Friday, September 28, 2012

Getting stuck in

There are times in life when you simply find yourself in the deep end of things.  Retraining as I am, there have been quite a few deep end moments through this year so far, and a few more to come I'm sure.

Last night was no exception when I arrived for my first evening at a local rugby club to share my massage skills. I'd taken the chance and emailed the club offering myself as a volunteer and asking to be put in touch with the physiotherapist who works with the club. Well, I got a reply and took up the invitation to turn up on Thursday.

We were supposed to start at 6:30 and the physio and I were going to meet at 6:00 to have a chat and get set up. Players started to turn up as soon as they knew the physio was there and book themselves in for treatment. Some were already booked in and others were looking for slots to fill. It was quite hectic and non-stop and I was really impressed with the physio and how she handles everything. I got to work with several players through the evening which I guess finished around 9:30.

What was interesting for me was how specific and targeted the treatment had to be. We didn't have the luxury of an hour to treat each person, so it was a case of focussing on what what most needed, getting the tissue warmed up and figuring out the best way to release what was stuck.

Working on some of the players it was obvious how much they needed soft tissue therapy. I've come across a few tight hamstrings and quads before, but these were like trying to get steel girders to stretch. At first I thought it was because they were finding it hard to relax the muscle and trust it into my hands, but it quickly became apparent that their muscles were so tight, relaxing meant just off full firing!

Anyway I had a good evening and enjoyed the challenge. Hopefully I can continue to be helpful and apply my skills more precisely as they develop. Getting involved in match-day treatment is a possibility, and I'm looking forward to that in the not too distant future.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Judgement and forgiveness

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.
Luke 6:37
Telling words from Jesus. Here's a question: When does judgement start? Does it start when we describe someone as difficult or when we share a negative story about them? What about when we make assumptions about someone? Can we actually avoid judging and condemning others that easily?

I guess the best defence against falling into the trap of judging and condemning lies in the principle of forgiveness.  But it's still not an easy thing to do.

I wonder if it isn't our propensity for criticism that makes living out these challenging words of Jesus more difficult. We're happiest when we're moaning about something. The problem with moaning is that it never offers solutions, only descriptions of the problems. That leads to judgement being pronounced and maybe even responsibility being abdicated. In other words we find a reason to blame someone else, blame them and absolve ourselves.

Perhaps forgiveness allows us to say that things must change and to seek solutions for change to take place. It doesn't mean things can stay the same and the pattern can repeat itself because forgiveness wipes out the wrong. There are still consequences to sin. But it shifts the focus


Tim Chester blogged this quote from Urban Harvest by Roy Joslin.

Christians must take the time and trouble to be good neighbours. If we are too busy running church activities to find time to be neighbourly, then we are too busy. (283)

Of course it needs to be read in a wider context. Don't beat yourself up because you don't know the names of your neighbours (although learning that at the very least is a good first step to take!) Rather the point is surely the focus of our attention in the sense that church activities crowds out missional engagement.

In the end, missional church life is a choice, it's intentionally focussed on an incarnational interpretation of what it means to be the church. We can probably end up being just as busy defining missional, describing it and debating it as we have been in the past with the legacy church. At that point, then once again "church" would take over from mission.

Maybe this quote reminds us that we need constantly to check the scorecard, the measuring stick, the metrics by which we assess how we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Searching for Significance

I was reading in Luke's gospel about the disciples of John and their errand to see Jesus. John sent them with a specific request to find out if Jesus was the one for whom they had been waiting or not. In his response, Jesus speaks about John as the greatest man who has ever lived. Quite an accolade. But Jesus goes on to say that even the person considered to be the east in the kingdom is greater than John. How does that work?

Well, it's clearly not a put down of John, Jesus wouldn't do that to him, and equally true is that it is not an aggrandisement of insignificance either. Perhaps the point is rather simple to state but hard to grasp and apply. Perhaps the point is that significance in the kingdom doesn't come from ministry position or the lack of it.

