Blessing #206 – Evening Song

A couple of weeks ago Sue and I took a few days off in Northumberland. We’d managed to book a small cottage a short walk away from a beach with a view of the sea. 

The April weather was very kind to us and we enjoyed glorious days and fabulous sunsets, we even got up very early one morning to watch the sunrise over the sea.

One evening I decided to take a walk in the dunes along the beach and to watch the sunset from there. As I powered my way up the loose sand on one of the dunes I noticed a Robin in the top of a thorn bush singing away. It was like it was singing to the sunset telling it how much it appreciated its colourful display. Or perhaps it was telling the other Robins in the area who was boss. I don’t mind why it was singing it beautiful to listen to.

This evening I took a walk alkng a lane which runs through a salt marsh out towards the sea. This lane is only a short distance from quite a large town but it wasn’t long before the noise of the vehicles feeding into and out of the town subsided and the song of hundreds of Skylarks filled the air. I was completely surrounded by their serenading. As I wandered along the Skylarks were joined by a Curlew with its haunting melody. The sun was setting ahead of me and it was lovely.

We are blessed in the UK to have such beautiful choral birds, even if we aren’t that good at stoping and appreciating them.

As I walked back along the lane to my car, the sound of vehicles returned and the evening song subsided out of earshot but not out of my consciousness. The song is still there I just can’t hear it any more, but I can remember it.

Top posts for 2015 – Blessings and My Stories

There hasn’t been much new content on this site this year, there are many reasons for that, but I have to admit that the primary one is that I just didn’t get around to it.

For Blessings posts the top 10 have looked like this:

  1. Count Your Blessings #120 – Short Stories
  2. Blessings #183 – Counting the thing I have that money can’t buy
  3. Blessing #203 – High-Mileage Songs
  4. Blessing #205 – A Bit of Nonsense
  5. Count Your Blessings #64 – Stories, Fables and Parables
  6. Blessings #176 – Hovis Digestives
  7. Blessings #198 – Personal Proverbs
  8. Blessings #196 – A Full Notebook
  9. Blessing #204 – Clearing Out
  10. Blessings #202 – Home

It’s worth noting that the top 2 are by far the most popular posts.

For My Stories there’s only a top 8, because I’ve only written 9 of them:

  1. My Stories: Concussion
  2. My Stories: Mr Smith
  3. My Stories: Two Allotments
  4. My Stories: Hornsea Waves
  5. My Stories: £9 or £10
  6. My Stories: Jet Planes, Helicopters and Army Vehicles
  7. My Stories: “Y’alright Wack”
  8. My Stories: Sitting in the Corner

I have a list of ideas for the My Stories posts in my to-do list, I just need to get the words typed, so hopefully some more to follow in 2016.

Blessing #205 – A Bit of Nonsense

I was talking with someone the other day about how I quite like nonsense rhymes like this one:

I eat my peas with honey;
I’ve done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny,
But it keeps them on the knife.

Or this one (the version I remember anyway):

One fine day, in the middle of the night,
Two dead men got up to fight
Back-to-back they faced each other
Drew their swords and shot each other.

Some places quote extra lines, others change a few words, but the nonsense is still the same.

Another one:

Spring is sprung, the grass is ris.
I wonders where the birdies is.
They say the birds is on the wing.
Ain’t that absurd?
I always thought the wing was on the bird.

Interestingly, most of these rhymes seem to be attributed to that wonderful person: Anonymous.

Jesus quite liked a bit of nonsense, we don’t really see it because we’ve heard the stories so many times and we don’t understanding the cultural context in which he was writing:

When the father runs towards the prodigal son it was nonsense – no father would have done the running. (see Luke 15:11-32).

When Jesus makes the Good Samaritan the hero of the story it was nonsense. Samaritans were never heroes (see Luke 10:25-37).

The day Jesus told a rich young ruler “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” He was talking nonsense, wealth showed that you were blessed, if you gave it away you were no longer blessed (see Mark 10:17-27).

I quite like a bit of nonsense.

Blessing #204 – Clearing Out

As I look out into our back garden now covered with Autumn leaves I see all sorts  colours. From the brightest reds, to the deepest browns, there are evergreen and moss greens it’s an array of flora that has recently exploded into colour and is now spread across the garden. It will need clearing up, but there’s no rush, it has only been a couple of weeks since we spent time picking and sweeping. There’s a neighbour out in their front garden with a leaf blower he’s there most weekends, their garden is much neater than mine.

Beyond my garden there is a high hawthorn hedge which belongs to a bungalow. In the garden of the bungalow there are all sorts of left-over building materials and enough building equipment to stock a hardware store. I pass the front of the bungalow on my morning walk sometimes. In the driveway there are at least four vehicles which are full of more building materials, each vehicle is surrounded by more building material and I wouldn’t be surprised of there are more vehicles hidden under the other material. At the entrance to the driveway there are two more vehicles which are themselves full of building material and other detritus, they stay at the entrance because they can’t get in the drive. I’ve never met the person who lives in the house but it doesn’t look like a happy place to live.

A couple of months ago I had some time available on a Saturday to start to clear out the garage which had got a bit messy with things being delivered, stored and restored. It was becoming frustrating clambering over things all the time trying to find the thing I was looking for. Unfortunately the clearing out had only got to that point where it didn’t really look much better than when I had started before I had to finish. I wanted to get the tidying finished so that I could store the garden furniture for the rapidly approaching autumn and winter. A couple of weeks ago I again had some time available to finish the job. After sorting, sweeping and a few trips to the local tip it felt so rewarding to put everything in its place and to see how much free space there was in there and how easily the garden furniture fitted.

There are parts of my life that like each one of these places, a bit messy like the garden, in need of serious clearing out like the bungalow and nicely tidy (for now) like the garage. There’s something very rewarding about clearing these places out but some of them look like a big job and that’s when we need help. Thankfully Jesus doesn’t expect us to have a cleared out life, he just wants to help us with the tidying and to get to know us in the process. Thankfully he’s not comparing our level of cleanliness to our neighbours, he knows us and wants to meet us where we are. From my experience Jesus is more interested in getting to know us that getting everything right in our lives.

Blessing #203 – High-Mileage Songs

The other evening I was out for a walk while Sue was visiting a friend.

I’ve had some kind of portable music device since I was a teenager and I’ve always liked listening to music as I walk. First it was cassette tapes then CD’s and latterly some kind of MP3 player.

On this particular evening I was listening to a playlist of songs that iTunes had automatically created based on one of my favourite songs.  Most of the songs on this playlist date back to my cassette tape days and it got me thinking about how many miles some of these songs have travelled with me. Miles walking, miles driving and even miles flying.

The playlist continued and then I heard a few cords and these words:

Sing this with me, this is “40”

I must have heard those words hundreds of times, before they had even been spoke I knew what was  coming next:

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

These words were being recorded in 1983, over 30 years ago and they’ve meant a lot to me through the years. This has been one of my signpost song with signpost words.

Words that have been there as a signpost through exams at school, college and university.

How long to sing this song
How long to sing this song
How long, how long, how long
How long to sing this song

Words that have been there as a signpost through engagement, marriage and children.

He set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm
Many will see
Many will see and hear

Words that have been there at work and at play.

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

Words that have been there from rental to buying smaller onto buying bigger.

How long to sing this song
How long to sing this song
How long, how long, how long
How long to sing this song

How long to sing this song? I don’t know but for a long while yet I hope. I like new songs, but I also love high-mileage songs, songs that have formed signposts in my life.

The song is call “40” because it’s based on Psalm 40. That makes them words that are thousands of years old and signpost words for generations.

Those signposts are important markers of where we have come from.

(The picture is of the sunset that night taken on the beach in Southport)

Blessings: Top 20 for 2014

I’m always a bit intrigued by which of the Blessing posts gets visitors. Most of them are the most recent ones, but some of them go a long way back. Number 20 – Running in the Company of a Happy Few goes all the way back to 2005:

  1. Blessings #183 – Counting the thing I have that money can’t buy
  2. Blessings #197 – Laughing Anyway
  3. Blessings #198 – Personal Proverbs
  4. Blessings #196 – A Full Notebook
  5. Count Your Blessings #120 – Short Stories
  6. Blessings #199 – My Stories, Our Stories
  7. Count Your Blessings #64 – Stories, Fables and Parables
  8. Blessings #201 – Seen, Heard and Known
  9. Blessings #202 – Home
  10. Blessings #200 – The Buzzard Feather
  11. Blessings #194 – Chronos
  12. Blessings #195 – Photography Books
  13. Count Your Blessings #90 – The Alarm Call of the Blackbird at Dusk
  14. Blessings #176 – Hovis Digestives
  15. Count Your Blessings #54 – Sky Watching
  16. Blessings #160 – Sun’s Rays
  17. Blessings #193 – The Smell of Summer Rain
  18. Blessings #189 – Travelling a New Path
  19. Count Your Blessings #91 – Decorating Christmas Trees
  20. Count Your Blessings #37 – Running in the Company of a Happy Few

Blessings #202 – Home

There’s a well known song that has these words in the chorus:

Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home

I don’t believe them!

