steve ball

personal thoughts on family, faith and work

Archive for the tag “faith”

hello god

I read a Twitter status a couple of weeks ago which just said ‘good morning God’ with a link to a picture.  The picture was of a beautiful sunrise over a beach in America somewhere.  It made me smile.

I’ve recently got back into taking photos since getting a new camera at the end of last year, and going through them I’m staggered at the beauty of God’s creation. From the tiny detail of wild flowers and the intricacies of insects to the wide landscapes that have been created by a hugely imaginative God.  The pictures here were taken while on holiday in Cornwall at the beginning of the month. 

Sometimes we take all of this for granted.  Much goes by unnoticed, partly due to the busyness of life, but also because flowers and insects are so common – we don’t usually give them a second look.

How much more amazing then, is the God that created us – each person being unique.  And what’s incredible is, the same God that made these ‘insignificant’ things, that are only around for a short period of time, is interested in us.

How much more then, do you think God cares about us?  The more I think about that question, the harder I find it to answer.


Matthew 6 v 26-30
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.   Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

Points to ponder:

  • When was the last time you took time to appreciate Gods creation?
  • What things help you to get a glimpse of the hugeness of God?
  • How much do you think God loves you?
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reflections on… may

During the last week in May I was in Harrogate at a New Wine Leaders conference for three days, back at work for a day and then off on holiday to Cornwall – so (while on holiday), I’ve finally got a chance to write up my thoughts on the month of May.

There has been much to be thankful for this month, much to think through and also some changes at work. All of which are pretty exciting

Family:  We have had some lovely times together as a family this month.  We went to see ‘The Wizard of Oz’ show at the start of the month, which was excellent. We have had some lovely walks with my sisters family – one was a nine mile walk around ‘Darling Buds of May’ country in Pluckley.  This was the longest walk the boys had been on – and they did brilliantly.

James went on his school trip to the Isle of Wight for a week which was great for him – he really enjoyed it – but was a little strange for us as it left the house rather quiet

Faith:   Church has been good this month.  Our Overflow service had the largest worship band we have ever had and I thoroughly enjoyed writing some parts for the brass section that we had.  This meant that James was able to join in on his saxophone for the first time which was fantastic for me to see.  Hopefully the first of many times he will be playing

For three day in the last week of May I was at the New Wine Leaders conference in Harrogate.  This was a time to really get to know people that went better over food and drink and also to re-asses my thinking on where the church is and how we could be serving the community more effectively.  Some of the sessions were rather intellectual, but the content was excellent – lots to digest and work through when I get back home

Work:  I continue to be busy at work with various projects which I’m enjoying.   Have increased my hours from this month which will help give me the time to get through the work load more effectively. I will reduce my teaching a little to offset the extra hours I’m doing at the office.

Highlights of the month:

  • Seeing the Wizard of  Oz
  • Our long walks
  • The leadership conference

reflections on… april

I’m writing this post on the train home from Blackburn after a busy day at the end of a busy month! A short break, visiting family, Easter, days out, deadlines for my diploma, the marriage course, church, work… I feel worn out just thinking out out it all – although, in the main, it’s been a good month.

Family: At the start of the month, we had a short break with my brother, down at Winchelsea Beach which was good – always a time to switch off a bit. The noticeable missing person was our eldest who was snowboarding with the school for the first week of the Easter holiday and then straight off on a church mission in Spain (alright for some!). Our youngest comfortably passed his Grade 3 sax which is excellent, and I’ve been continuing to enjoy playing with him, getting ready for a worship service next month. We also went to the gadget show which was great fun. We have been on some long walks (before the constants rain of the last week or so) ensuring we always passed the house my in-laws hope to buy.

Faith: Church is usually busy over the Easter period, but this year I’ve not been quite so involved as usual, which has been a change. Barbara’s home group has been going well – a lovely bunch of people – and we had a good curry night a couple of weeks ago which always goes down well. Our monthly Overflow service starts again in a couple of weeks and I’m getting prepared for that – hoping to have some new people as part of the worship team.

