Sunday, April 06, 2014

Thought for the Day - personal invitations & setting people free to grow

Who knew Thought for the Day was now broadcast on Radio Ulster on Sunday mornings too? Who knew that they'd be quite so difficult to write for a Sunday morning audience! So many ideas that – in my mind at least – might work for a weekday breakfast eaters or commuters failed to match the slower pace of the weekend (which still has some breakfast eating and travelling, but less so).

Today and for the next three Sundays you'll get to hear my pre-recorded voice just before the 8am news in the middle of Kim Lenaghan's programme.

These words, recorded on Thursday, turned out to be so very appropriate as I watched Sepideh - Reaching for the Stars yesterday afternoon in the QFT and listened to Jermain Jackman's inspiring victory speech on The Voice. Both Sepideh and Jermain are people who have received encouragement to pursue their dreams.

Apologies if I rudely awoke you this morning, but ... Pay attention! Set people free to do new stuff; don't pigeonhole them!

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I spend far too many weekends attending local political party conferences and reporting about them online. Time and after time at recent conferences, speakers recounted who, when and where they were approached to get involved.

Relatively few people seem to wake up in the morning and decide to become a politician. Existing party activists recognise the gifts and passion in people they meet and invite them to join their party, and lure them into running for political office.

Most explain that they’d previously had no notion of becoming involved. But when they were singled out by someone they respected, they reconsidered and acceded to the request.

There is power in recognising and encouraging someone’s talents.

In contrast, all too often I hear of people who were told in school that they’ll never be good at a subject. One friend was told by a teacher that he’d be a waste of space and would never do anything with his life. Yet now he’s a visiting professor and runs a successful creative company that sells programmes around the world.

He wasn’t constrained by his teacher’s predictions. But some people are.

Maybe you were told that you’d never sing in tune, that languages would never be your thing. A negative intervention can put a student off a subject or dissuade them from learning a skill for life. They can be deterred from even attempting to appreciate music and hindered from throwing themselves into learning a language and appreciating another culture.

Anyone who lives or works with other people – students, colleagues, customers, families – has a choice: either pigeonhole people, or else release their potential.

God called Moses to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt. Moses wasn’t confident of his ability to serve God like that. But God encouraged him, coached him, and surrounded him with other gifted people. He had tough times, and it took longer than anyone expected. But in the end, he did it with God’s help.

Jesus called his disciples to join him. They hadn’t been to discipleship school. Some could fish. One collected taxes for the Empire. Another was an anti-Roman rebel. But Jesus invited them to step out on a new adventure and walk with him.

What would happen if we set the people around us free to explore new skills and activities? Give them a chance to try out new roles even if they need a bit of persuasion. And failure can be an opportunity for growth.

Oh, and if Jesus calls you to follow him, why not take him up on the offer and see where he takes you.

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