Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hardknott Fort

Intrepid explorer makes it to the Fort!

On a couple of previous visits to this part of the Lake District I've set off in search of the remains of the Roman fort that guarded the route over Hardknott, but never got there for one reason or another. This time we had good weather and plenty of time to get there and back.

The final part of the walk to get to the fort involves climbing a good 150m or so in less than 500m. But it was worth it for the view back down the valley.

The fort itself sits on the Roman road from Ravenglass to Ambleside. These marching routes often went over the top of fells and mountains because of the safety they offered from attack. It must be 15 miles from Ravenglass to Hardknott, which wouldn't be a bad walk if it was flat all the way.

The shortest route is probably over Muncaster Fell, which means a 700ft climb followed by a descent into the valley, then about an 8 mile walk through Eskdale, with the risk of attack, before climbing up to the fort. Perhpas the Romans would have sought out a route that took them over Irton Fell and Ilgill Head then Eskdale Fell in order to avoid the low level paths. Personally anything flat is a welcome break when your knees are aching.

Water fall at Boot

On our last full day we went for a circular walk along the river and back via Boot. The last part of the walk took us past the old water mill and fall beside it.

The morning at Fisherground

This is one of the major reasons I love the Lakes.

To get up in the morning and look out to see this kind of view is amazing. And the peace and quiet of it all is something else too.

We'll be back another year, of that I'm sure.

The place we were staying is called Fisherground, and it sits in the Eskdale valley. The house sleeps 16 and is a great location for a large family party like ours.

The Lakes 2009: Tuesday

It has to be said that there can be no finer place to be on a good weather day that the English Lakes. On Monday we set off in the direction of Ravenglass from our base in Eskdale and after about 6.5 miles a small group of us arrived at our destination having enjoyed the adventure of crossing a fell after the rains.

At times we were walking upstream where no stream should have been. Tiring, but delightful and the view from the high point worth all the effort, even for Thomas. Who at 1 day short of his sixth birthday walked almost all the way.

Today we went in search of Hard Knott fort. It turned out to be hard work and almost 10 miles of walking, but once again we were rewarded with some great views.

The Lakes 2009: Sunday

I can’t remember which poet or author it was who suggested that no day in the Lake district deserves the appellation “Sunday”, but that would certainly be true of this particular Sunday. It is raining. Really raining. Still, you don’t come to the Lakes to sit on the beach, but it would be nice if the rain would move out of our valley and into someone else’s in the next couple of hours.

Yesterday was out first full day, although not all members of the family had arrived when we set out on our first walk of the holiday. A short trek across the river and up to the old church, then back via Dalegarth Station for ice-cream. It’s about 5 miles and a nice gentle stroll, just right for a Saturday afternoon.

Being in a valley you get a wonderful perspective on the fells and mountains as they rise all around you. In the sunshine, yes the sun did shine yesterday, they are quite spectacular. To the east, roughly speaking, is Muncaster and the sea, to the west, Eskdale Fell and Great How with Sca Fell and the Pike in the distance. Illgil Head and Irton Fell shadow us as does the beginnings of Birker Fell as far as I can tell form the map! Wast Water and Wasdale Head lie 10 or so miles away over the Fell and Moor that separates Boot from Wasdale, and maybe a walk for tomorrow if the weather improves. I wonder too about Seatoller, a walk I haven’t yet tried in this valley.

So we wait, patiently watching the rain and looking hopefully for signs of brighter skies. It’s not a problem because we’re all happy to spend time together and talk and laugh and remember the family history. Reminiscing about my grandmother and her brass ornaments made from First World War shrapnel, or so we were told.

I’ve brought some reading with me. Frank Viola book Reimagining the Church and some fiction, The Cellist of Sarajevo, Night train to Lisbon and a Tony Parson’s novel about a man who gets a heart transplant and wants his old life back. Not sure how much, if any, of these will get read, although I’ve started the Viola book and dipped into the Cellist.

And in case you were wondering…. It’s still raining heavily!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Just to clarify...

I mentioned yesterday about the appointment of a youth-worker at Upminster and what an exciting prospect it is. I ought to have mentioned that the church members make the final decision on appointments like this, and rightly so.

Anyway, it still holds true that if the church members agree then we have some exciting days ahead.

I've amended the original post to reflect this principle, just over excited I guess!!

The presence of God

I sometimes wonder what we mean when we talk about feeling God's presence. What exactly is it that we are feeling? For many charismatic Christians it is often about some warm fuzzy sense. "I really felt God's presence today", doesn't seem to mean much when you boil it down.

