Leaders, Who Should We Mentor? – Part Three

As I learned the hard way about who to mentor and who not to, I began to create a list of qualities I was looking for in those I am now willing to mentor and invest time in. So far we have looked at five in the last two days.

The five we saw and spoke about were…

1> They make things happen

2> They see and seize opportunities

3> They influence others

4> They add value to those around them

5> They attract others (potential) leaders

Let’s continue…

6> They equip others

It is one thing to attract other people to you and have them join you as you journey together in life and in ministry. It is another to equip them with a road map for the trip. The best people always give others more than an invitation – they provide the means to get them there. They equip people with the skills and knowledge, information and vision that they need to move forward and become all that they can be. 

Think about this as you search for potential people to mentor – especially if you are a leader who should be mentoring younger leaders. A person with charisma alone can draw others to themselves, yet they may not be able to persuade them to join in the ministry that the Lord has given to them. However, a leader who is an equipper can empower and equip with skills and knowledge those they are mentoring so that together they can fulfill God’s call on the ministry and the Church. 

Ephesians 4:11-12 states: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”

7> They provide inspiring ideas

Nineteenth-century author-playwright Victor Hugo observed, “There’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” Ideas are the greatest resource a person could ever have. And, when looking for someone to invest in and mentor, it is good to look for someone who is a creative person. 

A creative person is someone who can add to your church or ministry as they are being mentored by you. So, they are contributing to and not just drawing from you and your ministry. And, a team that generates creative ideas has a better opportunity to reach the vision and mission of your organization and ministry.

When working with and mentoring creative people, it is good to remember:

  • The only truly bad ideas are those that die without giving rise to other ideas
  • If you want good ideas, you need a lot of ideas
  • It doesn’t matter if “it ain’t broke.” It probably still can use fixing
  • Great ideas are nothing more then the restructuring of what you already know
  • When all your ideas are added together, the sum should represent your breakthrough

You are capable of generating good ideas – probably better able than you think. But you can never have too many good ideas, so invite those you are mentoring to think out loud with you and join you in the creative process. And, when you find someone to mentor with whom you have natural chemistry, the kind that inspires each of you to greatness, you will find that you always have more ideas than time to carry them out. 

More next time…

Leaders, Who Should We Mentor? – Part Two

Over the many years that I have mentored I have certainly made a lot of mistakes. One of the main ones was in my choices of who to enter into a mentoring relationship with. As a result, I believe I have wasted a lot of my time working with young men who simply did not want to pay the price to grow and develop. And, some who spent more time trying to impress me with all that they knew (as little as it really was) instead of listening, receiving and learning. As a result, I have developed a list of what I now look for in a person before I invite them into a mentoring relationship or before saying yes if they have asked me to mentor them.

1> They make things happen

2> They see and seize opportunities

3> They influence others

We covered these yesterday in the daily blog. Let’s move on from there…

4> They add value to those around them

Every person around you has an effect on you and your ability to fulfill your vision. You have probably noticed this before. Some people seem to hinder you, always taking more from you than they give in return. Others add value to you, improving everything you do. When they come along side you, synergy develops that takes both of you to a new level. 

There are probably people in your life with whom you experience synergy. You inspire and take each other to higher levels. Can you think of anyone better to take on as someone to mentor. They need you to move forward and move higher and, as you work with and mentor them, they will also add value to you as their mentor. You will be on the journey of life together.

5> They attract others (potential) leaders

As you look for potential leaders to mentor and develop, you need to realize that there are really two kinds of leaders: those who attract followers and those who attract other leaders. People who attract and team up only with followers will never be able to do anything beyond what they can personally touch or supervise. For each person they interact with, they are influencing only one person – a follower. But people who attract leaders influence many other people through their interaction. Their team can be incredible, especially if the leaders they recruit also attract other leaders.

Besides the obvious factor of influence, there are other significant differences between people who attract followers and people who attract leaders, Here are a few:

LEADERS WHO ATTRACT FOLLOWERS…                    LEADERS WHO ATTRACT LEADERS…

Need to be needed                                                                   What to be succeeded

Want recognition                                                                     Want to reproduce themselves

Focus on others’ weaknesses                                                  Focus on others’ strengths

Want to hold on to power                                                        Want to share power

Spend their time with others                                                   Invest their time in others

Are good leaders                                                                         Are great leaders

Experience some success                                                          Experience incredible success

As you look for people to join you on your journey so you can mentor them, look for leaders who attract other leaders. That will enable you to multiply your influence. But also know this – in the long run, you can only lead and mentor people whose leadership ability is less than or equal to your own. To keep attracting better and better leaders to mentor, you will have to keep developing your own leadership abilities. In that way, you and your mentorees will continue growing not only in potential, but also in effectiveness. 

