Monday, 24 April 2017

O Boundless Salvation

A few years back I was in a regular church service, it wasn't immediately apparent but morale was low and people were discouraged. As the service came to an end we were to sing "O Boundless Salvation". Written by the founder of The Salvation Army, it is I suppose, the theme song of the denomination and sometimes it's singing is accompanied by somebody taking the flag and marching around. It is a symbolic underlining of faith and gratitude and it brings an emotional response, just like singing a national anthem.

On this particular day we started to sing and I felt that we needed somebody to take up the flag but nobody was. I wanted to catch somebody's eye to suggest it but nobody was looking and so, despite the fact that I stagger like a drunk sailor at the best of times, I decided that it was up to me and somehow, just like that, I became the flag waver. Not just for that day but for days to come.
With Clyde
Yesterday, as we had our last service in that location we again closed with "O Boundless Salvation" and I was called to service again.

I couldnt make it down the steps with the flag so I called a "volunteer" and tried to get everyone moving. I feel strongly that in some ways it is my job to lead my church community in their attitude to this change, to show optimism and expectation for the future.
As I walked behind the flag, I knew that I had to grab Clyde and include him. Clyde has been a bright, engaged man, deeply committed to his faith but in recent months he has suffered several brain bleeds and is a shadow of what he was. I took his hand and led him around. I hope I gifted him something.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

An Era Ending

At the end of this month, the church I have attended for my whole life will partially amalgamate with some others in the area so this Easter has been the last as the Earlwood community and we will soon become Sydney Inner West.
We have had years of uncertainty as the congregation shrunk, finances inevitably suffered, we had rumours of closure, have been left without a minister for a time and then had a rotation of temporary and part -time ministers.
The current plan is to amalgamate the Sunday services but to continue with existing weekday activities in their existing locations. As a plan to make the current church communities financially viable it makes very little sense but as a plan to soften up four congregations for total and permanent closure, well at least it is being done gently.
The whole process has come with resistance and grief and I am sure there is more of that to come but I have tried hard to approach it all with the attitude that God knows what He is doing and won't allow broken hearts to hurt for too long. Secular life says that when one door closes another opens and a faith community should be good at affirming that but of course, as a group of ordinary human beings there is discomfort with change.
As I read my Easter posts from past years there is one which resonates today, it simply says

"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." John 10:10

At this moment my life is abundant; the weather is autumn perfection, my children are all at home and happy and we have canine joy in the house again

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Demon dog

Not a bad statue to sleep under

This week has been more eventful than most. The demon hound is the most challenging dog I have ever known, gorgeous and irresistible but determined and willful. Throw in a stubborn for good measure. He has shown some aggression over his bed, toys, food and his gleefully stolen items, he also got to be scarily annoyed at the dog he saw in the mirror.
Afraid that he would hurt someone I took the rather expensive option of hiring a dog trainer. Dog trainers, I have discovered, are like doulas: nobody wants to pay what they are asking but the investment could be a lot less costly than the alternative.
Harry happened to have a vet appointment on the day the trainer was coming and I expressed my concerns to the vet who said he saw a slightly anxious dog who would probably respond very well to training, it was a little bit of light in a situation I was finding very dark.
The trainer, Les, came and fixed his intense stare on each one of us in turn, told a lot of dramatic dog stories and made what I felt were unnecessary comments on dog nutrition. He talked about dog psychology and told us that we have to show Harry exactly where he fits in the family pack. We wondered why he stayed for two hours when he could have covered the material in half the time. I later realised that he spent his two hours mostly supervising us while we demonstrated our ability to stick with his program.
He left us with a list of instructions for the week and we have followed them quite diligently most of the time. Trying to maintain consistent discipline with a large and determined dog is worse than trying to wrangle a toddler and it has taken constant effort from everyone.We haven't got the perfect dog yet, he just now stole a half lemon from the rubbish and growled when we tried to retrieve it from the floor but I am no longer terrified and I feel we have the tools to make more progress. Indoor peeing has stopped (thank heavens for that, big dogs do big pees!) kitchen raids have slowed and barking is more often a token protest than a continuous annoyance. I am also seeing a lot more happy, forward ears on Harry.
In the middle of all this, I attended one of the most demanding births I have been to and the first to end with a caesarean. My client had a number of people supporting her and they all collapsed in tears as she was wheeled to surgery, emotionally exhausted by watching her experience of labour. My role finished at 1am and I needed to get a lift home but not wanting to disturb anyone I found a bench style seat in the hospital foyer which made a good bed for a few hours. I am inordinately proud of this discovery and look forward to improving it with the addition of a borrowed pillow if I am ever in the same situation again.

Wet weather hound