The Chances?

What are the chances?…

Yesterday I went to do a job for a bloke in Yokine – way out of my normal area, but I have a regular gig in Osborne park so I fitted him in.

I could tell when I arrived he was a tad skeptical of us retic blokes and told me soon after I arrived that his retic was working until his last service, but now had lost pressure. Implication – it was all working well till you guys did your thing…

So I checked the pressure… and it was lame, but I sent someone else last time so I had nothing to compare it to. That was his garden beds.

Then his lawn didn’t work at all. This also worked previously… I discovered a faulty solenoid restricting flow – which also was ‘ok before you came’. I explained that these things happen and it wasn’t actually a ’cause effect relationship’. He wasn’t convinced I could tell.

He had done some DIY on his garden beds and fitted the wrong nozzles so I changed them over and the water flow improved. Then after running the system for 5 minutes I began to see a leak way down deep. I dug it up and the pipe was almost cut in two. ‘Oh yeah… I would have done that with a spade,’ he said a little more coyly.

“hmmm… that might be the cause of the problem then’ I said and thought to myself ‘not the work we did previously’.

After an hour or so he started to ease up and was friendly and chatty. I could tell he had begun to trust me and didn’t see me as someone out to screw him.

So I finished the job, installed a new solenoid, flushed the line and then put the nozzle back on to give one last test. But when I turned it on there was no water…

Odd… very odd… given it was there 20 seconds previous.

I did all the checks and all of my work looked ok. It made no sense.

‘Check your house for water’ I said.

He did and discovered there was no water in there either. Its funny how you can tell that someone is looking at you and thinking ‘my house worked before you came!’

The neighbours were out so we checked their water and discovered they had been cut off too. It began to dawn on him that maybe it wasn’t me…

It turned that in the 20 seconds between flushing the system and then rechecking it the Water Authority had cut off the water because a pipe around the corner had burst. What are the chances?…

Fortunately he understood, reverted to ‘friendly customer’ and paid the bill.

Of course when the water came back on I had left the solenoid in the manual ‘on’ position after testing, so I got a call late last night telling me that the water wouldn’t go off… An easy fix and thankfully one we were able to do over the phone.

How to give a bloke a bit of stress…

The Gospel of the Kingdom

I picked this up at Scot McKnight’s but its actually by Ben Irwin – the gospel sketched for kids. I have to say I think this is one of the most helpful articulations for adults who need to have their understanding fleshed out to see the gospel as the whole story of God’s work in the world from the creation to the new creation rather than the truncated version that often gets preached in evangelistic messages.

I have read it a few times and love its simplicity. I might read it to my kids, but as an adult who didn’t ‘get’ this framing of the gospel for a long time I think it might be of value amongst us older folks as well. Ben wrote it after reading McKnight’s King Jesus Gospel

The King Jesus story

It all began with God.

God made everything you can see.

(And even some things you can’t see!)

God made the world to be his home.

Then God made the very first people

so he could share his home with them.

God gave them a beautiful garden to live in.

He gave them a job to do:

take care of God’s good world;

rule it well on his behalf.

But they didn’t.

They didn’t like doing things God’s way

and not theirs.

So they took what wasn’t theirs,

and tried to rule the world their own way.

They tried to be God.

So the very first people

had to leave the garden.

They had to leave God’s presence.

Without God,

they began to die.

But God never gave up on his people.

He still loved them.

He promised to fix the world

so he could share it with them again.

But it wouldn’t be easy.

Everyone who’s ever lived,

from the very first people

all the way to you and me,

have gone the same way.

We’ve all taken what isn’t ours.

We’ve all tried to do things our way.

We’ve all tried to be little gods.

Things kept getting worse.

But God had a plan.

God chose a man named Abraham.

He gave Abraham children,

and grandchildren,

and great-grandchildren.

God turned Abraham into a great nation

and called it “Israel.”

God made Israel his chosen people.

They would help him fix the world.

God went with Israel

everywhere they went.

When they were slaves in another country,

God remembered them.

When they were treated badly,

God rescued them.

God gave Israel a home.

He gave them a job to do:

show the world what it’s like

to be God’s people.

God gave Israel priests

to teach them how to love God.

He gave them laws

to teach them how to love each other.

God told his people,

“If you follow me,

you’ll have a good life.

You’ll get to help me fix the world.”

But Israel didn’t listen.

God’s people didn’t want God

telling them how to live.

They wanted to do things their way,

just like the very first people — just like all of us.

God’s people didn’t want God

to be their king.

They wanted a king of their own,

a person just like them.

So God gave Israel a king.

Then another king.

And another.

Some were good. Some were bad.

Mostly, the kings did whatever they wanted.

They took what wasn’t theirs.

They ruled Israel for themselves, not God.

They tried to be little gods.

So God sent prophets

to tell the kings and their people

that there is only one true King;

there is only one true God.

But the kings and their people wouldn’t listen.

So they had to leave their home.

Other nations came and conquered Israel

and carried God’s people off by force.

Israel lost everything.

Then there was silence.

Years went by.

No one heard from God anymore.

Until . . .

something new happened.

God sent someone:

a person just like us, yet different.

Someone who could rule the world

the way God wanted.

God sent Jesus,

his chosen one,

to rescue Israel

and fix the world.

Jesus did good wherever he went.

He healed the sick.

He fed the hungry.

He rescued people from all sorts of problems.

Jesus did everything God wanted,

but it wasn’t what God’s people wanted.

They didn’t want Jesus to be their king.

They didn’t want the kind of kingdom he would bring.

So one day, some powerful people decided

they’d better put a stop to Jesus

before he took their power away.

So they arrested Jesus.

They stripped him naked.

They nailed him to a cross

and watched him die.

Jesus didn’t fight back.

He didn’t raise a sword;

he didn’t even raise a finger.

And so the powerful people

thought they had won.

They thought they had beaten

God’s chosen one.

But there was something they didn’t understand.

They didn’t know that Jesus died

not because he had to,

but because he chose to.

They didn’t know that they,

like all of us, deserved to die

for all the times we’ve gone our way

and ruined God’s good world.

They didn’t know a servant’s death

was the only way to live.

They didn’t know a servant’s cross

was the only crown worth having.

The one true King had come

and given his life for the world.

But they didn’t even know.

No one did.

But then God —

the one who made the world,

rescued Israel,

and sent Jesus —

raised him from the dead.

Lots of people saw him alive

before he went back to God.

But Jesus didn’t just rise from the dead.

He defeated death,

so it wouldn’t have power over us any longer.

God gave us the King we needed,

a King who loves, forgives,

and changes everyone who comes to him.

This King gave us a job to do:

love each other with all we’ve got.

Because that’s how we show others

what it’s like to be loved by God.

That’s how we show others

what kind of King we serve.

For now, the world is still broken,

still waiting to be fixed.

But someday, our King is coming back

to rescue us and share his home with us again.

Never again

will anyone take what isn’t theirs.

Never again

will anyone ruin God’s good world.

God will live with us,

and we will rule the world for him.


(For Elizabeth)

On Wittenoom

I’ve found Wittenoom a real curiosity since going there last week. So tonight Danelle and I spent an hour or two googling and reading stories, looking at pictures and watching a video that gives insights into the lives of the 7 people still living there.

I won’t throw all the links down here but you might like to watch this great little video that is a doco on the lives of the remaining residents. What’s interesting and rather tragic is that (according to the video) the 7 who live (the video shows 8, but ‘Les’ has since died) there don’t actually get on with one another.

Wittenoom from Caro Macdonald on Vimeo.

I guess you’ve got to have some kind of quirky, hermit like tendencies to live in a spot like that, but how bizarre to live with 6 other people and not engage…

Its a well made video and highlights some of the oddities about the place as well as a little history. There is also a great collection of images here where I have taken the two images above from.

Beaches, Bulldust and Back to Reality

We left the northern Gascoyne river free camp on yesterday morning headed homeward. It was sunny, warm and beautiful as we packed up, but within two hours as we pulled into Meekatharra it was cold, cloudy and drizzling… We were all reaching for jumpers and warm weather clothes – which were mostly still tucked away in the camper. The contrast was huge.

The last 4 weeks have been spent between beaches and bulldust, as we have alternated between coastal camps and inland gorges and rivers. It’s been an awesome time and a reminder that 4 weeks is just enough to really unwind and clear the head.

The kids spent half the day up this mango tree – Sam fell out once…

We went to Broome not sure how long we’d stay and ended up being there a week. On the second day there another family of 5 pulled in next to us. Also towing a Jayco Eagle and half way thru their big Oz trip. We had a bit in common already and got chatting. We connected well with them and the kids got on really well too so it made it easy to hang around and go places together. They turned out to be God botherers too – Baptists even – so we had a bit more in common than just the same caravan. Nice folks and we’re hoping we might catch them again either for a coffee or a night or two when they hit Perth.

The sun puts on a show in Broome – quite the crowd pleaser

The day we left Broome saw the kids back in moping mode. No friends… Just wanting to go home… ‘How far can we drive today?…’ it stretched my patience just a bit. I’m feeling like a man eating his last meal and savouring every bite and they are sighing and whining like I’m making them eat gravel. Now I’m grumpy.

At this point I begin to contemplate holidays without kids…

But only for a while. Our first stop at De grey river was nice. A fire and a swim changed the mood a little. The kids had hit the grumps even more when they realized we weren’t staying in a van park, with real showers and toilets and electricity. This does not impress me…

We were running short on power as we discovered just before Broome that the deep cycle battery that serves the camper had carked it. So we have been using the car battery for lighting at night while being careful not to drain it. I could have bought another in Broone but it could be 12 months before it gets really needed again, so best to wait until just before the next major trip.

We left De grey and headed for Wittenoom. There was a shop stop at Hedland to appease those needing a civilization fix and then we drove down the highway to Auski (Munjina) and turned right. There was only 15 ks of dirt into Wittenoom but it was as dusty as we have seen, with heaps of trucks back and forthing to the Solomon mine. The duct tape kept us pretty dust free this time round, unlike the Millstream debacle.

The old convent in Wittenoom, with a potential new sister…

We entered Wittenoom expecting to see abandoned houses and no life at all. (I think it was 1985 when Wittenoom officially closed the asbestos mine and tried to move people on.) Instead there were 10 or 15 houses clearly inhabited by people who had either refused to leave or who had come in when everyone else had gone. They live there as permanents.

It is an unusual place and interesting to poke around. As we slowly trundled around the streets we were approached by a local, clearly concerned as to what we were doing there and ‘what our business was’. A spate of vandalism and crime had stirred her sensitivities. She was a tad ‘odd’, as maybe you need to be to live in a place like that…

It seems people there survive on bore water, solar power and gas bottles with drives into Tom Price as needed. The town itself is a curiosity and one I’m glad I had time to see as I doubt it will be there in 20 or 30 years time when the final residents either sell up or die.

There’s something about a campfire

But the beauty of Wittenoom isn’t the town. Rather it’s the camp spots in the gorge that lies about 7 ks out of town and back towards the old mine. We found 3 or 4 really nice spots where you could camp (free) next to fresh water and probably not see another person. We saw 5 or 6 cars in the 3 days we were there, but I’m guessing plenty of people are still frightened of the asbestos risk. The resident we chatted to advised us that air studies done 10 years ago showed the air to be fine and that people were still being deterred from going there more because the Gov wants to shut it down rather than because of any danger. Apparently in the bad old days the town often had an asbestos cloud over it from the mine, which couldn’t have been all that good for the lungs. We asked at the Newman visitors centre for Wittenoom info and the previously chirpy advisor went cold and told us there was no info, Wittenoom was out of bounds and no one was to go there…

Make you wanna go hey?..,

There are some beautiful remote camp spots in Wittenoom

I reckon we found a little piece of paradise there and will certainly be back again. Our ‘camp-site’ was on an old bridge no longer in use right next to some flowing water, but in our exploring we found two other spots that looked even better.

Leaving Wittenoom was hard as it was idyllic for those of us who love remoteness and seclusion. I’d love to add ‘silence’ but the racket of frogs and the noise of the water made it anything but quiet!

We took off out of there on Sunday and drove steadily to our camp at the Gascoyne river where it became all about navigating the weather to try and get home without getting rained on because the red dust in the camper would quickly turn to mud and not be fun to clean up.

So last night, after four nights of free camping I relented and we stayed in a van park in Dalwallinu. We arrived at 4pm – and were tempted just to put our heads down and drive on thru – but stopping was definitely the better decision. It was hot showers all round and all were happy. The solar shower I knocked up in Broome was working well in the warmer weather so long as you aren’t too precious about getting your gear off, but I reckon it wasn’t going to cut it last night.

Sam tries out the solar shower Mk 1 – a few mods and it’ll be sweet

From there it was off to the pub for a big feed to celebrate a great month of holidaying. We covered 7000ks in the last month – the equivalent of driving to Melbourne and back to put it in perspective – a hell of a long way! My Kuhmo road venturer tyres which I put on just before the big trip in 2009 are coming up for 97000ks which I reckon is pretty amazing, and they still have a good 20000ks left in them before I choof off to buy another set.

Interestingly on the drive from Hedland to New Norcia we had mobile reception once – in Newman – pretty poor really! Time to lift your game Virgin.

We rolled into Perth before lunch this morning and as we drove down the Two Rocks road the rain pelted and the wind blew… We remembered why we had headed north. I guess if you have to come home then Yanchep is as good a place as any to return to, but I could have kept going for another month or two with very little trouble.

This afternoon the Patrol had a birthday and now looks good enough to sell. The kids watched TV and Danelle washed everything she could get her hands on.

Reality… hello…

Being Baptist

Being Baptist

We went to church on Sunday, not something we always do on holidays, but we both felt it would be good to gather with some others for the morning so we choofed off to Broome Baptist church.

It wasn’t the only choice before us, but it was where we finished up. Before we left I was pondering why we would make that choice – instead of gathering with the SDA church on Saturday, or lobbing in with the Pentecostals just down the road… Why are we Baptist?…

So (as I do with all tough questions) I asked Danelle… ‘honey why do we go to a Baptist church?’ And in typical Danelle fashion she replied with ‘because we always have?…’ That was what I was thinking but it just seemed a bit lame… However for reasons of history and longevity and familiarity this seems to be our tribe or our clan. I was hoping it might be a theological claim or a particular inspirational aspect of our identity but I think if we honest it’s really just that it’s what we know best.

And it’s not that I like everything about who we are. I don’t. I see many ‘Baptist blind spots’, but it’s still my tribe. I did jump ship once back in the 80s when I started teaching and found myself in a small country town (Wagin) where I ended up joining the Uniting Church. Seems odd – and I think it seemed odd to some of the local Baptists who knew me and thought I would head their way. But I made a friend in the Uniting church who is still a good mate today and that was what landed me there. Good people in that church, but since then I’ve been a ‘Baptist’ for 26 years. (I even got invited to be a youth pastor at a Pentecostal church at one point in that time but I was only two years into teaching and it just didn’t feel right.)

Back to being Baptist though…

If I had to choose words that would describe most Baptist churches they would probably be words like ‘quiet’, ‘reserved’, ‘orderly’, ‘predictable’. The ‘upside’ of these qualities is that we don’t trade in hype, but the downside is that we can often appear lethargic and dull – uninspiring even – and sometimes we are. I don’t like that about us. In fact it irks me badly. There are days I wish we could express some excitement visibly and spontaneously without it feeling forced or odd. But for some reason when it gets announced in church that someone in the church is healed of cancer (or similar) we sit there sedately as if we had just heard that there was a change in the morning tea roster.

As an introvert by nature I find a lot of our qualities appealing, but I would hope we could express more energy and passion in our gatherings and relationships. Actually as I consider it more closely it seems that it is primarily our worship gatherings that carry this reserved and steady (absence of) energy.

There is a cerebralness to Baptist churches that seems to typify our DNA. I am probably a typical example of that. I could sit thru the most awful singing and music week after week (and I’m not saying I do!) if I knew there was a decent bit of teaching to follow. I think that’s pretty typical of most Baptists – get the preaching right and you can keep a lot of people very happy. Which isn’t to say that doesn’t matter in other traditions, buy for us a well developed expositional sermon really is the ducks nuts.

I imagine I could ‘jump ship’ if I had to but I don’t think I could jump far. I couldn’t settle easily into a pentecostal church theologically or culturally. I wouldn’t feel at home in Anglicanism although there are aspects I like. The Salvos?… Good people but funny clothes… There are some closer to home – Vineyard and Churches of Christ that would fit us better but for better or worse I seem to be a Baptist.

Ironically there is much to like in our distinctives (even we don’t always adhere to them). The priesthood of all believers is a biggie – but still bigger in theory than in practice. I think the more paid staff a church has the harder this one gets to maintain.

Congregational government in its best form (discerning together the will of God as opposed to ‘voting’/democracy) is something I can cheer for and hope to see more of, but it is an unwieldy method of decision making in a larger church. (The easy solution here is to keep churches sufficiently small for it to be possible and I think that deserves some serious thought.)

Freedom of conscience – allowing one another to differ on our position on various issues – is another one I can say ‘yeah baby’ to but it has it’s challenges too as we enter contentious areas. Churches – especially conservative ones – seem to feel a need to ‘mark their territory’ so lines get drawn and people get hemmed in when it isn’t always appropriate. I’m not sure if Baptist churches allow ‘freedom of conscience’ on the issue of gay marriage, as it seems that in the debates around the place the denominations are tending to draw boundary lines and defining some as ‘out of the tribe’… Which seems just a bit ‘unbaptist’.

Then there’s believers baptism as a distinctive and ironically this is one I am less concerned by. Theologically I see it as the preferred baptismal mode, but all those others who have read infant baptism as normative aren’t mugs… So one of us is possibly wrong… Maybe it’s us?

The authority of scripture is another big one, but hardly a distinctive. Of course the question in there is what ‘authority’ means in practice. How does it work in our interpretation and application?

I could go on…

I am certainly ‘Baptist’ because I see value in our core distinctives, but if I’m honest I’m ‘in’ more because it’s where I feel at home – where my family are – and where I feel I belong.

I do sense my life is poorer for not being as expressive and celebratory as my Pentecostal friends. I sense there is something in the sacramental Anglican churches that I miss because I just don’t regularly connect with God like that. And I also miss the warmth and flexibility of simple church gatherings that use homes, parks or wherever they like to get together.

So I’m not about to change seats at the table (‘change teams’ is a bad analogy) at this stage, but I do hope we will be able to find ways to enrich the culture of our own church so that we aren’t ‘typical’ Baptists, but rather can learn from the best of all traditions while retaining our own uniqueness.

I used to hold my ‘Baptist’ identity lightly, and in one sense I still do – (‘Christian first – Baptist second’) but I can’t deny that this my mob and I’m ‘in’ for better or worse.

Just some reflections from under the mango tree on a balmy afternoon in Broome…

More Than ‘A Holiday’


You could just call it ‘holidays’ but that would be missing the significance of what we do when we take a break from the routine and head off as a family.

If its just about catching your breath / R&R then I reckon we can lose out on the opportunity to create fantastic memories and to better define who we are as a family.

It has occasionally been asked of me if I am preparing adequately for retirement, if we are ‘looking to the future responsibly’ and other questions of the like because we enjoy taking holidays and make them a priority. It’s true I could probably save $10-15k every year in lost earnings and money spent when we take holidays, but I am of the opinion that our lives are much much richer for the time we take out together than they are for the financial bottom line.

Of course it’s not am either/or equation but when I consider the fun we have and the connections we make in the time we spend away from home each year I’d never trade it for another bit of the mortgage paid off.

As I look back on my own family holidays as a kid I remember them with great fondness and I hope our kids do the same – times when you get to do some things that will possibly be life long memories. I remember surfing at Ocean beach in Denmark as one of those great holiday events – and I would pester my parents to take me there every day (and twice if we’d been once!) I remember our UK holidays pre Oz – as cold and wet as they were…

I don’t remember many families after the age of 15 – perhaps because I no longer wanted to go on them and did my own thing. I’m aware we have a small window with our kids to create memories and shape their attitudes towards life so I’m hopeful that the type of holidays we take, the frequency with which we go and the stuff we do on them, helps them to have great memories, but also shapes them into better people.

I write this in Broome, a place that has become a favourite for us (despite what the knockers say), while we are camping and enjoying being outdoors and doing it rougher and while we are meeting people and exploring, yet also taking moments to spend lavishly and have fun we wouldn’t often have in everyday life. The pic above is my first attempt at SUP (stand up paddle boarding) harder than it looks!

Gilead – Sneaks up on You

I haven’t read a lot this holiday. I re-read Cloudstreet yet again after watching the DVD series and thoroughly enjoyed seeing new angles I had previously missed. I finished ‘Falling Upwards’ by Rohr – another excellent book (see previous post) and today on the drive into Broome I finished Gilead – yes – Danelle was driving 🙂

It was the very first book I purchased when I got the kindle back in December, but I could never seem to get into it. I’d start it then lose interest, restart it and then give it up again… It is slow to ignite. But I decided to press on with it this holiday and see if it had more to offer.

It did.

But it is a book you need to stay with for at least the first half to appreciate the second. If you can get thru a fairly slow start then the rest of the book is engaging and compelling and beautiful both in its story and language.

Gilead is the name of a town in Iowa – a small town – insignificant even and that is part of the appeal of the story. It is story apart people who don’t ‘change the world’, but who live faithful and good lives, who raise their families, do their jobs and go the distance.

The narrative is essentially the writings of an elderly minister close to death recording his thoughts for his young son so he can know him after his impending death. The minister is in his 70s with a bad heart condition while his son is 7, the result of a second marriage to a much younger woman late in life. (His first wife and child died in childbirth.)

Much of the story revolves around the relationship between John Ames (the minister) and his elderly friend Boughton – also a minister and also near to death. These two have been lifelong friends in this one small town and their friendship is one that has stood the test of time. That relational dynamic alone is worth the price of the book.

The story gains steam when Boughton’s ‘prodigal son’ comes back to town. As a kid he was more than a larrikin – he was mean – and seemed to enjoy upsetting Ames. And now the old minister is convinced he has returned to town just in time to see him die and sweep his grieving widow off her feet.

The second half of the story revolves around the relationship between Ames and Jack, the attempts by both to make connection albeit for different reasons and the conclusion is both surprising and powerful.

I won’t tell more of the story as this is where it gets interesting

But it’s a great story for men especially. It tells of healthy long term male friendship, of a father’s depth of love for a son, of redemption in curious places and of finding peace in the final stages of life.

It is a reminder that your life doesn’t have to be ‘big and noticed’ for it to be significant.

I have started reading it again as I already realise there is much that I missed first time round. So if you pick it up I’m sure you will enjoy it if you give it the time to catch fire.