Category: prayer

Holy Hamsters

This is Sandy. She was the first of our family hamsters. As you can see she was a very holy, prayerful hamster.

.pray sandy

It may be that she was actually eating a sunflower seed, but it looks like a praying hamster to me (as opposed to a praying mantis).

I use that image to illustrate a reflection card, which I still use. The reflection goes as follows:

At the end of every day take a few moments to review the day as you and God together watch an action replay. As you do this, have these questions in mind:

  1. How did I experience God’s love today?
  2. How did I express God’s love today?
  3. Where did I act out of selfishness rather than love today?

Let the answers to these questions lead you into gratitude (for your experience of God’s love), encouragement (for your growth in service) and confession (for the times you missed the mark).

These are simple, but profound questions that I find enhance my relationship with God and others.

I don’t always remember to do it: I have tried to associate it with cleaning my teeth at night so I remember to do it, but sometimes other things push it out of my mind. However, when I remember, I find that this sort of reflection is helpful. Perhaps you will become a holy hamster too.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

the best laid plans

Today I am having a day off, and it is proving to be quite a mixed event. In anticipating the day ahead of me I had some plans in mind of what I was going to do to relax. And since I woke up other things have started to invade the space I have today and are taking control. I had planned to go out, but as Robbie Burns wrote: “The best-laid plans of mice and men aft gan aglay.”

For example, it’s a nice sunny day today. So we could do with me doing a couple of loads of washing. But that means me being around to load and unload the washing machine and then to hang out the wet clothes. This is best done in the morning so there is a good opportunity for the clothes to dry. So I need to stay home this morning.

And then I had some messages that several different items that have been ordered online are going to be delivered today. One is a pair of concert tickets I ordered months ago, the other are a couple of items I only ordered yesterday and which were despatched in record time. It is good to receive notifications that these items will be delivered today, but I don’t know when so I have to wait in for both of those to be delivered. And one of them contains a light that will need fixing up outside the house, so that’s another job for the day. If you have read any of my bloggages about deliveries then you will know I have low-level paranoia about this so I have already checked that the doorbell works and that the sign showing where it is is still visible.

And then there’s the reason for this photo. No, I am not intentionally pointing to the frown lines on my head, I am trying to show the mark on my head that was caused by me getting dressed this morning. I bent down to open a drawer in order to get some clothes out and made several misjudgements: (a) how far away I was from the chest of drawers (b) how long my arms were to reach down into the bottom drawer (c) that my head was connected to my torso and when I bent forwards my head would move towards the top of the chest of drawers (d) how dopey I am.

I leant forward and down into the bottom drawer but before my hands could reach the clothes I was trying to get my head reached the top of the chest of drawers. It wasn’t a major impact. I am not concussed or in need of a visit to hospital. It was more of a surprise. But for a while there was a noticeable red mark and it may be that a bruise emerges (hypochondriac? me?). The initial red mark was much more noticeable than this photograph shows and it made me wonder about going out today as people might stare at me.

The combination of all of these things (coupled with me taking the time to write this bloggage) means that I may well not go out today because of a number of circumstances beyond my control.

How often do we have to adjust our plans and ideas because of circumstances beyond our control? Unless you have decided to become a hermit and live a self-sufficient lifestyle in a remote cave somewhere (in which case how have you got internet access to read this?) you will be living in the reality that other people will make an impact on your life. Sometimes that may be negative, other times it may be positive. But we have to respond and react to all of these other people as well as to many other unforeseen events.

It has been said that if you want to make God laugh tell him your plans. I think that’s rather a sad parody of how things are. I think God really does want us to share our thoughts, ambitions, plans and hopes with him. But not so he can mock us and hit the ‘smite’ key on is computer. Rather it is with the attitude that as he is God it would be a rather wise thing to consult and involve him in our life. The pattern for prayer that Jesus taught encourages people to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I believe that if we pray and share our plans with God in that attitude it makes him smile rather than laugh – smile because he delights to work with us to help shape our lives, to walk with us in the tough times and dance with us in the joyful ones.

Although there may have been a divine snigger when I banged my head this morning!

Be blessed, be a blessing

replacement service

Image result for rail replacement busesHow frustrating do you find it if you have bought a train ticket and then find out that some or all of the journey is on a ‘rail replacement service’ – also known as a bus? Some operators have tried to introduce some levity to the situation by changing the electronic sign on the front of the bus from ‘Rail Replacement Service’ to ‘Choo choo I’m a train’.

