Saturday, 31 March 2012

Serendipity Saturday - 31/03/12

I came across these wonderful tape sculptures, made from clear sellotape and placed in ordinary spaces creating provoking and amusing works of art.

They are the work of Mark Jenkins. Do check his website which is wildly creative and slightly disturbing
(in a good way).

As I walk around in the world (and cyberspace) I try to keep my eyes really open. Open to noticing new things, strange things, things that make me stop and think. I am sharing some of these serendipitous finds with you. Serendipity means a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it. (and its one of my favourite words!)

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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Six Things - The Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson

Alan was born in Edinburgh, grew up in East London and Kent, and studied at St John's College Cambridge and then Balliol College Oxford. He was ordained Deacon (1979), Priest (1980), and Bishop (2003). Married to Lucy, a violin teacher, they have five children.

Not your average clergyman Alan served in a parish which had a Crematorium and visiting several thousand families to listen to their stories of relatives and friends who had died was an education not many of us recieve. He has worked as a chaplain at Reading Prison, and led courses in Applied Ethics and History for Reading University, developed a supervision model for ministry. Alan hasn't worked exclusivly in the church world, in the mid nineties he undertook  commercial design work producing airwaybills, contact lens containers and packaging products.

A member of many ministries and organisations that promote social responsibility and equality, education, arts, and mission.  He speaks various languages badly, having learnt from his Hungarian mother the value of understanding other peoples’ conversations rather more than they think you can.

Alan has been involved in writing on websites and his own blog since 2007 and I came into contact with Alan through his role as a judge of the Christian New Media Awards.

One thing that's always worth getting out of bed for
The buzz of people interacting around visions and ideas, especially friends

One thing about yourself that often obstructs you
A lack of focus pulling together all the strands of life in a way that adds up

One thing I've learned the hard way
To write concisely, not in a St Paul "stream of consciousness" mode.

One thing that gets under my skin
Inequality in all its forms. It gets way up my nose when people suggest God colludes with partiality, or the way things have always been, or that faith is some kind of get out of jail free card for injustice or discrimination.

One thing I'd love to change
(personally) My inability to play jazz piano
(in England) The stuckness in Education - I'd love to see all able to access an education that brings out their God-given creativity and giftedness and enables them to flourish spiritually, mentally, physically, artistically and socially as well as academically. Bit of a tall order, I realise...

One thing I hope for
To see the church become a more open, accepting, and loving network of local disciples - less hierarchically fixated, top-down, anxious and fearful,

Six Things is a series of micro-interviews with interesting and creative people
in which they’re asked to respond to a standard set of six prompts.

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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Leadership and values, the most important thing?

Awhile back I started a series of posts under the title Leadership: destination, people, journey, and arriving. So far I have written about the destination (defining, getting and communicating vision), the next stage is the journey.

In any journey you first have a destination, otherwise you are going nowhere. Next is the process of the journey, "How you want to get there?". This is where values fit into the picture. In his book, "Purpose Driven Youth Ministry", Doug Fields says, "values reveal what is important to your ministry (or organisation)". Values essentially give you the benchmark to test the means and methods you are using to get to your destination.
Most people would agree that values are important but I believe they are the missing organisational link in the trinity of mission, vision and values. If not altogether missing then at the least the poor second cousin of mission and vision. Why do I say this? Every organisation has values, whether they are written down or not. However generally these values are meaningless because:
They aren't Real - are they actually values or just objectives or non-value statements?
They are rarely Repeated - are your values explained, communicated, discussed or taught?
They are never Reviewed - is the organisation measuring what it does against how it says it wants to do things?

Real values
In the first instance are the values that the organisation holds something tangible that you can describe and see in the real world - e.g. friendship or teamwork. Very often organisations produce complicated, long winded statements or just use vision or mission orientated words and phrases as value statements.
Some good examples of values (that are clear and understandable) are City ChurchRevelation Church and Boeing

Repeated values
Like vision, values should be kept in front of the organisation and not just locked in a document or website.
If values tell us what is important to us and speak of our ethos then we should be talking, communicating, educating, sharing these values widely and regularly. At this point the phrase "values are caught not taught" would usually be stated and it certainly has a ring of truth to it and values can be seen and therefore caught. But if catching is the only method for getting values then is it like catching a virus? When you come into the presence of the value holder and you pick up what you see and percieve then you become a similar value holder. But if values are only caught then like a virus mutation may occur. We need to teach and communicate clearly what our values are, what they mean and what they look like. This should happen in many different ways acting as a plumbline to test what we are 'catching' from one another.

Reviewed values
So we have some real values, we are repeating these values regularly. How will we know if we are really doing what we say is important?
We could ask some questions which would objectively see if we are doing what we say is important. Again in Doug Field's book he shares how they did this in his youthwork, so for their value of acceptance they had the following questions they would ask of themselves to review how they were doing in this area.
If you have a set of values how do you know if anyone, even yourself, is following these values? Do you do some form of objective review or do you just say to people "these values are core to who we are" so you must be following them.

So I guess we need to ask yourself how important are our values? How are values held in your organisation? What are your experiences, good or bad? I would love to hear your feedback on this - in fact I would really value them ;-).

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Serendipity Saturday - 17/3/2012

One of things I try to do is walk around in the world (or indeed in cyberspace) with my eyes really open. Open to noticing new things, strange things, things that make stop and think.

I decided I will try and share some of these in a hopefully/possibly regular feature I'm calling Serendipity* Saturday.

So to start a picture of the strangest named store I have ever come across. Sneezums of Bury St Edmunds.

Serendipity means a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it. 

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Sunday, 11 March 2012

Six Things - Michelle King

Michelle King was born in Bishop's Stortford and has lived in this area for most of her life. With husband David, she has two lovely children, both teenagers who are the light of her life.

She has been a musician as long as she can remember and has studied extensively. She enjoys spending precious time with family and friends, songwriting, cooking, reading, dancing, singing and playing the oboe. Two years ago as a result of a dream she discovered she could write songs and in December 2011, won the SaintFM Christmas songwriting competition with her song It's Christmastime. She has written a number of other songs which she sells to raise money for charities close to her heart - see her website The Music of Michelle King.

Alongside writing songs Michelle teaches music at the Christian School Takeley, helps lead a youth group, speaks for Mission Aviation Fellowship and is a director in her husband's company.

"If I recorded parts of my life in a book, you may think them unbelievable."

One thing that's always worth getting out of bed for
Following my first songwriting dream, I have been known to receive other song ideas that I have to get out of bed for, to write down before I forget them. Sometimes a tune will come into my head at night if I can’t sleep, and I can’t get back to sleep until I know they have been written down. My family have at times heard me practicing chord progressions on the guitar in the dead of night (they are very understanding and patient people!), but I would never play the oboe at night because it’s not known as the quietest instrument ever invented!

One thing about yourself that often obstructs you
It would have to be my own self-doubt as I can sometimes try and close doors that have been opened for me. Every time I have attempted to do this though the door opens wide again and opportunities come my way, so I continue on my path. A friend said to me that when it’s time for a door to close it will close. I think they are right and I should have more faith in what is happening right now in my life, and to pray for guidance and understanding every step of the way.

One thing I've learned the hard way
My toughest lessons have been in love. I’ve learned the hard way that to really love, one has to be prepared to let go and allow freedom. Love isn’t possession, it doesn’t own. It gives without expecting back and it never ends.

One thing that gets under my skin
I would have to say that it is laziness. Those who are not prepared to contribute or even worse, expect people to do their work for them.

One thing I'd love to change
About myself: It would be to become less of a perfectionist at times, in terms of being way too hard on myself. High expectations etc.

About the world: I would like to see even more of a global desire to end poverty, so that no one has to go without the basic necessities of life. No child for instance should have to suffer war, injustice, disease and malnutrition. The world’s problems are simply not of their making. Many people are trying to make a difference, and on a world-wide scale that’s not easy.

One thing I hope for
My personal hope is that I continue to allow doors to stay open, to believe in myself, and remain doing everything for Him and to His glory.

Six Things is a series of micro-interviews with interesting and creative people
in which they’re asked to respond to a standard set of six prompts.

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Friday, 2 March 2012

Book Review - Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell is an incredible book. The characters in its pages are described in great depth, despite the relative brevity of each of their stories and the narrative keeps your attention like the best page turning thriller.

Cloud Atlas is made up of six separate stories which are connected by a variety of threads which show how power and control continue to dog man throughout time. I enjoy stories that are told through interlinking lives, I immediately think of great films like Crash, Short Cuts and Magnolia. Cloud Atlas is easily as absorbing as those films and I eagerly await the release of Cloud Atlas the film this year (it will either be a tragic effort or a masterpiece).

The big difference with this story as opposed to the films I mentioned is the way it is spread over a timespan from nineteenth century to sometime in the distant future. The authors ability to write in such differing but truly authentic styles is brilliant. It is no wonder it was a finalist for the Booker Prize in 2004.

It is certainly a 5 star book and one of the best works of fiction I have ever read.

Have you read Cloud Atlas? What do you think?