Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Adrenaline junkie. Me?

Ha! No. I'm not! I took the test and I passed (kind of).

So there!

Calm down, heart!

Be gone, weekly mild depression!

Hush! Voices who tell me to switch off my computer and sleep more!

I'm good. The ten question test tells me so!

Q&A pain and Sydney's new Archbishop

I watched some of Q&A last night. It was painful. Fred Nile was up against atheist astrophysicist Laurence Krause, Amanda Vanstone and Susan Ryan with only openly gay bishop Gene Robinson to help him. It was awful. Fred did his best and tried to keep Jesus on the agenda, but he was way out of his league.

It made me think. Of course I'm not an Anglican and I'm 3000km from Sydney, but it is really important that Sydney gets a good Archbishop who is not out of his league in that context.

Here's what I think we need.

1. A Christian who loves talking about Jesus.
2. A really clever Christian who loves talking about Jesus.
3. A really clever Christian who has a deep and broad understanding of Christian theology and ethics and who loves talking about Jesus.
4. A really clever Christian who is humble and gracious and who has a deep and broad understanding of Christian theology and ethics and who loves talking about Jesus.
5. A really clever Christian who doesn't present as a fundamentalist, who is humble and gracious and who has a deep and broad understanding of Christian theology and ethics and who loves talking about Jesus.

Please God?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Secular gospel singing

On Friday night, my friend Esther and I went to a gospel singing workshop run by Tony Backhouse. It was great. There were 100 of us and we basically just stood around and sang in 4 part harmonies for 2 hours. It was a buzz. Tony taught us a couple of simple African American Songs (we did this arrangement of This Heart Of Mine.) Then we had a free improvisation session where we had to close our eyes, listen to eachother and improvise on a repeated (spiritual sounding) line. (I think we would have sung that line for 10 or 15 minutes.) Then we learned a South American 'Hallelujah' song.

It was inspiring and moving and good fun. Everyone got really into it. It was just like being in a pentecostal church. But with one difference. No one claimed to believe a word of what they were singing. Everyone sung 'The Lord done change this heart of mine!' with passion and conviction, but possibly only Esther and I believed it.

It made us reflect on a few things.

1. Group singing is a buzz. It's a great gift from God. It gets the endorphins pumping. It's an emotional rush. It bonds a group of people together.

2. A good leader gives everyone confidence to sing their hearts out. But it's not just about singing skill - it's about leadership. You need to draw everyone in, teach them, make them feel secure and encourage them with your voice and body language. We need to pray for people who can do that in church.

3. Singing is not a particularly christian thing. Anyone can have a 'spiritual' moment while singing. Except it's not a 'spiritual' moment. It's a natural thing.

4. Passionate singing in church isn't necessarily a sign of any great spirituality. If a group of non church people can sing gospel sings like we heard the other night, singing well is clearly not about faith.

5. It's easier to get into a song when you sing it 20 or 25 times in a row.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Things that get my goat #243

Admitting to God (in prayers at church) that "we are not perfect."

"Sorry God, I didn't quite reach the 100% you desire. I'm sitting on a 98 average."

Um. No.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Super Carrot Anthem

I’m super carrot
I am coming
I can see from far away

I’m super carrot
I know you need me
I will come and save the day

Watch me fly, my rockets blazing
Watch me zoom up to the stars
See, I circle all the planets
Land again on Mars

Monday, May 20, 2013

Yay Yay Yay!

I went and spoke to the Art HOD this morning.

A misunderstanding.

They wanted Joel very much but thought he wanted music more than art.

Joel has a place at x High School in 2014 in their specialist art program! We are thankful to God. He has had a very upset year so far. Much grief over leaving Brisbane and friends and family. Much anxiety. This program was the one thing Cairns had that our local high schools in Brisbane didn't.

Thanks for your prayers.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


I loved it. A thoroughly enjoyable weekend.

My favourite two acts got first and second!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Syd Ang Archbishop Election

I know that Cairns is a long way from Sydney and that I'm a communion card carrying Presbyterian, but I'm really interested in the Sydney Anglicans' Archbishop elections. A few reasons.

1. I have so enjoyed hearing gospel centred, sensible Christian comments on current events by the out going Archbishop, Peter Jensen. It makes it easier to be a Christian when there's a voice in the media saying good stuff. I can watch Q and A with my mum and say, "I like what he said. What do you think?" Not so much when the Christian on telly is a right wing raving fundy or a wishy washy liberal or a confused Catholic. Even though I'm not from Sydney or an Anglican, I've felt that the Sydney Anglican Archbishop has spoken for me more than anyone else. So I'm interested in who the next one will be.

2. Andrew and I went to Moore College. We feel indebted to and connected with the Sydney Anglicans even though we've not lived there for 11 years. We know people, we read stuff, we care what happens.

