Rock Climbing…

What a privilege it was, to go rock climbing in The Grampians last weekend.  A group of Extreme Life guys got together early on Saturday morning and made the drive to some of Australia’s finest scenery, racked with multiple mountains and hundreds of amazing climbing possibilities…all via a very important coffee stop, of course.

About fourteen of us, piled into a few cars loaded up with all the required climbing gear and food and water for the day ahead.  The climbs are just under two hours away, so the drive is an important part of the journey.  Confined to the small space of a car, conversation quickly goes deeper than the normal friendly greetings and weather observations, and opens up a chance to truly develop relationship.


Upon arrival at the walking trail, we discovered that it was more of a creek, with a constant flow of water running down the worn path.  We loaded up and headed up the creek towards the looming mountains.  We ascended quite quickly and I was surprised at the elevation we reached in a short space of time…and how tiring it was carrying a number of kilograms of food and water while trekking through some rather unfriendly terrain, made even more so by the obvious indications and left overs from some very significant, recent rains.  With much gasping for whatever air could force it’s way through my severely congested sinus (I had a nasty cold all week…oops, forgot about that!), we reached the base of a number of sheer cliff faces, perfect for our day of climbing.  We quickly set ourselves up a base for the day and set about organising some top ropes.


Angus and Ian made sure that our top ropes were safely and securely in place so we could all enjoy a safe day ascending and descending the surrounding rock faces.  We had a number of first time climbers, some slightly experienced climbers and a few more experienced climbers.  And all, had an excellent day.  One of the benefits of learning in this kind of context, is the strength that comes through encouragement.  It was awesome to see first time climbers stop and think they were done, restart, continue climbing and make it all the way to the top when their friends at the base of the climb shouted encouragement and instruction up the cliff.  The voices of encouragement really brought courage, strength and guidance, that enabled everyone to take their skills to new levels and their bodies to new heights.  Then of course, all enjoyed the abseiling back down.  Most of the guys made at least one or two successful climbs, enjoyed our packed lunches and had a great time enjoying a beautiful day surrounded by some of the most amazing scenery to be found anywhere in the world.

The journey home was somewhat quieter, as I think most of us had succeeded at completely wearing ourselves out.  All up, I’d have to say a great time was had by all.


Luke…Where Is Your father?

One of the questions I hear from time to time, is “Where are all the spiritual fathers?“.  Some people seem to have a huge desire for one of these “spiritual fathers“.  That is, for many of them, until they have one…then they suddenly don’t want one any more…then, they want the “freedom” to be “who they are, without the constraints of structured, organised religion“.

In other words, they want to do whatever they like, whenever they like and they don’t want anyone in their life to be getting in their way.  What they really want, is a “spiritual grandfather“.

I have watched this thing of parenting and grand-parenting in the natural, and the differences there, are quite plain to see.  A grandparent, is a fun, older person who delights in things like chocolate milkshakes for breakfast, and icecream for lunch.  They love to hand over all the lollies and chocolate and other “good things” that help that child feel momentarily, very happy.  Kids love their grandparents…because they are fun, and hand out amazing sugar hits.  The grandparents even love to play along while the sugar high is in full effect…so much fun and laughing and games!


Then when the sugar wears off and the crash occurs, they just hand the child back to Mum and Dad, say their farewells and depart until the next sugar fuelled adventure…(at this point, they get to head to their now child free home and take a nap to recover!).

But Mum and Dad, they are different.  They are obliged to provide a responsible, sustainable and healthy diet…no milkshakes for breakfast here, but perhaps a selection of lovely cereals or eggs, or a liquified smorgasbord of fruit and vegetable goodness from their latest and greatest grinding gadget of goodness that can pulverise everything into a rich, smooth paste of awesome health in a cup.

Mum and Dad have to teach things like taking responsibility…and hold their kids accountable to particular expectations…assist in the maturing and development of a young, dependant child into a young, interdependent person that can function in the real world, and pass their school exams with good grades, get into higher education programs or careers and live successfully because they were well equipped to do so by those who loved them enough to take responsibility for them and give them the tools they need to succeed.

