Rather belatedly, “Happy New Year!”

Why is it that we celebrated new years? After all it’s just another 360 degree rotation of the planet on our orbit of the sun, just like any other. The fact that we have decided to number and name dates does not make them any more special than any other. Even though fireworks were let off and ‘Auld lang syne’ was sung nothing marked 1st January 2017 as any different to 31st December 2016.diary

(In fact 31st December 2016 was more remarkable because it had an extra second in it to take account of the fact that the earth is almost imperceptibly slowing down.)

And yet we mark special dates – new years, birthdays, anniversaries, and so on. I believe it is part of what makes us human. If you think about it no other created being on this planet has an awareness of dates. Other creatures may be aware of time (the dawn chorus is an example) but they do not have a sense of dates, and they certainly don’t attach any significance to any particular dates. So why do we do it?

I think it is part of our self-awareness and our consciousness. Marking special dates is a way of establishing our relationship with other people, with time and even with ourselves – which is perhaps why we like being with those we love on significant dates, or at least why we like to receive greetings from them by sending messages on cardboard or social media.

I think it’s also an indication that we recognise (albeit subconsciously) that we are mortal. We are on this planet for a limited amount of time and marking special dates is one way in which we remind ourselves of that. And perhaps, when we pause and consider our mortality, we also pause and consider whether immortality is possible – is there more to life than this?

Maybe 2017 is a year to explore that?



Be blessed, be a blessing

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.

important dates


how important are these dates?

It seems that the latest trend is to allocate a whole month to raising awareness of issues. It began with ‘Movember’, which I believe started in Australia where men were encouraged to grow a moustache (a ‘mo’) to raise awareness of testicular cancer. We are now in ‘Stoptober’ where people are encouraged to stop smoking. Where will it lead? Well…

Teasember – not a month of drinking hot leaf-based beverages but a month to raise awareness of those who are constantly teased.

Januwary – a month to raise awareness of those who are cautious.

Fibruary – a month to raise awareness of compulsive lying.

Parch – a month to raise awareness of the need to quench thirst.

Haypril – a month to raise awareness of hayfever suffering (could be extended to include all allergies).

Nay – a month to raise awareness of gainsaying (or horse speech).

Chewne – a month to raise awareness of the impact of nibbling one’s fingernails.

D’youlie – (linked to Fibruary) – a month to raise awareness of those who suspect everyone else of being a compulsive fibber.

Rawgust – a month to raise awareness of the benefits of eating raw vegetables (and the flatulent side effects).

Septumber – a month to raise awareness of those who have had their nose broken and suffered a displaced septum.

I hope that some of these will become nationally or even internationally observed months of awareness-raising. At the same time, perhaps we could also raise awareness God’s love for everyone. But of course we don’t need a special month for that, you can start now.

Be blessed, be a blessing

blank looks

I use an electronic diary. My life is synchronised between my phone and my computer, so that in theory both of them know what I should be doing. There are disadvantages to electronic diaries compared to paper. Paper does not crash (but it can burn). Paper pages can be easier to turn (but you can’t search by subject). Paper is tangible and you can write notes in the margins (electronic is amendable without crossing out and you don’t need to remember a pen).

On balance I am happy with the electronic diary. One of the things I like is that you can adjust the view from one day right up to a whole year. I had a shock this week when I looked at my week view on the screen. There are almost no blank spaces between when I am supposed to wake up and when I am supposed to go to bed. That is scary. That is unhealthy. That is unsustainable.

Next week there are LOTS of blank spaces at the moment, which is good. I intend to take advantage of some of them to be recreated. I also plan to use some of them to visit people I have not been able to see for a while because there have been no blank spaces in the diary. And I plan to try to sort out some admin that has been put to one side for a while, awaiting a blank space in the diary. I know that these things could be put into the diary and take up some of the blank spaces, but at the moment it is therapeutic for me to look at the blank spaces and imagine what God might want me to do with them. They are an offering to him.

Where are the blank spaces in your life? No, not in your head! Where are the spaces when anything could happen? Where are the moments when you can stop, pause, reflect, wait, listen? No, not your holiday. I know that this week is unusual and that it is unsustainable in the longer term. Unusually busy weeks are okay, but unless I have blank spaces in my weeks the opportunities to reflect, to listen for God and to pause are diminished. I tend to blog if I have a blank space. (Today I have stolen the time from preparing for something else!)

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Talking about spaces…

A minister parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city because he was short of time and couldn’t find a space anywhere. So he put a note under the windscreen wiper that read: “I have circled the block 100 times. If I don’t park here, I’ll miss my appointment. FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES.”

When he returned, he found a parking fine along with this note. “I’ve circled this block for 10 years. If I don’t give you a ticket, I’ll lose my job. LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.”

>remember, remember…

>calendarWhy are we human beings obsessed with calendars? More specifically, why are we so keen on remembering dates? (Or trying to remember them if we are blokes) We celebrate our birthdays on the same day of the year each year. Married people celebrate the anniversary of the day they were married. In the UK we event remember the date when a plot to kill the King was foiled (Nov 5th). We Christians celebrate Christmas on 25th December (unless we are Orthodox) and Easter on a day that moves with the moon’s cycle.

At the same time we also remember events that happened on a particular day in history. Today we are reminded in the UK that it was five years ago that suicide bombers attacked Underground trains and a bus. We remember anniversaries of the ends of wars, the death of significant individuals and major events: “where were you when…?”

Footsteps 2Is it that God has hard-wired us to consider the passage of time? We cannot escape the fact that we are all on our own individual timelines that began at the moment we arrived kicking and screaming into this world and will run until the moment when we take our last breath. Those timelines are interconnected. They cross over each other. They intersect. They run in parallel with others. At times two timelines become one.

These timelines run in just one direction. We cannot go back. Perhaps this is why we remember and celebrate significant events from the past. It is a connection with our heritage, our history, with the different events and people whose timelines have intersected with ours.

The word ‘remember’ appears 166 times in the Bible. Sometimes it is used to remind God’s people of what he has done for them and to draw them back to him. Sometimes it is used to ‘remind’ God of his promises and to reclaim them. For me the most poignant use is when Jesus broke bread and shared wine with his friends before his death and told them to do the same to remember him. 

It is impossible to imagine that anyone who had been with Jesus would forget him. This was a moment that they would repeat (like celebrating a birthday or anniversary) that would remind them of how his timeline (and that’s an incredible concept – eternal God has a timeline!) intersected with theirs and how his timeline merged with theirs. And yours?

Memory joke
Two elderly couples were enjoying friendly conversation when one of the men asked the other, “Fred, how was the memory clinic you went to last month?”

“Outstanding, ” Fred replied. “They taught us all the latest psychological techniques, visualization, and association. It made a huge difference for me.”

“That’s great! I could use some of that. What was the name of the clinic?”

Fred went blank and he thought and thought, but couldn’t remember. Then a smile broke across his face and he asked, “What do you call that flower with the long stem and thorns?”

“You mean a rose?”

“Yes, that’s it!” He turned to his wife . . . “Rose, what was the name of that clinic?”