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 But the levity does not change the reality of the situation: part or all of a paid-for rail journey has been replaced by a bus.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.

blessed

Yesterday I celebrated the anniversary of my exit from my mother’s womb and I was blessed.

I was blessed by the gifts and cards from friends and family.

I was blessed by the many birthday greetings.

I was blessed by spending some of the day discerning God’s will for someone.

I was blessed by the arrival of windows in my study conversion.

I was blessed to spend the evening with Sally.

I was blessed when I looked at a selection of vouchers in my wallet to see I had some extra bonus shopping points available if I spent £4 on hair care products even though I am bald – at least someone (a machine) didn’t see it.

I was blessed by these pictures that my family posted on Facebook…

First of all my sister posted this:

(She’s the one with bunches beside me, in the days when I not only had hair but it was curly!)

And then my daughter decided to get in on the act:

(The one on the left was at my farewell party at my previous church when they had to use newspaper to create a new outfit for me to wear as a Regional Minister (I haven’t worn it); the middle one was where I found that I could use the suction in the pig launcher to stick it on my head. I think the third one was in a restaurant where my daughter tried to take a photo of me and I put my tongue out.)

I was blessed by the memories provoked by those photos.

I was blessed by how many people ‘liked’ those photos – I assume that they at least made them smile and that’s a good thing.

I was blessed by the banter that accompanied the photos.

I was blessed by the reminder that little things (like taking a moment to write ‘happy birthday’ on Facebook make a big difference.

I was blessed by seeing how God is at work in the lives of Ministers and churches in our Association.

I was blessed by being able to write a reference for a friend and say how wonderful they are.

I was blessed by knowing that even in some of the difficult circumstances in which I am ministering there is hope because God is involved – and he can do resurrections! Even if life feels sucky and yucky God is with us in it and won’t leave us alone: when we feel like we are sitting on life’s manure heap he comes and sits beside us and shares the misery – that’s amazing grace!

And today I am blessed because I can count so many blessings from yesterday.

Thank you God, and thank you to those of you whom he used to bless me, whether or not you are aware that he did!

Be blessed, be a blessing

count your blessings

I have just received this year’s ‘Count Your Blessings’ leaflet from Christian Aid. In case you don’t know, instead of giving up treats like chocolate and cake, you use the Count Your Blessings calendar through the 40 days of Lent to be inspired to an attitude of gratitude for what we have, pray for those who have less, and do something to help change the lives of the world’s poorest communities.

There’s a version for children, and this year there will be Android and iPhone apps too.

If you haven’t got involved and you want to, go to Christian Aid’s website

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Some one-liners from http://jokes.christiansunite.com 

Gravity always gets me down
This statement is false
Eschew obfuscation
They told me I was gullible and I believed them
It’s bad luck to be superstitious
According to my best recollection, I don’t remember
Honk if you like peace and quiet
The Big Bang Theory: God Spoke and BANG! it happened
Atheism is a non-prophet organization
Despite the cost of living, have you noticed how it remains so popular?
Save the whales: collect the whole set
A day without sunshine is like, night
The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese
Corduroy pillows: They’re making headlines!
Gravity – It’s not just a good idea, it’s the LAW!
Life is too complicated in the morning
Nobody’s perfect I’m a Nobody
Ask me about my vow of silence

Counting our blessings again

Once again this year Christian Aid are releasing Count Your Blessings for Lent. Baptist Christians don’t tend to make as much of Lent as other churches, but I thoroughly recommend you take part in this if you can*.

The idea is that each day during Lent we are encouraged to consider our position of privilege in the wealthy West and make a small donation or pray a prayer that can be used to help alleviate poverty and suffering in the poorer parts of the world through Christian Aid. I have found it a very helpful balance in my life to do this.

It is all to easy for us to become relaxed and comfortable with our standard of living. We don’t consider ourselves to be wealthy. Well let me tell you that I KNOW you are wealthy. How? You are reading this blog. You have access to the internet. In Mali only 0.2% of the population have access to the internet.

How will that knowledge change the way you view yourself? How does it change the way you view the world? When you give thanks to God for your circumstances do you do so glibly or do you accept the responsibility that they bring with them?

Lent starts on Ash Wednesday. Count Your Blessings 2012 starts on 27th Feb. It’s not to late to get involved!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*Leaflets will be available from our church on Sunday, or you can download it from here (an android phone app is also available).