Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

12 March 2015

The Radical Disciple by John Stott

Here's a wonderful book you might like to read.  The Radical Disciple is the last book written by John Stott.  At the end of this book he put down his pen and finished his writing ministry.  As such it has a similar feel to Paul's second letter to Timothy - full of wonderful and pastoral words but with the tenderness that comes with a final letter.

In The Radical Disciple Stott chose to wrote about some of the hallmarks you would hope to see in someone who is actively and intentionally seeking to grow in Christlikeness.  He has addressed eight issues that growing Christians ought to be thinking about.  These include:


It's a slightly random list but Stott himself says that this list isn't exhaustive.  The style shifts and changes from chapter to chapter - at times it reads like a short essay (don't be scared by the word "essay" though because it is very accessible writing) while at other times there are personal anecdotes, specially selected quotes from old favourites and extracts from sermons and talks.  In lots of ways it reads like a personal journal - and you get a real sense of what it must have been like to sit with him in his study and talk together about all the good stuff.

This book is a pure delight to read, filled with the words of a mature, wise, well thought through saint - instructive, pastoral and full of encouragement to strive for godliness without engendering guilt. 

The Radical Disciple would be a great birthday present book (I know this to be true because I received a copy of it for my birthday from a dear friend), a valuable volume for a church library and a fascinating read for a book club with so many great and relevant issues up for discussion.  John Stott has left us with an amazing and beautiful gift in this book.

06 March 2015

We always have a choice, all of us.

As she sank to her knees on the grass and sobbed, the memory of a conversation with Frank floated into her awareness. 
"But how?  How can you just get over these things, darling?" she had asked him.  "You've had so much strife but you're always happy.  How do you do it?"
"I choose to," he said.  "I can leave myself to rot in the past, spend my time hating people for what happened, like my father did, or I can forgive and forget."
"But that's not easy."
He smiled that Frank smile.  "Oh, but my treasure, it is so much less exhausting.  You only have to forgive once.  To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.  You have to keep remembering all the bad things...No," his voice became sober, "we always have a choice.  All of us."

From The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, chapter 35.

10 February 2015

For the fans of The Lego Movie

So I was continuing on with At Home by Bill Bryson yesterday, in a chapter on domestic architecture, when I came upon this paragraph...

Palladio's methods were based on rigorous adherence to rules, and were modeled on the precepts of Vitruvius, a Roman architect of the first century BC.  Vitruvius wasn't a particularly distinguished architect.  He was really more of a military engineer.  What made him valuable to history was the accidental fact that his writings survived - the only architectural work from classical antiquity to do so.  A lone copy of Vitruvius' text on architecture was found on a shelf at a monastery in Switzerland in 1415.  Vitruvius laid down exceedingly specific rules regarding proportions, orders, shapes, materials and anything else that could be quantified.  Formulas ruled everything in his world.  The amount of spacing between columns in a row, say, could never be left to instinct or feeling, but was dictated by strict formulas designed to confer an automatic and reliable harmony.  This could be dizzyingly particular.

From At Home by Bill Bryson, page 411 - 412.

No wonder Vitruvius was the master masterbuilder.

07 February 2015

Summer update - 2015

Getting in: on a summer update just in time.  Twenty one days until the change of season.

Had: a lovely summer including two weeks of a house sitting holiday close to the beach.  House sitting holidays are the best.  Ever thankful to our family members and friends who let us live in their houses at odd times in the year.  And while we were at the beach on Australia Day we saw a television team on the shore collecting footage for the evening news so #2 son got himself interviewed and had his five seconds of fame that evening. 

Saw: several movies during January.  Night at the Museum III - very, very good but quite poignant at the end given it was Robin Williams' last film.  Madagascar Penguins - crazy stuff.  Too much going on for me.  Or maybe I was just feeling tired that day.  Paper Planes - a great Australian kids' film.  Loved it.  And the last Hobbit installment - loved it.  Better than part two.  Some very moving moments between the characters.  Great acting. 
Four films...lots of maltesers.  Happy days.

Sent: #1 son off to high school after the holidays.  He is doing well.  It is lovely to see them growing up and thriving and getting all big and independent.  Such a gift and a blessing.

Thankful: to God for His loving faithfulness.  I feel like my prayers have been very small lately (not praying the big prayers at the moment at all) and yet God has answered all of my prayers in all of their smallness in more abundance than I could have ever imagined.  More so, He has answered the prayers I haven't prayed as yet but meant to get to at some stage.  So encouraged.  And ready to pray bigger again.

