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.

and the loser is…

red carpetI am intrigued by all of the hype and attention that the Academy Awards (aka Oscars) have gained in the news media this morning. There is a lot of triumphant jingoistic celebration of those Brits who have won awards. I am not having a grump about that at all. Well done to them, I say.

But what about all those who were unsuccessful? I don’t watch awards shows (mainly because I find them a bit tedious) but I know that one of the things they do is show the faces of those who were nominated but were unsuccessful. Those who have lost have to sit there, smiling, being gracious, trying not to look too upset, and trying to convey a ‘well done to the person who won, it was an honour just to be nominated’ attitude while inside they may be feeling really disappointed. That must be difficult!

And then there are the many people who were not even nominated. What about them? I would watch a TV show that celebrated everyone who was never nominated for an award (including those ‘unsung heroes’ awards which suddenly make them ‘sung heroes’).

Celebrate the single mum whose patience was rewarded when she has just seen her difficult child make some progress.

Celebrate the person who baked someone a cake ‘just because’.

Celebrate the woman who gave up her seat on the train for the person who was struggling to stand up.

Celebrate the car driver who let someone pull out and smiled as they did it.

Celebrate the bloke who sent and encouraging text to his friend.

Celebrate the child who gave come of their lunch to their friend who had forgotten theirs.

Celebrate the neighbour who took in your parcel that could not be delivered because you were out…

You get the idea.

These small acts of kindness will never gain public recognition. They may not even receive a ‘thank you’. But they are good. They are kind. They are wonderful. They are worth celebrating. They are signs of God’s kingdom.

“Woah! Hold on!” you may say. “I was with you until you started getting all ‘preacher’ on me.” I don’t mean to ‘get all preacher on you’ but I do believe that it is true. We are bombarded with so many bad news stories by the media (which is perhaps why they go so overboard with awards that counterbalance that) that I think sometimes we are predisposed to focus on the negative, the nasty, the unpleasant and even think that God is either indifferent to us or doesn’t exist. And that then can lead us to a very unbalanced view of the world.

But if we look for the good, the lovely, the blessing we will see that life is not as bad as we might have feared. And I believe that goodness, loveliness, blessings and the like are glimpses of God’s kingdom because they are like his grace, his mercy, his kindness, his love and so on.

Whether or not you attribute them to him or just to human nature is irrelevant, I still see them as signs of his Kingdom (where he is in charge). Just because you don’t thank someone for a birthday present does not mean that they didn’t give you the present!

So, today, I encourage you to celebrate those who will never win an award but who are making a difference nonetheless.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

[clears throat]

Ladies and Gentlemen, bloggists and twitterers, I have an important announcement.

[cue fanfare. You will have to do your own as I am too much of a cheapskate to have audio files added to this blog].

Today is another day.

I know. Profound isn’t it?

tempus fugit (translation: ‘we briefly apply fudge to the situation’)

Actually, today is the 46th anniversary of the day I arrived kicking and screaming on this planet (forcing my father to abandon a round of golf in the process).But it’s also just another day. It follows February 17th 2013 and (assuming it happens) it precedes February 19th 2013.

Don’t get me wrong, I love birthdays. It is lovely when people send birthday greetings in card form, in person, on the phone, and now in virtual internet-friendly formats too. I am really grateful for them, it is great to be remembered, blessed and encouraged by people.

But if my mother had eaten a hot curry the day before, or if my dad had not abandoned his round of golf, if they had been in a different part of the planet I could have been born on a different day.

We humans have aligned ourselves closely with calendars. We associate events with certain dates on the calendar. Some are good and we want to rejoice, some are sad and we would rather not be reminded of them. It seems that almost every day has been adopted by some organisation or another as their special day.

