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  • Not Celebrating, Being Thankful

    This post is a fairly shameless plug for my latest charity fund-raising effort.

    On 23rd August 2010, in the whitewashed room of Victorian hospital, now in the process of being closed, I was looked in the eye by a surgeon who uttered the words, "I'm sorry it's cancer."

    Back then, I was terrifed that I would not see Christmas, despite his assurance that "we'll talk about this infive years time."  Suffice to say, I have long since learned to trust my surgeon.

    Then I thought, well, if I get to five years, that'll be cause for celebration.

    Then I grew up. 

    Perhaps that a little harsh. 

    Since then I have come to appreciate what a vile, unpredictable set of diseases cancer is, destroying hope, gobbling confidence, tearing families apart, leaving a trail of pain and sorrow.  To celebrate my good fortune, when friends whose initial prognoses were so much better than mine are no longer here, seems crass and inappropriate.

    But I do want to mark the date, a paradigm shift in my experience and understanding.  And I do want to express my gratitude to the many, many people who have shared those five years.

    So I am creating a 'thankfulness' playlist.  In exchange for a donation of £5 to CRUK, donors can choose a song/hymn/piece of music which I will download, add to the list and play on the afternoon on 23rd August 2015 (between church services!!)

    I chose CRUK after a lot of thought... I have been supported by folk in all parts of the UK, so it felt appropriate to choose a UK-wide charity.  For all the vital work done by support charities, in the end it comes down to research.  And because I have friends affected by many types of cancer, it needed to be general.  So CRUK was the best fit.

    The link is here and I look forward to finding which songs etc are chosen.

  • "It's Not Your Job..."

    It was one of these conversations that crop up now and then about ministerial life.

    The other person was very clear that certain things were/are not my job and that my time ought to be spent ... well doing things I already do but, seemingly, to the exclusion of the things they think are not my job.

    Reflecting, it kind of makes me smile, because, were I to ask people at church what they consider is or is not my job, I have a feeling that there would be a small core of expectations and beyond that it would vary quite considerably.

    Which makes me step back a little and ask myself, so what is my job?  And do I allocate time and energy according to what I perceive as my priorities?  Am I more reactive than proactive?  What do I shy away from facing that needs to be addressed?  What would I happily spend all day and every day doing?

    Lots of stuff that I do is "not my job"... but really, so what?  I have a job that allows me immense privileges not afforded to folk with tight job descriptions.  I have the liberty to work from church or home or even in the park.  I can order craft materials and call it work or listen to music online in a quest to identify something to use in worship.  I might have days that stretch to 14, 16 or 18 hours (one such tomorrow), I might end up feeling bruised by conversations, I might have to apologise for some actual or perceived error of judgement... but such is the cost of the flexibility I enjoy.

    So I think I'll carry on with the stuff that is "not my job" that is part of the way I feel ministry ought to be shaped.  I'll accept that that won't match everyone's (or anyone's) expectations or desires, but that's OK.  And every now and then, there will be the conversations that make me pause and reflect - and that's got to be a good thing too.

  • An Unexpected Nostalgia Tour!

    My decision to travel by coach from Glasgow to Northampton and back for, essentially, a day trip was necessitated by the fact that a late decision meant the there were no bookable train seats left and no workable flight combinations.  Apart from being slower and cheaper than the train, it all worked very well (at least National Express allow p-l-e-n-t-y of time for connections so that a coach running 30 mins behind schedule won't mess it all up for you).

    What I hadn't bargained on was the free nostalgia tour because of the routes the three coaches took.  The 11 p.m. from Glasgow was in fact an Edinburgh to Plymouth service, calling at lots of places en route.  So I saw Hamilton, Carlisle, Lancaster, Preston, Salford, Manchester, Manchester airport and Stoke on Trent all en route to Birmingham.  Then Birmingham international airport and Coventry en route to Milton Keynes.  Lastly Milton Keynes to Northampton via Milton Malsor, Collingtree turn, former Blackey Moor, Queen Eleanor Cross, and Far Cotton ending up where the bus station used to be, very handily across the road from where my Mum lives!!

    I started to spell it all out - and it soon became too long and too self indulgent but lots and lots of memories, mostly happy ones, and a surprising summary of much of my life.  Places I lived, places I travelled, places  I passed through travelling, places I walked, places I know or knew, places that haven't changed and places that were barely recogniseable...  A summary of a life, from the relative comfort of a long distance coach, and the continuation of lives there and here...

  • The Holy Inadequate

    (photo found on line)

    Between 11 p.m. on Saturday evening and 6 a.m. this morning I spent something of the order of  22 hours on National Express coaches.  A fair chunk of that was sleeping (or trying to), the rest looking out of the window and seeing familiar and unfamiliar places.  Passing through Stoke on Trent at around 6 a.m. on Sunday morning, I happened to spot this pub... I must have passed that way dozens of times driving in my car, but had never seen this, set back from and below the ring road (or whatever it is called).

    The Holy Inadequate - a great name for a pub, with some excellent west midlands humour.  Also, I think, a good description of a minister!  No, this is not me self-flagellating yet again, just the reality that all ministers are in some senses inadequate and in some senses holy.

    I'm very tired after my travels - sleeping in 20 minute chunks, puntuated by loud speaker announcements that "ladies and gentlemen we are now approaching such-and-such coach station" was not very restful.  Spent much of the morning making zeds... and think an early night is in order too!

  • Poetic Justice?

    This afternoon I listened to ten or so people share their poems, and was invited to judge between them.  Thankfully with two other judges.

    I think it confirmed what I've always known... I'm not cut out for judging things.  I was very happy with the descisions that were made, and overall our opinions weren't so very different... but it left me very stressed.  I think because I am very aware of my lack of understanding of poetry as a genre.  I think because it is, ultimately, subjective.  I think because every one, however technically competent or otherwise offers something of themself.  And maybe because I'm just a wuss.

    I really enjoyed the poems: I laughed, I ached, I was taken to places, I was asked questions, I was granted insights to people's souls.

    I'm really glad I was there, and grateful to have been allowed to share in the judging... but now I need to lie down in a darkened room!!