A Prized Possession…

I was asked this week to give away one of my most prized possessions. I have had it for 26 years and I knew (and had hoped for some time) that this day was coming. I am talking about the fact that a fine young man took the opportunity to ask for my permission to marry my eldest daughter.

My daughter is of course an individual who is free to make up her own mind but I was really glad to be asked. It was a nice ‘old fashioned’ touch that meant a lot to me. It also gave me the opportunity to ask a couple of questions of my own…

I did for a moment think of sending him out on a quest to prove his bold, undying love and commitment. I also thought about the possibility of requesting a herd of goats as a dowry…but instead I settled on a couple of questions which related to how he felt about her and how he intended to strengthen her and stand with her as they make their life together.

I am very excited for them but I could not have been supportive if I wasn’t sure that they were good for each other and that they shared love and commitment for the future. I know that there are lots of great days ahead of them, some full of joy and some full of challenge, but together they will be able to face it.

As I thought about my role as a father it gave me reason to pause and contemplate our Father in heaven. The central message of the complete Bible can be summed up in a single verse from John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”

The importance of the gift cannot be under estimated neither can its inherent value.

God gave each one of us the right to accept or reject, to learn from or ignore the gift of His Son. As a Father, He relinquishes the authority to you, one in whom He has the greatest hope.

As parents, my wife and I get to sit back and to watch our children make their way in the world, we offer advice, we offer help but the choice is up to each one. Your Father in heaven has set plans ahead of you but it is up to you how you will respond. I hope that you are ‘old fashioned’ enough to care and respond to all He hope for you!

Can a mud bath make you clean?

We had no hesitation to do it and it was always a part of our plan but it was a strange experience nonetheless. The last couple of days of our holiday took us to Rotorua in New Zealand, which is one of the most geologically active places in the world. The city and surrounding region is filled with thermal pools, geological parks, boiling mud pits and steam emanating from fissures in the rock and even flowing out of the drains which line several of the streets.

The smell of the sulphur in the air is assailing to the senses and an amazing mist of steam that arises over the city is like a permanent cloud.

But the thing we wanted to do, and our journey required, was that we had planned to take a ‘mud bath’. We were going to join the thousands of people who each year step into a hot pool filled with volcanic, muddy water and sit, completely covering themselves with a dark grey mud with a pungent aroma in the name of ‘good health’ and ‘cleanliness’.

That of course is the incongruent part – we were covering ourselves with sticky mud in order to get cleaner, smoother skin after the event.

The concept is that the volcanic mud is so fine and gently abrasive that it exfoliates and tones your skin with nutrients and minerals. It was so strange to see my wife, who like things clean, to be coating herself from head to toe with this grey mud and then washing it off and doing it again.

How can mud make you clean?

After our time in the mud bath we headed to the shower and it felt great to wash away the grey and see your skin once more…I don’t know for certain but I think I felt cleaner and my skin felt smooth but maybe that was just wishful thinking. One thing I am sure of is that the aroma of the mud clung to me for a couple of days and there was no escaping where I had been and what I had experienced.

This reminded me of something even more significant and powerful… the fact that the Bible tells me that Jesus’ blood has the power to wash away the stains of my sin and shame. It seems incongruent and impossible that blood could wash you clean but I know for a fact that it works. I also know that I am forever changed because of it – perhaps it is the type of wash you need?

Fantasy or reality?

It started over 30 years ago when I first read ‘The Hobbit’ and it continued when I read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ to my wife during the first year we were married. I loved these books and I would find myself visiting them at least every couple of years. I had copies of the BBC radio adaptations and various versions of the audio books but when the movies finally came out I was overwhelmingly impressed with the world that Sir Peter Jackson had released from the printed page and brought forward into a visual reality.

This week we had the opportunity to visit the movie set of ‘Hobbiton’ which last year was the most visited tourist attraction in New Zealand (and is probably going to be so again this year). To say that it was ‘well done’ would be a massive understatement as I found that it lived up to and exceeded my expectations at every turn. I am not going to spoil it for anyone by giving away details because I hope (if you are interested) you will one day be able to find them out for yourself but I just want to say that I was not disappointed by what I experienced.

