Fingerprints of God

This week as a family we’ve been watching a great BBC series/documentary, Nature’s Weirdest Events. And here is a clip from it with a stack of cute bunnies…

…but it’s had such phenomenon as tarantula eating wasps, zombie starfish, clouds of gnats and weird alien flashes which occur at the same time as earthquakes. We also saw a girl anaconda having babies without the presence of a daddy anaconda, horseshoe crabs infesting the south coast (and having their blue blood harvested for medical purposes), flying fish and goats who climb trees. It really is incredible, I highly recommend watching it (most of them are on YouTube)

I love watching these sort of documentaries (especially with my kids…Joel got especially grossed out by the zombie starfish who undertake self amputation…and then grow another leg back). I really enjoy all sorts of science programmes too…I think I’ve always had a fascination with how things work, which resulted in me pulling things apart in my childhood (derailleur gears, lawnmower engines, radios, guitars). And I even managed to put some of them back together again afterwards as well.

Evolution or Creation?

Evolution and Creation have been lively debates for many years, and will continue to do so for many years to come. There are some who fundamentally believe that God created everything in a literal six days, and then there are those who adhere to the principle of evolutions, that we are the result of a chance accident in a sea of primordial gloop. I hover somewhere between the two…I fully believe we are the result of an intelligent designer, I don’t believe any of us are here just by chance, and I also follow that evolution is a scientific principle which exists.

(as a side note, my daughter Naomi was involved in a class discussion at school recently (she’s 10) and she asked the teacher “are we evolved from monkeys?” and the teacher said “yes”. So Naomi asked, “if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys….” And her teacher very honestly said…”I don’t know….”)

And as Nature’s Weirdest Events shows us, while much natural phenomena can be explained scientifically, we learn there are countless animals, organisms and living things which exhibit unexplained or plain weird habits. Which quite often generate more questions which we’re trying to explain and understand.

99.9% nothing…

Rob Bell’s most recent book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God looks at some of this in great detail…take for example, an atom. About one million atoms lined up would be the width of a human hair. Atoms are made up of even smaller particles; protons, neutrons and electrons. And these make up the centre of the atom, the nucleus. If you were to blow up an atom to the size of a football stadium, the nucleus would be the size of a grain of rice in the centre of the pitch. But get this: the grain of rice sized nucleus would weigh more than the stadium. Weird.

And all of these atoms are 99.9% empty space…think of the grain of rice in the middle of the stadium. Lot of air around it. All atoms are like that. And everything physical is made of atoms. So 99.9% of what we know, isn’t there. The sofa I’m currently sitting on, the laptop I’m typing this on…99.9% nothing. But I can sit on this non existent sofa quite happily.

We rely on what we know, and we often base our faith on what we know and understand…and yet as we delve deeper into science and nature, we realise there is so much we don’t understand, or can even comprehend. We doubt in miracles, we want concrete answers to the existence of God, and we demand evidence to support faith. I would argue the more we discover about the finely tuned balance which allows us to live here, and the daily discoveries of science, physics and nature, the stronger the evidence exists for a creator, an intelligent designer, whose fingerprints are over all the earth.

 

 

All Things New

We’ve been looking at New for a few weeks now, so I wanted to include this song by one of my all time favourite artists, Steven Curtis Chapman:

Revelation 21:5 says: He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” and 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

We know we can be born again in Jesus, all which has happened before can be renewed, restored and made new in Christ. And we have the potential to apply this to all we do as well. Just because we’ve always played in a certain way, or sang in a certain style, listened to a specific genre of music or are only a “serious” actor does not mean we have to do this forever, no matter when and where we are in life.

