Including God’s Word in your kids’ school-shutdown routine

Last week I kept my boys home from school. They had a mild cough and a sniffle, the kind of thing I’d usually make them soldier on with – but things are far from usual at the moment.

As a treat (for them and for me) I decided it was time for one of my long-awaited parenting milestones: showing them my favourite movies including the Indiana Jones movies (only the good ones – Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade), as well as The Fellowship of the Ring and the Two Towers (the extended cuts, no less!).

As nice as it has been to see their excitement, and to watch them dress up as Indy and follow self-made treasure maps around the house, or to marvel at my youngest son’s inexplicable obsession with Gollum, I expect that even the seemingly-unending stream of Netflix content will soon run out of entertainment for my boys. More than that, there are lots of other, more fruitful ways they can be spending their time in the coming weeks and months.

You don’t have to dig too deeply into Google or scour too many parents’ groups on Facebook to see that there are a lot of people worried about how they’re going to fill the long days and weeks when the schools are (it seems, inevitably) closed. So desperate are people for guidance that one parent’s “COVID-19 Daily Schedule” for her  children went viral, even being shared by the American Neuropsychology & Education Services. This same group posted other tips for parents including “use screens wisely” (whoops, already failed there!) “move your body” and “get outside for fresh air”.

As Christians, there is a lot we can take from these lists; providing routine in uncertain times will without a doubt prove helpful for our children’s physical, emotional and educational wellbeing. But one dimension is missing: how can we care for our children’s spiritual wellbeing in a time like this? If we were to make a schedule to fill our days, what are some ways we can be helping our children dwell in God’s word?

One caveat: I’m not the font of all wisdom on this. Never in my life would I have foreseen myself being a home-school mum. I’m muddling through this, like I guess you are too. So please see this as one parent’s attempt, not one expert’s advice. Nevertheless I have a few suggestions of things I’ve tried, I’d love to hear yours as well.

1 – Bible Reading.

I’ve been trying to encourage my 8-year-old to read more. It’s an ongoing battle, and one I wasn’t equipped for as somehow my parents raised me to be a bookworm who would gleefully spend hours in her bedroom reading – both as a child and now. But my son is different. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve had to resort to bribery – promising him 50c every time he reads at least two chapters in a book in one sitting.

While I’ve been worried about my son’s reading habits, I haven’t had the same concern for his Bible reading habits. This is partially because my husband and I have read the Bible to him every night before bed since he was 3 months old. But now’s the time where I want him to develop habits for life. So, for 10 minutes after breakfast, I’m going to start encouraging him to sit and read some of the gospel of Mark.

For my younger son who can’t yet read, this is a little bit harder and I’m going to have to be more creative. The Bible for Kids’ app is a helpful one as it tells the story, has interactive images that animate when he touches them, and has a little activity at the end. Of course, the 8-year-old gets jealous that his brother gets to use a fun app while he’s reading so I let him have a turn as well as a reward after he’s finished his “grown-up Bible” passage.

2 – Christian music.

One way I’ve been trying to keep my boys active is to have dance parties in the lounge room. They’re huge fans of the game Just Dance – so much so that I now know the lyrics of “What does the Fox Say?” and “Old Town Road” by heart. As an Aussie Christian family, we also love Colin Buchanan’s music and DVDs. So, in addition to Just Dance, we’re going to try to have a “Colin Dance Party” (where we dance to Colin’s music, not where we try to dance like Colin dances!). If you don’t own any of Colin’s DVDs, his songs are available via digital platforms, I’d suggest starting with upbeat ones like “10, 9, 8 God is great” and “Jesus Rocks the World” although “God Rock” is another favourite with my boys.

3 – Good quality Christian Video Resources.

As an SRE teacher and now advisor, I’ve had the privilege of watching the huge growth in the last few years in the number and quality of online resources we can use to communicate God’s word. (Of course, any resources I use in class have to be passed through the SRE multimedia approval process!) .

One series that I’ve loved using first in SRE and now with my sons is “What’s in the Bible with Buck Denver”. Phil Vischer, half of the creative team behind VeggieTales, has ditched the C-G animated tomatoes and cucumbers and instead chosen puppets as his medium for exploring the whole story of the Bible – from Genesis to Revelation – in 26 half-hour episodes. Cute, funny but also theologically deep (unlike Phil’s first project), I highly recommend it. If you want to give it a try some clips are available via their official YouTube channel, but you can also buy full episodes in digital download formats.

