Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My new diary

I like gadgets. Honest I do. I like my GPS that I take when I go walking, and I like my Palm PDA. I like my ipod, especially when I have to wait around in airports. But I also like pens and pencils and paper. i like having different notebooks for different jobs. I have notebooks with ruled white paper and one with yellow paper. I have a tabbed notebook for sermon ideas and outlines. I have a nice new plain paper notebook for doing hand drawn mind maps. And I have a paper diary. More to the point I have a new paper diary.

For what must be the better part of 25 years I've used a Filofax diary system. I started out with the slimline version but very quickly moved to the larger ring system in the personal sized binder. I've worn out two binders and have been using my third for some time now, but it was time for a new experiment.

On Monday a bright new A5 Filofax binder arrived on my door step. The bigger size is more awkward to carry but it looks more flexible and easier to manage than the smaller version. I've already printed out my address book from Outlook using Clickbook to format the pages into A5. And I also created some diary pages to take me through this year.

I like the size of the diary because the notepaper and other pages are easy to use. I've created a section for Actions/To Do and one for notes. My actions are printed from Thinking Rock via a two column Word document. I just find it easier to work with the two column format. Again Clickbook is the easy way to resize and print the pages back to back.

So, overall I'm happy with my new diary. We'll see how it performs over the next few weeks as I use it day by day.

If you're interested, I got my new binder from The Organiser Store and I opted for the Metropol binder. There's also a website full of templates for Filofax style diary systems at DIY Planner.

Do what it takes

I was thinking the other day about how to help a friend who was asking me about how to be a better follower of Jesus. We talked about many of the usual things, but it became clear to me that in many ways my friend was really waiting for something "spiritual" to happen in the hope that this would bring about the changes he so desperately wants in his life.

It was as I thought that this question came to me: Perhaps we were looking at the problem from the wrong end. Perhaps trying to deal with all the old stuff that my friend feels is holding him back was the wrong approach. Perhaps we should actually concentrate on where he wants to be. So I asked him: What would a fully devoted follower of Jesus do? And then I said: Do that!

Sounds really simple doesn't it? I know it's not that easy, but I think it probably is that simple. We must choose to do what a fully devoted follower would do in order to become a fully devoted follower. If you are wondering if that works, then think about becoming a really physically fit and healthy person. Does that happen overnight or do you need to train? My point is simple, in order to get fit you have do the things you would do as a fit person. You won't do them very well to begin with, but as you continue to practice the lifestyle of a fit person you will steadily become a fitter person.

Can this not also be true spiritually? Do you want to be a persistent and consistent person of prayer? Well the only way I know of becoming a person of prayer is to pray, to actually get to the job of praying.

So my challenge to my friend remains: Do what a fully devoted follower would do if you want to be a fully devoted follower.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I was sitting this morning just thinking and reflecting and I began to think about ministry. It has its ups and downs, and it would be really easy to get frustrated and cynical about the church, but as I sat and thought I realised something quite profound.

I'm still passionate about ministry.

If the truth were told, I think I'd do it for free. Actually I do if you understand the technical nature of a stipend rather than a salary. But that aside, I found myself praying a simple prayer of surrender this morning.

Years ago, before I went to college to study theology and train for whatever ministry God had for me, I remember sitting in my car in the car park at work one lunchtime. Things were not great at the time, and I remember saying the kind of thing everyone says once in a while about getting out of a place and doing something different. Then I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to think about what it might mean to stay in that place. It was not a pleasant thought but the question was simple: What if God wanted me to stay working in that place for the rest of my life?

It was then that I guess I first thought about the idea of totally surrendering my dreams and ambitions, hopes and desires, into the hands of God. So I prayed something like this: "Lord, I don't want to stay, I'd do almost anting to not stay, but if you want me to stay I'll stay. I'll stay and serve you as best I can for as long as you ask.

Well, about a year later I was off to college. I knew it was right because I knew I'd surrendered.

So there I was this morning remembering that sense of surrender and praying again. My prayer remains as simple as ever: "Lord, I surrender."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Still getting most things done!

It's now almost two months since I changed my way of working to become more organised. I now have an empty inbox at the end of almost every day (I think I missed one in the last 6 or 7 weeks that I know about) and that's pretty impressive for me. What I like is the sense that I should be able to find a home for every thought, idea, piece of paper and just about everything that comes my way on a daily basis.

What I also like is knowing that whilst this is a "work in progress", it's really paying off in the way I do things. What I still need to do is to organise my books and my files. I also need to give some close attention to the clutter of gadgets and bits that accumulate in my life. I have draws and boxes with stuff in them that needs to be processed. But here's the thing. I can schedule that task, I can reschedule that task, I can delegate it, defer, even do it. The one thing I don't have to do is let it bother me that it's undone. By regularly reviewing my action lists and projects, I can see where things like "sort out books" fits in the overall scheme of things.

The next thing I like is the sense of control. Without going into detail, I've got a list of some 60 projects in which I am involved. It was the realisation that I was trying to navigate all these projects in my head that made me realise I needed to change my habits. Now I can sit and look at the projects, I can see the connections, and I'm working out how best to negotiate my way through them all. They each get the attention they need because they have a place on a list.
There's an interesting knock-on effect too.

When I look around my environment, I see stuff that needs processing. Clutter that's just built up through busyness in church, and that is crying out for someone to deal with it. I'm not becoming obsessively tidy, but I am becoming more aware of the need to process and review what's lying around the place. And I think that's healthy.

Lastly, I'm less stressed about what I have to do. There are still times when all the demands I face seem to pile up before me, but I certainly feel as if it's more contained, less overwhelming. It's a healthier place to be.

For me, the key next step is to take this new system and create the space in my day to process everything properly and thoroughly. In other words, to give myself the time to really do what really needs to be done.

But as I said, this is a work in progress.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Am I all that I am?

Jon Ortberg has written a number of books, some of which populate by bookshelves. among the ones I've read are: If you want to walk on water you've got to get out of the boat, Everybody's normal 'til you get to know them, The life you've always wanted and God is closer than you think. In one of these he quotes that most famous of maritime philosophers, Popeye the sailor-man, who said, "I am what I am." Actually he said, "I yam what I yam," accourding to Ortberg, but's it's difficult to write with Popeye's accent!

How many times have you heard yourself, or someone else, say something similar? We use it all the time to excuse our behaviour, to excuse our failure or simply to avoid change. And yet, all the time we make excuses we avoid responsibility. We go on doing the same old things because we believe that we simply can't help it. It's who we are. It's what we do.

But wait a minute, doesn't the Bible offer us hope? Doesn't the Bible hold out the potential for change? Isn't the core message of God's great story that while it may be true that I am what I am, it's also true that I am not all that I could be?

Perhaps we need to remember that we are best defined by reference to God's great and redeeming love for us. We are not defined by our failure and failings. In God's hands, our potential s unlimited, the possibilities are endless and the opportunities inexhaustible.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Clickbook adds a "virtual printer" rather like many of the pdf creator programs you can get. If you don't have a pdf generator, then you could try PDF995 which is what I use. But there are lots to choose from. You get single click access in Windows applications and there's a MAC OSX version too.

When activated, Clickbook allows you to choose the style of output you want and then configures your printer to give you that output. And there are a lot of styles, although no Pocketmod style that I could see. So, for example, I tried printing my contact list from Outlook in the form of pages for my Filofax planner. With a little work form the guillotine and my hole punch, I had all my contacts on paper and with my diary. Something I've been wanting to do for many years but never been able to crack it.

If you're printer has duplex, it will use that too.

I have a Samsung CPL500 and Clickbook adjusted the output to match the paper and the auto-duplexing. Very neat.

I'm using the 15 day trial version, but I'd seriously consider buying the full version if my initial test runs are anything to go by.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

7 Summers

If you haven't seen this short video yet, you might want to check it out here.

Managing change

I was at an Inset (In Service Training) day at the beginning of the week and came across this:

Vision + Skills + Incentives + Resources + Action Plan
= Change

Skills + Incentives + Resources + Action Plan
= Confusion

Vision + Incentives + Resources + Action Plan
= Anxiety

Vision + Skills + Resources + Action Plan
= Resistance

Vision + Skills + Incentives + Action Plan
= Frustration

Vision + Skills + Incentives + Resources
= Treadmill

Saturday, September 01, 2007

My wedding talk

It's been a busy few weeks, what with one thing and another. What's made it unusual is that August is typically quite quiet as I wind down and take the opportunity to rest and relax a little.

This August has been busier than usual, with two weddings and two funerals, all in 17 days. Now I know that's not a lot for many a minister, but it's more weddings that I usually do and the funerals are normally spread out over the year.

Anyway today was the second wedding and although technically it's September, it felt like August. I have several wedding talks, but I tend to revert to one in particular. It's not wholly original to me, the basics of the idea were shared with me by a older fellow minister. The outline of the talk is this:

3 great questions to ask.

1. Where do you want this marriage to go?
2. How will you get there?
3. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to reach that place?

21 important words for the journey

First six: I am sorry, I was wrong
Next five: How can I help you?
Then four: What do you think?
Now three: I love you
Two : Thank you
One to go: We

I guess, looking at my diary, I won't be using this until October next year, but then again I didn't think I was going to use it this year at all!