Friday, March 18, 2011

Is St Patricks Day racist?

In a world where political correctness rules, should I feel vilified on St Patricks Day?

I mean, C'mon - Irish jokes for starters. Little stout men with orange beards and green clothes looking for gold at the end of the rainbow. What are you trying to say about the Irish?

"Whaddya mean - you're an Aussie Baz" we are all Aussies.

Well yes, we are. But I see an awful lot of people holding onto things from their home countries, getting all cut up about racism and ill treatment - is it asking too much if the Irish could get a little sensitive too!!

My family history in recent times is littered with surnames like Harrington, Bourke, Flynn, Cunneen, Ryan and Porter. They came from places like Tipperary, Ballycahill, Cork, Clare and Leinster. They had names like Moll, Patrick, Mary, Maureen, Kathleen, Dan, Moira, Barry and...well Patrick again. My boys names are Ronan and Liam. One of my daughters name is Rose Kathleen. It has been hard to let go!!

Even as recently as the 1970's and 1980's they still lived in little Irish Enclaves in Parramatta and Campbelltown. They had their own sayings, their own Churches, huge families, they got drunk and they fought. But they also loved, prayed and forgave.

Am I going to blame it on the potato famine!! The persecution at the hands of the English in the penal colony? The fact that the Anglicans called us rockchoppers?

No. We were just another wave of immigrants. And if you look at the Maltese, the Greeks, the Italians, the Middle Eastern people and the Pacific Islanders the pattern is exactly the same. The arrival, the enclaves, the strange customs and religions, the skirmishes with the 'real aussies'and then.....eventually assimilation. The only real Australians are the Aboriginals and they came from somewhere too.

So what am I saying? Racism may be stupid and Xenophobia may be the work of the devil himself but we just fuel it when we get overly sensitive about it. When I was at school the best way to beat a bully was to ignore them or deck them, and either way usually took care of the problem and then we were mates. And that's what always happens eventually. Don't give the extremists fuel and the fire dies out on both sides.

So when people tell Irish jokes, drink Irish drinks and generally generalise about the Irish on Saint Patricks day, I don't feel offended. St Patrick changed that nation and laid out a path for the light of Christ to enter a dark place at the time. I think a lot of my laidback, easy goingness is part of that Irish DNA, so if you want to call that 'simple' then I'm ok with that. Because I'm one of millions of people whose family recently came to this 'lucky country' and have been blessed to live in the freedom and prosperity that we have here. But I don't want that to be at the cost of the next group of immigrants that arrive here. Or I don't want my prosperity to be built on the broken backs of the poor labourers overseas. So I want to remember where I came from, so I can remember to welcome those who God brings to our country, so in Jesus own words I can be the person who see's a "stranger at the door and invites them in". An Aussie is anyone who lives here and our culture is wonderful and diverse because of it.

Let's give God a reason to bless Australia by remembering the 'poor, the oppressed, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the orphan and the widow'. Because once upon a time that was your family and my family.

I'm off to put on my funny green hat, drink a pint of Guinness and tell a bad joke while watching Father Ted, just so I don't end up taking life too seriously this week.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Is it possible to live lean and socially and environmentally aware in surburbia and still be generous?

Is it possible to live lean and socially and environmentally aware in surburbia and still be generous?

I think the answer is yes.

But before I sound self righteous, let me say this – I/we are on a huge learning curve in this area, so I am still on the first part of the bell curve in this experience. But I want to share how we are doing it to help others get a vision and some practical examples of how it works.

I say all this as a single (modest) income earner, in a very basic and modest house in suburbia with five dependants. The need to write this little article came out of a conversation with someone recently who had the same size mortgage as us, who had less kids and more income: They said it couldn’t be done and they wouldn’t attempt it because, well, it couldn’t be done. Yet it is the burden of having two full time workers that is killing them physically and emotionally. I see the latchkey kids and the new toys on my street every day, and the result is chaos in the family and a lack of happiness or peace outside of more consumerism. Is there a different way? I believe there is.

How can you do it?

Firstly, you have to make an intentional decision to back off in consuming and look for ways to live leaner but also have a ‘generous’ attitude and intent to be able to bless others and see the big picture in the world and the community.

Step one was a revelation that we overspent and overconsumed, whether it be living on credit cards, getting takeaway, buying non essential items. We got rid of the credit cards, all our cars are 10-15 years old and all renovations are done on a ‘need to’ basis.

