Top posts for 2015 – Blessings and My Stories

There hasn’t been much new content on this site this year, there are many reasons for that, but I have to admit that the primary one is that I just didn’t get around to it.

For Blessings posts the top 10 have looked like this:

  1. Count Your Blessings #120 – Short Stories
  2. Blessings #183 – Counting the thing I have that money can’t buy
  3. Blessing #203 – High-Mileage Songs
  4. Blessing #205 – A Bit of Nonsense
  5. Count Your Blessings #64 – Stories, Fables and Parables
  6. Blessings #176 – Hovis Digestives
  7. Blessings #198 – Personal Proverbs
  8. Blessings #196 – A Full Notebook
  9. Blessing #204 – Clearing Out
  10. Blessings #202 – Home

It’s worth noting that the top 2 are by far the most popular posts.

For My Stories there’s only a top 8, because I’ve only written 9 of them:

  1. My Stories: Concussion
  2. My Stories: Mr Smith
  3. My Stories: Two Allotments
  4. My Stories: Hornsea Waves
  5. My Stories: £9 or £10
  6. My Stories: Jet Planes, Helicopters and Army Vehicles
  7. My Stories: “Y’alright Wack”
  8. My Stories: Sitting in the Corner

I have a list of ideas for the My Stories posts in my to-do list, I just need to get the words typed, so hopefully some more to follow in 2016.

Blessing #205 – A Bit of Nonsense

I was talking with someone the other day about how I quite like nonsense rhymes like this one:

I eat my peas with honey;
I’ve done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny,
But it keeps them on the knife.

Or this one (the version I remember anyway):

One fine day, in the middle of the night,
Two dead men got up to fight
Back-to-back they faced each other
Drew their swords and shot each other.

Some places quote extra lines, others change a few words, but the nonsense is still the same.

Another one:

Spring is sprung, the grass is ris.
I wonders where the birdies is.
They say the birds is on the wing.
Ain’t that absurd?
I always thought the wing was on the bird.

Interestingly, most of these rhymes seem to be attributed to that wonderful person: Anonymous.

Jesus quite liked a bit of nonsense, we don’t really see it because we’ve heard the stories so many times and we don’t understanding the cultural context in which he was writing:

When the father runs towards the prodigal son it was nonsense – no father would have done the running. (see Luke 15:11-32).

When Jesus makes the Good Samaritan the hero of the story it was nonsense. Samaritans were never heroes (see Luke 10:25-37).

The day Jesus told a rich young ruler “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” He was talking nonsense, wealth showed that you were blessed, if you gave it away you were no longer blessed (see Mark 10:17-27).

I quite like a bit of nonsense.

Blessing #204 – Clearing Out

As I look out into our back garden now covered with Autumn leaves I see all sorts  colours. From the brightest reds, to the deepest browns, there are evergreen and moss greens it’s an array of flora that has recently exploded into colour and is now spread across the garden. It will need clearing up, but there’s no rush, it has only been a couple of weeks since we spent time picking and sweeping. There’s a neighbour out in their front garden with a leaf blower he’s there most weekends, their garden is much neater than mine.

Beyond my garden there is a high hawthorn hedge which belongs to a bungalow. In the garden of the bungalow there are all sorts of left-over building materials and enough building equipment to stock a hardware store. I pass the front of the bungalow on my morning walk sometimes. In the driveway there are at least four vehicles which are full of more building materials, each vehicle is surrounded by more building material and I wouldn’t be surprised of there are more vehicles hidden under the other material. At the entrance to the driveway there are two more vehicles which are themselves full of building material and other detritus, they stay at the entrance because they can’t get in the drive. I’ve never met the person who lives in the house but it doesn’t look like a happy place to live.

A couple of months ago I had some time available on a Saturday to start to clear out the garage which had got a bit messy with things being delivered, stored and restored. It was becoming frustrating clambering over things all the time trying to find the thing I was looking for. Unfortunately the clearing out had only got to that point where it didn’t really look much better than when I had started before I had to finish. I wanted to get the tidying finished so that I could store the garden furniture for the rapidly approaching autumn and winter. A couple of weeks ago I again had some time available to finish the job. After sorting, sweeping and a few trips to the local tip it felt so rewarding to put everything in its place and to see how much free space there was in there and how easily the garden furniture fitted.

There are parts of my life that like each one of these places, a bit messy like the garden, in need of serious clearing out like the bungalow and nicely tidy (for now) like the garage. There’s something very rewarding about clearing these places out but some of them look like a big job and that’s when we need help. Thankfully Jesus doesn’t expect us to have a cleared out life, he just wants to help us with the tidying and to get to know us in the process. Thankfully he’s not comparing our level of cleanliness to our neighbours, he knows us and wants to meet us where we are. From my experience Jesus is more interested in getting to know us that getting everything right in our lives.

Blessing #203 – High-Mileage Songs

The other evening I was out for a walk while Sue was visiting a friend.

I’ve had some kind of portable music device since I was a teenager and I’ve always liked listening to music as I walk. First it was cassette tapes then CD’s and latterly some kind of MP3 player.

On this particular evening I was listening to a playlist of songs that iTunes had automatically created based on one of my favourite songs.  Most of the songs on this playlist date back to my cassette tape days and it got me thinking about how many miles some of these songs have travelled with me. Miles walking, miles driving and even miles flying.

The playlist continued and then I heard a few cords and these words:

Sing this with me, this is “40”

I must have heard those words hundreds of times, before they had even been spoke I knew what was  coming next:

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

These words were being recorded in 1983, over 30 years ago and they’ve meant a lot to me through the years. This has been one of my signpost song with signpost words.

Words that have been there as a signpost through exams at school, college and university.

How long to sing this song
How long to sing this song
How long, how long, how long
How long to sing this song

Words that have been there as a signpost through engagement, marriage and children.

He set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm
Many will see
Many will see and hear

Words that have been there at work and at play.

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

Words that have been there from rental to buying smaller onto buying bigger.

How long to sing this song
How long to sing this song
How long, how long, how long
How long to sing this song

How long to sing this song? I don’t know but for a long while yet I hope. I like new songs, but I also love high-mileage songs, songs that have formed signposts in my life.

The song is call “40” because it’s based on Psalm 40. That makes them words that are thousands of years old and signpost words for generations.

Those signposts are important markers of where we have come from.

(The picture is of the sunset that night taken on the beach in Southport)

Blessings: Top 20 for 2014

I’m always a bit intrigued by which of the Blessing posts gets visitors. Most of them are the most recent ones, but some of them go a long way back. Number 20 – Running in the Company of a Happy Few goes all the way back to 2005:

  1. Blessings #183 – Counting the thing I have that money can’t buy
  2. Blessings #197 – Laughing Anyway
  3. Blessings #198 – Personal Proverbs
  4. Blessings #196 – A Full Notebook
  5. Count Your Blessings #120 – Short Stories
  6. Blessings #199 – My Stories, Our Stories
  7. Count Your Blessings #64 – Stories, Fables and Parables
  8. Blessings #201 – Seen, Heard and Known
  9. Blessings #202 – Home
  10. Blessings #200 – The Buzzard Feather
  11. Blessings #194 – Chronos
  12. Blessings #195 – Photography Books
  13. Count Your Blessings #90 – The Alarm Call of the Blackbird at Dusk
  14. Blessings #176 – Hovis Digestives
  15. Count Your Blessings #54 – Sky Watching
  16. Blessings #160 – Sun’s Rays
  17. Blessings #193 – The Smell of Summer Rain
  18. Blessings #189 – Travelling a New Path
  19. Count Your Blessings #91 – Decorating Christmas Trees
  20. Count Your Blessings #37 – Running in the Company of a Happy Few

Blessings #202 – Home

There’s a well known song that has these words in the chorus:

Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home

I don’t believe them!

Home is the place where you fit in, and it fits around you.

Whenever I am away from home I spend much of my time trying to find things and checking where things are. At home I don’t have to think about where I’ve put my keys down; even if I can’t remember where I put them I know the places where to look. When I’m away from home they could be anywhere.

I’ve spent enough nights in hotel rooms to develop a twitch every time I leave a room – “Where’s the room key card? Where’s my wallet? Have I got everything?

At home there is an unspoken routine. We don’t have to be constantly talking through what we are going to do next, for most of the time we instinctively know.

We know the signs of who’s in and who’s out when we are home. We have three cars in our house, these days, but the drive is only two cars wide. If everyone is in there is always one car blocked in, but that’s not a problem because at home we know who is going to be needing there car next so we know where to park.

Home is the place where you know which draw to look in for which clothes. You don’t have to go through all of the drawers trying to find your socks.

At home you don’t have to think too hard about what clothes you are going to wear.

Home is a place of memories. Memories of evenings with friends around the table. Memories of chocolate chilli roulette. Memories of huddles of young people around a fire pit. Memories of Christmas mornings and birthday teas. Memories of newborn babies entering the place where they will build their own library of memories. Memories of saying goodbye as those babies, now grown, set out on new adventures of their own. Memories of tears and disappointments too.

Home is a privilege and a joy. It saddens we to know that in this world of conflict and refugees so many don’t live in a place that they can call home. But I also have a hope that one day this world will be swept aside and we will move from this home to another home where there is no more conflict and strife, a place where everyone is at home.

Blessings #201 – Seen, Heard and Known

Some of the deepest desires of people are to be seen, to be heard and to be known.

I can remember many times when I have been none of these things, often in the busiest of places. Think about the busy train station with thousands of people passing through now imagine the effort that you would have to go through to get the attention of all of those people.

Sometimes we see people, but we don’t want to hear them. The other day I was walking through the centre of Preston and was really conscious of the number of homeless people sat by the side of the pavement. It’s almost impossible not to see them, but few of us will take the time to sit and listen to them. In Chester the other day everyone was keeping wide of a man stood by a poster board and handing out religious leaflets.

A few weeks ago I was sat on a plane next to an older lady who was returning from a trip to America where she attended a sister’s funeral. While there she had decided that she needed a full cowboy outfit as memory of the adventure; this included cowboy boots, fancy jeans, denim jacket and hat. It must have been an interesting experience because she can’t have been more than 4′ tall and was a very slender lady. I imagine that she was fitted out in children’s clothes. She wanted to talk about her experience and I was happy to listen.

We’ve recently celebrated our Silver Wedding Anniversary and marked it with a gathering of friends. We received many cards and handed around a book for people to write their thoughts in. Reading the two sets of messages together it was striking how we were known by so many people in so many different ways.

Most Wednesday morning’s I meet with a couple of close friends for breakfast. As a group we have been through many highs and many lows together. This week I needed these friends to know about the highs of holidays and also some significant challenges in my life. This time and place is one where I can know that whatever else has happened I will be seen, I will be heard and I will be known. Thanks Dave. Thanks Bob.

The Genesis story describes the separation between people and God. The first sign of this is that Adam and Eve go to hide because they don’t want to be seen or heard by God. Many of Jesus parables tell us of God’s perspective; though we may try to hide God searches for us because He want’s to know us:

The Story of the Lost Sheep

By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.

4-7 “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.

The Story of the Lost Coin

“Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbours: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.”

Luke 15

I am so, so grateful to be seen, heard and known. The challenge to us, especially to those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, is to create the places where other’s can also be seen, heard and known. Someone who writes about this is Shauna Niequist. In her book called Bread & Wine she says this:

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.”

Hospitality around a table might not be your thing, but we can all create somewhere where others feel significant.