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Canaries and Our Integrity

Posted on March 1st, 2013

Early coal miners didn’t have the special equipment miners have today to measure carbon dioxide in the air, so it was impossible to tell if the gases were building up to dangerous levels.  Miners started to use canaries (they were highly sensitive to gas in the air) to test the air quality in the mines. The canaries would chirp and sing all day long. But, if the carbon monoxide levels got too high, and the canaries were no longer singing, miners would know that the gas levels were too high. Soon the canaries would have trouble breathing, swoon, and then die.  Miners, who had gone into the mines looking for gold, would leave the mine quickly avoid being caught in an explosion. Many of us leaders want the gold of great fruit out of our leadership. Yet if we are not sensitive to the carbon monoxide, i.e., the integrity gaps in ourselves, our churches, and organizations, we eventually find ourselves stuck or dying. Integrity demands follow through. When we smell the poisonous gas of a spin, illusion, pretend and cover up, God invites us to ask questions and probe further. This costs time, energy and money. And we already have too much to do. Few Christian organizations or churches actually take this kind of time for prayerful listening to our breaches of integrity. We fail to see the way forward is to slow down, learn God’s lessons, and adjust the “strategic plan.” Listening to the canaries is very uncomfortable and painful. But if we don’t listen and watch, God’s gold will remain forever out of our reach.

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