MasterAthlete

MasterAthlete

When did the Olympics start? I think it was a few weeks back but it’s starting to feel like months.

I have to admit that I watched a fair bit of the opening ceremony but since then I’ve just seen updates in my news feeds or on telly. I’ve never been a big Olympic Games watcher but I think I’ve seen less than ever this time around and I think I know why.

The format is tired.

Yes, there have been new sports added over the years and some older, less interesting sports removed, but it’s essentially been the same for such a long time.

The ancient Olympic Games were held from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. After that the idea was pretty much rested until Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894. Sure, there were a few attempts at reviving some sort of games related to an Olympic theme along the way but they didn’t really come to much.

I reckon it’s time to freshen things up. Let’s create a mashup of the Olympics and MasterChef.

MasterAthlete. I think it’s got a great ring to it and the possibilities are endless.

We’d start with three judges including two professional athletes and an acclaimed sports writer. Then hundreds of amateur athletes would battle it out for the honour of becoming MasterAthlete 2016. The MasterAthlete would win $250 000 and the opportunity to train alongside some of the greatest professional athletes in the world. They’d also be given a monthly column in Muscle & Fitness Magazine.

Contestants would talk endlessly about their ‘sports dream’ and about ‘doing this for their family’ (even though the competition would mean they’d have to be away from their family for several months). They’d talk about the pressure and just how far they’d come on their personal ‘athlete journey’.

Week by week the black active wear would come out as contestants fought to stay in the competition during the elimination rounds. The very best would be dressed in white active wear and compete against a professional athlete for an immunity pin which would entitle them to a generous head start in their next race.

The mystery box would bring added excitement as the athletes would have no idea what sport they’d have to compete in until the box is lifted. “When the lid came off and I saw the speedos, I was terrified. My specialty is weight lifting, so to know that I’d have to go up against the others in the pool really set my heart racing.”

We’d shed a few tears as our favourites left the competition because they’d left an element out of the triathlon. “It wasn’t until we got to the finish line that I looked around at the other contestants in their clip cloppy shoes and realised …… I’d forgotten to do the cycle leg”.

Imagine contestants arriving in the Master Athlete stadium to hear the judges tell them that they had to go from one side of the city to the other. “You’ve got an open sports locker. Get there any way you like. You can combine swimming, cycling, jogging or canoeing, but remember that in today’s challenge, running must be the hero of the event. Your time starts …… now”.

So there’s the basic concept but I think we need to push it just a little further. What other ways can you think of to create MasterAthlete? Let me know in the comments section of this post. I think we’re onto a real winner.

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Should Pokemon Go?

pokemongo…..

I was in Kings Park on the weekend. It’s a beautiful park that overlooks the city of Perth. While I was there I couldn’t help notice that there were thousands of people wandering around looking at their phones. They were all chasing strange creatures with even stranger names.

While millions around the world seem to be embracing the ‘augmented reality’ game Pokemon Go (it’s reportedly been downloaded by more than 75 million people around the world) there are many who are sounding warning bells. Some of the concerns are about people being so engrossed in the game that they seem oblivious to what’s going on around them. There have been reports of people wandering into dangerous neighbourhoods, walking across roads without checking traffic and a few people causing car accidents by playing the game while driving.

Imagine being so caught up in something that you’re totally unaware of your surroundings.

I don’t have to imagine too hard. While I have very little interest in Pokemon Go (which is not the case for others close to me) I did have a very interesting experience a couple of weeks ago. I had a couple of hours between appointments and so I sat down and started reading. I was totally engrossed in what was on the page. The thing that surprised me was that once I’d finished I looked up and I was in the middle of a very noisy shopping centre, surrounded by other people going about their business. It took me a few seconds to adjust to these ‘new’ surroundings.

No, I wasn’t suddenly transported there. I had been there all along. Before I started reading I was in a noisy shopping centre surrounded by people. Once I finished reading I was in a shopping centre surrounded by people. But while I was reading, I was in a very different world. I was on my own and it was quiet. I had tuned out everything around me.

I think that being able to restrict our attention and concentrate on matters at hand is part of being human.

Our ability to restrict our focus not only helps us attend to what’s important but I think it stops us being overwhelmed. It’s easy to start drowning in the deluge of information that comes our way every day in our technological age. It would be absolutely crippling if we had to engage with every piece of information that came our way.

We all choose where we place our focus. For some that focus is larger or narrower than for others but we all make decisions about what becomes part of our lives and what we ignore or leave out. The world is too big to take it all in so we make decisions that mean that even though there are events happening all around us, we don’t see them or engage with them all.

I guess our challenge is that decision of where we will put our focus and what we choose to block out.

Do we focus only on our own lives and those close to us and fail to see what’s happening around the rest of the world? Do we miss seeing those in need? Do we become deaf to the cries around us because we’re not sure how to deal with others who need our help?

The bigger question is, has our focus become so narrow that we’re unaware of something or someone bigger than ourselves?

Have we become so busy and focused on our own lives that we’re unaware that if we just looked up from what has captured our attention we might be surprised to find that God has been there all along?

Where do you choose to place your focus?

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Fourteen Years

children

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve written, but time is short. How short? Well maybe fourteen years, maybe less.

A week ago I had another one of those celebrations that happen once every 365 days, or in this case, 366. It dawned on me that based on the retirement age here in Australia of 67, I have just fourteen years of gainful employment left. (Wow … I am getting old, aren’t I?)

But what does that really mean for me?

Let’s face it, I could be hit by a bus tomorrow. (It always amazes me that we so often think that an early demise will come at the hands of a negligent bus driver. I think they get a bad rap. Surely bus deaths aren’t that high.) However, if the good Lord decides to keep me on this earth for a while longer, I have fourteen more years of contributing to the task of seeing children released from poverty in Jesus’ name. Fourteen more years of speaking for those who have no voice. Fourteen more years of encouraging others to get on board to do what they can to end extreme poverty.

Well, that’s not quite true.

At this point, I can imagine myself working with Compassion until I retire, but I don’t know if God might direct me somewhere else in the meantime. On the other hand, even if I do continue working with Compassion until I retire, I won’t stop advocating for children in extreme poverty when I finally hand back the office keys and drive out of the Compassion car park for the final time. Whatever years I’m given, whether a few or many, I hope I’ll still be speaking up for others.

You see, my job isn’t just a job.

I’ve heard it said that if you “find something you love to do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Nice idea but not quite true. I love what I do but I really do have to work at it … and that’s OK. I’m happy to work hard at what I do because there’s a lot to be done. Did you know around 300 million children in our world will go to bed hungry tonight? Did you know that according to the most recent figures 17 000 children under the age of five die every day from preventable causes? And let that word sink in for a while. Preventable. That means it doesn’t have to be this way.

It’s unacceptable.

I believe that extreme poverty is unacceptable. I believe the corrupt systems that keep people in extreme poverty are unacceptable. The fact that a child can grow up believing that they are worthless is unacceptable. Most of all, knowing that our world has the resources and know how to halt extreme poverty right now, yet chooses not to, is unacceptable.

So whether it’s fourteen or forty years I have left on this planet, with God’s help, I’ll still be speaking up for those who need to know that they are precious. Whatever time I have I’ll be highlighting the imbalance of those of us who have too much and those who have literally nothing. Whether it be days or decades I’ll be pointing to the injustice of a world that turns its back on children in poverty. For the days I have left I’ll be doing my best to ensure that children everywhere are known, loved and protected.

Will you join me in changing our world? Please sponsor a child today through Compassion and release them from poverty in Jesus’ name.

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Beautiful Survivor

ChristineUwase

Working in broadcast media for many years I had the opportunity to meet some incredible people. I met personal heroes, like Australian cyclist Cadel Evans, and various other celebrities from around the world. A lot of the people I met were inspiring but none have been as inspiring as those I have met since beginning to work for Compassion.

One of the most remarkable people I’ve had the chance to meet is Christine, a young woman I met in Rwanda in 2014. Christine faced unimaginable tragedy at the age of four when she lost her family to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

The last memory I have of my mother is watching her be shot dead before my eyes as she pleaded for both her life and mine to be spared. I was only four years old and didn’t know the implications of her dying prematurely. I wish she was still alive to see me grow into the lady I have become.

How do you come back from something like that? How do you find hope in such a dark situation?

Christine is in Western Australia for a short time to tell her story and the amazing transformation that has happened in her life. While living with an aunty she was registered with Compassion and life started to turn around.

I joined Compassion when I was five years old, just after my parents were killed. Compassion picked me alongside other children and provided us with education, meals and other basic supplies, which I was able to share with my siblings. The Compassion project became my next home and a place where I was assured of joy.

Through Compassion, I came to know Christ and my faith was strengthened. I was previously very quiet and wouldn’t smile, but the longer I attended the program and met friends to play with, the more my confidence grew. Through Compassion, I started to gain hope for life where I was hopeless.

My sponsor taught me about giving and impacting others through what I have. The fact that they helped me without even knowing who I am impressed me a lot and pushes me to do the same to others, in order to make our world a better place. My sponsors used to tell me how much they love me and how I am so special. It was the first time I was told that and now I am passionate about sharing that love with others.

God has used Compassion to make me who I am today.

MelCrothers
If you’re in Perth you can hear Christine tell her story on Sunday night, the 26th of June, at The Rocks in Cannington.

The evening will also feature one of my very favourite singer/songwriters, Mel Crothers.

Entry to the event is free but you’ll need to register. You can find out more and register by clicking this link.

I really want you to have the opportunity to be inspired by this incredible evening. Why not grab a few friends or family members and head along? You will be so glad you took the time.

You can see Christine telling some of her story in the video below.

Christine’s story is one of hope and transformation. If you can, I really hope you’ll make it a priority to hear from her while she’s in Perth.

My life is true confirmation that God has a plan for each one of us and has mysterious ways to fulfil the plan. All we need to do is let Him work in us. The way God used sponsors through Compassion to transform my life is one of those mysteries.

Christine is a truly inspiring lady. Don’t miss the opportunity to meet her.

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Going Ape Online

gorilla

When I first entered the courtroom I had no idea of the events that were about to unfold. I didn’t know I’d be there for around six weeks, listening to dozens of people being questioned by prosecution and defence lawyers.

It was several years ago and I’d been chosen to serve on the jury of a criminal case. The case was estimated to run for a couple of weeks but one and a half months later we finally ‘retired to consider a verdict’.

It was only after all the twists and turns of the evidence, direction from the judge, copious legal arguments and much more along the way that we were ready to consider all that we’d seen and heard and then deliver a verdict on each of the charges. It still took the twelve of us many hours to finally agree. That process involved reviewing the case, including expert evidence, and discussing various points together to ensure justice for everyone involved in the case.

What fascinated me at the time was the media reporting. I had no doubt that people would have been making up their own minds on the case based on the occasional 90 second television reports and the two or three hundred word reports in the paper. We had heard countless hours of in depth evidence, they had seen a 90 second report. How could they make a solid decision on such a small amount of evidence? Quite obviously they couldn’t.

Everyone’s Going Ape

Over the past week we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of people making grand statements online and in the media about the sad case of Harambe the gorilla and the four year old child who found his way into the gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo.

Since Harambe was shot dead and the child was rescued we’ve heard and seen endless commentary about everything from bad parenting to inadequate infrastructure at the zoo. We’ve been told who’s at fault and even had people suggesting that the gorilla’s life was more important than the child’s. All this from people who weren’t there and only had brief media reports to rely upon when forming their opinion.

I won’t say who I think was at fault because I really don’t have enough evidence to know, but that obviously hasn’t stopped hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, being quite convinced they know enough to confidently assert their opinion and that their opinion should be the final word on the matter.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against developing a conversation and seeking the facts to understand more about what happened but that’s a million miles away from taking on the job of judge, jury and executioner based on media reports.

Whether it’s a major news story or simply a fun YouTube video, our unlimited access to various forms of social media has given us unprecedented opportunity to share our opinions and the fact that most of those opinions aren’t supported by the facts doesn’t seem to trouble anyone. This isn’t just about Harambe’s story, this is about every single thing that finds it’s way online. This is about people using social media to constantly tear down others rather than building them up and offering help in times of need.

Whenever someone publishes anything online you can almost guarantee a barrage of comments that range between sycophantic worship and death threats. Where’s the middle ground? Where’s the reasoned discussion?

We’ve lost the ability to display compassion and empathy.

Many seem to forget that those involved in the stories they pronounce their opinions on are real people who are very likely to read those comments and suffer from the words of those who don’t know or care to understand the wider story.

When we cross the line, when we mess up and get it wrong, we hope that others will take into account what brought us to that point, not to excuse our behaviour but to understand it, and then that they’ll offer forgiveness. Why are we so unprepared to offer that to others? Why are we so quick to pass judgement on those we don’t even know? Why do we feel such a strong desire to vilify others publicly without knowing their story?

Sadly, as well as causing untold damage to those who are targeted, those making comments can end up looking foolish and uninformed. It would be better for many to simply remain silent.

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent. – Proverbs 17:28

Social media has given us an incredible platform to share our stories and our humanness but we shouldn’t take it lightly and we shouldn’t simply use it as an opportunity to bring others down. None of us ever know what lies around the corner for us but whatever it is, I hope that there’ll still be people ready to offer words that heal rather than words that tear down.

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