More tomorrow….

Leaders, Who Should We Mentor? – Part One

Over the years I have mentored a good number of young men who have successfully moved into leadership positions and become influential in the Kingdom. It is always rewarding to see young men grow, develop, mature, and begin to make a difference in the world. 

Many young people ask if I would mentor them. Recently I have even had several older men who already have a profession (lawyers) ask me to mentor them in spiritual things. In the past I would simply give a blanket and immediate yes. Why? Because I love to invest in people and see the Kingdom receive a return on the time and effort I have invested. 

However, many of the young people I agreed to mentor in the past simply never put the effort into learning, growing, and maturing. They want to be connected to me and the ministry; they want to travel with me; they want me to be available to them if and when they should have a question. But, they are not entering into the available mentoring relationship. The key word is ‘relationship.” 

We mentor within an established relationship. And we are to mentor those who have proved themselves and thus have the obvious potential to give the mentor and the Kingdom a return on their investment. Mentoring is more than simply having me ‘available’ when they need me, hanging around and being with me when I am in their area, and being part of the ministry team. It is intentional, relational, and requires regular personal contact and involvement. 

So, I recently have narrowed down what I look for in a person whom I might consider as someone to mentor and thus entering into a mentoring relationship with. This has certainly narrowed down the number of people I would say I was mentoring. And, eliminated a lot of coffees which were, in many ways, a nice social entity but really a waste of my time at this season in my life.

When deciding to mentor someone I am looking for:

1> Someone who makes things happen

I pay less attention to what people are saying and more attention to what they do. As I watch what people do I quickly note those who are making things happen in their life and focus on them. These people don’t wait for someone to give them resources – they go out and find them. They don’t wait for someone to give them an opportunity – they create opportunities even when none existed. They never make excuses – they simply work hard and find a way to make things happen.

2> They see and seize opportunities

Many people are able to recognize an opportunity after it has already passed them by. But seeing opportunities coming, that’s a different matter. Opportunities are seldom labeled. So, someone worth mentoring is someone who has learned what an opportunity looks like and how to seize them. The best people to mentor are those who make it their personal responsibility to go out and find new opportunities.

I travel a lot. And, when I arrive at my destination someone is suppose to be there to pick me up. Most times I have never met the person and they don’t know me. There are two ways you can go about picking up someone you don’t know from the airport. 

One way is to make a sign with the name of the person you’re expecting, stand near the baggage claim area, hold up the sign, and wait for the person to find you. If he sees you, great. If he doesn’t, you keep waiting. 

The other way is to find out what the person looks like, position yourself strategically near the right gate, and search for him until you find him. 

There is a world of difference between the two approaches. And, the person you should mentor is the one who goes looking – not the one who stands and waits. 

3> They influence others

Everything rises and falls on leadership. That’s true because a person’s ability to make things happen in and through others depends entirely on his or her ability to lead them. Without leadership there is no teamwork and people go their own way. A leader needs to know where they are going and has the ability to influence others to come with them on the journey.

So, when thinking about influencers (leaders) – those you would do well to mentor – you need to look at:

A> Who is currently influencing them? You can tell a lot about who they will influence and how they will go about doing it by knowing who their heroes and mentors are.

B> Who they currently influence? You’ll be able to judge their current level of leadership effectiveness by who they are currently influencing.

C> Is their influence increasing or decreasing? You can tell whether a person is a past leader or a potential leader by examining which direction the level of influence is going.

To be a good judge of potential leaders, don’t just see the person – see all the people that person currently influences. The greater the influence, the greater the leadership potential and the ability to get others to work together. That’s the person you want to mentor. 

More next time…

Who Are You?

St. Catherine of Siena once said, “When we are who we are called to be, we will set the world ablaze.”

As Christians we are called by Jesus to be like Him letting Him live His life through us (2 Timothy 3:12). We are called to follow Him and do what He did and then even greater things (John 14:12). We are called to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19) as we move out from the Kingdom into the places of spiritual darkness as ambassadors of the Kingdom and ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are literally “new creatures in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  And on and on the list of Bible verses could go. We all have a great calling in life – every one of us. Every believer.

Then, on the foundation of this generic call that is upon every believer we can add the specifics of your own call. Because each of us has been created unique and different from all others we have a specific call upon our life that is uniquely yours. It lines up with your motivations (Romans 12:408) and the gifts that you flow in (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) as well as your unique set of skills and talents you were born with. Add into this mix your personal experiences (2 Corinthians 1:4) and you have the call upon YOUR life. 

So, we need to work hard and receive God’s grace to remove those things that prevent us from being uniquely ourself and thus be who we are called to be. Fear, shame, overwhelming expectations, unrealistic demands, the world’s lifestyle tempting us to buy into it (Romans 12:2), and on and on this list could go as well. There is always one or two key things that hold us back and hinder our becoming who we really are. Your main issues are well known to you and often unique to you as well. So, don’t let (fill in the blank) hold you back from being who God created you be.

Thomas Merton (a favourite author of mine from 50+ years ago) wrote: “You find peace not by rearranging circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.”

This is the life task of all who call themselves believers. Find the real you at the deepest level. It takes work because the real you is often buried beneath layers of pain, neglect, rejection, criticism, wrong judgments, wrong choices, tough and painful experiences, and busyness. 

Then learn how to express that real you to those around you and to the wider world as you move out to fulfill the call of God on your life. Then we will set the world ablaze with the good news of the Gospel of the Kingdom and the life changing love of God. 

Everywhere You Go

So, the other day I headed out to the bank and then to the drug store and post office to do some messages and catch up a bit on some office work. It is summer here and so I attempt to spend more time outdoors gardening and reading. But, the weather was a bit on the cool side so I decided to do some necessary running around. I did, later in the day, have time to just sit and read in front of the fire pit in the side yard. But I digress.

As I entered the bank I was faced with – it was rather loud and obvious so confronted by – a huge presentation celebrating the diversity we have in Canada and focused on Pride month. June has been designated the month where we recognize this segment of our national population. June has been designated Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride month. Then, entering the drug store there were large posters pointing to this month’s special focus and special sales, of course. And, again, at the post office. 

I am not against having a month to draw attention to all the issues within society regarding this segment of the population. And, I think it is good to come to know the history behind the movement and discover all the less-than-humane treatment that this group has suffered at the hands of general society. I believe, as well, that we need to take a look at how the Church in general has treated those who are part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community. We don’t have a very good track record either historically nor in the recent past. In some cases, even today they are not understood or treated in a loving manner by the Church.

Some segments of the Church have elevated this lifestyle – and the Bible does consider it behaviour that is not in line with God’s plan – to the category of major sin. It is the sin that the Church is targeting, emphasizing, and condemning. However, I believe that it is simply one of many sins and that in God’s eyes all sins are equal (James 2:10). So, homosexuality is no worse nor better than drunkenness, divorce, gossiping, abortion, or dishonouring your parents. Yet, we have elevated this one specific sin to a special place and taken aim at it while ignoring many of the other sins very evident and rampant in the Church and in society.

I believe that Jesus loves sinners. And so should we. I believe that Jesus accepts sinners just as they are because He knows that if they begin to walk with Him that He will change them. We should accept them as well – unconditionally. I believe that Jesus forgives all sins (except blaspheming the Holy Spirit) regardless of the gravity of the sin or what the sinner is involved in. He loves unconditionally, He accepts us just as we are, and He forgives us totally.

That is what I call The LAF Principle. And, we would do well to remember that this is how God treated each one of us who call ourselves believers. And, that Jesus expects us to do unto others what He has done unto us. We are to treat others in the same manner that He has treated us. If we were to actually do this we would embrace all sinners and simply love, accept, and forgive them. We would not separate one sin and make it the BIG ONE for today. We would, as God obviously does, simply see sin as sin and love the sinner regardless of the sin.

This means we do not judge those who are in sin – recognizing the sin in our own life helps us not to judge others. We must not be critical of others and the lifestyles they choose to live. And, we must not reject them because Jesus died for them just as He died for us. We, the Church, must welcome all sinners and not fall into the traditional denominational tendency of having big and little sins – mortal and venial sins. Sin is sin and Jesus died for the forgiveness of all sin no matter how big or small, significant or insignificant we may consider them.

I am tired of the way we segregate people into “us and them.” We are all sinners and no matter what the sin is we are all saved by grace and faith. We must welcome all sinners without categorizing the sin and declaring one worse than another. Let’s learn how to love, accept, and forgive. And, in doing so, learn how to no longer judge, criticize, and reject. 

