multiplying blessings

Free Family Fun Festival

Tomorrow promises to be an amazing day.

It starts with a Free Family Fun Festival in the park in the centre of Colchester – do come along if you’re in the area. I will be performing some ‘street magic’ around our church’s gazebos (if you can perform street magic in a park).

wedding rings

The day finishes with me conducting a wedding at our church for a lovely couple. i love conducting weddings as they are such joyful occasions – a celebration of love and commitment and a reason for family and friends to come together in honour of the bride and groom.

I hope that I will bless other people through my participation in these events but I know that people will be far more blessed than simply by my contribution. That’s God’s economy: he takes something we offer and he multiplies it. It’s not just with loaves and fish, it includes fast food too.

I read on Facebook just now an account of someone who kindly paid for a family’s McDonalds order when the Mum couldn’t find her money and people around were getting rather huffy. The Mum was blessed. The children were blessed. The staff were blessed. And the generous donor was blessed by their response.

And it’s not just about food. However we bless someone else we often find that God is multiplying the blessing. An encouraging word can build someone up: they may thank you (blessing multiplied) and then may seek to encourage someone else (blessing multiplied further).

You can put this down to group dynamics, human nature or any other rational explanation. But in doing so all you are doing is describing the method of multiplication, not the one who gives the impetus and adds momentum.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

The following day I am being blessed by being on a week’s holiday, so this will be the last bloggage until I get back – enjoy the break!

passing the baton, sharing the blessing

Embed from Getty Images

Yesterday I wrote a tongue-in-cheek irony-laden bloggage about us being better than God at delegating. Today I want to offer the antidote to that: when God’s Spirit inspires people to say, “Yes” when a task is delegated they spread blessing far and wide. Let me give you an example:

This morning I have been blessed and encouraged by two different people who have said, “Yes” when I asked them if they could take on a task – when I passed the baton to them. That has blessed me because it means that I no longer have to worry about those tasks and I know that they will be done better and more diligently than if I tried to do them.

By the simple act of saying, “Yes” to help others these kind people have not only blessed me but they will bless the other people whom they are helping too, and lighten the burden on still others. The blessing is multiplied! In fact, the people who have said, “Yes” probably won’t ever know quite how many people they have blessed by their generous acts of service.

Today I have already had the opportunity to be blessed and be a blessing. May you have that experience too.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

 

the antidote

Yesterday’s bloggage title may have reaffirmed a sense of low self-esteem for some of you, but I hope that you carried on and read the affirmation at the end of it.

ScienceToday I want to offer an antidote to ‘we’re not worth it’ attitudes if you missed the second half or didn’t feel worthy of the affirmation…

Have you ever made, drawn, designed, created, invented, built or enhanced anything? It could be a cake or a castle, an airfix model or a painting, a well-received piece of work or a tidy bedroom. Anything.

How did you feel at the end of it? Remember that sense of pride, accomplishment, satisfaction?

When God looks at you, his beloved one, his created one, he has that same sensation. He is proud of who you are (despite your imperfections). He is glad he imagined you into being. He is happy that you are growing, learning, improving, living…

He doesn’t make mistakes. And he doesn’t make prototypes. You are the one and only you.

With God’s help you can be the best ‘you’ imaginable. You can be more than you can imagine if you open yourself up to his Spirit. Empowered by God’s Spirit you can live life in all its fullness and in doing so you can bless, encourage, inspire and support others. as they seek to be the best ‘them’ they can be.

God’s grace is such that he even takes our mistakes and can transform them, or use them, or help us to learn and grow from them.

To paraphrase Numbers 6:23 from the Bible:

May you experience God’s blessing and that he is holding you. May you know his smile upon you and his grace in all your circumstances. May you sense him looking fondly at you and relax in his arms.

Be blessed, be a blessing

You are not a mistake.

Unexpected blessing

Today I was blessed by a friend. I was blessed by their friendship and trust in me. And I was blessed because they told me that they read my bloggages. And I was blessed because they said that they had read this morning’s and it reminded them of some artwork they had.

And I was blessed because they kindly, generously and thoughtfully gave it to me. It is now sitting above my desk in my study to remind me of God’s laugh and smile.

So, to my friend, ‘Thank you’.

And to the rest of you, read this (you may have to click on it to enlarge it) and…

Be blessed, be a blessing.2014-02-07 14.11.55

bless you!

invitation healthOn Sunday evening our church is hosting a service of gratitude and blessing for the health and caring services of our town. I posted a poster on this site last week, and also is here.

This morning I have been working on this service and in case you are considering coming let me say that it is for everyone, not just those who work in the health and caring services. (The poster is aimed at those who work in those services and who are not normally part of a church.)

Regular bloggists will know that I am rather keen on blessing in the name of Jesus. My ‘sign off’ for almost all bloggages is ‘be blessed, be a blessing’ (see earlier in the week for a bloggage about ‘signing off’ – it’s seamless isn’t it! You would almost think it was planned if you didn’t know me!)

Blessing is a wonderful positive word, but it is also a bit slippery (reference to my recent bloggage about slippery words!). What exactly do we mean when we speak about ‘blessing’? We say ‘bless you’* when someone sneezes (ancient tradition). Whether or not someone says ‘bless you’ when you sneeze is almost a test of politeness now, but we don’t normally mean ‘bless you’ we mean: “I noticed that you sneezed!”

Blessing is about wanting positive, good, kind, gracious things for someone else. In a Christian context it is particularly about wanting people to experience God’s positive, good, kind and gracious presence and favour in their life.

The oldest prayer of blessing in the Bible is:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on your and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

That’s a wonderful prayer and is part of what I have in mind when I say ‘bless you’ to someone. But I read somewhere (sorry I can’t source it) that you could paraphrase ‘the Lord make his face shine on you’ as ‘may you experience God’s smile’. I like that. It’s simple and yet profound.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*I like the French version: ‘à te souhait’, which sounds like a sneeze to me when said quickly!

 

a mug of hot chocolate for the soul

hot chocBeing a Minister is such a privilege. I could finish this bloggage there, but it may help you if I expand a bit (the bloggage, not my waistline).

In the past week I have had the privilege of: taking a funeral/thanksgiving service for one of our members, talking with a couple to plan a wedding, having honest and humbling conversations, plan events at a University, engage with a local school, share communion with someone, attend various meetings, prepare and preach a sermon, meet some fellow ministers, consider and pray for pastoral needs in the church, visit someone in hospital, pray for and anoint someone with oil for healing, be involved in a project with the Town Council, deliver some flowers to someone with the love and prayers of the church, play with play dough and tell a Christmas story at one of our toddler groups… and that doesn’t include the conversations over the phone or in the street, the praying, reading the Bible and trying to listen to God…

I am so grateful to God and to the people with whom I minister for that privilege.

This week will be different again. And so will the next one. I remember at the vicar factory where I was trained for this role we were warned that one of the difficult aspects of the role is that it is never finished. There is always more to be done. There is always more that can be done that could be done in the available time. At the time the thought scared me a bit. I was used to being in a job (litigation lawyer) where cases were resolved, where there was a clear outcome, where there was ‘completion’. Being in a role where that was not possible was scary.

Do you focus on the path or the surroundings?
Do you focus on the path or the surroundings?

But I have found, with respect to the vicar makers at the factory, that to see things that way is to miss so much. It would be like walking through a national park and only looking ahead at the path stretching out in the distance while missing so much beauty and blessing around me. Just now, as I recalled the last week, I was blessed by the thought that God has used me to touch so many peoples’ lives. What a privilege!

I was advised by a wise person at the vicar factory that it is a good idea to keep a ‘blessing’ file. I still have it. It is a file in which I put letters and cards and other things I have been given that remind me that I have been a blessing and how others have been a blessing to me. It’s not an ego thing. It’s not a file I have examined for several years. But I can see it now and I know that it contains evidence that God has used me and God has blessed me. When I see it and am reminded of those things it’s like a large hot chocolate with cream and a flake for the soul – warming me in the moments when I forget that God called me to this role and wants to bless people through me, comforting me when I feel less useful and more useless, and sending my spiritual taste buds into overdrive as I sense God’s affirmation and encouragement.

You may not have a file like that, but I would like to encourage you to think about the people God has used you to bless, and those who have blessed you, in the past week. Receive a large hot chocolate for your soul (with cream, a flake and marshmallows if you like!) as God’s Spirit affirms and comforts you.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

being pointed

Do you ever get those moments when you are aware that you are not in complete control of your life? I am not talking about those times when you feel that your life is out of control. Rather I mean those moments when you realise that God has been at work behind the scenes gently prompting, preparing, encouraging, nudging, enabling and whispering to get you to be in the right place at the right time to say the right thing to the right person.

In the past few days I have had quite a few of those moments. Occasions when I have dropped in on someone at ‘just the right time’. Or when I have been somewhere and someone I have wanted to talk with just ‘happened’ to come in. Or when I have suddenly found unexpected space in my diary at just the time when someone else needed me. Or even when I have ‘unwittingly’ preached a sermon or written some bloggerel here and it’s just what someone needed from God.

Do you ever have those moments?

Reflecting on them now I wondered whether it is fair of God to do that. He could appear to be like a puppeteer pulling the strings behind the scenes while I am the unwitting puppet who finds himself subject to the whims of the puppeteer. I am not in control because he is. That could be a scary thought.

