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.

the inner toddler

I like to think of myself as being fairly laid back. Most of the time I am able to reflect calmly and intelligently on events and then respond appropriately (possibly). But I know that when I am tired I get grumpy more easily and little things that would not bother me normally now irritate me intensely.

Normally if my phone is not working properly I calmly resolve the problem (by turning it off and on again). But if I am tired and ratty all of a sudden the problem becomes much more difficult to resolve. I repeat the same process on the phone, somehow expecting that doing the same thing will bring a different result (d’oh!!).

One of the problems with this is that I know that I am acting irrationally and that I have moved up the grumpy index but I can’t stop myself. It’s almost as if I have to get to the full toddler strop before I can calm down and revert to adult again. My wife knows me well enough that she can tell me that I am being silly and to calm down, and sometimes that works, but the more tired I am the harder it is to stop.

grumpy index

In order to prevent the world being full of stroppy adult toddlers and prevent global catastrophes from happening on the whim of someone who’s not over-tired God has built in to us a rhythm of life that includes sleep and recreation. We tamper with or ignore these at our peril. It’s not a sign of superhuman-ness to exist on a couple of hours sleep a night. It’s not a commendable trait to work 24/7 and never take any time to rest, relax and be refreshed. The inevitable outcome is that you will end up behaving like a toddler – selfish, prone to irrational outbursts, ignoring the effect you have on others and demanding attention.

So how do we reverse the climb up the grumpy index? Build in regular relaxation, find things that make you laugh, find people who energise you and whose company you enjoy, maybe even take yourself off to the naughty step to calm down a bit… and as you realise that the inner toddler has taken control ask your heavenly Father to calm you down and renew his Spirit’s presence in you.

Be blessed, be a blessing

afraid not or not afraid?

Once upon a time there was a man who owned a radio-controlled sailing boat. It was a beautiful boat that was a model of an early America’s Cup 6 metre yacht, and it had been built by one of the man’s friends. The boat was 5 feet long and with the mast and sail was over 6 feet tall.

The man loved the sleek, graceful lines of the boat. He loved how the British Racing Green hull merged with the blue keel, separated by a white stripe. He loved the feel of the wooden deck and how all of the fittings on the boat were miniature replicas of the real thing.

He loved the fact that there were limited controls for the boat. He could control the direction by turning the rudder and he could control the speed by tightening or loosening the sails. But everything else was at the mercy of the wind and tides. There was no engine. The man enjoyed watching how a small movement on the radio control sticks caused the rudder to twitch or the lines on the boat to move.

The man was really happy with his boat.

But he was also anxious about his boat. What if when he sailed it the batteries ran out and he was unable to communicate with it any longer? What if it capsized in the middle of a lake? What if it got stuck on an underwater obstruction? What if it hit something and sank?

All of these anxieties would build up in the man’s mind and he would be afraid to take the boat sailing.

But sometimes instead of the anxieties he would remember how beautiful the boat looked as it sailed gracefully across a lake. He would remember the calming sound of the water lapping against the hull as the boat glided through it. He would remember the joy of being able to sail the boat into the wind, across the wind and ahead of the wind. He would remember how happy it all made him feel.

And then the man would pack his boat into his car and go off to sail it. The anxieties might still surface but the joy and relaxation he got from seeing the boat doing what it was built to do was far greater. And when he got to share that with his friends the experience was multiplied.

What holds you back from doing what you are made to do? Are you holding someone else back?

Be blessed, be a blessing

relax

Hellooo! I am back from my retreat last week. It was a lovely relaxing, refreshing time in many ways – spiritually and physically. I thoroughly recommend it.

A couple of highlights:

The retreat was specifically for Ministers / Clergy. At the start we were told that there was a strict ‘no shop talk’ rule. That meant we were not to talk about our churches, our ministries, theology or anything else church-related.

At first that sounded a bit heavy. After all, we were all clergy peeps. But I found it liberating. We were forced to talk to each other about aspects of our lives that had nothing to do with our work. We were not defined by what we do, we were able to be normal human beings for a while.

As I reflected on that I wondered what would happen if we introduced a similar rule at our church for a day. Perhaps we should do that at our next church holiday! How about at the next party you attend – ‘no talk about your work’ would make the conversations a bit more wide-ranging. How about putting it into our daily routines – making ‘what do you do?’ the last question we would ask someone instead of the first, so we get to know people as individuals rather than defining them by their employment status.

The second aspect of the retreat that I wish to mention is the countryside. I am a Devon lad. I am quite patriotic about the county in which I was born and raised. I can trace my family back many generations in Devon. The retreat centre is set in the middle of beautiful countryside and I was blessed by the opportunity to explore it a bit on my own and on guided walks (even though on one of them we walked up and down the same lane 3 times before we got it right).

There is something so peaceful and relaxing about rural Devon. The rolling hills just keep going into the distance like waves on the sea. There is a wonderful expanse of green, divided up by tall hedges and crossed by a network of lanes that connect the farms and villages in an almost maze-like quality. Everything slows down. Including you. The pictures here are from a couple of my walks and I would encourage you to stop and look at them. Breathe gently, hear the rural sounds, the chirping of birds, the rush of the water and feel the gentle breeze on your face. Enjoy the countryside, allow yourself to smile.

Relaxing is good for us. It’s why God designed a day off into the routine of life. Who are we to think we know better?

And the third aspect of the retreat? I was impressed by the gentle service of the community that hosted us. They were kindness personified. They were great free samples of Jesus.

I think that there are several reasons for this: perhaps most significant is their commitment to a daily routine of prayer and worship. You can better imitate someone if you actively spend time with them on a regular basis. What’s your routine?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

A man left the courtroom in a wheelchair, with a cheque for £1million from the insurance company. The insurance company still suspected fraud and their detective followed the man down the street.

“You won’t get away with this,” he said.”I’ll be following you and watching you for the rest of your life.”

“No worries,” the man replied.” You can watch all you like. You can follow me on my holiday to France. You can follow me to Lourdes. You can watch someone pray for me. And you can watch a miracle take place.”