Home is the place where you fit in, and it fits around you.

Whenever I am away from home I spend much of my time trying to find things and checking where things are. At home I don’t have to think about where I’ve put my keys down; even if I can’t remember where I put them I know the places where to look. When I’m away from home they could be anywhere.

I’ve spent enough nights in hotel rooms to develop a twitch every time I leave a room – “Where’s the room key card? Where’s my wallet? Have I got everything?

At home there is an unspoken routine. We don’t have to be constantly talking through what we are going to do next, for most of the time we instinctively know.

We know the signs of who’s in and who’s out when we are home. We have three cars in our house, these days, but the drive is only two cars wide. If everyone is in there is always one car blocked in, but that’s not a problem because at home we know who is going to be needing there car next so we know where to park.

Home is the place where you know which draw to look in for which clothes. You don’t have to go through all of the drawers trying to find your socks.

At home you don’t have to think too hard about what clothes you are going to wear.

Home is a place of memories. Memories of evenings with friends around the table. Memories of chocolate chilli roulette. Memories of huddles of young people around a fire pit. Memories of Christmas mornings and birthday teas. Memories of newborn babies entering the place where they will build their own library of memories. Memories of saying goodbye as those babies, now grown, set out on new adventures of their own. Memories of tears and disappointments too.

Home is a privilege and a joy. It saddens we to know that in this world of conflict and refugees so many don’t live in a place that they can call home. But I also have a hope that one day this world will be swept aside and we will move from this home to another home where there is no more conflict and strife, a place where everyone is at home.

Blessings #201 – Seen, Heard and Known

Some of the deepest desires of people are to be seen, to be heard and to be known.

I can remember many times when I have been none of these things, often in the busiest of places. Think about the busy train station with thousands of people passing through now imagine the effort that you would have to go through to get the attention of all of those people.

Sometimes we see people, but we don’t want to hear them. The other day I was walking through the centre of Preston and was really conscious of the number of homeless people sat by the side of the pavement. It’s almost impossible not to see them, but few of us will take the time to sit and listen to them. In Chester the other day everyone was keeping wide of a man stood by a poster board and handing out religious leaflets.

A few weeks ago I was sat on a plane next to an older lady who was returning from a trip to America where she attended a sister’s funeral. While there she had decided that she needed a full cowboy outfit as memory of the adventure; this included cowboy boots, fancy jeans, denim jacket and hat. It must have been an interesting experience because she can’t have been more than 4′ tall and was a very slender lady. I imagine that she was fitted out in children’s clothes. She wanted to talk about her experience and I was happy to listen.

We’ve recently celebrated our Silver Wedding Anniversary and marked it with a gathering of friends. We received many cards and handed around a book for people to write their thoughts in. Reading the two sets of messages together it was striking how we were known by so many people in so many different ways.

Most Wednesday morning’s I meet with a couple of close friends for breakfast. As a group we have been through many highs and many lows together. This week I needed these friends to know about the highs of holidays and also some significant challenges in my life. This time and place is one where I can know that whatever else has happened I will be seen, I will be heard and I will be known. Thanks Dave. Thanks Bob.

The Genesis story describes the separation between people and God. The first sign of this is that Adam and Eve go to hide because they don’t want to be seen or heard by God. Many of Jesus parables tell us of God’s perspective; though we may try to hide God searches for us because He want’s to know us:

The Story of the Lost Sheep

By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.

4-7 “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.

The Story of the Lost Coin

“Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbours: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.”

Luke 15

I am so, so grateful to be seen, heard and known. The challenge to us, especially to those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, is to create the places where other’s can also be seen, heard and known. Someone who writes about this is Shauna Niequist. In her book called Bread & Wine she says this:

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.”

Hospitality around a table might not be your thing, but we can all create somewhere where others feel significant.

