An Important Shift in Thinking about Personal Vision

This series of articles began in mid-November.   At times I’ve felt as if a stream of thinking is like taking hold of the tail of a lion.  The “ride” is bigger and wilder than I ever thought when I hopped on.  Here’s a brief review.

First, vision is about seeing something in the future that is not yet reality. It occurs in the gap between what is and what we want to be. It is in this gap where motivation lives. It is in this gap where the tussle between status quo and what can be occurs. And it is in this gap that either meandering or taking deliberate steps toward accomplishment occurs.

Second, vision is planted in midair if it isn’t built on the mission.  It is all about the mission!  Vision is making the mission more concrete.

Third, personal vision is something that grows over time.  Vision is often discovered or planted in the heart of a child.  Very few people “see” a complete vision of the future they want for themselves or their company from the beginning.  Like a great tea or chili, vision must sit for a while to crystallize.

Fourth, successful leaders cannot stand alone.  Their personal vision must become “shared vision”.  No leader can stand alone.  Corporately speaking, “our vision” is usually a euphemism for “my vision”.  This is not “shared vision”.  Shared vision involves encouraging both the corporate leaders around you and the employees you lead to personally go deeper to develop their own personal vision and to help the organization to develop a genuinely “shared vision”.  When this occurs, the motivational engine becomes dynamic. If a leader’s personal vision does not become “shared vision” the vision lasts only as long as the leader is present.  Give each one of us a few minutes and we could all share a story about an organization that struggled in the transition from one leader to another.  And this struggle would be directly tied to defining the organizational mission and vision.  In order for vision to be sustainable, it must be a shared vision.

A special core of influencers has shaped my thinking.* The principle I’m sharing here is articulated by Peter Senge.  Personal vision does not belong to you!  It is given to you as a gift and a responsibility.  You don’t own it.  In a sense, it belongs to the world.  Think of Edison, Ford, Firestone, Bell, the Wright brothers, Steve Jobs.  Each of them had a vision that was tied to their mission.  But their vision “belonged” to the world.  It impacted history, our history and the history of the world.  Yes, this is a huge shift of thinking about your relationship with your vision.  Underneath our lives we are called to a mission.  Our lives have a “purpose story”.  There is a bigger picture in which our lives are meant to impact others for the greater good.

The implications of this reality are significant.  Treat the vision you have with care.  Be attentive and disciplined in striving to achieve it.  Ignore the voices in your head or around you that diminish your vision.  Recognize the awesomeness of the vision entrusted to you. In striving to fulfill your vision do not be pushy.  Strive with humility, patience and gentleness but with determination.  Remember, you cannot stand alone.

Senge shares a poem by Kahlil Gibran that I’m passing along to you.  Gibran is talking about our relationship to our children.  Senge likens this relationship to our relationship with our personal vision.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of life’s to belonging for itself.
They come through you, not from you.
And though they are with you, they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls.
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot
visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like
them, but strive not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the
bows from which your children as living arrows are sent
forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the
infinite, and bends you with his might that the arrows may
go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as
he loves the arrow that flies, so he loves the bow that is
stable. (
as quoted by Senge in The Fifth Discipline,

“Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How happy is the man whose quiver is full of them!  He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” Psalm 127:3-5

*Jocko Willink and Leif Babin in Extreme Ownership;  Patrick Lencioni (several books but especially, The Advantage);  and Peter Senge in his book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization

Vision – lives in the gap between what is and what could be!

The phenomenon that we call “vision” is about seeing something in the future that is not yet reality. It occurs in the gap between what is and what we want to be, where we want to live, a certification we need or a job we want. It is in this gap where motivation and drive or lethargy and homeostasis lives. It is in this gap where the tussle between status quo and what can be occurs. And it is in this gap that either meandering or taking deliberate steps toward accomplishment occurs.

Vision applies to everyone. It’s stirrings often begin in the heart of a child. Take for instance two young boys one born in 1867 and the other in 1871. Their father was a traveling bishop for the church of the United brethren in Christ. In 1878 he brought home a toy helicopter for his two young, mischievous sons. This toy was based on an invention by French aeronautical pioneer, Penaud. It was made of paper, bamboo, and cork with a rubber band to twirl is rotor. Later in life Wilbur and Orville Wright would point back to their experience at ages 11 and 7 that ignited their interest in aviation.

He was born in 1863 on his family’s farm. When he was 13 years old his father gave him a pocket watch which he took apart and reassembled. Friends and family were impressed and they began bringing him their timepieces to fix. When he was 16 he became an apprentice as a machinist for a shipbuilding company. At the age of 25 he went back to farming to support his wife and son. But three years later he went to work for the Edison Company as an engineer. Within five years he had developed plans for his first horseless carriage. In 1903 he established the Ford Motor Company. And in 1908 he built his first model T. The Ford Motor Company became the largest automobile company in the world producing over 15 million model T’s.

His father was from Syria. His mother from Wisconsin raised on a farm. They met at the University of Wisconsin. She became pregnant one summer while they traveled in Syria. They were not married. Schieble, his mother traveled to San Francisco where he was born and given up for adoption. Paul and Clara Jobs adopted and raised him. Steve was rebellious and difficult almost from the beginning. Later in life he would credit his fourth grade teacher, Imogene “Teddy” Hill with turning him around. “She bribed me into learning. She would say, ‘I really want you to finish this workbook. I’ll give you five bucks if you finish it.’ That really kindled a passion in me for learning things! I learned more that year than I think I learned in any other year in school.”  Steven “Steve” Paul Jobs became the co-founder and CEO of Apple, Inc.  He once said, “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.” That’s mission and vision wrapped together.

The point is this, “vision” applies to everyone.  It is often ignited in the heart of a child or adolescent. Vision is the reality of what is and what you want to be, or what should be.  Vision has to do with “seeing” a different and better future.  One of the struggles of adolescence and young adulthood is acquiring the ability to “see” the possibilities of a different future.  Without vision there is little motivation.  Sometimes this “vision” has to be encouraged in a child or loaned to teenager or young adult by someone that “sees” a future they cannot yet see. And as “vision” takes shape it provides motivation and decision-making direction to life.

As a new year has dawned, let us all reflect on both our vision for ourselves personally and for the organizations we help lead.

I once read that happiness revolves around three things: first, having something to do; second, having something to look forward to; and third, having someone to love. I believe there is a fourth component. That component has to do with harmony between what you are doing and what you are made to be and do. Thus, vision is inseparably connected to our “purpose story” or what we call “mission”.  I will take up the subject of “mission” in a future blog.

The Surrendered Life

Going through almost a thousand hanging files stuffed into 4, drawer files – DOWNSIZING!

Can you believe this?  Opened a folder with 1 sheet photocopied from The Surrendered Life by James McConkey (1903),

“But let us beware of anything knowingly unyielded to Him: of any self engrafted exception in our act of renunciation: of any point where the will remains consciously unsubmitted to God.  When we whisper within ourselves, “I can say yes to God, I can submit to His will, I can trust His love in all except this one thing,” we may be assured that this one thing will work spiritual disaster in our lives.”

This reminded me of a page taken from the flyleaf of Verma Barfield’s Bible.  Velma was executed from her crimes.  But while on death row, Velma became a committed, growing Christian.  She’d written five decisions she’d made in her walk with Christ.  This is one of them from an excerpt from  the flyleaf of her Bible:

“Deal thoroughly with sin. Sin is being called all kind of fancy names nowadays but it’s time we came to grips with ourselves and call sin what it really is – SIN. It’s the ancient enemy of the soul. It has never changed. Tonight I’m making a new commitment to my Lord. I’m going to start tonight naming my sins before my Lord and trust Him for deliverance.”

May these words prick our souls enough to remind us to confess thoroughly and stay faithful.  May we not stop of superficial, observable sins.  May we go to the depths of our heart condition before Christ.


The Invaciveness of Electronics

Luke 11:1, 5-13 “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples…And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, (keep on)asking, and it will be given to you; (keep on) seeking, and you will find; (keep on) knocking, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Over a period of time I’ve watched people use their “smart” phones.  I first noticed how depersonalizing cells phone can be at a Leadership Summit at Willow Creek.  Four attendees were at a counter and needed a ride to O’Hare.  They needed to get there quickly or they would miss their flight.  The kind receptionist referred the men to a taxi but doubted this would enable them to catch their flight.

So, overhearing the conversation, having a personal car available I volunteered to drive them to the airport.  Within 5 seconds of getting into my car all four men were talking on their cellphones.  In fact, they talked on their phones all the way to the drop off point.  If my memory is correct, these men didn’t say a thing to me or didn’t say much of anything to each other.  Yet, there we were together sharing the same “space” but we might as well have been in five different cars as far as personal relationship was concerned.

I’ve often reflected on this experience over the years.  This was a type of “shot across my conscious bow” so to speak.  Now, years later I’ve found that I, too, have allowed my “smart” phone of invade my relational space.  But I’ve started changing this and want to encourage you to step back  and reflect a bit on your use of relational space.

My personal prayer life has been hugely influenced by Max Lucado.  I once heard him talk about prayer.  He encouraging the listeners to use their “waking moments, waiting moments, and waning moments” for prayer.  Those are the spaces I’ve habitually used to reflect and talk with God.  But over a period of time my habits have shifted.  I check my cellphone for emails, text messages, news for multiple sources, Facebook, LinkedIn, bank accounts, investments, yada, yada.  Get the picture?  I’ve allowed electronic media to cheat me of my relational space with God.  And it is a truism that these sources of information often distract me from much more important things to think about they often negatively impact my moods.

I’ve also begun to ban my smart phone from meals – either meals eaten with my wife or friends or clients or simply with myself.

We are surely living in days with those who know God need to strengthening their relationship with Him and tuning their inner person to hear and listen to Him.

Personal Vision and Self Mastery

Personal vision comes from within.  I believe personal vision develops and grows out of the intersection of your “life story” and a deeper sense of calling.  Purpose percolates!  Having a sense of purpose in your life takes time.  The tastiest chili doesn’t happen on the day it is made.  It comes two days later after all the ingredients have time to blend together.  Did you know there is a website with an article entitled, Tea 101: How to Steep Tea?  “Heat your water…time you’re steeping…enjoy your tea.  All real tea drinkers know that tea must set and “steep”.

One component of personal mastery is nurturing the process of focusing and refocusing on what we truly want in the future (personal vision): where do we want to live, what do we really want to do, our desires for health, weight, financial freedom, how do we want to serve others and more?

One of my specialties as a marriage counselor is training others to manage anger (CAMS-2).   Anger is usually a secondary emotion.  Much like the color red on a beach ball there is a corresponding color on the opposite side of the ball.  Learning to manage our emotions (anger, depression, etc.) is one component of what is termed “personal mastery”.  Developing a sense of personal vision and living in sync with it is also an aspect of personal mastery.

Many adults settle for less than purpose or vision in their lives.  We all have needs.  We all have goals. We want certain things.  But having a sense of vision and purpose is rare and learning to refocus on this is rare.  Why are you alive?  What is your unique personality and gifts?  How do the events of your childhood, adolescence, and adulthood – your story – indicate your unique calling and purpose?  This concept is not easy. In fact, it may even be out of difficulties and traumatic suffering that crystallize your purpose.   Vision has to do with drawing a line between the dots of your life to “see” a bigger picture or underlying message.  You matter.  None of your personal, educational, relational experiences are wasted.   Reflecting on these will help as you seek to develop a sense of purpose.

Becoming aware of a sense of personal vision comes over time.  But having a sense of purpose is not limited to those over 40!  Having an underlying sense of mission or calling begins growing even in the hearts of children.  When asked about what they want to be when they grow up might say things like: “I want to be a pilot”;  “I want to be a baseball player”; “I want to be a police officer”.  These statements may just be things kids say.  But hidden behind these words may be something more profound.  A child playing teacher “teaching” other children may, in fact be telegraphing a special gift that becomes a calling in life.  A child playing nurse or doctor may not just be playing but, in fact,  may be telegraphing a deeper call in life.  It seems to me that we often need others to “spot” our uniquenesses and encourage them.   My high school speech teacher noted my public speaking ability when I was 16.  Little did either of us know that I would spend 40 years as a public speaker.  I told a high school girl friend I wanted to be a missionary pilot.  Little did I know that I would, in fact, become a pilot, spend 15 years as a pilot and serve 21 years as a volunteer chaplain for the Experimental Aircraft Association.

None of us should be just passing the time of day or spending life on routines without a growing sense of something bigger and deeper in our lives.

Be Aware That Your Vision Will Be Met With Resistance

As your personal vision takes shape, be aware that as it does you will have to take a stand for your vision.  When you begin to focus on your personal desires for the future (vision), you will meet resistance.  Resistance will come from your self-talk.  You will list all the reasons your vision is fantasy and is not possible.  You will likely diminish your own vision.  You may be tempted to settle for lessor things,  to listen to others’ voices that tell you to be reasonable and settle for what is possible.  Much like the sailors in Greek mythology who were lured to rocky coasts and shipwreck by mythical creatures called Sirens we too may be tempted to give up on our direction and dreams.  As one teenager said about adults, “We shouldn’t call them ‘grown ups’ we should call them ‘given ups’”(Senge, p.137). That might be a little harsh but may encourage us to take a good look at what we are doing.  George Bernard Shaw said: “This is true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one”(Senge, p.137).

I do not believe that personal “happiness” should be the driving force or center of your life.  You make commitments and have responsibilities to which you must be faithful.  But surely we all waste far too many days being unhappy for dissatisfied.  Happiness comes out of the rich soil of four things:

  • Having something to do,
  • having something to look forward to,
  • having someone or something to love,
  • and living life out of our sense of purpose.

Peter Senge, in his book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization said, “Happiness may be most directly a result of living consistently with your purpose”(p.137).

Make time for reflection and seek to “connect the dots” of your life to “see” the purpose being written in your life.  Never apologize for your vision of the future.  Do not give in to either internal or external resistance to your vision.  Take time to return again and again to focus and refocus on the vision that is growing inside you.

Blessings to you.

Reflecting on Vision

Early Thoughts on Personal Vision

As I look back over a lifetime of ministry, my first encounter with vision was as a sophomore in college.  I was about to head off to Moody Bible Institute.  I was in a brief relationship with a high school senior whose dad asked me about my plans and why I was going to MBI.  I told him I planned to become a missionary pilot and that I was going to MBI to enter their missionary pilot training course – the best in the country.

As it turned out, in the middle of my first year at Moody I realized how difficult their pilot training program was.  I also realized that the real reason I enrolled in the aviation program was that I wanted to be a pilot, more than I wanted to be a missionary. You guessed it – I dropped out of the aviation program and majored in “Pastors-Greek” and headed toward becoming a pastor.

Christ’s Direction Grows into Personal Vision

There are some for whom being a “visionary” comes naturally.  At least that appears to be the case from the outside looking in.  In truth, it is more likely that for each of us Christ’s calling and our “story” intersects to form personal vision.

Paul’s “personal vision” for his life seems to have been the story God was unfolding for him over a period of time.  I’m sure it was planned for Paul before the foundation of the world.  But our first awareness of God’s call on Paul’s life seems to be Acts 9:15-16: “Go, for he (Paul) is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel for I will show him how much he must suffer the for the sake of my name.” Paul’s growing awareness of God’s direction in his life is again revealed in Galatians 1:15-16 and 2:7-9 where other apostles realized Paul had been called to go to the Gentiles.

Surely, when the Apostle Paul came to faith in Christ he did not know that he had entered the on-ramp of the Via Egnatia that would lead him from the Middle East, through the Roman province of Asia and finally to stand before Caesar’s court in Rome.  The Spirit of God was stirring in Paul.  “After some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord to see how they are.’” But I don’t think the “picture” of Paul’s future was clear in his own mind from the beginning.  “They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.  And when they came up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.  So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.  And a vision (interesting term) appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’  When Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

I once built a dresser with a changing table on top for my newborn daughter.  A friend had built one for his daughter and I wanted to do the same.  But I was hesitant.  I did not have plans for such a dresser and I did not know where to start.  My friend said, “Ed, there are two ways to build a dresser.  One is that you have plans in hand and you can “see” the step by step process even before you start.  The other is that you just start gluing wood together and the next step becomes clear as you move along.”

What’s the point?  First, vision is planted in midair if it isn’t built on the mission.  It is all about the mission!* Vision is making the mission more concrete. That was true for Paul.  Christ’s mission for all Christians is articulated in the four Gospels and in Acts 1. All the talk about vision and values and strategies has to be tied to our Christ-given mission.  Second personal vision is living out God’s plan for us.  Third, personal vision is something that grows in us.  It took time for God’s plan to unfold in Paul’s life.  As we scan his life in the New Testament God’s plan or vision crystalizes over time.  Even Paul ending up in front of Caesar seems from a human perspective to be inadvertent.  Under the pressure of the Roman judicial system Paul appealed to Caesar and ended up in Rome.  This was not a part of his own grand vision for his life.  Fourth, it seems that Paul was the “visionary leader” that others hung out with.  Of course, the real “visionary” was, in fact, the Holy Spirit.

It was not until serving Christ in my third pastorate that I realized I was a visionary.  I realized that I could “see” a plan 2-3 years ahead of most of the people around me.  This was God’s call on my life and I should never apologize for this.  Throughout my ministry a picture of the future and the direction in which we should move as a church was present in my life.  I was blessed with being able to “see” things in the future that did not exist as if they did.  In my first church this “seeing the future” ran into the powerful forces of status quo.  I was in a small community where things change slowly. A pastor with vision must earn the trust and respect of ministry leaders wherever they serve.  As a young pastor who was impatient and did not know how to nurture and nudge others into “seeing” the future toward which the church should move.

To be continued…

* For an excellent read about  the primacy of the mission read Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, two Navy Seals that could stun you back into a focus on Christ’s mission.

See also: The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization, by Peter Senge

A Deeper Look at Elijah and the Ravens

Image result for raven

1 Kings 17:2–6 (ESV) “And the word of the Lord came to him: “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.”

The story is fasinating in many ways.  Here is one.  The brief story of the ravens feeding Elijah took place three years before Elijah’s encounter with Jezebel.  Hidden behind this story is something ironic.  While they are effective hunters ravens are known as scavengers.  They are pranksters that trick other birds away from their pray so they can steal and eat the other bird’s food.

How interesting.  Call it counter-intuative.  The birds that trick other birds out of their food are the ones God commands to give up their food for the sake of his prophet.

As with Elijah, we all find ministry physically and emotionally draining.  God meets our needs as He did Elijah’s.  We worry too much.  We pray too little.  Our provision comes through personal hard work.  But, there are times when our strength is gone and God provides for us supernaturally.

Peace to you and yours,
Romans 15:13

Welcome to Pastors’ Safe Place Blog

Hi everyone,

I’ve contemplated for some time launching a blog for two websites: and  Why does a certain niche of people online need another blog?

Here’s my plan. I will only share what I believe will be helpful to pastors working hard in ministry and could use a fresh perspective.  For instance, two weeks ago I heard an excellent message on leadership from Acts 1:15-26.  Overnight, I had lots of thoughts about leadership in the church.  Pastors can’t stand alone.  They need paid and volunteer leaders to clearly understand how they can help.  I’ll say more in a future blog.

I once heard a church leader say, “This church has been visionless for several years” and then glibly quoted the verse, “where there is no vision the people parish”.   Other than making a superficial analysis and losely quoting scripture there surely is a ton to reflect on and add to these brief comments.

There you have it.  I will attempt to post to this blog once a week with substance that will help pastors in ministry, couples and corporate leaders.

Ed Riddick, CAMS-2, M.D.R., MA, ThM
Celebrate Marriage LLC
Conflict Coaching and Mediation Services LLC