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)
Arnold belonged to a family of musicians. His mother was a singer, his father played the keyboards, and even his sister had learnt to play the violin. Arnold, however, was much younger than his sister, and although he was allowed to dabble on the keyboards from time to time, he really didn’t understand music at all. Except for the fact that he knew what he liked.
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 Draft)
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 Draft)
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
A Card in the Window (Rough Draft)
Jojo was in a mess. He had been digging up his garden and had put a spade through the telephone wire. And no matter what he did, it just made things worse. But then he had a bright idea. He decided to advertise for some help. So he went down to his local grocery store, put a card in the window, and went home.
But he didn’t have to wait for long. Because almost before he got back home, there was a knock on the door, with someone willing to help. And help they did. For it didn’t take long for them to repair the line and sort out the mess. So in no time Jojo was thanking the person at the door and saying goodbye.
And if you thought that was the end of the matter, then you’d be very much mistaken. Because Jojo thought, ‘Well if repairing it was that easy, there shouldn’t be any problem continuing on.’ So he did. Only this time he got himself in a worse mess. He put his spade through the water pipe. And no matter how hard he tried he just made the situation worse.
But knowing how he got help last time, he knew what he had to do. So he wrote out another card, went down to the grocery store, and put it in the window.
And, you guessed it, in about the time that he took to walk home, someone else was standing at his door wanting to be of some help. And like the first time, his troubles were sorted out in no time.
‘I don’t know why I have so much trouble,’ Jojo thought. ‘It’s easy. I should be able to take it all from here . . .’ And so the cycle continued over and over and over again. Jojo was always getting in a mess. And he put his spade through the sewerage, through the gas, and through the electricity. And someone was always coming to his rescue.
And even then, Jojo thought . ‘I’ll be alright from now on.’ And so it continued. But each time the mess he got into was worse. The problem was that Jojo never got it right. He always made things worse. And he always needed greater and greater help to get him out of his mess.
And you might think that’s the end of the story. And it could quite well have been, because some people never learn. Except for the fact that after getting help fifty-seven times something finally clicked. Jojo suddenly realised he wasn’t good at digging holes. He didn’t just need people to come to repair his handiwork—to sort out his messes—he needed some guidance on how to do the work. And so that’s what he did.
So this time, when he went down to the grocery store to put a card in the window, it wasn’t just for temporary help, to fix up one of his disasters. It was for someone who would help him on a permanent basis. And you know, it worked.
Now the people in the Old Testament often found themselves in a mess. And a mess of their own making. So they called for help. They asked God to help them. God then sent someone along to give them a hand. And things were alright for a while. But then they thought they knew better. Then they decided to go their own way again, all on their own. And you can guess what happened next. They got themselves into another mess. And a mess worse than they were in before.
So they called out to God for more help. And, . . . Well I think you get the message. But the sad thing is that, unlike Jojo, they never worked out the true solution. Their lives just continued to spiral down. They just couldn’t work out that they needed God’s permanent help. Indeed, they didn’t trust God to help them on a permanent basis. And that’s sad. Because if they had, they would not have got themselves into all the messes they found themselves in.
Knowing your abilities and limitations is an important part of life. And there are certain things in life we cannot do on our own. We need God’s help, and we need each other’s help too. Because if we don’t, then our lives will just continue to spiral down and down and down. And I wouldn’t wish that anyone. Would you?
Posted 17th October 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis
Bertie, the Space Mouse (Rough Draft)
Bertie was a space mouse. And if you don’t know what a space mouse it is, it is mouse that travels in space. And Bertie did love travelling. Indeed, he went to all sorts of places, and saw all sorts of sights that you would never believe. He went here and there, from one solar system to another. He loved going everywhere. That is everywhere, except for one particular place.
The problem was that it wasn’t the planet that was the problem. And it wasn’t the particular country that was the problem, at least not to start with. It was a small group of people in one particular town.
“Ugh, it’s a mouse,” some screamed at him. “It’s one of those horrible space mice.” And they jumped up on chairs to get out of his way. But worse than that, they threw things at him, and set traps to catch him. And no matter what Bertie did it was always the same.
“That’s not fair,” he squeaked. “You don’t treat anyone else like that.” But they did. Because not only didn’t they like space mice, they didn’t like galactic snakes, celestial rats, and cosmic crocodiles either. But they didn’t necessarily scream and stand on chairs to them. They were just nasty to them in different ways.
