Saturday, January 14, 2017

Celebrating Thirty Years

   It occurred to me late last year that January 2017 represents thirty years of 'putting one foot after the other' pursuing what I perceived to be the 'right' choice for my work. As in, doing something I've loved as what the average person knows as their job. Part time University was a job, Accountancy Trainee or Manager in Training and even doing a Diploma in Education were a job. This is more the sometimes overblown, over complicated, pursued or misunderstood sense of call.
- I knew it would be a mistake to be an Accountant and I struggled at University part time
- I loved my voluntary youth leadership role/s
- The Uniting Church existence and ethos are crucial to my story
- I put my hand up locally but needed to go further afield
- Normanhurst took a chance after they'd had some less effective experiences
- I started as Parish Assistant Youth & Retirement Village Pastoral Carer for two years
- I finished a Bachelor of Economics and started a patchwork of formation/education/training
- I participated in networks, had mentors, listened, learnt from mistakes
- Dip. Ed and SRE teaching
- Order of St Stephen Hunter Regional Youth Worker
- NSW/ACTStatewide Youth Unit
- Hunter Youth Ministry Development & Resource Minister Upper Hunter
- Congregational Minister at Morisset Uniting

There are learnings, key relationships, anecdotes, how we speak of God and models/ideas to share
[in coming weeks as I'm on holidays]

Anyhow I'll have a fittingly quiet celebration of fav. food and beverage this coming week sometime with more reflections to follow!! It's a bit like this audio only youtube song

"The Calling" Mary Chapin Carpenter
Deep in your blood or a voice in your head
On a dark lonesome highway
It finds you instead
So certain it knows you, you can't turn away
Something or someone has found you today

Genius or Jesus, maybe he's seen us
But who would believe us
I can't really say
Whatever the calling, the stumbling or falling
You follow it knowing
There's no other way, there's no other way

There are zealots and preachers
And readers of dreams
The righteous yell loudest
And the saved rise to sing
The lonely and lost are just waiting to hear
Any moment their purpose
Will be perfectly clear

And then life would mean more
Than their name on their door
And that far distant shore that's so near
They'd hear the calling
And stumbling and falling
They'd follow it knowing
There's nothing to fear
Nothing to fear

I don't remember a voice
On a dark, lonesome road
When I started this journey so long ago
I was only just trying to outrun the noise
There was never a question of having a choice
Jesus or genie, maybe they've seen me
But who would believe me
I can't really say
Whatever the calling, the stumbling and falling
I followed it knowing there's no other way

Jesus or genie, maybe he's seen me
But who would believe me
I can't really say
Whatever the calling, stumbling and falling
I got through it knowing there's no other way
There's no other way

Movies I'm Looking Forward to in 2017

It's obviously easier to find advance reference to blockbusters BUT here goes in no particular order:
[click on most of the film titles to see a trailer]

Looks a great yarn with a terrific cast, should have more awards as a Weinstein project
Manchester by the Sea
Critical acclaim
Some stories are worth the admission price [none are worth the cost of snacks/drinks]
Hidden Figures
A great story and I reckon it'll be my pick of the year by the end!!
A thriller
Jasper Jones
Based on the aussie novel
The Zookeepers Wife
A tough but important story
Star Wars Episode VIII
Looking forward to the unfolding story
Justice League
Ramping up the Affleck
Hoping Chris Nolan doesn't stuff it up
No fan of war/violence these films tell our anglo founding stories one way or another
Spiderman Homecoming
Don't be confused, this is 'young' Peter Parker
I know, but they're action packed escapist stories
Wonder Woman
Who is UN empowerment symbol of the year
Kingsman The Golden Circle 
A quirky 'sleeper' if they get it right
The internet is full of fan made trailers
Jumanji 2
Where the kids get trapped in the game world
Oscar nomination for Dwayne Johnson?
Captain Underpants The First Epic Movie great storybook/s
John Wick Chapter 2
Because it will be completely ridiculous and he will kill whoever
Cars 3 Lightning Strikes
Really, but it could be OK

Yeah, not so worried about...
Thor, Transformers, War on Planet of the Apes, Beauty & the Beast, Pitch Perfect 3, World War Z 2 [the irony],  The God Particle, Flatliners, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Smurfs, TRainspotting 2, Bladerunner 2049, etc

Sadly the number of TV shows remade as films, sequels and bad ideas is only increasing
I would hope 'Baywatch' with Zac Efron is somewhere near the bottom of the curve

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

40 Degrees Today in Newcastle

 I know, it's crazy, I don't love the summer heat but I do enjoy it as my fav. time of year. I always say, I wouldn't like to be laying bricks today and I know many older folk struggle with the oppressive conditions. Others in my household are not so enthusiastic!! There's also been more pollens and dust in the air the last few months and I end up with very sore eyes BUT I could wear six jumpers in winter and still not be warm, I find it depressing and tend to hibernate in some ways because of the infernal cold!!
   It is why I love January holidays as you can be in the heat from a shady vantage point, take a swim, get in the air etc etc... but I've also regularly until about 40 something played cricket in up to 38 degrees and wanted to take the challenge. It's only been recent years I drive past Bar Beach and Empire Park and wonder which side of the road I'd rather be on...
   I will enjoy the cool change mooted for this evening as much as anyone, it's part of the summer thing and who doesn't like an iced coffee during a thunderstorm?
   In the meantime I will ride my bike a little earlier today but then possibly start my garage clean ip and re-organise... I will have the chance to swim before lunch!!
   This is also the time of year I have much greater motivation to eat better and lose some of the kilos my broken knees make easy to put on... 8kg down so far, but that just means back to where I was a year ago, there's much more to do...
   So while my thoughts are with those working outdoors, the elderly and anyone who struggles with humidity... I will happily drink more water that I did yesterday [I wasn't on top of that], bring in the washing, shop, ride, check the mail and later water the gardens to see if 55 year old me is as resilient as I used to be...

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

End of an Era

  After every year since it's inception we are finally NOT heading to Sydney's 'Openair' Cinema at Mrs Macquarie's Chair!! The 2000 seat bleachers [complete with Sebel plastic chairs] and catering on the edge of the Botanical Gardens has been a staple through kids, all weather [we've only had the worst of it once in that time] and another one or two light showers nights... ponchos are handed out free and only high winds would stop a screening. Various reasons we're not going I guess... oh well!

   Much like the SCG members who turn up at 10.20am expecting their favourite seats to be available, my favourite viewing has always been those who rock up at 8.15pm with a date to impress and discover there are only single seats 150m apart because many people have lined up since 4-5pm to be let in after 6pm and grabbed a seat and a table and settled in to make a night of it!!

If you plan to go here's the way to do it:
- Open a St George account I guess, pre sale access 500 tix per film or main sale a week later
- Tix in advance but no reserved seats, first in gets the choice
- Personally we rule out films over 2 hrs [plastic seats]
- There is early parking at Mrs Mac's Chair but go around so facing west
- Go early and line up with your print at home tix [that's changed most over the years]
- One race to get two seat reserved St George signs and go up the first stairs to find good seats
- Another head straight for the Dining Tables and grab spots
- Grab your free Lindt ball on the way through
- Take your time before ordering, the eating/drinking
- Move to seats a bit before 8pm so you can still read a newspaper/magazine
- The screen mechanically goes up around 8.15pm
- Movie 8.30pm-ish
- Enjoy!!

   There are deck chairs for first 200 St G customers, special nights for them too. I preferred the original Phillips sponsors and no VIP seats [although there's always been a VIP bar and a bevy of celebrities]. Props to the famous who sit with the great unwashed... there's plenty of spottos each year!!

Monday, January 09, 2017

Vale Brian Rudd Pitt St Mall Shoe shine

It was inspiring at Christmas time to read this tweet from Father Bob...

"full of resilience and gratitude"

   Brian was a well known 'shoeshine' in Sydney who I often saw and very occasionally spoke to in Pitt St Mall over many years. It was humbling and fascinating to have heard Father Bob speak of Brian's story and background at a fundraising dinner for the South Sydney Herald.
   Brian had been a ward of the state in Victoria from 3 months to 18 years of age and had moved to Sydney because he feared the drug culture in Melbourne would be his undoing. Sharp, funny and as Father Bob says "full of resilience, he slept rough or in boarding houses and didn't want charity but was happy to shine shoes and carve out a simple life in the city. He died quietly in his sleep just days after the phone call/tweet. I used to regret that I mostly wore joggers or suede shoes every time I went past Brian in the Mall.
   I had cause to share the little I knew of Brian's story with young people and other audiences over the course of a few years when talking about who makes up this world, what 'good news' might look like to different people and/or just to invite people to 'walk a mile' in the shoes of another and hear their "story of hope". I know he inspired me and caused no end of honest self reflection.
   You can read a little about Brian here and I understand that Father Bob has been rushed with offers to take Brian's ashes to the Ganges, not least of which from holiday travellers, businessmen who shined Brian's shoes and the ED of Steve Waugh's charity. I think they're still looking for pro bono transport of Brian to Melbourne for a Funeral with remaining family [his brother].

Vale Brian Rudd

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Mike Frost's 'New' Blog is worth a read

 I sense a motivation for a bigger conversation than a Facebook Post can offer and so Mike Frost is blogging in a 'new' site and today's post is well worth a read and a thought here

Sunday, January 01, 2017

"The Sound of Summer" Jim Maxwell

Just quietly I don't often enjoy reading!
   That said, some books I can't put down [often autobiographies] while others join the pile of six awaiting another try. I've just read Jim Maxwell's excellent memoir since Christmas Eve!! Interesting, fills in some gaps from newspaper articles, gives great insight into the ABC and it's characters.

Jim offers honest and generous assessments of various cricketers, Captains and others. Since his medical incident during the local van based coverage of the Olympic Hockey from Rio he's been confined to 'phoning in' his insights and observations of the cricket... typically sharp and relevant comments!!

Wishing him well in his stroke rehab and wondering if I take the book to the SCG and see if he's about for autographs!!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

When You Know You're Right...

  It's was 38 degrees in my Office the day I started this post writing, with a fan on and the hint of a breeze wafting through the open door. It's an example of me avoiding the air con option while I can as I actually like this weather. I don't mind a cold drink, a swim or the end of such a day with a cool change and an iced coffee as well!! But in the meantime it's definitely summer, it burns colds away and gives value for effort in your exercise... I digress...

   Yurora 2017 [the current inventive 'iteration' of the UCA's national youth event formerly identified as NCYC now in a  three year cycle] kicks off at Stanwell Tops 8th January. I'm not involved [apart from spreading the word and encouraging young people to get onboard] and not planning to participate at this stage. That's a bit of a transition as I haven't missed one since my first in 1987...

My friends went to Adelaide 1985 but I had no money or time off...

1987 Ballarat
1989 Perth
1991 Toowoomba
1993 Canberra
1995 Adelaide
1997 Launceston
1999 Geelong
2001 Brisbane
2003 Newcastle
2005 Gawler
2007 Perth
2009 Melbourne
2011 Gold Coast

   Like many others I've offered Community Leadership, Chaplaincy, alt.worship, Bible Study Interactives with Teams, Elective Workshops, Organising and Mentoring...

   This is an event that's brought us into contact with Desmond Tutu, Jim Wallis, Grace Imathui, Pete Rollins and Jules Hamilton and many more outstanding contributors!! Tutu and Wallis are still two of the best communicators I've heard.

   At least [3] times in the latter half of this time I participated in 'consultations' and conversations about the future models for the event sparked by the universal missional challenges facing the church. These presented as declining numbers, theological wrestles, affordability and sustainability of the planning and leadership models for a rotating event "reinventing the wheel" in every hosting cycle.

   Inspired by listening and discernment, the effective reinvention of "Blackstump" and other similar events we advocated for: change; choice; flexible accomodation and catering options; and that the "givens" in the manual had to change for the event to survive and prosper.

Among things we were convinced of:
- convention style had run it's course and the price ceiling had been reached
- 75% of attenders needed a subsidy/fundraising component [lots of Fredo Frogs]
- Most attenders are first timers
- 'Choice' was working in Festivals as the adjectives of intimacy changed for a generation
- Praxis would allow deeper learning through middle day immersions
- Commercial food choices and a variety of accomodation could allow different budgets
- We were very anglo despite best efforts [up front and in authentic engagement]
- Festivals can pack more in for less days
- Whole Convention Gatherings didn't need to be everyday

Imposed major changes have only happened in my time when the host is onboard e.g lower age, community style, middle day programs, self catering and tents again, digital music, festival style.

On the back of 2003 in Newcastle which offered the inspired 'Carthedral' but also using the middle day to explore agencies and people serving others in the local community [with all the January shutdown challenges and groups not quite 'getting' what we were asking... you know, we wanted to genuinely listen and hear their story. A small crew worked crazily to make that happen. It was breaking out of a christendom envisaged presence in the host town.

I'm most proud that it sparked others to "do even better" e.g to not just see a soup kitchen operating but to serve soup [in WA] and then to stage social justice actions from common good partnerships with community organisations through existing networks in Vic/Tas... that was the hope when we started... that others would take our idea and do it even bigger!!

There are loads more things about NCYC that have been landmarks, brilliant and everything it means to be UCA...

I'm still inspired by the creativity and cultural/artistic/generational brilliance of Canberra's "On the Edge of the Night" evening experiences. Tim Winton readings, music clips and live bands, varied speakers, drama, story and art in themed material that invited you to think, imagine, connect and make meaning. These were shaping experiences for what I've advocated for decades since in accessing the arts, story and pop culture to tell our story...

I also understood the privilege of wrangling teams to do two experimental Bible Studies in Melbourne and on the Gold Coast... you can keep your talking head hour long lectures!!

Anyhow, I step back and take a break knowing I saw Yurora happen last time and a vision for change actually work... Festival style... by people and in ways better than we ever imagined, as expected!!

I contributed an interactive story space going old school with TV monitors for video, art, props, shoes, a message box, photo booth etc and I got to see 'The Commons' nail it for village community and hospitality!!

