Now once again I’m in one of my favourite places – on a train with a cup of tea, Kitkat and a crisps (smokey bacon crisps with real East Anglian flavouring 😉 ), feeling first class, with time to indulge a meditative mood. The train I am now on as I write this was a few minutes late and seems to be going at a very leisurely pace but though I hope it will catch up with its time eventually, I’m on holiday and feeling relaxed and don’t really mind if it’s late as I’ve no connections to make. While I was waiting on the platform for it in London I was just going to get out the phone and check the time and I checked myself thinking, why? I won’t make the train come any faster by knowing what time it is. I began thinking about why it is that we need so badly to ‘pace’ ourselves and know about how long we have to wait for things, and that we never just sit and wait, until it happens, whatever it is that we’re waiting for. I don’t think it’s anxiety over whether it is coming at all, or whether we’re waiting in the right place, it’s simply anxiety to have an idea of how long we’ve got to wait, even though knowing will serve no other useful purpose. When I wait for a bride it can serve a good purpose to know how long she will be – I know whether I’ve got time for a cup of tea, or to check another email, but on the station with no café on the particular platform where I am, what purpose is served? Why, when I know I’m in the right place and before the awaited event, can’t I just give up my need to know the time and just wait? Well I can, and I did, and the moment I withdrew my hand from my pocket and set myself to just wait, a different mindset came over me, not dissimilar to the experience I have when I redirect my mobile phone at the beginning of my day off each week and leave the phone out of reach. With the phone there is an element of release that I am no longer ‘on call’, but with the phone and the waiting for the train there is the shared element of giving up control. I prefer to manage my life mostly, but it’s quite relaxing to let go of that and let the world go on as it pleases. Being alert for the train I’m waiting for, but not seeking to manage the waiting time, I watch the passing passengers and trains with simple detached enjoyment. Brain in neutral for a little, with the remembrance of the presence of God a constant practice, I look and drink it in. It’s lovely to have the leisure to do this. Make some time in your life for space – timetable in some untimetabled time, plan in some time for not having a plan. You may come face to face with yourself, which can be scary for some, but with God present, you will be safe. You may come face to face with a world you haven’t seen before, the world you live in, and with God present, well, you will find something good.
This summer my wife and I have been apart for the longest we’ve ever been apart since we married – for some of you 6 weeks will be a doddle as you only see your family once a year, and for others it will seem like AGES! It’s been so long that the weather has even changed – it is so cool now that I had to turn on the hot water to have a shower the other day. I must say I’m getting quite used to looking after myself and in recent weeks I even cooked a meal that involved both a saucepan AND the oven. I have noted where the vacuum cleaner is and the garden is still green so all is in order for my wife’s return. I am looking forward to it :).
In the mean time, we have an EGM coming up. At church you can pick up a list of proposed motions, and the Chaplaincy Council’s decisions on each one – come to any of our services to find out more: Fridays 9.30am Jebel Ali, Saturdays 9.30am Academic City, Sundays 7.30pm Jebel Ali. After the service each week, if you have questions about it, or you are not sure of some of the legal terms (eg. EGM) then do please gather and talk about it after the services each week. This is the first time we are gathering as a chaplaincy together since our AGM in April and there are important decisions to be made. Only those members on the electoral role with a valid visa ID will be allowed in to vote though – we don’t want Rent-a-crowd, but prayerful support. We are five churches in the chaplaincy in Dubai, Sharjah, RAK, Fujeirah, and of course us, in Jebel Ali, and our bishop will be praying for us :). It is hoped that any questions you have about any of the motions can be answered in church before the day to minimise the time needed for clarification on the day so please do come to church and get yourself clear on it all.
My getting back together with my wife and family may be a bit more joyful and peaceful than our chaplaincy getting together for the task we have set before us, but I encourage you to attend the EGM with equal cheerfulness in the wonder of being part of such a varied fellowship.
Through it all, let us try to listen to hear what God might teach us through all this, and walk with Christ, loving this body of Christ of which we are part. Here’s us in Christ Church, trying to listen
It’s the season of Easter and we miss the daffodils. Still we’ve got this tree outside our windows just where we eat so we can hardly complain about the lack of yellow flowers! I’ve had a short spell in the garden this morning which has been therapeutic. The lack of sleep the last few days is still to catch me up I think as I was up before the alarm this morning – unusual on a school day!
I found that in Holy Week I was able to enter into the story of Jesus’ last week a little. I like having the ability to make enough time to enter into these things – what gives me the ability is that it’s part of my job to do it so I make the effort because I aspire to do my job well, but of course I would recommend it for anyone who wishes to follow Christ. Easter Day seems to me so much more joyful and more meaningful somehow when you’ve taken the time to go through Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. In the same way, Pentecost seems more fulfilling and meaningful when you’ve taken the journey with the early disciples through the shock of repeated appearances of Jesus after Easter, accompanied them to Jesus’ Ascension, and then hung about waiting for his Spirit for a week and a half. We’re with Thomas behind locked doors next weekend, then my favourite, on the Emmaus road, before we turn to readings thinking about who Jesus is, before he is taken from us, lifted up into heaven. Accompanying these readings we have a series from Acts, launching straight in, funnily enough, with three weeks of readings from the events on the day of Pentecost before we get the stoning of Stephen – a poignant reading for me, and then Paul preaching in Athens using as his sermon illustration an altar he’d seen dedicated to ‘An Unknown God’. By this time the gospel readings have come round to looking forward to the Spirit coming.
