Are you distracted?

I was travelling towards the city in the midst of fast moving traffic (for a change) but the car in front was acting erratically. The first thing I noticed was the fact that the driver kept weaving within the lane and was one moment too close to the car in front and then a few moments later, had slowed down as was now too far away.

In a matter of 5 minutes of following I saw at least 10 actions which were dangerous and three that required other drivers nearby to take evasive action. I thought that the driver must have been drunk or having a seizure or something similar and so I carefully positioned myself in the traffic so that I would be able to come alongside. What I found was a woman of about 45 years old holding her mobile phone in one hand whilst texting with the other and controlling the steering wheel with a combination of her elbow and knee.

Her level of distraction was such that she did not respond to my waves or when I sounded my horn. She continued to give only perhaps 10% of her attention to the task at hand and was oblivious to the fact that dozens of people in the traffic were now avoiding her dangerous behaviour.

I don’t need to remind any of you of the reason that using your mobile whilst driving is illegal. Studies show that the distraction that happens even from receiving a single text is equivalent to being over the limit from drinking. All I hope is that this particular driver is pulled over in the not to distant future before she has a serious accident.

Distraction can have dangerous consequences; if I am distracted I can become a neglectful husband and a distant father. I can lose my focus at work and people can suffer. Safety can be overlooked and the important and imperative can be left undone, unsaid and unresolved.

I problem we all face is that there is so much to be distracted by – so many stimuli to process and too many inputs to manage – distraction is a current infection and challenge we all must deal with.

In the bible Martha was distracted with many activities, she was cooking, playing host and trying to be organised but her sister Mary was just sitting at Jesus’ feet. Martha grew angry and asked Jesus to tell Mary to help… but Jesus replied “Mary has chosen the right way, I won’t take it from her”.

How is your level of ‘distraction’ today?

What is your foundation like?

A truck pulls in as another truck pulls out. The large bulldozer lifts yet another bucket of debris and in one action fills the waiting truck which immediately drives away to wherever they are headed… this is what has been happening for the last 5 or so weeks, right outside my office door.

The council are removing 3 bowling greens and replacing them with tennis courts, which sounds simple enough but requires the significant excavation of the site and the exposure of the foundations before they build.

Because it is right outside my office window I have had the opportunity to watch them work – which is always easier than actually working yourself! I have seen the progress and observed the stages so far and it has certainly got me thinking.

The first stage was the removal of the concrete walkways, this exposed some asbestos and so specialists were called in to remove that. Then the grass was removed, the top 30cm or so was scraped off and hauled away. The next layer went down almost another half metre and was beautiful topsoil, which was carefully sifted, separated and sold, I am sure, to a landscaping project somewhere else. Then there was about 600mm of gravel, which was promptly sold off to another project and finally they hit the bedrock and the foundation is now fully exposed.

From what I have heard, this will be as deep as they go and from there they will build the new structure. However, getting to the foundation was important because you can’t build on something that is not secure.

Each of us have numerous layers which hide our ‘foundations’. People see the outside but what is deep within remains hidden and personal.

The clothes we wear, the personality we project, the skills we possess, the supports we rely upon – all these are ‘layers’ which we have added to our lives. But the lesson I take from the ‘soon-to-be-tennis-courts’ is that everything needs a solid foundation. If you were to remove the layers I mentioned, how is your foundation?

If it is shaky or unreliable, then perhaps it is time to address it. I have found Christ’s presence, teachings and guidance to be the best rock on which anyone can ever build… perhaps that is what you need?

“They are like the one building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood and storm beat against that house, they could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.”                                 Luke 6:48

Things I didn’t know…

I thought that I was a pretty seasoned traveller but I suddenly realised that I had a lot to learn. Every now and then I have to fly interstate for meetings and usually I have to wear a jacket or a suit. This poses a little problem because what do you do with the suit jacket during the flight?

If you wear it you end up looking like you have been wrestling with a bear. If you put it in the overhead locker it ends up being crushed by that ‘last passenger’ who gets on the plane with 3 extra bags and, defying all laws of physics, stuffs them in on top of your jacket – the outcome? You end up looking like you have been wrestling a bear. You could leave the jacket on your lap but you run the risk of spilling your coffee or dropping your in-flight meal all over it – I speak from experience – so for years I had struggled to find a solution until the last time I flew.

I was in my seat, trying to arrange my jacket when the guy who had just sat down (let’s call him ‘Travelman’!) took off his jacket and hung it on a small knob which was on the side of the seat in front. I was gobsmacked! I had seen this knob dozens of times, I was certain that it controlled the headrest or was part of the structure of the seat but I suddenly realised that this was the answer to my problem.

Trying to look cool and is if I had always known it, I reached out and hung my jacket for what will definitely not be the last time.

But then I started to think about the other things that maybe I haven’t yet realised. A couple come to mind – on the power adapter of my computer there are two pop out clips for winding the cord – it was over a year before my son pointed out what they were for. A had worked in an office for almost 3 years before I realised that the auto door closer could be disabled with a button and I didn’t need to stand the fire extinguisher against the door to hold it open.

Maybe recognising what you don’t know could be more helpful than you think?

“Have you not known?… The everlasting God, doesn’t grow weary…. He gives power to the weak… 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 40:28–31

The repairer of the breech

4 out of 18 isn’t bad, I suppose…but it is more than I had expected and more than I hoped.

I was asked to do something a little artistic for an up-coming event and it involved transforming a light bulb from its original purpose. I had to remove the end of the light blub, drill through the internal glass, take out the filament and clean up the rough edges. It sounds fiddley and it was. On my first attempt things were going well, the end came off, the glass drilled easily enough, the filament was removed but as I cleaned up the edges I noticed that I had also broken the bulb in the process and there was now a large hole in the wrong end. I refined my process and tried again, this time with success.

However, it was not the only bulb I broke and the challenge began to feel a little ‘hit and miss’.

The problem was the inherent fragility of what I was working with. Light bulbs can last a surprisingly long time under perfect conditions but if you expose them to vibration, jolting or if you accidently hit them with a broom they don’t respond favourably.

There are aspects of our lives which are more fragile than we realise – on the outside we may appear secure, bright and shining but the reality can be quite different – it is well reported that 20% of the population struggles with some type of mental health challenge each year and, truth to tell, we are all susceptible to anxiety, grief, loss, and fear.

It is ok when things are calm, when all the ‘ducks are lined up’ and when we are in control – the problem is violent upheaval which is what happens when one or more of the ‘wheels fall off our cart’ (too many metaphors I know!).

Life is complex at times and has a way of bringing up things which makes it feel like someone is trying to drill through the glass. Most of the time it is ok but there are other moments where it leaves us shattered and permanently damaged.

When I broke my light bulbs I just discarded them and grabbed another – not so easy to do with a life – what we need is someone or someway of rebuilding what was lost.

I am glad that one of the names given to God is ‘the repairer of the breach and the restorer of a place to dwell’ Isaiah 58:12

Perhaps you need His gentle touch today?

Pride goes before a fall

“It is virtually unsinkable…”

“It is completely unhackable…”

Both of these quotes were spoken by people who thought they knew what they were talking about. Both of these quotes proved to be unfounded and left the speakers with more than just ‘egg on their faces’.

When the Titanic sunk on Apr 15, 1912 it sent shock waves around the world – confidence in the Industrial Age was forever shaken. When the Australian Census was hacked on Aug 9, 2016 everyone in Australia wondered how such a blunder could have been allowed to unfold.

It will be interesting to see, in years to come, how this year’s statistics match up and whether many people will simply not bother to lodge their census at all.

The truth is that things do not always go as planned and sometimes they can take a significant turn for the worse.

Last weekend I spent a day digging a trench to fix a plumbing problem at home. I knew that it would be a challenging task but I confidently stated that I would be able to “do it in a day” – I joined the designer of the Titanic and the head of the ABS both in hubris and error.

The trench was not particularly deep but it was 40 metres long – interestingly 39 meters were dug in about 8 hours but the first metre took almost 9 hours to complete – I knew that it would be hard but I didn’t know that it would be that hard… When we finally broke through the first metre, we had to call it a day and the task was mostly still undone… The second ‘day’s’ work went without a hitch and the task was completed but it certainly made me think about the similarity of sinking ships, crashing websites and trenches that refuse to be dug.

The similarity is over-confidence and pride in something we think we control. We all suffer from these maladies in different measure – some just speak louder than others and it is when you raise your voice and draw attention to yourself that it really becomes a problem.

The Bible says “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov 16:18)

Perhaps this is an appropriate time to check ourselves and what we think we are capable of. Pride is not attractive, it forces people away and sets us up for failures.

Maybe your success would be more successful if it was tinged with a little humility?

Outer diameter or Inside diameter?

All I was told was that I needed some 25mm pipe – but I soon found out that I did not have enough information to make an informed purchase. The supplier asked me a question that I could not answer … “Is that ID or OD?” Upon seeing the blank look on my face he added “Inside Diameter or Outside Diameter?”   After some more research it all became clear – I needed some 30mm outer diameter pipe which ends up being 25mm internal diameter. So I made my purchase and now I am ready for the hard part which is digging the trench – but that is another story.

Apart from the initial confusion regarding precisely what was being measured, the pipe I purchased follows the natural order of things… larger on the outside than the inside. The opposite of this is something that has intrigued Doctor Who fans for 40 years but it is not the norm. My pipe gave me reason to ponder about myself – Which is larger, my internal life or my external one? The truth is that the outer diameter of my life has reached its maximum (that is as long as I am careful about what I eat!), I have no more growing to do, I won’t get taller, I won’t get more teeth, I won’t take up significantly more space – but what about my internal diameter? I hope that I have not stopped growing, I hope that I have areas of expansion yet to experience and that there is even more ahead of me than behind. The truth is that we should defy the ‘norm’ and actually be bigger on the inside than out.

When you look at your life which aspect is larger? Is your personality and flamboyance the greater part or is it your internal compassion, integrity and honest understanding of who you are? Are you striving to build your influence on the outside or are you building a solid and secure internal world?

It would be a shame to live a life which was all show and no real substance… what really matters is what is going on inside, what really matters is the size and pliability of our hearts.

So perhaps it is time to take some measurements and check out what is really going on – it is good (and easy) to check your outer diameter but the deeper and more important question is what is happening on the inside?

“I will follow the course of Your commandments and You shall enlarge my heart.” Psalms 119:32

A push too far…

There was no way that I could manage on my own, all I could do was sit there and wait…

It had been one of those days where things just seemed to go wrong in groups of three. My son had borrowed my car for a couple of days, my daughter’s car had a flat battery and my motorcycle wouldn’t start… I finally attempted to roll my bike down my long and steep driveway in the hope that I would be able to jump start and after a promising splutter it just died. This left me with a 250kg bike at the bottom of a large hill with no-where else to go. I push it up the hill as far as I could go and tried to roll start it again – with the same futile outcome… so I was stuck.

In an act of bravado and desperation I tried to push the bike up the hill once more but my best effort only got me a quarter of the way up. By this time I was sweating, my legs were like jelly and it was clear that if I continued, I would end up hurting myself or damaging the bike.

The only thing I could do was wait for someone to come by and give me a hand. After about an hour my two daughters and a fiancé turned up to find me sitting forlornly at the bottom of the drive – between the four of us we were able to get the bike back to the house and we all took the opportunity to sit down to recover. What I couldn’t achieve by myself was doable (although still with effort) by having others help.

It seems that this is a lesson the Lord continues to reinforce to me through the things hat happen in my life – I will admit that I am a bit of a ‘slow-learner’ when it comes to being fiercely independent – but I don’t think that I am along in this.

From the beginning the Lord has said it is ‘not good for a man to be alone’ – we were made for togetherness and community. Isolating or positioning yourself so that you do not let anyone else in, is actually harming you and robbing others of involvement and opportunity.

It is not until things get too much for us that we reach out for assistance.

Perhaps my motorbike is a lesson for more than just me – perhaps you need to let down your guards and admit that there are times when you need assistance as well.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7