Exhausted and Worried

It’s been too long!  I now realise that I need to remember to be looking for what God is saying to me visually.  The grace of a daily reflection whilst I was away seemed to fade, but I now realise that I need to discover the discipline of looking for the signs and symbols of the Kingdom around me.

And as I reflected on this, this image came into my mind – I used it as a background last night at one of our carol services and it spoke to me in a very profound way.

This picture by Gari Melchers is one of my favourites.

Mary is exhausted – she can barely do more than rest her head against Joseph and her arms are limp by her side.

Joseph looks worried – his hands clenched, his face set, looking downwards at his newborn son.

They are alone – just them alone in the room.

It is almost a picture of hopelessness and despair.

Almost!

Where is the light coming from?  Cool moonlight spills through the door, but the warm light comes from the newborn lying in a  feeding trough.  It illuminates Father and Mother, and both of their faces are turned towards.

It feels that this year more than ever, the valley of the shadow of death is rather crowded.  So many people we know are going through difficult times.  So many are exhausted like Mary or worried like Joseph.

As we approach the celebration of the Christ Mass, my prayer is that we too, who sit with Mary and Jospeh, would also see the uncreated light shining through infant eyes and know the hope that comes from Him.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light!

The sea is His and He made it….

Well, it’s been a while since RevTechnoHubby typed anything on here.  Partly a very busy return from my sauntering around the canals, as my colleague was on her sabbatical and our Curate had taken up a new post before my return.  Partly the chance to reconnect with family properly over the summer holidays. Partly a nasty bug in September which was a close to flu as I’ve been for a while.

But I think the main reason is that my 90 odd blogs during my sabbatical were a huge gift of grace.  God gave me that time, and that staggering array of images at that time, and in those places.  I had time to be attentive to the voice and prompting of the Holy Spirit, and one of the challenges of returning has been to find that in daily life.

So here I am, with a new pattern for my week that sees Mondays as days to ponder, refresh, renew, read, draw closer into the arms of God and to do so (using a word which I really loathe but can’t find better as I sit) “intentionally”. 

And as I sat today in Sheffield Cathedral, where I was ordained just a shade over 14 years ago, reading a wonderful book about The Song of Songs I was struck again by an image which helped me to explore the wonderful depth of God’s character and nature.  And this is it….

Charlie Cleverly, whose excellent book on The Song of Songs is my reading matter for the next few weeks, writes of a family holiday by the coast, where…

[the family said] how they felt connected’, of how they felt “remade’ or just rested’. Is it that the closeness of nature can do this if you are not used to it? There is a connection to the land and sea that brings re-creation of the soul, and with this comes rest. This happens when we get close to creation, perhaps because behind it we are aware of the Creator. We sense deep down that “the sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land’ 

And I reflected on the places that are for me special places of closeness and intimacy with God; The Holy Island of Lindisfarne and  the community at Lee Abbey in North Devon.  And I also reflected on those times when I have been overwhelmed by the beauty of this world, or its pain, and my thoughts have been inexorably drawn towards God – on a beach in Biarritz many years ago, contemplating the pain of a broken relationship; at Cape Point in South Africa, contemplating the vastness and beauty of the ocean; on a beach in Karachi, realising that the next land to the south is covered in Penguins and Ice; on a  beach in Blackpool during a particularly difficult event, with the storm tides lashing the sand.

Coastlines have drawn humans since the beginning of time – there is something about being on the border between this world and something bigger – standing on the edge of the infinite.   A place of sunlight and joy, or of storm and death.

As we stand on the shore, we are reminded of our place standing on the borderlands between this world and God’s kingdom.  On the edges of this world, where God is to be found.  Sometime beautiful and tranquil, other times powerful and stormy, but awesome in both situations.

Where are you today?  Are you in a storm, or sunlight?  Know that on the coast these both can come, but God is there, and the infinite ocean of his love is safe…  And one day, we will venture out to sea, leaving this world, to explore the wonders that lie beyond the far horizon.

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside!!  Especially with Jesus.

I wonder, will there be sandcastles on the other shore?  I hope so.

The stronger floor

Well – today we went to Blackpool with the All Saints Church Trip Club.

The trip has been planned for ages but the weather as we arrived in Blackpool was a bit grim.

