Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Decisions, decisions.

Our holiday plans are still flapping freely.

Earlier in the year we'd decided to go back to India, and that really appeals still, but I just don't feel up to the hassle of sorting out out own tour, and we don't really fancy any of the pre-arranged ones that we can afford/aren't willing to spend that much on a personalised tour. However, as I write this, Chris is watching 'Marigold Hotel', so the debate may be over regardless.

So where else?

TBH I'm tired right now. Tired of facing work challenges that make me want to curl in a ball at times - not because they're unreasonable, but because I'm trying to cope with the odd emotional things that fairly severe exercise does to me.

In many ways Greece, especially going to Lesvos again, appeals. It's a known quantity, we've not seen Daphne and Iannis since 2009, the location is great and it's guaranteed relaxing. At the same time I know we'll start to get a little bored after a week, and we've mined out many of the island's attractions already. We could fly to athens for a few days first, see the acropolis etc, then get a boat across, but that's hassle again.

And then there's Turkey, where Ben's having a great time. I'm very very tempted to pick one of the really good deals on a flight/hotel/car through expedia and just go for a couple of weeks near Selcuk/Efes (Ephesus). There's LOADS to see - we could even drive over to Cappadocia for a couple of days - and see Ben too. But I dunno. Hassle again, and trying to cope with an alien culture where I don't speak ANY of the language.

Don't tell Chris, but I've even wondered about going to Scotland, while they'll still let people from the south across the border. Scrub that - last time I had a holiday where it rained all the time I hated it. :p

Guess we'l just have to wait & see.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Joggers nipple

Is not a joke.

7.5 miles in the rain, wearing a belt that held my singlet still against a moving nipple, is not kind. My right nipple was actually weeping slightly this morning. Should I have more sympathy for breast feeding mothers now?

Update Saturday - nipple no longer painful and scabbed over OK. :-)

Am I an innie or outie?

And we're not talking belly buttons now.

As it turned out, I didn't get a vote in this election, being a European. It's curious however, that although my inclination was that leaving was probably going to be a good thing, the reasons for leaving the EU as presented - and indeed everything I've seen of the leave campaign - seem utterly horrid, full of lies and misdirection, preying on emotion and gullibility. Doing the right thing for very wrong reasons is never good where people are likely to follow those reasons, and I suspect this has a strong potential to go bad. It might have also been better to wait another year & let a less foundational country fire the first shot across the EU bows, in the hope that reform could have happened.

I have already heard of the phrase "phased deportation" being used by a politician - breath taking. There is also a Youtube clip of Nigel Farage - one of the key leavers - declaring that a claim at the cornerstone of the leave campaign was a mistake and obviously not true.

It will be important to understand why the vote swung this way for future generations, especially as British society is so very mix these days. Immigration and a lack of integration is certainly a key part. It's also almost certainly a part of the rejection of 'the system' that America is also experiencing with Trump being a presidential candidate and over here with Jeremy Corbyn heading up the Labour party.

For now we wait for the dust to settle and see whether it is battle plans or negotiation terms that are being drawn up.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

You know it will make you uptight and grumpy.

I read the Backyard Missionary blog (see occasional blogroll) for the first time in a while yesterday. Hamo wrote one post describing a film he went to see with his wife, about refugees trying to enter Australia being effectively held prisoner on an island by the Australian government. He knew the film would leave him feeling out of sorts & helpless, and no surprise, that's exactly what it did.

So when I started reading that book on leading missional communities by Mike Breen and the guys at 3DM, the outcome was predictable.

After ordering a paper copy via Amazon I was also able to preview the first 1.5 chapters on the kindle app. The first chapter looked good in many ways, and talked about building extended family that more-or-less worked in a way that I'd seen previously. Great. The 'new church' buzzwords are springing up - like Oikos instead of family - to differentiate this from the old church, but that's how 3DM works.

So I started chapter 2 on the 4 foundational principles of missional community, the first of which is discipleship. OK, I can buy that, makes sense. So we then cut to an example of this, where a MC that had been serving food to homeless people, switched to meeting their needs of friendship because the city social services were already meeting those practical needs very well. The section then concludes reinforcing to us how vital discipleship is.

