Peace…be still

Amy at “Writing On Stone” Provincial Park in Alberta several years ago

A few years ago we took a trip to Writing on Stone provincial park in south eastern Alberta. The geological formation there is quite cool, and relatively unique in Alberta. The name comes from some relatively ancient markings on the wall of one of the outcroppings. That’s the geography but not the point, I don’t feel like I’m the only one who from time to time feels a lot more like the class hamster on the wheel. In our hyper connected world are we losing the ability to find stillness, the time for quiet reflection and pondering that can open our minds to alternate possibilities for the challenges of our day.

Not really trapped, but sometimes we are stuck between good and best use of our time.

I don’t think it was a big box office hit, another Costner baseball movie “For Love of the Game” where the main character’s ability to focus and, what the character refers to as “clearing the mechanism“. To me this really speaks to knowing  there are times where we need to be able to zone out the distractions, find the quiet spot and expand our ability to hear ourselves above the din that clamours for our attention.

I do not think I am talking about the calm before the storm, more about finding calm, perhaps looking for it in the midst of all that surrounds us in our life.  Steven Herrick wrote, “Men walk through tragedy, quietly, calm and precise on the outside, tearing themselves to shreds inside.” Herrick writes of a calm presence on the surface but inside that calm is absent. There are times for this type of calm, particularly when others are counting on you to lead, but it has a price and requires those possessed of it to find a different time where they too can truly come to a point of resolve, a calmness born of reflection that requires time to be still.

Paulo Coelho wrote in his book, “Warrior of Light”, “Occasionally, the Warrior sits down, relaxes, and lets everything that is happening around him continue to happen….Little by little, everything that seemed complicated begins to become simple.” (p.91)

It’s hard to step out of the rushing river that is our life, even harder to see that sometimes it’s really not a river, barely a stream but from our point of view we’re drowning. Take the time to find that spot and sit down, consider Mark 4:39 “Peace, be still”.

Supporting can be complicated…but worth it

So… as a parent I’m pretty sure there really isn’t one set of rules for what to do in whatever it is we tend to define as parenting. I suspect it’s pretty natural to cast your eyes over the fence at the proverbial neighbours kids and try as you might the yardsticks sneak into the back of your head. Marks, Athletics, Musical Talents, Friends, Teeth (braces/no braces), it can be a bit of a jungle out there as you go through the compulsory stages. In the end we want them safe, healthy, and happy…get those three down and then take what comes.

Amy, my youngest of 3 daughters and 5th of 6 children has a bit of a flair for the dramatic…and fashion….and photography…and life.

The challenge, or maybe it’s just my challenge, comes with that concept of agency and sustaining support for your kids when the choices they make run just a little to the left or right of what you had in mind as the best path (my view of best path) for their life. If you haven’t had a teenager yet, you’ll have to trust me on this a bit, then again perhaps you remember using the line, “You’re ruining my life….” or “It’s my life…” usually utilized in a discussion around the teen’s choices and the direct disharmony with your parental expectations. I can’t say no one’s life is ruined…sadly some decisions actually do lead to great tragedy, but I can say a lot of the decisions we bump and struggle through with our children while life impacting are not life ruining.

Having the patience to work through those without fighting in a manner that permanently scars the relationship, that can be a challenge. Neal A. Maxwell wrote, “When we are unduly impatient…we are in effect trying to hasten the outcome when acceleration would abuse agency.” This doesn’t mean we blindly acquiesce when choices run contrary with our personal beliefs, even beliefs we feel are family beliefs. It means that we need to take a much longer view at life, and the eternal nature of the family, as we continue to support and guide and allow for agency to run its course.

As parents we have a pretty good idea of what we believe.  Our faith, both in practice and as it manifests itself as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), provides a few foundational guidelines…some do and do nots in the expectations. Most people who have met a “mormon” know that we don’t drink alcohol, don’t smoke, no drugs, no coffee, wait until you’re married, even a few simple ones things like minding our language – a few guidelines to help us along the way. At some time in life each and every individual has to decide do I follow those expectations or not – either way its an exercise in agency.

