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RodneyOlsen.net

When Social Media isn’t Social

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 many 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.

Judge, Jury and Executioner

Unfortunately, when it comes to social media we seem to have thrown out all need to understand an issue before we decide where we stand. We base our position on existing prejudices and decide that anyone holding any other view is an idiot who deserves our contempt and hate.

We don’t take the time to research a topic, weigh up the evidence and then have a reasoned conversation. Instead, we see people jumping in with inflammatory statements devoid of any attempt to hear another perspective or to show respect.

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.

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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I Want More than Happy

It’s over. 2018 is gone and 2019 has arrived.

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. I’ve heard many despair at happenings around the world with everything from terrorist attacks to 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 2019.

Happiness comes and goes and we all know that you’re not going to sail through 2019 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 2019.

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 we’re facing, we can go on.

I wish love for you in 2019.

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 2019 is a deep, abiding love that never changes, leaves or disappoints. That’s the kind of love we need during the tough days in 2019.

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 2019.

What is grace? It’s been describes 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 2019

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 2019 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 2019 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.



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RetroRadio – Guy Leech



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.

If you’re setting your new year’s resolutions at the moment and you are thinking about some fitness goals, here’s a great place to start with some practical ideas on how to make a difference.

Today we’re going back to 2006 and a chat with former Ironman Champion, Guy Leech. Back in 2006 Guy appeared on the Seven Network‘s Australian Celebrity Survivor: Vanuatu, and won a stack of cash which was used to
build two schools in North Cambodia.

Guy has an impressive list of competition achievements.

1983 Australian Marathon Swimming Champion

1984 Coolangatta Gold Ironman (43km) – 1st

1985 Coolangatta Gold Ironman (43km) – 1st

1986 Inaugural Winner of the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Ironman

1988 World Ironman Champion – Vancouver Canada

1989 Inaugaral Uncle Toby’s Ironman Champion

1989 Coolangatta Gold Ironman – 1st

1991 World Ocean Surf Ski Champion – Molakai Hawaii

1994 Avon Descent Paddling Champion WA (130km)

Seven Times Winner of the Uncle Toby’s Ironman Series

Represented Australia in Surf Lifesaving, Marathon Swimming

Despite his many achievements at such a high level, his advice for those of us who will never be professional athletes is helpful and achievable.

You can listen to our conversation using the media player below this post.

Have you set any health goals for 2019? Are you healthier at the end of 2018 than you were at the beginning? It’d be great to hear from you about your resolutions for the new year. Feel free to have your say by clicking the comments link below this post.

[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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Happy Birthday, Jesus

(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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RetroRadio – Cadel Evans

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.

It’s always a thrill when you get to meet an Aussie hero. It’s even better when they’re a personal hero too.

I had the honour of chatting with Australian cyclist Cadel Evans just a day or two after he switched to the BMC Team back in 2009.

I asked him who would be runner-up when he won the 2010 Tour de France. Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan that year but it was an emphatic win a year later in 2011.

Cadel is a quietly spoken athlete who was a pleasure to interview. I’ve interviewed hundreds of people but my chat with Cadel will always be a highlight of my time in radio.

You can listen to my radio interview with Cadel by clicking the play button on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

[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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