As always I’m far too early for the funeral I’m conducting this morning. This is no new habit. I’m paranoid about being late and so for all my ministry I have arrived at least half an hour early at crematoriums, except when I have travelled with a family.
The early time means that I have time in the car park to review what I’ve written, and some space from the phone and voices to collect my thoughts.
Today I’ve had more time than most for thinking, as I fitted in a run before being at the desk. The icy mist threatened the beginnings of tackling week 3 of the programme. As I began the 90 seconds of running that opened the exercise the cold air hitting the lungs nearly had me turning for home. The shock made the first breaths difficult, but the hypnotic effect of the podcast kicked in and by the final 3 minute run I was even running up hill.
It’s a question of making time, but I appreciate the moments when I can just watch the world around me, and work through my thoughts.
This mornings mist allowed me to think about the mist of anger I’m working through over some daft fall out recently. I think I’ve thought of how to move to a new stage and relationship, but knowing there are always more sides than you can see , there is some sensitive groundwork to cover first.
Right, time for a funeral.
I said two days ago that I would return to my thoughts on whether writing worship is ever finished. It is a question I find myself asking whenever I have to write worship that is to be shared or printed in some form.
Writing worship is something I enjoy doing. There is fun to be had trying to think of images to describe God, and the relationships of humanity. Playing with words there is an opportunity to learn a little bit more for myself as well. So week by week, I enjoy the reading that leads to an ability to find prayers and a sermon that hopefully inspire other people.
However on a week by week basis, although I declare myself finished at a certain time on a Saturday evening, there is no actual finish of the preparation for worship. Instead even in the midst of worship as you encounter a word or a phrase there is an opportunity to be guided by the Holy Spirit and something new can take shape away from what is written before You.
That sense of not being finished though continues beyond worship for me though, because the words spoken are only a moment and instead the guiding of the Spirit should be stirring those listening to respond in the lives they lead. This is one of the many reasons why I feel uncomfortable about people having the script of what I said, or of having sermons on line to hear – although both of these things now happen.
For me handing out a Script or a setting of what was said, ties you to one image or picture. Whereas worship should offer a beginning to the life that is to be led in the presence of God.
So with a notion of worship as something that can change on a whim, and lead to something different, I have wrestled with preparing material for other people to use because in preparing it, it has to be finished. Once it is in print and submitted there is no further opportunity for me to change it. I’ve found that tough. It’s why I struggle to be ready for deadlines, because I keep tinkering wanting to make sure that everything that needs to be said is there.
I’m slowly learning that I have to trust that others will do the same as I do, and look at someone else’s writing and adapt it to suit them and their situation. So I have to learn that what I write is not finished. Instead there is work to be done by others as they share an encounter with God.
Did you know it had been my birthday? Depending on how you know me, and where else you encounter me, you may have a clue. However for the most part very few people know when it is as I tend not to tell people. I do however always take the days around it as a holiday, and have done so since leaving school and starting work as while at school these had often been days of holidays. And if you didn’t know, please know that’s what I prefer.
For others birthdays are special and good fun, and I’m more than happy to share in that excitement and joy for other people. However its not what I want for mine. I can’t tell you when this started, and I can assure you that it has nothing to do with ageing as that doesn’t worry me. Despite my job and public persona I’m not a big fan of having attention pointed at me, so probably best to skip singing “Happy Birthday.”
If I were to analyse myself I could give you a variety of reasons, but no-one needs to know my idiosyncrasies. I do know that for a number of years now there is often an “incident” that happens to add to the marking of the day. This year’s “incident” being my parent’s being burgled while they were at ours. Fortunately they are fine although I believe the house is need of some repair, and I’m about to pack some things for the day and go and see how they are this morning.
So next year I’m keeping it low key, and hoping for just another day,
Despite being on holiday still, I finally managed to submit the piece of work I had been invited to contribute. In the day before everyone else in the house joined me on holiday I put my head down and by late that evening had 2500 words of something that vaguely made sense. Most of it was commentary on the subject I’d been asked to look at and the Biblical texts that were appropriate to that. I’d managed one piece of liturgy, which fortunately had rushed into my head while getting up one morning and I had scribbled down. (At least this time I wasn’t walking to school, and suddenly having to send myself a voice message in case I forgot.)
With a good start it was good to be able to abandon it and head off as a family on holiday. We headed south in the car for a couple of nights in a hotel just outside a university town, and it was a good and relaxing time. Some took the opportunity to make good use of the pool, others caught up on some reading. We met a godfather and enjoyed a meal and a walk around the city together, enjoyed some sightseeing and museum visiting, climbed to the top of a tower to see the view, and then went to dinner with friends and remembered how easily children who have not really got to know each other can fall into an easy knowledge as they share their stories and games.
