Monday, June 21, 2010

The Only Revolutions

It may have been released in 2009 but my album of 2010 so far has to be Biffy Clyro's 'Only Revolutions.' With 5 singles reaching the top 40 the album simply demands attention.
'Only Revolutions' amuses me, moves me and intrigues me in equal measure.
I mean, in the most recent single, in one breath Biffy are rushing around popping bubbles and the next they're washing away sins.
What's all that about?!?
It's seemingly meaningless and yet deeply profound.
And that, I think, is the album's strength - it has layers, it suits different moods, different personalities, maybe even different worldviews.
Talking of diverse worldviews, the next single to be released opens with the verse:


I like it. Again it moves me. And again it puzzles me. I am left wondering, are the lyrics simply comical or are they meant to be incisive and profound?
The answer is probably yes, both.

But sitting on the train last week, ipod plugged into my ears, one lyric from the song didn't just move me, it challenged me, maybe even inspired me.
Because, when faced with discomfort, 'when the see-saw snaps and splinters your hand' as Biffy puts it, the band sing:
'I'll only see your good side. And believe it's a miracle.'

It's too easy to be critical of people. It's too easy to see weaknesses and miss 'good sides'.

This has certainly been true for me this year whilst training to be a teacher. When faced with a crowd of thirty-five teenagers it's been far too easy to simply focus on the disruptive minority. Whilst teaching, in theory I wanted to praise, encourage and draw out potential. In practice, I criticised and shouted, telling pupils to change, to grow up, to stop being such and such and start... It seemed like the only way to survive.
But I am learning that being critical rarely changes people. Most of the time it simply causes more friction and division. It can create bitterness and resentment. And far from being dissipated, the character trait which is criticised might even become stronger.

What's more, being critical of people can simply open the accuser up to criticism of hypocrisy. To quote the 2000 year old philosophical teachings of a Jewish rabbi named Jesus, 'How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?'

Christians are too often perceived as judgemental.
Too often they are.
And as a fan of Jesus myself, for this I am sorry.
Christians want to be bringers of life, they want to see health and joy and peace and love and goodness flourishing. However, for those who hold such great aspirations, a tricky dilemma arises. How do they assist such change without being critical? How do they open eyes to glorious new possibilities, without highlighting weaknesses in the status quo?

I am learning that by far the most effective way to encourage goodness and beauty to flourish is to identify goodness and beauty. To spot it, label it and claim it. I am learning that I need to change to see things in a more positive light. The only revolutions required are in the way we see the world.
I need to use words more positively.
To focus on good intentions.
To appreciate kindness.
To praise generosity.
To celebrate joy.
Inspired by Biffy Clyro, I need to pray for the gift of seeing the good side.
And believe it's a miracle.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Poems and Prayers of Switchfoot and Hillsong United


video

Recorded from amongst a crowd of thousands, live from the West Sussex countryside, I present to you now the poems and prayers of Switchfoot and Hillsong United.

From California and Sydney respectively, the bands feature prominently on my i-pod, and have done so for years. So when I heard that both were playing a music festival in my own home village(!), as you can imagine, I seized the opportunity with both hands.