Monday, June 10, 2024

7 Questions to Ask Your Dad Before It’s Too Late

I was asked by my eldest daughter to ponder these questions, a set of questions any of us parents or children could answer before it’s too late. We both saw it as a golden opportunity. Our encouragement is for this to pique your own curiosity.

1.     What’s your happiest memory of us?

My happiest memories of my children are the times they laughed with and loved each other, like times in the backyard or at the park when they would run around and play (remember the Monster Game?), or when they imagined living together or close to each other or spending time with each other as adults (and now that’s a reality). Times they just got lost in their own sense of enjoyment with and of each other.

I’m a very fortunate father that I have three adult daughters and one son who is still a child who all deeply love and respect each other, who hurt when a sibling is hurting. This is the father’s wish; that your kids are genuinely sisters and brothers with each other. Another happiest memory is of us pulling together in crisis, and how supported I was when I was devastated by divorce nearly 21 years ago, and how much my children—11, 8, and 5 at the time—got me through those dark early months, and how we re-invented our relationships as father and children.

2.    What were those first few days of fatherhood like?

As three of my four children can attest, being parents now, those first few days in each of my children’s lives were such a polarised mix of the best of joy and amazement combined with dreadful fear that I wouldn’t be enough for the responsibility of fatherhood. It’s that feeling that things have really changed now. And changed in such a significant way that there is no turning back, not that you would want to, but for comfort’s sake sometimes you perhaps would! Those earliest days as a father to my eldest daughter, I just could not believe how this one little baby had won my heart so incredibly and unfathomably.

Time is a funny thing; I can go back to that hospital theatre room and remember like it was yesterday, the birth of my first daughter. There is no drug on the planet (and I have taken a few of them in younger years) that even comes close to the euphoria that I experienced when she was born—(when all my children were born, apart from Nathanael who was stillborn)—when I cut her cord, and when I held her for that first long hour as they were stitching her mother up. All those days are very vivid in my memory still, and I would go back in a flash for a 5-minute sojourn. These memories fill me with the greatest joy.

3.    What have you learned about love and what has it taught you?

The most penetrating lesson I have learned about love is that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. And sometimes you don’t know how important things are until it’s too late.

What I’ve learned is that nothing compares to love; no achievement, no possessions, no approval of others even comes close. Without love life is meaningless, and we know this when we are supposed to experience love and there is a void, because life without love is a void.

Losing my first marriage taught me most about love and prepared me for what I really desperately wanted, and that was to be married again and to make family the absolute centrepiece of my life. Most of all I know this about love: it is a verb. Love is truly about service, about giving, about kindness, and patience, and the fruits of the Spirit.

4.    When was the moment you felt most proud of me?

This is such a hard question because there are so many moments that could qualify for answering this one. I have felt most proud of you when you were the kindest person and I got to witness that kindness as it was received by another person, whether it was a family member or someone else, and particularly when I can see that the kindness was coming from you, without any input from me. There are many memories of you as a child like this, and these carry through to today.

There have been key times of achievement where I have been astonishingly proud of you, especially when you studied to become a vet nurse, and succeeded in that field for years. I was also so proud of you that day when you said to me you were making your own decisions around your life partner, and you had the confidence in our relationship to assert your right to make your own decision. And of course, I’ve been proud of you every step of the way in becoming the mother you are today, through the losses and tragic moments of waiting patiently for your beautiful baby, and then to see all this come to pass. I can assure you my darling I have a very, very full heart.

5.    What do you want or wish most for your kids?

It’s always been the same answer to this question, I want you to be happy, grateful with your life, doing what brings you fulfilment and contentedness, and hopefully into the mix, the things you want pivot around family, and I can say with all my heart, I am so proud to be a dad who can see this working in all my kids’ lives.

All I wish for (and this is true in all my kids) is that they contribute to society and are a blessing in others’ lives. I could not be prouder that my kids are living this out.

6.    What’s the nicest thing I’ve ever done for you?

Without question, the nicest thing you’ve ever done for me is consider me, praise me regularly, think of me in so many ways, and to allow me to be your father.

I can remember a time when you were 17 and wanted to go your own way, and it was about the only time that I had to put my foot down, or even needed to, and you respected me, whether it was begrudgingly so or not is beside the point.

The nicest thing you ever did for me was to respect me every step of the way, but I sense this was always a reciprocation, because I always felt you were worthy of respect for the beautiful heart you possess.

7.    What’s one thing you want me always to remember when you’re gone? 

Remember that poem you read at Gran’s funeral, that is what I want you to remember when I’m gone: that I’m not really gone, but I’m still with you in spirit, and one day you’ll get to come to be with me and others you have lost along the way.

I want you to remember that God is for you and can never be against you. I want you to know and relate with God, because without God life is meaningless and lacks any sense of purpose.

God is in life and life is in God. Beginning, middle and end, and everything between. And the only pity is we sometimes only see this or recognise this when God is all we have. In the end, in death, God is all we have. Please remember this.

IMAGE: Photos of my eldest daughter and I in 1993 on the left and 1997 on the right.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

When it’s time to say goodbye

My dear ones, a letter to leave you, when it’s time, for who knows, tomorrow or a morrow decades beyond, surely one between.  One of these days…

I love you and have always loved you.  I’ve not always been touched by eternity, but eternity has touched me right now, sufficiently to write this, sufficiently for me to know I can and need to communicate this to you.  Now.

One of the saddest things of life — loss — has occurred because of love.  Loss consequent of a compulsion to love.  Loss, because we were compelled to love.  Our love for one another leads to a chasm of loss.

Love would mean nothing or would
certainly be a thin concept without loss.

Loss is deepened and widened and 
broadened and thickened because of love.

When I’m lost to you, know it is love that speaks loudest in your pain.  When you are lost to me, I know and will know it is who I no longer have that mars the life that that moment could be — for all moments thence to come.  Yes, loss is never really reconciled which is why we need to cast our minds and hearts to heaven.

When it’s time to say goodbye, know that loss’s pain is the mirror reflection of love.  The more we love one another the more the sting of loss condemns.

Please know without a shadow of a doubt just how deep and wide and long and high my love is for you.  Mine is but a fraction of the love that God has for each of us, but you know how much you love me, so you know how much I love you.

When it’s time to say goodbye, I may not be able to utter the words — take it that I have said it from these words.  I think I have left you plenty of words, plenty of sentiment, so please believe.

My encouragement for your life is dare to touch eternity yourself.  Avoid the entrapments of this life and learn to let go of everything you can’t keep so that you can gain what you cannot lose.

It is our thoughts and words and deeds that we take into eternity with us, so take account for each one and don’t fret anything else.

And simply know how deep and wide and long and high my love is for you.  Don’t ever doubt it.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Chaplaincy in the First Responder Wellness Context

One of the tenets of faith is peace expressed as peace with self and peace with others. The olive branch is a symbol of peace, and so is the cross.

Chaplaincy is a faith-based expression of care still not that well known.

Peace is central in chaplaincy, but there are other imperatives also, like truth in terms of safety, and presence, which is particularly felt through the empathy, unity (integrity and inclusivity), and humility in the chaplain’s presence.

Search and you’ll find that in peace and in presence—in empathy, unity, and humility—is safety. Chaplaincy is safety and wellbeing. Where there is truth, there within it is safety.

Chaplains speak truth to power succinctly but they are not the change agent. They are the informant, they bring truth to those who should know, including to those they care for. Chaplains are messengers. Chaplains accept they don’t know all the truth, but they are committed to sharing the truth they know—they are healers, watchers, encouragers.

Chaplains are safe, trustworthy, reliable. They carry and bring peace. They are important workers not only in trauma and grief, but in healing division.

Chaplains are workers, not unlike worker bees who serve a queen. Human chaplains serve and honour their chain of command.

Chaplaincy is acute care in crisis, and as a modality of care, it fits perfectly in the first responder space. The chaplain is a minister of religion but they’re not “religious”—they are not the archetypal God-botherer. Chaplains are pastors, shepherds at heart.

Modern Wellness is a blend of healing modalities for body, mind, and spirit. Chaplaincy provides pastoral care, safe presence in crisis, ceremonial functions, mediation in conflict, and journey encouragement.

Chaplains offer wisdom and are to strive to be beyond reproach. As peacemakers, chaplains model reconciliation, particularly leading by example through humility in apology.

Finally, chaplains offer something of an answer where there are no answers. They validate that there are many of life’s questions without answers. Chaplains model acceptance and they put courage into those they help.

Image: myself as a first responder (chlorine release drill) in 1997.

