Grumpy old man (?)

Rocking the lockdown look !
 The t-shirt says Grumpy and Alison and I had a great day earlier this week when we were able to go and visit the FoxCubs (our grandchildren who we love dearly). As most of you know we used to spend our weekly day off looking after them, but we have missed their exuberance, enthusiasm, Pipers constant impression of a whirlwind and Emetts snuggles.

Now that certain aspects of lockdown are beginning to life we felt able to go across to see them, take the cubs out for half the day and give Mum and Dad a rest. Mums working from home so she could work in peace and Dad cracked on with getting the garden sorted where he’s doing a great job.

We had a lovely, exciting and certainly tiring afternoon at the local playground known as Pirate Park. Why am I sharing this ? Simply because we, like so many others, feel a certain completeness when we are with other people. Yes, some are very happy with their own company but most of us need that occasional contact with folk around us; families, friends, even relative strangers. This is one of the reasons that Social Media has taken off so successfully. Facebook, Twitter, Tic-Toc all key into our need for connectedness. I agree that much of it is rubbish, but its rubbish that connects us. Those that we are closest to aren’t simply there for our deep intellectual, theological or philosophical thinking. Its not academia or our IQ that holds us close. In all of humanity more conversation is about the silly, ordinary things of life for they are what matters to us. It is, however, also a forum where bigger topics can be shared and views aired, but I find that these inevitably generate a lot of heat and sadly abuse.

So, what does our current Covid-19 situation show us for we should all be wanting to learn throughout our life ? Well, its reminded me of the need to be with people and for that I give thanks for platforms like Zoom, Facebook, Twitter and so on. Life has become so dependent upon electronic connection; its not the same as being ‘with’ someone, a hug, a kiss, a handshake, but it gives us the chance to see a face and be reminded we are as one. Even as I type this I’m listening to evening prayers by a friend of mine Revd. Sally Coleman who leads prayers and reflections every evening through Facebook. They’ve challenged me and led me through this, but its Sallys generosity that has created them.

Covid-19 has taught me about the beauty of the world as I’ve been able to have the time I don’t always have, to go our for a walk. Simple pleasures which remind me of Gods creativity………. seeing the colours of the flowers, feeling the gentle warmth of the rain, watching

the Burton swans in a variety of places, seeing the cygnets and loving the peace that they bring. I have been reminded of the God who, as Genesis reminds us, created this world around us but also created us as well to be a part of this beauty. I have been reminded of the God who has made me (and all of us) in his own image. AWESOME !

I have been reminded of the creativity of the good Methodism folk who are seeking new ways of being Church, and not only electronically. the creation of a possible theatre based church,  a missional platform based around allotments, the helpfulness of neighbours and the kindness of the stranger seem to have broken out all around the world. Alisons Church involving itself in feeding those who cannot make their own meals for whatever reason, and serving those without through the food bank. Sadly, overshadowed by the bad news of riots, selfishness on beaches, conspiracy theories surrounding the virus and who initiated it (!), but nevertheless our Christian faith reminds us that “God wins” and his will be done.

AND now we begin to explore going back to Church; we’re exploring the logistics of how this could happen, social distancing, hand sanitisers, masks, cleaning of the building before and after worship, the maximum numbers who could attend, and the denial of drinks afterwards. We’re walking a necessary minefield but my prayer in all of this is that we don’t lose sight of the important things that God has spoken to us about, and I pray that we continue to seek out new ways of being Church.

Oh, and one more thing that this period has given me; impatience with any desire to simply return to what we had before, endless, pointless meetings refusal to be risk takers for the one who came out of Heaven and took a huge risk for us, Through the lockdown I’m aware that I’ve become grumpier and grumpier but hopefully only because my love and desire to see the world through Gods eyes continues to increase.

Take care, pray for your leaders, and pray that I may continue to be grumpy for God !!

Lockdown feelings

Now that we’ve reached this stage of the lockdown I realise that I’ve struggled for the last few weeks.

Now, don’t worry this isn’t a moan or a rant, but hopefully just an honest reflection of where I am, because if I can’t be honest with myself then I’m not being honest with God either.

And for several weeks now I don’t think I’ve been totally honest. When well-meaning folk have asked “How are you ?” I’ve responded in a way that too many folk respond and I’ve replied “oh, I’m fine Thankyou” when inwardly I’ve Wanted to say “no, I’m not fine, I feel rubbish”. I’m struggling with honesty at the moment, because I’m trying to be upbeat for everyone else and it’s hard not to be honest.

I know I’m not unique in this And part of my reason for getting this into the blog is the hope that by being honest will help someone else to be honest also.

In general i’m finding myself listless, quite often tired and without energy; some days when the sheer abundance of ‘down’ thoughts overwhelm I struggle to focus on things which adds to the constant feeling of guilt and the ever increasing desire to retire.

I’m not in depression, but simply low on more days than usual. Why ? I think like many the lockdown isolation has tugged away at my happiness and taken the edge off things. Alison and I were reflecting the other day and we agreed that she’s coping much better than me because she’s content with her own company. By contrast I’m a people person, who enjoys the crowd, working the room in a coffee morning, shaking hands and smiling with folk. I’m a performer by nature and love having people around me. Consequently at a time like this when my only social interaction with others (apart from Alison) is predominantly by electronic means I feel the loss of hugging, touching, bonding. I think also having to do everything electronically has added to the workload in a strange way. As most know we’re bringing together two circuits to start on 1st September, and all of the paperwork and legalities feel much more slow moving; As Superintendent I find myself resentful of the four month I’ve lost getting to know the South Derbyshire Circuit; I’ve also found stressful being the person many seem to look to for answers in this unusual season, and especially the current question of “when can we reopen?” Ive even faced the accusation of being a dictator for closing the churches (not the government or even the virus) as apparently I was the one who did it 🤷🏻. We’ve lost our holiday to Oberammergau, to see the passion play, and instead had a holiday at home visiting the local garden centres ! Added to this I’ve been worrying about my brothers health (and others), he has a dodgy knee. Alongside the knowledge that he has carried the bulk of the load of selling Dads house, which adds to guilt. Andrew really has been brilliant and I look up to him so much.

And yet even in my low moments there’s so much to be grateful for; I hadn’t been looking forward to Fathers Day this year, but I had the knowledge that I had something which some never have the privilege of being able to say. My brother and I have had two wonderful parents. That thought helped me on that day but alongside it came the Remembrance of a young man experiencing his very first Fathers Day. Over the years I’ve regarded Gareth as like a Godson to me (or a son, in some ways) and this year he’s learnt what it’s like to be a Dad. I enjoyed the day because of the love of my own daughters and the joy of Gareth, Charlotte and Brooke.

 

Today I received a card which lifted and encouraged me. A card with a picture of lilac on it. It came from an unexpected source; a lady I’ve known now for 24 years. inside she simply wrote words of encouragement and spoke of how she hoped this card would be my hug and some TLC.

 I have to tell you, it lifted my spirits no end. She recognised that I have my own support network of friends and family but hoped the card would be a further source of support, and it has been.

So, to all going through this pandemic with its low moments, it’s worries for further outbreaks, the loneliness of isolation and shielding, I just want to say God is in it with us in so many surprising ways.

Yesterday, I was a part of an online Bible Study group which looked at the 23rd Psalm and I was reminded of words that have carried people of faith throughout the ages. “The Lords my Shepherd, I’ll not want” (vs 1),  “even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Vs 4), “I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (vs 6).

 

i know that this pandemic will be overcome one day (although I grieve over the loss of lives) and we’ll truly see again how Gods working, so I’m not depressed and simply hoping that this will give at least one person the courage to say “actually I’m struggling” and then allow themselves to see their support network of friends, family and ultimately of God.

                  God bless you, keep safe, keep alert and keep trusting God.