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

I love the smell but I don’t like the taste…

I love the smell but I don’t like the taste…

I do not have very finicky tastes when it comes to food and drink. There are only two foods I don’t like and one drink…both foods set hard if you leave them overnight (which is probably part of my aversion) porridge and rice pudding. My distain for these has never caused me much problem because I don’t have that many morning meetings with Scottish people and rice pudding is not all that fashionable…but my dislike of the beverage in question does set me apart from the crowd.

Against all popular opinion I do not like Coffee – in fact I cannot bear the taste of it.

Interestingly although, I love the smell of coffee but no matter how many times I try, I am yet to find any method of preparation, which makes it palatable. I don’t like International Roast, Pablo, Maxwell House, Nescafe, or Moccona. Espressos, Long Blacks, Lattes and Cappuccinos do nothing for me. Piccolo Lattes, Macchiatos and even Affogatos cannot change my dislike of the underlying flavour.

I remember on my 18th Birthday my next-door-neighbour went to great lengths to bake me my birthday cake – it was a beautiful looking cake and a real labour of love but as she carried it into the room I could smell the aroma of the coffee icing from across the room which changed it from a desert to be enjoyed to one that had to be endured.

I often get asked out for ‘Coffee’ by people, sometimes they will rave about a particular coffee shop which has great coffee; I recently walked past 4 coffee shops which were described as “rubbish” to get to one in particular that was “amazing” only to disappoint the person I was with when I ordered a Hot Chocolate.

There are things in this life that attract us by their aromas but they can leave a bad taste in our mouths. Selfishness, lying and infidelity may draw us from afar but when we experience them close at hand we are left bitter and wishing we had never taken a sip. Just because something smells or looks good from the outside doesn’t mean that it is going to do you good inside.

I am not equating coffee with sin or suggesting you should give it up but I am suggesting that we shouldn’t keep trying to enjoy something that we were never made for.

“How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!”        Psalms 119:103

An Intermittent Fault…

I had prepared a demonstration to illustrate that it was not working and would need to be repaired but as I pressed the ‘On’ button it sprang into life making me look very foolish indeed.

I received a fantastic ‘action camera’ for my birthday a number of months ago but from day one it had an ‘intermittent fault’. Sometimes it would work without issue but other times it would ‘lock up’ and completely fail to function.

I read up on the problem, I reinstalled the software, changed storage cards and did all that was asked and still the camera would glitch and would fail to live up to expectations. So I decided that it was time to take it back to the store to get it fixed…

When I arrived they told me that it would be no problem and they asked to see the fault (which had been happening consistently for the last 3 days) and as soon as I turned it on it decided to work perfectly. I tried a second time and it worked – as did the next 10 attempts. Because I was a bit embarrassed I decided that I would not return the camera and headed for home. You guessed it…when I tried the camera a few hours later, the fault was back and so I have decided that no matter what, it has to be replaced.

I think that permanent faults are easier to deal with than the intermittent ones – if someone always tells you lies then at least you know where you stand but if they bend the truth to suit the circumstances then you are left unsure.

If someone is always bad tempered you know not to ‘poke the bear’ but if their emotions blow ‘hot and cold’, you don’t know what you are going to get from day to day.

I have a number of permanent faults and some intermittent ones as well – but before you judge me – you probably do as well. The intermittent is what makes us unreliable or variable and whilst we try to address these flaws in our character we are not always successful.

This is of course one of the incredible attributes which makes connection with God so compelling – this is what He says about Himself – “I am the LORD, I do not change” (Mal 3:6)

So if you need something to rely on and to use as a foundation, don’t trust something with intermittent faults – Look to the Lord!

The unexpected debt…

Yesterday I was blissfully unaware but today I realise that I am a man with a debt and I have a debt collector chasing me.

It is not a large debt and, as I stated, I didn’t know that I had the debt until the letter arrived in the post yesterday announcing it.

The letter was from a collection agency chasing up outstanding fines from a Hornsby video store which has ceased to trade. According to their records, I rented a copy of the ‘Bourne Supremacy’ on 18 January 2011 and failed to return it until 20th January 2011 thus incurring a massive $6 overdue fee. I don’t recall renting the video but I am sure that they would not just make something like that up. The problem was that I obviously never returned to rent another video from that store and so I was never asked to pay the fine. Since the store has now gone out of business I guess that the auditors are attempting to recoup any losses which are outstanding.

