Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Wider still, and wider

So, having looked closely at the ways I spend my time online, I have been broadening out the idea of simplicity by looking at areas like my TV watching. It's very easy for me to veg out in front of the TV; it's in a direct line of sight from my wheelchair. Although I can still walk a little indoors, my wheelchair is the seat which provides me with the support I need, so it's where I sit when I'm not in bed.

TV and radio keep me entertained while I knit, in the living room - in the bedroom I have another radio, plus my audio books. I made a conscious decision not to have a TV in my bedroom any more when we moved in here, nearly two years ago. I didn't want any temptation to stay in bed all the time, when I was trying to get up a few hours every day, plus I don't like a lot of electrical stuff in the bedroom anyway. I think I already have too much in there!

Now that we have a DVR (we have Sky+), I no longer watch stuff just because it's on. I always have things to watch which I have made a choice to record for later. However, as with the blogs and mailing lists, I do tend to keep watching programmes just out of habit, or because they are series-linked (which means the DVR records every episode automatically).

So I sat down today and pruned my programme planner. I looked at each series or individual programme on there, whether recorded or upcoming, and asked myself if I really felt it was worth my time. Was it enjoyable? Was it positive? Was I just watching it from habit, or because I thought I should?

Once again I felt the weight lift from me as I worked my way through, and was delighted at the end of it to realise that, next time I looked, all I would see there would be things that I knew were really worth the energy it would take to watch them.

That wasn't the end of it, though. I had also read on Green and Quaker blogs about the idea of Green Sunday, an energy-saving day every week. I can't make my Sunday entirely fossil-fuel free: I have an electrically-powered oxygen concentrator, which keeps me supplied with oxygen, and I cannot use candles or other naked flames for lighting because the oxygen is so flammable. But I can turn off the TV and radio, avoid the computer, and spend time with my thoughts, enjoying the peace and silence, and my freedom from the tyranny of the mad little one-eyed god in the corner of my living room.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Simplicity - a wider view

First of all, sorry that this is a day late. This weekend was the time for the small MfW in my home, and as usual it took a while for me to recover. But it was well worth the recovery time! Every month I seem to be meeting at least one new person (which is really making me feel part of the wider Meeting), as well as building relationships with people I have already met.

I've been thinking a lot recently about simplicity. I'm starting to see that it is not just a matter of avoiding conspicuous consumption, or refusing to follow fashion, but is a concept that can be applied to every part of our lives. When I was unable to spend more than a few minutes online yesterday, I started to worry because I would be creating a backlog of things to read which I would have to tackle today. I am on several mailing lists, Twitter and Ravelry (a kind of Facebook for knitters and crocheters), as well as subscribing to a sizeable number of blogs through Google Reader.

This made me stop and think. Was I reading all this stuff because it was important to me, and really entertained and informed me - or was it just habit? Did it all nourish me? As the BYM Advices and Queries 39 says,

Be discriminating when choosing means of entertainment and information.

Did I really need to spend ten minutes every afternoon reading a selection of cartoons, when I could be doing something more interesting?

So I pruned. I dropped a couple of mailing lists, a whole pile of Google Reader subs, and five of my Ravelry interest groups. It felt like a weight off my shoulders.

I should really know better than to overburden myself. I have been trying to learn to pace myself for nearly twelve years, to dole out my limited energy on the things that are important, and to pass on the things that I can manage without. It's a constant trade-off, to try to keep myself entertained, informed and in touch with my friends without trying to do so much that it lands me back under the duvet, unable to spend time and energy on anything other than sleeping and feeling awful. This is one more step on the way to knowing what is best for me and, while I am a little sad that I am still having to remind myself, it's a step I am glad to take.

(For an excellent perspective on living with limited energy, I recommend the Spoon Theory, from the wonderfully named website, But You Don't Look Sick.)

Monday, 16 March 2009

How does the truth prosper in me?

An email arrived yesterday from our elder, reminding everyone that the Area Meeting was approaching, and asking for views on the question that would be asked there: 'How does the truth prosper in Durham?'

It's quite hard for me to answer this from the point of view of the Meeting generally, as I can't attend the main Meetings for Worship, and for Business. I have noticed that we seems to have blossomed this year, though. We now have a midweek Meeting, with a shared lunch, as well as a monthly discussion group that meets after MfW. Both of those have started in the last few months. We have a singing group which goes out to lead community singing in residential homes, and we're starting Quaker Quest soon. And of course, there is also the new monthly MfW in my home, and another in an older member's home. These I know from editing the Newsletter.

One thing I don't know is how much practical ministry we provide. I know there are prison visitors, and even a Quaker prison chaplain (we have an 'ordinary' prison (with a women's wing), a Young Offenders' Institution, and a high security prison, all within Durham). I'm sure there will be many other things going on that I don't know about, because people don't tend to 'blow their own trumpet' - but I think these are the kinds of activities which need to be in the newsletter just as much as the accounts of the discussion groups and Meetings for Business.

And me? Well, this was the year in which I became a Member, so it has been a very special year for me. Having the monthly MfW in my home has made me feel much more a part of things, and has helped me forge friendships with a larger number of people. Being given the task of Newsletter Editor has really brought me into the heart of things, and now I find out about all sorts of activities that are happening all over the area, not just in Durham. I was rather daunted by the task at first, but now I love it, and look forward to putting the newsletter together every month.

Spiritually, the longer I am a Quaker, the more I feel at home. I love the feeling I get in Meeting when I know that what is inside me must be spoken, even though it scares me. I really appreciate the gentleness and genuineness of my fellow Quakers. The testimony of simplicity speaks to me more and more clearly as time goes on, and I am supported by the knowledge of being surrounded by people who believe in it as much as I do, and who won't look down on me for not having the latest gadget or the newest clothes.

I love it that God is honoured by people knowing I can be relied upon to tell the truth, or to keep a confidence without gossiping. I hate it when I let him down, and pass judgement on people, or make a sarcastic comment. I'm not perfect, but I know he loves me anyway.

How does the truth prosper in me? I know that it has its roots deep within me, and I can see it flourishing in many areas of my life. With God's help, I hope to see the day when it flourishes in all of them.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Unexpected insight

It seems last week that there were several Quaker blogs about ministry and direction. It must be a topic many of us are musing on at the same time! It will be interesting to see what happens next.

I was looking through some old journals, to find a poem I wanted for today's post, when I came across something entirely different which just leapt out at me. It was a little insight, undated, which read

Prayer is earthenware mugs, as well as porcelain tea cups.

Underneath it was a poem, which I now share with you:

Taking Tea with God

little finger crooked
I offer
tiny porcelain cups
and sandwiches so thin
that You could read Your book through them

You reply with exuberant doorstops
glistening with honey
fat stoneware mugs
filled up and overflowing

I hope everyone has a good week :)

Monday, 2 March 2009

Being useful

When I was in my teens, I was involved with very evangelical Christian groups, where much was made of finding one's ministry - 'Have you found your ministry yet? Do you think x could be your ministry? Have you prayed for your ministry to be revealed to you?'

I was never quite sure what my ministry was, unless it was being able to perform all the words and actions of the Butterfly Song off by heart, and that seemed unlikely. It was just the most Christian thing I could do. All around me were preachers, prophets, people who could cast out demons, people with a mission to the homeless, people who ministered to alcoholics and drug addicts - and there was I, my only useful talent (as I thought) waving my hands around and ruffling my hair.

As I got older and grew further away from that area of the church, I began to see that 'having a ministry' was no simple, one-time deal. I met people who had maybe worked with the homeless for years, and then got deeply involved with, say, a choir or a theatre group (not mutually exclusive activities, of course, but I hope you see my point). Or maybe they'd been a lay preacher, then packed it all in to go and do voluntary work overseas. Perhaps it wasn't a case of finding my ministry, but listening, and doing what I was told.

Now that I am a Quaker, I can't remember anyone ever asking me what my ministry is. We seem more interested in bringing out people's many abilities and gifts than shoe-horning them into one special area.

I have always had a way with words, and blogging has become my most frequent practice of my writing skills. After reading my blogs, other members wondered if I would be a good Editor for the newsletter. I was worried about taking it on at first, in case it over-taxed me, but I spread out the work as much as I can over the month, and I know no one is going to complain if it's a couple of days late. So far, though, I have got it out on time, three months in a row.

The first two months were four pages long, but this month is ten pages, a real bumper issue. People seem to like my style, and are keen to submit items. I love doing it, I can use my skills, and I get thanks for doing a good job. I don't care what my ministry is now, I just enjoy being useful - and I still love singing the Butterfly Song...