Fireground, Adelaide Hills

One Man's Web

A Deeper Healing,  10 October 2022

Perhaps the deepest healing we need is to know that we belong, and that we are loved. What does it mean to belong? What does it mean to be church? How can church and belonging become the image of God which we are created to be; indeed, what does it mean to be human? For me, these questions have coalesced in the controversy about the role of our sexuality in our relationship with God, and each other, a controversy which has occupied the church since before I was ordained. I offer on this page a number of reflections in this area. You will see that I have concluded that our differences over sexuality are symptoms of something far deeper... Read on >>>>

Healing,  16 February 2022

Everyone is a hero. Only the shape of our heroism differs. 

The Persecuted Hero always has to be wronged. All of life, all of their mental landscape, all of their inner talk, is centred around this. This is their being, their identity. Kind, loving, responsible—they may be all these, and honest and ethical to a fault, but that is all lived within the mental landscape of the persecuted hero. Not visible today? Wait until the pressures of tomorrow, and a reversion to their basic self, and we will see. Their internal dialogue will shift back to the language of the persecuted one.

It is so natural, so much a part of them, that they are mostly unaware of it. It's something like the way we don't really see the screen on which a movie is being projected. It takes a long time to understand that our particular kind of hero is there all the time, as the screen on which we play out our lives.  It is not just present on our bad days.

Despite all their good qualities, the persecuted hero is living for themselves. Wronged, persecuted, they are nonetheless the hero. They will persist despite the pressures that seek to destroy them. They are the hero who, in the end, is right and true.

This mental landscape allows them to survive. It is the reason they are alive, why they survived childhood or some other trauma. But it is also burden. It has to be maintained. There has to be a struggle. Happiness can only be fleeting, for happiness delegitimises their reality if it lasts too long. If they are happy, much less peaceful, it means their whole world is wrong. So, they are always tired. Always on the edges of things. Never quite able to trust, or be loved. Always sabotaging themselves at some level, and reshaping reality back to the perception that they are being persecuted.

The beginning of conversion is to recognise this selfishness. All of us must see that our illness, whatever it is, is some kind of misplacing of ourselves as the centre of Creation, as the Hero.  We all play a role. Perhaps this is not such a surprising statement. What is harder to accept is that the role plays us.  Conversion is to become aware that the dynamic of the Persecuted Hero, or whatever role we have adopted or been given, drives us, and seeks to determine us. Conversion begins as we recognise that our mental image of reality is not merely an accidental landscape to life, but a driving force which subverts true joy.

True conversion is a real heroism, for the petty hero recognises and confesses how much they are at the mercy of the life they have imagined. Such a person owns that perhaps, at base, they do not want to be healed. They wish, rather, to remain at the centre of life, only without the pain that this requires. True conversion is to let go of the self. Only then can there be healing, a healing process which will be life-long... Read on >>>>

On the way home,  13 February 2022

On my old commute home from work there is a fast track section of secondary road that was always good for burning out a day's frustrations, not to mention enjoying a flat out sprint.  But you have to be first away from the lights, or you will end up crawling behind vehicles threading parked cars and negotiating the speed bumps and roundabouts. I stopped at the lights one afternoon, two back from the front. The car in front of me was turning left, which was good, and the next vehicle was another bike.

The rider was a slight young woman whose kit exactly matched the frame of her bike. The colours perfectly offset her skin tones and hair. The clothes were not the usual skin tight lycra, but fitted so well that I wondered it they had been custom made. Bike and rider together made a beautiful unit.

Despite my age, I can still leave most people behind from a standing start. It's about being able to cleat in without looking, and being in the right gear. So I figured that once the car had turned off, I would be able to pass the young woman before we were fully across the intersection, and I'd be in front position.

The car turned left pretty smartly, and I powered forward... and was almost left behind. All sorts of competitive instincts get triggered by something like this, so I pulled into the sweet spot behind her and waited for the right moment—there's a slight bend—where I could push past and leave her behind.  At the bend I caught a glimpse of her from the side. She was riding "in the tops," and still breathing through her nose. At somewhere over 40kph she was barely trying! And there was no way I was getting past. I wondered if Anna Meares' little sister was training in Adelaide... Read on >>>>

The Funeral,  12 February 2022

Wendy and I were doing that left-right by dead-reckoning thing through the back streets as we worked our way across to Marion Road this morning, when I suddenly recognised the street we had entered. Thirty two years ago, a hearse left the Plympton Park church, heading directly away from the cemetery. It lead the cortege past the deceased person’s house, and we all slowed down in an act of tribute that remains one of my more poignant funeral memories.

The dear old woman had known she was dying, and was at peace about it as anyone can be. She’d told her Elder, with wry pleasure, that her last act on this earth would be “to give Andrew an easy funeral for his first one.”

When the day came, I received a breakfast phone call from the Elder. The family were all there. Could I come up? I raced up on my noisy old motor bike, and found that a couple of police, and the funeral directors, were still in attendance. The cop at the gate wouldn’t let me in. He went in and told the funeral director that some disreputable looking bloke was outside claiming to be the minister. Ian Milne, from Alfred James and Sons said, “Hairy bugger on a motorbike? Yeah, he's my Mum’s minster, too. You can let him in.” ... Read on >>>>

Being Lost - A Reflection on the Persecution of Trans People,  11 February 2022

Earlier this week I was in Parkholme and wanted to go down to an address to the southwest. In a car I'd have gone down Marion Road to Sturt Road, and finally headed west.  It's different on a bike; I headed west immediately, crossed the Sturt Drain via a footbridge, and followed a rat-run through the back streets, that was both safer and faster. Except... part way along the route I had mapped out, I realised my GPS was malfunctioning. It was telling me that north was what I knew to be due south, and that I was heading east, and not west....  Stay with me through the sudden change of direction which follows.

One of my very favourite people has written of our recent past

The professional bigots of the world, whose very livelihoods depend on the attention of those in whom they provoke fear of The Other, decided that the L, the G, and the B just weren’t cutting it as a unifying enemy. Denigrating them wasn’t working as well as it had, people were getting too okay with people loving whoever they damn well pleased (the audacity). So a new spectre was summoned.

Now the fight du jour wasn’t whether non-hetero people should be allowed to work in schools, or have a consenting relationship with another adult. Sure, there were holdouts, who couldn’t let that bigotry go. But now, there was a new scary. They’d not been as visible, people weren’t as comfortable with them, or as familiar, so it was much easier to incite fear, then hatred. They’d even take just enough uncertainty that a well placed “for the children” could sway any argument. Trans people were perverts, deviants, monsters, predators... Read on >>>>

Deborah,  03 February 2022

I was asked to fill in while a colleague was on leave. The congregation had two minsters, and the other minister was mentoring a young theological student who was doing supervised field experience. This other minister asked me if the student could be part of the children's segment for one of the Sunday services I was leading.

The Old Testament reading for that week concerned Deborah, Judge of Israel, and Barak, a military leader the story makes clear was a little lacking in faith and courage. The young woman and I decided to act out the story in a largely improvised sketch in front of the children, expecting the usual 20 or 30 kids ranging from toddler age to 15 or so.

It didn't go quite as I expected... Read on >>>>

The Tunnel,  12 January 2022

A bunch of teachers and parents took a bus load of school kids to Adelaide. After the long, dusty trip down the old Stuart Highway, we boarded the train up to Mt Lofty station. The kids were chattering away with the kind of racket only a bus load of happy and tired kids can create, when everything went black, and the clatter of the train turned into a roar. The shock silenced every conversation in the carriage. Then someone remembered: “We’ve read about this in books. This is a tunnel!” And there was an eruption of laughter, and relief!

Except that one of the adults sat bent forward, eyes shut, in terror. They were subjected to another 3 trips up and back to our campsite, and the tunnel remained a horror. On the last trip, with the good will of the train driver, and the help of friends, they stood in the little cab at the very front of the train, watched the hole in the hill coming, and managed to keep their eyes open until we reached the light at the end of the tunnel.

I have always admired that person, but it took me years to understand that, on this last journey down the hill, I witnessed an act of utter courage. I began to understand what was going on when I met my version of that tunnel three or four years later.... Read on >>>>

Felix backs down,  11 January 2022

Felix was a big old cat who'd been on the farm nearly as long as me.  We found him asleep on the bonnet of the ute one afternoon as we piled in to go down to Uncle Des' farm, a couple of miles away. He ignored us. "He'll get off," Dad said. Felix stayed where he was until we rumbled over the grid out onto the track. Then, instead of jumping off, he hopped over the roof and curled up in the back of the ute.

