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!

Winter Solstice…

I have noticed a subtle change which has overtaken a few of my close acquaintances in the last few days.

A week ago I had observed that a number people were showing signs of what could only be described as ‘glumness’, but in the last few days that seems to have turned around.

The only explanation I can ‘hang my hat on’ is that the days are finally getting longer. Last week was the winter solstice and we passed that point where the days have reached their shortest point. For a couple of weeks leading up to it, it feels like darkness is rising and the daylight disappears all too quickly. I know for myself I had a couple of days where I went to work in the dark and came home in the dark. It is not a massive thing but it does have an impact on the way you think and on the way you feel. I can only imagine what it is like to live in parts of the world that have to endure months of darkness with no daylight at all.

But with the passing of the solstice come longer days and shorter nights. It is imperceptible at first but soon becomes noticeable. This is what I have observed in my friends and family – just a slight improvement in mood and more of a likelihood to want to get out and do something.

As the days grow longer you see more people out and about, people make efforts to have picnics (even though it is still cold) and they are generally more positive. I think there is a causal link between our attitude and the amount of light we experience.

In Genesis 1 we read the words that Lord spoke “Let there be light”… it is a basic need and a hope generating force. Problems seem worse in the middle of a dark night, fears are larger and obstacles seem more insurmountable – but hope comes with the dawning of a new day and hopefully the light of this morning finds you with enough hope to carry on.

“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:12

So my question for you today is this – do you have enough ‘light’ in your life or are you still in the darkened winter?

Perhaps it is time to open your eyes and notice that the season has changed!

He Turns Up!

“So why do you think it is growing?”

I was asked this question recently regarding a community project that I have been a part of for the last six months. “Hornsby Connect” has been providing low cost food to people in need each Wednesday and our clientele has now grown significantly.   We have a great group of volunteers and loads of effort has been put in to the setting up of the organisation… but those things are not the ‘secret to success’.

The reason we are growing is simple, but it is often simple things which are overlooked.

The one thing we have done is “we have turned up” – each week, consistently and willingly we have opened the doors and provided what we promised. At first, things moved slowly and there were even doubts that what we were offering was needed but slowly and surely it became apparent that if we just ‘turned up’ and opened the doors, then more and more would come. As long as we keep doing the same thing I believe that a positive future is assured.

Consistency is a powerful attribute; it has the capacity to change so many situations. Whether it is consistency as a worker, a friend, a spouse or a parent, there is no substitute whatsoever.

If we learn to build consistency into what we do then we are destined to have success and become valued by all who have dealings with us.

It is better to have someone who consistently delivers 80% day in day out, than someone who can hit 100% but can’t be relied upon to show up. Consistency builds confidence, satisfaction and hope – when you know it is going to be there you can begin to rely upon it.

This is why this is such an important attribute of the Lord’s character and the way He reveals Himself to His people. He said “I am the Lord I do not change!” (Mal 3:6) What this means in simple terms is “He turns up!”

Consistently, reliably and with all His benefits available – He turns up.

Every time we pray, every time we are in need of support, every time we are surrounded by doubt – He turns up.

Every time we need direction, every time we need encouragement, every time we are alone

He turns up.

His consistency has made such a difference in my life (and I know it can in yours) it makes me determined to be consistent in the way I respond and support others – how about you?

You will leave a mark…

He certainly left an impression…but it was not a good impression. In fact it was a deep scratch over our fairly new floor which had only been installed a few months before.

The phone technician had crawled through the roof to fix our internet but to get to the roof he had dragged a desk across the room to access to the manhole.

Of course, he should have lifted the desk.

Of course, he should have asked for help.

Of course, he should have told us what he had done rather than rushing off hoping we wouldn’t notice.

It is a significant scratch, over a metre long – it will be difficult (if not impossible) to rectify. I am currently in negotiations with the phone company to have them come and assess the damage so that we can move forward to a solution but it is going to be an interesting road forward.

The truth is that we all leave marks wherever we go – the choice is whether those marks are going to be positive or negative. Are they going to be treasured like hieroglyphics or meaningless and selfish like graffiti? Are they going to shape the society in a positive way or are they going to leave annoying scratches depicting carelessness.

When you look behind you what do you see?

What is left after you have passed by?

Is there a positive influence where people are sad to see you leave or is it a negative one which has them silently cheering as you depart?

What you leave behind depends upon the attitude that is in your heart – I am sure that the technician that scratched my floor is a nice guy, but I could tell from the way he approached his work that not a lot of care was being taken. Because of carelessness he left a mark which is the only reason we will remember him.

Psalm 23:6 says “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life”.

I see that there are two ways of reading this: Firstly a promise of good things flowing to those who make room for the Lord in their lives; and secondly, an outcome of good things left behind us when we move on.

You will leave marks upon your workplace, your family, your friends and your community – are those marks going to be good or bad? The choice is yours…if you follow the Lord closely then good things will follow you!

Unknown Assistance

Last night my wife took on an unwelcomed intruder who had ventured into our house. It was during the middle of the night that she first heard the intruder and then saw him – a large huntsman spider crawling up the wall of our bedroom.   At first she thought about letting the ugly critter remain but she knew that she would not have been comfortable nor able to get back to sleep if she did. So she stepped out of bed, put on all the lights and dealt with the problem…all of this happened with me blissfully ignorant and asleep in the bed.

If she hadn’t told me what she had done I would never have known and it made me think about what other things had happened for my benefit without me being aware.

I thought about the police force and intelligence communities who vigilantly keep our country safe from those who would seek to attack and spread terror; I thought of the researchers who are working behind the scenes to target diseases and make our crops more resilient to pests and rigours of our climate; I thought of the hundreds of people who do hundreds of little things to make our lives a little better and found myself amazingly grateful for them all.

It is so easy to take things for granted and remain unaware and unthankful – we live in a society that has so many benefits that we become callously attached to our comfort and we lament the loss of it loudly at the first sense of discomfort…

Being unaware of what someone has done for you leads to being ignorantly unthankful, this is not a great place to live – the person who has done the deed on your behalf can feel unappreciated and you as the recipient can appear unappreciative and entitled. The best answer to this problem is to regularly take stock of all the benefits which are present in your life.   Psalm 103:2 “Bless the Lord O my soul and forget not all of His benefits!”

There are so many things that the Lord and others have provided for you – make sure that you are not ‘asleep in the bed’ just enjoying them. Take a moment today to list the good things that God has done and the good things that other people have done for you – approach your life with thankfulness – it is a lot more enjoyable than any other option.

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?

Brittleness

I was sitting at my desk, basting in the heat of my office, responding to the pile of paper and emails which had accumulated during my holidays when I was suddenly assailed. Firstly by a loud crunching noise and immediately after by a spray of plastic, dust and general debris.

I was really shocked, both by the noise and the dust and I thought that something must have crashed into the outside wall of my office – on inspection there was no damage outside and so I came back inside to find my desk absolutely covered with tiny pieces of plastic. Upon examination it finally dawned on me, and looking upwards confirmed it…my electric fan, which was sitting above my desk, had completely self-destructed and one of the fan blades had broken off and had shattered all of the others. Because this happened when the fan was going flat out, it had sent the tiny shards of plastic all over me, my computer and my desk… it was really quite exciting and I have never seen anything like it before.

The problem was caused by the fact that the fan was quite old and that it sits in a spot which gets hit by direct sun, over time the plastic became brittle and finally a small crack appeared and it was only a matter of time until it completely failed. One moment it was functioning, the next it was a dangerous ‘projectile delivery’ device.

This unexpected shower of plastic gave me an opportunity to stop and think (and an opportunity to clean up my office!). I wondered just how many times people are living on the brink of disaster without really realising it. I wonder how many relationships have cracks which are only waiting for the wrong type of stress to occur?

I wonder how many people are struggling with mental health issues, loneliness and despair but look ok on the outside but really are only a moment away from a breakdown?

Perhaps you are not aware that your own heart attitudes have grown brittle through the ‘heat’ of the issues of life which surround you?

The Bible gives us a challenge to remember

“Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

So let’s check the status of our hearts… if there is brittleness there then there is a solution…

“I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26