Three ways for you to look amid the suffering of Covid

Things are tough. Have been for a very long time. And look to be this way for a while yet. So how are we to make the best fist we can of getting through it?

I’ve become convinced it has much to do with the direction in which we chose to look. And that’s what I want to unpack for you. But first, let’s be clear that the pain that comes from Covid should not be a surprise.

This is perfectly expressed by a memorable line in Shadowlands, the biopic of CS Lewis. When his wife Joy, close to death from cancer, comforted her husband with the line – ‘down here, suffering is part of the deal’.

But actually, the Bible got there first. Consider these lines from Ecclesiastes chapter 3 – perhaps you can hear The Byrds singing them – 

There is a time for everything, 
and a season for every activity under the heavens: 
a time to be born and a time to die . . . . 
a time to weep and a time to laugh, 
a time to mourn and a time to dance

Right now, there’s no shortage of weeping and mourning – for all that has been lost as the result of Covid. Most of us probably know someone who has died – certainly we know someone who has had the virus. 

Then there’s the huge level of loneliness, isolation and disappointment felt by many. Children have had endless disruption not to mention teachers and home-schooling parents who have had to cope. 

Perhaps prophetically, Ecclesiastes also promises –

A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

And here we are in pain for the lack of hugs – the number one thing a poll on the AfterWorkNet Facebook page people said they are most looking forward to.

All this prompted me to think where I should be looking to not only survive but to ask that right question in my own life. ‘God – what are you wanting to teach me?’ I came up with ‘three ways to look’.

We need to look in 

Looking in means to look after ourselves and take care. There is nothing wrong with being careful about where we go and who we speak to. 

It is too easy to focus on those who stand outside hospitals and say this pandemic isn’t real. Or to get wound up at the news of people having wedding parties with 400 people there. 

Instead, we have a duty to look after ourselves – physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

Physically: This is about being wise regarding diet and exercise – even though temptation is close and exercise is harder with so much closed. But getting through this is going to take some commitment to cherish ourselves – and also being kind to ourselves when we fail.

Emotionally: Here we must take account of the reality of the grief that comes with the wide range of loss we are experiencing – from loss of life itself to loss of dreams. And so much in between. 

That calls us to give ourselves space, weep with those who weep and to have a good cry when we need to.

Spiritually: Nurturing our spiritual side is harder when energy is drained and emotions are stretched. That calls for realism. But time in the Bible, perhaps the Psalms, or letting your taste in worship music wash over you could do wonders for your soul.

We need to look out

It is surely healthy to have something beyond our front door that reminds us that we may be struggling but there is almost certainly someone who is worse off. Perhaps in our neighbourhood, in our church or even further afield. 

Maybe just pick up a phone when someone comes to mind.

It could also mean having our eyes on our world. As I did when part of a Zoom Tearfund prayer breakfast recently. It was moving to hear of all that has hit Ethiopia in the last few months. A plague of locusts, hunger, poverty, floods and the second highest Covid rate in Africa. 

As a result, I should be looking for a project which can be an ‘out focus’ for me. 

Indeed, our ‘look out’ project could equally be a neighbour or a hospital in the Sudan that we pray for, send messages to or send some support funds. 

We need to look up

It is as true now as ever it was – that ‘God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1). We have a great creator God who sent his son be our Saviour. 

If life feels rough, talk to him. He knows all there is to know and he understands pain because his son suffered just that. It would be great to have real-life fellowship to share things but we can’t at the moment. So, we need to look to him. 

Maybe a ‘read time’ each day – Billy Graham had a daily discipline of reading a Psalm to remind him what God is like and a chapter of Proverbs to remind him how to deal with people. 

Our great God has not gone ‘on leave’ while we suffer this pandemic. He is not gloating over our plight. But, as he often did in the Bible, he is longing that, as we suffer these difficult times, we become people who are more and more reliant on him. 

So, which way should we be looking – of course it’s ALL THREE. Time spent looking after yourself. Time spent engaged with someone struggling with life. Time spent with the God who loves and who has plans and purposes for you (Jeremiah 29 v11) and who still reigns supreme.

Think this might be helpful to others? Then please share using the simple links below. Thank you.

Dave Fenton

Dave, AfterWorkNet’s Director is a retired clergyman. He’s spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, and – when things are more normal, builds relationships and shares his faith at his local golf club, and escapes to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Having a vocation, in response to God’s call, is not just for the young. Here’s how to find yours.

When that wonderful era of life after fulltime work arrives what should be its focus? Vacation or vocation? Two almost identical words yet with very different meanings. And why should it matter?

One – ‘vacation’ – points to a season when the focus is on ourselves. Take a break – a long one. Put ourselves first most of the time. Enjoy what we ‘deserve’.

The other – ‘vocation’ – points to what God calls us to. The word ‘vocation’ even comes from the Latin root vox, meaning ‘voice’ – giving it the sense of ‘what has called us to’.

It’s a stark difference that Jeff Haanen points to in his masterly book ‘An Uncommon Guide to Retirement’. And he brings the challenge not to fall for a ‘me centred’ retirement but to pursue the fulfilment and significance that comes from identifying and living out what God calls us to do in this season of opportunity.

When it comes to the issue of our ‘calling/vocation’ Jeff warns of the danger of falling for any of the four myths that seem to prevail. He says –

1. It’s wrong to believe ‘my calling is to do what I love’. That may be true for some, but for some it may be a call to suffer – just as Moses was called from the tranquillity of herding sheep to confront Pharaoh and demand the freedom of his people.

To quote Jeff, ‘The biblical view of calling speaks to a much deeper satisfaction of following God in every circumstance, come what may.’

2. It’s wrong to believe ‘calling means getting my ideal job’. As Jeff says, ‘The “ideal job” ethos is actually elitist because it undermines work that is not done out of “passion”’ – which, of course, is true for most people.

To quote Jeff again, ‘The road to deep freedom in retirement is found not in self-actualisation (fulfilment of one’s talents and potentialities) but in self-surrender’.

3. It’s wrong to believe ‘calling is a life-stage’. There’s no biblical support for splitting life into the three stages of calling: 1. Youth and education. 2. Career. 3. Retirement. More than that, Jeff asserts, with people now living longer and healthier, ‘lives, relationships, and work will become more fluid’.

4. It’s wrong to believe ‘conversations about calling are just for 20 year olds’. In his experience, Jeff has found ‘the second most common time people ask deeper questions about purpose, job choice and meaning’ is in their later years.

So if that’s the myths kicked into touch, how can we best hear God’s voice and be clear of our calling in this afterwork stage of life?

It’s not all about checking what skills you have stresses Jeff but, rather, where you fit in to God’s purposes and plans. And about what should change from your working life and what should stay the same.

The way forward, Jeff proposes, is to gather trusted friends and family to explore the following questions.

1. What is God doing in the world today that captures your imagination

What’s good out there that you want to get behind? When need presses your button? What’s broken that could be fixed or is missing and waiting being created?

2. Who are you?

Understanding yourself is a big part of figuring out your calling. If you’d like to use a helpful ‘vocational power assessment’ tool here’s a link. The idea behind it is that we each have more ‘power’ than we are aware of.

3. What stage of life you are in

Older adulthood – active retirement – is the season of letting go in order to bless and offer wisdom to the coming generation, asserts Jeff. It’s a move from player to coach.

4. What are your circumstances?

The call is for ‘reality in a hope-filled way’ says Jeff. Take time to make an inventory of your income, relationships, interests, talents, limitations and opportunities. Because this is the context in which to identify and can carry out your calling.

Jeff helpfully points out that Jesus chose not to do ‘everything’. There were those he healed and thousands he didn’t; towns he visited and others he didn’t. Because of his calling he was able to say ‘no’ and that will serve us too.

5. What’s the cross you’ve been called to bear?

What have been the life experiences that have shaped and formed you? Especially those seasons of deep pain. With God, nothing is wasted and it is these things that give you wisdom and insights that are of value to others.

6. What are you afraid of?

This is a surprising question but, to Jeff, one not to be shunned. Fears of death, loneliness, becoming irrelevant, failing health, not having enough money – and more – can all serve to paralyse us.

‘Name them’, says Jeff. ‘Offer them to God and hear him say ‘Don’t be afraid for I am with you to the very end of the age’. Isa 41.10 Matt 28.16-20

To be honest, what you’ve just read only skims the surface of the rich thinking on calling and vocation in Jeff Haanen’s excellent book ‘An Uncommon Guide to Retirement’. And there’s much more there to enrich and encourage you in your after work years

You’ll also find more on how God can use these years on the AfterWorkNet website page Opportunities.

What thoughts or questions has this generated for you? Please share them here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

If you think this blog would be helpful to others please share using the links below.

Pick from these 12 great resources to spruce up your spiritual life during lockdown

With a little more time on your hands than normal, now’s the moment to dig a little deeper to refresh your spiritual life. And there’s lots out there to help you – some created especially with this season in mind.

Here come 12 valuable resources for you to choose from and in no particular order. Enjoy and be enriched.

Want to do better with the Bible?

Top of the tree has to be The Bible Course from Bible Society. This superb series of 8 videos gives an overview of the Bible’s ‘big story’ and particularly shows how the Old Testament points to Jesus. The small cost involved is well worth it.

Also from Bible Society is Lyfe, to help individuals and small groups discover a deeper life with God. It draws deeply on the Bible and spiritual practices that have inspired and sustained Christians throughout the centuries.

Or how about seriously adding to the Bible verses you have tucked away in your mind. Here the Bible Memory App could be exactly what you need. It even has tips to improve your memory.

Want to do better with prayer?

To discover prayer through fresh eyes – and explore everything from ‘Why Pray’ to ‘Adoration’ to ‘Unanswered Prayer – the Prayer Course has no equal. The 8 sessions each have a 20-minute video plus questions to explore further. Don’t keep it to yourself as this is also perfect for a ‘virtual’ small group.

When it comes to putting prayer into action, there’s a choice from two excellent Bible-based meditations. Both help you to ‘pray the Bible’ daily based on Lectio Divina. This dynamic way of reading the Scriptures follows the four-step approach of Reading, Meditation, Prayer and Contemplation.

One is from Bible Society with free downloads based on the three year lectionary cycle. The other is Lectio 365 an app from 24-7 prayer which tends to have a more topical approach and reflects the core values of the 24-7 prayer initiative.

Want a daily boost?

There’s a free phone line – 24 hours a day – with prayers, hymns and their story, a message from the Archbishop of Canterbury and more. Called Daily Hope, this is designed for those stranded by not being able to access an online church service – so be sure to share. But all are welcome. Check it out on 0800 804 8044.

For a short daily Bible-based audio message, CWR have Life Every Day Extra featuring Jeff Lucas. It has no shortage of wit, wisdom and practical application.

Want to enjoy a feast?

With the major Christian worship and teaching festivals not able to take place there is – or will be – some excellent online resources.

Right now there’s a huge archive of seminars, celebrations, fun and more from Spring Harvest at Home with every age group in mind.

On the way is a rich choice of Bible teaching, celebrations and lectures from the Keswick Convention which goes on line from July 13 to August 2 and, no doubt, will stay there for some time.

Want the joy of your grandkids getting closer to God?

With much grandkid contact happening through Zoom or Facetime there’s the opportunity to add a God dimension.

Scripture Union have developed excellent lockdown resources to ‘reach out while we can’t go out’. These include ‘Make and pray’ for children, with craft and loads of great ideas to inspire children and young people to engage with the Bible. ‘

Faith in Kids have materials to be used at home – useful for home schooling – and to help you teach children at a distance. They also have ideas on how to keep Junior Church children involved and well worth passing on to others.

Want to check your ‘spiritual balance’?

Now is the opportunity to take a longer look at how your spiritual life is going. From CWR, their self-diagnosis evaluation on Keeping Your Spiritual Balance offers a great opportunity to affirm what’s good and to take some steps forward where needed.

That’s my 12. Don’t try them all or you could blow a gasket. But please do start somewhere.

I confess the list is somewhat personal and reflects my own sphere of knowledge and interest. So do please make your own suggestions by adding them here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook page.

Dave Fenton:

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club. And looking forward to lifted restrictions letting him escape to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall.

Think this might be helpful to others? Then do please share using the simple links below.

Once every box under ‘God’ was ticked. But not now for some. How best to respond?

Those of us with 50 years of faith under our belts, and as stalwarts in the church, are assumed to have it all nailed in the ‘belief’ department. Done and dusted. Every question and issue sorted.

For many now old enough to be retired, that may be true. But not for all. And certainly not for me.

This can be unsettling for those of us who are finding our faith now has blurred edges. It can be even more unsettling for fellow Christians who struggle to come to terms with those rethinking some of the black and white convictions of our ‘oh so certain’ heritage.

They are the ones who have reached their after-work years with a faith that’s safe, secure and certain. But for some, as our bodies have changed with passing years, so has our perspective on the God who made us.

This might be for one or more of the following reasons –

  • The ‘promises’ of the past having never been fulfilled. In my case the assurance of revival round the next corner and our church stream being at its heart and in a leading role.
  • People they have served alongside in church now being hostile rather than supportive when God and ‘truth’ seem elusive. Or experiencing a church torn apart with internal strife while the leaders pretended it wasn’t happening.
  • The pain from spending time with a good friend whose marriage failed because of the unfaithfulness of their church leader abandoning her for a younger woman.
  • Seeing what the church has to say about same sex relationships – and how those involved are treated – doesn’t seem to chime with the lives of gracious and prayerful gay people close to them. Or with the words and actions of Jesus.
  • The more they look in depth at the Bible, the less God seems to be one who is ready to roast all who get it wrong about him. And are beginning to see God as far more welcoming and abundantly loving than they’d first been taught.

Much of the above is true of me. As I’ve discovered it’s also true of many others – whose deepening faith is now accompanied by some doubts, uncertainties and things they want and need to keep thinking about.

Within months of coming to faith in my Brethren Assembly I had everything settled. In place was a clear assurance of what was ‘sound’ and what was not; who was ‘in’ and who wouldn’t make the grade.

The years that followed have shown me how little I really know compared with God’s greater plans. In fact, some of those I would have said firmly were ‘out’ have contributed greatly to my spiritual growth.

With all that in mind, let me suggest 5 things for those working through the blurred edges of their faith. And then 5 for those who enjoy certainty and are more than a little concerned over those who don’t.

Five things for those with a blurred edge faith.