As parents we have our agency as well, and one of the choices is to make sure that our children understand the expectations and hopes we have for them. The element of unconditional love works in concert with that of expectations, values, and the focus on the eternity. Then we have to give them the room to make their choices…hard as that may be at times.

I am tremendously proud of my six children – we debate choices and consequences all the time. I’d love for all of them to be right on the path my wife and I hope for them and yes I don’t mind saying that at times we’d like their path to be closer to our path and that’s why supporting can be complicated. The first student I suspended as principal was my daughter (not Amy) they all know we don’t get to choose the consequences of our choices.  They also all know that the sun will come up tomorrow and tomorrow we’ll have another set of opportunities and choices.

There is karma in all of this of course, the cycle does tend to repeat over time. As that young daughter I suspended grew older, married and had a baby girl of her own it appears her parents have become exponentially smarter…I suspect we haven’t but her point of view certainly has changed.  Complicated? Yes but continue the support, it will be worth it in the eternities.



Amy’s flair for the fashion world continues – she has lead a group of students at her college to develop a magazine for the 20 somethings…admittedly quite a bit outside my comfort zone, language and some content warnings – perhaps past what you’d see in Cosmo (I’m guessing) but proud of her just the same. Check it out here

Dare to be, Commit to be, Excellent

Excellence is attainable, there just isn’t any shortcuts.

What is it about the concept of good enough that has become so acceptable when excellence or being exceptional is just over the horizon of average? It isn’t as though we don’t know what it takes to excel, Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers wrote of the people put in 10,000 hours to achieve excellence. Now we certainly cannot put 10,000 hours into everything that we do but where do we settle and in what areas do we settle?

In an interview with Anderson Cooper Gladwell provides a few thoughts to ponder, we don’t succeed alone, really no one does, and it doesn’t happen overnight it takes time and effort and a willingness to push past the point when most quit or perhaps even worse yet…settle.

Vernon Heperi shared this story, “When James A. Garfield, once president of the United States, was the president of Hiram College, a father brought his son for admittance as a student. The father wanted the boy to take a course [of study] shorter than the one offered and exclaimed: “He can never take all that in! He wants to get through quicker. Can you arrange it for him?”

“Oh, yes,” replied President Garfield. “He can take a shorter course. It all depends on what you want to make of him. When God wants to make an oak, he takes one hundred years, but he only takes two months to make a squash.”1

There are no short cuts, wishing doesn’t get you too much past the dreaming stage. If you want to amount to something we have to do something and if we want to do something well, attain excellence, then put in the time and make it happen. Not to disparage the squash, but there is a little more majesty in an oak…it’s in us to succeed, we did not come into this life to fail.



1. Source: Heperi, Vernon L. December 06, 2005 BYU Devotional Building a Kauri Tree-Like Testimony

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela…an example of courage and grace under pressure

There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”  Nelson Mandela

What is it that can make a man so sure of his convictions that he is able to endure years in jail, decades in fact, and upon his release live a life that seemingly forgives his jailers and the people who commanded them? Nelson Mandela was a victim of apartheid in South Africa sentenced to life in prison for fighting against a government that had minimized the majority of its population simply because it was black. After 27 years in prison on Robben Island Mandela was released and four short years later elected president of South Africa. A shocking turn of events. Mandela worked to build a united nation when so many who had been brutally oppressed for so long really wanted revenge he insisted upon a process of reconciliation that in large part brought Mandela the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

I would suggest that hating your enemies is pretty easy, loving your friends often easier but truly forgiving your enemies – working to draw them in as friends is truly an ideal to shoot for. Mandela provides us with much to consider as we explore our relationships with those who may even want to kill us.

While Hollywood is certainly capable of stretching the truth – the 2009 movie “Invictus” starring Morgan Freeman as Mandela presents the early efforts of Mandela to bring a broken country together through sport.

A few thoughts from Nelson Mandela to ponder in our interactions with others and efforts to lead, first our own lives and then perhaps as we strive to provide leadership with others.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

Reconciliation and forgiveness starts here…a scene from Invictus