It’s been a quite busy, yet absolutely wonderful two weeks. (Well, week and a half; this one is still in the making). My parents made the trek across the small lake that separates Atlanta from Cheltenham and spent a full week with us (from 12-Oct to 19-Oct). They have never been to England, so my gorgeous wife and I made sure they got to see some of the best parts. This meant giving them a whistle-stop tour of the lower half of the Cotswolds, taking them to some of our favourite villages and pubs. We even took a day and ventured over to Chepstow (Wales) so that they could see a properly old castle. It was so comforting to see my parents and spend time with them again. My lovely wife and I are already plotting on how to get them back over for a longer stay.
Near the tail end of my parents’ visit, I had to attend to various responsibilities which forced me to exercise my time management skills. Thursday night (the 14th), I had my usual class that I teach for WEMTC. I admittedly fell behind in preparing the fine points of that night’s lecture (i.e. handouts, powerpoint slides), so Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening became my two opportunities to get things ready. Thankfully, the night went very well and the class essentially taught itself, partly because the students were deeply tuned in to the discussion and its direction. The other part was simply due to the questions and comments they had for our topic (which was on Paul’s understanding of justification as found in Galatians 3). Things went so well that we unknowingly slipped past our 10pm cut-off time and no one complained.
Friday morning (the 15th) was the first in a series of Bible studies hosted by the chaplaincy at the University, and I had agreed to lead the first one. When I offered to lead originally (near the end of September), I had a topic in mind and wrote the outline for it fairly quickly. However, tasks related to my research studies took priority and required all of my attention, energy and available brain power. These tasks pushed me up to the week before my parents’ visit, which meant that the Bible study at that time was more or less a hodgepodge of ideas and notes. If I would have taught from them ‘as is’, I’m sure it would have been incomprehensible–maybe even heretical! Thankfully, I was able to steal a couple of hours Thursday night after my class to put things right and make sense of the notes. As with my class the night before, the study went incredibly well–not because of what I had to say, but because of the dialogue between everyone present. I am deeply grateful for the patience as well as the insight from everyone involved.
Saturday (the 16th) was mostly a breather for me, although I did need to finalise my sermon for Sunday (found here). Side note: our church has been doing a study on the 10 Commandments, with one week given to each one, and we have been doing them in reverse order. I knew that I was on the books to preach one of them, but I was not sure which it would be. Shortly after my parents planned their trip, the vicar asked me to preach on the 17th, which happened to be the Sunday my parents would be in town. Interestingly enough, the Commandment allotted to me was, ‘honour your father and mother.’ Slightly more interesting was the fact that I had just been in dialogue with my brother about that same Commandment.* This meant that the significance (or, relevance) of that Commandment was still fresh in mind, which made some of the writing process rather easy. It also meant that I could use some of the ideas my brother didn’t. End of side note.
My only real difficulty in writing that sermon, however, was that we are following the study given by J. John. While the series basically follows his outline, it also seems to emerge from his own experiences. When it came to ‘honour your father and mother’, the focus was on: how to do the honouring thing when you’re in a crappy family. I certainly see the relevance of that type of focus, and I certainly understand that some families today are more than crappy. However, that’s not my experience. I’m not saying life was easy growing up or that my family never had any problems. (I’m quite certain I caused plenty of them). All that I’m saying is that when difficulties arose or when problems surfaced in the home they were dealt with in a godly way, and this way of handling things ensured growth, understanding and respect. This difference in focus or perspective caused me to rewrite much of what was ‘supposed to be’ said on Sunday, and much of this rewriting took place Saturday morning (before anyone else woke up) and Saturday evening.** I should also acknowledge that much of what I wrote came out of my conversations with my beautiful wife and my loving parents on Friday.
Sunday (the 17th) was a wonderful day; attendance was more than usual, the singing was inspirational, the prayers were real and heartfelt, and the conversations afterward were encouraging. (I’m guessing the sermon was helpful simply because nobody ran me out of the church or threw shoes at me). The only thing missing was our vicar and his family, although their absence could not be helped. If you are the praying sort, please do remember our vicar, Roger as well as his family in your prayers–his father passed away last week after an arduous fight with cancer. Even though Rog says not to be sad but to celebrate because his father served in the church for ’60 odd years’ and is now with Christ; prayers of comfort are still relevant and meaningful.
Monday (the 18th) was the last hurrah in showing my parents more of the Cotswolds. Surprisingly, they wanted to revisit both our favourite village (Stow-on-the-Wold) and pub (Fox Inn, in Broadwell). Neither my darling wife nor I complained about the request. We spent the bulk of the day in Stow, enjoying lunch at a quaint little restaurant (the Vine Leaf), coffee from our new favourite shop (Willoughby’s) and perusing the various charity shops in town. I almost forgot: there was a necessary stop at the chocolatier in town–not for me, of course seeing that I loath the stuff. The evening was capped off with a lovely dinner and comforting conversation. We all crashed early that night, partly because of the busyness of the day, another part because of the amount of food we ate, and the last part because of the early wake-up call the following morning.
Tuesday (the 19th) was probably the hardest day for me: it was the day I had to drive my parents back to the (London) airport so that they could fly home. Their week-long visit with us seemed to go by too quickly, and I cannot think of how many times on our journey to London I wanted to turn the car around and say, ‘Forget it; you’re staying here with us’. It had been just over two years since I last saw my parents in person, and I guess I didn’t realise just how much I missed them. I know now. However, their love for me and their unyielding support for what I’m doing make things easier to manage, and such things motivate me to finish in a timely manner so that the separation is not prolonged more than it should be. So yeah, it was a tough drive to London (and back), but I’m focusing on the time we had together during their stay. It was a great week.
The rest of this week has thus far been fairly normal, but there are a couple of differences. Wednesday (the 20th), I attempted to return to the office and get some things done that were necessarily post-poned. However, my attempts failed miserably because I was smacked with another headache–which we now know are mild migraines–and this caused my ability to focus to fail as well. I tried to muscle through the early parts of it, but ultimately had to succumb to the prescribed drugs, which usually kick my butt. As a result, I went home early and remained in a fog for the rest of the night.
Today, things started to look up seeing that the majority of the headache was gone. However, our fuzzy little ‘mule was acting strange and refused to use her litter box. When she finally did use it, we noticed that she was once again having difficulty and was leaving small drops of blood. We immediately knew it was another UTI, which meant another trip to the vet. This wound up disrupting our respective morning responsibilities, but we did what needed to be done. Thankfully, the vet did not take very long and I was able to attend to a few necessary bits that needed to be completed before noon. Later this afternoon, we are expecting the arrival of my beautiful wife’s sister, brother-in-law and their son, who will all be staying with us for a couple of days. (They should be here within the hour). The only real down side for this evening is that I can only play host until about 6pm–I have my final class to teach tonight. However, tomorrow is wide open, which means we can enjoy our time together.
* My brother has been working through the 10 Commandments since the start of the year, and he plans to take the rest of the year to finish it. (There are a few weeks where random topics are explored between some of the Commandments). I highly recommend checking out the series, which you can find on his church’s website. Click on ‘Launch Sermon Player’ at the bottom.
** For the record, it is not my habit to be so ‘last minute’ with sermon writing.