This is Sandy. She was the first of our family hamsters. As you can see she was a very holy, prayerful hamster.
It may be that she was actually eating a sunflower seed, but it looks like a praying hamster to me (as opposed to a praying mantis).
I use that image to illustrate a reflection card, which I still use. The reflection goes as follows:
At the end of every day take a few moments to review the day as you and God together watch an action replay. As you do this, have these questions in mind:
How did I experience God’s love today?
How did I express God’s love today?
Where did I act out of selfishness rather than love today?
Let the answers to these questions lead you into gratitude (for your experience of God’s love), encouragement (for your growth in service) and confession (for the times you missed the mark).
These are simple, but profound questions that I find enhance my relationship with God and others.
I don’t always remember to do it: I have tried to associate it with cleaning my teeth at night so I remember to do it, but sometimes other things push it out of my mind. However, when I remember, I find that this sort of reflection is helpful. Perhaps you will become a holy hamster too.
As an Association of Baptist Churches we are engaging in a process of prayerful reflection about the future strategic direction of the Association. To this end we have sent out postcards to all of our churches and asked them to pray about this and, assuming that God will say things in response to the prayers, write anything down that he has been saying and send them back for us to consider.
To help facilitate this we also sent out an email with some suggestions for how the prayer postcards could be used and inviting churches to use a prayer that I wrote as part of this process. This is the prayer:
Lord Jesus, our Savour.
We have recently celebrated your birth in this world and rejoiced that you are Immanuel, God with us. You have shown us our Heavenly Father’s love – supremely in your death on the cross. Thank you that after your resurrection you gave your people, the Church, the task of being Immanuel among the people who do not yet know you. You call us to go into your world, to make disciples, to baptise them and teach about you. Thank you that by your Spirit you are with us to help us in this task.
Thank you too that our local church is part of a wider family of churches, particularly Baptist churches, and as part of that family we are seeking your guidance today.
Inspire us in our thinking. Encourage us our imagining. Help us to see with the eyes of faith what you would have us do and broaden our vision beyond our human limitations. Speak to us and through us so that we might discern what you are saying to us as a church and to our wider family in the Eastern Baptist Association.
Speak, Lord, your servants are listening.
Did you spot it? The deliberate mistake that was put in? Or, to be more honest, the typing error on my part.
“Lord Jesus, our Savour” – I missed out the ‘i’ in ‘Saviour’!
And when I noticed this morning I wondered whether it might not actually cause some unintentional theological reflection. Because ‘savour’ has interesting meanings, including:
Taste (good food or drink) and enjoy it to the full
Enjoy or appreciate (something pleasant) to the full, especially by lingering over it
A characteristic taste, flavour, or smell, especially a pleasant one
So how does Jesus add savour to your life? How much do you savour being a follower of his and enjoying it to the full? How much do you linger over who Jesus is and what he has done for you?
I know that for some of you life is not easy, joyful, happy… but that does not mean that focusing your attention again on Jesus will not add savour to your life, it does not mean that you cannot appreciate who he is.
Last night I went to another meeting of the Mid Essex Magical Society (available to enhance a charity event near you – so long as it’s in Essex). Once a month we hold a Feedback Night. This is not where we try to see how close we can get a microphone to a loudspeaker before getting the loud screeching noise, It’s an opportunity for some of the magicians to perform a routine and receive constructive criticism from the rest of the club. It might be a relatively polished routine that we are looking to enhance or a work in progress where we would appreciate some advice.
Bearing in mind that MEMS is full of brilliant magicians, many of whom are members of the Magic Circle and have years of experience, you would have thought that performing in front of them would be quite scary. In fact it is something that I really appreciate because of the intent, tone and content of the feedback that I receive. The feedback is offered (admittedly because it has been invited by virtue of performing on Feedback Night) in a constructive way: “Have you thought about…”; “I noticed that…”; “You could try…” What is offered is not critical in the negative sense but it is thoughtful and considered, providing the performer with the opportunity to draw on years of experience, ideas, wisdom and skill.
Last night I performed a routine that I used in a service on the previous Sunday morning because after the service I reflected on what I’ve done and came up with an alternative way of performing the trick. I decided to run it past MEMS for their reflection. The feedback I received was very helpful and has given me food for thought (which is actually a pun if you know the routine I performed (actually it’s a pun whether or not you know the routine but you won’t recognise it as a pun unless you know the routine)).
How often do we invite feedback from others? I think most of the time we run away from it because we are afraid of negative criticism. But if we can learn to offer positive, constructive feedback that is designed to enhance and improve and is offered with grace and consideration of how it will be received then I think it is more likely to be welcomed (even better if it is invited rather than offered!).
In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 we read these words: “Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” That’s certainly what happens at MEMS. I hope you get that experience too.
On Sunday I had a mini retreat. Members of our church were leading the services and it gave me the opportunity to have some time just with me and Jesus. It was a bit unorthodox. My plan was to drive out of Colchester and find somewhere quiet to sit, read, contemplate and pray. But everywhere I went there were people. It was a lovely sunny day and the roads were full of cyclists, Sunday drivers and people who had blown the cobwebs off their convertible cars. The places where I thought I would stop were already occupied.
So in the end I spent some of the day just driving, appreciating God’s countryside, and thinking. Eventually I found myself overseas. Well, on Mersea Island anyway. I found a quietish car park and settled down to read and pray. I started to read some of the sermons that Charles H Spurgeon had preached around the Communion table (the book is called ‘Till He Come’).
The second one I read was called ‘Under His shadow’ and was based on Psalm 91:1. In the King James Version that Spurgeon used it reads as:
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
The new New International Version translates the same verse as:
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
I found myself captivated by that, and Spurgeon’s reflections on that one verse were uplifting, inspiring, encouraging and challenging. I won’t rehearse them all here because I am still contemplating them for myself, but think for a moment about what the Psalmist wrote.
What does ‘the shelter (or secret place) of the Most High’ mean?
What does it mean to abide (rest) in the shadow of the Almighty?
There’s so much in these words but surely as a minimum they indicate a close proximity to God. You can’t be in his shadow if you are a long way away. You can’t be sheltered by him if you are distant from him.
If you are in need of rest or shelter I suggest the first thing to do is start with drawing closer to God. And a good place to start is where I started – take yourself off and spend some time with Jesus. He’s waiting for you…
Why do we say that someone is busy as a bee? Surely it should be buzzy as a bee? Yes I know that these are very active and diligent in collecting pollen, but we don’t say that we are as busy as other insects who are equally active and diligent. And while I’m thinking about it why is it that the buzzier an insect is the less capable it is of flying out of an open window? Silent insects seem to have no problem flying back out the way they came in. But buzzy ones spend ages bashing their heads against a window right next door to the space through which they entered.
Today I have an extremely busy day. It might even be a minor miracle if I manage to get to all of the different activities on time, unflustered, and able to focus on the different aspects of all I have to do. The success or otherwise of this busy day will depend on the availability of parking spaces and the free movement of traffic to enable me to move between meetings with a minimum of stress.
Two brief thoughts occur to me as I contemplate today: the first is that the busier I am the more time I need to spend in prayerful reflection. This enables me to get things in the right perspective and recognise that I am not indispensable.
The second is that often I concentrate on the meetings/events and not what happens between them. But without the time, movement and activity between the meetings/events the meetings/events will not happen. God wants to be involved as much in the ‘down time’ as in the moments of activity. Indeed I can use the ‘down time’ to focus more on him than perhaps I’m able to do when I’m busy.