My New Blog – Reticulation and Turf

A few weeks back (as a result of inspiration from Middo) I started a reticulation blog as an add on to my business website. Because of the way blogs rate in google it generally gets more hits than my actual site

I’m sure it will have very narrow appeal and as yet I haven’t got around to the whole deal of advertising, but if you have an issue with reticulation and turf then go have a read as the answer may be there.

Its still in its infancy and not every question is addressed, but if you have a retic / turf question drop me an email and I will try to answer it for you and build to the knowledge base over there.

Failing that call an expert and pay the $$$! 🙂

Let Your Yes Be Yes

This morning Phil Sparrow came to QBC to speak to us about his work in Afghanistan and how he has processed what it means to be ‘called by God’ to that place.

He spoke of the initial sense of calling where he exuded passion and enthusiasm and he went on to speak of how that had waned over time, how at times his work was actually quite tedious, with results hard to see… it was boring even… but the call hadn’t ceased to exist. He just sometimes wished it did so he could move his life to something more exciting and invigorating.

Phil challenged our western obsession with happiness, fulfillment and safety and suggested that these weren’t the criteria for knowing if we are in the place God wants us. Sometimes where God wants us does not make us happy, does not feel like its time well spent and may even be very risky, but that doesn’t mean its time to shut up shop and move on. Maybe it just means that for the time being you aren’t going to feel so much pleasure in what you do. Phil suggested we may have made an idol of fulfillment and that we need to simply say ‘yes’ to God and then get on with what we said yes to without looking back. (Interestingly Stuart wrote a similar piece here) In that place of ‘getting on with it’ we will find a different kind of joy, and contentment – if we are willing to go there.

He speaks as one who has been there rather than as one who know the theory and that is always compelling and confronting.

I love a talk that challenges my thinking and this one did exactly that. I’m sure you will read more in the coming weeks as I ruminate on those challenges and their implications.

Stu is Blogging

My good friend Stu Wesley has hit the blog scene and you can read his thoughts here

Stuart and I went thru high school together, then did youth ministry together, and since then our lives have followed similar and shared paths for the last 30 years or so, which simply means we are both getting old…

Stu is the team leader at Network Vineyard Church in Cottesloe, but is currently on a year’s sabbatical and in the process of developing his coaching/consulting business. I’ve been inspired by Stu’s thoughts over the years and I reckon it will be great to see them come out online. He has a few posts up now, so why don’t you drop by and leave a comment.


When I go to quote on a job I am often asked the question, ‘So…How much for cash?’ or alternatively the suggestion is made (‘nudge nudge’) that the customer is happy to pay cash, with the implication being that a hefty discount might apply.

Up to now I have been fairly genial in my responses and politely declined any ‘cash’ offers as I haven’t wanted to offend people, but I am increasingly feeling like this is something I want to confront. It gets tricky because some people genuinely want to do me a favour by refusing an invoice and they struggle to get it when I decline. Then it gets weird and I have to explain why I would prefer to be honest…

I wonder, why am I the one who has to do the explaining?!

I know its supposedly part of Aussie culture and all that, but at core it is simple dishonesty. Its taking what isn’t ours and denying the state what it is due.

Call it theft if you like… (and if you don’t ‘like’ then that’s too bad)

What’s particularly disturbing for me is the number of people who call themselves Jesus followers who don’t bat an eyelid at trading ‘under the table’. What kinda discipleship is it that allows for this?…

It seems that in our culture we all believe in honesty – except when it disadvantages me. We’re happy to be honest so long as there isn’t a personal cost attached. This stretches beyond cashies and into most of life.

But what kind of pathetic ‘honesty’ is that?… Seriously… it is a sham. Conditional integrity is no integrity at all.

At the core of this issue is simple selfishness and greed. ‘More for me’. And the belief that it doesn’t matter if we rip off the government.

It matters.

It matters because it is stealing.

It matters because every time we do it we shape our character.

It matters because we make a statement by our actions. We tell people what kind of people we are.

It matters because we deny our government $$ to provide services.

It matters because it creates an uneven playing field and disadvantages honest operators.

Whether we are people of faith or not, this is not a contentious issue. Its black and white and I’m tired of being the one who looks kooky for saying ‘no’. Lately things have got tighter in my business and I have lost a number of jobs to people who are doing ‘cashies’. Last week I had a customer accept an $1100.00 quote, only to be called a few hours later and told that another person had agreed to do the same job for ‘$800.00 cash’.

Yesterday I was asked to beat a quote – a silly price – and I refused. I sent through my most competitive price only to get a text in return that said, ‘Let’s meet and we can talk ‘cash’.’

I sent a text back. “I don’t do cashies because I believe it compromises my honesty and integrity. Still want me to quote?” I haven’t heard back, but I’ll be interested to see if they join the dots and whether they want to pursue my quote that is several hundred dollars higher than the ‘cash’ quote.

I think I know the answer… And while I care about not getting the work, I care more about the message it would send if I did work for cash.

There are many aspects of life and faith that are grey and difficult to discern, but this isn’t one of them. So if you’re currently doing cashies why not have a re-think and ask yourself what it says about you and your business?…

So What Happens to Consumers Who Can’t Consume?

About 6 weeks ago I went from having work piled up to having very little in front of me. For the last few weeks I have been turning up at 7.00 in the morning, quoting on a job and then doing it that same day.

I have also been undercut hugely on some jobs. Last week I reduced my price from $1250.00 to $1100.00 to get a turf job and then missed out because another the guy who came to do the retic was willing to do it for $800.00. I’ve gone from hearing people respond to a quote with ‘no worries – when you can start’ to ‘ooh that’s more than we can afford!’

It was like someone ‘threw a switch’ and things slowed right down. The economy was hardly on fire, but for some reason we seem to have gone slower again. In speaking with other guys in similar trades they too have experienced an abnormal slowing. Some guys I know are struggling to put petrol in their cars and keep credit on their phone – which makes it tricky to run a business.

Perhaps it is the post-Christmas credit card bills taking their toll?… Or maybe people are just tightening their belts yet again?… With work less certain people spend less. Who knows when you will need that money you have in the bank? The flow on/ripple effect is significant and it seems everyone will be affected in different ways.

Probably the only ones who will come out unscathed are those who ave ‘enough’, who are already able to live simply and for whom the desire for bigger and better is not the primary driver. But the question I find myself asking is what about those for whom ‘consuming’ has become a way of life, a religion?… What about those who rely on that next purchase for some degree of fulfillment in life?

I’m curious to see what develops.

I have enough work to get by and in quieter times like these I just try to enjoy the rest periods which give my 46 year old muscles a chance to recover. But you can’t help wondering, ‘If its quiet now, what will it be like in winter?’

Might have to plan some extra holidays!

Going With the Flow?..

Next Sunday I’m speaking about what it looks like to live counter-culturally in this comfortable, affluent western world.

If there is anything that has imprinted on me deeply over the last 10 years it has been that the life of faith must look different to the life without faith, otherwise it has no teeth and no one has any reason to investigate it.

I mean, why would you want to follow Jesus if the only shift in your life was that you got busier on Sundays?… As if…

But if there was something compellingly attractive about the life of faith – even if it was a more difficult life in some ways – then maybe people might get inspired.

Its why we called our previous community ‘Upstream’ – derived from the image of a fish swimming against the flow. I think that experience has left a permanent mark on me so that I can’t just roll over and go with flow now.

This week as I was reading about New Monasticism and the various expressions it takes I came across these quotes in Tom Sine’s chapter of New Monasticism as Fresh Expression of the Church and they resonated deeply:

‘I am convinced that the only way we have any hope of authentically embodying something of the new world that is already here is by creating a spectrum of new countercultural communities that repudiate the reality of the empire’ (Tom Sine in New Monasticism as Fresh Expression of the Church p. 74)

‘The future of the church in western culture – and possibly even the western culture itself – depend on a fresh encounter with Jesus. An encounter with his example and teaching that inspires creative and counter-cultural living… that unmasks the powers and gives hope for a different world… and energises hopeful discipleship’ (Stuart Murray Williams in PostChristendom p. 317)

There needs to be hope. There needs to be real genuine hope that the kingdom of God can have a growing present reality or we will simply live in a perpetual state of religious frustration, or we will settle for a mutant form of faith that is little more than folk religion.

I also see the tension of this for those of us who live in middle-class dom. Its easy to beat yourself up and hang guilt trips on people when we begin to speak about counter-cultural living, but I’m convinced guilt is a very poor motivator and actually ends up undermining our best intentions as we don’t learn good healthy motivations for change.

So I’m thinking we need to start with a vision of God’s kingdom – of the earth as God dreamt it would be at creation – and work from there.

But I can see this being a very disturbing message because it will speak to the things we hold so dear and critique them. (See this old post on the Holy Trinity of Suburbia for more of that.)

Its a hard message to give because we are so deeply embedded in this system and not all of it is bad. But its soo soo easy just to go with the flow and soo soo hard to choose to live differently.

