Clothes collection

refugee-collectionOn Sunday, from 4pm until 6pm we, the local church (HTGP) are hosting a pop up drop off point to collect clothes for refugees. For a while we have wanted to do something real that will make a difference and help people who have been forced to leave their home.

We are collecting with and for a local charity called  GRACE … and of you are in the area of the Greenwich Peninsula please do come and see us with your clothes gift in the Millennium Village Oval Square.

The two pictures below show what we are collecting …

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we hope to meet you tomorrow …

18 years …. wow!

14317613_533551443508902_6302934151694198433_nToday is another one of those days when you truly question ‘where on earth has that time gone?’ For today, this very day,  Joseph, my youngest child, turns that massive milestone of being 18 years old.bad-hair-day

The strange thing is, and this has been identical with all my children, I can remember the birth as if it were yesterday. It sounds a cliche, but it is true. It was a bright sunny Sunday morning … (all our children were helpfully born at the weekend, all before the times of paternity rights and so, at most, I was given 2 days off).fishing-7joe-worship

On this particular Sunday I remember the sun shining through the windows of the bedroom, the smell of coffee, the midwife appearing, and her placing Joe in my arms as she took Sarah off for a bath. I remember I had this little conversation where I simply let Joe know how pleased I was to meet him. I have been pleased to see him every day since that time. He just always brings a smile to my face.

It has been amazing to watch my son grow up in to the dsc_0335amazing, funny, witty, intelligent (and sometimes frustrating) handsome man that he is today. I admire his courage and his desire to live life in such a way that he will not look back and have regrets.

Joe … you have made me incredibly proud over and over again, and I kind of know that will just continue … love you loads … celebrate well! (apologies for the pics … no doubt you’ll get me later today for that!)

Happy Birthday Beth!

bethsofaToday my little girl is 18.
I can remember her birth, in our first house in Gillingham, as if it were yesterday.
I can remember this perfectly formed little person being placed in my arms, only a few minutes old, and instantly falling in love with her.
Nothing has changed.
She is still perfect and still loved.

bad hair dayAs a parent it has been amazing to see this little girl grow up in to the amazing person that she is today. Although I like to think she is still my little girl … it is clear that she is a beautiful young woman, with her own mind and her own dreams, which I believe she will achieve. Her creativity showed at an early age in this ‘hair’ picture one afternoon when left to her own devices … styling not just herself, but persuading both her brothers to allow her to sort them too!

I should say that being parents to Beth has been easy! It’s been a joy!
Well …. most of the time it has … in addition, as any parent will truthfully say,  there have been challenges on the way. Through those challenges, though, I think our love for each other has grown as we have learnt about life together. Hopefully we have taught Beth things for life … I know certainly she has taught us invaluable stuff.

DSC_0209It has been amazing to see this little girl grow into the person she is today. She has grown from a shy timid unsure little girl into this great confident young lady who, we believe, can achieve anything she wishes. She sings beautifully, can design anything on the computer you ask of her, is a gifted children’s worker and … has this uncontrollable gift of talking or laughing … a lot!

I really have been in awe of the things she has achieved and the targets she has set herself.

So today this beautiful young woman is 18.
I am an incredibly proud dad.DSC_0135
Sarah is an incredibly proud mum.
I know many family and friends are incredibly proud family and friends.

So … the day is here!
Beth …. you are amazing … and we love you!

 

a new kind of vulnerability?

vulnerable spider(Disclaimer … I’m not sure this makes sense and I’m kind of thinking aloud!)

It’s not been a great weekend. The last few days have got me thinking  a whole new take on vulnerability.The vulnerability of feeling useless and powerless to do anything while seeing something horrible occur.

Earlier this week our dog was attacked by another dog. It was horrendous for my daughter who was walking him with a friend. We had to rush our dog to the vets, he stayed overnight and is back with us but with 30 stitches in his neck and ear and 4 drains coming out of wounds, with a few more visits at the vets lined up.

As we gaze at the injuries, our feelings of uselessness to help or relieve the pain seem to be linked in some way with a sense of vulnerability in ourselves. The fact that I can do nothing itself leaves me feeling very vulnerable for some reason …. and I do not know why!