While you’re on YouTube, you can also check out Crossroads Kids’ Club for really great animated Bible videos or if you have older kids (or for yourself), The Bible Project is an amazing resource.

By all means make your lists and plan your routines, just make sure you are also building spiritual habits that will help your children not only at this time, but for the rest of their lives.

If you’re interested in what my current daily routine for my sons (ages 8 and 5) looks like, it’s here. Or, if you’d like an editable copy, download this one.



The Perils, Pitfalls and Pleasures of Online Church

Before last night, I’d only once before used online means to attend my church.

It was in 2016. My family and I were living in a city in China that back then no one had ever heard of, but now in 2020 is infamous: Wuhan.

I was missing my home church Jannali Anglican so much. 2016 was a hard year for our church, with lots of worry, pain and ultimately grief. My friends were hurting, and I was half-way across the world from them all.

One of our ministers decided to stream our Christmas Carols service on Facebook live so that people like me and others from our flock who were temporarily scattered could join in.

I still remember sitting in my apartment in Wuhan with my 20 month old in a high chair, pointing at the screen and saying to him, “that man who is speaking is your Godfather!”. My son just grunted, perhaps wondering why mummy wasn’t showing him an episode of Peppa Pig instead. But for me, it brought a tear to my eye to see the face of my pastor and friend whom I hadn’t seen in months – who was far away from us in body but not far at all from our thoughts and prayers. It brought me such great joy to hear him preach about Jesus from 8,150kms away.

Last night brought back those memories as I again attended church remotely. This time, I wasn’t in a third-tier city in China, I was in my lounge room – 2 suburbs away from my church building.

We don’t know how long that online church will be our new normal, and speculating about the duration of COVID-19 and the safety measures we are undergoing is not a helpful pastime (my husband is very close to forcing me into a digital detox for this very reason!). But I thought I might share some ideas and thoughts about online church as they come to me – I’d love to hear yours, too.

If you’re interested in what Jannali Anglican did for online church, you can see the video here.

  1. Try to keep to your regular church routine.

For some this may be easy – your church is running a livestream and so the only time you can tune in is when they schedule it. For others, like at our church, you have been sent a YouTube link that you can choose to watch at your convenience. But convenience is a problem – we can’t treat church like any other video on YouTube, Netflix or Disney Plus.

So try, as much as you are able, to watch it at your regular church time (although, as you’ll see below, our best laid plans made that a little difficult this week!).

  1. Share photos with your church community of you sitting down to watch.

For me, as a true Millennial and high-frequency social media poster, this is just second-nature. Just yesterday, in addition to shots of my family watching church, I also shared a photo of a travel-size hand sanitizer bottle, a critique of all the Aussies at the beach last Friday, some verse art from Psalm72:4, and shots of my new (very short) haircut. All that in one day (perhaps I do need that digital detox!).

For you, you might never post on social media, and the idea of a shot of you grinning in Image may contain: 2 people, people sittingfront of your TV (like this one here) makes you sick to the stomach. I agree that our compulsive need to share the minutiae of our lives online is problematic, and I accept that a lot of what is shared on social media is fueled by the ego  (or insecurities) of the person posting, but this is different, you’re posting for the benefit of your Church family.

For me, seeing photos of my brothers and sisters as they gathered around the same online content gave me a sense of connection, it reminded me that even though the body is scattered, we are still a body connected to each other and to our head, who is Christ.

  1. Be aware that your kids might not cope well.

As we sat down to watch church, something strange came over my two boys (aged 5 and 8). They’ve coped well with all the changes they’ve seen in the last few weeks, but I think it really dawned on them that things are serious when they realised we aren’t allowed to go to church. Mr. 5 got very clingy, draping his arms and legs all over Mr. 8 who was having none of it. At one point, Mrs. 37 moved to sit in between them both, but in her frustration and haste ended up sitting on them both and the video had to be stopped so that she could apologise.

There was a kids’ spot early in the video, so we decided to have an intermission while we put the boys to bed and resumed watching later that night.

Next week, I’m going to be prepared, printing out the activity sheets that our Children’s minister emailed through to accompany the lesson, so that the boys can sit and colour while we continue watching church. Another option would be to set them up with the Kids’ Bible iPad app, or set up their own YouTube playlist with a few Crossroads kids’ club videos for them to watch. We’ll play it by ear.