Rev Techno Hubby decided to resort to his usual doggerel to produce this…

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside
oh I do like the seaside when it’s wet
oh I do like to stroll along the prom prom prom
with me brolly up and me wellies on

O just let me be beside the seaside
I’ll Be Beside myself with Glee
for the cafe’s nice and warm
as we shelter from the storm
beside the seaside beside the sea.

Actually it wasn’t that bad – by the time we had visited the shrine of St Costa of Latte (Private joke with the Archdeacon of Lewisham and Greenwich – sorry) the weather had brightened up and after a fuss of some Guide Dogs out fundraising (with permission of course) we headed to our destination.  Can you guess where I am?

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Yup 380ft above the prom, prom, prom!

Here!
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In fact, once you got used to the idea that you weren’t going to plummet to your doom it was quite amazing!

The floor is made of a 4.15 tonne laminated glass floor that itself can hold up to 5 tonnes.

I stood there enjoying the view  and a member of staff came along to wipe the hand prints off the glass wall.  I asked him if he got used to the floor.

“Oh yes” he said.

“In fact, this floor…” – points down into infinity

“…is stronger than that floor!” – points to the “normal” floor where Jacquie is stood!

Suddenly I didn’t want to move off the glass floor I was standing on.

So it is in the life of faith.  We put all of our trust in the things we can see – in what we consider firm and dependable, and we shy away from trusting to the things we cannot see – the hand of God holding us, leading us, guiding us – when the things we cannot see are stronger and more trustworthy than the things we can.

I learned a huge lesson today about trusting God by standing in mid air, 380ft above a Blackpool pavement!

Just because I cannot see something, doesn’t make it less trustworthy – Just because I can see something doens’t make it more trustworthy.

Because this floor – points downwards at the invisible hand of God
Is stronger than that floor – points at floor beneath the chair!

The Beatitudes for Boaters

94a - If you can read this.jpgThis morning was lovely!  Catching up with Church Family, having caught up with my Mum and Dad yesterday.

I bought this T-Shirt the very first time we holidayed on the In-Laws first Narrowboat, from a shop in Lllangollen.  It works very well with my Dog Collar and made the point this morning as I took up the reigns at All Saints again.

At the end of the service we went outside and stood amongst the wild flowers and prayed and then I prayed the blessing.  It was a wonderful, joy filled morning, with a lovely ending together.

Still more work today – a wedding rehearsal and an evening service in one of our Partnership parishes (My colleague is now on Sabbatical and our Curate has moved and is soon to be a curate no more so it’s just me for nearly three months.  I’ll need a break after that!)

So my images today?  Well I’ll start with this one…

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I was pondering what I’d learned from my time away that I could share in Church today and was inspired to write “The Beatitudes for Boaters!”  So here they are.
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Blessed are those who pass on tickover, for they shall not spill the tea

In other words, think about those around you – don’t let your hurry hurt them.  Take time to care and don’t let selfishness blind you.

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Blessed are those who find an Elsan point when the cartridges are full,
for they shall be relieved

Rubbish builds up, in our hearts as much as our casettes and tanks.  Take every opportunity to deal with the rubbish whilst you can. (For more information about loos on boats see Poo Bags and a Cross)

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Blessed are those who find armco,  for their boat shall be easily moored

The metal pilings are a godsend on some streaches of River/Canal (particularly the Kennet and Avon!).  Look out for things God has given you.  They are there to help.  Look around and you will see them!

 

94 - cill.jpgBlessed are those who take note of the cill,   for their boat shall never sink

The Cill (sill) is like a doorstep at the top end of a lock.  It is invisible going downhill until the water level drops.  If you let the back of the boat catch it will do this!  There are warnings on EVERY lock  If you don’t pay attention to warning signs, things will go badly wrong.

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Blessed are those who have bird seed,   for they shall never be short of a friend

Always be ready to offer hospitality; tea, lunch, even a cream tea in Goring Lock. (See May the Fourth be with you)

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Blessed are those who can tie knots,   for their boat will not drift away

It it really important to learn some key skills before rushing into something. The same is true with faith.  We need to work on our skills and abilities so that we are ready when Jesus calls.
It is too late to learn knots on a windy day!

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Blessed are those who help at locks,   for they are more precious than Gold

As Eliza Doolittle sang – Don’t talk of Love – Show me! Helping someone says more about love than a thousand words.  If you want to show someone the love of Jesus then offer to help them.  Volunteer lock keepers are fab and yes that is Caen Hill!

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Blessed are the Gongoozlers,
but more blessed are those who do   more than stand and watch

Being a disciple is NOT a spectator sport.  There are too many Gongoozlers in our Churches – don’t be one – especially the sort who don’t cheer when you get things right but jeer when things go wrong!! Don’t just be a spectator!

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Blessed are those who are friendly,  they are a blessing to all they meet

Smiles are infectious.  Think about what your face looks like and be a blessing to everyone you meet.  There are parts of the country where smiles are harder to get.  Try anyway!

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Blessed are the passing cyclists who help with the swing bridges,
for their children will be blessed

This lovely family taught their children that helping others is fun.  We need to teach our children and our grandchildren the Be-attitudes!

So those were my Beatitudes for Boaters – and these are His, which are, unsurprisingly, much better!94 - beatiutdes.jpeg

Setting Sail

So – I was wondering how today would feel.  The answer? Deliciously strange.  Last night I couldn’t, for a moment, remember which cupboard the glasses were in!  This morning I still thought I was on the boat when I woke up.  Three very freidnly cats persuaded me otherwise!

We started the mammoth job of unpacking from a three month journey and as part of that headed up to Church to grab a couple of things before tomorrow.

This was the sight that greeted me!

Our Wildflower Labyrinth has gone from potential to explosion.  And all without me having done a thing (but huge thanks to Mick and David and Peter who did!)

So,  My blog title has changed, but I think I might change it back – for I have not reached harbour.  I am, as I said before, just setting out.

And my picture today is just that…

Cubie, Alex, 1911-1995; Fishing Boat 'BA22' Leaving Girvan Harbour

Cubie, Alex; Fishing Boat ‘BA22’ Leaving Girvan Harbour; South Ayrshire Council;

A fishing boat setting out, jsut as I am setting out again with the great Fisher of People.  Nets mended, tank filled, and now off on the journey.  Still, A Vicar Afloat!

And my prayer? Often attributed to Sir Francis Drake but almost certainly not his work.  Still.  It is a great prayer….

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Amen

And remember,  on a Narrowboat, when you sail too close to the shore, you often run aground!

Going Back

Day Total (car): 253 miles, no locks, A long Time!!!
Final Total: 536.25 miles, 462 locks
Home

Today was a busy day, technically yesterday as its gone midnight, but I needed to share this.

NB Essence has been handed back to her rightful owners and we headed to collect the Smart Car from Newbury and then head home.

But the journey home felt like the unravelling of my adventure.

From Bath, back to Newbury.   A detour via Didcot and Abingdon on the River Thames to avoid traffic, then Oxford, past Banbury, and within minutes the locks in Warwick, past Leamington and then Coventry itself. Finally onto the M1 (which I sped past at 4mph several decades ago on my way south.)

I kept spotting the canal and remembering the different parts of my journey.

Was it unravelling?

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Actually, No!  The further back I went the more I felt as if I was reliving the journey.  The journey home was part of the journey.  My experiences and revelations do not stay on NB Essence, they were already waiting for my journey home, so that they could be remembered- called to mind – recalled from the hard drive – and so they have become a part of who I am, not just fading memories.

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And as I write I am reminded of another journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus on the eve of that first Easter day, when two disciples met Jesus on the road but didn’t recognise Him.

And suddenly I am wondering if Jesus was lurking on the road waiting for them to come past, smiling to himself as he knew what was to come.  And as they walked and talked and then finally he broke bread, they remembered and recognised Him, and returned to Jerusalem full of joy.

I think now that I too met Jesus on the way tonight, and though I didn’t know it we remembered my adventure together, and so I return with joy – full again of all of my travels, excited by His company, with stories to tell and ready for the gift of the Holy Spirit for the next part of this adventure.

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Journey’s End

Day Total (cleaning): 2 miles, no locks, didn’t time it
Final Total: 536.25 miles, 462 locks
Journey’s End

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So this is it.

