Friday, 29 June 2007

The automobile university

“The well-educated person of today is adequately prepared for a future that no longer exists. It’s only those who keep learning that will be able to survive and thrive in the changing world of today.”
Zig Zigler

I heard this while driving to a work meeting yesterday. Zigler went on to talk about the automobile university. This got me thinking – how do we fill the time when we’re travelling, especially during the daily commute to and from work. I spend about two hours a day doing this. The journey rarely feels like a chore. Living in Perthshire, Scotland the fantastic, ever-changing scenery can be very stimulating.

Over the years I’ve used the journey to over-indulge in radio news, listen to music, brush up on my French. Of late, I’ve been captivated by podcasts – sermons, theological discussion, management stuff.

I’ve been astonished by the volume and range of material that’s available, and have had to learn to be very selective! The trouble nowadays is remembering to tune into the news occasionally.

What’s the point of all of this? (Does there have to be one?) As well as my recurring theme of relentless learning, the point is that in an information rich age, we need to learn to be discerning, to sift the dross and to spend time digesting and reflecting on the good stuff.

As Paul said:

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Romans 12:2

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

... and it's over to you Gordon

"Now is the time"
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today we have a new Prime Minister. What should we expect? Lots of humility and sincerity, and talk of talent and co-operation - for a while anyway.

After the last disappointment I'm not terribly optimistic (remember "Things can only get better"?) But we'll give the new boy a chance.

I was heartened to read in the FT (online version), on the day he was elected leader of the Labour Party:

Mr Brown said he wanted to align “aid, debt relief and trade policies to wage an unremitting battle against poverty”. Close allies said this meant there would be far more co-ordination of trade policy across government to raise the profile of the issue.

Well, we'll be watching to see if you live up to it Gordon. Please don't disappoint us. As you said yourself:
"And now let the work of change begin."

Monday, 25 June 2007

Specks of sawdust

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
Mother Teresa

I had quite a few ideas for this posting – until I heard a fantastic sermon on sexuality. Karl Martin of Morningside Baptist Church admitted that it is one of the hardest sermons that he has ever delivered. His handling of the subject was sensitive and insightful - I congratulate him. If only other ministers could approach such awkward subjects with the same degree of diligence.

As a Christian I believe that we have to grapple with subjects that we’d probably rather not deal with. Or rather, we’d rather not deal with the complexity that lies behind them. We seem to be quite happy to trot out glib, judgmental sound bites – which usually make us seem harsh and uncaring. But it’s not exactly following the example of Jesus, is it?

We must be capable of explaining the rationale for our positions, recognising that we are frail and sinful beings ourselves, and this brings me to the crux of the matter – integrity. If we are to connect with people, and influence their behaviour, we must behave with integrity. First we need to understand people not judge them, we need to love and not shun. We need to model our words and behaviour on those of Jesus.

Sadly we seldom do so – we prefer to judge from afar, and even worse – we are vocal in our condemnation of certain sins. These are usually sexual in nature, and in evangelical churches homosexuality is a big favourite. (What would Freud think!) I don’t remember hearing too many sermons denouncing Internet porn, or domestic abuse/neglect, or even theft/ tax fiddling.

Finally, I was astonished to find that some of the conservative evangelicals in the US have criticised some of their fellow evangelicals, because they have raised the issue of global warming. The reason for the criticism is apparently that it will distract from their focus on gay rights and abortion!

I will close now before this turns into a complete rant.

“Understanding a person does not mean condoning; it only means that one does not accuse him as if one were God or a judge placed above him.”
Erich Fromm

Saturday, 23 June 2007

No milk, no sugar, plenty of black!

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
Mahatma Gandhi

I love coffee. There I’ve confessed, it’s out in the open. I’ve loved it for all of my adult life. Not instant, freeze-dried powdered stuff, but the full on flavoursome, aromatic, no holding back stuff.

Just because I love it doesn’t mean that I over-indulge (any more). A couple of years ago I realised that my health was much better after I straightened out some of my habits – getting regular exercise, eating regularly (no more than 4 hours between food), drinking plenty of water AND reducing my coffee intake. Nowadays it’s about 3 cups a day, with no coffee after lunch.

