Where has the time gone?

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Suddenly it is May and we are talking about coming to the end of our Living Faith journey. People are planning and starting to work towards future goals.

I have had some encouragements and some reasons to ponder and stress and doubt myself but then is that not what discernment is about? It feels at time that I am in need of full time therapy. That I am being judged and questioned and tested but that’s only right and how it should be, if Gods plan is now as I am thinking it might be.

GULP.

But wait I have missed a whole load out, well actually I have written blogs, just not felt I could share them as they didn’t make sense or gave too much about my inner fears away. So here is a quick summary.

I decided that perhaps chaplaincy is my calling. Well it seems to fit but the idea of becoming a lay reader, who specialised in chaplaincy would free me up to be able (God willing) to help my own church and community. A plan yes?

So, pulling up my big girl pants, I sent the email asking if I could be considered to possibly start training to be a lay reader. Now they warn you it’s a slow process, nothing will happen quickly, your first interview (informal chat) may take months.

Four days!!! Four days!! That’s how long I waited. Four days.

So at the allotted time I bounced up to the door of the kind gentleman who had the task of trying to point me in the right direction or maybe no direction at all.

Full of enthusiasm like an overgrown puppy, really happy to be there, thinking of all the things I could mention to try and sell myself etc etc.

I arrived a bit early (we had had snow and I was keen not to be late) so went into the church next to the vicarage for some alone time and a quick prayer for courage.

Reassured by the stillness and peace of the church, I approached the front door and rang the doorbell.

It was at that point I discovered that the menopause had eaten my brain and the ability to speak had been erased from my hard drive. Suddenly breathing and grinning were my only functions.

In the next few hours I was asked my opinion on just about every aspect of church life, how I connected it with my own thoughts. Did I have a view on this? On that? On things I didn’t even know I actually knew about.

And then it happened. The big question. The one that I had been avoiding.

Why not become ordained? What’s stopping you?

What was stopping me?

 

 

ALM adventure

So following the “Living Faith” course we are all geared up to take our faith and share the joy and enthusiasm or are we?

Well and truly hooked on learning more about my faith and my place in God’s plan, the opportunity to join the Pastoral Care Elective was too good to pass up.

ALM – Authorised Lay Ministry – The Next Frontier!

This parish based ministry is deeply rooted in the Dioceses Strategy. It’s an active response to local needs and an exciting new form of ministry in the Chichester Diocese,  in an active and positive time of change.

Now that might read like a PR statement but it is how I genuinely feel.  I have been on the coal face of things not quite working, communications not reaching the rural parishes in time, initiatives based on large town or city churches and the apparent dismissal of the gifts of the laity to contribute to active church life.

I know all aspects of the diocese need work, updating systems, implementing procedures and finding ways to actively supporting our clergy as they gather flocks, work in our changing society and do what they are called to do – bring us to Jesus.

ALM is not about taking any of the responsibility away from the clergy but it is about recognising and equipping the laity in the knowledge and skills that are needed to be an active team member working in the parish for the greater good.

After being trained and authorised by the  Bishop it is hoped that we (ALM’s) will lead or help establish a team of people in our parish to undertake various tasks and or to help develop the gifts and potential of others.

During the introduction evening we were reminded that at Baptism we are called to be disciples, called to be our true  and unique self’s  and to follow Jesus. This is just the next step along the constant road we are journeying along.

So the training promises to be interactive, reflective, challenging and diverse, their words not mine but having experienced last year I have no reason to doubt that will be the case. I learned so much from shared experiences, discussions with people from different backgrounds and from listening to what was actually being said to me.

I am hoping the reflective journals we are being asked to keep will the something that I will grow to appreciate and give me the opportunity (like this blog) to look back and see just how far I have travelled and how far I still have to go.

However with the song “KLF 3am Eternal” as an ear worm every time I say ALM. (Google it) In the words of the song “KLF is going to rock you!!”.

I rather hope it will be “ALM is going to ROCK me”

 

 

Ordinary Times

Listening to a work colleague leading a prayer session, I marvelled at how close she had become to the Lord in the time I had known her and how her naïve look at Christianity was endearing and made us realise we shouldn’t take things for granted.

Now that might sound patronising and that was really not my intention but when she referred to seasons I have been doing so much reading up on being a proper Anglican that I automatically thought Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Ordinary Time.

Not that either of us is incorrect just that we are both looking at the same time zones in a different light.

But we are in the “Ordinary Time” church season and in that lovely time of year when we still get warm sun but that we can enjoy  a crisp morning and the smell that autumn is just a blink away.

It’s a time to see the world around us changing from children starting school for the first time or heading off to university. To drag those woolly jumpers out the wardrobe and to look for new winter boots.

It’s a time to shed our excess, like the trees that shed their leaves, and to hunker down and prepare not only for winter  and for the long dark evening ,where the opportunity to read and reflect is a welcome thought . Warm cuddle blankets on the sofa and a good book. Perfect.

So maybe moving on from leaves we are really de cluttering our life, shedding the activities of summer, recouping time to  explore and be with God.

Like the seed safe in the warm earth, is winter our time to grow in Christ?

I hope so.

Blessings x

Who touched me????

Sometimes during this “what am I doing period” I have hit some real lows, wondering if I am barking up the wrong tree.

Have I really got a calling? Is God really talking to me or am I being led by my ego or a need to please others?

A friend gave me a very gentle telling off recently saying I am doing too much, that I need to slow down, to leave space to hear what God was trying to tell me. She told me I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that I was loved by Jesus regardless of what I did.

All very well her saying that but how do you stop doing what you do when you are juggling so much and others rely on you. Now the truth being, nobody is irreplaceable when it comes to  doing certain things, and just because you have been the one to pick up loose ends you are not the only one capable of doing that.

So I went cold turkey.

Going away on holiday is a perfect time to lay down extras jobs and gentle encourage others to pick them up. Trouble is I am just a bit impatient and giving time for others to realise I am really not doing something is making me a bit twitchy. I guess I am just one of life’s doers. The lesson I should hear is waiting and patience.

So I was blessed with ten days in a beautiful place in Spain and armed with four books it had been suggested I read. Anyone who know me on knows I can devour books on holiday at an alarming rate so I did worry four might not be enough and made sure my kindle was loaded as back up.

In the run up to my holiday, as well as the unusual end of year (I work with students) trials and tribulations, I dealt with my place of work changing and the packing up of the old place, the emotion of saying goodbye to work colleagues who will no longer be working with me. All served me in good stead as experience in pastoral care I felt ,although I couldn’t help but feel stressed by it all in a way that indicated I was in need of a break and a massive rethink on things.

I duly started my first book on the plane, trying to close my racing mind to things I had left behind but nothing I read would go in.

I read, I reread and although I got to the end of the book the only thing that stuck out to me was  a brief mention of Mark 5:24-29 – The women who had bled for 12 years and when she touched Jesus in a crowd, without him seeing or knowing it was her, she was healed.

Culturally, to have been ostracised for bleeding for so long she must have felt so cut off from her family and society. Unclean not able to visit the temple but she showed such faith that to just touch the hem of the cloak Jesus was wearing and she knew she would be healed.

So after a few hours sat by the pool I started my 2nd book. One I had saved for holiday and I really wanted to read but I  again I just couldn’t absorb anything. I gave up.

I was slightly upset by this as I really needed to read these books recommended by my VA. But the words of my friend came to mind. What do you have to prove? Are you doing this for you, for Jesus or to be seen to do something? In other words, are you doing any of this for the right reasons? Are you trying to follow this path because you feel its expected of you or because you are being called?

All sorts of doubts came to mind and I was filled with anxiety . Am I wasting everyone’s time? So I prayed and sat in the sun and swam and prayed some more.

While I was in Spain the fiesta of John the Baptist took place 24 June. Huge bonfires are built on the beaches all along the coast and fireworks explode into the night. Herbs are hung on doorways in some areas and large effigies are burnt on the bonfires of witches or demons. In true Spanish tradition its a celebration, a party and very family oriented.

It was good to  see families enjoying time together with all ages dressed in red.

After a day or two of just chilling I picked up my book again and the space and peace I had given my brain had made all the difference. I could absorb the words, the theory and hopefully understand.

There it was again – Mark 5:34. 

The woman brave enough to trust her faith that this man could heal her just by her touching the hem of his cloak. He didn’t even need to place his hands on her, she believed that all would be well if she could just stretch out through a crowd and place a hand on his cloak. Not grab handfuls, bring huge attention to herself but gently touch his cloak in an anonymous way.

But Jesus felt the impact of her healing – he knew that something had happened that somehow a change in someone had occurred and he asked who had touched him. He felt the healing spirit leave his body.

How scared must she have been this women who was used to living in the shadows. Lots of people in the crowd must have seen her as invisible but here was Jesus talking directly to her.

This confirmed to me that Jesus sees and feels all that  we do no matter how small.

So I mulled over this and took from it that even when we think Jesus isn’t aware of what we are doing he notices and feel not only our pain but our joy and our healing. Faith brings peace.

Now those who keep with the readings will recognise this story from last Sunday, when I am sure it was preached as part of the trio of  healing miracles.

I still hadn’t quite shaken off the despair from the start of my holiday and I arrived at church in not the best of moods. Some could say I was grumpy 🤭 Then came the sermon….

Now I swear my Rector is in cahoots with the Lord above when it comes to reassuring me along my journey. I hadn’t had the chance to talk about how I was feeling or that I had been pondering about Mark 5 but when he said “Daughter” as Jesus had said, I knew he was talking to me. His words seemed to be directed straight at my heart and the panic and the anxiety of worrying was I enough? Am I hearing you correctly Lord? And I found my calm place.

My faith has taken me on this journey, my faith not my actions. And while they tell you to look for signs and it may be I was subconsciously looking for something, I know Jesus was talking to me in that sermon. I am not giving up I will continue to look to hear what I am being called to do but I suspect I am on the right track but with still a long way to go.

Walking along side others

I keep being referred back to thinking about how Jesus worked and reacted to those around him. And I don’t just mean the men he had with him as disciples but the people he influenced, touched, welcomed along his journey.

Now this might be because I am reading Luke and trying to grasp the meaning of the lessons Jesus is trying to teach. Familiar stories  -Mustard Seed, Healing on a Sabbath, Repent or perish. Doing good not for anything in return other than to help others not a fortunate as you.

Now that’s a bit heavy for my simple blog but I guess my point is recognise who you are walking along side.

Sometimes people just need you so recognise they need help, companionship to be noticed. There is very little you can do but be there with them at a time of hardship, grief or heartache.

For the last few years I have been privileged to work along side A Band of Brothers (ABOB).  We host a BBQ for an amazing bunch of people who take pleasure in running ultra marathons, and while they are all slightly bonkers, we cook butchers burgers and sausages for a lot of the 450+ runners who come back from the run with huge appetites . But I digress.

Each year we welcome young men who have perhaps not had the best start in life or have got a bit lost on the way. We do not know what they have done and we don’t care but we ( there are two of us from church) welcome and take them at face value and are privileged to see them on their journey.

Now this year we were invited to be part of their round up chat at the end of the day.

In the round up they are asked to say how they feel (at that precise moment) what they took from the  day and anything that had worried them before they came.

WELL HOW HUMBLING WAS THAT!!

Comments such as “Didn’t want to come was worried but It was brilliant!” and ” I feel energised” ” So what about next year!”, ” That was my best day off in a long time”.

And what had we actually done?

We had welcomed them as they came , without judgement. We had laughed and joked and work hard as a team.

We had I hope been a little bit like Jesus.

Time to make choices

All good things must come to an end and My Living Faith Journey course has finished.

However I don’t think my journey has even really begin……

I have been meeting with a really nice man who has been tasked with helping me discern. That’s C of E code for laying awake in the wee small hours trying to work out what it is that God actually needs me to be doing next – if anything?

I have been given suggested books to read  – Tim Keller The Prodigal God that literally set me on fire with enthusiasm. You see being an expat brat ( technical term for those who grew up abroad. Honest!) I have long struggled with the whole cultural thing of the father running to greet his younger son. And before you all shout at your screens I know who Jesus was telling his story too and they would have understood his meaning but it still narked me a bit.

Seeing the two sons in relation to people within our church – deanery – diocese has also been an eye opener, myself included.

There really are those who expect results for their faithfulness in a “HE OWES ME” kind of way. I think there is a little bit of the older brother in us all. Not that any of us will be pleased to hear that. Perhaps the older brother in us may stop us breaking with traditions in our church, lead us to stick with what is safe and easy for us, thinking that it doesn’t matter as long we stick to the rules, do as we are asked but do we?

We ARE called to Love one another. Not just those who are like us.

Are we as elder brothers missing what we are commanded to do? Are we being so pious we are missing the very people who Jesus cared for?

It’s all very well living a good life but are we, at any point, sharing why we do this with people? For who we do this?

I talked myself into a challenge during our meeting. I talk about God and or the church quite opening but rarely actually say JESUS when I am talking. Its one of my weaknesses thinking I am not worth to say his name out loud.

By discussing Jesus you instantly bring the conversation or topic to a heart level, especially when talking to non or new believers. God can seem far away but Jesus could be the man sat next to you. It makes everything far more personal and indeed at times you can understand in more depth as you imagine Jesus having the same human emotions we have.

But lets not forget the younger son – we are like him too.

We know and are safe in the knowledge that God will welcome us back with open arms regardless. BUT IS THAT ENOUGH should we get away that lightly. Should we not repent before this happens?

The younger son did repent – he at his lowest point sat in the pig sty (I still struggle with pigs in this context but appreciate it was the lowest of the low) he had nothing, he was in the depth of despair, but he knew by returning to his father and offering to be a slave not even a servant , he would at least have a roof over his head and food as he remembered how his father treated his staff. He didn’t expect to be welcomed back with open arms and with a fattened calf.

That sad, quiet moment when he cried out in despair for his father was the moment we have all had, when things are so tough, we turn our thoughts to Jesus in despair, pleading for help.

So we are both sons.

The lesson for me was to be more aware of those around me not, to judge people’s actions or indeed lack of actions but to be more aware of who Jesus would have been drawn to in society and to STILL try to find my purpose in all of this.

I started with choices. I am rather impatient by nature, one of my growing edges, and I wasn’t really ready for the amount of time that this process may take. So I have made the choice to apply to take an ALM course in Pastoral Care. And to join a Sussex Gospel Partnership course to expand on my bible knowledge. Both things that I hope will make me a better person with more to offer.

SO I am afraid you stuck with me blogging for a little bit longer.

Blessings

xx

 

 

 

Getting things wrong

Made a rooky mistake last night when leading.

I muddled names up and then carried on, without correcting myself, which just confused those listening.

Wasn’t the end of the world, I eventually  corrected myself and everyone laughed with me, at least I hope it was with me 🙂

But the lessons were loud and clear.

  • Do your homework.
  • Have notes to hand.
  • Own your mistakes.
  • And remember only God is perfect.

And get someone else to make the tea!!