So many things seem to fail to live up to the hype they are surrounded in. We are bombarded by reality and lifestyle shows that promise dramatic and ‘shocking’ outcomes, only to find that someone merely made a mistake when cooking dinner – which happens in most houses from time to time. We have all made a purchase which has promised to change our life, but when we get home we soon find it is merely another item on a long lists of ‘almosts’. We have all looked forward to a special event and had it fail to impress or travelled to visit somewhere special only to find that it is actually not that special after all.

So when something lives up to its advertising we are surprised, refreshed and satisfied all at the same time. This is precisely how I felt after visiting Hobbiton and it was a welcomed rarity. When you come across something that lives up to its expectations you want to share it with others. That is why every week I share with you. Even more than the fantasy of Hobbiton I have found a reality that you can rely upon – the hope found in the person and promises of Jesus Christ.

“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given.”   Romans 5:5

What a difference the light makes…

“And just out this window you will have a beautiful view of the river…”

We had arrived at our destination after the sun had fallen, it had been a good trip but it felt like we had been taken into the middle of no-where and it was dark. There were no stars to be seen and no moon gracing us with its presence. For most of the afternoon it had been raining steadily and how we had arrived at our very nice accommodation but it was dark, cold and wet. We looked outside but we could see nothing at all. I found myself trying to imagine what I was missing and the longer I looked, the darker it seemed to get. I wondered if it was going to live up to the expectations I had been encouraged to hold – I would just have to wait until the morning.

What a difference the ‘light’ makes!

When the dawn arose (I was awake because of the time change), there truly was a sight worth seeing; an expansive river, framed by a picturesque grove of trees, an un-interrupted and totally natural viewpoint which refreshed your heart just by looking at it. The little Bungalow where we were staying sat right on a bend in the riverbank so from every angle it felt like you were surrounded. To say it was peaceful was an understatement and to say that it lived up to the hype was dreadfully inadequate.

The fact was that the beautiful view was there the night before but we couldn’t see it because it was obscured by the darkness. The fact was that the ‘peace and tranquillity’ were there but they were overrun by the effects of the cold and falling rain.

One of the sad things in life is when our circumstances overtake our potential and when the challenges we face cause us to lose sight of all that is available to us. The truth is that many positive opportunities are missed because we never allow ‘the light’ to shine upon us. Darkness closes in and traps us in a cage of unbelief and doubt and we miss out on what could belong to us.

The purpose of God and the very mission of Jesus; was to come to earth as ‘the light of the world’ – to shine true light on our potential and to demonstrate the picturesque nature of a life lived on His terms.   That is an image worth seeing and that is a life worthy of waking up for!

Change of contract..

I was dealing some legal issues this week regarding an organisation that I oversee. We are transitioning from one legal entity to another and so everything has to be re-written and transferred across. One of the many tasks that were on my list was the re-issuing of contracts to the various people who are employed by us. It is only a simple change really, but it has taken quite a bit of time to work it out. The only thing that had to change was the name of the organisation that employs them but, of course, it is not that simple.

Firstly, I had to engage the lawyers (to write the draft contract), then I had to run it by the Board of Directors, then I had to prepare the contracts with the various idiosyncrasies of the individuals involved, then I had to discuss the contract with each individual, then I had to negotiate with a couple of them who wanted to make adjustments and changes, then the final contracts were agreed on, signed and actioned… simple!

Contracts are agreements between at least two parties, which spell out the understood parameters of the relationship. In changing from one contract to another I was informed that the new contract must not remove any benefits or conditions from the employee but could add benefits or improve the conditions under which they work. So I had to make certain that my employees were ‘better off’ under the new system. This is not always the case, an often people are faced with a change of working conditions or a limiting of their income or benefits – at that point they are left with a difficult choice to continue in that employment or to look elsewhere.

I don’t know what contracts you are party to in your life…perhaps work, a mortgage, a marriage or a partnership. This week gave me an opportunity to pause and think about the most important ‘change of contract’ I have ever been involved in.

From birth, I was in charge of my own life. I was free to make my own decisions, to go where I wanted and to do what I pleased but the result was not satisfaction but emptiness and longing. It was not until I exchanged contracts and allowed Jesus to be in control of my life that I found the peace and joy I was looking for.

Perhaps it is time to renegotiate?

You will be better off I guarantee!

“For you are not your own, you have been bought with a price…” 1 Cor 6:19

How long and how much?

“So how long do you think it is going to take?”

I asked this question, because I was paying him by the hour, actually, I was paying him by the 10 minutes… $165 call out including the first 30 mins and then $25 per 10 minutes or part thereof. I had watched this technician (from a respectful distance) take the oven out of the wall, take the covers off, scratch his head and then make several calls asking for information about what he was looking at…and the time kept ticking.

At the $165 point I asked him how things were tracking and he told me that he thought the model number was wrong and ‘they’ are just finalising what the problem actually is… at the $240 point I asked again and he told me that he would be able to ‘fix it’ but it would cost between $500-$700.   At the $315 point, he took another phone call and it was clear that he was quickly packing up, preparing to leave. I asked him what was happening and he said that the manufacturer is going to send someone else out to fix it… I only had one other question and that was “How much is that going to cost?”

He told me that because he couldn’t fix the job there would be no-cost for today but I would have to pay the manufacturer when they came… He also told me that this was the first time that he had ever worked on this particular machine!

So I haven’t spent any money yet – but my oven is still not working – hopefully when the manufacturer returns we will be more successful. What I need is someone who knows my machine, understands the faults, has access to the replacement parts and has the skill to deal with the problem first hand. My previous technician obviously had little or none of these skills.

Most of my life works, most of the time – but when things get ‘out of order’ or one aspect ‘breaks down’ I, like everyone else need some assistance – but who do you turn to?

I am glad that I have found a ‘life technician’ who has me covered when I need assistance: He knows me and my faults; He has access to what I need to make me complete and functional; and He has the skill and experience to assist me – Why? Because He has faced everything that I have and more…Maybe you should give him a call…

“For we have a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses…in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Heb 4:15

The phone offender…

It was the ringtone to beat all ring tones and it seemed to go on forever…

It was one of those ringtones that you would be embarrassed to have on your phone and you wonder why a grown man would ever have chosen it? To make matters worse, he took absolutely ages to answer the call – the phone was in his pocket and it was inside a plastic zip-locked bag and he fumbled for a couple of seconds, stood up, reached into his pocket and finally extracted his phone. This all happened in the middle of the tutorial that I was running with 20 other people in the room.

At this point I expected the ‘phone offender’ to look embarrassed and to turn off his phone but to my surprise (and everyone else’s in the group) he answered the call. I then expected him at least to move outside of the classroom but he didn’t. He remained standing and spoke in full voice to ‘David’ who was on the other end of the call and told him that he could not ‘talk for long’ because he was in the middle of a class and would have to call him back. However, you will be pleased to know that he was not rude on the phone and didn’t just cut David off but proceeded to share his viewpoint on the management style and efficiency of the organisation that David was enquiring about!

Finally the phone call was over, the phone was placed safely back in the zip-locked bag and the student took their seat and the class could continue.  Interestingly or maybe ironically it was a class on Effective Communication Techniques!

I could spend the rest of my article pointing out the issues I had with this action or the correct mobile phone etiquette but I would rather muse on the fact of how unaware this individual was about the impact he was having on those around him. He put ‘his need’ above everyone else’s and showed little or no respect to me or the class, failing to even offer an apology for his interruption.

As I thought a little more about this it made me quite determined not to fall into this pattern – which simply comes from thinking of yourself rather than thinking of others. Perhaps it is a good opportunity for us all to assess and adjust our actions…

“Be kindly affectionate to one another with love, in honour giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;”                                   Romans 12:10–11