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Life-Changing

Hi everyone,

Aside from two posts on acoustic guitar and music theory, I haven’t written much on here for a while; to be honest, I think I was pretty exhausted after writing a blog post every day for a year, so it has been nice to take a bit of a break! But I’ve not been idle. In fact, some of the biggest changes my life has ever seen will take place in the coming months – I’d like to share with you a little about what’s happening. The easiest way to do that is to quote from my ‘GoFundMe’ page (which I’ll explain a little more shortly):

The Past and the Present

My name is Dave Betts. In 2008, shortly after a powerful encounter with God, I started volunteering for a fantastic church in Bracknell, England…Kerith Community Church. After a year, I was given the position of Music Director and after two years of volunteering, I was able to work as part of the paid staff team.

It’s been an immense privilege; I’ve had the opportunity to play, write, arrange, record and teach music with an incredible team of adults and young people both in the UK and overseas, as well as working in recent months with the graphic design team. I’ve learnt an awful lot, both humbled and hugely grateful for such a brilliant five years. Unfortunately, however, I was made redundant with four other staff members in January. This is due to financial issues and whilst I’m naturally disappointed, I truly believe that Simon and the Eldership team at Kerith have made the best decision for the good of the church in the long term. I finish working in mid-April.

The Future 

I was on a ministry trip in Canada with Michael and Esther Ross-Watson when I received the news, which turned out to be a real blessing as I had lots of time to think, talk and pray about what would be next. I believe that even today God speaks to us and while I was away, I believe God spoke very clearly about the direction He wants to take me in. I believe He wants me to spend some time studying the Bible, in order that I would be more effective for Him. I began serving in ministry so quickly after choosing to follow Jesus that I very much had to learn as I went. After five brilliant years as Kerith, I believe studying at a Bible college is the next step for me.

God has already opened doors in astounding ways; providing all the finances, accommodation, flights and living expenses for a short course at the School of Supernatural Ministry in Singapore from May to July.

I’ve applied for a Bible College in Canada that I spent some time in while with Michael and Esther. It was an exciting place that I have no doubt will stretch and grow me in new ways.

It’s all go! I finish working at Kerith on the 11th April and fly to Singapore on the 2nd May. After a month back in England in the Summer I’ll catch a one-way flight to Canada where, if everything goes to plan, I’ll stay.  But who knows what God has in store!
I’ve been working pretty hard to get everything in order before I leave; from ensuring that I’ve done all I can to support the guys at Kerith (in particular, Revolution) to systematically selling anything that I don’t need anymore, it’s been a busy time. There are few things I’d love to share with you in particular though:

 

GoFundMe

Unfortunately, I can’t afford to go to Canada without God seriously breaking in. Fortunately, I truly believe that he will! GoFundMe is a place where, should you feel an urge to support me in any way you can financially, you can. I would be unbelievably grateful, but as I’ve said before, I trust God to provide so please don’t feel any pressure!

 

YouTube / Soundcloud

I took a few days off a couple of weeks ago to film some YouTube tutorials on music theory and how to play the guitar. It was an intense week but I managed to film over 50 tutorials covering everything from the very, very basics of guitar to some much more advanced principles such as the CAGED system. My plan is to release two videos a week for the majority of the year! There are also some new songs that I’ve written both for church and secular – the latter I got to write with Marija Kamarauskaite, one of my closest friends which was a real privilege. I’ve also put a ton of compositions up onto Soundcloud too – see the links below.
Why am I doing this? Well, I’ve had the immense privilege of meeting many people from many churches around the world who have asked for help with learning to play the guitar and traditionally haven’t been able to help them. By recording these tutorials, it means that I can teach people from wherever I am in the world – including those guys in Revolution. One of my greatest passions is that they continue to do as well as they are doing. However, it’s also just a great place to be able to showcase what I’ve been up to over the last few years; an  ‘online CV’ of sorts.
It would really help me if, should you so desire, you could subscribe to my YouTube or Soundcloud channels:

 

YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/bettsdav

 

SOUNDCLOUD: http://www.soundcloud.com/davidcbetts

 

SO. That’s all that’s going on in my life right now. I plan to use this blog as a journal over the next year as I explore this totally new and exciting season. As ever, I’d love for you to join me along the way! I’ll leave you with a video of one of the songs that Marija and I wrote last week:
 
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How to Nail Acoustic Guitar in Less Than Three Months

Learning to play the guitar is much easier than people think it is.

