Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Midweek Musing: Enter the dark

Lent began this week, and we went into the wilderness with Jesus. 



Consider a seed. Part of a flower or tree or blade of wheat. It has lived with the plant, breathed with the plant, then felt the time draw near for it to leave the plant.

Separation. Loss. Grief.
Or life as a seed independent and free.

But if the seed remains a seed, stays as and where it is, it will dry up, its life will fade, and all the potential within will go unrealized.

The time draws near for the seed to fall from the flower, the tree, the blade of wheat. Scary and liberating: and only just the beginning.


Jesus’ baptism seemed full of life and joy and freedom, too. Perhaps it was also, at least a little awe-inspiring, if not downright frightening, with the heavens torn apart like that.

And it was only the beginning.

Parting company – from pray the story blog

tear the clouds apart,
rip open the sky,
let me through, let
me through - and Spirit
nose-dives like a dove for
a worm, 'tward Wisdom
Incarnate to embrace,
as the voice, the Source
declares what is: Beloved,
offspring of Love Divine,
such delight --

and then she turns,
she drives him out to the wilds
and the beasts; did Spirit speak
to the angels as they passed
in flight? Don't leave him
alone, though he must go and we
must stay, I'm away
to wait for time to pass,
and to mend the hole in the sky ...

To realise the potential of this baptized life, Jesus had to enter the wilderness, as a seed must enter the ground, the dirt, the deep, dark, earth.

The time comes in any journey towards life for a death, a letting go, a withdrawing from the light.

In the warm embrace of earth, the seed might find comfort, perhaps even joy in leaving the light for a darker place.

But then it begins. The seed bulges, expands, early joy at growing bigger replaced by pain when its shell cannot contain what is growing inside. The breaking open hurts like nothing the seed could imagine, if seeds could imagine; and if it could scream, I imagine it would scream
Pink roots stretch from within to draw deeper into the earth. A single, fragile, green shoot unfolds, slowly reaching back towards the light and a new becoming.


For Ash Wednesday here this week we saw a film composed of images by UK artist Si Smith, images of Jesus during his forty days in the wilderness.
Early on, the images depict Jesus a little perplexed at his situation perhaps, then delighted, as he played games with rocks, watched foxes, talked to birds, and lay down to closely observe a flower.
The joy of Jesus’ solitude turned to pain as the artist imagined the heat of the desert, the agony of hunger, the demons we face when we are alone with ourselves.

The very first images of this series depict Jesus putting down his carpentry tools and walking away from the town, more his own choice than the being driven out by the Spirit of the story in Mark’s gospel account, and my poem.
Jesus withdrew from his old life in order to enter the new one. In Smith’s forty images, we are invited to consider that Jesus needed a season between his season of carpentry and family and that of announcing the realm of God. A time in which the shell of the seed broke open, so that the promise and potential could begin to emerge.

It is a seasonal cycle the earth enacts with each turn around the sun; constant letting go in order for life to continue to grow. And it may seem beautiful in creation, but it is costly and painful, too.

So why is this important for us?

We are entering a new season as a church, the season of Lent. Our church calendar is like the earth’s turning around the sun, bringing us regularly into the different parts of the story that will stir something in us to keep us growing and alive.

And in this season of Lent, what is provoked is a withdrawing, a letting go; a sometimes painful shedding of old shells, old ways, in order to take on something new, to emerge renewed and ready for who we are to become.
Lent is often described as a season of repentance, which we might think of as a change of heart, a change in the way we relate to one another and God and ourselves. [Dorothy McRae-McMahon / Andrew Collis Bringing the Word to Life Together Year B]  If to repent is to change, to turn around, then Lent is a long, slow, turning back towards the way of God during which we pay attention to the ways we have chosen ‘death’ rather than ‘life’. The ways of God that the psalmist prays to remember in our psalm today, and throughout so many of the psalms, are ways of vitality, of fullness of life. The ways we choose are often paths that diminish vitality and fullness of life for ourselves and each other.
To truly turn away from diminishing of life, to truly embrace the fullness of life, we must understand the paths we have trod, the ways we have been. It is no good to close a door on the darkness and pretend it does not exist.
That darkness may be our own greed and selfishness and unkindness. That darkness may be the collective systems of power and abusive injustice. We cannot change any of it without facing it, seeing it for what it is, and understanding it.
[riffing off provoking the gospel]
To live more fully into the light, we must first enter the dark.