For twenty years I've been a leader of a congregation. Sometimes I've felt like the leader, but I've always understood my role as being part of a leadership team not the only leader. Sometimes it's been hard to convince the congregation of that principle. Twelve months ago I gave up trying and although I sought a painless way out, in the end we went through probably the most painful time of our lives in ministry (and believe me we've had a lot of painful moments over the years). Since December I've preached once and I can probably count the number of times I've been in church on one hand. Scary when you think of the hours it consumed before then.

I can't say I ever felt any great sense of significance during those twenty years, so its's not that that I miss. In fact I seem to miss very little. But being a minister at least gave me a sense of purpose and even value. It gave me a way of measuring my contribution to the kingdom and that's something I no longer have.

I don't have an uplifting message of self-discovery to conclude this ramble of thoughts. It's a bit like a joke without a punchline, a morality tale without a moral. I guess you'd call it a work in progress as I continue to work out what it means to be a follower of Jesus without portfolio. I have a dream, a vision of something that's way beyond my ability to make reality, and I'm humbled to still be asked to serve families at a time of loss and grieving.

Have I lost my sense of significance? Well not really, I never had one in the first place! What I think I've lost is a sense of direction and purpose, or maybe I've gained one because my purpose and direction is no longer determined by the constraints of what has been defined historically as ministry.

Who knows. I'm just glad that even if I'm the least one of whom Jesus was speaking, I have a place of significance in the kingdom of God that far outweighs my apparent significance in this life.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Just a thought

Listening to the news this morning about the introduction of a new Secondary Education examination, the newly names "Gove-level" and wondering if any has done the apparently obvious thing and actualy thought about education from an educators point of view, a learners point of of view and a business point of view?

You see it would seem to me that we need to educate business leaders that education isn't just about standard spelling and numeracy, important as they are, but it's wider than that. And educators already know that young people need to be able to count and spell and formulate sentences without urban punctuation.

Has anyone actually sat down and asked, business leaders, government and high education leaders what the skill set is that they are looking for from prospective workers/learners and then looked at how best to assess those skills?

When I look at the concept of a single exam at the end of a tow year course, I see a very shallow exploration of learning. If you can regurgitate the correct amount of correct information you get the grade. When I look at a modular system, I see other problems around how much help and assistance a given individual might get to produce their best work. Either way, the test is flawed. But maybe that's not the biggest issue. Maybe the biggest issue is that no matter what method of assessment we use, we only appear to be interested in driving an education system that teaches to the test.

The course I am currently doing is, if done properly, about developing a skill set. Sadly most of us are only used to taking exams and passing or failing. So we don't treat assessments as an opportunity to discover what we still need to learn, but we treat them as a hurdle to cross. The result? We stop learning once we've made it through the test.

I don't know how you shift the mind set away from exams to assessing the development of skills in the mind of either tutor or student, but I wonder if this is exactly what we need to do if we're going to develop a broad education system that prepares all of us for life in all its dimensions.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Training for a challenge?

Training is always a challenge, I guess that's part of the reason we both do it and give up doing it. Whether it's training for a new career (like Sports Massage in my case), or training for an event or just for fitness, it has to be enough of a challenge to make it worth the effort.

In fitness terms, if you don't progressively overload, you won't actually achieve any improvements. In other words, if your exercise routine is always manageable and doesn't leave you out of breath and sweating, then you're probably not working hard enough.

I'm aware that I need a new challenge if I'm going to take the next step when it comes to maintaing and improving my fitness and health. Sadly, doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5-7 days a week just to keep my heart healthy doesn't seem to be enough of a motivation for me to get out and pound the streets. I need something else to make me want to lace up my trainers or my new Vibram Five Finger shoes.

Since I first heard about the Oxfam Trailwalk, my interest was piqued. Could I walk 100Km in 30 hours? It doesn't seem too difficult, it's only just under 3.5Km an hour average (that's only just over 2mph), but it is 100Km! The furthest I've walked in a single day is around 24Km, but that was a while ago and I didn't do any training for that. So I reckon, with some proper fitness training I could manage significantly more, but could I get to 100Km.

This is where some short term and medium term goals might come in handy. So I thought I might set myself the goal of doing a 50Km walk sometime next year, maybe May. It's just a thought at the moment, but maybe this would be a good goal and a good stepping stone towards the 100Km trail! I'll need to work out a training schedule of course, but I can put all that PT training to good use.

Two years ago my 10k step challenge kept me motivated for a whole year as I played with various milestones (forgive the pun) along the way. If I'd have set out to do 4 million steps in a year, then that target would have seemed way to big to get anywhere near. Imagine how far away it would have looked after a couple of weeks! But I did it by setting a daily target. When I wanted to push the challenge a bit more, I went for 500,000 steps in a single month. I need to recapture some of that mentality for a new challenge.

So here's to the crazy idea of looking to walking to Southend and back in a single day! That's about 60Km from where I live, if you follow the main route. I wonder if there is a road to Southend that is the road less travelled?

Saturday, September 08, 2012

In need of a spiritual heart monitor

Occasionally I wear a heart rate monitor so that I can check my heart rate during exercise. I do this to see what kind of training zone I'm working in and how it feels. There's a simple scale we use to do the job too, but a monitor is a useful bit of kit to have around. The important thing, when doing exercise, is to work in the heart rate zone applicable to your goals, so monitoring your heart rate is a key factor in doing that.

Jesus spoke in Luke 6 about good trees producing goos fruit and bad tress producing bad fruit. Figs, he said, do't grow on thorn bushes and grapes don't grow on brambles. He then makes his application to us:

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

It's that last little phrase that catches me: What you say flows from what is in your heart. Too often we excuse ourselves when we say bad things or react badly with words of condemnation and judgement. But our words aren't just the vocalisation of what we feel at a given moment in time, they are the fruit of what is in our hearts, which is something more significant, more personalised, a deeper expression of who we really are.

Look at what Proverbs has to say about looking after your heart:

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Proverbs 4:22-24 

In the New Living Translation we read that it determines the course of your life.

And of course Paul points out that The peace of God, which is beyond human understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7)

Two things at work then, firstly we have a responsibility to guard our own hearts. There are no excuses for how we act and speak. What comes out of our mouths is a reflection of what is deep within us. Secondly, we have access to the peace of God, something we can't easily fathom, but which serves as guardian to our hearts and thoughts.

Guarding your heart is not just about policing your words, it's about examining your life and allowing the Spirit of God to do his redeeming work in your life. Renewing your heart and mind, conforming you to the image of Christ and supporting you in your quest to become more like Jesus.

So monitor the health of your heart and adjust your spiritual exercise routine so that you are biulding a healthy heart not an unhealthy one.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Time to get back in the trainers!

Is it really two years ago since I embarked on my 10k steps a day for 100 days challenge? Incredible! I remember all the analysis and number crunching that went on throughout that year. Wasn't it something ridiculous like 4 million steps in the year? I also remember taking on the challenge to do 500k steps in a month!

Goals are really important for both focus and motivation. But you have to be careful. If you set them too high, you will suffer the disappointment of never reaching your unrealistic goals. If you set them too low, they probably won't help you achieve the bigger goal behind them, if there is one, or they will somehow become too easy to reach and demotivating as a result.

So I'm wondering abut revisiting those old goals and seeing if I can achieve them again. Will I have the same drive a second time around I wonder? Will I go out in the snow and the rain to complete my daily steps? Who knows. The only way to find out is to do it.

So it needs a bit of thought, but as I posted my morning walk via Runkeeper, I did notice that the pace was below my old 4mph target, so that might be a place to start and set a goal f walking 4 miles in an hour once a week (that's 6.4Km if my maths is correct).

I also need some strength training goals and a few goals not directly related to fitness! I wonder how many goals it's realistic to load into one's life at any one time! I suspect it's a personal thing, but trying to finish a course, start a business, get fit, lose weight, start church, and finish the house, well maybe I'm in danger of having a few too many.

As for now, I'll think about setting one goal for each thing on my list and look to plan towards that. Sounds to me like I need to dust off my copy of Getting Things Done and reread it for a bot of motivation.