As a teacher, in my early years at least, I spent a vast amount of my time on holidays defending the position of teachers and why we need holidays. I just enjoy them now with no guilt attached at all! A blessing when I know for a fact there are plenty of people who work a darn lot harder than I do.
Readers of my last article of 2015 would be aware that before Christmas I celebrated 20 years of marriage. We were able to go away for a week together for the first time in 15 years. A blessing when many people can't afford the time or the money to do what we were able to do.
My family and I also embarked on a 3 week road trip these Christmas holidays to catch up with family, see some of this great country and tick off a few "must do" activities. For me, the highlight was to spend a day at the Australian War Memorial, by myself, and read what I wanted to read, look at what I wanted to look at, view documentaries I wanted to watch and soak in as much Australian war history that I could.
A blessing considering I have never had to fight for my country, I can walk my streets and neighbourhood safely and I live in a country with a proud heritage that can be preserved for future generations.
My family and I are fortunate to live the life we live. Food on the table, shelter, clothing, a private school education for our kids, a new church to be a part of and grow with, well paid employment (with regular holidays...only 9 weeks to go!!) and a loving and supportive family.
We are very fortunate, or to use a term often used by religious folk, blessed.
Spirits of Mischief in our life
Yet, we have struggled for the last 6 months with "spirits of mischief" in our life.
Maybe it's just life, but we have had 6 months of annoying and frustrating circumstances to distract us from enjoying what we were meant to enjoy. Some people may discount the term "spirits", but there has been something amiss in our life. We are not looking for the devil under every rock or crevice. We are not scaring our kids into believing in God.
We have had "spirits of mischief" toying with us.
Don't get me wrong, I know there are people much worse off than me. I constantly remind my boys how fortunate or blessed we are to be able to do what we do. I know we are among the richest people in the world! That's a hard one to explain to 3 boys without statistics and tables!
My eldest was tired, sick, frustrated with life. A few days before we went away for our anniversary holiday mentioned previously, he broke out in spots from head to toe. My parents had to look after him while we were away. He had blood tests. The results: Parvo virus (fatal for dogs apparently), glandular fever, Ross River fever and lyme disease (some doctors do claim this is not prevalent in Australia). A 15 year old athletic male struck down. Poor health management or spirit of mischief?
My two other sons have had 7 weeks of doctor visits over these holidays; fevers, antibiotics and persistent coughs. The youngest, is now diagnosed with an allergy to penicillin. Bad luck, genetics or spirit of mischief?
My wife and youngest son have both had times of terrible thoughts and ideas come from nowhere and enter their heads. Self esteem and anxiety issues or spirit of mischief?
We spent 3000km on the road these holidays. Running late for an appointment in Brisbane (100km away from our home), the air conditioner in the car stops. Big bill forthcoming. Poor mechanics in the car or spirit of mischief?
Computer problems, wifi outages, phone problems, mechanical and technical issues. Poor network and service or spirit of mischief?
We have had things at home inexplicably break, come off walls, fall apart in our hands, not work or go missing. Bad luck or spirit of mischief?
Please believe me, there is much more than this. I do not think I am trying to over exaggerate anything. We have felt we have been moving forward, changing our lives; we have become distracted and overwhelmed by little, annoying circumstances that cannot be helped.
One of Peter's letters in the Bible tells us quite succinctly to:
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.
We are alarmed and aware. Concerned, but not defeated. Sought help and discussed this with friends and colleagues.
Mindful, but full of prayer.
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin's archive of previous article can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html