Hypnotic

This morning as I was waking my first thought was that I wouldn’t bother to shower as then I could just pop back into bed once I’d relieved myself of small people. My smallest, small person now has a bus pass and she is excited to meet her three friends at the bus stop at the end of the street, and then seems to be enjoying the scenery of the return journey in the afternoon.

This new development has put back into my life some of the time I thought I had lost in the move. My Monday helper no longer appears, and the walk to school rota has gone, and so I had lost those spare moments where I felt I could justify doing things that were good for my health.

Now I know in my head that taking care of yourself is as much a priority as getting work done. I also know in reality that when I look after my health I am better humoured and more productive. However guilt and angst over being a parent who tries not to use childcare while working full-time have long been part of my life, and so the exercise and healthy living can slip while I focus on other people at home and work.

So today as I climbed out of bed and thought about how I could climb back in in 40 minutes, something in my head told me to pop my running trousers on and be ready to go once the bus had left.

Up until the month before the move I had been running three times a week, and was a week from achieving a 5k run. The past nine weeks have seen all that effort slip as I spent more time in a car. On Monday when the bus with the small person left for the first time, I was dressed ready to start the running programme all over again. I think I’ve found a route where I can have my anonymity for the few weeks that it will take me to feel confident about running again. However I can see that with the fading light, my luminous rucksack will not cut the mustard for safety. So hopefully I will feel confident to run the other way into the city in a few weeks time. Maybe I should invest in a better hat to disguise who I am.

Again it’s that head over confidence thing. I know in my head that most people who do spot me running will probably be pleased that I’m making time to exercise, but my confidence doesn’t like the thought of people seeing me lumbering along. The intelligent thing will be to turn and head into town and use the lights and the park for safety in the winter months. It will also mean running up hills, which will be a whole new experience for me.

I’ve always felt the running programme I use was hypnotic, as from the beginning of using it even in the worst of weather it could tempt me to put on my trainers and get out and enjoy the air. Good to see that after only one use this week it worked its wonders and tempted me out of the house for a good half hour.

As I sit with a juice, having cleaned bathrooms and contemplating moving the various stages of washing around, I’m enjoying the space of my lungs. It’s a post running sensation I love. The feeling that my lungs have been filled with fresh air, and can power me for the rest of the day.

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Creativity

This week the writing group I am part of is meeting to consider the latest pieces of writing that are to be contributed to a devotional book for 2014. I missed last month’s meeting as my mind, emotions and body were in the depths of moving.

Tonight I should be working on at least one of the two pieces that I still have outstanding. A third piece is already written, although the inspiration for that struck on the walk between home and school. I was spotted looking as though I was talking on my mobile as I walked. I was in fact trying to record the meditation that had chosen that moment to make an appearance.

One of my pieces I’ve to write on is patience. The other is even more fascinating, but I’m not giving it away because the joy of being part of this writers group is that pieces are submitted to the book anonymously. You may know that I have written, but you will not necessarily know which pieces are mine within the book.

I’m struggling with patience both in term of writing about it and living with it. Although as I write this I can suddenly see a glimmer of an idea appearing.

I’m struggling with patience in terms of writing because how do you convey the waiting and the expectation. I need to search out some Biblical root to hang it on, and I suspect that will happen in a waiting room tomorrow.

In terms of living with it, patience is stretched because people (usually of a small variety) insist on telling me in a minute. Sometimes the minute stretches to half an hour.

See the noon of patience is taking shape. Sometimes just sharing,expecting no response,allows you to see things in a whole new way.

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Holiday Worship

I’m not sure how coherent this might be, as I’m still thinking about a variety of things from Sunday morning’s church service. It being a Sunday off for me, I thought I would worship elsewhere in the city. My comments fall into two areas, and in some way are reflections of things I wonder about from time to time. So when I get there I will be thinking about holiday worship from the point of view of what a minister should do when they were on holiday and then holiday worship as a holiday from what you/I usually do.