  1. Take sermon notes to stay focused

In my work as a High School SRE teacher and advisor, I’ve noticed something fascinating happen whenever video clips are shown in class. Although you can usually hear a pin drop while the video is playing, and although (almost) all eyes are on the screen, quite often when I ask students a simple comprehension question afterwards it takes a while for them to respond. It’s hard for them to remember.

I think it’s because television viewing, unlike reading, writing, listening and talking, is a passive activity. The level of attention I give to an episode of Brooklyn 99 isn’t the same as I would to a sermon. Our brains treat TV as entertainment, not information to be recalled, reviewed and revisited.

To avoid this, I made sure I took notes. As you can see, I have a note-taking Bible, but any old pen and paper will do. It helped me to stay focused, to think through the content, and to remember what I’ve learned beyond the mere moments of it appearing on my screen.

Whatever you do, please don’t treat online church like you would any disposable entertainment. It’s so much more precious than that.

  1. Be sure to thank your ministers and pray for them

Lastly, please find a way to reach out to your ministers and thank them for their hard work. I can’t imagine the hours and hours they’ve put in this week to come up with last-minute alternatives to regular church.

Earlier this week, there was a post shared on social media that said:

“Your Pastor has never pastored a church through a pandemic before.

When he opens, people are going to say he should have closed.  When he closes, people are going to say he should have opened.

When he does not shake hands, people are going to say he needs faith.  When he shakes hands, people are going to say he’s foolish.

He’s going to make some difficult decisions to protect the flock considering everything from your spiritual growth to legal liabilities that you aren’t even thinking about.

Every Pastor believes that they pastor the most amazing group of people and wants to do what’s best for them.

No one wants things to go well at church as much as your Pastor.  Your Pastor needs your prayers and support right now.”

In the 25 years that I’ve been a member of my church, I’ve watched the ministry team endure some really hard seasons, and I suspect that what is to come has the potential to top them all. We’re all operating without a net in this, our ministers included. Let’s do what we can to support, encourage and pray for those shepherds who love their flock and are heartbroken that they can’t meet with them at this time, especially while so many are hurt, confused and scared.

These five tips above are just some ideas I’ve had in the early light of morning the day after experiencing my first of who knows how many weeks of online church. It’s a work in progress. I’d love to hear your thoughts, tips and advice. This may end up being a marathon, not a sprint. Let’s keep encouraging each other.

How Colin Buchanan led me to attempt the unthinkable for family devotion time

On January 1st, 2020, my husband, my two boys, and I found ourselves in a long line of traffic trying to leave the multiple encroaching firefronts on the NSW South Coast. For hours and hours we crawled through bumper-to-bumper traffic, all the while trying to keep peace between two active boys, aged 8 and 4, who were stuck in far-too-close proximity to each other.

As the hours ticked by, our patience as a family was definitely running thin!

Thankfully, we’d prepared for the trip with a few new Colin Buchanan CDs, and one in particular became a family favourite by the time we finally CK_cover-1024x1024_7a3209d0-1943-43d5-b2e3-02f80e504d19_grandearrived home at midday on January 2nd  – Colin Buchanan’s latest: Catechismo Kids.

In Catechismo Kids, Colin and his puppet-pal Nudge sing songs, play games and guide their listeners through a simple Catechism.

I’m expecting the word Catechism might prompt different reactions depending on your experience. For some, it brings back old memories of stuffy, dry, rote-learning at Sunday School in the 1950s and 1960s. For others, you may be amazed that when I ask you “What is the chief end of man?” you can, by sheer reflex reply “To glorify God and enjoy him forever”. For others (like me until recently) the word Catechism draws a complete blank, like a “404 page not found” internet error in your memory.

In his song “Do the Catechismo”, Colin outlines what a catechism is in three simple steps:

  1. You a-a-a-ask the questions
  2. Then you g-g-g-give the answers
  3. Frrrrrrrrrrrrrrom the Bible

(That’s how you dodil-oodil-oodil-oodil-oo the Catechismo – Colin concludes!)

Using Colin’s simple outline, my family and I have started doing a simple Catechism at dinner times. We took the list of questions in the “Children’s Catechism” from Teaching Truth, Training Hearts” by Dr. Tom J. Nettles (the list can also be found here). The questions and answers are very similar to the ones Colin and Nudge use, too!

New City Catechism is another great resource you could use as well.

This is how it would work on a typical night in our house. (Note, we don’t do this every night – there are more than a few nights a week where dinner in front of the TV is all I can manage!).

Over dinner, I show my boys the question we’re going to be thinking about, for example, “Why did God make you and all things?”. I print out the question in large font so that they can look at it while they’re eating.

