Thursday, 20 November 2014

Psalm 23 book

Look what a customer sent me!!!

They used my Psalm 23 PowerPoint in their service, and then printed this book out for the kids to take home after the service. Looks really professional.

It's fun seeing the text in Dutch. I'm glad I decided to use editable text on all the PowerPoints.


Look at the wee sheep on the back :-)

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Boy angel costumes

It's that time of year again when we look out the tea towels and dressing gowns* and dress up little girls as fairy princesses angels.

But why the little girls? Despite all the costumes and cards, angels in the Bible are not fairies. Or Disney princesses. Or even gently inspirational people.

In the Bible, angels are men**. God's messengers and warriors. Sometimes they ride in chariots of fire. And they're definitely not twee & sissy. 

If we believe the account of Jesus' birth is true, not just a traditional seasonal story, should we not be portraying what the Bible actually says - and therefore have the angels acted by boys?

This, of course, causes a problem. I want the wee boys in my Sunday School class to think being an angel in the nativity is a privilege - not an insult! 

So you need to teach them what an angel is. Last year our Sunday School had just been learning about Elijah and Elisha and the chariots of fire, which was ideal, as I could really play up the 'some angels are God's warriors' thing even before we started talking about Christmas. Make sure they know the angels that appeared above Bethlehem were the heavenly army (that's what 'host' means.)

You also need to have a costume that your nativity angels can be proud to wear, so they (and their parents) don't feel they're playing a 'girl's part'. 

Here's our boy angel costumes from last year. They were very popular!

Gabriel and the angel that came to the shepherd.
  • Tunic - Large white man's T-shirt. 
  • Breastplate - metallic bubble wrap. I got the gold years ago. Silver is easier to get - it's sold as insulation! Better than cardboard as it will last for years and won't crease.
  • Gold/silver elastic for breastplate straps.
  • Flame (optional) cut from orange opalescent sticky plastic. 
  • Belt and headband - For the two main angels I used shiny flame-coloured dress fabric I couldn't resist! To avoid sewing, shiny ribbon works well too - I used gift wrap ribbon for the heavenly host.
  • Sword - main angels had swords from a £ shop - heavenly host had newspaper swords wrapped in foil.
For speed (when dressing large numbers of hyper children in minimal time), tunic & breastplate are designed to be put on all at once: 

Beforehand, breastplate is safety-pinned to T-shirt, then gold elastic tied to pins and crossed at back. Elastic is pinned on shoulders and under arms. 

Then only the belt and headband need tied on separately, and the sword stuck in the belt. They were strictly instructed not to remove the swords during the play, with promises of being allowed to play with them afterwards :-) 

Boy angel extras, with view of crossed over elastic on back.

*Not if I can help it, but that's a whole other post on what first century people actually wore. 

** At least, when appearing in human form they appear as men whenever gender is specified. That's not to say there might not be female ones we don't know about (but we know Gabriel appears as a man). They may of course be genderless in reality - certainly they're asexual.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


A forum without avatars is like trying to socialise with a group of people wearing balaclavas and name badges.

Why would anyone even think this was a good idea?

Monday, 27 October 2014

Missing the point?

I wrote this a while back but never finished it:

In Sunday school we're doing a series about kings and prophets. The series includes the stories of King Joash and King Josiah. As told in the lesson book, the stories are very similar:
  • Becomes king at age 7 (Joash) / age 8 (Josiah).
  • When he grows up, renovates the temple (Joash) / renovates the temple and finds God's law (Josiah).
  • Basically, he's an all-round good guy who follows God and does what he says.
The aims given for the first lesson are that adults can help you to know God (like Joash's uncle did).
The aims for the second are that you can seek God when you are young, and he can change your life.

Despite many differences, the basic plots of the stories are soooo similar that they could easily be confused, and really end up rather boring.

But there are two things missed out of Joash's story - and adding them would make a huge difference.

First - Joash lived the first 7 years of his life in hiding because the evil queen (his gran) wanted to kill him. That's too exciting to miss out!

And second - after his uncle died, Joash completely turned his back on God, abandoned the temple, worshipped idols and had his cousin killed when he pointed out he was doing wrong. Maybe not such a good guy after all? 

And when you include that bit, the aim of the lesson changes, too. Not just that the children need adults to teach them to follow God (although that's true). But that that isn't enough

Joash followed God when he had the influence of a godly father figure. But you get the impression his faith depended on his uncle. And that's not what we want for the children. 

All of the kids in my class have Christian families. They come to Sunday School and church, and we try to make it a positive experience where they can learn about God and what Jesus has done.  We sing great songs that get the Bible firmly in their heads. That's great. But that isn't enough.

As I never stop telling them - it's not what your mum and dad believe that matters - it's what you believe. It doesn't matter if your mum or dad love God - do you love God? 

And, however well we teach the children, only God can do that bit.

Friday, 24 October 2014

“Jesus wept.”

"Why is Jesus weeping? The context of the verse is that Jesus just learned that his old friend Lazarus has died. In just a few more verses, Jesus is going to raise him from the dead, and yet there are still tears to be had. Death is bad, and even when Jesus is going to resurrect Lazarus physical death is still a bad thing."

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The design of independence (or not)

Today Scotland was voting on whether we should be independent from the UK.

One thing I have found interesting about this debate is the design aspect - of course!
The comments below are totally politically objective - they're about design and nothing to do with how I voted :-)

'Yes' is an easy message to design for - the word is inherently positive; you just need to say it with no frills. Here's their logo:


The other side had a definite disadvantage from that point of view - 'no' is an inherently negative word (of course, if the question had been 'should Scotland remain in the UK?' it would have been the other side dealing with this problem). The slogan they started with (and have kept for some things) was 'Better Together'.
Positive, but hardly competes for snappiness with a large 3-letter word. Not ideal for window stickers, and also, importantly, doesn't explicitly tell people what to vote.

So, they changed their logo and slogan to this one:

no thanks.png
I really like this solution: The addition of the word 'thanks' makes it polite and friendly. The cross shows you that you've to vote 'no', and, when reversed out of blue, it looks like a Scottish flag:
Not sure if that was deliberate, as they often don't reverse it, or use other colours. But I think it's a good way to emphasise that voting against independence is not being unpatriotic.

And on that note, here's another one I liked:

It parodies the 'Yes' logo, and it is both Scottish and, importantly in this debate, working class.

Alea jacta est

I have cast my vote.

Some random thoughts:
  • I really wish there was an 'I don't know' box. Because, really, I don't. Therefore, I would prefer to vote 'I don't know', and that we would only have independence if a majority actually voted yes.
  • I hope, whichever way it goes, there is a very clear majority. Scary if it was just one vote out and therefore the result was my fault.
  • In the end, I voted based on 'which would I regret most not doing?'
  • If the result is 'no', I'll be relieved; if it's 'yes' I'll be excited. And have some fairly negative feelings with both results as well.
  • There has been so much scaremongering on both sides, and accusations of lying on both sides, it's hard to have any clear idea of what independence would actually mean.
  • It's not about the SNP and the Tories. If we have independence, in the long term we could have any kind of government including conservative. Therefore all the SNP's socialist utopia ideas will only last until the next general election - which is either good or bad depending on your views :-)
  • There is no morally/spiritually 'right' way to vote, but there are morally/spiritually good reasons for voting each way, morally/spiritually bad reasons for voting each way, and morally/spiritually neutral reasons for voting each way.
  • I found the Independence Debate at Harper Memorial church very helpful. Although it did confuse me more about which way I wanted to vote, it also allayed some of my fears on both sides. Nice to see politicians being nice to each other, actually answering questions (!) and referring to each other as brothers.
  • "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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 4v6-7
  • "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8v28  Which is not to say everything will work out in a way that seems good at the time...
  • Will Scotland get to keep unmarked stamps? Because it was a Scot who invented them.