This Time Next Year

Are you old enough to remember what you were doing 30 years ago?

1987 was the year Michael Jackson released his hit album, Bad. It was also the year Microsoft released Windows 2.0. And in 1987, The Simpsons cartoon first appeared as a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show.

On this day 30 years ago I was in the middle of Australia. I was cycling from Perth to Canberra. It was the first of my five crossings by bike.

So far, I’ve cycled across Australia in my twenties, thirties, and forties.

This Time Next Year

On this day next year, the 15th of September 2018, I’ll start pedaling from Perth, Western Australia towards Newcastle, New South Wales. Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast will be my first attempt at cycling across Australia in my fifties. I’ll be riding with around 30 other riders for a common cause.

We will arrive at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, NSW on Tuesday the 16th of October, having cycled around 4300 km. There’ll be 28 riding days and 4 rest days. The average riding distance for those riding days will be 150 km. Our longest day will be just under 200 km.

If you’d like to support my ride you can do so in two ways.

You can sponsor a child living in poverty. By using that link your sponsorship will count towards my fundraising goal while releasing a child from poverty in Jesus’ name.

Sponsorship gives kids safe places to play, the chance to see a doctor when they’re sick, education, and the opportunity to discover Jesus’ incredible love for them.

Sponsor a child. Give them a brighter future so they, and eventually their own children, can live free from poverty.

The other way you can support my ride is by making a direct donation to my fundraising page. Your donation will touch the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our world through Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children’s Fund.

Every child in poverty is vulnerable, but some children are at risk of the most deplorable situations in the world.

Children whose parents who have left, died, or are unable to provide for them, children exposed to exploitation and children with special needs are highly vulnerable. They often find themselves on the edge of extremely dangerous situations like child labour, gang violence, trafficking, and life on the street.

Registrations for the ride close soon but if you’re interested in joining me on a bike or as part of the support team, head to the Ride for Compassion website.

I need to get fit. Really fit.

I used to keep a moderate level of fitness by cycling to and from work each day but my job hasn’t really allowed me to do that for the last three and a half years. Over the next twelve months, I need to get myself into better shape than I have ever been. I’m going to have to be strategic and focused if I’m to drop a bunch of kilograms and put plenty of kilometres into my legs. I’ll need to be able to ride around a thousand kilometres a week for just over four weeks.

Taking part in the ride will take a huge effort.

But every effort I make to be part of the ride will be worth it because some things are unacceptable. It’s unacceptable that millions of children are living in extreme poverty. Next year I’ll put my body on the line to do whatever I can to make a difference for as many of those children as I can.

Will you help me give more children a chance to live, dream and hope? Sponsor a child today or donate through my fundraising page.

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The New Temptation

Did you wake up today feeling like you’re missing out on something? Are you tempted to book your place in the queue for the revolutionary iPhone X?

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

The latest iPhones have been launched and once again they offer newer, better, must have features. So we now have the iPhone X, available from the first week of November, as well as the iPhone 8 and 8+ which will start selling before the end of this month. If you believe the hype, the new versions almost render the previous versions obsolete.

Apple has rolled out its much-anticipated iPhone X, a redesigned product of glass and stainless steel with an edge-to-edge display that Apple chief executive Tim Cook has described as, “the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone”.

The new iPhone features include wireless charging, an infrared camera and special hardware for facial recognition, which will replace the fingerprint sensor for unlocking the phone. – ABC

I have certainly embraced new technology but I do worry about the relentless pursuit of the newest and latest.

Each upgrade or redesign is calculated to make us feel that the device in our hand is no longer worthy of our complete adoration. It’s time to move on to the next big thing and the next big thing is a shinier version of the last with features you didn’t know you needed until it was pointed out that you don’t have them.

Apple is not the issue.

Just in case you think this is a rant against Apple, it’s not. Just in case you think I’m just pointing the finger at others, I’m on the treadmill too. I don’t have the very latest of every ‘gadget’ but my eye is caught by the non-stop advancements in technology and a lot of the technology I own comes from the Apple factory.

I love music so I use my iPod Classic every day. I won an iPhone 6+ some years back and it’s excellent for both work and personal usage. (My phone battery died recently and I did the unthinkable. I paid to replace the battery rather than upgrading the phone.) I also regularly use my iPad at home and for work.

Apple isn’t the issue. The relentless push to have more and more of the very latest is what causes me to feel uneasy.

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 packaging.

My ‘old’ iPad, iPod and iPhone don’t cease to be functional when each new generation is released. They’re all several years old and several models out of date but interestingly enough, they still do what I need them to do.

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.

We’ve let ourselves be duped into believing that satisfaction in life is just one more purchase away. The strange thing is that when the 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.

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.

So whether it’s the latest car, fashion, technology or anything else, make sure you know what you’re buying. Purchase what you need but don’t buy the hollow promises and distractions that inevitably come packaged with them.

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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Unlocking Potential

When he was just eight years of age his father was murdered in front of his mother. That moment forced Richmond, his mother and his five siblings out of their home and into one of the world’s largest slums. Life had changed in an instant.

I recently had the honour of spending some time with Richmond Wandera during his short visit to Perth. His life was changed by a tragic event. His life was changed again when he was sponsored through Compassion.

