Are you a gold digger?

As we were chatting about our lives the other day, a friend told me that God had been encouraging her to “dig for the gold”. As I thought about what this meant at a deeper level - it challenged me too - several thoughts came to mind.

One of them was from her comment:

“Sometimes you’ve got to look past an awful lot of dirt”.

I am painfully aware at times of my proclivity toward seeing dirt. And I don’t think I am alone here, either! It is so easy to see what is wrong with others, what is wrong with circumstances, what is wrong in our relationships and lives. And we can tend to think that, “If only there was not SO MUCH dirt, it would be so much easier to focus on that gold”.

And of course, gold has that intrinsic worth and value. It seems so desirable - not just for its beauty, but for what it can do for us, the doors it might open.

Many years ago, back in the very early 80’s when it was a bit of a craze, my dad hired a metal detector and took my brothers and me out around Castlemaine, to an area covered in old gold mines. It was to be a bit of fun on a Saturday, not to mention the need to get five kids out of the house so my mother could sleep after her night duty as a nurse.

It was not nice bushland particularly, being dry, rocky and scrubby. There was nowhere to rest or just enjoy the view, no amenities. And of course, only one person could use the detector at a time. The others spent time deciding on where would be a good place to look, where we would find the illusive gold.

Although in many ways I found this quite a boring day, one thing kept us going – the hope that we would strike gold. Not because we wanted to be rich or were thinking of all we could do with the money from gold (well, ok, maybe there was a little of that), but because that was our goal. We were there to find gold and that was the unspoken promise from the machine: this will help you find gold!

But why is gold so valuable? Why is it a commodity that so much else is traded on? I always remember the verse (from the Larry Norman song, “I wish we’d all been ready”) about a loaf of bread being able to buy a bag of gold in the end times, at a time when food, when basic necessities would be so scarce that they would more valuable than “riches”.

As I sit here typing, I am looking out across a beautiful bay, with the wind chasing alternate rain and sunshine across my view. Rainbows come and go in amongst them, a sight that often brings to mind the fabled “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow. But a rainbow is also a promise.

Like the symbol of the rainbow – the promise of gold, the promise of hope - perhaps life is very much about continuing the chase for that gold. But, if we only ever see all the dirt (and there is an awful lot of dirt), if we keep focussing on just how much dirt there is, we do lose faith; we lose the hope for something different, for something precious to come out of that dirt.

In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul shares about how we “face death all day long”, and the idea that this is opportunity for the life of Christ to be shown in us. He goes on to say (v17, 18),

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

What is in your life at the moment where God is calling you to look past the dirt to find the gold, to even hope for the gold? Is it a work stiuation, or a relationship – that person who is frustrating you or just unhelpful; maybe it is another circumstance where all you can see is the rain and wind and what is not.

Maybe He is calling you to see that this is the place where rainbows - with all their promise and hope dwell.

We each have a choice, moment by moment, through our lives: will I choose to focus on the problem, on what is not? Or will I choose to hold on to hope for the gold that God has promised and just keeping digging?

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On the road again...(or Lessons from the road Part 2)

"Whatever you do, don't run into the screen door!"

These were my father's famous last words as he released me to ride alone. He was teaching me to ride a bike in our yard, and as I wobbled and peddled and hoped I wouldn't fall off, I rode straight into the screen door of the french window. 

This story has had a great workout in my family over the years, usually at my expense. I was about six or seven and my dad was helping me get my balance riding around in our garden. Knowing what I know now, there are a few things I would probably have done differently if I were my dad, one of them being the words he used. 

Through driving lessons and more recently, motorbike riding lessons,  I have repeatedly been told that we tend to go in the direction we look. That's how you get out of a skid - look where you want to go, and your brain will respond accordingly. So if someone mentions something like a screen door, you are likely to look at it, and hence, head straight for it!

However, when it comes to riding on a motorbike, I am struggling to put this into practice. Even though I have been riding pillion on the motorbike for some years now, cornering is still something of an issue. (Confession: I get scared.) As we lean into the corner, I often do battle with the fear that the bike is either going to tip or slide out, especially if there is any gravel about or it is a particularly tight curve. It is not a healthy or helpful way to ride!

In dealing with this problem as a rider now, I have been given similar tips by numerous people - obviously I am not alone in my fear! One of the main pointers is to look ahead to where you want to go. Don't look at the curve or look directly at the road you are on, but look up, look ahead. The other is to breathe out as you go around the corner, which perhaps helps you to relax.

Aside from the more irrational fears, there are many other aspects of the road that are far more dangerous for riders than those inside vehicles. Simple oily patches, gravel or potholes on the road can mean serious injury or even potential death if not dealt with appropriately. Riding in fear of all these, though, can be just as dangerous. 

Contrary to what seems natural, however, looking up, looking ahead at the direction we are going, we will find that we naturally avoid most hazards. Our brain is quite good at directing us if we don't over-think it. I am reminded of a time I was walking on a beach  covered in pebbles. I suddenly realised that without even thinking about it, or watching where I was walking (barefooted), I was choosing a path on the sand automatically avoiding stepping on the pebbles. Our brains are quite amazing at keeping us out of danger if we allow them to do their thing!

 

These principles can be applied far more widely than simply riding a bike, though. We can easily spend many aspects of our lives in fear. If we choose to focus on all the bad things that could happen, there is a never ending list. Just like when riding, if we focus on that pothole, that gravel on the side of the road, that screen door, we will, in all likelihood, end up in it.

We will head where we focus our attention.

 Just as true is the fact that what we think about, what we dwell on, will become the way we think. A favourite quote from a friend, is "don't think about pink elephants". What's the first thing that comes to mind?

We have to purposefully change our thinking. Paul puts it brilliantly in Philippians 4:5-8 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation...present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things...And the God of peace will be with you."

If we want to change our thinking, we have to practice thinking differently!

 And of course, we can tie ourselves in knots trying to change, as well, beating ourselves up with thoughts like "I have to stop thinking like this", which leads to the other helpful tip.

Breathe.

Just breathe.

Just breathe and relax. After all, most things are not as bad as we tend to think, and even if they are, all our stress and worry is not going to improve anything.

If we are walking in faith, we can stop everything and focus on simply breathing, on purely be-ing. Relaxing is the place of rest that is promised by God so regularly. When we live from this place of resting in Him, which is really about trusting Him, He becomes our focal point. Then we will find ourselves naturally changing direction, automatically avoiding those obstacles which endeavour to trip or waylay us. Over time, chances are we won't even notice them anymore!