Weep with those…

This week I have joined the ranks of all Australians and the rest of the world as we have watched the events surrounding the shooting down of MH17. To say that this was a senseless tragedy is the ultimate understatement and to imagine the sorrow, anger and loss of the families involved is beyond our comprehension.

As the crash scene is finally cleared, as bodies are eventually identified and returned home, we are aware of the fragility of this life that we take for granted and we are challenged to value it all the more.

Over this last week I have been exposed to a number of families in the midst of intense grief – each had experienced a loss of someone close or a challenge of significant proportions – as I spent time with them I was again made aware of some important truths…

Listening is better than speaking – there are of course, in most cases, no words that fit.

You don’t often realise how valuable someone or something is until you lose them.

There is always regret over words left unsaid.

As I came home at the end of each day after listening to the radio and the reports of the difficulty of access, the frustration of the politics and the human anguish of the families waiting for closure – I found myself wanting some simple pleasures: a slightly longer hug of my children; a quick extra trip to the coffee shop with my wife; a few phone calls to close friends; and the enjoyment of the safety and comfort of all I am surrounded by and possess.

I observe that it always the simple things that people say to me is what they miss when they suffer a loss and so it is a good opportunity for us to cherish what we have today.

Unfortunately grief and loss are a part of life but today is an opportunity for you to listen to those who need to speak, to speak those words you may be holding back, and to value all you are connected to and possess.

The Lord’s compassion and love reaches out to all who grieve and He reminds each of us to…

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”                        Romans 12:15

I hope that this week is filled with opportunities to connect with those you love and a celebration of all good things that your life contains.

A rude awakening

To say that it was a rude awakening would be the understatement of the week!

Last Monday morning I woke up a little later than usual after a busy weekend. At least it felt like a little later than usual but I couldn’t be sure…my alarm clock was not being helpful at all, in fact it was more than a little confused. The time read 0N:78 and occasionally was flashing. I worked out that it was actually 07:15 and I had slept about an hour later than normal, it was not a problem at all because it was my day off…I was just happy that it happened on a Monday.

After resetting the clock it became apparent that the problem was no minor one and I would need to purchase a replacement so I put it on my agenda for later that day. I found the clock I wanted, I set it up, worked out enough of the buttons to set the date, time and alarm and then left it to do its job.

The before bed I set my alarm ready for early the next morning and went to sleep confident that everything was in control…

Well before the dawn at my scheduled time of waking, the gentle buzzing of my new clock woke me and I quickly rolled over to hit the ‘reset’ button – the only problem was that instead of hitting ‘reset’ I hit ‘radio’ which was the button right next to it. Suddenly the room was filled with the sound of music at full volume – the more I fumbled with the clock the worse it seemed to get, I couldn’t read the names on the buttons because I couldn’t find my glasses, I tried to move one dial but all it did was change stations, I changed another switch and I was now enjoying talk-back radio – eventually after about 40 seconds I found the ‘off’ button and the room fell back into calm.   My heart rate was racing and I did not feel at all ready for the day – all my wife could say was “That was very loud!”

How we wake up does have an impact on our day but if we sleep too long then chaos can be the outcome.

The Bible says, “that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” Rom 13:11 My question for you today is are you awake?

Not just physically but spiritually as well?

If not, then I have a clock you can borrow!

Are you plugged in?

I looked at the wall of power adapters but I wasn’t sure which one I needed…

I am in the process of setting up my new computer and I have had to purchase a few accessories to ensure that I am connected wherever I want to work. The problem is if you choose the wrong adapter it will either not work at all or it will damage your expensive equipment – worse than that, there has even been an incident recently where someone was electrocuted because of an incorrectly wired accessory.

As I was reading the boxes which contained the adapters an ‘expert’ came over to assist me. He asked me a couple of questions and without hesitation he handed me the adapter I needed. His certainty and experience gave me confidence that I now had all I needed and was ready to go. When I got back to my office and plugged everything in I was not surprised and I was not disappointed because everything worked just as it was supposed to.