But that’s what I have signed up for. When I said ‘yes’ to following Jesus it was not only a change of allegiance it was an act of surrender. I said, in effect, that I was giving back control of my life to the One who knows best. I want him to use me to serve and bless others in the same way that he has blessed me through others. Rather than feeling that I am not in control I rejoice that He is.

Some of you regular bloggists may be thinking back a few days to when I said that God is not in control, he is in charge. “Aha,” you say, “you’re contradicting yourself!”

Old Mittens

Well, erm, no. I was talking about God being in charge of his world but not in control (see here if you want to know what I wrote). However there are people who have given him back the control he deserves. Not in abject surrender, or having given up, but because we recognise that to live a life in opposition to the One who is in charge is as pointless as a losing entry in the Eurovision Song Contest* or a hand in a mitten.

When I have surrendered to God (and it’s something that we need to do constantly, not a one-off event) I find he points me in the direction where I can be a blessing to others more easily than when I am assuming control. It’s a wonderful feeling when it happens because you realise that it’s not about you, it’s about Him. You understand that while life can seem a series of random events there is a Designer who wants to be involved in life if we will let him. He won’t force himself on anyone, but he will readily respond to any invitations.

Be blessed, be a blessing

 

*’nul points’

**you can’t point easily wearing mittens

blessing

istock_000011793147large4.jpgYesterday we baptised three people with very different stories about how they came to faith, how Jesus has made a difference in their lives, and how they decided that it was good to be baptised.

We had one man who had only recently come to faith and told us of how his faith was helping him to cope with some of the difficulties he has in life. There was another man who told us of how he had gone to church as a child, drifted when at University and had found a fully fledged faith when he moved to Colchester. And then there was the man who is approaching his second fortieth birthday (his phrase) who had a special answer to prayer that led him to decide that he had to be baptised, having become a follower of Jesus as a lad in 1947!

Those brief summaries do not do justice to the way that they shared with us yesterday, and they do not give any sense of how special it was to baptise them. I said last week how much of a privilege I find it when I am invited to take part in a funeral thanksgiving service for someone. It’s also an immense privilege to baptise someone. I find it blesses me at least as much as it blesses those we baptise.

Isn’t that often the way with God? We think we are blessing someone else and he blesses us at the same time. In 1998 I was part of a team that went to Zimbabwe to help a church with a building project. I came back blessed. I have prayed for people and been blessed by their response. I have sent an encouraging email or text message and been blessed by how timely it has been. 

I am sure that there is no direct causal link here. God cannot be reduced to equations. If you want to be blessed, don’t think that you will automatically be blessed if you try to bless others. God sees our motives and if we do things for the self-satisfaction we feel in those circumstances then that is probably all the reward we get in those circumstances. 

What I am saying is that God is so gracious that when we do things on his behalf to bless others he also blesses us. He has more than enough blessing to go around!

What is this blessing? Gratitude, love, joy, peace, hope, humility, encouragement, hugs, and so much more – all wrapped up in the affirmation that God has been able to use us. Nobody is useless to God.

Be a blessing, be blessed.

teddy bear theology

girls
The bride, the bridesmaids and Mr Gruff (look closely)

A couple of Sundays back we held a wedding blessing in our morning service. It may be old hat to some of you to do things that way, but it’s not something I have ever done before. The wonderful couple [they read my bloggages so I have to say that ;-)] had been married 10 years ago in a civil ceremony but wanted to mark their anniversary by renewing their vows and recognising that God is now a part of their marriage.

I was not at all apprehensive about the service, but I did wonder how it would go – whether it would fit into a worship service and whether it would feel ‘right’. In fact it felt brilliant. It was an opportunity to thank God for all he had done in their marriage, to celebrate marriage, to think about relationships with God and one another.

In the sermon I commented on how, in their photos, a small bear called Mr Gruff was present. He had been there when D&S had met, he was there as their relationship blossomed, he was there at the wedding, he has been with them in their married life (good times and bad) and he was in church with us for the blessing too. He was also in every one of their wedding photos, but was mostly hiding in the background.

To me that seems like a lovely parable of how God is involved in our lives and relationships if we will let him. He’s there all the time. Sometimes we are conscious of him, sometimes it’s as if he’s in the background. Sometimes we acknowledge him and include him, other times he’s simply ‘just’ with us. Knowing that he is there is reassuring and encouraging.

Of course his preference is to be involved, to be acknowledged, to be engaged. But he is gracious and patient enough to be with us all the time, waiting for us to turn to him, to involve him once again and to include him in every aspect of our life.

He’s waiting for you now.

Be blessed, be a blessing

asleep
It was all too much for D…