Yes, I said it. Of course, there are seriously advanced techniques and skills to be acquired, but it is one of the simplest instruments there is to get to a basic competence level. By using the information below in tandem with my previous post on music theory, I believe you could play along with at least 90% of contemporary music today. Maybe you won’t be shredding those crazy solos yet but if you’re looking for a starting point, this is it.

Step 1 – Learn Some Music Theory

Music Theory is not ‘sexy’. I get it, you’re one of the 100,000 beginner guitarists I’ve heard trying to play that Metallica solo or that AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses and even John Mayer line before you understand the basic principles surrounding the construction of music. Steady now, young padawan. First, you should understand the force before you can use it…and never, ever wear a top hat. You are not Slash.

I recently wrote a post that covered all of what I would consider the basic principles of music theory – these are particularly relevant in a church setting, but they are useful for many other settings too. I strongly suggest that you read, bookmark, practice, read again and keep coming back to that post until you really understand it. Whilst it doesn’t cover improvisation for solos and so on, it will build strong foundations that will help make it much easier in the future. For now, we’re sticking to being rhythm guitarists anyway.

Step 2 – Learn the Note Names of the E and A Strings

For total beginners, you may have noticed that there are six strings on your guitar. From the lowest sounding string to the highest sounding string, the notes progress as follows: E  A  D  G  B  E. It is often written on guitar tablature (a form of notation using numbers and often abbreviated to ‘TAB’ – find out more here) as follows:

E

B

G

D

A

E

Learning the note names from fret 0 to fret 12 (exactly an octave higher than fret 0) on the E and the A string is often overlooked, but vitally important exercise. The knowledge of these strings will enable you to play almost any song in any key with only a handful of chords under your belt. We’ll look more at this later.

What’s more, by knowing the note names of the E and the A string, you can very easily learn the note names of every other string. Skip this part if you aren’t interested (as it’s not relevant to acoustic guitarists just yet) or already know about this.

Every note name on the guitar with ease:

D string

Same as the E string when played two frets higher. Eg, E fret 3 is G. D fret 5 is also G.

G string

Same as the A string when played two frets higher. Eg, A fret 3 is C. G fret 5 is also C.

B string

Same as the A string when played two frets lower. Eg. A fret 3 is C. B fret 1 is also C.

High E string is obviously the same as low E. It should however be mentioned that whilst these are they same notes on the various strings, they are not always the same octave.

 

Step 3 – Nine Chords to Rule Them All

 If you’ve looked at the music theory notes I mentioned earlier, you’ll know all about keys and the Nashville system. If so, great. If not, don’t worry about it just yet – this part will still be useful but won’t be as useful without that knowledge.

As acoustic guitarists, I personally believe that G and C are the most important keys to learn initially. These keys will allow you to play any song in any key once you’ve learnt the fourth and final step. The links between the two keys mean that there are only nine chords to learn to get going, which makes things much more simple. Start by learning these open chords:

G  Am  Bm  C  D  Dm  Em  F  F#m

I’m not going to tell you how. Between YouTube and Google, I’m sure you can figure it out! Otherwise, this post would be huge! Don’t tell me it will take you more than two months to learn nine chords!!

Step 4 – Get Capo Capable

 

trigger-guitar-capo-1 

This is a capo.

It’s going to be your best friend while you start out. In fact, I’ve been playing guitar for twelve years and it’s still my best friend. Maybe I need more friends.

Essentially, a capo can raise the entire pitch of the guitar so that wherever you place it becomes the new fret 0This is where your music theory knowledge comes into play…and where all of a sudden, playing guitar gets a whole lot easier.

Our chords in the key of C are:

1    2m   3m     4    5     6m    7m

C    Dm    Em    F    G    Am    Bm

Our chords in the key of G are:

1      2m     3m    4    5     6m    7m

G    Am    Bm    C    D    Em    F#m

*The astute among you will know that chord 7m is technically a diminished chord, but for the sake of ease, we’ll avoid that for now.

Well, this is fine if we’re playing in the key of C or G – we have everything we need. But what if a song is in E? How can we play this song without having to learn a load of new chords? Simply, by following this process.

