sticking your oar in

Yes, it’s been a long time since I last wrote anything here, but in my defence I have had a lovely week off last week, which accounts for most of the time!

While on holiday in Center Parcs (near Thetford) Sally and I went for a row on the lake. It was a lovely day and it was very pleasant pootling about on the water. There were quite a few other people out and about in a range of different craft and I have reflected on them:

There were some energetic people who were in what looked like a catamaran made of two canoes. Six people were brandishing paddles and attempting to coordinate their strokes so the boat went in roughly the desired direction. It seems to me that such a vessel clearly needs to have agreed priorities and a good sense of teamwork otherwise they will either go around in circles or head off in the wrong direction. How often do organisations (churches included) go wrong because of a lack of shared vision and people who all choose to do their own thing rather than working together?

There were some electric boats out there. They were gliding, apparently effortlessly, around the lake and because they were electric they didn’t make any noise. If you weren’t watching where you were going they might sneak up on you and surprise you. What bothered me about some of these boats was that they didn’t seem to understand that their ability to change direction and speed was much greater than our rowing boat so we couldn’t be sure that they would avoid us. I decided that we needed to make our intentions clear and change direction early to avoid them when in fact it would have been a lot easier for them to change direction. Are there times when people cause others around them to have to make adjustments to accommodate them without realising the impact they are having?

There were some pedal boats. You know, the good old fashioned kind. They had the advantage of pedal paddle power, and I think they had a rudder too. I couldn’t tell whether everyone on board had pedals or whether it was just the couple in the stern of the boat (that’s what it looked like) but they could go quite a pace when they put their mind (and legs) to it. I’m not sure if it was possible for some of the crew to coast while others (or just one) did all the hard work (a bit like the person on the back of a tandem could) but there were definitely some boats where it looked like there were people who should not have been passengers who weren’t putting in a shift. Does that sound familiar?

Other boats were available, but none were on the lake at the time we were. There were, however, three couples who had chosen to row a traditional rowing boat. Of course in those boats the person who is rowing is facing backwards, so they depend on the passenger to tell them what is going on ahead of them and give them some guidance. Each person has an important but different role to play. When it was my turn to row I discovered that I had a dominant hand which meant that I naturally pulled harder on one oar than the other one. That led to a tendency to head off course. I had to keep correcting the direction we were travelling in. It’s really helpful in those circumstances to have someone with you who is giving you guidance as they can see the way ahead more clearly. You have to trust and rely on them.

Draw whatever lessons you feel you can from these reflections, but for me the most important one is that it was good to spend time with the one I love on a lake, rowing.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

I am currently enjoying a relaxing holiday.

Or at least I hope I am.

DESCRIPTION: A pastor at the beach in swim shorts with a congregation he built from sand and coconuts CAPTION: PASTOR HAD TROUBLE LETTING GO

I am writing this before going on holiday so that any of you blog addicts (aka bloggicts) who are experiencing withdrawal symptoms (return of sanity, sense of humour realignment, more time in the day) can have a quick fix. So I am writing this before I take a break from the blogging in anticipation of me having a good time, enjoying good weather, finding time and space to relax and spending time with Jesus.

Be blessed, be a blessing.
I hope that you are also experiencing those same things. They are important not only for holidays, but for everyday.

Normal bloggage will be resumed shortly. Sorry about that.

24/7 Holidays

3d illustration: Take vacation, holiday items andWe all look forward to holidays. Whether it is foreign travel, visiting somewhere different in our own country or even staying at home we all appreciate time doing something different, or even doing very little.

Getting ready for a holiday can be quite stressful. You have to make sure that you pack everything that you need to take with you if you are not staying at home. If the travel involves flights then there are all sorts of rules and regulations that you have to follow and you are restricted by the amount you can carry, and even the size of bottles of fluids you can take onto the plane in hand luggage. One of the advantages of being bald is that you don’t have to carry shampoo!

And if all the hassle of travel sounds too much, if you stay at home you risk either spending the time doing DIY and decorating or you end up working again.

Of course the root of the word ‘holiday’ is ‘holy day’. Originally they were special days set aside to mark significant events in the life of Jesus (and some saints). They were days when people would not work but would recognise the significance of the events marked on that day.

I wonder whether we should spend time getting ready for holydays? What are the significant moments in your life with Jesus that you would want to mark? Some people know the date when they became a Christian. Some people know the date of their Baptism. Perhaps you know the date when you became a member of a church. Ministers and vicars can also mark the dates of their ordination and inductions into different churches.

But I reckon every day should be a holyday. What about the times when you felt God close to you at a difficult moment? What about that Sunday when God spoke powerfully to you through a church service? What about when you read your Bible this morning? What about that person for whom you have been praying consistently? What about the conversation you had today where you sensed God in the midst of it?

There is a prayer movement called ’24/7′ where people are encouraged to pray around the clock. One of the things I long for is that I would have a 24/7 holyday approach to life – recognising that God is with me always, that all that I do can be dedicated to him, that I can encounter him in and through everyone.

Enjoy your holy day today.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

silence explained

In case you were wondering about the lack of fresh bloggerel yesterday, there is a very simple explanation…

I didn’t write anything.

And there’s a very simple explanation about why I didn’t write anything…

It was a Bank Holiday here in the UK and I took the day off. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t being reflective (you only have to check out the shiny top of my head to know I am always reflective) but I decided not to blog about it. Except that today’s first entry was written yesterday evening, so in fact I did post some bloggerel yesterday, it was simply posted online later.

Be even more blessed, be even more of a blessing!

(And yes, I have changed the look of the blog again!)

>The Return of the Redeye

>ping pong paddle 3Take one large house on the Suffolk coast in the shadow of a nuclear power station. Add about 80 people of all ages. Allow to blend for about five days. Garnish with good weather, new friendships, exploration of the Bible, late night conversations, wide games and several people falling in the boating lake. Et voila! You have a wonderful church holiday at Sizewell Hall. Thanks to everyone who was there, who visited, who organised, cooked, led groups, prayed for us and who played in the table tennis tournament (I am too modest to mention who won it).

I came back having had a wonderful time, but very tired. I feel like I could sleep for a week!

While we were there someone commented that it was a bit like the Acts 2 church community where we shared so much of our time, space and selves. They are onto something there. Is this one reason why God seems to speak powerfully on occasions when groups of Christians go away together, whether it is to big events like Sprinkle Harvest or Roll Survivor or whether it is a youth group going away for a weekend or a church holiday like ours at Sizewell Hall? Of course there are other reasons too, such as being away from distractions, being put into a different context, intentionally going somewhere to encounter God as well as being part of a temporary community.

One of the things that is different from the Acts 2 church, however, is that they were outreach-focused. All of the events I have described are focused inwards, on those who are attending. The Acts 2 church grew not because they were so lovely to each other but because they were expressing their faith practically. I am constantly challenged by the phrase ‘they gave to anyone as they had need’. The traditional way of seeing that is to think that it is about looking after the needs of all the new believers. But the ‘anyone’ is not qualified. If they really did look after the needs of anyone who was in need I think that would explain how they grew so rapidly and how people were being added daily to their number.

So what happens on these wonderful occasions away is only really significant if we put into practice what God has said to us while we have been away when we get back.

Two stories about holidays, at least one of which is true:

Two ladies went on a skiing holiday with a Christian travel group. While out on the slopes one day one of them felt the need to relieve herself. Obviously there were no toilets so her friend suggested she go behind a pile of rocks where no one could see her. The lady ski-ed over to the rocks and crouched down, one-piece ski suit around her ankles.

Unfortunately she had not taken her skis off, and they were pointing downhill. Before she knew what was happening she was sliding down the hill with her ski suit around her ankles!

The poor lady was mortified and spent the rest of the holiday locked in her hotel room. On the last night while the rest of the group were having a closing talk and worship session she sneaked down to the bar. While she was there she saw a man with a broken leg. Full of compassion she walked over to him and started up a conversation.

‘How did you break your leg?’ she asked.

‘Well it’s a funny story,’ said the man in plaster. ‘I was out on the slopes earlier in the week when I saw the funniest sight. I saw a woman zooming down the mountain with her ski suit around her ankles. I was laughing so much I fell over and broke my ankle…’

An ardent traveller decided to spend most of her Mediterranean holiday sunbathing on the roof of her hotel. She wore a swimsuit the first day, but on the second, she decided that no one could see her way up there, and she slipped out of it for an overall tan. She’d hardly started when she heard someone running up the stairs. She was lying on her stomach, so she just pulled a towel over her rear.

“Excuse me, miss,” said the flustered hotel manager, out of breath from dashing up the stairs. “The hotel doesn’t mind you sunbathing on the roof but we would very much appreciate you wearing a bathing suit as you did yesterday.”

“What difference does it make,” the lady asked rather calmly. “No one can see me up here, and besides, I’m covered with a towel.”

“Not exactly,” said the manager. “You’re lying on the dining room skylight.”