I’m a great believer that worship services should include something for everyone, young and old alike. My experience, however, is that many churches cater for the adults, but ignore the needs of its younger members. So when younger members are present they may well be discouraged from returning.
The irony, of course, is that the average age of the congregations to which I have ministered is in the seventies, and younger generations are conspicuous by their absence.
These stories have come out of situations where the presence of children in church could not be guaranteed, and where there was a need to have something ready should any children walk in the door. They are stories that in multi-centred parishes needed to be portable, and could be produced at a moment’s notice. They needed to be easily slotted into a service, and suitable for churches where the use of modern technology was not an option. They also needed to be able to be used in situations where it was not appropriate to invite children to come forward for a ‘Children’s Talk’.
They are written in a style designed to be read aloud. As a consequence they may break many of the rules of written grammar.
My experience in using these stories is that adults, as well as children, get something from them. Indeed, after a service in which I have told a children’s story, I often get comments or hear chatter about the children’s story. Furthermore, on more than one occasion I have been asked to give a children’s talk in the absence of any children.
I hope you enjoy the stories, but please feel free to read (or retell) these stories to your own congregation(s). And if you wish to use your own illustrations, please do so.
Adapted from the preface from to book “A Day on the Life of a Pair of Trousers and Other Stories”
Stories from the Book "A Day in the LIfe of a Pair of Trousers"
The Great Tiddlywink Competition (Rough Draft)
Now I don’t know how much you know about grasshoppers. But you probably know more than me. What you should know is that grasshoppers love to jump, and leap, and spring about, going from place to place. However, what you may not know is that grasshoppers love to play games. And their all-time favourite game is Tiddlywinks.
“Tiddlywinks”, I hear you say, “Who here has heard of Tiddlywinks?” Well Tiddlywinks was a very popular game when I was a child. And the idea is that you start with a “wink” and with your “squidger” you flick your “wink”. And you do it a number of times until you get your “wink” it into the “pot”. It’s a competitive game, it takes a least two to play, and you take it in turns. And the winner is either the one who flicks their six “winks” into the “pot” first. Or after a set period, the one who scores the most “Tiddlies” (or points), depending upon where the “winks” are in the game.
Now as you can imagine Tiddlywinks is a very suitable game for grasshoppers, because they love to jump, and leap and spring. And that’s exactly what happens to the “winks” in Tiddlywinks. But Tiddlywinks isn’t just a game that grasshoppers like to play, it’s a game they like to watch too.
Now one day both Springy and Leapy were playing in the Great Tiddlywinks Competition. And they had both done so well that they found themselves in the final – playing against one another.
Now to start with everything was going quite smoothly. Indeed they had each got their first three “winks” into the “pot”. The problem was, though, that they were great competitors. Neither liked to lose. And as the game progressed, things started to get a little tense. And the crowd were getting a little tense too.
And it wasn’t helped when Springy did a thing called a “squop”. He landed his “wink” on top of one of Leapy’s “winks”. Which meant that Leapy couldn’t play his “wink” until Springy had moved his own.
Well you should have heard the crowd. And you should have seen Leapy’s parents. If you’ve ever been to a school football match and heard some of the parents, I think you’ll get some idea of what happened next. And sadly, the game was halted until after Leapy’s father had been removed from the arena.
Eventually, however, things calmed down, and the play continued. Both Springy and Leapy managed to get their fourth “wink” in. And everything was going well, when Leapy did a “scrunge”.
Now at this stage you’re probably thinking “his making all this up. Even the words don’t make sense”. However I assure you, I had to do a lot of homework on this story. And the internet lists some of the terms used by both the English and North American Tiddlywinks Associations. And a “scrunge” is when a player’s “wink” bounces off the “pot”.
The problem was, however, not just that Leapy did a “scrunge”, but that he did it as the whistle blew for the end of the game. The 25 minutes, the time allotted for serious competitions, was over. And now it was time to see who had the most “tiddlies” (points).
Well Leapy knew he had lost. He had needed that “wink” in the “pot” to win the game. But was he happy about losing? No, he was not. And he showed it. And you can imagine the scene as he jumped up and down, as only an angry grasshopper can do.
Later, at the press conference, both Springy and Leapy were asked about the game. Leapy in particular was asked whether he had been embarrassed about his father’s behaviour. He was asked where he had got his temper from. But all he could say was that his father wasn’t so bad, that it was a one-off thing and would never happen again. He came up with a variety of excuses for his own behaviour too.
And so the Great Tiddlywink Competition came to an end. Springy had won. But his victory had been spoiled by some very bad behaviour.
Now of course there is a moral to this story. And it’s not just the need to be careful playing Tiddlywinks with grasshoppers. It’s not even the need to be alert when watching grasshoppers play. The moral of this story is that whoever is playing a game – grasshoppers or us – there are right ways to behave, and there are wrong ways. There are also good role models and there are bad.
Now we all make mistakes, we all have our moments. But the important thing in life is to live in a godly way, as Jesus would want us to behave. Not to get mad because we don’t get our way.
Because as far as God is concerned, there’s nothing wrong with winning. It’s good to win. But there’s nothing wrong with losing either. It’s not a matter of whether we are better than someone else, but it’s how we play the game. And that’s something that Leapy, and his father, had no real idea about at all. But do you?
Posted: 15th February 2015
© 2015, Brian A Curtis
A Day in the Life of a Pair of Trousers (Rough Draft)
Now the morning started quite normally. They were taken to the kitchen for breakfast, and had the usual bit of milk and cereal slopped on them. And then there was the dog who came and sat upon them too. But the trousers didn’t complain and didn’t hold a grudge. And after that, it was out of the house to… well who knows where.
