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Sabbatical, Day 36: Getting Old And Wet In Lent

St Andrew’s has become our default church for the sabbatical. The children are happier visiting a church where they know some people, rather than every face being strange or forgotten.

Today, Lee, the curate (our next door neighbour) preached. He took the classic Lenten passage from Mark 8 featuring Jesus’ call to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow him. He said that for someone who enjoys preaching about God’s love, such a stern passage seemed difficult, but this was about the love of God, too. For love is a two-way street, and taking up the cross is a way we respond in love to God’s love.

He passed round a cross he keeps at home. He had asked a blacksmith to make it for him before he began training for the ministry. The blacksmith made three nails, and then made the cross from those nails. I couldn’t pass it on quickly when it came to me. I had to examine it and feel it. What a powerful piece of art it was. It reminded me of when I once had nails given out to worshippers at a Good Friday service, and another when I let people know in advance that someone would hammer nails into a cross during the service. Some church members objected. It made me wonder about their faith. I am glad nothing like that happened to Lee today.

He also made a simple, telling point about what it might mean to carry one’s cross. Taking up the cross, he said, can happen when we have to choose between the easy way to do something and the right way. On a day when a pastor has been shot dead in Illinois, I find this poignant. It is of course only too common in many other countries. 

St Andrew’s service begins at 10 am, so even with communion and an after-service coffee it’s possible to arrive home early enough to do something worthwhile as a family for the rest of the day. We headed for the Great Notley Discovery Centre. Sunshine and blue skies beckoned us to take a picnic.

Arriving around 1 pm, we settled straight down for the picnic. It didn’t surprise us to eat in blustery conditions: the adventure park is open and exposed. The children got to swing and climb on all sorts of outdoor activities, not worrying that grey clouds were infiltrating the blue. 

Except that they got cold, and so we headed back to the café, where we ordered hot chocolates and despite the much reduced temperatures, they insisted on ice creams. Finding the last spare table inside, we sat down. And noticed the arrival outside of horizontal rain. We supped slowly before heading back to the car during a break in the meteorological assault. 

I’ll close tonight with some music. In view of various scurrilous comments on Facebook about my age since my birthday last Wednesday, I thought I’d post this clip of the mighty Little Feat performing Old Folks’ Boogie. Sing with me:

Don’t you know
That you’re over the hill
When your mind makes a promise
That your body can’t fill

Sabbatical, Day 33: Books, Music. And Decisions. Oh No!

What was I going to do with the Amazon vouchers and money given me for my birthday? I soon had some ideas. It doesn’t take me long, the problem is shortening the long list.

There are some books I still need to purchase for sabbatical reading. Not only do I have to pare down this list for financial reasons, I have to recognise the limits of what I shall actually get through during the remaining two months. Some have been recommended or are obvious picks, but if anyone has any thoughts on these books or others in the same field, please leave a comment.

Ministry and Leadership, Ancient and Modern 
Ritva H Williams, Stewards, Prophets, Keepers of the Word: Leadership in the Early Church

Steven Croft (editor), Mission-Shaped Questions

William H Willimon, Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry

Neil Cole, Organic Church and Organic Leadership

Ministry, Spirituality and Personality Type
Leslie J Francis, Faith and Psychology

Julia McGuinness, Growing Spiritually with the Myers-Briggs® Model

(Both of these were among the books recommended to me last week by Jerry Gilpin.)

Faith and Technology  
Quentin J Schultze, Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age

Shane Hipps, The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture and Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith 


And if boks feature large in my ideal spending, so too do CDs. Yes, I’m old enough still to want CDs, not simply MP3s. Actually, it’s the old hi-fii snob in me. I’m waiting for the day when the children are old enough for me to risk replacing the loudspeakers they damaged a few years ago. MP3s are great for convenience and flexibility, but the fidelity of sound is poor.

I’m eyeing up replacing some of the Little Feat vinyl I used to have, regretting the fact that the 4 CD compilation Hotcakes And Outtakes was less than £20 on Amazon recently, but when I went back to buy it, back it went to £43.

There are some new or imminent releases that catch my eye, too. I’m a fan of the UK-based American singer Jeb Loy Nichols, who combines country, funk and reggae amongst other influences. He has a new release called Parish Bar and Andy Gill in The Independent said it was his best release ever.

Or there are the ever-wonderful Buddy and Julie Miller, whose new recording Written In Chalk comes out on Monday. Julie Miller had the distinction of somehow continuing to write painfully honest songs in the CCM world, touching on child abuse and all sorts of things. Buddy is an extraordinary guitarist, singer and songwriter, famous for playing with Emmylou Harris and others. I was recently playing his 2004 release Universal United House Of Prayer to bits. 

Also out on Monday is Quiet Please … The New Best Of Nick Lowe, a songwriter I have admired for years, but I’ve never bought anything of his. Might this be the time?

I only know I can’t buy everything I want! I’ve been totting up prices on Amazon, Amazon Marketplace, eBay, HMV, Play and PlayTrade. Then, in the case of books, I’ve conducted a further comparison at Bookbrain. Once I’ve totted up the cheapest prices, I then have to make the hard decisions. But being a ‘P‘ type in Myers Briggs, I like to keep my options open as long as possible!


Tomorrow holds the CT scan on my sinuses, following the investigation I reported on 19th January. I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow, although I won’t know the results and likely treatment (surgery?) until an appointment on the 30th.