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.
Sally and I have enjoyed a week’s holiday in the sun as the final part of celebrating being married to each other for 25 years this year. It was very relaxing and refreshing. We didn’t do lots and lots of things, we didn’t visit lots and lots of places. We enjoyed quality time together. It was lovely. It was bliss. It was a real blessing.
And now I have just opened my email inbox for the first time in a week and 211 emails are waiting for my attention… so I have decided to write a bloggage instead of dealing with them! Nothing like a good procrastination to start the day off well!
I want to share a few thoughts with you about holidays. You all know that the root of the word is ‘holy day’. They started as religious festivals on which normal work was suspended (except for the clergy who had to work extra hard). They became associated with days off work, and the concept of holiday became established.
Being away with Sally reminded me that we all need holydays. We need to spend quality time with Jesus – relaxing and being refreshed in his presence, laughing together and getting to know him better (he already knows us better than we know ourselves). But we don’t have to get on an aeroplane to do it (which avoid long waits for luggage to reappear after the baggage elves have jumped up and down on it for a while). And while it is good to set aside special times to do this, any day can be a holyday. It depends less on the calendar and more on our attitude.
If we include Jesus prayerfully in our day, listening to the prompts of his Spirit, sharing our thoughts and ideas, any day can be a holyday.
I am in the privileged position of being able to go away now for a couple of days on a Ministry Refresher Conference. Our Baptist Union runs these each year on a five year rotation basis. As this is my 20th year since my ordination (doesn’t time fly?) I have been invited to attend. For me the timing is brilliant because it means I can finish my holiday with some dedicated holydays. But the journey to the conference can be a holyday, and even starting to answer 211 emails can be part of a holyday too.
We 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.