False Memories

It’s funny how we remember things that happened to us. And funnier too, how others, who were in the same situation can remember things very differently to us. That, I guess, is a sign of how our brains work, in that we are each totally individual. We respond to the same stimuli, situations and words in very different ways. So we remember things differently. I was sharing with someone about a sermon that I had heard last week and told her what I thought the preacher had said, but another friend who was in the same talk, added to what I had said and covered things I had totally forgotten, even in just a few days. I suppose I just picked up on the things I needed to hear, or the bits that really spoke to me.
Recently I have been reading my old teenage diaries. This has been a useful exercise personally, looking back over my past. One of the most interesting things only occurs to me now as I have finished the process, which is that how I remember things isn’t always actually how they happened. The memories have, over time, been shaped, warped and twisted into things that reflect the way I felt about those situations as they were happening and in the aftermath. So what I ‘remember’ is actually the way I felt about that situation/problem/person etc, rather than how it actually happened. As I look back 20 years later I can see the other side of those situations, see the point of view of others involved and look on them with, I hope, more mature eyes.
There have been some very painful situations to go over, that at first read were very hard to think about, to take myself back to those days, and to realise that the wounds are still quite raw, it’s just that I have over the years, covered them over. And what has happened in removing that covering has been remarkably healing. I read all my diaries through in one go (over a few days) and then went back and marked bits that I felt I should reflect on. What I found in going back over them is that the second time it wasn’t so painful. And then in reflecting on those bits, that I can look at the situation and see it from another angle. In places where I was quite horribly hurt, angry and broken, I can now see where I contributed to those situations. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sinking into a ‘it was all my fault’ kind of condemnation, just that I can see my part in it all. And I can understand in some places why people acted in the way they did. Often because they were just as broken as me.
I tried to describe this process to my husband which was very hard, but the best I came up with was this: That ‘I’ or ‘me’, who I am, is shaped by all the things that have ever happened to me, both bad and good, and all of those things are mixed up together in my mind. They are not at the forefront of my mind, I do not visit those things/places regularly but they are there in the background in a kind of blur of what makes up ‘me’. And what I have found in going back and reflecting on these things from my past is that the blur that makes up me, is becoming lighter (as in less heavy, not less dark, although that would work too…!) and what is left is the ‘me’ that I was made to be. The resentment, hurt, pain, anger and misunderstanding is leaving that blur. So what I am left with is the memories, and the situations but now with a clearer view, one that I have and will learn from.
I feel so glad that I have had this opportunity to reflect on these things, even though at times it was very hard and I often didn’t like the ‘me’ from my diaries, it has made, and is making a huge difference to the way I view both myself and the life that goes on around me.

The Girl Effect

This is a wonderful video and campaign, do check it out. Women have a powerful influence wherever they are and whatever age. For more info click here.

Illness

For some months now I have been suffering what I can only call a mystery illness. I am always tired, extremely so (having to sleep in the day that sort of thing), I get bouts of nausea that are alarmingly similar to morning sickness (but bearing in mind its been going on for months I think I’m ok on that front, thank the Lord…). These spates of tiredness and nausea can appear with little or no warning. At first I thought I was working too much, then I thought it was because I wasn’t sleeping enough, then I began to worry. Others noticed and commented. Eventually I went to the doc. (which was not easy, I have a thing about going to the Drs, I really don’t like it). Blood Tests followed, all of which were negative, apart from raised white blood cells – apparently a sign of a lingering virus. But after a second batch of tests, all were clear. In the Autumn, I began to feel a bit better and then went down with a flu/cough number which went on for weeks and compounded the tiredness.

Where I am usually outgoing and raring to go, I am now a bit pathetic. I don’t want to go out, I am refusing to make dinner dates and even a night away with my husband is making me fearful. So now I find myself in a funny position. Apparently there is nothing wrong with me. Yet I still have these symptoms, but I also find myself wondering if I am making it worse by worrying about it, like it could be psycological. I do have a lot more time on my hands so I have the luxury of being able to worry about it. If I were busier would I feel better? Could I ignore it? Or would I be worse? I know I needed to slow down and take a break from the way I was filling every second of my life. And now I have the time to slow down I can’t seem to settle in to it. Part of me thinks that God has given me this time, to have a break and to spend time seeking Him more (perfect preparation for going into Mninstry I am sure!) and the other part finds the concept of not doing much very alien. This last week, every morning after dropping the kids I have come home, lit the fire and had 2 hours of bible reading and prayer. It has been wonderful. but there is such a sense of guilt about this time. Surely there are hundreds of things I should be doing rather than sitting here. But then what is more important than seeking God and spending time in His presence?

