Archive for February, 2015

roadkillThose who have driven on roads in the north west of Western Australia are familiar with Wedge-tailed Eagles sitting on the roadside eating roadkill. It’s not a pretty picture for a bird that looks so regal when it is high up in the sky, it’s great wings spread out majestically.

This morning I shared at church the verse in Isaiah 40 that reads: Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

I can relate to the idea of God lifting me above the troubles of the world and delighting in Him through prayer, meditation and worship, but I can also relate to sitting on the ground eating roadkill. It seems that while I want to soar like an eagle, I spend more time grovelling in my own worries and fears.

EagleswingsSo how do we get to soar like eagles? Well, eagles don’t just sit back hoping. They actively chase the thermals – updrafts of warm air – and as they follow the various air currents they are able to fly long distances using little energy.

Isaiah says that those who hope in the Lord (or, wait with anticipation) will renew their strength and soar on wings like eagles. It takes an act of the will to actively seek God and to delight in him through prayer, worship and meditation. When we’re not doing that, we just may be on the side of the road, eating roadkill and dodging passing cars.

I know where I’d prefer to be.

(You can hear this morning’s message online. Click here)

MagpiesI was watching a group of magpies eating the other day. It’s that time of the year that the baby Magpies are demanding a feed. They squawk very loudly until their parents come and feed them.

The interesting thing I noted was that the parent will often have something to eat themselves before taking food to the baby.  It seems a bit selfish, but I think there’s method in their madness. It’s a bit like the instructions you get on a plane. At the beginning of a trip, safety instructions are provided and you’re told that if you have children put your own oxygen mask on before you put one on your child.

The principle is simple. If you’re not safe yourself, you’re not in a position to make your child safe. Magpies have worked that one out.

Counsellors, too, are very much aware that if they are going to be effective in helping people, they have to look after their own mental health first.

Some people are naturally very caring and want to help people who they see are in need, but at times they put themselves at risk in the process of helping others. While we need to care for others we also need to care for ourselves.

There’s a few ways we can do that. We need to look after ourselves physically, to make sure we eat properly, have proper exercise and not to over-indulge. We need to protect our relationships and we need to guard our time to make sure that there’s a balance between the amount of time we put into work, to family, and to what we may call self-care.

But the other area that often gets forgotten is looking after our spiritual health. Human beings are spiritual beings. Most parents want their children to grow up as healthy, well-balanced adults, and many parents are aware of the need of some kind of spiritual stability for their children.

But it’s easy to neglect your own spiritual health, while you worry about your children or another member of the family or a friend, who is in difficulty.  Spiritual practices like prayer, meditation and worship are important and help to build spiritual health.

But sometimes people think that this is enough of itself. God created people with the need to live in relationship with him. And good spiritual health is most achievable when we live in a healthy relationship with God. The Bible tells us that God loved us so much that he came to this earth himself in the form of a human being, Jesus Christ, and he gave up his life for us.

Jesus invites us to come to him, to admit our faults and failings, and accept his gracious offer of love and forgiveness. Find a quiet time to step aside from everything else that’s happening and have that conversation with God.

Being right with God puts you in a stronger position to be in a good place with yourself. It helps you to get a better perspective on where you fit in the world, and who you are as a person.

But it also puts you in a stronger position to support other people, to be a good role model and to have the spiritual strength to help others to grow as well. Check out the magpies next time you see them feeding their young. And remember if you’re going to be any good for anyone else, you need to look after yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually.

IMG_0453We’ve just had the carpet cleaners in to shampoo the carpets and clean the chairs in the church. It was a pretty big job and took quite a while.

I think there’s something therapeutic about the deep washing of carpets because as you go, you throw out buckets and buckets of mud and grime that have accumulated over time. Then when you think you’ve finished and go over it again, there’s still more.

Yet, before you do that you can walk over the carpet on a regular basis and not even be aware of the dirt that has been ground in to it. The carpet doesn’t necessarily look all that dirty, but the process of cleaning drags that dirt out and the buckets of muddy water that are thrown out are evidence that the carpets were probably dirtier than you thought.

We proceed through life every day, and we’re generally not aware of the dirt that accumulates in our life. I’m not talking about the dirt we get on our hands and feet, but the dirt that accumulates on our minds and in our very being.

As we watch television shows about crime and violence year after year, we become a little bit immune to it. Things that may have shocked us a few years ago don’t shock us any more. We enjoy relaxing in front of the TV to see comedians or to watch comedy, but over time discover that we laugh at things that once we thought were crude or inappropriate.

Little bits of dirt have accumulated on our minds, and we’re not aware that its there, But it builds up bit by bit and over time we don’t notice that we’re a little bit grubbier than we were before.

There was a time when you avoided people who told dirty jokes, you were more careful in the way you drove your car, you were less judgmental of people who were different to you.  Now, of course, you’re older and wiser, more tolerant, but somehow when you look back you realise there has been some slippage. Little bits of dirt have accumulated, and you haven’t noticed it.

In fact, somewhere in the Bible it says: All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.  Now, you may think that’s a bit steep. After all, we like to think we’re basically good people.

But the reality is, the bits of dirt and grime we accumulate in our minds and hearts actually builds up into something quite disgusting when we compare ourselves with the purity, and beauty and holiness of an almighty God.

But there’s a solution. You can walk over carpet for years and put off the day you have to bring in the cleaners because you’re not prepared to admit how bad the carpet really is.  Same thing goes for our lives. The Bible also says that if we confess our sins … that means we actually admit that we’re sinners, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Sometimes we have to admit that even though we vacuum the carpet regularly, we still need to bring in the carpet cleaners to do a proper job. We may assume we’re basically good people, but there comes a time when we have to admit that compared to God we’re nowhere near perfect.

If we’re prepared to confess our sin, and admit our need of God, he’s assured us he’ll hear that prayer and put us right with himself.