Jesus and the Goldfish

Here are the things my children know for sure about Sunday School:

1. When in doubt, the answer is Jesus, and
2. There will be goldfish.

Now Rule #1 is for sure a good bedrock principle for life (although less so in High School Science class). But it’s Rule #2 that has me scratching my head today: why is it that snacks are an unquestioned necessity in every children’s church program?


Our church service, being very western and organized, runs for exactly one hour. In the main sanctuary, the minutes of singing, greeting, announcements (always with the announcements… But I get it, they are central to our community life), the sermon… All carefully timed to fit into sixty minutes. The children’s programs have a schedule too: minutes of free play, clean up, circle time, bible story, craft and SNACK.

Now don’t get me wrong: my kids LOVE the snack! But I’m still wondering: Why? Why the snack? We can all last for 60 minutes without needing to eat. Children’s church is not a public school program where we know that for some kids, the calories they get on the campus are sometimes the only calories they get in a day. Rather, I would venture that for almost all the kids in our church, the goldfish consumed during Sunday school programs are competing for space with the lunch their parents will attempt to feed them within two hours of leaving church.

So why the snack?

I can think of three reasons:
1. The kids like eating.
2. It is something to do, and easily takes up 10 minutes of a program. When I occasionally sub teaching classes, I am always grateful for the 10 minute hiatus for munching…. But I could easily fill those minutes with play or singing too, if that were the norm. We’re just USED to making snack one of the non-negotiables of our kids program.
3. We are modeling and nurturing the idea of table fellowship: eating and talking together is something believers have done for centuries, and even young ‘uns get to participate in that aspect of Christian community.

Now that I think about it, #3 is a fairly persuasive argument in favor of keeping those horrible little goldfish crackers as a central part of our kids program. It can be a vehicle for conversation and community around a table, and it is also training for the horrible little crackers most of us will gratefully receive for communion for the remainder of our adult lives.

Community-building and communion-training could be great arguments in favor of keeping snack time. But if we’re serving snacks just because it’s always been done, because it’s expected, because it fills the time… Then I vote we ditch the goldfish, and cast our nets a little wider for inspiration.

When you feel like you don’t have it all together…

On Sunday morning, we attempted to make it to the 9am church service.

We had a promising start: everyone awake on time, and enough milk left over for every one’s cereal. So far, so good. After that, things got a little dicey. An hour later we had found a second pair of shorts for the 3-year old, after the first was sacrificed to the aforementioned cereal. I forfeited my shower, and put my daughter’s hair in a pony tail rather than fight the battle to get it brushed.

We were heading out towards the car when my husband let out a barbaric yawp: there were plops of poop on the hallway. Our toddler had crafted an award-winning blow-out and was dropping bombs (literally) as he tooled around the house. I abandoned my make-up bag: “you take the baby! I’ll get the floor! Go! Go! Go!” One has to move fast on these things or else little feet are irresistibly drawn to test the squelchiness of the deposits.

My fervent cleaning was interspersed with cries of “don’t stand in it!” and concurrent “put your shoes on” instructions. Five minutes later, the cleaning was done and with a backwards glance at the clock, I gave up on the shoes for the boy. We piled into the car. I passed out pretzels to the kids as we snapped their buckles shut: partly to supplement their breakfast and also to give their mouths some thing else to do other than whine.

Five minutes later I looked at my reflection in the car mirror. “I am not wearing mascara,” I declared to my husband. “I don’t think I can go to church.” He kept driving. Oh well, I thought. Perhaps God has ordained that I will cry this morning and it will turn out for the best that I didn’t look like a raccoon all day with tear-smudged face paint.

Minutes later we pulled up into church. The kids shuttled off to their various classes, we waved hello at friends, we got settled. We drank in the warmth of friendship and the spiritual richness of the morning, and I had all but forgotten about the harried hurriedness of our morning until I got home and came across this clip:

I watched it twice and laughed until tears streamed down my mascara-free face. Apart from the celebrity-walk-of-fame music announcing our arrival, it was us in that video, down to the barefoot boy.