Last night, my eldest’s first response was, “God made us because he was lonely.” I was able to say that I used to think that, too, but it’s not actually what the Bible says. 

This led us to talk about how God shows us about him through what he has done. We know he’s powerful because he spoke and the world was created. We know he is loving because God saw it was not good for Adam to be alone and created Eve as a suitable complement for him. We know God is forgiving because after Adam and Eve sinned, he promised that one day an offspring of the woman would destroy the serpent and we know that offspring is Jesus.

After we talk about the question, we look at the answer, which in this case is “God made us for his own glory”. For an answer like this, I had to explain what the word glory means, but for others, the answer is pretty straightforward. We write the answer in texta on the page under the question.

We then look at one of the accompanying Bible verses, like Revelation 4:11, in the CEV translation. We then write the verse out under the answer.

At the end, we recap all of the questions we’ve done so far. It’s my hope that over time these questions, answers and Bible verses will be so implanted in my boys that they will know with certainly the things they believe, and can confidently defend their faith in the face of any challenge.

Catechisms might seem out of fashion, but Colin Buchanan has encouraged our family to see how helpful they can be in planting seeds of faith, trust and love for God’s Word and his promises in the hearts of our sons. 

37 Things to Thank God For

In honour of reaching my 37th year, I sat down this morning to think about 37 things in my life I’m thankful to God for. Here they are – in the order they came to me.

I’m thankful to God for…

  1. My husband, D and almost 17 years of marriage. He is an amazing man who has supported me through some hard seasons. He’s seen the best and the worst of me, and still loves me.
  2. My boys, M and O. Every day they teach me and refine me (and reflect my sinfulness) as I journey through life as their mum.
  3. A loving family – Parents, Brothers, In-Laws, 9 Nieces and Nephews, and extended family as well.
  4. My Poppa. I love him so much he gets his own entry. He’s in his 90s and still the strongest person I know.
  5. Friendships that have endured over many years (some 10, 25, even 30 years!)
  6. Friendships I have been blessed to form in just the last few years.
  7. My church family and the 25 years I have been a member of my church.
  8. Wider fellowship networks with Christians all over Sydney, Australia and the world.
  9. A roof over my head to keep the rain out (especially on a day like today).
  10. The Shire (yep – I’m one of *those* people!
  11. Sydney and Australia – my sunburnt country – her droughts and flooding rains.
  12. Wuhan, China – my one-time adopted city, my experience living there, and my love for the many friends and brothers and sisters I met in that city.
  13. God Families – we chose my sons’ God Parents well and I love all 4 of them and their children. And I love our Godson, too.
  14. God’s Word – a lamp to my path, living and active, which will accomplish what God sends it to do.
  15. God’s kindness in offering forgiveness through the life, death and resurrection of his son Jesus Christ.
  16. God’s calling on my life to offer myself as a living sacrifice.
  17. My current colleagues in my new job, and the blessing it is to work with such an amazing team of God-honouring people.
  18. My former colleagues in my old job, and the blessing it was to make so many friends with hearts for God’s work in schools.
  19. The education system in Australia and the many ways it blessed me – even the blessing of my HECS Debt.
  20. The sound of rain as it has been falling constantly today on what was until recently a very parched land.
  21. The air in my lungs, the beating of my heart, and the knowledge that every one is ordained by my God.
  22. Running, the freedom it gives me, and the accomplishment I feel when I see my (not very impressive) PBs getting shorter and shorter.
  23. The community at my sons’ school and the amazing friends we have made there.
  24. Cheese – one of my few remaining vices!
  25. Good Coffee.
  26. Antidepressants that work.
  27. Stephen Colbert (another form of antidepressant).
  28. Podcasts to fall asleep to (or to keep me company when I can’t sleep).
  29. Libraries and bookstores.
  30. Music from the 1990s and the memories it evokes.
  31. Music we sing at church (especially when many voices are making joyful noise to the Lord).
  32. Music in my headphones that draws me closer to God, and reminds me of how great Jesus is.
  33. Tracky-dack weather.
  34. Comfortable slippers on a cold winter morning.
  35. Papermate profile 1.4B Black (my pen of choice).
  36. Notebooks with random scribbles (like the one I wrote this list in).
  37. My LORD and KING and SAVIOUR Jesus Christ.

