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Getting Married – Flying on the Trapeze

Pitchford Wedding

Today many couples say that they want to ‘try out’ the relationship first before getting married. Their rationale is that by living together they want to ‘try before they buy’ so they don’t make the mistake of marrying the wrong person. On the surface it seems logical. After all, why not measure twice and cut once? But what is lost in the equation is that they’re losing sight of the difference between flying on the trapeze with a safety net and flying without. It’s a unique aspect of life that kicks us into a higher gear where we perform with greater commitment and our brain, stamina and heart lift to a higher level. I don’t know if you’ve seen the cartoon with the pig and the hen. The hen is telling of its wonderful eggs made available to breakfast plates of bacon and eggs everywhere when the pig jumps in. He cuts to the chase saying, “Huh! For you it’s a contribution but for me its total commitment!”

In my work in the media we can now pre-record audio and video before we broadcast the production. Somehow in the brain that lets us off the hook as a presenter to make a few mistakes, delete the recording and do it again. I know from personal experience, whether on stage or behind the microphone that I’m actually better when its live. You know its got to work and you draw on all your training and creativity to make it a success. The one thing I’ve learned in our marriage is that it’s not a dress rehearsal, its a live performance.

These days it seems we’ve scared a lot of people out of the joy of marriage by the horror stories of divorces gone wrong and mismatched personalities. Sadly they’ve had more publicity through TV soaps, movies and the 6 o’clock news than the successful stories of loving marriages. Why do we only hear about marriage success if a couple makes it to 50 or 60 years? One thing I love about our church is that every Sunday you can go up the front for a free Crunchie chocolate bar if you have something to celebrate from getting your driver’s licence to the arrival of your first grand-child. Every week married couples go up celebrating their wedding anniversary. I love hearing that a couple are in their 14th, 29th or 40th year of marriage and then to see them go up and walk back hand in hand. We seem to have a generation that thinks they will last longer in marriage if they wait till they’re older and yet I would say I’ve seen a majority of young love marriages be the ones that last to say they started strong and finished stronger.

Cheryl and I have known each other for 24 years and we will soon be celebrating our 22nd Wedding Anniversary. This year we are heading away for a weekend at a beach. We probably can only afford to do this kind of thing every 4-5 years but it’s always worth it. I know that through those years we’ve had moments where we wondered how we could keep going. Sometimes it was a big problem but more often than not our pride stumbled on a small stone in the road. I’ve often found we can resolve the issues pretty quick its the part where we have to humble ourselves that actually is the hardest piece of the puzzle.

The best advertisement for marriage is marriage. The photo above shows my stunning babe on our Wedding Day when she was 19 years-old. We still speak of her as my ‘China Doll’, she looked so stunning. We’re a happily married couple with four beautiful kids who we love dearly. As our children are in the 13 to 20 age-group we are starting to enter a new phase of life as we have more adult life experience conversation with them. This is adding to our marriage and giving us a great privilege as Mum and Dad to be involved in our kids life decisions. This is also a pivotal year as our eldest daughter is engaged and preparing for getting married later in the year. What an incredible opportunity for us as parents. We can be inspired by their young warm smitten love and at the same time be able to grab the moment to model a marriage worth pursuing.

We are so proud to have brought them into this world and as I look at the photos around our house of our lives together I can see what value there is in a marriage built without a safety net. We haven’t relied on divorce as an out, or a prenuptial agreement as an exit clause but instead we’ve flown high on the trapeze. We’ve enjoyed the view and the thrills knowing that we need to keep our eyes on God as our ‘catcher’ for this amazing experience. I know we have friends and family who have had to walk through the pain of divorce and we know it isn’t a path they wanted to choose. The life lesson that has kept me honest to the man in the mirror is that I can’t let myself have an out if I’m going to be the best husband, lover, Dad and friend to my wife and family.

Tell your family and friends about what has inspired, taught and challenged you as your marriage has grown. You never know who is looking on and thinking of getting married. And guys, lets not leave it to the ladies to tell the romantic stories to the next generation. A happy bloke is a husband who feels secure with his wife and isn’t afraid to sneak a kiss in front of the kids.

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Be The Friend

Friends

Thirty minutes later life feels better than good, its great. All it took was a phone call from a life long friend after a home-made banana split sundae. I’d enjoyed an afternoon out with my son to see the preview for the 3D movie, Cirque du Soleil. On the way home we had decided to buy ALL the ingredients necessary to make everyone at home a full on banana split sundae including shaving cream. Yup, that was the running gag on the way home as I kept saying ‘Shaving Cream’ instead of a can of ‘Whipped Cream’. Thankfully we got the right one on the plate.

Now even though a dessert of French Vanilla or Hokey Pokey ice-cream over a fresh banana with fruit salad and whipped cream is simply the sweetener for the night it would have only been the anaesthetic without the surgery of a friend.  Sure, it was even better with marshmallows, Smarties and then topped with berry or caramel sauce but that little bowl of sin wasn’t what made the night complete. Satisfaction came from someone who chose to Be The Friend and called me out of the blue to ask us how we were. As we talked together about the ‘flat-tire’ our life is enduring right now we could hear the heart-felt care and the trembling concern from a beautiful friend.

I was the bumbling apprentice to the experienced Sensei

This is a unique friendship that was built on shaky ground in the early years. They were the youth group leaders, I was the wandering teenager, and the connection was based on a need to be heard and loved. For many years it felt like I was the bumbling apprentice to the experienced Sensei. I would often be rehearsing the ‘check-up’ questions in my mind before each visit, knowing I would be asked about various areas of my life, faith and walk.  This was the kind of love hate accountability I wanted and needed but never felt I would survive. I knew my own youthful fallibility so the expectation was a hand written self deprecating prophecy.

The environment that this couple created gave me a trusted space with responsibility to lead and create. It was comfortable and uncomfortable in the same moment as the fun of a youth group created trusted friendships while the Bible studies, and leadership responsibilities called us to grow, examine and review. Nothing stood still and through life, school, celebrations and head over handle bars bike accidents the relationship deepened.

Friendship is powerful to heal

Sadly it wasn’t a consistent journey and the stumbles stand out like eye sores on the memory’s landscape. I don’t understand why so much drifts out of my memory banks like an outgoing tide and yet the faux-pas events that happen on the stage in front of our friends seem to be etched like the dates of war battles on granite. I can clearly recall two events where my selfish motives broke trust, damaged relationships and rippled through time. It wasn’t just the moment, or the act, it was the response. When you know you’ve broken a bond of trust the eyes tell a story of disappointment.

Friendship is powerful to heal and I was on the receiving end in those early years. Friendship can cement itself between the years and visits to change what was a few bricks in the yard to become a place of protection. Today a phone call invited us back to that special place that still stands.

Can I encourage you to listen to the small voice that says; “Ring John” or “Give Jenny a call”. It’s not your advice that’s needed right now, its your friendship. There are two things that you can do and ‘Be The Friend’ that won’t cost you money, an ongoing commitment of your time or a sacrifice beyond the enjoyment of a tall hot latte.

Be The Friend: Ask How Things Are

I remember the advice of Greg Laurie as he spoke about how to speak to someone grieving. He said that ignoring the death is a mistake and to simply acknowledge the loss and repeat something positive that you remember about the loved one who has passed away. While speaking after a death is often the hardest kind of friendship activity this is good advice. If you know what your friend is going through then speak briefly and clearly telling them with empathy that you know and understand it must be difficult. Then ask “How are they going?” This first part stops here. Don’t over-think it or think you can do it better. Take a deep breath and slide on to step two.

Be The Friend: Listen First, Talk Briefly

A good friend knows that listening grows empathy and time means trust. If your friend can talk then just rest into listening and pay attention. Your ability to ask short brief questions based on what they’ve told you will empower  your friend that you are trusting their responses. Be careful not to question their actions at this point. Simply listening is allowing them to process more issues, ideas and paths forward than a night tossing on the pillow could hope for. If there is a moment to share your thoughts try to use phrases like “I’d probably” rather than “You should”. By keeping things centred on yourself you allow them to choose whether they take the idea or leave it with you. By using ‘probably’  instead of ‘should’ it allows your friend to decide on the timing of utilising your idea and making it their own.

This blog post is dedicated to the many people who have chosen to “Be The Friend” to the Pitchford Family over the years. Your listening ears, timely advice and warm welcome homes are what inspires us to be true to life, love and calling.

Thank You!

Now in the words of Ray Parker Jnr; “Who ya gonna call?”

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My Quest

Willowtree - QuestHave you looked into the mirror recently and asked yourself “Who am I?” and “What am I here for?” Come on, you have to admit its a change from checking out the love handles and those buns of steel and wondering if you should detour your life to the gym. Let me tell you about my own journey to find out what I’m here for.

Its more than a journey actually, its My Quest! That subtle difference tells me I’m in search of something rather than just going out for a walk and its a word I wouldn’t ordinarily have used except for the gift I’m about to tell you about.

I’ve just completed my first week of a fresh year and I can see that there is still 357 days in front of me but how shall I spend these opportunity vouchers. This afternoon I was asking myself what should I do next. My mind is buzzing with ideas but it seems like I’m sitting in either a waiting room or the transit lounge of an airport. We’ve departed but we haven’t arrived and I want to ‘get there’.

Who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103 v 5

My wonderful, adorable, beautiful and most importantly thoughtful wife has again used Christmas as an event to bring clarity to purpose. In the past she has bought me some poignant gifts like an awesome eagle that stands just over two feet tall and reminds me that we should look at things from on high not the eye to eye level of a turkey. It came with Psalm 103 v 5 in a frame. One year she gave me a pen holder for my desk that featured a globe and plane. It was there to remind me that God appoints and sends with a photo frame and John 3 v 27 John 17 v 18 printed out for me.

God in heaven appoints each man’s work
John 3 v 27

This year Cheryl has reached into my heart and summed up my situation with a simple gift. To the untrained eye this is simply an ornament of insignificant proportions. To me it was a golden link in a chain of understanding. In this gift were entrenched the thoughts of a shared life. She understood my dreams, my tiredness, the sorrow at loss and the hunger for a future still gestating in a limbo of preparation.

It’s a little bit funny that this piece is from the Willow Tree collection by artist Susan Lordi. Over 2012 I had acknowledged Cheryl’s love for the collection by buying her a piece for Christmas, her birthday and our Wedding Anniversary.  It seems that the seed has born fruit and she has now picked an item for me. This piece is a picture of stability, an intensity of dreams and thought and a launching pad for the future. It is called ‘Quest’. Susan says it was inspired by her son and the deepness of a person in study gives me a sense of preparation. Once you’ve read the rest of the blog watch the video of Susan’s work. You will see the makings of my Quest piece in Susan Lordi’s photo.

As you sent me into the world,
I am sending them into the world
John 17 v 18

Quest: Seek, Explore, Discover

On Susan Lordi’s Willow Tree website they give some background to the Quest piece that I have included below. The essence is to look ‘out’ to the future. Anyone who sets out on a Quest will have studied the road ahead or dipped their proverbial toe in the water by reading books, travel guides or exploring websites, photos and videos to create a taste for the adventure. For me there is so much more to discover and I sense the time for departure is drawing closer. So what do I do from here on.

Keep the dream alive

First and most important is that you don’t shelve the quest. I watched ‘UP’ with my kids last night and it was a gentle reminder to keep the dream alive. Mr Fredrickson had a deep love to support his wife Ellie’s desire to go to Paradise Falls in South America. Although the tragedy of the animated story was that Ellie died before they could make the trip. The beauty of the story was a long held dream realised. The depth of satisfaction in getting to a goal is unsurpassable and a rich reward.

Soak up the preparation

While you may feel the time in the ‘waiting room’ or ‘transit lounge’ is wasted remember its only lost if you put your feet up and fall asleep. There are two things you can do in a these times. There is always plenty of reading to be done and that can include websites, audio and video. Absorbing the expertise and experience of others is vital. By talking to fellow travellers either in person or through their recollections, you develop a greater sense of the journey ahead and the path you wish to take. Find someone who can mentor your experience.

Pack the backpack

Now is the time to see what you have and what you will need to pursue this Quest. In the packing you find what you’re missing so that the you will be ready to jump on board the plane, the bus or camel. As you make your packing list, keep the inventory fresh and ask for advice from previous travellers. Remove anything that will weigh you down and look for ideas that can be folded down to save space. All of this virtual packing makes you more efficient for the road ahead.

For me my ‘Quest’ Willow Tree piece is a daily reminder of the road ahead. For you it maybe that you should put a ‘map’ on the wall or an enlarged photo of the dream destination. Whatever the dream, pursue your Quest and I will follow after mine.

I would love to hear of your Quest. Can you leave a comment on it below? Enjoy the video from Susan Lordi as well.

Quest


quest3
Quest was inspired by my son, who is currently immersed in the research and documentation of other cultures. The idea of the figure is to portray that time in someone’s life when he finds something that he is passionately interested in — and begins to pursue it, independently, with no parental prodding. He’s ‘into it’. It’s the love of learning for learning’s sake.  Quest represents when a young person (or really, any age person) is motivated by his own interests and goals.

Quest could be a birthday gift or graduation gift, or a thank you gift to a teacher/mentor who may have sparked an interest in a young mind.

 

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Observations

Do we have Empathy with Suicide?

A while back I mentioned “The Box”, a cardboard filing box full of old writings, poetry and creative work I had worked on particularly when I was involved in youth work at our local church. During that time I had a job working as car salesman at a local Toyota car yard and from a tragic situation I wrote the poem on this page called “My Friend of Eight Months”. Attached to the car sales was a mechanical workshop, a parts division and a Shell petrol station. While everyone worked different hours and the business embodied a wide range of personalities including mine, the focal point was a social room where people would gather for drinks and a game of pool after work.

It was here that I met a young man who started work at the petrol station. He was a great guy, always encouraging and seemed to constantly have a smile on his face and a spring in his step. Sadly it was this same young man who didn’t seem to have a care in the world who didn’t turn up for work one Saturday morning. He had committed suicide the night before after his shift. I don’t know what was the tipping point. I have no idea whether his burden was one he had carried for so long that he had found a way to make it look like he had it sorted out. Maybe something hit him that night or week that he felt unprepared to deal with.

Suicide is the hardest level of empathy. I know he deserves my understanding. He had my respect as a friend and a colleague. Sadly now there is no way to empart the empathy or listening ear that might have heard a clue or connected two dots to help him avoid this fate. We wish that there had been a way to connect him to counselling that may have seen him through the mire he was in. It may have come to pass, but for him counsel was either unavailable or in a place he could connect. I’ve tried now to listen better and be a better friend to others. I know I still get busy but I grew in a small way to think that a smile doesn’t always reveal a heart. As I dealt with his death I wrote this poem a little while after his funeral.

If you have known or have walked alongside someone who has committed suicide I’d love your thoughts in the comments below the post. Many thanks for being willing to share.

My Friend of Eight Months

Thinking back is to late and worthless
Except to remember the good
His pleasure of friendship
The wide smile of greeting
His zeal to assist me
The dry sense of humour

I wonder what life was like for him
All that can be done is learn
Urgency meant rush, rush, rush
His music turned to peak
Drive and get around alot
His style was loud to impress

Wish we could turn the clock back one week
But how would we know?
His manner was jovial then
Was he different to you and I?
His personal life quite unknown
Remorse and sorrow mix bitter sweet

Written: 16/3/1991
Author: Andrew Pitchford

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Loving with Our Senses

Dad and Son

I’m sitting outside in the cool summer breeze of a Kiwi evening thinking of all the love I’ve experienced today from my family. What occurs to me is that I’ve had to be awake to loving with our senses. If I hadn’t paid attention I would have missed the power of love and it’s intoxicating inspiration.

You may be wondering what I’ve been drinking with these philosophical comments but the only motivation was life and the only drink on the table is water. I’m caught up in this moment hearing my daughter sing like a diva in the background and remembering moments through the day when I saw, tasted, touched and heard love. It was easy to absorb, gentle to miss and powerful to behold.

Let love present its reckless offers and let my senses be ever open, always receiving from their passionate assault.

Let me tell you how I woke up. It wasn’t early, it wasn’t like waking to the chirps of a trained choir of canaries and yet it was clearly more memorable. My twelve year-old son came in with a tray of a steaming hot cooked breakfast and coffee. And thoughtfulness went the extra mile when a bottle of HP sauce was on the tray with knife, fork and a serviette. My wife later filled in the back-story of how he had eyed up some bacon in the fridge and asked if he could cook it. She gently pushed him that there was enough bacon for him to cook his Dad some breakfast and still have enough left for his teenage appetite and so he took up the challenge.

Accepting a gift is the first rule of love. Knowing how to thank the giver is the second. Loving with our senses can involve the taste of a morning breakfast or the touch of a huggable friend. My son loves hugs and the time they take to be near each other. It’s a great response to his generosity to wrap my arms around him and thank him. Now my son’s morning cooking was wonderful and perfect but love can eat a burnt breakfast or salty muffin and still receive the best part of the gift. If you didn’t know your heart has taste buds, bite in again.

Once everyone had shaken the night from their eyes the family went out to enjoy the heat of a cloud free summer’s day. We had family visiting so we took them on a tour of some of the volcanic mountain viewing platforms that surround Auckland. As part of the trip my oldest son brought his newly acquired longboard so we could check with the shop if it was working properly. After going to the shop I complemented him on how well he had handled the visit and the preceding phone calls. He had dealt as a customer with a complaint and yet handled the issue with firmness and humility. I was impressed and didn’t miss the opportunity to tell him he had done well.

A short time later, as we drove to our first destination, he said three softly spoken words; “Love You Dad”. Most fathers will know the power that comes when an 18yo utters those words. It belies a deeper heart, a relationship of love and strength. I buckled a little like a warrior in space hit by an unseen force that buffeted him backwards through the vacuum. My hearing isn’t what it used to be but somehow I am always tuned in to hear these words whenever they are uttered. It doesn’t matter whether they are given in the most quiet delivery or amongst the mish-mash of a loud and crowded room. Listening had made me vulnerable to love, to hearing words that can change a relationship, build a bridge and more importantly melt the walls of a heart. Loving with our senses needs to be intentional, to absorb the love that is happening and emanating around us.

I don’t want to miss the whispers of love, the glimpses of generosity or the feather like touches of care and concern.

Later that day I experienced the joy of love by simply watching. Our eldest son had not always enjoyed the outdoors or sports but his new longboard had given him a zest to get out and ride. The skills were building and he’d been inspired by YouTube videos of experienced speed riders. Today I was inspired as he rode his board around a city park and then near the wharf. His joy was obvious and the pleasure was simple and infectious. Who wouldn’t want to balance their way on a board that put more breeze in your travel and speed under foot.

At one point in the day he shared his board with a three year-old relative and the passion and laughter in sharing was also present. After a walk around the crater’s edge of Mt. Eden he kicked back and lay in deep dry waving grass at the summit. His pleasure is my pleasure. We wanted to take photos of him laying amongst the dry wheat like blades of grass but in doing so he asked for a camera to shoot what he saw. From his position he could see the majesty of sunbeams glancing through tree branches and he took a few photos to remember his moment in the grass. Today I enjoyed loving my son by simply watching him enjoy life, family and the simple thrill of a skateboard.

Over the last few days our visiting relatives have been caught out on at least three occasions thinking the sound coming from one room was either the radio or another music source. On each occasion it was our 14yo daughter delivering an incredible vocal performance of either a cover song she was practicing for a busking adventure or working on one of her own creations. She has a powerful beautiful voice and it can fill a room when she belts out a song.

I may find my senses become dulled to the crystal clear sound of a life filled with wonder.

A problem for love is taking talent or good behaviour for granted. It could be a wife who daily cooks with care and thoughtfulness, a husband who keeps to time and tells you what he’s doing or a child who does a chore without being asked. Monotony of excellence should never be an excuse for the spectacular to become the blasé. As I enjoyed several moments this afternoon I realized how blessed I am as a Father and a listener to be hearing my daughter perform her singing in our home. Loving with our senses meant I had to be aware that at any moment I could receive a royal command performance intentionally or otherwise meant just for me. Listening to her sing in one room while practising, then at the dinner table as we jokingly sang, drummed and beat boxed together allowed me to hear love, feel love and be loved.

Today I resolve to be awake to love. I don’t want to miss the whispers of love, the glimpses of generosity or the feather like touches of care and concern. If I am so engrossed in my own world that I am cocooned from love I may find my senses become dulled to the crystal clear sound of a life filled with wonder. I don’t want to be safe where my misguided perception is that a closed quiet room is better than leaving my bed to enjoy the warm embrace of a friend. Let love present its reckless offers and let my senses be ever open, always receiving from their passionate assault.

Originally written January 5th 2013

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Observations

Sign Here: Parent’s iPhone Contract

Yesterday I found out about Janelle Hoffman, a mum of five who has found a piece of well deserved fame for a blog she wrote on Christmas day about her son’s iPhone Contract. Janelle had soared up the Parental award charts when she bought her 13yo son Gregory an iPhone for Christmas. However her status as ‘Mom of the Year’ probably wavered when Gregory found that Santa’s delivery came with a little legalise in the form of an iPhone contract.

Gregory’s response was probably a sweet and sour reaction summed up in one word “Why?” He had finally broken through his Mum’s defences after a year of stealth ‘nag attack’ and now, just when he had the goal in sight, the judicious disclaimers and rights and responsibilities were thrust into view. What ever happened to a gift being a gift or trust and love?

Now let’s all calm down a bit because what I’ve read of Janell’s blog is a well crafted 18 point document. While Janell’s blog title calls it a contract and that probably gained a lot of publicity, the reality is its a superb set of guidelines. Her wording and points show a Mum who must have a wonderful relationship with her son and the points she has made will form great life lessons for all. Kudos to Janell for a contract crafted with wisdom and love.

The point is made that many adults in both their personal and work lives could do with a phone contract like this. Sometimes we err too much on the side of personal freedom and forget about personal responsibility. Janell has set about one of the most important tasks in parenthood. She has shown Gregory what a trusted and loved son can be rewarded with and helped him understand the old Spiderman hit phrase, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

My favourite in the list is number 14 and one I will be doing more often.

14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision.  It is not alive or an extension of you.  Learn to live without it.  Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO – fear of missing out.

Here is the YouTube video and then a link below to Janell’s original blog post.

Thanks for reading. Please tell me in the comments section if you would give your son or daughter a contract like this.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhP-0rh16GM?rel=0&w=560]

Janell’s Original iPhone Contract Post – Follow Janell on Twitter

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Solid Resolutions like a Log Cabin

Abraham Lincoln

You’ve probably stepped into the New Year with a fresh determination to do things differently. You may have made resolutions or just a mental list of the things you want to see differently. Similar to a wife giving her husband the house repair list, you’re hopeful that some of it will be done by the end of the year. Good on you for recognising that today is a great day to change.

Sometimes we wander from day to day accepting that this is our ‘norm’. As I asked friends for input on what they want to see affected by change, some looked at the physical transformations, while others were dealing with learning aspirations or simply reading to accumulate more wisdom. A few were concentrating on the spiritual and wanting to see their relationship with God enhanced by either drawing close to Him or learning more of Him . In this quick post I want to give you five tips for keeping determined on those key areas you want to be a focus this year. I was reading Michael Hyatt’s blog a couple of days ago when he gave this illustration.

A young man once asked a wise old woman, “When is the best time to plant an oak tree?” She answered: “Twenty years ago.” He then asked, “When is the second best time?” She answered, Today.

One of my favourite leaders has always been Abraham Lincoln. His determination through both personal, external and national adversity are a tribute to the strength and persistence he endeared. His wife Mary was also a lady who showed great character as together they lost children at an early age yet when on to lead a nation while espousing great love for family. Not only is Lincoln famous for how he led the nation of America through the Civil War and also effect a change to the American Constitution in order to abolish slavery, but on a personal front he faced rejection from his political party on many occasions as he sought office a long time before becoming President. Even his start in life wasn’t born without hardship as His inheritance was bought out of adversity as his father and grandfather fought and sacrificed for the family’s future.

Today you may have a personal goal, a dream to be realised or simply like one of my friends, you may want to kick an addiction like energy drinks. The key to the goal is focus and determination but how can you keep the main thing the main thing?

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.
– Abraham Lincoln

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Five Steps for Keeping Resolutions

Also useful for Building Log Cabins

1. Keep It Simple

Often we don’t achieve a plan because it is too complicated. What began as a simple idea like ‘lose weight’, became a scientific expedition through Calorie City to Exercise Eden. Like a Log Cabin keep it to a kitchen, bedroom, loft and dining family area. Don’t design the mansion when your simple outcome has a simple solution. If it takes you more than an hour to sit down and write out what you want to achieve and three ways you could make that happen then you’re investing your time in a management plan not a solution.

