Not Brian, but Susan…?

When I went into my first ministry placement, straight out of college, I was so surrounded by nerves and daunted by the unknown, that I didn’t even need to worry about anything else. That first step into ministry came gift-wrapped with care and support, as it should in the beginning.

When I began my second placement, I was busy with preparing for my brother’s wedding, and preparing to jump straight into Advent, that any worry and nervousness didn’t have a chance to even reach my awareness.

Now, having moved and unpacked, I’m about to begin my third placement- and the nerves and anticipation have kicked in!! It probably doesn’t help that we moved early, and I have way too much time to think about it, but I’m also aware of the anticipation and expectation this time too. I don’t have any other distractions, only time to be aware of my own feelings, and consciousness of those of the congregation as well.

It may well be a “chicken and egg” situation, but I’m not sure whether I’m more conscious of the expectation because I have time to think about it, or because I have been beginning to meet members of the congregation; and I’m not sure if the people’s excitement has been fed by my arrival, or is based simply on the time without a minister… In any case, I find myself wanting to calm others excitement, while simultaneously questioning my own capacity to meet their excited expectations.

It’s a paraphrase, but I find myself want to say, “I’m not the Messiah, I’m just a very naughty girl!!”

I feel like I’m in the right place, and that the ministry here is going to be good and exciting (and a bit hard). But my huge fear (in all things really) is that I will let people down, fail them, not meet their expectations- so I must face my fear. And while most of the expectation I feel is probably mostly placed upon myself, I still really hope I don’t let anyone down.

I realise as I finish writing this that is very human, and I haven’t named God. It’s not that God is not in all this- I take it for granted! God is very much in everything that is happening, but my brokenness, my lack of confidence, my fear of failure are the places, for me, that God gets a bit blurry. It’s actually where God is most present and hardest working, but it doesn’t mean I can always see it at the time… God is with me, and will be with me as I embark upon this new ministry with the people at Weeroona. May God bless us as we grow and learn together.

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Released, and yet not…

Last Sunday I was released from my ministry placement, and I have a month off before I begin my new one.  This was originally intended as time to re-group, get myself organised, and rest a little.  However, in the time since announcing I was finishing my placement, I’ve already done a lot of that work.  Just the better headspace has made me much more efficient and happy, and I now find myself with a month off, and after just three days, find myself looking for things to do.  I don’t have “work” to procrastinate over; I can’t do much more packing until we know when we are moving; and I find myself asking for jobs to do.

I’ve spent all day on the phone organising inspections for rental properties in Bendigo.  And now it’s done, and I can do no more til we go look. Mission accomplished!  Yet under-riding my day on the phone, has been an overwhelming sense of uselessness.  The stuff that matters in the world today is stuff I can’t do anything about.

I can’t change the barbaric practices of the Indonesian government that has resulted in 8 deaths last night (how many more do we not know about when they don’t involve Aussies?)- I can only pray for their families, and I can only pray for change.  Nor can I change what has happened in Nepal- I don’t have money to make any significant difference, and feel completely useless that I can’t do much practical beyond donating food and other goods.

My #firstworldproblems seem pathetic- and they are.  And yet how easily we get wrapped up in our own little bubble and forget about the rest of the world happening around us.  Maybe its the only way we can cope, cause if we think too hard we could be overwhelmed by the chaos and devestation.  My little bubble currently involves getting ready to move house, being ‘unemployed’ for a month so living frugally, trying not to (but can’t help) thinking too much about my Dad’s cancer and what that means, supporting my husband through his studies and shift work, and everything else in between.  My little bubble is a bit crazy at the moment, and yet is nothing, pathetic, easy compared to so many others.  In some ways, making myself have some perspective on it all makes it easier, and yet having that global perspective brings its own burdens of guilt and desire to fix everything.

As always, when I feel like this (over and under whelmed simultaneously) I chat to God about it.  I’m not sure whether God’s responses are in my own conclusions, or in the helping me move on and beyond the current brain explosion, but I do deeply feel God in the midst of it all.

Last night, as I lay awake, waiting for the unwanted confirmation that the executions in Indonesia had taken place, the only thing I could do was pray!  There was nothing else that could be done, and I could do nothing else.  And it helped.  Maybe it only helped me feel a little bit better, but it does feel bigger than that.  Sometimes that whelmed feeling that turns to God needs nothing more than the reassurance that I’m not alone in feeling all that I feel- in my bubble, and in the global community, and everywhere in between.  I know I’m not alone in that feeling, and I know God is with me, and with the world, in it all.  Reminding us we’re not alone, and binding us together in our shared humanity.

While I may have been released from a placement/job type thing last week, NOTHING can release me from shared, common humanity in this tiny life of mine.  I can’t turn off my caring, my ministering, my love for the world and all its people- and nor would I ever want too.  I don’t wish to be released from feeling lost, confused, useless, helpless, etc; because then I wouldn’t be who God calls and guides me to be.

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Be at Peace, my friend…

I’m sure it was based on jealousy that I begged my Mum to let me have Speech and Drama lessons. The people in my class were so confident and outgoing, and I wanted to be like that too. Reality was that Speech and Drama lessons with Sallyanne Vawdrey weren’t about growing confidence (although it did) or about making you an outgoing person (although it helped an introvert to find ways to be less introverted when necessary). In fact, it took me a long time to realise what Speech and Drama lessons with Sal really were all about.
When I started with Sal, I was 12, and really didn’t imagine it being anything more than a passing little thing to do. And I did take it for granted for a long time. I like poems, and being encouraged to read books, and I was okay with that. Somehow though, it got under my skin. In those early years, I learnt my poems, and practiced my readings- I was never as good as some others, but for some reason I stuck with it. And as I grew, so did my relationship with Sally. Lessons were still filled with poetry, plays and books and learning about some of the great writers through history, but often lessons were also about Sally listening, helping, guiding and counselling a struggling teenager. In so many ways, she was therapist and counsellor as much as Speech and Drama teacher.

I was always secretly jealous of the people who were “better” than me, and I was never going to be as good or as confident as the older students ahead of me, no matter how hard I worked. And I even sometimes asked why I wasn’t like some of her other students. And Sally always assured me that it didn’t matter- that I just had to worry about my own work. I was never so discouraged that I gave up, and I cherished the excuse to read and learn so much, it seemed to creep up on me that I was one of the older students, doing harder exams and still jumping onstage at South Street, despite never having had any success.
Somehow, as I’d grown older, Sally was not just my teacher, but she was my friend. We shared stories, and helped each other- although I’m positive she helped me MUCH more than I helped her. And it was only as this older student and friend, I finally understood what studying Speech and Drama with Sally was truly all about. And it’s only in the past few days I’ve found the words to name it.

But a few things first. I always hated being made to wear school uniform when competing at South Street. I thought it was stupid, and made us all blend together. As someone who also sang, where it was all about the right dresses and costumes (and standing out), wearing school uniform was contradictory. What it took me a long time to realise was, that not only was school uniform an equaliser (no matter which school you went too), it allowed each of to let our unique voice to speak for itself. It’s only when I look back, I realise how important this was to Sally. Even her 40th Birthday, with its White T-Shirt and Jeans theme, all of us arriving and appearing as equal, with the expectation and hope that all of us would let our voice speak for itself.

This story may be apocryphal, but it’s how I remember it. When I was studying for my Associate exam, and stressing about my capability to actually be a teacher, and we were discussing why a student might come for Speech lessons. At some point I suspect I must’ve used words something like, “fix a speech problem”. And boy was I corrected- she told me about when Leanne McInnes, her first student, was bought for lessons. She had a lisp that needed to be “fixed”. Sally had declared then, and reiterated to me, that this was not a problem to be “fixed”, but rather part of who Leanne was. Sally’s role in the situation was to help adapt so that others could understand and hear who Leanne was- give her a voice that was clear and true- and Hers!

In reality, Sally didn’t teach Leanne, or anyone else, or even me, how to speak. What she did was help each of us to FIND our own voice, and she helped us to use it- in so many ways. She bought out the best in everyone- encouraging and aiding even the shyest and quietest of students to find a way to speak and be heard. Helping the loudest and seemingly over-confident student to stop over compensating and relax into themselves a little more comfortably. Yes, tongue twisters and breathing exercises mattered, but not nearly as much as she might have led us to believe. Using the beautiful and challenging words of others, great characters of literature to connect with, and writing speeches on strange obscure topics exposed us to the words of the world, and helps us piece together our own combinations of words to shape us into the people we have become in the world- able to speak clearly and confidently with our own unique voice. And not only did she help us find our voice, if you let her, she nurtured and cared for it too.

All those years ago, I didn’t really know why I started Speech and Drama lessons with Sallyanne Vawdrey. And I never imagined how it would shape the adult I have become. I use my voice to speak every day as part of my job, and the voice I use is the one Sally helped me to find and she nurtured!

I don’t know how many students Sally has had over the years, but if her care, guiding and help for others was a fraction of what it was for me, then there are many, many grateful and blessed people out there. My only regret today is not having had the chance to use my voice to tell her how grateful and blessed I am because of her. Yes, she was my teacher and guide- but she was my friend, and I loved her so very much for all she did for me.

It breaks my heart to give voice to what your final months involved, and feels to fundamentally unfair that we will never again hear your voice speak aloud again. But someone with a voice and a heart like yours can never be made silent. Your voice resonates always in the lives of all who knew and loved you. As much as you helped so many to their voice, words to express how we will miss your voice just don’t seem enough.
With so much love- Thankyou. Just… Thank you xox

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Painting and Packing…

I have had a relaxing day off! YAY

And while I did sleep til after lunchtime- obviously well needed- it’s not like I didn’t achieve anything.  Husband and I are working together transforming my old toy chest, and having finally applied the third and final coat of white, we finally got to start adding COLOUR!  Having had a lovely time in Bunning’s last weekend choosing and watching the colours get mixed, I finally had to strategise about which colour is going on which side of the box.

In between coats of paint, I decided to make a start packing in the study.  While I’ve filled 6 boxes, plus sent a heap of stuff to the op shop, it still looks like a disaster area and is a total mess!!  Walking the very fine line between knowing what I’m going to need or not need in the coming weeks is hard- so if you walked into the house you basically can’t tell we’re moving.  But spare rooms are beginning to grow piles of boxes, and we have sorted through LOTS of stuff that has headed to new homes.

The other challenge at the moment it that we don’t know where or when we are moving. We know we are, and we know it will be soon, but the significant details for the other end of this adventure are totally unknown.  I suspect some downsizing will be involved, so I’m trying hard to get rid of stuff, but who knows what we might need, and whether what we have will fit…

No matter what the up’s and down’s of what is going to be; the most fundamental thing I know right now is this: I cannot pack the toys and games away until I finish painting the toybox!!

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Listening and Trusting

As someone who believes in God, and, for want of a better term, “works” for God too,  working out what the BOSS wants you to do is sometimes a challenge.  As confident as some people are with the ways God speaks to them, I am less confident, never quite sure…

I believe strongly that the voice of God come to me most often through the human voices that surround me and guide me- and I try to listen to every voice, even those I don’t wish to hear from, don’t like to hear from, and even dislike hearing from.  I believe in the potential to be changed and shaped and guided by every voice I encounter.

But this is not always the way God speaks to me.  To some it may seem silly, or even ridiculous, but recently it has been God has been stirring in my GUT and guiding me along a difficult path.  And its only as I emerge from this time of hurt and struggle that the realisation comes (yet again, and as it always does) that God has been, and always will be, with me.  In the past months, the gut stirring that has caused insomnia, depression and anxiety, has also led to wise decisions, right choices and an opening out into a new space.

Why do I so often underestimate the power of God to be present and guide my life?  I guess the majority of my struggle with that question is because I see so many people and places making choices and walking journeys where I struggle to find God.  The paradox of human existence, its contradiction makes very little sense to me.  I know plenty of people who live remarkable lives of grace and love- and yet choose not to include/acknowledge/believe in God.  I have also met many who claim a relationship with ‘God’, and yet behave in ways so contradictory to the calling of grace and love of common humanity.

This struggle is particularly bugging me today as more and more details are being reported regarding the plane crash in the French Alps.  The death of 150 people is tragic beyond belief- and given the other recent disappearance and crashes overwhelmed by mystery- the need for answers in this case was desperately sought, the need to direct our blame in ANY direction seemed important somehow.  And yet, now the world has its person to blame, I don’t feel any better.

Killing other people is wrong.  Not only does the Bible tell me that, every moral, ethical and human instinct screams it at me!  I don’t understand any deliberate action of violence, let alone one that leads to the death of a fellow human being.  How anyone can live out an action that leads to the death of others and cause so much grief and confusion is beyond my comprehension.  And yet that funny God-stirring in my gut (and as a struggler with mental illness) says not to judge too harshly, because the only clear and obvious thing to me in the whole situation is that the pilot, who killed himself and so many others, was SICK.

Am I crazy for trying to reconcile this shitty situation in some way? Am I seeking solution to a paradox that can just never be?  As a Christian, whose greatest human example if Christ himself, I believe I am charged to give voice to the voiceless, try and see both sides of the coin, find space and love in my heart for ALL people.  And sometimes that does mean giving voice to the voiceless; loving the unlovable; forgiving the unforgivable…

If I’m going to honour and trust in my GUT, and that my gut truly is the stirring and speaking of God in my life, then in this, and other situations, I must believe there is truth and HOPE in the struggles and paradoxes of this world that make no sense to me.  Perhaps, as it has so often in the past, it will become clear.

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Refresh…

I’ve been meaning to get back on here for ages, but have finally done it.

When moving through a transitional time, documenting it in some form is a good thing.  Not that I know where or when to start, but it seems a helpful and healthy thing for me to do.  Hopefully in the coming weeks, I’ll catch up on where I’m at, and begin exploring what might be…

Over Christmas, my brother introduced us to a card game called FLUXX- a game where the rules constantly change.  Once you get the hang of it, its not too bad, but initially being in that state of flux was very unnerving.  But that seems to be also true of life- for the past few months, life has been in a constant state of flux, which I found draining and horrible, but somehow I’ve adapted too slightly.  It’s not ideal, by any stretch, but it is possible to cope.  That being said, NOT being in flux would be great, even if just for five minutes.

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Sunday Sermon that I’m not even preaching…

THIS SUNDAY WE HAVE ALL-AGE WORSHIP IN MY CONGREGATION, BUT IF IT WERE A NORMAL (HA!) SUNDAY AND THERE WAS A SERMON, IT WOULD BE SOME VERSION OF THIS…

Large groups of people are strange creatures (or monster’s, depending on your perspective). I’m more than happy to be in a group of 900 other people at the theatre, as there is a certain decorum and behaviour, unspoken and yet very much expected, that we have all silently agreed too. And there is nothing like being part of the crowd of 100,000 people at the MCG on Anzac Day (and no doubt Grand Final Day too). But again, there are certain rules and behaviours one is obliged to adhere too, (even towards the opposition). And despite saying this, I am someone who would claim to dislike large crowds of people. However this has more to do with the unspoken rules of behaviour generally, rather than the numbers of people- (I think!). The disorganised chaos is usually what freaks me out most about large crowds (and traffic for that matter), and why I would choose to avoid these situations rather than find myself in the middle of them. And yet, sometimes the choice to be in one of these situations needs to be made at the expense of the resulting fear and anxiety.

I don’t know how common similar dislikes of these situations was in Jesus day, but at Passover, I’m fairly confident the need to worship and celebrate overrode any sense to hide away from the crowd. No doubt, as a woman, I would have probably been stuck in a kitchen preparing food for everyone anyway, but the religious demand to honour tradition and celebration would have been top priority for all Jews.

The bible gives us no clue about the size of the crowd that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem all those years ago. And it’s impossible to know how many actually knew who Jesus was, and how many simply got caught up in the excitement- sometimes that’s the power a crowd can have. Reality is, it doesn’t matter. The key to what we celebrate this day, this Palm Sunday, is that Jesus entered Jerusalem as the strangest type of King, riding on a donkey of all things! (on a non all-age Sunday, the kids talk may very well have been to read the story, The Wonky Donkey) – yet another in the long list of upside-down, backward indications that this Jesus character was nothing like what was expected for the Son of God or the King of the Jews. And not just that Jesus rode in on a donkey, it was also important that at least SOME of the crowd recognised and believed Jesus to be some special, significant, perhaps even the Messiah… In this case, just SOME was enough. Enough to trigger a series of events and observations and reactions that would result in one of the most tumultuous weeks in human history.

Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, we can only just, only barely, begin to fathom the reality of all that happened all those years ago. Each year we try, and each year we only just scratch the surface of what Jesus of Nazareth, sent by God and surrounded by the Holy Spirit, did for us. The celebratory high of an excited crowd at the entering into Jerusalem and the resurrection high of Easter morning are bookends for the lowest of lows and heartbreak of heartbreaks.

Each year, the attempt to recall that first Palm Sunday is always done in the shadow of the impending week. Which is perhaps why the day has been adopted as a day of crowds and parading by the Church and now secular world- cause we don’t quite know what to do with it otherwise. But through adopting it as a day to gather and parade for peace, and speak out for justice, we can both recreate that first crowd on the streets of Jerusalem, and honour some of the darkness and shadow that looms over our world, in the same way the darkness and shadow of the cross looms over us this coming week.

Somehow the Jerusalem of Jesus’ day, living under Roman rule, doesn’t seem as far away as it should. This afternoon, my own aversion to big crowds, is overridden by a greater sense of justice and hope as people of all and every walk of life come together to speak and walk for the great injustice done to asylum seekers and refugee’s in our country. While Palm Sunday was originally adopted as a day to unite for Peace around our world, recent years have seen its transform, in this country, into a day to speak for those who have no voice in our world. Although it is unfathomable to me, it seems that the subversive, upside-down nature of Jesus needs to be lived out in this society screaming against government and some kind of majority that choose to persecute the most desperate and needy of people in our world, who simply seek a peaceful and safe home. Reminding the government and wider community of this today that we stand with the lowest and the least is not just a vague idea, but an obligation for us all. As followers of the one who came for the lowest and the least, how can we do anything but honour that call in our life- and do it together so publicly and proudly.

All those years ago, it just took SOME people to bring the crowd together to welcome Jesus on a donkey into Jerusalem. The potential that we could be the SOME who welcome the sisters, brothers, children of Jesus, arriving on boats and planes into our country, surely must open up the maybe that others may see as we do, and welcome more fully and openly in their hearts and minds. Sometimes despite our own personal aversion and dislikes, we are called to something bigger, more important, where we lay those things and join the crowd. Whether we welcome Jesus into Jerusalem, or we welcome those with whom Jesus stands- asylum seekers and refugee’s – today we stand together as the crowd of God’s people.

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