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Monday, 18 May 2015

Fear, Faith and a Duck Named Grandpa

Every now and then, someone says something that just floors me and I have no idea how to answer. I remember one such time when I was talking to a non-Christian friend and the topic turned to something coming up which I was dreading. The comment of, “that’s the problem with you Christians – you say you have faith and trust God but you’re still afraid,” was not the response I was expecting. We hadn't even been talking about God!

I wish I’d had a good response at the time but all I could think was, “yeah ... duh ... your point?”

Of course I’m still afraid! I’m human, aren’t I? If becoming a Christian automatically took away all our fears, everyone would want to be one! It doesn't take away fear any more than it takes away pain. But then, isn’t that the point of faith? Doing something you’re afraid of and trusting God with the outcome? At least, I think it is. It wouldn’t take much faith to do something if we knew it was a certainty.

Just because I know God will get me through doesn’t mean I’m not scared. Fear and faith aren’t mutually exclusive.  In fact, I happen to believe our greatest faith is shown through our greatest fears. When we face something despite our fears because we know that God will hold us through it.

We had a duck unexpectedly come to visit this week. I know, weird. I got up one morning, looked out the back yard and there it was – a big black duck. Quite possibly the biggest duck I've ever seen. Beautiful, but big. And with a sharp looking beak. It stayed for two whole days before flying (?) off to who knows where. My animal-loving girls were ecstatic! It didn't take them long to name it (Grandpa Duck) and claim it as their pet. The duck liked sitting just outside our door, so the girls sat on the other side of the door chatting to it, captivated by every move it made. 

Of course, it was a different story when we actually went outside and that piece of glass wasn’t between them. My two-year-old was happy to chat to the duck and follow it around – until it looked at her. It turned, she sprinted. Toward me. She was climbing up my legs before I could even move my arms to pick her up. She was terrified, but knew I could be trusted. She put her faith in me. Just like I put my faith in God. 

Do I have fears? Absolutely! Enough to make me curl up in a ball and never leave the shelter of a nice, clean (spider-free) corner of my bedroom – if I let them. Which I don’t. Why? Because, apart from that being a ridiculously silly way to live, I have faith in the God who is bigger than any of them.

And unlike me, who could have quite easily failed to protect my daughter (against the scary, terrifying, uh, duck...), God never will. My biggest fears are nothing compared to his love and care for me. No matter what happens in life, I know that God will be there for me, protecting me, comforting me, directing me. In that, I have complete faith. 

And you can too. 

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Famous Failures (or were they Successes?)

I've always been intrigued by the stories behind things. Call it the writer in me but I love hearing about how something, or someone, became what they are today. People, songs, books, movies, ideas - pretty much anything really. I have a book on my shelf about how a bunch of foods came into being (anyone want to know the story behind the creation of Dr Pepper?!). So, when I was at the library last week and happened across a book titled 'Toys! Amazing Stories Behind Some Great Inventions' (by Don Wulffson, if you're interested), needless to say, I borrowed it.

It's been fascinating reading. Really, really fascinating. But what's astounded me the most are the number of ridiculously popular toys which have come about through utter failure. Their creators weren't trying to make toys. They were trying to invent other things, and failed.

The slinky? You know, that brilliantly coloured spring we've all spent far too much time watching 'walk' down stairs, mindlessly juggling from hand to hand (or, if you're a parent, untangling...)? Failure. Richard James, a navy-hired engineer, was supposed to be inventing something to stabilise the navigational instruments on ships. He never did succeed at that. But he did accidentally knock a big spring off a shelf and watch in fascination while it walked down his books to the floor. Long story short, he sold it as a toy and within a few years, he and his wife were millionaires.

Mr Potato Head? Created by a frustrated father who’d tried every trick in the book and still couldn't get his kids to behave at dinner time.

Silly putty? Not quite what the US Army had been after when they commissioned the General Electric Company to find a synthetic replacement for making gas masks, boots and tires during WW2. Bouncy, able to withstand cold without cracking and heat without melting, super stretchy - but as far as the army were concerned, utterly useless.

Failures, all of them. And yet, I doubt they'd call themselves that. Nor any of the millions of children world over who've played with the toys they created.

Failure is rarely the big deal we make of it. (Or, perhaps, given the stories behind these toys, failure really is the big deal we make of it, because, believe me, making millions off a failure sounds like a pretty good deal to me!)

We all have areas we feel like failures. Maybe it's as a spouse, a parent, a friend, an artist, a daughter or son, a teacher, an inventor, or a billion other things. But you know what's great?

It's this: feeling like a failure, doesn't mean you are.

I'm certain these inventors (and this father) felt like absolutely giving up some days. They’d tried everything and failed. They had no idea how truly successful their failures were. And neither do you.

One other thing I've noticed from this book? Many of the failures' potentials as toys were noticed not by the inventor themselves (who probably still had their heads in their hands, and their jobs on the line) but by someone close to them. A wife, a friend, a random person they chatted to at a party. I know I've said it before (see, but never underestimate the power of your words. You might be the one who proves to someone just how not a failure they truly are.

Next time you feel like a failure? Remember, they weren’t – and neither are you.