Sunday Summary – 13th September “Lockdown Holidays”

And so it comes to the end of a week-long holiday. Truth be told I’ve not been up to much. A lot of walking, reading, playing games and chilling out!

BBQ with long-lost Friends

My Dad is really getting his BBQ skills practiced this year. It’s odd how an international pandemic has probably resulted with more visits to my parents than before.

However, this time they also had round one of my oldest friends from when I lived in Portsmouth. We went to same school, have a lot of shared memories…and long story short, it’s been probably like 10 years since we saw each other (minus a brief catch up a year or so ago).

Anyway, I failed to take a photo, but it turns out we’d both shaved our heads during lockdown and so we had a surprisingly similar appearance!

We’ve still got lots to catch up on, but him and his wife have just moved to Birmingham for his work, so hopefully will get more opportunities to hang out, if we don’t get a second lockdown!

Walking in the Vale

There is a lovely area 10 minutes walking from our flat, it’s a little “student village”. It’s filled with these beautiful flats, in a massive park with a lake. At the moment, due to COVID, and summer holidays, there are no students. So, this week, I spent most days with a morning walk going round, praying, listening to an audiobook, reflecting on life. (Being all monk-like!) It’s been so lovely. The picture below is the view from one spot I spent ages sitting and enjoying.

Reading: Still going through the Wheel of Time book 3, but also picked up Spiritual Man (Watchman Nee) and finished The Courage to be Disliked this week.

Gaming: It seems there is so little time to game when I’m not on holiday. But this week has had me spending significant hours working through the second Tomb Raider game on the pc!

Editing: I’d intended to spend a large portion of this week editing my book. But, a) it turns out editing takes a lot longer than writing. (I spent about 4 hours on 1,000 words!) So I’m trying to work out how I can integrate the work in normal everyday life. And b) God bought up some stuff to work through which consumed a lot of time this week. I’ve alluded to it here: Identification with Christ.

Painful Splinters: In other news, this week saw two glasses broken in our kitchen. Clumsy! It was my luck to tread on a shard of glass on Monday, where we’d missed in our hoovering etc. Anyway, it took until last night for me to finally get it out. My foot was developing a nice dark blotch underneath the skin. So, took some tweezers to my foot and managed to yank it out! After much puss, bleeding and over-reacting, I got it! Very satisfying! I decided not to take a photo, or preserve the shard of glass. Unfortunately, it has set me a week back in terms of running. So will need to pick that up tomorrow!

Sunday Summary – 6th September “Rest Week”

Overall a pretty great week, although I haven’t done any exercise or running, so I’m feeling a little out of shape. I’m telling myself it’s important to have a “rest week”.

Getting my First Draft Back – This week I met with my friend who had agreed to read through my first draft (all 80,000 words) and give me feedback. It was so so helpful. I was asked by someone else what the most useful comments were. A) I write gender biased to men (e.g. ‘to be a man after God’s heart’ rather than ‘to be a person…’). B) There were several times when I’d said something too bluntly and needed to be a bit more sensitive/nuanced. Thankfully he’s highlighted these occasions C) Probably most significant to me was the encouragement that it wasn’t bad. In 180 pages of writing, my friend had found about 20 problematic sentences/phrases – all of which are simple enough to fix. My writing didn’t come across as judgemental or patronising, which was a huge relief.

Yes, I’ve got a long way to go, yes, there are a fair amount of corrections to make before I start cleaning up the grammar and style. But, more than anything else, I feel like I’m working on a worthwhile project again. And apparently from a “conservative charismatic” standpoint it fitted theologically as well.

Outdoor Costa with a Friend – Two days later I met with another friend for coffee at a new, nearby Costa. It was the first time we’d met since lockdown began and it was really good to meet up. He is a very clever guy, doing his PhD in mathematics at the university at which I work. We became good friends through our time at University when we read through the Bible together, and met once a week to share our three favourite things. It’s difficult fitting 6 months-worth of life in two hours, before the shop closed, but we did a pretty good job! I also learnt about a drink I’d never heard of: Frostino?

