Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sabbath Reflections - Coast to Coast

Right at the start of my sabbatical I did the Coast to Coast walk with our younger son Jacob. This is an unofficial 190 mile wak from St Bees in the Lake District to Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire, pioneered by Alfred Wainwright who is famous for his series of walking books. It takes in some absolutely spectacular scenery and some of my favourite bits of England. We did 11 days of walking with a rest day in the middle, averaging about 18 miles a day. We stayed in a whole range of Bed and Breakfast places, and has a brilliant time together. Here is us at the very start just about to say goodbye to the Irish Sea!

I've written before that two of the key elements of taking time to be with God are to stop and to delight. This walk was brilliant for both of those.

First of all to stop. Stopping is a statement of trust in God, that even if I pause from working God will continue to look after the things which are important to me. Those things could be your education, your company, your family or your home. We live in a world that is now so connected that it can be very hard to stop. We can be on the other side of the world and still getting work emails and texts stopping us from stopping! For me the walk forced me to stop. I'd already made the decision to turn off my Kerith email for the duration of my sabbatical, but even then I know it can take me a long time to mentally disengage from work. There's something about being on the top of a mountain, in cloud which is reducing visibility to about 50 metres, trying to work out how to get down again with responsibility for one of the people you love most in the world which stops your mind wandering to other things!

We all need to find ways to create stops in our days, our weeks, our year and our years. To have a point in the day where work is over (whether work is answering emails, ironing clothes or doing homework) and relax and enjoy life. To have a day in the week when we stop doing whatever represents work for us. To have times in the year where we stop for holidays, retreats and family time and cease working. And even times in the years when we can reflect on life, where it is going and reconnect with God.

But what to do when we stop? Well that's where delight comes in! God created a world, and people in it, that we are supposed to enjoy and find great pleasure in. It's scares me when I ask Christians what they enjoy doing and they can't even remember the last time they did something just because it was fun. It may feel very pious to fill life doing things that don't actually bring you joy, but it's actually a denial of who God created us to be.

For me I most come alive when I'm outdoors, and by that I mean big outdoors, not just in the back garden. Mountains, valleys, seas and lakes, sunsets, long walks and wild weather are things that make me feel most alive. So for me the Coast to Coast walk was a huge delight, not just being in that environment but sharing it (often in silence!) with Jacob and the many others we got to know along the way. On another bit of my sabbatical I climbed Mount Lassen, a volcano in Northern California which last exploded in the early 1900's - I felt very alive there too!

I don't know what you delight in? Going to the cinema, baking, rebuilding cars, painting with watercolours, reading, singing, dancing, seeing Japan beat South Africa at rugby or writing down train numbers? What I do know is that part of God's plan for our lives is for us to find joy in this life, not only joy in Him but joy in all He has given us. So as you stop don't just stop and slouch in front of the TV. Stop and delight - it will do you so much good!



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