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October 2016

The Power of Encouragement

PowerofEncouragement1

Someone once said that “encouragement is like oxygen to the soul”. Each one of us thrives in an environment of affirmation and encouragement. No one likes to be in an atmosphere where we are being torn down or ridiculed.

So think about what you are doing to those around about you.  Are you encouraging them? Are you lifting them up with your words?

Occasionally, I’ll sit at a funeral and listen to the eulogy or the tributes that are given and often think, “I wonder if that person knew those things when they were alive?” Don’t wait until someone dies to tell them what you appreciate about them. Take the time now to express your love and your affirmation for them. 

The Bible tells us that God the Father burst out of heaven at Jesus’ baptism and said “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased”. God is an affirming God and he wants you and I to do the same. Don’t just think good things about people. People cannot read your mind. Take the time, write a note, make a phone call, tell somebody how much you appreciate them today. Encourage them.

Encouragement is powerful!

 


No Worries

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Have you been worrying lately? Worry is a common thing. How do you deal with your worry?

Well, firstly you need to ask yourself, “What am I worrying about?” A study was done recently about the things that people worry about.  

Here are the results:

  • 40% of the worries were about things that never happened or would never happen.
  • 30% of the worries were things in the past for which they could do nothing about.
  • 12% were worries about health and worry actually worsens your health.
  • 10% were about petty or minor worries.
  • Only 8% of the worries were about anything substantial or legitimate and of that 8%, half, or 4%, of them were out of the person’s control. 
  • That means only 4% were something that they could actually do something about.  

The research therefore reveals that 96% of what we worry about is totally irrelevant. It’s not worth worrying about!  

So why don’t you evaluate your worries today. If you can do something about it go ahead and do it, but with the rest just leave it. Don’t worry.  Trust in God.

As us Aussies say, "No worries!"


Emotional Intelligence

EQ

Well known psychologist, Daniel Goleman has done a lot research on the components of success, especially in the work place. His conclusion is that Technical Skill and Intellectual Intelligence (or IQ) are very important, but that the quality of Emotional Intelligence (or EQ), is the most essential.  In fact, it’s twice as important as the other two attributes.  

‘Emotional intelligence’ is: knowing how to relate well to a wide variety of people.

How do we do that?  Well, Jesus gives us some great advice in Matthew 7:12 when he says, “Do for others what you would like them to do for you.”  

Some people call this the “Golden Rule”. Jesus is basically saying to think about how you like to be treated. Think about the qualities and attributes that attract you to others, the ‘ideal friend’. We can also think about the qualities and attributes that repel us from others. You know, the ‘friend from hell’.  

Think about how you want to be treated and then you take the initiative. You begin treating other people in that way.

Imagine a world where every one of us follows this basic principle of relationships. 


De-Cluttering my Library

BookwormConfession time - I love books! There is a certain joy in buying a new book and putting it on your shelf ... even if you haven't yet read the last 10 books you have bought. Book addicts understand this. Other people just don't get it.

As a kid, if my parents visited friends and there were no kids to play with, after dinner, I'd sit by their bookshelf and browse through their books. If they had an encylopedia set, I was elated. I loved reading and learning new things. I guess, at heart I I'm a bit of a a maven.

So I have a lot of books. Books given to me from family and friends. Books handed down from my father, Kevin Conner, or my brother-in-law, Frank Damazio - both fellow book addicts. Then there are books I have bought - new or in second hand shops all over the place. Did I mention that I have a lot of books?

The painting to the right is called "The Bookworm" and I have a beautiful version of it mounted on my library wall. One book in each hand, another one under the arm and another one between the knees. Every booklover gets it.

Well, we have recently sold our home and we are down-sizing. Yes, there are times to enlarge, to add, to expand and to make more room. We've been through plenty of those seasons. But now we are in a very different season - a time of simplifing, of letting go of a lot of stuff, and of de-cluttering. With two of our sons all grown up and married, we are moving to a house almost half the size of the one we currently live in. [See my wife, Nicole's, recent BLOG post "Honey, I Shrunk the House" for more details]

Sadly, this means there won't be room for all of my books. So I am currently working through my books, shelf by shelf and book by book ... forcing myself to ask 3 questions:

  1. "If I haven't looked at this in the last 5 years, will I look at it in the next 5 years?" [Confession: I have looked and read a heap of my books, so this question alone isn't enough]
  2. "If I didnt have this book today, would I buy it?"
  3. "If I could only have 1 bookshelf of books, would this book be on it?"

These questions are helping me make some tough decisions ... in addition to asking, "Can I get this book on Kindle and thereby take up less space by having an electronic version of it?" Sure, it's not the same as the read thing, but eBooks do save space.

It's time to give away, to bless someone else ... with a book or two that they need more than I do. 

Painful but freeing. 

See also:


Jesus: I AM the Vine

I AM 1080

John 15:1-6. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” NIV

These are some of Jesus’ final words to his disciples. He has spoken about his departure and assured them of his return (John 14). Now his focus is on his disciples remaining or keeping connected to him as they live in the world following his departure. Jesus was probably walking through a vineyard with his disciples when he gave this teaching. He often drew analogies from the culture around him and from ancient Jewish traditions, infusing them with fresh spiritual meaning. The vine and the vineyard were old and sacred images in Judaism. The vine represented Israel: God’s covenant people who were meant to bear fruit (see Psalm 80:7-9. Isaiah 5:3-5). Jesus boldly declares, “I am the true vine” (his seventh and final “I AM” statement in this Gospel). He has taken the place of Israel as God’s true planting, the one on whom God’s purposes are now resting. His Father is the gardener and we as his disciples are the branches.

A Challenge

God wants his children to live an abundantly fruitful life. That’s why he put us on this earth (see Psalm 1:3. John 15:8. Titus 3:14). Fruit represents ‘good works’ - a thought, attitude, or action of ours that God values because it glorifies him. The fruit from our life is how we bring honor to God on earth. We bear inner fruit when we allow God to nurture in us a new, Christ-like quality: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).” We bear outer fruit when we allow God to work through us to bring him glory. That includes sharing our faith but also serving others in love. Fruit-bearing flowing out of an intimate relationship with Jesus is why he chose us (John 15:16. Ephesians 2:10).

Jesus describes four different levels of fruitfulness in this teaching (see vs.2, 5): (1) “no fruit”, (2) “fruit”, (3) “more fruit”, and (4) “much fruit”. The Father wants more fruit from us so much that he actively tends to our lives so we will keep growing - from a barren to a productive branch. We were created to bear fruit, more fruit and much fruit! Of course, the fruit of our good works does not refer to things we do in order to earn God’s grace but are simply an overflow of the life of Jesus in us. Jesus calls us to do more of our life with him not just more for him. If you were accused of being a follower of Jesus, is there enough evidence to convict you? How’s your fruit?

An Application

Any vine or bush left to itself will become straggly and tangled, and grow in on itself. It will produce quite a lot of not-so-good fruit (or flowers) rather than a smaller number of splendid ones. It will, quite literally, get in its own light. So you prune it to stop it wasting its energy and being unproductive. You cut out, particularly, the parts of the plant that are growing inwards and getting tangled up. You encourage the shoots that are growing outwards, toward the light. You prune, in other words, to help the plant be its true self – to focus its energy on producing good quality fruit, rather than lots of second rate ones. That’s why any good gardener knows the value of pruning. Through pruning, growth that is dead or dying is removed, adequate sunlight is allowed to get to all the fruit-bearing branches, the size and quality of the fruit is improved, and new fruit is encouraged to develop.

Pruning, like loving discipline, is painful at the time, but it results in the potential of more fruit (vs.2). Sometimes ‘less is more’ and through removing certain things in our lives or hearts, we make room for more. Is God doing some pruning in your life right now? Is there some pruning you need to do – of certain commitments, or possessions, or lesser priorities?

An Insight

The key to fruitfulness is that we as Jesus’ disciples abide (or remain connected, attached) in him, as he is our life source. Apart from him we can really do nothing of lasting value. Connected to him, we can bear much fruit. Discipleship is not a matter of merely acknowledging who Jesus is (a set of doctrinal beliefs); it is having Jesus spiritually connected to our inner lives (a way of life characterized by love).

Abiding in Christ is a command for all disciples, not a suggestion or a request. But how do we do so practically? Throughout history, followers of Christ have connected closely with Christ in different ways – what we could call ‘abiding styles’. Here are five of them:

  1. Contemplative – people who love creation, quiet, solitude, meditation and reflection.
  2. Intellectual – people who love mentally stimulating material and studying the Bible.
  3. Serving – people who love putting action in their faith by helping others and using their gifts.
  4. Relational – people who love doing things with other people, including prayer and serving.
  5. Charismatic – people who love spontaneity, the unexpected and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Consider when you feel closest to God and most alive in Christ then lean into your primary style. Of course, it’s important to accept others who are different. Most importantly, develop an appreciation for all the styles so you don’t develop an imbalance. Each style taken to an extreme has weaknesses. Jesus balanced all five of these styles to keep connected to the Father. He is our model for abiding, which is the key to fruitfulness. When we develop the ‘Mary’ aspect of our life (a depth of intimacy and spirituality) then the ‘Martha’ aspect will be more effective (fruitfulness and productivity). If we separate these, it leads to frustration. Abiding in Christ is much like a tree producing its fruit – it is a natural outflow that occurs quite effortlessly.

Sample Reflection Questions

  1. As these are some of Jesus’ last words to his disciples, why do you think this matter of fruitfulness and abiding in Christ were so important to him?
  2. How do we practically measure the fruitfulness of our lives?
  3. How can we avoid the Christian life degenerating into a long list of things we DO for God and others but without the joy and life of Jesus flowing through us?
  4. Can you describe a time in your life where you felt you were experiencing some ‘pruning’? What was it like and what was the end result?
  5. Today there is a growing social movement towards simplicity, down-sizing, essentialism and minimalism. What can we learn from this trend in our society? What could God be saying to us through it?
  6. What is your personal abiding style? How could you lean more into it?
  7. Finish by praying for a greater intimacy with Jesus resulting in a greater fruitfulness in your life.

The Art of Coaching

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The role of a leader includes many tasks, including vision-casting, planning, directing, building teams, communication, training, problem solving and coaching people.

The primary means of leadership development in the Bible is through mentoring and coaching. Think of Jethro and Moses, Moses and Joshua, Samuel and Saul then David, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and his disciples, and Barnabas and Saul. The apostle Paul once wrote, “Jesus is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me (Colossians 1:28-29).” Our goal should be the same - to help the people on our team become fully mature in Christ – reaching their God-given potential. People rarely do that without input from others – friends, team members, teachers, mentors, and coaches.

John Whitmore, in his book Coaching for Performance, defines coaching as “unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” In their book TransforMissional Coaching, authors Steve Ogne and Tim Roehl define coaching in the Christian context as: “helping people develop their God-given potential so that they grow personally and make a valuable contribution to the kingdom of God.” Good coaches think in terms of a person’s future potential, not just their past or current performance.

In the excellent book, The Coaching Conversation, Brian Souza uses a fable story to reveal the four types of managers: the Nice-Guy Manager, the Do-it-all-Manager, the Micro-Manager, and the Coach. Through the narrative of the story, he suggests the following three steps:

  1. Change your approach - stop acting like a manager and start acting like a coach.
  2. Create an environment that is conducive to coaching.
  3. Transform the conversation into a weekly constructive coaching conversation.

He goes on to say:

  • As a coach the more you give, the more you’ll get. The more you care, the more your team will contribute.
  • Great coaches consistently get the most out of their people because they consistently put the most into their people.
  • As a coach, the only way you can achieve your potential is to first help your team members achieve theirs.
  • Coaching is not merely something that you, as a manager, must do. A coach is someone that you, as a leader, must become.
  • When all is said and done and we’ve completed this journey we call life, what will matter most is not what we have achieved, but rather who we have become.

The Coaching Process

Through the process of coaching, we are seeking to do two primary things:

  1. Raise awareness.
  2. Build responsibility.

Creating awareness is all about helping the individual see themselves (self-awareness) and their situation (what is happening around them) accurately. People can only deal with what they are aware of. Without awareness, no true change or progress can be made. John Whitmore says that “a coach is not a problem solver, a teacher, an advisor, an instructor or even an expert; he or she is a sounding board, a facilitator, a counsellor, an awareness raiser.”

Building responsibility is the next step. Until an individual accepts and takes responsibility for themselves and their situation, no change will occur. Telling someone to be responsible for something doesn't make them feel responsible for it. People have to choose to be responsible.  

The Power of Questions

Good questions are the best tool for raising awareness and building responsibility because asking is more effective than telling. Bob Logan says, “Good coaching isn’t the art of giving good answers; it is the art of asking good questions.”

Questions are a powerful way to develop people. Even the Bible highlights the impact of questions. God himself often asked questions when in conversation with people (see Genesis 3:8-9). Jesus, although he had so much to say, often used questions when talking with people (see John 1:35-38). Precision questions go straight to the heart. Jesus used questions not because he needed an answer but in order to bring a person to a new level of understanding. Questions help build relationships, are a key to creativity and problem-solving, enhance education and learning, and are an aid to personal growth. After all, experience is not the best teacher; only reflection on experience turns experience into insight.

The GROW Model

John Whitmore has developed a simple but effective model (or mental map) for sequencing good questions. It is called The GROW model.

GOAL – “What do you want? What are you trying to achieve?”

REALITY – “What is happening? What action have you taken so far and what were the effects?”

OPTIONS – “What could you do? What are the alternatives?” Seek possibilities, not one solution.

WILL – “What will you do? When will you do it? What obstacles will there be? How can I help?”

This requires active listening (Proverbs 18:13. James 1:19) so as to gain clarity on the issues. The coaching cycle is ongoing and includes celebrating progress and ‘wins’ along the way. Encourage small steps towards a person’s goal.

Try using the GROW mental map in conversation with someone in your world today - a family member, a friend, a colleague or team member. Only use questions, listen attentively, and refrain from giving advice, just for a while. Notice the impact - on you and them.

Conclusion

Through effective coaching, we can develop the potential of the people who work around us, achieve our goals, and enjoy the journey together.

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