Happy New Year!

Well, I’m not sure how you spent your New Year’s Day, but Joanne and I were looking forward to nine days alone starting on January 1st – that’s nine days without any kids! (We had a rare window to ourselves as our younger children were all enjoying holidays with older siblings or good friends we trusted - it’s been a quite a while since an opportunity like this was on the horizon, let me tell ya!)

But sadly, there were some unexpected interruptions.

We spent Day 1 and Day 2 hiding and choking in a smoke riddled Snowy Mountains location (it was that bad, the smoke alarms were going off in our motel room). Eventually, as the situation worsened, all holiday makers and residents were evacuated from that region on our third day due to the threat of a ‘megablaze’ approaching the Kosciuszko National Park. Take a glance at the satellite image at left showing the scale of the smoke-trail created by the fires on Australia’s south-eastern seaboard – it covers the Tasman Sea and the whole South Island of New Zealand! (Apologies to our Kiwi mates).

In an attempt to find clean air for the remainder of our time away, we scanned the Air Index Quality Apps, only to discover that the nearest clean air was up in Northern New South Wales.  So, after a day driving home to Gilbulla and an overnight stay, we continued the next day driving up north to Coffs Harbour - just so we could breathe!

And that left us with just four nights of our time together.

After initially feeling a little robbed, we eventually found a lovely rhythm at Coffs Harbour. We enjoyed beach walks, cycling and surf swims and devoured freshly bought king prawns by the water’s edge. Nice!

To be honest, the main reason for our change in heart wasn’t really the location change, it was a heart change. We simply made the decision not to whinge, but instead invite God into our situation. Joanne and I spent time just praying… pausing… sitting quietly, thanking a Holy God for all we have been blessed with. We deliberately worked at finding more of God in everything we did. 

I can assure you that nothing, absolutely nothing will bring you more joy than inviting the presence of a Holy God into everything you do  – even your interrupted and changing circumstances.

Turning our hearts towards God and inviting Him to participate in even our most mundane activities is profound – because His presence always turns everything around!

It is a practice I want to actively engage in far more often in the days ahead (this is starting to sound like a New Year’s resolution!) I want to invite Abba Father into absolutely everything I do. If we were only to turn our hearts regularly toward Him and invite His presence into our daily routines, it would change forever how we respond when things don’t go right for us. This is a truth from which all others flow… learning to invite a loving Father into every hour of our day awakens something in our spirit that allows us to recognise the simple “gifts” God wants to lavish upon us in every situation!

I saw one recent example in the Snowy Mountains. When I could still see (!) I noticed how the wildflowers on the escarpments track the course of the sun through the sky, slowly turning to face the warm passing sun. I thought only sunflowers did that! It’s such a sweet act of humble adoration. I’m beginning to see such acts in creation as invitations to worship the God who is the Author of all natural beauty. How does that great old ‘Hymn of Joy’ go?... “Hearts unfold like flowers before thee – opening to the sun above”.

I’m convinced, if I look hard enough, that every moment enjoying creation will lead me to worship.

When we pin our respite on some special holiday or time away, it’s so easy to allow things to “tick you off” when your expectations aren’t met. But as my wife reminded me, even if the entire nine days had been stripped from us, we have nothing to complain about. We are so blessed.

I’m trying to live in that space more often these days. It is very easy to fall into a sense of entitlement where we feel we are owed something. But, I find those who live with such a sense of entitlement to be very ungrateful people.

I do not want to be someone who is constantly grumbling every time something doesn’t go my way.

Let’s face it - circumstances change. The fires have shown us that. When they do - invite God to show you His silver lining.

Praying you all have an incredible 2020.

Until next time,

With thanks to Himawari 8 for satellite image of smoke on 1 January 2020