Acting with kindness

By Elaine Vitikainen

Small acts of kindness meant a lot to me last year. As I navigated through changes in my life, many people supported me.

What surprised me was that the people who helped me most were in some sense my competitors in the field. Instead of criticising or keeping to themselves their knowledge to get ahead of the game, they willingly shared what they have. They were quick to give advice when asked and generously provided me with any resources they thought I was lacking. They gave me encouragement, appreciation and love. Interestingly, these are not people who say they love the Lord or that they will pray for me. They were initially more like distant acquaintances than friends. But they still acted out of kindness.

It made me think, how easy is it to say “I’ll pray for you” without really thinking or bothering to grasp how the other person feels or needs. Many times I respond too superficially without showing real love and compassion. I think that I care, but without really showing care.

This week, how can we act in kindness towards those we work with?
How can we make kindness an act instead of just a concept?

To win by losing  

By Karl-Erik Lundgren

Deep in every human being there is a desire to succeed. We want to achieve and be the best at whatever we do. Is there anything wrong with this? Perhaps not in itself, but maybe in the way we go about it. In the heat of the contest we may be selfish and merciless.

Some years back I heard a story about a Paralympic athlete. I don’t remember his real name, so I’ll call him John. He had a childhood dream to win a gold medal. He trained hard for many years and amazingly reached the Paralympics final. When the gun went off, John ran as fast as he could. All was going well, until out of the corner of his eye, John saw his fellow competitor stumble and fall. Without really thinking, John stopped to help the other athlete get back to his feet. The two runners ended last in the race. John did not win the gold medal, but he won gratitude, love and a new close friend. He showed the world a different way to handle this desire to be the best at any cost.

Jesus said that unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it will remain alone but if it dies it will give much fruit. As long as we are too focused on ourselves and do not see or bother about other people’s situations, we will remain alone, fruitless. But if we accept this ‘death’ or loss, we release the hidden power in the small grain when it germinates. A new life starts to grow which will be a powerful source of blessing for others.

What personal ambitions, even ministry-related ones, may you need to let go of?
Who around you may be stumbling and needs your help?

The source of our resources

By Beena George

After so many years I was passing along that highway again – a road I used to travel so often during my college days. I used to wait for a spectacular sight: parallel to the road, there was a huge river that flowed gently and majestically. On the other side there was a canal, carrying water to the distant rural land. Unlike other canals, this one was almost always flowing. I felt so happy for the canal. It was the sole instrument of making an otherwise drought-prone land so fertile. I imagined how proud this canal must be, a reaching hundreds of villages and creating lives so green and lush.

As the road turned towards the river, I was so excited. But to my dismay, the canal had dried up! It had become a dumping ground for the villagers. All the flora and fauna that used to garland the canal had vanished. I imagined how sad the canal would be to see me, her long lost friend, in such a miserable state. All became a story of bygone days – an instrument that gave life to so many was now forgotten.

In her days of glory and abundance, I wonder whether the canal realised the she was only a channel; and the life giving resources she carried to the rural lands were never her own. It made me think about myself.

Do I realise I am only a channel? Do I appreciate the ideas and the resources that I bring to others are not my own. Do I acknowledge the source of resources? Do I realise they can be withdrawn in a matter of seconds?

This week, let’s live each moment acknowledging God as the sole source of all our resources. Let’s be grateful to be a channel of his grace. Let this year be a year of thankfulness.

If you are too busy, you may be lost

By Rick James

‘A busy person is not so much active as lost’

I was taken aback when I read these words by Ruth Haley Barton. After all being busy is a badge of honour in many of our cultures. If we are not busy, then we think we must be wasting our time.

Yet being too busy may not be God’s will for our lives. It may indeed reveal that we are lost – not really sure what God wants us to do. So we end up doing too much. We may find it hard to say no when people ask us to do things. We may need to overcome the insidious thought that ‘only I can do this well enough’. All of us have human limits. We cannot serve everyone. We cannot increase our time. None of us has super human powers to avoid the need for rest. We all need to make quality time for our relationship with God. A survey of 20,000 Christians worldwide revealed that 65% rushed from task to task in a way that interferes with their relationship with God.

Even Jesus did not respond to every need. Luke 5:16 describes how he often took himself off on his own to lonely places, even when people were looking for him to heal them.

This week:
• Where do we need to say ‘no’?
• How can we make more quality time for God?

Transforming presence in the work place

By Hiwot Alemayehu

Are you ever frustrated at work? Does it sometimes feel like a waste of time? It is worth remembering how Jesus’s presence can transform situations. As leaders and change facilitators we can learn a lot from his example – it’s a theory of change.

Imagine the scene. People were crowding round Jesus by the edge of the lake. They were jostling him so much that he asked some local fishermen, cleaning their nets by their empty boats, to take him a little way out into the lake. When he finished teaching the crowd he asked Simon to take them out to deeper water and let down the nets. Simon agreed very reluctantly as he’d just spent a fruitless night at work. The nets were suddenly bursting with fish. (Luke 5: 1-11)

In the midst of the noisy crowds pressing in on him, Jesus noticed the empty boats. But perhaps more significantly he noticed ‘empty’ people; normal people with frustrations and questions. He was not afraid of their discouragement and fears. Instead, he asked them to help and gave them directions. As leaders and change agents, do we perceive what really matters or are we overwhelmed by our crowded lives with so much on our lists to do?

As a leader, Jesus spoke and taught. But he did much more. He performed a miracle in the day-to-day work lives of the fisherman. It was an unforgettable moment – an experience of Jesus in their work that transformed them and their whole direction. Jesus first took them deeper in their work, accompanying them into unchartered territory. Then he asked them to obey.

