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Posts Tagged ‘joy’

I am a hugger. I’m a great hugger. And I’m an introvert. A BIG Introvert. Since COVID-19 we went from small gatherings to social distancing and I reckon we will soon be house-bound. Right now I’m going, alone, to the Churches at least once a week. It helps me retain a sense of normality in a world that seems to have gone mad.

Last Thursday I spent 10 hours on various screens dealing with phone calls, emails, texts, and Zoom meetings. By Saturday I was feeling completely overwhelmed.

It felt as though I couldn’t finish anything.

It felt as though I was running as fast as I could, simply to stay in the same place.

I couldn’t focus. Then my head started to hurt. It’s still hurting. To the point its distracting.

Last night I had a hot shower and focused the jets on my neck and shoulders. That helped. I’ve tried meditation, drinking water, walking outside to get some fresh air. I’ve tried medication, acupressure, and caffeine. I’ve tried stretching, self-massage and sleep.

What I think I need, no, what I KNOW I need is a time to disconnect.

I was speaking with a colleague earlier today and he said he feels as though this time of isolation has created more demands for connection. I absolutely agree. Working with two denominations has been stressful and enlightening. Both want to ensure that clergy feel connected. Both want to assure us that we are doing our best.

What I need most right now, is not connection, but disconnection.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parishioners. I love my community. I love my friends and family. I also love my own company. And complete solitude.

I’m now trying to work out a new routine. When I wake up I open an app called “Pray as you Go”. It’s a 20 minute reflection on scripture with some music and a calming image on which to focus. As I listen a breathe, sip water and give thanks. Then I say my morning prayers. THEN I get up.

I am going to take time every day to go outside. I’m going to restrict the amount of time I spent in front of a screen. I’m going to nap when I’m tired. Feed myself good, nutritious, food. And do something every day that brings me joy.

In my heart I believe this physical isolation is going to last for awhile yet. Which means I need to get myself into a routine and treat myself better than I have been.

We are having our 5th Sunday Joint Service on Sunday and we’re going to use a Zoom platform. It will be interesting to see who is able to attend and whether we continue to use the platform.

We, as Church, have not been in this position, of physical isolation, for hundreds of years. And while we cannot reach out and touch our friends, parishioners and neighbours, we can reach out and connect. I have recorded one homily and posted it online to incredibly positive feedback.

My hope is that the technology we are figuring out, will be a short-term solution and once the virus is in check, and the isolation is relaxed, we will gather in person once again. Time will be the measure of that story.

So as I watch the sun set behind the snow-covered mountains I give thanks to God for the blessings of this life. I ask for a restful, pain-free sleep which will enable tomorrow to be a beautiful day.

My wish is the same for you. Deep, restful sleep. Rise to a beautiful new day. Experiencing things which bring you great joy.

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A common thing to do this time of year…where have I have been…and where I think/hope I’m going to…

This time last year I knew there was going to be a significant change in my ministry, yet wasn’t quite sure what that was going to be.

I was experiencing a significant emotional and spiritual crisis and thankfully there are terrific mental health services for me to tap into which got me through the “holiday” season and referred to receive help in a timely fashion. I started working with a counsellor, changed my antidepressant and eventually worked with a group on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

It was good to be a in a room with people who understood what I was feeling. It was good to be in a place where I didn’t feel it necessary to pretend how I was feeling. I could be honest and every one understood how I was feeling, and not try to fix it.

I finished the class, and brought the reference materials home, which I referred to from time to time. I continued working on my mental health, my physical health and my emotional health.

We moved through the Season of Lent, then Holy Week, then Easter. All this time there were discussions about entering into shared ministry with our local United Church. It was exciting and terrifying. There were meetings, conversations, committees, sub-committees and lots and lots of prayer.

Eventually a vote was held in both congregations and it was decided that we would step out in shared ministry and that I would be appointed for a two year term. Joy and terror filled my life. Mostly joy.

And as we entered summer there were teleconferences, meetings, conversations, sermons, laughter and tears as we ventured into the unknown with great hope, expectation and fear.

As I reflect back on the past three months, it’s been a time of great professional and personal growth. The Congregations are beginning to see that there are new ways of entering into ministry. One of the congregations is experiencing growth and great hope. The other is experiencing grief.

To be honest it did not occur to me that there would be grief because I’m still with the congregation…but I’m not there as much. I may not be as available. Yet I’m still here.

So as we move into 2020 I’m going to spend more time listening and asking questions, to see if there is a way we can work through the grieving into something tangible and meaningful. To see if we can move through grief and loss into resurrection.

It will take time. And we have time. This is a season of joy and celebration; Epiphany, which will then be replaced by the season of preparation and anticipation; Lent.

We will walk through this together, with my deepest desire being a greater understanding of who we are; individually, as two Congregations and as a Parish. With a greater understanding of Who’s we are. And who we are to each other.

Thanks be to God.

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Christ is Risen!  The Clergy are Dead!! So goes the tongue in cheek phrase to which most clergy can relate.  Holy Week is a glorious week, a long week…and a hard week.  There’s services to plan, bulletins to check, props to gather, homilies to write, prayers to say, visits to make, so many things that must be done in order for worship to come together…and yet, every year it does.

Yesterday was Easter Sunday.  A completely stranger walked in off the street for our first service and worshipped with us.  He exchanged handshakes with everyone when service was over, nodded to me and replied “Happy Easter” when I wished him “Happy Easter” and went back out into his day.

Our second service was joyous and vibrant and while many of our regular parishioners were not in attendance, it was a glorious celebration!  I have a beautiful rainbow tie dye dress that I bought last summer and I decided to wear that on Easter Day.  After worship and coffee hour I went to the grocery store and had some lunch.  Then I walked to the Nursing Home for another service.  It’s a lovely walk there and I carried a basket with palm crosses, white stones, my cell phone and house keys.  Along the way I waved to every car I saw and said “Happy Easter” to everyone I met.

Most waved back or exchanged the greeting.  One little boy asked if I was the Easter Bunny.  I told him I wasn’t but I was delighted he thought I could be.  I asked his parents if I could ask him for a hug.  His Mum asked if he wanted to hug me and he did.  It was precious.

Along the way there I met three sets of dogs and with permission, I got to pet all of them!  It was a highlight.  Especially a huge black lab/shepherd who was a strong leaner and gave me kisses.

I got to the Nursing Home and chatted with a couple of guys who don’t come to worship but like to sit outside the room and hear the preaching and singing.  One of them told me I look like an Easter egg…which made me smile.  We had a huge turn out of residents and we sang out hearts out.  I brought palm crosses to remind them of the journey of Holy Week and white stones to remind them that even in our brokenness we are children of God, created in love and created to live in love.

On the way home I saw more dogs and chatted with a man who had been cleaning his lawn up from the winter gravel.  We talked about the joys of working “only one day a week” and laughed at how quickly the community changes when ski season is over.  I pet his dog on the way to the Nursing Home and again on the way home.

When I got home I called a friend and went to visit her.  We watched the video of her dad’s funeral service and then went to the cemetery to pray together with him.  The gates for the cemetery were locked, much to our annoyance.  We walked in to where the grave is and sat at a rock for awhile.  There was laughter and some tears and then I dropped her off at home.

I came home, got changed and made a simple supper.  Then I relaxed, chatted with a friend online and thought about how incredibly blessed I am to live in this corner of God’s creation.  Everywhere I walked yesterday I could see mountains.  Yes, I was a walking billboard, but I have noticed quite often that when I walk and smile at folks they either smile back or are already smiling.

God is very much alive in this place.  And even though our Easter Day service wasn’t bursting at the seams, we gathered and shared Alleluias, thoughts about the Easter Bunny, why church bells have to ring so long…and how very blessed we are with the gift of Jesus.  We gathered and shared in Communion.  We exchanged the peace together in ways we have for quite some time…and yet there was something different in the air…something innately hopeful and hope filled.

Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

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I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  It is not who I am .  It does not define me.  And yet there are days when I really feel it.  Since moving west I’ve moved my body more than ever and I’m loving how my body is responding.  My skin is glowing, I’m drinking lots of water, eating fresh foods wherever possible, getting outside into the sun or rain and walking most everywhere.

When I first got here I was absolutely exhausted.  The Archbishop asked if my soul had caught up with my body from all the traveling, and when I stopped to ponder his words I realised that it had not.  And that was sad.  So I rested myself more than usual, took things slower and generally listened to my body.

One of the challenges with CFS is chronic pain.  It’s manageable…I’ve lived with it for 18 years.  Most days, once I get moving, it’s barely noticeable and so, I’ll admit, I get a bit cocky…and then that’s when my old friend returns.

Late nights, early morning, poor nutrition choices, overloaded work schedule, stress, etc. etc. etc. and soon the dance of fatigue becomes more complicated.

Last night was one of those nights.  I found my body getting heavy.  I found my ability to concentrate diminished. I fought to stay alert and when I started to lose my horizon I lay down.  It took me a little while to figure out which way was down, but once I did, gravity did the rest.  I slept deeply, heavily for a couple of hours.  Woke up refreshed and needing the bathroom.  Returned to bed and slept deeply again…glorious, restful sleep.

So today as I look at my schedule for the week, I’m going to be a bit more gentle with myself.  I’m still going to walk, but not push myself…life is a marathon, not a sprint.  I’m going to eat food I enjoy, and savour it.  I’m going to begin to journal again, noting the joy and challenge in my life.  And I’m going to live.

Slowly, I’m learning to reframe my language into something that is positive.  A wise friend recently commented that language and words define our power…define our reality.  And it’s so true.  “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me” is a fallacy and a damaging one at that.

My biggest critic is the negative self-talk that permeates my being.  Instead of building walls to keep people out, I’m going to build walls to surround the negative self-talk.  I will acknowledge it, dismiss it, and move on with my life.

A challenge?  Most definitely.

Do-able?  Absolutely.

Because I choose to be happy.  The only actions I control are my own.  And so I will choose to come from a place of love — always.  I will choose to come from a place of peace, of hope and of joy.

Oh there will be bad days…but they will not define me.  Like my CFS does not define me.  Right now we’re dancing the CFS is leading, but not for long.  And when that dance concludes, I’ll send him home.  Then I’ll continue to dance the dance of unbridled joy…perhaps even dancing in the rain.

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In the parish where I serve there are stained glass windows in a triptych behind the altar.  There is also one in the large window of the Gathering Space.  There are large windows at the back/front of the church where the morning sun pours through, bathing the sanctuary in light.

Some Sundays the sun is so bright you can’t quite see.  Makes negotiating the chancel steps a challenge.

Yesterday we had the young grand-daughter of parishioners visiting.  N is absolutely adorable, a little blonde angel.  Through the service she sat at the back with Nana and played, chatting happily about everything around her.  It was a joyful noise.  The happy sound of a child at play brings such joy to a world-weary heart.  I noticed many parishioners nodding and smiling as she was playing…not a worry or care in the world.

When it was time to sing the Eucharistic prayer she hopped off her Nana’s lap and came towards the sound of the singing.  Her blonde pigtails glowing with the vast sunlight, making everything seem bathed in gold.  She looked up at me, at one point, and while I continued singing, I gestured for her to come forward.  She did.  She spotted her Papa and climbed the chancel stairs gleefully to be scooped into his arms while the congregation sang.

Once the Eucharistic prayer was finished she wiggled down and ran back to Nana at full speed, her tiny feet thumping against the carpet and wooden floor.  It was a moment of absolute joy and absolute bliss.  I felt honoured to be in the place where I could see something so innocent and lovely.

In many ways, her approach to the table was very much like life.  She was drawn to something uncertain, the unknown, and she came towards it, tentatively at first, then with more curiosity.  Finally seeing the one she loves and she’s embraced into a safe and joyous place.

When her curiosity is sated she is happy to run back to report what she had seen, much like the women who gathered at the empty tomb on that first Easter Day.

May we always remember the joy and purity of innocence.  May we embrace our own joy and wonder at that which surrounds us.  Life is about discovery.  May we always embrace that absolute joy.

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That’s the name of the season of the Church – Advent.  We await the birth of the Christ Child, the one who will set us free.

This time of year it’s supposed to be about slowing down.  Of anticipating – dare I say, savouring the season.  And yet, every year I find myself overwhelmed with duties.  Parishioners I must visit.  Reports I must write.  Meetings I must attend.  Social engagements at which I must make an appearance.  It’s crazy.

I preach about slowing down and taking thing slowly.  The reality is decidedly different.  And it irritates me.  Why don’t I slow down and savour the time I have?  Why can’t I say no to events that beg to exercise excess?

Because I consider it my “duty” as priest and sometimes, yes, my duty as a friend.

There is a tradition in my family of giving pajamas for Christmas.  In fact, my grandchildren call them “Nanajams” and ever since they were born they have received a pair of pjs from me, for Christmas.  I look forward to finding pjs that are similar for C for D and for their Mom and my best friend L.  This years colour combination is shades of blue and white. My Mam also gets new pjs for Christmas.

This year I have no desire to bake, or cook, or do the things I traditionally like to do.  I have no desire to write Christmas cards.  All I want to do is sleep, eat, write homilies (no really) and walk.

Most likely it’s because of the busy-ness of the past few weeks.  Long days, late nights, restless sleep and a busy brain.  Not a great combination for restful sleep.

So, I think today, I will jettison my agenda and do what I want to do.  Right now there is laundry in the dryer.  My beds needs to be changed, laundry put away, housework done and files waiting at the Church.  And I’ll get to it all, but maybe not this morning.  And that’s okay.

If this is the season of anticipation, I can anticipate a nap, right?

 

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As a rule I don’t make a big deal of my age, or of my birthday.  Yesterday I turned 48.  Never, in my life, did I imagine I would live to this age.  For many reasons, most of which do not bear repeating.

I spent most of the day with my Mam and brother.  We had lunch together, chatting amicably and late afternoon I headed home.  What was wonderful was being together.  Not necessarily having to DO anything together; simply being together was enough.  I liked that.

When I was on the way home my house-mates invited me to meet them close to home for supper.  I happily agreed and we met in a city towards where we live.  It was small child night, or so it seemed.  Lots of laughter, pasta saucy smiles, eating with fingers and enjoying a meal out.  After dinner we headed home and my Beloved was here.  We enjoyed home-baked cake – peanut butter chocolate and it was divine!

Even the Alien joined in.  She paused her video game to join us!

And then an early night because that’s how I roll these days.  Had a relatively good sleep.  Woke at the usual time then decided I wanted to stay in bed, so I did.  Today is going to be a long day as it is our Festival of Lights for the Community.

I have the honour of acting at MC this year and I suspect it’s going to be a lot of fun.  I’m excited about it!  Right now it’s mild but raining.  I hope the rain stops and the weather stays mild…because if not, the program will be truncated…and that’s okay.

Another trip around the sun…relatively painless this year.  I like that.

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