This whole year I've known I had nothing creative bubbling up to offer. I would happily offer to do transport, toilets, ushering etc etc no problem. BUT I just feel I need to step away, to be on holidays and maybe be able to have a circuit breaker for next time with renewed energy and maybe even an attender or two in tow!! I look forward to hearing and seeing the story unfold [I won't miss some of the style of the event, after all I wasn't suggesting a Festival I'd enjoy, one that 18-25s would]... I think I knew at the end of the last Yurora I wouldn't be at this one for all the above reasons. It's important to reflect, take time and decide... when you know you're right!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Thursday, December 08, 2016

"Disruption" Word of 2016

Forget "post-truth" as word of the year from 2016!!
   Notice the fade in the Pokemon obsession [except amongst the easily distracted] the enduring nature of fitness wear as fashion, the rise of the wearable tech [as sadly Pebble becomes part of FitBit courtesy perhaps of a waterproof Apple Watch and catch ups from other devices], the popularity of the one piece short pants suit [as opposed to the not so popular US presidential candidate pants suit], Ray Ban and copy styles with elaborate mirror lenses.

   What else has defined fashion or fad in 2016? Terrence Malick movies, Disney Star Wars, sports brand t-shirts, live videos, cheerleading as aerobatic dance, the 'Babylon Bee' satirical site, Game of Thrones chain store merchandise, anti-sugar diets, "Goggle Box" relaxing it's language threshold so the kids get sent to bed, Leonard Cohen, the now Ninja enhanced "Nutri-Bullet", 'not musical' music, politics as usual "on the nose" and so disregarded people elected the "as usual" by a different name without realising it!! This is the year when Nigella can drizzle olive oil a slice of turkish bread with lettuce and a fried egg and call it cooking!!

I actually think the word of 2016 was "disruption" [or at least it's a prime candidate for 2017!!

noun: disruption; plural noun: disruptions
disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity, or process.
"the scheme was planned to minimize disruption"

synonyms: disturbance, disordering, disarrangement, disarranging, interference, upset, upsetting, unsettling, confusion, confusing; More

Note "Disruptive Innovation Week" in March 2017

Growth of innovation, service, choice or comfort OR profit?

The most positive use would be "it was an industry 'ripe' for disruption"
I can't decide whether I like it or not or think we should be suspicious [my natural state]

Perhaps a simple example is the arrival of Uber as an on request transport service in direct competition with the existing Taxi Cab industry. The attempt is to cast "disruption" as an innovative, creative, load lightening, consumer empowering change. Is it that or is it a weasel word for 'an opportunity to make money at the expense of the status quo.

Suddenly following an era of uniforms, standards, quizzes and consolidation, the taxi industry is under threat from a seemingly more streamlined, tailored, cheaper, and choice based competitor. Others caution this is until Taxis begin to disappear and the Uber pricing will go up to capitalise on the success of their "disruption."

OR is any 'disruption' in this context to be encouraged... in the name of serving the needs and wants of individuals. Are there Uber mobility buses, wheelchair ready vans and sedans, short trip specialists, taxes paid, safety checked etc etc?

Is disruption just another name for capitalising on other people's hard work on start up?
Is it favouring individuals with resources over a community of those without? [while looking like that's exactly who 'should' benefit?

Concert ticket prices and resale ticket sites, now there's an industry 'ripe' for disruption!!


Tuesday, December 06, 2016

"Redneck Wonderland/Concrete" Midnight Oil

ABC Local Radio 1233 in Newcastle has it's album of the week as the disc celebrating 20 years since the TV program "Recovery" hosted by Dylan Lewis and Jane Gazzo!! This Oils performance brought the then clearly themed album to the 90s youth TV audience on what was a great program for it's day... outstanding work from the set design mob who went all out for the Oils!!
   You can see Peter Garrett's red megaphone in the "Making of Midnight Oil" exhibition in Wollongong now!! Great stuff!!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Crowded House 'live' at the Sydney Opera House ABC TV

   It's wonderful to sit and share the joy of Crowded House with our girls twenty years on from the entire collection on high rotation in the car, the house, anywhere!! Neil Finn is just a masterful lyricist, composer and musician...
   I'm reminded of the concert twenty years ago because we didn't go!! I know!
Not for the first time or the last I chose to be where my vocation called for me to be [though on that occasion I was less than impressed with the turnout] but the quality of relationships with those gathered was a wonderful thing!! It was a UYF Christmas Party at Charlestown UC and I and others were on BBQ duty!! So I have the double VHS collection instead...
   That's why [apart from being away, since booked] I decided not to go this time... It's hard to relive something you missed first time around!! It's different to why I don't go to the vineyards, which is about it never being the same as it was... or the risk it won't be!! Nice though, to read friends FB messages across the last four nights!! They are still a great band... 'Beatlesesque' when there were then too many good bands for that to be quite as unique!!
   So here I am in the lounge room fighting back tears for songs that speak of life's pains, decisions, good times and grief. There are songs reminding me of: so many venues and gigs seeing this band live; strong albums; Neil's perfectionism; Paul Hester's jester act and just the magic of storytelling through song...
   There's also something wonderful about the Aussie/Kiwi battle/wrestle/market size that means Crowded House reflect our brashness and Kiwi humility and creativity.
   I'm reminded too of Newcastle's Civic Theatre with the Finn brothers plus Liam and Elroy Finn as the players rotate around instruments for several songs... showing off, no, showing sheer talent. Then there's the 'Sound Relief' gig with Neil playing guitar and singing and Tim on guitar, voice and foot drums!! Wonderful! Tim will be onstage soon... and as I'm in QLD, there he is right on cue I kid you not... "It's Only Natural"!!
   I'm also sad for Paul Hester who lived with such anguish and who died so alone at a time of his own choosing. A reminder to me that if the one whose example I try to follow, the community we are called to be in response and the Christ we are meant to bring, means anything it has to mean something in those times and places. We have to actually be a people tuned into those voices from the struggling edge of ourselves and our community... places of hope in bad times, of joy and of so many more things...
   It makes me think of Neil at the Opera House [inside] after Paul's death and we'd gone to hear him play and he asked for the PA to be turned off and he just sang for Paul a capella in that space and it was not just a 'thin place' but the shared grief was palpable.
   So there you go, that's what I'm thinking of and tearful about in a time share lounge room as the grainy reception on the Unit TV offers some glimpse of creativity, joy, talent and celebration that's always been Crowded House!!
   Looking forward to "Weather With You" and so many more...

Friday, November 11, 2016

"Carols for Compassion" #lovemakesaway

  "Love Makes a Way" is a movement of people who believe it!! That there's got to be a better alternative to the hopelessness, mental anguish, exploitation and punishment of already distressed people seeking asylum in Australia by 'leaky boat.'
   There's no doubt the global problem needs complex solutions but it ought to start with compassion and relief of post traumatic stress. In the 1970s Australia embraced 'the boat people' and we are a richer country for our multiculturalism. What irks me most is not the rhetoric about 'stop the boats' or the drownings BUT it's the fact that suits a political wedge agenda. The Howard Government saw a political opportunity, lied about children overboard and have kept ramping up the hype. Then Labor relaxed the approach, for the right motives, and yes their 'soft on border protection' blah blah blah!!
   This country needs a Forum of skilled people to develop an alternative response, involving the UNHCR and our near neighbours, to replace that awful militarily inspired "Operation Sovereign Borders."
   Leaving all that aside "CHILDREN DON'T BELONG IN DETENTION"  and "CAROLS FOR COMPASSION" is an opportunity to gather with others, to sing and to stand for a better way!!
   Even if you believe our current approach is right you can't possibly be OK with what's happening refugees and asylum seekers in our Detention Centres... if otherwise I'd love to hear how you find those values earthed in the Christian story and the arc of God's siding with the poor that bends towards justice!!

In short, like minded souls can gather for "CAROLS FOR COMPASSION" from 4.45pm Thursday 8th December at Hunter St Newcastle [Office of Federal MP Sharon Claydon]!!

Monday, November 07, 2016

Movies 2016 [too early?]

“The Nice Guys” most entertaining, funniest film I saw all year
“Hunt for the Wilder People” my favourite film for 2016
“Sully” divides opinion but I really liked it for the clever angle to tell the story
“The Girl on the Train” best intrigue of 2016
“Eddie the Eagle” loved it, funny and inspired
 “Batman v Superman” um yeah it was OK if a little underwhelming!!
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” held up well, great laughs
“Captain America Civil War” yeah, tired!! You need a reason to tell a story
 “The Divergent Series: Allegiant” OK as a terrific suspend belief brain break
“Jason Bourne” a fine return but they still don’t resolve as they set up the next two
“Suicide Squad” entertaining distortion of the story in editing
 “Bridget Jones Baby” as good as ever, love it or hate it
“The Magnificent Seven” great remake, tense, violent, good cast
 “The Accountant” surprise packet
“Jack Reacher 2” aside from 5’ 8’ non blonde, entertaining
“Eight Days a Week” showcase for Ron Howard’s craft, youth & enthusiasm & talent on show
“Eye in the Sky” caught up with this to remember Alan Rickman
“Money Monster” great effort, George both inspires and frustrates
“The Secret Life of Pets” surprisingly entertaining
 “The Jungle Book “ terrific memories of my fav. childhood storybook
“X:Men Apocolypse” OK for a morning off
 “The Man Who Knew Infinity” almost a great film
“Dr Strange” like the title says
  “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2” 2 hours I’ll never get back
  “Finding Dory” Good but unecessary
“Independence Day 2” shlock laughfest
cast will obscure what a terrible film this was
 “David Brent: Life on the Road” Funny but uncomfortable, which is what Ricky is shooting for
 “Grimsby” crude and disappointing
Unfortunately the ‘chip on the shoulder’ about backlash against rebooting the original with a female

Swiss Army Man
Captain Fantastic
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Rogue One

Hail Caesar
Dads Army
Whisky Tango Foxtrot
Florence Foster Jenkins
Star Trek Beyond

Thursday, September 08, 2016

10 months and Not Counting

   Conversations with people about my years of focus on working with young people vs what I'm doing now seem to come in waves and I suppose correspond with finding your self in new networks or social settings. I talk about my role at Morisset Uniting 'Church in the Trees' and I've been reflecting on how enjoyable the last 10 months have been, how a 'fresh start' isn't always great in the mid to longer term but so far this is very much the case. I've been very excited that simple ideas I've grown to value, about how you go about this thing called 'ministry' and the edge of encouraging people in their engagement in God's mission in the world, is for me built on things I've learnt working with young people and in sitting on the edges and observing [something I'm good at]!!
   Being straight with people, listening hard and acknowledging your own limitations while saying "thank you" to those who observe your strengths are building blocks. Working out the simplest ministry tasks that have the biggest value to those who belong to your community is worth the effort. Sticking to what you know intuitively, being willing to speak up about ethos and values, trying really hard to live those out and affirming what you see that's good and of value don't hurt either.
   I identified early that leading Funerals was going to be a learning curve for me, so too is polity and the nitty gritty of our organisational shape, with all the variants of local history. e.g "this is how it's been done" but checking for how long by who and how it was done before that.
   "Are you over the honeymoon period then?" is an interesting question which presupposes a few things, most commonly that people are on best behaviour when you arrive and can wear your difference for a time but eventually true character or annoyance will out. Instead for me it's involved the joy of honest feedback both positive and negative but also seeing others relate as they naturally do and beginning to work with those interrelationships for us all to be better and more true to our values. In other words, no I don't have whinges and complaints to make or I haven't found walls to bang my head on... I've received fair comment and have unearthed ways people need my help. The end of the honeymoon marks the beginning of the real work of ongoing relationship, but not from the default of me having all the problems... I did have a 29 year preparation for this last 10 months...
   I have sat with people in their last days and hours, re-assured someone who felt very uncomfortable that God had inflicted cancer on them when they had "been a good person" while seemingly in the world people do bad things and 'get away with it.' This was a person I'd met then for the first time as I stood in to help out. This lady would have since passed away and was to have a Funeral with only her son present as she had no other family. She was fine with that... it had been much the same for her husband a few years earlier.
   I have sometimes missed that 'extra question' through the usual weariness. The question that unlocks how someone really feels or what's really happening. But we get there somehow, mostly.
   Someone told me they "liked the way I spoke openly about doubt, questions, God and the wrestle to have faith." That person had life experience to challenge any notion of a God and they were saying they found this encouraging.
   I've also worked myself to a standstill getting Weekend OUT ready with a bunch of great people on a very small team. Next year will need to be done differently and it will be...
   How often do you see something horrendous on the TV and wonder, what can I do about that? Imagine being able to give people the bank a/c details for an alternative community 'Meeting Place" that would better enable people to do something positive and practical in the face of the treatment of those victims in the story. So it is with the 'Don Dale Centre' story on TV and the community development at John Flynn Memorial UCA in Alice Springs... but there's still encouragement to be offered for people to actually give!!
   It's September already and it's now time to:
- Mindmap the next missional steps
- Start Taskgroups about "Fix It Festival", "Advent Workshops","3rd Sunday","Life" event and a few other things like fundraising

Lucky I come back to life in spring and gain some new energy... apologies for the jargon filled reflection and obscure details BUT this is me processing, not a media release...

Monday, September 05, 2016

Where's the Love...

"The Black Eyed Peas" The World = new version of their 9/11 response in the face of the crazy world in which we live!! Can a song change the world? I doubt it... but the question it asks could...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Alphabet Musical Challenge "F" "Feet Touch the Ground" Jebediah

Over on Facebook I'm taking my own alphabet musical challenge and am up to F...
"Feet Touch the Ground" Jedediah and this acoustic version which although it ends abruptly is one of those reminders that a good catchy song sounds great in many different genres!!

Rough out of the key lyrics...

So I thought the worst was over
When my heart stopped beating again
And the weak side of my body has come undone
Through trusting them

So we walked into the building
Took the lift to the third floor
Pain lies behind that door what am I to do now?
When what they tell me is what they sell me
When what they tell me is what they sell me

And I know to be realistic
Will save me from the shock to come
Any fool believes what you tell them
Happiness in being dumb

So we listened to the experts
Everyone needs some kind of guide to help them
See deep inside what am I to do now?
When what they tell me is what they sell me
When what they tell me is what they sell me

And it's not the truth
But I'm not calming down
'Till my feet touch the ground

Sunday, July 10, 2016

'Chewbacca Mom' has her more than 15mins of fame...

With James Corden and JJ Abrams...

And then the National Anthem at the Houston Astros...

Thursday, June 23, 2016

"Church in the Trees" as Winter Kicks In

   Last week I had the privilege of sitting in conversation with an elderly lady who has cancer. She was feeling the loss of independence and wrestling with questions around how these things happen and what the next few weeks held for her. We spoke about family and past, about belief and the end of life. I have said that I took the opportunity to share with her from my "inexperience." These are hard moments having had my own illness battles and a need to watchfully attend to check ups and blood test I am aware of the lurking nature of serious illness and the questions and the isolation. At the same time we spoke of none of those things, only attending to listening.  I was visiting as a help to a nearby congregation but I left my details with caring staff and wonder if we will speak again.
   I have visited others, those who've had an accident and are in rehab, those with chronic pain and the inconvenience it brings, others to catch up and hear more of each others stories. Two things are worth writing about. The first is the tiring privilege it is to get to know people beyond a veneer, even if that's momentary and just a beginning. The second is the smug inner smile of nearly thirty years of advocacy that youth ministry is real ministry, with real people, not half people. The things I have always held to be important around empathy, listening, conversation, being present and the vale of time invested are all equally valid and past experiences count. There's much to learn but it's from new experiences, not totally new circumstances or context. Sometimes I've been right [even when formation processes seek to remind you that this can't be true no matter how confident of it you are because it's held that 'sometimes the student actually doesn't know what's best'] 
   There's plenty happening... a new storage shed and table and benches on the edge of our Community Garden and the wonderful news the local 'Sustainability Group' or MAPS are interested in investing time and energy into our Garden!! This is a remarkable development. I have taken a personal interest in the Garden beset with problems and false starts and to see a group 'fall into place' makes me glad I chose to problem solve and invest time... especially as the MAPS group was not my doing. I look forward to Spring and some plan around art/space/spirituality/labyrinths and also [thanks for idea Lisa Wriley] glue-ing small signs to cutlery to label plants/vegetables in the garden to make our open invitation to grab stuff, an informed choice!!
   We are now into week three of a 'discernment exercise' with over 50 volunteer tasks and ideas on newsprint in our hall. There are post it notes and texts where people have spent time discerning where their gifts and talents could continue to be used or any new directions and opportunity for some to lay down a few tasks and allow space for others. The most exciting spin off is the way this process opens up and invitation to those who've joined our community in recent months... it's  low key focused process to make the invitation to get involved!! It continues... and includes some new missional efforts around frozen meals, a Movie Discussion Group and more...
   This Sunday we will reflect on and celebrate it being 39 years since the Uniting Church came into being. We will focus on: the logo; our identity drawn from the "Basis of Union;" what parts of our ethos make us UCA; things we stand for and are doing and how this local embodiment is seeking to engage in God's mission in the world as part of that story.
   Two new things are in the pipeline!! Despite a rocky start to the planning and logistics we have managed to secure 6 of the 8 Candidates for the Seat of Hunter, for an Election Forum on Wed 29th June. I'm excited that flyers and news articles got out there. I believe I did good work making sure someone else wasn't planning it and yet seeking community collaborators. I know people are glad it's on and despite 6pm end of June dark and cold I'm hopeful of a decent crowd for the first time this region votes in this seat. We are seeking to be "good neighbour" and offering this hospitality to all in the community!!
Lastly a reminder there's work yet to do!!
   I haven't had/made/found the time to personally follow up and seek to meet with the local Awabakal people and the High School Indigenous program leaders/elders. Instead I've had a number of second hand conversations with people who have sent me 'some details' and offered to send my contacts to those people should they wish to accept my overtures to meet and seek common ground. A 'known' Christian artist was suggested to follow up and I will do that because his 'Stations' art is quite famous!! So, no school art this year.
   At one point I was inspired to try to use our space as an art display space for NAIDOC Week. Some positive conversation saw an idea shared at a local network BUT there was reticence about this idea "in the church." How I wish I'd been in that room... 
I contacted the Lake Mac Council Aboriginal Community Development Officer who I've met to finally seek some of the contact details I need. I got lots of info!! We went a step further in the story of this being done before at Morisset and we are chasing Thomas or 'Turtle' who has previously had his work on display here and may now live near Gosford... 
   Check how great the pics look!! In the end we've run out of time for July BUT I'm now spurred on for September when it warms up, through personal contacts in the network and doing the work to build relationships of trust!!
   I don't know if we have space and time for anything more here BUT if we do then undies and socks for Wayside Chapel are on the agenda... never short of ways to be helpful!! 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Sunday, May 15, 2016

"The Children Came Back" feat Gurrumul & Dwayne Everettsmith

This is the soundtrack to the NRL Rugby League "Indigenous Round" this weekend here in Oz, reworking Archie Roach's song... "They Took the Children Away"

It's part of the NRL being onboard with the 'Recognise' movement seeking recognition of indigenous culture, people and history in the Australian Constitution...

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

"One Country" Midnight Oil

This would be great 'somewhere' on Sunday though it doesn't quite fit my current context!1
I dedicate this playing to Duncan Storrar #QandA questioner who nailed it yesterday with his question about Budget Tax Cuts for those on $80K a year vs raising his tax threshold etc...

Saturday, May 07, 2016

"Daydreaming" Radiohead + new album in 2 days

Don't always love this band, but usually find something to like a lot!!

Friday, May 06, 2016

"The Truth Walks Slowly [Through the Countryside]"

"Here's a new clip for a song co-written and performed by Rob and O'Shea with daughter Jay on vocals" This is a sad, difficult but important and sobering story. 'Walk a mile in these shoes' and understand what's at stake!!

Thursday, May 05, 2016

A quiet Facebook Post on a Thursday morning...

   Yesterday on Facebook I did see the Midnight Oil Facebook page notifications that they had changed their profile and background picture to familiar plain and powerful images... but that happens semi regularly, especially with MOMO touring still... little did I know that over my porridge this morning I'd read...

"We wanted you to be the first to know that the five of us are planning to do some gigs in Australia and overseas during 2017. It will probably be at least the end of this year before we know exactly where or when - but if you want to be first to hear about any dates, head over to and sign up to the mailing list. You can grab your free download of ‘Forgotten Years’ live from Canberra while you’re there and catch up on some other big news too. Hope to see you soon … from Bones, Jim, Martin, Peter and Rob."

   This is unexpected and great news for the rusted on fan, the obsessed, the inspired and those who've missed the opportunity to hear that unique combination of acoustic/rock rhythms and drums of my favourite and unique "Oils"!! I reckon regular fans of "Bluesfest" will be lucky, I think "Beyond" Festival should get straight on "the blower" and try to lock it in... Venues will be interesting BUT imagine Newcastle Workers Club instead of the Ent Cent or outdoors at No2 Sportsground.

I never thought I'd be back at Selina's at Coogee again... who knows... Homebush maybe...

"Holy moly. That is all."

Friday, April 22, 2016

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" Rock n Roll Hall of Fame

You'll see this everywhere today on the news of the death of 'Prince' the superlative musician who's stuff I didn't particularly get into but who's creativity was undeniable. The 'Symbol' era became a parody of himself but the point was not letting leeches and money grabbers get their hands on your music.

The best stories are those of regular post gig jams at local hangouts where music continued all night amongst the locals!! This clip shows a band doing a great job of a faithful rendition and out steps the master. Favourite story is a the rock journo asking Eric Clapton what not was like to be the world's best rock guitarist to which he replied "I don't know, why don't you ask Prince?"

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sunday 17th April 'Shepherd and Sheep'

   I said on Sunday that I'd probably get myself into trouble somehow that despite the theme for the day I reckoned there are way better metaphors for us and God, Jesus and us and well, models of leadership, power and mission. At the same time, Paul Ricoeur as usual offers the framework for understanding how the idea made sense in it's listening audience context and then gave us a starting point for ours. I also took the invitation of the commentator who suggested "if you ever preach on Psalm 23, do it today." The reason being it's too easy to leave the Psalm to Funerals as the "go to" for so many people. The invitation revolves around the NRSV words "my whole life long" and I think I heard the collective gulp when I invited us all not to leave our deliberations, faith or response to our Funeral but to understand God's hopes and love for us "our whole lives long".... something like that anyhow...

It was hard for some to hear and had a sense of heaviness in parts...

We sang, we used percussion for "God Has Spoken to His People, hallelujah!"
It's everyone's go but I keep reminding people we are all different and I contend it helps you focus on the words as you try to get the tune and keep banging away in time...

We watched a combined effort video to use an already creative combo and overcome a corrupted file


Thanks David McGregor and Chris MacNaught and 'The Work of the People'

We sang this song too...
Regulars know how little I relate to in singing... 
love hearing others sing meaningful contemporary stuff mind you 
and to this end, what fine words...

"Holy Spirit, go before us" TIS 420

1. Holy Spirit, go before us,
every mind and heart prepare
for good news of life in Jesus,
for the joyful hope we share.
gently lead the lost to safety,
gently teach them Wisdom's way,
till they come to seek you gladly,
till we find the words to say.

2. Holy Spirit, come and help us,
give us words to speak of Christ.
teach us how to tell all people:
deepest darkness can be light!
help us tell how faithful God is,
and how Jesus sets us free;
take our words, and make them gospel,
so that many may believe.

3. Holy Spirit, stay to show us
how to serve as Christ served us.
May our words of love be grounded
in love's actions, first and last.
Your good news is news of justice,
and the strong befriend the weak
in your service, till compassion
builds the peace the nations seek

Elizabeth J. Smith 1956 –

Kids in for the holidays were good value and I hope found something in the freedom and permission of the space, to make it OK to come along again!!

I had a great clip about 'power' that didn't end up being the focus...