Oak Hall

OakhallOak Hall provides value-for-money low-cost holidays enabling people time away for rest and spiritual refreshment/reinvigoration, either at Otford Manor in Kent, or overseas. Many of those on Oak Hall expeditions (aimed at the 20s/30s market) are single. A number of ATOM (A Taste of Mission) trips work with projects that Oak Hall supports in Serbia, Thailand, Peru, South Africa, the Phillipines. Staff are largely voluntary workers who are enthused by this vision. I have worked for Oak Hall as a Tour Leader since 2007, having been on several of their holidays beforehand.

Week 9: Know God

Do Christians Think?

“I can’t believe in anything I can’t understand” says one student to J John. On discovering that he studied agriculture, J John asked: “So, explain to me, how a black cow eats green grass and produces white milk”…
Many people think that Christians don’t think because we don’t think the way they expect us to think… [but we truly question what we believe, what's the point in believing in something if it won't stand up to scrutiny? Not that I have all the answers.. daily questions, and just being open to the possibilities]
Video
Who’s your hero?
Why do we need heroes?
What would God look like to you?
Personal image (heavily marketed) makes or breaks “idols”

Yes, this week is a focus on Exodus 20: 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Interview with Sam Blakey
Sam has been looking after the Press & Publicity for Just10, and often has letters published in The Times and local newspapers.
Sam had an understanding of God as a child, but once she got to university, she created a new life where she actively ignored God. Attending the funeral of a close friend at Christ Church she could feel God’s hope and present, and over the next 24 hours decided to just “trust God and go with it”.
Sam used the word ‘amazing’ quite a lot, which as she said, is what you tend to do when God is in your life. A year after she became a Christian, her husband, having watched The Passion of the Christ attended an Alpha course, and mid-way through, became a Christian.
Earlier this year, Sam’s son was assualted in an unprovoked attack. Sam was so angry about this that she set out on a “journey of vengeance”, and then realised (especially with the example of her son who was demonstrating forgiveness) that this was not how she, with God in her life, wanted to behave, and decided to forgive, at which she felt a burden lift.
Launches
The song “The Faltering Child” (re making choices), beautifully sung, written by Chris, head pianist! Brian Draper’s book Spiritual Intelligence was launched, officially released this Friday… J John said the manuscript arrived on a day when he didn’t really have time, started with a quick look, then read the whole thing in one sitting! [There was certainly a long queue for signed copies of the book at the end of the evening, I suspect Brian may have run out of copies!] The idea was created by Danah Zohar in Re-Wiring the Corporate Brain, and Brian wanted to build upon that with ideas from Ecclesiastes.
Back to J John
“If I had a photo of another woman in my wallet, should my wife just say, oh, that’s OK, or should she be angry and demand to know who it is… if I was turning to that woman for advice, would my wife believe me when I said “I love you”. “No, I would expect her to be hurt/angry – she has every right to demand that I keep myself for her. I want to, I love her, I made vows to her.”
How does this relate to “no idols”
Idolatry = adultery to God, it’s unfaithfulness, we have prostituted ourselves by bowing to idols.
We have a jealous God, he doesn’t share his affection!
Capture God?
A child asked whether God was in the house (yes), in the kitchen (yes), in the marmalade jar (yes), and then clapped the lid on and said “Got Him”. If we think we’ve “Got Him” in our hands, then we’ve lost touch with him… God can’t easily be captured.
We can’t chisel, paint or any other sensory form… all will depict Him as less than He truly is.
Some argue that such things are aids to worship, but such aids tend to become the objects of worship themselves.
So what is idolatry?
Any value, activity or idea that you place above God. In the modern world we are focused upon such things as physical beauty, sex, power, etc.
We should be reminded, as the Greeks were “Do not make of yourself an idol”, when it was all about perfection of the human form… we now have Barbie and Ken (and Barbie’s proportions are impossible for a woman to achieve!).
