70 Things from Clergy Wellbeing I couldn’t forget (51-75 – Stress, Woodstock, Spirals)

51. If you can remember Woodstock you weren’t there (and apparently the 90s version doesn’t count)




53. In a Gallup survey by Tom Rath, across many cultures, the following were identified as essential components of wellbeing- Career (in a general sense), Social (happiness of those around us), Financial (have to have enough), Physical, Community (security around us).  This is also the order of importance in which they ranked.  You can do your own survey online.

54. “The most successful places of work see growth of employees as an end in itself.  What’s best for the employee is not at odds with the organisation” – from Tom Rath.

55. Church lifecycle is like a bell curve – you can stabilise, and you can also go beyond the threshold of change.

56. Stressful environments present us with the eternal question mark which scrapes away at our internal teflon.

57. Different people come to seminars for different things – some have huge gaps, some have a little knowledge, and some come looking for pearls.

58. We need to learn to manage our time, but our energy.

59. Going up to Loch Vale is enough, but if you are prepared to climb over the boulder field and up the water fall, you can get to Sky Pond.  Do you want to go there?  You’ve got to climb a waterfall to get there, but it is worth it.


60. If bread can be holy, so also can be its creation.


61. Pizza and ovens and Churches and community are a superb combination.

IMG_3855 IMG_3862

62. Becoming Bread by Gunilla Norris.

63. Apps – Mindful and Insight Timer

64. “They pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs” – Hurricane by Mary Oliver

65. Walking meditation begins with the left foot and might end like this:


66. “I love myself” “I accept myself” “Yes” Yes”

67. Transformation is not likely to happen through singular revelations (“Scrooge” transformation), not straight lines, but spirals – precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, maintenance, action, termination (Prochaska and Norcross)


68. Our wordle



69. There is a high correlation between dancing and wellbeing across all cultures

70. There could only be one choice…





70 Things From Clergy Wellbeing I couldn’t forget (26-50 – Forgiveness, Fitness, Happiness)

26. Beware of Hootie Pie.

27. Lewis Smedes later regretted the second part of the title of his book “Forgive and Forget”.

28. Enright notes four stages of forgiveness – Uncover, Commit, Work, Deepen

29. According to Enright, forgiveness is not the same as justification, leniency, pardon, reconciliation or forgetting.

30. Story of professor at conference who gets people to spend time remembering an episode in their life of which they are deeply ashamed, and then asking the person next to them to turn to them and say the words “Me too.”  Shame derives much of its power from its secrecy, and loses power through sharing – this underpins much of the work of 12 step movements.

31. Hours of sleep before midnight are vital to wellbeing.

32. Excercise should consist of Cardio, Stretch and Resistance

33. Dynamic stretching before exercise, static after, static at night.

34. The move to positive psychology began in the 1980s when Martin Seligman’s daughter kicked over a pile of leaves he had just raked together.  When he complained her, she asked the world’s foremost expert on depression “Why are you always so grumpy?”

35. We overestimate rates of depression and underestimate rates of life satisfaction in others – a diagnosis doesn’t wipe us out.

36. Happiness = Set range (50%) + Circumstances (5-18%) + Factors under voluntary control (32%).

37. Happiness takes practice and is a practise.

38. 80% of factors for your happiness are available to you – Thich Nhat Hanh

39. Positive influences on happiness – live in wealthy democracy, get married, have friends, avoid negativity, get religion.

40. These are things that do not generally make a difference to happiness – make more money (unless you’re wired that way), stay healthy, acquire education, change climate, race or gender.

41. According to Stepen Ilardi , these are the voluntary factors which effect happiness – Omega 3, avoid rumination, exercise, light exposure, social support, sleep hygiene.

42. Breathe – It’ll be okay.

43. mindfulness_poster_UK


44. Mindfulness is attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally – Jon Zabat-Zinn

45. It is worth spending time looking at and smelling a raisin.

46. Albert Ellis says there are four irrational beliefs which cause my unhappiness- people need to like me, I need to be perfect, things must turn out the way I want them to, people must behave the way that I want them to.

47. Two massive trends amongst clergy – I need to be liked, inhibition of anger (even if 5 people in a congregation of 200 don’t like you, that’s still a 97.5% approval rating, what politician would not be desperate for that).

48. Approach life with curiosity – “Gee, I’m being sued, I’ve never been sued before, I wonder what that feels like.”

49. Mom’s advice – Go outside and play, get enough sleep, eat your fruit and vegetables, to have a friend – be a friend.

50. Some books to read





70 Things from Clergy Wellbeing I couldn’t forget (1-25 – Trauma, Dessert, Nutrition, Forgiveness)

Just back from Total Clergy Well-being 2014, one of the most transformational and inspirational, informed and affirming experiences that I and Anna have ever been part of.

