This time of year I inevitably realise too late that it’s my son’s birthday coming up.

He arrived in the world 7 weeks premature, so his actual due date was December. I’m not sure if that’s why, but after the summer holidays, it suddenly seems to be almost November before I’ve realised I need to organise his party.

The shock of him arriving early was pretty traumatic for me, for several reasons, but one reason I struggled to come to terms with it, was that I’m not all that good at surprises. I like to think I am very laid back,  but really I’m not. Give me a structured routine, and clear goals and objectives, and I feel much better!

When I step out of my comfort zone, I like to be prepared, maybe have a map, directions, or a sat nav with me. I always enjoy the adventure more then. If someone else is leading I’m quite happy to follow but will probably debate the why’s and wherefores first!

This life following Jesus that I am on, isn’t quite like that. I recently set up a “quiet time” at work, having felt this was really important task God had given me. I  got quite carried away with the idea, and booked a meeting room, and advertised it through our team brief. I was really sad when noone turned up, but weirdly the next day was surprised at how peaceful and happy I felt. It was like God was happy with me trying, and he had no expectations that anyone would come. We are meeting again this week at a different time, venue and I’ve set it up differently so I think there will be 2 or 3 of us this week. I’m really looking forward to it either way, as it will be chance to sit quietly and think and pray and I think that always does me good. I’m even thinking about buying some grownup colouring books!

A friend who works in scientific publishing shared an article this week, which covered the neuroscience of happiness, and you may already be aware that being grateful is good for our wiring. It also stated the importance of naming what we need, how we are feeling for our brains to work effectively.

I think that’s what happened to me, I sat and prayed for everyone in our office, and asked for help and afterwards felt much better about my own life, and fortunate to have a job and work with really great people. Being with other Christians, has also been shown to promote happiness, just through being part of a community that focuses on gratitude and naming what we need when times are tough.

So this week if you’re feeling fed up with work, it’s worth thinking about all the other people who rely on your cog in the machine, and thinking about what other people’s lives are like and I guess just counting your blessings. Even if you don’t believe in God, it’s possibly worth thinking, is there anything I need to be grateful for this week? anything I could make amends for?  Anything I need that I could ask the universe for?

The process might just make us all much happier!

Mighty oaks and acorns

I love this time of year, although it’s colder and wetter, I love seeing the trees change colour, and the harvest time. When I was preparing my talk for Granny’s funeral this week, a picture kept coming up of a mighty tree, that had sadly fallen. She lived to 100 and I guess that’s the equivalent of about 300 if you are an oak tree. The picture came to mind of birds nesting, animals building their burrows in the roots, and of children and families picnicking underneath. A host of wildlife living in and amongst this tree, that would sadly have to find a new home now. Losing Granny is really sad, even though she’s been expected to die for a long time! We have a host of memories and experiences that are unlikely to happen again now she’s passed. It’s the end of an era in many ways.

From a spiritual point of view, I am thinking about harvest today, having been to a lovely service at Clifton Methodist Church,where we all shared a three course Sunday lunch to celebrate harvest together. The abundance of God’s gifts was on our minds, and I was really pleased to find this description in the Bible:

Daniel 4 v10-12

I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. 11 The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the wild animals found shelter, and the birds lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed.

In the Old Testament however, this was also referring to a King who was due to be overcome. Like a modern day football club going from winning the Premier League to facing relegation, (no guesses who we support), Daniel’s prophesy told of this tree falling and having to be cut down to the ground before it could regrow. I guess there are many institutions, and organisations today that we have at one time or another thought of as permanent, or intransient that have since proved not to be. The stock exchange before a crash, the Co-Op bank before a scandal, Politicians before they are elected, the list could go on.

In our personal lives, sometimes it’s hard to accept a situation has changed or moved on, even when it’s blindingly obvious to everyone else!

I am therefore reminded of both the huge generosity of God’s love and the centrality of God in our lives. He can supply this abundance for us but if we forget it’s a gift and start to see it as a personal or corporate achievement, the whole thing can come crashing down around our ears! As Christians we believe that Jesus his son was God’s ultimate gift to us, which was also a tragedy and a miracle all at the same time.