I say this because of two things. Firstly I was reading Psalm 114 yesterday or the day before and was struck by what the psalmist says happens as a result of God's presence. The sea fled, the Jordan turned back, the mountains leap like rams and the hills like lambs. The earth trembles at the presence of the Lord.

Doesn't sound warm and fuzzy really.

Now, I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't feel the sense of God's presence as an experience of his love and grace like a warm embrace, but there's more to God's presence than that.

The second thing was the lyric of a song, the chorus of which says this:

When you stand, tall trees and mountains bow,
When you speak, the fiercest of oceans is still.
And I see the sinner seek devotion
The lost become chosen, and I fall to my knees.

From Devotion

It's just a plea to not limit God's presence to making us feel better about ourselves but to look for an experience of him that moves mountains and calms storms and maybe, just maybe, makes us weak at the knees because of the awesome nature of his almighty power.

Just an ordinary day

Yesterday was just another ordinary day. Ally and I drove down to Upminster to build wardrobes and take delivery of our new fridgefreezer. It's big, but not the size of those side-by-side appliances that are becoming popular. Maybe one day we'll have room for one of those, but for now having a fridge that is taller than I am is quite a novelty!

I also had the privilege of interviewing the new Youth Worker for Upminster Baptist Church. Looking forward to working with him in on a number of ideas (assuming the appointment is ratified by the church members). This will be a first for me, to have another person for whom I'll be taking some degree of management responsibility.

I certainly don't think that church should be run like a business, so it will be a challenge to develop accountability and management that reflects kingdom principles more that blue chip principles. I might have to read Jim Collins again!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The passion we carry

Having got up a little early today, I decided to go for a walk around our newly planted wood. I love this walk, but don't do it often enough. Anyway I set off with ipod plugged in and alone with the music and my thoughts.

I began to think about what to say at my induction in October. It's traditional to tell the story of how one came to accept the call to the church. But then I'm not one for tradition. It's almost impossible to tell the story without it sounding either over spiritualised or just another personal choice. So I began to think about what to say.

What is it that moves me to move home and family and friends and start over in a new place with unfamiliar things and unknown issues to address? It's something that burns deep inside of me, a passion that ought to overshadow everything else but often gets clouded out by the daily frustrations and setbacks of the stuff that happens around me. But it's there. Always there.

When I tell the story I want to talk about what could be, what should be. I want to talk about the simple fact that Jesus died to make a difference. That he died to change our future, to deal with our past and empower us to live in the present. I want to talk about the passion he has for the missing and the need I have to get that passion in my heart, and the way it calls me forward, onward, deeper into God's mission. I want to talk about how it burns like fire in my bones, and how nothing else is as important and how I can't hold it in.

And as I thought about these things I began to cry out to God that he would give me more of this passion.

I'm not sure what I'll actually say, but this morning I met with God and chose once again to submit my life into his hands for his purposes.

"Lord let your fire fall, let it burn in all our hearts."

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I began reading Andy Stanley's Visioneering today. It's been on my list of "to read" for some time, and now just seemed like the right time to dip in. Anyway, here's an interesting quote from the opening chapter:

Visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be. Anyone who is emotionally involved-frustrated, brokenhearted, maybe even angry-about the way things are in the light of the way they believe things could be, is a candidate for a vision. Visions form in the hearts of those who are dissatisfied with the status quo.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Finally got it filed!

Ever since I read Getting Thing Done, I've been promising myself I'd attack my filing system. I haven't panicked about it because it's been on my someday/maybe list because it needed doing but frankly it wasn't that important personally.

Moving home has given me the opportunity to go through the files and jettison quite a lot of things I'll no longer need, so it seemed like a good time to set to the process of reorganising the system. The main problem I have with files is figuring out where to file a given item. File it of course in a way that it can be retrieved as easily as possible. Filing something is never a problem, finding it again is the challenge!

So, having seen David Allen talk about a simple A-Z system using square cut folders, Ally and I set to the reorganisation. We made some simple dividers from mount board and spilt hanging files. The hanging files provided runners for the tabbed dividers. Then we worked through the files until we'd reorganised them all into folders.

The result is that what occupied two drawers of my filing cabinet now occupies one drawer. And a few things came to light that can now be found very quickly. I'm sure that there will be a build up of things when we move as I collect minutes of new meetings and lists of this or that. But, and it's an important caveat, it should be far easier to create a new file and the space saved by removing all the hanging files can be used for smaller files.

Now if we can do the same to the second filing cabinet, that contains all the home stuff, we'll be really well organised!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What questions should we be asking?

Here's an interesting bit of research. Ed Stetzer reflects on the kind of questions people are asking. The simple conclusion is that the majority of people (in North America) are asking about the meaning and purpose of their lives rather than their eternal destiny. The same is probably true here in the UK.

So, if we are still asking the question, "If you were to die tonight, are you sure you would go to heaven?", we might just be asking the wrong question, or at the very least asking a question that has little or no context for many people's lives.

So what would be a better question? What should we, or could we ask to start a spiritual question that would find a context in most people's lives?

Time to reach for the thinking cap I believe.

Soul Yearning

How would you describe your devotional life at the moment? Pretty good. Weak. Room for improvement. Inspiring.

Maybe not.

Psalm 84 says:

My soul yearns, even faints
for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and flesh cry out
for the living God.

Perhaps what we all need is an injection of this kind of passion for God.

"Thank you Lord that your grace is always enough. Give me the passion I need to pursue you and you kingdom purposes in my life."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


How interesting it was that Paul set off in search of mission and let God guide him along the way. In Acts 16 there is that fascinating passage that describes Paul's pursuit of his calling and God's nudging him in the right direction.

I always think of a pinball machine when I read about how he tried this direction and God said no, so he tried another direction and again the route was blocked. Finally God speaks and Paul sets off in a new direction.

Israel in the wilderness, Abraham from Ur to Canaan, Paul to Macedonia. Just following God where he leads. Not a bad idea for the church when you think about it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Groundhog Day Christianity

I heard this phrase in an interview and it struck a chord with me. If you've seen the film with Bill Murray, you will know what a groundhog day is. Murray plays a TV reporter who finds himself waking up to the same day every morning. Can you imagine living the same day over and over again?

But many of us do as we live a sort of groundhog day faith. Maybe it's because we have so focused on that from which we have been saved to the detriment of that for which we have been saved. A preoccupation with escaping hell had lead us into a daily grind of getting through to the end, of surviving life without every really living it.

So what might happen if we change the perspective? What if we focused a little more of our attention on the things for which we are saved? What if we got up every morning and thanked God for his call to us to partner with him in his great adventure of building the kingdom?

When we wonder about our personal purpose in life we are forgetting that we are called to something much bigger than ourselves. We only have to dip into the Bible to listen to God speaking about his passion for justice, his love for lost people, his concern for the welfare of the world he created, in order to realise that there is more to life than a get out hell free card.

God has invited us to join his team and change the world with him. What greater purpose could we possibly have than that?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Some Days

What a day! First up it was off to the supermarket to shop. That was 7:30am! 7:30am on a Saturday. Tescos is a strange place at 7:30am on any day, but on a Saturday it's possibly an even stranger place to be. What was impressive was the well dressed older couple who were coming out as we went in. By implication this means that they had been in the shop for at least 30 minutes. Jacket and tie, well polished shoes, cleanly shaved. Had I entered Stepford?

The whole reason for this early excursion to the temple of groceries was the need to get started on the day. There was a lot ahead of us. At 9:30 we were expecting some folks from a new church plant to arrive to rearrange the church for tomorrow morning. Chairs were to be moved and tables introduced to give a cafe style feel. This is the great thing about having taken out the pews all that time ago, moveable seats.

I made my simple requirements known-no one to end up sitting with their backs to the platform ( no desire to give anyone a twisted spine)-and left them to it. We will see what everyone makes of it tomorrow, including me!

Next we got our things together to go to Upminster via Lakeside and Ikea. The Ikea experience, for those uninitiated in such things, goes something like this:

1. Arrive at Ikea and park and set off in search for the entrance.
2. Climb a series of staircases to get to the showroom and begin to wander through the store slavishly following the arrows on the floor.
3. Get bored and try and cut through to the bit you want only to end up in lighting three times without knowing how you got there, or how to get back!
4. Eventually find the wardrobes you want to look at and decide if you really like them.
5. Choose the one you know is in stock because you checked the website before setting off.
6. Find a member of staff because you want the tall ones (only to discover that this is irrelevant because you don't get any more help, just a neatly printed list of all the things you could have written down yourself).
7. Set off on the winding walk to the stairs that take you back downstairs to the warehouse.
8. Optional step: change your mind about getting the tall wardrobes and hope the shorter ones are in roughly the same place as the tall ones because you didn't write down which aisle and bay they were in. (Actually that was my suggestion, so don't think it was anyone else's fault)
9. Get to the location to discover everything the website said was in stock isn't, but that everything it said wasn't in stock actually is!
10. Realise that nothing appears to be where it is supposed to be. When it says that the carcass you want is in the rack below the label, it actually means wander up and down the aisle until you find it by chance.
11. Push overloaded trolley to the tills as if it's a small child intent on wandering to the left or the right but persistently refusing to go in anything that resembles a straight line.
12. Pay.
13. Head for the doors whilst the trolley heads off in a different direction, requiring constant pulling and twisting to hold in check.
14. Load the car and the roof rack and the roof rack of the wonderful person who has volunteered to help and possibly wishes that they'd eaten more spinach the day before because those boxes are heavy to lift onto the top of the two cars and there are five of them!
15. Set off in convoy only to get separated by a Volvo who is taking the same route but appears to have learnt to drive on a slalom course. Must be all that snow in Sweden.
16. Catch each other up only to meet the Volvo again.
17. Make it to the house and unload and carry all boxes and doors and assorted bits upstairs.
18. Sweat profusely because you've chosen the warmest day to do this, you can't open any windows and you're wearing jeans!
19. Put down the last box and wonder if you've brought a big enough roll of paper towel to dry yourself off if you go and stand in the bath and turn the shower on!
20. Gratefully accept the kind offer of a cold drink and a sit down.

Well that was our Ikea experience, but the day didn't end there. We drove from Upminster to Saffron Walden to see Anne's parents and have a meal with them. They'd ordered Chinese takeaway (good thing we had Indian last night then!).

These visits usually involve solving some computer related problem and discussing replacement boilers. With computer sorted and boiler discussed, with optional conversation about the house wiring, we set off home.

Arrive home ready for bed but aware that I've forgotten to print the notices but deciding to leave that until tomorrow. There will be plenty of time in the morning!!

Write a blogpost because you are too tired to do anything else. So ends the day. It's been a lot of driving but a lot of fun too.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Date and time

As Ally has just pointed out to me...

As we sat in Milton Keynes earlier today it was 12:34:56 on the 7th of the 8th 2009. Which gave us 123456789 as the time and date!

Little things.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

When God seems silent

What is happening when God is silent? It's a question that Psalm 74 asks. In the face of those who mock and insult him, God appears not to be doing anything or saying anything. "How long Lord?" is the question, but no answer comes.

The key to living through the silence comes in the middle of the Psalm. Instead of focusing on the present, the psalm writer remembers the eternal truth "But God is my King from long ago; he brings salvation to the earth."

Whatever the reason for God's apparent silence, this fact remains true, eternally true, and reliably true.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Every Christian a church planter?

Ally is reading Neil Cole's Organic Church. She shared this quote with me the other day:

Every Christian is a church planter, every home is a church, and every church building is a training centre.
Very interesting.

Loving the place you live

If you can't love the place you live, how can you reach it?

I don't know if it's me, but there are times when I get the feeling that it is almost an accepted fact of life that people hate the place they live. Maybe we've just noticed it more in Bedford. To hear some people talk you'd think that Bedford had nothing going for it at all. There's not enough shopping, the town centre is too dangerous at the weekends at night, there's nothing to do etc. etc. Having moved a fair number of times, it's a pattern I've observed in a number of places.

And Christians are amongst the worst offenders when it comes to decrying their local town or city.

But if we hate the place we live, how then can we love it? How can we pray the heart-achingly tear-filled prayers for God to pour out his Spirit in renewal and revival if we would rather see the place wiped from the map? How can we love the people when we're so focused on despising the place?

These are not complete thoughts, but I just wonder what difference it might make if every Christian began to pray positively for the places where they live and work. If we began to pray about the coffee shops and cafes that we use. If we began to pray for the retail workers and the businesses. I wonder how different our town centres could be if it were gangs of believers hanging around the shopping centre praying together and sharing fellowship together.

Perhaps today is the day to start to ask God to give you a heart for the place where you live. A day to begin to pray God's blessing on the people and places that surround you. Even if you want desperately to leave, there is no reason whatsoever that you can offer to God for not praying whilst still there.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Laptop pain

Ho hum. I bought a new laptop today for Anne to use at home. She's offered to take over doing the accounts and so we decided to get a new Windows laptop and install Microsoft Money on it. Easier said than done.

The laptop is okay, it's Microsoft that gets me frustrated. I put the installation CD in the drive and the first thing that Vista says is that it doesn't recognise the publisher. Strange that, given that it's the same company that writes the operating system. So I ignore the warnings and install the programme. Next I think to myself it should be a simple matter of restoring a backup of the file from the old laptop to the new one. Not so.

Invalid filenames, missing permissions. nothing works! It looks very much like I will have to start from scratch and put all the data in again. Unbelievable! I even tried replacing the file manually but now it won't even open that one.

What is going on? Does this mean that there is no point backing up a file because there's no way it can be restored? What happens if the laptop crashes and I have to restore the operating system? Will it reject the file again?

Well, by now it should at least have managed to install the 15 critical updates Vista needs, so maybe I'll try again. Is there a way to sweet talk a PC into doing what you want it to do, or do I need to fetch my Birmingham screwdriver?

Monday, August 03, 2009

On not going to church

I happened to see someone the other day who used to come to church. It's been a long time and as far I know the main reason they stopped coming was because it didn't fit with a new lifestyle choice they'd made.

You might be thinking at this point that I'm going to tell you that they left their spouse and began a new relationship with another person. That's not the reason. You might be thinking that it was because they fell out with someone else at church and just can't be in the same room with them. That wouldn't be it either.

Sadly the reason seems to be far more selfish than that. Church, as a gathering of God's people to worship together, to reflect together, to encourage each other and to prepare ourselves for the challenge of total involvement with God's mission, well it just doesn't fit their lifestyle. They are too busy doing other things. And don't think for a minute that these other things are are actually kingdom focused because they aren't. They are a personal choice to do something other.

When we stopped having evening services or celebrations, I rather hoped that we'd all use the time more fruitfully to connect with people far from God. We tried some summer barbecues that worked to a degree, but even we've struggled to make the most of the free time. In the end we tried a housegroup, but people dropped out of that and now we have a prayer meeting that rarely attracts more than four or five folk regularly. So we're back to doing church twice on a Sunday, and while I value our prayer time together, a bit of me can't help thinking we've missed an opportunity somewhere. But that's another line of reflection all together.

So don't give up on the discipline of corporate worship for a Sunday morning foursomes or to spend time in the workshop (my choice if I had one) or to get in to the office when it's quite. Think hard about what you bring to the life of the church as part of the body of Christ and remember how much less we are without you there.

Does missional spell the end of full-time ministry?

Catching up on RSS feeds and other things, I came across an article that suggested that the reason many pastors were reluctant to "take their churches missional" was because it would endanger their jobs. Can that be right? Does it necessarily follow that a missional church no longer needs pastoral oversight? Personally I find it hard to believe, but I will do some more reading to see what I can find out.

As it is, I can't see that my job, which after all isn't actually a job at all but a call, could be "at risk" by seeking to realign the church I serve with the mission of God in the world. It might reshape my role, in fact it ought to reshape it, but make it unnecessary, I'm not so sure.

There has always been a mixture of bi-vocational or tent-making ministries alongside the so-called "full-timers". I don't see any reason why this should not be true of the future church as much as it has been true for the past or present church.

And if, for whatever reason, my paid full-time role should disappear because the church becomes more connected to its primary purpose, then why should I be afraid of that? If the church becomes what God intends it to be, then actually that fulfils my ministry rather than threatens it.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Wonder artwork

I just wanted to post a picture of a fantastic piece of artwork created by my daughter Ally for our All-Age Celebration this morning.

We assembled it on the dining room table, and I'll take a picture of it as it appears in church sometime, but I think it's truly great.

We've been doing this series about the church under construction, and the artwork represents the five topics we've covered: prophetic, worshipping, caring, serving and missionary. Prophetic was the hardest to capture.

The picture were first drawn and then photographed and then traced in Illustrator and coloured. David kindly printed them out on his A3 printer and we then mounted them on 5mm foam board.

I'm hoping someone is going to turn it into a banner or even a stained glass panel.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Joy of Moving

So it's now August and that means 6 weeks to moving day. There's so much to sort out, but at least we are working through the house room by room looking at what's going and what's not. So far I've sold my Palm PDA on eBay and my golf clubs are up for sale. I gave up playing a few years ago and it just seemed like a good time finally to say good-bye to them.

Hopefully they'll be sold by Monday and then there are a few other items I might submit to the auction world. I've found a Marshall effects pedal and a few more golf things like my bag and a bag stand. Even my old trolley might be worth something.

We've had a few trips to the tidy tip to get rid of some stuff and I think there will be one or two more trips to the charity shop and tip in the next few weeks.

Decluttering is a great feeling and apparently a lucrative business if you've got something to offer to anyone who is living a cluttered life and needs a little help. I've always thought, but found it hard to practice, a regular routine of three-monthly sort outs would be a good thing. I think it's because as the pile of things to go gets bigger it gets harder to add to it. Eventually you start keeping stuff because you can't conceive of getting rid of it all. So by doing it every three months you might actually get rid of more rubbish a year than you do by having a annual purge.

It's a theory.

So, as I look around my study and contemplate a day sorting out this room, a positively frightening thought, I'm looking forward to having less and hoping to find a home for many items marked "no longer needed". Which reminds me, if anyone needs an old Nokia charger, I've got three on my shelf that I don't know what to do with!