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!

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Christmas in July

Following the theme of “Christmas in July” I recalled an event that made me stop and think.

A while ago I was driving through the Dural area with a friend at the wheel. We were enjoying the sun and the winding roads when we encountered a ‘stoptomotrist’ holding the power over the flow of traffic due to some road works. As we were stopped for maybe a couple of minutes an interesting series of events caught my eye.

I looked out of the window and perused a Christmas Tree farm right near where we were stopped. As I looked over, I realised that smaller trees were at the front near the road and as the ground rose backwards towards the house the trees became larger. Obviously they had been planted with a view to harvesting them in a few months, ready to adorn people’s houses for Christmas. As my gaze reached the house (about 200m away) I saw the owner of the farm step out of his front door with a cup of coffee in his hand and a contented look on his face as he looked at his Christmas trees growing.

In an instant I felt that I knew two things for certain: Number one was that the owner enjoyed doing this every day and; number two, I wanted his job!

Imagine having a role that was so easily measurable that you could see a result each and every day. I know that my job is nothing like that. It is hard to know sometimes if I am achieving anything at all. Being a parent is certainly not like that – you are not sure if you are achieving what you are hoping for. In fact, for a lot of us, there are aspects of our lives that we are not sure how they are really going.

You can spend your life comparing yourself to others (either positively or negatively) “I am not as good as Jim but I am not as bad as Paul!”

but those comparisons are hollow and flawed in many respects – the only real measure is what is happening to us as people on the inside.

So how do you measure yourself – on the inside where it really counts?

The Bible gives me something to aim at and it might help you to think about it and challenge yourself as well. We should keep reaching for growth each day until…

“we all come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;”   Ephesians 4:13

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…

Have you been diluted?

Everything was running just like normal and yet, each day, it was becoming more and more green.

We are coming to the end of the swimming season and I have been trying to keep my pool looking nice and clean so that we can make the most of it whilst the weather holds but the last few weeks have proven difficult because of the massive amount of rain that we have had.

During the last month my pool has overflowed at least 4 times and for a while there I wondered if it was ever going to stop, but eventually the clouds cleared away and the sun came up but my pool was left looking decidedly green.

So, with the first fine day, I skimmed of the leaves, vacuumed the pool, threw the chemicals in that usually fix things and waited – still green.

So I made a trip to the pool shop with a sample of water and their analysis told me that everything was fine except for the salt level;

I needed to put in 150kgs of salt to balance my pool. This seemed like a lot but the expert assured me that this was the case… The problem was that the rain had diluted all of the salt content of the pool and left it vulnerable to the algae that makes a pool turn green. The more it rained the more diluted the pool became, and the more diluted the pool became, the more green.

So I added the salt, mixed it all in and within two days the tide had changed and the water started to turn clear – The pool is now back to normal – at least until it rains again!

As I was loading the many bags of salt into my pool I pondered the concept of dilution and the different types of ‘rain’ that could affect my life… I thought of the enthusiasm that I often start a task with and the ‘dilution’ which comes through disappointment and difficulty; I thought of the love and commitment which is present in a newly-wed couple that can be diluted through familiarity and the breaking of promises; I thought of the passion with which people approach their initial relationship with God and how time, challenge and grief can dilute it to mere ritual and form rather than vibrant relationship.

Jesus said “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned?”         Matthew 5:13

The question is…Have you been diluted?  

Why I celebrate Easter

Everyone is looking forward to the extended weekend and the opportunity to ‘down tools’ and take a break. Thousands of people take the chance to head out of the city and into the bush to camp for what is the last opportunity before winter kicks in. People spend more money than they were expecting at the Easter Show and carry home more trinkets and fairy floss than they really need. Others catch up with family or just take it slow enjoying hot-cross-buns and chocolate eggs…

But as with all holidays, the trimmings often overrun the reason for the break and the message of the moment – it seems like the central themes of Easter become less and less mentioned and less and less relevant to the people who are happy to have the 4 day holiday.

The fact is that Easter has the potential to be the centrepiece of your calendar: above all other celebrations, it depicts the reason for real hope and answer to all the issues that plague our society.

At Easter we remember that Christ came, that he lived and that he gave his life as a substitute for us so that we do not have to be separated from God and we have the opportunity for peace with each other. Christ demonstrated his potential for influence by the fact that even though he died a hideous and vindictive death, that death could not hold him! Early Sunday morning the tomb was empty, the stone was rolled away and the world changed forever!

“But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.”                    Matthew 28:5–8

 

This is why I celebrate Easter – this is what runs through my mind as I relax, eat chocolate and eat hot-cross-buns. Because of Easter I have hope that lasts forever and joy that cannot be taken away! That is message worth running to deliver!

Have a great Easter!  

The way of life winds upwards

It has been a dramatic four weeks and she is very happy to be finally heading home. My mother went to hospital to follow up on some tests and it became very apparent, very quickly that she was going to need immediate, significant, surgery. She underwent a quadruple bypass operation and she has been recovering ever since.

The operation went forward without incident, it was very successful and we again are thankful for the skill of the doctors and nurses and for the quality of care that is available in our nation.

I visited my mum each day and, along with everyone else, I was greatly concerned as she initially came through the operation. People look so vulnerable in ICU and time seems to pass so slowly. But the next morning I found mum sitting up in bed and changing channels on the TV! Every day from there she showed improvements – it was not without its pain and challenge but each day she grew stronger. She was able to stand, to walk, her ‘foggyness’ departed and she slowly returned to her old self. She undertook rehab and it seems that she will be even better than she was before… it is a great and pleasing outcome.

Not everything in our life automatically and consistently improves, we have times that can be difficult and our circumstances can spiral out of control.  It is at these times we must careful not to give into despair and we must hold onto hope. The book of Proverbs tells us “The way of life winds upward for the wise, so that they may turn away from hell below.” (15:24)

It promises that if we are wise then our lives will ‘wind upwards’ – that doesn’t mean that our lives will be perfect and without challenge but it promises hope that better things are ahead.

The fact is that ‘this life’ is not just about ‘this life’.  Our time on earth is limited, flawed and filled with both good and bad…our response to this life, our response to each other and our response to Christ determine our eternity.

Your life may currently be on the ‘up and up’ or it might be spiralling downhill and out of control, or it may be somewhere in the middle….but wherever you find yourself, I hope that you are making a ‘wise’ response, because then your road will wind upwards. Yet another proverb caps it off… (9:10) “The fear and knowledge of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”

Maybe He is the wisdom you really need?

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!