The way of life winds upwards

It has been a dramatic four weeks and she is very happy to be finally heading home. My mother went to hospital to follow up on some tests and it became very apparent, very quickly that she was going to need immediate, significant, surgery. She underwent a quadruple bypass operation and she has been recovering ever since.

The operation went forward without incident, it was very successful and we again are thankful for the skill of the doctors and nurses and for the quality of care that is available in our nation.

I visited my mum each day and, along with everyone else, I was greatly concerned as she initially came through the operation. People look so vulnerable in ICU and time seems to pass so slowly. But the next morning I found mum sitting up in bed and changing channels on the TV! Every day from there she showed improvements – it was not without its pain and challenge but each day she grew stronger. She was able to stand, to walk, her ‘foggyness’ departed and she slowly returned to her old self. She undertook rehab and it seems that she will be even better than she was before… it is a great and pleasing outcome.

Not everything in our life automatically and consistently improves, we have times that can be difficult and our circumstances can spiral out of control.  It is at these times we must careful not to give into despair and we must hold onto hope. The book of Proverbs tells us “The way of life winds upward for the wise, so that they may turn away from hell below.” (15:24)

It promises that if we are wise then our lives will ‘wind upwards’ – that doesn’t mean that our lives will be perfect and without challenge but it promises hope that better things are ahead.

The fact is that ‘this life’ is not just about ‘this life’.  Our time on earth is limited, flawed and filled with both good and bad…our response to this life, our response to each other and our response to Christ determine our eternity.

Your life may currently be on the ‘up and up’ or it might be spiralling downhill and out of control, or it may be somewhere in the middle….but wherever you find yourself, I hope that you are making a ‘wise’ response, because then your road will wind upwards. Yet another proverb caps it off… (9:10) “The fear and knowledge of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”

Maybe He is the wisdom you really need?

Difficult is the way…

There are two ways that you can get to the almost mythical ruins of Aguas Calientes which is more commonly called Machu Picchu. It is a ruined city nestled high in the mountains of Peru and is one of the world’s most famous heritage sites. Your two options are: a four day hike up the Inca Trail – challenging, breath-taking, tiring, thrilling, stretching and fulfilling or;

you can catch the train, step onto a bus and then take a 5 minute walk from the bus to the ruins.

Many people choose to complete the walk but even more people take the train and bus option.

I wonder how those people feel when they arrive – what do they recall of the experience?

The walkers have endured and conquered a challenge that seems fitting to the destination. The riders have possibly been a little uncomfortable on the trip but have had it pretty easy. I wonder if there is a bit of an ‘us and them’ attitude between the two groups?

When I think about experiences and journeys in my life the most valued and memorable ones have been difficult. I have walked through the highlands of New Guinea, taken small boats to remote Islands in the Pacific and ridden ridiculously under powered motor-cycles 800 km circumnavigating and Island in the Philippines. My observation is that, the more difficult the trip, the more I enjoyed the destination and the experience.

Very few things worth having in this life are easy – and yet we all tend to strive for an ‘easy life’. The reality is that if you want a quality life then a certain amount of challenge is going to have to be experienced.

In the book of Matthew in the Bible we find that Jesus said precisely this…

“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.”

  • Difficult doesn’t mean wrong
  • Difficult doesn’t mean lack of blessing
  • Difficult doesn’t mean unenjoyable
  • Difficult means that there is something worth seeing at the end!

So don’t just opt to catch the train and bus – take the challenge to live your life the difficult way, the Christ-like way…

Believe me, the destination is worth it!

Mount up with wings…

This week I had the opportunity to watch one of my newly hatched budgies take the awesome leap out of the nesting box for the very first time. I had been observing these young birds for the last few weeks, ever since they hatched and I have been amazed by just how fast they have grown. The previous two days I found two young birds flying about the cage but yesterday I happened to be present as the last of the clutch suck its head out of the box, stepped onto the ledge and then took its first flight.

It was not very impressive, it didn’t last long, the landing was less than perfect but the second attempt was better. Within half an hour the young budgie was exploring the whole cage and was being welcomed by the other birds.