Every morning, some people “bow down” to peer at the weight on their scales… which determines what we will feel like today! (If so, he recommends Deborah Lovell: Lives in the Balance), and quoted a poem she’d written (see something similar).
YES, it is right to care for our God-given bodies through cleanliness, good nutrition and exercise, but don’t idolise one of those (which tends to lead to anorexia or plastic surgery).
Superstitions
Superstitions are a form of idolatry, usually coming from habits (e.g. not walking under a ladder [although I always think that's more about a paint pot not landing on my head!]) or a belief in protection. Phrases such as “Touch Wood” (and removing 13th floor from hotels and 13th row from airplanes) acknowledge that there are other powers at work.
In the morning, many people check their “Horror-scopes”, explicitly spoken out against by God in Deuteronomy 18:9-12.
Freemasonry
J John appears to know a lot about the Freemasons… the Church of England Synod did a study into whether Freemasonry was compatible with Christianity – with an answer of a resounding NO!
  • Freemasonry is characterised by deception, and lower level members don’t really know what is going until they reach at least Level 4.
  • It is often seen as a charitable organisation, good for networking, job opportunities, social status, etc., therefore often seen as harmless.
  • Freemasons meet in Lodges which contain temples, where they kneel at at altar, swear oaths to sacred laws, and at the 4th level, start to worship specific Gods.
  • Curses are prol
    ific, and level 4 and above pledge lifelong silence BEFORE hearing material… and curse themselves to death if they reveal secrets.
  • At the 30th level, Freemasons declare that Lucifer is God (i.e. the Devil, the complete antithesis of God!)
Cultural Climate
Our current culture emphasises “whatever works for you”. However, if you don’t know what you stand for, you’ll fall for anything!
Best Description of God?
Jesus himself, who came to make God visible, made in God’s image (as are we).
If we’re listening to the radio, there are different frequencies assigned, and we need to tune into God’s frequency. Images of the world are bankrupt, and if you focus on them you’ll end up deceived and disappointed!
God Offers Us Forgiveness
Before Jesus, John the Baptist was a great preacher (and if you think that J John is aggressive, you should have heard him… calling people snakes and vipers!).
J John gave a great illustration of where John the Baptist could have taken a management approach to baptising people…. lining people up, asking them “Name, worst sin”, writing that on a sticker, slapping it on their chest, and then John would know what to free/baptise them from/for! As each person lines up, we got through the ten commandments, and there’s Jesus “none”, but then takes everyone else’s stickers, and then is ready to be baptised in freedom from all those sins [which I assume will wash away in the water, if the stickers I have are anything to go by, and seems to complete the analogy!]. Jesus wants to liberate us from all that weighs us down!
Know me –> Know the Truth –> the Truth shall set you free.
We know Jesus embodies the truth, so we will not be disappointed!
What shape is your God?
The only image on your heart/mind shoudl be Jesus, replacing the focus on all those other things.
All those things that God says have nothing to do with we go and see in museums, or use as art decorations. J John asks that last week if we have statues of Buddhas, ouija boards, etc. that we place them in the Amnesty Bins [I don't believe that I do!]
Note, whenever you visit a castle and see the throne room, thrones are always for ONE, there’s no throne pews! So, have Jesus on the throne of your life, as, as J John only has space for one woman in his wallet, he only has room for one God in his life.
Just 10
Just 1!! Just one more week of Just10 left, which will be on “Living by Priorities”, and then check partner churches for follow-up courses. All these commandments have serious messages, but these last few are the REALLY SERIOUS ones!

Woo hoo!

I used those precise words when I sent an email to my Mum the other day. My plan on coming back to Winchester was to get enough work to see me through to June… job done, but although I’d had lots of conversations, I didn’t have anything concrete for my next stage – enough work to see me through until October. I was then offered 2 pieces of work which, if I’m careful, will at least keep me that long, and there’s other conversations in the pipeline!

I think that deserves a big WOO-HOO of celebration!

