Monday, April 29, 2013

psalm 131 prayer

Loving Father,

As a child rests against his mother, I rest against you.
My understanding is small, but yours is great.
My arms are weak, but yours are strong.
My future’s uncertain, but you are Lord over eternity. 

I find my understanding in knowing you, 
my strength in trusting you, 
my hope in your promises.

Loving Father, my heart is anxious. Calm me. 
My soul is dark. Cleanse me.
My mind’s corrupt. Change me.

That I may be like your Son, Jesus Christ.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

scribble men

More Joel Pics


Animal Tessellations


Mr Kaleidoscope.

Flame Overkill Gun

Despite the subject matter, I like this one a lot. Joel did it on his computer.

Art Therapy

Here are some more pics that reveal as much about Joel's mental state as they do about his artistic ability...

This first one is called 'Stolen Hope'. Notice the little guy on the left running off with a bit of letter? What word is left? (Imagine you are dyslexic!)

This one is called 'The Stranger'. The dude is scared. 

Super Catralia

Joel's done lots of drawing of 'Catralia'. Here are a few. Can you find Joel in each pic? Can you work out what he's getting at? 

high school entry

Big day today. Joel (currently year 7) had his high school interview and audition day. We don't live in the (very small) catchment area for the high school we want him to go to. It's in town, right near church. We got Nathan (year 8) in on special music entry before we knew where we would be living. But the school has no sibling policy and so Joel has to get in on his own merits. There are many, many kids wanting out of zone entry and a limited number of places available.

Joel has had a hard time settling this year. He's been very anxious (about all sorts of things - most of which wouldn't have ever been an issue in Brisbane) and quite unhappy. But hearing about the possibility of a special art program at this high school brightened things considerably. If he gets in, he'll be part of an art extension class that gets 3x 70 min art lessons per week. How cool would that be! For the first time, his future in Cairns wasn't all gloom. But getting in is far from certain. Today he had to submit a portfolio of his art work. He had an interview where he had to talk about a few pieces and he had to do a still life drawing test.

Yesterday we stuck some of Joel's pics into a visual art diary. Most of his best stuff seems to be done on little bits of paper. All rather messy... But I felt there was enough there for the teachers to see his style and the fact that he has good ideas.

Apparently it went well. The teacher took lots of photos and said his work was the most original of all she had seen that day (not sure how many she had seen!) So we are hopeful.

He also auditioned for music entry on bass clarinet. His playing is okay and we wanted him to do this as a back up. But Joel doesn't want music entry. Music entry would mean he doesn't get to do any art at all (in yr 8). (And art entry means that he won't do classroom music - but at least he can still play in concert band etc.)

Joel will be pretty devastated if he doesn't get in. The move to Cairns has been really hard for him. This is the one thing he is looking forward to. If he doesn't get in, we'll reconsider our address. The thought of having our kids at three different schools is just too hard!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Four myths about extroverts.

Introverts often feel misunderstood. Every few weeks there's a new blog post or something up explaining introversion both to introverts who struggle to understand themselves, and to the extroverted world which seems to sits in judgement of them.

But I think there's at least as much misunderstanding of extroversion as introversion out there. I'm a thorough extrovert (according to the Myers Briggs tests) so people expect me to love small talk, think shallow thoughts (if any thoughts at all!), be the life of the party and in constant need of company.

Myths, baby. All of 'em. (Almost)

There's as much variance within extroversion as between an extrovert and an introvert.

Myth #1 - Extroverts like small talk.

The truth - Some do, some don't. Of the 8 Myers Briggs extrovert types, only 4 are into small talk. I have a friend who is a master of social chit chat. He delights in it. He can engage any random in a sparkling stream of nothing until, well, it's time to do something else! Good for him! Personally, I hate small talk. It's boring and we all know that there's nothing worse than being bored. I'd prefer to fast forward through the pleasantries and have a real discussion. Tell me what books you've been reading. Tell me what you've been thinking about!

Myth #2 - Extroverts don't think 'deep' thoughts.

The truth - Some do, some don't. Probably in much the same proportions as introverts. (Don't think an introvert is thinking deep just because he is quiet. His mind might be completely blank!) The difference is that extroverts will want to tell you about their 'deep' thoughts. And nothing makes deep thoughts seem not-so-deep, as saying them out loud. Try it! When you think you are thinking something 'deep', verbalise it. Record it on your phone and play it back to yourself the next day.

