Blogging takes time, tenacity and thought

Today’s date is the 18th May. Well it was the 17th when I started this post. It turns out it has been 130 days since my last entry! Oops. Classic behaviour you might say for a new year’s resolution blogger.

What I’ve realised is that I need to dedicate regular time to form the habit. This isn’t a new idea to me by the way, just one which I need to be reminded of regularly. I also need tenacity. I quite enjoy writing; I wouldn’t say I am a naturally gifted writer but I do find I can do it. I am determined to try and blog more regularly as the skill will only improve… well I hope so.

Chair in Field Alone by Evan Brennan

And finally: thought. One of my reasons for starting was to allow myself to reflect and attempt to articulate things in such away that my learnings and reflections might be useful to others. This does require actual thinking and consideration of life in general if I am to have any useful output.

Time for a renewed commitment then: to get a short and snappy blog out a couple of times a month or maybe more.

What do you find helps you to blog?

Forgive like a President

I always knew the basic history of Nelson Mandela’s Story. His death in December 2013 was a significant historical event and one which prompted commentators, historians and others to comment ad infinitum on the man, his achievements and even some of his  shortcomings.

Nelson Mandela released from prison

Nelson Mandela released from prison

I was personally moved by the whole event in a way I didn’t expect. At the time I was in an intense season of life  (the detail of which I’ll spare you) and one evening I found myself watching a most excellent documentary by David Dimbleby. Dimbleby had been privileged to meet and interview Mandela in 2003 and his interest and knowledge of the man is obvious to the viewer.

I was struck by a moment during a segment about Mandela’s release from house arrest – his famous walk to freedom. I don’t recall the exact narration but it was to the effect of: He chose to forgive all of those who had oppressed him without revenge or reprisal. He forgave them unconditionally.

The only other person I can think of who selflessly forgave like this was Jesus. When Jesus was crucified among his last words were “Father, forgive them”. This was not  just an appeal but the granting of forgiveness by Jesus to the very people who had just crucified him and were gambling for his clothes.

I was dumbfounded. In this particular season of my life I was feeling pretty bad about certain situations and while I felt that no one in particular was directly to blame for this, my attitude towards others was marred by the way I felt. I needed to forgive whoever it was I thought was in the wrong. Even if there was not really a direct offence towards me!

Why could I not see that in my situation – where I had grown to a place where I didn’t feel willing to forgive – that this is what Jesus called those who believe in him to do: to forgive graciously? I was also a little embarrassed: Why did it take the death of a statesman to hammer the point home when  I probably knew the answer all along?

Living with unforgiveness in your life causes bitterness to take hold. I certainly felt bitter. Where a root like bitterness takes hold, it grows and grows (think Japanese Knotweed) and spoils the whole of life. It needs dealing with before it has the opportunity to spread.

Jesus said:

…if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV)

It seems fairly plain to me: If we can not forgive then how will Jesus forgive us? As a Christian, forgiveness is life. God forgiving us for all the messy things we end up doing in life is the key to living eternally with our maker who loves us!

Shortly after watching this (ok a few days then – I’m a bit slow) I realised what I needed to do. It didn’t matter if I was right and the other was wrong (or more probably, I was wrong and they were right), the fact remains that because I was harbouring bad feeling I felt unable to forgive which was leading to more pain and bitterness on my part. I came to a point of realising that no matter how hard it felt I needed to freely forgive and change my mind about the situation. Forgiving released me from the bitterness.

As a demonstration of his intent Mandela went on to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission  – a deeply significant body it seems in the re-uniting of a nation divided by erroneous and racist policy. Again, note the tone of this:  those who had wronged others admitted their wrongdoing directly TO the person wronged, asking forgiveness and in turn the wronged had the opportunity to publicly grant forgiveness. Amazing.

I only wish I could always freely forgive like a president. And like Jesus does.

Resolution: A course of action determined or decided on

So says one of about a dozen definitions of the word Resolution at The Free Dictionary.

I like this one because it reflects what I’ve done.

An alternate definition says:

A resolving to do something.

I feel like this definition suggests a resolution is just a quick decision; a gut feeling; a reactionary change. Whereas a course of action (a plan) is one that has been determined or decided more deliberately. Determined suggests a more measured, reflective approach. I could be wrong (you tell me) but I think that is better.

