Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Detached retinaMy dad is in for the third operation on his second eye with a detached retina. It's not good, and if it keeps not taking, who knows what'll happen. After his first eye went, although it healed, his eyesight didn't get back to normal, so things aren't great. His job - and much of his life - revolves around reading, so please pray.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Personal assessment - and back to workSo, get the first of these out of the way first: I went back to work today, a day before I had to, but felt much better, and it was good to be back. Had a meeting in Cambridge, and afterwards took a colleague around King's, including the chapel. Nowhere feels more like home.
I was hoping to start writing my personal assessment for the year. This is an important document, as it goes to my DDO and bishop. I'm not going to do it tonight, actually, as I'm tired and we're up early tomorrow (Moo's off to Birmingham for the day). I've made some notes. I've included them (unedited), as I'm trying to use this blog as an open and honest way to reflect on my journey. The growing importance of this blog, and how I use it, along with the realisation of how central music is to my experience of the divine, give these subjects pride of place at the top of the page.
Personal assessment headings and topics
- Music and me
- Calling on others for help
- Suggestion that I should have some counselling training
- Impact of having to provide pastoral care, keeps happening – a calling?
- Learning to listen
- Suggestion that I should have some counselling training
- Asking for prayer, and accepting when offered
- Grounded by regular offices, particularly when tired and/or travelling
- Realisation of the importance of music to my spirituality
- Being touched by the Spirit
- Being a father and husband
- Humility, importance of the dominical commandments
- Grounded by regular offices, particularly when tired and/or travelling
- Academic – and grounded in reality
- Engaging with contemporary theological and sociological issues, including syncretism, sexuality and women's roles.
- How communities grow online, and what we can do to help.
- ERMC & parish
- Breadth of worship at ERMC
- Variety of traditions
- Lively debate
- Moving higher "up the candle" – about respect and reverence
- Variety of traditions
- Preaching – finding a voice
- Difficult areas
- Holding back, reining in
- Death and dying – but actually, the pastoral comes astonishingly easily to me
- Not yet arranged– mental health...
- After ordination
- Difficult – parish life, the day-to-day. Self-supporting: what does that mean?
- Academic involvement – but in the social (Inclusive Church & Changing Attitude?)
- Difficult – parish life, the day-to-day. Self-supporting: what does that mean?
Monday, January 29, 2007
Work on musicI finally started getting down to some work on a special mini-course that Helen's working out with me. I'm going to be looking at how music and liturgy and transcendence work together. I've started by getting a bit of a feel for how music fits into Orthodox Christian liturgy - including downloading some Russian and some Greek Orthodox liturgical music (legally) - and also having a start on music in Coptic and Ethiopian Christian liturgy. I even found some videos on youtube which gave a really good taste for how it can be used. Here's one clip, of a Coptic service. The music is overlaid, but is beautiful, and you can also see how the service works.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
I suspect...... that God loves me. I'm not sure why: I certainly don't deserve it. But that doesn't seem to stop Him or Her. Why would anyone love me? Catherine does, Jo does, too. There's God for you (and they're both women, too...).
(How can anyone say that women can't be priests, and bishops, and ...?).
Title postI'm well over a year off ordination, but I'm having to think already about where I serve my title post - or at least what sort of title post I'd like to consider. Let me explain about this, because it's not sure how much people reading this will know how it works. I'm also aware that some of our dissenting brethren (well, sustren - that's our Methodist friends, to be clear about it) read this, and there's no reason why anyone should know how the Anglican church works. Noone in the Anglican church does, after all. I only found out fairly recently. Let me explain how I believe it works:
- training (3 years in my case)
- ordination as deacon
- start title post (working as a curate in a parish)
- ordination as priest (1 year after ordination as deacon, in most cases)
- continue in title post for 3 more years
- do something else if required.
Anyway, I have to come up with some suggestions about the sort of parish that I'd like to spend the next 4 years of my life in.
