I'm not a great conversationalist. I know this. Some people seem to have the gift of it (my dad, for instance), but I find it difficult.
Still, I try hard to talk to new people at church. Since Dave coordinates the music, we're usually among the first few to arrive. And visitors often arrive earlier than regulars. So if I don't have a specific job keeping me busy, introducing myself to newcomers has become a habit.
I'm still not good at it. But I'm getting better, and I figure most people would rather have a short and awkward conversation than sit by themselves for half an hour. And having a cute baby in my arms is certainly helpful.
But as I was lying awake last night, thinking of church that morning, I was challenged to do more. Yes, it's good to chat to people, to put them at their ease, to find out about them. But it would be so much better to turn their thoughts to Jesus.
That's the bit I find REALLY hard. Talking to kids about Jesus? No problem. Talking to adults, even a stranger who may be a Christian already, or very receptive to the gospel? Yikes.
Maybe I need to find a good opening question for after we've done the initial introductions. Something with 'Jesus' in it, not just 'church'. Suggestions?
I did pretty well in maths at school, but my 7 & 8 times tables have always been very iffy. I blame it on changing schools between year 3 & 4 - my old school hadn't done them yet and my new school had, so I never took the time to learn them properly.
We don't generally buy recipe bases, bottled sauces, canned baked beans etc etc. Somehow when we got married they never went on the shopping list, and we consciously stay away now as they often contain more sugar than I want to eat on a regular basis.
In the last few days, I've discovered an interesting phenomenon: if they're there in the cupboard, I can't seem to find anything to cook that doesn't involve them.
We've had chicken & veg with packet risotto, baked beans & mash, and today pasta with mince & bottled sauce.
Little kids have a lot to process, and sometimes it can be a lot of fun to watch. Like tonight after I put SP to bed. About 5 minutes later I hear him talking to Mike (a bear); first in a cherubic voice "daddy, I want to go to kindy", the immediately followed with a deep (for him) bass "no, you can't, you're too little. No, you're too little."
And then 10 minutes after that, again in conversation with Mike "I have to obey you Mike. Daddy has to obey me, and you, and Nana, and..." Crumbs, I don't know what I did to deserve that much oversight!
Sometimes life gets busy, and you (OK, I) find that the things I want to do are shunted to one side to make way for things that for one reason or another I need to do. Case in point was last Wednesday night. Wednesday is Bible Study evening for me, and I benefit a lot from getting together with other Christian guys for a couple of hours to study the Word, or even just to have a BBQ and watch the football, as tends to happen at this time of year...
Anyway, last Wednesday I was also playing host to a guest lecturer from overseas. Different technical societies with the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) pick a few lecturers each year who are not just experts in a topic, but can also communicate what they know to non-experts. The Queensland chapter had joined up with others around Australia to have this particular lecturer flown out for a couple of weeks, and the travel schedule worked out that he was in Brisbane to speak on Wednesday. To the IEEE, these guys (and girls) are a big deal, so it's important to look after them.
So, after a lecture at QUT, like a good host, I offered to take him over to Southbank for dinner. After eventually finding a restaurant that wasn't too spicy, closed after last year's floods, or closing early that night because of low patronage, we eventually found somewhere to have dinner. At this point my heart wasn't really in it - I was feeling like it would have been a much better use of my time to have left at the end of the lecture and arrived a little bit late at Bible study.
But we sat down, picked from the menu, and had a look at some more technical stuff while we waited. When the food arrived, the first thing he says is "excuse me while I pray." Now coming from Asia I wasn't sure if buddhists or hindus prayed before meals, but after a minute or two I asked "so you're a Christian?" He was, and the rest of the evening turned into a much more encouraging conversation about faith, what heaven would be like (he'd read a couple of books of the "near death experience" variety), and things like that. On the walk back to QUT we even stopped to pray for each other.
Isn't God great - taking an evening that could have been quite boring, and was looking like a lost opportunity for fellowship with other Christians, and turning it around completely like that!