I Remember…

This is a jar of memories – actual real memories!

It was my birthday gift from my daughter this year and I love it. She has simply sat down and hand-written about 100-150 fond memories of time we have spent together.

I keep the jar by my bed and I generally read one memory each day – then I put it back in the jar. Sometimes I read the same memory twice, but that doesn’t matter.

The simple act of pulling a random memory from the jar takes me back to some of our favourite times and things we did together… I inevitably end up smiling and feeling some of that experience over again.

She reminds me of the times I took her ice skating – just the two of us… of the times Danelle would go out and she would get me painting her nails… of teaching her creative writing and sport while we were homeschooling.

Some of them are seemingly insignificant memories, snippets of life, but truth is they weren’t ever insignificant.

They accumulated and they combined to tell a story and its a beautiful one.

So – hows that for the coolest gift ever?!

Vale Smithy

As a young bloke in his late teens and early twenties I often found myself frustrated with the state of the church – with our ineffectual evangelism and our moderating of Jesus’ words to suit a middle class climate.

I remember sitting with my pastor once – opening the book of Acts and reading some of it to him – then saying literally ‘what’s changed?’ I was full fire and fury and a little lacking in grace and wisdom… ok more than a little. But I dreamt of more for the church. I still do.

So when a prophet came to town and said the things no one else dared to say (and who also lived his message courageously) I hung on his every word. Back in the day I would have walked over hot coals to hear Smithy speak and his teaching from Acts 17 still resonates in my ears as one of the most inspirational calls to mission I had ever heard.

I just got home from work and opened Facebook to see a mate’s post indicating that John Smith (Smithy) had died. I had just lent his life story DVD to a friend last week saying ‘check this out – here is a man who inspired me and his story is worth hearing’.

He is best known for being the founder of the God Squad – a motorcycle club that positioned themselves for mission amongst the outlaw motorcycle gangs – places angels fear to tread. He was an amazing Bible teacher, pioneering missionary and a genuine prophet, who at times had some brilliant insights.

I vividly remember him being invited to a Christian schools conference only to hear him unload with full fury on those who would segregate their kids from the rest of the world. I’m guessing that wasn’t what they asked him to say, but he said it anyway… I don’t remember him being asked back.

I remember his thought provoking spots on the radio – where he would call people to think about some aspect of faith in an engaging way. He always ended with ‘this is John Smith…’ And as I listened I thought ‘one day I’d like to do that.’ The stuff I do now on radio was modelled on his straight talking, but culturally sensitive approach.

The last time I saw Smithy was at a Uniting Church conference where I was the main speaker on the subject of mission in the western world. I had no idea he was going to be there and when I heard I must admit it rattled me a little. Here was I going to speak to a group of people on the subject of mission with one of the Aussie gurus on the subject sitting in the crowd.

He sat two rows back and smiled and cheered me on as I spoke. At the end he shook my hand and gave me some great words of encouragement.  I needn’t have felt nervous – but when one of your teen heroes is sitting right there its hard not to.

So Smithy’s gone and the world has been the richer for this sharp thinking, courageous and straight talking man of God.

It’s Been Quiet Here

Its been over two months since I’ve had anything to say on here (and that was to review a Huawei phone… I’ve since gone back to Apple…)

Sometimes that’s just how it is.


Few original thoughts. Few stirrings and little desire to write. I worry sometimes that the writing impulse has deserted me – or that maybe I should just write something – anything to keep going.

But there simply are times when you just don’t have much to say and that’s kinda how it’s been. I’ve got some stuff stirring in me now and I imagine it will spill out on here, but its just not there yet.

I even had crazy domains ring last week to see if I was still going to keep the hosting going… After this long I’m not stopping writing. I love writing and the way fuzzy thoughts can take form on paper so don’t delete me from your list just yet.

I will be back!

To the Dark Side…

After 10 years of running with an iphone I thought I’d try an Android. The Huawei p20 Pro got some great reviews so I thought I’d buy one and jump in. I’d used a Huawei tablet for over a year with no issues so maybe it could be time to dump Apple and go exploring. Here are my thoughts after a month of using it

Huawei p20 pro – The Positives

Face unlock – this works well. Fingerprint id is pretty useless for a retic bloke who regularly has glue on the finger.
Camera – top notch and definitely the selling point.
Battery life is excellent – 4000mh gets me thru a day no trouble
Google maps has been good – I used Navigon before, but I like google maps – also the timeline that shows me where I have been. Great for invoicing time accurately
Messaging feels better – I just like it better than the iphone

Huawei p20 pro – The Negatives

Minimal after market cases – I like the phone to feel like it isn’t going to slip out of my hand. I bought a couple of cases on eBay but none were brilliant. My local stores don’t have any.
A little large – that said, I have small hands, but its barely manageable with one hand
Auto AI can be a bit over the top – My pics sometimes look like I have edited them to max saturation when I enable AI.
A few moments of lag – that aint something you want to hear in a new phone… But I have had a few moments where it dragged its feet.
Brightness not so good in sun – definitely a struggle to see it even on full brightness
Random Car Bluetooth problem – I just had to do a factory reset as it lost bluetooth car audio on phone only. My music still played but nothing I could do would fix it. Forums showed it as a known issue, but no one had a solution. A factory reset is a bit of a pain as it means a lot of messing around.

Is it better than the iphone?

I dunno – I could go either way. I like bits of it and other bits not so much. I picked it up second hand for $750 from a bloke who had used it for a week and moved on so the price was a winner. Iphones have just become way too prohibitive with price.

I think I’d probably like a smaller phone, but with the same camera capabilities, so maybe a pixel might be worth a look…

Then again I may just roll with this one!

To Change the World

I read this quote on Frosty’s blog today and I just want to put it on here before I forget where I saw it… It resonates so deeply with some of my own meanderings over the last 10 years.

“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”

Henri Nouwen

No Escape

I woke at 2.30am on Friday morning with a food hangover. It was my birthday on Thursday and I may have overeaten just a little… or a lot…

So at 2.30 I lay in bed unable to sleep and after half an hour of tossing and turning I decided to get up and go do some preparation for what I was teaching on Sunday – a talk on contentment – part of a series on ‘Living Well’.

I do the major part of my teaching prep on Fridays and I quite often wake at 4 or 5am and get the jump on the day by working in the quiet hours. But on this particular morning I was about an hour into the work when I noticed something curious happening. I was preparing a talk on the importance of contentment and the constant niggle of discontentment that seems to infect our western lives.

So I took some screenshots of the Bible passages I was working with. Check the screenshots below and see what you observe…


So you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the Gumtree ads in the sidebar showing me advertisements for old cars. There were four ads for classic cars followed by an ad for spare parts for old cars – because anyone who is gonna buy one of these suckers is going to be forking out plenty in that department!

But then the final page I get shown is for a Maserati – complete with $154K price tag. It seemed to be saying ‘well if these old girls don’t impress you then surely this will!’ CLICK NOW!

I must confess I have a love for old cars and I have skimmed Gumtree occasionally sniffing around seeing if there are any XA Ford Coupes going cheap – see the top pic. (Not that I have anywhere to store one…)

Bu what struck me was the great irony of sitting in silence at 3.00am and preparing a talk for a church community on the perils of discontentment and even in that space I couldn’t elude the hooks of desire for something more. Someone knows me and sees me and is going to hook me in with the hope of something better out there…

And I did click!

I saw an ad for an old Monaro for $6K. The car looked spectacular – too good not to look – so I left the sermon on discontentment and went to see what this car was like. It turned out the seller had used a picture of an already restored car to show what his could look like if the purchaser had a bottomless pile of cash and endless time to spare! Ha…

But for me it was just a valuable picture of the world we live in as we seek to follow Jesus and live differently. There is no escaping the lure and promise of a better life, and unless we engage deeply with the biblical story and a Christian community I’d suggest we are going to buy that lie too easily. We are constantly being ‘discipled by the culture’ and it is not leading us into contentment.

An old proverb says “When we pursue happiness we flee contentment”.

By contrast when we see all we have to be grateful for we can live with peace and joy, but you have to get past the lies you are fed every day by the clever people in advertising!



