Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last Minute Christmas Worship Ideas

1. Choose photos from this week or months news and print them on A4 translucent paper [from art/craft shop or some newsagents]. Circle and tape the paper and place the cylinder over candles [even advent wreath candles] checking thy won't catch fire and use these images as a focus for prayers of different kinds and especially for the world

2. ABC 702 Radio Listener/Comp Winners versions of Christmas Carols on 2 CDs from the mid 2000s

3. Choose one or more of your favourite songs with a Christmas connection and use it for a reflection with photos from around your country or issues and happenings at this time of year e.g. I would choose 'Peace on Earth' U2

4. Download or use the 'Digital History of the Nativity' here

5. Place newspaper and a Bible on a focus table and comment on their informing of your worship, prayers and lives

6. Ask people to share 'what Christmas means to you' having run out into the streets today to film a vox pop video of just that question and answers from people in your community or even use the heaps of examples you'll find here

7. Advent Conspiracy
It's too late by now but this one could provide sobering reflections for next year by accessing the competition entries for this US initiative here

8. Make paper chain decorations mixing red and green paper or christmas paper with newspaper for a tree in the worship space used for your 'Reverse or Upside Down Christmas' where people bring non perishable food or tagged gifts for children to be given to community charities or known families

9. 'One Word Prayer of Thanks' invites people to call out aloud or think to themselves 'one' word summing up their thankfulness

10. Ask missional questions around the scripture about who/what it calls us to be? how it changes our lives or focus? where Christ is in our community in the light of.... etc

OK, there you go, last minute creators like myself!! Hope that saves you an hour on Christmas Eve!!

Favourite Christmas Song

"Christmas Must Be Tonight" Paul Kelly
Come down to the manger, see the little stranger
Wrapped in swaddling cloths the prince of peace

Wheels start turning, torches start burning
And th old wise men journey from the East

How a little baby boy brings the people so much joy
son of a carpenter, Mary carried the light
This Must be Christmas, must be tonight

A shepherd on a hillside, while over my flock I bide
On a cold winter night a band of angels sing
In a dream I heard a voice, saying "fear not, come rejoice"

How a little baby boy brings the people so much joy
son of a carpenter, Mary carried the light
This Must be Christmas, must be tonight

I saw it with my own eyes, written up in the skies
But why a simple herdsman such as I?
And then it came to pass, he was born at last
Right below the star that shines on high

How a little baby boy brings the people so much joy
son of a carpenter, Mary carried the light
This Must be Christmas, must be tonight

Paul Kelly brings a unique aussie flavour to this track originally from 'The Band' and is found as a B side to the 'Won't You Come Around EP

Happy Christmas One and All!!

Here's my favourite all time Christmas Card image!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

U2 360 Live at ANZ Olympic Stadium Sydney 14th December

"Wow... wow!!" said Bono part way through tonights second Sydney 360 concert which is really hard for me to compare to last night! They were just such different experiences!!
Last night Rah, Andrew, Ros and I [and many familiar faces I saw trooping in to the Stadium] enjoyed the concert from the stands where tonight [or more correctly today] it was Darren and I lining up with GA Standing Arena tickets. I again did some laps at Homebush Aquatic Centre in the middle of the day and met Darren around 3pm to wait in the shade until the line filled out a little. At 5.30pm we speed walked down through the stadium and onto the playing surface, to the right of the 'Claw' stage and around and under the outer circle so we were in the pit between the outer and inner circles with our backs to the rail and able to see the band side on in full view, a matter of metres away... briliant and yet surreal under such a spectacular electronic extravaganza!!

Tonight was different because of:
- different song order and choices
- watching from under the massive screen
- standing as close as I would on a good night at Newcastle Workers
- able to see band members walking the circle behind us so they are basically 1 metre away

Again the 'good news' was front and centre in this show with standards sung full of emotion and those pauses listening to the audience chime in were brief and appreciative rather than a sign the band were sick of repeating the song. Indeed I watched Adam Clayton playing tonight and he was loving it...
'New Years Day' replaced 'I Will Follow' in the running order [in fact I liked the flow of last night better] But 'Love Rescue Me' sung as an old time gospel song was a great companion to 'Amazing Grace.' Bono didn't get as many lyrics mixed up tonight and 'With or Without You' was hauntingly moving.
U2s great gift is to take old songs and reinvent them for current times. Great examples include: Bullet the Blue Sky; Sunday Bloody Sunday; and in New Zealand the offering of 'One Tree Hill' and 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' as lament and a chance to sing out your grief at the Pike River Mine disaster.
'One' has had that focus at this and the last tour, with Desmond Tutu's taped intro and invitation to join the list of those who have tried to make the world a better place.
What I love about a live U2 show is how it connects me with my past stories and experiences and also calls me to act differently in the future. They are inspiring and timely reminders. I thought tonight about the brilliant 'Lovetown' concert in 1989 at he Ent Cent, Zoo TV, PopMart and more... as Bono relived those times and even joked about the night Adam missed a show after drinking too much... I fondly recalled a simpler less busy time...
I know U2 are recording [and working on their 'Spiderman' Broadway musical but I am not at all sure they'll return to Australia... I hope so, but if not 'Wow!!'

Friday, December 17, 2010

U2 360 Live at ANZ Olympic Stadium Sydney 13th December

U2 360 Concert Spoiler Alert!!

"I don't really want to leave!" said Bono as the first of their two nights in Sydney wound down after 11pm!! There's plenty of well scripted banter in a U2 show but this was genuine response to the vibe and a shared sense that it had been a special night!!
After two disappointing nights at the 'Vertigo' stadium shows in 2006, 'The Claw' lived up to all the hype in terms of the audiences view of the band and the quality of the sound [which was almost perfect]!! The best part is that a U2 show is never just a replication of their CDs and the passion, 'edge' and enjoyment of the band were palpable tonight!
From 'Return of the Stingray Guitar' and it's pop synth energy [to get the sound sorted] to 'Beautiful Day' I felt invited, connected and inspired by four blokes enjoying their night. 'I Will Follow' reminded me of times spent in the early 1980's in a mates car [complete with handy drum sticks] listening to 'Boy' and 'War' on a cassette tape with a carload of fans hearing these songs for the first time.
The new sounds of 'Get on Your Boots' with the amazing resolution of the 360 screen showed how good this would be when we got to the 'standards' further into the playlist. 'Magnificent' is one of my favourite of the newer U2 tracks as it speaks of 'call' and Bono's using of his gift [the voice of a tenor just like his dad] to engage in the activity of God in the world.
'What time is it now?' and the theme of time ran through the show as U2 made a simpler invitation this time around, about what kind of world we want it to be and how we have the opportunity to 'have a say' in that through our thoughts and actions...
'Mysterious Ways', 'Elevation' and 'Until the End of the World' continue the journey until 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' brings tears to the eyes.
In the 'middle' of the show Bono mentioned the late Michael Hutchence [former lead singer from INXS] who died not long before their PopMart shows in Sydney but it was weird juxtaposition having just done a 'shout out' to Bob Geldof 'in the house'. 'Stuck in a Moment' [included a 'Do They Know It's Christmas' snippet] and one of my favourite songs 'Bad' [punctuated with 'Need You Tonight' and 'Never Tear Us Apart'] gave way to 'In a Little While' and 'Miss Sarajevo' with the obligatory girl plucked from the audience to be serenaded and dance with Bono while like in many songs the original clip footage played in 360 on the amazing LED screen overhead.
The dominant themes of the last two tours gave way to a celebration of possibilities in making your own meaning: 'City of Blinding Lights', 'Vertigo', 'I'll Go Crazy' [and the remix went off] before 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' became one of my highlights of the night [including the addition of Jay-Z. I had been reminded of the bands show in Auckland just after the recent Pike River Mine disaster and their invitation that at times like those in Ireland when we don't know what to do 'We Sing!!" and I hoped it had helped some people...
It wasn't tired, didn't clash with the contemporary context the way some uses of it have [others have been spot on brilliant] but the song showed passion, anger and mostly determination and it felt like we were just getting started... 'Scarlet' with it's simple refrain of 'rejoice' celebrated the release of Aung San Sui Kyi but reminded us that 2300 political prisoners remain for the crime of 'believing in an Election result' so with a thankyou, U2 played 'Walk On' the best I've heard it while young people brought large paper lanterns to the circle stage and stood, then placed them on the edges for reflection. 'You'll Never Walk Alone' didn't quite seem to fit but the crowd joined in as it had all night when Bono stopped momentarily... It was sometime around here that I commented 'OK, let's go!!' and wasn't disappointed...
The encore allowed the shift to the great footage of 'The Arch' Desmond Tutu imploring us all to be ONE as an intro to another of my favourites. Bono then sang 'Amazing Grace' and while I was lost in listening I noticed a crowd either singing or wondering...
'Where the Streets Have No Name' was the best rendition of my favourite U2 track that I have ever heard live [even better than the 'Lovetown' tour and with man tears streaming down my face I joined in the singing at the risk of all my neighbours experience [not for the first time tonight]. I chuckled at the sms I received in 2006 from a friend who had been driving across the city that night and on spec pulled into Olympic Blvd thinking the traffic will have been altered and everyone will be inside, so that sitting on his car bonnet just outside he heard the strains of this song and texted me because he knew I would appreciate the moment!!
Original footage of Bono onscreen only added to the spectacle as the entire screen and lighting turned traditionally 'red' in reference to the original concert footage at Arizona's Sun Devil Stadium where the Daniel Lanois 'Rattle and Hum' documentary turned from black and white to full colour! Is it time for us to 'make poverty history', to treate others as equals, to change the world? all invoked not in words this time but in the tunes...
'Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me' allowed Bono to show off a cool trapeze red led mic and red led jacket before 'With or Without You' and 'Moment of Surrender' just took off... the sound was just amazing and I commented later [largely due to these moments] that I didn't need to 'go to church' for another year, after that worship experience!! It all left me speechless for a few moments after as we trooped our way down the 'Yankee Stadium' styled cattle ramp exits which clear the stadium so quickly... encouraged to continue a journey of vulnerability, change and transformation!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

U2 360 was an amazing 2 nights in Sydney

In a few days I will have time to download some photos and write about my experience of 2 nights at ANZ Stadium at Homebush in Sydney enjoying the extravaganza that is U2 in 360 degrees!! I spent one night sitting in the 600s and the next standing in between the circular stage and the next ring which forms a runway for the band members to play to all areas of the arena.... In all my years of fandom I have never been only 2 metres from the band as they play!! Anyhow, lots to reflect on and share asap!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

U2 finally here!!

It's been so distractingly busy that my week has snuck up on me!! Last time U2 played Sydney the first night sound was #$%^& and our seats weren't great when it rained despite my contacts!! On the third night I had bought a standing GA ticket which redeemed things a little but as someone 189cm tall I struggled to see over people in front of me which indicated a. a sloping field and b. that the stage was too low!! I enjoyed some moments and some standard tunes BUT on the whole felt like spectator at someone else's experience!! Either that or I was not willing to just let go and enjoy myself without feeling a little self conscious?
I have 'nosebleed' seats for tomorrow night [Monday] and a standing GA ticket for Tuesday... with [3] friends Monday and colleague and friend Darren W on Tuesday so we will be getting in early and attempting to be as close to the stage as possible... something I have always reserved for 'the Oils' and sometimes then not even...
I'm babbling... because of last time I have not got my hopes up... I only expect to hear some of my fav all time U2 tracks, to cry, to laugh, to be transported, to be invited on a journey... and I hope to see four mates enjoying being in a band and stripping back the pompous self indulgence to just 'be' with us in the intimacy of ANZ Stadium [what?]
Come back for the Review!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

North Point Christmas

Linz passed on this video from the contemporary mob who did their own worship satire last year... An iPad, iPhone Christmas Band sounds aweful!!! It's NOT!!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Australian Open Golf 2010

Mates Geoff and Graham weren't able to come but at least the rain held off after last years postponement due to high winds and I got to follow both Greg Norman and John Daly half way around the Lakes course in Sydney's East... a welcome distraction from the goings on with our work merger and the pain and sadness being experienced amongst my colleagues!!
Oh and of course NO cameras allowed!!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

BOE and BOM Merger Outcomes

For those wondering what happened about the future of the Board I work for and the Youth Unit and my own role at work you can read the plan here
I knew my current role would be winding up by December 2011 and I have a timeline now for exploring new possibilities including at least three of the new roles...

There's good and bad in it, issues dodged and decisions avoided but there are also new possibilities and it's strength is the Team approach... but public social media is not the place for that discourse!! Happy to email and share with anyone wondering!!