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An Heroic Ministry
Verse of the day
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I am a huge fan of old-school detective programmes. You know the ones - Murder She Wrote, Quincy, Diagnosis Murder, New Tricks, Rosemary and Thyme and my new favourite, Monk. They're intriguing, not scary and no matter how horrific recent events have been, there's always a reason to end up smiling. My husband often despairs as I set yet another one of these programmes to record on Sky+ but he too is often sucked in. The attraction is obviously not the electrifying drama, thrills and special effects. My favourites have none of these. Instead they rely on loveable characters and excellent dynamics between these often quirky, crime solvers extraordinaire.
Ultimately, the success of these programmes in real life and of the characters in the show is dependent on relationships - relationships that bring out the best in one another, relationships that makes us laugh, relationships that inspire, relationships that work. This is what draws me in on a week-day afternoon and it's relationships like these that shape my life outside of TV time!
The viewer-pulling power of these relationships is not surprising when you take into account that we were created to be in relationship; relationship with God and relationship with one another. Good relationships are beautiful but not always easy to find. We thrive when there are others around us who help us to be who we are and do what we're for. I'd suggest that even the greatest line management isn't enough. In order to develop and nurture our God-given potential we need a network of intentional relationships - the support of a mentor, or even better, mentors! Good mentor/mentoree relationships provide support, accountability and plenty of opportunities for tea and cake. I have particularly benefited from three types of mentoring relationships; relationships that I've seen echoed among my crime-solving heroes.
My Mum used to watch Quincy with me when I was just a weeny baby. I think that distant memories of this have somehow stuck with me and now I enjoy watching it with my little boy! I am impressed with the relationship between Quincy and Sam. In this relationship we see a lot of the qualities of a coaching mentor. Quincy works with Sam on developing his skills and gifts as a forensic pathologist. As someone who holds a great deal of knowledge and experience in Sam's chosen field, Quincy questions, challenges and encourages Sam to achieve all that he can.
A professional or coaching mentor is primarily concerned with what the mentoree does. The two primary skills I wish to develop in myself are communication and leadership. As such, I have sought out women who are experienced, skilled and well respected in those areas. My coaching mentor has helped me to develop professionally and worked with me on work-based issues, helping me to get better at what I do. Being good at stuff is not the only requirement in a coach. According to Stanley and Clinton "A key to good coaching is observation (when possible), feedback and evaluation. An experienced coach does not try to control the player (or mentoree), but rather seeks to inspire and equip..."(1) When you find someone who has these skills, is able to step back, encourage and inspire then they are worth booking in some time with. Regular catch-ups can provide much needed motivation, support and development.
In the world of sport, the need for a quality coach is well recognised. We shouldn't be afraid to take our own gifts as seriously as top athletes and seek out support in order to realise more of our potential and become more effective.
I felt that I reached the peak of my parenting skills when I managed to time my son's nap each day for 1.45pm - Diagnosis Murder time! I am firmly of the opinion that Dick Van Dyke is a legend! I am most pleased when there is an episode in which he dances, sings, roller skates or even better, plays more than one character! Mark Sloan (Van Dyke) is a crime solving doctor. He goes on his adventures with his detective son Steve (who is actually his real life son Barry - genius) and fellow, but much younger, doctors Amanda and Jack or Jesse. Mark Sloan acts as a senior mentor to these younger characters. Although he is in the same profession, actually he is not so much concerned with what they do but rather who they are. Mark is sought out for his life experience. He listens well, and advises with restraint. He is wise and caring.
Within Christian circles this kind of figure is often describes as a discipler. When discussion of ‘mentors' was limited, people already recognised the wisdom in having a person in this kind of role; someone who is concerned with character, spiritual health and life-journey. If someone is being ‘discipled', they are being taught the ways of following Jesus. This has often been limited to prayer, Bible study and other aspects of a spiritual life. I believe that although these are vital pursuits, a person's kingdom journey is wider than these traditional activities. I have come to understand the need for a ‘Senior Mentor' - a person who I respect for who they are who can help me develop into the person God has created me to be. They are interested in my walk with Jesus and also my effectiveness in the world.
A senior mentor may be someone who works in a different sphere, who in many ways is very different from you, but who you respect and who inspires you. They don't have to be perfect - if you've found someone who you think is, be assured that they're not - just dedicated to following Jesus well. It's also helpful if this is someone who you connect with and can talk easily too. Try to make some time with someone who can walk alongside you, and point out the signposts on your walk with Jesus.
I enjoy Rosemary and Thyme so much that I can even watch repeats. There's no mystery involved when you've already seen it but the warmth and fun in their relationship doesn't get old for me. Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme are partners in gardening and crime. They are also firm friends. Rosemary is a well-trained horticulturist and Laura is a hard-working ex-police officer. They have much in common but are also quite different. They are under the same curse as Jessica Fletcher and Miss Marple - wherever they go, murder follows. They are usually on a gardening job, with Rosemary providing the expertise and Laura bringing hard work and passion. Then, something sinister happens. Once they are in crime-solving mode Laura has the expertise and Rosemary the curiosity and commitment. In-between times they support each other through arguments with grown-up children, bad treatment at the hands of an ex-husband and new love. They talk, laugh and cry together. They are concerned with one another and their friendship makes them stronger and more effective.
Peers are perhaps "the most available source of relational empowerment, but the least developed."(2) Most of us have good friends and many of us spend a lot of time doing all of the things that Rosemary and Thyme do together (with the exception of solving murder I guess!). There is probably little doubt in your mind that these relationships are good for you but I wonder if there is more that could be got out of them. A little intentionality brought to some of these friendships could bring something quite dynamic to a previously ‘ordinary' friendship.
Maybe you have a good friend you could intentionally seek to be accountable to in terms of the exercise of spiritual disciplines? Maybe a friend who could intentionally challenge you in your attitudes to time, money or relationships? Maybe there is someone already close to you who could intentionally support you in your professional development and on-going learning? My best friend undoubtedly makes me a better person. We have a mutual love of food, so every time we get together I unfortunately get a little rounder. As the waist line expands I take solace in the fact that I also get a little sharper.
All that, but messier!
Many books have been written to explain different mentoring roles and the difference between coaches and mentors and other such terms. For me, the above relationships are the key roles that I seek to have fulfilled in my life but the reality is much messier. My ‘coaching mentor' is very much concerned with who I am. My ‘discipler' helps me with what I do. At times, those people have been one and the same. My mentors don't have labels, but names. Those names also include Jim Wallis, Elaine Storkey, Shane Claibourne, Tony Campolo, Catherine Booth and Mother Theresa. The role of the passive mentor is explained further in ‘Connecting' (see below) and for me these men and women, dead and alive, some of whom I've never even seen in the flesh, are vital in my development.
The point I seek to make in all of this is simple, that God created us to be in relationship but we need to chuck in a bit of intentionality to make them all that they can be. I don't think you can really draw lines around what role people play in your life but in order for those around you to sharpen you, you need to pop a bit of effort in. Iron doesn't sharpen iron if it's just hanging out in the same room together. There isn't even any sharpening going on if those bits of iron share an ice cream or go shopping. The sharpening takes effort. You have to make it happen. Time, humility, honesty and commitment can turn ordinary relationships into super-effective, life changing, world-shaping sharpening ones!
Connecting: The mentoring relationships you need to succeed in life by J. Robert Clinton and Paul D. Stanley, Navpress Publishing Group
Discipling, Coaching, Mentoring by Bryn Hughes, Kingsway Publications
Mentoring: The promise of relational leadership by Walter C Wright, Paternoster Publishing
Jo Taylor is employed by Tearfund as London Youth Co-ordinator and is also on the leadership team of Anya UK, a network that seeks to encourage and resource intentional investment in young women.
1 Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life by J. Robert Clinton and Paul D. Stanley, Navpress Publishing Group, p76
2 Clinton and Stanley, Connecting, p169
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