Sunday, February 27, 2011

National Days Of Prayer & Fasting

I came across this too late for the 30th January, but have put the other dates in my diary. You might want to read more here unless you already know about it all!

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I had a bit of a grumpy old man moment yesterday. It's an age thing! I'd decided to go for a swim and thought I'd chosen a time when any parents with kids were probably heading to MacDonalds. Sadly I was wrong. Slipping into the swimming lane, it soon became crowded as 2 then 3 more people entered the water.

After a short while I gave up swimming around other bodies and retired to the heat and safety of the sauna. Having inspected my foot that had been clawed by the long-nailed woman who seemed to think swimming diagonally across the lane was the best way to get the water to herself, I settled down to roast and watched through the window as parents stood in the pool encouraging their water-winged future Olympians to jump into the water. And that's when the grumpy old man took over and I found myself moaning about the state of parenting.

What struck me was that here were parents who probably complained when their children failed to do what they asked them to do, actively encouraging them to break the rules printed on the rather large notice as you enter the pool area. It quite clearly says: No diving or jumping into the water. It's a safety thing, not a kill-joy rule. The water simply isn't deep enough.

Maybe I'm just being picky, but if we teach our children that you can pick and choose which rules to obey based upon whether they suit you or not, then we can't really complain when they do that with our rules.

Grumpy rant over.

Faith in the Pub

Now I know that it isn't ground-breaking stuff for many folk, but we had our second "Pub Group" last night. There were seven of us altogether and to be honest, Anne and I were really quite excited and pleased with the evening. We had a good discussion across a range of topics and it was all interesting. There were a few moments where it might have got tense, but it didn't, and I think overall it was another positive step.

We also learnt a few more things. First of all, we need to go with some topics in mind. It could so easily drift into an unhelpful discussion that simply focuses on the same things month after month. Last night we talked about the Middle East. About how we felt about it, the politics and issues and the questions. We also reflected on how we can pray most effectively as the events unfold. We drifted into conversations about church and reaching our community, about men in church and about one or two others subjects that cropped up.

Secondly, where we sit is also quite important. We were in the corner furthest from the bar. That meant we had little, in fact no interaction with others beyond our group. I'm not sure quite how we address that. There aren't that many comfortable seats near the bar and I don't fancy standing up all night! We will have to think about it if we want people to be able to overhear our conversation and feel able to join in. But maybe in these initial meetings it's less of a problem while we find our feet.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Foundations and footings

I watched a video of Ken Robinson talking about education that I may have seen before, but I can't remember. Anyway, the link came via a friend and I'm really glad they sent it. The basic premise of Robinson's argument is that our educational systems educate creativity out of us. The result is that by the time most of us reach adulthood we are only interested in the right answer and generally afraid of getting the wrong answer. So we simply learn not to think creatively, because that might lead us to the wrong answer. It's a really interesting video and there is much to learn and apply to the church.

What also interested me was something he said about what originally drove public education and how it came to colour how we deliver and measure it. Two things determined all public education policies. One was the enlightenment the other was industrialisation. To some extent you hear echoes of this every time an industrialist wades into the argument about the outcomes of education. Anyway, I'm moving away from the point I want make.

Some time ago I began to ask questions about the nature of leadership in church and I wonder if we'd been building on the wrong foundation. Instead of building on apostles and prophets, we were building on pastors and teachers. But Robinson's point made me wonder how we got there. Where did we start? What turned a missionary movement into an institution? Was it just the result of moving from the margins to centre of society after the conversion of the Roman emperor? I don't think so.

For the most part we have to acknowledge that we are essential a selfish people. We not naturally predisposed to think what might be best for others at the expense of what might be best for us. You never hear the wealthy say to government, "Raise our taxes so that the poor don't have to suffer." On the contrary, we wriggle and squirm our way towards an economic construct that assume that if you make the rich richer, it will trickle down to the poorest parts of society.

So I think we need to take seriously that simple truth that we do what meets our needs first. And that is true of church. Perhaps we have built upon the wrong foundations, but we have done so because it suits us. It creates a comfortable environment for us and we can simply blame the world for not recognising the truth we preach. And that needs to change.

I have long held the view that those of us who know Jesus as leader and forgiver will have an eternity to sort out our problems and issues. An eternity where we can enjoy the fruit of our relationship with God and possibly even improve our backhand! On the other hand we are surrounded by people who only have a lifetime in which to make that choice. So what should be our priority? comfort for ourselves or engagement in mission for the sake of others?

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Home Again!

So, we've been away for a short break. Every year for the last 10 or more years, Anne's parents have spent 2 or 3 weeks in Tenerife and this year we joined them for a week. There's something very pleasing about winter sunshine. It's a very odd feeling to walk around in shorts and a t-shirt in February. It's almost surreal, but surprisingly easy to get used to!

We stayed in a place that was created from nothing as a holiday resort by the looks of old photographs of the area. Not even a hint of an old fishing village. One suspects that Tenerife has suffered a little from over development and is now suffering the consequences of the economic crises that have hit the more affluent economies of Western Europe. Testimony to this was a large abandoned hotel complex overlooking the town. What was once the boom industry of time-shares and holiday homes has fallen on very hard times indeed.

We spent 7 days in a hotel built in 1967 as the focal point of this new resort. My in-laws like it because they feel safe and they know a lot of regular visitors who come year after year. It's quite interesting to be the person with new eyes, seeing what they overlook because they like the company and the security. Luxury is no substitute for feeling comfortable in your surroundings.

The food was okay, but probably not what you might expect from the star rating of the hotel. Their idea of a vegetarian option was somewhat lacking in imagination. I don't consider a quarter of a white cabbage and a baby marrow to be a well balanced meal!

Anne and I set ourselves the target of doing 15,000 steps a day and we were well in advance of this until yours truly got floored by a nasty little virus that stole two days of the holiday and got everyone wondering about alternative travelling plans in case I wasn't fit enough for the return flight on time. I was, and we made it home, but it meant that for the first time in over 6 months I actually had a day when I didn't walk further than the bathroom, which fortunately wasn't far!! Still, I managed the equivalent of about 50 miles in only 5 days.

I spent my time when well playing tennis, swimming, reading, walking and playing more tennis. Having started to learn to play in the cold months of November and December, it was something of a revolution to have the sun on your back and dry tennis balls to hit. We had two courts at the hotel and I found a partner for a singles game and a group for social doubles in the mornings. Sadly the virus put paid to being able to play everyday, but it wasn't a total loss.

We didn't explore the island at all, too much tennis to be played. Maybe another year we'll get up into the mountains and visit a few places. To be honest, I'm not that interested in doing that. I like being active, but I'm not a great sight-seer.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

January walking

Well another month is over and another tally of steps and miles has been calculated. I might just see what it all comes to after a year, but I'm not sure. It is quite interesting to see the miles add up and the steps pass certain markers. I'm also wondering about what to do as a next challenge. I've already done my 100-day challenge and I've walked the equivalent of the length of the country. I wonder how far it is around the coast? That will probably keep me going for some time to come!

To the numbers:

Steps: 372,212

Equiv. distance: 181 miles

Days over 10k: 29

Av. per day: 12,007

Total from 1st August: 2,237,639 steps; 1,109 miles (1,774Km); 12,161 steps a day average.

Apparently, as far as I can determine, the total coastline of Great Britain runs to about 7, 700 miles. The main island is about 5,000 miles. So, at my current rate of approximately 6 miles a day, that would take 833 days of which I've done 184! That leaves 649 days. I think that would mean I'd finish that challenge around the 11th Nov. 2013. Maybe a day early given the leap year!

I think it would also cost me about four or five pairs of trainers! Maybe I'll buy them all now before the price goes up!

A Challenging Call

When Jesus stood strong, He was crucified. When the apostles spoke the truth, they were martyred. When the early church modelled the message, they were persecuted. But they turned the world upside down. Many were rescued from emptiness and despair by their message of the cross! Is our calling any different?

Church Awakening, 270

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