31 July 2014

A-Z: Contemporary Worship Music



It's time again for the family's summer break. As usual, during August I schedule myself a month off from regular blogging, and give myself a challenge to share a different A to Z listing of a topic that interests me.

This year I'm looking at music again - and I'm sharing a few of my favourite contemporary worship songs.

According to Wikipedia, this style of Christian music has developed over the past sixty years. Churches started adopting these songs for corporate worship. Read more here.

Have a great summer, whatever you're doing.

Psalm 147:7 (NIV)
Sing to the Lord with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp.

26 July 2014

Compassion Fatigue

I came across a series of articles about compassion fatigue when I started looking at reasons why my feelings sometimes start going a little awry; why I start 'switching off'... (see the post a couple of weeks ago)

All this is now making a whole lot of sense to me, helping me in my efforts to ringfence my precious 'recharging time'. I love being there to help people but I realise that I don't need to be there for people all of the time. I need to think of myself sometimes...

I have found a useful website on the subject - check out the website here. I especially liked the references on this site to self-discovery and journalling as a means of coming to terms with this. I've already started!

I'm confident this will help me care for my own needs, which in turn will help me care better for others.

17 July 2014

Getting Better At Listening - part three

So, what stops us listening to other people? Do any of these ring true for you?

Distraction: You start to hear part of the story and suddenly your mind starts wandering... Before long, you aren't listening at all. Perhaps you are trying to work out what the person is really feeling... instead of listening to what he or she actually is saying. Or perhaps the person has triggered a memory of your own, and you are really half-listening...

Selective Hearing: Listening only to the things that interest you, and ignoring the rest.

Rehearsing: When you are so busy planning what you are going to say next, that you are only listening for a gap in the conversation to 'jump in'.

Identifying: Always bringing the conversation around to a similar experience of your own.

Pre-empting: Trying to give a solution to the problem after just a few sentences; before you have heard all the information.

Parrying: Disagreeing so quickly so that the other person never even gets heard. Often this is a defensive response, trying to fend off put-downs. However, sometimes people use this to avoid praise! It's far better to accept the comment as it is intended, whether good or bad.

Derailing: Awful - simply changing the subject, because you're angry, uncomfortable or simply can't be bothered.

Remember - part of developing good listening skills is to give the person your attention. In all these instances the listener is not giving the other person the attention and respect he or she deserves; attention that the listener would expect if the situation were reversed.

16 July 2014

Getting Better At Listening - part two

A good listener strives to develop empathy for the other person (Romans 12:15). It's more than just sympathy; it's a genuine attempt to understand another's point of view. One author described as "seeing the world through another's eyes, as if it were your own, but without losing the 'as if'". Be objective.

We should not jump to conclusions (Proverbs 18:13) - take time to listen. Many people are reluctant to open up and so therefore good listeners take their time to listen; they have bucket-loads of patience.

It's also vital to keep a confidence, no matter how difficult it may be (Proverbs 11:13). There are some "exceptional circumstances" - where criminal activity is involved, or when someone may be in danger.

Some people reveal deep emotions through what they tell you. And that's okay - as long as it's not just an excuse to subject you to a stream of abuse about someone else.

Talking is good - and listening is a good way to find a way forward. Often a practical solution will quickly present itself naturally in the course of the conversation, usually from the person seeking help.

More to follow ...

15 July 2014

Getting Better At Listening - part one

I used to think that I was quite a good listener - however, after some prayerful reflection I discovered that I am a bit rusty and desperately need more practice. This is something I need to get better at - I have some great opportunities to brush up these skills in the next few weeks...

Listening is a particular skill - taking on board another's point of view takes time, energy and effort. Poor listening may indicate where the problem may lie - are we simply too impatient? Too selfish? Too distracted? Too tired?

It takes practice to listen for those cues that indicate the most important points that the person wants to get across. You need to listen for repetition, special emphasis, all those things that help underline the main points.

And then you need to listen to those things that are 'unspoken' - the use of a particular set of words, an unusual emphasis - that help us detect a message beneath what is actually being said. Reading between the lines.

More later ...

12 July 2014

W W J D ?

We've just started a new series in our House Fellowship on integrity.
Interestingly, we started off the session by asking the question: What Would Jesus Do ?

This phrase (often abbreviated to the acronym WWJD) became popular amongst Christians during the 1990s. It was seen on wristbands, tee shirts, jewellery. It reminded all of us of the need to live out the teachings of Christ; to love sacrificially in the same way as Jesus. Nowadays, the acronym has become a bit of a cliché, probably due to its overuse.

However, the question is still an excellent one. How often do we go through life with our own agenda, not His? How often do we really consider what Jesus might have done? And then, to follow that course of action, no matter what?

I've been quite challenged by this - although I know that Jesus' agenda could possibly get me into a few scrapes! I went and asked Google for a list of things that Jesus did. Here's what it came up with:

1. He prayed regularly, continually
2. He showed love to those shunned by society (those who were unwelcome; unwanted; undesirable)
3. He restored broken lives (physical, financial, spiritual)
4. He confronted hypocrisy, speaking out boldly when something was wrong
5. He taught God's Word, often directing people back to the Word.
6. He served; putting the needs of others above his own.
7. He equipped leaders, identifying and investing in people who could carry on this work.

Here's the full article that I found on the 'net: Click here

10 July 2014

Unwritten Rules Of Commuting


I've been spending a while thinking about commuting, an activity I have to endure regularly. Spending a sizeable chunk of your day just travelling to and from work on the train gives this tedious activity a high degree of importance...

Those in the London area have the longest commuting times compared to anyone else in the UK - they spend an average of 56 minutes a day getting to and from their places of work. My own daily commute is 140 minutes - just over an hour each way, door to door. Workers who live in rural Wales spend just 28 minutes travelling per day on average.

Just surviving the daily commute is an art. Some have even begun to devise a set of (unwritten) rules. Here are a few of these, gleaned from the internet and from personal experience...

AT THE STATION

Go with the flow: as you arrive at the train station, remember that you need to keep moving! Be sure to maintain a brisk walking pace - I've seen people pushed out of the way by a less than polite commuter because they were walking too slowly. If you can't find your ticket, step aside and rejoin the throng once you've found it.

Be on time: decide what train you need to catch and give yourself time to board, remembering that doors can close up to 30 seconds before departure. Angry passengers who have missed a train by seconds are regularly spotted.

Let the passengers off first: A familiar cry from the tannoy - reminding you to be polite, allowing thise who are getting off the train to alight before getting on yourself. Surprisingly, not everyone seems to think about this...

Things change: The job of the train company is to transport people in bulk, so sometimes things have to change. However, even something simple like a platform change can have a big effect. Display boards are sometimes wrong. Platform staff aren't always given the true picture and can therefore give you incorrect information. Get used to it.

ON THE TRAIN

Move right down the train: If you like your personal space, I'd suggest you avoid rush hour trains. Empty seats on commuter services are rare, and therefore highly coveted. Boarding an already crowded train is a skill you will need to develop - you'll be surprised how many people can fill one small carriage! They counted the number of passengers on one London-bound commuter train in 2013 - it was at 65% over-capacity, carrying around 300 excess passengers (source: LBC).

Tempers can get frayed: You will also be surprised how many people lose their temper on commuter trains - I see at least two examples every day.

Be assertive but polite: If you see a space, make a move for it. "He who hesitates is lost."

Luggage etiquette: Bags or cases should go on your lap. Although there are luggage racks, these are rarely used - by the time you've got these down at your stop, the doors will have shut again and you'll have missed your chance. Bags don't go on seats - unless you're prepared for a row.

Choosing your seat: If you do get this rare pleasure, remember to never sit next to anyone that you don't know. They'll probably think you're a stalker. Keep your distance, until the train is so crowded that there's no choice.

Giving up your seat: I am, on occasion, pleased to see people offering their seat to elderly passengers, to pregnant women, or parents with young children. It's rarer than you might think.

Socialising: A smile at a stranger can be welcome. It can make someone’s day just to bring a bit of humanity into the day. However, be conscious of your conversations - if you are chatting with friends, be sure to keep it down, so that your conversation doesn’t disturb others passengers. Perfect strangers are not interested in overhearing your personal conversation on a train. Same with mobile phones - keep it to a minimum and keep it low. Phone ringtones should be on silent or very low out of respect for those around you. No talking is the general rule. Some train services even run 'Quiet Carriages' where this is the 'written rule'.

Music: If you are going to use a portable music player, invest in a decent pair of headphones. The cheap ones are awful. Generally, no-one wants to hear what you are listening to.

Food: not recommended on a commuter train!

AND FINALLY -

Take up a hobby: I have developed a love of reading during my time commuting. Actually, modern technology means that I can also blog online, so part of my time commuting was spent editing this very article! Why? Because I would rather be anywhere else than stuck on this crowded train, between stations!

7 July 2014

Overthinking

overthink ( əʊvəˈθɪŋk )
Verb, with object: Think about (something) too much or for too long...

Yes, I know. I have been told before. I do have a tendency to overthink things. True; I often sit and ponder, mulling over things that happen for hours or days afterwards. The events flood back over me, demanding my attention. I've been wondering why...

I know this tends to happen after particularly busy days. Those days when the introvert inside me has to come up with an elaborate coping strategy for the day (actually, I kind of like the buzz from these days every once in a while. It's good for me).

I believe the overthinking issue stems from the struggle that takes place inside of me - whether I should respond to things with feelings or with rational thought. I'm predominantly concerned with values, with harmony, so I tend to empathise with people. I'm a feeler at heart.

However, I've noticed that the emotional side of me has been known to switch off early on long days - I think it is due to 'data overload'.

In these times, the logical side of me takes over; I start going a little bit 'Spock' on people, reacting a bit like a Vulcan; and I believe that's when I start to overthink. Before long, simple things can become awfully complicated.

I've been reading someone else's blog post on the topic of overthinking; the writer concluded by saying that it takes a lot more work to be happy than it is to be sad. And that's because it’s easy to be sad.

Happiness is learning how to cope with all that life throws at you. Happiness in a choice.

So, I must learn to stop overthinking. And I think the key is working out how to be better at feeling...

Comments, folks?