Family holidays

This summer has been a bit of a roller coaster time, I am leaving work to start my theology training for ordination in September, so have been on count down at work, and then enjoying some time with the family, before gearing up for the next challenge. Summer holidays are always a mix of things I think, it’s time to get to know each other again, time to notice each other’s annoying habits and time to grow together through shared experiences. (even queuing for rides at Legoland!)

This summer I took the kids camping with church to New Wine at Thirsk which felt pretty risky without my right hand man with me. It was really tiring sorting things out and doing the camp-stove cooking with the kids, but we all slept well and they loved sleeping in one big area together. The main reason for going was the teaching, and I loved being refreshed and renewed with up to date worship songs, powerful singers, and fresh new speakers.

Being back at Hollybush farm was a revelation! I went there in the 80’s whilst at primary school with a local farmer’s daughter and her family and it had an impression on me, as when I arrived back to sign-in at the office I felt ridiculously calm, happy and at peace. Hollybush is a special place, and has been a centre of worship since the 1950’s. The sense I had there though was more of being welcomed back, and remembered by a community who had met me before, and prayed for me back in the 1980’s. I know most of the elders who were there then may have not attended this particular worship meeting, but during prayer in the “hungry tent” there was a sense of being cheered on, spotted in the crowd, and encouraged by saints who were happy to see me as an adult, having met me before as a child.

During our time at Inspire, we saw lots of people receive the Holy Spirit some were trembling and shaking, like the early “Quakers” some were talking in tongues, I nearly always receive a word, or a picture, and this time was no different, in one powerful session I saw a row of slaves in chains step freely out of their bondage, and run down the hill to freedom. The kids loved their “Ground Breakers” session, seeing them grow in confidence and faith was really special. Something to do with drenching their leaders in slime?

I experienced some physical healing for the first time, and received the gift of prophetic prayer, so hopefully will now be able to confidently pray for anyone who needs a sign or word from God in his spirit.

The main thing I learnt though is that all the people who have ever prayed for me are part of my spiritual inheritance, and that God is only really interested in a bigger and better family. He’s not exclusively carving out a role for me as a leader rather using me to extend the reach of Jesus heart and hugs. God’s not keen on us using excuses for our actions, he sees us in our whole totality as perfect. That’s why, if you say “I’m rubbish at that, can you ask someone else?” he doesn’t listen! He also sees us in the totality of our christian family.  Some of the longest passages in the bible we skip over as they are just a list of names and relatives, but really this inheritance from previous generations of Christians is one of the best gifts any child (grown up or small) can receive.

A special thank you has to go to my “kin” at Clifton Church, who invited me to come along, and to David and Hazel Crosby who regularly pray with me, and this weekend were on hand at a crucial time.. when I had to get the tent back in the bag..! In their retirement years, they put the rest of us to shame, positively embracing the camping experience!

Unfinished Sympathy

This time of year I find it hard to stay positive sometimes. It’s like the summer is all around me and there are so many exciting things going on, that even if I were to experience all of them, I’d somehow be missing out on a unique experience somewhere else. I’m leaving work this week and winding down at work, and sitting in the office is really boring without the normal pressures. I read somewhere this week that boredom is actually really bad for your health, worse than eating too many cakes!

There is something sweetly self-indulgent about it though, the sense of something nearly happening but not quite coming to pass, and before long it’s easy to turn that into someone else’s fault. Like the song.. unfinished sympathy, boredom is unfulfilling, and leaves you feeling like you’ve had half an experience, or in fact nothing at all…

Like a soul without a mind, In a body without a heart, I’m missing every part…

The things I will really miss about my office job include having a really lovely chat with a fantastic colleague, swapping notes on how the kids are doing, being involved in exciting new projects, and seeing work come to fruition. Its really satisfying in my 40’s to have the experience and knowledge to make things happen. There is a longer list of what I won’t miss……………  the new initiatives that come out from government that seem designed to torture us through their lack of achievability or resource to implement. I won’t miss seeing colleagues falling ill due to stress, pressure and unachievable work loads, the lack of focus on what frontline staff need to do their work, the changing of the guard in senior management team in a constant vacuum of “leadership”. I won’t miss the reluctance of anyone to take a risk, take a chance and achieve something and I won’t miss the government changing the rules every 4 years so what you’ve just achieved is seen as retrograde.

I’m really proud though to have achieved some major things that help people with disabilities and their families over the years. The public sector is a really crazy place to work but the ethos of healthcare that is free at the point of access, delivering high quality, evidence based support for us all when we need it, can’t be beaten. I love that there are committed social workers trying to find ways to help the most vulnerable in society, and doctors trying to keep up to date with the best kinds of new medicine.

I’m not entirely against privatization, having run several tenders to outsource aspects of what we do, I can testify that there are often organisations who can deliver healthcare as well or better than the status quo, especially when the voluntary sector gets itself in the right place at the right time. The commitment and passion and entrepreneurship in the charitable sector is really fantastic. I do think we take for granted what we have, but that’s actually a great place to be, as the public sector is there for us when we don’t want to have to rely on it- no one wants to get sick, and no families want a social worker to turn up.

The thing I’ve learnt from working alongside lots of health and social care professionals, is mainly that if we all took more responsibility for our own health, and wellbeing, the NHS would run much better. Life’s too short to carry on coming into work with tonsilitus, high levels of anxiety, chronic fatigue, and sleep deprivation, but many of us do it. Instead of feeling sympathetic towards others we should really encourage each other to take action-   It’s this general unfinished sympathy that I think holds us all back.. feeling sorry for ourselves and not really taking action.In the end that costs us all either with our own health, or other people’s time if we’re too sick to get to work.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be care, and be compassionate and kind- I mean being kind is the main place to start with most healing. If we wouldn’t say it to a good friend, then why say it to your husband or to your children or yourself! God is of course very kind and gentle and not at all brusque. It’s getting the combination together that is the real skill, and something I will always admire about those working in healthcare.

Corinthians 2, v2-7 Praise to the God of All Comfort

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.