Feeling good: about a less structured year.  I have two days that are fairly full and three days that may be filled with relief teaching a bit later on in the year when the teachers are so not freshly out of school holidays.  And if not filled by teaching these days will be filled well and appropriately depending on what's on the TO DO list or whether I need to have a quiet one.  Even now I still find myself easily wearied.  Not quite recovered from last year as yet.  God in His kindness has given me some space to rest and also the space to live and respond a little more spontaneously this year.

Loving: the old Bible reading plan.  Behind already. (Could I have been distracted while on holidays just a tiny bit???)  But will catch up again.

Looking forward: to my Bible study/reading groups starting up again this coming week.  One group will be studying John.  Another is reading through the minor prophets in one-to-one Bible reading style.  And the group with lots of kids, distracted mothers and one or two enquiring about the Christian faith is going to have a go at a terrific new Matthias Media study called  You, Me and the Bible which looks like one-to-one Bible reading meets Two Ways to Live

Reading: At Home by Bill Bryson still.  I was trying to think of a word that sums up his writing style and finally it came to me.  Endearing.  That was two pages before I hit the chapter about rats in homes.  Now I am even more certifyably, scream-like-a-girl scared of them!  Rats aside, a brilliant brilliant book. 

Reserved: One Day by David Nicholls at the library.  The summer reading continues it seems.

Growing: my fringe out.  I'm sure you all wanted to know that.  I made that decision on a whim last week.  It was already getting annoyingly long and I think I will past the truly annoying stage in five to ten weeks at current rate of growth.  That's not that long...

Apologising: to landfill.  The great two house clear out of 2014 has seen me launch a pitiful assault on landfill.  More and more I am committed to the decluttering movement - have only what you need and what is beautiful.  Get rid of the extra.  And then don't replace it.  Fortunately I am not much of a shopper and while we are dealing with the volumes of stuff, we are paring down our own possessions as well.  Op shops have done well too but there has been so much that just had to be junked.

Becoming addicted: to Gumtree and another online buying and selling site.  Not that I am buying anything.  Just selling.  And it is going well.  Although I do have table that no-one seems interested in.

No: progress on the Philippians project or the crocheting project.  Did write some short letters to send with our Christmas letter - the ones that finally went out by snail mail.  I well and truly crossed over to the darkest part of the dark side at the end of last year.  No Christmas cards in the post.  Christmas letter written and EMAILED out on New Year's Eve.  Those that needed to be sent out via snail mail posted, I think, on 28th January.  And yet, despite all these things, the earth still seems to be turning.

Off: to watch the end of The Hundred Foot Journey newly out on DVD.  A beautifully filmed, intelligent, feel good movie.  It's gorgeous.  No maltesers.  Ah well.

04 February 2015

Summer reading

I got myself reading glasses two or three years ago and there has not been a day when I haven't been thankful for them.  It is truly miraculous to be able to read print so easily.  But clearly in the time I've had them I haven't read lots and lots.  How do I know?  Because this holidays I read a vast amount and the bridge of my nose where my glasses sit is slightly tender.  But so worth it.  It has been a joyous time with so many good books.
This summer's reading commenced with The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.  I have declared this to be the best novel of 2015, which is a big call so early into the year. Harold receives a letter from Queenie, a friend and work colleague from many years previous, letting him know she is dying and is thankful for his many kindnesses shown to her all those years ago.  In shock, he pens a quick letter back and sets off to post it.  When he reaches the mail box, deep in thought and memory, he isn't quite ready to let his letter go and head home so he decides to walk to the next letter box, and then the next and then the next...and ultimately he walks the entire length of England from south to north, to deliver the letter in person.  But does he make it in time?  This is a tale about a journey, reflection, atonement, transitions, moving on. 
I read The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, the companion volume to Harold's story, straight after.  This is Queenie's story, told while Harold is making his pilgrimage.  The benefit of reading them back to back is to see the extremely cleverly crafted parallel journey they take.  The downside is that this story is grittier and it takes away some of the innocence of its companion volume...although the truly innocent characters remain innocent in both.  I am a sucker for books that tell the same story from different points of view but given my time again I would probably give myself six months gap between volumes.
Speaking of telling the same story from different points of view, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is the story of Sarah, a white American, and Handful, her black African slave given to Sarah on her 11th birthday.  Both are of similar age.  The story commences in the early 1800s - a time when intelligence in women and racial differences were not honoured.  (That is putting it positively...)  The story spans their lives, told in the first person alternating chapter by chapter between Sarah and Handful, with some delightful twists and surprises for the reader especially towards the end.  It doesn't make for easy reading at times - it is difficult subject matter - but Sue Monk Kidd has an astonishingly large and elegant vocabulary and her turn of phrase time and again was breathtaking - and it was her beautiful command of the English language that kept me turning the pages especially in the more torrid sections.   Very worthwhile reading.

