Author: tommo

Screaming blues

I’m watching guitar videos.

Technique, tricks (just a few of them) and the launch into freedom. I watch these players and they’re screaming. That is when music is on fire, once you stop thinking and get out of your head, and let it come on out! Somewhere in thenre the chaos gets out of the way and something within you starts to speak properly.

Music is more like some primal expression than language. Words are in there, and sure it is COMMUNICATION! But when you are listening to someone take it home, it’s closer to a mystical experience than anything else.

You can’t get away from letting stuff in (and there’s plenty INCOMING), I’m not advocating stop reading, stop listening or consuming. But it’s so easy to get the balance wrong. For every book read, I probably at least need to give the same amount of energy to output something. Not necessarily for you, but for me at the least.

Stop thinking and practicing and start screaming!

(John Mayer & Keith Urban live | Lead guitar solo technique)

Genesis, and Freedom (part 4)

Embodiment: Being Formed

In the beginning, God spoke with commanding intent. As he did so, all-that-is came into being. Through the repeating refrain, “God said… and it was,” the creative, rhythmic, breath of God is made the center and focus of this creation account.

We tend to think that we just need to know stuff to live right. But that’s not true. Knowledge doesn’t affect living until it becomes internalised into the daily habits and routines that shape us. Effective freedom needs to be more than proclaimed; it needs to be lived out. And it needs to be lived out rhythmically.

Genesis 1 helps us to live out our freedom. It is a masterpiece. The author seems intrinsically to understand that the true nature of transformation is so much more than knowledge.

Emmanual le Roy Ladurie describes his own journey of coming to understand this:

Mine was the classic misadventure: I had wanted to master a source in order to confirm my youthful convictions; but it was finally the source that mastered me by imposing its own rhythms, its own chronology, and its own particular truth.

Genesis 1 is a text that wants to master us. And we should let it. Because it is a text about our true identity, and a text about the freedom we are created for.

It is an extremely rhythmic passage, one that can help us to embody its message. How does it do it? Because it is like a song. Through the poetic quality of the text we can see it has a certain singability.

And God saw that it was good…

…it was good…

…it was good…

 

Let there be… and it was. 

Let there be… and it was.

Let there be… and it was.

 

…and there was evening, and there was morning…

…and there was evening, and there was morning…

…and there was evening, and there was morning…

This is a poem! And we can sing it. We can breathe it. Its rhythms, if we let them, can get inside us. The rhythms of this freedom text are calling out to us. Inviting us to embody the message within: that we are free.

And singing is best when done together. Music isn’t a solo pursuit. Researchers from Gothenburg University have found that when people intentionally sing together, their breathing starts to sync up (BBC). Talk about a vision of unity – this is how hearts start beating together.

So Genesis 1 is about rhythm and habit, and about practicing freedom together. It shows that if we sing it, we might start to live it. And we’re meant to live it together. Freedom is a communal task.

This is counter-cultural, because in embracing this Scripture we are required to take God seriously. And to take each other seriously. We can do that by:

  1. Choosing to let the narrative shape our imagination deeply, and in doing so embrace what it is saying about God and who God is
  2. Choosing to step out of our comfort zone to be together. To gather, to share, to sing. We are called to be a people journeying together.

So here ends this playful exploration of Genesis 1 through the lens of freedom. Identity, ethic and embodiment are the key themes addressed.

We were made for this.

 

Genesis, and Freedom (part 3)

Ethic: A Way of Life

[See Part 1 and Part 2]

A free life is the calling and birthright of humans. This right is given to us by God, who created us freely. But it’s harder than you think. To live out our freedom-identity, we need some kind of road map, we need a way of life to guide and sustain us. We need an ethic that gives shape to our freedom.

Genesis 1 gives us a clue, pointing us toward a way of life that has been set in motion by God. But it doesn’t come by way of verbal instruction, it’s more embedded in the text – like a design feature, an artistic vision.

In this first chapter of Genesis we see a demonstration of the beauty and order of God’s design. We can see it in the internal structure of the text, in the literary design. Check this out:

  • There are seven days in the creation narrative.
    • The first three deal with the major structural underpinnings of the universe and world: the bones.
    • Then the next three flesh it out.
  • There’s a nice parallel to each of these sets of three days.
    • On the first day, there was light; then on the fourth day, lights (in the sky: sun, moon and stars).
    • On the second day, the dome to “separate the waters from the waters”¹ to give form to sea and sky; then on the fifth day, fish and birds.
    • On the third day, land; and on the sixth day, animals and humans.

This is a nice layout. The author takes playful delight in the details and the symmetry, using the words to convey something of intentional design of God’s creation.

And after six days of active creating, God rests. The seventh day is the Sabbath. This is the crowning day of creation, and the day that lays the foundation for the way of life that leads to freedom.