However, as they were being walked along the street, the trousers recognised where they were going. They were going to the shops. And it wasn’t long before his owner sat down and had a break. And when he did, this time it wasn’t milk and cereal that the owner slopped on them, but a bit of ice cream. And bbbrrr that felt cold.
But that wasn’t all. At lunch time the trousers had a whole meal dropped on them. And on the way home, a car went speeding past, and it found the only muddy puddle that could be found. And, well… you can imagine the rest. But still the trousers didn’t complain, and didn’t hold a grudge.
By the time they got home again that afternoon, the trousers looked a real mess. But the trousers had been around long enough to know what would happen next. In no time they were being taken off, and being put back in the wash.
The trousers breathed in, “Here we go again”, as they had powder thrown over them, and the water began to run. And the trousers held their breath as the bowl began to spin. But before long, they found themselves being hung up to dry. And then, a little later still, a hot – very hot iron – was run all over them. But still the trousers didn’t complain and didn’t hold a grudge.
By the end of the day, however, the trousers were content. All clean, and peacefully hanging up in the cupboard, where they could have a decent night’s sleep. It had a been a big day.
However it wasn’t long before it was dawn again. And all of a sudden the wardrobe door opened, and a pair of hands appeared and grabbed them off the hanger. And for the trousers everything began to happen all over again.
You know for all of us life is mostly routine, but a routine where little adventures happen on the way. And just like the pair of trousers, during those adventures we often get dirty, and not always of our own making. Because apart from our own dirt, we have other people’s dirt thrown at us too.
Of course one kind of dirt, is the stains that we make when we slop things, or when other people slop things. But another kind of dirt is when we do things wrong, or others do things to us which are wrong too. However one of the things that we can learn is to never complain and never hold a grudge.
Now the Apostle Paul had some very good advice about that. He said that we should not let our anger cause us to sin. And that we should not let the sun go down whilst we are still angry (and we can find that in the bible in Ephesians 4:26-27). And what he meant by that, is that we need to deal quickly with the dirt that comes our way. That we are not to make a big deal of it, but quickly put it behind us. And that is what the trousers in our story knew so well.
Indeed, when something happened to the trousers in the story, they never complained, and they never held a grudge. Whatever was thrown at them, they just got on with life. The question is, can we do the same?
Posted: 29th March 2015
© 2015, Brian A Curtis
A Tale of Three Frogs (Rough Draft)
Now, Fred Frog said to Freda Frog, “Why don’t we jump over to the edge of the pond, where there are some other nice lilies. It’s a nice day, and we can bask in the sun there.” And Freda agreed. But they both agreed that they would sneak off without letting Ferdie Frog know where they were going. So they quietly slipped off the lily in the middle of the pond, and ever so quietly went off to the lilies at the edge of the pond. Knee-deep, knee-deep.
Now unbeknown to Fred and Freda, Ferdie Frog had heard what they had said. He was upset about being left out of the adventure. But in a way he was pleased he hadn’t been asked. Because he knew that a big cat lived close by to the edge of the pond, and he’d seen the cat just where those lilies, that Fred and Freda had been talking about, were. And Ferdie knew that the cat, with one swipe of his paw, could grab hold of anything sitting on those lilies. But Ferdie decided that because he wasn’t invited, he would keep that all to himself. He certainly wasn’t going to call out to Fred and Freda, and warn them of the danger. Not, if they were going to leave him out of their adventure. Knee-deep.
Now once Fred and Freda got to the lilies at the edge of the pond, they felt guilty that they hadn’t invited Ferdie; that they’d left him all on his own. But still the lilies were nice and padded, and very comfortable. So Freda and Freda soon settled down, and started to sun themselves in the warm afternoon sun. Knee-deep, knee-deep.
When all of a sudden… swipe! Fred was no longer on the lily. In fact he was nowhere to be seen. Miaow. Swipe! All of a sudden Freda wasn’t there either. In fact there was no sign that either of them had been there. Miaow.
Now two hours later, back in the middle of the pond, Ferdie Frog was feeling lonely. He knew nothing of what had happened to Fred and Freda, but he was starting to feel very worried. Fred and Freda had been gone some time now, and he hadn’t heard a peep (or even a knee-deep come to that) for a while. And although Fred and Freda had deliberately left him behind, he was feeling guilty that he had done nothing to warn them of the cat. And now… well, he was too scared to go and see what had happened. Knee-deep.
Imagine Ferdie’s surprise, then, when moments later he felt two plops beside him. Fred and Freda reappeared, a little shaken but physically unharmed from their adventure. Knee-deep, knee-deep.
Of course, Ferdie was overjoyed to see Fred and Freda. But at the same time he was curious to know what had happened. So in no time, Fred, Freda and Ferdie settled down to hear the story of the adventure. And to cut a long story short (for those of you who want to know) it appears that Fred and Freda had both seen the cat’s paw coming. And each had jumped just at the right time to miss being swiped by his paw. They had then hidden in the reeds close by, until the cat had gone away. Ferdie then admitted that he had known about the cat and that he was sorry he hadn’t told them. And that because they had left him out of the adventure he had decided not to warn them.
But you know, despite how they had treated each other, Fred, Freda and Ferdie made up with each other that night. It was clear that they needed each other. Their world was a dangerous place, and a lonely place too. They couldn’t afford to be without each other.
So, just as this story began “Once upon a time…” so it ends “And they all lived happily ever after.” Knee-deep, knee-deep, knee-deep.
You know the moral of this story is that we all need each other. Yes we may have times when we deliberately exclude others from the things that we do. And yes, we may have times when we fail to tell others of the dangers in life. But in reality we need other people, and they need us too.
