Featured Articles Observations

Dads Rocking in Cradles

Dad and Son

I need to act more on my inspiration. It’s a failing to keep holding back and let the flame reach the end of the match before I reach out to light the candle. The last two days I’ve been thinking of a story concept for a movie script. The idea is strongly built around the lifelong relationship between a Father and a Son. Today I decided to step a little closer to the candle and write some notes for this movie. I know fear will hold me back and pride could trip me up but I want to get a little more daring and start this journey. I’m not too old and definitely not too young so the day seems to be about right.

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Our New Dr Who is a Grumpy Old Man

Peter Capaldi the 12th Dr WhoThe BBC announced the 12th Doctor would be Peter Capaldi, a Glasgow born British actor with an Oscar and Bafta on the mantle piece. Capaldi had a guest spot in a 2008 episode of Dr Who and while he ironically had a role as a W.H.O Dr in the World War ‘Z’ movie, it was his role as the foul mouthed spin doctor, Malcolm Tucker from “The Thick of It” that has given him recent fame. The 55 year-old is a long term Dr Who fan who back at the age of 15 was writing to the papers encouraging them to do a 25 year special when it came up in 1988. Support for Capaldi’s appointment has been coming in from a number of quarters including of course the current Doctor, Matt Smith. John Hurt and Stephen Fry both tweeted their congratulations;


Currently he has just finished doing a BBC version of the Three Musketeers which is a role removed from many of his roles. Looking at his performances and acting range you could ask if he was the cheaper ‘Hugh Laurie’ for the role. With the craggy face and the wide “possum in the head-lights” look he will give the role a whole new dimension. Peter Capaldi begins filming for the new series in the English Autumn.

Download the 12th Doctor Who as a Facebook Cover art. Click Here

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Getting Married – Flying on the Trapeze

Pitchford Wedding

Today many couples say that they want to ‘try out’ the relationship first before getting married. Their rationale is that by living together they want to ‘try before they buy’ so they don’t make the mistake of marrying the wrong person. On the surface it seems logical. After all, why not measure twice and cut once? But what is lost in the equation is that they’re losing sight of the difference between flying on the trapeze with a safety net and flying without. It’s a unique aspect of life that kicks us into a higher gear where we perform with greater commitment and our brain, stamina and heart lift to a higher level. I don’t know if you’ve seen the cartoon with the pig and the hen. The hen is telling of its wonderful eggs made available to breakfast plates of bacon and eggs everywhere when the pig jumps in. He cuts to the chase saying, “Huh! For you it’s a contribution but for me its total commitment!”

In my work in the media we can now pre-record audio and video before we broadcast the production. Somehow in the brain that lets us off the hook as a presenter to make a few mistakes, delete the recording and do it again. I know from personal experience, whether on stage or behind the microphone that I’m actually better when its live. You know its got to work and you draw on all your training and creativity to make it a success. The one thing I’ve learned in our marriage is that it’s not a dress rehearsal, its a live performance.

These days it seems we’ve scared a lot of people out of the joy of marriage by the horror stories of divorces gone wrong and mismatched personalities. Sadly they’ve had more publicity through TV soaps, movies and the 6 o’clock news than the successful stories of loving marriages. Why do we only hear about marriage success if a couple makes it to 50 or 60 years? One thing I love about our church is that every Sunday you can go up the front for a free Crunchie chocolate bar if you have something to celebrate from getting your driver’s licence to the arrival of your first grand-child. Every week married couples go up celebrating their wedding anniversary. I love hearing that a couple are in their 14th, 29th or 40th year of marriage and then to see them go up and walk back hand in hand. We seem to have a generation that thinks they will last longer in marriage if they wait till they’re older and yet I would say I’ve seen a majority of young love marriages be the ones that last to say they started strong and finished stronger.

Cheryl and I have known each other for 24 years and we will soon be celebrating our 22nd Wedding Anniversary. This year we are heading away for a weekend at a beach. We probably can only afford to do this kind of thing every 4-5 years but it’s always worth it. I know that through those years we’ve had moments where we wondered how we could keep going. Sometimes it was a big problem but more often than not our pride stumbled on a small stone in the road. I’ve often found we can resolve the issues pretty quick its the part where we have to humble ourselves that actually is the hardest piece of the puzzle.

The best advertisement for marriage is marriage. The photo above shows my stunning babe on our Wedding Day when she was 19 years-old. We still speak of her as my ‘China Doll’, she looked so stunning. We’re a happily married couple with four beautiful kids who we love dearly. As our children are in the 13 to 20 age-group we are starting to enter a new phase of life as we have more adult life experience conversation with them. This is adding to our marriage and giving us a great privilege as Mum and Dad to be involved in our kids life decisions. This is also a pivotal year as our eldest daughter is engaged and preparing for getting married later in the year. What an incredible opportunity for us as parents. We can be inspired by their young warm smitten love and at the same time be able to grab the moment to model a marriage worth pursuing.

We are so proud to have brought them into this world and as I look at the photos around our house of our lives together I can see what value there is in a marriage built without a safety net. We haven’t relied on divorce as an out, or a prenuptial agreement as an exit clause but instead we’ve flown high on the trapeze. We’ve enjoyed the view and the thrills knowing that we need to keep our eyes on God as our ‘catcher’ for this amazing experience. I know we have friends and family who have had to walk through the pain of divorce and we know it isn’t a path they wanted to choose. The life lesson that has kept me honest to the man in the mirror is that I can’t let myself have an out if I’m going to be the best husband, lover, Dad and friend to my wife and family.

Tell your family and friends about what has inspired, taught and challenged you as your marriage has grown. You never know who is looking on and thinking of getting married. And guys, lets not leave it to the ladies to tell the romantic stories to the next generation. A happy bloke is a husband who feels secure with his wife and isn’t afraid to sneak a kiss in front of the kids.

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Movie Review: Broken City

Broken City

Honesty has a price and history is the debt collector. Broken City takes a cop who made a bad decisions then adds a Mayor keeping score and presents you with a recipe for deception. This is the position detective Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) finds himself in and the result means a seat on the bench until Mayor Nick Hostetler calls him up for the ‘end game’ days out from a re-election voting day. The Mayor suspecting his wife Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones) of being unfaithful calls a favour from Taggart and so the fuse is lit.

If there is one thing Broken City proved to me it’s that Mark Wahlberg may be a more versatile actor than Tom Cruise. Ouch, did that come out loud?! Now this may be the shock our sensibilities need but I think Mark Wahlberg would have been the better actor to have filled Jack Reacher’s shoes. If anything should be conceded it’s the fact that Wahlberg does ‘street rough’ better than Tom. Hey even Tom Cruise would concede he can’t do ‘moody’. That’s just something a Scientologist couldn’t admit too. Wahlberg can present an uneasy hero onscreen and it gives the audience both empathy and expectation. Both of these characteristics play well into a director’s hands as he can keep the audience rooting for the character to the end.

Of less worthy recognition was Russell Crowe. This was not an iconic role for the Gladiator. In all honesty I felt like he pulled the Jeffrey Wigand character back out of his 2000 movie, The Insider, gave it a tux and whisky glass to see if it would work. Even the voice was more Jeffrey Wigand and less New York native. It simply didn’t work and the movie suffered on producing the role it really needed to push the storyline to the limit.

I was expecting less from Broken City and yet it delivered so much more. Yes, a predictable political thriller in some respects, but actually it was true to the genre rather than boring by script. Like any good thriller there must be multiple suspects, false starts and dead ends to keep the movie from petering out at 60 minutes and thankfully we had both a script and a cast that didn’t disappoint. Watch for a superb performance from Jeffrey Wright as the Police Commissioner. His menacing grip on the politics and the way he plays off the other characters will keep the neurons itching to work out what is his motivation or who is pulling his strings. Catherine Zeta-Jones simply didn’t get enough screen time and she deserved it. The lady has class and should be picking up more roles that allow her to presence the screen rather than trying to dance hip-hop in Rock of Ages. Barry Pepper also continues to impress. I loved his Bobby Kennedy role in the TV mini-series, The Kennedys and this role of upstart Connecticut mayoral candidate Jack Valliant (yup, real name), was a role to play with for Pepper. There is one emotional cliff edge moment that he drives home in style. Brilliant performance.

Mark Wahlberg not only starred in but also produced this movie bringing in director Allen Hughes to pick up on the script from first-time writer Brian Tucker. Hughes enabled the movie to keep a dark yet foreboding story through some well-lit sets that mixed warmth and dark in an uneasy tango. It was an interesting mix that could keep an audience in a state of dilemma asking am I comfortable or simply being setup. Broken City has moments of brilliance thanks mainly to the supporting cast and enough of an entertaining maze to make it worth entering the front door of the theatre.

3 out of 5 popcorns

Featured Articles Observations

Glorious Valentine Aftermath

Valentine Heart

Cheryl and I are emerging from the Glorious Valentine Aftermath of celebrating our 23rd Valentine’s Day and I, with a wry smile on my face. This has been a day of sincere celebration hidden behind the guise of a ridiculous excuse for a retail pantomime. Sure, we recognise that the shops need something to fill in the marketing calendar between Christmas and Easter but the idea of stepping out of the humdrum routine to share some rose scented love doesn’t really have a downside does it. Now you’re probably wondering from the title of this blog post what happened. Well I can tell you we had a few faux-pas moments during this Valentine’s Day and in the early days of our marriage they would have been enough to ruin ‘the moment’.

I met Cheryl at a Birthday Party just on 24 years ago and we were married 23 years ago this March. We’ve had the ups and downs of most marriages and I’d be willing to take it on the chin that I’ve had a lot to do with the times we’ve felt like we were on the ropes. One of the enduring character traits I admire in Cheryl is her forgiveness and long suffering. She has incredible strength, ability to see the good in a person, compassion to work with the bad and a deep hope she is willing to share. WOW, I am blessed.

Valentine Always

Tonight we went out for dinner to celebrate Valentine’s Day but really it was to enjoy each other’s company. It was a perfect way to round out the day which began with Cheryl beating me out of bed ‘again’ to create a beautiful cooked breakfast. Cheryl had wanted to swap presents after midnight the night before but I’d been the meanie and said we’d wait till morning. Over breakfast we exchanged those carefully chosen gifts. It wasn’t monotony after 24 years together, instead it was fresh insight, new love and deep commitment. We wanted to bless each other.

I had kept on the cutting edge of Cheryl’s love for the Willow Tree collection and bought her the latest expression of Love called ‘Always’. It was a beautiful piece of a young figure on a block of granite clasping a heart. The granite rock was etched with words and symbols of love epitomising the ‘Always’ aspect of the portrayal. It occured to me as I gave it that Cheryl will sign off Birthday and Valentines cards, “From the one who loves you most, Forever and Always”. I’m not a big fan on cards. I don’t get why the Hallmark people charge so much at all but as I looked for a Valentine card I chose the biggest and best because I know if the Birthday and Valentine’s cards I receive from Cheryl are anything to go by that she loves big cards.

Valentine InspireCheryl, conscious of my change of life due to a redundancy at the end of 2012 and an unknown career path ahead, had looked for something to encourage and inspire. She found a canvas bound inspirational quote that had words that encapsulated her love and support along unknown paths. In part I felt like she was playing Mother Eagle pushing me out of the nest. In truth we’re probably going flying together.

I love how loving is getting easier with less of the ‘working it out’ and more of the ‘playing it out’. I think that as the years go by we ‘get’ each other more. Even as I left this morning to take the kids to school something happened and Cheryl gave me a look that needed no narration or interpretation. I laughed, the kids asked ‘What?’ and I was able to explain in a few sentences what one glance could mean.

This Valentine’s Day we have had to sit back and laugh at the silly stuff. Cheryl went to buy my Valentine’s Day card and only when she got home did she realise she had bought one that said; “Be My Valentine Dear Wife”. For me I had been well prepared and bought Cheryl’s present three weeks earlier but hadn’t picked up a card. On the way home late on Wednesday night I dashed into KMart to pick up a card. Finding what I thought was the ideal card, I then let it go for the ‘bigger’ card next to it. A quick look and it was time to drive home and hide it. Only when I got home and found Cheryl was still out at a meeting did I discover my mistake as I started to roll out the accolades of love in ink and saw the words “HAPPY BIRTHDAY”. Aaaaargh! I crossed them out, made a funny remark in the card and put it away ready to give it anyway the next day as all the other sentiments were right for the occasion.

Tonight I had booked a table at the Masala Indian Restaurant by the parade at Buckland’s Beach. It was a superb meal and while a little busy we enjoyed talking about the future, what God had in store and what we could do together. I had already booked movie tickets to see Bruce Willis’ A Good Day to Die Hard on opening night and we had an hour and a half free so we left the restaurant and sat in the car by the beach to watch the sun drift into the horizon. We talked and talked and the relaxing environment was embracing. With still time to go we drove to the theatre knowing there was a Yogurt dessert shop open and this was the obvious coup de tart for the night. After enjoying almost child like play in building and eating our desserts we went to take our seats at the theatre. The young lady took my tickets but instead of ripping them in two and giving half back she stopped paused and then dropped the bomb shell. “Excuse me sir, did you want to see this movie today?” “Yes” I replied. “I’m sorry sir but these tickets are for tomorrow night.”

In my haste I had clicked the wrong button, bought the wrong tickets and stuffed the night up. In the early days of our marriage I would have been angry at myself, embarrassed with no response and tried to recover my pride. Tonight we laughed. Stupid old married people eat yogurt icecream for fun, share curries and laugh at their mistakes.

It hit me tonight that little things used to derail our relationship more than big things but that seems to have been where the biggest growth has come. I think its because we pushed through the big things, held on to each other even when it hurt, that we’re here to work on the little things. Cheryl is a Saint but I still get upset with some of her finicky ways from time to time. I’m a model husband but I still need to shape up in many areas of life. Really!

