A little luxury

Sorry my attempt at Lenton devotion went silent.  Revtechnohubby hasn’t been well – better now than I have been for a while having been prayed for but the Church family last Sunday !

Revtechnohubby and Mrs RTH are in Manchester for the New Wine Leadership Conference and this morning we were walking through Manchester when I stopped by two homeless men.  There are more homeless people than I have ever seen before in a city.  It is heartbreaking.  I stopped and gave each of them a full McDonalds complimentary coffee card (you know, the sort where you put the stickers to get your 7th coffee for free).  A very clever 8 year old taught me that if you give someone that instead of a cup of coffee, they can sit in McDonalds in the warm for half an hour whilst they drink their coffee!!!

They were unbelievably grateful and treated my gift as if it were a luxury!

What’s your luxury?  Chocolate, Wine, A Spa Day, your nails done, netflix, sky sports?

The real luxury I saw today was this!


One of the young men was sitting on a pallet in his sleeping bag to keep away from the cold floor.  Luxury!

Only last week there was a report that a charity which had been working with girls in sub-saharan Africa to provide Sanitary products had started working with girls in a school.

But the school wasn’t in South East Asia, or Africa, or South America.  It was in Leeds!

In 2017 wooden pallets and sanitary towels are luxury items.

  

What have we come to?

Father Forgive us, even though we know what we are doing!

 

It starts and ends with light…

So, I’ve deceided what to give up for lent (hopefully by then end of Lent I will have successfuly given up chocolate and sweets, fizzy drinks and about a stone!!!)

But then last night I was wndering what to take up – do I go and get one of the Lent books from my shelf and repeat them (hopefully with more success than previous years) or do I take up something else.

And then an image swam into my mind and I realised what my lenten “taking up” would be.

A picture a day – so here goes!

palm-crosses-on-ash-wednesdayThis picture was taken in 2015 at an Ash Wendesday service near Staithes in North Yorkshire.  We were away for half term aand I went to the Ash Wednesday service.  We were each given, on arrival, a palm cross, and half way through the service we went outside and placed our crosses into the metal bucket, where they were burned to create the ashes used to mark each person’s forehead with a cross – an ancient Christian sumbol of repentance and submission to God on Ash Wednesday.

I had never seen the burning of the crosses to make the ash as part of the service before, depsite having done it myself outside the service for many years.  I found it incredibly moving, and it reminded me of the end of the Lent, when many churches go outside and light a fire from which they light the new Easter (Paschal – pask-al) candles.

Lent began and ended in 2015 with light not darkness.

So it should be – repentance and submission are not events to be marked by darkness, but light.  Sin loves darkness, repentance is all about light!

So this year Lent for me starts with light, not darkness.  The light of Jesus, bringing me back.

Wonderful news!

Day Total (crew): 0.25 miles, 0 locks
Overall Total: 478.5 miles, 390 locks
Distance to Bath: 57 miles, 78 locks

Before I tell you anything else about today I have some wonderful news.  After nearly three months of Sabbatical I am sure that family, friends, Church family and fellow clergy will be over the moon to hear my news today!

I’ve found Jesus!

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Yes, he’s on top of the Catholic Church on London Road.  I can see him from the boat!

Sorry couldn’t resist!  It also gives me a chance to show you one of my favourite cartoons, but more of that later.

This morning the plan was to move the boat up to Greenham Marina and empty the cassettes, fill the water and top off the diesel before heading west (where the price will almost certainly go up!).  All accomplished in blazing sunshine but we didn’t turn around and head back to my moorings at Greenham Mill – We have moved, finally after nearly three weeks.

Only a quarter of a mile, but it is VERY strange to be somewhere else.  We are actually moored at the edge of Victoria Park and it’s lovely!

After lunch Joel and I went for a wander through the West Berkshire museum which is only small but very well curated (organised and signposted) and very interesting!

After some shopping and some refreshment (and some baby geese on the way!)  it was a good time to watch a film together and then tea and our lovely friends Bertram and Julie came to visit the boat.  A nice end to a lovely day.

So – back to my rather awful joke and one of my favourite cartoons.

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Hint: If the cartoon makes no sense you haven’t spotted who is hiding behind the curtains!

Christians often talk about “finding Jesus”.  It’s shorthand for what happens when we finally realise that Jesus actually is who he said he was and that life changing moment can be an incredibly special memory.  But sometimes we talk about him as if he was the TV remote control.   “He’s here!  I’ve found him.  Someone stuffed him down the back of the settee!”

What is interesting is that the Bible often talks not about us finding Jesus but about him finding us.

Luke’s Gospel chapter 15 has three lost stories.  Click on the picture to read them.

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A sheep that is lost so the shepherd leaves 99 others to go and find it.
A precious coin that leads to a diligent search.
A lost son – in fact two lost sons – and a Father who desperately wants them back.

So many times Jesus tells stories about God seeking us.

There is one parable (story that Jesus told) that you can read differently.  It’s this one.

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44 ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Matthew Chapter 13 verses 44 to 46

The way I was always taught this parable was that I was the man finding a great treasure (Jesus/faith/forgiveness) in a field and I was to give all I had to possess it, or that I was the merchant who finds faith of such great value that I would sell everything I have to own it.

For a long time that as how I thought of these parables.  That faith in Jesus was so precious that I should give up everything to pursue Him.

It’s true!  It is!  I still remember the day when faith became real to me.  God was no longer distant, but present and caring and I have chosen to follow wherever he has led me – to Southampton, to Newbury, to Nottingham, Rotherham and Doncaster (and for the last three weeks back to Newbury again!)  Nothing was worth more to me that following Him.

But a couple of years ago this parable did something wonderful in my head.  It flipped.  Just like the famous picture of a vase that suddenly becomes two faces.

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And suddenly Jesus is the man who buys the field to gain the treasure and He is the merchant looking for pearls and finds a special one.

And the wonderful truth is that “I” am the treasure and the pearls.  It is Jesus who gives up EVERYTHING he has, for the sake of saving you and ME!

Have I found Jesus?  Only because he came looking for me first; only because he gave up all the riches of heaven to live a human life and die so that my wrongdoing – my sin – could be forgiven.

Have I found Jesus?  Only because he took me at my word one dark night in a valley on the western edge of Sheffield when I said that I needed help and he came and found me.  Only because when I forget about Him he never forgets about me.

Yes, we do have to seek and search and pursue.  That is all part of the way we encounter Jesus, but to find him?

He found me!

I am the wretch the song refers to!

It is all about Him, not about me!

Are you feeling worthless or unvalued today?  Are you feeling that the world would be a better place if you had never existed?  Or are you just feeling like everybody else’s opinion seems to matter but not yours?

Remember this.  To Jesus, you are a pearl of great price and He will give up everything for you to be close to Him forever.  To Jesus, you are a precious part of His flock and if you wander away he will come and find you and bring you home.  To Jesus, you are a precious child and whatever you do, and wherever you go, He will always throw his arms around you and welcome you home.

I have NEVER regretted saying “Yes” when Jesus offered me His hand.  I am convinced that you would never regret it either.

Have I found Jesus?

No!  He… Found… Me!

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Return to D’Qar

Day Total (Car, foot and scooter): 2.2 miles in the car, 5.6 miles on foot/scooter
Overall Total: 478.25 miles, 390 locks

Last night was a long one again – simpler sleeping arrangements didn’t work out so at 2am we changed beds and got back to sleep (eventually).

A lazy start to the morning ended at 11am when the Lovely Laundry Fairy arrived – not for the laundry this time but to drive the two of us up the the ridge on the opposite side of the town to Donnington Castle.  This lovely lift gave us a chance to walk the lovely Buster, and give the Lovely Laundry Fairy a well earned few hours of peace and quiet and rest!

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Buster

And our destination – back to D’Qar!

For the uninitiated and those amongst you who aren’t Star Wars geeks you will remember that I visited one of the filming locations for Star Wars – The Force Awakens a couple of weeks ago (see the blog here).  Today’s visit was to show Joel the site (and walk Buster as a bonus!)

The weather was glorious although the messing around to travel a long time ago to a galaxy far far away appears to have left me with more than one Joel!

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There were a couple of reminders that this used to be an airbase – the central section of runway has been left – you can see it in the panorama above, but also the control tower.

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Another movie “location” was visible too as this ridge in the distance…

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is actually Watership Down! (Which gave its name to the famous film with the rabbits)

The daisies and buttercups were beautiful…

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Overall we walked 5.6 miles, back across to Buster’s house to leave him there and then down hill and back along the canal to the boat.

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(The crossing point on the runway is at the half way point, which is over a mile from the end!)

Today’s picture continues the theme from yesterday as another verse from Psalm 23 got me thinking.

He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23 verse 3

and the picture…

71a - Sherpa Pemba on Mt Everest

This is Pemba Dorje Sherpa.  He holds the world record for the fastest climb from base camp to the summit of Mt Everest, which you can see behind him.  He is a guide.  he leads people on the best route up the mountain.  Without a guide you are unlikely to make it.

If you didn’t know where the set location was on Greenham Common you could walk for hours and not see it.  It you didn’t know which hill was Watership Down you would never know it was there.  And if you had never visited Buster’s house and didn’t know the address you wouldn’t find it without a very long search!

How did Joel see all these things – he had a guide! (And I had Google and access to OS Maps and I’d been before!)

If you want to go somewhere the best way to do it is to have a guide.

And that is what God offers.  A Sherpa-like presence with us, leading us not up mountain paths, or on a film set tour, but on paths of righteousness – right paths.

Do you know where you are headed?  Do you want to change direction?  Do you need help to find “right paths”?

Then just ask Him – and he will guide you – maybe not back to D’Qar, but to a much better destination.

Rescue

Day Total (solo): 1.5 miles, 1 lock(twice), 2 winding holes, one water tap
Overall Total: 478.25 miles, 390 locks

Last night I had my worst nights sleep of the whole journey.  I was wide awake at 2am, then at 3am, and eventually gave up at 5am and listened to a book till 6:30am when I got up to start a bit of tidying up.  Some of you will be getting the impression that NB Essence is a bachelor pad during the week and I spend Friday frantically tidying.  Most definitely not, but there are floors to hoover, things to tidy and sort and spaces to get ready before Jacquie and the boys get here later with all their things.

I also needed water.  I have been very blessed this last fortnight to have had a Lovely Laundry Fairy (her name for herself not mine) who did my washing for me last week (and not only collected it from the boat but returned it ironed!!!) and today took another load so that I didn’t have to use the water on the boat for washing.  That has meant that I have survived the last two weeks since Aldermaston Wharf without needing to fill up.  Well today the needle hit 2/10 and the toilet cassettes were full so I headed about 180 yards along the canal to the marina (returning their plastic A Frame sign which blew into the water yesterday and serenely floated past the boat last night) and emptied and filled.

My original plan had been to reverse back along the canal, but the boats are double moored along here so the gap is very narrow, there is quite a strong breeze here today and narrowboats are awful at reversing (NB Essence is particularly bad!).  So I headed beyond the boatyard to the winding hole (only another 100 yards) and then back past where I was moored and down the lock to the next winding hole.

This one is a challenge as three waterways join just below the lock.  The lock opens onto a wide space, with the mill stream from Greenham Mill Island coming slowly in from the right, the canal heading off straight ahead and the river joining it very swiftly from the left hand side.  Having winded perfectly at the end of the island (There’s never anyone watching when you do it right!!) I had spent the minutes whilst the lock cycled to work out my plan of attack.  I was just in the process of turning the boat into the mill stream when I spotted some men on the bank with nets – “what are you trying to catch?” I asked.  They pointed to something that was now just feet away from the middle of NB Essence.  So I grabbed a large extendable net that the In-Laws had acquired from the relative in Bournemouth, slipped the engine into neutral and shuffled down the side of the boat to rescue the item.  (Don’t worry I was wearing my life jacket though I didn’t need it!)

Back to the stern and the flow had moved the boat quite a way, however, with a bit of clever manoeuvring (even though I do say so myself) I managed to turn the boat 180° without getting close to hitting any of the banks and deliver the item safely into the hands of the waiting rescuers.

The item?  Oh, didn’t I say.  Well here’s a picture.  They had already rescued the item on the left – I rescued the one on the right.

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Yes, the “item” was a tiny baby Moorhen.  They had been knocked out of their nest in the marina and the river flows right through it, so had washed them out into the area below the lock.  The Moorhen I rescued was 50 feet offshore, so was well beyond the reach of the men on the bank, but I arrived in the nick of time.

Not a bad bit of fishing! Or Birding perhaps!?

Back into the lock and I moored up just a boat’s length short of where I was before – less shade on the solar panels and less bits falling of the Horse Chestnut landing on the boat!  A bit of cleaning and then off to pray at Church.

It was different today as there was a funeral on so we sat on the bench outside where our noisy neighbours had been last week and prayed.  It was a special time.  My clothes disappeared with the Lovely Laundry Fairy and I came back to finish sorting and write today’s blog.

So my picture today – not hard to guess from the title!

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My little Moorhen had no hope.  If it had tried to reach the bank it would have swum straight into the fast current and been swept miles down the river.  Even if it reached the bank it was to steep to climb out.  Even if it had found a bit that wasn’t its legs weren’t strong enough to climb.

The Moorhen was lost!  It had only a few minutes before it succumbed to the cold of the water and was dead.  And I come along, with the rescuers on the bank who knew where the baby needed to go, at just the right moment.

Rescue!

I am reminded of one of my favourite quotes, I’m not sure where from…

The Church is not a Cruise Ship for the comfortable,
It is a Lifeboat for those who are drowning.

Rescue!  Such an amazing thing.  When people (or baby Moorhens) are rescued it is such an incredible thing to see and be a part of.  That’s why we never pass an RNLI box at the seaside but that we put something in.  Rescue matters.

In my distress I called to the Lord;
    I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
    my cry came before him, into his ears.

16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;

    he drew me out of deep waters.

19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
    he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Psalm 18 verse 6, 16 and 19

Read the whole Psalm here. It has some wonderful images of God literally ripping the universe apart in his haste to rescue us.