If you are revisiting those things that once seemed so absolute, I’d encourage you to keep the following in mind.

1. Focus on the things you can be sure about

Despite questioning many areas of what I have been taught, I’ve always been sure of two things: that God loves me, and that his amazing grace is always there for me.

In the same way, I’d encourage you to identify what you are sure of – seeing each certainty as a brick in a wall of faith to be built upon. You may only have one or two but that’s a starting point. Think of the friends who would stand with you no matter what – add them to the wall as more bricks.

2. Know it’s okay to question and doubt

I’ve yet to meet an honest Christian who has not wondered whether prayer was all in our minds, or thought some Bible passages are cruel, appear contradictory or are simply unbelievable.

But park those things until you can find someone safe to talk with or you have time to ponder them further. And be confident that God is not troubled over our doubts and doesn’t demand that we have our spiritual lives totally sorted. As a friend once said to me, ‘Build on the good bits.”

After all, even the first disciples of Jesus didn’t have it all sorted. Matthew’s Gospel tells us at the final resurrection appearance of Jesus ‘When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted’.

If it’s okay for those who went on to be world-changers to doubt, then surely it has to be so for us.

3. Try not to get cynical

This is a tough one, especially when you see huge inconsistencies in other people’s lives. We look across the Atlantic with bewilderment at how some Christians live in ways that seem starkly inconsistent with Jesus’ teaching – and it happens closer to home too.

But we are only responsible for ourselves and the choices WE make. Finding room for negative thoughts and cynicism is ultimately destructive and takes us no further along our spiritual journey.

4. Find others to travel with you

Don’t walk alone in your time of questioning. There are always others willing to walk with you. Just reassure them that you’re not attacking anything they hold dear or looking to them to answer your questions. You simply want a trusting friend to walk with you while you work things through.

5. Have realistic expectations

We have grown up conditioned to think everything about our faith should be cut and dried. And it’s some of those ‘certainties’ that are now under question. The reality is you won’t answer every question and that’s fine. It does not diminish your relationship with God.

Five things if you have it all nailed.

If you have all the boxes ticked and think those who haven’t are letting the side down, please –

1. Trust our integrity.

All that’s happening is we are committed to taking our faith seriously. And are making ourselves vulnerable by disclosing doubts and seeking to process them. That is an expression of honesty which deserves to be respected, even if you don’t understand it or even if you feel threatened by it.

2. Understand our pain.

The pain becomes more acute for those who have had an ‘untroubled’ Christian faith for many years. This is because we have lived with the expectations – of ourselves and others – that ‘knowing who we have believed in’ should mean we have certainties about everything else.

Dealing with doubts, and processing spiritual issues, takes time and needs freedom from outside pressure. Please give us space and time, while playing whatever part you can.

3. Don’t try to resolve our issues.

Please be sure we’ve already had our fill of instant answers, exhortations to ‘have more faith’, and being given a barrage of Bible verses, opinions and platitudes. Indeed, some of these have contributed to where we are and continue to be a total turn-off.

Feel free to pray for us, please. Listen with your ears and with your spirit. Make no assumptions and say nothing unless and until asked.

4. Don’t judge us

As you contemplate where we are spiritually, please don’t dismiss us as ‘backsliders’, being light on the Bible, or having sin that’s not been dealt with. Or for any other reason. Rather, please accept us as fellow travellers wanting to follow Jesus as closely as you do – but with some honest doubts about some of your certainties.

5. Be kind

This is the most important thing of all. The person with doubts and uncertainties – still a humble follower of Jesus – is bruised and vulnerable. Because of this, what they need most is kindness. And, as Jesus said –

‘Anyone who gives one of my most humble followers a cup of cool water, just because that person is my follower, will be rewarded.’

Doubts and uncertainties are part of the Christian life. And that’s fine as it in no way damages our relationship with God. What’s needed is for those in the happy position of being (fairly) sorted to walk with the pilgrims who are finding the terrain a little rocky.

Paul Dicken

What is your experience of fuzzy-edged faith – either yours or someone else’s? Please share it here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community Thank you .

Paul Dicken is a passionately Welsh social justice warrior, left-wing, historic transport geek, radio ham, unlicensed historian, lover of hiraeth (nostalgia), information junkie and happy grandpa to ‘four wonderful kids’.

Locked down? Take time for the 3 most important questions.

As an actively retired person in lockdown you are at risk. Not from the virus but from something hazardous in another way.

It’s the danger of doing no more than replacing one set of activities with another. For example, many cupboards are now tidier and gardens looking lovelier than they have ever been.

For my part, my garage door has been transformed from dirty grey to pristine white.

But, in all this, there’s the risk of simply filling our lockdown with things that keep us busy and our minds from thinking too deeply.

What if we have been given a massive opportunity to pause and reflect? To ask ourselves –

What is God saying in the midst of all this upheaval and absence of ‘normal’?

There seems to be no shortage of people telling us what they think God is saying to nations and his Church. That this is his judgement on a world that’s rejected him. That this is God’s last statement before Jesus returns. And more.

But we can never be sure we know the complete answer to any of them? Even then, what God may be saying to one culture could be very different to what he’s saying elsewhere.

More than that, speculating around these big questions can mean we avoid the one question we can address. It’s ‘What is God saying TO ME?

Indeed, in this season of my active retirement have I ever given God a chance to speak to ME about ME? Have I ever taken time in a quiet place – like Jesus – to reflect on what God might want me to hear?

To do this means creating space – sometimes hard but worth doing. Starting by waiting on God and finding it helpful to read a Psalm or other portion of scripture.

I’m not talking about a long period of introspection and self-criticism. That can be good but should be brief. Rather I suggest such a time should lead to facing these 3 important questions.

1. How is my relationship with God?

Be realistic about the direction you are travelling with him, your sense of him being with you and lining up your life with what you understand of his intentions for you.

Start from a position of believing God wants to speak to you – because he does. And that, because he is God and you are not, he has the authority to speak about you and to you.

Treat it as a privilege which busyness may have shut off. ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46.10) may never have had such significance.

Ask God for answers as to what could be done to make your relationship richer and even more valuable. And make a commitment to do them.

2. Who is my first date?

This is not an invitation to hit the town. But busyness can mean we flit from one person to another without spending meaningful time with anyone. As you listened to God, see if one name crops up. Someone you could develop a deep and lasting relationship with.

If so – and I hope so – this is your first date after lockdown. Or your next Zoom meeting – something as a low-order techie I’ve found surprisingly easy to use.

Your first date could involve you in establishing a mentoring or encouraging relationship. Or offer time and attention to someone you know to be lonely.

Whoever it is, make a date with one person and follow it through.

3. What’s your next project?

If you have not said it yourself you are likely to have heard if from one of your actively retired friends – ‘I’ve never been busier’ or ‘I’m busier than when I was working full time’.

It’s often spoken with great pride. At times even as if it’s an indication of living exactly the way God intends.

But is this the time to take stock? To step back from drivenness?

Take time to bring before God everything you do (bit by bit) and ask God to speak to you about that activity. Should it stay or should it go? Does it need either pruning or developing?

Is there one activity that should become more of a focus than the rest? Is it time to move on from the ‘I’m indispensable’ mode and do some pruning?

These times are giving us an all too rare opportunity to stop, think, and engage with the God who made us and loves us – to take stock and re-evaluate.

 Please don’t miss it.

Do you have another question that seems important? Please share it using the links below. And feel free to have your say either here or on our Facebook page.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Due to Covid-19, many are Googling ‘prayer’ and seeking comfort. Here’s a simple way to respond. 

When Google searches for ‘prayer’ skyrocket – as they have – you can be sure something is happening. And it is. Which calls for Christians to do more than sit on our hands and be thankful.

This increase in prayer has been revealed by extensive research in 75 countries by the University of Copenhagen. And is one of many examples of a fresh openness to God from among those who have tended to politely ignore him.

The good news is there’s a simple yet profound way each one of us can reach out to those becoming more open to considering God in the equation of life.

That simple thing is ACORN – of which more in a moment. But first let’s be aware of how the mood is changing due to the impact of Covid-19. Eyes have been opened to the reality that –

  • Life is not guaranteed.
  • We are not masters of our own destiny.
  • Life is fragile and death more real than we would wish.

This has not only generated a mass of Google searches for ‘prayer’. Also –

  • Politicians and celebrities have spoken more about ‘prayer’ during the past weeks than they have done in a lifetime.
  • The rainbow has become a symbol of hope – appearing in thousands of windows and other public places.
  • The NHS app for volunteers has been called GoodSam with a clear nod towards the Good Samaritan.
  • The Queen has spoken of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus and the hope this offers for all.

All this has led to many reaching out to a hither to ‘unknown God’ – seeking help, comfort and answers to questions they may have never had before.

We must take this missional opportunity

This all presents us with the opportunity to be ‘on mission’ by being active partners with God in this new situation. Doing so to touch lives and grow in faith ourselves.

This is something I and others have been doing with encouraging outcomes over the past weeks – using a simple approach I call ACORN. It’s a spiritual practice for such a time as this. And a way to reach out when physical contact is not possible.

It is something I’m encouraging you and your church to do also.

ACORN is a mnemonic with each letter standing for a step in the process. You’ll find it all set out on this short video – How to Keep a Locked-down Church on Mission. Please watch it and share it as widely as you can.

In essence, the following is what’s involved. This is what every church leader could encourage their members – young and old – to do each day during the lockdown. And please don’t miss that this is as much about helping Christians grow as disciples as it is about helping others come to faith.

A is for Ask: Each day simply and prayerfully ask God ‘is there somebody I’m being nudged to connect with – to reach out to – today?’

C is for Call: This is God’s response to our question. His ‘call’ is for us to respond to the name that may come immediately or later by way of a sense that this is his nudge to us.

O is for Obey: Our response may be through a phone call or any of the now well-recognised ways from Skype to Facetime to WhatsApp to SMS and more. The first step need be as simple as asking ‘How are you doing?’ and really listening to the answer.

And all the while remembering this conversation is as the result of what God has prompted to happen and being open to offering prayer either with them or for them.

R is for Report: Share with a Christian friend what God has done in this situation – even if it seems to be a very small step. Share what happened – much like the disciples reported back to Jesus when sent on mission.

N is for Notice God: Reflect on what God has done in and through us. In the past we may have been too busy to listen to God’s voice and respond. But now, with God having our full attention, we may notice that God has used us and helped us grow in obedience and faith.

There are two notable things about acorns. First, they need fertile soil to grow – and we now have this in our communities.

Second, though an acorn is small and seemingly insignificant, it can grow into something big and beautiful – with patience and care.

Michael Harvey

What is your experience of seeing God prompt you and use you to engage with others in this time of lockdown? Please share it here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Michael Harvey is a co-founder of Back to Church Sunday. He’s developed the concept of invitation as a mission tool across seventeen countries – helping churches adopt a culture of invitation.

Ten ways to pray about Coronavirus 

In the midst of the devastating impact of Covid 19 – locally and globally –it’s hard to know what to pray for or how to pray. Above all though, we know God hears the longings of our hearts even when we don’t seem to have the right words.

However, you might find help with these 10 ways to pray in this challenging time. Each is accompanied with some Scripture to reflect on.

1. Intercede for God’s mercy

‘In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger remember your mercy’.  Habakkuk 3.2

Almighty God, You alone are our hope, our strength and our shield. Please move in power to rescue us from the many fearful effects of this global disaster.

2. Give thanks for those reaching out with justice, care and hope

‘I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’’ Isaiah 41.13

Sovereign Lord, I bring to you those who are seriously ill. Please comfort them and restore them to health and strength. And protect the doctors, nurses and carers looking after them.

3. Ask God to grant success to medical researchers

Jesus said: ‘Pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.’ Matthew 21.21,22

God of mercy, may an effective vaccine against Covid-19 be quickly developed. Please enable pharmaceutical and other companies to provide the vital medicine and equipment that is needed.

4. Pray for our churches

‘Equip God’s people to do his work and build up the Church . . . until we all come to such a unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.’ Ephesians 4.12,13

Father, please strengthen those who lead our churches as they organise care for their members and their communities – and make it possible for worship and prayer during lockdown.

5. Pray for those in badly affected places

‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.’ Psalm 23.4

Father, I bring to you those in areas badly hit by the virus. Please comfort and strengthen them as they battle through. And bring them soon to the point where danger begins to recede.

6. Pray for the health workers

‘The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6.8

Gracious God, grant insight to those responsible in the NHS for making decisions to maximise staff resources, create bed spaces and deploy life-saving equipment. And uphold all those working at great sacrifice on our behalf.

7. Ask God to watch over those in need of rescue and support

‘His faithful promises are your armour and protection… Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.’ Psalm 91.4-6

Lord, please grant peace to all who feel lonely and fearful. Provide for people who live alone, those with no job or sufficient income and families needing support. Amen.

8. Call on God to pour out his Spirit on his people

‘Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.’ Hebrews 2.18

Lord Jesus, may your Spirit fill your Church and make us worthy ambassadors of the Kingdom; praying faithfully, speaking truth graciously and sharing your love in this time of need. Amen.

9. Pray about the economic effects

‘We hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.’ Hebrews 6.18,19

Lord, we cry to you about the global impact on financial markets, national economies and businesses resulting in closures, job losses and other hardships affecting many people. May wisdom and justice rule.

10. Pray for leaders around the world

’Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.’ Lamentations 3.22

Lord, grant wisdom to the Government and their advisors to act with integrity and courage as they make vital decisions and announce difficult measures that will impact our lives.

This has been adapted from CARE’s leaflet in the ‘Ten Ways to Pray’ series of prayer resources. CARE also produces a quarterly Prayer Diary covering a range of topics with prayers, relevant information and Bible verses. These free resources can be ordered from CARE resources through an email to

If you have found this helpful please share it using the links below.

Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother.

When fear and anxiety rears its head, use these 8 ways to get back on track.

At this time of Coronavirus shutdown, don’t be surprised – or feel guilty – if you are anxious or fearful. There are sound reasons why this could be so – and ways to respond that will make all the difference.

Isolation is not natural for human beings – we are not designed for it. Our natural instinct is to group together. For us to experience and enjoy relationships – in our workplace, our community, and our family.

Yet here we are having to isolate ourselves, even from close family members. Worse still, at the same time, we are bombarded with horrifying headlines.

So it’s no surprise that many – possibly even you – experience emotions of anxiety and fear. However, the good news is it doesn’t have to be like this.

