Sorted Issue 70
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Sorted Issue 70

In the latest issue we speak to Hollywood A-Lister, Chris Pratt, Sheridan Voysey on Caves and Crosswords, love and loss from Patrick Regan, what we can learn from Millennials and lots more.

Plus TV Adventurer Bear Grylls and possibly the greatest team of columnists ever assembled.

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Great British Adventures Swimrun - With Pete Woodward

In the next in the series of Great British Adventures, Pete Woodward heads to the English Lake District for a new style of amphibious race.

Adventure sports have exploded over the last decade with people looking for bigger and more exciting challenges to test themselves against. One of the most exciting new formats is Swimrun, a concept born in Sweden where the official brand is called ÖtillÖ. A whole race format has evolved from a late-night in a bar on the Swedish archipelago. Two teams of two made a bet and raced each other across the vast collection of islands from one end to the another, running further than a marathon distance over the islands and swimming between them in a continuous race. More than 15 years later, the concept has followed IKEA and meatballs to become a great Swedish export and this original route hosts a World Championship with qualifying events around Europe. There are now several races established in the UK, with an official ÖtillÖ brand race on the Isles of Scilly and other major races in the Lake District and Scotland.

My brother, Andy, and I grew up swimming and running from an early age, and tackling one of these races has been on our list for some time. With Andy’s first child due to arrive early in the year, we were finally prompted to schedule a trip before racing took a lower priority than changing nappies and midnight feeds. We submitted a late entry to the Coniston race in the autumn and started to think about training. The race format is for teams of two to race together and continuously, with no triathlon-style transition areas. This means swimming in trainers and running in a wetsuit, which takes some getting used to. I was reasonably confident that I could hold my own on the running sections but, with Andy having raced at the European Triathlon Championships in Glasgow earlier in the summer, I was equally certain that I needed to work on my somewhat rusty swimming skills to avoid being left in his wake. A few weeks of charging up and down the South Downs in my wetsuit and bobbing around the Channel in my trainers eschewed. After a long drive north, we were as ready as we were going to be.

Breca are the UK leader in Swimrun and offer events in iconic British locations as well as New Zealand for those looking for inspiration further afield. We chose the last race of the season in Coniston and with the autumn colours providing a golden backdrop, water temperature was the topic on everyone’s lips. The race instructions recommended a wetsuit suitable for 10 degrees Celsius. Andy and I had both been swimming in the sea without a wetsuit to prepare as much as we could. The English Lakes are notoriously chilly, though, and to steel ourselves we attempted to add a little to our fat reserves with a pre-race pasty in Grasmere.

After a well-organised race briefing, we boarded the bus to the start and as the beautiful scenery scrolled by, our heads drooped in the warm, rubbery fug of nervous chatter and Neoprene.

The race totals 18km of running and 3km of swimming, broken into short sections with a total of ten transitions. A tough uphill start soon thinned the field, and as we pushed through the brown ferns under clear blue skies, glimpses of the dark water of Windermere flashed through the wooded slopes of the fell. I pushed hard through the woods, with Andy tucked in behind, as we settled into the rhythm of the race. Out of the woodlands at full speed, along a short grass bank towards a flag, goggles down: splash! In an instant, we were launching out into the dark, cold waters, between yachts and heading for a gap in the islands ahead. Our unanswered question about water temperature was answered immediately with brain freeze. We both surged forwards trying to generate some heat as the icy water crept into our wetsuits. Andy is by far the stronger swimmer, and as he smoothly glided forwards I pulled hard to keep his feet visible. A stiff breeze meant the water was surprisingly choppy and short waves slapped us on the head as we threaded the gap between two small islands and adjusted our course for a flag on the distant shoreline.

Staggering up the beach with goggles on our heads, we shared a wry smile before splashing through the shallows and pushing into the next run. The team format is a great way to share the race and the shock to the system that was Windermere gave us a moment to chuckle about later. Sloshing water from wetsuits and with bandy legs adjusting to once again being upright, we staggered past a growing crowd of walkers curious about the runners emerging from the lake. With a long flat section of woodland track, we pushed on to make up as much time as we could. An inspired race route clips bays on the edge of the lake with short swims and stunning shoreline runs before heading over the fells again towards Grasmere.

Working hard, we were relieved to reach the checkpoint where a selection of treats awaited us. Based in some of the most beautiful areas of the country, it is fantastic that Breca are heavily focused on minimising the impact of races on the environment. Racers carry their own cups to be refilled to avoid wastage. Having two young boys, I had supplied the team with two cardboard Tractor Ted party cups and after fishing out the soggy remains stuffed into our speedos we gulped down some squash before attempting to master the art of eating a pork pie on the run.

A long descent took us to Rydal Water, with a spectacular swim at the foot of Red Screes and Fairfield fell, and a winding run through the golden woods to the banks of the River Rothay. The last swim beckoned with a crossing of Grasmere lake from the woods towards the landing stages. My arms were fading and in the cold water, my hands were becoming claw-like. Struggling to keep my fingers together, I resorted to swimming front crawl with my fingers bunched into fists, and desperately tried to stay in Andy’s wake to gain a little tow from his efforts. The field was bunching up and, over one of the longer swims, the competition was strung out ahead and behind us, all furiously churning through the still waters towards the huge red tree on the opposite bank. Staggering onto the pebble beach, the route took in one last steep climb before sweeping into Grasmere village on quiet country roads to the party atmosphere at the Tweedies hotel.

We crossed the line together with broad smiles, happy memories and very cold hands. Heading for the large, heated luggage tent, we were already refining our plans for our next amphibious outing.

The Sandbanks Festival

Picture the scene; two days of fast-paced action as some of the world’s top polo players battle it out against a backdrop of some of the finest coastline in Britain. Then when the sun starts to slide into the horizon, the gathered thousands party into the summer night to some of the finest DJs on the music scene.

Running for twelve years and still going strong, there is no stopping the enthusiasm of those who flock to the beautiful beaches of Sandbanks, Dorset. Held on the second weekend in July to join in with what has become known as “the Sandbanks weekend” in the sporting and social calendar of the south coast of England.

Curiosity brought people to watch high-quality beach polo at Sandbanks for the first few years but since then the parties, hospitality, fashion shows, international volleyball, and beach rugby and, for the last three years, the SandfestUK music festival have kept the audience guessing and wanting more.

Johnny Wheeler, the man behind Sandpolo explains. “We came up with the idea 13 years ago. Polo was confined, restricted really, by the field polo clubs, with little value to the spectator aspect of the sport.” In its conventional form of field polo, the spectators are distanced from the action, the ball is hard to see, and for the casual or first-time spectator, it can seem confusing. So, Sandpolo was born, a spectacular, high-speed sport where the spectators are right on top of the action, where they can see up close the skill of the players and their ponies and the contact made between them. The arena is smaller and the extra-large orange ball is easier to see as it flies around at high velocity. It’s no wonder that it has been compared to the high speed excitement of ice hockey. And the beautiful Sandbanks peninsula doesn’t hurt. As Johnny says, “Where better than a blue flagged beach?” And the players that are attracted? Most of the top park polo players attend, although the sport is different, they attract all the arena polo specialists and most of the top players are attracted to the Sandbanks event. They haven’t quite yet managed to attract a 10-goal handicap high goal polo player, but Chris Hyde, the best in the world, 10-goal arena player has played in past years. The event has four teams confirmed, but the players will be named a lot closer to the event. As Johnny explains, “players get injured and may be involved in high goal competitions, which affects their availability, and you might not know until a week before the event.” Even so, the event is incredibly popular with players and Sandpolo never fails to attract top players.

The same can be said of the crowds. There are more spectators at Sandpolo than at any of the high goal competitions, places that are the bastions of polo; Cowdray Park, the Guards Polo Club, and Hurlingham, and that in turn is a huge factor to the quality players that attend. “Players like to play in front of a large crowd” as Johnny says.

A firm playing surface achieved by producing a heavily watered beach arena is surrounded by elaborate marquees, staging, and grandstands above the high-water mark. This is the stage for the British Beach Polo Championships, otherwise known as Sandpolo which has become the “must go to” two-day event. With a ticketed capacity of 5,000 on-site, the polo can also be enjoyed by spectators along the beach from a raised sand platform and gives polo exposure to a wide variety of people and business platforms who may not have experienced it before.

The polo is played under the authority of governing body, the Hurlingham Polo Association, and is made up of four competitive medium goal teams of three players. Each team plays on both days with a further exhibition game on the Saturday. A charity race is also held between the two fastest ponies on each day. International teams are welcome and bring an interesting dimension, and over the years the event has welcomed Australian, South African, Argentinian, Irish and Welsh teams among others.

Generous corporate sponsorship from established brands such as Sunseeker, Barclays Wealth, Audi and Oakley has ensured the quality of the event remains high and guests are treated to the best level of service. And when the chukkas stop the musical talents of Idris Elba, Tinie Tempah and Trevor Nelson ensure the beach parties stay energised until the early hours of the morning. This year the outstanding Arts Club house band will perform on the Friday evening with Radio One DJ Nick Grimshaw hosting the polo closing party on the Saturday.

After the sport has finished on the Saturday, Sandfest begins. It attracts a unique audience of music and beach lovers on the Sunday from midday to 10 p.m. This year’s line-up includes Chase and Status, Example, Yxng Bane and Hannah Wants. Sun-soaked ‘Sandfesters’ will feast on the best DJs and live performances and indulge in the exquisite beach food and bustling outside bars.

With continued support from the local authorities, the Sandbanks Festival will carry on adjusting to the ever-changing social dynamic while staying true to its mission of bringing a broad range of people together to enjoy being entertained on the spectacular Sandbanks beach. Why not come along for this year’s weekender across 12-14 July?

Caves and Crossroads - By Sheridan Voysey

My hands are freezing. My trousers are soaked. The pelting rain sounds like popping corn under the hood of my raincoat. Droplets run along my eyebrows and drip from my nose but shaking them off is futile. I glance at DJ, and we both break a smile. Sunshine is overrated anyway.

When the alarm rang early, I had peeked through the curtain to find a misty morning with rabbits grazing on the lawn. But the downpour had begun the same time the rabbits had scattered – the moment we left the front door. Now we plod along the causeway that winds beside the dunes, stepping aside for passing cars.

“Sleep well?” DJ asks. I wipe the rain from my face and think before I answer. DJ and I first met while working on a radio project tackling child poverty. We had visited developing countries together, discovered some shared interests, and enjoyed long conversations about life and God. DJ had moved his family to Aberdeen from Australia soon after Merryn and I came to Oxford, allowing some shared holidays to follow. In him I’d found a wise, fun and empathetic friend. But…

“I forgot that you snore,” I say as kindly as I can. I hadn’t slept all night. Not a wink. It isn’t the best way to start a long hike. DJ quickly apologises, and we agree our cost-saving plan to bunk in the same room will need to be revised. I don’t tell him that Merryn says I snore too.

We round a bend and reach the tip of the island. The dunes fall away, exposing the full force of the wind. It wraps our hoods around our heads, flattens our jackets across our chests, and turns those raindrops into liquid needles. With heads down and faces stinging, we head for the mainland, our adrenaline pumping. We march along the causeway for 40 minutes, the asphalt awash in sand from the receding tide, then head south-west on the mainland. The terrain starts to rise as we move into the countryside, the rain easing now but the path springy. We lean forward as we climb, our boots sinking under the load of our packs.

