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News From The Presbyterian Churches Of South Australia, December 2011

S A News, newsletter of the Presbyterian Church of South Australia, December 2011 edition online now.
Here is a link to the pdf of the S A News June 2011 at the PCSA website.

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Ten Tips For Better Public Bible Reading (via

From here.

1. Acknowledge that the public reading of the Scriptures is important.
2. See for yourself how interpretation and verbal nuances makes a difference.
3. Make sure you understand the meaning of the passage.
4. Become comfortable with expressing a wide range of emotions.
5. Read some children’s book aloud.
6. Use the very effective communication device called the pause.
7. Look up from your reading only to reinforce the message.
8. Read; do not act.
9. Prepare ahead of time by reading aloud.
10. Be open to critique.

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A Most Memorable Version Of ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ – Christmas Songs 2011 Day 2

Wife and husband Jill Phillips and Andy Gullahorn’s Christmas album, Christmas, features some classic carols, a new tune for an old hymn, and a few interesting additions, including the thought-provoking I Will Find A Way, but a fun highlight is a whimsical version of Baby, It’s Cold Outside that completely subverts the original by playfully using a new set of lyrics, opening up a scenario that may sound familiar to lots of couples.
I dedicate this to my daughter and son-in-law.
The Rabbit Room have embedded the album track at this page, or you can watch a live rendition below.

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Christmas Songs – Telling The Old, Old Story To Open Ears

One of the reasons I do like this time of year is because folk who don’t want to give Christianity the time of day will be crooning away to the essence of the Christian Gospel at various times through the month.
That’s why I introduce new songs and different arrangements very sparingly this time of year.
Christians are the ones looking for novelty, non-Christians want it as traditional as possible.
They’ll sit politely through a new contemporary-style piece, but join in with gusto when Silent Night starts.
Keith Getty reflects on this:

As the holidays approach, I often remember my days as a student in music class. My high school music teacher lived for Christmas carols. I spoke with him recently as I was working on our new Christmas album, “Joy–An Irish Christmas,” and his enthusiasm is as strong as ever. He even wants Christmas carols played at his funeral.
“Why?” I asked him.
“Because these songs tell the story of the faith like no other songs can,” he told me.
I wholeheartedly agree. Carols blend a story form of writing with simple melodies, and they’ve resulted in a unique hybrid of English folk music and church music traditions. In that sense, the carol has impacted my own songwriting more than any other form.
Our new Christmas album gave me a chance to relish in my love for carols by writing some of my very own. Yet we also decided to honor some of our age-old favorites, so profound in the stories they tell, by pairing them with new compositions. When it comes to celebrating Christmas, I think people want fresh sounds–but they also want to sing what they know.
I love the fact that some of the most beloved carols essentially originated as rebel songs. In England during the 15th century, Catholics were forbidden to sing in the English language, or to even sing at all for the most part. Yet carols were the one exception. Additionally, certain factions of Puritanism during the late 16th century forbid any outward display of emotion. But again, carols remained the one type of song that allowed people to celebrate with their lips, instruments and even dancing. For those forbidden to even smile or smirk during the remainder of the year, this was much cause for rejoicing!
Today, carols continue to be one of the few remaining conduits that allow us to proclaim our faith in the public square. Amazingly, they’re heralded on secular radio, used in advertisements and sung on television throughout the holiday season. These songs allow us to celebrate our faith authentically and share it with others.
We would do well as worship leaders to remember that non-churchgoers are far more inclined to attend a church service during the Christmas season where songs are easy and enjoyable to sing rather than a church trying to put on the slickest possible show. The music of carols, written by some of the finest hymn writers of all time (such as Wesley, Watts and Rossetti) and arranged by equally outstanding composers (Handel, Holst and Mendelssohn) speaks for itself. We have wonderful songs to use! And Christmas gives us a wide open door to use those songs to impact culture like no other time of the year.
May we set aside time this Christmas season to give of ourselves joyfully and wholeheartedly to the music we choose and the services we plan. And in doing so we’ll join with the Christians of ages past who’ve told the story of our faith through the carols they sing.

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Out Of The Darkness – Marriage And A Season Of Chronic Illness

This article by Mark Lukach is achingly poignant and is suffused with gentle hope.
He writes about life with his wife (married for three years) through her suddenly experienced psychotic break and the following time of recovery.
Fear and hope, distance and intimacy, despair and encouragement and the return to a less intense and, in some ways, more mundane life are revealed.
I’ll put an excerpt here, but go and read it all.

