Thursday, August 30, 2012

self-esteem, self-forgetfulness

I am in the happy position of having a 19 year old son recommending a Tim Keller book to me. 
I'm blessed and I know it (ah yes, that reminds me of a song - but we won't go there). 

On Joseph’s recommendation, I ordered and read Keller’s The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. It is a sermon written down – from 1 Corinthians 3.21-4.7. While that may not sound exhilarating, it does mean that the entire book can be read in little more than 30 minutes. And it is Tim Keller afterall. He is always worth reading, as I have tried to demonstrate here and here and here.

Once upon a time it was considered that having too high a view of yourself was the problem with the world – but now it is having too low a view of yourself that is the issue. Keller wades into this transition and as he does so, he lifts the lid on the problem of ‘self-esteem’.

I have always had difficulty with the phrase ‘self-esteem’. It is not a biblical construct. It is not really in the non-Western vocabulary. That combo makes me so suspicious. Furthermore I have never been convinced that a high self-esteem, or even a healthy self-esteem, is a guarantee of anything. Nor have I ever been sure whether that desirable ‘healthy self-esteem’ is the issue. Shouldn't the focus be on humility and pride - and ego, as Keller calls it? And the clincher for me? I smell our culture’s deep problems with narcissism in there somewhere.

I am not denying that the issues are real. How could I? It is certainly part of my story which has frustrated those with whom I live and work from time to time. But there are things far worse than low self-esteem (like high self-esteem, for starters). Plus because I am uncomfortable with the standard analysis of the problem out there, I tend not to like the standard solution either. I go looking elsewhere...

I don’t want to steal Keller’s thunder. But as was the case when the McGraths waded into this subject and then when John Stott had a chapter on 'self-understanding' in The Cross of Christ, there is nothing quite like having a theologian get their hands on the topic. They have helped me so much over the years. So it is with Keller. The key statement in the book for me? “The essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less” (32). Just read that sentence again to make sure you got it :). The little refrain in the book which keeps popping up is ‘I don’t care what you think and I don’t care what I think’. It is about self-forgetfulness and this makes sense because of the Cross.

I have just ordered 20 copies of the book. Because the issues are so real and because Keller's book is so helpful, I’d love to give it as a gift to any reader of this post - if you can meet three criteria:
(a) You will read it prayerfully and openly, in one sitting, at a time of the day when you are at your best; 
(b) Your own story, or someone you love, has involved a real battle in this area; 
(c) You are resident in New Zealand (unless you make a special plea!).

Please send me your address by email ( and I will post the book out to you. First come first served.

nice chatting


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

graham henry

The New Zealand cricket team is at an all-time low, so I thought I'd try to turn myself into a big rugby fan - and stopped by Bob Howitt's Graham Henry: Final Word (Harper Collins, 2012) for a read. It is not a classic and I managed to race through it on a return flight to Dunedin recently.

Let me start by saying what I am desperate to say. The hero of the story is the one in a supporting role - Wayne Smith. Every time he pops up in the story, there is something impressive going on.

Then let me also jump into the controversial issue: the way Henry blames the referee for the loss to France in the 2007 World Cup. I agree with him. The most penalised team in the World Cup earns two penalties all game and none after the 30th minute? It is a nonsense. Not only do I agree with him, I think he is entirely within his rights to write about it in his book. Goodness me - at the time of the nightmare he was awarded a Fair Play Award by an international body, one of only three occasions the award has gone to rugby. He handled himself so well at the time and so why can't he spill the beans now? He is telling his story. However what drips with irony is that he also lays the blame for the failed campaign on the 'obsession' which overwhelmed every aspect of the journey. And now when he writes his story - correct though I think he is - he is still being obsessive about it all. Sure - it was a 'decidedly bizarre' game (183). But, seriously, Sir Graham - does the narrative of the book really have to contain every single one of the 40 mistakes by the referee, listed at the exact time they happened?

I tend to read books like this with an eye for anything I can learn about leadership. The transformation of Henry from a take-charge autocratic leader to a stand-back facilitative one is the heart of the book for me. That takes some doing and it is testament to his ability to grow and to change and to learn from mistakes. I remember him at Auckland Grammar School - both when I was a student in 1977 and then on the staff in 1981 - and the self-description of an ego-driven autocrat does kinda fit with what I remember. He was gruff and aloof - but I do respect him for his ability to change. After the debacle of coaching the British Lions and the depression which followed, he found himself as third-in-charge - a mere technical assistant - of the Auckland Blues. He learned new skills and saw new perspectives which helped him later.