90 days….  536.25 miles….    462 locks….   248 hours 57 minutes….  3.99 lmph.

And this is where my journey will end tomorrow when I return NB Essence to her rightful skipper and her trusty driver!  I am expectedly sad as I write this… It has been quite an adventure.

It seems a lifetime ago that I navigated the Stoke locks on my own with ice on the canal; ages ago that we reached the last (and first) lock of the Grand Union Canal; a long time ago that I rested in Leamington after a stunning week hurtling up the Grand Union with Darren at my side; months ago that we spent time with my cousin in Banbury; weeks ago that I celebrated my birthday on the River Thames; and three weeks in Newbury felt like forever (in a good way).  And now it ends.

But it doesn’t.

It doesn’t end.

C.S. Lewis wrote the incredible Chronicles of Narnia – the adventures of a small group of children who discover routes into that wonderful world and meet Aslan – the Lion who rules that land.  At the end of the last book Narnia is coming to an end and all the faithful people and creatures are brought into “Aslan’s Country” and they run “further up and further in” to meet, finally, with Aslan himself, in a garden, with a tree.

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The children had come to Narnia in what seemed to be a railway collision, but thought no more about it, and when they were there they found their mother and father there too, and once they have reached the very centre of Aslan’s country the great Lion turns to them and says…

Then Aslan turned to them and said:

“You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”

Lucy said, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.”

“No fear of that,” said Aslan. “Have you not guessed?”

Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.

“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands—dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

from The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis

Aslan is the way Jesus appears to the children in the stories – and the allegory of the stories is unashamed and unequivocal.  Those who follow Aslan/Jesus will have a story that never ends – where every chapter is better than the one before.

And if that great story is also the story written for me, then I am not at the end of the book, nor even the end of the title page.  There is much more “further up and further in” for me to explore with Jesus, and the companions he has given me for the journey.

This is not an end, but another beginning.

To borrow a metaphor from C. S. Lewis’ great friend and fellow author J. R. R. Tolkein it is a time to return to the peaceful glades of Hobbiton and find that I have grown – that the journey has changed me, as it changed the rather plump and overly comfortable Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit”.

This verse is one I have often used at times of change and new adventure – this version comes from the lips of Bilbo Baggins’ nephew, Frodo.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say!

from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

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And I do not walk this road alone….

I walk it with my beloved Jacquie, whose hard work and sacrifice made this sabbatical possible.

I walk it with Joshua and Joel, the two amazing young men we have been given to nurture and encourage.

I walk it with my wider family, who eagerly await my return.

I walk it with my Church Family, whom I have missed more than I could have imagined.

And I walk it with Jesus, who is my companion on the journey, the reason for the journey, and its ultimate destination.

Green pastures are before me,
Which yet I not have seen.
Bright skies will shine with glory,
Where threatening clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure.
My path to life is free.
My Saviour has my treasure,
And He will walk with me.

from the hymn “In Heavenly Love Abiding” by Anna L. Waring

Journey’s End?

Heavens No!

The journey has barely begun!

One Day More

Day Total (so far): 20 feet, clean teeth, kettle on
Overall Total: 534.25 miles, 462 locks

As I woke this morning a song was ringing through my mind, and I knew today of all days would have two blogs.

The song?

This song marks the end of Act 1 of Les Miserables, which we saw (a lifetime ago it seems) during the Easter holidays in London.  It is one of my favourite songs in Les Mis (and I have several!)  It marks the point at which all the story strands come together ready for the confrontation at the barricades the following day.  Each group in the cast sings a different set of lyrics and a different tune each expressing how they are feeling about the oncoming storm and just before the end of the act they ALL sing their piece at the same time.  It is a musical masterpiece.

Valjean – the Hero – imprisoned for stealing bread to save his nephew and redeemed by a gracious Bishop sings…

One day more!
Another day, another destiny.
This never-ending road to Calvary;
These men who seem to know my crime
Will surely come a second time.
One day more!

The newly met lovers Marius and Cosette sing…

Tomorrow you’ll be worlds away
And yet with you, my world has started!
Will we ever meet again?

Eponine (Epp-o-neen) , a young lady who loves Marius in vain sings…

One more day all on my own.
One more day with him not caring.
What a life I might have known.
But he never saw me there!

Enjolras (En-yole-ras) – the leader of the student revolutionaries sings…

One more day before the storm!
At the barricades of freedom.
When our ranks begin to form
Will you take your place with me?

[ALL]
The time is now, the day is here

The police inspector Javert (Sha-fair) – a man of impeccable, pharisaical righteousness but not a gram of grace is intending to join the students as an undercover spy – and sings…

One day more to revolution,
We will nip it in the bud!
We’ll be ready for these schoolboys,
They will wet themselves with blood!

And the hideous Thenardiers (tay-nard-ee-ays) – a rather unsavoury couple renowned for scavenging, especially after battles or fights, sing…

Watch ’em run amuck,
Catch ’em as they fall,
Never know your luck
When there’s a free for all,
Here’s a little ‘dip’
There a little ‘touch’
Most of them are goners
So they won’t miss much!

And as the music rises with all the characters overlapping…

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Suddenly there is a moment of clarity as first Valjean and then the whole cast sing together…

[VALJEAN]
Tomorrow we’ll be far away,
Tomorrow is the judgement day

[ALL]
Tomorrow we’ll discover
What our God in Heaven has in store!
One more dawn
One more day
One day more!

I have tears in my eyes as I hear those words in my head.  It would be a worthy song to end the whole show, yet it is only the end of the first act.  It is a most incredible climax and yet the story goes on.

Now perhaps you see why this song is in my mind today.

One day more!

Tomorrow we’ll be far away!!!

Tomorrow we’ll discover what our God in heaven has in store….

One more dawn….

One more day…..

One Day More!

<Curtain>

And what will Act 2 hold?

Perspective

Day Total (on foot): 5.5 miles, coffee, A very deep lock, 6 hours
Overall Total: 534.25 miles, 462 locks

Before I start today I owe a mention to our lovely Swing Bridge family.  So thank you again to Steve, Carly, James, Alex and Charlie Wickham for their help with the bridges on Sunday afternoon!  (Carly is out of shot taking her own photo of the hero helpers!)

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So today’s early start was off to the supermarket for some cleaning materials ready for tomorrow’s big boat clean.

After breakfast, however, we headed off to explore Bath, and headed first for the Royal Crescent.

79b - Royal Crescent

I was particularly keen to see this as I watched an episode of Time Team a few weeks ago where they had excavated the ground in front of the Crescent several years ago and found a Roman Road.

It was amazing – and my photos will pop up later!

Down into Bath and to St Michael’s Without (as in Without a city wall – as in outside!)

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This beautiful Communion Table with a rift down the middle is an amazing image of our brokenness meeting God’s grace and mercy.

After some shopping and a coffee and a trip to Screwfix to get some ironmongery to sort the front fender we went to Bath Abbey.

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The Abbey has also rediscovered its roots.  Well, the Anglo Saxon pillars which it found in the North Aisle (on the left of the main altar as you look towards it.)  This picture is taken through a grating in the floor.

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It is very easy to spot when a Church is alive and following Jesus.  Bath Abbey and St Michael’s Without are clearly such Churches!

As part of their development project they used these words…

“With little or no change, the Abbey will remain inhospitable to new, more open forms of worship, continue to be impractical for its busy programme of events and becomes increasingly inaccessible to the community.

Bath Abbey Footprints Programme

Here is a Church planning for the future!!!

Back via the River Avon footpath and the locks that we won’t be doing after all including the Bath Deep Lock, which at 19 feet 5 inches is the second deepest lock in Britain, beaten by 3.5 inches by a lock in Rochdale.

And to give you a sense of scale here is someone else’s picture with boats in the bottom of the lock.  Look at the people at the back of the red and green boat for reference.

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However, these pale into insignificance compared with this lock in the Republic of Ireland.

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Ardnacrusha lock is made up of two locks – one of 42 feet and this one at 60 feet.  They were built to take boats to the top of a hydroelectric power scheme.

My response to this picture is simple….

“Whimper!”

Anyway – back to the boat for a game of Machi Koro, which we first played at Thirsty Meeples in Oxford, and then to the blog.

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So, today’s picture?  Well, it’s pictures to be precise.  Several different pictures of the Royal Crescent – most of which I took playing with the Panoramic setting on my phone and one taken by someone else. So, as a reminder, this is the Crescent.

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This panorama was taken from outside the middle house, at the side of the road.  The Crescent becomes a strange double curve.

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This panorama was taken from the “Ha Ha” – a hidden dip marked by the yellow line in the top picture.  i.e. from the geometric centre of the circle of the Crescent.  It is now a straight line!

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This picture is a 360° panorama turned into a “Tiny Planet” using the app on my phone.

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And then this picture, which isn’t mine, where the photographer has used a technique called “tilt” to change the depth of focus of the image.  This has the effect of making the subject of the photo look like a toy or a scale model village.  (As an aside I LOVE this effect!)

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All of these pictures are of the same subject.  What has changed each time is the Perspective – the way we look at the image – the way we understand it and interpret it with the camera and our eyes.

How we see something depends on how we look!

If we look at something with a closed mind or preconceived ideas, we will generally find plenty of evidence to back up our position without ever seeing the whole picture.  Both sides on the current Brexit referendum are doing just that!

The prophet Isaiah was told to tell God’s people…

‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
    be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’

Isaiah Chapter 6 verse 9

This wasn’t a curse from God as much as a parent saying “Go ahead!  I’m not stopping you!” and then saying quietly to themselves, “And I’ll be here when it all goes wrong!”

Many people accuse me of being irrational for believing that Jesus is who he said he was – God, and that the Bible is true.  Yet, I see so much evidence for the action of God in this world; in creation, in the history of His people; in my life; and in the lives of the people who walk this road with me.

So often I come across people who profess no faith whose perspective is such that they will not accept any evidence that cuts across their preconceived worldview.  (I accept that there are many Christians who behave in very much the same way!)

Yet the photos from today remind me that I haven’t necessarily seen the whole picture.  That to assume that I know everything that there is to know about Father God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit is arrogant in the extreme.  These photos show me that MY perception of this world is distorted – by sin, by my own preconceptions, and by the fact that I am a bear of very little brain and long words bother me!

The next time you look at God – just remember my pictures of the Royal Crescent and remind yourself that you might not be seeing the whole picture, or it might not be quite as you think it looks!

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A Bridge Too Far

Day Total (crew): 9 miles, no locks, 3 hours 18 minutes
Overall Total: 534.25 miles, 462 locks
Distance to Bath: 0 miles, 0 locks

So we are here, three months, over 500 miles and 462 locks and NB Essence and her intrepid crew have reached the City of Bath.

We’re not quite at our final destination – there are a few miles still to do later in the week, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We started the day lazily as we had done the lion’s share of the journey in the beautiful weather of the last three days. (Very glad we did now as it’s raining as I write this today!)

I meandered back into the centre of Bradford-on-Avon to get some supplies from the supermarket and got a better look at these buildings.

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I thought I had stumbled into Diagon Alley from Harry Potter!!!!

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On the way back to the boat I took a slight detour and found the Medieval Tithe Barn.  Medieval in this case means built between 1334 and 1379 and a Tithe barn was where the 10% of crops owed as land rent to the local Monastery were collected.

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It was an amazing space – they have theatre here – but not any time we are around sadly.  The precision of the date comes from the oak timbers in the roof.  Dendrochronologists (aka People who date things by looking at tree rings) looked at the rings in the trees and from the pattern of rings were able to set that date range.  A very old building!

I got back to the boat all excited about taking the family to see the barn (it was less than 5 minutes walk from the boat) when I spotted Jacquie, with the net, “fishing” between the boat and the bank.

Not a Good Sign!  In fact a VERY, VERY BAD sign!  A sign that Jacquie’s phone had fallen out of the hatch on the side (don’t ask – well, don’t ask me!)

After a few minutes of fruitless searching (apart from finding a 3 inch long freshwater mussel) I decided to do what Jacquie had been threatening and after divesting myself (carefully) of all electronics, I lowered myself barefoot into the gap between the boat and the bank, whilst Jacquie held the boat away from the bank.

Sadly my feet were unable to locate the phone (which was almost certainly beyond help at this stage and it remains at the bottom of the canal…

“until that day when the sea shall give up her dead.”

from Liturgy for a Burial at Sea

… along with my Smartwatch so I can’t really complain (except replacing my smartwatch was rather less expensive than replacing a phone – we’ll check with our insurance later!)

I had a “Lee Abbey Shower” – where you climb into the shower dressed and slowly get undressed as the layers get warmer – Lee Abbey would take too long to explain for anyone that wasn’t there – I may elaborate another day!

We then headed off to the Tithe barn and then back to the boat for the final push to Bath.  Lots of moored boats so another painfully slow journey.  The bonus is that the landscape is fantastic.

Just like on the Llangollen Canal on the borders of Wales the Kennet & Avon Canal follows the contours of the land all the way from Bradford-on-Avon through to the northern edge of Bath.  This means riding high above the River Avon itself as the canal winds round the edges of the hills, and then at two points the canal crosses the River itself on impressive aqueducts – but more about that later!

On our way into Bath we spotted a really useful mooring by Bathampton Primary School which looks an ideal candidate for loading and unloading the car on Friday.  There is a water point just before and winding point just beyond the mooring so it’s ideal to head back a little way to reach it!  Looking ahead of us there is a boatyard, again at a winding hole, where we can top up the diesel, and empty the toilet cassettes and then head away from Bath on Thursday ready for changeover day on Friday.

What that means is that we won’t be going through any of the Bath locks, so the lock at Bradford-on-Avon that we went through just before mooring last night was our 462nd and last lock of the journey.

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Moored at the northern edge of Bath we decided to head down into the city for a brief preliminary explore and to get Jacquie to a “Three” shop to get a SIM for an old phone we have with us.

These are some of the beautiful sandstone houses…

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And this was an art installation on one of the main streets…

Joshua said it looked like a “Mary Poppins Memorial”.

Back to the boat and tea and blog.

So my picture today?  Well it is the Dundas Aqueduct that took us across the valley towards Bath.

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And this is the Avoncliff aqueduct (a little closer to Bradford-on-Avon).

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They are immensely impressive pieces of Engineering.  Like the great Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal they are designed to cross seemingly insurmountable barriers.

Pontcysyllte Aquaduct
Llangollen Canal
North
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(By the way we have done the Pontcysylte twice each way on previous holidays, and no, there is no rail or towpath on the left hand side!!!  Just hope that dog didn’t see a rabbit!)

And, surprise, surprise a verse from John’s Gospel came into my mind…

Jesus said, ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.’

John chapter 5 verse 24

The Bible teaches us that the things we do that wound, inflict pain and do damage to those around us and which also wound and cause pain to God get in the way of us knowing Him fully.  The age old story of Adam and Eve (no I’m not going to get into a discussion here about literal or historical or mythological – it’s not the time nor the place – suffice to say the first few chapters of the Bible tells us WHY humans live separated from God, not necessarily the scientific details of HOW it came about.) – so the age old story of Adam and Eve says that their sin led to them being separated from God – hiding from Him when they used to be eager to see Him.  So too with the things we do wrong – they separate us from God – like the Avon Gorge or the Dee Valley at Pontcysylte separates the canal one side from another.

Like the engineers of old we build hugely complex systems of religion to try and bridge the gap – the theological equivalent of the Caen Hill Flight yesterday, yet when we try we find the gap is too wide to be bridged by our solutions.  We would need too many locks and the river would be impossible to cross at the bottom anyway.

See this video of a Narrowboat on the River Medway in Kent for proof that some journeys should not be attempted!

So it is with the gap between us and God.  It is unbridgeable from our side and with our means.  How then can we cross over – what is the equivalent of the Aqueduct – who is the Thomas Telford who will make a way for us to cross over from Death to Life?

The answer is, of course, Jesus.

Somehow, by his dying on the Cross, by His taking of a punishment that I had brought on myself, by standing in my place and enduring the separation from His Father that I deserved, somehow he reconnects me with God, and the gorge is bridged.  There is a way – narrow as the Pontcysylte, some are afraid of that Way – just like the aqueduct.  But it is there and it is, like Avoncliff and Dundas, magnificent.

Which is why, even now, those who have been saved – who have crossed over from death to life – who have been rescued by Jesus – sing these words written by Isaac Watts in 1707…

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

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A bridge too far?  Not for Jesus!