Nearly, very nearly…

Now, even the lounge is a pile of empty furniture surrounded by drying paint. The only space to work in is sat on the double bed. The vinyl looks great and the carpet arrives tomorrow. Friday is the first anniversary of this blog… and by God’s grace we might be celebrating the total completion of the project and be “moving in”  – so please excuse me if I don’t do an anniversary posting!

In the meantime, my sanity is lacking (I just know I’m going to loose the calm exterior of “coping” at any moment) my family are fantastic and my vicar is brilliant – taking pity on me and agreeing to preach yet another sermon this Sunday (I’m meant to take the work-load off him, not the other way round!) It’s a shame – this weeks lectionary readings are fantastic ones, especially for services with Mothers’ Union links (we will be welcoming new members into the Mothers’ Union at our 9am and 11.15am services- including my husband!)

Amidst it all, the Diocesan Mothers’ Union newsletter ‘Archway’ is moving forward as are my postings on their website to inform members about our Wave of Prayer Diocese. The latest features include Kajo-Keji in southern Sudan where peace as well as literacy is needed, and Masasi in southern Tanzania.

A briefing birding highlight from Tuesday was a Wren, a Cole Tit and a pair of Siskin on the garden feeder – but since then I’ve not been in a position to look!

Improving relationships

Whilst the decorator is busy doing what he’s being paid for, we continue to live in chaos following our extension. There is a rumour that we can start “moving in” to our own home in ten-days time – but in the mean time live in it! Painting in the extension is complete, the vinyl floored areas will be complete by tomorrow, and the carpets for the other new rooms arrive next week. Getting to know the decorator is interesting; just we discovered a kindred interest in cricket, so I look at the score from Johannesburg and wished I hadn’t – rolled over for 180! Boys what ARE you doing?!

So in the midst of all this, I’ve been ‘working’. It’s the beginning of a new triennial in Mothers’ Union life, with people taking on new leadership roles, including in my case, Head of Marketing and Communication for Mother’s Union in the Diocese of Winchester! (Sounds grand, but till the last essay for University is out the way, I won’t really get to grips with living it out!)

Amongst the stuff I’ve been uploading to our Diocesan website, is a load of stuff to get us thinking about our relationships, as this years theme for Mothers’ Union is “Relationships Not Rules”. Much of the material would be really good for all sorts of home, prayer and Bible study groups, as well as some that just to help you take stock of your own personal relationships. It might be produced by Mothers’ Union but that just means everyone can use it! Do go visit the link and make use of it.

Mothers’ Union also have something called their “Wave of Prayer” which is also all about relationships – international ones! Each Diocese in which there are Mothers’ Union members  has a prayer support relationship with several other diocese, and once a year that little group form the centre of all the prayers of Mothers’ Union members (in 78 countries) worldwide for about 5 days. So I’m gradually updating the information we have about Winchester’s links which include the area of Kitgum in Northern Uganda – as they struggle to overcome nearly 20 years of war, they are struggling against drought, but still working to support family and community relationships by developing a seed bank.

I miss relationships. One of the most significant issues with both Reader Training and our extension, is that we’ve not had time for people, except to ask them favours (and there might be a few more of those asked in the next few days as I’m going to need a light fitting changed, and a radiator dropped for the decorator next week!) It will be really good to start using the new spaces, welcoming people for meals and generally having time for people again. Soon…

And my relationships with wildlife: well, walking the dog shows that there are still at least one Wrens alive on the heath, yesterday produced a lone Stonechat, and today an immature swan flew over heading towards Fleet Pond. There are also still some Fieldfares and Redwings along the lane. However, tussock field is a slog to walk round in the snow at present. I’m looking forward to more time with the wildlife too!

The great freeze – beauty and benefits

The snow falls heavily late evening 5th Jan 2010

Last nights dispersal of our Week of Prayer activities seems to have born fruit, enabling 20+ people to participate in groups, a significant number of whom would have struggled to make it to church, and an unknown number who would have taken part using the sheet in the privacy of their own homes at some point if not last night – I know of at least two of these folk. This evening, the exercise has been repeated (though I have spent the evening planning Sunday’s 9am Service I’m afraid).

After 24 hours of constant snow finally stopped at about 1foot depth, we have just experienced 22 hours without power and telephone! Thus no light, heat (except, thankfully for a gas fire in the lounge) internet or modern communication. At 6.50pm-ish last night a radiant light sizzled and travelled the length of Monteagle Lane, reflecting bright blue light against the snow laden trees as the local transformer blew. Fortunately as I had just put dinner on the plate!

Monteagle Lane, Yateley just after noon 6th Jan 2010 - it was still snowing!

It has brought home to all 3 of us just how much we forget to appreciate these things, and how much we can cope without when forced to. Since we have no gas cooking facilities, neighbours with them have done things like give us flasks of hot water for hot drinks and warmed our lunchtime soup. We are incredibly grateful and where possible have reciprocated with a supply of rock salt I had bought last week.

A fellow member of St. Peter’s has also commented via email how interesting it is that people will greet and talk to each other cheerfully in these conditions, who would otherwise ignore each other or be travelling by car and never meet. We’ve slowed down to appreciate the good things in life – and we know perhaps, that we should really be like this more often.

Life has been more hard work – shovelling a foot of snow from our garden path and an adjacent alley, kept us nice and warm this morning. Life has also been much more friendly, and slow moving… people are walking everywhere, and stopping to chat – sharing whatever info they have about the state of the supermarket shelves and the progress of the 8 men it took to rebuild the transformer which finally got us switched on about 4.35pm tonight.

A Honey-ball more than a snow-ball (please click on images to 'size up')

Then there is the beauty of the landscape, and the fun to be had in it. Our local fields have some good slopes and sledges have been put to good use (C has been lent a fantastic German wood model which has provided he and friends with hours of pleasure). Honey, the short legged terrier, has turned snow plow and doesn’t know when to stop, even when the icicles hang from her coat. She currently lies exhausted and asleep on our sofa.

The birds are having a tough time of it, but we’re trying to feed them and make sure they get fresh water each day… which might be a struggle tomorrow, as we’ve at least -8 degrees C forcaste tonight. A Mistlethrush has taken advantage of our water, and we’ve clouds of Goldfinches appreciating the thistle seed. The most notable bird event is a female Blackcap seen yesterday and the day before – so notable I was asked to log it on the BTO Birdatlas! Alas, no photo’s yet.

Mid-afternoon 7th Jan 2010 near the Red Cross Centre, Yateley

Church as Bride of Christ

The Bride of Christ - All Age Props and some shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child (Nov 09)

Today we have approximately 10″ of snow and counting – but it is also the mid-point in our Week of Prayer at  St. Peter’s Yateley.

Today we should be considering how we are church, and should be church, through the imagery of the Bride of Christ. This was something on which I preached recently but I don’t think I posted it… my All Age Sermon notes on the theme are here:  Sermon Rev21v1-5 (All Age Talks) If you want to look at them to see where I’ve got the following questions from, remember they are notes, and also that it was a service where the children shared in everything.

There are thoughts as to how we might make this evenings prayer meeting happen – possibly in local homes – and we’ll announce that this afternoon, but in the mean time here are a few of my thoughts for those people in Yateley who are thinking and praying about the future of St. Peter’s this week:

Readings: Revelation 21:1-9 and Isaiah 62:1-5

Israel was an unfaithful bride (Jeremiah 3:6 and Matthew 12:38-9) – in what ways are we as a church being unfaithful to our bridegroom (God)?

Our Bridegroom is Jesus – Jesus death on the cross was also the price paid for us to enable us to be his bride. What will it cost us to let God get us as a church into a fitting state to be Jesus’ bride? What needs to be polished or cut off to make us sparkle as ‘a crown of splendour’ (Isaiah 62:3) fitting to take Jesus’ (our Lord’s) hand?

No bride prepares themselves without help – it is God that is preparing us, he will help us create that sparkle with which he wants us to serve Jesus as his bride. What does God want to adorn us with?

Married couples share tasks – sometimes doing them together, sometimes supporting each other by doing different tasks. What are the tasks that we should be concentrating on as we work alongside Jesus in Yateley – without putting the church family in debt? What are the values our marriage to Jesus places on us when we think about how we should be carrying them out?

While I dwell on those questions I shall walk the dog in the snow. What are your thoughts?

UPDATE: There are 8 venues around Yateley for people to pray, one is the church, the others are private homes. Attached is the prayer sheet that you can use to guide your prayers either at one of those venues or in your own home. God bless and stay safe: St Ps Week of Prayer Bride of Christ – Snowbound Prayers Worksheet

10 weeks not 10 years

A dove from the Forest Stations by William Fairbank (Lincoln 2007)

Catching up on emails, blogs and such like in an exhaustion break from decorating, which itself fills a break from preaching or leading services this week.

I haven’t reflected on the last decade, nor on what the next might hold. I just keep looking at the next 10 weeks – ish and looking for my dove of peace.

Will we ever get decorated, carpeted and straight I wonder? There are folk that are stepping in to help in different ways to whom I’m very grateful, but at present the control-freak in me wants to return to complete the final piece of work and start ministry ‘properly’ is losing the battle against a tide of clutter. After three years of study and 6 months of domestic chaos, the appeal of my old crafts and gardening habits is becoming stronger, but less and less possible.

How can we get straight when

  • a small area of damp has seeped into a newly painted wall in Cs room, after several attempts by the builders to eradicate the problem possibly connected with the parapet above it
  • G has a pile of coursework marking that will restrict the time he has to help after tomorrow to nearly ‘nill’ except on Saturdays
  • my next two Saturday ‘family days’ are full of important church things (working on the parish vision at the end of our Week of Prayer, and the next ‘Growing Leaders’ day session)
  • starting work on my Independent Study Module (6000 words) that I met my tutor about last Thursday and which I need to submit the paperwork to the Uni for by next Friday (due in end of March)
  • there is lots of exciting things to do with celebrating marriage and encouraging couples to get married in church and undertake marriage prep which I need to focus on in the parish, especially in the run up to Valentines Day (a Sunday this year)
  • [Update – and I’ve just realised I’ve ‘Archway’ to produce for MU this month!]

I was struck just now by Andy’s New Year greeting and image about the path of faith being a wavy one: my path is very very wavy (as regular readers will have realised), and at times it feels like I’m a long way from that empty cross, then something happens that resurrects my sense of the faith that I never lose but sometimes gets hidden under the piles that life forms on top of it. At present, it’s back under the piles of life.

Hopefully the new term, the return to a regular regime of prayer and ministry, and some resolving of technical decorating issues, will make the next 10 weeks fly past towards some resolution of these things, rather than more of the same and continued chaos.

My hope is that your New Year is a little calmer and less fraught than mine.