And then Lila.  For anyone else who loves reading the same story from a different point of view and loves a novel by Marilynne Robinson, this one ticks all the boxes and more.  Companion volume to Gilead and Home, it felt like a sad book at times but at the same time full of hope, light and blessing too. A tale of transitions from harsh life to gentle life.
Us reads like a cheery, chatty blog with short, cheery chapters.   Douglas (54) is married to Connie and they have one son named Albie (18).  Douglas and Connie plan to take Albie on a Grand Tour of Europe to see all the great works of art before he heads off to university.  It ends up being a grand tour in which Douglas seeks to save his marriage and reconnect with his increasingly distant son.  If you love art and Europe this is a fun read.  I admit that it was losing me at Amsterdam - which is the cleverness of the writing because Nicholls captures the hallmark elements of each location with each change of scenery - and I only held on because Italy (ah, bell'Italia) was approaching.  But I found my happy place in Italy and the novel finished well.  It was fun.  I would like to get One Day from the library and have a read some time soon.
Speaking of wanting to read more of a particular author, I haven't read any Bill Bryson before but it won't be too long before I put his book Down Under (and maybe even some others by him) on reserve at the library.  At Home.  This is not a novel.  It's a history book.  And it's fantastic.  I haven't finished it yet.  Bryson takes the reader on a tour of his home - a rectory in Engand - room by room, recounting the history of domestic life.  Things like why we even have rooms - a relatively recent thing historically speaking - for starters.  Things like why we have salt and pepper on our tables and not some other spice, why forks have four tines, a history of lighting and electricity in houses.  Windows.  How did houses come to have windows?  Sounds a bit dry?  I do it no justice.  This books is a laugh out loud (and I generally laugh on the inside when I am reading but not with this one) and fascinating page turner.  The best I can say is that of the eight books I read this summer, this is one of three that I own - not reading this from the library - and it is one I am very pleased to be able to keep on my shelf and share with my friends.

I stopped At Home for a few days because my request at the library for The Rosie Effect, the sequel to The Rosie Project, came up.  (And At Home is a book you can comfortably pick up and put down without losing the momentum.)  The Rosie Project is a fun read and so is this - good for holidays  although you know how sequels are often never quite as good...  Compared with The Rosie Project the plot in this one is busy, which is structurally right given the move from single man living and working in Australia to married man living and working in New York.  Mix Apserger Syndrome (fairly high end) into the equation and you get the idea.  The book captures the changes perfectly.  Chaotic at times but it all came together in a very satisfying way in the end.

At one stage I was in between books, waiting for The Rosie Effect to come up on reserve at the library and for At Home to arrive in the mail, so I pulled The Happiest Refugee off the shelf where we were staying.  Ahn Do is a Vietnamese refugee, family man and actor/comedian/author.  The Happiest Refugee shows life as a refugee (what life was like before escaping, the horrible, horrible escape and what life is like in a new country with few rights and no resources) in a light way.  Enough to get a very clear sense of what it is like to be a refugee without leaving the reader having nightmares - enough to engender empathy and response without being paralysed by the horror and with plenty to entertain along the way.  And Ahn Do shows gratitude in action.  Good work Ahn Do.  He also has a series of kids books - the Weir Do series - that does the same thing for children and our boys loved them.

But for now, it's back to At Home for me.

11 January 2015

Moving into 2015

At the beginning of the year I was truly glad to see the back end of 2014.  It feels very wrong to say that because I know with all my heart, soul, mind and strength that God was ordering our steps day by day in His loving kindness.  But at the jars of clay level, it was just a tough year.  In our better moments my husband and I would say, "economy of scale."  In my own darker moments the words "annus horribilus" crossed my mind and sometimes my lips. 

As you know, my mum passed away.  And it became necessary for us to settle my mother-in-law into an aged care facility.  Which led to clearing out not one but two family homes with our siblings in the second half of the year and preparing said homes for their new lives.  (Declutter now, I tell you.  Your kids will love you for it.)  And while all of this was happening my beloved Scripture programme at our local primary school was placed under review by the new principal and was shut down at the end of the year - completely his right and privilege but still, it ached to see it go.

