Thursday, January 31, 2013

6 things about life in Cairns

1. We are spending heaps more time in the car then we have for the last few years. In Brisbane, work, school, church, gym and the shops were all in the one small suburb. It's a 3.5km drive to primary school, 6kms to the shops and 6.5km to church and high school. And these are all in different directions. But there isn't too much traffic so it's not too bad.

2. Andrew is driving to Townsville and back (8 hour return journey!) for a meeting tomorrow. Locals don't think this is ridiculous. It's just what you do.

3. In Cairns, grown up people do community things. A few teachers on staff at school are in the local orchestra. Many are in sports teams. The PE teacher coaches a couple of women's soccer teams. Being involved and doing stuff is normal.

4. It has been really hot since the rain stopped a week ago. 36-37 degrees. This is unusual for Cairns. (33 is normal.) In Brisbane, a week of very high temperatures would have been unbearable. Up here it is bearable, thanks to the wonders of air conditioning (all classrooms at school have ac and half our house also does) and pool which is 3/4 in the shade. We've developed a nice little ritual of sitting in the pool after school, talking about our days, and playing silent 'Marco Polo'. I don't enjoy long innings of Marco Polo so I've taken to reading to the kids while sitting on the steps in the pool. Tonight we also swam after dinner.

5. Micah and I started our cello and viola lessons this afternoon. Our new teacher is excellent (our old ones were too!)

6. Long time, older Cairnsites do speak differently. When crossing the road with the kids this morning I pushed the button. The crossing supervisor said, 'Ya should'a learned him ta do that, eh?' He meant that I should have taught Joel to push the button at the traffic lights. BTW Joel does know how to push the button. I was just standing closer at the time.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


It's started. It's been exciting for one (high school!), boring for one and traumatic for one.

One of our children is grieving all he has lost. There continues to be much sadness. He holds it together in school but then we'll be doing something and I'll look up to find him in tears. I'll be giving a bedtime cuddle and notice that my shoulder is wet. At dinner time I'll suddenly realise that one is crying.

People say that children are adaptable and quickly get used to any change.

I think this is rubbish.

Children are as variable as adults. A child who has lost something precious and realises it will grieve. And so he should.

But it's exhausting. I'm spending hours each day comforting, counselling and cuddling.

Yeah, I've started work too. I've taught the same lesson 12 times in the last 2 days (But it was a good lesson. Was = past tense.)) From next week I'll do two lessons - one repeated 6 times and one 12 times.

I miss my old job too.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Two pupil free days down, one to go.

I hated work yesterday. It struck me at about 9.30am that this wasn't my old job. At my old school I had carved out a place for myself. I was liked and respected and given a very good amount of freedom to do whatever I wanted to do.

Here it is different. No one knows me. I am a fractional non-contact time provider. The bottom of the heap (as was pointed out to me!)

So I spent yesterday mourning what I've lost.

It started to get better when I found out that I don't have to teach PE. I'm teaching music to preps and year ones. The lower end of the school is not my favourite, but I think I can pull it off and get into the zone and have fun. I'll see the preps twice each week which will be nice.

Today was much better. The familiarity helped a lot and I spent a couple of hours with the other music teacher choosing choir repertoire. I'll be her accompanist. We're going to do some songs I did last year.

Tomorrow I'm taking in 60 ukes that I've just finished tuning up. At 8.30am I'm teaching the teachers to play....

Okay everyone, this is the ukelele's neck. The neck goes out to the left. No... the other left...

Music meeting - 'nothing' songs and 'something' songs

I just had 12 people over for a church music meeting. It was the first official church thing I've done and it was lots of fun.

We sang songs, shared our best experiences of congregational singing, talked through Colossians 3:16 (the kinds of things I wrote about in this post), then got on to specifics about song choice etc.

My current thinking is that songs should be:

Clear - what point is there if no one can understand what it's about?

True - look for subtleties. A slightly wrong picture of God is a big deal in a song that is stuck in your head.

Worthwhile - is this song worth giving 8% of our weekly time together to? If not, scrap it.

Memorable - we want what we sing to minister to people during the week. If they won't remember it, what's the point?   and

Moving - This one is more subjective, but singing is an emotional thing. If a song doesn't do anything to you, why would you bother with it?

I'm on a rampage against 'nothing' songs. A 'nothing' song is one that has no impact, that does nothing, that is immediately forgotten - if it was ever noticed in the first place. Nothing songs have no place in our churches. Death to them all.

The challenge is to choose a good set (maybe 25 for a semester) of 'something' songs, and present them as 'something' songs. (It's easy to make a 'something' song into a 'nothing' song through poor preparation.) In the way we lead we are to help the congregation understand the meaning of the song, feel its weight, remember it's truth and live it so that Jesus will be glorified.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bible Singing Groups for 2013?

Bible study groups are a central part of most gospel loving churches these days. They are a great way to increase our knowledge and understanding of the Word, and they give everyone a chance to speak the gospel to one another. But reading Colossians 3:16 has made me wonder if bible singing groups are what we really need.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col 3:16 NASB)

The aim is for the word of Christ to dwell richly within us. Richly. Not superficially. And it is to dwell, live, within us. The word should be in our ears and in our minds and in our hearts and in our hands and on our lips. We should walk it, speak it, do it, feel it. It should be treasured by each of us individually, but also passed around between us. Given as a gift. And received. The Word is the glue which binds us together. It's our family heirloom. Our best possession.

So how do we do that? How do we have the Word of Christ dwell richly within us?

We do it by teaching and admonishing one another.

The Word becomes our community curriculum and hospital. It's what we are taught from our earliest hour. It's what we are reminded of at our end. It's the thermometer to assess our health. And if it turns out that we're lacking, the Word is the balm that we apply.

But what does that look like in practice? How do we teach the word to one another? How do we administer the medicine of the word to admonish our brothers and sisters?

Easy. We sing.

The word of Christ is to dwell richly within us. We teach it to one another and admonish each other by singing the Word. Psalm, hymns and spiritual songs.

Bible study groups are good and worthwhile, but bible singing groups are what Paul recommends in this verse.

And it makes sense. The songs that we sing (if they are any good!) stick with us. We find ourselves humming them. Meditating on the words. Thinking them through. In song, the Word becomes part of us in a way that questions and answers in a bible study never will.

In song, the Word of Christ dwells in us richly. We give thanks, we teach one another, we rebuke the wayward, we calm the anxious, we encourage the despairing. In song, the Word passes from my sister's lips to my ears. I feel it in my heart. My hands are equipped for acts of service. My mind is turned towards my Lord.

So. Who is up for it? Bible study groups are great, but perhaps we should sing for a change. What do you think?

Monday, January 21, 2013

I'm ready to go home now.

It's been an exhausting morning.

I spent $600 on J and M's books and uniforms. We went to enrol N in high school but they don't open until tomorrow. Given that I start work on Wednesday, I feel like we are cutting things a bit fine.

I met my new boss and heard about my job. It seems I'll probably be teaching some PE along with music. PE!!! I did say that I was happy to do whatever, but PE?

I miss my old school. I miss knowing everyone. I miss calling the shots. I miss my beautiful, big, well organised classroom with well looked after equipment. I miss my teaching partner.

Can I go home now?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dear Sydney,

What I love about you is that if a person has hung around in one of your Anglican churches for a few years at some stage of their life, they will know what an expository talk is.

Today I have been reminded that this is no small thing.

Yours gratefully,


Be inspired!

Al has posted this beautiful photograph of his kids.

When I saw it, I felt inspired. It's the kind of picture that we need to see every day. All it needs is a suitable verse to go with it.

So I've taken it upon myself to help Al out. I've sourced 5 7 inspirational verses. Which do you think is most appropriate?

1. Let go of the uncertainties of the present and run to the enchanted possibilities of the future.
2. Throw your dreams into space like a kite, then chase them to see where they lead.
3. I believe the children are the future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.
4. A little child will lead them.
5. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary.

6. Childhood is the world of miracle or of magic: it is as if creation rose luminously out of the night, all new and fresh and astonishing.

7. If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


... is the last day of Andrew's long service leave.

Real life resumes Monday morning.

On Monday I have to get the kids completely ready for school - buying uniforms, covering and naming books, enrolling Nathan in high school, working out the text book hire scheme, buying Joel a school bag... I also have to pick up 70 ukes brand new (lower end) ukes from school and start tuning them. I have to teach the teachers to play at some stage during pupil free days (hopefully Friday). Each uke has to be tuned about 50 times before it will hold it's tune. It will be a big job.

Tuesday I have to continue to tune 70 ukes, work out what I'll teach the teachers to play, and finish off the book covering.

Wednesday is the first pupil free day. Andrew has to take the kids to work with him. It's not ideal in his first week in a new job, but we have no friends in Cairns that we can ask yet. Andrew will work from home most of the time and the kids can entertain themselves. When he goes to meetings, the kids can tag along with electronic devices. When they are at home, they can tune the ukes for me! I think I'll give the $10 each if they can get them into tune.

Thursday I work again, then at night I'm hoping to have church musicians over for dessert and coffee. The kids will have been home all day so the house could be in an interesting state.

Friday, work again!

