Better late than never!

I was not expecting it and in fact I had forgotten that it was even meant to be coming.

5 years ago I stood and took a pledge when I joined the Army and this week I finally received my official ‘Commission’ signed by the Governor-General congratulating me.

It was kind of strange to receive something that took so long in coming; it made me wonder where it had been? Was it lost in a drawer somewhere? Was it sitting at the bottom of someone’s pile of documents? Was it forgotten completely and only found to be missing after an audit of the system? Did they hold onto it because they thought that I was not going to last? Did they think it was a mistake and that I should have been sworn ‘at’ rather than being sworn ‘in’? Or was it just that these things take time and that its delay signified nothing at all?

Interestingly, receiving this certificate caused me to think back over the last 5 years and all that I have experienced and learned. It means a lot to remember the promise I made and the opportunity and authority that I have been entrusted with. In many ways it doesn’t really change anything but the receipt of it has confirmed and encouraged me.

I don’t know if you have certificates upon your walls or in a folder in a drawer somewhere: they may be school reports, Diploma’s or Degrees; they might be commendations or awards; or they may be sporting achievements or a certificate celebrating something else you have done but whatever they are you have kept them to remind you.

Remembering what you have done can be a powerful thing; it is good to look back and not waste the experiences of the past. Looking back can also help to focus you for the future – we cannot and should not dwell in the past but we definitely should not forget what it is challenging us to do. Many things get forgotten and often we let things slip – many people start life with a sense of purpose and lose it as life moves on – it would be great if they could receive a reminder of it through the post.

There is an inherent truth that I have found worthy of living my life by – God has a purpose, calling and commission for each one of us – unfortunately many have forgotten, misplaced or never received it, even though it belongs to them.

Do you know what and where yours is?

Are your lights on or off?

What are the elements of your yearly Christmas preparations? Do you decorate your house? Do you put up a tree? Do you plan lots of family events? Do you play Christmas music on a continuous loop?

Like all families, we have a number of traditions in our house as well and one of them seems to be struggling to get the Christmas lights to work.

It seems that no matter how careful I am, when I turn on the lights after positioning them throughout the tree, one or more ‘sections’ of the lights will fail to work.

This year out of 160 LED lights about 40 were not flashing in the way they were designed.

Now before you try to teach me your particular method of ‘sucking eggs’ let me say this… because of previous experience I did turn the lights all on to test them before I hung them. The problem is that when they are all together and flashing it is very difficult to work out that a small number of them are not in fact working.

It is not until they are spread out on the tree in relative isolation, that you realise that you have a problem.

Christmas lights work in sections – they are wired in a particular way which means that if one light in that section fails, then all of the lights in that section fail. One break in a wire, one bad connection, will lead to the problem that I was experiencing. The biggest challenge is in finding the offending light that is causing the failure – finding a broken green wire in the midst of a green Christmas tree whose lights are flashing on and off, is by far the hardest part – usually the issue is easy to resolve but unless you find it you can’t make a difference.

My life (and yours I’m sure) bears resemblance to these strings of Christmas lights which adorn trees, cover houses and line the corridors of our shopping centres. They are a good illustration for us – I know that if one aspect of my life fails or gets ‘disconnected’ then it impacts other aspects. My work impacts my family; my relationships impact my sense of satisfaction; my fitness (or fatness) impacts how I relate to others and the Spiritual dimension of my life effects my sense of direction and purpose.

So I hope that all of your lights are currently on and shining bright…if not maybe it is time to make some adjustments and reconnect!

A Critical Failure of Equipment!

From the moment it happened there was no doubt about it: There was no recovery and no way to avoid the situation – I had suffered a critical failure of equipment.

The piece of equipment that had failed was not a computer, it was not a motor vehicle and not a piece of machinery I was working on… but it was something much closer to home and in many ways, even more important.

Everything was fine until the moment of failure and then my whole morning changed…I was helping a colleague unload some boxes out of his car and I did a deep squat to place myself in the correct lifting position and as I did, my pants split from just under my groin right up to the waistband!   I felt a sudden rush of fresh air and a sudden surge of embarrassment and concern. Thankfully, as always, I had heeded the instruction of my mother in terms of the ‘clean underwear’ department and fortuitously my undies were black and so the exposure was not as bad as it could have been.

The problem was that I was required to stand up in front of a group on this particular day and to give a presentation…suddenly I was feeling less than confident and more than a little exposed.

I made my way to the bathroom to check the damage and to try to come up with a solution but my ‘MacGyver skills’ were insufficient and no amount of ‘gaff tape’ would solve this problem.

Then I remembered, just ten minutes away, I had a suit in my office and so all I would need to do was to get through until morning tea.

So started a comical dance where I always had to be the last to leave the room, sit on my chair as much as possible and if I needed to move, to always keep the front of my body pointing to the audience.

At the break I got to my office, changed and returned and felt much more comfortable for the remainder of the day.

No one likes the feeling of being exposed; we all have things that we do not want others to see. My torn pants made me think about the other things I hide away, the parts of myself I do not let anyone else see.

“For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.”          Mark 4:22

Maybe there is a ‘hidden part’ of your life that you may like to open to the One who already knows you so well?

A knock to the head…

He could remember his name, his age, the day of the week, and what he had been doing a few minutes before but he could not remember the accident or what happened immediately after…

I was visiting this young man in hospital who had suffered a pretty severe knock to the head after a fall of about five metres – at first there were concerns that he had spinal injuries but thankfully things were not as bad as they first seemed and he would be OK in time – just a bit fuzzy in the memory stakes for a couple of weeks.

It reminded me of a time when I couldn’t remember – I was the one who had fallen of my bike and knocked myself out – I recall that for weeks afterwards I struggled to remember some words and my reactions were slowed and I just felt like I was walking through a fog.

This week we have celebrated Remembrance Day – the commemoration of the moment that the guns fell silent at the end of the First World War. All over the country and around the world we slowed down for a few moments and remembered what had been sacrificed and achieved for us by those who have gone before.

The only thing that ensures that this memorial occurs and is taken seriously is our willingness and determination to remember.

When I left the hospital I went back to my car – or I attempted to go back to my car – the problem was that I was in a Hospital that I had never visited before and although I knew that I had parked on level 5 I had no idea how to get back through the ‘rabbit warren’ of corridors to where I was parked. Eventually after two failed attempts I circled around the building and climbed the staircase to find my car.

So many things surround us that we should remember: our PIN numbers; our passwords; where we parked our cars… but various ‘knocks to the head’ hinder us: our busyness; the complexity of life and; how long ago did we review the item that is important…

It would be a terrible thing if no-one remembered next Remembrance Day, it seems inconceivable but we don’t always recall the good others have done for us.

“Bless the LORD, and do not forget not all His benefits: … He satisfies your mouth with good things, and makes you new”       Psalms 103:2–5

Let’s make sure that we never forget all He has done!

More information that you realise…

If you are like me you receive a lot of information that you are not really all that interested in. It comes in from the media where you hear a few things that catch your interest and then there is a whole lot of other stuff that you wish you could just filter away… the commercial for the blender that is so much better than any blender which has come before; the robot vacuum which will clean your floors whilst you are mesmerised by its apparently random course around your house; the exposé on the evening talk show about supermarket pricing wars; or the latest antics of the faux famous celebrity set… none of which you may have wanted to know… someone thinks it is important but that person is not you!

Our phones are also filled with things we didn’t want to know… we didn’t want to know that someone has just ‘checked in’ at that fancy location; we didn’t want to see a photo of what they were having for dessert; we definitely didn’t want to know that they had just LOL’d over something or are ROFL.

Each of us are unique and enjoy different things in different ways – some people love gardening; some people love trains; others live for all the sport that happens every weekend; some people build their world around their pets; others are collectors…if we were all the same it would be a boring world to live in. However, because we are all different we can sometimes feel that there is no one like us and no one who really understands us. This can lead us to feeling isolated and dislocated even though we are surrounded by people and connected to many handheld devices.

The desire to publish an ‘update’ on what we are currently doing taps into our desire to be understood, validated and connected with – the problem is that we do not always achieve this goal.

I am so glad that the Lord has got this one covered for us…

“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.”                    Psalms 139:1–4

The truth is that He knows you already; you should make the most of the connection!

An unexpected leak!

A loud hiss, a cloud of steam and a stream of scalding water announced that my hot water heater needed to be replaced. I don’t know why but it seems like these things always happen late at night!

I distinctly remember walking past my hot water heater over the last couple of weeks and not noticing anything amiss…from the outside, things looked fine and there were no signs that “the end was near” but on the inside obviously, a different story was unfolding.

This was not a small leak but a complete rupture of the system, there was nothing to be done but to turn the water off and to break the news to the family that they would be at least 1-2 days without hot water.

As I said, you would not have been able to tell that anything was wrong by looking on the surface but something was definitely not healthy within. The problem is that over time the steel tank of the water heater starts to corrode and if left unattended the integrity of the tank is compromised; when you add the fact that the hot water is under high pressure, it only takes the smallest hole to become a significant problem.

Water heaters are fitted with a ‘sacrificial anode’ which is made of a material that corrodes faster than the steel in the tank and so extends the life of the heater by sacrificing itself…I only know this because a couple of days ago I received a leaflet explaining it to me and why I should have my hot water heater serviced – the timing is interesting…perhaps they drop the leaflet one day and come around and punch a hole in your water heater the next night? (Surely not??)

As I was having my cold shower this morning the thought came to me that although things can all look OK on the outside what is happening on the inside of our life may be quite different. There are many things which cause ‘corrosion’; things done ‘to’ us and things done ‘by’ us. Given enough pressure even the strongest will eventually crack and leak and fail.

I am just so thankful that there is one – Jesus – who was willing to sacrifice Himself for me so that my failings, weaknesses and shortcomings do not determine my future no matter what pressure I am exposed to.

I hope you don’t just look good on the outside; maybe it is time to look within?

Mind the gap!

The doors opened and I waited to step onto the train with a dozen or so others. When the disembarking passengers had cleared the path we moved forward and I noticed one young man looking intently at his phone as he stepped onto the train. The problem was that he didn’t manage to step all the way in and his foot found the gap between the station and the train and he stumbled and almost fell down.

He was fortunate because the ‘gap’ was not too large but depending on the station and the particular train carriage you happen to be on, the gap can be quite significant.

As the doors closed, I looked up and I noticed something else, there was a sign right there on the wall which read…

“Mind the gap!”

Watching this tiny drama unfold piqued my interest and so I did a little bit of research:

I found a series of disturbing videos showing people falling down ‘the gap’ between the carriage and the station; I found out that the first “Mind the gap!” sign was erected in the London Underground in 1968; I discovered that in Hong Kong the ‘Mind the gap!” announcement is made in three languages (Cantonese, English and Mandarin); I also found that you can buy a “Mind the Gap” Tee-shirt from the London transit authority; and, most disturbing of all, each year there are thousands of injuries reported world wide from people who have failed to “Mind the gap!”

As I said, each station and each train can be different so the ‘gap’ can vary significantly.

In the same way we can have ‘gaps’ in our lives which can be dangerous to navigate.

We can have gaps in our understanding.

We can have gaps in our experience.

We can have gaps in our circumstances.

The gaps we have may be present because of things we have missed out on or because of something someone has done to us. We may have gaps because we have been sick or injured or just because of the way the road of life has turned.

So there are two choices when you find a gap – step over it or close it. I am so thankful that I have found the One who is able to fix the gaps in my life so that I can walk with confidence!

How about you?

“And He shall be called the closer of the gap, the restorer of a home to dwell in.” Isaiah 58:12