14 August 2011

FAMILY - At the beach

< Schubert's 10th | Index | Thorpeness walk >

Donna and I headed for Snape Maltings again to visit the shops while the rest of the family headed to Framlingham Castle. After lunch we met up in Southwold for an afternoon at the beach.

Part of Snape MaltingsSnape Maltings, where we went for last night's concert, is also home to some very nice shops selling food, books, antiques, toys, garden plants, gifts and more. We drove over mid-morning and explored, then visited the cafe and sat outside until driven back indoors by wasps!

After lunch we continued to Southwold and met up on the beach beside the pier. The afternoon weather was warm and sunny and we had a lot of fun digging a pond in the sand, splashing in the water, and generally doing seaside things.
Steve, Meredith, Sara, Verity and Beth on the beach
It was lovely to watch the four grandchildren enjoying themselves. For Sara and little Verity it was an opportunity to explore an unusual environment. Isn't it astonishing how children take non-routine experiences and circumstances in their stride? They quickly work out how to make the most of what's on offer - in this case sand, pebbles, surging waves, and running in and out of the shallow water.

After that it was back to 'Curlew House' where we're staying, Paz and Donna cooked up pasta and salad for tea and Paz produced two magnificent plum crumbles made with 'Victoria' plums from the tree in their garden at home.

Beth and Donna had tickets for another performance at Snape, 'Jazz Jamaica'. They headed off for the music after the meal and the rest of us chatted, read or watched TV after the children were all tucked up in bed.

< Schubert's 10th | Index | Thorpeness walk >

13 August 2011

ARTS - Schubert's 10th Symphony

< Aldeburgh | Index | The beach >

This evening, Paz, Donna and I visited Snape Maltings for an evening of classical music. Schubert's unfinished 10th Symphony gave me unexpected food for thought.

The programme at Snape included pieces by Rachmaninoff and Lutoslawski as well, however Schubert's 10th Symphony was never completed and what we heard tonight was a reworking by Berio from the existing manuscript fragments.

Rather than fill the gaps in the style of Schubert, Berio chose instead to link the fragments using a very different and much more modern style. He incorporated the celeste in the additions, which lends an airy, ethereal quality and makes it very clear to the listener that these sections are not by Schubert.

Restored Roman potteryThis reminded me of the way ancient Greek or Roman pottery is restored for display in a museum. Usually, instead of trying to reconstruct the original in every detail, the restoration uses a slightly different colour and reduces or eliminates any attempt to recreate the details of texture, pattern and finish. In this way the overall shape and size of the article is clear, but the original sections and the restored parts are easily distinguished. Exactly the same approach is used for tessellated pavements and painted wall plaster.

Another example is the presentation of images from the Hubble Space Telescope where gaps are filled in using lower resolution sections from other telescopes.

So why did this give me food for thought?

We find much the same principle at work when we try to understand the nature of the Almighty and of the things he is doing in our universe. We have clear fragments - for example we know that his nature is to love - but we also have to fill some gaps.

Why is this? It has nothing to do with him withholding information. It has everything to do with our inability to grasp the fullness of the truth. His nature is beyond our capabilities to fathom. We have the overall 'shape' of his nature, a flavour if you will. And we have some of the detail, aspects that we can understand despite our limitations. So our picture is partly the full truth and partly an approximation.

The danger we face is often in thinking our filled-in approximations are the real thing. They are not! Always, always it's necessary to remind ourselves that we don't know as we are known. And the assumptions we make are frequently the causes of our disagreements.

< Aldeburgh | Index | The beach >

FAMILY - A day in Aldeburgh

< No earlier items | Index | Schubert's 10th >

We all arrived in Aldeburgh on Friday afternoon/evening so Saturday was our first full day. A rainy morning turned into a sunny afternoon and we all enjoyed the shingle beach, the seafront stalls and rides, and the shops in the town.

Our holiday home, 'Curlew House'Aldeburgh is on the Suffolk coast, a quiet little town of brick and pebble houses, but gearing up for festival week. Our holiday home is a ten minute walk from the main street and beach so the cars were unused today.

We explored the bookshops and quirky giftshops along the main street and spotted the fish and chip shop where some of us had eaten last night. Paz noticed there was a classical concert on this evening and we bought three tickets. Donna and I will join him for some pieces by Britten, Schubert, Rachmaninov and others.

Debbie, Steve, Aidan and Sara headed off in one direction while Beth, Paz, Meredith, Verity, Donna and I continued down the High Street to find somewhere to eat. Old boat on the Aldeburgh shingle beachWe chose a little cafe run by a Thai family, good simple food at a modest price. My bacon and cheese toastie was delicious and came with crisps and salad.

