Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I'm pretty sure people write these things just to annoy me.

I have a long history of over-reacting to posts/books on poor misunderstood introverts, but is this post not asking for it?


When I was with my [extrovert] ex-boyfriend, I used to have this strange problem of “shutting down” around him. Completely out of the blue my brain would just freeze, making me literally unable to speak or do pretty much anything at all. He would try to talk with me and ask me what was wrong, but I just couldn’t bring myself to answer or even look at him. On more than one occasion, I went completely mute for what must have been at least 30 minutes. And for some reason– and this is the really weird part– this total shut-down seemed to happen only with my boyfriend and no one else. As you can imagine it wasn’t very pleasant, and it put a lot of stress on our relationship as it happened quite frequently. Other weird things happened too. Sometimes when I was with him, I would just start crying for no reason at all. I mean, I literally had no idea what was wrong, but suddenly I couldn’t stop myself from sobbing uncontrollably. It was disturbing. I thought I had some sort of mental illness.

Obviously things never worked out with that boyfriend, and we never found a solution to my strange problem. I felt a lot better after breaking it off with him though, at least.

Then later I read The Introvert Advantage, and suddenly it all made sense! You see, my ex-boyfriend was very much an extrovert. He was a lively, active, talkative person who loved people. He had a ton of friends and was always chit-chatting with everyone he met. He was also extremely intelligent, with a brain that soaked everything up like a sponge. He was well-educated and thoroughly read, and probably could have easily won a boatload of money on Jeopardy or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. There was nothing that didn’t interest him, and it seemed like there was nothing he didn’t know. So he would go on and on telling me all about the intricacies of Chinese politics, or the successful business strategies of a certain clothing company, or the state of the economy in some random country.

But the problem was that those things didn’t interest me. I was sorry they didn’t interest me and kind of felt like they should, but they just didn’t. Unlike his, my brain was not able to retain every piece of information that came pouring into it. And unlike him, I couldn’t claim to be interested in everything. Sometimes he did talk about things that interested me (like languages, which he was also quite knowledgable about), but not always. Unfortunately he also seemed to get quite hurt or offended if I didn’t remember something he’d explained to me, or if I didn’t seem engaged or interested in what he was talking about. So I couldn’t very well just flat out tell him that I wasn’t interested. I listened and tried my best to pay attention, but despite my best efforts I still couldn’t manage to appear fascinated by Chinese politics. He often stopped to ask me if I was listening or not, and then got really upset because my responses weren’t clear enough to him.

He also tended to ask a lot of questions that seemed completely pointless to me, and that I often had trouble answering. Things like, “So what did you eat for lunch yesterday?” My first thought in response to that question would be ‘Why would you care about some insignificant thing like that?’ And then I would proceed to try to remember what I had eaten for lunch the day before, which would often take quite a while. It might seem silly, but sometimes I simply could not remember what I had eaten for lunch.


_____Um... Love... That's not just introversion/extroversion at play. You've made him sound like an odd and socially awkward person (which is not very nice of you) and you've made yourself sound like a non communicative, passive victim. I don't think that introversion/extraversion was the primary problem in your relationship. If he is as bad as you make him sound, why go out with him in the first place? And why blame his social cluelessness on extraversion? And are your insecurities, helplessness and poor communication skills also more the problem than your introversion?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Eleven things that I love about being a minister's wife

I haven't read a book on how to 'cope' being a minister's wife for years. I read a few when we first started out then just moved on. I love being a minister's wife. Wouldn't trade it. Sure there are some annoying things (my top 2: religious holidays (public holiday mostly equals more work and if it doesn't, we still can't go away) and the fact that I'll never be able to do church as my paid employment) but here are eleven things that I love about being a minister's wife.

