How We See

Inside Out is currently doing fantastic business in America, released to overwhelming critical acclaim, everyone is flocking to the cinema. I know we can’t wait to see it as a family (unfortunately it’s not out until the end of July in the UK….just in time for the school summer holidays…)

Inside Out is set inside the mind of Riley, where her five emotions: Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness, try to lead her through life as she moves with her family to a new city. Pete Docter, the director, first began developing Inside Out in 2009 after noticing changes in his daughter’s personality as she grew older. The film’s producers consulted many psychologists and researched the mind in preparation for building its story. Initial drafts were unsatisfactory, and the production was revised significantly with the realization that interpersonal relationships guide human emotions.

Winning With People

We are just about to start a new series at EBC called Winning With People, based on the book by John Maxwell, and the first part is titled How We See. And if its not obvious by now…this Inside Out clip is going to be used to open the service. The story we’re using is from Luke 7: 36-50, where Jesus is anointed by a sinful woman while at Simon’s house. Simon is self righteous and believes he is better than everybody else…and so does not see Jesus for who he is, nor the woman for who she is. Whereas the woman knows herself, and so sees Jesus for who he really is.

Who we are affects how we see other people. Who we are affects our relationships with other people. Just as illustrated in the Inside Out clip, our emotions and the thoughts in our head can often dictate how we relate to one another. It can be as simple as if we’re angry or happy, tearful or sensitive, we can either rub others up the wrong way or misinterpret how others are acting towards us. I know I’ve been guilty of that (although not very often as I’m usually so perfect and fun)….

But at a deeper level we can all have ingrained opinions and almost subconscious reactions whether these are genetic, from our background, from other influences or experiences. It could be argued that certain press and media outlets thrive on these negative preconceptions…we seem to be in the thick of a raft of headlines about “benefits scroungers”, “work-shy”, “immigrants” and “celebs”…and we get hardened to the images and articles we read when often the real stories are somewhat different.

The Lens Principle

John Maxwell better defines this as The Lens Principle (again from his book Winning With People), which he defines as:

Who we are determines how we see others.

The big question is:
What is my perception of others?

This means:

  1. Who you are determines what you see.
  2. Who you are determines how you see others.
  3. Who you are determines how you view life.
  4. Who you are determines what you do.

At its simplest we could define this as stereotyping: all artists are flighty, all singers are divas, drummers hang around with musicians, all programmers are dorks etc… But how we’ve been brought up, who our friends were (or still are), parent’s opinions, the press we read and much much more will have an affect on how we view the world, and how we see people.

W.W.J.S.

163-1468Now I don’t think it’s my place to say what you should or should not be reading or listening to; my point of view, my background, my family situation, the newspapers I read and the TV I watch is possibly the same or maybe completely different to yours. But I’ll leave you with this:

There was a craze in the late 90’s for wearing WWJD bracelets, which, if you were around in the 90’s you’ll know stood for What Would Jesus Do? So maybe a subtle change to this, as we think about How We See people would be to have a bracelet with WWJS on it: What Would Jesus See?

The Greatest Gift

So we’re almost halfway through May, which means it must be about time for Christmas planning…. No? Well, even though this post is nothing to do with the festive season, here is one of my all time favourite Big Bang Theory clips…

We’ve just started a new series at EBC called “50 Shades of Grace” (see what we did there….), which while blatantly ripping off the title from a well known book series, has nothing to do with the content of the novels or movie (not that I’ve seen or read either….)

The first part of the series was simply called “Saved“, and looked at how we all fall short, we all make mistakes, but everyone can be saved through the grace of God. And this gift of grace is freely given and freely received…the cost has already been paid.

Free?

In my “other” life as a royalty accountant, I work with many companies and artists in the music industry, and they have been getting to grips with the whole Freemium model which is growing within the industry. Companies like Spotify, Pandora and BeatsMusic, cover mount CD’s and YouTube means there are now so many ways of exposing artists and sharing their creations, but the majority of it makes no money and is perceived by the consumer as free…if I can stream it/watch it/consume it on my laptop, why should I pay for it? And if it’s then “free”, it’s value is diminished…we don’t treat it in the same as we may have a CD or Vinyl which we would have previously bought.

Church is quite often perceived in a similar way. I posted the other week about our volunteer celebration, and how for some church just “happens” when behind the scenes there are countless people making it “happen”. Week after week we put on a service which has great music and arts, an interesting and challenging talk, sometimes drama, accompanying literature and good quality refreshments, and all it costs is an hour of your morning. Theatres and concert venues would charge you lots for a similar experience! But because it’s “free” is it’s real value diminished?

Always Grace

Grace, the thing that separates the Christian faith from other faiths or world views. Grace is a free gift, free for us to grasp and receive and live in its light. We can’t earn it, we can’t buy it, much as we may try we cannot “be better, be more good” to deserve it.  But because it’s “free”, do we again devalue it, not take it as seriously as we should, not realise how important and how incredible this gift is, and how much it actually cost in the first place?

In the clip, Penny has just got Sheldon a napkin signed by his hero, Leonard Nimoy. But to Sheldon this is possibly the greatest gift he could ever have received, and no matter how many gift baskets he lavishes on Penny, he is not going to be able to repay her and show his gratefulness.

We cannot repay Jesus for his gift of grace. But we can accept it, we can acknowledge it, and we can be thankful every day for He who saved us, and gave us all the Greatest Gift.

As a bonus (as my posting has been all over shop these past weeks…), here’s a great new song from Matt Redman at this years Passion conference….Always Grace.

Creation

Creation. No matter what your viewpoint, whether you’re Big Bang or 7 days, creationist or evolutionist, happy accident or divine intervention…everyone must agree we came from somewhere?

We at EBC are exploring creation as part of our current “Case For” series, so I thought as a simple end to the week, I’d share the two clips we’re using. The first on is a classic Sheldon moment from Big Bang Theory (do you know how difficult it is to find this clip when you type “Big Bang Theory Creation” into You Tube?

The second clip is a lovely little sequence from the Russell Crowe “Noah” movie, which itself attracted plenty of criticism. But as a general illustration of creation, I think it’s a great piece of media:

Now it’s Friday evening and I’m not even going to attempt to pick apart the different arguments for and against…there are plenty of better informed people than I. My own take on it? I don’t believe we’re here by some accident, I do believe in an intelligent designer, I do accept the world being created in seven days (although I also have a view as to what “a day” may be in God’s timescale and I finally don’t see why evolution and creation would be incompatible.

What I’m generally more interested in is not how we got here, but what we actually do in the short time we have on this earth.

What I Want to Want

So this Sunday sees us deliver the past part of our Follow series at EBC, and it’s titled What I Want to Want. The basic premise is that it’s better to follow God’s will than to try and impose our own. If you want to catch up with any of our talks you can find them here, or the original series from Northpoint is here.

Now those who regularly read this blog will know how much of a Big Bang fan I am, and this clip illustrates the point perfectly. Sheldon is tolerating Penny coming over regularly, but there are a few rough edges which he wants to smooth in order to make life better for himself. So by using positive reinforcement (chocolate), he starts to train Penny to be a better house guest. There’s a second part here:

Now I’m all for change, change is good, and I personally love to experiment with new things, the latest gadgets, new music and movies. I wouldn’t say I’m a cutting edge hipster by any means, but I do keep up with what’s going on in the world. And I will freely admit I struggle sometimes when other friends and family don’t see it the same way…that the latest release by St Vincent or John Mayer which I think is wonderful is just muzak to others, or Level 42 are a hugely underrated band, and Prince is just a purple genius. It’s all true. In my world.

Walking on Sunshine

 

My eldest daughter was recently off ill, and so scanning through Netflix discovered Walking on Sunshine, the movie. I’ll let you check it out if you so wish, but if you imagine Mama Mia set in Italy with lots of tanned young people breaking into 80’s classics at a moments notice…you’ll get the picture. So being a child of the 80’s, I did the only decent thing and put together my version of the Walking on Sunshine soundtrack but with the original tunes. We listened to it on a road trip over half term. Out of the 13 tracks (which included Don’t you want me, White Wedding, The Power of Love (by Huey Lewis) and of course Walking on sunshine), the general consensus from both of my daughters were that the new versions were far superior (something they also think about Glee songs…) And try as I might, I could not argue them to think my (obviously educated and correct) way of thinking.

