Anniversary Day

maybp8sThe coming round of the 1st of May brings a list of anniversaries.

As a young boy of six or seven (c. 1968), it wasn’t uncommon in my small rural town for May Day cards/baskets to be given. By either gender to either gender. I cannot remember the details, but for some reason I got upset with my neighbour and classmate Craig on that day. Whether it was because I gave him a basket and he didn’t give me one, I don’t recall, but it made me angry enough to swear at him. He didn’t like that and promptly put me to the ground  and made me submit and take it back. He let me up, and I swore at him again and began running. He ran after me, caught me, and repeated the process. After letting me up, I swore at him a third time and ran away. Only to be caught again and thrown to the ground and made to submit and take it back.

Thirty-One years ago (1983) I took Tammy up to Hendricks Park in Eugene. We parked the car, admired the rhododendrons in full bloom, and then I presented a May Day basket to her. Yes, she accepted it, and No, I didn’t swear at her! This May Day basket had monster cookies, two bottles of sparkling apple cider, a chocolate bar or two, and….hidden under the monster cookies a small box with an engagement ring. Tammy ooohed and aaahed over the basket, and I had to nudge her to look around the basket. She found the ring, and that day, we publicly announced our intention to marry later that year (having proposed to her 3 months earlier after only dating a month).

Tim & Tammy's Engagement Picture
Tim & Tammy’s Engagement Picture

On that same day, we also celebrated a new birth. Nine months before we were married. That morning, during the worship services with our University Street Christian Church family, our friend Dick baptized us into Christ. Both of us in the baptistry together. Paul, writing to some early followers of Jesus says that ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away and the new has come.’ We were immersed into the water, brought back up, and as Paul also writes to followers of Jesus in the capital of the Roman empire, since we “have been buried with Him through baptism into death, and just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too have been raised to walk in a new life.’

One more anniversary to recount. Today is two years since the death of Tam’s dad, Marvin. He passed away 10 days after my mother’s unexpected death. We spent a number of days with him in hospice during the month of April as the number of his days on this earth dwindled. These were good days of stories and remembering and grace and truth. We were not with him at the last; having spent the weekend travelling from Oregon to Minnesota for my mum’s funeral we then made our return trip to Oregon and then to England, arriving back in the UK on 1 May. Marvin flew away to meet God as we were over the Atlantic. It’s a sad but not unhappy memory, those days.

The header of this blog features Tam’s dad’s military memorabilia, including his army identity photo and dogtags, a tribute to him and to his daughter whom I love deeply and without reservation.

Happy May Day friends. Don’t swear at someone if they don’t give you a May Day basket like you had hoped or expected. Especially not three times; it will not end well. Enjoy the longer days which we are experiencing, and the green and newness of life. Know that the Author of life wants to give life, and give it abundantly. And Tammy, know that I love you and treasure you and always have a treat in the basket for you.

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Day 30 – ’30 Days of Thankful’

It’s early on the first day of December as photoI record this blog. Yesterday, Saturday, the month of November concluded, and here I complete my spiritual and writing discipline for the month of ’30 Days of Thankful.’

IMG_0791 cropped and reducedMost of the morning a half dozen of us prepared a tree for the Community Christmas Tree Lighting Service in Dickens Heath Village for later in the evening. Bernard (with the tree) and I (with the lights) arrived early, followed by Anna and Nick. Anton popped by briefly with supplies for the evening, before Gloria brought the bows. And for two hours we made the tree ready for the service and for the month.

IMG_0798 cropped and reducedWith a tree donated by the Dickens Heath Parish Council, electrical supply donated by the Dickens Heath Village Hall for the tree lights, choir provided by Dickens Heath Community Primary School, and a service planned and led by Dickens Heath Village Church, we welcomed over 100 people to the community service. I’m thankful to each of these groups and the all the folks I met during the evening. I’m thankful for the joy on parents as they watched their children sing. I’m thankful for the joy of the children as they ‘officially’ kicked off their anticipation of the holiday and gifts. I’m thankful for the kind comments of the mums, dads and grandparents who took time to express ‘that was a lovely service, thank you.’

IMG_0804 cropped and reducedAfter carols, the choir, and a responsive reading, we made our way outside, turned off all the lights in the hall, then counted with the children our way down to the lighting of the tree. Wow, and a cheer went up! I led a blessing and a prayer over the tree, which I borrowed and modified from Sam Hargreaves:

As we light this Christmas Tree
Light of the world, shine on us.
As we prepare for Christmas time
Light of the world, shine on us.

In this world of pain and darkness,
Light of the world, shine through us.
To all the people who don’t know you,
Light of the world, shine through us.

Jesus you are coming again,
Light of the world, light the way.
In our service here today
Light of the world, light the way.

IMG_0806 reducedI’m thankful for these days of expressing gratitude.

Breakfast at the Lemon Tree

We are coming to the last few days of ’30 Days of Thankful.’ This has been a wonderful exercise for me to do, both in terms of writing and being thankful.

So much of what we do revolves around food, and those who have enjoyed a Thanksgiving Day meal will have had that reinforced. It so happened that my 16941_283377422460_607482460_3876786_7291205_n croppedcolleague and prayer partner Larry and I were scheduled to meet for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. On this occasion, Larry was unable to make it at the last minute, so having already arrived at the Lemon Tree I sat down to my breakfast made by the owner and proprietor, Kevin.

Kevin and his wife Lynn opened up this cafe 8 years ago, and we have been bantering with each other, insulting each other, encouraging each other, and for our part praying for Kevin and Lynn and their business all these years. We always pray for peace and wholeness for them when we say grace before eating. One can’t define what influence or  impact we’ve made on Kevin and Lynn, but we sure like them. When Larry and I meet to chat and pray for each other, the anticipation of meeting up is as much to see Kevin and Lynn as it is to see each other.

So today I’m thankful for my buddy in prayer and ministry, Larry. I’m thankful for his example and love for Jesus and his every day discipleship. I’m thankful for Kevin who always cooks us a great breakfast and with whom we have become friends. And I’m thankful for Kevin’s kindness and wit. Kevin, I’ll have another of my non-standard ‘standard’ breakfasts, if you please!

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Feeling Nostalgic

photoAbout 13 years ago we were seeing a team and core group come together for what would become Dickens Heath Village Church. Those couple of years before our formal launch in September 2002 filled with fun, hard work, and camaraderie with three families in particular remain a highlight of our life and ministry in this country. These families, and the new church family, have been indispensable to our ongoing discipleship as followers of Jesus for well over a decade.

So, today on Day 26 of ’30 Days of Thankful,’ goes my shout out of gratitude for Chris and Fiona, Anton and Sarah, and Aaron and Diane for the place you have had and continue to have in our lives. Thanks for loving and cherishing us all these years.

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First Christmas Card

Our first Christmas card arrived yesterday. Ruth, our friend who created the card, has this wonderful capacity to remember, write, and send cards. In fact, she is so keen she has her own little business doing so. Acting on behalf of of one of our supporting churches, she creates and sends cards for our birthdays, our anniversary, and holidays. Ruth, you are one of a kind, and we are thankful for you and the entire team. Hugs from a distance!

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Thanksgiving – Food and Friendship

OK, ‘Thanksgiving Day’ proper is not until Thursday on the American side of the Atlantic, but here on the British side we are not confined to a set day. Sunday was our day to celebrate the day as 54 of us from a variety of groups and backgrounds and experiences gathered together. Every food I was anticipating for the meal was prepared (except brussels sprouts, I’m sad to report; and did you know it’s not ‘brussel sprouts’ but ‘brussels sprouts’? Like many English words, what it looks like is NOT the way one says it). The afternoon was a delight, and no one was in a hurry to leave.

IMG_0708 cropped & reduced IMG_0734 reduced IMG_0744 reduced IMG_0771 cropped & reducedI’m thankful we could all gather together. I’m thankful for the food. I’m thankful for all the work in preparing food, the hall, and those who helped clean up and put away tables, chairs, and supplies. I’m thankful for the food and clothes we collected for the homeless and rough sleepers in Birmingham. I’m thankful for the pleasant and wonderful conversations we enjoyed. And that’s Day Twenty-Four of ’30 Days of Thankful.’

Cooking and Baking

We’ve lived almost 20 years in England. Early on in our time here we weren’t quite sure how to celebrate the more ‘American’ of holidays, such as the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. Obviously, the days themselves don’t have national acceptance as a holiday with ‘federal’ recognition as a day off from work, let alone the four day weekend that comes with the latter of the two. And it initially seemed a bit bold to celebrate a day of Independence by ‘the colony that went bad.’ Over the years, we’ve seen and experienced the interest of friends who wonder what these holidays are about or those who take a moment to recognise these events from the land of our origin and wish us well.

So, over the years, we’ve been less reticent about celebrating and, in fact, appropriate the days to engage and make an excuse for gathering with our English Thanksgiving - Harvest Mealfriends. Thanksgiving has been a great way to do this, partially driven I must confess, by my love for all the foods that go with the holiday! We’ve been planning and inviting friends and the community to a Community Thanksgiving / Harvest Meal. Something fun and wonderful and intimate happens when people gather over a meal. Conversations and relationships have the opportunity to go deeper. We have many great memories of the years we’ve done this in England.

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One of the aspects I particularly look forward to is the day of cooking the day before we celebrate Thanksgiving. We’ve learned that scrambling to cook everything the day of the meal isn’t quite so relaxing, but doing so the day before is! So gathering the ingredients, putting on a movie or American football game or Christmas music and now in our technological day having a facetime conversation with the kids. Saturday was all about cooking! I baked four pumpkin pies, started the 24 hour slow cooking of my baked beans in the crock pot, and cooked an 8kg turkey. After the turkey cooled, it was cut up and deboned into two trays of meat to be heated prior to serving; the bones were boiled and broth for home-made gravy was saved.

What a relaxing and enjoyable day! Today, Day Twenty-Three of ’30 Days of grateful,’ I am thankful for food aplenty to share on the morrow, for the simple joy of cooking and baking and preparing for others to enjoy (who are similarly doing the same thing). I’m thankful for the day off from the computer and e-mails and other ‘demands’ upon me. And I’m thankful for the anticipation (and delayed gratification) of consuming the wonderful mixture of English and American cooking and baking with friends and church family, and new friends who will come to this gathering for the first time. Oh, and I’m thankful for the slice of pumpkin that I ate which couldn’t wait for Sunday!



Inspired to be Grateful

We have a set of friends in Oregon that inspire us.

Our friendship dates as far back as the autumn of 1982 when I moved from Minnesota to Eugene to begin studying for a cross-cultural ministries degree. I hit it off immediately with Bryan and Rick with our similarly stupid senses of humour and love for the outdoors and wildlife. We shared many adventures together, the three of us! We all married, and Kathy (Bryan) and later Margie (Rick) became part of the journey of friendship we have enjoyed these many years.CIMG0070 cropped and reduced

Both families and couples have experienced challenges in life, employment, finances and health which make any difficult circumstances I have encountered seem minor and insignificant. And yet, they have persevered and prayed and remained hopeful, generous, and grateful in their hardships. They have inspired us.

When Kathy in great excitement sent an e-mail a few weeks ago about an article she had written for Compassion about child sponsorships, I was so proud and inspired by their example. Click on the link and have a read about my friends!

So today I am thankful for these two sets of friends. I’m grateful they set the example for me of not just being thankful in all circumstances, but persevering in generosity in the difficult days they have experienced.

Love you guys!


Thankful for Explore

A couple of years ago an e-mail circulated among the church leaders here in Shirley. The e-mail briefly described a national charity called Explore that provides couples of maturity, life experience, and some years of marriage to secondary schools as part of their PSHE curriculum (Personal, Social and Health Education). The e-mail noted that a new Explore group was being started locally, and were looking for volunteer couples.

Tam and I immediately made enquiries and made ourselves available. In recent years, we’ve been very open and111791 transparent about the challenges, struggles, and joys of being married to each other, and thought this was a way we could model and influence young people who rarely see couples like ourselves, let alone have an opportunity to questions about their experience. It’s a place where students can ask any question about relationships, marriage, love, conflict and so on that they wouldn’t ask their parent or guardian.

