Mid Year Stock Take

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that time keeps slipping away at an ever increasing rate.

Today is the first day of the second half of 2017.

Here in Australia, the 1st of July marks the beginning of the new financial year. For businesses, it’s a time to draw a line under one year and to look ahead to what the new financial year will bring.

For all of us, being halfway through the calendar year means it’s a good time to look back before looking forward. It’s as good a time as any to reassess where our lives are heading and look at making adjustments or changes where needed.

Every day gives us an opportunity to start again but I think there can be something special about setting a new course on certain landmark days such us the start of a new year, the midpoint of the year, the start of a new financial year or on a birthday. There’s nothing magical about those days but we can use them as markers throughout the year that remind us of where we’re heading or perhaps where we should be heading.

What about you? Are you going to review the goals and resolutions you made at the start of the year?

Are you prepared to put the broken resolutions behind you and start again? I just love the fact that what has happened in the past doesn’t have to decide the direction of our future. While we can’t erase the past, we can deal with it and move forward.

When I look back over the first half of 2017 I see both triumphs and disappointments. I guess that’s what life is all about. It won’t always be smooth sailing but it’s how we deal with the tough times that helps us develop and grow into the people we will become, for better or for worse.

One of the things I’ve wanted to do this year is spend more time on my bike. I need a lot more kilometres in my legs over the next twelve or so months if I’m going to be ready to cycle across the country in September next year. (You can read more about that adventure in my post, Going the Distance.)

While I haven’t cycled as much as I would have liked, I have cycled a lot more than I did last year, so things are improving. Now I get to reasses, reset and move on with the plan to ride more.

There are always things in my private life, my family, my spiritual journey and my work that need reflection and readjustment.

If you’re interested in help towards a mid-year spiritual stock take, I recommend listening to a couple of messages that Rob Furlong preached recently. Check out The Springs of Life and Keeping the Springs Fresh.

How is 2017 looking for you? What adjustments will you make to ensure that you achieve at least some of your goals by the end of the year?

Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading Mid Year Stock Take? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂

What’s Killing Your Soul?

While having coffee with a friend at a local cafe recently I overheard two women at the next table talking about work. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop so I only caught bits and pieces of the conversation but one particular sentence stuck with me.

I don’t hate my job …. but it is killing my soul.

Wow. How could you not hate something that is killing your soul?

A survey conducted last year by Survey Sampling International on behalf of SEEK Learning showed that while less than half of Australian workers are happy with their jobs, only a small percentage are actively looking to change their situation. Part of that is due to a lack of options relating to skill levels or opportunities in some areas of work but it’s still startling to think that so many people are willing to ‘settle’ for spending their working week doing something they either don’t like or worse, feel is doing them harm.

The most startling thing about hearing the woman in the cafe talking about her job is that she realises that it is ‘killing her soul’ but she still doesn’t hate it. How do we get so complacent in anything that we no longer hate the things that feel like they’re robbing us of life?

Our soul is the very deepest part of who we are. It goes beyond the body that we can see. It has been described as ‘the eternal component of man that is fashioned in the very image of God, and that can exist apart from the physical body.’

When Jesus was preparing his disciples, one of the things he told them was … do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? – Matthew 16:26

Have you settled in some areas of your life even though you know it’s destroying you from the inside out? Of course, I’m not just talking about being in a dead end job. There are behaviours, attitudes and thought patterns that can creep into our lives which left unchallenged will leave our hearts hardened to the damage that is happening to our souls. Has it just become easier to put up with everything that has crowded into your life rather than fighting back and taking care of what matters most?

What are the things in your life that are killing your soul?

If there’s something that’s damaging or killing your soul, it’s time to start hating that thing. It’s time to make changes.

What have you been willing to tolerate even though it is leading you down a road you don’t want to travel?

You cannot change what you are willing to tolerate.
– Craig Groeschel

The good news is that God is willing and ready to help us overcome whatever it is that is killing our souls. It’s not about turning over a new leaf or trying harder but about turning over each area of our lives to the one who created our souls and wants the very best for us.

Don’t let a job, a habit, the expectations of others or anything else kill your soul. Identify what’s killing your soul and with Jesus’ help turn your back on it. Then let Jesus bring new life to your soul.

Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading What’s Killing Your Soul?? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂

Working on the Stuff We Love

It’s a weird concept but I’ve been thinking again recently about the self discipline we require to do the things we love.

We might imagine that we’ll just get on and do the stuff we love doing and that we only need to discipline ourselves to do the things that we don’t like to do; the things we have to anyway.

It takes real discipline and resolve for me to do any gardening and a bunch of other things that aren’t really my thing but what about the things I really enjoy doing?

Shouldn’t those things come easy to me?

Perth’s beautiful weather makes my city the perfect place for cycling. It’s one of my favourite passtimes yet if I don’t discipline myself to get out there on my bike I’ll miss out on something I love. It’s easy to sleep in on a Saturday morning instead of rising early to ride with my cycling friends but I know that if I put in the effort I’ll get greater benefits from cycling than I would from an extra hour in bed.

When I force myself into the habit of regular cycling I feel fitter and more energised, yet that discipline can slip away so easily. With a ride right across Australia on the horizon next year, I’d better get that discipline happening soon or I’ll miss out on my big adventure.

If I love reading so much why do I need to discipline myself to sit down with a book for an hour?

A week or two can often go past without me sitting down to soak in some words from the pages of a good book yet when I make the time to read I can easily get lost among the words and I thoroughly enjoy every moment of it. Sitting down with a coffee in one hand and a book in the other is one of the most satisfying things in the world yet I can waste my time on the trivial things of life rather than reading.

We need to work on our relationships.

Some relationships are easier than others, but we even need to put in a great deal of effort on our relationships with those we love.

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well. ? Theodore Roosevelt

Do you find the same thing happening?

Are there things that you really love yet you find you have to discipline yourself to invest your time pursuing them?

I find the same thing with my faith. I’m never happier than when I feel that I’m in tune with the Creator yet I can let time slip through my fingers without making the effort to recharge my spiritual batteries.

The simple spiritual disciplines of prayer, reading the scriptures, reflecting and others that are absolutely life giving can be easily crowded out in our busy world.

Why do we let ourselves get robbed of the real stuff of life?

It’s somehow strange that we should have to exercise discipline and self-control to do the things that make us feel most alive but sadly it’s true. I guess that’s where priority setting comes into play.

What are you like at doing the things that you love? Are there things you love, things that truly energise you, that you have let slip away?

Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading Working on the Stuff We Love? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂

Soundtrack of My Life – Let’s Dance

Soundtrack of my Life Tomorrow would have been David Bowie’s 70th birthday but of course, he died on the 10th of January 2016, just days after his 69th birthday.

This is one of a regular series of articles highlighting some of the music that has played a part in my life.

You’ll find a range of songs from old to new. Whether it’s the lyrics, the music, a time in my life, or a combination of reasons, the songs in my soundtrack are part of who I am.

If you take a good look you’ll probably find music that has been part of the soundtrack of your life too. You can also check out some of the other songs that make up the soundtrack of my life.

So much has been said about the number of celebrities who died in 2016 and I was saddened by many of those deaths but Bowie’s death was the only one that really affected me. I pretty much listened to nothing but David Bowie music for days after hearing the news.

Let’s Dance – David Bowie

Let’s Dance was the title track to Bowie’s 1983 album and the first to be released as a single. It was the album that was the driving force behind the Serious Moonlight Tour. The only time I saw Bowie live was on that tour when he played the Perth Entertainment Centre in early November 1983.

I chose this track to share because of its links to Australia.

The music video was made in March 1983 by David Mallet on location in Australia including a bar in Carinda in New South Wales and the Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran. In the beginning it featured Bowie with a double bass player inside the one-room pub at the Carinda Hotel and an Aboriginal couple ‘naturally’ dancing “to the song they’re playin’ on the radio”, the couple in this scene and in the whole video is played by Terry Roberts and Joelene King, two students from Sydney’s Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre. As Bowie opted for real people, some residents of the 194-souls village of Carinda are in the pub too, watching and mocking the couple. They do not believe who David is nor what the take is all about, hence their behaviour towards the couple as seen in the video is real.

The red shoes mentioned in the song’s lyrics appear in several contexts. The couple wanders solemnly through the outback with some other Aboriginals, when the young woman finds a pair of mystical red pumps on a desert mountain and instantly learns to dance. Bowie’s calling ‘put on your red shoes’ recalls Hans Christian Andersen’s tale “The Red Shoes”, in which the little girl was vainly tempted to wear the shoes only to find they could not be removed, separating her from God’s grace – “let’s dance for fear your grace should fall” “The red shoes are a found symbol. They are the simplicity of the capitalist society and sort of striving for success – black music is all about ‘Put on your red shoes'”, as Bowie confirmed.

Soon, the couple is visiting museums, enjoying candlelit dinners and casually dropping credit cards, drunk on modernity and consumerism. During a stroll through an arcade of shops, the couple spots the same pair of red pumps for sale in a window display, their personal key to joy and freedom. They toss away the magic kicks in revulsion, stomping them into the dust and return to the mountains, taking one final look at the city they’ve left behind.

Bowie described this video (and the video for his subsequent single, “China Girl”) as “very simple, very direct” statements against racism and oppression, but also a very direct statement about integration of one culture with another. He inserted numerous references to the Stolen Generations. For example, the scene where the young woman scrubs the street on her knees in the middle of a busy street refers to Aboriginal children that were trained as domestic servants before being sent to white homes. – Wiki

I’d encourage you to get involved too. Let me know about some of the songs that are etched in your mind. What are the tunes that bring back a flood of memories every time their opening notes start cranking out on your stereo? Are there songs you love for their music and others that speak deeply through their lyrics?

Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading Soundtrack of My Life – Let’s Dance? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂

Is Happiness Our Only Hope?

It’s over. 2016 is gone and 2017 has arrived.

Over the last few days there’s every chance you’ve been exchanging the customary greeting of “Happy New Year” with anyone who happens to cross your path. Even while you’ve been trying to grab a bargain at all the post-Christmas sales you’ve probably had complete strangers not only hurriedly scanning your discounted items from the other side of the counter, but wishing you happiness for the next twelve months.

We wish each other happiness as we draw a line under the year that has gone and look forward to the fresh beginnings of a new year. We want the next year to be better than the last.

I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how tough 2016 was personally. I’ve heard many despair at happenings around the world with everything from terrorist attacks to natural disasters, political instability, inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and the heartbreaking situation in Syria. Others have spoken of the many great lives we’ve lost during the past twelve months. It’s no wonder we want a little bit of happiness in the new year.

But is happiness what it’s really all about?

Of course I want to wish you a happy new year but I don’t want it to end there. I want more for you than happiness as you launch into 2017.

Happiness comes and goes and we all know that you’re not going to sail through 2017 with a smile on your face the whole time. There will be struggles and disappointments. I’m not wishing you difficulties but I’ve been on this planet long enough to know that each year will bring a mixture of good and bad. Sometimes there’ll also be extreme highs and devastating lows. With that in mind my wish for you goes deeper.

I wish you joy for 2017.

Joy is different than happiness. It’s more. It’s not so dependent on circumstances. There’s a strength in joy that goes beyond the happy times. It’s a confidence that no matter we’re facing, we can go on.

I wish love for you in 2017.

Love means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. We’ve all been let down, even by those closest to us. That’s not the kind of love I’m talking about. The kind of love I wish for you in 2017 is a deep, abiding love that never changes, leaves or disappoints. That’s the kind of love we need during the tough days in 2017.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow, not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below, indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

I wish grace for you in 2017.

What is grace? It’s been describes as undeserved favour but there’s more to it than that.

Grace is not only God’s disposition to do good for us when we don’t deserve it. It is an actual power from God that acts and makes good things happen in us and for us.

God’s grace was God’s acting in Paul to make Paul work hard. So when Paul says, “Work out your salvation,” he adds, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Grace is power from God to do good things in us and for us. – John Piper

And more than wishing … I pray these things for you in 2017

I could pray for a happy year for you. I could pray that whatever you do, all runs smoothly. A great job, a close family, healing from illness are all wonderful things that I want for you, but more than that, I pray that 2017 will be a year that draws you closer to the one who created you. I really can’t go past this prayer that Paul prayed for the Ephesian church.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:14-19

Wow. Being filled with all the fullness of God? That sure beats ‘Happy New Year’.

There are many other things I could wish for you in 2017 like hope, peace, strength and wisdom but I’d be interested to know what you’d like to wish for others as we begin a new year. Leave your thoughts in the comments section of this post.

Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading Is Happiness Our Only Hope?? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