Monday, 30 November 2009

Advent words

These words just came to me throughout today - in sets of three. I offer no theological analysis. Feel free to suggest your own - groups of three would be neat, but not essential.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The value of community

Recently Ron Edmondson wrote about the value of community. We have drawn great strength during my Dad’s illness and death from the support of several communities.

The carers and nurses who looked after Dad for the last few weeks of his life were fantastic. They were loving towards my Dad – though sometimes forceful. But they always treated him as a human, as far as I know they never talked about him in his presence, they talked to him. They treated him with dignity, while undertaking some pretty undignified tasks. Above all of that the carers provided vital companionship for my Mum. This helped Mum to carry on caring for Dad at home, and she was thrilled that two of the carers were able to attend the funeral. I hope that the carers in my organisation provide such a good service.

Our church here in Perth was great. We were overwhelmed with offers of practical support, with messages of encouragement and sympathy. But most of all we were sustained by the prayers of so many people. As we approached the church on the day of Dad’s funeral I was acutely aware of the number of people who were praying for us at that time – it gave me a huge lift, and helped me enormously.

The minister of Dad’s church (and the assistant minister) helped us by encouraging us to talk about Dad, to remember the many positive aspects of his life. My Mum’s priest has provided her with sensitive, supportive pastoral care throughout this difficult time.

Personally I received great support from work. My boss was very understanding about time off whenever I needed it. I was very moved to receive sympathy cards from my staff groups. I hadn’t expected it at all, but it was greatly appreciated.

Of course, friends and family were great, which you would expect.

The value of community? Priceless.

Our heartfelt thanks go to all who supported, and continue to support, us through these times.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

“In a Sentimental Mood”

I’m really not sure how to write this entry. So I’m just going to type and I’ll see how it ends up. As I’m writing I’m listening to some Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” on Spotify. It’s the kind of music that my Dad loved – actually he loved a wide range of music. He played trumpet, cornet, clarinet and a wee bit of sax, but the trumpet was always his favourite. He played in semi-pro dance bands and amateur orchestras.

He died on 10 November 2009, which is why I’m “In a Sentimental Mood”. His death wasn’t unexpected, which meant that we had some precious time with him before he died. The brain tumour impaired some of his functioning – physical and cognitive – but somehow there was a wonderful intensity to those last few weeks. Of course a lot of time was taken up with the practical task of caring for my Dad, but there were times of intimacy that I will always treasure. On several occasions I was alone with my Dad, mainly to give my Mum some respite, and we had the chance to say things that we’ve not been good at saying. I’m glad that I had the chance to tell Dad that I loved him, was proud to be his son and was incredibly grateful for all of the opportunities that he had given me (often based on sacrifices made by him and Mum).

As Dad’s health deteriorated, I got involved in aspects of his personal care. We’re not a naturally tactile family, but I was surprised how easy I found the close physical contact and how it helped me to deal with Dad’s illness.

In the end Dad died peacefully in his sleep. He was very calm the last time that I saw him alive. He couldn’t talk, in fact he was barely able to open his eyes, but he seemed totally at ease with his fate. He really did seem to be resting in peace.

I’ll write some more about Dad later.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Fun Theory

I came across this at Steve Roesler's site.

Which got me thinking - if we look at things from a different perspective, how can we apply this sort of approach in work, in church - without trivialising core activities?

The answer, I think, lies in two key elements.

Firstly, ensuring that we don't lose sight of our objective (in this case encouraging people to use the stairs).

Secondly, and probably most importantly, to look at the required activity from the viewpoint of the participants. Lecturing people about the value of using the stairs would have had some impact, engaging them and allowing them to express themselves is clearly much more successful.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Hands up for change

I think I've mentioned before that we're in the middle of a major re-organisation at work - many of us changing roles, all of us changing the way we work (culture). I was speaking to a colleague today about the process, and the associated frustrations, which led me to a half-formed thought about the stages of changing roles. Driving home it grew a bit. It's still rough around the edges, but...

I think that there are four changes that are needed when people stay in an organisation, but change their remits.

1 - Handover
This happens before the change is implemented, and involves discussing the role with the next incumbent; highlighting issues; passing on information etc.

2 - Hand holding
This straddles the change date and covers helping your colleague settling in by taking them to meetings; introducing them to key contacts; answering their questions as they take the reins.

3 - Hands free
This should cover the first few months - being there when called upon; finishing any tasks that require continuity.

4 - "Hands off!"
This is when the new postholder is confident in the role and wants to stamp their own mark on the job. It should include a 'thank you' and a 'please go away now'.

Sunday, 1 November 2009


There are a lot of things changing in my life just now, and when I think about it I tend to think about the negative aspects - additional responsibilities at work; change of office location with a resulting sense of loss; illness for my dad meaning travelling each weekend; etc.

On Wednesday of last week I was feeling particularly low. Too many deadlines due on Friday; a sense of remoteness in my new office – relationships still to be formed, alliances and politics still to be identified and understood; physically a bit ‘under the weather’. Generally I was feeling a bit sorry for myself.

Late in the afternoon I found myself staring out of the window, sort of wondering what to do next, really just wondering when I could go home. Then I noticed the setting sun send its warm, golden rays through the grey clouds that covered most of the sky. As I stood there mesmerised, the sunset grew in intensity turning to a vivid red that changed the whole perspective.

Nothing had changed in terms of the pressures that I felt, but my mood had picked up considerably.

On Thursday morning, the sky was clear and blue as I drove through the Perthshire countryside. There was some low lying mist lingering before the sun warmed up. The trees were clinging to the last of their leaves. The sunrise was beautiful – not particularly dramatic – just beautiful. The yellow glow hinting at the rising sun, still hidden behind the hills. My spirits soared.

There are no photos to accompany this entry. I did have my camera with me, and I thought about stopping on a couple of occasions, but I decided that I wanted to enjoy the moment. So I turned the radio off, temporarily suspending my acquisition of information, opened myself to the beauty around me, and thanked God that I was alive and blessed in so many ways.

Sometimes we’re too self-absorbed to see things in perspective; and we are too ready to focus on our problems rather than revel in the joy that we can find if we would only open our eyes to it.