some assembly required

I have been given two books. The lovely Sally, my wife, went to a charity shop yesterday and came back with a carrier bag of books (they are selling them by the bag now!) and two were for me. One was a book of card tricks, and I won’t be sharing any quotes from that with you. The other is a selection of stories told by after dinner speakers. This one tickled me:

A visiting clergyman went to a small village to take the evening service as the resident parson was ill. As he had not been there before he arrived in good time and had a look around the church. He saw a collecting box with a card over it: ‘For church expenses’ and he put in 10p.

When the service was over the verger came into the vestry with the collecting box. He said, “It has always been our custom to give the contents of this box to any visiting clergyman we may have.”

coin handHe selected a key from a bunch he held and, after opening the box, he said, “My word, sir, you are lucky tonight: there’s 10p in it!” and he handed the money over.

When he reached home the clergyman told his wife and small daughter of his experience. The girl’s answer was, “Well you see, daddy, if you had put more into the box you would have got more out of it.”

[insert your own application here*].

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*That’s where some assembly is required for this bloggage.

Easter Eyeland Statue

When we were on holiday a couple of weeks ago I bought a souvenir. I suppose we all do – things we would not normally buy but which remind us of our holiday, people we met, places we visited and so on. This souvenir made me smile when I first saw it, and then when I realised what it was I decided that it would be really useful.

As you can see it is reminiscent of the Easter Island statues, but is in fact a stand for my glasses. One of the irritating things for me about wearing glasses is having nowhere sensible to store them overnight. I used to put them on the bedside table (because I need them to be able to see properly and need them within easy reach. But during the night I might reach for something else in the dark and either knock them off or get grubby fingerprints over the lenses. There was always the risk of them getting scratched in the process.

But now they have a place of safety that keeps them out of the way. And it still makes me smile. And it reminds me of our holiday – every time I put my glasses on the stand I am reminded of the relaxation, the warmth, the scenery and the time spent with my family. And I am grateful.

I find that a similar practice helps me with my spiritual life. I associate ordinary objects and activities with spiritual disciplines. So, for example, when I am washing and shaving in the bathroom and look in the mirror (not a pleasant activity first thing in the morning… or any time actually) I am reminded to look within and see if I need to ask God to cleanse me from within as well. In the car, if I drive past someone’s house or workplace I offer up a quick prayer for them. We almost always say ‘grace’ when we sit down to eat a meal, reminding us of God’s provision for us.

I find that making a conscious decision to attach a spiritual discipline to a physical event or object helps me to keep closer to God. In some senses the more mundane the better, because it frees up my mind to reflect, pray and give my attention to God. They are souvenirs in the true sense of the word.

What are your souvenirs?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

One of the relatively new things we need to do today is set up an ‘out of office’ reply for when we are on holiday. Having got back to over 180 emails from my last holiday I like this one:

I am currently on holiday and will be unable to deal with all the e-mails you send me until I return on 1st September. There will probably be a lot of emails waiting for me. Please be patient and your mail will be deleted in the order it was received.