Trick or Treat

It’s not that cold here at the moment, but very dark. It’s all quite depressing coming out of the office at 5pm to a pitch black world. It makes you want to go to bed early and never leave the house again. That’s why I like the atmosphere on our street at Halloween, it brings people out and about and a few of our neighbours are dedicated to the cause. One chased after us last night to point out we’d missed his house. It was a chance for some company as he lives alone, and loves seeing the little ones.

As parents at the end of a half-term week we are probably done with hanging out with small children, but for others its a real treat. Just hearing my daughter tonight singing “I’m a friend of God, he calls me friend!” (on repeat) helped me remember how important children our in our community and not just to us as parents.

I get that we shouldn’t celebrate the darkness and ghosts and evil, it’s not a great place to start. Far better to focus on the light and how we can shine in the darkness. As most Disney films will testify though, children can cope with monsters, tragedy and a dose of real life. They don’t like programmes that are just candy-coated sugar content.

When I was growing up in Yorkshire there wasn’t much trick or treating going on, (mainly as we lived on a farm) but the main focus was “Mischief Night” which I think was the UK version.. throwing random bags of eggs and flour at houses, and vandalising streets seems totally different to the cute costumes and fun atmosphere we’ve always experienced taking our kids out. There are many people who still remember that as a really scary night and I’m glad that tradition seems to have died down.

Anyway this week we’ll be focusing on getting back into the normal swing of things, and following on from the theme at church this week, thinking of how we can be a light in the darkness, inviting God in. I’m going to try and light a candle every night, just to remind me of this.

I think the kids are a great inspiration for this, as their default setting is fun, and sometimes I think Christianity fails on the fun factor, and in the process we risk forgetting why we follow Christ. It’s not to follow a set of rules and customs or to live selfish lives consumed with greed,  but to be free. Free to do God’s will, which is not just about words but actions, living out our lives.

here’s the song, thanks to my daughter! (and her sunday school teachers!) https://youtu.be/u7_T5KtxZFM

The original reference in the song comes from James 2, v14-26

Faith and Deeds

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[e] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Surprise!

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. http://www.businessinsider.com/a-neuroscience-researcher-reveals-4-rituals-that-will-make-you-a-happier-person-2015-9?IR=T

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!