  • On the Sabbath, we are to “cease and desist.”
    • Work matters; but in resting we allow our identity to be re-orientated.
    • We are not defined firstly by what we do, but by who we were made by.
  • On the Sabbath, we are to bless.
    • All the work that God had done was good and “very good.”
    • The Sabbath is for naming the good, for enjoying that which we have created and sweated for.
  • On the Sabbath, we get to celebrate.
    • The world that God created for us live in is abundant and beautiful and good.
    • You’re not free until you can enjoy the perks that freedom brings. Get this!

So we are called to a way of life that is orderly and beautiful, a way that prioritises and stands upon the concept of Rest. Maybe this seems like a strange starting point for ethic. But it is actually quite counter-cultural.

In looking to God who creates with order and beauty, and in choosing to enter the rest he has given to us, we actively take a stand against and renounce our own self-sufficiency. We cannot create freedom for ourselves; only God can. So in proactive resistance against all that pulling us in other directions, we cease from our need to accomplish, produce and succeed. For we trust that we find enough in God. And we embrace relationships with the rest of creation (which in God’s words is “good”) and especially so with humans (“very good”).

Through this lense of ordered beauty and of Sabbath, Genesis 1 shows us a way of life that is both simple and profound. The pathway to freedom can be found here.

¹ This references the ancient Jewish view of the universe which understood there to be ‘waters’ above all that we know of as the sky, above which is heaven where God dwells.

Genesis, and Freedom (part 2)

Identity: What does it mean to be human?

[See Part 1]

Humans are created to be free; freedom is at the core of our identity. However, as outrageous a claim as it might seem, we do not and cannot orchestrate our own freedom. Freedom is a question that leads us in the first place to God – at least that’s the contention of Genesis 1.

In this first chapter of Scripture, our attention is drawn firmly and finally to God, for we are being reminded that the key to our true identity lies outside of ourselves.

  • God is mentioned 35 times (between verses 1:1 and 2:4a);
  • he is creating, blessing and celebrating the new creation;
  • he is pictured as triumphing over chaos (an ancient tribute of the highest order)

In short, God has the stage.

The counter-cultural emphasis of this text lies in the way it challenges our own self-sufficiency. God must be our first focus. Once we align our attention to him, we have a proper starting point for understanding who we are.

One might be temped to think this degrades our right to be free and to fight for the worthy cause of freedom; but that would be to miss the key point. By focusing firstly on God, Genesis 1 places a higher emphasis on freedom than we can hold on our own. It was God in the first place who freely created us. It’s that first move that dares us to freely respond.

So, what does it mean to be human? Our true identity lies in the reality that we are created for freedom, by God. We don’t have the resources to create freedom for ourselves! Instead, we discover who we are when we look to God. Genesis 1 call us to aim at the horizon, readjust our looking glass, and set out on a voyage in the direction of the author of Freedom.

 

 

Genesis 1, and Freedom (part 1)

“Only the one who obeys a rhythm greater than their own is truly free,” claimed Nikos Kanzantakis (my paraphrase). Freedom, one of history’s great rally-cries, is positioned here in terms of ‘obedience’. Certainly, this is contrary to the common conception of freedom.

The issue of freedom leads us to ask some of life’s great questions. What does it mean to be free? How can one become free? What do we need to be free from? Is freedom a right, or a privilege?

All freedom movements, in addressing questions such as these, articulate the following: an identity, an ethic, and an embodiment. An identity is an answer to the question of what it means to be human. An ethic is an endorsed or proposed way of life. An embodiment is a set of habits, designed to form this identity and ethic within us.

We can find each of these articulated in Genesis 1:1-2:4a. It is a freedom text, with its own bold claims and unique assertions about these issues. Why does it explore these things? Because the question of freedom goes to the very heart of life and existence, and is central to the author’s concern. How does it explore them? Part 2, coming [eventually].

Isaiah 58 (in Tom’s words)

[An instruction for Isaiah]

With everything you’ve got, shout!
Use your voice and use it loud,
your sledgehammer words to hold them in their tracks.
Confront the rebellion and resistance of my people, the house of Jacob.
This has to be a hard word.

[The diagnosis]

Day after day they seek me, supposedly aligning themselves with my ways,
acting like they’re a righteous nation,
acting like they’re living in line with my commands.
They’re not.
They ask for righteous judgements, they feign delight in drawing near to me.
“Here we are fasting, don’t you see? Why bother humbling ourselves when you don’t even notice?”

You want the truth?

You fast, but even as we speak you’re utterly preoccupied with your own interests; you oppress your workers, for crying out loud! You only fast so you can quarrel, fight, and beat up on others – yes, you with the wicked fist. I’ll tell you for sure, your voice won’t be heard on high. No way. You’re wasting your time with this so-called ‘fasting’.

Do you really think that this is what I want? A day where you humble yourselves and bow your head, acting lowly and pretending like the world has fallen on you? You think this is a fast, a day that the Almighty God takes delights in?

Nope.
But try this on for size. Here is the kind of fast I choose.

[The prescription]

Loose the chains of injustice.
Undo the restraints of repression.
Let the oppressed go free, and smash down the walls of captivity.
Share your food with the hungry, your house with the homeless poor,
Honour the personhood of the naked; evict their shame, and cover them.
Stay present, attentive, and involved with your family.

[The promise]

See, now we’re talking.
Live like this, and your light will captivate the earth like the dawn;
your healing will arise quickly, as streams from the ground.
Your vindicator will go ahead of you, and God-the-magnificent will have your back. You’ll call out, and Almighty God will answer; you’ll cry for help, and he’ll respond: “I’m here!”

[Further prescription and promise]

If you demolish strongholds of fear, accusation, and evil,
if you work to keep bellies full and to satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light will rise in the darkness, your dusk will be the brightest daylight.
The LORD Almighty will actively and continuously guide you,
satisfying your needs even in the driest places,
giving you a deeply rooted strength.
You’ll be vibrant and rich like a watered garden,
like a pure alpine spring whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt, and you’ll raise the foundations for the coming generations;
your name will be Repairer of the Broken Wall, Restorer of the Abundant Streets.

If you can hold back from walking all over the sabbath (the day of renewable energy) and chasing your own glory,

and delight, embrace, and claim it as a holy day of God,
if you honour it and allow your life be shaped by it (rather than using it for your agenda),
then you’ll discover deepest delight in the Lord Almighty.
I’ll cut you loose to ride on the heights of the earth;
I’ll nourish and satisfy you with all the riches and abundances of your inheritance from Jacob.

These are my words to you, my people.

I’ve said it with my own mouth.

5Q – Alan Hirsch [Book Review]

Fresh language goes hand-in-hand with fresh thinking. By allowing fresh thoughts to become infused through life in rhythms, practices and habits, space can be made for sustained change.

Alan Hirsch has been consistent in his task to prod the church toward fresh thinking. 5Q is his most recent book, and in it he makes a broad case for the use of some specifically fresh language. The title is a play on ‘intelligence quotient’ (IQ) and other such measurements, and Hirsch has repurposed the idea to describe the form of “symphonic” communal intelligence that arises out of a combination of different perspectives, gifts and motivations.

It’s not like he hasn’t written about this before. Hirsch has basically championed the recovery of the ‘fivefold’ callings/functions (apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, teacher, Ephesians 4:11) for the missional church movement, covering the topic extensively as a co-author in The Permanent Revolution. I personally found that book satisfyingly thorough, and ahead of reading 5Q I wasn’t sure there was much else to say on the APEST gifts. But Hirsch’s writing life has been nothing if not intentional, so I was intrigued. Here’s the breakdown.

God

The APEST gifts outlined in Ephesians 4 ultimately find their source in the very substance of God’s being. God’s eternal purposes (sentness-missio), holy covenantal heart, saving mercy, loving communal embrace, and infinite truth and wisdom are ways to understand God through the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching lenses. This language is certainly fresh – or perhaps it’s this specific combination of elements making it feel new – and some people won’t like it, I guess. But all-in-all, it seems a theologically astute and comfortable claim.

Common Grace

Traces of God can be found throughout all creation, and even though there is a ‘brokenness’ to the world we can still see the image of God within humanity. Hirsch makes a great case for identifying the distinctive characteristics of God (outlined above and framed using the APEST language) throughout humanity’s founding stories. In addition to dealing with the Genesis account of creation (looking at humanity’s relationality, agency, rationality, creativity, responsibility, and communication), he also deals more broadly with mythology and archetypes. To flesh this out, he does a quick sweep across subjects such as philosophy, biology, living systems, psychology and the social sciences, history, literature and art. It’s a fun chapter. His contention is essentially that the fivefold gifts are laced throughout every aspect of human reality.

Jesus

This is pretty straight-forward. Jesus is the fulfilment of humanity, and the archetypal expression of each of the 5Q dimensions. The Father sends the Son, and the Father and the Son send the Spirit. In this classical trinitarian formula, Jesus is both sent and sender. He ignites his followers to continue his mission until he returns, and holds them to account for doing so. In all of this he is the ultimate apostle (cf. John 20:21; Hebrews 3:1). In the same way, Hirsch outlines Jesus as the ultimate expression of prophet (cf. John 1:1-14; Revelation 1:5; Hebrews 2:5; Matthew 4:1-11), evangelist (cf. Luke 19:9-10; Ephesians 2:14), shepherd (cf. John 10:11; 1 Peter 2:25), and teacher (cf. John 1:17; Romans 16:26). (Note: I’ve illustrated these points with ‘quick’ Scriptures, but Hirsch takes a much more synthesising approach.)

