Thursday, 30 August 2007

That's very nearly an armful!

I gave blood today and couldn't stop thinking about Tony Hancock's "The Blood Donor" (you can find it in three parts on YouTube).

Skived off work early after a meeting finished early. My giving has been a bit erratic over the years. In one place that I worked we were able to give on site. This fostered a sense of community spirit and also made it easier to give regularly. When I left there, I got out of the habit - primarily due to laziness. Back on track now.

It's painless and there's the lure of Tunnock's tea cakes afterwards!

Enjoy the Hancock, and think about giving if you don't already do so.

" something for the benefit of the country as a whole ... become a blood donor or join the Young Conservatives?"

No brainer really!!

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Love and preparation

Over on his blog, Mark Sanborn quotes Joel Weldon:

“You prepare for what you love.”

I was thinking about this as I prepared for a meeting today - I was on the train travelling to the venue as I was reading the material. Just another routine meeting among dozens in every month. No fuss, minimum preparation - go in, hope there are no difficult questions, go home, file the papers... ready for the next meeting. As it happens, this isn't a meeting that would fall into the category of 'loved'.

Anyway, I think that I want to modify the quotation from Weldon.
For me, it's more a case of degrees of preparedness:

  • We willingly and eagerly prepare for what we truly love;
  • We reluctantly prepare for what we deem to be necessary;
  • We 'wing it' for what we consider to be without value, but inescapable.

There may be other degrees - but I think that it's about recognising our attitude towards something - meeting, presentation, Bible Study, family celebration - by the way that we approach it. In my emerging thoughts about developing daily discipline (DDD), it's also about what we do after the event - do we review it, do we follow up actions, do we reflect and learn?

And also, is our preparation attitude reflected in the way we behave within a situation?

So what does this say to me about last night's church meeting? Hmmm... reflection needed!

Monday, 27 August 2007

Too much church?? #2

Since my last entry on this matter, I've been mulling it over.

As a complete aside - I was once at a seminar where the speaker described meditating as being like a cow chewing the cud. I like that! And having adopted it my brain is frequently full of half-masticated cud.

So what is it about church? Well, I think that we have a tendency to fall into habits that we struggle to break (usually an unspoken form of 'tradition'). This then presents itself in the following way:

  • What did we do last?
  • That went well.
  • Yes - let's do more of the same.
  • OK

Granted the thought process is never as strucutred as this, but if we are honest - when did your church last do something totally different? Just as an example, have a look at the nonprofitprophet's idea about guilt free Sundays. Could that ever happen in your church?

As ever, I have an opinion on this - and in a large part, we are unduly restricted by our history/traditions and the type of leadership that emerges as a result. I came across a quotation from a book called "After the Church: Divine Encounter in a Sexual Age by Claire Henderson Davis (I haven't read it yet, but the title makes it irresistible!). Anyway, she says:

"While the west has shifted to democracy, Christian churches still tolerate parent-childlike structures... in order to mature we must reconnect. Not to embrace the Christian cult, but to know where we are in the plot, to take the story forward."

So how do we go about this? Well, that's something that we need to wrestle with and debate - openly, robustly, honestly and lovingly. That Hideous Man has some thoughts on aspects of this - and my limited addition to his current posting is that maybe we need to have more arrows, but of different sizes - representing different emphasis. I suggest that a model worth exploring might be to include the "offering praise and worship" arrow in Marshall's view.

But how we get there is another matter - even if it's where we want to go.

I will be posting an entry on constructive dissent in the next few days - maybe that will have some impact on my thinking in this area - more cud to chew!

Friday, 24 August 2007

why?... why?... why?...

I came across a phrase today that stuck in my mind. Brian Draper of LICC talked of being "stubbornly curious". I like that!

It reminded me of one of the next phases for my friends' toddler - the why? phase. Of course as parents we soon learn how to deal with that in Homer-esque fashion - sighing, pretending not to hear, then turning on the telly...

But the real reason for that phrase sticking with me is that I've been thinking about leadership over the past couple of days - and also the past couple of years as I was undertaking a post-grad diploma. I've discovered that the theme for this year's Baptist Assembly in Scotland is "The way ahead - leading followers, following leaders". I'll be posting more about this in the days ahead, but my thought for today is that one of the characteristics of leadership should be stubborn curiosity. Always asking questions - to understand why things are the way they are; to promote discussion about where next; to force people to think through the hard issues; to challenge the status quo etc, etc.

More to follow.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Again, again, again ...