I remember an experience I had a number of years ago as I held a position in a company that included a certain amount of ‘technical support’ to the offices I worked in. I received a call complaining that none of the computers would turn on and no matter what I suggested over the phone nothing made a difference. I made the short trip to the branch in question and sure enough none of the computers would turn on. I traced the issue back to a power-board, which was plugged into an extension cord, which was plugged into another extension cord and was then plugged back into the first power-board!

It was almost a perfect circle but at no point was it plugged into the wall socket – the cleaner had unplugged the system the night before and someone had plugged it in the wrong way at the start of the day.

Everyday we need many things in order to survive – we need water, shelter, food and family but we also desperately need strength – not strength to fight a war, or strength to win an argument, but strength to face the challenges that each day brings. Unless we are connected to the correct power source then we will find ourselves depleted and unable to live effectively.

I am glad that I have found the most reliable power source and I hope you have too.

“He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.”

Isaiah 40:29

Have you been paid yet?

“That couldn’t be right! I know I was meant to get more than that!”

Usually I enjoy every second Thursday because it is the day I get paid… but this particular Thursday was not going so well.

I opened the Internet banking app on my phone expecting to see a larger than usual deposit had gone into my account (I had been doing some extra work and I had just come from an extended period away). As the app opened I didn’t believe what waited for me, in fact, I checked the date to make sure I wasn’t a day early, I then checked my bank again and sure enough I only had been paid for half a day’s work rather than for 3 whole weeks.

I made a couple of phone calls and after some detective work I found out that an important piece of paper was not on the “right desk” at the “right time” and so I would have to wait for 14 days before the error can be corrected.

Even though it was in no way my fault, because I work for such a large bureaucracy, it was not worth the effort to try and get it corrected any faster – I will just have to be content to wait.

None of us enjoy it when we don’t get paid what or when we should. The payment is a form of recognition for all we have done but it is also important when it comes to paying the bills!

I do my fair share of volunteering, as I am sure many of you do as well – but volunteering has different rewards attached and we don’t expect or request a payment for it.

Sometimes we get paid for something that someone else has done – this could be good or bad. We can benefit from the hard work of a predecessor; we can receive notoriety or respect because of others who have gone before us. But we can also have to pay for the actions of others and miss out because someone else has done the wrong thing.

Wages are an inevitable part of life and the Bible tells us we get paid according to our choices.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

The question is “What wages are coming your way?” and “Have you been paid yet?”

Are you in the dark?

Everything was normal but then everything went dark… I was not hit on the head, I had not passed out because of a virus, I had not been abducted with a hessian sack forced over my eyes but I was in the dark.

I was riding my motorcycle at 10 o’clock at night and had just left the freeway near my home when the headlights on my motor bike flickered for a moment and then went out altogether.

It was a moonless night and it was incredibly dark. Quickly looking behind me I realised that all of my lights had failed – my tail light and brake lights were not working either – total darkness and I was wearing a black leather jacket, a black pair of pants, black shoes, black socks, black gloves and a black helmet.

I only had a short distance to travel home but it was a really freaky trip – I felt vulnerable and aware that I was exposed to far greater danger than if I had my lights on. I had to think about where I was and the fact that no-one else could see me at all. I wasn’t lost but it made the trip, that I had travelled hundreds of times before, very different indeed.

Whenever I saw a car coming I made sure that I got completely off of the road and out of the way. Only when the road was clear did I venture to move the next hundred metres. Eventually I limped back to the main road where the street lights were ablaze and I was able to make the last leg home. But when I finally got off my bike I was exhausted and my heart was racing and I hope that I never find myself in that situation again.

Light is one of those things that we take for granted – it is only at time like when we have a blackout that we really notice the dark.

When you find yourself surrounded by darkness that you have no control over, it certainly makes an impact on the way we think and feel.

The truth is that there is more than one ‘darkness’ that affects this life.

“Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”                                 John 8:12

So the question is “Are your spiritual lights on or off?”

And the most important thing is…

“And the most important thing is…”

I had the interesting task this week of summing up the history of an organisation which has been functioning for the last 15 years. Like most organisations it has had its up’s and downs. It has had times of great growth and times of challenge. It has been well resourced and it has been strapped for cash and… unfortunately… it has had times where wrong decisions have been made and where people have looked after their own interests rather than the interests of others.

One of the questions I was asked to answer was… “What is the most important lesson we can learn from the past?” The underlying question being “What mistake shouldn’t we make again?”

I think that mistakes are a part of life and we have the opportunity to learn from them. They are only really a problem when they become a pattern of behaviour or when the education they offer is ignored.

If you were to make a list of the most important things you have learned, what would it contain? If you had an opportunity just to remember one thing, what would it be?

Some possible items for your list:

Flared jeans were, and will always be, a mistake; ‘do it yourself’ spray tanning kits will make you look like an oompa loompa; when jump starting a car remember Red positive – Black negative; brown sugar and cocoa are not the same; the phrase “I know what I am doing!” does not always mean that they ‘know’ what they are doing; never have a haircut from a hairdresser with a Mohawk; never invest your money in a ‘sure thing’ or an ‘it couldn’t possibly go wrong’ scheme.

Whilst this list is somewhat flippant, the task I was asked to do wasn’t. Looking forward, we want to do well and to be successful and a significant opportunity comes from learning from the mistakes of the past.

Dwelling on the past is not the answer but learning from it is. The Bible encourages us to ‘pass on’ what we have learned from elder to younger, from generation to generation. But this presents two challenges – one is to recognise what we and others have learned – the second is to not make the same mistakes again.

For me I have learned that it is a mistake to place myself at the centre of my life – Christ has a better plan and does a much better job.

So what is the most important thing for you?

What have you missed?

I had an intensive training course this week which culminated with a 2 hour lecture on various aspects of international law. It was an important subject but, gosh, it was dry!

Especially at the end of a long week where my mind had been stretched and my tiredness was at its peak. The one saving grace was the fact that the lecturer was quite animated and quite quirky. He had a particular way of talking that just seemed to pique everyone’s interest.

In the last 40 minutes of the lecture, I kept as score card… he said – 1 ‘Honky Dorys’, 2 ‘Hooly doolys’, 3 ‘Crackers’, 4 ‘Happy days’, 5 ‘Spear aways’, 7 ‘Crack ons’, 15 ‘Teams’, 22 ‘Old Mates’ and 57 ‘OK Folks’…most interesting of all and the one we were hanging on the edges of our seats waiting for was the 5 ‘Blue Leaders’.

Giving our presenter his due – he did well with some pretty dull material and he was certainly both committed and passionate – the problem was that his mannerisms got in the way of his message – and no matter how hard he tried, when I think of that subject from now on, the only thing I will remember will be… “Honky Dory Team, now is a Cracker time for you and your Old Mate to Spear Away and Crack on…Happy Days!”

Whatever message you are trying to convey is always limited and inhibited by the medium the message is sent by and the particular quirks of the messenger. We have to be careful when we are receiving a message to look beyond what may be distracting or unhelpful and look below to engage with what is really going on.

It is probably an unfortunate truth that many times when I have tried to convey a message that the important content has been lost by either my personal mannerisms or my particular quirks.

My question for you today is – What have you missed that was really important?

Maybe someone has tried to tell or show you something and you have been put off by their personal style or the method they used to convey the message. What have you missed?

Unfortunately this is true regarding the message of Christ, maybe someone has shared it with you in an unhelpful or uncaring way – maybe they were just a little ‘weird’ – but don’t judge the message by the messenger – take another listen.

You may be surprised what you hear!