When God Sneaks Up on You

Today did not go as planned.

It was intended to be a solitude / prayer / reflection kind of day – the kind of day that would have made a Thomas Merton proud.

Danelle and I do these together (in fact we would like to do it with other couples if any are up for it) but the intent has always been that we create quiet space to listen to God and settle the noise that fills our heads and hearts.

Today we dropped the kids at mum and dad’s and then headed down to Trigg Beach hoping to do the quiet/solitude/pray thing somewhere along the coast.

It was very cold and wet so we ended up having a coffee at the Trigg Island Café. We both had stuff to put on the table and talk thru – I had been given a prophetic word that I wanted to talk with Danelle about and she had some stuff too that needed us to talk seriously. That took us thru to about midday. It was a valuable time, away from kids to really talk thru some significant stuff and we made a great connection there. I sensed God was with us and leading us as we spoke.

When it came time to leave it was still raining.

Where to now? What do you do on a ‘retreat’ if you can’t go anywhere that is conducive to prayer, especially when you are both ‘natural environment’ type of people?

This is where it gets very ‘unspiritual’ and Thomas would be most disappointed with me… Danelle suggested we head home and spend the day in bed snoozing and reading and” well anyway… I reckoned it was too far to drive. Her other suggestion was Harbour-town (shopping) or Koorong to look for books.

It felt kinda weird to agree to spend some of our retreat day shopping, but we went. It was actually nice just to be together with no agenda at all and no kids to attend to. Its interesting what happens in those moments that just doesn’t seem to happen in the hustle of ordinary life. We stayed at Harbour-town for about 45 minutes – probably 35 longer than I normally shop for and left with a pair of shoes for Sam.

From there we stopped in at Mega-mart – looking for a new DVD player – we have a relic from the 80’s (?) given to us by a friend that is so noisy we can no longer hear the DVD’s play! From there it was on to Koorong.

I always dread Koorong because you tend to bump into Christian ‘acquaintances’ you haven’t seen for years – people with whom you have nothing to talk about, yet you feel obliged to talk to. I walk around with my head down. I ought to wear a sign ‘no, I don’t want to talk to you either – so let’s just ignore each other’.

But” sure enough within 30 seconds it had happened – I was standing looking at books with a woman I went to church with 25 years ago” the good thing was that I think she was as happy to bypass me as I was her. We said ‘g’day’ and kept looking at books, then wandered off with nothing more said. Nice.

I quickly grabbed five books and retreated to the café section to do some rapid skimming. (How much can I read without buying?!) Danelle was leisurely cruising the kids and music section gradually acquiring a swag of stuff.

I ordered a coffee and a rather huge slab of chocolate cake and began reading haphazardly, quickly losing interest. I can’t even remember the books now, but as I was sitting there I remembered a book I had been wanting to read for ages now – Mike Yaconelli’s Messy Spirituality. I have always been a huge Yaconelli fan but just have never bought this book.

Fortunately it was on the shelf, so I grabbed it and settled in to read while Danelle continued to scour the shelves. Now this is where my day converged and God snuck up on me in quite a powerful way.

The basic thesis of Yaconelli’s book is that most of us are really pretty lame when it comes to being ‘spiritual’. We find it hard to pray once a week let alone once a day, but in developing an awareness of God in the fabric of life we actually grow a spirituality that may not be conventional but that is messy and real and maybe just as spiritual if not more spiritual than the ideal we hold up.

The day had been anything but ‘spiritual’ in the classical sense, but as I sat there for an hour or so and read Yaconelli I was powerfully aware of God speaking to me – at times frighteningly so. Yaconelli writes ‘competence is not a fruit of the spirit yet it seems that the church values it more highly than many other things’ (or words to that effect) This was the guts of a conversation earlier in the day – an issue I am working thru right now. He seemed to say a whole bunch of other things that felt much like God saying ‘just sit and listen for a bit Andrew’.

I did.

I was trying to read as much of the book as I could before leaving but I sensed God had more to say to me thru this simple, yet inspiring jumble of deeply spiritual and yet apparently unspiritual writings on what it means to follow Jesus. So I paid my $$$ and bought the book.

We bumped into some good friends – people we were glad to see – and then it was time to leave.

As we walked back to the car I was trying to describe to Danelle what I had experienced over the day. Somehow while we were shopping God had showed up and renewed some passion and love for him. How bout that?

Maybe spirituality has more to do with being intentionally present before God wherever we are than it does with a location or posture?

Either way it was as valuable as any other retreat day, but in a totally surprising way!

Maybe I could start a new stream of spirituality – finding God in the shops…

Prayer Day

This year Danelle and I have set aside 5 days as ‘prayer retreats’, days when we simply leave the kids with mum and dad and head off to spend a day in prayer and reflection.

A luxury?

So some have said to me.

I prefer to think of it as a necessity – a part of my ‘job’ even. If we aren’t taking time out to listen to God and to engage with him (however it looks for you) then chances are we are running on our own steam an doing our own thing.

I’m not feeling that much like it today what with cold rainy weather and all, but no doubt it’ll still be worthwhile.

We had tried to set it up with some friends, but the nature of work committments and kid committments has meant we have done this on our own more often than not.

What was he thinking?…

We had a great team retreat on the weekend just gone.

One of the highlights was staying at the Lancelin backpackers with all the travellers and tourists. On sunday night one of the long term travellers – an italian pizza cook – put on an all you can eat pizza night for a mere $7.00 a person.

We went from garlic bread to entree pizza, to main course to desert pizza. It must have been good because I didn’t make it to desert.

There were a few blemishes on the pizza cook’s ledger though. His sausage and potatoe pizza had a few of us laughing. Potatoe on pizza… I don’t think so! ‘What’ll be next?’ all giggled ‘peas and corn?’

Guess what?

Peas and corn do not belong on pizza.

He who shoves hardest wins?…

Today I had time to read the discussion taking place at Phil Baker’s blog on the issue of tithing.

Allan Meyer has argued his case in favour of tithing over the last few days and others have responded both agreeing and disagreeing.

You might like to check it out. Its a long read and the arguments get quite intricate in places, but it might help to show where pro-tithe folks derive their theology from.

I don’t really want to get into the debate except to the extent that it impinges on our freedom in Christ. I reckon Paul always found that worth defending.

Personally, I see the issue quite differently to Alan. I’d be ok with that as I obviously see it quite different to a lot of folks, but my concern is that in his tone I actually hear some of the worst of the ‘pro-tithe’ approach, what in places feels a bit like theological coercion of people into giving their money.

Upstream Community – a peek inside

We are in a process of re-orientation (yet again) with our Upstream community.

The great thing about constant shifts in direction is that no-one can complain that we ‘change’ too often – change is a way of being for us and a ‘given’. To ‘change’ would be to stay in one place / do the same thing for an extended period of time.

One of the shifts coming up is in our community rhythm. We have been meeting fortnightlyon Monday’s as a closed mission team and also on the other fortnight on Sunday AM as an open community meeting ie. anyone can come. However after 8 months of this we have concluded that it hasn’t been what we had hoped. None of our friends and neighbours have been keen to join this gathering regularly.

There are various reasons for this, but we need to accept that this meeting is not doing what it was intended. So… lets not keep doing it. Let’s change it.

As from next week we will be meeting around lunch in the local park and simply looking to engage with the people who are down there. We are operating on a similar wavelength to what Owen is on with his Hyde Park gig, trying to build community but also support those in need around the place.

Will it ‘work’?

Dunno, but we’re about to find out. Will it be ‘church’? Ah… what do you think?…

There is also the question of how we sustain ourselves as we live and serve here. I find my own life is always being enriched by the people I get to hang around in the course of a week, but for others there is less enrichment and more being sapped out of them.

Does it necessitate a weekly (rather than fortnightly) team meeting?

We have been trying to avoid creating a meeting monster, but it seems that it is very difficult to stay in the loop of each other’s lives, cover all the bases of prayer, engagement with scripture, team dev, formation etc in a once a fortnight meeting.

Of course connections ought to happen outside of meetings – and sometimes they do, but there is also a limit to how often we can see each other as we spend time with new friends in the local area. And lets face it sometimes we are lazy and would rather just watch TV than engage with our friends and really talk about how life is going. (Or is that just me again?…)

To some degree this has been an ongoing ‘blind spot’ for me because I find myself thriving on this kind of life. But others in the team have been floundering and need more support. We are looking at how that shapes up. I’ll keep you posted.

‘What do mission teams do? How do they function?’ Those are the questions we are seeking to answer as we discuss this stuff.

On a different note, in two weeks time there will be an annual wine and food festival happening in the Swan Valley. We have booked a bus and will be heading out to the Swan Valley for a day at ‘Spring in the Valley’. It’ll be a great place to hang out with friends and neighbours and enjoy a day together. Hopefully we will be able to fill the bus and not finish up losing a truckload of cash!

Then in November we have our Brighton celebration day – a kind of annual festival for the locals here. I had no ideas as to what we could do – and in fact said we wouldn’t do anything, then… an idea came…

We have three really nice lakes. How much fun would it be to buy some radio controlled boats and have a small fleet that we could hire out to people at minimal cost?!

So I have been researching the dynamics of RC boats and what we need to do. I think its doable. One boat, three battery packs, one fast charger = no more than $300.00 or as little as $120.00.

Sounds like fun to this big kid 🙂

The Dowsett Clan

After getting back from a couple of very full days in Melbourne I looked in my diary only to see I had for some reason booked in 6 meetings for Thursday…

Very dumb.

Fortunately my first appointment failed to show (I have discovered that I need to build in a 1/5 ‘no show/forget’ rate in coaching) and another had to cancel. Suddenly the day became much more doable.

After a meeting with our local community development officers to discuss our Brighton youth scene, it was on to catch up with Andrew & Jo Dowsett

and their kids Susannah and Noah. Sitting on the couches at the back of Greens cafe it was great to finally meet up after so much blog talk.

These guys are living in the wonderful western suburbs and checking out whether this is the ‘next leg’ of their journey. It’ll be great to have the family up in a couple of weeks time to hang out and chat some more as well as have them present their story at the upcoming Forge Intensive.

t was great to meet

Blogging Rhythm is gone


3 days at a pastor’s retreat last week, three days in Melbourne this week and a mission team retreat this long weekend all makes for a fairly unsettled patch of life.

Add to that relatives coming to stay over the next two weeks (10 at various different points) – and the possibilities of change don’t look that exciting!

There is plenty churning in my head and heart but finding the time to put it into words fit for human consumption in the public sphere is a bit beyond me at the moment.

Anyway, that’s life for me at the moment.download six days seven nights dvd

Now I am Smart

A group of us did a boatsmart course today, so now I (technically) know how to operate a boat…

It was a beautiful day out on the river cruising between Nedlands and Fremantle. I almost fell asleep while Steve was driving, but that could have been the fumes from the 2 stroke motor!

With all the sun, I think it’ll be an early night tonight.