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Taking a teenage boy away on holiday to stay with his octogenarian grandparents could be viewed as a challenge with the potential for disastrous boredom issues. At the very least you would expect any teenage boy to lock himself away in the darkness of a bedroom and spend his days in the company of technology. Our son John certainly spent the latest journey down to his grandparents with eyes fixed to an iPad, looking up briefly as we crossed the Severn Bridge.

P1020996The small Devon village where my parents live their retirement dream has one significant benefit when arriving with children of any age: Proximity to the sea and a beach where there is absolutely no commercial activity. Holcombe beach has served our family well as my grandparents lived in the same village many moons ago. Whenever we arrive in Holcombe the first thing any family member wants to do is to head down Smugglers Lane to the beach.

P1030029Soon after our arrival on Monday afternoon this week we found ourselves on Holcombe beach. On Tuesday we walked along the beach/seawall to Teignmouth and back, and then we spent the entire afternoon on the beach. The plan is to return to the beach this morning where for John there is much to entertain him. Apart from the sea in all its different states (calm yesterday morning, but choppy in the afternoon) there are stones to skim or throw, plenty of sand except at high tide, sea creatures to discover, and possibly a sunbathing mother to annoy. Simple pleasures that for the most part are not affected by the season, because the beach in winter is interesting in different ways.

P1030080One of the simplest of pleasures for a child on the beach is to have his father or mother there with him to share in the sea and the sand, scrambling on the rocks, skimming stones, swimming, exploring and experiencing life together. In such circumstances a parent really gets to know his or her children, as mutual trust is built in an expression of love that is difficult to emulate in front of a television or computer.

Likewise, I have come to realise that the relationship I can enjoy with God need not be complicated. I believe that God takes much pleasure in watching His children, and that interaction with God does not require elaborate church services, or fancy words, or anything else other than our time. God simply wants us to come to Him. Although God knows everything about us I am convinced that He receives the most from us by getting to know us through the simplicity of a parent-child relationship in which we repeatedly seek to spend time in His company. God wants us to know Him, but He also wants to know us.

What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31 NLT)