Love life live Lent Monday of week 4: tidy up and find lost things!

I could quite usefully do this action every day – and I suspect I’d still never run out of mess to sort out.  Tidying up in our house is like painting the Forth Bridge: a never-ending task.

One of the reasons why my study in particular is always a messy place is that I never seem to get my act together to put things away when I’ve used them – I love creating interesting visual and tactile aids to preaching and prayer, but at the end of a long Sunday, everything is in bags and boxes on the floor and I simply don’t have the energy to do anything with them. I am pretty sure that there have been times that I’ve re-done whole resources simply because I can’t find what I already had made – and it was probably somewhere in the pile of stuff.

And then there is the problem that some things simply don’t have a place to go. Take the giant crib set that one of my churches was given just before Christmas.  It doesn’t belong anywhere so it’s spent over two months sitting in a huge cardboard box in the middle of my floor. I’ve stubbed my toe on it, I’ve tripped over it… but I haven’t found anywhere permanent for it to live!

But more crucially, in a job like mine there are many, many small bits and pieces of paperwork, messages, notes, and more, that aren’t just bits of paper.  They are   people who are sick and need prayer, they are wedding couples wanting a call back about their big day, they are funeral families who are struggling.  Losing one small piece of paper in a whole pile of paperwork can make a huge difference to the person whose name and situation was scribbled on it as I rushed in from one thing and out to the next.

I, along with most vicars, I suspect, live in fear of losing people.  We can’t trust our memories, not completely, and not infallibly. And we don’t get the administration right all the time either. I read the ‘lost’ parables in Luke 15 and they remind me of the need to keep my eye on the ball, to count my coins and my sheep, and to invest the time in caring for them and looking for them.

But I also remember those wonderful words of Jesus in John’s gospel, about how God the Father has entrusted us into his hands, and ‘not one of them shall be lost’.  That is my prayer. That what slips through my fingers will be caught by the  much bigger hands of God, and that the sheep I lose will be found by the Good Shepherd.

And in the mean time I’ve typed all the information on forthcoming weddings into a spreadsheet instead of leaving it on paper sheets, because although I know God has it all in hand, I need to have it in hand too…  Not that I’m confessing to have ever lost any wedding booking forms.  I’d never do that. Really…..

Love Life Live Lent Thursday of Week three: tidy up!

They say that charity begins at home. But does that also apply to today’s action? I suspect I could fill a bin bag full of rubbish just from all the stuff that’s accumulated on the floor of my study in the last couple of weeks…

Actually, this time of year (and especially a day like today, which in my neck of the woods at least, has been reasonably sunny) is a great time for spring cleaning and tidying up generally.  Sunlight comes through windows and makes you realise (a) how dirty the windows are after a winter’s worth of dust and rain, and (b) how untidy the rest of the house is (if you’re anything like me it is, anyway).

Light shows things up.  It reveals mess.

But is also shows up beauty. And this is also an ideal time of year to appreciate the beauty more, too.  All our snowdrops are out, and the first couple of daffodils are starting to brave the cold, like miniature sunshines.

When the snow disappears, what’s underneath it is revealed – whether that’s spring flowers, or old lager cans, crisp packets and cigarette butts. And once the sun comes out, more and more people venture out not because they have to get from A to B, but because they want to be outside.  And when they do, they see not only the flowers, but the litter, too.

The sunlight and the longer days mean that tidying up our local neighbourhoods is immensely rewarding – the fruits of our labours will be enjoyed by dog walkers, toddlers, postmen, children on the way to school, people waiting at bus stops… all of whom will feel their hearts warmed by the sight of spring flowers without the plastic wrappers and crushed cans next to it.

It’s also true that keeping our environment tidy means that the people around us are more likely to respect it, and to do their part in keeping it tidy, whereas mess tends to perpetuate more mess: when a place is already looking like a tip, there’s little motivation for the next person not to add their rubbish to what’s already there.

On that note, part one of my action today is to clear my study floor, to find homes for the things that I need to keep and to get rid of the things that need to go.  Part two will be to do the same to the small patch of our garden that’s right next to the pavement – there are some beer cans there that need to be introduced to a recycling bin!