A friend missed

My neighbour from three doors down died tragically last week. He was five years younger than me and a great guy and family man. I knew him fairly well… probably having a good yarn with him 3 or 4 times a year. We moved in our own circle of friends, but we'd always wave to each other while we were in the back yard tending our gardens. I guess I considered he'd always be there.
He loved nature and was very proud of a family of Tawny Frogmouths (an owl type bird) that lived on his 5 acre block. He was often taking visitors for a walk up the bush at the back to see if they could spot the tawnys. These birds are night hunters that have excellent day camoflague and look for all the world like a dead branch.
I think the birds knew he loved them…
One evening last week, I was shutting up my ducks when I heard this unusual (crying) noise up one of my gum trees. I am used to the noises of the two types of possums that clamber around our trees at night, but this was different.
I got a torch and on looking up the tree found the family of Tawnys (4 birds in total) looking at me and making this strange noise. This was most unusual, I'd never seen them here before.
Shivers went up the back of my neck as I knew my neighbour had died the night before and, it's weird but, I felt they'd come to tell me.

drought and snow

1997 was an extremely dry year. Since then we have had two average years rainfall with the rest below average. Last year was the driest for 40 years. Drought-stricken Victoria is tinder dry and we already have had major bushfires, the worst in Gippsland (Victoria's wettest region) consuming everything in the way of it's 200km front…. and the hottest part of summer is still to come.
One of my sisters is married to a dry land farmer in the Mallee. Every year their house dam is filled by a channel system, dug with foresight by our pioneers, that flows from Rocklands Reservoir in the Grampians. At the end of last winter this source of life for farms in a large part of North-West Victoria had only 6% of it's capacity. Usually the watery home of yabbies and redfin the only thing flowing down the channels was dust blown by a hot northerly.
We visited in November, a time when usually the wheat and barley crops are tall, green and ripening and every moment is spent gearing up for the summer harvest. We drove through miles and miles of dead crops, dried out before they even had a chance to form a head of grain.
My sister's two boys (also farmers) with wives and kids came just to say g'day us. The feelings of that day are still with me, there we were in the old weatherboard farmhouse, surrounded by 6000 acres of a years hard toil on the land that had amounted to nothing. We had a great meal, sat around and shared stories and were momentarily taken away from the dust…
One story was of when we lived at Cooma in the Snowy Mountains, in the 70's, we again visited, driving all day with a car-fridge full of fresh snow, so the boys (much younger then) could each make a snowball and throw it at the other.
I love families.

Back into it

Thanks to Unordered, Dith and Miss Lisa for your encouraging comments at Christmas. I really appreciated that you thought of me. I hope everyone who reads this had a blessed yule time.
No New Years resolutions.. but I have promised myself to blog more… so already a weeks gone before I do it… (I've always been a slow starter though)
Since November, my wife and I have been looking around for a new Church to join (our previous congregation closed down).
If it's healthy to have a mixed spiritual diet then we're doing well and even though we've managed to nibble at 8 different Churches it's all been entrees so far.
One thing we've realised is that Churches have different programs for the holiday season so it's difficult to taste what they are really like. It's impossible to know with just one visit anyway but there are only two of the 8 that I'd really consider going back to for a second bite.
As we live in the country the menu is a bit limited so I think we'll be travelling to look at some main courses.
p.s. For those of you who have watched the “teenage drama queen”s blog… wonderful news.. she has just become engaged. I know her well, she's over the moon and far too excited to blog about it just yet.

The search begins


I blogged this pic a couple of months ago and part of what I said is:

“I imagine that it is based on the scripture about Jesus and his disciples wandering through the grainfields on the Sabbath, his disciples picking and eating some of the grain, and then the challenge from the Pharisee's about working on the Sabbath. I understand there had been so many man-made rules created about what was “working” on the Sabbath that it was almost impossible to do anything. Imagine them chewing a bit of wheat as they wander and you see the sinful actions of these guys.

What the “sabbath police” were doing in a grainfield away out in the middle of nowhere, I can only guess, but they saw, and accused Jesus and his disciples of breaking the rules.
Jesus' response – The Sabbath was made to restore men, but when it is changed to become a burden and a hindrance, then it is wrong. The man-made regulations needed to be broken, and our Lord makes that clear.”

My church had its' final worship service last Sunday (sad but also exciting) so my wife and I are now officially shopping around. I am calling this adventure “In search of the grain chewers” because I hope to find a group that likes to challenge the rules, sort of like the disciples in the picture. But then of course, God might have other ideas for us… we'll see.

stirring

There's no reason why my daughter shouldn't do her gap year in England as Jack the Lass queried… I s'pose a purely selfish reason on my part is that her ol' dad will miss her terribly.
Nothing wrong with England, after all my great-grand-parents came from Birmingham, but then.. if you believe the television it looks like we've just declared war on you poms and it starts with the first cricket test in a week or so.
Another good thing about her going to England though is that it could've be worse… she might've decided to go to Wales…