In order for that to happen Jesus must go.
The ressurection could not happen except Jesus first die and the disciples be left in disarray. The Spirit will not come until Jesus in physical manifestation is taken away. They seem to take the second removal of their saviour a little better than the first. One can get accustomed to disarray – come and work in the church and see! No. I mean that it’s possible to understand and trust God in such a depth that when he feels far away our hearts are no longer as troubled as we were earlier on in our journey with him. Take it steady. Walk with him. God runs when he rushes out to welcome you home but the normal way of faith is to walk with God.
I know how to look after myself – sausage sandwiches, beans on toast, fish finger sandwiches, mushy peas and worcester sauce on toast, fried egg sandwiches, and so on, plus this week I’m on a bible study crawl day by day (food varies) (ooh, now they’re wondering who’s best!).
I’ll be glad when my family rejoins me in Dubai this Friday. It’s been an odd two weeks without them.
Although I can feel lonely when I’m alone here but I also like it. Although I’m not sure I’m as completely at home with myself as I’d like to be, I like to be in touch with my inner self in these times. I don’t like how fickle and unfocussed I am and living alone brings me face to face with that. I don’t like either that religion doesn’t give me what I need in every area, and walking with God doesn’t fulfil for me what I’d like to give or receive in my ME time and being alone makes me much more aware of that. God never gives me a hug or is physically intimate with me however much I may luxuriate in the touch of a cool breeze at home, or the taste of the water (like King David longing for a taste of water from Bethlehem!), or the sound of the wind in the trees (‘clapping their hands’), or the feel of a leafy hedge as I run my hand down it and commune with him inside as I do it. Although I can feel that he is pleased with me sometimes – I value that ‘I like what you are/did’ from time to time – it’s not the same as human appreciation from the ones I want to love me. And yes, I get that all creation is a gift of God, but Lord I hope you won’t be offended, but all creation is not as tangible as the bar of chocolate given me this morning by someone who was just pleased to see me. And God may provide all the fruits of the earth, but when I’m tired he doesn’t peel them and put it near me in a bowl with cream and get the spoon from the drawer. Mind you my family don’t wait on me hand and foot either but perhaps you know what I mean.
God is good. But he knew Adam would need someone else, even though Adam had God all to himself in the garden, and I thank God he’s given us other human beings to be with.
I’ve got another post I’ve been mulling over regarding a 15th century ‘polyglot’ bible I saw this summer (Arabic/Syriac/Ethiopic/Persian/Greek/Hebrew/Latin/English all side by side) but, hmmm, it’s not right yet, so this is something to be going on with.
Be thankful for the human being around you.
The last post I could write before I left Dubai and schedule it for release by my auto-vicar so you could get it just before Ramadan. This post contains LIVE news which could not have been predicted with the same accuracy as the holy month – due to an infected scratch I have been without the effective use of my right hand! Quite an event really, for me at least. It will all be better by the fifth of August, when I hope to see some of you at the Friends of the Diocese Annual Reunion in London(All Hallows by the Tower, mid morning till lunch – Don’t forget, if you want lunch, you’ll have to tell them in advance so they can cater for you.) I’m still on holiday of course so by my own rules should not be here on my ‘work’ blog but I’m just clocking in to check the emails mid-term as it were – four weeks is a bit too long to leave them really so I’m just looking to see if there’s anything that can’t wait – though if the hand business had been worse it might have just had to! Most stuff is obviously either for the e-bin or for the ‘for my return’ file thankfully.
Anyway, the big news for me is that I have spent three or four days without the use of my right hand because of the swelling got large enough to swallow my knuckles before I could see the doctor – these things always seem to happen to me at the beginning of the weekend when the surgery is closed for ‘normal’ business! I was encouraged to go to the hospital but, well, I don’t like to cause a fuss. Although it was beginning to look like a blown up washing up glove, so long as I didn’t DO anything with my hand it didn’t hurt too much and I hoped it might go away by itself, but it was teaching me a lesson: I have realised how incredibly right-handed I am and how much easier life is with two hands. How can a toothbrush be so difficult to manoeuvre with the other hand? When I got the antibiotics and it came to signing for them I managed to get thumb and forefinger close enough to ‘hold’ the pen – she offered to sign for me but I wanted to see if I could press the pen hard enough to mark the page. With a little pain came success. Coordinating tap and teaspoon, kettle and cup, is all a bit of an effort one handed! I came on holiday for a good bit of gardening, Steve style, giving our lawn (more a meadow really after all the rain there’s been in recent months) its annual mow, and I wanted a bonfire but that had to wait a week. Some of you have been fasting from food during the day in a desire to pray for the Muslims around you who are fasting. I have been forced to fast from full use of my fingers. I was getting more consideration from those around me than you do I expect 😉
In my posts I like to make explicit some notable point or other. Hmmm.
Take a good look at your hands. Now flex your fingers a little. Cool aren’t they – it is REALLY GOOD to have them!