Sunday, 26 July 2009

earth's crammed with heaven...

Today I just feel... blessed.
In the midst of dissertation madness,
in the midst of locum at 'leafy parish in the burgh',
in the midst of all the trillion little pressure points,
and times when I am just so tired I'm incapable of speech...
In the midst of it all, sometimes I am prompted to lift my face up from out of the books,
away from orders of service and leafing through hymnaries,
away from all the many things bouncing up and down
that shout and clamour for attention.
When I remember to do it - to look up and around and outwards -
an overwhelming feeling of gratitude settles in and through and about me
and that old, very old hymn comes to mind...
I find myself humming 'it is well, it is well with my soul.'
this afternoon
this moment...
it truly is well with my soul and I am thankful.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Celebration, contagion, communion: as easy as 1-2-3

Over at Wanderer's blog, the tricky combination of swine flu, contagion and communion is being considered. Think I've found the answer. Check out:
the Celebration Cup! It's as easy as 1-2-3!

Am very pleased that
'no refrigeration is necessary', although slightly concerned that there's 'no special preparation required':
does this mean we bin individual examination of cons
cience prior to receiving?
Alternatively, do we just bin the liturgy?

the welcoming church 2: at least leave a quid at the door

And possibly the best line:
Aren't you all entitled to your half-ar*ed musings on the Divine? You've thought about eternity for 25 minutes and think you've come to some interesting conclusions. Well let me tell you, I stand with 2 000 years of darkness and bafflement and hunger behind me...

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

aaaand breathe...

Gosh, busy, busy, busy....
Am beginning to really feel under pressure of the looming dissertation deadline now. Why else would I be blogging!!?
Thinking very much of the Hebrews text in the pic. Keep focused. Just write the thing. Do it.
Now, can I write 8 000 words this week?! We'll soon know.
12 000 written, 13 000 to go.
And so let the writing commence and cast away the inner perfectionist which paralyses! Aaaand breathe.
The buskers today are not pipers, but a guitar/ fiddle combo - currently playing 'Blue Moon'. It's working - the mellowness is setting in :)

Saturday, 18 July 2009

where have all the children gone?

The ones who attend 'leafy parish in the burgh' are on holiday - some lucky ones are off to Disneyland, Paris. I wouldn't mind that right about now :)
But it raises that old chestnut about the dilemma of having a childrens/ all-age section in a service when the service has no children - or the two remaining children are teenies and very, very shy.

Although the sermon and prayers are all done for tomorrow - huzzah the small matter of the all-age part of the service remains. What to do in the absence of children?

It's a question that's often popped into my tiny mind when I've had to face a similar situation. Usually this slot becomes the 'trailer' for the sermon but surely there are other ways to use this time in a more creative/ centering way? As the overall service is a quieter, reflective one, in contrast to last weeks 'noisy church', I am very tempted just to ask folk to 'be', to sit and relax quietly in the moment and gather themselves up from the week that's gone before.

But, yup, as I said, the whole thing gets me wondering about this part of the liturgy. How to ensure it is both distinct in its own self and yet part of the whole... and also not done for the sake of just being done 'cos it's what we always do?

Mind, the 'where have all the children [insert 'young people' here] gone?' is a catch-cry in parishes, presbyteries and at General Assembly. It makes me wonder a bit. I worry a wee bit about a tendency in the church towards a sort of young person idolatry. Or of young people being seen as a sort of holy grail solution to all the church's problems: 'if we had young people we'd be growing, not declining,' is the possible thought at the back of that.
A fear. Desperation?
Sometimes I think we forget about all the children and young people who comprise the groups who use the halls and church spaces during the week... they don't come on Sunday but they are there during the week. And I'm reminded of a comment a friend of mine made - who fits into the 'young person category' according to church definitions - about being a little tired of being asked to do stuff/ be on committees, etc. purely for the underlying reason that she fits the category and so the church can be seen to be supporting young people. Interesting catch-22, huh?

I'm not so worried about children and young people as I am with the thought that there are actually a couple of generations
missing in the church. And also that there appears to be a growing age apartheid: there are churches full of young people... but no other age groups. And there are churches filled with quite elderly folk... and no young folk.
I'm less concerned with the need for young people and more concerned for a more integrated age approach to worship that goes beyong 'dumbing down' all-age worship just because we don't seem to be able to acknowledge very well the spirituality within children... and that they have to have absolutely everything explained: kids can deal with mystery and we do them a disservice if we think otherwise.
It drives me slightly nuts that when we use the term 'all-age' what tends to happen sometimes is noisy, busy, bouncy and lacking in substance. Don't think it is particularly satisfying to younger folks or the grown-ups. But it's easy to rant: what's a way of doing something that's more constructive? Unlike clothes, and even then it doesn't quite work, one size does not fit all liturgies.... Hmmm.

And I digress... I must go and do this all-age address!!

