Monthly Archives: March 2011

the importance of assertiveness for self-care

Doing some prep for our intern (apprentices) training, came across this good insight from Peter Brain:

Assertiveness will first help me to claim my right to say ‘no’, and then willingly give up that right and respond to the request. No longer will I view the request as a demand I cannot possibly escape, but a request that I am free to respond to if I so choose. To offer a person a sacrifice of time or energy, it must first be mine to offer.

When I feel that a demand must be met because of the asker’s expectations, then I can only say ‘yes’ begrudgingly. In this case a certain amount of bitterness and anger will be present. Guilt may well be mingled with bitterness if I actually enjoyed what I did, or the recipient was particularly grateful and full of praise. When I realise that I can say ‘no’ to demands and expectations, I can then willingly give my ‘yes’ without feeling pressured. Freedom follows sacrifice that is freely given.

Peter Brain, Going the Distance, 45

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Managing energy in the morning

Julie Morgenstern, in Never Check E-Mail In the Morning: And Other Unexpected Strategies for Making Your Work Life Work:

Warming up your day by knocking off a bunch of quick, easy tasks is tempting, but it can provide you with a false sense of accomplishment.

The danger in this approach is that the bulk of your energy gets depleted over a bunch of insignificant tasks. First there’s email, then a couple of phone calls, then a meeting, then huddles with some direct reports and a quick sign-off on a project budget — then, guess what? It’s time for lunch!

To warm up after lunch, you start off with another round of email, then a client eats up your mid afternoon, and suddenly it’s 5 pm — and you never got around to, much less finished, the grant proposal — your day’s one-step-from-the-revenue-line priority. In fact, you can’t even remember what you did get done.

Solution: You must retrain yourself to choose the important over the quick, the tough over the easy, no matter how intimidating the project may be. Starting too far from the revenue line prevents you from producing the volume of revenue-generating work that your company actually relies on and pays you for.

Working from the bottom up puts you in a risky position — when that inevitable crisis appears, . . . how can you possibly handle it when you haven’t even gotten to your most important assignment yet!

Completely two or three tasks that directly make or save your company money far outweighs finishing twenty things that are three steps from the revenue line.

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What does it mean to preach ‘the whole counsel of God’?

“I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”

—The Apostle Paul to the Ephesian elders, Acts 20:27

D. A. Carson explains what he meant:

When Paul attests that this is what he proclaimed to the believers in Ephesus, the Ephesian elders to whom he makes this bold asseveration know full well that he had managed this remarkable feat in only two and a half years.

In other words, whatever else Paul did, he certainly did not manage to go through every verse of the Old Testament, line by line, with full-bore explanation. He simply did not have time.

What he must mean is that he taught the burden of the whole of God’s revelation, the balance of things, leaving nothing out that was of primary importance, never ducking the hard bits, helping believers to grasp the whole counsel of God that they themselves would become better equipped to read their Bibles intelligently, comprehensively.

It embraced

  • God’s purposes in the history of redemption (truths to be believed and a God to be worshiped),
  • an unpacking of human origin, fall, redemption, and destiny (aworldview that shapes all human understanding and a Saviorwithout whom there is no hope),
  • the conduct expected of God’s people (commandments to be obeyed and wisdom to be pursued, both in our individual existence and in the community of the people of God), and
  • the pledges of transforming power both in this life and in the life to come (promises to be trusted and hope to be anticipated).

—D. A. Carson, “Challenges for the Twenty-first-century Pulpit,” in Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes, ed. Leland Ryken and Todd Wilson [Crossway, 2007], pp. 177-178; bullets and italics added.

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The 5 classic struggles of leaders aged 35-50

1. Burn-out.

Busyness, over commitment and pressure take their inevitable toll. Emotional, physical, relational and spiritual depletion lead to burnout, a clinical condition with a long, hard road to recovery.

2. Drop-out.

Unfulfilled dreams, discouragement and disillusionment lead the person to either leaving their area of ministry to engage in a different occupation, or continuing their ministry role but with little heart or energy for it, often finding personal fulfilment in a peripheral area of ministry that eventually becomes central.

3. Level-out.

The person reaches a plateau and, for whatever reason, stops growing as a leader.

4. Fall-out.

Fuelled by unmet emotional needs and over commitments, the leader succumbs to escapist sin in a desire to meet the increasin sense of hollowness within.

5. Spread-out.

With a growing uncertainty about the focus of their ministry, the leader dabbles in an ever-widening array of activities. Often gifted in many areas, they may be competent for most of the tasks, but the lack of focus leaves a rising sense of dissatisfaction.

James Lawrence, Growing Leaders – Cultivating Discipleship for Yourself and Others (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004), 30-31.

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Jonathon Edwards: Emotions and Preaching

I don’t think ministers are to be blamed for raising the affections of their hearers too high, if that which they are affected with be only that which is worthy of affection, and their affections are not raised beyond a proportion to their importance, or worthiness of affection.

I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.

from Desiring God

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John Chrysostom (‘Golden Mouth’)

John Chrysostom: Christian History Timeline

The dates of John Chrysostom’s birth and life until 381 are highly disputed. Many of his writings can be traced only to a general period in his life; the dates given here are generally accepted.

349 Born in Antioch of Syria to Christian parents Secundus and Anthusa

363–367 Studies rhetoric and literature under pagan teacher Libanius

368 (Easter) Baptized at Antioch

368-371 Studies in a kind of monastic school; may have assisted bishop Meletius of Antioch

c. 368–371 Writes Comparison between a King and a Monk and several other works in favor of monastic life

c. 371 Ordained lector and serves the church of Antioch


372–378 Lives in a semi-isolated state and then as a hermit until bad health forces him to give up this way of life

378–381 Lector (reads Scripture in worship) at Antioch

380 or 381 Ordained deacon (assists with sacraments); writes treatise of consolation to a young widow

381–385 Writes On the Priesthood

380 or 382 Two treatises condemning the cohabitation of clerics and virgins


385 or 386 Ordained priest by Bishop Flavian of Antioch

386–387 Preaches homilies (sermons) I-X On the Incomprehensible Nature of God and Against the Jews (i.e., Christians who follow Jewish religious practices)

387 Antioch riots; John preaches sermons On the Statues

388 or 389 Eight instructions for baptismal candidates

390–397 Homilies on Genesis, Matthew, John, and 6 NT letters

397 Homilies on selected Psalms and on Isaiah


398 Consecrated bishop of Constantinople. Takes steps to reform imperial court, clergy, and people; homilies XI-XII On the Incomprehensible Nature of God

398–402 Homilies on Philippians and Colossians

399 Gives Eutropius sanctuary and preaches two homilies on the vanity of human power

400 Homilies on the Book of Acts

402 Group of Egyptian monks (the “Tall Brothers”) appeal to John for help

403 John tried at the Synod of the Oak; convicted, deposed, and exiled; immediately recalled

403–404 Homilies on Hebrews

EXILE 404-407

404 Deposed and exiled to Cucusus (in eastern Turkey)

404–407 Writes more than 200 letters to friends

407 Sent to Pityus on the Black Sea and dies en route, at Comana in Pontus (in northeast Turkey)

State Falls, Church Rises

360-363 Emperor Julian (“the Apostate”) attempts to restore pagan religion

379-395 Emperor Theodosius I (“the Great”) gradually makes Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire

381 Council of Constantinople declares the Holy Spirit divine; Constantinople becomes second seat of Christendom (after Rome)

390 Theodosius orders massacre in Thessalonica; confronted by Ambrose of Milan, he publicly repents

394 Bishop Ninian sets out from Rome to convert Scotland

407 Roman legions in Britain withdraw to protect Italy

410 Visigoths under Alric sack Rome; empire is psychologically shaken

413 Augustine begins writing City of God, the classic philosophy of history, in response to Rome’s sack

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Reformissionary: Tim Keller on Preaching to Himself

