Thursday, 29 August 2013

Small Change

With everything going down in our world at the moment, it can be easy to get stuck thinking "what the heck can I do about it?????" 

I watched this video this morning and it reminded me that all things have humble beginnings. One small act today could change a life. The decisions you make right now impact upon the future of the world.

Friday, 23 August 2013


"I'll show you, you (insert word that I'm probably not allowed to write in this blog here)"

These were the words my step-dad gave to me and my younger brother when we were kids playing basketball. It was a mantra to remember in those games when we felt the ref wasn't calling it fair, our teammates were being losers, or when our coach wasn't giving us a fair go. We'd complain or whinge after the game and our step-dad (who I just found out actually reads this blog - hey Jim!) would just tell us to show them. None of this "try your best and just have fun!" business.

Show them what exactly? Resilience. Never say die attitude. Determination. Basically, what our step-dad was saying was this: if you really care about the game so much, then go all the way. Don't give up just because things aren't going your way!"

Those words came back to me during my basketball game on Wednesday night. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I play for a social team with some mates. It was a brutal game, physical, hard-fought and it went down to the wire. After building a solid lead in the first half, we began to tire and run out of steam and the other team began knocking down three pointers all over us (in layman speak, we were getting our butts handed to us on a platter, and they were doing it with style). By the end of the third quarter, the other team was up by eight points.

I thought it was game over. Even though there was still the final ten minute quarter left to play, the other team had the momentum and we were run ragged. My legs tightened up and it felt as if my feet were glued to the floor. I looked at my teammates, I looked at the opposing team, I saw their star player grinning like a Cheshire cat. I'll show you...

Something special transpired over the next ten minutes. It was as if the whole team thought the same thing as me: we're not going down without a fight! Suddenly, concrete legs sprang to life, we were moving with grace and speed, hounding them on defense, outrunning them on offense. An eight point deficit turned into a one point lead. The final buzzer sounded and we looked up at a scoreboard that read 53-53. A draw. Even though we didn't come away with the win, there was still a level of satisfaction with our effort in the fourth quarter.

My point is not about the theatrics and drama of competitive sport; but that the old cliche' of hard work and determination is so true. Sadly, they're qualities that are too easily relegated to sports or competition. After the game I was exhausted, battered and bruised; I pushed myself until that final buzzer (as did all my teammates). But I had to ask myself the question: I'm willing to push myself so hard for a game, do I give everything in my life this sort of effort? 

Admittedly, no. That level of determination doesn't extend to all areas of my life. If I put that sort of effort into my study, my work, my relationships, my faith......These are the hardest battles in my life but how often do I just cruise through them? My relationships and my faith are the most important, most treasured things in my life - should I not be as determined for these as I am a basketball game?

As a young person too often I'm confronted with the messages like "don't care/don't stand out/don't worry". Too often I'm told to just fit in. But why fit in when you were made to stand out? What my step-dad was teaching me as a kid was to care enough about my life to do something with it. Society would say to me "why care so much?" Well, turns out at the end of our game on Wednesday night the scoreboard was wrong. It should have read: 52-51. Guess we showed them.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


I have a basketball game 9 hours. I take a deep breath and shrug my shoulders. It's going to be a long day.

It's 10:02. I'm alone. Our office is empty. The neighboring offices are empty. Every sound echoes like a big, bass drum throbbing inside my skull. There's a light bulb in the ceiling behind me that's blinking. Incessantly.

Mick from Catholic Mission comes over. He asks a work question. He leaves. I'm alone again. With the blinking light.

10:04. Office remains empty. Conspiracy theories run through my head. Am I about to be kidnapped?

10:05 Sunlight streams through the windows and interrupts the bright, white fluorescent lights glaring from above. That's right - there's a world outside.

10:06 Check the mail. Nothing. Check the emails. Nothing. Check the mobile. Nothing. Check the Vocations Facebook. Nothing. Check my Facebook. Farmville request..........REALLY? How come nobody asks the question when I'm in the office?

10:08 Decide its time to stop being a depressed blogger and plan that workshop for the Ignite Conference.

Just for the record, this is not a usual work morning in the Vocations Office. This is an exaggerated account for the purpose of making a point. I promise I'll actually get back to work once I post this! But.........Have you ever had a slow day? If the above account didn't already indicate it clearly, I'm having a slow day. The question I ask myself - and perhaps a question you can ask yourself - if the present is a gift, what's is the gift of now?

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Be a bench-warmer

I thought it was just a high school thing. One of "the boys" goes on a date and the next day the rest of the boys heckle him "so, did you get to first base?" (this phrase is usually accompanied by a cheeky nudge in the ribs). Apparently it's not just a high school thing. One of my "not-so-Catholic" friends, upon hearing I'm in a relationship, whipped out his nudging elbow and with a cheeky grin he asked "so, have you gotten past first base yet?"

For those not familiar, the "four bases" were adapted from the game of baseball to measure how far you've gone in a relationship. In more explicit terms, each base represents a physical interaction, with "home base" being....well, I think you get the idea.

Illustration of a baseball diamond

I don't want to embarrass my girlfriend, so this is the point in the post where I switch to a different story and begin to embellish my point......

I first started playing basketball as a five year old and I remember spending considerable amounts of time sitting on the bench. I was still learning the rules, the fundamentals and the finer intricacies of the game. While I was learning I was relegated to the role of bench-warmer. But sitting on the bench for so long allowed me to spectate, it allowed me to learn from those more experienced than me, it allowed me to grow in my understanding of how things work. Do you see where I'm going here?

When we talk about experience and wisdom we tend to place higher value on action and experience. For me I know that I would rather be a part of the action than to watch and learn first. Part of learning is observing, watching and listening. We don't always have to be in the action to be learning. As I explained to my friend, I'm bench-warming in my relationship so I can get to know my girlfriend before I get to know my girlfriend.

Sometimes you just got to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Sometimes you just got to sit on the bench until the coach (i.e. God) calls you into the game.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

I don't know everything

It's 11:40pm and instead of sleeping like ordinary people do, I'm up looking at uni courses. Why? Because I have a disposition towards being educated enough to be employed....and because I met up with my mentor the other day and he challenged my lackadaisical approach to study.

See, I thought I had life covered. I have an awesome job, I'm staying fit, and I'm surrounded by an awesome group of friends - I was convinced that I was on top of life...but my mentor wasn't sold. He pointed out that a lot of people do all that and study. And by study he meant more than one subject a semester (which is what I'm currently doing).

When I finished school I went straight into full time, voluntary youth ministry - there wasn't much time to study. When I was in the sem I picked up a few theology units, but then when I left I never quite kept the momentum going. This year I finally got motivated enough to go back to school, and fortunately my job allows me the time to do that. But I got a little bit lazy. And maybe even a little bit ignorant of my own potential. I've been doing the bare minimum of what I know I can achieve: taking one unit a semester. Only now when I read those words do I realise how pathetic that actually sounds. I mean, people raise families, work full time and study. What's my excuse? It wasn't until Tuesday afternoon when my mentor asked me if I could handle a few more units as well as work that I realised that actually, I probably could.

My point isn't that we should all study more or study harder (except if you're being as lazy as me - go to school!). My point is that if we don't allow input in our lives from wiser and (dare I say) older people, we can box ourselves in. It's true that my greatest critic is myself. It's also true that I only have myself to blame when I'm playing Xbox instead of studying. Mentoring is key, not only in figuring out one's vocation, but living it out to the full. I mean, the best advice that we can receive is from one who is ahead of us on the road.

I know for me mentoring is an intimidating thing. I was hesitant to seriously seek a mentor and meet with them regularly. I guess for me, I knew mentoring would mean being confronted, being told things I don't want to hear and being challenged out of my comfort zone. In the last few months mentoring has been all those things, but it's also been crucial in me growing up. If I followed my own answers or conclusions....God only knows where I might be right now!

As much as it pains me to admit this: I don't know everything, I don't have the best ideas or plans and I certainly am not the master of life. So I need to seek the advice and wisdom of those around me who have been there and done that. It's 12:02am and I feel just a little bit closer to achieving my hopes and dreams.