taking the time to thank

Thank youThis week I have been blessed by two people who have taken the time to thank me for something I said or wrote. It was unexpected and a real encouragement and blessing to be thanked – one electronically and the other by a card in the post.

I like to encourage an attitude of gratitude in myself and in others (as much as anything else I like the way it rhymes). When I am blessed by someone else in this way it not only boosts and encourages me, it also encourages me to do the same. So, I wonder, why don’t we do more of it when it is so positive?

Sometimes we may struggle to find something to thank someone for. My wife told me that in a group discussion among spouses at the Bible College where I trained they were considering what to say when your other half has ‘preached a stinker’. One suggestion was, “It was a good text!” I hope not to hear that too often! But it represents an attitude of gratitude – there is almost always something good for which we can be thankful in any circumstance.

Recently a lorry bumped the back of my car while we were in a slow moving queue of traffic on the M25. It has only caused minor damage to my bumper but it has caused major hassle with insurers as the lorry is from overseas. So, where’s the good for which I can be thankful?

Well, one is that nobody was injured. Another is that the driver spoke excellent English and knew which documents I would need to see. Another is that the traffic around us was moving so slowly that we were able to pull across onto the hard shoulder safely from the middle lane (and get back into the ‘flow’ of traffic after exchanging details). Another is that my car is still very much driveable. Another is that we were able to get moving again and get off the M25 before it was brought to a complete standstill.

Perhaps it’s a silly example, but I think it illustrates what an attitude of gratitude looks like. And I am trying to carry that through in all of my frustrating conversations with insurance people by making sure that I thank them for doing their job (even when it is frustrating that they can’t do what I want). So I am trying to put what I am calling the 5T principle into practice – taking the time to thank.

Another reason why we may not thank people is that it does take a bit of extra thought and effort. 5T includes ‘taking the time’ and that’s not always easy to do when we are busy people. But perhaps because it is not easy to do the effort is even more appreciated and worth it. Someone took the time to send me a message to thank me for something I wrote. Another person took the time to get a card, write it, address it, put a stamp on it and then post it! In addition to the words, the act itself speaks volumes and it has encouraged me to take the time to thank.

And as a follower of Jesus I also want to remember to put the 5T principle into practice in my relationship with God. I have so much to be grateful to him for that I won’t run out of ideas!

Because I am trying to put the 5T principle into practice – taking the time to thank – thank you for reading this bloggage.

Be blessed, be a blessing

not much has happened

Dear Bloggists, sorry that it has been a while since my last bloggage. Not much has happened in the intervening time…

We have been on holiday to Sweden, meeting up with lots of Sally’s friends (and me making new friends). So I have seen lots of lakes, lots of words that in Swedish are normal but in English are funny (such as the delicious chocolate sweet in this photo).

I have seen castles and visited the Royal Palace at Drottningholm (in my mind a bit like Windsor Palace for the Queen in the UK as it’s a bit out of Stockholm). I have walked in a national park and heard some interesting noises that may or may not have been an elk or a wild boar.

I have discovered a new special concept: fika. This is stopping for tea / coffee and a cake, and can be at any time. Indeed as I write this bloggage I am also enjoying fika with a cup of coffee and the last of the Swedish cinnamon buns we brought back.

I have performed some magic for some of our Swedish friends, and also for an 8 year-old daughter of the friend of one of our Swedish friends on her birthday. It’s quite a challenge performing illusions when you don’t share a language, but it seemed to go well. I think an open mouth and wide eyes means the same thing for audiences in most languages!

And I have performed magic with a message at Heart for Harlow’s town centre service (not long after two women performed songs from Disney’s Frozen, complete with costumes.

I have had the date confirmed for my interview to join the Magic Circle. If I get through the interview I will then have an examination (audition) to perform later on.

We have been welcomed into Membership of our local church, South Woodham Evangelical Church.

Oh yes, and my friend Richard Jones only went and won Britain’s Got Talent! Well done Richard! You can see the two of us performing together last year here at the end of a show when we hired out a local village hall. I guess his days of performing in village halls may be over!

So not much has happened.

It is easy to get caught up and carried away with events, especially when they are either really positive or really negative, and forget that God wants us to involve him in these things too. When it’s good we sometimes forget to be grateful to him. When it’s bad we sometimes forget to call out to him (unless it’s to blame him).

I have written before about having an attitude of gratitude, and I am so grateful for all of the above experiences.

I am grateful that when things are not so good I know that I do not have to face those things alone. I know that He is with me when I walk through the darkest valley and I am grateful that nothing can separate me from his love.

I guess I am even grateful for the ability to be grateful. And I am also grateful that I have someone to be grateful to. If you don’t have a relationship with God, who are you able to be grateful to?

Today why not try listing things for which you are grateful, and be grateful to the One who gave you the ability to be grateful?

Be blessed, be a blessing

ta

Isn’t it wonderful when someone thanks you unexpectedly? Out of the blue a card arrives in the post, or an email arrives with a ‘ping’ in your inbox, or a text message arrives… and it is someone taking the time and effort to thank you for something you have said or done. It seems even more special when they speak to you on the phone. And as for when they say it in person… woohoo!

Embed from Getty Images

Often we remember to thank people when they have done something special for us, something amazing, something extra, something that made a positive difference to us. But how often do we thank people for doing something ordinary, mundane, routine and expected. In fact, if we are honest, those are the things we often take for granted. And, while we’re being honest, sometimes the only times we notice them is when they have not been done and we get somewhat miffed that they have not been done (and we can be quite quick to complain, can’t we?).

So, with an attitude of gratitude, I would like to invite you to surprise someone with thanks today. Not someone who has done something special, or has gone out of their way to do something for you (but don’t neglect to thank them too) but someone who is doing something ordinary, mundane, routine and expected. Let them know that they have been noticed, that they are valued, that you are grateful.

Here are some ideas to get you going:

  • Leave a thank you card sticking out of your letterbox addressed: ‘To the person who is about to put something through my letterbox’ (it could be a postal worker, or someone delivering leaflets).
  • Stop and thank someone who is sweeping the streets or picking up litter.
  • Buy a bag of individually wrapped sweets and see if you can give them all away one at a time in the day as you meet people whom you can thank.
  • The next time you get a cold caller on the phone rather than getting angry with them try thanking them for the call (that may be difficult) and letting them know that even though you have not had an accident / need to claim for PPI / etc you want to bless them.
  • Write ‘thank you for’ on some post it notes and take them with you today. When you see something to be grateful for, finish the ‘thank you for…’ message and stick the post it note on a colleague’s desk, a shopkeeper’s till, or wherever it is appropriate.

What other ideas come to mind?

Be blessed, BE A BLESSING!

humbled and blessed

Stew with some of the cards, letters and creativity
Stew with some of the cards, letters and creativity

Yesterday I was given a large plastic bag. It contained lots and lots of cards and pictures and letters that children from a local school had made to say ‘thank you’ to Stew the Rabbit (and me) for supporting the school during my time at the church, especially the Assemblies.

I was blessed and encouraged by the time that they had spent making the cards, drawing the pictures and writing the letters. I was blessed and encouraged by the kind ‘we’ll miss you’ messages – some were even for me rather than Stew!

But most of all I was humbled and blessed by those who had thanked me for telling them about Jesus. That’s the main reason I went and it was so wonderful that they had recognised this and appreciated it.

The church will continue to support and bless that school, but those children who wrote and drew and created had no idea how much they have blessed me. Stew will be writing a thank you note back!

It reminded me of how important it is to say ‘thank you’ and how much something we might perceive as a simple act can multiply in impact in the life of the person on the receiving end.

Be blessed, be a blessing

being induced

Lear InviteToday I am being inducted (or induced!) as a Regional Minister. I am looking forward to the service. The service is NOT about me: it is a moment to pause, give thanks to God and recognise his call and commission on my life. And to do that publicly is important.

It is important to do it publicly just as it is important to be baptised or married publicly. It is a declaration of commitment and intent – commitment to God and his call, and intent to serve him (in his power) to the best of my ability.

(You may be wondering what the plant has to do with anything at an Induction service. I am not going to explain why at the moment – I hope it will be clear in the service. I may blog about it later on for those who can’t be there.)

To everyone who has sent me kind messages, who has promised to pray, who has been encouraging, who has made funny comments, who has sent a card, who will be at the Induction, who would like to have been there and have sent apologies, who has worked hard behind the scenes to plan and prepare the event, who will be involved in the service, who has been involved in discerning and affirming the call, and anyone else who knows me… THANK YOU.

I leave you with the words of Psalm 67 which will be part of the service:

Psalm 67

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm. A song.

May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face shine on us –
so that your ways may be known on earth,
    your salvation among all nations.

May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you rule the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.

The land yields its harvest;
    God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still,
    so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

Be blessed, be a blessing

lump in throat time

welcomepic2Last weekend was my last as Minister at Colchester Baptist Church. I want to thank everyone at the church for a wonderful send off. I had a lump in my throat the whole weekend, tears in my eyes occasionally and they’ve come back even as I write this bloggage.

We had a party on the Saturday night – with games and party food and a magician (me). If you look on Facebook you may see some of the photos, but I wish to add a disclaimer – I had no control over what was happening most of the time! It was a fantastic party and it was lovely that so many people from the church (past and present) were there. Thank you to everyone for organising, contributing and coming to such a special time.

On Sunday we had our usual two services, but with a difference. The first one had a very special time when my fantastic colleague, Lynsey, gave some gifts that underlined two consistent themes of my ministry (encouraging people to be good free samples of Jesus; and being blessed in order to be a blessing); gave Stew the Rabbit a carrot, and came closest to making my cry with a hug. Other people said nice things in the service (including a lovely poem by one of the children), Sally was given a bunch of flowers to mark that I was leaving but she isn’t for a while, and we were prayed for.

