on telling stories about kids and wombats

I’ve had the delightful opportunity to join a ‘parenting panel’ on Brisbane’s 612 ABC Radio Wednesday morning show as an occasional panelist. I was introduced to the panel by long term team member and good friend Tracey. It’s basically three regular parents having a chat about what’s going on in their families – just to provide some encouragement and ideas for listeners. As is evidenced by the fact that I’m on the show, there are no expert credentials required!

It’s been fun so far, and no major blunders that I know of – except perhaps for comparing myself to a wombat (yes, I did).

Here are the two shows:

life is made of moments

NB: Before you read, it might help to know that this is the text of a message I shared at Toowong Uniting Church, August 9th 2015. It refers to a story from Acts 4:26-40. The context at Toowong is that they are preparing to plant a new congregation.  If you’d rather listen than read…skip to the end of this story for the mp3 file.


 

It seems to me that this life that we live is made up of moments.

If you think back over your life, I’m sure you can identify a few of them.

I think of the moment I saw Sheridan walk into a friend’s 21st birthday party and I instantly knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.

I think of the moment I made a bad decision and tore up my knee, ending up in surgery just weeks before our first child was due.

I think of the moment I learned a huge lesson about leadership, as I sat quietly to one side during an outdoor education program I was helping to run.

I think of the moment when I woke up one morning and realised that for the first time in 6 years all the kids had slept all night.

Some moments are wonderful, some not so much.

Some are extraordinary, while others are just the moments of everyday life.

Some moments, like my encounter with Sheri at that 21st birthday party, change our lives instantly. And we know it in the moment (or at least, I knew it…you’ll have to ask Sheri about her experience of that moment).

Others take a while to reveal themselves – and sometimes it’s only with the benefit of hindsight that we can see the power of that moment.  Such is the story for my learning about leadership on that outdoor education program. The moment actually passed unremarkably that night…but the more time passes, the more I reflect on that moment…the more it means to me.

This life that we live is made up of moments.  I’m sure you can identify a few of them.

In this passage today, this story of Philip and the Ethiopian (read it here Acts 8:26-40), there’s a lot going on, and we’ll work our way through some of those things over the rest of our time.

But at the heart of it is a moment. A chance encounter. The intersection of two people’s lives that changed both of them forever.

Such is the importance of a moment. And this life that we live is made of them.

Continue reading

that ancient spring

A poem by guest blogger Mitchell, age 11. An ode to the ANZAC poppy.

 

In that ancient spring, 100 years ago,

brick by brick,

the ANZAC spirit was in-scripted into the soul of a fresh nation

In that ancient spring, I was just fresh,

had no idea what was about to unfold its ugly body around me

In that ancient spring, I was the only light,

in an otherwise tragic scene

100 years on from that ancient spring, I still exist

My spirit dwells to the right side of the chest,

Looking on, from that ancient spring.

to kaizen…..or not to kaizen?

IMG_2776I’ve been getting steadily re-addicted to mountain biking this year.

I had a period 10 years ago or so where I rode regularly, but this is on another level. I’m riding with a few mates a couple of times a week, exploring trails around south-east Queensland and having a great time.

We’re also putting lots of effort into learning how to ride better, faster, hit bigger jumps, rougher trails and so on.  In the grand scheme of things, we’re not that good – but we are trying!

One of the main tools in  this attempt to improve is a little phone app called Strava.  Strava uses the GPS in your phone to track where you’ve ridden, how fast, how much elevation gained and a heap more.  It automatically compares your ride performance against your previous rides on the same trails, and against other riders (who use strava) on those same trails.  Within a few moments of finishing a ride we can be looking at the data – how fast did I ride today? Was i strong on the climbs? How about that particularly difficult (we in the MTB world prefer the word ‘gnarly’!) descent? Continue reading

first comes hope…

Change management is the new black.

You know, the in thing.  Everybody is talking about it, wants it, needs it, is doing it.

And that’s ok because change is perhaps the defining characteristic of our day.  That’s not for a moment to say that at other times, in other places change hasn’t been significant, or real, or rapid, or hard.

But the breadth, and scope and speed of change in our society is breathtaking. Technological, moral, ethical, political, cultural, economic, relational.

Everything.

Breathtaking.

Some of it, of course, we choose.  But some of it chooses us. Sometimes the world changes around us in spite of our best efforts to keep things steady, or to hold onto days past.

If we eventually can accept that there’s no going back, there comes a time when we have to figure our how to respond, to react, to accept, to embrace, to thrive in the new.

I’ve been thinking a little about this question this week.  And like everybody, I have a theory.

So I’m going to test it on you.

All 3 of you. 😉

My theory is this: Continue reading

did you hear the one about…

Did you hear the one about the psychologist, the musician and the golfer?

It started a couple of weeks ago:

I was sitting in a meeting that included a guy whose profession I would describe as an ‘organisational psychologist’. By that I mean he specialises in understanding how organisations and groups develop, how they deal with changing culture and context, and what kinds of steps an organisation and its leadership can take to move from one place to another.

We hadn’t met before, and I hadn’t seen him at work prior to that meeting…but it very quickly became evident that he is brilliant at what he does (at least from where I sit). He was sharp, direct when required, tactful when that was helpful, and immediately able to pinpoint key issues under discussion in the meeting.  It was a short, chance encounter that left a deep impression on me.  I went away inspired.

And then last week:

IMG_3063[1]On Thursday night I went to see musician Stu Larsen ply his trade at Brisbane’s Black Bear Lodge. I’ve written about Stu before, here. If you haven’t heard of him before, go and read that story for a little introduction and then come back. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Stu’s life is that of a wandering storyteller. A guitar and a microphone all he needs. On Thursday night, he held the audience spellbound as with voice and string he wove a tale of place, of people, of life.  This room, packed to the rafters, was still and silent as he shared his trade. And full of voice as he invited us to join in song.  We wandered from King St Sydney, to the 101 Highway San Francisco, to outback Queensland and continental Europe as Stu’s stories and songs took us places that we had never been (and yet seemed strangely familiar).

In a former life Stu was a bank worker…and I’ve no doubt he would have done a good job at that. But here, on stage, singing stories, inviting responses. It’s where he belongs. He’s found his place. Storytellers, in my experience, do two things with their words. First, the words create images that pop up, unbidden, into our minds. We create for ourselves the images, the video that accompanies the story.  And second, they evoke in us, invite from us, our own story. They make us wonder. Stu does that every time I see or hear him play. And Thursday was no different.

And yesterday:

IMG_3071[1]I trooped down to the Gold Coast with a bunch of family and friends to watch one of our own, Matt Guyatt, play in the final round of the Australian PGA golf tournament. Matt was well placed and backed up a big month with a good finish. He played yesterday alongside recently crowned Australian Masters champion Nick Cullen.  It always strikes me as a strange profession (like music or any other ‘performance’ profession) when members of the public come along to watch you do your job. But that’s the daily reality for some, working live in front of an audience.  Matt (and Nick) put it all on the line yesterday, at times quite brilliant, and at others caught out by the gusting wind and fatigue on the final day of a heavy season.

I’m biased, but Matt is quite clearly an extraordinary golfer, with all the technical ability to play the game, shoot the low scores required to be successful in that particular career choice.  But more than that, it was obvious as I watch that he understands he’s in the entertainment and the ‘people’ business. There was constant interaction with the crowd. A chat here or there, a ball or glove given to a child, a joke quietly shared with those nearest the green to lighten the mood at a tense moment.

What I noticed in each case, was a person who had very clearly found their place. Who has discovered and put to good use a unique and delightful talent. That through doing and being what they are cut out to be, makes the world a better place.

We’re not all, of course, going to be pro golfers, travelling musicians or even organisational psychologists (does the world really need more psychologists? Probably!).

But I got to wondering, as I watched these four in action, what a difference it would make to our world, and to us each as individuals, if we never gave up and ‘settled’ until we have found our place. Until we are sure and certain that what we do (whether as a volunteer at nights or on weekends, or in a professional sense) makes the most of our God-given potential.  Jesus told a story about that once…go google the ‘parable of the talents’.

At each place, in each person, I found my own story being drawn out. My own sense of wondering, of self. That’s a powerful gift given when someone who is very good at what they do, simply goes about doing their thing.

And of course I got to wondering…have I found ‘my thing’ yet? At 43 years of age, husband, father, participant in multiple hobbies and community groups, and in my 3rd totally different career…am I in the right place? Am I making the most of what I have?

And….how about you?

a pelican and a place to stand

Two of the reasons that I have grown to like running are that it gives me uninterrupted time to think (it’s really, really hard to play with the phone and check out facebook while running), and that it’s a great way to explore new places.

On the weekend I was in St George, hanging out with the folks from the Uniting Church Presbytery of the Downs (a regional gathering taking in Toowoomba to Queensland’s western border…quite a vast space!), and discovered to my delight a quiet running track along the edge of the Balonne River.

It was a pretty hot weekend, so that meant running had to happen very early, before the sun made its presence felt. I’m not a great early morning person, but it’s hard to deny something special about those first minutes of light each day…and so it proved at the Balonne.

A place to stand

My first day I ran the length of the town stretch of the river, ending up at the weir that holds back the waters – keeping a reasonable body of water even in the midst of long and widespread drought conditions currently impacting so much of Queensland’s west.

As I stood on the weir, I looked downstream. Here’s the view:

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There’s not much water to speak of, and the dryness is evident in the country side.  It’s stark, almost depressing.

And then, from the very same spot, I turned to face upstream, to see this:

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It’s a view filled with life and promise.

It occurred to me, that so often from the very same place, we can see such contrasting views depending on which direction we choose to face.  It’s perhaps the optimist/pessimist or glass half full/half empty question.  Which way do we choose to face? What do we choose to see?

In the organisation I work with, we are faced with many challenges, and the temptation to allow those challenges to hold us captive can, at times, be overwhelming.  Standing on the weir at the Balonne, looking upstream, I was reminded that in spite of the challenges there is always something interesting, even special to see….depending on our willingness to take a different view.

A pelican

pelicanOn day 2 of my stay in St George, I ran again.  And followed much the same route.

And found myself once more crossing the weir, enjoying the early morning sights and sounds.

On this day my attention was captured by a lone pelican, skimming over the water (unfortunately a little to fast for me to grab a photo!).

Now let’s think about this for a moment.

I was in St George, roughly 500km west of Brisbane. A long way from the coastal bays, beaches and harbours that are home to so many Australian pelicans. What was this majestic bird doing in St George, surfing the early morning breeze over the Balonne River?

It turns out it’s not an unusal sight. Pelicans often find their way into remote Australian waterways. The famed Lake Eyre – so often dry for years on end – attracts tens of thousands of pelicans within weeks of floodwater arriving to fill the lake. Nobody knows how the pelicans know there will be water, why they suddenly take off from the coast and head inland just as the floodwaters arrive to fill the salt pan.

What we do know is that when there is water, when there is the hope and safety that comes in such a place, the pelicans find it. And here on this stretch of the Balonne, surrounded by thousands of square kilometres of drought affected farmland, this lone pelican had found a place of hope and peace in the early morning sunlight.

And once again I thought of the church, the organisation I work for. And how we spend so much time and energy trying to figure out the right strategy, the right way to be a part of the modern Australia.

Perhaps the answer is right in front of me. Perhaps in our local communities what we first need to emphasise is creating places of hope and peace, pools of deep water in the midst of the dry.

Perhaps that’s all that is required. And those who are searching will always, in the end, land in a place that offers peace and hope.

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