Followers of Jesus

Given that the church is meant to carry on the work of Christ through the power of the Spirit, then each of these dimensions of Christ’s ministry must be expressed in mature fulness throughout the whole Body of Christ. This is what Ephesians 4:1-16 is all about, and the argument is developed in full form in The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church.

Marks of the Church

Now, this is the really fun bit! This is where the prior work actually lands us, offering both diagnostic tools and a very clear ‘way forward.’ The marks of the church according to the Nicene Creed are “one, holy, catholic, apostolic.” Missiologist Darryl Guder has previously called us to understand these in the reverse order (see Missional Church), which is pretty cool. Hirsch however takes issue with the impossibility of the “catholic” part. For it to be a true mark of the church, “there must be a visible unity of structure and confession.” True catholicity may well exist in a mystical, “communion of the saints” kind of way, joining believers across the boundaries of space and time. But based on our current situation, there can be no truly structural and confessional world-wide “catholic” church. A more helpful way to think of the marks of the true church is using the APEST framework. The true church is marked by Missional impact (A), Covenant faithfulness (P), Gospel proclamation (E), Reconciled community, (S), Deep wisdom (T). I think this is rad :-)

Implications

Hirsch provides a compelling case for how the church is to be and act in the world. APEST is “grounded in God, laced into creation, redeemed by Jesus, granted to the church, lived out in the lives of its saints, to the glory of God. [It is a] ‘system’ that goes as deep as it does wide.” The book has a great flow to it, is actually quite a fun read, and comes across with a sort of light-hearted passion. Hirsch doesn’t take himself too seriously, but he takes God and God’s mission very seriously indeed. Putting 5Q into practice should lead to lots of new insights for church life ‘on the ground,’ and the second half of the book is helpful in fleshing some of these out. It will be interesting to see who picks up the challenge posed by Hirsch in the spheres of systematic and trinitarian theology and see what further explorations of 5Q might be undertaken at that level. Most of all, I’ll look forward to seeing a bit of rage (hehe) as people grapple with the fivefold ‘marks of the church’. 5Q is a clear, bold and purpose-filled proposal for the ongoing shaping of the church. I hope that Hirsch’s thesis gets ‘run through the gauntlet’ at both intellectual and practical levels. Let’s see if the implications are as powerful as they sound.

5Qcentral.com | 5Q on Amazon

A New Vitality

This is a call for release…

Release from a captivity of imagination.

Not a call to forsake true identity; a call to take it up!

Ain’t no need to whitewash skill or experience; it’s time to tether these to a new way.

This is a word with intent, determined to call forth hope. A word to look and see what is already here. To lift one’s head and survey the landscape anew. Because although the truth is close, maybe it’s different than you expected…

Look again.

Forget the former things; do not dwell in the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

A new reality has arrived.

The first shoots of spring are breaking through; the early rays of the new dawn are colouring the sky. All that is necessary now is to get down in the dirt and pay attention… to rise from your slumber and be alive.

Awake, sleeper! Get to work, gardener!

… and let the breath of life restore you to your senses, renew your lost vigour, invigorate you with lifeblood, saturate you in splendour.

Come. Come and see. Your dreams no longer belong to the night. The hopes that were dashed are alive with new vitality.

Here is the way, the path so many longed to find. Set your eyes to the horizon and get your feet on the road.

This journey has been waiting for you.

Faith-Filled Prayer

Prayer is a present-moment activity. It requires the direction of our energies in fullness toward God, right here and right now.

But in this present moment, faith-filled prayer takes us on a bit of a time-travel. It takes us forward, into a future not-yet-seen. While we are there – actively attentive to a possibility – we take ownership of that place, in hope… before releasing it to the God who holds all time.

And he deals with it. Faith-filled prayer is:

“To enter and engage the future, and render it a past already dealt with.”

– Peter Roberson: Revival Streams

This is praying ’till you mean it,

Then trusting the One who receives it.

Fresh Verbs

Where has aliveness happened?

Somewhere in our past, distantly / deliberately, new life happened. In all sorts of places, through all sorts of people, new things have sprung forth.

These new things were meaningful then. But the past doesn’t speak to the present without a bit of work…

“The nouns of art (the paintings, scores, recordings, information) are tombstones that mark locations where significant acts of aliveness once took place; they await fresh verbs (attention, personal connection, response, discovery) to bring them back to life.”

 (The Teaching Artist’s Bible by Eric Booth, p.40)

The past wants to speak to us. There are words of wisdom and life, locked away in a multitude of places, just waiting to be opened. They are ready to warn us, exhort us, console us, scold us. The past is holding out the right hand of fellowship, waiting, waiting… do we accept the dare to dive in?