My experience as a cognitive behavioural therapist has taught me there are things we can do to meet this challenge. Though seemingly simple, they have powerful effects. More than that, they wonderfully reflect what we know to be true from the Bible.

Here I have brought the two together with 8 ways to help you have peace of mind while the seas of the pandemic rage.

1. Remember that God has not changed.

The Israelites put stones in the river Jordan as a reminder of the miraculous stopping of the river when they crossed. When we are anxious, we tend to forget the times God has intervened in our lives.

Our circumstances may have changed but God is the same yesterday, today and forever. So take time to reflect on – and even write down – the ways God has been good to you in the past. And remember that though your circumstances have changed, he hasn’t.

2. Make God’s promises your own

Let God speak to you through the promises he has made in the Bible. Put them on post-it notes and stick them where you will see them during the day – and stop to let them sink in. Verses like –

‘If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.’ Psalm 139: 9-10

‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.’ Isaiah 43: 2

‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.’ Psalm 46:1

‘Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’  Isaiah 41:10

‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’ 1 Peter 5:7

For other examples see Deuteronomy 31:8, Psalm 18:29, Psalm 138:8, and Isaiah 54:10.

3. Watch your thoughts.

Though thoughts of fear can come you don’t have to let them stay. That’s because we can choose to change what we are thinking about.

So deliberately decide to think of something else. Ideally, take St Paul’s words to heart – ‘Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.’  Philippians 4:8.

4. Encourage others.

Take the focus off yourself by finding ways to let others know how important they are to you – using the telephone, emails, or social media posts. You can begin by saying, ‘I was just remembering when …’ (about the time they said or did something) and how much it meant to me.’

You will have your own memories and words, so find the little ways to share them. Or simply say, ‘I’m thinking about you, and praying for you.’

5. Accept help from others.

We can be so used to being independent that we unwittingly pull up the drawbridge that lets people in to help us. When someone asks if there’s anything they can get you say ‘yes’. Even if it’s only a bar of soap. Though it might even be toilet rolls.

6. Spend time focusing on the small things.

Give yourself the time and space to admire – and wonder at – the beauty of simple things.

For example, notice how the sun’s rays coming through the windows light up the pattern in the carpet, or a picture – even if it’s dust you see rather than the sunshine itself.

7. Be grateful.

Being grateful has a hug therapeutic effect and there is so much we can be grateful for. Here’s where a notepad and pen can be handy. Make a list of things, big and small, for which you are grateful.

Keep writing, noting how often the little things had longer-lasting effects than the big ones. And put it somewhere prominent. So when those fearful or anxious moments come there is a powerful reminder that life is also good.

There are many ways to worship but doing so through great worship music will be good for your brain as well as for your soul. God’s gift of music helps us be more aware of his presence as he puts our fragmented, world-weary selves back together.

There’s no shortage of music that can do this for you, from Handel to Hillsong. And all are very easy to reach by way of your favourite CD, Premier Radio or UCB radio, Alexa, YouTube and Spotify.

Put these 8 responses to fear and anxiety to work and you’ll discover the difference they will make.

Think this might help someone else? Please share it using the easy links below.

What have you found works when you find worry and anxiety invading your life? Please share your insights here or on our Facebook Group.

Louise Morse

Louise Morse is a qualified Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and Christian counsellor. She is External Relations Manager for Pilgrims’ Friend Society, a Christian charity giving practical and spiritual support to older people.

What might God’s plan be for the early months of retirement? Ready for a surprise?

There seem to be three very different approaches to life that people take during the months that follow the end of them working fulltime.

One is to aim at doing as little as possible –treating it as the start of an everlasting holiday.

The second is to set about all the things that were waiting for a time like this – effectively trading one kind of work for another. Though at a slower rate.

The third is simply a blend of both.

But there’s a fourth option – and, I suggest, a far better one. Yet it’s an approach that seems to have passed most people by.

It’s one that takes seriously the Biblical concept of Sabbatical. And has its roots in two Biblical commands –

  • For people to stop work on the seventh day, keeping it as ‘a Sabbath to the Lord your God’. Exodus 20.8-11.
  • For the land to rest every seventh year before resuming productivity. Leviticus 25.

When this concept is applied to retirement – the years that follow years of work – it means beginning with a period of deep Sabbath rest. And using it to end toil, renew and re-evaluate.

This much-neglected principle is at the heart of the excellent book ‘An Uncommon Guide to Retirement’ by Jeff Haanen. And well worth exploring and heeding.

Jeff, the Founder and Executive Director of Denver Institute for Faith and Work, urges us to grasp and employ the value of Sabbatical in retirement.

After all, it is the best way to live on a week by week basis. So why not apply the same wisdom to the grand scale of life – and thus to the period when fulltime work ends?

Jeff points out that not only did God observe the Sabbath but this is a pattern woven into the fabric of the universe. ‘To be like God – and to be fully human – we need both work and rest in proper proportion’.

But the benefit involves much more than having time to chill. Jeff stresses the value that comes from being reliant on on God. As he puts it, ‘Like children dependent on their parents, Sabbath makes us see that food, clothes, sunlight, friendship, air – are all gifts from the Creator, not mere products of our labour’.

What Jeff proposes is in contrast to a retirement based on an attitude of ‘the time is now mine’. One focused on our own comfort and desires. Rather, Sabbath points us to the God who sustains us and the spiritual renewal and refreshment he desires for us.

Does this all suggest endless weeks of thumb twiddling and introspection? That’s not the idea. Sabbath is as much about what we do as what we don’t do.

In his valuable book Jeff sets out 9 simple practices to consider for someone planning their post working life Sabbatical. They deserve you exploring them in full. But in essence they are to –

1. Prepare

It was possible for a Jewish person to keep the Sabbath only because of the preparation they’d done in the week before. In the same way, a Sabbatical during the months after work ends needs intentional preparation rather than to be stumbled into.

That’s why Jeff stresses the need to consider how you will shape your time. Even thinking about those – a friend or spouse – who could be part of your plans.

2. Feast

It seems to me that ‘Sabbath’ has had a bad press –sounding like an activity of ridged rules and maximum misery. Yet, for the Jews, Sabbath was one of the ‘festivals of the Lord’ Leviticus 23.

So think of your Sabbatical as having a lavish feast, encourages Jeff. Or even several – for those you’ve worked with, family and friends – to look back on your working years with gratitude.

3. Worship

As Jeff points out, worship is the centre of Sabbath which was ‘to the Lord your God’. This calls for more than the usual worship times – so periods of silence, prayer walks and engaging with the Bible.

4. Re-create

Try to make your times of recreation to be ‘re-creation’ is Jeff’s advice. This means sports, hobbies, music and theatre become more than ‘things to do’ but serve as ingredients in your renewal.

This is the opposite of them being a kind of work or time-fillers. Check by ‘listening to your heart’ encourages Jeff. Make sure, during your Sabbatical, such activities create ‘rest’ for you and that something more driven is not going on.

5. Remember

Use some time to make a record of God’s goodness and care over your working lifetime. Dig out past photographs, catch up with old friends to reminisce.

6. Love your neighbour

Unlike the Pharisees, Jeff points out, Jesus saw the Sabbath as a time to do good. And you can too – with lots of good waiting to be done. Whose lives can you touch? The lonely shut-ins? Friends in emotional pain? Others?

He wisely stresses, ‘Sabbatical is a time for seeing what you otherwise were too busy or distracted to see during your career’.

7. Simplicity

Many in their early post-work life set about decluttering – their home, garage, loft and more. Jeff would have us invoke the Christian practice of simplicity and so add a layer of spiritual restoration.

Indeed, in this time of after-work Sabbatical, it would be a good time to remember that the prayer ‘Give us today our daily bread’ is effectively a call to contentment.

8. Renew your mind

Here’s the opportunity to take time to ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’. Romans 12.1-2. That means far more than reading religious books. It could be a time to renew or discover areas of knowledge you’ve never had the time for.

9. Decide when to stop

Finally, Jeff advises that from the very start it’s important to have a date when your Sabbath will end. This creates focus and prevents drift.

Given the alternatives of endless holiday, getting the jobs done, and a blend of the two, doesn’t all this sound a wiser and richer way to go?

In which case, it’s worth putting the meat on the bones by enjoying Jeff Haanen’s book ‘An Uncommon Guide to Retirement’ – of which his thinking on Sabbatical is just a small part of its riches.

What thoughts or questions does this generate for you? Please share them here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

If you think this blog would be helpful to others please share using the links below.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

How will you be remembered? What 5 things do you hope will be said at your funeral?

Hopefully, it will not be soon when you or I have people saying things about us at our funeral. But one day it will happen. And I wonder what they’ll say about us.

And, though such an occasion is some way ahead, it’s important to realise that what’s happening right now is going to shape such conversations.

This came home to me recently when marking the passing of a much loved 82-year-old friend. He was renowned for all he had quietly achieved for God’s kingdom and was also regarded as a wonderful ‘uncle’ to scores of young people.

Having never married, and with few family members of his own, this man was unfailingly interested in what the children of his many friends were doing. And was automatically invited to weddings, birthday celebrations, family lunches and the like.

He served on countless boards of Christian agencies and was a stalwart member of his local church. Most of all he was a faithful friend and huge fun to be with.

You and I may not have such a track record of achievement – just like the 400 people who came to his Thanksgiving Service. As I listened to the tributes to his life and character, I couldn’t help musing on what people will say when it’s my turn.

Like you, I hope to be presented in the best possible light – with any annoying characteristics quickly skated over. Perhaps with a gentle joke here and there!

However, this will also be an opportunity for others to assess the kind of person I’ve been and how faithfully I’ve tried to serve the Jesus I committed my life to.

I found myself reflecting about the attitudes and lifestyle needed while we’re still alive if we want positive things to be said when we’ve gone. And here’s my own wish list, which might get you thinking too.


This big word covers much more than how I use my money. Am I ready and willing to show hospitality, spend time and effort on behalf of others, give people the benefit of the doubt, forgive and forget.


Bible passages such as Ephesians 6 listing the fruit of the Holy Spirit, 2 Corinthians 13 describing love and Colossians 3 reminding us of how Christians should live show up the areas that need might need my attention.

Qualities like patience, self-control and humility are tough to keep centre-stage. We can’t develop them without confessing our weaknesses and asking God to help us. So am I doing that?


It’s very easy to be in default ‘complain’ mode, especially as we grow older and face fresh challenges. But thankfulness to God is part and parcel of a healthy prayer-life, with this attitude overflowing in our relationships with others.

It’s about me aiming to see the good in others and appreciate the blessings of each day – however small.


O God, please help me not to become a grumpy old woman!

5.Good company

Our friend had been great to be with because he was so interested other people’s lives. My lesson here is that as we grow older, and our world starts to contract, how vital it is to do whatever it takes to enjoy the company of others. And go out of our way if possible to make them feel special.

That’s my list. What’s yours?

You will never know what’s said when that day comes. But it does seem it’s well worth living as though we just might possibly do so.

If you have found this helpful please share it using the links below.

Celia Bowring
Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother.

Once – catching international drug runners. Now – using what God has put in his hands. Paul’s story.

I’d always assumed there would be ample time to plan for the moment my fulltime work ended. Instead, thanks to the austerity measures of the then Chancellor, I had only six weeks before my role in the Serious Organised Crime Agency came to an abrupt end.

My career – with its focus on covert intelligence – had been pressurised and, at times, stressful. Lots of long working days, time away from home, operational out-of-hours decisions, life-threatening risks and the rest.

I know many have similar working pressures of their own. And it’s only on leaving we realise there’s life outside the bubble we call work. Which, too often, defines us and is where we derive our self-esteem.

Early on in my career I adopted a favourite Bible verse of my Dad from Micah 6 v 8 – ‘What does God require of you, but to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God’, and this became my watchword. Of course, to be honest, I didn’t and couldn’t live up to it. But I strived to apply it in my work chasing the bad guys.

So, there I was at 57 – which I knew to be the new 47 – about to take an early bath. And knowing I needed ways to stimulate my grey matter if I was to retain my sanity, keep my marriage alive, and use the skills God has given me.

But first I did something I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone entering their after-work years. It was to take six months doing nothing.

In reality it was not actually ‘nothing’. Having always enjoyed whittling pieces of wood, I spent a stress-free and politics-free few months designing and building a bed from scratch. Be careful if your wife/husband asks you to make the bed.

It proved to be the perfect way to detox. Easing me away from the past pressures and free to contemplate the ‘what next’ issue – other than the plan to learn some proper woodworking skills over the years to come.

It was during that time Moses’ experience at the burning bush, recorded in Exodus chapter 4, came to mind. Here God asks Moses ‘what is that in your hand?’ referring to the staff or crook Moses used as a shepherd.

Moses’ staff was a fundamental tool in his work and helped to define him and identify him. The point for me – and perhaps for you – is God can use what each of has in our hands.  Our skills, knowledge, expertise, finance, influence, creativity, etc.

Over the coming months I was to discover how God would do that for me.

With the bed only just finished, I was asked to join an EU project bringing skills to countries along the maritime cocaine trafficking route. That’s Colombia to Europe via West Africa.

The aim was to help them understand how the bad guys operate and encourage them to share intelligence with ports along the route to. This was a perfect fit regarding what was already ‘in my hand’. And a challenging and satisfying – though at times frustrating – project.

In parallel, I had become coordinator of a £2m building project at my church. Though I lacked any experience of construction, this used my strengths at bridge-building and forging relationships.

And it was in this capacity I was later approached by a Canadian software company wanting to open doors in Europe – specifically in Spain. Having once spent four years working in Madrid, this put to use my fluency in Spanish. And earned some useful some pocket money along with the ‘hardship’ of many visits to Madrid!!

My passion for justice, forged during my years fighting drug crime, then led to me also becoming a trustee of East Surrey Domestic Abuse Service. Here I learn daily of the awfulness of the home-life some are forced to endure.

The same passion, together with my knowledge of intelligence-led investigation, took me to contribute to Stop the Traffik. This great organisation seeks to understand how modern slavery works – the routes, the hot-spots, the pinch-points, etc.

Then came my greatest surprise of all – the encouragement to accept the role of church warden at my Anglican church. ‘Not me’, was my first of several replies. But the God of Moses who asked those penetrating questions while the bush burned was also on my case.

And I finally realised my gifts and background had a part to play here as well. Like the reluctant Moses, I finally gave in.

That’s my story. What’s yours? How is God using what is in your hand? To put it another way, how are you going to use the rest of your life?

For inspiration on ways God can use what is in your hands see the AfterWorkNet webpages on New Opportunities.

How is God using what you have ‘in your hand’ in your days after fulltime work? Please share it here or with the AfterWorkNet Facebook group. Thank you.

Paul is a former senior manager in what is now-badged the National Crime Agency. Married to Alison (Ali) with three married children and heading for seven grandchildren. He co-ordinates a men’s ministry entitled MoMENtum at his church St Paul’s Church in Dorking. For fun it’s driving, F1, carpentry and anything to do with Spain.

God designed old age on purpose. Really!

Did you know God deliberately created old age? Such a thought comes as a surprise to many – because everything we hear about being old is negative.

Far from old age being recognised as part of the Divine plan, it’s wrongly seen as something to be feared, resisted and fought against. For example, the anti-ageing cosmetics industry spends £billions on conveying exactly that message.

So I’m never surprised, when speaking on this subject to a large group of Christians, to find some are not convinced. However the majority, when they see the truth in the Scriptures, see it and are delighted.

We should not be surprised by this failure to see old age being part of God’s plan.

That’s because we know God is opposed by an implacable enemy out to thwart his plan for human kind. And the weapon used to thwart his purpose for older people is ageism’ – with its hidden, subtle, and powerful messaging that diminishes the sense of self and warps expectations.

Ageism is not a jokey, trivial thing. It seeps into our souls silently, powerfully, and daily – in hundreds of different ways. Blinding us to our value, and leaving thousands feeling they are so worthless their lives are a waste of time.

That’s why it is important for old age to be seen from God’s perspective.

God positively wants us to grow old

When God created the universe, he set in motion times and seasons and the ageing process. When you realise the purpose God has in mind, you see how wonderful growing older is meant to be.

God sees old age as a reward and a blessing.  Consider these promises –

‘With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see my salvation.’ Psalm 91:16,

‘… if you walk in my ways, I will prolong your life. 1 Kings 13:14,

‘you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age.’ Genesis 15:15.

‘Honour your father and your mother, so you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.’ Exodus 20:12

The peak of the culture of Scriptural times was wisdom, and because it’s acquired with experience and age, older people were respected. ‘Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days,’ (Job 12:12) In contrast, in our culture, the peak of attainment is youth. 

God has a purpose for older people

There is no ‘use-before’ date in 2 Ephesians 10, where God makes clear he has equipped us for the good works that he has already planned for us.

God spends our whole lives honing us to develop the character that will bless others – being reflective, less impulsive, able to take the long view, with emotional balance and empathy, compassion and listening skills.

This long preparation is for seniors – the Bible regards older people as seniors, without actually using the word – to be an elderhood in society. Not lording it over others, but helping, listening, mentoring, encouraging and above all – telling of his faithfulness (Psalm 78).

Following a talk I’d given on this topic, a lady came to me with her face aglow. She said, ‘I’m 70, and a retired teacher. I thought there was nothing else for me now.’ Then, lifting her fists and punching the air, she added, ‘but God’s got more for me yet!

Following a talk I’d given on this topic, a lady came to me with her face aglow. She said, ‘I’m 70, and a retired teacher. I thought there was nothing else for me now.’ Then, lifting her fists and punching the air, she added, ‘but God’s got more for me yet!

Most people respond like this, both to my talks and my book, ‘What’s Age Got To Do With It?’ It is such a blessing to see people released into God’s purpose for them.

Imagine that happening with thousands and thousands of older Christians. Think of the energy that would be released for sharing the gospel and helping those with physical frailties.

However, so much more could be done to see older people released into God’s purposes if this same message was espoused in our churches, as are other biblical principles.

How have you seen God’s purpose for your later years worked out? Do please share here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook Group.

Louise Morse

Louise Morse is a popular speaker and writer about old age, including dementia, and follows current research on the issues. She’s media and external affairs manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society, a Christian charity giving practical and spiritual support to older people.

Ever felt you are no longer on God’s agenda? Then here’s some wise advice.

So far as God is concerned, have you ever felt ‘forgotten’? As though the train has left the station and you are still on the platform?

Meanwhile, ‘on the train’, your fellow believers are achieving more than you. Are more successful than you. Have their prayers answered more than you. Live in the excitement of the moment while you drably plod on.

That can especially be the experience of those with their full-time working days behind them. And with what is supposed to be a new adventure of opportunity feeling more like a wet weekend in Scunthorpe.

Worse still, have you ever felt as if you’ve had your fair share of pain and suffering? That no matter how much you pray amidst your trials and tribulations, nothing seems to change?

Desperately and achingly it seems that God has forgotten you.

Yet, deep down, you know the creator who made you and loves you is still there. But why he is not pulling you out of the situation you’re in or change your circumstances? Why?

Please let me share my perspective on your circumstances, with some very important things to keep in mind.

Don’t go blaming yourself

It’s a trap to blame yourself, wondering if it’s all because you don’t have enough faith, or some previous and as yet undiscovered sin, or even an ancestral curse that’s come your way.

You would not even be asking the ‘where’s God got to?’ question if any of that were true. And no amount of faith has ever shielded any believer from the ‘Has God forgotten me?’ question.

Face up to the reality of life

When push comes to shove, the reality is that life is not fair. All of us are likely to experience challenges and difficulties on this journey called life. And we must face the fact that some have it much tougher than others.

For people of faith, pondering on this can bring about doubts on whether God really exists or, if he does, is he really good as we are told he is? But that is just how it is.

Don’t be surprised

If we are to take the words of Jesus seriously we should know that tough times are more likely than not. After all, didn’t he say, ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ John 16:33.

Be patient

A glance through the lives of Biblical heroes should remind us ‘to take heart’ or ‘to wait on the Lord’ or be encouraged to keep on keeping on.

Joseph was seventeen when sold into slavery by his brothers and it took thirteen more years before he arrived in the palace – having suffered a great deal of injustice in the meantime.

Consider too the patience and hope in God shown by the barren women of the Bible who eventually had a child. Those like Sarah, who gave birth to Isaac in her nineties. And Rebekah, who became the mother of twins Jacob and Esau after twenty years of marriage. Even they felt as if God had forgotten them, yet their faith was steadfast.

Embrace the mystery

Why God works in this way is a mystery. But God’s ways are not our ways and no one can fathom them. God rises above and beyond our human understanding and what our human mind can comprehend.

What is certain however, is human suffering is real and the mental distress it causes unescapable.

While on earth, Jesus himself went through tough times in the hours leading up to his humiliating and atrocious death – surpassing what most of us would feel bearable.

From Matthew’s Gospel we learn that, in the night before he died, ‘taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, Jesus began to be sorrowful and troubled.’ Matthew 26:37. If the Son of God could be sorrowful and troubled why would we expect to be spared from these emotions?

Then on the cross Jesus asked his father ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Again, Jesus’s feeling of abandonment– left at the station when the train had gone – is another reminder that such feelings can be authentic for a Christian.

Put it to use

The Bible tells us God uses desert experiences and tough times to shape our character. That, though he doesn’t inflict them, he puts them to use – for our good.

In his letter to the churches James puts it this way, ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’  James 1: 2-4

Of course, though we may be able to recognise our bad times as character-building, it doesn’t make them easier to live through them. If we’re honest, we can’t wait to kiss goodbye to tough seasons in our lives.

Be patient

The concept of time in suffering is significant. When going through difficulties or tough seasons, no one knows how long they will last or if they will ever end. That’s where patience comes in.

Remarkably, Paul chose a Greek word closely related to ‘patience’ when listing the fruits of the spirit. We most often find it translated as ‘longsuffering’ or forbearance. But the literal translation would be ‘long-tempered’, emphasising the need to grow the attribute to stay cool when struggling or frustrated.

Longsuffering is a precious fruit of the spirit to possess and as beautiful as is joy or peace, and kindness or gentleness. How admirable is it to see someone hanging onto their faith in the most desolate places.

My niece recently lost her baby at 20 weeks into her pregnancy following a major struggle to conceive. When I contacted her to say how sorry her immediate reply was ‘God has not changed in my eyes, auntie’. My eyes filled up with tears.

God’s silence doesn’t mean God’s absence

Almost certainly you will know of the poem ‘Footprints’ – where two sets of footprints in the sand become one from time to time. And with God’s explanation being, ‘When you see only one set of footprints, it was then, that I carried you’. My precious, precious child I love you and I will never leave you.’

When you feel God has forgotten you, just remember he is there. In the midst of your trials, not only does he see your pain, he suffers in silence with you just like Jesus did on the cross.

The idea that God is present only when he is working things through for us, or when our prayers are answered or when he rescues us, is flawed. God is with us – with you – in hard times too.

As singer and speaker Sheila Walsh explains in ‘Loved back to Life’ it is undoubtedly in those moments, as we give all we have to draw closer to him, that we may be able to recognise that we exist for him and not him for us.

Ultimately, he doesn’t owe us anything, we owe him everything.

Ludivine Kadimba

Ludivine Kadimba is an Executive Assistant at Kintsugi Hope which provides safe and supportive spaces and resources for those experiencing mental and emotional health challenges. Check them out at Kintsugi Hope.

What does age have to do with Easter? More than you might think.

It’s easy to imagine, as the ‘young’ Jesus bursts from the tomb bringing in a vibrant new era, that Easter is all about the active and brave ‘young’. And that those in later years, looking for examples to follow, can only watch from the side-lines.

Time to think again.

First consider the story of that long beyond the age of childbearing couple; the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. They were there right at the beginning of Jesus’ life on earth – as the parents of John the Baptist.

For years they’d been faithfully trusting God – praying on in the face of the impossibility of ever having the child they longed for. In his later years, despite his disappointment, the elderly Zechariah is faithfully carrying duties in the temple.

Though ‘faithful’, Zechariah was not perfect. He failed to believe God’s promise of a son even though the message came from an angel appearing in the holy place where no one other than a priest should be.

But, when the time comes, the couple obediently call the new-born son John as instructed. I love how the couple’s neighbours try to get them to change their minds about the baby’s name. And that the Gospel writer describes the outcome of the whole story as ‘all the neighbours were filled with awe’. (Luke 1.65).

This grey-haired couple is such a great example to us of faithful and believing prayer, of pressing on despite failure, being obedient to what God says and engaging with their community – all of which contributed to an outstanding impact on those around them.

Yet the journey doesn’t stop there. Come the time the infant Jesus is ceremonially presented at the Temple it’s the elderly God sends as witnesses. One ‘ordained’ and one ‘lay’ – and both awake to God’s leading to be where he wanted them to be and say what he wanted others to hear.

First there’s Simeon, an ‘ordinary’ run-of-the-mill Jewish adult described as ‘faithful and devout’ and with the Holy Spirit on him. For decades he’d patiently waited for the Messiah that God had assured him he would see.

Next, there’s the eighty-four-year-old prophetess, Anna, fervent in her faith. Both she and Simeon are in the Temple at exactly the right time to assure the new parents that their son truly is the Special One.

Fast forward to the events of the first Easter. The women who first meet the risen Jesus and rush to the disciples brimming over with their story include Mary, Jesus’ mother. Simple mathematics tell us she would be at least fifty years old. And, with the life expectancy then for those surviving childhood being about fifty-five, that puts her among the elderly.

Those who then share the message from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and the ends of the earth may have launched out in their middle age. But as years go by – and hair turned grey – they continued to preach, to pray, to mentor others, to trust God.

These world-changers were still making waves well into the years we reserve for retirement. And, if them, why not us?

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

How come everyone is interested in the Saga generation – except the churches?

‘No church in Britain is specifically seeking to reach the retired and active generation.’ That’s the conviction of Church Army captain Chris Harrington – whose Grove booklet Reaching the Saga Generation is a must-read.

As Chris highlights, when churches reach out to older people the focus is almost always on those born before the last World War.

They do so by running everything from a Holiday at Home, to a regular drop-in coffee morning, to visiting those in residential care or nursing homes.

All good stuff. But it doesn’t touch those of a very different generation who are also no longer working fulltime, often dubbed the Saga Generation. Those brought up on Elvis rather than Doris Day. Who jived not quick-stepped. Who wore denim – and still do!  Who by no means regard themselves as ‘old’.

Some of the ways they are distinctly different from their older counterparts, Chris stresses, are –

  • They were the first ‘teenagers’ and have lived through the free-thinking era of the new pop-culture
  • They do not trust governments, multinationals, institutions or authority figures
  • They dislike being patronized, dictated to or treated condescendingly
  • They demand honesty, consistency, reliability, quality, value for money and good service.

What’s more, this segment of our society represents a huge sector of the population.

Official figures point to there being approaching 9 million people in the active retirement band, aged between 65 and 79. That’s almost three times as many as those in the ‘old-old’ band of 80 and above. Yet think where churches put their focus and what they are missing.

What an opportunity there is for churches to treat this Baby Boomer age-group in the same way they do for other age and interest groups – with events, services and programmes crafted for them. Maybe not every week. But sometimes. Or, at least, to run small groups and events that can embrace un-churched actively retired people.

Could it happen? Is it happening?

The Church of England’s report Mission Shaped Church (2004) encouraged fresh expressions of church for the vast numbers who are either un-churched or de-churched. Now, Chris Harrington and others are exploring what that could mean for what he calls Saga Church – those who’ve reached retirement age with years of opportunity ahead of them.

However, any response must relate to them as they are and not as they’re imagined to be. When reaching out to those retired and active Chris offers a check list to keep in mind. It involves the need to –

  • De-emphasise membership – Boomers are not ‘joiners’ but will attend for the experience
  • Accommodate their desire for experiences – Boomers are not passive ‘you talk and I’ll listen’ people
  • Emphasis ‘how to’ messages – Boomers are interested in what works and how to make it work for them
  • Recognise the need for equality in leadership, authority and responsibility – Boomers resist hierarchy
  • Accept and celebrate the contribution of singles – there’s likely to be a greater percentage of them than any other adult segment of your community
  • Respond to the relatively high level of dysfunctionality and emotional pain – there may be smiles on the outside but also a lot of pain and struggle behind the masks
  • Give prominence to innovation, diversity and options – Boomers resist one-size-fits-all approaches.
  • Encourage discussion and not dogma – they want to be spoken with and listened to, not talked at

What could be done?

