Monthly Archives: February 2016

Lent 2016 Reflection at Compline

Some weeks ago when I first preached on keeping a Gratitude diary
I said that I had gotten into the habit of looking out for things throughout the day
that I might put into my diary at the end of it.

When you first begin to keep such a diary
there are always new things you can think of to write in it.
But after you have been doing it for a while
you find that you can easily begin to repeat yourself,
because finding different and fresh instances each day for which to express gratitude becomes a little harder.

That is when I started watching carefully during the day to find something different.
For me that was a good thing
because I began actively looking for things to be thankful about.
I found that it changed my attitude to the day,
I slowly began to live each day predisposed to finding things I appreciated.

It made me begin to look at my life’s experiences with new eyes.
That is what the spiritual discipline of gratitude does for us;
It helps us to see things and situations with new eyes – with thankful eyes.

Tomorrows Lenten reflection is about learning to see with new eyes;
seeing things in new ways; looking at life from a different perspective.

There are certain things in life that we find ourselves enduring rather than enjoying.
For me personally, one of those things is meetings.
I hate being on committees
and find myself inwardly groaning when I see a meeting coming up in my diary.
Inevitably, it means I go into that meeting with a negative attitude;
and, inevitably, my negative attitude leads me to getting frustrated in the meeting.

Keeping a gratitude diary helps me to enter such a situation with new eyes,
and, hopefully, with a better attitude.
If I have such a meeting in the day, as I did today,
I try and find something in that meeting to write in my Gratitude diary for that day.
What it does is make me look for something good to appreciate,
rather than be constantly expecting, and therefore getting, the worst.
I have not perfected it yet, but the journey has begun!

What is there in your life that needs to be seen through new eyes?
Maybe your gratitude diary can help the change to begin.

Lent 2016 The Blessing of Now

Monday 29th February

Matthew 6:21
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Find Gratitude in the little things
and your well of gratitude will never run dry.
– Antonio Montoya

Always begin with small things.
Our gratitude should not be reserved
for so called larger blessings and pleasures of life,
but should first and foremost be expressed for the small blessings of each day.
The simple pleasures of life are the ones that tend to get taken for granted,
and yet are the very jewels that make our life rich.
Noticing, appreciating, and taking time to say thank you,
for the small valuable jewels in our daily life will never fail to make our life richer.
Each moment is precious, yet how many moments do we miss
by anticipating what we will be doing in 30 minutes time,
rather than appreciating this moment right here and now?
Living in gratitude means appreciating the wonder of this present moment,
whatever we may be doing.
Today, pause every now and again and remind yourself of the blessing of now.

Lent 2016 Sermon for Lent 3

I don’t know if you ever watch the television comedy: Mrs Brown’s Boys?
It’s not to everyone’s taste – people tend to love it or hate it.
Personally, I love it and find its slapstick and irreverent humour hilarious.
At the end of the episode which was shown over Christmas,
Mrs Brown is sat in her kitchen mulling over the chaotic events of the week;
and she ended with the following words:
“The past doesn’t matter. The future? Who knows?
It’s the present that counts. Do you know why they call it the present?
Because it’s a gift. Enjoy the gift.”

How much of our life is spent worrying about, or mulling over, things that have past?
How much of our life is spent anxious about what tomorrow will bring,
or making plans for the future?
And all the while we are missing out on what is most important:
this moment, right here right now. The present. The gift.

Life is what happens, wrote John Lennon in one of his songs,
while we are busy making other plans.
How easy it is to miss out on the great gift of the present moment,
because we are too busy looking for gifts elsewhere?

This moment is a unique moment.
It is a unique moment in my life and your life.
We are never going to have this moment ever again.
We are never going to breathe this breath again.
It is a once and once only moment; and that makes it very precious.

This could be our last moment. It could be a life changing moment.
It could be a healing moment. It could be a moment when we are inspired.
It could simply be a moment of rest; a moments pause in our daily activities.
One thing is for certain – It is holy moment. It is a moment filled with God.
How often do we fully live the moment in awareness of that?

My dad suffers from short term memory loss. He forgets things very quickly.
When I visit him we will be sat in his living room and he will say: “It’s beautiful day.”
A few minutes later he will say: “it’s a beautiful day.” And so the morning will go on.
But, along with the frustration of forgetfulness
he has been given the gift of living fully in the present moment.

He notices and rejoices in the beauty of the day over and over again,
while I may recognise it once and hardly notice it for the rest of the day.
I have learned a lot from him over the last few years.
This moment is far too precious to be lost by constantly looking back at the last one
or anticipating the next one.   It is now that matters.

The Lenten reflection for tomorrow is about appreciating the small moments in life,
and not reserving our gratitude for life’s larger pleasures and events.
Find gratitude in the little things, writes Antonio Montoya,
and your well of gratitude will never run dry.

The word “Now” is one of the most common words in the Bible,
it is apparently used over 1300 times
– though, I have to admit, I have not counted them myself!
But there is a great emphasis in scripture
upon “this” moment as being the moment of our Salvation,
upon “this” moment as the time God speaks to us, comes to us, abides with us.

Our God is the God of the present moment.
It is in the small encounters of this present moment that we shall experience God;
it is in “this” moment, now, that we need to seek God
and open our hearts to recognise God’s presence.
Gratitude for the little things in life will help us to do just that.

Do you know why they call it the present? Says Mrs Brown
Because it’s a gift. Enjoy the gift.
And, I would add, be thankful.

Lent 2016 Gratitude and Humility

Saturday 27th February

Philippians 2:3
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,
but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

In normal life we hardly realise how much more we receive than give,
and life cannot be rich without such gratitude.
It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements
compared with what we owe to the help of others.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The man I spoke of in yesterday’s reflection
came to understand the truth of Bonhoeffer’s words.
It is easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements,
compared with what we owe to the help of others.
Gratitude is impossible without humility, the two go hand in hand.
Pride kills gratitude because it makes us focus
on what we believe we have achieved for ourselves,
rather than on the gifts that we have been given.
Humility does not mean we deny our talents and successes,
it just puts them into perspective and onto a wider playing field
so that we realise that our talents and success are not purely of our own making.
Our talents are gifts we are given,
and involve a lot of other people to whom we owe gratitude.
Humility means we recognise our deficiencies alongside our talents,
and accept our reliance on the gifts and talents of others, with humble thanks.

Lent 2016 People who Make a Difference

Friday 26th February

Hebrews 12:28
Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken,
and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe.

We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.
– J.F. Kennedy

I once read of a man who suddenly came to the realisation
that he had lived most of his life in a selfish and self-centred way.
He had always been proud of his achievements
and the fact that he was a self-made man.
He had started out with nothing and become a millionaire,
and he regularly made it known that he had asked nothing of anybody
and that everything he had was down to his own hard work and skills.
Then one day he met someone who had given him his first break in business,
and he felt ashamed that he had forgotten all about him.
He decided to make a point of going to this person’s home,
thanking him for what he had done
and asking his forgiveness for taking the gift for granted.
After he had done that it was like the scales fell from his eyes
and he began to realise that his success and his wealth
was not all of his own making,
but had been made possible by the contributions
of a great many people over the years.
He decided to make a list of these people and visit each one to say thank you.
Once he started he was amazed at how long the list became
and he ended up taking a year out
to track down as many of these people as he could
visiting them if possible, or at the very least writing to them, to say thank you.
His life changed from that moment on and he began to use his wealth to help others.
He discovered a joy in life he had never had before,
even with his wealth and success.
How big is our list of people that we need to express gratitude to?

Lent 2016 Receiving Thanks Graciously

Thursday 25th February

Luke 17:16
And he fell on his face at Jesus at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.

When complimented or praised,
a sincere thank you is the only response required.
-H. Jackson Brown Jnr.

It is important to give thanks to others for so many different reasons:
a gift, help given, a kind word received,
or for simply being a part of our lives.
But how are we at receiving thanks or praise ourselves?
How good are we at graciously receiving a compliment?
How often do we find ourselves saying “Oh, it was nothing”
or “Goodness, anyone would have done that” or some other such remark.
Receiving thanks graciously is just as important as giving thanks.
So the next time someone compliments you,
says “thanks” to you, or praises you for something,
instead of playing it down accept their thanks graciously.
“your welcome”; “my pleasure”, “thank you”, “glad I could help”, “that’s kind of you”
are much more gracious ways to respond to a compliment.
We do not always find it easy
to receive thanks, praise, compliments, or appreciation,
but when we do we give pleasure to the giver.
I love the story of the woman smothering Jesus in oil and kissing his feet.
(Mark 14:3-9)
He wasn’t embarrassed by her love and gratitude,
he didn’t push her away or try to stop her,
he received it graciously and allowed her the pleasure of her gratitude.
May we allow others theirs.

Lent 2016 Reflection at Compline

In Tuesday’s Lenten reflection I wrote about beginning the day well;
how if the day starts off on the wrong foot
it tends to have a knock on effect for the rest of the day.
The way we begin each day sets the foundation on which the rest will unfold,
so it is important to begin it well.
I quoted David Steindl-Rast who suggests we greet each new day has a gift;
and how that sense of gratefulness
will carry us through the hours that follow.

