People spend money on what they value and time on what they value.

That’s not rocket science, but its something for those of us who lead churches to consider. When offerings are down or attendances are down people are making a statement as to what they value.

When offerings are down people are saying ‘I see it as better value to put my money into XYZ’, whether that’s a holiday, a new car, some renovations, private school fees or even other mission organisations…  Where we apportion our money is always a value judgement.

Then when numbers are down on Sundays this communicates that people are saying there is more value in me doing XYZ than going to church. So it may be that people feel their valuable time is better spent at the beach, lazing in bed, hanging out with a partner because the rest of the week is so busy, or perhaps taking off for the weekend. But as with money, how we use our time is always a statement of value.

As church leaders we would like people to place high value on contributing to the needs of the community financially, and being part of the community on a Sunday, but what do we do when this is not happening, when funds are low and attendances are down?

I don’t think we berate people. I don’t think we stick it up people and tell them to pull their finger out. That won’t work.

Because it doesn’t change their perception of value.

It just pisses them off and puts them in an awkward place, where they now feel bad, obliged and either forced to conform or in a place where they now worry that they are being frowned upon. Its not a good place to work from.

If telling people to shape up to expectations isn’t the solution then what is?…

Somehow we need to shift their perception of value. It may be that they have got lost in the haze of selfism, narcissism and consumerism that is our society today and they can only see value in what makes them feel better immediately. Following Jesus will be seen as poor ‘value’ for money and time spent. It may be that they need some more intentional discipleship (read ‘teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded’). Possibly in the process of that we will discover that the life Jesus calls us to is inspiring enough to open my wallet for, or that being part of the Christian community is so important and valuable that we will sacrifice other things for that.

The dominant narrative of our culture is a self centred one and it grates against the ‘self denying’ message of discipleship. Our role as leaders is to call people to the compelling and inspiring message of Jesus, to challenge cultural norms and to tell a different story that is more attractive than the one we hear around us.

Is that possible?

If the gospel is really true, if the kingdom of God is our hope and our dream and if we can grasp that reality then I believe we have a story that trumps any overseas holiday, any new car or purely self indulgent fantasy. Reality is its hard to keep the gospel of the kingdom front and central in our imaginations and read junk mail or watch TV… The truth of the biblical message is constantly supplanted with other more immediate sources of hope.

But if its just about coming to church, singing songs, hearing sermons and giving money then I understand why we are pushing uphill. The role of the leader is to help people see the ‘value’ in the kingdom of God – to communicate the message of the gospel and the hope of the kingdom in such a way that to trade it for a thermomix or a sleep in on a Sunday would be the dumbest thing ever.

I just made that sound easy…

Calling, Stability, Selfishness, Family


Its been almost 5 years since we started at QBC and we are now in the process of discerning whether God wants us to stay around for another period of time and continue to lead this community, or whether its time for change – for us and them. I think these reflection times are healthy as its easy for all of us to settle into a rut and get comfortable with each other. Sometimes its good to step back and ask honestly, ‘should we still be doing this together?’

But discerning God’s call is a curious process. It is not as simple as saying ‘God told me to stay/go so that’s that…’

I wish it was.

The previous times we have been thru a ‘re-call’ process it has been with a very different emphasis. In those times ‘pastoring’ was something of a career and my thought processes were shaped by that paradigm. There was also a sense of ourselves and our ministry being assessed and weighed up to see if we still cut the mustard. As it was my ‘career’ I was keen to keep it moving and the discernment process felt a bit like a one way street – we were evaluated – albeit kindly and positively. It didn’t dawn on me that we ought to review the church community as much as they ought to review us. We should have asked them about their intentions and the commitments they were making to us as we stayed. We should have given them feedback on some areas of growth if we were to stay.

These days I am not a ‘career pastor’ and I see the role very differently so I don’t feel like a ‘performance review’ is what we are doing. Rather as a community we are listening to God and asking the question ‘what now?’

As Danelle said recently, ‘If we weren’t doing the review then there wouldn’t be any question about what we are doing. We’d just roll on.’ Perhaps so. But I am in favour of times of reflection and review as they stop us getting too entrenched in our patterns of operation and challenge us to consider the future afresh.

