Savannah Pauses at the Tomb

Savannah at the Tomb

This past week we went to York for a few days as we won’t be near enough to visit the city in the near future with our move down to Kent. As we usually do when we go to York, we made a stop at the beautiful Minister Church. As we are still in the Easter season, the church still had it’s large Easter Garden display with the crosses and the tomb.

The Easter story really fascinated Savannah, just as much as the Christmas story did. Though there being no plays we have not had to put on Easter plays as much. She has also asked some fascinating questions, like why do the pictures of Jesus always have him leaning forward; or why are the clothes still in the tomb? And usually when she sees vinegar she will tell us that the soldiers gave it to Jesus to drink but he didn’t like it.

So she was quite excited to see the large tomb, if a little surprised at first. She named all the parts and we took her photo with it. Then April and I walked away, expecting her to follow. I turned around and I saw the scene in the photo above (which, I couldn’t resist taking and I was far enough away that I did not disturb her). I called April to turn around. Savannah was sitting in front of it quietly, taking it all in. Maybe she was just waiting for us to finally leave her alone so she could have a moment.

It was also a beautiful reminder that York Minster was not a tourist site, but a place of prayer.

God Answers a Prayer (Jess the Cat Comes Home)

Last night April and I were coming to terms with the loss of our 18 month old cat, Jess. He had been missing since lunchtime the day before (Sunday) and while we know that isn’t a terribly long time for a cat, we had a feeling this was the last we had seen of him. We started talking about how we could tell Savannah this. She got Jess as a birthday present the year before and though she hadn’t quite connected with him (or perhaps it was the other way around!), he was a part of her life. She talked about him and prayed for him every night in her prayers.

So after April and I talked, all I could think to do was to tweet a prayer. I wrote, ‘Tonight I pray for our cat Jess, wherever he is. He’s been missing since yesterday. We pray he can come back to us.’ It was finally an admission on my part that he was gone and I missed him. The latter something I hadn’t realised. So I broke down and sobbed over this little cat that I thought I would never see again.

A few minutes later the phone rang. Seriously, it could not have been 20 minutes. My next door neighbours (and members of my church at Wilpshire) were on the phone. ‘Are you missing your pussy cat? He’s upstairs under our bed.’ It was such a moment of joy that I could hardly believe it! I grabbed Jess’s food and headed next door for what had to be the strangest pastoral call I ever had. By the time I got there, Jess had raced up to the attic, but hearing my voice and rattling his food bowl he came to me. I scooped him up and hugged him. As cats always are, he was vastly underwhelmed by the occasion and oblivious to the trouble he caused us.

So I have to wonder, did God answer my prayer? There is a sensible side of me that wants to say, why with all else going on in the world would God choose to bring our cat safely back home? I can’t help but think of all the ‘more important’ prayers that go unanswered, especially as images of horror flicker on the TV. But also, I often keep God at a distance – remotely uncaring about my concerns while God goes on to take care of the rest of the real problems.

I have a hard time thinking through God answering a prayer for me. I’m not someone who easily accepts the idea of God’s love for me (yes, I know – odd for a minister). Even more so in what can be a very isolating job as a minister. So today, I have been attempting to ‘try on’* the idea that God reached across the veil with this silly little cat to let me know God loves me. It is a small token to remind me that God still loves me, even amidst all else that is going on in the world.

*I am indebted to my friend Jen Harner for this image. When April and I were thinking through our decision to stay in the UK or go back to the United States, she suggested that we ‘try it on for a day’. Think through everything as if we were going to stay in the UK and then another day as if we were going back to the US to see what it feels like.

At Holiday’s End

I have been on holiday this past week, so not much blogging. Had a very nice week, in which most of it happened at home. We did make it away for the better part of four days to Wales. Our friends Natalie and Tim have a relative with a cottage in a tiny little village about an hour south of Wrexham. It was near enough for a day out to Shrewsbury, which had an awesome Norman (11th C.) abbey.

So, tomorrow it is back to work and heading straight to Lent, which begins in just over a week!

Giving Grace to Yourself

It finally happened. I think I had lulled myself into the belief that it may not this time. I skipped a day in my reading the Bible through a year. I laid down in bed last night, after midnight (after a late night meal and watching the Duke basketball game), I realised I hadn’t read my daily Bible reading. By this time, the streak was already broken and so I went ahead and went to sleep.

I feel quite guilty about it. I think in part because I am scared that now I have skipped a day, it will already be easier to do it again. This afternoon, I did read the reading for yesterday, but there is still something that feels like failure already. I’m not sure what to do with it. I’ve not easily dealt with guilt and I struggle to give myself grace.

