What Do I Do With All This Fruit?

IMG_1798No Aussie backyard is worthy of the name that doesn’t have a lemon tree so, of course, at this time of year we have a glut of lemons. And limes. In fact, I’m harvesting two kinds of limes and have a third too young to fruit. I grew them partly with a plan to turn the Tahitian limes into cordial, but the Red Centre and Finger limes were as much for the novelty value as anything… I like growing stuff. But now what do I do with all this fruit!?

I have to admit, part of the reason for all the citrus (I also have a mandarin and orange) is that they’re easy to grow and give a reliable crop. I could have chosen something else but size and uncertainty made me go with the easy option. But if I’m going to have a useful crop, there is no easy option. I either need to rip out a tree or two and invest in something different, or go to the trouble of making cordial.

Most of us bear ‘fruit’ in some area of our life, but it takes a little effort and risk to turn it into something special.

What Matters?

HeadstoneFunerals for people with no next of kin or inadequate finances are funded by the government. The funeral company is required to conduct a brief service of committal, even if there’s no one in attendance. The ‘service’ probably goes for 2 minutes because there’s not a lot to say about someone you know nothing of, but at least the dead are buried with some measure of respect.

Today I staffed one such service. Two people had made the 4 to 5 hour journey from another town to attend their friend’s committal. Including the walk to the chapel from the cemetery entrance and time they lingered in the chapel after the committal, the whole event probably took 15 minutes. And they had to make the return journey.

9 hours of travel for 15 minutes to honour the dead.

It made me think about my values and what’s important in life.

Finding Happiness by Giving it Away

IMG_0472I frequently tell my dog, as he’s splayed out indecorously on the couch, that he exists for my pleasure. He cocks his head to one side inquisitively and then rolls over, and invitation (which turns into a demand if ignored) to continue to rub his tummy.

The cat is a little more stand-offish but sometimes, early in the morning when I’m getting up to make a coffee, he will strategically place himself where I must pick him up and stroke his soft coat. (I know it’s a demand for a cuddle because I’ve already met the demand for breakfast.) I tell him he exists solely for my pleasure also, but he doesn’t care and soon bores of my attention, indifferent to my enjoyment of his his soothing purr.

In both cases, the key to my happiness is in making them happy. There’s something satisfying knowing that their short lives are good. Of stroking the soft feline coat and hearing his satisfied purr. Of the dogs completely unselfconscious self-indulgence. They’re really quite useless animals otherwise. The dog still hasn’t managed to reach the nest of mice in the back yard and goodness knows what the cat does all day beyond scratching up my couch.

Such a simple thing, finding pleasure by giving it away. Meanwhile busily pursue happiness, yet so frequently find it elusive. Even when we find pleasure in relationships or things, it’s often unsatisfying. Could it be because we use others to find happiness for ourselves, rather than seeking to bring happiness to others? Happiness is a lot like hugs: the more you give away the more, in the very act of giving, you receive it and there’s pretty much zero chance of running out.

Could it be that when we pursue other people’s happiness, often we find we’re more happy and satisfied in ourselves?

5 Keys to Becoming a Great Communicator

Paul Scanlon is a former pastor who, against expectations, built a vibrant church in Bradford, England and then transformed it’s culture and reached some of the least privileged people in his nation. After 30 years he’s resigned and now travels the world training others in the art of communication. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to attend his Communication Masterclass this weekend.

I’ve studied public speaking both formally and informally. I’ve taken various preaching classes through the years, spent 15 years as the main preacher in my churches, and have observed hundreds of funerals delivered by priests, pastors and celebrants.

Paul’s Masterclass was transformational.

I won’t go into details but here are some takeaways from today (this is my initial distillation, not necessarily how Paul put it).

1. Great communicators speak from the heart. Paul talked about how we have two selves, the social self (our social facade) and the essential [authentic] self (who we really are). People are most drawn to authenticity but the problem is they are also repulsed by it. We quickly learn to present the social self but this lacks power and we never reach the audience who would be drawn to our heart. We also rob the people who are willing to accept our social self since it lacks power and conviction.

2. Great communicators understand how people listen. Only 20% of human thought processes is conscious, the other 80% is subconscious and this is what dictates our response to something regardless of how we may consciously respond. This 80% is driven by our fundamental values and beliefs which develop in the first 8 years of life. I guess you could say that we need to understand what people *aren’t* thinking when we speak. These core beliefs and values can change but it takes a lot of effort and persistence. Great communicators address this internal world in their listeners rather than the purely external. They also address it in themselves. In fact, great communicators spend most of their time on their internal world rather than the mechanics of the message.

3. Great communicators have found their life message. As a pastor, most of what we talk about is familiar to our listeners. What makes it fresh is when it’s infused with our life message. Our life message is the core conviction(s) that inform everything we do. Another way of putting this is, what problem are you trying to solve? Many companies make electronic gadgets, but what makes Apple so successful is that their message is not about computers or phones, it’s about making people’s lives simple. Electronics are the vehicle for that. Comedian Jim Carey’s stated life message is helping people be freed from concern, albeit for a short time; comedy is the vehicle for that. Paul said his own life message is helping people find freedom, flourishing and empowerment. I guess pastoring was his vehicle for 3 decades; now training is.

4. Great communicators practice the art of capture. I thought this would be about capturing the audience’s attention, but no, it was about capturing ideas, moments of inspiration, that develop into a message. This is really being an observer of life through the lens of your life’s message, for your life message will tune you to certain frequencies in the world that let you see things differently to others. One thing he said is it’s really important to record those moments, mentally or physically if possible, as they fade quickly and lose their potency if we don’t. Two many stories to recount here, but this was the most immediate take away for me.

5. Finally, Paul talked about finding your voice. Very simply, your voice = authenticity + life message + capture. There are people who need you to find your voice because it’s your unique voice (heart + message + ideas) that they need for healing, empowerment, growth, inspiration or whatever. There are both external (critics) and internal (self-doubt) voices that seek to silence our voice, and part of finding our voice is pushing through struggle and rejection. Paul talked about how the process of moving out of the church into the corporate world has given life to his internal voices that try to stop him. Overcoming this opposition is part of the ongoing struggle of great communicators.

I do some funeral celebrancy and I wonder how this issue of voice impacts conducting a secular funeral service. I hear many different voices among the celebrants I engage as a funeral director and I know that not all of them are authentic (they’re not bad, just not ‘them’ in that role). But there’s also a limit to what we can do at such a delicate time.

One of the action items I came out with was to restart this blog. I’m not preaching at the moment so have limited opportunity to practice these insights and blogging is a way to help with that. Thanks for getting this far!

If you get the opportunity to attend one of Paul’s Communication Masterclasses I highly recommend it. They’re not just for preachers or public speakers – anyone involved in any kind of significant communication will benefit.


36 Reasons Why Scholars Know Jesus Really Existed.

This has some great information I didn’t know.

Bishop's Encyclopedia of Religion, Society and Philosophy



This list has taking me quite a few days to put together, but it’s been a joyful time doing so. I was already familiar with most of the literature on this topic so that would have shortened my time spent on the list, however there is always something that one seems to have missed when going over things for the first time, and therefore it is worth it going over it a second or third time.

Nevertheless, I always have a great time surveying evidence, and piecing it together so that we can come out with a picture on the other end, and that would be my point for this blog article – to survey the historical evidence for Jesus’ existence. Another reason that the topic of Jesus’ existence is seemingly so welcoming for me is because Jesus is so well established in history – I can’t lose, so…

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