One of the challenges I have faced personally in the last 10 years has been one of moving from a place of sharp vocational clarity to one that is more ambiguous and undefined. By that I mean that I no longer live with the laser sharp sense of purpose and personal vision i once did. Now I have a broad concept that shapes my identity, but the specifics of how it works out are much more fluid. I’m ok with that now, although it took some adjusting to.

Occasionally I wonder if my time as a ‘pastor’ is up. I am curious about what it would be like to not lead a church as we have done it in one shape or form for the last 23 years. I wonder what it would feel like to voluntarily return to the pews (like anyone has pews any more…) and be a member of a congregation. I wonder if I could do it even…

I’d go as far as to say that I’d like to experience it for a time. I’d like to see what its like to be out of the loop of leadership conversations and some of the bigger picture church discussions. I’d like to be a ‘fly on the wall’. But reality is that after 23 years of being a pastor you can’t just plonk back into a congregation somewhere and be anonymous. At least not in Perth. Its too small a city.

One of the complications of taking time out, or possibly a change of direction, is that we love the people we currently lead and they have become our family very tangibly. To stop leading would inevitably mean moving to a new church community to allow a new leader room to move. I don’t think its wise to hang around and believe my presence wouldn’t be a hindrance.

But we wouldn’t want to leave… We like these people, this church culture we have been part of creating and I really don’t like the thought of entering a new church culture which wouldn’t resonate with us and having to start all over again with relationships and fitting in. That wouldn’t be fun at all.

I sense the depth of connection and commitment to the community is a very strong and anchoring factor in discerning God’s call. The impact a move would have on our family is also now a significant guiding factor, one that wasn’t so strong during previous transitions or decisions. Now my kids have friends in the church and they would be upset if we moved, left or dislocated them. And fair enough. Its God calling ‘us’, not just ‘dad & mum’.

So – even if I feel like flitting off to some new project I have to consider that part of the call process is listening to what is happening in my family.

Then this morning I had a conversation with one of our church members about vision. The flow of conversation was urging me to fire up a new vision so that people would be inspired and the church would re-ignite and grow. it has definitely levelled out in terms of numbers and for this person that was a major concern.

I explained that we did have a vision. I explained that our vision has been to lead people to live more Christlike lives, to see their communities and workplaces as mission fields and to intentionally live counter cultural lives that challenge the dominant western values of affluence, busyness, superficiality and self centredness.

It isn’t sexy. It doesn’t put more bums on seats, and often it takes people away, but if you want to know what I am committed to there it is.

I knew this wasn’t going to be considered a ‘vision’, but for now that’s what I have… and I don’t see it changing. In fact I own that more deeply than any building project, attendance goal or new program idea.

In that conversation I knew that the hope was that I would have some more tangible ideas for people to rally around and see as a shared project – to galvanise the community into some corporate action. I am open to those ideas, but I don’t think they are our ‘vision’. They are just things we do to serve God and our community and they can sometimes contribute to our vision and sometimes detract.

Seeing people become like Jesus is slow work, three steps forward and two steps back often. It lacks the visible and tangible expression of a new drum kit. And I know that if we just ‘played the game’ a bit more then maybe more people would come thru our doors… More people would speak of QBC as a cool church and the numbers might jump again. But my heart isn’t in that. I don’t think it ever will be again.

The word selfishness is in the title of this post because some of my reflections on this subject are shaped by just that. Some times I want to slip out of Christian leadership because I am tired of it all. I could do it under the guise of God ‘leading us into a different season…’ (love Christianese…) but truth would be that we were just weary of carrying the responsibilities of leadership. To constantly be the voice that calls people to surrender, follow, give, serve, step up etc is tiring, particularly when it often feels like you are repeating yourself.

And then sometimes I would just like the option of staying in bed on a Sunday, or taking a few weekends away camping, or generally seeing the church as there for my convenience. Pure unadulterated consumeristic selfishness… Its in me as much as everyone else. I wonder if I would still be a committed part of the church if I wasn’t leading it. I’d like to think so… But we do fool ourselves so easily don’t we?…

So as a review approaches and we consider this question we do so without any blinding lights. Without any booming voices or even deep convictions that this is the only place we should be. I think that if its just down to us we will keep going at QBC for a number of reasons:

– we have done it for 5 years and now have relationships and credibility. It’d be a shame to start over when the foundations are there.