Now if Fred and Freda had understood that, then they might have invited Ferdie on their little adventure. And if Ferdie had understood that, then he would have warned Fred and Freda of the cat. They had to learn their lessons the hard way. But the question for us is, “Do we have to learn our lessons the hard way too?”
Posted: 24th May 2015
© 2015, Brian A Curtis
Charlie the Chimpanzee (Rough Draft)
Now, that meant for Charlie, not only spending as much time with people as he could, but it also meant that when they weren’t actually talking directly to him, watching people from afar. Indeed he would watch what people did, and how they behaved, and made a note of every detail of their behaviour. And so seriously did Charlie want to be a human being, that he spent all his waking hours pursuing this one goal, trying hard to get it right.
Unfortunately, for Charlie, copying humans was not necessarily a good thing to do. Because copying people’s behaviour often got him into trouble.
For example, one day he decided that he’d try out some new words that he’d heard some people use (and he really wasn’t quite sure what they meant). But they were evidently important words, because they used them all the time. Imagine his surprise then when the person he tried them on got very upset, and slapped him on the face as if he’d said something wrong.
For example too, another day when he decided he needed to borrow something. Instead of asking the person first, he just took what he needed, just like he’d seen other people do. Well, imagine Charlie’s surprise, then, when the person he’d borrowed from began to turn their whole place upside down, looking for the thing that he had borrowed. And they then called in the police to report that something had been stolen.
And then there was another incident… but I think you get the idea.
Now Charlie may have been a chimpanzee, but he wasn’t silly. And he quickly realised that copying just any person’s behaviour was not a good idea. Indeed he needed to copy only good behaviour, not bad. But who was he going to copy?
Well, fortunately for Charlie, he had a good friend. The vicar of the local church was a regular visitor to Charlie. And so Charlie thought he would be the ideal person to talk to him about his problem. And the vicar was very helpful. He referred Charlie to the bible, and he opened his bible to the letter to the Hebrews. And the vicar read some words from chapter thirteen, verse 7. And they were words all about imitating the life and faith of godly people; those who had shared their faith with you. So the vicar suggested to Charlie that only people who had Jesus in their hearts should even be considered as worthy to be copied. And, perhaps, as even the most faithful can make mistakes, then maybe he should consider only following Jesus’ example. And he left him a Bible so he could read it, and more easily copy Jesus’ behaviour.
And, you know, since that day Charlie has not got into anywhere near as much trouble as he used to. And what’s more, he’s learned to appreciate just what Jesus did for human beings so many years ago.
So now if you were to ask Charlie what his goal in life is, he will now say that he still wants to be as much like a human being as he can be. But he will also say that the person on which he wants to model his life is the person of Jesus himself. And I think that is very wise too.
Now in life we humans tend to learn how to behave from a number of different sources. Indeed we learn from our parents, family members, friends, people we admire etc, etc. And some of the things we learn are good, and some of the things we learn are bad. However, what we should remember, is that we all mistakes. And if we want to learn how to behave well, we need to be able to work out who is a good role model , and who isn’t. And the best role model we can have is Jesus himself.
Now, that’s certainly the lesson that Charlie the Chimpanzee learnt. But is it a lesson that we have learnt too?
Posted: 1st June 2015
© 2015, Brian A Curtis
The Parable of the Brick Wall (Rough Draft)
Big Bad John stood back, looked at the wall, and admired his handy work. The wall was coming along very nicely. Almost three meters tall and three bricks thick, it provided a good solid barrier between his property and Kind Compassionate Ken next door. On the other side of the wall, however, Kind Compassionate Ken looked out of his window in despair. He didn’t know what he’d done to upset Big Bad John, if he’d done anything at all. But still that wall—that barrier—was a constant reminder that no matter what he did, Big Bad John would have nothing to do with him at all.
Indeed it seemed that every time that Kind Compassionate Ken tried to do something to be kind, or to try to be friends, all Big Bad John would do would be to check for gaps in the wall, repair it where necessary, and add another row of bricks to its height. For Kind Compassionate Ken it seemed an impossible situation where only a miracle could change what was happening. And that’s exactly what happened.
Because one day Big Bad John was checking his wall for cracks, and gaps, and adding yet another row of bricks, when all of a sudden “bang!” part of his wall came crashing down, right on top of Big Bad John. In his haste to add another line of bricks, he’d got the mix of the cement wrong. And you know what happened then.
Now Kind Compassionate Ken heard the bang. And even though he knew what Big Bad John would likely do (he’d respond by making the wall even thicker and higher still), he raced out of his front door, came around the wall, and came to Big Bad John’s rescue. And boy did Big Bad John need rescuing.
In no time, Kind Compassionate Ken checked that nothing was broken and that he wasn’t bleeding, and got Big Bad John to sit up on the pile of rubble. And even Big Bad John couldn’t help but say, “Thank you.” But knowing the way he treated him, he asked Kind Compassionate Ken why he had come to his rescue at all. After all, Big Bad John just couldn’t understand why someone he had mistreated so badly could really care. But he obviously did, and it made all the difference in the world to Big Bad John.
It made Big Bad John think about his wall, and how he had been so horrible. It made Big Bad John realise that he needed to change his ways; he realised he needed to do something about that wall. And, do you know what? He did. But he didn’t bulldoze the whole wall right away. No, but he did make a small hole in it, so that he and Kind Compassionate Ken could see and talk to one another—just a bit. Then as their friendship grew over time, the hole got bigger and bigger; the height of the wall has got lower and lower, and the thickness of the wall has got thinner and thinner too.
Of course, Big Bad John still has a long way to go, but now the wall is only one and a half metres tall and only one brick wide. So he really has come a long way.