Random Reflections on Not Much in Particular

Its been a while since I posted a general life update so on a quiet afternoon I thought I’d do that, as much for my own reflection as for anyone who cares. These are in no particular order, but just as they cross my mind…

The Bum – I guess the big news this week is that I don’t have cancer… I didn’t think I did, but being sent for a colonoscopy does make you wonder ‘what if?…’ With a family history of it, I guess I’m a fair chance in the future but for now I’m clean. Having read the blogs of friends who are currently in the midst of a great fight with cancer I was very relieved. I resented having 3 days of disruption in my life, and I can only imagine how it would be to have your whole future thrown into chaos.

People asked me what it was like to have a colonoscopy and to be honest I wouldn’t know. I was out like a light and when they woke me up 40 mins later it was like I’d had an afternoon nap – albeit with a camera up my bum. Fasting… now that’s another story altogether…

The World – Somehow all the catastrophes around the world make my own issues (of which there are currently few) seem insignificant. If I were a fundamentalist end times prophet I imagine I’d be predicting the end of the world some time very soon. Its been crazy. I haven’t written much about the floods, fires, quakes and tsunamis, nor the revolution/s in the middle east.

I find it hard to know what to say without it sounding trite or trivial, but its been hard to watch all of this while wondering ‘what the heck is going on?’ I know some have asked questions as to whether this is God at work in some way and trying to say something… I’m not so sure and I think its always dangerous to pontificate in this way. But that’s a big subject and I won’t delve into it just now. For the record – I think Gaddafi is an evil man and I wish the Libyan revolutionaries success.

The Family – Its that time of year when the kids get a year older, with Sam’s b’day in Feb and Ellie’s in March. He is now 8 and she is now 10 (on Tuesday). They are wonderful little people and we really enjoy them.

Here’s a pic of Ell before she went out with Danelle and mum to Riverdance this week. She’s growing up fast. Sam is still the extrovert of the family and always making us laugh.

This is him watching TV – he rarely just sits there, but usually ends up upside down in some way or other. They seem to love their homeschooling routine and Danelle is finding it great too. In April we will be 20 years married, which actually sounds like a pretty long time as I think about it! We’ve been tossing up where to go and what to do to celebrate and ended up deciding on 4 nights in Margaret River – the same place we spent our honey moon. It was difficult working it out as we only had a few nights and everywhere is so ridiculously expensive. We did consider an overseas jaunt, but the travel time was the main deterrent in that equation, so its a relaxing few days down south minus the kids. Yeeha… although the kids reckon they should be there… (Unlikely…)

The House – is still for sale and the market is dead flat. We haven’t been super-aggressive yet with our marketing and sales approach so it might be time to change gears. I tend to feel that if we get the price right then we will get a buyer, so maybe we need to drop it a bit further… This is the place we are hoping to buy, but at this stage its not looking like it will happen in the near future.

We haven’t allowed ourselves to get too attached yet so it won’t be a big disappointment if it doesn’t happen. Then again, if it does it’ll be nice to have a change of pace. We’re feeling like its time. What a house move does say to us is that we are willing to commit to this region for a substantial period of time – not something I could have said with conviction over the last couple of years, (for various reasons) so I think that’s a very positive thing.

Reading – Most of what I’ve been reading has been around the idea of New Monasticism, probably one of the strands of mission/church that I feel the closest affinity with. Most new monastic communities are small and exist independent of the established church, but I’m currently reflecting on how we can embrace the learning and wisdom from here and use it within our own church community.

I’m also aware that as I read about various NM communities they sound much better on paper than they are probably doing in reality. Still there is plenty of cause for inspiration and a re-freshing of the imagination in the stuff I’ve been chewing on. Hopefully we can learn about how to live with a healthy spiritual rhythm in the setting we find ourselves.

Work – has been oddly quiet. Normally at this time of year I’m running around like a blue-arsed fly trying to keep up with the demand, but the last month has gradually slowed to the point where last week I was actually able to take a day off and go surfing and the other 2 days weren’t full either. I have 3 full days next week which is good, but I’m not sure exactly what’s going down here. Fortunately our expenses aren’t high so I can get by on a day a week of work, but it does make you wonder what winter will be like if ate summer/autumn has been slow.

And its not for lack of heat as this has been our hottest summer on record… At times like this I begin to wonder if I’m going to have to go back to teaching, but I just can’t picture myself in a classroom again… ever… So maybe I should stop paying that lousy WACOT tax, which in effect serves as an insurance policy in case I break an arm and just need to get work that doesn’t involve physical labour.

Church – We have been really enjoying our church community this year and feeling a shift in the energy levels. A few new faces have added enthusiasm and passion and I have also been inspired by seeing 9 blokes sign up to lift the bar on their own spiritual formation. I’ve become increasingly aware that this is at the crux of so much of the struggle in the western church. We need people who genuinely know God and encounter him regularly and deeply in their own lives. I’m still very much committed to the missionary vision that has shaped us so strongly over the last 10 years, but equally aware that a vision of that kind can’t just be a task to complete, but needs to flow from some real deep passion.