– we belong there as a family. It would be hard to see ourselves anywhere else. The culture of the church is as relaxed and easy going as I have found anywhere.

– we love the people there and we’d miss them. I wouldn’t like that at all.

– there are no other attractive options popping up.

– we don’t want to move from Yanchep.

And I think at core there is still a very strong sense that God has gifted Danelle and I to lead communities towards the vision I articulated earlier. We both believe deeply in the importance of forming people into Christ, of equipping people for mission in everyday life and of challenging people to lead a counter cultural life. If you want KPIs and strategic capacity development then maybe we won’t be your people. We’ve been there done that (today I opened a file from youth ministry days with 78 goals in it for 1999…) but if its the simple stuff of discipleship and mission then I think we’re up for it for another period of time.

Backyardmissionary is a Driscoll Free Zone

I don’t know Mark Driscoll and have never had anything to do with him, but lately my Facebook news feed has been buzzing with people’s assessments of his failures in ministry and the possible out-workings of it all.

I confess I have read many of these out of curiosity, but honestly I feel pretty dirty afterwards. I think the feeling is a reminder that I have nothing to contribute other than my voyeurism and while it may be entertaining and somewhat smugly satisfying to watch a high profile, heavy hitter take a fall, it is hardly worthy of the time that is currently being spent analysing and critiquing. It could even be wrong…

So while I understand (and support) the arguments for transparency and accountability and how in the absence of social media Driscoll may never have been ‘outed’ and challenged, I am not seeing a campaign to ‘stop the hurt’ and ‘get Driscoll help’, but rather just a whole heap of angry tirades that aren’t helping anyone.

So – you won’t read anything here. Not because I don’t think its a juicy, salacious issue and the demise of a celebrity pastor isn’t interesting to speculate about, but just because it has been making me ill. And I don’t mean the issue so much as the way it has lured so many into unhelpful and destructive criticism.

And I should probably stop there.

Mything the Mark And Hitting it Dead Centre

mythOn Wednesday evening Sam and I went to to see the Mythbusters ‘Behind the Myths’ gig. I introduced Sam to Mythbusters a few years back and it has been his favourite ever since, checking the TV guide each night to see if its on – and if its not then watching recorded episodes. There are many worse things a kid could be into and those guys are a lot of fun!

Sam is a dedicated fan and science nut, so when I heard they were coming to Perth it was virtually a case of ‘cost is no object’…We were going… And Sam was excited…. Very excited.

So Wednesday evening we headed into the Arena to be part of the event with 6500 other people. And while we had been anticipating this for months the actual event itself was probably a 6/10. If you like Mythbusters you probably like them for the way they blow stuff up and do crazy, zany experiments that mum would never let you try at home… and nor will Perth Arena… and therein lay the problem.

If you were a fan then perhaps just seeing the faces of Adam and Jamie was enough, but if you were curious as to how they might put on a show then you were likely going to be disappointed. They announced at the start that they weren’t allowed to blow anything up, but they were going to ‘blow our minds’, which is a big call and one they ultimately didn’t follow through on.

The rest of the evening consisted of a blend of practical science lesson and talk show with the odd moment of adrenalin pulsing. They showed some of their big explosions on the screen, but it felt a bit second rate when I think many had hoped they would do some ‘magic’ in person.

I thought maybe it was just me until I spoke with a mate who also found it a little underpowered. A review I read elsewhere said they sounded ‘like a talented band talking about how much they enjoyed performing music’, and it definitely did have that vibe to it. There was a bit too much talk time and story telling from people who have made a reputation for action. I guess if you went seeking that then it is all ok, but I’m guessing plenty didn’t.

When I asked Sam for the highlight he said it was ‘the humour’ and in that I thought he was spot on. Adam and Jamie are a good combination and Adam can spit our some pretty good one liners off the cuff. The Q & A was probably the low point for me, listening to some fairly inane questions and other people asking if they ‘could have a selfie?’ just seemed kind of a waste of time (and to his credit Adam called it that!)

