I read about these guys in the paper today and thought their work as youth led social entrepreneurs sounded fantastic!

Young people seeking to change their own community and build a feeling of ‘us-ness’ and doing it in fun, innovative ways. You can listen to the founder Tim Kenworthy below share how it came about.

The Be Nice, Be Friends Revolution from Tahlia Azaria on Vimeo.

Ok – so ‘be nice – be friends’ doesn’t grab me as a slogan, but I get the idea and I’d cheer for these fellas anyday.

Church Plants – from 1 to 17 to 47 in just a few years in WA

And its not who you think…

Get past the ‘history of WA’ intro in this video and hear the story of how the Seventh Day Adventists in WA are planting churches faster than you can say ‘Sabbath Day’.

As Phil Brown says in the video “Now there are so many church plants that its become normal.” Of course it all depends on what you mean by the word ‘church’, and the Sevvies have decided to run with the simplest definition allowing for rapid growth and multiplication.

These guys have been prepared to take risks and ask ‘what is possible?’ rather than simply asking ‘how do we maintain the status quo?’

Not surprisingly they have also managed to maintain the status quo quite effectively and many of their more traditional expressions of church still exist alongside their new ventures.

Having spoken at their WA church planting summits for the last few years (where there are always over 100 people present) I cannot speak highly enough of the energy, enthusiasm and adventurous spirit these guys show.

Enjoy a well made video and be inspired by the Sevvies. I remember the first time I had lunch with Glenn Townend, the newly appointed SDA state leader and we got into a pretty feisty argument over the need to re-think church for a changing world. Once we got past our misconceptions of one another and listened more carefully, we realised we were both on the same page and both seeking the same things. Glenn and the SDA movement became some of Forge’s best supporters and their work in WA alone is truly inspiring.

Renewing Adventist Movement in Western Australia from AMN – WEST on Vimeo.

Mateship Tax… Really?

This morning as Julia Gillard announced her flood levy and called it a ‘mateship tax’ I couldn’t help thinking that was one of the most bizarre oxymorons I had heard in a long time. When do ‘mates’ legislate a ‘tax’ upon one another?

There’s no question it has been a devastating time for the people in the eastern states. It’s been difficult watching the flood reports, so I can only imagine how heart breaking it must be for those in the middle of it.

By contrast, it has been inspiring to see the way in which so many Australian people have either dug deep financially or have given physical assistance. Last night on the news I watched the story about the entire Swan Districts Football Club who had flown to Brisbane to lend a hand and spent their time shoveling mud out of a woman’s backyard, followed by a ‘good night’s sleep’ on mattresses in a community hall. It was a wonderful story of selfless giving.

Spontaneous generosity is a beautiful thing and offering genuine ‘no strings’ help to people in need is a sign that there is much goodness in this world. Jesus would say this is a sign of God’s future kingdom – of a coming day when there will be no pain, suffering or inequality – of a time when everyone has enough and when the whole world is restored to its original beauty – what the Bible calls the ‘new creation’.

Until that time comes we live in the original, now broken creation, where there will be trouble, when evil will sometimes prevail and when some will suffer because others are greedy. It’s not what God intends for his world but he invites us to be part of changing the landscape and inspiring a new way.

We can’t legislate generosity and love for one another, but we can encourage it, champion it and maybe even reward it in some way. The destruction in the East may require some kind of tax to help restore things back to normal. I think I can swallow that. But to link it to the word ‘mateship’ is likely going to sabotage much of the good that is being done by people simply from the generosity of their own hearts. How much healthier would our nation be if there was a prevailing attitude and desire to give rather than take and to think of others more than ourselves. If we got that right then we wouldn’t need a tax at all.

May your kingdom come on earth…

How Do We Assess Spiritual Growth?

I think Willard has a great handle on some of the core issues we face if we are to be effective as the church. If we can get our eyes on the ball (discipleship) and help people become genuine followers of Christ rather than church attenders then despite the pain it may bring, we may actually make a difference in the world…

This article caught my eye because I have been reflecting on how we could possibly measure spiritual growth over a period of time. Willard doesn’t give easy answers (and at times his books are painfully difficult to read), but he does point the ship in the right direction.

An interview with Dallas Willard | posted 5/03/2010

How can churches know if they are being effective at making disciples?

Many churches are measuring the wrong things. We measure things like attendance and giving, but we should be looking at more fundamental things like anger, contempt, honesty, and the degree to which people are under the thumb of their lusts. Those things can be counted, but not as easily as offerings.

Why don’t more churches gauge these qualities among their people?

First of all, many leaders don’t want to measure these qualities because what they usually discover is not worth bragging about. We’d rather focus on institutional measures of success. Secondly, we must have people who are willing to be assessed in these ways. And finally, we need the right tools to measure spiritual formation. There are some good tools available like Randy Frazee’s Christian Life Profile and, which John Ortberg likes.

In the past people grew through relationships with spiritual mentors and by engaging the church community. Is there a danger that these individual assessment tools will remove the role of community in formation?

Any of these devices must be used in a community setting. Assessment tools that work best are a combination of self-assessment and the assessment of a significant other who knows you well. They don’t work with people who don’t want to be assessed, and they should not be administered like individual personality tests that some employers use.

If you have a group of people come together around a vision for real discipleship, people who are committed to grow, committed to change, committed to learn, then a spiritual assessment tool can work. But there must be a deep fellowship of trust to support that work. I don’t think any group should go into an assessment without that. I wouldn’t advise a pastor to use one of these tools on his or her congregation without first establishing a clear commitment to discipleship. You can’t take your average congregation and just lay one of these assessments on them.

Are you ever discouraged by how few churches have that kind of clear commitment to discipleship?

I am not discouraged because I believe that Christ is in charge of his church, with all of its warts, and moles, and hairs. He knows what he is doing and he is marching on.

But I do grieve for the people within the church who are suffering—especially the pastors and their families. They are suffering because much of North America and Europe has bought into a version of Christianity that does not include life in the kingdom of God as a disciple of Jesus Christ. They are trying to work a system that doesn’t work. Without transformation within the church, pastors are the ones who get beat up. That is why there is a constant flood of them out of the pastorate. But they are not the only ones. New people are entering the church, but a lot are also leaving. Disappointed Christians fill the landscape because we’ve not taken discipleship seriously.

On The Market

In the first 5 years of our marriage we moved house a heap of times – there was a 2 bedroom unit, a townhouse, a build, a rental while we built and then a home in the hills in Lesmurdie. We stayed there 8 years and loved it up there.

As someone who loves change it was hard staying put, but we really did have a ‘home’ that felt great to live in so any changes were going to be difficult. Then we moved to Butler and we have lived in this place for 8 and a bit years. We tried to build a home that would match our lifestyle and this one really does that. With a study, main bed and lounge at the front and then the kids areas at the back it makes it easy to work from home, entertain and have guests stay over.

But lately we have been considering change. And when Danelle is considering it too you know its got a fair crack of happening! I was catching up with my mate Jono up in Yanchep the other day and chatting in his front yard when he pointed out a house in the next street back that was for sale. It looked nice but I figured that it would probably be out of our price range.

I got home and had a look on the net and saw that it wasn’t at all, but it did have a great vibe and felt like the kind of place we would like to move to next. We’ve been finding this kind of suburbia a tad tedious and sameish and would like something a little more spacious and unique. We still have commitments in the northern coastal area so we didn’t want to move anyway far away but Yanchep looks like a new frontier in many ways and ‘old Yanchep’ is a bit of a village in that area.

So we had a look at the house, then another look… and both of us thought ‘what the hell – let’s give it a crack!’ Its an older ‘pole home’ style place on a quarter acre ‘sand dune’ block about a street back from the beach. It has some big sheds, good ocean views and some great verandahs for hanging out on. We aren’t particularly interested in moving for movings sake, but this place grabbed us. So we have put our place on the market and if it sells we will move. If it doesn’t then we won’t be heartbroken. We’ll just tonk along here and do business as usual.

Anyway this post is partly to let you know what we’re doing but also to put a link to our own home that we are selling to try and rank it a bit higher with google 🙂 We had thought we were going to get about $480K for this one but we had agents come thru the other day and it doesn’t look so exciting. My question is always ‘what price will it sell for?’ rather than ‘what is optimistic?’ as there is no point it sitting on the market for 6 months because its too expensive.

The tip is that the market is dead, nothing is selling, there are 200 houses for sale around here and we can expect it to sell around $460K. So we’ll put it out there and see if we can find a buyer.

Oh and we’re selling privately. We’ve sold out last few houses privately and had no dramas. I’m sure there are some great agents out there, but there are 15000 reasons we are going to stick with private.

So here’s the link. If you want to move to Butler this is your big chance…

The Stuff You Learn

This has been my third year in the retic and turf business and it’s been a year for learning. The first two years have been largely learning the skills of what I do, but this year has had more of a focus on learning about developing a business. So here are some of my learnings…

A 12 Month Warranty is Actually a 6 Year Warranty

This one was an interesting one.

Two soakwells that I installed over 2 years ago overflowed during the huge storm and made some paving subside. As it was out of warranty I wasn’t prepared to fix it for free and the owner took action against me with the Builders Registration Board. I thought giving a 12 mth warranty meant I was responsible for the work for that period of time.

It turns out that any ‘builder’ (apparently I am one of these) must actually guarantee his work for 6 years and the 12 mth thing means nothing. I was ‘ordered’ to do repairs to the subsided paving and make sure it wouldn’t occur again.

So I sent someone round and fixed it up. As soakwells are a bit of a sideline and I don’t need the hassle I have decided not to do any more.

I guess the upside of this learning is that now I am aware of my own ‘rights’ and if building work done around here fails in a 6 year time frame I can also call someone back…

Excrement Occurs – deal with it

I’ve had a couple of jobs not work out quite as planned this year and it’s given me a few moments of stress.

There were the soakwells and then just before going on holidays there was the turf that I had to replace.

After laying 70m of turf in the backyard of a new house I didn’t set the retic controller correctly and the lawn didn’t get watered for 7 days… It was only then that the owner called me to tell me it was looking ‘dry’. No kidding…

So we had to lift the lawn, pay for tipping and then buy new lawn and relay it. At first I was stressed by the whole deal, annoyed and frustrated at the waste of time and money – a good $600.00 down the gurgler, but accepting that it was ‘just one of those things’ allowed me to breathe easy again.

I didn’t need to waste emotional energy on anxiety. I just needed to accept that mistakes happen, cop it and move on.

I don’t like making mistakes, and costly mistakes even less so, but worrying about it wasn’t going to fix it.

I reckon that was a good learning and next time I bugger something up hopefully I’ll be able to suck it up, breathe deep and deal with it…


Don’t Do Cheap Jobs For Difficult People

I can smell a difficult customer these days – someone who will haggle to the death over price and then call you back 3 or 4 times because ‘the lawn is not green enough’ or the wind is making the sprinklers water the driveway, or one sprinkler isn’t quite in line with the other 2…

There are some folks who have a genuine cause for concern and I am more than happy to help out and answer questions, but there have been a couple who have driven me mad with their complaints about issues that haven’t been issues.

Ironically these have been people who I have been willing to do work cheaper for. Not any more…

In fact I recently did a quote for one of these people and added about 20% on to the cost of the work because that was what I reckoned the ongoing ‘work’ would be worth. I didn’t get the job… He told me I was too expensive…

No problem…

Never Use People To Do The Work of Machinery

I learnt this a while back but ‘re-learnt’ it a couple of weeks back – the hard way…

A customer had 45 sqm of rear yard to be turfed and I arranged to spread some soil and lay the turf. Because there was no bobcat access to the rear yard someone else was going to dig out the old turf prior to us arriving. I wasn’t interested in doing it as previous experience had taught me it was a laborious and very difficult job.

But… the other guy broke a toe and to help the customer out I agreed – against my better judgement – to do the work at my normal hourly rate with my co worker.

It took 2 of us 5 hours to do what a bobcat would have done in 30 mins. Everything about the job was difficult and by the end we were both wiped out.

With the cost of a skip bin included I think it cost the customer twice as much as what a bobcat would have.

So from here on, if it’s a job for a bobcat then I’m not touching it with a shovel, both for my sanity and for the customer’s sake.

Apart from the sheer physical effort it takes I am realising my body is a finite resource so every time I make the tendons and ligaments work more than they have to I am risking injury.

You Get Better at Stuff

After 3 years of Retic and turf I can now work much faster and smarter than before.

That’s good because being able to do 3 days work in 2 means significantly more income for the same output. Alternatively I can work less and have more free time. Either way a win.

It makes sense, but it’s only been in the last 6 months that I have really noticed the value of it.

Specialising Trumps Diversifying

I can see value to being able to do a range of tasks well and earlier this year was considering ways of expanding the business, maybe with a bobcat or even into brick paving or limestone walls.

But I didn’t and while I miss out on the stimulation of learning something new I do end up getting very very good at the thing I specialise in.

If I had more strings to the bow then I would have more work options, but I may not be brilliant at any of them. Being good at something means you work fast and smart and therefore earn more and have fewer warranty issues.

From a financial point of view it has been wise to specialise rather than trying to do many different things.

The Extra Mile is Worth More Than You Think

If I were starting over and re-naming my business I think I might choose the name ‘Extra Mile Retic and Turf’ as that would be possibly my no. 1 core value.

Little things matter and I have generally tried to do little things well as often it is what distinguishes you from every other bloke out there.

Returning all phone calls within 24 hrs, remembering people’s names, always cleaning up well, taking time to chat, are all things that don’t improve the quality of work, but they do leave people with a positive memory. Repeat work and referrals is a huge part of my work and I reckon it comes from ‘the extra mile’ stuff.

You Can’t Please Some People

Occasionally I have struck people who have been unimaginably difficult. I have finished a job, had them sign off on it and then got a phone call saying that they weren’t happy (any more)

I return to check what is wrong and it turns out that they have changed their minds about the areas that require watering and I am supposedly responsible.

This has happened twice now with one person and I can see what will happen if I allow myself to return a third time.

I am just learning to relax and accept that some folks are going to be hard work.

No You Can’t Pay 1000 Over A 6 Month Period

Again a bloke who haggled me to death asked for 6 months to pay. I should have said no because now he emails, calls and complains about non-issues and I need to respond because he still has a fair slab of my money…

I imagine most people would be fine, but for some reason my ‘difficult’ customer also became my ‘periodical payer’ – or non-payer actually as we have had to chase him for the money…

Never again…

My Body is Not a Machine

I don’t think I have ever worked as hard as I have in the past 12 months, but my body is telling me all about it.

I have 3 overuse injuries in one arm at the moment and the future doesn’t look bright in that regard. Machines have bits you replace when they break down. Bodies just give you pain and remind you of your age and frailty.

Time to work smarter rather than harder.

Anyway, this was part of my own personal end of year review and as I was doing it I thought I’d share it with you…

Neccessity is the Mother of Invention

In my business I have been working from a philosophy of ‘small, simple and sustainable’, an approach that has served me well to this point, but now seems to be slowly disintegrating.

Actually it’s the ‘sustainable’ part that is the current challenge as my body is slowly wearing out. Before leaving on our round Oz trip in April 2009 I had developed a bit of carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. Not enough to stop me but enough to annoy and cause stiffness. Then just before we went on holidays last year in July I developed tennis elbow in my right arm and it has been with me since then with varying degrees of pain. I have been managing it with big doses of Diclofenac, but I have been aware that its only a matter of time before I need to stop as the drug causes stomach ulcers. (There are some signs I have hit that point now.)

Then just last week after getting back from holidays and getting stuck into work a new muscle pain hit in the same arm as the tennis elbow. This one is called De quervains tendosynovitis and is more of a sharp stab at the bottom of the thumb than a nagging ache.

That was a concern so I went to see the Physio who gave me some strategies for healing. However he also advised me to cease taking the anti-inflammatory drugs I have been popping, So with three different injuries in one arm and no pills to pop I’m genuinely not sure what the future holds for Brighton Reticulation.

So far my work has relied on my physical health to be viable, but given the current spate of injuries I can see that I am not able to continue at this pace for the next 5 months let alone the next 5 years.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say it caused some anxiety over the last few days. To lose your source of income isn’t something I am especially excited about, but I’m also aware that it doesn’t have to be that way. It will require

some imagination and a willingness to do things differently.

With the supply of work I currently have it may be a case of employing some sub contractors to do the grunt work and limiting myself to quoting and one day a week on the shovel. It may even be a case of scaling back to a day a week and simply living more frugally.

Neither are my preferred options as I actually enjoy the hard yakka work of digging trenches but I can see that I am just not going to make it.

So by necessity it is time to re-think and re-strategise if there is to be a future. Part of me is energised by entering a new phase and part of me simply wants things to stay as they are…

Aint that life…

Running on Empty

We have expended an humongous amount of energy in the last ten years trying to help our churches become more ‘missional’ and much of it has been from good theology and with the best intents. But it has been hard work.

Not just that, it seems that many who have started on this journey have found it incredibly difficult. It’s not simply that those in the community aren’t interested. Its true that we are one of the most secular countries in the world and the Christian faith does have something of an image problem, but I think the issue runs deeper than that.

Increasingly I am coming to the conclusion that the reason we find it so hard to engage in mission is because our own spiritual formation is lacking and has been lacking for a long time. We have not done discipleship well, so we have people who ‘know the rules’ and can keep the club functional but lack the passion to do much more.

When love for God is fading its hard to find enthusiasm for introducing others to him.

Its epidemic to be so busy with work (often because we have bought the consumer myth) that we lack time to build relationships with people let alone God. Simply challenging people to ‘get on with the job’ of mission is like telling a fat person to run a marathon. It just isn’t going to happen. Or if it does it will be from all the wrong motives and will then get done in bizarre and unhelpful ways.

There is so much that needs attention in the life of ‘church’, but as I have reflected recently on what I consider the most critical place to start if we are to be effective, I am coming back to the need for some more substantial and rigorous spiritual formation. I don’t mean more Bible studies, although you won’t go far wrong if you’re really engaging with the Bible.

But I do mean helping people to recalibrate their own spirituality so that they find themselves deeply connected to God and living life out of that connection.

When mission and evangelism are engaged in dutifully and as tasks they are rarely effective, but when a person who is encountering God regularly and genuinely connects with another person then its impossible for that experience of God to stay hidden. So when we ‘send people out’ who are running on ‘spiritual empty’ it ought not be a surprise if they come home disappointed, burnt out or simply disinterested and uninspired.

So the focus of my own life this year will be in kindling a deeper and stronger connection with God. Not so I can do mission more effectively, but because I need that. I have no doubt that the result will be a more credible witness, but I think the horse needs to get in line with the cart.