God is a rescuer.  We are like that baby Moorhen.  There is no way we can get ourselves out of the mess we are in.  No way we can rescue ourselves.  Even those stood alongside the bank can’t reach us.  And then God comes, tearing the heavens and, reaching into deep waters, he rescues us.

That’s why it’s called Good News.

Do you need to be rescued today?  Just call Him.  Not 999! Not rescue@god.heaven.org!  Just ask.  Talk to Him.  Ask for help.

And the Rescuer will come.

Promise!

This song is one of my favourites.  As you hear it, maybe you could join in – that is, if you want to be rescued!

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

Day Total (various): 2.6 miles on foot to Thatcham, a lot quicker back on the train
Overall Total: 476.75 miles, 388 locks

Up this morning and I’ve spent some more time today playing around with the xkcd Simplewriter – I’m going to explore how to put a second page on the blog so I can add my versions of Theology or Bible Stories separately to the main blog.

Mid morning I decided to finally give in and eat some of the scones that I’d frozen.  My Mum made them for my birthday (and we ate some of them in Goring back on Star Wars day) but I’d managed to squeeze 4 into the freezer.  I nearly didn’t until I realised something very important about today.

Today is the last day of my Sabbatical that I will be alone.

Jacquie and the boys arrive, God willing, tomorrow evening and Joel will be staying with me the following week as he gets an extra weeks holiday at half term in exchange for a shorter summer holiday.  The following week we will all be together and that is my last week of Sabbatical.  I’m feeling rather odd as I write this.  I think I feel Sappy!  (Combination of Sad and Happy at the same time.)  Journey’s end is much closer now.  But twiddling the calculator I still have 17.5% of my Sabbatical left, which makes it feel a long time away yet!!!!!

Where was I?  Ah yes, Scones!

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Thanks Mum!  Two more tomorrow and my Birthday stash is finished.  I’d better come home now!!  See you VERY soon!

Lunchtime was rather fun. ++Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury was hosting the first live online Bible study at 12 noon.  As the clock struck 12 he was live, from Lambeth Palace with a bible study on the calling of the first disciples in John’s Gospel.  Only 20 minutes but with nearly 900 of us joining in from around the world it was amazing.

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And if you click the link above it will take you to the Archbishop’s Facebook Page.  If you aren’t a Facebook member you will be asked to type in some slightly obscured letters to prove you are a real person but then you can watch this without having to sign in to Facebook.  Not quite the same as being live but a really good way to spend 20 minutes!

This afternoon I decided to head out for a walk to Thatcham.  My walking shoes have finally died so I put on my Converse shoes (which was a mistake) and walked to Thatcham (which wasn’t)  I had a lovely afternoon, but by the time I was ready to head back my right heel was really painful, so I hopped on to the train and got off near where I used to work – only a short walk from there back to the boat and after an hour with my feet up it’s a lot better.

A bit more fun with Simplewriter and now the blog.

Oh, I forgot to mention.  It was cold this morning so for the first time since leaving Oxford I lit a fire.  And found today’s picture in the wood basket.

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One of the pieces of wood had started to sprout.  This wood hasn’t seen the rest of the tree for weeks, if not months.  And yet, it was starting to sprout, to grow.  I didn’t put this piece in the fire.  In fact, it’s sat beside me as I type – it is utterly fascinating.

And some of you have guessed where this is going…

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

Isaiah chapter 11 verse 1

These verses are often read at Christmas.  You can read the whole passage here.  It’s fab.  It talks about something growing out of something people thought was dead.  For the early followers of Jesus they saw it as the coming of the Messiah – Jesus – at a time when everything seemed lost with first the Greeks and then the Romans invading.

It is a reminder to us that God always finds a way to bring life and hope to a situation.  There is always a remnant of faithful people willing to stand for God.  There is always a way through the circumstances that face us.

Do you feel like a branch of a tree that has been chopped off and chopped up and is waiting simply to be burned?  Look at the picture again!

If this is how God made the trees, then how much more will he bring new life to those he calls His Children, i.e. You and Me?

Does all seem lost?  Look for God’s green shoots?  Hope is persistent.  He made it that way!

Has hope died in your heart and in your life?  It did on Good Friday and look what happened three days later!

Is life going wrong?  Turn around and look to Jesus.  That is the only advice I can give.  Turn to Him and new life can come – new life WILL come.

Oh, and the blog title.  Couldn’t resist it, sorry! It comes from a joke about punctuation, made popular in a book about spelling and grammar by Lynne Truss.  You can read the joke here, but be careful – I don’t know what the other jokes on the website are like!

And its not such a bad title after all.  It simply reflects the pictures on the blog today ….

Eats, (my scones)
Shoots and leaves (on the log)

Enjoy!