Tool Partylite

It’s the late 1990s and my wife has attended a Candle Partylite Party. Women sit around passing round candles, oohing and aching and then forking out large amounts of money for scented candles, plus accessories. But why should women have all the fun. Why can’t the men? Got me thinking . . .

Okay guys, if you could come in off the patio where you’ve been standing around downing beers as though the more you drink, the larger your egos and various body parts will grow. Dennis, Phil, there’s mouthwash in the bathroom and Tony, your wife called to say she’s taping the wrestling, so please, let’s try and control the shakes. All right, great. Welcome, everyone and excuse me while I position myself on this table with my legs apart, burp to make bits come up and sweat in a manner designed to earn respect in the male community. It’s simply that we’re here this evening to talk about manly things such as sawing, chiseling and mowing and anything less than traditional macho behavior might affect sales so …. burp, excuse me while I adjust myself. Thank you.

Okay, Barry, Terry, John, Hank, thanks for making time in your schedule that normally involves getting home late from work, grabbing the sports pages, eating dinner in front of the game and falling asleep with a six-pack on your belly. I know it’s a sacrifice for you to be away from your home life. However, I hope to make this evening a rewarding one, worth the spending of vast sums of money on items that you won’t need but that will make you feel good to own.

Okay, so what have we got on offer tonight? Well, the first thing I have to make you feel materially deprived is this beautiful circular saw. If you don’t have one of these, you might as well consider yourself a lesser species, since the owning of an electric saw is obviously a rite of passage for white males. That’s in addition to big fat cigars, the smoking of which significantly increases the risk of lung cancer and depriving small children of their fathers, though at the small price of imbuing a male with a sense of achievement as compensation for the lack of a healthy sense of self-worth.

But let’s talk saws. This one’s special. Throw out your Black and Deckers, this is the newest model, the one with two hundred speeds and the handy replaceable blades. Just the forty-two easy-to-follow steps to dislodge that sucker from its glue-like casing. Happily there’s a low OSHA expectation of the loss of just one digit per five years of use, down from the two and a half digits you’ll find on most other brands. And the two hundred speeds are there so you can select exactly the speed you need. The saw is designed for cutting wood so speed 57 is the one you’ll use most often but it’s good to know you could cut plutonium, iron sheets, hard plastics and human flesh if you needed to by just rotating that dial on the end there. This one’s on offer tonight and comes with four free rakes and a trowel. Jerry was going to demonstrate it this evening but he hit speed 157 by mistake and chopped down all the trees in his backyard. They’re still trying to dislodge it from the neighbor’s oak. So I’ll just pass round the brochure.

Okay, drills. Who hasn’t lain awake at night wishing they had a bigger, better drill? I know I have. Didn’t you just love Armageddon? My drill’s four feet long and I wear a harness to wield it but it can never be too big. You need the biggest, most powerful drill on the market and we have it here. Joe’s just bringing it round in his pick-up; he’ll be here in a moment. In the meantime, let’s talk lawn mowers. I know you’ve all been remodeling your homes for the past five years, adding anything from five to ten rooms in the hope of adding value to your property while sleeping in wood shavings, giving your kids asthma and leaving your wife with a dirty bowl in which to do the laundry for a family of five. But …. some of you still have a patch of grass at the back, that piece of nature you’re still clinging to in the vain attempt to convince yourselves that you haven’t annihilated all living things from your backyards. Yes, Jack, that’s the piece of browny green vegetation that’s not covered with climbing frames and sharp jagged pieces of metal left over from the other pieces of electrical gardening equipment that broke within days of purchase and have left your children limping and learning to write left-handed. Forget the kids for the moment, though, and think of your lawn. You need the ‘Roller-Roaster’. If you look through the window there into my yard, you’ll see mine. I know you can’t see the lawn any more. But you gotta have one. It’s obviously of a size to harvest corn in the Midwest but you need the coverage. It’s all about coverage. I know Bill there went for the standard model last time when he should have bought the ‘Turbo’ and regretted it. Deeply. You actually had to drive it forwards three feet, didn’t you, Bill? So embarrassing in front of the neighbors.

