with the 2 mothers but only 1 living baby. The solution presented proved the heartlessness of the one who was not the mother, and the love for the child presented by the real mother.
She would rather give the child away than have it killed so both parties would have a piece.

A great example that is not in the podcast, but found its way into the comments on the website, was how students would make sure their professors were actually reading their assignments. Usually by adding some obscure line to the middle of a paragraph.

A friend of mine actually included in one such assignment: “The playful kitten chased the bouncing ball across the kitchen floor”, among other such unrelated and hilarious lines in his assignments. We were all convinced that there was no way our teacher was actually reading the literally hundreds of pages of material he would receive from all of us each week. My friend got top marks, while some would have lines underlined and harshly critiqued.
Next to the paragraph in question the teacher wrote in bright red letters, “These are great insights!”

System fail.

Bad Capitalism

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Thank you National Geographic for posting this!

Do you remember one of the major effects of the Soviet Union falling?
This picture depicts one of the impacts of a totalitarian reign coming to an end.

For Russia, it needed to go through a wave of anarchy and bad capitalism. In fact, it still seems to be doing so. If you do not recall, there were a huge number of small businesses that started up with little or no governance. Some in the West were shocked, others were monopolizing on the new frontier, but for the average citizen it appeared to be mayhem.

This picture of Romania causes me to question how we help people move from a totalitarian regime to a healthy nation for all citizens. The dollar sign in the background tells me one thing remains at the forefront of consideration. Freedom that has no concept of boundaries is simply another prison, with only a changing of the guards. It is almost as though a nation must find the value of humanity in the middle as it moves from tyranny to anarchy, and settling upon the middle.

What is interesting though, is how many nations in their pursuit of freedom seek capitalism as the ideal. At the end of the day, the capitalism they fight for does not seem to be the answer, only an extreme they must jump to in order to know that it does not work. There may be plenty of good and gracious humanity happening in the midst of the change, but history seems to point at pure capitalism being the turmoil before the stabilization of a nation that works. For my American friends, the unfortunate reality you are fighting for in all nations is just not true. You are a form of socialist-democracy, and everyone knows it. That process to get where you are took a long time, and so it seems to be the case for every nation that is unshackled from oppression.

My response to this picture, beyond the shock I initially experienced?
Capitalism, everyone striving for their own good and their own gain, fails humanity. It forgets the person before the profit. It inevitably creates a space where no one strives to live in community, but simply competes to sustain their commercial value.

When Convictions Collide


Went through my old material on Remembrance Day, and this one stood out. So enjoy the reblog!

Originally posted on realational:

Winnipeg Free Press on Mennonite’s at war

Remembrance day is an interesting time for Mennonites. Having met some of the individuals referred to in the article, I can easily recall memories of convictions held by two communities.

Church and state.

But in the middle, as always, was the third conviction. That of the individual who must decide on the previous convictions. Pacificism in many ways is easy to pick on because it stands out. But there are a whole slew of others, some lesser, others greater, which we decide on daily. On the spectrum of our two communities, we land personally and with wide variation.

At the end of the day we are individuals within a community to which we have chosen to belong.
So how do you work out convictions that collide in your context?

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“A person who sees the gloomy side of everything.”

This is the word of the day.
I believe in social media terms this may be the word of the era. There definitely is a lot of crap to be distributed and discussed. Except for all those people trying to flood some platforms with pictures of flowers and baby animals. Although, that makes me more angry than gloomy, as I did not sign onto social media to see a bunch of cutesy pictures. Sorry.

Any time we put ourselves in a state of prolonged exposure in a social setting or group we will get gloomy. This is truly where absence does make the heart grow fonder. There is wisdom in that saying. Social media does not allow for separation or absence as a healthy part of relationship or self understanding. It requires that we are present and accounted for, acknowledging that everyone else is doing the same. There is not a lot of complexity in this relationship, and our minds expect more.

Gloominess can result when we try to place items we need to wrestle with personally into the hands of the masses, and expect to receive a suitable response every time. Those pieces usually cannot fit. Why? Because they are not our own. We have given them over to others to validate, process, and ultimately, own.

Occasionally separating yourself from a situation helps you gain clarity. Maybe even appearing less gloomy than first perceived. Maybe even soliciting a better response from us as the beholder. Maybe.