And questions are what the time with students is all about! So yesterday we spent the entire day at a local secondary with three other couples and four advisor-coaches with over 200 Year Ten (14 year olds) students. An initial session with the students by an advisor-coach helped them record their hopes and fears regarding long-term relationships (an exercise the couples also participated in, as you can see from the photo). Then the advisor-coaches helped the students, in groups, to generate questions they were interested in asking.


Having done so, the couples are brought into the class of 15 to 30 students, and the students ask the questions. The couples don’t ask questions or initiate conversation; we only answer questions, elaborating appropriately wherever we can to provide as much information or stories that answer the question (and then some) from our own experience. What are some of the questions we had on the day?

How did you meet? Did you have sex before marriage. Do you argue? Do you have children? Where are you from? Do you still have dates with each other? Do you have an active sex life? Do you still get jealous? Are your children a comfort to you when you have difficulties? Do you get bored being married? Have you ever argued about money? Have you been in difficulty financially? What did you do about it? Do you have any regrets? What’s the weirdest sex position you have ever tried (didn’t answer that one and encouraged the student to move on)?

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What are your plans for the future? Do you have a strong relationship? What is your favourite thing about your partner? How do you deal with bringing stress from work into your personal lives? What were your hopes and fears before you got married and were they fulfilled? Did you think you would still be together as partners if you didn’t get married? What is the most important value in your relationship? Do you still feel attracted to each other? Did ever really hate each other during your marriage? How did you propose? Does sex contribute to a good marriage? What’s the most important thing to grow a relationship?

I’m thankful to Explore for thinking creatively on how to engage with students. I’m thankful for those secondary schools who are brave to make this available in their curriculum. I’m thankful for those students are even braver in asking their questions, including the lads who think relationships are all about sex and ask questions far beyond what most couples will answer (yes, we don’t have to answer all the questions!). I’m thankful that Tam and I have experienced grace and forgiveness with one another and from God in a manner that has sustained us for almost thirty years of marriage. I’m thankful for the privilege of sharing our marriage experience with others.

That’s Day Nineteen of ‘30 Days of Thankful.’

Opportunities of Influence

On Sunday evening Tam and I participated in a joint gathering of churches in Shirley. One of the purposes of Sunday evening’s gathering was to share stories about what our local churches have been doing in serving, listening, and ministering in the town. Listening to the creative ways local church families have engaged people of the community in conversations was inspiring! I shared three stories about ways we have done so in Dickens Heath Village Church (DHVC) and thethirdplace.

With the recent retirement Richardof one church leader, and the move of another out of the area, I have become the longest serving church leader in the community. It will be 20 years next April. Gatherings such as we enjoyed on Sunday evening are especially fun for us because we know so many folks in these local churches. And we get to know others we didn’t know we already knew, if that makes any sense!

Because I spoke from the front, one young man came forward to introduce himself and his friend to us. Richard is brother to Ian, and both are sons of Margaret. We’ve known Margaret since the mid-1990s when she attended the very first DivorceCare course Tammy and our teammate Will Walls started for people going through divorce or breakup of long-term relationship. Margaret was freshly divorced and hurting. We helped her in the years before DHVC was publicly launched, and would come to events and activities in our home or with DHVC.

MargaretAnd then something completely surprising happened after she had finished re-training to be a nurse. She and her husband worked things out, remarried, and moved to the southern part of England. One of her other sons, Ian, before he likewise moved elsewhere out of the area, came regularly to our Sunday morning worship services. Richard, one of Margaret’s children we hadn’t met, remained in the area.

Besides helping us make the connection between him and his family, Richard wanted to say hi and give us an update on his family. It was all too brief! But I did find myself feeling grateful that we’ve been around Shirley long enough to see that we’ve had a part, along with many others, in the healing and caring for families experiencing difficulty. So today, I’m thankful to God that we have longevity in the community and get to see some of the fruit of showing God’s love to people. And that’s Day Eighteen of ’30 Days of Thankful.’