Here’s some things we learned:

1. Trauma – in severe or milder forms – may lie at the root of much ministerial dysfunction.

2. CBT has not been so effective in treating trauma.  The most effective treatment, EMDR, was found by accident, by Francine Shapiro.  Those who tried to discredit this treatment not only ended up validating, but also refining it.

3. You can cope with much trauma if you know what your exit strategy is.

4. As well as undoing the power of negative memories, EMDR can also enhance positive ones.

4. Oak Ridge Conference centre at Chaska, outside Minneapolis, is a phenomenal venue.  The dessert selection alone was awesome.  We are missing not having an omelette chef at breakfast time.

5. Guilt is “I made a mistake”.  Shame is “I am a mistake.”

6. Buy from the perimeter of a supermarket.  Avoid the centre – it is a transfat danger zone.

7. Good fat is good.  Carbs make you tired after lunch.  Protein improves meal satisfaction.

8. A glass of milk contains over 100 hormones and other chemicals.  This really messes us up.

9. Omega 3 is just good on so many levels.  Watch out for the level of DPA versus EHA.

10. What fat you cook with matters.  Unsaturated – liquid at room temperature – is good for salads.  Saturated – solid at room temperature – is good for cooking.  The greener olive oil is, the better.

11. With carbs – 3:1 Veg to fruit ratio to sustain weight.  5:1 veg to fruit ratio to lose it.

12. Eat slow – it takes your body 20 minutes to tell you you’re full.

13. Eat in the order of Protein, Veg, Fats, Fruit/Grain, Indulgences.

14. We should drink twice as much water as we eat food.

15. The best you can stay out of trouble is to have an interesting private life.

16. Being clergy is like being a step-parent – coming into a pre-formed family in a parental role.

17. There is a general anxiety out there that Church is not doing well, and that filters down.

18. 5 key areas for clergy well being – Physical wellbeing, Sabbath time, Taking time off for vocations, Reciprocal relationships (being out of role), Sources of joy.

19. An important image for clergy is of being filled up.  The opposite is being burnt out – this is an image from the early days of rockets, where a rocket would continue in trajectory for some time, under its earlier momentum, but without fuel to sustain it further.

20. I am a recovering deity.

21. Where you put your attention is where something will grow – Thich Nhat Hanh

22. Four stages of forgiveness (according to Smedes) – i. Acknowledging your hurt; ii. Blame the other; iii. Give up right to get even; iv. Pray for person who wronged you.

23. In 1997 there was very little psychological literature on Forgiveness.  A key figure in Forgiveness becoming a major subject in the literature has been Robert Enright, a founder of the International Forgiveness Institute (which is what the Church has been for centuries).

24. The remarkable story of the Derksen family - the murder of Candace and the Forgiveness project.

25. The Amygdala is one quick operator.  Normal brain processes are about 800ms.  It can spot a negative person in about 80ms.  To come away from those signals we need to consciously calm down – breathing is key.  It takes men about 20 minutes to calm down and start using there Frontal Lobe for decision making.



Generous Orthodoxy – Part 2

Some insights from McLaren:

The 7 Jesus’ he has known

- Conservative. Protestant

- Liberal Protestant

- Roman Catholic

- Eastern Orthodox

- Pentecostal

- Anabaptist

- Liberation Theology

Son of God as the Radiance of God – looking at Perichoresis and Christ hymns.

He casts Jesus as Lord as

- the head of the household whose commands are to be obeyed

- the triumph over the powers

- the master/ apprentice


Jesus saving

- through judgement

- then forgiveness

- the saving of all creation

“‘Preach the gospel to all creation’ Christ said.  Are we only now beginning to understand what he meant?  I believe the unwritten melody that haunts this book every so faintly, the new song waiting to be sung in place of they hymn of salvation, to simply the song of creation.  To move away from the theology of salvation to the theology of creation may be the task of our time. ” from Vincent Donovan, on page 101

Generous Orthodoxy – Part 1

A few things on Generous Orthodoxy, firstly about the term itself (which comes from Hans Frei).

From Lesslie Newbiggin on other faith

Exclusive in the sense of affirming the unique truth of the revelation in Jesus Christ to those outside the Christian faith, inclusive in sthe sense of refusing to limit the saving grace of God to Christians.. (and the quote goes on – page 17)


Reading the Bible is like eating fish.  Enjoy the meat that’s easy to eat first; come back and work on the bones later if you are still hungry (page 22)

Chesterton “I am the man who with utmost daring discovered what had been discovered before … I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered it was orthodoxy. (page 27)

I can’t find the page which has Frei’s quote

“Generosity without orthodoxy is nothing, Orthodoxy without generosity is less than nothing.”


Sisters of Sinai

What to say about Sisters of Sinai, an example of a book that got better as it went on, possibly because it was about two sisters finding their vocation and honing their skills as they went on,

These two, Margaret and Agnes, were the best kind of Calvinists – engaged with the world, prepared to ask the questions, hot in pursuit of truth, and also ecumenically engaged.  They were people who made mistakes, but did their best to redress them; they were firm and idiosyncratic but ultimately good hearted; in them they want to discover the truth about the text, but also to embody what it stood for.

This is a book about vocation – a vocation that gradually emerges from half chances and encounters, and passions, and being led to things along the way – vocation that also meant much hard work, perseverance, and discovering the dead ends were actually what led to where the twins were meant to be.

This is also a book about 19th Century Biblical scholarship and textual criticism.  I think we can perceive the Higher Critics of the 19th century as unwelcome and iconoclastic layabouts, those who shied away from the real business of belief because they fell in love with rationalism.  In this portrait, the best of them are believers who believed they would meet God in truth, wherever the truth would take them. Continue reading

Seven Things About The Divine Word

J.I. Packer once said of himself “Packer by name, packer by nature.”  He loves compressed, theological density.

Here outlines the seven things that John’s prologue tells us about the Word:

In the beginning as the Word – the Word’s eternity

And the Word was with God – the Word’s personality

And the Word was God – the Word’s deity

Through him all things were made – The Word creating

In him was life – The Word animating

The life was the light of men – The Word revealing

The Word became flesh – The Word incarnate

(based on page 62)

Celtic Pilgrimage

One of my favourite poems, from Peter Millar, reflecting on the Iona Pilgrimage reaching St. Columba’s bay.

At Columba’s Bay
they met;
Two of Iona’s
countless pilgrims.
He, a pastor from Zaire;
She, a broker in Detroit.
And battered by the
autumn wind and rain
they shared their stories -
rooted in twentieth century realities,
yet both embedded
in a strange, life-giving
The hidden stories -
of poverty and torture,
of cancer and loneliness;
interweaving stories,
mirroring our
global interconnectedness.
And stories of faith;
of God’s unfolding
in their lives
through ordinary days.
And suddenly it seemed
that for a moment
on that distant shore
they glimpsed
that basic truth -
that truly,
we are one
in Christ.

From Julie McGuinness ‘ Reflections on Life’s Road’ (quoted on page 243, used to end the book)

Some people travel in straight lines:
Sat in metal boxes, eyes ahead,
Always mindful of their target,
Moving in obedience to coloured lights and white lines.
Mission accomplished at journey’s end.

Some people travel round in circles:
Trudging in drudgery, eyes looking down,
Knowing only too well their daily, unchanging round.
Moving in response to clock and to habit,
Journey never finished yet never begun.

I want to travel in patterns of God’s making:
Walking in wonder, gazing all around,
Knowing my destiny, though not my destination,
Moving to the rhythm of the surging of his spirit,
A journey which when life ends, in Christ has just begun.

Physicist Speaks At A Funeral

I got this off a Facebook thread which had degenerated into irritating and patronising jibes between believers and atheists (it hadn’t started there, it was a really moving post from a pastor who had lost their faith).  This was a quote about an atheist at a funeral.

It struck me because it thinks it’s moving and beautiful.  The death in universe where energy is conserved is rather beautiful.  It’s not, it’s awful, too often dreadful.  I don’t care about the photons and the laws of thermodynamics.  I want them back.  I care that they are less orderly, that’s the bit I liked, that’s the bit I mourn.

It’s one of these posts that defeats itself, because all the time you know you don’t want any physicist showing up at a funeral and saying these things.  You realise how utterly crass that would be.

And there is another subtle thing there.  It has to be the physicist who says this.  This is the creeping elitism of so much of the new atheism, that you have to be really clever to get it, that the clever people are the ones who get it and everyone else really ought to just bow the knee at their superior intelligence, it’s a Church which worships IQ.  I am reminded that I would rather have the country run by the first 2000 names in the Boston telephone directory than by Harvard faculty.  Those guys are the new priests.

Here’s the quote:

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

Continue reading

Systems Thinking in the Public Sector

From John Seddon

Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist – Keynes

I remember listening to Alan Milburn, then Secretary of State for Health, responding on the radio to the revelation of the fiddles that hospitals were using to avoid breaching the four hour waiting time targets in accident and emergency departments.  ‘Give me their names’ was the thrust of his reply.  I wrote to tell him that if he wanted to allocate blame he only needed one name: his own.  (page 10)

On game theory – teams learn to choose a win-win strategy… game theory’s selfish and competitive assumptions therefore look shaky at best. (page 12)