1. I get to sleep with the minister.
2. If I don't like something that's happening at church, I can whinge directly to the top.
3. I don't have to serve my time (often years and years) before I can influence things.
4. Even though I'm not a minister or an elder, I can help craft the church's vision and strategy.
5. People want to talk to me and are more likely to have significant conversations with me faster because of who I'm married to. I find small talk tedious so this is useful.
6. I get to meet a lot of interesting people.
7. Clergy is like a club. Being part of it (even by marriage) opens up doors for all sorts of things. Being minister's wife kind of gives you credibility in an odd way.
8. I have a lot of reasons to read the bible. Currently I'm in two bible study groups a week and I go to church twice each Sunday. That means I'm opening the bible 4 times a week without even trying.
9. Lots of people care about our kids.
10. Lots of people come over to our house.
11. People are very kind to us and express love and appreciation.

Friday, July 26, 2013

11 thoughts on men and women in Genesis 2-3

1. The woman was created as a helper to Adam: almost the same as him “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!” (Gen 2:24) yet sufficiently different from him for God’s purposes to be achieved. They are to fill and subdue the world together (Gen 1:27-28). She is created from Adam and it is God’s plan that the two will be continue to be one flesh. They are living alongside one another, naked and unashamed. There is nothing marring their relationship, no sense of fear or insecurity.

2. In Eden, there is an ordering of the male-female relationship since Adam was created first and Eve was made from him. Yet it’s hard to imagine that that ordering was ever mentioned between the two of them. Adam is delighted with the woman. She is from his side and at his side. They are one. He cannot achieve God’s purposes without her, nor does he want to. He needs her. He delights in her. 

3. The serpent approaches Eve in the garden, plants the seeds of doubt in her head and influences her. There is no record of her having received the command to not eat from the one tree from God himself, perhaps it was Adam who told her. Regardless, Eve knew she was not to eat the fruit and then ate it anyway. When confronted by God, rather than confess her willful sin, she pleaded stupidity: the serpent ‘deceived’ her. What?!? Did he chop up the forbidden fruit and put it in a fruit salad disguised with apples and bananas? Can I suggest that avoiding responsibility by pleading stupidity is a common feminine fault? 

4. With the fall, Adam and Eve’s relationship is compromised. Their first thought is to cover up - from eachother and from God. Rather than delighting in her, he blames her and blames God for making her.

5. The curses pronouced on the woman are directed at her two unique roles: as child bearer and as wife. 

6. The great multiplying of her pain in childbearing does not just refer to the act of giving birth but to the pain that every woman from 12 years old up knows only too well. What was to be her joy is now difficult and dangerous. A woman’s ability to have children leaves her mentally and physically weakened and if she does have children, her body will bear the scars long after the children have grown. 

7. Even though the act of childbearing carries so much risk, part of the curse is that women will still sign themselves up for it. Her pain in childbearing is great, “yet [her] desire will be for [her] husband.” (Gen 3:16) Hardwired into us is a driving need to pair up. 

8. Some have argued that “your desire will be for your husband” means that Eve desires to rule over her husband, usurping his God given role as head. They cite Genesis 4: 7 “sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you” and argue that as sin desires to rule over Cain, the woman desires to rule over her husband. I think a more natural reading of both Genesis 3 and 4 is that desire is speaking of a physical want. Sin is pictured as a hungry wild animal wanting to devour Cain. He is desired by sin’s taste buds and stomach. The woman desires her husband in a sexual sense. This is also the desire of Song of Songs 7:11 “My beloved is mine and his desire is for me.”

9.“And he will rule over you.” The woman’s desire for a husband is not only dangerous in that it exposes her to all the risks of childbirth, it is also dangerous because it puts her at the mercy of her husband. Her body, weakened through its childbearing ability, leaves her vulnerable to abuse. He is able to exploit this vulnerability, ‘ruling over her’. Hardline preachers are known to urge men to be rulers in their families, but it is interesting that ruling is part of the curse. In Eden, the creation order gave Adam a primacy (and women ought to show due repect to their husbands in view of this), but delight and unity was the song that was sung. The New Testament recognises husbands’ tendancy to exploit their wives’ vulnerability and urges them to love their wives.

10. As people who live outside Eden, we can expect marriage relationships to be strained. Men will be inclined to abuse their strength and exploit their wives. Women will refuse to take responsibility for their sin, pleading stupidity. Both will play the blame game. Marriage and childbearing will be a pressing desire for women - often to the detriment of their own safety and sanity.

11. For us as Christians, the Edenic picture of marriage is what we ought to pursue. We should look to live alongside our spouses, working with them in respect and love and unity to acheive God’s purposes for the world. 

[Changed my mind on this one. Not sure that Eden is what we should be pursuing. Is something different/better available for us in Christ? I'll think about it some more. (Maybe you've got ideas.)]

Monday, July 22, 2013


Many my enemies, many my sorrows
Many my troubles about and within
Many the promises that I can cling to
God is my refuge I shelter in him

Steady, my soul, for there’s hope in the anguish
steady, my soul, you have no need to fear
lay down and sleep for the Lord will sustain you
steady, my soul, for salvation is near 

I will not fear though the armies are gathering
Storm clouds descend yet I stand unafraid
God is my helper, my shield and defender
Salvation is his, he will come to my aid.

sar 2013

Micah's speech

If I was Prime Minister for a Day.
If I was Prime Minister for a day I would do three main things: try to change the asylum seeker policy; try to change the school curriculum; and have a BBQ.
I would try to change the asylum seeker policy because Kevin Rudd changed it to have asylum seekers go straight to Indonesia. I would change it so they stay in Australia. I think Australia should be kinder to asylum seekers.
I would try to change the school curriculum if I were Prime Minister for a day. I would change it for all of Australia to have a bright future. Picture Australia being the smartest country in the world. Wouldn’t that be good? That is why I want to get a better curriculum in Australia.
I would have a BBQ because of the happiness of me being Prime Minister. I would also have a BBQ to raise funds for the homeless in Australia.
It would be great if I was Prime Minister for a day.

Micah R (age 9)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Meditation on Psalm 1

What is it that makes someone successful in life? What is it that distinguishes the person who fulfills or exceeds their potential, who flourishes, from the person who bumbles around in mediocrity or worse? Countless books have been written trying to identify the defining characteristic of the successful. There are any number of seminars I could go to that claim to be able to teach me how to be the best me I can be. And I’m sure they have stuff to offer. 
But God has his own answer. 
According to Psalm 1, I can be like a tree planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in its season, with its leaf not withering (verse 3). Imagine that. A tree with a constant source of water. Nourished. Growing. Green and lush and beautiful. Bearing fruit. Fulfilling its potential. Psalm 1 says that the defining feature of people who flourish in God’s eyes is that their
delight is in the Lord’s instruction,
and [they] meditate on it day and night.
(Psalm 1:2)

If I am to flourish like that tree, the source of my nutrition is to be the Lord’s instructions. For the ancient readers, this would have meant the Pentatuch. For us, it encompasses the entire Bible. I am to read it, to think about it, to delight in it. I am to constantly have the stories of God’s dealings with humanity on my heart and on my tongue. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and Joshua and Sampson and Barak and Ruth and Saul and David and Jonathan should be more real to me than the characters of my favourite TV show or novel. I should celebrate their successes, grieve over their failures. I should find myself in their story - which is, in Christ, my story. With the prophets, I should long for the coming of the Messiah. With the angels, I should rejoice at his appearing. With the apostles, I should wonder at his resurrection, marvel at his love for me and resolve to spend my days proclaiming his gospel.
Most of us know what it is to obsess over a story - be it Twilight or The West Wing or Pride and Prejudice. While we watch it or read it, it has us gripped. When we turn it off, it stays with us. We wonder what will happen next. Our minds replay our favourite scenes. We dream about the hero. Sometimes it is so in our hearts that we talk about it almost without meaning to. It just comes out
The word of God is like a stream that refreshes and nourishes us. It causes us to grow and flourish. As we delight in it and meditate on it, we are changed. We see the world as God sees it. Our tastes alter. Some things start to matter more. Some things matter less. Certain pastimes that once seemed desirable lose their charms. Our outlook is different, healthier. Through his word, God makes us into that tree that bears fruit and does not wither in the heat of summer or in the cold of winter.
An interesting thing about this Psalm is that it only gives us two options. Either we are like the tree nourished by the stream or we are like chaff, disconnected, dry and blown away by the wind. The chaff are the ungodly: those who first ‘walk in the wicked’s counsel’, (that is, they take the advice of the evil), who then ‘stand in the way of offenders’ (they do evil independantly) and who finally ‘sit in the session of scoffers’ (they offer evil advice to others.) The chaff are destined for destruction. While they sat comfortably in their scoffers court (verse 1), they will not be able to stand when facing God’s righteous judgement. They have no roots, no source of nourishment. They will be blown away and lost (verses 5-6).
The word of God is the stream that nourishes us. Delighting in it is the defining feature of those who are flourishing in God’s eyes. As New Testament believers, we know that stream to be the incarnate Word, Jesus himself. In John 4, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that  “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (4:14)
The Incarnate Word is the hero of the written word. When we read the bible, Jesus becomes increasingly real and precious to us. We delight in him. Dream of him. Wonder at his love. We become grounded and nourished. Like the tree, we do not wither in summer or winter. Indeed, in life and death we flourish; growing green and lush and bearing fruit in season.
Psalm 1
How happy is the man
who does not follow the advice of the wicked
or take the path of sinners
or join a group of mockers!
Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction,
and he meditates on it day and night.
He is like a tree planted beside streams of water
that bears its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
The wicked are not like this;
instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not survive the judgment,
and sinners will not be in the community of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Protocol for responding to a facebook unfriending

So’ve you been unfriended on facebook. It’s tough, I know, but it happens to all of us sometime. Right now you might feel bowled over by the grief of losing a friend. You don’t know what to do.

Don’t worry. To help you through this time, I’ve put together a general protocol for what to do in the event of an unexpected unfriending. Work through the steps at your own pace and I promise that you’ll be feeling better by the end of the process.

  1. Feel the shock. You didn’t expect this. How could it have happened? You and Penelope were like... facebook sisters! You don’t know how to take the news but let yourself feel the shock. When the numbness wears off, move to step 2.
  2. Try denial. It must be a mistake. Penelope’s account must be faulty. Maybe she’s switched off facebook all together to stop that guy from stalking her. She’d never unfriend you! After you’ve made all the excuses you can think of, move to step 3.
  3. Get angry. Stamp you feet. Kick the walls. Swear. “F*&$^* Penelope! What a#$%$%! How dare she do this to me!” When you calm down, move on to step 4.
  4. Make a deal with the faceverse. When you are calm again, try bargaining. “Dear faceverse. If Penelope refriends me I promise that I’ll never ever tag her in pictures of ugly animals again. I also promise that I’ll take down that picture of her dribbling in her sleep. Please mighty faceverse, let Penelope refriend me!” When you’ve made your bargains you are ready for step 5.
  5. Blame yourself for the unfriending. Feel guilty over everything that you’ve thought, said and done online and in real life ever. Admit that the unfriending is your fault. Only bad people get unfriended. You got unfriended, therefore you are a bad person. Accept this and then move to step 6.
  6. Realise that life now offers you nothing. Penelope is the first who unfriended you. Everyone else will soon follow. Life will be empty from here on. Get used to it. Mope. Wallow in your misery for as long as you feel it necessary. When you find yourself smiling again, move to step 7.
  7. Get over it and move on. It may take you years to reach this final step, but believe me, you will get there. You will realise that Penelope is only one of your 2000 facebook friends and that her virtual friendship is something you can live without. Penelope’s rejection of your fb friendship does not mean that you are (necessarily) a bad person. It isn’t (necessarily) the beginning of a major unfriending trend. Life can go on. Smile, make some new facebook friends, cull some unnecessary people yourself, then post a picture of your breakfast.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Hinges in kids' talks

A couple of posts down, I talked about 'hinges' being a weakness in many kids talks.

Commenter Adam wanted to know what I meant by hinges and asked for some examples. So here we go.


Whenever you turn a corner, there's a chance that others won't turn with you. Those trying to follow can lose sight of where you're going and head off in another direction altogether. In order to take people around the bend with you, you need to guide them around it. Plan for it, signal it in such a way that they feel that the turn is the most natural route to take. In fact, you should make it so smooth that people don't even recognise it as a turn at all. It's just the way that the road goes.

Every piece of communication has corners. You move from the introduction to your first point. You are talking about x and then you start going in a different direction, talking about y. You move from your main points to a summary section wrapping it all up. In order to take your listeners with you around these corners, you need to make it smooth for them. Take them by the hand. Guide them. Don't give them the chance to get lost.

I call 'hinges' the words and sentences that we use to link one idea to another and show listeners the way around the corners. The better thought out your hinges are, the smoother your transitions will be.

As I said the other day, hinges are a real weakness in many kids talks (and sermons). Kids get lost because the person up front was talking about an apple, but now they are  suddenly talking about Jesus. The hinge between 'apple' and 'Jesus' wasn't apparent.

Here's last Sunday's kid's talk. Being what it was (a talk concept that was really quite abstract - the wise man built his house upon the rock - 'We were talking about building houses and now we're suddenly talking about Jesus!?!') it had the potential to have really awkward hinges. I tried to oil then by talking about good decisions right from the start. It was still a bit jerky at the end, bringing listening to Jesus in, but I made it work okay. (I changed the text colour so you can see all the words that helped the hinge work.)

I did this talk on Saul and David a few years back (just searched my blog for 'kids talks'!) I think it was part 3 in a series.

Sometimes we want to be the big guy. The one who is strong and impressive. The leader of the pack. The one who would never get laughed at or teased. The one who tells everyone else what to do. 
Saul was the big guy. He stood a head taller than anyone else. He was strong. He was handsome and he was... a very bad king for God's people.
The trouble with being the big guy is that it can make you think that you don't need God. You think that you are big enough to win battles by yourself. You think that you are big enough to make up the rules. And you get a bit too big for your boots.
Which is what happened with Saul. Big King Saul thought that he didn't need to wait for God's prophet. He thought that he could offer sacrifices to God himself. But did God like that? No. [THIS WAS WHAT WE HAD SEEN IN THE PREVIOUS WEEK'S TALK]
God rejected big King Saul and was looking for a new king. Someone who was... smaller.
God told Samuel to go to the town of Bethlehem and find a man called Jesse. One of Jesse's sons was going to be the new king of God's people. But which one?

Samuel looked at Jesse's oldest boy. His name was Eliab. Samuel liked the look of him. He was big and handsome. Samuel said to himself “Surely this Eliab is the one!”
 But God said no. “Don't take any notice of what he looks like or how tall he is, because I have rejected him. God doesn't see like people see. God looks inside. He know what we're really like.”
Hm. Which one then. How about Aminadab?
No. Not him either.

No. God didn't chose him.
Samuel looked at seven of Jesse's sons but God said no to all of them. “The Lord hasn't chosen any of these,” he said to Jesse. “Are there any more? Are these all of your children?”
“There's one other,” Jesse said. “But he's just a boy. He's little and he's out looking after the sheep.”
“Go and get him.” said Samuel. So Jesse sent someone to get his youngest, smallest son.

David came in from the field. Samuel looked at him and said, “this is the one.”
Often we want to be the big guy. But God's not interested in big guys. Big guys (like King Saul) can think they are so big they don't need God. They can think they are too big to keep God's rules. Or to ask God for help. God chooses the little guy. Like David. Like Jesus. People who don't look strong. People who aren't too big for their boots. People who will trust God to win the battle and save them.

See the hinge between the intro and the story? See how the application part at the end didn't feel like a big shift? That's what I mean by working on your hinges. Make sense?

[Here are some others from that series. #1 and #2.]

Sermon writers... Any thoughts on hinges in sermons?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Thoughts on Psalm 137

I wrote these thoughts on Psalm 137 for the PCQ Women's Ministry Newsletter.

Read the Psalm here. It starts: By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion...