Using a capo to play in a different key

When we play a G in the key of G, fret 3 on the E string is our root note ( a ‘G’).

When we play a C in the key of C, fret 3 on the A string is our root note. (a ‘C’)

Step 1 – Choose starting chord, move the chord shape to the desired root note

In this example, our G chord shape rests on a G root note on the E string. By moving the whole shape up the fretboard (G#, A, A#, B) we find that the root note of our G chord shape becomes a B at fret 7.

Note: this wouldn’t work in the key of C for this example, as you can only raise the pitch (not lower it) to use a capo.

Step 2 – Place the capo 4 frets lower

If we were to play the chord as it was, it would sound pretty awful. This is because of the open strings. Instead, by placing a capo three frets lower, the chord begins to sound as it should.

Note: think of it as ‘current fret – 3 frets’. In this case:

fret 7-3 = capo on fret 4.

Step 3 – Play in the key of G or C

In this case, we are playing in the key of G. However, although chord 1 is still ‘G’ as far as what we play, the chord that is produced is actually a B. Likewise, chord 2m is still played as an Am, but the chord that is produced is actually a C#m.

This is very easy with the Nashville system as you never look at specific chords – you simply place a capo and play the song as if it was always in G. However, it is good practice to learn the theory as it is very likely that you will be given a chord sheet with the original chords in and have to transpose on the fly. Be prepared to do this!

A few examples for good measure

 The same principle applies to the key of C, only using the A string as our reference point (‘ahhhhh, I hear you say’). Let’s look at a few examples using these steps:

Example 1 – Song in the key of E

Step 1

We would technically use a capo for both G and C, but C wouldn’t be quite so high, which is probably a good thing. We’re not playing the mandolin.

By taking our C shape and moving it up the fretboard (C# D D# E) we find that the root note of our C shape becomes an E at fret 7.

Step 2

Fret 7-3 = capo on fret 4

Step 3

Now when we play the song in the key of C, it will actually sound like the key of E. Perfect!

Example 2 – Song in the key of F#

Step 1

We wouldn’t be able to go high enough to play in the key of G, so we must use the key of C.

By taking our C shape and moving it up the fretboard (C# D D# E F F#) we find that the root note of our C shape becomes an F# at fret 9.

Step 2

Fret 9-3 = capo on fret 6

Step 3

Now when we play the song in the key of C, it will actually sound like the key of F#. Fantastic!

  

Example 2 – Song in the key of D

 Step 1

We could actually play in both C or G here; at this point it becomes personal preference. Perhaps there is another acoustic guitar player lower down the fretboard, so I’m going to choose to go higher up. G it is.

By taking our G shape and moving it up the fretboard (G# A A# B C C# D) we find that the root note of our G shape becomes a D at fret 10.

Step 2

Fret 10-3 = capo on fret 7

Step 3

Now when we play the song in the key of G, it will actually sound like the key of D. Glorious!

 

Now to Practice!

 This post, combined with the previous post on music theory should be enough to help you go from total beginner to being competent in a large number of settings. This is by no means exhaustive – you will need to look at strumming, finger-picking and other such aspects on playing the guitar yourself. My intention is not to tell you everything you need to know in one sitting – rather, to equip you with enough skills to be able to play along with (even at a basic level) with almost any of your favourite music. Music is an art, an enjoyable hobby and a gift that should never become a chore. I strongly believe in practice routines, scales and technical development, but only if there is an outlet to truly enjoy what you’re doing too.

I hope that this benefits you; I’d love to hear from you if it does! All the best.

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Basic Music Theory for Worship Teams

I have to tell you, I’m a bit of a nerd for music theory. I love it. Or more accurately, I love what it enables you to do as a musician. Over the years I’ve taught a fair few people the basics of music theory and I think I’ve found a process that works. However, that’s usually on a one-to-one basis. I’ve tried to balance the line between comprehensive and simplistic the best I can, in a hope that someone will learn from the information below. Be prepared. It’s a big post, and I’m fully expecting that those who are interested will read this much more than once. If you aren’t interested in learning about music theory, this post really isn’t for you. Sorry to get your hopes up! I hope you find this useful:

“What key is this song in?”

That question. Possibly the question I am most frequently asked when in rehearsals. In fairness, it’s not unreasonable. Talking about this question can be both extremely simple and quite complex, so I’m going to talk about it in three parts. The first part will talk about why we find it so difficult in a modern worship context to understand what key a song is in, as well as provide a brief history as how this problem arose in the first place. The second part is the simple solution to working out what key a song is in. Skip to part two if you’re not interested in the history part. Part three builds a little more theory into the answer, which will help with more complex songs and hopefully, your general knowledge of music theory.

Part One – The Problem

In the 11th century, a monk called Guido Monaco (known as Guido of Arezzo) literally changed the way we look at music. After inventing an ingenious method of singing modes and scales (called the ‘sol-fa system’, which many vocalists will be familiar with), he devised a method of notating pitches on a stave. A single red line indicated an ‘f’, with the letter itself resting at the beginning of the line – the first ever clef. A few hundred years of development led to the first flat key signatures during the medieval period; finally evolving in the 17th century into the key signatures all classical musicians are familiar with today. These key signatures, perched on the stave at the beginning of any piece of music, instantly states the key of the song. So why is it that I’m asked this question so often?

For a number of reasons, stave notation is not quite so dominant in popular music as it is in classical music:

  • Pop songs are much shorter than classical pieces; condensed in order to accommodate the waning attention spans of a commercially all-important radio audience. The decrease in length greatly simplifies the task of memorising songs, so in many cases, stave notation is not quite so vital to the performer.
  • The performers themselves can also be of widely varying levels in terms of their theoretical knowledge; in fact, some of the world’s greatest known pop and rock stars have little to no knowledge of music theory and play entirely by ear. Notable examples include the late Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, a hugely influential ‘grunge’ band of the early 1990s, and Chris Martin of Coldplay, one of the biggest-selling bands of the last decade. As a result, they haven’t needed to rely on music notation to compose music in quite the same way.
  • A classical orchestra can use up to a hundred different instruments at any point. It would be impossible to communicate all the different parts and dynamics quickly. In contrast, a generic pop/rock band has between three and seven instruments with very different ranges and roles, making it much easier to arrange.
  • Pop songs are more simple and repetitive. The nature of a standard pop song’s arrangement is that it generally depends a lot more on the use of entire chords on a single instrument than in classical instrument. Therefore, notation can be simplified to basic ‘chord charts’ – charts that simply quickly state the chords and the point at which they are to be played rather than individual melody lines.

What about worship teams?

This brings us into a worship context. A worship team is almost always entirely reliant on volunteers, with musicians of varying standards and theoretical knowledge, playing shorter songs in comparatively small bands. Consequently, the need for traditional stave notation is not as essential as it once was. A chord chart can easily be all that’s required, but often doesn’t indicate the key of a song (although, increasingly we have begun to indicate the key of the song at the bottom of our chord charts at Kerith Community Church).

So assuming we only use chord charts in whatever context we are in, how do we quickly work out the key of a song? 

Part Two – The Solution

Most songs (particularly worship songs) only use diatonic chords; that is, chords from the key. There are seven chords in each major key, with chord one indicated the root of the key. These facts only apply to diatonic chords, but they are simple enough:

1. There are three major chords in any major key. Chord one (I), chord four (IV) and chord five (V).

2. As chord IV and V are next to each other in the alphabet, chord I is the chord furthest from any other major chords.

Example 1

The title song from the Kerith Worship CD, ‘Magnanimous‘, uses the following chords in the entire song (not all in the same order):

Em  C  G  D

1. The three major chords in the song are C, G and D.

2. C and D are next to each other in the alphabet.

3. Therefore, the song is in the key of G.

Example 2

Another Kerith Worship song, ‘This is Love‘, uses a few more chords, but the principle is the same:

Am Bb  C  C/E  Dm  F

1. The three major chords in this song are Bb, C and F. Don’t be confused with the C/E chord – it is called a ‘slash chord’, and just a different way of playing a C chord; if in doubt, look at the left note and ignore the right note.

2. Bb and C are next to other in the alphabet (ignore flats and sharps when looking at the letters).

3. Therefore, the song is in the key of F.

A common misconception is that you can work out the key of a song by simply looking at the first chord used in the song. Whilst it is true that many songs establish the key of the song by using chord I as a starting chord, this is not always the case and is very risky!

