Renovating Your Life

We are currently renovating our house.

And while I am excited for the end result, at this moment it is like living in a bomb shelter. We have no washing machine, no stove, no sink (we’re doing all our washing in the baby bath), and the entire house is covered in a fine layer of cement dust!

But, I keep telling my wife (and trying to convince myself) that it is all worth it. Once this is over, we will have a lovely new kitchen and beautiful new floors. A place we can be proud of.

Sometimes I think God is a builder. And He loves doing renovations on my character.

Often times it is just a few minor alterations – a bit of plastering here or some electrical rewiring somewhere else. Promptings from God on wrong ways of thinking, or small adjustments in the way I treat others around me. But then there are other times in my life when it seems like He has decided to knock out an entire wall! In my case issues of  control that He wants to get rid of, or my incredible propensity for selfishness.

And what I’ve found is that generally this kind of character renovation is a painful and messy experience. In fact, sometimes it feels like things have to get more messy before they get better (my kitchen at the moment for example). But in the end I’ve always found that the final result is worth the pain and I am better off for it!

The Bible calls this “refining”.

It says,  “When life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” (1 Peter 4:12)

Thankfully, God is always on the job.

And He promises us that He will complete the work He has started: “I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places… You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate…” (Isaiah 58:11-12)

And so, what part of your character feels like it is currently “under construction”?

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Do Power Balance Bracelets Really Work?

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me enlighten you. Power Balance bracelets are plastic bracelets embedded with a hologram that supposedly “works with your body’s natural energy field to increase strength, flexibility and overall performance.”

And they are everywhere!  In fact, it seems nowadays that every second person you meet is wearing one.

A while ago as a joke I tweeted –

“To all you Power Balance bracelet wearers – I have a ring that repels dragons, and I am willing to send it to you for free!”

– and it caused quite a stir! It seems to me that there are people on both sides. Those who swear by them, and those who say they are a complete scam!

As a physiotherapist trained in clinical reasoning, my initial reaction was “C’mon – you’ve got to be kidding me! Where are the random-double-blind studies? The hard facts proving it works?” And the truth is – there are none. In fact in Australia recently Power Balance posted a retraction and had to apologize to consumers for misleading advertising.

But, despite all this, I am also an owner of the infamous Power Balance bracelet (someone gave it to me I promise!) and, I have to be honest, I’ve worn it a few times surfing and paddling. You see, even though my brain is telling me this thing is just a brilliant and well-marketed money-making scheme – a modern version of “snake-oil” – there is also a small part of me that wants to believe it works.

Because the truth is we all want a magic formula.

Whether it’s to sort out our marriage, increase our business, build our ministry, or get a six-pack, we are all susceptible to taking the quick and easy option. Unfortunately, as I’m figuring out, for the most part there are no magic formulas or quick fixes in life. Relationships, love and financial freedom, like “power, balance, and flexibility” take work. A lot of hard work.

The bible says it like this: “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” (Prov 21:5)

So… what do you think about Power Balance? Real-deal, placebo or hoax?

And more importantly, what challenge or problem in your life are you avoiding or looking for the magic formula to fix?

PS: I still have those dragon rings if any of you are interested. I’ll give you a special price 😉
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Life is Better When You Surf

There is nothing quite like the feeling of surfing. The surge of adrenaline as the ocean heaves you forward, the thrill of rushing water beneath your feet, the ecstasy of speed.

But it is not the feeling of surfing itself that keeps me coming back for more.

It is the lack of it.

It’s the “illusiveness” of it that captures me. The fact that I cannot control the conditions and, like every other creature on this planet, must surrender to nature’s way and timing. And so every morning the first thing I do is check the wind (ask my wife, it drives her crazy!). I look at swell charts, text my surfing buddies, and dream of that perfect wave. All the time constantly aware of and sensitive to the elements – to the rhythms and cycles of the earth.

If it were perfect conditions every day I think I would miss this. I would take the “good days” for granted and I would lose something of the spirit of what it means to be a surfer.

You see, all those days watching and waiting makes that day when the universe conspires to bring everything together so much richer. And when you ride that wave, it is more than just a wave; it is the culmination of expectation and hope. And in that moment, everything else fades – your problems at work, your worries for tomorrow – and the only thing that matters are the next few glorious seconds.

Life is a bit like surfing.

We all want to experience the joys of riding a wave – those moments of pure pleasure – but the reality is a lot of the time we’re just sitting on the beach waiting for the wind to switch. What I’m starting to realize though is that the waiting is just as important and very much a part of the joy of the wave itself.

And so may you come to realize that you are not in control. May you learn to love the days “in-between” as much as you savour the moments of joy. May you be sensitive to the rhythms of the Creator in your life, and may your dream wave finally come in.

 

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My Mom is on Facebook

So you finally caved. You’ve accepted a friend request from your mom.

Don’t worry, everyone’s doing it.

In fact, according to surveys by InsideFacebook.com the fastest growing age category on Facebook is 55-65! And in a more recent study, it was also shown that a large percentage of iPad users fell into the “senior” category. So, what does this all mean? Is it because the older generation are simply the late adopters, and up till now they’ve still been trying to figure out how the mouse works, or are they truly becoming more and more tech savvy?

I think it’s a bit of both.

But one things for sure – for the most part our parents are not afraid to learn and try new things. And as the next generation we must be careful not to dismiss or undermine their wisdom and experience (simply cause they don’t know how to use their Blackberry).

The bible says “honour your parents”. It encourages us to learn and share across the generations – that both sides have things to gain from each other.

And so maybe, if we let them, the ballies could still teach us a thing or two…

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Unforced Rhythms

I’ve recently taken up surf-ski paddling. And I love it! I love being out on the ocean, riding the swells, and looking back over the skyscape of the city I call home. The problem is I’m pretty useless as a paddler. Initially I thought it was all about upper body strength. But I quickly learnt that it’s not about strength at all – it’s about rhythm.

I think spirituality is a bit like that too. It’s not about strength – trying harder to be a better person through sheer willpower – but more about rhythm.

Rob Bell says, “When I think of God, I hear a song.”

It’s a song about love, peace, grace and hope. It’s a song that’s playing all around us all the time, and everyone is playing the song. In fact, the question isn’t whether we are playing the song or not, but rather “are we in tune?”

I’ve met many Christians who claim to know God, and yet seem so out of tune, and I’ve met many people who know nothing about Christianity and yet seem completely in tune with God’s song. Why is that?

You see, when it comes to rhythm, it helps to have knowledge about music. It helps you to appreciate the little nuances and complexities that make up the song, but you can still be way out of tune. On the other hand, you can know nothing about notes and keys and still sing in perfect harmony.

Jesus says it this way: Walk with me and learn the “unforced rhythms of grace”.  He says, the closer we get to God, the more in step we are with His song.

Are you still trying to use your own strength to “force” spirituality? Or are you learning God’s “unforced rhythms”, tapping your feet to His beat?

Inspiration for this blog came from Rob Bell’s NOOMA DVD “Rhythm”.

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Collecting Scars

When I was young I hated grown-ups. They were always killing my fun. Telling me not to jump off that, or stop running, or wiping my face with a wet cloth. I couldn’t stand it. They were always warning me about danger at every turn, and reminding me of the boy they once knew who nearly died or ended up in hospital for the very thing I was about to try. I remember wondering to myself why grown-ups were so boring and so complicated!

Now, of course, I am older and wiser. And I get it. I get why parents want to protect their kids. I get that sometimes bad things happen. That people can get hurt, not just physically. And that life is complicated.

We all take hits along the way. In fact, if you’ve lived long enough, you’ve taken some pretty big knocks yourself. And if you haven’t collected a few scars, the truth is you haven’t really lived. The problem is not the scars themselves, the problem is if we live our lives out of those scars…

Lately I’ve begun to believe some lies. Lies about what other people think about me (or what I presume they think about me). Lies about what others expect from me, or what I expect from myself. Lies about my own capacity (or lack thereof). Lies even that I can do it by myself. When we’re  young, we get away with these lies, but if we continue to build some more thinking on top of them, then things start to get unsteady. And if we don’t uncover the lies, the  higher we build, the more painful the fall when it eventually comes.

Jesus used such a simple metaphor. “Build you house on the rock”. In other words, build your lives on truth.

What lies have you begun to believe? What lies have you believed for so long, you’ve built an entire building on it?

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The Amazing Thing About Uncertainty

The other day I was reading a real-life exodus story. About a community of people who escaped great hardship and suffering and built for themselves a new life. Things were going great, but eventually new challenges began to arise, and their future became uncertain. And this is where it gets weird. Even though the new challenges and problems they had to overcome were minor in comparison to what they had suffered before, almost all of the people wanted to go back.

And I thought to myself, it’s funny characteristic of us humans that sometimes we would rather go back to what we know, even if what we know is horrendous, then face the possibility of great joy that’s uncertain. In other words, we would rather be unhappy somwhere we know, than happy somewhere unfamiliar. Isn’t that crazy?

Some of us have made plans for 2011. And if we’re honest they’re not God’s plans – they’re ours – and they’re not very good. But the truth is we would rather hold on to the bad plans we know and can control, then follow God’s great plans for us that we have no control over.

And so we miss out.

Embrace uncertainty. It may just be the most amazing thing you’ll ever do.

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This is that fresh feeling…

A New Year is a funny thing. In one sense nothing changes. We are the same people with the same problems waking up on another Saturday morning.

But… something is different. Something is new.

One of my favourite songs is “Fresh Feeling” by the Eels, and I just love these lyrics…

Try, Try to forget what’s in the past
Tomorrow is here
Love,
Orange sky above lighting your way
There’s nothing to fear

Birds singing a song
Old paint is peeling
This is that fresh
That fresh feeling

For me, these lyrics capture this sense of “new” we feel around this time of year so well. That “fresh feeling” of excitement, anticipation, perhaps some apprehension thrown in, and ultimately hope. Hope that we can be better people. Hope that this year can be different. Hope for new opportunities. Hope that there is more to life than this.

Now, I cannot see before me what lies in store in 2011. But what I do know for certain is this: God is with us!  New Years (and sunrises) are God’s reminder that “it’s not too late for a fresh start! Turn to me for I can make all things brand new!”  And so may you experience God’s fresh feeling today and into 2011!

Birds singing a song
Old paint is peeling
This is that fresh
That fresh feeling

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Getting Things Done…

I like to make plans. But even more than that I like to achieve them. It feels good to cross things off the old “to do list”. Especially if those things have been on the list for a long long time…

This week has been a rejuvenating time for me. The offices have been closed, I’ve spend great quality time with family and friends, I’ve rested, I’ve read,  I’ve switched off, and I’ve slept in. But there’s more to this new fresh feeling. It’s also because I’ve managed to get a bunch of things done. Things that have been hanging over me for a while now. Things that are not necessarily “urgent” or even “important”, but things that I have wanted to do…

This week I’ve put together a photo album, fixed my car, exchanged some presents, done a bit of handy work around the house, called old friends, and even sold a pair of shoes I’ve been meaning to get rid of for ages… And now I feel great. My to-do list is a little shorter and I can tackle the new year with some momentum. So often we are so busy trying to sort out the “urgent and important” stuff that piles up in our inbox daily that everything else takes a back seat.

So what “non-urgent” and “un-important” thing are you going to do this week?

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Writer’s Blog

I am a maven by nature. I love gathering, collecting and sharing information. I love reading blogs. I follow a number of writers, authors, pastors and leaders, all of whom have blessed me incredibly through their personal blogs. I myself have tried numerous times to set up my own personal blog space. A space to wrestle with myself really. A place where I can jot down the unfiltered and wandering thoughts bouncing around in my often confused skull…

But I just can’t seem to get it going. Every time I do, I sit back and look at the pretty pictures and well laid-out design devoid of any actual writing and then just when I am about to put the proverbial pen to paper I stop and wonder… why? Who is going to read this anyway? Is it worth the effort? And that’s when i just throw it in.

But alas, here I go again. This may be the first of many blog posts, or it may just be another epic fail…

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