He Turns Up!

“So why do you think it is growing?”

I was asked this question recently regarding a community project that I have been a part of for the last six months. “Hornsby Connect” has been providing low cost food to people in need each Wednesday and our clientele has now grown significantly.   We have a great group of volunteers and loads of effort has been put in to the setting up of the organisation… but those things are not the ‘secret to success’.

The reason we are growing is simple, but it is often simple things which are overlooked.

The one thing we have done is “we have turned up” – each week, consistently and willingly we have opened the doors and provided what we promised. At first, things moved slowly and there were even doubts that what we were offering was needed but slowly and surely it became apparent that if we just ‘turned up’ and opened the doors, then more and more would come. As long as we keep doing the same thing I believe that a positive future is assured.

Consistency is a powerful attribute; it has the capacity to change so many situations. Whether it is consistency as a worker, a friend, a spouse or a parent, there is no substitute whatsoever.

If we learn to build consistency into what we do then we are destined to have success and become valued by all who have dealings with us.

It is better to have someone who consistently delivers 80% day in day out, than someone who can hit 100% but can’t be relied upon to show up. Consistency builds confidence, satisfaction and hope – when you know it is going to be there you can begin to rely upon it.

This is why this is such an important attribute of the Lord’s character and the way He reveals Himself to His people. He said “I am the Lord I do not change!” (Mal 3:6) What this means in simple terms is “He turns up!”

Consistently, reliably and with all His benefits available – He turns up.

Every time we pray, every time we are in need of support, every time we are surrounded by doubt – He turns up.

Every time we need direction, every time we need encouragement, every time we are alone

He turns up.

His consistency has made such a difference in my life (and I know it can in yours) it makes me determined to be consistent in the way I respond and support others – how about you?

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Have you been diluted?

Everything was running just like normal and yet, each day, it was becoming more and more green.

We are coming to the end of the swimming season and I have been trying to keep my pool looking nice and clean so that we can make the most of it whilst the weather holds but the last few weeks have proven difficult because of the massive amount of rain that we have had.

During the last month my pool has overflowed at least 4 times and for a while there I wondered if it was ever going to stop, but eventually the clouds cleared away and the sun came up but my pool was left looking decidedly green.

So, with the first fine day, I skimmed of the leaves, vacuumed the pool, threw the chemicals in that usually fix things and waited – still green.

So I made a trip to the pool shop with a sample of water and their analysis told me that everything was fine except for the salt level;

I needed to put in 150kgs of salt to balance my pool. This seemed like a lot but the expert assured me that this was the case… The problem was that the rain had diluted all of the salt content of the pool and left it vulnerable to the algae that makes a pool turn green. The more it rained the more diluted the pool became, and the more diluted the pool became, the more green.

So I added the salt, mixed it all in and within two days the tide had changed and the water started to turn clear – The pool is now back to normal – at least until it rains again!

As I was loading the many bags of salt into my pool I pondered the concept of dilution and the different types of ‘rain’ that could affect my life… I thought of the enthusiasm that I often start a task with and the ‘dilution’ which comes through disappointment and difficulty; I thought of the love and commitment which is present in a newly-wed couple that can be diluted through familiarity and the breaking of promises; I thought of the passion with which people approach their initial relationship with God and how time, challenge and grief can dilute it to mere ritual and form rather than vibrant relationship.

Jesus said “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned?”         Matthew 5:13

The question is…Have you been diluted?  

Can’t get no satisfaction…

I was listening to a mother recount a story about her son – she told me how proud she was when her 9 year old stood up to a shop assistant and said, “Well I am not satisfied! Can you please get me your manager!”

I am not sure if I would be proud of a nine year old standing there with their hands on their hips being somewhat petulant, but the mother was adamant that it was a good trait – “You have to stand up for your rights and it is no good to go home unsatisfied!”

This statement made me start to think – the truth is that it is not only Mick Jagger who “Can’t get no satisfaction” it seems to be a consistent malady which impacts the whole of our society. People seem unsatisfied with much of the content of their lives – they are unsatisfied with their car, their job and their current phone plan. People seem to change careers faster than they change their hairstyles and they often express their dissatisfaction in subtle ways… even the default answer to the question “How are you today?” is revealing… “Not too bad” is the common response…what is this, if not a statement of dissatisfaction?

When you look at your life – how do you feel?

If you had to tick a box which varied between: Extremely Satisfied; Somewhat Satisfied; Satisfied; Somewhat Unsatisfied or Extremely Unsatisfied which would you choose?

The problem is that we tend to base our satisfaction upon things which are going to let us down… Influence and strength; wealth and possessions; sex and pleasure; other people; and our own knowledge… The issue is, that none of these are guaranteed and at some point, all of them are going to fail and we are going to be left unsatisfied.

Hedonism is defined as – the pursuit of the ultimate pleasure or indulgence – After years of searching I have found an interesting and delightful truth – the ultimate hedonism is knowing and living responsively to the Lord.

If I seek Him first – everything else I need or want flows out of that.

“As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.”                      Psalms 17:15

When I looked at my face in the mirror this morning I realised that I have not yet arrived at my destination but I am at least on the way – how about you?

Let’s head towards satisfaction together!

Substitutions…

I was being looked after very well, I was answering some questions with a small group following a talk I had just given and this helpful woman had taken it upon herself to grab me some food so I didn’t have to break off my conversation. She arranged a nice little fruit platter for me and handed it to me without a word. It was nice fresh fruit and it was very welcome…a few moments later she returned once more and gave me 3 pieces of pineapple to top off my fruit platter – she simply leaned forward said “Pineapple?” and then placed it on my plate. I continued talking for a few moments and then ate a strawberry, a few minutes more talking and I ate the piece watermelon, a little more talking and I bit into the pineapple – but it was immediately obvious that there was something not quite right.

I was expecting a slight crunch, the sweet tropical taste, the slightly acidic flavour and the refreshment which comes from summer fruit – instead I bit into this somewhat soggy, smoky flavoured, chewy substance that for a few seconds was unknown. It looked like pineapple; its colour, texture and context suggested that it was pineapple; but it wasn’t – it was Swiss cheese.

It wasn’t that much of an issue – I like eating cheese with fruit but it was just a surprize, because I was expecting something else, it took a moment to adjust and then everything was fine.

It could have been worse I guess, if I was expecting a pineapple flavoured milkshake and had been handed a cheese flavoured one or maybe if I was making tuna mornay and the substitution went the other way…uggggh!

The woman who was looking after me was so apologetic, fearing that I may have been lactose intolerant or just generally intolerant but she didn’t really need to worry – it was no big deal.

Some substitutions are welcome – when you get an upgrade of a meal or a flight.

Some substitutions are disappointing – when you get the understudy at a show you have been looking forward too or an ingredient is changed in the meal because the kitchen ran out.

There are certain things that cannot and should never be substituted – when it comes to personal and spiritual help – substitutions are not welcome at all… because…

“No one is holy like the LORD, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.”                                          1 Samuel 2:2

Unknown Assistance

Last night my wife took on an unwelcomed intruder who had ventured into our house. It was during the middle of the night that she first heard the intruder and then saw him – a large huntsman spider crawling up the wall of our bedroom.   At first she thought about letting the ugly critter remain but she knew that she would not have been comfortable nor able to get back to sleep if she did. So she stepped out of bed, put on all the lights and dealt with the problem…all of this happened with me blissfully ignorant and asleep in the bed.

If she hadn’t told me what she had done I would never have known and it made me think about what other things had happened for my benefit without me being aware.

I thought about the police force and intelligence communities who vigilantly keep our country safe from those who would seek to attack and spread terror; I thought of the researchers who are working behind the scenes to target diseases and make our crops more resilient to pests and rigours of our climate; I thought of the hundreds of people who do hundreds of little things to make our lives a little better and found myself amazingly grateful for them all.

It is so easy to take things for granted and remain unaware and unthankful – we live in a society that has so many benefits that we become callously attached to our comfort and we lament the loss of it loudly at the first sense of discomfort…

Being unaware of what someone has done for you leads to being ignorantly unthankful, this is not a great place to live – the person who has done the deed on your behalf can feel unappreciated and you as the recipient can appear unappreciative and entitled. The best answer to this problem is to regularly take stock of all the benefits which are present in your life.   Psalm 103:2 “Bless the Lord O my soul and forget not all of His benefits!”

There are so many things that the Lord and others have provided for you – make sure that you are not ‘asleep in the bed’ just enjoying them. Take a moment today to list the good things that God has done and the good things that other people have done for you – approach your life with thankfulness – it is a lot more enjoyable than any other option.

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!