Misconceptions #givingitup Genesis 22:1-18 16th March #Lent2014

Apparently it is exactly 15 weeks until my ordination as Deacon, according to one of my cohort who dropped that little nugget into a Facebook post today. 

How does that make me feel? 

Frightened. Interestingly the fear is not for what comes after ordination, though there is a nervous anxiety mixed with the excitement for my new ministry in a new place, but instead fear of what needs to be accomplished in the next 15 weeks. 

I have spent most of this afternoon working through a detailed commentary on Genesis 1:1-2:3 – the creation story (according to P, the priestly contributor to the Pentateuch saga). It was particularly interesting to note that even the most brilliant of Old Testament scholars can’t always resist the temptation to overlay their own theological views onto something they’re trying to be objective about. 

In her lengthy reflection on the story of Abraham’s thankfully aborted attempt to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22, Maggi Dawn poses the question of whether our view of God is skewed by our pride and other misconceptions, or whether we are suitably aware of his abundant grace in our lives?

Today, mired in Old Testament theology, it feels like it will only be grace that will get me through this next 15 weeks to the altar. That feels like a far greater sacrifice is needed on my part in this next slog through two portfolios, than the weeks and years of ordained ministry that will follow, though I suspect this is far from true.

I need to look day by day to be obedient to the sacrifice that needs to be made, the level of sacrifice that I’ve probably not exhibited so much or so willingly in ordination training as I did in Reader training,  so that I can hear God’s voice and experience his grace, directing me to more fruitful times ahead.

I still haven’t completely fathomed why I’ve been less willing to give up time and effort to climb the mountain this time round, though I think it started out with an expectation by myself and others that I carried a certain amount of useful past experience with me that would stand me in good stead. True though that might have been of ministry when I get there (and I’m not sure now), I think it has actually hindered the training process. But it’s really time to shoulder the burden good and proper now, before it’s too late.

Sorry, bit of a low post, of little use to others, but that’s sort of where I’m at tonight. 

Be Happy #givingitup Matthew 4:23-5:4 15th March #Lent2014

Well, it’s been a couple of days. Thursday I simply conked out; we’d been to the school production of Cabaret, taken the lad’s girlfriend home (they’ve both been in the pit band) and I simply faded out with no brain left. Yesterday with the husband conked out at the end of his week of 5am starts to keep up with the workload, I did the Cabaret run and simply couldn’t face it afterwards with him snoozing happily at 11pm. I’ve never been great at late nights, and have always needed lots of sleep which I rarely get these days. I’m afraid however dedicated I might wish to be to God, Lent or blogging, the need for sleep trumps the lot. It’s also much easier to skip a second ‘thing you committed to do’ when you’ve already skived one.

Anyway, Graham caught up with his reflection on yesterday’s reading in Maggi Dawn’s “Giving It Up” here, but I’m jumping straight to today’s:

Listening to Craig Charles on Radio 2 just now he’s playing a re-working of the Happy Song that’s been so popular recently.  “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth… Clap along if you know what happiness is to you…” What is it makes us happy, and do we really know and do those things that build us up?

Maggi suggests that as Jesus’ fame and fortune started to spread people were coming to him particularly for the quick fix of what they thought would make them ‘happy’ which was their immediate needs, illnesses particularly. Important those though might be to people’s well-being, when Jesus settles down to teach them what we know as the Beatitudes, he’s hoping to draw them into something that deeper, something that will give them a deep well of ‘spiritual’ happiness for much longer than the initial impact of any ‘cure’ God might of his grace give to those who suffer.

Maggi describes the God-given happiness that Jesus’ offered as ‘peace and confidence that God is with us’. Sometimes that’s the only thing that has kept me going through ordination training, alongside the endless advice and prayers of friends, and even then I’m not sure it’s really been ‘peace’ just a sense that I am within God’s care and he will see me through as this calling is ‘of him’.

I was only saying to Graham this morning as we enjoyed a walk on Farley Mount that what is probably one of my greatest worries regarding curacy is being able to offer the same transition that Jesus makes in this reading: from being a conduit of God’s care for people in representational and sacramental situations, to getting them to make deeper personal connections to faith in God. That’s something I’m not convinced ordination really equips you for, thinking instead that it can only be learnt through actually doing it, and that I’m sure involves trail and error, and therefore an understanding of God’s forgiveness within the ministers own life.

So, hopefully you’ll forgive me for my silence the last couple of days, and I’ll hopefully get back on track again from here through the coming (slightly quieter, for me at least) week. We’ll see; there’s essay research lurking.

Graham’s thoughts for today are here – great as usual.

Power and Glory #givingitup Matthew 4v8-11 12th March #Lent2014

A card given me at the start of training showing the prayer of Mary Sumner, and inked by the calligraphers of Winchester Cathedral.
A card given me on my birthday last year, showing the prayer of Mary Sumner, inked by the calligraphers of Winchester Cathedral.

Power. Something the devil offered Jesus, and he turned down. At least it was a certain sort of controlling power that, as with the second temptation of Jesus, wasn’t remotely related to the sort of power he had been given as God’s Son. As Maggi Dawn explains in the reading from Matthew 4 she selected for today in her book ‘Giving It Up’, Jesus’ was a power that was harnessed to serve others, to heal, and to bring justice, not to bully people into submission.

Power. It’s something that we rightly fear when exercised by others over us, especially when it results in injustice, suffering, and abuse. But I wonder if we’re becoming over sensitised to it? More suspicious of power than we need be, or should be, especially in the context of Christian leadership.

During some conversations that I’ve had this week, all revolving around the same set of circumstances, people have talked a lot about ‘top down’ management as a bad thing, a form of power to be feared. Why, I find myself wondering, is this worse than a ‘bottom up’ approach, or one that takes more account of consultation with a broad spectrum of voices and opinions?

For me, this gives rise to a series of questions to which I don’t have answers, and to which I am sure the answers vary from case to case:

  • Is our increasing concern and fixation with how people exercise ‘power’ (for which you can read ‘those in authority’) actually motivated by a desire to have our voice heard, our needs met, our ideas and priorities to be the ones that are taken up and used by those with power?
  • If this is the case, does it fly in the face of a humility that knows we might not be best equipped to see the big picture, and the need to employ some level of trust as servants of God, in the wisdom and discernment of those whose job it is to lead us in his name?
  • Is there also a danger that if we’re constantly doubting the integrity of our leaders, we might be limiting their prophetic power in situations that are crying out for change?
  • In the very act of challenging people’s power, are we in a paradoxical situation of actually exerting too much power ourselves, when it’s not ours to exert?

I know that when I think of, or become aware of something that I don’t feel is an appropriate decision or use of power, I’m often among the first to question it; and I probably shouldn’t give that up completely for Lent, or at any other time, because I’ve done that not so long ago, with distressing results. But perhaps I should be a little more aware of how God might be perceiving my words and actions, and the power that they are trying to exert over others – whether I relate up, or down, to them!

Graham has I suspect, given the music he’s been looking at, come up with some rather different thoughts, so I do encourage you to go and look at them too.

Fame and fortune #givingitup Matthew 4v5-7 11th March #Lent2014

Some wonderful scented narcissus that Graham had bought me to come home to on Sunday filling our house with a beautiful scent (sorry we've not got smellavision yet!)
Some wonderful scented narcissus that Graham had bought me to come home to on Sunday filling our house with a beautiful scent (sorry we’ve not got smellavision yet!)

Today has been somewhat gentler. I few chores, a gentle drive back to college and a very long chat with a good friend. Not much work done, but a definite sense that I’ve been frantically on the go without a break longer than Sunday afternoons rugby match on the TV. Really looking forward to a #dayoff with Graham on Saturday though it comes with an early start getting our son to his oboe lesson and youth orchestra rehearsal an hour from home by 9.30am.

