fancy seeing you here

Photo by permission from http://www.sxc.hu/profile/bigevil600
Photo by permission from http://www.sxc.hu/profile/bigevil600

Yesterday I was at church for our lunch club and absent-mindedly left my briefcase at the church when I drove home. I almost got home when I realised what I had done. So I turned around and headed back to the church where those who were clearing up had found it and were about to put it in a safe place for me. Very gratefully I gathered up the bag and headed back out of the church, when my mobile phone chirped at me to tell me that I had a message, It also chirped at me to say that someone had sent me a Facebook Message.

I walked across the courtyard at the front of the church and as I did I saw one of our congregation. As I greeted her she told me that she had just sent me a text message asking me to contact her. Even before I had read the message I had been able to talk with her.

Just as I finished talking with that lady I noticed a couple nearby whom I am marrying in a couple of weeks. They were able to tell me a couple more details about the service.

I left them and headed towards our church car park. I had pulled my phone out of my pocket and noticed who had sent me the Facebook Message. As I turned a corner I almost literally bumped into that person. As we talked we realised that it would be good for him to talk with someone else. A minute later that person turned up and joined in the conversation!

I was beginning to wonder whether I should buy a lottery ticket (I didn’t). I also wondered whether I have got it wrong all these years and rather than me go to where people are I should just wait around the church and the car park and wait for them to come to me.

It was funny.

It got funnier as each person turned up on cue.

They were lighter moments in the day.

I am not claiming any supernatural intervention in what happened yesterday. I know that when I pray ‘coincidences’ happen (I might call them ‘answers’), but I hadn’t really been praying about any of those things so I can’t say that they were answers to prayer. I don’t often pray for car parking spaces (unless I am running late and it’s important that I am somewhere) but sometimes they turn up in front of me and I am grateful.And perhaps we need to be grateful and acknowledge those moments as blessings. When they happen, to whom are you grateful?

Life throws enough bleak and dark moments at us that we need lighter moments (in both sense of the word) to help us through.

We also need to recognise that God is as much with us in the dark as in the light (but it’s sometimes harder to see him in the dark) so remembering our lighter experiences helps to reassure us that he’s there.

Be blessed, be a blessing

storming

Phone calls can be disconnected when the lines are cut
Phone calls can be disconnected when the lines are cut

I had a surprising phone call last week. It was from the hospital that has been helping me with my brain (and it needs a LOT of help). The battery pack that is supplying electricity to keep my migraines at bay is causing me some discomfort (I won’t go into details here in case you’re squeamish) and needs to be ‘re-sited’ (again, details omitted for the sake of the squeamish). The call was to say that they have a space for me to come in and have the operation.

The call was surprising for several reasons. First of all I was not expecting it. Secondly I was not expecting to be given relatively little notice in advance of going in (next Sunday afternoon!). Thirdly I was not expecting to be prepared to be in for up to 5 nights for what I was told is a minor procedure. Fourthly I was not expecting the Spanish Inquisition (cue Monty Python sketch)…

I think the thing that floored me most was how much potential disruption this causes when it happens at short notice. I was due to be preaching on the Sunday evening (I am very grateful to one of our members for standing in at short notice). I have several important meetings that week for which I will have to give my apologies. I have to prepare this week for the service on Remembrance Sunday, which throws out some of my planning for this week.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful that it is going to happen, and to all those at the church who have accommodated this short notice call up. But it would have been a lot easier with more notice.

And there’s the thing. I think that we are not so much floored by unexpected things as those unexpected things that arrive with little notice. Today the country is recovering from ‘The Great Storm’ that swept across us. We have had a few days’ warning of it and any precautions that could be taken were taken, as well as planning for coping with the aftermath. The famous non-existent Hurricane* in 1987 that swept across the country without warning was of a similar magnitude but seems to have had a greater impact because we weren’t ready for it.

I hope I am neither naive or insensitive to people who experience tragedies, especially the unexpected kind. But I have found that sometimes we are like Jesus’ disciples in the boat on the lake that was being swamped by an unexpected squall. They were panicking while Jesus slept in the stern of the boat, apparently unconcerned. They had not realised who he really was (which is why they were astonished when he calmed the storm) and were overwhelmed by their circumstances.

For those who are followers of Jesus we are not immune from being overwhelmed by circumstances, especially if it seems that Jesus is asleep in the boat while we are being buffeted by the storm. But I have found that it helps me to get perspective if I pause and reflect on who he is. Have a read of one of the gospels if you have time. If not try John 1 or Colossians 1:15-23. When we recognise whose in the boat with us, even if he seems to be asleep, we may not be as panicked or freaked by the storms of life.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*Have a look at this Wikipedia entry if you don’t know about it: the BBC Weatherman Michael Fish famously said that there was no hurricane on the way…

blinking icons

If you are a PC user (Windows 7) you will know that in the bottom right hand corner of the screen is usually a set of small icons that indicate the main open programs that are running at the time. Most of them are fairly static. Occasionally you get I get a little blue circle on an icon to indicate that it is busy doing something in the background. Sometimes (and usually causing alarm) there is a little red cross on the flag, indicating that something important needs attention.

But the disappointing thing is that the icon that indicates that I am connected to the internet is static. It’s just a little picture of a computer that is connected to something. It used to be the case (in an earlier version of Windows) that there would be two little computers in the icon and the screen on each one would flash when the computer was sending or receiving information. I liked that, especially when it got frantic! That showed me that something was happening. This morning I noticed a little icon going frantic. It is the icon for Google Sync, which synchronises my calendar on this computer with the calendar on my tablet. There were arrows going up and down like mad things, illustrating that the program was doing its job and syncing. But this does not mean that the static icons are indicating that the other programs aren’t doing anything. In fact I don’t want the anti-virus icon to start flashing alerts, that would be really alarming!

As a Minister it is sometimes tempting to think that God’s only at work in the people in whom it is obvious that he is at work. When we can see someone who is actively putting their faith into action (most obviously seen in Baptist churches through Believer’s Baptism) we rejoice. But that does not mean that God is not at work in the lives of the people who are gently, quietly, surreptitiously going about their lives. It seems to me that God more often works through the unspectacular than the spectacular.

That’s one of the many ways in which he surprises us. It’s along the lines of Jesus saying that greatness is seen in service. He spoke of seeds germinating unseen in the ground before bearing fruit. He spoke of hidden treasure and of yeast working unseen yet permeating the dough. He entered this world hidden away in a stable. He achieved his aims by dying.

Don’t envy those in whom spectacular things are happening. Don’t think that God is not working through you and in you simply because your experience seems more mundane. God may well be at work under the surface, behind the scenes, without frantic action on your icon. Be faithful, be consistent, be a good free sample of Jesus, and you are doing all that he wants!

Be blessed, be a blessing

A bloke was struggling with his new computer, so he called the help desk.

The man on the phone started to talk in computer jargon, talking about mice, icons, RAM and the like, which confused the poor bloke further.

“Listen,” the bloke politely said, “This is all going over my head. Please explain what I should do as if I were a four-year-old.”

“Okay,” the computer technician replied. “Son, could you please put your mum on the phone?”

tales of the unexpected

I normally wear contact lenses. In itself that is not a particularly revolutionary statement. However there is a follow-on statement: there are times when I don’t wear the lenses and have to wear glasses. Again, in itself, that is not a particularly unusual statement: many people wear glasses. Things become more complicated, however, when you add into the equation a new computer headset. The one that I have been using to speak to my computer (as I am now) broke recently and I’ve had to replace them in order to carry on dictating directly into my computer.

When I was looking at replacement headsets I considered getting a like-for-like replacement with a band that goes over the top of my head. Then I saw a headset with a strap that goes around the back of my head (see picture) and I decided that that would be more comfortable given that I don’t have any hair on the top of my head to cushion the strap from the former type and it tended to leave indentations in my head.

So I bought the headset that goes around the back of my head and have been using it very comfortably ever since. Until this morning. Today is the first day that I have worn my glasses instead of my contact lenses since I bought the new headset and I have discovered that there is a significant load placed on my ears by wearing both the glasses and the headset (which hooks over one’s ears so that it doesn’t slip off). It’s not an unbearable load but it was certainly unexpected, and one that I had not considered at the time of purchase. in fact it’s not uncomfortable at all if I readjust the headset once my glasses are on my head. Hopefully now you can see the significance of the statements in the first paragraph.

I sometimes think that life would be an awful lot easier if we could foresee all of the unforeseen events. (Of course that would mean that they weren’t unforeseen, but I think you know what I mean.) We often say that life would be a lot easier if we had 20:20 vision for the future as well as 20:20 hindsight, or that life is a lot easier when lived in reverse. but the reality is that none of this is possible, save for the occasional moment when God offers us a sneak preview through a dream, vision or supernatural insight. So the important thing is not so much being able to foresee the unforeseen as to respond appropriately to whatever comes around the corner, even the unexpected.

Where is all this bloggerel leading? Well, I have found that because I believe in God who is in ultimate control I try (hopefully) to respond to the unexpected things that life throws at me (‘googlies’ in cricket terms; ‘curveballs’ in baseball terms; ‘*^%£!’ in expletive terms) in a Christlike way. I think that means: pausing before reacting; praying before responding; laughing before shouting; adapting and adopting as appropriate.

I’m no saint.

I don’t always get it right.

But when I need it I find God’s Spirit gives me a healthy dose of grace in order to cope. Sometimes that’s all I’ve got. Usually that’s all I need.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

The California State Department of Fish and Game is advising hikers, hunters, fishermen and golfers to take extra precautions and keep alert for bears while in the Yosemite and Mammoth areas.

They advise people to wear noise-producing devices such as little bells on their clothing to alert but not startle the bear unexpectedly. They also advise carrying pepper spray in case of an encounter with a bear.

It is also a good idea to watch for fresh signs of bear activity and know the difference between black bear and grizzly bear droppings.

Black bear droppings are smaller and contain berries and possibly squirrel fur.

Grizzly bear droppings have little bells in them and smell like pepper spray.