All Things New

Alanis Morrisette started her career as a bubblegum pop artist after winning a talent show. It was only on her third album, when she’d lost the perm and changed her musical style that she became a huge and respected artist. Neil Gaiman was a struggling journalist following 80’s synth pop bands, including a biography of Duran Duran. Fortunately for those of us who read his books, he left it behind and became an incredible author. Billy Joel was initially in a Heavy Metal duo called Attila, screaming over the drums…which led to Piano Man, The Stranger and Just the Way You Are with a somewhat more sensitive vocal style (although he possesses a thumb which can break piano strings…)

And it’s not just Music…Will Smith was the Fresh Prince of Bel Air who became a comic actor and then an action star and was still able to do serious movies like Seven Pounds and The Pursuit of Happyness. Patrick Stewart, the thespian who became widely known as Captain Luc Piccard, or Sir Alec Guiness as Obi Wan Kenobe, the role he is probably best known for despite having a long and illustrious film and stage career. Our current obsession of an evening is House MD, the multi award winning for Hugh Laurie…who I remember from Jeeves and Wooster or Blackadder. And Duane “The Rock” Johnson regularly pops up in my kids favourite movies…they have no clue he is a former WWE wrestler (although he’s retained the impressive guns…)

Now these are all famous big name stars, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do the same. I would even argue it is even easier for you to be new, reinvented and different in whatever you choose to do. All of these stars have a public following, a history which they are compared to and often is difficult to break free from. You and I are unlikely to have a public history, or anyone to pick us up on it.

Just Have The Confidence To Try

I used to just be a drummer, I was more than happy to sit at the back and keep the beat, and I did it for years. And I fiddled with guitar, could sing (I was in several choirs and vocal groups), but again, in the background. But gradually over time (and I can’t remember the exact moment) I was gently challenged to be at the front, lead the band and sing. And the first few times, I was dreadful. But I persisted (and they persisted with me), so I am now really quite confident to lead from the front, and head up the bands at EBC. And this has led to other things as well…I started using electric guitars, introducing new songs; in the past few years I have led services, something again which was new, I was rubbish at, but over time I’ve developed a style, a confidence and a useful skill.

I am being made new constantly in all I do, and I am always learning, experimenting, trying new things. This blog is less than a year old and the initial setup and tech side was daunting, but I got through the learning curve and have settled into a rhythm. I’m still experimenting with different plectrums. I’m working out better ways of staging our Sunday services. I’m learning about lighting design and DMX systems so we can better use our lights. I’m reading books by people who have done it before, so I can learn. I’m watching movies and TV shows and noting ideas for future dramas. We just had a really successful Christmas including our annual Christingle service, which this year was Once Upon a Nativity, a new script which I wrote…I never set out to be a writer, but drama is something so underused in services, and I couldn’t find anything which fitted with what we wanted…so I wrote it!

So I encourage you to take some of the ideas and pointers from this January series, find some books on subjects you are passionate about, change the way you approach your artistry, and introduce something new. And then let me know what happened, I’d really like to know!

A New Old Song

Do you ever listen to albums, and find sometimes a big song will pass you by? I mean, there are always the catchy singles which pique your interest, and sometimes there are songs which touch you on a personal level (which no one else seems to get in the same way). But how about track number seven you maybe didn’t get to…or track number 9 which is sandwiched between the third single and the bonus track.

I listen to a lot of music, I can say partly because of my job at EBC hunting out creative ideas and songs for the worship band…but mainly because I just love listening to music all the time. Like all the time. I have big speakers on my home computer, little speakers on my office computer, an iPod dock in the car, DAB radio in the kitchen, bluetooth speaker for my iPad…I am generally always connected, and subsequently listen to a lot of music.

And from this I pick songs for Sunday, revise our song lists, find performance songs and videos and share some of the spoils here with you so you can do the same for your church. But I’ll hold my hand up and say I have missed some corking songs from albums I’ve had for a while. They may not have been obvious at the time, and sometimes they are rearranged or performed differently…which just adds some special sauce to an already great song.

Planning together

Today we met with our friends at FBC as we’re planning a joint service for the beginning of February. Rachael and I are going to lead the combined band, so we did what we did last time…compared song lists to see what matched, which songs both congregations would know. But I also thought it may be a good opportunity to do some new songs (and she also had a copy of their new song list so I could peek at what they were doing…FBC are currently revising their list just as we did…cutting it down to something more manageable). Rachael asked if I knew “Guardian” by Ben Cantelon, as they had recently introduced it and it had been really well received. I had to say no, never heard of it…but if you think its that good…lets do it!

So we completed our order of service, arranged rehearsal time and then went off to our next meetings. When I finally got home in the afternoon I typed “Guardian” into my iTunes search, and apart from the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack (great album, great movie), I got two further hits. Guardian from the New Wine Stand Together album, and Guardian (feat. Ben Cantelon) from the Worship Central album. 2013. I had it all along…in fact I’d had it for some 18 months, and yet it had slipped past me.

It Doesn’t Always Have to be New to be New…

So the point of this ramble, and to bring this blog back into line with my January theme of New is: Don’t always be in a rush to look out for a new song that you leave some good old ones behind. Don’t wait for the 2014 songs of the year list to be published before you revise your song list. Don’t be afraid to revisit those albums from 2009 which had a great song on it and 9 others you didn’t notice. Don’t even be cautious about introducing some classics from way back…a lot of hymns are timeless, and its apparent from a lot of live worship albums that these hymns (when contemporised and with an added chorus or bridge) are incredibly popular and just as impactive as they were 50,100, 150 years ago.

What New Old Song can you introduce this Spring term?

It’s the start of something new!

Now you’re thinking: is he having a mid-life crisis? High School Musical hasn’t dated at all. Doesn’t Zac Efron look young…

I won’t have a word said against Troy and Gabriella…Sharpay maybe…as the three movies were on constant rotation in our house (as were the albums), and High School Musical 3 was the first movie we went to with our girls…fond memories. Of course they wouldn’t been seen dead with them now…such is growing up. What I wanted us to do was to embrace the song, as it’s January, it’s the start of the year and as I talked about on Tuesday, it can be a great time to set down some goals for the year.So why don’t you do something new. It doesn’t have to be big or dramatic, just different from your normal day to day. How about:

  • Listen to some music you wouldn’t usually entertain. Most of my CD collection is on my iTunes these days, but I find myself setting up playlists (I used to do mixtapes when I had cassettes) and listening to them constantly….so there are areas of my digital library which are gathering binary dust. I have a smart playlist set up as “never played”, so I can discover songs I have neglected.
  • Watch something new and different. I got given Amazon vouchers aeons ago, and so bought some second hand TV box sets with them…which then sat on a shelf for a while. And one evening we got around to starting one of them…a small US show called House MD. Needless to say we were completely drawn in and ended up hunting down subsequent series (it’s now on Netflix in its entirety, so we’re currently working through seasons 6 to 8).
  • Cook a new dinner. I have a shelf of cookbooks with a lifetime’s worth of recipes, but generally we eat the same (albeit very good) dishes most weeks. It doesn’t have to be ridiculously complicated, or have a list of ingredients as long as your arm. I’ve seen the complete book of mince…aside from lasagne, chili and spaghetti Bolognese, I didn’t think there were another 69 recipes…but clearly there are.
  • Read an unusual book. Aside from my extensive cookbook collection, we do have a lot of regular books. And when I say regular, I am including my personal Star Wars collection along with Tintin and Asterix which I still claim taught me more about history than school did. Now I read a lot of non-fiction business books, leadership books, Christian books, guides on worship…as well as big colourful guitar encyclopaedias and histories with pictures of expensive guitars for me to drool over. But I didn’t read a lot of fiction…so on our last holiday I bought The Martian which came highly recommended and reviewed…and I can highly recommend it…couldn’t put it down.
  • Do something different of a weekend. Get your food shop delivered, or do it Thursday night. Hoover Tuesday morning. Get up and get out, and go somewhere, preferably somewhere you haven’t been before. Hop on a train, visit a museum or stately home or park or exhibition. Go for a long walk. Go to the beach on a grey day. Take a ball somewhere.

Routine doesn’t have to be boring!

Routine is essential, especially when you have children (as we quickly learnt). But routine doesn’t have to mean the same all the time. We get into habits, drive the same route to work, listen to the same radio station in the car, and have the same sandwiches for lunch at the same time in the same place every day. But it doesn’t have to be this way, always. Just trying one or two of the things above will open your ears, eyes and mind to a different experience…which may lead onto something else. Inspiration comes from many sources, but if you aren’t exposing yourself to new or different sources, your inspiration and outlook will be limited.

 It’s the start of something new. What are you going to do?

Waiting Here For You

So by now the decorations should all be packed away in the loft, there may be the odd mince pie left lurking in the cupboard (they never run out, and rarely go stale…), and the days go back to normal now Christmas is all done for another year.

This past December at EBC we looked at Waiting Here for You as our Christmas theme, using the song by Martin Smith and examining the topics: God works while we wait; While we are waiting on God we are waiting with God; and Who you become while you are waiting is as important as what you are waiting for.

We all waited with eager anticipation in the Kerslake household for Christmas, possibly our favourite time of the year. I love sharing food and gifts together, bringing friends and family under the same roof and having a joint celebration together. There were 13 of us for Christmas day, and 9 for Boxing Day, and the following days were spent catching up with more friends and family. And of course the three smaller Kerslakes were excited to see what was going to appear under the tree.

But now Christmas is over, I wanted us to start the year looking at the same song, and the lyrics behind it. Even though we are into January, the words are just as pertinent. Over Christmas we were waiting for Jesus’ arrival on Christmas day, an event which had been foretold throughout the Old Testament. And this Sunday, Wednesday, Friday, every day…we do the same. We eagerly await His arrival in our services, in our offerings, in our day to day, week to week. We know He is always with us, no matter where we are.

I challenge you, this 2015, to approach each day with the same anticipation which was there for Christmas. That we have an eagerness and expectation for our services, that we offer our songs of worship in open and honest praise, fully expecting Him to be there as we sing, pray, listen, stand there with our arms lifted high or are seated with our heads bowed. He is waiting here for us, He is always there, expectantly waiting for us. I pray we will be doing the same, as we sing, pray, and are silently there.

Waiting Here for You.

If faith can move the mountains

Let the mountains move

We come with expectation

Waiting here for You, waiting here for You

 

You’re the Lord of all creation

And still You know my heart

The Author of Salvation

You’ve loved us from the start

 

Waiting here for You

With our hands lifted high in praise

And it’s You we adore

Singing Alleluia

 

You are everything You’ve promised

Your faithfulness is true

And we’re desperate for Your presence

All we need is You

 

Singing Alleluia

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Written by Chris Tomlin, Martin Smith and Jesse Reeves 2011

Today is Beautiful

I’ve been home a couple of days with my middle daughter, Naomi. She’s been full of cold since the weekend, so we made a visit to the doctors today. Now I know it’s a cold, and she was getting a bit wheezy (hence the appointment), but we really weren’t quite prepared for “Congratulations Naomi, you’re the sickest patient I’ve seen this morning!” Turns out the cold is developing into a fever, and she also has a chest infection which has the beginnings of bronchitis. Lots of medicine on the way, and a few more days at home on the sofa with some good movies (currently watching Pirates of the Caribbean…I am trying to work…I am trying to work…).

This may be the strangest opening to a blog post ever (at least for me), but through all of the above (and the days which have preceded it), my Naomi has remained resilient, can’t wait to get back to school, and still has a big smile on her face. When I have a cold (and of course I’m talking proper Man Flu here), I just wallow in bed. (It is, thankfully, a rare occurrence in the Kerslake household).

This coming Sunday we continue with our Christmas series at EBC, Waiting Here for You. The tagline is “While we are waiting on God, we are waiting with God. God is there the whole time.” There are times in the waiting where you can start to think you’ve dropped off God’s radar. It’s easy to think you’ve fallen through the cracks, or even worse been completely forgotten by God. From your vantage point, there’s only silence. God has not forgotten you or His promise. If you feel like you can’t make it one more step, or if you’ve already stumbled and hit the floor, He is holding out His hand.

Today is Beautiful

This song by David Dunn sums it up. Today is Beautiful. Every day is beautiful. We all have good and bad days, moments we will remember forever and times which we will happily forget and try to lose in history. Interviews, exams, relationships and doctor’s appointments which don’t go the way we planned or expected. But wherever we’re at, and whatever we’re doing, we know we’re not doing it alone.

My Naomi has always had this positive streak running through her which is infectious, she sees the best in people and situations and smiles and jokes and plays through it. Even on a day like today when she’s struggling with an infection which would floor some people, the smile and enjoyment and happiness is still there. Every day is beautiful.

God is with us always.

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

OK, I admit, I am a Christmas addict! I Love Love Love Christmas…getting the family together, all of the food, carols, and of course decorations! Now I know today is the 2nd of December….but we couldn’t wait…so our decorations went up in the Kerslake house this weekend…yes, it was still November!

In years past we have looked at gifts and giving at Christmas, the colours of Christmas and their meaning, we did Simple Christmas which examined the main message once all of the trimmings and sparkles had been stripped out. This coming Sunday we start our Christmas series for 2014, and this year we have themed it on the phrase and song Waiting Here for You. This Sunday we’re using Come thou long expected Jesus, and the video above (from the SkitGuys) is superb.

Christmas is all about anticipation, whether it’s looking forward to holidays, getting the family together, or trying not to peak at the presents under the tree! And not just at Christmas, as we plan ahead we are waiting for holidays, birthdays, surprises…we even wait for the weekend to arrive! But waiting isn’t a bad thing, it can be a good thing because of what God does in the waiting.

Jesus’ coming had been foretold all through the old testament, but there were 400 years of silence between the last prophet in the old testament and Jesus arrival in the new testament. 400 years! My mum thinks I’ve forgotten about her if I don’t ring for a week or two…can you imagine what 400 years of silence is like?! And yet believers stayed faithful, scriptures were passed through the generations, and Jesus’ coming was anticipated, believed in and waited for.

While God rarely comes at our appointed time, He always comes at the right time. It’s easy to bale on God at the first sign of trouble, to worry, make new plans and take shortcuts. But there is another way, the quiet way of rest and trust.

We couldn’t even wait to put our decorations up, and are so excited for Christmas day when we can give our kids their presents, pull our family and friends together and enjoy the celebration. But that is only 23 days away…I cannot begin to imagine what 400 years of patience and waiting looks like.

How good are you at waiting?

Do Something!

Do you ever get weary from all of those talking head programmes, those analysts on the news, the sports “experts” who pull apart the match/game/tournament and tell you exactly how it should have been done, if you’d have done it this way, why it was completely wrong to put “” in goal? Admittedly some of them may well be experts in their field, but they always always spend a lot of time talking about it, but never actually do anything about it!

Over the next couple of Sundays at EBC we are looking at our World Mission, Toy Box this week, and Sierra Leone next week. We have had long term projects with both of them, and ToyBox is probably a well known charity, so let’s look at our friends in Sierra Leone.

I’ve posted about my friend Abs before, as well as Regent Road Baptist Church, so do look back and read about them. We have partnered with RRBC to build a church and a school in Tombo, a fishing village some way out of Freetown in Sierra Leone. The church is completed, and despite the current Ebola crisis, construction on the new school continues and they hope to have it completed soon. Now we at EBC are in the middle of working through a building project, and it’s been slow going. Admittedly, there are many more planning regulations to adhere to and apply for, as well as a difference in the funding…building costs are very different here than they are in West Africa! Incredibly, now the Tombo project is nearing completion, RRBC are looking towards their next plant!

Before their current project is finished, they are already looking ahead to the next need, where to plant, where help is needed!

Step out of your comfort zone!

It can be relatively easy to maintain the status quo, keep things ticking over and do the 9 to 5. It is even easier (and I am just as guilty at this) to criticise and fix from a distance, just like the TV critics.

“Why did they do that song?!”

“I’d have never worn that shirt to deliver a sermon!”

“Who planned that service…I’d never have trusted “” to speak, I’d  have done it this way”

And so the question must be….why didn’t you then?

If you can deliver a really good talk…why don’t you? If you are gifted in worship music, why don’t you join the band? If the church is asking for money for it’s new project why don’t you give? If you have spare time to give, what are you doing with it?

The Matthew West video says it all really:

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

This is also the week that Band Aid 30 have released a new version of Do They Know It’s Christmas, and along with the positive press and big sales which are contributing towards Africa, there has been the almost predictable cynicism. I watched an interview with Bob Geldof on Sky (it was doing the rounds on Facebook), and the thrust of the interview was “why should we pay money for this when you millionaire rockstars don’t pay your taxes…if you did, we wouldn’t need charity singles”. Now I don’t know how much Bob Geldof, or Bono donates every year to charity, or how they pay their taxes, but I’m sure they do. And I know this single will raise significant money for Africa which will help fight the Ebola crisis. And Sir Bob and the rest of Band Aid 30 (and 25, and 20, and the original) are using their gifts, time, and very public presence to actually do something.

Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

What can you do today? Do something!

 

Christmas is all in the heart

I know it’s only November, but that means that its just 43 days till Christmas! Yay!

I have always always been a huge fan of Steven Curtis Chapman…he seems to have an amazing ability to put the perfect words to the perfect tune, and then sing and play it…well, perfectly! I have mentioned him before, and no doubt I will mention him again…and again…and again…. This song is from one of his older Christmas albums, and although the haircuts and shirts may look a little dated (I did get away with a 90’s Friends clip the other week….), the song and the sentiment far outweigh.

I find more and more as I get older that the cliche “it’s better to give than receive” becomes more and more true. My kids are getting older, so the Christmas present lists change. Hannah and I still buy for each other, although these days there is so little that we actually want for, let alone need. In fact my Christmas list doesn’t exist this year…I’m happier planning the food and festivities for the family and friends that are coming with us.

This Sunday at EBC we’re filling shoeboxes for Samaritan’s purse. This is something we have done for many years now, and the effort has spread across all of our Sunday services. We’ve always had the ethos of setting aside some Sundays to do community projects…for some we shut up shop altogether and go out into the community, for this one we start with a time of worship, and then devote the rest of our service to filling shoeboxes.

There is more information about Samaritan’s Purse here, but the basic premise is that they distribute thousands of filled and wrapped shoeboxes to children all over the world, that otherwise would not get anything for Christmas. We put in toys, games, soap, toothpaste and brushes, pens and pencils, pads, cuddly toys, scarves, hats…as much as will fit!

So much of Christmas gets lost in the commercialism…the real sentiment, the humble beginnings…the real story.

Lets make sure that this year, the true story of Christmas doesn’t get pushed down the Christmas lists.

We all fall down

I first heard Tom Baxter when he was supporting one of the artists I was working for at the time. It was just coincidence they were on the same label, so he had been sent out to push his new album…the upcoming artist getting some much needed exposure on the back of someone much biggestaircase1r. The venue was the Albert Hall, which added to the pressure, and of course, only being the support act meant a short time slot at the beginning with a small band and limited equipment. What followed was quite astonishing to me, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

Apologies, I couldn't find this anywhere on YouTube!!!

This Boy on the MTV site

Now not only does Tom Baxter possess an incredible voice, his songwriting is quite exceptional too. And it raises the eternal question (which I won’t even attempt to answer now), how do the charts manage to assemble such a hit parade of misses, when there are artists like Tom whom don’t seem to get a look in?

This boy fell down, and now he’s upstanding,
This boy broke down and now he’s got himself going,
‘Cause we all fall down, we all fall down,
But we all stand up somehow

This boy questioned, ‘Will I ever, ever make it through?’
Oh but thank god, this boy’s back now and he’s sticking round to tell you,
That we all fall down, Yeah we all fall down,
But we all stand up somehow?

We all fall down

‘Cause we all fall down. We do! Growing up we go through the toddler stage, learning to take those first steps. Or maybe the first time your stabilisers are taken off of your bike, and you wobble down the street. Or as we get older, whether it’s in keeping new year resolutions, keeping to a gym regime, trying to not eat the second (third?) slice of cake…to websites we know we shouldn’t visit, “friends” who we would be better not to see, habits we formed long ago which are so hard to break. But we also have a choice when we fall, just as we did when we were kids. Do we stay on the floor and wallow, or do we stand up, dust ourselves off, and get going again? And also the way we get up…what we do after we’ve fallen…and what we learn from it can make a big difference to how we go through life.

We all fall down. And we will continue to fall. Choose to stand up, keep going, keep trying, and the next time you fall, it won’t be so far, it won’t be so hard, and the getting up will be easier.