The Squeeze

squeezeIts been a year of transition.

The kids went back to school at QBC, Danelle has picked up some work there and by virtue of having to fit into school schedules we have started to live a somewhat ‘normal’ life.

We now have children to get to school every morning, and home every afternoon… there is homework… and lots of it… Our lives have become governed by school hours and school terms.

I realise this is how most people live, but I’m not enjoying ‘the squeeze’. I’m not enjoying the sense of conforming to the rules of suburbia and there is a part of me that is wondering how long we can sustain this kind of life, or if we even want to.

‘Oh don’t be silly – of course you can sustain it – just look around you – everybody does it!’ I hear someone say.

And I’d say ‘so what?! Who said it has to be this way? And what impact does it have on those people?… Is it all good?’

Obviously we made these choices for a reason. One of my life’s mottos is that ‘life is a series of compromises’. You just can’t have everything you want all the time and sometimes you simply have to be willing to trade ‘x’ for ‘y’. We have made a choice to trade some of our freedom (and Danelle’s sanity) by outsourcing education to a third party.

But I didn’t actually realise how much of a family life change it was going to be having the kids back in the system. We originally made the decision because Danelle was struggling to cope with the demands of two kids in more advanced schooling and by sending them back it took that load off her plate. And it has done that… she has not struggled with anxiety anywhere near as much and the sheer weight of planning their education is no longer hers.

For the most part we are really happy with their school situation, but lately I’ve been noticing the squeeze – the forces being exerted on us that are shaping us into the predictable patterns of suburban life (and I get that they aren’t all bad – people need to know how to ‘fit in’ as well as how to think for themselves.)

That said, for the last 6 years I have always liked that at any time I could say ‘hey let’s down tools and take off for a few days down south!’ And we could… Or ‘Hey the surf looks good today Sam. Forget maths this morning and lets hit the beach’ And he could…

Earlier in the year I offered Sam a day off to come surfing with me and he told me wasn’t allowed. ‘What?!… I’m your dad boy! If I can’t give you permission then who can?!’

‘Yeah… we aren’t allowed to wag school dad,’ came the autobot reply. My butt cheeks clenched tight.

The squeeze… literally…

It started right back then. Sam is a natural law abider anyway, but what kid wouldn’t take their dad’s offer of a day off school?!

As part of our arrangement with the church we choose to take a lower salary in exchange for an extra two weeks holiday each year. It was partly to help the church with the $$, but it was always my intention to make sure we spent plenty of time on the road travelling.

That was great when we could shoot off up north for a month over July and then slot another couple of weeks in at other times, but now the mid year break is just two weeks. Exams come at the end of term and apparently it isn’t cool to skip them… And then it’d be tough on the kids for them to miss all the start up stuff in the first week of term.

So we fit in.

Part of the challenge is running a seasonal business, and yes – that’s my choice. So we can take 4 weeks over Christmas, but apart from the crowds and the premium prices its also the prime time to make some good $$.

Perhaps this is just how it is and we need to suck it up and slot in. For the next 4 years our life revolves around our kids’ education and their adolescent years. I do think there is an element of inevitability about that. But I also hope that when we (and they) come out the other end we haven’t become so entrenched that we have lost the ability to think for ourselves and choose our own path.

Or in the immortal words of the not so well known philosopher Forrest Griffin, I really hope the juice is worth the squeeze…



Bright Lights and Bullshit

txf_logoI don’t know Ezereve, the woman who wrote this post, but I enjoyed reading her down to earth, open handed assessment of her experience with X Factor.

If you wonder what happens on these ‘talent’ shows then this report gives a good insight. Goodonya Ezereve for writing your real experience.


So You Want to ‘Convert’?








Yesterday I was reflecting on the life and death of Eric Cooke and whether he genuinely found faith in Christ or not. I’m glad I’m not the one having to make that call.

But it does raise the question of what constitutes a genuine and substantial conversion. Is it even still ok to speak of ‘conversion’ or is that too un-PC these days?… Its a topic that interests me because it really is the pointy end of mission. Ultimately the end game of mission is to see people follow Jesus and live in the kingdom of God, but how do you get there and how would you know if you are ‘there’ anyway?

I had thought this would make an interesting post-grad research area, but instead it was an 8hr sermon prep and some wide and varied speed reading that led me to the conclusions I offered this morning in our teaching at QBC. So its hardly an in-depth analysis, but even a scan of the scriptures offers some intriguing insights.

Scot McKnight has a helpful book entitled Turning to Jesus – The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels where he looks at how people come to faith when Jesus is around. It is often as simple as ‘follow me’, and it ends up with life changing encounters eg Zacchaeus where the person’s world is upended. He also looks at the ‘healing conversions’ (if they are that) and the response evoked from the person being healed who is unable to stop speaking of Jesus.

In Acts it is the diversity of conversion experiences that is interesting, from the Pentecost ‘mass evangelism’, to group conversions (Cornelius/jailer), the Areopagus where a philosophical debate leads to conversion or even Simon the magician trying to convert for reasons of personal gain – a reminder that not all conversions are genuine (as if American politics hasn’t already taught us that…)

I didn’t have time to smash thru the letters, but what I was trying to do was form a sense of the common elements in a conversion experience – recognising that conversion is both event and process.

So I finished with 1 broad idea that captured the essence of conversion as well as  5 elements that seemed to be essential in all conversions to Christ.

The broad idea is that of ‘turning’, as per 1 Thess 1:9 where the people turn from idols and to God. ‘Epistrophe’ seems to be a word used to describe this action and it is common to all experiences. If there is no ‘turning’ there is no conversion.

Then the five elements I picked up on were:

  1. An encounter with truth – the ‘gospel’ is proclaimed – spoken and communicated to the listener in such a way that they can understand. For Jesus it was as easy as ‘follow me’ (no doubt accompanied by some experience of him), but in Acts we read many sermons or verbal messages that contained the good news of the kingdom of God. For people to make a choice to ‘turn’ they need clarity around the message – the nature of the new life they are signing up for. So while we may advocate ‘speaking the gospel at all times, if necessary using words’ we have to acknowledge that we do need to use words.
  2. Repentance – this is the specific act of ‘turning’. Unless there is recognition that the current experience is a failed venture then it is again unlikely that there will be a conversion, Why would anyone turn from a life that is ‘working’ and feels just fine? More specifically, recognising brokenness as having its roots in sin is one of the great challenges for our mission in this time. While we may acknowledge that we are flawed, maybe even messed up, we live in a time when it is more likely for us to believe that we have the power within us to fix ourselves.
  3. Change of Allegiance – if repentance is problematic then offering someone else the title deeds to our life is even more challenging, yet this issue of ‘lordship’ is at the core of what it means to follow Christ. If a conversion is to have integrity and longevity then it will be because we have come to grips with the idea that ‘we are not our own’. Yeah… another popular idea…
  4. Action – the common ‘action’ in the Acts accounts seems to be baptism, but action simply refers to living differently as a result of the change of allegiance. We no longer get to opt out of offering forgiveness, or expressing generosity. We no longer fiddle taxes or watch dodgy stuff on TV because we are living with a whole new paradigm of life. James didn’t say ‘faith without works is ill’, he said ‘faith without works is dead’, so if a conversion does not show itself in a new way of life then perhaps it is questionable.
  5. Community – if we just convert to ‘go to heaven when we die’ (a truncated and flawed gospel at best) then there may be no need for community, but if the gospel is really the good news of the kingdom of God then it is unavoidably communal. To convert is to join the community of faith – to be part of the church and to live in a community of like minded people seeking first the kingdom of God. There is no faith outside of community. Yeah that’s a big statement, but its one I hold to. I get sick of hearing people tell me they don’t need church – as if ‘church’ was a pep talk each week to give a boost to their life. It negates the fact that when you choose not to be in community the rest of the church misses out, but it also reflects a deficient understanding of discipleship which is by its very nature communal. If you want to follow Jesus, but don’t want anything to do with the Christian community then I think there is something suspect in that decision.

What’s interesting is that these are not one off events, but rather ongoing commitments that both begin our journey in faith and also sustain it over the long haul. My observation of those who ‘de-convert’ or simply drift off into secularism is that one or more of these elements is allowed to become unimportant.

  • A rejection of the message – or supplanting with an easier message…
  • No longer a need to repent – feeling like we have evolved to a new consciousness where we are growing in our own ‘perfection’…
  • Deciding that you are running your own life in ‘this area’ and that area… taking back authority? Jesus becomes an advisor rather than the lord.
  • Choose not to do some things that a disciple would do – not into forgiveness or generosity – revert to practices more akin with a non-disciple? You slowly become a religious, church going person who lacks the traits of a disciple.
  • And move away from the community – take yourself out of a place of shared values and practices and you will slowly cease to own those values because that’s what community does – it earths us.

My Calvinist friends may well be shaking uncontrollably that I haven’t mentioned the work of God in conversion, his choosing, calling etc, but that isn’t the focus of what I am writing here. Conversion is unquestionably the Spirit’s work, as well as being our own decision, but my concern is more with what happens at our end to authenticate our experience.

What’s the point of this?

I asked the question this morning how many people would feel confident leading another person thru a conversion experience and not many hands went up. I sensed as much. I think its because we live in a world where we are (by and large) less certain about things and less willing to call people to the life of faith Jesus speaks of.

At every level we get met with objections – the sheer idea of ‘truth’, of the need to admit failure and repent, of giving away personal autonomy, of choosing to act in ways that are not convenient or self serving and then to submit myself to another bunch of people are all counter-cultural and difficult ideas, but then the kingdom of God is always intended to look radically different to western suburban life, so maybe that’s where it all gets tricky…

The Conversion of Eric Edgar Cooke


The years 1959-1964 were a unique time in Perth history as they marked the Eric Edgar Cooke years – the period during which the city’s first serial killer was making his mark. If you want to read an intriguing account of this time then Robert Drewe’s Shark Net is well worth the time. 

Drewe recounts living in close proximity to Cooke and observing him as he worked at his father’s Dunlop factory. He devotes a whole chapter to the 1959 Billy Graham crusade in Perth and his insights are valuable. An aspect of this story that has always left me both curious and chilled was his account of Graham’s evangelistic altar call:

He kept quietly urging and beckoning us to join him. It was hypnotic. It was contagious. The people getting up from their seats didn’t look like religious maniacs. The looked like your average movie audience on a Saturday night. I recognised neighbours and a contingent of boys from Wesley College whom I’d played sports against. I saw my friend John Sturkey. I saw the chemist’s wife and my old maths teacher. Two rows along I saw Eric, the Dunlop delivery driver, sitting by a sign saying ‘South Perth Methodists’. People stood up all along the rows or chairs and people began sliding down from the roofs of the cattle, horse and pig pavilions. The chemist’s wife stood up. Eric stood up and joined Billy Graham. People were having conversions all around me. p.174

Aside from it being a beautifully crafted piece of writing, it is an account that raises some enormous questions.

So Eric Cooke became a Christian at the 1959 Billy Graham crusade… shortly before he went on his 5 year rampage of 22 violent crimes and 8 murders?… What exactly happened there?

Eric Cooke hanged in Fremantle prison on October 26th 1964, the last man to die by capital punishment in Western Australia. Will we see Cooke in the next life?

I’ve been pondering questions of conversion and this is one that has stuck in my craw since reading Shark Net back in the mid 2000’s. Perhaps the broken, messed up person that was Eric Cooke did have an encounter with the grace of God that could never be undone, no matter his crimes. Or maybe Cooke was just another casualty of an evangelistic methodology that sought to herd ‘souls’ like cattle rather than disciple real people into the kingdom of God.

More ‘conversion’ reflections to come after I’ve done some teaching on this issue tomorrow.

And here’s a link to the trailer for the TV mini series that was made from the book.


‘What’s the point of theology if it doesn’t help is us come to grips with real life? So asks Danelle when I explain a little of the book I have been reading. And she has a point… surely one major aim of good theology is to help us understand the intersections of the divine with the everyday. Surely theology should help us grapple with the difficult questions of life and suffering is right up there with the biggies.

Husbands Should Not Break by Shane & Elly Clifton was loaned to me by a friend who told me it was about a theology lecturer’s reflections on coming to grips with spinal injury and that it explored the issues of theodicy and suffering. Kerryn had heard Shane present at a recent conference and as a result bought his book. She shared a little of it as we took communion yesterday – enough for me to say ‘I’d like to borrow that…’ and having been laid up with the flu since yesterday afternoon I have had time to read and finish it.
As it’s written in journal style, some of the content are blog entries and Facebook posts. When I was half way thru I started to think ‘This is good, but it’s not theological reflection…’ however the further along I went the more I felt like it was some of the best theological reflection – honest, gritty, expletive laden, at times hopeful and at times totally despairing and certainly unafraid to express stark emotions.In this book you won’t read a systematic theology of human suffering complete with Harvard referencing, but you will hear an earthy, articulate, theologically educated 40 year old man grapple with the life that was foisted on him. It doesn’t hit much on theodicy per se (big subject…) but it certainly does grapple with personal issues of suffering and pain.
That said, it doesn’t offer any clear theological paradigm for making sense of suffering, but nor does it advocate hopelessness. If ‘mystery’ is a paradigm then it probably best fits here. The author is from a pentecostal background and was prayed over/for/under/around by all and sundry but to no avail. If anyone was going to be successful at healing then you would think it would have been his ‘mob’, but he simply has to accept the reality of unanswered prayers (as well as the bizarre oddity of then praying for bedsores to heal while he is still unable to walk…) Clifton hovers between gratitude that he is alive and anger at the way his life has been turned on its head. I liked the absence of trite answers or the call to ‘just trust’. He makes an excellent point in that while God is able to bring good out of suffering we are mistaken to suggest God inflicts suffering as part of his purposes.
The value of the book is in its detailed (some may say explicit) descriptions of living with a spinal injury. Unexpected poo and wee feature prominently in the narrative and are one of the challenges for people in this situation. I found this extremely helpful – the difficulty – the shame – the helplessness… the reminder to look out for folks who are disabled because even as they regain autonomy there simply are times they can’t do what others can. Reading the account of Shane trying to find someone to assist him because his catheter was about to explode and being rejected at the first few attempts was pretty gut wrenching.
I found the chapter on sex really well written and commendable for its boldness and candour. So many Christian authors would shy away from the more intimate issues because they are somehow deemed inappropriate for public consumption, but Shane Clifton and his wife Elly took the risk, opened their world to us and said ‘here’s how it is…’
Shane has a blog here for those who want to read more of his journey.

The ‘Tamala’

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-6-17-41-pmSam’s been asking for a ‘billy cart’ for a while now and last weekend he decided it was time to make it happen.

He downloaded a plan off the net and priced up the parts at Bunnings. It came to about $165.00, a bit more than I wanted to cough up for a cart, so we began to talk about other options.

As is often the case it was Tamala Park (the local tip) to the rescue!

We went there Sunday afternoon and picked up two old fridge trolleys – one for the wheels, axel and frame and the other just for the wheels and axel. The two trolleys cost $15.00 total.

If you really needed to buy wheels on their own then they are about $25.00 each in Bunnings (which is really bizarre because you can buy a whole trolley in Bunnings for $24.95…)

We hunted the furniture section of the tip for a plastic chair to use as a seat and picked a cool red seat for another $5.00.

Then we hit Bunnings for a piece of timber, some saddle clamps and fixings. We spent another $10.00, but truth be told I had most of the stuff in the shed and when you live in an area where there is lots of building going on you can pick up scraps of wood pretty easily.

From there it was all trial and error to get a finished product. Its a project that needs a little bit of adult input to angle grind and drill holes into steel, but the kids can also do parts of it and feel like they have achieved something.

This is the ‘instructables’ version using plywood as a frame – a fair bit more expensive than the ‘Tamala’ version


Some basic instructions:

  1. Use an angle grinder to cut the top and sides off the trolley you will use as a frame
  2. Get your piece of timber for the front wheels and screw the axel to it using 18ml saddles. The width of the timber is worked out by putting the wheels on the axels and then measuring in between.
  3. Drill a hole in the front middle bar of the trolley to fix the front axel / wheels to. Make sure this is perpendicular to the frame or the wheels will sit wonky. (We messed it up the first time.)
  4. Drill holes in the timber for the rope and thread thru with knots on the underside.
  5. Use duct tape to attach the seat to the frame squarely and then drill some holes thru the seat into the frame and back. The use some self tapping screws with washers to hold the seat in place and you can remove the duct tape.

It took us an hour or so to make it – and probably as long again to gather the parts!



Hmmm… Its not a word that comes together easily – either as a combo-word or as an idea. It sounds a little angry… But then ‘pro-mentalist’ sounds equally disturbing!

However it may be a word I’d use to describe the kind of church community I’d hope to lead – one that allows fundamentalists and progressives to co-exist, learn from one another, enrich one another and help one another become more like Christ as they have to deal with one another’s quirks (theological and otherwise).

My observation is that many churches are formed around fairly clear theological boundary markers – often the non-essentials. Some even put them on their signs out the front of the building to ensure others don’t accidentally slip in… I’m sure you have seen the ‘non-charismatic’ statements, which are nicer than ‘anti-charismatic’ although the intent is the same…

Its not just the fundamentalist end of the spectrum that create hard edges though. King James loving, dispensationalists who ‘take the Bible at its word’, may make it clear where they stand, but ‘progressives’ (for want of a better word) can be equally exclusionary.

While the talk may be ‘centred set’, and inclusivity, there would be some crowds where you would figure out pretty quickly that you didn’t belong and in fact were an embarrassing annoyance if you held even middle of the road views. There can be a disparaging scoffing that goes with this crowd that does not allow for what may be perceived as narrow mindedness or unevolved thinking.

Both groups can bring an arrogance either because of their fidelity to the once and forever revealed truth, or in their new gnosticism, so that there is little room left to question or explore or learn.

As I was reflecting on our own church community I realised its one of the things I like about who we are. We’d have a few King James only folks in our midst who aren’t just ‘hangers on’, but are valued members of our church, as well as some progressives or deconstructionists who would hold non-conformist views on some contentious issues. My hope is that we can keep this as a mark of who we are because I believe it enriches our identity rather than detracts from it.

When we simply gather with people very similar to us we risk limiting our learning – or only learning in one theological trajectory and that can never be healthy.

It was as we met last night and I was asked for my view on Revelation, that I began to see the diversity we have just on this one subject. While Tim Lahaye has captured the popular imagination with his ‘Left Behind’ series, I wanted to suggest we need to consider the variety of perspectives on offer, before allowing ‘easy reading’ to sway the vote.

I imagine it may get hard to hold people at extreme ends of the spectrum but that is often because they feel so passionately about their non-essential distinctives that they feel the need to advocate for the cause and get frustrated if others will not side with them.

If we could simply be passionate about the core matters of the gospel and not 6 day creation or gay marriage then perhaps we would be in a better place to hear one another on these issues when they do arise, because at the centre is our shared identity in Christ rather than our need to bat for our point of view.

Like Going to War?








One the day I got married I woke at 8am and was ready by 9am for a 10am wedding. I love being a bloke. It was a Saturday so I opened the newspaper as I usually did on and as I was thumbing thru read the quote for the day:

‘Marriage is an adventure. It is like going war’

GK Chesterton

True story… with an hour to go I had that thought to ponder.

Now I help other folks get ready for marriage and every time I sit down to do some marriage counselling with a young couple about to get hitched for life we do the ‘Prepare‘ course, a comprehensive questionnaire that looks at how the two individuals think in various areas of life. It asks questions about communication, conflict resolution, finance, sex and several other important aspects of a successful relationship. Its comprehensive and very worthwhile so if you’re newly engaged make sure you get a marriage counsellor who can do it with you!

It also does an assessment of how realistically the couple are viewing their future marriage relationship and provides a score for ‘idealistic distortion’, in other words, to what extent the future is being viewed through rose coloured glasses and to what extent it is being viewed with a healthy dose of realism.

Almost without fail (among those who have never been previously married) everyone approaches it with a strong sense of idealism and the expectation that because we are so in love nothing could ever go wrong. I am yet to find a couple who approach marriage with a strong sense of realism.

What’s with that?…

Well its obvious isn’t it – they haven’t had to live with the same person day in day out for years on end, so they haven’t yet encountered the challenges that come with that kind of relationship.

Everything looks wonderful from the front end. What could possibly come unstuck for two young people so wildly in love?

Part of my role in preparing people for marriage is bursting that bubble to some degree. I don’t want to engender cynicism, but I do want to ask;

What if one of you gets really sick?… what if one of you farts in bed?… what if one of you stops feeling attracted to the other?… what if one of you develops an addiction – alcohol, porn, drugs?… what if you decide to work shifts and FIFO rosters and end up hardly seeing one another… and then you find someone else who lights your fire?… what if you just get really busy and bored with one another?… what if one of you goes off sex?…

The list goes on. So much can ‘go wrong’ in marriage if you are unprepared and idealism is a sure way to walk in blindfolded. So one of my key questions in marriage prep is to ask ‘what don’t you like about your partner?’ or ‘what annoys you about your future spouse?’ If you can give me an answer to those questions then chances are you seeing a bit more clearly.

If not then give it time…

Part of a maturing love is knowing what irritates you about the person you love but accepting them anyway and loving them so they can become the best version of themselves.

Marriage is adventure, but it doesn’t have to be like going to war…

Captain Fantastic – Cliche and Complexity


Another Saturday rolls around and its one of the first in a while where we have nothing on. What an awesome feeling… and the morning gets spent reading the paper, watching the paralympics and enjoying ‘second breakfast’.

I scan the movie schedule for something to take the kids to and see Captain Fantastic showing at the Luna, which probably means it a low budget indie and is maybe gonna be on iTunes or SBS in a week or two.  I google a few (very mixed) reviews, watch the youtube preview and decide that it might just be worth it. While Sam stays home, Danelle, Ellie and I head down to chill and take it in.

Spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen it…

The story follows the journey of an off the grid home school family living deep in the forest and surviving off the land while learning 5 languages, various non-conformist, political ideologies and engaging in intense physical fitness training, all under the guidance of dad who I am guessing is the  ‘Captain Fantastic’ of the movie title.

Early in the movie we learn that mum has died – suicide due to mental illness and the news is presented starkly. There is an extended ‘mourning’ scene with no background music – just crying kids and a stoic father. The absence of any music allows us to feel the loss more intensely.

The remainder of the film follows the family as they go on a road-trip in ‘Peter’ the family bus and seek to attend her funeral (from which they have been banned) and as they encounter ordinary people in real life America and discover they are more different than ever imagined…

It explores a number of interesting themes albeit in a cliched way at times. The kids observe their cousins addicted to devices and struggle to understand their obsession. Dad takes the family out of a cafe because there is no ‘real food’ on the menu. The family’s natural bluntness in speaking is offensive to their relatives and we are challenged by our aversion to telling the truth at times. But this is countered by the sister in law who suggests we need to tell kids what is appropriate rather than giving them all the info all the time.

Dad appears to be an open minded free thinker. He swears & drinks around his kids and they swear & drink too – even the 5 year old – all very permissive and open minded, but when one of his kids asks if they can celebrate Christmas like everyone else, rather than their own ‘Noam Chomsky day’ the child is first demeaned and ridiculed before being told to present his case to the rest of the family who are in support of dad. Like he’s going to do that now…

We see the irony of a family built on non-conformist thinking  that persecutes its own non-conformist. Huh…we all live with complexity and incongruities don’t we?

The tension of conflicting worldviews is interwoven effectively as we see bi-polar mum leaving the forest to enter a mental hospital because she needs help from ‘the institution’. The grandfather is presented as the over-indulgent, (Christian) capitalist and the epitomy of all the family has stood against, yet he is able to see the flaws in their idealistic lifestyle and we have to agree that he has a point… He doesn’t come across as a caricature, but rather just a contrary view.

And the villains are… you guessed it… Christians! As the kids have their first experience of the city they ask their dad ‘why is everyone so fat?!’ And the response is ‘don’t make fun of people. In fact don’t ridicule anyone’, followed by a pause and a postscript, ‘except Christians’.  When the police pull the family bus over for having a faulty tail-light they manage to dispose of the cop by singing a cringeworthy hymn and appearing to be complete weirdos.

Then the mother’s funeral held in a church to the ire of the father, is sabotaged by him because he believes she would have preferred a self styled buddhist type of cremation. As we follow the story, we see that the mother is conflicted and torn between western living and alternative living so at times its hard to know what she really wanted. I think this is intentional – we are always torn between ideals and pragmatics. In the end the family exhume her body from beneath a tombstone with the words ‘Rest in Peace Cared for by God for Eternity’. As the dig begins the youngest is heard to say ‘can’t have her living under this bullshit for eternity’. The subsequent ceremony is accompanied by euphoric music and all of the joy that is not present in the church. 

Its a movie that explores anti-establishment ideals and shows them to be both beautiful and inspiring, but also problem ridden and ultimately unworkable.

The final scene has received a fair amount of critique in reviews, but I thought it was exceptionally well done. The family finish up together again in a semi-rural home, (minus eldest son who takes off to Namibia – because he stuck a pin in a map with a blindfold on) attending school and living a more conventional life. The bus has become a chicken coop and to some degree they have settled. It raises the question of whether ‘compromise is inevitable’, and we wonder ‘what’s next’ for this mob. Will they end up conforming like everyone else? Does the dream have to die?…

I’m no tree hugging, mung bean munching hippie, but I do hope to live somewhat differently to mainstream western society. My aspirations are rooted in the kingdom of God rather than a secular humanist ideal, but here too the tensions of having to live in society  are very real.

I watched it with my 15 year old daughter and we had a good conversation about it after, but if you’re taking kids be aware there is a fair bit of language and one short full frontal male nude scene.

Someone Has to Go First









As a retic & turf bloke I sometimes find myself laying lawn in the rain and those days are nothing but a long miserable grind. Even with a raincoat on, my clothes get damp, my boots sodden and the rolls of turf weigh almost double because they get waterlogged too. Everything is difficult and depressing, harder than it should be, but you keep going… you slog on, because you have to, because there is no other option – no way out.

As I look back on our married life, I would see that the hardest times haven’t been the sharp disputes and angry arguments, but rather they have been the ‘slog’ times when it feels heavy and dark and like there is no alternative on the table, with no future except to keep going.

On those days I’d rather lay 200 rolls of waterlogged turf in driving rain than keep pushing on in a relationship that seems to have lost its rudder and has drifted into darkness.

But it happens from time to time as for various reasons our lives begin to become parallel tracks rather than one interconnected track. (And yes – I write that in the present tense because it is not a ‘one off’ past experience that we are now immune to.) It happens slowly at first as we get busy, distracted and pre-occupied, self centred even… but then one day a little while later you look at each other with indifference or maybe even resentment and wonder ‘what happened?’

Well… a lot happened, but not much of it happened together, intentionally, or with the other person in mind.

The end result is a room-mate, a co-parent, a financial partner, a domestic assistant, but not a wife or a husband. And with those new identities comes a dark and disturbing loneliness, of being in the same room with someone you know and love (you think) and yet with whom you have little sense of heart connection or worse still a growing resentment and disappointment, (because its easier to blame than accept your own flaws.)

If you’ve been here then you’d know the inner angst that comes in these times, and the immense challenge of making a course correction when you have sailed so far off track. I’ve met couples who have never made the much needed course correction and who have slowly drifted into being co-habiting strangers, because its too difficult to even contemplate parting ways. There are kids to consider… finances… and even if we don’t like each other any more its just more convenient to stay in the same home even if we live separate lives.

That’s a dark picture, and I have tried to paint it that way intentionally because when you’re there the temptation is to look away and carry on hoping that the tracks will magically reconnect and the spark will re-kindle on its own. But if you’re reading this and saying ‘oh no… that’s us…’ then the challenge (if you are willing to accept it) is to pick up and move back towards the other person.

I’m no fan of divorce as a solution, nor I don’t subscribe to the idea of ‘falling out of love’. I do see that we can drift apart as we choose not to love, but equally I see that we can choose to love, to give and to put the other person first even when the raw feelings are leaning in the opposite direction and often that reignites the embers that are struggling.

These days we are better at spotting our tracks starting to diverge, but equally we are better at choosing to take early loving steps back together knowing that our marriage is built on more than a bag of warm feelings.

So if you’re there, then maybe its time to call it for what it is…

And then… someone has to go first.

Someone has to be the one to acknowledge the need and take the initiative. Maybe its you… Wherever you have drifted to, I believe its possible to come back from, but it starts with a single step… and then another…