Get a Grip on Power

Get a Grip on Power

Mercy Amba Oduyoye speaks of the Ghanaian Akan idea of power: ‘Mo moyen nkuta wiase se kosua,’ meaning ‘hold the world gently in your hands like an egg’. We need to hold power in our worlds with the same grasp we would use for a fragile egg: neither crushing it by holding on too tightly, nor dropping it by our indifference or irresponsibility. Both are a misuse of power. Both end in a broken egg! Which is your default? Are you a crusher or a dropper? What is power? Sociologist Max Weber defined it as Macht -‘The probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his [or her] own will despite resistance’. That doesn’t sound entirely positive; but it’s a definition that most boardrooms, staffrooms and playgrounds would recognise. Power plays are far from child’s play. Perhaps your life is marked by the way others have exercised their power? Sometimes the negative ways we’ve experienced power in the past make us resistant to taking up positions of influence ourselves – that can be equally damaging. The Christian feminist writer bell hooks describes a very different idea of power from Weber’s Macht. It’s the kind of power that Jesus modelled, and, she argues, the only legitimate power that his followers should aspire to: the power to reject the notions of the powerful; the power of telling subversive stories and the power to lift another person up. These are challenging and helpful ways to assess whether we’ve really grasped the power within our reach....
Comfort Zone

Comfort Zone

When’s the last time you did something outside of your comfort zone? For some it’s the main way to relax; hurling themselves at physical challenges and treating life as one great scavenger hunt, collecting as many experiences as possible – like one great gap year! Have you trekked the Himalayas? ‘Done’ the Amazon? Killi? American road trip? In a camper van…with a tepee? No? Poor you! Is there a better way to get out of your comfort zone? Verna Myers has a suggestion, and living in Newham you won’t have to venture far to achieve it. Myers says we need to intentionally extend our friendship groups and overcome our prejudices – racial, cultural and otherwise. Have a look around your circle of friends? Who’s missing? Is everyone you relate you basically from your own ethnic and cultural background? What are you missing? Prejudice limits life. When’s the last time you intentionally crossed a boundary to experience life from someone else’s viewpoint? The Royal Docks are potentially full of opportunities for this. But they are only potentially ours. We may have to take Myer’s advice and ‘walk towards’ our biases to really get to ‘where the magic happens’. Watch Myer’s inspirational TED talk here:http://www.ted.com/talks/verna_myers_how_to_overcome_our...
The Present

The Present

‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, today is a gift – that’s why it’s called the present’. So why don’t we receive each new day as a gift? Fridge-magnet philosophy aside, there’s a deep and powerful truth waiting to be revealed here, in this season of gifts. But we need a greedy monkey to help us unwrap it. And we find him in Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig’s novel that turns 40 this year, in which he describes “the old South Indian Monkey Trap”. The trap “consists of a hollowed-out coconut, chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed through a small hole”. The monkey’s hand fits through the hole, but his clenched fist can’t fit back out. “The monkey is suddenly trapped.” But not by anything physical. He’s trapped by an idea, unable to see that a principle that served him well – “when you see rice, hold on tight!” – has become lethal. “The difficulty,” as Keynes put it, “lies not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.” That’s why the past and past ways of thinking have the capacity to trap us from experiencing today as a present, a gift: Old beliefs that personal value is based on individual success trap us into trying to prove ourselves rather than love ourselves and to judge others by achievements too; A history that tells us we are unloved and broken traps us into relationships that will only demonstrate this point further; A past that has taught us to protect our emotions and numb pain...
Life in the Balance

Life in the Balance

Picture it – a lumberjack competition, the finals- an old man and a much young opponent are pitted against each other. The young man smugly looks across at his rival. No contest? His confidence grows as he sees the old guy sitting down, taking frequent rests. At the end of the contest the crowd are shocked to discover that the older man has won – he has simply out-chopped the young upstart! The young man is incredulous. ‘How can that have happened? You sat out while I kept working?’ ‘Well, young feller, you see, I was stopping to sharpen my axe’. The start of September crunches us back to 4th gear. Has your relaxing holiday become a distant memory? Before the sand is shaken from your suitcases, it’s back to go go go. Western work culture can encourage this: increasingly long hours, lunch at the desk, machismo overtime schedules, emailing through family meals, constantly checking mobiles. (A new study from IDC Research released this week found that 80% of smartphone users check their mobile devices within 15 minutes of waking up each morning and 79% have their phones ‘right with them’ for 22 hours a day.) The Bible speaks of seasons and Sabbaths. Stopping for ‘selah’ pauses, joyful festivals and quiet retreats to keep us focussed on what really matters. God’s leading includes ‘green pastures and still waters’ (Psalm 23). Working from a place of rest. Knowing we are human beings more than human doings. Does this lead to a life in inefficiency? Or sustainability and happiness? There’s an axe sharpening lesson from the book of Ecclesiastes 10:10 (NLT)...