All that’s needed are fresh verbs. All that is needed is a willingness to engage.

An encounter

Awaits.

 

Unknown / Out In The Open

There is a great hope.

It is like a huge underground lake of fresh water, a storehouse and spring of courage, life and energy. It is a great treasure source of comprehension and fulfilment.

Hidden throughout all the ages, the breath from our lips can utter of it little more than ” M . Y . S . T . E . R . Y . ”

But pay attention. For that which was unknown

Is now out in the open.

“Release Plans”

I spent yester-eve with (bro) Hamish and our mix-engineer Matt Caradus making final moves on the soon-to-be released ‘Black Boy Peaches’ album.

It’s nice to be able to execute a “release plan” (lol) while actually being on deadline, unlike the last time (in the dark-ages of 2010) when we missed the Company Feel Good release-date by over a month!

Anyhow, as good as this is… I may as well say that the concept of planning is dubious, at best. The future is so unpredictably filled with twists and turns that pretending to hold the reigns is a little on the naive side. Typing up a nice looking release hit-list is comforting, sure, and it does help by giving some practical goals to hit. But it is just a one-dimensional view of what is in reality a kaleidoscopic-future, and it is guaranteed not to work as anticipated. If you’ve ever planned anything that involves other people in the slightest (i.e. almost everything ever), you’ll know what it’s like to have missed emails, inconclusive phone calls, and a lack of interest in what you are trying to achieve!

The plan looks great until on the first day when somebody says No!

So, our album release is more to do with intent than planning. Our goal is obviously to give our precious album that we have loved and laboured over as much a chance of filling the airwaves as possible; so, for what it’s worth, we will plan and do everything within our capacity to aid that. But rather than trying to force a narrow, single-lane vision of the future into existence, our release preparation will be focused on a) remaining open to possibilities, b) finding and connecting with people with whom we find resonance, and c) enjoying the mystery of life and the anticipation of new music.

Well, enough with the positive self-talk, better go and finish my release plan!

Focused Breathing

Yesterday, as part of one of my university classes, a Thai monk led an introductory session on Buddhist meditation. He essentially focused on mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

One part of this session included an exercise I already use (sometimes), which is helpful when seeking to focus: breathing practice. While breathing on the whole is clearly easy, breathing with intent is surprisingly difficult. But making the effort to stop and take several deep (and slow) breaths is a great feeling.

I have to focus on doing this while drumming – especially during a pieces that require extra attention. I often find myself holding my breath completely! The practice of disciplined breathing while playing is helpful for being attentive to the performance, but it can be challenging. It actually introduces a different sense of rhythm into the equation: relaxed breathing doesn’t often sync with the song tempo!

The discipline of breathing / the art of breathing… is a good starting point for christian spiritual practice. It allows for attention to God in this moment; for stillness before the Word; and for mobilisation by the Spirit, right here & right now.

Genesis 1:2 … and the breath of God hovered over the waters.

Diminished Chords

I never understood the purpose of diminished chords.

[A diminished chord that appears naturally within a major scale is that which starts in the 7th position of the scale. The chord is completed with two minor-3rd intervals on top (an interval which is 3-half steps up the scale). In C Major, this would be a chord with the notes B – D – F. To contrast this with major and minor chords, B minor == B – D – F# : B major == B – D# – F#.]

Major and minor, these are easy enough. You can play them together, and they sound good. There’s heaps of combinations. But a diminished chord, … ugh. Well, I have just blocked it out as a possible option whenever I’ve been playing.

But! But now I understand. When practising arpeggios up and down through a key (eg. F#, G#m, A#m, B, C#, D#m, Fdim … F#) I found that, yes, there is a musical place for diminished chords. In context, moving slowly and musically through various note-patterns, and (importantly) resolving from the diminished to the home chord, I had my aha moment. It actually sounded nice!

The strange and untenable has its place in a diverse environment where there is movement, (melodic) distinction and resolution.

Enjoy the tension… just keep it moving!

Why I Love Music

I love the joy of hearing new things unfold. I love exploring and discovering new depths in unexpected places. I love how in the diligence and focus of practise there is a clarity of mind awaiting, an uncovering of new ideas. I love music when you can hear a passion, a unique life-expression, a heart-beat, coming from the players and singers. I love the physical part of music: as our body warms up and we commit more fully to the process, the music gets better, and we become more honest.

I love the immediacy of music: It brings me fully into the present. I love its road-mapping possibilities: we’re here now, but we could be anywhere soon! I love the structures within music: there are cathedrals to build – though we are not limited by resource, but only taste. I love the unity of music: when the next section arrives and every person is committed, for a moment there is complete integrity of purpose – the members of the band or group are of one mind.

