I could do it better!

March 31, 2011

There are some of us that have a tendency to think or desire for others to get out the way so we can get on and do a better job. The king of Israel answered, “Tell him: ‘One who puts on his armor should not boast like one who takes it off.'” 

My  father was in retail management all his life. He grew up in the age where customer service in the form of a person was paramount and computers where tools for stock taking. I remember many a time a customer would come into the London store, want several rolls of expensive material and knowing he did not have them all in stock, offer the person a coffee in the store restaurant, jump in a taxi to the warehouse, throw in the rolls and get back.

New senior management in the store wanted younger people in leadership, those who had MBA’s and understood todays commerce. Eventually they bullied him out although he made sure they paid him handsomely for going! Within a couple of years, the senior management of the company, not the store, wanted to know why the historic sales growth year on year was in decline. They then had to put in 2 or 3 more managers to manage what my dad had done. In fact he was even asked to come back!

We may be gifted in an area, have a passion and skill sets and even have God’s anointing on us, but we lack experience.  The King of Israel had obviously lived life a little and saw youthful passion or arrogant pride. I don’t think society today knows how to honour “seasoned soldiers” and recognise that “we stand on the shoulders of those who went before us”. What a shame there are so few “apprenticeships” today. Yes there is much “knowledge”, but wisdom is something many younger ones lack. Lets esteem those who are “taking off their armour” and not be too proud to ask them for help.

How big is your cup?

March 30, 2011

The Bible teaches about rewards and punishments in the after-life based on what we “sowed and reaped” in this life. God has revealed himself through nature and His word. We will be held responsible for the knowledge we had and what we did with that knowledge. It is clear that all who are practicing followers of Jesus will get rewards, but there is sufficient teaching that some will be rewarded more than others. All of our cups will be full, the question is “how big is your cup”? Is that related to our “earthly service”.  The mystery of the Christian life is that the gospel is absolutely free in the finish work of Christ, but as we must respond to God’s offer in Christ, we must also respond to God’s empowerment for Christian living. The Christian life is as supernatural as is salvation, yet we must receive and hold on to it. The free but cost everything paradox  is the mystery of rewards and sowing and reaping. We are not saved by good works but for good works. Good works are the evidence that we  have met Him.

I think about these things as Mike had only a few years of “good works”, so does that mean his cup is smaller than someone that has been a practicing Christian for 50 years? Personally, I dont think so. The question is whether Mike was faithful to the revelation he had, not how much revelation he had. If he was 100% faithful to what he knew, then I suspect he will have the largest cup that’s available, the same as the person of 50 years faithful service.

By the way, what is the most important part of a cup……….the empty space inside!

Do we think there will only be old farts in Heaven!

March 29, 2011

How terrible to see a young child die, a beautiful little girl in piggy tails get knocked down, a handsome ruddy youth not wake up, a middle age mum robbed from her children, a granddad pass on. I was realising the other day, God does not just want old farts in heaven like I will be! God wants a family and although I really don’t understand how it all works, the Bible does indicate we will recognize each other.

So although we would wish everyone lived into the 80’s, I think God would end up having all the silver-haired people playing classical music on their harps, where he actually enjoys Mike letting rip with rock and roll  on some of those harps!

I know there are many more questions than answers as to who dies when but its good to know there will be “a family” in heaven.


The Purpose Driven Life

March 27, 2011

Any book or teaching that presents 7 steps, 3 ways etc I seem to give a wide berth. Whilst I was big into personal mission statements, I am less clear about them now.

I spent yesterday repairing a broken window and replacing rotten wood around the window. Jobs that need to be done to keep the house “up to standard”. Important isn’t it? Kathy’s world changed when Mike died and now she says “be ready for the unexpected, tomorrow”. Look at Japan, Libya etc. One minute you are sitting in your house, the next not only a tsunami but where your house was located is now contaminated by nuclear fallout. So what was the point of repairing that window!

As I come out of the tunnel of Mike’s death, a word that has become so important to me is “purposeful”. I want to be purposeful in my relationships, my time and money. Whilst it is important to fix the window, I want to every day be purposeful. That does not have to be a “big headline”. A little chat, some encouraging words, a game with the family, connecting with friends, praying for people. Rather than a formulated “7 steps”, I think it’s about an approach to life, an attitude.

So I ask myself what is my core purpose? Well that is so simple because I have such a strong conviction and passion. I want to encourage relationship with Father God. Knowing God daily in our lives is so mind-blowing. It certainly does not mean for one minute freedom from pain or suffering or we will receive great material blessings. To be at peace in the inner soul when circumstances, scenarios etc around give reason for anxiety and fear, is what God offers. To be unconditionally loved in spite of our own failings. To sit in the quiet and listen to a great hymn or modern worship song that leads me to thank God for all He has done for me. To understand what happened between Father God and man when Jesus died on the cross.

And so I want to have a “purpose driven life”, to write an exciting narrative and to encourage others to “walk with God”. Lets not watch life pass us by. Lets make it happen, lets not read the story, lets write the story. Just because my story is not given space on the bookshelf does not mean it isnt an epic!

The first fire for the season

March 26, 2011

My friend Todd said this week, “Mark you are not blogging much these days”. I remember a year ago when I was interviewed about Mike’s death I was asked  what would I say to someone going through a similar experience? I pondered for 2 secs and said “I would not say anything, I would just put my arm around them and cry with them”. Blogging doesnt alow me to put my arm around, there are no words these days, just emotion. My friend Frank died of a brain tumor leaving a lovely wife and two young girls, another friend watches his 17 month old son cry in pain as cancer has decimated his body and at the same time his wife gives birth to a beautiful baby girl. I watch another couple get their hopes up at the promise of a large injection of cash into their struggling business only to find out the offer was full of hot air and fraud and so they go back to the daily uncertainties.

We have had unusually warm weather with wonderful blue sky’s in the day or star filled vistas at night. I wanted to have my first fire of the year out around my fire pit, but knew it would make me sad.

Mike, Akila and Laura's friends around the Fire Pit.

Its strange how “our fires” became a key ingredient into the “Knight Culture” and Mike was such an integral part of those. Im pleased I went ahead as Kath and I sat there looking at an amazing display of stars, following a satellite cross the sky and phone Todd to celebrate the first fire of the season. As I have written before, Mike and I would often sit by the fire and there would be no need for words, we let the fire speak.

Facebook, Twitter, Blogging etc are amazing social networking tools, I hope we can learn to shut them off and sit and think and not always have to be talking……….all output with out input becomes empty!

From no significance to great significance

March 10, 2011

 She was a nobody and then one day she became a somebody. She would sing in the shower to herself, now she sings on stage to thousands.  No one noticed, now everyone stares. What caused the change in perspective? 

They were just slippers, now they are a prized possession. I’ve never owned slippers, now I like to wear them. What changed that reality?  

 But isn’t she still the same person inside as she was when she would sing in the shower when no one knew her? Doesn’t she have the same insecurities, idiosyncrasies, desires, likes and dislikes?

 If I wear them wont they gradually get old and come to the point where I need to throw them away? Aren’t they just slippers? No they are much more than that!

 Isn’t she just the girl from next door? The girl we went to school with. Now like a ‘goddess’ she is ‘worshipped’ by thousands.

 So what caused the slippers and the girl to go from no significance to great significance? Did the slippers and the girl change or was it I who put the importance on them? She will return to the dust, the slippers will disintegrate. Both will return to their former state, no significance, but not for me, whilst I still breath, they will always have significance. The slippers were Mike’s, the girl was a family friend. He wore them. She sat at my kitchen table and played board games with me.

Suddenly you are there.

March 9, 2011

Suddenly you are there.

 There are days I seek your face but other days you are suddenly there. I’m not ready for those moments and I am not sure if the jolt of emotion like an electric shock is welcome pain or to be avoided.

A word, song, fixing a bike rack, a ball, biscuit, a place, a boy walking down a road, a thought, a chore around the house, a software package, a school task with Laura……

That kaleidoscope of multi colored thought that invaded my mind 24/7 has passed. Now there are days of blank vision, of stark silence and then from no where, that jolt of memory from hidden places in the attic of my mind. As I ponder with the lenses of my thoughts, I find frustration that the memory has allowed dust to gather. I long for the clarity of detail of high definition.

In those moments I want to shout pause, stop everything, and push the zoom in button and focus on that one thought. The noise, speed and continuation of the present want to be centre stage, the jolt of emotion releases chemicals to bring darkness. I battle to contain the effect of the adrenaline as I start to feel butterfly’s in my stomach. Hurray up, process quickly, wipe away the dust, focus, shut out the world and concentrate for that millionth of a second to bring to the surface a picture or film clip taken over an 18 ½ year time span from January 19th 1991 – August 1st 2009.

And then like that horrendous Saturday morning, you are gone.

Cherished Memories.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

March 8, 2011

Jean-Dominique Bauby in his brilliant book, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, illustrates perfectly how many of us can live, the world of our minds and the world of physical reality. After a stroke that left Bauby completely ‘locked in’ and with only the movement of one eye lid, he wrote this book  by communicating letters with his eyelid. His mind was totally active but ‘locked in’ he was unable to communicate to the world around him, until one day his therapist discovered his ability to say yes or no with the blink of the eye. 

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

We “dream” without physical limits, personality constraints, free from emotional hurt……we are a butterfly that is free to skip through the air at will to this beautiful flower for a little rest before seeking out the next awesome smelling one. As a butterfly of the mind there is nothing we cannot do but then in the real world we can feel like we are dressed in one of those heavy underwater diving bell suits trying to clumsily move through life.

Last week I felt so constrained by “dark” emotions that paralysed me from doing what I wanted to do. At one point the darkness causes physical sickness feelings and a nervous shaking of the body. Yet again I find myself retreating to the drug of sleep, I just shut out the world, I turn off for a few hours and dont have to face reality….I can go into sleep as the “butterfly” and pretend my world is normal, my Mike is with me and we carry on where we left of. Then I wake and find myself in the “diving bell” again!

The sun is shinning, its a brilliant day, I will cycle to work and emulate the “butterfly” as best I can in the physical reality.

When you cannot see the way forward, you feel your way.

March 4, 2011

I remember many years ago a manager of mine asking me to articulate clearly my vision for the future. At that time I could not do that, it was unclear. I knew the compass direction but I did not have the map detail. For some personalities to function well in life, they need to know where they are going and the steps or process of getting there. For others, they can handle the ambiguity, the walk in darkness.

My friend Mike said the other day with regard to a business venture he is involved in, “I cannot see my way across the river, I am feeling each stone under my feet”.  Today that is where I am at. I cannot see the future as I did in the past…..and thats OK! We can watch others in what appears to be full on, clear purpose, achieving outcomes, doing “life”. We are just getting out of bed and feeling our way through today, doing what we need to do to fulfill our responsibilities whilst on the inside wondering where will I be in the future. The joy of life has been knocked out of us, we too at one time had a lot of activity in our lives and our minds were clearly focused. We look around and see many of our friends suffering, their worlds had a tsunami hit them. Others have not had a tsunami hit but unwanted change which either physically or emotionally dramatically changes how they do life today.

And so we accept, there are times in life we cannot see, we keep moving forward by feeling our way; there are times of great joy and pleasure and the very next day times of sadness and suffering that cause us to loose our footing. We live with paradox, highs and lows, constants and change. If ever there was an anchor that keeps me sain in all of this and the ability to feel my way forward, its following in King David’s footsteps, “Bless the LORD oh my soul and all that is within me bless His Holy name”.

Bubble or a Building…..’puffed up’ or ‘built up’

March 3, 2011

Puffing up or Building up!

This year is Kathy & mine 25th wedding anniversary and I am in my 50th year. As we have tried over the past 18 months to make sense of Mike’s death, I have underlined my belief that as I get older I have more questions than answers. But there are plenty of people who have the answers for me!

And so I come to a little question for myself, am I puffed up or do I build up? Am I a bubble or a building?  What if the knowledge I have is wrong? What if that knowledge doesnt benefit me or others? Even worse, what if that knowledge makes me proud and haughty? What if my knowledge makes me so puffed up I spew out arrogance?

What helped me so much this past 18 months was not those who had answers, but those who showed love, those who edified, those who build up, those who helped me stand. Their character had been built up where they did not need to feel value from having all the answers, but in showing love. Its those people I need and want on my journey. I hope I too can be a building for others and not a bubble!

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