March 20

A Weekend Away

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Summary: my personal take on a Men’s Weekend away includes fun days, troubled nights and an experience that I hope changes me forever.

It looked so innocent from the outside…

Read on to find out more.

Day Time

I’m part of a church in Surrey and recently all the men in the congregation were invited on a
weekend away.

It was billed as speaking to those who were at a “crossroads in their lives”, which in our case and at this particular time, represented pretty much everyone for one reason or another.

The first day began innocently enough, with an early start and a grumpy head (normal for me).

We got the kids sorted and headed off on the school run, after which my wife came with me to the meeting point.

Jonny was the next to arrive after us and almost immediately had to make a phone call to a prospective employer.

This turned out to be the first significant event of the weekend: he got a new job on his way there!

Slowly, one by one, more men appeared, some driven by their wives or arriving under their own steam, with backpacks and other packages carried or dragged along behind them.

Finally we were all assembled and boarded the minibus, with Andy H in the “hot” seat, next to a pile of precariously perched baggage.

He didn’t look nervous…

As Dave drove, the miles moved by and conversation was easy to find, interspersed with much banter.

Everything from work, to electronics, to birds of prey was discussed in the 4 1/2 hours approx that it took to get to our destination in Wales: a barn on a farm (and no, I’m not sure that the word “converted” is an appropriate term for the barn in question).

A brief guided tour around the building revealed a pool table, table tennis and other goodies.

More importantly, the kettle was discovered, although one look at the showers produced a moment of palpable fear, with my Surrey comforts far behind me.

Investigation of the dorm room wasn’t much better, with the dawning realisation that feet would be hanging off the end of the fold-out beds.

For some, the floor was becoming very appealing, due to flies sitting on the Velux windows in the roof, the occasional dead one dropping onto the bed below.

A prayer room was available next door for those requiring divine intervention.

Game for a laugh?

Still, I wasn’t going to let that spoil my enjoyment!

Armed with a thick jumper, my coat and a steely resolve, I joined the rest of the gang on the sofas next to the wood burner, only to find that everyone else was dressed the same.
Next to the wood burner was a large silver pipe, with plenty of holes in it.
This turned out to be the output for the heating system and Wil became our self nominated engineer, pointing it in different directions to help warm different rooms and people.
Eventually, the thermostat was found to have been left at a heady 8 degrees Celsius – these farmer’s, hey?
Thankfully, someone had found out the wifi password and we were able to connect up, so we didn’t completely leave the 21st Century.
The sight of a line of grown men in deep communion with their devices was a sight to behold throughout the weekend.
Down to business and we were handed a thought provoking questionnaire asking what “non-negotiables” and “blockers” might be standing in the way of our dreams and God’s purposes for our lives, while Dave and Paul prepared dinner for us all.
A slap up meal was followed by a meditation and another session followed, where we created a “dreamboard”.
The idea was to take a collection of random magazines and firing up our imagination, use the pictures and words to stimulate our biggest dreams, cutting them out and pasting them onto a large piece of card to form the big picture for our lives.
The rules were that there were no rules – no limitations of money, time or anything else – just dream.
I was a little sceptical at first, thinking that this was the sort of thing artistic people (i.e. not me) would appreciate, but decided I would give it a go.
However, once I started, I couldn’t stop.
A fever seemed to grip me as I flicked purposely through journals and periodicals, cutting,  slicing and glueing with reckless abandon, while neatly avoiding the adverts for Saga holidays.
And then there it was.
My biggest and deepest dreams from many years back, all laid out before me on one sheet of card.
Everything from wanting to be a preacher/teacher/prophet, to starting my own career as a writer/author.
I even had a magazine headline “My Own Write” on there; it must be God!
Exhausted from a day of hard travelling and thinking, I chatted for a little while and then headed off to bed, leaving the others playing pool.

Night Time

Seeing is believing

The dorm was warm and so was my sleeping bag, so I thought I was onto a winner.

Nothing could have been further from the truth as I lay there awake and generally uncomfortable.
What I didn’t realise was that the thump I had heard when I sat on the bed was one of the slats in the bed giving way.
This must have affected my circulation in some way and in combination with my feet extending off the end of the bed, gave me cramp in my legs and “pins and needles” later on.
The others slowly joined me, except for Wil who appeared briefly and then disappeared, sleeping bag in tow.

 

One by one, the others went to sleep and one by one, they took it in turns to snore.

It was pretty impressive, I have to tell you, with each one adding to the cacophony in a slightly different tone and volume.

If had been mischievous then I would have tried tickling their feet to see if I could play out a tune.

Towards morning I thought to myself, “It’s only 2 nights”, and wriggled about a bit in another bid to stop my legs from going numb.

By this time, the thin light of day was beginning to shine through the windows, so I thought I may as well get up.

At least I would be able to bring some life back into my legs.

Breakfast Time

I wondered downstairs, making use of the facilities on my bleary way towards the kitchen and the prospect of a warm cup of coffee.

On the way, I was confronted by a strange looking creature, zipped up in it’s own cocoon and lying perfectly still on the floor next to the now cold wood burner.

Thus was solved the mystery of where Wil had disappeared to, but since I could see no sign of a head to address a “good morning” to, I moved on lest one of us inadvertently end up in hospital.

Kitchens mean kettles
Kettles mean coffee
Coffee means happiness

There are few things more heavenly than a kettle in the morning, particularly to a late riser like me, and I was in my own personal heaven when I found it.

I allowed the caffeine to soak its way into my body, as I quietly asked Holy Spirit to work his way back into my grumpy soul.

The others were not long to join me and eventually, Wil emerged from his shell too.

Soon we were a happy throng, eating toast and enjoying life once more.

There were some delays for our visiting speaker, so we whiled away the time with conversation, emails on phones and games on iPads and a another meditation.

At last, Nick arrived and started teaching us on an unexpected subject: it was titled “wake up happy” (…oh, the irony!) and majored on dealing with disappointment.

He talked about his history and how he started running a consultancy company ‘for the Lord’, while gradually moving further and further into debt.

I won’t go into details of how he got out of his predicament (you can be sure that he did), but I will share how it spoke to me.

He talked about seeing people around him who had more than he did, and how he had been  caught up in the status trap we all face in the Western world.

He spoke of how he wanted what “they” had (“they” often being younger than him), how he felt he deserved it too and how he had to come to a place of acceptance that he would never be in that position.

Not only that, but he had to embrace this seemingly low worldly status and come to terms with what he did have in order to break free of their financial debts.

Full Time

The standout moment for me, was when he spoke about the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, three Jewish refugees in Bablyon – from the book of Daniel.

Nebuchadnezzer, the king of Babylon forced them to make a choice between worshipping him or being thrown into a furnace.

They refused and said that their God was able to save them but, “even if he does not, we will still worship Him.”

Nick had been in situations where this had become his cry to the Lord …and so had I.

As we all discussed what Nick had spoken on, I shared about the times where our daughter’s operations took us to that same point.

Not knowing whether she would still be with us the next day, the surgeons could do what they could do, but we had to turn to God and ask for his intervention and made that same promise: “but even if not, then we will still worship you”.

As you can imagine, this was an intensely personal moment for me.

The Lord was speaking to me in a quite unexpected way, but despite the emotion of the moment, you may be surprised to hear that I was deeply encouraged.

Something was revealed to me at that point related to how I coped when I was made redundant from my job, just at the point when things were looking up for my daughter.

There are two ways to go when a big disappointment enters our life; either you can become bitter about it, or you can take the way of brokenness – The two are very different.

Bitterness is where we turn back on ourselves, the world or God and blame him, or life itself for our hardships.

If we harbour unforgiveness in our hearts, then bitterness can be the result.

We bottle up our hurts inside and dashed hopes of justice eats at our minds, but the only person that actually affects is ourselves, not those on whom we would seek vengeance.

Brokenness is the way of the cross, where we die with Christ and receive resurrection power and new life from him.

Just as Jesus said, “take up your cross and follow me”.

It’s not that we go looking for trouble, or that our hurts magically disappear – they don’t.

Like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, I’ve found out the hard way that old wounds don’t die, they only fade with time, but still remain.

As Nick put it, “we have a wounded walk” with the Lord.

I realised that I could have become bitter through my daughter’s difficulties, but had walked the path of brokenness instead.

That’s why my redundancy was a blessed relief when it happened and a source of joy.

– I had already died so the living had no power over me!

Now all I have to do is take that same power and learn to apply it to the rest of my life.

Well, I’m sure there is more to it than that, but hopefully you get the gist.

Last Orders Please

No animals were hurt in the making of this picture

So that became the bittersweet high/low point for me, but that’s not the whole story either.

We went for a walk in the afternoon, in the rolling hills of the Welsh countryside, and had more time to discuss what we had learned in the evening.

It was a great opportunity to relax again and kept us in good spirits when we were able to find the way back to the farm.

As another night came around, Wil retreated once more to his cocoon and I attempted to fix my bed.

Later I experienced high definition surround sound as the snores reached their crescendo and retreated again into the distance. The bass rumble was awesome.

As morning approached and my legs began to lose sensation once more, I made a foolish expedition to the toilet.

On my return, two more planks fell out from under the bed.

If anyone was awake in the darkness they may have heard my whispered, “stupid bed, stupid bed!”

However, despite the lack of sleep, I’m glad I went on this weekend and I came away with a deeper knowledge of both God and myself.

Plus I have an action plan of how to make my next steps towards my dreams.

More importantly, I made connections in this place, with people who I’ve known for years …and yet didn’t really know.

I had great conversations with everyone and even discovered hidden connections related to my dreams.

I look forward to what the Lord has in store for us next!


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  • Hi Tim, I really enjoyed reading this I think you really captured the true spirit of the weekend. I also discovered something new about myself through you, that I snore! Something I have been denying for years, perhaps you can tell me what key it was in? I am sorry to have added to your sleepless nights, although I was also having a few problems of my own with the flies!

  • Thanks, Andy!
    Glad you enjoyed it.
    Don&#39t worry about the snoring – I didn&#39t name any names, after all 😉
    Not sure what key it was in, but I&#39m pretty sure it was a major key, lol.

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