“Now our preparation is tested!” DJ says. We’d done practice walks for months to prepare for the pilgrimage, DJ roaming the glens near his home in rural Scotland, and me trekking around Oxford. I had walked to St Margaret’s church in Binsey with its ancient healing well, and to St Michael’s in Cumnor to enjoy its quiet nave, up to Boars Hill where the bluebells flower, and across town to find CS Lewis’ grave. Hopefully these miles have readied our limbs for the coming days. We’ll find out soon enough. Even if they haven’t, I think those preparatory walks have accomplished much already. In heading out to the ancient wells and bluebell woods, I had left the confines of my fussing mind for unexplored roads and new vistas. Each walk had coaxed me out of myself and into its own small adventure. A left turn. A right. Around the corner, straight on. Walk on, Sheridan. With movement comes discovery.
We zigzag up the hill, walking the seams of patchwork fields, squelching in the soggy ground and picking blackberries from the brambles. The sun comes out; our jackets come off. Enjoyment masks my tiredness. “Maybe Cuthbert walked this path,” I say. The idea fills me with wonder. Cuthbert was a solitary soul. He would sneak out at night to pray alone in the fields (or the sea, if one legend can be believed). When Hobthrush got too noisy, he built a shack on a remote island further down the coast. There he communed with God, fought the devil, and counselled any who braved the seas to reach him. When he was later recalled to Lindisfarne to become its bishop, he left that beloved shack in tears. So, it’s surprising to find that this introverted monk was also a man of adventure. He journeyed into the hills where warring tribes fought. He went to impoverished villages others avoided. And as he opened his Bible and preached in those places, he saw the lame walk and multitudes respond. Though happiest at home, Cuthbert would step out and follow God into the unknown.

“I think it’s this way,” I say, pointing up and to our left. We climb a stile over a fence and head towards a forest. We’re a few days into autumn – a season of falling petals, yellowing leaves and seeds bedding in for the spring, but also of grand migration in the natural world. Right now, arctic terns are leaving these regions for cooler climes down south, humpback whales are departing the Antarctic for warmer waters north, wildebeest are crossing the Serengeti plains for Kenya’s greener pastures, and monarch butterflies are flapping their pretty wings across North America to Mexico. Wing to wing and head to tail they go, crossing earth and sea on their own pilgrimages.

We reach the top of the hill, enter a large open field, and take a right at the wooden sign pointing to our first stop.

A lesson from my 20s comes to mind as we walk. Seeking direction for my life, I had prayed for guidance, but a whole two years later I still had no idea what to do. Then some words from the Gospels had struck me with unusual effect. Keep asking, they said. Keep seeking and knocking. Because those who ask, receive; those who seek, find; and doors open for those who knock (see Matthew 7:7-8). And that’s when the hole in my strategy had been shown. I had prayed without seeking and asked without knocking, waiting for an epiphany instead of tapping on some doors. Once I put action behind my prayer by writing letters and making calls, my path into radio had become clear.

I take another step on that spongy track and feel this lesson reawakened in my bones. There is no discovery without movement, no direction without action.
Ask, seek, knock. Move.

Leading from the Front - By Peter Wallace

Over the past five years, Chris Pratt has gone from comedy sidekick to Hollywood heavyweight. His physique and career may have changed dramatically, but his steadfast faith remains the same – and the star is determined to be a role model as well as a leading man.

In all of modern Hollywood you’d be hard-pressed to find a more rags-to-riches story than Chris Pratt’s journey to cinematic super-stardom. Nowadays it’s hard to imagine the Minnesota native as anything other than a man completely suited to play the plethora of heroic on-screen alter egos he has portrayed in recent franchises – from Guardians of the Galaxy’s Peter Quill to Jurassic World’s Owen Grady and even The Lego Movie’s Emmet Brickowski.

But at the origin of his career Pratt was living up to the stereotypes of the struggling actor, bussing tables at a Bubba Gump Shrimp in Maui, Hawaii, and sleeping in a tent on a nearby beach. It’s a memory that stays with him even now, with a multi-billion dollar haul at the global box office to his name.

“A part of me thinks that living in a tent was way better than this,” the 39-year-old laughs. “It was a really great time in my life; maybe I’m looking at it through rose- tinted lenses.

“All things lead up to the next, lead up to this moment and I just treat it all like another moments. You don’t want to let your guard down, I’m not going anywhere, I plan to stretch this out. I plan on being here for a long time, and you don’t want to ever feel like… you never want to be in a position where you’re like… you feel like you peaked. I never want to feel that, and it happens so easily.”

Pratt’s move from tent to tent-pole franchise relied heavily on that kind of work ethic, but there was another underlying factor to this success that has endured from the star’s less glamorous days: faith.

“I was sitting outside a grocery store – this is in Maui – I think we’d convinced someone to go in and buy us beer,” he nods. “And a guy named Henry came up and recognised something in me that needed to be saved. He asked what I was doing that night, and I was honest. I said, ‘My friend’s inside buying me alcohol.’ ‘You going to go party?’ he asked. ‘Yeah.’ ‘Drink and do drugs? Meet girls, fornication?’ I was like, ‘I hope so.’

“I was charmed by this guy, don’t know why. He was an Asian dude, maybe Hawaiian, in his 40s. It should’ve made me nervous but didn’t. I said, ‘Why are you asking?’ He said, ‘Jesus told me to talk to you…’ At that moment I was like, I think I have to go with this guy. He took me to church and over the next few days I surprised my friends by declaring that I was going to change my life.”

Pratt’s teenage conversion first led him to lend his help to missionary organisation Jews for Jesus, and it is clear now that that same spirit still resides in him. Some high-profile figures have been known to be less open about their beliefs with the world’s spotlight on them, but this star is ensuring that his status as a household name only emphasises his role as a vocal advocate for faith and Christian principles.

Take last April’s MTV awards ceremony, for example, when Pratt made a splash on social media for opening his award-acceptance speech with the words: “God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that; I do.” He went on to give the audience of young fans words of advice: “If you’re strong, be a protector. If you’re smart, be a humble influencer. Strength and intelligence can be weapons, do not wield them against the weak. That makes you a bully. Be bigger than that.”

“I worry that sometimes I might behave in a way that people might think I’m rude or inconsiderate,” he explains. “It’s important to me to be a good man and to connect with people in a good way... As a young actor I saw how fame changed people and how money and power can turn good people into bad people.

“I’m not saying that that could never happen to me, but I can honestly say that I’ve never let fame affect me and turn me into someone different from who I am. I try to make sure that every day I am thankful for the kind of life that I have and that I never take anything for granted. I will always remember where I came from and how it’s more important to me to be a good person than almost anything else.”

There’s a distinct feeling that Pratt credits his desire to be a “good person” as intrinsic to his acting success: “If you’re known for having a bad attitude,” he says, “you will not work any more, and you see it happening all the time.” But in keeping with his amenable nature, there’s only so far Pratt’s career defines him. Once the camera stop rolling, there’s no hint that his life is led in any less of a positive way.

“I owe almost everything to my parents who raised me properly and gave me discipline and a strong sense of respect for others,” he agrees. “I think when you grow up with a solid foundation in life, that will carry you forward and help you through the bad times and also make you appreciate the good times even more.”

It may be easy for the average fan to think Pratt’s allusion to appreciating the good times has to be linked to his last half-decade as the film industry’s go-to leading man. But off-screen, the star has had to contend with obstacles in recent times, not least the premature birth of his son Jack in 2012 with former wife Anna Faris – an event which Pratt says came to strengthen his existing relationship with God.

“We were scared for a long time,” he says. “We prayed a lot. But that time in my life, it restored my faith in God, not that it needed to be restored, but it really redefined it. The baby was so beautiful to us, and I look back at the photos of him and it must have been jarring for other people to come in and see him, but to us he was so beautiful and perfect.

“Being a father makes you more responsible. I take that role very seriously and I am very dedicated to seeing to it that my son grows up happily and in a loving and caring environment. My life has changed away from self-centred, spontaneous living because of that. And it happened sort of at the same time. Our life took a big change, and I don’t know how much of it is based on the success of the past few years and how much is that my priorities have shifted onto caring for another human being more than myself.”

Jack’s problematic birth may have been a moment in which Pratt was afforded the rare sympathies of the world’s media, but recently he has found himself in the lenses of the paparazzi once more after his unexpected divorce to Faris was announced last year. Since that time, however, Pratt has become engaged to Katherine Schwarzenegger – Arnie’s daughter, no less – and has espoused his wish to enjoy a religious ceremony with his new fiancée.

“I would like people to sense that I’m a good man and I’m trying to bring good things into the world and help people lead better and more rewarding lives,” he says. “I hope that my faith can also inspire people or at least whatever they see in my soul, they can take some hope from that and see how their own lives can change.”

Intriguingly, Pratt will soon find himself, along with many of his co-stars and contemporaries, at a career crossroads as well. This year marks the release of Avengers: Endgame, the final piece of the decade-spanning box office-busting superhero ensemble smash. Pratt’s Peter Quill is set to feature once again, of course, but Endgame represents a possible new dawn for the star after four outings as the 1980s music-loving intergalactic arbiter.

“I want to enjoy every moment of this time in my life because this is a business where success can be very fragile and it can all go away very quickly,” he explains. “I feel blessed every day. I’m getting the kinds of opportunities that I never could have expected earlier in my career. Getting to be part of film franchises is a pretty rarefied space to be in and that’s why I’ve been working so hard the last few years, but I never want to get upset over small things that are unimportant.”

There’s little to suggest Pratt’s career will nosedive as a result of his hanging up his spandex, but even so, the franchise finale marks a new dawn that the actor is relishing. With Quill assumedly retired (for now), Pratt can fall back on his indefatigable belief to chart the course for the next stages of his profession on-screen.

I always had a crazy blind faith in myself,” he says. “I knew that I would one day be playing big parts and have a great career. I didn’t know how I was going to do it and I didn’t even have much of a career plan until much later. But there was always something inside me that gave me hope and confidence that I was going to achieve something greater in life than anyone would ever have expected me to achieve.

“I always had this inner feeling that one day I was going to get to be able to play lead roles and be part of big films. I never gave up on myself and I always had faith that one way or another I was going to succeed at a higher level even though I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there.”

That being said, Pratt is under no illusions when it comes to surveying his stratospheric rise – or the path he now happily finds himself on.

“It’s almost unbelievable how my life has changed,” he chuckles. “I’ve gone from being a former door-to-door salesman and doing summer theatre, to being a Hollywood movie star. It’s way, way beyond anything I ever dreamed [of] but here I am, and I swear that I’m never going to complain about anything for the rest of my life.

“As a kid, I had dreamed of doing something heroic or important with my life, but that could have been working as a police officer – I would have been happy doing that. But I want to be the same kind of person and be a good husband and father whether I’m having a lot of success or when things aren’t going as well as you would like. That’s the kind of perspective I try to have on everything.”

Even a man as committed to representing a positive attitude for his fans has his limits, however. The time spent sleeping in tents may well have matured with a certain sense of comforting nostalgia, but Pratt’s dedication to self-betterment can truly only be measured in the tangible steps he has taken over his life and career thus far.

“As an actor, you have to balance your dreams with reality all too often and for a long time,” he nods. “My main goal was never to have to work as a waiter again – that was one job I really hated.”

Living Life Out Loud - By Fiona Duerden

One Man’s Story of Hope in all Circumstances

In early 2003, a 16-year-old Lincolnshire lad was taken ill. Not for a moment thinking it was anything too serious, his mum decided to take him to the doctor. Some weeks later the diagnosis was confirmed: Dave Bell had a very rare and aggressive cancer attacking the back of his right eye. So rare that only three people in a million are likely to contract it.

The news was a terrible shock. But, as Dave soon started to understand, sickness or struggle doesn’t ask for a polite invitation into your life. It just shows up one day, sometimes with devastating effects. “At first my life was rocked,” he says. “I was 16, and like most 16-year-old boys I thought I was invincible, but suddenly I was confronted with the biggest battle of my life.” Now, ‘Life Out Loud’, the song of that battle and his story of hope through faith has been picked up by a major US marketing company and will be released in April, with the aim of inspiring hope in every hopeless circumstance.

At first, the outlook was bleak. Dave had to undergo six months of intense chemotherapy and 25 sessions of intense radiotherapy. He and his family had to face the fact that Dave may not survive. Surrounded by medical staff, complicated diagnoses, worry and fear, Dave chose to hold onto his faith and believe that he would make it through.

Miraculously, he did. In December 2003, Dave was given his final all-clear. But the battle wasn’t fully over. During the treatment to save his life, doctors had prepared Dave for the fact that the side effects of the treatment may mean he would never be able to have children naturally. This didn’t stop Dave falling in love with the stunning Sarah.