Donna and I went off on our own for a while to look through some of the shops. Strolling onto the beach we soon found Debbie, Steve, Aidan and Sara and spent some time throwing pebbles into the sea and seeing how close we could come to the water without getting wet feet. What fun!

Aidan on the slideNext was a stroll along the seafront stalls and fairground rides. Aidan had fun on an inflatable slide. Donna bought a pink scarf and a duvet cover. Then we headed home for a cup of tea and a sit down.

Paz, Donna and I are looking forward to the concert, that leaves Beth, Debbie and Steve to get the children off to bed and relax at the house for a while.

It was a good start to a week away.

< No earlier items | Index | Schubert's 10th >

11 August 2011

X-treme Camps - A meeting

< The problem | No later items >

When I visited a home in Bedford, I didn't expect to have an answer to my prayer for guidance and help dealing with some troublesome young people in St Neots!

Father has some surprising ways of organising things. Sometimes an apparently insuperable problem is dealt with by an unexpected revelation or an unplanned meeting. So it was for me.

Pete teaching survival skillsI'd been invited to Rupert and Uli's home to join them and some friends in a meal, and a time of prayer and praise. It was a warm, sunny day and I was the first to arrive; they suggested I take a drink out into the garden and that is what I did. While I was waiting there a man I had not met before walked in and we began to chat.

We introduced ourselves and he told me his name was Pete, we quickly warmed to one another and I began to tell him about the recent events in St Neots. (These are described in the previous part of this story, but in essence some young people had driven a couple out of their home by stone throwing and other abusive behaviour.)

As I explained I mentioned that I didn't even know who these young people were. 'He stopped me in my tracks by saying, quite emphatically, 'You will do'.

Pete continued by explaining that for a number of years he'd been running an annual summer camp for youngsters in the Bedford area. The camps are aimed at youngsters who might not otherwise have a chance to live in a tent, experience open countryside, try their hand at things like raft building or survival skills, or take part in competitive team activities. There are also short sessions where they can learn about caring for other people in the way Jesus taught us to do, discover what it means to follow him, and understand why he wants us to love one another.

This was an exciting development for me. It wouldn't help deal with the recent problem of stone throwing and intimidation but it might help head off similar anti-social behaviour by the next generation of teenagers. As I drove home later that evening I felt the next step would be to share the news with Jim and Sean, the two guys I meet regularly each week in the St Neots/Huntingdon area.

There is a useful lesson in all of this. If we see a need in the community where we live or in our own lives, even while we are wondering what to do about it our Father in heaven may be preparing a solution for us. He does this a lot, preparing the way for us to walk in later. If you read the gospels you'll see many examples in Jesus' own life and if you read Acts and the letters to the churches you'll see the same thing happening again to the early believers.

There's a pattern here, so next time you are struggling with a major issue in life, stop for a moment and think. Wait for him to prepare the way for you and see what he will do. Often it will be something unexpected and will arrive unannounced. When you see it, rejoice and give thanks. But don't be so distracted by the original problem that you don't recognise the answer when it arrives!

This of course is only one way that the Almighty communicates with us, by showing us. Watching and listening are important ways of discovering what he wants us to do.

< The problem | No later items >

10 August 2011

St Neots (Cornerstone) - Distressed by church life

< 3rd August 2011 | Index | 25th August 2011 >

I had arranged to meet a couple at Cornerstone this morning but was late arriving. In the end that was not a problem and we spent several hours together. These two lovely people shared a story of church life causing pain.
Cornerstone Cafe and BooksMuch to my shame I forgot about the meeting and was only reminded when I received a 'We're here, where are you?' text on my phone. By the time I arrived at Cornerstone they had already left.

I ordered a coffee, called them, and was relieved to discover they were just exploring St Neots High Street. Very soon we were finally in Cornerstone together sitting, drinking tea and coffee and chatting.

The conversation was encouraging. They told me about some of their history in church life, a not unusual mix of good and less good. Church life tends to be good when we are all listening to the Holy Spirit and obediently doing whatever he tells us to do. It tends to be much more difficult when we are 'doing the best we can'. Rather than doing our best (which is never good enough) we need to get out of his way and let him do his best in us and through us. Sometimes the things that other earnest, well-meaning people do to us in the name of religion is distressing and disappointing.

I felt Father nudging me to give my new friends a copy of 'The Grace Outpouring', and shortly afterwards one of them said something about 'grace pouring in'. I popped down to the book counter, Angie sold me the last copy on the shelves, I scrawled a brief note inside and passed it across the table to them.

