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  • Privilege and Responsibility

    Often enough we minister types speak of the privilege of pastoral encounters, especially those that coincide with major life events, and to do so is valid.  Less often do we talk about responsibility, by which I meaa not our repsonsibility to those who grant us this privilege, but to ourselves (and where appropriate our families).

    It's not just about time management - if it were that easy I'd have had it sorted years ago - it's about the unpredictable nature of real life and the way that the unexpected tends to arrive in several large dollops all at once.  So, it's Wednesday evening and although I've read the commentaries and made some notes, there is not as yet a single word committed to paper for Sunday, which is not the way I like to be.  And I'm tired.  Tired enough that tomorrow I may steal a lie-in as it is yet another day with evening committments.

    Back in the day, I could work 70 hour weeks regularly and thrive on it.  Now if gets much past 50 I'm fit for nothing, and I try to keep it to around 40 if I can.  Workaholic ministers are not really a good thing - not good for ourselves and certainly not good as examples to others.

    So this is me being a little bit responsible and fessing up to fatigue, fessing up to the fact that sometimes there is just too much work to do and that it just can't all be done.

    For all that, I am looking forward to the second session of mindfulness this evening, as the stillness and quiet helps me to re-establish a bit of balance amidst the busyness.

  • Happily Still a NED :-)

    This morning was the annual trip to the breast clinic, to see my beloved breast surgeon (beloved in a totally appropriate, ministerial way, you understand) for my check-up, chat and mammogram.  So, the good news is that, subject the mammogram results, I am still No Evidence of Disease... four years NED and rather overly happy!!

  • Week of Prayer for Christain Unity... Unknotting...


    Yesterday's evening service was led by a religious sister who introdcued us to the icon of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, or Mary, Untier of Knots.  This icon, beloved of Pope Francis, evidently arises from a story of a couple whose marriage was in tatters and were seeking divorce (rather tricky if you are a Catholic!).  Their priest, to whom they had gone for guidance asked then to bring along their marriage ribbon which was crumpled and knotted.  (In their culture, the marriage ribbon was symbolically tied during the ceremony, a little like a celtic "handfasting" or even the practice to this day where Anglican priests bind the couple's hands with their stole as they pronounce them married).  As the priest began to smooth out the ribbon, it began to glow and he had a vision of Mary undoing the knots.

    However we feel about Mary, this is a very gentle, lovely image to have in mind, and one that is surely helpful... we offer to God our knotted, crumpled, tattered lives, and God smooths, unties, mends them for us.  The paraclete we choose may be Sophia, God's Spirit wisdom, or Jesus, God's Christ, but the aim is the same.

    We were all given little handmade bookmarks with the icon and a prayer, as follows:


    Dear God:
    Please untie the knots
    that are in my mind,
    my heart and my life.
    Remove the have nots,
    the can nots and the do nots
    that I have in my mind.


    Erase the will nots,
    may nots,
    might nots that may find
    a home in my heart.


    Release me from the could nots,
    would nots and
    should nots that obstruct my life.


    And most of all,
    Dear God,
    I ask that you remove from my mind,
    my heart and my life all of the 'am nots'
    that I have allowed to hold me back,
    especially the thought
    that I am not good enough.

    Author: Father Ronnie Knott of Rhodelia, Kentucky


    Whatever today or this week brings us, this prayer is helpful, as is the image of a gentle God who will


    Take the time to call my name

    Take the time to mend

    Who I am and what I've been

    All I've failed to tend

    John Bell & Graham Maule (c) WGRG


  • Happy Cats...

    Last night I woke up at about 4 a.m. to discover that I was sharing my bed with two cats!  Sasha has established her right to sleep by my feet, more or less taking over Holly's mantle, except that (thankfully) Sasha does not consider nibbling toes a fun activity.  Sophie is less confident and seems to sleep in shorter bursts, at one point lying half on and half off of my lower legs.

    I am quite amazed how rapidly they have settled in and, apart from stealing cat treats, they are very well behaved.

    This afternoon they are happily snoozing in the kitchen, each having purloined one of Holly's former snoozing places, so they clearly have impeccable taste.

    I'm really enjoying getting to know them, and watching them settle in, and I look forward to many happy cat years to come.



  • According to Mark...

    ...the wilderness is a place of preparation not a proving ground

    This was part of the exploration we shared this morning as we looked at the two verses from Mark 1 that describe Jesus' sojourn in the wilderness.  Mention of satanic temptation is almost superfluous in what is, according to at least some scholars a "paradise" motif, whith Jesus not the "new Moses" but rather the "new Adam"  who comes to restore harmony and order between humanity and the rest of creation; the transformation of the wilderness being a constant theme in various Isaiah prophecies hinted at in these words.

    Our own wilderness experiences, recast in this light, are therefore not tests of faith or trials to build character, let alone God's means of teaching us an object lessons.  God allows us to experience these times, and we be very afraid of the prowling creatures (literal or metaphorica) lurking there, but it is precisely in these places that God is at work beginning to fulfil the hope of salvation - whether or not we recognise it.

    We thought also, this morning, of the 'valley of shadows' and of the shepherd who enters and travels through it with the "sheep".  These places are part of our experience and God enters the darkness with us, comforting and protecting us.

    It was one of thoese sermons that had been fun to research and prepare  but seemed a bit ethereal when I came to deliver it... but the feedback was encouraging, showing that it is never about me, that the mysery that is preaching somehow "works" anyway.