Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Bring on the cricket season.


Who is going to win the US Presidential Election?

With less than a week to go the media is dominated by speculation about the result. The polls seem to reflect one result. The experience of 2016 may suggest the opposite. The bookies have their view and so does the stock market. Pundits on all sides are speculating, pontificating, prophesying and guessing. With absolute conviction I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that today ………………………  we don’t know!


It could be argued that the endless speculation about such events does us no good and probably a great deal of harm. In cricket, the very best batsman all share a common trait when it comes to predicting what sort of ball the bowler is about to deliver. Impatient and reckless cricketers make up their mind about what sort of delivery the bowler is planning, and they then prepare their shot based on their prediction. When they are correct, as they occasionally are, they look like champions seemingly being able to conquer the bowler and score runs quickly. However, guessing what is coming next does not work well for long. Eventually, the batter makes an incorrect prediction, is caught in the wrong place on the crease while preparing to play the wrong shot and ends their innings with a long humiliating walk back to the dressing rooms.


The very best cricketers, however, wait and play every ball on its own merits. They study the bowler intimately, they watch with incredible concentration and then in less than half a second respond and play their shot based on the trajectory, pitch, swing, seam or spin of the ball. Great cricketers prepare tirelessly for the bowler’s entire arsenal and are ready to respond. Sure, batting is hard. But when it is done patiently, wisely, cleverly and fearlessly it is something to behold.


Our common human curse is to worry, fret, fear, and fuss about what is going to happen tomorrow, next week or next year. If 2020 teaches us anything, it is that many of the worries that dominated October 2019, now seem rather pointless. Taking life as it comes is much more efficient. Most of the things that cause us to worry never actually happen. Sometimes things worse than we could have ever imagined eventuate and yet somehow, we muddle through. And just as often, life surprises us with positive developments, unexpected opportunities, random breakthroughs and a juicy half volley outside off stump just asking to be driven through the covers for a boundary.


If you are a US citizen who has not yet voted, it is now time to decide and make your vote count. For the rest of us, we have to wait until next week to learn who will be the President of the United States (unless it’s close) for the next four years.


Today is our opportunity to live life as it comes and not waste it by worrying about what might or might not happen in the future.


Who of you by worrying, can add a single hour to your life? Luke 12: 25

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Each day has enough trouble of it's own.


2020 has been a good year to own a hardware store. In Australia the most dominant hardware chain is enjoying record sales. With restricted travel, there has never been a better time to begin that new project. I am not by nature a handyman, but years ago a dear friend taught me some basics principals that apply not only to DIY, but to life in general.


Rod Cook, could build, fix, repair and renew anything. By trade he was a fitter and turner. By temperament he was patient and positive. By nature, he was artistic. With unlimited skills and a well-equipped shed, Rod was a DIY master.


As a young couple Wendy and I had bought our first home in the south west of Sydney and it needed a lot of work. Rod helped me with great patience. Of all the skills Rod possessed one incident summed up his approach to problems. He was teaching me how to paint the house. We removed some disgusting wallpaper from a wall in our lounge room when Rod notice a lumpy patch in the wall. He poked around for a while, curious to know why the wall was uneven. Then as he prodded some more, and his hand suddenly pierced the gyprock and sank into the cavity leaving a fist-sized hole in the wall. My heart sank. Buying this old house had stretched our finances to the limit and this hole in the wall seemed to spell financial pain, if not ruin.  For me the hole in the wall seemed a mountain beyond my climbing resources. Rod, however, thought it was quite amusing and put in motion a plan to repair it.


Rod returned to his shed and after a small search found a couple of gyprock offcuts. He tidied up the hole in the wall, creating a neat square and then cut a piece of gyprock to match. He then bevelled the edge of the hole in the wall to a 45-degree angle and did the reverse with the offcut. He placed the offcut into the hole and it sat there well supported. A little premix plaster adhesive (that white stuff that dries hard and so you can sand it back) and Rod had repaired the hole in less than an hour.


The obvious lesson from such a story is to find a mate who can fix things and who also has a well-stocked shed. The other lesson that I learned that day is that a good handyman (or woman) is not fazed by a setback – they simply set about trying to find a solution. Rod never worried about what might happen, he simply got on with the job. He always started early, he persevered and dealt with problems, when and if, they arose.


This time last year no one saw the Covid, hole-in-the-world coming. We are still working on a solution. The attitudes of hard work, creativity, perseverance and a positive spirit remain important allies.


Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34


Thursday, October 8, 2020

The truth will set you free.


Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.
Fyodor Dostoevsky,   The Brothers Karamzov


I met a guy who a couple of years before had gone to our church. He was a high-flying accountant. He told me he had changed churches because he didn’t want to go to a church that judged him. I found a church, he told me, that affirmed my lifestyle, that supported my belief, taught me a truth I wanted to hear and most importantly made me feel good about myself. I remembered at the time being sad and rather fearful for where that might lead him.


Months later I heard that a significant public company had gone into receivership with fraud charges laid against a number of senior staff including the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The CFO was my friend who decided to go to a church that didn’t judge. He was judged by criminal courts instead and was found guilty of fraud and sent to gaol.


In recent times the whole idea of truth has been undermined. From the once cherished objective truth we have descended over the decades into relative truth, the idea that each individual can develop their own truth. Relative truth suited the generations who wanted to do things their own way. Now the facts only get in the way when my truth has become true not because its true but because it’s mine. This post-modern slide into relativism has been hyper charged by the powerful social media algorithms designed to reinforce our tribal and biased view of the world, to maximise sales not certainty.


Faced with a virus that is not limited by tribe, nation or tongue, the truth needs to make a comeback, fast. Working out how to live with Covid 19 is complex and complicated. There are many unknowns and abandoning the knowns only makes it harder.


The good book’s conclusion is that to judge is not weakness but strength.

We can’t always be sure where the truth lies or who is telling the truth – but the quality of a person’s life is a clear indicator. The Lord values...


The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbour, and casts no slur on others. (Psalm 15:2,3)

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Could we be part of the problem?

Could we be part of the problem? I remember going to a doctor once and asked if my diet and general health could be part of my medical challenges. He was not happy with my questions. Why do you Christians always think it’s all about sin? he ranted. Why do you always believe someone has to be blamed!


Needless to say, that doctor and I never became close. But he did make me think. In previous, more religious times and in more religious cultures, when bad things happen people ask Could we be part of the problem? Could we be doing something wrong that is causing this season of difficulty, illness or pain?


I recently watched an amazing Netflix documentary called Kiss the Ground.

The central message of the film is that there is a lot wrong with the way we are living on Planet Earth. No news there. The message sounds negative, bleak and preachy. This movie, however, presents a message full of hope. If we are doing something wrong, then maybe we can change. Things might stop getting worse… and might actually start to get better… and those improvements might even begin to happen quickly.


The idea that we might be part of the problem sounds judgemental and negative, but quite the opposite is actually true.  If we are part of the problem, then we can be part of the solution. At the heart of the gentle Nazarene’s message was a call to repent.


But unless you repent, you too will all perish. - Luke 13:3 (NIV)


Repent means ‘to turn around’. If we are walking away, we need to turn back. If we are lost, we need to find the path. If we are headed for disaster, we need to do a U-turn. If we are stalled and have lost the wind, we need to tack and find the breeze again.


Could we be part of the problem? leads to the even more scary thought, Could I be part of the problem? Scary…yes…but hopeful too. If I am part of the problem, then I can also be part of the solution.


Michael Jackson might not have heeded the song’s advice, but the sentiment remains timeless.

I'm starting with the man in the mirror 

I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
(If you want to make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change…