Of course, the moral of this story is that it is easy to get upset with people, and overreact to the things that people do and say. It’s easy to build walls between us and other people, to keep them out. Similarly it’s very easy to build a wall between us and God to keep him at a distance too. But that’s not how it is supposed to be.
Indeed, the Apostle Paul tells us, that when Jesus died, he broke down the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles, and between us and God. In other words he removed the barriers that we build so that we can keep others out.
And if he did that for us, imagine what would happen if we tried to break down the walls that we have with other people. Of course doing that may not be easy, and it may be a bit scary, at first. But with the walls that we build, we shouldn’t wait until there is a major disaster (like Big Bad John) before making the first move.
Posted: 25th September 2016
© 2016, Brian A Curtis
The Musical World of Arnold van Beethoven (Rough Draft)
Some music he liked very much, whilst other music he didn’t like at all. And when he heard something he didn’t like, he would often think. “I could do much better than that.” So, one day Arnold opened the lid of the piano stool, took out an unused sheet of manuscript paper, and sat on the stool determined to write some music.
Now Arnold knew that whatever he wrote, he wouldn’t be able to play—he would need to get his father to do that. But Arnold was sure that despite that, he would still be able to write something really good, something worth listening to. But, as he sat there, looking at the blank piece of manuscript paper, pen in hand, he really wasn’t sure what it was going to be.
And then he had a brain wave. “I know,” he thought, “I’ll get some proper music out, and I’ll copy all the lines, squiggles, and tadpoles, and I will add them to my music.” So that’s exactly what he did. He got some manuscripts out of the piano stool, and began to copy all the lines, squiggles and tadpoles. But not necessarily in the same order—he wanted his piece to be different. Nevertheless, he copied all the symbols and arranged them somehow on the page.
Now despite that fact that he really didn’t know what he was doing, two hours later he was finished. He was happy. There were squiggles and lines and tadpoles all over the place. So, with a sense of contentment he leant back, and admired his efforts. And then being unable to play what he’d written, he waited for his father to come home, so he could play it for him.
A little while later Arnold’s father returned home. And of course, being in a musical family, his father was delighted with Arnold’s work; he was pleased that his son was interested in music. But when he looked closely at the manuscript, all he saw was a piece of music which was virtually unplayable. You see, Arnold really knew nothing about music. And the piece that he had written changed tempo two or three times in each line. One minute the tune was in sharps, the next it was in flats. Sometimes there were four beats to the bar, other times only two and a half. Sometimes the piece was written in the treble clef; other times it was written in base clef.
But despite that, his father was determined to play what Arnold had written—just as Arnold had written it. So he sat down at the keyboard and began to play.
Now fortunately it wasn’t a long piece. But by the end, even Arnold could see that there was more to writing music than just writing down lines and squiggles and tadpoles. But Arnold’s father was determined not to put off; he wanted to encourage him in his interest in music. So right there and then he told Arnold he would teach him all about writing music. So, even though the music had not turned out as he had hoped, Arnold was very pleased with the result.
Now of course the moral of this story is that from time to time we all get interested in something. It could be music, it could be painting, or it could be something else. And the danger is that we can think that we can do a better job than someone else. Indeed, right from the beginning, with little or no training, we can think that we know enough to create a masterpiece. Unfortunately, no matter how much we know, there is always room for us to learn more.
And that isn’t just true of music, or painting, it is also true when it comes to the Christian faith. Indeed, at times, we can think we know it all; that we understand every single aspect of the Christian faith. And that is why there are so many people that feel that they don’t have to mix with other Christians; there are so many people who that they don’t need to learn any more.
But of course, you can easily see what happens if we ever begin to think like that. It would be just like writing a piece of music, with all the lines, squiggles and tadpoles, before we really understood what they were all for—just like Arnold.
Posted: 24th June 2017
© 2017, Brian A Curtis
Signpost Sally (Rough Draft)
Signpost Sally was an expert at putting up signs. So, whenever the local council wanted a new signpost erected or an old one replaced, she was called on to do her bit.
She put up signs directing people where to go. She put up signs telling drivers of the speed limits. She even put up signs telling people not to do certain things—like playing with a ball, or taking a dog on the beach. Signpost Sally loved her job. But then she simply loved helping people know where things were, how fast they could drive, or where there were places it wasn’t suitable to do certain things.
Unfortunately, there was something about her signposts that bothered Sally. And that was that some people obviously couldn’t be bothered to read her signs.
For example, a month ago, she had just finished putting up a sign, directing people to the local shopping centre, when someone approached her.
“Do you know where the local shopping centre is?” the voice asked.
But, then, she had also seen someone driving at twenty kilometres over the speed limit, and someone else playing ball with their dog on the beach.
Now that didn’t mean that Signpost Sally stopped loving her job. But it did make her wonder, “What was the point of all the signs,” particularly the ones that she had put up.
In the back of her mind was the disaster that she knew was going to happen. But there was nothing she could do about. All she could do was put up the signs to warn people. It was up to them whether they wanted to take any notice.
And, you know, the sad thing is that two weeks ago what she feared came true. Someone was looking for the shopping centre, but ended up at the tip. A car, that was being driven far too fast, missed the bend in the road and landed in a ditch. And a woman, on the beach, slipped on some doggy-doo.
“I just don’t understand some people,” cried Signpost Sally. “Why don’t people take any notice of my signs?” But you know they didn’t. Because no matter what signs Sally put up, there was always someone who would ignore them. “What’s wrong with these people,” she said. “I always take notice of my signs.” And I guess she had a point. But then she was always putting them up.
But then, last week, Signpost Sally saw a road sign. And she took notice of it, because it was one that she hadn’t put up herself. But she wasn’t really interested in what it said. What she was interested in was where it was, what it looked like, and who had put it there. And, of course, that was a recipe for disaster. Because whilst she was still standing there, she had a whole truckload of gravel tipped over her.