Part Three – The Explanation

At its most basic, the key of a song tells us the scale that is being used; indicating both the starting point (or root note) and the series of tones and semitones that follow. For example, the C major scale is as follows:

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C

As you can see from the keyboard pictured below, between a the majority of the notes are black notes. These are the . As there is only a semitone between E & F and B & C, it is not possible to add a smaller interval between them, so there are no black notes.

763

Therefore, the formula for a major scale is as follows:

T  T  S  T  T  T  S

T = Tone

S = Semitone

When inserted into our C major scale, it looks like this:

C (T) D (T) E (S) F (T) G (T) A (T) B (S) C

Using our knowledge of tones and semitones, we can create a major scale from any starting note. The process is as follows:

1. Decide which key you need to work out.

2. Write out all the note letters in order.

3. Using the formula, add any sharps or flats.

Example 1

1. We’re going to work out which notes are in the G major scale.

2. G  A  B  C  D  E  F  G

3. G to A is a tone, as it should be.

A to B is a tone, as it should be.

B to C is a semitone, as it should be.

C to D is a tone, as it should be.

D to E is a tone, as it should be.

E to F is a semitone, but it should be a tone. Therefore, we sharpen it, or raise it a semitone to F#.

F# to G is a semitone, as it should be.

So our G major scale is G  A  B  C  D  E  F#  G.

Example 2

1. We’re going to work out which notes are in the F major scale.

2. F  G  A  B  C  D  E  F

3. F to G is a tone, as it should be.

G to A is a tone, as it should be.

A to B is a tone, but according to the formula, it should be a semitone. Therefore, we flatten it, or lower it a semitone to Bb.

Bb to C is a tone, as it should be.

C to D is a tone, as it should be.

D to E is a tone, as it should be.

E to F is a semitone, as it should be.

So our F major scale is F  G  A  Bb  C  D  E  F.

Number Time

As well as describing scales by their letters, we can describe them by their degrees. The C major scale looks like this:

1   2  3  4   5  6   7   8

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C

So, in the key of C, F is the 4th degree of the scale, B is the 7th and so on.

Chords

Once we know how to build scales, we can begin to build chords. A chord is a group of (usually) three or more different notes sounded together. The most commonly used of all chords is the triad, consisting of three notes (‘tri’ meaning three). There are many types of triads, but the most frequently used are the major and minor triads. The first note of the chord is called the root note – this is the note that gives the chord its name, and is usually (but not always) the lowest note of the chord. From there, we add the 3rd note and the 5th note from the root. For example, in the key of C:

If C is our root note, E would be our 3rd note and G would be our 5th. Therefore, our chord would contain the notes C, E and G.

If D is our root note, F would be our 3rd note and A would be our 5th. Therefore, our chord would contain the notes D, F and A.

The process continues until you have seven chords (look vertically):

G  A  B  C  D  E  F  G

E  F  G  A  B  C  D  E

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C  (notice that the notes are ‘stacked’ on top of each other)

1  2   3  4   5   6  7   1

As you can see, all major and minor triads have the same basis – Root, 3rd, 5th. But if you hear a major triad and then a minor triad, you would instantly hear that they sound very different. Whilst a major triad sounds happy, a minor triad has a much sadder tone to it. Why is that?

The 3rd

The fundamental difference between a major and minor triad is in the 3rd. Returning to our keyboard picture, let’s take the following chords:

G            E

E            C

C   and   A

If C is ‘1’, the number of semitones (or half steps) between C and E is 5.

If A is ‘1’, the number of semitones (or half steps) between A and C is 4.

That difference of a semitone is pivotal to the entire chord. Consequently, a 3rd that is five semitones from the root is called a ‘major 3rd interval’, while a 3rd that is only four semitones from the root is called a ‘minor 3rd interval’.

So in the key of C, the chord with A as its root is a minor chord. Therefore, we call it ‘A minor’ (or ‘Am’ for short). However, major chords are simply referred to by their letter (eg. C).

In the key of C, our chords are as follows:

C  Dm  Em   F   G  Am  Bm

1      2     3      4   5    6     7

(Note: Chord 7, Bm, is slightly more complicated, but we’ll worry about that another time)

This order of chords is actually the same for any key:

Major  Minor  Minor  Major  Major  Minor  Minor

Another way of writing this is by using Roman numerals; upper case indicates major chords and lower case indicates minor chords, but it is by no means the only way:

I          ii          iii          IV          V          vi          vii

1         2m     3m         4           5         6m        7m

Maj   min    min       Maj      Maj       min        min

The benefit of using this method is that we get used to seeing the chord number as well, so it is easy to write chord progressions that can be quickly moved to any key.

Example

Take the example of ‘Magnanimous’ used earlier. The majority of the song uses this chord progression:

Em C  G  D

Using the method we looked at earlier, we can tell that the song is in the key of G, as C and D are next to each other. Using the G major scale, we can work out all the chords in the key:

1. Write the scale:

G  A  B  C  D  E  F#

1. Use the following formula:

1     2m  3m  4    5    6m  7m

G     A     B    C    D      E     F#

1. Add the minor symbols to the lower case chords:

1     2m   3m    4   5   6m    7m

G   Am   Bm    C  D   Em   F#m

Here are all the chords from the key.

We can also tell that, using the Nashville number system, the chord progression is:

6m 4 1 5

We can use this information to easily transfer the chord progression into any other key. This is called ‘Transposition’.

In time, you will start to recognise chord progressions in certain keys. Many chord progressions are repeated in literally hundreds of songs.

To Conclude

This is by no means an exhaustive lesson in music theory – simply a whistle-stop tour of what I believe is all the essential information for the average worship team member to serve comfortably in most settings. To repeat my comments at the beginning, I’d expect that this wouldn’t suddenly enlighten you after simply one read. This stuff takes practice. My hope is that you can return to this post whenever you want to refresh or improve your understanding of music theory until it becomes second nature. Then you can progress way beyond this stuff to the really quirky stuff!! I’d love to hear any comments, revisions or thoughts on this – is this helpful?

(apologies for the poor formatting, I blame WordPress)

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Why Children’s Workers Need To Man Up

Let’s start with something that I feel is little bit of an elephant in the room…

I’m a man. I love children. I hate that for many people (in my generation at least), that gives rise to all sorts of sordid connotations. Far too many times have people made sarcastic, hurtful jokes when I mention that I’m serving in the children’s ministry or that I thoroughly enjoy working with children. The problem is, I used to make the same kinds of comments once too! Is that why there are so few male children’s workers?

Time to man up

In the church I get to serve in, we have some phenomenal female children’s workers, creating a supportive, nurturing, loving environment for well over a hundred children each week. In fact more broadly, I’ve met many exceptional women who do outstanding work with children; until I was eleven, all of my teachers (bar one for around three months), were female. I’m hugely grateful for the quality of teaching I received. Women are nailing children’s work, but I strongly believe that men need to step up to the plate. Whilst there are some outstanding men in our church children’s work, there are simply not enough men supporting the growth and development of children in our society.

I guess I’m talking most to the males in my generation. The male students and those in their early-twenties who are somewhat understandably in hot pursuit of fame, fortune and/or success. I earn a living as a musician; I have to admit I sort of know what it feels like to want those things. But I have never been more convinced in the power and influence of one of the ‘grown-ups’ showing children how special they are – that they matter.  We’re called as Christians to serve the needy, and who could deny that children are in need of passionate, strong adult role models of both genders? Jesus even highlights the importance of children in Mark 10:13-16:

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

A call to arms

This is a call to arms for men. Ok, those arms might be plastic swords and foam footballs – possibly even shaving cream and a silly hat (see pictures below) – but the children of this world need more positive male influences.  The Department for Education has ‘found overwhelming evidence that children’s life chances are most heavily predicated on their development in the first five years of life.’  Shouldn’t we be a part of this crucial stage in whatever way we can?!

Click here for an interesting video I found on the subject

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Getting ‘gunged’ in our church kids work. Costume not my own

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Hanging out with Meg while her mum worked next to us

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Naomi (and her Dad) Skyped me so she could show me what she’d learnt on guitar. So cute!

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Chilling with the Partingtons

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I spent a few great months living with Meg’s family

All photos used with the parent’s permission.

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Facebook/Twitter: Where is the Love?

Ok. Here it is: as a general rule, I don't think we use social networking as well as we could.

I find it increasingly depressing to open up Facebook, Twitter and various other social applications and see a wave of boasting, complaining and sniping washing over my news feed. Am I blameless? Absolutely not. But is this the way it should be? I don't think so.