I love how music has the ability to raise the hairs on the back of my neck. I love that music can cause me to feel confusion, anger, outrage; excitement, hope, or delight. I love listening somebody sing something that causes a change in my thinking: an “oh…” or an “ah!” moment. I love experiencing technical expertise in music. I love when you can sense technical expertise in someone, but even more evident is the constant restraint that they show. I love the endless possibilities within music. I love the process of creating, unfolding, designing. I love the process of putting my heart on my sleeve, and standing behind a song or an idea. I love that we are able to capture moments, capture expressions, capture sounds through recording. I love the complex detail within some recordings, and the surprising simplicity within others.

Music is a 5-minute or 40-minute echo of life; it shapes us, moulds us, mirrors us, exposes us. Music says things about us that we don’t understand. It causes us to say things about ourselves that surprise. Music is a life-breath sometimes, it is an overflow other times; it is addictive, it is bitter, it is medicine, it is poison. Some people live for it, some people thrive on it, some jog to it, some go deaf for it. Music is a wide and broad as the east to the west, as high as the sky is from the depths. It is as personal as it gets, yet as universal as anything can be. Music is wonderful, mysterious, out-of-control, subtle, delicate, outrageous, beautiful.

Pride, The Killer

To really give yourself as a musician and as a person, you need to have something to lay down. (When I say ‘lay down’ I mean in the sacrificial sense, not the ‘laying down a groove’ sense).

Technique, skills, repertoire, ego – these have to be laid down for the sake of your band, for the audience, and for the music. Pride is the killer of great music and of rich community, and so you need just enough humility to put others first. With time and care, just enough will become more than enough.

As you lay yourself down for others, and as others lay themselves down for you, pride gets no say and responsibility steps into the drivers’ seat. The question stops being “what do I have?” and becomes “what can I give?” This is the point where beauty and glory can be found and is the start point of collaboration.

Pride and selfishness are an incubating partnership of death and decay. On the other hand, humility and sacrifice are a launch pad from which new things appear, a place where delightful explorations begin. Humility may seem foolish, and simplicity boring, but what are combo they are!

Principles of Mission

a. Life is ministry
Main pastoral responsibilities are to family and team. When mission comes first, ministry happens.

 

b. Do it with a few, for the many
With your team, aim for depth; with everyone else, aim simply to inspire. Deep teams will birth more deep teams.

 

c. If you aren’t willing, it’s unlikely anyone else will be
Your ultimate responsibility is to pursue your convictions unfalteringly and without compromise.

 

d. Gifts are a toolkit and an indication of the area of deployment – but they are not the mission

 

e. Battling one life-long problem is enough
The world is a big place, and you can’t do everything. Do one thing. We’re in this together, and it will take everyone one of us to faithfully play our part.

 

f. If you’re made for the edge, the centre will choke you
There is a frontier to explore. Define it.

 

g. Keep the faith
You must feed your vision, for the sake of the cause. The real battle is a battle of heart.

 

h. Passion + connection
Essence.

 

i. You require partnerships, which require self-sacrifice
Let go of grand delusions, pride and self-sufficiency, and step into grace. Be generous.

 

j. Unsolvable problems and impossible dreams don’t exist
You can do it. You just may need to look elsewhere for the way through.

Just Enough

‘Just enough’ is the place of neither too little nor too much.

In music, the place of ‘just enough’ might be something like this: just enough technique to execute and contribute artistically and just enough disciplined practise to be natural. It might be just enough study to be aware of the the depths without becoming lost in them. It might be using the skill/technique/ability that you have just enough of to become a part of a group, to contribute, to add flavour.

‘Just enough’ sits between the other two places: too much and too little. How do we know what is too much and what is too little, and find the sweet spot of just enough?

The essence of creativity is limitation and boundary. So, too much is a curse, an enemy of creative action. If we are stuck exploring endless possibility, we get none of the opposite – certainty. We need some level of certainty to begin.

But too little is a curse as well. If we don’t explore widely we fail to stretch, stagnating from lack of challenge, and missing chances to connect (seemingly) disconnected things.

With just enough comes contentment. Alongside just enough stand clarity and understanding. While learning and living just enough is like walking a tightrope, it may well be the ultimate and fulfilling balancing act.

Consider The Ant

Some observations about ants:

a. They are consistent and diligent at searching

b. They are not systematic

c. Their movements are a sort of fast-chaos

d. The speed and determination of an ant makes up for the apparent lack of sure-fire plan

e. It’s a numbers game

f. They don’t mind crashing into each other

g. There’s no despair in a fruitless search, nor ecstasy with a big score

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.

Building Things

We build things so that the world outside becomes like the world we long for on the inside.

People and situations change, but built-things don’t, not very easily.

So people build something that they fit perfectly into. And then they change, or somebody else does. Then they don’t fit, or the built-thing doesn’t fit, or something.

So when people or the times are wrecking havoc on whatever-the-built-thing-is (I’m trying really hard not to say ‘organisation’), they are actually wrecking havoc on the person who built it. If it doesn’t work any more, and it was designed to fit you perfectly, does that mean you don’t work anymore?

So rules of thumb for builders: only build something that you are prepared to give away. In fact, build it to fit other people, not yourself.

Introverts and Extroverts

This post is dubious at best. But I won’t delete it yet…
Introverts live in an internal world. They need to shape the world around them in such a way that they can interact with others authentically (according to who they are on the inside). Some examples:
  • An introverted thinker may express their ideas in writing and public speaking, shaping life so that their work can be published and presented (their portals into the outside-world)
  • An introverted leader first forms their beliefs and values, and then expresses these convictions by serving others through some sort of people-organisation or mission (their portals into the world)

Introverts shape life so that their inside-reality has the highest likelihood of shaping their outside-reality (other people, and life generally). The introvert wants ‘good resonance’ between their inner and outside realities.

(this is purely speculation)
Extroverts are energised by the external world. Their interactions with those around informs and shapes their inner-world. Examples of this, as a contrast:
  • An extroverted thinker develops their ideas in conversation and public speaking (portals into their inside-world), which shapes their inner reality. This again equips them to share their (refined) ideas and understanding with others
  • An extroverted leader first embraces people, rallying them into some sort of people-organisation or mission (which are portals into their inside-world). From here they are forced to clarify and develop their beliefs and values, thus gaining greater understanding of how their organisation or mission can move forward.

The extrovert wants… well, I’m not exactly sure about what the extrovert wants, actually.

The end.

Find-a-Way Thinking

A final and to-the-point finish to this talk: a “can do” attitude goes a long way.

Whatever your issue is, a “can do” attitude is determined to find a way through. No problem is too big for resolution; no struggle is too hard to persevere through; no lie is to powerful to overcome.

A “can do” attitude not only addresses your immediate concerns but also the bigger-picture outcomes. What’s the dream? What are you trying to achieve? What are you aiming at? When you clarify these things, you can set your targets, and align your attitude to meet them.

This is pure optimism, and it is not just for dreamers: “There is a way. I can do it. This is not too big. We’re gonna get there.”

Set your sights, set your attitude, and Find-a-Way.

Adapted from the “Reversing the Death Spiral of a Leader” talk by Dr. Henry Cloud at the Global Leadership Summit 2013. Part 5.

How To Reverse The Three P’s

Here is an approach to reverse the damage caused by “The Three P’s“. It helps first to write down the problems.

1. Dispute the Negative Stuff With Truth: Identify the lie, and say “that’s absolutely wrong.” Put it into perspective, look at the good stuff… be objective! It’s all to easy to take mistakes too personally when you’re stuck in the mud.

Every great movie has crises scenes… and life can be a bit similar sometimes. Look for a way to launch off the crises into a new, stronger place.

2. Control: Can vs. Can’t: I’ve found this particularly helpful. What can I do? What can’t I do? What’s my problem to sort out? What isn’t?

Your brain can turn into a cesspool of stress by focusing on things out of your control. That doesn’t sound good, so don’t go there! In times of high pressure, when things seem to be getting out of control, this Can/Can’t exercise can be a good one. See Matthew 6:25-34 to be challenged about worry or anxiety.

3. We Must Connect: Surround yourself with people. We are made for relationships. Don’t be an isolationist… call people, get together for lunch, put energy into growing a mutually enriching network of relationships. And don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Dr. Cloud tells a story of a monkey in cage to illustrate this point. In a study, a particular monkey’s stress level dropped 50% simply by having a buddy. Humans need a buddy too!

Adapted from the “Reversing the Death Spiral of a Leader” talk by Dr. Henry Cloud at the Global Leadership Summit 2013. Part 4.

The Three P’s

These three things initiate the Downward Spiral that leaders can find themselves in:

1. Personal: “I’m no good; why did I think I could _______?” Dr Cloud tells a story to illustrate that although we all make mistakes, those of us who are naive, oblivious or cheerful enough will survive these critical times by refusing to take our failings personally.

2. Pervasive: An issue spreads broadly and appears much larger than it really is. “It’s not one person, it’s all of them; they all think that. Everything has gone bad. My whole life sucks.”

3. Permanent: “It will always be this way. This isn’t going to change.” Another lie.

Even the best performers can find themselves spiralling. Our brains change, something switches, and so it begins. Do you need to eliminate any of these three errors of thought?

Adapted from the “Reversing the Death Spiral of a Leader” talk by Dr. Henry Cloud at the Global Leadership Summit 2013. Part 3.

The Downward Spiral

Some time during the hard-work of leading, it starts to happen. What does? The downward spiral. If you haven’t experienced it yet, just keep succeeding… it will come!

Leaders start Here and move on towards There… and somewhere along that path, the surrounding circumstances cause them to go Out of Control. It’s a kind of learned-helplessness. When what you used to do doesn’t work, the spiral begins.

The leaders that don’t start on the downward spiral (or those who make their way out of it) have something different in their favour. Belief. This can make all the difference. Believing you can, even if you can’t… this is good. Believing you can’t, when you actually can… definitely not good.

Leaders who resist and survive the death-spiral think, feel and behave differently than others. Are you in control of your thinking? Are you feeding your emotions in a healthy way? Are you aware of the situations you’re in and acting appropriately?

Adapted from the “Reversing the Death Spiral of a Leader” talk by Dr. Henry Cloud at the Global Leadership Summit 2013. Part 2.

Ridiculously In Charge

Dr. Henry Cloud starts his talk on Reversing the Death Spiral of a Leader with a story of a family business, involving a father-boss and a son-employee. Unfortunately, at some point the son makes a momentous stuff up, and his dad fires him. Or at least his boss does. Immediately afterwards, dad changes tack: “I hear you lost your job today son. Can I help you?”

It’s funny. You can feel for the father who obviously has had a tough choice to make… but he seems to have dealt with it well enough! It is also a demonstration of the post title, being “ridiculously in charge”, which of course the father-boss is, firing-and-hiring in the same breath.

This serves simply as a fun warm-up that precedes an important starting point: leaders are in charge of themselves. To lead means to take action, to accept responsibility, to exert energy for the sake of others.

Are you taking action? Are you taking responsibility? Are you exerting your energy in the best way?

Adapted from the “Reversing the Death Spiral of a Leader” talk by Dr. Henry Cloud at the Global Leadership Summit 2013. Part 1.

 

Systems & Chaos

 http://qideas.org/videos/systems-and-chaos/

Artist Linnea Spransy sharing for 3 minutes on the importance of limitation in art.

There’s also a neat book called Chaos: Making A New Science which dives much deeper into some elements of this talk, tracing the development of the chaos theory. It contains firstly stories of the people involved and how they chased after or stumbled into discoveries, and secondly, deeper explanations behind their work. Some of the parts were a little hard for me to follow, but it was do-able. I particularly loved the stories and the pioneering spirit which they expressed.

Forgiveness

In life, good intent can do well enough… but it’s not until we deeply connect with others that true change really takes place.

(Goff illustrates this point by telling a story of a Ugandan criminal he worked with who experienced stunning and transforming forgiveness, and the powerful changes that resulted.)

Forgiveness – the saying here would apply that “it takes two to tango”. On the one side, RELEASE: a letting go of your right to avenge, a letting go of the entangling cords that bind you when you’ve are wronged. On the other side, RECEIVE: firstly, acknowledging that you have done wrong, and that you need forgiveness, and secondly, that someone else has the power to forgive (or not forgive) you.

Nothing can stand in the way of God’s love for us (as Romans 8:38-39 so vividly puts it) – His love and forgiveness are ultimate and complete. We’re asked, challenged, even required to live our lives in this same way.

Put others first. Receive forgiveness; be a forgiver! Pursue these, and experience true and lasting change in your life and in the world.

Adapted from the “Love Takes Action” talk by Bob Goff at the Global Leadership Summit 2013. Part 6.

Do you want have power in your leadership and life? If so, learn to say “Yes”.

OK sure – don’t say yes to everything! But do ask yourself: “What matters the most?” Say Yes to that. When you say Yes to some things, you’re also saying No to others.

Goff makes a habit of quitting something every Thursday. Seems to me like a lot of quitting! But saying “No”, obviously helps to bring clarity about what his “Yes” will be.

What opportunities is God opening up for you? What possibilities are presenting themselves? God wants to blow your mind! So, seek out the open spaces, be action-minded, and say Yes to God’s way… and No to everything else.

Adapted from the “Love Takes Action” talk by Bob Goff at the Global Leadership Summit 2013. Part 5.

 

If we weren’t afraid, we could live up to the high calling we’ve received… but all too often we fake it. If we weren’t afraid, we could help others live up to the high calling they’ve received… but all to often we simply pull others down.

Don’t be afraid: be honestly, truthfully, daringly yourself! Don’t be afraid: be strong, be different, be outrageous… and build other people up!

We can choose to see people differently. Not just who they are now, but who they could be! Choose to see the potential in others and treat them accordingly.  An example (from Matthew 16:18) of Jesus speaking to Simon: “You are Peter, a rock”. Jesus sees him as he will be, and speaks this truth into his life.

Don’t be afraid, but choose the different path of speaking life to those around you. Speak into people’s potential and not their failures, and you will blow their socks off!

Adapted from the “Love Takes Action” talk by Bob Goff at the Global Leadership Summit 2013. Part 4.

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