Systematic Theology – Yesterday, I finally finished Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. (I want to do a post about this book separately, it feels a significant milestone!)

The Office US//Half Life 2 – After work most days this week, I’ve been being lazy and watching The US Office and playing xbox, Half Life 2. I’ve never really watched the US Office before, only the UK one, it is incredibly funny and such easy watching. Half Life 2, is also amazing with a great story. Last night I got through Ravenholm and I’m very glad to see the back of that place!

Work – Into the office again this week. I also hosted a videoconference for the Trial I work on and had to present a report. I’ve decided I prefer doing these sort of meetings at the beginning of the day, rather than the end. Overall though, meeting was a success. Decisions made, next steps clarified. And now I’m on holiday until next Monday!!! Oooorah!

Cooked Breakfast – First morning of my 9 day holiday, and I decided I was past due a cooked breakfast. Since lockdown started I’ve not been going to the pub once a month with friends for a “men’s breakfast”….which means I’ve not had bacon and sausages for breakfast in over 6 months!!! That changed on Saturday. Beautiful, some left over to cook this morning.

Definitely need to remember to take more pictures for the blog each week!

Thanks everyone for reading and following this blog. So much support and encouragement this week. It’s all been really appreciated.

Sunday Summary – 30th August “Two Weddings!!!”

I missed last Sunday’s summary, so we’ve got two weeks worth of activities to update on! Let me see how much I can remember.

1) 2x Weddings (on the same day!)!!! Last Saturday we were invited to take part in two “social distancing” weddings!

The first was down in Portsmouth, about a 3 hour drive or. The weather was beautiful and so was the couple! Their approach was a service with only close family members in a Church, then head to the park for a picnic with all their friends. We watched a streamed version of the service on a phone screen in the car, on our way. And then joined them for a picnic!!! (A fantastic way to celebrate a wedding – in my opinion!)

The couple were friends we knew from a Christian camp we’d all been leaders at! The four of us had all at one point done the Chaplaincy there. Giving talks, leading worship, getting gunged(!) and being used by God to impact the lives of young people. I think it was at one of these camps that they first decided to date.

We’d met with them a few times over the last year, to talk about marriage, to laugh about our relationships and do fun personality tests!

The second wedding, was entirely “zoomed”! They’d got married the day before, and were having a zoom celebration with friends and family to share funny stories and anecdotes.

I met the guy when I led the Navigators student ministry at the University. I remember my first meeting with him, he’d come over to our house for a meet-and-greet brunch on freshers week. And I asked him to give me his story…it went something like this: “I became a Christian at Soul Survivor as a teenager, felt God calling me to Somalia, and so that’s where I’m heading!”. So much for small talk!

As soon as he finished University he was headed out to Africa and staying true to God’s calling on his life. Throughout my years getting to know him, we met most mornings before my work/his lectures, to study God’s word together, prayer-walk and hold each other accountable to God’s mandate for both of us.

A true friend. There’s not many people you can pray every weekday together for over a year and not feel deeply connected to!

Just before he went out to the Mission field, he asked us to baptise him…and so we did! Such an honour to have been part of your life mate!!!! Blessings on your marriage, and those impacted by it!!!

This is the group of us preparing for a bath-tub baptism session with two of the ex-students! The now-married guy is the one with the impressive beard!

2) Learned a new game! I guess in comparison, everything else that happened these last two weeks is pretty dull. But it’s worth sharing for memories’ sake. I decided I wanted to learn how to play backgammon. It’s a game my Dad loves playing with some of his friends, but for some reason I never picked it up. I decided another quiet week in lockdown, with a bank holiday on its way, was the perfect time to learn. I’ve spent at least 4 hours now watching professional-tournament backgammon on youtube, and aside from feeling very much like a “waste-man”, I do find it really enjoyable. #it’snotallaboutthehustle!

3) Running and Weightlifting – These two weeks also marked a month of consistent running and weightlifting. I’m really consistent with my weight training, not so much with running. I started with a short 30min run followed by weight training one body part 6x a week. And have now got to a point where I’m about 45/60min runs 3x a week and 60 mins weights 3x a week. I’ve really enjoyed having both the cardio and the strength training aspects in my mornings!

4) Takeaways!!! If anyone says advertising doesn’t work, they haven’t met me. A month ago, I started seeing youtube ads for Nando’s chicken. It’s now become our Friday night treat!!! I’ve levelled up in spice capacity: medium to hot! (Don’t know how proud I actually am of a takeaway each week, but I certainly am chuffed to be able to handle ‘Hot’!)

5) Blog Update… I know it’s not a big deal, and all that. But I’ve now made my first $1 on the blog. It’s a pretty insignificant amount considering what it cost to get a domain name etc, (not to mention my stellar posting!). But it feels like an achievement. So thank you to everyone who has visited this website over the last two weeks! I’ve been very encouraged by your comments and ‘likes’. Thank you

Sunday Summary – 16th August “All these people!”

This week has been pretty sociable, it feels like we’re getting closer to something resembling “normal” but it is still such a far way off!

Whisky with a Friend – A couple of weeks ago I invited a friend to come and chill, sit in the garden and drink whisky. He was up for it and yesterday, he came bearing gifts of a usual junk food offering, and I poured out some of my Yamazaki whisky (purchased for myself as a reward for finishing my book’s first draft back in July!) We also managed to make some progress on our joint Dark Souls account, beating the Scaleless Dragon.

As an Amazon Associate, I can apparently earn money if you buy the whisky using this link: Yamazaki …if you fancy getting yourself a bottle!

Into work 2x – On a slightly less “fun” note, this week also saw me journey into the office twice. For those who don’t know, I’ve been working from home since the end of March, and last week was my first visit back. Went in again this week, twice! It seems we are slowly returning towards a state of “normal”. It was sad though, to think about how long it will be before all 6 of us are back in the office again at the same time. It may not happen if job changes happen. A good reminder to make the most of what you’ve got while you’ve got it!

Skype Old Friend – On Friday I Skyped “Zoomed” one of my friends from the student ministry I used to work with. He’s graduated now and working for a very cool company: Ninety. Which is all about helping businesses thrive and innovate. Sounds very interesting. It was so good to catch up, share life updates, and joke around. He was super-interested in my Bible study project, and it was the first time I’d really told someone what I was doing. It was also the first time he’s seen me with no-hair!

Family BBQ – Another family BBQ this Saturday. (Could get used to this!) My brother was up from London, and it was nice to be all together in the garden. Shame I didn’t take a photo really.

Side Hustle(s) – Wife and I are both tapping away at side-projects, she with her artwork and music, and me with my writing (book/blog) and creating resources for Churches. You can see her work here. Nevertheless, I have been so encouraged this week, by all the support and encouragement from fellow bloggers on WordPress. I wanted to include a massive ‘THANK YOU” to everyone who has visited this site or “liked” a post. (Especially: Mitch Teemley and Beauty Beyond Bones!) It really has meant a lot. I even made my first single penny this week from Wordads. Exciting times! But again, thank you to everyone who has supported this blog, liked or followed in the last week. I have been very encouraged.

Fight Club – Film of the week was Fight Club. (And I’m not supposed to talk about it.) So what I will say is that it has taken me soooooo long to actually watch, the wait was definitely worth it! I was surprised that I liked it so much, despite the first impression I had from the title and name. I was also surprised by how philosophical it was. A lot to like about this film – without giving any of it away.

Book Update – As I already mentioned above, I’m working on a book at the moment. About 45 minutes a day. I’ve finished a second draft, and now the manuscript is with a friend from Church to “look over” and give me feedback. This is expected at the end of August – very excited. This week, I made some progress on a LinkedIn learning course about editing.

Sunday Summary – 9th August: “First time since March…”

It’s time for a weekly review and highlight reel. This last week has been an altogether good week, if slightly uneventful.

1. Yesterday I went to my parents house for a BBQ. It’s the first time I’d been round since March and it was so good to see flesh and blood family, rather digital versions on them over skype. (Brother was on skype the whole time with us, laptop on a table in the garden). Dad cooked a phenomenal BBQ meat feast and I stuffed my face. So so good. It almost felt like back to normal, almost.

2. This week also saw me visiting my office for the first time since March. It was great taking the 30 minute walk into work. I’m sure the novelty will wear off in a couple of weeks, but for now it was nice to be heading somewhere with purpose. There had been a lot of safety training before going in, so I was well prepared to deal with all the “COVID-Juice” dangers.

3. This week I watched We Were Soldiers, a Mel Gibson war film, that blew me away. It’s made by the same people who did Hacksaw Ridge and so comes with a lot of intense war scenes. I would highly recommend it (if you haven’t got a weak stomach). The film is filled with moments where soldiers are repeatedly making split second decisions to sacrifice themselves for someone else, an amazing leadership speech by Braveheart man and such human courage in the face of overwhelming fear. Incredible. One moment that stood out to me is in the midst of chaos and battle, Gibson stands in the middle and just looks around at the battle. He takes a good 20 seconds to evaluate the entire situation, the camera rotates all around him, and then with the perspective of stillness he makes a crucial decision. Incredible.

4. Online prayer meeting for a couple planning to go to Yemen next year as missionaries. One of the things I like about these online prayer meetings is the spontaneous calls to prayer. For forty minutes the couple set us individual prayer points and ask three people randomly to pray into it. It really does keep me on my toes. I often find myself urgently listening to God’s Spirit to give me words. This couple are dear friends, and the guy, is my partner in reading through the Bible. We call most Sundays to share our top three points from whatever book we’re reading that week.

(A side thought I have is the relative apathy with which we tend to have towards Christians starting “normal jobs”. How rarely do we pray months in advance for them, to prepare them for the workplace. Surely this is a mission field too?!) I think as Churches we need to practice sending people into new jobs, new seasons of life, with the same vigor and prayer as we send missionaries. For every Christian is called to make disciples, to represent Christ and be Salt and Light to the world.

5. Finally, I made an expensive purchase decision this week towards my Bible Study project. For those who don’t know: I’ve decided that I want to prayerfully study the Bible, all of it, taking my time to examine closely every passage. You can read more about it here, and my first Genesis post will be tomorrow. Just click the ‘Bible’ button at the top of this page to view all my posts.

When I first started this study project, I was using an ESV study Bible, alongside a commentary series ‘The message of…’. But after two weeks and only covering Genesis 1-2:3, I had already been significantly impacted by the Word of God. I decided that the reward of reading other books, paled in comparison. So I also got my hands on a Matthew Henry Commentary and an NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. And wow! I have been flawed! I know this project is going to take a while, and I am so happy to be doing this thoroughly. Fortunately the Word of God is active and so I feel like God has been speaking to me new things with every passing. It has been so exciting.

My Bible Study Set is evolving now.

July 2020 Sunday Summary

One of the things I want to do on this blog is share life updates and record some of what is going on. The plan is to have a week summary Sunday post. But on the first Sunday of each month, to look back on the month gone past and the month ahead – record some achievements and set some goals. I will try and keep it brief and simple.

Since today is a first Sunday of the month, I’m going to share a few highlights from the month past and a few goals for the month ahead.

Month Gone By:

1) As you can probably tell from the photo’s above…this month we celebrated our fifth year of marriage. We decided to don our wedding clothes and take a photo (before and after) for our friends and family. We’ve changed quite a bit in our appearances (we both had haircuts!) but we haven’t lost the love we had at the beginning! Best 5 years of my life. And quite a journey (3 apartments, 2 churches, a combined total of 6 jobs and some quality friends along the away!)