Friday, 17 July 2009

he has broken down every wall

Hmmm, thinking about Sunday and am going for the Ephesians passage 2: 11-22 and Ps 23.
Iv'e been thinking about walls... no big thoughts, really.
A picture that has been in my mind this week is one of prayers tucked into the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. And then thinking of the huge wall Israel has constructed to effectively keep out Palestinians. And then my mind has wandered to other walls: Berlin Wall; the walls of the Warsaw ghetto; the Great Wall of China; the boundary fence between the USA and Mexico... and even, oddly, Australia's rabbit-proof fence - and thinking of the movie of the same name about indigenous kids being taken from their parents to be raised in white families. Racial walls, faith walls, political/ ideological walls... concrete, limestone, barbed wire, brick... And when we wall people out, we wall ourselves in - hold ourselves captive to our fears both real and imagined.
He is our peace, who has broken down every wall...
I suspect I should get to writing the sermon for Sunday!

Friday five: games

Jan over at revgals has issued the challenge of games...

1. Childhood games?
Dune races: generally involved grabbing large squares of cardboard to slide down the sand dunes. Sadly also involved loss of one tooth two days before my 10th birthday, when I ended up colliding with a hidden pipe at the bottom of the dunes. I thought it gave me a somewhat rakish air, and the dentist was pleased. Oddly, mother was not.

2. Favorite and/or most hated board games?
Scrabble!!!!! Oh, and 'Mousetrap'. Am developing a church history board game currently called 'Indulgence' - chocolate is involved, but not in the Lent section, of course.

3. Card games?
Kim's game; rummy

4. Travel/car games?

'yellow car' - has become a favourite the last couple of years. Involves punching someone [gently of course] anytime a yellow car is spotted. Other assorted vehicles can be included, with appropriate physical gestures....

5. Adult pastimes that are not video games?
drinking, gambling, fornicat... er, no....
There's always the 'Dictionary' game. I know, I know, sounds dull, but it's not if your friends are ingenious and inclined to evil. Involves [taking turns] someone finding a word in the dictionary: at this point everyone has to be honest and tell if they know the word. When a word is found that nobody knows, the players create definitions and the one with the dictionary also writes down the meaning. All bits of paper go into a hat, mixed about and then the player who has the dictionary begins to read out the various definitions. Points are scored when a player's definition is chosen by any or all of the other players - a point per person// or if nobody chooses the correct definition, the player who started the round gets a point per player. The next round commences with the dictionary being passed to the person on the right of the previous holder of the dictionary. When everyone's had a turn with the dictionary, the points are totted up and the game ends - or it can continue as long as you like. You don't have to try to come up with a definition that's correct... :)
As I said, sounds dull - but my ribs still ache from laughing from a game played 10 years ago, part of which involved 'small damp puppies' and 'telepathic seals': I was on dictionary duty - had nipped to the loo briefly... they all conspired together to write the most ludicrous definitions imaginable. As I began to read out the definitions one by one... my composure got lost in hysteria.

Bonus: Any ideas for family vacations or gatherings?
Avoid them? Wear protective kevlar armour?

Thursday, 16 July 2009

'Dying church - living God'

Came across the following story via the Midrash group, out of: 'Dying Church - Living God', by Chuck Meyers pg. 37-39

Sometime in the early 1970s, the president of AT&T called all his managers into a large room for an emergency meeting. Attendance was mandatory. Speculation ran high as to what announcement would be made. Perhaps a breakthrough in technology. Perhaps a downsizing. Perhaps.
They could tell by the grim look on his face that something extremely serious was about to be revealed.

When all were seated, the president went to the podium and said, "The telephone as you know it no longer exists." Muffled giggles rippled through the room. What game was this? They all knew he was wrong. They had used phones that morning. He continued: "Anyone who does not believe that state-ment can leave this room right now and pick up your final paycheck on the way out of the building." Sober silence prevailed. No one left. They all just stared. "Your job today is to invent one."

He broke the group up into small teams and they spent the rest of the time coming up with a new phone. Some people wanted one with no cord...... in the car, or to carry around.... to know when another call was coming be able to forward calls to another number, to see the person on the other end, to send other kinds of messages on it. About 60 items that distinguished the telephone they invented. Many are now the features that we take for granted, from call-waiting to individual digital phones, and the list has not yet completed.

In the same manner, at the beginning of the third millennium, we come to church one morning for the Sunday service and, much to our shocked dismay, we find a vacant lot with a little note tacked on a piece of tattered plaster out front. It is written in Hebrew and it is the same note left on every vacant lot of every former church building in the world, from cathedral to clapboard.
Translated, it says,
"The church you have always known no longer exists; it is gone - walls, pews, altar, and assumptions."
The tomb is empty.
"How can this be?" we ask in abject puzzlement.
In the background, we hear God's laughter saying,
"Given the world the way it is, given the devastating problems and the incredible possibilities opening up for the first time in history, given what you now know to be true in the world, the real question is, 'How can it NOT be?' "
Then God looks us right in the eye and says,
"Make a new one."

Friday, 10 July 2009

Friday Five: exercise

Over at the RevGals site it's 'Friday Five'. On exercise. Yup. Exercise and me = oxymoron. No matter... here are my answers:

1. What was your favorite sport or outdoor activity as a child?
Tennis. No, swimming. No! Sailing. Nooooo, no, no - tennis!!

2. P.E. class--heaven or the other place?
There is a special place in Hell reserved for sadistic P.E. teachers.

3. What is your favorite form of exercise now?
Running with the phone out of the post-grad labs, for the sheer comedy value. Walking on the beach at the end of the street.

4. Do you like to work out solo or with a partner?
Well, if it's a phone conversation, that would need two of us at least :) On the beach, solo or with pals.

5. Inside or outside?
Hey, mobile phones - I'm flexible!!! Oh, beach... um, I suspect outside for that one.

Bonus: Post a poem, scripture passage, quotation, song, etc. regarding the body or exercise.
Weightlifiting verse of the Bible: Galatians 6: 2 Bear one another's burdens...

Thursday, 9 July 2009

the power of love is fine, but diet coke is awesome

The old song 'Love changes everything' is sitting in my head at the moment. This is all very well and good - apart from the momentous cheesiness of the song. But actually, while love may change everything, diet coke is pretty awesome too.
Drowning not so much in the sea of love, but in the sea of excommunication despair, I realised that falling asleep over my computer was a bad idea. In some ways, so is caffeine over-consumption, but nevertheless, after gallons of the stuff today, I have written 2 000 words of a draft introduction to this wretched dissertation.
It helps cheer me up quite a bit, knowing that one part, at least, of this thing is pretty much done and ready to be doctored as needed.
I am choosing to ignore Section Two: my textual analysis section of the diss. tomorrow - bogged down at 9 000 words and losing the will to live - 5 000 words to go over there. Will move to Section One instead and play with a little ecclesiology of discipline instead - ever so much more cheering.
Almost halfway to the 25 000...
Now, as long as nobody else decides to die in the parish [body count 5 in 11 days - but only doing 3 of the funerals] there may even be the possibility of submitting this darned albatross around my neck!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Not a tame lion...

One of the Narnian mantras: Aslan is not a tame lion.

I've been having a wee think about Sunday worship - boy, it comes around quickly! This week we're focusing on 2 Samuel 6: 1-5, 12b-19, in which a great big praise party is happening, and David dances as if nobody's watching: unselfconsciously, joyfully, exuberantly. He is pretty much naked before God, allowing himself to be vulnerable and exposed not just in the physical sense... also exposed to potential ridicule. But there's such delight in his dancing and celebrating and underpinning it, a sense of awe of the untamed, uncontainable God he worships.
It's made me think about Annie Dillard once more and her great observation about how we as Christians are nearly too blase in the way we invoke the Holy One.

Are we guilty of trying to tame God?

Have we turned God into a routine rather than Ground of our Being?
Do we get a little caught up in our focus with how we might appear, rather than being whole-heartedly open to the wild and exuberant Creator of the Universe?
Of course, there are certain societal and legal niceties we have to take into consideration: I don't think I'm quite advocating that we all get naked in church!!! Plus, in Scotland, it's just too cold anyway.... But maybe, our nakedness can be in the shape of vulnerable openness to God - expectation that the wild God who is always with us may want to dance with us.
Are our dance cards already filled, or have we left them empty, waiting with eager anticipation to dance with God?

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Locum, week one: and all manner of things shall be well

Week One of locum in 'leafy parish in the burgh' and an amazing learning curve, particularly concerning time management and prioritising... and the bemused realisation that although I may have had my week planned one way, all sorts of unexpected things pop up and throw you a curve ball. If there are two words to describe where I'm at right now, I think they'd be 'blossom' and 'flourish'. This is a good, deep, awesome experience and a great 'taster' for the future - I'm really thankful for the opportunity, and also for the trust that minister of 'leafy parish in the burgh' has that I can do the job. She is a brilliant encourager and mentor.

This week included my first 'solo' bereavement visit and then funeral, as well as a 'solo' hospital visit and being texted for relationship advice. I like the variety and some of the more quirky aspects of this ministry lark. I've also realised that in a full-time capacity - if I get through all the training/ conferences and such like - it would be very easy to have all available waking hours consumed by the job, and that I will need to be vigilant about making sure I keep a healthy balance between work and time out. A good lesson to learn.

Worship tomorrow and a hospital visit I hope. And then two funerals to do next week.

Going on the funeral visits has, I don't know, been a good reminder I think: what a rare privilege to be allowed to be a part of people's lives when they are at their most raw and vulnerable... and that, in some small way, we can make a difference... and that ministry is more than 'social work'. We're allowed to ask the deep questions... or get asked them, which is a bit daunting... and to hear people's stories - and people are just so amazingly interesting.

Interesting how prayer has increased exponentionally to learning curve: on Thursday afternoon, with 5 minutes to go before my first ever funeral, I was in the vestry praying very, very hard... pretty much a one-word prayer 'HELP!'

Weird, in just this very short time span of a week, my sense of 'this is the right place to be/ this is the right path to persue' has been confirmed yet again. Lots of thoughts in process, and it's all good, all very good... and God is good. Feel very much reminded of Julian 'all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. And I am content to trust that right now.

The dissertation, however, could be better - remember: time management!!! :)