What a great reminder: I don’t need to have it all together before I go to church. Church is the togetherness of the un-put-together, and it is warm, wonderful and real. Jesus loves us as is. Sweat pants and barefoot boys happen, as do tears and stresses and sadness. It’s good and it is welcome. We can go as is.

But I might still put a back up mascara in the car. Just in case.

Oh autocorrect. Tsk, tsk.

What I meant to say to my newly-moved friend was “I’ll surprise you with some unpacking assistance.”

What appeared on my iPad screen was “I’ll surprise you with some napa king ass.”


It’s not the first time the iPhone/iPad autocorrect function has blitzed my intentions. In my experience, about 20% of the time, the autocorrect guesses the word I was aiming for correctly. About half the time, it comes up with something annoying and nonsensical (‘a radium’ instead of paradigm, ‘go goth’ instead of ‘going to’), and the rest of the time it comes up with something hilarious. I present ‘napa king ass’ as exhibit A.

It’s this latter category that fuels comedy websites devoted to autocorrect fails. I confess that reading autocorrect sites is a guilty pleasure – a little like watching the TV Series “Friends”. Some of it is hilariously funny, but I’m also aware that much of it is ribald and distasteful humor. Above-the-belt gems such as this one are rare:


To be honest, I don’t spend much time on the sites anymore, because the jokes have become offensive, and the theme of the autocorrects is too often sexual and distasteful.

And yet it’s not just that those websites are collecting the “worst” of the autocorrects. In my own typing, I notice that rude words often appear because I was typing too fast. Body parts and swear words seem to be very quick and easy replacements for regular words. It has almost seemed at times like my iPad really has a mind of its own, and its a very dirty mind at that.

Recently I’ve been thinking though that the default settings on an iPhone are not that different from our default settings as people. Given a slight mistake in communication, a slight error in judgment – I know my default setting is to take advantage of the mistake. I cringe when I think of my college years and how many jokes I made at others’ expenses, at how quick I was to point out others’ weakness and how much I wanted to have the last word. My own internal “autocorrect” was is as faulty as my iPad’s.

Caught in a tricky situation? My instinctive response is to cover my tracks.

Embarassed? My quick draw response is anger or seeking to embarrass another.

In fact, we are a lot like our iDevices. We are iPeople. I am an iPerson. And my autocorrect is horrible.

But the good news is that autocorrects can be trained.

My iPad’s default settings may have sexual innuendo at the ready, but with time the software is “teachable”. After typing a few memos, I can teach it that my misspelled “lasagne” should not be autocorrected to name a woman’s body part, but should in fact autocorrect to describe an Italian dinner dish. It now knows how to spell my children’s (somewhat unusual) names – I’ve “trained” it. It now recognizes (and will autocorrect correctly) to spell South African classic words like “lekker” and “howzit”. It has even learned some Christianese (it no longer corrects “shepherding” to “sherpa ding”.)

And the good news too is that, thanks to the Holy Spirit, my own faulty autocorrects are slowly being trained too. I lose my temper less quickly these days. I can’t say I don’t say mean things anymore, but I do thank God that I can see I say them less frequently than I used to. I swear less (I aim for never, but sometimes when you drop a trampoline on your foot, shoot happens.) My soul is even learning some Christianese – learning to say “thank you” instead of whining. Learning to pray instead of prattle.

It’s a slow process, but it’s hop panning.

Oops: I meant happening.


You might also like these posts: Thoughts on growth… and There’s nothing quite like inadequacy…

A mixed bag

“Just a minute. I know I have it somewhere in here,” I muttered, and plunged my hand into my handbag.little_miss_messy1

The cashier smiled. Blinked.

Bag Braille Round 1 ensued: my fingers reading the contents of my carry-all, feeling for the familiar soft leather of my purse, the harder leather of my sunglasses case, the jingle of my keys. Finally, a slip of paper! David Copperfield like, I whipped that rabbit out of the proverbial hat. But alas: an expired yogurt coupon.

