Seek First…

I stepped out of my car and looked into the open pouch of my briefcase and realised that I had forgotten to bring my computer to work. I had rushed out of the house and grabbed my bag thinking that everything was there but I failed to check. Frustrated I got back in my car and I drove all the way home, on arriving I searched for my computer and it was not where I thought I left it and so I went back to the car, opened a different section of my briefcase to find that the computer was there all along and I had just wasted 40 minutes in what was already going to be a busy day!   I drove back to the office contemplating my own stupidity (which happens far more often that I would like!).

There are some things that are absolutely necessary in my world: food; shelter; companionship and the need for wifi!

I have found that very little happens without me using a device of some kind to either facilitate or enhance the experience – it is an interesting world in which we live and you don’t realise how dependant you are upon things until they are not available.

For a second I contemplated not heading home to get my computer but I soon realised that I wouldn’t get much work done if I did.

When you think of the things that you are aiming for what appears upon your list?

Is it possessions, family growth, colourful experiences or peace and tranquillity?

All of these can be good to aim at and fun to obtain but striving day after day for them can become a relentless and unsatisfying obsession. We really need to be aiming at something of substance, something lasting that will actually make the ‘chase’ for everything else fall into perspective.

Jesus challenged those who will follow Him to

“seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”                                Matthew 6:33

I realised as I was rushing back to work that I had forgotten this one powerful truth. If I had been a little less in a rush and a little more focussed upon Him I probably would not have made my mistake and my day would have been more centred and more effective.

Maybe it is time for you to stop for a moment and seek Him… allowing Him to adjust your path and set your day on the right track.

P.S. – don’t forget your computer!

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 repairer of the breech

4 out of 18 isn’t bad, I suppose…but it is more than I had expected and more than I hoped.

I was asked to do something a little artistic for an up-coming event and it involved transforming a light bulb from its original purpose. I had to remove the end of the light blub, drill through the internal glass, take out the filament and clean up the rough edges. It sounds fiddley and it was. On my first attempt things were going well, the end came off, the glass drilled easily enough, the filament was removed but as I cleaned up the edges I noticed that I had also broken the bulb in the process and there was now a large hole in the wrong end. I refined my process and tried again, this time with success.

However, it was not the only bulb I broke and the challenge began to feel a little ‘hit and miss’.

The problem was the inherent fragility of what I was working with. Light bulbs can last a surprisingly long time under perfect conditions but if you expose them to vibration, jolting or if you accidently hit them with a broom they don’t respond favourably.

There are aspects of our lives which are more fragile than we realise – on the outside we may appear secure, bright and shining but the reality can be quite different – it is well reported that 20% of the population struggles with some type of mental health challenge each year and, truth to tell, we are all susceptible to anxiety, grief, loss, and fear.

It is ok when things are calm, when all the ‘ducks are lined up’ and when we are in control – the problem is violent upheaval which is what happens when one or more of the ‘wheels fall off our cart’ (too many metaphors I know!).

Life is complex at times and has a way of bringing up things which makes it feel like someone is trying to drill through the glass. Most of the time it is ok but there are other moments where it leaves us shattered and permanently damaged.

When I broke my light bulbs I just discarded them and grabbed another – not so easy to do with a life – what we need is someone or someway of rebuilding what was lost.

I am glad that one of the names given to God is ‘the repairer of the breach and the restorer of a place to dwell’ Isaiah 58:12

Perhaps you need His gentle touch today?

Much more to learn…

My son sent me an email this morning asking me to print some pages of uni work for him because our printer at home is out of ink. It was an easy request but as I looked over the 20 pages or so of integral calculus I had to admit it was as if I was looking at ancient hieroglyphics!

In my memory, (which is becoming more like ancient history) I recall that I was good at maths but as I quickly skimmed through these pages there was very little that I could comprehend.

There is nothing in my job that needs advanced mathematics – I need to be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Understanding fractions and percentages helps, as does being able to balance a budget. To be honest I eat ‘pie’ far more than I use ‘π’.

My son is looking at a career where this type of mathematics is a daily exercise, he looks at these pages and takes it all in, it has meaning and application for him.

We all have different jobs and we all have different expertise – it would be a very boring world where everyone knew everything about everything – conversations would be stifled and the desire to learn and grow would be forever quashed.

Knowing that there are so many things I am yet to know is one of the things which makes my life interesting and an ongoing adventure.

Even in areas that I know a far deal about, it is amazing how much more there is to learn. I have been a musician for 35 years and a woodworker for 30 years and yet in both of these disciplines I know that I have only scratched the surface and that there is more that I don’t know than I do know.

Sometimes we forget that there is more to learn, we become a bit arrogant and self satisfied with where we find ourselves. The truth is that you may be an ‘expert’ in your particular field – there may not be another person in Australia with your education, experience or knowledge and yet, you probably still have more to learn.

Much of my life has been focused on the exploration, encounter and education of the reality and nature of God and after 38 years I feel like I have only touched the ‘edges of His ways’.

I know that there is much more yet to learn …how about you?

“Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD.”                                       Hosea 6:3

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

Old dog, new tricks…

I have to admit that I was pretty impressed… When he said ‘sit’ the dog sat, when he said ‘stay’ the dog stayed, when he said ‘ball’ the dog chased it and then brought it back and, when he said ‘release’ the dog gave the ball back! Over about an hour I watched as this highly trained ‘working dog’ responded to over 55 different commands, doing precisely what was asked of him. It was great to watch but also a little embarrassing as I thought about how the dog I used to own behaved: He wouldn’t sit; wouldn’t stay; wouldn’t bring back a ball and; would rarely respond to any command I gave him at all.

But as I watched, there was something else I noticed about this particular dog, apart from his awesome discipline and spectacular skills – he really seemed to be enjoying it!

He seemed happy and content, you could tell by the look in his eyes and the excitement with which he responded…he was enjoying every minute of it. Even though he was working and at times, working really hard, he still found a satisfaction in responding to his master’s commands. There was a genuine love between the handler and the dog…it was like they both respected each other and loved working together.

It made me evaluate how I feel about the work that I do – I am probably a bit like you – we have days where we love our work and other days when it is a bit of a drag. Or perhaps you are in a job that you really hate, getting up in the morning is the hardest and facing another day seems almost impossible.

Listening to the handler talk about how he trained the dog, he spoke a lot about rewards (positive reinforcement, praise and treats)…but after a while the dog starts enjoying the work and he does it because it pleases himself and the handler as well.

Perhaps this is a good lesson to take into our workplaces but also into all that we do in this life. We need to find some joy in what we have to do or we need to find something else to do.

I have found it helpful to realise that everything I do, is ultimately impacted by the hand of the one I have chosen to be my “Master”.

There is a satisfaction and a clear reward in living in such a way that it pleases not only me, but Him as well.

“Serve the LORD with gladness;” Psalms 100:2