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Strawberries

In February I got an allotment.  I’ve not had such a big piece of land since I was a boy helping my granddad garden.  I’m now realising why my memory of gardening back then is so rosy.  It was my granddad.  And as I now look on potatoes that were planted too early; beans that were planted too late; and weeds that are everywhere; I compare my patch with my neighbours and choose to keep a low profile in the allotment community.

There is one redeeming feature of my allotment.  Strawberries.  The plants are strong.  The fruit is ripe.  And they were not planted by me.  There aren’t many strawberry plants but their fruit has brought bags of flavour to lunch times.

There is one more redeeming feature of my allotment.  My mother.  Every couple of months she has been coming up to stay and together we stroll over to the allotment to make the best of my poor show.

This last month I’ve needed to read John Wesley’s sermons.  You’ll need to wait for another blog to find out why.  As if to set the tone, Wesley begins with words that remind us that doing well in life can’t be about us, but must be about someone else making a difference in our life.  He begins with words about grace, mercy and gifts from God.

Thank you, granddad.  Thank you, whoever you are, who planted those strawberries.  Thank you, mum.  Thank you, God.  And thank you, everyone, for making my life-allotment so much more than it would otherwise be.

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Training

I’ve been doing press ups.  Don’t laugh, but it’s probably because I’ve been reading Bear Grylls’ autobiography with my youngest son.

I’ve always known that you can train your body to do things you couldn’t do before, or to be better at something than what you were before.  Its why I take my boys to football practice and its why they do homework.  But training was what other people did, not me.  So here I am doing press ups, collapsing into heap after just a few.  Yet as the weeks pass I notice that I’m doing more for longer, before once again collapsing into a heap.

I hadn’t really thought about it before that, in addition to training your body, it might also be possible to train your heart.  To be sure, it is a different sort of training.  You are not trying do more in less time.  The way suggested to me is to slow down your breathing and receive each breath as a gift; see each moment as an opportunity to receive God’s love and to offer love to God and the world God loves.  Bear Grylls doesn’t talk so much about this type of training, yet the way he faces his fears, setbacks and suffering, I think some of this training must be going on.

Now I’m looking in the mirror.  Nope, no change: my biceps look exactly as they were before.  Yet I am doing more press ups than before.  So something must be changing within me.  And if I practice slowing down, surely something must be changing within my heart too?

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My training is really nothing to boast about.  Ask my family: I don’t practice regularly and when I do it is not a pretty sight.  And, though they don’t see this, my praying also isn’t that disciplined in terms of time or content: often my praying collapses into thoughts about conversations or the next meal.  My training really isn’t that great.  But I keep going and I have this hope growing in me that, when the time comes, my level of fitness in body and heart might be such that I’ll be of use to God.

Being there

I get anxious.  It’s often in the small everyday decisions of what to buy and where to go, but occasionally its about the bigger things like where to live and what job to do.  I can feel my heart rate quicken, my chest tighten and my mood get more irritable.  All this isn’t visible to most and given the adventures I’ve been on many people won’t believe that I can worry so much but nevertheless worry is part of my life.  Yet something happened this week that gave me perspective.  It’s not a new perspective, but it struck me with renewed power.

I’ve been on holiday with my extended family and one day we went climbing.  I’ve always been afraid of heights but I’m also keen to be with my boys.  So I went climbing, this time higher than ever before but I was still only half way up the wall.  Then something happened.  Dustin, my brother-in-law climbed up towards me.  I joked that he had come to race me to the top but he replied he had come up to join me.  And this changed me.  It could be that he simply distracted my mind from the drop, but I think it was more than that.  His being there encouraged me as I faced my fears and reached for the top.  I had never ever reached for the top before.

At this time of year Christians remember Jesus’ last supper and arrest.  Jesus is rightly in focus – he faced betrayal, torture and death as a demonstration of love’s power.  His last stretch of life he’d face alone but not without first his friends journeying with him towards Jerusalem, gathering for a meal and then joining at Gethsemane.

Christians believe that Jesus is divine but also human.  And if so, I wonder how much power Jesus’ friends had in encouraging him?  And I wonder at the power we have to encourage each other.

Thank you, Dustin.  Thank you, Sara, for encouraging me to write my first blog.  Thank you, friends and family, for being there in my life.