Category: attitude of gratitude

dubious dates

datesNo, not that sort of dates.

And not romantic dates… or rather, yes, romantic dates but not that sort of date either.

Let me explain. The curmudgeonly part of me occasionally got a bit cynical about some of the anniversaries that are celebrated nowadays. There seems to have been a slide towards esoteric and trivial reasons to celebrate something. It used to be things that we would celebrate things like 100 years since someone’s birth or death; or 200 years since the founding of an organisation; or 50 years since a significant event.

But then it seemed to slither down that slippery slope towards the banal and we started celebrating every 25 years: 25, 50, 75, 175 and so on. And now we seem to be invited to celebrate any anniversary with a ‘0’ at the end – 10, 20, 90, and so on. Is it just me that thought that this is a bit much? Is it just me that cynically wondered whether it was more about marketing than celebrating?

But I have changed my mind about these dubious dates. You see I think we should take every possible opportunity to celebrate. In fact we shouldn’t even wait for a special anniversary, we should celebrate whenever we can and whatever we can.

Celebrate the fact that you woke up this morning (even if you felt under the weather).

Celebrate the person who last made you laugh or smile.

Celebrate the food that you most enjoy eating.

Celebrate what you appreciate about other people.

And so on.

And in celebrating we can also express gratitude – to the people around us who bless us, encourage us, serve us, love us and stand with us; to those who have gone before us in life who have helped to bring light and joy into the world; and, dare I suggest, to God who made us, loves us and wants to be involved positively in all aspects of our life in the same way that a good parent wants to encourage, bless, support and love their children, who has made himself known in Jesus and who is with us by his Spirit.

I have often written about having asking God’s Spirit to help me grow an attitude of gratitude but now I am also asking God’s Spirit to cultivate and integrate a desire to celebrate.

And that leads me to the romantic aspect of the dubious dates (and possibly where my wife will roll her eyes when she reads this). I am not going to get all mushy and soppy here but I have worked out that today is the 10,000th day since Sally and I got married! And that’s something to celebrate. I should point out that I have not been keeping a running score since the day we got married – I got the internet’s help in doing the calculation a couple of months ago.  I am not telling you to brag or boast, but in order to invite you to find something to celebrate: in the Bible we (in churches at least) are encouraged to rejoice with those who rejoice as well as weeping with those who weep.

So why not join me and seek God’s help to cultivate and integrate a desire to celebrate, and do so with an attitude of gratitude (and possibly a surfeit of rhymes!)?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

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sunny side up

“How do you like your eggs in the morning?” sings Helen O’Connell in the opening line to an old duet with Dean Martin…

“I like mine with a kiss” Dean Martin replies.

This song (or extracts from it) have been played regularly on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2 for the past few years. Until this morning it has just been earpaper (something in the background you don’t notice – like wallpaper for the ears). But this morning I listened to it and I pondered.

First of all, I would have to say that it depends on who is on the other end of the kiss, doesn’t it? A kiss is generally seen as a sign of affection (or greeting) but there are many different levels of intimacy suggested by a kiss and much of that depends on who the other pair of lips belong to. (This particularly is relevant if your name is Jesus and the other person is called Judas!)

Dean Martin continues, “Boiled or fried, I’m satisfied as long as I get my kiss.” I admire his preference for affection above his preference for how his yolk and albumen will be cooked and served. But I have to admit that I like my egg is cooked and served in a particular fashion and a kiss is not necessarily going to make me less fussy (particularly if it a kiss of a less affectionate nature).

Of course I am being a picky pedant and I do understand what the song is trying to say. But my ponderings on this song this morning made me think a little further about eggs and the ways in which they are cooked. When I was growing up I was aware of four different ways of cooking eggs: boiled (with or without soldiers); scrambled; poached; and fried. Today there seem to be so many more options, so many that this song might be very different if it was written today:

“How do you like your eggs in the morning?”

“I like mine with a kiss. Hard or soft boiled, fried sunny side up or down, hard or soft scrambled, over easy or over medium or over hard, poached, baked, Spanish fried, or omelette, it’s hard to decide and a kiss may distract me from making up my mind.”

fried eggI don’t know what your preference for your eggs may be (you may indeed have an intolerance for eggs, or just not like them) but I prefer my day to be sunny side up. An egg that is cooked ‘sunny side up’ is one where the yolk sits on top (as in the picture above). When I describe a day as ‘sunny side up’ I don’t mean that everything is hunky-dory, fluffy and lovely, and perfect (although that would be nice). What I mean is that it helps to have a positive outlook on the day – to look for the encouragements, the blessings, the joys and the smiles.

When you look at a glass do you see it as half-full or half-empty? Or do you say, “Wow, I have a glass with some water in it!”?

When someone cuts you up in your car do you shake your fist angrily or think, “I am so glad we didn’t collide”?

If someone is unpleasant to you do you bottle up the hurt and hope that someone else is unpleasant to them (or even respond in kind yourself) or do you hope that their unpleasantness may have been cathartic for them and that they may have a better day now, and perhaps think that it could have been worse if they were unpleasant to someone else?

You may think that I am being an idealist here, and unrealistic. And I would have to admit that I am. But it’s an ideal to which I aspire and one that I know I can’t do on my own. It’s an ideal that I want God’s Spirit to make real in my life. It’s the ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘walk the extra mile’ life that Jesus outlined in the Sermon on the Mount. It’s a life that refuses to hold on to negative emotions and always looks to find the silver lining in the cloud.

I believe it starts with an attitude shift. It starts when we are able to pray, “Help me to love people like you do”. The prayer below is attributed to St Francis of Assisi and embodies the attitude shift beautifully:

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”

Be blessed, be a blessing

not much has happened

Dear Bloggists, sorry that it has been a while since my last bloggage. Not much has happened in the intervening time…

We have been on holiday to Sweden, meeting up with lots of Sally’s friends (and me making new friends). So I have seen lots of lakes, lots of words that in Swedish are normal but in English are funny (such as the delicious chocolate sweet in this photo).

I have seen castles and visited the Royal Palace at Drottningholm (in my mind a bit like Windsor Palace for the Queen in the UK as it’s a bit out of Stockholm). I have walked in a national park and heard some interesting noises that may or may not have been an elk or a wild boar.

I have discovered a new special concept: fika. This is stopping for tea / coffee and a cake, and can be at any time. Indeed as I write this bloggage I am also enjoying fika with a cup of coffee and the last of the Swedish cinnamon buns we brought back.

I have performed some magic for some of our Swedish friends, and also for an 8 year-old daughter of the friend of one of our Swedish friends on her birthday. It’s quite a challenge performing illusions when you don’t share a language, but it seemed to go well. I think an open mouth and wide eyes means the same thing for audiences in most languages!

And I have performed magic with a message at Heart for Harlow’s town centre service (not long after two women performed songs from Disney’s Frozen, complete with costumes.

I have had the date confirmed for my interview to join the Magic Circle. If I get through the interview I will then have an examination (audition) to perform later on.

We have been welcomed into Membership of our local church, South Woodham Evangelical Church.

Oh yes, and my friend Richard Jones only went and won Britain’s Got Talent! Well done Richard! You can see the two of us performing together last year here at the end of a show when we hired out a local village hall. I guess his days of performing in village halls may be over!

So not much has happened.

It is easy to get caught up and carried away with events, especially when they are either really positive or really negative, and forget that God wants us to involve him in these things too. When it’s good we sometimes forget to be grateful to him. When it’s bad we sometimes forget to call out to him (unless it’s to blame him).

I have written before about having an attitude of gratitude, and I am so grateful for all of the above experiences.

I am grateful that when things are not so good I know that I do not have to face those things alone. I know that He is with me when I walk through the darkest valley and I am grateful that nothing can separate me from his love.

I guess I am even grateful for the ability to be grateful. And I am also grateful that I have someone to be grateful to. If you don’t have a relationship with God, who are you able to be grateful to?

Today why not try listing things for which you are grateful, and be grateful to the One who gave you the ability to be grateful?

Be blessed, be a blessing

grrrrr computers

tempting
tempting

I had one of those grrrrr moments over the weekend when my hitherto reliable computer decided it was time to become unreliable. (Before I go any further I would like to make it clear they do not want any “should have bought a Mac” comments please!)

Windows users will know that in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen is the icon for the Start menu. This is the place from which you access your programs and the bits of software that lurk behind the interface and which contain various settings that allow you to customise your experience. Rather annoyingly my Start menu decided to stop. When I clicked on it I got a “critical error” message with a reassuring comment that Windows would try to resolve the problem when I signed in again.

So I signed in again. Same problem.

So I signed in again. Same problem.

So I signed in again. Same problem.

So I signed in again. Same problem.

So I signed in again. Same problem.

You get the picture. I checked various online forums and discovered that I was not unique in having this problem. Eventually I found a link on Microsoft’s support website that enabled me to have an online chat with one of their “Answer Tech” people. She was very polite, sympathised with my problems, and reassured me that she could sort them out.

And eventually she did. It involved creating a whole new me – or at least a new profile – and more or less starting again. The process of starting again took a very long time (and is still not complete). I have had to transfer all my files across. I’ve had to find a way of setting up my email accounts so that I did not lose the emails to which I need to reply (and those which I saved). I’ve had to try to remember passwords for websites and programs that I have forgotten.

grrrrr

But in the midst of the grrrrr have been a couple of moments when I have been able to stop and assess whether or not I needed to reinstall certain software. It’s the sort of software that keeps telling you how important it is and how necessary it is for you to synchronise your life on your computer with various mobile devices. And I’ve sometimes wondered whether it is as necessary and important as it thinks it is but never had the courage or time to turn it off and see what happens. But now, with the new me, I am able to run programs without the software and am finding that actually it s not as essential as it has been telling me.

And actually the timing is quite good because for the last month every time I have switched on the computer the apparently essential software has reminded me that my year’s support is about to expire and I need to pay them some money in order to keep it going. Now I realise I don’t need to. This will save me some money and also stop the annoying pop-up messages. Win win!

And it made me wonder how much of what I consider to be essential to my life really is that important. Last week and Sally and I swapped cars so she could go a long journey in more comfort and I found myself disliking her car because it was not as comfortable or fast or luxurious as mine and didn’t have all of the gadgets and gizmos that mine came with. But it’s a car. It goes. It stops. It’s more than most people have in this world. Cue another attitude adjustment to turn up the attitude of gratitude.

In the Bible many people found themselves challenged to address what is important and essential in life by their encounters with Jesus. When it boils down to it it’s not stuff that matters. The bottom line is that convenience is not essential. You can even live without all of the things that you consider to be priceless because of their sentimental value (even though that might hurt a bit). If you had to do a reinstall of your life there are lots of things you could do without.

What really matters is the quality of the relationships we have with other people and with God. Those are the irreplaceable essential vitally important things, aren’t they? They are what’s really priceless.

So how much do you value them? Are they the priority in your life? Does it show?

Be blessed, be a blessing

Green with envy

image
Not somewhere I have visited yet

So here’s the thing. The surgery on my shoulder went well and, while painful, I do have some freedom of movement as it’s not in a sling or anything like that. I have been told to keep my arm movements within certain parameters and not to do any heavy lifting but I am able to do some things.

One of those things is to check out what my friends are posting on Facebook and other social media sites and in doing so I have noticed a phenomenon. I don’t know whether it has always been like this or I have noticed it more because of my being confined to home but there seem to be lots and lots of postings of photos from holidays.

My initial reaction (if I am honest) was one of jealousy. I felt envious of all of the travelling, laughing, visiting, relaxing and all the rest of the holidaying that I could see on my tablet screen while I was unable to enjoy any of it. I even felt myself thinking, “It’s not fair, we’re not getting a holiday this year.”

And then, very rapidly, I metaphorically slapped myself around the face with a fish. What was I thinking? It may have been the after-effects of the anasthetic and the pain-killing drugs. But it was more likely just good old-fashioned self-pity and selfishness. I am SO privileged. I have SO much to be thankful for. It’s ridiculous to be envious of others and covet their donkey. So I prayed to regain an attitude of gratitude.

I decided that when I saw pictures from my friends’ holidays I would pray a prayer of thanks that they were having a good time away (and pray for more of it for them). When I saw pictures of places I would like to visit I would pray thankfully that such places exist. When I saw posts from people who were unable to go away on holiday I would be praying that they would find things to be thankful for in their own circumstances.

And that has changed the way that I am looking at my friends’ holidays. Instead of resenting them I am rejoicing in them. Keep them coming, I say, so I can enjoy them with you.

One final thought: an attitude of gratitude works best when you have Someone to be grateful to.

Be blessed, be a blessing

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humbled and blessed

Stew with some of the cards, letters and creativity
Stew with some of the cards, letters and creativity

Yesterday I was given a large plastic bag. It contained lots and lots of cards and pictures and letters that children from a local school had made to say ‘thank you’ to Stew the Rabbit (and me) for supporting the school during my time at the church, especially the Assemblies.

I was blessed and encouraged by the time that they had spent making the cards, drawing the pictures and writing the letters. I was blessed and encouraged by the kind ‘we’ll miss you’ messages – some were even for me rather than Stew!

But most of all I was humbled and blessed by those who had thanked me for telling them about Jesus. That’s the main reason I went and it was so wonderful that they had recognised this and appreciated it.

The church will continue to support and bless that school, but those children who wrote and drew and created had no idea how much they have blessed me. Stew will be writing a thank you note back!

It reminded me of how important it is to say ‘thank you’ and how much something we might perceive as a simple act can multiply in impact in the life of the person on the receiving end.

Be blessed, be a blessing

so long and thanks for all the fishing

Da dada da da da daaaah!
Da dada da da da daaaah!

Today’s is my last bloggage!

…while I am working for the wonderful people at Colchester Baptist Church*. To use one of Jesus’ analogies for following him, we have been fishing for people together (see this bloggage to understand the nukelearfishing bit a bit more) but after today I will be in a different boat.

PTWOING! (That’s the sound of an analogy being overstretched and giving way).

I have decided that today’s bloggage is not going to be sad, downcast, weepy or upset. It is a party bloggage – a celebration bloggage.

It is a celebration of lives changed through encountering Jesus through the ministry of the church (aka the people).

It is a celebration of every time I have had an opportunity to use my baptismal towel (which was given to me for that purpose by some friends when I left my previous role to come to Colchester).

It is a celebration of companionship in the gospel – travelling together with the same group of people on the journey of faith is a wonderful privilege.

It is a celebration of emotions – we have laughed together (sometimes even at my jokes), we have cried together, and we have shared lots of other emotions together too.

It’s a celebration of grace. I am by no means a perfect Minister (just ask my family or the church) but when I have made mistakes and asked for forgiveness those in the church who have been hurt have shown amazing grace.

It’s a celebration of events. Weddings, funerals, infant dedications, birthdays, anniversaries… all have marked significant moments in people’s lives and I have been privileged to share in them.

It’s a celebration of sadness. There are few greater privileges than accompanying people as they travel ‘through the darkest valley’.

It’s a celebration of growth. I am not the same Minister who was called to the church in the spring of 2008. I have learnt. I hope I have matured. I have understood more of how much I don’t understand. But I have seen many people grow in their faith and that is brilliant.

It’s a celebration of high fiving. I consider it an immense blessing to have worked alongside the other minister in the church: my colleague, Lynsey. We have not physically high fived much, but there has been such a sense of teamwork, support, encouragement and joy in working with her. That has been based on mutual respect, honesty, laughter, tears and agape.

It’s a celebration of blessing. I sign off most bloggages with ‘be blessed, be a blessing.’ I know that I have been so blessed and if I have been only half that blessing to the church and community I will be content.

But most of all it’s a celebration of Jesus. Churches and Ministers are nothing without him. We’re just social clubs full of do-gooders. But with him, inspired by his Spirit, wow! We can be good free samples…

So celebrate with me!

Be blessed, be a blessing

*The bad news for you is that I will be continuing to unleash bloggages on an unsuspecting world in my new role.