During the many years I worked in radio I had the opportunity to meet a lot of inspirational people. I don’t think any of them were more inspirational than Richmond. His is a powerful story teller and he has a very powerful story to tell. He has suffered malaria more than ten times, experienced extreme poverty, scavenged for food and seen things a child should never have to see.

Life now is very different. Richmond is a pastor and the founder of the Pastors’ Discipleship Network in four African countries.

The amazing thing is that while Richmond always carried that potential if it were not for the decision made by a fifteen-year-old girl to sponsor him, his life would look very different today.

Watch this video and hear Richmond tell some of his own story.

There are hundreds of thousands of children around the world who need someone to step up and help release their potential. You can be the person who brings change and hope to the life of a child. Please sponsor a child today through Compassion.

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Father’s Day 2017

Dad was a FIFO worker before there was such a thing. These days FIFO stands for ‘Fly In Fly Out’ but back then dad would ‘Float In Float Out’. He worked as a cook on ships, mostly heading up and down the Western Australian coast. That meant that dad would be absent from our home for weeks at a time.

When he was home I don’t know that he really knew how to interact with his children and I’m not sure that I knew how to interact with him.

Even though there was often both a physical and emotional distance between us, my dad was a good dad who did the best job of fathering he could.

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.

Maybe I could point to things I wish were different when I was young but really, I didn’t miss out on much. Life was pretty good and a lot of that was down to the love of an imperfect father. These days I’m an imperfect father so the last thing I want to do is blame dad for the things I may have missed out on while growing up. Instead, I blame my dad for a range of other things.

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 a 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.

My dad was a good dad who provided for his family well and did the best he could.

It’s Father’s Day in Australia.

This is my sixteenth 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 grow up into the wonderful young people that they’ve become and to get to know Pauline even better. I reckon he would have really enjoyed Emily and Josh’s wedding a few months ago, although he would have told me that some of the music was too loud. He would have been proud to see James begin university this year.

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’s me with my dad and mum in the picture above. You can click on it for a closer look.)

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Living Generously

This week we heard that Mavis L. Wanczyk, a hospital worker of Chicopee, Massachusetts won US$758.7 million, the largest undivided jackpot lottery win in U.S. history.

Go on, admit it. You spent a minute or two deciding how you would spend that kind of money if it had been you.

Obviously, there are winners in all kinds of lotteries but the odds of winning a big prize aren’t all that good. I’ve done a little research and you’ve got a much better chance of being killed by lightning, being blackmailed or seriously injuring yourself while shaving. While I’d prefer to have 758.7 million dollars in my pocket than the other three options, I know that the chances aren’t all that great so I don’t bother buying tickets.

On top of that, there is a lot of evidence that shows those who wind a windfall will generally end up bankrupt or in a worse situation within three to five years.

Jack Whittaker was already a millionaire when he won a $315 million in a lottery in West Virginia in 2002. The then-55-year-old West Virginia construction company president claimed he went broke about four years later and lost a daughter and a granddaughter to drug overdoses, which he blamed on the curse of the Powerball win, according to ABC News.

“My granddaughter is dead because of the money,” he told ABC. “You know, my wife had said she wished that she had torn the ticket up. Well, I wish that we had torn the ticket up, too.” Whittaker was also robbed of $545,000 sitting in his car while he was at a strip club eight months after winning the lottery. “I just don’t like Jack Whittaker. I don’t like the hard heart I’ve got,” he said. “I don’t like what I’ve become.” – Time

Jack Whittaker’s isn’t the only bad news story to come from lottery wins. Studies show that many winners struggle with suicide, depression, and divorce.

But that wouldn’t happen to me.

We like to think that we’d be somehow different if we were in that situation. We like to think that we’d be one of the success stories.

All the bad news stories still don’t stop me from thinking of what I would do with a huge windfall if someone gave it to me. I’d hope to secure my financial future, help out some friends, and give some substantial funding to a number of causes I’m passionate about.

What would you do if you were suddenly millions of dollars richer?

The interesting thing is that most people would spend their money in the same way, whether they had a lot or very little. The extra money would magnify the patterns that have already been set. If you’re the kind of person who only spends on themselves, you’re unlikely to become generous to others if you suddenly become rich.

If you are generous when you don’t have much you’re likely to be generous if a large sum ever comes your way.

I remember a few years ago speaking to a woman living in extreme poverty while trying to raise her son. She made false eyelashes to earn an income of just 30 cents a day. When her infant son got ill, her friends, all living on around the same income, gave her money to help. They didn’t give out of an excess that someone had given them, they were generous even with the little they had.

All the talk of giving to good causes if people ever get the money to do so generally comes to nothing unless we’ve set the pattern with the little or much that we already have.

I don’t have a lot of money but I do try to support causes that I believe in. I’m very unlikely to ever find myself swimming in cash but if that ever happened, I hope that I would be generous with my money.

What are the patterns you’re setting now? Are you generous with what you already have?

Don’t live on the dream of something that is never likely to happen. Generosity isn’t about the amount you give, it’s a heart thing. Choose today to live with a heart of generosity towards others. Look for opportunities to give to those who are in need.

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