I hope that now that I have a miss, the goal will become God whereas before it was about reading the Bible every day of the year. So, before I go to bed, I will read the lessons for today so that I can move past the ‘well, I have already lost it’ feelings. Perhaps that will open myself to more grace than I otherwise would have had.

As the Year Draws to a Close

Looking back over the past year, I am amazed at all that happened. I realise that I stressed about a lot of things that I really didn’t need to stress about. Had I not stressed, this would have been a much easier year. I guess hindsight is 20/20, and we wouldn’t have these opportunities at the end of the year to think through all this. I am reminded of the old proverb, ‘Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday and all is well.’ Ironically, some of those things have caused the most stressed (and ones I spent most of the first half of the year worrying about) also brought the most blessing. So, I take a break from blogging about Christmas and recount my high moments from this year.

Without a doubt, the biggest high was my son’s birth in July. Caedmon is absolutely beautiful. It may not last long, but he and Savannah get along so well. She loves him so much, and has from the first time they met. Caedmon already has a budding personality: he loves to smile and is very curious. We all love him dearly. This outshines all the other events in the year.

Just before Caedmon arrived, I attended Methodist Conference in Portsmouth. Not knowing what to expect (having only my memories of Annual Conferences in the United States), I was pleased to have a great time. I don’t necessarily mean the hot long business sessions, but getting to know other Methodists from around the country and the atmosphere around the events. I blogged each day, so you can read about it if you wish (first post).

Having Caedmon of course brings inquiries from family members across the seas and a unique opportunity arose that allowed for all those inquiries to be answered. Dane Morehead, the pastor of my home church in Florence, SC, wanted to do an exchange. So, the four of us left England to spend a month in  South Carolina. We had a great time, and saw so many people! Everywhere Savannah went she met more cousins. The highlight for us was Caedmon’s baptism. Caedmon’s godparents from England (Tim and Natalie) flew in with a scripture reading from the members of Mellor Methodist Church. His American godparents, Jen and Mike, who we got to see later in Florida, also provided a scripture reading via recording. I preached the sermon, and my friend from seminary, Sarah McGiverin, drove down and assisted me with the baptism. It was a fantastic day. The folk at St. Paul were great, and we enjoyed meeting our godson for the first time (Jen and Mike’s son), whose story is amazing.

Finally, as I have been talking about on Facebook and on the blog, the Sorting Hat has spoken! We entered the stationing process this past May, wrote our profile and even had conversations with the chair of district (Stephen Poxon) while waiting in the airport in Florida. The week we returned from South Carolina, Stephen rang us to tell us we had been matched with the Medway Circuit. In mid-November, we trained down to Medway (in the County of Kent) to see if it was a good fit. Both sides felt it was, and, subject to Methodist Conference Southport, we will be moving there in August. We are very excited and looking forward to it, while at the same time it seems strange leaving Lancashire where we have loved living for the past 7 years (hard to believe it has been that long). We will miss the folk from Blackburn and South Ribble (neither circuit will exist when we leave as they will have both changed!), but we are looking to be a part of the work God is doing in the Medway Circuit.

So, this has been a great year and there’s lots to come. Here’s to a Happy New Year!

My Daughter, the Liturgical Theologian

Watching Facebook statuses of my friends from Baptist and non-denomenational persuasions, I see a lot of ‘Christmas is over’ posts. Folk taking down their decorations or watching things on television that couldn’t be watched ‘over Christmas’. I remember from my church there was one lady who was up at the crack of dawn on 26 December taking down the Christmas decorations. So for the secular world and those from non-liturgical traditions, Christmas is over. Christmas makes strange bedfellows.

There is one person that I have been able to convince that Christmas is not over – my daughter. Over Advent, sat around our Advent Wreath and as we lit it, we sang ‘O Come, O Come Immanuel’. On Christmas, we changed our song to ‘Joy to the World’. After our first devotions of Christmas, she asked why we don’t sing ‘O Come, O Come Immanuel’ anymore. April explained that Advent is over and Christmas is Jesus’ birthday so he’s come and we sing a new song. Savannah seemed to accept it and you don’t realise if it makes any difference or not.

Fast forward to today, and a few days since our conversation about the songs, and we are riding in the car. The song ‘O Come, O Come Immanuel’ came on and April and I began to sing, expecting her to join us. She wouldn’t and kept saying we can’t sing this song anymore. We finally asked why and she said, ‘Because it’s Jesus’ birthday!’

So, to all those who are still celebrating, Merry Christmas! Christmas lasts until 6 January!

Happy Christmas!

My blogging has been sporadic over the past year. I can’t give any reason for it but since I began blogging as a means of connecting with people back in the US and Facebook has filled that role I don’t feel the need to update the blog as much any more. Still, I keep hearing that writing regularly helps one with writing so I keep meaning to come back.

So, I come back today to wish any of my readers who are still around a very Happy (or Merry) Christmas! We have had a wonderful day. Savannah was very excited to see that Father Christmas stopped by. She completely ignored her gifts at first and wanted to clean up the mess Father Christmas’s reindeer left  eating their oats she left for them! She had a big day and enjoyed getting a music centre with a keyboard and soundmixer with a microphone she sings into. I hope to get some of her musical recordings on camera because she really is funny!

Caedmon has simply taken his first Christmas in. Of course, he has no idea what’s going on but enjoyed some of his presents that Savannah enjoyed helping him to open.

One of the best things this Christmas has been to watch Savannah learn Christmas Carols and take in what it means to get gifts. She had a conversation with April where she was said on a couple of occasions that she has plenty all ready. Her favourite Christmas TV special has been the VeggieTales presentation of

Savannah as Mary

Saint Nicholas, where she has listened in the message that there are people in need. Her favourite hymns have been “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” and “O Come, O Come Immanuel”, the song we sing as we light our Advent wreath. In church this morning, she interrupted me as I was announcing one of the hymns to request it! I told her we would sing it last, and she was OK with that.

Savannah also played Mary in her nursery school’s nativity play, and did great. She didn’t overact, but then wasn’t shy either. She rubbed her tummy when Sarah the narrator said she was pregnant. It was very cute.

As many of you know, this is our last Christmas in Lancashire. I announced sometime ago that we were entering the stationing process and that we would be moving. That time will come in August when we will (assuming Conference approval this summer) be moving to the Medway Circuit in the Southeast District. The Medway Towns are in the historical county of Kent (the same county as Canterbury). We are excited about the move and look forward to what the new year holds.

So again Happy Christmas and I hope to blog a lot more this new year!

How Do You Teach Children the Bible?

Savannah shamed me last night. Lent is the time for confession, and I can see no way of avoiding this and there’s no point in trying to make myself look good on the blog. Last night, as I closed the curtains in the lounge, Savannah asked, ‘Is it dark?’

‘Yes,’ I replied.

‘We don’t do Advent any more,’ she said a little sadly. ‘Not even the blue Advent.’

I felt a pain in my heart. I mean gut-wrenching experience. The background to this story is that we bought an Advent Calendar that a scene of Bethlehem, a package of stickers, and a devotional. Each day of December had a scripture verse, a devotion (too long for a 3-year old, but that was OK), and a sticker to place on the background scene. The devotion itself was mostly really good, but two or three days of appalling (e.g., the census was on obeying good laws – WHAT?). What captured Savannah’s imagination was the stickers – she loves stickers. But, here she could only do one a day and had to put it in the proper place. It was a learning experience for her. Then we would read her ‘red Advent‘ book (as she called it) – it was just a very short, simple reading around themes of Advent (almost all VERY excellent).

Savannah fell very easily into the rhythm and loved it so much that each day she would say, ‘I want to do Advent,’ or ask is it time. Our response came, ‘When it’s dark.’ This became our own Advent Afternoon Liturgy. I have no idea why we said this rather than after dinner or when mummy gets home. I guess the theme of darkness seemed to fit well with Advent. [That's the story of why darkness connects to Savannah with Advent.] The week after the 30 days finished, April and I desperately tried to find something in the same vein (church publishers have A LOT on Advent – not so much the rest of the 11 months of the year). Whatever we tried was never as good as what she had experienced. We do have a Lent version of ‘red Advent’ (it’s purple, which sometimes Savannah confuses with ‘blue’, hence the ‘blue Advent’) that we started, but got crazy with visitors and simply dropped.

Now, my daughter is asking to do an evening prayer practice, and we have nothing. Have any of you found a good way to teach children the bible, but even more so, what pattern do you set to do it? At the moment, we generally reserve it for bed where we sing (generally short songs with ‘And Can It Be’ mixed in with Bob the Builder and Balamory and Baa Baa Black Sheep), a bible story from the children’s bible, and then prayers. But, Savannah connects this more to her bedtime ritual than any family prayer time. And April and I want to expand it. Any suggestions?

Happy Christmas!

I can’t quite believe I haven’t posted for a month. I didn’t particularly mean to take a break. I just never really sat down to put down any thoughts to the blog (I had other things I was writing).

Well, it’s another Christmas come and gone. Savannah enjoyed hers immensely. It’s amazing that the gift of scissors from Father Christmas could entertain her for hours! I might post some video soon, and hopefully I will return to posting again – at least after the new year!

Happy Christmas, everyone!