More Than Happiness

It’s over. 2019 is gone and 2020 has arrived. We’ve now entered the twenties.

Over the last few days, there’s every chance you’ve been exchanging the customary greeting of “Happy New Year” with anyone who happens to cross your path.

Even while you’ve been trying to grab a bargain at all the post-Christmas sales you’ve probably had complete strangers not only hurriedly scanning your discounted items from the other side of the counter but wishing you happiness for the next twelve months.

We wish each other happiness as we draw a line under the year that has gone and look forward to the fresh beginnings of a new year.

We want the next year to be better than the last.

Each year I hear a lot of people talking about how tough their year was personally. Reading through Facebook I see so many describing 2019 as one of their hardest years ever. Some have described it as a roller coaster with some real highs as well as deep troughs.

I’ve heard many people despair at happenings around at home and the world with everything from the massive fires of the recent weeks in Australia (which are still destroying all in their paths) to terrorist attacks, natural disasters, political instability, inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and other heartbreaking situations.

Others have spoken of the many great lives we’ve lost during the past twelve months. It’s no wonder we want a little bit of happiness in the new year.

But is happiness what it’s really all about?

Of course, I want to wish you a happy new year but I don’t want it to end there. I want more for you than happiness as you launch into 2020.

Happiness comes and goes and we all know that you’re not going to sail through 2020 with a smile on your face the whole time. There will be struggles and disappointments.

I’m not wishing you difficulties but I’ve been on this planet long enough to know that each year will bring a mixture of good and bad.

Sometimes there’ll also be extreme highs and devastating lows. With that in mind, my wish for you goes deeper.

I wish you joy for 2020.

Joy is different than happiness. It’s more. It’s not so dependent on circumstances. There’s a strength in joy that goes beyond the happy times. It’s a confidence that no matter what we’re facing, we can go on.

I wish love for you in 2020.

Love means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. We’ve all been let down, even by those closest to us. That’s not the kind of love I’m talking about. The kind of love I wish for you in 2020 is a deep, abiding love that never changes, leaves or disappoints. That’s the kind of love we need during the tough days in 2020.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow, not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below, indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

I wish grace for you in 2020.

What is grace? It’s been described as undeserved favour but there’s more to it than that.

Grace is not only God’s disposition to do good for us when we don’t deserve it. It is an actual power from God that acts and makes good things happen in us and for us.

God’s grace was God’s acting in Paul to make Paul work hard. So when Paul says, “Work out your salvation,” he adds, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Grace is power from God to do good things in us and for us. – John Piper

And more than wishing … I pray these things for you in 2020

I could pray for a happy year for you. I could pray that whatever you do, all runs smoothly. A great job, a close family, healing from illness are all wonderful things that I want for you, but more than that, I pray that 2020 will be a year that draws you closer to the one who created you.

I really can’t go past this prayer that Paul prayed for the Ephesian church.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:14-19

Wow. Being filled with all the fullness of God? That sure beats ‘Happy New Year’.

There are many other things I could wish for you in 2020 like hope, peace, strength, and wisdom but I’d be interested to know what you’d like to wish for others as we begin a new year.

(This is an updated post from previous years.)



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Beneath the Wrapping

(This is based on a post that I republish each year around this time.)

While you’re unwrapping your gifts this Christmas I wanted to take a few moments to unwrap the real Christmas story.

We all enjoy giving and receiving gifts on Christmas Day but it’s important that we take time to remember what Christmas is really all about. It’s more than just the gifts and the jolly man in the red suit. It’s more than a ‘feeling’ or ‘spirit’ that makes us feel warm inside. It’s more than time with family enjoying good food and good times.

I find it interesting that any time someone suggests removing the word ‘Christmas’ from our celebrations at this time of year there are cries of ‘political correctness gone mad’ yet we still pay so little attention to what that word actually signifies.

While it’s generally accepted that the 25th of December isn’t the actual date that Jesus was born, it’s the day that has been chosen for celebrating Jesus’ birthday. That means Christmas is really a big birthday party.

So why should we be invited to the birthday party? Jesus was born around 2000 years ago. Why do we still celebrate his birth?

Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, and this is where it gets tricky, according to the Bible, Jesus is actually God in human form so this is no ordinary birthday.

Here’s a little bit of the Christmas story from the Bible. This account is from a book of the Bible written by a guy named Luke.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no vacancy for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Aha! So that’s where the manger and the shepherds come in.

That’s pretty much the story of Christmas. God living among the people he created. It’s an amazing thought but it’s even more amazing when you thread the whole story of Jesus’ life together. After all, usually when we celebrate someone’s birthday we don’t just remember the day they were born, we celebrate who that person has become and what they’ve brought to the world.

If we’re still celebrating the life of someone born around 2000 years ago, we’ve got to assume that they lived a remarkable life. If you want to find out more about the remarkable life of Jesus, I’d encourage you to grab a Bible in an easy to read translation and then read one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) to find out about Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection.



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What’s Your Christmas Soundtrack?

One day you’re walking through the shopping centre as normal, then the next day, WHAM!

Not just Wham, but Mariah Carey, Michael Buble and a host of others singing Christmas favourites. I think I first heard Christmas music playing as the soundtrack to my shopping experience back in late October this year.

For those who enjoy the music of the season, you’ve probably had a good couple of months of ever-increasing Christmas melodies ringing in your ears. For those who don’t, you won’t have to block your ears much longer.

I’ve got over five hundred Christmas songs on my iPod and they’ve been filling our home and car with Yuletide cheer … whatever that is … for weeks. Everyone from Michael Buble to Diana Krall, Bing Crosby, Run DMC, Barry White, The Wiggles, Guy Sebastian, Jimmy Barnes and even Russel Coight, along with many others, are singing about Christmas on our stereo.

What is your favourite Christmas music?

Do you have a favourite Christmas song? Do you have a favourite artist at Christmas time? Does Mariah Carey’s very successful Christmas album still get a spin at your place each December?

A few of my favourites.

I couldn’t possibly fit all my Christmas favourites in one post, but here is a handful.

I’m not a huge fan of the song Little Drummer Boy but I am a fan of both Bing Crosby and David Bowie so I love hearing their Little Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth medley around this time every year. The chat at the start of the video is cheesy and somewhat awkward but I just love it.

A new favourite this year is a reworking of the old Slade classic, Merry Christmas Everybody. Yes, I’ll admit it. I do enjoy a little Robbie Williams. I’m also a fan of Jamie Cullum so this combination is just joyful.

One of the strangest Christmas songs ever released has got to be this one by Bob Dylan. Bob is definitely a favourite of mine and so this one’s certainly worth a mention and a viewing. It seems that everyone in the video is having an amazing time, except Bob. It’s weird and wonderful.

This collaboration between Elvis Costello and Stephen Colbert is just wonderful.

I certainly feel that friends don’t let friends go through life without knowing about the great Gregory Porter, so I absolutely must include a song from one of the greatest voices of our time.

While I could go on forever with Christmas favourites, maybe I’ll finish off with this one from Diana Krall.

Let me know about your musical tastes around Christmas.



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It’s Happening Again

The eighties … a time of big music and even bigger hair. Yes, I’ll admit it. I had a mullet.

As the eighties started heading towards the brave, new world of the nineties, we hit 1987.

It was the year Aretha Franklin became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1987 the world population hit five billion. 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.

In February of 1987, when I was 23, my mum succumbed to a long illness and passed away at just 66 years of age.

1987 was also the year that I first crossed Australia by bicycle.

Since then, I’ve cycled across Australia in 1988, 1990, 2000, 2003 and last year in 2018.

Let’s do it again.

If everything goes to plan, on Saturday the 18th of September 2021, I’ll begin my seventh bicycle crossing of our nation. I’ll start pedaling from Perth, Western Australia towards Newcastle, New South Wales. Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast will bring together around 30 cyclists riding for a common cause.

We will arrive at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, NSW on Wednesday the 20th of October.

What is Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast 2021?

It’s a trek of over 4,000km from the beautiful beaches of Western Australia, across the barren inland of Australia, to the bustling east coast city of Newcastle. The participants in the Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast will test their stamina, while making a massive difference in the lives of children living in poverty.

The ride is set to start on Saturday 18 September 2021 in Perth and finish at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, NSW on Wednesday 20 October. There’ll be 28 riding days and five rest days. The average distance to be ridden each day will be 150km, with almost 200km the longest distance for one hard day’s ride.

There is an expectation that all riders will undertake extensive training before the event, pay on-road costs, and raise significant funds for the work of Compassion.

Become involved in Ride for Compassion

To register your interest for the 2021 Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast, please visit the Ride for Compassion website.

Love to be involved, but not keen on cycling? We’re looking for volunteers to help with driving the bus and other support vehicles, preparing breakfast and lunch, first aid, hydration and other tasks.

Does this sound like you? Please visit the Ride for Compassion website for further information.

Why are we riding?

The ride will once again raise money for Compassion Australia‘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 open in early 2020 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 six years. 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. In 2021 I’ll once again 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? Head to the Ride for Compassion website or leave me a comment on this post.



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Can I get a busy badge?

You’ve had the same conversation a thousand times. You meet up with someone who asks how you’ve been and you answer by telling them … ‘busy’. Their question isn’t about your level of activity, it’s about your personal wellness, yet you still feel the need to assure them that you’ve been a productive member of society. I know this because I get caught up in it too.

Many people have written about this before but it still seems to be such a problem for so many.

Busy speaks about a level of activity, often a flurry of exhausting exertion, without considering whether all that hustle and bustle is effective in any way. There may well be a more productive way of achieving what we need but when the goal is being busy, and telling everyone how busy we are, that doesn’t really matter.

Can I get a busy badge?

Why do we feel so compelled to assure everyone that we’ve been busy? Is that really the measure of our worth to others … or even our own attempt to justify our worth to ourselves?

I guess the starting point is convincing ourselves that ‘busy’ isn’t life’s ultimate aim. There’s nothing wrong with being busy when we need to be but it’s not the goal we should be seeking above all else,

Wasn’t technology going to save us all?

On top of the constantly growing expectations of others soaking up our time, we now add more busyness into the mix with our use of technology.

Advancements in technology promised us an easier, more productive life, yet all that seems to have happened is that we’ve lost the ability to switch off.

Our technology usage has blurred the lines between work and play like never before. We’re checking personal emails and social media updates while we’re at work and checking work emails and catching up on work projects while we’re at home or out with family and friends. That means that our employer never has our full attention and sadly, neither do those closest to us.

We’ve sacrificed that which should be most precious to us on the altar of frantic activity.

Hanging Out for Holidays

We’re a couple of days into December and well into what many call the ‘silly season’. The lead up to Christmas and New Year festivities pound us with activities and deadlines. Everything needs to be ‘finished before Christmas’.

Many of us take annual leave at this time and so we feel the need to complete every project on our desk before taking that leave. That usually means that we crawl across the finish line of the year, battered and bruised from the frantic pace we’ve held for the year, having just enough time to bandage our wounds and ‘almost’ recover before the whole thing begins again for the next year.

We’ve got to stop going at full speed towards the end of the year, imagining that we just need to get to the start of our leave so we can collapse in a heap.

We don’t just need that extended time to stop and refresh at the end of a busy year, we need time weekly and daily.

Jesus is coming. Look busy.

Sadly, those of us in the church have bought the lie that we have to be forever run off our feet too. In fact, a lot of the time we buy into the whole busyness thing even more because we have this strange image in our heads of God watching us and shaking his finger at us whenever we sit down to breathe.

This constant striving to work harder and harder within our daily lives and the church says more about our idea of who God is than anything else. If we imagine that we’d better look busy because we don’t want Jesus to catch us taking time out, we’ve missed the point entirely.

The truth is, God is the one who came up with the idea of rest. If we think God wants us to be constantly striving without rest, we’ve given in to a ‘religion’ that requires our efforts to appease God. That was never his plan.

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Psalm 127:2 (ESV)

Been Busy?

The next time someone asks you how you’ve been, how will you answer? Will you keep on assuring them that you’ve been busy or will you give them a deeper answer that speaks about something other than frantic activity?

You know that the world will keep crowding out times of rest and recreation so how about being more intentional in planning time daily, weekly, monthly and annually for time aside from the craziness? Then once it’s scheduled, guard it jealously. Don’t let it be the first thing that gets bumped from the schedule when something ‘more important’ comes up.

If you’re too busy to schedule in those times it’s a very clear indicator that you need to say no to those things that scream for your time but aren’t necessarily beneficial. Learn to say no so that you can say yes to the right things in your life.

And don’t forget that we are spiritual beings. Spend time connecting with God. You might just discover he doesn’t want you to burn out trying to achieve your busy badge.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or illfitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)



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