3. I find politics of any sort interesting. (I loved the US election last year! I'm hoping our federal one this year is good (not looking great so far.)) Church politics are interesting too. Both of the guys who are nominated are good candidates. They are gospel loving men with various strengths and weaknesses. I'm fascinated by the non-campaigns that are happening. I have my opinions.

Anyway, here's a prayer.

Sovereign Lord,

As we talk about this election and as the Synod votes, please make our greatest desire not that 'our man' will be elected, but that your Kingdom will advance. Please provide Sydney with an Archbishop who is passionate for the cause of the gospel, who loves you and who is skilled to lead the diocese in proclaiming your word to the world, compelling the lost to seek you, and your people to love and serve you whole heartedly. We are convinced that [candidate x] is the best person for the job but we know that you see what we can’t see. In the coming weeks please guide the process so that the right person is elected. As we speak for our candidate, guard our lips from lies, half truths and slander. Let those who vote see the strengths and weaknesses of both candidates clearly. Help them cast their votes, not on party lines, but on thoughtful and prayerful consideration. Please equip whichever candidate is elected, so that your church is strengthened and more people come to honour the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,


Friday, May 17, 2013

Good news, bad news

Good news. Joel got into the high school that he applied for.

Bad news. He got in on music entry rather than art entry.

Joel is disappointed. Music entry = no art. Art entry = Art + extra curricula music.

The music department is pretty powerful in this school and they want him (the teachers told me that - he has a nice tone on his bass clarinet). I need to talk to the art teachers and see if they wanted him but got steamrolled by the music dept (quite possible).

This comes at the end of a really tough week. Prayers appreciated.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Let the NAPLAN marking begin!

“For in Calormen, story-telling (whether the stories are true or made up) is a thing you're taught, just as English boys and girls are taught essay-writing. The difference is that people want to hear the stories, whereas I never heard of anyone who wanted to read the essays.”

C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

Monday, May 13, 2013


... don't write a bio of yourself describing yourself as a 'homeschooling mother' (unless the article is about homeschooling or parenting or education.)

If you have published an article about gardening or electrical circuits or geriatric health we don't need to know that you homeschool your kids. It's irrelevant. I can't think of any good reason why you would put it in.

[end rant.]

the top 5%, concerns and responsibility

I enjoyed Maca's review of Leading On Empty - a book about pastoral burnout. I'm looking forward to reading it. 

A couple of thing stood out as requiring some thought.

1. The Top 5%

Maca says:

[The author] pushes us to identify the top 5% of life. Cordeiro argues that 85% of what we do, anyone can do. These are the things that don’t require any expertise, and many of them can be easily delegated. 10% of what we do, someone with some training should be able to accomplish. But 5% of what I do, only I can do. This is the most important 5% for me. This 5% will determine the effectiveness of the other 95%. Now we could argue the figures, but the overall point stands. We need to work out what our 5% is, and let this get first priority.

I like this. Wondering if it relates to people other than ministers. What do I do that could be delegated to others. What is my top 5%?

But if everyone had this as a rule and prioritised their top 5%, would dog jobs ever get done? There are some tasks involved in running a church that everyone finds tedious. Do we just push these tasks further down the chain of command? 

2. Concern vs Responsibility

A major issue was recognising the difference between a concern and a personal responsibilityConcerns are things we should pray about, and then leave them with God. If we treat them as responsibilities we end up trying to carry the world on our shoulders. Responsibilities are the things that only I can accomplish. They cannot be delegated, ignored, or dumped off onto someone else.

This is helpful, but there are some things that many are 'concerned' about, but no one takes responsibility for. I'm concerned that a whole lot of women in our church aren't getting the pastoral care and bible teaching that they need. How do I know if this is my responsibility? My plate is pretty full at the moment but it could be emptier if I ditched some other things (perhaps like reading and thinking time which I value highly). I guess with this one I can pray about and wait and see.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Wait... a name change...

Now it's Palmer United Party.

Clive's name makes this political party even more marketable to the Australian population.

Is Palmer so delusional as to think he has a chance in the next election, or as Anthony suggested, is this just one big tax evasion?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

United Australia Party

Wow! The UAP! With quality people like Peter Slipper on board, it's hard to imagine that this party won't be a massive force for the good of our country!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Singing assessment?

I had an interesting chat with someone yesterday about whether it's fair to mark kids on their singing ability. It was in the context of year 1 report writing.

The arguments against it were:
1. Not everyone can sing, and
2. Kids might be too shy/nervous to sing in front of the class for assessment.

In my prep and year 1 classes, I keep a close check on who is singing in tune in group and solo situations. It is certainly part of my assessment of the kids because:

1. In tune singing is a learned skill. (I think this is what many people don't understand.) I'm teaching it in much the same way that classroom teachers teach kids maths. I start at the beginning and break it down. Certainly some kids are more natural than others, but all can (should!) learn. I will assess what I am teaching to monitor how well the kids are learning.
2. Kids have to stand up and speak in front of their classmates from the start for English assessment. If they get used to singing in front of others as well when they are little, it won't be such an issue later on. I want singing to be normal. This week I had 150 preps sing by themselves in front of their classes. Only 2 of them wanted to just sing softly into my ear. We shouldn't project our hangups onto kids. (I may have had stickers to use as added incentive!)

At this stage of the year, I'm basically dividing kids into 3 groups:

A = Child basically sings in tune
B = Child shows understanding of pitch differentiation (e.g. So is higher than Mi) but singing is not always in tune.
C = Child struggles to differentiate pitches a lot of the time (C- kids sing with a speaking voice)

Of the 120ish prep kids I listened to this week, I had 33 singing somewhere in category A, 54 in category B, and 35 in category C. I noted that 6 kids may have underachieved because of nerves.

Thoughts from parents, other music teachers...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Viola one year update

I've been playing my viola for a year now. I had the idea of learning a new instrument when Andrew and I first started thinking about moving to Cairns. It was kind of my happy thought. My initial plan was to start learning when we moved up here. Something to help fill in the long empty days. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to start learning straight away. A friend offered me her viola, I bought a bow and started learning just after Easter last year.

Here are a few observations about being an adult viola student.

1. String instruments are really technical. Before I had any lessons, I taught myself to play a few songs. I shouldn't have. It took the first month of lessons to undo my mistakes. I was holding the bow completely wrongly and I'm not sure I was doing anything right with my left hand. Tamsyn, my fabulous Brisbane teacher, worked very hard on my bow hold and by the time I arrived in Cairns it was  reasonably 'secure'. That was after 9 months! My new teacher spent the first three months of this year getting my left hand working decently - and it's not like I didn't do any left hand stuff in Brisbane! So basically I've spent a whole year learning to hold the instrument. If I had known there was so much to even the basics, I'm not sure I'd have been brave enough to start. But I'm glad I did.

2. My progress has been slower than I imagined it would be (I'll be doing a grade one exam mid year) but I've had to learn to trust the teacher with this. She is all for not cutting corners. There's no value in rushing ahead and playing difficult pieces badly. But I am progressing and while I'm only doing a grade one exam, I'm sounding much better than I imagined I would.

3. As an adult learner I know how to work hard. Intrinsic motivation has come with age. I know that the more I practice, the better I will play.

4. The viola is a big and heavy instrument. And mine is only 15.5 inches - medium sized, as violas go! My left hand knuckles feel different now. They can stretch quite a bit further a part and ache a little. If I was a kid, I think it would hurt less.

5. The alto clef is still a dog. If I was younger, I think I would have internalised it better. I can play it fine, but don't ask me to name the notes. I just know that a note on the middle line means 3 fingers down on the g string.

6. I'm really glad that I spent a lot of money on my viola and bow. Hearing it's rich dark tone is such a motivation. If it was a flute or clarinet, a beginner model would have been fine. But with string instruments, quality really matters - especially for adults. I love my viola. I love my bow. When I decided to learn, I had no idea how much more expensive violas were than violins. I'm glad I didn't!

7. I love technical exercises because they work! Throw some sevcik at me! I don't care how boring it is - it's like eating vegetables. I know that it's good.

8. Sometimes I question why I'm learning viola. Is it selfish? Is it a waste of money? I can already play other instruments. Should I be doing something for other people instead? Clearly, I'm not going to make a career out of viola playing... Then I decide that learning music because I want to learn music is a good thing. My kids probably won't make a career out of their instruments either, but I insist that they play because I know that it's good. It's fun. It's satisfying. It brings joy. Not everything needs to have a 'purpose'. (But I am looking forward to being good enough to play in an orchestra and in church. Not too far away, I hope!)

9. String players need to be a lot more perfectionistic than brass / woodwind players. Every little thing makes a difference. I'm a big picture person but I'm learning about details. I think this is good for me.

10. I love learning viola. I'm so glad I started. I'm thankful for my teachers (Tamsyn and Amy) who are brilliant players and so motivating.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Hammer of God

I've just finished reading Bo Giertz' novel The Hammer of God: A novel about the cure of souls.

Set in Sweden in the early 1800s, the late 1800s and the 1930s, The Hammer of God is the story of how three Lutheran pastors each learn to rely on Jesus. Each is converted twice. The first conversion is an awakening from various forms of liberalism to the law, whereby they preach of the necessity of obedience. Their congregations experience mini-revivals and people embrace temperance and upright living. But after a while it's evident that something is lacking. Next the pastors experience an awakening to grace. Their revivals turn a corner in maturity, the pastors rediscover the liturgy and historic prayers of the church, stop talking about themselves so much and are actually able to help people.

It's a great book. You should read it. Here are a few thoughts.

1. This book is a tract. It's a novel, but the author's aim couldn't be clearer. He's not writing this primarily to tell us a story. He's writing it to make us understand that we are saved by grace and not works.  However....

2. This book is thoroughly engaging. The characters feel real - particularly Torvik, the third pastor, who many scholars say is modelled on Giertz himself. At the beginning of his story he is fairly unbearable- awkward, a bit pompous and taken with liberal theology. He mellows through his conversions, and you start to like him, though tend to agree with his wife who

"often thought that her husband was a bit theatrical with his violent way of making problems out of everything and his melancholy disposition to wrestle with the windmills."

3. This book puts fire in the belly. I was moved and motivated to pray and speak and step up in obedience.

One further thing. This book has made me wonder more (I was wondering already) if we set ourselves up to fail at prayer by disregarding the disciplines of previous generations and not using prayer books or pre-written formulas etc. On looking through a prayer book his friend left lying around for him to find,  Torvik (the third pastor) concluded:

Was not this the way he must go, if he should get away from this everlasting fluttering between vague feelings and hopeless inertia? If he were faithful in its use, such a framework of intercession would at least keep his prayer life from running dry, as it now so threatened to do.

He thought about it as he climbed the stairs. Was it not a fixed form, a settled pattern, that his spiritual life needed? Everything tonight had preached to him about the significance of the old heritage, about which the external Word and sound doctrine, which were not just a weapon with which orthodox fanatics fought one another, but rather a medicine for tortured souls and an antidote for one's own egoistic inventions. On top of it all, this little prayer book now came with its demand for a self-evident faithfulness and firmness also in prayer.


Anyone read The Hammer of God?

West Wing Fans...

Here's a new TV series for you.


It's Danish. It will take you a little while to get used to the subtitles, but you really should watch it.

Wednesday night. SBS.

Or online.

Got an hour now? Give it a go.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Do leaders need to be good followers?

Mikey puts some interesting thoughts out there. He concludes:

Some people have skills in collaboration, support, anticipation, reflective listening, humility and so on that make them amazingly gifted followers. And some have temperaments that PREFER following. They are not necessarily more spiritual or godly, they just like being behind the scenes.
Some people are great at reflecting, analysing, synthesising, clarifying: they may overthink things and overcomplicated things in a way that makes them indecisive or clumsy as leaders - and yet they maybe be BETTER at explaining how great leaders do what they do.
Some people might struggle with leading things on their own, or struggle managing a small team - and yet be extraordinary at leading a team of leaders - or providing an even higher level visionary leadership. We would miss out on their unique high-level leadership skill set, if we required them to rise up through the ranks.

In a way, there's nothing controversial here. Different people have different gifts. But I find where it ends concerning.

Leaders don’t necessarily need to be good followers - except in one way. To be Christian leaders they need to be good followers of Jesus. It sounds very pious to point this out but I think it needs to be said because (as I’ve said before) some of the personality traits and practices that we value in ‘high level visionary leaders’ are contrary to the gospel. There is a ruthlessness, an drive to succeed at all costs, a lack of concern for the little people, an arrogance that is closer to narcissistic personality disorder than it is to godliness. 

The fierce imagination of some 'visionary' type leaders makes them very uncomfortable in a 2IC position or in a small church. But being an uncomfortable 2IC or small church pastor does not mean you should have your own bigger gig. Churches and christian organisations are notorious for letting s*** rise to the top.

So while I mostly agree with what Mikey's saying, caution is needed. If someone feels he is capable of greatness and the size of his current church/staff team is holding him back... I'd be asking questions. But people with NPD interview very very well, so I'd want to speak to everyone they've ever worked with.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Top 10 Psalms

Ps 2

He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
“But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

Ps 19

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.

ps 22

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Far from my deliverance are the words of my  groaning.
O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer;
And by night, but I have no rest.
Yet You are holy,
O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
In You our fathers trusted;
They trusted and You delivered them.
To You they cried out and were delivered;
In You they trusted and were not [f]disappointed.

ps 32

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!
How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

ps 37

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.

ps 46

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.

ps 62

My soul waits in silence for God only;
From Him is my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.

ps 103

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

ps 131

Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too 
difficult for me.

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.

ps 137

How can we sing the Lord’s song
In a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
May my right hand forget her skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
If I do not remember you,
If I do not exalt Jerusalem
Above my chief joy.