the pothole

The pothole (the geological kind, not the road traffic kind) is, I think, an interesting phenomenon.

A little pebble gets caught in a crack or depression, swirls around and gradually, bit-by-bit, grinds away the underlying rock. It digs deeper and deeper, over hundreds, thousands, even millions of years.

I quite like potholes because they remind me that with persistence and time, even a little gravel can make big changes.

But the metaphor works the other way too…that over such a long period, a little pebble can do a lot of damage.

I’m starting to wonder more and more if there’s a sad, disturbing kind of pothole forming in in our (western, mainstream, Australian) culture. Here’s a couple of symptoms:

The vast majority of climate scientists are very clear about anthropogenic climate change. We are heating up our planet with our insatiable desire for burning fossil fuels, and we will pay a heavy price. More frequent, more intense weather events, rising sea levels, loss of habitat and flora/fauna, people dying. Those that are best placed to know, appear relatively certain that this is all true.  Almost every counter-argument has been demonstrated to be false.  And yet we stand on our right to hold our own opinion, be held hostage by big business and declare “climate change is crap” because “I know a guy who said….”

Immunisation rates are falling, with the result that herd immunity against long-ago contained diseases is now at risk in parts of Australia.  Medical experts (those that are best placed to know) are clear about the value of immunisation, and the tiny risks involved in it. And yet we stand on our right to hold our own opinion, to deny our own children (and other children) this safety net.

Politicians are almost universally disliked and regarded as untrustworthy.  For non-believers the same is true for religious leaders. And probably a long list of others.  We who sit at home and google conspiracy theories feel quite justified in declaring that we know better than those best placed to know…about nearly any topic we care to name.

I personally am the “World’s Expert” (TM) on medicine, climate science, national leadership, international relations, economics, search and rescue for lost aircraft,  Formula 1 Team Management, Australian Cricket team selection, NRL refereeing standards…and plenty more.

And so I make  up my own mind, irrespective of the views of those who are best placed to know.

I’m not (really) interested in debating the pros and cons of climate science, religion or immunisation, but I am wondering whether these things are symptoms (rather than causes) of a bigger issue:

The erosion of trust.

As a society I can’t help but wonder if we are becoming a place in which trust is an ever decreasing commodity.  With the rise of the individual and of self-determination, comes a first subtle, but now accelerating erosion of trust.

I don’t trust politicians, I don’t trust the media, I don’t trust scientists, I don’t trust religious leaders…on and on it goes. I don’t trust my neighbours enough to let my kids walk to school alone.

And sure, let’s be fair and honest, some of those whom we no longer trust bring it on themselves (I’m looking at you Australian politics), but just as often it’s because I get an idea in my head that I know better.

I know better than the climate scientist, the immunologist, the referee, the footy selector.

And so the next time we disagree, I’ll trust them a little less.  And a little less. And a little less.

Until there’s just not a whole lot of trust left.

Mis-trust might just be the pebble that is digging away at the bedrock, forming a deeper and deeper pothole.

And trust, it seems to me, is one of those things that is self-fulfilling.  If I exhibit trust, then those I trust are more likely to act in a a trustworthy way, and so I’ll trust them more (and so on).  Could the reverse, I wonder, also be true?

If my pondering has any merit (and lets be frank, as I’ve already announced, I’m the World’s Expert (TM), so it must) the question must be, what to do about it? How to remove the pebble of mistrust and start to repair the damage?

Is the answer to try harder to trust the people around me? The people who are best placed to know? To explicitly put my trust in them and demand trustworthy action?


But just as important, it seems to me, the answer is for me to act in a trustworthy manner myself – to build the pool of communal trust that is going around, by ensuring that my family, my friends, my colleagues, those I support in my daily work, my neighbours (those I encounter as I live my life)…they can trust me.

To trust, and be trusted.

Sounds like community.

(p.s. just so we’re really clear…the “World’s Expert” (TM) claim is an attempt at humour…)



on yellow cars and casual, cultural sexism

We play a game, our family.

It’s a driving game, it keeps the kids occupied on long trips, gives us something fun to rib each other about along the way.

We call it “Spotto”.  Maybe you play a similar game, but in our version it’s a point for each time you see a yellow car and call out “SPOTTO!” before anybody else does.  As with any family game there are a few quirky rules, some inside understandings of what is and isn’t yellow (Brisbane City Council buses for example, don’t qualify) and for some unknown reason lost in the sands of time spotting a purple car and calling “SPURPLE!” accrues double points.

Hey, it’s fun, and its in the privacy of our own car…

There’s a problem however, and it’s a big one.

Once you start spotting yellow cars (SPOTTO!) it’s just not that easy to stop.

And so now I find myself even when on my own (that’s right…no kids to use an excuse) making a mental note of every yellow car I pass.  I swear to you I haven’t said “SPOTTO!” out loud on my own….yet….but that’s the problem. To borrow a well known advertising catch phrase…once you pop, you just can’t stop.

At the same time as I find myself thinking about yellow cars (SPOTTO!) I’m become more and more conscious of the casual (and not so casual) sexism that still seems ingrained in so many levels of our society.  Maybe that’s a strange connection to make…but go with me here.

As a father of two girls and a boy, I’m very conscious of the opportunities Sheri and I want our girls to have, of the way we want them to be treated, and of the responsibility of our son to know just how he can and should act with regards the women in his now and future life.

And in our current world….there’s a pretty ugly reality that I’m noticing more and more often (SPOTTO!).

Not with me?

Take a look at any Saturday morning “video hits” TV show, where film clip after film clip treats women as little more than scantily clad window dressing.  Men dress in suits, jeans, shirts and women (even when they’re the star attraction) may as well be in body paint.

Take a look at my favourite sport of motor racing, where start grids filled with heroic male drivers have the decoration of a grid girl in Lycra close at hand (or maybe your favourite athletes are footballers and the grid girls come in the form of cheerleaders).  Ridiculously, sadly, even in my chosen hobby of R/C car racing (that’s right…I race toy cars) we sometimes have the stupidity of “trophy girls” at major events.  How do I introduce my daughters to this hobby when basically this is the image of women perpetuated in even this obscure hobby?

Take a look at any number of magazines aimed at women and perpetuating the stereotypes of make-up, fashion and appearance as underlying all self worth.  Even the recent “no make-up selfie” trend that whilst ostensibly has a cancer awareness message (and at best even cancer fund-raising) at heart underneath seems to be implying “no make-up = courageous”.

No man has to put up with such nonsense.

Women continue to be under-represented in leadership in nearly every corner of our society (Federal parliament?) and even where they are present are treated differently (can I say Julia Gillard as just one very visible example without getting into political point-scoring debates?).

They’re underpaid, misrepresented, rejected. Women are subject to totally degrading treatment on the basis of appearance and they are sexualised relentlessly.  Then there’s violence against women prevalent even in mainstream Australian society.

The more I think of it, the more I see it (SPOTTO!). It’s everywhere.  Even though there’s clearly been structural progress in recent decades, there’s still a lot of pretty ugly cultural sexism.

To be fair, there’s plenty of pretty rough male stereotypes as well (cue the witless, useless, clueless father figure than inhabits so many TV commercials and sitcoms), and there are some pretty serious issues around boys in education or even church models that seem more shaped in a way to which girls respond more readily…..but to my eyes (SPOTTO!) the girls have a much tougher road to walk.

And our daughters are growing up in this culture, and will be victim to it. They’ll face pressure to conform. They’ll face expectations about sex and sexuality. They’ll have to abide by different standards than the boys around them.

The more I see it (SPOTTO!) the more I am conscious of just how far we have to go, and of the fact that I’m only just starting to work this out, see what’s in front of me, and can only wonder at the times I’ve probably been complicit.

And more aware of just how much I want both our girls, and our boy to see through the surface of our culture, to find a different way, to live to a different standard.

The fact is our girls (and our boy) are awesome. They’re smart, funny, committed, compassionate, imaginative, creative and talented.  One is intense and motivated, the other non-stop joyful and social.  That’s the basis on which they should progress in life….not on gender, appearance, make-up, short skirts and photo-shop.

