Equipping Christians & churches for whole-life discipleship in the world.

Being Present (4): The Work Alibi

October 8, 2012
08 Oct 2012

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.
Psalm 46:10

‘The Work Alibi’ was the title of a 1983 Harvard Business Review article. It stated that ‘while work in some cases may contribute to an unsatisfactory family life, in many others it becomes an alibi that executives use to cover up much more important factors’.

In leading many time management courses over the years, I have found it important to give more attention to what people are not doing with their time, than what they are. Lack of time is one of the best excuses for not doing almost anything; it gives us a ready alibi for avoiding situations or activities that promise to be difficult or painful.

One thing we choose to avoid is being still or stopping. ‘We humans have chosen speed and we thrive on it – more than we generally admit. Our ability to work fast and play fast gives us power’, claims James Gleick in Faster. Why don’t we stop? Because we have convinced ourselves that stopping is a luxury we cannot afford. Also, much of our identity can be so tied up with our activity that we don’t know who we are when we stop. In both the workplace and church, activity is often valued over reflection. Being busy is a badge of honour. If you’re not under pressure then your role cannot be very important, can it?

In the midst of our busyness, the Lord commands us ‘to be still and know that I am God’. He does so not primarily to comfort the stressed, but to confront our restless activity. It is in becoming still that we are able to focus on who God is and reconnect with his activity: ‘He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear’ (Psalm 46:9). When we turn down the noise of our lives, we can hear that ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1). And his help is ever present in the very situations we seek to avoid with our ‘lack of time’ alibi.

Join us on our ‘Being Present’ prayer pathway as we learn together to receive God’s ever-present help in the situations we face, and in those we are tempted to avoid. Be re-energised through simple spiritual practices, and be encouraged as we share answers to our prayers. Join this renewing prayer journey!

Bev Shepherd

Bev Shepherd is the PrayerWorks project leader and an associate speaker with LICC. As a management trainer and coach she specialises in the areas of leadership, team dynamics and stress, and is the author of Insight into Stress (CWR, 2006).

Being Present (3): True or False?

October 1, 2012
01 Oct 2012

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

Jesus describes Satan as the ‘father of lies’ (John 8:44). Much of our stress comes about because we believe his lies: ‘There isn’t enough time’ (so I cannot rest); ‘There aren’t enough resources’ (so I cannot afford to be generous); ‘I’m on my own’ (so I have to be self-reliant); ‘God cannot be trusted’ (so I had better lean on my own understanding).

These lies can result in the distortion of many of our core beliefs – shaping our expectations, governing our behaviour, causing us to view experiences in a way that validates them, and choking out the abundant life God intended for us.

The lie that there isn’t enough time pervades most modern time management teaching, advocates 24/7 living, and requires us to multitask at every opportunity. So pervasive is this culture that we might not even question it. Is it possible that our abundantly generous God could be stingy in one area of his creation – time? In our demanding workplaces, we need great wisdom to resist the pressure to work ever increasing hours.

Modern work patterns mean the distinctions between work and rest, day and night are increasingly blurred. But just as the written page contains spaces, paragraphs and punctuation – all designed to help the reader understand the meaning of the author – so our lives need punctuation or they too will lose the meaning God intended. God provides that punctuation through day and night, rest and work, seasons and sabbaticals. Whenweremovethespacesitishardtomakesenseofit. On our never ceasing treadmill we risk losing perspective on the opportunities and possibilities of the day we are in.

So how do we rid ourselves of these damaging beliefs? We allow God to renew our minds – planting his truth in place of the enemy’s lies. Paul explains in Romans 12:2 that the renewing of our minds enables us ‘to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will’. As our minds become renewed, we are more attuned to God’s thoughts, viewing situations and people from his perspective. Then we can embrace the gift of each unrepeatable 24 hours – today.

Join us on our ‘Being Present’ prayer pathway as we learn together to confront the lies we’re tempted to believe, and as we seek to renew our minds. Be re-energised through simple spiritual practices, and be encouraged as we share answers to our prayers. Join this renewing prayer journey!

Bev Shepherd

Bev Shepherd is the PrayerWorks project leader and an associate speaker with LICC. As a management trainer and coach she specialises in the areas of leadership, team dynamics and stress, and is the author of Insight into Stress (CWR, 2006).

 

 

Being Present (2): Trust Me!

September 24, 2012
24 Sep 2012

We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, LORD,
even as we put our hope in you.
Psalm 33:20-22

Our language of ‘trust’ varies according to the situation. For instance, I have found that many managers, when asked if they trust their team, reply in terms of reliability: their trust being linked to a team member’s ability to ‘deliver’ on their key accountability areas. Many team members, however, when asked the same question regarding their boss, reply in terms of openness: their trust dependent on the willingness of their manager to ‘level’ with them, not hiding anything.

God also has a language of trust, as Psalm 33 makes clear. Trusting God is essentially trusting in and not trusting for: we trust in God’s word (v. 4), his unfailing love (v. 5), his power (v. 10), his timing (v. 20) and his name/character (v. 21), rather than trusting for a specific outcome. Specifying exactly how we expect God to act often blinds us to what he is actually doing. And it is because we cannot always ‘see’ what God is doing that we are tempted to rely on our army, horses and strength (vs. 16-17) – our resources or our abilities. Most of us have been encouraged to be self-reliant, and in situations that feel beyond our capacity to ‘sort’ we often feel insecure. And insecurity is a false security exposed!

Trust is faith in action. Each of us has been given a measure of faith (Romans 12:3) and God expects that measure to increase (2 Corinthians 10:15). How, then, do we grow in faith? Through practice!

Hudson Taylor faced this question as he prepared for being a missionary overseas. He wrote: ‘When I get out to China I shall have no claim on anyone for anything. My only claim will be on God. How important to learn, before leaving England, to move man through God by prayer alone.’ He realised that for growth to happen exercise was needed, and exercise of faith was impossible apart from trials. So he welcomed trials as a means of increasing and strengthening his trust in God alone.

Join us on our ‘Being Present’ prayer pathway as we learn together what it means to receive each day as a gift from God. Be re-energised as we adopt simple spiritual practices that help us, throughout the day, to recognise that we co-labour with Jesus. Be encouraged as we share answers to our prayers. Join this renewing prayer journey!

Bev Shepherd

Bev Shepherd is the PrayerWorks project leader and an associate speaker with LICC. As a management trainer and coach she specialises in the areas of leadership, team dynamics and stress, and is the author of Insight into Stress (CWR, 2006).

Being Present (1): Too Tired

September 17, 2012
17 Sep 2012

I was pushed back and about to fall,
but the LORD helped me.
The LORD is my strength and my defence;
he has become my salvation.
Psalm 118:13-14

‘I fall asleep over my Bible’, my friend and fellow commuter on the early morning train lamented. He is not alone. When LICC conducted the Apprentice survey on Christian discipleship, with responses from 3,000 Spring Harvest attendees, it was notable that the principal issues affecting the individual’s personal spiritual life were fatigue (55%) and time pressure (also 55%).

The outcome of this pressure and fatigue is that we fail to be present (attentive, engaged, aware), both spiritually and emotionally. Stress causes us to live in a mixture of disappointment and regret concerning the past, anxiety or preoccupation regarding the future, and disconnected from the present. Instead of rejoicing that ‘this is the day that the LORD has made’ (Psalm 118:24) and embracing it, we adopt a survival mentality, wondering if we can just make it through and tick off enough things on our ‘to do’ list to give us a head start on tomorrow. There has to be a better way!

In October we launch our third prayer pathway, ‘Being Present’, focussing on how to combat this fatigue and stress with God’s help. In this prayer journey we will explore simple and doable spiritual practices to help connect us to God, ourselves and others, so that we may become increasingly present to the possibilities and blessings of each day.

The ‘Being Present’ pathway recognises that all spiritual formation has to be lived out where we are – in the context of this workplace, these colleagues and customers, my current boss, with my seemingly impossible workload and daily commute. To postpone it to ‘when things are quieter’, ‘when I’ve changed job’, or even ‘when I retire’, is to miss the point: God is the God of the real world of today, not some fantasy future of our imagining. He meets us where we are, not where we would like to be. It is within the pressurised confines of my current situation that I can call ‘on the LORD in distress’ and discover that he answers me and sets me ‘in a broad place’ (Psalm 118:5 NKJV).

Join us as we learn together what it means to be people who receive each day as a gift from God. Be re-energised as we adopt simple spiritual practices that help us, throughout the day, to recognise that we co-labour with Jesus. Be encouraged as we share answers to our prayers. Join this renewing prayer journey!

Bev Shepherd

Bev Shepherd is the PrayerWorks project leader and an associate speaker with LICC. As a management trainer and coach she specialises in the areas of leadership, team dynamics and stress, and is the author of Insight into Stress (CWR, 2006).