Black Salt…

Something was not right but it took a couple of days before somebody worked it out. We were having a big casual family lunch and everyone was loading up their plates ready for a feed. My son asked “Could you pass the salt and pepper” and the required condiments were handed across the bench. After using them, he said “hey, that is not pepper!” “Yes it is” came the reply. “No its not!” repeated the challenge…

It was actually black salt…It looked like pepper, it cracked like pepper…but it was actually salt.

I had never heard of black salt before and it amazed me that a company would market black and white salt in the same brand and shaped bottles and I wondered how many people had made the same mistake as us. We had used this salt and salt (not pepper) for the last week and had not fully registered the problem. If it had been left to me I might not have noticed at all but my arteries may have been worse for wear!

It seems that there are many more varieties of salt available than ever before – Himalayan pink salt is popular and there is of course chicken salt, rock salt and good old Saxa table salt! We are spoiled for choice as entrepreneurs attempt to exploit our passion for change and our desire for something new.

It seems that nothing is straightforward and simple anymore, but layers of complexity are being added to an already confusing life and the pace of change is running away with itself.

The purpose of salt and pepper is to add seasoning and to enhance the flavour of a meal. Too much of one of these will spoil even the finest, best prepared meal available. Too much complexity spoils the flavour of our lives and leaves an aftertaste in our mouths and we are left thirsting for something simpler and easier on the pallet.

I think that ‘black salt’ is an unnecessary addition to my life and I will not be buying it again… I am content with my normal salt…

What are you content with, what are you tired of chasing? What is the latest complexity you realise that you don’t really need?

Maybe its time to stop reaching for the ‘new’ and start celebrating all you already have…

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.”                                    1 Timothy 6:6

 

“Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.”                       Mark 9:50

Christmas in July

Following the theme of “Christmas in July” I recalled an event that made me stop and think.

A while ago I was driving through the Dural area with a friend at the wheel. We were enjoying the sun and the winding roads when we encountered a ‘stoptomotrist’ holding the power over the flow of traffic due to some road works. As we were stopped for maybe a couple of minutes an interesting series of events caught my eye.

I looked out of the window and perused a Christmas Tree farm right near where we were stopped. As I looked over, I realised that smaller trees were at the front near the road and as the ground rose backwards towards the house the trees became larger. Obviously they had been planted with a view to harvesting them in a few months, ready to adorn people’s houses for Christmas. As my gaze reached the house (about 200m away) I saw the owner of the farm step out of his front door with a cup of coffee in his hand and a contented look on his face as he looked at his Christmas trees growing.

In an instant I felt that I knew two things for certain: Number one was that the owner enjoyed doing this every day and; number two, I wanted his job!

Imagine having a role that was so easily measurable that you could see a result each and every day. I know that my job is nothing like that. It is hard to know sometimes if I am achieving anything at all. Being a parent is certainly not like that – you are not sure if you are achieving what you are hoping for. In fact, for a lot of us, there are aspects of our lives that we are not sure how they are really going.

You can spend your life comparing yourself to others (either positively or negatively) “I am not as good as Jim but I am not as bad as Paul!”

but those comparisons are hollow and flawed in many respects – the only real measure is what is happening to us as people on the inside.

So how do you measure yourself – on the inside where it really counts?

The Bible gives me something to aim at and it might help you to think about it and challenge yourself as well. We should keep reaching for growth each day until…

“we all come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;”   Ephesians 4:13

Ineffective doorbell…

I live in a fairly large house and, whilst I am not complaining about that fact in anyway, it did cause a bit of a problem for me last week.

Actually the problem was caused by the failure of a small piece of equipment and the fact that I was listening for the wrong thing.

Our doorbell is one of those that require batteries to work and whilst it is easy to install, it has the basic fault that when the batteries run out it dies. You don’t actually realise that it is not working until you attempt to use it and it does not ring. The problem is that I rarely ring my own doorbell.

The other day I was waiting for a tradesman to come to the house. It was a scheduled meeting and I saw him arrive early and wait in the car. I went about my business inside but the doorbell didn’t ring. 5 minutes, 10 minutes and the doorbell didn’t ring… at this point I walked to the front of the house to check and realised that the tradesman was standing at my front door and he was knocking. I opened the door and he told me that he had knocked at least 4 times and it was at this point that I realised that my doorbell was inoperable and I had been listening for the wrong thing.

If I had not checked out the window the tradesman would have eventually walked away and I would have missed my appointment because I didn’t hear the knocking because I was listening for something else.

So often in our lives we are listening intently for one thing and so we miss what is actually going on. We believe we know what needs to happen and so we fail to recognise when something different comes along.

We make our plans, we ‘map out’ our future, we set goals and we look for certain outcomes…we listen for the doorbell to ring and we are ready to respond. This is all fine and splendid until something different happens – if we are listening for the doorbell alone we can be missing the knock altogether.

Our plans are one thing, what actually is taking place could be something every different.

Maybe we need to listen for something else?

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”                                    Revelation 3:20

Smoky or a fresh fragrance?

I finally gave in and admitted that I was not as tough as I thought I was – the cold had finally won and I was giving in… I rolled the heater out of the corner in which it had been stored for nine months and turned it on.

It did not take long to realise that I had made a small but lasting mistake… within a few moments my office was filling with smoke and the smell of burning filled the air. The error I had made was that I didn’t check whether the heater was safe to turn on and I hadn’t accounted for the build up of dust on the internal elements. My office has been surrounded by a building site for the last nine months and because of this, there has been much more dust than usual.

Over nine months this heater had been completing only one task and that was to sit there and catch as much dust as possible. Before I turned it on I wiped it over with a damp cloth and removed all of the surface dust but I didn’t even stop to think what might be going on within.

The outcome was that I now have a very clean heater inside and out, I just did it in a way that is not recommended. It is not recommended because it could cause a fire and it is not recommended because it will leave your office smelling like someone has been smoking very cheap cigars.

Truth to tell, it wasn’t ever out of hand but it did leave a lingering effect. It reminded me of two truths: Firstly, we need to look inside to know what is really happening and; Secondly, skills and possessions left dormant gather dust and need attention before they can be effective again.

I wondered at what is really going on inside my heart and life that I have ignored or allowed to gather dust, I also wondered at what skills may need some attention before they can be useful once more – I’m like you, I don’t want to be leaving a trail of smoke behind me or a bad smell in the air.

I want my life to be more like the Apostle Paul describes… “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 Corinithians 2:14)

Not a dusty old heater blowing smoke but something more useful…

It fits well…

That one is too wide. That one is too narrow. That one is too deep. That one is too thin. That one is too expensive.

I spent a fruitless couple of hours trying to find a replacement cooktop for our kitchen. Our existing cooker had a major breakdown and the quote to repair it was almost the same price as a new one. Normally I would choose to replace it completely but there were none available and the sizing of the cut-out in our stone bench-top limited my choices significantly.

The only cooktop I found that would fit was $12,000 which was just ridiculous…it would have to cook, clean and sing ‘show tunes’ to be worth that!

My problem was that the bench-top would be very difficult to cut, and I couldn’t be certain of the outcome; I could actually find myself in a worse position than I already was in.

So the only option was to get all of the parts replaced, pay the over-inflated cost and hopefully be good-to-go for at least a few more years.

Some things in our lives are easily replaced: clothes become worn or out of fashion (or too small); technology gets superseded; cars begin to rattle and shake.   Other things in our lives take more effort: a career change; a relocation to a new town; or a replacement tooth. Still others can never be replaced: a lost heirloom; the death of someone close; or the loss of trust that comes from betrayal.

When we lose something in our lives it leaves a hole – we automatically try to find a replacement to fill it – but it is not always easy and a suitable substitute is not always available.

Men and women where made for ‘relationship’ – relationship with family, friends and with God.

It has been well said that there is “A God-shaped vaccum” inside every heart. The vacuum or space is there because of innocence lost and understanding misplaced. You can try to fill it with all sorts of other possibilities but, like my cooktop, nothing else really fits the bill.

Jesus put it like this “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me – for my yoke fits well and you will find rest for your soul”.

I have found that nothing ‘fills the gap’ in my life better than who I have found in Him.

So if you would like something that ‘fits well’ into the gap in your life, look no further!

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?

Let me simplify it for you…

“You have 6 or 7 minutes – just tell us what has happened in the last 2 years and what you would like to do in the next 5…”

This was the brief I was given 3 days before speaking to a large conference – there were many people who wanted to get their message across, so any time was a bonus and I diligently prepared and limited my comments to the time available.   The day before, I received a text telling me that the time given was now 4-5 minutes and I would be on the platform as part of a group (each with a different story to tell). So I adjusted my notes and cut a couple of things out.

One hour before I was due to speak I was informed that we now had 7 – 8 minutes for the group of the four of us which meant I had 2 minutes at best – more culling and refining had to take place. Every word now counted more than ever and I had to chose which aspects would stay and which would go.

When I walked onto the platform I knew what I was going to say but I was positioned on the 4th stool from the interviewer. The first speaker took 4 minutes, the second 2, the third 1 and a half and so when it came to my turn, the interviewer said “In 30 seconds, sum up what has happened in the last two years…” So I chose the 3 highlights that quickly came to mind. And then the interviewer said “Tell us the 1 most important thing that you are going to do in the next 5 years”. I knew that I had 10 seconds left at most before the academy award style music started to play. I had to condense all my plans, goals and passion into a single phrase and so I did – and I think I did OK but it was really challenging to do so. Anything unimportant or confusing was removed; I was left with a single sentence, pregnant with potential.

This moment reminded me of a similar experience in Jesus’ ministry. One of the Pharisees (the teachers of the Jewish Law) asked Jesus to sum up the Old Testament in a single phrase. Jesus took over 600 specific commandments and brought it down to just one.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself” Luke 10:27

Such profound clarity is perhaps just what you need today!