Thursday, December 07, 2006

Re-creating liminal spaces.

Whilst struggling with: prayer, worship, pastoral care (both giving and receiving), a few things have occured to me.

There are times in our lives and things that we do that occur in a kind of liminal space. A kind of in between place that is real at the time, perhaps very profound, or meaningful, but it is just that, a between place. These liminal moments are a one off and cannot be repeated and often our attempts to re-create them will be fruitless and or disappointing. And what I've learned from this is that out of these liminal moments we must make new and fresh expressions of them not try to re-create them. Imagine for a moment you are an artist, the oil painting you create is a one off masterpiece, (even if no-one else can see it!) It has been created out of your heart, Any attempt to repaint the same picture will not be the same and a copy or print is just not quite the same as an oil painting. The creation of the original art is a liminal moment.

We often have the same problem with our spiritual lives, when we are struggling we spend our time longing and searching to re-create a previous encounter with God that was profound or meaningful, instead of creating a fresh and new relationship with Him for every moment. This may be because its hard, but then no-one ever said it was an easy journey free from trials and pain, and why should it be!! Our saviour's journey was hardly free from trials and pain, yet it is through Christ's trials and pain that we can and should renew our relationhiip with God.

This problem also occurs in our worship sometimes. That visit to Iona, Easter People, or a particularly moving Taize service, or the service at the end of a quiet retreat, in some respects are liminal moments and one of our problems is that we want to re-create this for our congregations, I question whether this is possible and instead what we should be doing is creating a new expereince. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't use the resources we have picked upthrough our own worship - I believe of course we should, they are often a rich and full of beautiful language, but we should be creating a new space out of those resources not trying to re-create a previous experience.

So I suppose I must try and learn to celebrate the liminal moments in life, be grateful to God for what I an learn from them, Stand in awe at the created art as it were. but not try to re-create it. Instead try to use each encounter with God as a new and fresh expression of my faith and when my faith is weak, it doesn't mean I have to search for God, in a previous encounter. I can meet Him where I am, even when that feels completely inadequate to be His servant. God only fully knows what's in my heart.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday 4th December

Well yet another week has past! Still not quite myself although improving. The days all seem to blur into one splodge of time! Perhaps if I were blogging every day like Sally instead of once a week it might help define the days, who knows? I haven't been very good at filling in my journal either, it hasn't slipped completely but I was doing it every day.

I have been praying the morning office, using various versions: Methodist worship book, BCP, and Common Worship. I have recently started a 4 weekly cylce of morning prayer from
The Divine Office, sometimes called 'The (Roman) Breviary. I like the language, I like the fact that it is relativley easy to follow the instructions - I do like idiot proof instructions!! I am also lucky to have a friend who has also commited to do the morning prayer from this and although I doubt whether this happens at the same time, It has helped not to feel as though I'm praying alone, particulalry on the days when prayer is more difficult. Of course there is comfort from knowing that somewhere in the world an unknown number of people are also praying the same words.

I was back at work yesterday and led worship in the morning. After some prayer with the steward on duty, I felt able to continue, having first thought that I might struggle. It helped that during the prayers I began to realise that: this is worship, it is for God, it is not about me, it is about praising and glorifying Him and to hear His word.

I preached about being in the wilderness, one of the congregation, said it was comforting to know that I was human, (i'm not sure what she thought I was!!!) but I understood her sentiment, as she followed by saying, it is really helpful when someone has struugled with something and preaches from the heart. I too then can take comfort from the fact that God is in what I do, and perhaps more comforting to know that other people can see that especially when I'm having trouble seeing it myself.

I worked at the prison today, a reasonably tough day, a couple of tough pastoral situations were difficult to deal with. I did have moments with glimmers of hapiness interspersed. One of the inmates I see every monday is reading his way through the classics in the library, so we had an interesting conversation about George Elliot. I helped another guy with his maths homework, that was when I remebered how to do it, It's been a while. And I taught another how to pray the Rosary, he had been given a roseary and a leaflet telling him how to use them. He took a while but eventually admitted that he couldn't read. We went twice round the roseary and he seemed to pick it up Ok. I've never had to teach anyone the Lord's prayer before, we have this kind of expectation that people know it! Although in one of my churches we have it printed on cards in the back of the chair in front in case people need them, so perhaps we are realising that some of this language we take for granted isn't known by the majority anymore!

Still trying to balance work and rest so I can be fully operational as soon as possible. Everyone's thoughts and prayers have really been appreciated.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sunday 26th November

Another week seems to have gone by! The last couple of weeks have been really strange in terms of time! I am still having trouble knowing what day of the week it is! I am sure this is because it is so long since I actually did nothing for two whole weeks, that I have no markers to judge the day by. I had to think back quite hard and realised that I haven't had a two week break for 8 years! The longest beraks were a couple of 5 day breaks at a holiday camp with Nick and the girls! So actually its not surprising that I needed a proper break. Its just a shame that I had to be ill to realise!

There is an up side to all of this - and I believe with prayer, support and the power of the Holy Spirit there can always be something we learn or gain from our times in the wilderness!

  • I have learned valuable things about myself. I have a much better understanding of how much of other peoples' pain I can absorb before I crash myself.
  • I now know and I am strong enough to say NO even when it is really hard, even when my natural instinct to be a sponge for other people wants to take over. I realise the importance of self preservation. A soggy sponge will do no-one least of all me any good!
  • All these lessons are valuable for me to take into full time ministry next year.
  • Time off is very important
  • Worship, attending not leading worship is essential - I have promised myself that I will timetable/diary time for worship outside my church/es when I am stationed.
  • Despite always thinking that writing a journal wasn't for me, I have found it extremely helpful and I am more creative in my thinking and writing than I thought. I would like to work on this, as I actually quite like it! (sometimes I surprise myself).
  • Supervision and support are an essential part of ministry. There is, however, nothing that can replace a really special friend/s. And I thank God for mine. Especailly as I didn't think I had any!

All this, of course, is common sense, which makes one feel a bit stupid. I do think though, that in the thick of things, when we are busy with our various ministries, training, studying etc etc. Its the common sense things, the things we should take for granted that slip by the wayside! So it is never stupid to remind ourselves of the little things because often they are or become the big things.

I am feeling more like my old self every day now! Something I haven't felt for several months if i'm honest. If you have read the blog about depression this is understandable. It is often hard at first to tell if it just that you're felling a bit down, emotionally overtired etc, or if the illness is back! In my case both I think!! But as I have said out of the wilderness something wonderful can happen. (I am not saying that I am wonderful) But, that, God is wonderful. Sometimes we just have to look a bit harder to see it! Sometimes we can't see it and then we have to be strong in our faith, and when that is too hard for us, be strong in the faith of others for a while!

I am reminded of Psalm 119:105 "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path". When the path is dark and frightening, and you can't see the light, it is good to hold the hand of someone who can see, even if its just a glimmer!

So today;

I thank God for the wilderness, and for hearing our prayers in our wilderness, for never abandoning us even when we push Him away. I also thank God for family and friends, who also in this case didn't abandon me even though I pushed them away sometimes.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sunday 19th November 2006

Well, I almost felt human for most of today, which is fab. There's nothing like a restful weekend to recharge the batteries. No children to look after for three whole days. The whole house to ourselves! Vegged in front of the TV yesterday after staying in bed til lunchtime, haven't done that for a while. Managed to watch 5 episodes of House, one after the other which was fab and didnt require any brain function whatsoever, so basically vegitated for the whole day!

Didnt do much else today really had a beautiful home cooked sunday roast at the inlaws, yummy! Now everyone is home and the house is buzzing again. So I'm still taking it easy after being unwell and taking each day as it comes, slowly but surley rejoining the human race!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Depression - The silent illness we never talk about!!

Depression is an illnes, it is not the same as being sad. Everyone feels sad from time to time, sometimes deeply so, (for example after the death of a loved one). Someone suffering from depression may feel sad but they feel persistently so. They do not take pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable. Other physical and mental problems are often experienced including sleep problems, loss of appetite, inability to concentrate, memory problems, and physical aches and pains. People who suffer from this condition often feel worthless, helpless, and hopeless about their ability to fix things. Their waking life is a living nightmare. No matter how hard they try to snap out of it, they feel as though they are falling into an abyss with nothing to hold on to. The smallest mishap, spilling a spot of milk, as it were, becomes the end of the world.

Clinical depression has a strong biological, rather than psychological, basis. Although it can often be brought on by stress, it can strike at any time and sometimes without warning, particulalry if you have suffered from it previously. This can make its onset even more difficult, you may end up questioning yourself, Why am I so unhapy when I dont have too much to be unhappy about? Whats wrong with me? why can't I cope with the ordinary tasks of daily life? Even getting dressed becomes a chore!

This becomes even more acute for me, in my role as a pastoral carer, to be vulnerable and weak in times when you are supposed to be the strong one, makes the onset of another bout of depression even more distressing. That cry of deriliction from the cross becomes very real when you realise that you, yourself are completely helpless! It takes strength and time to admit that you feel completely forsaken by everyone, including God. Old wounds, that you once felt were healed may resurface their ugly head during a time when you feel so uterly abandoned.

I can not imagine what it is like to live with a someone with depression, not much fun I suppose!

So my message is for those of you who live with depression in a family member or a friend, and for those of you who are pastoral carers, try not to feel helpless, there is no quick fix!

It really does help to know that whilst I cannot talk to God for a while, that the prayers continue. And despite not always feeling it myslef, I know somewhere in the depths of me, through the strength of faith of my brothers and sisters in Christ, that He is always present. It is perhaps the imaturity of our faith that prevents us from seeing this. As the hymn by F. Pratt Green says:

When our Confidence is shaken
In beliefs we thought secure;
When the spirit in its sickness
Seeks but cannot find a cure:
God is active in the tensions
Of a faith not yet mature.

Solar systems, void of meaning,
Freeze the spirit into stone;
Always our researches lead us
To the ultimate Unknown:
Faith must die or come full circle
To its Source in God alone.

In the discipline of praying,
When it's hardest to believe;
In the drudgery of caring,
When its not enough to grieve:
Faith, maturing, learns acceptance
Of the insights we receive.

God is love; and he redeems us
In the Christ we crucify:
This is God's eternal answer
To the world's eternal why;
May we in this faith maturing
Be content to live and die!

Part of the healing involves realisation that there is a problem! In the depths of despair there seems no hope, when you admit to yourself that your despair is not your fault, then the light at the end of the tunnel of utterable aloneness, glimers somewhere in the distance!

As carers of friends and family or of congregations all that you can do is to stand in the dark alongside those who are hurting! The occasional hug might help too!

For those of us who suffer from this illness one can only hope that out of the darkness will emerge the wounded healer, whom with the strength of the Holy Spirit can pastor with integrity!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

No cheescake for me!

I just opened the fridge to get some milk for a cup of coffee and to my delight and surprise there is very large homemade cheescake in there!!!

Unfortunately there is a large note on the plate saying
  • Don't even think about it mum!

Aren't children great