Perhaps sometimes our work seems unproductive because we remain in the shallows; because we try and do things on our own; or simply because we do not listen and obey. To experience Jesus’ transforming presence in our work we may have to go deeper; to suspend our preconceptions about what works; to be obedient to his leading. Ultimately this is more than a theory of change, it’s a theology of change.

Untying yourself for 2019

By Elaine Vitikainen

I wonder how many times last year I told someone that I was ‘tied up’?

A colleague told me how she felt like a boat, meant to go somewhere with a clear purpose and destination, but remaining tied up to the dock. We give in to lots of distractions, but sometimes, it seems like good things tie us to the shore – marriages, family, work… But perhaps when we make these our idols, when we worship them, they also tie us up and limit our ability to respond to what God calls us to.

What would have happened if Jesus was tied-up when the children came to him (Matt 19: 13-14)? The Weekly Thought, Interruptions are your work, reminded us how many of Jesus’ miracles were interruptions.

This week:
What is God calling us to do this year? Be open to listen to what God has for us
How can we untie ourselves to prioritise our time for this?

The extraordinary power of gratitude

By Rick James

This week I listened to a fascinating talk by Professor Kim Cameron from University of Michigan. He was talking about his 15 years’ experience researching the power of virtuous practices in organisations. In his MBA classes he asked one group to note down in a journal each evening two or three things they were grateful for that day. He got another group to note down frustrations. Using a rigorous initial baseline, at the end of each term he could measure a detectable difference in health, academic performance, creativity and mental flexibility. People became healthier and smarter. He mentioned numerous studies as varied as ones with heart patients and with the US military that found exactly the same things. One study even demonstrated that grateful people live on average 13 years longer!

Having a grateful attitude, literally counting our blessings each day, makes a huge and practical difference. No wonder the Bible encourages us to be thankful. Just like plants, we are made to grow towards the light, to what gives us life.

Take a moment and look back on 2018, what three things are you most grateful for?
What can you do to make a habit of counting your blessings every day? Make this is a New Years’ Resolution – it could change your life!

Encouraging words

By Elaine Vitikainen

“This was not a good year for me” a colleague said as we sat together for dinner a few weeks ago. We began to console each other on the many challenges of being freelance consultants – until another friend interrupted. She started telling my colleague the many ways in which he’d done well in the past year. I saw how his face suddenly lit up with her encouraging words. And that was just a single time – imagine what a difference it makes to hear such words regularly.

Words are powerful. They can build up or tear down. It made me stop and think about the words I speak into my own life and others. My well-intended criticisms may actually discourage. But my positive words build someone’s courage. Romans 12 talks about love in action. In verse 10, it reminds us to ‘devote to one another in love, honouring one another’. What does this mean in practical terms? I think it includes regularly speaking words of encouragement.

This week:

  • Think of those who are struggling at work. How can we encourage them? How can we show that we genuinely care for them?
  • Think of those who you work with? How can we be a blessing to them?

Self-care is never selfish

By Stanley Arumugam

It is our ethical responsibility to take care of ourselves so we are fully available and able to do the work we have committed to.

Many of us are expected in our work to do more with less. But in reality, we can only do so much. Recognising the limits of our capacity is a vital first step in looking after ourselves.

As Christians we feel we must always sacrifice our personal needs to serve the cause of Christ. We get caught in a trap of continuously giving without replenishing.

We are all familiar with the habit of Jesus who regularly took time away from the crowds. He made time for silence, prayer, rest and relaxation. If Jesus needed this, how much more do we need to listen to the quieter internal demands of our body, emotions and spirit? As we listen, we will hear our bodies asking us to slow down, retreat, rest, and take care of ourselves.

To overcome the challenge of dedicating time in a busy schedule, I’ve started with a few basics that work for me: daily meditation; stretching exercises; sleep well; regular walks; breakfast; drinking water; breaks in the office; switch off the smartphone when sleeping; don’t read e-mails when taking breaks; weekend breaks; setting boundaries at work
in terms of your time, meetings you join and weekend working. I don’t always get it right but I’m mindful of developing these new habits of self-care.

Taking care of ourselves is an intentional act of good stewardship. We are the only gift we have to offer other people. Self-care gives others permission to do the same without feeling guilty. The Bible describes our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. We need to look after that temple.

This week:

  • What can I do more of to look after myself? 
  • What should I do less of?

Less of everything

By Jonathan Mbuna

The world is now talking of ‘less’ in almost every new innovation that is coming on the market. We now are seeing paperless offices, tubeless tyres, cordless appliances, wireless phones and many more ‘less’ innovations. I wonder if the same ‘less’ can be said of church leadership today. It got me thinking and even daring to question myself. What I all too often see is:

  • Valueless leadership: Leadership which does not value honesty, integrity, faithfulness and truth is valueless. Leadership without values usually follows the saying ‘the end justifies the means’ – Where am I tempted to compromise my values?
  • Directionless leadership: Some leaders have a poor sense of direction. They are
    not able to communicate to their followers where they believe they should go. Vision is blurred – How clear is my vision in my leadership?
  • Thoughtless leadership: Some “decisive” leaders are prone to speaking before thinking, deciding without consideration and acting impatiently – When did I last act too hastily?
  • Spineless leadership: Some leaders do not have a strong moral stand. They shift with the prevailing winds of opinion. As Mark Twain said ‘Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect’ – What principles do I need to relentlessly hold onto in my leadership?
  • Headless leadership: Some leaders fail to lead. They abdicate responsibility and refuse to take difficult leadership decisions – Where am I failing to fulfil my leadership responsibilities – at work, at home, in church?

This week:
Let’s see where our leadership can be ‘more’, not ‘less’.