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Rebecca Adlington

This post is a bit different - it's perhaps not all as overtly 'christian' or religious in tone as some - but it's something I've been thinking about. It's taken me a few days to decide whether to upload it or not, but here goes anyway...

You may have seen in the news recently that one of Britain's best Olympic swimming stars, Rebecca Adlington, has retired. There seems to be a degree of criticism from various commentators. Commentators who, with all due respect, don't appear to have the faintest idea of what they're talking about. I was a competitive swimmer.I was good at water polo, to the extent of playing for the North of England but I wasn't a great competitive swimmer - I don't really have what it takes, physiologically. But I do know what it involves. And therefore Rebecca Adlington has my profoundest respect.

The criticism largely seems to revolve around how young she is, at 23, to be retiring. In my opinion, that isn't particularly young - the youngest 'Masters' age group for swimming is only 25-29 years of age (so, presumably, there's a good chance you'll be 'over the hill' at 25!). Unless you've done it, you really have no idea what competitive swimming involves. Swimming requires a unique mixture of strength, stamina and suppleness - a fitness combination which is very, very, hard to achieve, and even harder to maintain over any length of time. The training regime is more punishing than most folk could begin to imagine. Most of you aches, almost all of the time, and you almost always feel tired, except when in a 'taper' (reduction of the volume of training before an event). The training volume for an elite swimmer can be staggering - swimming 40-50km per week is not unusual, and in some cases may sometimes peak at 90-100km per week (though only for short periods).You crave each rest-day and the chance to wind down.

Proud Father

Yesterday, Tim, my seventeen-year-old son, led the worship band at our church, St. Thomas's, Lancaster. It was a good service, and the worship was good - songs appropriate to the theme (God's love), well played. Whilst worshipping, I recalled a time seventeen years earlier…

Sitting in the delivery room in the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, holding a tiny bundle in my arms, whilst the midwives looked after Linda immediately after the delivery. There was a palpable sense of relief (our first son, Charlie, had been still-born, two years earlier), and joy. There was also a sense of wonder at the miracle of new life. And a sense of curiosity - wondering about the little bundle's future - just what would he become? And, naturally enough, I prayed for him at that point, that he'd grow up to be all that God wanted him to be.

Last summer, when Tim received the results of his GCSEs, we were, naturally, very pleased. But I said to him then that what actually matters to me most - way, way, ahead of exam results, is that he 'keeps the faith' - that he is a Christian, and that he works for God. Like all of us, he's a 'work in progress' - God still has much to do, I'm sure, in transforming Tim into a Christ-like person. But it's good to see him so far along the road at this stage in his life. When I was his age, I had barely begun to seek, and follow, God.

St Valentine's Day

Today is St Valentine's Day. As far as I remember, I've never received a Valentine's card. Certainly never when I was at school - to say the least I wasn't popular. It always struck me as a fairly 'hurtful' sort of celebration - popular folks, considered attractive, got loads, whilst some folk, like me, got none. So I was 'off' it in a fairly big way.

Linda, when I met her, was of the same sort of mind, so we decided not to celebrate it, in sympathy and solidarity with those for whom it's a difficult day. But then we made friends with a lovely American Christian lady, Lissa, who saw it differently (as she does a lot of things), and took it broadly as an opportunity to celebrate Philos (brotherly love) as opposed to Eros (romantic, or sexual, love). So, in recent years, we have celebrated it, fairly quietly, and with that different emphasis - and particularly as our children have become more grown up - partly so they can see that there is a different way to the one espoused by 'the world'.

God and the Universe

In an earlierblog entry, I hinted that I felt that physicists might be the people best equipped to appreciate God's power. If we believe that God both created the universe and is 'omnipresent' (existing everywhere at once), then it seems to me axiomatic that He is both bigger than, and more powerful than, the universe. So, how big is the Universe? That's a very difficult question to answer. It might be infinite - i.e without an 'edge' - indeed, if there was an edge, what would be beyond it? A question which is, to all intents and purposes unanswerable and possibly without meaning in the terms of reference we're accustomed to existing, as we do, in space and time.

Let's think about distances. Suppose you live in Lancaster. Think of somewhere 200 miles (or 300km) away - say Milton Keynes for example. How long would it take you to get there by car - three hours on a good day? It would take a photon (particle) of light 1/1000 of a second to travel the same distance. Looked at another way, light travels, in a second, one thousand times as far as the distance from Lancaster to Milton Keynes. That's a very long way - about seven and a half times around the globe!

Antioch

I don't know about you, but very often when reading the bible, the place names are just words, and I forget to think about the places, the people in them, and why they might have been important to the spread of the gospel.

Take this passage as an example:

Acts 11:19-21 (NIV)
Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

Antioch is mentioned, but not described - probably because the writer (Luke) assumed that anyone reading would know of it. We, however, don't have any reason to know, so a few words of explanation would probably help us get more from this passage and others in which the city is mentioned.

After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, his generals divided up the conquered territories. Seleucus I Nicator took Syria, and founded Antioch. He named the city in memory of his father, Antiochus, and it became the capital of his empire, remaining so until 64 BC, after which it was annexed by Rome and made the capital of the Roman province of Syria.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2016