Barlows In Birmingham

For the past several months, I have been immersed in the discovery of how basic coaching skills can be applied to my work with Encompass World Partners. Of course, we are not referring to a basketball or tennis coach, but the more primary definition of someone who comes alongside another to bring out the best in him or her. Coaching at its heart is about listening to the coachee, exploring other perspectives, and helping the coachee to follow through on action steps that he or she owns (very little direct input from the coach).

Through Skype and GoToMeeting, I have connected with a group of ten coaches across the globe. Each of them connect with at least one other colleague on a regular basis, to help each coachee implement the ministry action plan.

At the end of July, we gathered together in Atlanta to compare notes, get better acquainted, and refine our skills through input from Keith Webb, a renowned coach trainer. Others came along to explore their potential as future coaches.

In the weeks to come, I will seek to imbed the idea of coaching deeper still in the fabric of who we are as an organistaion and how we function. These are exciting days, as I continue to learn more about coaching and help others to do likewise, all with the goal of our collective effectiveness and fruitfulness in what we do. Good stuff! - some love it, some hate it, few are left indifferent by it as it occupies a growing place in our daily lives.

For me, applications that allow group conferencing, face-to-face conversations across great distances, and free worldwide text messaging have radically changed - and I would say, improved - my ability to work with colleagues and acquaintances in much better ways. It is not unusual on a given day for me to speak with three colleagues in three completely different locations, some on the other side of the planet.

Sure, the technology is not always seemless - and that can lead to frustration. But the opportunity to see and speak with people spread across the globe at a moment's notice certainly is useful as we minister with a team spread thinly in many different places. It essentially allows me to rove around, without boarding a plane, train or automobile.

I will be the first to admit it is not perfect. In fact, I sometimes want to throw the laptop or table device out the window. But, at least at this juncture, the benefits far outweigh the inconveniences.

My most recent adventure was on the Isle of Iona. For years, I have wanted to visit this island - which has played such a key role in the spread of faith on the islands of Ireland and Great Britain, and well beyond. Iona has been inhabited for millenia, but in more recent history, the Irish monk St Columba settled the island around the 6th century A.D. From there, the Picts were reached with the message of the Gospel.

Using the word "adventure" is quite accurate, because the journey there is a bit tricky and weather-dependent. I had to take two trains, two ferries, and a 35-mile coach ride across the Isle of Mull which took more than 90 minutes. I had no certainty of reaching Iona as scheduled. The return journey had to be advanced by 24 hours, because a storm was brewing off the coast of Scotland - and everyone was fairly sure the Iona ferry would not be running. They were right!

I spent the week on Iona with two goals in mind. The first was to understand more about this misunderstood and under-appreciated period of Christian history. I discovered much and grew in my appreciation, but there was so much I didn't have time to see and visit. The other goal was to finish the first draft of a big writing project - part of which touches on the role of "foreigners" who come to a new area and bring significant transformation. That was certainly the case for St Columba and his band of Irish monks.

I don't know if I will ever get to the island again. The journey is unpredictable and somewhat daunting. But my hope is that some of the spirit of that island and its history will go with me wherever I am. Their desire to live the reality of life deeply transformed by God may seem to be "foreign," but it is something that many are searching for without even knowing it.

marriage-2Just a few days ago, MaryAnn and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Beyond the routine expressions of amazement (Wow, that's great!), wonder (How did you do it?), congratulations (Way to go, guys!), and a few other typical phrases we heard from friends and loved ones, we feel very fortunate to have made it to this benchmark. Especially since so many things have changed in the past three decades - not least of which are the very notions of family, marriage, whether it is right to stick it out, etc.

This became all the more clear as we recently attended Sam and Rachel's wedding. What a day - filled with joy, anticipation, a bit of nervousness, loads of friends and family, and many emotions. They are just beginning, having made a strong commitment to one another and to their family.

Still, there are no guarantees. One of my good friends - who was married the same year as we were - posted some wedding photos just yesterday. It was great to see the photos, even if a bit embarassing at how we looked back then. But knowing that their couple was no longer together was a sober reminder that some marriages don't last. We reflect on that as we are at the stage of seeing our own children date and get married.

What is the key? There probably isn't just one thing - and as already said, nothing is guaranteed. But we know we would never have made it to this point without a few things: God's help, a strong commitment at the beginning, a decision to never talk about divorce, and an effort to never go to bed angry. That's what has helped us . . .


Tom's Blog

2011 land_rover_evoque-review