Thru Tear Stained Eyes

For 2 hours yesterday evening I sat in Currambine cinema with tear-filled eyes watching the story of Jesus Revolution unfold. I was reflecting this morning on why it is that a movie like that could evoke such emotion. I grew up in that era, but I was completely unaware of the Jesus freaks and the revolution that was happening in California – because it sure wasn’t happening in Belfast. Our church was stiff, staunch and unlikely to ever be invaded by local conservative neighbours let alone a tribe of counter culture hippies.

(Spoiler alert – only a few bits of the movie – but just a heads up!)

I’m not sure how young I was when I realised that church had to change – that we simply were not speaking the same language as the people in our local neighbourhoods. I’m guessing I was around 18, just starting to figure things out, but still steeped in religious traditions that affect me even today. This morning in church Ed used the concept of ‘pursuing holiness’, an idea I am in full agreement with – but the mental images that so often come to mind are still of harsh older men frowning on new ideas (like allowing into membership people who drank alcohol) or on younger people who were new to church life and wanted to play drums during worship. For some reason ‘holiness’ was spoken of in austere tones and it came with stern warnings and creased brows. I still need to substitute ‘Christlikeness‘ for holiness to make sure I focus on the right things – love, joy, peace, goodness etc – not wearing a tie to communion on a Sunday morning.

I sense some of my tears are for a church that still loves its own traditions and practices more than the people around who find them alienating and confusing. I remember hearing a pastor speaking to first time visitor to church:

Pastor: ‘How did you find it then?’

Visitor: ‘Oh ok – I didn’t mind the karaoke, but what was with the Nazi salutes?’

We exist in a whole different culture sometimes – which doesn’t mean we need to stop worshiping freely or allowing aspects of identity to jar with culture, but we need to be aware of it. Some ‘jarring’ is good – we are supposed to be different – but some jarring also is the kind that simply sends people away.

I have found myself always wanting to communicate the message of Jesus in a way that is both true and appropriate to the people who are hearing the message. If they can’t make sense of our message then maybe it’s not that they need to bone up on scripture a bit more. Rather it’s we who need to learn how to communicate more effectively. The onus is always on us.

Back to the movie – I loved the moment where in response to the claim that barefoot hippies were making the church carpet dirty, Chuck Smith met them at the entrance with a basin of water and lovingly washed their feet. I loved that he stepped back and gave space to Lonnie Frisbee thru whom the Spirit was clearly moving and I loved that this conservative man was willing to put aside
his own preferences so that God’s Spirit would not be quenched or squashed. I shed tears as the existing members used their giving as leverage and as they left in disgust because of what their church had become. I almost cheered aloud during the scene where the elders stood to leave and two made their way out while the other moved across the aisle and took up a seat among these new people who were flooding his church.

I felt like it was also a warning to those of us who may think we have got church to a place where it is relevant and connecting, that maybe it works for us and our friends, but that God may yet want to upend the ship and challenge us to completely re-think this whole thing all over again.

What would missionaries do if they landed in Perth this week? That is the question I find myself coming back to day after day. And I wonder what kind of a church would emerge from good missionary work…

As I watched the story unfold I reflected on some of my own younger days and the craziness of church back at Lesmurdie Baptist, when as youth pastor I said ‘yes’ to virtually every crazy idea our youth leadership team came up with – and there were plenty. I applaud the grace of those older people in that church who didn’t get all of what was going on, but did see enough of the Spirit of God at work to believe that they could not only give permission – but actually support us. The youth ministry years at LBC were as close to ‘revival’ as I think I have ever come. There was a sense of the Spirit of God at work.

If I were critical of the time (and I do look back with a fair amount of critique) it is to ask ‘where are they now?’ There was a popular youth ministry book back in the day by the title of Fruit That Will Last (by John Dickson I think…) and while we spoke of that as the goal, I know plenty of fruit went bad pretty quickly and simply didn’t last – which is why every time I come across a face from our youth ministry days and they are still faithfully following Jesus I cheer (inwardly cause I’m an introvert) because this is what I dreamt of.

Perhaps the same question could be asked of the Jesus movement of the 60’s and 70’s. ‘Where are they now?’ And I imagine the answer would be a normal distribution curve of healthy disciples right thru to those for whom faith was a passing fad. It was sad to see the conflict between Frisbee and Smith, that led to their parting ways and I am yet to decide if it was helpful or not that Frisbee’s struggle with same sex attraction was left unspoken. I have always found it amazing that God could use someone so powerfully who was living such a conflicted life.

I know some speak of ‘revival’ as what we need, but I wonder they mean by that… because I don’t think we are going to see our churches flooded with people coming back to the faith they had forgotten. I sense we have moved so far from Christendom that any awakening will most likely be unlike anything we have seen before. It will catch us off guard, we will be suspicious, but hopefully if it is genuine we will give space for God to do what he wants to do. I know this 58 year old long term God botherer hopes not to ever stand in the way of something outrageous that God may want to do. I would much rather be a part of a messy move of God than a spectator to a dying religious institution.

Our People

On Monday morning we hitched up the caravan and hit the road bound for Mandurah and the annual WA Baptist Pastor’s Retreat. We have been getting along to this event for around 25 years now.

But this year was a little different.

Normally a Pastor’s church will pay for him/her and spouse to attend. But this year we aren’t employed by a church so the question came up, ‘are we goanna shell out the $550 to attend?’

It never seems like a lot of money when your church pays, but it feels quite significant when it’s your own cost to bear. I began thinking of all the things I could do with those $$, and that’s not even counting the money we won’t earn while we are away… It’s a costly venture to attend an event like this.

But, truth is we can do a Bali trip, any time during the year, we can buy new airbags for the Ranger any time we want to as well. But there is only one of these events each year – a kind of gathering of the tribe. And after 30 odd years I feel a deep affinity for the people in this clan. These are ‘our people’. I feel that deeply and I suspect they will be our people to the end.

There is a fondness for this tribe that goes beyond any kind of duty. Perhaps longevity does that to you. If you only drop in on these events occasionally then you might think it’s all about the quality of the speaker, or about taking time out from the weekly duties. I’m sure those things are part of the retreat ‘equation’ but an occasional ‘drop in’ doesn’t allow rich, deep, significant relationships to form and this is where these events have borne the most fruit for us personally.

It has always been a privilege to sit with some of of our older leaders and to tap into their wisdom and grace – to have people we can look to as examples of ‘finishing well’. To catch up with younger leaders and hear their joys and frustrations. I am also always stunned at how many people I don’t know too each year – fresh faces – newbies to the tribe. I hope they find their place As veterans of this event we come quite intentionally to reconnect with comrades in ministry, but also to be on the lookout for those conversations that encourage, provoke and inspire and there have been several already while here.

Yeah – there was a speaker – Steve McCready did a fantastic job of calling us back to simple discipleship and love of Jesus. But, some years the speakers have been wonderful and other years not so good. I don’t remember when it was that I stopped paying attention to who was speaking, but I do know there came a moment when we said ‘ we will be there regardless.’

Money well spent?

Yep. You betcha

When Chapters Close

It’s been quite the season for closing chapters of life and it isn’t over yet.

Closing A Chapter In Life - How To Close Chapter 2020 - Antimaximalist

Pastoring – Last year we officially stopped pastoring at the churches we had been part of for so long – Quinns Baptist for 14 years and then Yanchep Community Church which we had planted 5 years back. It wasn’t particularly hard to let either go as we both just felt it was time. We also knew we had no plans for moving to another church community so the ‘sadness’ wasn’t there – just an awareness that life was going to be different for all of us.

People continue to ask me if I have retired… I don’t think that word is found anywhere in a Christian’s vocabulary so the short answer is ‘no’. But I recognise the intent is probably to ask if I am done with ‘leading a church’. Again the answer is ‘no’, but there is nothing on the horizon that may entice us. We love living where we do so we are hoping that isn’t a chapter that will ever close. Local church leadership kinda requires you to live ‘locally’,

Val – The passing away of my much loved mother in law was a somewhat unexpected chapter close. We know all of our parents are getting older and these days will come – but this came faster than anticipated. While some of the signs of decline were there bodily, Val was sharp as ever in mind and spirit. She went into hospital where she stayed for a couple of months before coming home for palliative care – which only lasted 8 days.

I had the privilege of conducting her funeral and honouring her life and I don’t think I have ever been to a funeral that brought so much joy alongside the grief. Its’ quite bizarre realising you will never see someone again – this side of eternity. Danelle’s funeral talk was one of the most brilliant I have heard – entitled ‘My mum talked too much’, she spoke about how her mum’s love to chat (which sometimes could drive us all mad) meant she was great at connecting with people and making friends. Val was a natural evangelist, a people ‘connector’ and we miss her on every level.

May be a close-up of flower and nature

Into Care – While Danelle’s dad lives quite independently in his home in Moore River my own parents were starting to struggle, which meant selling a home and moving into care. Mum has quite significant dementia and dad was unable to care for her so we had no option but to move them into a nursing home. It was a hard decision – very hard as no one wants to enter what is essentially a waiting room.

Part of the struggle here is that mum really needs this level of care, while dad can still operate independently. Selling their home and all of their possessions, except for those which went with them into Bethanie was quite confronting – a lifetime of accumulating gone in a few weeks and for a measly sum of money. This ‘independent’ phase of their life is closing and in that sense another chapter has closed for us too.

Trying to keep a watch on mum’s health was a real challenge so we can rest a little easier knowing they are now cared for albeit in a nursing home.

The Nest is Empty – It ‘s been a while since the kids moved out, but that has been another significant chapter close in this season of life. We live in a big ole 4 bed beach shack with just one another for company. It feels somewhat wrong to live in a home with so many rooms spare in the middle of a housing crisis, but there is an element of ‘sanctuary’ about home that needs maintaining for our own headspace.

The kids absence is significant – we just love hanging with them – but this is part of adulting and they are each treading their own path in healthy ways. If we were to have people come live with us it would make the frequent returns by them a little trickier. We’d like them to keep tripping home regularly do we will keep their beds available (for now…)

No photo description available.

No More Retic Bloke – This has been huge…After 15 years we feel it’s time to sell the business and get out of retic, so it is for sale with a local broker as well as on Gumtree. I’m not sure how I will cope with this change. Right now I’m still working very solidly at it and really feeling the need for rest. My body is screaming at me that time is up – my back has been a problem, the knees sometimes complain, but right now its the elbows that refuse to heal. Who ever thought pushing two pipes together would be difficult? ‘Severe tendinopathy’ tends to have that effect.

It’s been a very successful and even ‘fun’ little venture, even if we did stumble into it. Doing this fuelled my imagination for bivocational mission and ministry, so it has been enormously significant in our lives. I’m not sure what will ‘come next’ (if anything), but I know I won’t miss the constant barrage of phone calls, emails and messages. I only ever set out to frame up a 3 day/week gig, but it is presently busting at the seams and we are unable to keep up.

Wanna buy a business?!


My caravan weighing / diesel heater venture keeps chugging along at a good pace even though I haven’t had time to do any significant marketing for this yet. There is part of me that likes the simplicity of this activity. A caravan gets weighed – job done. I think if it were only this I may get bored. The greater vision behind this was business was that of creating a mobile business that we could establish in any town we happened to be visiting. We would love to lend a hand to some of our country churches and a business like this will allow us to visit a town and have a means of support – yeah I guess it’s another ‘bivocational’ thing.

But I am seriously committed to the bivocational life! I really don’t know what I would do if I were full time in a church again. Do you really need 5 days to lead a church? Perhaps work expands to fill the time, but my experience has been that we can get a lot done in 2 or 3 days and still have a strong presence in the local community with a business.

Recently Danelle and I both had a shared experience that felt strangely like a God moment – maybe a ‘calling’ to a new role. There was a position going and we felt a nudge in the direction of this vacant opportunity – it was unsettling and curious. Interestingly as we investigated further it just didn’t feel like quite the right fit for us. My 35 year old self would have dropped everything and chased the sense of intuition that the role tapped into, whereas my 58 year old self stepped back, pondered and prayed – then pulled out.

I have heard people say ‘just apply for a job and if you get it then it must be God’s will…’ Seriously – that is crappy theology! The book of James calls us to seek wisdom and make decisions from there – that’s the path I’d prefer to walk.

540HP 1973 FORD FALCON XB GT HARDTOP – Superoo Falcon Spares

I did have another business idea though which I floated last night with Danelle… I imagine the name would be something like ‘Bogan Weddings’ and it would involve the purchase of 2 or 3 classic steel bumper muscle cars which could be hired out for events. Of course I couldn’t care less about the weddings, but I’d like to own an XB Falcon coupe to drive around for fun! I imagine the upfront investment might be a reason to put this project on hold. But maybe one day Danelle will let me have one of these cars to plonk in the space where the kids used to park!…

So for now we work and we wait for the business to sell. After that?.. I’m not sure but I have a strong sense that ‘what’s next’ may not be apparent until we actually commit to getting out of retic. Just a hunch… But I will be curious to see how it feels to be unshackled from a part of our lives that has been so significant.

If you have read this far then you are one my devoted readers and you will have noticed the decline in my blog output 🙂 My capacity for writing and creative thought has been smashed over the last 6 months as I have tried to run both businesses so I’m also hopeful that some useful writing may reappear somewhere in the not too distant future.

Mortality on My Terms?

Mayflies review – Martin Compston reveals hidden depths in this drama of  death and betrayal | Television & radio | The Guardian

In a couple of months I will turn 59 and I’m only too aware that I’m well into the ‘second half’ of this one life I have been given. I remember doing retic work in my 40’s just made me fitter and stronger – now the heavy jobs hurt and I can feel the physical toll it is taking on my body every time I go hard. It’s been difficult coming to grips with declining physical capacity – along with the knowledge that from here on in, this may be as good as it ever gets…

I’m not being miserable – just grappling with a very undeniable reality. So watching Mayflies this evening really touched that nerve. In the words of Kasey Chambers ‘We’re all gonna die someday yeah!’ (In case Danelle forgets – this is the song I would like at some point in my funeral 🙂 )

Mayflies is the story of childhood friends who partied hard in the 80’s punk rock scene now all middle age and with one of them facing certain death in around 4 months from cancer. His decision to pursue voluntary assisted dying is the central focus of the story – that and the impact it has on those around.

The narrative shifts regularly between wild crazy teen years and the lives of men now well into their 40’s, one who has been a very successful writer and the other a teacher. It’s the teacher – Tully – who is facing his mortality and wanting to die on his own terms. They are the ‘same people as they were at 18 but different’ – like most of us as we mature.

The wrestle with ‘end of life’ issues is both confronting and quite beautiful as we see two lifelong friends struggling to know what is right – what is best – what is fair etc. It offers some insight into the curious thing of deep male friendship and how it works.

The short answer to ‘how to die’ is that there is no short / easy answer. Every avenue brings pain. Tully, however decides to chart his own course, the first step being marrying his long term partner and the second a trip to Switzerland to end it all.

Tully chooses ‘Noodles’ his long term best friend to be his ‘campaign manager’ as he calls it. ‘Don’t let me die like a prick’, Tully says to him. He wants to die on his own terms, but the reality he discovers is that we don’t get it quite so easy. The agony on the face of Tully’s wife tells a tale about VAD and the toll it may take on others who want to simply dredge every last glimmer of life possible from an impossible situation

The two part series straddles the two broad themes of male friendship and the ethics / complexities of voluntary assisted dying. Ok, it’s a fairly bleak storyline, but it cuts to the heart and then twists because these are real issues we are going to face in years ahead. It’s no ‘feelgood’ movie – but it does evoke huge emotion, simply because of the way relationships are portrayed in a no win scenario.