Walking with our Children through the News

I’m trying something new – reflecting on a story from the news from the Christian Worldview and considering how we can use such stories as talking points and teachable moments as we seek to shepherd our children in their walk with Christ.
I’m keen for feedback, and I’d love to hear any ideas you may have for other stories you’d like me to cover!

Controversy Overshadows the US Open Finals as Serena Williams is defeated by Naomi Osaka

(For the full story – go here.)

It all began with a conversation between Williams and her coach Patrick Mouratoglou after she was defeated in the first set, outplayed by Osaka. Umpire Carlos Ramos observed what he believed to be Mouratoglou making a “coaching gesture”, and issued a formal code violation. Williams continued to deny that she was “cheating”. This is in spite of the fact that her coach later admitted that he did offer coaching advice on the court. Mouratoglou added, as an explanation, that although it is a violation of the rules, his action was no different from what all tennis coaches do.

Despite frequent protestations from Williams throughout the next few changes of ends, the umpire didn’t reverse his ruling. Later in the game, a frustrated Williams threw her racket after losing a point and was issued with her second code violation. Under the rules of tennis, two violations results in the awarding of one point to the opponent. This only further fuelled Williams’ ire, who accused the umpire of “stealing a point” from her.

Later, things got so heated that Williams called Ramos a thief. This caused Ramos to issue Williams with a third code violation for “verbal abuse”. Three code violations in a single match means that an entire game is awarded to the opponent. Despite the rising consequences of penalties, Williams didn’t repent of her behaviour, claiming she was being personally attacked by Ramos, and repeatedly calling the whole thing “unfair”.

When Osaka sent the final serve of the game through at 183 km/h, which Williams could only tap, sending it wide, there were no cheers from the crowd for Osaka. Instead, the stadium erupted with jeers and boos. Fans booed again when Osaka was given her trophy. In what should have been a defining moment of joy in her career, Osaka wept; they were not tears of joy, but anguish. In a subdued acceptance speech, Osaka acknowledged the crowd’s disappointment: “I’m sorry it had to end like this. I just want to say thank you for watching the match.”

What can we as Christian parents take away from this?

Reflection 1 – Sportsmanship

I don’t play tennis, but I can reflect on these lessons from what I’ve seen, and done, on the soccer field. I’m sure we’ve all had moments on the field when, like Williams, an umpire’s call hasn’t gone in our favour – the soccer ball is called out when clearly it’s still in. Similarly, I’m sure we’ve all had moments when calls have gone in our favour when they really shouldn’t have – like a goal that’s scored even though we knew we were offside when the ball was passed to us.

Part of playing the game is to accept the good with the bad, and to submit to the authority of the umpire’s call. This can be a lesson for both parents and children alike, as I’m sure many of us have stood on the sidelines of our kids’ games and exclaimed “come on ref!” when we’ve been unhappy with the call. The best lesson our children can take from sport isn’t how to win, or what skills are necessary to play, but how to graciously submit to the decision of the referee, rather than bickering and arguing as Williams demonstrated.

Reflection 2 – Integrity

When we play a sport, even though we are all aware of the rules, sometimes, we’re often tempted to blur the lines, especially if we know that “everyone else does it”, as Williams’ coach admitted. Maybe it’s an “accidentally” timed tackle aimed at the player, not the ball, or a not-so-subtle barge of the arms when chasing down an opposing attacker. One of the reasons that Williams and her coach were happy to break the rules about on-court coaching was because they’re so rarely enforced.

But integrity is about what we do when noone is paying attention. Integrity has an impact outside of the sporting field. Here are some common scenarios your children might face at school:

The teacher has left the room briefly – do they stay on task, or immediately start talking to their friends?

They’re using the word processor app on their ipad or laptop for the day’s lesson – do they stay in the app or switch to a game as soon as the teacher isn’t looking?

There’s no monitoring software on their iphone – do they make sure the content they’re accessing is helpful, excellent, praiseworthy, even if no one will ever know if it’s not?

Reflection 3 – Selfishness

In some ways, it’s easy to understand why Williams reacted the way she did. I have no idea what the pressure of a Grand Slam with an international audience of millions would feel like. I can only speculate that such pressure would shrink the entire world in those few hours to the size of that tennis court. How else could an elite sportsperson function without such intense focus? The result of such focus is evident in Williams’ focus on herself. In her experience SHE was wronged by the umpire’s call, SHE was accused of cheating, SHE was “robbed” of a point and a game, and ultimately the trophy.