Aaargh! Do I _want_ to do spend 4 years of my life working in _any_ parish? I guess I do, but I'm not sure to what extent I expect my ministry to be parish-based in the long-term. Is this taken into consideration? I'm not sure it is, but there's a lot to be said for spending time in a parish, settling into a pastoral context, a worship context and the rest. Anyway, what do I want? I'm thinking hard, but music and respect and a receptiveness to the power of online communications: I guess they're all important. And respect for women and for homosexuals. I mean: how can we not?
Oh, if you hadn't realised it, I'm back, and I'm geeky as ever. Still not entirely well, but getting there. All I can say, is
ssh -X -C -i hostkey.kpa host
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Family and geekerySo, Moo's sister and brother-out-of-law, Jenny and Jake, came over with their daughters (our nieces, Jo's cousins) Turtle (Aurora) and Mouse (Mercy). We had a lovely time, as did Jo. It's always good for Jo to spend some time with slightly older children, and Turtle's 3 and a half. They get on very well, and Jo's come on so much since the summer, when we saw them last, that they can have real conversations, let each other know what each of them wants. Unluckily, I missed the bit where everyone else went on a walk, and Jo got so tired that she fell off a bench as she fell asleep at the end of it. Got lots of baby clothes.
While we were clearing out Jo's new bedroom ("when you're 2..."), we came across Moo's old machine. It's a lot more powerful than the machine that I've had running as a server until recently, and as we're sure we won't need it for Moo, I decided to replace one with the other. Got it done today - it's fun to geek away for a while - and things are much, much faster, and I've now got some spare cycles to use.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Getting thereBeginning to feel a bit better. Helen from ERMC sent me a book, which is helpful.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Bump ... Naughty TreePoor Mel, Jo's nanny, had a disagreement with some very nasty ice on a bend in the road today, which led to a significant argument with a tree. Jo was in the car, they're both fine, the car isn't, and the insurance company will pay for a new car seat and, hopefully, repairs to Mel's car, too. Today's title comes from Jo's telling of the story. So far, there's no sign of the bad language the Mel says she used in front of Jo when she (Mel) called the insurance people...
My friend Sarah (who knows how to blow that instrument) has just started a blog, called Sarah Sax. I look forward to seeing what she makes of it. It's a difficult discipline, in my experience, and I've really, really benefited from posting every day (well, having a post for each day - sometimes I'm a little late), so I'm interested to see what she makes of it. Welcome to our merry band, m'dear.
So nice to be able to blog about something other than myself for a change!
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Signed offThe doctor's signed me off for a week to get better. Kept wanting me to tell him that I'm down, but I'm not, really, so wouldn't!
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Taking it easyActually have been.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Crying at civil servantsIn the best of all possible worlds, the act of ordering a new passport shouldn't involve having to cry at any civil servants. But it was all going very well, I'd been awake since 0430, and I'm clearly not well. What a nice man: God bless him for giving me the benefit of the doubt (despite my rector not having filled in part of the form correctly - which I should have checked).
Phoned home, cried. Tube, train, car home. Slept.
OK, so I haven't _really_ taken it easy enough. Will try now. Need to listen to:
- medical opinion
- my body
- even God.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
A petitionPlease consider signing this petition.
"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to prohibit discrimination in the provision of goods, services and facilities on the grounds of sexual orientation for the remainder of the UK at the earliest point possible."
Baby TommyWe heard today that baby Tommy died on Thursday. We know now more than that he was tired, and an inspiration to his parents. Please pray for them.
The fact that I'm still feeling ill rather pales into insignificance.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Birthday/new baby preparations(backposting) Still ill - really not well at all, but Jo's birthday's coming up, and we need to get her new bedroom ready, partly so that the new baby can have hers. So, I've had to do quite a lot, as there's a bunch of things (lifting, putting things together, reaching high stuff, carrying) that Moo can't do as she's pregnant.
Felt a bit better in the evening.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Still voicelessIt's becoming a real pain.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Baby TommyWe've still not heard whether the operation to save little Tommy's life, which was due to take place yesterday morning, was successful. In my book, that still makes it worth praying about.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
No voiceStill no voice, so conserved it for the presentation I just _had_ to give late this afternoon. Slept or dozed most of the morning, did no work apart from answer urgent emails. About 30 of them, in the end. How did that work?
Anyway, the presentation went well. Good seminar with Richard yesterday: lots of prancing about as he showed us the different positions for altars and ministers over the centuries.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
9 hours(backposting) Nine hours of driving in the end. No voice. Listened again and again to this piece of music (no video).
Not this recording (a better one than here, IMHO), but still. I listen to it and wonder how someone could hear it and _not_ believe. It's by Olivier Messiaen, and is called "Dieu Parmi Nous" (God Among Us"), from "La Nativité du Seigneur" ("The Nativity of the Lord"). It's long, but oh, so worth it.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Slow down!Well, Sally's entry today could have been written for me, or at least parts of it. Went to see the nurse practitioner at our surgery today (thanks, Sally, among others), as I've not been sleeping, and can't seem to throw this cough/sore throat/run-downness/etc.. Lack of sleep during the night (and then having to crash during the day) is a classic sign of raised blood pressure, which I remembered. And, indeed, my blood pressure's gone through the roof, with readings of 170/110 and 150/101, neither of which is particularly reassuring, and Pat (the nurse practitioner) reckons it might well be partly a result of the viral infection generally running me down, which causes my body to put its blood pressure, which makes me tired, which makes me more run down, which causes ...
So, she's increased my dosage of head-exploding pills (named because that's what they're designed to _stop_ happening), and I'm to have a blood test once they've had a chance to kick in. Last time, my bloods came back fine: I don't have high cholesterol or anything, just a predisposition to high blood pressure ("ideopathic", which means "we don't know why, and you're odd", as far as I can tell). Checked, and although it would be good to get more exercise when I feel up to it, that won't be the reason. Neither is my diet or general life-style of particular concern*. So, what should I do? Take it a bit easier is the answer.
I'll be leaving the house before 0800 tomorrow to drive to Swindon for two meetings, then driving back, then going to a seminar in Stowmarket. Don't expect to spend much more than 8 hours in the car. You've got to laugh.
Which, actually, is part of the point. I need to make a conscious effort to back off a bit, I think. I don't mind driving - in fact, unlike Moo, I enjoy it - and I'll listen to some good music, kick back (metaphorically), and chill out a bit. Just need to remember to do it. A bit of passive spirituality is called for, I think, and I might even burn a special CD mix to help myself along.
*(I've never smoked, and don't drink to excess. Well, not often. And, you ERMC folks, you see an unrepresentative sample. Honest.)
Sunday, January 14, 2007
RecoveryI've got to get well soon. I'm not sleeping at all well, and having to sleep during the day for at least an hour during the day, and it's seriously, seriously deep. Coughing, still.
It's been an up and down day. I was a bit miz this morning, having upset Moo last night. Jo's been really hard work, and neither of us has really been feeling great. I had a sleep after we got up, felt guilty about it, took Jo to Long Melford for church, which was OK, but generally involved less liturgy, and more child-minding, than I'd really like. Very welcoming, and a good service, but (as I've mentioned in blogs passim, I believe) this taking a child to church has really opened my eyes to how we can't make assumptions about the extent to which people enter into the liturgy. We went out for lunch at the Bottle Hall pub. Good food, good beer, Jo was a pain. We went back home, but the day ended very well as I took Jo swimming. She loves swimming, and it really cheered me up, too. A good evening, too, and I did the ironing. We're watching the end of the 2nd Green Wing series. It's just genius, and it's got Sally Phillips (of, among other things, the fantastic Smack the Pony, yes, she's gorgeous, though I don't usually go for blondes at all) in it, too.
Spoke to Ian, Rector of Long Melford about the possible ERMC placement, and, feeling brave, gave him not only my contact details, but also the URL of this blog. He'll get the former anyhow, but the latter has some risks attached to it, particularly given Friday's posting. But I decided that honesty's the way forward. Heigh-ho. Ian - if you're reading, hi...
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Another on the wayIt took a little time, but as Moo gets to 26 weeks gone (and therefore the 27th week), we have some news. News that I'd been expecting, but it took a while. I was feeding Jo her supper - well, I was sitting next to Jo, as I read the Church Times as she fed herself, as you do, when she announced that she's got a baby in her tummy - in her womb (she was specific). She can also feel it moving and wriggling.