2. Stick to the Plan

The biggest fault with any goal is straying from the plan. In project planning it is called ‘creep’ because you don’t realise it has snuck up behind you and grabbed the reins of your project. So if you’re building a log cabin, don’t let the idea of planting a vege patch or a barn take you off your focus. Keep your simple plan in front of you as a reminder of what is the main thing. If its not in front of you on your bathroom mirror or the ceiling of your bedroom then other projects will compete for attention. Don’t let them justify their position. Shout them down with a poster of your ‘Log Cabin’ everywhere you look. Make your plan desirable to you. Make it bold, visual and real.

3. Connect with other Builders

One of the strengths of a log cabin is how the tree trunks interlink at the corners providing a solid framework for the rest of the house. Be willing to share your building plans with other ‘builders’. Your connections will build solidity. As you connect with other people who have the same goals as yourself, you will gain three strengths that won’t happen if you build alone. First you will find Wisdom from those who have been down the track before. Second, there will be the Strength of numbers as you lean on each other. Life is about seasons which bring growth and cleansing, death and healing. As you are there for other builders in their season, they will be there in your time of need. Finally the Momentum of friends is a powerful ally that will roll you to your goal faster than a lone walk down destiny lane.

4. SMART

One of the greatest compliments given to Abraham Lincoln was that he was an ‘intelligent’, ‘astute’ politician. He was SMART and this is a great place to introduce this acronym for your resolution plan.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time Bound

The idea of the SMART plan is to keep your steps and plan in a format where it will work. There’s no point putting a jet engine in a Mini Cooper in order to get to work quicker and save on fuel.

The whole plan needs to be cohesive. As you look at the goal and steps you have in place, ask yourself if they match these criteria. Is the goal specific so that rather than say ‘Get Fit’, you want to be able to walk 5kms a day, four days a week without falling over in a heap. Like the idea of walking, a goal to lose weight should be measurable and achievable. Don’t say that you want to lose 20kgs in two months before school starts when losing a kilogram a week would be an admirable and achievable goal. Making your steps relevant is also poignant. For someone wanting to improve their relationship with God they may feel reading more Christian books will do the trick when simple prayerful time out of the rat-race in prayer would be more relevant.

5. Dream Bigger

In our second point we encouraged you to think carefully about sticking to the plan. Distractions are the curse of every goal. Its not that these distractions are inherently bad but as they are ‘tangents’ they take us off course, we lose momentum and so the thing we hope to achieve is further away from our original goal.

While we need to be careful of putting distractions in front of us, incentives are another area altogether. I think that when Abraham Lincoln moved into his first log cabin, he was already dreaming about a bigger one. When he went into his first mansion he may have even be thinking of redecorating the White House. Keep dreams and incentives that are in line with your original goal and resolution as these are the right reward for fulfilment of a goal and the completion of a project.

For God and Country

Pro Aris et Focis is a latin phrase (meaning For God and Country) that is used by the American Legion and many family’s and nations before. I think that a higher calling than personal satisfaction under girded Abraham Lincoln’s success. Maybe one aspect of evaluating your next resolution is to ask ‘Who am I doing this for?’

The famous preacher Jonathan Edwards can have the last word on the issue of resolutions. Many of us are familiar with the sarcastic set of rules found in businesses and homes. They often go “Rule 1: The Boss is always right, Rule 2: if the Boss is wrong, refer to Rule 1”. As Edwards was looking at his life, its endeavours and all he had to live for he took a more resolute position. He determined that if he was to succeed in life he needed the sustenance and direction of the creator.

A number of years ago a friend gave me this verse, Ephesians 1:11 scrawled on a napkin at a conference we were both attending. I’ve held on to that napkin for over a decade as the enormity of the verse is still a challenge and a hope.

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.
Ephesians 1:11-12 (The Message)

Lets see how Jonathan Edwards was able to encapsulate those thoughts in his resolution. As you do, consider that both the greatest and smallest of endeavours are best resolved in partnership with our God and Creator.

Resolution 1: I will live for God
Resolution 2: If no one else does, I still will.
– Jonathan Edwards

Thank you for reading this post. I love hearing about the blog posts being shared so please post it on Facebook and Twitter. If you have the time to write a short comment on how you have dealt with resolutions and what worked or didn’t work for you I’d be grateful.

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Facing a Fresh Future – 2013 New Year’s Day

Time Pieces

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
– Albert Einstein

Last week the New Year was knocking on the front door and casually pressing the door bell but today its got the SWAT team out and they’re about to knock down the door to our lives with a battering ram. The good news is with the New Year upon us, the fresh calendar is like a plowed field ready for planting. Don’t look at the next twelve months as a pioneer looks at the uncleared wilderness, rather change your gaze to be like a developer looking at the land his investment has purchased on the most expensive piece of real estate in Manhatten. Today’s the day you take possession and the future is all yours. The year ahead is clear of bush and rocks providing you with flat fertile soil for the planter and a pristine plot for the builder.

Your years before today have bought the land. The time in your pocket and wrinkles on your brow have decided the purpose of the plan. This is a year to transform dreams to blueprints so that the sand of time become concrete for tomorrow. Its definitely a change of mind that can take the same ingredients and decide whether flour and water produces cookies or glue. So what do you plan to do with your next 365 days that we wrap up and call 2013? Have you already written it off as ‘just another year’ or do you plan to fix it on day one with a two line resolution posted to Facebook and call it quits?

“Your Merry Christmas may depend on what others do for you … but your Happy New Year depends on what you do for others.”
 – Unknown

The truth is that like any farmer taking that field and planting for a his bumper crop, you will have seasons and strategy to get the right result. For the builder, an architect helps coordinate a plan, the project or site manager arranges the contractors and there will be a master builder making sure the structure is plumb and true to be a lasting legacy for a family or owner. So start thinking about it and writing down the steps that you can see being the process of your future.

One line doesn’t make a novel so be willing to write the chapters that will set the plot, introduce the characters, create the suspense and celebrate the finish. Pour your heart into this dream but make sure it has substance by committing it to paper. A New Year’s resolution is only a pithy statement lost in the dust of one month’s days. Instead be willing to record a travel diary of what happens by journalling your way through the year and making notes, ideas and comments about the sights seen and experiences absorbed.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1

A key to any building project is to start with a fresh approach. Be willing to walk on to the site with clean sharp tools. Leave the past behind and instead walk out of a period of preparation with new vigor, a strong stance and refreshed body and spirit. Have a look at some of the old attitudes and jaded ideas and ask yourself this question; “If they didn’t work last year, what makes me think they will work in the next?” It should be a wake-up to the old adage that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Don’t be tied down by stakes of dispair and bitterness. Those roots should be removed from your field or building site. They don’t provide foundations, instead they’re a barrier to growth and a stumbling block for your tools.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32

One of the benefits of a fresh field is you can plow it anyway you like, until you plant in it. On a new building plot you can align the floorplan in any direction it fits until the foundations go down. Be willing to step into a new paradigm and do things in a way you’ve never tried before. Innovation breeds creativity while survival can grow success from seeds of desperation. Get some sleep to allow the brain to be clear and the heart settled. Clear the heart and physical hoarding areas of your life so that you don’t have distractions, obstacles or the trophies of past hurt and failure haunting you. Instead of being slowed down considering the past, replace those memories on the wall with grander plans of the dreams to be built, the places to travel and victories to be won.

If you plan to conquer Everest,
hoist a Flag not a Tea-towel.
– a Pitchford Passing Thought

The purpose of building is to learn through the process so that each structure that comes after it is grander, sturdier and more suited to its purpose than the last. In doing so you move from apprentice to builder and then on from being someone who builds from plans to someone who creates from dreams. As we look at the next year, its an opportunity to learn, to love and to live. The next twelve months aren’t an end in themselves. If your ‘building’ or ‘crop’ project takes one, two or five years to create, then go the distance. Be willing to journey through  and face the future with a glint not a glare.

Have a healthy sparkle of optimism knowing that even if a storm delays your planting or  the rain stops you putting the proverbial roof on your plan, that still you have a dream written down, a journal of memories accumulated and a host of friends who shared your journey. Take a look at the future and see its freshness, the morning dew on your opportunity and feel the crispness in the air that calls out to you like a morning bird call saying “Your time is now”!

Here’s a toast to the future, A toast to the past, And a toast to our friends, far and near. May the future be pleasant; The past a bright dream; May our friends remain faithful and dear.
– Irish Toast (by Anonymous)

At the close of 2011 I wrote about looking at the year through a rear vision mirror. Like a skipper, the navigation through life is best done by knowing where your starting marker is. While our trail of experience gives us the strength, wisdom and hopefully a greater sense of gratefulness, we won’t have momentum for the future unless our eyes are facing straight ahead, lifted to the horizon and looking for land.

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Little Signs with Big Meaning

Seeing Signs in Life

God shows us signs all around but if we are too busy looking for what we have predetermined is ‘the sign’ do we miss every other signpost on the road? Sometimes we’re so focussed on the huge that we miss the little signs with big meaning. Men are notorious for driving ahead almost blindly looking for something they remember. They are living in hope they won’t have to humble themselves and ask their wife or a stranger for help. Hopefully they can rely on their own resource and recognise something from a previous experience to point the way and then “we’ll be right”.

Signs don’t have to be about just direction. They can be reminders of God’s presence or the past seasons of faithfulness, fruitfulness and joyous memories. One thing I’m trying to train myself to do is look for the beauty and the positives in every situation. A friend of mine gave me an interesting illustration a few weeks ago. He pointed out that some of us spend our time expecting or wishing to move from a ‘valley’ to a ‘mountain top’ and in doing so we miss the beauty around us. Our life may be living with family, friends and those who live with us in a desert of plains that have seasons of beauty.

Does the person who lives in the cold and ruggedness of Scandinavia or the deserts and mountainous regions of North Africa pine for the beaches of Tahiti? It seems we could erode a life of potential by spending its precious minutes looking over a fence to a grass that is only greener for one month in the year. Does the villager on the idyllic beaches of a Pacific island cry out for the inland plains of the Australian wheat fields while in the midst of a cyclone that dumps months of rain in a day destroying crops, homes and memories? There is no doubt that a season in life can destroy and lay waste the work of a generation. That event doesn’t predetermine our future. It was an event. It is past and the future is in how we see with our eyes the signs of a new season dawning.

Even in the jungle the light penetrates the darkness to deliver small message beams of hope that tell us we are heard.
A Pitchford Passing Thought

Sometimes a simple lesson happens in your own backyard. Yesterday I was tired after we’d had a few guests over and the heat of the day had caused the afternoon siesta to kick in. A few of us retired to have a rest but I felt the inside of the house was too stuffy so I grabbed my headphones, iPhone, pillow and a blanket and headed to the back lawn under our beautiful backyard tree. The heat was still there but a breeze created the right ‘heat to cool’ ratio that made the atmosphere relaxing and refreshing.

Signs in Backyard Sun Beams

While listening to my Sanctus Real Pandora station I started to appreciate the peace I had in my own backyard. Looking up into a tree is always a great revelation of life, growth, stature and seasons. I loved seeing the light beaming through the green dancing leaves. There were times that the light could hardly be seen and then a breeze would blow the branches in such a way that a bough would bend in just the right way to let the light bounce through. It was a reminder that God is always there its just sometimes life, our judgement or the cloud of one day can block our connection. Thankfully we can train ourselves to see the signs so that we recall that as surely as day follows night He is there and his faithfulness will continue to lead, sustain and protect us.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations
Deuteronomy 7:9

Every time I’m taking an evening drive with the family I love to point out God’s gallery in the evening sunset sky. If an unusual cloud formation paints a picture I like to sit back and see the design and texture. Life offers more beauty than the best galleries of the world and more drama, romance and comedy than the Oscars of Hollywood could produce.

Walk through life with your eyes open to see Little Signs with Big Meaning.

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Waiting for the Curtain

Queen of Hearts

Many of us have sat in the audience waiting for the curtain to open. What we may not realise is that behind the hanging tapestry or velvet barrier a hive of activity is taking place. Its the preparation for the performance to begin that sees make-up artists applying the final powder and eye lines, orchestra pits full of musicians are checking they have the score in the right order and the stage manager is knocking on the door of the lead actors yelling “Five minutes to curtain”.

Right now I’m having to remind myself which side of the curtain my life is on. I’m not in the audience balancing a popcorn and coke, I’m backstage waiting in the wings for the curtain to open. I know that years have been put into the rehearsal and that the writer of this script has seen it from beginning to end but when will this chapter begin.

So this is a cathartic journey asking God what he wants from me and trying to still put my little hairy hobbit feet one in front of the other. I know that I’m in God’s ‘company’ and that provides the fellowship and encouragement one needs. A hobbit should never travel alone whether it be with a company of dwarves or a fellowship of hobbits, elves and men.

I’m currently ‘between performances’. Doesn’t that sound cute when I could simply say “I’m Waiting”. What I’m saying is that one door of my life seems to be closing but the next door hasn’t opened yet. I’m asking ‘what next’ and also trying to improve my strength, skills and stamina so that when the curtain does open I’m ready. After all who wants to be caught on stage with a forgotten line or worse with their ‘fly’ down. I sense that God is firmly at work making sure that the stage is set and that all is in working order before the curtain rises.

I’m encouraged that along any journey two rewards seem close to the journeyman. The first is the sense of a new dawn. As you imagine a young traveller waking from a tired slumber it happens as the dawn rays glisten through deep dew ridden grass to gently rouse the sleeper. As the cool of the ground gives way to the warmth of the radiant beams a sense of expectation soaks into the heart. A desire awakens to see new lands, fresh relationships and to embrace what was once foreign as family. It refreshes the eyes, increases the heartbeat and becomes a diet of excitement devoured over breakfast.

The second reward for our traveller is their growth in stature. Many a young tourist has started out with trepid feet and lowered gaze. The eighteen year old on the gap year excursion very quickly realises that Mum won’t be in their suitcase to be the alarm for a train schedule or the washing machine for a clean pair of underwear. We quickly move through levels of independence lifting our gaze and increasing our gate as we walk forward more confidently. As the muscles are stretched we grow upwards and inwards. Our mind finds solutions, our body conquers crags and crevices and our heart learns to stay the charted course when fatigue and passions both seek to sway our resolve with distractions.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6

Its in these moments when we rest at a pinnacle’s view that we realise we are more than we once were. The journey our creator has taken us on has taken a cutting of possibility and produced a life of productivity. I have always enjoyed the sense that God hasn’t finished with me yet. Like the tourist who becomes an adventurer we leave much behind on the path of destiny. There will always be the superfluous dross of fat removed through hard work and toil but there is also the cutting away of things we once thought as wisdom now seen as arrogance. The traveller who is ten days into a mission or is now packing for the umpteenth departure will pack more tightly, stringently and with rigorous intent. Why carry the consumer’s weights of a selfish past? Why move the problems of arguments forgotten to the residence of a future peace?

So I’m waiting, not with fear and foreboding but instead with hope and a sense of anticipation. The senses of my heart are open to hear, feel and see the signs that the stage managers hands are on the curtain rope. A gentle tug, a changing of the lights and a quiet comes over the audience. The best curtain opening of all is at the break of dawn when a new day opens on fresh mercy and grand potential.

Like this song Before the Morning from Josh Wilson; I DARE TO BELIEVE!

Can you leave me a comment below and tell me about the times in your journey where you learned through waiting.