The second temptation of Christ, in Matthews ordering of the events, seems to suggest that should Jesus fall, he will be saved by the angels of God. We’d all like that wouldn’t we, someone to save us every time we make a mistake, take a wrong turn, trip up? But life’s not like that, and we have to live with the consequences of our actions, whether they be intentional or not.

What also strikes me before reading Maggi Dawns reflection on Matthew 4:5-7 was that the Devil was offering Jesus something he didn’t actually need. He wasn’t going to fall, to fail, to branch out and take risks on his own, because, apparently unlike the devil, Jesus understood exactly who he was, the Son of God (Matthew 3:16-17).

Maggi talks about the use and more specifically the abuse, of spiritual gifts, to gain money, fame and fortune. We’ve probably all seen tele-evangelists doing their thing, and I can remember how shocked we were travelling in Uganda in 2006 at how much of that style of imported television was being made available on Ugandan TV. She goes on to make the point that whilst material wealth is a far cry from life as a non-stipendiary minister, the dangers that go with local fame for spiritual gifts are no less of a danger.

Here’s something that’s a special challenge to me, given that only on Friday, I said once again that the creative act of writing sermons and leading worship, is one way in which I feel close to God. That’s not a bad thing of itself, but what Maggi is highlighting is the danger of that being the only reason why I would chose to preach and lead worship.

I have on my desk currently the Liturgy of Ordination for Deacons, in which they

“called… to serve as heralds of Christ’s kingdom… to proclaim the gospel in word and deed, as agents of God’s purposes of love… [and] to serve the community… with their fellow members…”

Being a deacon, and even when ordained priest, you always remain a deacon first and foremost, is about service to others working collaboratively alongside fellow ministers, ordained or lay. In all the excitement of being ordained (which was a key emotion in yesterdays events), feeling as though a long journey of discernment and training is finally being fulfilled in God’s sight, I must remember that this isn’t about MY calling and MY place in the mission and ministry of a particular community, but about God, what he’s doing, who he wants me to reach out to in Jesus’ name, and the joys and burdens of other peoples lives, not my own spiritual gifts and preferences.

Stones into bread #givingitup 10th March #Lent2014 Matthew 4v1-4

Now, NOT my ordination stole, simply my festal stole! No less significant for all that :-)
Now, NOT my ordination stole, simply my festal stole! No less significant for all that 🙂

If anyone tells you that the Church of England, or the Diocese of Winchester in particular, don’t do change… DON’T believe them!

Today was Deacon’s Day in the Diocese of Winchester, and despite what I’d been led to expect it was a really good day. I got to see friends, existing and yet to be, as we sat together as a cohort of 12 for the first time. Important information was made as fun as possible, and our Bishop didn’t pull any punches in a seriously inspirational talk making quite plain what we were letting ourselves in for as far as being and ordained minister in the Diocese of Winchester is concerned. He was willing to make himself vulnerable to our sometimes searching questions, and very honest when the answer was ‘we haven’t got there yet’ whilst giving us as much of the ‘game plan’ as he probably could. It was obvious, that if we’re not up for ‘living the mission of Jesus’ now is definitely the time to say so, and take a step back. I remember being part of the Vacancy in See consultation a few years back and the whole of my group told the relevant folk that basically we wanted someone who would bring fresh ideas and a fresh way of doing things. We got exactly what we asked for, and now I get to help be part of the change, part of proving that the Church of England “aint’n’t dead yet”!

We also got to meet the lovely Precentor Sue, newly installed last week at Winchester Cathedral. She and the Bishop hadn’t had a chance to meet about this yet, so it was slightly like a game of tag. This was the point where we managed to get the Bishop’s head in his hands, poor man. I almost felt sorry for him as conversations about robes and stoles got very silly in a variety of ways; apparently patent pink DMs aren’t appropriate because pink is not a liturgical colour, and the laces would take too long to sort at the point in the service where the Bishop/s washes our feet!

Then I felt sorry for myself. I really must learn that if I’m going to be organised and efficient and get things done well in advance, I can expect to get my nicely laid plans well and truly shot out the water. Winchester has always (as far as I’m aware) have always ordained in white stoles, and as regular readers will be aware I’ve got my deeply significant ordination stole all finished and tucked away ready. Or at least I thought I had.

After they’d left us to the finer details of tat grants, the Bishop and Precentor had a little conversation, and the Bishop popped back in: were we up for being ordained in red stoles (signifying the Holy Spirit at Pentecost)?! Much excitement ensued from most, and in the end, I and two fellow early pre-planners, sort of gave a lopsided grin recognising that we’d be in danger of inhibiting change that signified the movement of the Holy Spirit if we didn’t go with the idea. It wasn’t like I’m not getting a red stole, and have a particular personal connection with Pentecost, and it IS a red letter day on 29th June (Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul), so… I told the Bishop I’d be ‘fine about it in the morning’ 🙂

So, after that snapshot of having to accept change when you’ve asked for it, Maggi Dawn gets me turning to Matthew 4:1-4 for tonight’s Lent reflection: the devil tempting Jesus, who is fasting in the wilderness, to turn stones into bread.

My immediate thought is that it’s not a rock that needs softening to feed our bodies, but our hearts that need softening to feed our souls, and the souls of others; we mustn’t get ourselves set on there being only one way of doing things!!!

Maggi talks about a period of 40-somethings (days, years, whatever) signifying a concentrated period of preparation and transformation in Bible-speak (as per the Israelites wandering for 40 years in the desert). How long it was in reality might not involve the number 40, and that isn’t actually a concern – the point of there being concentrated preparation and transformation is much more important. So like ordination training and formation then 😉

Maggi notes that the temptation with food whilst fasting emphasised Jesus was as human as you and I, and in turn emphasises our physical existence. I would add that this in turn emphasises that all that we are called to do can ONLY be done through the power of the Holy Spirit but that we need to know when it is appropriate to invoke God’s power in this way.

And what better time to do that, than at an ordination service! Red stole it is then!!!

PS: Graham’s blog for tonight is here.

PPS: Now very excited that I’ve realised that Canon Missioner to Exeter Cathedral and Diocese, Anna Norman-Walker is conducting our ordination retreat! At least I think that’s what the Bishop said… (note to self, must listen better!)

Old and new #givingitup 9th March #Lent2014

In todays reflection (First Sunday in Lent) Maggi Dawn highlights the fact that in Luke 5:33-39 it becomes really obvious to those who see Jesus interacting with his disciples that as a community of friends they do not make a particular habit of fasting as was normal for the Jews generally, unlike other teachers of the time.

She goes on to talk about the value of old and new, in worship styles, and in churchmanship. As a songwriter and past chaplain of a Cambridge College (now at Yale Divinity School in the USA) Maggi is in an excellent position to say that with authenticity.

For me, it’s really interesting how this idea of old and new interacts with some of the things my colleagues and I have been talking about at the weekend. Each of us final year ordinands had to give a presentation about our (all too brief) parish placements, and reflect on a critical incident within them. It proved a fascinating journey around Anglican churches in southern England, featuring some Bollywood dancing (taught to a student on placement in Slough), a 9 parish benefice in a very wealthy area of Wiltshire, a couple of Local Ecumenical Partnerships functioning with various degrees of success and diocesan support on infamous estates, a church with no building to call it’s own and ghastly orange seats but good pastoral outreach, and varieties in worship that included BCP, charismatic evangelical, anglo-catholic Eucharistic, and some that were just middle of the road Common Worship with few frills. In the other group our final year pioneer ordinand stretched the worship context still further I gather. Some were old, some were new, some used borrowed buildings (or lent them out) and one was sadly blue.

