He arrived in an unexpected way

donkeyHe arrived riding on a donkey. Yesterday was Palm Sunday when Christians remember Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey. People cheered and welcomed him with joy, waving branches and palms, singing and shouting to acclaim him as the Messiah. Shortly after this, the people of the same city were calling for his death.

Many Jews were expecting the Messiah to bring political change, perhaps even in a militaristic way. This was not the way of Jesus.  He spoke of a revolution of the heart, a kingdom not won with weapons and soldiers but whose foundation and method is love. The world looks to those with power and money to bring change, but the message of Jesus was (and still is) that it’s all about loving God and each other. Change needs to happen in the heart of every person and that’s the message Jesus brought to the world.

Jesus said,

‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.’

Next week we remember the death of Jesus, a death which meant we could have life, in all its fulness and forevermore.

Mothering Sunday

toddlerIt was mothering Sunday yesterday when we  thank our mums for looking after us and being there for us. Mothers are a real blessing and we are blessed if we have a good one! Being a mum is hard work, especially if you are a single mum.

Mums (and Dads) can teach us a lot and having just become a parent I’m learning I can teach my children both good things and bad things! However I wonder how many of us think being a parent can train us to be good leaders?

It didn’t make the top 10 most stressful jobs (the military got the top 2 slots in that) but it did make it to number one on the Forbes list of the toughest leadership roles: http://www.forbes.com/sites/robasghar/2014/02/25/ranking-the-9-toughest-leadership-roles

As many parents would say, it’s tough but well worth it and now I think of it, being a parent teaches you plenty of things about how to lead people and if you can persuade toddlers to teenagers to do what you want them to do, then you probably have good leadership skills. Tales of parenting triumphs may not make it on to bestseller lists but parents will know they have won a victory when their child eats that food item, cleans their teeth or simply gets dressed in the morning without too much hassle.  What we take for granted as adults, has to be worked for when you’re a parent.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a parent give a talk at a leadership conference. I’m sure some speakers are parents but that’s not the reason for being asked to speak on leadership and the talk wasn’t about parenting either.

What can we learn from our parents?

Two is the smallest team

ropeWorking on your own can be a lonely place. It may be helpful when we need to focus and avoid distractions, but to be working on our own all the time is hard work. We need others to inspire us, give us feedback and help us when we feel like giving up.

Having a friend or a colleague to work with helps us to solve difficult problems, tackle tricky issues and provides someone from whom we can learn and inspire us to greater things or maybe just help us get through the day.

With a cord of three, with God as part of the team, we read in the Bible:

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labour:
if either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Where does my help come from?

mountainWe all need help and there’s plenty of people willing to offer it to us, sometimes at a price. Where should we look for help?

Perhaps we can look to the mountains, those ancient, sturdy, magnificent structures which speak of solid foundations and an unyielding force of nature. Inspiring places. But they are still just rock and sometimes moved by earthquakes, more powerful forces of nature.

’I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.’ So writes the psalmist in the Bible. Our help can come from the One who made the mountain and the whole universe. The One who sustains the whole earth and all within.

We can look within ourselves for the inspiration we need, we can be inspired by other people, but true and enduring inspiration really only comes from God, the One who made us, sustains us and is willing and able to help us. We only need to ask and have faith, lifting up our eyes, looking to God our ever present helper.

Who is inspiring you, helping you today?

The good stuff is worth working for

natureHaving written about rubbish last week, I am writing about the opposite this week. There’s plenty of good things in life which make life beautiful and uplifting. Appreciating the glory of nature is easy and there’s beauty in how technology has made life easier, helping us to connect to the huge world of which we are a part.

The most satisfying and uplifting part of my life is my family, especially my wife and children. They bring lots of fun and joy to my life. Those who can bring us the greatest joy can also be the hardest work as something of great worth takes time and effort to build. There’s times when it’s hard work to love someone but it’s the same love which helps us to get through the tough times.

And then there’s God’s love, the perfect kind of love which is an example to us all. Knowing God’s love means we know we are accepted for who we are and not what we do or could do. He loves us unconditionally and that’s a very hard love to copy, but it’s the sort of love which brings the best out in every person and every relationship and it’s the sort of love worth working for.