Blessings #200 – The Buzzard Feather

We’ve just returned for a week’s holiday near Lorton in the English Lake District

One of the things I’m currently trying to do is to climb all of the Wainwright peaks so on Tuesday I set off to tick-off a set of peaks stretching from Crummock Water to Derwentwater.

Nearing the end of this walk I was meandering through a field when a Buzzard squawked and launched into the air. It made me jump.

This spectacular bird of prey left behind one of it’s magnificent feathers, a wing feather I think.

Feathers are amazing feats of engineering. They are strong and yet very light, supporting a bird to amazing heights and magnificent speeds. They are only connected to the body of the bird with a narrow quill. The barbs and barbules that make up the vanes are intricately detailed tiny pieces of keratin woven together to be highly resistant to the air.

As the feathers layer together with the other feathers on the wing they form the perfect shape for flying.

The structure of a feather is a marvel, but feathers aren’t just functional, they are decorative too. The feather that I picked up was a piece of art in its own right with patterns of rich browns.

Alongside the other feathers on the bird each one forms part of a pattern that marks out each bird as a member of its species.

God is a God of detail too:

“What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries. (?Luke? ?12?:?6-7? MSG)

Blessings #199 – My Stories, Our Stories

We’ve been out for the day today with friends. On the way home we started talking about our pasts, primarily about the food that we used to eat.

I’m not sure why it was food that got us talking about bygone days but it was the trigger to all sorts of reminiscing.

Sue’s dad has been talking for a while about recording some of his stories. We’ve heard many of them before, but there is no permanent record of them. He wants to record them as a kind of history of a life that no longer exists.

We each have a history that is punctuated by stories that contribute to our personality and character.

They aren’t just my stories though, I share them with the other people involved in the events. On our day we were looking at the story of Elkanah, Ramah and Hannah (1 Samuel 1). The star of this story is Hannah, but that doesn’t make Elkanah and Ramah redundant.

This story has twists and turns, results in the birth of Samuel one of the greatest of Israel’s prophets. I don’t think that any of the stories that I am living are quite that significant, but they may be, who am I to know?

Hannah’s story has survived thousands of years; I don’t expect mine to have such a long life. Again, I don’t know that they won’t, I just don’t think that they will.

Whether my stories are nationally significant or have millennial longevity doesn’t really matter.  These are my stories and that’s enough, they are part of who I am and for the most part I regard them as a blessing.

I’ve been thinking about how to live a good story. For a long while I thought that a good story came as the result of success. I wouldn’t have said that success was my motivator if you’d asked me, but my actions said something different. The better story that I am now trying to live is one of a follower because a good story comes from faithfulness.

“We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines. How easily the world looks to it in wonder. How grateful we are to hear these stories, and how happy it makes us to repeat them.” 

Donald Miller

(I’ve been thinking about writing some of my stories on this blog as a bit of an occasional series)

Blessings #198 – Personal Proverbs

I am one of those people who carries around a moleskine notebook, those black ones with a piece of elastic around them to hold them together. Even though I spend all of my working life with technology, my preferred method of taking notes is still with a pencil and paper.

In the back of my current moleskine there are a couple of pages that are titled “Lessons – 2013/2014”. As I learn things throughout the lifetime of a notebook I add them to these pages to the rear.

A proverb is a short, well-known pithy saying, stating a general truth or piece of advice; these lessons are my personal proverbs. These words contain sayings that I’ve heard, or read, that have stuck with me and some that I have been inspired enough to create, but rarely. A saying has to really stick to become a personal proverb, it’s not good enough for it to sound like a wise saying, it has to teach me something significant and be worthy of revisiting.

The current notebook includes a period of time when I was off work with stress related issues, so many of the current proverbs reflect the lessons that I’m still trying to learn from that time.

The best proverbs reside in a time and a place, I can tell you where I heard or read many of the current sayings.

I regularly turn to this set of proverbs to remind myself of the wisdom that they contain. This is particularly true on frustrating or stressful days.

You’ll see a picture of my current notebook at the top of this post, but I’ll replay some of the personal proverbs here for those of you who struggle with my left-handed scrawl:

Focus on faithfulness not greatness.

Stop, be alone, meditate.

Bring the weight of who you are.

No point in focussing on not doing things.

Do what you love.

Routine is more important than you think.

Failure is a day, not a destiny; an iteration not an identity.

Happiness is found in results and relationships.

The book of proverbs in the Bible begins like this:

These are the wise sayings of Solomon,
David’s son, Israel’s king –
Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right,
to understand what life means and where it’s going;
A manual for living,
for learning what’s right and just and fair;
To teach the inexperienced the ropes
and give our young people a grasp on reality.
There’s something here also for seasoned men and women,
still a thing or two for the experienced to learn –
Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate,
the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.

Proverbs 1

I’m not seeking to write a manual for living but I am recognising that there is still a thing or two for the experienced to learn because I want to live well and right. The book of Proverbs contains some wonderful wisdom and deserves repeated visits.

Blessings #197 – Laughing Anyway

Yesterday was an eventful day. My plan was to fly to Munich, Germany for two days of workshops with a customer, the result was somewhat different.

At the beginning of the week the weather forecast was for a reasonably sized storm to pass over the UK some time on Wednesday or Thursday. As the week went on the situation looked increasingly severe with the Met Office eventually declaring a Red Weather warning, which is as bad as these things get.

I checked with the airline and was told that they were still planning on flying and that I should make my way to the airport. Expecting the roads to be problematic I travelled early and made my way through security.

Having plenty of time available I stopped off for a coffee and chose a seat by the window overlooking the airport apron. The wind was really starting to pick up; so much so that the building was humming with the vibrations and there was a draft forcing its way through the seams around the windows.

After a short while I made my way to the gate and watched the windows flex in the high winds and wondered about the flight. The building was rattling and everyone was avoiding sitting underneath the large glass dome in the middle. Everything outside was moving in the wind; even the wings on the planes parked outside.

Something made me start to smile. People respond to times of potential crisis in different ways and found some of them quite amusing.

There was a lady who walked up to the desk at the gate, huffed at the lack of personnel, walked across the room and huffed at the wind blowing against the windows, and then back again, and on, and on. I’m sure that she had no idea what she was doing, but it made me chuckle inside.

There was a group of middle-aged men who were regressing to their childhood years with lots of wow’s and ooo’s.

Eventually there was an announcement on the television screens:

Apologies for the delay please take a seat

It was clear that the weather was making things very difficult.

Then an announcement to say that there was a delay because the plane hadn’t landed yet.

Then another update on the screen:

Flight cancelled

Followed by an announcement over the public address to tell us that the incoming flight had been diverted to Brussels (of all places) and that we wouldn’t be going anywhere tonight.

Immediately everyone was on their feet, as if someone had sent a bolt of electricity through all the chairs. This made me snigger too; what did they think they were going to do now they were on their feet? Some people even went running off back towards the security area. Many people reached for their phones.

Shortly afterwards the staff explained everything. We were to go through the gate and down to collect our luggage and then to join the queue for the ticket office. As you might expect this was greeted with all sorts of moans and groans. I just chuckled; what did they expect?

Progressing through to the baggage area was quite painless although the people running down the corridor to be first waiting for their bags to arrive made me smile once more.

When we got to the ticket office we discovered that this wasn’t the only flight that had been cancelled for this airline, all of the passengers from another two flights were already ahead of us. The queue was huge and there were only a couple of desks. I joined the back of the queue and waited. There was a mum, baby and little girl in front of me. The little girl had picked up on the idea that this was something unusual and she thought it was an adventure. “Mummy this is exciting”. They had a lot of travelling left to do and Munich was only the first step in their journey. Mum wasn’t at all convinced, I smiled at the different perspective.

G.K. Chesterton once said:

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

After standing for several minutes in one queue those of us without connecting flights were ushered into a different queue. This new queue was just as long as the old one and going absolutely nowhere. A couple of hours had passed since our flight had been cancelled. Occasionally someone would go to the desk and sometimes they would leave holding a piece of paper; sometimes they would approach the desk and then re-join the queue. Behind me was an American gentleman who was a salesman. He had all sorts of sales meetings lined up for the following day in Frankfurt. In front were some German businessmen on their way to Dusseldorf. A community spirit was starting to build.

A ripple of excitement passed along the line: “Anyone for Dusseldorf come this way.” Off went the German businessmen with smiles on their faces like prisoners released. The American salesman and I started spontaneously celebrating each little bit of progress. We applauded everyone who was liberated from the queue, we gave a little cheer at every inch of progress towards the desk. People around us started joining in. It helped to make the many minutes pass quite pleasantly.

A ripple of excitement made its way along the line; a new plan was being enacted. Rather than book everyone individually they had got the central booking team to rebook everyone and all of the new schedules were churning out of a printer. Staff came forward with handfuls of paper and started calling names. One of the first ones to be called was the American salesman, I smiled and congratulated him. He was delighted, perhaps he would make some of his sales meetings after all. Scenes of congratulation went around the gathering as different people were released from the queue with a new plan and a hotel for the night. But still some people moaned; “why hasn’t my information come through, I was nearer the front of the queue than they were?”

About half way through the gathered group it was my turn to receive my piece of paper and be given my new schedule. A flight in the morning with a different airline and a hotel for the night in the interim. here was no point in trying to go home because all of the major roads were closed. All I had to do was to go downstairs and get on a shuttle bus to the chosen hotel. I made my way to the place where I had been instructed (and where the signs pointed to); I waited and waited, and waited, but no shuttle bus. About twenty or thirty people joined me at the bus-stop all German apart from me.

A shuttle-bus arrived for another hotel so I went to ask whether he knew anything. He told me that we were in the wrong place and instructed me where we needed to be. It was then that I became amateur tour guide. The instructions had been given in a thick Mancunian accent and no-one else had understood. So off I went with the crowd following. There was a mini-bus waiting with room for three so off they went. A while later two more mini-buses came and in I got along with the rest of my tour group.

It was nearly three hours since our flight had been cancelled.

Once in the mini-bus we sat and we waited, but we didn’t move. “Why are we waiting?” I asked the driver. The reason was that the hotel we were supposed to be going to was full. So I sat in a mini-bus in the road at Manchester Airport amongst a group of bemused Germans, I joked with them that this was the way we liked to do thinks in Britain, they joked that this was down to German pilots being unable to land the plane, we chuckled together.

Eventually a new hotel plan was communicated; we were to be transferred to a hotel in Blackburn, Lancashire. The centre of Blackburn is only 10 miles from my house; the hotel I suspect they were going to use is only 5 miles from my house. I decided that if the mini-bus thought it could get through then so could I, despite the major roads still being closed.

Leaving the mini-bus I made my way back into the terminal to pay for a day’s car parking and then out to the bus stop for the transfer bus back to the car park. It was now just after ten and it turns out that the buses to the car park run very infrequently after ten (according to one of the bus drivers travelling a different route). I walked to the car park, smiling to myself at the day’s events.

The journey home was reasonably painless. Thankfully everyone else had heeded the advice of the authorities and the roads through Manchester’s city centre were empty apart from a few which had trees in them. I made it home for a little after eleven knowing that I would have to be up again before five thirty in the morning to do the whole thing all over again. Six hours sleep in your own bed is definitely better than eight in a hotel though.

I’m not sure why I found all of these events so amusing but I have a couple of suspicions.

A friend of ours is in a very difficult place medically and he was recently telling us about the laughter that keeps welling up in him. Perhaps I was subconsciously thinking that if it was good enough for him and his circumstances it was definitely good enough for me and mine.

The other reason is that I have to confess to not really wanting to go on this business trip. There are many reasons for this, but one of them was a worry that things would go wrong and that it would get messy. Things, of course, did go wrong and it was messy, but so what, my worry didn’t make a bit of difference to it. Rather than worry and be grumpy I chose laughter.

There was something of God in the way that I experienced yesterday. I wasn’t, at all, in the place where I felt like laughing until it all started to unravel. It was only after it got messy that I started to see the lighter side of it.

Woody Allen apparently once said:

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”

I don’t quite see it like that. I see it more like this: God laughs with us in our plans; whether they work out the way we want them to or not.

This morning I got up early in Preston, drove to Manchester Airport, parked the car and flew out of a sunny Manchester on a Singapore Airlines flight along with half of the other people from the queues the night before. The views across England were glorious and the arrival in Munich was lovely.

As I waited in the gate for my rescheduled flight this morning there were lots of knowing looks between people. One German lady I spoke to, who had been part of my tour group had been one of those that got into the mini-bus that was leaving as we got there. When she got to the hotel there were no rooms left, but she was offered the spare bed in a room by a British lady who was listening to her predicament at the check-in desk. I smiled and we laughed together.

Sunny Manchester