When the couple married in the summer of 2007, they had no knowledge of what the future may or may not hold for them. Unlike other couples, they knew they could make no assumptions about how their family would grow. Two years later, their first, miracle child was born. Against all the odds, Dave and Sarah now have three wonderful children: Jackson, Levi and a beautiful little girl, Mayah.

A few years ago, shortly after the birth of Mayah, Dave met with successful songwriter Chris Eaton to spend some time together co-writing and working on new song ideas. Dave started to share his story with Chris, his message of hope and his passion for living life well. With remarkable speed, the song ‘Life Out Loud’ was born.

While on holiday in the USA last year, Dave and Sarah went to watch I Can Only Imagine – a film about singer Bart Millard’s broken family relationships. “The film and its message of hope inspired me to go ahead and actually record and release ‘Life Out Loud’,” Dave explains. “I have been given a second chance so I am determined to make every second count. My prayer is that this song will bring hope to anyone in a hopeless situation, and encourage all of us to take that extra step – to do the things we have only dreamed of.”

Dave sent the song to a contact in the States, where it was immediately picked up by a major US digital marketing and investment group called Blueprint who were excited about the story behind the song and will release it commercially this year.

‘Life out Loud’ celebrates Dave’s sense of a second chance: “My experience gave me a brand-new perspective on life. How awful it would be to get to old age and look back and think ‘if only’. If only I had made the most of that opportunity, if only I had told that person I loved them, if only I had mended that broken relationship, if only I had taken that risk. And I think that is true for all of us. ‘Life out Loud’ is a hope-filled call to everyone to turn up the volume on their life and live it loud!”

Better Together - by Simon Barrington

How Different Generations Can Help Each Other Lead. An abridged extract from Leading – The Millennial Way

CEOs to senior leaders, pastors to PCC members – leaders know who they are and what they’re doing, right?

Unfortunately, as many of you may know, that’s not the case.

Over my own 28 years of being in senior leadership at a FTSE 100 company and later CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, there were times where I (and many of the other leaders around me) felt the need to hide behind masks and shield our true identities. But if God has called us – flaws and all – into a leadership role, surely, he wants us to bring our whole glorious self?

From a cursory glance, it seemed that this is something the generation below us – millennials (born 1984 to 2000 and currently aged 18 to 35) – were doing really well, but I was also concerned that they had been badly stereotyped as entitled, lazy and disloyal.

Given that millennials are the leaders of today – the leaders of our businesses, charities and churches – I started looking around at the material already available and found that there was a significant gap in the research on millennials and particularly on millennial leaders.

Together with a millennial researcher, Rachel Luetchford, we therefore set out to interview nearly 500 Christian millennial leaders over the course of a year and published the results in October 2018. You can download the full results at millennial-leader.com/research.

Based on this new research, Rachel and I (a millennial and a baby boomer) began to see how the generations could work better together and learn from one another and we wanted to share our findings in a deeper reflection on the research. We therefore set about writing Leading – The Millennial Way. In the book we answer two basic questions:

How do millennials hone their unique energy to become the best leaders they can be?

And how do non-millennials harness the power of this generation and step into leading the millennial way themselves?

My journey has been one of finding the courage and bravery to be truly me and the strength to take off the masks and learn to be vulnerable and authentic. My interaction with millennials has deeply enriched me and shaped me on that journey. A character-forming journey of learning to lead out of who I really am – a journey that continues to today and that has helped many of my peers on that journey as well.

In the extract from our book below we explore some of the negative stereotypes of millennials, how they have been misread and how they actually reveal a core set of beliefs and positive contributions that can be harnessed and celebrated in our churches and organisations.

The following abridged (and edited) extract is taken from Leading – The Millennial Way by Simon Barrington with Rachel Luetchford.

Rachel: Historically, generations have always been categorised, labelled and scrutinised. Labelled “millennials” we are no different, with large amounts of research and literature focusing on who we are, our characteristics and how we impact society. In fact, it is claimed that millennial professionals “are one of the most discussed and researched subjects of recent time”.1 Maybe this is just a coming of age thing because there is no doubt that millennials are now young adults and we constitute a major section of the workforce and occupy many leadership roles.2

Simon: A detailed scan of all of the research and articles sees millennials being categorised and generalised by academics, social commentators and millennial themselves. Hobart and Sendek in their book Gen Y Now [John Wiley] identify from their research seven “myths” or consistent stereotypes that millennials have been labelled with:

1. Lazy/slacker
2. Instant gratification and wanting a trophy for showing up
3. Self-centred/narcissistic
4. Disloyal
5. Pampered/spoiled
6. Lack of respect for authority
7. Entitled

They go on to argue that these stereotypes are either “misconceptions and exaggerations or they are traits that can actually lead to positive and productive Gen Y (millennial) performance in the workplace”.3 Rachel and I agree with them and believe that millennials have been over-stereotyped and poorly caricatured and based on Hobart and Sendek’s work in exploding these myths,4 our own more recent research argues for a much more nuanced view. Underneath the stereotypes our research has identified really strong and positive core beliefs that need to be understood. These strong beliefs, if harnessed by the millennial leader for positive momentum, like windsurfers do with the strong winds, could turn the world of work upside down in a positive way; and if continually misread have substantial potential to rip businesses and organisations apart and to throw windsurfers into the deep.

This is Conflict Central – the battleground of beliefs and approaches that is causing us all so much grief. As Hobart and Sendek5 so brilliantly put it, “Different too often equals wrong. As a leader your job is to recognise that different equals different … and then lead your troops to that same understanding”. We must put down any prejudices and enter conflict central, being willing to imagine a collaborative future.

Stereotype 1: Lazy/slacker

The stereotype of Lazy/slacker is commonplace and often used when older leaders see millennials leaving work consistently on time or arriving late or not putting in the extra hours. What is being observed here is an outward expression of a deeply held core belief.

Core Positive Belief:
The whole of life matters

Rachel: We found from our research that there was definitely a change in the nature of commitment to work among millennials and that this is being driven by a core positive belief that the whole of life matters. We believe that employers need to grasp this change in the nature of commitment and to build on the positive core belief in millennials towards a commitment to the whole of life. So, when an employee is leaving on time they are not viewed as being lazy or a slacker but as someone who has a commitment to being fully productive, fully alive and fully committed to work while at work and fully alive outside work as well.

Positive contribution: Productive/Fully Alive

Simon: If businesses can tap into this core belief then the positive contribution could increase workplace productivity across all generations.

It’s a journey I’ve been on myself. How productive am I actually if I don’t take proper rest and don’t balance my life? A report in The Economist for example quotes a study showing that output at 70 hours a week is the same as at 56 hours a week – resulting in 14 wasted hours in terms of productivity.6 One of the millennials we interviewed told us the story of how at her final interview for her graduate scheme at a major corporate, she asked that if they employed her she could take a year off before joining to travel the world. They agreed and after three months’ induction, she left to follow her dreams, returning nine months later. This enlightened employer saw the huge value of their new employee bringing the diversity and depth of her experience to the workplace, the benefit of them being fully engaged and the value of that employee’s whole life being enriched.

Stereotype 1: Instant Gratification

Simon: Millennials have been stereotyped as wanting instant gratification, as not being prepared to wait for anything and as being impatient for change, acknowledgement and promotion. Many of my peers are shocked at graduates leaving their firms after one or two years because they didn’t get the promotion they thought they deserved.

Rachel: Our research showed that millennials are constantly comparing our performance with others and that we are used to the world constantly changing and evolving and having to evolve rapidly with it. We are used to rapid progress and tend to have frustrations with anything that takes time or maturity or that needs patience.

Core Belief: Expect Rapid Results

Simon: Millennials have grown up expecting rapid results. They are used to there being instant feedback on every performance and to being judged on results only and not on age or longevity of service. Underlying this is the core belief that they can adapt quickly, grow rapidly and be constantly learning.

To counter instant gratification and deal with failure, rapid and real feedback can significantly help millennials be mentored through the need for patience and application in achieving long-term impact as well as rapid results.

Positive Contribution: Fast And Adaptive

The positive contribution is that millennial leaders are incredibly adaptive to change and fast to react to evolving situations, a set of attributes that when highly valued and channelled can make for a significant competitive advantage.

Stereotype 3: Self-Centred/Narcissistic

Rachel: Self-centred and narcissistic is one of the most common stereotypes I hear thrown at us. There is no doubt that some millennials have grown up in a world where their parents’ self-worth has been bound up in their children’s achievement. I know that’s not true of all of us, and it hasn’t been my experience, but I still recognise this and have seen many examples of it. This coupled with the huge choice and huge diversity available to us and a greater degree of awareness of all the options out there, can lead to a perception that we are self-obsessed, believing the world revolves around us and our happiness. This was definitely a significant tension in the research as we saw ourselves wrestling with our own identity, our self-confidence and our self-esteem, while also believing that individually and corporately we have the skills, knowledge and aptitude to bring a new creativity and fresh innovation to the world.

Core belief: I am enough

Simon: I think that in reality, every generation going through early adulthood experiences the challenge of wrestling with self-identity, self-confidence and self-esteem and millennials seem to be wrestling with this more than most. There is a huge commitment though to the core beliefs that each person is enough, each person is valued, each person has a unique contribution to make and each person needs to come to the full expression of their whole self.
Although we may not have seen this yet in its fullness, the world of business will benefit greatly from its ripening and the richness and diversity it can bring.

Positive Contribution: Personal Reputation

A positive contribution of these core beliefs that we observed in the research, is that millennial leaders are passionate about reputation and image and personal brand and therefore want to be seen to be doing a good job. They want the organisations that they are working for to look good, have a positive image, and they want to be positive representations of that brand into the marketplace.

Endnotes

1. Srivastava, M., & Banerjee, P., 2016. Understanding Gen Y: The Motivations, Values and Beliefs. Journal of Management Research, 16 (3).

2. University of Notre Dame, 2017. Attract Emerging Leaders with Purpose, not Perks [online]. Available at: http://ethicalleadership.nd.edu/news/attract-emerging-leaders-with-purpose-not- perks/ [accessed September 2017].

3. Hobart, B., & Sendek, H., 2014. Gen Y Now. Page 33.

4. Hobart, B., & Sendek, H., 2014. Gen Y Now. Page 37-75.

5. Hobart, B., & Sendek, H., 2014. Gen Y Now. Page 25.

6. The Economist, 2014. Proof that you should get a life [online]. Available at: https://www.economist.com/free-exchange/2014/12/09/proof-that-you-should-get-a-life [accessed July 2018].

Learning to Say Goodbye - By Patrick Regan

Over the last couple of years, I have experienced grief in various forms and through a series of “goodbyes”: London, a place I loved, XLP, a charity I started and worked with for 22 years, and now my nan, one of my favourite people to walk this earth. Again, I wrestle with my thoughts and ponder on what it really means…

My nan was a precious soul. Alzheimer’s disease took her mind years ago and as a family, we have had to witness this beautiful lady slowly get worse over time. Seeing her memory deteriorate to the point of not remembering who we are has been a painful experience, and especially so for my dad. Watching this amazing lady no longer react to what was going on around her, seeing her void of emotions when faced with what once brought her pure joy, has been really tough.

We could argue that the person we knew and loved had already left us ten years ago in some ways. Yet, there she was in front of us, a body and a face and every now and then, there was an odd smile, a word… My nan had the funniest laugh, yet I couldn’t remember the last time I’d heard it. My dad often said she may have forgotten who we were, but we knew who she was, and it was important we visited her even if and when she didn’t seem to notice we were there.

When you look into the eyes of someone you know is dying, you become strangely aware of the pain you are carrying. It is the pain of lost relationships, the pain triggered by traumatic events you didn’t expect or didn’t think you would experience. Nevertheless, life brought them on and you have had no choice but to endure the undesirable feelings that come with those. You are never given a choice as to whether you wanted this to happen or not, and so the only thing you can do is cope with these feelings and emotions by accepting them and recognising that while unpleasant, their impact on you and your state of being is natural, and a normal process we cannot escape from. That process is called grief. You can try to suppress it, but you will only be putting up a front; deep within, the impact these difficult life events have on you cannot be denied.

Having been a Christian all my life, I cannot help but think about the classic advice given by many of my Christian friends in those moments: “Give your pain to God,” as if I had not thought of that or even tried. While well-meant, we need to recognise that calling upon God in those moments will not make us forget what happened and minimise the pain we are experiencing. We must also accept that wounds take a long time to heal. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist and pioneer in near-death studies and author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying (Routledge), identified the following five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Surely, going through all the first four stages of grief before reaching the final stage of acceptance cannot happen instantly. While I am conscious of God’s power to heal over time, I am also realistic and accept that there are no quick fixes in those moments. My solace is that I am not suffering alone. God, rather than removing me from the pain which I am experiencing, something I sometimes wish he did, joins me and suffers with me.

Increasingly, I have come to realise that pain is intricately linked to love, and while love is not a refuge from pain, pain can’t keep love at bay. Love is always there in the same way that God is always there. In fact, the famous Bible verse in 1 John 4:8 reads “God is love” (NIV), but if you love you are bound to feel or experience pain at some point in your life. While the connection between God and love is undeniable, the connection between pain and God is not so popular. Yet, where there is love pain may follow, and sometimes we might even wonder whether those two strong emotional states can in fact interact independently from each other. If you love, you will experience pain! If you care, you will grieve.

Our attitude to pain is often shaped by our upbringing, and the environment and society in which we live. I believe that it is better to “let pain happen” rather than to avoid it. This is particularly difficult for men in our society, as they would rather escape or toughen up. From a young age, they have been told that “boys don’t cry”, and in due course to “man up” and not let their emotions show. The suppression of emotions that result from such expectations and social norms can only lead to a wealth of emotional upsets and imbalance and, I believe, can be really unhealthy in the long run in a man’s life.

Grief is not only caused by the loss of a loved one, it can be caused by the loss of a dream, of a job, of a friendship. As I have got older I have experienced many of these. I recently heard of a book called Option B (W.H. Allen) co-written by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operating officer (COO) whose husband died in 2015 after having a heart attack and falling off a treadmill and subsequently suffering brain injury from the fall. In a video promoting her book, Sheryl explains how a few days after her husband’s passing, there happened to be a ‘father-son’ activity. In discussing with a friend who should go with her son to that event, Sheryl could not conceive anyone other than her husband, Dave, to go. She was reminded that option A was no longer available and she had to consider option B. Many of us are living in option B because things didn’t work out how we planned for them to work; relationships break down, people get ill, we all get disappointed.

Everyone reacts differently to life challenges, but it can be a source of strength to know that you are not alone, and that others understand what you’re going through. We need to keep reminding one another that expressing pain, anger and fear is actually perfectly normal, human and healthy, and that God is with us and loves us, no matter what is going on. Being honest about our feelings of grief can really help us through tough times. It is often when disasters occur that communities unite and work together. Consider how people from different background and creed come together to help and save lives in the direst of circumstances, whether it be in the aftermath of an earthquake, a mass shooting as in the US, or any other grand-scale catastrophe.

Sometimes we’d rather numb our pain than look at it or try to deal with it. We’d rather do anything we can to forget it by watching hours of Netflix, take the edge off with a shopping trip or a few glasses of wine. But pain that isn’t dealt with doesn’t disappear, and we can’t ignore it forever. Pain can rob us of the deep joy that God has for us.

If left unchecked, pain and grief can breed further negative emotions such as unforgiveness. Letting go of hate, bitterness and resentment is essential for forgiveness to happen. Forgiving doesn’t mean that what happened doesn’t matter, but having an unforgiving heart can do us more damage for longer. Forgiving is letting go of the thoughts that keep us captive, while not allowing negative emotions to make us a prisoner of the thoughts they arouse. For most of us, it can be a daily choice; we have to be conscious about being forgiving whatever comes our way and however upset or annoyed we might get. Christ sets the best example for each and every one of us in that respect. This is a personal character ideal I am still working on while learning to process things and give myself time in a culture that is far too busy.

When you become aware of pain and of the love of God at the same time and accept both, you can see beauty in most things. You realise that grief isn’t getting over something or someone but getting through a situation.

Over the past ten years, I have watched my dad faithfully visit my nan weekly in her home. I have watched him being involved in the smallest details of her care even though during most of that time, he didn’t have a meaningful conversation with her. I have seen him shouted out and hit by the person he loved and cared for. I have seen him sat in A&E for hours on end knowing that she might not be aware of his presence. That love of always being there, that love expecting nothing in return, that love comes from a deeper place than is humanly explainable. That love is unconditional love. Loving when we are loved back is easy. It does not require much effort on our part, but loving without being loved in return is one of the hardest things.

And while we love, we will grieve. Grief is not something we ever totally erase from our lives or get over. Special occasions in particular such as birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, often make certain emotions resurface, but as time goes by those memories become less dark in nature.

When you reach that time in your life when you are close to death, the space between life and death consists of a very fine line. At that time, the people around you are those you loved and who love you, whether they were there all along or have disappeared and reappeared, or not, for whatever reasons, and as influenced by busy lives and an overloaded diary…. Recognising that what keeps us alive is meaningful relationships is essential.

As my nan was dying, we gathered at her bedside, believing that despite her lack of response, all she would want at that time was to have the people who loved her there. And so, we continued to talk to her, to hold her hands, and despite her not showing it, believing in our hearts that she knew we loved and cared for her. We wanted her to know and to express to her that she would never be left or forsaken, as it is promised by God in the Bible (Hebrews 13:5).

In my book Honesty Over Silence (CWR), I wrote: “Neither depression, nor anxiety, nor self-harm, neither cancer nor OCD nor an eating disorder, nor Alzheimer’s, nor pain from the past or the present or the future, nor disappointment or shattered dream can stop God loving us.”

In some relationships and friendships “goodbye” means “goodbye” as one season finishes, and a new season starts. I have experienced the pain of that, but in the case of my nan, it is not one of these “goodbyes” that I said to her, but rather a “See you later”.

In the Latest Issue

In the our latest Issue 69, Love Speaks. We speak to Carl Wesley Anderson and learn about his life struggles and how he works through them with God by his side. We also speak to Britain's Got Talent stars Darren Sarsby and Andrew Murray about their aspirations, and Lenny Kravitz talks to us on race, God and spreading love through music….  We also have many more brilliant articles from our great team of columnists. Don’t miss this limited edition magazine.

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Born to Blaze - By Sean Adams

Like any homogenised man sprouting from the heart of Midwest America with a dream, Carl Wesley Anderson wanted to take the world and light it on fire. And, serving as an American Christian speaker, author, documentary filmmaker, business owner (reaching more than 20 nations including Europe, Scandinavia, the UK and Australia), he was doing just that.

 

Then came conflagration that nearly consumed him. “That was the day when the world fell from beneath my feet,” Carl stated, eyes gazing into a marbled hearth, blazing within his charming, 100-year-old Victorian-styled home. “Married. Three kids. Successful, award-winning wedding videography business. And then the diagnosis. And all I wanted to know was: Am I going to live? Or am I going to die? Tell, me, God.”

 

In 2014, Carl was diagnosed with stage 3B melanoma—a skin disease that had already begun infecting Carl’s blood and lymph nodes. And, according to the doctor, Carl didn’t have much time left.

 

For these past five years, since 2014, he has faced the onslaught of death: undergoing three major operations, enduring 69 weeks of a drug-induced fever – days at a time, and maintaining equanimity, even while the cancer threatened everything.

 

“We had to turn it over,” Carl stated, clearing his throat. “In the weakness of the disease, I had to let our successful wedding video business go. There were many sleepless nights spent thinking: my vision is lost; my goal is gone. How do I support my family?”

 

In spite of the uncertainty, even in moments of hopelessness, Carl never lost sight of his one true hope: in God. “As a Christian,” he said “I realised, even in the midst of suffering, I am loved by God. I have identity as his son, an adopted heir through Jesus Christ. I don’t have to ask: why this bad circumstance? But I do have to ask: what does God want me to do in the middle of it?

 

“So, I researched and discovered, through the Bible alone there are actually 21 ways of recognising God’s voice.” He paused and smiled. “I heard God promising me, and encouraging me, saying, ‘I have a new calling for this new season in your life. You are going to come out of these cancer treatments to become a media missionary. I want you to tell stories in documentary films, showing how I have been faithful to every generation, including [your] own.’”

 

Having published his book (available on Amazon UK or his website) Love Speaks: 21 Ways to Recognize God’s Multi-Faceted Voice (Born to Blaze Ministries), and encouraged and equipped with new purpose, Carl travelled to England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland and began filming the Love Speaksdocumentary film series. Without much in the way of finances to produce the series, Carl relied on faith.

 

“After my editing, all we had was an idea, seven historical episodes and a trailer. And what was seen by only 120 people, initially, got picked up and licensed by TBN (the world’s largest Christian television platform), not only for the US, but for Africa, and the UK as well.

 

“That said, although I am eager for the whole world to see this, I am really excited to share this with the UK audience, especially. I want people there to watch this series and become inspired by their own heritage. I want them to look at the series and say, ‘We have a heritage that we can claim and pass on, even to the next generation.’

 

“Each of the seven episodes highlights coming-to-faith stories from all over the UK. My hope is for the people of these regions to watch the Love Speaks series, both airing throughout this year on TBN-UK and with the director’s cuts streaming now on our website, and become inspired, reigniting a passion for God and his Word, the Bible.”

 

In preparation for a growing audience, with the prospect of filming 14 more episodes (21 episodes altogether, as donations come in for finance), Carl crafted a Love Speaks Masterclass, personalising and illustrating 21 ways we can recognise God’s voice. Also contained in the Masterclass eCourse, found at lovespeaks.today, are five outreach applications and a free 100-page workbook for individuals or small groups.

 

“We started with nothing, having launched everything by faith. As of 2018, through God’s provision, we now have the potential of reaching over 100 million people worldwide for the message and hope and of God’s love on the TBN networks. We have a book, a documentary series with both an original version and an expanded director’s cut, and we have a Masterclass eCourse. I cannot help but give all praise and glory to him. This was his idea. He started it. He funded it. Let me say, ‘Soli Deo gloria’ which is Latin for to God alone the glory.’ Also, for me, that phrase means that no matter what we’re going through, God is with us.”

 

And God was with him. In the autumn of 2018, Carl discovered that God kept his promise about his new calling, and that the cancer was in full remission.

 

Carl reflects on the last four years, and how he still counts it a privilege to be alive to share the message that Love Speaks.

 

“One of the things that I’ve learned in my journey is that even in times of uncertainty, God supplies everything we need. He gave me my wife who has stood by my side. He gave me love and encouragement, revealing that whether in days of sunshine or shadow, he is there, just as the great preacher, John Wesley, stated with his dying breath, ‘The best of all is, God is with us.’

 

“If I’m gone tomorrow, if this is it, and this is my last day to be alive, I want my story to be this: that I lived out every day to the glory of God, and that his presence was with me, even until the very end. Soli Deo gloria.”

Sorted Issue 70

April 2019

In the latest issue we speak to Hollywood A-Lister, Chris Pratt, Sheridan Voysey on Caves and Crosswords, love and loss from Patrick Regan, what...

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Caves and Crossroads - By Sheridan Voysey

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Leading from the Front - By Peter Wallace

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Living Life Out Loud - By Fiona Duerden

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Better Together - by Simon Barrington

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How Different Generations Can Help Each Other Lead. An abridged extract from Leading – The Millennial Way CEOs to senior leaders, pastors to PCC members...

Learning to Say Goodbye - By Patrick Regan

April 2019

Over the last couple of years, I have experienced grief in various forms and through a series of “goodbyes”: London, a place I loved,...

In the Latest Issue

February 2019

In the our latest Issue 69, Love Speaks. We speak to Carl Wesley Anderson and learn about his life struggles and how he works...

Born to Blaze - By Sean Adams

February 2019

Like any homogenised man sprouting from the heart of Midwest America with a dream, Carl Wesley Anderson wanted to take the world and light...

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