Another Lesson Learned

On my recent journey in life I have learned that what people think about you means nothing in comparison to what you believe about yourself. Essentially, my identity then depended on outward approval, which changes on a dime. So you dance and you please and you placate and you prove. You become a three-ring circus and in each ring you are an entirely different performing animal, anything anyone wants you to be.

The crucial journey, then, for me, has been from dependence on external expectations, down into my own self, deeper still into God’s view of me, His love for me that doesn’t change, that will not change, that defines and grounds everything. 

When you are running your life on what others expect and demand, you are running on the fuel of anxiety, desire to prove, fear or rejection, shame, and deep inadequacy. When you decide to walk away from that fuel of every-day life for a while, there is, at first, nothing but confusion and silence. You are on the side of the road, empty tank, no idea what will propel you forward. It is disorienting, freeing, terrifying. For a while you just sit, contently, and contentment is the most foreign concept you know. But you learn it, shocking as it is, day by day, hour by hour. You sit in your own skin, being just your plain self. And, it’s okay. And it will change everything. 

After a while, though, you realize you were not made only for contentment; that’s only half the puzzle. The other part is meaning, calling, love. And this is, for most people, a new conversation, almost like speaking a second language – faltering, tongue-twisting, exhilarating. 

As I change the pace and live life instead of speed through life I am living in a slower way. It is simpler than the way I use to live. It is sweeter than I can ever remember life being. It feels more like a glass of water and less like taking a drink from a fire hydrant. Pride tells us we are strong enough to drink from the hydrant, and gluttony tells us it is needed and so so delicious.

But those old voices are liars. The glass of cold water is more lovely and sustaining then the fire hydrant will ever be. I’m now trusting the voices of peace and simplicity more than pride and gluttony. They are leading me in a new direction, and it is a direction that I am enjoying.

The more I listen to myself, my body, my feelings, and the less I listen to the “should” and “must” and “to-do” voices, the more I realize what my body and spirit have been whispering all along, but I couldn’t hear them over the chaos and noise of the life I had created. I was addicted to this chaos, but like any addiction, it was damaging to me.

If you are not like me – prone to frantic levels of activity, swirling chaos, fast-moving cycles of over-commitment and then resentment – then you might look at my life with something like wonder and a little confusion. “Why don’t you,” you might suggest, “just slow down?” I understand the question, but it is a little like asking people who are ruining their lives and health with an addiction to alcohol or drugs or both why they don’t just stop.

When I did stop and sat still and silent for a long while – I have to admit that the stillness felt sort of like walking on the ceiling – totally and utterly foreign. What makes sense to me: pushing. Lists. Responsibilities. Action, action, and more action. What’s changing my life: silence. Rest. Reflection. Taking time to enjoy life instead of just live life. 

Why did I wait so long to reach this part of my journey in life. That’s a good question that I have often asked myself. I was highly invested in maintaining my reputation as a very capable and reliable person. I thought that how other people felt about me or thought about me could determine my happiness and contentment. I now know how deeply flawed that idea really is – even how silly it now seems. So, I have left the three-ring circus and am enjoying my glass of cool water as I sit staring at my flower garden and enjoy an evening by the fire in my back yard. 

Heart or Hustle?

I am learning a lot about myself these days. I am changing, growing, and trying new things at a fairly fast rate. Maybe it is because I have been so cautious for so long and needing to be strong, responsible, and very much the adult that now I want to spend some time learning to play (read that again, it is not a typo). 

Playing is when you spend time lavishly, staring into space, wandering around the block, sitting in the yard staring at a slow burning fire in the fire pit, riding your bike – the one that has sat in the shed for half a decade or more. My goal is to become and then remain flexible, silly, ready-to-play, ever-so-slightly irresponsible. 

What I have been delighted to find is that it is not that our real, every day life is all wrong, by any means – and it is not that what I do for a living (called work by some) is something I hate because I love what I do. It is just that once-in-a-while I think we need to let go of the fast paced life we usually lead and slow things down a bit. I call it learning to play.

It is a time to leave hustle mode and return to feeling my heart. For all sorts of reasons it seems I tend to default to hustle mode all too often. Because I enjoy what I do for a living and think it is important, I can slide back into hustle mode without even thinking about it. And, hustle mode is the opposite to heart mode.

I was reading on one of my recent plane rides and the author stated: “…one of the tiny little things I’m learning to do is to play – essentially, to purposely waste time. Strategically avoid strategy, for five minutes at a time. Intentionally not be intentional about every second. Have no purpose – on purpose.” 