I've just walked home from a meeting at church - about 20 minutes at the end of a beautiful August day. As I was walking I was thinking about the visit from our link missionary friends last weekend. More particularly I was thinking about their three-year old son.

My memory isn't too great, so I've forgotten what it's like to have a 3-year old around. On Sunday, I was taking some photos, and he didn't like it much - until he realised that with a digital camera you can see the results instantly. After that it was a game - take photo, run to see image on camera screen, take photo, run ... eventually he was on the move before I'd pressed the button ... Endless amusement without any sign of fatigue - and I enjoyed playing with my new toy as well.

Ah, the innocence of youth (or toddlerhood).

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

The wonder of Wendy

So we are to have another leadership coronation in the Labour Party - a good excuse to be cynical? Well, probably - BUT I will resist the temptation.

(Of course, I reserve the right to revert to type at a later stage.)

I was intrigued by something that Wendy Alexander said on Friday when she announced that she was standing for the leadership. She said that the Scottish Labour Party needs to be:

"humble enough to listen, wise enough to engage and brave enough to renew"

OK - so it's a bit cheesy - but I like it. And it would be a good motto to live by - and we'll need to wait and see is she can live up to it. But with my cynicism paused I'll continue to try to apply the motto to all aspects of my life.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Too much church??

Surprisingly, this is not a rant about too many church services and meetings. It's more a half-baked thought (or conversation starter) - it's something that I want to think through a bit more.

I wonder if we/I spend too much time and energy 'doing' church rather than 'being' church. In part my thinking has been prompted by a visit from our church's link missionaries (more about them another time) and in part by reading the story of Jesus' rejection in his hometown.

Improving church organisation, etc is important, but so is building and being part of a loving, inclusive, incarnational community that is ready to be amazed by Jesus - week after week after week. I'm concerned that we've become so comfortable and complacent in the western church that we're settling for re-arranging the flowers rather than turning the world right side up.

I'll need to chew this over a bit.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

A reliable source of quiet power

As part of my summer 'catch up' reading, I stumbled across "One minute for yourself" by Spencer Johnson. I thought that I'd grown out of this kind of self-help book, but as the theme seemed to chime in with my lingering interest in the concept of Sabbath, and it was a short read, I gave it a go.

To be honest, I didn't enjoy the format - it was a bit too contrived for my taste. But I did find myself applying the simple message of taking one minute for myself at various times during the day to ask myself 'Is there a better way right now for me to take good care of Me?'. It seems to have helped this week, but the proof will be found over the long-term.

"So you are really saying that the better you manage your inner self, the more you enjoy all that life has to offer."

This seems so obvious, yet how many of us actually put it into practice each day?

Am I recommending this book - not really. There are other similar books on this topic that I'd like to explore first, bit if you've got a copy lying around it would be worth having a quick read through.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

BiSY bees

I've mentioned before that I write bible study material for a bunch of teenagers. During term they meet in our house after school every Thursday - we call it "Nurture Group". Aye, not too original - but it does what it says on the tin, and any time we've tried to change it the youngsters protest (maybe geeky is the new cool?). I should mention at this point that the study leaders are my wife and a couple of friends from our church. They are the real heroes in this endeavour.

Anyway, today was the first Thursday of the new school term and we had record numbers - 28! And at least a couple of the regulars missing. I'm stoondit - 28 kids coming to study the Bible (and eat food and have a laugh), then one of them asked if she can bring 4 friends from her church!

It's only a few years since we were wondering if we should keep the group going when the numers dropped to a handful. But since they were faithful in turning up each week - and growing as individuals - we decided to persevere.

There is hope!

So why BiSY bees as a title for this blog? Well, before I get into that I should explain that our planning for NG covers a six-year period. This coincides with the maximum duration of a secondary school career in Scotland - unless you're a teacher. It also means that my brain only has to cope with Revelation and Creation once every six years.

Right, BiSY is a new introduction this year - it stands for the Bible in Six Years. We've introduced an optional six year plan for reading the whole Bible. We'll see how it goes. By the way, if anyone knows of a six-year plan it would save me a bit of effort;-)

The thinking behind this is kind of inspired by Brodie's blog on "Deep Scripture". I've tried the Bible in a Year stuff - but it becomes a mind-numbing chore, with more effort going into 'ticking the boxes' than into reflection and learning. I've tried the Bible Study notes approach - they're a bit variable (that's a euphemism). So I figured that we would give them a different approach. Along the way we'll give them some tips, prompts, quizzes etc to make them think about what they're reading, but most of all we'll celebrate the fact that our house is too small for all of the kids who want to study the Bible in Perth.


Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Our knowledge stands in the way of our becoming wise - Part 1

I came across this today - just when I needed it!

"... be careful of distractions and the desire to do too many things at once. Above all things be faithful to the present moment, and you will receive all the grace you need."
Archbishop Francois Fenelon (1651-1715)

More on this another time.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Out of Office

I came across this today - some of these are real belters:

The out of office stuff amused me, and the phrase "mouse arrest" tickled my fancy.

But there are serious aspects as well.

In Sunday's Observer there was an article about the level of stress caused by e-mail. Apparently senior managers (not this one!) spend 4 hours per day managing e-mails.

We are in danger of becoming victims of our technological success. I remember Fred Macaulay on Radio Scotland saying that if e-mail and the telephone had been invented in reverse order, we would be raving about how great the phone was because yoiu can actually speak to people. Anyway, this sort of stuff has been written about loads of times before, so I'm not going to bang on about it.

I was intrigued by some of the stuff in the BBC article, about loss of inhibition and self-disclosure in e-mails, blogs etc. We seem to be wary (maybe it's a Scottish thing) about revealing our feelings and emotions - yet we are liberated by our keyboards.

I came across an Albert Schweitzer quotation:

"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit."
Maybe in our electronically connected, but socially isolated, world the inner fire can be rekindled by a virtual friend - or at least by electronic communication. Of course, it's a poor second best, but ... better than nothing.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Just like Tiger ... kinda

According to the BBC Sport website "Tiger Woods said the hours he dedicates to fitness training had paid off as he won his 13th major at the USPGA at Oklahoma's sweltering Southern Hills."

Well, I was sweating it out in the gym after work today - the air conditioning is broken!

But while I'm not (quite) a finely honed athlete like Tiger, I do realise the value of regular exercise. Of course, the hard part is committing to it AND following it through.

I have been struggling to get to the gym recently. I've packed my bag and put it in the car in the morning; I've left work early to go to the gym; I've completed my commute and I'm nearly there, but somehow the next thing I know, I'm reversing my car into the garage.

During a minute of quiet reflection today I realised why. At this point you have to promise not to laugh before you read on - OK?

There are 2 routes that I can take to get to the gym on my way home from work. One takes me past my house before I get to the gym; the other takes me past the gym before I get home. If I choose option 2, then I always end up at the gym. Option 1 is the road to hell - paved with good intentions but with no output!

Sometimes the most obvious things are obscured from our vision!

Finally, Accenture have got a fantastic series of adverts featuring Tiger Woods (I like clever adverts).

Sunday, 12 August 2007

mind your language

When I was a wee boy, we used to wear our "Sunday best" to go to church. These were clothes that would only be worn to go to church, or the occasional family wedding. Things are a lot more relaxed now in terms of sartorial elegance for church attendance. This is a good thing, as clothes are no longer a barrier to attending and people don't have to feel uncomfortable if they're not wearing a three-piece suit or a hat.

Why then do we seem to have a "Sunday best" language that is reserved for church? During the rest of the week do you ever say that someone is 'worthy' or talk about 'going through the waters of baptism'?

At work we used to play a game that we called 'bullshit bingo' (apologies to those of a sensitive nature) - you know, spotting the jargon and buzzwords in meetings. I'm tempted to patent a new game along similar lines for church.

I know that many people sincerely believe that they are treating God with due reverence, and I'm not simply knocking them. But do we really need to speak in Shakespearean English to show appropriate respect?

If we want to be inclusive, welcoming churches, let's use a vocabulary that people will understand - and when we have to use jargon make sure that we explain it clearly and coherently. Jesus spoke in Armaic.

Writing about Pentecost, Steve Chalke says:
"... God chooses to speak to us in our own language... He begins where we are."

Let's stop babbling (or should that be Babel-ing?) and start communicating

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Wet Saturday

The weather forecast said that the rain would clear by midday - it didn't. It's rained all day (more or less). So my plans for some intensive gardening have been completely thwarted - other than nipping out briefly to take some photos.

Well, sometimes you just have to live with these things. Slowing down today has definitely been good for me. After a tiring week it's been good to catch up with newspapers, watch more sport than is good for me ... I've also managed a couple of more constructive things - wrote a Bible study for the group of teenagers who meet here every week (I'm back to bad habits of 'just in time'), did a little exercise and cooked dinner (chicken and pasta recipe that I made up as I went along).

On the face of it, not very exciting, but I feel refreshed and positive. This ties in with thoughts about the real significance and benefit of having a weekly Sabbath - more of that in another post.

In fact, it's been a very positive day, which I didn't and couldn't have planned.

Monday, 6 August 2007

melting clouds

The other day, while having a rest from gardening, i was lying flat on the ground (stretching my aching and ageing back). As I looked up at the blue summer sky (hard to believe this year?), I noticed some wispy white clouds blowing past. As they drifted, they were slowly melting - until thay completely disintegrated.

I've got no idea about the science behind this - don't tell me, I won't understand it anyway! Thinking about it though, I realised that while I was amusing myself whimsically watching fluffy clouds melting, other people in the UK were coping with flooding. Then I realised that millions were affected by flooding in South Asia, while there is severe drought in Australia.

If we're all subject to the vagaries of the weather, what is my responsibility to those who are suffering - beyond any temporary aid relief?

Well, I've been thining about stuff to do with the transformation through the in-breaking of God's Kingdom (I'm just finishing Steve Chalke's 'Lost Message of Jesus' - a subkject for a future posting). We do need to move on from personal salvation to personal and community transformation. But I wonder if a more appropriate word for the change that is needed is regeneration. The idea being to revitalise that which has become tired, without jettisoning those aspects that are good.

I need to mull this over for a bit, but any contributions would be appreciated.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

How can a poor man stand such times ...?

While channel hopping (bad habit - hard to quit!) on Friday night, I came across the end of Bruce Springsteen live in Dublin 2007. I loved his version of When the Saints go Marching In and This Little Light of Mine - so on Saturday went out and bought DVD and CD version from a wee independent music shop in Perth.

By the way, how do high street chains expect to survive if they only sell music that's in the charts? They're not doing theselves any favours in my book! Anyway ...

One of the songs on Sprinsteen's live recording is "How can a poor man stand such times and live". On the same day, the headline soory in The Herald was "Debt figures reach record levels". Spot the connection?

It seems that for some 'poor' people (not necessarily poor in material terms), the answer is to borrow more. Why? Because our society increasingly seems to encourage material acquisition (like Springsteen CD's?). How have we managed to turn shopping in to a pastime? I've asked my teenage daughter - response was quizzical look, which meant that I was being weird again!

More importantly, what could the church do about this state of affairs (materialism and debt - not my daughter)? How can we be salt and light in the modern world?
We can be light by supporting those in debt - building relationships and using the skills that we have within our churches to support people - as Christians Against Poverty do.

But what about salt? How can we have a preserving influence? What behaviours can we model that will help? How do we tackle the needs of the apparently prosperous in our middle class, suburban world? I don't have answers. But I'm sure that for churches in the West, this is an important dimension of incarnational, transformational living - ideas on a postcard ...?

"Well, the doctor comes 'round here with his face all bright
And he says "in a little while you'll be alright"
All he gives is a humbug pill, a dose of dope and a great big bill
Tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?
He says "me and my old school pals had some might high times down here
And what happened to you poor black folks, well it just ain't fair"
He took a look around gave a little pep talk, said "I'm with you" then he took a little walk
Tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?"
- Blind Alfred Reed and Bruce Springsteen

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Older than me (just) ...

... and still true today!

As every generation has had to disenthrall itself from an inheritance of truisms and stereotypes, so in our own time we must move on from the reassuring repetition of stale phrases to a new, difficult, but essential confrontation with reality.
- John F Kennedy, June 1962

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Good words ...

"Tell me if I'm going crazy
But everything you said amazed me
It seems too easy on the ear to
Be something I should adhere to"

Warmer Climate – Snow Patrol

“And so my argument is simple: the greatest of evils that touches the deepest places of conscience demands the greatest of endeavour.

The greatest of challenges now demands the boldest of initiatives.

To address the worst of poverty we urgently need to summon up the best efforts of humanity.

I want to summon into existence the greatest coalition of conscience in pursuit of the greatest of causes.”

- Gordon Brown, speech to United Nations on 31 July 2007

To my surprise I found myself uplifted by Gordon Brown’s speech. A politician recalling promises made … remarkable. George Bush described Brown as being principled – so principled that in response he wasn’t drawn in to flattering Bush – interesting.

Of course the words need to be followed up by actions, but credit where it’s due.

The picture I’ve attached is by Kandinsky. It's called “Der rote Platz” (Red Square) and was painted in 1916, during one of his more optimistic moods – his aim was to present a joyful view of the future.

There is hope!