A Call To Fatherhood - Focus 2015 Recap

It's surprising how much you can learn in a field on the south coast of England in just one week.

We have just returned from a week at HTB's Focus Holiday at Camber Sands, now for the 4th year returning to sit under teaching and worship from some of the most amazing people around the world.

This year's Focus was a very different experience for us for 3 reasons:

  1. We were camping (well glamping)
  2. We were taking a 8 week old baby (ours)
  3. See above 2 reasons

Reason one was short lived due to be being evacuated from our glamp tent after just 48 hours due to high winds and torrential rain - resulting in us being moved to the less glamorous chalet's of Pontins Camber Sands (trust me - if you've seen the Watchdog episode it's not far off...).

The theme of the week was Calling - what it means to be called by God. And for me that calling really resonated as what it means to be a father.

What it means to be a leader in the home - what kind of family I want to be in charge of and how I want to raise Mini Milk*.

It's incomprehensible how your perspective can shift so dramatically unless you have gone through it when becoming a parent. Everything you thought was important just dims slightly in the light of needing to preserve the life of this little creature that's entered your home.

Calling

It’s that sense of calling, of being known that will stay with me from this Focus.

What makes that light all the brighter is the knowledge that this is a little life that God has pre-destined to do great things.

A little life that will go on to learn to walk, talk, do taxes, take the tube, write their own thoughts on some social network of the future, come (hopefully) to know that there is a universe so expansive around her and that beyond all that there is a God who loves her and knows her place in it.

It's that sense of calling, of being known that will stay with me from this Focus. The speakers were great, the worship was amazing, the Spirit of God was in the place - but more than that, was a knowing.

A knowing that as much as I care for this little life who is asleep next to me as I write this, there is a God delighting in her, and me more than I can ever know, or even imagine.

Some shots from the week:

Note:

*Mini Milk is going to be our online given name for Baby Poulter 1 as one of the principles we are choosing to honor is not giving Google too good an idea of who she is before she decides to do so herself!

Reforecasting: Embracing The Cuts

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Its this time of year that most businesses take a look at their finances. The infamous - H2 reforecast. With 1 half of the year done and dusted, it's time to take stock of all you have done so far and make the necessary cut backs or spending changes needed to make that target.

Of course more often that not in business, we end up at this point of the year cutting back rather than spending more.

It's time to trim the fat.

Being told to cut back doesn't really suit my personality all that much. It's not like me to want to do less. To say no. It's just not in my nature. But as we look down the pipe of the rest of this year, this mid way point, maybe there is something to be said for cutting back here and there.

Cutting back forces decision making.

It makes us take stock of all we have. And all we have done.

All we have achieved. And all we could achieve.

When Jesus called the first disciples he goes to see the fisherman and performs a miracle of plenty. They put down their nets on the other side of the boat and Jesus gives them the biggest of catches.

And then Jesus says to Simon,

“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” (Luke 5:10 NIV).

Nice story right. What an easy thing for Simon to say yes to right> He just saw someone give him a huge haul!

Wrong.

Here Jesus asks them to follow him. Meaning in their case, walking away from their trade, their jobs and ultimately as was the case for all of them in the end, their lives - all for the Kingdom.

That is some cut back. That is some H2 reforecast.

Sometimes Jesus asks us re-evalutate our priorities. Where we spend our time, our money. What relationships we choose to invest in. And which we let run their course.

The call is a difficult one - but comes with a gift - FOCUS.

Sometimes we need to be told to cut back - to see what we should increase in.

Choosing to stop working with that one client, may give you the head space to find that bigger, better relationship down the road, the less bloated, more profitable one.

Choosing to cut back your bar bill, or one of the 7 different media streams you subscribe to - may give you the time to invest in reading the bible or a good book, to pray, and reflect on what you do consume.

Choosing to loose a little weight, or stop buying the junk you end up eating, may give you the hunger you need to try something new.

We all could do with a little reforecasting once in a while - because if we don't revisit our visions, our goals or desires frequently enough - well then what is the point in trying to achieve them at all.

So embrace the cuts - like the farmer who goes after the juiciest fruit in the brambles. Sometimes the scars are worth the effort. They remind us that we are still trying.

Why HERE is always less acceptable than THERE.

20130520-194048.jpg We are at an interesting point in the life of our little church family.

We are tipping on the edge of around 150 regular members on the books. Coming up for 3 years old since planting from the "mothership".

Kids work is central. Worship is getting more "professional", youth are arriving and we have kicked out a cool little "edgy" evening service.