The Future – Assuming we sell this place and move to Yanchep, we will be well and truly committed to the area for another 5-10 years which will see me into my 50’s… and which just sounds so unbeleeeevableee old…. I think we have another few years of work to do at QBC at least, and I don’t see Brighton Reticulation shutting up shop any time soon so chances are it will be ‘business as usual’ for a while.

I do keep my eye out for new business opportunities that could either be added on to what I am currently doing or that could open up a whole new adventure, but I haven’t seen something that really sparks for me yet.

I still have hopes to do another around Oz trip, but it probably won’t be for a while now. I think our term at QBC is a 5 year one, so the logical time to go would be at the end of that, (3 1/2 years away) but we’d need to consider that it would be with teenagers and it might not be quite so smooth sailing as the last time… (I love this pic of an EH Holden crossing the Nullabor in 1966 – but also very happy to do in the Patrol!)

Just a Gut Feeling – I get the sense that we are at the start of something new, albeit in the same place and that excites me. I have great hope for the community at QBC and feel like we are moving in a very healthy direction. I’m not sure all of what form that will take. I am not so sure about my business. While I enjoy it for the most part, the ‘challenge’ has gone out of it a bit and I do find myself not so enthused to leave the house each day. I can’t imagine going back to a regular job and working for someone as I have got used to being my own boss and all the freedom that goes with that. So we’ll see what develops I guess…

So that’s life for us at the moment – at least the ‘online’ version. I like to think that the person you read about on here is the same person you meet in real life, but obviously there is stuff that can’t be ‘blogged’ and never should be, so only my ‘flesh’ friends will really know how things are in our world. But if you’re one of them then hopefully you aren’t getting any surprises about now!

And if the backyardmissionary isn’t your cup of tea then maybe you should check out Jamie The Very Worst Missionary, one my newest blog reads, a mix of unrefined theological musings, random personal reflections and occasional naughtiness… hang on that’s me… she does similar but uses more naughty words.

Freckle Cam

I went to see the Doc a few weeks back for some minor issue and along the way inadvertently mentioned that we had a family history of bowel cancer, so he decided it was time for me to head off for a colonoscopy…

I might not be all that bright but I could tell that this didn’t sound fun… The big day is Tuesday, but its the prep that I am already dreading. We have dinner with friends on Sunday and I have been instructed to have plain bland food all day – boiled fish… boiled rice… cornflakes… you get the idea. For a chilli and spice lover its not looking good.

Then Monday is only clear fluids – a fast effectively – before the ‘flush out’ in the evening. Then another flush the next day and nothing to pass my lips at all from 11.00am until the check up at 3pm. What a hoot of a way to spend the long weekend. If I miss breakfast I get grumpy so a day and half is not sounding like fun at all.

So there’s the messed up diet and the messed up work week that has been giving me the irrits.

I was feeling mildly frustrated about this last night and then began reflecting on the blogs of some friends who are currently going thru serious cancer issues. Somehow my mild frustration at the inconvenience is embarrassing, almost shameful.

As I read their stories I can’t imagine the frustration at a life so out of control, at having to be at the hospital so often, at not knowing what the future looks like.

Perspective changes everything. I am about to endure a minor inconvenience. Their lives have been inverted and changed forever.

I am not expecting the tests to show any cancer, (there have been no other signs) but lurking in the back of my mind is the ‘what if?’ question. Maybe they do find something… Maybe life takes a turn like that of my friends… Then what?…

In the last few years I have been increasingly aware of just how little real control I have over my life and also the realisation that sooner or later something is going to ‘get me’. I find it hard to see myself as 46. It sounds old. But a look in the mirror definitely tells the story. I look at pics of long term friends on facebook and realise we are all getting older and this life will end at some point.

I know people who long for ‘heaven’ and to ‘be with the Lord’ etc etc, but I haven’t been one of them. I enjoy being ‘with the Lord’ here on earth and it feels like there is so much to do here that I don’t want to make an exit – even less an early one. I realise that probably sounds a tad unspiritual, because we are supposed to long for the day when we are ‘in heaven’. But I don’t. At least not yet.

As I have got older and my body has lost some of its youthful strength and athleticism I have pondered what lies ahead. Maybe as you get older and older and your body ceases to function well you do increasingly see another life as a positive thing. Maybe you view ‘heaven’ with more anticipation because it brings a freedom from the pain of a decaying physical form. Maybe… But how do you cope with the severing of emotional connections that only grow stronger with years?…

Funny the questions that get raised by a minor check up…

So Tuesday is freckle-cam day. I’ll post the pics on Wednsday… (or not)