“I guess that serves me right,” said Sally. “I should have paid attention to the sign.” And she should have.
Now in this world there are all sorts of signs—signs for our benefit, signs that need our attention. But how often do we take notice of them? And I mean, not just take notice of where the sign is, what it looks like, or who put it there—but what the sign actually says. Because if we a miss a sign—particularly an important sign—then disaster can come to us too.
And just as that is true of the world, so is it true of the Bible too. Because the Bible has many signs in it—signs pointing the way, signs pointing to Jesus. And they’re all there for our benefit. But how often do we take notice of those signs? And how many of us just carry on, doing what we want?
Of course, the problem with the signs in the Bible, is that we if we miss them, we could end up worse than just ending up at the tip, putting our car in a ditch, or treading on some doggy-do. Our relationship with God depends upon them—our eternal well-being may well be at stake.
So we need to take notice of the signs. It’s something we need to try hard to do.
And everybody else … Well if people don’t want to take notice of the signs, there’s not a lot we can do. Except, we could become signs ourselves—people pointing to Jesus—in the hope that others will take notice, and avoid landing up in the eternal tip, ditch, or doggy-doo.
Posted: 14th January 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis
The Man Who Loved Waiting (Rough Draft)
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Do you like waiting? Do you like standing in queues, waiting to be served? Do you like staying at home, waiting in, because someone is expected to come? Do you like waiting for some special event to arrive?
Well, if you’re anything like me, you don’t. However, I came across a man the other day who does. It’s his favourite pastime. And he loves waiting so much, that if he had his way, that’s all he would ever do.
As a consequence, Darren, went to the Doctor’s surgery the other day. And what did he do there? He waited. He didn’t have an appointment. He just knew it was a good place to wait. And after an hour or so in the waiting room, he got up, said thank you to the lady at the reception, and went home.
He rang the telephone company. And he knew his call was important—he was told so on the phone—so he waited on the phone. Forty minutes later, when the call was answered, he thanked the man who answered for letting him wait, and then he put down the phone.
In the evening he went to a local restaurant. And he went to one in particular. Because he knew that from the time that he sat down until the time he was his order was taken would be about an hour. And then it would be another hour before he would see his food.
You see, Darren loved to wait. And whereas you or I might get a bit frustrated or impatient with all the waiting, Darren loved it. Indeed, he couldn’t get enough of it. Which is all well and good, because the next day he was expecting the plumber to come. And Darren knew what that meant. For the plumber was well known for not turning up, or even phoning to say he’d been delayed. And that was delightful for Darren, because Darren liked to wait.
Only the next morning, Darren didn’t wait. At half-past eight as he was waiting in bed to get up, there was a knock on the door. And there was the plumber, tools in hand, ready to get to work.
Well, if there is anything worse for Darren than someone being on time, I don’t know what it is. But the plumber came and the plumber went, and whatever job Darren had for him to do was quickly done. Which is good in one way. But what was Darren going to do next? He hadn’t planned for the plumber being on time. He’d planned his whole day as a day for waiting and waiting, hoping that the plumber wouldn’t turn up. He’d been taken by surprise. He was totally unprepared. His whole day had been wrecked, what was he going to do?
But, you know, he did find something else to do. He had some friends who could be relied upon for never being on time. It wasn’t the same as the plumber, but at least it was something he could do. So he invited them for tea at six, knowing full well they wouldn’t turn up until nine. And that made Darren very happy indeed.
Now I don’t know about you, but I think it is very rude not to be on time, not to answer the phone promptly, and to keep people waiting. And yet, our saviour Jesus Christ is doing exactly that. Indeed, it is nearly two thousand years since his followers were told that he would come again.
However, Jesus didn’t say when he was coming—he didn’t know. But he did say that he would come when we least expected it, and that we needed to be ready. He also gave us a task to do while he was away. He didn’t want us to be like Darren, idly sitting and waiting, and being taken by surprise when he suddenly returned. He wanted us to be active and prepared for any sudden visit.
And that’s the lesson we can learn from Darren. Because yes, we do need to wait for Jesus to come again. But what we shouldn’t do, is do nothing and just wait and wait and wait. Because if we do that, when he returns, we will be taken by surprise, we will have not done the task that has been given us, and we will not be ready to face him at all.
Posted: 18th August 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis
Mr Fix-It (Rough Draft)
Mr Fix-It thought he was terribly cleaver. He thought he could fix anything, even when it was one of his own mistakes.
For example, he was a keen gardener. But one day he planted a weed by mistake. In time, the weed got out of control, and it spread and spread and spread. Now he knew he’d made a mistake, but he also thought he could fix it too. So, he sprayed the plant, only to find that he’d not only killed the plant, but all the insects, and everything around it as well. Which left him with an even bigger problem to fix.
He loved doing D.I.Y. He thought he was very good at it. But not everything came out quite as he had hoped. For instance, he made a collapsible table—a table he could fold away whenever he didn’t need it. But the problem was that it did collapse. Indeed, it wouldn’t stay upright at all. But then he knew that he could fix it. He knew he had the ability to get it right. So, he did—or at least he thought he did, only to find out that his collapsible table wouldn’t collapse when he wanted it at all. And because it doesn’t collapse, it is now taking-up far too much space in his lounge room.
He loved cooking tea. And one day, as he was cooking it, he thought he’d have a taste. But, ugh, it was awful. However, despite that, he knew he could fix it. So, he added a few more ingredients, dished it up and sat down to eat. Only then did he discover how truly awful it was. It was worse than before. And he thought, “What a good job it is that I haven’t invited anyone else to share this meal.”
Now it is no exaggeration to say that there was always a problem with whatever Mr Fix-It touched. Whatever he did never came out right. But despite that, he remained convinced that he could get it right, that he could fix up whatever problem he had created.
But then something happened. Disaster struck in the Mr Fix-It house. Instead of driving his car into the garage he missed the door and hit the wall. And he hit it so hard that the wall was damaged, and he was trapped in the car. What a disaster! And for the first time ever, Mr Fix-It had to admit that there was something he couldn’t fix on his own. He needed help, because without it, the problem was not going to go away.
Now that day changed Mr Fix-It. And he no longer believes that he can fix up all his mistakes. Yes, he can fix up some of them, but not all of them. Because sometimes he needs other people’s help.
But sadly, it hasn’t changed the attitude of those around him. Because most of his friends still think the way that he did. Knowing full well what happened to Mr Fix-It, they still think they can fix up all their own mistakes. And, they even believe that they can fix up everyone else’s mistakes too.
But they can’t, can they? Because we all make mistakes, and we can’t always fix up our own mistakes, let alone the mistakes of others. We need the help of each other.
And the biggest thing that we can’t fix up, is our relationship with God. But then, isn’t that what the Bible, and why Jesus came to earth, all about?
Because, regarding God, each mistake we make creates a wedge between us and God. And there is nothing we can do to hide it, or make it go away. Our mistakes are there for life. We cannot hide them from God. And if we should try to fix them up … well, all we usually do is to make the situation much much worse. In regard to matters concerning God, all we can do is to be sorry, depend on him to fix it, and then try to do better. And that’s not something we can do on our own.
So, do you make mistakes? Do you think you can fix them all yourself, or even making them go away? Well if you do, then you are like Mr Fix-It was and his friends still are. That’s why we need to depend upon others. And, most importantly, depend upon God for our help.
Posted: 25th August 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis
The Football Match (Rough Draft)
I don’t know whether you like playing sport, because I never did. And one of the reasons was that at school I was tall, and perhaps a little bit clumsy, and was never very good at it. Indeed, one school report I received, had this comment regarding Games: “Brian has outgrown his strength and ability.”
Now you might think that that wasn’t a very nice thing to say. And you’re probably right. But that sort of comment didn’t worry me at all. Indeed, I was proud of it.
But do you know what it was that I hated most? It was picking sides. Because I knew who it was who would be last to be picked. Which is why I’d like to tell you a story about a football match. And the story begins, funnily enough, with the picking of sides.
It was time for the annual football competition, and as usual the two leaders were selecting their teams in the old tried and true tradition.
“I’ll pick Sandra,” said Harry.
“Yes, and I’ll pick John,” said Joan.
And for the next ten minutes the crowd of players was whittled down, one by one, until no-one was left. The players were then given their jumpers, so the teams could be told apart. They were reversible jumpers—with blue on one side and green on the other.
“Blue for my team,” said Harry.
‘And green for mine,” said Joan.
Then, after putting on their jumpers, they ran onto the ground, floated around for a little sorting out positions, and then the game got underway.
“Come on blues,” could be heard from the boundary line. “Come on greens.” And for a while everything seemed to be fine. Indeed, there was a goal scored at one end, and then there was a goal scored at the other. And it was like the sides were evenly matched. But then something happened, because the game began to swing in the blue’s favour.
Now Joan, the captain of the green team couldn’t quite work out what. But then she was sure that she’d just been tackled by a player she’d picked for her own team. But not wishing to cause a fuss, she just shook her head—thought she was mistaken—and continued with the game.
But then it happened again. This time, she saw someone she knew she had picked for the green team, but they were wearing the colours of the blue. And bit by bit, it seemed that the blue team was getting more players, and the green team less.
Now, no-one had left the field, and no-one had got on since the game had begun.
“They must be turning their jumpers around,” thought Joan. “They must be swapping sides.” And, do you know, they were.
Now at that point, the game came to a complete stop. They then counted the players. And the blue team had twice the number of players of the green. So, the captains called the players together, and asked them whose side they were really on.
“Are you on my side or their side?” said Harry.
“Are you on mine?” said Joan. “Are you with me or not?”
Only when they had sorted out their teams did the game restart. But by the end of the game, the blue team were victorious. And boy, were they excited? But then they should have been. After all, when the final whistle came, I am sure that there were an extra couple of players on the blue time and a few short on the green.
Now, of course, that is not the right way to play football, or any other game come to that. And I’m sure that if you were picked for a team, that you wouldn’t swap sides half way through a match. Would you? No, that’s not the way it should work at all.
But you know in life, that sort of things happens all the time. Because people tend to live their life on one side, and bit by bit they drift over to the other.
And that’s the problem that Joshua faced when leading the Israelites. Because, Joshua was the captain of God’s team. And the people started on his side, and then they wandered off. They thought things might be better doing things a different way. And that is why Joshua too had to stand up and ask them, “Whose side are you on?”
Now at the time, the people answered, “We’re on God’s side.” Hooray! But you know, they only stayed for a while, and then they were off again. But that’s what people tend to be like.
But you’re not like that, are you? You wouldn’t start on one side and end up on another? You wouldn’t start on the green team and end up on the blue? You’d stick to the same team, wouldn’t you?
And, I hope that is true of staying on God’s side too.
Posted: 19th October 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis
Alvin, the Lazy Tortoise (Rough Draft)
Alvin the tortoise was lazy. He loved to sleep the day away. Yes, every now and again someone would knock on his door and he would stir. But as soon as they were gone, he’d be back to doing what he loved best—sleeping.
