child smiling behind trifle with 1/2 candles

She did what she could

One of my favourite traditions that we’ve developed as a family is celebrating half-birthdays. There’s no party or presents, just cake and candles, the family singing “happy half-birthday”, and a girl grinning in surprise because she hadn’t done the math herself. 

I love making cake almost as much as I like eating it, so usually the effort to make it happen isn’t onerous. But on this occasion the mental load was high and the emotional reserves were low, so I did something that old Maja never could have: I just bought a thing. No hand-crafted cake for this girl’s half-birthday, it was a short-dated trifle that I grabbed from the supermarket in between running errands. While she was out of the room, we whipped it out of the back of the fridge and I hastily (and badly) stuck in some pre-used candles. 

Not a thing of beauty, and I couldn’t eat a spoonful, but she loved it. 

As a recovering perfectionist, that crappy trifle was a sign of real personal growth for me. And, believe it or not, it was prompted by my reading of Mark 14:3-9 that morning. 

Yes, your devotional reading of Scripture can guide your dessert choices — this is practical theology. 

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close-up of Michelangelo's statue of Moses

Unqualified?

When I was in my final year of high school (way back when we called it “form 7”), we were all encouraged to complete a career aptitude test. It was a computerised quiz that asked us a bunch of questions and then spat out some suggestions about what kind of careers might be a good fit for us pursue. It was good for a laugh.

20 years later, I thought I’d try it out again. Turns out I should reconsider retraining as a Forestry Scientist, Economist, Zoologist, Landscaper, or Obstetrician — no, no, nope, maybe, no way.

There is some merit in them I’m sure. It’s worth figuring out if you have an aptitude for a vocation before you pursue it… kind of.

If you think about the kind of person who was taking on the role of public speaker and leader of a nation, there are a few personal aptitudes that it would be helpful; not least the ability to speak fairly well. After all, it’s a public speaking role.

But then there’s Moses.

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Pay attention to what you’re paying attention to

We all think we’re seeing the world as it is, but actually our brain is playing tricks on us. Helpful tricks, yes, but tricks nonetheless.

When I look out in the view in front of me, I think I’m seeing one big seamless picture: that tree next to this tree, alongside that tree over there, sky above and grass below. But actually my brain is taking little snapshots as my eyes rest on different objects and then joining them together in what only seems like a seamless vista. (Yes, really). The big picture is made up of little fixations of focus. Usually it works well, but sometimes it means you miss seeing things that your brain wasn’t trained to focus on.

As with the eyes, so with the mind.

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Problem? No problem.

If there’s one thing I miss about primary school, it’s maths. I loved those exercise sheets you were given with a long list of maths problems. Clearly I was a nerd, I’m not disputing that.

They came to mind yesterday as I was listening to a great word from Ps Sam Monk at the ACTS Europe conference. He was talking about how in leadership problems are inevitable, but having problems don’t mean you’re in trouble.

I realised that too often my thought process goes something like “oh no, a problem, I must be doing something wrong.” When problems are a sign that you’re moving forward, extending your capacity, actually doing something. The trough might be dirty, but that’s because you’ve got oxen, so count yourself blessed (Prov 14:4).

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Moments and memories

When I was 5, I fulfilled one of my life-long goals: we went to Disneyland. I don’t remember a whole lot about it now, more just snatches of memory and delight, but this I do know, it was all-round awesome. 

Earlier this week, however, I talked over the experience with my mother, and her memory was quite different. She said something like, yeah it didn’t go that well, you were both so tired because of the jet lag, you just wanted to be sleeping. We were on our way to Norway you see, and Disneyland was a side trip. I guess we were tired, and I bet I melted down multiple times, and I’m sure I was hard work – but I don’t remember any of that! For me, it was one of the highlights of my short life. 

I’m so glad I had this conversation with my mum early this week, because over this week we’ve had more than our fair share of memory-making experiences that have simultaneously been hard work. 

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Pretty good pencil drawing of a cat

You have to be willing to be bad at it

Earlier this year my 6 year-old came home from school with some pretty AMAZING cat pictures. She showed them off, and we all oohed and aahed over her talent.

The next day, however, I found another picture from a few days earlier, her first attempt at a cat. It was languishing crumpled at the bottom of her bag, but this picture made me even happier: it was a CRAPPY cat picture.

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Working at being lazy

I hate being lazy. If you ever accused me of being lazy I would react like a crazy person: I’d launch into some serious defensive behaviour and recite a long list of things to beat back your accusation until you agreed with me that I am, if anything, the exact opposite of lazy.

No one has ever actually called me lazy, probably because they can intuit that might be my response, and they love their life.

I think maybe I have a problem here. In fact, I know I do. Feeling lazy is for me an “Unbearable Feeling” (this is a term from Dave Riddell, and the concept is so fruitful, read more here), or as a counsellor recently called it an “emotional allergy”.*

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