Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Securing Freedom: Reith lecture part 1 Liberty

Inspirational stuff from a lady who displays such dignity in the face of so much oppression.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Stairway to Heaven: Jacob's dream

This painting: 'Jacob's dream: Stairway to heaven' is one I did based on Sieger Koeder's painting. I've been inspired by him before. He is a German, Catholic priest-painter. My small A6 oil pastels do not do his paintings justice. His are painted on a large canvas with great attention to details. Mine are much more approximations.

I'm from the Led Zeppelin generation, brought up on Stairway to Heaven so the very name carries certain meaning ....... ' Oooh, it makes me wonder'

The image of dreaming is a powerful metaphor of engaging the imagination. 'Dream dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly'

Dream Dreams

Individuals dream but what about organisations. How do you capture the corporate dream of a group? The whole not just a part…..

Acts 2:17 “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

One methodology is Appreciative inquiry. We have used this is many contexts to enable groups to explore their joint vision of what they want to achieve together.

Think Positive

Phil. 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

Appreciative inquiry works in four stages:

  • Describe: the best of what is by telling individual stories of what has worked within their context and then drawing out principles. This is based on the belief that organisations turn to what gives them life. It is NOT problem focused.
  • Dream: about what can be, though thinking about what these ideas and principles will look like in the future through a simple exercise
  • Design: ‘what could be’ - a road map for the future
  • Deliver: ‘what will be’ small actions that bring about change

This can work for groups of 10-20 people or even congregations of 150-200. Larger groups just take more time. The key is handling the process and enabling all present to have a say in what is being produced.

Back to the Future

Having shared stories of what works in pair, get pairs to join together (4-8) in the group –depending on the size) They then review the principles and are given a task of producing a newspaper dates 3 to 5 years into the future (depending on your vision process). They are invited to produce a Newspaper – with a name, headlines – small articles / pictures, This can include International News, local news, sports, cartoon, obituary, award ceremony. Anything. The idea is to be creative but to connect it to stories of what has already worked.

The groups are then invited to share their Newspapers with the rest of the people present. Creativity can generates lot of hilarity and laughter, which in turn produces a sense of energy and connectedness.

From Dreams to Reality

These newspapers then form the basis of group discussion on if that is where we want to head and what we want to see in the future then how do we get there. Groups are encouraged to start to get concrete and focus on what is achievable

The final stage is agreeing next steps. These become corporately owned and provide rich material for leadership teams to craft into vision statements and strategic plans. But the voices of the people have been heard and they can recognise their input.

It is also helpful to finish with individual commitments / public statements (to complete a sentence: ‘as a result of this time together I am moved to …….”

Which is what after all church is about: to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” Eph. 4:12

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Angel in the Town Square

The oil pastel picture is of Christchurch with the Woking Angel on the war memorial in the foreground, so it looks a bit like a tower on the church.(see picture on Woking Surrey Online Gallery)

Since joining the Street Angels, this Angel in the Town Square has become something of a symbol for me - a Guardian Angel keeping watch over the Town.

It is on top of a memorial to men and women of the town who gave their lives in service to their country, during the wars, defending freedom. And that in a sense says it all: 'Greater love as no one than this, to lay down their life for their friends' That sense of service for the freedom of others.

Going out on a Friday night isn't exactly 'laying down your life', but it can be a bit inconvenient at times. We go out from 10pm til 4am focus on the Chertsey Road area where most of the pubs and clubs are: Quake next to HG Wells Suite, Big Apple, O'Neals, and Yates, Weatherspoons, R.S.V.P., The Chameleon and the BED Bar.

After they close, revellers will also frequent the fast food shops, numerous Kebab, and burger bars, KFC, MacDonalds, Subway in search of sustenance.

There are no loos after the pubs and clubs close they are also searching for dark corners and flower beds. I am intrigued why the public toilets behind Weatherspoons are firmly closed after 5:30pm. It wouldn't take much for them to be opened up (maybe the Angels could act as guardians of the keys!?)

Friday night was generally quiet. (We are consistently told Saturday in busier and Thursdays on Student night) The Imam from the local mosque was visiting with the Angels and the team he was with encountered a very disturbed girl, who was definitely not having a good night. Two female angels were able to accompany her back to her house in a taxi (arranged by the Imam) and make sure she was settled.

We were unusually 2 blokes in a pair, which is probably more threatening than a mixed pair, especially when approaching young, potentially vulnerable ladies. We did manage to give out one pair of pink flip-flops to a young woman who had lost her handbag and shoes whilst in BED bar. But others indicated in no uncertain terms that they didn't want help
We had a long chat with one young man who just wanted to talk, and picked up quite a few bottles and gave out the usual lollipops.

Other than that the most exciting moment was watching the landlord of Weatherspoons trying to get a pigeon out of the netting above the pub doors with a long bamboo pole Quite a crowd puller that one.

So the evening was spent keeping an eye on things, making sure people were OK and able to get home, which means following some as the wiggle and giggle their way down the street. We must have looked like we're a couple of old stalkers ! (except for the Angel jackets)

As we were finishing we encountered a Czech man who was celebrating his 23rd birthday in Woking with a friend he knew from school. But he had lost him and had no idea where his house (and all his gear) was.And he wasn't answering his mobile. We went with his to the local hotel to see if they had space. But it was full and expensive. So in the end we walked back to the Station canopy with him and left him with a bottle of water and a space blanket (cos it was getting rather cold) He was simply thankful for the company and that people had taken an interest. ..

These things I warmly wish for you:
Someone to love,
Some work to do,
A bit o' sun,
a bit o' cheer,
And a guardian angel always near

~ Irish Blessing

Friday, 3 June 2011

Cycling through Europe... to Kenya!

The bike painting is based on one by Bob Dylan. I saw some of his pen and watercolour prints at the Woking Lightbox a year or so ago. And they inspired me, in that I thought: 'I could do that!' I wrote a blog about it in Jan 09: Drawn Blank

The bike makes me think of 'the Continent' as we Brits call it. The idea of leaving your bike propped up against a tree, whilst you have a coffee and croissant in a street cafe. There is something very appealing about it all.....

My son Tim and his mate Mat have just set off from Woking to Kenya on an epic 6500 mile cycle2kenya. You can follow their cycle2kenya blog or Facebook group and Facebook community or track them on twitter. You can also donate online via Just Giving to the Turning point trust. They are cycling to raise money for farms to rehabilitate mamas from the slums of Kibera Mat's sister Emily works for TP and has written a blog about her brother Woking-2-Nairobi tandem adventure. I also wrote an older post on this improbable bike ride
(If you are a firm and are interested in sponsoring, then be in touch by email

So this painting evokes something of the beginning leg (or wheel) of their journey through Europe. Except they are riding a tandem not a normal bike.

We're off soon for the Dover-Dunkirque channel crossing and on to Brugge/Bruges to meet them on the first leg. This was partly inspired by the darkly humorous, violent comedy thriller film in Bruges (2008) which we watched together - you can read a review by Philip French in the Observer.

With its cobbled streets, Bruges is not so good for bikes. But then with Africa in view, who's worried about a few cobbles.....