My husband is very sympathetic about my tiredness and has said, ‘you may never get this time again, so enjoy it’, but every now and then I sense a slight irritation in his voice or a lack of understanding. comments like ‘well we both had such a busy weekend I think we’re still suffering from that’ do not help. It’s not like I have some awful illness that I can actually say, I have xxx, which would give me a ‘right’ if you like, to be feeling ill. Tiredness affects something like 70% of the population at any one time, from any number of complaints. But its like a silent complaint – you can’t really evoke peoples sympathy with ‘tiredness’. not that I want sympathy at all, it’s just hard to explain to people why we’re not going out or why I don’t want to go for a walk or why I can’t come to that meeting.
It’s so pathetic. I feel pathetic. This is not me. I am used to being a driving force, to being the one with the ‘get up and go’, to be driving forward new ideas. I am not someone who shuts themself away and has to rest. It’s so F***ing boring. grrr….

Sorry, I felt the need for a rant. This post was actually going to take a comepletely different slant about the way we view ill people – that will ahev to do for another day – but there we go, perhaps I needed to get out that frustration. Perhaps I just need to accept that for the time being I need to be more restful, that it is a ‘season’, that it won’t be for ever (I have faith that it won’t) and just relax into it.

Danger UXB

A few things have incensed me recently in relation to the church. Christianity can be like an UXB in that everything is swimming along nicely until there is something floating in the water. What is that thing? Is it a shark? is it a mine thats going to blow me out of the water? or maybe it’s just a bit of rubbish floating by. Or maybe, just maybe if we look a bit closer and stop panicking, we will see it is another swimmer, just like us, or possibly a beautiful fish come to see what we’re up to. Slightly weird analogy maybe, but I just think that sometimes we forget who our role model is, who we are representing here on earth, who we are called to be more like. If we could be more like Him then perhaps our churches would be more enticing, more welcoming, bigger, fuller and maybe a bit more diverse but probably all the better for it.
There are so many UXB’s that can trip us up as Christians, from the biggies like homosexuality and women in church to the more banal, like where to put the new toilet or who will run the next Alpha course. We get so het up with the ‘I’… I think this, I think that. Well what about God? What does He think? I was once on a PCC where the meeting was split between people who wanted to run an Alpha course and those who wanted to run an Emmaus Course. I mean what was that about if not selfish ambition and Pride? Both courses do basically the same thing, the church was aiming to bring more people into the church (and therefore to Christ although that did seem rather secondary).
If we all focussed more on Christ and less on what we want then life would be so different.

As part of the ministry application, I have felt forced to take a stand on certain issues – not in any direction particularly – but just to have a position. It is not something I have enjoyed. I want to feel welcoming and loving to anyone who may come to me in a position of authority. I do not want to be put on the spot or questioned over my views. I have my own views of course, but I just reject that fact that Leaders have to take a position, whichever one that is. I just feel we need to be so much more loving and welcoming and not loving with a proviso. Jesus did not say, I love you up to this point, or I love you if you do this. He loves us whatever, when we do wrong, when we ignore Him, when we’ve made a mistake, He still LOVES US and that is what we should aspire to be like rather than bickering amongst ourselves about who is right and wrong.

Life is for living…

A friend sent me this. I just thought it was cool. No sympathy, no tugging the heart strings, just a guy full of life. oh and he has no limbs.

THAT church of England Vid

SO this little film (or rather long film, whichever way you look at it…) has been causing some debate in the blog world, particularly on the rather fantastic blog of Lesley Fellows. The complaints against it are plentiful but the main one being: who is this video aimed at? So rather than rant before knowing the purpose or the brief I checked out the CofE PR dept. So yes, they do have one, well to be correct they have a ‘Communications Office’ which isn’t quite the same thing but a step in the right direction. The website says: The Communications Office at Church House, Westminster, provides a 24-hour, seven day a week service on behalf of the National Church Institutions, including the Archbishops’ Council, the Church Commissioners and the Church of England Pensions Board.

It doesn’t actually say what they do 24/7 but it’s reassuring to know that any time of day or night you can contact the Communications Team about an urgent, erm, well something urgent anyway… So I emailed them to ask them about this vid and to be fair to them I’ve included my questions below:

I am just writing in relation to the video on your website home page entitled ‘Introduction to the Church of England’. You may be aware that it is promoting some debate in the blog world, and it has raised a few questions. So I wonder if you would mind if I asked a few questions about it? Could you tell me what was the purpose of the video? Was there a brief? Is it just for the website or is it being shown elsewhere?

Actually I was rather impressed that I got a reply very quickly (how very un-CofE -like) from Peter Crumpler, Director of Communications who was very ammenable to me quoting him on the blog. He said:

It’s not a new video, but a presentation that was transferred to video over a year ago . It was designed to communicate basic information about the CofE that we found few people knew. We linked to it when the site first went live last weekend. We’re looking to see how best the key info could be expressed in a simpler, shorter format.
So to be fair to them it does follow their brief to ‘communicate basic information about the CofE that we found few people knew’. Of course that does not address why they felt the need to communicate that information or why in such a format. Ron’scomment on Lesleys blog seems to sum up the whole thing:
It’s either the wrong medium for the data (a static web page would do) or the wrong data for the message (whatever the message is supposed to be).
It seems that the overall issue is about the method of communication and the message being communicated. I was pleased to see that they are looking at a simpler way of experssing the info and as suggested above perhaps just a list on the website would do! If on the other hand they wish to advertise the church then I think we could all come up with better ways of doing it. Funnily enough I looked at their Youtube page this afternoon only to find a shorter version of the film, obviously uploaded today. So at least they have done something with it!

It’s now 3.41 minutes rather than 7, a vast improvement on the original and the music has gone (thank the Lord for small mercies…) although the replacement music, which is initially uplifting, becomes very tedious after 30 seconds and rather remninds me of the ‘sky’ background music which goes on ad infintitum. However… it still seems to me without focus, amazingly dull and actually not going to reach any one area in particular.

As Lesley said, there is so much talent within the CofE, why don’t they ask those within? – so can we do better? Isn’t this an opportunity? bearing in mind they themselves say they are looking at a different way of doing it. So what are your ideas? (I will email reponses back to Peter Crumpler – I’m sure he will be delighted…) We’ve seen a few other videos posted already but what are your key themes for the CofE ? How would you introduce the Church of England to someone who didn’t know about it? Is it necessary to site that 3000 clergy are self supporting for example, and what is that shot of the biker bloke in the first frame all about? It’s like a big banner, ‘hey we can be cool too’ but then it’s when people try to be cool that they blatently aren’t….
So instead of being negative, let’s give them something to work with… What would you include if you were making a vid about the CofE ?

What is a REAL Christian?

I don’t often repost stuff but I just read this over at Jon Acuffs blog ‘Stuff Christians Like’ and it touched me today. For info, he has a great blog and several books out (although I’m ashamed to say I don’t have any of the books…oops) but the blog is great at pointing out the obvious stuff that most of us miss! and a whole heap more.
This is from todays post (it’s only half of it, the begining sets the scene, click the link at the bottom for the whole thing, but this was the bit that spoke to me) –

“You’re not a real writer.”
“These people, these portfolios, these are real writers.”
“They’ve got it all together. You don’t. They went to graduate school for two years. You hacked together a portfolio in your kitchen and then flew a thousand miles for a 20 minute conversation? You’re not a real writer.”
That phrase, “real writer” is a curious one to me because I think it translates across so much more than just our careers. I think sometimes, if we’re not careful, we can start to hear it in our faith.
I’ve felt that in the last couple weeks as I’ve wrestled with the anxiety and opportunity of writing my next book. I feel stressed about it and tangled up with fear and worry and happiness and hope and a potpourri of emotions. And into that I hear the siren’s call that tells me,
“If you were a real Christian, you wouldn’t ever doubt.”
“If you were a real Christian, you wouldn’t feel this way.”
“If you were a real Christian, you wouldn’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again even though you try your hardest not to.”
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever looked at another Christian and thought, “That person has it all together. They have it all figured out. They’d never feel like I do right now or stumble like me. That person is a real Christian. I’m some sort of counterfeit.”
I can’t imagine I am the only one who has ever wrestled with that. So for you and me, I want to remind of something.
Real Christians struggle with doubt.
Real Christians feel sad and even mourn.
Real Christians don’t have all the answers.
Real Christians make mistakes.
Real Christians need grace, constantly.
Above all, I think “Real Christian” is actually a fake term. It’s a phrase the devil constructed to keep us searching and striving and dying to achieve a label the Lord doesn’t even use.
What does He call us? What phrase or words does he give us instead of “Real Christian?”
Son.
Daughter.
And it turns out, those two words are enough.


Stuff Christians like

No going back..

Ok so I have finally sent off the form. yes that’s THE form. The Minstry Enquiry Form. The 13 page epic that has taken me 2 months to fill in. Just thought you might like to know…
No idea how long the next bit of the process will last or even when it will start for that matter! But I’m on the way. I feel a sense of joy at completing it and it was great to finally send it off, having checked, re-checked and re-read it 100 times… But I am also crapping myself… (should potential Vicars say that…;) ) I cannot do this without God by my side, in fact I cannot do it without Him pushing me from behind at the mo but I know it is right. So Watch this space…!

Should all ministers be able to preach well?

Slightly loaded question as a relative of mine had the pleasure of one of our Bishops preaching at her morning service today (I won’t say who, but as you know we’re in Sussex so you have a choice of 3…). Anyway, she was not impressed. Now as I wasn’t there I cannot coment personally on his ability to preach. But she noted that as a Bishop she would have expected him to speak without the aid of copious written notes, ‘Apparently’ he read everything, rather than speaking and she was left with the impression that he had gone to his PC on Saturday evening, picked out an old talk and thought ‘that one will do’.

So it left me wondering, bearing in mind that a Ministers role is a wide one, should it be a pre-requisite that those in Minsitry can preach well, or at least get the congregation on side!? Sporting stars these days have to have ‘media training’ in order to be able to speak to the press and therefore the public, without making fools of themselves. Should this be compulsory for Priests? At the very least, one would expect a Bishop to be marginally better than the regular priest. Down here we used to have the benefit of Bishop Lindsay, who may not be everyones favourite person, but he could preach pretty darn well. In fact I’d go so far as to say that he is the best Christian speaker I have heard. He had a way of appealing to everyone, from kids to the blue-rinsers, in the same talk, without being either patronising or overbearing.

SO… is good preaching an essential part of ministry? or can it be out-weighed by other quality areas of their ministry?

Reflecting on life, part 1.

So, as mentioned previously I am in the process of filling in a Ministry Application Form. For those that haven’t had the ‘pleasure’ of seeing one of these, it is rather detailed and requires some soul searching to say the least. Questions like:

‘What do you consider to be the main events in your life?’
‘Please tell us very fully about your family background, upbringing, formative experiences from childhood through to today. Please include details of family members from birth together with your family history’
‘Please tell us in detail how you believe your faith has developed over the years’

I mean the form is 13 pages long before you even type anything of your own onto it! On top of this a Priest friend of mine has been giving me a bit of advice and a few things have come up that I feel I need to address. Particularly my need to control everything and that I have an issue with Love. (I will post on these more thoroughly).

So I have been looking back at my life and thinking about the person I am now, the person I was and why I am the way I am. It has been interesting, but painful. I had a fairly average childhood, white middle class, some state education, some private. I shouldn’t really have anything to complain about. But somewhere along the way I became a control freak and very opinionated, judgemental even. Even now I am not sure where the change happened. I was a shy child – so shy, I was always going red, even just when people spoke to me. Now you can’t shut me up, I have an opinion on everything ;)

So a few weeks back I went to my parents and in the loft dug out a box with all my old diaries in – which I kept from age 13-24. I’m not sure what I expected to find. I hoped there would be some triggers that I could point to. What I actually found has made me cringe, cry and laugh, but no big thunderbolts. It has made me realise that actually, although sometimes we have big/bad stuff that happens to us, actually the little things can really shape us too. The little niggles, the odd comment, an arguement with a friend. It’s funny the things I wrote about. I did not have a good relationship with my mum. We argued a lot and I struggle even now to feel close to her, but yet there is virtually no reference to this in my diaries.

I find I remember odd little comments, like my Dad, seeing me standing in my Pjs, said ‘you be careful or you will end up life your Mum’ – which was a reference to my Mums slightly tubby figure. I was not a tubby child by any stretch of the imagination, I was and still am pretty skinny. But at age 14 that comment stung and still sticks with me now 20 years later.

I also found in my diaries several references to the fact that my younger brother had not only read my diary but had showed it to the neighbours son – who I had a crush on and had written about copiously. You can imagine the 15 year old me being mortified, gosh even when I read it I felt the embarrasment from all those years ago.

All these things I can see have affected me. But in all this reflection should I be looking back and saying ‘well that’s obviously why I am this way’? I don’t want to be laying blame anywhere. I mean we are all the products of our past, so thats just life right? Somehow I think I have to look back, accept the things I find, accept how they have shaped me and then let go of them. I want to burn my diaries when I am finished with them. Partly from the fear of anyone else seeing them! but also as it feels symbolic. I will write up my thoughts on reading them and anything thats stands out, but then I will have no need of them any more. So to get rid of them in this way seems symbolic of shedding those things from my past that I need to let go of.

So the next few posts will undoubtedly be reflecting on the diaries and my past. This is probably more of an excercise for me to do rather than blog about but I think sometimes putting things out in the open takes away the fear, or takes away the hold they have over you. So I need to do this.

It’s quite ironic that just a couple of years ago I used to boast about the fact that in my 30s I really felt happy with myself, I felt I finally knew who I was and where I was going. And yet here I am now, with my life being ‘deconstructed’ before me, I have no control over it, no idea where I am going, or rather, where God is taking me…