ABC of gratitude


I have written about having an attitude of gratitude before, and I do try to cultivate that personally. I have come up with a new way of doing that which I thought I would share with you today. I am working my way through the Alphabet and giving myself a new letter each day. My challenge is to come up with things to be grateful for beginning with that letter.

It sounded easy but it’s not so simple. Today I am on B and have included ‘balance’ and ‘blogging’, for example. Of course some letters will present a greater challenge than others. I may need to befriend someone called Xavier otherwise I will be restricted to gratitude for xylophones and X-rays!

Something else I am going to try to do is look out for things and people beginning with that letter during the day and add to the thankfulness. And if there’s a person I will tell them why I am grateful for them.

Of course all of this gratitude is good, but it REALLY helps having Someone to whom I can express my gratitude!

Be blessed, be a blessing

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Isn’t it wonderful when someone thanks you unexpectedly? Out of the blue a card arrives in the post, or an email arrives with a ‘ping’ in your inbox, or a text message arrives… and it is someone taking the time and effort to thank you for something you have said or done. It seems even more special when they speak to you on the phone. And as for when they say it in person… woohoo!

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Often we remember to thank people when they have done something special for us, something amazing, something extra, something that made a positive difference to us. But how often do we thank people for doing something ordinary, mundane, routine and expected. In fact, if we are honest, those are the things we often take for granted. And, while we’re being honest, sometimes the only times we notice them is when they have not been done and we get somewhat miffed that they have not been done (and we can be quite quick to complain, can’t we?).

So, with an attitude of gratitude, I would like to invite you to surprise someone with thanks today. Not someone who has done something special, or has gone out of their way to do something for you (but don’t neglect to thank them too) but someone who is doing something ordinary, mundane, routine and expected. Let them know that they have been noticed, that they are valued, that you are grateful.

Here are some ideas to get you going:

  • Leave a thank you card sticking out of your letterbox addressed: ‘To the person who is about to put something through my letterbox’ (it could be a postal worker, or someone delivering leaflets).
  • Stop and thank someone who is sweeping the streets or picking up litter.
  • Buy a bag of individually wrapped sweets and see if you can give them all away one at a time in the day as you meet people whom you can thank.
  • The next time you get a cold caller on the phone rather than getting angry with them try thanking them for the call (that may be difficult) and letting them know that even though you have not had an accident / need to claim for PPI / etc you want to bless them.
  • Write ‘thank you for’ on some post it notes and take them with you today. When you see something to be grateful for, finish the ‘thank you for…’ message and stick the post it note on a colleague’s desk, a shopkeeper’s till, or wherever it is appropriate.

What other ideas come to mind?

Be blessed, BE A BLESSING!

the unwinner is…

red carpetSo the Academy has made its awards. Oscars have been given to the winners. The nominees who were not chosen have put on their best ‘I’m so pleased for the winner, it was an honour just to be nominated’ smiles. The speeches have been speeched, the thank-yous have been thanked, the tears have been shed. The after-parties have been attended, the interviews are over. Now the red carpet is being rolled up again and the hysteria is dying down.

This whole business of awards interests me. It is good to commend excellence. It is good to encourage. It is good to inspire people to do better. But where was the award for best cup of tea? Where was the award for most thoughtful word of encouragement? Where are the awards for the hundreds of names that scroll past our eyes at the end of a film (when we wait in case there’s an extra bit right at the end)? I would love to see an award for ‘Best Best Boy’!

I know you could say that the awards that are given include recognition for those who have worked behind the scenes but that’s a bit like posting a blanket ‘thank you’ on Facebook for all your Christmas presents rather than writing individual thank you cards or making personal phone calls.

So this bloggage is a reminder to me to make sure that I thank people. I don’t get it right all the time, and I am sorry for that. But as well as thanking the obvious people, I want to encourage us to thank the people who often go unnoticed, the people who may feel unappreciated, those who will never win an award: the unwinners.

And what’s the award? It’s a Wedogofase, which stands for ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’. To all of the unwinners who have worked hard without thanks and without recognition I present you with a Wedogofase from God. I will try to present it to you personally.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

new year’s honours

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I have decided to trump the Queen and issue my own New Year’s Honours List, but issue them a day before hers are published.

Rather than identify particular people and risk missing some out or embarrassing others I have decided to offer honours in generic groups in the hope that you will be able to identify yourselves. Here are the awards which are all offered with my heartfelt gratitude:

MBE (Mates Being Encouraging) to friends who have sent me text messages and emails out of the blue that made me smile, feel warm and fuzzy or just loved.

CBE (Christians Blessing Endlessly) to the prayer activists in our church.

OBE (Occasional Blog Entrants) to anyone who has contributed to my bloggages either by commenting, or by being the subject of a bloggage.

Order of the Bath to those I helped to baptise this year.

Knighthoods to those who have ‘sirved’ diligently and inconspicuously.

Order of the Thistle to those with whom I have been prickly (and yet have graciously accepted my apology).

Order of the Garter to people who have upheld me in their prayers.

Life Peers – all of you who are my companions and peers in this journey of life – thank you and bless you!

Be blessed, be a blessing

graduation

Yesterday afternoon was spent at Essex University attending two graduation ceremonies. No, not for me, but in my capacity as Baptist Chaplain at the University. It was inspiring watching the hundreds of graduates and hearing the joy and excitement of their friends and families who had supported them through the process.

In congratulating the Graduates the Chancellor of the University commented that the hard work starts here. This life is not a dress rehearsal – you only get one shot at it.

Acclaimed songwriter Annie Lennox and London Olympic star Laura Trott were awarded honorary degrees at the University of Essex todayTwo inspiring women were awarded honorary Doctorates. Annie Lennox was awarded a Doctorate for her campaigning and work for human rights and many other causes. The University’s Dr Pam Cox spoke about Ms Lennox’s support for a wide-range of humanitarian projects which have made vital, practical, life-saving differences – above all in South Africa. Dr Cox also mentioned Ms Lennox’s ‘SING’ campaign which works with women and children with HIV – raising awareness regarding preventing the transmission of the virus from mother to child.

Annie Lennox’s speech was inspiring, humble, humorous and uplifting. At least it lifted all of us to our feet in a standing ovation. I stood as much for what she is doing to make a difference in the world as for her speech. You can read her speech in full here (click ‘see more’)

The second Honorary Doctorate was awarded to Laura Trott. She is a phenomenal cyclist who won two gold medals at the 2012 Olympics, holds world records and is also a multiple world champion. She took up cycling because her mum wanted to lose weight (honestly) and to try to control her asthma. The idea that she is asthmatic and still hurtles around the track at such phenomenal speeds is astounding.

Her speech was shorter and of a different style to Annie Lennox’s speech, but it was nonetheless also inspiring – especially considering that this 21 year old is not a trained public speaker. I do like her simple tweet after the ceremony: “Just call me Dr Trott.” Simple, yet I suspect revealing a degree (pun intended) of pride with a big smile.

So what was most inspiring: graduates and their families; Annie Lennox; Laura Trott? Actually it was a conversation I had with someone who simply introduced theirself with their first name and surname. I later discovered that he was Lord … and is very influential and important. The humility was most impressive on a day when people were being honoured with awards.

It reminded me that I should seek to impress an audience of One. His approval and joy is more than enough, keeps us humble and reminds us that we all need to be cautious to keep humble when others praise us and seek to pass on the glory to the One who deserves it.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

borrowers?

clicking on the photo will take you to Amazon’s site for the book

We have Borrowers in our house. Or, to be more precise, Borrowers are targeting my study. In case you don’t know, Borrowers are tiny little people who live an almost parasitic life in our houses, ‘borrowing’ items that they find and adapting them for their own life. Several films and TV series have been made about them, based on the original books by Mary Norton.

The ones who raid my study seem to be stationery-oriented Borrowers as it is mainly pens, pencils ruler, hole punches, paper and envelopes that are ‘borrowed’. I have to go searching all around the house to find out where the mischievous little people have left these items. And sometimes I have to rely on Sally, the finder-in-chief, to locate them. Whilst I understand that the Borrowers also feel that they have need of the items they ‘borrow’ I find it annoying when the items are not where I left them and my work is interrupted by searching.

It probably says more about me than anything else that I find myself feeling irritated by the Borrowers. I try to rationalise it by saying that it is irritating because it interrupts a train of thought or because the Borrowers know that I want things to be where I leave them, but the fact of the matter is that I need an attitude shift.

This Sunday morning we are looking in church at Living Imaginatively as followers of Jesus. I think that starts with seeing things the way that God sees them rather than the way we have always seen them. So, rather than being irritated I could be pleased that I have the resources in the first place, grateful that they have been useful to the Borrowers, and recognise that their need for the items may have been even greater than mine. That would be a more generous, big-hearted way of looking at things.

So, if I can do it with the stationery Borrowers, where else in my life do I need to look at things differently and use God-given imagination to do things differently? God’s Spirit helps us to do that (if we want him to), enabling us to be creative and imaginative people in all aspects of our lives. This ‘free sample of Jesus’ life is not about being nicer people on Sundays, but about being Jesus-like people 24/7.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

And be nice to those Borrowers!

appreciating assets

Happy KidIt’s nearly here. I am getting quite excited, and it’s not even the day yet. I have to admit I have been doing one or two sneaky things to prepare for the big event. I have been doing a little bit of shopping to make sure that I have everything I need. I have been writing a list of all of the things that I need to do, people with whom I need to correspond, activities that need preparation, you know the sort of thing.

No, I’m not talking about Christmas, I’m talking about my return to work. I have been away from the church I serve for just over three months: most of it on sabbatical leave and the last three weeks on sick leave following an operation that we hope will once again relieve the constant migraine that plagues my brain. (In case you were wondering, it will take several months before we know how effective the new gadget is).

I am really looking forward to going back to work. I have not done any of the normal ministry-type things for 3 1/2 months. I have missed sermon preparation and preaching. I have missed visiting people in their homes. I have even missed Deacon’s Meetings and Church Meetings – honestly, they are a real blessing in our church even when we are discussing difficult matters.

But most of all I have missed the people who are Colchester Baptist Church. we are an eclectic bunch with a range of preferences, ideas, emphases, personalities, backgrounds, experiences, ages and many other differences. But the most important thing is that we love one another as we are all followers of Jesus, committed to doing that through being part of Colchester Baptist Church.

I’m looking forward to catching up with people and finding out what has been happening in their lives. I’m looking forward to hearing what God has been doing with people as individuals and families, and with the church. I’m looking forward to worshipping God together with my spiritual family once again.

It is said that you only truly appreciate something when you no longer have it. I suspect that this has been one of the benefits of my sabbatical leave: not that I took our church for granted beforehand, but it has helped me recognise how important the church is to me (remembering of course at the church of the people not the institution).

One of the joys of sabbatical leave is that I will have the opportunity to return to what I have missed. I am preaching my first sermon this coming Sunday morning. several people have asked me whether I had been preparing this sermon for 3 1/2 months, which suggests there is a certain degree of expectation! No pressure then.

And then it’s Christmas, which I absolutely love in the local church. It is one of the things that I missed most when I worked in our denomination’s national office and I’m so glad that I will be back in time to celebrate together with my spiritual family.

There used to be a Peanuts cartoon with Snoopy on top of his kennel, with the caption ‘Appreciate me now and avoid the rush’. Perhaps rather than waiting for the rush we should show our appreciation for one another more frequently.

Be blessed, be a blessing.