28 June 2011

The Asking of Questions

I've asked some dumb ones over the years, and been asked some dumb ones.

"normal" is so rare yet we ask questions as if everyone was..., and we use our own definition of 'normal'.

Questions to avoid:

So when are you gonna get married? (especially of an adult person who is not even dating anyone!)

Do you have children?

When are you going to have kids?

So, why do you think your wife left you?

Does my rear look big in these jeans?

When welcoming people to a meeting or event, "Hi, are you new here?" (especially to a founding member of a church or organisation)

So, do you wanna have kids? ((on a first date))

Add your own awkward questions to avoid...

- Posted using BlogPress on the go, so pardon dodgy formatting or spelling. I couldn't wait!

27 June 2011

Your Image

You can safely assume that
you’ve created God in your own image
when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.

— Anne Lamott

25 June 2011

Preachers & Teachers! Are Your Presentations Powerful Or Pathetic?

4 Persuasive Presentation Preparation Tips


Here are four time-tested tips to help you:

1. Follow the 10/20/30 rule: Ten slides maximum, 20 minutes of content, and 30 point font. Design your presentation, knowing that people don't care how many salient points you convey per slide. They want to engage with YOU. The slides serve as supporting documents. ...

Go to Fast Company for the rest of this great blog post on presentations.

Includes Video interview with Guy Kawasaki.

24 June 2011

Inside a Blessing

Blessing with Many Rooms

by Jan Richardson of The Painted Prayer Book

As you step inside
this blessing
we wish to tell you
it is large enough
for you to lie down in.

(though it may not look it,
small as it is upon this page)
you can curl up
in this blessing
with a cup of tea
and a good book
beside the window—
here, just behind you—
that faces east.

Likewise it is true,
though you might not have
paused long enough
to notice,
that this blessing
is big enough
for a table—
quite a sizeable one
can be accommodated—
where your guests
will want to linger
far into the night.

And if they desire to stay,
you will find that
through this door—
you did not see it before?—
there are rooms in plenty
where they can
lay their heads
and stretch out with abandon
in their dreaming sleep.

One room,
many rooms—
in this blessing
it is all the same.
The point is that
there is space

Enough to make
a life, a home;
enough to make
a world.

Enough to make
your way toward
the One who has made
this way for you.

Read more of Jan's reflections and engage with

her artwork at The Painted Prayer Book: word & image & faith

23 June 2011

A need for rumination and reflection

Things happen.
Life changes.
Understanding why doesn't change the changes or or reverse the effects.

A desire to understand is human.

Leslie Parrott quotes an old professor, " ... nothing can belong to us, even our own experience, unless we understand it."

Often we make sense of things when we have time to process events or catalysts.

Sometimes we need to talk things through with a trusted advisor.

Sometimes distance gives us perspective that close proximity could not.

Clarity, or an acceptable opacity, is often followed by peace or acceptance, ownership of the experience and somewhere to stand as we venture forth.

17 June 2011

Descriptors: Alternatives, but who's to say?

Aggressive, or assertive?
Discerning, or picky?
Decisive, or bossy?
Confident, or arrogant?
Humble, or doormat?
Independent, or capable?
Organised, or pedantic?

16 June 2011

Friendship, with an International Lifestyle

Living on opposite sides of big oceans is odd. Having friends on different continents, from Europe to Asia, Africa to the South Pacific and the Americas, enriches my life, but has it's challenges.

I tell stories on one continent, about friends far away, only to find a dissatisfaction within that they'll likely never meet each other. I've been blessed with good friends.

It's the people in our lives, not our possessions, that make life meaningful.

Even the best of friends, while interested in the people I care about, cannot muster huge enthusiasm for people they'll never meet. That makes sense. Most people's lives are already full. It makes little sense to make room for people who only exist in stories; names without texture.

So, do I flip a switch and relegate people to their continents? In a way yes, as we must live in the present, be where we are. On the other hand, no, especially as Facebook and other social media link our networks with no regard to borders, oceans or distances.

Just musing, mulling things over, content to be where I am while
wishing the best of 'my' people could meet and enrich each other's lives.

