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What am I going to do with a goat?

(This is an updated post from previous years.) If you’ve been to a shopping centre recently or watched any television, you’ll know that Christmas is rapidly approaching and there are plenty of businesses that are keen to ‘help you celebrate’ with their products. While the big day is still just under a couple of months away, we know that it all starts to ramp up from here.

Once again, I’m conflicted. If I’m honest, I don’t really need anything for Christmas. If no one bought me a gift for Christmas or any other occasion, I could survive. In fact not just survive but continue to thrive.

The conflict comes from the fact that I still enjoy receiving gifts. I love the unwrapping and the excitement of having something shiny and new. I also love the fact that people care enough to choose something for me.

It concerns me that while I’m enjoying lovely new things that I don’t really need, there are people in many parts of the world that don’t have the basics that they need to get on with the daily task of just keeping their families alive.

If Christmas is about celebrating Jesus, surely we should be doing something that honours him and his heart for the poor, rather than overindulging while most of the world goes without.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we should all be miserable and not fully enter into the celebrations at this time of year.

Balance

I suppose that’s where we all need some kind of balance between the giving and receiving of gifts between friends and loved ones and our wider responsibility to those in need around the world. We live in a global village but most of the villagers are missing out.

Those of us who’ve been blessed by simply being born in the right place should spare a thought for those who only ask for the gift of life this Christmas.

I might not have a lot of use for a goat but for a rural family in a developing country, the simple gift of a goat could be just what they need to break free from poverty.

Compassion

So where do you buy a goat and how do you get it to someone who needs it? Compassion Australia’s Gifts of Compassion is open and ready for business. Their gifts help people who are battling desperate poverty.

They can take your money and turn it into a very real solution to poverty. You can buy everything from mosquito nets to a toilet block with lots more in between including chickens, cows, toothbrushes and baby vaccinations.

Your support really does make a difference.

I’ve visited churches partnering with Compassion in seven of the 25 countries where they’re working and I can personally vouch for the work they do. When you support those in poverty through Compassion, the aid really does make it to those who need it.

In fact, it was after seeing the work of Compassion that I decided that I would do all I could to advance their work which is why I’ve now been working full-time for Compassion for the last six years.

This Christmas I do want to receive something for myself, wrapped in thought and love, but I also hope that someone will give me a goat or a chicken or a health bundle for someone I’ll never meet.

What about you?

Go on … you’ve thought about it before but unless you let your loved ones know now it’ll never happen. Ask those you love to buy something for someone else this Christmas.



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Loving the Philippines

It’s been a little quiet around here lately so I thought I’d add a few short videos from my visit to the Philippines in September.

I was there seeing the work of Compassion, releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

You can click play on the three videos below.




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RetroRadio – Guy Sebastian

RetroRadio is a series of posts of radio interviews from my time working at 98five Sonshine FM covering everything from issues of spirituality to chats with visiting musicians and celebrities.

Hopefully, the interviews spark a few memories and a few thoughts.

These days he’s the newest coach on hit television show, The Voice Australia, but since bursting onto our screens and winning the first series of Australian Idol back in 2003, Guy Sebastian has amassed an amazing list of accomplishments.

He has performed alongside and in front of some of the biggest names in the music business, won a swag of awards and was Australia’s representative at the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest.

Back in my radio days, I had a number of opportunities to chat with Guy. Here are a couple of those interviews.

Firstly, here’s an interview from October 2007. Guy was just about to release his Memphis Album. The wonderful thing about that album was that Guy enlisted the help of top soul musicians such as Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Steve Potts, Lester Snell, Dave Smith, Rick Steff, Jim Spake, Kirk Smothers, Scott Thompson and Howard Lamb.

Many of those musicians wrote and recorded the original versions of the songs on the album with the likes of Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Al Green and Wilson Pickett and were members of the MGs, playing with Booker T, and the Blues Brothers Band. Steve Cropper, who co-wrote In The Midnight Hour, Knock On Wood, and (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay, also produced the album with Guy.

I remember having a representative of the record company in the studio during our interview. She gasped when Guy revealed that some of those giants of the industry would be his backing band for a tour early in 2008.

The only downside of having Guy live in the studio was that he had a terrible flu, which I then managed to catch.

Listen to what he had to say about his music all those years ago using the media player below.

In October 2009 I had the opportunity to catch up with Guy again. Once again we talked about his musical journey and his album at the time, Like it Like That.

Once again he was a delight to interview. I was particularly encouraged, and a little embarrassed, by his final words to me in the interview. I guess he enjoyed the interview as much as I did.

Just click play and enjoy another catch up with Guy Sebastian.

[Note: All RetroRadio interviews on RodneyOlsen.net are a snapshot of the time they were recorded. We all grow and change and so the opinions and thoughts of those in the interviews at the time of recording may or may not necessarily be the same as they are today.]

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Riding the Storms

The rain is coming. Storms too. It might get pretty wild over the next week in Perth but I’ll just stay inside.

Warm. Dry. Safe.

I wonder what it might be like for people who don’t have that option.

Sometimes when I’m drifting off to sleep I think about some of the people I’ve met who don’t have the luxury of a comfortable bed and the security of a locked door. The anxieties of the day might sometimes keep me awake but at least for those nighttime hours, I am relatively safe.

I’m not kept awake by rain falling through holes in a grass roof or localised flooding surging through my home. I’m not wondering if this is the night that someone will toss aside the iron sheet that serves as the only barrier between my family and the rest of the world, intent on stealing, destroying and causing personal harm.

This October I’m doing more than thinking about the terrible situations that many are helpless in changing. I’ll be taking on a 500 kilometre Ride for Compassion from Albany to Perth to raise funds to provide new homes for children living in dilapidated shelters in Uganda.

These children are currently living in deplorable conditions that are unsafe, unprotected from the weather, and at risk of collapse.

Staff at Ochegen Child Development Centre regularly visit the homes of Compassion assisted children to provide support. From these visits, staff have identified an urgent need to improve living conditions for 14 Compassion assisted children and their families.

I know that you and I don’t have the capacity to provide a shelter for every child living in extreme poverty around the world, but together, we can make a massive difference for the 14 families who will benefit from the funds we will raise through the ride.

The need is real and urgent.

You have the opportunity to make a tangible change for families who need your help now. Follow this link to donate now. Gifts are tax deductible in Australia and with the current financial year rapidly drawing to a close, now is the time to take action.

Projects are always based on children’s most critical needs, as determined by the local church who knows each child and their situation individually. This project was identified as essential to children’s healthy development for the following reasons:

• Most of these families earn less than US$4 per month; two families are led by single mothers who are struggling to make ends meet, relying on casual labour like gardening.

• Currently, children live in grass-thatched shelters that cannot protect them from varying weather conditions, increasing their risk of pneumonia, flu and other airborne diseases. One child describes how food often rots in their family’s house because of its damp conditions.

• Most of the families have seven members who sometimes share a shelter with their livestock. Children often share sleeping mats with their siblings. Without privacy or adequate resting space, the current living conditions have affected the children’s psychological wellbeing, emotional development and academic performance.

• In its current state, these shelters are unsafe and susceptible to collapse. The homes are constructed with grass roofs, causing poor ventilation and a daily reliance on firewood for cooking, which exacerbates the risk of fire.

Ride for Compassion 2019 will take place from the 19th to the 26th of October with around 22 cyclists and a dedicated support team travelling from Albany in the south west of Australia to Perth.

I hope that by helping to provide more suitable shelters, both you and the families who will benefit will sleep easier at night.

Please follow this link to donate now.

If you’d like more details about Ride for Compassion, just drop me a message or visit the Ride for Compassion website.

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Who’s Thinking for You?

Are you someone who thinks for yourself or do you just go with the flow? Are you prepared to move in a different direction to the crowd around you?

We’d all like to think we’re the kind of person that thinks for ourself and makes our own decisions, but experience would suggest that we often just toe the line without even knowing it.

Would you like a dollar off a record?

My first paid job was standing in the Hay Street Mall, at the time the main pedestrian mall in Perth, quietly handing out advertising vouchers for a record shop.

Each voucher offered one dollar off the price of an LP record or cassette at Wesley Records, just behind Wesley Church on the corner of Hay and William Streets. It was back in the days when it was all still vinyl albums and audio cassettes. The Compact Disc wouldn’t hit shelves for another five years.

With the minimum employment age being 15, I would have only worked the job for the handful of months between my birthday in July and starting my cooking apprenticeship in December 1978. I worked on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings. I remember picking up some extra work during school holidays too.

What might have been a spectacularly mundane job, passing out small pieces of paper to passers-by, actually taught me a lot about people. I learned how to ‘read people’ to some degree to ensure I gave out as many vouchers as possible.

I learned that people will follow the example of others without thinking and without realising. Those they would follow would be nameless others in a crowd that they didn’t know and would probably never see again.

I used to stand just in the mall near the traffic lights on the corner of Hay and William Streets. A crowd would build on the other side of the road, waiting for the WALK sign to light up. As soon as it did the group would start heading in my direction and I’d have to pick someone to be the first one offered a voucher. That choice would determine whether I would manage to quickly distribute thirty record shop vouchers … or none.

FOMO isn’t something new.

If the first person I approached was happy to take a voucher, I was more or less assured that I could hand one to almost every other person in that group. In fact, there were times when people who saw others take a voucher would be so afraid of missing out, they’d line up to grab one before heading down the mall.

If the first person I offered a voucher politely declined, so would everyone else unless I could quickly find a second person who would go against the flow and take one.

Interestingly, it went further than that.

If I copped some kind of abuse from my first choice recipient, I would get a heap more from everyone else in the crowd. One snarly person would create a small angry mob, each one more incensed than the last that I dared offer them a discount.

Not knowing what I was handing out, some would assume it was ‘religious material’ and would decline saying that they had their own religion. Of course when that happened, many in the following group would tell me the same thing.

Some shoppers would suggest ‘shoving the vouchers’ in impolite places with so, so many others thinking that it was funny to say that they couldn’t read.
(I’m sure that each one was convinced that they’d been the first one to use that line.)

Making the choice.

There would be a fresh group of people waiting to cross the road every few minutes so I got pretty good at picking my first ‘target’ each time. Looking at faces, body language, and clothing, as well as relying on a gut feeling, I could distribute a heap of vouchers before heading back to the record store to grab another bundle.

Without anyone else knowing it, I would be secretly conspiring with some random person to help me do my job. Not even they knew they were part of the plan. I was a teenage profiler. I could work the crowd to get what I wanted.

So who’s really thinking for you?

I’ve thought about those days a lot over the years. If a 15-year-old boy can manipulate people at a basic level like that, what hope do we have against the sophisticated machinations of those who spend their days attempting to shape our thoughts and lives?

I’m not a conspiracy theorist who thinks that the government or some secret society is manipulating us all but I do think we need to employ critical thinking skills to ensure we don’t end up as simply another pawn in someone else’s game.

When we buy something is it because we need it or because we’ve just been played? Who made the decision, the marketing company or us?

When we reply to a post on social media, chat with friends about politics or consider spiritual matters, are we speaking from reasoned thought or are we ‘taking the voucher’ because we just saw someone else take one?

Even with all the available information in our grasp, we can still be swayed by elements beyond our control.

Knowledge isn’t enough. We need wisdom.

Wisdom has been described as being a combination of knowledge, understanding, experience, common sense and insight.  That’s a good place to start but biblical wisdom goes further. It lets us lean on the Creator of the universe to guide us and direct our path.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. – James 3:17 (ESV)

The good news is that we can have access to that kind of wisdom simply by asking for it.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. – James 1:5 (NLT)



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