Checking the time

face-to-faceNow 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.


Out of touch

Steve in Bethany hall DohaI went to Doha today. I could show you the beautiful church they have built but I’m saving that for next week. I went for the opening of the Anglican Centre. The halls are all named after different saints, or in the case of this picture a place. This place is of course the place that Jesus loved to be in and the name has other connotations for me of course with a daughter who Jesus also loves to be with.

I realised on my way to the airport that I had forgotten my phone but it was too late to go back for it. Disaster! How could I be out of touch like that and SURVIVE?! And me, travelling internationally?! Who would I phone if nobody came to pick me up when I didn’t know any of the numbers?  How could I whatsapp my family with little encouraging (I like to think) comments? How would I know what the time was? I might miss my flight!

The net result was that I took a taxi to the church and the security called the archdeacon and told him I had arrived safely, and the archdeacon told him to open a room for me, and I had three hours without phone and without internet. It was amazing – I did some serious thinking on this little laptop I travel with! (Just as I don’t know what I think sometimes until I hear what I say, so also it helps to type it out sometimes.) I was reminded of why I have a ‘catch up day’ each week when my office is not allowed to book any appointments for me – lately I have allowed other things to keep encroaching on that time.

Christ Church and Holy Trinity Church have teamed up together to bring Maggie Le-Roy, our diocesan retreats facilitator based at our diocesan retreat house, to Dubai for the first two weeks of October and as part of her visit, ten lucky people are going to have a week’s guided retreat without even having to leave home! (To prepare for your week, see this.) The week at Christ Church is full already (but tell me if you’re keen to try it) – I don’t know for Holy Trinity – but never mind. Perhaps you could give yourself a little treat, or a retreat, by travelling somewhere WITHOUT YOUR PHONE. I had a great three hours thinking time when I did that. Are you in charge of your gadgets or your gadgets in charge of you? Give yourself a break from them sometime.