15 June 2011

Extremists are usually wrong

"I want neither a terrorist spirituality that keeps me in a perpetual state of fright about being in right relationship with my heavenly Father nor a sappy spirituality that portrays God as such a benign teddy bear that there is no aberrant behavior or desire of mine that he will not condone. I want a relationship with the Abba of Jesus, who is infinitely compassionate with my brokenness and at the same time an awesome, incomprehensible, and unwieldy Mystery. "

— Brennan Manning

14 June 2011

Evernote & Dropbox: Similar Online Apps, but not the same

Dropbox and Evernote are new tools I've learned to use this past year and am pleased to have them during my travels. I'm just a toddler in both apps, not having mastered them yet, but they are meeting some of my needs even now.
Check out what Brett Kelly of Bridging the Nerd Gap says. He writes about "Living, Learning, Working and Creating Online"

Brett's comparison of the two apps is this:

Both services specialize in keeping a given set of data in sync across multiple machines and the Internet. They both offer native mobile clients on multiple platforms for managing said data and they both, to one degree or another, deal in files (like spreadsheets, word processor documents, photos and such like). The ability to keep previous versions of said files is also present on both app’s feature lists, but this is executed in very different ways by each company. That’s it, folks.

He then breaks it down for us.

Dropbox’s focus is files, so that’s what I keep there. Lots of them, in fact (about 89gb worth, as I type this). I keep all of my iTunes music in there, all of my current development projects and all sorts of other stuff. It’s also really great for ad hoc file sharing/hosting using the Public directory and it allows files of over 50mb (which Evernote does not). And it offers a sort of poor man’s version control system by letting you revert to all previous versions of a file going back 30 days incase you foul something up. Evernote supports this to some degree with it’s Note History feature, but it doesn’t keep a revision of every change you make, but rather a snapshot of the note at a given interval that you can revert to if you like.

Evernote deals primarily in textual and image content. It does allow you to attach files to notes, a facility that I use frequently, but not the same way Dropbox does. Evernote allows more versatile and customizable organization in the forms of notebooks and tags (instead of just nested directories). The vast (*vast*) majority of what I keep in Evernote is text: account numbers, throwaway SQL scripts that I might want again someday, scanned copies of Apple Store receipts (which are also searchable), etc. As far non-image, non-PDF files I keep in Evernote, it’s mostly blank forms that I use semi-frequently (like a time off request form or an expense report) and archives of files I want to keep but may never need again.

And gives examples:

  • Dropbox is short-term storage of files, Evernote is long term.
  • Dropbox is where I keep the music, Evernote is where I keep the list of bands to check out and the receipts for the music I buy.
  • Dropbox is where I keep records of client assets, Evernote is where I keep a log of client communication.
  • Dropbox is how I move files easily between computers, Evernote is how I move text easily between computers.
So, check them out if you'd like access to various files and info on all the devices you use to work and play. Dropbox and Evernote

Also check out Brett's site for all kinds of good tips on
these and other apps we can master for our own purposes.

"Fear not!" Really?

Check out Jemma's quote on fear and how religious people often try to explain it away.

Exilic Chaplain

13 June 2011

Christchurch Earthquake: Not today's biggest one. Video


Raw video: Watch as the 5.5 quake hits during a Christchurch powhiri and how calm they all remain.


You Choose How You'll Relate to God

I recently tried again to explain the difference between being religious and having a relationship with Jesus. I try to improve this contrast because I'm often asked if I'm religious.

One of the challenges with explaining these things well, is that the questions crop up in specific contexts under particular circumstances by different people. Therefore, no one pat answer will ever suffice.

What I was able to articulate on this particular night in a lovely Mediterranean restaurant in Birkenhead was . . .

If we relate to God as a loving father, and Jesus as a terrific big brother, and the Holy Spirit as our guardian, guide and companion, then we know we are safe. With them on our side, who's gonna take us on?

Also, we don't earn the love of a loving benevolent father, nor do we have to prove anything to a terrific big brother. They love because of who they are, not because of what we do.

The Holy Spirit concept is often a hard one for people who haven't grown up with a spiritual worldview. In fact, the Holy Spirit is one of the hardest pieces of the picture to paint for people.

Anyway, moving on . . .

If we love our generous father and our terrific big brother, we live in obedience to them out of gratitude because we don't want to disappoint them. Disappointing them is loosely parallel to what the church calls sin. While we want to watch our mixtures of legal terminology and relational terminology, it is important to bring the concept of sin in to the picture or it's not complete.

When we no longer care about pleasing God out of love and gratitude, then the legal side of things kicks in. Oh, that then sounds like we're colouring nicely, but then find we must stay inside the lines.

Fact is, we get to choose the basis upon which we relate to God,
either as loving father or as consistent judge.

Another way I've often heard religion and relationship juxtaposed is that:
religion is humanity's attempt to reach God.
is God reaching out to us, as another human being.
What do ya reckon?
Can you do better, or differently?

Have you been in these conversations where you just want to communicate the thing that matters most to you to people who are dear to you?

It's not about being right, but about including those we love in that thing that makes life meaningful, that brings hope and peace.

10 June 2011

Conversations require listening.