I suspect this is not unconnected with her feeling the baby move again today - and probably getting it for the first time. Anyway, it's very, very sweet, and clearly not the case, but that's fine. She's clearly engaging in the process.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Triumph of respect over intoleranceAs you'll see on the Stonewall story, earlier this week, the Lords (the House of Lords, part of the UK's government) threw out the suggestion that the Bill to enforce equal rites for homosexuals should be amended. The amendments were basically to allow those people who don't approve of the sexual practices of certain people to discriminate against them. (Not, in my view, quite the way Jesus (known as "the Christ") would have behaved). It shouldn't be assumed that all Christians were for the amendments, as many protested against.
I'm hugely relieved and happy. I don't really have much more to say than that: that's where I stand. I'm happy to engage with people who disagree...
Thursday, January 11, 2007
SynchroBlogWell, it's been very interesting reading the the other SynchroBloggers' entries on Spiritual Warfare. I feel better educated, though I certainly didn't agree with everything I read, it set me thinking. We're hoping to do a SynchroBlog every month or so, and we've now got a mailing list going. If you're interested in joining in, please get in touch.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Spiritual Warfare: a liberal looking inwardsI had to look up the term "Spiritual warfare" when the suggestion came up that we should do a synchroblog: you'll find a useful definition on Wikipedia. Well, it was useful for me, at least, to the extent that it told me that it's not a concept that I'm very happy with: certainly not very familiar with.
The aspect of spiritual warfare with which I had some passing knowledge was more in the Orthodox tradition of being aware at all times of the internal battle to live to the glory of Christ revealed to us, and to battle against the impulses to apathy, non-doing and, sometimes, downright evil which are part of our shared humanity. This battle is one that Christ's salvation, and the continuous workings of the Holy Spirit through God's continuous creation. This is the looking inwards that I referred to above, and is an understanding of spiritual warfare with which I'm entirely happy.
Where I struggle is with the demonic side of things: evil spirits who inhabit our world. I'm not a big fan of angelology, and this dark side of seeing the spiritual world is caught up with that. I'm much happier with a view of evil which is seen more as embedded within us - not so much original sin in the traditional sense, but more due to the brokenness of human society: an inevitable consequence of our fallen nature.
I'm very aware that my experience, however, is very limited. I have, thank God, never experienced real evil first hand. I've witnessed evil deeds, and come across at least one person in whom evil must be understood to have been at work. I know that there are things out there that are beyond my understanding. I suspect that this may change over the years that come, and that evil may press harder on those of faith than without, but I've yet to see anything that convinced me that evil spirits were at work in people.
This is partly due to the fact that I've had lots of exposure to issues around mental health. I've seen little in my life which I've not been able to understand or at least relate to in terms of human brokenness and mental illness. Moo has worked in mental health for quite a lot of her mental health, she's read widely in issues surrounding it - and I've mirrored some of that reading - I have friends and family who have suffered - and still suffer - with mental health problems. I worry very much when issues of mental health, which can be addressed - if not "solved" completely - through counselling and various kinds of care - are blamed on evil spirits.
This raises two points. First of all, I'm not a fan of over-medicalising conditions which have a large emotional component, as many mental health conditions do. A holistic view of illness - particularly mental illness - is often vital. This can often include a spiritual element of treatment: and maybe treatment here is too medical a term to be using. What is more, it is important to treat the person, and not just their illness, and in order to do that, it is important to allow the person being treated to understand their illness in a way which makes sense to them, and which is contextualised to their situation.
This leads to a second point: that it may be that the understanding that people have is strongly influenced by their spiritual beliefs. They may, in fact, see their condition - and I'm now carefully avoiding talking solely about mental illness - as mainly revolving around spiritual elements.
And here is an example of where looking at postmodern understandings of experience can be very helpful. A realisation that every point of view has a validity, even though they may not all be equally valid, means that we can understand that imposing our views of reality and experience without any attempt to understand and contextualise the explanations and descriptions of the realities experienced - quite fully and honestly - by other people, can be damaging to them. It also falsifies any pretension to tolerance, understanding and empathy that we make. Generally, this is something that the medical profession is coming to terms with, particularly in mental health. We, too, as religious practitioners, need to be aware that realities are relative. Yes, there is an objective Truth that God has given us, but we cannot fully understand it - we are too broken - and we must be aware of that. As Christians, we believe that the revelation of Christ to us gives us a better view of that Truth - if we listen to it - but we cannot, and must not, pretend that we have all the answers.
I've roamed a bit off my thread, and there's one more point I want to make. This is that sometimes the historical understanding of the practice of spiritual warfare can be used to excuse practices which are un-Christian. Some of the exorcisms that take place in the name of spiritual warfare, for instance, are more about control and abuse of the powerless than can possibly be considered Christian. While we need to contextualise belief - as I mentioned above - love of God, of others and, yes, of ourselves ("love thy neighbour as thyself") must inform at all times our practice, and praxis of faith.
- Phil Wyman - Pagans, Witches, and Spiritual Warfare
- John Smulo - Portraits of Spiritual Warfare
- Mike Crockett - Sufism: How the Inner Jihad relates to Christian Spiritual Warfare
- Steve Hayes - Thoughts on Spiritual Warfare
- Marieke Schwartz - Grace in War
- Cindy Harvey - Spiritual Warfare. (?)
- Jenelle D'Allesandro - The Militancy of Worship
- Mike Bursell - Spiritual Warfare: a liberal looking inwards
- David Fisher - Spiritual Warfare: Does it have to be loud and wacky?
- Brian Heasley - Something from Ibiza via Ireland
- Webb Kline - Webb Kline
- Sally Coleman - Sally Coleman
- Mike Murrow - Mike Murrow
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Coughing so hard...... that I threw up. Nice, huh? Coughed a lot overnight, and woke up at 0600 coughing more and more. Had breakfast OK, and was about to head back to the customer's, when I started coughing big time. Made it to the bathroom in the hotel, and, well, threw up part of breakfast.
Rather than going into the customer, I drove home instead, and had a sleep for nearly an hour. Part sleep, part dreaming, part hallucination. You know the sort of thing. Felt better afterwards, and did a lot of work, but took it easy.
Jo's been coughing madly for about half an hour. She's kind of asleep, but I'm not sure it's going to last. I'm going to try to take her in with me tonight, in an attempt to allow Moo some sleep.
Monday, January 08, 2007
Coughing(backposting) Back to work today. Both Jo and I have lots of coughs - at least Moo's over it. Did lots of work over the morning, and then headed off to Staines to meet Eugene, a colleague over from Canada, and spend some time with a customer. Not that exciting a time with the customer - plan to be back there tomorrow - but had a good evening with Eugene. Took him out for a pint (warm, of course), then back to the hotel. He wasn't very impressed by the service at the hotel - but neither was I - but then I introduced him to the concept of sticky toffee pudding, of which he approved.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Back home again(backposting) So, only four hours of sleep, and I had to miss the first session of the day. I really needed some help with last night: Helen listened, let me cry, all the rest. I need to be honest with the blog, where possible, and the need for cry was really about powerlessness: about not being able to help and fix things.
Helen has suggested that when I'm ordained - I'm too busy now - I get some counselling training. Knowing how to deal with issues when the arise, knowing what's possible and what isn't, and also how to deal with the effects on me, too: that sort of thing. Over the years, I've found myself performing this sort of role with a variety of people, and having some sort of training in it would make a lot of sense, so I welcome Helen's wisdom.
A very good service - communion, as always - then lunch and home. Back a bit before Moo and Jo - who's still very coughy. Got a nice one developing myself, actually.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Judaism and mission(backposting) Had a very interesting couple of sessions today. We had three people - two students, one ex-student - from the Centre for Jewish-Christian Relations. It appears that I was lucky, and got the best session. We had a very interesting and wide-ranging discussion, from the state of Israel to supersessionism (the question of whether God's initial covenant with the Jews has been superseded by the new covenant - or testament - of Jesus: a very fraught question), to questions of appropriate modes of interaction (and/or mission) between Christians and Jews.
