Every experience is an opportunity to grow!

unsplash_526360a842e20_1

My family and I have recently, literally traveled around the world and ended up 500km from where we set out. We felt called for something away from where we lived in Tasmania. And when the opportunity arose to go to Mexico to teach at a mission school there, we jumped at the opportunity. We never made it about us, and our intentions were to make a difference in the lives of others, so it had to be what God was calling us to do – Right?

We didn’t have the finances to support ourselves, as the school didn’t pay salaries, so we were hoping that we could do something on the side to make a few dollars for us to survive, but that didn’t seem to be the way things were going to work out. Obviously there were questions. We started wondering why things didn’t work out the way we would have liked them to. Ultimately we weren’t doing this to make our lives more comfortable. In fact, it took us right out of our comfort zone! So we kept questioning God’s plans for us!

After spending a month in Puerto Escondido, we had to make a decision. We had limited finances and we were in a place where we weren’t permitted to work. We have 2 young, awesome boys who we also had to think about. They need a good education and they have high aspirations as far as their sport is concerned, and we have always wanted to provide them with the best opportunities. There were times when we felt that the plans that God had for our lives and the opportunities we wanted for our boys, were going in different directions. My wife, Bev, had a strong feeling that we needed to go back to South Africa, where all our family lives. We hadn’t seen them for 6 years! So we flew to SA, contemplating whether we should make a life for ourselves there. Having spent a month in beautiful Port Elizabeth, we felt that we needed to return to Australia.

After long goodbyes, but feeling at peace with our decision, we boarded a plane to Brisbane and were plannning to live in the Gold Coast. Money was really running out now and we needed to find some source of income. Fortunately we had friends there who were actually ex neighbours from our days in Port Elizabeth, who were very helpful. But jobs just didn’t come. Again the questions started. Why would God take us around the world, bring us back to Australia where we felt we needed to be, just to run out of money and let our boys wonder whether it is such a good idea to trust God to provide and to direct our paths?

At the point when things were getting desperate for us, we were both offered jobs in Darwin with fantastic salaries. We felt that this must be it! God had heaard our calls for help and He had provided us with jobs where we were earning more money than ever before. We were going to buy a house and settle. But neither of us were settled, happpy or content in our jobs. The boys were seriously struggling to settle at school! Again the questions started. God, why would you send us around the world, provide us with more finances that we need and still we are not at peace? We were starting to wonder whether we would ever be happy!

We then sat down one evening and made a unanimous decision that we needed to go to a place that we could see ourselves enjoying life. Where we would fit into the lifestyle and where we could enjoy our love for the outdoors and for sport. Right there and then we settled on Melbourne. Having traveled there on numerous occassions, we knew the city and loved everything about it. As soon as I secured a job there, we started making plans to move. A month later, and here we are. We have secured a great school for our boys, I love the school that I am teaching at and we absolutely love this place and feel completely at home. All we still need to do is find a place to rent and we believe that it will happen within the next week.

The past 9 months have been exciting, scary, uncertain and exhilirating all at the same time. And here wee are – 500km away from where this amazing journey began. But the lessons that I have learnt over the past few months have been invaluable and life-changing. The first thing that I have realised is that life is there to be lived and enjoyed. That doesn’t mean that everything will always be enjoyable. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t step out of our comfort zone. But we cannot merely just go through the motions and exist. Life is too short not to seize every moment and not to chase adventure. God created us with enquiring minds and with adrenaline in our bodies. There’s a reason for that. We need to use both!

Through all these experiences, I will never again doubt that God is always there and He is for us. When we put our faith in Him, He always comes through, even if it is not in the way that we might have expected.

And finally, I have realised that God uses every single event in our lives to grow us and teach us, if we let Him! No matter what you might be going through at this very moment, it is all about growth. Instead of being angry at God and shaking your fist at Him, rather ask Him what He wants you to learn from each experience. That’s what I’ve been doing and it has made a world of difference. Now, I no longer see difficult situations as being unfair and feeling sorry for myself, but instead I see them as opportunities to improve myself and to become more like Him and less like me!

So, remember that God wants to use you and He can use you no matter where you are. So, why not go where you know you will enjoy being, and allow Him to work in you. It’s great and I wouldn’t change my life for all the money in the world. God is good, He is faithful and I plan to make Him known wherever I go.

 

Prejudice

photo-1518665881920-2322d226edf7

“Respect should be earned” is a phrase that is used all the time. This implies that we need to approach people with care. That we first need to expect the worst from them until they prove us wrong and they gain our respect!

The way I see it is that we need to approach every person with respect and give them the benefit of the doubt. But we live in such a judgemental society, that we immediately disrespect someone who doesn’t fit in with our perception of normal. We look down on people because of their beliefs, their ethnicity and the way they look. Without even getting to know someone, we choose to disrespect them. Just maybe, that is why the world isn’t too interested in Christianity and the church. We are too busy telling the world what we don’t stand for, instead of showing them what we do stand for – LOVE!

Now don’t get me wrong! I am not saying that you must lose your identity that is found in Christ. “We don’t change to suit the world… we love to show the world the true identity of Christ.” And that starts by respecting those who might not fit our mould. That starts by not generalising and stereotyping. Because when we do that, we are forgetting where Jesus found each one of us. In a sinful mess where we never fitted the mould that heaven requires. But He loved us anyway. He placed so much value in us, in our messed up state, that He died so that we might fit the righteous mould of heaven. And when we remember that amazing grace that He showed us when we were lost, we will stop approaching people with bias.

So, let’s give people respect before they earn it. Let’s stop judging a book by it’s cover but instead, let’s choose to get to know the entire story by reading the pages of their lives!

Have an awesome day!

 

 

 

 

We all bleed the same!

photo-1521424159246-e4a66f267e4b

“We all bleed the same. We’re more beautiful when we come together.
We all bleed the same. So tell me why, tell me why we’re divided.
If we’re gonna fight let’s fight for each other.
If we’re gonna shout let love be the cry.”

These words from an amazing song by Mandisa and TobyMac say it all. In a world polluted with bullying and arrogance, voices are needed to speak up against these travesties of common decency, without being too concerned about political correctness. Things have become so absurd that the “rights” of offenders are often elevated, while  victims feel helpless.

Bullying is a major topic in Australia at the moment. Most schools boast about their “Zero Tolerance” policy against bullying on their websites and during admission interviews. The picture that they all paint seems fantastic, and as a parent, one feels confident that your child will be educated in a safe environment. In most cases, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Having been a school teacher myself for more than 18 years, I have first-hand experience and am not just sucking this out of my thumb.

The problem with society today, is that we want to be so accepting of everything and everyone, that standing up against social evils is becoming a rarity. Because if we speak up against negative behaviour, it means we need to  pinpoint the culprits. And when we do that, we might offend them! What about the rights of the victims? What about children who are struggling with self – worth and confidence, who are picked on by bullies? What about people who have insecurities or disabilities that are being targeted by bullies? Those who are offending others by treating them as inferior are the ones we are protecting. Why? Because we don’t want to offend them. We don’t want to infringe on their right to of freedom of speech. Can’t we see what a ridiculous conundrum this has become.

When children behave like hooligans in schools, processes are put in place to spend more time with them and work with them. They are treated with respect and grace. When offenders are arrested by police, they have the right to swear and disrespect officers of the law, while they have to be treated with respect and grace. When children kick their teacher, spit in the face of other children and expose themselves in class, they are treated with grace and respect and get extra attention to help them. This actually happened in my wife’s class this year! Do you know what happened to this child? He had a teacher aid appointed to be with him in each class. She spent most of her day begging him to pay attention and work in class. When he eventually decided to do one sum, he was rewarded with a sweet. My wife was encouraged to buy him a toy as a reward for trying. He kicked her and he got rewarded. He spat in another child’s face and he got rewarded. He exposed himself in class, and he got rewarded. Does that seem right? I had a similar experience where a child was causing absolute chaos in one of the classes. He was swearing at teachers, refusing to bring his books to class, refusing to do any writing and disrupting the rest of the class. A relief teacher was assigned to him and a big fuss was made. He was begged to pay attention and when he eventually did a bit of work for 5 minutes, he was treated like a celebrity? What about the amazing children who were listening and who wanted to learn? Their learning was compromised by this child’s behaviour. At one stage I told him to leave the class. I was reprimanded because I did that. There was a process to follow. It involved filling in numerous forms and changing my teaching methods to accommodate him. I am doing the right thing, 90% of the other children are doing the right thing and we don’t get any support or consideration. He is breaking all the rules and we just need to accept it.

And that is my issue with schools that so easily brag about a “Zero Tolerance against Bullying” and “Excellence and Respect” in classrooms. The bullies and the “rule-breakers” are accommodated, supported and respected, while the victims and those who are trying to do the right thing, are neglected. The rights of the offenders are protected, while the innocent are forgotten.

What has happened to the days when rewards were given to those who deserve them? How have we even got to a place where we don’t want to acknowledge those who put effort into what they do, because we are afraid to hurt the feelings of those who aren’t willing to do anything, but want the accolades? Some schools refuse to record goals during matches because they don’t want to hurt the feelings of the players who don’t win. Many schools make sure that every single child gets an award at the end of the year because they don’t want children to feel left out. Now don’t get me wrong! When a child is really trying hard, that child needs to be rewarded for his/her efforts. My issue is with the person that is not willing to try and refuses to do what is expected!

If we aren’t careful, we will soon become a society of mediocrity. A society where effort disappears because it is penalised. A society where ” I can do whatever I like” becomes common because non-conformation and lack of respect is rewarded!                                   If we aren’t careful, we will soon become a society that eliminates the victims by disregarding their pain. A society where bullies rule because their behaviour is celebrated. We are slowly becoming a society that is content with mediocre.

The question is: “Do we accept it because we are too afraid to offend the bullies, or do we speak out because we know that it’s the right thing to do!

Growing in the wilderness…

photo-1415035008535-7ecdfd6d45b8

We tend to want to follow “normal”. It’s “normal” to finish school, go study or get a job, meet someone, buy a place, create stability, retire and enjoy your last few years. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not against these things and I’m not saying that they are bad. I do however have a question. “Who decides what’s normal?” Is it “normal” because that’s what the majority chooses to do? So because most people choose to be selfish and put their own needs ahead of the needs of others, does that mean being selfish is “normal”. Most people stay in a job that they can’t stand, just because they are too attached to the money that they get at the end of the month. Does that make it “normal”?

My life has always looked very different to “normal” and there have been many times when I have doubted the direction I have taken. But those doubts were always short-lived and they happened just before amazing breakthroughs occurred. My way of thinking has always been anti “normal”. It’s always been about taking the road less traveled. The road that’s full of potholes and obstacles. Because that’s what makes life interesting – the challenges that take you out of your comfort zone.

At 50, when most people have accumalated a reasonable amount of wealth, I don’t have much to show in the form of material things. When most people my age are considering slowing down and “enjoying” life after a lifetime of toil, I am only getting started. To me, life is about the experiences, not about the bank account. It’s about the impact we have on the lives of others, not about the false sense of security we find in the “stuff” this world has to offer. It’s all about doing things that have eternal value because, at the end of the day, we enter into eternity with nothing this world has to offer.

Still, it’s a journey in which one feels “different” because most people are chasing after “things”. It’s a journey that leads to many questions and often very few answers. But it’s a journey that I wouldn’t swop for anything. Life is about discovery and it’s impossible to discover if you don’t explore; And it’s impossible to explore if you don’t venture into the unknown; And you will never venture into the unknown if you are obsessed with comfort. And how blessed I have been to have an amazing wife and 2 beautiful sons, who have travelled this amazing journey with me. We have literally traveled aroud the world and experienced living in different countries together. These are things that take us out of our comfort zones, but experiences that enrich our lives more than any $ 1 million house or any luxury car.

Our journey has been so amazing because, most of the time, we have allowed God to be our tour guide. In times when we disregarded His direction, He never took off and left us stranded. He waited patiently for us to come around. The closer you are to God, the more in tune you are to His voice and His prompting. There have been times during our journey where we drifted away. During those times we wanted to do things that we thought were right for us. And the further we drifted, the more our own ideas drowned out His call. It’s during these times that God allows us to drift away in the wilderness so that He can teach us valuable lessons. It’s the place we all need to be at times, because it’s a place where we have nowhere to turn. It’s a place where there are no distractions. It’s a place where God can say to us… “Be still”, and when we heed that call, we will know, without a doubt, that He is God! Knowing who He is, and who we are in Him makes all the difference. It’s where we find our true confidence. That’s when we know we don’t need the recognition of others to give us a feeling of self-worth. The fact that Jesus died on the cross for me – that makes it clear to me that I am important to God. That changes everything.

We have been wandering for 7 months now. Spending a month in Mexico where visas and finances didn’t work out. One month visiting in South Africa, considering settling there, but feeling a prompting to move on. Two weeks in the Gold Coast of Australia, thinking that’s where we were going to be God’s hands and feet, but we were offered jobs in Darwin and we have been here for the past 7 months. Earning more money than we ever have, but never feeling settled. Knowing that this isn’t where God had called us. After applying for jobs all over Australia, and asking God to open doors where He wants us, not where we want us, a few options have come up. One, specifically, was an absolute miracle and we will be relocating to Melbourne next week – following God’s prompting, and leaving the spiritual and physical wilderness behind. It’s time to be obedient and to step into the promised land. Not promised land as in material stuff, but promised land as in being where God is calling us and being in His will. At times during this journey we felt that God had left us to wander aimlessly. But now we realise that He was preparing our future.

Recently, Ralph, a good friend of ours from Tasmania, sent me this message:                “Stop running go back where I planted you and you will grow.You are called and He will not leave you alone until you surrender. You already know what He requires of you. Fear not for I will be with you says the Lord.”

How we love to run to where we think we need to go. But when we allow Him to determine the direction of our lives, we find peace and we realise the true meaning of what it means to be content.

It’s important to remember that our lives might look very different to what we thought they would turn out to be, but that doesn’t mean we took the wrrong turns. We might be in a totally different place where we hoped to be, but that doesn’t mean we are lost. That means God is taking us to a place where we will be still and hear His call for our lives.

My prayer for you is that you will no longer allow the noise of the world to drown out the voice of God. He is saying to you today, “I have something awesome for you if you only trust me.”

Consequences

photo-1501967111356-35219aeb2ea1

The fewer consequences we face, the more daring we will become as a society. Daring in a negative way! Without reprimand, we tend to push the boundaries and challenge the rules. This leads to a lawless society where the undisciplined prosper and the moral wonder how nobody seems to get it, and nothing seems to be done about it!

Our world has become a safe haven for those who disrespect others, and a nightmare for those who really care. I often look back over the past 30 years of my life and realise how much things have changed. Society used to place a premium on values.

These values ensured that society was protected from individuals who considered themselves to be above the law. This meant that the punishment would fit the crime and would deter individuals from being repeat offenders. It didn’t mean that there was no place for forgiveness. The concept of restorative justice is essential and should always be applied, but not to the point that the behaviour is excused. It still needs to leave space for all of us to consider our deeds and words before we act on them. We all deserve 2nd & 3rd chances, but even nature teaches us that consequences are essential for harmony to prevail.

When consequences disappear… society disintegrates, because the need to consider our actions disappears. If we grow up in homes where we haven’t been taught to consider others, we will tend to become selfish. And when that happens, our actions and words will be selfish. We won’t really care how our deeds affect others, as long as we benefit. If we continue to be inconsiderate without being questioned, we wouldn’t see any need to change. And if there were no consequences to our anti-social behaviour, then why  would we deem it necessary to change our selfish habits?

Recently, in Australia, a 12 year old boy was upset with his mother, so he decided to run away from home. He took her credit card, booked a flight and spent 3 days  in Bali before his mother flew to Indonesia to be reunited with her son. She was upset with him, but blamed everyone else for what happened. She blamed the airline for not picking up on a 12 year old child flying alone! She blamed customs for not stopping him from leaving the country! She blamed the hotel in Bali for allowing him to check in as a child! And she blamed the local pubs for serving him beer. here’s no denying that these things should never have been allowed to happen, but there is something directly linked to her son’s behaviour that she isn’t even considering.

This mother concedes that her son doesn’t like being told what to do. He can’t stand being reprimanded, and he seldom does what he is told. When he refuses to listen to instruction, there are no consequences. It is only obvious that he wouldn’t think twice to take his mother’s credit card because he knows that nothing will happen to him. So, just maybe, if he was brought up, realising that there were consequences to every action, this whole episode would never have happened.

If society started implementing that same concept, we might just see a change in the direction the world is taking. What a different world we would live in if every single person considered others. How society would change for the better if we knew that there were severe consequences for doing the wrong thing.

It’s time to return to a life where principles and morals determined our actions, rather than selfishness and gratification. It’s time that we did the right thing, not because we will be punished if we don’t, but because we know it’s the right thing to do. That is one of the reasons why Christianity is so amazing. Jesus died for our sins and forgives us, no matter what we have done, if we accept Him. But that never means that our wrong-doing does not have consequences. Even though God gives us 2nd & 3rd chances, there are repercussions to our actions. God’s grace and justice helps us to understand this concept and it moves us to do the right thing – not because we are scared of the consequences, but because we want to be intrinsically good. We want to have good morals and values and live according to them.

But in a society where morals and values are quickly being replaced by “Rights”, we need to implement something that will reroute our thinking. And if the only way to do that is to apply serious consequences to wrong actions, then that’s what we need to do!

“So we keep on waiting… waiting for the world to change!”

 

 

Your actions shout louder!

photo-1470116892389-0de5d9770b2c

In a world of technology and social media it is so easy to fool the world. We put up all those photos and posts that paint the rosiest pictures of where our lives are at. It’s about trying to outdo all your Facebook friends, your Twitter followers and other Instagrammers. We become more concerned about portraying a false identity on social media than living a life of integrity in REAL LIFE! Our sense of identity and our purpose is lost somewhere in cyberspace. And it’s so easy to get lost in this fake, make-belief “reality” that we struggle to differentiate between who we are, and who we are trying to portray.

It has become a place of comparison. How many “likes” our posts get compared to some of our Facebook friends’. And the crazy thing is that some of them aren’t even friends in real life. We just keep them on our friendship list to keep the numbers up and to keep up with all the gossip! It’s sad but undeniable for most of us. We take selfies in obscure places to make sure that everyone sees how “great” our life is. We post photos of our meals to show that we go to the best restaurants. We pose with famous people to show that we almost have celebrity status. And we do all this because we are caught up in a war of comparison.

Here’s a reminder to all of us: “We weren’t created to compare ourselves with others.” It is a crazy idea even to think about comparing ourselves to others, because we are all amazingly different. You have unique DNA! You have unique genes! You have a unique personality! You have unique fingerprints! Every single one of the almost 8 billion people alive today is unique and different. That’s the way God chose to create us and it breaks His heart to see us getting caught up in this battle of comparison. Believe that God loves you, that He created you with your specific gifts for a reason and that He has a special plan for you.

Nick Vujicic was born with no arms and no legs. As a young child he was fine with who he was. But as he grew up, went to school and was seen as “different”, he started comparing himself to others. And he lost that battle because he was very different. One day he decided that he couldn’t compare with others so he tried to drown himself in the bath. He and so many people are thankful that this attempt wasn’t successful. As he grew up, he realised that playing the comparison game was a dangerous way to live. He realised that he was unique in his own way and that through his “disability” he had an ability to share hope with others. He found his purpose in life and his days of comparing himself to others came to an end. He is giving hope to millions because he focuses on what he has, instead of what he doesn’t have.

So instead of spending time trying to impress everyone with a “fake” life on-line, why not start to live a real life and make a real difference? Why not make a point of having real conversations with people who are in your presence? And there is no better place to start than with your own family. How about spending more time talking to your teenage child and doing things with them that they enjoy doing? I know as parents we don’t always feel like kicking the soccer ball when we get home from work, but that’s how we build real relationships with our kids. I know that playing FIFA 18 on the XBox might not be your first choice of relaxation, but doing something with your child that they enjoy, shows them that you are interested. Going into your child’s room at bedtime and joking around for a few minutes might not seem like anything major to you, but it means so much to them. Giving your child a hug, even if he or she is taller than you, is something that they need and appreciate even if they don’t always show it.

I have been a teacher for 18 years and it breaks my heart to see how children speak to their parents and their disregard for others. The overwhelming reason for this is a lack of interest shown by the parents to spend quality time with their children. In the western world, children who grow up in families where parents don’t have much time for them end up as part of these statistics:

  • 90% of runaway youths
  • 85% of behavioural disorders
  • 71% of high school dropouts
  • 70% of youths in prison
  • 75% of youths in substaance abuse clinics

Sometimes we think that providing our children with the best material things, will make them happy and make them love us. It never works. There was a time when we were living on a golf estate, I was traveling business class for work and Bev was a stay-at-home mom. Life couldn’t get better as far as material things were concerned, but my eyes were opened to reality one day. I was working ridiculous hours and wasn’t home much. I thought that providing my family with “stuff” would make them happy. But one day, my eldest son, who was 5 at the time, asked my wife, “Does daddy still live here?” That day, God spoke very clearly to me, through a 5-year-old child. It was that day I realised that my wife and my children needed my presence and attention more than they needed nice things. I believe that the choices I made from that day has, and will continue to determine the direction my sons’ lives will take. Because since that day I chose to show them how important they are to me by spending time with them. They know that and that gives them the confidence to know that they are important.

I hope you can forgive me for bragging a bit about my 2 boys now. But there’s a reason I want to share this with you. Firstly, because I am tremendously proud of both of them. And secondly, because it is living proof that by making them feel safe and loved, that the direction they choose to take, has really good odds to be the right one. We recently moved to a new city in Australia and James, our younger son, started attending a new school in grade 6. After being there for only 5 weeks, they selected the Student Representatives (prefects for us older folk). He was 1 of 3 in his grade that was selected. The reasons we were given is that he is compassionate to fellow students, respectful towards teachers and he reflects Christian values.

John, who is in grade 9 is the sporty type and is a bit more reserved than James. After being at his school for about 7 weeks, he got a Valentines letter from a “secret admirer”. He has given me permission to share this note.                                                                             “I want you to know how much you mean to me. Your smile and face brightens up my day. You are very intelligent and committed to things that are important. You are a candle in the darkness!” 

I know my boys are on the right track and I believe that part of the reason for that is that they know that they are loved. It not only because we say it to them, but more importantly because we show them. Actions speak far louder than words. Children are too busy following our example to listen to what we are saying.

In any relationship, LOVE is spelt T -I-M-E. You see, love is an action. It is not just a word that is easy to say. It’s not just an emotion that is easy to feel. It is an action that is not always easy. It’s something you do for somebody because they are important to you – not because you always feel like doing it. And that is why Jesus is the ultimate example of LOVE. He died for us – not because He felt like suffering, but because He loves every single person in this world. He doesn’t just say it – He proves it by stepping out of His “comfort zone” to take our place on a very uncomfortable, undeserving, humiliating and extremely painful cross.

How about we take that to heart and do 3 things:

  • We stop comparing ourselves to others!
  • We start to live in the real world!
  • We make our lives count!

 

 

 

Don’t prepare for half the victory!

ready

We continuously reach points in our lives where things can go one of 2 ways.

If we choose to listen to that lying chatterbox in our heads, we are defeated. He keeps telling me that I’m getting old and I haven’t achieved much in my life. He tells me that I haven’t created an environment for my family where they have stability in the form of a family home and fees to pay for studies. He tells me that I don’t have a career to talk about. I’m not really an expert in anything, but only know a little bit about a few things. What is he saying to you that is making you feel insignificant and unimportant?

Now there might be times when you and I have messed up and we probably could have done things differently, but that never makes us insignificant, unimportant and “not good enough”. “How do I know that?” you might be asking. I know it because my “DAD” says so. There is no place you have ever been or no place you can ever go, that is out of the reach of God’s grace. There is nothing you can ever do that is bad enough for God to turn His back on you.

So if we choose to listen to TRUTH, then we know that we are never defeated. No matter what the world says, I choose to listen to what God says about me! That makes all the difference. He wants us to learn as we travel life’s journey. Because, as we learn, we are being prepared for the destination. If we persevere and allow ourselves to grow along the journey, we are getting ready for a real life.

I couldn’t be more excited about my life! Not because it’s perfect, but because the One who I choose to listen to, is perfect and He is the Way that I choose to follow. As we travel with Him in life, He is preparing us for everything we were born for. Nothing that you and I have been through has been a waste of time. It was the preparation for a time such as this. A time when He wants to use us to make Him known. So stop running form what you were created to do. Because until you live out your purpose, you will never stop running and you will never be content!