I just love water-parks! Always have, always will. With the arrival of children my water-park adventures have been somewhat limited over the last five years. Whilst in Tenerife we decided that Hannah and Daniel were now old enough to risk it! We headed off to Aqualand,Costa Adeje with the added incentive that there was a Dolphin show. We decided that we would go early in the morning, have some fun in the pools and slides, and see the Dolphins, maybe come home at lunch time so that the kids would be completely shattered! We were really impressed by the free bus service with a pick up outside the hotel, we weren’t so impressed when we arrived at the park at 10am to discover that there was only one dolphin show in the day at 3pm! Five hours in a water park with two small children could well be a challenge! When we said to the very helpful employee at the entrance that there was no publicity regarding the times of the Dolphin show she told us it had been like this for three years, which of course isn’t any good to you if you haven’t been in Tenerife before. We had no choice really, we had to go in and hope that the kids would be ok… and you know what… they were, they were brilliant, we survived all the way to the Dolphin show and had a great day. Dan even went to sleep for an hour just after lunch. Pools, slides and show were all great, if you are ever in the south of Tenerife I thoroughly recommend a visit. Check out http://www.aqualand.es/tenerife/index.php
Here’s a couple pics and a wee vid of the dolphin show.
Quite simply one of the best books I have read. MacDonald brings his years of experience and wisdom to bear on to the theme of staying strong in the journey of faith. In recent years I have heard a number of people refer to the idea of ‘ finishing well’, i.e. continuing to grow spiritually, rather than leveling out, or settling for second best, or becoming cynical. This book is about building the ‘resilience’ needed to finish well .
MacDonald jumps off from Hebrews 12:1-3:
‘1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’
Then he addresses five themes:
- Resilient people are committed to finishing strong.
- Resilient people run inspired by a big picture view of life.
- Resilient people run free of the weight of the past.
- Resilient people train to go the distance.
- Resilient people run in the company of a ‘happy few’.
Refreshingly, this is not a ‘how to’ type guide. This book is filled with MacDonald’s honesty about his own struggles, his humility and his wisdom about the challenges of keeping in step with God. The key issue appears to be ‘discipline’… not a popular word nowadays, but to survive this life and to walk with God requires a daily willingness to discipline ourselves, to walk close to God, and to obey his commands. Those who went before us might describe this as ‘growing in holiness.’
There seems to be a ‘school of thought’ within some parts of the church today that says ‘I can do what I like… sure it’s all about God’s grace anyway. I have been forgiven.’ I am not one to deny the power of God’s grace and forgiveness, I definitely need it in my life. However if we live without any sense of discipline… doing whatever we like, giving in to our whims and feelings at particular times, we destroy the graciously given God potential within us. MacDonald gets right to the heart of this issue and I would thoroughly recommend his book.
… so said the headlines in the local English newspaper available in Playa da las Americas. We had a brilliant week, probably the best weather on the island over this period, no rain at all, sunshine every day but one, temperatures in the early to mid 20’s, but it already seems a long time ago since we are now home five days! We stayed in the hotel Bitacora…. ate, walked, played in parks, went to the beach, read, went to water park, did a geocache… I thought I would post a few photo’s. There are a couple of other Tenerife experiences I am going to blog… but they are for the future.. in the meantime…
This book is required reading for the Arrow course that I am presently engaged in. I had heard of ‘Bill Johnson’ through the ministry of www.new-wine.org – he has been a main speaker at the festivals in England and is a well known pentecostal/charismatic church leader from the states. He is senior pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California. His basic premise is that God has given us the strength and the help to come through all the daily challenges we face. The key is understanding the tools that God has given us to help us, and to remember who God is in all his greatness and goodness. It is refreshing that Bill does not present a type of ‘seven step’ guide… ‘do all these things the way I have done them and all will be well.’ Instead he simply points to some of the things that he has found helpful in his spiritual journey. His set of tools centre round ‘Keep sight of who God is’, ‘the power of thankfulness’, ‘remembering God’s promises to us’, ‘associating with people of faith, being encouraged by those around us’, and ‘living a lifestyle of obedience’. Here are three things that I found particularly encouraging:
1. Remembering that God by nature is ‘good’ – sometimes when we face hard times…. we think everyone, including God, is out to get us. He isn’t because by nature He is good and loves us… We gotta hold on to that when it all hits the fan!
2. The power of thanksgiving. I love praising, I love music… but this book reminded me of the need to keep on praising God for who he is and the wonderful things he has done.. even when I don’t feel like it… even when i have to ‘grit my teeth’ and do it. Stick on the CD/MP3 and turn it up loud…. for me.. it helps get things in perspective.
3. Being determined to be ‘physically’ obedient… not just to give a ‘spiritual’ nod in the direction of what I know I am supposed to do and how I am supposed to behave.. but to be determined to not as Paul puts it in Romans 7 ‘do the things I don’t want to do and not do the things I do want to do.’ As I observe myself, sometimes instead of engaging in the struggle with sin I settle for second best… I say ‘I am a sinner’… and ‘God has forgiven me’… when I do this I am abusing God’s grace. Sadly I have to say I don’t just see in myself… I see a lot of it amongst God’s people, and I say this without prejudice or judgement cos I do it myself. We settle for second best!
This was a good and encouraging read. I suppose that the only caution I would have is that for someone reading it in the midst of really challenging circumstances… they might be tempted to throw it across the room. When you can reflect back on hard times it is easier to see that God in his goodness has brought you through.
Right… I’m off to Tenerife early in the morning… so gotta go… I am of course bring a couple of books with me!
Had a great 6km walk today and found 3 geocaches. Newtownards is famous for ‘Scrabo Tower’ which on a clear day can be seen from miles around. There is another similar tower close to Newtownards hidden away in a forest on a hill close to Conlig, between Newtownards and Bangor. The tower is visible from the road that runs from Newtownards to Crawfordsburn. Helen’s tower as it is known was completed in 1867 and was dedicated to Helen, Baroness Dufferin by her son Lord Dufferin. It was in the grounds of the estate in which the tower sits that troops from the 36th Ulster Division trained on the outbreak of WW1. A replica of Helen’s Tower was built on the Somme battlefield as Northern Ireland’s national war memorial. I have attached pic of both towers below, and of a frozen lake that I found on the way to the tower.
As for some reading, I am half way through ‘Strengthen yourself in the Lord’, by Bill Johnson. Intend to have it finished by the end of the week and hope to offer some thoughts to chew on!
Thought I might outline my strategy for the next three months. There are probably 4 things that I am going to do:
1. Spend more time with my family… this is a break from the regular ‘out 5 nights a week’ routine… more time for Ruth and the kids… more jobs to do around the house! Though, by the end of it Ruth might be sick of the sight of me!
2. Christian leadership. Over the last 18 months I have been involved in the ‘Arrow Leadership Programme’… an intense series of residential teaching weeks, peer cell meetings, a mentoring relationship and some assignments. This has been a tremendous blessing and challenge. I want to use a fair proportion of my sabbatical time reflecting and disseminating the Arrow material. Trying to think through the what Church leadership looks like going forward. ‘Arrow’ was designed by a chap called Leighton Ford and is now a worldwide recognised programme for ‘young’ leaders in Local Church and para church ministry. For more info check out www.arrowleadership.ie
3. Preparation for QUB. In the Summer of 2009 we will be moving from Newtownards as I am designated to become the Methodist Church to Queen’s University Belfast from 1st July 2009. There are a few things that I will be able to do in preparation for this move, including a ‘higher chaplains conference’ in London and a couple of visits to University Chaplaincy situations in England.
4. Geocaching. This is ‘geekville’! I love technology and I don’t mind the odd walk… so a combination of the two is fantastic! Geocaching is like ‘treasure hunting’ using a GPS receiver and the internet for clues. You have to find the ‘cache’. They are located all over the place, from roadsides to mountain tops. If you are intrigued have a look at www.geocaching.com
Beyond these 4 main aims… there is the Methodist clergy retreat ‘Re:call’ in Sligo, and my role as the Irish rep on the Music resource group of the British Methodist Church which is looking at the provision of a new Methodist hymn book!
Plenty to keep me going!
Ok, so I thought that I would like to try this blogging lark since lots of other people seem to be at it! My ’employers’, the Methodist Church in Ireland have done the decent thing and after 10 years graft have given me 3 months sabbatical leave to do something that will be of benefit to my ministry! I thought I would start off my blog by using it as a means of journalling and reflecting upon what I get up to during this time… beyond that you never know.