Turkey in radical revision of Islamic texts

A BBC report gives details of a revision of the Hadith under way in Turkey.

Pehaps this paragraph summarises the significance.

According to Fadi Hakura, an expert on Turkey from Chatham House in London, Turkey is doing nothing less than recreating Islam – changing it from a religion whose rules must be obeyed, to one designed to serve the needs of people in a modern secular democracy. He says that to achieve it, the state is fashioning a new Islam. “This is kind of akin to the Christian Reformation,” he says.

The Consultant’s Calling – Book Review

This is a fascinating little book that looks at working as a consultant in an almost spiritual kind of way. I'm not going to summarise the book, but draw out the things that mean something to me. So this is a taster, and you have to buy the book!

I like his subtitle: Bringing Who You are to What You Do. This develops into the central question of the book which is not about making lots of money, but

How do you thrive as a consultant,
contribute to the world,
make friends, and
become the person you want to be?

He writes of how many people believe that a consultant brings expertise, and this may be where the conversations with a client start, however it is rare for a consultant to have expertise that does not exist elsewhere in the organisation – but it is perhaps trapped there because of the way things are seen. So what he says is more significant is the presence and perspective that the consultant brings. For example: “I don't know exactly what he does, but I do know that we have better meetings and make better decisions when he is around.” Your presence is your best intervention.

Your clients are not more powerful than you. An ongoing partnership is a equilibrium: between the abilities that the consultant brings, and the opportunities the client offers. You don't need to accept every client, and you can set the amount of time that you spend working to achieve your life goals. Indeed doing the work of a consultant should contribute to the personal growth that you want for yourself. It should fit, enjoyably, not just be a role that is played. This means that we need to know who we are, and how we are unique. So you need to decide what consultancy work you want, consider what you are ready to do, and work out what you still need to learn. Match uniqueness and readiness. Training needs to be not just in areas of weakness but also of strength – because our strengths can become vulnerabilities if we become sloppy.

There is not a clear market there to govern how to set fees. So it is alright to set your daily fee because “that is what you want.” However the minimum that you consider charging must be greater than subsistence level for the number of days you intend to work.

If the client does not have sufficient budget for all the work that needs doing, it may be better to give some time free than to lower the daily rate.

Continue to hone the way you work through noticing what kinds of work and clients go well. Bear in mind that the pattern of work will change over time, because you want it to, for example between consulting, coaching, training, speaking, and writing.

If purpose and perspective are some of the key reasons that clients hire consultants, they retain them for other reasons including authenticity, friendship, and fun. As the partnership grows, seeing it as a partnership, shared values, valuing work and results as more important than roles and activity, and somehow a good “fit” are important. Unclear contracting is to be avoided as it is a major cause of failure. (I presume that producing results continues to be important.) It is, he writes, good to note the small and large contributions that the client values.

Organisations don't always make sense – I take this to mean that they need to be accepted and understood as one would a person.

Consultants thrive on change, but it hurts! He lists different ways of achieving change. We have our preferences. In the end, “simple works.”
Abilities: knowledge, skills, habits, feelings.
Concepts: models, frameworks, ideas.
Processes: systems and procedures.
Direction: goals, mission, purpose, objectives
Boundaries: standards, tolerance, parameters.
Intentions: Aspirations, motives, needs.
Consequences: rewards, punishment, reinforcement, extinguishers.
Perspective: vision, viewpoint, position.
Context: Environment, culture, norms.
Enlightenment: Wisdom, value, belief, myth.

It takes longer than we would like to build a business, but “business begets business.” The people most likely to give us work are those who have given us work before. So when we are starting out, this means former colleagues. People need to have experienced us, ideally in several ways and ideally in person. So every encounter is an opportunity to do work (for money or for none), and he advocates speaking at conferences etc. Because business comes in this way, courage is needed to wait, sometimes for months.

He says that it is not enough to “network,” people must be able to taste who we are and what we offer, and preferably from two separate sources. We need to “create coincidence.” Although more distant, writing short papers, or an article a year, will feed this process.

By the same author: Getting Things Done When You Are Not In Charge. ISBN 1 57675 172 4.

Fluent – John O’Donohue

I would love to live
Like a river flows
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding

I find this poem, called Fluent, really moving. It entices me to live in an unknowing of what will happen.

It finishes off a kind of obituary to him in the March issue of Third Way magazine, as they quote an extract from a talk that he gave at Greenbelt, from whose web site you can probably download his talk.

Described as an Irish writer and mystic, he talks of how the root of all our fears is death, and the antidote is love.

Two other quotes touched me. In the first he talks of the importance of remaining best friends with ourselves. The second is this:

Meister Eckhard [a medieval German mystic] said: 'There is a place in the soul that neither time nor flesh nor any created thing can touch'. A place inside you that no one has never got to, or hurt or damaged – a place where there is peace, serenity, courage and healing. At your deepest core you don't actually belong to yourself. But you belong to a beauty, an intimacy and a shelter that offers you every freedom that you could ever imagine.

More on this blog from John O'Donohue.

Apologies that the original version of this article incorrectly referred to John O'Donoghue.

Learning to Coexist

The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Right Reverend Rowan Williams, has kicked up a bit of a storm with his very public suggestion that Sharia law should be made more legitimate in the UK, in civil matters. This is a difficult position for the head of the world-wide Anglican Church to take when much of British law has been intentionally built on Christian principles, and many Christians are being harshly treated because of (as they understand it) Sharia law.There is a fascinating article by Prof. Mona Siddiqui, in the March edition of Third Way magazine, criticising the way in which the Qur'an has been used to propagate oppression.

It is interesting that so many comments have been extreme, and that Muslims in Britain are not united in their support of his ideas – some saying for example “Which Sharia?” Likewise much newspaper coverage has been biased, and I have been impressed with the very balanced one-pager on Sharia Law in the latest edition of The Week.

I perceive that, for example, many of the difficulties that Muslim women face in Britain (for example to do with forced marriages and “honour crimes”) stem from attempts to implement Sharia Law – or at least Islamic culture – so I find it difficult to see how extending an Islamic legal system will improve matters. Would women's testimony be given the same weight as that of men? Would women be the judges?

Commenting on the response of politicians, one journalist commented that when politicians are “running scared” of debate it is a sure sign that a debate is needed. Since I too believe in the need for issues to be discussed openly, I have hope that the Archbishop's courage will bear good fruit. We'll have to wait to see what kind of fruit they are.

“Active in Accts” 2008

This last weekend I attended my second annual conference of Accts MMI. The chain of events that has led me, with little military background, to be trustee of this organisation devoted to the mutual support and growth of Christians in the armed forces worldwide still seems to me very curious

This unassuming conference held in rural Wiltshire is the only event I know where in a little over one day one can hear something of what God is doing, and how Christians are faring, pretty much world-wide. This achievement flows from the ability of military people to be concise and to the point, and from high quality speakers who are able both to give a clear report and present moving testimonies – for example generals and former ambassadors.

Testimonies range from stories of soldiers greatly respected because their Christian faith brings with it an independent integrity, to those who have been killed because of their faith. The context ranges from countries where religion is seen as unimportant, to those where Christians are oppressed, to those where societies are rapidly becoming Christian as a result of years of prayer and effective strategic planning. This is humbling.

In countries where much power lies in the hands of the armed forces, a movement which seeks to encourage the fear of God and not just the fear of man has much to commend it.

Links to Accts MMI partner organisations:
Accts (USA)
MSO (Mission Support Organisation, South Korea)

To find out more of my history with Accts MMI, search for “Accts” in this blog.

Lent starts, and carries on until Easter

After pancakes enjoyed last night (with Grand Marnier and ice cream), today Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent. It is a particularly poignant anniversary for our family.

Many people think that Lent is a time for giving up things, and traditionally it is a time of fasting as a way to draw closer to God. In society at large it seems to me that if people think about wrong-doing they usually think of things that they should stop doing. So it makes sense in Lent to give up the things we think are wrong!

On the other hand, wrong-doing is just as much about things that we have failed to do. To quote an inscription at the Holocaust Museum in Israel: For evil to triumph all that is needed is for good men to do nothing. So how about doing something for Lent as well as giving something up?

My extra bit of doing has come about almost accidentally as I ordered a copy of a book about the Prayer of Jabez, with Bible Study, by Bruce Wilkinson and David Kopp (ISBN 1-57673-979-1), to avoid paying for postage on an Amazon order. I shall read it over the next few weeks. It's all about God's blessing based on a little known man called Jabez who crops up just once in the Bible in 1 Chronicles chapter 4 verses 9 to 10.