Of course, sometimes when people woke him up it was for something important, something where they needed his help. And sometimes he would say, yes, he would love to help. But as soon as they were gone, he’d be back to sleep. And he hardly ever did the things that he promised.
Now it didn’t take long before people realised what Alvin was like. As a consequence, it wasn’t long before they stopped calling on him for his help. And little by little, while Alvin slept the world began to change. But Alvin didn’t know it because he was far too busy doing what he loves best—sleeping.
However, one notable day, Alvin woke up, and for some reason felt far more awake than he’d been for a long time. So he stepped out of bed and stepped out of his front door. And whoa, the world outside was very different to what he’d remembered.
‘Perhaps I’m dreaming,’ he thought. But he wasn’t. Things had really changed whilst he’d been sleeping, and he wasn’t sure that he liked what he saw.
And then he realised that people had asked for his help for the very things that he was seeing. And some of the things were the things that people had said that they wanted to avoid. But this was a different world for Alvin. And when faced with it, he just didn’t know how he would cope.
Everything was strange; everything was different. And at this point, Alvin realised that he had to make a choice. He could struggle with what he saw and learn to accept the changes—and maybe, even help make better changes—or he could simply go back to bed and get some sleep.
And do you know what it was that he chose?
Yes, you’re right. Alvin simply turned around, closed the door, and went back to bed. And as he slept the world outside changed once again.
Now today’s story is a sad story. It’s a story about a tortoise who was lazy. When asked for help he sometimes said “Yes”. But even when he did, he simply turned around and went back to bed. He preferred to step back and not get involved and to spend his time in blissful rest. So the world just moved on without him.
And, sadly, there are plenty of people like Alvin. People who prefer to step back and not get involved. Then when they do lift up their heads, they find that life has moved on without them, and they are not sure how to cope either.
But that is not the Christian way. Indeed as Christians we are encouraged not to ignore the ever-changing world. Indeed, we are encouraged to be instigators of change, particularly in regard to restoring God’s values and rejecting the things that are not.
According to the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, we are not to be lazy, but we are to imitate the active faithful people who have gone before us.
And if we do that, not only will we be involved in the process of this continually changing world—hopefully for the better. But we will also become closer to God.
Alvin the lazy tortoise may be a sad story. But it’s also a reminder of our need to help and to be involved.
Posted 24th May 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis
Jimmy Throwaway (Rough Draft)
2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
Jimmy Throwaway was a strange boy. Whenever a toy got broken, he would toss it into a box and buy a new one. (And he had a box full of broken toys, many of which didn’t have much wrong with them at all.) When he was sick, he refused to go to the doctor. It didn’t matter whether he had a cold or chicken pox, he preferred to suffer alone. And when it came to God . . . Well Jimmy didn’t have much time for him either. He never read his bible, he never prayed, and he only went to church when it suited him.
And as he got older, Jimmy got worse and worse, much to the despair of those around him.
Indeed, when he was old enough to buy a real car, something went wrong with it. But instead of taking it to a mechanic to be repaired, he went out and bought a new one. When he broke his arm, he refused to go to a doctor. Instead he found a piece of wood, made a splint, and put his own arm in a sling. And as he fell further and further away from God, he simply persuaded himself that he was alright, and that he didn’t have a problem at all.
Yes Jimmy was a strange boy. And what’s even stranger was that he lived in a town where he could get lots of help. There was a kind man who loved repairing old toys. He lived in a town where there were several car mechanics—many of whom had very good reputations. There were a number of doctors that he could go to, and some of them were very nice indeed. And he lived in a town where the churches were very much alive; where there were lots of people he could mix with, while learning about God. Yet even though there were so many people who could help, Jimmy never changed.
So much so, that come the time when Jimmy had to go out to work, he was determined to run his own business; he insisted to be his own boss. The trouble is that he knew nothing about running a business, and it wasn’t long before some machinery broke down. Yet even though there were so many people around who could have helped, Jimmy was having none of it. So he wound up the business and started again.
The second time around, something else went wrong—his accounts had become a real mess. But instead of getting outside help, he again decided to close the business down and start again. And he did the same again and again and again.
Jimmy loved to be independent; he didn’t want anybody else’s help. As a consequence, he tossed things away when they got broken, and he wound up his businesses when they didn’t work. And Jimmy was like that—always refusing help—until his dying day.
And that’s sad. Because it doesn’t make sense to toss away toys simply because of some minor damage. It doesn’t make sense to replace a car because of a minor fault. It doesn’t make sense to refuse to go to the doctor when you need medical help. And it certainly doesn’t make sense winding up business after business because you refuse to get any outside help.
And we might think that he was very silly to do all those sorts of things.
However, it also doesn’t make sense to pretend that God doesn’t matter either. That we can face up to life—and life after death—on our own, without any divine help.
After all, the Apostle Paul reminds us in his second letter to the Thessalonians that only those who believe in Jesus will be considered worthy enough to enter God’s kingdom. And that means that people who are independent, and have no time for God now, will not inherit eternal life with him.
And yet how many people do you know who treat God in the exact same way that Jimmy did? How many people have no time for religion at all? And whether you are Jimmy Throwaway or anybody else, that’s just plain silly.
Posted 10th August 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis
Andrea (Rough Draught)
And the winner is …. And you guessed it…. Andrea. And so she got up and went to the platform to get her prize.
‘And what else do I get,’ she said.
‘And nothing,’ said the presenter, giving her the prize. And disappointed, Andrea took the prize, turned around, and returned to her seat. And as she did so, she grumbled, ‘And this is all I get.’
And, of course, no-one was surprised that she wanted more, for this wasn’t the first time she’d said it. ‘And’ was her favourite word, for she always wanted more. And everyone knew what she was like.