Malcolm presented another session on Judaism and mission generally. He raised the question of how we, as Christians, tend to be too hung up on using proselytising for mission, and altogether too obsessed with numerical growth. He wondered whether we should look at conversion by example: how if we live right, people may follow our example. This really got me thinking: our living isn't just at the personal or cell level, but also at the corporate level. The main reason that people who I know give for not being interested in Christianity is that we - Christians - live hypocritically: "how can I take you seriously if you don't even treat women and homosexuals properly?"
A tough evening on the pastoral side: thanks to Sarah for the support.
Friday, January 05, 2007
Back at ERMC(backposting) Last day of holiday (not counting weekends), and I had a nice lazy day, sleeping in to 0915, which is pretty good, but less amazing when you realise that I didn't actually go to bed until around 0115 this morning, due in part to watching some of the excellent and funny The 51st State (also known, it appears as "Formula 51"), which I look forward to renting and watching in full in the future. Put the bins out, printed out my essays and the materials for the weekend, all that kind of stuff.
Then off to London Colney for an ERMC weekend on "Judaism and Mission" and "Ageing". Not, you might gather, the most consistent of topics. Had a decent drive - despite some frankly disgusting weather - and arrived in plenty of time to make a rehearsal for some Taizé music that I was going to cantor. I ended up part-directing it too, and it went very well. I was even asked if I'd done any Taizé recordings, as I'd had one of the members of the course in tears (of joy: I checked). I was also surprised to discover that I apparently have the ability to glide. This will be surprising to anyone who knows me as a clumsy git [tm], but there is a particular style of walking with head "on top" (Alexander technique showing through there) and very balanced which allows for a certain amount of grace. When moving around in church, I think I adopt it subconsciously (it works very well in a cassock, thinking back to the days when I processed around a lot), and I'd done so while moving between positions this evening.
A session on ageing, and then to the bar. Sarah ended up trying to volunteer me to have a charity back wax. Then chest wax. Then leg wax. I'm not interested. Quote of the evening:
- "But what about all those poor children?"
- "If those poor children really want my leg hairs, I'll shave them myself, and they can stuff whatever duvets and pillows they want."
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Essay doneStarted it around 1800, finished it at 2329. Need to sanity-check it, but I think it's done. Only had one pint of Guinness and one glass of red wine, so it shouldn't be too bad.
Thanks to Sally for the interruptions - allowed me to step back a couple of times. An unwinding drink in front of the TV now, I think, then bed.
- Church History: 98%
- Mission: 100%
- Happiness level: 90%
- Mission: 100%
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
EssayI'll start tomorrow. That's the deal. Moo and Joo are off to stay with Kate and Mac, and I'll have around 24 hours to do it. That should be enough. I've got half a clue as to what I'm going to say, and I'll wing it from there on in. I only need to do one other for this weekend, and that's done and dusted: it needs a cover sheet and printing, and that's all.
I'm still on holiday (only spent around an hour and a half on the phone or doing emails for work today), but don't feel very rested. Feeling guilty about the fact that I'm half looking forward to a few nights away on work which will allow me to get some sleep. At least I've avoided a 5 day work trip to DisneyWorld Florida next week. No, really.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Tired and grumpy and fed upOK, I admit it: I'm all of the above, of have been at various times of the day. Let's look at some reasons:
- for the last week or so, I've been waking up with a nasty sore throat
- we're both short of sleep
- I've only spent an entire night with Moo in bed twice (I think) over the past 3 weeks
- I had a real fight with Jo between 0300 and 0400 about whether she was going to sleep in her own bed (she won: she went in with Moo, and I went to sleep in the spare room again)
- I've got an essay to write for Friday
- money's looking like a really interesting issue for the next few months
- we've got a new baby on the way: of course it's disturbing
- there's lots of interesting stuff on at work, but it's keeping me very busy and may well have long-lasting impact on my career
- oh, and I'm trying to juggle ERMC work (forget the essay as well!).
My blog may not have looked like it over the past few days, but I'm beginning to think more theologically, if that makes sense. My personal seems more imbued with the spiritual (spiritual and theological are closely allied for me), which is probably how ti should be. I'm not sure how closely this marries with the course, but in some ways that probably doesn't matter, as long as I'm keeping things together and covering the course as prescribed.