Work: Work has been incredibly busy. With various projects on the go and the usual work on top of that it has, at times, felt like I’m chasing my tail! Add to that the diploma work and my teaching and you can see I’ve been busy.

one in a million?

The weekend before Easter we had some time away at Winchelsea Beach. (Mum and dad in-law have a caravan there.) I quite enjoy taking photos, and the pebbles on the beach don’t move much, so I can take my time getting the picture how I want it! I was pleased with the results on the ones included in this post.

It then struck me that every pebble was different. Whether it’s the colour, size, shape, imperfections – each one is unique. The natural elements have shaped and marked the millions of individual pebbles on the beach over years.

A simple game we play when on the beach, is to stack up stones, sit ourselves down, and then try to knock them off using the pebbles around us. The simple things in life can be great fun!

The parallel with us as people is interesting. Here I am, one of around seven billion on this earth – completely unique. I have been shaped by events in my life – some within my control and other completely out of my control. Much of who I am has been influenced by other people – just as the stones we stacked up and knocked down are shaped or marked by other stones.

These thoughts are particularly poignant to me as we have just celebrated Easter. As one person in seven billion, I believe Jesus died for me – personally.  As I remember that mass of pebbles that made up the beach, with no way of even estimating how many there were there, I am in awe of a God that knows each of us individually. Staggering.

So… am I one in a million? No.

More like one on seven billion – and counting!

Points to ponder:

  • What makes you reflects on the hugeness of God?
  • How does being known, as an individual to God in a population of seven billion make you feel?
  • How does the realisation of the sacrifice of Jesus, for us as individuals, change how we live our lives?


worship bands and exclusivity

From the age of about eleven I’ve always been involved in playing in a band. In the early days I was the drummer (which may surprise some as I now rarely get to play them!). Other members included bass, piano, sax and singers. After a few years together we even recorded a couple of albums which are thankfully now collecting dust on bookshelves somewhere!

As time went on and we got more involved in worship at church, I was needed to play the piano/keyboards more as we had other good drummer. I also dabbled with the guitar and flute (not at the same time) which was really good fun. I loved exploring new musical ideas and with the tight musical set up that we had, this was easy and very effective.

This was also a problem…

We had become very exclusive at the cost of other people trying to ‘get in’ to the band. It wasn’t always easy to see as we were going through our teens and early twenties, but looking back, in my opinion, it wasn’t a healthy place to be as far as the church was concerned. There was little, if any, provision for new band members to be part of the team. The church had a strong focus on musical excellence – and this is what it got.

I honestly can’t remember the tipping point that made me stop and realise what was going on. But I’m glad I did – or was made to. I remember starting a group on Sunday afternoons to encourage new people to start playing and getting people to join the main worship band. This was an interesting time, and it was quite difficult to break the attidudes of some people at times. As new members joined the band, the dynamics completely changed. No longer could I just give the drummer or bass player a ‘look’ and they would know exactly what I wanted them to do – things were more basic and had to be explained in a clearer way.

At my current church I have responsibility for worship and I hope I am cultivating an ethos of inclusivity and accountability. This, in my view, is a more healthy approach to leading any team. Those that know me will know that I now kick against any sort of exclusivity!  I believe anyone with a heart for worship should be given opportunity – no matter how hard it is for the worship leader to ‘fit them in’.  Everyone can play a part, no matter how small, and feel valued.

But as much as anything musical, being part of a worship group should be about being encouraging, supporting, and training other members of the team. If we can’t support, encourage and include – our corporate worship, to me, just doesn’t feel right.

Being part of a band is so much more than just the music – being part of a worship team is so much more than just the band.

