The ‘Tamala’

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-6-17-41-pmSam’s been asking for a ‘billy cart’ for a while now and last weekend he decided it was time to make it happen.

He downloaded a plan off the net and priced up the parts at Bunnings. It came to about $165.00, a bit more than I wanted to cough up for a cart, so we began to talk about other options.

As is often the case it was Tamala Park (the local tip) to the rescue!

We went there Sunday afternoon and picked up two old fridge trolleys – one for the wheels, axel and frame and the other just for the wheels and axel. The two trolleys cost $15.00 total.

If you really needed to buy wheels on their own then they are about $25.00 each in Bunnings (which is really bizarre because you can buy a whole trolley in Bunnings for $24.95…)

We hunted the furniture section of the tip for a plastic chair to use as a seat and picked a cool red seat for another $5.00.

Then we hit Bunnings for a piece of timber, some saddle clamps and fixings. We spent another $10.00, but truth be told I had most of the stuff in the shed and when you live in an area where there is lots of building going on you can pick up scraps of wood pretty easily.

From there it was all trial and error to get a finished product. Its a project that needs a little bit of adult input to angle grind and drill holes into steel, but the kids can also do parts of it and feel like they have achieved something.

This is the ‘instructables’ version using plywood as a frame – a fair bit more expensive than the ‘Tamala’ version


Some basic instructions:

  1. Use an angle grinder to cut the top and sides off the trolley you will use as a frame
  2. Get your piece of timber for the front wheels and screw the axel to it using 18ml saddles. The width of the timber is worked out by putting the wheels on the axels and then measuring in between.
  3. Drill a hole in the front middle bar of the trolley to fix the front axel / wheels to. Make sure this is perpendicular to the frame or the wheels will sit wonky. (We messed it up the first time.)
  4. Drill holes in the timber for the rope and thread thru with knots on the underside.
  5. Use duct tape to attach the seat to the frame squarely and then drill some holes thru the seat into the frame and back. The use some self tapping screws with washers to hold the seat in place and you can remove the duct tape.

It took us an hour or so to make it – and probably as long again to gather the parts!



Hmmm… Its not a word that comes together easily – either as a combo-word or as an idea. It sounds a little angry… But then ‘pro-mentalist’ sounds equally disturbing!

However it may be a word I’d use to describe the kind of church community I’d hope to lead – one that allows fundamentalists and progressives to co-exist, learn from one another, enrich one another and help one another become more like Christ as they have to deal with one another’s quirks (theological and otherwise).

My observation is that many churches are formed around fairly clear theological boundary markers – often the non-essentials. Some even put them on their signs out the front of the building to ensure others don’t accidentally slip in… I’m sure you have seen the ‘non-charismatic’ statements, which are nicer than ‘anti-charismatic’ although the intent is the same…

Its not just the fundamentalist end of the spectrum that create hard edges though. King James loving, dispensationalists who ‘take the Bible at its word’, may make it clear where they stand, but ‘progressives’ (for want of a better word) can be equally exclusionary.

While the talk may be ‘centred set’, and inclusivity, there would be some crowds where you would figure out pretty quickly that you didn’t belong and in fact were an embarrassing annoyance if you held even middle of the road views. There can be a disparaging scoffing that goes with this crowd that does not allow for what may be perceived as narrow mindedness or unevolved thinking.

Both groups can bring an arrogance either because of their fidelity to the once and forever revealed truth, or in their new gnosticism, so that there is little room left to question or explore or learn.

As I was reflecting on our own church community I realised its one of the things I like about who we are. We’d have a few King James only folks in our midst who aren’t just ‘hangers on’, but are valued members of our church, as well as some progressives or deconstructionists who would hold non-conformist views on some contentious issues. My hope is that we can keep this as a mark of who we are because I believe it enriches our identity rather than detracts from it.

When we simply gather with people very similar to us we risk limiting our learning – or only learning in one theological trajectory and that can never be healthy.

