Friday, 29 June 2012

More than a good story

It's funny what you remember from when you were young. Just 37 years ago, my teacher read Stig of the Dump, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my primary school class. I loved those stories because my teacher brought them to life. I still have vivid memories of Tom Sawyer, and The Naughtiest Girl in the School series by Enid Blyton.

At high school when I was 15, we studied short stories as part of our English curriculum, and two stories really stood out.

The first told the story of a group of scientists who set out to prove that the earth was a living cell, and humans were mere parasites on its surface. They drilled a hole miles down through the earth's "skin" until they penetrated it's "flesh" at which point the earth convulsed violently, and ejected the drill, as a human might when stung by a bee.

The second was about a man who drove up to a car-wash and gave the staff absolute grief about how he wanted his car treated, particularly noting a smudge on one of the headlamps. It went on to describe his horror as the queue of cars progressed out of the car-wash, and his was missing, whereupon he was somehow drawn to the window of the car parts shop next door. There, sitting on display in their murky front window, was a headlamp - and on it was a smudge.

Later in life, I remember laughing at a cartoon of two men carrying a huge book between them, who as they presented it to their pastor, explained it was a biography of his life based on his years of sermon illustrations.

My point is that each story had a point, or a twist or a moral - and I remembered! I love that kind of story. I find it fascinating how in everyday conversation we use adages like A dog in a manger or He just wants his pound of flesh to express our opinion - each phrase based on a story that's been passed down from generation to generation.

It comes as no surprise that Jesus often explained difficult concepts or answered tricky questions with just a simple story - Gotcha! And in my experience, sometimes the best way to accept advice is to hear the story of the adviser. The best part of a funeral is hearing the stories you've never heard before...

When my own kids were young, we used to play a game at bedtime where I'd get them to think of a number between one and my age at the time, and I'd tell them a story about something that happened in my life that year.

My hope is that they'll learn from my mistakes and they'll improve on my successes. But most of all, I want them to remember that I loved them enough to share myself, and that I took the time...

Friday, 22 June 2012

Just imagine...


I put before you a piece of modern art - But is it really? Take a step backwards and have another look....

I saw a cartoon once, where two people were looking at some art in a gallery. "Exquisite in its detail," one exclaims. Not to be outdone, the other replies, "Such order amidst chaos." What made it funny? Amongst all the wonderful paintings adorning the walls of the gallery, they were commenting on a very functional light switch!

Isn't it true that sometimes we're too close to the action? We get so focused on ourselves that we miss the reality. Aren't we like the five year-old who said, "I think I know everything - I can't think of anything I don't know"?

Or like a couple of kids, we'll argue till the cows come home for our point of view to prevail! We draw a line in the sand and present our opinion as fact, quite confident that we're right, and they're wrong! All men are chauvinists! The earth is flat! Corporal punishment is child abuse!

But rather than engage in a heated argument "No it isn't!", "Yes it is!" we need to stop and ask a question: "Why do you think it is?" or "Why do you think it isn't?" and, "What do you know that I don't!" In regards to relationships or value judgements, what negative (or positive) experience have you had that has so coloured your perception? Where are you coming from?

Our current idea of "truth" must be able to be challenged, even if it  means un-learning the learnt, and growing beyond our current experience, or even what we've been taught by "experts."

And let's face it, despite living in the most incredible "Knowledge Age" that I have personally ever experienced, we still know so little. Discoveries in the galaxies blow my mind, and in medicine, the more we know, the more we realise we don't!

I'm not saying we need to find the middle ground or compromise our values, but rather, that there might sometimes be another point of view, based on information outside our own limited knowledge, which if we only took the time to understand, we might happily embrace!

Imagine if Jesus meant it when he said we'd do much greater things than he did...
Imagine if God really was big enough to not only know every person on earth, but also to have compassion for every single one of them!

We need to get out of our small-minded village mentality and look beyond the horizon. We need to quit focusing on the easy stuff that we can see, within our frame of reference, and look for the bigger picture.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the "modern art" at the start of this post was copied from inside the white square in this picture. I guess I got too close....

Friday, 15 June 2012


 Best Friends Forever!

A long time ago, before the days of the computer, when LOL meant "Lots of Love" and a blog was a mis-pronounced swamp, I found myself sitting at my desk, pondering the question of life, and feeling very much alone. I was in a very dark place!

But then I heard His voice, and with the help of just my single-note trumpet, I wrote this song.
When your friends seem to let you down
And it seems nobody cares
And the loneliness inside you
Came and caught you unawares

And you want to find the answer
You need to find a friend
You long to know somebody
That will love you to the end...

I am a Friend who is always with you
I am a friend who is ever near
When you are crying, I'm right beside you
To wipe away your tear

So turn your eyes and look to me
Don't try to go alone
I'll lead the way, come follow me
And I will lead you home...

I am a Friend who is always with you
I am a friend who is ever near
Reach out to me and you know I'll answer
I am always here.
And as I wrote, I felt his arms wrap around my soul, and his voice whisper in my mind, "I will never let you go..."

And somehow, then as it does still, it made a difference... BFF

Friday, 8 June 2012

An eternal conundrum

I like work! On top of putting in a good 40+ hours for the boss, I run my own business, I'm involved in various areas of the church, and just for fun, I've started writing this blog. Getting bored is never an option.

If you can picture me as a juggler, throw in another ball each for my wife, my family, chores, home maintenance, carting kids and the school board. I don't watch a lot of TV (though I do play on the computer), and if I'm to have time with friends, I have to book them in.
That's not to say I'm a workaholic. Neither am I unhappy or having a moan, and yes, there are areas where I've dropped the ball once or twice. But generally speaking, I simply enjoy what I'm doing in the time I've been given.

For each one of us, life is a question of priorities and choices - and attitude...

The biblical story of Martha and Mary is often quoted to suggest that doing work is a lesser choice than spending time with Jesus. And well it may be, but hey, he had to eat some time. And don't forget that it was Martha who invited him into her home in the first place! The issue, as I see it, is that she took her eyes off the purpose, her work became a chore and she complained.

It's less often mentioned that there was a second, subsequent time where John records that "Martha served." No mention of complaining, no mention of reproof. Why not? Because the work she performed made it possible for Jesus to minister, and for others to receive from him. I'm absolutely confident that Martha would have gotten some special time with her good friend, just later in the day!

The question then, in the midst of all my busy-ness is, "What is my motivation?" Do I live to work or do I work to live?

Are all my efforts in order to please Him, or to make Me happy? Do I work to fulfil His purpose or my own agenda? Is it about Me and what I can do by myself, or is it about Him and what He can do through me?

Paul told the Ephesians they were created in Christ Jesus for the purpose of doing good works! And there is an eternal reward, but in my multiple activities, am I drawn closer to Him, or do I find myself - or those closest to me - resenting the cost?

I have to be honest: Is my life about the work of the Lord, or is it about the Lord of the work?

[ Footnote: A conundrum is:
           1. a riddle, esp one whose answer makes a play on words
           2. a puzzling question or problem ]

Saturday, 2 June 2012

A fine line

She'd always admired his confidence and his ability to speak in public. He was articulate and spoke his mind. But just 10 years later, she can't stand his arrogance, how he'll never admit it when he's wrong!

He'd always appreciated Her, and so did his mates, how she always dressed to show off her incredible figure. Now he can't understand how long it takes to buy a new dress, and he's lost count of how many times he's missed the start of a game...

There is no doubt that time and familiarity have a way of changing our perspective, not only within personal relationships, but in workplaces too. We notice the failings, and on a bad day will even look for them.

But if I first look at myself, I realise that my strength (which I see) is also my weakness - and my weakness (which they see) is also my strength.

I'm not a perfectionist, I like excellence. I'm not resisting change, I'm playing Devil's Advocate. I don't mean to be in your face, I'm just intense!

It's a question of perspective and attitude, and at times, context. I need to understand and value you, in the same way I want to be valued and understood. If I see a weakness, I need to look for the strength.

Try it:
It's all about me
Gets walked on
Internalises pain, blames self
Flippant, tactless
Neglects family
Compulsive buyer
Rigid, immovable
Easily ripped off
Attention to details
Confident speaker
Wants to please people
Sensitive to others
Deep thinker
Hard worker
Never in debt
Easy going, relaxed

And here's a thought: If you're a parent, a manager, or in a position of responsibility, it's okay to evaluate. But if you're a sibling, colleague, or life-partner, it's not okay to judge, or limit people into a box.

In short, we need to celebrate our differences. We need to tolerate our excesses. The world would be a boring or a terrible place if all of "you" were exactly like "me" - and all those who know me just nod their head J

And sure, there needs to be a balance, that's why we need other people, but doesn't even the bell curve needs it's upper and lower percentiles?

Isn't medium too often just another word for mediocre?