Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Signposts of Grace

Consider the love-less. The home-less. The purpose-less. Are we at risk of repeatedly excluding the very people God wants to embrace? He, that has no equal, through His saving and redemptive act on the cross, made ALL equal.

To discount or disregard is to sidestep the core of our personal ministry and mission. It is to create hierarchy where God declares equality.

Want to learn more? Go to www.thereissomethingmore.com or click here to enjoy the full article.

How can I connect with Something More?

Facebook: Something More
Instagram: @somethingmoreuk
Twitter: @SomethingMoreUK

Thursday, 9 February 2017

California: Purpose

A few months have passed since September's California dreamin' and with applications now open for new recruits to join the journey in Summer '17  I feel like it is a good time to share a snapshot of a very special trip I ventured on with Something More.

In the past I have talked a little about the company, the vision and my involvement with them as a writer for their lifestyle articles.

In these next series of posts I want to give an insight into the purpose, places and people from my first hand experience that went far beyond your average week in the sun.

At the end of summer 2016, I was invited to join their core team and some of the wider community to fly out to California. This was an opportunity for us to spend the week living as community and to learn from world-leading communicators in the Christian creative sector.

I can't pinpoint individual influencing factors or claim to crack the science behind it, but it seems that in many cases things "drop" in America sooner and with greater impact than our experience within the UK- and I don't just mean the latest movie releases.

In the US, Christian expressions within the creative arena are vibrant, dynamic and constantly developing.  Connection is more fluid, frequent and surprisingly natural.  Opportunities occur organically for creative collaborations and we would do much to learn from those who blaze an exciting trail before us.

Any organisation in its infancy passionate about the road ahead would be certifiably crazy not to make full avail of spending time with the best people and resources, right?

So, what happens when you take 14 relative strangers and pack them off to the Hollywood Hills?

Initially this may seem like quite a daunting prospect, but the product of our week in the West Coast far surpassed our initial expectation.

We lived- together, as community. Getting to know peoples' stories, gifts and contexts.

We loved- connecting with one another. Building relationships. Establishing trust and a space to be honest, open and vulnerable.

We learned- from the wisdom of our peers and from an innovative team of talented communicators and creative professionals.

We lingered in the presence of God for a while.

We listened- by creating a space to help silence routine busyness and distractions that constantly battle for our time and attention, allowing Him to speak.  All this and the beautiful backdrop of the sunshine state.

Personally for me, this was a time of challenge.

To be still.

To build into a company that I have grown alongside as they flourish and continue to be a champion of the process.

To let God reveal Himself in new ways.

To understand more about the people who have translated the vision set upon their hearts into reality.

To ignite existing embers of creativity so that God can use them more fully, both from what I bring as an individual and as part of a collective. To find, develop and better own the ways I choose to communicate faith.

That is one dreamy week you've got on your hands.

We arrived to a myriad of faces we had only glimpsed online. To voices we heard at the end of a Skype call, or in continuous email exchanges. We left encouraged, inspired, excited and ready to step forward together, as family.

Applications are now open for 2017 for you to join the team and experience California for yourself.

If you are interested to discover how you can be a part of this opportunity with Something More, please continue to their site for further details: www.thereissomethingmore.com/california17/

How can I connect with Something More?

Facebook: Something More
Instagram: @somethingmoreuk
Twitter: @SomethingMoreUK


Monday, 6 February 2017

Instagram: What's the story?

In recent days, the concept of taking your life “online” has been heavily criticised.
What to include. Providing a balanced edit of public and personal. Sheltering ourselves from the risk of relentless comparison.  With more avenues than ever to explore “social sharing-“ especially through Snapchat, InstaStories and various LIVE functionalities, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter grant us a high level of control. We can portray what we want, exactly when we want, to the audience we want.
Life is crazy, right?
The leaps and bounds we have made technologically speaking just within the last few years and the levels to which we consume media at such an alarming rate on a daily basis is quite staggering. Remember, it wasn’t so long ago that we were creating clear distinctive marks in the sand between our "Facebook friends" and “real” friends- performing routine culls within our communities to cut ties with influences we find annoying, unwanted or just plain unhelpful. 
What about the flip side of this curious coin?
With hyper visual networks like Instagram, we instantly have access to and connection with limitless streams of creatives/bloggers/content creators and physical distance poses no barriers. We can link up with those who pursue similar interests or hobbies as us. Who think like us. Shop like us. Operate in our industries and curate their own sense of self that they wish to publish to the world. Like I said, personally I find this mind blowing
Melody Joy Co // Insta: @melodyjoyco
So, how do you genuinely meet people on Instagram without it getting creepy? 
I think it is time to view these creative networks as something that go beyond ways to up our brand exposure, track other peoples’ holiday snaps or what they had for lunch. Recently I have had opportunities to connect with bloggers, graphic designers, photographers and young creative entrepreneurs all at the touch of a button. We have stayed in contact from opposite shores and meet up when we are lucky enough to find ourselves in the same city.  It seems like a similar pattern is emerging all over the grid.  Like-minded people knowledge sharing, trading tips, swapping stories and becoming firm and valued friends as a result.

Now, not for a second am I recommending that you scattergun comments all over the internet in the hope of  winning Insta-friends and influencing people. You need to exercise caution and keep your sensibilities in check here.
What I am a huge advocate of, is the idea that the social networks we most connect with and enjoy are a vast and varied colour palette of creativity, skill, experience and personalities. There are real faces behind those perfectly crafted coffee shots.  And I for one find that fascinating. 
So whilst one eye can focus on our selective personal broadcast, the other can be peeled for individuals, groups and organisations that naturally jive with what we are all about the business of. Then it is time to get brave and reach out a hand.  Chances to celebrate current successes or advance in what we do. Opportunities to glean wisdom or pool experience and the space for collaboration on fresh projects and new ideas.

Feelin' game yet?
This isn’t a new thing and I certainly can’t pat myself on the back here for being a digital pioneer. Don't stress about forcing it. The pleasing thing about a lot of these encounters is that they happen quite naturally and the beauty is, both parties don’t yet know where things might lead.

Don’t start a strict search for your Instagram husband just yet (although I hear they are like gold dust.)  Open yourself up to the possibility that behind a sea of faces, catalogue of pictures and directory of daily experiences are friends you just haven't met yet.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Refinery, Edinburgh

Hot on the heels of the latest launch from London’s dapper and delicious Drake & Morgan group, The Refinery- I was eager to see how they would make their mark on the Scottish scene.

Instantly I adore their creativity. The branding. Their sense of story.  The commitment to creating an overall dining “experience” rather than simply offering a port in a storm to refuel on the run.

Their attention to detail and décor hit me in my weak spot.  Not only are  they ambitious and eager to please patrons with their mouthwatering menus, but they are constantly evolving and invitingly innovative with plans in the pipeline for fresh launches in the near future.

Drake & Morgan began their adventures back in the day with The Refinery and today they exist as multiple unique and stunning restaurants/bars across London, Manchester and (thankfully) Edinburgh with names as intriguing as the dishes on offer (The Otherist, The Fable, The Folly, The Happenstance, to name just a few.)
Their choices display a carefully crafted labour of love and each wonderfully individual location is steeped in the most stunning and sumptuous décor, making it a delight to lavish over any mealtime. 

The Tipple
We were greeted by our waitress who was swift to bring beverages for the table and offer helpful menu selections that fused both our cravings with her expert advice.
Kicking things off with a round of cocktails from the bar- a classic Old-Fashioned for the gent, an Espresso Martini for our coffee connoisseur and for me, the quirky-loving Goldfish in a bag which happily stole the show.
HINT: When your debut drink comes carved with a tiny fishtail suspended in a bag of gin carefully clipped to the side of your glass by a miniature close peg, you can be certain sure that you are in for a total treat.
For round two, we ordered Milk & Cookies- (a grown up Bourbon milkshake to you and I) and the tequila based La Magia which promised a playful balance of sweet "n" sour.

Our gent chose to bow out this time from downing pretty potions and opted instead for a plain and simple beer (ooh, manly!)

The Touches

We arrived to the St Andrew Square set-up to hints of an edgy, industrial feel combined with welcoming hues of orange, rich wood textures, copper tones and luxurious textiles.

Throws casually draped on the seating.  Animal skin rugs scattered here and there.  Buckets of blankets to greet you at the door and dreamy fittings that leave lighting lovers in paradise. 

It is immediately clear to me that the gastro gurus behind each Drake & Morgan outfit want to visually set the tone of the evening, creating an atmosphere for you to lose yourself as the inner city chaos clambers for you attentions.

The Taste

After a prolonged perusal of the delightful dishes, we ordered up the Charcuterie board of cured meats which was the perfect pick to share, coupled with the Italian inspired Napoli flatbread. Cooked to perfection and packed with flavour- first impressions are crucial after all.

Moving to mains, I only had eyes for the Buttermilk Chicken burger which I paired with sweet potato fries (old faithful.)

My friends, seduced by their starter and plenty game for a little more in the meat department, ordered the Braised beef shin with polenta and a sirloin steak.

All dishes were piping hot from the kitchen and settled to perfect temperature as soon as we had delivered on our normal Instagram antics. You know, priorities.

My chicken dish was encased in light crispy batter accompanied by chipotle mayo, which added just the right amount of kick- all sandwiched between two beautiful buns.

The meats were soft, succulent and lip smackingly luscious. Naturally I sampled all other dishes purely in the interests of research!

Normally 3 courses for me in one sitting is out of the question, but let’s face it- it was more than just the chicken on a roll here!

For a little something sweet to round off our evening we selected the pecan tart, crème brûlée and chocolate brownie. Classic comfort food for a frosty Edinburgh evening, don't you think?

After dessert we decided to linger a little longer- reclining in our seats to continue chatting, soak up the relaxed vibe and sip on our lattes.

So would I recommend stopping by? A thousand times, yes.

If you are looking to switch things up this season, impress on date night or find something worth salivating over that ensures you are the guaranteed “go-to” guy for a hot tip- you’re welcome.

For me, Drake & Morgan bring it to the table.
(now to work my merry way through others...) 

London, I'll be comin' for you.

Have you tried anywhere special lately?
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