There are two things to note about those old FE Holden utes. The first is that by 1965, they were old. It took half a mile before we'd chugged up to 50mph down near Flavel's gate. The second is that there was a bit of a ledge where the door bulged out from the glass in the window. Felix knew about this, and when it became too windy for comfort in the back, he walked along this bulge with the intention of coming in the window behind Dad's back. This is where my sister and I saw him, just as he discovered that, for some unaccountable reason, Dad had the window shut... Read on >>>

The Devil's Elbow,  10 January 2022

When I was about ten, my Christmas Day was brought to a stunned physical halt by a wave of feelings which took me years to articulate. It was as though a congenital melancholy had forced its way into my attention. It bubbled up every few months for years, a kind of sub-clinical depression, which I finally understood as an inability to see any point to life. Some instinct kept me walking and running, which probably prevented my being overwhelmed. And for my final three years at university, I rode a pushbike, often hundreds of kilometres a week, and this seemed to drive the whole agony underground.

About a decade after that first onslaught, I stopped taking the direct route from my university college out to the Waite Institute. Instead, I would ride up Greenhill Road each morning, speed down from Mt Lofty to the Crafers exit on the new freeway, and then ride down the freeway to The Waite. This involved a short climb out of Crafers, after which I was on competitive terms with the rush-hour traffic. I used to count the number of cars I could pass between the Eagle on the Hill, still a pub in those days, and the Old Tollgate at the bottom. My record stood at 24 cars.

I raced into the Devil’s Elbow one morning, a well-deserved name, holding way above the recommended speed, with cars all around me, and both the front and back wheel began to aquaplane. I was... Read on >>>>

Bedding in: Angaston and Eudunda, two rides,  09 January 2022
I’ve been bedding in a new bike or, more correctly, bedding myself in after going back to drop bars after 12 years riding flat bar bikes. I’d done 80 or 90km at a time and was now concerned to see how my back stood up to longer distances, and how the new bike handled gravel.
The first trip included a gravel loop out from Angaston through the high country to the east, coming back into the bottom end of the Barossa near Lyndoch... Read on >>>>


The New Ride,  02 January 2022

When the frame on my Blade4 died in early 2017, its replacement was sitting on the floor of the local bike shop: a beautiful Scott Sub 30. The Sub30 has also succumbed to long miles on the road. Replacement was not so easy this time. Steel frame bikes are scarce due to Covid shortages. Eventually, I visited a shop in Adelaide to inspect a very expensive Curve Kevin, which was not my first choice owing to its carbon forks. I discovered a Bombtrack Arise Tour next to it, even though their website said none were in stock.  I bought it on the spot! ... Read on >>>>

Death,  30 December 2021

Somewhere out past the Victorian border a bloke had delivered a load of superphosphate to a farm. He had a boy with him, five or six, and they sat in the paddock gateway for a minute or so, watching me ride towards them. When I was a hundred metres or so away, the semi turned on to the road and slowly began to build up speed and pull away. Perhaps that's why I didn't hear the other semi-trailer, the one behind me. It rocketed past, well over any speed limit, and barely a foot away from me.

They say time slows down when something like this happens. Perhaps it's that so much happens in a second or two that it takes much longer to replay it in the mind, let alone write it down. A few hundred metres ahead of me, the second semi's driver suddenly realised he was about to drive up the back of a much slower truck. He jammed on the brakes and began to slide on the bitumen.

Perhaps the first driver had seen him coming, but misjudged how fast he was travelling; I could understand how that could happen. Or perhaps he'd not even seen him in the setting sun, and was looking in his mirrors to see where I was. Either way, he managed to get his rig off the road with all the speed and agility of a trail bike, which meant the offending driver skidded past, straightened up, and roared off. The second semi pulled back onto the road and followed him as I breathed in burning rubber, and heard my tyres swish in the still molten skid marks.

I thought the second driver must have fallen asleep. Or perhaps he was sending a text. Then I realised that if he hadn't seen that big semi until those last seconds, he probably hadn't seen me at all... Read on >>>>

Stopping work...,  29 December 2021

I came home furious this morning. Truculent shoppers and supermarket staff with their masks below the nose, or no masks at all, may have been the occasion for my anger, but there was something deeper happening. I don't like crowds, and never have. They make me anxious. They exhaust me. Any group larger than a table of friends is hard work, and even a night with friends is tiring.

I've grumbled to myself of the last few years that I seem to be getting more introverted as I get older. But I wonder if that's true. It's now been two years since I left work, and I think retirement is letting me, finally, be me. It's not that I'm more introverted, or more anxious; it's that I no longer have to "play the game" to hold down a job. This might account for why I discovered I was profoundly exhausted when I took a few weeks off, two years ago. So exhausted that I never went back.

Somewhere in my forties, I lost any desire to work at a job... Read on >>>>

Madeleine,  23 December 2021

Someone told me, "Madeleine has broken the laminator." Perhaps this was a little unfair. After all, Madeleine had merely sought to preserve some material that was getting a bit tatty, by feeding it into our August and Venerable Office Laminator, just as we have all done. Only this time, it swallowed the offering, and nothing came out.

However, it could be that my informant was referring to the mess on my designated desk, which I found covered with a largely dismembered laminator lying amongst a scattering of screws. When Madeleine arrived some time later, she informed me that the plastic laminate sheets had curled around one of the rollers for some reason, but she couldn't work out how to remove some plating to get at said rollers.

I pointed out the circlips which seemed to be holding everything together, and was tasked with removing them.  My heart sank a little. Not only were we lacking Special Tool 3A Mark II for-the-Removal-of-Circlips, but the whole unit had the look of something the designers had never envisaged being deconstructed.

Lacking the non-existent tool, we settled upon two pairs of office scissors and eventually prised off the first circlip, which I heard first hit the ceiling, and then one of the walls.... Read on >>>>

Love and stuff...,  18 December 2021

One of the gifts of my childhood was to see the pain that the entrenched and discriminatory gender roles of our society caused my mother. In our own new marriage, my partner and I determined to be good evangelical Christians and live the equal but different roles which 'complementarianism' as it is now called in some places, dictates as God's will for us. It didn't work. Not least from my observations of my Mother's pain, I recognised that the whole effort was destructive for my partner. At some nascent level, I also understood it was doing me no good; I certainly did not want to become like the avowed 'head of the house' males I was observing.

It seemed to me that all the paternalistic theology of household in Ephesians 5 was subverted by just one verse: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… (Eph 5:25)

When we want to maintain our privilege, and the safety of the status quo, then of course we remain stuck in our tribe's interpretation of the social strictures of the first century. But seeing the damage this was doing, I decided to ignore the whole headship thing as an anachronism and seek to live not only as true equals, but to live seeking to love her as Christ loved the church.

Obviously, the young idealist me possessed a hubris completely unmoderated by his naiveté! Yet this commitment proved to be an astonishing experience... Read on >>>>

Tuna,  17 December 2021

We were discussing family pets around the table after tea. The Little White Dog is secure in the knowledge that she is one of the human beings, and not a mere pet. So, bored with the conversation, she curled up on her chair at the end of the table, and went to sleep. It had been a lovely meal, not least because of our guest Mia, with whom our second born was so obviously besotted, that it was clear she would probably become a daughter-in-law sometime in the future. In the discussion about the many and various cats who have lived with us, Mia mentioned that when she was a little girl, she’d had a cat called Nugget. When one is new to a family, it’s a bit disconcerting to say something like this and have the collective Priors explode with hoots of laughter! We explained that, even asleep, the Little White Dog had heard the magic NUGGET word ,and was now sitting bolt upright, and on full alert.

Since then, the Little White Dog’s hearing has faded, and her once bright eyes are a little milky. If she were Homo sapiens rather than Canis familiaris pulchrior, she’d had have hearing aids and a couple of cataract operations by now. But the nose… The nose is as good as ever.

We were out today, so we cranked up the aircon for an hour or so before we left. Even so, the 38 degree day meant it was warm inside when we got home. The Little White Dog was a bit limp, and even though we had turned on both the aircon and the ceiling fan, she merely sniffed at her tea and went back to bed. The healing balm for a Little White Dog who may be a tad dehydrated is… tuna. Wendy opened a small can, and poured some of the spring water and few scraps of tuna into a clean bowl, and added a small amount of the rejected tea. Instant response, followed by definite indications that if similar condiments could be added to the rest of her tea, she’d eat that too.

We were also a bit limp. So we took the tea we’d thrown together and ate sitting in our easy chairs. Since we were not at the table, the Little White Dog ignored us and concentrated on cleaning  out the tuna can. After the can had stopped clanking around, the click-click of little claws on lino betrayed a nose-tip grid search of the kitchen. The undiluted powers of that nose were telling her there was more tuna somewhere. Eventually, she gave up and came over in our direction and began to wipe her face on the carpet… as you do. And stopped when she saw us, bowls in hand! “I knew I could smell more tuna.” Cue instant pleading puppy-face as she watched each of us carefully, and calculated the physics of the overhead fan, and other factors opaque to us mere humans. Then she bounced up to Wendy: “It’s you whose got the tuna, and I love you.” [Archived here]

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