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…

You will leave a mark…

He certainly left an impression…but it was not a good impression. In fact it was a deep scratch over our fairly new floor which had only been installed a few months before.

The phone technician had crawled through the roof to fix our internet but to get to the roof he had dragged a desk across the room to access to the manhole.

Of course, he should have lifted the desk.

Of course, he should have asked for help.

Of course, he should have told us what he had done rather than rushing off hoping we wouldn’t notice.

It is a significant scratch, over a metre long – it will be difficult (if not impossible) to rectify. I am currently in negotiations with the phone company to have them come and assess the damage so that we can move forward to a solution but it is going to be an interesting road forward.

The truth is that we all leave marks wherever we go – the choice is whether those marks are going to be positive or negative. Are they going to be treasured like hieroglyphics or meaningless and selfish like graffiti? Are they going to shape the society in a positive way or are they going to leave annoying scratches depicting carelessness.

When you look behind you what do you see?

What is left after you have passed by?

Is there a positive influence where people are sad to see you leave or is it a negative one which has them silently cheering as you depart?

What you leave behind depends upon the attitude that is in your heart – I am sure that the technician that scratched my floor is a nice guy, but I could tell from the way he approached his work that not a lot of care was being taken. Because of carelessness he left a mark which is the only reason we will remember him.

Psalm 23:6 says “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life”.

I see that there are two ways of reading this: Firstly a promise of good things flowing to those who make room for the Lord in their lives; and secondly, an outcome of good things left behind us when we move on.

You will leave marks upon your workplace, your family, your friends and your community – are those marks going to be good or bad? The choice is yours…if you follow the Lord closely then good things will follow you!

The Perfect Christmas

“CAN YOU CALL someone else to come up the front and help!”

It was not a request; it was a command.

It was not a medical emergency or anything of similar magnitude; it was surprising to those who were standing around but there was no doubt how she felt and what she wanted

I was at the counter of one of the $2 shops at Hornsby buying up party supplies for Christmas and there were about 4 or 5 people in the line behind me as the young lady on the checkout was counting and bagging my items.

I had bought up big and so it was taking a bit of time but obviously the woman, who was number 4 in the line, felt that it was taking far too long and so she spoke up as I have mentioned.

It was a surprise when she spoke and the way she spoke seemed out of place.

You could see the frustration on her face, you could hear the tension in her voice and you couldn’t miss the annoyance in her stance…she was in a rush and no one should get in her way.

Christmas has a way of bringing the best and worst out of people – I think that we have probably gone too far with the idea that everything has to be ‘perfect’ for just one day. People put a lot of pressure upon themselves to have the perfect meal, the perfect present, the perfect decorations and the perfect family day – the problem is, life isn’t perfect.

As I walked away from the shops I thought about the woman’s reaction and whilst it was a small, momentary thing, it made me stop and take a measure of just what is really important as I march towards Christmas and the ending of the year.

The goal is not to achieve the perfect Christmas but to remember that God saw that life on earth was far less than perfect and so He did something to rectify it – He sent His Son – and because of Jesus, a more perfect life is available to us all.   So what we need to remember is that Christmas is not just about a day, but all of your days! And that is a reason to celebrate!

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”            Isaiah 9:6–7

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

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?

The phone offender…

It was the ringtone to beat all ring tones and it seemed to go on forever…

It was one of those ringtones that you would be embarrassed to have on your phone and you wonder why a grown man would ever have chosen it? To make matters worse, he took absolutely ages to answer the call – the phone was in his pocket and it was inside a plastic zip-locked bag and he fumbled for a couple of seconds, stood up, reached into his pocket and finally extracted his phone. This all happened in the middle of the tutorial that I was running with 20 other people in the room.

At this point I expected the ‘phone offender’ to look embarrassed and to turn off his phone but to my surprise (and everyone else’s in the group) he answered the call. I then expected him at least to move outside of the classroom but he didn’t. He remained standing and spoke in full voice to ‘David’ who was on the other end of the call and told him that he could not ‘talk for long’ because he was in the middle of a class and would have to call him back. However, you will be pleased to know that he was not rude on the phone and didn’t just cut David off but proceeded to share his viewpoint on the management style and efficiency of the organisation that David was enquiring about!

Finally the phone call was over, the phone was placed safely back in the zip-locked bag and the student took their seat and the class could continue.  Interestingly or maybe ironically it was a class on Effective Communication Techniques!

I could spend the rest of my article pointing out the issues I had with this action or the correct mobile phone etiquette but I would rather muse on the fact of how unaware this individual was about the impact he was having on those around him. He put ‘his need’ above everyone else’s and showed little or no respect to me or the class, failing to even offer an apology for his interruption.

As I thought a little more about this it made me quite determined not to fall into this pattern – which simply comes from thinking of yourself rather than thinking of others. Perhaps it is a good opportunity for us all to assess and adjust our actions…

“Be kindly affectionate to one another with love, in honour giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;”                                   Romans 12:10–11

Sleep Deprivation

2:35am, 8:00am, 2:15am, 10:00am and 1:15am

These are the starting times of my next 5 days and I am trying to make a plan so that I am not totally wasted by the end of the week…

You are probably aware that we need sleep to survive and at different ages we need different amounts. People over 65 years old need 6 hours sleep, from 19-55 it is 8 hours, from 3-18 it is 10 hours and babies top the list needing 16 hours sleep each day.

If we fail to get enough sleep we can really start to suffer…you start by feeling groggy or foggy but it quickly escalates as your ability to retain or process information is inhibited. Sleep deprivation is a major cause of accidents with events such as Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the meltdown at Three Mile Island all sighting lack of sleep as a contributing factor. Being overtired has been equated with the same impact as being over the legal limit of alcohol.

It increases depression, causes skin to age quicker, makes you forgetful, and can make you put on weight. Maybe it’s time to go to bed!

There are a number of reasons people find it hard to get to sleep: our minds are racing after the stress of the day; we have eaten or drunk too many stimulants; we haven’t given our minds the opportunity to wind down; or there can be a significant number of medical reasons for it.

It is hard to sleep if you don’t feel safe, it is hard to sleep if you have too much on your mind, and it is hard to sleep if you are anxious.

One of the ironies I find is that when I need to go to sleep because I have to meet an early appointment I often struggle to get to sleep because I start fixating on the fact that I have to get to sleep and therefore I don’t sleep because I am overthinking it! I am sure that we have all had nights like that.

So I have a choice – do I stay up until 2:35am and then try to put in a second full day’s work, or do I head to bed at 8.30pm and try to catch about half the sleep I really need? Maybe there will be time for a ‘Nanna Nap’ in the middle of the day? Maybe I should stop thinking about it and just close my eyes and relax? Now that’s a plan!

“I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalms 4:8