So with Mum safe with Jesus, MIL safe in good care (nice and close for easy and frequent visiting), both family homes and all their contents nearly done and dusted and no Scripture this year (which took two days of my week last year), 2015 is looking very different from any year I can remember in a long time.  Maybe ever.  A large chunk of my previously very scheduled week is now unscheduled.  Ten years ago, even five, (even two!) those gaps would have been planned for and filled already - two weeks in.  This time around I am not filling the space. 

But there are some things I would like to do this year including...

Resurrecting the Philippians project.  Memorising the whole of Philippians fell in a mighty heap last year - but last year, more than ever, I saw how important it is to have Scripture locked safely away in one's own heart and mind.  Philippians has always been my soft spot to fall.  This is what I want more than anything to put away for times ahead.

Reading the Bible.  This year I am using my usual favourite plan (daily OT, NT and Psalms, getting through the OT once and the NT and Psalms twice) but with a twist.  Firstly I'm adding a fourth daily reading.  While I am in the gospels from the plan I'll add a chapter of Romans per day.  And when I reach Acts and beyond I'll read a chapter of the gospels per day.  Also, I have started at the beginning of the year in the middle of the plan (ie. from 1st July) so that Chronicles and beyond (ie. the prophets) get my first-half-of-the-year, fresh attention.  That department was a bit (lot) short changed last year.

Learning to crochet.  I've been inspired by the work of a couple of friends and always come back to admire Ali's beautiful rugs...

From here...

...and here

which takes away the bad press crochet received from lurid, acrylic granny squares.  (For a minute's amusement, enter "ugly crochet projects" into google images.)  I'm thinking real fibres, elegant colours and maybe starting with something slightly smaller than a rug.  All (helpful) advice will be gratefully received.

Writing letters.  I was going to call this the "Forty Letter Project" but now that I'm feeling less "a project for the new year" oriented, I think I'll just stick to "writing letters."  Some might be quite short but very lovely because I got a set of these postcards for Christmas.

The big question will be whether to send the postcard coloured in or left for the recipient to colour.  Mmmm....

And finally, leaving the week reasonably flexible in the first instance because I feel tired. I just haven't got the capacity to fill in all the spaces in my week at the moment and I have the luxury of some time to leave some of the recently formed gaps empty.  The tiredness will pass though and then the more flexible week will come into its own because the other thing I did last year was have my teaching licence reinstated.  I'm off to do a bit of relief teaching.  (I flies right in the face of a certain epiphany from a few years ago.  There's a backstory to it which won't be making it onto the Internet.  You'll just have to trust me on this one.)

And when there's no teaching to be had and I am feeling more energetic, there is plenty, day by day, to be doing.  It will be interesting to see how this goes.  I generally thrive on a structured, timetabled week.  It's all I've ever known and having unpredictable days is an entirely new concept.  I may end up connecting a few new synapses out of this.

Happy New Year dear ones.

31 December 2014

The last day of the year

Fireworks in the garden

Today and tomorrow are two of my favourite days of the year here in the blogosphere.  I love all the posts filled with reflections on the year past and hopes (resolutions... goals... whatever you want to call them) for the year to come.  I have many reflections on the year gone and many hopes for the year ahead.  Alas, I have only just finished writing my annual Christmas letter today and so am a tad behind on my New Year's ramblings.  For now, Happy New Year.

The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
 the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26

09 December 2014

Christmas gifts

I finished the Christmas shopping today.  Yay.  It's been a pretty gentle process this year.  Last night I spoke about Christmas presents at a gingerbread house event at church.  What follows is what I said.  If you are preparing talks for kids or grown ups this Christmas and any of this is remotely useful, swipe away.

I know, just from being in the shops this last week, that buying presents is an important part of Christmas for many people. 

There’s a spectrum for Christmas present shopping.  At one end there are those who have bought and wrapped everything by 1st October.  At the other end are those who for various reasons put the shopping off and off and off – it’s a bit like playing chicken – seeing how long you can put it off until you absolutely have to force yourself out into the shops.  These people are out doing the lot on 23rd and 24th December.  I did that once.  It was horrible.  And expensive.

Why the emphasis on gifts?

I’m guessing you will know a little of the story about the first Christmas. 

A young lady was visited by an angel who told her that she had been chosen to be the mother of God’s Son.  Mary.  She was engaged to Joseph.