However, the point of this posting is to consider the issues relating to fair trade. I’m not a militant anti-capitalist who thinks that Starbucks is the spawn of the devil. Remember I like good coffee (although personally I prefer Costa to Starbucks). For a long time, I’ve only bought fairly traded coffee.

“In America, the Moral Majority’s leaders and politicians tend to focus on single issues such as abortion and gay rights, but the Bible places greater emphasis on justice for all – focussing on poverty, the call to be peacemakers, to be truthful, to confront the bad in ourselves as well as in our enemies.”
Brian Draper, LICC

Is buying fair trade enough? Or is it, in fact, just a way of salving my middle-class conscience?

I hope that my own position is a bit more advanced than that. The fair trade approach is one way to remind myself of the big picture about poverty and exploitation. It’s also allows me to raise the topic at work - by abstaining from the non-fairly traded (and vile) coffee that they serve.

But more fundamentally it’s part of my desire to see social justice in all areas where I can have influence. Yes, I can and do support overseas development charities, I do support the objectives of ‘Make Poverty History’ and I write to my elected representatives to prompt them into action, and I’m passionate about social justice in Scotland.

I’m still left with the question – “Is it enough?” And I hope that I always will be left with that question – unless we manage to eradicate poverty and injustice everywhere during my lifetime.

One more thought – what kind of coffee do they serve at your work, church and home?
And finally,check out the trailer for the new movie "Black Gold".

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

The Bible as blog?

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few people engage in it.”
- Henry Ford

I was listening to a sermon while driving to work today (podcast from St Michael le Belfry’s in York). Anyway, the details don’t particularly matter, but it occurred to me that there are aspects of the Bible that have similar features to blogging.

For example:-
¨ There are every day stories of every day people – e.g. Ruth, Esther.
¨ There is poetry and philosophical musings – Psalms, Proverbs
¨ There are thought provoking developments of previously accepted norms and wisdom – the gospels, e.g. the Sermon on the Mount.

But what resonated most with me were the reflective aspects of Paul’s writings. In Romans chapter 6, he expounds the transformation that has come about through the work of Christ – “You have been set free from sin …" (verse 18). Yet in chapter 7, as he reflects on his – and our – ongoing sin, he concludes: “So then, I myself am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” (verse 25b)

Maybe I’m wide of the mark on this, but any thoughts, comments or better examples would be welcomed.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Incurable learners

"The best leaders I know are incurable learners."
-Bill Hybels

I came across this thought recently, as I entered the world of podcasts (more of that in another posting). It reminded me of some stuff that I read shortly after I started my quill and papyrus journal. I had just started a postgraduate diploma looking at public service leadership,and was looking at a variety of material around reflection and growth, and found this:

“… leaders must be learners. Not occasional, part time learners but determined and relentless learners.”
- Andrew Price

But learning in a complex world with masses of information available is not straightforward. we need to be able to sift to get rid of the inconsequential garbage and reflect on the more significant stuff that remains. Reflection involves a variety of activities - again scope for future postings - including making connections and seeing things BIG. I think that these issues apply in many (all?) settings that we find ourselves in. There's lots more to flow from this.

In the meantime any thoughts would be appreciated - if there's anyone out there in cyberspace.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

To blog or not to blog?

I've been prompted by my teenage daughter to start a blog- because it's cool! Well you can be the judge of whether it's cool or not.

I have been keeping a reflective journal for the last 2 years, so I figured that I could give this a go instead.

Arthur C Clarke said:

"Cave dwellers froze to death on beds of coal. It was all around them, but they could not see it or use it. Today, we are in danger of making the same mistakes."

Well, this foray into the world of Web2.0 is my effort at avoiding freezing to death on a bed of coal.

If our children and the succeeding generations are using this technology, I feel that it's incumbent on me - and those of my era - to at least try to learn and join in. However, I'm not going to recycle my paper journal just yet!