And this weekend we welcomed our new pastor to take the reigns for the next "season".

If you picked up on all the above jargon well done. You passed the "been around church for a while bingo game". I need a catchier title for that.

Anywho - we are at an interesting place. And you could say all is GREAT. And it is. You could say we are doing all the right things. And we are. But unfortunately. I don' think that's going to be good enough.

A few years ago whilst travelling in the US I spent 8 hours in the back of a pickup truck eating chicken out of an old apple crate, wearing an Oklahoma U. Baseball cap and listening to some of the most amazing country gospel you have ever heard. Why all of this was happening is irrelevant, but helps paint a picture don't it?

Along the way we hit a good stretch of road on the outskirts of the Oklahoma pan handle crossing into Texas that was so deserted by man, animal, mineral and vegetable that you would swear you had just walked on the set of a Lee Child novel.

Road out front.

Road behind.

But either side - Nothing but land, the odd scrub of a tree, and them more land.

We were having a great time. I was travelling with 3 guys, one of which my best friend and two who I had known for a sum total of 24 hours.

We had all we needed. But with nothing out there to look to or behind at, even in that crowded loud little Ford steel death trap - you could feel pretty alone.

You see thats sometimes the problem with being on track, out there in the middle of the road. It's usually out there in the middle that we can feel the most alone.

The middle is always the hardest part of the journey.

You are at your most vulnerable and most tired. You have lost the beauty and mystery of the path leading out in front of you. But yet you don't have that motivating sight of the finish line drawing you ever forward.

The middle of the road is where dreams come to die.

As we instated our new leader this past weekend at the church, I felt a true burden for him. Something really heavy and tangible. A burden of not wanting us to get stuck where we are.

Which is odd really, because like many of our little band of "history makers" (bonus points if you get that one) - I love where we are. I love our people, our building, our music, our prayers. I love it.

And I think that was just the reason that burden is so heavy is because from the outside looking in you could think we are on track and that our pastor, he's landed in just the right place. And he has. But in the very same moment you know there is more to do.

We always have more to do.

To see the world changed.

To drive our visions to completion.

And we know we have not yet reaches ours. But how do you take people with you to that new place when everything we have HERE seems so acceptable, comfortable?

Bill Hybels, the leader of Willow Creek, speaking at last week's HTB Leadership Conference spoke to just this and I share it again with you because it struck us so as we heard it.

The goal to getting people to go with you to THERE is to explain that HERE is unacceptable.

You see just casting a vision of how great this church, company, project is going to be when we get to completion is only casting half the vision. Because we naturally as Christians and human beings, default to what we know, what is comfortable, what is HERE.

So, Hybels says (and I agree) the only way to move to THERE is to explain why we cannot, under any circumstance, come hell or high water stay HERE.

If you are stuck in the middle of journey, or about to cast a new one, and need to take, or keep carrying people with you - then grasp this little truth. It is a life-changing, company moulding, church progressing truth.

Here may be great, comfortable, wonderful and delightful, but AT THE VERY SAME TIME - it can be unacceptable.

Because we are called to do greater things than even this.

Next time you find yourself out on the road with nothing ahead or behind, look down at the dirt beneath your feet. Thank God for it and then step on out.

Because you can't stay here.

Travelling Light. The Art of Shorthauling it.

20130517-180333.jpg In recent months I have perfected the short haul trip.

Having spent 1 out of 2 weeks on a planes to various European based cities or work travel, i have gotten pretty good at packing small, and travelling lite. Which as a man carrying the amount of tech that I usually do is often quite a challenge. Here is the run down:

1 incase Go Backpack. 1 HP Elitebook Folio 13" - The Outlook Running Workhorse 1 iPad Mini 16GB Wifi in Black 1 Logitech Ultramini Keyboard for iPad Mini 1 Samsung Galaxy S3 in White 1 iPhone 5 32GB 1 Proporta TurboCharge Battery Pack 1 Pair of Beats By Dre Bluetooth Headphones (for the plane) 1 Pair of Senheisser in ear 501 headphones (for conference calling) A selection of accompanying wires, chargers and plug adaptors Washbag (including Gilette ProGlide, Molton Brown Black Pepper Body Wash, Kheils Face Fuel Moisturiser and Molton Brown Ultimate Shave Creme) Spare undies and socks Spare shirt. Jacket.

This my friends - will EASILY see you through 2 days of meetings and an overnight stop if you include the clothes you already have on your back without ever having to see a plug socket. Now for those of you still with me and who aren't currently working out how to steal my backpack let me explain why I bring this to your attention.