So when Bertie reported this to the Intergalactic Tourist Board, they were not impressed. But what could they do? How could they make the people of a particular town, in a particular country, in a particular planet, more friendly? They were supposed to be friendly. Indeed, their laws said they were to be kind to all. But what could they do? They had to come up with a plan. So they came up with a plan that involved getting the people of the particular country to deal with the people of the particular town.
But did it work? No! In fact they defended them. So the situation didn’t get better; it got worse. So they had to come up with another plan. A plan which involved the whole world getting the people of the particular country to see reason.
But did it work? No. They just turned a blind eye. They didn’t want to know. And that wasn’t any help to poor Bertie the space mouse, or the galactic snakes, or the celestial rats, or the cosmic crocodiles either.
Eventually the Intergalactic Tourist Board had done all they could possibly do, but without success. So they struck the planet off their list. They simply refused to allow anyone else to go that planet until the people learned how to behave.
But it hasn’t happened yet. And if you want to know which planet they struck off, have you ever seen any space mice, galactic snakes, celestial rats, or cosmic crocodiles? I don’t expect you have. And now you know why.
Now being friendly to others, being kind, and looking after others, is something we are all supposed to do. Indeed, that’s how God wants us to be. But it’s not always like that. And some people are not like that at all.
Which is why some of us—perhaps all of us—worry sometimes whether we are going to be safe when we meet certain people or when we go to certain places, particular those we haven’t been to before. The sad truth is that people are not always as welcoming or as kind as they should be. And even though we have laws to protect us against situations like that, not everyone takes them seriously, and people often turn a blind eye to the behaviour of others.
Now the Israelites had this problem. There was a small group of people who were far from welcoming. Indeed they took advantage of any visitor to their town. As a consequence, the whole country sent a delegation to sort out the matter. But it wasn’t resolved well. The baddies were simply supported by those around them. And to resolve the problem the country had to resort to drastic measures.
Of course, it would be very nice if everyone was caring and friendly. But that’s not reality. As a consequence, we have to be careful to whom we speak, and to which places we go. But just because others are mean and unfriendly, doesn’t mean that we have to be mean and unfriendly too.
Indeed, God wants us to be friendly and caring. And certainly doesn’t want us to be the ones who are screaming and standing on chairs.
Posted 25th October 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis
The Hill Street Gang (Rough Draft)
It was that time again. The time to pick a new leader. And for the Hill Street Gang, there couldn’t be anything more important. They’d learnt the need to have a good leader. But they’d also learnt from adults how to appoint someone to the position.
The Hill Street Gang were going to have an election. And they’d organised ballot papers and ballot boxes, especially for the event.
Their old leader had done well. But at thirteen he was getting a bit old; he was also drifting away from the gang. They needed someone new. And of all the other members—all six of them—three offered themselves as candidates for the job.
‘Vote for me. Vote for me,’ said Charlotte. Now Charlotte was keen for change. She was also keen that the leader should be a girl. The leader had always been a boy, so now it was time for a girl. And her argument her merit.
‘Vote for me. Vote for me,’ said Mark. And Mark was quite radical in way he wanted the gang to go. As far as he was concerned the gang needed a change of direction.
‘Vote for me. Vote for me,’ said Adam. But that’s about all that he said. He didn’t come up with any bright ideas at all. But he didn’t think he didn’t need to. He’d always been popular, and he thought that was enough to get him in.
Finally the day of the election arrived, and the Hill Street Gang were out in force—all seven of them—and the election was over in five minutes flat. And the winner? Well you guessed it . . . it was Adam, the one who was the most popular.
And, of course, everything went well for a while. Adam even had a party to celebrate his win. But it wasn’t long before things quickly went downhill. Adam may have been popular, but he wasn’t a leader. As a consequence the gang started to drift apart.
Now the other members of the gang were not happy. And it wasn’t long before Adam lost his popularity. They then began to forget they had elected him and started blaming each other for electing him leader. They also began to wonder what they could do to remove Adam from his position, in order to save their gang.
There was chaos. And all because they voted for Adam for the wrong reasons. But what were they to do? They had followed the adults’ election processes. What could possibly have gone wrong? They needed some advice; they needed some outside help. And so that’s what they did. And Adam, who wasn’t happy with the situation either, went with them.
And what they learned was they had done nothing wrong—they had followed the system perfectly. They had elected Adam in the same way that adults would have done. They also learned that adults had the same problem when they elected people for the wrong reasons too.
So that day the Hill Street Gang came away a little wiser. They took the advice that they were given, and they changed their decision—this time without an election. And now they have two leaders—Adam and Charlotte—and the gang has grown to be a very healthy eight members instead.