A better writer than I posted this in early 2013 and it explains better what I am reaching for: Resolutions (especially the New Year variety) are better when they are the result of considered process which has been brought about by a revelation in the light of an event: “Oh! The scales tell me I have put on a stone in a month – I need to adjust my approach to caring for my body” is more rounded than “Rubbish, I’m overweight – I better do a crash diet/join the gym/etc”

So in the spirit of world wide accountability here are my New Year’s Plans for 2014:

  1. I am resolved to change my approach to food, diet and exercise therefore I am going to monitor my food intake with a general aim of reaching a target weight by Easter.
  2. I am resolved to deepen my relationship with the Word of God (The Bible) and so I am going to begin a 6 days per week, Bible in a Year reading plan using my smartphone and tablet which will mean I read the whole Bible over the next 12 months.
  3. My leadership of others can be half hearted and lacklustre and so I am resolved that the Missional Community that Lucy and I lead will have at it’s core a key group who we will relate to as our extended family.
  4. I’ve started a blog so I am now obliged to generating and publishing content to it regularly. Therefore I am committing to putting something up at least once a week. (I’m not short of ideas now but in 6 weeks time, who knows!).

As a family we have other more specific aims and plans (with some clarity still to be found) but I’ll spare you the gory detail. Feel free to ask me how I’m doing!

Marriage… A course worth running

I read this article in The Guardian recently and thought I would add my comments.

Lucy and I can thoroughly endorse The Marriage Course after we participated in a course run by our church in 2012. It is a low key,  non threatening short course for couples (married or not) and our story is that while our marriage wasn’t in crisis it benefited nonetheless.

Here are 3 thoughts why:

Intentional: it was a time that required both of us to commit intentionally to our marriage. Lucy probably takes credit for suggesting we do the course and some gentle peer pressure from her friends was not unwelcome. A joint decision to go for it was required in order for us to benefit and the fruit of us both being intentional was that we were reminded of our continual commitment to one another.

Informative: I think one of the best things about the way the course is presented is that it helps you to think “oh… it’s not just us then!”. While the course doesn’t offer a validated, accreddited, recognised qualification you can take confidence from the authority and importantly the apparent vulnerability of the presenters and other contributors (The Sofa People – as they are affectionately known). We came away with healthy reminders of stuff we do know well but also some information which we can imitate and help others with.

Investment: Ok, so it was a couple of nights at Pizza Express worth to do the course (your mileage may vary) but we didn’t begrudge the cost because it was an important investment of time and money – 7 x 2 hours is a pretty small price to pay for something as important as a marriage.

I applaud all the work that Nicky and Sila Lee and the team at Relationship Central have done with this and other courses. It is such a gift!

Have you done The Marriage Course? Perhaps it should be a belated New Year’s Resolution!

New Year. New Blog

So here goes.

I’ve taken the plunge. Over Christmas 2013 I played with WordPress for a little while. I’m not new to the whole blogging thing in the sense that I have read other people’s blog’s on and off, but I have never committed to writing my own. I’ve decided to give it a try….

But what on earth about? Well thinking about the origins of a blog as a “web-log” I figure it could be a dialogue (hopefully not a monologue) with the world about stuff I think about, interesting ideas I come across and useful things like that.

I’ve created some life related themes. I have one life but there are different facets which overlap all the time: Faith, Family, Work (or my role) etc. I hope to put content in each of these themes from time to time.

What’s with the name? Frankly I was struggling there. “Jon Giles’ Blog” felt a little boring. I like the little phrase of 5 Ws and an H (6 useful questions when planning and thinking about things) and I thought I would give it a whirl.

So, please join in the conversation. It would be a shame if no one ever talked back.

Peace and Love.

Recommended Books

This could be a pretty long list in the end. But here goes. I will start this general and then think about categorising it later. If you like.

Non-Fiction

  • God’s Word – The Bible
  • Building a Discipleship Culture
  • Inbound Marketing
  • The Advantage (Lenioni, P)
  • Leading Missional Communities (Breen, M et al)
  • The Spider and the Starfish
  • The Tipping Point (Gladwell, M)
  • Good to Great
  • The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team (Lencioni, P)
  • How to be a Productivity Ninja (Alcott, G)
  • David and Goliath (Gladwell, M)
  • Covenant and Kingdom (Breen, M)

Fiction
I’ll try and do this one day.