water

Washing HandsThis week we have had some plumbers working on our house. In order to plumb they have had to turn off the water. I didn’t think it would be a problem… but it has become one as the day has gone on.

The kettle was filled with water before they started. The coffee machine was filled with water before they started.

But (and I will try to be delicate) there are other uses for water in a house that were not available to me that became more important during the day… ahem.

In addition to that, the first day was an ideal day for doing loads of washing (sunny and breezy) and the dishwasher was ready to go.

But it all had to wait until the water could be turned back on.

It made me pause for a moment in gratitude that usually water is readily available to us.

It made me pause for a longer moment and think of those on this planet for whom fresh drinking water is a luxury, never mind anything else, and then recognising that there is something I can do about that. (Time to make a donation to a charity making a difference in such countries).

It made me pause and reflect on how privileged I am and how much I take that for granted.

It made me pause and reflect on the way we use water in Believer’s Baptism.

It made me pause and reflect on Jesus saying he is able to give us living water and what that means for me – essential for life, thirst-quenching, taken for granted.

Be blessed, be a blessing

the unwinner is…

red carpetSo the Academy has made its awards. Oscars have been given to the winners. The nominees who were not chosen have put on their best ‘I’m so pleased for the winner, it was an honour just to be nominated’ smiles. The speeches have been speeched, the thank-yous have been thanked, the tears have been shed. The after-parties have been attended, the interviews are over. Now the red carpet is being rolled up again and the hysteria is dying down.

This whole business of awards interests me. It is good to commend excellence. It is good to encourage. It is good to inspire people to do better. But where was the award for best cup of tea? Where was the award for most thoughtful word of encouragement? Where are the awards for the hundreds of names that scroll past our eyes at the end of a film (when we wait in case there’s an extra bit right at the end)? I would love to see an award for ‘Best Best Boy’!

I know you could say that the awards that are given include recognition for those who have worked behind the scenes but that’s a bit like posting a blanket ‘thank you’ on Facebook for all your Christmas presents rather than writing individual thank you cards or making personal phone calls.

So this bloggage is a reminder to me to make sure that I thank people. I don’t get it right all the time, and I am sorry for that. But as well as thanking the obvious people, I want to encourage us to thank the people who often go unnoticed, the people who may feel unappreciated, those who will never win an award: the unwinners.

And what’s the award? It’s a Wedogofase, which stands for ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’. To all of the unwinners who have worked hard without thanks and without recognition I present you with a Wedogofase from God. I will try to present it to you personally.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Bless their little cotton socks

I have spent most of today at Baptist House in Didcot at a meeting. More about that one day but what was lovely was meeting up with old friends and former colleagues from the time when I worked there.

At the moment the BUGB staff team is undergoing significant change and I feel for all of them, especially those who are uncertain about the future.

There have been times when I have heard people speak disparagingly about the team at Baptist House as if echoing the words of Nathaniel about Jesus’ home town Nazareth: ‘Can anything good come from there?’ That saddens me immensely because I know that those people serve God and his people so faithfully and diligently. The same is true of the vast majority of people in church leadership.

A while ago I tried to launch ‘Bless a bureaucrat day’. It has not really caught on. Today I am not launching a new day, but I invite you to thank someone who serves you as a leader. Do it in person, by phone or text, by email… you don’t have to give any gift other than the gift of encouragement. And that’s a spiritual gift you’ll be exercising!

So thank you to all who work at Baptist House.

Be blessed, be a blessing

recapturing an attitude of gratitude

We live in a world that is moving at breakneck speed. I don’t just mean the speed with which we are hurtling in our orbit around the sun, or the speed at which our planet is spinning. The pace of life itself seems to be accelerating,  enabled by advances in technology, innovations in organisational techniques, and even pressures to perform well and outperform others.

and if you are anything like me you get rather frustrated when things do not move as fast as you think they should. Right now I am experiencing ‘techno-angst’ caused by my computer running a necessary and important backup process while I am trying to do other things with it. My computer is definitely a bloke because it struggles with multitasking and everything is running slowly this morning as a result. Tasks which it could normally manage almost instantaneously are now preceded by animated cursors indicating that the computer is thinking about doing something. I have not bothered measuring how long these delays are, nor how much more slowly my work is being produced, but I would not be surprised if, over the course of the year, there were significant numbers of days being lost to employers and home life that are being accompanied by these animated icons.

We have assimilated technology and the instantaneous nature of communication to such an extent that we now get frustrated when it doesn’t operate at the expected speed. When our broadband connection runs slowly we grind of teeth in frustration. When our computer fails to multitask as well as we hope we experience steam coming out of our ears. When traffic does not flow at top speed we rant at it (either internally or verbally). When change does not take place as quickly as we would like we sigh and roll our eyes.

We forget that it was not so many years ago that all of this was the stuff of science fiction. I was commenting to someone yesterday that when Star Trek: the Next Generation first appeared on our TV screens and they were controlling computers with touchscreens I thought that this was somewhat fanciful. I now use a tablet computer in my daily life and even use it to preach from instead of pieces of paper! (There is always the frisson of excitement with the thought that the tablet might freeze or crash in the middle of the sermon and I will not have a backup plan. Living on the edge!) science-fiction films were computers were controlled by voice were considered to be at best visionary or even somewhat unlikely just a couple of years ago and now we talk to our mobile phones to discover information and I am dictating to my computer right now.

In the hymn Abide with Me there is a line: “change and decay in all around I see”. Many people still associate change with the K: it is seen as a bad thing. We would much rather not have to change so that we can carry on within our comfortable lives. Change is disturbing, disruptive and disorientating. At least it is if we view it negatively. Change for a hungry person that brings food is welcomed. Change for the homeless that brings accommodation is embraced. Change for those who are shackled by guilt that brings liberation is celebrated.

I have commented before in a bloggage that most of the world does not have access to the technology with which you are reading this. Many of them would not even dream of it because it is so far beyond their daily experience. So before I start ranting about the speed of my computer I should bear in mind that the majority of the people in this world do not even have access to a pocket calculator. Before I complain about being stuck in a traffic jam I should remember that billions of people travel by foot, all would never be able to save enough money to own their own vehicle. When I I’m frustrated that I have not got a signal on my mobile phone I should remember that even though there are probably more mobile phones in the world that people, most people in the world do not have access to them, or even a landline.

It’s all about recapturing that attitude of gratitude. I think it’s a lovely phrase because it strips off the tongue, but it’s an even better phrase because it reflects how God would have us live: grateful to him for all that we have, grateful for all the blessings that we experience, grateful for the people around us who stand beside us even in the worst of circumstances, grateful for Jesus.

and… Relax. Breathe. Smile.

Be blessed, be a blessing. Make it so (for ST:TNG fans you will understand that reference)

 

ITILTOE – toilet is out of order (see previous two days for context)

One of the worst things about atheism is that ultimately there is no one to be grateful to.

tellyvisgone

Today a nice man from Sky is supposed to be coming to fix our tellybox. This should mean that we are once more able to access far more channels than we will ever watch. For the past week we have been ‘slumming it’ with Freeview, which still has lots of channels that are caught effortlessly by our TV aerial, like a fly in a spider’s web, and then are stuffed unceremoniously down the cables into the TV box waiting for us to choose one of them.

When the Sky box died last week I was surprised at how much I had come to rely on it for feeding telly programmes to me, and how much I had come to expect the multiplicity of (sometimes useless) channels from which to select the few favourites I usually watch. The Freeview selection is smaller and feels somehow inadequate, even though it is far more than I have had for most of my life.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the first telly I can remember us having as I was growing up was a small black and white portable and we only had three (yes three!) channels available. BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. This is not a nostalgia moment, nor am I about to express how good it was in t’good old days. It’s simply a recognition of how quickly we assimilate to new technology and new additions to our life.

And that’s the rub. We also quickly assimilate stuff that is not so healthy for us (physically, emotionally or spiritually) and find that after a while it doesn’t bother us like it used to. We become flabby (physically, emotionally or spiritually) and are happy like that. Sometimes we need a moment to stop and take stock of what and who is important in our life. And to realise where we need to do some work (with God’s help) to get back on track.

Go on. Stop now. Pause. Reflect. Pray. Resolve.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

The top ten reasons men should join the church choir:

10. Rehearsals are every Wednesday night. Which means that for those few hours, you will significantly reduce your risk of contracting tendinitis from nonstop operation of a television remote control or computer mouse.

9. If you wear a choir robe, you are liberated from a task many men find quite challenging: finding clothes that match properly.

8. From your special vantage point every Sunday, in which you look out at the entire congregation from the choir seats, you will develop interesting new hobbies. Among these is a little guessing game called “Who’s Praying, Who’s Sleeping?”

7. On the other hand, sitting in full view of people on a weekly basis makes it much less likely that you yourself will give in to a chronic lack of sleep. Although it has been known to happen.

6. If you think your singing in the shower sounds good now, just wait till you’ve been singing with others for a few weeks.

5. Singing in a choir is one of the few activities for men that does not require electronics equipment or expensive power tools. This could be good for the family budget.

4. For the fitness buffs, singing in the Choir is not only heart healthy, it’s soul healthy. But there are no monthly membership fees, and it’s a lot easier on the knees than jogging.

3. If you think you’ve done everything there is to do, and there are no great challenges left in life, try singing and staying on pitch.

2. Choir rehearsal lasts half as long as a football match (with half time break included), but is at least twice as satisfying. This is especially true if you are a long-suffering fan of Ipswich Town.

And the number 1 reason men should join the choir:

1. When people ask you whether you’ve been behaving yourself, you can say with the utmost sincerity, “Hey, I’m a Choir Boy.”

fireworks

Modern technology is like a fireworks display. A new gadget is launched and technophiles like me go, “Ooooh!” An updated version of an existing gizmo or piece of software is released: “Aaaaah!” Something completely innovative comes on the scene: “Wow!”

And the release of each new electronic firework seems to be relentless. I find myself looking at the latest phone, Tablet PC, laptop or whatever like Charlie Bucket looking through the window of the sweet shop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Surely it can’t get any better than this: this must be the ultimate. And then next week there is something new.

I have recently become very frustrated with my mobile phone. It does not do everything I would like it to do (nor everything it’s supposed to do). Many of the things that it does it does very slowly. I find myself growling at it, grumbling about it and wishing I had something newer, shinier, faster, easier, better.

And then I get brought up short as God reminds me that I am far more privileged than the vast majority of people on this planet. The resources that I have at my disposal are way beyond the imagination of most people. Even all the books on my shelves are way beyond the reach and experience of a significant proportion of my fellow human beings.

If I’m totally honest this realisation does not completely remove my techno-lust. It calms it down and gives me a good sense of perspective on life but if someone was to offer me a new Tablet PC I would find it very difficult to refuse. But it does enhance my attitude of gratitude.

I realise that not everyone has the same weakness for technology that I do. So what’s your area of weakness? What do you find it difficult to resist? Shoes? Food? Cars? Books? Lego? The likelihood is that you are far more privileged in that area than almost anyone else on this planet. Give thanks!

be blessed, be a blessing.

The problem with being an atheist is that you have no one to thank!

appreciate me now and avoid the rush

We have recently had some unexpected deaths in the music industry. Tragically Whitney Houston and Davy Jones have both died prematurely. Understandably their music has received significant airplay on the radio following their deaths by way of tribute to them.

What I am still trying to get my head around is that (and this seems to happen every time a musician or singer dies) so many people rush out and buy their music (or click and buy their music) after these people have died. Is it because they have suddenly been reminded about how good that artist was, or  have just realised it? Could it be that they have remembered how much they enjoyed particular songs and are prompted to add them to their music collection? Is it their own form of tribute?

Whatever the reason, isn’t it sad that sometimes it takes someone’s death for them to be appreciated or recognised? Sometimes we don’t appreciate someone while they are with us and then regret not having been able to tell them how much they meant to us when they’re gone. In recent thanksgiving services for friends in our church who have “gone to Glory” we have been able to pay tribute to them, but that’s not the same as saying it to their face.

I can remember seeing a Peanuts cartoon when I was a child which had Snoopy stood looking proud of himself and the caption underneath read, “Appreciate me now and avoid the rush.” We so easily take other people for granted and sometimes regret doing so.

Often, after a musician singer has died, their songs go into the top 10 – even though they might not have had a hit for many years. So, taking that as inspiration, who are the top 10 people you appreciate? How can you show them or tell them?

It’s all part of having an attitude of gratitude– gratitude for the people around you.

Be blessed, be a blessing.