Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Lockdown Timing

Yesterday was the Second Sunday in Lent. And ten minutes before our live in person Sunday service was meant to begin, the Joker appeared downstairs looking a bit peaky and announced that he’d been up all night coughing. Cue a small amount of scrambling…

We seem to have a thing for timing in this Vicarage. It was late on a Saturday that we all came down with a cough just at the beginning of the first lockdown. There was no testing then, so we isolated ourselves for a fortnight. And it was a bit of a panic (understatement) to get everything ready for the Sunday, as all our plans were extra complicated by being confined to the house. And here we are, heading towards the end (hopefully) of the third lockdown, and the Vicar had to send everyone home who’d already arrived at church and then come back to the Vicarage and record the service to upload it. Thankfully, we were able to get a test very quickly and the results came in the middle of the night – and they were negative, so we’re free again.

These unexpected interruptions are such a great reminder that we are not in charge. In fact ‘we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves’, as this week’s collect puts it. We’re thankful that we’ve been kept outwardly in our bodies from Covid19. And are praying to be kept inwardly in our souls too this coming week.

COLLECT FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT

ALMIGHTY God,

who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves:

Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls;

that we may be defended from all adversities

which may happen to the body,

and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Watching and Waiting

I took the Vicarage Hound out for his weekly race with his greyhound pal today. On the way home, I spotted this crow (I think, my bird identification skills are rather limited) peering down at us from the clock tower. He watched us for quite a while, presumably checking that the hound wasn’t going to run up the clock tower or find some other creative way to attack. What was he actually waiting for up there though? Did he have an appointment with someone? Was he expecting a bus or is he a fan of our trams?

It’s a good watchtower, up there. You can see up to the High Street, and down to the flats at the bottom of the parish. And you also have a view over to where the car racing happens, on the dual carriageway, past the stubby street that leads to the Metro. And at the moment, from that pillar, you could get a good view of the scaffolding round the church and the stonemasons at work, if you time it right.

What are you watching and waiting for? It feels like we’re all waiting at the moment – for kids to go back to school, for vaccination, for the end of lockdown, for this pandemic to subside, for life to go back to normal. But I need to turn my mind to better waiting, waiting with hope.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

Psalm 130:5-6

Wandering and Wondering

We spent the Vicar’s Day Off over at the farm. Not one of the two farms in our local country park, but the real working farm that Song, our dear friend and lockdown bubble member, lives on. It’s mainly arable, but a shepherd leases some of the fields and we kept the Vicarage Hound VERY tightly on the lead when we climbed this hill, enjoying the dramatic Spring skies and views out to the Wrekin and Cannock Chase.

The sheep have very recently had their lambs and the mothers skittered about as we walked past, the lambs trailing in their wake, getting out of our way and showing us their tails. We bigger sheep didn’t skitter so much as saunter down the hill. But we also have a shepherd, who doesn’t lease the land, but owns it all, and the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10).

Round the World

This afternoon the Vicar called me over to the church to exercise my world class form filling skillz. Well, not so much world class so much as a bit better than his (he’s dyslexic). I was there to help a lovely young couple from church fill out some driving licence application forms. They need some help with forms because they have not been living in the UK all that long and aren’t confident in negotiating government bureaucracy hoops, especially in interpreting the vast ream of information that you have to wade through. And who can blame them?!

After we’d worked our way through the forms, all masked up and socially distanced, the Vicar showed them around the building. He talked about some of the plans we have to improve access and to make our building more visible to passers by. Our friends are an engineer and an architect/interior designer, so they started getting excited by the possibilities we have to make changes to help people by improving our building. It was lovely to see them thinking with their professional expertise. Neither of them have been able to use those skills since they’ve been in this country but are hoping that they will be able to soon.

And then we had the joy of speaking about the world and about Jesus. We talked about the countries that the Vicar and I used to live in, and others we have worked in. We have a world map on the wall of the church, so we were able to point and make sure we all knew which places we were discussing. And then we spoke about the country our friends come from, and some of its history – especially the parts that are in the Bible. Fascinating.

I think I probably already mentioned how much I love living here, among people from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages (Revelation 7:9). Today was a great taste of that once again.

Photo by Aaditya Arora on Pexels.com

Hope and the Bins

I was wondering about what to write about this evening so I had a scroll through recent photos and found this one taken on the way to the park (the big one – turn left at the top of the road) a couple of weeks ago.

It’s a fairly mundane picture of a street of scruffy Victorian terraced houses, with a not very spectacular rainbow. This street was added to our parish this year, in a reorganisation of boundaries in our deanery. But actually, when I look at it, it’s a pretty good summary of parish life.

There’s the beauty of the rainbow, bright colours in the sky – the symbol of hope – a sign of God’s never failing promises. So good to see a real one in the sky, in place of the many seen over this last year on doors and windows, those pictures of hope that people have held out in the face of the pandemic.

Those flecks of white on the photo aren’t a smeared camera lens, but snow which started falling as I walked up past the samosa shop on the corner. Snow takes us to the Psalms and our sins washed whiter than snow. The gospel in outline, so precious and so necessary for all of us who live in these streets.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:7

And the bins. The mess of life, in the way, and rather spoiling the photo. But useful and essential. Like all of us. Messy, sometimes in the way or spoiling things but as God’s people we’re useful and essential. The Lord wants us to bring that rainbow hope and offer the cleansing power of the gospel.