Myth #3 - Extroverts are the life of the party.

The truth - They can be. Not all will want to be. Some will try to be the life of the party and be the death of it instead. But without extroverts, there's probably not much of a party to start with so this myth is probably more than a myth.

Myth #4 - Extroverts aren't interested in time by themselves.

The truth - Some are, some aren't! Me, I need it and love it more than my introverted husband - but I take my cave time in places where I can see others (but they need to be strangers who won't talk to me!) and where there is a bit of noise and motion.

Okay misunderstood extroverts. What other myths can we bust?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

kids talks on love

I'm helping out with kids talks in church this term.

The grown ups are looking at 1 Corinthians (up to the 2nd half) so we thought the kids could learn about love, which will kind of work in pretty well. We'll get up to the love is patient, love is kind bit around the same time they hit chapter 13.

But the framework we're taking isn't based around 1 Cor 13. It's based around 1 John 3:16. This is how we know what love is - Jesus Christ lay down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another.

For the first few weeks we're looking at God's love for us. After that, how we lay down our lives for one another. In the second bit we'll get to 1 Cor 13:4 etc. We lay down our lives by being patient, kind, not self seeking etc.

For the first 4 weeks our stories will be told using our puppet Lenny Cool.

Week 1 - Introduction. Jesus loves us. [Song - Jesus Loves Me This I Know]

Week 2 - Jesus doesn't love me because I'm good. [Song - He Overflows With Love.]

Week 3 - Jesus shows what love is by laying down his life for me. [Song - So Great Is Jesus' Love]

Week 4 - We copy Jesus and lay down our lives for one another. [Song - So Great Is Jesus' Love]

We've got heaps of ESL kids and so are trying to keep the talks really simple. Our kids feel like it's preschool stuff compared to what they've had before, but that's okay, it's not about them.

I thought I'd post up the talks in case anyone's interested. I know what it's like on a Saturday night to be cruising around the internet looking for inspiration... [Click here for talks 1 and 2. I've not written 3 and 4 yet!]

thoughts on organising your work?


Monday, April 22, 2013

Praying doubt

I spent a couple of hours today thinking about the issue of gay marriage and how we should pray about it. >95% of the time I'm absolutely convinced that God is against homosexuality. It's not what he intended for humanity and promoting it as a good option will be really bad for society. But there are other times when I doubt. Maybe homosexuality isn't that big a deal. Is the bible really that against it? It's hardly a major theme...

So today I wrote two prayers (posted below). I wrote the second one first (the one for me 95% of the time!) but as I was writing it a nagging voice in my head kept asking me what I should pray when I'm doubting. So I wrote another prayer for me on my doubting days.

A couple of people have commented on it - expressing some unease. I used corporate language (us, we etc). Was this prayer intended for church use? (Not particularly - I just used that form to make it match the other one.) The prayer doesn't seem to say one way or another if gay marriage is right. If it is for corporate use, shouldn't we be more definite about what the bible does say?

These prayers are for myself, but I'm interested in working up a prayer that could be used in church. I'd like to include something in it for the doubters. Any ideas?

Two prayers about gay marriage

Dear Father

Many of us are troubled by the so called ‘marriage equality’ debate. We're confused about what we should think. It seems right that people should be able to marry whoever they like. Do you really forbid it? Father please help us to look carefully at your word. Give us the honesty to read what it actually says and the courage to obey it - whatever it might say. Please make us people who desire you ahead of all other things. Please help us to live for you so that Jesus may be honoured in all the world.



Many of us are troubled by the so called ‘marriage equality’ debate. We’re convinced that homosexual marriage isn’t your will and we can only imagine bad consequences for our society if it's allowed. As we see our world march further away from you, some of us feel threatened, some are frightened, and some are confused. Please help us not to be anxious. Let us be confident that Jesus is king and know that you are in control of all things.

Please guide us as we participate in the debate. Give us courage to speak when when we ought to speak and wisdom to know when we should stay quiet. Give us a good understanding of the issues and let us speak with compassion and graciousness, clarity and winsomeness. Father, it’s in our nature to be proud and self-righteous. Please dig this out of us. Make us always remember our own sin and be eager to speak about Jesus and the forgiveness he offers us.

Father, please be merciful to our world. Spare us from the worst consequences of our disobedience. Please provide stable, loving homes where children can grow up happy and secure. Please help men and women in the next generations to avoid actions that will cause them long term harm. Give us, your people, hearts that want to obey you and the self control we need to follow through on our convictions. We ask that in whatever the future holds, we will continue to preach your gospel with power and conviction so that Jesus’ name is honoured in all the world.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

sign #13 that you might be a narcissistic pastor

13. You brag about your smokin' hot wife.

You do this to:
a.) show other men that you are better than them because you scored a more attractive woman.
b.) indicate to other men that you are having more/better/kinkier sex than they are (even if they don't find your wife all that hot) so they should respect and envy you.
c.) remind your wife what she owes you. She exists for you. She better deliver.
d.) make every other woman in the room wonder (even for a moment) if greater sexual fulfilment could  be found in your arms...

Signs 1-12 here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

rock choir

I've got the go ahead to run a boys rock choir for year 7s. I talked it up at school yesterday and have heaps of boys keen. Now I just have to make it work... I want to start with an achievable song that's charted well (probably top 10) in the last two years. It needs to have a melody, uncrass lyrics and work with an unplugged sound.

I had thought of this, but would need a girl.


my shoulders hurt

Andrew and I did swimming squad training this morning. 1.5 hours. 3km. I want to play piano, but holding my arms up is awfully hard...

Saving Eutychus - Review

I’ve just finished reading Phil Campbell and Gary Millar’s book Saving Eutychus. It’s an excellent book. Easy to read, engaging, and more useful than any book on preaching I’ve encountered before. I think it should be compulsory reading for, well, everyone.

The great strength of this book is that it’s realistic about the fact that most preachers aren’t naturally all that great. The default is to be boring. It’s hard to find the big idea of a passage. Then it’s hard to craft a sermon around that big idea. It’s hard to maintain a clear chain of logic. It’s hard to script your talk so that it sounds like normal spoken language rather than an essay. It’s hard to deliver a talk in an energetic and engaging way. And it’s hard to move people’s hearts. Gary and Phil admit that for them, preaching well is an ongoing struggle. They give other preachers permission to admit that their own current efforts might not be all that successful. And they show them how to improve.

Here are 5 thoughts I’ve had after finishing this book.

  1. The preaching skills taught in Saving Eutychus are equally applicable to giving good kids talk. A strong big idea that captures what the passage is saying. Logical progression. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Stories told in present tense. Varying pitch, pacing and volume to give ‘zing’ to the delivery... I’ll certainly be passing this book around to those involved in kids ministry.  Similarly to youth leaders and bible study group leaders and ...
  2. I think women should be reading this book. Even if you only preach once a year, show kindness to your audiences and read this book.  A lot of us have trouble assessing our own scripts. Saving Eutychus gives a really useful talk analysis sheet. We should use it ourselves and then get friends to use it on our talks before we inflict them on crowds.
  3. As a regular online sermon listener, I appreciated the warnings about being self indulgent and preaching your own ideas rather than what the passage is actually saying.
  4. I like Phil and Gary’s line that if your congregation isn’t with you when you preach (because they are sleeping or counting the bricks) then it’s your preaching that’s at fault. No point blaming the congregation. It is hard to listen to boring stuff. Being a woman I usually give talks at craft evenings or events when the preaching isn’t the draw. It’s no use for me to feel cross if the women are more interested in their gingerbread house than the bible. My talk needs to distract them from their gingerbread house!
  5. The magic of this book is that Phil and Gary manage to confront the preacher with his/her preaching inadequacies in a way that isn’t disabling. The reader isn’t confronted by a Big Preacher Man With His Stuff Together telling everyone else how to be as grand as him. It’s not like that.    Phil and Gary give practical tools that will make anyone a better preacher. The skills in this book will take many ministers from ‘not good enough’ to ‘good enough’, and many more from ‘good enough’ to ‘good’.
This book will be released in Australia really soon. We'll be buying 10 copies and giving them to everyone we know.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I'm writing a talk - help?

Talks to women need to conclude with a touching story about someone who has lived out the application point. Don't ask me why. It's just the genre.

I'm writing a talk about Mary and Martha (Luke 10) for a women's craft day next weekend. I've basically finished it but I'm all out of touching stories. I got nothing. The cupboards are bare.

Maybe you have one to spare?

Here's what I'm after: a story about a woman who is a modern day Mary - someone who puts listening to Jesus as her number one priority. Even better if she has to defy social norms to do it.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Do people listen to online sermons because their pastor's preaching sucks?

Stuart thinks so (see comment on Al's blog)

So I think it's right to make the effort each week to listen humbly (and to yearn/pray/work for a day when it's not such an effort) [to their pastor's preaching]. But I'm not convinced that all the blame lies with the listeners rather than the speakers (pace Christopher Ash) [for listening to big guys online].

So I hope that at some stage we can also have honest discussions about the quality of preaching in Australian evangelicalism — not just about our intention or our trying hard to deliver good sermons, but whether we actually achieve it. Sure, preaching elsewhere in the world has its problems (e.g. some preaching I've heard outside Australia has made only passing reference to the Bible). These are serious problems. But we're not responsible for those. I'd love for us to admit that we've got our own serious problems that we are responsible for. (That is, if my assessment's right. I'd be delighted to be shown that it's not!)

I'm not sure I agree. A few points.

1. Yes. Many sermons suck. Many preachers habitually write and deliver very poor sermons. The exegesis is not insightful or even thorough. The writing is illogical and wandery. The language is dull dull dull. The application is predictable and the overall effect is sleep inducing. 

2. Most pastors don't naturally have the personality to hold a congregation's attention for any length of time. With careful training, experience and continued hard hard hard work, many can learn to do it anyway. (I'm currently reading this book which I think should be required reading for everyone who ever stands up in a pulpit.) Some will always struggle.

3. Most of the big guy online preachers that the masses are drawn to are just natural communicators and inspirers. They could have been stand up comics or company directors or cult leaders or military dictators. They love the limelight. The come alive on stage. Some of them teach the bible as well. Bully for them, but don't imagine that is normal in any way.

4. I suspect a lot of people listen to online sermons for a buzz. You want something to shake you out of your mid-life christian stupor. You want to recreate some definitive christian experience from your past - maybe a uni camp or something. There's nothing wrong with this, but the harder gig is obedience when there's no buzz.

5. I suspect a lot of people just listen to sermons because they like noise. It's not about any inadequacy in church preaching, it's just the christian equivalent to listening to the radio. I'm an extravert. I like to hear voices around me and hearing John Piper is more edifying than SeaFM. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Profile of a narcissistic Christian leader

Thoughts on this?
"A narcissistic leader is a leader that perceive him or herself as central to a group or organization and directs or shapes the organization, often unconsciously, using its people and functions to meet personal ego/life/identity needs.  A narcissistic Christian leader (NCL) uses people and organizations in the same way– to fulfill their own emotional, relational, significance, and status needs– all wrapped up in the supreme purposes of God or under banners of Christian ministry or service to others.
It may look like what I do is for the greater good and I may even give God the glory, but at the end of the day, it’s all about me, my ministry, my good intentions, my legacy, my sphere of influence, my work for the kingdom, my life before God, and more often than not, my career." [worth reading the whole thing]

It is so hard not to be like that! 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Flying home this afternoon.

We've had an excellent 12 days back in the South East Corner. We've spent most of our time at my parents house, which I  find lovely and relaxing. We've seen old friends. The kids have had sleep overs. I've slept in the day time... It was probably too soon to be gone for this long. Cairns seems like a dream.

But now it's time to go home. There's work to be done. Heaps and heaps of it.


But it will be nice to see Andrew again. And the dog.

12 signs that you might be a narcissistic pastor

1. You name drop. A lot. Everyone knows that your real friends are other celebrities. And maybe you have the president or mayor on speed dial too.

2. You know you are more important than other pastors. You read church history and think you are up there with Luther, Whitfield and Wesley. You read the bible and think you are like an apostle. If only everyone else would realise it!

3. You think you don't need the same training as everyone else. Heck! You should be teaching college courses, not sitting in them!

4. You think your church by-laws should be re-written so that you can do whatever you want to do.

5. You know that the only reason why your church is successful is because you are in charge. 

6. You don't do menial tasks. Ever. (Unless you are about to preach a sermon on humility and want to use your own humility as an example.)

7. You get (rightly!) angry when other people disagree with you.

8. You pay close attention to your appearance.

9. You talk (brag) quite a lot about the growth of your church.

10. You know that you could do everything your congregation members / staff do as well, if not better than them.

11. Your extensive reading has made you knowledgable in most areas. You understand a lot about a lot of things.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The problem with celebrity preachers....

