Blessings #167 – Hot Feet on Cool Damp Grass

It’s been warm here today and I’ve been in the office in my shoes and socks.

Whenever it’s warm the part of me that feels it the most are my feet. Sometimes they sometimes feel like they are on fire.

Kilchurn CastleThe day ended warm, but was rounded off with heavy showers.

My feet feel particularly fiery when I’ve been standing for a while. So this evening after a period of standing I made my way outside, kicked off my sandals and enjoyed the lush cool dampness of the lawn at the back of our house.

In the cartoons there are times when people get set on fire that they run off to the nearest water bucket, sit inside and steam.

As I wandered around the garden this evening my feet felt the same way, like they were steaming as they cooled. But it wasn’t just my feet that was cooled, my whole body felt refreshed by the experience.

There is something about the temperature and texture of a damp lawn that is better than anything else for cooling tired feet. It’s almost like it was designed for that purpose.

It was lovely.

The Bible tells of a couple of events where Jesus had his feet washed, and one where he washed everyone else’s feet.

I’m sure that it felt just as lovely, but much more significant because of the meaning of what was happening:

Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the Father. Having loved his dear companions, he continued to love them right to the end. It was suppertime. The Devil by now had Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, firmly in his grip, all set for the betrayal.

Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything, that he came from God and was on his way back to God. So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron. When he got to Simon Peter, Peter said, "Master, you wash my feet?"

Jesus answered, "You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later."

Peter persisted, "You’re not going to wash my feet—ever!"

Jesus said, "If I don’t wash you, you can’t be part of what I’m doing."

"Master!" said Peter. "Not only my feet, then. Wash my hands! Wash my head!"

Jesus said, "If you’ve had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you’re clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene. So now you’re clean. But not every one of you." (He knew who was betraying him. That’s why he said, "Not every one of you.") After he had finished washing their feet, he took his robe, put it back on, and went back to his place at the table.

Then he said, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.

John 13

Blessings #166 – Shared Experiences

Last weekend the Chastney family joined with the family of friends for a picnic at a nature resave that’s recently opened near our home.

BrockholesAfter a good while eating the usual al-fresco food as we sat at the tables near to the play area we decided to take a stroll around some of the paths.

We set off through some woods, across some grasslands and around some ponds. We stood for a while as a Skylark sang to us from a dizzy height. We then took a path down towards the river Ribble. It was a scorching hot day (for England) so we meandered along the river until we came to a point where we could get down to the water. Paddling and skimming followed – then into the middle of the fun someone shouted out “Kingfisher”.

This single word turned our afternoon into a whole different experience.

Eyes immediately scanned the line of the river in expectation of a blue flash. Adults and children alike were transfixed. Like Meerkats looking for danger we were all alert and focussed in the same direction.

I’ve only ever seen Kingfisher as a flash of colour coming into view and leaving just as quickly.

What we experienced that day was much more than that.

There were a pair of Kingfisher who flew from tree to tree along the opposite riverbank. They sat in full view on perches as they scanned the water below for potential food. We even watched them diving into the water and retrieving fish glistening silver in the sun.

The two pairs of binoculars that we had with us were passed up and down the line as together we tried to make sure that we didn’t loose the objects of our focus amongst the foliage.

As we stood there on the riverbank others came to ask us what we’d seen and the sharing broadened.

There are all sorts of events in my life that I treasure but I’m struggling to remember any that I experienced alone. All of the best experiences have been shared experiences and the very best have been experienced with those that I love.

In the Bible the book of Acts tells of the events that happened during the early days of the church. In the middle of this book is a definition of togetherness and community that most people would regard as an ideal:

The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, "That’s mine; you can’t have it." They shared everything.

Acts 4:32

Shared experiences give a glimpse of why we are built for community and not for isolation.

(No pictures I’m afraid, my camera battery was dead. Emily took some wonderful pictures, but she hasn’t posted them yet)

(Update: I did have a picture, but from a previous visit.)

Blessings #165 – Cycling (to work)

When I was younger I had a paper-round and like many people I used a bike.

Kilchurn CastleThere were all sorts of bikes, I even used a bike that had been my Mum’s. I fell out with that particular bike when it’s front wheel locked up one day, throwing me in the air and leaving me with a nice scar in my side.

I’ve no idea why I blame the bike because the incident was completely my fault. If I’d tied my shoelaces properly they would have got stuck in the spokes.

There was a certain fashion to the paper-round boys at that time. We fancied ourselves as real bikers (not cyclist, but bikers). In the winter we wore large leather gloves that came half way up our forearms. Our bikes had to have large cow-horn handle-bars. We would imagine ourselves twisting the handle-bars, with the noise levels rising as the revs kicked in and we floated away into the distance.

It was, of course, a fantasy. The only way that I was going anywhere was through my own power as my legs turned the peddles. Wobbly peddles, riding on worn our bearings, pulling a squeaky chain, through a misaligned derailleur, onto a wheel with even more worn out bearings, to drive a wheel buckled by too many abrupt meetings with curbs.

On one particular occasion this collection of engineering mismanagement nearly cost me my life. I was peddling along (I’d like to say’ powering along’ but I don’t think I was ever that boisterous) when I decided that I needed more speed to manoeuvre around a stationary car.

I stood up on the peddles and pushed hard. As I stamped down the chain bounced off the gears and my stamp met no resistance. The combination of forced flipped the bike from underneath me.

Kilchurn CastleAs the bike wrapped itself around me the two of us fell to the ground in a crumpled heap in the middle of the road. With my head on the tarmac I opened my eyes to see the number plate of a double-decker approaching fast and breaking hard. The fact that I am writing this is testament to the responses of the driver and has ability to bring his vehicle under control.

The wide handlebars may have made us feel cool but they were useless when it came to delivering the papers to the alms houses down the narrow alleyway that ran alongside the local common-land.

The large leather gloves were useless for handling the papers and just sucked up the water in the rain.

It didn’t matter what the weather was – the papers needed delivering.

The last house on my normal round was to one of the alms houses. It was there that every morning I received a welcome smile from the elderly couple who lived there.

I’ve been reminded of these events recently. Following a rather thin cycling history since those days I’ve recently been pressing the peddles as a method of getting to work.

These events are part of my heritage and occupy a scene in my story. Each of us is, in many respects, the combination of these events, our stories create our history which forms our heritage.

As a father I see that part of my role is to help to build similar memories for my children. I’m very thankful that I can look back on my history and see many enjoyable occasions and I’d love my kids to have the same heritage.

My cycle to work is quite different to my paper-round experience. I have the luxury of choosing when I go in. If it’s too windy or too wet I can choose to take the car. I’ve purchased the bike through a scheme at work which means that it’s a nice new bike which I’m endeavouring to look after.

All-in-all it’s a much more enjoyable experience.

Blessings #163 – Garden Pottering

Today I had enough time to potter in the garden.

I love that word – potter.

So much of life has a tightly defined plan and we can spend our lives trying to fit all of the things that need to be done into the time available.

Sometimes the schedule can take the joy out of the task at hand.

Pottering is different, it allows us to take the time to enjoy the task.

One of my favourite places to potter is the garden. There’s always something to do in a garden. I bit of potting on here, some weeding there, some trimming over here, some rearranging around there and you feel like you’ve achieved something.

Pottering is always better when you also feel like you’ve achieved something – gardens are wonderful for a sense of achievement.

Blessings #160 – Sun’s Rays

Borrowdale Sun Rays

Blue and grey, whispers and black swirl above my head.

This is Borrowdale waiting for spring.

Down in the valley brown and green are starting their change of watch.

Of all the trees the Holly stands alone in it’s splendour of green and red, but not for much longer. Soon the skeletons of bark will burst to life in glorious foliage of every green hew..

Herdwick retain their fleeces, it’s too early to relinquish them. They’re ladies in waiting, foraging as they await the appropriate time.

This is Borrowdale in February.

The guitar man in my ear sings:

Sun’s up, uh huh, looks okay
The world survives into another day
And I’m thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

A Kestel swoops low across the fells looking for food, Deer in the woodshe’s dressed in his showing off clothes making sure the ladies know where he is.

The deer in the woods looks upon my stumbling attempts to climb the hills with a certain disdain then bounds off into the skeletons of bark.

Great Gable and Scar Fell keep the remnants of the winter snow under a blanket of cold grey cloud.

The snow drops in the valley below decorate the side of the river signalling the coming seasons.Borrowdale Snow Drops

This is Borrowdale waiting for spring.

Then a twist of grey followed by a shift in the whispers and the glorious rays break through, spotlighting the valley floor and the river below. Above the river a heron glides leisurely above the florescent waters looking for a place to fish.

Rods of light illuminating the droplets of rain left by the black. The rays are always there, but they aren’t the same without the rain to illuminate them.

The sun is always present, but sometimes the clouds make it appear all the brighter.

The guitar man in my ear has a new song and new words:

But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight —
Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight