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

Which way is up?

“It’s right side up and back to front”…wrong!

“Right side up and right way round?”…wrong!

“Upside down and back to front?”…wrong!

“So it’s upside down and back to front?” YES!

It had been a long time since I used a slide projector and it was proving to be just enough to confuse the few remaining points of my strained IQ. The reason for the slide projector was that we had pulled out a great set of stories for the kids at our church which included a box of slides… the pictures were colourful, beautiful and the message was both fun and encouraging. The problem was that the machine was pretty ancient and we are so use to technology which is so much more effective (most of us carry phones today which can do more than computers of 5 years ago).

So after we finally worked out which way round the slides should be, we then had to find a dark enough space for the pictures to be bright enough to see. The images looked Ok but they lacked the sparkle that they would have had if they were being shown in a dark room – another issue was the noises the machine made – to stop the slides from melting there was a fan that ran continuously and because of its age that fan was louder than ever – as well as the fan, there was the sound of the changing of each of the slides: a mechanical interchange which sounds a little like the loading and unloading of a gun.

With all these issues it was time to find another solution – we could look for a different story or we could update the method being employed.

The fact was that the story was great, the pictures were wonderful and the message was valuable. So we scanned the slides, put them on a USB stick and we are ready to show the next instalment next week. Probably, in the future, we will have to rethink this new technology as well but it is likely that the story and the message will still be valuable.

This is one thing we must be very careful of as we continue to navigate a world where everything seems to be changing all the time – we have to be careful not to throw out old message just because it may need a new method of expression. We have to be careful not to remain trapped in the past but not to discard that which is still significant.

When was the last time you looked at the unchanging message of Christ in a fresh way?

Long Range Communications

“Hi mate, its Michael, how are you doing?”

It took me about 15 seconds to realise who was on the other end of the phone line. The voice was familiar but I wasn’t expecting the call, the other thing that threw me off was the fact that the reception was just so clear. Michael was calling from literally the other side of the world but it sounded like he was in the room next door.

I was watching the news yesterday and they crossed to Melbourne for a report and there was at least a 3 second pause between sentences – now here I was, talking to a friend in one of the most remote places in the world, without any difficulty whatsoever.

The quality of long range communications is based upon many variables: the sophistication of the equipment being used; the quality of the local communication lines; the capacity of the exchange that you are working through; and even the atmospheric conditions which are present at the time…all of these work together to determine whether your message will be instant, delayed or not even get to where you want it to go.

After the first surprise at hearing his voice, I was really pleased that we were able to catch up but every now and then throughout the conversation, I had to remind myself about just how amazing it was that we were even able to talk at all.

We live in a time where we just take so many things for granted and we never give them a second thought: We expect communications to be available and instant; we expect wi-fi; we anticipate at least 30 channels when we turn on the TV (even if 15 of them are shopping infomercials!): and we expect to be able to order a caramel Macchiato whenever we feel like one.

There is an old saying that “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and the corollary is also true. Having things always available stops us appreciating them.

Hearing from my mate made me stop and think about another communication line that I often take for granted – it is the open door of prayer that is waiting for us every day. Some days the reception is not so clear or a little delayed but I have worked out that the problem is always on my end. When I follow the simple instructions the delay disappears and real communications can start. So how’s your reception?

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” James 4:8

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!