I don’t very often write personal news items on this blog, but every now and again I feel like doing it. This won’t be very polished and it won’t be in any particular order. Here are a few of the things that are going on in my life.
On February 1st I celebrated my eleventh anniversary as pastor of St. Margaret’s church. It seems a long time now since the Tuesday morning when I started in this parish; many people have come and gone and the congregation is very different now than it was back in the year 2000. In the last couple of years we’ve had a real influx of families with very young children, and we’re very thankful that they find our church to be a relaxed and welcoming place for them. After eleven years it’s a joy to know a congregation as well as I know this one, and to be well-known by them as well. My friend Reed Fleming has been reading a book about the benefits of stability; I concur (a fella called Eugene Peterson has been saying the same thing to pastors for quite a while now!).
We passed another significant anniversary on January 21st when our first (and, at the moment, only) grandson Noah turned one year old. He is walking all over the place now and it is a joy to watch him grow and learn. He’s a really busy boy and likes to be doing things, but every now and then I manage to catch one of his hugs, and they’re precious when they’re on offer. He likes music and playing with toy cars and walking in circles around the house, and he seems to like his Grandma and Grandpa too.
Reading-wise I’ve been slowly working my way through the Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible, which I’ve never read much before. I’m up to the book of Numbers now, and I read from the Psalms every day too, and am amazed at how much I’m enjoying it. I read aloud whenever I can and enjoy savouring the words in my mouth; I find the poetic language really adds to the experience. I don’t expect I’ll make the AV my main version but I will be glad to have read it through.
Marci read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and really enjoyed it; she got me into it as well and I’ve read it through once. I’m not sure if I’m going to take on a full-blown year-long happiness project as Gretchen did, but she has me convinced of a few of her central ideas – especially the idea that working on your own happiness is not a selfish thing, because happy people tend to be more generous and outgoing, and are more likely to make a positive difference to others. I also like her emphasis on doing as a road to feeling, rather than the other way around (don’t wait until you feel good before doing the right thing; do it anyway, and the feeling will probably follow along). And I like the fact that she quotes Dr. Samuel Johnson so much! Her blog is worth reading and it always gives me a lift.
Last weekend Dana Wylie and I presented a workshop which we called ‘Discovering the World of Traditional Folk Music‘ at Expressionz Café here in Edmonton. About fifteen people took part, aged from early teens to early sixties, and it was a participatory experience from the start. Dana and I shared our own experiences of discovering traditional folk music, and we then raised the question ‘What is it?’ I played ‘The Cruel Brother‘ and got people to analyse what made it different from the average contemporary song; people started diving in with their ideas, and we were off to the races! After spending an hour or more on the distinctive features of traditional songs, we turned to the sources and talked about the most significant recordings, print resources, and Internet sites. We then spent a significant chunk of time on alternative guitar tunings before cruising to a close with a consideration of the history of one of the best known traditional songs, ‘Scarborough Fair’. Dana and I were gratified by the enthusiasm of the participants and it was a special joy to see so many young people there.
On the negative side, I’ve been having a few health challenges lately. Pain in my left arm took me to the doctor before Christmas; subsequent x-rays showed arthritis in the neck which was pinching nerves. There’s no real cure for this although physiotherapy helps a bit; if you see me walking in a strangely elongated fashion, that’s because apparently my relaxed slouch is not good for the neck bones! Holding your head high really is the better way! More recently I’ve been having some problems with my left eye; apparently it’s a common thing with advancing age, but the vitreous has begun to detach from the retina, and has snagged a blood vessel on the way down, so there’s a whole dirty curtain of little dots and a few blotches of blood swimming across my field of vision right now. I have perfectly clear vision if I just close my left eye!
A member of our congregation died last night. He was in his eighties and had been suffering from cancer for a couple of years (his second bout with cancer). For the past few weeks I had been taking communion to him and his wife in their home once a week, and last week when I was there he remarked about how much peace and comfort the sacrament gave him. Last night after he died the family and I gathered around his bed to read scripture and pray, and his funeral will be at our church next week. Just by virtue of being a pastor, people invite me into these significant events in their lives all the time. It’s a privilege and a trust, and I am grateful for it.
There are many other things to give thanks for. I’m happy to have been married for over thirty-one years to a wise, caring and grace-living woman who has a lot of patience for the failings of her very imperfect husband. I’m thankful that my kids seem to love their parents and each other as well, and that we see a lot more of them than some other parents I know. I’m thankful that my Mum and Dad have a computer and we can keep in touch by email and send them photographs regularly so that they feel a connection with our daily lives even though they are so far away. I’m thankful for the circle of friends who make my life so enjoyable, both near and far away, and for the chance to play music and listen to music regularly with some of those friends. I’m thankful for a worthwhile job serving a good congregation who pay me decently and treat me well and who have become my primary spiritual family. And I’m thankful to be a follower of Jesus and for the continual comfort and challenge I get from his vision of God and God’s dream for the world.