Archive for June, 2013

ImageLast night I facilitated an Open Space discussion with “All We Need is Right Here“.  A huge amount of energy was generated by about 15 people who are focussed on how they can best utilize the amazing range of resources that are available to help Discover, Connect, Act and Celebrate within the communities of the Shire of Kalamunda.

Discussion extended to everything from community connectivity and social responsibility, to how the group can measure the success of their activities, to issues around music, parks and gardens, and connectivity with the local business community.

“All We Need is Right Here” is a group that uses Assets Based Community Development principles to identify ways the local community can discover, connect and act upon and celebrate the assets, resources and opportunities that exist within the communities of the Shire of Kalamunda.

This is a group that is actively making a difference in our local community and it is a privilege to be able to support them in their efforts.

The inclusion of people with disabilities into the church is an important issue. I came across an excellent article about this subject on the CBM website, quoting Hans Reinders who is Professor of Ethics at the Free University in Amsterdam, and a leading Christian thinker and speaker on issues of disability, ethics and Christian faith.
Inclusion comes about when we focus on commonalities, not differences
Though friendship is a freely chosen relationship, and one of our most important possessions, it is not something we can achieve for ourselves, but a gift we receive. In the area of life most important to us, we are all dependent. Our universal openness to and need of each other is not dissimilar to living with disability, and this helps us link our lives together

Inclusion comes about when we relate to each other as equals
In friendship we place ourselves in each other’s hands – what is most important to us also makes us most vulnerable. This has helped Reinders reflect on the dangers facing people who find themselves in the hands of people who do not really love them – people who may feel obliged to help them, or are paid to do so, but are not true friends. Here is a place for the church – people who rejoice in dependence on Christ and one other, rather than on maintaining power and control.

Inclusion comes about when we commit to human flourishing and growth
Friendship is like soil most conducive to human flourishing – to people becoming all they can be. What makes us flourish is being chosen. This has helped Reinders reflect on the power of friendship to transform and change people and situations. Against the assumption that things won’t change, is the affirmation that love can and does change everything.

Inclusion comes about when our focus goes beyond public advocacy
Fighting for the rights of people with a disability is a good, political goal, but it cannot achieve the most important good of friendship. “Rights create the bonds of citizenship; unfortunately, they do not forge the moral bonds of friendship.” This insight has helped Reinders take the discussion about disability inclusion from arguments for equitable participation in public spaces to the deeper level of dismantling barriers surrounding the much more important sphere of friendship and intimacy.

Hans Reinders is Professor of Ethics at the Free University in Amsterdam, and a foremost Christian thinker and speaker on issues of disability, ethics and Christian faith. He is also the current editor of the Journal of Religion, Disability and Health, and author/editor of several books on disability and theology, including The Future of the Disabled in Liberal Society, Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology, and Ethics and The Paradox of Disability: Responses to Jean Vanier and L’Arche Communities from Theology and the Sciences.

ImageThere is something very special about welcoming a new life.This week Robyn and I welcomed our fourth grandchild (our first granddaughter). I’ve already been called a doting grandfather.

It is with a sense of wonder that I look at this tiny new person.  What will the world be like in which she will grow up? What will those little hands hold? What paths will those feet walk and what sights will those eyes see? New life brings with it hope and a sense of joyous expectation. Hope that a future generation will learn from the mistakes my generation made, that a future generation will make better decisions and take steps with greater wisdom.

Perhaps I am being unrealistic. Yet somehow the fact that new lives are brought into the world every day is a sign that while each generation makes its own mistakes, hope never dies.

ImageOne of my favourite writers Henri Nouwen said: “A great deal of activity in our world, a great deal of hyperactivity, comes from the avoidance of relationships: we are afraid of encountering people, of striking up friendships with them; of feeling responsible for them, of sharing our weaknesses and becoming dependent on one another. Fantasy is an attempt to run away from something.  Hope stems from the acceptance of reality as it is”

Welcome Audrey Matilda Douglas and thankyou for bringing a new breath of life and hope into the world.

By the way, in the interests of fairness to the cousins and the bragging of a doting grandfather, I’ve included a picture of the grandsons.

An inspirational story about the Saidpur Deaf Club. Wadud tells of the barriers faced in his life as a deaf man in Bangladesh.

We had a quiz at Friendship Hour today that included a guessing game that got me thinking about a theory that someone really ought to take up as a Masters’ thesis. Mind you, they’ve probably already done that, and I just haven’t caught up yet.

By the way, Friendship Hour is the fortnightly programme for over 55’s at Maida Vale Baptist Church.

The idea of the game was that we were sitting in groups and each group was shown a tray that had 10 small items. The tray was then taken away and as a group we had to write down the 10 items as we could remember them.

I found it rather interesting that five of us at the table where I was sitting were able to remember most of the items until we got to the 10th item and we all struggled to remember the final item. 

My theory is that a group of people can have a joint blockage of memory. We had all seen the same items, but five people were struggling to remember each of the 10 items. While you would expect five people to have five times the memory, what was actually happening is that there was a combined memory blockage.

At a broader level, I have observed that organisations can develop corporate memory blockage, because together we become controlled by “group think”.

That’s why some organisations get stuck in an experience of doing the same things year after year and are unable to explore new ways of doing things. Rather than people being given the freedom to extend their thinking and challenge others, we tend to be restrained by the group thinking, usually quite unintentionally. And to make things worse, our corporate memory seems to recollect the failures, the problems and the difficulties of past situations, while the achievements and wins become lost in the mists of time.

I’ve been reading lately about the early Hebrew people who travelled together from Egypt to what was described as “The Promised Land”. They had experienced God’s goodness and grace in many different ways, but they participated in what has been described as “The Great Grumbling”. Rather than remembering the good times, including God’s grace, they could only remember the difficult parts of the journey and began grumbling.

Psalm 95, which gives an account of some of this grumbling seeks to bring back the better parts of corporate memory with these words:

Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.

I reckon worship is one of the most powerful ways of helping us to deal with corporate memory loss. What do you think?

compass-10pwuk7-300x300Sailing or boating is not my thing despite a story I told in church last week about a time myself and two friends sailed a surf cat off Fremantle many years ago, in an effort to board a US aircraft carrier. Needless to say we weren’t successful.

Anyone involved in sailing should be aware of the concept of position fixing. I wonder if amateur sailors still have the skills associated with using a map and compass in an age when the GPS is increasingly popular, but fixing your position involves taking measurements of distances and angles, usually from three reference points. It’s an important aspect of navigation.

I started to think about this after reading a statement in the Bible that said: “Fix your thoughts on Jesus”. On reflection, it seems to me that this is not just thinking about Jesus to the neglect of all other thoughts. Rather it’s a bit like fixing your position in navigation. If the way we navigate life involves fixing our position on Jesus everything else falls into place.  In much the same way, if the fixing point is our career, our rights, our comfort, our happiness, or our wealth, the way we do life becomes controlled and directed by those things.

It seems to me that in an age where we hear about people who have “lost their moral compass” and are lacking direction, we need more than ever to fix our position, and our thoughts, on Jesus.

There seems to be two sides to any discussion about the FIFO/DIDO (fly-in fly-out, drive-in drive-out) workforce but some interesting information has come Planeout of the latest study.

Lifeline has produced what has been described as one of the biggest studies of FIFO and DIDO and uncovered stress, divorce, psychological disorders, a reliance on drugs and alcohol to cope and a stigma attached to seeking help as being prevalent among WA workers.

People have been saying this for a long time, but it is always useful when someone does the research and can quantify the extent of the problem. A media statement released this morning said that an anonymous study of more than 900 people made the Lifeline WA research study one of the biggest ever in this field of research in Australia.

The key findings are:

Help-seeking: Knowledge of services and propensity to seek help is low.
One in five workers claimed their industry did not have on-site mental health or on-site counselling facilities, while one in ten reported their industry as not having an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Female workers were more likely to access an EAP, on-site mental health and counselling services and self-help information, or to use their supervisors, friends and family as support structures. While younger workers reported a likelihood to access on-site counselling, older workers were less likely to talk to friends during times of stress. Tradespersons and professionals were more likely to access hometown mental health services. Single respondents working high compression roster rotations were more likely to access telephone crisis lines as support structures.
However, a significant number of FIFO workers were not likely to make use of any mode of mental health information and services, with low compression rotation workers being the least likely to use any of the modes of mental health information and services.
Relationships: Generally positive.
All workers reported getting along very well with the people around them, both at work and at home. High compression rotation workers who were parents reported the lowest relationship quality with family and friends compared to high compression workers who were not parents and low compression workers who were either parents or not parents.
Coping behaviours: Most engage in effective coping behaviours.
Overall, workers reported engaging in fewer non-effective coping behaviours compared to effective coping behaviours. Withdrawing emotionally and ignoring personal needs were the predominant non-effective coping behaviours, with respondents working high compression rotations and those who were partnered reporting engagement in the most non-effective coping behaviours.
Stress: At its highest in the days leading up to leaving for work and its lowest upon returning home.
During rotation, stress generally increased and was reported to be at its highest levels in the days leading up to leaving for work, reduced steadily while away and dropping to lowest levels upon returning home. Women’s stress levels reduced to lower levels upon returning home compared to men’s stress levels. Higher compression rotation and partnered workers reported higher stress in the lead up to leaving for work compared to lower compression workers and singles.
On-boarding: Knowledge of the FIFO work practices was low.
Most FIFO workers had minimal knowledge of the realities of FIFO work before starting, with the number one stress being separation from family and home. A significant dimension of family and home separation related to FIFO rosters, with longer periods at work proving to be more stressful, particularly for workers with young children.
Benefits: High remuneration and quality time with family.
FIFO workers reported various benefits from their work, namely high remuneration and the opportunity to spend quality time with family during periods rostered at home. However, FIFO workers would like support maintaining their family relationships and obligations, especially when family members are in need, due to illness, for example. FIFO workers also felt that having more on-site opportunities for recreational pursuits than those currently offered would be helpful in coping with being away from home.
Recommendation 1: Develop supports that focus on increasing help-seeking behaviour within FIFO populations.
Recommendation 2: Develop supports that target the needs of specific groups.
Recommendation 3: Develop pre-employment supports – what to expect from FIFO and how to cope.
Recommendation 4: Develop ongoing post-employment supports that reduce stigma and address mental health literacy and coping skills.
Recommendation 5: Address organisational culture such that help-seeking is encouraged and supported.

I look forward to reading the full report soon.

Singles today (and most married couples too) are searching for super-spouses that simply don’t exist. People expect far too much from their spouse in all the wrong areas.

I used to hear a lot about people meeting “Mr Right” or “Mrs Right”. There is a view out there that for every person there is another person who is their perfect partner, and this often leads to frustration when the person you think is the perfect partners turns out to have flaws you didn’t realise were there at first. Tyler McKenzie in his blog post, “How I know my wife married the ‘wrong’ person” debunks this theory and says there is no 100% “right” person.

…whether you buy the biblical view of marriage or not, realize that love takes hard work. And that, as long as you limit the field to human beings, you’ll never marry the “right person.” Because there are no 100% “right people.” Sin’s presence in the world guarantees it. There are only wrong people who pretend to be right and wrong people who are becoming right, through Jesus. That’s why I like the biblical image of marriage. The fairy-tale image of two soul mates finding love at last is just that, a fairy tale. But the biblical image of marriage provides something so much more beautifully realistic.

It paints a portrait of two sinners, committing to the task of one another, for the sake of one another, until death do them part. It’s two imperfect people, committing to the sanctifying work of expressing Jesus’ self-sacrificial love, to their lover, so that they might see him or her become the person God has always intended them to be, knowing full well that neither of them have yet to reach this goal.

It’s worth thinking about.


I heartily recommend Sheridan Voysey’s new book, Resurrection Year, available on Amazon.

Forbes Magazine reported today that astronomers at the European Southern Observatory were able to capture a direct infrared image of a planet outside our solar system –  300 light years away.

Astronomers believe that this planet, HD 95086b, will teach us new things about how planets are formed.

It’s very exciting to think that science has come so far that we are able to not only identify stars and planets outside our own  solar system, but are now able to directly image them by telescope, thus expanding our understanding of what exists beyond what has previously been possible.

This discovery brings to mind the words of David several thousands years ago and recorded in the Bible in Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.