For the most part worship was enjoyable, the sermon didn’t ask much of me. If you like a good sing the hymns were good. There were some interesting additions to the service with someone telling us what they would be doing the next day, and how their faith would be part of that. Worship wasn’t led by the minister as they were on holiday, and the congregation may have been lacking in a family element because of the half term holiday.

I really do suspect I give off an air of don’t talk to me, as yet again I managed to attend worship without anyone acknowledging my presence. I even sat in amongst people and still they talked to each other. It is however fantastic to go to worship occasionally and no one to ask anything of you. My overwhelming introvert gets let out, rather than the mastered professional extrovert I have to play at other times.

So…

1. What should a minister do when they are on holiday?

My personal philosophy has always been that even when I have chosen to stay in the manse, that I have gone elsewhere for worship. In my previous charge this often mean that I headed off to my home congregation to sit with my parents and listen to the minister who has been an important part of my growing and formation into ministry. Doing that also offered an opportunity to be in a space I felt comfortable, and in a place where I was able to enjoy just being a child of a congregation – which is a very special thing to be.

On occasion I have gone to listen to a friend or colleague who has been inspiring in our relationship, and been thrilled to leave inspired by what they offer of God in their worship.

Holidays have also offered the opportunity to explore different traditions and cultures. I have loved French village worship, where the worshippers often wander in from the market part way through the service so that they might receive the sacrament, and then disappear. I’ve revisited my Baptist past, and revived my inner Anglican.

Moving home has meant I’ve had to think about what I might do here, so on this occasion I thought I would visit a local church, knowing that their tradition might challenge the things that matter to me in worship. It is important to be occasionally uncomfortable as it allows you to view the things that really matter to you. It asks you to be a worshipper and allow yourself to be guided towards God.

But is there a place for not holidaying away from your congregation, but instead being there with them? Should you use the opportunity to wander around in relaxed clothes, and build on the relationships and friendships that pull a congregation together?

There is probably a place for both, but I think worth reflecting on.

2. When worship makes you wonder about a tradition.

There was nothing intrinsically wrong with the worship I experienced. It was skilfully presented, and the sermon was thoughtful and at times insightful/inciteful.

In worship these days I tend to not pick holes in order, prayer or content, because I go to worship not to criticise. However hymns tend to send me thinking.

I wonder if our hymns give more away about the theology of a congregation or a minister than we would care to acknowledge. This week I found myself stuck in Good Friday, and almost revelling in the suffering of Christ upon the cross.

It took me back to a conversation I had with a Salvationist when I was in my first charge. We struggled to find a meeting point in what we knew of God at times in our conversations. For him the defining moment of Christ’s life was his death on the cross, while mine is the Resurrection.

In worship we have to take a congregation through one to the other. I would hope that what we sing reflects the pain in acknowledging that Christ is part of the death of our old ways, but it also draws us on to recognise Christ dancing in the possibilities of today and tomorrow.

Who would have thought that holiday worship would offer so much to think about?!

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Sleepover

Yesterday child number one had two friends from our former home to visit and stay the night. They are a good set of boys, and so it was no hassle to have them here.

Having picked them up and brought them here, they soon polished off some lunch and headed into the city for a wander. It’s good to see them develop the independence that allows them space for themselves. Child number one thought it was good to show them where one of his parents worked, and so they visited the church by themselves, and he even had the courage to introduce himself as to date those around the church on a day to day basis haven’t had much contact with either child.

Returning home, our guests said how much they had liked the city. It wasn’t as busy as the home city, and more easily negotiated.

There was a small wager over how long they might stay up for the night, but they were eventually persuaded that midnight was late enough to sit in the conservatory. There was chatting, but they tell me that they finally gave in at around 1.30am and went to sleep.

I know I was still reading the trashy novel that I’m trying to read at 1am, but it would appear that I must have fallen asleep before them.

That has come as a surprise to me, as for a number of weeks I have not been sleeping well. Instead it has been about 2am before I’ve finally slept and then I’ve been waking at 6.30am. For someone who enjoys sleep and the cosiness of being curled up under a duvet, this has seemed a strange period to experience.

It hasn’t just been my sleep that has been affected, as I’ve found concentrating on things I enjoy quite hard. I’ve resorted to a trashy novel or magazine to read at night as if I can’t remember what was said then it doesn’t particularly matter. However I have a pile of books I know I will enjoy growing beside my bed, and I’m disappointed not to lose myself in another world or theology. There is also a piece of cross-stitch waiting for the name of my latest nephew to be added, but that too requires a brain to design, count and then transfer in thread and cloth.

Perhaps the best thing about having these young friends stay, was to have a mum – a friend- come and collect them, and sit and chat and remind me that life changes bring restlessness to our existence in many ways.

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Book-tastic

Knowing that we would be hanging around the house this week, last week I spent some time ordering books from Amazon with one of the many vouchers my former congregation had given me.

It was good to review and renew some of my Bible Commentaries, and complete some sets. Preparation for worship these days tends not to rely so much on printed material, as there are so many good online resources offering a wide range of theological perspectives and academic reflection in Biblical texts. I have favourite sites which include Working Preacher and Lindy Nuggets. Every so often I have to challenge myself to look elsewhere, and that includes returning to printed material. For the first time in a few weeks I even returned to the Greek Biblical text with an appropriate lexicon, and translated parts of the Gospel so I could be sure that my key to the text was correct.

This week the spoils of my Amazon shopping are slowly appearing. The commentaries are on the appropriate shelf waiting to be used.

In amongst the commentaries was a reorder of a book I like to use during Advent, The First Christmas by Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan. Last year I loaned my original to someone and it doesn’t seem to have appeared back. That doesn’t upset me as I’m delighted to think that someone else is enjoying and making use of it.

My new copy will allow me to start to think about Advent and the potential for exploring the Christmas story in new ways in a new place. I like Borg and Crossan’s book as they explore each Gospel and pull on the theological, social and political agendas of each Gospel.

Still more parcels to arrive this week, and I’m going to enjoy the pleasure of opening the parcels and exploring the contents.

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Ignorance

This morning I was thinking back over Sunday worship, and suddenly realised that someone doing OLM training tried to converse with me following one of the services.    The fact I suddenly realised three days later seems quite amazing, as although I had been nervous and uptight, I hadn’t realised how much I must have been focussing on the task.

For those without a Church of Scotland background, OLM means Ordained Local Ministry.   Although I should know more about the role of this ministry I don’t know much, so over the next few days I will pull out the appropriate Blue Book (Reports to the Church of Scotland General Assembly) and refresh my memory.

However I wanted to apologise to that person for probably seeming uninterested in who they were and what they did. I have no name, and only know that they seem to be circulating local churches.   Whoever you are, I hope that you recognise that the fixed smile and vacantness behind the eyes was the relief at having got a first over and done with.   Hopefully that person may return, and I can say a proper “hello”, find out a name, and hear about what they want to discover from their training.

Pulpit Stairs

Giving consideration to the kind of stairs you may have to climb when you are accessing the pulpit has never been high on the list of priorities when considering a charge. To be fair I’ve only been faced with three sets of stairs.

My first set were a wide solid stair, that entered a former free church pulpit. The pulpit was attached to the centre of the wall at the front of the church. There were no worries about climbing up and down as the stairs formed a straight line from the ground with a decent depth for length of stride. Side on to the congregation, even if you did stumble a little it was not in full view of everyone.

My second set have been a narrow wooden set of “Arts and Crafts” style stairs. Beautifully carved, with a bannister on one side only. Placed in front of the choir stalls, there was always the fear that you might fall into the sopranos on entry or exit. Other ministers covering often mentioned their feeling that there was a health and safety issue.

Today was my first Sunday as the minister, and only the second time of climbing these stairs. I think I need practice. I felt conscious of my clumsy descent, as I tried to work out whether to lift the cassock to allow safe passage. It was a bumpy manoeuvre around the corner with two feet on each step, before finally being able to take the straight at a normal stride.

It’s the strangest things that make you stop to think. I wouldn’t want my tumble down some stairs to distract from what it was we were supposed to be doing.

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