I'm a Christian and strongly believe that the Bible is divinely inspired (from God) and intended to help us live our lives in the best, most fulfilling way possible. There's a passage in particular that I think can guide us in our use of social networking…or at the very least, can guide my future posts:

(You might not believe in God, but don't worry, although this next quote is from the Bible, it doesn't even mention the 'G' word. Just view it as wise words from old guys.)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)

As Christians, we are called to love God and love people – as human beings, this world can only survive with love in its various forms, so I don't think anyone is exempt from this. I think the issue is one of love; that inadvertently, we are acting without love or at least, with less than perhaps we ought to. Here's what I believe we can learn from this passage:

Love is patient…

…so don't post impatient statuses/comments/tweets.

Love is kind…

…so use these forms of communication to build up, encourage and inspire, not to dig at, snipe up, tear down or destroy.

Love does not envy…

…so don't post bitter statements when someone else does something that makes you jealous.

Love does not boast…

…so we shouldn't boast! This is one of the most frustrating things for me to see personally – we don't walk around shouting about our new phones, computers, cars, qualifications, results etc, so why do we do it online? I've been bad at this in the past and have been trying really hard over the last year or so not to do it. This isn't a clear-cut thing though; in fact it's the one that I am currently wrestling with the most. For example, I love travelling and posting pictures of beautiful places, but where is the line between sharing your joy and boasting? A difficult one for sure that I'm still a long way from figuring out!

Love is not arrogant…

…so don't be! Sort of linked to the boasting.

Love is not rude…

…so speak well both to people and about people.

Love does not insist on its own way…

…so, sort of obviously, don't insist on your own way!

Love is not irritable…

…so don't be irritable.

Love is not resentful…

…so don't be resentful!

Some of these seem sort of obvious, don't they? We don't need to air our dirty laundry or slate the people around us publicly and really, does any one actually care about that latest expensive product we've just bought? Imagine if we used the online world to share joy, encourage the people around us and speak well of others. Imagine if we tackled big issues in a respectful, honourable way and tackled private issues…in private! To me, that sounds like a great place.

I'm going to do my best to create that place; I'd love it if you tried to create it with me. This is also an open invite to call me on it when I mess it up – honestly, feel free. I know I will…and probably before the week is out! We'll see!!

One Year Blog Challenge, Uncategorized

Day 324: Invisibility by Excellence

This is one of the most epic moments I've experienced at Kerith Community Church. Looking back at this picture from REAL 2012, our conference for women, it shows me why we spend hours practising. It shows me why we invest money in sound, lighting and technology. It shows me why that stuff matters. The clue is in the hands.

We do those things because they help people to connect with God; to draw near to him. The lights, the music, the media and the messages all point directly to him. It's counterintuitive when you think about it – as a team we focus more on standards so the congregation can focus less on us. We raise the quality of what we do in order to lower the barriers between our community and God. The last thing we'd want is to be responsible for distracting people from the power of the Holy Spirit with a stray note or an awkward silence, a shoddy ending or by playing a song so quickly it becomes unsingable. Seeing so many hands raised to God with the band barely visible is something I really, really like to see. It's just not about the band in any way. I really hope that as we improve, our presence on the stage becomes less noticeable. Invisibility by excellence. That's my goal.

 

One Year Blog Challenge, Uncategorized

Day 242: Blog/Website Overhaul

The Cottees, the family I live with have gone away for a few days so when I arrived home from a particularly long but exceptionally rewarding day at church, I very quickly found myself at a loss for things to do. For some reason, I decided I was going to have a look at the design of my blog and something happened. The few hours that followed are a bit of a blur, but before I knew it I’d hit 02:30am and had a totally new website!

As a follow up to one of my posts a few days ago, I’m exploring my own creativity – particularly in guitar tuition and composition (as you can see by the links above). What do you think of the new look website? If you like it, please do tell me so, it would mean a lot! If you hate it, please spend some time finding a way to tell me gently but do tell me! In the mean time, if you know of anyone who would potentially be interested in learning guitar or need some music composed for a project of theirs, feel free to mention me! My guitar lesson slots are filling up fast though, so you’ll have to be quick!

I hope you enjoy the new layout as much as I do :)

One Year Blog Challenge, Uncategorized

Day 240: Exploring Creativity

WARNING: RAMBLINGS AHEAD!

I spend a lot of my time ‘exploring creativity’. Partly, it’s because I love to learn new skills and partly it’s down to the fact that I hate depending on people for things that I could do myself. Don’t get me wrong – in no way do I condone going it alone. I believe it’s vital for a leader of any capacity to have an acute awareness of his/her strengths and weaknesses, but I want to have a basic understanding of many areas in order to be able to better relate to the people that I do need help from…rather than asking them for assistance with the more simple tasks that don’t require such expertise. In the past three years I’ve spent time learning graphic design, basic html/css, motion graphics, audio production, how to blog and a few other random bits and pieces alongside my degree. It’s a bit of a learning addiction…and it’s actually drawing me away from my focus.

Yesterday I remembered that first and foremost, I’m a musician. More specifically, I’m a guitarist. (Disclaimer: first and foremost I’m a child of God, but as far as my gifting goes, I’m a musician)

I live in a world where the majority of my time is taken up talking about, playing, teaching or writing music. When music is your job, it can be incredibly easy to take it for granted. My attention has turned to other avenues of creativity but when it all comes down to it, I need to champion my strengths rather than belittling them out of boredom and familiarity. I love to teach guitar. I love to compose music. Why am I looking at so many different expressions of creativity when I could focus on doing something I’m pretty good at?!

One Year Blog Challenge, Uncategorized

Day 239: Revolutionary Youth Worship

I’ve just arrived home from another LIFE youth event. Revolution led worship…fantastically.

I’m conscious that such a vague statement doesn’t explain much, so below are a few of the reasons why tonight they warranted the description above:

The team were musically excellent.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing all of the instrumentalists grow in their gifting phenomenally. Jacob, one of our drummers has progressed from struggling to play a basic groove to taking a strong lead, communicating with other band mates and playing to an enormously high level. Every other instrumentalist in tonight’s team I’ve had the privilege of working with from scratch and have been able to witness their musical journey from the very beginning as enthusiastic 10 and 11 year olds (I remember seeing three of them in their year six production!). Tonight they were almost faultless in their musicianship.

The team unloaded equipment, set up and sound checked in 40 minutes.

Nobody likes lugging equipment back and forth from venue to venue. It’s the mundane, inglorious part of playing in a band and a particular logistic headache for me with a youth band. Obviously, many of them can’t drive so organising lifts as well as the transportation of equipment can be a little tricky. Not tonight. The guys in Revolution arrived promptly, set their equipment up quickly and acted incredibly professionally as they waited for our brilliant sound technician to ensure things sounded good. Let me remind you that the average age of the team was 15. They are 15 and already pros!!

The team didn’t complain, mumble or groan about any of the difficulties that they faced.

Whenever we do ‘on tour’ events, it is inevitable that something will go wrong. Tonight’s case in point – a forgotten drum stall, foldback problems (…in that there weren’t any foldbacks!) and issues with power supplies could have caused some serious problems. Remember, we’re dealing with hormonal teenagers here! However, I didn’t hear a single negative comment. The ‘can do’ attitude is astounding amongst these guys. In the end, we fixed all the vital problems and the team did exceptionally well, and without any stress. Amazing!

The team worshipped with passion.

Very few things frustrate me as much as seeing people lead worship without any real passion or enthusiasm. We are lifting our praise up to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords – the Saviour who died so that we could be set free from sin! It’s an incredible honour to be able to enter into the presence of God and something we should be ecstatic about. It was a joy today to see the band playing every song with authenticity and passion, truly meeting with God rather just going through the motions of playing a Christian song. It makes me extremely proud to see!

The team responded to what the Spirit was doing.

One thing that Revolution traditionally find difficult is breaking from the standard way of doing things. That’s due in no small part to the age and relative inexperience of the team. However, tonight it was so exciting to see the freedom that the guys had in worship, throwing in an unprepared song at a moment’s notice and following promptings from the Holy Spirit. This is pretty advanced stuff to do and to be doing it at this age is excellent!

I could list many other reasons, but I think this gives you a taster of the wonderful team I get to be a part of. These guys are far from perfect, but they are exceptional and I love them. They really did lead fantastically tonight. I can’t wait for the next time Revolution lead on the 4th November!