The first time I saw a picture of that it made me smile. Perhaps it even calms down some of the more disgruntled passengers. But the levity does not change the reality of the situation: part or all of a paid-for rail journey has been replaced by a bus. Can you imagine how people would react if they turned up at an airport and found that a bus was waiting at the departure gate rather than their holiday flight to Spain?!

 

A while ago I found myself feeling stressed on a rail journey when part of it was replaced by buses. The railway station was crowded to overflowing with people who needed to get to their destination and the staff at the station were politely doing their best to direct them to different buses that were going to different places. A person in front of me verbally abused one of these staff members about how unacceptable it was. The railway employee looked shocked and somehow managed to utter an apology on behalf of the railway. As I passed the employee I tried to redress the balance by telling them how impressed I was with how well they were coping with the situation and how grateful I was that they were there to show us which buses to catch. The railway worker said thank you and I got on the bus. I heard others behind me trying to encourage her too.

On the onward journey I wondered whether the railway employee would remember the positive comments as much as she would the verbal assault. Human nature is such that we often remember critical comments more than we do positive ones. We can focus on negative things that are happening and forget to think about good things. Paul begins so many of his letters with thanks and praise to God for the people to whom he is writing. Even the heavy-duty correctional letters to the Corinthian churches start with thanks before he gets on to the business of trying to sort out the mess they have got themselves into. But how often do we skate past the ‘thanks’ sections almost as part of the prologue and get into the meat of the letters? Paul often writes how he always gives thanks for these people when he remembers them. He has an attitude of gratitude. And that must have included the difficult people!

In my first church I was asked to speak at the women’s group ‘Pleasant Monday Afternoon’ at their anniversary. The theme I was given was the line from the hymn “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” I wasn’t sure about it (it wasn’t a Bible verse and I was fresh out of Bible College and needed to show everyone that I could speak from the Bible). But I remember that as I pondered the theme I realised that it was an important one because of the human tendency to forget the blessings as we concentrate on the woes. Without wishing to diminish the significance or impact of some of the negative things we experience I would like to invite you to participate in an exercise: The next time you have time to spend with the Lord, why not count your blessings and name them one by one. Write them on a piece of paper. And use both sides if you need to. Offer thanks to the Lord in response to all that he has done for you. Keep that tucked in your Bible as a reminder.

Perhaps that way we can create a welcome gloom replacement service!

I leave you with two verses from the start of Psalm 9 that I think convey the same message:

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

view from my pew 13

Dear Internet

Mr Grenville-Stubbs here again. Did you miss me? I have been busy trying to make a positive difference in cyberspace. I had an idea for a search engine that I have been trying to get off the ground with what is known as ‘crowd funding’ – where lots of people offer small amounts of money to help make something a reality.

My idea was to create a Christian internet search engine. I did think of calling it ‘Ask Mr Grenville-Stubbs’ but my friends suggested that this might be a bit of a long name for people to type in. They suggested something easier to remember, too. So I came up with ‘Goddle’.

searchGoddle works like any other search engine you can think of: you type in a question, a word or something that you want to find out about and click ‘pray’. (I think ‘pray’ is better than ‘search’ for a Christian search engine).

After you have clicked ‘pray’ the clever software will go to work and find a Bible verse that relates to that question / word / thing you want to find out about. So, if you wanted to search pray for information about ‘wrestling’, for example, Goddle would provide you with Psalm 13 verse 2: “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”

I put this idea on a website for crowd funding ideas and have been waiting for donations to flood in. I think there must be a bug in that website because even though my idea has been available for the past month so far nobody has offered anything.

I am sorry to have to say that my Minister, Revd Philip Inneck-Tucker was not much help at first, either. I mentioned the idea to him on a Sunday after church but he had one of his mysterious coughing fits and had to rush off to get a glass of water. I tried to talk to him several times later that day but he always seemed to rush away just as I got close to him. In the end I managed to talk to him by waiting outside the church until he had locked up and was unlocking his car in the dimly lit car park.

I came up behind him: “So what do you think of Goddle?” I asked.

He uttered something unintelligible (or it may have been ancient Hebrew) as he clutched his chest. “What are you doing sneaking around in the shadows? You almost gave me a coronary!”

I apologised for surprising him, but insisted he gave me his opinion.

“Why would anyone want to use Goddle?” he asked. “If I want to find a recipe for chili con carne I don’t want to be given some obscure verse from Leviticus about regulations for food preparation.”

“But the Bible has answers for everything,” I said.

He gave me one of his funny looks and that’s when he gave me a brilliant idea. He suggested that if that was my attitude to the Bible I could save myself a lot of time and money by making the answer to every question: “Jesus.”

Why didn’t I think of that?

Yours faithfully

Mr QR Grenville-Stubbs

 

delivering: a verdict

One of the unanticipated side-effects of the expansion of the internet and the seemingly inexorable rise in online shopping is a corresponding rise in the number of delivery companies and vans. (If you want a tip for any spare cash you have hidden under the mattress (no, I am not a financial adviser so take this with a seriously large pinch of salt) invest it in delivery companies).

And as this becomes more and more commonplace, there are inevitable frustrations regarding deliveries that didn’t go well. Is it just me, or do other people think that sometimes the delivery people are trying their hardest to make it difficult for us to receive our parcels? On one occasion, when we were out, a well-meaning delivery man put the item in the green wheelie bin at the side of our house. There were two problems – it’s a long way down to the bottom of the bin so I couldn’t just reach in and get it, and also (retch) it’s the wheelie bin in which we put food waste and vegetation.

But something more annoying used to keep happening. I had installed a doorbell in our house shortly after we moved in and put the bell push on a wooden post to one side of the door to make it easier to attach. It’s not camouflaged, but you would think it was. There were so many occasions when deliveries were attempted and a card was pushed through the door saying that the item could not be delivered and was lobbed over the fence / with a neighbour / at the sorting office / other (*delete as appropriate). But on those occasions I was at home. And the doorbell is quite loud. They didn’t ring it. Instead the delivery people knocked on the door – presumably gently so as not to disturb me.

I know this is the case because on one occasion when I was at home a delivery person was just pushing the card through the door as I went past the door and I opened the door and spoke with them. They didn’t see the doorbell push.

So I decided that I would make it obvious for them.

20170214_095713

Now the delivery people press the doorbell.

Of course we know that the delivery people are not trying to make things difficult for us. They are doing their best to get the parcels to their destination. There are times when they have delivered it to a neighbour several doors along the road, so they must have tried several houses before they got an answer. There are other times when they have found somewhere safe to hide it and left a detailed instruction on the card through the door. My favourite delivery person story is one who told my wife a joke when making the delivery as he wanted to deliver some joy as well as the goods. (It’s a visual joke so I can’t tell it here.)

I suspect that sometimes we can feel as if God is being as elusive / awkward / unhelpful as as delivery person. We ask him something and the answer doesn’t come straight back, or it’s not as straightforward as we want, or it even comes through someone else. It’s not that he is trying to make things difficult, though. I think it’s sometimes because what we ask for is more difficult for him to deliver.

We want courage so he gives us opportunities to be courageous.

We want peace, and while he may give us a sense of peace within, he may also provide us with people who will be with us in the lack of peace that we feel.

We want joy and he asks us to look for it in the little things of life.

The answers are there. God loves to respond. But for the response to make a difference he usually involves us (and others) in it.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Prayer for the week 

I’m away on a training course this week. At the beginning of the week we were encouraged to write a prayer for ourselves for the week. 

It’s a very simple prayer. I offer it to you in case you find it helpful on your journey through the week too.

Give me the grace to grow, the wisdom to listen,  the patience to learn and an openness to love.

Be blessed, be a blessing. 

the path to sainthood

A woman had a dream. In her dream she went up to heaven and saw behind the scenes. She was taken to the control room and saw all manner of amazing things. She saw how every prayer was treated with honour and respect. She saw a computer that counted the number of hairs on every single person’s head. And she saw an area that was labelled ‘The Path to Sainthood’.

In that part of the control room were thousands of candles and each candle burned brighter as people were becoming more saintly. The brighter the candle the more saintly they were becoming. As she looked she saw many names beside the candles that she did not recognise. These were people whose acts and lifestyle went unnoticed by most of the world but who were making a difference to the lives of those around them.

But she also saw some names she recognised and was pleased to see that the names of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Francis were brighter than many. But then she noticed that one surprising name was becoming brighter by the second and soon was brighter than all of the rest.

Donald Trump.

She was taken aback by this and asked the angel who was accompanying her why Donald Trump was considered to be more saintly than the Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Francis.

The angel smiled serenely and said, “Since he became President of the United States of America people have started praying bigly!”
Regardless of what you think of those who have been elected, do pray for them. Bigly!

Be blessed, be a blessing