Sunday, 30 August 2009

New experiences

A couple of new experiences today. Firstly, I presented what my placement church calls the reflection of thought. This takes the position of the children's address when the Sunday School isn't on. Their Sunday School starts next week.

My assessor sent me the material for it. They are using Living Stones materials, which follows the 3 year lectionary cycle. The material I was given I could have pretty much just read verbatum, but I re-wrote it to make it a little more "adult", if that makes sense?

I was actually quite nervous doing it. It's different to anything I've done before, yet the same. I've done sermons (two) and children's addresses. This seems to sit somewhere in the middle and I'm still a little confused by it. That's another thing I need to discuss with my assessor, just to find out the rational, as it seems to really work in her congregation.

Anyway, I'm slightly digressing. It seemed to go well. Even though I was nervous, I managed to crack a joke. After the service one of the worship team told me they'd really enjoyed it and I managed to get the message over clearly. That was really re-assuring, especially coming from someone who's had to do it too.

The other new thing was a meeting with the Sunday School leaders. My assessor gets them to do the children's address and the meeting was to discuss who would do which weeks and select the children's hymn for each week. Well, generally I don't do Sunday afternoons. Anything after 1:30 I regard as my time. This is a rule my hubbie and I started when we first moved in together so even if we had a really busy week and Saturday, there would be at least 1 afternoon a week where we could do something nice together. That said, my assessor told me the meeting starts at 12:30 and generally last no more than an hour. Okay, I can handle that - still finished by 1:30.

But, it didn't start until nearer to 1:10. At 2 I had to make my apologises and go. Harsh I know, but I can't let it slip.

However, the meeting went well. I've been signed up to do 1 address before Advent. I also made a couple of suggestions for hymns - one of which I didn't know, but the words really tied in with the theme. No-one else knew it, but it was selected on the basis of the words. I felt I coped well in the meeting - I listened to others and shared my opinion where appropriate. Just a normal meeting, really.

So, that's about it for now. More will follow soon, I'm sure!

Saturday, 29 August 2009

That was nice

I bumped into a member of the church I had my last placement in this morning. We chatted for a little while and she was really happy to see me and interested in where I am now.

I told her where I was and I was still in the middle of the selection process. "Oh, I really enjoyed hearing you during your time with us" she told me "I would be surprised if you weren't selected".

I was really quite touched by her sincerity, warmth and genuine interest in how I am. My encounter with her really lifted me and has shown me my time at my last placement did leave a positive impression.

Thank God for that!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

No need to be nervous

Last night's meeting went really well. Both my ministers where at home (both are part-time) and I had a really good chat with them

My female minister has volunteered to start being a local assessor for the CFA, so I pulled her leg saying she only wanted to talk to me to see what she was getting into! She was really interested to here what it involved and how I felt about the whole process.

She asked how things had gone at my last placement. At the time, I hadn't been very open about how it was going, as she would have tried to help and my then supervisor may have taken it as interference. I told her I didn't get fortnightly meetings and I only found out about how some things had went in my supervisor's final report. She was really shocked by this. I actually defended my supervisor, saying "he was off sick, so probably was ill before that, but might not have really realised how it was affecting his work".

I mentioned my ministers how my supervisor had written in his report he could see no evidence for my opinion that I felt I get on with most people. Also, he said I was really opinionated, talked over others and didn't listen to others opinions. Well, the expressions on my ministers' face was a picture of, well, shock. Both of them affirmed I don't do that - yes, I have opinions and am not afraid to share them, but I don't do any of the things my supervisor said I do. They have worked with me in a variety of situations where working and communicating as a group is essential. They are also very honest and would be the first to say if I was how my supervisor portrayed me. That said, I know they would have had a quiet word in my ear about my behaviour if I did dominated discussions etc well before now.

It's funny. I have been thinking about this so much since my local review. Deep down I knew my supervisor was wrong and the meeting where he formed that opinion was really out of character for me, but when you kept getting told you're no good at something, or do something wrong and inappropriate, you start to believe it. My hubbie had told me I wasn't like that and, yes he's honest, I still wasn't convinced. This has convinced me. That doesn't make me perfect and I know I'm much more aware of how my style an affect others and be taken the wrong way.

I still see my last placement as useful, even thought it wasn't that positive. I told my ministers that last night and my male minister said "yeah, how not to do things!". I have sort of thought that at times, but that isn't all. My last placement really placed a mirror in front of me to make me look properly at myself. I am convinced that would not have happened if I'd had my current assessor to begin with. I'm also more accepting of my call and discussing it. I wasn't before.

It never ceases to amaze me how God uses all experiences to help us follow Him.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Why the nerves?

I'm visiting my home church minister this evening. I am looking forward to catching up and letting her know where I am in terms of my call, my feelings about it etc. But, I'm actually a bit nervous about it.

Strange - I know and get on with my minister really well. She is a friend, but this is really the first time in over a year I've really talked about the selection process and my feelings with her. Partly that was I wasn't as "into" my last placement as I should have been, partly she never really asked me directly and partly I was so frustrated with my former supervisor, but I didn't want to mention that to her, in case it was take the wrong way.

I'm sure it'll be a good chat. I'm so much more open to my call and discussing it with others than I was even a couple of months ago.

I'll post tomorrow how it went...

Monday, 24 August 2009

Did I help?

The fraught Mum, trying to pack her shopping.
The little boy, 3 years old maybe, not being naughty, just being a child - trying to entertain himself while Mum does the shopping.
Me - just popping in for some milk. I'm not in a hurry. I say "hi" to the little boy and smile towards the Mum.
The Mum - worried she's holding me (the lady!) up and her little boy's annoying me.
But still, I'm not bothered. I remember what I used to do when I was bored waiting for my Mum and 3 years old.
As I go to leave the store, the Mum's finishing off her packing. She's still worried she's holding me up.
I say "excuse me" to her little boy and, just before I turn away, tell the Mum "he's fine, don't worry about it".
She smiles and looks relived.
I hope my small (very small) act of kindness brightened her day.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Just visiting

As I've had a couple of meetings this week, my assessor "gave" me the Sunday off. At the time she mentioned this, I was a little surprised. I am enjoying the new experience of attending another church and being involved in their worship. That said, the CFA is supposed to take a maximum of 8 hours per week. Once preparing for meetings, worship etc, reflection time and keeping my journal are all included, it's surprising how much it all adds up.

I was swithering whether or not to visit my home church, especially after last time I was there. But the congregation there are my friends. No, they in many ways are my extended family. No matter where I go, they will always have a concern and love for me. Also, my minister had been in touch. She wanted to maybe meet up with me to see how I'm getting on, where I'm at the moment, how my home church can support me etc. That swayed it for me. Go to my home church and see my minister.

After the service, once I'd caught up with some of the congregation and my minister had been seen by everyone who wanted to see her, I managed to arrange to meet with her. It will be good to properly catch up with her and let her know how things are going at my placement and how I feel about my calling.

When I first ventured out to follow God's calling I felt guilty having to leave some of the things behind I had been involved with. In particular young church. The young church superintendent was a star - he told me I was not letting anyone down following my calling. Today, some of the children who know me (there's been a few new families come, which is great!) just acted as though I'd never been away. I see that as a huge complement. I wasn't leading young church, I hasten to add!

The superintendent has even been inviting me to the young church meetings, as he wants to keep me "involved" and appreciates my ideas and support. I had been to a couple of meetings, but there's now as many, if not more, children I don't know than do. I don't think I can contribute as much as I have and don't think I should. Someone else needs to do the things I did. No-one is indispensable! So, although I was invited to the young church meeting tomorrow, I'm not going. This year I don't feel guilt about this. Last year I did.

Since I started my CFA extension, my sense of calling has strengthened and deepened. I feel I can move into God's call for me as He goes before me to make preparations for me, stands beside me as I go into the unknown and moves me through His Holy Spirit to do the right thing by Him, while not forgetting who I am.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

New bible

I've a confession to make. I've never read the whole bible from beginning to end. I'be tried, but haven't had a decent reading plan, wondered why things seemed to jump around or, and this is probably the worst admission, got bored! There it's out in the open now.

It's not that I don't read the bible regularly. I do. But I tend to stick to the same well worn passages. There's a huge part of the bible's - I should say God, shouldn't I? - message I've been missing out on. I've seem reading plans and concordances. I've even tried them, but they haven't really worked for me. I don't know why.

Latterly I've been feeling spirit pushing me towards a more complete understanding of God's word. Again, I looked at the things I'd tried in the past and thought no. Try something a little different. So, I've bought myself the One Year chronological Bible new living translation. I chose this for 3 reasons:
  1. My home bible is Good News and I've also used NIV a lot, so this is a translation I'm not that familiar with. Friends of mine who were married in April used it and I liked the way familiar reading came alive when a slightly different set of words are used.
  2. I can read the whole bible in a year without having to refer to multiple books, a bible etc.
  3. It being chronological means the bible has been re-arranged to reflect the history of the story, so everything is in context.
I only picked it up today, so it's too soon to say how well I get on. My hubbie told me not to read on too far ahead and spoil the ending!

I did look back, though, to see the readings on my birthday. One passage in that day's readings really felt as though it was written especially for me and I have taken great strength and comfort from it already:

Deuteronomy 31:6

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

The back of the bible says it should only take 15 minutes per day. Given the amazing things God has done, does do and will do for me, I think it's the least I can do for Him.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Trusting God

I've litterally just finished reading "Faith like Potates" - autobiography of Angus Buchan.

What a great book. He's an ordinary farmer with extradinary faith. A faith which called him to plant potates during a forecast drought. A faith which called him to give his farm and life to Jesus in service.

What I really liked about the book is Buchan talks about his torment - the devil talking. His drift away from God and his journey back again. He knows he's not perfect, he's unqualified to preach, he's an ordinary farmer. Yet he has dedicated and risked everything for God to take God's message to everyone. He has endured many hardships, including drought and the accidental death of his nephew. Throughout it all his faith in God and love of Jesus has never waivered.

It's amazing what God will do with lives if we trust Him. I wish I had half the faith Angus Buchan has. That said, reading of this book has come at a good time for me. I have been thinking a lot about the calling I am following. How can I be sure - it is ministry of word and sacrament, it is God's calling, not mine nor others, etc, etc? This book has confirmed what I should have known all along. God has called me and I need to follow His lead. He will give me the words and actions I need to follow His calling if I only trust Him.

At the end of the book there's this prayer:

"Dear Lord Jesus Christ,
I have given my life to you, but I repent right now because I have done very little which is constructive for the kingdom of God. I ask you to forgive me.
From today onwards I am offering myself for full-time service. I acknowledge that the time is short, that the kingdom of God is at hand and the people need to hear the gospel and repent.
There are so few people preaching the good news of Christ, although many are perishing because they have never heard and I want to make a difference. I pray that you will use me in whatever area you are calling me to.
Help me to make a start after I have put down this book. Help me to reach my next-door neighbour, the people down the street and press right in where you lead. And, Lord, if you call me to a foreign country, I pray you will make a way for me and give me the faith and courage to follow it through.
I ask this in Jesus' name.
Angus Buchan

I do know God is calling me into full-time service for Him. I do know I want and need to make a difference in God's name. The journey will not be easy, but God will give me no more that I can endure.

With that in mind, tonight I am going with my assessor to met with my presbytery rep to draw up my co-ordinated field assessment agreement. I pray God will guide me through this meeting and my remaining time on my CFA. That I my discern my call fully, and follow Him wherever He leads.

Monday, 10 August 2009

More questions

Following on from this post, I've a few more questions I need to put to my assessor:

  • Someone has an opinion that not only do you disagree with, you really can't agree to differ, so to speak. How do you let them know you disagree with them without railroading over their opinions? This was something I was accused of doing by my last assessor. I was guilty of it to a certain extent, but when I've thought of discussions I've had in work with my colleagues or with leaders of youth organisations I'm involved with, that's not how I normally operate.
  • How does a minister reconcile potentially living in an affluent area outwith their parish in much bigger and better maintained accommodation than their parishioners?

That's the questions so far....more will follow no doubt.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Leaving home

My placement assessor is on holiday at the moment and her worship team is leading worship while she's away. They've been covering her leave for about a year since their parish assistant left. They are saving the congregation the cost (and hassle) of getting locum cover and allowing members to use their God given talents by leading worship.

While my assessor is away, I am leading the bible readings. Today I only led them at the first service (there are services at 9:30 and 11am). As the service was finished by 10:15 my hubbie suggested we attend worship at my home church. I, too, thought this was a good idea as I haven't been since mid-June and it would be good to catch up.

Well, I know in some ways I'm in with the wood, but very few people acknowledged my presence. When I went to get a hymn book (no order of service - not in July and August) the people on the door were deep in conversation and didn't even notice me. I'm glad I wasn't a visitor. There was one and I think my hubbie and I were the only people to really say "hello". I hope they received a better reception on the door than I did!!!

My minister did a couple of things during the service I didn't like. He got the whole congregation to read the psalm. I've only experienced communal reading on 2 places before today and one of them was school. I'm sorry, but reading as a collective to me always sounds really bored or sarcastic. Also, I can't remember what the psalm said, only I didn't like this reading together. I didn't take part, but listened and everyone sound really bored. I doubt anyone will remember what the psalm was trying to say, but they will remember it for all the wrong reasons.

He also used the sermon to give the congregation a lecture on John Calvin. Now, I'll give you he was a huge influence on the reformation especially in Scotland via John Knox, but I don't think a sermon is the appropriate place to tell us about it. Besides, it didn't tie in with the readings at all. There was a passing comment at the end of the sermon, but it was almost like a one-liner at justify discussing Calvin.

Maybe I'm being more critical because I'm only visiting. Maybe I'm just noticing because I need to notice. I don't know. What I do know though is I feel a little like when you visit your parents house when you've moved out. It's the same house, the home you were brought up in. It just doesn't feel like home anymore.

Oh, and my hubbie found this site. I have nothing to add, except. WHAT?!