Rector's January 2014 Letter

Over the hump?

 

First – another reminder that we are having a follow-up meeting for the inspiring session with Anna Norman Walker back in September, where we can share thoughts and ideas and come up with some ways of making our churches serve their communities better.  I know various ideas are bubbling, and this will be a time to bring them all together.  We meet on Wednesday January 15th, at Woodbury Salterton Village Hall at 7pm.  Do come and join us, whether or not you were able to attend the previous meeting, and if you are not able to come, do email Chris or I with ideas and thoughts or delegate someone else to bring them along.

 

Rather usefully for the purposes of this article, I found myself making a ‘New Year Resolution’ back in November last year.  A chance conversation after a joint service in Woodbury reminded me that in the dim and distant past, when my children were small, I had started trying to learn to play the concertina, but never got past the initial stages.  Then I read a book called ‘The First Twenty Hours’ by Josh Kaufman about getting over the hump of acquiring a new skill by ‘contracting’ with yourself to spend twenty hours on it, however badly it seems to be going, before deciding that you can’t do it.  One of the examples he used was learning to play the ukulele.

 

The net result was that I dug out the concertina, downloaded some helpful books and videos from the internet, set up a ‘timer’ on my phone to clock the hours of practice I put in and decided to test out the idea that while twenty hours of practice would not make anywhere near perfect, it might be just enough to get me past those ‘I’m just not musical, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ blues.

 

Rather to my surprise, it seems to be working.  As I write this, I’m on my 17th hour of practice, and I’m really pleased with my progress.  My immediate aim was to be able to play a few simple carols by Christmas, and I’m getting close!  Most importantly, I’m really enjoying it, whereas without the ’20 hours’ promise I’m sure I would have given up after the first few sessions when it was uncomfortable even to hold the instrument and my fingers had no idea how to find the right keys even if I could remember how to read the music

 

‘Doing it’ is the key, it turns out, whatever helps we use to help us stick to our resolutions.  Jesus told a story about two brothers, each of whom was asked by his father to do a task.  One said he would – but then didn’t get round to it.  The other refused – but ended up doing it anyway.  And St James (an older brother or half-brother of Jesus) wrote amusingly that those who listened to the word but didn’t act on it were like people who looked in a mirror and then walked away and immediately forgot what they looked like.

 

I have a long list of failures in my past where I’ve tried to learn to play an instrument and never quite got there.  The oboe at school; the guitar, the violin, the mandolin – it would have been very easy to feel that there was no point even trying again.  We so often let our past failures limit our futures, painting ourselves in with words like ‘I can’t do that’, ‘it’s just how I am’, ‘I’m too old to change’.  I used to teach reading and writing to adults who had somehow missed out at school, and it was amazing to see how their attitude would change when they started to realise that they really could do this; they weren’t ‘stupid’ as they had always thought; it really wasn’t too late to learn.

 

Jesus calls us to fullness of life, and our ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ are an opportunity to think about the areas in our lives that need to be ‘topped up’ or ‘trimmed back’ - whether in huge life-changing ways like learning to read or challenging an addiction or harmful habit or in smaller ways like learning a new skill or finding new opportunities to exercise an old one.  We might decide to foster our spiritual lives by taking the ’20 hour’ method to prayer or quiet reflection, ten minutes at a time.  And of course God can work through all kinds of channels, not just those we label ‘spiritual’.  Learning to knit or taking up country dancing has steered people through depression and loss, and anyone who has watched one of Gareth Malone’s Choir series will know what singing can do for individuals and for communities – one of the reasons why our church choirs are open to all.  Our spirits flourish through creativity because we are made in the image of the God who created everything.

 

A Happy New Year, and may it be filled with new ventures and new hope.

 

Rev’d Karen Spray.  01392 877400   church@revdkaren.org.uk

 


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