Intricate

There was some bright sunshine as I walked the Vicarage Hound this morning, as well as a stiff breeze. The stonemasons working on repointing the church building at the moment reported that it was a bit bracing where they are working up the scaffolding on the South side.

To get to our most local park I walk past the church, down the stubby road where the drug dealers often lurk, and then along the Metro path. There’s a patch of wasteground there, between the back of our church school and the allotments. You can cut down through it to the entrance to the park, although I walk further on and enter the park by the tiny concrete skate park, just by the next Metro stop down.

Sometimes you can find people drinking in the wasteground, or even consuming more noxious substances. And last summer someone set up a pretty serious camp, with tents and old wooden doors and washing lines. It’s pretty scruffy there – people drop their beer cans and other litter and sometimes there is some more substantial flytipping. The trees and plants aren’t really tended at all, but we’ve found a mix of maples and sycamores growing, along with brambles and other messy bushes.

And silver birches seem to do well there, especially right by the path. And today the sunshine lit up their bark, showing the intricate broken patterns. Peeking past the trees on the edge of the wasteground, you can see newer, skinnier trees growing up, with smoother shinier bark. Old beauty growing out of simpler beginnings, in amongst the mess and debris. Works of the Lord’s hands. Praying that I would see that beauty in all the intricate broken patterns I encounter in the people of this messy parish and beyond.

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is complexity. The complexity of our society and economy has been made clear as the government has made decisions during the pandemic which have had unforeseen consequences. They’ve not had enough information about every single person and their situation as they’ve tried to make provision for people in lockdown. So there have been changed plans and new initiatives as things have become clearer. The individual histories and situations of each person in a nation is almost impossible to imagine and to grasp. A very interesting thread on Twitter from Robert Colvile, director of the Centre for Policy Studies, outlined how pandemic policies backed up by databases – information – have been far more successful than those without.

Life is complicated! (Pexels.com)

I’m not in government (thankfully!) but I am involved with some other complex and difficult situations. And I can see that decisions, or pronouncements about decisions, are often made without enough information, and certainly without all the information. It’s a blessing of aging, of experiencing difficulties and struggles as well as joy, that you gain a much bigger grasp of complexity. That you learn to see the politics, the relationships and the history behind things. I find that I often feel overwhelmed as I get a glimpse of complexity, especially where there are decisions to be made.

But that has also given me a bigger vision of the greatness of the LORD, who sees everything from the beginning to the end, who has all the information, in all its complexity. He is never overwhelmed, he grasps all the politics, the relationships and the history. Praise God for his understanding of all that he has made.

The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.

Psalm 33:13-15

On Saturday afternoons I head to the Secret Field with the Vicarage Hound. There we meet up with an enthusiastic retired greyhound for a run about. The Vicarage Hound is rather put out that the greyhound is faster than him, but is always excited to meet up. On the way to the field today, there were some signs of Spring.

Some gentle Spring emerging

There was a steady drizzle as we waved to each other across the field and the dogs sniffed about and occasionally legged it. Another couple of dogs were paying a visit, a busy Westie and a nervous whippet, who thought that both the big sight hounds were too scary to chase, even though I’m pretty sure she’d have given them a good run for their money. The Westie definitely made a valiant attempt to show the big boys how to play enthusiastically though.

Springy dogs and Spring flowers. And definitely Spring weather – there was an odour of wet dog for quite a while once we ended up back at the Vicarage.

Last year I blogged a few times last year about things that help me when I have a messy head. And I don’t think my head is any less messy twelve months on. Some situations have sorted themselves out, others rumble on, some are new, and rather larger than I was expecting to face – a global pandemic, for instance. So I continue using hacks that help – crochet and collects, being outside and time with Jesus, obvs. And I have a few others up my sleeve too.

When all is confused, I like to enjoy tales that end happily ever after. So I turn to stories that remind me of the best story of all time, where the hero kills the dragon and gets the girl, as Glen Scrivener puts it. Stories that remind me of the triumph of good over evil, of the reality that there will no longer be any curse.

Photo by Plato Terentev on Pexels.com

So in these recent months I’ve returned to Jane Austen, rereading through the whole collection (I’m sure that plenty of us would call Lady Catherine DeBurgh a dragon). But, for a change, I’ve listened to the stories on Spotify along with reading the books. And we’ve tuned to detective drama on Netflix. Nothing fancy, but stories with solutions. Today’s solution was in a series of Whitechapel. Where do you find satisfying story endings?

Just realised that I forgot to write this evening and so have left myself too little time to write. Always the battle against time – to make the next meeting, to get the meal ready beforehand, to use the hours and minutes well.

Photo by Cats Coming on Pexels.com

I was in yet another Zoom meeting this evening, grappling with difficult issues. At the end, as some of us despaired of some of what we’d been discussing, one person mentioned that she’d been reading Isaiah 55 this morning.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.

Isaiah 55:6

So that’s what I’m going to do, because that’s the best way to use the hours and minutes well. Praying that you will too.

%d bloggers like this: