The long weekend is almost here. There’ll be chocolate, hot cross buns, time with family and friends. I’ll enjoy it all this Easter.
Easter can be a busy time of eating and catching up with people as well as all the usual things that fill our weekends. Our lives are already crammed so full and long weekends can tend to be overflowing with activities and life’s distractions.
That’s why, amongst the busyness, I’ll also take time over the weekend to block out all the distractions to focus on what Easter is all about – Jesus – who came to earth as fully man, fully God.
I’ll reflect on his cruel execution and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection which defeated death once and for all. The resurrection says our past doesn’t have to determine our future. The past can be over for those who believe. That’s incredibly good news.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
The thing is, it’s not only seasons like Easter that fill up with activity so quickly. That’s why blocking out all the distractions is something I need to do every day. Every day there are more calls on my time and attention.
All year round I need to choose to find moments that allow me to block out a crazy busy world to focus on who Jesus is, what he accomplished on the cross, and what that means for my life every day.
The story of Easter brings hope so powerful that it can change our own story for eternity. It’s a great time to focus on Jesus but each day we must choose to connect with the God who loved us so much that He held nothing back, not even His own son.
I really hope that you can enjoy good food and fun with those close to you this Easter but more than that, I pray that you can find some quiet moments to consider something more.
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It’s been almost five years since I visited Africa. I was there around the time of the 20th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. It remains a filthy stain on the history of our world. It was a time when voices were crying out but the world refused to listen.
While I was in Rwanda I met many people who are still suffering the effects of the events that turned such a beautiful land into a place of unspeakable horror.
While the killing had already been going on for some time, the 100 days of Genocide against the Tutsi began on the 7th of April 1994, ending on the 15th of July.
The world is currently remembering what happened in Rwanda and commemorating 25 years since the Genocide against the Tutsi.
In 100 days more than 1 million people were murdered.
But the genocidaires did not kill a million people.
They killed one, then another, then another….
day after day, hour after hour, minute by minute.
Every minute of the day, someone, somewhere was being murdered, screaming for mercy.
My mind keeps returning to the Rwandan Genocide Memorial I visited in the hills outside Kigali. There are many thousands of people buried beneath the church and surrounding area.
I walked into the church and saw some of the belongings left behind by victims of the genocide including the blood-stained clothing they were wearing when the murderers took their lives.
I then walked down steps into the area below the church where I was surrounded by coffins stacked five or six high.
The church (pictured above) has become a permanent memorial and while everything I saw made the genocide very real, it became very personal when I met someone who lost most of their family in that building.
When the trip to Rwanda was planned I knew that I’d meet people who still carried the emotional scars of the genocide, but meeting a woman my own age who carries very obvious physical scars gave me a glimpse of what some people faced twenty years ago.
Even before she was introduced to us we knew that she had suffered. She carries a very long, deep scar down the left side of her face with other deep marks to the right side of her face and the back of her head. She now only has sight in her left eye.
Esther (not her real name) was a wife and mother. She had five children, the youngest just a baby.
Life as Esther knew it instantly disappeared on the 15th of April 1994.
Just over a week after the genocide began, thousands of locals sought refuge in their church, a place that should have been a safe haven. That only made their murder easier when the killers arrived and threw grenades into the assembled crowds.
Esther’s husband and three of her children died that day. She was injured and dazed lying among the dead. It wasn’t until the 18th of April that she finally made it out of the church building. She’d been left for dead but somehow survived.
That was just the start of her horror.
After crawling out of the church Esther found an empty home where she went to hide. The genociders returned and killed her other children in front of her in ways too graphic to describe here.
They then took their machetes to her and again left her for dead. Although she was suffering horrific injuries she survived and found another hiding place.
Some days later more killers arrived. This time it was people she knew. People from her own area. Neighbours. They told her to go away and die somewhere else. It took all her energies but she made it out, eventually finding another home in which to hide.
The next time her hiding place was discovered was in June. She was barely alive and weighed only 19 kilograms. She couldn’t walk because she had been hiding in a cramped position for so long.
Thankfully this time it was members of the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front), the group which was seeking to halt the genocide. They rescued Esther and took her to hospital where she stayed recovering for around six months.
Esther told her story with far more detail and while it was hard for us to hear her story, it was obvious that remembering the details was even harder for her.
Another place I visited in Rwanda was the Kigali Genocide Memorial. It tells the story of genocide in Rwanda as well as other genocides through history. If you’d like to know more about what happened over those 100 days in 1994 you can visit the website for the Kigali Memorial Centre.
The genocide resulted in the deaths of over a million people.
But death was not its only outcome.
Tens of thousands of people had been tortured, mutilated and raped; tens of thousands more suffered machete cuts, bullet wounds, infection and starvation.
There was rampant lawlessness, looting and chaos. The infrastructure had been destroyed, the ability to govern dismantled.
Homes had been demolished, belongings stolen.
There were over 300,000 orphans and over 85,000 children who were heads of their household, with younger siblings and/or relatives.
There were thousands of widows. Many had been the victims of rape and sexual abuse or had seen their own children murdered.
Thankfully Compassion was working in Rwanda before the genocide and continues working there.
In fact, it was just after the genocide that the church where Esther’s family was killed called on Compassion for help. They were there within a few short months, ready to walk the the journey of recovery with local people.
Following the Genocide against the Tutsi Esther had another child, a daughter. When we met Esther, her daughter was in her final years of sponsorship with Compassion.
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RetroRadio is a series of posts of radio segments from my time working at 98five Sonshine FM covering everything from issues of spirituality to chats with visiting musicians and celebrities.
Hopefully, the segments spark a few memories and a few thoughts.
This Thursday, 98five is running Sponsor a Village, seeking to see a hundred children from the Philippines sponsored through Compassion Australia. I do hope that you’ll get involved and sponsor a child.
We hear a lot about ‘reality television’ these days but I still reckon radio is a great way to convey real stories. You don’t need a full production crew with cameras everywhere to capture reality for radio. A small audio recording device is a lot less intrusive than a camera or three and so people can tend to open up a lot more. Of course, having worked in radio for over 25 years I’m probably biased.
In 2008 when I was working for 98five, hosting the morning program, I saw the work of Compassion for the first time when I was invited to travel to Haiti and Dominican Republic.
With Sponsor a Village coming up this week I’m remembering that very first trip where I was gathering stories about Compassion to be used on radio.
Today I want to highlight just one of the stories that came out of the trip in 2008.
I’ve interviewed dozens of famous singers, authors, personalities, politicians and celebrities over the years but if I had the chance to choose one moment from my radio career that stands high above the others it is the opportunity to tell Ada’s story.
The story of this young girl will break your heart then give you renewed hope in the difference that each one of us can make in the lives of others.
I beg you to take just fourteen minutes to listen to Ada’s story. I know that for many, setting aside fourteen minutes is too much to ask. If you’re one of the few who takes the time, I guarantee it’ll be worth it.
If you want to hear something to lift your spirits just click play on the audio player at the bottom of this post.
The whole story is worth hearing but I’ll warn you now that it will really start to touch your heart around half way through.
Ada is a girl I met and interviewed in Dominican Republic. She was a beautiful twelve year old with a bright future. I wish I could show you the picture I had taken with the two of us but I prefer to keep her identity somewhat private. You’ll understand why as you listen.
I talked to Ada, I visited her home and talked to her parents. I’m sure that all of us that visited her home on that day will remember the warm hug she gave each one of us as we left. She was a remarkable young girl.
Back then, I managed to track down her sponsor in Australia and shared Ada’s story with her. Lisa’s reaction to hearing her sponsored child’s voice is priceless. Hearing Lisa describe how she feels when she hears just how much of an impact she has had on Ada’s life is inspiring.
I don’t know what else I can say but to again beg that you take the time to hear this amazing story. If you do take the time, please let me know.
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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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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 manydespair 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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