I related to that and have adopted this approach to life for the summer we are now in. I am spending more time in my garden just smelling and admiring the flowers. More time sitting on the porch drinking coffee and talking to my dog. More time riding the bike I finally brought out of the shed and fixed up. 

There are a lot of conversations right now about how to do everything better/faster/smarter, how to streamline, multitask, layer, balance, flow, juggle. How to monetize, strategize, and on and on. This is good stuff. Necessary stuff.

But, this summer I am planning on wasting time, playing, becoming aware of the internal engine that always wants to go faster, faster, faster. And, do more, say yes to more, write more, preach more…That engine is not the best part of me. My heart is the best part of me.

And, I am finding that my heart loves to play and relax. To rest and reconnect with the other me who is also part of the real me. So, more heart and less hustle.

What would our lives be like is our days were studded by tiny, completely unproductive, silly, nonstrategic, wild and beautiful five-minute breaks, reminders that our days are for loving and learning and laughing, not for pushing and planning, reminders that it’s all about the heart, not about the hustle? 

The Room

I was recently in another province in Canada ministering and the leader was encouraging the people present to “enter into worship” as the music was beginning quietly in the background. The people were settling in and she commented and encouraged everyone present to enter into the worship that was starting.

I had a “God thought.” Many people enter the room called ‘worship’ but never engage in or embrace worship. They stand and sing, they sit and watch, they read, talk, or snooze. But, they never truly worship. So, ‘entering into worship’ is not enough. One must actively engage in and embrace the time of worship, the songs being sung, and releasing the love that is in your heart for the Lord. 

Worship is part of our relationship with the Lord. And, we need to be all there when we worship. Our minds cannot be running all over the place – we need to be focused. Our hearts must be pure and focused as well. And, our only agenda must be to honour the Lord and glorify His Name. Then, we do all this with enthusiasm and zeal and we have entered in as well as engaged and embraced.

The same is true for any relationship. I had just left and was heading home Sunday when I received an email from a young man who lives in the same city. He had just discovered that I was in his city and was wondering if he could have coffee so he could ask me a number of questions that were heavy on his heart. This is a person who has travelled overseas with me in the past but in the last eight months or so I have not heard from him and had little to no idea what he was doing or even where he was. He is not attending any of the churches I work with in the area. 

He entered into the room called ‘relationship’ but never connected, engaged, or embraced the relationship that was available. A relationship involving discipling or mentoring which might have reached friendship stage had he invested. I am sure that for him it does not seem awkward or strange to be connecting and asking for time with me and help from me in spite of having no contact for two-thirds of a year. In my mind this is not ‘a relationship’ even though he would most likely say that he has a relationship with me.

It is the same for any ‘friendship.’ You can enter the room marked “friendship” and not engage or embrace the friendship that is available. To embrace a friendship means to invest in it – time, effort, emotion, involvement. Friendships take time, effort, and a major investment of an individual’s personhood. 

So, a good “friend” of mine has not contacted me or even spoken to me in over seven weeks. No answers to a personal email that was sent. Texts are ignored when sent. His texts to me are few and very curt and business-like when there is one. I ask two or three times for information I need to continue to minister effectively in his church… He is disengaged in the ‘friendship’ and apparently not investing much time and effort. But, then he reappears and acts like everything is good and nothing is amiss. It’s not. 

To enter into worship, a relationship, a friendship means more than entering the room. We must invest ourselves in these relationships. We must value them enough that we stay connected and involved in building and improving the connection between us and them or Him. Passive does not work. Silence can be and usually is misinterpreted. We must be actively and regularly engaged doing so with enthusiasm and energy. Otherwise we have simply entered the room and not embraced the reason we chose to enter. 

Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12)

The word “violent” here means to have zeal, not be passive, be enthusiastic, engaged, anticipating, expectant… Without being this you cannot “take the Kingdom” or truly enter into Kingdom activity. The same is true for worship, relationships, and friendships. Passive just does not work.

Three Big Lies

Henri Nouwen, a very famous and well-known Christian – comments on the three big lies that destroy people’s lives … I borrow the three main points from him but the comments are mine. 

1> I am what I have

We have bought into the consumer culture that is now world-wide thanks to the internet and on-line shopping. And this culture states in a loud voice that you are what you own. A bigger house, a better car, nicer clothes, more exotic holidays, and on the list goes. We find our identity in what we own and in the lifestyle that we are living. To continue this lie we find ourselves going into more and more debt. And then we are debt driven in all of our decisions and, as the Bible states, in bondage to the lender.

