just what I wanted

giftIt’s been a bit quiet here recently hasn’t it? I had some time off between Christmas and New Year and decided to take a break from blogging too. I hope you are not too disappointed… but despite popular demand I am back!

So how was Christmas? Were there enough socks, aftershave and handkerchiefs to last until next Christmas? How about the blokes? (boom boom) I wonder what the most useful present was? Which will be cherished most? Which gift will still be significant this time next year?

Did you assume that the questions in the previous paragraph were all about the gifts you received or the ones you gave? As I was reflecting in anticipation of writing this bloggage I did reflect on the gifts I had received – on the generosity of those who gave them to me; the surprise when I unwrapped some of them and they were unexpectedly ‘just what I wanted’; on how useful they will be; on how the vouchers have been spent already (and we’re just waiting for the postperson to come with them). And it struck me that by giving gifts to others we can multiply that experience. It was not just about me as recipient but me as giver: how does it feel when someone appreciates a gift that we give?

And then I got to thinking about God (as I do). The Bible describes him as generous, loving to give, gracious and desiring to give good gifts. I often think about how God has been generous to me, but have not stopped so often to think about how it makes God feel to be generous, to give gifts, and to bless us. If it’s anything like we feel when we have given a gift and it’s ‘just what I wanted’ then it’s no wonder that heaven is a place of joy! If you can cope with the anthropomorphism, can you imagine the smile on his face as he sees us using the gifts he has given?

But what if the gifts that are given are put away in a cupboard and forgotten until the next charity collection or jumble sale? We would not tell the person who gave them to us that this is what we have done with their generous gift, would we? Or what about those things we plan to take back to the shop – ‘have you got the receipt?’ is not the most gracious response when receiving a gift! So what about those things that God has given you which you have put in a cupboard and forgotten about, or those things you don’t think you want or need? Here are just a few to get you started:

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, self-control, forgiveness, grace, reconciliation, generosity, hospitality, administration, teaching, encouraging, building others up, faith, hope…

Why not get them out, dust them off and use them for the purpose for which he has given them – that we might be blessed and be a blessing.

Happy New Year to you all.

the Baptist who refused to get wet

Yesterday I was challenged to tip a bucket of icy water over my head and give some money to charity. If I am honest I am surprised that it took people that long to nominate me. The person who challenged me also included a sensitive ‘this is optional’ clause and I sensitively opted out. That may surprise you because if anyone should be keen on getting wet it should be a Baptist Minister!

It’s not because I am a wuss (although I may be). It’s not because I am against having fun or looking silly (read the rest of my bloggages and see the photos below if you doubt me). It’s not because I am against the important charity that is being supported through this (they are a worthy cause and have done so well to raise money and awareness through this challenge). It’s not even because I am a stubborn bloke who doesn’t go along with the crowd (you can debate this one if you like). 

It’s because my charity giving is between me and the charities I support.  I chose those charities because they are working in areas and ways that I want to support not because someone challenged me to support them. I chose to support those charities quietly, under the radar, without publicity. I support because I thought not because of a well-intentioned challenge. 

Jesus said, “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret.”

And to me that settles the matter. I can’t do the ice bucket challenge because if I am going to tip a bucket of icy water over my head I am going to need both hands!

I hope you realise that last statement was facetious… but actually I do think that giving to others should be between us and the others, witnessed only by God.

Now, please, if you have given by tipping a bucket of icy water over your head, if you intend to, if you have given in other ways to that charity, bless you. Well done. Congratulations. I am not criticising you. I am just trying to explain why I have declined. If you have done the challenge, can I challenge you further: don’t let your giving cease once you have dried off and warmed up.

childhood nickIn the spirit of making a fool of myself in public (which seems to be behind the viral spread of the ice bucket challenge) I am posting some photos of me as a child for your entertainment.

Yes, I am in all four photos!

Be blessed, be a blessing.