A different kind of challenge


I reckon that the ice bucket challenge is a brilliant idea. It’s put a worthy cause in front of millions of people around the world.

Today I’d like to nominate you for a different kind of challenge. Check out the video for some details.

Every year since 2009 I’ve travelled between Albany and Perth, a distance of over 500 kilometres, by bicycle. I’ve taken on the challenge to raise funds for some very worthy causes but this year I’m looking forward to the ride even more as I support what I consider to be the best cause of all.

Back in the saddle

This October I’ll once again be taking part in the Ride for Hope. The ride will involve more than 30 cyclists, our biggest group ever, riding over 500 kilometres from Albany to Perth. As part of the event this year I’m raising money for Compassion.

If you’ve been following my blog for any time you’ll know that I work for Compassion, but I’m not supporting Compassion simply because it’s my job to do so.

I work for Compassion because I am convinced that there is no more effective organisation serving the world’s poor. I have seen no other method of working with those in poverty that even comes close to the way that Compassion is working.

I’ve seen Compassion’s work first hand in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Ethiopia and Rwanda. Every time I visit another church that is partnering with Compassion I am amazed at the change it is making in the lives of the most vulnerable members of our world, children.

My fund raising target is $2000. To reach that goal I need 20 people who are prepared to donate $100. Can you please consider being one of those people?

Of course I understand that not everyone can afford to be so generous so please consider giving whatever you can. The need is desperate and any donation of $2 or more is tax deductible in Australia. (Donations are still welcome from anywhere in the world.)

If you’d like to make a difference in the lives of children who desperately need your support, simply visit my fundraising page.

I can assure you that your money will be well spent in releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

For the 13th consecutive year, Compassion International has earned the highest rating for U.S. charities from Charity Navigator—the nation’s largest charity evaluator. The 4-out-of-4 stars rating places Compassion International in the top one-percent of non-profits reviewed by Charity Navigator

Let me thank you in anticipation of your support for children in poverty.

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Who will you ask today?

RUOK logo

It’s heart breaking to think that some people believe that death by their own hand is a better alternative than continuing to live.

Losing someone to suicide is such a devastating experience. There’s no chance to talk things through and work towards a solution. It’s an event that fills the rest of your life with so many ‘what if’ questions.

R U OK? is doing something about the tragedy of suicide. They believe that something as simple as a conversation can make a world of difference. That means that you and I can do something that may save someone’s life.

We know that suicide prevention is an enormously complex and sensitive challenge the world over. But we also know that some of the world’s smartest people have been working tirelessly and developed credible theories that suggest there’s power in that simplest of questions – “Are you ok?”

Today, Thursday the 11th of September, has been named R U OK? Day for 2014. It’s a day that reminds us to stay connected to those around us and to make sure that those we love are doing OK in the journey of life.

We want to stop little problems becoming bigger by encouraging all people to help each other through life’s ups and downs. We all experience relationship problems, financial difficulties, stress, illness and death and we can all benefit from the support of those around us.

While R U OK? Day is an Australian initiative, suicide is a world wide tragedy. Who will you reconnect with today? Who needs you to ask if they’re OK today?

While R U OK? Day is today, let’s not only ask people if they’re OK today. Let’s make sure we’re caring for those close to us all year round.

If you are suffering any kind of emotional distress and you feel that you need help, R U OK? Day has resources available to help.

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Death by Distraction


(This is an updated post, first written in 2012 at the time of the iPhone 5 launch.)

I’m conflicted. I use Apple products every day but there’s something about the inevitable fanfare of their new product launches that always concerns me. I’ll admit that it’s clever marketing but it always leaves me feeling quite unsettled.

The iPhone 6 is about to be launched and people will soon be scrambling to get their hands on the new technology. Many are guessing about what amazing features the new iPhone will have. People are also excited about the possibility of the launch of the iWatch.

I have certainly embraced new technology but I do worry about the relentless pursuit of the newest and latest. I read some years back of a young woman who loves Apple so much that she says she’d had about eight iPhones over just a couple of years. The number has probably continued to climb since then. For the life of me I can’t understand why anyone needs to be buying that many phones.

Apple is not the issue.

Just in case you think this is a rant against Apple, it’s not. I love music so I love the iPod that I received as a gift some years ago. My wife won an iPad and gave it to me. I use it all the time and find it very handy for a variety of purposes. I currently have an iPhone 4, the model before Siri. Most people would consider it prehistoric but I find it both fun and functional. It still does what I need it to do and if at some point it stops working, I’ll look at an upgrade. Apple isn’t the issue. The relentless push to have more and more of the very latest is what causes me to feel uneasy. Our constant need to cast off what is still doing what it needs to do simply to have a newer version with a few tweaks is troubling.

My ‘old’ iPad didn’t cease to be functional when the next generation and the one after that were released. My iPod is quite a few years old and several models out of date but interestingly enough, it still plays my favourite music. I actually wouldn’t mind a new iPod but not the latest and supposedly greatest model. If I get the chance I’m going for the classic. It’s bulkier and has less features but it will fit heaps more music and strangely enough, that’s what it’s about for me.

It seems that we keep trying to fill every moment of every day with distractions that really don’t add anything to our quality of life and they certainly don’t answer the bigger life questions. We feel that we need something new simply because it’s available and the thought of not have the latest causes some people to break out in cold sweats. And don’t tell me it’s about functionality. It’s about feeling that we’re missing out if we don’t have the latest. We imagine that it’s better whether it is or not.

It’s like the Emperor’s New Clothes all over again. We’ve let ourselves be duped into believing that satisfaction in life is just one more purchase away.

The strange thing is that when then next new and shiny item is offered for sale we jump for it, demonstrating that the last item we thought would satisfy didn’t really improve our quality of life at all. If it did we wouldn’t need the latest version.

Strangely enough we refuse to learn the clearly obvious lesson and so we just repeat the cycle.

We may say that we’re buying new technology but we’re actually buying a promise. It’s the promise that a piece of technological hardware will make our life somehow better, more complete, but it’s a distraction and the promise is broken not long after we open the skilfully designed box.

I’ve got news for you. It doesn’t stop and it will never satisfy.

All the latest gadgets, useful or not, are just distractions. They all cause us to take our eyes off what’s really important in life. They distract us from relationships, contemplation, relaxation and spirituality. We know that all the distractions don’t bring lasting happiness or joy but we keep pursuing them, refusing to learn that they’ll never satisfy. We keep chasing the distractions. We’re being distracted to death.

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I Blame My Father

We can trace a lot of things back to our childhoods. For better or for worse it’s those early years that form who we are.

I’m now coming to realise that there are many things that I see in my self today that can be traced directly back to my father and the influence he still has on me.

I blame my father.

I blame my father for the fact that time and time again I suddenly find myself awake in the middle of the night. I wake up and sense someone is in the room. Someone small and furry … with whiskers. It’s one, or often both of our cats wanting to get in under the covers. I love cats. I love them because my dad loved cats. He loved most animals but especially cats.

I blame my father for some of the music that is still stuck in my head. Dad was almost 44 years older than me and so his musical tastes weren’t exactly ‘current’. Which explains why to this day, among an very wide range of music in my collection, covering many different styles, I still listen to Bing Crosby, dad’s favourite singer. (Just don’t mention that I also listen to Sinatra. Dad was certainly not a fan.)

I blame my father for the fact that I’m a qualified chef. Dad was a chef and I followed that career for a number of years. I completed my four year apprenticeship then decided it really wasn’t for me, but it has given me skills I’ve been able to use ever since. It also meant that some years later I was able to work alongside dad for a week when he was cooking at a camp on Rottnest. It was a memorable week.

There are many more things I can see in me that come from my dad. Some good, some not so good. I also know there would be many other parts of who I am that I don’t even recognise as coming from dad but are still part of his influence.

It’s Father’s Day in Australia.

This is my thirteenth Father’s Day without my dad. George Thomas Olsen passed away in August 2002, just a few days before his 83rd birthday and around a month before Father’s Day of that year.

I really do miss dad but it’s not with an overwhelming sadness because I know he’s in a better place and I know I’ll see him again one day.

I still wish he was able to see Emily and James growing up into the wonderful young people that they’re becoming and to get to know Pauline even better.

I look forward to a new day when we’ll catch up on everything we’ve missed over the years.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4

Today won’t be a sad day because I’ll be spending the day being a dad to my own children and working hard to ensure that there are many ‘good’ things that they’ll be able to blame me for in the years to come.

(Yes, that me with my dad and mum in the picture above. You can click on it for a closer look.)

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I Want to Escape


It was the late 1920s on the French Riviera. He was a handsome and very famous illusionist. She was an attractive young woman who claimed to be a clairvoyant and mystic. Would he uncover her secret and expose her as a fraud or would he discover something truly supernatural?

It was just at that moment her mobile phone rang and she ran from the room. No, not the attractive ‘mystic’, the woman next to us in the cinema.

Was it really too much to ask that for the 97 minutes of the movie we all agreed that we would escape into another world? Shouldn’t there be some kind of unwritten contract that as soon as you enter a cinema you not only allow yourself to escape the constant, urgent demands of technology but that you let others in the cinema to enjoy that escape too?

Magic in the Moonlight

We went to see the latest Woody Allen movie Magic in the Moonlight starring Colin Firth and Emma Stone. While it probably won’t make my list of all time favourite movies, it was certainly enjoyable. The scenery, the story, the era all combined to make it well worth seeing.

I don’t ask too much of a visit to the cinema. I just want to sit in a large dark room and be transported to another world for an hour or two. I want to escape for a little while and enjoy the power of story. Obviously that’s a little hard with a phone going off on our right and a phone to my left with a constant flash every three seconds.

As well as the ever present technology, people in cinemas, theatres and concerts seem more likely to think it’s OK to have a conversation at any chosen time. It’s not. If that’s what you do in your lounge room during the Sunday night movie, fine, but when you’re in a room full of other paying customers … show some respect and shut up.

Who is pulling the strings?

Talking during an event is annoying enough and just plain rude, but this constant attachment to technology is something else. Why do we, or at least why do some people allow themselves to miss the moment so that they remain available to march to the beat of someone else’s drum? We know it’s rude to interrupt people when they’re in the middle of something yet we often let people from all over the world interrupt us at any time they choose.

One of my brothers rang me during the movie. My son texted me during the movie. Strangely enough the earth didn’t collapse because I didn’t respond until later. They had no way of knowing that I was in the middle of escaping to the French Riviera with Colin and Emma so it was completely up to me to decide whether I’d stay in France or to allow myself to be dragged back to a dark room in suburban Warwick.

The Challenge

So here’s the challenge. While you can’t control what others around you are doing, take control of your own life moments.

If you’re in a cinema or spending time with others, decide who you’ll allow to interrupt you. If you’re not good at allowing calls to go to voicemail or ignoring someone else’s texts or notifications, switch your device off completely for a while. If you’re already breaking out in a sweat thinking about doing that or saying you don’t need to go that far, you’re probably just the sort of person who needs to do it.

If you allow the ‘fear of missing out’ to control you, I fear that you’ll truly miss out. You’ll trade a shallow connectedness to the world for the deeper and more satisfying connection to those closest to you.

How well are you managing technology? Is technology managing you? Are you in control of your own time and of who interrupts you?

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