Recently I have done a fair amount of writing and speaking on the topic of discerning Gods purpose for our lives. As per last weeks post about "Whether God Cares Where You Work" - I have also found this seems to be on the minds of many friends and colleagues right now too.

One of the recurring themes in these conversations has been about the sheer amount of options that people now have - careers aren't defined for life any more and we are far more aware of the get rich quick learning options out there to get ahead. A trip into any airport bookstore (about the only place to find a physical one nowadays) you will find

"10 Rules of Strategy" Neurolinguist Programming for Dummies 101 things to do with Macaroons

To be clear here - I think the fact that our generation will no longer have their futures dictated by the first 5 years of their working life is amazing - we have choice and that is great.

But I have noticed that there is an undercurrent of discontent being stirred by all these options with a few friends - which brings me back to my backpack.

The art of the shorthaul pack is not really about what you choose to leave behind - its about what you choose to leave in. Learning to mix the right blend of essential. In her book "Seven" - Jen Hatmaker took on the challenge of picking and eating just 7 food items for a whole month. She new she had to find the right balance of nutrition and versatility of ingredients if she were to make it the whole month.

Constraint isn't always there to make us exclude things. It is sometimes there to make us truly value the things we include.

God packed you and me with a certain box of stuff to be going on with in life. Some of it is bound up in the talents we have through our genetics, inherited down the ages. Some he gives us through the nourishment of great teachers and resources, still others are added to us by time into which we are born and the season in which we are called to serve him.

But whatever he has put into your specific backpack of talents and giftings - he put them their for you to use. He gave you a specific set of stuff you would need in this life so you didn't have to hang around checking in your bags.

There is great freedom in knowing you don't need to be awesome at everything.

You can just carry on.

FOMO & Wondering if God cares where you work.

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Maybe its the changing in the weather or just a time in our lives, but it seems everyone around us is upping sticks, moving abroad or changing careers. And if they haven't done so recently, they are thinking about it.

There seems to be something contagious about change. When you see those around you pursuing new horizons and trying to route out their course it breeds, and spreads through small groups of friends and communities like wildfire.

For some years now I have had the pleasure of spending quite of time around students going through university. Seeing them pick courses and electives for new semesters and ultimately graduating and heading out into the world of work is also really inspiring.

However whether it is friends changing careers, heading abroad or graduating and going out to seek a career for the first time - there seems to be a question that permeates through all of them - does is matter where I work? Not just - does it pay enough or will I be looked after, but does it matter to God?

One thing that the internet has done us is massively extended a disease known in the TwitterSphere as FOMO. The Fear of Missing Out. Now we have so much Haccess to all of the job possibilities out there. Linkedin and Twitter give us new unprecedented access to every job level and career option going. Recruitment agents are having a whale of time, sending inMails to everyone who remotely could match a job description, and in my industry I can certainly testify to 90% of these being way off base.

This change in how we approach our careers choices seems to be helping perpetuate this FOMO way of living. Should I switch roles, companies? Should I move for more money or happiness? What should I do to feel fulfilled? And what does being fulfilled even mean? Will God be happy with my choice or should I do something more "kingdom focused"?

In Corinthians 3 we read:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, (Colossians 3:17, 23 NIV)

Don't miss the emphasis here - Paul says that in whatever you do do it in the name of Jesus.

We as Christians - scratch that - as humans, have a really bad habit of trying to put things in boxes. We love to categorise and organise. We have been doing it since the time of the temple, when we built places to contain the glory of God and appointed people as Priests to mediate that glory to the people. In doing so we today invoke thousands of years of history thinking that some jobs are somehow more holy that others, or more worthy than others.

Pastor. Missionary. Charity Worker. Full Time Christian Whatever.

There is no such thing as full time Christian service. We are ALL full time. We are all Christians. We all SERVE. This is our calling friends. This is what we are here to do. In whatever we do - bring glory to him. The only ones who should be suffering from the blight of FOMO is those who haven't yet met him - not us.

I am not saying here that it is not important to think things through. To pray for God to guide the big choices in life, or that in certain circumstances. However to do any of this effectively we must first understand that we are all called to play our part in this - whether we spend our days pushing prams, preaching from pulpits or punching prices.

I was recently researching for a sermon I was writing on this topic and came across this story about St Augustine - who when asked about how to discern God's will for our lives he answered;

Love God, and do as you please.

This friends, is good news. Let's get on with it. Whatever.