It’s all happening…

A few things can happen in three months, for one thing I've discovered e-bay which has been a bit of a distraction from my wiblog…other things are:
1. The church congregation that we have been committed members of for over 15 years is closing. The last service is on 26th November. A small group are interested in staying together as a house church, but my wife and I have been taking the opportunity, of fortnightly services for the final three months, to look elsewhere. It's been very interesting… what a smorgasbord of spiritual food is available, even in our country setting. I think I'll tell you more about this in future blogs.
2. I have a friend who's been in prison for 3.5 years. I've been regularly visiting him and helping his wife (1 to 2 days a week) keep their business going. He gets out of prison next Tuesday… it's unreal. He has changed soooo much. He gave his life to the Lord in prison and as you will no doubt know, that tends to change you. I'm apprehensive but very very excited about getting him back into a normal environment. I'm certain great things are about to happen.
3. Our youngest daughter has just finished her secondary school and she is planning to do a gap year in England next year. Why she wants to go there is beyond me :-).
(that's a joke in case any pommie readers got offended).. Anyway it means that starting 2007 it'll be just the two of us at home and after raising four kids that is going to be a real change. I got a “seniors” card in the mail today… how weird is that, I was hoping for a few more years of age denial.
4. The weather is the driest on record giving a sort of surreal feel to our garden which is slowly turning into a dust bowl. It is nearing the end of spring and everything should be lush green but instead it's brown and shrivelled. We are going onto stage 4 water restrictions in two weeks which means we are not allowed to use any water outside the house at all. We can recycle the bathroom and laundry water, but at the start of a long dry summer, in reality a lot of our plants and trees will die.
It all makes me think my life really is on the cusp of emerging into something… I s'pose time will tell.
I'm looking forward to blogging about it

Where next?

I have been pre-occupied with the real possibility that our little congregation will close down.
We had hopes and dreams and spent 15 years experimenting with worship styles and family oriented ministry and trying to be a real emerging church.
If numerical growth and a permanent congregation was the aim then we have failed.
If enabling life-changing encounters with God to be part of the journey of a group of life travellers was the aim, then it's been good, and at times great.
Maybe emerging churches are not permanent things. They move around like the wind that you never know where it will blow next.
If you understand that, then the future is exciting.

pergola project


This is my winter project in the garden.
The photo is taken from what used to be my chook-yard. I am building a pergola for the old grapevine that used to be along the chook-yard fence, before it collapsed. My vegie garden has always been from the fence (at the start of the pergola) to just before the almond tree that has commenced it's white blossom (in the middle of the photo). You can see the garden area is mainly weeds at present, that’s because we had several years of drought and I just didn't have water for it, was distracted by other commitments and got out of the habit. But this year I'm back into it with a vengeance. The garden bed with the short corrugated iron sides has some cabbages, pak choy, broad beans and silver beet growing in it.
The pergola will eventually go for four sections (only two at present) and end at a new chook shed that I plan to build in the middle of the vegie garden. I hope to have four chook-yards fenced off and rotate the chooks around the yards seasonally, following the vegie plantings after their harvesting has finished.
The tall gum trees in the background are the start of my native garden, about 2.5 acres of natural bush.
I know I am really blessed with this place I call home.

fishing

One of my favourite fishing spots is the Point Lonsdale Pier, 12km from my home. This pier reaches from below the lighthouse on the western of the Port Phillip heads out into “The Rip”, a swirling deep and mysterious channel of water connecting Port Phillip Bay to Bass Strait. The “Lonnie” pier is a recognised land-based game fishing location, sharks are often caught there by those with staying power and the right tackle.
I usually throw a line in about three quarters of the way along the pier and hope for an Australian Salmon, Trevally or even a nice Snapper. Often I come home empty handed but that doesn't really detract from the experience.
It's a cold exposed place for this time of year so I prefer to remain in front of the loungeroom fire and think about the spot, knowing that it’ll still be there in summer.
I imagine sitting there on the wooden jetty, on my little back-pack that converts into a seat, one line has been cast out as far as possible with a heavy sinker and another is sitting in close with a floater. I'm dreamily mesmerised by the sun, the gentle bobbing motion of the waves, but quietly expecting a twang on my line any moment.
There are a few fisherpeople spread along the pier, each quietly watching their own space, when into this idyllic daydream a newcomer arrives, sets up right beside me and casts straight over my line. This is an affront, it's annoying… anger rises.
I was reminded about the frustrations this situation evokes a week or so ago, when the TV news carried the story of The North Koreans sending a few missiles over towards Japan. I sort of felt it helped me understand the feelings the Japanese people were probably having.
Of course, since then we've had the Indian train bombings and the terror engulfing the Middle East and I am at a total loss to comprehend how people on either side think or feel in those situations. I can only pray for world peace and be so extremely grateful that I have a place like the Lonnie pier that I am free to go to.

Do you want to pick some grain?


I like this picture, it's of a framed print that my wife picked up in an oppie a few years ago. She was attracted to it because her Roman Catholic background had really only depicted Jesus in those colourful “holy” pictures. This seemed to show her that Jesus was more real.
Apparently it is quite a common print from a painting by early 1900's German artist, JR Wehle.

When she first hung it on our wall, I just thought, OK.. I can put up with that.

But it has grown to mean a lot to me. I imagine that it is based on the scripture about Jesus and his disciples wandering through the grainfields on the Sabbath, his disciples picking and eating some of the grain, and then the challenge from the Pharisee's about working on the Sabbath. I understand there had been so many man-made rules created about what was “working” on the Sabbath that it was almost impossible to do anything. Imagine them chewing a bit of wheat as they wander and you see the sinful actions of these guys.

What the “sabbath police” were doing in a grainfield away out in the middle of nowhere, I can only guess, but they saw, and accused Jesus and his disciples of breaking the rules.
Jesus' response – The Sabbath was made to restore men, but when it is changed to become a burden and a hindrance, then it is wrong. The man-made regulations needed to be broken, and our Lord makes that clear.

It appeals to me as if Jesus has a real rebellious side to his character, he challenges the rules. For someone like me who spent his teenage years on the fringe of the anti-establishment movement of the 60's, the story this picture represents showed Jesus as pretty cool.
I'm wondering what it means to me today?