Despite its violent end, I have long loved Psalm 137. Is was written by grief stricken Judeans shortly after their deportation to Babylon and is raw and real. It’s generally thought of as a lament, but to me it’s a love song. The Psalmist has been ripped away from his beloved Zion and he is vowing to never forget her, to stay faithful to her despite the distance between them. The possibility of moving on and getting over her is real, but it must not happen. It would be better for him to lose his ability to play his harp than for him to play songs to someone else. It would be better for his tongue to stick to his upper palate than for him to sing of anyone else. Though it’s likely he’ll never see her again, she must remain the most important thing. His hope, his highest joy.

5 If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.

I love this Psalm. I love it for its realness and passion and I love it because it is my song. Like the psalmist, I am in a foreign land. Jerusalem, the new Jerusalem, the city of the great King, is my home. I long for her and must continue to long for her. The attractions of this land, the land of my exile, must not charm me. I must not become so at home here that I forget her.

Though others mock, I will sing the songs of Zion. Though the world sees her as a spent force, an irrelevance, I will sing of her beauty, of her enduring strength, of the security of those within her walls.

The new Jerusalem is my city. The Psalmist was pulled away from his Jerusalem but he wouldn’t let her go. She mustn’t become merely his past. She must remain his highest joy, every moment. The new Jerusalem is my future. She is where I am headed but she must also be present.

O new Jerusalem, capture my imagination. May I sing of you. May I hold on to you as my highest joy. Amen.

kids' talks in church vs kids' talks in sunday school

A minister friend told me recently that in his next church there will be no children's talks in the morning service. Kids' ministry (which he strongly believes in) will happen separately, in Sunday school.

There's reasons for and against having kids' talks in church. The main reason against is that they are often poorly done. They are cringeworthy and of dubious educational benefit.

To hit the mark, a talk must:

- be absolutely true to the bible,
- be crystal clear about the one point that it is teaching (the big idea of the passage it is based on) and not get distracted with other stuff,
- be age appropriate (there's a knack to finding the correct level to pitch it at in a multi-age group),
- be concrete without losing the subtleties and nuances of the passage,
- be presented in an engaging, energetic and creative way so the kids can't help but be drawn in,
- be entertaining for the adults,
- keep the kids under control (no one likes to watch kids misbehave)
- be pretty short, and
- fit with the broader flow and feel of the service

A decent adult's sermon takes at least 10 hours to write. Most people won't have anything like that amount of time to spend on a kids talk. If you have a kids' talk in church each week, the chance of it not hitting the mark most of the time is pretty high. Even if you employ a 'professional' (a teacher or a someone with a degree in theology) to give the talks, the results are often still disappointing. (IMO, the skills/personality required to give good kids talks are quite different from the skill set of the general classroom teacher.)

So why try to do kids' talks at all?

Well, I don't think every church should.

Kids talks (done well) are a fantastic addition to a church service. The children feel that the main church service is for them. Parents get to see what their kids are learning. Adults learn along with the kids (this is particularly helpful for people with English as a second language or lower literacy levels). Kids talks can add a fun element to the service. The importance of children's ministry can be highlighted and kids' ministers get an opportunity to profile what they do. Furthermore, having kids' talks in church makes it easier for the church's leaderships - minister(s) and elders - to oversee what is happening in children's ministry. If it is off track, action can be taken.

But kids talks done poorly detract from the service. Generally, the bigger the church, the more professional the kids' talk needs to be just to be adequate. If kids are taught exclusively in Sunday school, then different teaching methods can be used. Small group leading requires a different (and more common) skill set to up front teaching. With preparation and basic training, most Christians will be able to teach a group of 5 or so kids. Good small group teaching will achieve much more than poor up front teaching and will be more achievable than up front teaching for most churches.

So my friend's next church won't be having kids' talks. 

Fair enough. 

But most churches aren't about to give up on kids' talks. How can the pain be minimised?

In my experience, most kids' talks suffer most in their 'hinges', in their pitching, and in their delivery. 

The 'hinges' between the different parts of the kids talk are really hard to do well, particularly the hinge between the opening illustration or story and the direct teaching part of the talk. If the connections aren't really clear in your mind and seamlessly executed, then you'll lose the kids. I usually spend as much time working on the hinges as the rest of the talk. I find they work best if I've flagged where I'm going right from the start so that the 'moral of the story' isn't just an awkward add on. 

Pitching a kids' talk is also a real challenge. If there are kids in the church from 0 to 16 it can seem really perplexing deciding where to aim your address. But the trick is to not worry about ages but worry about clarity. A five year old can understand (at a basic level) just about any biblical doctrine if it is taught properly and a four year old, a fourteen year old and a forty year old will all be fascinated by a story that is told well. If you don't know where to pitch your talk, don't worry about it. Work out exactly (EXACTLY!) what you want to teach and when you are absolutely clear (ABSOLUTELY CLEAR!) about your big idea, teach it by telling a story well, flagging your big idea from the start. Object lessons (where you take along an object and draw out some similarity between the object and God or something (I've bought along this ring today. Look at it. See how shiny it is? It's very precious to me. Something else that's precious to me is the bible/Jesus/?)) are much more likely to fail than stories. Chances are that you'll hold no one's attention.

The delivery of kids talks is also tricky. You have to be enthusiastic. You have to be confident. You have to present in such a way as your draw kids (and adults) in. You have to be seen as exciting or interesting or as a close friend. Different people will achieve this in different ways and while everyone can learn to do it better, some people will never be able to do it really well.


That's all for now. Thoughts? Does your church have kids' talks in church or does it focus on its Sunday school program? Do you have strong feelings one way or the other?

I know I'm unawesome, but because of Jesus, this knowledge is not crippling.

Dear friends. Female friends.

It feels good to have a guy tell you that you are awesome. That you deserve someone who would give up his life for you because you are good and strong and capable and powerful, like the great women of the bible. It feels good to hear this, because mostly, flattery does feel good. But it's not true. The bible teaches that you (and I) are distinctly un-awesome. Even our most heroic thoughts and deeds are tainted with selfishness and sin. We deserve nothing from God. Videos (and women's conferences) that preach this stuff won't help you. Hearing about how awesome you are will lead you to either despair in your obvious unawesomeness or feel a warped pride in your comparative awesomeness. Neither is right. The gospel is this: we are much, much worse than we can ever imagine - but God knows this and loves us anyway. The gospel is not that we are awesome, but that Jesus is awesome. Remember that. And please, please stop sharing videos like this.



Holidays are over.

The kids and I flew to the Gold Coast and hung with my parents and some friends. Then we went to Brisbane and caught up on some music lessons (Micah) and saw more friends (Joel) and stayed with Andrew's parents and picked up Andrew, and saw more friends, and taught the kids how to play pool...

We flew home on Tuesday night. Andrew's brother and his family have been up here with us since. It's been excellent having them. They are low stress people. We can just hang.

Andrew has been busy writing an (overdue) MA essay.

I've been busy writing a little devotion on Ps137 and an essay on women and erotic romance novels.

So it's been a good holiday but it's over now.

Hello term 3.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sticks or bricks - 2 little pigs kids talk

Andrew preached on Psalm 119 today. This is an attempt at a kids talk to tell kids to read the bible [yawn!] (kinda Matt 7 - wise and foolish builders). This talk uses finger puppets (my kids worked them for me. Farm animals would have been fine)lego and sticks and I sat at a keyboard and talked and sang to tell the story while playing some mood music. The wolf's song used basically the same tune as the pigs' songs with a flattened third and sixth to make it minor. If anyone wants to give this a go and wants a tune, leave a comment and I'll scribble out mine. The talk will only work if you can hold the kids through the hinge to the Jesus bit. I ad-libbed that part, repeating lines and talking about the pigs' choices until I was sure the connection worked.


Sometime the choices that we make don’t matter very much. Like whether we have jam or honey on our sandwiches. But other decisions do matter.

These two little pigs had a decision to make. Each of them had to decide what they would build their house out of. Hmm. Should they choose bricks or sticks? Bricks are stronger but they take a long long time to lay. Sticks are cheaper and they are very fast.

Which shall I pick
Which shall I choose
Sticks or bricks?
Which shall I use
To build a house of sticks
won’t take too long
Sticks are quick
But bricks are strong.

Bricks or sticks? What should they choose?

Well the first little pig, he thought about it and he said, “I don’t like building houses. I just want mine built really fast so I can go inside, put my feet up and watch some tv.”

What do you think he chose?

I’ll build my house,
I’ll build it quick
I won’t use bricks
I’ll use sticks.

I don’t care
if it’s not strong
I’ll build it fast
I won’t go wrong.

The first little pig chose the sticks. He started building at breakfast time and by the end of the day his house was done. “Ha!” he said. “I’ve finished. Now I can get my dinner and watch [peppa pig music] Peppa Pig.”

And he did.

But do you think he made a good choice?

The second little pig thought hard about what he should build his house out of. He didn’t much like the thought of spending a long long time building either, but in the end he decided he had to build a strong house. Because who knows what might be hiding around the corner! [scary music]

So he chose the bricks.

I’ll build my house
I’ll make it strong
I don’t care that it takes so long
I’ll built my house
It won’t be fast
but I’ll build a house that will last and last!

So he did. The second little pig worked night and day and day and night but finally his house was finished. He went inside and watched [music] peppa pig too.

Sometime the choices that we make don’t matter very much. But other decisions do matter. The very next day, the little pigs discovered that bricks or sticks was a decision that mattered very much. Because you know who was hiding around the corner, don’t you!

The big bad wolf came up and saw two houses standing in the woods. He knew that 2 little pigs lived inside them. Hmmm. Which pig should he have for his breakfast? Which house should he blow down?

Two little houses
which shall I choose
Sticks and brick
have been used.
A house made of sticks
Can never be strong
I’ll blow it down, it won’t take long.

The big bad wolf walked up to the house of sticks.

Little pig little pig let me come in!

Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!

Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!

So he huffed and he puffed and the house blew in!

AAAAHHHHH! (pig runs away)

Sometime the choices that we make don’t matter very much. But other decisions do matter.

The first little pig built his house out of sticks and... it got blown down by the wolf. It was a bit silly of him, wasn’t it?

The second little built a strong house. That was a good decision, wasn’t it?

Jesus says that we can make good decisions like that second little pig. The best decision we can make is to hear Jesus’ words and do what they say. It’s a decision that matters very much. Jesus says that if make the decision that we’re going to listen to what Jesus says and do it, we’re like that second little pig who built a strong house.. 

Today you can make the decision. 

You could ask your mum or dad to read some bible to you.

Or if you know how to read, you could read some yourself.

[Other examples - sunday school, listening hard in church etc.]

Saturday, July 6, 2013


People with my personality type (Myers Briggs ENTP) are meant to be fine with conflict.

I'm not. I hate it.

It makes me feel sick in the stomach. It makes me edgy and emotional. It takes my attention away from coming up with fun ideas and makes me focus on painful things or a boring set of 'what ifs'. I wish we could all just play nicely, each doing our own thing.

I hate conflict, but a few times lately I've deliberately made it. There are things that I could have let go that I elected to not let go. I don't regret any of them. If I had it again, I'd do the same thing. But now I'm sitting and moping.

I guess nobody actually likes conflict. Maybe the difference between me and people who really hate it is that there are things that I hate worse than conflict. I'll avoid conflict unless something more precious than my love of just getting along has been threatened. Maybe the real reason why I hate conflict is actually not about the conflict, but about its trigger.  Something very precious to me (perhaps something sinfully precious - like my freedom to do as I please) has been threatened so I'm forced into conflict with others to protect it. I find the conflict itself distasteful and I'd rather not have it, but I find the conflict's trigger painful. Maybe that's what I'm mopey about.

But how crippled must the person who really hates conflict be! If conflict itself is the enemy as well as its trigger... well that is surely reason to mope!