Now of course, as you can probably see, there can sometimes be problems with our leaders, because of who they are and the way they are elected. Not everyone who puts their hand up is necessarily fit for the job. And if we choose people because they are popular, we may not always get the right person. We may also need help in our decision-making processes.
A good example of that is when the Israelites chose the wrong leader. Indeed, they appointed a man named Abimelech simply because ‘he is one of us.’ The wrong reason. And they didn’t consult with God at all. As a consequence they very quickly found themselves in trouble. Is it any wonder, then, if we leave God out of our decision-making processes, that we can easily get ourselves into trouble too?
Whether we are adults voting for parliament, for local government, or for our Parish Council, or if we are voting in our school or for the leader of our gang, we need to be careful about whom we choose. We also need to ask God for his advice and help. We need to make sure that the right person gets the job—not necessarily the most popular—otherwise we will find ourselves in trouble too.
Posted 8th November 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis
The Best Christmas Present Ever (Rough Draft)
Robert was worried. It was Christmas Eve and there was one person for whom he hadn’t bought a present—his best friend Eunice. And Eunice was very special to him.
She was about Robert’s age, about ten, but she seemed to have everything. She didn’t need anything for her house; she’d got plenty of clothes and toys; and she seemed to have everything that Robert could possibly think of. Not only that, but the shops were about to close. And even though, he knew he would have one other opportunity to buy her a present before he saw her later on Boxing Day, he still didn’t know what to get her.
“What can I possibly get?” said Robert to himself. “I’ve only got first thing Boxing Day to get it.”
Now needless to say, Robert did not enjoy his Christmas lunch. He was far too worried about what he could get Eunice. He didn’t enjoy his Christmas tea either. And that was despite all the lovely things that he had to eat and drink.
“This is ridiculous,” he said. “It’s not as if Christmas is supposed to be about eating and drinking and giving presents anyway. It’s about God son, and how he was born in this world, so he could take our blame for everything we do wrong. It’s about God’s gift to us. It’s about God having a way to treat us as though we are perfect . . .”
And at that something clicked. “Christmas is not about giving presents . . . it’s about how we receive God’s present.” And all of a sudden, Robert began to smile.
“I’m such a fool,” he said. “There is something that Eunice hasn’t got. She hasn’t got eternal life! She doesn’t know God. But when she dies, when she leaves this world, I want her to be living forever with God. I even want her to have a relationship with God here and now. I want her to have the best present she could possibly have.”
But Robert realised, it wasn’t something that he could buy anyway; he would have to tell his friend all about it. He’d have to tell her himself why God came up with idea of Christmas.
That God came up with the plan to send a baby, who would grow up, and face punishment on our behalf, for all the things we do wrong. So that if we accept what Jesus has done for us—if we trust in God—when we die, we can live forever with God in heaven.
So that night Robert made his plan. He was going to tell his best friend about Jesus. He was going to give her the best Christmas present that anyone could possibly give. He was going to tell her about how to make friends with God.
Of course, he knew it wouldn’t be that easy. He knew it wasn’t just a matter of telling her, because she would have to accept it for herself. He also knew that the whole thing could backfire horribly; that she could take the whole thing the wrong way and never want to talk to him again. But he knew that if she really was his best friend, it wasn’t something he should keep from her anyway. There was a risk in giving this present, but it was one he needed to take.
So having decided what he was going to do, he relaxed, and finally began to enjoy what was left of Christmas Day.
Of course, what happened next, I’m going to leave to your imagination. But I will tell you that Robert and Eunice are still the best of friends.
Nevertheless, if you are still looking to get someone a present this year—a really special present—then you could tell someone about God’s present too. After all, Christmas is not supposed to be about food and drink or even us giving presents. It’s about God’s present to us, and what we have done with it. Christmas should not be stressful or expensive; it’s supposed to be about how we respond to God’s present of love.
And that is what Robert finally understood. So much so, he wanted to share it with his best friend Eunice. That was Robert’s solution to the problem of Christmas. What’s yours?
Posted 16th December 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis
Short-Cut Shirley (Rough Draft)
Short-Cut Shirley was always looking for a way to make life simpler. And she was very creative about it.
For example, when it was somebody’s birthday, she would send them a card wishing them a happy birthday, a happy Christmas, and a happy whatever other festival she considered appropriate. That way she wouldn’t need to send them another card for another twelve months.
When she was visiting a friend, she would find the shortest possible way to get there. And to save petrol and time she often went cross-country, even through a field of corn.
When it was washing day, she would peg all her washing on the line, shake powder over it, and wait for it to rain. Of course, it might take a few day days before it got wet, but she had plenty of clothes, and she couldn’t think of an easier way.
And even when it came to God, she had a short cut. Because she didn’t mix with other people, and she certainly didn’t go to church. She didn’t feel the need. Indeed, she believed that all she had to do was to be a good person and that would be enough.
Needless to say Short-Cut Shirley was a bit of a character around town. Particularly when the rest of the population was much more interested in getting things right.
Then, one day, Shirley died. But Shirley wasn’t concerned, she was confident that she had done enough to get into heaven. Yet as she waited for her time to be judged, she noticed how long God spent with those who had arrived before.
Shirley thought, ‘He won’t need much time with me. We won’t need to go through all the things that I’ve done. We can take a shortcut. I’ve lived a good life; I deserve to go to heaven.’ And the longer she waited for her turn, the more she was convinced she was right.
Unfortunately, when her turn came, her time with God was far from short, for God wanted to go through everything that she’d ever done.
‘This is not right,’ she protested, ‘We don’t need to go through all this stuff.’ But God insisted. And God spent more time with Shirley than anyone else she had seen waiting before her.
And then it was time for the decision.
‘Now there’s no easy way to say this,’ said God. ‘I’ve tried to be fair, but you’ve lived your life by continually taking short cuts. And whilst some of them have been helpful, there are no short cuts to get to heaven. You either did what I asked, or you don’t come in. Now I told you the one and only way, but you ignored it. Indeed, you decided to go your own way. So now I have no alternate, but to let you continue your own way too.’ And Shirley was then directed to the longer of two queues—the one that led away from heaven.
Now you don’t need me to describe how Short-Cut Shirley felt. She was more than sad, she was devastated. She was also desperate. ‘Perhaps I could have another try,’ she said. But it was too late. She’d her chances, and there was only one place left for her to go. And I don’t think I need to tell you where that would take her, do you?
Now the lesson of this story is that, in life, we have choices about the way we do things. And by and large God does not interfere with our decisions. Indeed, he wants us to have the freedom to choose. But what we choose has consequences.
Many of the short-cuts in life save time and money. Some are sensible and make things easier. But some are not. And one of the short-cuts that is not sensible is the decision to choose a simpler way to get to heaven. Because that way simply doesn’t exist.
God has given us a way. It is through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ. So if we chose another way, we effectively reject God, and we reject the only way that is possible for us to get to heaven.
Short-cuts in life are great for somethings—although I wouldn’t recommend Shirley’s short-cut for washing clothes—but short-cuts can have terrible consequences too. So when it comes to God and heaven, let’s make sure that we don’t choose the wrong short-cut too.
Posted: 1st April 2020
© 2020, Brian A Curtis
Mr Mud (Rough Draft)
Mr Mud wasn’t always called Mr Mud. But he was given the name because he always did things that were a little bit dodgy. He wasn’t a hardened criminal, he didn’t have a prison record or anything like that, but if there was something going on that was a bit doubtful, then Mr Mud was always the one to get the blame.
Now Mr Mud enjoyed living on the edge. And he liked the nickname that people had given him. It made him feel important. And Mr Mud didn’t mind being accused of things that he’d done—in fact he was proud of it. But being blamed for the things that he hadn’t done . . . well, that was another matter. And the trouble was, that the more time went on, the more Mr Mud got the blame for things he didn’t do. And he didn’t like that at all.
And being blamed for things that he didn’t do, got so bad that he decided he needed to do something about it. It’s just that he didn’t know what.
That is until one day, by accident, he found a dusty old book with a black cover, that was propping up a vase on his bookshelf. And perhaps with a little curiosity, he picked it up and began to read. And do you know what book it was? It was the bible of course—what else is there that is often black and dusty?
But not knowing where to start, he opened it a random, and he read a story about an innocent man who had done nothing wrong, but who took the blame for all the things he hadn’t done. And indeed he was willing to take the blame. He even gave up his life to save others from the eternal consequences of what they had done.
Well, Mr Mud was shocked. The police had just been to see him and they had accused him once again of things he hadn’t done. He was sick of all the fingers pointing his way. And yet the innocent man in the story willingly copped the penalty for all the things he hadn’t done. He sacrificed his life for the sake of others.
Well Mr Mud felt foolish, and for the first time in his life he felt sad about the kind of person that he’d become. And he suddenly realised that the man in the story—Jesus—had not only died for other people, but he’d died for him too. Jesus had suffered for everyone, including him. He had taken the blame for him so that he could have a relationship with God. And as soon as he realised that he knew he had to change. And he did. He decided to change.
But Mr Mud isn’t perfect—not yet. He still has a long way to go to leave his old ways behind him. But he is getting there. Indeed, Mr Mud’s life is slowly and surely changing. So much so, that I don’t think the name Mr Mud will stick with him for very much longer. And all because he now accepts that that innocent man is taking the blame for the things he’s done wrong before God.
Now, of course, Mr Mud still gets the blame for things that happen, and he understands that that will take a while to change. But he doesn’t get anywhere near so mad when people blame him for things he hasn’t done. And the police don’t call at his door anywhere near as much as they used to either.
Now, of course, Mr Mud isn’t the only one who does things wrong—deliberately or otherwise—we all do. And we all deserve the blame for the things that we do. (And from time to time, we may also get the blame for things we haven’t done either.) But Mr Mud’s discovery about Jesus is so important for us all.
Because if an innocent man is willing to take away the eternal punishment that we deserve for the things that we do wrong, that is good news for us too.
Now that doesn’t exempt us from the consequences of what we do now. We may still have to live with them. But like Mr Mud, when it comes to our relationship with God, it means that we can come into God’s presence and live with God in eternity.
God knows our faults and failings; he knows that we’re not good enough to live with him. That’s why he sent his son, Jesus, to take the blame for the things that we do, to suffer in our place. God can then treat us as though we are perfect.
Now to me that is the most wonderful thing in the world. Mr Mud certainly thought so. Don’t you?
Posted: 9th September 2020
© 2020, Brian A Curtis
Whizz, Flash, Bang (Rough Draft)
It was dark outside and, apart from the odd star in the sky, there was no other light. But then Barry liked living in the country, away from the street lights and all the traffic noise. That’s why he’d come to live there in the first place. He also liked walking in the cool of the night. He found it very refreshing and didn’t feel a little bit unsafe.
When all of a sudden there was a loud whizz, followed by a big flash and then a bang.
Well, Barry jumped out of his skin, and it seemed to be forever before his feet came back to the ground. But no longer was he firmly on the ground, then there was another loud whizz, followed by another bright flash and followed by another loud bang.
Barry was a country boy at heart, and he wasn’t usually jumpy or easily frightened. But even he had to confess that whatever it was that had made that noise and had flashed had given him quite a start. And for the next few moments he just stood there, collecting himself.
But no sooner had he done so, when there was another whizz, followed by another flash, followed by another bang.
Something was going on. And Barry wasn’t sure that it was something he needed to be frightened about at all.
Then he thought and thought, and as he thought something clicked in Barry’s mind. He’d seen a poster in the village square . . . there was to be a fireworks night, and it was going to be on the adjoining property. He’d forgotten. Otherwise, he would have been more prepared.
“How silly am I?” he thought. “How easily I have forgotten.” And he reprimanded himself, for forgetting, and not being prepared.
But there and then Barry decided he would go and watch. He’d had his surprises for one night. At least he could go and enjoy the show. And so he did. And after that Barry didn’t jump anywhere near as much as he’d done before. Indeed, he wasn’t so surprised with all the whizzes, flashes, and bangs.
Yes, sometimes he would jump—just a little—when he wasn’t expecting it. But he was generally able to stand there and enjoy the show.
At the end of the evening, when the fireworks were over, and things had quietened down, it was time to wander off home. And as he walked, he whistled happily to himself, enjoying the blackness of the almost starless night.
That is, until all of a sudden there was a loud bang, and Barry nearly jumped out of his skin. But as the car that had backfired passed him, even Barry had to smile.
“That told me,” he said to himself. “You can never really prepare for all surprises.”
Now, of course, the message of this story is that in life we all face surprises. Some pleasant, some not so pleasant, and some which can make us jump out of our skin. And some, no matter how much we prepare for them, which will take us unaware.
And that is why Jesus taught us to prepare for the biggest surprise of all—the day that he comes again to judge the world. Because it will come suddenly, when we least expect it, and he doesn’t want his friends to be unprepared at all.
Indeed, we wants us to be prepared for the day when every single person who has ever lived will come face to face with him and to answer for everything that they’ve done and not done.
And if that sounds a little scary. Then it probably is. Except for if we are prepared—if we are Jesus’s people—then there really is nothing to be scared about at all.
So if it’s matter of being prepared or unprepared for Jesus’s second coming I know which of the two I would choose. I just hope that it is the same for you too.
Posted: 26th September 2020
© 2020, Brian A Curtis