Thursday, 23 June 2011

Prescription costs?

I often moan about the cost of prescriptions. 

Over seven pounds for some pills!!

As a chemist (not a pharmacist) I understand the process and cost that medicines go through and the cost involved.

I was given a prescription by the consultant at the private hospital.  The instructions from the consultant were simple, take it to the GP and get it converted to a NHS one.

Unfortunately the GP could not prescribe the medicine requested by the consultant because it didn't follow Solihull guidance.

I went to Sainsburys and asked how much it would cost if I bought the pills privately.

£42 for 30 pills
£51 for 30 pills


After talking with the pharmacist I went for the NHS option!!!

Loving Birmingham

During the past week I have been so fortunate to be a small part of an initiative called Loving Birmingham.  This was a joint initiative between Kings Christian Centre (Birmingham) and CrossWay Church (Pittsburgh).
Before half term I received a ‘random’ email from Kirk the pastor at Kings Church to see if we would be interested in the team from America serving us in anyway.
We settled on doing a series of assemblies on the theme of “the real High School musical”

We wanted to share with the students a sense of the struggles and challenges that are common to students in both the UK and US.

Chris the Pastor from Pittsburgh presented a high energy message supported with a superb video produced by staff at Mars High School.

The feedback from the students was really positive and a number of students came back and attended the youth event on Friday night.
In addition to the assemblies I was invited to the final evening celebration at Kings Christian Centre on Sunday evening.  This was a really enjoyable service and it was such as pleasure sharing this time with the team. 

What have I got from the experience?
It was great meeting Christians from the US and seeing how they respond to the love of Jesus practically in their lives. I was really struck by the amount of planning and prayer that went into this mission trip.  The team spent a lot of time in preparation and reflection through journalling the experience and I do think that God’s hand really has been on this journey.

I look forward to being able to get to know Kirk more and be able to work with him again at school.

You shall not steal

We are currently in a series at Church based on the Just 10 series by J John.  As we are starting from the tenth Commandment we have now got to Commandment number eight -  “You shall not steal”.
In the context of the series by J John the subtitle for the sermon was “Prosper with a clear conscience”.
The sermon started with a thought of what stealing is and how this is something that we all detest.  But after feeling very smug that I don’t rob banks or steal cars the thoughts soon turned to other things that might get taken which don’t belong to us.
Paperclips, the odd pencil or pad of paper from the stationary cupboard was discussed.  
The point was brought home nicely with the quote 
“You shall not steal, unless it’s from the stationary cupboard”
We were then asked to consider other ideas such as stealing time from our employers (time to look at Facebook, check emails, book holidays etc).  And also for employers - do they pay too little or not play fair by their employees.
If we are not stealing time, we were asked to then think do we steal ideas from other people, or books etc.  
So this made me think.
Am I honest in the way I use the resources available to me at work?
Do I use the photocopier for my own purposes?
Do I use the internet connection for doing non-school related things?
Do I use my time well when I am at work?
I don’t think I will put my answers down here.  
But it certainly does make you think.
Do we prosper in work / home / social life with a clear conscience?

Panto time!

Last week as part of the flexible learning curriculum at school I was asked to accompany a drama trip to the Birmingham Hippodrome for a back stage tour

It was fascinating seeing the workings of the theatre especially as I am very geeky about that sort of thing!  It was amazing to think that it cost £1,000,000 just to move Miss Saigon from Birmingham to Southampton back in 2002.  
After lunch we were offered a chance to sit in on one of the launch events for the Christmas Panto (Dick Whittington).

Doing the tech in church

For the last four years or so I have had the privilege of serving in church through operating the AV equipment.  During the summer break I have stepped back and had a think about what it means to be a ‘tech guy’ and what lessons I have learnt from doing it.
Before relocating and moving church both my wife and I played in our church’s worship band which we both thoroughly enjoyed.  
On arrival at our new church the use of multi media equipment in worship was very much in its infancy and was destined to grow.  After being in the right place at the right time I was given an opportunity to join the church hall AV tech team.
What is the role of the tech team?
I firmly believe that the role of the tech team is to support the worship of God in the service.  This might be through displaying song words during sung worship, power point presentations or showing video clips.  
I have seen services not just in my own church but elsewhere where the quality of AV detracts and hinders the worship experience.  This might be through lack of preparation, poor set up of equipment or inexperience in use of the equipment.  A worship band would not stand up in a service ill-prepared and the same should go for the tech team.
So what have I learnt? Lots really, some technical and some spiritual.
#1 Use all the equipment within its capacity.  
If the current set-up doesn’t allow you to do everything you want either upgrade (if possible) or simply don’t do it.  If a computer only plays video files some of the time without crashing don’t assume that it wont crash during the service.
There are times when people on the team will want to bring in their own bit of kit to support the service such as a laptop.  I’m personally against this - the basic set-up should be able to handle what is needed most of the time. It is very easy for the quality of AV to become inconsistent which is unhelpful for everyone.
If displaying song words a dedicated package such as SongPro is really useful (other software is available).  I’m personally against using powerpoint as there is significantly less flexibility.  If you know that the songs will always follow the set order eg V1, V2, C, V3 then powerpoint is ok (ish!)
#2 Train and develop a good number of people.
The equipment may be expensive and shiny but train and develop a good number of people in using it.  Try to encourage a wide range of people in the team so that the skills are spread around. It may take as many as 5/6 services for someone to feel really confident so an investment in time is important.
#3 Rehearse as part of the worship band.
If you are displaying song words as part of a worship time get there early and have the songs ready before the band arrive.  As the band rehearse follow along with them, make notes if needed on how the song will flow.
If the band likes to change some of the words don’t forget to update the song file - but change it back afterwards!
#4 Be strict about preparation
If regularly the clergy or other people leading or speaking hand you powerpoints, videos etc 5 minutes before the service there may be a need for a conversation.  Whilst appreciating that people have very busy lives the extra time available will help.
A very cautionary word should be said about video files - just because it works on someone else's laptop in the office or at home does not mean it may work on your system.  You really want to check this out in advance.
#5 Death by 1000 powerpoint slides.
Too much of anything is a bad thing - the same with powerpoint presentations.
  • simple and clean
  • readable font (both size and colour)
  • supports what is being said
  • not too much to read
  • slides which are cluttered, hard to read or distracting
  • use of transitions (things flying in and out of the screen)
  • annoying powerpoint sounds (that horrible chime!)
  • over use of photos or funny pictures
  • any animated pictures (makes it hard to concentrate)

#6 The heart behind it
Doing the tech is often a very visible job, if things go wrong eyes turn towards you!  We are here to worship God and to help others do the same.  Sometimes things go wrong, we learn from it.  It is not about us and our amazing skills at operating a PC / sound desk in the same way it is not about the singer with the amazing voice.
Before any rehearsal and service pray for one and other, pray for the equipment (unless you are using a Mac - joke!).  Get to know the tech team, pray for each other outside of church, develop communities and friendships within the team.  
I always pray for the equipment as we set up - things do go wrong but I believe that God does extend the lamp life of the projector and stops Windows crashing!
Doing the ‘tech’ in church is an awesome privilege and is so much more than boy (or girls) playing with shiny and exciting toys.
Please pray for the tech team in my church and your own.

Did Toy Story 3 make me cry?

Did Tory Story 3 make me cry today?
This afternoon I watched Toy Story 3 with my wife and son.  Being a huge fan of the first and second film I came with many expectations which were not disappointed.
This blog entry does not contain spoilers!
After reading many news items about the effect that Toy Story 3 has had on middle aged men I really wondered how this was going to effect me.
Leaving home, growing up, saying goodbye to childish things provided a really strong backdrop to the story combined with friendship and loyalty.
Looking around the cinema I didn’t see any men crying but I definitely felt that the story was really playing on my emotions.
Growing up, putting behind you childish things was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. 
One of the final scenes did really bring it all back to me.  
Going off to University and being at that point where you know there is no going back to the comfort and security of living with Mum and Dad is quite daunting.
There is no going back.
Time for a mortgage, responsibility, getting up every morning for work!
Would I ever want to go back to that moment again?
Probably not.
Did the movie bring it all back to me?
Yes - a little
Did the movie make me cry?
No - because I honestly think that the adventure ahead with my family is really exciting.
I do sometimes wonder what every happened to my Little ted - he was great!

Living distinctively in a time of uncertainty

Thursday 8th April seems such along time ago but I have finally got my thoughts together about Spring Harvest 2010.
This was our third trip to SH with this being our second to Minehead.  We set off down the M5 the night before so as to avoid the traffic and eagerly awaited our first day on 8th April.

We managed to arrive really early and get on the camp before week 1 had departed but after finding a really good parking space we were camped outside our chalet.
After getting our planners and sorting out the kids we really felt settled in and ready for the week ahead.
The Children’s programme was brilliant, Christopher really enjoyed being in Mini-Springers and Philip thought that Space Academy was fantastic.  Philip really engaged with the Space Academy materials and we were singing the Space Academy theme tune all the way back to Taunton!
So what were the highlights?
The Big start was brilliant and had our whole family engaged for the first thirty minutes.  The teaching was great and we really enjoyed the drama.  Cathy Madavan was superb and really lead the Big Start well.
The Big Top Bible reading was really powerful and Jeff Lucas was both inspiring and wet yourself funny.  The daily themes being:
The Calling (Genesis 12: 1‐9) 
The Exodus (Exodus 3: 1‐15) 
The Kingdom and Exile (1 Samuel 12) 
The Fulfilment (John 1: 1‐18)
After learning to pace myself from the last two years we tried to not cram too much into the afternoon sessions but we think we went to everything we wanted to:
Day 2 - Godly Men
Day 3 - Digital life
Day 4 - Parenting with passion: primary school children
Day 5 - 
Through Babysitting and taking it in turns to go out and watch the Chalet vision we managed to see all of the evening celebrations.
Vicky Beeching was fantastic as a worship leader and really helped us engage with God in a truly awesome way.
The talks centred around Ester were really challenging especially with the drama from the Lacey theatre company.  The speakers were great although it was a shame not having Jackie Pullinger who was replaced by Jeff Lucas.
Chosen (Esther 1:1‐2:18) 
Conspiracy (Esther 2:19‐3:15) 
Challenge (Esther 4:1‐17) 
Crisis (Esther 5‐6)
Conclusion (Esther 7)
One real highlight for me was seeing Jonathan Veira perform in the After hours show.  This was brilliant!
Although we haven’t yet booked for next year we are really looking forward to go back next year.
We still hear little snippets of “Jesus is my best friend” being sung by Christopher (aged 2 1/2)
Spring Harvest 2011 here we come.