Before I was a teenager, someone who was 50 years old seemed ancient. As a teen, I was downright scared of getting old. So, as I turned 50 last Saturday, I wondered how I would feel.
At the same time, many of the cards I received and people who wished me a "Happy Birthday" asked how I felt turning the big 5-0. To my own amazement - as well as theirs - I don't feel anything negative about turning a half-century. In fact, as strange as it may seem, it actually feels like something of an accomplishment. Not that I did anything to get to this milestone, besides avoiding some dangers that could have ended my life - and possibly driving safely.
But I guess it feels like I have lived enough life now to have my own opinions. Maybe I have gathered enough "life experience" data to make choices which are beginning to resemble wisdom. And perhaps, I am far enough along on the life journey to offer to others some perspective which could actually be worth something.
None of that means I have the "final word" on anything. But I feel like I've learnt some things worth passing along. It may never happen, but rather than mourning this significant mile-marker on the road of life - I am anticipating this next stage: adult children, sons-in-law, and (dare I say it) possibly grandkids not far behind. (That IS a weird thought.)
For today anyway, I'm not at all regretting turning 50 . . .
Advent season is here again - a time of preparing and expectant waiting. And with it comes the ongoing debate of what to call this holiday in an increasingly pluralistic society. Many euphemisms have been tried to avoid what growing numbers of people are calling a "sensitive" issue of calling Christmas "Christmas": Yuletide, Seasons' Greetings, Winter Wishes - and perhaps the most creative, Winterval. That beauty was used by the city of Birmingham in 1997 and 1998 - and apparently, brought such strong reactions that it was jettisoned after just two years of employment.
Is this annual debate just as inevitable as mince pies and mulled wine? Perhaps. After all, human civilizations have been celebrating some sort of festival at winter solstice for millenia, signaling the end of long, dark winter days - as the amount of daily sunlight began to grow once again. Maybe the culture of political correctness will be able to squelch all references to Christmas.
Still, on a more philosophical level, wouldn't it be nice if we had a holiday that was about something more than simply a few more minutes of sunlight each day? Don't we long down deep for something a bit special, a bit different, a bit miraculous even? What if it were really true that God wanted to break into human history, to give us hope of something more, something so far beyond what we know right now that we have to use our imaginations and believe in something beyond what we can see, touch, taste, hear and smell?
That is what I long for - though so much of what I was taught argues for the "enlightenment" where no such imagination or belief is permitted. My wish for all who read this is that somehow, more than ever before, this Advent will be filled with wonder at what we DON'T know of this God who came as the true light to show us the ultimate victory over darkness . . . Glorious Advent and Happy Christmas to one and all!
I recently spent a week on the St James Way, along with a group of US pastors and several friends and colleagues from around Europe - my 3rd trip to northern Spain and this historic pilgrimage trail.
Once again, we met numerous pilgrims along the way - each with a story and a specific reason for taking this journey, which so many before have taken. The amount of time and energy necessary - along with a considerable degree of discomfort - might make someone from the outside wonder WHY someone would want tot do it, especially in today's fast-paced world where you can nearly rid your life of discomfort.
Well, in the very question lies part of the answer: a chance to break away from our anesthetised, artificial western way of life. We have created a world where we can almost forget about nature, about toil to find enough to get somewhere or find enough to eat, about death and the ultimate meaning of life. Pilgrims cannot forget these things. They have to shed down to the lightest load possible, if they hope to make it to the end of their long journey.
Resisting a desire to "sermonise" so many different experiences, suffice it to say that I returned home with many life lessons to think through and digest. There are just SO many parallels between real life and the life of a pilgrim on the St James Way. It is something I want to help others experience, even if it is hard, uncomfortable and filled with uncertainty at times. After all, I guess that is what a lot of life is like . . .
From 23-27 August, we attended our first TREFFEN. For most of you, that is probably a new term. From what I understand, it is a German word meaning "gathering" - and the Goldwing Owners' group adopted it for their international encounters. The British TREFFEN was held at an airstrip in Bruntingthorpe and was attended by Goldwing owners from 15 different countries.
On Thursday, about 300 motorbikes came onto the site - and tents started going up all over the place. By late Friday, 407 bikes were there - all different sizes (1000, 1100, 1200, 1500 and 1800cc) and kinds (solos, sidecars, trikes and outfits). It was fascinating to see so many Goldwings gathered in one place - and fun to walk around and see the bikes and how each owner was equipped for the 5-day event. (We will "steal" quite a few ideas, as we had NO IDEA what to expect.)
The typical daily schedule was a slow morning, a ride-out to some nearby destination, meals either at the campsites or at the catering tent, and then an evening program in the assembly hall - often with live music, competitions or raffles, and a significant amount of drink. One evening, we went along for a Parade of Lights (even though we have very few on our Goldwing) - and we could hardly believe how many LED lights some had installed on their machines.
We met quite a few new people and had a great time. Our local club, Centre Wings, had our own camping section - which allowed us to do a lot together and get to know one another beyond just name and face. It rained on and off, but not enough to really disrupt the planned activities.
Some might read this and wonder might wonder: Why go to such an event? After all, aren't there some questionable "goings on" at such an event? Well, maybe. But there is another side to the Wingers - a commitment to help others. Our local club gives any extra revenue to the Air Ambulance Service - and they regularly help marshall local festivals. There is a spirit of giving and sharing.
From a "ministry" side of things, there is no other way to meet most of these folks - and that's why we're here. And an added bonus: we learned a lot from them as well: they accepted us just as we are. That's a lesson we all could learn . . .