It was very emotional. But with a lot of prayer, a few watery eyes, some deep breaths, an occasional squeaky word and some God-given composure I got through without breaking down in tears. I did feel like crying though!

Then, in the evening, we had a Songs of Praise evening where we sang the church’s top ten Christian hymns and songs and heard from different people about why those songs and hymns were important to them.

It was a very special day. Thank you to everyone for all that you did, for cards, gifts and kind words.

I did lose my composure at the very end of the Songs of Praise when I tried to say ‘thank you’. But I am not surprised: the church means so much tome and I could not easily say ‘goodbye’. I was grateful that the organist played a long voluntary at the end so I could regain my composure!

I had the privilege of sharing some last words with the church in the morning service and share them here with you. (Next week the sermon may be online on the church website if you want to listen to it – it may simply be called ‘fruit’).

“Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord God will be with you wherever you go.”

“Remain in Jesus and bear fruit.”

And

“May the fruit of the Spirit grow in you.”

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Time to go and find a hanky!

building temples

Okay, it's not Solomon's Temple but one at Segesta in Sicily. Photo (c) me
Okay, it’s not Solomon’s Temple but one at Segesta in Sicily. Photo (c) me

The passages in the Bible that I have been look at recently are about the Temple that King Solomon built.

Well, let’s be honest, he didn’t build it himself. He gave the order and a team of skilled craftsmen and labourers set to work to build it. There’s no record of him even laying a ceremonial stone (have a look at many Baptist Church buildings in the UK and you’ll see stones laid by important people). His involvement in the building project was distinctly ‘hands off’.

But Solomon “built the temple”!

A couple of thoughts occurred to me. One was whether we can ever give enough credit to those around us whose work goes unnoticed and unrecognised until they don’t do it. We all notice soon enough if the streets aren’t cleaned or bins aren’t emptied. We’d all complain if they stopped repairing traffic lights when they break down. I have mentioned before that we don’t give a thought to those who work to supply us with electricity, gas and water until the supply is interrupted and then we don’t think about the hazards the repairer have to cope with to restore our comfortable lifestyle.

You can apply that thought to churches.

A second thought was whether we take too much credit for our own achievements. Listen to most acceptance speeches at awards ceremonies and you will hear a list of people ‘without whom…’ But what if you don’t get an award in which to share the credit? I was speaking with someone recently about the church I serve and was speaking very positively about it (meaning the people). And I realised that while I am one of the ministers in that church and I seek to serve, support, encourage and bless the people who are the church, the credit for what the church is like must go to the people allowing God to work through them and working with him.

You can apply that thought to other environments (work, sport, leisure…).

Solomon built the temple.

What have you built recently? Who didn’t get the credit? Why not see if you can find an opportunity to thank them?

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.

isn’t it ironic?

In the last week I have posted twice about the renovation that I have carried out on a toy car (see here and here if you have missed them). Today I took my real car to a garage because it has been making some less than healthy noises. I had checked online and it seemed to me that there was a fault with the flywheel.

I have just had a call from the garage and my diagnosis was correct. The flywheel was definitely on its way out and needs replacing – along with the clutch system at the same time (since they are there). I had checked out the price of the parts and had expected that it wouldn’t be cheap and it isn’t. But it needs to be done.

The irony of the situation struck me a moment ago – I have been expressing joy at how my toy car repair has been going while all the time the real one has been slowly disintegrating.

I think you can do your own application here about priorities!

Not much point being able to rev a lot if the car won't move!
Not much point being able to rev a lot if the car won’t move!

What I was actually thinking about this morning is how (for normal non-mechanic mortals like me) if you had asked me to name the parts of a car I would have been very unlikely to have come up with ‘Dual Mass Flywheel’. But it is an essential component. Without it driving would be a very jerky clunky affair, if you could do it at all. The flywheel is the bit attached to the engine that spins around and smooths out a lot of the vibrations and provides continuous rotation within the engine. It would be very difficult to get the power from the engine through to the wheels on the road without other components being torn apart by the torque if there wasn’t a flywheel. It’s also the bit that keeps the engine turning over after you have got ‘ignition’, and is usually the bit the starter motor turns to get the engine going in the first place. *

I have learnt stuff about flywheels today!

Who or what are the flywheels in your life? Who or what keeps you going? What helps you to smooth out the bumps and cope with the vibration of life? Who are the unsung heroes of your life, of your church, of your business, of your community? Who are the ones who are only noticed when they are not there?

Perhaps today should be national flywheel day in honour of those people. Give them a hug, a phone call, a text message, send them a letter, give them chocolate (or a low fat, diabetic-friendly alternative). Let them know they are appreciated.

Give thanks to God for the flywheels in your life.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

 

*According to the websites I looked at – I don’t really understand too much more than I have written here so please don’t start asking me any technical questions! And don’t get too critical if my low tech explanation is incorrect.

 

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