Saturday, November 24, 2007

stress and burnout

Yesterday I stumbled across the notes from John Sturt (a well-known counsellor here in NZ) about the difference between stress and burnout. Here they are...

Burnout is characterised by disengagement;
Stress is characterised by over-engagement.

With burnout emotions tend to be blunted;
with stress emotions tend to be over-active.

Burnout leads to a loss of motivation and drive;
Stress leads to a loss of physical energy.

With burnout there is a demoralisation;
with stress there is a dis-integration.

Burnout leads to a loss of ideals and hope;
Stress leads to a loss of energy.

With burnout there can be this sense of helplessness;
with stress there can be this sense of hyperactivity.

Burnout leads to depersonalisation and detachment;
Stress produces panic and anxiety disorders.

With burnout people will say 'it is not worth it';
with stress people will say 'there is not enough time.'

Burnout leads to emotional damage;
Stress leads to physical damage.

I wasn't in a good space at the time and had gone along to his seminar. This distinction which he made was revelatory for me. I (and others) assumed that I was stressed in my job as a Principal. The discovery I made that day was that actually I am rarely 'stressed' in the job - but I do have this propensity to live close to the clutches of burnout. Now I am sure they can't be just split apart so easily ... but I do wonder how many people make the wrong diagnosis of the problem and then tend to seek the solutions in the wrong place as a result?!

nice chatting


Sunday, November 18, 2007

split apart

The deepest divisions among the people of God in our nation have nothing to do with denominations. They have nothing to do with political loyalties. No - the deepest divisions cut through the life of individuals.

Take the time to listen to Christians talk. I do this all the time. Let me tell you what I hear. I hear a mind vs heart division. People love to go on and on about 'head knowledge' and 'heart knowledge', seeing them as two different things. I hear a theory vs practice division. A Placemakers' van caught my eye the other day. 'Know How, Can Do' was splashed across the side. That sounds so practical. I suspect a van with 'Know What, Understand Why' wouldn't market a company very well. Theory sounds so boring. I hear a public vs private division. On a Sunday or being in worship brings out a certain conversation and a certain behaviour in people, while living on a Monday and being at work ... well, it can all sound and look so different.

Divided talk like this is not new. For example, centuries ago Philosopher Plato talked about a body vs soul division, the material was separated from the spiritual. And what is it that happens next with this split? Well - one bit becomes a good bit and the other bit becomes a bad bit. On one side is where you find God living - in Plato's case the soul and the spiritual - and on the other side you find God evacuating - in this case the body and the material. Have you ever wondered why Christians can be so hamstrung when it comes to confronting pornography or leading the response to an ecological crisis? There are experts who trace it all the way back to Plato. We are sailing in his bad air. What else can you expect to happen when you allow the body and the material to be seen as a bad bit from which God has evacuated?

And when we come back to these divisions I hear around the place - the mind:heart, the theory:practice, the public:private - nothing much has changed. There tends to be a good bit and a bad bit. And a bit that God inhabits and a bit that God evacuates. Our faith and our churches thrive in the private:practical:heart world. Our faith and our churches get a bit lost in the mind:theory:public world - in fact, it is often argued that this is where faith shrivels and dies so stay away! [cf Lesslie Newbigin: "the church has secured a continuing place, at the cost of surrendering the crucial field."]

Now there is one problem with this. The Bible knows nothing of this nonsense. And that means that God ain't too chuffed with it either.

Mind vs heart? When Jesus drew alongside two heavy-hearted disciples on the road to Emmaus he ministered to their minds, to their understanding of Scripture, and in a matter of minutes despairing hearts became burning hearts. Dividing head knowledge from heart knowledge is not the way forward.

Theory vs practice? When Paul sat down to write Ephesians he did not start with chapter 4. When he sat down to write Romans he did not start with chapter 12. Last time I looked he establishes the theory first. His van had 'Know What, Understand Why' splashed across the bonnet and 'Know How, Can Do' splashed across the boot.

Public vs Private? When a Joseph or a Daniel or an Esther left home on a Monday morning to go to work they did not park their impeccable private worlds with their chariots. They went in and lived them in full view of Pharoah and Xerxes and Nebuchadnezzar and did so with integrity and did so with influence. They didn't ask themselves "gee, how can I be relevant?". They just refused to divide up their lives and therein lay their relevance.

I'd go one step further with all of this ... I would argue with all my being and for as long as God gives me breath that the central reason for the church's ineffectiveness as it participates in the mission of God in this land lies with deep divisions like these ones. We are struggling not because of too much mind, too much theory, too much public - but too little of the finest variety.

nice chatting

Paul Windsor

Friday, November 16, 2007

the good, the bad and the netball

The Netball World Championships are on in Auckland at the moment and this causes me to reflect on the sport - especially as a lifelong basketball fan and player. I must confess that netball has become an acquired taste. I enjoy the game.

the good
Netball has advantages over basketball. Two come to mind. By not allowing dribbling the game has the potential to be so much faster. As any basketball coach knows - 'a pass will always beat a dribble'. Alternatively, take the way players are limited to certain zones in netball. It took awhile ... but I quite like it. It creates such a team game. Having a Michaela Jordan as a goal-shoot is irrelevant if the centre and wing-attack ain't much good and can't get her the ball.