So … in my reflection I am mulling over the wonder of whether there are different kinds of vulnerability. Or … are there a variety of triggers ‘out there’ that cause us to feel vulnerable to what is around us? It’s an interesting question because, with my logical thinking head on, there is no reason for my feelings of vulnerability! I could understand feeling sickened, or angry or wanting revenge …. but feeling vulnerable is quite uncomfortably odd.

I am wondering if the feelings of vulnerability come from a mind that likes to ask what if …. what if he had attacked the girls walking the dog, what if he had attacked me, what of we had left 10 minutes later, what if they had opened their front door 2 minutes later ….  I guess ‘what if’s’ remind us of a certain fragility of our life journey. We like to live and believe, subconsciously we will be around forever. But maybe a sudden shock reminder of our fragility fuels the feelings of vulnerability. It’s easy to feel safe when you believe you are in control. When something unexpected and horrible happens that we can’t control, it is then when the feelings of vulnerability flood our emotions and sense of thinking.

(you did not expect this post to make ANY sense did you? … I did warn you!)

Maybe, of course, my mind is mistaking great sadness, and emotion, and anger with the feelings of vulnerability? I could see that making some sense, although on reflection I’m pretty sure that is not the case. Vulnerable is what I feel and I don’t know why.

To top all of this, I think being vulnerable is important to our personal growth … but maybe there is an unhelpful sense of vulnerability as well, maybe some types of vulnerability are not helpful …. more reflection needed … so I’m glad I’m giving myself the whole year for this!

Any insights, please comment!

focussed and beautiful

Warning: if you hate those sorts of posts where people talk about their new pets and share how their new pet is wonderful and that while walking with the new pet how God talks to them in some way …. if you really don’t like hearing that sort of stuff …. well you best stop reading now!

IMG_0921Meet Terry, aka Buglys Banker, a retired racing greyhound which joined our family on Saturday. We collected him from Croftview Kennels, one of the local Retired Greyhound Trust places.

Terry, like most greyhounds, is a pretty placid and relaxed guy. Yesterday I think I calculated that he slept 18 or 19 hours out of the 24. He certainly fits into the Ryan chilled laid back kind of lifestyle. The interesting thing about greyhounds, however, is that they are trained hunting machines.

A greyhound can spot ‘prey’ anything up to half a mile away and can get from a standard start to speed approaching nearly 40 mph faster than a ferrai can! But …. most times you see Terry he will either be by our side wanting to be stroked or hugged or sleeping in his basket and the picture shows.

It’s hard to think that Terry can be a speedy hunting machine as the websites tell us. I found that hard to believe until last night. As Terry was walking slowly along at around 10.30pm last night on his lead, not really wanting to be there (indeed I had to encourage him to come out), devotedly staying by my side, he suddenly saw a fox. Terry’s whole attitude changed in an instant.

This cuddly rather reluctant dog grew a few more inches instantly. He become totally focussed, ears pricked up in complete attention and alertness. Eyes fixed on the fox. His lead became tight as he pulled in his desire to do what he was created to do …. to hunt! He was both focussed and beautiful. It was an amazing sight and it took a few calls of his name to distract him (the training advice tells us that although intelligent greyhounds can only focus on one thing at a time – so the plan is to divert attention from the fox back to me!)

After a little while I had the calm relaxed Terry back. But, for that 60 seconds or so he was totally focussed, totally in tune, totally looking like the dog he is created to be. There was no doubt over what was on his mind.

So … what is my threatened God input from above?  ….. while walking back to the house last night I started to think of our lives as Christians and as ‘church’. I started to wonder if a lot of the time people look at us an individuals and collectively and simply don’t believe that we can be who we say we are or that we believe what we say we believe …. simply because we don’t look or act like we do.

When the church is distracted more about being right in its (often internal) arguments rather than being focussed on the truth of God’s extravagant love it loses that opportunity to look focussed and beautiful and instead seems tired, laid back and disinterested while it follows and whim of attention.

When individuals feel the need to to win arguments, or to prove themselves to be correct, or decide their ‘brand’ of Christianity is the only correct thinking there is rather than focus on the grace of God that says all are welcome and all are created in the Image of God .. then again we lose that opportunity to look focussed and beautiful as we reflect the image of Christ in society.

The I wondered … what difference could we really make if we became focussed and look like the real thing …. I wonder …

excited … daunted …

It’s been an incredibly busy and interesting weekend. We celebrated the 25 years of marriage of my brother in law Andrew and fave sis in law Sarah. That was a great party and a wonderful time of reflection over the past few decades. It was exciting to look back and see how we’ve changed … but then it was daunting as well as we realised how quickly 25 years has passed!

That rolled into Sunday which was a day of endings and beginnings.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREWe held our stall at the last boot fair of the season. To be honest I was a little disappointed as it was very quiet. A combination of fewer people and a pitch which was a bit out on a limb meant that we chatted amongst ourselves for a lot of time. We did have some conversations, and we did pray with some people after Psalm or Jesus Deck readings. It was a good time of team story sharing and I was able to watch and see how members of the team had grown massively in confidence. The pilot has definitely shown that this is a worthy ministry and we will be looking at recruiting a bigger team for next year …. so watch this space … or why not just get in touch if these stories have grabbed you! I’m excited by what can develop next year while I acknowledge bigger and better needs more planning, resources and people.

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image from here

On Sunday afternoon the gathering got together for a BBQ and Eucharist as our first get together since our aspirations day at West Malling. There was a great atmosphere as we caught up, we missed those that could not be there, and we shared bread and wine together as we contemplated the task of writing our rhythm of life that now lies ahead of us. Others have found out about us and 5 new people wanted to come yesterday but could not make the date, but hope to be with us in October.

I’m excited by where we are as the gathering. I am also scared and daunted because, I guess, it is actually starting to work. People are taking the reigns and that means I have to let go of stuff that I have held dearly for so long. Leadership in the gathering is collaborative and inclusive and i think now, possibly for the first time, we as a community are collaboratively leading this thing. None of us know where it is going and none of us can influence that direction. It really feels like we are at the mercy of this great wave or wind called God …. which is both exciting …. and daunting all at the same time.

So … two words that pretty much sum up the weekend …. feelings of excitement and being daunted!

I sigh … but it’s nooooo problem!

DSC_0419Its been a long summer and as I look back I sigh with a smile.

I have spoken of great weddings earlier and I ventured back to Detling, which I will write about at another time, and on Sunday I returned from a 2 week break in Antigua.

I love the island of Antigua. A large part of having a great holiday is the quality of the company. We went with a special group of people who I simply love to bits. A highlight (and DSC_0121there were lots!)  of my day, always, without fail, was having breakfast together as a group of 12 people …. and lunch … and dinner after pre-dinner drinks! There is something sacred about spending quality time and eating together and talking and suddenly realising that breakfast has nearly taken 90 mins! It was like time stood still … but then it all flew by so quickly as well.

I look back and sigh, though, not just due to missing the company, missing eating and drinking together each day …. I actually miss something about the island. It was not until I was writing my prayer email to supporters that I think part of the answer dawned on me.

DSC_0105The atmosphere and attitude on the island to me also seem to have something of the scared about them. The stereotypical ‘no problem’ attitude is a reality which is beautiful to both witness and be in receipt of. I think some people struggle more to accept this than others, because it demands a slowing down, and sometimes people avoid slowing down …. I wonder whether that is because they are scared a little of allowing themselves to catch themselves up! When we slow down we notice things we have to deal with. Antiguan people walked proudly … and I don’t know for sure … but I guess they have a better idea of who they are because they don’t spend their lives running from themselves.

I say this attitude has something sacred about it because i think it is an incredibly powerful illustration of Jesus’ words to us about worrying in Matthew 5:25-34:

“Therefore I say to you,  do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? “Which of you by worrying can add one 10cubit to his 11 stature?  “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;  “and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not 12 arrayed like one of these.  “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  “For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

DSC_0440For a long time I will have an image of the crew of a catamaran leading all 12 of us in the words of Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’ as we pulled alongside the jetty … another sacred experience that will bring those words of Jesus to life for me in a unique way.

Thank you friends for being trustworthy … thank you Antigua for being beautifully welcoming … thank you God for grabbing me to slow me down …. again!