2) I finished the second draft of the book I’m writing. Which is all about being a person after God’s own heart and enabling others to follow suit. I delivered it to a friend who published a book last year to give it a “look over” (aka A MASSIVE FAVOUR – given how messy it still is!) I’m expecting his feedback mid-august. But in the mean time, I’ve been taking an actual course on LinkedIn Learning on ‘Editing’. Hopefully, by the time my friend has finished his read-through I will be armed with better skills to work on the third draft.

3) A trip down to Portsmouth. My parents recently sold their home in Portsmouth, the city in which I grew up. So I went down south with Dad and Sister to say a final farewell to my first home (that I actually remember living in). The whole house was in a state of brokenness, because of “bad tenants”, so the photo’s are messy. But this was my old bedroom:

4) I started a new project. Studying my way through the Bible. For the last few years I’ve been reading the Bible through cover to cover at about a book per week pace. Fast. Now I feel like it is right to take time to study the Bible with a slower pace but with more depth. I plan to be blogging the journey as I go. (Click the Bible tab at the top of the page to read those posts).

5) Long time followers of this blog will have noticed, but I got my own domain name. Which basically means I can have a website address that doesn’t have “.wordpress.com” in the title. I’ve invested a small chunk of money to do this and to get a few other features. Apparently now, I can earn money from adverts and selling things. It’s all a little fancy, and I haven’t got incredibly high hopes of becoming a millionaire any time soon. But at the very least, it’s motivated me to actually blog with more frequency again!

Month Coming Up

1) As already mentioned, I plan to be getting my second draft back with some feedback mid-August. So the last part of the month, leading into September, will be working on my “third draft”. I’d like to find a way to include 45mins per weekday of work on that. But at the moment my Bible studying has filled the “writing” slot from my morning routine. So may need to juggle that around. I’ve booked two days annual leave from work to give some focused time on the book.

2) We’ve been invited to two weddings this month (on the same day) and we’ve still not decided how we’re going to juggle both of them. Luckily one is being streamed and the other has a “post-lockdown” party planned in December. So I’m sure there’ll be a way!

3) I’m visiting the office for the first time since mid-march on the 7th of August. I think the plan is, for me to visit on Friday’s if there’s urgent work to be done there. For the last few months, I’ve been working from home. So it will be a bit of an adventure going into work on a semi-regular basis. (I’m sure the novelty will wear off quickly!) But for now I’m a little excited!

Anyway, that’s me done for tonight. Hope you enjoy. 🙂

Life Purpose

A few years ago, I sat down with Robert Clinton’s book: Strategic Concepts – strategies that clarify a focused life. And worked slowly through it, day-by-day, doing the activities and journaling through many of the questions. The end result was, among many other things, a statement which I have defined as my life purpose.

Over the years I have tweaked it and modified it. Here it is as it stands in July 2020:

‘To be a man after God’s own heart, then to lead, labour, inspire and encourage others to be the same”

Each phrase and word in this sentence is packed with meaning for me, but together it provides itself as a helpful tool I have repeatedly used to make decisions and determine the habits and relationships I have engaged with.

I endeavour to be a man after God’s own heart, through a:

  • Dynamic relationship with Him (Gal 5:25)
  • Lifestyle and attitude of unconditional obedience and worship (Rom 12:1)
  • Posture of receptivity and learning (1 Peter 5:5)

I endeavour to lead, labour, inspire and encourage others to be the same, through:

  • My life’s example (1 Cor 11:1)
  • The various offices of my life (e.g. disciple, husband, mentor, member of St. Christophers, Trial Coordinator for CRUK, friend etc)
  • A wise stewardship of the gifts I have received (including teaching, preaching, encouraging, serving and energy) 1 Tim 4:14, Rom 12:6-9, Col 1:28-29
  • The various postures of encouragement (vulnerability 2 Cor 12, servanthood John 13, Phil 2, and prayer 2 Tim 1:3)
  • A resolved and deliberate attitude towards the Church
  • An enjoyment of friendship and love

This is my life’s purpose. What’s yours?

