Archive for December, 2009

The Question Is Complete.

“Your lack of faith is useless…”

From “The Question Is Complete” by Aereogramme.

It’s that time of year again…the papers and television shows chronicle the highlights and lowlights of the year fading out.  We look back before looking forward.

How would you sum up 2009?  What words or pictures would you use?  What were the defining moments?  Could you make sense of them at the time?

Mine is here.  It’s a post I wrote on this blog back in April.  It all seems so much clearer now as another year ends.  The third interpretation in the blog post seems to ring true.  As 2009 ebbs away I have laid down worship leading and small group leading.  Family life will change in 2010 as we eagerly await a new arrival in May.  Work brings new responsibilities and new contacts – even with surveyors who share my love of surfing!

The lure of the sea with all its symbolism pans large on my horizon and I’ve been spending much less time on my blog and much more getting this off the ground.

Here’s to the New Year!

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I Gotta Feeling

“I gotta feeling,

That tonight’s gonna be a good night.

That tonight’s gonna be a good night.

That tonight’s gonna be a good, good, night”.

From “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas.

I’ve written frequently and lovingly about the little small group of people who have inhabited our home most Tuesday evenings for the past 3.5 years.  Something that started off small has grown organically and I often wondered whether I could imagine my life without them all sat around our dining table chatting, laughing and eating?

Over the years some folks have joined us for a time and moved on, but most of the group have been fairly consistent.  These were not people we knew before but, whilst we don’t see each other a great deal through the rest of the week,  these folks feel like family. 

We often say that church is not the buildings but, rather, it is the people.  Whilst I love our church gathered, this small group collective has become church community to one another in a very real way.  Without these individuals, I know my life would have been much poorer these past few years.  They have brought so many laughs, tangents of discussions, new books, resources and ideas into our lives.  They have helped to continue to shape my thinking, to deconstruct some old notions, to re-examine my beliefs.

We met for the final time as this wee group on Tuesday.  I really wondered if it was going to be an emotional evening?  It actually felt like the perfect end to a chapter.  Before everyone left, we stood in a circle and just prayed blessing, guidance and a commissioning over one another.  It was hugely meaningful and uplifting. 

As people left, we all talked excitedly of seeing one another at the Carols by candlelight service on Sunday evening – almost longing to ensure that we don’t lose the cohesion and friendships we have developed.  So, in a very real way this is the end of an era.  Despite that, I am genuinely excited to see what tales we will trade a year on from now as we each re-orientate ourselves into 2010.

Have You Fed The Fish?

“Sometimes you’ve got to rewind to go forward.
There’s some good times around the corner.”

From “Have You Fed The Fish?” by Badly Drawn Boy.

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The other weekend I headed up to the North West Coast of Scotland with seven others.  The minibus drive through the glens brought us closer to stags than I have ever been as they sheltered in the comparative warmth of the valley in the wee small hours.  We awoke to the beauty of the view from our lochside cottage on Saturday morning to see a dusting of snow on the hilltops.

We drove north to a secret spot and watched the lines on the water come across the horizon with increased rhythm as the tide withdrew and the swell built.  We stripped off in the November air and clambered into our wetsuits, trying to read the sea and the positioning of the rocks on the reef break. 

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I felt exhausted just paddling out beyond the whitewater and was happy to just sit on my surfboard and lap up the scenery as I looked over towards the Hebridies.

Truth be told, I was out of my depth, nervous of undoing my knee’s gradual recovery and scared of dashing my board or body on the rocks and boulders below and on the shoreline.  I felt unsteady, tired, injured and out of my comfort zone.  The few waves I tried for took me off with such force that I felt every ligament pulled and stretched close to snapping point as I went through the under surface washing machine desperately trying to protect my head from being whacked.

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The afternoon session on the beach break was gorgeous, but I just couldn’t get my technique together despite the near perfect conditions and beautifully peeling waves…

Saturday night, I felt quite discouraged, out of practice, injured and a bit of a fraudster.  Maybe I should sell my board and wetsuit and recognise I’m getting older…

Sometimes, we just need to humble ourselves, stop pretending and recognise our limitations.  There are times to ask advice and questions – to be prepared to take a few steps backwards, to deconstruct notions and rebuild things afresh – to see ourselves as others do and to learn from that – to reposition ourselves – to stop battling against the waves in our own strength, using our own technique and bad habits.   

On Sunday morning we returned to the reef break.  I sat the session out, resting my sore knee and simply enjoying the scenery and the sound of the ocean.  I just took the time to feed my soul and to find pleasure in everyone else’s stoke.

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We returned to the beach in the afternoon and, having constantly repeated all of the advice from the day before, it all came together with me catching most of the waves I went for. 

The waves were cresting perfectly and with precise rhythm as the spray projected small rainbows in the offshore wind behind the line-up.  I came out of the water under a setting sun as the stars began to light up, exhausted but deeply chuffed and focussed.

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I need humility.  I need to listen.  I need a different stance at times.  I need discipline.  I need practice.  I need focus on the areas I need to work on.  I need to get fitter.  I love the rush.  I love the sence of feeling so small amidst creation.  I love to hear the whoops of my friends’ delight when the conditions come together or someone catches a really great ride.

Maybe the lessons reach far beyond surfing?

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Sweet Thing.

“And I will raise my hand up
Into the night time sky.
And count the stars
That’s shining in your eye.
Just to dig it all an’ not to wonder why.
That’s just fine.
And I’ll be satisfied
Not to read in between the lines.
And I will walk and talk
In gardens all wet with rain
And I will never, ever, ever, ever
Grow so old again”.

From “Sweet Thing” by Van Morrison.

Is it just me, or does the pace of life step up a gear every December?  A constantly growing “to-do” list of presents to buy, places to be, people to see…all before we collapse into an exhausted heap come the holidays or the period when we get our space back to ourselves.

I seem to be juggling a bunch of things at the moment.  For the most part they are good things – things I am glad to be a part of.  I am looking forward to laying some of them down in coming weeks though…

Karl has talked a lot about the speed at which God moves.  Is it faster than the speed of light or sound?  Yes.  Is it slower than we often want?  Yes.  Is it at the speed of life?  Yes.  Is it at the speed of love?  Yes.  What is that?

Last night on my way from the office to another appointment I blew a puncture on my bike.  It forced me to stop – to think – to walk and talk with God.  When I looked beyond the Christmas lights, I noticed that the sky was clear and the moon and stars were bright.  The air was cold and sharp (0.5 degrees) and it was strangely refreshing and invigorating.  I dropped my agenda and was in a much better head-space when I arrived at my next destination.

Sometimes we just need to slow down.  Maybe the speed of love is 3 miles per hour.. That is the speed we walk at.

My next stop was to inhabit a, somewhat, secret place and just to be still.  To think, to reflect and to pray.  The two of us who met had a really useful bit of time out as we turned our eyes away from ourselves and towards others for whom we are grateful and to whom we would love to be good news.


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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