After this the facilitative leadership style took root around two realities - both of which draw immense respect from me. One is the way his two assistant coaches (Smith and Hanson) stayed with him for eight years. Gee - you gotta be good to inspire that kind of loyalty for that length of time in that kind of furnace. Then there was the development of the shared leadership group among the players themselves, enabling them to own and take responsibility for the All Black team. There were four on-field leaders and three off-field leaders. They helped set strategy and even adminster discipline. That was a big call to make as well.

A few other gems...
1. Being someone who sees little that is commendable with alcohol, I was drawn to the way the coaches turned around the binge-drinking culture inherited from the John Mitchell years, with people like Justin Marshall and Andrew Mehrtens to the fore. Wayne Smith was the key instigator (surprise, surprise) with Brian Lochore's dictum - 'better people make better All Blacks' - a factor as well.
2. While only stated implicitly, I think he enjoys reminding his readers that Robbie Deans didn't think Dan Carter was suited to playing #10 when he came on the scene.
3. As captain, Tana Umaga took Henry aside and told him his team talks were worthless and so Henry stopped giving them.
4. Brendan McCullum beat Dan Carter to the #10 jersey in the South Island Secondary Schools team.
5. Henry's son-in-law asked for his daughter's hand in marriage on the night of the loss to France in 2007!

nice chatting


Friday, August 10, 2012

remembering dad with song

It is a big day today. It is one year since my father died.

Sometimes I wish I could rewind those final days, play them again, and slow them down. It is all such a blur. I had no idea that everything would happen so quickly. On a Friday we realised the end was coming. He died on Wednesday. The funeral was on the Monday. I wish I had lingered longer. Goodness me, I was in the middle of a conversation with him about my future - a conversation that will never finish now. It must be so hard for people who have no warning, for whom the death of those they love comes suddenly.

They were unparalleled days of experiencing God's care and help. Between death and funeral I had to slip across the Tasman to speak at a Mission Conference in the Blue Mountains. It was not right to abandon them at such a late hour. I remember arriving back home early Sunday evening, waking at 2.30am and working for 7 straight hours on my message for the funeral. I felt 'carried along by the Spirit' with that sense of God popping words and ideas into my head...

I miss him. I am grateful to family and friends who have let me keep talking about him. That has been important. I miss the soft face, the lingering hug and the reassurance that he loved me and was proud of me. But life goes on. Nine months after he died, his first great grandson (Micah) was born and all of a sudden, it seems, I became Grandpa Windsor. Oh, how Dad would love to have cuddled that little boy...

Rather surprisingly, the thing that has helped me the most has been listening to Dad singing some old hymns in a recording he made for his mother some thirty years ago. In a labour of love, my brother Mark put heaps of his music on disc for us to enjoy. I know they are giggle-territory for younger people, but I've loved the simple spirituality, the deep consecration, and the tender intensity in them. These qualities marked Dad's life and as I listen my prayer is that they will mark mine as well.

The Burden Bearer (listen to Dad sing it here)
Is there a heart that is willing
To lay burdens on Jesus’ breast?
He is so loving and gentle and true
– come unto him and rest.

Lord it is I who need Thy love
Need Thy strength and pow’r.
O keep me, use me, and hold me fast
Each moment, each day, each hour.

Is there a heart that is lonely today,
Needing a faithful friend?
Jesus will always keep close by your side,
Loving you to the end.

Is there a heart that is longing to bring
Blessing to some lost soul?
Jesus is willing the weakest to use,
Let him Thy life control.

I Have a Saviour (listen to it here)
I have a Saviour, He died for me
In cruel anguish on Calvary’s tree.
I do not merit such love divine,
Only God’s mercy makes 
Jesus mine.

Jesus, my Saviour, I come to Thee
In full surrender Thine own to be.

I have a Keeper, He now prevails,
I fear no evil whate’er assails.
His arms enfold me, safe and secure,
In His blest keeping victory is sure.

I have a Master, He bids me go
Rescue lost sinners from fear and woe.
I love to serve Him, this Master true,
Now I am willing His will to do.

Longings (listen to it here)
I long to know Thee better, day by day,
I want to draw much closer when I pray;
To listen more intently for Thy voice,
To let the things Thou choosest, be my choice.

I long to serve Thee better, hour by hour,
Depending more entirely on Thy power;
I want to know more fully all Thy will,
To count upon each promise and be still.

I long to find new beauties in Thy word,
To follow in the footsteps of my Lord;
And, oh, the dearest longing through Thy grace,
Is that mine eyes may see Thee face to face.

So Send I You (listen to Dad sing it here)
So send I you to labour unrewarded,
To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown,
To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing;
So send I you to toil for Me alone.

So send I you to bind the bruised and broken,
O’er wand’ring souls to work, to weep, to wake,
To bear the burdens of a world aweary;
So send I you to suffer for My sake.

So send I you to loneliness and longing,
With heart ahung’ring for the loved and known,
Forsaking home and kindred, friend and loved ones;
So send I you to know My love alone.

As the Father has sent me, so send I you. 

[Thanks to my former Carey colleague, Tim Bulkeley, for helping me embed these mp3 files!]

nice chatting

Paul Windsor

Thursday, August 02, 2012

the olympics with other eyes

I enjoy sport and so there is no time quite like the Olympics. But I am also a Christian wanting to participate in the mission of God in the world. I try to watch the Olympics with other eyes...

Watch the flags - and intercede  
With the incomparable Operation World alongside, an anthem here and a flag over there is an incentive to learn about how it is for God's people in another land. The quietness and solemnity of a flag-raising ceremony is the perfect time to intercede for the countries on the podium. Pray for freedom and openness among its people. Pray for justice, compassion and integrity among its leaders. Pray for grace and courage for its church.

Watch the spectators - and worship
There is nothing quite like being among some raucous spectators. Cheering. Applauding ... and let's face it, worshipping. Yes, the athletes are worthy of praise. But let the mind drift across to 'I praise you because I - and especially those athletes - are fearfully and wonderfully made. I know that full well.' Swimming like a fish? Running like the wind? Admiring how one body can win a 100m race, while a quite different one wins the marathon, or the weightlifting? It is amazing. But let's not fall victim to humanity's compulsive behavioural disorder: captivated by the creation and forgetful of the creator.

Watch the athletes - and pursue excellence
I'll always remember an early Board discussion soon after I started as a principal. We were settling on the core values and the word 'excellence' came up. Strong, loud voices spoke out against embracing such a value. I was dumb-founded. I understand the rationale better now, but it was so alien to me at the time. I had been fed on an older spirituality: 'Just as I am, young, strong, and free; to be the best that I can be.' Still I see nothing wrong with the pursuit of excellence, starting with character and in dependence on the Spirit as I seek to remain in Christ ... and Olympic athletes goad me along that way.

Watch the press - and transcend
Regular readers of this blog will know that I find overheated patriotic fervour to be offensive. Oh, I'll cheer for the Kiwis - afterall, I do have a pulse. But the American press getting stuck into a 16yr old Chinese swimmer? Waking up to a NZ headline yesterday, stating 'Awful Aussies'? Shame on you. A plague on both your houses - and plenty of plaque on your teeth (only because plaque sounds like plague, it must be said). God does not see national borders and so we should be very careful how we view them. Passports mean little to him. Participating in the mission of God is about being a 'committed internationalist' and the Olympics are a good time to practice.

Watch the unity - and smile
The Olympics are an incredible display of unity - bringing diverse, even warring, peoples together. What about the London pool where anyone from any nation can have a go without needing to reach a qualifying standard? It has united the strong and the weak who have had a go, flailing away as everyone patiently waits and cheers. I love it - but I smile quietly. Despite what the academics say, nothing comes close to building unity quite like people transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ who take Ephesians 2 seriously, as the walls of hostility come down because of the cross. In troubled country after troubled country, objective eyes will uncover followers of Jesus praying and working hard for reconciliation and justice - facilitating a unity that sport can only ever dream about.

Watch the closing ceremony - and anticipate
That unalloyed joy among diverse peoples at an Olympic closing ceremony is something to behold. I love it. But God is in his heaven saying 'that's cool - but you ain't seen nuttin yet'. God may be blind to national borders, but he loves cultures and delights in languages. I've been studying Revelation. Did you know that variations on the fourfold 'nation (not today's nation state, as I understand it), tribe, people, language' occurs seven times in the letter? The 'four' signals that the whole entire world is covered. The 'seven' signals completeness and perfection. There will be a fullness and a perfect completeness about those who gather for history's closing ceremony. Bring it on. I can't wait. (No - on second thoughts, I can wait. I will wait and participate in God's restorative mission as I do so).

[PS: The Opening Ceremony was absorbing. Although the terms mean less and less, they are still being used and so can I suggest that London was as postmodern as Beijing was modern? London had humour (Mr Bean anyone?); iconoclasm (remind me again, who jumped out of the plane?); protest and dissent in its history-telling; subversion (who was it that lit the cauldron? who formed two lines under the stadium as the flame arrived?); a fuzzying of real and unreal (was that Winston I saw waving? how about Bean inserted next to Eric?); spirituality (was that really Abide with Me being sung?) ... and it goes on and on].

nice chatting