“Just a second. Sorry.”

More smiling. More blinking.

Bag Braille Round 2: feeling cloth, feeling plastic, feeling something wet. Another dry crinkle: voila!

Nope. That would be the parking garage ticket from my visit to see my friend in hospital two weeks ago.

Uh-Oh. This was going to require the Shameful Unpack. Out came the presentable top layer – purse, glasses, keys, cellphone.

Then the clutch diaper bag. Then lip balm. Then the lip balm lid.

Then the keep-my-kids-busy-in-the-restaurant crayons. The crayons smell like strawberries. They are King Tut-meets-Madame-Tussads: eerie embalmed wax figures.

A $10 bill (score!). Lollipop wrappers. One lollipop (“Mom can I have that?” -No.) A Q-tip: condition no-longer-serviceable. Ibuprofen. A blunt pencil. A pair of earrings (so THAT’s where I put those!) A tampon (“Mom what’s that? – a barbie pillow. “Can I have it?” -No.) A church bulletin. Sticks of gum (preemptive strike from the mama: No, you may not have any. Don’t even ask). A toy helicopter. A comb. The bottom layer of items is coated in a thin veneer of cheerio dust. a post-it with an address (dang it! I was supposed to write!) A handful of old raisins and cheerios, which must have valiantly escaped a confiscated snack trap. A bobby pin.

But no receipt. “Sorry,” I mutter. “I’ll have to return this another day.”

Move aside Forrest Gump. Life is like a woman’s handbag: you never know what you’re gonna get.

On the fourth day

Photo credit: Ben Hwang - 8 Asians (Flickr Creative Commons)

Photo credit: Ben Hwang – 8 Asians (Flickr Creative Commons)

In the beginning of the week, the cupboards were bare and empty. And the woman said “Let there be shopping!” And there was shopping: bread and milk and coffee and fruit and every green thing filled the cupboards. And the woman looked at all she had bought and said “It is good.”

On the third day, the woman had a headache. And she said “let there be tylenol*!” And there, in her bathroom, was tylenol. And there was evening (more tylenol) , and there was morning (more ibuprofen): The third day.

On the fourth day, the woman still had a headache. And she considered her circumstances, and that perhaps, in all the shopping glory, the decaf coffee had been switched with the caffeinated coffee. And she said “let there be caffeine”. And so she mixed her two bags of unmarked coffee together – to make sure there was at least 50% caffeinated beans – and brewed it. And she took some, and gave it to the man who was with her. And the headache went away. And it was very, very good.

Laugh in translation

I laughed out loud to discover that the verse in the New Living Translation (NLT) which reads:

You guided my conception
and formed me in the womb
.” (Job 10:10)…

… reads as follows in more literal translations:

Did you not pour me out like milk
and curdle me like cheese
?” (NIV)

Hilarious! ๐Ÿ™‚

** For those who are tempted to think that this is just another example of why the Bible is confusing and ridiculous, here’s a quick precis to explain a bit about the Bible translation process and how such apparent anomalies can exist ๐Ÿ™‚

The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek (with a teensy bit of Aramaic). We have a variety of translations in English. They are all pretty good, but the differences between them are marked. This is due to choices one has to make in translation. When translating anything from one language to another, you often must decide whether you’re going to translate the literal meaning or the word, or translate the implied meaning of the word. So as an example: if you were translating the sentence “I’m feeling blue” from English to another language – you could either opt for literally translating the word “blue” as a colour, or you could choose the word “sad” to convey the meaning of the English expression.

Literal” translations, such as the NASB and ESV, choose to translate the idiom word for word, if possible, and rely on our learning of Hebrew and Greek thought to interpret the meaning. Others, like the NLT, choose try to interpret the meaning of the idiom as faithfully as possible into English. The NIV is considered to be a bit of a “middle-road” translation between the two approaches. I wouldn’t have known it, but apparently “milk-pouring” and “cheese curdling” are Semitic idioms referring to procreation!