Community wasn’t built in a day

There are countless books, videos, courses and step by step guides out there on community. It’s one of the things which most churches aspire to, and arguably one of the ingredients of a happy and rounded life.Tents

But it seems in our busy, 21st century culture, community is becoming more and more relegated to being online when we can fit it in and contain it. For instance, I have 422 friends on Facebook, of which probably 22 I see regularly. I am connected on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest (yes, I am a man with a Pinterest account). I probably still have a MySpace profile somewhere, I’ve dabbled in FourSquare and I set up a TuneTeams account recently. And that doesn’t include old school emails and texts. So I am incredibly overconnected in my digital realm.

But the reality is, most evenings (when I don’t have rehearsals, meetings or are carrying out “dad taxi” duties, I am at home…with my family, enjoying catching up on the events of the day and unwinding from a days work. Which is not a bad thing. But it’s not community.

Face Time?

I was in London today for a meeting about a couple of upcoming audits which I am doing. Now I could have emailed it in, we could have exchanged data, maybe even Skyped if it came to it. It would have saved me the commute, and the train fare. But putting in the “face time” as we call it develops my relationship further with the client, it shows I want to make the effort, and we talk far more about work and not about work than we would have done in a brief email or a focused phone conversation. It takes time and effort, but it builds community.

This coming weekend we are having our church weekend, something we try to do every year. This year we have taken the step to share it with another church in our area, FBC. We’re camping at Wellington Country Park, we’ve hired in huge marquees, generators, toilets and showers for the 200 or more who will be sharing the weekend. It’s almost a mini festival! We are running events on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we have a visiting speaker, children’s and youth work. There are leisure activities being planned, movies, a very silly quiz night and much much more (did I mention the buffet, hog roast and barbecue?). We’ve been planning it for probably the best part of a year, it’s taken a huge amount of planning and logistics, and I will be on site from Thursday to Monday, when the inevitable big clear up has to happen. And I don’t even want to thing about Tuesday evening yet (when I’m going to have to reinstall our sound and lights ready for next Sunday).

Is it worth the effort?

It’s taken a massive amount of effort to put on; time, money and heavy lifting! But we will have a whole weekend together without the distractions of work, TV, cooking and general day to day. We can do what we do on a Sunday without the need to rush onto the next service, or to get home to put on lunch. There is a program so there are things to occupy us through the days, but there will also be plenty of time to be together, to share, to chat, to eat, to just be. And although I know it’s going to be a great weekend with fantastic content, the opportunity to spend time with friends, make new ones, and just grow our community together is going to be the most important part of the whole weekend.

The only way to build community is to be one. The only way to cultivate relationships is to invest in them. Which takes time, lots of time, spent together. So instead of reading the books, working through the programs or “liking” your friend’s status, why don’t you spend some time, quality time with your community this weekend.

I’ll be posting about this next week, as I’m probably going to be off grid, in a field, with deer for the next 5 days!

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?

Goal!

Welcome back! I trust you had a good Christmas and New Year.

Now the eagle eyed among you will have noticed my last post of the year was a bit advanced…as in it should have been posted in January (not that it was complicated and/or required a doctorate to understand it!) But now we actually are into January, the decorations really are put away in the loft and focus moves on shifting the excess Christmas puddings and mince pies which I accrued over the festive season (oh it was so good), let’s look at the coming year.

Goals for 2015

Goals for 2015

January is traditionally a time of renewal, a time to make resolutions, break bad habits, and start as you mean to go on. And of course, so often we make our lists about working sensibly, being more healthy, losing weight, reading more, spending more (or less?) time with family, be better at reading the bible, join a small group/gym/band… And then we maybe put the list up, or internalise it…or maybe we share it with someone close to us…but by March we’ve slipped a bit, come Easter we have a house full of chocolate, and once we’re into May and the sun’s out…well by then I’ve usually clean forgotten about my resolutions. I remember we did a top 10 resolutions last year as a service opener….which were exactly the same 10 as the previous year.

This year I haven’t done any resolutions…but I have set myself some goals. Arguably there isn’t much of a difference…apples and oranges. But let me tell you more:

10 Goals

I have set myself 10 goals for the year, which are balanced between work, church, family and purely personal. And I’ve been pretty specific about them, so rather than “lose weight” I’ve said “be under 200lbs”. And I’ve made them measurable and targeted, so “be under 200lbs by September”. And then I’ve also put my motivations for each of the goals, so I clearly want to be fitter and healthier by losing weight. And then finally I’ve done some next actions, so “healthy breakfasts, exercise more regularly, no sugar”.

I have all of this down in my note taking software of choice, Evernote, I have a separate entry for each goal, and in addition to to all of the above (Goal, key motivations and next actions) I also have space for progress reports and any other observations…almost like a space to journal on it.

Now this may seem like a colossal amount of effort, but then as in the L’Oreal advert…I’m worth it! And the fact I have next steps, trackable goals and motivation for doing them…I’m confident I’ll stick to them over the year unlike last year’s resolutions (whatever they were…?)

My 2015 promise to you

And one of my goals is to be consistent and planned with my blogging. So here it is. Happy New Year to you all. Look forward to sharing more goals, ideas and experience over the coming months.

Do you have any goals for the year? Care to join me in following them?

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?

Just One More Thing

It’s been another busy weekend: my girls needed new glasses, Joel had a party, we had a great Sunday morning service celebrating and reviewing the time our teenagers spent at New Wine, and then the afternoon was taken up with clothes shopping (the girls have grown so much over the summer, nothing fits!) And yet another rehearsal squeezed into the evening!

I don’t know about you, but life is just busy these days…last week I had a leaders meeting, church meeting, staff meeting, worship team rehearsal, jazz band rehearsal. And on top of that there was my role as Dad’s Taxi, so we drove to and from beavers, piano and violin lessons, ballet and swimming with friends. And somewhere in between it all we worked, cooked, cleaned, showered, slept… All of this is important, most of this needs to be done, preferably not all in the same week (fortunately meetings are generally monthly so I do have time to shower at least three times a month….) But there is a stage when we just become busy without being productive, we run around so much and build up so much momentum, it is difficult to actually stop.

I read a great story about a professor who had a large jar which he filled with rocks, and then asked his class “is it full?” And some of them said yes, so he then poured in the gravel, which went in the gaps. And he asked the same question, “is it full?” So more of the class thought it was full….until he got out a bag of sand. Which filled the air gaps that were left, and by then the class were agreed that the jar was full, there was no more space. Then he poured in a glass of water… There is always space for more stuff, but at the expense of what?

Busyness

In our busyness of life, when there is so much going on, so much to do, pressure to be places and to achieve, it is often our praise and worship which are the first to go. I am old enough to remember when the shops were shut on a Sunday, church was the main event on a Sunday and the day was set aside as special…as in creation, the sabbath remained the sabbath. These days most shops are open on a Sunday, and are pushing for normal working hours. Church is no longer a Sunday requisite, and even regular church attenders and members often don’t come weekly…a trend which is replicated across the UK and the USA. Rather than Sunday Services being the thing that starts the week, they are becoming an also ran in competition with giant shopping centres, football matches and car boot sales….whatever becomes more attractive, or in a 24 hour seven day a week society, necessary when it is the only time to do these things.

This week we are continuing with our Story series at EBC, focusing on the book of Ezra. This book of the Old Testament looks at how the Israelites were restored from a long time in exile, as a tribe, as a community, and as God’s people. Chapter three, which is the section we are exploring on Sunday, tells of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem so the people were able to once again worship and celebrate, something they had neglected to do for a long time. They are so keen to worship, and put God back at the centre, they don’t even wait until the temple is finished.

Just One More Thing

This great song by Sara Groves looks at just that, as the chorus says:

Everything is important
But everything is not
At the end of your life your relationships
Are all you’re got

And love to me is when you put down
That one more thing and say
I’ve got something better to do
And love to me is when you walk out on
That one more thing and say
Nothing will come between me and you
Not even one more thing

Is church your just one more thing? Are your relationships just one more thing? Do you juggle your social calendar or work diary in order to squeeze in that just one more thing? Or is now the time to stop, take a step back, and start with the one thing which everything else revolves around?

I know I don’t do it often enough, how about you?