The problem with such self-focus is that it easily becomes selfishness. Williams wasn’t the only person on the court that day. In HER outrage, Serena stole the focus from HER opponent. As a result, the superb tennis Osaka played throughout the match became something she soon felt she had to apologise for.

I’m sure you can’t struggle to think of examples of times your children have acted selfishly. I find it harder to find examples of times they act selflessly (in fact, the same is true for myself!).

One way to help counteract our children’s (and our own) selfish tendencies can be to practice empathy. The story of Williams and Osaka is a great example of this. We can ask our children about how they think Williams’ actions made Osaka feel. We can ask them to imagine what it would be like if we had won a match, only to have the opponent complain that they were “robbed” by the umpire. We can encourage them to consider how sad Osaka must have felt when she won the game and received her trophy, only to hear the stadium erupt in booing.

Conclusion: How can the Bible help us approach these issues?

As followers of Jesus, Paul encourages us to be ruled by God’s spirit, rather than by our fleshly desires. The works of the flesh are listed by Paul as “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy” (Galatians 5:20-21). Instead of acting in this way, Paul encourages us to exhibit “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Much of Williams’ behaviour during the game can be placed in the former list.

How can we help our children learn from this?

1 – We could encourage our children to think about what would happen if instead of following the flesh Williams played the game in a way that was reflecting the way of the spirit.

2 – We could encourage our children to think about a time they have acted in such a way – either on the sporting field, the playground, at home, or with friends.

3 – We could share with them such times we have failed in these ways, too.

4 – And perhaps most importantly, we could pray with them, thanking God that he forgives us through the death of his son Jesus, and praying that his spirit will help us to live a life of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

31 Days in Proverbs – Day 8 : Wisdom in Creation

Proverbs 8:22-31

[The personified voice of wisdom is talking:]

The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,
    before his deeds of old;
I was formed long ages ago,
    at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
    when there were no springs overflowing with water;
 before the mountains were settled in place,
    before the hills, I was given birth,
before he made the world or its fields
    or any of the dust of the earth.
 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
    when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
 when he established the clouds above
    and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
when he gave the sea its boundary
    so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
   Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
    rejoicing always in his presence,
rejoicing in his whole world
    and delighting in mankind.


This passage shows wisdom as God’s creation as well as God’s creative force.

Wisdom is revealed in God’s creation and it is also through wisdom that God made the world.

Wisdom is described as existing before the creation of the world as well as being a witness to God’s acts of creation, at God’s side while he created.


What can I learn from this?

  1. True wisdom is something outside of human knowledge. According to these verses, it predates humanity itself.
  2. Wisdom was created by God, in fact, these verses describe wisdom as the “first of his works”.
  3. Wisdom rejoices in the works of God’s hands including the whole world as well as mankind.
  4. Wisdom delights in the presence of God.

What are the implications of this?

  1. Human wisdom is only ever a shadow or a reflection of true wisdom. True wisdom existed before the creation of the world. A materialist worldview that acknowledges only what can be seen, touched, tasted, and empirically tested will fall short of this form of wisdom.
  2. God himself created wisdom. If we experience wisdom its because of the ability that God created inside of us to be wise. But wisdom will fall short if we do not seek to understand what God himself wants of us.
  3. Wisdom acknowledges that everything we see was created by a creator – God. This should lead to praise and delight just as described above.
  4. If wisdom delights in the presence of God, perhaps we should, too?


Concluding thoughts

This kind of wisdom is what sets the Christian worldview radically apart from any other. Our whole basis of knowledge and understanding is altered when we put God in his place as the powerful creator of this world, as well as the creator of wisdom.

The Biblical story tells me that while wisdom could rejoice in God’s presence from the creation of the world, I can only approach God because his son Jesus opened the way through his death on the cross.

It reminds me of this verse about true Christian wisdom – a wisdom that seems like foolishness to those who don’t believe.

1 Corinthians 1:18-21

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved. For it is written:I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will set aside the understanding of the experts. Where is the philosopher?Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish? For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of the message preached. 

Wrestling with God’s Word

I’m not a natural athlete. In fact, when I was in High School, my P.E. teacher and I reaching something of a truce one year when he attended the School Awards Ceremony and realised that I was good at every other subject except P.E. So, when I brought in a note saying I couldn’t participate in Cross Country that year due to “weak ankles” (an excuse that now sounds eerily familiar to Donald Trump’s handy “bone spurs”) he was happy to let me sit out for a whole term while my friends had to run around the school block every week.

