Book Review: The Australian Leadership Paradox

Paradox is the right word to use when discussing the relationships to leaders and views of leadership in Australia.  This “lucky country” has an interesting history that has fed into these paradoxes of leadership and authority.  I’m thankful for this book to help navigate some of the unspoken rules and general assumptions that a typical Australian wouldn’t question or think twice about.  But this book isn’t just for outsiders seeking to understand the system.  This book is a great read for Australians who want to unpack what may be obvious in regards to Australian leadership but also what sits, often hidden, beneath the surface.
Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 8.04.45 PM.pngThe Australian Leadership Paradox: What it Takes to Lead in the Lucky Country by Geoff Aigner and Liz Skelton walks the line between critique and advice very well.  More than just stating the paradoxes themselves, they begin to tease out the why behind them.  And they also give examples of how Australian leadership can and should change for the better.  These examples are in the form of short stories which give context and I believe make them easily relatable as well.  Anyone who has ever struggled in a position of leadership in Australia could potentially find their story here.  And in finding their story, hopefully see how they could be empowered to change their leadership style for the better without losing some of the great things about being Australian.

This book is primarily talking to Australians about Australians and for that it speaks very well.  For me personally I will have to do my best to apply this knowledge appropriately because so far my interactions in Perth have been with very few Australians.  In the past month, I have met more immigrants or children of immigrants than anyone else.   This is maybe my own personal paradox, coming to Australia, seeking to know and understand Australians.  But instead of being surrounded by primarily born and raised, multi-generational Australians, I’m surrounded by an amazingly multinational, multiethnic community.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but my own definitions of what it means to be Australian are definitely being expanded.

Between Oceans- January in Perth

The week before we left the US, I read a book called The Light Between Oceans.  In the book there is a lighthouse keeper living on the fictitious island of Janus, located near the south west tip of western Australia.  At some point the lighthouse keeper describes why the island is called Janus, and I can’t find the exact quote, but he simply explains that Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, passages and endings.  Janus is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks simultaneously to the future and to the past.  And this island sitting between two oceans, is aptly named Janus.  If you’re looking for a beautifully written book, this is a worthwhile read.  Be ready to feel all your emotions and keep a tissue box nearby.

Since this book is set in Western Australia, I have thought of it a few times as we’ve begun to settle in here.  And I remembered the quote about Janus as we rung in the new year.  Janus is where our word January comes from.  January 2017 is a time when we can look back and reflect on 2016, but also look forward to the new year, a new unknown future.  It’s fitting that Ryan and I would arrive in Perth just in time to begin the new year, settling in during this in-between time of looking back as well as looking forward.Screen Shot 2017-01-02 at 3.36.58 PM.pngSince I’m in reflection mode, I couldn’t resist looking at my top liked Instagram posts of 2016.  If you don’t already, you can follow me @joycandee.  I do my best to post different things to Instagram, this blog and Facebook so you can hear/see a different angle of the story from each social media outlet.  Anyway, it’s not surprising that my top liked pictures all point to Australia in some way.  The top three and the middle were taken the last week of 2016 as we made our way to Australia.  My birthday is represented, turning 32 and wearing my “totally koalafied” shirt.  And of course, travels to Europe and our road trip/travels through the US this past year.  2016 was a good, hard, wonderful and challenging year.

Today, January 3rd 2017, I am in the doorway.  Like Janus, looking back and looking forward.  I am in the passage between the preparation, what it took to get us here and anticipation, looking ahead to what is to come.  Welcome to 2017!

The Return of the Prodigal Son

I love that I can read passages in the Bible that I know well and still learn something new or have something revealed in the text that has never occurred to me before.  I appreciate listening to a sermon and hearing a Biblical perspective that reorients how I look at a story that I would otherwise gloss over because I am “too” familiar with the words.  The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen gave me a fresh, introspective view into the story found in Luke 15:11-32.  the-return-of-the-prodigal-sonThis heavy, thoughtful, beautifully written book contains Nouwen’s reflections on the three main people portrayed in Rembrant’s famous painting titled The Return of the Prodigal Son.  Nouwen takes a nuanced look at the Prodigal Son, the Elder Son and finally the Father.  He teases out the differences between the Biblical account and the painting and he goes under the surface into how he sees himself in each of the main subjects.  Needless to say, his conclusions run deeper than the typical Sunday school lesson.

I find it easy to see how I have been like the Prodigal Son and the Elder son at various stages of my life.  I don’t have to search hard to find my own arrogance, selfishness and brokenness.  But I have never thought of myself as being able to identify with the Father.   In light of us moving to Perth and my desire to daily live out Romans 12:12, I sincerely appreciate Nouwen’s thoughtful look into the Father.  He reminds us that in Luke 6:36 we are told to, “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.”  And Nouwen gently works through some of the ways that he himself has learned to identify with the Father.  He writes, “Grief, forgiveness, and generosity are, then, the three ways by which the image of the Father can grow in me.”  As I read through how these characteristics can be shown in our lives, I saw what I wanted to have displayed in my life and my ministry.  And Lord willing, as I continue to grow in my faith, these aspects of the Father will show themselves more and more in my life.

This is a book that will find it’s place on my shelf to be read and reread as I continue to live out this internal wrestle between the Prodigal Son, the Elder Son and the Father who all reside in me.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12

Prayer

“The character of prayer is determined by the character of the God we are reaching toward.  The God to whom Christians pray is a triune God.  We can pray because God is our loving Father, because Christ is our mediator giving us access to the throne of the universe, and because the Spirit himself indwells us.” -Timothy Kellerscreen-shot-2016-10-11-at-1-34-04-pmPrayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller takes the reader through what prayer is, historical works on Christian prayer and practical insights on how to pray as well as how scripture should inform and shape prayer.

One of my favorite parts of this book is being able to see the depth of research that went into the content.  The reader can easily see that Keller himself has read extensively on prayer and he takes into account those who have previously written on the subject.  While not limited to these authors, Keller draws heavily from classic works written by Augustine, Luther and Calvin.

And this leads me to another theme that I really appreciated hearing multiple times throughout the book.  Keller writes, “None of our three master teachers of prayer, Augustine, Luther and Calvin, developed their instruction primarily based on their own experiences.  In each case, what they believed and practiced regarding prayer grew mainly out of their understanding of the ultimate master class in prayer- the Lord’s Prayer.”  Over and over again Keller reminds the reader that scripture should inform and shape our prayers.  This reminder that prayer can and should be an out pouring of what is filling us.  And scripture, meditating on God’s word, fills us up first, allowing our prayers to flow freely and truly.

While not the only valuable work on prayer, I found Keller’s book insightful and worth the read.  I’ve been encouraged to dig deeper into scripture and pray.  Prayer is simple, complex and worth every breath.

Today we are asking you to PRAY for our visas.  I spent 5 hours applying yesterday and now we wait and pray.  Thank you for waiting with us.  Thank you for praying with us.

Prayer and Gratitude

“From beginning to end, fundraising as ministry is grounded in prayer and undertaken in gratitude.” -Henri J. M. Nouwenscreen-shot-2016-10-03-at-10-07-10-amIf you are in any type of ministry that requires you to raise financial support and/or you’re in a position (pastor, elder, member of a missions board, etc) to encourage and support those who do, A Spirituality of Fundraising is an easy read that gives a biblical, uplifting message about the struggles, realities and motivations surrounding support raising.  Packed into this thin book is wisdom that can help reorient the reader’s thoughts and also help the reader to see beyond the support raising task as a means to an end.  Nouwen gives reasons to see support raising itself as a ministry, a time for relationship building and even encourages the reader to examine their own thoughts on and patterns in giving.

I’ve read this book a few times but the chapter that I focused on this time was the second to the last, Prayer and Gratitude.  I’m abundantly thankful that prayer is a part of my life and that I get to approach every email, every conversation, every blog entry with prayer.  Are my prayer habits perfect?  By no means.  But every day I get to try again, learn more and seek to know God just a little more deeply.  Nouwen writes, “In prayer we seek God’s voice and allow God’s word to penetrate our fear and resistance so that we can begin to hear what God wants us to know.”  Fear and resistance are often present in the support raising process.  But we don’t have to stay there.  Nouwen again, “As our prayer depends into a constant awareness of God’s goodness, the spirit of gratitude grows within us.”  This is my desire, that our support raising and our ministry would be characterized by prayer and gratitude.

PRAY with us today!  Please pray about becoming a monthly supporter.  Pray that God would give you a heart for His global church.  Pray that God would give you the financial means to give.  We are praying with you.

 

 

Book Reviews- Our Pre-Training Reading List

A few months ago we were given a reading list and now we’re using the books we’ve read in order to inform and dig a little bit deeper during our classroom sessions.  I appreciate that our reading list was thoughtful and applies directly to our training.   Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 2.37.00 PMLife Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

On Tuesday this week we enjoyed a morning spiritual retreat.  We dug deeper into scripture as a community, then enjoyed some solitary time of reflection and came back together again to worship and celebrate communion.

We discussed, as well as practiced some of the well thought out points in Life Together.  Bonhoeffer is a Christian who we can definitely learn from.  Although some of the book is a little legalistic and outdated, there is a lot to absorb that can benefit any Christian working towards living in community with other believers.Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 2.36.32 PMGet Real: Sharing Your Faith Everyday by John Leonard

Today we get to hear directly from John Leonard.  I’m thankful that evangelism isn’t just a theory but instead it’s a lifestyle.  It’s not about just truth or just grace, it’s about both together in love.  This is not motivated by guilt but instead by our desire to love our neighbor.

This book might just change the way you view evangelism.  Depending on your situation you may see evangelism as a bad word or the ultimate goal of Christianity.  You may equate real evangelism with street preaching or alienating relatives during family gatherings.  But if you are a Christian, no matter your opinion or view, evangelism is commanded and we should be excited to share the truth.  This book gives you practical, helpful tools in order to make evangelism a normal, regular, part of your life.  Just talk to people, listen to people, love people.Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 2.37.21 PMTotal Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community by Tim Chester

This book we haven’t talked about directly yet but it was by far my favorite to read.  I’m looking forward to the discussions about this book during our church planting time in the next couple of weeks.

Radical definitely belongs on this book cover.  As I read through this book, it kept pushing against my current church paradigm.  I had to remind myself to keep an open mind and rethink the things that I thought I knew and the way I believed church should look and happen.  I think a lot of what this book talks about is very applicable to the church today all over the world.  If we did even part of what this book is suggesting, it would transform the church and Christian community in a beautiful Biblical way.