I have a regular practice of saying to my sons that I love them, like them and am proud of them. During our recent holiday adventure, I faced my son and held him on his shoulders. I looked intently into his eyes and said, “John, I want you to know that I like you, that I love you and that I am very proud of you.” I continued, “John, I also want you to know that I like being your dad, that I love being your dad and that I am proud to be your dad!” At one time he looked away from me. I stopped what I was doing. We made eye contact once again and I said, “John, this is important. Don’t look away. I want you to receive this blessing!” and with that, I continued to bless my son and speak life into his being finished with giving him a huge bear hug.
My nephew who came along with us, he jumped out of his chair asking, “Uncle Craig, will you do what you did to John, to me?” So I took my nephew by his shoulders, looked him in his eyes and said to him, “I want you to know that as your uncle, I love you very much, I like you very much and I am very proud of you. Not only that, I want you to know that I like being your uncle, I love being your uncle and I am proud to be your uncle.” I also want you to know that God likes you, that God loves you and that God is proud to be your God. As I was blessing him, I felt my hands go red hot. I could feel the power of the Holy Spirit flowing into the depths of his soul. And he pressed into me, giving me this almighty bear hug.
It grieves me to the core when I see fathers, mothers, and those in authority speaking death into the lives of those they are called to love and build up. Why is is that in our culture its so easy to speak destruction to those around us. I see a generational curse at work in this regard. Parents have never had life spoken into them. Their parents had no life spoken into them. And so the trend continues from generation to generation. I have been reading and pondering the chapter of Isaiah 61. This chapter begins with perhaps one of the best known passages of Scripture, the one where Jesus begins his ministry. stating that the spirit of the Lord is upon him.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
When we continue reading this passage, we see that those Jesus ministers to will be called “Oaks of Righteousness.” We read that these Oaks of Righteousness are called by God to rebuild the ancient ruins. Restore the places long devastated. And that they will renew the cities long devastated for generations. Our cities, our communities, our families are devastated and ruined by the destructiveness of words that have been said and not said. As for me – I want to be one who helps build up and restore life. I want to be a man who will proclaim good news. I want to be a man who binds up the brokenhearted. To set free those bound by the binds of poor choices and sinfulness. And in doing so – partner with God, as he releases his people to bring restoration and renewal of our nations, cities, communities and families into the ways of God.
After a year of planning, we set of at 6am on the 23rd of June for our 3 week outback adventure. We planned to go to Uluru (Ayers Rock) via Broken Hill, through to Port Augusta, up through Coober Pedy and via the Painted Desert and the Oodnadatta Track, back to Broken Hill / Silverton and back into Sydney via Cobar once again. We planned to visit a number of Aussie icons; places like Ayers Rock, The Olgas, Williams Creek, Lake Eyre – all locations I have wanted to visit since I was a young boy. I packed my Bible and a couple of other books into my kit to read and some paint and brushes to do some painting. I have to confess that I hardly did any reading at all during my time away – and I only opened my Bible on a few occasions for personal devotion time.
However, a favourite verse says that all of creation speaks of the glory of God and over the last 17 days numerous scripture verses and stories came and filled my thoughts and my minds. Most nights at the campfire we held a time of devotion with my son and nephew as we read through a Children’s devotional book. In the outback the sky is so clear, it seemed as if we only had to lift our hands up to the sky and touch the stars. The Milky Way looked milky. The sunsets were like the horizon was on fire. The sun rises were a sight to behold. Every night I saw shooting stars. I was awestruck by the desolation and isolation of the desert. And I felt the gentle blowing of the Holy Spirit begin to fill a deep void in my soul once again as I was reminded of the psalmists who say that God created and placed every star in the sky.
There were a number of breathtaking moments. The first time Ayers Rock came into view, I had to stop and take a deep breath. I knew it was big. I knew it was a big rock. I knew it was a huge rock. But; I had no idea just how big that rock was till I saw it looming in the distance. While stopping to take some photos, the verses of the song, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand…” came to my lips and I quietly stood there worshiping God. And I felt the Spirit of the Lord whispering deep into my soul how the majesty and greatness of Ayers Rock paled in comparison to solidness and majesty of Christ. We explored the Olga’s and the Rock and I was amazed at the hugeness of them all. Tourists are asked not to climb the rock in respect for the indigenous people who traditionally live in the area – though they can if they desire. I had already made the decision not to climb it – and that decision was confirmed when I read the following quip at the cultural center – “The goal for coming to the Rock shouldn’t be to climb the rock – rather the goal should be to understand the rock!”
Our return trip took us through the Painted Desert which was truly breath taking. The roads we traveled took us through pastoral stations, which were all a minimum of 1.2 million acres. I was amazed to see a number of cows that looked well fed during our travels through the desert. In many ways I liked the Painted Desert much more than I did Uluru.
We travelled 200kms through this rugged country, till arriving at our lunch time destination. The Pink Road House at Oodnadatta and another 50km of travel to our camping spot at Algrebruka Bridge / Waterhole.
My thoughts and prayers are for Dave Black’s daughter and her family. Sadly, her baby died in the womb a few days before it was due to be born. A sad time indeed.
Dave has also written (again) about how God hasn’t called one person to pastor a church; instead there are a plurality of elders in the church called to look after it. This is something that I totally agree with. But, I also think that the pastoral call call isn’t to just pastor the church. When we read about the ministry of Jesus, he went out into the community and pastored the community as well as looking after his followers. He trained his followers to Go Out and pastor the community. He called his followers to Go Out and heal the sick. Go Out and feed the hungry. Go Out and cast out demons. Go Out and clothe the naked. Go Out and visit the shut in. We see the father in the story of the Prodigal Son where the father would Go Out and look down the road for his son. We read the parables where the shepherd Went Out to find his lost sheep. And we read how Jesus in the resurrection went Out of the tomb and told us to Go Out into all the world.
I’m feeling a bit sore today. I jammed my thumb in the tailgate of the camper trailer. I have a nice bruise / blood blister forming under the nail. Tomorrow we head out early for our Central Australia trip. First night will be Cobar. Followed by a couple of nights at Silverton. From there we will take a few days getting to Uluru and come back via the Oodnadatta Track before coming home. Mark Stevens I will give you a wave as I go past Adelaide towards Port Augusta. Internet access will be sporadic – but, hope to post some pics along the way.
May you grow deeper in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and grow in his grace.
It was nearly 12pm, Sunday the 8th of May 1994, when we received the phone call. That day was special on many levels: It was mother’s day. It was also the last day I was to see my father alive ever again. Dad was dying from an aggressive form of leukaemia. He had only a few short weeks before, come out of hospital recovering from a prostate cancer operation, which he had been told was successful. Only to be given the prognosis a week or two later he had an aggressive form of leukaemia. My dad was a hard man. He was old school. He taught us that men don’t cry. He wasn’t harsh in an abusive way – though if we mucked up, he would only have to start to unbuckle his belt and we knew we had better stop, or cop his strap over our bare butt.
Dad’s relationship with his father (my grandfather) was strained. They lived on a large sheep property in Wingello, south of Sydney. His mother died when he was only 14 or so, and he was shipped off to live with an uncle and aunty. In those days, it wasn’t considered right for a single father to look after his children and so tradition and culture dictated that he go and live with his aunt and uncle in Sydney. Sadly for him, within 12 months they both passed away and he found himself homeless with nowhere to go. A friend took him home to his place, introduced him to his mum and said he has nowhere to live – and his friends mum promptly told him, yes he does, and took him in as one of her own there on the spot.
There is a saying that you can take the boy out of the bush – but you can’t take the bush out of the boy – and dad was a classic example of this. He had been taught to hunt, fish, and butcher animals at an early age, which was a normal part of rural life. When he was seven, he was given his first rifle and was expected to bring a rabbit or a hare home for the pot. Dad longed for the rural life and ran away a number of times from those caring for him, only to be found hiding out in the back of the family property; and was brought back kicking and screaming that he would return once again.
Dad had three other interests. They were cycling, boxing and dancing. And he was very good at all three. His wardrobe was full of ribbons he had won from dancing on local, state and even Australia levels – my aunt says he could have gone onto representing Australia on an international level; only he met a girl, who for a variety of reasons didn’t like him dancing and he stopped. The relationship turned sour a few years later and they both went their separate ways. Eventually dad took on an apprenticeship as a photo engraver and became a skilled tradesman. He worked for one of the major Sydney newspapers, where they would engrave on copper sheets the pictures that the papers would eventually print with their stories. Most of those engravings were destroyed, the copper recycled and reused over and over again. However Dad kept some of them, and I have 2 of them hanging above my desk. My aunty also has a couple of others that he did. Sometime later, he met my mum, they were to marry and have three sons, and with yours truly being the oldest. When his second son was born – because of the difficulties of night shift and the ever increasing change of technology in the printing industry, dad could see the writing on the wall that photo engraving was a dying art – he changed careers and became a horticulturist, where he was to eventually own his own nursery and indoor plant hire business. He was to become the first plant hire business to put live plants into a MacDonald’s store in Australia. He must have been doing something right, because within 6 months, he was asked to put plants into all the stores in the Campbelltown, Wollongong and South Coast region.
We had a family tradition of always going down to my grandfather’s farm every school holidays in May. By this time, pop had sold his previous farm and bought another one further south, at a location called Oallen. There we were taught to shoot, hunt, fish, and bush craft. Though when I turned 7, my dad said to mum, “How blinking stupid was his dad giving him a rifle at the age of 7.” And I had to wait till I was 14 before getting my first air rifle. Pop’s property also had a number of old gold mines scattered around it. Most were deep pits that we dug into the ground and we never refilled. You could see the mounds of dirt around them, often filled and covered with gum tree leaves, with a gum tree growing out of them. We were always taught never to walk over them, as it could have been easy to fall through the litter and never be found again. The Chinese were smart cookies – they discovered a spring on top of a hill, dammed it, and built a water race from the top of the hill to the creek bed at the bottom. The race was at least a kilometre in length and much of the walls were still in existence when I was last there. Sadly, pop sold the property. After his death I was to find out he had spoken to my aunt, asking her if he thought that her son and I might have like to have it ourselves. She told him no – without asking either of us – as she was protecting her son’s advancing military career. Years later I was talking to my cousin about this and he was still spitting chips, saying he would have loved to have taken it on – which echoed my own sentiments.
Fast forward to years later, dad had told us all about his prognosis. He point blank refused to have chemo. He had worked with poisons most of his life, and wasn’t going to put that stuff in his body. Plus he was told it only had minimal chances of healing him of this disease. I was 26 years old, and I was standing in the kitchen talking to dad. By this time he had become a born again Christian and he had remarkably changed. In the kitchen he dropped a bombshell, saying to me, “Craig, I regret never putting my arm around your shoulder, telling you how much I love you!” I was 26 years old. And for the first time in 26 years I was hearing my dad tell me he loved me. I couldn’t handle it. I was already struggling with the emotions of dad’s impending death and didn’t know how to handle them. Many more emotions were forcing their way up from deep within and I said to Dad, “That’s ok dad, we have more important things to talk about!” The truth was, we didn’t have more important things to talk about. Nothing could be more important than that conversation which I was not able to have.
Dad was eventually moved into palliative care at the hospital, and I visited him on Mother’s Day, to find him alone in a room with no food or water. The hospital water tasted foul. I likened it to dam water that cattle had stood in. So I made the hour round trip from Camden Hospital back home to pick up a jug of water and bring it to him. Though our house had been connected to town water, it was the sweetest town water I had ever tasted, and still believe that is the case today. I think it had something to do with the new main water pipes which had only been laid a few years before. Dad took some sips and then told me it was time for me to go. Reluctantly I left, and went home, numbed, not sure when I would see dad again. That night at 11:45pm, we received a call to come to hospital and give dad our last respects. When we arrived, had had already gone.
Dad had brought us up that men don’t cry. I didn’t know how cry. A huge part of me wanted to; but, I buried the pain, deeper and deeper and tried to ignore it. My brothers, uncles and I were his pall bearers and I don’t know how I carried his coffin out of the church. At the grave side, I wanted to throw myself down on the coffin and scream my guts out; but, the upbringing I had about men not crying forced me to show the stiff upper lip. That night at home during the wake, I cracked jokes. It was my only way of handling the grief and pain. And in my joking I stopped others from grieving also. A friend’s dad was a few weeks later to tell me, “Craig, you need to go out down the back paddock and throw yourself down and have a royal paddy.” But, the reality was, I couldn’t. Eventually the grief ate away at me, and while doing night shift as a security guard, I was playing with the gun and shot myself in the leg. Even shooting myself in the leg didn’t make me cry. A good friend was to tell the story many times about how when he visited me in hospital, I asked the nurse if I would be able to play cricket. (I was hopeless when it came to anything that had to do with a bat, ball and running) She told me, “Yes Craig, you will be able to play cricket!” She looked like she wanted to belt me one, when I replied, “You beauty, I have never been able to play cricket before; amazing what a bullet in the leg will do for you!” Shortly after I was released from hospital, I was sitting out the front of a local pub, when a visiting hoon decided he didn’t like me, and wanted to belt the daylights out of me. I quietly said to him; “Mate, you don’t want to get me riled up. Please don’t get me riled up. I am going to court soon, for shooting someone. A lot of peeps think I am nuts.” He scoffed at me and I said to him, “If you don’t believe me, go and ask the bar maid.” He went inside and I never saw him again. Later the barmaid told me, he came up to her, pointing to me, saying that wanker out there reckons he is going to court soon for shooting someone. “She said, “He is right, he did shoot someone, he shot him in the leg, and the poor bloke is only just out of hospital!” She then said, he turned a real funny colour and walked out the side door really quick.
I carried the pain of grief for four years. I tried to numb the pain with drinking; it didn’t work. I tried to keep my life busy and it didn’t work. I became a travelling insurance salesman. And towards the end of 1996, I was staying at a pub at Gunning where I picked up a bible from the chest of drawers and started reading it. I read that bible for the next 2 days. I couldn’t put it down. I read how God sent his son Jesus to a world that was broken by sin. How Jesus healed the sick. Cast demons out of those afflicted by demons. How he fed the hungry. How he cared for the down and out. And I started to pray, and ask God if all this was real. I soon quit that job and on the 9th of March, 1997 found myself pinned to a church pew for a number of hours, where God revealed the truth of who he was to me. He became real to me. I knew my sins were forgiven. In that moment, I became a changed man. I became changed to the point where the thirst for alcohol was gone. I also could no longer look at pornography. Though I had some other addictions to battle, they being masturbation and gambling.
A few months later I was at a church camp, where some people offered to pray for me. We were standing up after the service and they laid hands on my shoulder and head and started to ask God to bless me. I heard God speak to me, telling me, “Craig, it was time to cry!” Emotions started to bubble up from me, and I shunted them back down, saying, “No way, I am not crying!” A second time, God spoke to me, in this most gentle and beautiful voice, “Craig, it’s time to cry!” At this I took a boxing stance, I held my fists up as if I was going to fight God, and told him I wasn’t going to cry. A third time he gently told me, “Craig, it’s time to cry, and cry you will!” With those words, two big arms came out of the air and gave me this huge gentle and fatherly hug. It broke me. Tears started welling up in my eyes. Pain started to bubble up. I couldn’t stop it. And so I ran out of that room, into my dorm and collapsed on the floor balling my eyes out. The buried pain ripped out of me. It ripped from deep within and I screamed. I cried. I balled. And the immense deep river of pain continued to pour out of me for the next 4 to 6 hours. Then it stopped.
I stopped crying. But, a soft laughter started to well up with in me. I started to laugh. And before I knew it, I was rolling around my room laughing. I couldn’t stop. It was as if an invisible person was sitting on me tickling me. And I laughed for the next 4 hours. I couldn’t stop. I was filled with a tremendous sense of joy. I finally fell asleep and woke up radically changed. 2 nights later I was sharing my testimony when people started to cry. God started working that night in the lives of others who were carrying deep and buried grief. People were being prayed for, and the next night, we heard many other testimonies of where God brought healing through forgiveness, reconciliation and the healing of other deeply buried grief.
But, despite my being radically changed, I still battled a chronic gambling and masturbation addiction. A few weeks later I cried out to God to deliver me from these addictions. I had no control over them. The next day at church our minister said if anyone wanted to come forward for prayer, to come forward after the service. I did, and he told those who came forward, “Don’t tell me what you want, tell God, what you want!” I quietly told God, God, I need you to deliver me from these addictions, I can’t do it on my own.” The minister laid hands on me, asking God to bless me and to answer my prayers. I was thrown backwards onto the floor. Voices in my head told me to get up off the floor and go out the church with them, as they had to go!” I knew they were demons, and I said, “You have to go, I don’t want you in me, I am not going with you, go!” With this, three demonic figures rose up out of my body, and walked out the church. I laid there for a few more minutes, with a deep sense of peace coming over me. This sense of peace filled me, flowed through me and covered me. And I got off the floor, totally unharmed. And from that moment, I was free from the demonic grip of gambling and the fantasy of masturbation.
This happened in 1997 and till this day, I have been free from the addiction of gambling, pornography and alcoholism. And though I was to experience a near soul destroying journey of life 10 years later, which is a story for another time, the truth is, God became real to me. His forgiveness of my sin became real. His presence in my life became real. His healing hand on my life became real. His power to deliver me from the demonic became real. And in the process I was to begin the journey of what it truly means to become a real man.
Perhaps something in my testimony has touched your heart also. If so I would like to pray with you. Father God, I pray for those who are carrying grief, pain and shame. I ask that you will reveal yourself to them. Show them how much you love them. Fill them with your Holy Spirit. Deliver them from the evil one. Cause them to cry out to you. Cause them to know your deep love, your real forgiveness. Help them to forgive others. To forgive themselves. To forgive circumstances of life which have embittered them. Bring blessings, freedom and reconciliation I pray, in Jesus name.
I haven’t been blogging much lately – in fact the busyness of life has meant I haven’t been on social media as much as I normally have done in the past. In 8 days time, we set out for a near 3 week tour of central Australia. We will hit the road with our camper trailer and get lost in the Australian outback. As far back as I remember I have always wanted to visit Uluru (Ayers Rock), Lake Eyre, and travel along the Oodnadatta Track. This particular trip has been in the pipeline for the last 18 months. It’s progressed from tossing ideas around about doing it, through it becoming a reality.
I take my hat off to my wife. She has put up with a constant scattering of mess strewn through the loungeroom, kitchen and backroom over the last 3 – 4 weeks as we started to prepare for our trip. It’s taken a while to work out our food and equipment storage. trying a variety of methods and ideas which ultimately didn’t work out as planned. It’s was only Thursday when it really came together when I had the idea to turn an old gal iron tool box I had on its side and use it as the utility box. Sadly I have had to replace the camp scout box I made as it is too big for what we intend. Basically the sidewise turned toolbox allows me to stack four plastic trunks in the back of the wagon with the tool box jammed between them and the tailgate. When stopping on the side of the road, all we need to do is pull the tailgate down. set up the portable butane stove, put the kettle on, prop up the lid of the box, which allows quick access to our crockery and choice of hot beverage.
We don’t have a car fridge / freezer, though one day we would perhaps like to get one – but for now, we have used ice and coolers with great success. This trip we are going to experiment with dry ice. After talking with our supplier, we have decided on a 2kg block to go into the normal esky (cooler) and an 8 kg block to go into a 55 litre foam box, that they will supply. We don’t expect the dry ice in the normal esky to last more than 2 -3 days. But, it will keep the salt water filled milk bottle I freeze and throw into the esky with the ice we put in there frozen for those 2 -3 days. This means in our everyday cooler, we won’t have to replace the ice in it for at least 5 days and we can keep the pre made ready meals we have made for those 5 days in that cooler.
In the other freezer one, we will place our cryo vacuum packaged meat, frozen vege, bread, and other frozen food stuff, including another frozen bottle of salt water. In this box, I have an aluminium foil sunshade which I am going to use to line the box. As well I have some bean bag pellets which I will use to fill in the spaces between the food and the lined walls of the box. (Though, I only intend to 1/2 fill the box with these beans, as we don’t want them going all over the countryside.) On top of this, I will fold the foil shade over it, which we believe will allow the dry ice to last up to 12 days, perhaps even longer. The box gets taped shut and will be opened on the 5th day, perhaps the 6th to replenish the other cooler with the food we need for the next 4 – 5 days. Though the dry ice would have dissolved by the end of 12 days, the way we have packed it, will allow the frozen meat thats left to remain frozen till we need to use it.
A few weeks ago we bought a thermo cooker from Aldi. I am so impressed with it. The idea behind it is that we start cooking a stew / soup in the main pot in the morning for around 15 minutes, then in the second pot prepare some rice / lentils. Put them both into the thermos and place it into the insulated carry bag, and over the next 6 – 8 hours, the residual heat of the food will cook the food through for you – and when you arrive at your destination – you have a hot meal ready for eating. I have experimented with it a few times and it works well. Today I made a german bread in it. While it doesn’t make the bread crusty, it makes a real nice moist bread which will go well with a stew or soup – or even toasted. I have a few recipes to make a variety of cakes and puddings in it – though, I do like my dutch ovens on the fire for that sort of thing.
Actually it makes sense to use it more at home also. Instead of having to have the stove, slow cooker or oven on for a few hours to most of the day (chewing up power) We only need to use the stove for 15 minutes to get everything hot and simmering, before turning it off again. And at the end of the day, depending on the food temp, we may have to turn the stove on again to heat it up to right temp for another 10 mins. ( This just makes sure any bugs are killed if the temp dropped too low…. say 12 hours after you started it)
Finally I would like to conclude this post with some thoughts on manhood.
A leading Australian researcher did some serious research in Canada and Australia and found that the majority of men between the ages of 18 and 40 were not comfortable in calling themselves men. Nor could they pinpoint a time in their life when they became a man.
I remember a local teenager calling me Mr Bennett when I was 36. I looked around to find my dad – before realising he meant me. Since that encounter I have become firmly convinced that for men to be successful there are three key parts to achieving it.
1) Know yourself – but know that you can’t make it on your own.
2) Know others – allow others into your life.
3) Know God – because through knowing God, he will satisfy the deep insatiable gnawing of our inadequacies – He will instill purpose and sustain hope in our lives.
And so I pray, may the lord and creator of all that is seen and unseen, fill you with the revelation and power of his Spirit, so that you will know him and his ways better. May he heal your hurts, the traumas of the past. May you truly know peace, contentment and not only will you know the Lord can truly satisfy and replace those deep inadequacies – but he will replace them, with the true knowledge, that you can do all things through him who strengthens you.
F.B Meyer said that the greatest tragedy of life isn’t that prayer goes unanswered. Rather, it was never offered in the first place.
One of the major themes throughout Scripture is that God is the God who dwells amongst us. He dwells over, through and within us. He is a relational God and we are made in his image for relationship – both with him and with each other. One of the earliest if not the first mention of idolatry in the OT is found in the story of the tower of Babel. Up until this time, Scripture spoke about God and how he came and walked with them. But here we read how society had lost the sense of being in relationship with the God who dwells amongst them. They were building a tower to reach up to God by their own efforts. Idolatry always takes us away from a relational God. And so God scattered them.
Fast forward to the day of Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Here we see the completed fulfilment of the promise from God that he would indeed come and dwell permanently amongst us. This promise was for all who believe, including generations and nations who were far off. The promise that God would dwell amongst us is a continual promise and its one for us today to take hold of and accept. While many denominations celebrate Pentecost Sunday this weekend; let us not forget, that for us who believe, every day is Pentecost. For every day, we walk in relationship with the God who comes and dwells amongst us.