Collecting rubbish

Pile of RubbishIt’s an inevitable aspect of life, especially modern life – dealing with rubbish, the things we have no more use for and which we discard. In my household taking out the rubbish is a man job (there are plenty of others) and I try to reduce it by recycling and making use of things which we could so easily discard.

As we journey on, we accumulate things which have a limited use and then when they are redundant, we throw them away. Without wanting to be a hoarder, I wonder how much we could keep which could have a use. If something is not useful today, could it be useful tomorrow? Perhaps we ought to reduce how much we consume in the first place. In any case when we do have to throw something away, let’s do it responsibly and not create a mess like there is on Mount Everest (bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-26420855).

We can easily think what some people have to offer is rubbish, worthless or not worthy of our use. Although we accumulate ‘rubbish’ in our lives, we believe there is inherent value in every person and we all have something positive to offer to everyone. Is it time to clear out the rubbish and fill our lives with positive, life enhancing, useful things?

Give us today our daily bread

bread for todayThe title of this post is a line from a prayer we prayed at my primary school every day: It’s from the ‘Lord’s prayer’, the prayer Jesus used to teach his followers how to pray. It speaks of how all we need is provided by God, if we ask. When those basic things we need are lacking, sometimes all we can do is pray and ask God to provide. I know God wants to provide for us, one of the names the Jews gave to God is ‘Jehovah Jireh’ – the God who provides.

I often ask for the things I want and neglect the important, foundational things which will sustain me and keep me going. Like a ship without an engine or a yacht without sails I can happily try to go through life without giving the necessary attention to the basic things which will keep me going, my daily bread.

For me that is family, a good home, healthy food, enough exercise and spiritual peace. My spiritual peace comes from my faith is Jesus and his teaching contained in the Bible. Being confident that God is present, looking after me and guiding me, helps sustain me through the good times, the bad times and the hard times. I can say with confidence, the prayer written by King (of Israel) David,  “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

Our daily bread

breadI read of children in wartime being given given bread each night which they put under their pillows to help them sleep well, knowing they would not wake up hungry. Our daily bread is what keeps us going and that’s as simple as food, keeping warm, a home and family and friends to love us and be there for us.

We can often complicate matters thinking we need more – more information, more media, more pleasure, more things to do, more possessions when all we really need are the simple things in life. And we can take these for granted, only realising their worth when they’re gone and it’s too late.

Strength comes from firm foundations and it’s these basic needs which provide the strongest of foundations. I think we neglect them at our peril, especially when we don’t give enough time to nurturing our relationships with those closest to us – our family and close friends.

Relying on each other

handsWe need each other to get to the end and working out how to work together to achieve our goal is not always easy… but it’s always worth the effort.

We are less effective when we try to do things on our own and even in individual sports, there is always a team of coaches and others to get the individual ready to compete. In team sports, working together effectivley is often the difference between a team of talented individuals and a match winning team. It’s only when the individuals are working together that they make the most of those individual talents. Perhaps that’s one reason Manchester United have lost 10 matches already this season.

When we learn to work together, in unity with a common purpose, then we will be more likely to achieve great things. We need to allow others to speak in to our lives and work so we can be inspired and helped to get to the place we want to be. We are all different so working with others is not easy, but in the end I’m sure it’s worth the effort.

Who do we need to ask for help from to reach the place where we want to be?

Overcoming obstacles

obI’m on a diet and trying to lose 14 pounds, so when my scales broke I wasn’t able to check my progress at the weekend. So I was discouraged enough to forget I wanted to lose some weight and ended up indulging myself a little too much – ignorance is bliss!

In last week’s post I wrote about looking ahead to the destination and how that could inspire us to keeping going so we get there. When we look ahead we can feel inspired by the prospect of reaching the end but we may also see all the obstacles between where we are now and where we want to be. Achieving something worthwhile is never an easy, straight, problem free road. I need to make conscious decisions (like not eating takeaways every week) to achieve my goals. I need to endure some short term pain and hardship to ensure I’m able to make it to the end, to the place I want to be.

Are we willing to overcome the obstacles to get to the place we want to be? Is that place worth it?

 

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