The Olive Man

A few weeks back in the middle of the afternoon there was a knock at our bottom door and I went downstairs to see who it could be. An older man probably in his 80’s was standing there and as I opened it he asked ‘I was wondering if you had any plans for your olives?’

‘What do you mean?’ I asked totally clueless as to what he was talking about.

‘You have an olive tree down there’, he said pointing towards our shed. ‘Do you mind if I pick them?’

In my head I’m thinking ‘Really?… you approach a complete stranger to ask if you can have his olives?… That’s weird…’

I’m also thinking ‘really – I have an oIive tree? I had no clue’.

I hadn’t got my bearings at all with the situation. I was expecting a courier, or a JW, not an ‘olive collector’. I mean who does that!? I didn’t have a pre-scripted fob off response for the ‘olive man’ so I reverted to my telemarketer spiel and offered a ‘nah she’ll be right mate.’

‘I guess that’s a no then?’ he said as he began to turn around sadly. ‘I’d give you some of the oil you know’.

And as he said that I became a little curious. I started to wonder firstly ‘where is this olive tree?’ and secondly maybe he really is just offering to pick them.

I wandered down the front steps and he pointed to the tree.

‘Oh…’ I said, ‘so we do have an olive tree.’

‘I’m John’ he said. ‘I live in Two Rocks. You might know my daughter?’ And he mentioned a local business person. I knew who she was.

I began to realise this wasn’t a runaway dementia patient. This bloke was genuine. We chatted briefly and eventually with some bemusement I said ‘Sure John – knock yourself out. Take as many as you like…’

I had assumed he was a local rambling eccentric with an olive fetish, but at the same time pretty harmless so I was happy to oblige. End of story.

Then in a recent conversation with friends they tell me of their Italian neighbour who came over to pick their olives and make oil with it. I laughed – a second odd bod – fancy that?!

And then I learnt that this is a ‘thing’. There are people who seek out olive trees and who are happy to pick the olives and make stuff out of them and its been going on for ages – its just part of being in community with others.

I felt a little sad that I had put John in the nutbag category pretty quickly because he was doing something that didn’t compute with my way of life. He was used to being in a community where we shared what we have and I was saying effectively ‘no – go away – let the olives fall to the ground.’

It was just a small reminder of how communities can be when we allow people into our lives and how we have been shaped to protect and guard ‘what’s ours’.

Perhaps if we picked one another’s olives, mowed one another’s lawns and engaged with one another’s lives on a more regular basis we would enjoy healthier and happier communities. No question about it…

So if one day an elderly ethnic man comes to your door asking for olives don’t laugh – he’s for real – its a good thing (and yes – you do have an olive tree.)

Life Threads – Surfing & The Ocean Final

I took this photo the day after we moved into our house in June 2011 and it captures so much of what Yanchep has been for us. The kids looking out to a rainbow over the ocean – a little bit of wonderment and awe and some symbolism of a fresh start. Its been all that and more.

That said, if you told me 10 years ago that we would be one day living in Yanchep I think I would have laughed. Yanchep?… Does anyone actually live there?!

It just felt so far away – from everything – but then we did it. We bought a house and moved. We didn’t know much about the local community, but we did know that we loved the beach and from the upper level of our home we could see the ocean – not panoramic ocean views but enough to say ‘hmmm nice…’ I had never lived in a home with actual ocean views before and with such proximity to the water, so this was a whole new experience.

Now each morning I could look out and see the ocean – see waves – chop – flat blue water, white water on the reefs – but what I discovered is that being able to actually see it makes all the difference. You see we lived in Butler for 9 years, just a couple of kms from water, but we didn’t go there a heap. It was out of sight out of mind a lot of the time.

The Lagoon – a daily drive by

One of the things I committed to from the day we moved in was doing ‘ocean drive bys’ on our way into Yanchep and on the way out. You can go a slightly shorter route to & from our home thru the back streets, but even when I’m running late I still do the ‘lagoon drive by’ either in or out.  It is enriching to the soul every time – just to see the ocean in all her various moods – calm and placid, raging and wild, it doesn’t matter.














That’s me on ‘big Mal’ with Brett, Mark & Cal on one of the best days of 2017 (Photo Corey Kirwen)

Coming to Yanchep was a chance to really get surfing again. I knew there were waves up here, but didn’t realise just how many good spots there were. There are the two well known breaks, (yeah… those ones…)  but also a couple of lesser known but equally fun waves on their day. My favourite is just a short walk from home and when its good – its very good. And when you drive past every single day you are generally in a position to not miss out. Even though I’m well past 50 now, I’ve probably been surfing more than ever – proximity to water – friends in the area – and a pretty quiet winter with work meant I got wet more often that ever before.

As well as great waves, there are a great local crew. I’ve enjoyed living somewhere you can actually get to know the guys in the water. Some days when the surf has been average I have paddled out anyway because I have seen the cars in the carpark and realised who is out there. Sam gets to surf around older blokes who encourage him and push him – and sometimes give him lifts home.  Its a great vibe.

Sambo learning to surf at Club Cap

In our first years in Yanchep we were still homeschooling, so we would take the kids down to the old Club Capricorn to teach them surfing. I never pushed Sam into surfing, but fortunately he’s taken to it, so we get to do something we both love together. That’s a cool thing! Now he spends many afternoons down at the beach getting home just after dark and usually forgetting that its dinner time… but that’s fine with me.

At the start of 2017 – Jan 1 to be precise – I launched into a new experiment. I began taking daily photos of the beach and set up an Instagram / Facebook page called ‘yanchepbeaches365‘. This meant I now took the time every single day to observe the ocean more carefully each day – to be there – to notice and to share it with others. The simple act of being present at the beach every single day has been a really valuable practice both for enjoying it, but also meeting more people in the area. What began purely as a personal experiment has enabled me to enjoy the ocean in a new way and also make friends – ironically social media has connected me with the people in my community rather than keeping us isolated…

Occasionally we ponder the whole ‘moving house’ thing, but then we ask ‘to where?’ It feels like we have found paradise. Last year we considered moving back to Quinns Rocks to allow the kids to be closer to school and to minimise the drive time, but the overwhelming decision after weighing things up was ‘we’d all rather do the drive and live in Yanchep than come back to suburbia.’


This was also the year of my first overseas surf adventure since the Philippines back in 1989. Danelle took a team to the Bali Orphanages we are involved with while I headed off to Medewi for some time alone and hopefully some good waves. I was a bit nervous going on my own to a new break and just launching in, but Medewi is a very easy, friendly wave so it turned out to be a lot of fun and very easy to manage. Danelle and the kids joined me after 4 or 5 days and hung out for another 4 days and we all had a great time.

So this our life now. I remember travelling thru the Philippines a long time ago and up into Bagiouo where we met the ‘mountain people’ – people whose lives were based around their physical location. Living by the beach and having it as an integral part of our everyday experience. I never thought I’d be here as a 10 year old Irish kid obsessed with soccer, but 40 years of getting wet and enjoying the natural environment of the ocean has made us ‘ocean people’. Its just who we are now and I doubt that will ever change.

Life Threads – Surfing & The Ocean IV

From the hills we moved to Butler in 2003 and suddenly we were within 3kms of the coast yet again. Surfing began to happen with greater frequency and knowing the ‘Alkimos’ was directly offshore I felt it was time to buy a boat (as you do…) in order to get to some of those less crowded waves…

I began with the ‘Queen Mary’ – a tiny 12 ft fibreglass dinghy that lasted 6 months, moved to a 15ft half cab with a dodgy hull that almost sank but was sold on eBay as scrap, and ended up with a sensational 17ft runabout (see pic)  that gave us lots of good times. The Alkimos (name of an old shipwreck with a reef nearby) was- 2kms off the beach – and we did have some great waves in those years (along with many ‘near miss’ boat stories…)

In that time I also had a go at fishing, snorkelling and scuba, but none of them grabbed my heart like surfing did. By this point in life though I was becoming aware it wasn’t just surfing that I was into – it was the ocean. There was something magnetic about the sea that I just couldn’t escape.

I dunno where you meet God, but I have realised that he seems to show up pretty regularly at the beach. I think he likes it too.  In my early years the beach was a place I went to surf – and if there were no waves I would come home. In my 30’s and 40’s the beach was taking on a new significance and I would often just go there and sit… and hang out… a spiritual place.

We lived near Quinns Beach where there were no waves of any significance but I still found myself often at the beach enjoying something I couldn’t articulate. I knew that when I got stressed or tetchy I just needed to go and ‘get wet’ and the world would look different.

It was generally the Alkimos or the odd trip to the Spot where we got waves during this period. I loved the trips to Alkimos, but it was a fickle wave and too much wind could really screw the whole thing up. That and it being a half day event to launch a boat, surf and then clean up took the shine off it a bit. The Spot was busy and it was difficult to find an uncrowded wave so I never really took to it. In the end as life got busier, the boat got used less and less and inevitably cost more and more, so it was sold and replaced with a camper trailer that would be our home for 6 months as we travelled Oz.

Heading North

I reckon its every surfer’s dream – to hitch up a caravan and go surfing around the country for an extended time. We had just paid off the mortgage and were debt free with some money in the bank, so this was the opportune time to do a trip of this nature. In April 2009 we hit the road with a Jayco camper-trailer in tow and a 7ft mini mal strapped to the roof. While it wasn’t a surf holiday, I will confess that the old GQ Patrol did seem to have an inner urge to travel down any dirt track that looked like it could spawn good waves. We took off North and scored a few waves in Exmouth, even a few in Broome, before a long drive thru the NT and far north Queensland saw us not surfing until we arrived in the Gold Coast.

Lennox Head

Pambula – and no one else in sight

From there on we found waves all down the NSW coast, often empty or uncrowded and generally pretty good. My faves were Lennox Head and Pambula beach, but the whole NSW coastline is beautiful and we could have spent 6 months just in this section of Australia. By the time we got to Victoria we only had 4 weeks left so there wasn’t time to hang around and wait for the Torquay area to fire up. We had to keep moving.

The Toilets at Cactus

Cactus Waves

Fortunately we had the good sense to stop at Cactus, an iconic Aussie desert wave and we spent a couple of nights there. I’m glad to say I got to surf it, as it really is a million miles from anywhere and a pretty special wave. We spent one whole day in the rest of South Australia… and then sprinted for home, slowed only by spending our final week in the Busso area and getting home in October and back to reality. It was a different reality to the one we left as during that time away we had suffered a $250K loss and were now well in debt, but that’s another story.

For the next two years I basically worked my arse off to try and get rid of debt. Danelle took up homeschooling and our life hit a new rhythm. We lasted another couple of years in Butler before seeing a house in Yanchep we loved the look of. It was just 300m from the beach and kinda ‘Cloudstreety’, a ramshackle, quirky beach house made of timber and stone and we had fallen in love with it. In June 2011 we made the best move of our lives.

Another Day in the Backyard

‘Do you eat marmalade?’ Sally calls out after she has backed her ute into the street.

‘Um… yeah… I guess… My wife will eat it.’ I reply.

So she drops a jar on the front seat of my car. ‘I make it, but I never eat it.’ she says with a cheeky cackle.

Sally is a 70 year old ex-crayfisherwoman turned farmer who lives in a neighbouring suburb and who I’ve worked for several times in the last few years. She lives alone after caring for her sick mum for the last twenty years. She’s tough as nails, a bit rough around the edges and kind hearted all in one quirky package.

A new retaining wall she installed has created some work for me – some plain grunt work digging trenches and laying pipe and some problem solving, wondering where the old pipes run and how I can make it all function again.  It sounded like two hours work on the phone, but on arrival I ring my next job and tell them to expect me after lunch. Its often that way at Sally’s place. I think her favourite phrase is ‘while you’re at it…’

As a farmer, she knows retic and knows exactly what she wants, so everything needs to be run past her before moving on. I’ve learnt that – its done Sally’s way or its done again.

At 9.00am after just an hour of work the rain sets in so I head indoors to sit at her kitchen table and have a cup of tea. She’s a self confessed hoarder and the room is full of random boxes, papers and junk that probably meant something to her once, but now just fill space. She lives between this house and her farm in the midwest that she manages on her own – no mean feat for an older woman.

‘I lost 21 sheep last week to bloody dogs,’ she tells me. She gives me the rundown of how the farm is going and then asks how I like my tea. Without the slightest blip of conscience she uses a vile racist description to tell me she likes hers very strong. I don’t think she realises how offensive her words are and I am bemused, but beyond wanting to correct her. It isn’t an offense to her and it won’t help for me to go there.

She has no clue how to use her printer to print my invoice out, but she can find the weather radar on her ipad quick as a flash. ‘This is only a quick shower’ she says, ‘but the next will be a big one…’  (and she was spot on).

I head back outside to work while she drives down to Yanchep to book a flight to Darwin for a friend’s birthday. She still uses travel agents and doesn’t trust the internet.

As she gets back a local restauranteur arrives to check out her fridge that is for sale. ‘Oscar’ chats with her, agrees to a price and then after an extended conversation, leaves with a bunch of shallots and some helpful gardening advice.

She potters out the front and tells me a bit about her life – never married – ‘not for lack of offers’ – she assures me. But she didn’t want to spend her life ‘waiting from someone to come home from the pub.’

‘Fair enough’ I say.

‘There have been a few blokes (and one son as a result) but I always wanted someone taller than me and stronger minded than me…’ she laughs.

I laugh as well… She’s 5 ft 10, but that’s not the point. ‘Stronger minded than you?’ I say. She cackles again and makes me another cup of tea as we continue to chat. I near completion and ask if she wants me to backfill the trenches, but she tells me she will do that. (I thought she might)

‘Nothing hard about that!’ she laughs, so I will leave and she’ll get on the shovel and clean up.

When its all done its $1100.00 which is good because she had budgeted $1-1.5K. She pulls out her cheque book and assures me she only has tradies in when she can afford to pay – although I reckon she’s got a few bob in reserve. We have another laugh about what kind of crazy job she may have for me next time and then I drive off.

I leave Sally’s at 12.30 and head for Dave’s house. I debate whether to head home for lunch but instead I pick up a pie to get me thru what I’m hoping will be a quick job. Dave & Edna are kiwis and long term Yanchep locals whose retic has ‘been on the dick’ (or ‘duck’ if you’re a kiwi) for several years, but they have never got around to fixing it.

It looks simple, but turns into a complex problem. Each step of the way Dave is watching me and cursing the retic ‘F$%k me. I hate this stuff’ he says.

‘No’ f$%king idea’ he says, when I ask about what work was done previously.

‘F$%k!…’ he yells emphatically as I finally work out what the problem is and explain that its not gonna be fixed today.

What I thought was going to be 15 minutes turns into two and a half hours and another extended conversation. As I’m packing up out the front and chatting with them I realise I have been here before – but at night. They are the local ‘Christmas lights house’. Dave tells me they have two sea containers of stuff that they store each year waiting for December to come around so they can decorate and serve the local community. Light, snow machine and Santa – the whole bit – people come from miles around to see it.

‘Its just us doing our ‘but’ for the community’ says Dave.

They tell me stories of the people who come to visit each year. Those who come early and complain because the lights aren’t on at 6.30 and those who arrive at 11.00pm and expect them to get out of bed and entertain them.

‘Its must make you think about giving it away?’ I ask, imagining how I’d be feeling if that happened to me.

‘Nah – no way – we love it.’ Edna says.

”F$%k yeah’ says Dave.

As I drive home I realise yet again how blessed I am to work as a tradie in the local community and to spend time with people like these. Beautiful, earthy, genuine people who have generous hearts and kind spirits.

In the evening I chat online with Ian Robbo, a theology lecturer in the East doing some research on the whole idea of being a ‘bivocational / tent-maker’ pastor and whether its a helpful thing or a hindrance to ministry work.

I remember I used to feel sorry for the poor blokes who had to work a ‘secular’ job because their church couldn’t afford them full time. These days I can’t imagine being sentenced to full time ministry work again. I certainly wouldn’t be encountering the likes of Dave & Sally on a daily basis, if at all, and that is worth more than you can ever imagine.