Baby Nate, Christmas and THIS chair

11-month old Nate is son and grandson of local business owners I know, with whom I’ve worked for a couple of years.dsc_8529

Nate is battling a rare disease called Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH), which affects only 1 in 200,000 children. Nate has tumours in all his organs and bone marrow. In order to fight the disease that is in so many parts of his body, Nate is currently undergoing chemotherapy 4 times a day. He has already had 12 blood transfusions.

Baby Nate has been hospitalised for three months now and the Doctors have not given any end date to his hospitalisation. He is one of three children and for his parents Alan and Kristy, maintaining a mortgage, providing food, paying for general bills and maintaining ‘normal’ for the other children has been very hard.

So, yesterday, a group of local businesses got together to host a fundraiser. A fast week of planning had resulted in an event location being secured, significant prizes being donated, the fundraiser being promoted and a wonderful show of support. A local photographer donated his services to take Santa photos. We found a jolly man, a red suit…and we needed a chair.

If you’ve been into a shopping centre lately for Santa photos, you’ll know a desk chair on castors or bistro club chair just doesn’t cut it. We needed something a little more substantial. Oddly enough, just four days out from Christmas, most of the Santa chairs were in use.

I know churches have an array of fancy looking wooden chairs. Surely I could track one down that would suit? Most of the churches I know have switched to a more comfortable seating-style for worship, but maybe there was something gathering dust in an storeroom? After a few calls, one church offered a lovely wooden Bishop’s chair.

Now, I’ve only met one Bishop and he didn’t strike me as the type of chap who worried overmuch upon the sort of chair he perched his bottom. So, by extension, given this was a cause to help a little child, I didn’t worry over much about any ‘religious’ connotations (or blasphemy) attached to plonking a fat, red-velvet-clad bottom onto a Bishop’s chair either.

Until I shared this photo (below) expressing my thanks to the church that had given the chair, saying we had raised nearly $8000 in two-hours for Baby Nate and his family, and how popular the Santa photos had been as part of the fundraising.


“Please, please do not say where you got the chair if anyone asks,” was the fast reply.

Huh? You see, for me, a church isn’t a chair. Yes, this chair may indeed be a symbol of the bishop’s teaching authority but it’s a symbol. Cathedra is the Latin word for a chair with armrests, and it appears in early Christian literature in the phrase “cathedrae apostolorum”, indicating authority derived directly from the apostles.

Remember when Jesus rebuked the disciples for turning away children? If he was sitting on some fancy big chair at the time, he’d have let them clamber all over it. If the prostitute wanted to drape herself across the same chair while she washed his feet with perfume, Jesus would have shifted over to make room. So let’s not freak out about protecting the symbolism of a beautifully-carved chair if  – in a community example of loving their neighbour – a sexy santa and bloke holding a beer have given their time and money to have their photo taken to perch atop it.

The image above is a great metaphor for the church and modern society right now. This community rallied together to help a suffering family. It was a little bit beery, yes we played into the stereotype of blonde Mrs Santa, but the underlying reason – the motivation upon which we all perched – was that a bloke who walked the earth two-thousand years ago taught something counter-cultural. To pray for enemies, to turn the other cheek, to love your neighbour as yourself. 

The church may feel hidden underneath modern day secularism. It may feel the pressure of offering something different. But this sort of image gives me great hope. Because – whether you love Jesus or dismiss him – it is  from his teachings 2000 years ago that creates our heart-pull to help others.

Jesus started the love thy neighbour movement. The chair upon which these people sit is a larger rock. It may get hidden, it may be worrying to see it draped in red velvet, exposed flesh and holding a beer, but delight in the fact that it is there. Amongst it.

I didn’t tell people where the chair had come from, exactly. But I did share it had come from a church. And, without fail, everyone I told had the same type of reply:

“That’s brilliant! A church let us use this sort of special chair for this?! Wow. That’s really cool they’d let us do that.”

You see, out there in ‘secular’ world, too many people still think churches are stuffy, pompous places containing fun police. Caught up in symbolism and right use of furniture. Hushed reverence. They’d never imagine a church would give a Bishop’s chair for such a use.

And yet a church did. The wobbly, freaking-out moment seeing the photo had nothing to do with how the chair had been used and everything to do with what other Christians may think about how it was used.

Let’s not turn it into that. Let’s not be a community that judges how the hands and feet of Christ offer help and puts Jesus’ teachings into a well-carved, ornate structure that is removed from the real world. Instead let’s just keep pointing back to Him.

If you read this and feel moved to donate funds to baby Nate and his family, you can do so at: If you’re the praying type, please throw words heavenward for this family.



