What is your label?

“I don’t think that is your name!”

“It certainly doesn’t suit you!”

I was at a conference this week along with hundreds of other people but I had the privilege of sitting up the front in a seat that had been set aside for me – as I sat down the sticker on the chair must not have been attached properly because it stuck itself to the centre of my back and so, for about an hour, I walked around with the word “Reserved” stuck prominently for all to see.

During the hour that I walked around with this label on me, it is possible that no-one else saw it, it is far more probable that several people chuckled to themselves and it is even possible that a couple of people may have been confused by it – but one thing is for sure (from my perspective) it was a label that didn’t suit me at all.

I have been described in many different ways – some are flattering and others not so. Some people like my personality but I know that there are some who view me differently. There are many adjectives that I would use to describe myself but ‘reserved’ is not one I would claim.

I would accept ‘enthusiastic’, ‘excitable’, ‘thoughtful’ and even ‘careful’. ‘Driven’, ‘passionate’, ‘impetuous’ and ‘spontaneous’ would even be acceptable. However, the title ‘reserved’ doesn’t do it for me – it suggests ‘holding back’, ‘timidity’ and a ‘lack of action’ and this is not who I am comfortable to be.

The person who took the label off my back was a friend who saw the funny side of that name being upon me but often we have ‘labels’ put upon us which we do not deserve or which are inaccurate.

People place labels on us because of our ethnicity, our belief structure and our place in society. Labels limit us to a narrow life and lead to nothing but misunderstanding. Labels cut us off from one another and segregate us.

So you probably have many ‘labels’ just like I do – some you are happy with, others you would like to remove but I have found that there is only really one label that matters at all. The Bible says that we have the opportunity to have the ultimate label – it is one which changes our future and defines our actions and responses. It is a label worth wearing and worth living up to!

“They shall see Jesus’ face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.”            Revelation 22:4

How do you smell today?

“What is that horrible smell???”

These were the first words that my wife spoke to me last Saturday…I had been up early to fulfil my what seems to be weekly ritual of heading to Bunnings to purchase those items I need for working on the house but also to pause and to ‘save the world one sausage at a time’!

This trip was in response to my horticulturist brother-in-law’s suggestion that the plants in my garden needed ‘a feed’ – I purchased 3 large bags of fertiliser and gave a generous spring-feeding to all of the plants surrounding my house. To me the smell was ‘earthy and wholesome’ but this was not a view held by the rest of the members of my household.

They were not as generous in their descriptions and in fact were filled with complaints about the fragrance that was now wafting through the open doors and windows on a bright and sunny weekend.

I tried to explain that the garden would be healthier because of the fertilisation – I mentioned that the plants would grow, they would be more colourful and that it was short-term pain for long-term benefit – but all my wife said in response was “I don’t care…it stinks!”

Plants are amazing things – they have the capacity to turn waste and refuse into blooms, growth, flowers and fruit. Thankfully the flowers and fruit they bear do not smell or taste like the waste they convert – but inside the plant is the capacity for changing negative to positive. The benefit comes from the processing of negatives.

Not everything in our life has a positive fragrance. We encounter negative attitudes, behaviour, emotions and experiences – often, these smell really bad and they leave a bad taste in our mouths – but the question is, ‘What do you do in response?’

Do you let the smell of the incident just remain on the surface and impact and infect others?

Or do you allow the negative to be internally processed where you can witness it change into something different which actually can be beneficial?

I have found the joy in ‘processing’ the negatives in my life – it is better than the only other option!   What about you? How do you smell today?

“Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.”

2 Corinthians 2:14

Time to grow up!

I had a moment last weekend where the chaos subsided and I realised just what was happening. I stood next to my son as his eyes lit up and then started to glisten as his new bride walked down the aisle to meet him. It was a beautiful day, in a fantastic location, surrounded by friends and family, who all seemed to be having a wonderful time…and I also had the privilege of conducting the service.

This is the first of our children to be married and so it starts a new era for our family and so many things change – we have not lost a son but gained a bedroom! No really…we have gained another daughter. A new family unit has started and they will (I’m sure) do things differently, reach for different goals, experience different things and that is what makes it fantastic!

Life is all about growth and with growth comes some pain – it is bitter sweet to watch your children launch out on their own, especially when you have been so focussed on their safety, comfort and development – but to not allow them to grow would be terrible, to not see them become all they could be would be such a waste.

I did find myself looking at my son throughout the day and recalling the child he was, his growth, his challenges, the times he was sick and the times that he really needed me and I confess that it made me ‘misty’ more than once – but those feelings were balanced out but the fact that I know he is now a fine young man with a great future and a great partner to share the road with.

I have no doubt that they will do well and I look forward with expectation to what is ahead.

‘Ahead’ is a good place to look, looking ‘behind’ is fun and nostalgic but you can’t achieve anything if you dwell there.

Remember, ‘growth’ is the right option to choose no matter how old we become.

In the great ‘love’ passage in 1 Corinthians, that was read at the wedding, it says at the end

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became adult, I put away childish things… Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” 1 Cor13:11–12

Maybe it is time we all ‘grew up’ and get to know Him who already knows us so well.

Everything Changes…

In the next few days an event is going to take place that will change the dynamic of our family from that moment on. As incredible as it seems to me, my son is getting married and a new season is about to begin. I say ‘incredible’ not because I am surprised that he has found someone who is willing to have him, or because I didn’t think he would step up to make a commitment but because I don’t know if I am quite ready to be the father of married children…

I am not suggesting that I am against the wedding – far from it – I can’t wait to celebrate such a great day but it is a change that will be felt in many different ways: A new family is about to be formed; we are gaining a daughter (not losing a son); our house will be quieter (at times); a new generation steps up and we are ‘promoted’ to the next level and so on…

I have always been available to my son and will continue to do so but this step sees him launch into a different place where they will want to do things their way and that might be totally different to how we would have done it… and that’s ok.

The Bible talks about marriage like this…

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:5–6

To achieve this type of outcome takes total commitment – commitment to openness and honesty – commitment to love and devotion – commitment to change and adaptation. Without these, no marriage can survive.

If you are married then perhaps today is a good opportunity to do a quick inventory on how you are travelling and to flag things that need improvement in your own marriage.

Think of the advice you would give a young couple starting out on that journey and maybe just follow it yourself!

The best advice I can give my son is to invite the Lord’s strength to play its part in his relationship with his wife – he is determined to do this and I know that he is well on the road to success.

So married or not, that same advice is available for you…why would you refuse that, which could change everything?

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