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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Hands up, who remembers the drive-in?

drive_in

A picture similar to this was doing the rounds on FB not so long ago, along with the caption: “Like this if you recognise what it is.” Ha, ha! Most kids today couldn’t even begin to guess.

Last week found me reminiscing about the family excursions we used to make to the drive-in [theatre] during my childhood. The conversation about drive-ins was unfamiliar territory for my British friends who had never experienced them.

I guess this way of watching movies was a benefit of growing up in a country with great weather. But it was being together as a family that made it a joy.

Occasionally we went down to play on the swings in front of the giant screen until it was time for the film to start, but usually my brother and I would wait impatiently on the back seat, fidgeting and arguing over something trivial like who had the best view.

If it was a balmy evening we sometimes laid a blanket down on the tarmac, still warm from the day’s sunshine. Our excitement mounted as the sun began to set and Mum pulled out the packed sarmies. “Yum, egg mayonnaise,” I declared. “Yuck!” gagged my brother, preferring the ham. If we were lucky there were homemade scotch eggs too, followed by fruit or biscuits and washed down with milky coffee. And if Dad was feeling magnanimous he would walk us over to the cafeteria where they sold “horrogs”, chips, Coke and other childhood delights.

Only one drive-in movie has stayed with me all these years… Grease. My little-girl imagination was entranced by the music and dancing, along with Olivia Newton-John’s golden curls and dazzling smile.

With the film over it was usually a long wait to get out, with all the cars queuing for the same gate. There were always several smart alecs who left early – before the film had even finished – their headlights spoiling the enjoyment of the rest of us as they tried to miss the rush. The pillows and blankets we’d brought along drew us into happy sleep as Dad safely trekked us home.

Johannesburg’s last drive-in theatre closed its gates in 2012, and I don’t know if the drive-ins in Port Elizabeth, where I was born, are now shut. But the joy-filled memories remain with me.

Do you have happy memories of the drive-in? Or any other family traditions you remember fondly?

I’m only human

A friend sent me a link to this advert for a US company called Liberty Mutual Insurance. It made me laugh!

To the soundtrack of the 1980s song ‘I’m only human’ by The Human League, the voice-over says: “Humans. We mean well. But we’re imperfect creatures living in a beautifully imperfect world.” The advert goes on to show a series of calamities befalling various hapless human beings.

Been there, done that

We probably wouldn’t be laughing if all those accidents had happened to us (and I’ll leave you to guess which one befell my household!). But what makes the ad endearing is our ability to relate.

We’ve all done something stupid (I’ll admit to more than a few!) where we ended up looking foolish and feeling bad, and when we see others blundering and slipping up we recognise our own human frailty. That’s why the ad not only made me laugh but also feel warm inside. I recognised my own shortcomings and mistakes, and didn’t feel alone in them.

The freedom of honesty

Yesterday I read a post about someone’s vision for an ideal church where people can be completely honest about who they are and the struggles they’re going through, with the aim of being healed and transformed.

While we must be careful not to overly dwell on the things we get wrong, there is amazing freedom in acknowledging the truth of our inadequacies. And it reminds us of our dependence on the One who understands our weaknesses and who faced similar challenges.

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:15–16)

 

I find it challenging to be open about my really cringe-worthy disasters and inherent weaknesses. Are you the same, or do you find it liberating to admit to them?

Are you expecting good things?

Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

(Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

This week I’m participating in a fellow blogger’s new series called ‘Monday Ministry’. Hosted by Tania Vaughan on her blog tryingtobefaithful.blogspot.co.uk,  it’s about “taking Sunday into the rest of the week and letting it minister from Monday”.

Last week we had an amazing church evening of worship, teaching and ministry. The abundant presence of the Holy Spirit and all He had to share with us profoundly moved us. As a church, we felt a spiritual shift. We saw amazing healings, were encouraged by words of prophecy, and felt ready for the next step of this exciting journey we’re on with our heavenly Father.

Now I’m trying to implement what He’s teaching me about being expectant and positioning myself to receive. Taking new steps of growth in the Lord is always stretching, and most days I feel the battle. Wonderfully though, He has promised to renew my strength each day like the morning dew (Psalm 110).

BE EXPECTANT of the goodness of God

Sometimes, especially when we’ve been waiting a long time for God to fulfil a promise, we can become negative and ‘grumbly’. This is not His will for us, and it does not advance His Kingdom.

But if we expect His goodness to us and we overflow with thankfulness and praise, more blessings seem to flow our way. Just in the past week, as I’ve expressed my gratitude, I’ve received a completely unexpected belated birthday gift, an encouraging text from a family member, a good price on something we had to buy, and even a clear run of green traffic lights when I was late!

POSITION YOURSELF to receive what God has for you

When we position ourselves to receive from our Heavenly Father who delights to give good gifts to His children, we start to see Him in all sorts of unexpected places. As we become more open to Him, we notice the hundreds of (often little) ways He’s blessing and helping us every day – both in the things we have specifically talked to Him about as well as in wonderful surprises.

Then we find ourselves becoming more focused on Him – the giver – rather than on the gifts, and on His presence rather than the presents. We listen more carefully and our spirit is more in tune with Him.

And this leads us into greater opportunities to share His love and goodness with others. We start looking to bless those around us and to freely give what we’ve freely received. This morning I read in Hebrews 7 that “the person who has the power to give a blessing is greater than the one who is blessed”. Wow! So be encouraged the next time you choose to bless the shop assistant or waitress serving you, or to share with a friend how Jesus has changed your life!

What I’ve learned about blogging so far…

photo 3 - Version 2

Last week on the Facebook page of the Association of Christian Writers there was an interesting discussion about blogging. I’m still a newbie at this, but over the past year, from reading other blogs and working on my own, I’ve learned one or two things.

1)     Knowing your stuff increases hit rates and followers

You don’t have to be famous and successful to increase your hits (though it helps!). Focusing on a subject you know well can also expand your circle of followers. The church communications blogs I follow (primarily for their focus on social media and digital marketing) as well as the food and cookery blogs I read are hosted by ordinary people with a love for their subject.

They aren’t necessarily leaders in their fields but they have knowledge they’re willing to share, and that makes them useful to me. If they consistently post in an easy to read, interesting format, providing valuable content, I’ll gladly subscribe!

2)     A great layout attracts more readers

While it might seem shallow, a good look-and-feel engenders confidence. If it looks professional, it must be professional and the information useful, we reason. (Of course, this doesn’t always apply, but if the content’s no good it won’t take a visitor long to realise.)

While the design of my own blog is not exactly as I would like it to be, WordPress is great for the variety of professional layouts it offers for free, as well as tips and pointers (through its tutorials and emails) on using the tools to make your blog more effective. Checking out great blogs on its ‘Freshly Pressed’ page can also give you fresh inspiration. For a podcast/post on setting up a WordPress blog, look at Michael Hyatt’s ‘How to Launch a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog in 20 Minutes or Less’.

3)     Brevity is best

It’s unfortunate but true that if a post is too long, most readers will give up and many will not visit again. Writing for the web is different to other forms of prose. Your visitors have short attention spans, preferring to digest bite-sized thoughts.

I often struggle to keep my word count under 500, apparently the optimum length. But my goal is to learn from those who write concise, punchy pieces. Formatting that uses bullet points, lists and sub-headings makes the information more scan-able.

4)     Put yourself out there (well, not all out there!)

Yes, great content is vital. But if you don’t share something of yourself in the process, your readers will battle to engage with you. References to your own life and experiences help readers identify with you and apply what you’re saying to their situation.

5)   Continuing the conversation

Do you usually end off your post with a question or thought that will motivate readers to comment? Many visitors enjoy talking about their own experiences, so getting them to continue the conversation can encourage others to read and follow your blog too. I find I often learn as much from the comments as from the original post. That’s the beauty of social media.

In another post I’ll share about some of the mistakes I’ve made.

What do you think makes for a great blog? And what makes you follow some blogs over others?