Saturday, August 29, 2009

Whatever Moments (9)

Back in the US, after many adventures in the UK, I now reflect over several weeks of wonderful "whatever moments." Actually I shared only a few on this blog, since I was out of email contact for many days, especially when holidaying in the North of England.

Because I was on the look-out for positives, I found them everywhere. Sometimes very small things! For example, walking on the moors in Yorkshire awoke me to the wonder of every passer-by cheerily greeting me. Actually, I experimented on one long walk - would everyone I met look me in the face and say "Hello"? Yes, they did! Every single person, of all ages, some walking dogs, others jogging, or even cycling, greeted me - often with a smile. I know it's a country tradition but how wonderful! When I got back home I commented how this continuous sense of recognition and warmth from people you didn't know would be a little like heaven! Everyone you meet in glory will belong together with you!

I was interested in Richard Wiseman's new self-help book: 59 seconds. As a "professor for the public understanding of psychology", he claims his advice is based on sound research. He warns (rightly) about self-help books in general, because people can become dependent on them. He claims that anyone doing something differently for a short period will think the advice has made a difference, but actually they will either go back to their old ways, or realize that this new thing is not as effective as they were told! Instead, he calls people to think a little, but change a lot.

For example, he writes: "Boost your health and happiness by spending a few moments at the start of each week listing five things that you are grateful for in life."

Does that remind you of anything? Now I am back to reality, with mounds of mail and duties I realize it may not be as easy to keep being positive. But I need to hold on to a great truth, by God's grace:
Whatever is true,
Whatever is noble,
Whatever is right,
Whatever is pure,
Whatever is lovely,
Whatever is admirable.....think about such things (Phil. 4:8).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Whatever Moments (8)

Last Sunday I visited Leamington Road Baptist Church, Blackburn, where I was pastor 1972-79. An interval of 30 years made for high emotions, as many former members turned up to share in the morning service. I found myself leading everything, speaking to the children, preaching, praying and ending with the Lord's Supper. (I haven't done the whole works for years!) Afterwards, 70 sat down for a hot Sunday lunch, to reminisce and give thanks.

People I had baptized, married, visited in bereavement, and at other critical times, poured out memories. What was gloriously refreshing was how positive these were. I met children who were toddlers back then, and are now strapping adults fully committed to Christ. One couple I married are now key leaders in the church, never having been away and such vital 'living stones' in the church community. So many friends, appearing nowhere near 30 years older (really), still belong and serve. So many rich conversations!

I know circumstances sometimes ensure positive memories. At funerals for example, we always try to think of the best of a person. But this was a community still solidly there. Yes, its surroundings have changed dramatically (- now predominantly Muslim). And numbers are much smaller. It faces tough issues ahead. But it's there, still seeking to be God's people doing his will - a testimony to his grace. While I've been all over the place, they have stayed devoted at this place. That commitment thrilled me more than I can say.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Whatever Moments (7)

Revisiting England means brushing up against history at every turn. One particular moment of gratitude broke in on me when we visited Wimborne Minster in Dorset. Founded in 709 A.D. the current building contains glorious architecture from the Norman building onwards. But what struck me was its Chained Library dating from 1865. It contains over 350 volumes, chained on the shelves, so that readers could take them of the shelf (for one hour at a time) and read them on an inclined desk below.

As the second most important chained library in the UK, it is therefore one of the first public libraries, (though not so many people could read), and boasts some remarkable books. One of the earliest is handwritten on vellum by four scribes - it would have taken around one year to write. No wonder that a single book was worth a small farm! And no wonder they chained these books up!

The glory of books has always been high up on my wonder list. But spending time in this old library, with an enthusiastic volunteer who told me some of its history and opened up special volumes, opened my eyes afresh. I know the digital revolution is supposedly undermining the reading of old-fashioned books. But how marvelous to hold books, unchained and so freely available. Of course, Scripture remains number one for me, but I looked at all books differently as I came away from this brush with history.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Whatever Moments (6)

Most days since we have been in the UK it has rained (and been cool)! Someone commented how difficult it must be to keep on being positive, and I must honestly declare that the wet weather has really upset plans, especially with the grandchildren. Is a positive spin possible...apart from marveling how green and pleasant England continues to be?

Carol and I were sitting in a store cafe having a coffee break. Sitting next to us was a couple of ladies well into their seventies (at least). They had struggled round the store and were having a break before venturing out. Outside, menacing clouds were brewing. Suddenly they sent down another fierce burst of rain, smashing against the cafe windows. One lady turned to her neighbor and said: "Oh, look it's raining." The other replied, matter-of-factly, "That makes such a change." At this, the first lady started chuckling irrepressibly, soon joined by her was contagious. I found myself wanting to join in. For a couple of minutes they just heaved with barely suppressed laughter.

And I was given my whatever positive moment! The glorious gift of humor. How vital humor is for making positives. Thank you God for humor (and English friends...please have a sense of humour over American spelling!)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Whatever Moments (5)

A couple of days ago I celebrated another birthday. (Some of you sent greetings - thank you!) As I nudge through my sixties I am aware of many possible whatever moments. I was talking with someone last week who is three years older than me. He shared his daily habit of reading the local newspaper. "The first thing I do, every day," he said, "is to look at the obituaries. And see those people who died in the fifties and early sixties....and it makes me so grateful for the extra time I have lived!"

Well, that's one way of gaining perspective. Of course, it all depends on what we have done with our years. I am chastened to think how someone dying in their thirties (I can think of someone, can you?) can actually achieve a lifetime's work. It's all back to how we have lived and for whom we have lived. For me, the challenge remains to live my best for Christ and his Kingdom, knowing you can gain the whole world but lose your soul.

So, thank you Lord for another year, for health and strength (more or less)...and for showing me how to live more fully.