We also have a number of clichés that we trot out about dates: today is the first day of the rest of your life; tomorrow is another day; take it one day at a time…

Given that God exists beyond time, how does he respond to our calendar-driven routines? If he was remote and disinterested he may view it with vague amusement. But because he is involved in our lives, because he is the God of history, because Jesus is God with us, he shares our joys and sorrows. He celebrates with those who celebrate and weeps with those who weep. And because he is God he can hold the two together – even when the two coincide on the same day. His Spirit within us knows our deepest needs and feelings and shares them.

So, whenever it is that you mark the moment of your arrival on this planet, happy birthday. Whatever today reminds you of, bless you.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

A fellow was very much in love with a beautiful girl. One day she told him that the next day was her birthday. He told her he would send her a bouquet of roses… one for each year of her life.

That evening he called the local florist and ordered twenty-one roses with instructions that they be delivered first thing the next morning.

As the florist was preparing the order, he decided that since the young man was such a good customer, he would put an extra dozen roses in the bouquet.

The fellow never did find out what made the young girl so angry with him.


Pressure points

I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on me as I write this. It’s my 600th bloggage!

I can’t believe that I have splurged forth that amount of bloggerel – if you assume a conservative average of 200 words per bloggage that’s about 120000 words of mine that are now floating around the www. Amazing!

What’s even more amazing to me is thst some of you gluttons for punishment keep coming back for more…

So, this bloggage has to be profound, witty, clever, insightful and inspirational because of this occasion.

Or does it? Why do round numbers mean more to us than any others? Why have we just gone overboard (thankfully not literally) to celebrate the Queen having been on the throne for 60 years? Why not 59?

Don’t worry, this is not going all ‘bah humbug’ on you. I think it’s important to mark significant moments. But if you want a phrase to mark this landmark it’s this: ‘celebrate more’.

Don’t just wait for the special occasions to celebrate life, friendships, love, or whatever. Celebrate the significant and apparently insignificant. Live life to the full and celebrate as juch as possible: because celebrating is a close relation of ‘appreciating’ and we need much more of that in our world too.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

BNAG – that’s bang out of order
(Tim Vine joke)

you have been warned (including you, olly murs)

This is a warning to all who live in the Colchester area. The loud scream you hear today is nothing to worry about.

The youngest member of our family is a big fan of Olly Murs and left me the task of trying to get her some tickets for his tour next year. I have managed to get some tickets that are a bit closer to the front than the concert she attended earlier this year where he was a speck in the distance. I have been told to let her know by text message if I have been successful and the message has now been sent. You have been warned!

While I don’t really have the same appreciation for Mr Murs as young girlychops, and while I don’t share the level of her enthusiasm for attending one of his concerts, I have to admire her passion, commitment and zeal. I also have to issue a warning to Mr Murs that she will be there in a state of intense excitement – he may not be able to hear himself above the screaming.

Makes me think that my passion, commitment and zeal as a follower of Jesus might need upping somewhat. I don’t remember when I got as excited about going to church as she will be going to the concert.

In case that thought leaves you feeling inadequate or low, let me offer another one. You don’t have to jump, scream, shout, dance or go over the top as a follower of Jesus. You don’t have to wear special fan club clothes. You don’t have to buy his CDs. All he asks is that you offer him as much as you can at the moment. He will take your intention to do better, your hope to be able to forgive, your willingness to be led, your ambition to become the person he has created you to become, and with the help of his Spirit will take what you offer and transform them and you, just as a packed lunch became a banquet.

Be blessed, be a blessing

P A R T Y! Why? Because I gotta!*

According to WordPress, this is my 500th blog post. 500 bloggages?! That seems incredible to me. Of course, to those who have read them, it seems incredible that there are only 500 interminable entries…

I have been reflecting on this fact for a while, anticipating what brilliant bloggerel I should post on here to mark the occasion. And it struck me how arbitrary it is that we celebrate specific landmarks in time and events. We make a special thing of celebrating 18th and 21st birthdays, and then any birthday that ends with a 0. We particularly celebrate 25th wedding anniversaries, and then some of those ending with 0. This year we celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – 60 years on the throne – and all sorts of celebratory malarkey is planned.

But why don’t we celebrate as much for the intervening events? Why is the 22nd birthday less significant than the 21st? Or why don’t we make as big a deal of a 26th wedding anniversary? And why is no massive nationwide jamboree planned for the Queen’s 61st year on the throne? After all, these are one year better than the previous ones, so surely we should be celebrating even more!

I am not sure I have an answer to that, except that if we ramped up the celebrations each succeeding year we would reach a point where the scale and energy of the celebrating exceeds our ability to participate in it.

The Bible is full of celebrations. Festivals mark the whole year in the Old Testament, and these punctuate Jesus’ life too. Christians add a couple of special ones of our own (Christmas, Easter…) and celebrate what they mean. But perhaps we should cultivate our attitude of gratitude to God and celebrate each day that he has given us, and all that it may bring. This is one reason why praying at the start of a day can be a blessing to us. And perhaps we should make more of sharing bread and wine at Communion / Eucharist / Mass / Lord’s Supper – remembering Jesus’ death and celebrating not only his resurrection but also our new life that is freely offered as an act of loving grace.

So the 501st bloggage should be as significant as this one… but don’t count on that reflecting in the quality!

Be blessed, be a blessing, celebrate!

*first one to say where that quote is from can give themselves a celebratory pat on the back.

A man was very much in love with a beautiful girl. One day she told him that the next day was her birthday. He told her he would send her a bouquet of roses… one for each year of her life.

That evening he called the local florist, his best friend, and ordered twenty-one roses with instructions that they be delivered first thing the next morning.

As the florist was preparing the order, he decided that since the young man was such a good friend, he would put an extra dozen roses in the bouquet.

The poor fellow never did find out what made the young girl so angry with him.


one letter makes a difference

MonkWith thanks to my Uncle Matthew I am going to start this entry with a joke:

A young monk arrives at the monastery. He is assigned to helping the other monks in copying the old canons and laws of the church by hand.

He notices, however, that all of the monks are copying from copies, not from the original manuscript. So, the new monk goes to the head Abbot to question this, pointing out that if someone made even a small error in the first copy, it would never be picked up! In fact, that error would be continued in all of the subsequent copies.

The head monk says, ‘We have been copying from the copies for centuries, but you make a good point, my son.’

He goes down into the dark caves underneath the monastery where the original manuscripts are held as archives in a locked vault that hasn’t been opened for hundreds of years.

Hours go by and nobody sees the old Abbot.

So, the young monk gets worried and goes down to look for him. He sees him banging his head against the wall and wailing: ‘We missed the R! We changed the E! We missed the R! We changed the E! We missed the R! We changed the E!’

His forehead is all bloody and bruised and he is sobbing uncontrollably. The young monk asks the old abbot, ‘What’s wrong, father?’

With a choking voice, the old abbot replies, ‘The word was… ‘CELEBRATE!!!”

Without wanting to enter into a discussion about the relative merits of a celibate (or otherwise) clergy, I do want to pick up on the last sentence. How would it be if it was a part of our church rules (if we have them) or routine of life that we have a command from God to celebrate? What would we do differently? What would we stop doing? What might we start doing?

Well, if you read many of the Psalms (and lots of other places too) we do have such an injunction from God. So how about you resolve to put one of those ideas you considered in the last paragraph into action? Celebrate God. Celebrate Salvation. Celebrate life. Perhaps we do not put enough emphasis on this. As followers of Jesus we are followers of someone who certainly celebrated life.

When I was in my first church I did a Q & A session in a local boys’ secondary school about Believer’s Baptism. At the end we had some time left so I asked if the lads had any other questions. There was a lad at the back who was sniggering and being nudged by his friends so I decided to ask him if he had a question.

He got a bit embarrassed and stammered, “Well, can you, you know… do it?”

It took me a moment to realise that he was asking if I was celibate and that he was trying to embarrass me. My response?

“I have a wife and two children. You do the maths!”