Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: A wasted year?

As i rumble towards 2009 I'm stuck wandering if this year was largely a waste.

If my aim was to be in youth ministry... it was.

I had my chance on the second day of the year, but i turned it down (man that seems a long time ago!). Since, I've missed out, or passed, on jobs at Pittwater, Manly, Belrose and Narrabeen.

Instead i occupied my self with the following...

As the ministry bandwagon was leaving i jumped on as a Challenge Camp team leader, preached four times and spoke at IMPACT...

Ange and i both got new jobs. I'm strutting about as a finely tuned water meter reader and Ange strolls down the corso to work...

We've flirted with leaving Balgowlah, but returned to the nest... I went to Norm Gibbon's and John Faulkner's funerals and the ENGAGE conference...

Sarah and the Gibson's departed...

I got my green P's, was recertified as a first aider, lost a mobile phone, finished my Period of Discernment, won text-2-win five times, packed Lifeline hampers and saw Manly win the premiership...

Cecil was out of action four times, i changed three tyres and got three parking fines...

Dad had more surgery, I lost my Grandfather and gained a niece (who i got to hold yesterday... so cute!)...

Did i mention i set up a blog???

A wasted year? Perhaps not a total waste.

How to avoid crap sermons

Last night i read a really good chapter in a book which made me think about the title of this post. In this case, it's not about giving crap sermons, but hearing them.

For me it's not to hard to drift out in sermons. If i think i know where the speaker is going, then i may tune out. If the delivery isn't on song, then i may tune out. If the possum wanders overhead, then I'll definitely tune out. As you can tell, my standards can be pretty demanding...

The chapter in the book was about listening and it had ten points.

1- Listen with a head-heart connection. Listen beyond the facts that are being presented. Listen for the deeper connection.

2- Listen with the intent of understanding. Listen with the desire to know what the speaker is trying to say. Aim to walk away knowing the main point and how it effects you.

3- Listen to the message and the message behind the message. Similar to the point above, but be aware of other messages that are intertwined. Feel for the reason why the speaker is giving these particular points. Is there an underlying problem that is trying to be addressed?

4- Listen for both content and feeling. Be attuned to the passion that is behind the message. Why are they passionate about it? Are you?

5- Listen with you eyes. What are they saying with their gestures? Do the pictures in the PowerPoint connect with the message?

6- Listen for other's interest, not just their position. I don't do this. If it doesn't connect with me, then I'll zone out. Instead, listen with the perspective of others, or at least reach to connect with the audience the speaker is attempting to target. It may not directly effect you, but it may one day. I'm not a single mother today, but who knows what the future holds?

7- Listen for the things they are saying and not saying. Does the speaker omit anything? Why? Remember, the aim isn't to download every facet of info from their research into your head. Thus, why did they leave the stuff they say in?

8- Listen with empathy and acceptance. Aim to identify with what the speaker is saying.

9- Listen for the areas where they are afraid of hurt. Listen for the areas where the sermon has touched their own life.

10- Listen as you would like to be listened to.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


At the moment Marion Jones is on Oprah. Marion Jones, the convicted criminal. Marion Jones, the drug cheat. Marion Jones, stripped dual gold medalist. Marion Jones, publicly shamed athlete.

She has talked a lot about consequences. If she knew the ramifications of her actions at the time, she would choose differently. No surprise there.

It's a true story that is told after failure. If they knew the consequences, they would go down a different path.

In my head, if you keep the consequences in the forefront of your mind, you can avoid a stack of trouble. If you're aware of the effects that committing adultery will have, you are more likely to avoid it. If you're aware of what a public failure in ministry will have, then you won't do it.

It hurts me when i see the consequences of the above two examples. Consequences that, I’m guessing, the person never intended or thought of.

The damage adultery does to the cheated on partner. The pain and mistrust that follows them into future relationships. The effect the breakdown has on any children and their future relationships. The strain it puts on the extended families. That the, often, short-term "pleasure" is greatly outweighed by the long-term pain.

In ministry, whatever the failure (if it fits into the above category or not) the ramifications are wider than, i'm sure, assumed. You damage, to some aspect, those you nurtured under your ministry. You damage those who sat under you in leadership. You damage the trust the church placed in you. You damage the reputation the church. You damage your family life and spiritual life.

And you damage it for years to come. You damage it for the next person and the way they can effectively ministry "in your shadow."

From what I’ve seen the consequences reach to milestones as well. You don't/can't come to funerals, no matter what relationship you had with the person in the past. You can't go to baptisms, confirmations or weddings. You don't go to birthdays and no-one contacts you on yours. You lose a faith community and (hopefully) join another one with all the baggage you bring with you.

The point of this ramble? I'm not sure it would work logistically, but i think those who are going into ministry should hear from those who have failed. Hear how it was effected them, their family and their former church. Hear their hurt. Hear the damage. See and hear the consequences.

Perhaps, once you witness the damage you could cause in the future, you would steer clear of traveling down a similar path.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The wait is over!

I just found out i am uncle to a baby girl, Erin Louise Woolford. Excellent.

About time i had some great news.

The induction baptism???

Another thing can now blog about, because time has passed, is a process i would have needed to go though to work at a church i interviewed with. They required me to be full immersion baptised to be a member of the church.

Would i have done it? Sure. But, i would have been known as the loser with no friends who is a orphan. Why? Because i wouldn't have invited any of my friends nor family.

Why should they come for a ritual which would have held minimal spiritual value in my mind?

To be a member of the church i would have done it. I would have done it to identify with the community of faith i would been joining and a public affirmation of my faith. These are all good things...

But a second baptism? I'm not so sure.

Through looking at their beliefs my position on full immersion, believer baptism was focused, but not to the extent that my history need to be rewritten. I'm also think that the Bible would be in my trench...

Weather talk

Lately it's occurred to me the uselessness of talking about the weather. No-body cares. I would rather silence than chat about the climactic conditions.

Thus, consider yourself warned. If you talk to be about the weather i will exercise my right to give you a verbal slap or pursue my preference for silence.

The service MC?

My mind has been on the role of the service leader. I can finally post this because i wasn't at church last week so i can't be talking about anyone specific (not that i am anyway).

In my mind the service leader can take two paths to achieve the role they perform. Primarily their role is to help draw people into the presence of God and prepare them to hear the word of God through prayer and the spoken word.

The first path to this is to just let the service flow, almost MC style and avoid any distractions which may draw people out of the presence of God. Do they pray? Sure. Do they lead the congregation in adoration and confession? Yes, but they don't necessarily have a specific point in mind to drive them.

The second path can be more problematic, but more effective. In conjunction with the sermon, the service flows with a united theme throughout. But the important word is UNITED.

If the service leader has a spiel that doesn't mesh with the sermon then i think it dilutes both messages. Either patches of both are remembered, or one overshadows the other.

When the second path works it is brilliant. When it goes pear shaped, it can be dreadful. As a rule of thumb, i tend to stick to the first one, unless i can add something of substance heading down the second route.

I would rather someone remember the sermon a month later than what i said leading the service. Do i have an uneven perspective cause i preach? Maybe. But that's my 2c.

Bad habits

If i were to make New Year's resolutions i could ditch my three bad habits. But truthfully, I'd rather not.

In reality my bad habits aren't that bad.

I bite my fingernails... But at least i don't smoke.

I hog the remote... But i can watch three channels at once.

I horde... But at least i spew out a heap of blog ideas in one ramble-a-thon.

Comin back

While i was chatting to a minister last week he mentioned a good idea which i tried, but fizzled out. Simply, it was inviting people back to church.

In the case of this church it was ripped off an idea from England. Each year, they have a Sunday where they contact those who have dropped off attending church, or have contact via previous weddings/baptisms/confirmations and invite them to "plug back in." Each year they have a sack of people turn up (like 200,000 across England) and some stick around.

I wanted/tried to do something like this at Balgowlah.

The dream was to give each youth ministry kid from the past their old folder, choc full of memories, and invite them back to church.

It had a double edge. First, it was going to get rid of hundreds of old folders. Second, it may reconnect people to church, or the person who (hopefully) would give them their folder in person.

But... it never happened. Instead, i got to the stage where it could happen, and then it fizzled.

Still, i quite like the idea of having a special recruitment drive of people who have graced the doors of the church and then drifted away.

If William told you to jump...

Last night, before i went to the hospital with Ange for her cough, i was watching Braveheart.

I could watch that movie every day and be quite content with the world. The same could be said with The Shawshank Redemption or Forrest Gump.

But I'd feel sorry if i was a mother in the times of 'ol Bill Wallace.

Imagine the situation... You come home from an adventure with your mate Will and you're getting chewed out by your Mama... She's going off her nut and screams... "If William Wallace told you to jump off a bridge would you do that?"...

Well... If it was William Wallace? If, dying in my bed many years from now, would I be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance? For freedom?

Mama... Damn straight I'd jump.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The 2008 Ramble-a-thon

I noticed that on the 15th i said I'd go ramble crazy. Well... i haven't. Instead I've had job interviews, Christmas, watched cricket and waited to become an uncle... STILL WAITING!!!

If you read this after December 29th, then prepare for a stack of reading. Whilst the cricket commences the ramblings will go thick and fast...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Little Druming Outrage

I was just searching the TV guide for my favourite part of Christmas. The Little Drummer Boy. Preferably the old, kinda claymation one, but even the modern animated one would do. unfortunately it's been omitted from the viewing schedule. Instead the Muppets, Blikny Bill, Looney Toons and The Grinch get a run.

Outrageous. If i was the kind of person who wrote letters to the Editor or TV stations, then i would be cramming their mailbox full of my displeasure.

Christmas doesn't exist in my world without that little scamp playing his drum for him.... a-rum-pum-pum-pum... rum-pum-pum-pum... rum-pum-pum-pum...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The lonely buck

Last night, whilst out for Sara's 19th, i felt for Nick. At times you could almost feel his agony at being surrounded by such a flood of estrogen.

It reminded me of the later years of my discipling group. From around year 11 onwards, i was the only bloke. Beyond that, I've been in many a situation where I've been immersed in chatter about paper g-stings involved in hair removal, feminine hygiene or jerk men.

And people wonder why i was so keen to start a guys group???

Oh well... at least i was aware that Bianca had a nice clutch last night.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tribute to Pop

Yesterday i had my grandfathers funeral. It was a nice service, but seeing your family cry sucks.

At 86, he had a good innings.

To me, memories of Pop are good. They revolve around him smoking his pipe and sneaking me kit-kats as a kid. It's sitting with him on Boxing Day, watching the cricket or Sydney to Hobart over a beer. It's him doing the washing up after dinner each night.

He was a swell Pop. An excellent husband. A good bloke. The funeral showed that.

Man chairs

I just got home from shopping with Ange. This i have no problem with, in fact i quite enjoy encouraging her to impulse buy. But there was a disturbing incident.

Whilst Ange was trying things on in a store i was the awkward guy waiting outside.

And there was no man chair.

You know, the chair outside the change rooms that the poor chap would slouch in whilst his beloved tries on copious amounts of clothing.

So instead, i had to stand there like a smuck, getting weird looks form the other customers (all female) and staff. Oh the awkwardness...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ministerial disclaimers

You may have noticed that in the post below i included something to cover my ass. A ministerial disclaimer.

Simply, a ramble where you dissect any possible misinterpretation of what you have just said. The time when you diffuse any chance that the reader or listener could get annoyed at you (unless you want them to).