Because we were rather late starting, we still had plenty to share with one another as lunchtime came along so we stayed together and had a light lunch - sharing food as well as thoughts and conversation.

I showed them the meeting room and the healing room and we spent a useful time praying together. Father gave me a picture and a word for them but I'm going to share it here too as I think it applies to all of us.

I saw a pathway leading slightly uphill amongst scrubby woodland. I knew it was the way we should be following despite its poor condition. There were large rocks blocking the path, potholes, nettles and brambles. And the Lord said, 'You are on The Way, it is the right way, it's the way I have planned for you. The road ahead is not going to be easy, the road I have walked wasn't easy either. You will have to move some of the rocks, pull out the nettles and thistles, and fill potholes. Move those you can and the road will be a little easier for those following behind you.

I had a sense that The Way as it originally existed was perfectly straight and flat, but two thousand years of religion and tradition have damaged it and made it unsafe. But as we pass along we all have opportunities to improve the Way. Perhaps this is a picture of church life, rough, uneven, hard and sometimes painful yet improving little by little by the action of obedient servants who hear the Spirit's murmurings and obey him.

All three of us enjoyed our few hours together and were encouraged. We will meet again for sure and we will keep in touch. And we will walk The Way in the church and in the world - wherever the Master sends us.

< 3rd August 2011 | Index | 25th August 2011 >

08 August 2011

SOCIETY - Riots in the cities

If you live in Britain you will be aware of the rioting going on in London and Birmingham right now. What are we to make of this, we know what is happening. But why is it happening? And why is it happening now?

Fireman dousing the flames
Last Wednesday a man was shot by police in Tottenham, London. He was travelling in a mini cab at the time of this incident. He died. The details of what happened are unavailable because the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating.

Bizarrely, I know the victim's cousin. This gives me an unusual perspective of the whole affair, I feel more involved personally, I can sense something of the family's pain.

Is there any link between this death and the current riots in various parts of London and in Birmingham? I think the link is extremely tenuous. As I understand it, following the shooting there was a peaceful demonstration in Tottenham. But the peaceful demonstration was overwhelmed and swept aside by other people wanting to cause trouble. Many of these people were not from the local community and had no interest in the shooting or in helping the man's family.

There is a pattern here. Similar disturbances have followed other peaceful events such as the student protests last November.

The people acting violently seem to be either angry or feel they have no future, sometimes both. They are almost entirely young, ranging from late teens to late twenties. They seem to be detached from the rest of British society. They lack empathy towards others and don't appear to care about harming people or property.

I believe most of these young people feel overlooked, discarded by a society that doesn't care about them. There are not enough jobs to go round, there is a squeeze on benefits, they have no chance to create a home or build a family or a career. They're trapped and the reaction of some is to hang out in groups with nothing useful to do and too much time on their hands.

Is it their fault? No, I don't think so.

What can be done? That depends on the rest of us. Are we prepared to spend the time and money and emotional energy to get involved? Are we willing to give up whatever is necessary to make it happen? If we just sit back and say, 'The government should deal with it', things are likely to get a good deal worse. The government will do their best, but it will be an impersonal and not very effective best.

Those of us who follow Jesus should be taking the initiative here. If you are one of his people you can begin by praying for your country with renewed vigour and asking him to reveal the practical things you could be doing in your local area.

Ask him to redeem the young people of Britain, to rescue them and give them hope and fresh opportunities.

Pray for the government, ask him to guide them and give them wisdom.

Pray for the rest of society, that they will realise the need for real change in their attitudes, words and actions towards the young and disenfranchised.

Pray for families, for fathers and mothers who care and love their children.

And pray for yourself, that you will hear and see what the Spirit is doing and saying in our day. Pray for a renewed spiritual life for yourself and others in the church, for a deep recognition that turning up on a Sunday morning and 'being a good person' is nowhere near enough.

And if you don't believe Jesus is the answer to Britain's dissolving society may I suggest you get to know him a little better. Begin by buying a good, modern version of the Bible and take a look at the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts. Ask yourself if the Jesus portrayed there and his followers portrayed there might make a difference in Britain in 2011. Could you use some of those ideas? And while you're digesting those books, consider how you might help the hurting people all around you. Begin with your next door neighbours and also with the kids that hang out around your area. Are there things you could involve them in that are constructive and fun and will meet some real needs?

Think hard and if you believe pray hard. Then act. If significant numbers of us don't do this things could get a lot worse - and nobody wants that.

(Related post, 'SOCIETY - The London Protests')

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