James’s Blog: The Road to Hell.

James’s Blog:  The Road to Hell.

I saw a man throwing a child at the sun.

“Why are you doing that?” I said.

“I’m helping him. He told me that he was cold,” the man said.

I looked at the bruised child on the floor.

“I think he needs to go to the hospital,” I said.

“Sure,” said the man, lifting the child above his head once more.  “Which direction is the hospital?”

James’s Blog: Experiences of Leadership

James’s Blog:  Experiences of Leadership

My post last week got me thinking about some of my own experiences in leadership. Sometimes a leader needs to be a good negotiator, a good speaker, a good manager, or a good accountant. Sometimes there are things that can only be done by a good person.

We’d been at Canowindra for three years when the Cornerstone leadership asked the Dean of the campus to lead a new team in Orange. They asked me to become the new Dean. I said yes. I would be leading some of the best men and women I had ever met, but it had been hard work and we were already fragile. I really believed that we could get better and succeed, and that I could be a part of that. It turned out that the damage that had been done was worse than I’d thought, and it ran deeper than I think any of us had known. I don’t remember when I first realised that the staff at Canowindra were carrying a mortal wound – possibly early on in my second year as Dean – but we struggled on, because we were doing good things and we were good people and we had hope.

One day I was at the poplars (my Australian Thin Place) and was interrogating God as to what was going on, and why he’d put me in this situation. I felt like God said to me, “Who else could do it? Who else could survive?” It made me laugh, the thought that God had put me at the helm not because of my ability and leadership skills, but because my faith was robust enough to survive the inevitable crash. It was like He was saying, “You can’t fix this, James. You haven’t got the skills or experience to save this, but you have one redeeming feature. When it all goes belly-up, I at least know that you’re not going to throw your toys out of the pram and walk away from your faith.”

So, after three years of struggling along, we – as a team – reached a point where we couldn’t go on. They replaced us with younger and more enthusiastic people. My original team, We Happy Few, limped away to the four corners of the globe, battered and bruised. For all of us it seemed like a good point at which to re-evaluate our relationship with Cornerstone. Ruth and I seriously considered staying on as part of a different community, but eventually concluded that it was time to come home.

And God was right. I was broken, but not destroyed. I still walk with a limp, but at least I’m still walking. I gladly forgave, my relationship with God was strengthened, and I have nothing but love and gratitude for Cornerstone and the men and women I served with and under. I don’t think that I did a particularly good job, but I did the job, and that was all that was asked of me, I think. I’m sure that my “Well done, good and faithful servant” is in the pipeline.

The other day I watched a Kevin Costner film about coastguard rescue swimmers, The Guardian. A recurring question in that film was, “What do you do when you can’t save them all?” It’s like being a leader. You can’t solve all the problems. There will be situations that you just can’t fix or turn around. Some of them might even be fatal. At that point, you’d better hope that you’re being led by a good person, because it takes a strong character to fail well.

James’s Blog: The Death of Character.

James’s Blog:  The Death of Character.

What do people want from their leaders? Reflecting on my own experiences in leadership and viewing the current political climate in the West makes me conclude that what we really want are leaders who think the same way as us. The personality and character of a leader is less important than whether or not he or she agrees with me on certain issues. We want leaders who are an extension of our opinions, a proxy who will do the things that we would do if we were in charge. “My will be done,” we say. Read more

James’s Blog: Handling the Psalms with Care.

James’s Blog:  Handling the Psalms with Care.

It’s been said that the Bible is a record of God speaking to Man, but the Psalms are a record of Man speaking to God. This, I think, is one of the reasons why they have a universal appeal. Psalm 23 is the Amazing Grace of the Bible; it’s the one that everyone knows. The power of the Psalms is that they put into words the inner music of the human soul. Whatever is going on in you, there’s a Psalm that you can read and say, “Me too!” Read more

James’s Blog: Writer’s Block, Inspiration and Stuff Like That.

James’s Blog:  Writer’s Block, Inspiration and Stuff Like That.

I’m a lazy writer. Like many, I suppose, I depend on that mythical beast Inspiration to get me started, but when that endangered species is absent, then my passion and the words dry up. A huge part of writing is really just about discipline, and that’s my least favourite part. Read more

James’s Blog: Natural Words and Spiritual Words.

James’s Blog:  Natural Words and Spiritual Words.

Sometimes I’ll talk to someone about how things are going, and they’ll say something like:

“When she was out walking the dog, Sheila noticed that the family a couple of doors down was selling their car. So, we bought it for a good price. It turned out to be really convenient.” Read more

James’s Blog: Musings on Faith, Reason, Experience, Colouring-in and Worship.

James’s Blog:  Musings on Faith, Reason, Experience, Colouring-in and Worship.

It’s been one of those years – the kind of year that was meant by the ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in Interesting Times.”

Here’s a couple of things I find interesting about these Interesting Times. The first is that, through following up on Tweets and stuff, I learned that in America three of the top five best-selling non-fiction Christian books of 2016 were adult colouring-in books.  After what I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I don’t know what to say.  I understand that some people find them helpful, but really?  Three out of five? Read more

James’s Blog: Looking Forward to Christmas.

James’s Blog:  Looking Forward to Christmas.

I like the build up to Christmas. I like the festive lights, nostalgic songs and the general atmosphere. I even enjoy the weather – the crisp, cold winter days. In Australia we had nine months of summer and three months of grim misery in a house that was designed to shed as much heat as possible.  Plus, Christmas in the summer just felt wrong. Read more