The thing is…while I hope I gradually stop seeing yellow cars (SPOTTO!) because to be honest, it’s an annoying game, I sincerely hope the only reason I stop spotting ingrained, cultural, casual sexism is because bit by bit we find a better way.

Bit by bit.


the joy of the job: a new beginning?

I was chatting with Mitch the 10-year-old this week.

As an aside, how good is it when your kids reach a point where the conversations turn interesting, and insightful and not just about crayons, lego and fart jokes (ok, I confess one of those topics of conversation is primarily my responsibility in our family)?

Anyway…leaving that mental image aside…out of the blue, Mitch said to me:

“Dad, do you enjoy your job?”

Do I enjoy my job.  Interesting question. Well…do I enjoy my job?

I made some non-committal answer like “sometimes I do Mitch, and sometimes I don’t”.

Mitch’s response?

“If I had your job Dad, I would enjoy it a lot!”

I’m assuming he was talking about my real 9-5 job, not the other in which I moonlight as a columnist and product tester for a R/C car magazine.

The truth of course, in adult world, is that most of us have parts of our job/life that we thoroughly enjoy, and parts that we don’t.  The bits of my job where I’m trying to channel creativity, getting involved in interesting conversations that unfold possibility, that help people (including me) see light…these I enjoy thoroughly. The bits that are administrative, organising events, management tasks…well….not so much.

But Mitch’s question has stuck with me, because in an adult-kind-of-way to brush it off with a “sometimes yes, sometimes no” answer seems to do it (and him) a disservice.

I think the deeper question he was asking might be something like “am I glad I do what I do? is it more than just a job? do I look forward to the opportunities I have in my work?”

Or maybe “you spend a lot of time at work Dad (subtext: when you could be playing cricket with me), is it all worthwhile?”

Maybe the truth is that while I’d like to be a glass-half-full kind of guy, I’ve accidentally slipped into a kind of pessimism about the organisation I work for and it’s challenging future. And from that point of view, the word “enjoy” doesn’t quite fit.

So my challenge, for 2014, is to reshape that attitude, to look for the possibility and the potential in every day. To remember my sense of excitement about my work in this organisation, alongside these excellent people.

To reach a point where I am able to answer honestly the next time Mitch asks if I enjoy my job:

“You bet I do”

How about you…do you enjoy your job?

And just because it’s my role in my family…here’s a little gratuitous dad humour for you:

a little peace of christmas

christmas treeI found myself in the Brisbane city centre this week, taking my kids to see the parade, pantomine and (honestly, amazing) city hall light spectacular.

It’s Christmas, it’s school holidays, it’s a fun outing for the kids.  Those were the kind of thoughts in mind as we headed off into town.

Unexpectedly to find myself in the middle of my own baffling analysis of what Christmas means today.

The parade was an impressive but kind of confused mix of the Nutcracker story with Christmas themes. Marching bands, ballerinas, stunt-mice, toy soldiers, choirs, dancing Christmas trees, kids dressed as gifts, Santa in his two-reindeer-drawn-sleigh (the rest presumably resting up for the big flight on 25/12) were all in the mix.

And right in the middle, somewhere after the christmas trees, gift-wrapped children and marching drummers, came Mary on a donkey (baby Jesus already born, hung in a sling from Mary’s shoulders) with Joseph alongside, and a few shepherds (real sheep!) and wise men (real camels!) following along behind.

They passed by follow by Santa, then a giant inflatable toy train and the aforementioned stunt-mice (no, I have no idea why either).

I found myself thinking “well, it’s nice that in a commercial Christmas parade there is a little room for Jesus, good on them.”  It’s almost incarnational, Jesus in the parade, passing by 10-15-20000 people, reminding them there is more to Christmas that gift-wrapped commercialism and tinsel-draped pine trees.

And then later, as I pondered some more I started to wonder if it was so good after all?

Perhaps its not so good that Jesus fits neatly into the parade between the presents, the santa, the dancing tree and the stunt-mice. Just another costumed actor in a mixed-message presentation of all that Christmas means in Australia.

For Christians of course, Jesus is the reason for the season. The main thing.  Santa, gifts, family etc, they come as secondary considerations (important, celebrated, fun, valued, but still secondary).

For our nation, as we move from being a kind-of-christian society to a mixed, multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, kind-of-secular state, it seemed to me that this Christmas parade was a bit of a metaphor for what’s going on.

A bit of everything, maybe no real connected, articulated meta-story being told?

And I wonder if the presence of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the animals, sheep and wise-men in this whole big mess raises some questions for the Christian church.

Does it (do we) just want to be one more dressed-up set of actors in the midst of a whole parade? A bit part in the whole confusing story of what it means to be Australian, human, created, community in the 21st century?  Any particular message we might have to share…does it just get lost in the mumbling?

Or is it more important in this time and place to stand out, to be distinctively different, sure and certain of what we claim to believe, who we claim to follow? Should we refuse to participate in the parade at all?

And if we do, does this sanitised, commercialised, feel-good image of the beautiful baby, silent-night, well-dressed shepherd thing kind of inoculate the world against any real power of the Jesus story?

For it is a scandal, this story. Here is the creator of the universe, this God who is all knowing, all powerful, come to life as a helpless, crying, poo-ing baby, spending his first night in an animal’s feed-trough to a teenaged mother and recently-contemplating-divorce father.

This child who would spend his life counter to every human expectation of the son of God, eschewing wealth, power, privilege, refusing to live into the expectations of those around him.

Who would claim time and again that true humanity stands with the powerless, heals the sick, hugs the unhuggable, loves the unlovable, frees the unfree-able, knows the unknowable.

This child-to-become-man whose unremarkable beginning and completely localised life, unknown more than 100 miles from his birth-place would spark generations of debate, discussion, passion, compassion, grace and controversy the world over.

Maybe after all, his place is here, easily-lost in the midst of this Christmas parade of options, one helpless baby in a sea of hundreds of singers, actors and dancers, unable to convey any message beyond love and total dependence.

Maybe it’s a reminder, that even if we forget sometimes, God is in all things, all times, all places. Sometimes easily missed, for sure, but there nonetheless.

In the midst of your Christmas, as you tip-toe between wrapping paper, torn-apart bon-bons, plates of half-eaten prawns, sleeping uncles, half-built Lego and squabbling children, may you notice the anonymous baby in the midst of the parade.

May you ponder his place in the drama of Christmas.

And his place in your life.

Merry Christmas.

the gift of cobbold

IMG_0912Cobbold Gorge is a narrow crack in the sandstone plains of Robin Hood Station, around 6-7 hours drive north west from Townsville.

The Gorge grew over a long period of time, water slowly seeping through the cracks, washing away sediment and eventually gouging a way through the sandstone as the  young (in relative terms) gorge grew.

And then in only the early 1990’s was it “discovered”, fully formed.

It is a remarkable sight, well worth the time to travel into its depths by silent electric boat, the Savannah Guides revealing many of it secrets (even if not the resident freshwater crocodiles on the day we visited).

Cobbold Gorge is home to another secret too, another that grew little by little before popping into existence in recent times.

Camp Cobbold is the brainchild of dynamic mother/daughter duo Katerina Keogh and Min Jones, and takes place at the Cobbold Gorge campgroup/resort (neither label seems quite enough on its own) each September/October.  Backed by SU Qld and with the support of a diverse range of volunteers, it is an amazing gift of generosity to isolated northern Queensland cattle farming families who daily do battle with the trials of distance, drought and disadvantage.

Camp Cobbold can’t possibly fix all of those immense challenges, but it offers the families that come a few days of respite, the social interaction so limited by isolation, and access to a range of experiences and services brought by the camp team that are normally not readily accessible.

In 2013 around 40 families came, with about 120 kids and their (mostly) mums living at Cobbold Gorge for 5 days.

My family were privileged to be among them, joining a team of 30 from Toowong Uniting Church to convoy north and offer our support and assistance for the week.

Our camp-week seems to have disappeared into a heat haze of over-powered memories.  Dirt and dust. Flies and wallabies. Heat and harshness.  Smiles and tears. Fun and games.

Resilient, fighting, fun-loving people.

Gorgeous kids who at one moment seem just like any other (city) kid, but in the next reveal their different context by declaring their favourite activity to be “shooting pigs with dad”.

Many will leave home at age 11 or 12 to go to boarding school, likely not to return.

And with one failed wet season after another, the earth is parched, the cattle withering, sale price of cattle not even covering the cost of transport to market.

It’s heart-break upon heart-break.

And yet, despite those realities that lie beneath daily life, Camp Cobbold is a place of celebration, of laughter, of joy.

A place of renewed and restored relationships, of learning and discovery, of new experiences.

And that’s exactly the point of it all….at least as I understand it.

The team that traveled north to help with Camp Cobbold was diverse, professional services like speech therapy, physiotherapy and counselling, joining practitioners such as beauty therapists, swimming coaches, poets and youth workers.

The team offered a lot, gifted a great deal to the families of the north; and their work and generosity is to be celebrated.

But to be honest, every one of us gained so much more in return that it hardly seems like a fair deal.

We learned so much about ourselves, so much about the nation we live in, and so much about the people we share it with, I’m pretty sure I know who gets the best of the arrangement.

Thanks SU Qld, Cobbold Gorge and Toowong Uniting Church for making space for us to join you for the week. But thanks most of all to the families of North Queensland cattle stations who welcomed us, forgave our uneducated city ways and extended friendship and welcome.

Any time you can visit Cobbold Gorge would be pretty special, but in Camp week it’s something else entirely.

side by side

Part of the relocation process for our family has been finding a new faith community to connect with. We’re pretty committed to the idea of living “locally” as much as we can within a city the size of Brisbane, so we have landed at Toowong Uniting Church – a good bunch of people to hang out with, and very close to home.

Yesterday the normal 9am service went by the wayside, the congregation joining with the Brisbane Korean Uniting Church for a shared service – the first for quite a few years apparently.

It’s an interesting experience, sharing in multilingual worship, with prayers, bible readings, sermon all translated and shared twice (in English and Korean).  The team putting the service together had done a good job to ensure everybody could participate in their own language, and with a service that while perhaps slightly different to the regular pattern for both congregations, was familiar enough to satisfy most.

As a participant, it didn’t seem that hard or require much in the way of compromise for me.

We sang, encountered scripture, shared in prayer and then communion – all pretty standard stuff for those used to participating in Christian worship.

All it took was a little patience while the words were repeated in another language (and though I had no capacity to understand, I really enjoyed listening), and some small adjustments to “my” usual patterns and preferences. To be honest, I even enjoyed the points of difference.

Best of all, we kicked back with a shared lunch afterwards….and while I like the odd egg and lettuce sandwich or piece of quiche that are the hallmarks of a church lunch….the Korean community brought some truly delicious food to the table!

As we joined in (the kids enjoyed it I think as much as I did), I couldn’t help but contrast this happy community with the disgraceful public discourse around asylum seekers in Australia.

Why is it so hard for our nation to make some small accommodations to welcome those who have no place to call home?

Why do we continue to allow our political leaders to vilify and use those who are on the run for political ends?

Why do we lower ourselves with our inability to offer welcome and hospitality – maybe making a few small changes to our own patterns and preferences to accommodate our neighbour?

I’m not seriously comparing a short suburban multi-cultural church service with the complexities of international refugees, or even domestic politics.

I’m just saying….it can’t possibly be as hard as we make it (or allow it to be made).

Can it?

returning the name

IMAG2162Just recently we took our kids for their first visit to Port Arthur.  It’s a place that represents a unique insight into the convict period of Tasmania’s recent history.  Operating as a secondary prison, it was home to men and boys who had been shipped to the colonial convict prisons, and then re-offended in some way.

Part of the site at Port Arthur includes a restoration of what is known as the “Separate Prison”, a place of particular brutality and deprivation during its operation. Here men were essentially denied their humanity, forced to work in silence, deprived of inter-personal contact of any real sort, forced to wear masks when outside their cells.  The idea was to confront the convict with their own broken-ness and force some kind of change to occur.

My kids, as we walked around the restored ruins of the separate prison, were incredulous. “How could they think this would work?” they would ask. “How could anybody be so cruel?”

We didn’t defend the choices made in those days, just observed that then, as now, people were working with what they new, what information was at hand. At that moment in time, taking away the individual humanity seemed to be an approach that might lead to restoration.

The prison has now been restored to tell a different story, the story of the men who were held there, broken there, lived and died there. Now, 150 years later, there is a sense in which humanity is being returned to this unspeakably inhumane place.

See these words for example, from a photographic installation telling the stories of the prisoners:

Port Arthur Separate Prison Words

In this place, where their names were taken from them, we name them again.

Those are powerful words, and a powerful statement. They in some small way restore something to those who had everything taken away.

It’s a difficult time in our national story, the time of the convicts. It’s a time when so many had their names taken away.

And it parallels another difficult part of our story, when indigenous Australians likewise had their names taken, had their humanity denied, were cast as incomplete, inhuman, and unimportant.

And that is a story that generations on we still struggle to right.

In our day, in our communities, who are the others whose names are taken away?

Is it the poor, living below the poverty line, and powerless?

Is it the person living with disability, the essence of their humanity not seen by those around them?

Who else?

It strikes me that part of the purpose of God for the church is to return names to those who have been stripped bare. At the same time as we have to acknowledge that at times we have been complicit, so we have to continue to honour, to name, to respect, to humanise.

Who can you honour by returning their name?

the tulip: a metaphor?

The tulip is my favourite flower.  I’m not all that big on flowers in general, but tulips are incredible. The shapes, the variety of colours I find astonishing.

And so last weekend, with a day to spare and not much time left to explore Tasmania, we loaded the troops and headed north-west to check out the glorious sights of Table Cape tulip farms. It’s a couple of weeks after the famed Wynyard Tulip Festival, but we guessed there would still be plenty of colour around.

There is no arguing that it’s a spectacular scene, row upon row, wild with colour, bright against the rich red soil.

The thing is, as we got up close with the tulips, we noticed all is not as it seems from a distance.

In the neat, uniform rows, gaps appear.  In the blanket of tulips, we notice that the flowers are actually not spread evenly, and not every plant bears the bright petals.

And in this picture of health and vitality, some of the individual flowers are not quite so healthy, the petals damaged by wind and rain, flowers starting to break down as they pass their prime.

There are pockets, of course, where this isn’t the case, where row upon row of late-blooming varieties are perfect.

But for the most part, look closely, and the signs are there that the spring is nearly done, that the cycle of life continues, and the health that is obvious from a distance is in fact starting to fade.

The astute gardener (which I most definitely am not!) will know that there is no point in trying to prolong the life of the flower. Now is not the time for fertiliser to try and get the flower to bloom again. The tulip’s flower is best removed as soon as it starts to fade, allowing the tulip to put all its energy into the bulb, and ensure a healthy tulip in the next growing season.

There’s no avoiding the life-cycle of the tulip, only value in recognising which part of the cycle it is in, working with the seasons, caring for the plant, flower or bulb as fits.

Sometimes that means it’s time to remove the flower from the plant, at another time to remove the bulb from the ground altogether, and later still to replant, to fertilise and water in preparation for a new growing season.

As I wandered among the rows, entranced by the variety, the beauty, and noticing the life-stage of most of the plants, I couldn’t help wondering if sometimes the same is true for our communities and churches.

There are times when we are in our prime, when things look great (and they are), and there are times when we need to recognise the fading light, or the time for renewal, for storing energy, for putting down roots and for rebirth.

Where is your community in its life cycle? What care does it need right now?

campout….museum style?

IMAG1962Last weekend the 8 year-old and I toddled off for a father-son campout.

It wasn’t the usual beach, river, country or mountain style camping spot – we headed straight for Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery.

Picking up the idea from the 2006 movie “A Night at the Museum”, the QVMAG threw open their doors to kids and parents to come in and sleep-over, and discover just what happens overnight in Museums.

We kicked around the hands-on science exhibits, took in a preview of the upcoming Little Big Shots short film festival, sat spellbound in the planetarium touring the galaxy, took a torch-light tour through the dinosaur hall (turns out T-Rex is pretty spooky when its dark!) and finished off with bedtime stories in QVMAG’s Hooked on Books exhibit.

IMAG1959And then we (all 40 of us) retired to our temporary digs in the museum’s conference room to snore the night away. It was quite a cacophony!

Naturally we were up early the next morning for more exploring and a great pancake breakky cooked by the Museum’s director.

For a dad and boy, it was a fun night out, a real adventure that won’t be quickly forgotten. And plenty of other mums, dads, sons and daughters would back me up on that one.

There were two things about QVMAG’s Night at the Museum that I reckon are worth noting.

First is that it’s a creative way to use a facility that might seem like it’s a one-use kind of place.  Nobody designed the building for camp-outs and sleep-overs. With a little imagination and re-use of the space, the QVMAG staff made it work beautifully.

And second, the event happened because one person pushed and pushed.  Our host was the director of educational services, but the idea, the energy, the inspiration came from one of her junior staff members.

It took one person to have one idea, and then a bunch of imagination and hard work to make it happen.

Who is the “one person” in your community?

What is the “one idea”?

How can you back them with imagination and hard work?

QVMAG’s Night at the Museum was a great night, and I hope it runs again. I have a feeling the other two junior members of the family will want to join in for a night of adventure and exploration; a night of imagination fueled fun.

One person, one idea.

when the rain falls

Last week I was in Brisbane, with my family.  I grew up in south-east Queensland, a stones throw from the Brisbane River in the western suburb of Riverhills.

So as the rain fell, and the water smashed its way through Toowoomba, the Lockyer Valley and into Ipswich and Brisbane in such devastating fashion, we were there watching on, trying to make sense of it all.

In a strange way, though Brisbane is home, it’s also not. We moved from Brisbane itself nearly 13 years ago now, so it’s been a while since we lived there.

Nontheless, like millions of others we were awestruck by the water, the damage, destruction and loss of life (notwithstanding the almost hidden story of over 600 deaths in a flood in Brazil in the same week) in last weeks flood event.

I’m not ashamed to say that as we sat and watched “our town” pushed to the brink, that I shed a few quiet tears, feeling for those who were living through the loss of so much that mattered to them.  As we drove through our childhood suburbs later in the week, that feeling was magnified even further. “Our” house was spared, water stopping at the footpath, while those of our childhood friends and neighbours were completely underwater, as were many of the local neighbourhood haunts that had been our home all those years ago.

It was a scene of devastation, and that’s in an area not subject to the powerful currents and flash-flooding seen elsewhere.

And then we had a chance to get out of town, to go and visit friends in Boonah, the small country town we left a few years ago to move to Tasmania.

We moved to Boonah to work with an outdoor education organisation, running camps and programs all around Lake Moogerah.  When we first arrived in Boonah, the lake sat at 30% of its capacity.  Over the next six years it never rose above that mark, dropping as low as 0.5% at one point, and almost always below 10%. In all the time I paddled, walked and explored the lake and its surrounds, I could not imagine it full.

This week I drove to the carpark at the dam wall, and was confronted with the amazing site of a water storage at (or above) it’s capacity.  And as I opened the car door, a most unexpected sound of rushing water filled my ears. More than  metre of water poured over Lake Moogerah’s spillway and down Reynold’s Creek, through the gorge that we spent so many days exploring with groups of young Queenslanders.

It was an amazing sight. Astonishing.  And beautiful.  The lake filled to the brim. Long dry gullies being flushed out, the lake bed that we dragged canoes across to find once distant water now metres below the surface.

As I stood on the dam wall watching the water cascade into the creek all the memories of those years came flooding (sorry) back.  Friends and colleagues I worked with, young people I met, experiences shared.  The water was a powerful symbol.

And again, I shed a quiet tear, standing just above that raging torrent.

We have all been reminded this week by events close to home, that water is powerful. It might fall a drop at a time – either from the sky or the eye, but it is powerful.

Like many, I don’t know that I have made sense personally of all that unfolded across Queensland (and then Tasmania, and now Victoria) in the last few weeks.

I dare not theologise about it all.

I only know that sometimes the rain falls.

(If you’d like to help those caught up in the flood, donate to the Uniting Church flood relief appeal)