The interesting thing is that the collection agency charged me a $7.50 fee for sending me the letter about my $6.00 debt and (if that wasn’t enough) the second last line of the letter includes a $0.41 ‘e-collection fee’ as well which makes the total overdue fee $13.91, add that to the initial $6.00 that I paid to hire the movie and I will have paid $19.91 which is more than buying a copy of the DVD would be today!

The letter contains the following warning “A video store is not required to notify you of an outstanding debt and is entitled to pursue debts for up to six years. Failure to pay this bill will result in further costs to you. (Min $27.50)”

 

I am so glad that all the debts that I have forgotten do not attract the same response as this one…all of the mistakes, the harsh words, the wrong attitudes and selfish behaviour… I am so glad that I have found the truth that Jesus paid all the debts I ever incurred so that there would be no administration fee ever added.

The truth is that He is willing to forgive it all and offers this to each one of us. My outstanding DVD bill reminds me how fortunate I really am.

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:38

Fear Not! No Matter What!

As a child there was always one job that I hated doing around the house. It was not that I was unwilling; it was not that the job was particularly difficult – it was the fact that the job had to be done in the dark.

The simple task that faced me each Tuesday night was taking out the garbage but at 7 years old, I always found walking up the drive and returning to my front door in the darkness constricting. It was not the walking out that bothered me but the turning my back upon the darkness and making my way home. It was the fear of what may be lurking or waiting…

I don’t know why I feared the darkness, I do not recall even the slightest trauma, I was never left in the dark, I never really had an experience which would lead me to be scared, but I was.

 

This week we have been exposed to a lot of fear: Police raids have led to the arrests of suspected domestic terrorists; the Threat Level has been officially raised to ‘High’ which means an incident is immanent; security has been stepped up at airports and government buildings; news reports have focussed on planned activities which include random attacks and even the threat of a beheading on Australian soil.

These dangers have moved us all from an intangible concern to a palpable fear.

The problem with fear is that it constricts action; the rabbit dies because fear causes it to freeze rather than fleeing from the car that will take its life. Fear causes us to grow suspicious; we notice things that are not there and we question normal behaviour because we fear it is something else. Fear brings limitation and hindrance as we ‘put off’ activities because of the ‘what if?’.

There are a lot of reasons I value the reading of the Bible but one of my favourites is the way it deals with fear. It is not silent on the matter; in fact there are hundreds of statements, encouragements and examples on how to respond when fear seems like the only option.

The main response the Bible advocates is to “Fear Not!” This may seem trite or simplistic but not when there is a real reason for such enduring confidence. For thousands of years individuals have found strength in the midst of fear and I hope that you are able to join them.

I am no longer afraid of the dark because I know the Light!

Hard Pressed…

For a moment it felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie where the walls start to close in and there is no hope of escape…

but there was no suspense-filled music and no real danger at all…I was just being melodramatic.

What was really happening was that I was sitting in a plane flying to Perth and the person in front had just reclined their seat. This is of course perfectly normal behaviour and perfectly allowable but the seats in economy are so close together that unless you also recline your seat you are left with only just enough room to breathe. So I reached for the seat recline button only to find that it was not there, I looked to the other armrest but there was no button there either. Trying to work out what was going on I started to look around; I didn’t have to look too far. Right before my eyes on the back of the seat in front was a small sign, which read…

“The seats in this row do not recline so as

to not block the exit row behind”

So I was stuck…I didn’t have enough room to open my computer, I could not hold my book far enough away (I don’t need glasses, I just need longer arms!) and I couldn’t even watch the video screen as it was so close it gave me a headache (I also kept hearing the voice of my mother in my head saying “Don’t sit so close to the television – it will rot your brain!”)

My options were to try and get some sleep, to twist myself around and try to use my computer or to request that the person in front move their seat forward…I was about to ask for this last request when I noticed that the person in front of them had reclined their seat and the person in front of them had done the same – I was merely the last in a ‘chain reaction’ and there was nothing I could really do.

I have read reports about fights and arguments which have ensued over the “recline or not to recline” debate and no matter what my opinion was on the matter – there was nothing I could do.

Sometimes life presses in on us and we just have to wear it. The question is do you have the support you need when things get tight?

I am glad that even in the tight spaces the Lord is always with me…

“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair. ” 2 Corinthians 4:8