Towards the end of her pregnancy the emperor of the day called a census, not because the government wanted to make future plans for building schools, hospitals and aged care facilities.  It was all to do with power – about being the biggest empire, about knowing just how many loyal subjects you have.  So Joseph and Mary had to travel from Nazareth, where they lived, to Bethlehem (about 130km), because in those days the census didn’t come to you – you went to it.  You went to the town of your birth and signed yourself in. 

As most of Israel was on the move because of the census there was little accommodation to be found.  Joseph and Mary couldn’t find a room in an inn, but they were given lodgings in a stable.  And Jesus - whose name means Saviour - was  born .

I’m guessing you will know that God didn’t announce the birth of his Son by sending out a text message or putting it up on Facebook or even putting a notice in the newspaper.

He sent his messengers – angels.  And this is where the story gets very interesting.

Who got to hear the news first?  You know how you have to let certain people know first...there is a bit of an order to these sorts of things.  Well God sent his angels to tell some shepherds.  They were the first to know.  They were told, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people.  Today in Bethlehem a Saviour has been born to you.”

You may know that bit of the story.  You've probably seen it on Christmas cards.  But did you know that in those days shepherds were social outcasts?  No-one spoke to shepherds or paid them any attention.  They lived outside the city walls, looking after the sheep.  So what is God doing telling these total nobodies about the birth of His Son?  Why are they the first to hear?

God is saying that he sent His Son Jesus for all people.  Maybe you think you aren’t worthy to be loved by God.  If that is you, take heart from the shepherds.  They were the complete outsiders of society.  And God told them about Jesus first.

The other birth announcement was via a star, seen by wise men who travelled in from the east.  They came to worship Jesus and brought gifts.  And this is where we start to get the idea about Christmas gifts.

What were the first ever Christmas presents?  No teddy bear, blankets and toys for this boy.  Jesus’ gifts were gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Gold, like now, was a precious metal and generally only in the hands of kings.  It tells us that Jesus is royal.  He is a king.  Indeed he is described in the Bible as the King of kings.

Frankincense.  It’s a form of incense, easily available these days.  But back in day it was rare and used only by priests.  In fact only by the most important priest.  He was called the high priest. 
If you had done something wrong before God you would take an animal (a lamb or a dove for example) to the priest who would sacrifice it before God to pay for the wrongdoing and so make right again your relationship with God.  

The gift of frankincense tells us that Jesus is like a priest.  In fact he is called the great high priest and in dying on the cross at Easter he did away with needing to take animals to be sacrificed at the temple.  Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for all our wrongdoings and so restoring our relationship with God. 

And finally myrrh – a perfumed oil – again, reasonably available these days but back in Jesus' day it was rare and precious.  And it was used as an embalming oil - and used only to embalm royalty.  It shows us that Jesus' death would be significant.  Highly important. 

Strange gifts - but they were gifts that show us what Jesus was all about. 

Jesus – the Son of God - born a baby to grow into a man in order to die on the cross to take the punishment for all our wrongdoings but who was raised to life again and reigns, the King of kings, with God in heaven.

You may sometimes wonder about this business of Christmas presents.  They probably had their origins in the three gifts from the wise men.  But in all the writing of lists and checking them twice, of shopping and wrapping and giving, take a little time and remember that God has given us the best gift we could ever hope to receive. 

There is a Bible verse that says, “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

That is why we celebrate Christmas.  So in the midst of all the presents, pause to remember the greatest gift that was ever given.  Jesus.

29 November 2014

Stationary or stationery

By the way, do you know the trick to working out whether it is stationary or stationery?

stAtionEry   is   pApEr
A useful mnemonic for those who need to know, my fellow fans of paper and pen.

Stationery joy

Today I unwrapped my new diary for next year.  It's the same as last year's, but royal blue instead of cornflower blue. 

The specs: A5, a week to a page on the left hand side, a page for notes and lists on the right hand side, ribbon to mark the page, loads of blank paper at the back, hard cover, pocket in the back, elastic doo-dad to hold it all together.

It does away with the need for a second book for lists, which had previously done away with a thousand pieces of paper on the kitchen bench, in the bag, on the floor, on the bedside table... 

Not cheap.  You could get multiple Collins diaries from the newsagent for the price of this one.  But it is worth every cent.

A page to a week is perfect for me.  I need to be able to see the whole week ahead - it helps me to plan for seven sensible and manageable days at a time.  There is enough room to record an event for the morning, one for the afternoon before school finishes, one for the afternoon after school finishes and one for the evening - four events per day if so needed.  And if I need more room than this for planning out my days I figure I need to reassess my life, not my diary format.