It will be a trying week. The kids are still a bit fragile. They don't want to go out anywhere, just stay in the safety of our house with their e-devices. Joel spent about 3 hours today skyping a friend. The pupil free days will probably be tough. Generally the only think that makes them bearable is having friends to sit with and whisper/pass notes to. I won't have any friends yet.

Oh well. Maybe I'll take my computer (and wireless internet) just in case anything bloggable happens!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Just wondering...

Have you thought of this stuff before? To me, it's obvious and I thought I was just writing what everyone was thinking, but I'm now questioning that assumption.

Leave a comment if you're brave enough.

Why congregations don't sing heartily.

The more I think about congregational singing (and I've been thinking about it a lot lately) the more I'm concluding that the best measure of a music team's performance is in the answer to this question: Are the congregation singing the Word heartily?

There's two things we're looking at here.

1. Are the congregation singing the word?

2. Are the congregation singing heartily?

To assess Q1, you need to look at the term's song selection. Do the songs deeply reflect the concerns and passions of God's Word?

To assess Q2, you need to look at how well the congregation are singing. Are 30% of the people just standing there waiting for the song to be over? Are people engaged with the singing? Are they getting into it? What sound does the visitor to church notice? Is it the sound of the people out the front or the sound of the congregation? I want people to be blown away by the sound of the congregation.

But people often don't sing heartily (or at all). 

Why not?

Here are some reasons I've thought of and some solutions.

1. The congregation are embarrassed.

The music team have chosen songs that are embarrassingly dated or daggy or maybe the musicians are poorly rehearsed or just incompetent. Whatever the reason, the congregation feel embarrassed about the music and so they don't sing.

Solution - Don't choose embarrassing songs. Rehearse properly.

2. The congregation is nervous.

The girl leading the singing is visibly uncomfortable and her fears are transferred onto everyone else. The whole congregation feels her nerves and so doesn't sing well.

Solution - Rehearse more so the song leader won't be so nervous. Have her lead with someone more experienced.

3. The congregation is overwhelmed.

There is a tidal wave of sound hitting the congregation from the front. All their energies are spent processing that sound. Who has any energy left to sing? And what difference would it make if you did sing?

Solution - Turn the volume down!!!

4. The congregation is unconverted.

Why sing songs about Jesus when you don't care about him?

Solution - Preach the word.

5. The congregation is unfamiliar with the song.

It's new and strange and I don't know it. How can I sing it heartily?

Solution - Sing fewer songs more often and teach songs better.

6. The congregation feel exposed.

There are so few people / such poor acoustics / such poor leading that individuals don't want to sing because they think everyone will hear them

Solution - sit people closer together, rent-a-crowd, lead better.

Can you think of any more?

Thursday, January 17, 2013


I'm going out for coffee with a couple of women from church.


The piano tuner man is here.

It seems he can tell me the make and model of every piano housed everywhere in Cairns. He just told me the history of our church piano and every other in this suburb.

Impressive. Cairns has a population of 150,000+!

I'm not looking for cliche orgasmic moments in church music...

...but if I were, I'd start the song pretty low with an unmemorable melody, then step it up (in pitch and rhythm) in the prechorus before punching out a high, repetitive, sentimental chorus - the kind that can be sung with eyes shut and hands in the air in an 'I surrender my body to you' kind of a way. And the great thing about a chorus is that you can do it multiple times.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Could this be the worst congregational song ever?

We've been to 5 different churches in our last month of holidays. Some encouraging things happening around the place.

In our travels I was introduced to this song for the first time. It's interesting. Some wild metaphors. I was singing hesitantly through the hurricane and ocean bits, then I stopped when I got to the red words. What do you think?

He is jealous for me 
Love's like a hurricane, I am a tree 
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy 
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory 
and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great your affections are for me. 
Oh, how He loves us so 
Oh, how He loves us 
How He loves us so. 

Yeah, He loves us 
Woah, how He loves us 
Woah, how He loves us 
Woah, how He loves. 

So we are His portion and He is our prize, 
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes 
If grace is an ocean we're all sinking 
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest 
I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way 

That he loves us, 
Woah, how He loves us 
Woah, how He loves us 
Woah, how He loves 

He loves us, 
Woah, how He loves us 
Woah, how He loves us 
Woah, how He loves 

Haven series 4!!!!

Coming some time this year!

If you haven't gotten into this, you really should. Pop into JB HiFi or cruise on over to the itunes store.

Les Mis

Chris, Andrew and I saw Les Mis with the kids yesterday.

8 things.

1. Don't take your kids to see it. The beginning section with Fontine and prostitution is pretty confronting and inappropriate. Actually, the whole movie is pretty confronting. The kids are pulling me up on my double standards - why did I 'make' them see that when it is so much less suitable than other things that they'd like to see? Having said that, Nathan (aged almost 13) liked it a lot.

2. If you do take your kids, don't buy them extra large slurpies or give them paper bags full of snacks. Paper rustling and toilet breaks kill the mood.

3. The two lead guys weren't up to it vocally, but their acting was great. Some 'moments' that should of happened didn't happen - and I was waiting for them and was disappointed. But overall it still worked. I was moved. I felt stuff. I was a little teary at the end.

4. The women were excellent.

5. The death scenes and particularly the resurrection bit at the end were well done.

6. Marius was lovely. Of course.

7. The alto had her heart broken then she died.

8. The soprano got the man.

So we are in Cairns.

We drove up on Sunday with our friends Chris and Josh. We had 2 cars and Chris helped with the driving. Andrew and Joel left from Brisbane and the rest of us left from Murwillumbah in northern NSW. It was a little stressy at first when the car wouldn't start at the servo just outside of M'bah. It seems that the starter motor has gone. We decided to risk driving it to Cairns anyway - we had to push start it every time we switched it off. Thankfully we made it.

Chris has just left. Saying goodbye to him felt like the end of our SEQld lives. Tomorrow will be hard for the kids as they say goodbye to Josh.

Five things.

1. Cairns is beautiful. It's green and lush with lovely breezes. The mountains are gorgeous. (Sorry Nathan, in terms of natural beauty Townsville doesn't come close.)

2. We drove north on a particularly hot day (40+ in Brisbane) so Cairns has been a cool change. The temps here are generally 25-33 which it very manageable. Last night I had to turn the fan down. AC hasn't really been needed much yet. I'll probably regret saying it, but I like the feeling of nice moist air. When we were in Melbourne, the thin dry air hurt my chest when I ran.

3. Our house should work well. Last night we sat and talked with our feet in the pool. It was idyllic. Our back patio is also great.

4. We've been on 'holidays' for a month now and are all exhausted. I'm feeling strange and longing to find a rhythm for life again. Sleep is a bit elusive. I can't get my head around having left our old church. I want to know how Christmas went for people and if Karen's had her baby yet. I want Tash to pop in for afternoon tea.

5. Moving sucks. Not in any hurry to do it again but at the same time can't handle the thought of living so far away forever.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

5 points on women giving sermons

Okay. So I've read the ebooks and all the meta. I'm not sure exactly* where I'm landing with it all but...

1. Let's stay calm. Nothing that John Dickson or Kathy Kellar have written is all that revolutionary. Dickson is arguing for a capable woman giving the occasional sermon at church. Kellar is arguing for much the same thing. Both are still within the complementarian camp. Both hold that there are differences between men and women in the home and at church.

2. None of this would have been controversial with most evangelicals 25 years ago. Such things happened.

3. There's no need for our heresy warning alarms to be going off as soon as someone starts questioning our interpretation of a verse. It's entirely possible that we've been wrong for centuries. Looking closely at the bible is what we should all be doing.

4. If compelling evidence came to light that made it pretty much certain that Dickson and Kellar are right, would the bottom fall out of your faith? Why?

5. The issue that we need to be discussing is what Paul meant by 'teach' in the pastorals.

What do you think?

* I'm sympathetic.

Friday, January 11, 2013

2 days left in the deep south...

We drive to Cairns Sunday-Monday.

I'm venturing out of my cave to see some friends this afternoon. Perhaps this will be the end of my adventure in introversion. Or maybe not.

I'm sorry that I haven't gotten to say goodbye to everyone I wanted to. Easter?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ryan Layne Whitney (Scarlatti: Sonata K. 69)

 I started working on this one yesterday. I like it.

Monday, January 7, 2013


After a stupidly busy last.... well... 5 years, I've stopped.

I have nothing pressing. No Sunday School lessons to prepare. No school musical to write. No marking to do. It's amazing. I have nothing to do.

Except play the piano.

So I am. 

For 3 hours a day.

I've gotten my scales back up to speed and am working on a handful of 7th grade pieces I found in mum and dad's piano stool. (I want more music, but there's no decent shop on the southern Gold Coast) Although I play at work all day, it's been so long since I've read real music (with treble and bass clef!) that I thought I'd forgotten how to do it, but it seems I haven't.

I'm playing 2 Scarlatti Sonatas (A and G minor), a Solar Sonata (D), a Chopin waltz and a Mozart movement.

I don't think I've ever been this introverted. I don't particularly want to talk to anyone or go out anywhere.

We are on the coast until Sunday, then we drive to Cairns.