All were church. Each provided worship in at least one form, some several. They were meeting different peoples understandings of God, enabling the Christ-light to shine in their communities, and feeding different spiritualities.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’m moving from an open charismatic evangelical context in my ‘sending parish’ to a high, Eucharistic choral tradition in my title parish (the choral element being the one I’ve experienced very little of till now). In both, other forms of worship are used at some services, including styles like BCP and Taize. I know I meet God in a variety of worship styles, in Word and more recently in Sacrament, in creation and in creative acts, thus my expectation is to develop the skills that mean I can serve communities by being flexible and competent at a whole variety of worship styles that can draw different people closer to God.

There was a lot about context too. I can’t see learning Bollywood dancing being particularly relevant to the worship of every parish in the CofE just yet! One parish in my own diocese featured, a place where the image of ‘tent stretching’ was highlighted, stretching from a very traditional building through a congregation planted into a school, homegroups, house communions, Costa-pastoring and youth groups, and more. The apparent success of this (measured in contact points between church and people, not bums on seats) seem to somewhat belie Jesus’ teaching in this passage that you shouldn’t sew new bits into an old garment, and am erring towards the heresy of disagreeing with the Biblical portrayal of Jesus.

But, before I’m excommunicated and barred from ordination, what I think is at the heart of this is the need to seek to make Jesus come alive in a way that is authentic for the gathered community, both those who know God, and those who are yet to make that encounter. For, at the heart of this reading is the suggestion that Jesus is the bridegroom, the one to whom we are drawn to spend as much time as is possible. To me Jesus exemplifies the practice of a patchwork ministry, that is just as comfortable teaching on hillsides and in temple courts, challenging the authorities, and healing the sick in the streets and their homes. To be honest, worship styles weren’t something he really focused on, what mattered was about the honesty and authenticity of peoples encounters with him; where they being true to themselves, and simply being attention seeking or trying catching him out. My reflections on the churches I saw presented this weekend was where worship or pastoral practice is simply designed to draw attention to church, it wasn’t drawing local people into an encounter with God. Where worship and pastoral practice were authentic to and seeking to meet the needs of the local community, it was.

So that’s where I am tonight, following a patchwork Jesus, and looking forward to encountering him in old and new alike.

If you’re looking for Graham’s reflections on this reading, they’re here, and I’m off to read them myself now.

What does the Lord require Micah 6:1-8 #givingitup 8th March #Lent2014

I can’t quite believe I’m blogging so late at night, so this will need to be brief.

Micah 6:8 is a favourite bit of the Bible, one of the very few I have even vaguely memorised (we’ll talk about my memory issues another day). Maggi suggests from it that the practice of justice, kindness and humility, is a community activity, such as Lent used to be.

Her book that we’re using is 5 years old now, and I think came out before things like the Big Read 2014 and it’s predecessors. Similarly the very act of blogging our ramblings through Lent is in part designed to make this a community activity, not just for us as a couple, but for whoever comes along and looks.

Reviewing our stewardship of finances and other things is also what I think Maggi is getting at here. Our review has so far consisted of actually stopping certain parts of our giving, to facilitate some level of transfer to new places once I’m settled into my curacy. Deliberately we don’t just give to the church, and support a couple of other charities to, that we have personal links to for different reasons, but which hopefully make a difference to the basic existence of some people’s lives.

Giving of my time has for a several years now been one of the key ways we’ve given to God through community, enabled by just managing to live off a single income. It’s tough at times, but it’s something we’ve found important. That’s not to say however, that it will be like this forever, it stays under review during each set of circumstance changes, and it’s likely for us the biggest decisions and possibly changes will come at the end of curacy.

There’s something key here about awareness; keeping decisions about our community life, stewardship and related issues, constantly on the agenda, listening for what God might be saying in the situations we encounter or the circumstances of life. Though Lent is a good time for this, the danger of restricting the process to Lent is that we’ll miss God’s specific answer to the question: what does the Lord require?

More than the body Luke 12:22-34 #givingitup #Lent2014

No Ravens at Cuddesdon, but plenty of Jackdaws - some of which perch most of the day in the big Beech tree by College House!
No Ravens at Cuddesdon, but plenty of Jackdaws – some of which perch most of the day in the big Beech tree by College House!

The reading Maggi Dawn has set for today is one that is important to my parents, having been the favourite of Canon Rham, the Rector of All Saints Minstead at the time of their marriage and later my Baptism. ‘Consider the lilies of the fields…’ is marked in every Bible they’ve used I think.

Maggi is keeping us focused on the idea that if we’re going to ‘give things up’ it needs to be done in such a way that we “reconnect our understanding of our daily existence to God… [and] no amount of self-improvement will change God’s view of us… The point of the fast is, in fact, to humble ourselves… accepting with absolute honesty our true self.”

I’ve been sat in the window of my room watching the Jackdaws (we don’t have Ravens at college) and pondering on those things in my daily existence that connect me to God, or should do. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • prayer – whether that be through the use of set liturgy in Common Worship or Celtic forms, or through arrow prayers ‘at the kitchen sink’ or through more reflective times walking, or more often in recent months, gazing out the window watching the rain.
  • creative things – doesn’t matter whether it’s cooking or something more artistic, and it particularly includes creating acts of worship, and writing sermons; I’ve not stopped cooking though I don’t bake as much (partly for the sake our waistlines), but the others on this list have all been neglected by my focus on, or procrastinating about, my studies – and procrastination is rarely creative! Something I could rectify, possibly?
  • studying – I’m studying theology for ministry for goodness sake, it ought to connect me with God, yet sadly it’s rarely been in a way that I have found uplifting and really fulfilling, so I guess with the next essay (the theology of land in the Old Testament with particular reference to the Sabbath) that should be my key aim, not just to write it, but to seek God in it.
  • people – I’ve realised through this course how much I miss people when I have to study, and it’s not just the spending time with them, it’s the practice of hospitality given and received, the seeing Christ in people and where needed, being Christ to others, all of which I so look forward to doing more of in curacy!

So I guess that what I really need to focus on once I return to it later next week (after lots of time needing to be away from it for valid reasons like this study weekend) is humbling myself before the immense amount I don’t know about God, and expecting him to show me things in the essay I need to research and write before Easter.

Feels pretty Lenten to me, even if I’m not explicitly ‘giving something up!

PS: I’m sure Graham will be along later with his thoughts on his blog here.

A true fast Isaiah 58:6-12 #givingitup #Lent2014

A photo of the frost on the car windscreen on 1st March - just because I like it!
A photo of the frost on the car windscreen on 1st March – just because I like it!

Graham will post later I’m sure, but it’s me making a start on our Lent reflections today.

Today was always going to be a day set aside for reflection; I am on one of my regular days at Alton Abbey, taking the chance to soak myself in it’s quiet prayerful atmosphere, and with nothing but birdsong to fill the gaps between offices. That, and time with my spiritual companion, which isn’t quiet, but is reflective and meets the need to face the joys and tribulations of life with someone who will wisely suggest where I have not noticed God at work, or a realistic approach to some specific issue – time to be reminded that I am made in God’s image AS I AM deep down inside without layers of expectations imposed by myself or others, or in fact the system within which I train and will minister.

Isaiah 58:6-12 (todays reading in Maggi Dawn’s ‘Giving It Up’ Lent book), reminded me strongly again, of what I have missed in ordination training – the sharing of love and hope as God’s servant and on his behalf; not because it’s my job to, but because that is the way through which I most frequently experience God’s guidance, strength and ‘watering’ – his light. These things have been in short supply during ordination training, and I am apt to blame ‘the system’ and the way in which I was slotted into it as a Reader with a recent FdA in Ministry. But, realistically, though there are ways in which the system hasn’t helped, it’s not as wholly true as perhaps I would like it to be.

Interestingly though, with less than four months to ordination, even realising this, I see no point making vast changes to my pattern of life at home and college at this point, but I am really looking forward to a new pattern of life and picking up the threads of creative and social justice work in new ways in my title post (curacy). In some senses I guess ordination training, both through it’s own structures and aim, and through the way I have inhabited it, is a sort of extended Lent IF we focus on the deprivations of rich foods for which the medieval Lent that Maggi describes is known. I may not have enjoyed the ‘deprivation’ from active ministry, but (as I’ve said elsewhere before) through it I have had emphasised to me the things that are most important to my relationship with God and what it was that led to my calling to ordination.

Maggi talks about creating change in our kitchens and limiting the amount of waste that we generate. Perhaps because I’m the daughter of a chef (my mother) and a wildlife manager (think gamekeeper and you’d be reasonably close) I have always inhabited a ‘make do’ and ‘mend’ lifestyle. I think we do a pretty reasonable job of watching the state of the fridge and freezer (without which I’d be lost, domestically) using leftovers, composting and recycling.

So where in my life, or our family’s life, am I generating waste that needs to be used up and put in some sort of pre-ordination pancake? The places to look I feel should be in the realm of technology and social media, yet as others (like Revd Pam Smith in her Big Bible blog post ‘Giving Up – or Opting Out) have pointed out the relationships built through social media are important, else we’d not be blogging through Lent though a little cutting down might be in order! I could equally become a tech junky to facilitate this as integral to ministry, and the impending curacy makes the temptation strong. But tech costs money, and until I know something I don’t already have is vital, or some existing tech becomes so slow as to be obsolete, we try to measure our tech needs against the expense of generally making ends meet! So, where do you think our (or your) family waste is?

Lenten observance – an introduction to us #givingitup

AshWednesdayCross1My husband Graham and I have agreed that our Lenten discipline will be to try and both work through the same book ‘Giving It Up’ by Maggi Dawn. Really its to meet the need of the moment – the ‘moment’ being a very busy Lent in which I have multiple study weekends at college and essay to research and write, and the desire to focus on something outside of these in my preparation for ordination, whilst staying ‘connected’ to Graham, his needs and his concerns. To ground that little load in something Biblical and reflective just seemed sensible, even if we both need to be realist that at times his teaching load and my studies (sometimes in an internet challenged’ environment), might make this a bit tricky.

Graham chose the book after his experiences of Maggi’s writing in the on-line Advent book club. Maggi’s written recently on her blog about the idea that Lenten observance should be a community practice; which was encouraging since some friends had missed Graham’s reflections after Advent and have asked to join our journey. So, in some small way this will be a community activity, online.

The introduction to Maggi’s ‘Giving It Up’ book talks about the derivation of Lent coming from the Angli-Saxon ‘lencten’, describing the lengthening of days that accompanies this time of year in the northern hemisphere. What it doesn’t say is the difference this day lengthening might have made to historic observances of Lent. In our contemporary western culture I’m not sure that day length changing makes much differences, though I’m sure that Graham is just beginning to appreciate not always travelling both to and from work in the dark, and at some psychological level that can only be a good thing.

For me, there is a sense in which the days are shortening. The number of days till my ordination that is. The pressure to complete certain tasks is increasing, and the strange mixture of excitement and doubts in my ability to carry out some of the tasks associated with ordained life is also developing rapidly. [And yes, before you say it, I know God will equip and curacy is a period of training, but that logic is yet to defy the emotional responses!] Both our lives will never be the same after my ordination, and there is a sort of yearning within me for what people call the ‘ontological change’ that occurs around ordination. Oddly it is a desire that feels currently like being set back on the path and focus of my discernment process, after the ‘distractions’ (day I say it) of ordination training.

And this is where I hope ‘Giving It Up’ will help. Help me set aside the blurred images and confusion that in some sense seems to surround God in the process of ordination training and see the God I was called to serve as an ordained person, more clearly, in conjunction with seeing a vision of God’s role in our future life as clergy and spouse perhaps a little more clearly.

Graham’s blog will be hosting our #givingitup conversation with me largely using his comment facility, unless timescales don’t really dovetail in which case mine will be here. Please feel free to follow and join in the conversation. The first post is here.