We regularly look through our stuff and realise we have too much. A lot of what we don’t need is given away, taken to the Op shop or traded online for things we needed.

Then we strip everything back: This year all the kids played one team sport each, Rugby League, soccer and Oztag – one small fee each for 5 months of fun, and then in Summer we surf, fish and spearfish. We don’t have Foxtel, if we want to watch a game I go to someone’s house that has it, rather than replicate the cost.

Also, I ride my bike to work most days, and even though I live close by, I could probably manage it almost anywhere in the Shire, which reduces carbon emissions and increases fitness.

The best furniture we have is the stuff other people were throwing out. A coat of paint and a sander gives you a shabby chic look that people pay thousands for in Paddington.

Benefits: My wife can still be at home while the kids are young and we can give 10% of our income to Church, where community needs are met daily but need regular funding (if you are not a Christian I still believe you should give 10% of your income to a charity, to the needs or to a local cause) and we are still able to give over and above that to the needy.

Regardless of my theological position on finances, I have found the more I have moved toward greater financial integrity (eg total honesty with ATO, etc), the more I have given to Church and to charity, even when it was difficult, the more money has come in from the most unexpected sources. I have had $85,000.00 come in from unexpected sources since 2007, most of which we were able to give to charitable or not for profit organisations, and some of which was used to do essential renovations and go to conferences, holidays that we would not have otherwise been able to do. But it was our relationship with God and His directing that enabled us, through prayer, to see that most of that money was not for us. As we better understood that, the more came, and the more we were able to give, because I feel God could finally trust us with it. In previous years that was not the case but we needed to change our attitude toward money before God could bless us.

Also, Kel can volunteer at Playgroup and at the school, where the needs are great but budgets are not.

Socially and environmentally:
Where possible we use the ETHICAL SHOPPING GUIDE.
While you can go to this site and purchase a hard copy, I find with 40% of phones now being Iphones you can get it from Itunes Apps store.

I find that our groceries split 40% between local produce at Paddy’s markets (we go every second Friday) and 50% at Franklins (using the ESG) and 10% hand to mouth (Take away, Convenience store). We can achieve about 75-80% ethical purchasing and still come in on or under budget. But best of all, we know we are not engaging in the process of oppressing or taking advantage of workers or raping the environment just to obtain consumerables.

The first time you use the ESG it will take you about 50% longer to do your shop, but once you become familiar with brands it takes only as long as your regular shop.

One of the best things you can do, financially, environmentally, therapeutically and for your kids is to get involved in some type of permaculture or hobby farming on your surburban block. If you have kids, they will thrive on this, learning responsibility, time management, to nurture and care for animals (good preparation for future parenthood).

Pretty much any backyard block, or even a townhouse or unit, can at some level be involved in this.

At the moment, we have native Australian bee’s which are stingless, which are really an ‘Ark’ as colony collapse disrorder is wiping out the worlds bee industry and with it a huge amount of our food crops. These bee’s have just been domesticated and are unaffected by CCD. They produce small amounts of honey but do a great job pollinating your garden plots. To obtain a hive go to

Our chickens and ducks produce eggs for our table and fertiliser for the future garden. They also kill backyard pests as they fossick around the yard free range. The rabbits are not as productive but they have taught the kids a lot about caring for animals and the life cycle – even a bit of sex education thrown in for free!!

The next step is to now turn all usable area’s into garden beds and produce fruit, herbs, flowers and vegetables, all watered by rainwater tanks.

We have been able to involve the kids in the area in these projects and our neighbours have helped out in building pens etc, and we have been able to bless them with bee hives, honey and eggs.

Other things that we have done and will continue to do is to go fishing and hunting to gather food. One feral deer that we shot was equivalent to three months worth of food in the freezer. It was top quality meat and removed an introduced species from the ecosystem. We had so much meat we were giving it away. And every time we have been spearfishing someone has brought home dinner in a way that is sustainable for the fish stocks.

Giving in non-financial ways
One the best ways I have found we can be generous is with our time.
In the ten hours a week I gave to Rugby League as coach and Chaplain I made a decision: I could have earnt an additional $300.00 per week in that time but there was a more pressing need – just as a Church needs unpaid volunteers, so do community clubs. So I made the decision that investing in the future of those young people and the club was the best thing I could do with that time, and if I included my kids in the process it wouldn’t take me away from them.
Also, if Church leaders are going to ask people to give of their time unpaid to help run Churches, then we need to firstly lead by example in this area.

Kel does the same with play group and school reading.