Friday, March 8, 2024

The Flow-Burnout Continuum

I’ve experienced burnout a few different ways, but thankfully nothing like some whose lives have become completely derailed for a year or more.  My bouts into the darkest storm of exhaustion were often fleeting little seasons of several weeks.  Not that it’s a competition.

But I’ve also experienced burnout’s opposite: FLOW.

Flow is a state of poetry in motion, that place of being where thought has been somehow replaced with a symbiosis with action.  Like touch-typing these words; hardly a thought.  It is intent trained into the moment, a symphony of action where consciousness melds into the present where action is joy and peace.

Burnout is probably the worst depression.  For me it was accompanied with a loss of mind; I lost my ability to cogitate.  Mental exhaustion that completely swept over my body and left me wrecked.  With all defences down, one is vulnerable to all manner of attack.

Everyone should experience burnout’s opposite, flow.  It is the best of humanity.  It is pure confidence but nothing brash.  Utter humility and connection with gratitude for the gift flow is.

For me flow is about being in the absolute right place and right time in your life, functional in every possible way, succeeding without a single doubt.  As a Christian, it’s doing things absolutely in God’s strength—no external effort.

The benefit of flow is there’s so much that can actually be done without any sense of exhaustion—there may be tiredness but not exhaustion.  It’s a way of living where every day counts with cognisance that our days will be over one day.  That fact ought to humble every single one of us… but it also motivates us to do what can only be done now.

For the one suffering burnout.  Recover from today, one day at a time.  One thing being in burnout teaches us; our craving for burnout’s opposite, flow.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Understanding Four Responses to Every Problem

Biblically, there are four responses to every problem. This thesis occurs in all our lives each time we encounter a problem. Test this: the paradigm doesn’t only apply to spiritual decisions.

Before we delve into the four A’s of human response to problems, let us consider how hard it is to respond the right way to problems. Sometimes we are too tired to respond the right way. Sometimes we are too proud. Other times we are too confident. Still at other times we are too lazy.

A warning for you as you decide at this point whether you will read any further. Try to see your responses of personal control hindering you reading on. If you read this through it will take five minutes — could be worth it.

Looking back over a lifetime, we understand our humanity – human to human – we ALL have regrets (if we are honest) for decisions we made that meant we sowed negative consequences for ourselves and others. This is in context of:

The purpose of life is doing the right thing.

When we understand this imperative,
we commence a journey of discipleship,
understanding we need guidance.

The beauty in acknowledging our proclivity
for doing wrong is we are humbled enough —
when we are honest —
to follow a better example: Jesus,
the Author and Finisher of our faith.

Doing the right thing in a sustained way
cannot come from within one’s person —
the truth of life is we ALL need a Helper.

Christian discipleship is not just about honouring God. It is about honouring others, too. Achieving these two aims, God honours us. The evidence of this is the “inside job” of joy we are granted when we do the right thing. And, most persuasively, it has a positive, kind impact in another person’s life.

Some examples of effects of doing the right thing:

·        People feel neither judged nor condemned but accepted and loved.

·        There is a heartfelt acceptance for one’s own limits.

·        People are considered and feel considered even if their needs are not met.

·        There is insight, power, and capacity to right wrongs. Yes, a wrong can be righted.

Now, let us explore these four A’s of human response to problems.

I reference the Jesus teaching of the Sower Parable explained, cf., Mark 4:13-20 — where this article is inspired from:

Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”


From the Parable of the Sower, we can find four responses that we all make, and these — like each encounter of the seed — describe our every response and help us understand WHY we have responded these ways.

These below are the continuum of responses before we investigate them:


Note in the Parable of the Sower that there are three negative or poor responses and only one positive or right response. Knowing this helps us understand that navigating problems and doing the right thing is harder than it seems.

Let us tackle these in the order that Jesus does — first comes the “taking away of the word (or ‘good thing’)” and I would call what this response looks like as ARROGANCE.

Arrogance has no time to even consider the problem. Its first reptilian response is the right one, supposedly. The response is one of aberrant folly, of not considering the problem with any thought whatsoever, a way of living without conscience, without insight, without recourse; a way of living as if one is the fount of all knowledge and wisdom. Sounds ridiculous but think of prideful responses that simply reveal a feeling of being threatened, so the threat is met with a threat. Not wise.

Arrogance ought to be self-evident of its own error, but the arrogant are beyond insight. What ought to be seen as a strength — the capacity of reflection — is seen as a weakness to the misguided. So much more could be said, but that is not the thrust of this article.

The next response is AVOIDANCE, a place where theorising is no match for the pragmatic. Concepts and ideals do not translate into action and change. An irretrievable disconnect enters the mind and the life of the person trapped in this paradox. They would love to do the right thing consistently, but consistency (ironically) is the bridge too far, the great divide, the frustration of a person who would love to have the resolve to be different. The avoidant person exemplifies what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. They want to do the right thing but can’t.

The next response is AMBIVALENCE which is where worries, greed, and desires for other things choke our commitment to doing the right thing. This is where it might seem that we are being positive and responding the right way, but the motivation is extrinsic and essentially our heart’s not in it. We may do the right thing, but we can’t sustain it.

It is important now to differentiate that the key difference between ambivalence and the next stage response (acceptance) is the heart. Ambivalence is all outward appearance with a lot of ‘fake it till you make it’ about it. Heart is all about motivation. Intrinsic motivation cannot be faked.

Heart is all about motivation.
Ambivalence lacks sincerity motive.


Acceptance is a state of peace
that propagates peace — a godly peace.

Who can change a heart but God?
This gets back to US needing help.

Where we are all called to arrive in life is a place of ACCEPTANCE. That is, for every reason, for every season, for every life. That is right. Acceptance is that place of peace for doing the right thing, moment to moment, in series, for a lifetime — bearing for our imperfections. Indeed, acceptance is crucial for overcoming our perfectionism, a common problem many people wrestle with.

Examples of acceptance are:

·          Realising that the world is not against me, even though it can appear that way.

·          Understanding that if we are to gain anything from something hard, we need to make a hard choice.

·          Recognising that perfection is the enemy of the good — accepting this and expressing a compassionate acceptance with ourselves and others.

·          A resilient hope abiding in the commitment of ‘doing the right thing.’

·          A commitment to others that reconciliation is the abiding hope for those who partake.

·          A grace we give to ourselves and others that sustains hope beyond all despair – the summation of faith.

·          Understanding and living in the power of letting go of that which we cannot control. This is the fullest grasp of peace.

·          The core of acceptance is a sole focus on what I think, say, and do, and being accountable for it, and not being drawn into accounting for others’ behaviours and choices.


Anytime we are not motivated to do the right thing in our lives, we are missing the best life for ourselves and others. Not only that but we are doing harm. Doing harm is against life’s design.

The Parable of the Sower shows us there is only one way of right living. Only one way where the privilege and honour of life is taken seriously enough to strive to do the right thing.

The motive of doing the right thing will drive us out of bed into the day of going out to do what CAN be done. There is a life to be lived, for the privilege and honour of life given to a mortal person.

Yes, it is hard at times, but the goal of life is the betterment of times, living peaceably in acceptance.

Acceptance as a way of life returns a handsome yield, a crop that is a lasting legacy for generations.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

A biblical answer to the conundrum of grief

As fact would have it, there is a biblical answer to the world’s search to reconcile the conundrum of grief.  It is heavily aligned to common psychological therapy concepts, but people only go there if there is no other way.  

To loss, there is no answer.  

Loss, by definition, is beyond reconciliation.

Humankind has tried many answers, including the concepts of closure and acceptance.  But, of course, these concepts are limited in their power; some people can’t access them, and for those who can, it still isn’t a perfect answer.

The best validation, for every person who cannot reconcile their loss, who continues to grieve, is to read the simple words with a metaphorical nod:

“Your experience of grief is real, it is true,
and it is beyond words and defies platitudes. 
The cause and depth of your grief in loss
is commensurate with your love.”


The biblical answer to grief is lament: that common sense method of facing the pain, honouring the truth of it.  Pain begs to be noticed.  It hates being relegated.  

The more we relegate our pain, the more
it rises up insisting it be acknowledged.

If we accept that our pain must be seen, we open space for our pain to be valued, even cherished.  It isn’t too much of a stretch to say that we can “consider it pure joy” (James 1:2-4) because pain as it is faced has an eternal purpose.

But the world cannot and will not
reconcile such an understanding. 
And it thereby refuses the only thing
within its control to reconcile it.

When we lament, we allow the pain its place, and giving pain its place means we must do something with it.  When we cannot deny our pain, we’re forced to make meaning from it.

So, what can we do with our pain to extract meaning from it?

As we face our pain, we also face the inevitability that once it’s noticed, pain invites us on a journey of meaning-making.


One such meaning-making exercise is the cherished tradition of remembering or remembrance.  The Christian sacrament of holy communion is characterised in remembrance.

There is no clearer way of honouring pain than through remembrance because remembrance is facing.  Remembrance is intentionality of purpose.  

Remembrance says, “It happened and it matters, and indeed, by remembering, I draw strength from solemnity as I honour the truth, those who have gone before, and what has been lost.”

Remembrance in and of itself draws hope and purpose from not being able to reconcile.  It accepts what it cannot change, and indeed it celebrates what is lost.  

By remembering, what is lost is retained. 
By remembering, what is gone is accessible. 
By remembrance, what is no more is honoured.

There is a biblical answer to the conundrum of grief,
and that answer is closer than we think.  

Pain ought not be painful, but it can
be a direct invitation doorway to life.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

It’s good to know, the world owes me nothing

Just reading the title ‘the world owes me nothing’ can be triggering for some people, and many people will have a problem with it.

If we want a mindset that works in life, we could do far worse than adopt the mindset that the world owes us nothing. Nobody owes us anything. From such a mindset, we accept what comes our way and we work to establish what we can, and we do not resent anything that supposedly comes against us. It is a powerful self-concept to nurture.

The fact is, life is unfair. 

You only have to ask the person who has worked diligently and has led an honest life who is dying of cancer. There are many who have been bankrupted through no fault of their own, yet they are blessed to accept that the world owes them nothing, because it causes them to rebound the best they can. 

We always need to ask, if we are living responsibly, if we have made a contribution to our misfortune. If we haven’t, we must remind ourselves the world owes us nothing. It is the common potential plight of all to suffer poor luck.

When we have expectations,
those expectations stand to be dashed. 

Not all expectations are realistic.

It’s the person who continues to walk
like a clock in a thunderstorm,
steadily and faithfully,
who leads a resilient life.


From a position of expecting nothing from the world we negate all tyranny of entitlement. Entitlement is a spiritual, mental, and emotional cancer, and besides real cancer that kills the body, entitlement kills relationships and lives. 

Let us live free of entitlement, so we
are not a curse to ourselves and others.

But we live in a day where entitlement reigns in individual lives and in corporate systems. Nobody can be content living a life of entitlement, just as it brings anxiety to others’ lives.

I am involved in conversations every single day trying to help those who have fallen into the trap of entitlement. What do I say when I’m helping people stuck in this cursed thinking? 

I would prefer not to have to say anything. And then I am reminded of how quickly I fall into the trap. It is a trap common to all. And if you don’t think you are ever entitled, I would invite you to read the book The Entitlement Cure by Dr John Townsend (2015). This book describes the concept of a pocket entitlement, because we all have pockets of entitlement in our life, even if we are not characterised as entitled.


The best way to live for ourselves and others
is to live as if the world owes us absolutely nothing. 

If we want power, the only power available,

it’s right there, in the acceptance of what is!

Remembering that this is a theory, and accepting that we will still battle when we don’t get what we want, we can keep coming back to this concept of living that helps us in every way.

When we acknowledge that the world owes us nothing, and we can live accepting this harsh truth, we take responsibility for what is ours, and we take less responsibility for what is somebody else’s to deal with.

The most direct path to joy is the gratitude
that comes from being thankful for what we have
because we are not focused on what we don’t have.

Focusing on what is good in our lives negates focus for what isn’t so good. It’s paradoxically ironic that some of our worst times deliver space for reflections in gratitude. 

Grief, for instance, opens our eyes to the suffering in the world, and God builds within us powerful capacities of empathy because of what we’ve suffered.

We are broadened and deepened emotionally and
spiritually through the life experiences of hardship.

Hardship is (or can be) an antidote to entitlement.

Trials remind us that we cannot control anything more than our own thoughts and actions in this world. 

Why would we resent such a fact when everybody else exists in the same reality?

Resenting what we cannot change is a form of insanity.

Shaking our fist at anyone or at God for that matter over these issues is folly.

But there is great wisdom and accepting what we cannot change.

The epitome of humanity is accepting the status quo
with joy, whatever the status quo is.

It’s a goal worth striving for.