Sometimes i find it funny because they aren't needed. The writer/speaker will go to a tangent that no-one else thought of and plant a seed of questioning that would have gone otherwise unnoticed.

And they are usually easy to spot. It start like this... "Now don't hear me saying..."

Meanwhile, are they important? Yes. (I figure i should end with a disclaimer).

Church Awkwardness

Since I've missed, or will miss, a heap of church services over the Christmas period, I'm going to miss two awkward points in festive church services.

The first may only annoy me. The Aussie Christmas carol. To me, it just smacks of a desperate attempt to be included in the Christmas story. I find it odd that we can be annoyed when Americans try to splice everything to their culture, but are ok when we do a similar thing. Not to mention that the words usually identify more with Christmas in the 50's or in the plot of "the epic Australia," not my experience.

The second is a cringe worthy time all year around. The introduction and applause of visitors publicly.

Can it be done in a nice way? Sure. Does it make the visitor feel welcomed? I'm sure, on occasions, it may... But... It makes me want to crawl into a dark whole and cower in fear that i may be associated with churches (much the same way as crappy church noticeboards do).

When someone calls out the name of a person they just met, usually without their consent, would throw me as a visitor. Especially if i didn't wish to stand out or make a scene.

WARNING... ministerial disclaimer... Don't hear me say that either of these two church things should be stripped away from services and banished forever. Nor, if you enjoy them, should we have a heated argument which is resolved through violence. Do they service a point? Maybe. Do i have to enjoy them? Nope.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The temple

Yesterday, while i was at the folk's place, i took my blood pressure. It was near perfection... 127/81. It reminded me of a discussion Ange and i had a short whole ago.

In short... Smoking is a deal breaker. I need to trade my wedding ring for my Winnie Blues.

It added to the reasons i already had written down not to puff away (actually it was something i wrote to give to a kid who asks).

First... It's costly. It costs you... you gotta buy them. It costs your work... they gotta pay you when you have a smoko. It costs everyone... we gotta pay to help look after you when you get ill.

Second... It's unhealthy. LOOK AT THE PACK!

It effects you adversely... It effects every organ. Skin, Extremities, Lungs, Heart, Brain, Arteries, Vision, Throat, Gums, Stroke, Loss of taste and smell, Stained teeth, Kidneys, Bladder, Stomach, Pancreas, Breathlessness...

It effects others adversely... As a result of passive smoking.

It even effects the unborn adversely... Miscarriage, SIDS, Under developed babies.

Third... It's unattractive. Check out the effects above and add the look, smell (on you - skin, breath, hair - and your clothes), smokers cough, skin discolouration. Want more proof? People ask to date and live with... NON smokers!

Fourth... It's controlling. Nicotine is addictive... Der. More so, you can't smoke in pubs, clubs, public buildings, shops, playgrounds, cars, others houses, restaurants...

Finally... 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. THE TEMPLE!!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The bitterness may be over soon

You may have noticed that i haven't posted much lately. When like kicks you in the guts, you vent less.

In five days i went from being confident about the two job interviews to two knock backs. On Wednesday my Pop went from a positive day in hospital to passing away three days later.

This week i have the funeral on Thursday, another crappy water meter readers meeting tomorrow and an interview on Friday evening.

But I'm on holidays at least... and the ramblings will continue... Possibly to a greater extent than ever to close 2008.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A bad day

Yesterday was a day without many highlights.

Firstly, i found out i didn't get the job at Belrose. Even though i "was an impressive candidate" they "decided to pursue other candidates." I hate that phrase.

Then Ange and i spent over three hours Christmas shopping.

Finally, i found out that my Pop had another stroke.

Some days have moments that suck.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bookless sermon prep

Starting tomorrow i get to begin writing the sermon for this Sunday evening. I'm behind schedule compared to where i would normally be, but with no work i should be fine.

With the time delay my mind recalled to a statement someone said at church once. The guy said that he would like to hear a sermon planned from prayer and personal reflection alone. Nothing else. No commentaries, no books, no pod casts.

Personally, i have a problem with that. First, I'm a pretty smart guy, but not so smart that i could go without the help of others. Second, i believe that the audience of a sermon deserve the best resources that the speaker can gather. Finally, we stand on the shoulders of the saints that have gone before us. To reject their insights would be plain stupid.

I also bring the point up because of a recent trend I've noticed at church. After sermons the person giving the talk promote the books they have used and point to further reading.

I won't be doing this on Sunday. Unless, you give a small gist of a books outline, why would you? Do people suspect that you have done research? They should. Do you need to prove it to them? I don't think so...

Good news, bad news

Today i went through the highs of water meter reading and the lows of a person looking for employment in youth ministry.

The high... I finally finished work for the quarter, meaning i can have a day off tomorrow for the first time in almost two weeks.

The low... I got knocked back from my favoured youth ministry job this arvo. D'oh.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'm not a good person

It just occurred to me, that of my last few posts, i have pointed out to the entire world that I've broken at least two commandments.

Truthfully, it brings up a fear inside me.

Fear of the wrath of God? Not so much...

Fear of Ray Comfort meeting me on the street and asking me "Do i consider myself a good person?" Definitely.

Non Sabbathing

So you may have noticed that I've dropped off the pace posting-wise. The reason is simple. I've been working like a dog.

I haven't had a day off since last Saturday. Worse than that, I'm still two days away from holidays.

But, i will have read every water meter in Hunters Hill, Woolwich and Hundleys Cove. Not that that's a good thing...

Of the longing to obey the fourth...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

An interview pro

This week I've had two interviews for youth ministry positions. Truth being told, i wasn't to anxious about them. Yes, they are important, but what were they going to ask me that i haven't already asked in my head or answered on this blog?

Furthermore, I'm a veteran of the youth ministry position interview. So far I've been through at least ten of them. (in no particular order...) One at Linfield, Manly, Balgowlah, Beacon Hill, Roseville, Narrabeen, Pittwater, Belrose and two at Ryde.

I'm starting to wonder if I'm cursed, or if i should branch out into the exciting world of professional job interviewee. I could review search committees, tell them if they asked good questions, ect... I think it could be the next booming industry...

Breaking the tenth

Today, while working at Palm Beach, i broke the tenth commandment. I saw something of someone elses that i desired. Highly. From the street, i saw a matching Cecil parked on a front lawn. It was immaculate. Pristine. Shiny even.

And i wanted it.

Now, it's not the first time I've seen a matching Cecil. There's one in Seaforth, one around Hornsby and now one at Palm Beach. But it was different today.

Today was one day removed from my delightful Cecil's latest molesting of my wallet. This week i had to fix a slight problem. I was leaking brake fluid (even though I'm not mechanically inclined in the least, I'm fairly certain that you require brake fluid, or your chances of of dying behind the wheel increases).

So i coveted thine neighbours vehicle. Or at least it's ability to retain brake fluid, its original muffler, original alternator, undented rear panels, dashboard without warning lights, original tyres, original car battery, continually working brakes, unsnapped antenna, front headlight that isn't held on by gaffer and intact front bumper.

But i suppose these minor character traits are what separate Cecil from the others...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Laughing church

The interview i had this evening started in a very positive way. It began with laughter.

I liked this.

I think it should be a marker of the people of God. They should laugh when they are together. I sure associate this with Balgowlah.

It's a shame we often have the total opposite reputation outside of the church...

Stupid wise men

Yesterday i way trying to get Christmas presents at the Mall. I wondered why we give gifts at Christmas. Was it because of the wise men?

If so, it's fortunate they gave gifts and didn't do something more obscure. What would happen if they did a Jazz step class for Jesus crib side?