So instead of earning an extra $600.00-$1,000.00 a week we have chosen to volunteer that time to see changes in the community that can never be measured in monetary ways – just like the thousands of volunteers in clubs and groups all over the world. But we need more people to forsake monetary gain to chase the consumer train to see more of this amazing opportunity for mentoring to happen in the world.

In summary!!
I have been changed by the thought that the Kingdom of God is different to the way the world currently operates. If God’s reign looks like restoration between us and God (through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection) us and each other (Love thy neighbour), with ourselves (being authentic with the things we need to change in our lives) and and the world around us (the earth, the oceans, the skies, animals – the planet we live on) then part of that restoration starts with having a giving attitude and then incrementally stepping away from the consumerism and ‘me first’ ways of society and stepping into a way of living that is highly dependent on God’s provision (which we see every day in nature, but we need to do our bit to ensure it’s safety and sustainability) and isn’t selfish but is communally based, where just like in the Book of Acts in the Bible “They shared everything they had so that none went without”.

Is it possible? Our journey so far says it is if you get a vision for it and work at it. It’s challenging, but very rewarding.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010



The air smells like old hot dogs,
And grass that should be green is dirt bare on the hill,
As little would be Hayne’s, and Gallen’s
Scuffle in games of five on five in front of the jumping castle.

Beers bounce in groups of four,
As the pre game entertainment begins,
No-one watches the cheerleaders until the pink pigs begin to fly,
And no-one notices the afternoon sun fading as the gladiators take to the field.

A chill blows in and dark clouds gather,
But this is more than self preservation for the jumperless,
The raincoatless hordes who have one eye on the field and one on the screen,
And not even cold wedges can distract the kids from the kickoff.

And as the first drops of rain hit,
The fullback takes the bomb,
the opposing colours move in like a Tsunami,
intent of sweeping all before it back into the ocean.

For forty minutes they strive valiantly,
Like an arm wrestle between Titans,
The confidence that the current placing on the League ladder will guarantee victory,
Means nothing to the hungry who are about to beat West’s record for failure.

The blue and gold meet the black white and blue,
But Jarryd doesn’t feel like a superstar,
He just feels like a kid who wants to be somewhere else,
And Ricky is waving his hands wildly from the window.

And the unknown winger does it once,
And he does it for the pride of the Shire
And the unknown winger does it again.
And his place in the team is safe…for now.

For some this is not sport, it is life.
And for some this is not life, it is more than that,
And God looks down from Heaven and says,
I created you in my image….please remember me.

And Jarryd looks down at his yellow Nike’s,
And Paul raises his fists in the air,
The people of the Shire rejoice, could it be…
That the tide is turning for us this year.

The buses headed for Parramatta are full of the mourning,
And the merchandise man shuts his van door,
He counts his money while the sons of the Shire
Sing ‘up, up, Cronulla’.

Because this is more than a sport for some people,
And this is more than life for some,
But God holds them in His hands and whispers
“Remember me, remember me”.

The Policewoman wears a poncho,
As the soaked masses storm Captain Cook Drive,
The thrill is replaced by chill,
And all we can think of is a hot shower.

Down in the Park on Gunnamatta Bay,
Is a man who can’t afford a hot dog,
He went for the Sharks once,
But now he’d swap a thousand grand finals for a shelter with walls.

And in the mall a girl is vomiting,
Her parents think she is at the footy,
While her boyfriend puts his hand on her back
And wonders if he should dump her for her best friend.

In the streets the crowd still sings “up, up Cronulla”
But it’s a microcosm of the Shire,
Once the spectacle is over,
It’s back to the mundane and the veneer of life until the next carnival.

And down in the park on Gunnamatta Bay,
Where the lights of yachts and waterfronts glisten like dancing faeries on the water.
The rain blows coldly into the pavilion,
A cold night full of cold people,
And this is Gods country.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's not the end of the story

About two weeks ago I preached on Good Friday that the cross wasn't the end of the story. It would have looked like it to the people at the foot of it 2,000 years ago. In the musical 'Jesus Christ Superstar' the crucifixion happened, then everyone got on a bus and left.

But as we all know, the tomb is empty. It wasn't the end of the story.

It made me look at so many times in my life when I thought "This is the end of my story.

Whether it was being chased by two red belly black snakes when I was six, attacked by a brown snake at ten, stung by a piece of box jellyfish at fourteen, nearly being shot by my brother at fifteen, finding Dad dead at fifteen, being bitten by a redback at nineteen, having a nervous breakdown at twenty four, Elouise nearly dying at twenty eight, being hounded by a Bullshark in the surf at twenty nine, or getting a $300,000.00 tax bill at thirty seven - it seemed like the end so many times.

