All posts by scrmitchell

Book review: Undercover by Chris Rogers

I have to admit being a “bookaholic”, I’ve normally got a number of books at any one time on the go, different types of book of different moods or even times of the day. My favourite genres are history, science fiction and psychology/business, working in book-selling where you are exposed to so many new titles,  can sometimes put you off reading a book that you know could be important.

The book “Undercover” by Chris Rogers is one of those books that I wouldn’t normally choose to pick up, I’m not politically minded, and dislike immensely the cult of celebrity, but whilst in a hotel this week, and knowing how passionate my publishing colleagues are about this title, I read an advance copy .

This is not a book that can be taken lightly or read easily. Whilst the headlines will focus the involvement of the Duchess of York & Princesses Beatrice & Eugenie, the real story is deeply disturbing. Chris Rogers is a journalist who goes undercover to expose the dreadful treatment of children held in institutions in Romania & Turkey, and of the sex trafficking from Eastern Europe.

You can’t read the book and fail to be sickened at the treatment of such vulnerable human beings, or fail to be shocked at the systemic cover up of these abuses. That it continues in the 21st century, should rock us to the core, but it doesn’t and taking the time to read a book like this helps us to see this.

The book does give hope that exposing this evil, starts the process of change. Let’s hope and pray that the publication of this book continues that process. There is huge credit to the author, his cameraman, and everyone else involved in producing this book, there was real danger involved in the researching and telling of this story.

This book is published by Authentic, a Christian publisher, well done guys for producing a book which addresses a really difficult but important subject. The Christian faith is a message of hope, and the values which it stands for are evident in this book,  I hope the book trade, both general and Christian, give good support to this title.

Here’s a video clip of the author talking about his experiences at a recent book festival.

Ooops…I forgot, I get to choose.

Most of the time, we get carried away by daily life, it’s busyness, the realities of living in current times, and I guess if we’re honest it’s the same for most of us. There are events in life that we just can’t control, that we have to just live through. A close friend has just lost his father unexpectedly, he didn’t want that to happen, in fact it was the last thing he wanted to happen.

The challenge is to choose how to react when living through challenging times.

As humans we do have a God given gift to make choices about ourselves.

Author Stephen Covey says it this way…

“Between stimulus and response is our greatest power – the freedom to choose”

I’m going through a fair amount of change and challenge in my own life at present. I feel myself being swept along, and in some ways, I’m letting it define me. It’s time to remember to choose my response.

So I today and each day I choose to…

…believe that God’s plan for my life is better than the one that I can create for myself.
…be more intentional with my time, energy & resources, to not let life and time fritter away.
…believe the best about the people around me.

right it’s time to get moving.

Book Review: Son of Hamas – Mosab Hassan

This is an unusual Christian book, it’s the story of a guy whose father was one of the founders of Hamas, the Muslim Palestinian movement, it traces his life and spiritual journey. It is written from a different perspective than most Christian books, and is a compelling read. Hassan writes well, and shares his memories of growing up, getting involved and finally escaping from the Israeli/Palestinian struggle.

It is a brave and personal book about his experiences that take him through living in an occupied country, being beaten & imprisoned, through to disillusionment with his brothers in arms, to his journey away from the people and faith that he had believed in since childhood.

Through a chance encounter, Mosab encounters the Christian faith, and begins to see in the person of Jesus, someone giving the message of peace & love that he believes is the answer to the Middle East crisis, which is spiralling out of control around him.

He holds a huge love and admiration for his father and family, and couldn’t reconcile the violence of Hamas with message of Christ. So whilst in prison he is recruited to work with Shin Bet, the Israeli Security Agency, he leads a double life for years, trying to stop the worst excesses of the fighting. Through this time his belief in the Christian faith deepens and becomes more real to him, eventually he has to leave his homeland.

So he is now telling his story publicly for the first time, he bravely talks openly about his role, the people he knew, and all the evil they did. This is could be dangerous for him and his family. This is an important new biography which should be read by widely as a reminder that we live in a very comfortable society compared to some others, it is politically bang up to date.