As we left I felt that if they returned I might be prepared to spend $30-40 to attend another performance, (but I’d just as soon stay home) rather than $140, but Sam was beaming and ecstatic. He spoke about it all the way home – and I mean ALL the way to Yanchep… It was like he’d been to heaven and back and in that it was worth every cent – a bullseye.

So while the show itself didn’t raise my pulse, for Sam it was an evening to remember and those things are priceless hey?…

Its My Business

At no point in my life did I consider that one day I might be running a small business, let alone a business of the blue collar variety.


But here I am… a tradie as well as a pastor… Its an odd combo but one that sits well with me and that I enjoy.

But keeping the focus has been challenging and resisting the temptation to ‘grow’ (because its what businesses do) had at times felt quite odd. In fact my goal has been to compact the business into a tighter region and with a more local base of customers. It means knocking back work or passing on work that is further away than I want to travel and trusting that the work I want will pop up when I need it.


So far so good. Last year 25% of my work was in Yanchep and Two Rocks, local people who had told local people about the ‘retic bloke in Yanchep’ and that’s the kind of work I enjoy.

In the last 12 months the goal has been to slow down and do less, but enjoy it more. I always feel happier when I get to spend time with the people I work for, when I’m not rushing and when I can get home by 3.00pm. Ironically in the ‘slow down’ year we made a greater profit than in our busiest year. Not sure how that works, but I’ll take it…

Recently I increased my prices as I realised I was on the cheaper end of things, but every time someone asked me my hourly rate I felt embarrassed. In my head I was thinking ‘That’s a ridiculous amount… For retic?… You’ve got to be kidding…’ I realised I didn’t believe in what I was charging, so I put the prices back to what they were. I’m happy enough with what I am earning, but I could probably earn 20% more without losing any customers. If the aim of business is make $$ then it feels odd not to charge to the limit, but perhaps that ought not be the goal of business?

hackney screeding

I did an anonymous ring around last week to see what others are charging and discovered we are now among the cheapest retic blokes in the city. One guy I spoke to charges $90 call out (just to turn up) and then charges $95/hr + GST and parts. I was dumbfounded… Do people actually pay someone $200/hr to fix sprinklers? This isn’t rocket science folks… But he seems to be getting work and he advised me to book in before September to avoid the price rise… Seriously?!…

That said I can do retic in my sleep now. I can diagnose quickly and finish jobs fast. Its got kinda boring… I’m a bit over it. So the challenge is to try and inject some spark back into it – to find a new angle.


Right now I’m looking at buying a mini bobcat/dingo as my current bobcat driver has got some regular work meaning he isn’t as available, and as a result his prices have gone up. I’ve often considered having a crack at this side of things, but have never really had the time. I don’t ‘really’ have the time now, but I’m ready to try something new so maybe this will be it.

It makes best sense financially to buy the equipment and get someone else to drive it / operate it because I can make more $$ doing what I am good at, but it does sound like fun to learn something new again and driving a bobcat might just give me the spark I need to keep going for a bit longer. I get the feeling its time to have fun again…

We’ll see…  $20-60K will do the job depending on what I buy and then that might stave off boredom for another 12 months!

A Novel History

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Having just returned from a trip to Ireland my interest in Irish history was kindled yet again. Here in Oz its hard to grasp just how sectarian the whole scenario is, but when you step back into it, you can’t help but be confronted with the ever present reality.

Admittedly we did go back in July just before what they call ‘marching season’, the time of year when the Protestants take a day to stomp the streets in uniforms and regalia, while playing flutes and beating the daylights out of monster lambeg drums. Its a remembrance of a battle way back in 1690 when William of Orange defeated the Catholics and took control of Ireland. To some its just a festive event, but there is no denying its place in perpetuating the priority of the protestant way in that country.

Having attended the 12th day marches early in our stay I began to fossick through Amazon for some novels depicting Irish history and finished up with 3 novels and one autobiography all centred on the divisions within this country. While novels may not be actual history, I find them an enjoyable way to enter the story of a country, moreso than just reading a text book.