We so often do this in other areas of our lives…try to persuade others to think the way we do, or justify a purchase or expense based on other’s perceptions or the idea it will change us for the better. And sometimes we may go even further, trying to persuade those close to us to be someone they’re not so they can fit the mold which we want them to be modeled into.

Responsibility

As parents we try to educate, encourage and discipline our children so they can be the best that they can be. And our influence and passions will inevitably rub off on them…all of our kids are turning out to be musical and artistic, we share similar tastes in films, music and humour and they also share our complete lack of interest in anything sport related. But we never impose our will or our dreams on them…we support them and help them to be who they want to be, not who we think they should be. And much as my desire is to have a band of Kerslakes, for my children to share my love of Level 42 and Prince and for them to agree that Star Wars is the best movie trilogy ever…I have to accept they much prefer Glee, The Hunger Games and 5 seconds of summer.

And God is a lot like the above…if He’d wanted us to be perfect clones submitting to His will without question then free will would have been taken out of the equation long ago. But He loves us more than that…which is why we are free to make our own decisions as to who we are, how we act, and whether or not we choose to follow. So are we willing to want what God wants more than what we want?

Chocolate?

Mother’s Day Ideas

dead-flowers

Now I know this post is titled Mother’s Day Ideas, but if you’re looking for suggestions for the ideal bouquet, where to buy the cheapest chocolates and tips on how to cook the perfect roast (you are at least taking your mum out for lunch, aren’t you?), this is the wrong place.

But what I can give you is a small selection of clips and skits which can be used in your church, either to publicise your upcoming Mother’s Day Service (you are going to celebrate the mums on Mother’s Day, aren’t you?), or as a great opener, discussion starter, or just a celebration of mums…which, lets be frank, is just what Mother’s Day is all about)

Now this has been doing the rounds on Facebook this week…a really cute little short which should raise plenty of smiles (and nods of appreciation from the mums…)

We are thinking of using this next one as publicity (and a reminder…you did remember it’s Mother’s Day next week?) for our special next Sunday. Great idea, brilliant content, and I would say it appeals to the men in the congregation as much as the women. My wife put me onto this one, she thought it was great (and who am I to argue?)

And then finally, a slightly longer (and all together great) short from the Skit Guys and their Mom Goggles…premise: they are looking after the kids for the weekend, and when they put on their Mom Goggles they see the world…differently. Very funny, very touching, I properly Laughed Out Loud at points…this is going to go down a storm in our services.

We’re also going to be treating mums with special cakes, hopefully a bit of silver service from our youth, chocolate, hand cream and George Clooney. Well, that’s the intention…if George turns up.

Of course we should be celebrating our mums every day of the year, but in case you need reminding again…Mother’s Day is next Sunday (you haven’t forgotten, have you?)

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.

 

 

Give Us Rest

We’re in the middle of our Life Apps series (something we bought from Northpoint Community Church), and this weekend we looked at the rest app.

In my day to day life I can email and text from anywhere, work from home, commute relatively easily and have a house full of time saving gadgets (dishwasher, microwave, tumble dryer, broadband and Tivo). Yet I am busier than ever just keeping up…and so often forget to just stop. And for those of us who work or serve at church, our Sabbath is often just another work day. But we know what will happen if we don’t rest, something I can attest to having just come out of a particularly busy season. Which brings up the question; why don’t we do it?

Our EBC Opener for The Rest App

We started the service with an opener, first this cute clip (something all of the mums at least could recognise):

There are some well known people who have strange sleep patterns:

  • Mariah Carey sleeps with 20 humidifiers, and insists on 15 hours a night.
  • J-Lo, Jeff Bezos and the Dalai Lama all aim for eight hours a night (although obviously in different beds)
  • Charles Dickens always slept facing north, as he believed it improved his creativity.
  • Michael Phelps sleeps in a special high pressure chamber which replicates being at around 9000 feet above sea level. The thinner air works his body harder…so he’s effectively training while he sleeps!
  • Leonardo Da Vinci had a 20 minute nap every four hours
  • Nikola Tesla followed the same sleep pattern, and slept for no more than two hours a day!
  • Margaret Thatcher famously (or infamously?) got by on four hours a night when she was Prime Minister (as did Bill Clinton and President Obama)
  • And possibly our most revered Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, took a two hour nap each day at 5 to allow him to work late into the night… as this clip demonstrates!

Now these are some extreme examples, but all of us need to rest no matter our circumstances. And those famous people above who regularly had a very short nights sleep didn’t sustain it forever…there was a point when it caught up on them. Marisa Mayer, the current CEO of Yahoo apparently works very long hours (140 hour weeks!) and doesn’t sleep for any useful amount of time. But she then takes a holiday every four months where she sleeps…and sleeps…and sleeps…

But for those of us who don’t have the luxury of regular holidays, or weeks off where we can rest interrupted (I have three children who seem to be in the habit of going to bed late and waking up early….), we have to try and find a way of switching off and resting sensibly.

But How?!

There are many who have posted about rest and sleep, with ideas and pointers much better than I can offer (being a self confessed Night Owl who has to get up early most mornings). If you’re interested, this post by Michael Hyatt says it all brilliantly, and he has a whole archive about rest here, I highly recommend you read them (I read everything he writes, I think you should too).

So rest. Stop when you get opportunity. Don’t work every Sunday, just “be” at church sometimes. Take time out when you can, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. We watch movies, and I don’t multitask with movies…I just watch them and unwind without a laptop, phone or anything to fiddle with (other than popcorn or a drink). Plan your holidays in advance for the year, and if possible, be strategic with them (as we have kids, they naturally have to fit in with school holidays which are spaced out fairly evenly).

How do you rest, or more importantly, how often do you rest?

Why Don’t You…

Just this past Sunday we did the first of our World Mission series, where we were looking at some of the outreach that we do as a church overseas, and in our wider community. Our focus was on our friends in Sierra Leone who we have been supporting for many years now.

I was reminded as I spoke of a TV series I used to watch when I was younger (showing my age now…) called Why Don’t You. It was a kids series which gave loads of ideas as to how you could fill your time after school, at the weekends and during school holidays. The tag line in the theme tune was “Why Don’t You Just Switch Off the Television Set and Do Something Less Boring Instead?”

Now this is one of my favourite times of year, not just because Christmas is coming up (although I do love Christmas). No, because come Autumn we as a family batten down the hatches, the heating is turned up and Saturday and Sunday evenings are devoted to watching Strictly Come Dancing. We all get into our PJ’s, dinner is sorted early and the social calendar is block booked so we don’t get interruptions. Although somehow we do have a dinner date in the middle of December….but they have agreed to leave the TV on in the background so we can keep the dancing in full view…

Square Eyes?

TV marketers and advertisers devise their schedules to draw you in…as a demographic, if you’re the sort of person who switches on and then leaves it on, you’ll be there for all of the adverts. It works, my kids all have the Cillit Bang adverts off to a tee, and when Christmas comes and the toy advertising ramps up, they know exactly what is available and what they need! I had a friend a few years back who was so….devoted….to soap operas that she would start with Neighbours at 5:30 pm and watch straight through to 8pm via Hollyoaks, Brookside, Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Eastenders! These days I’m really not a big TV watcher in all honesty…we got upgraded at home a few years back, so have all of the channels that cable can offer as well as HD recording on our Tivo and a second box in the bedroom. But I’m finding more and more we don’t use it…apart from catching up with the news, Strictly (of course!) and Castle…it rarely goes on. And that was the whole point of Why Don’t You.

Breathing Room

We have so many pressures on our time, and only so many hours in the day to do all we want to do. But we all have the same 24 hours to use every day as we see fit, so why is it that some seem to get so much done, or are free to devote time to the things they are passionate about? Instead of switching on the TV, I can write this blog post, read a book, play with my kids, plan the service for next Sunday. My TV habits have changed dramatically over the past couple of years, precisely because of this. I still watch TV, as said above, we are loving watching Strictly as a family, and Hannah and I unwind with either a good series (Castle, Homeland, The West Wing) or a movie. But for us, switching on the TV is the exception rather than the rule.

So next time you’re finding yourself short of time, or wanting to devote yourself to a new pastime or mission, maybe you can reach for the off switch on your remote to give you the time and space you need?

How much TV do you watch every week?