Throughout the course of the day his flying improved even more and it is more than likely that he will never return to the nest.

In the last few months I have been coming to terms with two of my own children ‘leaving the nest’. My son was married in September and my daughter is getting married in February. I am excited to see them ‘take flight’ but I am also a little conflicted, as I will miss the way things were. Life presents opportunities for growth but growth leads to change and change is a mix of exciting and uncomfortable.

Some of the birds in my aviary are very young and others (of course) are much older – for some, flight is a new thing but it is normal and even passé for the others. Flight is to a bird as walking is to us – you don’t even think about it until you cannot do it.

But if a bird gets too tired to fly, if weariness grounds it so that it cannot move, then it is in danger: Danger of predators; danger of starvation; and danger of separation.

Weariness has the same effect upon us all and tiredness can make everything seem hard and fraught with dangers, which can hinder us.

 

“Even the youths shall faint and be weary…but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”           Isaiah 40:30

 

So whether you have recently flown the coop or if, like me, you are an older bird – be refreshed as you wait upon the Lord!

Brittleness

I was sitting at my desk, basting in the heat of my office, responding to the pile of paper and emails which had accumulated during my holidays when I was suddenly assailed. Firstly by a loud crunching noise and immediately after by a spray of plastic, dust and general debris.

I was really shocked, both by the noise and the dust and I thought that something must have crashed into the outside wall of my office – on inspection there was no damage outside and so I came back inside to find my desk absolutely covered with tiny pieces of plastic. Upon examination it finally dawned on me, and looking upwards confirmed it…my electric fan, which was sitting above my desk, had completely self-destructed and one of the fan blades had broken off and had shattered all of the others. Because this happened when the fan was going flat out, it had sent the tiny shards of plastic all over me, my computer and my desk… it was really quite exciting and I have never seen anything like it before.

The problem was caused by the fact that the fan was quite old and that it sits in a spot which gets hit by direct sun, over time the plastic became brittle and finally a small crack appeared and it was only a matter of time until it completely failed. One moment it was functioning, the next it was a dangerous ‘projectile delivery’ device.

This unexpected shower of plastic gave me an opportunity to stop and think (and an opportunity to clean up my office!). I wondered just how many times people are living on the brink of disaster without really realising it. I wonder how many relationships have cracks which are only waiting for the wrong type of stress to occur?

I wonder how many people are struggling with mental health issues, loneliness and despair but look ok on the outside but really are only a moment away from a breakdown?

Perhaps you are not aware that your own heart attitudes have grown brittle through the ‘heat’ of the issues of life which surround you?

The Bible gives us a challenge to remember

“Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

So let’s check the status of our hearts… if there is brittleness there then there is a solution…

“I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

Not a resolution, a revolution…

The tree is back in its box, the baubles have all been packed away, the fairy lights are back in the garage and the confetti and streamers have been cleaned up from the New Years Eve celebrations – and so we are into another new year.

When people write about the New Year they often speak about a ‘fresh start’ or a ‘new focus’. They express hope and confidence that this year is going to surpass the previous one and that improvements are on the way in various areas of their lives. People make resolutions and state that they are going to get fit, thin and more beautiful – they determine that they need to change house or work or relationship status – it is actually a time when people consider change and wander through various scenarios of how their life could be different – but then the reality strikes – the exercise regime is halted, the old challenges remain and become our focus and the post ‘silly season blues’ take over.

For many of us, this time of year is a challenge – for some the year is going to be filled with ‘excitement, adventure and really wild things’ but for others it is going to be filled with ‘life’ – and not a very different life from last year.

I am sounding a little depressing but that is not my purpose, I just want to point out that we cannot survive on just the hype of a Christmas cake and a midnight countdown – true happiness and contentment require more substance.

The truth is that I could be fitter, thinner and more beautiful – I could diet, exercise and have a face lift but the contents of my ‘life’ would not change, I would still be the same ‘me’ inside, facing the same challenges on the outside.

The only way I can change my life is to allow change within – and this is more than a ‘resolution’ it is a ‘revolution’. It is a determined decision to allow something to happen within that changes my perspective and is outworked in my actions and behaviour.

The Lord said two things of interest for us as we start this year – ‘My mercies do not fail…they are new every morning’ & ‘I have come that you might have life and life more abundantly’.

So the Lord is willing and ready to work with you as you seek for more life, joy, hope and peace to be present (not just for a few weeks in January but) throughout the whole year ahead!

Let’s allow Him room in 2017…

It started with a tax…

It was one of those simple decisions that impacted everybody. The Emperor Augustus decided that he wanted to know how many people made up the greater Roman Empire and so he ordered everyone to return to their ‘home town’ to register – he did this for two reasons – to get a definitive count of the strength of Rome but also to be able to effectively tax all of the people and raise the required revenue he intended to spend.

When you think about the challenges of displacing much of the population of several nations it makes our failed census of August 2016 not look as bad as we remember!

So this is the context in which we find the ‘Christmas Story’ taking place. Joseph and Mary travelling from Nazareth to Bethlehem not because they wanted to, but because they had been forced to…the roads were crowded, supplies were limited, accommodation was scarce but there was no choice…

We all know the story pretty well: the innkeeper offers them a place with the animals because it is all he has available; the shepherds visit after the baby is born because they have heard the angels sing… the world, for the most part, remains blissfully unaware about what has taken place… it is a series of images which endure and are recounted year by year.

But it all started with a tax…the first Christmas was destined to ‘cost’ everyone something and because of this it was not a time of joy and peace but a time of concern and frustration.

Many people still view and approach Christmas as a ‘cost’ – expensive presents, food, days off work and crowded streets and roads. As we approach the final days before the 25th I often hear people grumbling and complaining about one aspect of this crazy season or another – they focus on what it is costing them and they wonder if it is really worth it.

The fact is that the first Christmas may have coincided with a cost but it is actually all about ‘a gift’. The ‘gift’ is not the romanticised and sanitised image of the nativity but the powerful message of what really transpired that first Christmas – the Emperor want to tax the world but God in Heaven reaches down to give the world its greatest gift – He presents His only Son, to live amongst us and to show us the way to live.

So don’t just count the cost this Christmas – make certain that you recognise the wealth you have been given through the Gift of Jesus!

This Christmas I pray you will receive ‘the gift’ that waits for you!

The Perfect Christmas

“CAN YOU CALL someone else to come up the front and help!”

It was not a request; it was a command.

It was not a medical emergency or anything of similar magnitude; it was surprising to those who were standing around but there was no doubt how she felt and what she wanted

I was at the counter of one of the $2 shops at Hornsby buying up party supplies for Christmas and there were about 4 or 5 people in the line behind me as the young lady on the checkout was counting and bagging my items.

I had bought up big and so it was taking a bit of time but obviously the woman, who was number 4 in the line, felt that it was taking far too long and so she spoke up as I have mentioned.

It was a surprise when she spoke and the way she spoke seemed out of place.

You could see the frustration on her face, you could hear the tension in her voice and you couldn’t miss the annoyance in her stance…she was in a rush and no one should get in her way.

Christmas has a way of bringing the best and worst out of people – I think that we have probably gone too far with the idea that everything has to be ‘perfect’ for just one day. People put a lot of pressure upon themselves to have the perfect meal, the perfect present, the perfect decorations and the perfect family day – the problem is, life isn’t perfect.

As I walked away from the shops I thought about the woman’s reaction and whilst it was a small, momentary thing, it made me stop and take a measure of just what is really important as I march towards Christmas and the ending of the year.

The goal is not to achieve the perfect Christmas but to remember that God saw that life on earth was far less than perfect and so He did something to rectify it – He sent His Son – and because of Jesus, a more perfect life is available to us all.   So what we need to remember is that Christmas is not just about a day, but all of your days! And that is a reason to celebrate!

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”            Isaiah 9:6–7