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Creativity #39

Children who are allowed to are always making things and adventures. Ask a child why they make things and adventures and they won’t be able to give you a PROPER REASON. That’s because only adults are stupid enough to need a reason for making things. The fact that you are human is the reason to make things. (For lots more good thinking in this direction, listen to this conversation between Rob Bell and Elizabeth Gilbert.)

3 June 2015
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The reason why: page 2

I haven’t learned how to operate the scanner yet, so this is a photo again. You can see that I did the lettering a a separate piece of paper. I left out a letter on my first try.

28 July 2014
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The reason why: page 1

Page 1 scan

Here I go. The reason why I went to the moon for my birthday page one.

  1. This is supposed to be a scan, but I don’t yet know how to use the fancy dancy A3 network printer/scanner that I have access to, so it’s a photo of the page this week.
  2. I was going to do the book in pencil. Now I’m doing it in ink, and I already like it about 10 times more.
  3. In addition to cleaning up and colouring, a lot of the text spacing needs to be adjusted.
  4. The prettied up version of this book will be available to buy in print and on iPad in 2015.
  5. Please feel free to share your thoughts. Your feedback will make this book better.

Thanks for taking the time to look and read.

21 July 2014
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Enough messing around

A cropped portion of the first page of my children's picture book

Last summer I wrote a children’s book. Then I didn’t illustrate it because I needed to finish my degree. Then— I dunno. I completed the degree in May. Since then I’ve illustrated 1.667 of 32 pages. I’m good at starting things, but not so great at finishing (e.g. Cooking tips). Two notable exceptions are said degree (BA Culinary Arts, first class honours) and a weird little bird book I made a few years ago. I want this children’s book to join the notable exceptions. And so…

Every Monday starting 21 July I will be posting a page of the book in the Secret Comics Club section of this site and on my Tumblr blog and probably on Flickr. The page will just be the raw scan, pre-photoshopping and colouring, but it will give people a chance to enjoy the story and maybe become interested in buying the actual book when it is finished sometime in 2015. It will also give people the opportunity to give feedback. I haven’t got an editor or publisher, but there are a bunch of you, and you are clever and have thoughts, and you might like to share those thoughts with me.

I’m trying to take my own advice.

UPDATE (27 August 2014): It’s going very well.

15 July 2014
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PerChiBooWriMo update

Life is busier and progress is slower than I hoped, but I have completed a draft of the text and descriptions of all the images. The book will be 32 pages. The working title is The reason why I’m going to the moon for my birthday.

12 August 2013
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Books, you guys

Here’s a bit of the abstract of some big deal research titled ‘Family scholarly culture and educational success: books and schooling in 27 nations’. It is authored by MDR Evans, Jonathan Kelley, Joanna Sikora and Donald J. Treiman, and it comes from the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 28 (2010) 171-197 (for those of you with access to a university library). Michael Rosen quotes it on his blog and has spiced it up with his own comments in square brackets.

‘Children growing up in homes with many books – [ later defined in the research as around 500 books ] – get 3 years more schooling than children from bookless homes… [ Yes, yes, yes, we might say here, of course they do. We know that. Children from homes with 500 books are middle class homes, with at least one parent who has had a university education who sits and reads to their children every night and goes to museums every weekend. Yes, yes, yes tell me something new… ] …independent of their parents’ education, occupation and class. [ What? Seriously? Are you saying, Evans et al, that a home with 500 books, with both parents having no education beyond 16, both working in a factory as production workers results in children getting 3 more years schooling than children from similar homes but without the books????!!!! ] This [ 500 books in the home ] is as great an advantage as having university educated rather than unschooled parents and twice the advantage of having a professional rather than an unskilled father….

My opinions:

1. This makes me feel like I’ve done at least one bit of parenting right (humble brag).

2. Digital books don’t count. Since Apple brought out the retina display I’ve read a lot of books on my phone, but my kids have no idea about those books (although my daughter read Winnie the Pooh on her iPod). They aren’t stuffed into our bookcases or left laying around the house. Unlike our family’s paper books, my ebooks aren’t available for discovery. I doubt my kids would have wanted to read Kester Brewin’s Mutiny, but if they had seen it in paper book form, they probably would have asked about the pirate book I was reading, sparking a really good conversation about pirates, the commons and church.

Bother. Now I wish I had shelled out a few more pounds for the real version.

Digital books readers turn books from things available to be discovered by everyone who lived in or visited a house into private things that belong only to an individual. When we replace paper books with digital books we are literally stealing education from our kids. Yes, you can share iTunes and Kindle accounts. Yes, you can give your kids access to your digital books and buy digital books for them. Yes, sharing is improving and will continue to improve. But right now, while our kids are growing up, paper books in our houses give them a life advantage that they won’t get from books on screens. Books hidden behind an app button can’t call to us like books shouting from a wall of bookshelves.

Buy real books. Fill your house with them. Read to your kids. It’s worth three years of education.

14 July 2012
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Maurice Sendak died today

I love what he says about illustrating:

An illustrator, in my own mind – and this is not a “truth” of any kind – is someone who so falls in love with writing that he wishes that he had written it, and the closest he can get to is illustrating it. And the next thing you learn, you have to find something unique in this book which perhaps even the author was not entirely aware of. And that’s what you hold on to, and that’s what you add to the pictures – a whole other story that you believe in, that you think is there. When you hide another story in the story, that’s the story that I am telling the children.

It may not be a ‘truth’, but it is certainly applicable, not just to illustrators, but to any creative work that involves communicating what other people have said or created.

Watch the whole video:

Thank you, Mr Sendak

8 May 2012
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Loaded, FHM, Zoo, Nuts, rapists – all talking the same language

Psychologists from Middlesex University and the University of Surrey found that when presented with descriptions of women taken from lads’ mags [FHM, Loaded, Nuts and Zoo], and comments about women made by convicted rapists, most people who took part in the study could not distinguish the source of the quotes.

The research due to be published in the British Journal of Psychology also revealed that most men who took part in the study identified themselves more with the language expressed by the convicted rapists.

Psychologists presented men between the ages of 18 and 46 with a range of statements taken from magazines and from convicted rapists in the study, and gave the men different information about the source of the quotes. Men identified more with the comments made by rapists more than the quotes made in lads’ mags, but men identified more with quotes said to have been drawn from lads’ mags more than those said to have been comments by convicted rapists. (“Read the full press release from University of Surrey”: 69535_are_sex_offenders_and_lads_mags_using_the_same_language)

Sadly, the results of this study are not too surprising to me. They fit pretty closely with the way I see teenage boys and young men talking and behaving at the community centre where I volunteer and at the college where I study.

If you are a parent or work with children or young people, I would love to have your thoughts. Do you see what this study has highlighted as a real problem? Is it widespread or relatively limited? Are you doing anything with your children to combat predatory and misogynistic attitudes in our culture? Do you have any examples of people who are teaching boys a better way?

27 March 2012
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Look at me being a stereotypical children's pastor!

In my new ‘office’.

16 March 2010
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Is it still there?

‘Being born without object permanence [the idea that things continue to exist even when you can’t see them] means that, whether we’re conscious of it or not, almost the first thing we learn in our lives is that something can exist even if we don’t see it.’ And then Jim Barringer goes on to talk about how this paves the way for humans to believe in God. (via Larry Shallenberger)

24 November 2009
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A notable new blog

My beloved wife and former writer here is gracing the internets once again with her poetic and insightful writing on children’s ministry over at the the official i61 Kids blog.

21 August 2009
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Faith like a child

Since Easter, in my Sunday School class we have been talking about the garden of Eden.

Yes, that is a long time to talk about a garden, maybe. But… God’s plan for the world, for people, for animals – I found it quite amazing and I’m glad the kids seemed to feel the same way, but, So many questions!

Jesus said,“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”

I have been told that the meaning of this is that you have to have un-questioning faith. That you just accept.

Ummm… Have you ever spent any time around children? Starting at toddler-hood a favourite word is ‘why’.

The ball is round


Because in order for it to roll smoothly and in the direction that you want it to roll it needs to be.


Because, if it wasn’t round then when you kick it it would just go a way that you didn’t mean for it to.


Umm – I just told you why. Twice!


Because you asked me to


Because you are very curious.


Because you are a child, you want to know all there is to know and you want to know it right now and apparently you want me to tell you!


I don’t know, But I don’t have all the answers.


Cos… I’m not God!

My own kids, and my church kids have so many questions. Often I just don’t have the answers, and I won’t pretend to either. But I will do my best to encourage them to keep asking questions, keep looking for answers.

Whoever seeks shall find. They will know so much more than I do. Thank Goodness.

Maybe also Jesus was talking about the enthusiasm of a child. I watched their faces light up as they learned about this perfect place before sin. I showed them a drawing of the garden, one child piped up, ‘That’s silly! there’s a fox lying down beside a rabbit. That wouldn’t happen.’

‘There was no death in the Garden of Eden, the rabbit was perfectly safe to lie with the fox.’


The rest of our short lesson consisted of the kids talking about which animals they would put together if life was like it was then. Their imaginations were going nuts!

We came back to that many, many times over the next few weeks. I shared stories of the exploits of my cat Max, whose favourite thing ever is to devour small animals, and I have heard many stories of their own pets and the blood and gore they get into!

If only life could be as it was at the beginning. You can see the longing in them – for perfection, for freedom, for that ability to walk in the garden with God.

Last Sunday we talked about how the people were sent from the garden, we talked about bloodshed and shame and him blaming her and… it was very quiet in the room.

At craft time we had clay Snakes and pictures of Adam and Eve sad and shameful with their leaves and furs. One boy just looked at his paper and said, ‘I want to draw but I don’t know what to draw’

‘What part of the story sticks in your mind from today?’

‘I don’t know’

‘Okay, just take a little time and go over the story in your mind and as you are doing that, ask yourself how you feel and try to see if you can get that feeling onto the paper.’

This is his picture:

15 July 2009
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Rite of Passage

The Boy himself dressed for Red Nose Day festivities at school.

My son turned 11 yesterday, which got me thinking about how soon he would be a teenager, which got me thinking about what a rotten job our culture does helping children turn into adults.

It’s not that we don’t love our kids. We do. We almost turn them into little gods and goddesses. We offer them lavish sacrifices of electronics and bicycles and baby dolls and Lego. We pray sincere prayers to them daily to keep them pacified and turn away their wrath. (‘Just do what daddy, says and I will give you a special treat afterwards.’) But the one thing we don’t really know how to do is help them grow up.

Two years ago I wrote a post about what we have lost. Now that he is only two years away from the magical age of 13, I need to start putting my thoughts into action.

So here are some rough thoughts I have about a rite of passage for my son:


I want him to know what it means to be a godly man, the challenges the choices, the rewards. I want him to understand that the teen years are the time when he will become a man, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I want him to understand growing up as one of the greatest, most fun adventures of life. I want him to come to his teen years with a strong foundation of what it means to follow Jesus and what God has done for us through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

This is going to take some time. I think I need to get busy now.


This is a big deal. A party with some friends and a badge to pin on isn’t going to cut it. Judaism has the Bar and Bat Mitzvah (son or daughter of the commandment). Seeing as our faith has its roots with the Jews, I can probably get some inspiration there.

From Wikipedia:‘According to Jewish law, when Jewish children reach the age of majority (generally thirteen years for boys and twelve for girls) they become responsible for their actions, and “become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah”… This also coincides with physical puberty. Prior to this, the child’s parents are responsible for the child’s adherence to Jewish law and tradition and, after this age, children bear their own responsibility for Jewish ritual law, tradition, and ethics and are privileged to participate in all areas of Jewish community life.’

I want his birthday to be marked by a ceremony of significance with people from many generations taking part. Beyond that, I’m not sure what it should be. I have a whole list in my head of things it shouldn’t be, but there’s no reason to list them now.


Here’s one thing I know I want. I want a bunch of people from our community, in and out of church to talk to him, about his value as unique person. The teen years are a time of launching out into the unknown. So much is new. So much has never been experienced before. So much of it happens alone in the mind of a teenager. How much richer and exciting will this period of exploration and failure and triumph be for him if he knows that all around him is a community that values him for who he is!


Of course too many warm fuzzies will kill a person. That’s why I want to give him something to strive for, a challenge from his family and community to not avoid the things that are hard, the things that require ‘taking up your cross’ like Jesus, because that is where he will find his life. I want him to have a vision of a life that matters.


Finally, I would like to kick off his teenage years with a challenge. I want something that will stretch him physically, mentally and spiritually. Something fun, but hard too. Something that will give him a sense of accomplishment when he completes it. Something that benefits others. Something he and I can do together. Something that lasts about a week.

I don’t know what direction my son’s life will take, but I am confident that he will get there in better shape if Christine and I can reclaim the lost genius of the rite of passage.

18 March 2009
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Hooray for 678

In my group of kids in years six, seven and eight we are studying the parables of Jesus. Obviously, the thing to do is to write a parable. I gave them three ideas to choose from. They picked one and wrote a story. Two weeks ago we filmed it. Today is it’s worldwide premier.

I proudly present a story about the way people view God and the way God actually is and the reason God gives us commands: Daniel and the Lions.

1 March 2009
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Jeff gets a curriculum

For the past few weeks I have been using an absolutely amazing curriculum. I’m not usually a fan of curricula, but this one has transformed the way I think about and do my class for students in years 6-8 (ages 10-13).

This thing is just plain inspiring. It is built around the story of a hero and his adventures. Kids love heroes, and this one is so well-written that he grabbed my imagination from the moment I started reading. More important, he is grabbing the kids’ imagination. They are connecting with this character. They are connecting with his adventures. Watching them for the past few weeks, I am convinced that this connection with the story in the curriculum is starting to lead them to a real connection with God.

I’m using the curriculum with a pretty small group, about 15. The discussion points are great. The ideas for hands-on learning are brilliant. And it is all amazingly scalable. This curriculum would work for large groups too. And for young children. And for teens. I think even adults could get something useful out of it. I know one-size-fits-all solutions usually aren’t, but I honestly believe this is different. The content is rich, both in breadth and depth.

The only real drawback that I have come across so far it that because the curriculum is not brand new, it is only text. There is no audio or video – or even Powerpoint slides. I think that could put some people off. For me it hasn’t been a problem. I have been so inspired by the content that I have found it easy to find my own media. This is the age of Web 2.0 after all. Almost everything in the world is available in about six clicks.

There are several modules. Not all are stories, not all are heroes, but if they are anywhere near as good ad the module I’m using at the moment, this is the curriculum I’m sticking with for the foreseeable future.

You can buy new favourite curriculum in book form here. And it is available for instant download here

20 November 2008
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Escaping from the pit of pronunciation to the farm


My first year in school, a short fattish four year old, and I was to be an elf in the Christmas play. We were going to practice the Christmas play in the school hall. If you are from the South Wales valleys and you say ‘hall’ it sounds like this ‘aaaaaaawl’ and if you are from the South Wales valleys and you say ‘hole’ it sounds like this ‘aaaaaaawl’

I never really knew what was going on in school but I remember there was lots of excitement and we were lining up in the corridor outside the classroom and for some reason I had a green cap on with jingly bells and everyone was talking about the school aaaaaaawl and I was petrified. Here I was, dressed stupidly and they were taking me to some giant black pit that was in the bit of the school I’d never been in before. Would I be made to go into the aaaaaaawl, or would they just let me stand on the edge and look down into it? So scary!

The aaaaaaawl looked like any normal school hall and I think that I must have felt some relief when we went down three steps and opened up some double doors and the ground didn’t suddenly disappear, but – so Big! Too big for me, and just inside the double doors was a piano and behind that I hid and would not come out to practice being an elf with the other jingly kids. I sat behind the piano facing the wall until it was time to go back to the safe classroom.

Well, safe-ish. I spent a lot of my time in that room lying on the rug playing with a toy farm under a shelf, but sometimes I was made to sit on a chair and Mrs. Monday would point to some strange symbols and pictures that were stuck up above the blackboard, there was a picture of a queen and a picture of a gate and there was a picture of a kite and some other pictures but if you said ‘queen’ or ‘gate’ or ‘kite’ when she pointed to the pictures you would get shouted at.

It seemed like we did this thing over and over in that first year of school. It was so puzzling, sitting there while the children said ‘A B C D E F…’ and the teacher would say, ‘Come on, Christine!’ and I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing and what those weird marks were that went along with each picture and why all the other children would do weird, not normal talking whenever we sat in those chairs and looked at those pictures and what did this have to do with anything? Couldn’t I go back to playing with the farm?

I didn’t like infant school.

6 October 2008
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Hi, School!

This is a little event we do for students moving out of junior school and into secondary school. (For those of you outside the UK, this happens at age 11.) We’ve just finished our promo video. A short version may come later.

You can see the video in high definition and download the original 102 MB Quicktime movie on Vimeo, which is kind of cool.

27 June 2008
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Too good

Seth Godin wrote a couple days ago about the importance of letting the evidence of human involvement be visible sometimes.

I think the promotion of the kids thing we are doing Wednesday is a good example. I made some fun and pretty invitations and laser printed them on card.



As I was distributing them about the neighbourhood, they started seeming too good. They weren’t quite right. I would have felt a lot more comfortable giving out pieces of paper with the details hand-written on them. That would have been inviting. Somehow what I was doing felt more like selling.

It’s okay. The reason we are doing this now is to start learning how.

26 May 2008
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Can we go back to theory, please?

Our church has done a very good job of making a place that is easy for non-church people to come to – for starters, we meet in a pub – and people do come. About half of the people of i61 didn’t go to church before they came to i61 or else they had not gone for a very long time.

Easy to come to is good, but for a while Christine and I have been feeling that it is very important for us to go, to share the life of God with people where they already are. Since we are the children’s pastors, we decided to do something with kids. Since there is no time like the present, we decided to do something this half-term week. The obvious place to start is Someone Else’s Neighbourhood. Unfortunately, the Someone Elses had to work all week, so we are doing it in our neighbourhood at our house.

It’s surprisingly scary.

I printed up a little invitation, and yesterday I went out in the rain and passed a bunch of them around. People I don’t know got them through their letterboxes. People I do know or have spoken to a bit got me knocking on their door inviting them. The response was tepid at best. People seemed to think of it as a thinly disguised wheeze to get their kids into church.

The response at last house I went to completely took the wind out of my sails. Our village shopkeeper lives there. He always seemed like a nice guy. We chatted once about the woes having BT as an internet provider. His teenage daughter babysat our kids a few times. But yesterday he said, ‘No, not interested,’ before I could finish one sentence. When I stuttered something about it being just some games and crafts for the kids, he cut me off again.

Like I was selling double glazing!

Or I was a bleeding Jehovah’s Witness!

At that moment I acquired actual empathy with a friend from church who went out for a Christmas meal with a bunch of mums from her children’s school. She didn’t drink because when she’s indulging in extra calories she prefers to get them from food. The real reason doesn’t matter though. She’s a Christian. She didn’t drink, so obviously she’s judging their lifestyle. Now they don’t want to be her friends anymore.


Actually, they are just being people who are living in the culture we live in. That’s not an excuse for other people’s bad behaviour; it is a reminder that we kingdom of God people still have a lot of barriers to move out of the way when we go where the people are.

I’m pretty sure some of Callum’s neighbourhood friends are coming. I’ll let you know how it goes. I think it will be good.

26 May 2008
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That's well neighbourly! - updated

This weekend our church is looking at the story of the good Samaritan. I want to rewrite it for my class of 10-13 year-olds and set it in high school. (For those of you outside the UK secondary education starts at age 11 here.) I found some interesting retellings laying around the internet: here (scroll down), here and here, but none of them are really what I need. How do you think I should update the cast?

Who are the attackers?
Who is the victim?
The priest?
The levite?
The Samaritan?
The innkeeper?

If all goes well, I shall put a working draft story online in a day or two for your further comments and sugestions.



I ended up not rewriting the story beforehand. Instead, I did it live as a mad lib with my class. They loved it. And they heard the story three times, once proper and twice silly. AND they all asked for a copy of their own. Here is their story with a little help from the TNIV:

Once a footballer slide tackled Jesus to test him. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit fantastic life?’

‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’

He answered, ‘‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’‘

‘You have answered Jeffly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’
But he wanted to sit himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’

In reply Jesus said: ‘Conor was going down from Tesco to i61, when he fell into the hands of terrorists. They stripped him of his table, karate chopped him and went away, leaving him half hairy. A referee happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side of the Aston Martin. So too, a fit, sporty girl when she came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side of the elephant. But a nerd, as he read, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on 7up and lemon juice Then he put the man on his own ferret, brought him to Jamaica and took care of him. The next day he took out two dollars and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will paint you for any extra expense you may have.’

‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the terrorists?’

The footballer replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’

Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

20 April 2008
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