8 May 2017

Sing! (however it comes out)

Image: Minnesota State Sacred Harp Singing Convention, Northern Spark, Flickr (Creative Commons)

Image: Minnesota State Sacred Harp Singing Convention, Northern Spark, Flickr (Creative Commons)

Every month in Melbourne a Sacred Harp group meets to sing. We sit in a square formation (altos facing tenors, sopranos facing basses) and read from a thick book containing very old American hymns. I have been twice now.

One thing that is distinctive about Sacred Harp singing is that there is absolutely no value placed on the aesthetic quality of one’s voice. You just sing your part and sing it loud, and however it comes out is the way that God intended it. Squawky, gravelly, nasally, clear – none of that matters in the slightest, as long as you’re singing.

This is such a contrast to the way we usually think about voices! In this culture, we make a distinction between those who ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ sing. Those with voices deemed beautiful are celebrated and encouraged to sing on their own, while those with voices deemed bad are told to shut up. Generally people internalise this idea of having a terrible voice and won’t let themselves sing in public. They will often mock the sounds they make.  

There is a symmetry here to the way we think about bodies: that some are beautiful and some are not. The aesthetically pleasing ones should put themselves on show, while the ‘ugly’ ones should cover up.

What does this do to us, when we believe we need to hide our bodies, or our voices?

And what does it mean for our society, that some people believe it better for everyone if they don’t open their mouth?


18 March 2017

New Site New Blog

I finally got around to making my own website. Guess what the address is…

That’s right:

I’ve moved my blog over there. Hopefully, this will be my last blog move ever. I’m going to aim to be blogging more regularly. If you want to follow the new blog the address is At the new site you can also find my preaching, subscribe to my podcast and book me to preach. You’ll be so excited!

If you’re an email subscriber or you follow the blog through, I’ll be working at moving your subscription across to the new site, but currently, WordPress isn’t playing along, so we’ll see what happens.

Thanks for all your reading over the years. I’ll see you at the new site!


25 February 2017

What I've learned about habits while living on less

As promised, here’s the next instalment of what I’ve learned living on less.

If you haven’t yet read the prequels this may make very little sense to you. Go read them first. I’ll wait.

The power of habit

While doing this challenge I re-read one of my all-time favourite books, The Power of Habit. The timing couldn’t have been better reminding myself how habits work really helped me get through the first two weeks especially.

Part of the reason living on less than $2 was so hard for the first few days was that so many of my habits were working against me.

I’m sure you can empathise – just imagine these scenarios and see if they’re at all familiar:

  • Every morning after my ride… I crave a coffee.
  • Having friends over for a BBQ… I crave a beer.
  • After 40km on the bike or at 3pm in the office… I crave a snack.

habit-loopUsing the ideas covered in ‘The Power of Habit’ I was thrilled to find ways of replacing the routine part of the habit loop that were within my budget.

For these three habits I managed to use about 1-2 tea cheap tea bags per day to replace both coffee and beer (iced tea!). Making a large thermos or jug helped my sanity enormously for only a couple of cents of ingredients. For snacking I introduced peanut button on white bread – not the healthiest but I would be in serious calorie deficit without substituting my snacking with something half-decent.

Fortunately I was already equipped better than some people to take on this challenge because of the habits I already formed prior to starting it.

I’m already a very frugal guy, I do a lot of mental maths and love my spreadsheets as well as things like packing my lunches, cooking in bulk, traveling by bike and drinking less alcohol. I also have a daily practice of gratitude, journaling and mindfulness that helped me keep my brain in the right place for this (reminding myself daily what I am doing, why I am doing it and what actions I need to take).

Restricting my spend would have been much harder had I not found ways replace various routines in the habit loop with sufficient replacements and started with a few helpful habits already.

What about you?

Do you have any stories of habits you’ve changed – or any ones you’re struggling with?

Let me know in the comments below and I’ll send one of my favourite books to the author of my favourite comment.

Shameless plug

Please donate to help end poverty, read about what I’m doing, check out the other blog posts, and share if you haven’t yet.


July 2015



March 2012

A Good Story

Looking for webmail or