It was as we met last night and I was asked for my view on Revelation, that I began to see the diversity we have just on this one subject. While Tim Lahaye has captured the popular imagination with his ‘Left Behind’ series, I wanted to suggest we need to consider the variety of perspectives on offer, before allowing ‘easy reading’ to sway the vote.

I imagine it may get hard to hold people at extreme ends of the spectrum but that is often because they feel so passionately about their non-essential distinctives that they feel the need to advocate for the cause and get frustrated if others will not side with them.

If we could simply be passionate about the core matters of the gospel and not 6 day creation or gay marriage then perhaps we would be in a better place to hear one another on these issues when they do arise, because at the centre is our shared identity in Christ rather than our need to bat for our point of view.

Like Going to War?








One the day I got married I woke at 8am and was ready by 9am for a 10am wedding. I love being a bloke. It was a Saturday so I opened the newspaper as I usually did on and as I was thumbing thru read the quote for the day:

‘Marriage is an adventure. It is like going war’

GK Chesterton

True story… with an hour to go I had that thought to ponder.

Now I help other folks get ready for marriage and every time I sit down to do some marriage counselling with a young couple about to get hitched for life we do the ‘Prepare‘ course, a comprehensive questionnaire that looks at how the two individuals think in various areas of life. It asks questions about communication, conflict resolution, finance, sex and several other important aspects of a successful relationship. Its comprehensive and very worthwhile so if you’re newly engaged make sure you get a marriage counsellor who can do it with you!

It also does an assessment of how realistically the couple are viewing their future marriage relationship and provides a score for ‘idealistic distortion’, in other words, to what extent the future is being viewed through rose coloured glasses and to what extent it is being viewed with a healthy dose of realism.

Almost without fail (among those who have never been previously married) everyone approaches it with a strong sense of idealism and the expectation that because we are so in love nothing could ever go wrong. I am yet to find a couple who approach marriage with a strong sense of realism.

What’s with that?…

Well its obvious isn’t it – they haven’t had to live with the same person day in day out for years on end, so they haven’t yet encountered the challenges that come with that kind of relationship.

Everything looks wonderful from the front end. What could possibly come unstuck for two young people so wildly in love?

Part of my role in preparing people for marriage is bursting that bubble to some degree. I don’t want to engender cynicism, but I do want to ask;

What if one of you gets really sick?… what if one of you farts in bed?… what if one of you stops feeling attracted to the other?… what if one of you develops an addiction – alcohol, porn, drugs?… what if you decide to work shifts and FIFO rosters and end up hardly seeing one another… and then you find someone else who lights your fire?… what if you just get really busy and bored with one another?… what if one of you goes off sex?…

The list goes on. So much can ‘go wrong’ in marriage if you are unprepared and idealism is a sure way to walk in blindfolded. So one of my key questions in marriage prep is to ask ‘what don’t you like about your partner?’ or ‘what annoys you about your future spouse?’ If you can give me an answer to those questions then chances are you seeing a bit more clearly.

If not then give it time…

Part of a maturing love is knowing what irritates you about the person you love but accepting them anyway and loving them so they can become the best version of themselves.

Marriage is adventure, but it doesn’t have to be like going to war…

Captain Fantastic – Cliche and Complexity


Another Saturday rolls around and its one of the first in a while where we have nothing on. What an awesome feeling… and the morning gets spent reading the paper, watching the paralympics and enjoying ‘second breakfast’.

I scan the movie schedule for something to take the kids to and see Captain Fantastic showing at the Luna, which probably means it a low budget indie and is maybe gonna be on iTunes or SBS in a week or two.  I google a few (very mixed) reviews, watch the youtube preview and decide that it might just be worth it. While Sam stays home, Danelle, Ellie and I head down to chill and take it in.

Spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen it…

The story follows the journey of an off the grid home school family living deep in the forest and surviving off the land while learning 5 languages, various non-conformist, political ideologies and engaging in intense physical fitness training, all under the guidance of dad who I am guessing is the  ‘Captain Fantastic’ of the movie title.

Early in the movie we learn that mum has died – suicide due to mental illness and the news is presented starkly. There is an extended ‘mourning’ scene with no background music – just crying kids and a stoic father. The absence of any music allows us to feel the loss more intensely.

The remainder of the film follows the family as they go on a road-trip in ‘Peter’ the family bus and seek to attend her funeral (from which they have been banned) and as they encounter ordinary people in real life America and discover they are more different than ever imagined…

It explores a number of interesting themes albeit in a cliched way at times. The kids observe their cousins addicted to devices and struggle to understand their obsession. Dad takes the family out of a cafe because there is no ‘real food’ on the menu. The family’s natural bluntness in speaking is offensive to their relatives and we are challenged by our aversion to telling the truth at times. But this is countered by the sister in law who suggests we need to tell kids what is appropriate rather than giving them all the info all the time.

Dad appears to be an open minded free thinker. He swears & drinks around his kids and they swear & drink too – even the 5 year old – all very permissive and open minded, but when one of his kids asks if they can celebrate Christmas like everyone else, rather than their own ‘Noam Chomsky day’ the child is first demeaned and ridiculed before being told to present his case to the rest of the family who are in support of dad. Like he’s going to do that now…

We see the irony of a family built on non-conformist thinking  that persecutes its own non-conformist. Huh…we all live with complexity and incongruities don’t we?

The tension of conflicting worldviews is interwoven effectively as we see bi-polar mum leaving the forest to enter a mental hospital because she needs help from ‘the institution’. The grandfather is presented as the over-indulgent, (Christian) capitalist and the epitomy of all the family has stood against, yet he is able to see the flaws in their idealistic lifestyle and we have to agree that he has a point… He doesn’t come across as a caricature, but rather just a contrary view.

And the villains are… you guessed it… Christians! As the kids have their first experience of the city they ask their dad ‘why is everyone so fat?!’ And the response is ‘don’t make fun of people. In fact don’t ridicule anyone’, followed by a pause and a postscript, ‘except Christians’.  When the police pull the family bus over for having a faulty tail-light they manage to dispose of the cop by singing a cringeworthy hymn and appearing to be complete weirdos.

Then the mother’s funeral held in a church to the ire of the father, is sabotaged by him because he believes she would have preferred a self styled buddhist type of cremation. As we follow the story, we see that the mother is conflicted and torn between western living and alternative living so at times its hard to know what she really wanted. I think this is intentional – we are always torn between ideals and pragmatics. In the end the family exhume her body from beneath a tombstone with the words ‘Rest in Peace Cared for by God for Eternity’. As the dig begins the youngest is heard to say ‘can’t have her living under this bullshit for eternity’. The subsequent ceremony is accompanied by euphoric music and all of the joy that is not present in the church. 

Its a movie that explores anti-establishment ideals and shows them to be both beautiful and inspiring, but also problem ridden and ultimately unworkable.

The final scene has received a fair amount of critique in reviews, but I thought it was exceptionally well done. The family finish up together again in a semi-rural home, (minus eldest son who takes off to Namibia – because he stuck a pin in a map with a blindfold on) attending school and living a more conventional life. The bus has become a chicken coop and to some degree they have settled. It raises the question of whether ‘compromise is inevitable’, and we wonder ‘what’s next’ for this mob. Will they end up conforming like everyone else? Does the dream have to die?…

I’m no tree hugging, mung bean munching hippie, but I do hope to live somewhat differently to mainstream western society. My aspirations are rooted in the kingdom of God rather than a secular humanist ideal, but here too the tensions of having to live in society  are very real.

I watched it with my 15 year old daughter and we had a good conversation about it after, but if you’re taking kids be aware there is a fair bit of language and one short full frontal male nude scene.

