Last summer, following a Christian conference in Brighton some friends and I went to a farm for the weekend. The owner of the farm is one of the students in my church, and rather generously she let 20 or so people live there for the weekend and enjoy the delights of it's grounds, such as the pool, hot tub, horses and fields.
February arrives and she allows 45 people to live at her home for the weekend. It was a sort of unofficial student weekend away, seen as we're off to Cornwall in a few weeks...
Still, a massive mix of people from around 18 - 30 descended on the Oxfordshire countryside for the weekend. It was absolutely stunning. Leaving work Friday afternoon, I slept in the car on the way up, after having verrrry little sleep whilst away at FP Training earlier in the week. I woke up to see the most incredible sunset and to pop into the shop to buy wine before being the first to arrive at the farm. Luggage was moved in, and rather quickly we all got into swimming clothes and jumped in the hot tub. As night fell the stars came out, and I found myself beneath the the sky in the middle of nowhere.
Several hours later and the rest of my lovely rabble of friends began to arrive and we were still in the hot pot as someone liked to call it...she is Swiss, to be fair to her.
The evening trundled on with pizza, the arrival of LOTS of people and a transition into my onesie on the arrival of my favourite morons who were also wearing onesies. We had lots of fun around the kitchen table before retiring to bed at around 2.30am.
I say bed, but that doesn't quite convey the truth of what we did. I was in a room with 11 other people. Fortunately I had an air bed and a duvet. My wise owl hat was truly on when I packed that!
Up the following morning as the smell of pancakes wafted up the rather large hall and into our room. Showered and dressed, although not entirely awake, I set off for a walk in the beautiful sunshine accompanied by my very lovely friend Hazel. We meandered around the fields for a while, passing the lake and river, and as we were walking in a field of cabbages James arrived. I felt like I was in Beatrix Potter with all the countryside I was absorbing. Two hours later, a visit to see some cows and then a detour around them as they got angry at our intrusion, and we began to head back to the house.
By this point I was feeling seriously smiley after soaking up some well needed vitamin D. I definitely have a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder so Saturday was just the trick for me. Lunch en masse with all the new people that had arrived and then we decided to fetch supplies from the nearby town...which was 20 minutes drive away.
We ended up in Banbury, saw the statue of the fine lady, upon a white, horse, with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes and then popped into a magnificent Church building. The ceiling was domed, and reached so far above that I could barely see the writing that circled it. Stained glass windows, golden statues, wooden carvings and beautiful murals. Now Church never was a building, but rather the people, but there was certainly something brilliant about the vastness of this building.
The next building we entered was a huge second hand bookshop, and that kind of building has a similar affect on me... the result being a grinning moron. Using new found self control I didn't buy anything, but we 'wasted' a good 45 minutes walking around, picking up books and generally being geeky.
Roast beef for 45 with all the trimmings, and the house filled with the sound of hungry and noisy people. Darkness was upon us and in the middle of the country we tucked in to a great meal. Not long after, my morons and I decided to run into the hot tub. A hot tub for maximum 8 if you wanted some room, was not something easy to achieve with it being in so high demand. Pudding was forsaken as we sneakily ran outside with our cider, and wine and peacock make up and jumped in. A totally clearly night, apart from some rather picturesque streaks of cloud accompanying the stars and we giggled our way through what we thought was mistaken pain of chemicals in the hot tub.
Unfortunately they were not mistaken. As the itching skin turned to tingling, and we continued to push through the discomfort, someone cracked and ran out, only to find that in the light, she was red raw. When the rest of the pudding eating people realised that things in the water were not quite correct and the doctor (who was one of those with us but out at the shops) was called, they hurried us out and told us to shower.
Similarly, we found we were covered in red bumpy rashes and our skin was rather painful. Ooops... Turns out chlorine isn't too good for you.
The rest of the evening was spent pottering about, chattering and being slightly moronish. Basia was named as the bearded moron. It was a fitting title. There were also pictures drawn of our hot pot, acid adventures!
As energy levels began to seep from us, bed was decided as a good plan. Unfortunately, I got suckered into taking photos of those swimming in the pool and was then persuaded to join them.
This made sleep easier as I was even more exhausted when I finally put on my onesie and retired to bed. In fact, so tired that I didn't wake up until people began to rise this morning to once more, the smell of cooking, although this time it was the smell of bacon rolls. Om nom nom!
Packing ensued and then 'church'. We all gathered together and the musicians led us in worship in the lounge which was amazingly powerful. God was totally there and I loved seeing such an amazing group of people gathered. God even loves morons.
Goodbyes were said, cars were packed and we all left. My car decided it was not quite time for home and as we weren't too far from Oxford, we'd head there. A short nap later and we arrived, parked and headed into the city to grab some lunch. We met up with a friend of a friend and headed to the pub. I'd never been to Oxford so had my tourist hat on slightly as we wandered around and I gazed at the impressive buildings and history.
The highlight was heading into a pub called 'The Eagle and Child' which was where C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien had formed the group 'The Inklings' and gathered together with others to discuss literature and philosophy accompanied by a beer. There were plaques on the wall and a signed frame. Being the mega geek that I am, I loved being in a place with some literature history, particularly as I love them both as authors.
Tiredness was beginning to scramble our ability to communicate so we set off, homeward bound and arrived a few hours later.
Since then I've woken up, ate cereal uploaded photos and decided I would like to be more of a genius, own a farm house, and that I need a cup of tea.
I am a little odd and so, I am going to write about Glee.
I love it, it's wonderful, it is a show about joy, and we all need bucket loads of that, and a fair amount of cheesy music.
The episode I've just watched is 'Grilled Cheesus', which I'm not going to lie, I looked at and cringed inside. The way the media presents Christianity is never good. I can't think of anything remotely positive that ever comes forth, except in Narnia or Lord of the Rings. All things considered, that's really not a good statistic.
I'm pretty used to hearing things that make me recoil because of the way they present things. Watching terrible shows that capture the very worst of Christianity, or clips of people behaving terribly are not something I enjoy watching. No one seems to get what it's really about, and in some ways, I can't blame anyone. We're all ignorant of what we don't understand, and often something slightly more radical scares us into making jokes.
So, with Glee half way through and the usual comments about homophobia and women hating, I was pretty expectant of the typical show where Christians get a bad name.
Now, I can't say it was swung totally the other way, but there were a few redeeming things worth noting.
I loved that the friends prayed and did things despite not being asked. One good thing about prayer is that it's just you chatting to God - no one can tell you not to do that, and actually get you to stop successfully.
Secondly, Mercedes insistence that Kurt came to church. She showed Mercy that we should all be willing to extend, even if those around us don't agree.
Thirdly, the recognition that we all need something to trust in, and in fact, we're all looking for something to hope in. I know that the only true hope is in Jesus because he doesn't change like the things of the world that fade or disappoint, but not many things pick up on the universality of need and a desire to be fulfilled.
I'm not for religion, or routine, or 'have-to' rules. I am however about personal relationship with God. I am about a life transformed by becoming a Christian. I am about brokenness and confusion finding healing in Jesus. Why? I've known it myself, and when something amazing happens you want to tell everyone, and not just those that you love, although especially them.
I'm not saying it's easy, I'm not saying it's simple and I'm not saying I don't have questions. BUT I have seen the power of God in my life, and I know it's not about religion, routine, 'have-to' rules, or even traditions. Forget all of that. Jesus didn't come to create rules or repetitive things that we have to do.
To know Jesus is an adventure.
I get a little excited when anything might provoke thought, and even more excited when a secular TV program that has no real belief, manages to do that.
So, just so you know, I'm praying for you.
Because I have what you need, and I totally wanna share.