how’re you doin’?

(in a non-Joey from Friends way!!)

How have you been coping with the lockdown? Some people who prefer their own company may have been flourishing while others who are energised by the company of others may be in despair. ‘Huggers’ may be reduced to hugging pillows and cushions soon. Children may well be climbing the walls (or their parents will) as their normal activities are curtailed, although they may be delighted at being told to go and play computer games when their frazzled parents have had enough.

I have not found it too difficult (yet). I can manage to do some of my job from home (online or on the phone) and I am comfortable enough with technology that I can keep in touch with the wider family by video. Meetings have either been cancelled or turned into virtual meetings – and we have to learn new meeting skills for those occasions.

That’s one of the positives I think we may be able to draw from this – at the end I suspect that a far higher proportion of the population will be more tech savvy than when it started.

Another seems to be a rediscovering of the importance of local community. A WhatsApp group has been created for our road and a neighbouring road and alongside being introduced to people we have either ignored or nodded towards in the past we are interacting and supporting one another. Sally, my wife, has even initiated an Easter Egg hunt (pictures and creations in windows and around the street) for when children take their exercise with the family, and we’re hoping that a delivery of chocolate eggs will arrive in time so we can reward participants.

In addition to keeping in touch with all of the ministers and churches I serve and seeking to advice and support them as they face new challenges I have started a series of silly magical videos with my magic accomplice – Stew the Rabbit. They have a short encouraging message at the end and you can see them at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCydPS_gPVXqtwZEO2CfO9yw if you are interested. I have also done a virtual magic show for a group that is keeping its members in touch with one another. Both have challenged my video recording and creation skills. It’s been fun.

So I go back to my initial question. How are you coping? I wonder if you can turn that level of ‘cope’ into prayer? If it’s ‘not very well’ – ask God to help you to manage those emotions and to bring you someone who can encourage you. If it’s ‘okay’ – ask God to help you to flourish and to grow beyond ‘okay’. If it’s ‘thriving’ then ask God to help you to see others who are in need and find ways of encouraging and supporting them. You may not be a praying person. That’s okay. God’s not selfish – he loves to hear everyone’s prayers and responds to them. You may not really be sure if there is a God. That’s okay too. God knows you exist and will respond to the level of faith that you have.

In the Bible Jesus spoke about having faith the size of a mustard seed (very small) and that amount of faith being able to do amazing things. But how do you quantify mustard seed sized faith? I reckon it’s having just enough faith to pray.

May you know God’s blessing and love during these unusual days. And if you do pray, my prayer to go with yours is that you will be able to see God’s answer or even that you may be the answer to someone else’s prayers.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

and the winner is…

So the headline news today is that in a well-hyped ceremony to give awards to people who have done their job well some of the people were announced as the winners of an award and then someone else realised it was a mistake and that some other people should have been given the award.

Meanwhile, in other news, three quarters of a million people are trapped in Western Mosul as Iraqi forces seek to expel the IS fighters; people are still dying every day as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean to get to Europe; people around the world (and in the UK) are being bought and sold as slaves; famine is beginning to stalk its prey in South Sudan; politicians are seeking to evade public scrutiny by declaring those who criticise as ‘fake news’ (it happened in the UK yesterday when our Home Secretary tried to defend the Government’s decision to stop taking any more unaccompanied refugee children under the ‘Dubs Amendment’)…
You get the idea.

I am not saying that it was surprising that at an awards ceremony as well-organised as the Oscars the wrong film should be announced as the winner of ‘best picture’. It’s difficult to imagine quite what went wrong, or how embarrassed people felt when the error was realised. But should this be the first headline on the news today? Is this the most important thing that has happened in our world?

I suspect that ‘envelopegate’ or whatever this gets dubbed will be forgotten soon enough, except perhaps by those who made the mistake – it may haunt them for a while, and maybe we should spare a thought for them. Their mistake was made public – broadcast across the world and then becoming headline news. Most of our mistakes are less well publicised (thank the Lord).

I try to remember to offer prayers when I hear of tragedies and crises whether they are global, national, local or personal. I know that lots of you do too. I know that lots of churches do. Will we pray as fervently for those caught up in ‘envelopegate’ as in the other issues I highlighted?

Can we get a bit of perspective back, please, and focus more on the more important things – matters of life and death?

Can we show some grace and compassion to all, please, recognising that everyone makes mistakes?

Can we get worked up enough about the important things in life to pray about them, and then to take action and be part of the answer to that prayer?

Be blessed, be a blessing

the parable of the pray-ers

A man sat down to pray. He tried to imagine what God was like. He thought of God’s creativity: he considered the vastness of the Universe and the tiniest sub-atomic particles. He thought of God’s love: he considered Easter and what that says about the depth of God’s love, grace and forgiveness. He considered things what make God smile: a child learning to walk and an old man struggling to his feet to give his seat up on the tube for a pregnant woman. He pondered these and other things for a long time.

A woman got up in the morning. “Good morning Lord, what are we going to do today?” she asked as she hurried along the street to catch the bus to work.

MEDION DIGITAL CAMERAA young child sat at the dinner table looking despondently at the broccoli and cabbage alongside a piece of pie. She did not like much on what was on her plate. She prayed with feeling: “For what we are about to receive may the Lord MAKE US truly thankful. Amen.”

A cleaner had been working all day in the hospital. She had cleaned thoroughly under beds, in hard-to-reach corners, on top of cabinets and in the less pleasant areas of the hospital. As she cleaned she hummed songs and hymns that she had sung in church recently.

A young woman was checking out websites of charities that were working with people who had suffered injustice. It moved her deeply to read of the plight of people who were trafficked, enslaved, kept in poverty, unable to express their beliefs and so much more. “Why do people do this to one another?” she thought.

A man was playing golf with his friends. He was not having a good day. His fourth golf ball seemed to be as repelled by the greens and attracted to the rough as his previous (lost) three. He smiled as finally he hit a shot that went straight and landed on the green. “Hallelujah!” he muttered just loud enough for his friends to hear.

A man wept.

A woman was in her own little world. It was not by choice. Her illness had robbed her of the ability to recall people, events, precious memories and so much more. Yet when she gathered with the others in the nursing home for their weekly ‘service’ she could recall and sing some of the hymns she had sung throughout her life and for a moment the veil was lifted.

Which of these was a proper prayer and which do you think was most effective? Which one did God hear?

If you feel that those are not valid questions, I agree with you. So how do you pray?

Be blessed, be a blessing

brief and personal

I am pleased to say that I have been very busy today, and will continue to be after a brief tea break. This means that I have not had time to get my thoughts ordered and bloggerel written today. Sorry.

However, thank you to all who prayed in response to my request last week. Yesterday a NHS committee met and decided to fund an operation that should help minimise or stop a constant migraine that is plaguing me at present. I am grateful to them for the decision, to you for your prayers and to God for making sure that they fully understood the need and circumstances. I don’t believe he will have forced them to do what I want – he gives free will after all – but he can make it as easy as possible for people to make a wise and good decision. More theology tomorrow perhaps!

Be blessed, be a blessing