Another thing I love about netball is the personalities and leaders it throws into public life. Waimarama Taumanu was my first favourite with Bernice Mene not far behind. They are so winsome and so articulate (I really like that one!) when they are interviewed - and gifted leaders as well. Adine Wilson has the same qualities. Gee - I wish she could be interviewed after All Black games!

But the question I keep asking myself is 'why does such a good game have such a poor following around the world?'. In 2007 the NZ media have tried to place the Cricket World Cup, the America's Cup, the Rugby World Cup and the Netball World Championships on an even footing. Really?! I don't think so... Globally, netball is to basketball what rugby league is to soccer. Upwards of 95% of the world's population have no idea that the netball championships are on at the moment. Why? Of course - it has something to do with the treatment of women's sports ... but are there other reasons?

I don't know - but there are things about netball that frustrate me ...

the bad
At the head of the list are some of the rules and the way they intrude into the game and interrupt its flow. I notice this most when I am on the sidelines for my daughters' games. Isn't it time to get rid of many of the 'contact' calls? We are no longer in the dainty lady-like era! Does a little touch really deserve a whistle - especially if it has not impacted possession? Which brings me to the need for an 'advantage' rule of some kind. Why keep bringing the game back to the 'spot' for a restart if it is not necessary. As a spectator sometimes I have to turn away out of sheer frustration with these two areas in the lawbook - and the way they attract pedantic and officious officials who just love their whistles. No sport I know features so many bewildered looks by players towards officials as netball. It wouldn't take a lot to fix...and the appeal of the game might well spread.

But here is the issue. Those controlling the game don't seem to be self-critical enough about their sport. Administrators. Officials. Media. The sport would be stronger if it was less defensive in the face of critique. Sometimes these people can be just sychophantic. At the opening ceremony the other day, the NZ coach came on screen and the commentator gushed "doesn't she look lovely?!" What?!

I reckon netball is good enough to go global. But when quarterfinals are won and lost by an average of 50 goals it suggests that there is still a long way to go. That's OK. You gotta start somewhere - but is there a willingness to start? ... or will the 2019 semi-finals feature Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica and England as well?

nice chatting


Saturday, November 10, 2007

houses and homes

A couple of Sundays ago I received an early morning email from Zambia. I had been there last year speaking at a pastors' conference alongside a delightful Zambian man called Albert. We (my son Martin was with me) grew close to Albert. We've kept in touch ... except that in August we received an email to say that Albert had died suddenly.
This recent email came from Albert's wife (and four children). It had two sentences: "We just want to share with you to continue praying for us for the issue of accommodation. We are staying in the house up to December and after that we don't know where to go."

I went off to church and came home to read the newspapers. I was confronted with what happens pretty much every weekend. Lengthy articles stacked with facts and figures and projections presented to a readership stacked with anxieties and greeds and fears about the price of houses in this country. We are obsessed! I find myself drawn so easily into this obsession.

But this time I have an email from Zambia, not just the Herald on Sunday, to process. I've done this by asking myself some questions. Maybe you can help me with the answers...

1. When does an icon become an idol? I know about the Kiwi dream of the 'quarter-acre pavlova paradise' and I know that the dream is fading. People are miffed by the injustice of it all. But when the 'miffing' is mixed with this obsessing - what does that say?

2. When does owning become hoarding? I doubt whether God has difficulties with home-owning, but I do wonder about home-hoarding and the practice of the wealthy to purchase multiple houses, particularly if there is no intent to extend the circle of beneficiaries beyond the family. If a Malachi or an Amos moved through the land I do wonder what they'd say ... and I wonder what could possibly be said in a face-to-face conversation with this young mum in Zambia?

3. When does a home become just a house? A home is a place to nurture family life, to raise secure and contented and generous children and face them towards Jesus ... and to open up heart and home to a hospitality towards others who have not had this privilege. But when a home becomes merely a house something happens. Those Sunday newspapers figure too large in the imagination. Children pick up that facing the Joneses, rather than Jesus, is what is important. The energy for hospitality drains away as hearts begin to close.

4. When does nuclear family become household of God? The Bible has little to say about Mum, Dad and the kids. When it speaks of 'family', it is speaking of a household with a far wider orbit - encircling the single, the employee, the grandparent etc. It is basically a small village! And as the globe shrinks into a village, as we have the opportunity to build relationships with people living far away ("yeah, why not put facebook to some good use, rather than this narcissistic nonsense that is happening at the moment?"), as we become aware of their needs ... is there not some sense in which I should view this mum in Zambia as part of my household? I now know of her need. Do I not have some responsibility to meet that need?

5. When does the accelerator become a handbrake? As I face my society the prevailing wisdom is all about getting rid of the mortgage as quickly as possible. Our feet are on the accelerator as heavily as we can manage. And yet there is this danger with debt - particularly when we multiply it and extend it. It holds us. It imprisons us. A handbrake goes on in other areas of our lives. We don't seem quite as able to let God move us on. Being fiscally responsible becomes the ultimate wisdom. We become stuck in a life far from what God intends for us.

6. When does the compassion mask the envy? My heart is a deceitful thing. Maybe the emotion stirred by the plight of a widowed and impoverished mum in Zambia is not about compassion or justice - but just a vehicle to transport the envy in my heart which can look at others and long to have more for myself.

nice chatting