Wednesday, October 31, 2007

And so the revolution begins...

Although my previous story about the barefoot man may lead some to think I gave up on pursuing the MacBook dream, the truth is that I was only waiting for Leopard to arrive. 

The trip to the Apple Store was a convenience precipitated by a journey through London. 

So, here I am sitting with my new MacBook trying to figure out if I've made a sensible or crazy choice! My daughter is of course convinced that it's the best decision her father had made for some considerable time!

What I have learnt so far is this:

1. When you get a new toy the 'phone never stops ringing
2. Staying up late to play with said new toy does not help you get started the following morning
3. A new MacBook is no substitute for a conversation with your wife, whom you haven't seen all day.
4. It's not like Windows!!
5. It's addictive
6. I think I'm going to like it

All jokes apart, it's a very streamlined little machine. I chose to have the extra gig of memory added in the hope that it will whizz along and I won't spend too much time waiting for an application to run.

There's a lot to learn and the curve looks quite steep, but I'm pleased that I've already figured out how to run a presentation using the remote control and how to build transitions for a slide. I've added some photo's from my digital camera and I've got a trusty little list of useful commands supplied by my Mac-crazed daughter. 

So here we go, a brave new world is dawning on my desk!

Monday, October 29, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way to the Apple Store

My Daughter, Ally, and I went to an Open Day at a University in Twickenham the other day. We chose to go by train because it's easy and we like travelling by train. The journey involves travelling to London and then across town to Waterloo and from there to Twickenham. Because we were going through London we decided that on the way back we'd drop into the Apple Store and see if there was a sneak peak at Leopard. We knew it wasn't due for release until the Friday, but hope springs eternal where Ally and Macs are concerned.

So, having finished in Twickenham we returned to Waterloo and then made our way to Regent Street to visit the store. Turning the corner onto Regent Street you can see the Apple logo beckoning you down the street. Secure in the knowledge that we were going in the right direction we plunged through the crowds of people avoiding the temptations of all other retailers.

And then I saw him.

Sitting, shivering, ignored but not unnoticed by everyone who passed him by. It's not an unusual sight on any street in any town or city, but what really caught my eye was the fact that he was barefoot. No shoes. No socks.

In the rush we too, like everyone else, hurried on to our destination, but as I wandered aimlessly through the cavernous Apple Store, I could not get the image of this man out of my head. Here was I working out how much a shiny new MacBook was going to cost me, and there was he, barefoot and shivering. I couldn't just keep walking past.

So we left the Apple Store and I told Ally what I had seen. Being the amazing daughter she is, she understood and agreed that we should do something so we did. It wasn't some grand gesture, we just bought socks. Eventually we found him again, he'd moved because two policemen were patrolling nearby, and we handed over the socks. I wish I'd have done more, I wish I'd known his shoe size so I could have bought him shoes too, but I did the simplest thing I could think of to do so that I could at least let him know that he had been seen. Seen not as a nuisance nor as a beggar but as a human being, loved by God, noticed by God, someone who deserved the dignity of a pair of socks.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Staying healthy in ministry

One of the blogs I track is A recent post was titled 10 Tips to prevent scandal, but I think it has much to say about ministry anyway. Here's the post:

The world has seen quite a few ministry scandals over the past year.
Fortunately, Charisma magazine’s J. Lee Grady has 10 tips on how you can prevent scandal in your own life. Here is a summary.

  • Live a humble, transparent life.

  • Stay open to correction.

  • Audit your actions regularly.

  • Stay in touch with the real world. Ministry is about loving people. But you will never develop compassion unless you are close enough to the grass roots to smell the poverty, lay hands on the sickness and cry with those who are in pain.

  • Don’t allow people to make you a celebrity.

  • Make family a priority.

  • Live modestly and give extravagantly.

  • Don’t build your own kingdom.

  • Develop keen discernment.

  • Maintain your spiritual passion. People who experience moral failure almost always lose their spiritual passion first.

Now it seems to me that this framework provides a good basis from which we can all develop a checklist for ministry health.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pastoral Care Training

Does anyone use any form of training for their pastoral care team/ workers?

At Cotton End, we're looking into how we can develop a better model for pastoral care in and through the church and we're looking for training material to help our care team in their role.

If you know of anything that might help, please point me in the right direction.


Simple theology

I dip into and out of a variety of "thought for the day" style of books. One I may have bought or been given some time in the last year or so is a daily thought from Max Lucado. Now I like Max. I like the simplicity and clarity with which he writes, and I've read most of the books he's written that are available in the UK.

Today's thought centres on the atonement. This is how Max describes it:

In an act that broke the heart of the Father, yet honoured the holiness of heaven, sin-purging judgement flowed over the sinless Son of the ages.
And heaven gave her finest gift. The Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.
"My God, my God, why did you abandon me?" Why did Christ scream those words?
So you'll never have to.

When I think about the hours of theological study that have gone into trying to unravel the meaning of those words, that cry of abandonment, the simple truth is that it was all for you and all for me. Simple, yet deeply profound.

We're accepted, we're forgiven, we're united with him.
Not rejected, not forgotten, not abandoned in sin.
(From Jesus loves the church
by Michael Sanderman Kingsway music 1999)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Make a difference

According to UNICEF, 30,000 children die each day due to poverty. That's one every 3 seconds, 210,000 children each week, or just under 11 million children under five years of age, each year.
According to the statistics there are 2.2 billion children in the world. Almost half live in poverty (1 billion). 1.9 billion of these children live in the developing world. 1 in 3 (640 million) are without adequate shelter, 1 in 5 (400 million) are without access to safe water, 1 in 7 (270 million) have no access to health services. There are an estimated 120 million children out of education.

When it comes to child mortality, 10.6 million children died before the age of 5 in 2003 (same as children population in France, Germany, Greece and Italy). 1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized. 15 million children orphaned due to HIV/AIDS (similar to the total children population in Germany or United Kingdom).

Basic education for all would probably cost around 6 billion $US. That 2 billion less that the US spends on cosmetics and 5 billion less that Europeans spend on ice cream. Military spending in the world is 780 billion.

Basic education, health care and safe water would cost an estimated 28 billion dollars. That's less than 4% of the military budget.

All these numbers can seem overwhelming and leave you feeling like there's nothing you can do that could ever make a difference. But you'd be wrong.

For less than £20 a month (40$), you can change a child's life through a sponsorship programme. Sponsorship helps to break the cycle of childhood poverty, through education, health and welfare. Often, child sponsorship is connected to a wider project in a local community. You not only change the life of a child, you are influencing change in a community.

Go on, make your own dent in those numbers!

Compassion; World vision

For UK readers:

Compassion; World vision

Monday, October 15, 2007


I wonder what things you notice that no one else sees? Maybe it's not so much that they don't see them, it's just that it doesn't bother them like it bothers you.

If you asked folk at Cotton End Baptist Church what bothers me, they'd probably mention the chairs! I'm not obsessive, but I do like them to be right, or at the very least look fairly neat and tidy. Other people of course are less worried and just stick the chairs roughly where they think they remember them being. And that sentence in itself probably tells you a lot about how I like to see them!

I guess there are things about me that people see that I don't see. And when they point them out, as some are apt to do, it can be quite painful to hear. How you handle such moments is truly a measure of one's maturity.

This train of thought was triggered by something I saw this morning in today's post. My denomination has an annual assembly around May time each year, and today the early publicity for it dropped on the door mat. Inside the envelope was a glossy flyer all about next year's event. So what caught my eye, and maybe only my eye? On the inside page there's a photograph of the worship band leading a song during a past event. The photograph is a good photograph, nicely composed from a good angle. And it's printed the wrong way around. It's a mirror image of the real thing. How do I know this? The first clue was that both guitar players are left-handed according to the picture. I notice this because I'm a left-handed guitar player and I thought 'how odd, two lefties on one platform'. Then I realised that the writing on the amplifier was in fact backwards (it's a Marshall amp by the look of it, and the M is on the wrong end). Thirdly I realised that the cello player had the cello over the wrong shoulder.

Now none of this is really important. I guess graphic designers invert pictures all the time and no one really notices. It's not the key feature of the brochure, it's just an illustration of how sometimes we notice things that others might not notice. to us they become important, to the other people around us, they are less important. And it just got me thinking about the whole subject of spotting the difference between the important things and the less important. Seeing a thing is one thing, understanding how important it is is quite another.

Electric cars

A few weeks ago we were out shopping when we came across an exhibition about environmental things. Among the exhibits was a new, electric Smart Car. Now if you don't know what a basic Smart looks like, it's a simple two-seater car designed for city driving. The electric version has a range of 50 miles, which would actually suit us fine for getting in and out of our local town. Anne could use it everyday to go to the station, and a single charge would most likely last her a week.
But here's the catch. I've always had a concern about electric cars because the electricity you use to recharge them comes from power stations that burn fossil fuels or maybe even from a nuclear station, which while CO2 clean, is not that environmentally friendly over the long haul. So while the car may be clean, the power generator is isn't. But now there's a choice. Green energy. I'm seriously considering switching to a green energy supplier like Good Energy. By doing this an electric car, I think, becomes an option because neither the energy generator nor the consumer product produce CO2 emissions. The downside? For some reason it seems that Smart are only releasing the electric Smart to companies, not the ordinary consumer.
There are probably good alternatives, especially for longer journeys. I particularly like the look of the hybrid technology that's available. The problem here is that the choice is also limited, but maybe that's just an excuse.
I guess the point is that I really don't have to keep buying cars that burn lots of petrol or diesel anymore, and next time I change my car, I'll give some serious consideration to buying something that's good for the environment and good for me too.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Me and my environment

It's very easy for Christians, especially those of us from an evangelical perspective, to become complacent about the environment. After all, we have the eternal destiny of humanity on our minds and hearts, is there really enough room for the environment too?

Well, the short answer is of course that there has to be room for it. After all we are stewards of creation and I can't imagine that anyone of us would interpret the Bible as giving us the authority to strip our small blue-green planet of all it's resources and drive it to near extinction. Whatever our theology, we can all take seriously the challenge to do something that will make a difference to the health of our ecosystem.

In my ideal world these are some of the things I want to work towards doing:

1. A carbon neutral church. I know it will cost money, but I'd like to see the day when churches lead the way in using renewable energy. We have a large, south-east facing roof. I'm sure there's room for a big PV cell and/or solar panels. I wouldn't be surprised to find that we could derive a considerable amount of heating and hot water resources this way, even in our northern climate. If ever I'm involved in a new-build project, I will be a strong advocate of such a system.

2. Recycle what we can. Recycling is still a bit hit and miss in many parts of the UK. Different councils use different systems. Unfortunately it's not possible to recycle everything that could be recycled in my local area, but I'm sure we could do more. I watched as we cleared up after an event the other day and was saddened to see how much recyclable stuff was just thrown away for the sake of convenience. Recycling is not pain free. You have to sort your rubbish and that take more time and effort than simply tossing it all in the same bin.

3. Change the lights. Low-energy lightbulbs are getting smaller and more cost-effective. It's time to get the ladders out and change the bulbs in church. We must have three to four dozen lights in the main building alone that we could change to low energy versions.

4. Walk when ever you can. I once saw an interview with a man in his 70's who was very fit. When asked how he'd stayed so fit his answer was simple: If it's less than five miles, I walk. Whilst I can't imagine walking five miles and carrying all the equipment and stuff I sometimes have to carry, it is possible for me to arrange some things in a way that means I can walk. And you know what, when I walk I get to meet more people. As a church we could at the very least organise our housegroups so that everyone could walk if they are able. And just think what that might mean for the neighbourhood.

5. Change the car. I'll confess I drive a people-carrier. And I'll also confess that when I next change my car I'm going to have a good look at the current crop of hybrids (it shouldn't take long I only know of two in the UK!) We're also considering a small, maybe even electric, car for those short journeys of 5-10 miles. Now I know that an electric, whilst it sounds good on paper (zero emissions), it has to be recharged using electricity normally supplied from a power station that does produce greenhouse gases, but there are renewable energy suppliers out there, and maybe it's time to switch to one of those.

I could go one and write more, but I guess the point is simple: work out what steps you can take and then figure out how to take them. Remember, God gave us the responsibility to care for our environment, let's not shirk that responsibility.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Things I remember

Here's a random list of things I remember from growing. It's in celebration of turning 50 and a vain attempt and seeing what actually sticks in my memory. So in no particular order...

I remember:

Neil Armstrong stepping onto the surface of the moon
England winning the football World Cup in 1966
The day decimal currency was introduced to the UK
The assassination of JKF, his brother Bobby and Martin Luther King
William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and John Pertwee as Doctor Who
Black and White TV
Only having two TV channels to choose from and no day-time programmes at all!
Penny chews
Making ice slides in the school playground
Fred Truman playing cricket
Aztec chocolate bars
My first trip to casualty (the "emergency room" and the first of many I have to say)
My first broken bone (left jaw fractured by my own knee having fallen off a roof.)
The chimney sweep who had a heart attack in our lounge (I don't remember what happened to him)
The first flight of Concorde
My first try in a rugby match for the school (Actually I only scored two tries in my whole school rugby career and both came in the same match!)
The only hat-trick I ever took in cricket (Also for the school. I actually took four wickets in five deliveries that day)
Walking on the cliffs with my father (we didn't do many things together, but we always went for a walk on holiday)
Lucky bags
The first X-men comic (Oh, if only I'd kept the thing in a plastic cover along with all those small cars and Meccano bits)
Fireball XL5; Stingray; Thunderbirds; Joe 90
My first chemistry set (And the first experiment I did, which was to add water to anhydrous copper sulphate and watch it turn blue. Not very exciting, but I soon graduated to trying to blow things up as I recall)
My first school prize ( I was "top boy" for three years and then they changed the prize to "exceptional effort" and a friend of mine won because he made an exceptional effort, whereas I hadn't!)
The first time I opted for the truth over a lie. It wasn't a big thing and I was no angel believe me. I remember it because it was the first time I realised there was a choice to make. I was about 8 at the time.
Sitting the 11+ (I passed and went to Grammar School as a result)
Having dark brown hair

And many more things I'm sure.

On turning 50

So on Sunday morning I turned to Anne and asked her, "Do I look a day over fifty?" The reason for the question was quite simple, on Sunday I was a day over fifty. Fifty. I remember when 34 seemed old!
When I was about 8 or 9 I used to look through my father's copy of the Observer a Sunday newspaper here in the UK. The only thing I remember from my Sunday reading was an article about people who had left the rat-race in the city behind them and bought General Stores, or something similar, in some village or small town in an idyllic corner of Cornwall or Dorset. 34 seemed so old then, I never really thought I'd ever get to be that old. And yet here I am at 50!
Now without being morbid, if I live to a similar age to my parents, I've got another 30 years left to make a difference somewhere, somehow. I'm not a driven kind of person, but I do look at my life and ask myself what exactly it is that I can do to influence the people around me.
Being the leader of a local church is an enormously privileged position of influence. It carries great responsibility along with the potential for influence. Just the other day we were talking about what has changed during the time I've been the minister here in Cotton End. It was deeply encouraging to hear the positive things that were being said. I'm truly grateful to God for the opportunity I have here.
So, given that it's "pastor appreciation month", at least in the US if not in the UK, let me encourage any other minsters out there to keep on doing what you do to influence the people you serve to become more and more like Jesus and to make a difference wherever you are and wherever they are. Especially if you to have reach the gran age of 50. Now, has anyone seen my reading glasses and that over 50's vitamin supplements catalogue?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

GLS 2007

Once again the Global Leadership Summit did not disappoint. Bill Hybels was inspiring in both sessions, Jon Ortberg was moving and insightful in the way he unpacked the story of Esther against the background of a leader's greatest fear and Marcus Buckingham was outstanding in his presentation. The interviews with Richard Curtis, Carly Fioria and Colin Powell were all different and all challenging in their ways.

If you haven't had the opportunity to attend one of these summits, either as a live, satellite or videocast event, then I encourage you to consider signing up for next year as soon as you can. For me personally, it's becoming a "never miss" part of my year. Even if I can't get to the event, I'll buy the DVD's and share them with my leaders. (I buy them anyway so that we can keep the material at the front of our minds throughout the year).

This year three members of the core team plus myself and two ministry leaders outside of our core team attended for all or part of the summit. I'm seriously considering making attendance at the summit an essential part of being a leader in our church. I'd do this because it's such a great event.

So get the brochure and mark off the dates in your diary. I absolutely believe that you won't regret it.

For UK based leaders go here, for non-UK leaders start here.

Tap guitar

Sometimes you come across something that just blows you away.

This is one of those times, at least for me. Watch and marvel.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Energy for life

One of the regular feeds I read was talking about managing your energy levels. It mentioned the "four dimensions" of energy and focused on physical energy.

Well I was intrigued and thought I'd do a bit of research. I found my way to The Energy Project and listened to a couple of the video FAQs to see what I could learn. The main thrust of the site is that you manage energy not time, and energy falls into four categories: Physical energy defined as the quantity of your energy; mental energy (energy of your mind) defined as your focus; your heart energy which is the quality of your energy; the energy of the human spirit which they define as the force of your energy.

The focus of all this discussion of energy is productivity. Getting more done with a better quality of life.

Before I read the website, my initial thoughts about what the four dimensions of energy might be were: Physical energy, mental energy, emotional energy and spiritual energy. Not massively different then to what I found on the website, but there are some differences in application and interpretation.

I'm not sure, for example, that I would define the energy of my heart (emotional energy in my list) as the quality of my energy. I think it's something different. In fact I might even go so far as to suggest that each dimension has both a qualitative and a quantitative aspect to it. Emotional energy them becomes a matter of how we deal with things that move us, irritate us, ager us. It's our capacity to respond to humanitarian crises, human experiences. It's our compassion quotient if you like. Similarly I'm not big on the energy of the human spirit, but I am big on spiritual energy in the context of our relationship with God.

However we define energy, or energies, I'm guessing that we know they need managing. We all know, for instance, about the need to look after ourselves physically in order to be able to do what we need to do. Not having enough physical energy to get through the day is seriously going to dent our ability to do anything let alone be productive about it! We all know, but do we do anything proactive about it?

The same is probably true about the other dimensions of energy too. We know about the need to cultivate them, to replenish them, but do we take the time and make the effort to do anything about it?

As someone who is deeply involved in Christian ministry I know what it feels like to run low on my stocks of energy. I know how easy it is to minister tiredness, frustration and apathy. I know too what it means to minister the alternatives, just in case you were worrying about me!
What might be interesting would be to explore these dimensions of energy and think about how we cycle through them, cultivate them and deploy them. I'm not so interested in doing that for the sake of productivity as I am in doing it for the sake of growing into the person God wants me to be. As I often say, "I am what I am, but i am not all that I could be."

So, over the next few weeks, I might try to explore some thoughts about these energy fields, and I even have two more to add to the four I've already mentioned: Creative energy and social energy.

It would be great to hear some thoughts from others along the way.