DISCIPLESHIP

A blog for followers of Jesus by NewHope staff and friends

The Practice of Vulnerability

The Practice of Vulnerability

Vulnerability is powerful. But the way it works is more or less counter-intuitive. You need to risk feeling bad, in order to feel good.

Here’s what I am learning. Open and honest people are more interesting. Truthful, risky self-disclosure puts energy into relationships. The more I practice opening up, the easier it becomes. If I have less to hide (or pretend about) I feel more joy, security and kindness in each relationship.

When people betray my vulnerability it hurts like heck. There is no completely safe way to do this. But there is no way to be fully alive and not do this.

Vulnerability is making my “real self” just a little more visible than is comfortable. Our lives are like flowers, most attractive when fully open. That’s counter-intuitive.

Over the years I have explored these 12 ways of practicing vulnerability:

  • Asking for help even though it made me feel uncomfortably weak
  • Offering advice and examples from my failures rather than my successes
  • Expressing my affections (appropriately) where previously I had been silent
  • Naming my doubts and fears out loud
  • Finishing this sentence: “Do you know what I am really feeling…”
  • Confessing my sins and weaknesses to another person
  • Saying sorry and promising to do better
  • Refusing to pretend that I liked what I didn’t or that I agreed when I couldn’t
  • Risking ridicule and misunderstanding in order to be helpful to someone else
  • Weeping while praying for someone in bitter pain
  • Asking others to pray for me in the area of my weaknesses
  • Letting silence linger until it got uncomfortable, and then it got real

Result: Most of the time I experienced a connection. Something vital shifted in the relationship, it went to another level, it blossomed. Not every risk paid the same dividends, but over all my “vulnerability-portfolio” has proven enormously profitable.

How do you practice vulnerability? Leave a comment.

For a brilliant talk on this theme check out Brené Brown’s June 2010 TedTalk here. And if you want to read a business application of the theme, explore Patrick Lencioni’s book “Getting Naked”.

Posted by Allan Demond in DISCIPLESHIP, 0 comments
Easter: Time to Reboot

Easter: Time to Reboot

At Easter I press the reset button. I imagine myself done and dusted, buried and forgotten. Then I imagine myself returned to life, resurrected, back for the second act. It’s a head trip!

What if today I died? People would mourn. My work would be reassigned. The little space I occupy on earth would soon collapse like water around a stone removed from the pond. That is a disconcerting thought. I’m not being morbid, I’m just trying to be practical. It will happen.

And then, what if I return. A new body. An elevated understanding of the mind and heart of God. A valued citizen in a new creation, a co-mingled heaven and earth. Again, I not trying to be sensational. Something just like this is what Easter promises. God’s cosmos-bending actions in Jesus encourage this kind of thought experiment.

“Crazy” thoughts like this make me want to sing. God comes closer. I love my family more deeply. Other people become important to me. The world looks fresh and beautiful. Things on my to-do list seem less pressing. Pains and injustices are reframed. Even my breathing feels like a gift. Life is abundant (Act 1) and enormous (Act 2).

Easter celebrates a glorious but simple thought. Life is unbounded. It is precious, significant and  more mysterious than anyone thought. Life is unexpectedly longer and potentially fuller than our powers of observation and deduction will easily admit. So take hold of it! Get to know your Maker. Follow his Son Jesus, life’s very best mentor. Put a little Easter in your soul so you don’t get lost in Act one and end up sitting in darkness in Act two.

You don’t need to be a Philosopher to get value from these thoughts. Letting them simply wash through your mind is restorative. But celebrating the author of such life and getting to know the one person who made the unthinkable journey backward through death is amazing. This Easter I will luxuriate in these thoughts, and I will cherish Jesus, the person who shows me the way.

That’s Easter!

Posted by Allan Demond in DISCIPLESHIP, 0 comments

The Rarest Kind Of Friendship

There is a friendship based on talking. It is common. Dale Carnegie says you can “win” these sort of friends. All you need to do is let them speak. So long as you nod and mumble with credible frequency you can assemble a substantial collection of these sort of friends.

This common friendship is epidermal. Surface conversations rubbing up against each other, with very little permeation. People taking turns to speak, but no one taking time to listen. You like my post, I’ll like yours and boom – we’re friends.

The rarest kind of friendship however, behaves differently. It does not wait its turn to speak. Sometimes it yields its turn and sits in silence for long periods. At other times it interrupts brusquely and speaks its mind. It does this because it is engaged, it understands, participates and even anticipates. In short it loves.

This is friendship based on active hearing! It is sacred because it sees into your soul and speaks wisdom, comfort and truth to what it sees there.

I am blessed. I have friends who occasionally touch my soul. Their words are kisses and their eyes sing my undeserved praises. They “get” me without making me explain myself. They can rebuke me or bless me but always I feel restful and improved when I have been with them. Jesus himself is one such friend, he touches my soul frequently (John 15:15).

I think I understand the goal (Prov. 17:17, 18:24, 27:6,9). I wish I did not fail so often. I pray that I might be a soul-touching friend for a few people at least some of the time as I live. And I pray that you would have such a friend and be such a friend too.

Who or what touches your soul? How do you practice deep friendship? Please leave a comment.

Posted by Allan Demond in DISCIPLESHIP, 0 comments
Is Jesus Pleased with the Work You Do?

Is Jesus Pleased with the Work You Do?

A Hypothesis: Any person in any job can please Jesus in the work they do, if they really want to. Test it in your work place with these four actions.

1. Cultivate a  “Jesus-is-with-me” attitude on the job. What thrills Jesus most is our companionship not our productivity. If we labour in ways that dismiss Jesus from our thoughts it doesn’t matter what job we have, we are not likely to please him or serve him well. On the other hand, if we are intentional about keeping the friendship and lordship of Jesus forward in our daily activity awesome things occur. Just follow him. And if there is something he is not pleased with, he will tell you! Jesus loves working WITH us.

2. Align yourself with Jesus’ influence on your profession. We can forget how influential Jesus is upon our culture. Go back two thousand years and take a careful look at health care, education, parenting, politics, labour conditions and common law, for example. You will see how deeply these have been impacted by the ethics of Jesus and the work of his disciples over the last 2000 years. Secular writers attribute these developments to material progress and our natural evolution. But a closer look at Jesus’ impact reveals a different story (Read: Alvin J. Schmidt’s book, How Christianity Changed the World). It is likely that you stand in a long line of faith-filled people who have transformed your profession through the power of Jesus. If so, learn that history and carry on that tradition. And, if your profession seems very “unredeemed” to you, if there are no stories of Christian witness and influence through the years, then perhaps there is great opportunity. If the line of witnesses in your field is short and you stand near the front, then live to add a chapter to Schmidt’s book.

3. Focus on the JOB inside your job. Position descriptions tend to focus on industry outcomes. If Jesus re-wrote your PD what would he include? Something about “fishing for people”, lifting them out of brokenness, despair and un-productivity. Something about serving others, the thing Jesus himself came to do. Something about justice and mercy and humility. These are things that will actually benefit your employer whether you get paid for it or not. Be excellent in the work place.

4. Seek the pleasure of the Lord in your work. Ask Jesus to fill you with joy and satisfaction. Work is God’s gift not his curse. It was actually given to us in Eden before the fall as part of God’s blessing. If you hate your work, it will be hard to please Jesus in it. To cultivate joy at work you may need to start with a holiday, an attitude lift and a new resolve. But be assured, Jesus wants you fulfilled in your job and he will work with you to make it so. Seek first his Kingdom and pleasure in your work will be added.

Test the hypothesis. Lean in fully. I think Jesus will be pleased. And if you keep at it with faith and courage in the end you’ll hear him say: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Posted by Allan Demond in DISCIPLESHIP, 0 comments
Following Jesus Online

Following Jesus Online

If Jesus had an offical suite of online accounts, I would “like”, “follow” and “connect”. What Pastor wouldn’t? But following Jesus in cyberspace requires a little more thought.

It is fun to speculate what Jesus would post. Selfies with his 12 mates and the Mount of Olives in the background? Doubtful. Pithy Old Testament quotes? Maybe, but … sparingly. Lengthy treatises? No. And who would Jesus “friend”? What would Jesus “like” and “follow”? Which platforms would Jesus use?

The thing is, I really do want to follow Jesus online. My discipleship needs to include my cyber-presence. So, here are my thoughts on what Jesus’ online activity might look like (and how we might want to copy him).

1. Jesus Online would Announce the Kingdom of God. That was and is his main focus (Matt 4:23). He comes to declare the reign of God over all creation. I think Jesus would “like” the posts, pictures and people that serve justice and mercy. I think he would highlight the presence of God in our world and call people to align their lives with the Creator and walk humbly with him. I think he would be creative and winsome in how he did this.

2. Jesus Online Would Heal. He would serve, seek the lost and act like a digital physician. He would post things that help people, that make them want to change and to repent. He would bring Spirit and Life to a dry & digital land.

3. Jesus Would Practice Digital Sabbath. There would be times when Jesus would go walk-about. His “likes” and “comments” would go unanswered. It is even likely he would do this at the very moment his posts were going viral. But then I suspect he would come back even stronger. He would never let himself get addicted to the web or enamoured with his own media successes.

4. Jesus Would Get “Unfriended”. At some point he would start to ask too much. He might talk about crosses or self-denial and there would be a group that stop following him. I doubt he would check his analytics very often. And his webonality would never drive his message. He would press on faithfully, announcing the Kingdom and healing the sick, regardless of his “ratings”.

5. Jesus Online Would be a Tiny Slice of Jesus on Earth! If Jesus did have a first rate social media presence, it would account for only a small part of his physical ministry. He would still eat with people and go to parties hosted by his friends and have late night talks and preach on mountains. He would be with people – always!

The Spirit of Jesus, risen and alive, IS online! And I for one, am dedicated to following him here. Join me.

Posted by Allan Demond in DISCIPLESHIP, 0 comments
God of New Beginnings

God of New Beginnings

January is named after the Roman god Janus. He has a pair of faces. One looks backward and one looks forward. What a great symbol of New Years Wisdom.

Look back. What are you celebrating as you close off your 2015? What stirs you to offer prayers of thanksgiving? Are there successes? Gains? Wins? And what about disappointments? Losses? Hurts? What loose ends do you need to tie up so 2015 can rest well?

Look forward. What positive change should you plan to make? Is it fitness, family, faith, fun-times, finances. Do you need to get organised, read your bible, sign up to serve or learn a new skill?

Did you know that you are 10 times more likely to succeed with a promise made at New Years? So says Dr. Mike Evans in this 6 min video. It helped me as I set several rather exciting personal goals for 2016. I hope it helps you too.

A simple word of wisdom. Don’t make a resolution, make a plan! Think it through, break it up into little pieces, write it down, be accountable to someone, and invite the God of new beginnings to help you. Not Janus … Jehovah! (Isa. 43:9)

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Take The Corners Wisely

Take The Corners Wisely

Olympic skiers reminded me of an important life lesson this week. Watching a couple of ski contestants fly off the track failing to make a tight corner at the bottom of a hill got me thinking. Its not the simple straight stretches that get you, its the speed and the corners.

I have been negotiating one of life’s corners this week. My father died. We held a funeral, placed his ashes, mourned with family and friends, reminisced, laughed and cried. And the important point is this, we did it all with a certain care that required time and attention.

Like you, my life is full. I like to go down hill fast. I have lots in my diary and people are expecting me to fulfil various expectations. Sometimes I don’t have enough margin.

But on this occasion my dearest friends counselled me to slow down and take the corner well. Slowing down meant flying to Canada. It involved visiting friends, talking through details, and listening to family members unhurriedly, attentively and lovingly.

Another thing I learned, from this weeks’ ski commentary, is that you should look where you want to go. This is great advice when ploughing through a corner in life. Don’t get obsessed with the stuff in front of you or that is where you will fall. To paraphrase Paul, “Ski by faith”. This week I have been looking towards our eternal hope in Jesus Christ. The promises of 1 Thess. 4:13-18 have never seemed so important to me. I’m navigating a corner of grief with my eyes on the prize of resurrection.

Life presents many corners. Grief is a corner. Loss is a corner. New love is a corner. Deep disappointment is corner. Huge opportunity is a corner.

To win gold, take the corners wisely. Slow down and lean into God.

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How To Say Clever Things

How To Say Clever Things

Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The social media was full of awesome quotes and clever things he said. Here are a few examples:

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bare.”

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

How is it that he said so many clever things? Well, he was smart. He had a heap of public opportunities. His daddy was a Baptist preacher and he followed the same path. He was a precocious student. He quoted others a lot. He thought deeply and wrote extensively.

All true. However, the real reason is more powerful. The things he said sound clever because the life he lived was great. Bold sacrificial choices and an untimely death turned ordinary words into quotable gems.

A sure way to sound naive and awkward is to try and be clever. But the quickest way to become clever is to give your life away in service to others. Live a bold sacrificial life, die doing something that matters, and suddenly your ordinary words are supercharged with wisdom. It turns out that wisdom is more of a “doing-thing” than a “saying-thing”.

So, how do you say clever things? Speak less and make greater sacrifices. (Prov. 17:28)
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Listen to the closing moments of King’s final speech (“the mountain top”) the night before he was assassinated: click here.

An interesting fact: King was born Michael King, Jr. His father changed the name to Martin Luther while attending the Baptist World Alliance Congress in Berlin in 1934. The vision for greatness stuck!

 

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