steve ball

personal thoughts on family, faith and work

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

reflections on… february

Keeping a positive outlook can be difficult – especially when you go through tough times.  My dad sadly passed away, peacefully, on 15th February; which makes now one of those times.  I am though, determined to try and keep positive through this strange period between dad passing away and his funeral, which is not until the first week in March.

Family:  We started the month with a visit to my sister-in-law and her family. The plan was to leave our boys there while we went on a worship training day, but things didn’t go to plan and we didn’t end up getting to the training. We did have a lovely time though, and it was definitely the right thing to do.

After dad passing away, a lot of my time has been with my family sorting out the many things that need dealing with.  This has been a sad time and I posted about it in the post “time-a-precious-gift” earlier this month.

In contrast, last weekend was a great, happy occasion when we were at a family christening.  It was good to meet up with extended family that we hadn’t seen for a while – and some of them are staying down until the funeral, so no doubt we will see them throughout the week too.

Faith: With everything that’s gone on in the last couple of weeks, I feel slightly out of the loop when it comes to church. We have had lots of cards from church family which has been lovely.  It’s good to know you’re being supported in prayer when you go through tough times.

With the loss of someone close in your life, it brings your faith into sharp focus – and I’m absolutely confident that dad is in a better place now and I will see him again one day.

Work: I had another session for my diploma on managing quality which was enjoyable and provoked thoughts on what that means outside of work. (See my previous blog – managing quality.)  Colleagues have been very supportive and dealt with as much of my work as they could. I’m fortunate and grateful to have an understanding boss who has given me the time I needed after dad passed away.

So, like January; February has had its ups and downs – I wonder if a pattern is emerging!

Highlights of the month:

  • Being with family at the christening last weekend
  • The murder mystery dinner at church – excellent!

Below is a link to a challenging song that was played at church a few weeks back.  I didn’t know then that I would be listening to it with the backdrop of loosing dad. Casting Crowns – Praise You in this Storm…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGPS8sa-bRQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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managing quality

The latest session for my Diploma was on managing quality, which I found really interesting from a business point of view.  Having read through my notes again and written up a ‘reflection of learning’, it became clear that managing quality should not just be restricted to business.  If we, in all areas of our life, are looking to improve quality, it seems reasonable to have some way of measuring where we were, where we are, and where we want to be in a given time frame.

We were asked to define quality in three words, and as you can imagine, there were lots of suggestions from the group like, professional, efficient, experienced, knowledgeable, proficient which are all good things to strive for in business.  The course leader came up with ‘fit for purpose’ which I slightly struggle with – partly because it’s an over-used phrase which has watered down its meaning, but mainly because it doesn’t convey (to me) a willingness to improve and aim for better.  It’s a ‘does the job’ and nothing more approach – but maybe that’s just me!

After writing up my notes, I started to think of words that would describe quality in terms of a person.  Integrity, honest, reliable, dependable, encourager, faithful, all come to mind.  The challenge is, to improve and develop these qualities – and have a way of measuring those improvements. This may be done on a day by day basis, or over a period if some time.  For example, if I aim to be more encouraging, it could be possible to look back and see those people I have encouraged flourish in what they are doing.  If I aim to be more dependable, I can look back and see how many times I have let people down.  It may just be that you say to yourself ‘ I want to be more reliable today’. Most things are measurable in some way.

Having a mindset of ‘continual development’ in our work and personal life can only be a good and healthy thing.

As a christian, I do of course have a set of qualities set out for me in the Bible – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23 NIV). I have these on my work computer desktop as a continual reminder to myself!  Some of these are harder to measure as they’re not always an ‘instance’ thing, but more a way of life – which is often easier for other people to see and measure.

Certainly I know people who have obviously developed in their faith and are showing more and more of these qualities, but they don’t see it themselves sometimes as its a gradual process, and it’s much harder to be self reflective on qualities of character.

Points to ponder:

  • What are my three best qualities?
  • What other qualities could I strive to develop?
  • How will I measure these developments?
  • What effect will these developments have on other people?
This post was written, but not published the day my dad passed away.

time… a precious gift

Wednesday 15th February was a very sad day. My dad peacefully passed away. Me, my brothers and sisters were there just before he finally went and mum and her sister were with him at the end. A very sad, emotional time, but we were grateful we were all able to see him one last time.

Eighteen months ago dad was not really ill at all.  He steadily deteriorated from that time on resulting in him being in hospital back in October.  Even while in hospital he would be giving advice and showing concern for everyone – especially mum. I never thought he would make my birthday in the middle of October – but he did. I had said my thankyous and goodbyes which was an almost impossible thing to do, but I’m thankful that I was able to share those with dad rather than saying something after he had gone. From that moment, I have been really grateful for any extra time I had to be with dad.  Time… a precious gift.

Since October, he was moved to a hospice as they didn’t think he had much time left.  He would have good days and bad days, but somehow his health didn’t seem to be deteriorating as quickly as was expected, so it was decided that he would come home and mum, and the family, would care for him there.  He made it to his birthday in the middle of December.  Time… a precious gift.

We had a good Christmas with all of the family being able to visit. It was lovely to see him being part of what I knew would be his last Christmas. Time… a precious gift.

Dad passed away on Wednesday – his time on this earth had come to an end.

Since then we have been swamped by people’s kind words, thoughts and prayers which has been lovely – beautiful at times.  This has really been touching; reading them through the tears.  It is plain to see that dad made the most of his time on this earth.  He has helped literally hundreds of people in his work. He has been a shining example to me of how to live life. He will be very, very missed.

Time is a gift that can not be replaced, taken back or exchanged. Dad chose to make the very most of his time, at work, at church and with his family.  This is evident in the lives of the people he has come into contact with over the years.  A good friend wrote this about dad:

…you were never flamboyant or concerned with the flimsy or superficial things of life. Instead you dedicated your life to important things such as family and helping others. You knew the true meaning of hard work and through relentless self-discipline you brought light to those living in darkness and colour to those whose lives were grey.

I pray that I can be as effective with my time on this earth as dad was.  Thank you dad for your great example.

Time… a precious gift.

preparing for worship

How we, as a worship team prepare for worship can impact what happens on a Sunday morning – and importantly, it’s not just the worship leader, but all of the worship team who need to be prepared. Yes, the worship leader may have the responsibility of choosing songs etc, but the whole team should be ready to go from the time they plug in or grab their mic.  If I turn up, late, not ready, no music and my thoughts on anything but worship, how am I going to be able to lead the church to worship?

I understand that every now and then we all have ‘one of those mornings’ when everything that can go wrong does and just getting to church can seem like a bit of a marathon – but if this is happening every week, we should question why!

Preparation style will vary from person to person.  I will generally be contemplating the service coming up; readings, musicians available etc, throughout the week which forms into a pool of songs.  I then put these into a musical order, email out to those playing and go from there. By the time I arrive on Sunday morning I aim to be ready to worship, my focus on what is happening during the practice (we practice before the service) and what could – being open to the Holy Spirit – happen in the service.  Some people find it better to have a set time to intensively organise the service/worship plan.

Whatever our preference, we should be coming to church ready for worship – not coming to church ready for a few songs to get us in the mood for worship.

I am nearly always early or exactly on time for everything (which I’m sure can be annoying for my family when I’m rattling my keys by the front door – sorry!), but I do think it is important that the worship and AV team get to the practice on time.  We have a finite amount of time before the service starts which should be used to maximise our preparation – including running through songs and prayer etc.  I can’t see any reason why we shouldn’t aim to have all of our music ready (and practiced beforehand if we don’t know them) so we can launch straight into practice as a band.

The intention of this post is not to have a moan, but to get us to think about the important job that we do week by week.  I know there have been times when I have not been as prepared as I should be, or have modified an old song set to make life easier.  We have the privilege and responsibility of leading the church in worship, and we should be doing that in the best way possible – which means preparing.

Points to ponder:

  • How do I prepare for worship?
  • Do I take leading worship for granted sometimes and not put the time in to prepare?
  • What does my example look like to others in the worship team?
 

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