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!

Fear Not!

Not Expected, Possible, Probable, Expected, Certain…last week a new “Terror Threat Alert System” was put in place in Australia to more clearly define the potential for terrorist activities across our country. The current ‘threat level’ has been set at ‘Probable’, which is about the same as it has been for the last couple of years.

On November 13, 130 people were killed and over 650 injured as co-ordinated attacks ripped open the heart of the nation of France and sent shock waves across the whole world. Threat Levels were adjusted in every nation and new limitations and checks were put in place in an attempt to stave off further similar attacks. The French attacks became a universal discussion point and it seems that everyone has an opinion and that everyone has been impacted.

The purpose of the Terrorist is to instil fear and, through the constriction of fear, to impose their worldview upon everyone else…if there is enough fear then they have achieved their goal.

As we rapidly approach Christmas this year I want to remind you of one of its central messages.

The Angels that announced the birth of Christ raised their voices and proclaimed loudly to all those who would hear – “FEAR NOT!”

The world that Christ was born in was filled with turmoil, greed, arrogance, terror and hatred. These were common; in fact they were daily occurrences. People were limited, constricted, and faced lives without hope for the future…and into that world walked Jesus – the Prince of Peace.

Christmas is a time of joy, celebration and family but I am certain that at some point your thoughts will rest upon those families whose worlds have been shattered by recent events. But when you find yourself thinking of that I want to encourage you to not give into fear. If we give into fear then those who perpetrate terror have won.

This Christmas, do not base your hope, joy or confidence on a threat assessment that can change from day to day. Do not base your life on the possibility of a negative but put your trust, and base your life, on the certainty of the one positive that changes everything!

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”             Luke 2:10–14

Surviving the storms

The rain had started to fall as we were leaving home but by the time we arrived in Queensland the storms really struck in earnest. The fact that we were surrounded by good weather and fairly warm conditions made me feel further from home than I actually was and when I started to watch the news and saw that Hornsby received such a hammering it made me glad that I had managed to clean out the gutters the day before.

But then I started to get reports from home:

The first was a text message with a photo of our back garden which now had an interesting piece of modern art where our gazebo and used to stand…it was now just a twist of metal and canvas which obviously would never be the same again; Next it was reports of leaking doorframes, walls and water migrating its way across the slab of our house and slowly causing the carpets to grow damper and damper; and then it was a an update on the church building which was ‘only’ leaking in 3 places…

As hours passed into days, it became clear that the storm was going to last a while and still the sun was shining in Queensland and the reports regarding the storms kept flooding in like the water into so many peoples homes. Trees fell down, power lines were cut, carpets were damaged, basements and underground car parks were flooded and very carpet cleaning machine was working overtime for at least a week!

Eventually the storm subsided and people started the task of cleaning up the debris and getting back to normal. As always, it could have been much worse and we all (hopefully) found a moment to count our blessings not just to curse the storm.

This is of course the challenge that we face…how do you respond to the storms which come your way?

Some storms are short lived and easy to move past…they are uncomfortable but you can recover immediately. Other storms are more violent and destructive… leaving effects which require concerted effort to remedy. Still other storms are protracted and devastating leaving a lasting reminder of where they have been and what you have lost.

I hope that you have survived the storm without too many ill effects but I also hope that you have the resources ready for the next storm you may have to face – whatever that is.    Remember…

“The Lord is a strength to the needy in distress, a refuge from the storm”                Isaiah 25:4

A debt too large to pay!

It happens every time I drive past and see the sign, it happens when they send me an email to remind me, and it happens whenever I visit someone in hospital…I realise that I am in debt.

The debt I am referring to is not financial but it is a debt in blood – not some kind of weird pact which I have taken – but a debt I committed to when my son was born and needed life saving treatment including dozens of units of blood.

At that time I committed to becoming a regular blood donor so that I could ‘balance’ my account and ensure that there would be supply for the next person that may need it – I have been doing it for a long time but I have fallen out of the habit a little in the past couple of years. However, I received an email this morning which has strengthened my resolve once more and I have put an appointment in my diary to lie down again and give what I can so easily.

This weekend we come face to face with others whom we are indebted too. We recall 100 years of ANZAC and the selfless sacrifice of over 102,000 men and women who have given up their lives in armed conflicts over the last 100 years. I have the privilege of currently serving in the Australian Army and I feel a special ‘weight’ upon me to take time out and to carefully remember those who have gone before.

I am sure that you have a sense of the significance of all that you possess because others where willing to make sacrifice for you.

We may not know their names, we may not know all of their stories but we know that they gave up their lives for their nation and for our future. Our debt of gratitude can only be paid for by our remembrance and the challenge is again spoken before us – Lest we forget.

Blood spilled, future assured – it was true at Gallipoli and during all wars since – it was true in the hospital with my son gaining life-giving supply from someone else’s generosity – it was true when Jesus gave His life upon the cross.

It is our responsibility to remember that…

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13

I hope your ANZAC day is filled with remembrance and joy at all that others have made available to you!

The right tool for the job…

It seems to me that the Easter weekend is one of the times that people take an opportunity to do one of two things – they either go away camping or they do some work around the house…

Continuing interest in the ‘renovation genre’ of reality television is fueling the ongoing desire for almost everyone to have an exotic bedroom, luxurious bathroom or an ambitiously large walk-in-wardrobe. Because of this, many people I know are busy renovating.

The thing about renovating is that there are many different skills needed and even more tools you need to get all the jobs done.

Hammers, chisels, different types of screwdrivers, power tools, tile cutters, sanding equipment, paint brushes, pliers, ladders, gyprock cutters and paint scrapers – all individually designed and all required in order to complete the task…but the key is that you must use the right tool for the right job.

If you try to fasten a screw with a chisel…you wreck both the screw and the chisel. If you try to fix the television with a hammer…it is going to end very badly. Knowing what is needed to finish the job, knowing which tool you should use and using it skillfully will end up in a great result.

The truth is that our lives are complex and have various compartments which all require different skills and tools in order to develop and perfect: our education stimulates and expands our minds; our families and friends prepare us for emotional interactions; our various experiences enable us to find our capacity and our limitations; where we travel and who we meet expand our view of the world and helps us find our place within it.

When you think about your life as a series of rooms…is there one or more that needs work?

How are your relationships going? How is your career? What about your enthusiasm or energy levels? What about your sense of hope for the future or your feeling of purpose and value?

When you are renovating you often need to bring in an expert to help for some of the more technical aspects. I hope that you have access to all the help and all of the resources you need but make sure that you don’t forget that there is One who is always willing to work within you if you will allow it…

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Fear Not!!!

Tuesday afternoon I walked out of my office and made my way to the car little knowing what was about to happen. Without any warning, a large White Cockatoo swooped in from high above and behind me and in an obvious threat whilst screeching at the top of its lungs. As you no doubt know, a Cockatoo is a very loud bird.

The combination of the swoop and the cry really caught me out and so the Cockatoo achieved its desire, which was to frighten me. I thought nothing more of it until Wednesday afternoon when, like clockwork, precisely the same thing happened again…the swoop, the screech and the frightened response from myself.

I could not work it out, there was no nest nearby; no trees to speak of in the immediate vicinity but obviously I was encroaching on what this particular bird saw as its ‘territory’.

When Thursday afternoon came I was wary, I looked around before I left my office, I walked to my car with a little more hesitation than ever before and the only thing on my mind was the potential danger of a sudden ‘swoop attack’…but none came…

On Friday afternoon I noticed something – the fear was now established and my expectation and my walk to the car were now changed. I now expected to be hassled and threatened even though there was no crazy white bird in sight.

If fear could be given a personality it would be type that waits in dark corners and delights in imprisoning you with thoughts of what could go wrong and of what terrible things could happen next. Fear constricts movement and freedom and is the sworn enemy of joy and peace. Fear can get a hold of you through real experiences or through threats and memories. Fear can cause you to stop exploring possibilities and can restrict you to a safe, limited and inhibited life.

We have to be wise about things which are dangerous but we don’t have to live as a prisoner to fears which should have passed or fears which have no present reality.

The life of Christ speaks loudly to us about how to deal with fear…His birth was announced to the Shepherds with the words “Fear Not! Jesus regularly said to the Disciples “Do not be afraid!” Jesus demonstrated confidence in the midst of trial and grace in the midst of violence and wrongdoing. He never let fear have the upper hand and He stands before us encouraging us to do the same. Remember, if the Lord is with you – you have no reason to be afraid!

Are your lights on or off?

What are the elements of your yearly Christmas preparations? Do you decorate your house? Do you put up a tree? Do you plan lots of family events? Do you play Christmas music on a continuous loop?

Like all families, we have a number of traditions in our house as well and one of them seems to be struggling to get the Christmas lights to work.

It seems that no matter how careful I am, when I turn on the lights after positioning them throughout the tree, one or more ‘sections’ of the lights will fail to work.

This year out of 160 LED lights about 40 were not flashing in the way they were designed.

Now before you try to teach me your particular method of ‘sucking eggs’ let me say this… because of previous experience I did turn the lights all on to test them before I hung them. The problem is that when they are all together and flashing it is very difficult to work out that a small number of them are not in fact working.

It is not until they are spread out on the tree in relative isolation, that you realise that you have a problem.

Christmas lights work in sections – they are wired in a particular way which means that if one light in that section fails, then all of the lights in that section fail. One break in a wire, one bad connection, will lead to the problem that I was experiencing. The biggest challenge is in finding the offending light that is causing the failure – finding a broken green wire in the midst of a green Christmas tree whose lights are flashing on and off, is by far the hardest part – usually the issue is easy to resolve but unless you find it you can’t make a difference.

My life (and yours I’m sure) bears resemblance to these strings of Christmas lights which adorn trees, cover houses and line the corridors of our shopping centres. They are a good illustration for us – I know that if one aspect of my life fails or gets ‘disconnected’ then it impacts other aspects. My work impacts my family; my relationships impact my sense of satisfaction; my fitness (or fatness) impacts how I relate to others and the Spiritual dimension of my life effects my sense of direction and purpose.

So I hope that all of your lights are currently on and shining bright…if not maybe it is time to make some adjustments and reconnect!