That is the invitation of this season of Lent.

I would like to finish with the litany I wrote for our Ash Wednesday service, an invitation into this season of withdrawal, of blowing out the candle and paying attention to the dark in preparation for reclaiming the light once more. I invite you to close your eyes if you wish, and use this as a meditation.

In secret
(Sarah Agnew)
litany based on Matt 6:1–6, 16–21

Come into a secret room,
come away from the crowds
and the light.
Come into the secret room
of your heart, your depth,
your all.

Here you are met by God,
and God alone.
Here you confess to God,
and God alone.

In secret, name your hurts,
your fears: none will hear
but God.
In secret bear your scars,
your tears: none will see
but God.

Here you will need your courage,
beloved;
here you will need to be brave.
But there will be no fanfare,
beloved;
no heroes’ welcome as we look
only to ourselves.

Look closely, look with care
and attention, at your fullness
of humanity.
See and do not turn away
from what you have done or left
undone.

Look closely, look with care
and attention, in a mirror
of God’s deep loving;
look, be seen, and in this secret
place of honesty, find hope,
and healing, and humility.

pause

We enter the darkness knowing that death is only the beginning. We enter the darkness with hope and trust that we will emerge again into the light.

For the seed is pulled by the sun’s rays, and emerges to grow into a flower, a tree, a blade of wheat.

Jesus is carried by angels out of the wilderness, and emerges to grow into the Christ, Messiah, Redeemer of all that lives.

And you. This season of Lent, as you enter the wilderness, the deep earth, your own self, may you break open towards new life, the way of life towards which we are called by God.
Amen.


Saturday, 17 February 2018

Preacher, heal thyself. A musing.

Visitors staying with me for five days, induction service on the weekend: and then, all finished, I crash.

I've written here of my experiences of extreme exhaustion during my time in Scotland doing the PhD. Prolonged stress, mainly due to financial limitations, took its toll on my health. I ached through my muscles and my bones. I slept a lot and always needed more. My mind was foggy, my energy lacking, my mood low, and I felt constantly like there was a cold brewing in my sinuses.

This week, it felt like that again. It hurt to move. I woke up feeling like I had run a marathon. Clarity of thought eluded me. I was slow and nauseated and when I lay down to sleep last night, I was incredibly unhappy.

Absent from the office, withdrawing from commitments, doing the bare minimum. So early in my new position, did I want to be so unreliable?

Was I being hard on myself? Probably.

As I lay down to sleep last night, I was struggling to understand why this was happening again.

Lots of new things all at once is exhausting, certainly, but was that all?

I remembered back to the last time I moved somewhere new, far from home, on my own. Did it feel like this, then? Yes; and no. Last time, I wasn't the only one embarking on a daunting new adventure; I wasn't the only one far from home; and I was where I had intended to be, planned to be, worked hard to be, for a long, long, time.

Back in congregational ministry is still somewhat unexpected, after three years of immersion in academia seemingly preparing for further adventures in academia. Not unwanted, although I did fear I was beginning to have regrets. But, no, that wasn't it.

In Edinburgh, most of the friends I made were from somewhere other than Edinburgh. There is a similar quality to Canberra, people having come from elsewhere, for a season, or to stay. And as well as not being alone in that here, I am also closer to my family than I was in Edinburgh. So that's not it, either.

