Allan Demond

The Practice of Vulnerability

The Practice of Vulnerability

Vulnerability is powerful. But the way it works is more or less counter-intuitive. You need to risk feeling bad, in order to feel good.

Here’s what I am learning. Open and honest people are more interesting. Truthful, risky self-disclosure puts energy into relationships. The more I practice opening up, the easier it becomes. If I have less to hide (or pretend about) I feel more joy, security and kindness in each relationship.

When people betray my vulnerability it hurts like heck. There is no completely safe way to do this. But there is no way to be fully alive and not do this.

Vulnerability is making my “real self” just a little more visible than is comfortable. Our lives are like flowers, most attractive when fully open. That’s counter-intuitive.

Over the years I have explored these 12 ways of practicing vulnerability:

  • Asking for help even though it made me feel uncomfortably weak
  • Offering advice and examples from my failures rather than my successes
  • Expressing my affections (appropriately) where previously I had been silent
  • Naming my doubts and fears out loud
  • Finishing this sentence: “Do you know what I am really feeling…”
  • Confessing my sins and weaknesses to another person
  • Saying sorry and promising to do better
  • Refusing to pretend that I liked what I didn’t or that I agreed when I couldn’t
  • Risking ridicule and misunderstanding in order to be helpful to someone else
  • Weeping while praying for someone in bitter pain
  • Asking others to pray for me in the area of my weaknesses
  • Letting silence linger until it got uncomfortable, and then it got real

Result: Most of the time I experienced a connection. Something vital shifted in the relationship, it went to another level, it blossomed. Not every risk paid the same dividends, but over all my “vulnerability-portfolio” has proven enormously profitable.

How do you practice vulnerability? Leave a comment.

For a brilliant talk on this theme check out Brené Brown’s June 2010 TedTalk here. And if you want to read a business application of the theme, explore Patrick Lencioni’s book “Getting Naked”.

Posted by Allan Demond in DISCIPLESHIP, 0 comments
The Source of King David’s Mojo

The Source of King David’s Mojo

David, King of ancient Israel, was one of the most inspirational leaders to walk the earth. People rallied to him, sang his praise and joined his cause. He had what leaders want. How did he get it?

Take a look at David’s dynamism. He lopped off Goliath’s head and won the hearts of the people. He moulded a band of brigands and drifters into a private army of mighty men, any one of whom would readily have died for him. Some 600 fugitives gravitated to him in the desert and he figured out how to care for them all. He consolidated the tribes and established a nation. He once danced so passionately in a public festival that his spirit of praise infected the whole assembly and everyone joined the worship. Following a civil war, in which his own son betrayed him, he reconstructed the nation and renewed its future hope. And he achieved so profound a place in Israel’s memory that the rest of the bible and Jewish history never forget him.

David made lots of mistakes. Enormous, repugnant mistakes that would completely undo many contemporary leaders. But he rebounded with courage and humility. He had extraordinary leadership mojo. He did three things worth understanding and imitating.

David leaned into his calling boldly. True leadership capacity comes from vocational alignment. Trying to fake it is draining and demoralising. This is the key difference between King Saul and King David. Saul was a photoshopped model for a Fortune 500 CEO. He was better looking and taller than everyone else. But he was no leader. He was insecure and aggressive. He was vocationally misaligned. In time everyone could see it and many paid a high price because of it.

King David on the other hand was the youngest son of Jesse and was nearly overlooked by Samuel who came to anoint Saul’s successor. David was handsome enough but he didn’t have “the look”. What he did have was “the call”.

David never strained to be a famous king. He didn’t push for the job, it came to him. That’s not to say he lacked ambition or drive. He strategised to have a long and fruitful kingship. But he didn’t have to sell his soul to stay in charge. In old age he is still surprised and grateful that God elevated him to leadership. This is the spirit that makes a leader great.

Vocational calling is a snug fit. The daily work is not easy or comfortable, but there is a rightness to it. This alignment is the fruit of taking each step obediently, maximising the opportunities, accepting risks and evaluating at every turn. It requires great faith when we are young and great courage as we age. Find your fit and embrace your call, push-in doing all that is required and more, and very soon you will inspire the people you lead. If you find it necessary to bully, connive, threaten and force others, something is wrong. Get another job and be happy. Leadership is very hard, but when it answers to a vocational calling it rises over time and the people you serve flourish with you.

David leaned into his faith passionately. He nurtured an intimate God-life which propelled his leadership effectiveness. It didn’t make him perfect, but it gave him resources to keep going through hardship and to recover after failure.

How many leaders do you know who have published their prayer journals? David wrote, sang, complied and presented his public and personal prayers. The Psalms are the continuing record. David’s bond with God was raw, real and reliable. It was a crucial element of his leadership construct.

He loved his bible, which was the first five books of our bible today. He read, studied, memorised, meditated and lived by the words of God. He listened for God’s living word to him. He wrote a literary masterpiece in praise of God’s word. It is a beautiful acrostic poem (Ps 119) written to thank God for speaking. How many mega-leaders do you know whose NY Times bestseller is a poem in celebration of God’s word?

David was deeply spiritual. His vitality as a leader emanated from a divine connection. This made him wise, bold, repentant, generous and humble. He was known as a man after God’s own heart!

David let others lean into his leadership space and meddle. The default mode for many leaders is self-sufficiency. We may not say it out loud, but others can hear when we are thinking: “No thanks, I don’t need your help or advice.” If you want to be inspirational, let good people intrude on your leadership privacy. David did.

Every leader needs a Nathan or two! He was a bold advisor (a prophet) who held up a mirror to the disgusting mess in the king’s personal life. David’s choice to have sex with the wife of his faithful military aide, have the aide killed because David got her pregnant, and then try to cover everything up, was a selfish and morally bankrupt abuse. Leadership character has an unexpected impact on the bottom-line of every enterprise. Who is in your leadership space with power to get in your face? Who will be a Nathan for you?

May God bless you with many an Abigal. She was the wife of a greedy fool who made David so angry he mobilised his troops to march against him. Abigal, who had little time for her husband’s folly, saw immediately that David’s ramped-up wrath would serve him very poorly. So she packed some bread, poured some wine and met him in the ravine with some advice. “Don’t do this thing! You’ll regret it.” What is significant, is that David was able to listen. He let this wise woman lean into his leadership space. She saved him from a costly blunder.

Joab, commander of Israel’s army, confronted David at yet another critical moment. David simply lost the plot when the pressures of leadership, the pain of family dysfunction and the weight of personal loss overwhelmed him. He was sulking in his tent while the nation was unravelling. Joab blasted him. “You are humiliating your men. You hate those who love you and love those who hate you. You don’t care. Now get out there and encourage your men! If you don’t it will be worse than all the calamities from your youth till now.” Tough words. Good call. It saved the day. When David stepped up, despite his pain, the people rallied. He couldn’t have done it without Joab.

Truly inspiring leaders are never self-contained. We all need prodding, correcting and encouraging. Let good people lean into your leadership space.

The secret of David’s leadership capacity is all three of these insights working in harmony. He is pursuing a call, leaning into God and letting wise people confront him. He gets it wrong as often as anyone, but when he gets it right his leadership just seems to go higher and higher.

What David has, you can have. Lean in!

Posted by Allan Demond in LEADERSHIP, 0 comments
BOOK REVIEW: “Communicating for a Change”

BOOK REVIEW: “Communicating for a Change”

If you are an emerging preacher, do yourself a favour and read Andy Stanley and Lane Jones’ great book, ‘Communicating for a Change’. It has the capacity to focus your preaching, calm your anxieties and improve your fruitfulness.

Style. The book has two parts that contain mostly the same information but delivered in very different modes – a bit like a novel and textbook. For those who enjoy absorbing wisdom indirectly, the first 90 pages or so are a gift to you. If you want the ‘facts’ supported by a good case, you’ll find that in part two.

Content. The goal of preaching is ‘change’. And so everything you do in preparation, delivery and review of your sermons should be focused on Godly change – first in your life and then in the lives of the people for whom you preach. This key assertion permeates every idea in the book.

“Pick a point’, say the authors. Just one, and then stick with it ruthlessly. The strategies for achieving this and Stanley’s personal examples are gold. This simple challenge, more than anything else I have learned about communicating, has benefited my preaching over the years. These authors argue and illustrate the principle powerfully.

You will also find some great wisdom on how to organise your sermon material. The book offers a way of ‘mapping’ content to maximise listener impact. There are five simple components of Stanley/Jones’ map: Me, We, God, You We. You will enjoy experimenting with this pattern.

