Change a Life this Christmas

I love receiving gifts. I love the unwrapping and the excitement of having something shiny and new. I also love the fact that people care enough to choose something for me. It doesn’t matter if the gifts are big or small … it really is the thought that counts for me.

I love giving gifts. I’ll admit that do I worry about the gifts I give. I wonder whether they’ll be suitable and appreciated but when I manage to choose the right gift, it’s a beautiful thing.

With Christmas just around the corner I know that there’ll be a fair bit of giving and receiving in the coming weeks.

While many gifts are fun, there are some that are absolutely life changing.

Gifts of Compassion

Gifts of Compassion are real goods and services given to children and families in Compassion child development centres around the world when you purchase an item from the Gifts of Compassion catalogue. For every Gift of Compassion you order, you will receive a gift card to personalise for your friends and loved ones.

Funds raised from the Gifts of Compassion catalogue are used to support Compassion’s Critical Needs, which remove obstacles to children’s development and implement preventative action. These interventions include providing safe water, disaster relief, emergency medical care, vocational training, infrastructure, and much more: all issues that need to be addressed for a child to be released from poverty.

Compassion Australia uses Gifts of Compassion funds to meet the project needs represented in the catalogue.

It concerns me that while I’m enjoying lovely new things that I don’t really need, there are people in many parts of the world that don’t have the basics that they need to get on with the daily task of just keeping their families alive.

If Christmas is about celebrating Jesus, surely we should be doing something that honours him and his desire that we care for the poor, rather than overindulging while most of the world goes without.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we should all be miserable and not fully enter into the celebrations at this time of year.

Balance

I suppose that’s where we all need some kind of balance between the giving and receiving of gifts between friends and loved ones and our wider responsibility to those in need around the world. We live in a global village but most of the villagers are missing out. Those of us who’ve been blessed by simply being born in the right place should spare a thought for those who only ask for the gift of life this Christmas.

I might not have a lot of use for a goat but for a rural family in a developing country the simple gift of a goat could be just what they need to be released from poverty.

Compassion

So where do you buy a goat and how do you get it to someone who needs it? Compassion Australia’s Gifts of Compassion is open and ready for business. That’s where you can buy gifts that help people who are battling desperate poverty. They can take your money and turn it into a very real solution to poverty.

You can buy everything from a chicken to mosquito nets and lots more in between including goats, cows, tooth brushes, sewing machines and baby vaccinations.

Your support really does make a difference.

I’ve visited churches partnering with Compassion in seven of the 25 countries where Compassion is working and I can personally vouch for the fact that it makes a difference. When you support those in poverty through Compassion, the aid really does make it to those who need it. In fact, it was after seeing the work of Compassion that I decided that I would do all I could to advance their work which is why I’ve now been working full-time for Compassion for just over four years.

This Christmas I do want to receive something for myself, wrapped in thought and love, but I also hope that someone will give me a goat or a chicken or some clean water for someone I’ll never meet.

What about you?

Go on … you’ve thought about it before but unless you let your loved ones know now it’ll never happen. Ask those you love to buy something for someone else this Christmas.

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My Life Change Still Changing Lives

Sometimes it feels like I’ve been doing this forever, and other times it feels like it all began yesterday.

The truth is, it was four years ago today that I began my job at Compassion Australia. I broadcast my final shift at 98five Sonshine FM on Tuesday the 26th of November, 2013. The very next day, Wednesday the 27th or November, 2013, I started working at Compassion.

Do You Miss It?

There aren’t too many weeks that goes past without someone asking me if I miss working radio. It was such a big part of my life for so many years you can’t blame people for wondering.

I started working in radio on the 8th of May, 1988. That’s almost 30 years ago. It was my full time job for almost twenty of those years and something I did part time for most of the years in between. Towards the end of November 2013 I took the leap from working in radio to working for Compassion Australia as a Relationship Manager.

Even after all these years, nothing beats the excitement of being live on air, knowing that anything could happen. Being able to communicate to thousands of people through such an ‘immediate’ medium is both challenging and rewarding. And let’s be honest, when it’s all working as it should, it’s a lot of fun. It can also be an opportunity to communicate important, even life changing truths.

Well maybe ‘almost nothing’ beats working in radio.

When you have the chance to play a part in releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name and seeing that difference that can make, I can easily say I don’t miss radio. Yes, there are times that I hear of someone interesting heading to Perth there’s a moment where I wish I could interview them, but overall, what I’m doing now is what I want to keep doing for a long time.

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 doesn’t mean that Compassion is the total solution to poverty in this world. There are many amazing agencies doing incredible work around the world and we need them all if we are to end the scourge of extreme poverty.

I’ve seen Compassion’s work first hand in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Thailand and the Philippines. 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 living in extreme poverty.

If you’d like to make a difference in the lives of children who desperately need your support, you can sponsor a child today.

I can assure you that your money will be well spent in releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

In September next year I’ll begin cycling from Perth to Newcastle to raise funds for Highly Vulnerable Children through Compassion. You can support my ride and make a difference for children by following this link.

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Ride for Compassion 2017

Every year since 2009 I’ve cycled between Albany and Perth, a distance of over 500 kilometres. Last week I was out there again with around 30 other cyclists, supported by a wonderful support crew, riding from Albany to Perth over six days.

We arrived home on Saturday afternoon after some tough days on the bike. We were battered by strong head and side winds for several days.

Despite the conditions, the ride was a great success. As well as having an amazing time with an incredible group of people, we were raising funds for some children who are living in extreme poverty through Compassion Australia.

This year we raised over $50 000 for safe food production in some Compassion centres in Bangladesh.

The main objective of this critical intervention is to provide each of the five child development centres with a well-built kitchen, dining and food preparation and storage facilities, enabling more than 1000 children and adult beneficiaries access to nutritious, well prepared meals to be enjoyed in a safe and clean environment. Your support could also help to reduce the incidence of hygiene-related diseases and improve health and wellbeing among the children and families of five communities in Bangladesh.

The specific objectives are to:
* Provide quality, timely meals for all registered children and improve their physical development
* Improve the children’s program attendance and participation rates at all centres
* Teach centre staff, cooks and helpers to follow good hygiene practices such as cleaning and washing utensils, plates, pans and cups
* Provide each of five centres with a clean, modern kitchen and dining hall

Now begins the preparations for Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast. Next year we’ll be riding around 4300 kilometres across Australia. You can support my efforts for next year by visiting my fundraising page.

Below are short videos of most days of the ride. Each video only runs for a minute. The only one missing is our day from Wagin to Pingelly. Unfortunately, I lost the video I recorded for that day.

If you’d like more details about Ride for Compassion, just drop me a message or visit the Ride for Compassion website.

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Great Expectations

I’ve got a medal in my desk drawer at work that’s worth a handful of dollars, yet I have an identical medal at home which is worth far more.

The medal in my drawer is one of the extra medals that were purchased for our Ride for Compassion a few years ago, an annual ride from Albany to Perth. I’m not even sure why I keep it there because its value doesn’t really go beyond what it cost to buy.

On the other hand, the medal I have at home, which cost the same to buy, and was purchased at the same time, is worth so very much more to me.

Wrapped up in that medal is all the training, all the fundraising, every one of the 528.3 kilometres we cycled on that ride, including the downhills and the climbs, the hot days, the headwinds, the rain and the times I felt like putting my bike in our support bus and giving up but I didn’t.

We can give things value they wouldn’t ordinarily have.

We place significance on a range of items because we see something more than their inherent value. They carry memories, hopes and dreams. We can see something of value where others don’t.

We can also bring out potential and value in people more than we might imagine.

Sometimes we can see something of value in other people that others don’t. We can see value and significance that other people don’t even see in themselves.

We know we can boost a person’s sense of self through the words we use and the way we treat them but did you know that many people believe that even our expectations of others can make a difference too?

The Pygmalion Effect says that higher expectations lead to increased performance.

In the early sixties, Psychologist Robert Rosenthal and his colleagues tested the effect of expectations on rats.

He randomly labelled some rats bright and some dull then gave them to experimenters to put through a maze and record the results.

In one of his early experiments, he tested the effects of experimenter expectancy on maze-running performance. He had two groups of students test rats, wrongly informing them either that the rats were specially bred to be “maze dull” or “maze bright.” In reality, all rats were standard lab rats, and were randomly assigned to the “dull” and “bright” conditions. The results showed that the rats labelled as “bright” learned the mazes more quickly than those labelled as “dull.” Apparently, students had unconsciously influenced the performance of their rats, depending on what they had been told. Rosenthal reasoned that a similar effect might occur with teachers’ expectations of student performance.University of Wisconsin-Madison

Rosenthal and his colleague then went on to try a similar experiment with school students.

Rosenthal and Jacobson tested children at Oak School with an IQ test, the Tests of General Ability (TOGA) at the beginning of the school year. This test was used because teachers were likely to be unfamiliar with it, and because it is primarily non-verbal, and not dependent on skills learned in school (i.e., reading and writing). In order to create an expectancy, the teachers were informed that the test was the “Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition,” which served as a measure of academic “blooming.” Therefore, teachers were led to believe that certain students were entering a year of high achievement, and other students were not. In reality, the test had no such predictive validity.

Eighteen teachers at the school were informed of the students in their classes who had obtained scores in the top 20% of this test. These students were ready to realize their potential, according to their test scores. What the teachers didn’t know is that students were placed on these lists completely at random. There was no difference between these students and other students whose names were not on the lists. At the end of the school year, all students were once again tested with the same test (the TOGA). In this way, the change in IQ could be estimated. Differences in the size of the changes for experimental and control group children could serve as an index of any expectancy effect. – University of Wisconsin-Madison

Following the experiment, there was a marked difference in IQ test score gains. Students who had been labelled as “ready to bloom” showed greater gains than the others. The expectations of their teachers seemed to make a significant difference.

While some have attacked Rosenthal’s studies and conclusions, others have supported his findings and have gone on to do more work in the area of expectancy.

Most of us know the sense of confidence we receive when we know others have high expectations of us.

What value are you placing on others? What are your expectations of those around you?

Are you a leader who has high expectations of those you lead? Are you a parent who expects great things from your children? What are you expecting from friends and family?

This week, raise your expectations. Choose to place greater value and expectations on others and watch the value of others rise.

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Jesus is Coming … Look Busy

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 about to launch 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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