Preaching

Got notes? Check

Got visual aids? Check

Remember where to put stuff when you get to church? Check

Leave the house at a reasonable time so you don’t tumble in late in a fluster? Check…not always. Ok: rarely

Remember that you are also a Beaver Scout leader and have to lead a gaggle of 6-8 year old boys? Check

Remember that it is about God and not you? erm…I guess….check

Nervous? Check- but then you have to be: it is like walking a tightrope.

Think you’ll make mistakes, put your foot in it? Check

Mentally got all your post preaching stories ready like how well you did, recounting all the good things people said about you and exaggerating the number of people there?  Not check: I stopped doing that years ago & feel a little squeamish when I am around others doing so.

Try and let it go afterwards, collapse and attempt to hand it back to God? Check

Glad you don’t have to do this every week anymore? Check

 

Gig

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I’m running another gig tonight on behalf of our village hall.

I always like doing this: good music- often way above what you would expect in village, local venue, a village coming together & loads of conversations. Plus I get to schmooze with the artists.

Award winning ‘folk’ (in a good way- there are many bad ways) artist & co writer of ‘Thinking out loud (& Ed Sheeran mentor): what is not to like?

Tickets have sold better than I hoped for, but there are still more available on the door if anyone fancies one- hell: I’ve even cancelled the normal teas and coffees & said we would just have a bar. Its rock n roll here, I tell you.

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This photo was taken maybe 6-7 years ago when our youngest son was on holiday with us in Wales.

I could have included a picture today, but each time I take a picture he only lets me do so if I promise not to put it on social media.

This picture reminds me so much of what he was like then and, in terms of his character, what he is still like: warm, lovely and slightly quirky.

It also makes me a little sad- 12 today: where have the years gone?

Happy Birthday Ben!

 

Thursday Music

Songs and videos that stare into the heart of mortality & do not flinch are rare (the only ones that come to mind immediately are Johnny Cash ‘Hurt’ and James ‘Moving on’). This one is uneasy watching:-

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I found it uneasy when I first saw it before the news broke about Bowie’s death: someone not dying gracefully, all the time watched over by an enacted version of his earlier self/the devil/internal anguish (that’s how I read it).

When he had died there were bits where I thought ‘Oh I can see what he was doing.’ Then I stopped- his desire to use elliptical meanings and leave people guessing/making their own minds up is enough without saying ‘This means x’.

Best just to enjoy and be unsettled by something that brings questions of our own mortality to the fore. Best just to enjoy the whole album: in my limited knowledge of Bowie it is the one I like the most.

Sometimes we just wait…

I was talking with someone who was involved in the care of people with a terminal condition. I was interested as I work in this area and I am trying to complete a book review for a journal on the same issue. The book is from the ‘ignore the lament and think positive thoughts’ school of Christianity that I really struggle with.

This person outlined all the things that they could do to get to understand people with this condition and the many positive interventions that they could make and have made. Then they paused:

‘Sometimes we can do nothing to help their condition. Our job is then to care for them and wait with them’.

Wait for the inevitable; but don’t turn your back.

That is one reason why I don’t like the above quote. It is easy to say for me: I am fairly young (well:nearly 50), in a good job, fitter than the average and intelligent- I have choices. But I will get older and slower- it is likely my health will fail. I will have to learn to wait. The likelihood is that I will have to watch and wait over some who are now close to me.

That is not maudlin, but realistic. Sometimes the greatest thing you can do is not to flinch, but to look and to wait: you are not in charge, you cannot ‘fix’ anything or ‘seize the day’- you can only be there.

 

Some things remain.

Dementia is a cruel disease; gradually robbing someone of many of the things that made them ‘them’, but some things remain if you wait long enough.

You’ve seen it before; many times, but when you stop and listen (as you are paid to do) it always takes your breath away.

It most often happens like this:- two or three people are sitting together. Their speech- if they still have it- often doesn’t match: one is in a loop, recalling some past event that somehow sheds light on the now that they can’t express. The other is using words to mean something, but the words don’t connect- only the emotion does. One begins to get upset and cry: the other reaches across and strokes or grabs a hand: ‘It’s ok- don’t get upset’.

The moment usually passes fairly quickly. It’s impact on you remains all day: often people who can speak and understand are too hurried, embarrassed or just caught up in their own issues to make that kind of connection.

 

Dementia- when all wlse has gone- care.

Boundary Lines

You are recounting a journey home and an evening that will mean that you have to be in several different places, picking children up, going to meetings and dropping them off before stopping around bedtime.

Someone who doesn’t always have the liberty to go outside says ‘But you have those opportunities; many do not and you love it really.’

It dawned on me just then- not quite with an epiphany involving massed choirs of angels- much often feels incomplete, but I am- we are- fortunate.

You begin to remember the Psalm you read that morning with words like ‘the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places’. That doesn’t mean ignoring hard questions or the random nature of suffering (you long ago tired of those with faith who do), but never forgetting to give thanks for what you have.

Preaching

I’m preaching next Sunday.

I haven’t preached for a year.

On one level, it will be ‘easy’: a few familiar themes, just talk- but I don’t want to ‘phone it in’. Neither do I want to overthink it or do anything for effect.

I am both excited and nervous (without actually missing it much). This is my proof text on moments like this:-

‘Ring the bells that still can ring,
forget your perfect offering,
there is a crack in everything,
that’s how the light gets in’.

Chicken story

I like this story, not so much for the overtones of ‘be all you can be: go for it’ that some might spin on it, but more so for the idea of potential and of being open to change and growth.

A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air.

Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat on his strong golden wings. The old eagle looked up in awe. “Who’s that?” he asked. “That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” said his neighbour. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth – we’re chickens.”

So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was.

Anthony de Mello (1931 – 1987)

Friday Music

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This is the 2nd of 3 Bowie ‘Friday Music’s’: be warned.

I have just ‘discovered’ this on Hunky Dory. I say ‘discovered’ as I knew only a few bits of Bowie’s work.

I suppose I could have posted another one of his many well known tracks, but I like this: very English and just this side of twee. I think I like it as the artist’s love for his child pushes him away from arch opaqueness into honesty- I like the belief in his young son as well as his commitment to ensure that he lives a life that is different.

I think I would be proud to be a kook.