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Riding the powder with the young dudes.

Unbelievably I am the resident “old dude” in a group of about 20 bloggers most of whom seem to be about the same age as my kids!  In fact yesterday out on the piste in Les Arcs, someone referred to me for the first time in my entire life as “the old dude”.  This will take a bit of getting used to.

Free 5 Star ski week did sound just a tad unbelievable.  “What do I have to do?” I asked, “Oh just come along, enjoy the ride and blog about it”.  Where’s the catch then? There must be a time share sales guy waiting to pounce or another similar financial purpose.  Well actually, now that I am here, the only catch is on the bathroom door of my luxurious en suite bathroom.

Phil from Snow Vole who invited me along on the trip picked me up from the bus stop somewhere out here, quite late on Sunday night.  As I waited standing on the kerb side with just my backpack, ski boots and phone, I did wonder if this virtual Facebook friend actually did exist and was going to arrive, and was this actually an epic prank.  Glad to report, that yes he does, and he did!  On reflection, you have to be fairly adventurous to be me.  I’m always arriving at some distant place expecting to be met by just an email or Face book contact.

Val Disere day one, Les Arcs yesterday, Le Plagne today, Tignes tomorrow, its all too exciting for me!  The chalet is run and owned by Dan through his company Snowchateaux It’s really nice, relaxed, not too stuffy, hot tub, great gourmet tuck, nice staff, hot water, boot room – it’s also ski in ski out.  Les Coches is really well connected since the massive Vanoise Express, double decker cable car opened. I have stayed before at Plagne 1800 and also Nancroix (so cold that Christmas, it warmed up to -17 day time) and this place is the sweetest!

Phil fixed up with some real nice skis and my pass.  I’m not used to this level of “jolly” to be honest.  The powder yesterday in Les Arcs was the best I have ever ridden (young people don’t ski or board – they “ride”).  I ended up having like a Narnia moment, all alone in a forest of hip high powder, trees looking like Christmas, laden with snow and the silence, or lack of noise was deafening, and enchanting in equal measure.  Those of us who have ventured into such a wonderland are indeed privileged.  Hacked down under the chair lift just for fun, at one point it was unspeakably steep, but you know there are times when those thirty six weeks of lifetime skiing do come in handy.  A quick jump, spin – oh yes, no real problem to me!

One of the guys on the trip John Moy of is an awesome film maker, he literally has am amazing amount of gear with him, like a waistcoat harness thing, with a counterbalanced device for his Canon 5D – awesome.  He is where my son wants to be in a couple of years.  So, today no skiing, I’m sitting here working away at my lap top, tomorrow the sun is out, so I’ll see if I can get some pictures.

Usain Bolt of the carpet-selling world.

Yesterday we spent nearly nine hours on a fast bus travelling to and from Fez to Chefchaouen in the Rif Mountains.  Chefchaouen is fabulously pretty.  It clings to the mountainside, and uniquely is painted various shades of blue.  Blue because the original Jewish settlers, way back, discovered that the pale blue colour dissuades mosquitoes and other nasties from landing, choosing instead to fly on somewhere else.  Clever.

Of course, now the big deal is tourism, and so everyone and his cousin are selling leather bags, carpets or anything else remotely ethnic.  It was here, whilst dawdling around that we met and spent an hour with Abdul, who is the Usain Bolt of the carpet-selling world.   Abdul, plied us with green tea, “no pressure”, and began to tell us great stories from his home in the mountains.  I now know more about him and his family than I do about my neighbours back home.  He was a living work of art.  Needless to say, we left having bought a carpet / rug type thing.  I wanted to buy a massive wall one about 15” x 10” but Maria gently persuaded me that one the size of a hand towel would be fine.

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There is something superbly human and also Godly about a man utilising all his powers to provide for his family.  It sort of chimes with every culture throughout the World, in fact to provide for your family is an imperative as shown here in 1 Timothy; “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”.  So why is this a good thing?  Well obviously to care for one’s family is noble, credit worthy and an attribute which causes me to move from being stationary where all of life is set to revolve around my needs, to a dynamic image of movement, where I choose to serve needs beyond my own and in so doing I stray into reflecting something of the person of God.  So, when Abdul dances around me to persuade me to buy, is he actually personifying something of the character of God?  I would suggest, that even though perhaps he doesn’t know it, yes he is, because he has moved from serving his needs, to bleeding (sorry persuading) for the needs of others.

So in a world of relative truth, it seemed absolutely “right” that he should reach across the language and cultural boundaries and I should do likewise to meet half way, in the hope of making a sale. It was a sort of micro version of the United Nation’s worked out in a carpet shop half way up a Moroccan mountain.

 Another notable encounter was an almost elderly British guy we met, he lives in Chicago and Barcelona, he told me that he was a wholesale trader, in what I gingerly asked; “whatever people want” he said as he drew in a great lung full of hash smoke from his weird little cigarette.  He didn’t ask me to carry any parcels back to England though! Probably thought I looked to straight. Maybe Ill buy a Tommy Cooper Fez in Fez this afternoon, then when I get hit on to transport packages back to England I can say, “thanks’ for asking but not like that – like that ha ha ha”.

Possibly, the most passionate people in the World!

Had a great day with YWAM England leaders at Homsted Manor, West Sussex.  Loved all the vision and passion.  It is true that YWAM people are the most passionate people in the World.  Homsted Manor which is where I spent a couple of years back in 1985 was looking superb, good to see the oak floors all polished up and the grounds too just beautiful, particularly the waterfalls.   

So is it just a big social club?

The Lantern, Merley.  First of all, so packed out at about 250 people, there was standing room only for myself and my South African buddy Marco, who at 6’6” is the resident baby comforter for mum’s as they tire of managing babies.  Marco just stretches out his massive arms and gives the little ones a sweet grin whereupon, without fail they drop off in his arms. Marco loves babies – just as well really.

As it’s Mother’s Day today, Rimmer, the Vicar did a great job of honouring women, interviewed three women, and did a brief talk.  Bit of sung worship with the guitar led band, a few prayers and all done in about 70 minutes.

Of course it’s then that real Church begins as 250 people all begin to chat, catch up and arrange to meet.  So is it just a big social club?  Well, it’s true that’s what it looks like, but scratch a little under the surface and people are mostly connecting because their common interest, is their faith in God, and crucially how God is impacting their lives today.  So, since there are literally stacks of young families, folks are praying for each other and helping each other with kids, and seeing God intervene in their lives.  Needless to say, this is all pretty exciting.  I chatted to an older guy who clearly was recovering from a fairly significant illness of some sort.  To my shame, I had no idea what had happened to him, so I just smiled along, and was pleased that he could once again talk and sing, and also pleased I wasn’t rumbled regarding his condition!

I think this is so interesting.  All over the World it’s like this, which is beyond any social network, whereby people from all ages, professions and social strata’s, without trying, find themselves “being church”, sharing the news of the goodness of God with their chums.

Another really weird thing at the Lantern is the 250 people are always in flux, so new people are arriving, and old ones moving on to a massive degree.  This, however is not a problem, it just seems to have a sweet and appealing DNA that seems to work!