Category: Creative

Lightning strikes Sydney!

Lightening strikes Sydney on the 4th March 2007

On the evening of the 4th March, Sydney copped a pounding from a sustained lightning attack.

Due to a scene reminiscent of ‘These are a few of my favourite things’ from the Sound of Music, I (and my family) were unable to sleep through the noise and light.

So, I grabbed my camera and tripod, and took several shots using a long exposure and a repeated auto-timer. This shot was the brightest, and demonstrates the intensity of the attack. This was taken from our home in Sylvania Heights, looking West towards Oyster Bay and beyond.

If on Monday 5th Feb you’re around a radio in Sydney (or a web browser anywhere) at around 10.30AM, have a listen to my interview with Joanne Traeger on FM 103.2. It will be streamed on the web from the FM 103.2 stream.

She’s going to chat with me specifically about the TWIST Music Conference in August, and the DVD we made from last year.

If you haven’t seen the DVD, here’s a sneak peak of the song ‘Never Alone’:

[youtube 9hTvwSMNBCo]

Buy the full DVD at

Check here after the interview for an update on how it went.

[PS. Sorry if you tuned in two Mondays ago and didn’t hear me… the original interview was delayed.  But fingers crossed for Monday!]

Kite Live from Sydney

As I sit at my desk, early on Sunday morning, putting the final touches on today’s sermon, I have just been taken back to an amazing night in November of last year. I just noticed on iTunes a new U2 track ‘Kite Live from Sydney’, and I immediately bought it because (amongst other reasons) it was recorded in Sydney on 11 November–the very night I heard it live with Mandy.

It brings memories back to me of an amazing night… an amazing experience! I’ve been a crazy U2 fan since my mate Dave Maegraith dragged me along to the movies to see ‘Rattle and Hum’ in 1988. I saw them live in the ‘Love comes to Town’ tour that followed in 1989.

Without taking anything away from the talent of Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam, it reminds me that the euphoria many people experience in religious contexts is not necessarily of divine origin. I’m not ruling it out, but I’m not saying that a powerful sense of emotion is guaranteed to be from God. I felt amazing that night in Nov 11, but it was from U2, not God. Although, God certainly did create Bono’s amazing voice and The Edge’s incredible guitar interpretation, and the driving bass of Adam, and the solid and powerful drums of Larry.

What a night! What a single. Grab it for yourselves from iTunes. And listen out for the tribute to Cate Blanchett… and the amazing digeridoo in the background…

2006 McNeill Family Christmas Photo

Jodie has had a great year at work, launching and leading the new Youthworks ‘Year 13’ program. He keeps wishing it was around when he was 18, so that he could’ve avoided making his mistakes as a very young adult. He also keeps training people in youth ministry, organising the TWIST conference, and doing youth ministry and music at our church at Sylvania Anglican.  And last, but certainly not least, he loves relaxing with family and friends, usually with coffee in hand!

Mandy has been a busy mum, running a household of  three kids plus Hugo, our newborn (13 May 06.) She leads the ‘WOW’ (Women on Wednesday’) Bible study, and co-leads the youth with Jodie. As ‘Chief of Staff’ in the McNeill household, she continues to avidly watch ‘The West Wing’ for tips on how to keep the President in line.

Liana (9 in January) has entered the ‘Tweens,’ and seems only days away from adolescence. She loves to sing, dance and talk (frequently all at once) and would love a pony if she could somehow sneak one into her bedroom.

Jemimah (8 in February) is loving school, and continues to keep up with her older sister in many ways. She shares the family love of music, but has developed an uncharacteristic love of maths (drawing upon talents previously undiscovered in our DNA.)

Oscar (4 in January) loves anything with wheels. He plays with his cars 24/7, and only pauses when he stops to watch his favourite DVD…yes, ‘Cars!’ He loves preschool and continues to be a testament to the difference testosterone makes in a growing child.

Hugo (8 months) is a ‘mini-me’ version of Jodie…permanent smile, blonde hair, and an attention span that should keep the makers of Ritalin in business for years. Despite a few respiratory illnesses, he keeps smiling, and smiling…

2006 has been a great year for the McNeills. We have settled in well to our new house in Sylvania (yes, ‘The Shire!’) and are continuing to love our church, job, and spending time with our friends and family, both new and old. We are thankful to God for our health, and for the ways in which he keeps sustaining us through the normal ups and downs of life. Overall, it has been a full-on year, with a new house, child, and job responsibilities for Jodie, which has made us feel a bit too frantic at times. But we look forward the opportunity to consolidate our roles and responsibilities in 2007 (i.e. less changes… yeah, right!)

To God be the glory!

I just returned from over two weeks away on holidays in Canberra and at Callala Beach (Jervis Bay). It was a very relaxing time away with the family doing very, very little (a stark contrast to normal life!)

We spent the first four days at Canberra, doing every tourist ‘thing’ we could fit in to our schedule: Parliament House, Questacon, National Museum, Telstra Tower, Australian Institute of Sport, Cockington Gardens, Planetarium, and more! It was great to get ‘distracted’ by the destination!

The remaining ten days were spent at Callala Beach, on Jervis Bay, near Nowra. Lots of time doing very little. In fact, the most ‘productive’ activity was sorting 5,000 digital photos on my hard disk, and culling it down to 2,000. From that, we selected 300 which we then printed on paper. Quite an effort–especially considering I tweaked all the photos in Photoshop first (levels, dodge and burn, and even some desaturations into B&W).

I returned to face 400 emails, but got them down to 100 quickly. Spent a day answering them, and now I’m back on track, but feeling a bit exhausted. Maybe it’s time for another holiday…!

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