Meeting up with people and catching up on their lives is always good. You laugh when you realise the similarities that have passed through your lives. When you were once best friends, its good to know the easiness that means that even though years pass between meetings the reason that you were friends can still encourage certain amount of intimacy. We’ve caught up on family, shared our shared position within the family – in fact I think amusingly everyone of us at dinner that evening was an eldest child – and known the frustrations and the advantages.
Returning home but not to work, a certain amount of routine has kicked in as everyone else’s lives have returned to usual. I’m still clinging to the vestiges of a holiday, although I need to be more thorough at not answering the phone or responding to email – none of which is easy when you are in the manse. The piece of work is completed though and submitted. I’m not convinced that it is the right thing, but there lies another of my continuing concerns – the notion that the things we write for worship are ever finished.
I’ll come back to that thought later today or tomorrow but for now, I’m going nowhere near my place of work to drop of things for other people… Not me…I’m just making a minor detour as I head to a bigger city to meet a friend for coffee.
Day one of the supposed concentrating on writing worship material for others, and it was a fail. It started beautifully with a run, and then a trip to have blood checked – and that was where the day began to run away from me. There was a queue on the road to get to the destination for this, and that meant that an extra half hour out of the house I hadn’t counted on. Once eventually home, reading became the order of the day, and in that time there were four calls from potential brides. There was always a meeting planned for lunchtime and early afternoon, and then some wedding couples to meet this evening. So genuinely today has been a fail in terms of written work. Tomorrow I must do better…
In trying to make a start, I was re-reading the request for being involved and realised that perhaps I’m supposed to see something as an issue that to be honest I never have – although I do know that for others the issue of gender and their role in various occupations has been a challenge. In fact if I were to think about which part of my life I had experienced gender inequality then I would have to go back to my days of working in an office where if you were male you were trained to do ledgers while the “girls” were left to look after the tasks of managers’ coffee making and looking after the filing.
I’m not sure I can fit that thought into what I’ve to write, but tomorrow I really need to put the creative hat on and have some prayers, sermon thoughts and other items written. It would be quite nice to submit before having a holiday, rather than rushing on the last afternoon to come up with the goods.
Finally yesterday afternoon I could stand it no longer, and on returning from an afternoon of visiting I picked up a black bag and tidied my desk and the floor around it. The last four months have been busy, and on the occasions when I’m in the study tidying up is not a key task. Usually it’s working through the emails, or writing some form of worship. This has meant that a flood of paper was slowly overwhelming everything.
There were a number of reasons for the tidying, but not least were the holiday that awaits in the middle of next week and that before I get to the holiday there has to be some determined sitting at the desk and producing some writing.
The writing stems from noticing on a website that it is now public knowledge that its me producing a piece of writing for others to use. I was asked months ago, and while I have two pages of notes scribbled whenever they appear in the brain, there is nothing in a format for others to use. It has to be submitted within a fortnight, so the time has come to focus and produce something.
I’ve been putting it off, partly because I still suffer from my student day last minute preparation. However also because the topic I’ve to write is something that others will have an opinion on, and I wouldn’t want to under or over play the topic. There’s also the part of me that is trying to work out if/how I might use what I write in my own context. My feeling is that some of it may be too meditative and single issued for a new congregation. That feeling may resolve itself once I get writing.
This year I want to have written before I go on holiday and not find myself taking it with me. Last night we finally decided where we might spend a couple of days. This holiday we want to concentrate on being a family, and settle into some of our new experiences together. The journey will be a good opportunity to talk, while hopefully if I can find a hotel with a pool there will be a little bit of fun, as well as sightseeing of the city we plan to visit. With a couple of friends not too far away, there will also be some news exchanging.
Recently I’ve had to have a word with myself because I keep getting so caught up in something that I end up being a little late for appointments. I do mean a “little” late because when I apologise for being late, those I’m seeing are usually surprised I think I’m late. However for someone who likes to be early or in time, my lateness has been causing me concern.
Time with other people is a precious commodity, and how we respond to being with others in our timekeeping can on occasion give away how we really feel. In my perfectionist, sensitive moments I often feel that some can tell you the importance you have to their lives as they easily break long-held commitments, turn up nearly an hour late, or just plain forget.
By not respecting time we’ve promised to spend with other people we make it look as though their lives and commitments are not important. When we let people down we fail to recognise the other obligations that they may have changed or said no to.
Can you tell I’m sitting in a room waiting for my next appointment to turn up, having been let down by the first who thought it was okay to contact me 4 minutes before the appointed time? I’ll be forgiving as I’m sure the unspecified urgent business really is urgent. However I do feel there was little respect for the journey I would make, and the arrangements I could have changed had they called earlier.