taking the time to thank

Thank youThis week I have been blessed by two people who have taken the time to thank me for something I said or wrote. It was unexpected and a real encouragement and blessing to be thanked – one electronically and the other by a card in the post.

I like to encourage an attitude of gratitude in myself and in others (as much as anything else I like the way it rhymes). When I am blessed by someone else in this way it not only boosts and encourages me, it also encourages me to do the same. So, I wonder, why don’t we do more of it when it is so positive?

Sometimes we may struggle to find something to thank someone for. My wife told me that in a group discussion among spouses at the Bible College where I trained they were considering what to say when your other half has ‘preached a stinker’. One suggestion was, “It was a good text!” I hope not to hear that too often! But it represents an attitude of gratitude – there is almost always something good for which we can be thankful in any circumstance.

Recently a lorry bumped the back of my car while we were in a slow moving queue of traffic on the M25. It has only caused minor damage to my bumper but it has caused major hassle with insurers as the lorry is from overseas. So, where’s the good for which I can be thankful?

Well, one is that nobody was injured. Another is that the driver spoke excellent English and knew which documents I would need to see. Another is that the traffic around us was moving so slowly that we were able to pull across onto the hard shoulder safely from the middle lane (and get back into the ‘flow’ of traffic after exchanging details). Another is that my car is still very much driveable. Another is that we were able to get moving again and get off the M25 before it was brought to a complete standstill.

Perhaps it’s a silly example, but I think it illustrates what an attitude of gratitude looks like. And I am trying to carry that through in all of my frustrating conversations with insurance people by making sure that I thank them for doing their job (even when it is frustrating that they can’t do what I want). So I am trying to put what I am calling the 5T principle into practice – taking the time to thank.

Another reason why we may not thank people is that it does take a bit of extra thought and effort. 5T includes ‘taking the time’ and that’s not always easy to do when we are busy people. But perhaps because it is not easy to do the effort is even more appreciated and worth it. Someone took the time to send me a message to thank me for something I wrote. Another person took the time to get a card, write it, address it, put a stamp on it and then post it! In addition to the words, the act itself speaks volumes and it has encouraged me to take the time to thank.

And as a follower of Jesus I also want to remember to put the 5T principle into practice in my relationship with God. I have so much to be grateful to him for that I won’t run out of ideas!

Because I am trying to put the 5T principle into practice – taking the time to thank – thank you for reading this bloggage.

Be blessed, be a blessing

dubious dates

datesNo, not that sort of dates.

And not romantic dates… or rather, yes, romantic dates but not that sort of date either.

Let me explain. The curmudgeonly part of me occasionally got a bit cynical about some of the anniversaries that are celebrated nowadays. There seems to have been a slide towards esoteric and trivial reasons to celebrate something. It used to be things that we would celebrate things like 100 years since someone’s birth or death; or 200 years since the founding of an organisation; or 50 years since a significant event.

But then it seemed to slither down that slippery slope towards the banal and we started celebrating every 25 years: 25, 50, 75, 175 and so on. And now we seem to be invited to celebrate any anniversary with a ‘0’ at the end – 10, 20, 90, and so on. Is it just me that thought that this is a bit much? Is it just me that cynically wondered whether it was more about marketing than celebrating?

But I have changed my mind about these dubious dates. You see I think we should take every possible opportunity to celebrate. In fact we shouldn’t even wait for a special anniversary, we should celebrate whenever we can and whatever we can.

Celebrate the fact that you woke up this morning (even if you felt under the weather).

Celebrate the person who last made you laugh or smile.

Celebrate the food that you most enjoy eating.

Celebrate what you appreciate about other people.

And so on.

And in celebrating we can also express gratitude – to the people around us who bless us, encourage us, serve us, love us and stand with us; to those who have gone before us in life who have helped to bring light and joy into the world; and, dare I suggest, to God who made us, loves us and wants to be involved positively in all aspects of our life in the same way that a good parent wants to encourage, bless, support and love their children, who has made himself known in Jesus and who is with us by his Spirit.

I have often written about having asking God’s Spirit to help me grow an attitude of gratitude but now I am also asking God’s Spirit to cultivate and integrate a desire to celebrate.

And that leads me to the romantic aspect of the dubious dates (and possibly where my wife will roll her eyes when she reads this). I am not going to get all mushy and soppy here but I have worked out that today is the 10,000th day since Sally and I got married! And that’s something to celebrate. I should point out that I have not been keeping a running score since the day we got married – I got the internet’s help in doing the calculation a couple of months ago.  I am not telling you to brag or boast, but in order to invite you to find something to celebrate: in the Bible we (in churches at least) are encouraged to rejoice with those who rejoice as well as weeping with those who weep.

So why not join me and seek God’s help to cultivate and integrate a desire to celebrate, and do so with an attitude of gratitude (and possibly a surfeit of rhymes!)?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

humbled and blessed

Stew with some of the cards, letters and creativity
Stew with some of the cards, letters and creativity

Yesterday I was given a large plastic bag. It contained lots and lots of cards and pictures and letters that children from a local school had made to say ‘thank you’ to Stew the Rabbit (and me) for supporting the school during my time at the church, especially the Assemblies.

I was blessed and encouraged by the time that they had spent making the cards, drawing the pictures and writing the letters. I was blessed and encouraged by the kind ‘we’ll miss you’ messages – some were even for me rather than Stew!

But most of all I was humbled and blessed by those who had thanked me for telling them about Jesus. That’s the main reason I went and it was so wonderful that they had recognised this and appreciated it.

The church will continue to support and bless that school, but those children who wrote and drew and created had no idea how much they have blessed me. Stew will be writing a thank you note back!

It reminded me of how important it is to say ‘thank you’ and how much something we might perceive as a simple act can multiply in impact in the life of the person on the receiving end.

Be blessed, be a blessing

being induced

Lear InviteToday I am being inducted (or induced!) as a Regional Minister. I am looking forward to the service. The service is NOT about me: it is a moment to pause, give thanks to God and recognise his call and commission on my life. And to do that publicly is important.

It is important to do it publicly just as it is important to be baptised or married publicly. It is a declaration of commitment and intent – commitment to God and his call, and intent to serve him (in his power) to the best of my ability.

(You may be wondering what the plant has to do with anything at an Induction service. I am not going to explain why at the moment – I hope it will be clear in the service. I may blog about it later on for those who can’t be there.)

To everyone who has sent me kind messages, who has promised to pray, who has been encouraging, who has made funny comments, who has sent a card, who will be at the Induction, who would like to have been there and have sent apologies, who has worked hard behind the scenes to plan and prepare the event, who will be involved in the service, who has been involved in discerning and affirming the call, and anyone else who knows me… THANK YOU.

I leave you with the words of Psalm 67 which will be part of the service:

Psalm 67

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm. A song.

May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face shine on us –
so that your ways may be known on earth,
    your salvation among all nations.

May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you rule the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.

The land yields its harvest;
    God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still,
    so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

Be blessed, be a blessing

lump in throat time

welcomepic2Last weekend was my last as Minister at Colchester Baptist Church. I want to thank everyone at the church for a wonderful send off. I had a lump in my throat the whole weekend, tears in my eyes occasionally and they’ve come back even as I write this bloggage.

We had a party on the Saturday night – with games and party food and a magician (me). If you look on Facebook you may see some of the photos, but I wish to add a disclaimer – I had no control over what was happening most of the time! It was a fantastic party and it was lovely that so many people from the church (past and present) were there. Thank you to everyone for organising, contributing and coming to such a special time.

On Sunday we had our usual two services, but with a difference. The first one had a very special time when my fantastic colleague, Lynsey, gave some gifts that underlined two consistent themes of my ministry (encouraging people to be good free samples of Jesus; and being blessed in order to be a blessing); gave Stew the Rabbit a carrot, and came closest to making my cry with a hug. Other people said nice things in the service (including a lovely poem by one of the children), Sally was given a bunch of flowers to mark that I was leaving but she isn’t for a while, and we were prayed for.

It was very emotional. But with a lot of prayer, a few watery eyes, some deep breaths, an occasional squeaky word and some God-given composure I got through without breaking down in tears. I did feel like crying though!

Then, in the evening, we had a Songs of Praise evening where we sang the church’s top ten Christian hymns and songs and heard from different people about why those songs and hymns were important to them.

It was a very special day. Thank you to everyone for all that you did, for cards, gifts and kind words.

I did lose my composure at the very end of the Songs of Praise when I tried to say ‘thank you’. But I am not surprised: the church means so much tome and I could not easily say ‘goodbye’. I was grateful that the organist played a long voluntary at the end so I could regain my composure!

I had the privilege of sharing some last words with the church in the morning service and share them here with you. (Next week the sermon may be online on the church website if you want to listen to it – it may simply be called ‘fruit’).

“Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord God will be with you wherever you go.”

“Remain in Jesus and bear fruit.”

And

“May the fruit of the Spirit grow in you.”

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Time to go and find a hanky!

building temples

Okay, it's not Solomon's Temple but one at Segesta in Sicily. Photo (c) me
Okay, it’s not Solomon’s Temple but one at Segesta in Sicily. Photo (c) me

The passages in the Bible that I have been look at recently are about the Temple that King Solomon built.

Well, let’s be honest, he didn’t build it himself. He gave the order and a team of skilled craftsmen and labourers set to work to build it. There’s no record of him even laying a ceremonial stone (have a look at many Baptist Church buildings in the UK and you’ll see stones laid by important people). His involvement in the building project was distinctly ‘hands off’.

But Solomon “built the temple”!

A couple of thoughts occurred to me. One was whether we can ever give enough credit to those around us whose work goes unnoticed and unrecognised until they don’t do it. We all notice soon enough if the streets aren’t cleaned or bins aren’t emptied. We’d all complain if they stopped repairing traffic lights when they break down. I have mentioned before that we don’t give a thought to those who work to supply us with electricity, gas and water until the supply is interrupted and then we don’t think about the hazards the repairer have to cope with to restore our comfortable lifestyle.

You can apply that thought to churches.

A second thought was whether we take too much credit for our own achievements. Listen to most acceptance speeches at awards ceremonies and you will hear a list of people ‘without whom…’ But what if you don’t get an award in which to share the credit? I was speaking with someone recently about the church I serve and was speaking very positively about it (meaning the people). And I realised that while I am one of the ministers in that church and I seek to serve, support, encourage and bless the people who are the church, the credit for what the church is like must go to the people allowing God to work through them and working with him.

You can apply that thought to other environments (work, sport, leisure…).

Solomon built the temple.

What have you built recently? Who didn’t get the credit? Why not see if you can find an opportunity to thank them?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

the unwinner is…

red carpetSo the Academy has made its awards. Oscars have been given to the winners. The nominees who were not chosen have put on their best ‘I’m so pleased for the winner, it was an honour just to be nominated’ smiles. The speeches have been speeched, the thank-yous have been thanked, the tears have been shed. The after-parties have been attended, the interviews are over. Now the red carpet is being rolled up again and the hysteria is dying down.

This whole business of awards interests me. It is good to commend excellence. It is good to encourage. It is good to inspire people to do better. But where was the award for best cup of tea? Where was the award for most thoughtful word of encouragement? Where are the awards for the hundreds of names that scroll past our eyes at the end of a film (when we wait in case there’s an extra bit right at the end)? I would love to see an award for ‘Best Best Boy’!

I know you could say that the awards that are given include recognition for those who have worked behind the scenes but that’s a bit like posting a blanket ‘thank you’ on Facebook for all your Christmas presents rather than writing individual thank you cards or making personal phone calls.

So this bloggage is a reminder to me to make sure that I thank people. I don’t get it right all the time, and I am sorry for that. But as well as thanking the obvious people, I want to encourage us to thank the people who often go unnoticed, the people who may feel unappreciated, those who will never win an award: the unwinners.

And what’s the award? It’s a Wedogofase, which stands for ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’. To all of the unwinners who have worked hard without thanks and without recognition I present you with a Wedogofase from God. I will try to present it to you personally.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

thanks

Last night we had a wonderful Carols by Candlelight service. There are so many people to thank that it’s almost impossible to do so without risking leaving someone important out. So instead I am going to say a big ‘thank you’ to everyone involved – whether you were part of the congregation or choir, a musician or sound / video operator, a reader or speaker, a refreshment-server or setter-up-erer, a cleaner-up-afterwards-er or a candle-lighter, a welcomer or steward, a putting-the-words-on-the-latop-er or car park organiser, and so on.

Of course I have just done what I said I wouldn’t and have written a list of participants that risks leaving someone out. So, if your role is not listed above please forgive me and accept my gratitude to you for doing what you did. Having an attitude of gratitude is important, as is expressing thanks personally.

As a child I can remember what a chore I considered it to have to write ‘thank you’ letters after Christmas to the Grandparents, uncles and aunts and others who had been kind enough to give me a gift. I would put it off as long as possible, but eventually (usually under threat of sanction) I would write the letters. What I didn’t consider was the impact on those who received my handwritten letters, which I hope expressed genuine gratitude even if they were written under coercion.

Now I am acutely aware of how precious it is when someone says ‘thank you’ – verbally in person or over the phone, by email, in a letter (handwritten or typed), in a text, in a tweet, on Facebook and even in responses to these bloggages. There are so many different communication methods we can use to say ‘thank you’ and express appreciation that there’s not really a good excuse for us failing to do so.

laugh

One of the problems for those who have no Christian faith is that they run out of people to thank. If the Universe is an accident and not brought into being by the Designer then when we are blessed by events beyond human intervention to whom do you express gratitude? When a view takes your breath away, when good things happen, when a thought makes you smile, when you feel blessed, (to paraphrase the Ghostbusters) who you gonna thank?

Perhaps this Christ-mas you could thank the One who the heart of it all rather than a man in a red suit.

Be blessed, be a blessing

isn’t it ironic?

In the last week I have posted twice about the renovation that I have carried out on a toy car (see here and here if you have missed them). Today I took my real car to a garage because it has been making some less than healthy noises. I had checked online and it seemed to me that there was a fault with the flywheel.

I have just had a call from the garage and my diagnosis was correct. The flywheel was definitely on its way out and needs replacing – along with the clutch system at the same time (since they are there). I had checked out the price of the parts and had expected that it wouldn’t be cheap and it isn’t. But it needs to be done.

The irony of the situation struck me a moment ago – I have been expressing joy at how my toy car repair has been going while all the time the real one has been slowly disintegrating.

I think you can do your own application here about priorities!

Not much point being able to rev a lot if the car won't move!
Not much point being able to rev a lot if the car won’t move!

What I was actually thinking about this morning is how (for normal non-mechanic mortals like me) if you had asked me to name the parts of a car I would have been very unlikely to have come up with ‘Dual Mass Flywheel’. But it is an essential component. Without it driving would be a very jerky clunky affair, if you could do it at all. The flywheel is the bit attached to the engine that spins around and smooths out a lot of the vibrations and provides continuous rotation within the engine. It would be very difficult to get the power from the engine through to the wheels on the road without other components being torn apart by the torque if there wasn’t a flywheel. It’s also the bit that keeps the engine turning over after you have got ‘ignition’, and is usually the bit the starter motor turns to get the engine going in the first place. *

I have learnt stuff about flywheels today!

Who or what are the flywheels in your life? Who or what keeps you going? What helps you to smooth out the bumps and cope with the vibration of life? Who are the unsung heroes of your life, of your church, of your business, of your community? Who are the ones who are only noticed when they are not there?

Perhaps today should be national flywheel day in honour of those people. Give them a hug, a phone call, a text message, send them a letter, give them chocolate (or a low fat, diabetic-friendly alternative). Let them know they are appreciated.

Give thanks to God for the flywheels in your life.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

 

*According to the websites I looked at – I don’t really understand too much more than I have written here so please don’t start asking me any technical questions! And don’t get too critical if my low tech explanation is incorrect.

 

delegation

What happens if you just ask someone to buy you a mouse...
What happens if you just ask someone to buy you a mouse…

Delegating is difficult. If we ask someone to do something we need to make sure that we provide them with the resources to do it, that they have the skills and ability needed to do it, and that they will be able to complete the task within the time scale needed. And there’s the distinct likelihood that the person to whom a task has been delegated will do things differently to the way we would have done it. Delegation requires a degree of oversight, encouragement and support and the temptation can be to do things ourselves because it can take a lot of effort to delegate successfully.

But if we don’t delegate we limit what can be achieved to our own skills and ability, resources and available time. And we also deprive someone else of the opportunity to contribute and to have a sense of accomplishment at the end of it. We limit what can happen to the limits of our own imagination.

Recently I asked someone to design something for our church. I gave a working idea to them, parameters for the design and asked them to produce something. I am so glad I did that rather than trying to do it myself. What they have produced is way beyond anything I would have conceived. It’s brilliant.

The outcome is not only that the church will have something new and special to offer people who are newcomers, not only that I have had the opportunity to thank someone and that it has used someone’s gifts, but also that they have had the chance to use their amazing gifts as an act of worship.

Delegating is not easy. It can be risky. But I suspect that many of the occasions when I have delegated and it has not gone well it is perhaps more down to me not delegating well and failing to support / oversee helpfully rather than failure on the part of the person to whom I have delegated.

Of course Jesus has taken the risk of delegating the task of telling people the good news about him to us, the church. He offers support, encouragement, advice and enhances our gifts through his Spirit…

Be blessed, be a blessing