In his book Chris has helpful examples of what events might be like. It also stresses there are other ways – and possibly better ways – than church services to engage with un-churched afterworkers. These include –

  • A ‘seeker service’ a la Willow Creek – with everything focused on the needs and interests of the visitor
  • A film and faith group – using a current film as a spring board for conversation
  • A book club – based on secular novels with spiritual themes
  • Rambling groups, retreats and pilgrimages – with moments for reflection

How come this isn’t happening already? My sense is we’ve sleepwalked into this situation. This new ‘actively retired’ group has gradually emerged as a new phenomenon. The travel industry spotted it – and now caters for 25 million people on cruises world-wide each year.

But now is the time – a time well overdue – for the churches to wake up too.

To explore this issue more, do read Chris Harrington’s book Reaching the Saga Generation, (Grove Books).

What insights or questions do you have about reaching those retired and active? Please share them here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.


More time to pray? It’s not that easy. But here’s some encouragement and practical help.

Person praying

In these uncertain times, prayer seems more important than ever. And I guess it’s not unreasonable to expect that those of us who are no longer working full time with perhaps the added daily responsibilities for children to use our time and head and heart space to pray more.

To be honest, most of us feel we’d like to do better with our praying. After all, our life experiences have built much wisdom and faith into our hearts and minds that we can invest. And we know James in his letter says, ‘The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.’ James 5.16.

But let’s be realistic. It’s not that easy. What’s needed is some encouragement and some practical help. So let me offer you some of both.

First, the encouragement. To put it simply, prayer works.

At moments of impending peril during the Second World War, days of prayer were held – for the evacuation of Dunkirk for instance. The King and Parliament called the nation to pray and a series of miracles meant that 338,000 Allied soldiers trapped in Normandy – my father among them – were rescued in heroic circumstances.

The God to whom we bring this needy world does things like this when we pray. The circumstances now in 2019 may be different but we have the same prayer-answering God.

Now for the practical help.

  1. Decide when and how. God is always with us, so prayer is a moveable feast. But as with enjoying food and drink, there are different times and ways to do it. Does this new season in your life offer the opportunity to do things differently? Is there an alternative time or place to meet God by yourself? Are there new people who you could join to pray with? Or is what’s needed a fresh commitment to stick with what you’ve always done?
  2. Remember ‘ACTS’ I’m sure you know the well-worn acronym of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication which serves as a helpful guide to the order of our prayers. Perhaps it’s time to dust it off and give it another go. If so, do work at getting a balance. Too much introspective repentance at the expense of remembering others’ needs isn’t good. How will you include worship in these prayer times?
  3. Find your focus. The reality is that we can’t pray for everything. So try to sense where your own focus should be. Family? Friends? Church life? Community? Nation? International? You’ll not want to go overboard by praying exclusively for just one area. But don’t take the whole world on your shoulders either. There are apps to help you organise your prayers in this way. Check out Prayer Mate or the new Inner Room from 24/7 Prayer.
  4. Get clued up. There are many helpful resources to give you up to date information for your prayers. My favourite – because I write it! – is CARE’s quarterly Prayer Diary with its wide range of topics. To receive it by post or online follow this link – CARE Prayer.
    With Brexit on the horizon as I write, you’ll find helpful information and opportunities to pray from the following –
    National Call 2 Prayer. This is encouraging informed prayer, especially on March 28th, Brexit Eve.
    Christians in Parliament is a cross-party organisation with a vision for bringing faith into the heart of politics.
    The Evangelical Alliance which has brought together some helpful prayer resources.
    24-7 Prayer is at the forefront of intercession around the world and this link is to their section on the UK.
    World Prayer Centre is a national hub for prayer throughout the UK.
  5. Don’t be downhearted. What a relief that prayer isn’t just down to fallible human effort. The Holy Spirit is the composer and conductor of this extraordinary global orchestra we’re in.

The needs are great. Our God is greater. What an opportunity we have to bring a broken and needy world to the only One who can truly make a difference.

What approach to prayer have you found helpful and what prayer resource would you recommend. Please share here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook Group.

Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

Should death be on your ‘looking-forward-to-it list’? Or are there better things to do?

When it comes to upcoming events that I’m looking forward to, stopping breathing is not on my list. To put it simply – I don’t want to die. But please don’t judge me for it.

Some Christians apparently are thrilled about the prospect of their own funeral, even though they won’t care what’s in the sandwiches they serve afterwards.

Like me you may have heard them claiming we should all come to a place of ‘maturity’ in our Christian lives where we would rather die and be with Jesus than live here on earth. They give the impression death is something to be warmly welcomed, a wonderful carrier that will usher us into the presence of the Lord, which is far better than the struggles of life here.

But are we really expected to see life like that? As though life is just a waiting room for eternity? Please, ‘no’! But it’s easy to see where this ‘death wish’ thinking comes from.

Paul the faithful apostle was able to say he longed to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. For him to live was Christ, he said. And to die was gain. Life, nil points, death and eternity thereafter, ten points. Death scored much higher.

I’m glad Paul reached that place of peace in the face of his upcoming demise. But I’m not there, and for the next couple of decades at least, I hope I don’t arrive at that destination of happy resignation.

I don’t view death with the delirious delight of a five year old about to board an airplane flight for the first time. When it comes to expiry, I’ll be wanting to eek out every last breath. I remember the sinking feeling when, as a child riding a fairground ride, I saw the attendant place his hand on the lever that meant my fun was almost over. That’s how I feel about life.

So how do I square this with Paul’s enthusiasm for dying? It’s because of the context of his remarks.

Over an extended period, as a follower of Jesus, Paul had experienced terrible pain and persecution – and a series of unjust, kangaroo court trials that were corrupt to the core.

Though enjoying a measure of freedom at the end of his life, Paul was still under house arrest in Rome, and life was not what it had been. He could no longer embark on missionary travels. He could no longer visit the churches he founded.

So perhaps the exhaustion and frustration of it all made the glory of eternity shine all the brighter. Being with Christ would be a welcome relief under those circumstances. Little wonder he anticipated it with such joy.

But that’s not my experience, and so I have no desire to die just yet.

Surely we are designed and made to want to hold on to life for as long as we can – the resilience of the human body testifies to that truth. I’ve watched as impossibly fragile seniors, their bodies riddled with cancer, little more than skin and bones, fight on for weeks and months, clinging with vice like tenacity to the gift of living. Death, while it is a defeated enemy, is still an enemy.

A profound example of this can be found in the way Jesus prepared for his own death. At the last supper, he bids his friends goodbye in a poignant covenant meal. There will be wine shared again, he promises, but it will be the vintage reserved for the fullness of the Father’s Kingdom. There’s a parting. He carefully prepares for the worst – the cross.

But then a little later, in the shadows of Gethsemane, Jesus asks the Father if there is any other way the great rescue can be accomplished. Hopes for the best are expressed. They’re denied, for he must drink that cup of suffering to the full, but he asks repeatedly anyway for another way. Ask for the best. Prepare for the worst.

So when death finally makes an appearance in my life, I want to be able to face it down with courage, and be able to gather my family and friends and say goodbye.

In the meantime, I want to live to the full, for and with Christ, today, and hopefully tomorrow and for many days more too. Death, kindly take your hand off that lever, right now.

This is adapted from Jeff Lucas’ book If you Want to Walk on Water, Consider Staying in the Boat (CWR)

Jeff is still some way from his afterwork years. His passion is to equip the Church with practical bible teaching, marked by vulnerability and humour. And he does so as an international author, speaker and broadcaster. Check him out at Jeff Lucas.


Next year is like a new country – and these 5 wise ‘travel tips’ are not to be missed.

Going into a new year is a lot like taking a journey to another country. In both cases you don’t know exactly what’s ahead. And there are some wise things to keep in mind to make the very best of it.

So, as you voyage into 2019, here are 5 rather obvious ‘travel tips’ to make the journey as worthwhile as possible.

1.Be realistic about it.

When it comes to holidays, the brochures tend to make it all look far better than the real thing. After all, that’s their job. But we too can wrongly imagine the land of New Year will be significantly different to the one that’s gone before.

In reality, nothing magical happens when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. There’s no Cinderella in reverse to be experienced. And this is one of the hard truths to learn about travel. That, wherever we go, we take ourselves with us.

If we’re tetchy, ungrateful, easily irritated, and self-centred, that side of us will still be with us as we journey on. A new country won’t fix it and nor will a New Year. Which means the need to take a realistic account of who we are and what we are like – and doing something about it.

2.Check your baggage weight.

I hate that awful moment at airports when the unsmiling check-in person tells me with unwelcome glee that I’m a little overweight. Sure, it’s a relief when I realise this is not personal and is about my luggage.

But what excess baggage might you be taking into the year ahead? Bitterness, hatred, shame, regret, jealousy? Or some other unhelpful emotions that will way us down when we are across the border of 2019?

These are the weights to leave behind – by forgiving others, forgiving yourself, by recognising that God loves us for who we are.

3.Choose the right travel companions.

There’s nothing worse than discovering that someone who’s great for an occasional coffee is a nightmare as a full-on travel companion. So who would we best have at our side in the New Year journey?

Will they enrich your life – and give you opportunities to enrich theirs? Will they speak the kind of truth you need to hear and be open for you to do the same for them? Will their positive outlook spur you on or their negativity drag you down?

Or think of it this way, who are those you can invest time in, celebrate with, and express love and appreciation for? And how can you make sure they are traveling with you and you with them.

4.Check your destination.

There’s the classic story of the airline passenger who ended up in Istanbul when they had bought a ticket to Torquay. (Think about it!) You’ll only have one opportunity to explore 2019 so make sure you get have a ticket for the right destination.

This is where having a few simple but clear goals come in. Not overwhelming ones that, in your heart of hearts, you know you’ll flunk in the first few weeks. But a fresh commitment or two on how to make the most of one more precious year in your afterwork stage of life.

For a little inspiration, here are three possible areas to explore –

Your new possibilities

Your health and fitness

Your service to others

5.Pack wisely.

To be honest, what you take with you may be the least of your worries. That’s because, over the years, you’ve accumulated a storehouse of knowledge, skills, know-how, experience and wisdom. As they say, ‘It’s in the bag’.

In which case, having packed it, don’t keep it all to yourself. You can make the coming year more rewarding for you and others by making sure what you’ve packed is put to good use.

Ahead is a new land waiting to be enjoyed, explored and enriched. Bon voyage.

Jeff Lucas

Jeff is still some way from his afterwork years. His passion is to equip the Church with practical bible teaching, marked by vulnerability and humour. And he does so as an international author, speaker and broadcaster. Check him out at Jeff Lucas.

Warning. Three things not to miss this Christmas.


Never mind the Twelve Days of Christmas, beware of the Twelve Daze of Christmas. Because that’s what it can all too easily become.

A blur of advertising messages, busyness, and meeting the expectations of others can swamp us. And ‘it’s all over before you know it.

This can be especially true for those of us who’ve been around long enough to now be active and retired. Automatic pilot kicks in. Been there. Done that. Bought the Christmas jumper.

So here’s a little check list of three things we ought not to miss. Or, to put it another way, here’s some opportunities to grab with both hands.

1.Don’t miss those who are lonely

You’ll be hearing it on the radio and in the shops –that big past Christmas hit –‘Do they know its Christmas time at all?’

One of the most evocative lines of any Christmas number one reminds us that far too many will be adrift from the joy and friendship that’s wrapped up in the Christmas season.

Indeed, Christmas is the time the reality of loneliness can be painfully magnified when, seemingly, everybody else is having the time of their lives.

All of which provokes the question, ‘What small part can you play to reduce the experience of loneliness for just one person?’ The answer will be different for each of us. But can we do something?

For my own family, some of the best times have been when we have had an unexpected visitor with us. Like the Moroccan student who understood little of the meaning of Christmas and was even more confused when we went outside and threw snow at each other.

2.Don’t miss those who are hurting

Christmas has a way of stirring up painful memories for those now missing someone they love. If a bereavement is recent then this is understandable and we’ll be taking account. But it can equally be true for anyone facing a stark reminder that someone dear to them is not round the table.

It takes older and wiser heads to look out for the signs of pain. And a caring heart to come alongside and ‘be there’ for them. Who better than an after-worker – with their eyes and listening ears open – to respond.

However, a loved-one’s absence is not the only possible cause for hurt during the Christmas season. My most poignant Christmas memory was at our Christmas market when a man in a wheelchair said ‘I’m here to buy my wife her last Christmas present I’ll ever buy’. Knowing he was terminally ill, he wanted his wife to have a memory.

We took time to talk and pray with him. And now we see him as a constant reminder of the people to look out for.

Of all the wonders of Christmas, the most important thing for me is the people. And it is surely a time to look beyond the comfort and security of our homes and realise there is still a huge world of need out there.

3.Don’t miss the meaning of the season

This brings me back to my ‘automatic pilot’ concern. Those in the early stages of retirement can often have more responsibilities to distract them rather than less – children, grandchildren and even their parents.

That makes it hard – but even more important – to find some space to reflect. What better way than to wrap our minds round that profound Charles Wesley carol which has a sermon in every line.

Here it comes –to mull on and enjoy for the wonderful truths it carries. I’ve made some suggestions as to thoughts and responses you might have.

Hark the herald angels sing

Glory to the new born king

Worship is due to the son of God

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinners reconciled

Pray for peace and new life for those who do not know Jesus 

Christ by highest heaven adored

Christ the everlasting Lord

Late in time behold him come

Offspring of the virgin’s womb

A brilliant description of the real Jesus

Veiled in flesh the godhead see

Hail the incarnate deity

Jesus is both man and God

Pleased as man with man to dwell

Jesus our Emmanuel

The living Word came and dwelt among us

Mild he lays his glory by

Born that man no more may die

Born to raise the sons of earth

Born to give them second birth

            From glory he came to give us new life in him

Here’s to a happy, caring and Christ-centred Christmas.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

What way have you found to make Christmas special for others? Please share here or with our Facebook group.

Think the personal pain from abortion is nothing to do with you? Think again.

One in 3 UK women will have had an abortion by the time they are 45 – experiencing the emotional impact that can go with it. But why should this concern those in their after-work years? After all, doesn’t abortion mainly impact those much younger?

If that’s in your mind, please think again.

The 1967 Abortion Act is now 50 years old. This means many now in their later years will have made this choice – and some will be in our churches, possibly including your church. And they may well still be carrying a deep sense of guilt, failure, grief.

Even worse, due to a fear of rejection and being judged, they may never have felt able to tell anyone and so receive the loving care they need.

