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Raising healthy kids

This is the post excerpt.

This week Jemma and I got to meet our 4th child, our 3rd daughter Iva Lucia. She was born at the excellent Leeds General Infirmary. A two day stay at LGI for Iva’s birth was followed up later in the week by another couple of days in a different part of the same hospital with 2nd daughter, Joy, who needed a bit of help with a nasty chest infection.

Raising healthy kids has been on my Twitter bio for a couple of years now and as we start life as a family of 6 (plus a dog and 2 guinea pigs) it feels as though doing life together and keeping everyone well could be a fair challenge.

But of course raising healthy kids is much more than dodging the latest virus and ensuring they wash their hands at each opportunity. We want to see our children and all children God connected and flourishing. As we found out this week, raising healthy kids, not just physically but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually is going to be a challenge.

Expect a few notes from the journey in this blog. Not sure how helpful it will be, I’m sure we won’t find the answers to all the questions but we might stumble on a few.

Church is changing

A blog by Jemma about church at the kitchen table in the context of our family – scroll to the bottom of the page for the short version.

I listened to a brilliant sermon yesterday calling the church to let go of how things were and embrace the challenge of being in lock down. The preacher made some really solid points about how Jesus was relational, engaged with the everyday and how we are now called to step away from buildings, programmes and traditions to run churches from our own homes with only the virtual world to help us. I then got an email all the way from Uganda saying almost exactly the same things.

So much of what was said resonated with me and made me push aside all the worries of today and feel excited about what church could mean for me and other people like me, busy working mums who want to pursue being a Christian. Don’t get me wrong, I love historic buildings, feel at home in certain churches and love the hushed sacred sense of being in a place where people have prayed for centuries. I’ve studied it and value the mystery of our connections as people to ‘place’, both man-made and natural.

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However, my most powerful and life changing moments with Jesus have been when my awareness of Him has been heightened in the mess of everyday life. He appeared when I was sat at the top of the stairs with nothing to lose or gain, without a church, without an outreach programme or a bible or Christian friends. He turned up and gave me peace and strength a clear head and hope and a faith experience that has become an unforgettable foundation in my life.

I see in the communities I’m a part of outside of the church how Jesus is not seen as relevant, not seen as part of people’s world and not experienced in an everyday way. Especially now we all need his strength to get through these days of bad news and fear. So it is with hope and excitement that I want to embrace this new world where the church is validated as beginning at home. I can see it is where so many of our issues are rooted and how much could be gained from searching him out amongst our most familiar surroundings.

Jesus in the everyday

I’m inspired by this sermon and by watching Bishop Ivan minister to us from an unimaginably challenging lock down in Uganda with fire and light in his smile. I have loads of ideas as I run that day and as I listen to another sermon saying very similar things. I keep stopping and texting home full of thoughts for how we might be able to help. I feel a burning desire to overcome my natural introversion and give what we have. The scripture for the week is about Jesus appearing to Thomas, the locked door, the holes in his hands, the wonder and belief and faith. The beginning of the new church. How amazing and how relevant!

 

The reality of a home church

So it was with great expectation that we set up our church at the kitchen table. After all wasn’t it Saint John Chrysostom who called the home, the ‘little church’?

We get out the bible, the cross, the cloth and light a candle. But then the reality of having four children in a home church kicks in.

We show a Lego cartoon which my son pointedly ignores preferring to play with real Lego.

We get a suitably relevant, Christian craft out and my two year old starts shouting ‘You’re not my best friend anymore’ at one of my daughters.

My eldest daughter hogs the one felt tip that my son can’t live without and then when he complains decides to throw it at him.

As he starts to cry we the adults, begin to feel the full range of human emotions. Irritation, disappointment, anger. So is this home church?

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Having children and quiet time…

Before I had children I used to enjoy the recommended ‘quiet time’. After we met Jesus slap bang in the middle of a life crisis and He smoothed us out, we never missed a day with my bible and worship time. Lawrence and I would sit and read our bibles in front of the fire and love the peace and quiet.

