'Worship' category


New poem: Roots

Sunday, June 21st, 2015


How deep do my roots go, how far do I let you reach?

Do they reach beyond my mind, do I let you roam in my thoughts?

Do they expand through my vision, do I let you show me you what you see?

Do they stretch as wide as my arms, do I let you guide my actions?

Do they burrow below the surface of my heart,  do I let you show me how to love?

Do they plunge the depths of my very soul, do I let you settle down and redecorate?

How deep do my roots go?

Far enough?

Strong enough?

Wide enough?

Long enough?

Can I ever make them that?

No,  but they only need to reach to you, to intertwine with you,  to become inseparable from you, to become part of you.

I am reaching towards you Lord. I am breaking my own barriers. I am stretching, knowing you go further and glad you got here first.

Roam in my thoughts, Lord. Show me what you see. Guide my actions. Show me how to love. Redecorate my soul. Make me part of you

Poem – Say

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Image by C.G.P. Gray CC:By

As said, I was at Spring Harvest recently and spent some time in the Create Zone. One of the leaders of that zone was, the talented, Jo Dolby who – among other things – is a poet. Jo read some of her poetry including this one which I found really inspiring.

So I had a go myself – this is the result based on one of the themes of the event – Say: speaking the gospel to those around us. If I get a chance I’ll record myself speaking this.


Say. Say the words that make it better.
Pressure’s on – every word, every letter
has to be just right, to shine the light
that changes live, opens eyes, that can make this person realise
just who you are, how much you care.
For if I don’t say them, how will they hear?
How will they know, where will they go?

But I can’t find the words that matter.
I stumble, I fumble – it’s all just chatter!
My words are weak, too simple, I blunder.
No depth, no breadth, no help? No wonder!
For who would find any hope at all
in a bunch of common words from a fool?

But that’s my language, these words are mine.
They’re all I have – those and my time.
And if all I can do is be myself, is that ok?
It’s not that hard to be who I am but are these
simple, stupid words I say enough
to change lives, open eyes to make a person realise
just who you are, how much you care?

Maybe they are. Is it true that even they – when used by you
could help someone find some hope, find the truth that helps me cope?
Say. Say the words that make it better?
I don’t know but does it matter? To say the words that encourage me,
these simple, stupid words, so free, could be enough, could be okay.
Could be the only words I need to say.

One way street?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012
Photo of eddy currents in a river

Photo by thisreidwrites CC:By

When we speak of support,
when we speak of its benefit,
when we speak of prayer,
when we speak of what it gives,
when we speak of help,
when we speak of how it’s needed,
why do we speak of a one way street?

Does the flow of love not have any eddys?
Are those who help not also helped?
Do we overlook our need to support?
Do we forget the gain of giving?
Who was it who said we have to lose to gain?

Even if it is a one way street,
Can we afford not to give, to help, to support?

Raising hands

Friday, May 25th, 2012

A handy guide to raising your hands in worship from Tim Hawkins. I’ve heard some of this before but it still made me laugh and that’s always a good thing in my book.

h/t greenguitarguy1 on Youtube

Bake your church some good

Monday, March 5th, 2012
Some welsh cakes I made

Some welsh cakes I made - image (c) Ryan Cartwright CC:By-SA

Could something as small as a cake make a difference to your church?

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Gal 6:9-10 NIV

At the weekend just passed and in honour of St David’s day I baked some welshcakes for our church. Baking cakes for church is something my wife (mostly) and I (occasionally) started doing on a weekly basis during Lent 2011. It was part of an attempt to revive the coffee time that happens after the main church service on a Sunday and inspired by what became the Give up bad coffee for lent campaign. I posted a photo of the welshcakes and it seems this inspired others to make some to take to their church.

Growing up in church in the (ahem) 1970s I recall that homemade cakes were often a feature of the refreshments/social bit after the service. I’ve visited many different churches over the years and have noticed that in the past ten years the cakes have disappaeared. Usually replaced by a tin (or even paper plate) of biscuits which may or may not have some rubbery ones at the bottom. There’s nothing wrong with biscuits but I’d like to encourage you to think about making (or even buying) a cake to take to church. Why not do it for lent? I wonder if cakes were dropped in an attempt to move away from the twee image the church has acquired, images of a victoria sponge with green teapcups spring to mind. There’s nothing wrong with moving with the times – indeed the GUBC4L campaign is to encourage churches to do that by serving decent fresh coffee – but don’t overlook the power of a cake in generating some coversation and fellowship.

As an example I’ll mention that the refreshments time at our church was generally well attended by about half the people there. They’d stay for a drink and then drift home afterwards. Once we introduced fresh coffee and then cakes, more people stayed and stayed for longer, conversations continued and spread. Fellowship happened. I’ll be honest I did not expect that making fresh coffee and baking a cake would have this effect and it would be wrong of me to say it was all down to that. Much of the credit should go to the people at our church who start and have the converations and when we started baking the cakes it was mostly because we just thought people like some cake with their coffee – which it seems they do (who knew?). People are definitely the key here but sometimes we need a bit of a nudge to just tip the balance between dashing home and staying a few minutes longer for a chat. Fresh coffee and cakes are good at that bit.

Sometimes we need a bit of a nudge to just tip the balance between dashing home and staying a few minutes longer for a chat. Fresh coffee and cakes are good at that bit

So, as part of an encouragement to show some gospel hospitality – why not bake a cake this week. It doesn’t have to be a complex one. We’ve found that tray-bakes work really well. Most people don’t want a great slab of cake but a small square of iced sponge or a choclate brownie or a welshcake always seems to go down well with a cofee (or tea). Also another tip is that cakes that can be held in one hand without falling apart and not too sloppy are better. Be aware of allergies and things but if you do have people with something like a gluten intolerance making one they can eat too is just a question of googling for a recipe. Also while we like to try different cake recipies out, I’ve noticed that nobody complains if a tray bake turn up on a regular basis.

Finally- having done this for year – I can tell you that sometimes you just don’t feel like baking, this where the scripture above comes in and don’t forget that there will be others who can make a cake as well. You don’t have to go so far as a rota (if two people make cake there’s just more to eat!) but it’s a great way for people to contribute. Also people bring cakes in on or near their birthday, sometimes leftover cake is brought in. If you can’t bake then look in the cake aisle of your supermarket. A lot of them will do generic “celebration” tray-style cakes now which are cheap and serve this purpose very well.

Let us entertain them

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

How’s the coffee at your church? Do people stick around because of it or in spite of it? Does it come with conversation or just a digestive?

Last year – along with some others – I launched a campaign called Give up bad coffee for lent (GUBC4L). Inspired by conversations about posters half-heartedly slapped on church walls, too-cheap-to-be-any-good washing up liquid and of course naff, tasteless (and usually inagreen teacup) instant coffee, the campaign aimed to put a little generosity back into our churches. This is the reason for the questions above. Don’t ignore them, they’re as valid as questions about what songs you sing, Bible version you use or style of preaching you deploy.

Following Lent the GUBC4L name seemed inappropriate so we renamed it to Entertaining Angels. Another term bandied about is Gospel hospitality.

Whatever it is called the idea here is that people coming into God’s house (for whatever reason) should be treated as if they were coming into our own.

Since this idea started we’ve heard stories of churches where people turn up just for the coffee afterwards, where the aroma of fresh coffee (and the lure of a home-baked cake) have sparked conversations and strengthened relationships. In our own church a couple of cafétieres/french presses were donated and we started baking cakes. The result is that the coffee time is popular enough that we have to turf people out as we’re locking up. Hospitality counts, it matters, it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) require an edict from the church leadership and it has the potential to revolutionise church life.

Get involved

If you want to join in then by all means comment here or alternatively show your support by adding the Entertaining Angels Twibbon on your facebook or twitter avatars. You can also use the twitter hashtags #EntertainAngels or #GUBC4L.

The Entertaining Angels (GUBC4L) twibbon.

The Entertaining Angels (GUBC4L) twibbon.

Does worship have a gender?

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011
Photo of a streetlamp

Image by Joelk75 - CC:By

In the past couple of days I’ve seen the subject of worship come up on Twitter a bit more than usual. Initially it was a series of joke #machoWorshipSongs and this seemed to evolve into a discussion about the use of masculine/feminine/romantic language in worship songs.

In the first instance I and a few others commented to each other that the “joke” was somewhat lost as so many of the songs we use in worship have a masculine or (as one person put it) pseudo-aggressive tone to them. In the second it emerged from a comment about how men don’t like the “Jesus is my boyfriend” type songs intoa debate about the appropriateness of this language and how it’s not just men who dislike them.

What I find interesting is that both fell into the standard trap of presuming “worship” is a) collective/corporate and b) uses words and language. Yes it’s true we get as many “Worship is more than singing!” declarations as we do “The church is the people not the building” ones and to the most part both are valid statements but what these discussions reminded me of was something I preached about a few years back.

What is worship?

It’s a well known meme that wroship derives from worth-ship, that is when we worship we are giving God worth, telling him what he is worth to us. This is interesting because it makes it easy to extend worship into the rest of our lives. Sometimes I struggle to think of worship in any other context than singing, praying, making, painting, playing etc. in a collective sense. It’s easy for us to say our lives should be worship but how do we do that.

The answer – I believe – is found in the following passage:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matt 5:14-16 NIV

When we shine, when we show our best in service to others we are giving God value in our eyes and in theirs (note v16). This is something that I find very important and it’s the inspiration behind #EntertainingAngels (formerly known as Give Up bad Coffee For Lent).

We give God worth.
We worship.

Service is worship, worship is service

Serving others is worship. Putting the needs of others before yourself is worship. Look at how that passage appears in the Message (emphasis mine):

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand-shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. Matt 5:14-16 The Message

So let’s stop worrying if Church doesn’t appeal to our particular tastes and start figuring out if we leave a good taste in the mouths of those we meet. Because I have a sneaky feeling that in heaven people will spend a lot more time interacting with each other than they do standing beside each other singing.

As a side effect of this, once we also start to think of worship emerging from service it puts our roles in church in a new perspective, particularly if we are “worship” leaders.

Psalm 73

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Another quality video. Although sometimes these types of productions can become a bit “samey”, I think the presentation here really brings the text to life and in the end it is a cracking text.

( h/t @biblefresh )

Why half-hearted sharing isn’t enough

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Regular readers of this blog (if there exists such a beast) will know I am quite passionate about the ideas of freedom in church. To be more specific I really dislike the idea of restricting people through draconian copyright from worshipping and journeying with God. Recently I’ve noticed some a increase in some quarters at releasing some of the restrictions usually associated with copyright symbols. Music and other resource books are increasingly appearing with “photocopy permissions”. At face value this sounds wonderful and you’d be forgiven for believing it is generous on the part of the publisher. I’m sure the author/publisher/editor thinks they are being generous too – except they aren’t really. They’re just being confusing.

As an example let’s take a recent resource book I bought. “Free Photocopying included!” shouts the red splash logo on the front cover. “Great!” you think and you begin copying to use in your church. You do this because nobody usually reads the small print when the big print is so unambiguous. The problem here is that the standard copyright terms inside the front cover include the words..

“All rights reserved. It is illegal to reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, any part of this copyrighted file without permission in writing from the author” (emphasis mine)

Note that it says “including photocopying” there but hang-on the front cover says I can copy it. The introduction tries to clarify things by mentioning that “This book includes a licence which permits you to photocopy it but – for obvious reasons – for use within your group only”. So that’s clear then. There’s is your permission in writing.

Except it’s still not clear. What is my group, how often can I copy this and what if I am responsible for several “groups”? I know it sounds like I’m being pedantic here but believe me an “Intellectual Property” Lawyer would be even more so. Suppose I use this book for ten years. During that time I need to give copies to several people in two groups. Over time copies get lost, fade or people leave the group. Do I have to get the copies back off the people who leave? How many times can I copy it? If the people I give it to copy their copies am I responsible for them? How big does the author think a “group” has to be before they expect me to buy a new book?

“Oh you’re being silly Ryan” I hear you say. “Nobody is really going to care about such trivial details – least of all a Christian author.” Except we’ve had cases where Christian organisations sue other ones because they have similar sounding names. We have Christian CDs with copy protection on them and we’ve had situations where Churches receive threatening letters for putting something they believed to be public domain in their newsletter. Sadly the fact is that if you were not prepared to sue and you didn’t really care then you wouldn’t include the copying restriction text in the first place. A Christian (or any) Author may not intend to sue a copyright infringement but you can bet the publisher will. The publishing industry has even popularised it as a “crime” (it’s not it’s a civil not a legal infringement). And again to my eye it looks more like the Church is intent on copying (if you’ll pardon the pun) the way the rest of the world does this kind of stuff.

A Better way

I know there’ll be arguments of “People have to be paid” and “You can’t get everything for free” coming about now. I’ve heard them and I’ve answered them before. I won’t bother doing so again here but there is a better way to give people the freedom to photocopy without leaving all these legal holes for them to fall into. How about putting a specific licence on the work. One which might say: “You can copy this and pass those copies around. You cannot sell it and you have to say where you got the original”. That’s the essence of the Creative Commons licences. Specifically it’s a Attribution-Non-Commercial one. Some people familiar with CC will balk at my use of NC in there but in this context it works. You can add bits like “It has to be copied unaltered” (No-derivatives) and “You can’t restrict the way anybody uses the copies” (Share-alike) but these licences are specific. They tell you what you can and can’t do and they do so in plain English (or whatever language you prefer). Suddenly all my questions above are answered:

What is my group? group size and number is irrelevant, make as any copes as you need
How often can I copy this? As often as you like – just don’t sell the copies and say where you got it.
What if I am responsible for several “groups”? doesn’t matter
Do I have to get the copies back off the people who leave? no
How many times can I copy it? As many times as you need
If the people I give it to, copy their copies am I responsible or them? no, it’s fine
How big does the author expect a group to be before they expect me to buy a new book? doesn’t matter

Right now I imagine any authors reading this (if they have got this far) will be shaking their heads and dismissing me and mad. How can I possibly suggest removing their income like this. But I’m not. I can’t think of a Christian book I have read in the last twenty or thirty years that was written or compiled by somebody whose sole job was an author. Most of the authors are involved in some kind of ministry or job which gives their writing on that subject a certain weight. In short they are already receiving an income, the royalties from books (which is but a small percentage of the price you and I pay) are on top of their salary. But they have expenses? Which can probably be met by the sales of the book anyway quite early on – particularly how many books are pushed at conferences and festivals anyway. It’s common to presume that what I am suggesting here will result in fewer book sales because everyone will copy the one book. That’s not borne out by evidence elsewhere. Some authors have seen their book sales increase when they released the text elsewhere under Creative Commons and as I said if the book is pushed at a Christian event I imagine people will still buy copies rather than wait for a photocopy when they get home. The thing is this happens now. People photocopy some pages from a book, the recipient likes it and then buys the book. Nobody in their right mind would copy and entire book. Most people would copy a few pages and those who need the full book – buy it or borrow it. Some people prefer to buy physical books as well. Yes the profit from sales may drop but not as much as you think and mostly that will hit the publishing company not the author.

Nothing will happen

That sounds a bit defeatist but I am not expecting anything much to happen immediately following this post. Firstly I’m not that popular so I doubt many people will read it. Secondly people are not generally inclined to share these days. That’s funny because we all tell our kids too and our faith is based on free gifts that must be shared with others. One day maybe the Church will get this. Certainly a small pocket of it does now but right now, sadly, the Church seems to be quite merrily following the example set by the selfish and greedy parts of the world around us.

If you want to read more on this subject here are some of my blog posts on it:

Where now for Give up Bad Coffee for Lent?

Friday, April 22nd, 2011
Coffee cup with a cross through it

We're keeping the logo image despite the name change

Almost 40 days ago I blogged about how some of us on Twitter had inadvertently started a movement. We called this Give up bad coffee for lent or GUBC4L. I later blogged further about the way different churches had taken up the “cause”.

For those who haven’t heard of this there is an important point to make: this is not just about coffee, this is about service. What we’re trying to generate is greater effort in the hospitality shown in our churches. You’ll find more information on the previous two tweets and the others I link to from there so I won’t repeat it all here.

The sharp-eyed among you will have spotted that Lent will soon end and that raises the question of what happens to the L in GUBC4L? Certainly none of those involved want this to stop just because of the Church calendar. Doing hospitality well and to the best of our ability and effort is scriptural.

So continue it will but with a new moniker. GUBC4L becomes Entertaining Angels. Yes it’s a reference to Hebrews 13:2 but let’s not think that the reason for serving people well is only because one of them might be an angel. It’s an important reason but remember we should serve people because they are worth it (just ask God who gave his only Son for them) and because we are representing God to everyone we serve in our Church and our lives. If God did not settle for “that’ll do”, neither should we.

So let the coffee, the cake, the decent posters and loving service continue for we might just be Entertaining Angels.

Get involved

GUBC4L had a twibbon and #GUBC4L hashtag to accompany it. These will become #EntertainingAngels as well. The twibbon service is down right now but I’ll sort that when it comes back. Update 23 April 2011 – the Twibbon service is back up now and I have chamged the name of the campaign to Entertaining Angels.

In the meantime you can join in simply by serving well. If you are on Twitter or Facebook you can add the twibbon to your avatar (profile pic) by following the twibbon link I’ll add later (when the service is back). If you are on Twitter and you do (or encounter) something as part of Entertaining Angels, celebrate it by adding the #EntertainingAngels hashtag to a tweet.