It’s because of this I have a longing for every church. It’s that they should be where those who’ve faced an abortion or other baby loss, can receive grace and compassionate understanding.

This is why OPEN exists, as an initiative of CARE. It’s also why your own prayerful wisdom could have such a part to play.

Is the post-abortion experience something to mention in church?

Over the years, Christians have spoken out to protect unborn human life and challenge efforts to make abortion law ever more liberal. But this doesn’t mean we should not whole-heartedly support women who’ve had abortions.

Keeping the two in balance is not easy. But, for Christians, both baby and mother matter.

In our churches, some may have come to terms with their abortion experience. They have no need or desire to open up about it. But there may well be others still feeling deeply affected, and who resist being open for fear of the reaction of others.

This means they’re left dealing with the hurt and pain on their own. This can also be the painful experience of women who’ve had a miscarriage or still birth.

I know this to be true.

Almost without fail, when I’m speaking for OPEN in churches, people confide in me of experiences which often have taken place years before. And they tell me how they’ve never spoken about their abortions, especially not in the setting of their church – and how the pain was still very real.

I’ve learned that being open, non-judgemental, and truly caring can have an amazing and transforming impact on those living with the experience of abortion.

For example I think of the woman who said she was ‘free’ for the first time in 30 years. For all that time she’d carried silent grief and pain, and a sense of unworthiness. This burden was lifted when she heard God understood this grief, and he forgives.

Here’s what you can do

With some extra time on your hands and years of wisdom at your disposal, here’s 6 simple but valuable things you can do to support those who have experienced abortion.

  1. Be aware: Start with an understanding that there may well be those in your circle of friends and contacts who are carrying pain from a past experience of either abortion or miscarriage.
  2. Be open: Sensitively include this reality in conversations or in the context of preaching and teaching.
  3. Be alert: Look for signals and be open to caring and affirming conversations with those who might find it helpful.
  4. Be praying: Pray for good conversations with those for whom this might be an issue.
  5. Be proactive: Get the issue on the agenda of your church by having a speaker share how a compassionate response can be made in your church and community.
  6. Be practical: One of the most helpful things you can do is recommend one of the OPEN Healing Retreats.

To learn more, do visit the We Are Open website. It’s a rich resource for you and your church. Or email me at

Jenny Baines

Jenny’s background as the mother of a large family, her own miscarriages and being a Pastor’s wife, drew her to respond to the needs of those impacted by pregnancy loss. She’s now a consultant for OPEN, an initiative of CARE, helping churches create an environment where these sensitive issues can be shared with grace and compassionate understanding.

Up for a new challenge? How about becoming a Waterway Chaplain?

Life after fulltime work offers countless new opportunities. And if you enjoy the open air and have a gift for helping people, here’s something that may well float your boat.

The UK’s river and canal network is home to a large number of boat-dwellers as well as those who take to the water for fun. And out there – offering friendship, practical support and a listening ear – are Waterway Chaplains.

There’s a great need for many more to join their ranks. That’s because we want every stretch of the UK’s 2,200 or so miles of navigable canals and rivers to have a visible Christian presence.

As Senior Chaplain, it’s my job to make that happen and my vision is, by 2020 , we will have increased our present 70 Waterway Chaplains to 200.

This is a great rewarding opportunity those with time to offer and a heart for people – to extend the love of Christ through pastoral care, friendship and practical support.

What kind of needs are there on the waterways?

Don’t imagine a Waterway Chaplain’s flock is made up of posh, self-sufficient, people with boats. It’s not all P J Wodehouse’s ‘Three Men in a Boat’ – larking about on the river. Yes, there are those using the waterways for fun or seeking an escape to tranquillity in their active retirement. But there are many on limited incomes. They may be there because a boat offers affordable accommodation. With some struggling to get by, often experiencing health and relationship problems.

That’s why I can tell you about people like –

Jim’ – with depression and financial problems. He was helped by a chaplain – over a period of months – to get housing benefit, appeal when his benefits were stopped, and have access to a food bank until he was well enough to return to work.

‘Alex’ – dying of cancer. A chaplain supported him, hosted his American family who came for his funeral and led a service to scatter his ashes attended by about 30 people from the local boating community.

‘Jenny’ – feeling lost and alone. She had a new-born child and a husband who had lost his job. Too far from Citizen’s Advice and with no money for transport or fuel, she needed help. After a chaplain put a card under her door, ‘Jenny’ was helped with their immediate problems with the chaplain staying in touch until they were back on their feet.’

‘Bill – sleeping rough as he journeyed between locations, with thoughts of suicide. He thanked a chaplain for saving his life by being in touch by text as he walked along the towpath.

Dave’ – living on £50 a week. A chaplain help him claim housing benefit and have access to a food bank. When bitten by a dog, the chaplain arranged for his infection to be treated as a temporary patient.

What kind of people are Waterway Chaplains?

Our volunteer chaplains come from local churches and include both lay people and ordained ministers. Some have a background of boating. Others have had no previous experience of inland waterways.

They commit to walking a mile of towpath each week, engaging with boaters, canal workers, anglers, dog-walkers, ramblers and others. Sometimes it will just be a walk – praying as they go. But this regular journey, with a listening ear and a praying heart, may well lead to relationships with those who need to talk or have other needs to be met.

Senior Chaplains provide practical training and mentoring support, including prayer. Each chaplain is given a lock windlass engraved with our key values ‘act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God’ (Micah 6.8). It’s a scripture that perfectly sums up the role of a Waterway Chaplain.

Could this be a role that you – or someone you know – could take on? Please find out more about this wonderful opportunity to serve others in the name of Jesus at Waterways Chaplaincy.

However, if walking the waterways is not up your street, you’ll find a host of other ways to use your God-given years after work on the AfterWorkNet website page Serving Your Community.

Mark Chester

Mark Chester is a former army officer and a Vicar in Surrey. He’s married to Zillah, who is also a Waterways Chaplain and they have two grown up sons and two grandchildren. To relax Mark rides horses – with more enthusiasm than skill – but not on the towpath.

Do something remarkable for others overseas in your retirement – using these 4 key steps. 

Travel may well be among your plans during your years of active retirement. But what about combining it with doing something amazing – for others and for you?

Indeed, there are more opportunities to make a ‘hands-on’ difference overseas than ever before. So if you envy the many young adults doing mission trips, now’s the time for yours.

Interested? Then here’s your 4 key steps to getting it right and probably the adventure of a lifetime.

1.Asses what you have to offer

Making a short-term impact overseas is not all about having the stamina to build a school. Far from it.

During your working life you’ll have gathered skills and experience that, almost certainly, match what is in need – either by doing it yourself or sharing what you know.

To help you identify what you have that would fit, there’s a wide range of assessment tools here.

2.Decide how much time you want to commit

Opportunities overseas often split into –

  • Short-term – less than 3 months: This might be visits with a team, a short placement at a project or alongside a mission worker
  • Medium term – 3-12 months: This includes gap-year type placements or opportunities that fit within a year, like teaching in an international school
  • Long term -1 year +: term: This tends to be for open-ended opportunities. This doesn’t mean staying for a long time but that the commitment isn’t limited and may include a return to the UK every year for a break.

3.Find the best fit for you

Want to serve in a Christian context? Then your first stop would be OSCAR. It’s a specialist clearing house and advice centre with everything you need.

Use their website to –

Search for opportunities that match your criteria. To comply with discrimination laws they can’t specify an age range. So assume they are all open to receiving enquiries from someone actively retired.

Compile a list of possibilities. Even if not everything matches, if there’s something that interests you about the organisation/opportunity, include them too.

Contact those on your list. Tell them about you. They will be able to see if they have something matching what you’re after.

Be open to discovery. You may be surprised to find organisations catching your interest due to something they do or where they work. Keep them in your picture too.

Find something you believe in. If you are investing your time and talents you need to fully believe in what it does and how it does it.

Apply. Eventually you’ll decide which ones to apply to. This process is also a time for helping you select the right one. This isn’t like a normal job application, you are both trying to assess what God may have in mind.

Tap into help. Once you’ve nailed this down, use OSCAR for everything else you need to sort out like travel, insurance, and health checks.

There are also opportunities through non-church sources such as –

  • VSO – with opportunities for those up to 75 and including short-term assignments.
  • HelpX – an online listing of opportunities for short-term work in exchange for food and accommodation. In a typical arrangement a helper works an average of 4 hours per day in exchange for free accommodation and meals.

4.Go as a servant

Don’t go as a rescuer – the hero or heroine ready to end the plight of ‘the poor native’. Rather, go to server those who are the true heroes and heroines– bravely battling against the odds to make life better for themselves and others.

Poor communities need the dignity of deciding and managing their own future – a future in which God is already at work. Joining in is a privilege that calls for humility and a servant attitude.

But what an opportunity and privilege. It could beat a cruise hands down every time. And to explore in more depth see our webpages on serving internationally.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Do you have any experience – good or bad – about volunteering overseas? Or some wisdom to share? Then do please comment here or on our Facebook.


It’s an epidemic it would not cost a penny to solve – loneliness. And you could be the medicine.

I’ve blogged before about the ‘Elinor Rigby’ epidemic of loneliness that’s doing such damage today. It’s the cause of millions of mostly elderly people being deprived of human contact for days on end – leading to poor health, depression and shortened lives.

In the past I’ve focused on the opportunity for churches to respond. But churches are made up of individuals – like you – who could do so much to bring joy and warmth to someone who is lonely.

Who are those in need?

Official UK figures say some 9 million people are lonely. This includes –

  • About half a million people are often going for more than a week without seeing anybody.
  • About 200,000 older people have not spoken to a friend or relative in more than a month.
  • Many of those receiving regular visits from care workers get no more than 15 minutes of their time – with a survey showing 500,000 pensioners received visits so brief that staff didn’t even speak to them.

All it takes is a little of your time

This epidemic would not cost a penny to solve. It just needs the time of those who care – even just an hour a week.

The need is for troops on the ground. Those who care enough and with time enough to each play a part. And those no longer in fulltime employment have a God-given opportunity to step up.

If every ‘retired and active’ person found just one lonely person to visit, the love of Christ could be shared with many who are feeling that life has lost a lot of its meaning.

How to get started? Here are 5 simple ways –

  1. Seek out a lonely person in your street or nearby
  2. Talk to your church leaders about elderly church members in need of visitors
  3. Contact nearby retirement homes, asking if there are those who seldom have visitors
  4. Check with your local services to see what needs you could meet
  5. Contact agencies like Age Concern and offer to visit those known to them

Simple ways to get it right

To make the most of your time that will mean so much to a lonely person here are things to keep in mind –

  • Relationships take time to develop trust and openness. So don’t be surprised if your Initial approaches may be tense and difficult.
  • The person you are visiting may be depressed as this can result from a lack of human contact.
  • No two elderly people are the same. Some may find conversation difficult. Others could talk for England.
  • If they are expecting a visit, make sure you turn up.
  • Get them to tell their story.
  • Don’t expect them to remember every detail of your last conversation – or even your name.
  • Take your grandchildren with you. A recent TV documentary revealed the benefit of elderly people being with children regularly.
  • Be careful about what you offer. An occasional cake is fine but don’t be over-lavish and so create wrong expectations.

There’s something in it for you too 

Our faith is built on relationship to God – and also on relationships with others. It’s easy for our circle to become closed – the faithful who gather with us every Sunday.

Here’s the opportunity to open it out – and be enriched yourself in the process.

For an overview of the loneliness issue please see our web page on The Lonely.

David Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Do you have an experience about visiting someone who is lonely? Do share it here or on our Facebook group.

If only every church did these 6 things for their actively retired members.

Unlike their parents’ generation, today’s retirees are ready for a lot more than pruning the roses. Most have the health, energy and desire to maximise the years ahead. And their church could play a big part in them making the transition and living life to the full.

What could and should be done? Here are the big 6.

1. Realistic expectations

Don’t assume someone no longer in full time work will have lots of hours to spare. Reality can be very different.

Three generations of their family may have expectations and demands on their time – their children, their grandkids and their elderly parents. Rather than being able to contribute a little extra, they may need special care and support.

At the same time, they are likely to have plans for all those things that were impossible until now and they have worked so hard for.

2.  Seeing them as a distinct group within the church

Those ‘retired and active’ are likely to fall between those on one hand who prefer tradition and reflection, and people who enjoy energetic children’s action songs on the other! They are a distinct demographic many having grown up in the faith under the influences of the likes of Spring Harvest, New Wine, Alpha and Christianity Explored.

Almost certainly your church has programmes for children, youth, families, the elderly, and so on. Those in their active after-work years are actually another defined segment.

A great way forward is to put together –

  • A small group responsible for creating and arranging their own programme
  • A simple mission and vision statement about why the aim of such ministry and what the outcome should be
  • A budget line in the church accounts to support it!

3. Offering activities they need

The kind of initiatives that will help actively retired people flourish include:

  • Spending time with their peers socially: This needs to be no more than a few activities that have their focus on learning from each other – a walk, ten-pin bowling, a bike ride, a trip somewhere. And it should look nothing like a programme for the elderly.
  • Addressing relevant issues: Perhaps an event on the issues of stress or loss of status – followed by discussion. Or an annual ‘Heading for Retirement’ evening/day to help equip your people for what’s coming their way.
  • Developing a ‘buddy’ system: For those who want it, a seasoned retiree matched up with a newbie can be a great asset.

4.Don’t use them – develop them

Look for ways to release their experience, wisdom and gifts. This could involve creating a list of the workplace skills of your retirees that could be drawn on.

It also means thinking differently. Instead of first defining a role and then looking for someone to fill it, start by discovering the gifts and abilities waiting to be used and find a role that fits them.

Imagine the benefit of having –

  • A customer service ex-professional improving all the ‘touch points’ your church has with its members and community
  • An of entrepreneur or two thinking outside the box about what could be done with your premises or programmes
  • A market researcher developing an online survey to identify what your members see as their greatest needs
  • A well-read person helping you research facts, stories to enrich your preaching

5. Encourage them to be salt and light

Understandably, for a leader, the priority is likely to be meeting the needs of your church. But Jesus calls us to be ‘salt and light’, and with the present welfare cuts and social needs, there are ample opportunities for involvement.

This may be in the context of your church. Or a wider opportunity that will help to influence your community and cause your retirees to strengthen their faith.

Support and pray for them in whatever ‘salt and light’ role they take up, just as you do missionaries and those with other ministries.

6. Help them reach their peers

It is a well-established church principle that like attracts like. Mostly we think of this in relation to reaching youth but its equally valid for the retired and active generation, in view of their distinct culture, life experiences and present status.

This is an exciting opportunity that more and more churches are waking up to. There’s helpful thinking already in place about reaching the retired and active.

If you’re eager to understand more about the after-work generation, do check out the Church Leaders section on our website.

Do you have ideas or experiences relating to church leaders and the retired and active generation? Please comment here. Or join our FaceBook community and share them.

David Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Retired, active and…trapped. For some, life after work is not the Promised Land.

I always thought the move to retirement would be one more happy transition on life’s journey. Pastures new would offer freedom to travel, indulge the grandchildren and, in every way, enjoy a new phase of life.

If only!

Now I’m wondering how many others are feeling trapped rather than released; burdened rather than freed. Because, for my wife and I, instead of enjoying a world of choice we are faced with life-restricting and choice-robbing limitations – at least for the time being.

I’ve discovered I’m one of the many who, far from being free to ‘make plans’, has a responsibility for four generations.

First there’s the responsibility to meet our own needs.

After many years of self-employment and, to be honest, insufficient preparation for the financial side of retirement, clocking off at 65 was not a realistic option. On the positive side, I love what I do but the need for additional income means a significant limit on choices.

Then there’s the responsibility of our three adult children. Though they are well and truly adults, that doesn’t end the parent child relationship and concern to care for them. And like many of their peers, the road has been much harder for them than it was for us at their age.

Our elder daughter has chosen to invest her time raising her son during his pre-school days rather than return to work. That means she and her husband are in no position to buy a home and do not have a car. As a result, we are needed and help where we can.

Our son, due to the shortage of affordable accommodation, lives with us. As a shift-worker he sometimes sleeps in the day or evening, so limiting our opportunities to offer hospitality.

Then there’s the responsibility for our grandchildren – a delight of course. I just love being involved in their lives. But there’s more to it than that.

Our younger daughter and husband live near us but their jobs are at a distance with an early start. For the past year our granddaughter has been dropped off at 6.30 am each weekday so we can take her to school.

Then there’s the responsibility for my parents, now in their nineties. Having supported us through each phase of our lives, they are increasingly dependent on us.

Mum, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years ago, now has little capacity to remember events of even ten minutes ago though has strong memories of her Welsh childhood.

Dad, diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago, also has a condition requiring regular blood transfusions. My sister and I take turns sitting with Mum while Dad is taken to hospital for his treatment. Neither Mum nor Dad are now very mobile.

Because of their age and lack of family living close by, Mum and Dad have almost no social circle – making frequent visits vital.

And then there is the responsibility for emergencies.

Recently Dad phoned in desperation. The fridge freezer had broken down – they had no food. I drove the four hour round-trip to take basic groceries, picking up a hot meal on the way and have been with them almost daily ever since.

On a recent visit I found an ambulance outside their home. Mum had fallen getting out of bed. Dad lacked the strength to help her up. He called an ambulance but the paramedics could not get into the house as my dad is profoundly deaf and did not hear the doorbell. He’d even accidentally left the phone off the hook so they could not phone him.

Putting it all together – and knowing I’m not alone in this – I’m finding retirement to be far from the ‘Promised Land’ I’d anticipated.

It leaves me asking how a church could and should support those in similar situations. Those like us, seeming to be coping on the outside and presumed to be enjoying their new freedom. But, in reality, retired, active and trapped.

Our own experience of church in this respect has been largely positive. But are churches in general and their leaders always aware? Do they factor this into their pastoral care? Do they recognise the need for practical support? Do they help those in similar situations ‘find each other’ for mutual support and to compare notes?

More than that, how do they help those of retirement age balance their desire to remain active in the church with the often unseen tensions of family and finance?

We are all living at a time when life expectancy is increasing and support from Social Services and the NHS is stretched to the limit. A time when there are unprecedented pressures on successive generations.

This is surely a time for churches to reach out with support for those of retirement age doing their best to hold it all together.

Chris Gander

Chris Gander is a freelance graphic designer, married to Mary, with three adult children and two grandchildren. He’s a keen photographer and an occasional blogger at Sauceforthegander.

If only church leaders grasped 5 vital truths about those retiring today

This is not a knock at church leaders. They are flat out doing all they can in challenging and demanding circumstances.

Rather, it’s a wakeup call. Because something significant has changed in society, and there’s a whole section of the congregations that could be missed.

While they’ve been flat out meeting the needs of children, youth, families, singles, and golden oldies, a new social segment has emerged. It’s those now sometimes called the ‘young old’ – they’re no longer working fulltime but definitely still up for living life to the full.

This has huge implications for churches and their leaders. In particular, there’s a need to take account of these 5 vital truths:

1. Those retiring today are not like their parents

In the past, retirement meant looking to take life easy – with little thought of fresh experiences and opportunities. However, those now coming to retirement – or already there –

  • Do not see themselves as ‘old’ or want to be treated as such
  • Are still ‘young’ in mind, body, and body
  • May want to make the most of the knowledge, skills, and experience they gathered during their working years

2. Those retiring today are not ‘seniors’

If a church has a ministry to seniors – those unlikely to have ever worn denim – this will not cut it for those in the early years of retirement. They may be willing to serve in that setting – but it’s not ‘them’.

Indeed, most of today’s retirees would rather be anywhere other than counted among a group now designated as ‘old – whose memories are of Doris Day rather than Elvis or The Beatles.

3. Those retiring today are not ‘traditional’ worshipers

In terms of their worship experience and aspirations, they’re not ‘traditional’. Rather, they have grown older during the years of church renewal – and Spring Harvest worship and its kind. Indeed, they have been the ones who’ve encouraged it rather than resisted.

As a result, they may not have much taste for tradition and reflection and have outgrown all-age-worship’s action songs. So they may struggle to find a church experience that works for them and to which they could invite their peers.

4. Those retiring today are a great resource for your church

When a church leader hears of someone no longer working the word ‘rota’ may come quickly to mind. Or they rejoice that there’s perhaps another pair of hands to do some practical work.

Yet something much more is now on offer.

This generation of retirees is computer literate, internet savvy and has been immersed in the best workplace practice. That’s why websites are now offering them ways to put their past experience to use in the voluntary sector.

So why shouldn’t their church tap into their skills in management, IT, finance, communications, mentoring, customer service, fundraising, accountancy, marketing, HR and more?

Here’s a resource for churches, women, and men waiting to be engaged with. A grouping non-existent in the days when the end of paid work meant just putting your feet up.

5. Those retiring today need help to adjust and flourish

The journey to and through retirement will be unique for each church member. But almost all would benefit from the pastoral support, wisdom, and help of their church leaders.

Above all they need to be developed rather than ‘used’.

This can involve –

  • Identifying and helping those heading for their P45 to think and pray through what’s ahead
  • Treating them as a defined segment of church life alongside children, youth, seniors, etc
  • Creating activities, projects, and opportunities that relate to their needs and abilities

For a raft of practical suggestions on what a church can do for its retired and active members see our website under What a Church Leader can do.

Some of it is very simple. Some is very profound. And all is worth doing.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Do you have insights or questions relating to church leadership and those retired and active? Please tell join our FaceBook community and share them.


Once – in the oil industry. Now – running Alpha for retired people. Chris’s story.

It started with a simple prayer, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do?’ Where it ended has taken me completely by surprise.

Several months before that simple prayer my paid employment had ended.

I’d been CEO of two London-based, jointly administered, charities. Before that, a bursar – looking after the business side of a school. Before that, had been many years in the oil industry.

The first months of after-work saw me catching up with jobs around the house and garden, visiting family and going to places of interest with my wife Linda. But I knew retirement had to be about more than ‘me’.

That was the reason for the prayer. And God answered – within a week. Doing so through the Vicar of my Egham, Surrey, church who said ‘Chris we have been praying and we want you and Linda to run an Alpha course for retired people’.

Though never having been on an Alpha course, I realised my past business and church experience made leading one something I could do. More importantly, this seemed to be something God wanted me to do.

Of the team I pulled together, almost half were also in retirement’s early and active years – as were about half of the 20 who attended.

What surprised me was not just how many retired people wanted to attend. It was also the number of questions and issues people raised. Some were wanting to know what Christianity was all about. Others admitted their faith had grown cold and needed to re-examine the basics.

All this proved something very important to be true. That God could wonderfully use my experience from the past in my new era of life.

This past experience had included selecting the right people for a job, building teams, planning events and a lot public speaking. My church life had involved leading Bible Studies and some preaching. And the Alpha course brought all this into play.

Indeed, this has proved to be one of my life’s most fulfilling and rewarding experiences. It was truly amazing to see God changing lives, watch faith being rejuvenated and see people’s questions answered.

Equally wonderful was what this meant for those at the same stage of life as me and serving as discussion group leaders and helpers. They too had the awesome experience of seeing God at work.

When the request came for the team to run a second course, our ‘yes’ was without hesitation. We called it Daytime Alpha – making it available to anyone free during the day.

Again, we saw people coming to faith and others whose faith came alive again.

In particular, I think of John and Joyce. This lovely couple in their late 60’s were steadily moving through retirement with no live relationship with Jesus. And their daughter had long been praying for them.

God opened their spiritual eyes and their lives were transformed. Soon after they moved to the South Coast and now have their own ministry among retired people in their new church.

This is how, in the first year of my retirement, I discovered what great blessings God gives us when we make available the past experience and abilities he has placed in our hands.

That is also the way it has continued and – ‘please Lord’ – may it do so for many years to come.

Chris Matthews

For more on using your own workplace skills and experience in your retirement visit our web page – Serving

And to share your own experience join our Facebook group. We’d love to hear from you.


Since when did the end of paid work mean the end of being salt and light?

Please forgive me for being blunt. But I’ve seen it far too often. Paid work comes to an end and people put their discipleship feet up as well.

In which case, please let me ask you a simple question.

Now you are in your ‘after-work’ days, how are you doing in response to Jesus’ expectation for you to be the ‘salt and light’ this world desperately needs?

Because that’s what Jesus told his followers they were to be – ‘salt and light’. And he did not add ‘until you get your P45’. So, on a scale of 1 to 10, how salty are you being in your new era? And how bright is your light shining?

Come on, honestly! These next years are a precious gift from God to you. How are you going to invest them – especially in view of what Jesus said to his first followers? One Bible translation expresses his words like this:

‘You are to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. It shines out with hope’. The Message.

This is not a suggestion, but a firm and clear expectation. Of course it’s ok to enjoy well-earned relaxation and new experiences after a lifetime of work. But it’s not ok to also lose our flavour or hide our lamp in the process.

In fact, with full-time work behind us, there are even more opportunities to flavour the lives of others and hold up a light that shows the way. And so to make a Christian difference in our family, our church and our community.

What being ‘salt and light’ looks like

Salt: This little white stuff not only adds flavour to food but has great properties of healing and preserving. In the same way, Jesus says, our lives should enrich those around us and makes life better and more wholesome.

Light: We take light for granted – it’s always there when we need it. But in Jesus’ day powered by oil lamps rather than electricity they depended on a cluster of lights from houses on a hill to point travellers to where they could find shelter, safety and hospitality.

This is what God calls us to be – at every stage of life. It means taking the salt out of the packet and putting the light where it is needed. But how? Here are three simple ways to intentionally be salt and light.

1.By being: In the same way salt imparts seasoning, we are to enrich those around us by the way we live. By ‘being there’ and living Jesus’ way, we can humbly help people to see a better way to live.

2.By speaking: There will be occasions when living right is not enough and words are needed. Ideally in answer to questions provoked by the quality of the life we are trying to lead. At other times, our voice will be one of wisdom, or love, or compassion.

3.By serving: Jesus’ words could not be clearer –being salt and light involves action so that our ‘deeds shine out for all to see, so everyone will praise your heavenly Father’.

This offers those of us who are retired and active an inexhaustible set of opportunities. Some will be in our day-to-day lives. Others will mean taking decisive action. This might be through –

Your church – from being a Street Pastor to helping at a food bank. From offering debt counselling to assisting with a night shelter during the winter. For lots of ideas see our web page Your Church.

Your community – from volunteering in a local charity shop to being a local counsellor. From visiting those who are lonely to buddying with an adult with learning disabilities. For lots of ideas see our web page Your Community.

Overseas – from short-term volunteering to raising funds for those in need. From praying for a missionary, to sending out home comforts to enjoy. And more. For lots of ideas see our web page Internationally.

Far from it being ‘game over’ when retirement comes, it should be ‘game on’. The opportunities to live as Jesus had in mind are endless – and far too good to miss.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Do you have something to say about Salt and Light? Then do please add your comment. We’d love to hear from you.

Please share this blog. It’s so easy.

Probably the only book about retirement you’ll ever need to read.

Is the end of full-time work heading your way? Or are you already there – and wondering what kind of fist you are making of your new ‘freedom’.

Either way, there’s the perfect book to help you. An uplifting, positive and practical guide that’s right on the mark. An absolute gem.

Do you remember when you started to drive, all those years ago, and how important the Highway Code was? Well now, as you navigate the highways of life after fulltime work, there’s the equivalent.

It’s David Winter’s ‘The Highway Code for Retirement’. And there should be no surprise this book is so practical and easy to read.

First, it comes from someone who has retired three times, from different settings. So he knows a thing or three about what’s involved – including from his own mistakes on the way.

Added to that, the author is a first class and seasoned communicator. David was a regular contributor to Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’ for more than 20 years.

At the heart of the book is a piece of good advice. ‘Retirement is something that is better planned for and looked forward to than an event that suddenly overtakes. Like adolescence, marriage, the arrival of children and grandchildren, and getting older, it’s simply a part of life for most people’.

With that in mind, David encourages a positive view of the future. And offers inspiration including that –

  • John Glenn flew into space aged 77
  • Winston Churchill was a war-time Prime Minister at 66
  • Mother Theresa was still leading her work among the poor in Calcutta at 68
  • Michelangelo was still designing churches at 88

Then it’s on to practical help that can lead to being better prepared for retirement financially, emotionally and spiritually. With content on Planning for Retirement, Making the transition, The impact on others, How to find extra income, Should you move home and more. Plus some case histories to add the cherry on top.

Throughout, the book is shaped by David’s own Christian perspective. And neatly summed up in his reference from the Psalms: ‘They will bear fruit in their old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming: “The Lord is upright, he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him”’. Psalm 92.14-15.