But it wasn't. Every one of those were the chance at perspective on a new beginning.
My cup isn't half empty - it's half full.
In fact, in Psalm 23, it refers to the cup running over.

And that's what I've learnt. No matter what I go through - God is good.
No matter what I endure - I am always better for it afterwards.

Those things are nothing - I am sure I will face a zillion challenges, setbacks, failures for the rest of my life. I have four kids for goodness sakes.

But like it says in the Angry Anderson song 'Bound For Glory' the best is yet to come. Each challenge is not the end. It's an opportunity for God to show what He is best at. Jesus promises that all who follow Him are bound for glory.

Our failures and the disasters that befall us are not the end of the story.

They are a chance for God to paint over the old canvas and start a new masterpiece.
In conjunction with our free will. With our hand on the brush. We get to choose the colours and whether it's a landscape or some abstract work.

I'm excited about that. Will you choose to see the cup as half full or half empty.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Peter Pan syndrome or just being as old as you feel?

I am often confronted by the fact that I am in my late thirties now. (All the over 40's pull out a violin - now).

And it doesn't help that 2010 is the year of 'Growing Up' at Kingsway and a great reminder to....well, grow up.

The back is sorer, the ligaments tear more easily and any sport you want to register for is in the masters area or just under. I have started saying things like "well 20 years ago, when I was in year 12" to twentysomethings. I wear white joggers with jeans, which I swore I would never do. All my surfboards are a foot longer and an inch thicker than they were 15 years ago.

So with the reality of those facts setting in, why did I choose this month to do up a BMX bike -no, not for my kids - for myself.

"Aaaaargggh" groaned Kel "You're not going to be one of those guys who rides around on a bmx with thongs and a VB carton on your shoulder are you"?.

Well no. Actually that is not the plan at all. But that is the 'perception' of a 37 year old riding a bmx bike around Cronulla.

A friend of mine, who is 60 going on 20, told me that "You need to do new things all the time if you are going to stay young". His latest hobby at the time was Gliding.

And that's all I needed to hear. But a question troubled me.

I guess the question is 'what makes us a man'.

To understand that I needed to do a list of boy vs man attributes and rate myself.

Boy takes Man gives
Boy is impulsive. Man gives consideration.
Boy puts self first. Man puts others first.
Boy is defensive Man is able to process criticism.
Boy is forgetful. Man is reliable.
Boy seeks pleasure. Man seeks intimacy.
Boy is lustful. Man is loving.
Boy fails to plan. Man does not plan to fail.
Boy is learning Man has learnt from mistakes.
from mistakes.
Boy is vengeful Man is forgiving.
Boy rides BMX Man lives youth vicariously through BMX.

So I did the self rating, gave myself an F, but at least I was being honest and realised I have a lot to work on in my journey to the fullness of manhood.
I don't want to live like Peter Pan, never growing up. But I still like a good stoush with the Pirates every now and then just to feel young and able.

I know when I pick up the Diamond Back tomorrow that even though my thoughts will be childish and I will see myself doing impossible things on it, the man in me will awaken during the first wheelie, as the sciatica kicks in, the ankle aches, and Kelly looks at me like I am the local ne'er do well. But my kids will yell out "Go Dad" and our generation gap will close that little bit.

There is a way to balance being a man and living a grown up life, with the exhuberance of youth. I am trying to navigate it with wisdom. If you ever work it out, let me know :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Children of the 80’s

There are years that define your life for ever.
They are a time where you can still taste, smell, hear and feel events, products and activities like it was yesterday.

For my generation that were born from 1970-1975 that was the early to mid eighties.

If for me the 70’s were the age of innocence, the 90’s the era of decadence and the 00’s the era of transformation then the 80’s were the years of awe and wonder, of the unencumbered freedom of being old enough to enjoy every day and young enough to not be tied to the responsibilities of the future.

Those were the years of trying to master a rubix cube, reading Mad Magazine, and making Airfix models. For Christmas you got Masters of the Universe or the latest action figures from Return of the Jedi. We had Footy Cards and the Coca Cola Yo-Yo craze to keep us busy at recess and lunch. Can you still do walk the dog?

We learned to breakdance, we watched BMX Bandits, ET, Ghostbusters, Gremlins and Back to the Future at the movies and we listened to the sounds of the Rocksteady Crew, Irene Cara, Duran Duran on vinyl. Everyone listened to Triple M. Everyone had Star Wars and Jaws on Video which we recorded off the TV. And everyone forgot to not tape the ads. When you got older you wanted to watch Puberty Blues when your parents weren’t home because your older cousins were always talking about it.
When you got home from school there were always re-runs of Gilligans Island and the Brady Bunch on. At night we couldn’t wait for Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica to come on.

The elite among us rode Haro’s, Diamond Backs and Mongoose BMX’s while the rest of us made do with Hanimex Spiders or Malvern Stars. You were even cooler if your bike had ‘Tuffs’. A defining moment was when you transitioned from a Reflex to an OZE skate board or from a Morey Boogie board to an Emerald Huzza Wuzza grommet board.
Kids out west got Honda Z-50’s and XR80’s to blast around the bush in, before the National Parks service gated everything off.

Our brains froze from Green Gremlin Slurpies from 7-11, McDonalds did a Mocha and Choc-mint Sundae and Thickshake, and if you could say ‘two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese in a sesame seed bun’ in under ten seconds you got a free Coke.

Reagan threatened the USSR and vice versa and in ’84 the reality of nuclear war was heightened by movies like ‘The Day After’. They were times of freedom juxtaposed with anxiety of the future which at times seemed certain to hang under a series of mushroom clouds.

We wore Crystal Cylinders and Billabong and Quiksilver were new brands and you wore your shorts really tight and high like Tom Carroll.

It was still a time when people went to Sunday School and we wondered who ‘Poor Ramsey’ was when we took up an offering at Cronulla Baps while we were on holidays (it was actually ‘Poor and Famished’).

Now the children of the eighties have kids in high school and primary school who are having their own defining moments.

I hope our kids get to enjoy the freedom and great memories we did, but my dream is that they will go onto change the world in ways we never dreamed of. If Gods plan is to restore the relationships between people and Him, us and ourselves, us and others, and us and the world around us, I hope that their freedom and joy is tempered with an understanding that there is a much bigger picture at play here. The world is on the edge of something and like the mushroom clouds that loomed in ’84, they have an anxious future ahead of them. But if we could help them see the bigger picture and the hope that exists in the midst of all the gloom, they will one day write of their world changing deeds and a letter of encouragement and hope to the next generation, whilst sharing memories of Ipod touches, Face Book, Avatar, Razor Scooters, Healthy McDonalds meals, The Black Eyed Peas, Muse, You Tube and all the others things that defined the first two decades of the new Millenium. And you and I? We’ll be holding the grandkids saying ‘back in my day…..”.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Why we need sports Chaplains?

Australia is a country that is defined worldwide by two things: Tourism and sports.
As much as we'd like it to be known as "The Great South Land of the Holy Spirit" (Austrialis del Espiritu Santo)only a handful of people recognise Pedro Fernandez De Quiros' quote or recognise the implications of it.

We are an island that has has been blessed by incredible beauty and sporting tenacity. As such people go to worship either in nature or at the sport. That's why 6.4 million Australians (18 million if you include their families) participate in sport every week in the land down under. Compare that to 1.5 million people who attend Church every week and that is based on an NCLS that is 8 years old (Christian affiliation as opposed to Church attendance is about 12 million).

So if we are serious about the good news and being the feet that carry it, what better place to start than Sports Chaplaincy.

And this is why.

In NSW alone, two sporting clubs HAVE ASKED FOR 500 chaplains.
AFL and Pony Clubs.

Motorsports Chaplain Gary Coleman says he cannot meet the demand for chaplains in Motocross, Supercars, Sprint Cars, Carts and all other forms of racing.

Can't meet the demand.

And yet we create strategies in Churches based on people walking in the door.

The prayers of the SCA (Sports Chaplaincy Australia) and many others for the last 25 years are being answered. The sports are crying out for Christian men and women to come and bring hope and healing where it is needed most - where the people really are.

Three sports have been mentioned and they need between 500 and 600 Chaplains. There are at least another 50 sports that will eventually have the same need.

NSW alone.

I posted this as a call to action. Pray. See if you are called to be a Chaplain. You won't get paid. You can't ask for merchandise. It's a sacrifice. You'll have to go to practice, to the game, to critical incidents. But if you know those people aren't going to walk into a Church and you can make a difference, why not join our Chaplaincy Hub on Face Book and we can help you in your journey toward this calling.