... is that they are prone to the same problems as any other celebrities:

1. Grandiosity of imagining that they are experts in things way outside their fields. Watch this clip of Tom Cruise speaking about how he understands the history of psychiatry. He's making huge claims about his knowledge. Celebrity preachers can do the same (though, thankfully, not to this extent!) MD, for example, is an expert in household management, children's nutrition, natural heath stuff, raising children, sex, personal finance and wealth creation, leadership,  Australian culture, Sydney anglicanism, the UK church scene, UK culture, theological education...

2. Thinking that they are truly exceptional and so believing they are entitled to special treatment from others - no criticism etc. This can make them awful to work with.

3. Obsession with with self - notice how much a celebrity/celebrity preacher talks about themselves. In anyone else we would think it obscene.

Humility is hard for us all. For the celebrity it's 100x harder.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

shopkeeping vs shepherding

Anyone got any thoughts on this? From here.

“American pastors are abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate. They are not leaving their churches and getting other jobs. Congregations still pay their salaries. Their names remain on the church stationary and they continue to appear in pulpits on Sundays. But they are abandoning their posts, their calling. They have gone whoring after other gods. What they do with their time under the guise of pastoral ministry hasn’t the remotest connection with what the church’s pastors have done for most of twenty centuries.

A few of us are angry about it. We are angry because we have been deserted…. It is bitterly disappointing to enter a room full of people whom you have every reason to expect share the quest and commitments of pastoral work and find within ten minutes that they most definitely do not. They talk of images and statistics. They drop names. They discuss influence and status. Matters of God and the soul and Scripture are not grist for their mills.

The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeeper’s concerns–how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money.

Some of them are very good shopkeepers. They attract a lot of customers, pull in great sums of money, develop splendid reputations. Yet it is still shopkeeping; religious shopkeeping, to be sure, but shopkeeping all the same. The marketing strategies of the fast-food franchise occupy the waking minds of these entrepreneurs; while asleep they dream of the kind of success that will get the attention of journalists.

The biblical fact is that there are no successful churches. There are, instead, communities of sinners, gathered before God week after week in towns and villages all over the world. The Holy Spirit gathers them and does his work in them. In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given a designated responsibility in the community. The pastor’s responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. It is this responsibility that is being abandoned in spades.”

-Eugene Peterson

Monday, April 8, 2013


This show comes onto SBS in a couple of weeks. It is meant to be brilliant.

Prayer for the Christian at work

Father God,

In all that I do today, strengthen me to conduct myself in a manner worthy of you. May I be thankful for all of your blessings, diligent and focussed in my work, respectful of those over me and considerate of those under me.  

If I am overwhelmed by pressing demands, give me a calm heart that remembers your sovereignty. If I am criticised, let me be neither crushed nor angered. If I am treated unjustly, let me reply with kindness. If I am belittled or bullied, let me forgive as Jesus has forgiven me. If I receive praise and admiration, let it slide off me as I remember that I am like the grass of the field, here today and gone tomorrow. 

Guard my lips from gossip, my heart from bitterness, my hands from idleness and my mind from distraction. Give me grace that in all I do I will follow my Lord Jesus Christ.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

davenport park

Today we buried my grandmother's ashes under an orange tree in a park near where she grew up. Nenor died a year ago. I've been given all of the family history stuff - various birth, marriage and death certificates, personal letters, family bible, newspaper articles of birth and death notices, family member's achievements etc. I also have some poems that Nenor's father wrote for her after she was married. He was apparently a quiet man and seems to have been very fond his daughter. He died when my father was little.

I am wearing Nenor's pearl necklace, her pearl ring and her gold watch. I also have her wedding ring and various things given to my grandfather (who I never knew) - ambulance medals, scouting badges etc. These things are not really of any value to anyone, but they make my grandfather real to me.

Mum and Dad's house is over-full of crockery and crystal and other things from Nenor's place. Cleaning out someone's house after they've gone makes you realise how much stuff we accumulate. None of us need her stuff because we all have our own useless stuff that we've accumulated. I think there should be some system whereby we aren't allowed to buy new things before visiting an elderly relative and seeing if they have anything they'd like to give away.