Rolling on


After a wonderful time in Exmouth with the QBC crew (and a few other ring ins) we headed north with the intention of going to Millstream National Park. It was great to spend a week with good friends and always makes me wonder about that piece of advice ‘young pastors’ are given to ‘make sure you take holidays away from the people in your congregation’. I do understand the wisdom of the statement, but when your church are some of your good friends then it doesn’t always hold up that well.

So we headed north and made it to Pannawonnica – a nice little town really, with a ‘caravan park’ at the local footy oval and an honor box for payment. $25.00 was cheap and we had our last coffee for a few days. There was a free local drive in, but given the kids were pretty tired we decided to pass.

The 100km into Millstream wasn’t too bad but we didn’t seal the rear of the camper and when we got there we discovered it was covered in red dust inside and out… We went to pump some water from the tap and nothing came out… We pumped again and again, and again… Then I got underneath to check the water and somehow the full tank of water we left Exmouth with was bone dry. No water… (Still not sure why as we haven’t been able to refill it). Fortunately Millstream does have some water even if it’s not considered fit for drinking so the 20l Jerry in the back of the car as well as our other water bottles got us by. (The other possibility was that of heading to Red Bluff and that would have been very ugly to arrive there minus water)

So Danelle cleaned the camper while I kept the kids occupied and then we took off for a walk to Crossing Pool. Beautiful walk, icy water, but we all needed a good clean so we jumped in. The next day at Deep Reach only Sam could be tempted…

The Millstream campsite is really good. It is unpowered, but does have some water, bush toilets (or flushing toilets at the homestead for princesses) and a camp kitchen with gas bbqs and hot water to wash up with.

The nights were chilly – very very cold actually – but the days were stunning as we wandered around the old property. The only down side to this place is the constant droning noise of the Water Authority pumps that run both day and night. Not a big deal, but if you are looking for serenity it does take the edge off.

We left there today with the idea of heading towards Broome, but also knowing the caravan parks are fully booked. In my net searching though I managed to find the SDA church in Broome which is considered an ‘overflow’ site so I gave them a buzz and managed to land a powered site there for $35 a night – which is pretty dirt cheap for this time of year.

So today we are on the road for a big drive which we will complete tomorrow. It’ll be another free roadside stop – maybe De Grey river and then more driving tomorrow. Next stop is Hedland for lunch, fuel and a breather before we chug on. We are all grimed up in red dirt and ready for a shower but that might not be till tomorrow now.

The drive from Millstream back to Karratha today was stunning and reminds me why I love the north west. Occasionally in moments of madness I think about living up here. I say madness because while winter is awesome I know I’d be a very grumpy bugger come summer.

We have about two weeks left and so long as the kids can hold it together and enjoy the time we won’t be rushing home. They seem to get homesick before we do, but then they don’t go back to work!


The GQ Whisperer


Yeah… If only…

Our first night on the road was a cold one. We stopped in at North Cliff Head about 50ks north of Leeman and the same distance south of Dongara. There were plenty of others there and for a freebie it was pretty decent.

All was going well until I managed to lock the keys in the car this morning as we were packing up. We have a slightly dodgy central locking system but this had never happened before. I had accidentally flicked the locks on while In the car and the turned the ignition on to charge my phone. I hopped out closed the door and instead of the lock button bouncing back up it stayed down… Instantly I realized we were screwed. Not only were the keys in the ignition, but all my tools were in the boot and inaccessible.

So here’s a lesson in how to break into a GQ Patrol if you ever find yourself stuck in the middle if nowhere

1 Pray – yep we did that – I didn’t see much hope beyond broken glass in the first minute.

2 Hope you have phone reception and then google a Nissan dealer and ask them what to do. I was going to YouTube ‘how to break into a GQ Patrol’, but figured the service guys would know.

3 I was thinking it would be coat hanger down the door or packing tape – neither of which we had. But turns out the best way to get in is to lever the door open at the point where it meets the front windscreen and work from there.

The bloke at Nissan was correct in that with a decent screwdriver (borrowed from another camper) there is enough play in the door to open it about 8ml. Then we had to find something stiff enough and malleable enough to reach in and move the central locking button forward.

Danelle took the tv antenna and unscrewed one of its longer arms then beat it flat with the hammer we keep in the camper.

With the door held open by the screwdriver I was able to get the right angle on the antenna arm to move the button forwards and clunk we were in…

It set us back a total of maybe 20 minutes in all. The next option may have been to send one of the QBC crew to our home to pick up the spare key and bring it to us tomorrow, and a day in Cliff Head wouldn’t have been so bad…

As we drove off we took the moment to help the kids reflect on what you do when you’re stuck. Think – pray – fix and I reckon all matter.

Let The Second Half Begin

Around 5 or 6 years ago I found myself in a really disturbing place in life, a place that has only begun to make sense in the last 18 months.

After 40 years of going hard, pursuing achievement and recognition – often at quite a price – I felt inexplicably demotivated, and not at all inspired to look for the next mountain to climb.

I began to worry. Really worry. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I hadn’t been here before and my strongest impulse was to try and locate or create a project I could set my sights on and get my teeth into. This was what I had done previously, and done well. I figured all I really needed was a ‘vision’ and I’d be sweet – I’d be back to normal – back to my old self…

But nothing came – and I didn’t have it in me to make something up either. I just couldn’t fudge it and hope things would right themselves again. I began to worry that this absence of a compelling sense of purpose and focus might become permanent and I may grow into one of those aging, self obsessed old people I had always despised… You know? People who ‘did their time’ and now were in cruise mode. People who were now ‘thinking of themselves for a bit’?…

The tag line at the bottom of my emails reads ‘life is a daring adventure or nothing at all’. But I felt my life was starting to resemble an old Commodore that had once been a good car, but was now someone’s shopping vehicle.

What was curious was that as I spoke with my close friends several others were experiencing similar kinds of dis-location. Those who were once ambitious, competitive and driven were losing those qualities. We lamented together and laughed at where we were, but we also had no answers for one another. It was just good to know we weren’t alone in our lostness.

It didn’t dawn on me at the time that this could possible be a good thing. I sometimes told people (only a little tongue in cheek) that I was in the middle of a mid life crisis so not to expect too much. The absence of the familiar ‘goal – charge – conquer’ routine certainly felt more like a crisis than the beginning of a new adventure. I couldn’t see or articulate what was happening beyond feeling lost and confused that I was no longer who I used to be.

One of the really odd experiences that occurred in this time was a sense of contentment. I dismissed it as totally inappropriate and just one step closer to complacency and mediocrity. How could you be content not to have a burning sense of purpose and an accompanying desire to change the world? Contentment was a comforting word you used to describe what you got when you lost focus… I told myself..,

But in the last twelve months I have begun to settle and feel more at ease in my own skin. I have sensed God saying ‘this is ok’ and I have decided to enjoy the contentment rather than spurn it as weakness.

This week I have been reading Richard Rohr’s ‘Falling Upwards a spirituality for the second half of life’ and it has been amazing. I am not a Rohr junkie – in fact I got bored in ‘Wild Man to Wise Man’ and gave it up… But this book has been describing what has been happening for me and giving words to theconfusing experiences that are to be expected if we are to ‘grow up’. I began highlighting parts and I think I may have now highlighted most of it.

The basic premise is that there are two halves to life and the tools, practices and ideas that served you well in the first 40 or so years need to be put down, changed and surrendered if we are to pick up new tools for the next half.

Rohr argues that many simply refuse to walk thru the desert of confusion and disorientation, so they end up repeating first half behaviours at a time when they should be growing up and morphing into different people.

It has helped me see why I have much less desire to compete or to be harsh on those with whom I disagree. It has helped me understand why I don’t need to achieve like I used to…or be ‘seen’. It has helped me to realize that I can enjoy being content and that perhaps the best really is yet to come.

Maybe you’ve had similar runctions in your own life and wondered ‘what the heck is going on?’ Maybe the challenge is to enjoy it and celebrate it, knowing that God is re-forming us and growing us and leading us to maturity and life.


Yes – We’ll Gather at The River

One day all will be restored and made new…

The sick will be well, the blind will see and old enemies will be friends…

A day is coming, maybe even sooner than we know when we will see God’s dreams for this world realised. It is more beautiful and spectacular than I can contemplate here. Its that vision that still gets me out of bed in the morning and that fuels my hope. That one day we will ‘gather by the river’…

Until then we soldier on. We keep going and we live with our brokenness and darkness. We find hope and goodness and light but we know all is not as it should be… as it could be.

‘People aren’t born broken.’

So goes the description of Dolly Pickles, wife of the larrikin, gambler Sam and the town drunk. Dolly is one of the less likable characters in Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet, and she stays that way until we get to hear of her upbringing and the lack of love that formed her. When you hear Dolly’s story you begin to understand and even feel for her. She got dealt a very bad hand…

I’ve just finished watching the DVD series of Cloudstreet, possibly my favourite ever novel and I found it a beautiful story yet again. It’s a tale of family and of love and of pain and of stickability, but especially of our brokenness and the longing for healing.

Each of the characters are flawed in different ways. What’s odd is that you like them anyway – because you get to hear why they are living the way they are. They aren’t just jerks. They are people who are struggling with life – battling to overcome their failures, and the difficulties. They are doing it tough.

Oriel Lamb is a classic. A woman wounded by grief on all fronts, who watched her family die in a bushfire, then ‘lost’ her son in a near drowning. (“Fish came back – but not all of Fish came back…”) But she is determined to keep going no matter what. We hear Oriel say:

‘Strong people endure because that’s all life leaves you – that and being right.’ So she does – she endures all the pain life can throw at her and despite it making her terse and abrasive she doesn’t quit. In fact she chooses to wage war on badness in every form and she crusades against the evils that come near her world. I think it was CS Lewis who would have described her as ‘good in the worst sense of the word’. Hardly life in its fullness but it’s all she knows how to do. ..

As I reflected on the story it was the resilience of all the main characters that actually saw them find hope in the end – that and the ability to forgive. And I reckon there’s a pearl there. There were plenty of times the families ‘should’ have been torn apart and had the story been set in 21st century australia perhaps they would have gone their separate ways, because its more permissible.

But in a world where divorce was really not an option they hung in and worked it out. They even found healing for one another as they stuck it out. Their lives are at times tragic – but probably not more so than our own. That’s where Winton is so clever. He tells the story of ‘other’ screwed up people but you can’t help but read yourself in the story. Ha… you find yoursel choking back a tear not just because you feel for the characters but because you see your own murky life reflected in their pain.

The spirituality throughout the series is fuzzy and eclectic, but the final scene is a beautiful one. I forget how the novel ends but the DVD concludes with the two families – the Lambs and Pickles – enjoying a picnic at the river. Sam’s hand has healed… Everyone is enjoying being together. Two young aboriginal girls who had suicided in the house play in the river alongside the white kids, Ted (who also died) is resurrected there with his wife and kids and all is well. All is good and what you imagine it would be like in the kingdom come.

Fish takes off for a swim – the swim he has been longing for – and it is good… even though he ‘dies’. He has been waiting so long for this…

Subtly but clearly we hear the narrator tell us of ‘ the river – the beautiful the beautiful the river’ and you can’t help but see beautiful hope as the ‘saints’ gather by the river.

And some don’t seem so saintly and some really don’t deserve to enjoy the river, but then maybe that’s just how it is… Winton grew up in my own flavour of conservative evangelicalism so he knows what he’s writing even if many won’t pick it.

Yes, we’ll gather at the river, the beautiful, the beautiful river; gather with the saints at the river, that flows by the throne of God.

And one day we will…

One day…

One Week

It’s just one week until holidays. At the start of the year it felt like it would never come but I’ve got thru and next Sunday after church we head off for a while to have a change of pace.

We are going south to Margaret River until Wednesday to use up a 3 night apartment stay I booked earlier in the year but didnt use. Then it’s back home for a night before hitting the road north. It’s such an awesome feeling heading north. I’m not quite sure what it is but I know that once I hit the road in that direction there is an accompanying sense of release that I don’t get when I head other places.

I’m guessing it might be the remoteness and the shift in the landscape. When you’re that far away it really doesn’t matter what is happening at home – you are in another world.

I think that’s what we need at the moment. A few weeks to clear our heads, remove ourselves from the stresses of just living and working and enjoy a completely different headspace. When people ask me how long we are going for I can only respond with ‘a few weeks’. It might be 3, it might be 4 or it might be 5… Maybe even 6 if we feel we need it. I don’t want to feel to pinned down to a specific return date, but neither do I want to feel ‘trapped’ on holidays if we are ready to come home.

Right now I’m feeling pretty rested because life is in its winter rhythm and I am not flat out. Some days I think I don’t even need a holiday. But I also know that there is something special that happens when you actually do hit the road and leave all responsibilities behind.

I havent figured out how to go ‘phoneless’ or ’emailless’ yet while on a break. (Oh I know how to do it, but I am not sure if it’s what I want.) I tend to be able to switch off easily and screen calls but I also want to be able to tee up work for when I return so I’m not scratching around doing nothing for the first two weeks back. So it’s a trade off… and one of the possible down sides of running a small business.

Still it’s a small part of the bigger picture. Where are we headed? Well… ‘north’ Aside from a week in Exmouth we will be making it up as we go a d that’s how I like it!

The Point

You know, you teach on stuff and read about stuff for so long that sometimes its hard to see what its actually about.

I found that this week with the whole topic of spiritual gifts. To be honest I found myself bored again… wondering what knob picked this subject?… Oh… it was me… We picked it because part of our priorities for 2012 is to get people finding their place in the family at QBC. So part of that is finding your gift, using it, etc etc… You probably know the drill.

This week I sat down to map out some kind of teaching for Sunday and found myself seeing things I hadn’t really noticed before. Perhaps its because the pragmatist in me is dying and I am less concerned for mere results. As I began to prepare an overview type message I began to skim the major passages (Eph 4, Romans 12, 1 Cor 12, 1 Pet 4) and couldn’t get past Ephesians 4.

The more I read it the more I feel this is the core DNA of the church. I’ll be quoting my old friend Andrew Dowsett who writes on it more articulately than I can here here. This is stuff I have known but this week it combusted.

Then – and perhaps more significantly – I began to reflect on the reason for spiritual gifts and realised that for so many years I have taught that they are to a) help the church work well b) bring you personal fulfillment as you become the person God created you to be. I don’t doubt these are true, but I don’t reckon they were top of God’s priority list when he was dreaming this stuff up.

Eph 4 says:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

If you are like me you may have read that a gazillion times and missed some of it. As I was reading this week the thing that impacted me was that God has given gifts to his church (APEST) not just to get the jobs done, but rather to help us reach unity and maturity and in that reflect the fullness of Christ. When we know who we are and when we live out of that we don’t just make ‘church work’, we become the reflection of Christ to one another and the world.

That seems a much more inspiring outcome than simply filling the rosters… you probably already knew that, but I enjoyed learning it this week.

‘It is NOT a Church’

So go the opening lines of this conversation between ‘Current Affair’ and Geoff and Barbara, two irate neighbours who have been living next to the Scarborough Baptist Church.

Current Affair: But you bought a house next to a church?…

Geoff & Barbara: Its not a church… its NOT a church…

Clearly in Geoff and Barbara’s mind is an ecclesiology that Scarborough have been able to move away from as they seek to engage with and serve their community. While Geoff and Barbara see church as something that happens very quietly on a Sunday morning, Scarborough have managed to really position themselves effectively in their community and do some wonderful work.

For those who are committed to missional expressions of church this raises some interesting questions because these neighbours have made it really hard for the church to fulfill its mission. It can gather on a Sunday morning so long there is no fuss, but these community activities don’t really have anything to do with a church… do they?…

I’m guessing Geoff and Barbara haven’t done much theological study, and while their answer might have been typical 40 years ago these days it is an oddity.

A church that was on life-support not so long ago has had new energy breathed into it and is now a beautiful picture of what a very ordinary bunch of people can do it they just stick at it and seek to be salt and light in their own context.

I do have a personal interest in this one as Scarborough was the church I grew up in as a teenager, the first church I worked in as a pastor and the church that my folks are still a part of (see if you can pick them in the video).

My favourite part of the story is the opening where elderly Ivy (pictured above) gets asked if she’s a bit of a wild thing… Then there are the stories of people’s lives influenced and changed by their involvement with the church. And they are fantastic stories!

Its a dangerous business allowing the media anywhere near your church community, but for Scarborough they have certainly come up smelling of roses. Their neighbours however…

God and His Chainsaw

For a bloke who hates gardening I seem to end up doing a lot of it… I guess you could say I married the wrong girl if I wanted a gardening free life!

The last couple of weeks have seen me slowly shift most of the ridiculous mound of mulch that was dumped on our verge (around 15 cubic metres) and then prune so many trees that we filled two front verges with the branches. I did get to buy and wield a chainsaw yesterday and that was somewhat satisfying to the my blokey needs.

Now we have cut some trees back and stripped others virtually naked. Apparently this is good for them…


All that stuff in the Bible about God pruning us so that we will be fruitful make a little more sense when you do this stuff. I guess if he has a shape that he hopes our life will take and we are open to his pruning then perhaps we will turn out better than if we just ‘grow wild’.

I’m not much of a greenie, but it’s hard not to cut a stack of branches off a tree and imagine it doesn’t cause pain. One tree even ‘bled’.

Perhaps I’m odd but I enjoy God’s ‘pruning’, not in the sense that it gives pain, but from the view that it shows he is there and he is concerned for the shape my life is taking. And usually ‘pruning’ is noticeable and significant rather than incremental. Again it’s good to be aware of the presence of God in my life and be consciously choosing to respond to that, because let’s face it – many days, weeks and months can come and go with little noticeable activity, but once God gets out the chainsaw then it’s hard to ignore.