Choking at Communion

Until relatively recently, I kept choking at communion. Not as in getting the bread wedged in my larynx, but more because I was petrified of participating. The lines would form and I’d start choking like the Australian Cricket team in Nottingham.

It started close to a year ago. I’d been easing my way slowly into church and, at a thanksgiving service, the Senior Pastor asked if anyone wanted to share a story of gratitude.

This was the 8am service (where I’d been sneaking as it was quieter and gave me a place to reflect, surrounded by an older demographic of Christians whom I could spend ages observing) and, my heart in my mouth, I offered to briefly share my thankfulness around my journey to date. imagesAfterwards a lovely older lady invited me to the front to take communion with her.

I declined. My first response internally (based on memories from school): “But I can’t, I didn’t go to the lessons!”

Swiftly followed by: “What if the Senior Pastor sends me back for, I dunno…. giving a wrong answer…. some invisible ink writing on my forehead that says, NO, she’s not done the classes?!”

Yet such a sense of being ‘called’ to do it. Overridden by a stronger feeling that I didn’t want to be ‘on show’ (so writes the extrovert with the introvert soul).

I subsequently discovered that, unlike my experience at school, Communion classes weren’t necessary. It had all changed a bit since I was a child. Which left me feeling relieved. But also teetering.

There were just too many feelings. None of them bad. Simply those feelings that make your eyes leak because they are miraculous and precious. Which was the crux, because each time I physically imagined myself taking communion, all those glorious tears would start up and, hell (oops), how’s a gal going to get through her first communion if she’s a blubbering heap?! With everyone watching! I knew they wouldn’t be watching me at all, really, it was me battling a strange and unusual self-consciousness.

There was such solemnity in my heart around it.  I was conscious of a ‘no going back if you do’ feeling too. But the real fear I had to work through was all mine. Communion became an intensely personal moment. So intensely personal I was frozen by it.

I thought I’d run these fears past the SAP, feverishly banging out one of my questing emails.

His reply?

There. Wasn’t. One.

Writing this post over a year later, I even went back and checked. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

The SAP can be tricky like this. Most times he delivers guidance if he perceives a real struggle. But others, when he suspects God is up to something in your heart, he goes silent to let you both figure it out.

Looks like it was just me and God then.

Communion is a reminder of The Last Supper. Jesus, on the Passover, shared bread and wine with his disciples. It is recorded in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Jesus gave the disciples bread, saying, “This is my body” (Matt. 26:26). Then he gave them a cup, saying, “This is my blood of the covenant” (Matt. 26:28). Luke tells us Jesus instructed his disciples to follow the pattern he gave them: “Do this in remembrance of me” (22:19). Just as Passover was intended to commemorate God’s deliverance over and over again, so was the Lord’s Supper. The meal reminds us that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again.

The SAP says he prays that God keeps him out the way to allow God to do the work. As I mentally shied away from walking to the front of a church to accept wine and wafer, and with the SAP leaving me with only prayer and reflection, God was working in other mysterious ways.

The next Communion, at a busier 10am service, the Connections pastor announced, “they were doing something new this week.” No-one was required to walk up to the front. Instead the bread and grape juice was served along the rows. Still solemn, still important. But, for me, without an individual spotlight, a gentler easing into a ritual that I had been too overwhelmed to contemplate prior.

So, have I managed to walk up the front and take Communion from another?


The first, hours away from home, visiting a new church on Easter Sunday. On that day, of all days, how could I ignore the call to communion? I gave myself a stern talking to, put my heart in my eyes and my hands out to a stranger. And that’s when I truly understood it.

The Lord’s Supper is an invitation: to identify with Christ’s death and resurrection in the power of the Spirit. And we come to the table together, to have communion with Christ and with one another. I could not do this in isolation, as a private act. Communion signifies unity. It demanded more of me. To cease sitting apart and observing. To participate. To be vulnerable.

I bless whomever made that initial internal church decision to try ‘communion by rows’, I really do. Otherwise I may well be typing this having only ever observed communion distantly.

But stepping up, stepping out, stepping in? That has been the greatest part of communion for me. It reminds me that while I can still sit in a row and accept the communion bread and wine as it passes in front of me, there is something in the action of being upstanding. Looking another directly in the eye as they offer you bread and wine, you accept their service, their blessing, the Lord’s grace. There is intimacy there, a closeness that echoes the relationship God seeks with us:

“I found it at the eternal and material core of Christianity: body, blood, bread, wine poured out freely, shared by all. I discovered a religion rooted in the most ordinary yet subversive practice: a dinner table where everyone is welcome, where the poor, the despised and the outcasts are honoured.’ – Sara Miles, Take This Bread.