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

some things I have learnt in 26 years 210 days

Sally and I have now been married for 26 years 210 days (to the date of writing this bloggage). I am not telling you this to brag, but to set a context for today’s bloggage, which is about a few things I have learnt along the way. In my previous role as a local church Minister I used to prepare people for marriage by going through some ‘classes’ with them where we unpacked the vows they would be saying on their wedding day and explored what they would mean in their married life together. This is something I no longer get to do so I thought I would share one or two of the things I have learnt with the rest of the blogosphere. I know that not everyone is married, that not everyone wants to get married and that others want to but aren’t at the moment, and I am not trying to put a metaphorical pie in your face and laugh at you – in fact some of these thoughts might be helpful in your relationships with friends and colleagues.

wedding rings

  1. Communicate. I used to be a lawyer and had some clients who were going through divorces. There were lots of reasons that their relationships had failed, but one thing they all had in common was a failure to communicate with one another. That doesn’t just mean talking to one another, it means talking and listening. It means seeking to explain yourself and seeking to understand the other person’s perspective. It means not assuming that the other person can read your mind. It means not stomping off in a huff. It means not raising your voice (I think that if I have raised my voice it may well be a sign that I am on weaker ground). It means being willing to compromise or even change your mind completely.
  2. Little things matter. I don’t mean negative things like whether or not the toilet seat is left up, or whether the other person has habits that annoy you. What I mean is that both parties to the relationship can enhance it by trying to bless the other person’s socks off – and that can be done in little ways like leaving a note on their pillow; offering to cook tea when you know they have had a busy day; scraping the ice off the car windows if they are the first one who will go out; thoughtful things like that. And if both of you are doing that you will appreciate each other even more.
  3. Thanks. I have often said that one of the most appealing qualities in a human being is an attitude of gratitude. Saying ‘thank you’ regularly is a really important part of a relationship, linking together points one and two. It stops you taking the other person for granted. What do you appreciate about the other person? Tell them.
  4. Kiss daily. When we are in the same house we have developed the habit of kissing each other goodbye when one leaves in the morning and of kissing each other goodnight. The kiss in the morning reminds us of our affection throughout the day. The kiss in the evening is the last thing we do at night and as well as reminding us of our love, it also serves as a check to see if there is anything that remains unresolved from the day. If we don’t feel able to kiss each other then there is still something we need to talk about. Don’t limit the kissing to those occasions, of course, just make them the minimum!
  5. Settle things quickly. This is not just about not living off credit and settling bills quickly, it’s primarily about ensuring that you resolve any disagreements quickly. Don’t allow resentment, anger, hurt or irritation to fester because they are like infected wounds that will only get worse the longer they go untreated. Talk things through. Pray things through. If you still can’t agree, work out where the area of disagreement is and agree to disagree calmly and without blame. If it’s important, get some help. If it’s unimportant, forgive one another and move on.
  6. No lists. I don’t mean shopping lists or to do lists. Lots of people function with those lists and it’s been shown that if you go shopping with a list you are less likely to impulse buy and that will save you money. No, the lists I am referring to here are the lists of things that the other person has done that upset you, annoyed you, hurt you. If you forgive, forgive in the same way that God forgives – absolutely, completely, without resentment, with abundant grace and wiping the slate clean. Once something has been dealt with it should not be allowed to resurface in a later discussion – if it does it probably hasn’t been dealt with properly yet.
  7. Eat together. Sitting down and eating a meal together provides the context for you to discuss events of the day, to listen to each other, to sense how one another is feeling. It is intimate. It is personal. You are giving the other person your undivided attention. That means that phones, tablets, laptops, televisions, radios and other devices are not allowed at the table. All you can bring is yourself and your undivided attention.
  8. Support one another. You may not share all of the interests that the other person has. But at least show some support for them. Encourage them. Ask them about it. Congratulate them if something goes well, commiserate if it doesn’t. Sally is not into magic in the same way that I am, but she supports and encourages me in my interest. She sometimes comes to a show that I do, and I love it that she does that even when she’s not really interested. You don’t have to like all of the same things, but you can like that the other person is interested in that and be interested in them. One spectacular way of supporting one another is by praying for and with one another. You can’t do enough of that.
  9. Love. This may seem strange to be down near the end of my list (although I never said that they were in any sort of order. But loving the other person is important. However it’s also really important to recognise that there are different sorts of love. There’s the romantic, erotic, phwoar type of love. There’s the sort of love that you have for your family – strong enough that you would do anything for them. And there’s what the Bible describes in 1 Corinthians 13 – a description of ‘agape’ love. The romantic, erotic, phwoar type of love comes and goes. It is an emotional response to the other person and our emotions can be influenced by lots of factors. Never give up trying to kindle that sort of love, but it’s not the sort of love on which to base a lasting relationship. Family-love is something that is deep within us. It can be wounded, battered and even destroyed by the destructive behaviour of those we love but it is almost inherent within us at the beginning of our relationship. It can also be nurtured and grow by spending quality time with one another. The ‘agape’ love of the Bible is the one that will be the best foundation for a lasting relationship and the best way to get it is to be in a relationship with God who is love. Ask for his help, his presence, his perspective. Seek to see others the way that he sees them. And realise that this love is an act of will, not an emotional response. In the wedding service I used to ask, “Will you love…” and the response was “I will”. It was a statement if intent: I will seek the best for this person, I will be patient and kind, not self-centred or self-promoting. I will honour the other person. I will keep calm and not keep a list (see above). I will seek the best for them and be honest. I will protect, trust, hope and persevere.
  10. Laugh Laughter is not the best medicine. If it was we wouldn’t need antibiotics we would tell jokes. But laughing together helps break down tension. It helps to relax you. It helps you to enjoy one another’s company. Find out what makes the other person laugh and enjoy it with them. Find out what makes them laugh about you and be glad that you can do that. Be willing to be the butt of their jokes – but keep them in the relationship. DON’T run each other down in the company of others – build each other up.
  11. Final advice. This is something always worth remembering. One good turn gets most of the bedclothes.

There’s so much more that could be (and should be) said. I am not suggesting that Sally and I have the perfect marriage. I am not saying that I always manage all of the above (except for number 4). I am certainly not setting myself up as some sort of marriage guru. But it does help when I am married to my best friend.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

possibly the best headline in the world*

*other than those made by corduroy pillows.

There are some things that seem too good to be true. My favourite newspaper headline for a long time is in today’s Independent: “Giant Minion terrorises drivers in Ireland as 40ft inflatable blocks traffic on Dublin road” – you can read the story here:

The picture that accompanies the story is perhaps even better than the headline:

If you have never seen Despicable Me or the profoundly named sequel Despicable Me 2 or even the spin-off film Minions you may not understand the significance so let me explain. The Minions are well-meaning, mischievous, seemingly indestructible little beings who support Gru (the villain / main character) in the first two films. Minions are easily distracted from their task, especially by bananas, words that sound rude and other. They are constantly getting into / causing trouble. It seems entirely appropriate that a giant inflatable minion should disrupt traffic.(If you are not worried about spoilers you can see the trailer for the latest film here).

Above all, however, minions live to serve. Their purpose in life is to support their master.

Christians are called to serve, and serving is one of the highest callings: Jesus said that greatness is measured by service, not by being served. However we are not called to be minions. To paraphrase the Bible (if you will permit me), Jesus said, “I don’t call you minions, I call you my friends.”

That blows my mind every time. Jesus the Christ, Son of God, calls us his friends!

Be blessed, be a blessing

sore jaw

My jaw is sore.

It is a result of last night.

laughing - permission given for blogIt is not aching from being punched, but from laughing. I had an evening that combined three of my favourite things. I went with a friend to see John Archer perform his wonderful comedy magic at a church in Southend. Friendship, magic, and faith all combined in one hilarious evening.


Today’s bloggage may not be the longest ever but I hope it is illustrative of some of my firmly-held beliefs:

  • my Christian faith permeates and is relevant to every area of my life – there are no areas it does not touch and should not touch.
  • it is good to laugh – especially in church.
  • an experience (good or bad) shared with friends (and family) is an experience enhanced.
  • Jesus loves it when we enjoy ourselves, he told funny stories after all, and God gave us the gift of laughter.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

last minute decision

Stew the Rabbit may, or may not appear during the evening

Today I have had an epiphany.

It’s difficult isn’t it. When one section of society celebrates it can unintentionally alienate another.

So English people might celebrate a win at rugby or football or cricket and non-England supporters can feel left out.

Sport-lovers celebrated the Olympics and Paralympics last year and those who don’t like sport were left on the sidelines.

Halloween is celebrated with plastic vampire teeth and highway robbery (plastic teeth presumably needed to replace the normal teeth rotted by all the sweets acquired by the extortion) and those who prefer not to participate (or already have false teeth) can be made to feel like killjoys.

Valentines Day encourages those who are couples, or hope to be couples to celebrate their love while unintentionally excluding those who are single.

So, at the very last minute, following this epiphany, I have decided that since I am on my own this evening (Housegroup night for Sally) I fancy having a non-Valentines un-date with anyone else who would like to join me. If you would like to meet up this evening for an evening of sillyness, laughter and friendship that may or may not include magic tricks (depending on demand) please will you send me a message via facebook, email or text and we’ll do it.

Space is limited, so this is not an open invitation to everyone in Colchester: contacting me will result in me sending you an invitation and more details. Bring something to share.

Be blessed, be a blessing.