This was an example of discipleship?

What did I miss - is there a special revelation for the anointed? Is there some subtlety that I'm too stupid to get. This sounds like a missional community discovered that it wasn't being effective doing the obvious thing, so changed approach. Am I supposed to overlook the inappropriate example because I'm overawed that an MC (to use the book's abbreviation) is out befriending homeless people? Isn't there a practical example of discipleship that couldn't have been found & used instead?


Chris and I talked about this - we saw this pattern clearly in Building A Discipling Culture, where examples are given that have absolutely nothing to do with the topic. I feel like the little kid shouting about the kings new clothes when I see this stuff, knowing all the adults watching are going to ignore me anyway. Are these guys charlatans, and if so, why do so many follow their movement? If they're not then why doesn't their teaching hang together? Do they just simply need an editor for their books?

Monday, 20 June 2016

Missional communities?

The buzz-phrase that hasn't gone away yet.


For my sins I've started reading another Mike Breen book, this time about leading missional communities, working on the principle of the devil you know is better than the one you don't, because they seem to be the future for our church movement. I want to know if they really are the next wave of God moving through the church (as the book authors suggest) or if they're just the latest fad in consumer church, making it possible to look like something vital is going on, when all we've done is drop a need to teach people and let people socialise every week without guilt.

So I bought Leading Missional Communities.

Wandered through the first chapter over dinner. As with all these things, there's a mixture. So I recognised descriptions of extended family that I've seen working in churches that I've been part of - typically when they were new, young churches, everyone giving themselves to each other. However that was always set against a backdrop of teaching and discipleship in a housegroup format, rather than a larger group of people whose stated aim was primarily mission.

There's another, more personal, thing that bothers me. My grandfather was a wonderful Godly man who got very grumpy with the church in later years, was extremely unhappy about moves of the Holy Spirit and resisted so many things. I have some of his character, and DO NOT wish to follow him in those ways. It makes me very cautious about what I follow and particularly, what I stand against.

I also remembered that I need to review What's wrong with outreach? that I mentioned in this thread.

In a nutshell, it's good, sensible and unspectacular. If, like me, you aren't a natural evangelist driven by a desire to be continuously sharing the gospel, then it may be freeing. There's nothing in there that should be controversial, but some will probably feel it undermines the drive for evangelism.

I grew up in a time when society was becoming increasingly inoculated against Jesus and faith generally, through nominally Christian stuff in school, through media presenting salvation through science and faith as being mentally defective. The churches response - up the ante - push a gospel harder and harder, through Evangelism Explosion, door knocking, various missions, initiatives to guilt-trip Christians into pushing the gospel at people.

This book explains why that wasn't really going to work (as indeed it didn't really). There's an irony mentioning it at the same time as LMC, because the kind of outreach it talks about is where the church stops withdrawing from the world, and instead lives with the world in order to show the world what Jesus was really like. I have a feeling that this is the real missional community that the church needs, but instead we are going to get to copy someone else's program.

Buy Keith Schooley's book - it's good, and a lot cheaper than LMC, though less hip.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Is youth wasted on the young*?

Do you ever have the feeling, assuming you are 50+ like me, that life has flown by, and what remains is a gradual slide into decrepitude as one's body and brain gradually fail?

We were talking about this a couple of weeks back, and I said that if possible I'd live the same life over again, experience the same things for the first time, even without the experience and wisdom I've collected on the way.

After Sarah's death it needed a deliberate decision for us to stay together, not because we'd fallen out about anything, but because the natural desire is to escape, move on, start again. The aging process causes something similar I suspect, a greiving for lost youth and strength. It's no surprise that middle-aged men leave their wives and families of many years to attempt to recover what they've lost, and all the sharp-tongued comments about the manopause and old men in sports cars only makes me feel more sympathy - though not agreement - toward them.

My grandfather had grown up in a world where older men of his background were respected for their experience and survival (to acheive 70+ in a working class environment was good going) yet was disappointed that, when it was his turn, no-one cared. The present world cares even less for 'old people', though rubs along with them them if they can still afford to live normally. While I'm maudlin like this, the future isn't orange.

*Terry Pratchett, who knew something about getting old & falling to bits, though who had no hope of anything better afterward..

Monday, 13 June 2016

Trying to sort out a trip to India

I'm reminded just how big a country it is, and how different the culture too. Not sure I'm brave enough to DIY instead of using a travel company - we'll see.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Good morning sunrise

Or it would be if it were not cloudy. Don't you love 5am airport runs, :p

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Looking at re-activating the photoxon blog

Trying out dynamic templates.

The one I'd selected a while back (Timeslide - that was 2 years ago!) shows titles of posts, requiring a click to view the content. This makes me run a mile when I view other blogs, and I have to REALLY want to read the conent to bother. Guess that's a miss then.

There's a bunch of other variations from the dynamic set, but most of them are dull/ineffective/not set up properly (my fault - ignorance can break nearly anything). However the classic version looks fairly good right now, so I'll give that a try.

Fonts are another question. Calibri is a clean modern font, not the easiest to read, but it's crisp and neat so I've gone with that. Colours are default, not because I can't change them, but they are neutral and ideal for viewing images. It was tempting to use an orange theme to tie into this blog, and also to put a big picture up as background. Neither are really desireable (do you view images in a gallery against a technicolour background?) even though both are tempting.

The plan will be to upload at least one set of images/article/review per week. Images to be primarily local and recent, though may occasionally pop up travel stuff too.

You're welcome to wander over to view the building site while I'm tweaking it, but there's a strong chance a lot of test posts will get removed before 'launch' (what a grand term for use).


Well, that didn't last long. The dynamic pages simply couldn't be configured the way I wanted some I'm trying Blogger's 'awesome' template. Not completely keen on the pale blue border that I can't seem to change. :-(

*edit 2*
And it's done. www.photoxon.blogspot.com is now (just) live, though with minimal content so far (working on that too).

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Finally finished processing the images from Bosnia Herzegovina.

There's a lot of stories in there, and not especially ours. Bullet and shell holes, mosques and muslim graveyards in a Mostar that's also absolutely crammed with tourists. Grafiti that tells the reader that we still bleed, never forget & never forgive, the war isn't over. Empty, ruined buildings, a mix of new and shiny alongside old and patched cars. Ordinary people still working their small holdings, plant vineyards and build houses.

Then there's the youth work. Pics of happy teenagers, Bosniak, Croat and Serb, playing tabletennis and table-football together, beatboxing and drumming, sending messages on their phones. It's a contrast.

I may try to get some images up, if I can make sense and get a coherent thread.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

According to Endomondo

I have run 252 miles in the first 5 months of 2016 - on target for 620 miles (i.e. 1000km) for the year then.

I'm undecided whether to continue at the level I've been running or back off a bit, since it's been a big sink for time, cash and energy, plus my poor old brain has been a bit scrambled and I'm aware of mood swings etc. In some ways I'd really like to carry on, but it concerns me that the body is often achey and sore and I struggle to speak clearly and enunciate thoughts, almost certainly because of the running.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Today would have been a good day

To stay under the duvet. At least when people tell me they feel like they can't cope, I can quite understand that feeling.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Evening meadow

Had a little wander down to the water meadow at the bottom of the village this evening. Pass the chocolate box. ;-)

Sunday, 22 May 2016

A big thankyou

To those who left flowers yesterday, or sent messages. We really appreciate you remembering Sarah.

Friday, 20 May 2016

So the high street is a zombie

The suggestion I read today was that the high street, with its shops, was dying. Not, surprisingly, because of amazon and other online retailers, but because we've reached peak 'stuff'. There's nowhere for the economy to grow now because we all have more than we can use already, and with the downturn in wages, few are just buying more toys for the sake of more toys.

In some ways it's really good - less useless stuff being made so less materials are wasted. But it's also bad, because less stuff being bought means less jobs and income for many, and that steepens the downward spiral. That's no news to anyone, but it does beg the question about how and if we can restructure society to cope with less in the future.

Or am I forgetting human nature?

Are you the pigeon or the window?

Or neither.

This morning when I went into the coffee room there was the outline of a pigeon's head, beak, breast and one wing on the glass. It's not the first time that I've seen the evidence of a pigeon that flew into the window there, and it probably won't be the last. This time wasn't as spectacular as some, where the lines of both wings and the breast have been very clear in a kind of V with a bulge at the bottom, but in this pattern I could make out the beak being open and one eye that had hit the glass. Ouch.

What does a pigeon do, after it's hit the glass and bounced back? Give up flying?

So this Sunday for a variety of reasons I'm speaking at the new church in Banbury. No worries, lead this kind of thing loads of times, done it all before, right? Except that I was feeling very post-glass-pigeon like, no idea what to do, quite literally feeling a bit dazed and confused.

And then laying awake in bed at 4am Thursday morning it was as though I'd been picked up, put back on a branch again and told I could fly, including being shown how to use my wings.

There's some stuff behind this including a prophetic message from Martin Dunkely at the Oxford celebration last week, and connected to that asking God if He was going to use me to teach any more, or if that had all gone now as it seemed to have done. But much more than that, if you've read here recently I've been increasingly concerned that church has become just another organ-grinder experience, where we 'do the stuff' but lives don't change much, people feel good but there's nothing tangible at the end of it - people go looking for social liberal change because the 'spiritual' stuff isn't making a difference.

There's also been a bit of 'where your treasure is, there is your heart' for me, and I've been distinctly organising treasure a bit. Plus I've found myself behaving in a way that's fairly repellent at times, and in a way that I've seen in others and been quite critical of, hence ditching Facebook. Not that I'm suddenly and miraculously back on my feet (was I off?) but life is headed in a better direction. I hope.

Ramble? Yes, lets.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

GM foods are the work of the devil.

Or perhaps not.

This will probably not come as a surprise to those who would not have shouted 'Judas' at Bob Dylan 50 years ago.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Need my head tested

After managing to survive one half marathon I've been wanting to do another.

So tonight's training was a gentle 9.5 miler.

Frankly, I need my head tested - who ever thought that I could deceive myself so easily into thinking that regularly running for 1 1/2 hours + was fun and a good idea? So I dodged a bullet that first time, and now I like the idea of trying again? Madness.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

The frustrated togger.

Well sort of.

I've just finished uploading images from Bosnia Herzgovina (Bay-Hah as they call it) to the computer and done an initial sort through. There's some interesting pics in there, some of which I'm fairly pleased with, but it *felt* like I missed almost every good image that I saw because we were either travelling, in company or because I couldn't just go-shove a camera at people.

There were stories in the faces of so many people, and for the first time it really made me wish I had a nice small camera and a robust attitude that would let me just go up and ask for a picture. I did grab a few pictures covertly in the market of Mostar, but they weren't really the ones I'd wanted.

On the last day, while wandering through Capljina we passed an alley with a couple of tables set out. There were some guys drinking drinking there and on the wall at the end of the alley was a huge swastika and a nationalist slogan. The men looked about the right age to have fought in the war, and became aware of us just as I was looking up at them. There was a sense of tension in the air & we carried on walking past, even though there was probably no real danger for a couple of tourists carrying cameras.

We stayed with friends just outside the city, in a small suburb/village, and many of their neighbours were old with the kind of faces that showed a life of hard labour in all weathers. They were friendly and generous, but they weren't *my* neighbours to offend or upset, and I didn't feel able to ask for pictures.

I should have liked time to photograph many of the buildings and put together a series illustrating how the effects of the war are still visible. Looking through the images, there are a few that might work, but nothing really adequate. Mostar had the feeling of a city that used war damage as part of the draw for tourists: there were plenty of bullet holes and even the odd shell hole still to be seen, and of course it is well known for having been under seige in the war. But Capljina also had its share of war damage, even though it also had a shiny new glass and steel post office, giant bronze statue outside the town hall and new blocks of flats.

When we first saw the bullet holes, Chris's reaction was that the concrete was just showing signs of age and falling apart, but it quickly became clear that was not the case. Travelling through the country (6+ hours drive between Capljina and Banja Luka where we had the run) houses with war damage were to be seen everywhere until we reached the Republika Srpska; the serbian part of BiH. Here the countryside changed from mediteranean to alpine, and the buildings seemed in much better repair, cars newer etc.

BiH is also a place a beauty: amazing countryside in a wide variety of forms, interesting ruins and towns, spectacular hills and mountains, lovely flowers etc, but apart from a couple of occasions, somehow we just didn't quite get out there. We weren't there to take photos, but to visit friends and run that race, and it's important to remember that.

I've no idea if we'll ever go back. It's a possibility, but only a small one.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

It's our last Capljina evening.

And I'm slightly sad to be going, though looking forward to not feeling like we're in someone else's hair, even when they're as kind and generous as our friends here.

Wonder if there will be Cevapi on the menu? ;-)

Here's the waterfalls with water falling at Kravica earlier today.

Monday, 9 May 2016


But what's in a time? ;-)

I'm a little disappointed not being closer to the 2 hour mark, but considering all things it's pretty fair.

The day started without a decent breakfast, which is to say badly for something as energy intensive as this, and the air early on was quite cold so that I wore a sleeved top instead of a singlet, which was also a mistake. And I forgot a lesson that I'd learned 30 years before, that when you're on the start line and you feel like you need a pee then you should go and HAVE a pee, because the feeling won't go away, no matter how much you try to convince yourself that you'll need the water later.

There were only about 1000 runners in this, and and that made for a relatively small massed start. I was part of a group of 5: 2 local guys (Ivica, Martin) plus us 'foreigners' (Mick, plus Sam, Mick's 18YO daughter and myself) and we got separated fairly quickly. I found a route round the outside of most of the crowd, and ran comfortably for the first 6 miles or so, starting to run out of energy in the 7th mile and then dragging myself along for the next couple of miles until I came to the station offering sliced fruit (mostly apple and orange segments) and could refuel a bit - it was amazing how the extra energy from that little bit of fruit let the legs almost return to normal for a short while.

The route started from Banja Luka town centar, heading north up the main road out for just over a mile before turning right and right again to head back down (though it was slightly uphill) past the town. This section was in blazing sunshine, and even on the first lap around the town it was fiercely hot without any shade at all. The route then crossed over below the town before heading back up round the other side to turn right again and run across the top of the town. There were 2 laps like this around the town before heading back up the main road (also uphill) to the centar again and the finish line.

At the end of the first lap Chris was waiting for me. Apparently Sam had dropped out at 4K with breathing difficulties, but instead of finding them as a group, she had disappeared. Much worry and prayer going on.

The last couple of miles were just a case of trying to find a pace that was fast enough to be comfortable (because running slowly makes me hurt) but not un-sustainably quick, and also finding a happy measure of breathing that would set the pace for the legs. Inevitably I walked on and off, just allowing the batteries to recharge a little before starting to run again. There were a few people running slowly at this point that I passed, only for them to pass me while I walked, then to repass again.

The final section - I wrote climb initially, because that's how it felt even though it wasn't steep - was really draining, hot and tiring, and seemed far further than it had any right to be. Chris met me about 150 meters before the finish and ran with me as far as she was able. I was also 'paced' by a small boy from the crowd for the final section.

The actual finish was slightly puzzling, because there was initially a red arch across the road, then a first white arch followed by a second white arch, both of which said 'finish'. On reaching the first white arch I thought I'd arrived, only to realise that I then had to keep going for the second. :p  A few yards further on was a line of girls hanging finishers medallions around runners necks, then further back passing out bottled water and finally so guys trying to move runners out of the finish area.

 After finishing I discovered that Sam was still missing, no-one having seen her since Mick left her to make her way back to the group. Ivica and Martin had both finished before me and Mick arrived just a couple of minutes afterward. There was a lot of concern and some tears of worry shed, however Mick pointed out how stubborn she was and to confirm that he knew his daughter's character, she appeared just after the 2:30 mark, having recovered her breathing and completed the run. Cue much relief.

So here I sit the day after.

Various parts ache a bit and a couple of toes are sore, but overall it *feels* like I've got away with it very lightly.

Wonder what to do next?  ;-)

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Just a few days now

until the half-marathon. Hope the legs keep working. :-)

In other news, we're getting involved in a new church plant in Banbury, which is quite interesting really - life never was going to settle back to being the same - and will also remain connected to Bicester.

There's loads of stuff to blog really, but I'm not really feeling terribly talkative right now, so sorry about that.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Chilling out isn't great.

It's been so warm over the last couple of weeks that I've been running in shorts and tee shirt, even though we'd had frosty starts to the day. Sunday changed that with some cooler weather and hail, but yesterday didn't seem too bad in the day.

Went for a local 8.5miler last night wearing leggings and my long-sleeved winter top, then got rained on and chilled about half way round. The legs got grumpy, knees angry and I ended up walking down the hills to try to prevent damage. Cue hurty legs in bed, though I did manage to sleep OK in the end.

I hope this run will be worth it.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Why am I not surprised.

The web is more than doomed.

Wonder how big a blogger page is?

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Seems I made it home just before the hail hit.

I'd planned a 10-11 miler for this afternoon, but having led worship this morning, then had my mother back to dinner while Ben's here on his one-night stop-over & driven back to Bicester again, I just didn't have the energy for more than 5K. It started raining as I reached North Aston and was moderate most of the way back. About 10min after arriving I heard the hail rattling on the windows.

In less than 2 hours Ben will be in Oxford getting on the bus taking him to Gatwick Airport tonight for a 7am flight to Turkey on Monday. It's been good to see him - I'm going to miss him when he's gone again, even though I love when it's the two of us being together.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Mobile blogger is a bit broken

I have a post listed as 'publishing' that is neither published, nor can be edited in any way. Meh, as Mrs. Croes used to say.

So Tuesday is sunny

And to my considerable surprise I don't ache (much) this morning. The head is still a little fuzzy and has the usual occasional pain, but I'm pleasantly surprised at how much better the bod feels than it did yesterday. If this carries on then I'll probably run 10k home tonight.

To be honest I'm not sure this exercise thing is all that great. It wants to become all-consuming, which isn't helpful if you just want to get on with life and the stuff you're called to do. We'll just have to make sure it's kept in proportion - and I'm sure the time to back off will come soon enough too.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

So today I ran.

This afternoon I went for a mid-afternoon run, managing 16.5K/10.4miles in a little under 1hr 40min.

TBH it didn't feel particularly good, not least because I was deliberately holding back a little, knowing I planned to extend the distance further than usual, and I stopped twice to stretch after 7 and 9 miles. The half marathon is just a few weeks away, and I need to make good on my (assumed now OK) knee to increase distance.

The running has changed my physiology. Arms that once seemed muscular now look lean and skinny, to the point where, when pulling socks on this evening, they didn't look like they belonged to me any more. Legs aren't so different really, but I'm carrying less fat on my torso although I can 'pinch an inch' as the phrase once had it. Breathing is certainly better than it has been in a long while, and I managed the first 4-5 miles with one breath cycle per 4 footfalls when on the flat or running up modest inclines: the one disadvantage being that I run more slowly like this, though still faster than 10K/hr. Later I upped the breathing rate to one cycle per 3 footfalls, and that enabled me to keep the pace up despite tiredness.

The one miserable bit was finding that I just couldn't run down the hill into the village to finish the run. It's a relatively steep slope, and the feelings of displeasure from knees and calf muscles were too strong and clear to ignore just for a training run. The course I'll be running looks pleasantly flat, so there'll be no popping knees on that.

My legs ache now, which is no surprise, but hopefully they'll settle down tonight and be OK for work tomorrow. By Tuesday evening perhaps enough recovery will have happened for a 10K home from work, or maybe a 5K if things are still sore.

The sunlight looks lovely out there this evening, but I'm just a bit too tired for a photographic expedition tonight.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

What's that white stuff, falling past the windows?

I knew the temperature was due to drop a little, but wasn't expecting sleet and large clumps of snow this morning. Glad I plan to run tomorrow and not today, but it's scuppered cutting the grass and clearing the shed that I HAD planned.