Points to ponder:

  • Is your worship team exclusive – either in reality or perceived?
  • What are we doing about developing new people into our worship teams?
  • How do we support and encourage members of our worship teams?

reflections on… march

March has been one of the busiest months I can remember in a long while! As well as being busy ‘doing’ stuff it has been a bit of a roller coaster of emotions too. The sadness of dads funeral, the fun and laughter of being with extended family, the concern for friends going through very hard times, the satisfaction of getting work done on my diploma, the excitement of being with my son in his sax exam – all mixed up together. I’m looking forward to some time away this weekend to give my brain some space!!

Family:  It was lovely to be with all my family, despite the sad circumstances, at the start of the month. Catching up with Aunts and Uncles over a (rather ambitious) three course meal planned and cooked by my eldest son (with help from Barbara) was a really fun evening.

We started The Marriage Course this month and discovered we like each other!! Three sessions in and it’s fantastic to see how strong our marriage is. I’m very thankful to God for Barbara and our boys – especially when you look at the difficult times many other families are going through.

My youngest son has been working really hard ready for his grade three saxophone, which he took on the 23rd. I was able to accompany him on the piano for two of his pieces (which was a bit of a shock as usually the teacher does) which turned out to be a great project we could share together. Just the wait for the results now – very proud though, whatever the outcome. No doubt we will be playing together lots more.

Work: My diploma is going well. Interestingly, some of the concepts we have been discussing can be equally applied to other areas of life including church. I’ve caught up with the work after loosing a few weeks last month due to circumstances and my first assignment is done with only a couple of minor alterations to make.

Today we had our annual staff team day for all CCPAS staff and trustees (which is no mean feat as they are spread all over the country). It’s great to be part of a fantastic, enthusiastic team.

Faith: Getting back into the swing of things after a bitty February was good. More encouraging was that everything carried on without me being around all of the time.  It’s always good to see people happily taking a lead when needed.

Highlights of the month:
Having family, who we’ve not seen for ages over for dinner
Accompanying my youngest son in his sax exam
Finishing my first assignment

thoughts on accountability

In my view, accountability is very much under-rated and under-valued.  Too often I see situations (sadly, too frequently in churches) spiral out of control and eventually cause real damage; and at the heart of the issue is a lack of accountability. Some people may see accountability as a threat, others as a hindrance to their vision or leadership.  But I believe if a culture of accountability is developed in any area of life, it can only lead to more positive outcomes – for everyone.

Below are some thoughts – not in any particular order:

Accountability promotes teamwork
In any role (paid or voluntary), being let free to work completely independently without any reference to anyone else is a dangerous place to be. Being accountable to each other in the group gives a united purpose and the feeling of being part of a team where your voice is as equally important as the next persons.

Accountability should not be a threat
If I want to embark on a new project or develop a new system, and feel I can not run the ideas through others who I am accountable too because they may disagree or suggest a different way of doing it, I am acting like a bit of a control freak!  We all have a little bit it in us!  Usually – if there is good relationship – the person(s) I’m accountable to will actively encourage me in any new area if it fits with the overall direction of the organisation.  They may suggest alternative ways of doing it, but I’ve learnt (and am still learning!) to hold onto things lightly – other people can probably do the job as good if not better than me anyway!!

Accountability should not hinder leadership
Every organisation needs good, solid, visionary leaders. But leaders need to be accountable too. Whether it’s to other leaders, their immediate team or some other group, a good leader will always seek council from those that they respect.

Accountability gives security
Working together as a team and being accountable to each other brings a confidence and security in what you are doing. (Security is very different from being comfortable – a team can feel secure in the path they are leading and still be pushing ahead with new ideas.)

Accountability moves up and down, and side to side
Accountability is not a one way flow. We should be accountable to our boss, our peers and those that work for us. This does not take away from the fact that as a leader/manager, I am responsible for setting a vision and purpose; but including and being accountable to other people gives a vision credibility within the group and – very importantly – gives the group a sense of ownership.

These, as I said at the start, are my views. I would be interested in what you think!

Points to ponder:

  • Who are the people I am accountable to?
  • What other benefits of accountability are there?
  • Should I be more accountable to those around me?

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

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.

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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