Sharing the Adventure: My First-Ever Traveleyes Holiday

In short, Traveleyes take blind people on holiday, and those who can see pay less because they’re the ones who guide us around. A recent radio-programme featuring one of their trips was inspirational. I had been too nervous to attempt a holiday with them in the past, but this year, I booked onto my first one: Guernsey, Sark and Herm.

The information pack came 4 weeks prior to the trip with timings of ferries, fellow-travellers’ names, etc. For months I had envisaged returning to England and going home the same day, but the ferry wasn’t due in until 21:10, making it impossible to travel back by train. I struggled at that late stage to find somewhere to stay; nearly everywhere was full, except for one place, and that was all I needed.

Day 1 got off to a good start. The trains were on-time and I arrived at our hotel in Bournemouth, where the group met. Our tour manager (Liz) explained how it all worked. We each had a ‘Room partner’ to show us our hotel-rooms (everyone needs to know where to find the kettle and how to work the shower), and they’d also take us to breakfast/dinner. These stayed the same throughout the holiday, so I’m pleased to say I got on well with mine. During the day, we were always guided by a different person, allowing us to get to know everybody in the group (one guide commented that we had gelled really quickly).

There were 17 of us altogether – a lovely, varied group; the tour manager, 8 sighted, and 8 VIs (I’m not used to being called a VI, but I didn’t mind it, and it saved having to differentiate between blind and partially-sighted). Some were professionals; some unemployed; some retired … Considering the holidays are expensive if you’re visually-impaired, I assumed most would be in paid work and wondered if they’d look down on me because I wasn’t. I also wondered if I’d be competent enough. We were told in one of our first Emails the sighted guides were just that – guides; they weren’t there to be carers, cut up food, etc. I live on my own and manage fairly well, but some things are more difficult in unfamiliar surroundings. I hoped I’d get the help I needed … and everyone was very helpful. They’d pour for us when the big pots of tea/coffee came at breakfast, offer to debone a fish, or anything we needed. They even volunteered to pick the red chilies out of the curry that was making my eyes water, but I recovered from the initial shock and enjoyed it!

One tip we were given at the beginning was to say how we liked to be guided. I soon learnt how important this was! At the bottom of a flight of steep stairs, my guide told me: “Just follow the stairs up,” so instead of asking her to go in front, I did as she said – and ploughed straight into the edge of the metal door at the top! That gave me quite a headache, but after a good night’s sleep, I had recovered enough to join in the rest of the holiday.

This is one of those times I wish I could add photos/audio to my blog. I’m sorry you don’t get to see me paddle in the sea at Herm, or hear the firing of the gun at Castle Cornet. I wish I could introduce you to the one who never failed to make us laugh, the lady in her 90s who negotiated steps and steep hills or climbed up into a carriage without complaining, the oldest visually-impaired female cricketer … and those are just a few. I hadn’t expected to be so inspired by the people I met, or to have such a great time.

If you’re reading this and you’re sighted, Traveleyes go all over the world and are always grateful for more sighted guides. If you’re reading this as a VI, I’d really recommend one of their holidays. And if you’re reading with birthday or Christmas in mind, gift vouchers are available! Traveleyes’ slogan is ‘Share the adventure’, and I hope there’ll be plenty more.

“You’re Spiritually Immature”

Has this ever been said to you? I certainly don’t like to hear it said of my Christian friends, and yet this is Paul’s verdict on the church in Corinth. “My friends, you are acting like the people of this world. That’s why I could not speak to you as spiritual people. You are like babies as far as your faith in Christ is concerned” (1 Corinthians 3:1). “You are jealous and argue with each other. This proves that you are not spiritual and that you are acting like the people of this world” (1 Corinthians 3:3).

Paul was an apostle. This means ‘Sent one’. He was sent out and planted several churches, including this one in Corinth he was writing to, so he’s like the head of the organisation – the one they would go to with any queries or concerns, and it’s Paul (not just anyone, but a person they respect) who’s calling them spiritual babies. How do they respond? Do they walk away from the church, never to return again? If you read 2 Corinthians, you’ll discover the reasons for Paul’s first letter. “I also wrote because I wanted to test you and find out if you would follow my instructions” (2 Corinthians 2:9). After receiving it, they confronted the wrong in the church and dealt with it. His letter resulted in their spiritual growth.

So, what will we do if someone calls us spiritually immature? Will we dismiss it, or will we take an honest look at ourselves because they meant it for our good?

“Never Give Up” Book-Review

If you’re considering this book because you’re looking for motivation to persevere with something, I’m sure it’ll help with that, but it’s really a book on how to navigate the whole of life – short chapters with themes such as perseverance, avoiding procrastination, and building on truth. With a title like “Never Give Up”, you might wonder whether it’ll make you feel condemned over past failures. I don’t think it does. On the contrary, it encourages you to move on from your past in order to embrace your future. I especially liked the chapters where the author gave examples from his own life. He says his style is to write short chunks with humour added in. He does this very well; some of his illustrations made me laugh out-loud.

I was looking forward to this book by John Mason because I reviewed (and enjoyed) his previous one – “Proverbs Prayers”. This is similar, in that it would be beneficial to have in your Kindle library to refer back to. I think my mum would like this book because she loves quotations, and this is packed full of them. A couple of my favourites? “Even a broken clock is right twice a day”, and: “Too much analysis always equals paralysis”.

If you Love the Bible Like Me

I signed up to review “The Most Misused Stories in the Bible” for Bethany House because I love the Bible. I didn’t know what standpoint the author would come from – whether I’d be passionately agreeing or wanting to argue with him. As it turned out, I particularly liked the part at the beginning where he writes that we’re all students of the Bible, and we may want to argue certain of his points. It takes humility to say that.

On the whole, I thought the book was very good. He helps you to think deeply about the stories and what they teach, and there are some great principles on interpreting the Bible in his conclusion. The author says he’s the type of person who likes a debate; well, the chapter I’d want to debate most with him would be chapter 11, but he seems a very genuine man who wouldn’t mind that.

I’d recommend this book if you love the Bible, too. I’d quite like to read another of his, “Love That Rescues”, but sadly it’s not available on Kindle.

Thorn Thursday

A few years ago, a friend sent me a very good talk by Hal Lindsey called “The Week that Changed the World”. What Hal basically says is that rather than Jesus dying on Friday, He actually died on Thursday because there were two Sabbaths in a row that week – the Passover Sabbath and the regular, weekly Sabbath. I’ve been reading Mark’s gospel recently where we have an account of Palm Sunday, Monday, and up to Tuesday night, then it jumps to the Passover meal Jesus eats with His friends. Why shouldn’t that have taken place on Wednesday, followed the next day by His crucifixion?

There’s another reason I believe this – because Jesus Himself said: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). Three days and three nights? Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night, and on Sunday He rose again. It all makes sense, but we can witness to His death any time we like. The important thing is that we remember it. I have no problem doing that with other Christians on the Friday, even though I think it’s a day too late.

Because He wore that crown of thorns for us, maybe instead of Good Friday, we could have ‘Thorn Thursday’.

Ideas for Easter Reading

As Easter approaches, I wanted to point you in the direction of a couple of good books I read last month.

The first is Liz Curtis Higgs’ “The Women of Easter”. Before reading this, I thought Martha’s sister and Mary Magdalene were probably the same person. I didn’t realise there was a place called Magdala, and that’s why Mary was called Magdalene – because of where she was from. You might learn other things from this too, but what I liked most about it was its freshness. Some parts would bring a laugh and others had me shedding tears. If you’ve been a Christian a number of years, think how many times you must have heard the Easter story, yet Liz tells it as it is – a living reality. That’s special.

Another recommendation would be Michael Card’s “A Fragile Stone”. This isn’t 100% Easter. It’s actually about Peter from his first meeting with Jesus onwards, but chapters 9-11 cover those last hours before Jesus’ crucifixion. I had never thought so deeply about how that night must have impacted Peter. Michael did a fantastic job with this book and if I knew of any others he’d written about Biblical characters, I would want to read them.

Are there any Lent/Easter books or Email devotionals you’ve enjoyed?

Poor Zacchaeus

I feel a bit sorry for Zacchaeus. He was from Jericho and a tax collector in Jesus’ time. It’s a bit like being a banker in our time. We might think of bankers as these people who don’t do much and yet still receive huge bonuses, but I’m sure there are some honourable bankers.

