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?

Like it or not…

Markets dropped rapidly and then they rose, maps started out blue but progressively changed to red, some people were jubilant and others were covering their crying eyes, commentators and pundits were busy explaining this and that – and the world ended up with Donald Trump as the next President of the United States.

All this week I have been listening to people’s reactions. Like you, I have watched as some people in America have started riots and other people have headed for their homes feeling more secure than ever. For some it is being seen as the beginning of the end of the world…I heard someone say, “This is how the Hunger Games started!” But others have expressed that it has been a long time coming and “It was time that somebody finally said what I was thinking!”

No matter what side of the political debate you find yourself upon there is no doubt that this was one of the fiercest fought Presidential campaigns in history and has left huge rifts in the fabric of American society. It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months and whether those ‘for’ or ‘against’ are proven correct.

What people want is security, stability and growth and so much attention has been focussed upon just one individual that I fear, no matter who was elected, the task is too large.

Many people are saying and hoping that Mr Trump will do better than expected, that he will move to a more moderate stance on certain issues and listen to the concerns of some who feel that they have been shouted down.

The fact remains, that there is a fundamental flaw in putting all your faith in just one man or woman, no matter who they are.

I love people, but the truth is we let each other down, we fall short of the mark, we fail to live up to expectations – that is our common curse and our common limitation.

Whoever sits in the Oval Office impacts the world for sure but we do have the opportunity (with respect) to place our hope in something more reliable. So when you think of what impacts you and who are you relying upon, what do you come up with?

“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They have bowed down and fallen; But we have risen and stand upright. Save, LORD! Answer us when we call.” Psalms 20:7–9

Do you need scissors?

“Is it possible to get a haircut?” I asked this question because I did not feel all that confident as I walked into this particular salon.

“I can do a shave or any number you like. Do you need scissors? Because I do not do scissors…”

So, I could have a shave (which I didn’t need because I had already shaved that morning) and I could choose whatever ‘number’ I wanted as long as there was no scissor complexity involved…this, along with the concerned look upon his face, failed to instil me with enough confidence to make the step to sit in the chair. So, I excused myself and left, in search of someone who was not quite so afraid of using the complex machinery that is involved in cutting hair.

I understand that the gentleman who was manning the shop may have been new, he may not have been the first choice and he obviously lacked skills and confidence to complete the task…but I did have a chuckle to myself as I walked out of the shop because a young ‘hipster’ dude was walking in with full beard and long hair! If I hadn’t been rushing off I would have waited to see if he walked out quickly like myself, or emerged sometime later looking like he was off to join the army!

Whenever we pay for someone to do something we expect them to have skills. We have all had moments where we have been in awe of a great job that someone has done but we have also had other moments where we have been disappointed. It may have been a tradesman, a chef, a babysitter or hairdresser.

We would not be satisfied if a tradesman said he knew how to use a hammer but not a drill, if a chef could cook sausages but not a steak, if a babysitter guaranteed the safety of one of your children but not the other… what we desire is skill, the ability to complete the job we are asking them to do.

When you think of spiritual things, what is it that you expect God to do? How do you expect Him to do it? Some have reported to me that they have been disappointed or feel let down at times but as I have constantly explored God’s purpose and plan, I have found Him to lack nothing.

“And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He heals both the deaf and the mute.” Mark 7:37

Better than birds…

“Don’t sit there – sit up there!”

“It’s wet and cold on the ground – it is much warmer and dryer over here…”

I wasn’t talking to another person and I was not talking to myself but I was trying to reason with a third party who seemed determined not to follow my sage guidance at all.

I had just released a little over a dozen small birds into my aviary, which has been vacant for some time. It was later in the evening than I had hoped and the light was fading – I was a little concerned that the birds, who were disoriented by their lengthy journey from the pet store, may not find a comfortable place to roost and might pass the cold night on the very cold ground. Because they were such small birds this could lead to all sorts of problems…

So I released them and the vast majority made it safely to a perch but there was one, and then two and at times four who seemed happier sitting on the ground. I repositioned them a couple of times, which is always fun to watch someone trying to catch a small bird, but each time I placed one on a perch another would head for the ground.

I soon realised that this was an ‘exercise in futility’ and I would have to let it go and see if they survived the night – I provided enough food, water and warmth for them to make the most of and I would see what happened.

The next morning I was very pleased to find them all perched safely and doing well – perhaps my concerns were unfounded and my actions redundant but it made me think about our responses to the plans and purposes of God.

The Lord has provided so much for each of us – the problem is that often times we don’t accept or make use of what is available. Whether it is the food, shelter or warmth He offers; the guidance, correction or encouragement He brings; or the faith, hope and love that change everything. Often we would rather sit on the ground because we think we know best!

My birds made it through the night because they made use of what had been provided – they may be completely unaware that it had been planned and purposed for their good. We can life safe, comfortable life, blissfully unaware of the care the Lord showers upon us each and every day – but let’s be better than birds!

“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26

The split-pin…

Everything was going fine until the wheels literally fell off…

I was moving a large, reinforced piece of plywood from the back of my garage to around the front and I was making use of my trolley which generally makes the task much easier. Everything was going well until the wheel fell off and rolled passed me, suggesting strongly that it wanted to be alone. At this point of course, a two-wheel trolley becomes more like a one-wheeled ‘protractor’ whose only purpose in life is to travel in circles. The only option was to man-handle the plywood around the garage.

Once everything was in place I returned to the issue and mystery of the trolley. It had served me very well for a number of years and it had displayed no tendency for shedding its wheels unexpectantly before…so what was the issue?

On closer inspection I found that there was nothing wrong with the axel, nothing amiss with the wheel, I found the nut on the ground a few metres behind me but the real culprit was not to be found – a small ‘split-pin’ very much like a bobby-pin had fallen out of its hole which had led to the nut unscrewing and the wheel making its dash for freedom.

This ‘split-pin’ is not very strong, its task is not very hard but without it the trolley is useless and even dangerous to operate.

It is often the case in life, that it is the little things which can really count…small actions which make a difference, small attitudes which can lead to issues, small misunderstandings that can fester into huge problems.

A ‘split-pin’ is a key factor which holds my trolley together but what are the ‘pins’ which hold your life together? When the wheels fall off – what is it that has really failed?

The truth is that life is hard at times, things go wrong, people let us down and we make mistakes. All of these are unavoidable, but hopefully in the midst of them your wheels won’t fall off. However, this is a real danger if you are putting your trust in the wrong ‘pin’.

For me the volatility of life can be like a raging sea but I am glad that the ‘pin’ that holds me together is reliable and secure and far stronger than the obstacles I must negotiate.

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…” Hebrews 6:19

Maybe it is time to check yours?

The popped button…

I had noticed that it was coming a bit loose but I just kept forgetting to fix it and then I caught it on the edge of the table and it just ‘popped’ off. It was one of the buttons in the centre of the jacket of my uniform – right where everyone could see it. Thankfully it happened late in the day and I managed to get through unnoticed but I needed to do something because I was giving a presentation the next morning. If I had been at home it would not have been an issue but because I was away, I had to use the resources available. What was needed was needle and thread but the thread needed to be khaki in colour. Unsurprisingly, the local 7/11 does not specialize in sewing materials and haberdashery but they did have an emergency sewing kit – $4.50 for one needle, white thread and a single button large enough to fix a sofa.

Having limited options I grabbed the kit, headed back to my room, and sewed on the original button that I had thankfully retrieved – but the more I looked at myself in the mirror the more self-conscious I became…no matter from what angle I looked, all I could see was the conspicuous white thread in the centre of the button in the centre of my jacket.

The next morning I got dressed and checked the mirror once more and sure enough my eyes only fell upon the flaw – the anomaly – the item that had not been completely fixed.

All through the day at different times I found myself thinking about the button and wondering if anyone had noticed – It was such a small thing and yet it felt like something more. The fact was that no-one else noticed, or if they did, they didn’t make a comment. I possibly was worried over nothing – but let me tell you that as soon as I got home I made sure that I re-sewed the button with the right thread.

The next time I put on that jacket I stopped and was reminded of a scripture…

“Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.” Luke 12:23

I thought about the things in my live that had been ‘re-sewn’ and wondered if they had been fixed completely and correctly? Maybe I just used the best available at the time and maybe there is a better, more complete solution waiting? So – How are your buttons looking?