Sunday, April 26, 2009

Worship Star

I think this song just one of the signs of a growing restlessness about contemporary worship. It satirises the temptation for Christian musicians to make money by writing new worship songs with the same old clichés.

Recently, Mike Rimmer wrote an hard hitting article, on the Cross Rhythms site, lamenting the demise of music ministry and trying to inspire people to something better. Mike had just posted a link to Worship Star on his facebook status - saying that the song summed up how he was feeling about this topic - when co-incidentally I was looking at a post on Jonny Baker’s blog that pointed to a couple of articles on a site called Music Academy. In a similar vain, Jonny was struck by an article about being bored with contemporary worship and one by Brian McLaren that made some positive suggestions about worship songs.

Anyway, I commented to Jonny about this video. He thought it was hilarious and reposted the link. I hope you enjoy it.

Related post: The Future Direction of Worship

Friday, April 24, 2009


I've just been playing with RedBubble. It's a site that enables you to upload artwork and sell it. You can now buy one of my photos as a card. If you would like to buy any other of my photos please let me know and I'll pop them on RedBubble.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Harvest

For a few days over the Easter weekend we went to Spring Harvest at Butlins in Minehead. We were pleased that there was plenty for our little daughter Callie. We could drop her off in her own sessions for three hours each morning. The Butlin’s activities were also open to us such as a fairground, swimming pool, climbing frames, etc. So it was just as much a holiday as a conference. But still I was hoping for a little more than just 'lively' worship and 'inspiring' sermons in the meetings.

In the mornings we chose the Encounter Bible Studies. Russ Parker who is part of the Northumbria Community had some interesting stories to tell about how God had spoken to him and used him in various settings. I was glad that the preaching was accompanied by PowerPoint and short videos often featuring Christian music and compilations of scenes from movies or slides. Russ also had a couple of violinists who played for us and led us in songs and hymns. And there was a short time for group work and feedback.

After a break there was a choice of sessions that unpacked the study guide on the theme of being an apprentice of Jesus. I went to a couple of these sessions and found that it was good to have the talks broken up with activities again. But I found all these teaching sessions a bit too much really. So one morning I went to the chapel to be quiet, read the Bible and pray in the first session. I also found the Prayer House, which for me was the best find of the week. For a couple of the second sessions I was in there praying at the various prayer stations, writing on the prayer wall and relaxing in God’s presence.

In the afternoons I went to the art workshops and spend some time with Callie taking her on the dodgems, adventure golf and soft play area as well as taking her to a multi-sensory worship workshop. My niece Hannah had also found the Prayer House and recommended going to one of their meditations while Nettes watched Callie. I discovered that this was really an alternative worship service – with video, prayers and responses and a worship activity. If I was to go to Spring Harvest again I would do one of these every day.

We went half board so we had dinner and breakfast at the Butlins' diner. They were excellent for your traditional British meat and two veg. But there was not so much choice on the veggie options, healthy options or international cuisine all of which I tend to prefer. So I usually joined the queue for the salad bar. But the 'all you can eat' policy meant that we always had plenty.

In the evenings I took turns with Nettes to be with Callie in her session and put her to bed - I found it very special to take the bread and wine with Callie one evening. But this meant that I only got a couple of full evenings out as the first day we were just settling in. One evening I spent in the Encounter Café that ran as an alternative to the main celebration. There was music, audience interaction, chat, games and a five minute preach as well as making these plasticine models! The other evening I went to the Readings and Reflections - another service with Russ Parker. I also went to see Sue Rinaldi and comedian Joe Fisher. But these gigs didn’t start until 10:30 so this gave me a couple of hours in the Sun and Moon where I could quietly read my study guide with a pint.

All this meant there was one venue we had not gone to when it came to the last day – the Big Top. I did see something of it the night before on our chalet TV. During the meeting two artists who I knew from the art workshops were painting a huge picture at the back of the stage. And anyone could come up and do some art beside the stage. So on the last morning it was the Big Top. I looked around the artwork that was there. But apart from the art I was not as impressed with this venue as much as the others I had seen - especially the Prayer House. There were some familiar contemporary worship songs. And finally we were aptly sent off with a sermon on ‘Go!’

Spring Harvest this year was probably a one off for us - although next year’s does look interesting. The title is ‘Different Eyes - Living Distinctly in a Time of Uncertainty’. We were grabbed by the themes of social justice and ethical issues such as fair trade that are going to be covered. Perhaps we should have waited a year?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Notes on Spiritual Direction from Larry Crabb Conference

Recently I saw Larry Crabb at the annual conference with the British Association of Christians in Psychology. Here are some notes that I jotted down at the conference. I hope that I caught the gist of what he was saying and apologies if I have misrepresented him in any way.

Spiritual Direction is an ancient and profound practice within the Christian Church. Larry Crabb has brought this together with counselling and with and an understanding of community. After spearheading the integration of psychology and Christianity he found his journey moving away from psychotherapy and counselling towards Spiritual Direction. He now would say that he doesn’t think anyone can be an expert on relationships. Rather than scientifically trying to develop expert technique he is looking at the art of providing relationship. Trying to provide and engage in conversions that matter to God.

People need direction in their lives. Psychotherapy tries to provide that - but without God. There are many different approaches. Each approach gives different answers each theorist is defensive of and persuasively advocates their view. But practitioners often become eclectic welding together fundamentally incompatible theories. Sometimes it is good to acknowledge these contractions as there is an element of mystery to the human soul. What can you count on a therapist knowing? Ultimately all they can agree on is that when it hurts it helps to talk to someone you trust.

Larry pointed to the Bible as our starting point for understanding psychology. And we should approach the Bible as 66 love-letters written to answer seven questions of spiritual theology. Spiritual theology understands the story God is telling in a way that affects your life.

1. Who is God? A community of three persons

2. What is up to? Glorifying himself by beautifying us

3. Who are we? The image of God

4. What’s gone wrong? Here Larry asked the question ‘are psychological disorders really spiritual disorders?’ i.e. the result of sin, but he acknowledged that this does also raise the question ‘what about hurt’?

5. What has he done about it? The new covenant

6. What’s the Spirit doing now? Forming us into little Christs – into the image of God

7. How do we join him? How can we co-operate as God’s people and learn to relate? Larry discussed the doctrine of perichoresis which means “to dance around” and one image is that of the Trinity dancing and inviting us to join that dance. This was beautifully conveyed in our worship time on Saturday night where we meditated on one such portrayal of this image.

Larry would now see a lot of the help given by counsellors or therapists could be gained from non-professional relationships. He has learnt a lot about these relationships from medieval Christian writings that discuss Spiritual Direction. A tradition originated from the desert fathers and mothers. When Christianity became acceptable some Christians went into the desert to recapture the radical faith of the earlier martyrs. They needed communities to direct them in discerning what we really of God and what was just wacky.

Spiritual Direction is about developing good conversations. These begin with us honestly sharing ‘where we are at’. There is an epidemic of a lack of sacred curiosity – we don’t ask question of each other enough. Do we communicate ‘shut up while I speak’ or do we intrigue people to ask us more? We often talk to prevent us from feeling inadequate. Instead of thinking of ten good things and saying eleven let us think of ten good things and occasionally mention one.

This addresses the seventh question of spiritual theology, ‘How can we participate in what God is doing?’ By relating to people in conversations that really matter.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Reach Out Network: Prayer and Awareness Day

Last Saturday I went to a prayer and awareness day run my Reach Out Network – name for the activities run by my friends Paul & Jackie Atkin. The aim of the ministry is to reach out to those on the fringe of society, in particularly the homeless helping them to overcome addictions and other issues as well as talking about Jesus with them.

Paul began by telling his own story. I was stuck by how an important part of his conversion involved facing his own mortality. He realised that not everyone in his local graveyard had died at an old age. In fact there was quite a spread of ages. Later He had known members of his own family die. And over the years he had known eighteen rough sleepers who had died.

During the day there were a number of presentations by organisations that are working together in this ministry to the homeless. Steve, our church elder, introduced Church Alive commenting that we all have different styles and that we are all learning to work together and to see each others ways of doing things is just as 'right' as our own. We heard the amazing story Sally Livingstone of Livingstone House whom God had told to “pick diamonds out of excrement”. We also heard from Betel – a rehabilitation community based in Birmingham. They described themselves as 'contemporary monastic' and explained how they enable their members – many of which have been rough sleepers – to work in the community's businesses.

Paul then interviewed a shy chap who was sitting next to me who turned out to be someone who was currently homeless. Paul asked him how the church could best serve the homeless. This chap explained that friendship and acceptance is what people want, as well as an opportunity for a change of life. He pointed out just how unsafe sleeping on the streets is especially if it is not with some others that you trust. And at the end of the day he and a couple of others, who we have known for sometime, indicated that they wanted to become Christians.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Understanding Human Behaviour in Relationships

I'm on another course at this very moment. This time Fircroft College for three day residential on Understanding Human Behaviour in Relationships.

I am enjoyed getting to know the other students. We are doing lots of group work but there is some stretching formal input too. The course is coming from a comes psychodynamic perspective and is giving us some brief tasters of NLP, Transactional Analysis – not just parent, child and adult but also the Drama Triangle.

Neuro-lingustic programming is completely new to me and it was fascinating looking at the four pillars:

1. rapport – building relationships with yourself and others,
2. sensory awareness – becoming more aware of the now,
3. outcome thinking – focussing on what you want to achieve
4. behavioural flexibility – trying out new things.

This morning we did some assertiveness training. I found this the most useful part of the course. I came away with a list of tips to practice and use in conversations. I will go through these with Nettes and use them.