Peter’s latest archery competition

Today I shot at the Archers of Bridlington and Burton Agnes Indoor Portsmouth.  Its a bit of a mouthful, but basically it involves shooting 60 arrows at a 60cm target face, 20 yards away.  This is the classic indoor season competition round.  I had the option to shoot in the morning, or the afternoon, or both.  However, only the morning shoot contributed to the competition.

The morning score was fairly poor to be honest – 536/600.  I was a bit nervous, and this translates into shaking, which does not help the aiming process!  That score will probably get me around half way down the score sheet when the results are out.

But this afternoon I shot a lot better.  I scored 563 which, had I scored it in the morning, would probably have got me 4th place.

I know – archery, fishing and golf are full of ‘if only’s.  But I was really pleased about two things.  First, I got over a poor morning, got my act together, didn’t panic, and shot a decent score in the afternoon.  And that’s the second thing.  I shot a very decent score in in a competition. That will give me confidence for the next one.

Technical note – there were two reasons for my improved score.  First, I stopped worrying and just started shooting arrows, like I always do.  Second, I paid attention to my string picture.  Don’t ask!

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Holiday in Madeira

Last week was the final instalment of my 60th birthday celebrations.  Sarah and I had 4 nights in Calheta, which is about 30 miles west of Funchal, the capital of Madeira.  The sun shone, we loafed by the pool, and I didn’t look at my emails once.  There’s not much to tell about the two days by the pool.  Imagine a walrus on a sunbed, and you’ve pretty much got me.  Its just what we needed.

We did have one exiting day.  We walked along a levada.  Levadas are are ancient channels built hundreds of years ago to carry water from the wet, forested interior to the drier but more fertile parts of the island where crops grow.  The water is so clear and pure that little fish that look like trout swim in it. We walked about 6 miles or so from Rabacal to a little lake – called 25 Fountains – at the foot of a cliff.  It was an absolutely beautiful spot, though a little crowded.

Our hotel was the Savoy Saccharum, so named because it was the site of an old sugar mill.  I discovered that way back in the 15th and 16th centuries, sugar plantations worked by African slaves were established on the island.  The economic model was so successful it was imported to the West Indies and elsewhere.

The hotel was good, although the dim lighting throughout would have caused big problems to anyone with a visual impairment.  But it was a lovely break.  What a treat to have 4 days of sunshine in November!

Matthew 22 15-22 – reflections for Sunday 22nd October

Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and give to God the things that are God’s.

I used to be a good judo player.  Or I thought I was.  Then I met Fitz.  Fitz was a wrestler – not the Giant Haystacks kind of wrestler, but an olympic wrestler who did judo in his spare time for R&R.  As an international sportsman, Fitz was incredibly fit, and incredibly skilful.  He  was only a little guy, but he could throw me at will.  And he did.  Often.

Week by week, in Matthew’s gospel, we find Jesus’ opponents pitting themselves against him in verbal contest.  And again and again, with a few deft words, he defeats them.  This week, they thought they had him.  “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?”  If Jesus said yes – then he would appear to be siding with the enemy, the hated, occupying force.  If he said no, he could be accused of treason – the Romans killed people for less.

So Jesus asked for a coin. “Who’s image is that?'” he said, looking at the coin.  “Caesar’s”, came the response.  “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” – what a brilliant politician’s put-down, a model of studied ambiguity.  But now comes the knock-out punch that no-one was expecting. “And give to God what is God’s”

Give to God what is God’s? Who said anything about God?  What does the question even mean? To answer that question, we must go back and answer an earlier, unspoken one: what belongs to God, anyway?

According to the Jewish/Christian tradition – everything belongs to God.  “The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it; the world, and those who dwell in it” (Psalm 24).  And for the person of faith, that has big implications for how we live our lives.

First of all, it draws our attention to the natural world and leads us to a sense of wonder and astonishment.  The Hebrew bible (Old Testament) is full of amazement at the splendour and majesty of nature.  Try the book of Job, and you’ll discover word-pictures of creation that Shakespeare himself would be proud of. And for people of faith, that sense of astonishment leads naturally to a desire to worship God as creator.

Second, the desire to “give to God what is God’s” leads us to be generous.  We have a saying in Yorkshire:

Hear all, see all, say nowt
Eat all, drink all, pay nowt
And if ever tha does own for nowt
Do it for thissen

(Hear all, see all, say nothing; eat all, drink all, pay nothing; and if ever you do anything for nothing, do it for yourself).

Our relationship to God can be like that: he’ll get what’s due to him, but no more.  A better approach is to be generous givers – to think of our time, our lives, our love, as gifts we should give as freely as we have received them.

And finally, we are called to be thankful.  Sometimes that’s easy.  On Monday, its my 60th birthday, and by Monday evening I fully expect to be thankful – and if I’m not, I shall be seriously grumpy about it!  But the Christian tradition teaches us to be thankful even when things are not going well.  When St Paul wrote “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (Thessalonians 5) he really did mean in all circumstances.  And Paul lived through circumstances that most of us could never imagine.

In summary, giving to God what is God’s, leads us to a sense of wonder at the world’s majesty, to generosity of life, and to being thankful in all circumstances – all of which lead us to raise our heads and expand the range of our vision – to look beyond ourselves and our immediate daily concerns, and to focus on community, on the world – and on God.

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250 today – but who’s counting?

Well today’s been just a splendid day.  I’m in the middle of my birthday celebrations.  Last weekend, Lizzie (my eldest daughter) was 30, and on Monday I will be 60.  So we had a joint 90th birthday party at Hitchcock’s, Hull’s most splendid and quirky vegetarian restaurant.

But today was a different kind of milestone – my 250th Parkrun, which I completed at Peter Pan Park in Hull.  Parkrun is just an amazing thing.   Its free, and anyone who wants to can have a go.  There are men, women, children, people in their 70s and 80s, experienced athletes, and sometimes, people who have just finished a ‘Couch to 10k’, never having run before.  You get friendship, support, encouragement, a good run, and sometimes, free chocolates.

Parkrun always start with a few announcements – and today they were mainly about me! Very embarrassing.  I got a round of applause for my 250th Parkrun, I was given a card signed by loads of people, and I was awarded Parkrunner of the month (meaning I get £25 to spend in a local sports shop).  It was as good as a graduation day!

Anyroadup – there are some pictures of me with Sarah, and our Parkrun buddies.  I’m off to order that coveted green 250 milestone t shirt.