Mandatory Training

Heat and Safety, Suicide Prevention, WHS, Equity and Diversity, Ethics and Fraud, Alcohol and Drug awareness, Security and Legal brief…   

At the start of every year, every member of the ADF (Australian Defence Force) must complete a suite of courses which are referred to as ‘Mandatory Training’.  This training takes place on the first opportunity when all the members have returned from their holidays and it is seen as a major priority to start the year.

Even though much of the information is ‘common sense’ and even though most of the members have completed it year upon year and could almost recite it by rote, still it is conducted. This is to ensure that no-one falls between the cracks and that everyone is aware of the dangers, challenges and responsibilities of being a highly functioning member of the ADF.

The outcome of this is that these subjects remain in the thinking of the members throughout the coming year and again will be reinforced next year.

After I completed my mandatory training I thought about what we all might want to include in the range of topics if all people had to do mandatory training at the start of each year…

Perhaps a course in general politeness and courtesy; or a course in how to use a roundabout or advanced lane merging; how about a reminder about appropriate clothes to wear in public; or perhaps a remedial course on the importance of deodorant…  it is fun to reflect on what we think is really important.

When Jesus was on earth the teachers of the Jewish Law came and asked Him a similar question – they wanted to know the list of the most important lessons that they needed to be constantly reminded of.

Jesus spelled it out like this… “Love the Lord with all your heart, mind and strength and love your neighbour in the same way you love yourself”

Two simple lessons but with powerful outcomes, two simple suggestions which I have found set my path correctly each year I follow them.

You may not have a job which requires regular training but I challenge you to think about what is important in your world…what adjustments do you need to make and what knowledge and understanding would you pass onto others if you could?   When was the last time you took Jesus’ suggestions…maybe it is time to start?

Read the signs!

It was not the way I planned my evening to end but it was my own fault and no-one else could be blamed…

We were standing on the street corner in Castle Hill just approaching midnight, waiting for my son to come and rescue us after finding my car locked in the car park just near the movies where we had spent the evening.

When I drove in, I chose the nearest entry and slid into the easiest parking space available.  My wife did ask me at the time if I was happy with where I parked and I confidently said something along the lines of ‘It will be fine!”

I note with admiration that later in the evening she suppressed the urge to repeatedly say “I told you so!” 

We enjoyed the movie, slowly walked backed to where I had parked only to find a huge locked roller door.  Next to the door was a large sign which read “Car Park closes at 11.00pm”  there was also a comment which said that if you wanted the door raised out of hours it would incur a cost of $300.  So…I called my son… thankfully he could help me out.


Unread or unheeded warnings do not make them invalid or ineffective. When you do something that is clearly wrong, ignoring the warnings does not improve your position.  Laws are in place to maintain order and provide structure to what would be chaos if we just let everyone do what they wanted.  Rules (whilst we may not always agree with them) are generally in place for a reason and ignoring them brings consequences.

The large easy opening to the car park seemed like a good idea at the time but the cost of not reading the warning sign was an hour waiting in the dark and then a second trip the next day to retrieve the car.

So my encouragement to you this week is to be aware of the signs and to carefully choose the doors you walk through.  Just because it is comfortable doesn’t make it right and just because it looks easy doesn’t mean it will have the best outcome.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”   Matthew 7:13

Are you missing a piece?

Holidays are a time for catching up with activities and hobbies that seem too difficult to fit in during the normal busyness of the year.  Over the last few weeks my daughter has been doing a puzzle – it is an old puzzle – of tall ships on a rough sea – a puzzle I remember receiving for my eighth birthday.

This puzzle is quite difficult because whilst the picture is complex there is not much variation in the colour tone and so many of the pieces look the same – lots of blue sky and no clouds.

A couple of nights ago my daughter invited me to help her finish the puzzle and so I sat for an hour or more and just plugged away at it – I was making really good progress when she asked me “How do you do it so fast?”  to which I  somewhat arrogantly replied “Maybe I have good spatial intelligence!”

She reacted strongly to this and said “I have good spatial intelligence as well!” and she then lent forward out of her reclining chair and hit her head on the coffee table next to her!

Laughter ensued for some time…

As we approached the completion of this puzzle it became obvious that something was wrong – there were two pieces missing.

Missing pieces stick out like a lost tooth or a dent in your shiny new car – you cannot hide them and you cannot ignore them either.

In the box, unassembled there was no way of knowing that something was missing – it was only when you tried to put it all together that the gaps became clear.

For probably 20 years this puzzle has sat in cupboards unassembled and incomplete.  I did not know that it had this flaw until it was put to the test.

Your life and mine share this similar attribute, we do not know if we are complete until we are put to the test.  We don’t know if we can handle the challenges, tests and trials this life throws at us until we have to face them.

If you have found that there is something missing in your life perhaps it is time to take a lesson from my puzzle – puzzles require patience and patience may reveal the One piece that will fill the gap for you – the person of the Lord Jesus.

“Let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and entire – lacking nothing”

James 1:4.

Sweet Smelling Aroma

The first time I used it I had my doubts but it was not until the second day that I realised that something was definitely wrong.

I had spent some time over the holidays taking the opportunity to arrange all of the ‘stuff’ that I had accumulated over the past few months.

I was clearing out cupboards and side tables; generally getting myself organised ready for the year ahead.  During my digging, I found several bottles of aftershave which I had either been given or had treated myself to along the way.

I realised that some of them had been around for a while but they were either unopened or nearly full so I lined them all up in the top shelf of my wardrobe ready for use.

It was fun having a selection to choose from and I clearly had my favourites but I tried to ‘share the love’ and mix it up a bit.  This is when I noticed that something was wrong… a couple of days ago I sprayed a new bottle of aftershave that I had been given for a birthday or fathers’ day in the indeterminate past. I was in a bit of a rush so I didn’t even stop to think, I just spritzed myself and ran out of the door.  But I recall catching a strange whiff of something that was not quite right.  The next morning I spritzed again but this time I was not in such a hurry and I realised that the fragrance was just wrong – it claimed to be a “strong masculine scent that is both memorable and alluring”  but whilst it was memorable it smelt more like a mix between a wet dog and a badly oxidised glass of wine.  Strangely enough, I sprayed myself a third time just to make sure but the reality was very clear.

I am sure that when the fragrance was bottled it was fine; it would have been both refreshing and pleasing but because it had been in the bottle for too long, it had changed and it had lost its beauty and its fragrance had been corrupted.

As I washed the ‘wet dog’ smell off my face I was encouraged to make every effort to share the good things that are contained within me rather than holding them back and allowing them to lose their fragrance.  After all, we are called to be “a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Phil 4:18)

‘New’ for the new year…


My son and I were testing all of the buttons on all of the options of the car we had just purchased from a friend of my dad.

It was an older car but a goodie…immaculate on the inside, meticulously serviced, always garaged, low kms with only a couple of cosmetic bumps on the outside – a great buy and a good car.  After a long test drive we were hooked and the deal was done with all parties smiling as the keys were exchanged and now we were headed home.

Everything was working fine: the electric windows; mirrors; cruise control; and air-con but then we tested the radio.

As we turned it on a faint sound of classical music (92.9) was heard and so I naturally turned it up – everything seemed ok so I chose the second preset radio station – 92.9 and the third – 92.9 – every station was set to 92.9.

My 17 year old son then left me to do the driving whilst he programmed in some new presets and we cranked up the volume to fill the car but as the bass sounds bounced around the interior things started to go wrong.  At first it was not really clear but within a couple of minutes it was obvious that something was not right…first one speaker and then another began to vibrate and crackle, the sound became distorted and unbearable to listen to.  Within 5 minutes the 4 speakers in the car had all torn and now sounded worse than a railway announcement from my childhood.  When we got home (having turned the radio off) we found bits of broken foam and torn cardboard had fallen from each of the speakers as they rebelled to the traumatic change we had put them through.

The problem was that for 16 years the presets had probably been the same, for 16 years the volume had been kept to a minimum and for 16 years the speakers had not been vibrated or challenged in any way – as soon as something changed the vibration was too much of a shock to the system and everything failed.

This made me think about a challenge for us all at the start of this New Year… Jesus said “You can’t put new wine into old wineskins” because the violent fermentation will cause them to burst.

Maybe it is time to adjust the ‘presets’ of your life and allow something fresh from the Lord to vibrate through you for 2014?

Christmas…a time to ponder

When you look back at this year, what do you remember?  Has it been a good one or…?

Have you achieved all you wanted to or have you reached the end of December only to find your head spinning as you wonder just where the year has gone?

When I approach Christmas I tend to become more reflective as I think about the experiences that have happened to me and the things I have seen.

I think about all the trips I have been on, the multitude of conversations I have had, the hundreds of movies I’ve watched, the thousand plus meals that I have eaten, and the countless moments I have spent with my wife and kids.

I think about the funny experiences I have had, the times when texting LOL didn’t cut it and I have actually laughed out loud.  I think about the times when I have sat with someone who has cried because part of their world has come crashing down and is sitting in pieces on the floor in front of them.

Every year when I come to Christmas I re-visit the Christmas story.  I have several services to plan and a number of other events where I am asked to share a thought or two.  But I am always amazed at just how Christmas still has the ability to speak to me no matter how often I look at it: the message of the Angel; the frightened shepherds; the faithful & reliable step-father; the wise men prepared to travel vast distances; and the beautiful mother and child.

The carol says, ‘light and life to all He brings’, what a timeless message of hope that really is!

Christmas is meant to be a time of ‘pondering’: thinking about what has been and what is yet to come.

Mary did precisely this on the first Christmas…

“But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart”   Luke 2:19

So as you finish the year surrounded by presents, tinsel and far too much Christmas food I hope that you will take sometime to ponder.

I hope you visit the manger not only in a Christmas card or at a Nativity play but in your own heart.

Because of Christmas we all have hope, because of Christmas we all have light, because of Christmas we all have life.

Never let it become just another holiday.

May the Lord bless you and your family this Christmas!

Is your saw sharp?

I was up early doing some gardening when I realised that I needed to chop out a fairly decent sized stump which was getting in the way. I went to my garage to choose my ‘weapon of mass reduction’ and settled on a choice between two hand saws which both had the potential to do the job.  On closer inspection one of the saws was fairly blunt from extensive use and it was beginning to show signs of a fair amount of rust.  The other saw was sharp and shiny; it had a good edge and a comfortable handle, so I grabbed it and headed off into the garden to tame my wayward stump.

I placed the sharp and chosen saw on the grass whilst I started to cut back the ivy with a pair of clippers.  During this time my dog was milling around watching with interest what I was trying to achieve.  Slowly my goal was uncovered and I was ready to bring my saw into action and to get the job done.  It was at this moment that I looked at where I had left my saw and witnessed my dog cock his leg and urinate all over my bright and shiny saw!  From the heel of the saw to the toe it was now covered in dog pee.

My saw no longer seemed as suitable for the task at hand.  It had well and truly ‘lost its edge’ and was no longer my weapon of choice. I know I could have just washed it off and got on with it but something about it made me not want to bother.  I walked back to the garage and pulled out the much blunter, rustier saw and got to work.  It took a little longer than anticipated but eventually I got the job done.

The last thing I did that morning was to get the hose and give my saw a good wash down.  I probably will use it next time but we shall see.

There are many things which can happen which can make you ‘lose your edge’:  Hard work with no time off can take its toll; being unappreciated or unthanked can leave you feeling rusty or purposeless; and then there is off course when you feel like you have just been covered in dog pee!  When something happens or someone does something to you that just catches you totally unawares and you struggle to move on.

It is at those times we need someone to clean us up and sharpen us once again.

Friends always can help but so can the Lord Jesus…“As iron sharpens iron so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend”