Friday 25 January 2013

On the journey

Getting the balance right between striving towards that higher goal, whilst recognising that we are far from it and have a job to do now in our current state and abilities is a difficult one. Coming towards the end of 2012, I felt that 2013 would be a year for action and I'm not wrong. I have spent the past few weeks reflecting on who I am and where I'm at. Then, this week, suddenly, it's time to put into action all that I know will help me and my team serve him better this year. Taking the lead from the Book of James (faith without deeds is dead), I'm saying that, not only do I trust God that I am supposed to be here and to do what I'm doing during this season, but I'm going to embrace it with my whole heart, even if it hurts. So, while I read a very interesting post from Paula Cummings' blog on her reflection on a time to stop/give up, for me, it's a time to plough on into the work that I've been tasked with doing. I now know my strengths (thanks Holger for your amazing training), which also means that I'm more acutely aware of my weaknesses, yet I have the opportunity to do something about that, rather than pretend that I am the "super boss" who can achieve anything and everything.

I'm challenging my team this week to be on the journey with me. Walk with me, partner with me to support my skills (my strengths) and support me in my weaknesses. Being on the journey, it's a time for boundaries, deadlines and specifics for now. The future, though I love to discuss possibilities of where we can be, can wait for tomorrow.

Friday 18 January 2013

Making life more meaningful

After discovering a person's name, what is the first thing that you ask them? "What do you do?", right? And when we ask that question, what we are really asking is: what are you paid to do? What do you complete during the hours of 9-5 Monday-Friday.

Which leads the conversation to describing each other in terms of the current job that we do. We are so accustomed to labelling ourselves in these terms that it comes to define us and who we are.

Jesus, during his ministry on earth, continuously attacked such paradigms, whether that's him renaming Simon, Peter, to give him a greater purpose in life, or asking the disciples "who do you say I am?".

Yet to step away from this cultural norm takes away a comfort in social etiquette. If we are to define ourselves by who we are rather than what we do, then we're going to have to develop a whole new way of talking to one another. For example, here's a typical conversation on two new people meeting:

- Hi, my name is Brian.
- Hi, Brian, I'm John.
- What do you do, Brian?
- I'm a builder.
- That's interesting. What kind of projects have you been working on recently?
- I just finished a house down by the river. It's a great source of pride for me actually.....(and the conversation goes on, and flows neatly back to Peter's job and how they might be related/interesting anecdotes etc).

Take that social norm away and replace it with a deeper understanding of who are are and we have something a little more awkward:

- Hi, my name is Brian.
- Hi Brian, I'm John.
- Who are you, Brian?
- I'm sorry!? What do you mean, John?
- I mean, what is your calling in life? What were you put on earth to do/be?
[awkward silence]
- A builder, I suppose. How about you?
[John, who's thought about it, replies confidently:]
- I'm a command achiever. I see a problem and I fix it, no matter who's in my way.
[Brian, getting a bit scared, starts to back away and make his excuses to leave]
- Anyway, nice to meet you, John. Must go.

So, how do we step into a zone where we are heading towards a meaningful, fruitful life, without alienating ourselves from cultural practices and norms?

For me, as I'm processing this, I think – to a certain extent – our everyday job does define us for others (at least for the first meeting). It usually is connected to our greater life purpose and goals and if it's not, at least it gives us a way in to discuss further dreams, ambitions, goals. This week I heard someone give a good explanation of this:

Know your calling/life purpose. Have a good idea of the career that fits into and then let the decisions you make in your current job lead you towards fulfilling that purpose. When someone asks 'what do you do', tell them first who you are, what that means and then what exactly you're doing right now to achieve that goal.
Grace Samson-Song (paraphrased)

So, let's re-visit that conversation again and apply this principle:

- Hi, my name is Brian.
- Hi Brian, I'm John.
- What do you do right now as a job, Brian?
- Right now, I'm a builder. What do you do?
- I'm an IT guy for a paper supply company. I enjoy it, because if see a problem, I can usually fix it, no matter what is the obstacle to overcome. There's something in me that I know I was designed to tackle problems.
- I can imagine that is a useful skill to have.
- Yes, and it's applicable in so many circumstances. How about you, what interests you in building?
- Making things has always interested me, in fact I designed all the houses I have built.

The key part, is then how we define others, based on this principle.

Old way:
Today I met Brian. He's a builder. We don't have much in common as I'm an IT geek, but he's a nice guy. 

Here, not only have I limited Brian to just being a builder, but also limited myself to geek status.

Today I met Brian. He has a real gift for design and he's using it right now in his job as a builder - designing the houses that he builds. I can see how his skills for visualising the end product could compliment my skills in problem solving along the way. We had a great chat. 

Both Brian and John sound like much more interesting people in the alternative scenario.

By limiting ourselves and, more importantly, to definitions of job title, we become a very dull society indeed. Because God created each one of us unique, with gifts, abilities and skills, you can never know the skills of those around you until you dig a bit deeper, where you will discover absolute gems under the most mundane job titles.

Let's redefine who we define ourselves and others to be and not limit ourselves to the 'builder' or 'IT' guy that our job title says we are!

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Who has the whole picture

I love how God physically demonstrates to us how to live. The ultimate and most glorious of these demonstrations was through his Son, coming to earth and dying on the cross. But it's not just that, but every way in which he is, is the example of perfection.

Take, for example, the Holy Trinity. Although God is all seeing, all knowing, all powerful and so on... he shares the load among three beings. These three are in perfect harmony and fellowship. Each Member has the ability to work alone, but chooses to be in continuous relationship with one another. God shows us, by His very character, a perfect way of things.

If we ask ourselves, which teacher/prophet/leader has everything we need to know about God. The answer is, of course, nobody. God purposely created us so that we would need to be in fellowship to gain understanding and wisdom. Fellowship with him and fellowship with each other. The term fellowship might be old fashioned, and give you an image of 'the shire' from the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, but I prefer the term as it gives a deeper understanding of the type of relationships we are to have.

In the past, some groups have mistaken the idea of pooling our giftings to mean that we don't need a leader because 'Jesus is our leader'. This is not true and often ends in dis-unity. We do need leaders among us, who will guide us to where we're supposed to be and stand behind the body, encouraging, supporting it and continuously pointing towards Jesus and giving all glory and credit to the Maker.

This week, my wife and I are doing a course entitled PIN code. It's designed to pick out and bring out some of our unique giftings and characteristics that shape us. Just as the PIN you use to access your cash at the ATM, this code is designed to help you unlock some of the amazing things that God has created you to be.

But we're not doing it alone. We are with an intimate group, who will reveal their PIN too. This way, we will hopefully learn and see how the body of Christ can work together in fellowship with one another. If we choose to put Christ at the centre, raise up leaders from among us who will themselves put Christ at their centre, and whose purpose is to serve and bring out the giftings of those they are leading, then we will have a mighty army, strong and powerful, able to do awesome things together.

Monday 14 January 2013

Entering into Sonship

On the radio this morning, there was a song playing, with the repeating lyrics, "I refuse to replay the mistakes that yesterday I made". I heard this during the time I was taking my quiet time with God, reflecting on my past sins and failures and trying to work out how I stop myself from returning to them. I find it wonderful how God uses nature and those things around us to guide and support us sometimes.

January is often a time for action, shedding off the mistakes from last year and looking to become something better. One of my failures last year was Bible reading. I was trying a chronological 'bible-in-a-year' plan. However, I kept falling behind. I got so behind, that I gave up.

"The Bible that's falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn't"
Charles Spurgeon
Yet, thankfully God is a redeemer, a pursuer, a life coach, a friend.

This year, therefore, in the spirit of I refuse to replay the mistakes... I am going to pick myself back up and read through the Bible and dedicate time to doing it.

I have asked God for keys to stop myself slipping back into passivity and this is what he said: read whole books at a time. At first, this seemed daunting, as if he were raising the bar higher for me when I'd already failed to jump over the first hurdle. But, as I start, I notice that I can actually read many, if not all, of the books of the Bible in this way. In fact, it has given me a much better contextual understanding of the book. Thankfully the Bible I own has an index of timings, showing how long each book takes to read.

So far, I've read Hebrews (45 mins), Joel (15 mins), and Esther (30 mins). Today's task is Revelation.

As I read, I'm discovering some of the nature and character of God that I have been missing for so many years. God is a pursuer. He longs after a relationship with us.

As I gain a better understanding of who he is, I can better understand the world around me and have discernment for what is good and what is not; for what is right and what is wrong. Rather than searching scriptures to back up or test claims made, I find myself having a deep revelation of truth that God is injecting into me through my study times with him.

Stepping into this new season, I'm finding myself understanding what it is to be a son of the living God. I'm boldly stepping into a relationship that without the blood of Jesus, would be impossible.

And I'm loving it!