Dear Friends

Welcome to the month of February, four weeks after entering the new year of 2023.

In continuation with last month’s letter about new opportunities, I was intrigued with a recent Guardian Newspaper article by Emma Beddington entitled: “52 acts of kindness: how to spread joy every week of 2023”.

Why “Joy”, you may ask? One of several “Joy” meanings offered by the dictionary cites: “a source or cause of delight”. According to the 19th chapter of Psalm bible reading, we read: “The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living”. The 126th chapter also cites: “Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy!”

When we love with Christ’s love, joy will seek us out. The more we allow the influence of Christ in our hearts, the more we grow in love. We remain immature without love, for as, Dr Karl Menninger puts it, “If love is ingrown, centring on itself as the focus of its love, then the result is an immature personality”. Joy follows love. If we seek joy first, it will elude us. But when we love with Christ’s love, joy will seek us. We will automatically be joyful.

Dr W Sangster shared a story of how once during the time of World War II he sat talking to people in a large room when a friend entered. His friend had a radiant personality of joy and the conversation centred around him after he departed. One said, he gets a great kick out of life. Another said, I don’t suppose he’s got a son in the war. Still, another said, he must be in a great deal of good health. One by one they tried to analyse the man’s embedded joy to no avail. But imagine their shock when they were told that instead of being free from personal troubles and difficulties, the man had a son in the war and at home cared for two children with special needs. The guys who voiced their opinion had to look elsewhere for the secret of the man’s radiance and joy. It was Christ!

As a source or cause of delight, joy starts from our heart. It needs nurturing time through the love of Christ to transform character. Often the big word in Christian circles today is service, but the big word in God’s circle is character filled with love. We concentrate on service whilst God concentrates on character. If we spend more time concentrating on where God concentrates – character, we will never have any problems in relation to our service. We align ourselves to where God wants us to be in service.

Returning to the 52 acts of kindness, now 47 from this month, they need to originate out of genuine love and joy. No need to replicate what others are doing. These acts of kindness will be unique, special and heartfelt because their source or cause of delight is embedded from within us. The acts of kindness are not driven by “quid pro quo” (or doing something of value in return), but motivation to make a real difference in the lives of others. The appreciation of that kindness creates joy. A joy outwardly focussed and other person centred against the backdrop of the love of Christ.

Some may respond that the above are achievable without any link to a Christian faith and that is true. I hear of many philanthropists, who have made vital contributions to society and communities and these will always be appreciated. However, the joy that flows out of love keeps on giving when finances and resources are depleted because we help ourselves at the same time. Our self-esteem flourishes with joy from within and we become happier.

In the hope of discovering our joy and flourishing self-esteem over the next 47 weeks of 2023, I offer five random acts of kindness, amongst others, for sharing in our villages: (1) walking the dog, (2) repair something, (3) volunteer in a shelter, (4) help with reading at schools and (5) looking after delivery drivers. You may have further ideas, which I am keen to hear of for sharing with the wider community. We’ll respect any wish to remain anonymous in the examples received. Finally, I offer a prayer for February.

Stay blessed with love

Reverend Rickey Simpson-Gray

Parish of the Claydons