Seeking what matters

 

I found myself seeking out the news outlets recently one morning trying to find out what ended up happening to the Hurricane which was going through the Hawaiian islands.
Before the weekend it was THE top story on the news outlets. As of first of this week, I hadn’t heard anything. It’s mostly because it downgraded to a tropical storm, thankfully. Clearly there was devastation and no doubt people are working to make it through all the rain, but I found it interesting that I had to go searching for that which was of importance to me, but not necessarily the “news producers” around the country since it wasn’t as catastrophic as last year’s hurricane in Houston.

So, application from that story – we have to seek out that which is important to us. God’s presence is important, rather I should say vital to us. His reign in our lives is crucial and important to us.  So, taking the negative and making it a positive, may a record amount of God’s reign and presence fill your lives and people you are around.  I was having a great meeting with someone this month and the words they said to me have rung in my ears daily, “Let us move people closer to Jesus each and every day.”  It doesn’t mean that every single person you see gets the four spiritual laws and an invitation to salvation on the spot. But it does mean that by being aware of others and being sensitive to the voice of the Lord, we can make a difference in people’s lives that points them towards, and shows them the Love of the Lord to them, in their life.

Another friend in that meeting shared how their brother felt the prompting in the grocery store to pay for the person’s entire cart in the aisle over from where he was.  He wrestled with that (as we all do) and ended up finishing paying for his cart just in time to run over and swipe his card for a lady who ended up sharing that she was literally deciding what items she needed for her kids that she would have to put back. It was a tangible contact point of God’s love for her.

Be encouraged to be a difference maker. Seek that which matters, and share that which you have found with others.

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A New Year- 2018

The flames dance in the fireplace and I am fairly certain the windchill is below 0 outside right now.  Yet, inside is a fortress of warmth and love. Granted it doesn’t take a lot to be warmer than a sub-zero windchill outside, this family/ ethos/ home has meant so much to me this year.  It is a warmth of love and safety that I am feeling. No matter what else has happened in the world, nation, state, or city,…my family (under my roof), extended family (related some how), and sub-cultural families that we create through common interests and activities, all have played a significant role in shaping me this year. But I have seen a growth and felt a tangible awareness of the joy and love in our home in 2017.  So in that sense, I am forever grateful for 2017.

I personally have pressed in a measure deeper in my commitment to my walk with Christ. Am I as deep and consistent as I want to be? No way. However, I know that I have seen a measure of fruit in my life that can only come from being in that place of abiding that we are each called to. So, again, I am grateful for 2017 and where I have come from and areas by which I have progressed.   And yet I am sitting here knowing I want and need more. I am not talking “I resolve to pray 5 minutes more per day…” or on the other side of that “I resolve to wake up at 4am every day and pray for 2 hours….” I am not there on either of these examples, and please know I know people that do and have said both of these. They are valid and admirable decisions for them.  For me, I just simply say – more. If I had 20 of something and I now have 21, I have more. If I have 30 of that same item now, I have more. If I end up with 50 of that item in a given time period, I have more.  The parable of the talents comes to mind. Steward that which is given to you and don’t bury the gifts and callings which are assets to you and the specific spheres of influence for each of us.

Side note: Happy New Year to those on the West Coast as it just turned midnight Pacific Time.

As I was trying to articulate, I see 2018 as a year of significance, and influence.
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I believe that this is personal, and corporate. When I worked with student leadership development at my Alma-Mater, one of the core lessons I taught was what is leadership.  The core meaning we arrived at was not just “leadership is influence” even though that’s not a false statement. It is, however, incomplete. That is to say positive and meaningful leadership boils down to influence which results in positive change.
An example I gave by way of a question, was to ask “Was Hitler a great leader?” This always instigated a wonderful discussion. My point was that while he was a highly influential and  impactful leader, it did NOT result in positive change from the perspective of respect for others and value of life.  Thus, I would not consider him a great leader. We are called to be great and positive vessels of influence.

So, for me, and those I know and have any wafting hint at influencing in life, my challenge is to endeavor to be the positive influence. Step up and make the difference. There is no other you in the room. There is no other you at this exact time in life with the exact people around you, with the exact skills, talents, and gifts you have for such a time as this.  I am so thankful to be connected with several circles of men of integrity and honor who are seeking, as I am, that place of abiding and being empowered to lead our families as God is asking us to. In this moment, my heart is fully aware of the vast plans God has for each of them.  When I say vast, I am talking about being out in the middle of the country, away from city lights, and looking up into a starry night sky of dancing lights.  That is the depth of the meaning for “vast” when I use it here. I am also fully aware of how incredibly thankful and honored I am to know them and call them friends.

So as we launch into 2018, I raise my figurative glass in a toast to what is ahead, but I do so with intent and purpose towards the weighty opportunities that I see coming this year. May our resilience be unmatched, our passion be tangible, and our love be forever known. Cheers!

Snapshots

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In some places right now as I write this, it is already 2014. Here at our house we are about 15 minutes from welcoming a brand new calendar year and I felt it appropriate to reflect on 2013 and look ahead towards the coming year.

2013 started with the first of three job changes throughout the year. I went from the Alumni offices of ORU to the Advancement office of the Executive Vice President and landed in the land of television as the Business Manager for GEB America. All three jobs were within the ORU sphere and I am thankful for each and every role because through each role I was able to create and/or strengthen working relationships, learn fresh lessons, and watch the Lord show Himself strong in my weakness.  I am thankful to get to work with the GEB team and look forward to a great 2014 together!!

I have walked along hand in hand with my wife as she has been endeavoring (very successfully) to complete her Doctoral studies, and it has been a wonderful journey.  I am so blessed to walk out life with my beautiful, smart, talented, and lovely wife, Rebecca Gunn.  2013 was full of firsts for us with our little daughter. She turned major marks of 6 months, 9 months, 1 year and 15 months all within 2013!

Being a daddy has truly added a layer onto what joys and fun truly look like. There is nothing quite like hearing your daughter say “Dada!” and look at you with the cutest smile! There is also nothing like watching the women I married and love, pour herself into our little angel of a girl and love her even more!!

Well, it’s now 2014 as I was writing this (paused for countdown and cheers!) and so as I look towards this new year there are a few things I felt to share.

1. This is a year of health, strength, and growth for me personally. I have begun small steps within 2013 of getting healthier, losing 21lbs from last Christmas to this Christmas, and I am thankful. I will be continuing those and building upon those steps to make larger strides for not just “weight loss” but getting healthier- stronger, more endurance, and able to do the things I am called to do this year. Also it’s not about just physical strength.  Mental and intellectual growth is something I am challenging myself (and any of you reading) to be more intentional about. I want to read at least 12 books this year.

2. This will be a year of many more firsts for our family as we continue to enjoy life with our daughter and I just pray I am giving ear to the wisdom and leading of the Holy Spirit as I lead my family and work with my lovely wife to raise our beautiful daughter.

3. This is a year of connections. I feel like across the personal and business realms for us, this will be a year of long standing relationships.

4. I saved one certain key for last, and that is that my wife will complete her classes for her Doctoral studies and study and take her comprehensive exams. Upon completion of these, she will reach an elite group of those who have not quit their Doctorate and are “A.B.D” or have All But their Dissertation remaining. I am proud of her already and am looking forward to supporting and encouraging her to this wonderful accomplishment. Then we shift gears and do the same thing through the dissertation!!

Thanks for reading. May you have a wonderful and blessed Happy New Year!

In His service,

Stephen Gunn, MBA.

Keep swimming

There are moments when I look at the clock, and a certain number has been in the time as I viewed it throughout the day.  For instance, I have lately seen lots of 9’s …(8:39, 9:19..2:09…)  But one of the times that is stamped in my memory is 2:22.  11 years ago yesterday at 2:22pm, on May 22, 2002, my dad was welcomed into his heavenly mansion to worship the King of Kings for eternity.  As my last post reflects, my dad was an amazing father, leader, husband, and friend.  He was one of my biggest advocates in life to learn and keep doing better for the sake of helping other better.

A friend of mine recently reminded me of a time she was driving from Tulsa back to Kansas City and a torrential downpour of a storm camped out on that highway her whole drive home.  A group of our friends had all been together and we knew she was driving back and we told her we would pray for her.  I had a momentarily humorous thought of Dori from Finding Nemo and her “Just keep swimming” phrase.  So I texted my friend just to encourage her to press through the storm, don’t lose sight of the end goal, and know that friends are praying.  But I didn’t say that. My text read simply.. “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” Now my understanding is that my friend began to laugh out loud and nearly sang that the whole way through the rainy, tense, and dark drive back to Kansas City.  I am glad to know the moment of clarity and humor that was in my mind translated well to my friend and it helped get her though that time.

Prior to my dad passing, and since then, I have lost far too many friends and relatives.  Some of those key losses were my best friend since 6th grade dying in a car accident my senior year of high school, my grand father and grand mother (my dad’s parents) passed away a handful of years apart,  my grandmother (mom’s mom) fighting the battle against cancer, my wife’s grandmother fighting the battle against cancer, and my friends dying in a plane crash.  These were all between when I was 18 and 32.  I have allowed myself to deal with the loss, to truly mourn the loss of a loved one, with the realization that life for them is far better now but we are left to deal with the loss here in our humanness.

I thought about this yesterday and today and how have I “made it through” those hard times.  Here are some truths I operate under:

  1. God is a good god. (Psalm 107:1)
  2. The devil is the one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10a)
  3. Jesus came that I might have everlasting life. (John 10:10b)
  4. I will see those loved ones again who also believe in #1-3.
  5. God places people around to support and encourage. (Prov. 11:14)
  6. It’s okay to cry…even as a guy…and it’s okay for everyone to miss people.
  7. Joy..true joy, not happiness, but joy does come in the morning. (Psalm 30:11, Psalm 126:5, Psalm 92:4)

I could make other items on a list, but the point was to have key takeaways so as a reader it can help you. It helps me just to write it again, to see once again what I know.  It is different though to know something and to Know something.  Head knowledge and heart knowledge are two different things. So, how did I make it through?  I just kept swimming.  When the waves of memories came all around me and at the moment it did not seem like sunlight was coming…I just kept swimming.  And when i did not have any strength to swim any more…I fell in His arms and trusted that He always cares for me and upholds me.  And then, once I regained strength through Him, I got back up and kept swimming.

In light of the recent loss of so many lives in the Moore and Shawnee Oklahoma communities, my heart goes out to them for the sudden loss of lives and of safety.  I can’t say I have been through that kind of loss. A pet peeve of mine is when people say the cliche “Oh I know how that must be…” Really? NO YOU CAN’T! The only person who knows how they have experienced something..is them!  So, let me just say in the midst of the loss, as people surround you and maybe someone you know lives there. (My sister in law was less than 2 miles from where the EF5 hit in Moore)  Remember in all things, refer to the list above, and ..Just keep swimming!  And if you can’t swim..let the only one who can truly provide peace and strength hold you and carry you through the waters until you can get back out and keep swimming.

Through Father’s Eyes

It was a brisk morning in the valley. Fog rolled over the winding river. The river cut through the quiet Missouri valley air as the sun crept down the mountain side. Nestled right in between two rolling mountains was a camp site with a couple dozen tents beginning to breathe with the movement of the awakening residents preparing for a day yet to unfold.

Along the fog kissed river were a handful of eager anglers hoping to snag the first catch for their sleepily stirring families peaking out of the tents. In one tent was a father and son waking after a dusk arrival following the thrilling drive in from Oklahoma the prior night. In the campsite adjacent to them was a family from a little further down the highway in Oklahoma as well.

Today was trout fishing day! Of course, most campers who chose to come to this area certainly had the expectations of trying to catch some trout as they endeavored into the icy waters. However it was a first time for the young man of the Father / Son duo.

Having historically fished from boats and along river and lake banks, no waders were packed. By all reasonable contexts, how cold could that water really be right? After all, it was Summer in Missouri. After getting up and into some truly rookie-level river fishing attire, they began the highly anticipated trot across the field to the river, fish poles in one hand, and tackle boxes in the other. Upon arriving at the river bank, a sharp temperature change was tangible and only added to the excitement. As they slipped off their flip flops and slipped on their “river shoes” something told them that this water might be a little cooler than they thought. Nope, it was WAY colder than they thought! Upon slipping their feet into the rippling water, the painful cold hit their ankles. The adrenaline from the excitement was enough to subside the nerve signals saying “THIS IS COLD.” So, they ventured in to where the water was up to their knees and found two good spots to cast out and try for some trout. After about 5 minutes of casting the young man spotted an island of sorts within the rock-bottom river bed that kept the water to calve level but it was a little further out in the middle, so they crept through the cold White River water and found a nice perch to fish from. In between the hunt for the right fish, they would walk back to shore after about 20 minutes of the cold water fishing. After about an hour of no fish, they decided to call it a day. When they arrived back to camp, their feet began to have feeling in them again as the numbness from the cold water subsided. As they got a fire built up for some warmth, the fellow Oklahoma based neighbors had apparently had a much better success at the fishing and were cooking up some lightly battered, and slight trout. They had so much they shared with the two as they shared stories. Both of the young men from either family played baseball and were going to college not too far from each other. It made for a great start to the day. The rest of the camping trip was uphill from there! Hiking, tossing the ball, canoe trip, and enjoying the wonderful outdoors. This was really a week to remember!

 

And I have remembered it, as that was about 15 years ago with my dad and I as we had a week I will never forget. Yesterday my dad would have been 64. He is counting time with a new perspective now as he worships around the throne of heaven, as he has been doing for nearly 11 years. My dad was my hero in so many ways and he gave me attention with action and with word. He showed me love with action and with word. He showed me correction with word and action, like how to throw a baseball the right way so it hits your target right in the glove. So, here’s to my dad, the father, friend, leader, and mentor who I thank God for as I raise my beautiful baby girl. She is over 6 months old now and yes I wish my dad could hold her in his arms and she could pull on grandpa’s beard. That said, I also am thankful, grateful, and even humbled that I had such an amazing father to learn from. Happy Birthday dad.

Sunset

Perspective

Perspective

Perspective

One of Steve Jobs top quotes. It reminds me of a good discussion we had in one of our MBA classes about CD’s. Jobs and Apple had the right perspective on being in the right industry. He revolutionized the way we as a society saw music transfer versus just CD’s. If we always purchased the CD’s and “ripped” them into MP3’s that would limit the transfer options. Instead, Apple launched the ITunes Music store and allow people to not just purchase a CD, but purchase by single songs if they so choose.

In current times, while new MP3, audio book stores have emerged, the pricing strategy of Apple still permeates even the song/ album options. Apple released a 3 tier structure in which they have songs at $.69/ $.99/ and $1.29 per song. This is a premium price strategy as the most in demand, popular, and best songs are at the top price point. It maximizes the profit for the most purchased songs and even albums.

So, I ask myself, and those readers out there, do you just want to sell sugared water, or do you want to take the steps and actions necessary to change the world?

Father

As is the case with most people these days, change is a normal, if not daily thing.  I have had the joy of welcoming my first child, a beautiful baby girl into our lives 8 weeks ago.  Having my daughter look into her daddy’s eyes and just stare has shaken me and melted me all at the same time.  I have seen many friends posting in social media a daily thought to be thankful for and I have enjoyed those thoughts.  I am thankful for the joy of being a husband and father and what I think amazes me is how fast these weeks have already gone by.
I hear people say how fast time will go by, and I think although I believe them, I feel like surely it will be different for me.  So, as I acquiesce to the reality that time does indeed go at the same rate, whether we want it to be slower or faster, I have a challenge for myself and anyone who takes the time to read this.  Take time to call up your father, for those who can, or if you are like me, take time to be thankful for the moments and memories you were able to make while with your father.  If you are near your father geographically, take some time and talk with him in person, and stare into his eyes instead of your electronic device.  Pick up the phone and ask him to speak something into your life that only a father can say.

After just returning from a family trip with my wife’s family, I have to say I wish everyone got the chance to spend yearly visits with multi-generations and just talk.  The younger generation is so inclined to plug into some source of controllable input such as an iPhone, iPad, or other smartphone rather than taking time to engage in meaningful conversation with the generations that have lived longer and prior to their earthly existence.  We had in our midst over the holidays the Great-Grandparents all the way to my daughter.   We got to see sights as a family that many people dream of getting to go to just one or two of them..let alone all of them in less than 1 week.

Life is indeed a gift, so let’s take time during this season following Thanksgiving and leading to Christmas to continue in a thankful frame of mind.  Always try to keep the “Thankful Filter” on as you walk through your day.  This can mean the difference in how you deal with a loved one, family member, employee, employer, or friend.  Be the thermostat rather than the thermometer.  Set the atmosphere rather than reflecting it.  Try it leading up to Christmas and let us see the perspective with which we enter 2013.

Daddy and daughter at 4 weeks