Kinda Like Potatoes

For as long as I can remember I have been one of those focused, passionate and at times driven people, who finds it hard to sit still for long and is always embarking on some kind of new project. Right from the early years of high school I have had a very clear sense of what I have wanted to do with my life and the jobs/roles I have wanted to play. I was always going somewhere, working on something or other and definitely couldn’t understand people who couldn’t clearly articulate their life’s calling and direction.

So the last few years have caught me off guard and I am still not sure what to make of them. Now instead of having that laser clear sense of purpose in life I feel like I have some big general objectives, but what I do to move towards them is less important. Also less important is the pace I move at. Its ok to jog rather than continually run hard.

Its been hard to trace the source of the shifts. I know some of it is stage of life. I heard it said ‘we climb mountains in our 30’s and we enjoy those mountains in our 40’s’ so I get some of that, but I’m still feeling somewhat disoriented by the new space and not even sure if its a place I want to permanently live.

Right now some of it comes from my struggles in my paid employment. My business is going well, really well and I could easily expand it, but I have made a conscious choice not to. I don’t want or need the headaches and responsibility that go with a bigger organisation, and right now the financial pay offs would not even close to being worth the emotional and time investment. But lately I’ve been struggling to enjoy it. I find it hard to get out of bed some mornings and the thought of another day of hard physical grunt work makes me weary before I even move. That said, I love the freedom that comes with being my own boss and the decent income that the business provides.

The other hat I wear is that of paid church leader and lately I have been enjoying that much more as our community has begun to get healthy. I asked friend who has been part of the church just for this year what he saw in the church when he arrived and he described as ‘something of a fixer upper’. A great image I thought and this year we have been involved in trying to restore some of its beauty. Its been an enjoyable year and after coming close to giving it all away in January we are feeling much more connected to the community and optimistic about the future.

But around this time of year I regularly have ‘I don’t want to be a pastor anymore.’ days. They are directly proportional to the amount of retic work I do and the increase in temperature. For 3 days of the week I go very hard at physical work so come Friday morning I am usually pretty wiped out. Thursday night has become my ‘Friday’ and Friday my day when I try to bash out a sermon. In slow retic times this wasn’t an issue, but now that things are firing again I’m struggling to keep up and conscious of just wanting to say ‘bugger it’.

Some days I want to quit the business and do something else but I have no idea quite what… I think during my Forge days I worked well as a coach / consultant, and I wouldn’t mind some of that sort of work again. Those roles are typically hard to find and I am not sure quite where I would fit these days. It would also mean a huge drop in earning and having to navigate that to make ends meet. Then there are days when I figure I will just quit being a pastor and run my business for an extra day a week. I sometimes feel relieved at the thought of that scenario and then there are days when it feels like one huge backward step. I completely ‘get’ the importance of living our faith in every aspect of life and making work and faith sync but I am not convinced that my business is making a huge contribution to the world and is much more than a source of income.

I do know God has gifted me to lead and communicate so I feel a responsibility to use those gifts in some form and at present ‘quitting’ my church job isn’t seriously on the radar. Its just something I’d like to do when I feel weary and swamped.

As I look around I see my peers in church leadership broadly heading in two different direction. Some are really ramping it up and doing everything they can to make the pastoral role a life ‘career’ and then there are others who seem to have ‘been there done that’ and have moved on to other work, sometimes willingly and sometimes because the church wasn’t what they had hoped it would be.

So in terms of vocation life feels somewhat hazy and seems to be in the same holding pattern its been for the last few years. I’m not actually convinced there will be any thunderbolts out of the blue to knock me off my feet, but I wouldn’t mind one all the same.

I occasionally think of Moses and the years he spent as a shepherd with Jethro before he saw the bush. I am guessing they were fairly unexciting years and possibly he wondered to himself ‘where is this all headed?…’ Maybe he just resigned himself to a shepherding life…

I feel like I have lived and worked out of my ‘sweet spot’ for about 25 years so this is still unfamiliar territory. Its not that its bitter, or distasteful. Its kinda like potatoes. It does the job and you can make the most of it, but there are days when it just doesn’t have the spice I would like.

Still potatoes are better than no potatoes…

I Probably Shouldn’t Tell You This But…

… living in Yanchep is paradise.

We have been here for 4 months now and some days find ourselves wondering ‘why did it take us so long to do this?’ Ok, so when you’re a pastor/church planter you are somewhat limited in where you can live by the geography of your missional community and up here we are a little further away than I would usually choose, but, we are loving life and wishing we had done this years ago.

In the thinking it thru we were worried that maybe it would be too far out, maybe the driving would kill us, the lack of convenience would annoy us and we may end up disconnected from everyone else.

And there’s no question there is a price you pay for quietness, seclusion and a different pace of life.

But I’d have to say that for us the benefits far outweigh the costs. We live in a house that feels like a holiday home – even 4 months after moving in. We live just across the road from the beach and we make sure we get full value from that. We wake up to dead quiet every morning – not a sound can be heard at 6.00am except for the waves breaking on the beach (and occasionally the crows going nuts.) We have good friends nearby and our church community just down the road.

But its something more intangible that we feel here and I don’t know that I can articulate it well. There is something in the geography, something in the ‘architecture’, something in the ethos of the place… I dunno I can’t really nail it.

We had hoped to one day live in a country town, but the possibilities of that are slimming as we bed down for a bit longer in the city and as the kids put their roots down. But living here really is the best of both worlds. We are a 10 minute drive from civilisation, (shops, take aways, movies…) but in the little pocket of ‘old Yanchep’ that we live in you feel like you could be in a little coastal town far away.

For the last 4 months I have been using ‘Pray as You Go’ each morning as I drive from home to Butler down Marmion Ave. I love the meditative aspect it offers and the way it make a 10 minute drive a beautiful way to start the day.

As yet we have no plans to try and kick start any kind of church up here. (It still surprises me that we would move into an area with virtually no churches and not want to start one) But we feel very committed to our friends and ‘family’ at QBC and to the community that is building there. So at least for now we are well bedded down there.

So if you’re wondering ‘where to next?’ I have to say that Yanchep might surprise you. Maybe not the new parts which still look like suburbia but with a longer drive. Instead somewhere in the old section where you can smell the seaweed and where the sand dunes dictate the shape of your block – where you might have a fence… or not… where you can hideaway if you want to, or come out to play…

Its good…


Last year I read The Slap while on holidays and found it both intriguing and gruelling. The makers of the series on ABC have done well to capture that same car crash sense of ‘This is terrible, but I want to keep watching’.

My friend Andrew Menzies posted this on his facebook wall – a comment he overheard:” ‘The Slap’ should be compulsory reading before refugees leave for Australia… It will certainly make them think twice as all the people are so awful!!”

There certainly isn’t much redemptive or hopeful in the story. There really is’t a single likable character and there are plenty of horribly dislikable ones. The secret of The Slap’s success, I would suggest, is that it is a very raw slice of reality and as we watch we see familiar people, feelings and responses. Tim Winton offers a slice of reality also in his novels but he writes in such a winsome way that the rawness has a beauty about it. In The Slap that rawness is ugly. Dog ugly. And I don’t think its a failure on the part of the author. I think he wants us to see how messed up some of our lives really are.

As Danelle and I watched it last week we saw the tragic story of Aisha and her screwed up life. A messy unhappy marriage held together by kids and convenience, a random affair as a result of pain, a husband (half) wanting to make amends for his infidelity and so it goes on. Maybe its just the world I observe, but it feels affrontingly real – very much like life in the suburbs of this city.

There are a few moments of hope and happiness amidst long periods of struggle and darkness, but they fade quickly and the dominant landscape is bleak, cold and conflict ridden. People have spoken of how harsh and vulgar the language is in the story, but as I observe the world we live in, its pretty much par for the course. Its just that we don’t hear that stuff regularly on TV.

To some degree The Slap evokes a deep sadness in me and on the other hand my response is to want to ‘slap’ the people for being such self centred morons. Perhaps at the core of this sad story is the inability of people to have relationships and resolve conflict in a healthy way, and maybe that is why it is so tragic. Take away relationships in this world and what do you have?

I’ve seen too much of ‘The Slap’ in the world around me to call it a caricature or an aberration. I’ve seen friends cut friends off in a heartbeat rather than resolve conflict. I’ve seen husbands play up, regret it but then do it again because they are miserable in their marriages and feel trapped. I’m sure you’ve seen it too.

The good news?…

There isn’t much in the story. But if you read this blog regularly you’d know there is good news and hope. You’d know there is someone who invites us to follow him and live in a different reality. I don’t think Jesus way is easy – not at all – but I find myself wanting to speak to the people in the story and ask ‘have you considered a different way?…’

And then again I just want to slap them back… And therein lies some of the struggle for us as missionaries in the west. To love those who don’t look very lovable is a challenge. If not for Jesus I don’t think we’d have a hope

A Teacher Again

I must admit I find it hard to imagine re-entering a school classroom again, but I have been really enjoying teaching my kids creative writing on Monday mornings.

It started because Danelle was feeling a bit under the pump and needed a break. We ‘job share’ with our church roles and she has had a lot to do lately. But it has also come to be something both I and the kids enjoy. I love writing and especially the creative aspect, so it taps into one of my passions and its been great to share it with them and see them really try to produce some good writing.

For a while I was adjusting my expectations from year 11/12 standards and work rate to year 4/5 but I have just decided to expect a lot from them, because typically you get whatever you expect and I think most students are capable of more than they ever know. They just tend not to get encouraged, inspired or stretched.

When I gave teaching away it was because I had lost passion for it, so it has been nice to feel some of it return and to be able to invest that in some lovely little people who actually want to learn.

So now I look forward to Mondays and the opportunity to teach and foster creativity in my own kids. Quite a buzz really!

Get Sunday Right and The Rest Will Take Care of Itself…

Just when it had gone quiet around here… I was doing some thinking today so here’s a small hand grenade to lob into the conversation…

It was 9 years ago that I wrote my first ever blog post and this was the title – a short reflection on our obsession (as the church) with the weekly Sunday gathering. It seemed we had a belief that if we could just get Sunday ‘working’ with a happening worship experience and some great teaching then that would be the catalyst for everything else in the life of a church community to fall into place.

People would love, give, serve others before themselves, stop sinning and generally morph into disciples because they had been part of such a gathering.

Naïve?… Foolish?…

Perhaps those words are too gentle and ‘absurd’ is more appropriate, but such is the weight of the Sunday meeting in the psyche of the average evangelical Christian that my words are already starting to sound heretical or dangerous to some of you. If nothing else, it sure puts a lot of pressure on one event to shape the lives of those people.

I really cannot imagine Jesus and the apostles ever sitting around during the week and asking the question ‘ok – how are we going to do sabbath this week?’ I don’t see from the NT that their lives revolved around the planning and execution of one major weekly event.

Surely they would have told us about it if it was that important?…


But I do see that their lives revolved around tight relationships with each other and around questions of how they lived out their radical devotion to Christ in the world they were a part of. I see them very focused on living and demonstrating the kingdom of God in many different ways thru everyday life. And of course there was a need for structure and order (ala appointment of deacons in Acts) but it was as needed rather than prescribed.

That things have formed up as they are is no great surprise because as human beings we like systems, predictability and order, but that things have formed up in their current manner is also a great concern on a couple of fronts. Now anyone can simply attend church on Sunday and feel like they have fulfilled the obligations of discipleship – or for those who don’t get there each week, they can feel like failures because they haven’t made the all important meeting. Contributing to the Sunday event can be seen as the primary form of Christian service with everything else desirable but optional. In this mode it is more desirable to let mission suffer than the Sunday event…

In fact I’d suggest that the more we focus on Sunday the further we stray from the main point of what Jesus was saying.

Jesus called us to a life – a life in community – and that will inevitably involve meeting, but I would forgive anyone who interpreted Christianity to be a weekly commitment to a Sunday event – because so much of what is communicated (often unconsciously) is exactly that.

I was sharing with some friends today that stepping back into a mainstream church has not been a way of me renouncing the views that have shaped this blog over the last 8 years.


But it’s a place where I sit uneasily because I believe I am there to transform rather than conform and on many occasions I have felt myself slipping into the cogs of the machine. When you are tired from another job, when you are already weary from conflict it is tempting to just ‘shut up and go with it’ and when your existing skill set fits the situation fairly well then it is even more tempting.

But at core, gut level there is an unrelenting conviction that for the church to actually be true to its calling as a sign and foretaste of the kingdom we must have some higher priorities than really good Sunday services with as many in attendance as possible.

At times I hold great hope for reform and refreshing and other days I fear I am losing my own soul in the machine. There are days when I want to call people out and challenge them to more and days when I just want out myself.

It’s not that running a church is hard. I actually think that for anyone with basic leadership skills, ‘running a church’ is pretty straight forward if you are prepared to follow the formulas and play the game.

However shifting people’s deeply entrenched understandings of church, mission and the kingdom is something I baulk at because it inevitably involves pain and conflict. It inevitably involves being misunderstood and maybe even cast in the light of a villain who just wants to screw things up. And very few people are intentionally obstructive – its just how we have been trained to think…

So some days I sit and wonder. Is it worth it?

I know that getting Sunday right is not the answer but the primary platform to speak to this expression of church is… you guessed it… Sunday…

Is the solution part of the problem?…

The Unblogger

There was a time when I would write 2 or 3 posts a day on this blog. Much of it revolved around theological stuff, but there was plenty of ‘general silliness’ to keep it human.

These days I don’t write much, mainly because I don’t seem to have the same headspace to create ideas and then the time in the day (or the energy) to articulate those thoughts.

I often find myself having a bloggable thought while I’m at work, but by the time I get home it has either faded into distant memory, or I’m too weary to sit at a computer and try to articulate something thought provoking. So the blog is on a ‘go slow’ indefinitely. I’m not going to shut it down as I’m guessing there will come a time in life again when I have time to focus and write coherently. I actually love writing and would like to get back into it, but for now I’m in a different space in life

Part of it is the drain that physical work puts on me. I enjoy grunt work, but by the same token I often come home exhausted and on the days I’m not doing physical work in someone else’s yard I am likely to be working around my own.

I think the advent of facebook has also contributed to a decline in my own blogging. Now its easy to offer a snippet of an idea rather that fleshing it out. I’m not convinced its a good thing – but that’s just how it is at the moment. I occasionally consider ditching my facebook account because it is a time waster and it is like ‘junk food’, but for now the benefits of connection outweigh the negatives.

So if you’re still reading then I will be in touch occasionally, but probably not that often.