Finally, electric sanding machines. We all need them. We’re nobodies without one. Your deck, your dining room table, your hardwood floors, they’ll need sanding down at some point in the future. And you can’t do it without this beauty. It won awards for causing just two fatalities in testing; it’s just beautiful. Pick it up, Rock. Actually let me say that again using some well-worn macho phraseology that implies familiarity with heavy tools and gives the impression that I’ve been using this equipment all my life instead of piling it up in the garage and hiring contractors to do the work. Here goes: Grab a hold of that puppy, Rock, and fire it up! Actually don’t do that. If you hold a sanding machine in the air and turn it on, you’re going to vibrate at 3000 shudders a minute which could do something nasty to that chili you just ate. So, yeah, just pass it round, but don’t touch that big red switch. Yes, that’s the one. Whoa, steady, Bill, I said don’t do that, man. Are you okay? Could someone pick up his bottom lip? Thanks. Okay, just keep passing it round. Good. I know, isn’t it a beauty? I’m sorry, Tom, what was that? Can you display it? Well, I guess so. Yes, I suppose it would add to the country décor in your house … in a quirky kind of way. Thanks for that suggestion, Tom.

So guys, thanks for listening. Bob here will give you the books outlining the service agreements that basically tell you that you should receive the items within a couple of months, maybe years, barring any unforeseen circumstances such as a change in a company’s stock market value that might require the loss of some orders or an extended delay in shipping, say a decade or so.

I’m just off to find Joe. I think he may be having trouble with that drill………”


Growing Up

I wonder if you’ve heard this one: Jesus was a man, but you know, he never had to struggle like us, did he? He was the Son of God so he must have found it easy to do the right thing. Right?’

I normally have two responses. The first is Hebrews 4.15,

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.

And Luke 2.51-52,

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Jesus grew up . . . what a fascinating concept. When I think of the idea of growing up, I can’t help returning to those days when my kids were little . . . really little . . . back in California . . . when our house looked like a trashed Toys R Us . . . It was enough to move my fingers over the keys . . .


 We’ve got it all wrong when it comes to making toys for infants. Why are we designing them in bright colors and giving them actual practical and educational value? Why do we buy them plastic trucks and cooking utensils and dolls and blocks? Particularly if your child is under one, they are not looking at the latest miniature food mixer with the realistic raised speed dial – complete with microscopic numbers – and nodding in approval. First, they don’t care how realistic it is; it’s going in the mouth anyway. For them, that’s the test of quality: does it feel good in my mouth because the expensive doll with the human hair may fail dismally on that score. Second, most toys last about five seconds before their many constituent parts disappear magically to all four corners of the house.

And there are so many parts. What is the child really playing with anyway? She’s grabbed the arm of Mr. Potato Head and is banging it against a puzzle piece, a blue block and a dried-banana-covered piece of plastic, whose original purpose is impossible to discern. I don’t know why they don’t just market toys for infants in bits. “100 plastic bits for your child: wrapped in packs of ten. When the first ten have disappeared under chairs, down sinks and behind beds, pull out the next pack. It’s endless fun for mother and baby!”

Surely we should come to terms with the fact that our children aren’t in the slightest bit interested in the toys we give them, be they plastic bits or dolls that sing, dance and play the national anthem. They’re much more interested in real stuff. Just after opening a huge box full of the newest, most cleverly interactive toys money can buy, our 11-month-olds crawl with purpose to the cupboard to pull out the metal bowls. They sit for hours tapping a wooden spoon against a bowl and tinkering with the rice maker, pushing buttons and sucking the electric cord. We’ve paid for mental stimulation that would have made a young Einstein’s head spin but no, it’s the mixing spoon and the ceramic casserole dish that the child really loves. I think there’s a message here. I think we should go with this. Why resist? And why just stop with the bowls and dishes? Why not let Johnny get his hands on the whole lot …….?

“Oh, Jenny, I just love your furry knives!”

“ Not just furry, Sally … put that down, Kevin … take a look at this. Flick that switch and—”

“ –Oh my goodness, a razor sharp knife pops out. That is just fantastic! So Kevin can play with knives after all and you just pop a switch and within seconds, you’re dicing carrots! Can Kevin flick the switch too?”

“Not at his age, it’s been tested for resistance among one-year-olds. 80% couldn’t make it budge. They just recommend you don’t give them to the stronger ones. They’re such a delight, I love them!”

“Er, Jenny … is Katie okay? It looks like she’s eating the dishwasher powder. Are you sure that’s safe?”

“Sherbet, Sally. The plastic pouch on the side of the box is refillable and you can fill it with any food of your choice! Yesterday, she was munching on the Cheerios I’d swept up from the dining room floor. I like to keep an eye on her while she’s eating week old food. So much healthier and safer.”

“Oh yes, I totally agree. Keep ‘em close. I spray eatable glue on my shins and then cover them with snacks. Ben loves picking them off and I know exactly where he is by the slight stinging sensation as they come off in his fingers.”


Hmm, happy days. So where was I? Oh yes, the serious subject of Jesus’ childhood. I think that phrase, Jesus grew up, possibly contains more theological conundrums than almost any other. Isn’t he the one referenced by Paul as the one who sustains the universe? Not just made, sustains – present tense. That guy aged five, who presumably asked his dad ‘So what’s this for?’ before hacking away at a piece of wood with a hammer and chisel, with Joseph looking on nervously.

And then there’s the original question. Wasn’t it just plain easy for him to be good? And doesn’t that mean he wasn’t really ‘just a man.’ He was . . . come on, admit it, a Super-man.

The traditional response draws strongly on Philippians 2.5-8,

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

This section – which is so intensely beautiful, it should move us straight to adoration – refers to what is called the Kenosis, or emptying. Christ emptied himself for us. But let’s stop for a moment and be clear what we’re talking about.

Christ was the God-Man. He possessed both a human and a divine nature. How the two natures interacted with each other is hard to understand at the best of times. If Jesus had been asked, ‘So can you explain the electronic gadgetry on the latest F-16?’ he would have done what any first century carpenter would have done. Looked at you as though you’d arrived from the moon. The suppression, therefore, of divine knowledge – which is all-encompassing – during his time on earth, was necessary in order for him to function as a normal human being.

Ah, but perhaps it was also necessary so that he could grow up. Right now, I have 2 teenagers – girls – and a son who will turn 13 in a couple of months. First, there is no contest between ‘the early years’ and the ‘teenage years.’ The early years are easy-peasy. Oh yes, they are! Change a diaper. Read a book. Endure a tantrum. Rock a baby to sleep. Exhausting often. But liable to completely do your head in!? That’s reserved for the teenage years. (All those with little ones, please feel free to vent . . . er, I mean, comment).

Yet, I do think watching children grow up is simply one of the most life-changing, beautiful, gratifying, soul-destroying, life-enhancing, satisfying, agonizing things that a person can experience.

Growth is good. Always. It often hurts but it’s good.

That Jesus grew up, I find deeply reassuring. We’re told he ‘grew in wisdom.’ He was Wisdom. How did that work? Surely, it can only mean that he acquired knowledge of his world just like any other boy. And that, therefore, must have meant . . . homework! Oh yes, the Teenage Burden, even for Jesus. In the Luke passage, we’re told that he grew up just after we’ve read about his extraordinary mastery of the OT Law, surrounded by rabbis in the temple. No, it didn’t mean he simply downloaded his knowledge of the OT via his divine nature. It means he studied hard. Really hard. (Are you listening, son?) He studied hard. And he reaped the rewards. Great wisdom.

That he limited himself in a human body and in that human body he grew up in a similar fashion to any other Middle Eastern boy of his day, well, we talk about identification a lot. In his suffering, Christ identifies with us. Suffers like us. And in his growing up, he was . . . well, perhaps he was a little like my son. Perhaps Mary called to him to come to dinner, waited for a minute or two, then went into the living room and shouted ‘NOW!’

No one said being a teenager was a sin . . . though no doubt some parents are tempted down that road.

I thank my heavenly father that my Lord was once a teenager, no doubt with smelly shoes and, who knows, maybe even an attitude at times. He knows our world because he has lived in it with a real human body, a human nature and all that goes with that. He knows intimately the intricacies of human family relationships, having grown up in a family.

I despair of myself, sometimes, when in dealing with my children, I’m tempted to reach for those over-used parental words, In my day, we used to . . . How much better simply to remind myself that my Lord knows what my kids go through because he was once their age, as astonishing as that sounds. He knows them, can strengthen them; he loves them and he’s with us as a family, having lived in one himself.

May that be a reassuring and encouraging truth to you, if you’re a parent with teenagers. And if you have little ones, well, all I can say is . . . it just gets better and better!

Our favourite family show of the moment is The Middle. If you’re a parent and you haven’t yet seen this show, you’re missing out. Borrow a box-set. Let me leave you with some wisdom from Rev. Tim-Tom, the friendly guitar-playing pastor:

Jesus was a teenager too,
Beneath the long hair, awkwardness, pimples . . . King of the Jews
A lonely teenage Saviour no one could understand
Awkward on the outside, but inside a wise young man,
Yeah, Jesus was a teenager too.
Hmm, yes he was . . .

© Richard Collins 2014

Do share with one of those buttons down there. And click here for a longer version of Infants’ Toys.