Everything I said about beginning the day
applies just as much to the end of the day.
It is important also to end the day well,
because that sets the foundation for the night that follows.

We all know how easy it is to go to bed
with the days troubles at the front of our mind.
We have all experienced problems getting to sleep, or having restless nights,
because the day has ended focussing on the things that have gone wrong.
We need to take great care how we prepare for sleep,
and make a conscious effort for the day to end on a positive note.

The prayers of Compline are a perfect way to end any day,
because the whole point of Compline
is to place the day in God’s hands, and leave it there.
Compline means: To make the day complete.
We make the day complete by allowing it to flow into God.

In all I have said and written about the gratitude diary
I have not indicated when we should write in it.
We all have different life styles and patterns
and will find what works best for us.
But I would suggest that writing just before we go to bed, or actually in bed,
is as good a time as any.

It helps us to focus on what has been good about the day;
it helps us focus on its gifts and joys.
It is so easy for such moments to get buried
beneath the things that have gone wrong.
By unearthing them before we go to bed we put the day into perspective,
and can then end the day realising that our life is blessed,
and filled with riches.

To end the day on this note is a perfect foundation
upon which we can take our nights rest and be refreshed for what is to come.

So to adapt the quote from David Steindl–Rast:
When we end each day with thoughts of life’s gifts and blessings,
a sense of gratefulness will refresh us in the hours that follow.

Lent 2016 Gratitude for the familiar

Wednesday 24th February

Ephesians 1:16
I do not cease to give thanks for you,
as I remember you in my prayers

It is the familiar that usually eludes us in life,
what is before our nose is what we see least.
– William Barrett

How often do we take those we love for granted?
Our husband, wife, partners, family, friends, parents, children?
That which is under our very noses
is often what we neglect to say thank you for the most.
Studies that have been undertaken about relationships show that
what often lies at the heart of problems in a relationship is a lack of appreciation.
Telling partners, friends, children, parents,
just how much we appreciate what they do and how much they mean to us,
has proved to be something that strengthens relationships.
Expressing gratitude also helps to see the other person in a more positive light.
It is only when we take time to appreciate another’s contribution
that we realise just how much they give to us.
It is so easy to concentrate on people’s negative traits
and we need to remind ourselves
to concentrate on the positive things they bring to our lives.
Thankfulness provides a very valuable foundation for all our relationships.

Lent 2016 Each Day is a Gift

Tuesday 23rd February

Psalm 92:1-2
It is good to give thanks to the Lord
To proclaim His love in the morning and His faithfulness at night.

When we greet each new day as a gift,
a sense of gratefulness can carry us through the hours that follow.
– David Steindl-Rast

How we begin each day matters.
If the day starts off on the wrong foot, it can affect everything we do that day.
If the day begins with an argument with a family member,
or with dread for a meeting that we know is coming,
or with a general grumpiness because it is raining again,
it seems to set the foundation for that day.
If the foundation is a negative one it has a knock on effect for everything else.
If the day begins well it lays a solid foundation,
and with a solid foundation we find the resources
to deal with anything else that comes along.
Greet each day as a gift, suggests David Steindl-Rast,
with a sense of gratefulness.
Beginning each day in a spirit of thankfulness,
provides a perfect foundation for the day to unfold.
I try and begin each day with the following prayer:
For the gift of life – thank you.
For the night that has gone – thank you.

To the day that is to come – Yes!
For your Eternal Presence – thank you.

To this present moment – Yes!
Continue reading

Lent 2016 Life is a Miracle

Monday 22nd February

Psalm 136:4
Give thanks to God who alone does mighty miracles

There are only two ways to live your life.
One is though nothing is a miracle,
the other is as if everything is a miracle.
– Albert Einstein

Is your life a miracle?
When we look attentively at our lives, can they be anything but a miracle?
A miracle is an extraordinary event, an event hard to describe in normal ways.
I remember being at the birth of all my children – each one was a miracle.
Yes, I was well aware that childbirth is a natural, explainable event of life,
but, in a flicker of an eye there is new life before you;
natural and explainable it may be, but for me it was and is a miracle.
Waking up each morning is new birth, a miracle of life flowing within us.
A miracle is a gift of God, a gift of the universe.
Birth is a gift, each new day is a gift; love, joy, hope, trust is a gift.
Life is a gift. Life is a miracle.
Such an extraordinary gift should not be taken for granted,
it needs to be appreciated, valued, and daily given thanks for.
Life is a gift, life is a miracle – each and every moment is a miracle.
Today let’s be attentive to each moment of life as it unfolds;
Let’s rejoice in it, celebrate it, give ourselves to it,
and be grateful for the miracle of each breath we breathe.