Someone Has to Go First









As a retic & turf bloke I sometimes find myself laying lawn in the rain and those days are nothing but a long miserable grind. Even with a raincoat on, my clothes get damp, my boots sodden and the rolls of turf weigh almost double because they get waterlogged too. Everything is difficult and depressing, harder than it should be, but you keep going… you slog on, because you have to, because there is no other option – no way out.

As I look back on our married life, I would see that the hardest times haven’t been the sharp disputes and angry arguments, but rather they have been the ‘slog’ times when it feels heavy and dark and like there is no alternative on the table, with no future except to keep going.

On those days I’d rather lay 200 rolls of waterlogged turf in driving rain than keep pushing on in a relationship that seems to have lost its rudder and has drifted into darkness.

But it happens from time to time as for various reasons our lives begin to become parallel tracks rather than one interconnected track. (And yes – I write that in the present tense because it is not a ‘one off’ past experience that we are now immune to.) It happens slowly at first as we get busy, distracted and pre-occupied, self centred even… but then one day a little while later you look at each other with indifference or maybe even resentment and wonder ‘what happened?’

Well… a lot happened, but not much of it happened together, intentionally, or with the other person in mind.

The end result is a room-mate, a co-parent, a financial partner, a domestic assistant, but not a wife or a husband. And with those new identities comes a dark and disturbing loneliness, of being in the same room with someone you know and love (you think) and yet with whom you have little sense of heart connection or worse still a growing resentment and disappointment, (because its easier to blame than accept your own flaws.)

If you’ve been here then you’d know the inner angst that comes in these times, and the immense challenge of making a course correction when you have sailed so far off track. I’ve met couples who have never made the much needed course correction and who have slowly drifted into being co-habiting strangers, because its too difficult to even contemplate parting ways. There are kids to consider… finances… and even if we don’t like each other any more its just more convenient to stay in the same home even if we live separate lives.

That’s a dark picture, and I have tried to paint it that way intentionally because when you’re there the temptation is to look away and carry on hoping that the tracks will magically reconnect and the spark will re-kindle on its own. But if you’re reading this and saying ‘oh no… that’s us…’ then the challenge (if you are willing to accept it) is to pick up and move back towards the other person.

I’m no fan of divorce as a solution, nor I don’t subscribe to the idea of ‘falling out of love’. I do see that we can drift apart as we choose not to love, but equally I see that we can choose to love, to give and to put the other person first even when the raw feelings are leaning in the opposite direction and often that reignites the embers that are struggling.

These days we are better at spotting our tracks starting to diverge, but equally we are better at choosing to take early loving steps back together knowing that our marriage is built on more than a bag of warm feelings.

So if you’re there, then maybe its time to call it for what it is…

And then… someone has to go first.

Someone has to be the one to acknowledge the need and take the initiative. Maybe its you… Wherever you have drifted to, I believe its possible to come back from, but it starts with a single step… and then another…

Alignment Rather Than Addition

Missional in the Neighbourhood 10 Years On Part VI


So I’ve been doing some preaching over the last few weeks around this subject of mission and I’ve been genuinely caught off guard by the surge of fresh energy it has given me.

I haven’t spoken about ‘mission’ for ages – not specifically or intentionally. Its not that I don’t believe in it any more – far from it, but sometimes when you’ve spent so much of your energy on one issue previously you can get a bit jaded and tired of speaking about it.

I think I had also come to the conclusion that I was better at theory than practice and I’d keep my mouth shut until I managed to get my actions in line with my ideas. Now that wasn’t actually true – I was very active and very determined – but I was also very driven and somehow couldn’t find a missional rhythm that fitted my life. I was constantly chasing new ideas and new initiatives in the hope of making connections and doing something of value.

Some of that was good – don’t get me wrong – but some of it was laboured. I haven’t dreamt up new ideas or chased new initiatives for several years now. I’ve just got on with living and doing what I do – leading a church and running a business, living in a street, surfing etc… nothing particularly revolutionary in all of that – just a regular suburban existence. Often banal and mundane.

But as I’ve come to speak about this subject again what has been encouraging is my observation of the amount of ‘mission’ that happens just in the flow of that pretty ordinary life. The practice of examen has been particularly helpful for reflecting on my days and noticing where God was at work – where I was engaged and where I was self absorbed or distracted. I know anything of value rarely happens when I am busy and caught up, but it often takes place when I am travelling slowly and able to ‘be’ with people rather than rushing them thru to get to the next appointment.

I don’t know if I read it or ‘thought it’, (I’m guessing its someone else’s idea…) but I do see the importance of a missional life being more about alignment of life rather than addition to life. If I can align my life with the heart of God and live in such a way that I listen to him in my everyday activities then I probably don’t need to add new activities to my life in order to be effective in mission.

I don’t need a project to work on, or an Alpha group to run. I just need to listen to the Spirit as I go about the everyday business of life and trust that as I am in tune I will see what I need to see – and when I don’t see anything that’s ok.

I fear the idea of ‘addition’ has stymied a fair bit of mission because people see their lives as already busy and ‘now I need to do mission as well…’ Sigh… I don’t think I can…

I feel like the fresh energy has come as it has dawned on me that my life is looking more like it ought to look – not that I had a ‘new idea for an aligned life’ that I pursued, but that I just relaxed a bit, got on with living and sought to listen to the Spirit in that frame of mind.

So to speak to people now feels less like I am ‘trying hard’ at the ‘missional thing’ and more like I have discovered a bit of how to live in a missional way that doesn’t require much effort at all because perhaps its how life is meant to be lived…


52 x 52























If you multiply those two numbers together then that is how many times in my life I’ve been to a church service.

Its a lot

In reality its probably more than that, because for the first 38 years I went twice on Sunday… (remember those days anyone) so I think the mathematicians would work that out as (38 x 104) + (14 x 52) which is 4680 church services give or take a few for holidays and for the years when we had 3 or 4 services a day running.

Let’s call it 5000…

After 5000 church services what is there still to learn, to do, to experience to be part of?… Surely 5000 times is enough?!…

And most of it has been the same kind of thing happening over and over… Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…Sing, pray, listen… sing, pray, listen…

Or in my case once I got a gig it was sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…sing, pray, preach…

Ok point made, church is repetitive – to the point of tedium even.

Not unlike my days, or yours for that matter.

Wake, eat, work, sleep or some variation of that. Every day is pretty much the same and even if I change the content of those activities I am still going to do pretty much the same thing for the rest of my life…

Wake, eat, work, sleep and repeat…

The point?

Repetition is not bad – in fact it is part of life – and health even.  Certainly we all need a holiday and a shift in focus from time to time, but 99% of life is repetitive and routine.



And we need routine and repetition to give form to our days.

It would seem odd to delete ‘eating’ from our routine, or ‘sleep’. Many would like to delete ‘work’, but if you’ve done that then you would know the emptiness that accompanies a lack of purposeful living.

I’m no fan of church for church’s sake, but increasingly I see the value of the simple discipline of turning up – saying ‘this is what I do’.

I meet with my ‘family’ every week and I check in. And like most family gatherings some weeks its a hoot, other weeks it feels like white noise and others still we fall asleep or zone out completely.

But families get together.

Most evenings 4 of us gather around the table for food and to ‘be there’. Some nights I don’t feel much like talking. Some nights we laugh and joke loudly. Most nights Sam is the last one finished his meal because he talks more than the rest of us.

Our family’s evening meals are rarely inspiring, and captivating, but there is a simple beauty in being there – in turning up – and recognising that its not the same if someone is away – or if we eat at different times.

So I will continue to meet with the family in its various forms just because it matters – even if at times I find it hard to see.