23 November 2014

Relearning thankfulness

I'm pretty sure I haven't read anything from the pen of GK Chesterton, but I stumbled upon this quote doing the rounds a little while ago and I love it.  And it's personally helpful as I find myself emerging from a time when thankfulness has not been my strong card, at least not in some quarters, and discovering I need to relearn the art.

You say grace before meals.  Alright.
But I say grace before the concert and the opera,
and grace before the play and pantomime,
and grace before I open a book,
and grace before sketching, painting, swimming,
fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing
and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

G. K. Chesterton

20 November 2014

Today's two discoveries

# 1  If you want to use the joyfully expanded version of the Made by Joel nativity scene but want to save card and also time at the photocopier it is possible, with some cutting and pasting old school style (you know, scissors and glue), to fit everything from the three sheets onto two pages.

# 2 The bypass feeder on the photocopier actually takes a small stack of card and feeds it in all by itself.  You don't have to hand feed every single one of the 140 sheets of card individually.  That gets the job done in about a billionth of the time it takes to hand feed individual sheets and then press the copy button 140 times.

Good times.

17 November 2014

New stuff for Sunday School. Well, new to me.

Speaking of new things I'm loving, I stumbled upon an online Sunday School curriculum called Kids' Sunday School Place.  I was looking around for a few lessons about the Bible - 66 books, two sections, different genres, good for training and making wise and so on - and came upon this site in my search. 

Kids' Sunday School Place offers a number of complete units online for free - some from each of their range of Old Testament, New Testament, topical and special occasions categories.  If you want to access all of the units there is an annual membership of $US39, which seems a pretty small price to pay. 

I haven't looked right through the site yet but what I have surveyed - and trialled - has been superb.  Great lessons which include good introductory activities, a fantastic little Bible study (I'm a big proponent of getting kids to look up real verses in the real Bible at Sunday School), follow up activities including work sheets, games, practical activities and crafts (usually a couple of substantial activities to choose from) and good back up materials including all the necessary blackline masters. 

I've just finished the "about the Bible" unit and in a week or two will head into some of their Christmas lessons.  Very happy.  I like their approach.  A lot.


Now speaking of Christmas, and Sunday School, here is the most amazing thing.  A cardboard cut out nativity scene. 

I used this in Sunday School last year and am taking it to my Scripture classes this year.  It does require a bit of patience to hand feed endless sheets of card through the photocopier...but so worth the investment in time.

You can get the original nativity scene or the joyfully expanded nativity scene and even the travel size nativity scene.

And when you are done with Christmas there are loads of other cool things to be found on this site to keep small (and big) people amused for hours.

15 November 2014

Empty Hands

Love, love, loving this CD.  A crowdfunded project, Empty Hands is a CD of songs written for congregational singing.  The words are deep and brilliant and the music is amazing.  I love every one of the eleven songs and can't wait to be singing them all at church.  We've got two down, nine to go.

A couple of the songs will take a little more teaching than the rest but they're all perfect for congregations, right down to considerate pitch and speed.  Any congregation that can manoeuvre its way around Getty/Townend repertoire will eat these songs up for breakfast.  With great joy.

There is one extra test when we're considering new songs for church.  The congregation that will be taking on these songs is somewhat starved of musicians.  So most weeks you will find us singing along to recorded music.  No live musicians for us.  We've learned how to sing along to recorded music and it works well enough most weeks.   When I am listening out for new songs I'm also listening out for recordings that that we can sing to.  This CD ticks that box as well.  Every track.  Very happy.

Not needing new songs at church but just after a new and uplifting CD.  This is your one.

The CD is available for people like me who have yet to learn how to navigate iTunes but you can also find it in all the usual digital locations.  There are more details, including how to get yourself a copy here.


While on the topic of music, does anyone know of a recorded version (for the above mentioned musicianless congregation) of Matt Redman's "Blessed be your Name" that will be suitable for our needs?  There seems to be plenty of versions about the place but they are too high, too low, with too much improvisation, too many long long instrumental bits (there's probably a fancy word for that) between verses, too much harmony and not enough tune...  Any suggestions?

30 October 2014


Most merciful Father, we humbly thank you
for all your gifts so freely bestowed on us.
For life and health and safety, for power to work and leisure to rest,
and for all that is beautiful in creation and in the lives of men,
we praise and glorify your holy name.
But, above all, we thank you
for your spiritual mercies in Christ Jesus our Lord,
for the means of grace,
and for the hope of glory.
Fill our hearts with all joy and peace in believing;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(From An Australian Prayer Book p.36)