Shanzhai

No, I haven’t been taking Chinese lessons (although from a business standpoint it would be a useful faculty to have). Shanzhai means “mountain stronghold” and gives a sort of Robin Hood image of taking from the rich to give to the poor. Growing consumer culture, manufacturing techniques and a blatant disregard for international copyrights and local regulations means the Shanzhai manufacturers in China have become experts in not only copying western goods, but also improving on them.

Apple-fake-store-007

The most common Shanzhai products are mobile phones, but you can get versions of sports goods, tools, even architecture! In 2011 a US blogger discovered an entire Shanzhai Apple Store in the Chinese city of Kunming. It was full of Apple products, Apple advertising, there was a genius bar, correct decor and signage, even the staff were wearing Apple uniforms and badges. The staff actually thought they were legitimately working for Apple and had no idea not only was everything in the store a fake, but so was the store itself! The Shanzhai went beyond the actual products and as far as the shopping experience itself.

But this isn’t all! Around Shanghai there is Thames Town, a village built to resemble an English market town complete with a copy of a chip shop from Lyme Regis, cobbled streets, red telephone boxes and even the double yellow lines to stop parking. It’s one of a set of towns planned including Swedish, Italian, Spanish, American and German styles. The Austrian village of Hallstatt was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of it’s picturesque beauty….so sure enough, amongst the tourists visiting in 2011 there was a team of Chinese architects photographing and analysing the village. The Guangdong region is reportedly soon to have it’s own copy of Hallstatt, although whether you’ll be able to ski with the subtropical heat North of Hong Kong remains to be seen.

How To Do, or Can I Help You?

We Christians love going to conferences…I’ve been to many myself, and more often than not they’re led by big churches passing on their experiences, techniques, and trade secrets. These can be really helpful, extremely influential and challenging… I know for all I’ve been to, I’ve come back with a list of ideas, areas to improve and things to look at in order to transform church/get a bigger congregation/whip the band into shape/choose our songlists/re style the senior minister. And on and on and on.

Now I know they don’t really do that. The conferences I’ve been too (Willow Creek, Northpoint, Mosaic, Mecklenburg…) have all shared their experiences, failings, and personal direction to help us with our churches. But they’re always keen to emphasise how it’s their way. Not the correct way, or right way, or the only way.

Be Yourself

I wrote about how we were starting a new rebranding project last week, and how in the initial stages of working with the designers, we needed to outline who we were as a church, what we did, and what we were there for. I know there are some churches who struggle with the questions, or who model themselves on other churches…trying to replicate the Hillsong worship style or Northpoint teaching style, rather than being themselves and being a church who relates to their community.

This applies in many different areas…I know there are times I as a worship leader try to replicate the Passion or Chris Tomlin arrangement of a song with its loops, seven guitarists, gospel choir and Christy Nockels…although on Sunday I have only one guitarist a violin and no drummer. Or those weeks when we’ve come back from Soul Survivor full of excitement and vigour (and mud), wanting to replicate the concert lighting effects and multiple smoke machines which work so well in the big top with 10,000 worshippers…but don’t translate so well into a hall of 200 with a varied age group.

Copy of a Copy of a Copy…

In addition, over the years I’ve seen so many blatant copyright ripoffs or secular industry bandwagon jumping that it almost seems as though there are no new creative ideas in the Christian spectrum today…(Adult christian colouring book anyone? EasyChurch?)

So before this turns into any more of a rant (apologies), can I encourage you to be yourself. Work to your own strengths. Learn about, and serve your congregation. There’s nothing wrong with using film clips, setting up cool lighting rigs in your hall or playing David Crowder songs. But do it your way. And then if someone wants to Shanzhai your work…encourage them, help them, point them in the right direction…and teach them how they can do it better when they do it their way. Just like Frank and….Elvis?…both doing it their way

 

 

Made For More

I think I came across B Reith completely by accident when he was offering a free remix album of his How The Story Ends album…and as is so often the case, I had to then find his back catalogue because it really was that good.

B. Reith is one of those artists who is comfortable crossing styles and genres… he sings amazingly (what I’d give to have a range like him), raps convincingly, and plays/produces/performs with considerable talent too…I dislike him immensely…

Made for More is one of the great songs off his last album (and there are many), featuring Lecrae and Lisa Gungor (as it says on the link). Powerful song. Listen to it.

Lead Me

We did some training this morning as a staff team, based on a talk which was given at this years Drive Conference by a guy called Clay Scoggins (seriously, could the guy sound any more American?!). The breakout was called How To Lead When You’re Not In Charge, and it was great. I went to the Drive conference back in 2013 and it was inspirational in every respect.

There was lots to take out of the talk, I have comprehensive notes, but some of the instant/brief take homes were:

  1. Choose Positivity
  2. Think Critically
  3. Reject Passivity

So we can grumble about what is happening around us, criticise negatively (and we’ve all been on the receiving end at some point), while sitting there with a “its inevitable” attitude. There is the infamous phrase “Fiddling While Rome Burns” which comes to mind…or “Shuffling Deck Chairs on the Titanic” although often in these situations the perpetrators don’t even shuffle the deck chairs and merely watch from a distance grumbling as the ship sinks…

Self Examination First

I know I’ve been guilty of this….”they didn’t ask me”, “I could do it better”, ” what they’ve forgotten is….but I’m not going to tell them because I’m not leading…” etc. The reality is we were all made to do something, we can all lead, even if we’re not at the front, or have a desk and plaque which says “Leader”. I read a lot of Seth Godin (I recommend The Icarus Deception and Linchpin for starters), and one of the ideas he regularly returns to is to Choose Yourself. We can wait for the call, work our way up the ladder, hope for a promotion, or sit back while those more senior/better paid/with a title do the work. And there is a place for that of course. But in reality, if we can see something which needs doing, or a way of doing things better…isn’t at the very least better to speak up, offer to help, or maybe just do it?

If Not You, Then Who?

We are all chosen, we were all made for a purpose on this earth, and sometimes the option to just choose ourselves is the best thing we can do.

We were made to be more than this
Oh, and we weren’t meant to fight wars like this
Something’s gone wrong
We’ve been broken
Who can fix us now, fix us now
We were made out of love not hate
Oh, and we weren’t meant to to give up on faith
Something’s gone wrong
We’ve been broken
Who can fix us now, fix us now

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?

Here to Serve!

I don’t think I have any guilty pleasures…as I don’t feel guilty about them! And while many of them may be distinctly “uncool”…I am now of an age where I don’t feel too bothered about them. So…confessions: I still love Level 42 from my 80’s teenage years, I have penchant for rom coms (as I have confessed to before), and these past few Wednesdays two of my favourite US TV shows have started their new seasons in the UK, Castle and the country juggernaut which is Nashville.

Great songs, pretty actors, lots of fabulous guitars and outstanding music week after week. Admittedly some of the storylines are a bit “soap”, but captivating and light at the same time. I also love the fact all of the actors can sing and play…when the audition process took place it was a prerequisite….no dubbing or voice doubles…if you were going to act as a country star, you had to sing like one too!

OK, all well and good you may say. Nice music. But how does it link to the blog? Glad you asked…

Well, 3 seasons in we’ve seen the ups and downs of most of the character’s love lives, big concerts, intimate gigs, ruthless record execs and even murderous fathers. And there are at least three songs in each episode…often at The Bluebird Cafe (I wish we had one locally!). And our “stars” are always there in one way or another….at the front or behind the scenes.

This is where it gets complicated?

So Gunner and Scarlet (who sing in the clip above) met at the cafe while she was waitressing and he was working sound. And they’ve gone on to be signed, make a lot of money from publishing, done tours…but they still come back, and serve behind the bar, work the sound board. Avery Bartlett was a wannabe star who dropped his band so he could pursue a deal in LA…the deal went sour, he came back to Nashville with nothing then got hired to be guitar slinger for one of the biggest artists…major tour, living his dream. And he still comes back to the Bluebird to help behind the bar, work the sound desk, support the artists. Deacon Claybourne, the guitarists guitarist who has played with everybody and is renowned…still makes the time to help at the bottom. Zoey Dalton is realising her dream to be a singer…but she still serves at the Bluebird.

Any regular readers will know we did our church weekend a couple of weeks ago, and again, this servant behaviour was modelled by our band, by our leaders, by our congregation. So although the musicians were very visible at the front over the weekend, they were just as active behind the scenes in the setup and clear down, the loading of vans and lugging of boxes.

Happy to serve!

Our leaders may have led us over the weekend, but they were also there on the Thursday preparing the marquees, putting our chairs, refilling the urns for hot drinks and taking out the rubbish.

And this happens every weekend at EBC…those who are in an upfront role are also working tirelessly behind the scenes, serving refreshments, winding cables, hoovering and taking care of business! We’ve always said if you are serving up front, you need to serve up back too, and I’m pleased to say it’s something we don’t have to enforce, our teams just do it! And I hope it is the same in your church.

I used to listen to Kids Praise albums when I was a little kid….Psalty the singing songbook…was it just me? And the songs have stuck with me…straight out of the bible, easy to remember:

If you want to be great in God’s kingdom

Learn to be the servant of all.

Nashville doesn’t have room for divas, and neither does church. 

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.

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?

So Help Me God

I’m just emerging from a particularly busy and difficult season in my life. Our senior minister has been pretty unwell since last summer, so I was doing a lot of extra work at EBC (which I really enjoyed doing) in addition to my usual responsibilities. But I only “work” at church 1.5 days a week, and the rest of my working week I work for my own company doing royalty accounting and specialist music business advice for musicians, bands and labels. And I am very happily married with three wonderful children…who are all at school, have homework, go to bed late and still get up early…(I thought it would all change once they were out of nappies?) And I do try (sometimes!) to have a social life and date my wife…who is also working full time! So with all of the above, and of course Christmas…I was (we were!) somewhat frazzled by the end of 2014

Now I’m pleased to say I’ve come out the other side, church have been particularly kind and given me a lot of recovery space in January (I felt semi-retired to be honest…but they assured me I am wanted back….) and now we’re at the end of February, I am right back into the thick of it. And we’re again ramping up…we did a great joint service at the beginning of the month with our friends at FBC, we’re planning a big church weekend in May, service prep is well under way. I’m in the middle of setting up a new limited company to take the music business forward, there is just as much homework to do, the house needs redecorating desperately (our middle daughter Naomi has been diagnosed with severe dust allergies, so we need to rip out the carpets and remove the soft furnishings a.s.a.p.) and we’re still attempting to squeeze in a social life and actually date.

When I were a lad…

I remember from when I was but a young boy (not that long ago…) we used to listen to the Kids Praise cassettes in the car, even today I can remember most of the songs which Psalty the Singing Songbook used to sing. Do My Best came from Kid’s Praise 5, Psalty’s Camping Adventure, and the opening line was

“I can do most anything, through Christ who strengthens me. Even climb a mountain when I’m four (even three!)”

I am sure that under many other circumstances we would have just crumbled, and there are still days when it’s the most we can do to crawl out of bed in the morning. But I know I’m not doing any of this alone. We work together as a couple. We do it together as a family. We share it all as a community at our church. And we do it all through God, who strengthens, guides, and carries us when it’s too much.

This is an oldie but goody from dc Talk…so the clothes may not have dated well, but the song and the sentiment are bang up to date:

You’re there when I call
And You’re there when I fall
Even though I don’t deserve it all
You, You light my way
Through the night and the day
And from You I will not stray

So help me God
To put my faith in You
So help me God
Before I come unglued
Call it my addiction
I can’t get enough of You
So help me God
To put my faith in You

I have days, and will continue to have days where I try to do everything under my own steam, and in my own strength. But more and more I’m learning that if I share the load, stop trying to do it on my own, and look to Him who is here for me…I can do a much better job of everything. So Help Me God. 

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?

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!

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?