When it comes to God’s word, in some ways I’ve been an endurance athlete, making it a part of my life for the 20 plus years I’ve been a follower of Jesus. I’ve tried to remain diligent in my reading and study of it in the ups and downs of life, with varying degrees of success. Sure, there have been setbacks, times of struggle, and weeks, perhaps months where God’s word has not be a central part of my daily routine. But I am always drawn back to God and his messages to me in the pages of the Bible. Time after time.

Yet there are many more times when it comes to reading the Bible when I’m more like the person who steps foot in the gym every so often, and when they get there, everything’s done so half-hardheartedly they might as well be sitting out at the cafe, rather than strolling slowly on the treadmill. Have you had those times? Has opening the Bible been something you’ve done out of guilt, compulsion or because you know it’s “good for you”?

One thing I’d never describe myself as is a wrestler – both in real life and when it comes to God’s word.

When I think about wrestling metaphors and the Bible, there’s no greater passage than Genesis 32 when Jacob spends a whole night literally wrestling with God. So transformed is he by the experience that God changes his name to Israel which, we think, means “he struggles with God”.

I can think of times where I’ve wrestled with God in prayer – begging for an outcome to a situation, pleading for a friend, poring out my heart and my hurts. But I can think of seldom few times that I’ve really done the hard yards of agaonising over a passage, pulling it apart, letting its truth cut me to the core to such an extent that my life is radically reoriented.

Perhaps this is a challenge for me, and for this blog, to let God’s word do what it promises to do in Hebrews 4:12

 “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

How about you? Are you a wrestler? A Sunday stroller? An endurance runner? Or something else? What is your experience with God’s word in your life? Let me know!

31 Days in Proverbs – Day 7: Watching to be Wise

Proverbs 7: 1-3
My son, obey my words, and treasure my commands. 
Keep my commands and live;
protect my teachings as the pupil of your eye.
Tie them to your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.
Why is it that I can remember lines of dialogue from films I haven’t seen for years, but not remember God’s word?
Why is it that I can sing along perfectly to songs that were popular in the 1990s but not remember God’s word?
Why is it that I can tell you with certainty which season a particular episode of the West Wing took place in (The Supremes – Season 5), but not remember God’s word?
It is because I haven’t treasured God’s commands as much as I’ve treasured watching my favourite movies?
Is it because I haven’t protected God’s teachings as much as I’ve treasured reliving memories from my youth?
It is because I haven’t written God’s teachings on my heart as much as I have the teachings of Aaron Sorkin and the writers of the West Wing?
None of this has been deliberate on my part. I’ve just been a passive consumer of culture, someone who loves music, movies and TV. And these things can be great blessings, and enjoyable ways to spend my time.
But have I been giving as much of my time and attention to the truths of God’s word? Do I really believe as this verse says that God’s commands will give me life?
The good news of Jesus tells me that I’m not right with God by keeping his commands, but by trusting in Jesus death in my place. But there’s another part of the good news that sometimes I overlook. In John 10:10, Jesus says
A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.
God’s commands are the best way to live. Much better than any message from TV, movies and music. Do I really believe that? Do you?

31 Days in Proverbs – Day 6: Wise Warnings

Proverbs 6: 32-33
But a man who commits adultery has no sense;
whoever does so destroys himself.
There is a lot of teaching in the proverbs about warnings against adultery. This morning, this one in particular struck out to me because it is so different from the messages presented about adultery in popular film and television.
In 2015, I started reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. In fact, I can tell you the precise day I started reading it – February 14. I wasn’t reading it because it was Valentine’s Day – I read it to distract myself while I was experiencing early pre-labour contractions with my second child who was born the next morning.
Being of Scottish descent myself, I loved the Scottish Highland setting. I also loved learning about the history – the deposed Stuart Monarchs – with whom I share a family linage (albeit a very very distant one!)
I also love the main character, Claire. I love her passion and her fire. I love that she is not a damsel in distress, but instead when she finds herself magically transported from the year 1946 to the year 1743, she uses every skill she had hones as a battle nurse on the front lines in WWII to survive.
Claire, married to Frank Randall in 1946, begins her journey in the past desperately seeking her return to the man she loves. Yet, through circumstances beyond her control, she soon finds herself with no other choice but to marry another man – rugged, hyper masculine, yet gentle and kind Jamie Fraser – (think every image emblazoned on the cover of a mills and Boone novel rolled into one).
Throughout the novel, both Claire and the reader’s allegiances shift from the “husband of her youth” Frank to her new husband Jamie. When circumstances eventually get too dangerous for Claire to stay in the 1700s, (with the ill-fated Battle of Culloden looming, and Clarie and Jamie finding themselves on the wrong side of history).
Instead of cheering for the safe return of Claire to her husband, little by little, the reader, along with Claire, has fallen for Jamie. Our hearts break when their love is separated again by a seemingly uncrossable span of 300 years. (But – spoiler alert – with another 6 novels to go at that point, we can safely assume Claire won’t remain in the 20th Century forever!).
I went along with the ride, suspending my critical brain and allowing the author to make me feel the same things as Claire. It was only later when I realised that I had been expertly manipulated into cheering for the ruination of one marriage for the sake of another.
When Claire returns to Frank, their relationship is never the same again. Nor should it be. She has given herself to another man – body and soul – and has nothing left to give to her first husband, despite the love she initially felt for him.
Outlander does in some ways depict the pain of emotional betrayal and marital breakdown; the sections that show the 20 years of a fractured, broken marriage between Claire and Frank after her 3 years with Jamie are painful, raw, and heartbreaking. In some ways it does depict the warnings of proverbs. Adultery can will the adulterer to injure themselves as well as the people they purport to love.
Yet the message presented by Outlander, as well as many other popular film and TV shows, can undercut such warnings. Claire finds her true love and soulmate in Jamie, despite the fact she has made a covenant oath to another man.
Outlander isn’t alone in preaching this message. Scandal, Homeland, The Good Wife and even my beloved BBC Sherlock all contain plots were we follow a main character from the arms of their spouse and into the affections, and often the bed of another.
Certainly, these shows do show some the problems that arise from such a coupling, and the complications that ensue. Yet, at the same time they are also designed to build the sexual tension between the two characters so that when they finally succumb to temptation, the audience is cheering, rather than, in the words of the proverbs, seeing the characters as having “no sense” and on a path to “destroy themselves”.
So much of the TV I consume runs in distinct contrast to the warnings in God’s word, like the one I read in Proverbs today.
What about you? Do you tune in to the TV and turn off your critical brain? Do you allow the messages of the story to dilute the true, right and lasting messages of God’s word?
God’s warnings in the Proverbs are to those who want to be wise. These are warnings we won’t be seeing on TV. What are you going to do with your viewing habits? And how will you temper them with the timeless truths of God’s word?


31 Days in Proverbs – Day 5: The Wise Judge

Proverbs 5:21

For your ways are in full view of the Lord,
and he examines all your paths.

If the Christian story is true – which I believe it is – and if there is an all-knowing God, he would have full knowledge of me. He would know my hidden thoughts and my secret motives. He would know my darkest shames and the impulses I hide even from myself. He’d know the good things I did for the wrong motives, and the wrong things I did with deliberate malice aforethought.

If that same God was not only good and just, but the very source of our concepts of Goodness and Justice, he wouldn’t remain good if he tolerated the way I treat others, the way I treat his creation, and the way I treat him.

Let me explain this with an everyday analogy:

We’ve all been in line at the shops and seen the interaction between a naughty kid and a too-tolerant mum. Before I became a mum myself, and realised just how hard a job it is, I’d be quick to judge that mum, thinking in my head of all the things I’d say in response to my child if he’d be so rude, so disobedient, so disrespectful.

Now, I quash those feelings pretty quickly – I’ve been there, just letting my 3 year old hit me in the face over and over while we wait in line at the checkout, knowing that the pain he’s causing me will be worse for others if I stop him and start him screaming at the top of his lungs in the middle of the supermarket. I don’t know what kind of day that mum has had, and I know I could be “that mum” in the supermarket tomorrow.

But the instinct is still there to judge the parent who doesn’t give their child the proper consequences for their behaviour.

If we expect parent to provide children with consequences when they go astray, why would we expect any less from God? Psalm 130:3 says

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?

I certainly couldn’t.

There’s a verse in 2 Corinthians that gives me great hope. It aknowledges my sin, my rebelling, every deep dark thought and action of my heart, but also shows me God’s plan for my forgiveness. Talking about Jesus, it says

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

Some Bible scholars call this verse the “great exchange”. Jesus, the one without sin, takes on our sin in his body on the cross. If we trust in him, the God who sees all our ways and our paths, all our selfish disobedience, will also see that Jesus died to take the punishment we deserve.

This is the great good news of the Christian message, one that I have been trusting in for over 20 years. I hope you can trust in it, too.