Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Easter images: Casting shadows

Thirty pieces of silver
Cornelia Parker

Living intentionally: ... edging closer?

... or adding more stuff to sift later?
It’s not worth getting out of bed unless you are determined to alter some small corner of the world.
 Tom Peters

Thoughts like this do help me get up in the morning - even when we’re in the middle of a blizzard at the end of March!!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Living Intentionally: towards a definition?

I came across this quotation yesterday:
Your capacity to change yourself, change others, and even change the world, may boil down to how well you know your brain, and your capacity to consciously intervene in otherwise automatic processes.
Dr David Rock
Your Brain at Work

The last section about ‘consciously intervening in otherwise automatic processes’ seems to go a long way to defining what I mean by living intentionally. To live intentionally is to be aware of what you’re doing; how you’re using your time and other resources; not drifting un-thinkingly into auto-pilot. It doesn’t necessarily mean that processes can’t be automated, but we need to be clear about our purpose, productivity and effectiveness in what we do and how we do it.

Intriguingly, Rock’s research indicates that ‘improving cognitive control’ happens when we slow down and allow the brain to idle. This seems counter-intuitive within the context of intentionality, but maybe it’s exactly what we/I need to develop to allow the thought processes to develop more naturally.

Now I need to slow down and let this permeate my rock-like brain (pun intended!).

Monday, 29 March 2010

Challenging assumptions...

... or seeing what’s there.

Last week we did a wee session with Bible Class on ‘How to study the Bible’. One of the main points that I tried to convey was about seeing what’s there - looking carefully at the text and engaging with it in a fresh, imaginative way. I wish I’d said something about challenging assumptions and the danger of familiarity - maybe next time?

Anyway, my thoughts turned to this again in church yesterday. The minister was talking about ‘Palm Sunday’ and drew a comparison with the biblical nativity narratives. I started thinking along these lines (not in the way that he intended!). My thought process was about how overly-familiar we are with these passages, to the point that we fail to see clearly what’s there.

For example, palms are only mentioned in John’s gospel. I wonder ‘why?’. What point was John trying to make that didn’t merit the inclusion of horticultural detail from any of the synoptic authors?

But the biggest issue for me is the emphasis that the churches I’ve attended have tended to put on the Triumphal Entry as the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy. In over 40 years of attending churches, I’ve heard this theme on a recurring basis. I don’t recall (although I’m open to correction on this) hearing the emphasis being placed on Jesus’ declaration in this episode. We can argue the toss around why some OT prophecies about the Messiah are apparently fulfilled in the record of the life of Jesus, but it seems to me to be beyond dispute that Jesus would have been acutely aware of the significance of his mode of transport and the shock waves that would be sent forth as a result. This was a radical, challenging, decision-forcing declaration - and I think that we too easily miss the power and energy of it.

I’d love to hear your views (probably!).

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Living Intentionally: Eat a live frog every morning!

... or the value of daily planning.

One of the ways that drift happens to me is my failure to plan - in advance - what I’m going to do.  If I start the day without a plan, the drift is inevitable.  In fact, if the plan is not written down and prioritised, then things are likely to be pear-shaped.

I know that this isn’t rocket-science, nor is it in the realms of original thought.  But these things don’t make it any less real for me.  I find that this happens at home as well as at work.

I was reassured to find that this was one of Michael Hyatt’s “10 Reasons you aren’t done yet”.  The idea can also be found in Gina Trapani’s Work Smart article (or you can watch the video below).  I was amused by the Mark Twain quotation that she mentions:

Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.
— Mark Twain

Monday, 22 March 2010

The opposite of intentionality

Drift – it’s a word that sums up a whole family of unpleasant human experiences. Going gently, slowly where we don’t particularly want to go. Suddenly realising that we’re way off course and the place that we’re heading for is rapidly becoming unobtainable.
Paul Mitchell
Radio Scotland: Thought for the Day
02 December 2009
Drift - what happens to my blogging all too frequently.

Drift - where I’ve been recently.

Drift - where I don’t want to be anymore.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Living Intentionally

I’ve just finished reading Donald Miller’s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”. It was a wee bit of a ‘slow burner’ - that is, I nearly gave up on it. But I’m glad that I didn’t for three reasons.

Firstly, I enjoyed the book - it really picked up after the first third (or thereabouts).

Secondly, Miller promotes an approach to life which he describes as:
a life designed and lived with intention.
In my mind, I’ve translated that to ‘living intentionally’. The recent entries in my journal are littered with this phrase, as I realise that I’ve lost my focus on priorities (see yesterday’s entry). I’m sure that it’s a phrase I’ll use liberally in the next few days/ weeks as I seek to rebalance my life.

Thirdly, he describes very poignantly the death of a friend's wife, which he labels as ‘The Beauty of a Tragedy’. This part of the story was written beautifully and with great sensitivity... but more than that, it seemed to echo what my boss (and friend) was going through as his wife succumbed to cancer. Her funeral was today, and there was beauty in their tragedy - the obvious love shared within the family; the support of many friends; the strength of my boss and the girls. Their pain was self-evident today, but it was outshone by their love and their strength.

My thoughts and prayers and admiration are with my friend and his family tonight - may they continue to care for each other, as their pain slowly heals.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Stop! In the name of love

I’ve had this song in my head for a large chunk of today… since I read this blog entry from Michael Hyatt.
The connection?
Michael Hyatt’s entry describes how I’ve been feeling for a few weeks now – amongst other indicators is the sporadic nature of entries here. As I was reading his thoughts, and diagnosis, I came to the conclusion that the only sensible, possibly the only viable, option for me is to stop, take stock and regain a sense of control and composure; to think through my priorities; and to recover my daily disciplines.
In essence I need to step back to go forward. I need to do it for myself and for those that I love – hence the song title bobbing around in my head.
And if you haven’t given up reading already, you get the bonus of reaching the bit where a video of The Supremes singing the song is embedded.
If you have given up already (aye, I know it disnae make sense!), maybe you should check out Seth Godin’s offering for today.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

A great day to be in Ayrshire

Friday, 5 March 2010

On blogging

No single thing in the last 15 years professionally has been more important to my life than blogging. It has changed my life; it has changed my perspective; it has changed my intellectual outlook; it has changed my emotional outlook... and it’s free!
- Tom Peters

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The golden "golden goal"

You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.

So the Winter Olympics are over. It took me a wee while to get into them this time around, but I was captivated by the middle of the last week. Vancouver seems to have put on a great show.

Of course the pinnacle was Sunday night’s hockey final (with insincere apologies to any American readers). It was a fantastic match, with USA equalising with only 24.4 seconds left. Canada came back in overtime, to score the sudden death winner.

So Canada end up with more gold medals than any other nation at these Olympics. In fact they won more gold medals than any nation has ever won at a Winter Olympics.

Inevitably I think that there are a few things that we can learn from the match.

❑        Firstly, the Canadian victory was a real team effort. The superstar of Canadian hockey - Sidney Crosby - didn’t shine brightly on the night, or indeed throughout the tournament. For me Rick Nash was the man of the match. But the point is that the superstars on your team can’t win it alone. (I should note that Crosby scored the winning goal - almost inevitably!)
❑        Secondly, I love the drama of pulling the goal-tender with 90 seconds to go. It’s a lesson in concentrating resources where they are most needed. Aye, it is risky, but it also carries the hope of reward - which did materialise in this case.
❑        Thirdly, I admire the tenacity of the Americans. They pushed right to the end, never giving up hope.
❑        Finally, I was hugely impressed by the resilience of the Canadians. To come back out after the bitter blow of the late equaliser required courage and composure. We can all learn to bounceback from setbacks. If you don’t try, you won’t succeed - hence the quotation from “The Great One” at the start of this entry.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Chores - the sequel

That Hideous Man recommended an article by Tim Chester about washing up. While I don’t agree with his rant about dishwashers, there’s a whole lot of truth in what he says. It reminded me of Brother Lawrence (The Practice of the Presence of God) and his continual awareness of God’s presence as he worked in the monastery kitchen.

Our vegetable garden is laid out monastery style - the paths between the beds are just the right width for kneeling, so that you can multi-task while weeding.

The key is always our attitude, not the task.