One Year Blog Challenge

Day 364: Youth Band Worship

I’m grateful that Revolution, the Kerith Community Church youth worship team, have given me a reason to write about them on this penultimate day of the challenge.

As usual, we gathered for our time together as a team before splitting into our three separate bands – the team I was with today met in the studio. Having talked through the upcoming set list, we attempted to practice the songs until it became apparent that any significant progression would be unlikely. The band just didn’t know the songs – my fault entirely for not sending out the set lists sooner, but rather than dwell on practising songs we didn’t know well enough, we spent time simply worshipping God together. For me, it was a pretty powerful experience.

Part of leading a youth worship team (for me, at least) is the perpetual concern that the young people are more interested in playing their instruments than worshipping God. There have been times in years gone by where that might very well been the case; but even if it was, those days are long gone now. It was so refreshing and exciting to hear the unashamed, uninhibited and unplugged worship of a passionate group of young people who lay their instruments to one side in order to get on and worship God without distraction. It was brilliant being able to spend time praying for each other and dwelling in the presence of God with no sense of awkwardness. For me, that’s pretty much the perfect scenario.

If you attend Kerith Community Church, I want to tell you in this last opportunity of the challenge (I’ve got something else in mind for tomorrow) just how inspirational these young people are. They are the real deal. Passionate, talented worshippers who want to give all they have to se Jesus glorified. If these are the guys who will be leading the church in worship in years to come, the future is inĀ greatĀ hands. I want the last thing I say about Revolution in this blog challenge to be this:

I couldn’t be more proud of this wonderful team of young people. They are truly awesome.

One Year Blog Challenge

Day 362: My Current Playlist

There are two albums currently circulating my playlist at the moment. Enough that I can do nothing today but thoroughly, thoroughly recommend them:

Hillsong United’s latest album, ‘Zion’, is nothing short of spectacular. It dwarfs every other album around at the moment (including the one below, in my opinion) in terms of sheer lyrical genius, melody, gorgeous arrangements and sensational originality. It’s a worship album, but not like you’ve heard before – it’s closest relative is United’s previous album ‘Aftermath’…but this is a step up. Currently, I’m addicted to ‘Relentless’, ‘Oceans’ and ‘Love is War’ in particular, but the whole album is fantastic. GET IT!

 

Elevation Worship’s latest album, ‘Nothing is Wasted’ is good. There’s no doubt about that. I think the problem with it is that it’s a shadow of their previous album, ‘For The Honor’ and simply can’t compete with the outrageous quality of Hillsong United’s project. Having said that, I reiterate what I said – it’s good. I strongly recommend buying this if you’re not into the uber-synth heavy tracks on Zion (although it’s got plenty of things going on for more keyboard-centric music lovers). It’s worth buying. Just don’t buy it with Zion at the same time!

 

Let me know what you think!

One Year Blog Challenge

Day 361: Press Save

Today I finished my assignment far quicker than I planned, leaving a whole Monday afternoon wide open to play with the new keyboard sounds I bought a little while ago. From a composing point of view, there’s a whole new possibility of orchestral sounds that leaves me like a child in a sweet shop. Amazing!

After two hours of glorious solitude enjoying my own little musical world, the unthinkable happened. My laptop crashed. Two hours of composition lost – I hadn’t saved it.

To say I was a little disappointed is somewhat of an understatement.

As irritating as it was, I began to think about how it relates to life in general. There are times where life crashes – where that ‘up and to the right’ trajectory spirals downwards and suddenly, it feels like you’ve taken a few steps backwards. My thought for the day is this: it’s inevitable we will experience some sort of crash moments, but if we save regularly, the consequences won’t be felt in such a significant way. Let me explain what I mean.

When you experience a great moment, be sure to press the ‘save’ button in your head. Savour it. If someone wiser than you offers you a teaching moment, save it. When saved combined, the memories and lessons accumulated over the course of time ensure that those crashes become nothing more than minor inconveniences.

Don’t forget to press save!

One Year Blog Challenge

Day 360: The Inevitable Birthday Post

Let’s be honest. I’m doing a 365 days of blogging challenge…it was inevitable that one of those was going to be on my birthday!

I’m 24 today. 24 on the 24th February. That will never happen again. I’m so grateful to everyone in my world who has made a pretty standard day a particularly special one. I have never had a stronger and more varied group of friends and I don’t take it for granted. I’m grateful for friends all over the country and for those in other countries who always manage to bring a smile to my face. Thank you.

Having worked for the vast majority of the day (though admittedly, doing a fantastic job with people I love to pieces), I’m going to spent the rest of my 24th birthday relaxing before an early start and a monstrous week of assignments and post-holiday catch ups. I’m going to relax before the final push to the end of this challenge. We. Are. Nearly. There!!

Thank you again!

One Year Blog Challenge

Day 359: Refuel Time

Last night, I was extremely blessed by two of my favourite people in the world who took me out to dinner for my birthday (which is tomorrow, by the way!). I am so grateful for them both, but if I’m completely honest, I was a bit miserable. Having returned from a fantastic few days in Estonia and back to reality, for the first time in a while I felt totally lost. It happens every so often; I question my motives, my achievements, my direction, my choices. I wonder if I’m doing all that God has called me to do, or whether I’m just coasting. Last night, my two best friends took me out for dinner and listened patiently while I confessed my worries and concerns.

Today, determined to let the previous night’s conversations be a blip rather than a regular occurrence, I arrived at church an hour early and spent some time reading the Bible. I don’t do that anywhere near often enough, so today was me addressing that. We were gathering around 50 of our creative team members today to be filled with vision, inspiration and practical direction and were joined by Life Church’s Jock James for the day. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

It’s amazing how God guides you in the most incredible way when you make a conscious decision to fix your eyes on Him. I’ve been so concerned with my own worries that I was beginning to lose God in all of it – and yet, the moment I chose to put all of that aside, there He was, guiding me. Today I was spiritually refuelled…and I’m extremely grateful for it! I can’t wait for this next season!

One Year Blog Challenge

Day 358: Idea Time

This is my thinking time.

The air stewardess has just collected my miniature can of orange juice. Today’s flight is accompanied by ‘Nothing is Wasted’, the latest album from Elevation Worship. Jo Owen’s book, entitled ‘How to Lead’ rests open on my tray, heavily weighted on one side as I approach the end.

This moment on a plane is one I adore; the freedom to read, to listen and to process. A number of the big ideas for Revolution (our youth worship team) have come directly from these moments. Already, my mind is buzzing with sparks of ideas, the combination of the solitude offered on the flight and the insight of the books I have the opportunity to delve into at these points.

Unfortunately, I can’t simply hop on a plane every time I need ideas, but I’m realising that there are a few principles from this time that I could certainly make more use of:

1. Force out distractions

One of the struggles in my life at the moment is creating those times of quiet and solitude – times when distractions are kept out of the picture for a brief period of time, or at least long enough to focus properly. It’s all too easy for our thoughts and ideas to be contaminated by the surrounding environment (although not always a bad thing). In a world of iPhones, laptops and so on, finding the space to calm the unrelenting information storm can be crucial to releasing creativity.

2. Actively seek ideas, don’t wait for them to appear

It’s very easy for us to expect strokes of brilliance or the perfect idea to float like a feather into our laps, but often they require far more thought. Mind-maps, whiteboards or even simply sparing the time, as mentioned above, can be enough to start getting creative ideas going. Think of it as ‘idea-hunting’. For a successful hunt (not that I condone it in anyway), preparation is crucial. From then on, an idea often needs to be tracked before it can be found.

3. Choose to learn the experiences from the experience of others

Jo Owen’s book on leadership has been a fantastic insight into leading in a business context. The principles that he talks about have stirred some thoughts and ideas in me about how I can improve the way I work and the way I lead – it’s been hugely beneficial. No doubt, at some point, I would probably have learnt some of these principles somewhere, but when?! Learning from others can make such a difference when it comes to inspiring new ideas.

How do you come up with ideas? Do you have a favourite place or time?

One Year Blog Challenge

Day 357: A Latvian Adventure

It’s been an amazing day. Leaving from Tallinn at a little after 7am, we drove down to Riga and while Virge worked, three Englishmen and a baby explored Latvia’s capital. To summarise – it was fun. But I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about the journey home.

Mike was a valuable member of the worship team when he attended Kerith; Andy and I are still very active in the technical and worship teams respectively. Inevitably, talk turned to equipment. Having recently upgraded our system to an ‘in-ear monitoring’ system and with plans afoot to purchase something called a ‘vision mixer’ by the end of the year, we ended up debating the seemingly endless list of options that the church we are so passionate about could take in order to best help people meet with God. After nearly five years working for Kerith, I can safely tell you that very rarely will two people ever wholly agree on the correct course of action. This debate, whilst friendly and with the very best of interests at heart, ended with as inconclusive an answer as it started. A fairly standard, but nonetheless productive conversation…which soon progressed to other things.

We continued along a seemingly endless road, northwards towards our Estonian destination. Darkness was wrestling with the light for the privilege of holding the skies…and as victory was looking more and more of a certainty, a few lonely clouds became suddenly apparent as they floated in the crossfire. My headphones whispered a soundtrack for this spectacle: a ‘Hillsong Chapel’ version of the song ‘Rhythms of Grace’ repeating the simple words, ‘there’s none besides You, God’. It was magnificent.

I found out last night that I’ve visited just 7% of the countries in the world. After 24 years of existence, I’ve seen such a meagre portion of the countries residing on a planet that God created with nothing more than the uttering of His voice. Every car that rushes past us, little more than streams of light in the darkness is occupied by people who are known intimately by God – every detail, every thought, every moment.

As we drive along a darkening road in the middle of a country I’ve never seen before, I can’t help but see that sunset and think about how insignificant any talk about equipment is the light of who God is. The wonder of His majesty; His creativity; His grace; His love. As the Hillsong song stated so powerfully in that moment, there is no one who compares to the awesomeness of God. There will be other times to talk about technical stuff, but for now I want to spend the remainder of the journey doing little more than enjoying the glory of God!

One Year Blog Challenge

Day 356: ‘Once I…’ Moments

When I first met Mike, he was new to Kerith and looking to join the worship team. I would never have predicted that I would end up in field laden with over a foot of fresh snow, fingers numbing as they wrapped around the trigger of a gun battling bottles in the heart of Estonia with him. Friendships are funny like that.

In fact, as I write this post (onto the ‘notes’ section of my phone), I’m frantically trying to wriggle my toes back into a normal sense of feeling in our Toyota-branded salvation, staring at the monstrous Hummer we arrived in, thoroughly thwarted by the snowfall. Life takes you to some strange places. I love days like this. The sort of days that in the future will be recollected with the pre-cursing statement, ‘once, …I’. One of those once in a lifetime opportunities with friends that you never forget. Like the time my friend Dan and I tried to buy meat in Kenya, or the time we took an inflatable boat onto the massive pond in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Life is made for those moments.

What I enjoy the most about such moments is that despite first appearances, they aren’t simply a one-off experience that fades into the darkest caverns of the memory. They are cumulative; every moment and every memory is compounded into life experience, moulding, shaping and growing us, broadening our outlook and horizons. After nearly 24 years of pretending with plastic toys and video games, I now know what it feels like to fire a gun and to sit in a Hummer. Sure, that information might not be relevant in the future but it’s there if I need it and it’s an experience to remember if I don’t! Isn’t that the fun of life though?!

Life isn’t there for you to endure; it’s there to enjoy. Our role is not to exist; it’s to experience. I want my life to be littered with ‘once, I…’ moments – beacons of light indicating a life lived to the full.

It’s so fitting that I’m writing this stranded in the middle of nowhere – I don’t know when we’ll get home but I have no anxiety about it. It’s just another ‘once I…’ moment!

One Year Blog Challenge

Day 355: Sightseeing Jesus

One of the things that constantly amazes me about travelling is the prevalence of the church.

It might not be the dominant faith in every nation; indeed, the majority of people may not express a faith at all in some countries, but I have never visited a country where the life of Jesus hasn’t impacted it in some way. I’ve seen churches on the snowy mountains of Whistler, Canada, theatres in New York, basic constructs on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, barns in France and today, Estonia. Today we also visited ‘the Living Cafe’, a Christian cafe that played Jesus Culture in the background while we ate cake and drank hot chocolate. I loved it!

I love even more that lives are still being transformed today in the farthest reaches of the globe. I love that on a sightseeing holiday with friends (incidentally, friends that I met through the church), there is constant evidence of the impact of Jesus wherever we go. It’s so exciting! I pray that the gospel continues to transform the earth forever more!