"If we maintain the open-mindedness of children, we challenge fixed ideas and established structures, including our own. We listen to people in other denominations and religions. We don't find demons in those with whom we disagree. We don't cozy up to people who mouth our jargon. If we are open, we rarely resort to either-or: either creation or evolution, liberty or law, sacred or secular, Beethoven or Madonna. We focus on both-and, fully aware that God's truth cannot be imprisoned in a small definition. "
— Brennan Manning

What do ya reckon?
If you disagree, join in, say so and explain why.
If you agree, tell us a story of how the conversations might continue to mutual respect, love, inclusion and understanding.
Hmm, I think that was a loaded question, but I hope to stimulate response.

09 June 2011

Sincere, real beauty

"There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are."

— Brennan Manning

Food Diary: Strategic & Intentional Tool for Good Choices

As with budgeting or gauging how many miles to the gallon, you must have information to make informed decisions. That's what a food diary will do for you; it'll give you information about what you're doing right, or wrong, so you can choose well.

You may already have a food diary on your computer. In Microsoft Office's Project Gallery under Planners you'll find Meals-Diets. There is very likely a Food Diary there you can print off and use to record your daily consumption.

You can download or use one an online versions. Cleveland Clinic offers some tips and a form.

Jenny Bowden's Thinking Nutrition offers a basic Food Diary to get you started. Click to download the pdf. Print it out and off you go. Keep one in the kitchen and one in your pocket.

It's not rocket science. Just live intentionally and
choose on the basis of your long term goals and desires.

Other suggestions are to team up with a friend and swap food diaries once a week to keep each other in line. And many people find it's enough to be accountable to themselves. "You won't put that second cookie in your mouth because you don't want to see it in your food record."

It's a habit that will serve you well for a lifetime and with little extra equipment to buy. Got a pen and notepad handy? Start there.

As featured previously on Conversations@Intersections:

There's a reason so many doctors and nutritionists recommend keeping a food diary when you're trying to lose weight: It actually appears to work. The case for food diaries (or food records or journals) got a little stronger, when weight-loss researchers reported that a large, multicenter study suggests that tracking what goes in your mouth can double the amount of weight lost. The findings were part of a weight-loss maintenance trial whose initial results were reported in March. After analyzing the data on weight loss to see which factors made a difference, researchers concluded that the more days a person kept a careful record, the more weight he or she lost. . . .

It's eye opening. In fact, some people will be so shocked at how many calories are in their thrice-daily Coke that the "aha" moment will make going on an actual diet unnecessary. Being forced to be aware of what you're eating can often be enough to help people drop weight, says Wadden.

It helps you track your progress. Use the diary as a way to make adjustments throughout the day and to gauge how much exercise you need to hit a certain calorie count, advises Holly Wyatt, a physician and researcher at the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. "If I eat three cups of fries, I know that I ate a lot and can cut back at the next meal," says Francis Tacotaco, a 38-year-old skilled nursing assistant from Richmond, Calif., who used a food diary as part of a weight-loss program at Kaiser. He's lost 21 pounds so far and wants to drop more.

08 June 2011

iCloud: it's a good thing

As I get ready for some extended time away from my home base, I am warming to the idea of iCloud, a new application/service/feature announced this week by Apple's Steve Jobs.

If the iCloud were operational now, I could load all my music, files, photos, projects, email, contacts . . . my entire digital life, and then access it from anywhere in the world. I would not need to carry my laptop with me at all. I would save time, money and back pain.

We sometimes think the new features the big tech companies announce are "nice for somebody somewhere I suoppose". iCloud would certainly be nice for me. It'll change the way I travel, access information and think. Not bad for an old girl, anticipating technology, announced but not yet actualised.

Developers can get hands on iCloud beta today.
iTunes in the cloud portion will run for users on iOS 4.3 beta,
so everyone can get their hands on it and get it on their devices.
iCloud ships with iOS 5 this fall.

06 June 2011


> The last slurp of a shared drink.
> The middle seat on a long flight.
> Being last in a long queue for something promoted with 'While supplies last.'

Add your own undesirable situation.

LifeHacker beats Martha & Oprah anyday

Of course, it depends on what you're looking for, but LifeHacker is a real Internet gem in that it turns everyday useful stuff into more useful stuff that actually gets things done!

Some projects or ideas stretch things a bit, but they are entertaining. Some are techie and others, like this one, are definitely low tech but useful.

This DIY drink caddy can be made from an old paint tray and will make coffee runs much easier: lifehac.kr/mEh1pr

Painters to the rescue, again.

What becomes of the broken hearted ...

"You can study Proverbs or Colossians till you're blue in the face, and it won't heal the brokenhearted or set the captive free. We come, we learn, we leave. It is not enough. Those hearts remain buried, broken, untouched, unknown."

John Eldredge, Waking the Dead

05 June 2011

Amy: Enough Time, or Time Enough?

Amy's mum says at the funeral,

"I thought I was going to have more time. Time to see Amy grow up and become the young woman she was developing into. Time to enjoy our relationship changing as she matured and unfurled as an adult. Time, I’m sure, to stress out about late nights and parties and being irresponsible and living dangerously. Time to see her study at University and branch out on her own. Time for her strength and grace, her love and determination, to make a mark on the world.

Even when we were told that we might not have as much time as we hoped, I still thought there would be more. Enough for adventures, visits to family and places further away. Time for her to become an IPad queen.

There was never going to be the time I wanted, or thought I needed. But then there was never going to be a time when I was ready to have her go.

What there was, was enough time for the important things, for family and friends, for an astonishing ‘Party Central’ to happen right in Intensive Care at hospital, for fun and tears and quiet times.

There was time for Amy to ask questions and get real, heartfelt answers. There was time for her dog Riley to come and visit, and time for her fabulous wish secret that her sister Becca has told you about. There was never going to be enough time, but in the end, there has been time enough.

As a mum, I’ve thought my main role was to get my kids all grown up, so in a way, with Amy, I feel I’ve failed. But I can’t see any way that Amy has failed, or should have been any better, so I’m thinking of riding on her coattails and claiming a success.

I’ve learnt, over the last few days since Amy died, that she’s had enough time to make her mark in the world already, to impact on people’s lives and hopefully to help them change in some small way, for the better. It seems she didn’t have to grow all the way up for that. But there will never, never have been enough time, for me."

04 June 2011

Politics, Celebs and Social Media

When I grow up I wanna be a . . . .?

We used to think that politicians were involved in politics and musicians wrote music. The lines have faded and music has become a means to communicate to people who never read the political or international news sections of the paper, or website.

Listen to Coldplay's new single. It may or may not shed light on recent political comments and tweets about Palestine.

The Jerusalem Post talks about the debate that was sparked by Coldplay promoting a Palestinian Freedom song. Coldplay fans expressed predictably polar opinions of the band’s foray into politics.

The announcement of Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall has featured in recent cryptic tweets by the band. Two animated doodles (here and here), showcase lines from the track. Among the lyrical gems: "I turn the music up/ I got my records on/ from underneath the rubble" and "Every siren is a symphony/ every tear's a waterfall."

The Guardian clarifies things for us, "Strictly speaking, teardrops are not waterfalls: whereas the latter is an endless torrent of H20, pouring off a cliff, a teardrop is an eye's singular secretion. But Coldplay fans wouldn't be Coldplay fans if they scrutinised every lyric; on the band's most recent release, the one-off December single Christmas Lights, Chris Martin offered a different metaphor for leaky eyeballs. "Christmas night, another fight," he sang, "Tears we cried a flood."

Go to Coldplay's site here or Facebook here or Twitter here.

Heard the songs? What do you think?

Do music and politics mix? Oh ya, these days more powerfully than ever before since celebs often have more powerful stage than those who work the back rooms to redraw the maps.

03 June 2011

Withness: Courage Shared

I visited my friend at the Children’s Hospital in the city. Her daughter Amy was in a ward, struggling to breath deeply. Her respiratory function had been compromised by a motor-neuron disease that was gradually stealing function from her. At 13 years old, she was a gorgeous girl with sparkling eyes and a quick wit, but no use of her legs and nearly none of her hands.

On the Sunday evening I received a text saying, “Not Good. Please call when you can.”

I chucked a few things in a bag and went.

The nature of Amy’s condition, and then the further weakening of her body, meant that my friend Rachael sat in the bed with Amy propped up between her legs, supported by her mom’s arms and body. The mask and hose obscured her pretty face, but she could still get out a few words between breaths and wanted to know everything that was going on. She managed her own care to the end, three and a half days later.

The machines did not breath for Amy, but pushed more air in when she took a breath, expanding her lungs more than she could manage on her own. Amy managed a word with each breath, but patience made communication possible.

The position that made Amy most comfortable also meant that her mom couldn’t easily get up and get what she needed, for herself or Amy. I decided immediately that I’d just stay the night.

I stood along the cabinets at the side of the room, sat in one of the chairs or wandered about doing what I hoped would be helpful. At times my friend called me over for something. One time I leaned in to ask what she wanted, quietly so as not to disturb Amy’s light sleep. My friend said, “Come nearer.” She just wanted me to be with her for a few minutes, not doing things for her.

I was asked what I did during those long nights at the hospital. The most useful thing I did was offer my courage to my friend. That is not easy for a decisive choleric who likes to fix things for those I love.

That is friendship in crisis; the withness that creates a strength stronger than either one of you. That's what we can offer to each other, even when miles separate.