Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Self-interest

Selfishness is self interest that's become out of balance: what should be healthy self preservation, can become preoccupation with self interest at the expense of others.

Selfishness in relationships is like a bucket with a very small leak, because selfishness will slowly but surely cause you to lose what you have. It is often gradual and subtle, but bit by bit, people stop feeding the selfishness, until you realise too late you've lost what you had.

Like many areas of our life, it's harder to see the subtle signs of gradual decline, than the big issues that dominate our headspace, unless we specifically look for and monitor them.

How to make sure you don't have a leaky bucket?

All relationships spend time, money, attention and energy on:
* Hobbies
* Work pursuits
* Pleasure
* Meeting needs
* Small talk
* Problem solving
* Discipline

I believe it is critical in any relationship to take the time to  proactively monitor a self-interest KPI:

Does my relationship with [spouse/child/friend/employer/employee] spend more time, money, attention and energy on things that are my personal self interests, or is it spent roughly equally on both self interests?

Answer these questions to assess your relationships self interest levels. For each question, is it more you, me or roughly equal for both:

- Who's issues or interests do we talk more about?
- Who's hobbies and interests do we pursue and spend money on?
- Who's needs are we focused on more?
- Who's goals and personal development do we work towards?
- Who's receiving the most pleasure aspects of the relationship? (Eg love language, intimacy)
- Who's sacrificing the most to keep the family financially sustained?
- Who's sacrificing the most to keep the house in good working order (organising, cleaning, kids etc)?

These are only a few questions, but good to actually monitor this in any relationship.  Am I taking more than I'm investing?

If your relationship supports, builds, maintains, discusses, prioritises your interests and needs more than the other, perhaps you have a leaky bucket and it's time to make changes as soon as possible to avoid losing it all before it's too late.

If your relationship supports, builds, maintains, discusses, prioritises the other's interests and needs more than your own, then this is not healthy and you're also probably headed towards some troubled times ahead, because this is not sustainable.  You need a bit more self interest to bring the relationship back into healthy balance.

If your answer to the questions above is mostly "neither", then that's another issue again. Is it even a relationship?  That's a question for people smarter than me....

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Valentines Day Plant

I'm not really one for Valentines day because I can't understand why I should show greater expression of my love on a day someone else chooses for me, so I can be charged triple on the basis of supply and demand. Kill joy I know!

BUT if I were to be a part of it, I think a plant is a gift I would choose, not flowers.

A plant is like the relationship being celebrated. If you tend to it and water it, it will grow and give back more.

If you just enjoy it and never sustain it, it will start to wither and eventually not be there any more.

A plant is a visual reminder to keep tending to and watering the plant and the relationship, even if it seems healthy today.

Nurturing a healthy plant today means you will also have a healthy plant tomorrow.

Of course, my plant of choice would have fruit or flowers though!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Need. It's not a selfish word.

Needs. Not preferences. Not wants. Needs.

The word needs is overused. I need a new phone. I need a coffee. I need to lose weight. Overuse has meant need has become a selfish word.

Growing up in a church meant I learned about humility and loving others. Others first. Submissive wives. Make allowances for faults and love them anyway. None of this is wrong.

But all this teaching led to a mindset that went too far. None of those teachings should be taken to mean that you are not allowed to seek to have your own fundamental needs met.

Everyone has relational needs. Everyone.

Need is not a selfish word.

Having your fundamental needs met is not a selfish life.

(Focussing only on your needs/wants/desires is a completely different story! But that's not what I'm talking about here).

I was married for 17.5 years. He was kind. He was gentle. But we had these issues in our relationship that ultimately cost us our marriage. I need to be clear- my ex-husband never discouraged or stopped me from raising matters of need. But faulty mindsets on both our parts meant the marriage didn't survive. The damage was done. We could deal with day to day issues. We were not unhappy, but the fundamental problems were left undealt with - like painting a house but leaving the termites in the framework.

There is a great danger in mistaking a need with selfishness.

There is a critical problem if seeking to be a Godly loving patient partner results in overlooking fundamental relational needs that need to be met.

The desire not to be a "needy spouse", and all the stigma that goes along with that, does mean you overlook your own needs being met if they are fundamental to a healthy relationship . What you think is helping your relationship may be the very thing that is sabotaging the future of your relationship.

In the last 2 years I have repeatedly seen relationships fail because of this issue. My own included.

Here is a list of needs in a relationship: (not endorsing Dr Phil- but it's a good list)

The result of long term unmet fundamental needs is inevitable. Eventually one or both partners will burn out. Like a car that is driven endlessly without being maintained where needed, eventually it will ultimately break. It's not something that one chooses. It is the inevitable consequence.

From analysing my own failed marriage over and over and over, I have the following statements that I believe need to be said about unmet needs:

1. Ignorance of the need won't save the relationship. Read the list.

2. Fulfilling one of your partner's need (and doing a good job at it) will "band-aid" other unmet needs for a time only, but ultimately won't fix the problem or save the relationship. You may do aspects of the relationship very well. That buys you time. It doesn't buy you a pardon.

3. Don't mistake the patience of your partner while their needs remain unmet as comfort that you don't need to deal with the unmet need.

4. Feeling bad about not meeting your partner's need won't fix the problem or save the relationship. Telling your partner you feel bad only makes it worse- because they may feel compelled to say "it's ok" - when you both know that, after a while, it's not ok.

5. Any form of punishing your partner for raising unmet needs (sulking, anger, withdrawal) will only make the problem worse.

6. Not raising unmet needs for fear of hurting your partner won't fix the problem and won't save your relationship. You're actually hurting your relationship more than you know.

Ask courageous questions and then do something about it before it's too late.

Look at this list of needs that I linked. Then say to your loved one on a yearly basis: "I am giving you permission to be honest - which of your needs aren't being met (that I am responsible for meeting)".

Chances are - you already know the answer. But ask anyway.

Face the answer - don't punish them for telling you.

Then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT - don't wait until it's too late.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Things aren't going the way I planned

Things aren't going the way I planned.

People aren't doing what they SHOULD be doing.

I can't understand why they don't realise (when the issue is so obvious!) and why don't they do something about it...



It's a problem - and it's causing me stress.
It's a problem that gnaws away at me until something changes.
It's a problem that hijacks my thoughts - and my happiness.

It's a problem that I need to do something about. I have to get things back on track. I can't leave things the way they are. I have to think it through, work it out, say something, do something, talk to someone, convince them ... address it somehow - ASAP!

OR

Do I take a moment and ask myself "Do I need to be more flexible?"

When situations don't go the way I think they should, I can try hard to make it go the way I think, or I can look at whether I need to be more flexible, more patient and what I can learn from this.

Some issues definitely need to be addressed. Some situations can't stay the way they are.

But before we line up the bazookas in battle, run them through the filter of "Do I need to be more flexible?"

and then figure out what we can learn from all of this.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Church Hopping

For the past 2 ½ years, I have been on a journey that has led me to write this blog entry.

2 ½ years ago I was involved in a church where I was operating in my gifts, enjoying the growth and very much a part of the fabric of the church. Then a leadership change led to my husband and I going to a new church almost 2 years ago to the day.

Many would have seen “Undercover Boss”, where an owner or senior manager of a company gets back to entry level to get a new perspective on their company, and an appreciation of how management decisions affect the everyday employees of the company.

That is how I have found my past 2 years – first the first time in years I was a “new person” at a church and was starting the entire process of becoming integrated all over again! Out of this experience, I have learned some valuable lessons about churches, picking a church, how churches are run and how effective the “program machine” is.

For as long as I can remember, church hopping has been frowned upon. You can’t grow if you’re not planted. You can’t grow properly if you’re always in a portable pot. I agree with that (because the Bible says it!). Yet I have realised that, usually, the new person’s church selection process involves:
1. Turning up on a Sunday morning and sussing out the music and the preaching;
2. If the first Sunday morning wasn’t too bad, go back again.
3. If by the third week, the Sunday morning services are still ok – maybe this is the place for you.

That was my process. However, finding a church using this selection method is the same as going for a job interview and picking the company because you like the foyer. Knowing that the organisation is the right place to invest your life needs more analysis than that. I now think the same thing about choosing the right church to invest your life into.

After time, there may be some areas that are fundamental areas where the church isn’t the right ‘fit’, but by the time you realise the church is on a different page (even when it could be generally a great church!), you have become a regular ‘attendee’ and leaving the church, leaving yet another church, puts you in the ‘church hopping’ category.

Will there ever be a perfect church – of course not! However, I went through a season of ‘job hopping’. I just couldn’t get integrated in for a variety of reasons. Often it wasn’t anything wrong with the organisation or leaders, but rather it wasn’t the right ‘fit’. Now, after an embarrassing number of job changes, I have found a position where my gifts are used, I flourish under the leadership, and have been there 5 years with no intention of moving (a record length of time for me!). Why can’t it be the same way with a church? Is it really so bad trying out a few churches until you find the right fit, even if it appears to others that you’re nothing but a church hopper?

So – after 2 years, we are ready to move again. Only this time, I plan to adopt a very different selection process before I commit. Good Sunday services are a given. Allowing the Holy Spirit room to move is a must. A heart for winning souls - imperative. But I also think the following, for me, are very important:
1. What is the church’s discipleship program? Is it exclusively ‘life groups’?
2. Does the church actively use new technology – including social media – in connecting and engaging? – particularly in light of the recent research regarding the next generation?
3. How does the church select it’s teaching content? Is it strategic or ad-hoc? Does it include foundational material? (ie preaching, short courses on topics such as tongues, attributes of God etc)?
4. How does the church work towards creating spiritually independent mature Christians?
5. How do new people become involved?
6. How does the church identify the gifts and calling of people that are within the congregation?
7. What process does the church have to develop and use/release those gifts?
8. Do people of like-gifts meet and develop the gifts?
9. How does the church integrate ‘new people’? (Beyond the ‘new person’s’ lunch and the free coffee/cake at the first visit – which all churches seem to do)
10. What is the ‘leadership’ path for people wanting to eventually become involved at that level? What restrictions are placed on that path (eg time served, courses, gender etc)
11. Does the church have a ‘human resources’ type role to identify volunteer needs within the church and connect those with available gifts/calling within the church?
12. Is the main ‘involvement’ of church attendees to be ‘spectators’ or ‘contributors’? ie are most of the church’s ‘involvement’ opportunities to come and listen - eg leadership nights, women’s events, men’s events, worship nights.

I appreciate that it may seem that I have a barrow to push and a soap box to stand on. You’re probably right. But the reason for this blog is because, the more I think about this issue and ask probing questions of those around me, I realise I’m not the only one. Lately I have come across quite a few people that, despite usually being solid church members, are leaving their church and, worse, are thinking of not going at all because of the lack of fit.

Now after all of that, I’m sure you are thinking (and it’s been said to me) – “just ask God where he wants you to go and be obedient”. Any decision that is made needs to be committed to prayer – absolutely!

But God gave us a brain that can think and reason – and we use that brain to analyse decisions in most parts of our lives: who to marry? Where to work? How many children to have? Etc etc. Finding a right fit for a church, I believe, isn’t a ‘brain-off’ activity. However, we take that analysis to God and let his peace guide the process.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Have you read your Bible lately?

We all know we should read our bibles. For many of us, we probably have best of intentions, but never get around to it.

Is it really that important? Isn't just a bunch of stories or rules that are either weird, difficult to understand - or we've heard them 100 times before?



Today I read Psalm 119 - which gives us a myriad of reasons why we should read and ponder the Word of God:

1. Those who are dry and lacking spiritual (like lying in dust) are revived (v25);
2. Those that are sad and ‘weep with sorrow’ are encouraged (v28);
3. Those that are distracted by ‘worthless’ pursuits are refocused on pursuits that give life (v37);
4. Those that find themselves in prisons are able to walk in freedom (v45);
5. Those that are growing weary from waiting for God to come through are revived by being reminded of the promises of God and receive renewed Hope (v50 and v81);
6. Those who are lacking direction or seeking direction will find it (v59);
7. Those that are tempted or feel the pull of being ‘dragged into sin’ will be anchored into doing what is right, against the tide of pressure. Young people are helped stay pure (v9 and v61);
8. Those who are miserable are sustained with Joy (v92);
9. Wisdom is gained to outwit, outlast and outplay (v98);
10. We become people of integrity that don't make compromises then feel guilty about the lifestyle we have settled for (v1-5).

Do you feel weary? Are you sad? Are you angry? Do you get irritated more easily lately? Have you started doubting that things will work out to be ok? Are you a bit miserable lately? Feeling a little aimless? Struggling with integrity? Struggling with sin?

The next question has to be - Have you read your bible lately?

Simply put, the Words and laws of God are the sustainer of life - yet some of us starve ourselves of this life-giving source - then wonder why our lives are so difficult and we aren't living a life of focus, obedience and optimism.

A life that is not regularly pondering God's word will have tell-tale signs such as:
- greater struggles with the things they know they shouldn't be doing;
- greater struggles with relationships;
- greater struggles in dealing with work;
- greater struggles with keeping a good attitude;
- greater struggles with complaining
which may then result in strained or broken relationships, negativity or depression, lack of focus, moodiness, lack of self-discipline and being generally miserable!

Yet, when we're miserable, sometimes the last thing we feel like doing is reading the bible. It's no different to people who are overweight living a sedentary life - the last thing they feel like doing is exercising, yet it's the very thing they need to physically regain their life and their energy.

Sometimes we think, "but I've tried it, and I just can't seem to get into the bible". Here's what I've found - it is way too easy to get out of the habit of reading your bible - especially if you think you can 'cram' your daily reading into the ad-breaks of your favourite tv show, or while you're in between other things.

When we try to read the bible in this 'brain-half-engaged' mode, we just won't get anything out of what we're reading because we haven't allowed ourselves time to ponder what is being said and how it might affect us.

I believe the only way we can make our reading worthwhile is if:

* We are doing one thing at that moment - with no one else around. As soon as there are tv's blaring, people interrupting, emails popping up - it is hard to get into the moment because your brain is never fully engaged.

* We have the right resources. This includes a reading plan (so we don't skip around); a commentary of some kind, or study bible; and a list of questions that will help draw the insights out into the open. There are some sections of the bible which, frankly, can seem difficult to understand. Yet with so many free resources available on the net, it has never been a better time to arm yourself with the resources you need to more fully understand what you're reading. Reading plans can be signed up for free on YouVersion. E-sword has a pc program and commentaries for free. There are number of excellent study bibles around (which aren't free). I found this site helpful for me to ponder what I am reading: Questions for reading. I printed out these questions and made it into a bookmark for my bible. Fnally - another great resources I have found is Google books. I search the relevant chapter in Google books, and often there are really good commentaries that provide partial 'free previews' where I can read the relevant pages for the day's reading.

* We write down what we learn. I debated this one for a long time. Is it really necessary? I would lose bits of paper and it was a hassle. I just wanted to read and not juggle notebooks and pens etc. However, I have found that I can't properly learn from what I'm reading and articulate what I believe God might be saying if I don't start jotting down some notes. Sometimes I'll look at the verse and think, "I'm getting nothing!!" But then I'll just start writing something and all of a sudden the insights will come. My husband has found the same experience - after starting to write, the 'gold' surfaces. To avoid losing bits of paper, I type it in (I type faster than I write) using Google docs. However some (eg my hubby) prefer to stick with good old pen'n'paper.

I have blogged today on what often works for me in trying to have a regular and meaningful time of reading God's word. But please don't think that I am perfect - like everyone else I wish I read more, and wish I were more devoted. However, I have learned that the most important thing is just keep trying. Don't be discouraged if you get out of the habit. Just try again. Think about why your reading plan didn't work out last time? Did you hit Leviticus and get bored? - maybe find a reading plan that isn't as intensive. Did you find there were too many chapters to read each day? Maybe find a reading plan that is spread over a longer time so you read less each day?

Being a Christian and not reading your bible isn't sustainable, because it is the word of God that sustains you. While we think sometimes we can 'wing it' and still live the Christian life, eventually it catches up with us and we see the tell-tale signs. That's when we know it's time to get back into the word.

Maybe start with Psalm 119.

Maybe start today.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

One Size Fits All



I was recently listening to a leadership podcast by Andy Stanley who was encouraging Church leaders to consider the management style of technology organisations such as Apple. He said that these organisations recognized that the next effective new idea will come from the next generation. The current ideas that appeal to the current management will never, he says, lead to the next new gold idea. He encouraged Church leaders to allow the younger generation some room to move (and even fail) because out of that freedom may come the next big, and effective, idea.

In looking at one big idea that wasn't really around much, say 15 years ago, that many now consider the "norm" is that of "customisation". Everywhere I look, there is a plethora of options to suit each our individual needs and preferences.

For example, we don't have to buy an entire album anymore, we just download the songs we like from different albums and make one up a compilation that suits. We then create our own playlists to suit the time, mood and style of the moment - we listen to that which is personally suitable to us.

Even in appliances, the options to suit are plenty: would I like a fridge with freezer on top, or fridge on top, in white, chrome or black? Should the door open on the left, or the right? Inbuilt ice maker or fill-your-own?

Why do we need so many options? Because we are all so different. Just looking at age, background, gender, career, and personality types, no two people are the same. There are:
* some who like to talk things out, some who like to think things through first
* Some like structure and predictability, some like spontaneity
* Some are literal, some are conceptual
* Some respond to facts, some respond to feelings
* Some are organisers, some still don't know how to organise a latte in a coffee shop
* Some are controlling, some just don't mind either way
* Some are middle age, some are teens
* Some are artistic, some are academic and some are sporty (or a combo of all)
* Some are fast learners, others want a slower pace
* Some like hymns, some like Hillsong
* Some have kids and a job, some are full-time students, some are retired
* Some work best in the morning, some work best at night
* Some are extroverts, some are introverts

With such an extensive array of people, can we really say that one size fits all?

Many years ago, churches wisely recognised the need for smaller groups to meet together, to connect, to grow and learn together so that Christians didn't get "lost in the crowd", particularly in bigger churches. The aim of these groups was the fellowship and growth of Church attendees, and even outreach. The effectiveness of these small groups, called life groups, cell groups, connect groups or discipleship groups is indisputable. Many benefit from these structured groups.

However, it seems the the format and structure of our current small groups is still very similar to when they were first introduced - some 15 years ago. The basic elements continue to be that a group of 4-8 people meet in a home during a week night, maybe have a song of worship, read some scripture, answer some questions, share some personal experiences and pray together.

I find it interesting that, despite the level of customisation that is normal all around us, the life group model remains substantially fixed in the same format and style that was introduced over a decade ago.

Don't get me wrong, the purpose of a small group is fundamental and critically necessary in churches yesterday and today. However, the structure and format still seems to be, regrettably, "one size fits all". This is a structure that works well for those currently attending, but seems to be not negotiable for those that can't fit within the current format of the traditional life group model.

For example, is there another option than a night time life group for people who have early starts, or young kids, or both? Is there an option for those that would benefit from more substantial study vs lite'n'chatty? Are there options for shift workers? Are there options for people with similar spiritual gifts to meet and develop those gifts? Are there options for focussed discussion vs those that like to verbally meander off track for hours?

This one-size-fits-all limitation can be compounded if decisions makers are resistant to letting new concepts for life groups come from the "next generation", ie those that have a different perspective to the current format.

Are there avenues for new groups to start to fill the current gaps - groups that are new in either style or format or criteria?

The reason for my blog entry is this: we are called to make disciples of Christ. This isnt just about making converts, it is about maturing Christians through their entire life journey. I sincerely believe that we must do whatever it takes to keep as many Christians growing stronger in their Christian walk as possible. I dont believe this can be achieved in small groups that are one-size-fits-all. We probably are going to miss sectors of people that don't fit into that box, and simply find it too difficult to benefit from the current small group model.

What does the next generation of small groups look like? Are we willing to welcome change to ensure all in our churches experience the benefits of small groups?