2> I am what I do

Many today, in every nation, are finding their identity and sense of worth and value in what they are doing for a living. If you ask most men how they are they will answer by telling you what they are doing. Their identity and sense of value and worth is found in their job or profession and not in their relationship with the Lord and with others. And, when they lose their job or retire from their job they really have little to no idea who they really are. 

3> I am what other people say about me

This is a real killer when it comes to a sense of self-identity and self-worth. You are responding to the demands and expectations of others – allowing their expectations to form and create a “you” that is not who God created you to be. This is especially true if you are co-dependant and need to be needed – finding your self-worth and identity in helping others and how that makes you feel. 

Peer pressure is a main element here in this third lie. And, of course, the media and how music and movies transform people as they try to fit into what they understand as the “norm” because others are being formed by the same media and movies and they want to fit in. 

Regretfully these three lies are very common in every generation and in every nation. 

The Bible states, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Romans 12:2) So, we, as believers, are to read and believe God’s Word and live life according to what we are reading in His Word. Then we will not believe the three big lies and will be free to discover the real “you” as we journey with Jesus and become more and more life Him. 

This journey will reveal to us what it means to be a “new creature in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and to discover who this “new creature” really is. And, we are all unique as God has created each of us different than all others. This journey allows us to be formed and transformed into His Image. Then we will not fall for the three big lies that we are what we have, we are what we do, and we are what other people say about us. 

It is time to stand tall as believers and disciples of Jesus and to become who we really are – new creatures created in God’s image. Powerful, unique, and different than the world. 

Just Be You!

“God’s voice thunders in marvellous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding.

He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’” (Job 37:5-6 NIV)

This is a great passage and I received some insight into it while flying recently to the nation of Kazakhstan. I read on planes because I can’t sleep. 

God says to the snow, “Fall on the earth.” That’s it. Just do one thing. Just fall. And then He says to the rain shower, “Be a mighty downpour.” Essentially, He is saying, “Just do the thing I have actually created you to do. You’re rain: so rain. You’re snow: so snow.

I love the simplicity of that, the tremendous weight that this takes off my shoulders. God’s asking me to be the thing He’s already created me to be. And He’s asking you to be the thing He’s already created you to be. 

He doesn’t tell the snow to thaw and become rain, or the rain tp freeze itself into snow. He says, essentially: Do one thing. Do the thing that you love to do, that you have been created to do.

So many of us twist ourselves up in knots trying desperately to be something else, someone else, some endless list of qualities and capabilities that we think will make us loved or safe or happy. That’s an exhausting way to live, and I know that because I have done it.

God tells the rain to just pour down. He tells the snow to simply fall. What are the things He is asking you to do, the things He made you to do, the things you do effortlessly and easily?

What do you do with the ease and lightness go falling snow? Many of us have wandered so far from those things. We’ve gotten wrapped up in what someone else wanted us to be, what we thought would keep us happy and safe and gain us approval.

But there’s tremendous value in travelling back to our essential selves, the loves and skills and passions that God planted inside us long ago.

When I look at my life these days, I see the threads of passion and identity that I have carried through my whole life: a love of books and reading, a desire to write, connecting with people, gardening, camping, and being outdoors not surrounded by people. These are the things I have always loved, and they continue to bring me great joy and fulfillment. 

Think about your adolescent self, your child self, the “you” you have always been. God imprinted a sacred, beautiful collection of passions and capacities right into your heart: what do you love? What does your passion bubble over for?

So much of adulthood is peeling off the layers of expectations and pressure, and protecting those precious things that lie beneath. We live in a culture that shouts, that prescribes, rather narrowly, what it means to be a man or a woman, what it means to be a success, what it means to live a valuable life.

But those definitions require us to live on a treadmill, both literally and figuratively, always hustling to fit in, to be thin enough and young enough and sparkly enough, for our homes to be large enough and spotless, our children well-mannered and clean-faced, our dreams orderly and profitable. But that’s not life. That’s not where the fullness of joy and meaning are found.

The snow is only meant, created, commanded to fall. The rain is only meant, created, commanded to pour down. You were only meant , created, commanded to be who you are, weird and wonderful, imperfect and messy and lovely.

What do you need to leave behind in order to recover that essential self that God created? What do you need to walk away from in order to reclaim those parts of you that God designed, unique to you and for His purposes?