The view from the gate of the year

“I lived a hundred different lives in 2015”

“Yessss!” I all but yelled at the screen as I read Lily’s opening words on her new year post over at Such Small Hands. And my mind went racing back through the year, seeing it all again in an instant in my mind’s eye.

There I was – the voiceless vicar, the exhausted colleague, the happy holidaymaker, the burglary victim, the courtroom witness, the proud mother, the grateful wife, the desperate daughter, the house-move manager and so much more.  And, as I relived those days and weeks and months of 2015, I felt the emotions all over again – joy and elation, despair and desolation, fear and sorrow, love and loss.

And as I saw and felt it all over again, I found myself, above all else, thankful – thankful that that year is now past, thankful that a new year lies open before us. But grateful also for so much that was good in 2015, and perhaps most of all grateful that, as can so often be the case in human experience, good things have come out of the rubble of pain and loss.

And so I stand here, looking out from the gate of the year. 2016 is a week old already.  Where will it lead? What lies ahead? Who or what will I be this coming year? Will there be another 100 lives to live? Only time will tell . . .

Writing 101: Day 1 – Why do I write?

I write because I love to write. And I love to write because it helps me make sense of all my thoughts and feelings; it helps me make sense of all the different experiences of life. And, if I’m feeling brave, writing helps me share thoughts, ideas and insights with other people. Writing is also hugely important to me because it helps me work out what I need to say. I’m a really lousy speaker, especially hopeless if I have to think and speak on the spot with no time to prepare beforehand. I’m better if I’ve had time to think about what needs to be said, and I can even speak quite well (so others tell me) if I’ve had time to think it all through in writing before I get up to speak. I also write – journal – to create memories. I take great joy in re-reading things I wrote years ago to relive the experience in detail that would otherwise have been lost inside a head too busy and preoccupied with the many thoughts of today.

The Longest Good Friday

It’s been a while – it was Good Friday (April) when I last blogged. And today it’s All Saints Day (November). It’s been an eventful year, but I’ve come back to the blog as Nonfiction November is just about to begin again, and that was one of my favourite things about blogging last year.

So, watch this space . . .

Living Lent generously – 10 days to go

Red-on-WhiteSo, we’ve just passed the 30-day mark in the 40 acts challenge – we’re three-quarters of the way there now!  Here’s a quick summary of the great challenges from this last quarter.

Day 21: DO be silly – This one landed in British inboxes on Red Nose Day – a big televised fundraising day with celebrities and others urging people to give to the Comic Relief fund for a huge range of charity projects both at home and abroad.  So the simple idea was to crack a joke or two, or buy and wear a red nose for the day – and thereby look completely ridiculous.  Or going all out to organise a big fundraising event.

Day 22: Give it time – a call to give your time and talents to someone or a bigger cause.  That could be something as small as five extra minutes in prayer or spent with a friend or family member.  Or the time could be used to catch up with any acts missed from the challenge so far. The toughest challenge idea was to set aside one whole day of annual leave and spend it helping others in some way.

Day 23: Share, pray, like – Scroll through your social media and pray about the items you see there.  Or journal some prayer points and make extra time to pray through the list.  And if you have the time to take it further – write letters of support or make donations to charity, or answer any cries for help you hear about.

imageDay 24: Chocs away – buy and give away some chocolate – whether a little or a lot. Perhaps buy a bar for one or two friends or leave some anonymously in public places – or go the whole hog and hand it to everyone in the train carriage on your commute.

Day 25: Serve the server – make an extra effort with those who serve us regularly – shop assistants, waiters, maintenance staff and so on.  At the very least – treat them with dignity and courtesy, or strike up a conversation with them and say why you appreciate them.  Or go big and write to their head office and sing their praises or treat them in some other extravagant way as a thank you for the many ways in which they serve you.

Day 26: Bearhug – Hug someone – could be a virtual hug, but a real one is better – and the more the merrier! How about making and wearing a ‘Free Hugs’ sign for the day?

Day 27: Widen your circle – go beyond your usual crowd today and broaden your circle of friends.  At least say hi/hello or invite someone new to join you for a film, a meal or whatever.  And if you really want a challenge, head for those people who really annoy or bore you for some reason, and bring them into your circle today.

Day 28: Roll your sleeves up – a day for practical generosity – just simple physical acts of kindness, like helping someone across the street or helping them with a heavy item.  Or help out with a job a neighbour needs doing or get a bigger group of people together to tackle a bigger issue in the community together.

Day 29: Bless the boss – send an appreciative word to the boss today – an email or a letter – or find some way to ease their burden by running an errand or doing something else to help them out. Aim to do this more over the longer term too – recognising that leadership can be hard-going and short on blessing.

Day 30: Be first – be the first with your hand up to volunteer for something today.  Offer to pray for someone or wash up for them – or help out at a local charity – find out what’s needed and then volunteer to fill the gap.  Do a quick review of the volunteering you’ve done in the past.  Can you see a pattern to it? What are your particular passions? What would you do to make the world better if you knew you couldn’t fail.  Pray about it and then get that plan into action.

This quarter of Lent has had a really varied range of generosity challenges.  As ever, some were completely up my street (chocolate Tuesday) and some most definitely weren’t (hugging day)!

I loved wrapping up some bars of a chocolate with a little 40acts label on them and then leaving them out and about in the l local area for people to find.  It was actually quite hard in our busy little community trying to find places and opportunities to put the chocolatey gifts.  But the most fun was the next morning when my Twitterfeed had a photo of one of my chocolates and a thank you from someone who had found one of them when out for a walk in the spring sunshine – the feedback made me smile all day.  Being generous gives back so much when you really step out and go for it (and this was really quite a simple thing to do!).

But I’m not a hugger – not a touchy feely person at all – and I’m the world’s worst at telling jokes or trying to be silly, so those two days were much more of a challenge for me!

Being a vicar often means giving my time for other people so that challenge is pretty much in the run of a normal day, but it’s still good to stop and think about it and be much more intentional – even (perhaps especially so) when you’re doing it for a living.  And, though I thought I shouldn’t have been, I was genuinely surprised at the impact of praying through my social media newsfeed – something I need to start doing as a regular thing.

On serve the server day, I tried to really show appreciation of the bus driver and barista who served me, but I didn’t attempt the bigger challenge for the day.

I’ve still got a couple of challenges to complete from this set, but I have some plans – and, as Lent continues, there are still some more challenges to come.