Conflict

Whenever I think of conflict, I generally go back to that amazing Monty Python sketch, “Argument Clinic” where Michael Palin (in a fabulous 70’s outfit) walks into a room and asks “Is this the room for an argument”, and John Cleese replies “Well I’ve already told you once…” But, as discussed in my past posts, we’re always trying to be more culturally relevant to our congregation and our peers, so here’s a clip from Friends instead…

In the clip from Friends, Joey has moved out of Chandler’s apartment, so Chandler has got a new roommate. This has caused obvious tension, as they have such a long history together and at the end of the day, are missing each other’s company terribly. But is something that neither of them want to tackle. The empty juice carton is the catalyst for their angst, but still neither one is willing to take the matter head on…digressing from juice to eggs, from eggs to chickens.

Heat rising

Don’t you find it’s often that way, the smallest thing can trigger long supressed anger and feelings, often leaving the other party confused and wondering where it came from? And of course it makes no sense…because usually the trigger is nothing to do with what caused the conflict in the first place! As they say, never go to bed on an argument…or even better, don’t have an argument in the first place.

I know of many friends that just shy away from conflict. At the first sign of any sort of argument flaring up, or even the slightest disagreement, they will back off, shy away or compromise, just to deflect from any potential conflict. And at the same time I know (fortunately far fewer) people that just seem incredibly able of inciting conflict at a moments notice, in fact they almost go out of their way to be disagreeable and will not back down, no matter what the cost.

Is it just me?

I think most of us can identify with either personality, and it seems to me that there are a very few that tread the middle ground, not wanting to cause an argument, but at the same time standing up for their principles and returning a balance, healthy and wise argument. The longer that things remain unsaid, the more they fester, until when it finally bubbles to the surface it erupts, literally blowing out of proportion whatever the issue was in the first place. Now I’m no counsellor, and don’t want to offer relationship advice or the like…but I know that Mrs K and I generally talk over most stuff…no matter how awkward. And there are some topics that will always cause more “discussion” than others…money for example. But we still have the conversation, and have it early before it grows into something bigger than it was.

Being open, honest and up front is a great way of avoiding conflict, and at the same time putting your hands up and saying “sorry, I was wrong” is also a great sentence to diffuse a situation. Neither response may solve the issues, but they will allow you to move on with the conversation without resorting to an argument.

And now, for something completely different…

For those of a certain age, and as a half term treat….here’s the Monty Python sketch in full… Now I’ve told you once….

The Storm Inside

Have you ever experienced an indoor storm? Do you know acquaintances who cause a whirlwind when they walk into a room. Do you have friends who just can’t ever seem to shake the cloud that follows them around…and they make sure everybody knows about it?

This week at EBC we’re starting a new series called Climate Change. Now I know the instant reaction is to think of global warming, changing weather patterns and farting cows. OK, so maybe not gaseous bovine creatures comes straight to mind. While our series is weather based, it’s looking at the climate we bring with us wherever we go. And we all do, whether (or weather?) we realise it or not.

Travis memorably sang “Why does it always rain on me“. I know if I’m in a bit of a fug, I can bring it home, pass it onto my family and drench them all with my cloudy mood. Fortunately I don’t (think?) I do this very often. Similarly, I have friends who will bring a ray of sunshine and happiness into all situations…no matter what. I love spending time with them, and more often than not will gravitate towards them in social situations (as will inevitably everyone else!).

Horrible Bosses

This clip, from the wonderfully dark comedy Horrible Bosses sees Kevin Spacey playing one of the meanest spirited bosses you could ever hope to not meet. He’s been tagging Jason Bateman’s character along for a promotion, getting him to work overtime, weekends, doing far more than he should… and he’s then awarded it to himself…along with a pay rise and a bigger office. And of course, rather than lending a sympathetic ear and being a “listening” manager, he instead berates Jason for calling his grandma “Gam Gam”. Makes you want to throw him out of the window. Or find a big stick.

Have you ever been in a situation like this? Are there people you avoid because of their climate? Or do you have a climate of your own which means you’re the one who is excluded? The thing is, climates, like the weather, are changeable. It doesn’t have to rain all the time (even if you live in wales), just as life isn’t always sunny. But unlike the inclement weather which we experience in the UK, we do have a choice. We can decide if it’s always going to rain on us, whether we can give our in-laws a frosty reception, or choose to cast out a few rays and share some sunshine.

What’s your climate? Do rainclouds follow you? What would it take to share some sunshine?