Monday, 28 February 2011

"New" Music #1

I have decided to expand my music collection by browsing the second hand stores to pick up albums and artists I have heard of but never really had the chance to listen to their music.  I will occasionally post my thoughts and even commit myself to an 'out of 5 stars' rating.  Let me know what you think.

The Zutons - Who killed the Zutons (2004) - 99p - 2½ stars
OK album, their debut album and the main hits came off their second album.  May occasionally listen again

Dido - Life for Rent (2003) - £1.99 - 3 stars
Very enjoyable album, lovely voice and relaxing slightly melancholic tunes.  I remember this artist being regularly lampooned on Never Mind the Buzzcocks but I quite like it.

Razorlight - Up all night (2004) - 99p - 2½ stars
Intense guitar rock, not dissimilar to The Editors. Not sing along but solidly good tunes.

Texas - White on Blonde (1997) - 99p - 4 stars
Really love this album, it seems contemporary, cool and such a good mix of soft rock and fantastic lyrics.  This is one that will get many spins on turntable

Will Young - Friday's Child (2003) - 50p - 3½ stars
That very rare thing a reality pop star with talent and originality. Soulful pop ballads, very toe tapping!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Is it OK to not be OK?

Let’s be honest we prefer to be around fun people more than miserable people – that’s an easy choice! But what would you choose – ‘happy’ unreal people or real but flawed people?

It strikes me that we have to make that choice everyday when we ask and answer the question, “How are you?”. It’s an easy question to answer when things are good or OK. When life is difficult I tend to make a choice along the lines of this flowchart:

When people really ask us "How are you", I think what we all want is to be heard, accepted, receive some empathy about our situation and then if needed maybe the offer of help, care, prayer or all of the above! The first and most important is to be heard and accepted – to know it is OK to NOT be OK. When this happens we can be real.

However, when we suspect that the person we are speaking to will be uncomfortable with our difficult situation or will rush to suggest a solution to our 'problem' – then it might just be easier for both of us if we keep our masks on and look for another place where it is OK to NOT be OK.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Church & the new social media

Let me start this post by saying the new social media isn’t that new – facebook has been with us since 2004 and twitter in 2006.  However to the church and specifically to many church leaders, esp. in the UK it is ‘new’. It’s not new because they haven’t heard about it, and some even have facebook accounts, it’s new because the reality of it as a real social and community environment is just becoming clear.  I must admit until the middle of last year I had the similar take it or leave it view.

Anyway this post was inspired by a talk I recently gave to some church leaders.  In the talk I covered the subjects of websites, facebook, twitter & blogs.  So I will touch on these areas briefly in this post (sorry it is longer than normal but I hope you think it's worth it).

What are they for? For a church they are methods of communication, they hold information, store preaches, give you links to other ministries and can even have member areas that can have detailed info on church, ministry and people. However, I believe their primary function is to tell non-church members all about the church. They are your online brochure. Anything else is a bonus!

They need to look good and hold the key information - where you meet, when you meet, how to get there, how to contact you and what is going on (events\activities). They must NOT look outdated or messy (if they haven’t been redesigned in 3 years they are out of date). One big no, no is out of date information - one church website I checked in Jan 2011 had one event on its calendar, a carol concert which took place in Dec 2009! 

First some statistics:
         50% of active users log on daily
         Average active user spends > 55 mins on facebook per day
         48% of 18-34 year olds check facebook as soon as they wake up
         57% of people talk to people more online than they do in real life
         The 35+ demographic now makes up more than 30% of facebook
         Women aged 35-50 rate facebook as their number 1 social activity

This can be scary OR we can see this as an opportunity.  First of we need to understand two things
1. You don’t get a vote on this
2. You can’t stop or change this
Facebook and social media is here to stay, it is a reality and it is a real community.

How can facebook be used for the kingdom? By speaking into peoples lives & by living your life more publically. Check out this excellent article why every church leader should be on facebook by By David Tonen 

As you use facebook not just to comment on others peoples lives (see the article above), but also to put details of your life then people will watch and see something of who you are.  This will add to your credibility and authenticity (and people may even think you are cool!).

The great thing about facebook is you don’t have to respond instantly and you can plan what you are going to share. A busy church leaders diary and subsequent facebook entries could look like this:

Day Main activity Facebook updates
Monday Day off Write about what you are going to do and/or what you did (incl. a photo)
Tuesday Staff meetings Post what you are discussing, ask for input/prayer
Tell people about the staff prayer meeting, what can you pray for or what did you pray for
Wednesday Pastoral mtgs & Sermon prep Tell people who you are / who you did meet up with today (send that person an encouraging msg)
Tell people what you are going to preach on, ask for ideas/input
Thursday Regional leaders mtg Tell people where you are going / what the mtg was about / what is going on in other churches
Friday Preach prep Tell people how the preach is going, ask people to pray, give people a taster
Saturday Events \ Family time Tell people what your Saturday day / night is looking like
Sunday Sunday mtg Talk about some aspect of the meeting
Ask for feedback on your preach

On top of this list there is the stuff of life (family, cars, sport, news, pets, tv etc.) you can write about.

Put your church on facebook
Create a facebook page for your church where you can share about all the stuff that is going on in the church, in your town, the nation and the world that it would be good for your church to know about and get involved in.  Check out our church facebook page for (I hope) a good example.

Twitter is not very prelevant in the UK outside of cities and celebrities. It is a way for a person, group or organisation to share what they are doing, thinking etc. and to be able to follow what others are doing? Essentially people use Twitter to follow people and things that shape and influence their lives
So in your church which is the only person who should legitimately have a twitter account?  The answer has to be the lead pastor.  If that person isn’t using facebook regularly then do that first before embarking on using Twitter

Why blog? It gives you a chance to write or say something that can teach, influence or engage people. A blog gives you the vehicle to disciple your whole congregation.
Key things to ensure your blog is successful
         Make sure you know what you are aiming to do:
        A blog about a particular angle on life (leadership, bible, etc.) or a general view on life
         Make sure the content is good. What is good content?
         It reads well – make sure you have a good person to critique your work
         It is edited well
         It isn’t too long – unless its really good!
         Make sure you post consistently. Decide how often you are going to post and stick to this (remember you can prep your blog posts in advance)
         Publicise your blog – how will they know if they are not told!
         Always comment/reply to comments and interactions
         Keep going

Ultimately we are doing this to help in our mission to make disciples, be real, have fun and enjoy the journey.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


One of my favourite TV shows is Dexter - it has a great opening credits (see the video)

Dexter is a drama series about Dexter Morgan (played by Michael C. Hall), a forensic bloodstain pattern analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department who moonlights as a serial killer (you can see the references in the video).

Set in Miami and based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. Dexter structures his killing around "The Code of Harry", a body of ethics and procedures devised by his adoptive father Harry Morgan (who was a Miami cop) to make sure Dexter never gets caught and to ensure that Dexter kills only other killers. As an adult, Dexter has largely escaped suspicion (with some exceptions) by being genial and generous and maintaining generally superficial relationships. However, his attachment to his sister, Debra, his wife, Rita, his stepchildren and later his son both complicate his double life and also help him re-connect with normal human emotions.

Whilst being a great drama, with an excellent cast, it is also a great insight into a troubled and traumatised mind and even though most of us are nothing like Dexter I'm sure that we all have blockages or disconnects like this in some area of our lives - I know I have.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Book Review: Team of Rivals

Today is the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, so it seems fitting to post my review of the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

The book tells the story of Abraham Lincoln and the three rivals he beat for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860. Lincoln appointed all three men to his cabinet, soothed their egos, drew upon their talents, political skills and experience to help him in leading the country through the most difficult period of its history. The book spans the decades running to the Civil War, the war’s big battles, and ends with the assassination of Lincoln.

Through the book you get an idea of Lincoln’s leadership: his superhuman empathy, superlative sense of political timing, and patience. But what really set him apart was his ability to strike compromise and control his own emotions - whether he was under attack by colleagues, critics or public opinion.

He would not be rushed but carefully thought through issues from all sides. He took counsel from those with more experience or clear gifting, always sort to take others with him. Slow to react to critiscism, fast to forgive, never afraid to apologise, generous with his time and always looked for the good in people. The statesmanship of Lincoln is immense and it is easy to see how he is so revered, indeed the story related by Tolstoy and mentioned in the book sums him up well. Tolstoy was the guest of a tribal chief in Russia 40 years after Lincoln's death and had entertained them with of tales of Alexander, Caesar and Napoleon.  The Chief then stood and said, "But you have not told us about the greatest general and ruler of the world. We want to know something about him. He was a hero. He spoke with a voice of thunder; he laughed like the sunrise and his deeds were strong as the rock... His name was Lincoln and the country in which he lived is called America"

In my opinion Abraham Lincoln stands alongside Henry V as one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. Great because of the skill, leadership and humanity they show.

Through this book I had grown to care and respect Lincoln so much and see the love in which he was held that reading the last chapter which chronicles his assassination was quite an emotional experience.

I thoroughly recommend this book.

I would be glad to have a tenth of the qualities old Abe had.  The one thing I do share with him is my birthday, so Happy Birthday to the both of us!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

God's Mechanic

Pete Williams (pictured) is a member of my church who is taking a year out to work in Kenya.  He is using his skills to maintain and service aircraft that Mission Aviation Fellowship use to share the love of Jesus Christ by meeting the physical and spiritual needs of isolated people. They work in 42 countries throughout Asia, Africa, Eurasia and Latin America.

It's a great work Pete is doing and you can follow his journey on his blog God's Mechanic. Why don't you check it out and if you know him write a comment to encourage him.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

You've got my full attention

"You've got my full attention", this is a phrase I've found myself using quite a bit recently. I say it quite deliberately and then attempt to do just that, give my full attention to the the person who wants to speak to me. To me this means:

  • looking at the person
  • not doing other things at the same time
  • trying to really listen to the words they say
  • watching the way they say it
  • stopping myself analyse and solve their 'problem' in my head as they tell it to me
  • and finally trying to show/reflect that I have heard and understood what they have said

It doesn't sound too difficult to do this.  But why do we rarely give people our full attention like this? So often we are in conversations but half our mind is elsewhere thinking about the next thing to do, listening to other conversations, watching other things or people. We seem to be trying to do so much that we de-value the most important thing - each other.

I know I am guilty of this, especially on a Sunday morning when I have a list of people I need to see or things to do. I find myself chatting with someone whilst all the time looking over their shoulder for the next person on my 'to do' list. And what's more I really dislike it when people do this to me!

Well I can't change anybody else and sometimes I do have a list of people I really need to speak to.  But the rest of the time I'm going to really try to do this.  So if you are talking to me feel free to ask, "Have I got your full attention?" - because you deserve it!

Dedicated to LC

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The best trolley in the world - probably!

On a recent trip to IKEA I noticed their latest design innovation. It's not a new piece of furniture, a fancy chair or a clock. Actually it isn't something you can buy. It's a trolley!

To be more exact it is a trolley that you use to carry your food, up to three trays worth, and your shopping bag in the restaurant (see the picture).

The funny thing is, they make furniture so why bother spend so much money on enhancing and improving the experience of carrying your food from the counter to your table?

I think the reason they have done this is they realise everything they do counts. It's all part of the message, the brand that is IKEA.  I love the fact that they seem to try to improve everything about their organisation.

It's a real challenge and provocation, both personally and corporately. Life is so busy with just doing the stuff in front of us - there is always more to do. We can easily forget to step back and ask have I / we actually progressed in the last year?

So have I improved? What can I improve this year? [I have my thoughts and ideas and I think there is plenty of room for improvement!] Comments and suggestions are always very welcome!