Step Away from the Microphone

We have a fabulous bass player in our team called Kat. She plays double bass rather wonderfully, and sings along as she plays…but she will not ever sing into a microphone. I’ve never actually heard her sing, but she is there to play bass and play bass only. And, I think it was on a conference we went to together, the phrase “step away from the microphone” arose, and has hung around ever since. Now this post is absolutely nothing to do with Kat’s singing (or lack of singing), and it’s not here to discourage anyone in their singing. Unless you’re our Senior minister…in which case, Chris, sorry, but yes, you must put the microphone away all together. (Chris will freely admit his singing ability is as good as my rugby knowledge. It’s really that bad. But we are praying for him.)

MicrophoneThis past Sunday at EBC we ended up with a slightly bigger band than usual, which was great. And we were continuing with our Follow series looking at the topic of Cost and what we need to give up to do something. Now among the songs I had chosen for the band was the song “Light of the World” by Tim Hughes, an oldy but goody which we don’t use as often, but which had the wonderful bridge “I’ll never know how much it cost, to see my sin upon that cross”.

When I was planning the rehearsal (you do plan your rehearsals, don’t you?), I thought it would be great to start the song on the chorus acapella. So we did, and it worked really, really well. I was fortunate to have a group of musicians who are able to harmonize without too much direction…in fact we even got an extra microphone out for our bass player (Graham this week) who wanted to sing some extra harmonies. We had a really good rehearsal, the music went very well, we had fun together, it was worshipful…it just worked. It just worked! So I was really looking forward to Sunday, I knew it was ready and should go well.

Sunday outcome

So come Sunday we did our services, and besides Light of the World we were also using One Thing Remains, Brian Doerksen’s The River and The King of Love. And I found that as we had a seven piece band (Cajon, Bass, two guitars, a violin and six of us singing), I was able to lead but hardly play, and I was able to Step Away from the Microphone. Now this may not be much of a revelation to some of you, and it is something I have written about, and have been working towards. But this Sunday I was able to actually do it without having to plan it too much…and it was so releasing for me, for the band, and I’m sure for the congregation too.

Karen (who was flitting between violin and vocals depending on the song) took the lead in some of the songs, the rest of the team handled either harmonies or male lead, and I just chipped in with some harmonies and the tune in certain parts. And it was the same with my guitar…especially as the songs didn’t require too much drive, I was able to sit back, strum, use some open chords and let the rest of the band carry the song.

The Fraction Principle

I have mentioned the fraction principle before, and it’s a post worth a revisit. But this Sunday we were really on it, each of us playing well within our limits and abilities, listening to each other and just being incredibly sympathetic to the songs.

Now that’s not to say we’re generally unsympathetic most Sundays and have a competition to see who’s the loudest/fastest/biggest show off (clue: it’s usually me….). But this week really stood out…and the feedback we got from the band (excited and slightly elated), the congregation (they noticed the difference!) and the leadership (we even got a small round of applause…!)…all went to illustrate how we had just eeked out a little something extra.

So please, try it. Rehearse your rehearsals. Use the fraction principle. Try something new. Step away from the microphone! And maybe something a bit wonderful may happen.

Expect the Expected

Henry Ford started manufacturing the Model T in 1908, and while it wasn’t the first mass produced car, Ford did implement manufacturing techniques and refined the assembly line process to make cars more accessible to the general public rather than the rich persons plaything. By 1918, half of all cars in America were Model T’s, and they were all black…as Henry Ford famously said,Any colour as long as it's black...

“Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black”

 

Do you ever find church can feel a bit like that? We follow the same tried and tested formula, perform the same rituals, sing the same songs (hymns) by the same people in the same order, week after week after week. Even forward thinking churches can fall into following a routine, as it’s “normal” for a Sunday. Like the Model T, Sundays can all come in the one colour…we expect the expected.

This past Sunday we held our regular All Age Sunday which always happens at the end of the month. This has meant in the past always having a kids song, breaking the talk up into smaller parts, maybe a children’s story or some sort of interaction…again, falling into a tried and tested routine.

But this Sunday we got our youth group to lead the whole service….from the welcome to the notices to the story to the prayers at the end. And Amy our wonderful youth worker did the talk, which was amazing. And it was all great. It was really good. And it was only 45 minutes long.

So we came away saying “wasn’t it great” and “didn’t they do well” and ” fantastic talk” and other backslapping, positive things. And then we said “it was a bit short” and “the talk could have been longer” and ” probably room for another song” and other similar observations.

Which got me thinking…well, why? Why does it have to be an hour long? Why do we start with three songs? Is the talk (or sermon) the most important part of the service? Why Sunday morning…and so on and so on…

Too long or too short?

I can think of many films which have perfect endings…and then carry on for another half an hour (I can think of many sermons which have done the same….) We in the UK are used to series of six episodes…so when Top Gear has a run which only lasts four episodes, I feel somewhat cheated…where are my missing two episodes?!

And albums used to be around 50 minutes long as that was as much time as you could fit on the two sides of a vinyl record…around 8 – 10 songs. So when all of these classic albums were re-released on CD, you again felt cheated as you knew there was an extra thirty minutes of space…no, wasted space on the CD. And then record companies started filling the space with bonus tracks, remixes…live versions…and so we bought them again, and again, and again.

Nothing wrong with order

Now I’m all for a template, we need to have service orders so everybody knows what is happening, and lets be honest, if your services are radically different from week to week, everybody (including you) is going to come away confused. But at the same time, be willing to change, try and think differently, do mix it up from time to time, and always always always make sure there is space for God to take control…

Having a slightly shorter service meant more people stayed afterwards…we shared coffee and cake (as we usually do) but giving an extra (and unexpected) 15 minutes from finishing early meant the congregation felt less pressured (or knew they had more time) so they hung around. And talked about how good the service was, how well everybody had done, how great to have some different faces leading. Which in my book is a good thing.

Ford Model T’s aren’t still all black…

Also available in green...

 

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.

A Change Will Do You Good

We just had a great service this past Sunday, celebrating and sharing some of what our young people had enjoyed at this year’s Soul Survivor. I put it together with our youth worker, Amy O’Melia, we led together and she also did the talk…her first (and a really good one!)

Change roadsign

A change is on the horizon

We had known for a while that we were going to do this, and although it was a special service, we were still continuing the current series from The Story, and it was also an all age service (as it was the last Sunday of the month), something else we wanted to keep. But to try and give a bit of a flavour of the Soul Survivor experience, we changed a few bits around. So:

  • We took half of the chairs out of the hall, and asked our congregation to bring picnic rugs, blankets and cushions (we did keep half of the chairs in the hall for those who might struggle to get up from the floor!)
  • We extended our time of worship at the beginning so it was a longer block of music, and we also got more of our young people involved in the band.
  • We picked songs that had been used at Soul Survivor (we did already have a lot of them in our list, but we leant more heavily on them when choosing for the Sunday)
  • We put some tents and camping chairs up in the centre of the stage
  • The first “talk” part of the service, we put together an interactive “24 hours at Soul Survivor” experience.
  • After the second talk we had a time of extended prayer, again copying the Soul Survivor style and presentation of praying for each other to make it more accessible for the younger people.
  • And after the service, our young people served up Hot Chocolate Mountains in addition to the usual teas and coffees.

It was great!

The whole thing was a great success, we got so much positive feedback from the congregation, and Amy’s confidence in her preaching has taken a leap…I can’t wait for the next one! And it has also led to us thinking about implementing some of these changes for future services, so:

  1. For our all age services which we hold at the end of every month, we’re going to try taking the front few rows of chairs out as a permanent feature…the children and young people prefer to sit on the floor, and their parents (especially of toddlers) find it easier.
  2. Rearranging the stage, something we had initially done the week before for baptisms, has made us realise that we can comfortably put the band to the side of the stage while improving sight lines, communication, sound and also the look of the stage.
  3. Being able to involve the youth for this one service is a great opener for getting them to serve and lead at other services…this is something that we have been working towards as a band, but hope to be able to do for all aspects of our church services.
  4. Amy: we as a leadership and preaching team have been talking about getting Amy to preach…well, she did, it was great, and she is a fantastic addition to our preaching team. I can’t wait for the next one!

Now some of these things may have already been in the process, or maybe in time we would have got the younger people more involved and moved the band. But the opportunity to do it at one special service meant we were able to experiment and try different ideas without getting too much pushback for being too different….we had already flagged up that it was a one off special service, and given notice of the changes they would experience. But because the congregation did experience it, and found it a positive thing, when we come to implement some of the changes outlined above, it will be a natural progression rather than the shock of the change!

Templates versus change

Andy Stanley talks in his great book Deep & Wide about templates, and how all churches have them for their Sunday services (even if they don’t realise they have them!). And your template will give you the results you get for your Sunday services. We have a template for our services at EBC, it is something we have developed over time and we stick to the basic structure as it works for us. But a template is just that, a guideline or framework for how to structure our services. And although we changed a lot of the content, presentation and personnel for our Soul Survivor Sunday, we still didn’t deviate very far from the template and structure. Just in the same way that all of our services use creative content, unusual ideas and sometimes colourful presentation…but the message remains the same.

So I encourage you to take a look at what you’re doing on a Sunday, and work out what you could do differently, how you could involve other elements and other people, and see if a subtle change (or a big change!) will do you good!

 

Conformity

I’ve been watching the Great British Bakeoff avidly this series, we love it as a family and it, along with Strictly Come Dancing is required viewing in our house. This week they were working with advanced dough, and the showstopper at the end was doughnuts…two sets of 18 doughnuts, that’s 36 doughnuts that had to be delicious, look stunning, and most importantly be uniform in their presentation, bake and flavour.

This Sunday at EBC we’re hosting a Soul Survivor Sunday. While we don’t meet in a big top, we are going to take out half of the chairs, turn off the lights, get the moving head lights to turn a bit more frantically and are even getting some tents into the hall…it won’t quite be the full experience (we have proper toilets and no rain indoors…), but it will be close…and plenty silly enough to entertain and inspire everybody. The passage that we’re using for the talk, as we continue our Story series is Daniel in the lion’s den, a familiar story that many of us will have first heard at Sunday school or its equivalent.

Daniel 6

King Darius was really pleased with Daniel, who he had appointed to administer much of his kingdom. In fact he was so pleased he fully intended to promote Daniel to oversee the whole kingdom on his behalf, which greatly displeased the rest of the administrators and governors, so they did their best to find a scandal or misdemeanour from Daniel’s past that would incriminate him…but they could find nothing. So they conspired against him, and somehow persuaded the king to issue a decree that no one in the kingdom could pray to or worship anyone else other than king Darius. And whether they were very persuasive, or the king was easily persuaded…he agreed and signed the decree.

Daniel was found praying to God, so the conspirators went to the king and told him Daniel had broken the decree and so had to be thrown to the lions. When the king realised what he had done he tried to get out of it, but he had signed himself into a corner. So Daniel was thrown to the lions, a potentially grisly end…but of course we know he continued to pray and the lions would not touch him. The king couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and the next morning as he came nervously to the lion pit, he called for Daniel, expecting the worse. But Daniel welcomed him, honoured his God and his king and stayed safe from the lions. King Darius was delighted, and had Daniel released. What the children’s versions don’t always mention is that king Darius then rounded up the conspirators, realising they had tricked him, and had them thrown to the lions…lets say (in case children are reading) the lions were less subdued than they were when Daniel was sharing their pit…

Conformity

Daniel refused to conform. Despite the pressure of his peers, despite knowing that he would probably be sentenced to death if discovered, he continued to pray openly defying the decree and being honest to who he was. In the clip from Dead Poets Society, the late, great, Robin Williams gets his English class to take a stroll outside. After a short time they drift into step with each other…marching to the same beat, in the same direction…uniformity and conformity, as the rest of the class clap in time. As he says,

“notice how everyone starts off at their own pace, with their own stride…”.

…and

“Conformity…the difficulty of maintaining your own beliefs in the face of others. We all have a great need for acceptance, but we must trust that our beliefs are unique, are your own, even though others may think them odd, or unpopular”.

Same kind of different?

If you call yourself a Christian, which I do, then this is a fundamental. We are called to be different…we should be seen as different. Not different as in beard and sandals or vegetarian; not a stereotypical movie identikit of a Christian. But different in how we react to the world, how we treat our friends, the way we speak and act. And we should be like this all of the time. I heard a great talk from John Mumford many years ago which has stuck with me ever since. He said:

Are you a grapefruit, or a milkshake?

And we all thought he was a bit eccentric.

But the question was, are you a grapefruit, in that you segment your life so that Sunday you’re a Christian, Monday to Friday you work, Saturday you have a day off…everything is kept separate and segmented. Or are you a milkshake, blended, shaken and mixed together without any seams?

It’s easy to conform, to blend in with the crowd, have a quiet weekend, watch the same TV and have the same conversations as everybody else. And to be honest, life will probably be quite comfortable if you follow that path. But isn’t that what everybody else does? Do you want to be the same kind of different, or do you want to walk with your own stride, to your own beat? The choice is yours…

Mistaken Identity

Now I don’t know how old you all are, but when I was going through secondary school, Neighbours was an after school staple. Every lunchtime and evening before tea we got our 25 minutes of good neighbours, with Harold and Madge, Mrs Mangle, Jim Robinson and Toadfish. Unbelievably it is still going (some 6975 episodes as of this week!). Perhaps most famously it launched the careers of Kylie and Jason, Natalie Imbruglia, and less successfully Stefan Dennis aka Paul Robinson. But the subject of todays post is Delta Goodrem, who played schoolgirl and musical prodigy Nina Tucker…in the show she was an aspiring singer while at school, in reality her label had got her cast in the soap to relaunch her career…product placement at it’s finest?!

Mistaken Identity was taken from her second album, and the video, like the song, is tremendously produced…I personally think it looks and sounds fantastic, although I can’t make much sense of the video… The lyrics and the inspiration for the song actually came from Delta’s cancer battle, and how it had changed her outlook on life.

Who are you?

Do you have a case of mistaken identity? Do you know who you are, why you’re here, what your purpose is? I wrote on Friday about finding your calling and realising your passions, based on the passage in Jeremiah where God tells him he has been chosen. I was watching a video interview today between Michael Hyatt and Jeff Goins, where they were talking about being consistent in your blogging. It was a great watch, with some great take homes to digest and work on. But one of the things which stuck out, and I have read and heard pretty consistently since I started doing this blog was about picking yourself, and giving yourself permission.

Only you can do what you can do. I mean, there are thousands of bloggers, drummers, singers, CEO’s, guitarists, Doctors. If I stop blogging today then there will still be thousands of other blogs to read. If Bruce Springsteen retires this week (of his 65th birthday), there will still be musicians releasing records. But the key is only Bruce can sing, write and perform like Bruce. There are several Doctors at my local surgery, they all will have a slightly different opinion, but they will all make me better if I visit them. Other people could write this blog, but no one will produce it the way I do…and no one ever will…for better or for worse!

You were put here to have a specific voice, a given talent, a message to share. As I said on Friday, I can trace my journey to here back over many years, school bands, “chance” meetings, education and friends and family and opportunities…a whole stream of events which, if taken in isolation would make for an interesting story, but taken as a whole describe my story and journey. I have the background, the experience, the knowledge to do this. But there is one missing piece.

Permission

Confidence is the thing which makes all the difference. I can read all of the manuals, watch the instructional videos, and apply it. I can practice in my bedroom, write endlessly on this laptop, devise endless plans and lists. But if I don’t have the confidence to deliver, to perform publicly, to ship it, then I am just a hobbyist. If I give myself the permission, if I call myself a professional, and step up to the microphone, I have broken a significant mental hurdle.

I used to be the drummer at the back of the band, quite happy to play a supporting role in the band, be involved from the sidelines but never quite be in the spotlight, not quite upfront. And then someone called me out on it, knowing I could play guitar and sing, and had a heart for it…they got me to lead the band from the front. And to be honest, I was as nervous as anything, felt way out of my comfort zone and was pretty sucky the first few times that I lead the band. But I stuck at it. I practiced, I learnt, I grew in confidence, and I called myself a worship leader. And now, I am as comfortable leading from the front as I am playing at the back.

Have you worked out your calling, your gifting? If you have, where are you using it? Are you working in your sweet spot, or working up to it? Most importantly, have you given yourself permission? Have you called yourself a writer, a lead guitarist, a preacher, a professional? Have you got everything else in place apart from your mindset?

God chose you. Now choose yourself.

Finding Your Calling

I may (yet again) be showing my age, but unbelievably 2014 is the 20th anniversary of the first series of Friends. Ross and Rachel, Monica and Chandler and Joey and Phoebe first appeared on our screens the 22nd September, 1994, and stayed there for 10 years, 10 seasons and 236 episodes. And then stayed pretty much on rotation ever since. As Comedy Central are doing their countdown towards the “favourite Friends episodes ever“, I am finding my daughters are discovering this series (as it’s on every evening I get home…), and I am seeing episodes which I possibly missed (who knows?!) or am being reminded of 10 years after broadcast. This clip is from one of their Christmas episodes, where Phoebe has volunteered to collect donations outside Macy’s.

When I left school some 22 years ago, I didn’t really have a clue as to what I wanted to do. I knew what I enjoyed doing (music, concerts, movies, reading), but I had no idea as to how it would translate into a career. And then I went to University and did a degree in Music and Technology, so I learnt more about music, recording, live sound, playing in bands…all of which I really enjoyed. And while I was there I met the girl of my dreams…who is now my wife. But I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do. So I graduated, and got a job as I had a fiancé and plans and bills to pay and student loans to clear. And to be honest, my career path continued along this path for a good few years…I did jobs which paid the bills, kept me employed and which had some semblance of a career path…but really they were all a means to an end.

Finding Your Calling

Finding Your Calling, Discovering Your Gifts, Getting in Your Sweet Spot, Realising your Passion…there are so many phrases and descriptions which we use to describe how we find what we’re best at. And there are plenty of accompanying programmes and surveys, questionnaires and conferences which are devoted to just that goal. I’ve done some of them; when we first set up our leadership team to start our church plant, when we were going through Investors in People at a previous company, they even pop up from time to time on Facebook (although “Your Ideal Dog” and “Which Harry Potter Character Are You?” probably don’t count in quite the same way…)

And alongside my “Day Job” (for want of a better word), I have had my church career…starting playing drums for the worship team in Kingston, co leading a church plant in Bracknell, curating creative ideas for our Sunday services and graduating to band leading and worship leading for the whole church. I would comfortably say for the whole of my church career, I have been operating in my sweet spot, growing, learning and developing my skills to be at the stage I am at now…managing the band, putting together our Sunday services, writing new content and leading.

Jeremiah and the art of saying No

This Sunday at EBC we’re continuing our Story series, and looking at Jeremiah. God called on Jeremiah, but he made excuses and said he wasn’t ready, he wasn’t qualified. “I can’t speak for You, I’m too young!” he says. But God called him out, God equipped him, and with God’s help he was able to do his calling. This is a story that repeats through the bible, with Moses and Jonah and Mary…”surely you can’t mean me” or “I would never be good enough” are constant replies. But if you are genuinely called to something, you need to have the faith and courage to pursue it.

As I’ve said before, Steven Curtis Chapman is one of my all time favourite artists, and his songs just have an amazing ability to resonate and speak into so many areas of my life. One which I constantly come back to is I Am Found In You, which has the amazing line:

I may not see, in front of me

But I can see for miles when I look over my shoulder

And Lord it’s clear, You’ve brought me here

So faithful every step of the way

While my day job has been consistent and moderately successful, my church calling has always found me performing according to my gifting and abilities, and they’ve grown and strengthened the whole time. I genuinely do feel as though I’m operating in my sweet spot, and while it really doesn’t pay me a lot of money (and I am fortunate to be able to be paid just a day a week to do this), the challenge, sense of community and satisfaction are second to none.

Some of us may be called to collect coins outside of Macy’s, some have a desire to be CEO’s or tax collectors. Some will be millionaires, and some will just get by. Whatever your situation, find your calling and try to work in your sweet spot…and as you pursue it, no matter what, look over your shoulder occasionally to see where you’ve come from. You may just be surprised.

Find Your Voice

Now I came across this video this morning on my Facebook feed:

Isn’t it great! 29 perfect celebrity impressions, performed perfectly in Rob’s front room…and a great song too. I’m definitely going to check out the album.

We have a culture where celebrity acts and bands are regularly impersonated…I’ve seen The Bootleg Beatles, Bjorn Again (Abba), The Doors Alive, The Australian Pink Floyd Show, Noasis, Blobbie Williams and Take Fat…and they’re all great. And even if a band isn’t trying to sell themselves as a tribute band, most of the pub gigs and duos, wedding bands, Christmas Party bands and so on consists of covers…musicians playing other people’s songs. I did it myself for a while, I played in The Bogus Blues Brothers, Steeling Dan (a Steely Dan tribute band) and The Wiltons, whose primary material was 60’s classics by The Beach Boys, The Stones, The Beatles… (I shall gloss over my misspent youth playing Bon Jovi and Motley Crue covers…)

Now all this is well and good, and for many musicians it’s where we first were inspired to play, the way and why we learnt to play, as we emulated our heros. For me it was Mark King from Level 42 who inspired me to pick up the bass, and by the age of 15 I could play pretty passable performances of most of their repertoire, thumbs a-flying as I had my headless bass high around my neck and in the crook of my arm (it’s how I still play the bass today, although it admittedly looked decidedly odd in a metal band….) And for some musicians that is all they’ll ever do, play other peoples songs as a hobby, or even as a full time career. Now many of these bands have broken up or passed on, the only way of seeing them live is to attend a tribute concert, and it’s big business. The bands themselves spend a huge amount of time and money looking and especially sounding like their heroes. And it makes a lot of money too…the Australian Pink Floyd show has sold in excess of three million tickets in the time they’ve been impersonating.

How does this apply to worship?

For me as a worship leader at EBC, we do essentially the same thing, we play cover versions of other people’s songs. Whether it’s Chris Tomlin or Matt Redman, Brenton Brown or Rend Collective, our repertoire is primarily influenced by what is popular in other churches, and what fits with our congregations. And there is nothing wrong with this, we have to stay familiar with the songs which we use otherwise we will alienate our congregations. But I believe there is a line to be drawn somewhere, and we have to be careful we don’t take it so far that we try to emulate other musicians, the arrangements of songs, even the style and content of other churches. Just because it works in church x, doesn’t mean it will translate to your church. Just because Chris Tomlin sings it in G#, doesn’t mean anybody in your team or congregation will be able to. Just because Hillsong play Gretsch/Duesenberg guitars, it doesn’t mean you have to. And even if Joel Houston has a big beard and wears deep cut V necks and scarves, I will not sound like him if I do the same.

I sincerely love all of these leaders, and we use a lot of their songs in our repertoire at EBC because they are good songs, they resonate with me, and I know they are a good fit for our congregation. But I don’t go as far as trying to copy them. We change keys (often down a lot!) to make them singable by our congregation. We alter arrangements to fit our services, and our band lineups…we do have a strong and large team of musicians, but generally our band lineup is 5 -6 people, so we don’t have the luxury of multiple guitars, complex harmonies and keyboard loops. We have a double bass player who is great, but double bass sounds significantly different to an electric bass. All of our musicians are of differing ability, they are all competent and I am delighted to have them in the band. But to accommodate them, we make changes so the music is accessible to all.

Find your own voice

And then we work together and we develop our own voice. I don’t sound or look like Joel Houston, and even if I had all of Nigel Hendroff’s Gear, I could never play guitar like him. Our drummer never plays like Travis Nunn. I don’t have any singers who harmonise like Christy Nockels or Kari Jobe. But I do have a passionate and dedicated team of musicians, who know their own voice, and use it to glorify God in our worship. And that is all I ask of them.

So be yourself, find your voice, practice, play, learn and enjoy.

And be your own, individual perfect, as only you can be. As perfect videos and songs often are nothing of the sort….

Dive In!

Well I’m back from a (partly) sunny week away, today is the 1st September and the autumn term is beginning again after the summer break. The kids go back to school this week, our final all age summer service was yesterday and now we’re back into rotas, normal Sunday services and (believe it or not…), Christmas planning! So I thought I’d start this September with a carry over from one of my summer posts:

Steven Curtis Chapman is easily one of my favourite artists of all time, and this, the opening track from his amazing album Speechless is a great song. In fact, every track on the album is a doozy from start to finish, and if you’ve never heard any of his works, Speechless is an excellent place to start. It is one of the few albums that deserves to be played from beginning to end…all killer no filler as they say.

My heart is racing and my knees are weak 
as I walk to the edge

I know there is no turning back 
once my feet have left the ledge

And in the rush I hear a voice 
that’s telling me it’s time to take the leap of faith

So here I go

I’m diving in, I’m going deep in over my head, I want to be

Caught in the rush, lost in the flow, in over my head, I want to go

The river’s deep, the river’s wide, the river’s water is alive

So sink or swim, I’m diving in

Now clearly the video hasn’t dated at all…but the song is all out superb. “I’m diving in, I’m going deep, in over my head I want to be”. This Sunday, as we completed our Barbecues of the Bible series, one of our team was preaching about Elijah and his challenge to the prophets of Baal to get their gods to set fire to the sacrifice that had been prepared. For many hours they danced around the offering, calling on their god, chanting, eventually self harming to show their dedication. And nothing. So Elijah rebuilt the altar and arranged the pieces of the sacrifice on the wood. And then Elijah had the confidence to pour gallons of water on the sacrifice, soaking the wood and the sacrifice and filling the trench that was around the altar. Then he prayed to God, “O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me O Lord, answer me , that this people may know that You O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” And God answered Elijah’s prayer, and fire rained down from heaven and consumed the offering, the altar, the wood, the stones, all of the water and even the dust from the ground.

Elijah didn’t sit on the fence. Steven Curtis Chapman sings about walking to the ledge, and then taking that leap. Now that summer is over, now that a new term is beginning, now that we are (hopefully) rested and ready to go, I pray that you don’t hold back, you don’t approach any of your worship halfheartedly, and you just dive. right. in.

Just Dive In!

I was sent this video last week on my daily distraction of choice, Facebook:

Cute, isn’t it?! You know whats going to happen, you can see it coming, and yet somehow the penguin manages to drag it out…from ledge to diving board, diving board to ledge and back again. Teetering on the edge so many times, toes hanging over the side, and just when you think he’s going to jump…he waddles off of the board back to the ledge, then back to the board, then back to the ledge…

Will they, won’t they?

Isn’t this so like life for a lot of us? When it comes to a decision, no matter how big or small, we so often teeter on the edge, pondering whether to take the plunge or not. It could be a new job, a new romance, a step of faith, or something as mundane as buying a sandwich. As we weigh up all of the pros and cons in our head; what if it doesn’t work out and I’m jobless in three months; will she, won’t he; I don’t know if I believe all of it; do I want cheese and pickle or ham and mustard. Without the mustard. On wholegrain….  Just like the penguin going to the edge, balancing, and then pulling back, thinking about it, truing it from a different angle, juggling the “what if’s” in his head then going back for a third, fourth attempt.

A Crash of Rhinos

Granted there are some of us who hurtle in full steam ahead like a crash of rhinoceros’ (clearly the most aptly chosen name for a group of rhinos), with blatant disregard for those around them or subsequent consequences. And while I admire the bravado (and have been guilty of doing the same on more than one occasion), again, it’s not a position I would advocate.

I’d always wanted to start a blog and my own business of sorts. And I did have a few false starts many years ago, writing a couple of posts and then letting it drift. But this year, on the week of my 40th birthday, I made the step, bought the domain and started writing, creating and sharing. Little steps at first. I put the design of the site together, and started collating some of the material I had been writing over the years. Then I started posting. And I tweaked and tinkered, worked out how things worked, learnt about SEO and Ranking and other technicalities I was aware of but had never paid much attention to. And I started to build up a body of work, and set myself the goal of posting 2 – 3 times a week. And I did, and I kept it up, and my blog started to grow.

But, I hadn’t told anyone about it. So I said “I’ll launch it when….”. When I have a lot of posts. When I’ve built the shop. When I’m happy with the look. When I’ve worked out this SEO/Coding/Ranking thing. And so on. I could just have easily said “When we have 10 consecutive days of sunshine” or “When I get my 5th celebrity endorsement” or “When someone asks me”. So my when would slowly become whenever…

Ship It, Launch It, Hustle, Permissions!

Seth Godin talks about Shipping It, Jeff Walker just released a great book called Launch, Jon Acuff is just finishing up the 30 days of Hustle: Summer School! And Michael Hyatt put up a great post about permission on Friday. All of which essentially say the same thing: What’s the good of creating something, having the idea for something, setting your sights on a goal if ultimately you do nothing about it. You get 70, 80, 90 percent of the way there and then never finish because you’re eternally tweaking, forever changing, just waiting for the next best thing. Just Do It! It may not be perfect. You possibly won’t ever be 100% happy with it. It will most probably never be finished. It will be messy, just as ultimately the penguin’s “dive” into the water was. But unless you actually make the decision to jump in, dive, head first, it will remain that way: a promising, not-quite-realised, potential which needs to be released.

So have dreams, ideas and visions. Of course, be thoughtful, measured and informed before you make decisions. But don’t wait too long. Don’t stand on the edge looking over and start to get cold feet. Read up, think about it, pray about it…and then just Dive Right In!

What’s holding you back now from realising your dreams, goals or aspirations? What will make you take the final step off the edge of the board?