Whitewater Wednesday: Leadership and other stuff I learned on the river.

I have too much stuff.

We moved last week. A team of five dudes over two days to move us one mile down the road and seven days later we are still unpacking boxes.

For six or seven years while I was chasing whitewater I could fit everything I owned in a Jeep Cherokee. I eventually upgraded, as we always do, to a Chevy Silverado. Even then there was still room for me and the only girl in my life at the time to sleep in the back. Except for the time she fetched a dead possum’s head at a truck stop in Ohio, she slept in the cab that night.

There is a beautiful simplicity carrying only what you need. The day before our wedding I carried all my worldly possessions to my bride to be’s flat in two duffle bags and left them in the hall. They say you will always fill the bag you choose to travel with. Silverados and duffle bags became a flat and now a house. Each one we fill with more stuff, Much of it is still not more valuable than that old drysuit.

Although this couch I’m sitting on is way more comfortable than a tailgate, I sometimes miss the freedom of simplicity.

Leading Change

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

– Niccolo Machiavelli

Resistance to change is often rooted in fear. It’s the uncertainty of how the new future will affect our lives. Leaders who are effective change agents realise that it is not good enough to simply administrate change, but to avoid standing alone atop a charged hill, people need to envision a better future day for themselves or be able to attribute a worthwhile value for their sacrifice.

When unwanted change is thrust upon us from uncontrollable forces, then authenticity, clarity, and transparency in communication win the day to unite people behind the sacrifices needed to navigate the futures uncertainty.

lasting changes aren’t made, they are are led.

Dear Hipster Coffee shop

Help me understand why you serve me lukewarm coffee. Coffee roasted at 180 – 250c can’t burn with boiling water (100 c). Dishwater coffee is bad.

Help me understand why you turn your nose up at a Mr Coffee drip coffee maker and then serve me pourover like it’s a different thing.

Help me understand why you have a tip jar on the counter for take away coffee.

Help me understand why you look baffled when I finally have enough stamps on my “loyalty” card and all I want is a cup of hot black coffee.

Oh what’s that? I should just go to McDonalds…. Well, they serve black coffee just the way I ask for it, and it’s so hot they have been sued. At more than half the price, and I only need 6 stamps to get a free one? That is not a bad Idea….I think I will.

Gratitude during the difficult

Last Summer I started a long-overdue 3-month sabbatical. A new discipline I wanted to incorporate into my morning routine during that time was the discipline of gratitude. As my sabbatical started to draw to an end, my wife and I were devistated by the lost our 17 month old nephew, I failed a major project at work, and what seemed to be only moments later, the world was thrust into a lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Last week we said goodbye to my cousin after a short devastating battle with cancer, way before his time. We can’t travel, visit family, work has all but dried up, and finding things to be grateful for seems like pulling oil from a stone. How do we recognise and foster a heart of gratitude during the difficult seasons?

Gratitude as a daily ritual is growing as a pop culture phenomenon. Scientific research has even shone positive effects of gratitude on our physical and mental healthsleep, and overall wellbeing

As a follower of Jesus, this shouldn’t have been a new revelation, because nearly 2000 years ago Paul writing to the church in Thessalonica closed his letter with…   

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

One of the imperatives of Christian life, “Rejoice and give thanks always” is a theme we see over and over in the Bible.  But always? Gratitude is easy when we win, but when is the last time you heard an athlete say “I would just like to thank God for this devastating and embarrassing loss tonight…”  or someone in the spotlight says “I want to thank my Saviour and Lord for losing this award I have worked my whole life for…”  How do we express gratitude amid pain, loss or missed expectations? When we experience the loss of a job just when the world is tossed into chaos, or the death of loved ones,  the experience of a health crisis, like many other experiences often the last emotion we are feeling is gratitude. We can often slip into being overly critical, cynical, even depressed.

What Paul was teaching is to give thanks IN all circumstances, not thanks FOR all circumstances. True, God uses all circumstances for our good, (Hey Christians, please don’t say that to anyone that is in pain!! it doesn’t help) but the reality is, the pain and tragedy of life can be overwhelming. Cultivating a heart of gratitude, therefore, is not simply looking at the bright side, and it’s not acknowledging that “things could be worse.” It is a refocusing and reorienting of our minds.

Gratitude is an expression of joy, and joy based on circumstance will fail. Therefore, joy must be rooted in a foundation much deeper than our personal and current circumstances. This is distinct from the emotions of happiness and sadness.

The answer to having joy in the midst of our pain and suffering isn’t new circumstances, but God Himself.

The bible says Jesus came, not only to suffer for us, but also to suffer with us. Isaiah describes Jesus as being:

“Despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (53:3).

Jesus, God in the flesh, not only understands our pain but sympathises with our pain and loss. Joy that rests soundly on the assuredness that God will ultimately redeem every horrible situation, in this life or the next, releases us from the shackles of current realities.

I’m not talking about living life like a crazy person that sings “zippity do da” in a hurricane. It’s not leaving reality, but living in our current reality with a knowledge that, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

This promise allows us to “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Cultivating a heart of gratitude is deeper than a #feelingblessed social media post. It’s a commitment to begin your day with a reflection of gratitude, and let each day be a treasure hunt of undiscovered blessing that is reflected in prayer and meditation to the God who deserves our gratitude.  

Start reaping the rewards of a gracious heart that even science now affirms.  Today I am thankful for you, for reading this far. Lord knows you deserve it.

Active Recovery Weekend

Active recovery as a practice has really gained traction in the sports science world. The idea is that during a typical weekly training/exercise cycle, rest days consist of engaging in light movement, low impact exercise, or play. Muscle groups are used but not “worked”. With increased blood flow and natural flushing of the lymphatic system, light activity speeds up the body’s recovery from intense training and workouts. For us desk athletes the brain needs recovery too.

These principles should be applied to any weekend. There is a set time to work, exercise, or get things done. There should also be time to play.

Schedule it, plan it, look forward to it, and keep it. View it as important as any other event or meeting in the diary. Emails, phone calls and busy work can wait till Monday.

Get out, get the blood flowing, and actively recover from this week and get ready to get after it next week.

We are getting out of town, going for a walk and having an epic BBQ with friends. What are you planning?


“Listen to my words, Lord; consider my groaning. Pay attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for I pray to You.”

King David

There is loss no words can express, and no phrase can soothe. No song or tone can manifest the anguish of the soul. The breath musters only groans, and where words fail tears are offered as prayers.

We have shed our tears, and we will sit with you also and offer them freely.

A good moan…

“have a moan…it’s good to get it off your chest”

– everyone

There is a misconception, that it is healthy to complain, whine, or just have a moan.

It’s a lie.

Groaning and moaning doesn’t breed joy.  Think about the happiest, most joy-filled person you know. How often do they complain? Or do they use their words to encourage, compliment, lift up, or highlight the positive side of life. Our hearts “leak” and if our focus is on what is wrong around us we “leak” negative. Retune your eyes and hearts to what is good.  There are plenty of negatives being brought to our attention in the world. Let’s change the channel.

What are you most grateful for today?

Million Dollar Idea

3am and every minute on the minute, BEEP!…BEEP! piercing the cold, still, dark of night. Why do the batteries in smoke detectors always have to be changed in the middle of the deepest of sleep? Few things test a man’s sanctification, like dragging a step ladder around the house at 3am while somehow the wife never so much even rolls over. We now have cars that drive themselves, what if the smoke detector knew when the battery needed to be replaced and alerted you the week before during daylight hours? I would pay a little extra for said smoke detector, and I bet you would too.

Reflections on Freedom

“I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down
Living in the hopeless, hungry side of town
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime
But is there because he’s a victim of the times

I wear the black for those who’ve never read
Or listened to the words that Jesus said
About the road to happiness through love and charity
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me. “   

Johnny Cash – Man in Black

Reflecting on the Fourth of July, as an American, I consider all the men and women that have fought, bled, stood on walls, charged hills, and willingly laid down their lives, paid the ultimate cost for a country with freedoms and opportunity like no place on Earth. For this, I am so very humbly grateful.

Reflecting as an immigrant living in the UK for the past 16 years, I now see my homeland from a distance. When you live away from a place of origin for some time you begin to see it through a new lens. Whether that’s your family, religion, town, or even country. What I think I see now is that we, as Americans, have possibly elevated Freedom from a good thing to an ultimate thing. In years past, men and women willingly fought and died, at home and on foreign soil. for the sake of others. Laying down personal freedoms and rights so that others could live under the goodness of freedom. Now it feels we are no longer fighting for the freedom of others but for preference of individuality. Collectively replacing “We the people of the United States of America…” with “I the individual of my personal preference…”

When a good thing becomes an ultimate thing, it becomes an idol of our heart. Idols enslave us, hold us captive, and demand everything of us. When we are easily offended, become anxious, or live in fear it could be because the idols of our heart is under threat.

Reflecting as a follower of Jesus, I am reminded, the first word of the Lord’s Prayer is “Our.” That’s important. The prayer Jesus taught us is a prayer of community and reconciliation, belonging to a new kind of people who have left the land of “me.” This new humanity is an exodus people who have entered the promised land of “we,” to whom “I” and “mine” and “my” are things of the past. Here our God teaches us the interconnectedness of grace and liberation in a new social order. Here we are judged inasmuch as we judge, and forgiven as we forgive. 1

It is only in the light of the gospel that our freedom can be put in its rightful place.
Pastor Timothy Keller put it this way,

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

This reality begins to change the motivational structures of our being, what the Bible refers to as the “heart”. Therefore, our behaviours and works begin to change, not as a means to God but as a response to His grace. This is the unchangeable promise from God, in the New Covenant. At the cross Jesus laid down his rights and his freedom, paying the ultimate and final price so that our shackles could fall and we could be free. Therefore, like Jesus, we can live without offence and fear and freely lay down our rights, our privilege, and preferences for the sake of our neighbour. And when it’s appropriate, fight for the freedom and justice of others.

Be safe, love your neighbour.

Happy Fourth of July.

1 Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers: Prayer for
Ordinary Radicals, IVP 2008:18.