Check out this great advice on busting your idols day to day:

Reformissionary: Tim Keller on Preaching to Himself

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6 tips for being more positive with email

Earlier this year I attended a presentation with Daniel Goleman, author of Social Intelligence and godfather of the field of Emotional Intelligence. According to Goleman, there’s a negativity bias to email – at the neural level. In other words, if an email’s content is neutral, we assume the tone is negative. In face-to-face conversation, the subject matter and its emotional content is enhanced by tone of voice, facial expressions, and nonverbal cues. Not so with digital communication.
Technology creates a vacuum that we humans fill with negative emotions by default, and digital emotions can escalate quickly (see: flame wars). The barrage of email can certainly fan the flames. In an effort to be productive and succinct, our communication may be perceived as clipped, sarcastic, or rude. Imagine the repercussions for creative collaboration.

Tools are already emerging to address this phenomenon. See ToneCheck, a “tone spellcheck” app that scans emails for negativity and then helpfully suggests tweaks to make your communication more positive (featured in The New York Times Magazine’s annual Year in Ideas issue).

I’ve been experimenting with simple ways to encourage positive digital communication. Here are a few best practices I’ve found useful:

1. Heed the negativity bias. In this case, awareness and attention goes a long way. Consider how your communication may be perceived. Can you be more explanatory? Is your language positive as opposed to neutral?

2. Pay attention to your grammar. Since monitoring my emotional reaction to incoming and outgoing emails, I’ve noticed that in our haste, meaning is often obscured by simple grammatical confusion. “That’s not what I meant” is emblematic of digital miscommunication, and can escalate a problem quickly. Re-read your emails before sending, and make sure your intended message is being conveyed clearly.

3. Consider emoticons. Until keyboards can actually perceive the emotional content of our digital messages (not so far off!), emoticons may be the simplest method of clarifying tone. I’ve had to let go of my own perception that emoticons are silly. They may currently be our best tool for elevating the emotional clarity of digital messages.

4. Use phrasing that suggests optionality. When gentle prodding is necessary, try using phrasing that empowers (rather than accuses) the receiver. Questions in particular tend to be better received than declaratives. To encourage follow-up on a specific task, for example, you might say something like, “I think you mentioned that you would be revisiting/updating the copy on our Facebook page. I know we had an email exchange, but not sure where we ended up?”

5. Start things off on the right foot. When the news is mixed, consider leading off your message with an expression of appreciation. Then follow with the meat of your response. It could be something as simple as, “We’re off to a great start, I just have a few small tweaks I want to suggest.” Such gestures may seem like fluff, but they set the tone. Effectively saying “I appreciate the work you’ve already done…” prior to bringing the feedback that means “back to the drawing board!”

6. Jettison email… maybe. Ask yourself, “Is email the best carrier of this message?” Often a more social communication tool such as an internal project management space or messaging tool (Yammer, Action Method, or Mavenlink) can be more appropriate and serve as an emotional buffer. Reactive communication tends to be more measured in a public digital space. Plus an added bonus: knowledge sharing.


Because of the lack of emotional tone in emails, we often have to go the extra mile to convey a solicitous attitude – whether it’s rewriting a sentence, adding an emoticon, or offsetting bad news with a positive remark. Even if it seems a chore, it’s time well spent.

In the immortal words of a recent 99% commenter: Don’t treat others like a “DO IT” button, treat them like human beings.

from 99%

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Tha place of the unexpected

“To stay sharp, we need things to happen. We need unexpected events to crash into our lives and disturb our complacency; we need surprises; we even need emergencies if we are to be fully functionIng, mature and balanced adults. Learning to deal with the hard stuff- illness, failure, bereavement, retrenchment, disapppointment, disaster- teaches us far more about ourselves than we can ever learn from breeding through the easy stuff. Why else do peopls who suffer traumatic upheavals in their lives so often recount those events as if they were highlights?”

Hugh Mackay, What Makes Us Tick, p.255

What do you reckon?

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