The Ants are back!

Around this time last year, one of the rooms of our flat hosted an unwelcome army of visitors. Ants. They came crawling up through the carpet and all over my desk, chair and work out equipment. Last year, when I first noticed it was pretty shocking, it seemed like the ground was moving.

It happens that our ground-floor apartment is situated right by three separate ant colonies. Last year we beat them back and reclaimed our flat. But this year they are back.

It was a little less shocking this time, because I half expected it, this year, they seem to only be coming from one nest, and only infecting one room. Luckily, we had some ant powder left over and money to buy more weaponry.

Last week the room where the breach was, was powdered and evacuated by us. This week I’m moving my work back into our home office.

What I briefly wanted to share is how both times, this year and last, the same verse has come into my head about this situation, from Matthew 6:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Ants, are hardly moths, and they do relatively little damage. But they are an invasion, with the powder in the room, they did take away temporarily some of our possessions. And it’s all turned out a helpful reminder that everything we own, even the beautiful things that God has given us, are all temporary. They can all be damaged, infested and taken away.

Therefore I need to remember my treasure in heaven. And whilst I am frustrated and actually pretty annoyed that ants came in my home, I am thankful that God uses even that to teach me of this important life-saving truth! I am not living for this world but for another, my possessions aren’t mine to own, they are mine to steward. My treasure is not here, but elsewhere. My hope is secure, my joy cannot be harmed.

Finally, this situation coupled with a piece of poetry I listened to this week about simplicity and generosity. God is clearly teaching me about handling my possessions wisely.

First Draft Done!!!

Sorry everyone for my inconsistent posting. I have an excuse, a valid one this time. Honest. A couple of years back I felt an urge to write a book. Me being me, a lot of focus was put on the planning side of it. However over the last few months, basically since 2020 I started hammering out a steady pace of daily typing and flexing out my plan. Last month I took a week off work to focus just on writing. And yesterday, 24thJune 2020, 80,243 words later, I finished the first draft!

It summarizes, most of what I’ve learnt about my faith and discipleship since being a teenager, so has been a long time in the making – even sub-consciously. The journey from here is much more outside of my hands, so I should be able to write blog posts a little more frequently. (Plus I have a lot of ‘draft’ material I can upload if I’m stuck for ideas!)

For those interested and who want to be praying blessings over my efforts. I would be most appreciative! As far as I can see, or know, the next steps are:

1)     Look through the first draft, clean it up, make sure the sentences make sense, double check I’m not repeating myself, cull the blatantly bad bits, give nutrition to the good bits etc etc. Then I’ll have a “second draft”. [My personal deadline for this process is 10th July– Pray for me please]

2) Then I’m sending it to one or two friends who are SUPER-SMART/have written things I know and like. I’m already sending out feelers now for possible people.

3) While these amazing friends read and edit, look for heresies and grammatical failings, I’m getting in touch with a few friends and friends of friends who have published books already. Trying to network, further edit my ideas, and give me advice about publishing etc.

3.5) I’ll also be using this time to begin putting together a series of seminars, teaching on the content in the book. The power-points, extra reading material and handouts at least.

4) Once all this is done, I’ll start approaching publishers. I think this has to be done through a third party, who will store a copy of my book proposal and let mainstream publishers look it over and weigh it up against the risks of signing a new author.

I’m sure it won’t be as clear cut, but that’s the journey I’m likely going to be on over the next few months. Please do pray, I have a feeling, I’ve not yet reached the halfway mark. 😀

P.s. I was so proud and chuffed to have finished a first draft, I paid to have it bound. Here’s a picture of me basking in the various chemicals associated with pride and achievement: