Words that Scar


James Copeland is 46 but the words of the lady who taught him when he was only 10 have stuck in his mind since his childhood.

The Victorian bank worker was recently announced as the winner of a competition to head into space on the Virgin Galactic spaceship. The win means that he will realise a childhood dream but as well as carrying that dream for the last 36 years, he’s carried the words of the teacher who told him he was dreaming the impossible dream.

Her words were so powerful that as well as feeling the excitement of his upcoming adventure, he felt the need to show his teacher that his hopes were quite possible after all.

Copeland was so excited to find out that his childhood dream will soon become a reality, that he set about finding a primary school teacher who he says had called his dream impossible. – NEWS.com.au

Scott tracked her down to tell her the good news and to prove that dreams really can come true.

“It was great that she actually remembered me although she couldn’t specifically recall our banter about me becoming an astronaut but she did vaguely recall my fascination with space travel in general,” he said. “She was ultimately thrilled for me that I am getting this opportunity to fulfil a lifelong dream.

“She did say that she probably should have been more supportive of my dreams back then, although I suggested it’s not like I aced physics at school for this opportunity to become an astronaut and the reality is I ended up in banking rather than working at NASA.” – NEWS.com.au

Inspirational Teachers

I’ve often heard people talking about the amazing teachers they’ve had and the difference they’ve made in their lives. While I’m glad that there are many amazing teachers around the world who have been such incredible motivators and role models for others, whenever I hear people talking about them I must admit to feeling some sadness. I never had one of those wonderful teachers.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have fond memories of some teachers. I remember having Miss Van Kampen for the first two years of school back at Wembley Downs Primary School. If I remember correctly she drove a green VW Beetle. I think my Grade 3 teacher was Mrs McGrade. It all becomes a bit of a blur after that. I can’t think who I had in Grades 4 and 5. I think it was Mr Paganini for Grade 6 but I seem to remember he was also a Deputy Headmaster so he shared the teaching duties with another teacher.

Words that Scar

My memories of some teachers may be hazy but there are some things I do recall. I certainly remember my Grade 7 teacher. Richard Phillips was a very sporty kind of teacher. He coached the school’s football and cricket teams. I guess he didn’t like me much because I wasn’t a sporty kind of kid.

I thought he was kind of cool …. until the day he yelled at me in front of the class that I was a ‘drip’ who would never amount to anything in life. That seemed to take the shine off things for me.

My life may not be a blazing comet lighting up the skies but I reckon things are pretty good. I have a beautiful wife and two incredible children who I love more than words can say. I have great friends and a very fulfilling job.

His words haven’t really overshadowed my life to any great degree, nor have they been motivation to do well and prove him wrong, but I know those words cut deeply at the time and my mind still returns to them from time to time.

So why is it that 40 years after the event those words still hurt? Why did Scott Copeland feel that it was so important to find the teacher who told him his dream was impossible?

The Power of Our Words

I wonder if we truly understand the power of our words, especially when we’re talking to children. It’s easy to cause major harm just by the things we say but on the other hand, we have the power to speak words that heal. Our encouragement and words of affirmation can help shape people and can be major building blocks in young lives.

I’m not sure that I’m particularly good at using my words as well as I can but I do hope that my words won’t tear others down.

We all have the choice to build others up with our words or to leave scars that may never heal. I hope and pray that we make the right choices with our words.

Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you. – Ephesians 4:29 (GNT)

Do you remember the words of someone significant when you were growing up? Did someone speaks words of life for you or harmful words?

Robin Williams and The Final Cut


The death of Robin Williams has rocked the world and over the past 24 hours we’ve been reminded of his great comedic talent, his great acting abilities and what a wonderfully warm and giving person he was. The world certainly has lost a very talented man.

None of the tributes have mentioned one of my favourite Robin Williams movies. It didn’t get very positive reviews and it certainly wasn’t a blockbuster. In fact, most people have never even heard of it.

I first saw The Final Cut on a plane heading home from India in 2005. As well as starring Robin Williams it features Mira Sorvino and Jim Caviezel. It’s certainly no comedy but it’s very good at getting you thinking about a range of philosophical, psychological and moral issues. Be warned, it’s not a movie to suit everyone.

Every time I’ve seen it I’ve pondered it for a long time, going over and over the concepts the movie presents.

It’s a very strange story about memory chips implanted in unborn children to record everything that they see and hear in their lifetime. The idea is that once they have passed away someone called a ‘cutter’ takes the chip and creates an audio visual memorial of their life called a ‘Rememory’. Of course they have the job of editing the footage to hide the dark side of the person and only show them in a good light.

At one point Caviezel’s character, who is against the technology, asks Williams, the best cutter available, how he lives with himself. He sees the lies, the cheating, the violence and yet he only presents people as warm, caring people who are dedicated to their families. Williams says, “I forgive people long after they can be punished for their sins.” So, is it about forgiveness or covering up?

In a greater sense, back in the real world, don’t we do just that ourselves? Aren’t we all working as ‘cutters’ on our own lives? Don’t we all choose to show those parts of our personalities that show us in the best light when we’re around others? Don’t we all hide the darker side to some degree?

One man attending his brother’s Rememory asks if the cutter has altered the colour of the fishing boat from a childhood holiday. All his life he had remembered the boat being green but it was actually red. I wonder how many things from our past we can remember so distinctly yet we’ve remembered wrongly. Would it be right to correct that kind of memory or is remembering things in our own way part of our human experience?

I guess the biggest question the movie raises is if every moment of your life was being recorded, would you live it differently? If you knew that every moment of your life would one day be placed in the hands of a stranger who would sift through everything you’ve ever done would you be a different person? Would you be a better person? If you knew that by talking to someone else you could be videoed by their implant would it change the way you interacted with others? If you knew that you could never hold a secret would it change your behaviour now?

As I mentioned, The Final Cut didn’t get rave reviews and many people felt that the concepts and issues it raises weren’t investigated thoroughly enough but I think it touches on them just enough to give you your own opportunity to think through some of the issues. The scenarios that are played out are unlikely to ever happen but there’s more than enough big ideas that already touch our lives to think through.

If you’re up for 90 minutes of darkness that will have you pondering some interesting possibilities, have a look at The Final Cut.

Homeless Persons’ Week 2014


Today is the final day of Homeless Persons’ Week for 2014. The theme this year is Homelessness: we can’t afford to ignore it.

Homeless Persons’ Week is an annual themed week coordinated by Homelessness Australia. It is used to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness and the surrounding issues. – Homelessness Australia

It is held in the first full week of August each year.

Who would you think is the ‘average’ homeless person? Is it the stereotypical old man in ragged clothes, clutching a bottle in a brown paper bag, sleeping under some old newspapers on a park bench?

I remember statistics from a few years back saying that over 40% of the homeless in Perth were under 18. Families are living in cars; people who have jobs can’t afford the fuel to get to work; rent increases mean that parents can no longer put a roof over their family’s heads.

The homeless are people like you.

Unfortunately those who are homeless are often people who have had a change in circumstances which has meant that they no longer have somewhere to live. It can be a mother and her children fleeing abuse or a formerly successful white collar worker who has lost everything. Many times it can be people who have a job, but their wages just won’t cover the high cost of rent.

And if you think that homelessness doesn’t affect you, think again. Homelessness doesn’t only cause devastating personal harm, it significantly impacts on society and costs the government.

Homelessness is more than the absence of a home – it can be driven and compounded by interwoven conditions and problems. As a consequence, homelessness leads to a high use of public support services.

On average, the Commonwealth Government spends $15,000 on services for each Australian. People experiencing homelessness will cost the government $30,000 more each year. Australian governments spend millions of dollars each year dealing with the effects of homelessness.

Studies have shown that addressing homelessness reduces costs to government. Homelessness services assist people to achieve positive change in their lives, which reduced their use of other services. – Homelessness Australia

I’ve seen people living in extreme poverty in developing nations and I know the lies poverty tells people and the messages that it can send. You’re worthless. You’ll never break free from your circumstances. Nobody cares. I can see the same messages in homelessness here in Australia.

You might think that there’s no homelessness in your area but it’s extremely likely that if it’s not obvious, it’s still hidden somewhere in your own suburb. Please take the time to learn more about homelessness and then take steps to do something that will make a difference.

Check out the Homelessness Australia website and discover how you can be part of the solution.

Pedalling Hope


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. – PR Web

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

Photos from Africa

East Africa 008

It’s been almost two weeks since I finished my trip to Ethiopia and Rwanda with Compassion.

Here’s a gallery of some of the hundreds of photos I took while away. I hope you enjoy them. Just click on the first photo and scroll through.