For an example of the charm and insights this book offers, try this for size –

The Ten Commandments for Growing Older Gracefully

  1. Face facts – your birth certificate doesn’t lie
  2. Be your age , not someone else’s
  3. Slow down but not too much
  4. Take regular exercise – minimum 30 minutes a day
  5. Try to do a word-based puzzle, like a crossword, every day
  6. Cultivate friends of all ages, including younger ones
  7. Live positively
  8. Consider the spiritual aspects of growing older: explore issues of faith if you never have
  9. Come to terms with the present – and the future
  10. Be grateful: count your blessings – your life is a precious gift

If you know someone heading for the end of their working days this is the ideal gift. Better still, buy two so there’s one for you.

The Highway Code for Retirement’ (CWR) by David Winter £6.99

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Want to make the most of your extra after-work years? Then do explore our website and join our Facebook group. We’d love to hear from you.

5 Encouragements to finish well spiritually

The aspirations of those competing in the World Cup and Wimbledon are fresh in my mind. All those hours of gruelling preparation put to the test. The aspirations of those competing in the World Cup and Wimbledon are fresh in my mind. All those hours of gruelling preparation put to the test.

As we cheer on athletes and competitors like them, what of our own aspirations to finish the race of faith well?

What will it take for us to receive the trophy of God’s ‘Well done!’ at the end of life’s tournament? Here are 5 encouragements to take you on your way.

1. Don’t quite the race 

There’s a certain temptation to regard the afterwork years as more of a time to hang up your spiritual tennis shoes than lace them back up. Or, in cycling terms, to coast downhill rather than keep pushing the peddles.

Yet our after-work stage of life has plenty going for it when it comes to becoming more like Jesus. Of course you’ll hopefully have the time for a whole host of activities. But the encouragement to ‘Seek first the kingdom of heaven’ still holds as we get older.

2. Remember the winners of the past

We must never forget we’re part of God’s ageless kingdom. Those who have gone before us and finished well – the should be an encouragement for us to do the same.

Thankfully it’s not all down to us – because the Holy Spirit equips and empowers us when we ask. But it takes our own commitment to stick at the Christian life with the finishing line in sight.

‘Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.’ Hebrews 12;1 The Message

3. Finish well

It’s a sad day when we hear of someone who’s followed Jesus all their lives letting it all slip at the end. And we are all at risk here.

We may not fall to one of the big 3 – money, sex and power. But there’s also the more subtle traps of resentment, envy, laziness, indifference and self-indulgence and the like.

The Apostle Paul urges us; ‘being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 1: 6.  God won’t fail us but the trials of later life might make it a struggle for us not to fail him.

So ‘be wise and watchful and’ keep on keeping on’.

4. Please the coach

Top seeds, with a tennis racquet in hand, love just to bask in the cheers of the crowd. But they are wise to which of the spectators matter the most. It’s their coach.

In the same way, it is natural to seek the approval of family and friends for the way we do life. But no one matters more than our Great Coach and his approval. So keep the words from Hebrews 13 v 16 in mind – – ‘Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.’

5. Keep your eye on the prize

It’s an epic Wimbledon moment when, with all the ball girls and boys lined up, the Duke of Kent shakes the winners’ hands and presents their trophies – along with a nice fat cheque.

There’s a day coming for all of us who have followed Jesus when something very similar happens in the courts of heaven. You might picture it as a great stadium with angels doing the Mexican Wave as you receive your victory crown and hear the ‘well done’.

The Apostle Paul had a similar picture in mind, taken from the athletic events of his day when he said, ‘athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one’.1 Corinthians 9.25.

That’s right. We press on because our reward will never fade – or be stolen or sold on eBay. The race we run has a prize that is for ever. So keep on running.

A certain Mr MacEnroe – turning 60 soon – once yelled at the umpire ‘You can’t be serious!’ But we can be serioius – and should be serious – about running the spiritual race and finishing well. Let’s do it.


Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

Have you joined our Facebook group yet? It’s a great way to share the journey with other after-workers.

Want to live longer? Then go to church. Here’s the facts.

Regular churchgoers tend to live longer. That’s what a deluge of recent research reveals.

So, if you are likely to be in church on a Sunday, expect to be attending more funerals than your non-churchgoing friends. Because, on average, you could outlive them by several years.

This is what research is telling us. And though it’s mainly from the US, there’s every reason believe it stacks up here too.

Take, for example, the analysis of over 1,600 newspapers obituaries – the basis of one US research initiative. It revealed those with a church or religious affiliation had lived on average over 6 years longer than those without.

Then there’s the study of over 1,000 obituaries from across the United States. This found a similar though slightly smaller effect. Those perceived to be religious had ‘only’ lived almost 4 years longer.

Even more impressive is a research project by the University of Iowa. By the end of the 12 year study:

  • 35 per cent of the non-church attenders had died
  • Only 14.5 percent of the church attenders had died

To put it simply, this research shows that if you are a weekly church attender you are 35 per cent more likely to live longer than those never darkening its doors.

Of course, you may wonder if these researchers naively made their comparison between a group of church goers who’d spent abstemious lives and some hedonistic smokers and drinkers. But, they insist, this was all factored in by examining a control group of equally healthy non-attenders.

The research also found churchgoers enjoyed a boost to their immune system and had less clogged arteries and high blood pressure. Though it made no reference to the impact a church can have on blood pressure no matter your age. Don’t go there!

Another piece of solid research, this time from Harvard, tracked 75,000 middle-age female nurses every four years between 1992 and 2012. How’s that for thorough?!

It revealed the more frequently the women attended church the longer their lives. Specifically, during the 20 year study, compared with those who said they never went to church –

  • Those attending more than weekly were at a 33 per cent lower risk of dying
  • Those attending weekly had 26 per cent lower risk of dying
  • Those attending less than weekly had a 13 per cent lower risk of dying

Why might churchgoers be likely to have a few extra years at their disposal?

This research from Harvard offered nothing conclusive to suggest it was religious activity – such as prayer and reading the Bible – that lengthened years. Rather they pointed to churchgoers finding it easier to maintain a healthy social network, especially in later life. With there being evidence that loneliness shortens life and friendships extend it.

Those behind the Iowa study equally admit they don’t know for sure. They accept those more frequently at church may have ‘better health behaviours’. Or it might be down to ‘the group interaction, the world view churchgoers have, or just the exercise to get out of the house.’

Be that as it may, what they are convinced about is ‘There’s something that seems to be beneficial.’ And even to the extent that one of the report’s co-authors suggested doctors could prescribe a course of church attendance to their benefit patients.

So there we have it. Just doing the right thing – spending time with God’s people on a regular basis – is likely to offer more years to enjoy and to serve. Let’s use them wisely and well.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Want to make the most of your extra after-work years? Then do explore our website and join our Facebook group. We’d love to hear from you.


Decluttering your spiritual life

Do you sometimes feel in a bit of rut spiritually? Same Bible reading plan for more years than you can remember? Rather an effort to slot in a daily time alone with God? And frankly overwhelmed by all the stuff you feel guilty you’re not praying about?

Even if that’s not you, carrying out a kind of audit of your spiritual life may be helpful.

Asking a few questions to assess how well you’re in touch with what the Holy Spirit wants to do in you could be inspiring. Here’s some ideas to get started.

  • Begin with the Bible – perhaps with this nugget from Psalm 119.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (verse 105)                                                                        

Ask God to show you the way He sees you’re walking right now and to reveal His will for the way ahead. How can you make the Bible the central source of hearing from God? Research study plans and notes.

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to help – He longs for us to experience the incredible richness of knowing Christ and has more to give us than we can imagine. We are unable to find the truth, wisdom, fulfilment and love we seek without God’s grace.

Ephesians 4;12, 19 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  

  • Ditch feeling guilty – even though the devil would prefer you not to! It’s important to acknowledge our need for God’s forgiveness and recognise where we fail but then to seek after the vision and strength to move forward.

Psalms again – this time 139;23,24. Search me O God and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me. And lead me to life everlasting. 

  • Plan how you pray – the ACTS pattern works well as a framework. Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. Do you enjoy listening or singing along to Christian music, or finding other stimuli to focus on the awesomeness of God? is there stuff you know you should say sorry about? Thanking God for what He’s done – whether that’s over many years or yesterday is a great faith lifter.  Then there’s asking prayers which Jesus strongly encouraged again and again.

Matthew 7;7. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it will be opened to you.

  • Give to others – If we believe praying results in God’s will being done, standing with others is a wonderful thing to do. You can’t pray about everything but why not decide on half a dozen people or ministries to invest in – specific requests you can follow up. Work out the best way to make that happen. A list in your Bible? A prayer app like Prayermate? Booklets or prayer letters you receive?

1 Thessalonians 1;2 We give thanks to God for you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfast hope…

The subject of prayer is unfathomable and this little blog just scratches the surface. But I hope even one thing might act as an encouraging catalyst to revitalise your walk with God.

Celia Bowring
Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!


How to balance church and life when full-time work has gone – 4 key steps

They say there’s a similarity between a helicopter and a church – get too close to either and you’ll be sucked into the rotas.

This danger – so far as church is concerned – is even greater when fulltime work ends. You have the time. The church has the need. Before you know it you are busier than when on a pay roll.

That may be a good thing, and it may not be.

So here’s 4 key things to help you make the most of your church commitment in your after-work years.

1. Be realistic. Don’t let your mind or your church tell you that all your new ‘free time’ belongs to them. Just because you can do it does not mean you should do it.

In the same way you once aimed for a work/life balance, you may well now need a church/life balance. And in your new world of ‘freedom’ you may also have growing family pressures to take account of – grandchildren, frail parents and more.

Also, don’t be afraid to leave some space – for you and for others. A full diary is not a measure of godliness. And one great advantage of life after work is it can leave you free to step in when something unexpected comes up.

2. Be wise. OK, there is the potential to use your time, energy and abilities for, and through, your church in a way was not possible before. But your precious, God-given, time can only be spent once.

Before you put your name down for everything – or have it put down for you – make sure your time is being used for what you are best at rather than just filling a gap.

Think about what your past experience and present abilities equip you for in the service of your church. For inspiration, check out Using Your Life Skills

3. Don’t do ‘jobs’ do ‘ministry’. It is too easy to think ‘ministry’ is about church leadership and doing spiritual things – speaking, leading worship, praying and the like. But everything done in God’s service is ministry and can often be a ministry.
For example –

  • You can choose to be a Welcomer – or someone doing so while praying inwardly for those you greet and wanting them to see something of Jesus in you.
  • You can choose to serve coffee – or be someone doing so while looking out for new-comers and seeking to remember names and make contacts.
  • You can be on the crèche rota – or be someone doing so while actively engaging with new parents and welcoming and praying for the children and families in your care.

4. Have a servant heart. Along with the ‘nice’ jobs that might take your fancy are some grunge tasks that every church needs to have covered. This is all part of what St Paul speaks of as to ‘serve one another with love’.
To keep going, churches need unglamorous tasks to be undertaken by servants. To quote St Francis of Assisi, God calls us ‘to serve and not to count cost’. Life after work may offer you opportunities to do exactly that.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

For more wisdom, ideas, and resources for your ‘after-work life go to

10 Smart Ways to Keep Feeling Good When Your Working Life Ends

When the P45 is handed over, the pass to the company door is no longer valid, and there’s no one for you to give instructions to or take them from, the penny soon drops.

It is that the subtle thing called ‘status’ has also left the building. And for some it can be somewhat unnerving, taking the gloss of what ought to be days of joy.

It’s easy to understand why. Once we stood shoulder to shoulder with colleagues. Looked up to those to whom we were responsible. Held accountable those we were responsible for.

We were ‘someone’. But now we are on our own. With all that clarity gone.

Of all the changes that come ‘after work’, this one impacts us most in terms of how we feel about ourselves. And for many it is not enough to say ‘well at least I now have more time to prune the roses’.

So, what’s to be done?

The spiritual bit

If our sense of personal value and self-worth depends only on our role in life, and the approval of others, then we are missing something.

Our status and significance ought to be wrapped up in the God who had us in mind before anything existed, loves us unconditionally and paid the ultimate price to restore our relationship with him. Indeed, our true value can only be measured in the price he was willing to pay for us – the life of his own son.

We matter not because others tell us we do. But because God tells us so. Mull on these amazing facts and let them sink in. God would have you know –

You are unique Psalm 139.13, You are loved Jeremiah 31.3, You are special Ephesians 2.10, You are precious 1 Corinthians 6.20, You are important 1 Peter 2.9, You are chosen John 15.16, You are mine Isaiah 43.1.

That is not the total answer to facing the loss of status that comes when work ends. But it is a vital foundation.

The practical bit

Those who are happiest in retirement – according to Stewart Friedman, founding director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project – are those who do more than just relax, watch TV box sets, travel and walk the dog. They are those who, ‘look to use their talents and passions to make a contribution’.

With that in mind, here are ten practical things you can do:

1. Make the change gradually if you can – a slide into ‘after work’ rather than hitting the buffers full-on can be better

2. Don’t fill your time with whatever comes to hand – or what people throw your way. Aim for some clearly defined projects and goals that have an outcome you can see. 

3. Get a job or volunteer – ideally part time. The status may well be different but it can still be fulfilling both for the tasks involved and the human contact it brings.

4. Learn a new skill or develop an existing one. A musical instrument? Touch typing? Photography? Line dancing? Computer literacy? The options are vast.

5. Join a project group – a choir, drama company (they need more skills than just actors), environmental group, local political party, etc.

6. Asses how what you were good at in your work life can be used in the context of your church, a Christian agency or your local community. And then look for opportunities.

7. Don’t sign up for rotas in your church simply because you now have the time. Also look for productive roles that draw on your past experience and skills.

8. Identify your skill base and see where it can be used to teach, train, mentor or serve others.

9. Take up an activity. It doesn’t have to be golf, bridge or bowls. Check out badminton, walking football, fishing, boating, swimming, painting, woodwork and more. And, if possible, take lessons so you have a peer group.

10. Start a business. Is there a local niche you can fill? There’s always a need for someone to walk dogs, fix computers and bicycles, watch empty houses. And web-based start-ups are easy and cost little to fund. 

Finally, try not to figure out your future all on your own. Tap into others who have been this way or are at the same place you are.

Peter Meadows

Peter uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and spend his kids inheritance.

Have you tried any of these practical things? Do you have any tips of your own? Please share your experience with the AfterWorkNet Facebook Group.

The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife