Friday, 27 July 2012

I was wrong

Tucked away on a bookshelf above our family dinner table is an old blue book. Complete with water-stains, broken binding and dog-eared pages falling out, it's one of the most used books in my home. And whenever there's a conflict or point of discussion, it's nearly always my first point of reference - and not just for Scrabble or solving the crossword.

Maybe it's just a reflection of me that sometimes a family member will use a word, and one of the others will challenge them on its usage. Or there's a discussion on the correct pronunciation for a word. My response is always the same: When in doubt, "Quit the argument and check the dictionary!"

And just between you and me, I always hope it will prove me right, though sometimes of course the kids will win and I'll have learnt something new....

I use the same approach in other areas of life. When the gizmo stops working, what does the manual say? And sure, my favoured approach to the computer is to click on everything to see what happens, but I'm also trying to learn to save myself both time and stress by going to Help in the first instance.

When planning my compost, I consulted Google. When in another city, I'm a man, so I use a map (and yes, Techies, I'll probably get a GPS one day...) When knocking down walls in my house, I employed an engineer. And when I'm in doubt on a course of action or I'm in a relational difficulty, I check the Bible. It's not rocket science, it's a manual for life!

And, just like the road code, it's mostly unrestrictive: A set of rules to stop others hurting me or getting in my way, a few notes on the exceptions, and some warnings on the consequences - once I get that sorted I'm free to make my own choices and go wherever I want!

Freedom, within the rules, without being detrimental to others....

Within the rules....

I recently followed a friend's car through a series of roundabouts, and when we got to our destination, our conversation went something like this:
"Hey, you're not supposed to indicate right if you're going straight through a roundabout."
          "Why, that's what I've been told to do!"
"Well, you've been told wrong. You need to read the road code!"
           "Well, everyone else does it!"
End of Conversation!
So how could I argue with that? Easy - I checked the road code! and I was right.

But what was funny was that I also informed him he'd been following the Australian rule, because like him, "that's what I've been told." In writing this post, I checked my 'facts' and oops, that's not what the rulebook says ... I guess I just learnt something new...

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Guilty as charged, Your Honour

What is it about people that we so easily kick a man when he's down, when we don't even know him? Why do we so love a public hanging? Why is it not hard to be so critical?

"Not me!" I hear you say... Oh yeah?

What about the time you passed judgement on that colleague who wasn't performing up-to-scratch, or at least, not up-to-your-scratch? Or the time you agreed with all those comments on talkback? Or you just happened across that "I hate..." Facebook page, after hearing about it at morning tea? How many times have we given our opinion on the motives of TV presenters, politicians or the police?

If you've been following the Scott Guy murder trial, what's your opinion on Ewen Macdonald - was he guilty, or have the cops nabbed the wrong man? The High Court jury saw fit to acquit him, yet the blogosphere is rife with opinions they got it wrong.

As a society, what do we really think about the concept of innocent until proven guilty, beyond reasonable doubt? Why do we act as if the court of public opinion is so much smarter than a random bunch of our peers who sat through hundreds of hours of evidence, when all we saw were a few excerpts on the news, and some stories in the paper?

Why are we so ready to judge our fellow man - not just in the courts, but at work, at the local kindy, at the supermarket, or from the sidelines of our chosen sport? Do we really think we know what's going on in another person's mind? Who do we think we are - God?

Maybe it's because we've forgotten the instruction of the Master, to treat others in the manner in which we want to be treated. We call it the Golden Rule, but we joke that we should "do unto others before they do it to us."

Maybe it's because we have such a low opinion of ourselves, it helps to knock another from their perch - rightly or wrongly!

Maybe it's because it's easier to parrot self-acclaimed experts than to take the time to get to the bottom of a matter.

Maybe it's because we've been so hurt that it's easier to lash out at an unknown than it is to deal with our own debilitating pain.

Or maybe it's just because when we focus on another person's error, we can ignore our own lacks and mistakes.

Just maybe that's why Jesus taught us to first forgive others that we might also be forgiven.... Can we really afford to be "holier than thou"?

Just maybe it would help if on a daily basis we reminded ourselves, "There, but for the grace of God, go I ..."

Saturday, 14 July 2012

More than just a stage

One of the most valuable lessons I've learnt as a Dad is that it's not my fault - and I don't have to fix it!

Kids go through stages, everyone knows that. We've had four - and with each one there's come a time when my wife and I have just looked at each other and reminded ourselves of their older sibling's behaviour at about the same age. Sure, some of the circumstances were different and the length of the stage has varied, but they all went through it - and they all came out the other side.

It's just a stage!

Some of the stuff kids go through is because they're learning to grow up or they're dealing with hormones. And sometimes it's just a part of life, in the same way adults have times and seasons. So the pressure's off, you don't have to fix them, but it is your job to help them through it.

I've learnt that a Dad's role is kinda like that of an athletics coach. You keep an eye on their mental and physical and even their spiritual condition. You check on their diet and training and technique, so they start strong and there's no looking back as they approach the finish line.

But you can't control the environment - and on the day of the big race, it's their choice whether or not they even get out of bed. They have to want the prize for themselves! With apologies to the bard, All the world's a stage, but it's up to me what I do with it...

In contrast, some of the worst advice I've been given was when I was proudly showing off my new baby, or even modestly extolling the attitude of an older child, and some doomsayer joy-killer says, "Mate, wait until they're (some age in the future)..."

My instant answer is still the same now as it was back then: "Yeah, I've heard they get better with age..." And as it turns out, I was right. Terrible twos? Bah, humbug! they're just testing their boundaries. Revolting teens? just adults in the making!

Going through a stage? Let me encourage you to hang in there and help them through it - if my kids are anything to go by, the prize will be worth the effort!

Friday, 6 July 2012

I breathe, I live

You may not like the way it looks, but you have to admit the body in which you live is the most amazing creation - and not just the externals... Every second, there are hundreds if not thousands of processes going on inside your skin, in absolute harmony with each other and your current environment.

The one that's caught my attention today is my breath. I inhale, my lungs separate the oxygen from everything else and I exhale. The oxygen, which if delivered straight to my veins would kill me, somehow gets mashed up into little pieces and is driven around my body at an incredible speed, bringing life to every cell, and colour to my cheeks... My soul is revived.

But if I don't breathe, I die. It's not surprising then, that one of the Biblical pictures for God is "spirit", or "breath". Closer than the air I breathe. In the beginning, He spoke - and it became. He breathed - and Man came alive.

[ And no, I'm not going to get into an argument about whether Genesis is literal or figurative. Suffice to say I don't have the faith to not believe in a creator. And it's a good thing the Bible-writers used pictures to describe God, otherwise I'd have some difficulty in comprehending Him - and if he were easy to define, wouldn't he be rather too small to even be God? ]

The writer also records the Creator chose to make me just like Him, and like him, I can choose what to do with my breath. I can cheer myself up when I whistle or I can blow out birthday candles. I can speak, or not. And just like God, the words I speak have power; I can bring life or death to those around me...

Life or death, you ask? Have you ever been 'cut' by the words of another? I can still 'feel' the words when someone once told me they were ashamed of me... And the childhood chant of "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me," is just nonsense.

I breathe in, and the air I breathe gives me life. I breathe out, and it's up to me whether I build up or tear down. I can assist you into the depths of despair or I can give you hope and a vision. My words can encourage or discourage. I can destroy or I can create!

We know that when a man stops breathing, he stops speaking, he can't hear you and he dies. But were you to get there soon enough, and breathe into his dead body, even your reject gases would be sufficient to bring him back to life again!

How much more then could the breath of God flow through you and make you alive, even when you feel like the living dead....

My soul needs to be revived, I need to hear His voice. I need to feel his Spirit, so I think about Him and I choose to take another deep breath! And if you were to ask Him, I just know he'd breathe into you....J