I began with Return to Killybegs, a novel based on the true story of an IRA informant who returns to his home town late in life after confessing his activities as a spy. He goes back to his childhood home, long since abandoned and sits morbidly in squalor waiting for the inevitable to happen. He didn’t set out to become a spy. It wasn’t in his nature, but an unfortunate event in his teen years was used against him and left him with no choice.

Written by a French author, its a good story depicting the complexity of a person’s life once they get involved in paramilitary organisations. It is based on the actual story of Denis Donaldson, a senior IRA turned spy who was murdered in the small town of Glenties in 2006 after revealing his activities.

Belfast Peacelines

From there I moved on to Burning Your Own, a novel about primary school aged boys set in 1969 around bonfire time, and just as the troubles were kicking off. I really enjoyed this one as it recaptured very well the world that I grew up in. The language and the culture was as I remember it and very believable. The story depicts the early days of the ‘troubles’, the fertilisation of fear and the way communities so easily believe the worst of those they don’t know. Based in a working class protestant neighbourhood, it explores the development of sectarian violence in nearby areas and the gradual expulsion of the catholics from that community despite many years of being a peaceful neighbourhood. It focuses on one young boy in particular, (Mal) who is a protestant and his relationship with the red headed Catholic, Francy, who marches to the beat of his own drum, but can’t stop the tide of prejudice and fear.

I went from there to Into the Dark – 30 Years in the RUC, a pretty dark autobiographical account of the police career of Johnson Brown who discovered very early in the day that police work didn’t just involve locking up baddies. Sometimes the police were the ‘baddies’ and collaborated with other ‘baddies’. Its an interesting but somewhat arduous recollection of his time as a detective and the constant undermining he suffered from the untouchable Special Branch. He portrays himself as a model policeman doing the right thing at all times, but the depiction of the thuggery and ‘looking away’ that he suggested happened in the name of the ‘greater good’ is disturbing if only some of it is true. He particularly highlights the colllusion between senior police officers and various paramilitary groups in Ulster and makes it clear that for some it was war on Catholics and it didn’t matter who got the result.

The final novel is entitled The Boys of Derry (Sunday Bloody Sunday) and while I haven’t yet finished this one I can see where its headed. It tells the story of oppression and mistreatment from a catholic/bogside perspective and is interesting because it follows the lives of the central characters from boyhood to manhood,  as the Irish civil rights movement kicks off and the violence begins in the volatile city of Derry before escalating into all out war.

Every story tells a sad tale of a country that has lost its way and is stuck in such a rut it may never get out. On my final day in Belfast I took some time on my own to wander the city, to ‘sniff’ and get a sense of what it is like there now. I happened upon an exhibition in a small shop by a group called Healing Through Remembering, an organisation trying to help people move on from the troubles by various peaceful, reflective means. Their exhibition was focused on displaying ordinary household items that got transformed in the troubles (eg a dustbin lid).

In conversation with the curator we discussed the future for Ireland and he mentioned a stat that suggests for every one year of conflict there needs to be thirty of healing. That means that assuming no more major violence breaks out, Ireland is just a milennia away from erasing this tragic period from its collective memory…

That said, things are much much better than they were 40 years ago and there is a peace process in place. You can’t help but feel it wouldn’t take much to reignite old hatreds in all of their fury, but even a fragile peace is better than none at all.




Random Ireland Travel Observations

Just some random discoveries / reflections after a couple of weeks in Ireland…

# glad we didn’t do it in a motorhome as we had considered…  The very narrow roads and tight parking would have been hard, but it would also have been hard to justify the cost. A motorhome was around $250/night Aus and then there would have been site costs as well.

# family B&B rooms are good value.  $150-180 Aus for a night. We went for the budget end of the market and ‘won’ a few and ‘lost ‘ a few.

# public toilets! Not enough of em! Seriously, all over Ireland they are hard to find and while us blokes can solve things easily it’s a bit trickier for the ladies. If you work for Irish tourism then this one needs urgent attention :)

# be prepared to get warm if you go in summer.  It stays light till late and the sun can be warm until around 9pm. I was prepared for an Aussie winter in the Southern Hemisphere but reality is overnight it gets down to around 13/14 deg rather than the 5-6 deg we have. So you don’t need to worry about warmth at night.

# Irish bakeries are the best! Sensational cakes, scones and breads. I wont be here long enough to really make the most of it.

# coffee is served VERY hot.  Perhaps it’s a legacy of being tea drinkers, but even the good coffees I have had have been close to boiling.

# a ‘double’ bed in Ireland is most likely just that – a ‘double ‘. We usually expect a queen size in Oz so be prepared to snuggle up a bit more.

# top spots to visit? – obviously this is subjective but we loved the Ring of Kerry, The Famine road area in Connemara, The Antrim coastline, Malin head and Inishowen.

# don’t expect to get anywhere fast. Today we left our B&B on a small narrow road and got stuck behind a funeral procession for 20ks. No chance of overtaking… when we left Kildare for Killarney the GPS said 45kms in 45 mins… a long time for a country drive, BUT that didn’t allow for the tractors, cyclists and roadworks which made it a 95 min drive!

# I downloaded the sygic GPS which worked well for a week and then seemed to struggle to find a signal. Every other app could, so it wasn’t the phone at fault. That said,  in Aussie mode the GPS voice calls me ‘cobber ‘, cause we do that a lot back home I guess…

# lemon lime and bitters is an Aussie drink.  I have seen some puzzled looks when we asked for it.  A couple of people tried to pass off bitter lemon as the same thing,  but it’s obviously not drunk in Ireland.

# the degree to which we enjoyed things seemed to be in relation to the mood we approached them with.  When tired everything is boring and lame.  When energetic its amazing how good things are.

# the kids need more company their own age…  so they told us…

# we need the kids to have more company their own age…

# it’s $300 cheaper over ten days to have just one driver registered to drive the hire car.  Being that driver means you don’t see as much.

# it would have been around $80 cheaper to hire a car on arrival rather than book ahead like we did…  Weird…

# was our best source of accommodation.  We usually booked ahead just one night and always found a reasonably priced family room.

# trip advisor is really useful, but be kind to people…  Most are doing their best and we all have bad days. I had a few bad experiences but as a business owner I would hate to be crucified online as some folks seem to do.

# don’t let your son buy a 600 page joke book to read while everyone else is reading…  It usually lasts five minutes before he just HAS to tell you his joke…

# I found Irish food a bit bland. There were more than a few fairly disappointing evening meals. It seemed there was a lack of imagination in a lot of the meals we had. We spent around $100/day Aus on food on average.

# we hired a Toyota Auris for around $30/day Aus and that was a great little car getting 22k/l on diesel. While fuel is expensive in Ireland we used very little of it.

# we found this trip different to our camping holidays in that we didn’t really connect much with other people, and we all missed that. We ended up talking to one another a lot… there is only so much to talk about…

# the Irish aren’t really set up for warm weather. Few places have air conditioning or even fans, and windows often have a small opening angle so warm rooms can be very warm at night – and stuffy. Cafes without air con become saunas on hot days. I never thought we would have to consider ‘heat’ in Ireland but there have been a few quite warm days.

# British / Irish internet speed is far superior to ours – certainly ours in Yanchep! But seriously… what is going on in Oz?

OK that’s it for now…

I’ll do a trip round up next time and then we will be home.

Still Away


So we have been on the road for about two and a half weeks now., so the trip is halfway over…  The kids are happy about that (nice…) because they are ready to go home but for those of us who go back to the daily grind it ends all too soon.

We enjoyed our time in Menorca with old friends.  It’s a nice little island in the Mediterranean and a part of Spain. Most people know it’s bigger brother Majorca just across the water. Menorca was hot – well 30ish,  but humid so it felt warmer. It was great to see friends again and Ellie really enjoyed seeing Hannah. Occasionally I have these romantic notions of working in the north west but weeks like these remind me that humidity and I are not good company!


We arrived back in Belfast on Sunday and headed up to my cousin’s apartment in Portstewart where we stayed until Thursday morning. This was a beautiful home in a magnificent spot with 180degree views over the ocean which was just a short walk away. We didn’t know we were able to stay here when we left home so it was an unexpected bonus.


For the few days we were here the weather was actually very warm – mid 20s but again humid so it felt warmer. Sam and I even had a swim in the ocean on one of the warmest days – we took the surfboards down to hit the ripples that were coming thru and got wet. The deal was that you has to get fully submerged in Atlantic water and we didn’t bother with wetsuits…

With the sun beating down the Irish were out in their droves and the beach was officially ‘closed, meaning that you couldn’t drive down and park on it.  With around 2000 cars all up on the beach it was a big day out.  Most weren’t swimming but,  just soaking up the beautiful day.

We revisited some childhood memories with a trip to Portrush and some rides on Barry’s arcade as well as seeing the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick rope bridge.  Both have been set up as major tourist attractions now and were crawling with visitors. They have been done well but as with so much of this stuff back in Oz it loses its appeal the more it is commercialised.


We also headed out to the Inishowen peninsula and enjoyed the remote and wild side of Ireland, visiting Malon head and the ‘Famine Village’ (well worth it) before the next day tripping into Londonderry / Derry and taking a walk tour of the Bogside. We heard the story of Bloody Sunday from a bloke whose father was killed on the day. That was an interesting hour and would have been better had we not been dripping with sweat from the hot sun!  Irish history is certainly intriguing and what you understand depends on which side you listen to.  I grew up shaped by one worldview so I’m always interested to hear how the nationalists see things.

From Portstewart we rolled on to Donegal and stayed a night in a local B&B. A hard bed and a hot night with no ventilation made for a terrible nights sleep. The Irish are as equipped for hot weather as we are for snow. The lack of air conditioning and fans is not surprising in a country like this but on the days you need them you really do feel it.  We left Donegal and headed for Ballina (pronounced ‘Ballinah’ we discovered as people looked at us curiously… )

It was on this drive that I was hoping to see some of the famed Irish big waves but the swell was too small and except for Tullan strand it was dead flat everywhere. No drama as we weren’t likely to hit the water,  but would have been nice to see.


So we have been staying for two nights at a mate’s house in Ballina. He is a missionary with Pioneers and has been here a few years now. Brendan and family are on holidays in the UK so we don’t get to catch up which is a shame as we’d love to have heard more about mission in Ireland. Still it’s great to have contacts all around the world where you can bunk down and relax.

We have been driving a Toyota Auris, a small car, but at 21ks/l we aren’t complaining. Tomorrow we keep traveling down to Connemarra and then on to the Ring of Kerry. We are playing it by ear a bit now as the kids have (politely and kindly) let us know that as much as we enjoy sight seeing they are missing hanging with people their own age and as cool parents as we are (haha) they are missing that interaction. I’m not sure how we fix that but it’s an ongoing issue now for us on holidays. In Oz you can bring a friend but this trip is a little trickier.

So we have about 9 days to go before hopping on the plane and heading home – something that strangely doesn’t bother me. I’m actually looking forward to home and to going back to work and seeing friends again. That’s an odd thing… but glad I’m feeling like that because some years I just want to keep going.

To finish here’s a pic of a 10.30 pm sunset from our place in Portstewart . Pretty nice hey? The beauty of the long days is you can get heaps done and early night people like me have been crashing after 11 most nights jus because it feels wrong to sleep in sunlight .



We have been gone a bit over a week now and spent a week in Northern Ireland as well as a few days now in Menorca where we are until Sunday.

It was interesting landing up in Belfast again. I left when I was 10, went back once at age 33 and now this time seventeen years later. I was curious as to what I would feel… would it be ‘home’ in some sense? What would I feel at being back in my birthplace?

Not a lot as it turns out… and that’s neither a bad thing nor unexpected. I actually had this conversation with my cousins husband:

‘So what is this for you now? Have you come home?’


‘No…  now I’m a tourist. Happy to sniff around, enjoy the country and see the sights, catch up with family (most of whom I hardly know ) and generally do what visitors do. ‘

It’s a reminder that home is more than a physical location. I think it is a physical location, but these days it has more to do with being around my own family, of being where God wants us and of feeling settled in that ‘place’. I find it hard to envisage leaving Yanchep or our church community, of starting again somewhere else…  but I realise these are all possible. And because ‘home ‘ is more than location I’m sure it would work.

It was really good reconnecting with family on both sides,  cousins and uncles /aunts I wouldn’t know if I met in the street, but good people.  I drove the kids past some of the old haunts – my home,  my dad’s home,  my school, my first church and I think we all felt a bit ‘meh’ about it. They lacked the significance they once had.

We enjoyed driving around and being tourists, seeing mountains, oceans, line upon line of dry rock walls, grey skies with fleeting moments of sunshine and a city that was unfamiliar, but curious in many ways.


We watched the July 12th marches from a very safe ‘middle class ‘ vantage point (not my preferred location) and took some time to discuss this cultural and theological oddity. (I have more thoughts to come on this when the mood is more conducive ). Sam decided to voice his opinions over dinner with my aunt and we all realised that maybe it wasn’t dinner time conversation.

The cultural and spiritual nature of Northern Ireland is well worth a post on its own and I will do that once I have had a chance to process it better. It is still heavily churched,  but with the complicating issue of the political situation. I wonder if the Irish will ever move beyond the old divisions and be able to live together harmoniously? My ‘outsiders’ take is that given another 500 years they may just do it.

In my rovings I discovered the Corrymeela Community who from their website seem to be a crew doing some good work on this front. If time permits I’d like to drop in and see what they are doing first hand.  I imagine it would be an interesting place to have a sabbatical. I’d be very interested to delve into the issue of reconciliation in this place,  buy I imagine it is long slow and generally unrewarding work.

In other less provocative news I have worn shorts every day since arriving and while it’s been cold at times its also been good weather for exploring.


I’ve definitely disconnected and enjoyed places, people,  books and reflection time. We have spent the last few days with old friends in sunny Menorca, a nice little island in the Mediterranean. It isn’t somewhere you would ever venture to as an Aussie usually so it’s been good to hang out off the beaten track. 

11 Blokes You Meet In the Line Up


Most days when you paddle out you get a mix of crew in the water, but there are a few that always seem to be there… at least in a place like Yanchep…

The Grom – paddles out in everything, stays out in everything, catches anything… always believes he ‘just got barrelled’ and comes in stoked even if its 1ft onshore and crowded.

The Angry Bloke – paddles around like a rabid dog on a short leash… Thinks he owns the place and snarls at anyone who looks like catching ‘his’ wave. He probably lives a million miles away, but this is who he is… wherever he is…

The Local – he’s like the angry bloke but not so angry. He treats you like you are are a stranger in his lounge room and calls you off waves like you are drinking his beer. More dangerous than the angry bloke though…

The old fat bloke who sits out the back on a 10ft mal and doesn’t catch anything – ever – he’s been surfing for a long time now so just to get in the water is an achievement in itself. He sits there for a while, paddles and wheezes while trying to catch a few waves then gets rolled and comes in. He’s back out again in 3 months time for more of the same…

The other bloke on the mal who catches everything – just when you think you’re onto that wave you hear a voice and sense the presence of someone who has already been riding it for the last 5 minutes because he caught it further out than everyone else. These blokes are not popular, but they seem to deal with being disliked pretty well…

The bloke who drops in on everyone – its bad manners whether you are a local, a superstar, or just a fool. You can only get away for this with so long before someone will have had enough.

The guy who has just been to Indo – and announces his adventures to the line up as if he had just won the ASP tour. He might have only been once but he can make it sound like he lives there.

The chick – no longer wannabes or eye candy for blokes between sets, a heap of girls can really make their mark in the water. There still aren’t a heap of girls out there, but times are changing.

The Euro bloke – who things ‘oy’ and ‘hey’ mean ‘nice wave – why don’t we share’… They don’t. These guys generally understand expletives pretty well though.

The beginner – amusing – sometimes hilarious – but usually dangerous. You can spot them on the soft-mals bobbing around on the inside or sitting wide. So long as they stay there they are harmless, but you don’t want to get caught inside with one.

The SUP – also a rare breed, but a step up from the bloke on the mal who catches everything. Now he only catches everything if these guys don’t get it first.

I’m sure there are more, but that’s just my reflection after a few weeks of some great waves here in Yanchep. (And yes – that’s a shot of ‘locals’ beach from last week on Thursday just before sunset when it was icy cold.)