When I had my first baby our vicar (presently an Archdeacon in Carlisle Diocese) gave me a great book called ‘Patterns not Padlocks’. The gist of it was that a new pattern would emerge and I would see God in the chaos of child rearing. With grown up children of his own he must have known what was coming.

Ten years and four children later I feel family life still hasn’t quite gelled with church life. As our family grew and the amount of sleep we got shrank, my connection with the structure of church in felt less natural. I tried hard but it never felt easy. I would listen as lovely, missional Christian people would wonder why the packed week day toddler groups didn’t translate into packed family worship sessions on a Sunday. My life revolves around Jesus, I have a born again light and dark experience of Him in my life, but even I still understand why young children and church life can be an uneasy relationship.

A childlike faith

Anyway, back to this day, my daughter Joy who has hearing difficulties asks us ‘when will we do munnion?’ and grins her beautiful grin at me. I pick my youngest daughter up and she stops grumbling and nestles her head into my neck and I feel a flood of love that overcomes my cross feeling. My eldest daughter says sorry to my son and as children do, they quickly forgive and launch into a play together, the best of friends. As they rush off they tell me to leave them in the play room and in three words they speak the sermon I needed to hear. They ask me to go into the kitchen and leave them so they can ‘be comfortable acting’.

And, just like that Jesus speaks. There is no acting in a family group, we are who we are and he sees it all.  So this is the reality of home church. And from what I know to be true about Jesus I feel sure he loves through it all. He gives us the full range of emotions to see how love overcomes and enables us to forgive. Is there a better place to see and experience that lesson than at home in a family group?

It reminded me of a poem by Christina Rossetti I read the kids the day before;

Flint

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The everyday can hold the fire we gather around. We don’t need to get out on time, sit correctly in the pews and concentrate during the sermon. We can lose the expectation for a quiet time with six of us working and schooling together hullabaloo is dawn til dusk. We can’t make children pretend they don’t want the peach felt tip because they love Jesus. They are refreshingly simple and clear in what they want and need, their sense of justice, their need to be loved and heard, their ability to forgive and to worship in the moment.

Last week we kept returning to shepherds and sheep, Bishop Emma’s sermon on Sunday,  Psalm 23 and we also watched this clip about the shepherd and his sheep.

The sheep don’t look like your typical leaders, grown up, assertive not afraid of this pandemic and stepping out ‘in faith’ with super-hero strength. They’re sheep running to a shepherd hearing his voice and running towards him. No matter how bad my day is I can definitely do that.

I can live in lockdown inside our familiar surroundings and see Jesus come through the door and minister to me through my own children. Our family struggles can hold the Spirit of God and strengthen us for the challenge ahead. I am sure the churches of the future are in the next generation but the challenge maybe to let go of the ‘adult’ and so many of the traditional perspectives with all the expectations that go with that.

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Big Picture

So as we all are forced to let go of church as we know it. I wonder if we are being asked to be brave. Not in the traditional sense of the word with a sword and gritted teeth, but brave enough to let Jesus into the mess of everyday life, right into who we are. I wonder if anyone feels as refreshed and hopeful as I do that this maybe a new beginning for us all.

I pray our children will hopefully have seen and sensed Jesus overcome irritable feelings and change the atmosphere in our kitchen in that moment. I pray they will see him care about the details in their lives and so not doubt they are loved and have the expectation that He will be there for them as they grow.

I know they can sense His spirit and will lift their hands in worship when they do, but I will try and let go of the in-built desire to ‘plan’ that moment and just keep my eyes open ready to spot it and celebrate it with them.

I see how my primary aged children love to role play and sing and bounce and paint to learn. I will try and think of creative ways of bringing Jesus into the movement and rhythm of our everyday life but I will try and lift my expectation of what that will look, feel and sound like.

My prayer is a new home church will emerge for us all, not just for busy Mums but for all of us where we can see Jesus make a difference and take the freshness of our faith into the new post-coronavirus reality.

This is one of our #ChurchAtHome favourites right now

The Short Version: Busy parents/carers may not have time to read all this so…

We as a church are in lock down for the foreseeable future, so let’s be brave and embrace the opportunity to bring the church into our homes.

Jesus lives in the everyday moments, not just the special times but the messy times where tempers are frayed and we are not at our best. Those moments, if we work as a family to bring Jesus into them, can be just as precious in our faith walk.

Whilst adults set it up, home church needs to embrace that children will and can bring the message to the adults.

When teaching think big picture, embrace special moments when they arise but let go of expectations when you plan them. At the moment we have plenty of time.

Connectivity

As covid-19 lockdown is extended in the UK I’m drawn to consider one of the positives that seems to be emerging. Perhaps it is a bit early to do this whilst we are still in the midst of a such difficult time. We are all so aware of the struggles some people are having right now. Thankfully we are all well at the moment but our prayer list for others who aren’t grows daily.

As I write on Sunday afternoon, my twitter feed is telling me that #WoodPigeon is trending, there are threads labelled #naturewatch and pictures of favourite walks, including #myfavebench, the places we love to stop and pause. On Instagram, more than ever, I am seeing multiple pictures of blossom and garden birds. As lockdown continues we are hearing less traffic and more birdsong. Simultaneously it seems spring and coronavirus have broken out.

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Richard Passmore recently posted his excellent blog  about noticing what he calls the adjacent possible, the opportunities of the day and the surprises they could hold. It’s probably a really obvious thought, but I think lockdown is forcing us to slow down and be increasingly attentive to what’s under our noses, the local. In particular, as we draw a tighter perimeter around our lives, it seems nature, God’s creation becomes enlarged in our focus. Connectivity to nature, through the combination of slowing down and noticing brings its own kind of joy.

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This is not news to many people, whether prescribed or not, mindfulness has become a powerful antidote to today’s busy lives. it’s been the buzzword of the last decade. Being present in the moment is a great tool for quietening the chatter that rages in our heads.  But a new buzzword seems to be emerging… connectivity

It’s ironic, we are more separate than ever before, yet we are drawn to the importance of connection. Is there a subtle difference between mindfulness and connectivity?Mindfulness, it seems to me, has a predominately inward, individual looking focus. ‘I’ need to disconnect and be present in order for me to thrive. Whereas connectivity looks the other way, outward towards communion with another person or nature.

It seems we are striving for deeper connectivity right now, spending better quality time (virtually) with family and friends, joining with our neighbours to clap for carers. This morning our village gave the bin men an ovation. It was great to form connectivity with another person just for a moment.

The great weather and time away from normal routines has given opportunity for increased connectivity with nature, although it has been suggested prior to lockdown that we are gradually losing our connection to nature. Robert Pyle an American author and ecologist, calls this the ‘extinction of experience’. As fewer children connect with nature, the connection they pass on weakens. Less people are passionate about nature and apathy towards it grows along with an absence of caring. But in this moment how could we be encouraged to notice the adjacent possible. If connectivity to nature is now increasing how can we even begin to understand that connectivity…Connectivity with what or who?

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Alvin Plantinga was an enthusiastic mountaineer, his day job a philosopher, he makes a
good case drawn from his personal experiences in the hills, to all humans having an intuitive awareness of God through nature and their conscience. This he calls a sensus divinatus, a phrase he borrowed from John Calvin.

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As we ponder the majesty of the mountains we are presented with, in some way, a reflection of the majesty of God. As we connect with the bursting forth of a new season,  we meet a reassurance that our lack of control at this time doesn’t worry or lockdown the birds or the trees, and so it enlivens our own sensus divinatus.

Hold on, we all know that at times our intuition lets us down, how reliable can this sensus divinatus be?

Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper calls attention to the fact that theology as the knowledge of God differs in an important point from all other knowledge. In the study of all other sciences man places himself above the object of his investigation and actively elicits from it his knowledge by whatever method may seem most appropriate, but in theology he does not stand above but rather under the object of his knowledge. In other words, man can know God only in so far as God actively makes Himself known. Reflecting on our current situation could it be, particularly now, nature is God’s megaphone to us?

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If God is shouting to us through nature it doesn’t mean it is easy to hear even if we are assured of a connection. Here is a verse from the Bible, I love it because it reminds me of mountain encounters where the clag has been down and its hard to see.

1 Corinthians 13:12, We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

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Connectivity with God through nature is also the sort of area that you wouldn’t imagine science to be interested in. Is it even possible to use a scientific approach to measure the immeasurable?

Yes, scientific and anecdotal evidence show us that our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health are improved as we are drawn to nature or take to the hills. Studies have shown, using scientific method, there are links between nature and spirituality and that this connection to nature is important to our sense of physical and emotional well-being. Lucy Jones in her excellent book ‘Losing Eden’ offers a passionate argument tracking studies from the past 20 years, conducted in countries across the world, she found many positive benefits of connectivity to nature for mental health.

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When we take our daily exercise and engage physically with nature, I believe we are also engaging spiritually. A Christian view of this, drawn from the writings of St Paul, is offered by theologian Paula Gooder,

“Our bodies are an integral part of Spirituality in that what we do with our bodies should
live up to the knowledge that they are the temple of God’s Spirit…How we take care of our bodies should be ranked alongside prayer as a Spiritual discipline.”

Perhaps sensus divinatus articulates a desire for connectivity with God that involves all of us, our whole being, legs, arms, muscles as well as our overworked brains? As we become open to that desire, the creator sovereignly calls to us through his creation.
Once again we catch that God is close in these moments and also that God is ‘good.’ It is a
truth we experience in a beautiful blossom, the smell of wet grass, a bird’s song and in the hills, amongst the rocks with our feet in the clouds.

Connectivity to nature is increasing as we travel through lockdown. It is stirring questions, evoking awe, offering surprises and soothing the soul. I hope that (not lockdown) continues and that our sensus divinatus is fully enlivened.

Easter and Covid-19

A different kind of Easter (2020) – Jemma Basham

Easter this year has been different. I set off for my early morning run with the sound of nature deafening and traffic noise virtually on mute. I was able to watch many birds that are usually too shy to hang around. I could study the elusive jay, stand and stare at the heron, see the blackbird up close. It was as if they were not as afraid of me now fear has swept our world and left us defenseless and vulnerable.

A handful of cars passed me and I caught sight of people wearing masks sat in them. The church I used to call home was locked as I ran past. Yes this Easter Sunday was certainly different. There would be no bleary eyed trips to the highest part of town, to worship as the sun rose today. There would be no jubilant trips to church with the kids wearing Easter outfits, excitedly preparing for the egg hunt. Instead I was running alone in a virtually deserted place that I had called home for over twenty years but now felt strangely unfamiliar.

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If you are reading this you are probably like me and have some mental concentration, so perhaps you are a little bit removed from those being devastated by the virus. However, even if this is true this deadly, silent killer will probably still be coming too close to you for comfort. The weather is beautiful and spring is bursting forth, but no matter how brightly the sun shines there is a shadow over our enjoyment of it and over our quiet times.

This morning I saw from a distance an old friend on the trail who lost her Dad two weeks ago and is having to grieve alone. This afternoon I spoke with a neighbour, broken hearted, by the loss of a dear friend.  There wasn’t a ventilator for him when he arrived in hospital and he died too quickly for them to help him. He died alone and my neighbour is grief stricken and angry and frightened.

How to cope?

Coronavirus came so quickly into our world but it has stayed and looks to be staying for a while. When I spoke to my neighbour, he asked me how I was coping. I have four young children and ageing parents. I worry for them of course I do. People used to ask me that question during other times of suffering and I would resent the question. I am a Christian, I worship a God who I believe wants much more for me than coping. He wants me to thrive, not merely survive, to have hope, to hold fast to joy even in the midst of dark times. But right now I think I am just coping. I love my family time, seeing the kids grow up and bond, the sense of strength that the family being in isolation is bringing. But the death toll and the stream of news of the suffering is hard to bear so coping is a pretty good word to use.

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My answer to how I am coping is that I have a faith and I gain strength because we are all in this together. The two are intertwined. I learned a few years ago the healing that we can experience from sharing our experiences of suffering. We are all locked down, so no matter how isolated we are we are still in this together and we share our feelings with every person in the world. Sharing and being understood by someone in our human experience is vital for our mental health. So when we clap on our doorsteps or share posts on community social media we are healing ourselves mentally through the sense of solidarity and the normality we create for each other.

However, there is so much more than that at work for me and I don’t want to hold it back. It is like I am tapping into a secret reservoir of strength and everywhere around me I see thirsty people.  Today is Easter Sunday and I look to Jesus to lead the way for my strength, for my peace and for my protection. I am loved and I am understood and it refreshes me and holds me steady during these times. It can hold you steady too. My prayer for anyone who reads this is that you too will do the same because there is more than enough for all of us. I would never usually post, blog or make myself vulnerable in social media circles. But how can I hold back now when people are risking their very lives to help each other and so many people are dying each day?

‘Consider the birds of the air’ (Matthew 6:26)

So I just want to ask you when you next see a bird, take some time out to study it and delight in it. Practice mindfulness and notice the beauty of the world around you and at the same time consider what Jesus has done. Give him just a thought about how he can help you through this.

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If you are like me you may well have been hurt or damaged by the experience of living in this broken world. You may be left with scars and memories that won’t go away. People may not understand, but Jesus understands you. He rose again and showed his friends the scars as if to say he knows we will have them but we can still celebrate, perhaps celebrate even more so because of what we have been through.

If you are like me, you may have experienced the disorientating betrayal of a closest friend. You may struggle to forgive and move on into the fullness of the life you had before betrayal, it’s hard to know who to trust. He knows what that feels like, he shared his whole life with Judas who sold him and betrayed him with kiss. He knows that searing pain of betrayal.

If you are like me right now, you may not be able to sleep and may wrestle in the shadows with real or imagined fears. Jesus understood that too. He stayed awake and prayed through the dead of the night in the garden of Gethsemane in great distress. We know he understands even that human experience.

If you are like me, you may have been hurt by a stranger or a set of circumstances you never imagined. A suffering unexpected and unpredictable in its impact on you and your recovery. Jesus also knows that suffering too. The pain of strangers spitting at him, mocking him, humiliating him, beating him and stripping him of his physical strength. He said nothing to save himself and then hanging on the cross brutalised and bleeding he prayed for God to forgive the people who did it to him.

It doesn’t matter what the suffering, Jesus has been there before us. We are not suffering this alone we have Jesus to lead us on. He knows what this life can throw at us and he promises us he will be with us always and that nothing can separate us from Him. Covid-19 maybe wreaking havoc with our world but our souls are in safe hands.

So despite the crushing pain of loss, my grieving friends can turn their lights out tonight physically alone but with Jesus by their sides. This love holds us steady and there is more than enough for all of us. As this strange Easter day draws to a close, my prayer is that more people will know the peace that passes all understanding, see the hope that we can find in Jesus and experience the healing that only He can bring in this troubled time.

God bless Jemma x

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Muir and Wander (awe and wonder)

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John Muir, the Scottish born, ‘Father of the National Parks’ apparently said that he would,  “rather be in the mountains thinking of God, than in church thinking of the mountains.” It’s a great line for a bumper sticker or a tea towel, perhaps not an altogether surprising perspective when you consider Muir’s other nickname was ‘John of the Mountains.’ Yet, the Muir quote is pertinent for me. My family and I are preparing to move to Cumbria, close to the Lake District, heart of England’s mountains, sometime this summer. (moving date dependent on the current Covid-19 restrictions). We’re moving because of our Christian faith, because we believe that God has called us as a family to serve in Keswick, where I will, hopefully, be Assistant Curate at St John’s Church with Borrowdale. We’re really excited about this move, especially considering we get to live in Cumbria, one of our favourite places.

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How often do you hear from walkers, climbers and runners, that ‘the mountains are my church’? I’ve had these conversations lots of times with fellow runners and walkers, who look into the distance and say, ‘that’s my church out there’…Can that be so? I am definitely not convinced that a solitary experience in the hills makes a church, but I do think that our time in the mountains is special, somehow offering the possibility of a heightened awareness of God. How is it that we experience something beyond ourselves when we are in the wide open spaces of the hills?

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The hills, fells and mountains of the Lake District are without question a favourite place of ours. Many a long day has been spent walking, climbing and running amongst them. As you will know getting out into mountains needs motivation, there is always a question before you set off, ‘should I stay home today, should I opt for comfort?’ ‘It feels a bit cold, windy, cloudy to be safe’ The first step is undoubtedly the hardest, tougher than steep climbs, tricky scrambles or slippery descents. It’s a step of faith in a sense, but rarely, if ever, do you regret it. Bone-tired limbs, eyes filled with magnificent views, a sense of achievement and a commitment to the next adventure are the rewards you return with after making that first step.

But it is always worth it, solvitur ambulando is a latin phrase credited to St Augustine, meaning ‘it is solved by walking.’[1] We know intuitively that walking in the mountains will help with the stresses and strains of day to day life. The present situation, with coronavirus, makes the hills and mountains quite rightly out of bounds. Ther are many who will be missing the therapeutic possibilities of time on our feet in the hills. Admittedly a small price to pay against the efforts of those who are working tirelessly in hospitals to fight Covid-19.

Recently as part of my own ‘lockdown’ activities, I’ve been reading Lucy Jones’ excellent book ‘Losing Eden: Why our Minds Need The Wild’  It’s a welcome break from theology! The author charts western society’s disconnection with nature and the impact this has had on our mental health and well-being. Using a 1990’s study that took a scientific approach to the emotion of awe, Jones is able to show how experiences of awe increase happiness and lower stress. Awe, despite society’s increasing disconnectedness with nature, often still comes from an encounter with creation, such as visits to the lakes and mountains of the Lake District. I certainly know the strong urge in a moment or season of stress to head for long runs or hikes in the hills. In those moments I am craving the therapy of ‘solvitur ambulando.‘ Jones highlights other studies that show the positive effects on the body and mind of ‘awe’ experiences, potentially reducing depression and ill health. Her work goes on to propose that mountain top awe filled experiences have the potential to reduce brain activity in the area of the brain associated with the sense of self.

“Awe, then can shift us away from pure self-interest to be interested in others. It can help us bond and relate to each other. It can turn off the self, the day-to-day concerns, to propel us into focussing on something bigger and hard to comprehend.”[2]

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To be in the mountains is a blessing, yes it is hard work, but for many it is a place to experience a sense of pure intoxicating love, to be deeply connected spiritually to something beyond ourselves. Some would call this God, others the universe or a higher power, for me it is simply keeping company with Jesus. To see the love of God in creation is to see the giver in the gift.

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Memories of adventures on the trails do tend to fade a little, although isn’t it ironic that the most memorable days are the toughest days? We can all recall stories of bad weather, getting lost, feeling ill, more cold or windy than we expected, wearing the wrong kit, near misses. Why is this? Perhaps it is because mountains make us feel small, vulnerable and at the mercy of their power. As we get close to the end of our own resources we become much more alive to the power that surrounds us.

We become awestruck.

The Message bible version of a verse from Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 5:3) puts it like this,

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

Thanks to Andrew Locking for permission to use his wonderful photographs in this blog.

[1] Michelle Ferrigno Warren, The Power of Proximity: Moving Beyond Awareness to Action (Oxford: Inter-Varsity Press, 2017), p. 115.

[2] Lucy Jones, Losing Eden: Why Our Minds Need The Wild (Milton Keynes: Allen Lane, 2020), p. 79.

Spooky Trail

A few pictures from this week. Lots of time with family for half-term. One highlight was making and giving out treats to our neighbours for Halloween.

Training this week has been patchy. Tonight was 13 miles on the spooky trail at Bolton Abbey, pitch black in the woods. I had to be careful underfoot as it was slippy in places.

It’s really different running with a head torch, your experience is the couple of metres ahead and to the side of you. Because of the dark, as I ran I became more aware of the sounds and smells of the trail. Especially being accompanied by an owl for most of that section which was fun.

Autumn

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This evening’s run started off in the daylight and finished in the dark. The light held out for as long as it could.

I ran nearly 16km with 5 x 1km efforts in the middle at 3.35 per km pace. It was a hard session and although I still feel like running fast is very unnatural and not really flowing, I was pleased with it overall.

Autumn is a beautiful season as the photograph taken by Jemma shows. It joins the light to the dark. Over the last few days I have been aware of a string of people, all friends of ours who have had their own ‘autumn’ moments recently.

Lost jobs, worsening diagnoses, loss of loved ones – the commonality with all these is the speed at which darkness has threatened to overcome the light. ‘Normal’ life mobbed by fears and pressures.

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However, in each case we have seen the evidence of light. The light of Christ that will never be overcome by the darkness (John 1:5). These are stories of amazing courage, inspiring resilience, peace when there is usually anxiety, joy where there should be fear and laughter in place of tears.

When I try to run fast, it hurts (a lot), it feels overwhelming but experience tells me keep going. It will be ok.  That’s a trivial thing, but the witness of our dear friends isn’t, their experiences are inspiring us, we see Christ in them calling ‘keep going, it will be ok.’

 

“Com pane” – with bread

Running in summer is great, especially on the trails when they’re hard packed and fast. But actually I prefer training in the winter, especially evenings.

The darker, colder, windier and wetter the better for me. I enjoy the solitude of winter training. I enjoy the reduced distractions, I like to feel ‘nature scratch at me’ (quote from this film about the Faroe Islands ‘running pastor’)

Having said all that, my running over the last few days has been in the company of Jemma and Hope. Relaxed and chatting. A couple of 2km evening runs with Hope and 11km on the Moor paths with Jemma today. How refreshing to share the trails, the wind and the views with these two.

I preached on Jesus the bread of life last weekend. Bread has always been seen as something that both nourishes and connects us.

Our word company comes from the Latin ‘com pane’ – meaning ‘with bread’

Jesus the bread of life sustains and nourishes, it’s life ‘com pane’ – nourished by and connected to the company of God.

Perhaps winter running is good because everything is framed by darkness and I’m more aware of something I could call the company of God.

But, it’s not quite winter and I’ve loved being in the company of Jemma and Hope as I have run recently.

Apologetics

This morning’s run on Ilkley Moor was wet and misty – atmospheric! 8 miles mainly along the ridge on familiar trails. Perfect for switching off and allowing the mind to wander.

I’ve recently begun a module at college, taught by Graham Cray, apologetics and mission. Defending and proposing the faith, fascinating stuff. We’ve looked at historical perspectives and the challenge of understanding local contexts. Yesterday at our church lunch club, a conversation arose about ‘God’. I had just joined a table of folks, including a new couple, and they were already sharing their experiences and stories. I listened to a few ideas being bounced around in the group, mainly worthy philosophical thoughts. Part of me wanted to pounce, with apologetic zeal, on the new couple. I didn’t, instead I opted to leave that to others on the table and continued with serving and clearing tables. It was good to meet this new couple, I hope they return and I get to talk to them again in the future. Perhaps by the end of the module my apologetic technique may be a bit sharper.

Running today I was reminded of a simple phrase. It was used in the context of coaching athletes but could be equally as true for apologists.

‘People don’t care what you know until they know you care.’

Serving and clearing tables could have been the best option after all?

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Well done Hope who ran her first cross country race of the season today. Northcliffe Park, Bradford filled with hundreds of children and lots of enthusiasm. Not too many over zealous parents instead a really encouraging atmosphere for everyone who took part.

Hope and her friends did really well in their race and I was so encouraged by them that I braved the rain and cold tonight with my own session. 10 miles including 4 x 1km efforts at 3.40 pace.

Tonight I stood on the shoulders of a couple of hundred enthusiastic young runners. Giants each one of them…Thank you!