What type of communicator are you?

I recently noticed a friend posting on Facebook about having their typewriter returned after being cleaned and tuned up. I immediately remembered typing lessons in high school when we’d all be sat in front of a typewriter and expected to type in time to the music. That’s if you could really call it music. (Yep, I’m really that old.)

I knew then and there I’d never be a touch typist belting out a hundred words per minute.

Thinking about those days got me wondering about the differences between the trusty typewriter of old and the computers we all use today to communicate.

Have you ever made a mistake while using a manual typewriter?

Once you press your finger down on a key the corresponding typebar flies out of the typebasket towards your piece of paper, connecting with the inked ribbon on the way, to leave a lasting mark on the page. It not only marks the paper with ink, it leaves a permanent impression. The harder you strike the key, the deeper the impact.

There’s no effective ‘backspace’ key on a typewriter if you make a mistake. Even newer typewriters that had erasers could only remove the ink. The indent in the paper remained. Of course you could cover it up with some kind of correction fluid or tape, but even that left a tell tale sign that something wasn’t quite right.

Using a computer keyboard when communicating it becomes all too easy to rush ahead with fingers flying, knowing that we can select whole sections of what we create and then with the press of a button, it’s all gone without a trace. If we want to add an extra word in the middle of the text, we simply drop the cursor where we need it and add whatever we want. It was never that way with a typewriter.

When we combine the ease of throwing some words together with the instant nature of social media, it’s no surprise that careless words find their way into the hearts of those on the receiving end of our communication. A thoughtless comment on social media or a hasty text message can leave a deeper impact on a person than an old typewriter would leave on a page and one that won’t disappear with a bottle of correction fluid.

Typing with a typewriter was a lot more intentional.

With a typewriter you had to structure what you wanted to say before you began striking the keys. You couldn’t just throw some ideas down and then move them around the page.

I don’t want to go back to using a typewriter and lose all the extra functionality that computers afford us, but I do wonder if we’ve lost some of the intentional thought processes we needed in days past.

With a typewriter you feel, see and hear every key stroke yourself before it’s felt, seen and heard by anyone else. Unless you want to waste a lot of paper, you think through what you’re about to communicate when you use a typewriter.

The good news is that we don’t have to go back to using typewriters to communicate well. We can take advantage of everything that newer technology offers while still taking time to think through what we’re trying to say, keeping in mind our intent and the way it will be received. We don’t have to be careless with words. We can choose to consider our communication.

I think there is still great beauty in a classic typewriter but I won’t be rushing to start using one again. I think there’s even greater beauty in continuing to be a thoughtful communicator.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. – Proverbs 16:24

What kind of communicator are you?

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Talking about a very big ride

I’ve been on my bike a bit more recently. I need to get fit. There are big plans ahead.

For just over three years I’ve been working for Compassion Australia in our Western Australian office. We run an annual fundraising ride of just over 500 km named Ride for Compassion, but next year we’re taking on a much bigger challenge with a ride from Perth, Western Australia to our head office in Newcastle, New South Wales.

The Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast will be a huge event that will make a major impact for children living in extreme poverty. We’re now at the point of wanting to attract suitable riders and support crew who would be happy to raise significant funds as well as undertake such an epic venture.

The ride will start on Saturday the 15th of September 2018. We will arrive at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, NSW on Tuesday the 16th of October, having cycled over 4000 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.

I have quite some experience with the ride aspect of the trip having cycled across Australia five times previously but knowing that this time will be in support of Compassion is an extra thrill for me.

I recently had the opportunity to return to my old workplace, Perth’s Christian radio station 98five, and be interviewed by longtime colleague and friend JD, about both our annual ride and next year’s Coast to Coast event.

You can hear our chat by clicking the play button on the audio player below.

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Self love and oxygen masks

The whole ‘love yourself’ thing has never sat quite right with me. I understand what people are saying when they suggest we should love ourselves but it often feels a bit self-indulgent to me. You’re probably a lot smarter than me and have figured out the balance.

I’ve heard a lot of Christians promoting the idea of loving ourselves over the years. They base their thoughts on passages like the following where Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment.

…. But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV)

The thinking goes that if we’re to love our neighbour as we love ourselves, we first have to love ourselves. What Jesus said presupposes that we love ourselves. I can’t argue with that but I still feel a bit uncomfortable.

So why do I have trouble with promoting the notion of loving ourselves?

Of course I love myself. Too much probably. I feed myself, look after myself, and think way too highly of myself and my needs a lot of the time.

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. – Ephesians 5:29,30 (ESV)

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve seen many people use the concept of loving themselves simply as an opportunity for an unhealthy focus on their own needs and wants. When Jesus spoke about loving ourselves it was in the immediate context of loving others. He said we’re to ‘love our neighbours as ourselves’. Some people get the whole ‘love yourself’ bit but never advance to loving their neighbour.

Maybe I just need to change the way I think about why I should love myself.

I’ve recently been thinking about the airline safety spiel. As well as telling you about how to do up and undo your seatbelt and how count the rows to your nearest exit, they always stress that in the event of a sudden loss in cabin pressure, you should fit your own oxygen mask first before helping others. While I’ve seen others use that idea to talk generally about looking after yourself, I think there’s a subtle but important difference when we use the oxygen mask analogy.

There’s a sense of urgency in the airline mask thing.

Yes, you need to put your mask on first before helping someone else but in that moment, as the plane starts to shake and the pressure drops, when the masks fall from the ceiling of the aircraft, you take the action you need to take for yourself before immediately turning your attention to others. You don’t sit there adjusting the mask until it feels ‘just right’. You don’t have some ‘me time’ with your mask, you grab it, put it on, and then get on with the job of assisting those around you who are struggling.

If someone I loved was sitting next to me in an aircraft emergency I’d get my mask on as quickly as I could so that I’d be best prepared to help them. Even during the act of securing my own mask my thoughts would be about getting oxygen for the person in the seat next to me.

Some people certainly do try to help others without caring for their own needs to their own detriment. They manage to fumble around and get oxygen sorted for everyone else but they’re left gasping for breath. That’s not how it should work.

On the other hand, if we focus on ‘loving ourselves’ until we feel sufficiently ‘loved up’, we’ll spend more and more time looking out for number one.

It’s another one of those times in life where we need to find balance.

We should think well of ourselves without putting ourselves above others. We need to ensure our own oxygen supply so that we can serve others. We shouldn’t think too highly or too little of ourselves. Yes, we should love ourselves but love should never be self satisfying. Love should be bigger than that.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3,4 (ESV)

I’d love to read your thoughts. Leave me a comment or two. Do you think I’m on the right track? Is it about balance? Let me know.

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What’s Your Why?

What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning? We can all find the motivation to do what needs to be done on the good days but is there something that keeps you going when things start getting tough?

Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion. – Simon Sinek

Do you have a passion that drives your actions? If you haven’t yet found your ‘why’ or discovered something that drives your passion, maybe you can share mine.

I’ve heard it said that if you “find something you love to do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Nice idea but not quite true. I love what I do but I really do have to work at it … and that’s OK. I’m happy to work hard at what I do because there’s a lot to be done and it’s something I’m passionate about. My ‘why’ informs everything I do in my job (even the boring bits).

Did you know around 300 million children in our world will go to bed hungry tonight? Did you know that around 17 000 children under the age of five died today from preventable causes and another 17 000 will die tomorrow and the day after and the day after that? And let that word sink in for a while. Preventable. That means it doesn’t have to be this way.

That’s my why right there. My work at Compassion is more that a job. Much more. It’s my driving passion. My why is all about releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

I’ve sat in the homes of the poorest of the poor. I’ve prayed and cried with those in desperate need. I’ve looked into the face of a mother, standing on the dirt floor of her one room, corrugated iron home, as she told me that neither her or her son would still be alive if it were not for the work of Compassion. It’s people like her that I think about when I need to be reminded of my why.

There are things in this world that I find absolutely unacceptable.

I believe the corrupt systems that keep people in extreme poverty are unacceptable. The fact that a child can grow up believing that they are worthless is unacceptable. Most of all, knowing that our world has the resources and know how to not only reduce extreme poverty but eliminate it right now, yet chooses not to, is unacceptable.

I find it completely unacceptable that there is still such a gap between the excess we experience and the complete lack of resources experienced by many, many millions around our world.

Some would throw their hands up and say that that’s the way it will always be and I would challenge them to think again. Over the past few decades we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in extreme poverty around the world, which tells us we can make a difference, but the statistics are still alarming. There’s still much to be done and it won’t be done unless we all play our part in bringing about change.

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.

That’s not the marketing spin of someone who works for the organisation, it’s the heartfelt conviction of someone who has seen the light streaming in to some very dark corners of this world and wants to be part of seeing more light and hope filling the lives of those around the world who are the poorest of the poor.

I have a why that gets me out of bed in the morning. How about you? Do you have a why? I’m more than willing to share mine. How about making releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name part of your why?

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Soundtrack of My Life – Laughing With

Most of us have heard the quote “There are no atheists in trenches.”

Whether that’s true or not, there is something about difficult times that bring our deeper thoughts and beliefs to the surface. It’s when we’re in the trenches of everyday life people often look for higher meaning and search for something or someone bigger than themselves.

Soundtrack of my LifeThis is one of a regular series of articles highlighting some of the music that has played a part in my life. You’ll find a range of songs from old to new. Whether it’s the lyrics, the music, a time in my life, or a combination of reasons, the songs in my soundtrack are part of who I am.

If you take a good look you’ll probably find music that has been part of the soundtrack of your life too. You can also check out some of the other songs that make up the soundtrack of my life.

Laughing With – Regina Spektor

Regina Spektor is one of my all-time favourite singer/songwriters. Laughing With was the first single from her 2009 album, Far.

In a world where God and faith are increasingly seen as nothing more than objects of ridicule, this song reminds us that there are moments that bring sharper focus to the bigger questions of life.

Spektor also touches on the fact that part of the reason that many people are laughing at God is that some of His supposed followers have twisted his message. She sings about the ‘crazies’ who tell us God hates us as well as those pushing a ‘prosperity gospel’ that imagines God as some kind of genie waiting to grant our every wish.

Her interest in religion and religious themes doesn’t indicate a personal faith but there’s plenty we can take from her music and her observations on faith. Spektor spoke to Spin Magazine about her interest with religion in 2009 when the Far album was released.

I’m always fascinated with faith, religion, and spirituality, and what those things are to each other, or how they come together or don’t come together.”

When I was done with this record I was like, “Whoa, I have a lot of stuff here that’s just about, like, religion.” Which is amazing. It wasn’t planned, but it’s one of those concepts that my mind is just fascinated with, and I’m always mulling over. Sometimes I’m really positive about religion, but, you know, sometimes I’m really sarcastic about it, too. Hey, that’s God, that’s life! – Spin

Lauging With

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When it’s gotten real late
And their kid’s not back from the party yet

No one laughs at God
When their airplane start to uncontrollably shake
No one’s laughing at God
When they see the one they love, hand in hand with someone else
And they hope that they’re mistaken

No one laughs at God
When the cops knock on their door
And they say we got some bad news, sir
No one’s laughing at God
When there’s a famine or fire or flood

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke,
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious
Ha ha
Ha ha

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’ve lost all they’ve got
And they don’t know what for

No one laughs at God on the day they realize
That the last sight they’ll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes
No one’s laughing at God when they’re saying their goodbyes
But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughing at God in hospital
No one’s laughing at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
We’re all laughing with God

I’d encourage you to get involved too. Let me know about some of the songs that are etched in your mind. What are the tunes that bring back a flood of memories every time their opening notes start cranking out on your stereo? Are there songs you love for their music and others that speak deeply through their lyrics?

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