And so the week continued. And come the following Sunday she could be seen sitting in church
‘And my reference today, is from Deuteronomy chapter four verse two,’ the preacher declared from the pulpit. ‘And I am speaking on the topic of “not adding or taking away from the Gospel.”’ And the reason I’m doing this, is because certain members of this congregation do not seem happy to simply accept the Gospel as God has given it. And so they have changed it. And as they have done so, they have changed its meaning.’
And all the time, Andrea sat there listening while the preacher preached his sermon. And I say listening, except she was only half listening, for she was off in a world of her own. And what she was thinking about, was how her faith had helped her. And of course, how reading her horoscope had helped her. And how those exercises and other beliefs that she had adopted had helped her too.
‘And there is nothing wrong with that,’ she said to herself. ‘And there’s nothing wrong with all those other things that I believe in either.’
And she would have been quite happy, being carried away, persuading herself that all her ‘additions’ were quite acceptable, when the sermon came to an end. And that meant it was time for the service to move on. And Andrea didn’t mind, because she had convinced herself she had got it right. And if she had added anything to the gospel . . . Well she could manage that. And if she had added anything . . . ‘Well, it would be quite compatible, wouldn’t it?’ she said to herself.
And she would have happy to continue to think in those sorts of terms for some time, except that in no time the service was over, and Andrea was at the door shaking the preacher’s hand.
‘And what are you planning this week?’ asked the minister. And he asked, because he knew that Andrea was always adding things, and he was concerned for her spiritual welfare.
‘And I don’t know,’ said Andrea. And then she said, ‘And I’m so pleased about your sermon, because there are so many people in our church who have added to the gospel. And if you hadn’t said something, I probably would. And …. if only they could be like me.’ And then she went home.
And that’s how it was. And she was the same the next week, and the week after that, and the week after that. And never once did she stop and seriously address the issue of her adding to the Gospel.
And I guess in many ways that’s the end of her story. (And it’s not easy writing a story with every sentence beginning with the word ‘and’.)
And the reason I have written it, is because it’s so easy to change God’s message by adding things and taking things away. And why we do it, is because we like to make things more comfortable for ourselves and for others. And Andrea is a good example of how easy that trap is to fall in. And not just fall in ourselves but for others to fall in too.
And that really is the end of her story but is only the start of our own. And that’s because it’s far easier to see how others have added or taken away from the Gospel message, than it is to note how we have done it ourselves. And what we do with that, is a challenge we all really need to face.
Posted 22nd August 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis
Chris Cross (Rough Draught)
Chris Cross was always getting in a tangle. But it wasn’t that he was always getting tied up and knotted with string, it was because he always talked at cross purposes.
For instance, the other day, someone told him to look at the plane. But he didn’t look where they were pointing, and simply replied, ‘Plain what?’
The following day, someone asked him to tea. And later he was found at the golf course, waiting for his friend at the tee.
And the day after that, in a discussion about hobbies, someone told him of a friend who was into dyeing, and he spent the next two weeks looking for their funeral notice in the newspaper.
Needless to say, people found it very difficult talking with Chris Cross. Because no matter how careful they were with words, they could never be sure he would take them the right way.
Now of course, sometimes it didn’t matter; sometimes the result was just plain funny. But other times there were serious consequences. And there is no better example of that, than when a complete stranger tried to have a serious conversation with him.
‘God is good,’ said Peter.
And Chris thought, ‘Well, I’m glad he isn’t misbehaving.’
‘God is joy,’ said Peter.
And Chris thought, ‘I know Joy, and the last thing I would have said was that she is God.’
‘God saves,’ said Peter.
And Chris thought, ‘Why does God have savings? I wonder which bank he uses?’
Now clearly Chris Cross’s mind wasn’t on what Peter was saying. Indeed, Peter may have wanted to talk about God, but he just wasn’t talking on Chris’s wavelength. And it wasn’t necessarily that Chris didn’t want to know what Peter was saying, it’s just that the words that Peter was using had completely different meanings in Chris’s mind. They just weren’t speaking the same language.
But that wasn’t Chris’s fault. Peter had to find another way. And Peter knew, it was not going to be easy. So over the next few weeks Peter tried to see the world through Chris’s eyes. And with a lot of effort he came up with what he hoped would be a solution—a way of adapting God’s message to Chris’s understanding.
Now needless to say, Peter still didn’t always get it right, and Chris still didn’t see everything Peter’s way. But Peter was determined. The message was too important to ignore. But bit by bit he has some success. He also found that he learnt to see what he believed from a different perspective. And that helped him too. He also found that in no time they became the best of friends.
Yes, a very strange friendship at first, because of all the misunderstandings. But the more time they spent with each other, the fewer the misunderstandings became. So that they are well on the way to truly understanding each other. They also now have their friendship, which was not something in Peter’s mind when he first approached Chris some time ago.
Now in life we probably all know people who have a habit of getting the wrong picture. People who seem to live on a very different plane. And to be fair, we have probably all had times when we have taken things the wrong way too. And sometimes it was very funny, and other times there were serious consequences.
But if you met someone like Chris Cross, who always took things the wrong way, what would you do? Would you give up on them, or would you try and try and try, like Peter did? And how would you tell them about God? Would you use words which are strange to them, or would you try to use something that is more familiar? How would you try to talk the same language?
The Apostle Paul often found himself in places where the Christian concepts of God were not familiar. So to those who knew what he was talking about, he used one language. But to those who had no idea what he was talking about, he used another. The message was the same, but he adapted his words so his listeners could understand. And that sounds a pretty good idea to me.
So if you met someone like Chris Cross, what would you do? Would you just give up on him, or would you try and try and try to help him understand?
Posted 12th September 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis