Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Another year

So. Another year - which is frankly unbelievable. I think that birthdays get more far-fetched the more of them I collect. I have no plans today, beyond working & then going home & walking the dog. It seems silly to celebrate something so ridiculous. Though if anyone fancies calling round - I can't have a beer, I'm on antibiotics that are messing with me, so I'm a cheap date!
Looking back, I wrote this a year ago:
Age is a reminder: we are granted one life. Live it well. Don't waste it. Make good choices, and (in the words of Winston Churchill that I have on a fridge magnet) - "Never, never, never give up". 
I guess last year was a lot better than the one before. I find myself now more relaxed and at ease with myself, and the recipient of much grace and kindness. I am grateful for the surprises of the last year, and mindful of them cannot but expect more ahead. Life, even the fast passing, quickly advancing sort that I seem to have stumbled upon simply by getting older, is for living. And for that, much gratitude.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Beyond Words

In the prime of life. Married with two boys. Leading his country's football team to new-found success & nose-bleed heights in the FIFA rankings. Universally liked, it seems. On the TV the day before, laughing & cheerful. On the phone to his mates hours before, talking of meeting up & making future plans.

It's beyond words to hear of the news of the suicide of Gary Speed, one of the Premiership's most successful players, and now a rising international manager. Beyond words. What happened? What on earth happened?

I guess we may find out. I guess we may never know. I kind of hope we may never know. Some things deserve privacy, whatever our thirst for information & gossip may be.

He was a man. A human being. We are all of us complicated, and more than we seem. We all let some people in when life is great and others in when it is not. We have defence mechanisms that are healthy and unhealthy and we are far, far from perfect.

Gary Speed deserves to have the reputation he had in life survive him in death. His family deserve this too.

One (rather disgraced) celebrity once commented to a journalist who was trying to dig up dirt on him, "Don't fish in an empty lake". People are people. We are not machines. We all have moments we are proud of, and the odd slip-up. Some of our actions are pure and totally well-intentioned and yet others in the same room at the same time may (with or without any particular malice) ascribe completely other motives and swear they know our hearts.

Christianity speaks of One Judge. One Judgement. One Justice. And in the Bible we are given a remarkable picture of it: a picture of God dying in shame upon a cross of hatred, that we might be spared such shame & hatred and instead of these words of scorn and condemnation we might hear hear Jesus' voice asking, "Father, forgive".

This is why it is called Good News. And it is for everyone. Judgement (in God's hands) is about love. He protects the widow & the fatherless, and the reputation of he who cannot defend himself. And we who are Christians should do the same, and stand with those who mourn, that they may be comforted.

It is what we would hope for ourselves. God grant us the answer to our prayers, and make us the answer for others. And bless Gary Speed's family & friends, and his name and memory.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

real life

Random snippets of life:

I saw a woman walking a ferret the other day. On a lead. (The ferret, not the woman. She was wearing wellies & a fur coat. But then so was the ferret. Well, not wellies.) It was dark, so I expect she thought she'd see no-one. (Again, I refer to the woman, I have no idea what gender the ferret was, or the state of its night vision.)

At the time, I was walking down a lane to meet up with Steve, the trombonist in the jazz band I sang with the other week. So my mind was full of the lyrics I didn't know. The gig went really well - I mean, I didn't know any of their arrangements, so I had no idea how the songs started, finished or what happened in between, and only a passing acquainance with the words, but I think I got away with it.

Today I spent two hours learning how to use a credit card - I know, who knew it was so complicated? But that's a University for you. To be fair, it's their money I'll be spending, so if they want me to take a couple of hours first in order to sit in front of a screen & be indoctrinated into not buying alcohol on their dime, fair enough. (Really. I can pay £200 for a train ticket to London, but woe betide me if I splash out £2 on a beer. Well, actually, the card will magically simply refuse to let me do this, one imagines by issuing me with some kind of moral electric shock.) (I'll let you know.)

I am about to go downstairs with Rob, one of the guys in the office in order to pick up a white board. The delivery guy left it at ground level - which is level 6 in this building, obviously. We're on level 11. The white board is too big to fit in the service lift. We're hoping the stairs will be wide enough...

This Sunday I am playing organ at the local Remembrance Day service. For years I have wished I had musicians who would step in & allow me just to be the vicar on that day, so that I wouldn't have to multi-task when there was so much going on. This year, I get to be the answer to my prayers for somebody else - and so I volunteered to John, the vicar here, and said I'd play simply cos I know what a relief that will be for him to not have to worry about this. I am a bit rusty... And he has chosen one hymn I have never played successfully anywhere, ever. No, this will not be the first time. Again, I will get away with it if I can. For the rest, hopefully they will remember the words the are singing & forgive my foolish ways.

Next Tuesday I will meet the Bishop of Bradford. I have done almost no public ministry since leaving St Catherine's. At times I have felt guilty about this - not for my own part; but because I know keenly, and have always been aware that people who give time to be involved actively in church life do so by making great sacrifices sometimes; and when we put on activities for them they must be spiritually refreshing or the commitment they give exhausts them and does not empower them. Life is tiring enough without the church making it worse. I have watched people who are giving time and energy to church life and been aware that, for the moment, I am not doing the same. And yes, there have been moments of guilt.

And moments of grace. It's been important to establish myself here, to learn what this new life is, to discover place and position and to let go of what is not my life now. That's not easy. I still refer to St Catherine's as "we" in conversation. ("We had this... We are doing a... We always...") It's not "we" for me anymore; and my calling is different. This time, with its moments of guilt as I have looked at others has also caused me moments of grace because it has brought me freshly to recall why I am here:

Because I am following Jesus.

As with Peter at the end of St John's Gospel, we are so ready to compare ourselves with others ("What about him?"), and to find ourselves better or worse than those around us, to load up the blame or the glory. This is life. But real life, life to the full, life beyond the ferrets and the credit cards, life where the songs are more than half-remembered words and melodies imperfectly harmonised, this life is gift and joy and comes from eyes looking upwards, heart set firmly on following Jesus. Whatever. Whenever.

So I'm seeing the local Bishop. With a view to sorting out my license here so I have permission to officiate and can help out in my non-work hours, and we'll see about doing more ministry from Christmas time. That seems right.