See, grandparents don’t have to take responsibility.  They did that with their own kids.  Now with their grand children, they just get to turn up for all the fun stuff, be fun, then leave until it’s time for more fun.  That is their new role…to enjoy the benefits of the years they spent raising their own kids who have now produced these amazing little bundles of fun for them to enjoy in a season of life, when they have much more disposable time (and usually disposable income!) to actually enjoy them.

What I have seen all too often, is believers who are really looking for “spiritual grandfathers“.  They want someone to fuel their fun lifestyle…to help them go from fun experience to fun experience, living it up and loving it, all day every day…But that is only the world of Peter Pan.  We can’t all live in “Never Never Land” into our thirties, forties and fifties.

When I think of some of the best times in my past, they involve joyous times like, not having bills to pay…not having others to be responsible for (in the home, the workplace or wherever)…not having to fix my own stuff when it breaks…not living with daily “performance pressure” where all the things I would like to do are limited by my ability to provide for those things.  But it is often these very things, that assist us in producing the greatest joy and most reward in later life.

The real world, is not a permanent party and if we (and our kids) are to succeed in it, it is vital, that we learn to carry the weight of responsibility.

To be good parents, and “spiritual parents” we need to train and equip our kids, prepare them to succeed…by teaching them to carry the weight of responsibility well.  Sadly, it is quite common to see those pursuing their idyllic “spiritual father“, spiritually un-adopt themselves from their spiritual father as soon as he takes some responsibility for them and as good parents do, assists them in the journey of learning to carry weight well.  They see this weight as “constraints” or “legalism” and reject both the weight and the person who took the risk of loving them enough to help them become a weight carrying success, choosing rather to hang out with those who present the best sugar high and live for the responsibility free party plan…(which usually involves Sunday parties too, so they fall away from the church and go their own sugar coated way).

This process seems great for a while, but sooner or later the sugar wears off and the imminent crash becomes a reality…a reality that they rejected the training for…so they don’t know how to live there.  They don’t know how to overcome…to take responsibility and to push through their challenges and grow through overcoming.  This often results in having to look for something a little stronger than sugar to produce the kind of “high” that will lift them out of their current crash…and a cycle is formed that I am not going to take the time here to expand on.

My question is not “Where are all the fathers“, but “Where are those committed to being faithful sons?”.  Those who will not “leave home” at the first sign of weight and responsibility, but those who will walk along side…lovingly, faithfully and be committed to being “fathered” so they can be the best they can be.  Jesus had the crowds of thousands around him most of the time, but he only had eleven who lived with him like this.  Many of us know hundreds, maybe even thousands of people…but who’s eleven are we in…and who is in ours?  This is where real, spiritual discipleship takes place…but are we really committed to our own best future?  By all means, get yourself a spiritual father (the right one will be uncomfortable at times!), and just as importantly, be a spiritual father…and stick it out! Lets all be, all we can be.


The “Busy Season”

Pictures-For-Christmas-1About this time of year, it is very normal to hear most people discussing how “busy” they are.  They have so much to do…and so little time…(maybe we’re just not that good at living with real deadlines!)

I understand that many people like to go to some effort to make Christmas  a special, family time of year…but I wonder if it’s time that we started to really weigh up the cost of that, and re-look at what that means and how we go about it?

Some people spend countless hours cooking and baking, shopping and wrapping, cleaning (before family arrive to find out how we really live the rest of the year) and all kinds of other once a year activities.  And we have to do it all, with the busyness of everyone else doing the same.  Here in Warrnambool, a quick trip to the bank that usually takes about 15 minutes for the whole round trip, can take an hour or more because of the increased traffic on the roads and line ups inside the banks.  And nearly everywhere around town is the same.

I wonder how much of our “busyness” is simply a result of the choices we make out of our determination to make Christmas a great time for our family.  I wonder…is it working? Or are we all so tired and annoyed that by Christmas Day, we can’t wait for the meal to be over so we can get all these people out of our faces and finally sit down and relax for a while.  I also can’t help but wonder, if we wouldn’t all enjoy Christmas a lot more if we just decided to do a lot more sitting and relaxing  and actually enjoying one another’s company?  We would be far less “busy“, much more rested and far more ready and willing to actually engage with those in our lives in a much happier way.

Then there’s the whole financial aspect!  All too often, we melt our credit cards in December, tapping and sliding the dollars away on extravagant presents we’d love for ourselves, for distant relatives we see once a year.  Essentially, we are trying to ease our own guilt for not actually seeing them the rest of the year.  We spend hundreds (or often thousands) on spoiling our kids, all in the name of making Christmas a “great” time of year for them…and it all might even feel kind of nice…until the credit card statement comes in at the end of January and we then have to beg, borrow and struggle our way through February, March (and maybe well beyond!) to repay all the money we spent that we didn’t really have.

Also, as a pastor in a church, I can tell you, that most churches struggle at this time of year, because the lowest income months of every year are November-March.  It is not just finances that are difficult over this time, but also in Australia this is a peak holiday season…so many people are not around, and many of those who are around, don’t want to be…so getting anything done becomes quite a challenge.

On a personal level, I would love to encourage all believers, to take their time off from work or education, but please, don’t take a holiday from your spiritual life.  God is not your job and he doesn’t want a holiday from you just because you don’t have to go to work or school.  He loves you, is your friend and delights in the time you spend with him.  Please, remember in this “busy season“, to make Jesus one of your choices.  Remember to be active in the believer basics of daily communication with him through prayer, worship and the word.  Remember to meet together with the family that God lovingly placed you in and to enjoy his presence on as many occasions as possible.  Please, don’t take a holiday from God while you have the most disposable time on your hands that you will have all year, and then get caught up in the busyness of getting back into work or education and continue on in a well established lifestyle of poor habit.

Make your Christmas a truly great one, by sharing the joy of your intimate, personal relationship with Jesus with those around you.  Lead your families in this and teach them to enjoy him without getting caught up in a commercially driven, hyper busy, super expensive campaign of “busyness” that leaves us all tired, broke and wondering what just happened.

Merry Christmas…be happy…and nice to each other.

Now here, enjoy a nice picture of a snow man…because it won’t be snowing here in the Australian Summer!



My Beardseason “Yeard”

Some years ago, a fine gentleman named Jimmy Niggles realised that raising awareness of anything required discussion and one of the easiest ways to start a discussion was to change your appearance.  All of a sudden, everyone wants to know why you look different and discussion is struck up very quickly and simply.  And so his “Beardseason” campaign was launched due to the recent loss of one of his surfer mates to Melanoma.

Jimmy himself grew a winter beard and encouraged other men to do the same.  Then when people asked about the beard, his encouragement is to take the opportunity to remind the enquirer of the importance of regular skin checks.

Melanoma is a massive killer (particularly here in Australia) and while  I don’t have the ability to take extended time off work and walk around Australia dressed like a storm trooper or run from Brisbane to Broome or many other fine ideas that people do to raise awareness or funds for various research ideas or development concepts, rather than get caught up in what I can’t do, I decided to do something I can do.

So I made trimming my normally very neatly clipped, designer facial stubble a thing of the past and decided to just let it grow (yep, I’m singing it just like you are!).  Exactly as Jimmy predicted, people inevitably do indeed ask, what’s with the fuzz, and I do get right in and tell them about Jimmy, the Beardseason campaign and their need of regular skin checks.  I grew my beard last winter as part of the Beardseason effort, but this year I started very late in the season (12 August) but have decided to aim for a “Yeard” (a year of beard).

As a particularly spotty person myself, I get regular skin checks.  I also wear very sun protective clothing whenever I’m in it as well as sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses and anything else I can find to keep the sun off my ridiculously sensitive skin.  And for those who don’t have sensitive skin and love a good tan, you are at an even higher risk…the tanning is damaging your skin and it’s ability to heal and potentially long term and even life threatening damage cannot be undone.  Every time you tan, it is accumulating and increasing your risk of death from Melanoma.

I won’t go on about it, because I know many of you simply don’t care and are going to tan anyway, but that is the reason for my “Yeard”…thanks for asking!

I don’t know if I’ll make the whole year, but I’m doing something…

Grow on!Bearded Biff

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