Well done to Tyndale in the US , and Authentic in the UK for publishing a book like this.

Envy of the simpler life.

There’s a guy that lives opposite me. I see him in from my bedroom window in the morning  when he lets his dogs outside. I see him from my office window as he works. He’s a joiner, a carpenter, and a good one, he’s fixed a lot of things in our home that I wasn’t able to, and he’s built stuff for us, from scratch, that I just wouldn’t know where to start.

He really only works locally, he’s well known, liked and respected. He grew up around here, he has his routines in place, and family and friends around him.

It seems to me that he has got the simpler life down to a tee. I find myself envying that.

I sometimes feel that with my life of corporate business development, sales, people connections, travel with multiple roles and varied projects that I can never really fully deliver, and that my brain is buzzing and my feet never really touch the ground.

My neighbour knows when he’s done a good job; he can see it in front of him, it’s physical, tangible, present and real.

Discovering that same sense of completion in a modern business environment is a whole different ball game. I need to search out the real successes more, and not let my lizard brain tell me that because your work is relational and broader that you aren’t delivering.

I’ve asked myself would I enjoy the simpler life of practical trade? My brain says “you can’t build a flat pack from IKEA, so why would you think you could do a trade?”

I love the idea of a simpler life and role, but I suspect my instincts to always look ahead for the next big idea, the next initiative, the next project would mean I would be always looking around, and not concentrating on the task at hand.

So I’m going to learn from my neighbour, and try and take pleasure, fulfilment and value from the simpler aspects of life. I am going to try and relax and enjoy just doing hands on stuff, as it’s value is as high as anything else in life.

Introverted faith in an extravert church

At church this morning, after a great worship time, we had a speaker called Ray Lowe, who seems to be an itinerant Bible teacher. He’s spending a couple of weeks with the church and is well known to most people…except me, as we’re pretty new to the church.

He was teaching from Acts on how God creates situations for us to communicate our faith, how our task is be aware of the opportunities, to be prepared and give a ready reason for our faith. The sermon was pre-empted by a prophetic word about being passionate and infectious about God.

Ray’s teaching was biblical, engaging, convincing and funny, you could tell people’s hearts were stirred, and this sermon would impact a lot of folk. He told stories of how God had brought people across his path, in fact there were lots of stories, and lots of people whom God had touched through Ray’s life and activities.

As a card carrying introvert, this sermon was a rollercoaster of emotion for me, I bought into the words and the passion, but felt uncomfortable that I should try and be someone I’m not . He was gracious enough to say that not everyone is a extravert, and you don’t have to force yourself, as God leads you into the places where he wants you to connect with people, and our job is to be open to that.

Our Church is part of New Frontiers which is a charismatic church, where outward expressions of faith, such as exuberant worship, speaking in tongues are a regular part of a service. These are very extravert activities, but I enjoy being part of this group.

So how can introverts cope where the values and dna of a church are very extravert?

I think there are several ways….

  1. Don’t worry!…It’s important not to let this become a defining problem about church. It is more important to find a church family you can commit to, and be a part of.
  2. Don’t feel under pressure…you don’t have to be someone you’re not, you don’t have to perform. You just have to be faithful to God, and open to the church.
  3. Get to know a few people….that way you can have easy conversations without having to permanently mingle with the crowd!
  4. Join a home group… a smaller group is easier to connect with, and allows for a different sort of connection to people.
  5. Find a spiritual escape route…use retreats, books, blogs as an additional element to your spiritual life. I was part of Carlisle Cathedral for a number of years, so I go there and a retreat centre called Launde Abbey for my spiritual bolt holes.

I’ve just ordered a copy of “Introverts in the Church” by Adam S McHugh, it’s been well reviewed, and I think could be very helpful.

It is possible to be an introvert in an extravert church, it takes some work, it can be challenging at times, but there are great rewards as well…at least there will be a queue of people ahead of you to volunteer for the up front jobs! That doesn’t mean to say that introverts don’t have a great deal to offer all parts of church life, but that’s another post.

Seth Godin may just be right


I’m reading Seth Godins book Linchpin.

For me it maybe the most important book since 7 Habits by Stephen Covey. It is really a stimulating read and a unique book, it’s not a business book or a self-help book, it goes far deeper than that. It challenges you to look at work very differently.

It describes work as “art” and “emotional labour”, and talks through the resistance, both conscious and unconscious that we put up against all releasing ourselves into achieving all that we want to achieve.

I’ve marked up the book all the way through, and will have to go back and read it again, write a synopsis for my journal, and then implement some of the changes in my life. One of the most powerful points that Seth Godin makes about creativity was the concept of “shipping”, which is being able to, and known to be able to turn ideas into action, and action into delivery.

Time to ship on the blog, hence the first post for 10 months!

That’s the power of books, which is I love being involved in bookselling.

Why stores will win

So you can choose to shop in a store, online or on the phone

On my last blog I said that the service that I got from the 3 telesales team was rubbish, they sent me all over the place to get what I needed…yuk.

So on Saturday I needed to sort out a new dongle (mobile broadband) and I hit the High St, vowing not to go into the 3 store. As a guy I kinda enjoyed doing all the techie shops and ended up thinking that I’m going to have to go into 3, I know they have the largest 3G network, and they’re probably going to be cheaper.

I went in, the guy serving really knew his stuff, he listened to me, asked good questions, gave me the solution I wanted, and I so bought it.

So retail can work, it needs to be a good experience, but the reason why stores will win in the end is the human contact. We are social, tactile, community loving PEOPLE and we love it when others make us feel valued. In a way no computer or phone can do it.

Get it right, and stores have a really good long term future.

and the award for worst customer service ever goes to….

I’m about to move over to an iphone and so need to extract myself from “3”. I’ve been pretty happy with them up till tonight. I sent them an email, and they called me straight back, pretty good I thought, until they put me on hold, for 30 mins!

remember they called me!

Then I got transferred twice, having to give all my details again & again.

The guy at the end of the line obviously had a tick sheet of questions to go through, and boy was it painful. Even when I asked, politely, not to waste any more of my time, he plowed on. Needless to say it wasn’t UK call centre so the line was bad, ( ironic for a phone company) and his accent made conversation difficult.

So I’m leaving 3, not as a satisfied customer ,but a disgruntled one.

And after 18 months of good service, they ruin it in just 38 minutes.

I learnt from this

1. How easy it is to ruin your reputation.
2. How fickle I am.
3. How high our service expectations are.

Tough ol’ world…

Confidence and leadership

I have a confession, I support Carlisle Utd football team. I started going to watch them soon after I moved to Carlisle 7 years ago, and caught the “live sport” bug. Over the last few years they’ve being steadily improving, refinancing the club, bringing in new players etc, and they’ve done pretty well, moving up a couple of divisions, nearly making it into the championship.

But all of a sudden they’re performance have fallen away dramatically, they’ve lost 10 put of the past 11 eleven matches, and are playing really poor football.

Why is this? The bulk of the team are still the same players, against opposition they have beaten. I think the answer is confidence and leadership, or should that be the other way around.

The team have lost all self confidence, unable to play to their potential. They aren’t playing together. How much is leadership a part of this?

I’m starting to read Seth Godin’s Tribes which talks about movements being led not managed, rallying around a cause rather clocking into work. Powerful stuff.

I thinking about how this affects my life, I’m going to send Greg Abbott, the new Carlisle Utd manager a copy, he needs to hear this!

This is getting scary

This global banking crisis sounds like something you’d read in a Grisham or Clancy novel. In these stories there is normally some hidden fiendish plot run by some bad guys that are behind all the troubles. So the prime minister/president will send in the SAS or whoever, kill the bad guys and the world returns to normal.

But what is happening today is not a story, it is real, and was caused by each of us by choosing to spend when we want, on what we want, no matter what the cost. It’s no good just blaming the bank bosses, becuase I’m sure if we were in their positions we’d have gambled in the same way.

So what do we do, change our lifestyles and pray for forgiveness.