Wrongly Accused…

“So what time did you arrive and did anyone else enter the building with you?”

“Did you see or hear anything suspicious?”

“How did that individual in your class appear throughout the day?”

“Were they agitated or affected in anyway?” “Have you got anything else to add?”

If it sounds like an interrogation; that is precisely what it was. I was not the suspect but I was involved as a potential witness.

I had opened the large office building where I was teaching and I had let a couple of students into the lift and headed upstairs. The students got off to ‘get a coffee’ on the ground floor.   During the next 30 minutes it appears that the coffee shop on the ground floor was robbed – concealed money was taken along with a tip jar and a few odds and ends.

I found out the next day and was asked to give a statement about what I saw and what I knew.

In real terms I didn’t know that much and I certainly didn’t see that much.

I may have jumped to a personal conclusion but that is not particularly helpful because it might be completely wrong. I also struggle to believe that what appears as a possibility, is what really happened. I lack proof and so did the police.

The experts had a look at the scene, they took photos and notes but there was little or nothing else to work with – it becomes an insurance matter and probably nothing more.

There are some things which can be proven by empirical evidence, there are other things which can be corroborated by witnesses, there are still other facts that can be established by overwhelming circumstantial proofs but in this particular case there was not enough to go on.

In our lives we work with a mix of facts, thoughts, feelings and imperfect judgements. We need to be very careful that we do not jump to conclusions and that we do not judge people unfairly. Jesus challenged us about this…

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”          Matthew 7:1–2

We need to be careful that we spend more time looking inside ourselves than we spend outside judging the actions and attitudes of others – the truth is, we very rarely know the full story.

We would hate to be the one wrongly accused!

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

Can a mud bath make you clean?

We had no hesitation to do it and it was always a part of our plan but it was a strange experience nonetheless. The last couple of days of our holiday took us to Rotorua in New Zealand, which is one of the most geologically active places in the world. The city and surrounding region is filled with thermal pools, geological parks, boiling mud pits and steam emanating from fissures in the rock and even flowing out of the drains which line several of the streets.

The smell of the sulphur in the air is assailing to the senses and an amazing mist of steam that arises over the city is like a permanent cloud.

But the thing we wanted to do, and our journey required, was that we had planned to take a ‘mud bath’. We were going to join the thousands of people who each year step into a hot pool filled with volcanic, muddy water and sit, completely covering themselves with a dark grey mud with a pungent aroma in the name of ‘good health’ and ‘cleanliness’.

That of course is the incongruent part – we were covering ourselves with sticky mud in order to get cleaner, smoother skin after the event.

The concept is that the volcanic mud is so fine and gently abrasive that it exfoliates and tones your skin with nutrients and minerals. It was so strange to see my wife, who like things clean, to be coating herself from head to toe with this grey mud and then washing it off and doing it again.

How can mud make you clean?

After our time in the mud bath we headed to the shower and it felt great to wash away the grey and see your skin once more…I don’t know for certain but I think I felt cleaner and my skin felt smooth but maybe that was just wishful thinking. One thing I am sure of is that the aroma of the mud clung to me for a couple of days and there was no escaping where I had been and what I had experienced.

This reminded me of something even more significant and powerful… the fact that the Bible tells me that Jesus’ blood has the power to wash away the stains of my sin and shame. It seems incongruent and impossible that blood could wash you clean but I know for a fact that it works. I also know that I am forever changed because of it – perhaps it is the type of wash you need?

How long and how much?

“So how long do you think it is going to take?”

I asked this question, because I was paying him by the hour, actually, I was paying him by the 10 minutes… $165 call out including the first 30 mins and then $25 per 10 minutes or part thereof. I had watched this technician (from a respectful distance) take the oven out of the wall, take the covers off, scratch his head and then make several calls asking for information about what he was looking at…and the time kept ticking.

At the $165 point I asked him how things were tracking and he told me that he thought the model number was wrong and ‘they’ are just finalising what the problem actually is… at the $240 point I asked again and he told me that he would be able to ‘fix it’ but it would cost between $500-$700.   At the $315 point, he took another phone call and it was clear that he was quickly packing up, preparing to leave. I asked him what was happening and he said that the manufacturer is going to send someone else out to fix it… I only had one other question and that was “How much is that going to cost?”

He told me that because he couldn’t fix the job there would be no-cost for today but I would have to pay the manufacturer when they came… He also told me that this was the first time that he had ever worked on this particular machine!

So I haven’t spent any money yet – but my oven is still not working – hopefully when the manufacturer returns we will be more successful. What I need is someone who knows my machine, understands the faults, has access to the replacement parts and has the skill to deal with the problem first hand. My previous technician obviously had little or none of these skills.

Most of my life works, most of the time – but when things get ‘out of order’ or one aspect ‘breaks down’ I, like everyone else need some assistance – but who do you turn to?

I am glad that I have found a ‘life technician’ who has me covered when I need assistance: He knows me and my faults; He has access to what I need to make me complete and functional; and He has the skill and experience to assist me – Why? Because He has faced everything that I have and more…Maybe you should give him a call…

“For we have a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses…in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Heb 4:15

The flat battery…

I don’t want to admit that I made this mistake but I did. It is a classic error and one that you are do not know you have made until it is far too late…

As I approached my car I was suddenly frustrated to find that the button on my remote control was not working – in fact, none of the buttons on my remote were working – and then the possibility of what had happened dawned horribly upon me. Two days before, very early in the morning, I had parked my car in the long-term car-park at the airport and had flown off to Melbourne – the only thing was that I had left the lights on. So when I returned to the car, everything was dead and I was more than a little stuck. I had to push the car out of the car spot (much harder than it sounds when the power steering is not working), pop the bonnet, look forlorn, flag down a passing car and ask them for a jump start – as I always say, it is always good to meet new people!

As I was on my way home after only a delay of 20 minutes or so, I thought about how I had made such a rookie and clichéd mistake. Like most modern vehicles the motorcycle I ride most days and our other car have automatic headlights – they turn on when you start the car, they get brighter when they are needed and they turn off when you turn the key – but it is still my fault, because my current car has a warning buzzer which sounds when you leave the lights on!

I was in such a hurry to meet my take-off deadline that I completely ignored the warning and rushed off, oblivious to the problem I had just caused for myself.

On the way home I also thought about the solution, all I needed was a momentary spark of life to reignite what had been completely dead… The car’s electrical system is designed to regenerate itself as long as there is enough stored within to start the engine… the human Spirit is the same but can become depleted and weary with all of the challenges life offers.

All of us have had a moment when we have ‘left our lights on’ and found ourselves with nothing left and no ‘spark’ to speak of.

I was happy for the guys who stopped to give me a jump-start and I am happy for the One who is always ready to assist us when we call.

“He gives power to the weak, & to those who have no might He increases strength.” Isa 40:29

A trip down the ‘s’ bend…

There was a worried but somewhat confident look in my wife’s eye as she told me about the problem. It was something that had happened before and she was fairly sure we would be able to solve it this time as well.

She was standing at the sink and had taken off her earings and was giving them a quick rinse when one of them fell out of her hand and disappeared down the plug-hole. She turned the water off immediately and asked me to help her retrieve it.

The hope was that gravity had lived up to its task and the ‘S’ bend of the sink had ‘caught’ the earing before it disappeared forever.

So we emptied the cupboards under the sink, placed a towel in place ready to catch the excess water and I disconnected the plumbing. Sure enough, after a bit of probing and stretching, I had the earing in my hand and it was reunited with its partner. Everything was put back in place and life went on as if nothing had taken place.

None of us like losing things and we always feel better when they are returned to us but that initial feeling of loss is always an interesting phenomena to explore.

If you lose your keys in your house, you will probably be frustrated but you know that they are probably going to turn up (as soon as you retrace your steps). If you lose your wallet on crowded public transport, you know that you are probably never going to see it again. The initial emotion of each of these situations is different because the permanency of the loss is different.

When you know that you have lost something forever you experience not just disappointment but a grief response which will be commensurate with the importance the item held for you. If some time later you have that item returned unexpectantly then your level of joy is overwhelming.

My wife was fairly confident that we would be able to ‘save’ her earing and so she wasn’t particularly distressed – when you have confidence in someone’s ability to resolve a situation it brings you peace and leads to joy.

I have found that I can have total confidence in the Lord Jesus to restore to me those things which matter most. When I lose something, be it physical, emotional or spiritual, I have found Him never to leave me disappointed.

So if you have lost something – look to Him!

“for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10

To fix a tear

It was only a small tear and really I thought nothing of it. It had happened because someone put something sharp upon the cane seat of my handcrafted guitar stool and it had torn through a single layer of the weave. I have had the stool for decades and it was made for me as a 21st gift by a friend. I have always cherished it but it has been out of action for a while.   The reason it was out of action was not the tear I mentioned, but something more significant that happened after. My wife needed to reach a high shelf and so she made the decision to kneel on the seat in order to gain the extra height. I am sure that this had been successfully done many times before but this time the small tear was no longer content to remain small but became a large hole which accommodated my wife’s knee, leaving her in an uncomfortable position trapped inside my guitar stool. I am sorry that I wasn’t there to see it as it seemed like it may have been worth a laugh!

Now this didn’t happen yesterday, or even last month – it was number of years ago and the stool has been sitting (waiting for repair) in my office since that time. I have made use of it – I have stacked different things upon it from time to time, I have even made a temporary seat for it so that it was safe to sit on…but it hasn’t been repaired, it has a large hole in it and it cannot fulfil its purpose.

But yesterday I made a decision that it was time to fix it… a few clicks online and a simple exchange of funds has ensured that the replacement cane-work seat will soon be at my house. It will be a fairly simple fix, removal of the old seat and installation of the new – it will take just over a day to do and most of that will be drying time – I am now kicking myself that I have taken so long to get around to it but that is often the way.

Small tears if left unattended eventually will become much larger – they do not tend to fix themselves. Maybe there is a ‘tear’ in your life that you need assistance with? If there is – I know who I would call…

“…and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of our place to dwell.” Isaiah 58:12