Is ok
It’s where the learner plays
How the growing toddler says
When leaders make mistakes
And turn them into breaks
The base the designer makes in
Without grey we’re fakes then
Without grey we’re competing
Pretending to be completed
In grey we trial and tweak it
Beauty in tragedy speaks it
Where a searching artists meets
With tension’s blessed leaks
A writer’s made to think
A poet finds a link
Grey is the playwright’s ink
Because life is anything but neat
Drama is made from heat
Music from messy beats

Black is derelict
Of light that is infinite
And white needs be lit
Else it cannot live
But grey
Is what starts as day
And lasts through night
In the moon light
It is reflection
Of heavens complexion
Tinted by the rim of earth
That we can observe
Many colours in one
Black and white in unison
Grey is the human condition
Binar is easy and balanced
But grey is the challenge
It is humanity
Drawn to divinity
For grey is God-given
From an ultraviolet heaven

Approval and Affirmation

            1 Thessalonians 2:4,6
            For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.

As ministers human praise can be intoxicating. The comfort and encouragement that comes from one another – from connection – is not wrong, but when our approval and values comes from people rather than from God then we are in danger. In fact, approval from man is often antithetical with approval from God, as we read in Galatians 1:10 “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”

We are approved by God and we seek to please God, who is the one who enlisted us. This is important because I should not be looking to a congregation or other ministers to continually be encouraging me and approving of me. Such insecurity is dangerous, making us those who will more quickly please people than please God who will call us to do things unpleasing to people. The cross is an offense!

That is the first ditch. There is a second: If we are not under the approval of others, we can quickly become arrogant and think that we have been picked because of our own merit. Such questions rise: Am I approved by God because of something I have done? Did God pick me as a messenger of the gospel because I am special? Do I get praise for how well I do? Is it a point of pride that God would pick me and not others to be a messenger of his?

The answer is in Paul’s first letter to Timothy:

            1 Timothy 1:12-16
            I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.

Paul is saying that God picked him in spite of him. Specifically he makes two points: 1. that God appointed Paul because he considered him trustworthy, and 2. that God had mercy on Paul for the reason of using him as a minister and example to others.

I think of it like a chess set. No one praises the pieces. God could use ornate pieces, but he decides to use a rugged piece like me. In doing so, he shows just how embracing and loving he is. It glorifies him, for his skills are so good that he has no need for ornate pieces to make him look better. No one praises the chess piece for the move the player (God) makes. It is purely in God’s mercy that he chose the rugged chess piece over the ornate one.

If there is any commendation made to us as a chess piece, it is for our faithfulness, that we give ourselves fully to the task that God made us for. We must not look to the ornate pieces in a spirit of insecurity, or compare ouselves with other rugged pieces. Our eyes are best kept off each other and certainly off ourselves, and put onto God.

            2 Cor 10:17-18
            Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!
            As the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.

If we will kneel before God, God will deal with us. Let us be given up to his purposes, that his mercy has called us to, understanding that it is by his mercy that we are appointed and in his grace that we are strengthened for the task at hand. If we do that, be surrendered to him, then he will work wonders with us.

Thus I am appointed and approved by God. On a human level, I am affirmed and assigned by man. And I am accountable to them both. All by God’s mercy and in God’s grace.

The human level is important. Paul was not without early accountability, and speaks of the affirmation made by man towards his ministry in Galatians 1 and 2, and the human affirmation of Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:18, 4:14-16, 2 Timothy 1:6-7, 14. Timothy and Titus were both assigned by Paul (1 Timothy 1:3, Titus 1:5).

Both the ditches described are based in pride. To please people rather than God is pride. To think God picked us because of our own merit is pride. Thus accountability is needed to guard us from such pride. When we practice accountability with what God has called us to steward we practice the belief that we are stewarding another’s posessions are not our own.

Scriptures for study:
1 Thess 2:4-6
2 Tim 2:15
1 Tim 1:12-16
John 5:41,44
Gal 1:10
Rom 2:29
Eph 6:6
2 Cor 10:12,17-18

The Gospel

The gospel is like butter,
Golden produce of heaven’s bossom.
It is costly and common.
All can eat.

The gospel is like butter.
Through churned and beaten
It is made to be eaten,
Not left on a shelf.

The gospel is like butter.
It is meant to be spread.
It sticks to lips,
Makes a meal of bread.

The gospel is like butter.
Greases and eases.
Softens the hardens.
Rebirths flavour.

The gospel is like butter.
Believer, let it not remain a lump.
Church, do not clump.
Let it spread.


For our 9th anniversary

Not the time the watershed starts,
Nor time children come home from parks.
It’s not the gifts, nor is it the news,
Or the star player, or time to amuse.
Not hell’s circles, nor friends of the ring,
Or simply six enjoying flipping.
It isn’t square threes, or the muses,
Or the ball with yellow stripes and bruises.
Neither is it the planets numbered right,
Nor all the innings, nor work’s green light.
And certainly isn’t the cat’s tail, or lives,
Or dressed to the full, or a saving stitch in time.

No. Ours is our trips round the sun,
And not complete, there’s more to come.
Ours is the joy that our promise endures,
And that my heart still finds itself in yours.
Ours is the three-stranded cord
Where our marriage is entwined round the Lord,
And three strands now stranded three ways:
The Lord and us with each daughter’s name.
Ours are filled with choice, heavenly fruits,
Ours are like the time our fruits took to produce.
For ours are life, and love our bond,
And just one away from a new diamond.

The Most Precious Human Resource: Action

Content is a commodity. Take your pick of entertainments, places, ideas, tinned foods, holiday destinations. The thing with content is it can be digested very easily – most often like soft porridge oats that require no chewing – and requires little action.

Action. The most precious human resource in the world. It is the people who have acted upon social injustice that have changed our world. Those who started with doing just something that have shaped our history. It those who acted upon a dream, a vision, who pulled what was previously thought impossible into the realm of realirt.

Amidst the commoditisation of content, the measure of clarity is its ability to provoke this invaluable resource.

Think IDEA:

Inspire – show them what part they can play, not necessarily in the whole world, but in their world.
Decision – help them see it starts with a decision to do.
Example – point them to a great example. Better yet, be the example.
Action – ask them write down right there and then the next step… and commit to do it.

Who Is Your Phyllis Wills?

A woman by the name of Phyllis Wills passed away recently.

Type her name into Google, and you’ll find nothing about her. Ask people on the street about her, and you’ll find no body knew her. In fact the only person I know who knows much about Phyllis is my dad.

About 20 years ago, in response to a desperate phone call from a drunken and depressed man who had reached the end of himself along with his wife, Phyllis went down to their home with curlers still in her hair (as she was mid-perm at the point of the phone call), and spent time counselling them. That was the night that my family became Christians, when I was 5 years old.

My dad knew Phyllis because when he was 3 years old, he was run over in a car accident. The doctors told his mother (my grandmother) that he wouldn’t make it through the night, so she went to the local church and it was Phyllis who prayed with her late at night that my dad wouldn’t die. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know what happened.

The point was that she was there for him. She mattered.

The reason why I write this is it’s just one way that someone has effected my life – without whom I wouldn’t even exist. In other words, Phyllis mattered to my life. My life was built on her contribution.

Preparation WITH Action

Another article from when I was blogging about leadership in 2009-11. I have kept it as the principle is a good reminder to me.

I had a phone call a while ago with someone who basically wasn’t doing any action because they were in preparation. Whilst I say myself that if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail, I believe there is a difference between preparation with action, and preparation for action.

Let me explain:

Preparation for action believes that you need to create a masterplan and therefore need your key relationships and connections in place before you can do anything. It believes that all action will be based purely on this preparation. It says theory defines reality.

Preparation with action believes that everything is fluid. You can’t predict what will yield a return in your life – and that preparation in a vacum without action is like trying to create a master plan and predict every turn without understanding that once you begin acting, everything changes. It says reality defines theory.

The reason why I’m thinking about this is because my 18-year old brother Todd is at a cross road, as are many young people. <strong>People his age have been paralysed with too many choices</strong>, and the trait of our generation (I’m 26) is that few get into a working habit and settle down with focus. Of course, not that you have to be settled into a day job – but these guys also generally lack the self insight to know what skills they are amassing – and therefore find themselves at 30 without that fundamental knowledge of themselves, and then having to start all over again and reboot their working life.

The truth is these guys have a wealth of transferable skills, but no one to help them see that (because often they can’t see it themselves). I am concerned that we have a stronger focus on a process of “College, Uni, Gap Year, Job”, that when it breaks, people freak out, and that also skips the whole point of learning skills and leadership through action!

The lie that we’ve created for Todd and others is that you need to follow the trail of University education and everything will be OK. But I continually have graduates asking for my advice and asking to do internships with me because they have <em>no</em> experience and no one will hire them. They’ve been preparing for action – not preparing with action.

Preparation with action is a mindset. It just requires you to think “DO”. I keep telling the young people I work with to start doing what they love now. If they want to be film makers, don’t wait to college to ‘learn’ – start making films now! And the same with practically every other career.

My advice is two fold:

1. Do. (Well, Do Talk Do.)

2. Rather than thinking “Uni, gap year, job, work my way up”, think “Where can I get the next transferable skill that I need to learn?”

The 5 Innovations of the iPad

This was written when the iPad had just come out. I have kept it, albeit edited, on my blog as I think the insights still stand.

There’s been an iPad in my office for 2 months or so already, but with the UK release, I thought now would be a better time to talk about it. Whilst I’ll inevitably discuss some of the features, I want to keep to what I see as the key points of innovation, and draw some learning from those for future application.

Let me say right from the start: I think the iPad is a revolutionary device. Not so much for the device, actually, as it really is the culmination of 10 years of exceptional innovation from Apple that has created the right ecosystem to deliver the iPad. Without the ecosystem, it wouldn’t work.

So, here are the 5 innovations of the iPad:

1. You’re already using the iPad, even if you don’t have one

Because we are all pretty much accustomed to using some form of app store for our mobile device, whether it’s the iPhone or not, means that we are already using the iPad. You’ll understand what I mean when you get to holding the device, and then realise that there is no learning curve here – you already know how to use it, and if you’re on the iPhone, you already have a bunch of apps that are iPad apps that you know how to use and have installed.

This shows the power of the ecosystem that Apple have created – something that I would argue is actually Apple’s key asset that they’ve built over the last 10 years. They have easily tied in a new device into their existing ecosystem with such barrier-free adoption. I wonder what else they could do it with…

The fact that you already have been taught how to use it makes me think of Chip and Dan Heath in their book Switch, who say that it’s easier to start a journey that is already part of the way there, than start a shorter journey where you have to begin right at the beginning. With the iPad, it’s all the former. Once I installed the iPad from my iPhone backup, I had all my apps and settings in place, optimised for the new device. I’m already most of the way there.

Mike Elgan wrote a peice a while ago on how Apple is training us for the future. When I touch the iPad, I understand what he meant.

A bit of help, admittedly, is needed for this who are entirely new to it all. The great thing for them, of course, is that they can book free lessons at the Apple store.

2. It’s does 80%, not 150%

I’d say you can do 80% of most of what you need a device (note the purposeful use of <em>device</em>, not <em>computer</em> here, because we’ve beyond that now – but we’ll get to that later.)

Email, admin, Word (Pages), browsing, Facebook, and then all the suff that we now love to do through apps are all a breeze on the iPad – and what’s more, they’ve cut out all the heavy features that you don’t use, so that this whole experience is not only mobile optimised, but also lite-user optimised. For years I wondered why Word had prominently placed features in the program that so few people use, and was frustrated that the program loaded slower because of it. This is why I use Pages on my MacBook Pro anyway, and now, I’m loving Pages for the iPad and find I need even less features.

This is the trouble with most PCs – that they provide 150% of the features you need. The Control Panel, for instance, is just waaaaay over the top. Macs are better at this, but still do have too much going on for the average user. The iPad hits a sweet point.

Because we have grown accustomed to apps, we are especially comfortable when using them on the iPad. Evernote, which I’ve used as a premium user for close on 2 years, is actually even better as an app on the iPad than the full blown client that they have on the Mac. I’ve found already I prefer using NewsRack, an RSS app, over Google reader – and there are other instances like this.

3. It’s a focus device, a productivity device and a social device

Perhaps the best use of the iPad is when I take it to a secluded location on a Sunday night, sit down, and plan my week. With my Mac, it’s so easy to loose focus – to open up Twitter as I plan, change tabs from Remember The Milk to BBC News, and so on. You know how it is.

What I love about the iPad is that you can’t do this. Even with multitasking, you can’t have Evernote on the left of the screen and Twitterific on the right – you focus on the app that is open – which makes this a productivity beast. Even with Twitterific, the Twitter client I’m using on the iPad, I’ve got a new degree of focus on Twitter (as well as it cutting out all the features in the heavy Twitter clients that I don’t use)

Or take email: you have a panel with the emails on the left, the panel to view each email on the right, and no where to escape to avoid dealing with it. This is where having email addresses for Evernote and Remember The Milk is critical, because you can email in a task or note and stay securely within Mail, without having to close the app and open up another one.

For meetings, the iPad also excels. First of all, I’ve never been a fan of laptops that cover all but someones face when they are at a desk. The iPad opens people up more, and also lets you know they aren’t just browsing the web behind that screen.

As for note taking in these meetings, I’ve found the keyboard in landscape mode very easy to use and remarkable close to using a standard keyboard. I can touch type on it. There does need to be better auto-correction though – I took about 2 hours typing up this post (whilst thinking about it too, of course.)

Not only is the iPad social because it removes the 17inch screen barrier between you and I at meetings, but the apps that I have tested are all overwhelmingly social when it comes to sharing. Almost any app that has got some kind of content has sharing built in, with Facebook and Twitter on every list, with further options like email / Delicious / Instapaper and others available.

This is why I like using NewsRack – because it shares and Tweets what I’m reading the way Google Reader should. If I want to tweet an item from Google reader, I have to open the original up in a separate window, copy and paste the URL (as well as modify it if it’s a Feedburner URL) and then shorten it before tweeting. Sure, I can create a ‘send to’ item but they are very clunky and don’t actual tweet the message, but just send me to Twitter with the un-shortened URL in the post box.

How do share in NewsRack? I just touch where I want it to go. Simples.

4. It makes other devices what they should be

When I first had my iPhone I remember trying to use Google Docs, because I wanted to harness the power of a mobile device to have all my documents with me. Of course, on a screen that size, you could do nothing to edit those files, no matter how hard you tried. The same can be said of the rush for the first file management app in the iPhone – we all paid £5 per app to find the best one, only to discover that we couldn’t think of any files we actually needed on our phone, save files that were already on the phone in custom built apps.

With the iPad, the iPhone can actually be what it is meant to be: a communications device. Calls, texts, emails on the go and tweets, plus the future video calling, and then pocket sized apps that help me day to day like Google Maps, Evernote for quick notes, and so on.

Device is the right word. A device is a thing you use to do something. A computer is often an end in itself, but I find my mobile device, pad device and desk device all hook me to my synchronised files and help me get the job done, so I can spend more time with people.

Does that then make the iPad a content device? A lot of innovators are asking, and people immediately ask me the question too: can the iPad be used for content creation?

Firstly, lets consider the majority of people who don’t use the jargon that we do and blog like we do. Can the iPad create the content that, say, my wife spends the majority of her time creating? Yes.

Secondly, can the iPad create the content that bloggers want to create? Until WordPress create a better iPad app, then the answer is 80% yes. It’s links and images that can’t be done well, unless you want to do HTML, which most don’t.

The main caveat here, however, is the time factor. Almost every task with regards to content creation is still faster on my Mac, because I’m more used to it, and be use it is made for multitasking and all that jazz.

5. The iPad OS is how computing should be

For my final point, I want to paint a picture: Someone buys a PC, gets home, and after setting all the hardware up (hoping that they have it right), they start up. In a menu bar full of bundled apps that they don’t understand (and with many of them running in the tray, with the user unsure of how to stop them running when the computer starts), they procedure to install their software.

Each program asks where it should be installed (the user unsure of why they are even asked this, as they certainly don’t know), and then adds itself to the desktop and menu bar as he program decides it should. In a few weeks, the user wants to uninstall the program, but has no idea how, so they leave it as it blots the computer.

In the end, the family tech expert tries to make sense of the computer, but it’s such a mess. Files are everywhere, nothing is standardized, and you cant blame the user because they don’t have a clue because there is nowhere free to go for training.

You know this scene – and you also know the scene that is set with the iPad. You get apps from the app store (which just install, all the same), and you click the cross to remove them. You watch the video tutorials for help or get free help at the Apple Store.

When I switched to Mac in 2003 for video editing purposes, I also found lots of my time was freed up from having to fix PC problems. The phrase is, ‘it just works.’

With the iPad, I think this OS and this eco system is just what the majority of people need and how computing should really be. It removes all the information and feature overload, whilst enabling anyone to take pretty much complete control of their device, with all the education that they need for free.

5 Steps to Making Quality Decisions

I have long lived by making what I call ‘quality decisions based on personal convictions’. In other words, I make decisions about what I will do and won’t do, and where I will go and won’t go, long before I ever have the opportunity to enact my decision. I am of the opinion that if one does not decide in advance that they will not compromise an area of their life that they have made a quality decision about, then when the time comes, your emotions will make the decision for you and generally you will find it hard to stand up to your inner conviction. Quality decisions are like boundaries that mark out our land and make intangible convictions into tangible and measurable markers.

It is the case that an individual is like a ship on the seas of life, and if they do not purposefully use their rudder and manipulate the natural conditions to move in a decided direction, or use the anchor to stay fixed in their current position, they will be subject to the wind and waves of life and end up wherever they take them.

Thus these are five steps to making quality decisions that will anchor you: Continue reading

For Dot

How do you sum up a life?
Mark it and give it a measure?
Do you take only the highs,
And judge it by its total pleasure?
Or is there something deeper inside,
That in the everyday, there is treasure?

It is not miles travelled, or distances,
That count for how far you have gone,
It is the day by day sacrifices
That you made so that other’s could go on.
And by these daily instances,
You’ve shown us what is right, and is wrong.

Some choose to live for themselves,
But you chose to live for your family,
And taught us that amongst ourselves
Our name should not be our only commonality.

Some spend their life on this and that,
But when they look have nothing to see;
You spent every day, minute in fact,
Building this marvelous family.
And as you, with the Lord look back,
There is an eternal legacy.

We will have children and tell them of you,
Each fond and precious memory,
But the greatest memory is this truth,
That I’ll do to mine, as you have done to me,
That all a parent for their child wants to do
Is give them the best, the best it can be.

They say children are as arrows
In the hands of a mighty warrior.
We’re all shooting forth from your bow,
May we do you proud, and go far.
We’re all shooting forth from your bow,
Let us all go far.