My New Friend…

Over the last two weeks I have found myself with a new friend… we have seen each other every day, interacted sporadically and, I think, we have got to know each other quite well.

It is a relationship with mutual respect and a high level of understanding but it is not what you would call a ‘functional friendship’. All the power in this relationship belongs to only one member and the will of that member dictates the terms of the relationship to the other.

Truth to tell, I have no power in this relationship at all but if I keep to the rules I will be OK but if I don’t, then watch out!

My new friend is a Plover.

It took me a few days to realise that my new friend was even there – I would walk past my office and I would see it out of the corner of my eye and think nothing of it. It wasn’t until I took a call outside my office that I realised that it was sitting in the same position as the day before. That afternoon it was still sitting there, in the middle of the bowling green, outside my office. This is when I made my first mistake – I walked over to the Plover because I thought it may have been injured and as I approached it began to squawk loudly. As I took another step it stood up (revealing three eggs), another step and it was in the air flying right at my head!

I ducked and turned around only to be swooped by the bird’s partner who, unbeknownst to me, had been keeping guard!

The last two weeks have been interesting – each morning I walk past my friend and it gives me a noisy welcome – occasionally I have taken a step towards it just to see the reaction – not a wise move! I have watched as the pair have warded off Cockatoos, Magpies, Dogs, small children and other Plovers – nothing has been allowed near…

I have also watched this Bird faithfully sit on her eggs throughout 7 days of continuous rain – not taking a break and never shirking her responsibility of care to safely ensure her chicks hatch.

It reminded me of the scripture which promises that the Lord will keep us safe under the ‘shadow of His wings’ – it is great to know that He cares for us so much and is willing to defend us as well. Our future is assured if we allow Him to care for us!

What is your ‘nic-name’?

Well it has finally happened – I officially have a ‘nic-name’… for the last few months I have been noticing that almost everyone in my Army unit gets referred to by something other than their real name. It is either a simplification like Jacko, Sando, Lobby, or a play on words like Frank (real name Bernard, supertall with a squarish head), Sarah (because his surname is Conner) or Chilly (because his surname is Freeze).

My nic-name came about because of a funeral I conducted a few weeks ago. Everything went smoothly during the proceedings except for when it came to sing the Hymns – there was an Army band attached to this event and a very enthusiastic singer as well – she had a fine voice with strong operatic timbre, the only problem was that where they positioned her was out of sight of most of the crowd – As the funeral commenced, they could only see myself and when it came to the first hymn it looked as if I was the one singing with the girly-operatic voice! It was not until the end of the funeral during the singing of the National Anthem that they realised that it was not my voice they were hearing.

Since then I have been referred to as The Voice and I think that it is going to stick – it is a sign of endearment and a bit of fun, which I am happy to entertain.

How you refer to people demonstrates the depth of relationship you feel. Those closest to you get pet names like Love, Darl, Sweetie, your friends get nic-names as we have already discussed but those with whom you have a distant or formal relationship get called by their full name or often their title as well; Dr, Mr, Mrs, Major… I expect that we have all made the mistake at sometime in our life of stepping over a line…

“Can I call you Mary?” “No, its Mrs Smith!”

The Lord is known by many names, Heavenly Father, Almighty God, Prince of Peace but I know that He desires a less formal relationship with each of us. Romans 8:15 says that we have the right to cry out “Abba Father” which simply means “Dad”. I hope your relationship with Him is close enough to do this because that is what is available to you.

The fact that the guys have started to call me The Voice shows me that I have developed close relationships and that I am valued. I hope you know how much you are valued today!

Beautiful…but it doesn’t smell so good!

My new computer came pre-loaded with an option to change my screen background automatically – every 30 minutes it chooses from a selection of incredible photos featuring wildlife from around the world. When I turned my computer on this morning I was greeted by an amazing photo that brought back memories of a trip I took to Kenya a few years ago. The photo captured the flamingos at the Masi Mara game reserve – over a million birds gather together in the shallow depths of the sulphur lake in the middle of the park.

From a distance all you can see is a patch of pink in the midst of a vista of sand and dry ground. As you get closer it becomes apparent that the colour is shimmering and you realise that there is constant movement going on. Finally you arrive and are amazed by what you find – more long-legged, long-necked birds that you can possibly imagine – standing ankle deep in the waters of the lake. As you look there is always movement, as the birds walk, preen or scoop their long necks into the water to feed upon the pink krill which gives them their distinctive coloured feathers.

If you come too close you are given a show that takes your breath away – one bird will take flight and then it begins, thousands of birds respond and fly in unison landing about a kilometre away. It remains one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen but there is a catch which I haven’t mentioned.

One million birds living in a sulphur lake…the beauty was only matched by the stench. The combination of a million bird droppings and the pungent sulphur was unbearable. The only way you could spend more than a few minutes watching was to breathe through your mouth – after a while, your eyes watered and you began to feel sick, soon after you were happy when the guide said that it was time to leave.

Seeing the photo on my computer this morning reminded me that beauty is not only about what we see but also about what we smell. Many things that we grasp for in this life are beautiful and impressive to look at but they have a stench about them when you get close enough.

So if you are interested in obtaining something beautiful that also smells good why not reach for “faith, hope and love” – I found that these never disappoint and will fill your life with joy and a fragrance that you will be happy to share with others!

Stood up

I paid for my parking, signed into the club, walked around the bistro, looked in the two bars and then I finally realised that I was actually on my own, in fact I had been ‘stood up’ – but the interesting thing was, I had not been ‘stood up’ by just one person but over 20 members of my regiment!

We had an arrangement to meet for afternoon drinks and to follow it with dinner but I was unable to join them for the afternoon and turned up at 6pm to find that they had all left and headed off to a different location for the meal. Feeling somewhat dejected I made a few phone calls and found out what was going on – the bistro was not able to handle the order and so the plans had changed and I had inadvertently been left out of the loop. I joked with the organiser that they went to very elaborate lengths to avoid spending any time with me!

I got back on my bike, headed home and enjoyed a nice consolation prize of dinner with the family but it made me think about other ‘Where are you’ moments in my life – there was the time when I arranged to meet my (then) fiancée at Chatswood station and she waited at the top of the stairs and I waited at the bottom – prior to the advent of mobile phones we simply waited, missed each other and headed to our homes. There was another time when I arranged to meet a colleague at ‘The Coffee Club’, I waited at Hornsby but he was waiting at the Central Coast!

When someone is forgotten or when they are ‘stood up’ they are flooded with feelings of isolation or disappointment – an opportunity is lost and there is no real way of making up for it.

There is a powerful image in the first book of the Bible where God is ‘stood up’ by Adam. Every afternoon they would walk together in ‘the cool of the day’ but on this particular occasion Adam was hiding because he had broken God’s command and sin surrounded him. Some of the saddest words ever recorded are when the Lord cries out “Adam, where are you?”

I don’t know when was the last time someone stood you up but here is a thought to ponder… how often have you missed spending time with the God who still loves to walk with His children in ‘the cool of the day’?

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