The Times They Are A Changin…

Yes…yes they are.

But I can’t help but ask, “Are they changin’ for the better?

I remember growing up in times, that have influenced some of the everyday things I still do today.  Things that I am being forced to change because the society I live in, has changed.

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For example, I used to always have a supply of coins in some convenient “stash spot” in my car.  You never know when you might need a coin right…for a parking meter (though for most of those now, you’ll need to be able to sign over your mortgage, the life of a loved one or perhaps  a limb or precious organ!), or a Coke machine (remember those?), or maybe even a phone box (yes that’s right kiddies, we all used to travel in time just like Dr. Who).  But these days, we can no longer leave a coin of any description casually lying around in our cars because it will inevitably lead to some ice fuelled smash and grabber breaking the car window and helping themselves to our convenient coinage.

 

 

IMG_3866I have to admit, that I used to almost always, keep my wallet in my car.  Something I would no longer dream of doing…because there’s actually things in there I need and I cannot risk leaving it anywhere for anyone to relieve me of.

We used to have a coin jar in the Extreme Life office.  We kept it there so that those dropping in to visit or for meetings during the week, could casually help themselves to a coin or two if they needed it for the parking meters outside our office.  Often needed because…we can’t keep coins in our cars right!  People would often drop a few in there too to help others when they needed it.  But yesterday, while Steve’s desk was unattended and I was working in my office, I heard the door open and by the time I got out of my chair and around to Steve’s desk, I saw no one there as the door swung closed.  I thought it must have been the wind again as does happen…until I noticed the “Meter Money” jar gone!  Somebody had just walked into our office, taken the jar and bolted!  And they bolted, because I looked around outside and saw absolutely no one!  For the sake of about four dollars in small coins, some one had violated our office, our safety and our principals..and taken our stash of coins that were actually there to help people.  Just to be clear, if some one had of walked in and told me they were in need and asked for the jar, I would have happily given them every coin in it…they did not need to steal it!

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Day in and day out, I keep hearing that these are the best times to be alive, because of all the freedoms we have today.  Freedoms that others fought for us to have, so we should make the most of them and enjoy them.  But I am also hearing almost daily, that the biggest issues facing our society today are mental health issues like anxiety, depression and suicide.  Is that what all these “freedoms” lead to?

Maybe, just maybe…it’s time we re-examined our values and the kind of freedoms we used to enjoy (like leaving coins in our cars) that we can no longer enjoy because of the “freedom of others” to help themselves to our freedom and completely abuse it.

I don’t know about you, but I kind of like some aspects of dare I say it “the good ole days“, when we didn’t have to keep all our freedom under lock and key and protect it from those looking for an opportunity to help themselves to it.  We used to be able to drive nice cars without having them anonymously dented in supermarket carparks (another thing which now happens on a weekly basis), we used to be able to walk around without fear of being “coward punched” just for being a person who happens to be alive and present.

But the times…they are a changin’!  Well, I for one, do not feel the need to embrace every new change.  But feel quite strongly, that some of our “good, old fashioned” values and lifestyle characteristics, need to be valued once more, so we can actually embrace some of our real freedoms once more…(But don’t bother checking my car or our front office for coins just yet…lesson learned for now!).


Sturgis! (2016)

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The main street in Sturgis.

OK, so this is way behind the times…another year of Sturgis has come and gone before I have even gotten around to writing this entry! So slack of me.

So, last year, in July and August of 2016, Nicole and I took our kids to the USA for a few weeks.  The primary purpose of our visit, was to spend some time with a few churches over there, to learn from them and to hopefully help them too.  Part of that, is always some good connecting time with the leaders of those churches…and my time in Denver, Colorado coincided with a motorcycle rally in Sturgis.  So when two of my buddies in Denver said they were going and I was invited…who was I to argue?

So we arrived in Denver and spent a weekend with Redemption City Church there while we adjusted to time and temperature changes, and then that week, Tyrone, TKay and myself headed off on Harleys towards a small town in the Black Hills of South Dakota called Sturgis.  Now Sturgis is a small town of around 7,000 people…all except for the week of this particular motorcycle rally, when half a million or so motorcyclists essentially move in and take over.  The ride there involved heading North from Denver up through Wyoming and across to South Dakota, a distance of around 620 kilometres.

We hit this ride in one day (with a nice, early start) so we could get to our accommodation in Rapid City and settle there, rather than spreading the travel out over two days…the ride there was mainly straight and highways, whereas the riding once we were there, was through the glorious winding roads of the Black Hills…worth getting there sooner!

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We headed into Sturgis itself a few times, but we were always out of there before dark when a whole different culture sets in.  During the day, it is the most awesome motorcycle supermarket I have ever seen!  Any part or accessory you can think of, are all available right there.  And if buying a new part (say an exhaust system) meant having an old one there too…they would just send that home for you so you could have the new parts fitted there and enjoy them immediately.

The rides, the atmosphere, the availability of parts and accessories only dreamt about over here in Australia…was all amazing.  It was such a good time, with some great mates.  And the time with them, was the absolute highlight for me (I hope time with me was also OK for them!).

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We had a couple of nights there and then headed back to Denver where I spent time with Redemption City Church before we went to Nanaimo, Canada to be with Mike and Deb Graves and Oceanside Church.  I lost all my Scoop Deluxe beard products and combs to some thieving, hipster airport staff member at the Vancouver Airport, but that’s another story!  After that, we headed to LA to be with Jody and Vanessa Romero and Restoration LA, an awesome church in East LA.

It was a valuable trip and time, with some great friends…and Sturgis was a definite, personal highlight…I hope to go again one day.

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Seeing Mount Rushmore in person was completely awesome.


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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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