#assk64 : 64 Words for Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi: 64th Birthday Coming Up

As Aung San Suu Kyi approaches her 64th birthday (June 19th 2009), and around 13 years of imprisonment, this site was created to collect hundreds of messages of support before that birthday. Created in only 6 days by Rechord, and launched only a couple of hours ago, the site already has a buzz going on Twitter, largely thanks to @SarahBrown10 (Gordon Brown’s wife, he’s also posted an entry, but it keeps disappearing thanks to the volume of Tweets!) and @JimmyCarr, and now @eddieizzard! You can read more about ASSK, and her fight against illegal imprisonment.

Add your voice: Website; Twitter Feed (using hashtag #assk64, let’s see if we can get it trending!); become a friend on Facebook.

Raaaaaaaaaaaarghhh: “Managing Our Anger” (J John: Week 5)

Are you angry?
Are you “temperamental”: 50% temper; 50% mental?

The opening video demonstrated how violence starts in the heart/mind… with one vegan declaring “I can’t even kill an animal, why would I kill someone!” I did wonder if anyone would admit to wanting to murder on camera, although one got close… depending on how far he was pushed/how drunk he was… to which J John added, difficult fights break out amongst those who both think they are right, and neither agrees to back down!
Interview/Sketch
The interview was with Michael Campbell, formerly a boxer, and an activist in the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland, with a great hatred of the English… now the Town Centre Chaplain for Watford, and a member of the Street Angels patrol… crime has dropped by 35% in Watford since this started 3 years ago.
Not a huge fan of the sketches (apologies to those who probably spend much time thinking of the content)… which this week focused on an argument between husband/wife over possession of the TV remote control!
DO NOT MURDER
The sixth commandment is simple… murder is a serious crime which once committed cannot be undone, and appears in many different terminologies (e.g. manslaughter, serial killing, etc.) in the newspapers on a daily basis. The term “Road Rage” made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in 1997, and of course there are associated terms such as ‘Air Rage’. 42% of those in the UK workforce noted that they have been yelled at at work, with many reduced to tears.
Is culture to blame?
Violence is pumped into our culture by the megatons… e.g. films such as Die Hard are not constructive models of anger management! We can also break this commandment through passive action – e.g. if we see someone freezing/hungry and do not help them out, we may be letting them freeze/starve to death.
Abortion
J John tackled the tricky subject of abortion: “Abortion is wrong even if it is a right”, arguing that the Bible clearly states that life is valuable from the moment of conception. He prayed for those who may still be struggling with grief/guilt/fear over having had an abortion – as 40 million do every year globally.
Does it have to get physical?
It’s not just about inflicting physical pain, but actions and attitudes can cause harm, e.g. grudges, resentment and prejudice, etc. Our language is full of venom: e.g. “Drop Dead”, and “If looks could kill”. J John argues that there is a thin line between violence of feeling and violence of action, and its often with those that we care most about that we get the most angry with/hurt the most.
What Kind of Anger do you Have? (or a mix?)
The Maniac: Do you explode? “Temper is the one thing you can not get rid of by losing”; “People who fly into a rage usually make a bad landing”; “Those who blow a fuse may be in the dark”; “be flexible and you won’t get bent out of shape”.
The Mute: Do you silently steam, whilst pretending to feel no anger? Those who hold anger tend to bury it alive, and the body feels its effects (e.g. heart attacks, digestive problems, etc.)
The Manipulator: Retailiates with underhand techniques, using sarcasm and hurtful humour.
Principles to Survive
  1. I need to admit my anger (if we don’t talk about it, we’ll take it out on others; there is justifiable anger – the Bible is full of stories of God/Jesus expressing anger, and we need to seek to do the same – express it non-destructively)
  2. I need to deal with my anger immediately (“You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist” “Those who fight fire with fire end up with the ashes”. Don’t give a piece of your mind (you may not be able to afford to lose it), but seek to be a peacemaker. It takes more inner strength to forgive than retaliate… let God give justice).
  3. I need to understand anger (Anger usually covers a hurt, which covers an expectation, which covers a need… need to uncover these).
  4. I need to stop and think before I speak (If you speak when you’re angry, you’ll probably make the best speech you wish you’d never made)
  5. I need to ask God to fill me with his Holy Spirit (seek self-control, asking God to influence thoughts, words and actions; society tries to reform people, Jesus can transform)
Don’t let your anger get out of control!

Wearing the Cross
Jesus stretched out his arms to embrace us all… God allowed his Son to be murdered for all – including those who have murdered others.
On seeing a girl at the checkout wearing a cross on a chain, J John said “Oh, you’re a Christian then”, on looking at her surprise, he entered into a conversation, asking if she’d think it was weird if she’d seen someone wearing a pair of earrings with a gas chamber as one earring, and the electric chair as the other… both are symbols of execution. She looked disgusted, but he emphasised that that is what the Cross means – but that Jesus wore it on his back, not around his neck. He asked her to think about what it really meant, she said “it looked nice”, and he said “nice was the last thing it was” – it was painful, humiliating, and that was done for us.
Before inviting people forward as usual, J John talked about the Archbishop of Milan, who as a child had been dared by his friends to go into the Confessional and shock the priest. Doing so with relish, the priest directed him outside, to look up to the Crucifix on the building, to shake his fist and say “I don’t care”. In front of his friends, as he started to do so, he realised what the death of Christ truly meant, and broke down in tears, before transforming his life.
See more on Just10 Winchester, 5 more weeks to go!

Random Wanderings Around the Net…

Barbara Sher

My random wanderings around the web tonight started with an email from Barbara Sher… I picked up her “What do I do if I want to do everything?” before I went travelling, and it was a great revelation (I need to do the activities, although I read the book cover to cover!)… scanners are not diletantes, but exceptionally intelligent with a lively sense of curiosity! Listen to Barbara Sher (geniuspress) talking about ideas she’s been working with for over 30 years (or follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/barbarasher):

Scanner Links

John Williams, aka “The Creative Maverick” (first came across in careershifters… yes, this man is a true scanner!) is the obvious man to follow. Inspired after a retreat with Barbara Sher, he set up Scanner Central in London (no, I’ve not made it there either). For the April event we’ve apparently just missed Beyond Chocolate (which I remember seeing on the TV at some point, if it’s been around for a while).

Other Links

  • Checked out “Gifted Adults” on Google, see also here, after Sher indicates that many scanners are also gifted adults… I fit quite a lot of the bulleted list, but I’m definitely no introvert! Is that a form of cyberchondria?.
  • Yesterday I found myself on Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness pages
  • In December I went on a course with Chantal Cooke, Nick Williams, Niki Hignett
  • Tonight I downloaded ‘The Imposter Syndrome‘ article…, I can remember talking about this with one of my PhD supervisors (Professor Joyce Goodman) – it’s very common amongst female academics, apparently! (Also on “Changing Course” with Barbara Sher and Barbara Winter… who works with Nick Williams!)
  • Checked out “Anybody“, which looks to challenge the links between culture and body image.
  • Rechecked Serenergise, where I gained my ICF-Accredited coaching certification.
  • Rechecked PALS, which I need to see if I can unzip now I have a laptop that works… David Lett and John Evans, who have a vision to get more life-coaching style skills into schools.
  • Checked out “The School of Life“, where you’re being asked to rebel against APPLYING for jobs, and to create your own job spec, and see if employers pick up on it. Well, why not?
  • Read an article on Eric Gill, recommended by @tonywatkins on Twitter…. for whom I’m supposed to be writing an article tonight, instead of which I’m surfing. I’ll get there!
  • This morning I read C.S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters” – thought-provoking stuff (see p.46, where Screwtape encourages Wormwood to let the humans think that ‘religious’ is just another phase to go through…)

My bucket list starts with: Visit Canada

Visit Canada
Canada looks a beautiful, friendly country, and all the Canadians I’ve met (and shared rooms with on my travels) have been lovely! I read all the Anne of Green Gables novels when I was younger, and have always wanted to go and see Prince Edward Island… also want to get the train across to the Rockies, see the bright lights of Toronto, ski in Banff, and just take in the beautiful landscapes… while trying out some daft activities and taking a million photos no doubt, see: http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/drbexl/ for evidence of that!

Publish my PhD as a Book
I will never feel like I’ve finished my PhD until I see my name on the spine of a book in the bookstores. There’s plenty of interesting material in my PhD (see http://www.ww2poster.co.uk), lots of interest in it (see the recent furore over ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’: http://drbexl.blogspot.com/2009/03/keep-calm-and-carry-on.html). Originally I intended to call my book “It’s Up To You” after a poster which takes the Kitchener “Your Country Needs You” as a design inspiration, but now Keep Calm and Carry On seems far more appropriate, as I’m particularly interested in why such images still resonate over 60 years later). At my PhD viva we spent most of the time discussing turning the thesis into a book (would probably take around a year on top of a steady job), and the book proposal is in process… meantime, travelling and job-seeking have rather taken away from that!

Visit Israel
OK, so it’s another “visit somewhere”, as the remainder may be… I want to take a trip to Israel with http://www.oakhall.co.uk. I know loads of people who’ve been and they all say the same thing… really tiring, but completely awesome and inspiring (well, that describes pretty much any Oak Hall trip that I’ve been on!)

See a Formula 1 Race live
I used to follow Formula 1 avidly, watching heats, races, repeats, highlights – you name it, and reading all the magazines. I then realised how much of my life this was taking up and pretty much went cold turkey. However, getting to know Emma @ Manchester we chatted about Formula 1 lots, and I would still like to go to see a live race… not sure where yet. I have stood on the starting grid and podium at Albert Park in Australia, and may watch some of this weekend’s… if only to remind me of the time I spent in Australia (and there’s somewhere else to go back to!)… I had a day’s race car driving experience: http://www.bex-lewis.co.uk/career/big_achievements/drivingexperience.htm, whic was great… bring on the skid-pan racing next!

Run the London or New York Marathon
I’ve done a couple of 10ks, and would even need to build back up to that length at the moment, but I’ve always wanted to run the London Marathon (although sometimes I think the New York would suit my traveller mind more). I have actually completed a full-length marathon event: http://www.bex-lewis.co.uk/career/big_achievements/moonwalk.htm, which is maybe almost harder than a daytime marathon, but still, running a marathon beckons…

The athlete in me!!!

The ‘have a go hero(ine)’…! Aside from my PhD where I am undoubtedly the world’s expert on British Home Front Propaganda Posters, see http://www.ww2poster.co.uk/ (well, it’s a niche!), I am one of life’s explorers! I like to remain open to the possibilities of what is going on out there… I usually have a flexible plan for what I want to achieve, and am highly aware of the areas that I’m interested in, but as a bit of a meerkat (well, that was the animal I chose to describe myself as for my life-coaching course), I like to get an overview, and am always looking around for new possibilities!

So, in that whole paragraph, how much athletics did I mention… not a lot, but in the spirit of that paragraph I probably wouldn’t be renowned for my athletic prowess in any sport as I flirt with many… like to meet my challenges to a certain level, then I’m ready to try something new:

Lover of circuit training (and most other non-dancy gym classes), give me another go at Kickboxing soon please!
2 x 10k Runs (about to get back into the swing of this)
Certified PADI Open Water Diver
Skier… I can complete a black run without falling over… sometimes!
15,000 foot skydiver
Hiked the Inca Trail (and other walking trips on my round-the-world travels)
Climbed the highest point of Montserrat, near Barcelona
Completed the Moonwalk (26.2 miles overnight), in preparation for which walked about 6 miles per day to work/back!

So, looks like walking might be the winner… all exercises the brain… and for most of my sessions it’s exercises the mouth too… yes, I have to admit, that’s probably most what I like about the exercise… the chance for a conversation… multi-tasking in a feminine way!

Wow, I quite like this Plinky thing… one short question and many different ideas, all answered in different ways!