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!

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Mount up with wings…

This week I had the opportunity to watch one of my newly hatched budgies take the awesome leap out of the nesting box for the very first time. I had been observing these young birds for the last few weeks, ever since they hatched and I have been amazed by just how fast they have grown. The previous two days I found two young birds flying about the cage but yesterday I happened to be present as the last of the clutch suck its head out of the box, stepped onto the ledge and then took its first flight.

It was not very impressive, it didn’t last long, the landing was less than perfect but the second attempt was better. Within half an hour the young budgie was exploring the whole cage and was being welcomed by the other birds.

Throughout the course of the day his flying improved even more and it is more than likely that he will never return to the nest.

In the last few months I have been coming to terms with two of my own children ‘leaving the nest’. My son was married in September and my daughter is getting married in February. I am excited to see them ‘take flight’ but I am also a little conflicted, as I will miss the way things were. Life presents opportunities for growth but growth leads to change and change is a mix of exciting and uncomfortable.

Some of the birds in my aviary are very young and others (of course) are much older – for some, flight is a new thing but it is normal and even passé for the others. Flight is to a bird as walking is to us – you don’t even think about it until you cannot do it.

But if a bird gets too tired to fly, if weariness grounds it so that it cannot move, then it is in danger: Danger of predators; danger of starvation; and danger of separation.

Weariness has the same effect upon us all and tiredness can make everything seem hard and fraught with dangers, which can hinder us.

 

“Even the youths shall faint and be weary…but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”           Isaiah 40:30

 

So whether you have recently flown the coop or if, like me, you are an older bird – be refreshed as you wait upon the Lord!

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

A Prized Possession…

I was asked this week to give away one of my most prized possessions. I have had it for 26 years and I knew (and had hoped for some time) that this day was coming. I am talking about the fact that a fine young man took the opportunity to ask for my permission to marry my eldest daughter.

My daughter is of course an individual who is free to make up her own mind but I was really glad to be asked. It was a nice ‘old fashioned’ touch that meant a lot to me. It also gave me the opportunity to ask a couple of questions of my own…

I did for a moment think of sending him out on a quest to prove his bold, undying love and commitment. I also thought about the possibility of requesting a herd of goats as a dowry…but instead I settled on a couple of questions which related to how he felt about her and how he intended to strengthen her and stand with her as they make their life together.

I am very excited for them but I could not have been supportive if I wasn’t sure that they were good for each other and that they shared love and commitment for the future. I know that there are lots of great days ahead of them, some full of joy and some full of challenge, but together they will be able to face it.

As I thought about my role as a father it gave me reason to pause and contemplate our Father in heaven. The central message of the complete Bible can be summed up in a single verse from John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”

The importance of the gift cannot be under estimated neither can its inherent value.

God gave each one of us the right to accept or reject, to learn from or ignore the gift of His Son. As a Father, He relinquishes the authority to you, one in whom He has the greatest hope.

As parents, my wife and I get to sit back and to watch our children make their way in the world, we offer advice, we offer help but the choice is up to each one. Your Father in heaven has set plans ahead of you but it is up to you how you will respond. I hope that you are ‘old fashioned’ enough to care and respond to all He hope for you!

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?

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