…Instead of questions like, “Why would God do this to me?” or “Can you agree to let me kill myself in one year if this doesn’t get better?” my lovely, broken, medicated wife would take my hand, look me in the eyes, and say, “Mark, you are the most wonderful person I know. Thank you for helping to save my life. I love you and am staying alive because of you.”
Just like that.
As her spouse and caregiver, one of my biggest struggles was to keep my own emotions in check. She was too fragile to witness how much her delusions, paranoia and depression scared and worried me, so I had to pretend that none of it bothered me.
I became a master at compartmentalizing my worry and anxiety, neatly packaging my feelings into the small, permissible moments when I had the time and space, away from Giulia. For the most part, though, I was her cheerleader, and nothing, no matter how dark or despairing, could shake me.
But when she told me she loved me? That I was saving her life? And that she was staying alive not for herself, but for me?
Those moments always left me stunned, teary-eyed and breathless. I had no defense against those. They left me reaching to her to find my stability, rather than the other way around. How can you shield yourself from the impact of someone saying, “I love you”? And why would you?
Giulia has since gotten better. She no longer takes the medicine. We don’t live in a “Yes” or “No” existence anymore. We now live with bills and iPhones and deadlines.
I’m glad to have left behind the anxiety and unknowns of dealing with a serious mental illness. It was a grueling year for both of us. And yet when I look back on that year, I have to admit there is a part of me that misses it — or, more accurately, a part of it that I miss.
I don’t miss the illness itself, of course. We’re still not sure where the darkness came from, or why it’s behind us, or even what the actual diagnosis was (psychotic depression, maybe). All I know is that it was exhausting to deal with on a daily basis, and so I am glad it is gone.
And I don’t miss Giulia’s sadness, a sadness that seemed to be without limits. Good riddance to that.
BUT I do miss how much we talked about life and love that year…

Read all of Out Of The Darkness at


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Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming – Christmas Songs 2011 Day One

Each day until Christmas I’ll feature a song from a Christmas album.
Nathan Clark George’s 2006 album, A Midwinter’s Eve features some gently acoustic guitar driven renditions of favourite carols.
The album features some carols from the German tradition.
Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming was one I did not know.

The version used seems to be one translated and supplemented by Theodore Baker with a third verse omitted.
Lo, how a rose e’er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung!
From Jesse’s lineage coming,
As men of old have sung.
It came, a flower bright,
Amid the cold of winter
When half spent was the night
Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind
With Mary we behold it,
The Virgin mother kind
To show God’s love aright,
She bore to men a Savior
When half spent was the night
This Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God,
From Sin and death he saves us,
And lightens every load.

The tune may be recognised as that to which another Christmas song, A Great And Mighty Wonder is sung.
You can listen to the song from George’s album here.


How A Charlie Brown Christmas Almost Didn’t Happen

An abiding childhood memory is the recitation from Luke’s Gospel by the character Linus in the animated television special A Charlie Brown Christmas.
It almost never happened.
This article reveals how Charlie Brown’s creator, Charles Schulz was opposed at virtually every step of the process of creating the special by television executives, who, even in the mid-1960s demonstrated how out of touch they were with popular tastes.

Few headlines about network television make me giddy. Fewer still make me hopeful that all is good in the world. But back in August of 2010, I read the following headline from the media pages with great excitement: “Charlie Brown Is Here to Stay: ABC Picks Up ‘Peanuts’ Specials Through 2015.” The first of these to be made, the famous Christmas special, was an instant classic when it was created by Charles Schulz on a shoestring budget back in 1965, and thanks to some smart television executives, it will be around for at least another five years for all of us to see and enjoy.
What people don’t know is that the Christmas special almost didn’t happen, because some not-so-smart television executives almost didn’t let it air. You see, Charles Schulz had some ideas that challenged the way of thinking of those executives 46 years ago, and one of them had to do with the inclusion in his Christmas cartoon of a reading from the King James Bible’s version of the Gospel of Luke.
The more things change, the more things stay the same.
Read the rest of the article at National Review online.

Here’s an even better version of Linus’ monologue that I posted last year.