football training cones

Cobblers Column: Busy

For the Northampton Town vs Exeter game today.
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The season is only three weeks old and already the Cobblers are facing their seventh match this afternoon against Exeter. Since the beginning of preseason, it’s been a busy time of hard work by all, with not much chance for a break. Stuart, Craig and the team of fitness coaches and physios have had to make sure that everything is paced correctly for the players to be in peak condition – and not overtired – come match days.

There have been times in my working life when I feel that I’m staggering through a mountain of tasks with hardly a chance to sit down. I’m sure that is the case with many people. Keeping fresh in the midst of a heavy workload is tough. If you scour the internet there is plenty of advice available, some better than others, but these are a few things which can help us during busy periods.

1. Get enough sleep. Whilst it can be fun to have a late night out from time to time, as we get older, it seems to take longer and longer to recover the next day. I find I need about eight hours sleep per night to function well, but for each person this is different. Shortly after our second child was born, I was noticeably struggling to stay alert during important meetings! Skimping on sleep makes us less focussed, more grumpy, and can be unproductive in the long run.

2. Take time off each week. In the early days of the Soviet empire they experimented with different lengths of working week in order to boost productivity. They failed, and in 1940 returned to seven days, like the rest of the world. The principle of taking at least one day off per week to rest and spend time with family is a Biblical one. The story of creation (whether you read it literarily or metaphorically) describes God working for six days and resting on the seventh. Hence, we seem to have been created with the need to rest for at least one day per week. My day off cannot be at a weekend (Sunday services!) but I always aim to take one full 24 hour period off each week.

3. Schedule me-time during the day. As little as 30 minutes of quiet thought per day can have a significant effect on our wellbeing. I start each day by reading a passage from Bible and praying for people, issues and situations on my mind, which sets me up for the day ahead. Others I know make time to be with their thoughts or contemplate the day by walking the dog on their own, or taking time out over lunch.

4. Say ‘no’. If there is an important task to be completed, prioritising it above less urgent issues or distractions can be highly liberating. I’ll admit I’m terrible at this, but I am learning the art of saying “No”, which doesn’t always go down well, but can be valuable in the long run in reducing stress and achieving what you set out to do!

wolf tide

Wolf Tide

The latest novel discussed in our book club was an accomplished first foray into fantasy fiction from established author Catherine Fox.

Anabara Nolio is a young private investigator in the city of Larrity trying to make her way in business, life and love. The world she inhabits is one filled with sub-species of humans each with their own attributes and traditions. Anabara is half Gull, half-Galen which means she can fly, although she isn’t supposed to within the confines of the city. It is also a world filled with charms, magic, faith and fairies – only these fairies are not ones you’ve ever dreamed of. Less Tinkerbell and a little more vampire.

When Anabara is appointed to investigate the disappearance of books from the university library and to report on the broken charms in the stained glass windows, she makes a solid start. But as she delves deeper she discovers layers of deception, corruption and injustice, even by those she loves.

I’ll not say any more as that would give the plot away.

This is a new style of fiction for Catherine Fox. I first was alerted to her when I was an undergraduate at Durham, and I was told that there was this new author, a former student, who had written a novel about theological students in Durham, and if you knew the place you could actually pinpoint where in the colleges the characters were. I didn’t really read novels at the time, but I gave Angels and Men a go and loved it. Her next two novels were in the same style mixing keen observations of faith, strong characters, humour and love together  – this time following female vicars as they took their first steps into ministry. Wolf Tide is quite different but doesn’t disappoint. Anabara is a well rounded female lead character. She is good at her job, she obviously is looking for love but is not overly obsessed with make-up or appearance, yet there is enough that is vulnerable or uncertain about her 17-year old self which makes her quite believable. She relies day to day on St. Pelago, who is key to the organised religion of the town, and he usually comes through for her.

This is certainly a good addition to this genre. I was able to imagine the world quite well and I liked the central characters – always important to keep you reading. And in the plot Fox keeps the pages turning too. If I was being really picky, i might have liked a little more distinction between the human sub-species – Gull, Galen, Tressy, Zaarzuk. Their difference in character between the groups were described well but I had a little difficulty imagining their general differences in appearance. But that is being picky. Despite, I think, not being the intended demographic of readership, I enjoyed it a lot. I hope there is a sequel and I will certainly read it if there is.

On it’s release Catherine Fox told the Greenbelt Blog a little about how she came us with the idea.

 

(Photo from Greenbelt)

 

bill hybels

Hope of the World

bill hybelsI recently came across these notes I made of Bill Hybels’ talk at the 2013 HTB leadership conference. Some useful thoughts on vision and team.

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The local church is the hope of the world. There is nothing like the local church when it is working right. The local church will only work well if it is fed well and led well. Can’t talk about leadership without vision

Vision casting – often we start by describing the place we want to go. This may not be the most useful way to bring people with you, however well you cast the vision of that place. People like it ‘here’. They know ‘here’. It’s comfortable ‘here’. You might need to start showing them exactly what is wrong with the place you are currently. People need to see the problems. And they need to realise that we cannot stay in the place we are.  Then a solution can be received. Start by building an airtight case of all the reasons why you can’t stay here.

Vision is most under threat in the middle of the project. Initial enthusiasm has died down and the end is not yet in sight. Need to remind people how far you have come in order to keep going. This also might be the point at which leaders are most vulnerable.
Team
How do we attract, develop and maintain a great team. Leaders need people to share the vision with, and to include others in. Looking for people with the five Cs: Character, Competence, Chemistry (someone you get on with), someone who fits in the Culture of the church, and someone with Calling from God. You will regret it if you compromise on these.
Need to take the time to define the culture of the church. What’s unique about it? At Willow Creek (Bill’s Church), they want people who are incessant tinkerers, who will tweak and tinker in order to improve things.
Figure out who are the most important people in the team. If calamity struck, who would you not want to lose. Who could you cope with losing. Why are they the people you’d not mind losing?  What needs to change? What has changed to bring them to that place (assuming they were important to you when they were hired)? Sometimes you realise though this that you are under using people. Make sure people are not under challenged.
We lead people but the toughest person to lead is yourself. It is our own job to keep ourselves refreshed and healthy in our leadership.  We need to find ways to replenish ourselves. Need to find the rhythms to help ourselves remain full. If we’re a pastor the best thing we bring is ourselves filled with the Holy Spirit, where we have life, patience, and humour.

Be filled with the Spirit.

John Stott from his Commentary on Ephesians.

When Paul says to us, ‘Be filled with the Spirit’, he uses a present imperative implying that we are to go on being filled. For the fulness of the Spirit is not a once-for-all experience which we can never lose, but a privilege to be renewed continuously by continuous believing and obedient appropriation….

To the defeated Paul would say, ‘Be filled with the Spirit, and he will give you a new love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control.’ To the complacent Paul would say ‘go on being filled with the Spirit. Thank God for what he has given you thus far. But do not say you have arrived. For there is more, much more, yet to come.’

 

20.8.04 Blythburgh Free Range PorkFree Range growers.

Don’t say a word.

20.8.04 Blythburgh Free Range Pork Free Range growers.I came across two stories from Jesus’ life in my reading this morning (in Mark 5). The first is the restoration of the demon possessed man, the one known as Legion, and the second is the raising of a little girl back to life –  the daughter of Jairus the synagogue ruler. We recently thought about the second passage in one of our family services at our church.

Jesus is on the Gentile side of Lake Galilee when he encounters the man with the demons. They recognise Jesus as once and beg him for mercy. After the demons are expelled (into a local herd of pigs), the man who is restored is given the commission to “go home and tell them about how much the Lord has done for you, how he has had mercy on you” (5:18)

After a quick boat ride back across the lake, Jesus is teaching a crowd when Jairus comes and begs him for help. Jesus is now on the Jewish side of the lake and Jairus holds a respected position in the faith community. By the time Jesus gets to Jairus’ house the little girl has died, but Jesus encourages them to have faith and he goes into the house and raises her back to life. Then comes the instruction “He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this” (5:43).

So  – two miraculous events, but differing instructions on whether they are supposed to talk about it. Why would he say one thing to one person and another to the other group?

In a way, I can understand Jesus telling Jairus’ family not to say anything. Jesus was already having trouble moving around the area due to the large crowds that wanted him to heal. Gods new kingdom has come. Jesus is demonstrating how the world should, and will eventually, be. There are a number of things, including death, that are not as they were. The world is turned upside down as will be demonstrated ultimately through Jesus death and resurrection. His whole life (and death and resurrection) is a testament to that, not just the miracles. Jesus knows that  a yearning for great and flashy miracles does not result in a secure faith.  The result is people always wanting to be amazed instead of a more secure step-by-step everyday faith.

But I also wonder (and I’m just thinking aloud here) whether part of the difference had to do with the audience being Gentile on the one hand, and Jewish on the other. Religious on the one hand, and non-religious on the other. God often uses miracles to get people’s attention. Many people have had divine intervention to get them started turning their lives around. After that, once on the right path and walking securely with God, the miraculous become more infrequent. Perhaps Jesus expects the Jews to recognise signs of the new kingdom coming in, not just in the miracles he does, whereas the gentiles perhaps needed an added reason to start looking towards Jesus. (Interestingly, their first reaction to Jesus was “Please go home, we’re scared” – 5:17 ). Maybe I’m wrong here, but I wonder if new converts to the faith experience more miraculous signs in their early faith than those who have grown up in the church. (I have no evidence for this, it’s just a hunch based on hearing testimonies and anecdotes). Is this for the same reasons perhaps?

I remember hearing John Piper speak  on suffering, and he noted that in the book of Acts the disciples and followers were given a command to spread the gospel “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” There were many miraculous signs given to the early church too. Yet by the beginning of chapter 8, pretty much all believers were still in Jerusalem. It took persecution and suffering to get them out into Judea, Samaria and further afield. Miraculous signs are great, and we are encouraged to pray for them, but a walk of faith through suffering is often a more powerful testimony than a miracle.

jarius daughter

Only sleeping

jarius daughterSome thoughts/questions on the account in Mark 5:35-43 of Jesus raising a young girl from death back to life.

- Jesus is demonstrating his authority over death, to add to the other authorities that Mark presents. The girl is not raised with any magical formula but with a very normal “Up you get!” – the sort of thing a parent might say to a child who they are trying to wake up from sleep. To him this is normal and well within his power.
- In spite of this, there is no sense of triumphalism, with Jesus again reminding people not to tell anyone about it (as he does after a good number of miracles). Could this be because great miracles alone are not the basis of faith, but a secure walk in his footsteps. Miracles alone may lead to a shallow faith, always wanting to be amazed. He wants engaged followers who are always listening and acting.
- But what about all those who die that Jesus doesn’t raise? Off the top of my head, in the gospels I can only think of Jarius’ daughter, Lazarus, and the widow’s son whom he raises to life. There must have been many others who died. Of courses, Jesus’ own resurrection from death is different, defeating it, coming through the other side and initiating a new order of things, unlike Jarius’ daughter et al who were restored to the old order.
- Therefore, part of what he is demonstrating is the initiation of a new kingdom, when all the usual foes and fears (including death) get turned upside down. In this sense it is a signpost to his own resurrection and this overcoming of death is open to all, not just those he happened to meet and raise in the flesh.
- I’m also thinking a little of the final scene from the Disney movie frozen, where love conquers death.

life faith thought

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