I am not alone in ministry here; in fact, I am in an increasingly rare situation of team ministry in the church, where even single full time paid ordained positions are diminishing in number. That's not it – well, not quite. The last three years, going through the experience of the PhD from start to (almost - some of them aren't there yet) finish, I forged friendships of solidarity with people with whom I have grown used to sharing the ups and downs of life. In Christian communities in Edinburgh, I likewise forged friendships with people who shared experiences, with whom I collaborated in creative endeavours, shared meals, prayed, danced, cried, laughed. Friendship is different when you are in the same place, as I learned while the friendships with people at 'home' in Adelaide changed, inevitably, during those three years away. And friendship takes time, and I have been in this place only five minutes. But even that isn't it, really.

I realised last night, as I thought through it all, that I am homesick for Edinburgh, for my friends there, whom I had grown used to seeing, and have not now seen for nearly four months. I miss them. I miss the confidantes, the ones I laughed with and cried with and drank gin and ate haggis with. I miss the kind of friendship we had, and I miss the particular people I love, being part of their everyday lives and sharing our stories.

Making new friends here will take time. And I feel that task is more daunting when the people with whom I spend most time are my pastoral responsibility. That changes the nature of your relationship. Not that I won't be friends with these good folk, I will, I already am with some of them. But nothing can replace time, for a start, and we've not had much of that. And there is no escaping the constraints ethically placed on these relationships, if I am to fulfil my role with integrity. It may take more time than it did in Edinburgh to find the people with whom I may find that kind of friendship again, more energy. For my work is with people this time, rather than on my own, and I find health when I balance evenly the time I spend with people and on my own. To find new friends, I will want to go beyond the congregation as well as spending time doing life with the people I serve as minister. That will take time.

As I named the source of the sorrow, that loneliness only time will heal, I seem to have found some freedom. This morning I woke up still in pain, aching in my muscles and my bones. But the aching in my soul had eased somewhat. I still felt ill, exhausted, and slow today. But I seemed able again to find joy and motivation for the tasks that needed attention.

And this, as I prepared a sermon for the first Sunday of Lent that encourages us to face the darkness, spend time there, if we are to fully embrace the light. Preacher heal thyself, I suppose.



Thursday, 8 February 2018

Musing on the story we live

On Sunday 4 February, I preached for the first time at the two worship gatherings at Wesley Uniting Church. Here's what I said. 






We might see in today’s story about Jesus a snapshot ‘day in the life of’ …

Gather in the synagogue with the community, go home for supper, meet with people and meet what needs he can, sleep, get up early and pray, gather with disciples and move on to the next town …

If Jesus is our model for our way of life, such exemplars of what Jesus actually did come in handy, wouldn’t we say?

Followers of Jesus, or followers of the Way as they were known very early on, continue to struggle, however, to know and practice how to live this Way, even with such a blueprint.


I hear myself say I follow Jesus, then go and buy more plastic that will haunt the earth forever, walk past the homeless begging on the streets, drive when I could walk, harbour a grudge when I could forgive …

Did Jesus walk with kinder steps upon the earth?


We may speak words that claim we follow Jesus, claim Christian spirituality as the path we follow, but it is in the breadth of what we say and what we do, that we proclaim the one we follow. And we so often proclaim a version of Jesus we ourselves would never recognise.

What then are we to do about the dissonance between who we say we follow, and what picture our actions paint of Jesus.

One place to start is our relationship with the story – the Sacred Story of God’s Way of Love that is told in the Bible and in the people of God. The stories of Jesus are not an instruction manual, not, after all, a blueprint to follow to the letter. If we all left home, wandered from town to town, practiced exorcisms … already we can see how ridiculous a picture that would paint. This is not our world.

Paul’s practice, which we hear today in the portion of his letter to Corinth, was to adapt to the world in which he lived, to each situation and the people he encountered.

This is how stories stay alive, how the Sacred Story has continued to resonate and guide – not as a literal blueprint, but as story. And stories live when they are told, reimagined, new every time they are heard, and yet always the same story.

I think the challenge we face, the challenge that faces any people of any tradition in any time, is to know your story well enough to live it with confidence and integrity. Then our actions and our words have the greatest chance for consistency, for painting a faithful picture of this Jesus we say we follow.
We must know the story well, not so that we can correctly follow some instruction manual – no, I’m afraid it’s much harder than that.

We must know the Sacred Story well, so that its heart, its spirit – upper case and lower case – infuses our very being, so that our responses to the world are shaped by that story.

As a storyteller and scholar it has been the work of my past three years to attend to the way I and my fellow storytellers know and understand the Sacred Story – or the Bible – through embodied performance. The kind of embodied performance I was analysing was the oral storytelling practice I employ in which I learn a portion of the Bible and perform, or tell, it by heart for an audience or congregation. We talk about internalising the story, letting it become part of our being, so that we don’t tell it from ‘memory’, but by heart, from our core, from our deep, embodied, knowing.

But any follower of Jesus can embody and even perform the Bible, the Sacred Story of God, without needing to be an oral storyteller or performance artist.

To embody it is to take it into your whole being, to encounter it with your heart and soul and strength. Your heart – your love for and connection to God and others. Your soul, the intangibles of emotion and cognition and the essence of you. Your strength – the tangible physicality of you and the almost palpable mental and emotional integrity and resilience of your being.

Bring all that to your encounters with the Sacred Story. ALL. OF. IT.

Jesus does.


To perform is to do, and the cliché that actions speak louder than words is true, isn’t it? So true.

When you have taken the Sacred Story within you because you have engaged with it with your whole being, it will transform you. This is the nature of story, any story, they do not leave you unchanged. So pay attention to the stories with which you spend your time. They are shaping you – your thoughts, emotions, relationships, identity, actions.

To perform is to do, so perform the story of God, of Jesus, who we say we follow. And you can do the story when you know the story.

Jesus does.


So what can we see of Jesus who encounters the Sacred Story with his whole being in this day in the life of?

Skipping to the second half of the story, we see Jesus withdraw to pray. His heart – finding the space to be present with God. His soul – we’re not told how he prays, but prayer is soulful, a stilling of mind and emotions to listen to God. His strength – his physicality, he moves, he pays attention to location, there is walking, and it seems, sitting.

We are reminded also that bringing our all means bringing our limitations as well; limitations of time, space, energy. Jesus meets a lot of people’s needs, but Bill Loader points out that he doesn’t meet every need. While he is in the wilderness, people in the town are unmet. While he is in Gethsemene, people in Bethsaida are unmet.

And then we see in Jesus’s withdrawal to a deserted place his need for renewal, for prayer, for rest and solitude.

When it comes to doing the gospel, the story, God’s way of love, we can only do so much. But we must do what we can. Again, as Bill Loader notes, that will be enough. And it will never be enough to meet every need. It seems that Jesus knows this, and trusts that what he does will be enough.

From the reference to the synagogue at the beginning of this portion, and together with the previous and other episodes in the story of Jesus, we can see that Jesus is immersed in the story of his Jewish culture and practice. Perhaps it is this immersion in the story in its breadth that helps Jesus to keep focus on what is his to do in the context of the bigger picture of the realm of God. What he is to do – and what each person in the realm of God is to do, as the story tells us – is to walk the way of love, meet others with kindness, and be an invitation to others to likewise live this way of love.

I think Paul’s story also shows this way of love and kindness, to meet others where they are, relinquish our rights as they restrict us from our responsibility to love others, use our freedom to choose to be yoked to God and each other and find a different kind of freedom all together.


We can do all this, this living God’s radical way of Love shown to us in God incarnate in Jesus, when we bring our whole selves to, when we immerse ourselves in, the Spirit and the Story.


If we bring our whole selves to the story today, what might that encounter look like?

In my practice of embodying and performing the Bible, I like to begin with questions, with wonder. Not to skip straight to answers, or certainly not right away, but simply to notice the gaps in the story where things are left unsaid, for it is in those gaps that my story begins to connect with the biblical story.


Simon’s mother-in-law might provoke our wondering with such questions as – I wonder what ailed her? I wonder if she was ill the way I have been, or my friend or sibling or aunt has been? I wonder what she did when she served them? I wonder where all those others came from, or how they knew to come?


Jesus might provoke our wondering with questions such as, I wonder why he asked for silence about who he is? I wonder if he got tired? I wonder if he felt overwhelmed? I wonder what, or how, he prayed?


We might wonder about the folk who were healed, and the ones who were not. We might wonder about the disciples and their hunting for Jesu in the morning when he had withdrawn; and we might ponder our own search for God.


In your fully embodied encounters with the Bible, begin with your questions. Note the questions about feelings – do they point to the way the story makes you feel? Do your feelings tell you something about your own story?


Pursue some of the questions with reading and listening to scholars who investigate the gaps and the history.

Simon’s mother-in-law, described as having served – diekonei – may have made them a meal or a cup of tea, as many scholars presume. But she may, provokes Richard Swanson (he writes a blog and books called provoking the gospel) have been someone who connected resources to the needs of her community. Later Christians would come to use that term to describe a specified role in the church, as we do in the Uniting Church, deacons who connect resources to needs in the community. Mark in his telling of the story may indeed use the term as it was understood in his time, limited by gender to within the house for women.

But the years of retelling and living the story provoke the question as we bring other stories and interpretations of stories to our encounter with this story today, and we can certainly ponder and consider our own response to Jesus, when we are thus immersed in the story.


As Jesus was.

As Paul was.

To perform is to do, and we are called to do, to perform, to live, the ongoing story of God in response to that story of, our encounters with, God’s way of Love. As Simon’s mother-in-law responded to the embodiment of that story and that way of love in Jesus.

To embody is to take into your whole being – all your heart and soul and strength. After all, it is a story of love, a command to love, a way of love.

And we can perform in our living this way of love when we know the story with our whole being – so let us follow Jesus’ example, with all that we are.

Amen.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Midweek Musings return

After a considerable hiatus while I finished the PhD and life in Scotland, spent time resting and recovering in Adelaide with family, and accepted a call and moved to Canberra, Midweek Musings are back!

Each week I will share some of my wonderings, questions I am encountering, reflections I am crafting on the biblical stories. In fact, you will get a fair bit of the latter, either as musings, or separate posts, as in this new season and new ministry placement, I will be preaching and / or curating gathered worship most Sundays.

I will share with you the joys and struggles of finding a home in another new city, and it will be interesting to see what themes recur from the musings during my Scottish Sojourn. And I will introduce you to my new community of faith at Canberra Central.

This year will also feature posts from my 'Year of Turning 40', as I celebrate the close of a wonderfully rich, challenging, and rewarding decade, and embark on another that is full of promise for a different way of life.



Why don't we start there, then, as the Year of Turning 40 kicked off this past weekend with a party in Adelaide.

Paul Simon penned the song lines, 'I am a rock, I am an island,' and for a decent chunk of my life I was tempted to make that my motto, reluctant to rely on others, isolated by injury and mental illness. But more than ever, my 30s were a decade featuring an entirely different approach to life, a decade in which I truly learnt that we are only fully human, whole, well, thriving, with each other.

Although I embraced my solitary nature and experienced liberation from the world's expectation that all human adults will partner if they are to be whole, I simultaneously embraced my deep yearning for community. I have known myself to be welcomed, a vital, contributing member of communities in three different countries, and across many of the different incarnations of the Christian church. Indeed, I have relied on those communities for my wellbeing, not to mention my ability to pay the rent, through three of the most challenging years of my life.

This Year of Turning 40 is as much my thank you to as many of the people who have kept me alive and well, with whom I have collaborated creatively, whose stories I have witnessed and been privileged to hold safe, as it is about celebrating my particular chronological milestone.

So it was right to begin at 'home'. To close one chapter in order to open a new one; to be with the people who make Adelaide my spiritual, soulful, if not physical, home.

We gathered in the hall of the church that is home for my family, from which I candidated, and in which I performed the embodied analysis of Romans that formed a chapter of my thesis. On a stinking hot day, we were grateful for the air conditioners, but didn't eat as much of the bountiful spread provided with the help of my fabulous family as we might have on a cooler day.

The atmosphere was festive; a couple of two year olds loved the helium filled balloons and we enjoyed watching their joy; I bounced from one conversation to another, a happy pin ball ricocheting between friends I've gathered along my eclectic travels.

For speeches, I said my thank yous to this gathering of friends and proposed my own toast to them; Heather spoke of the gift of storytelling, and my efforts to participate in encouraging that gift wherever I go; and the Walker family humbled me greatly with their stories of how our hearts have collided during my time as their minister, and since then, as very good friends. To have a piece of music composed for the occasion of your 40th birthday, well, now, that was something special indeed!

My sisters compiled some photos of me over the 40 years, and accompanied them with quotes from some of my favourite movies and TV shows, which was fabulous. And Dad proposed a toast, prefaced by some words in honour of the way I have always been a wordsmith, and how that has got me through the darkness of depression, and brought me to many exciting adventures.

We had cake, chocolate mud cake, of course, and when I looked up from the round of goodbyes, little elves had been busy tidying up the hall ready for us to go home.

Later that evening, after my family and I had eaten dinner and collapsed, exhausted after a successful day of celebrations, I read through cards and the poems some of my guests had shared with me. The invitation was to give me a poem - a favourite, or one of their own composition - which I will gather from guests at each celebration in different places around the world this year, and then I will have a collection of poems from the hearts of my friends. So far the collection is as diverse and wonderful as my collection of friends. I'm looking forward to the next celebration, wherever that will be, in this Year of Turning 40.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

The story of a miracle

The story of Jesus' birth is told in two of the Gospel narratives. Last year, I told them both for New College School of Divinity's Centre for the Study of Christian Origins Christmas video series.




Tuesday, 21 November 2017

a message to my friends

Dear friends – Adelaide friends in particular,

leaving New College for the last time 
This is a strange old season I am currently experiencing. For a couple of months in Edinburgh it felt as though I was drifting, without direction or purpose. For the past couple of weeks in Adelaide it feels as though I have been hiding, overwhelmed by the gratitude of many friends for having me back in Adelaide.

I am super grateful for the many friends who want to spend time with me – what a gift it is to be so loved – but I find I have not the capacity for more than a very limited number of close confidants in this short season in Adelaide.

I’ve not even made it to church yet, so daunting is the prospect of all the well wishing people wanting to connect with me. That feels ridiculously ungrateful of me, for the love and support of this community of faith carried me through the three years in Edinburgh.

But I am trying to be kind to myself, not only in taking the time and space I need, but in not feeling guilty for doing so. I’ve battled some quite serious fatigue this past 18 months, and need to be very careful with my energy so that I am healthy for taking up a placement in the new year.

The jet lag has been awful this time around, compounded by the emotional upheaval of finishing a PhD (don't underestimate how complex the emotions at the ending of any season), and of leaving a city that became another home and friends I deeply love and appreciate.

Returning to my long time home feels a bit overwhelming, for it is possible I will only be in Adelaide a short time, if opportunity calls from beyond. I can only hope I don’t retreat too far back to cause me harm, or hurt my friends. I am so grateful to have so many friends, and sorry not to have the capacity to be more present with them in this season. 

I do try to make myself available to my friends, my various communities, with openness in sharing my story publicly in various ways. As one who affirms the particular importance of embodiment, it pains me to be unable to be more present physically, embodied, with those friends and communities. So I concentrate on the gift it is to connect with people in different places in whatever way I can, and the gift it is to be loved and have my story appreciated. 

I love you, friends and communities, and value your stories, too. Thank you for your patience as I restore my energy, give due attention to the ending of one season, and discern and prepare for the next. I will be physically present with you again somewhere soon, I am sure. Until then, may we remain connected through story and Spirit. 

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Midweek Musing. Applying gratitude.

It is the final week of my Scottish Sojourn, and my thoughts turn towards home.



And as I prepare to move back to Australia, I am aware of the heightened vulnerability of my current state of being. I have spent everything on this PhD, financially and personally.

My bank accounts are near zero, and there is ever diminishing room left on my credit card. What financial debts I have, thankfully, are with friends or family, on generous and compassionate terms, and will not break me. I cannot say the same for the financial burden facing many of my friends in the PhD program.

My energy levels are even closer to zero, and I can feel the same chronic fatigue-like symptoms of aching muscles, sore throat and stuffy sinuses, inability to concentrate, and overwhelming tiredness I have felt before during this season of prolonged and intense stress.

But I am returning home, to be enfolded by the love of my family, warmed by Adelaide friendships and Australian sun, and energy will soon be restored. There is hope and anticipation for new adventures to lift the spirit. There is much satisfaction from a successful season in Scotland.

I will be soon engaged in the task of establishing a new home, and the financial cost of that is a little daunting with my empty coffers. But I am not feeling overwhelmed, or even panicked. For I have decided I will take my time to furnish whatever abode I find myself making home for the next season of my life. This time I will not accumulate donated stuff - however generously offered - simply to fill empty rooms. I will not buy the cheapest things simply because they are the cheapest.

This time, as I establish my home, I will be intentional in choosing furniture and furnishings that reflect who I am, that support the way I want to live. I want to create a home that is welcoming and nurturing for me, that extends an embrace to my guests. I want to be a careful steward of my financial resources, to pay attention and not take for granted what I hope will be a more secure financial situation in this next phase of life. I'd like to invest in quality, in beauty, in local and ethical production where I can. I will be grateful if I am, at last, in a position to be able to so choose.


And as I turn my thoughts towards something new, there is much I have learnt from what has been.
I have learnt that I can indeed live on the smell of an oily rag, if I must; can turn suitcases and boxes into shelves and drawers, and make do in a sparsely equipped kitchen.
I have also learnt that while I can survive on cheap, quick and easy meals, I function more effectively with less sugar, more vegetables, and do appreciate carefully prepared meals.
I have learnt that I belong to a vast, generous, kind community of friendship across the world, that I am not alone, am needed by and need you.
I have learnt the value of the 'stuff' we gather in our home, to remind us of who we are, to shape a way of life that sustains and restores and delights. I have remembered the value of delight.
I have learnt that I am right to seek a place in which to live that allows me to retreat. I have also learnt that I appreciate a comfortable armchair or sofa for sitting, contemplating, reading, stitching.

I have learnt more about my gifts and skills as a storyteller, a poet, a minister; as one who offers the artistic perspective to challenge, heal, lament, and celebrate; one who tells our stories and listens to stories for the strengthening of people and community; one who holds people safe in the discerning process, the learning process, the work of worship together.
I have learnt ways to polish my creative work, to make my creative work earn me something to live on, to share my creative work with my communities. I have learnt that people do indeed value my creative work, and I have learnt that I would rather not have to rely on that work to make me something to live on, that I would appreciate some freedom to simply create.

I have learnt the depths of my resilience, the heights of my courage, the extent of my commitment to the call of the Way of God as the way I choose to live, and I have learnt to trust all this.

I have learnt to be grateful for all that I have, to recognise that although I am financially perpetually poor, I am among the richest humans, with access to health care, education, nutrition, clean water; with the privilege of choice, the gift of experience; with love and embrace from a committed family, generous friends, and faithful church communities all over the world. I have learnt that I am rich, and richer still when I share of that wealth I have received.

With five days left to live in Edinburgh, there is much more I could, and perhaps need, to say, and in time I am sure I will. These are the words for today, five days before the Scottish Sojourn comes to its end.