Creation

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

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

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

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

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

Mother’s Day Ideas

dead-flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fingerprints of God

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

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

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

Evolution or Creation?

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

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

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

99.9% nothing…

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

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

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

 

 

Give Us Rest

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

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

Our EBC Opener for The Rest App

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

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

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

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

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

But How?!

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

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

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

Why Don’t You…

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

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

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

Square Eyes?

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

Breathing Room

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

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

How much TV do you watch every week?

Conflict

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

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

Heat rising

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

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

Is it just me?

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

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

And now, for something completely different…

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

Sourcing Ideas

I’ve been running this blog for almost six months now, and have posted up a combination of songs, videos and clips, along with ideas and experience from my role at EBC. And I have been doing the role at EBC for more than 12 years, personally growing and developing over time. One of the things I always do when we plan a new series of services is to just start sourcing ideas from as many different places and artistic elements as possible.

One way of collating ideas...

One way of collating ideas…

We plan our preaching rota usually a year in advance, so currently we have a plan for 2015 mapped out at a very high level, purely dates of series and their titles. Then, we create outlines for each series that detail the overarching theme, and then further detail for each part of the series. This is done to a standard template to make it easy to complete, and there are sections to fill out like “What do we want everyone to know” and “How do we want people to feel”, as well as an outline of the talk and space to fill in creative ideas.

Where to start?

These creative ideas may be worship songs from our list to help give a pointer to our worship leaders. We also have space for performance songs, drama, interactions , graphics and stage design.Media can encompass everything from film and TV clips, recorded dramas, bespoke media for the service and music videos. Of course we don’t use everything every week, but there is always some sort of creative element inserted into the service, either to directly support the talk or to engage the congregation from the beginning. Or even both!

So when I get the outlines (and usually I talk through them with Chris our Senior Minister), I start to just collate ideas that come from the overview as described above. So I trawl through my music collection; sometimes I know exactly what I’m looking for, other times just typing related words into the search field can help too. I am a music addict (as my wife will attest to), so I have a pretty extensive library on my iTunes…around 45,000 tracks and always growing. But of course Spotify now has just about everything you could ever wish for.

I also watch a lot of movies, or at least, I did when the kids were younger and went to bed earlier…but again, sometimes I know exactly what I’m looking for, other times Googling or browsing YouTube for relevant clips is a real boon.

There’s an idea or two brewing here….

Probably because I have been doing this for so long, I rarely am able to watch or listen to anything without considering a Sunday service application for it…it’s always in the back of mind…”could we use this”, “this would be great for an all age service”, “if only he hadn’t sworn in that sentence it would be perfect for telling the story of Job” etc… So I try to keep notes of all of these ideas and more…and Evernote is my note taking software of choice

Seasonally there are always key things happening, so that also gets taken into account. And then popular culture also counts for a lot…but popular culture as is reflected in our church culture… So recently The Great British Bake Off has been on, Strictly Come Dancing has just started, The Apprentice, The X Factor…all formats that are familiar and can be referred to or even copied. These may then feed into the way we present something, or directly influence an element in our service…last Sunday we showed a series of slides of “Bake Off Fails”, and I’ve done a lukewarm cooking slot before as a pastiche of MasterChef to illustrate another story.

And from time to time we also use drama, something we try to do moderately often because of the amount of work it takes to do well, but also to maximise the impact.

The melting pot.

All of this goes into a melting pot of ideas and resources that are entered into the outline template, almost a scatter-gun approach. But that then gives me, the service leader and preacher a great starting point to filter out and hone the ideas into something that is useful, relevant and accessible. And how we edit and refine the ideas is something that I’ll look at next week.

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?

Legacy part 2

Friday has come around again, and I look back on another nice summer holiday week which has included (between work) a trip to the Tower of London with the family, food with friends and time out watching Castle with my beloved once the kids have gone to bed. All things which I will look back on with fond memories. Earlier this week I shared the great song Something Worth Leaving Behind by Lee Ann Womack, and looked at the legacies which we all leave. I thought as rather wonderful way to wrap up Legacy Week, I’d share this clip, Yes to Love:

You may recognise the couple: Isaac and Amy shared the most amazing Lip Sync Proposal on YouTube back in 2012, something we at EBC used as part of a marriage series we were doing. This video is a follow up to their proposal which they put together, and it shows the whole family and legacy that they and their parents and their siblings are leaving behind them.

The relatively simple act of Saying Yes to Love has led to 14 children and 40 grandchildren…and 35 great-grand children!

Purpose

Now I don’t think you need to purposely set out to create a legacy, I am sure most of us don’t wake up in the morning and think “I’m going to be known for…” and then set along a path to do it. But I do think we need to be aware of our legacy, and acknowledge the decisions we make will affect where we’re going, and also the trail which we leave behind. Everything we do and say has consequences, positive and negative, especially when it is dealing with other people.

Foot in Mouth Syndrome

I used to be a fan of Changing Rooms back when it was on (showing my age again…), and one of the useful pieces of advice was “Measure twice, cut once” when it came to Handy Andy and his DIY. I believe we should apply the same ethos to our words, thoughts and decisions….”think twice, speak/do once”. I have been on the end of plenty of conversations where things are said and thought about afterwards, and I am as guilty as anyone for “foot in mouth” syndrome. But simple adjustments to the way we say and do things can make significant changes.

Leaving a legacy does’t have to involve lots of money, charitable foundations, art installations or best selling albums. Legacies don’t even have to include large families and multiple descendants. But leaving a legacy must involve love at its core, and saying Yes to Love may be the first step towards leaving your legacy.

What is your legacy today, if you look back? Where do you want it to be in 10 years time?

Dreams Part 3

I thought I’d finish off the “Week of Dreams” as it’s turned out with this short:

Ormie the pig becomes focused on getting the cookie jar from the to of the fridge. Now clearly this isn’t a healthy obsession, either in terms of consuming a whole jar of cookies, or the measures he has to take to reach the jar. But it is funny.

Everyone’s dreams are different, we all have varied goals and desires which we’d like to pursue and achieve. For some they will always be pipe dreams, for others they may become obsessions. But, as I’ve referred to in previous posts, dreams won’t become reality unless you’re prepared to stick at them and work hard at achieving them. And working hard and putting the time in, while a good thing, needs to be balanced with normal life, family and friendships. When dreams border on obsession, there is a shift whereby your focus on the end goal becomes blurred, and all else around you pales into insignificance. Objectivity goes out of the window, life takes a back seat, and before you know it everything around you has fallen apart while you obsess on the solitary goal.

Journey

The journey is as much a part of realising your dreams, in fact I’ve read many times the journey is often more important than the destination. And the thought of reaching your end goal and then turning around to see the carnage you’ve left on the way is not a pretty one. Kind of like when my kids decide to do some baking…great cakes, disaster in the kitchen.

Work Hard, Play Hard is a commonly known phrase which is often used…I’d maybe like to rebalance it as Work Hard, Play Nice, or Work Hard in Moderation, Play Gently…I know they don’t have the same ring, but make more sense to me…

So work hard on your dreams, but make sure that when you do realise them, there is someone left to share them with at the end.

Until next week…