Every preacher has their own voice, but the challenge is to find it. And that is not as easy as it sounds. All artists – painters, musicians, communicators – tend to start off echoing what they have picked up from others. It takes time and effort to peel back those inherited layers so your own best self can emerge. Stanley and Jones have some helpful insight for doing just that.

Collaboration. ‘Communicating for a Change’ is a worthwhile read! Seasoned preachers will find much to celebrate here as well. Buy two copies and ask a fellow preacher to read it with you so you can sit down together and discuss the ‘Takeaway’ at the end of each chapter in part two.

Enjoy!

Posted by Allan Demond in PREACHING, 0 comments
Easter: Time to Reboot

Easter: Time to Reboot

At Easter I press the reset button. I imagine myself done and dusted, buried and forgotten. Then I imagine myself returned to life, resurrected, back for the second act. It’s a head trip!

What if today I died? People would mourn. My work would be reassigned. The little space I occupy on earth would soon collapse like water around a stone removed from the pond. That is a disconcerting thought. I’m not being morbid, I’m just trying to be practical. It will happen.

And then, what if I return. A new body. An elevated understanding of the mind and heart of God. A valued citizen in a new creation, a co-mingled heaven and earth. Again, I not trying to be sensational. Something just like this is what Easter promises. God’s cosmos-bending actions in Jesus encourage this kind of thought experiment.

“Crazy” thoughts like this make me want to sing. God comes closer. I love my family more deeply. Other people become important to me. The world looks fresh and beautiful. Things on my to-do list seem less pressing. Pains and injustices are reframed. Even my breathing feels like a gift. Life is abundant (Act 1) and enormous (Act 2).

Easter celebrates a glorious but simple thought. Life is unbounded. It is precious, significant and  more mysterious than anyone thought. Life is unexpectedly longer and potentially fuller than our powers of observation and deduction will easily admit. So take hold of it! Get to know your Maker. Follow his Son Jesus, life’s very best mentor. Put a little Easter in your soul so you don’t get lost in Act one and end up sitting in darkness in Act two.

You don’t need to be a Philosopher to get value from these thoughts. Letting them simply wash through your mind is restorative. But celebrating the author of such life and getting to know the one person who made the unthinkable journey backward through death is amazing. This Easter I will luxuriate in these thoughts, and I will cherish Jesus, the person who shows me the way.

That’s Easter!

Posted by Allan Demond in DISCIPLESHIP, 0 comments
The Power of Plodding

The Power of Plodding

I attended a 10 year celebration last week* and a beautiful thought confronted me. You can get an awful lot of very important stuff done in 10 years if you just keep plodding.

Plodders do unimpressive things, an impressive number of times. Some write a few paragraphs daily or read a few books monthly, others save a few dollars each pay day or ride a few kilometres six times a week … and before you know it plodders are published, educated, well to do and fit.

If you strike one well-placed blow with a sharp axe against the truck of a big tree every day, you WILL fell the tree. It is only a matter of time. But you have to swing every day. That’s the plodder’s genius.

A decade is 3652.42199 days. That’s long enough to learn a language, become a world expert in a field of interest, meet 1000 new people, or walk around the world (almost, see Jean Beliveau’s story).

Plodding is the art of finding hidden pleasure in pedestrian things. Plodders never out grow the child-like capacity to play keep-a-boo or dropsies, they simply learn to do it with new and bolder tasks.

It took Einstein 10 years to get from special relativity to general relativity. Julia Childs laboured a full decade to get “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” out of her heart and into the hands of gourmet chefs around the world. And even the musical genius Mozart was 10 years at his craft before he produced a work that actually became popular. These aren’t the first people we think of when we make a list of plodders, but they all belong on the list!

Some 200 years ago William Carey summed up the substantial achievements of his life in these words to his nephew: “I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”

Oh Lord, give me the gift of a plodder’s resolve, I pray. Amen.

*The 10th Anniversary I attended was for the NewHope Baptist Chinese Ministry. Congratulations to James and Rebekah Lin, the leadership team and the people of this great ministry. We love and appreciate you!

 

Posted by Allan Demond in LEADERSHIP, 0 comments

The Rarest Kind Of Friendship

There is a friendship based on talking. It is common. Dale Carnegie says you can “win” these sort of friends. All you need to do is let them speak. So long as you nod and mumble with credible frequency you can assemble a substantial collection of these sort of friends.

This common friendship is epidermal. Surface conversations rubbing up against each other, with very little permeation. People taking turns to speak, but no one taking time to listen. You like my post, I’ll like yours and boom – we’re friends.

The rarest kind of friendship however, behaves differently. It does not wait its turn to speak. Sometimes it yields its turn and sits in silence for long periods. At other times it interrupts brusquely and speaks its mind. It does this because it is engaged, it understands, participates and even anticipates. In short it loves.

This is friendship based on active hearing! It is sacred because it sees into your soul and speaks wisdom, comfort and truth to what it sees there.

I am blessed. I have friends who occasionally touch my soul. Their words are kisses and their eyes sing my undeserved praises. They “get” me without making me explain myself. They can rebuke me or bless me but always I feel restful and improved when I have been with them. Jesus himself is one such friend, he touches my soul frequently (John 15:15).

I think I understand the goal (Prov. 17:17, 18:24, 27:6,9). I wish I did not fail so often. I pray that I might be a soul-touching friend for a few people at least some of the time as I live. And I pray that you would have such a friend and be such a friend too.

Who or what touches your soul? How do you practice deep friendship? Please leave a comment.

Posted by Allan Demond in DISCIPLESHIP, 0 comments
Is Jesus Pleased with the Work You Do?

Is Jesus Pleased with the Work You Do?

A Hypothesis: Any person in any job can please Jesus in the work they do, if they really want to. Test it in your work place with these four actions.

1. Cultivate a  “Jesus-is-with-me” attitude on the job. What thrills Jesus most is our companionship not our productivity. If we labour in ways that dismiss Jesus from our thoughts it doesn’t matter what job we have, we are not likely to please him or serve him well. On the other hand, if we are intentional about keeping the friendship and lordship of Jesus forward in our daily activity awesome things occur. Just follow him. And if there is something he is not pleased with, he will tell you! Jesus loves working WITH us.

2. Align yourself with Jesus’ influence on your profession. We can forget how influential Jesus is upon our culture. Go back two thousand years and take a careful look at health care, education, parenting, politics, labour conditions and common law, for example. You will see how deeply these have been impacted by the ethics of Jesus and the work of his disciples over the last 2000 years. Secular writers attribute these developments to material progress and our natural evolution. But a closer look at Jesus’ impact reveals a different story (Read: Alvin J. Schmidt’s book, How Christianity Changed the World). It is likely that you stand in a long line of faith-filled people who have transformed your profession through the power of Jesus. If so, learn that history and carry on that tradition. And, if your profession seems very “unredeemed” to you, if there are no stories of Christian witness and influence through the years, then perhaps there is great opportunity. If the line of witnesses in your field is short and you stand near the front, then live to add a chapter to Schmidt’s book.

3. Focus on the JOB inside your job. Position descriptions tend to focus on industry outcomes. If Jesus re-wrote your PD what would he include? Something about “fishing for people”, lifting them out of brokenness, despair and un-productivity. Something about serving others, the thing Jesus himself came to do. Something about justice and mercy and humility. These are things that will actually benefit your employer whether you get paid for it or not. Be excellent in the work place.

4. Seek the pleasure of the Lord in your work. Ask Jesus to fill you with joy and satisfaction. Work is God’s gift not his curse. It was actually given to us in Eden before the fall as part of God’s blessing. If you hate your work, it will be hard to please Jesus in it. To cultivate joy at work you may need to start with a holiday, an attitude lift and a new resolve. But be assured, Jesus wants you fulfilled in your job and he will work with you to make it so. Seek first his Kingdom and pleasure in your work will be added.

Test the hypothesis. Lean in fully. I think Jesus will be pleased. And if you keep at it with faith and courage in the end you’ll hear him say: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Posted by Allan Demond in DISCIPLESHIP, 0 comments
Following Jesus Online

Following Jesus Online

If Jesus had an offical suite of online accounts, I would “like”, “follow” and “connect”. What Pastor wouldn’t? But following Jesus in cyberspace requires a little more thought.

It is fun to speculate what Jesus would post. Selfies with his 12 mates and the Mount of Olives in the background? Doubtful. Pithy Old Testament quotes? Maybe, but … sparingly. Lengthy treatises? No. And who would Jesus “friend”? What would Jesus “like” and “follow”? Which platforms would Jesus use?

The thing is, I really do want to follow Jesus online. My discipleship needs to include my cyber-presence. So, here are my thoughts on what Jesus’ online activity might look like (and how we might want to copy him).

1. Jesus Online would Announce the Kingdom of God. That was and is his main focus (Matt 4:23). He comes to declare the reign of God over all creation. I think Jesus would “like” the posts, pictures and people that serve justice and mercy. I think he would highlight the presence of God in our world and call people to align their lives with the Creator and walk humbly with him. I think he would be creative and winsome in how he did this.

2. Jesus Online Would Heal. He would serve, seek the lost and act like a digital physician. He would post things that help people, that make them want to change and to repent. He would bring Spirit and Life to a dry & digital land.

3. Jesus Would Practice Digital Sabbath. There would be times when Jesus would go walk-about. His “likes” and “comments” would go unanswered. It is even likely he would do this at the very moment his posts were going viral. But then I suspect he would come back even stronger. He would never let himself get addicted to the web or enamoured with his own media successes.

4. Jesus Would Get “Unfriended”. At some point he would start to ask too much. He might talk about crosses or self-denial and there would be a group that stop following him. I doubt he would check his analytics very often. And his webonality would never drive his message. He would press on faithfully, announcing the Kingdom and healing the sick, regardless of his “ratings”.

5. Jesus Online Would be a Tiny Slice of Jesus on Earth! If Jesus did have a first rate social media presence, it would account for only a small part of his physical ministry. He would still eat with people and go to parties hosted by his friends and have late night talks and preach on mountains. He would be with people – always!

The Spirit of Jesus, risen and alive, IS online! And I for one, am dedicated to following him here. Join me.

Posted by Allan Demond in DISCIPLESHIP, 0 comments
God of New Beginnings

God of New Beginnings

January is named after the Roman god Janus. He has a pair of faces. One looks backward and one looks forward. What a great symbol of New Years Wisdom.

Look back. What are you celebrating as you close off your 2015? What stirs you to offer prayers of thanksgiving? Are there successes? Gains? Wins? And what about disappointments? Losses? Hurts? What loose ends do you need to tie up so 2015 can rest well?

Look forward. What positive change should you plan to make? Is it fitness, family, faith, fun-times, finances. Do you need to get organised, read your bible, sign up to serve or learn a new skill?

Did you know that you are 10 times more likely to succeed with a promise made at New Years? So says Dr. Mike Evans in this 6 min video. It helped me as I set several rather exciting personal goals for 2016. I hope it helps you too.

A simple word of wisdom. Don’t make a resolution, make a plan! Think it through, break it up into little pieces, write it down, be accountable to someone, and invite the God of new beginnings to help you. Not Janus … Jehovah! (Isa. 43:9)

Posted by Allan Demond in DISCIPLESHIP, 0 comments
Take The Corners Wisely

Take The Corners Wisely

Olympic skiers reminded me of an important life lesson this week. Watching a couple of ski contestants fly off the track failing to make a tight corner at the bottom of a hill got me thinking. Its not the simple straight stretches that get you, its the speed and the corners.

I have been negotiating one of life’s corners this week. My father died. We held a funeral, placed his ashes, mourned with family and friends, reminisced, laughed and cried. And the important point is this, we did it all with a certain care that required time and attention.

Like you, my life is full. I like to go down hill fast. I have lots in my diary and people are expecting me to fulfil various expectations. Sometimes I don’t have enough margin.

But on this occasion my dearest friends counselled me to slow down and take the corner well. Slowing down meant flying to Canada. It involved visiting friends, talking through details, and listening to family members unhurriedly, attentively and lovingly.

Another thing I learned, from this weeks’ ski commentary, is that you should look where you want to go. This is great advice when ploughing through a corner in life. Don’t get obsessed with the stuff in front of you or that is where you will fall. To paraphrase Paul, “Ski by faith”. This week I have been looking towards our eternal hope in Jesus Christ. The promises of 1 Thess. 4:13-18 have never seemed so important to me. I’m navigating a corner of grief with my eyes on the prize of resurrection.

Life presents many corners. Grief is a corner. Loss is a corner. New love is a corner. Deep disappointment is corner. Huge opportunity is a corner.

To win gold, take the corners wisely. Slow down and lean into God.

Posted by Allan Demond in DISCIPLESHIP, 0 comments