In which Ruth ponders busyness and prayer

I am not doing very well with my daily Lent blog and I’ve even managed to fail at a weekly one over at Beauty from Chaos. Those great plans of getting ahead of myself when things were quiet (ha!) and storing them up just hasn’t happened. The excuses could take up a whole page in themselves: a funeral; meetings; a full day on Deliverance ministry; Lent Groups; sermon writing and re-writing; hymn choosing; desperately trying (unsuccessfully) to get cover for foster-flocks; assisting with Congregational Profiles; and all the other minutiae which takes up a priest’s working week. And the worst thing is that none of it has felt very holy.

It hasn’t helped that I’ve been re-reading Easter for our Book Group. There’s nothing like reading about a priest in crisis for bringing you down. Arditti is so good at observing churchgoers and it has made me wonder what goes on in the heads of my own little flock(s) during services. Of course there are some whom you know well and could probably guess. There are some who are unable to hide what they are thinking from the expression on their faces – and its not always good! But I am sure there is lots going on behind those gorgeous exteriors that I know nothing about. How well do we know our little flocks? And would they want to tell us what’s going on in their heads anyway? Post-Easter resolution is to do more visiting. Crisis ministry is not good for anyone.

I have enjoyed reading Harry Williams’ Becoming What I Am, a little book on prayer. Funnily enough it was a Roman Catholic Redemptorist brother who first introduced him to me. Why do our own theological colleges not teach us about these great writers of the (recent) past? It is so easy to read and, although a little dated, still resonates strongly with me. Today I was reading a bit which has helped me. Let me share it with you:

Von Hugel once said that a very fruitful form of prayer could be compared to sucking a lozenge. What he meant was that instead of selecting passages for meditation…, you read through a suitable book, but not in the ordinary way of getting through it. You read a few lines or a paragraph and then ponder over it. It may say something to you to make you aware of God’s presence, perhaps for the whole ten minutes. Or perhaps the lines you read will keep you going for only a minute or two; then you can go on to the next few lines and try them out. On some days you will find that two lines of the book will fill up ten minutes prayer time, and on other days that you will have to read eight or nine pages. But your aim will be not to swallow what you read immediately as in ordinary reading, but to keep it in your mouth and feel its flavour, as you do a lozenge.

Our job is to put ourselves at God’d disposal by the discipline of regularity, by faithfulness to our rule, and by the use of that common sense without which we can’t do anything. But there our job ends. What happens when we pray is God’s business, not ours. God will give us what he knows is best. And what is best we see in the life of Jesus, in his joy and peace and stillness and confidence and trust. And also in his passion, his bloody sweat, his death and resurrection.

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New blog

Fr Kirstin had a great idea. Why Fr Kirstin didn’t do it herself, I’ve no idea, but she thought I’d be the very person to do it. And okay, secretly I was delighted. The idea came about when I was hunting for a Eucharistic Prayer suitable for Christmas and Epiphany. Our wee liturgy book doesn’t have a special one for that time of year, and I’ve often thought (and suggested) that they produce one but this is likely to be a long process. However it seems that several people are (illegally in some cases!) using such liturgies and I ended up with a nice choice.

Then I posted a pic of some 3d paper mache letters I get from Hobbycraft and use to make little visual displays in church. Fr Kirstin suggested that I put a new blog together and share these resources with others. And I hope others will comment too and share what they have.

Please note that this is not an official Scottish Episcopal Church website. I am not on the Liturgy Committee (shame!) either. This is merely a sharing of resources between denominations, clergy, lay people, etc. A sharing of what makes good liturgy. A sharing of my ideas and yours. Please feel free to comment and check in regularly at Eat Pray Love Liturgy. If you have recipes, prayers, craft ideas… anything at all to share, please let me know.

Chillin’

Readers are complaining that I haven’t been blogging much lately. You’re quite right – I haven’t. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes you are just so unbelievably busy that you don’t have time to sit down and ponder anything worth blogging. And as I missed 3 weeks worth of my day off and it ain’t gonna happen this week either, then blogging is way down the list of priorities. By the way, when did I turn into such a grouch and a martyr? You have to be careful about that in ministry. Nobody wants a martyr for a priest. And don’t talk to me about housework… the place looks like a dust mountain.

I haven’t even been reading much lately. Our book group begged for one of the Classics and chose Cranford for our next book. And, dear reader, it is driving me crazy. Those women just simper all day long and there are just so many stupid rules. I get more and more frustrated by it all that I end up switching off my Kindle in disgust. It would appear that I’m not alone either. The dear person who suggested reading a Classic hasn’t finished it either and says she never will again. Any suggestions of something more up to date?

I did finish Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen which I believe has recently been made into a film. It was a book that was recommended by so many people last year that I decided to give it a go. Well, it was okay. Nothing more than that really. Jacob joins the circus and becomes the vet and falls in love with an elephant and Marlena who rides her. But Marlena is married to someone else who is rather scary. I didn’t really empathise with any of the characters and the setting of America in the Depression was… yes, depressing. I mean, when you’re writing about a circus there are just so many characters you could play with, but none of that really happens. Even the love affair was rather short and not exactly thrilling. Not recommended.

So this afternoon I have vacuumed the house from top to bottom, done a wee bit of tidying and a pile of washing. The ironing is screaming but I’ve shut the door on that one. And I think I’ve inviegled a wee bit of time off tomorrow morning so I’m closing down now and am going to do some serious chillin’.

 

Blogging v journalling

I’ve kept a diary since I was about 12. Most of that time it was a daily diary too. I still have most of them in a large trunk and occasionally I come across them and sit for a while pondering the minutae of my life.

‘Latin today. Boring. Who cares about all these wars?’

‘I think B loves me and he is lovely but J is just sooo cool and I think I fancy him.’

‘Why won’t this baby stop crying? What is wrong with him? Or is it me?’

‘Thinking of going to Church. I know! Can you believe it? Me going to Church? What shall I wear?’

At some point, around my 20s I think, it stopped being a diary and became more of a journal. More thoughts and feelings than merely recording events. And then it all starts to peter out at around the time I was ordained. Probably this was become I was so unbelievably busy that I didn’t have time to journal. Which was kind of ironic when you consider that TISEC (the Theological Institute who trained me) would keep banging on about us being reflective practitioners. I did start to keep a Quotes Journal at this time which became a place to write down prayers I’d found: poems; quotes; passages from books; and I am now on Volume 3.

And of course it was about this time that I started to blog. Now blogging must not be confused with keeping a diary or journalling. Although to begin with my blog was pretty boring and full of ‘things I did today’ entries which didn’t elicit much comment. And journalling of one’s deepest fears and hopes is definitely not the sort of thing that the world needs to hear about. So blogging became more about comments and observations and reviews of books and movies. The only time I journalled was when I was on retreat and the dreaded silence drove me to my fancy notebook and trusty purple pen.

But lately I’ve found that I miss my journal. I miss working through problems on paper and going back over them when solutions are found. Seeeing the journey written down can be very helpful and there is something really powerful about spilling your guts out (in other colours if need be) and ‘getting rid of it’. I often tell other people to keep a journal when they are going through tricky times, and advocate the use of the ‘unsent letter’. (This is absolutely something that should NOT be blogged.)

So I’m going back to my trusty journal. (Lilac linen cover, plain watermarked paper, stitched and bound in case you’re wondering.) I’ve found that I can’t write as much as I used to without my wrist getting achey and my handwriting is not what it was when I won a prize for the neatest writing with a dip pen.

Now if I can just find someone who will promise to come and destroy them all when I die, I’ll feel much more comfortable about it all.

Vagrants

I found this on my romp around the Blogs this morning and it made me smile – a lot. It has never happened to me (yet) but this is the stuff clergy nightmares are made of.

What Myers-Briggs type is your blog?

My blog seems to be ESFP – THE PERFORMER. Surely not!  It says:

The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead – they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

They enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation – qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

There was a graph too which I can’t figure how to copy but it showed that there was little thinking going on but lots of sensing and feeling. I think that’s about right.

Good food, good wine and good company

Dinner last night at a good friend’s and met some old friends and maybe made some new ones. I have since been reflecting on the topic of blogging and how you can meet someone who knows more about you than you do about them merely because they read your blog. It is quite a strange place to be, but not unpleasant for an attention seeker!

It also occurred to be that I do enjoy dinner parties but of course never hold them myself. That would be because I don’t really cook. I heat things up terribly well but I’ve never had the urge or time to learn how to cook. Thankfully Son #1 does not take after me in this respect.  When in the mood he cooks with passion and glee. (I clear up very well. – we each have our gifts.) The other problem about entertaining on your own is that you spend time in the kitchen when you could be sitting blethering with people which is much more fun. Couples do it much better. I can do lunch. Well when I say ‘lunch’ I mean soup, bread and cheese with fruit.  In summer I have been known to throw in a pretty coloured salad. That is the extent of my repertoire. Not great, huh?

Of course last night’s dinner was sublime, in particular the creme brulee and the conversation. Not to self: no wine the night before Mass in future. I know this, so why had I forgotten?  Off to lie down now with a jolly good read.  See you in the next year!