Posted in life lessons

Warren’s Wisdom

Warren doesn’t send Christmas cards. But he calls everyone who sends him one. After missing three of his calls, I called him back last night. Within minutes I had grabbed my shopping list pencil and I was scribbling (not doodling) on the narrow pad on my kitchen island.

Warren is 20 years older than me and I get the senior’s discount…get my drift? I started taking notes when he said “You have to cultivate a positive attitude.” This was after he’d said that since his wife died, with no one to bounce ideas off, there was a tendency to become negative.

“So what do you do to stay positive?” I asked, pencil poised. I’ve known Warren for 40+ years and I knew he would have specifics. I first met Warren and his wife Irene the year I taught school in their little prairie town. I was lonely and missing the guy in the photo, who lived elsewhere and wasn’t my husband yet. They welcomed me into their heart and home and even after I moved away, the friendship continued.

I wrote (1) beside the next thing he said: “I try to appreciate even the simple nice things throughout my day.”


“Like the pleasant person who handled my groceries and spoke to me, or the stranger who smiled at me as I passed them on the street,” he offered. “Basically, any interaction that’s nice is positive.”

“What else?”

(2) “I try to bless the lives of others…99 percent of the time they will bless you back!” He laughed, “I know that sounds self-serving but that’s not why I do it. If I compliment a friend on the nice color she’s wearing, her smile back at me is a positive. Simple things like that.”

(3) “It’s important to have something to contribute,” Warren continued without prompting. He told me how he tries to have a positive input in peoples’ lives, especially those that can’t pay him back. “These things can be done anonymously or in the background since you’re not doing it for thanks or recognition.”

Then he told me that he reads his wife’s journal entry for that calendar date every day as part of his morning devotional. Irene kept a journal for the 50 years they were married and he has enjoyed walking down memory lane with her since she’s been gone. However, it does bring up some regrets…”I could have been better husband…a better father….”

“I don’t think Irene wanted you to be anything other than what you were,” I offered, remembering how she adored him openly.

“Yes,” he replied, “I keep one special Valentine’s Card she gave me where she wrote how very much she loved and appreciated me. I read that quite often.”

(4) “Staying positive also means you have to deal with your regrets!” Warren said, still unaware I had jotted a #4 and was scrawling on my grocery list pad. “I have talked to my kids about it and they have reassured me that neither of us was perfect!” We both laughed. “You have to live in the present moment, not the past,” he said.

(5) “I think its important to have a community of carers around you,” Warren added. He mentioned that his neighbours watch out for him. If his window blinds stay closed he gets a call to see if he’s okay.

(6) “You realize at this age, that life could end any day!” Warren said with another laugh. “So you’re grateful for every new day.”

I was no longer prompting him, just note taking as he mused.

(7) “You have to do something every day. In the summer I play sports six days a week…volleyball, pickle ball, tennis, slo pitch…I’m in the best shape of my life!”

(8) “Oh yeah,” Warren added with a chuckle, “I try to avoid the grumpy old men.” He explained after I asked that he doesn’t like to spend much time with negative complainers other than to try to brighten their day with a kind word or deed.

(9) “And I don’t have a cell phone,” Warren declared. After further talking I discovered that his main reason was because he did not want or need a connection with a world full of bad news. “In some cases, ignorance is bliss,” he said, “as long as I have my ball glove or racquet, I’m okay!”

(10) After telling me about his plan to go through a lifetime of photos and albums and reduce it to one album for each of his children, he said ” Having projects is probably good for the mind and the body. It keeps you thinking and moving.”

(11) “I appreciate the negatives as much or more than the positives.” This jolted me and I had to ask why. “Because you learn more about yourself and you grow as a person through hard times and suffering. They make a greater impact on me spiritually and mentally.”

(12) He was quick to add, “But I don’t think about the negatives before going to bed!” This needed no explaining. If you want a good night’s sleep it helps to be at peace in your mind.

(13) The last thing Warren said gave me hope. As a relatively young senior I have sometimes wondered if I’m done, washed up, out of sync, unneeded…. But to hear a man in his 80’s roundly declare “There are still things to learn at this stage of life! And you will keep on learning until the end of your life…if you want to learn.”

Thanks Warren.



Posted in focus on faith, need a laugh?

Ready or not: what childbirth teaches about life

When I was expecting my first baby, the doctor wanted to find out if I was ready so he asked me what I thought about natural childbirth. I didn’t know what he meant. I mean, wasn’t childbirth natural? What was unnatural childbirth–a big slimy alien bursting out of your chest?

He suggested I research the Lamaze Method and come back in a month.

This baby has just been born, she is brand new just minutes old. She looks like she jsut stepped out of heaven.
This baby has just been born, she is brand new just minutes old. She looks like she jsut stepped out of heaven.

My mother had delivered eight babies. Did I ask her advice? Absolutely not! I had been to college! And I had a library card–the Internet of yore.

I read the Lamaze book in one sitting: piece of cake! I can do this on the kitchen table, mop up and have the girlfriends for brunch.

At the second prenatal visit I told Doc I was ready and I would not be needing any pharmaceutical intervention. At all. Keep the tylenol in the cupboard; I will do this the natural way.

He was delighted.

He asked me if I wanted Gerry in the delivery room. My friend Laura had said: If he’s there to put in the order…he ought to be there to pick up the package.

Yes I do, I said.

In order for Gerry to get clearance he had to view the film, Having Our Baby. Medical professionals used this as a filter for queasy dads; if you survived the film, you were in.

I wasn’t too sure about Gerry–oldest of five boys. No sisters. I decided to go along in case he needed a hand to hold. Two weeks before our due date, we arrived matinee ready with two little sacs of homemade popcorn.

By this time I was large and uncomfortable, needing help to rise from low couches. I lumbered in and we sat on the two straight-backed wooden chairs in a room smaller than most kitchens. The screen wobbled on its flimsy tripod; we had front row seats.

The lights were doused and the reel began to chatter and whirl. Larger-than-life characters were right in our face. I opened my popcorn and began to nibble, smugly wondering how Gerry would react when things got dicey.

I peeked sideways. Gerry was also nibbling, showing no signs of discomfort. Yet. I’d better keep my eye on him.

The film’s star was obviously a Swede – buxom, blonde, cheerful and uninhibited. She arrived at the hospital with her little suitcase in one hand, her little husband in the other. Every few hours, we would revisit the Swede to see how she was progressing. Thanks to film editing, this only took minutes, giving the impression that labor is a quick, painless affair.

Hah! Just like the book, I thought, and I stole another glance at Gerry. Nibbling. Calm.

The Swede purred: I have to puuush. She began to pant. They moved the Swede from her bed to a cart and rolled into the delivery room. They transferred her onto the delivery table and suddenly it looked like the Swede was going horseback riding! (There were no stirrups in the natural childbirth book)

As soon as the Swede was in the stirrups, the camera zoomed in on the action. I had never seen so much…action! I couldn’t swallow my popcorn; I felt hot and dizzy.

I looked at Gerry. He seemed nervous, like he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be looking at her…action.

He fidgeted. He peeked. He ducked. He nibbled popcorn. He peeked again, looked my way, shrugged and gave me a wan smile.

The Swede began to push. I felt queasier. Suddenly, without any warning whatsoever, the doctor asked the nurse for a needle. There were definitely NO needles in the Lamaze book! A close up shot revealed a device the size of a javelin. He plunged it in deep.

I gasped. The doctor asked for scissors.


He made the judicious cut the Lamaze book failed to mention.

The lights went out all over the world.

Gerry caught me before I rolled off my chair. Popcorn scattered. “Nurse, help! Connie fainted.”

And the nurse said (I am not kidding): “Put her head between her knees.

At 38 weeks, I was great with child. He tried anyway.

When I came out of my swoon I wanted to talk to my mother. I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was.

This true story illustrates the danger of a little knowledge. It is so easy to read one book, watch one doc, view one DIY YouTube, take one class, talk to one self-proclaimed expert and prematurely assume you are ready.

Chances are, you’re not ready. I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was to have that baby. But guess what? Two weeks later, the baby came anyway!

Life has a way of doing that–of moving forward, ready or not. The inevitable truth is that none of us lives forever, on this earth. I am in the decade neither of my parents completed. They died at 66 and 69 and I am 61.

I don’t know what tomorrow brings but I do know that whether I survive this decade or not I am assured of rent-free accommodation with Jesus when I shuffle off this mortal coil. That fact was settled November 19, 1973 when I said no to being my own god and Yes to Jesus as God. I accepted His forgiveness, thanked Him for paying my debt, and stepped in to my eternal future, ready or not.

But I didn’t stop there. Walking by faith is a lifelong learning process.

My 43-year-old faith has raced ahead, stumbled and fallen, gotten trampled and lost in the dessert, evolved and simplified, deepened and matured and I’m still learning.

Are you ready?

Start with the gospel of John. But don’t stop there, remember, a little knowledge can be dangerous. Continue reading all the gospels, then read the letters of Peter, Paul, James and John. Join a Bible study group (virtual or real), make friends with other believers, get involved in a church and establish some spiritual momentum because…

…ready or not….





Posted in focus on faith

Life Lessons from the Pit — Pastor Bob’s burnout and where he is now

IN answer to a request from a reader, I am republishing the original article about burnout referenced in another blog.

Bob teaches seminars on burnout and stress. Watch Part I and Part II on

If you want to know how Bob is doing today, details are at the bottom.

LIFE LESSONS FROM THE PIT (original article)burnout-244380__180

Perched on a stool because he was too weak to stand, Pastor Bob Shelton told his congregation, “I can’t go on for one more day.”

“We were stunned,” said Bonnie Carlson, a member of Garden Park Baptist Church, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Shelton truly believed he would never preach another message; he thought his best sermons were behind him. Only his wife, Debbie, and a few close friends had known that Shelton was exhausted. He hid it from everyone else who marveled at his stamina. In the preceding weeks he had been so worn out after preaching on Sunday that his wife had to help him to the car. Once home, he would crumple on the couch.

The shock registering on the faces in the packed auditorium was evidence that Shelton had been successful at hiding his gradual burnout, which had begun several months before, accelerating in recent weeks.

Two years earlier Shelton celebrated his ten-year anniversary at the church he had planted and nurtured. It took sheer determination and hard work.

After completing his seminary training in Fort Worth, Texas, the Shelton family moved to Winnipeg in the bone-chilling month of February, 1984. Shelton committed to stay for at least 10 years – anything less wouldn’t be a true test of what God could do through his life, he said. During those years he invested his total energy in winning the lost and building a congregation of committed Christians.

After passing the 10-year mark, Shelton began to lose a little steam. It was nothing he could put his finger on, just a feeling of not being quite sure where he and the church were heading.

He was restless and uneasy but didn’t sense God leading him elsewhere. When asked to consider planting another church, this time in Toronto, the largest city in Canada, Shelton sighed and said, “I don’t think I have another church plant in me.”

For the first time in his ministry Shelton was unsure of his goals.

Bob Shelton is a born leader. The oldest in the family, he has always been a self-starter, motivated to do the best he could in every situation. Making friends is a way of life, an everyday occurrence. Shelton makes a point of learning the names of servers in restaurants — and remembering them. His sincerity and loyalty ensure that he maintains the relationships he forms.

As a church planter, he is a natural.

In addition to his hectic responsibilities as a pastor, Bob coached minor league baseball for 10 years. “I love baseball and I love to teach kids baseball,” says Shelton. “It was also a great way to build relationships in the community.” Shelton served as a trustee for six years during the establishment phase of the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta, and was twice elected president of the Canadian Southern Baptist Convention, a one-year commitment.

Young pastors looked to Shelton as a model. Despite his encouraging words to younger pastors, Shelton’s malaise continued, unchecked, unexplained and with increasing intensity. In the weeks leading up to that fateful Sunday “on the stool” Bob spent more and more time sprawled in an exhausted stupor on the couch, isolating himself from his parishioners, friends and even his four children. Debbie was the one person he never shut out of his life.

Seeing their pastor’s true condition for the first time, the members of Garden Park Baptist responded swiftly. They offered him a six-month paid sabbatical, hoping he would recover and return.

Bob went to his doctor. He needed answers. Why had he gained so much weight in the last two years? Why was he so tired all the time? He was shocked by the diagnosis: clinical depression. Treatment? Complete rest, counseling, and lifestyle changes.

“For the first two months, I had no energy at all. I was like a zombie,” Shelton said. “I couldn’t read, couldn’t pray, couldn’t think.” All he wanted to do was sleep.

People from the church kept calling, bringing over pies – “They wanted to fix me,” said Shelton. Finally he had to ask them to just leave him alone for a time.

Bob credits his wife with getting him through those early days. “Debbie never panicked, never pushed, always trusted that we’d get through this,” Shelton said.

His kids, who ranged in age from nine to 19, taught him to laugh again as he spent uninterrupted time with them playing games and relaxing in a stress-free environment. Shelton’s oldest daughter helped him take himself less seriously by occasionally asking if he was still psycho.

Shelton’s strength slowly returned. He began a mild exercise program that has grown into a regular routine of jogging and step-aerobics. He said “adios” to Nachos at midnight and went on a low-fat regimen.

Three months after his sabbatical started, Bob and Debbie Shelton spent two weeks at Marble Retreat Center near Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

They enrolled in a program designed and taught by Dr. Louis McBurney, for pastors in crisis. Therapy consisted of group sharing, individual counseling, and plenty of time for walking, talking and praying. During one of the group sessions, Shelton shared his story. A fellow struggler commented that Bob reminded him of the “older brother” in the Biblical story of the prodigal son.

That hurt. The truth often does.

Shelton admits that he has always been ultra-responsible, “If the nursery worker didn’t show up, I felt responsible to find a replacement. If the toilets were clogged, I took care of it.”

As he dealt with this revelation and others, Shelton felt a renewal of his emotional vitality. He and Debbie grew even closer.

The final phase of recovery took place during a trip to Israel — a gift from an unexpected source — in the last weeks of Bob’s sabbatical.

Finally able to read again, Bob immersed himself in the New Testament book of Hebrews while in the Holy Land. His passion for God’s Word was rekindled as he learned for the first time what it truly meant to enter God’s rest.

A 40-pound thinner Bob Shelton cautiously resumed some pastoral responsibilities at Garden Park Baptist after his six-month rest, still unsure if he could handle the pressures of ministry. But he was soon eager to share his experiences with his church — many of whom still didn’t understand what had happened to their pastor.

He preached a series of messages entitled “Life Lessons From the Pit” in which he described his burnout and subsequent recovery as a story of the healing grace of God.

“I am discovering that being driven in itself isn’t unhealthy or ungodly,” Shelton said. “Balance is the key.”

When Shelton took responsibility for everything that happened in the church, he was “out of balance,” he said. This hindered his church from being able to develop their gifts in ministry, he added.

“I need to build leadership,” says Shelton. “I did too many things on my own as a church planter.” Shelton is currently offering a Leadership Seminar at Garden Park in order to help his church be more effective in ministry.

“Our church now has clear direction,” affirms Shelton. “We are focusing on a four-fold purpose statement which deals with worship, instruction, fellowship and evangelism.”

“We are seeing people come to Christ and Christians ‘grow up’ in their walk with the Lord,” Shelton enthuses. He goes on to talk excitedly about Garden Park’s hope to start a Filipino congregation in 1997.

“Another goal is to reach seating capacity in our two existing Sunday morning worship services, and add a third gathering on Saturday night,” says Shelton.

Shelton says he now prioritizes his personal values as follows: first – God; second – family; third — church. For years he had lived this out in reverse.

“I believe God wanted to purify and strengthen my character, “ Shelton said. “My great desire now is to live consistently with what I say I value.” (article ends here)

That was Bob’s story 18 years ago.

In 1998 he left the pastorate and joined the national organization his church was affiliated with. He had many roles, his main responsibility being leadership. After 15 years, instead of coasting to retirement, Bob made another fresh start and went to work for an international organization. His job is to help start new congregations in Calgary and Edmonton as well as find established churches to partner with the new works.

Today, Bob says his life mission is to help my family and other leaders enjoy the journey with Jesus, stay the course, and finish well.

I asked Bob if he ever had another burnout. “Almost,” he readily admits. In 2012, he could see the signs that he was dancing too close to the edge of the pit and he was able to take a six-month sabbatical and nip it in the bud.

“I guess I’m a lifelong learner,” Bob says with a laugh, “and a recovering workaholic.” Bob says it is a matter of daily practices and constant self-checks to stay out of the burnout pit.