Many in Zacchaeus’ profession would have collected taxes for the Romans and taken some extra for themselves. Maybe if people struggled to pay, they made the fines really steep, increasing them on a daily basis. That’s what most people seem to think of Zacchaeus – that he was a liar and a cheat, but …

What if Zacchaeus was an honourable tax collector?

Have you heard his story? When Jesus came to Jericho, Zacchaeus was too short to see over the crowd’s heads, so he climbed a tree. Jesus stopped at the bottom of the tree and beckoned him to come down, inviting Himself to his house. Zacchaeus gladly welcomes Him and hearing the crowd’s complaints, he stands there and says: “I will give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I will pay back four times more” (Luke 19:8).

If I have cheated anyone.

Poor Zacchaeus. All these people, even thousands of years later, thinking he lived his pre-Jesus life as a liar and a cheat, but we don’t know for sure. We know he was wealthy (Luke 19:2), but perhaps he was wealthy simply because of the salary the Romans gave him. Either way, his encounter with Jesus filled him with generosity. How many of us would give half our possessions to the poor?

What if I Destroy Their Faith?

If you’ve got any kind of long-term disability or illness, perhaps you’ve felt the same as me when it came to asking about healing. What if someone has faith to see a healing miracle, but my question weakens their faith? Or worse, what if they’ve prayed for me and when God hasn’t healed, it’s put them off Christianity altogether? I’ve been up for prayer before for my eyesight, which God hasn’t given to me. I’ve no way of knowing the reactions of other people in the room.

When recently I had some questions for my house group, several there being strong in faith, I was hesitant to say anything. Then as we worshipped, these verses came into my head: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). And another: “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).

Someone’s faith is a gift that God has given them, and God’s gifts are irrevocable. In other words, they can’t be taken away, so God showed me it was all right to ask my questions. I couldn’t destroy somebody’s faith, because it doesn’t come from humans; it comes from Him.

I hope that encouraged you as it did me.

The Temple and the Spider’s Web: Part 2

Having written about the temple, I’ll now move on to the web. I’ve never taken much interest in a spider’s web, but apparently, the spider is always moving along the edge of it. Then, as soon as a fly goes into the web, the web vibrates and the spider can zoom in and attack.

“Be alert and of sober mind” (1 Peter 5:8). With the Holy Spirit in us, we can be like that spider whose feet are on the edge of the web. As soon as something comes in, it’s captured. We capture the good things from God. It’s the Holy Spirit who (as Berni Dymet puts it) lifts a verse right off the page and plonks it into our hearts, but we can also apply this to any unwelcome intrusions. “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). As soon as we’re tempted, we can say, ‘No! I’m not doing that, because God says …’ like Jesus when He was being tempted by the devil. Turn these stones into bread? No! It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:2-4).

Have you ever pictured yourself standing guard at the door to your heart, like a spider on the edge of her web?

The Temple and the Spider’s Web: Part 1

There were two interesting pictures that people in my house group had of the Holy Spirit. I wanted to write them down to remember them, so I thought I’d share them with you at the same time.

First, the temple. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). We were created in three parts: Body, soul and spirit. Similarly, the Jewish temple was in three parts: The outer court (where the whole assembly could gather), the inner court (for the priests), and the Most Holy Place (which the high priest could enter once a year).

Our makeup is like the temple. Our physical bodies (the outside of us) can be seen by anyone. When it comes to the inside – our soul (our feelings, our emotions), we’re more selective about what we share and with whom. It’s a more intimate relationship. Beyond that is our Most Holy Place – our spirit communing with God’s Spirit.

Before someone’s a Christian, they’re living by their own thoughts/feelings/emotions, or in the words of my friend: “The spirit has been suffocated by the soul.” When we become Christians, God makes us alive in Christ. Our spirit can connect freely with God’s Spirit and isn’t suffocated/dead anymore.

When Jesus died on the cross, we’re told in three of the gospels (I’m really surprised John doesn’t mention this) that the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The barrier between the inner court and the Most Holy Place was obliterated – a picture of what Jesus has done for us. He’s made a way for our souls to come into the presence of God to find nourishment and strength. Perhaps in his own way, John does point to it because he recorded Jesus’ famous words: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).