Last week I was to meet Cheryl at a mall before we would go together and do a movie review. I had been waiting for a while due to different transport plans but when Cheryl walked through the entrance doors of the mall with her beautiful smile I felt my whole world open up with cannons of happiness bursting around me. That’s the Glorious Valentine Aftermath. Its a love that explodes in a room when mistakes are made, or when a faux-pas arrives special delivery but then love explodes with rose red petals that shower the floor covering the dusty housework of the heart for another day.

I love her and she gets me. Blessed!

Featured Articles Observations

Be The Friend


Thirty minutes later life feels better than good, its great. All it took was a phone call from a life long friend after a home-made banana split sundae. I’d enjoyed an afternoon out with my son to see the preview for the 3D movie, Cirque du Soleil. On the way home we had decided to buy ALL the ingredients necessary to make everyone at home a full on banana split sundae including shaving cream. Yup, that was the running gag on the way home as I kept saying ‘Shaving Cream’ instead of a can of ‘Whipped Cream’. Thankfully we got the right one on the plate.

Now even though a dessert of French Vanilla or Hokey Pokey ice-cream over a fresh banana with fruit salad and whipped cream is simply the sweetener for the night it would have only been the anaesthetic without the surgery of a friend.  Sure, it was even better with marshmallows, Smarties and then topped with berry or caramel sauce but that little bowl of sin wasn’t what made the night complete. Satisfaction came from someone who chose to Be The Friend and called me out of the blue to ask us how we were. As we talked together about the ‘flat-tire’ our life is enduring right now we could hear the heart-felt care and the trembling concern from a beautiful friend.

I was the bumbling apprentice to the experienced Sensei

This is a unique friendship that was built on shaky ground in the early years. They were the youth group leaders, I was the wandering teenager, and the connection was based on a need to be heard and loved. For many years it felt like I was the bumbling apprentice to the experienced Sensei. I would often be rehearsing the ‘check-up’ questions in my mind before each visit, knowing I would be asked about various areas of my life, faith and walk.  This was the kind of love hate accountability I wanted and needed but never felt I would survive. I knew my own youthful fallibility so the expectation was a hand written self deprecating prophecy.

The environment that this couple created gave me a trusted space with responsibility to lead and create. It was comfortable and uncomfortable in the same moment as the fun of a youth group created trusted friendships while the Bible studies, and leadership responsibilities called us to grow, examine and review. Nothing stood still and through life, school, celebrations and head over handle bars bike accidents the relationship deepened.

Friendship is powerful to heal

Sadly it wasn’t a consistent journey and the stumbles stand out like eye sores on the memory’s landscape. I don’t understand why so much drifts out of my memory banks like an outgoing tide and yet the faux-pas events that happen on the stage in front of our friends seem to be etched like the dates of war battles on granite. I can clearly recall two events where my selfish motives broke trust, damaged relationships and rippled through time. It wasn’t just the moment, or the act, it was the response. When you know you’ve broken a bond of trust the eyes tell a story of disappointment.

Friendship is powerful to heal and I was on the receiving end in those early years. Friendship can cement itself between the years and visits to change what was a few bricks in the yard to become a place of protection. Today a phone call invited us back to that special place that still stands.

Can I encourage you to listen to the small voice that says; “Ring John” or “Give Jenny a call”. It’s not your advice that’s needed right now, its your friendship. There are two things that you can do and ‘Be The Friend’ that won’t cost you money, an ongoing commitment of your time or a sacrifice beyond the enjoyment of a tall hot latte.

Be The Friend: Ask How Things Are

I remember the advice of Greg Laurie as he spoke about how to speak to someone grieving. He said that ignoring the death is a mistake and to simply acknowledge the loss and repeat something positive that you remember about the loved one who has passed away. While speaking after a death is often the hardest kind of friendship activity this is good advice. If you know what your friend is going through then speak briefly and clearly telling them with empathy that you know and understand it must be difficult. Then ask “How are they going?” This first part stops here. Don’t over-think it or think you can do it better. Take a deep breath and slide on to step two.

Be The Friend: Listen First, Talk Briefly

A good friend knows that listening grows empathy and time means trust. If your friend can talk then just rest into listening and pay attention. Your ability to ask short brief questions based on what they’ve told you will empower  your friend that you are trusting their responses. Be careful not to question their actions at this point. Simply listening is allowing them to process more issues, ideas and paths forward than a night tossing on the pillow could hope for. If there is a moment to share your thoughts try to use phrases like “I’d probably” rather than “You should”. By keeping things centred on yourself you allow them to choose whether they take the idea or leave it with you. By using ‘probably’  instead of ‘should’ it allows your friend to decide on the timing of utilising your idea and making it their own.

This blog post is dedicated to the many people who have chosen to “Be The Friend” to the Pitchford Family over the years. Your listening ears, timely advice and warm welcome homes are what inspires us to be true to life, love and calling.

Thank You!

Now in the words of Ray Parker Jnr; “Who ya gonna call?”

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Movie Review: Lincoln

Lincoln is the highly anticipated movie from Steven Spielberg that has had critics and fans watering at the mouth to see inside the life of the 16th President of the United States. Standing in office from 1861 till his assassination in 1865 Lincoln was set to leave his mark on American history as he chartered the waters of both the Civil War and his penultimate mark left with the abolition of slavery.

Our story starts as Lincoln is in the field of war addressing a number of young soldiers both black and white at the front of the Civil war amongst the dark, the rain and the mud. As the young soldiers gush forth with admiration they then prove their calibre by breaking forth into reciting Lincoln’s most famous speech, The Gettysburg Address. It paints a beautiful backdrop for the movie as President Lincoln is freshly elected for a second term and has an agenda item that history will remember him for. This is where the heart of our story is anchored as the movie tells the political strategy that Lincoln employed to land the 13th amendment through the American political system in such a way that the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished.

The movie has pulled together some of the biggest names in the industry who were more than happy to pick up a few minor lines in order to share the stage with Spielberg’s epic drama. When the starring role was awarded to mercurial Daniel Day-Lewis the anticipation grew to another level. Day-Lewis not only brings a couple of Oscars in his back pocket but the London based actor brought his 1.87cm stature to the role as well. While normally an actor can have their physical presence worked around there was no doubt that the historically tall Lincoln needed someone to match his 1.93cm (6’ 4”) presence. Add the superb make-up and hair and we found Lincoln had left his log cabin and was dramatic on screen with a wary swagger and an almost care-free approach to the mantle of being President.
The moody lighting and often confined sets speak of a dark time in American History but through it Daniel Day-Lewis charts a course with a performance that is full of care and levity. He portrays an astute strategist and a man of principle and depth of character.

“The minute you begin to approach him – and there are vast corridors that have been carved that lead you to an understanding of that man’s life, both through the great riches of his own writing and all the contemporary accounts and biographies – he feels immediately and surprisingly accessible. He draws you closer to him.” – Daniel Day-Lewis on playing Abraham Lincoln

The script for this drama is of such a high calibre that it isn’t hard to see that the authors must have a fine pedigree. The basis of the screenplay was taken from the book “Team of Rivals” by Pulitzer Prize winning prolific America History writer Doris Kearns Goodwin. It was then adapted into a screenplay by Spielberg’s Munich collaborator, another Pulitzer Prize winning author, Tony Kushner. While bringing the depth of history into the 150min of onscreen time was a masterpiece, the scripting that allowed us to meet a wide range of the personalities of the day was also exceptional. Across the political divide as well as the gap between races and generations, we have a snapshot of American Civil War History.

We see Ulysses S. Grant (Jared Harris) as he waits pensively with Lincoln’s son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in the field for news of the 13th amendment vote. Lincoln aligns heavily with Secretary of State, William H. Seward (David Strathairn) but it’s the role of Republican power broker Thaddeus Stevens played by Tommy Lee-Jones that proves to be a pivot point for the story. Jones draws us deep into the character when at times we wonder which way the state of affairs will roll. This parallel storyline in the movie shows us the tactics based on political savvy and harnessed alliances that were necessary but the end result seen through Thaddeus Steven’s eyes reveals a very personal reward.

The supporting role of most significance however goes to Sally Field’s portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln. The First Lady to Lincoln walked a difficult path losing two children young in life, dealing with depression and migraines as well as the political pressure of living alongside a Republican President set on abolishing slavery while dealing with her family background from wealthy slave holders. Field is all encompassing from her ability to play the in control political strategist with cheek and power through to the weak minded wife suffering to support her husband. It’s a performance that critics will applaud for her ability to capture the heart while not stealing the show.

America will be proud to see Lincoln portrayed for his strength of determination. The rights that were wronged, the costs that were borne have given America a different future than the path they were on before Lincoln arrived. For pure class and a story worth following this is a 4 out of 5 popcorn historical event.


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My Quest

Willowtree - QuestHave you looked into the mirror recently and asked yourself “Who am I?” and “What am I here for?” Come on, you have to admit its a change from checking out the love handles and those buns of steel and wondering if you should detour your life to the gym. Let me tell you about my own journey to find out what I’m here for.

Its more than a journey actually, its My Quest! That subtle difference tells me I’m in search of something rather than just going out for a walk and its a word I wouldn’t ordinarily have used except for the gift I’m about to tell you about.

I’ve just completed my first week of a fresh year and I can see that there is still 357 days in front of me but how shall I spend these opportunity vouchers. This afternoon I was asking myself what should I do next. My mind is buzzing with ideas but it seems like I’m sitting in either a waiting room or the transit lounge of an airport. We’ve departed but we haven’t arrived and I want to ‘get there’.

Who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103 v 5

My wonderful, adorable, beautiful and most importantly thoughtful wife has again used Christmas as an event to bring clarity to purpose. In the past she has bought me some poignant gifts like an awesome eagle that stands just over two feet tall and reminds me that we should look at things from on high not the eye to eye level of a turkey. It came with Psalm 103 v 5 in a frame. One year she gave me a pen holder for my desk that featured a globe and plane. It was there to remind me that God appoints and sends with a photo frame and John 3 v 27 John 17 v 18 printed out for me.

God in heaven appoints each man’s work
John 3 v 27

This year Cheryl has reached into my heart and summed up my situation with a simple gift. To the untrained eye this is simply an ornament of insignificant proportions. To me it was a golden link in a chain of understanding. In this gift were entrenched the thoughts of a shared life. She understood my dreams, my tiredness, the sorrow at loss and the hunger for a future still gestating in a limbo of preparation.

It’s a little bit funny that this piece is from the Willow Tree collection by artist Susan Lordi. Over 2012 I had acknowledged Cheryl’s love for the collection by buying her a piece for Christmas, her birthday and our Wedding Anniversary.  It seems that the seed has born fruit and she has now picked an item for me. This piece is a picture of stability, an intensity of dreams and thought and a launching pad for the future. It is called ‘Quest’. Susan says it was inspired by her son and the deepness of a person in study gives me a sense of preparation. Once you’ve read the rest of the blog watch the video of Susan’s work. You will see the makings of my Quest piece in Susan Lordi’s photo.

As you sent me into the world,
I am sending them into the world
John 17 v 18

Quest: Seek, Explore, Discover

On Susan Lordi’s Willow Tree website they give some background to the Quest piece that I have included below. The essence is to look ‘out’ to the future. Anyone who sets out on a Quest will have studied the road ahead or dipped their proverbial toe in the water by reading books, travel guides or exploring websites, photos and videos to create a taste for the adventure. For me there is so much more to discover and I sense the time for departure is drawing closer. So what do I do from here on.

Keep the dream alive

First and most important is that you don’t shelve the quest. I watched ‘UP’ with my kids last night and it was a gentle reminder to keep the dream alive. Mr Fredrickson had a deep love to support his wife Ellie’s desire to go to Paradise Falls in South America. Although the tragedy of the animated story was that Ellie died before they could make the trip. The beauty of the story was a long held dream realised. The depth of satisfaction in getting to a goal is unsurpassable and a rich reward.

Soak up the preparation

While you may feel the time in the ‘waiting room’ or ‘transit lounge’ is wasted remember its only lost if you put your feet up and fall asleep. There are two things you can do in a these times. There is always plenty of reading to be done and that can include websites, audio and video. Absorbing the expertise and experience of others is vital. By talking to fellow travellers either in person or through their recollections, you develop a greater sense of the journey ahead and the path you wish to take. Find someone who can mentor your experience.

Pack the backpack

Now is the time to see what you have and what you will need to pursue this Quest. In the packing you find what you’re missing so that the you will be ready to jump on board the plane, the bus or camel. As you make your packing list, keep the inventory fresh and ask for advice from previous travellers. Remove anything that will weigh you down and look for ideas that can be folded down to save space. All of this virtual packing makes you more efficient for the road ahead.

For me my ‘Quest’ Willow Tree piece is a daily reminder of the road ahead. For you it maybe that you should put a ‘map’ on the wall or an enlarged photo of the dream destination. Whatever the dream, pursue your Quest and I will follow after mine.

I would love to hear of your Quest. Can you leave a comment on it below? Enjoy the video from Susan Lordi as well.


Quest was inspired by my son, who is currently immersed in the research and documentation of other cultures. The idea of the figure is to portray that time in someone’s life when he finds something that he is passionately interested in — and begins to pursue it, independently, with no parental prodding. He’s ‘into it’. It’s the love of learning for learning’s sake.  Quest represents when a young person (or really, any age person) is motivated by his own interests and goals.

Quest could be a birthday gift or graduation gift, or a thank you gift to a teacher/mentor who may have sparked an interest in a young mind.


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God’s Own Country – 100% New Zealand

God's Own Country

God’s Own Country

Leave aside the fight for who invented the Pavlova. If that’s what the Aussies want then let them have the meringue. It doesn’t taste the same without some fresh Kiwi dairy cream whipped into a frenzy like Martin Crowe at the wicket in an 80’s one-dayer and layered over the top like Ian Jones reaching over those short French rugby players in an All Black line-out. And you can be sure that an Aussie pav won’t have that pièce de résistance of a few slices of kiwifruit to give the sweet some bite. You know some dessert eaters are a bunch of namby pamby wannabes. The real discussion is about where is God’s Own Country.

New Zealand has always been 100% God’s Own Country as even the researchers have proven and its a title many would fear to compete for. While Aussie has a reef and the Yanks some hole in the ground they call a canyon, the Poms may have a Lake District and the Europeans rave about their mountains but which of them can say they’ve been able to bring all that natural majesty into a country the size of George Bush’s backyard? This is more than a Shire in Middle Earth or a playground for the extreme adventurer. New Zealand is a paradise that angels won’t leave and demons won’t visit.The green undulating hills mesh with crystal clear waters while man and beast walk amongst the creation that God is still rolling out years after the first seven day first edition. Some joker called Thomas Bracken back in the 1800s wrote a stanza or two on the subject and he really caught what God’s Own Country is all about. He must of known what he was talking about because he came from Ireland, checked out Australia and then decided New Zealand was the place to be. Now some of those young whipper snappers who do the marketing have tended to shorten God’s Own Country to save on thumb rsi on their mobiles but whether you’re shouting Godzone or Godsown it really is just a country that’s a sparkle in His eye.

Coming to the 100% New Zealand experience will always be hard on the senses so preparation is important. If you’ve coming from somewhere droll like an inner city apartment block or the terrace housing of Coronation Street then you should take the time to prepare. Acclimatizing prior to your trip is important. We recommend two ways to adjust to your holiday in God’s Own Country.The preferable way would be by visualisation as you watch several All Black matches to pick up on the warrior culture of the nation. Follow this up with a twelve hour marathon of Lord of the Rings to ensure the scenery won’t overwhelm you on your first introduction. To encompass the full sensory experience you should visit your local florist once a day for a month prior to travelling to New Zealand. Shoving your head into a floral bouquet should prepare both eyes for the visual assault of colour as well as your nasal cavities for the fragrance of the New Zealand bush. Language may be an issue in travelling to a foreign land for some travellers so to pick up on the Kiwi accent we would advise that you start to watch less of Neighbours and more of Flight of the Conchords.

So visiting New Zealand might be a wee trip for you but I can tell you its the shortest distance to Heaven theologically known. The folk at Air New Zealand will get you here and their safety is world renowned so you’ll be in good hands. Now if you think we’re concerned about this rugged wilderness and whether we have internetness or the electricity thingamajig then do not fear. We all visit the local McDonald’s carpark to use their free Wifi but its a good place to catchup with the whanau (family) over a New Zealand lamb burger. The pristine waters of our rivers drive our national hydro-electricity so the only Nuclear power plant you’ll see is on the hotel television with Homer kicking back a donut on the Simpsons.

Truth be told when God created this place he kicked the snake out of Eden and they’ve been populating Australia ever since. That’s the reason we love to sing our National Anthem. It was that same young Irishman, Thomas Bracken, who wrote the poem ‘God’s Own Country’, who then caught the heart of our nation when he wrote our national anthem. Its the deep lyrics that resonate when we sing and they put awe in the heart of the admirer and fear in the eyes of our adversaries. It stirs the heart, reminds you why you’re thankful to live in God’s Own Country and then gives you a sense you’re in a good place where God is looking after the place. Why don’t you come on down. I’ll tell St. Peter to meet you at the airport’s pearly gates.

Featured Articles Observations

Loving with Our Senses

Dad and Son

I’m sitting outside in the cool summer breeze of a Kiwi evening thinking of all the love I’ve experienced today from my family. What occurs to me is that I’ve had to be awake to loving with our senses. If I hadn’t paid attention I would have missed the power of love and it’s intoxicating inspiration.

You may be wondering what I’ve been drinking with these philosophical comments but the only motivation was life and the only drink on the table is water. I’m caught up in this moment hearing my daughter sing like a diva in the background and remembering moments through the day when I saw, tasted, touched and heard love. It was easy to absorb, gentle to miss and powerful to behold.

Let love present its reckless offers and let my senses be ever open, always receiving from their passionate assault.

Let me tell you how I woke up. It wasn’t early, it wasn’t like waking to the chirps of a trained choir of canaries and yet it was clearly more memorable. My twelve year-old son came in with a tray of a steaming hot cooked breakfast and coffee. And thoughtfulness went the extra mile when a bottle of HP sauce was on the tray with knife, fork and a serviette. My wife later filled in the back-story of how he had eyed up some bacon in the fridge and asked if he could cook it. She gently pushed him that there was enough bacon for him to cook his Dad some breakfast and still have enough left for his teenage appetite and so he took up the challenge.

Accepting a gift is the first rule of love. Knowing how to thank the giver is the second. Loving with our senses can involve the taste of a morning breakfast or the touch of a huggable friend. My son loves hugs and the time they take to be near each other. It’s a great response to his generosity to wrap my arms around him and thank him. Now my son’s morning cooking was wonderful and perfect but love can eat a burnt breakfast or salty muffin and still receive the best part of the gift. If you didn’t know your heart has taste buds, bite in again.

Once everyone had shaken the night from their eyes the family went out to enjoy the heat of a cloud free summer’s day. We had family visiting so we took them on a tour of some of the volcanic mountain viewing platforms that surround Auckland. As part of the trip my oldest son brought his newly acquired longboard so we could check with the shop if it was working properly. After going to the shop I complemented him on how well he had handled the visit and the preceding phone calls. He had dealt as a customer with a complaint and yet handled the issue with firmness and humility. I was impressed and didn’t miss the opportunity to tell him he had done well.

A short time later, as we drove to our first destination, he said three softly spoken words; “Love You Dad”. Most fathers will know the power that comes when an 18yo utters those words. It belies a deeper heart, a relationship of love and strength. I buckled a little like a warrior in space hit by an unseen force that buffeted him backwards through the vacuum. My hearing isn’t what it used to be but somehow I am always tuned in to hear these words whenever they are uttered. It doesn’t matter whether they are given in the most quiet delivery or amongst the mish-mash of a loud and crowded room. Listening had made me vulnerable to love, to hearing words that can change a relationship, build a bridge and more importantly melt the walls of a heart. Loving with our senses needs to be intentional, to absorb the love that is happening and emanating around us.

I don’t want to miss the whispers of love, the glimpses of generosity or the feather like touches of care and concern.

Later that day I experienced the joy of love by simply watching. Our eldest son had not always enjoyed the outdoors or sports but his new longboard had given him a zest to get out and ride. The skills were building and he’d been inspired by YouTube videos of experienced speed riders. Today I was inspired as he rode his board around a city park and then near the wharf. His joy was obvious and the pleasure was simple and infectious. Who wouldn’t want to balance their way on a board that put more breeze in your travel and speed under foot.

At one point in the day he shared his board with a three year-old relative and the passion and laughter in sharing was also present. After a walk around the crater’s edge of Mt. Eden he kicked back and lay in deep dry waving grass at the summit. His pleasure is my pleasure. We wanted to take photos of him laying amongst the dry wheat like blades of grass but in doing so he asked for a camera to shoot what he saw. From his position he could see the majesty of sunbeams glancing through tree branches and he took a few photos to remember his moment in the grass. Today I enjoyed loving my son by simply watching him enjoy life, family and the simple thrill of a skateboard.

Over the last few days our visiting relatives have been caught out on at least three occasions thinking the sound coming from one room was either the radio or another music source. On each occasion it was our 14yo daughter delivering an incredible vocal performance of either a cover song she was practicing for a busking adventure or working on one of her own creations. She has a powerful beautiful voice and it can fill a room when she belts out a song.

I may find my senses become dulled to the crystal clear sound of a life filled with wonder.

A problem for love is taking talent or good behaviour for granted. It could be a wife who daily cooks with care and thoughtfulness, a husband who keeps to time and tells you what he’s doing or a child who does a chore without being asked. Monotony of excellence should never be an excuse for the spectacular to become the blasé. As I enjoyed several moments this afternoon I realized how blessed I am as a Father and a listener to be hearing my daughter perform her singing in our home. Loving with our senses meant I had to be aware that at any moment I could receive a royal command performance intentionally or otherwise meant just for me. Listening to her sing in one room while practising, then at the dinner table as we jokingly sang, drummed and beat boxed together allowed me to hear love, feel love and be loved.

Today I resolve to be awake to love. I don’t want to miss the whispers of love, the glimpses of generosity or the feather like touches of care and concern. If I am so engrossed in my own world that I am cocooned from love I may find my senses become dulled to the crystal clear sound of a life filled with wonder. I don’t want to be safe where my misguided perception is that a closed quiet room is better than leaving my bed to enjoy the warm embrace of a friend. Let love present its reckless offers and let my senses be ever open, always receiving from their passionate assault.

Originally written January 5th 2013