Apologies for the long silence. I have been writing a Lent course…
I set my timer for 30 minutes, knowing that this is my limit for sitting up, looking at a screen, writing – aided by a neck brace and blue-light-filtering glasses – without repercussions which will prevent me doing anything else for the rest of today. And possibly tomorrow. The timer buzzes and I ignore it because I am engrossed in what I am doing, loving every minute of it, wanting to do just a little bit more.
Another half an hour and I flake suddenly. My eyes are sore and can’t focus, my head is pounding and dizzy, my body and limbs suddenly limp, and I am desperate to lie down before I fall down. And crying with exhaustion, and the pain in my back, neck, head and eyes, and with frustration that I can do so little and if I push my limits even slightly I pay so heavily. And annoyance with myself because why didn’t I stop after thirty minutes, as I knew I should, in order to have the chance, maybe, of doing a little more later, or at least tomorrow, and not feeling so ill? Why do I never learn?
I just want to be able to sit up and work for a decent amount of time without writing off several days of my week. Surely that isn’t too much to hope for? I am so not ok with the ridiculous limitations of my body. Thirty five years of practice and I still refuse to accept them or be remotely gracious about them. I rant, and rail, and rage, and cry.
And then I find a way to work within them again. More discipline, more rest, stop when the timer tells me to, build in recovery days, be realistic with targets, don’t beat myself up, celebrate each tiny step. Sacrifice other screen time – my already very limited TV-watching, and doing benefits advice online – reduce visitors and appointments.
It is so frustratingly slow. If I were well I could plan the actual sessions in days, finish it all in a few weeks. But then it would lack the thought and prayer that this is inevitably getting in all the time I must rest, and wait, and practice patience. This Lent course is taking over my life. But I am loving it.
It started on a Wednesday in October. I’d had three grotty weeks with a bad cold and sinusitis and was lying in bed not even managing to listen to anything when a thought fell into my head out of the blue: ‘I need to write a Lent course.’ ‘Whaaat?! Where did that come from?’ I felt strangely excited but the idea seemed ridiculous and unrealistic. I spent the rest of the day refuting and rejecting it.
The next day there was more: ‘I need to write a Lent course about the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus in John’s gospel. ‘No, no, no, I cannot do this, it is mad.’
Day three: ‘Using music and poetry as well as Bible study.’ ‘This is crazy.’
Day four: session outline ready and waiting in my head. ‘Is it possible I could do this?’
Day five: I told our vicar about it. She said if I wrote it and she liked it she would run it.
Day six: I started writing.
It totally took me over. I could think of nothing else. After ten days I had a course overview, the start of a resources list including lots of wonderful music ideas, and session one – a session plan, a handout, some background notes.
I sent it to the vicar and then collapsed. For two weeks. During which time the church leadership team approved it and decided to base the Lent sermon series on it which seemed very rash given that doing just one session seemed to have finished me off and I wasn’t at all sure I could get it done.
For each session I started with the music, emailing musician friends and posting a request on Facebook for ideas on that session’s theme. A large group of family and friends, some of whom I’d barely had contact with for years, posted suggestions and links, from the sublime to the ridiculous, heavy rock to kids’ worship via plainsong, choral, traditional hymns, modern worship songs, gospel, folk, Celtic: you name it, they found it. I even had non-Christian friends scouring the internet for Christian music and listening to it to see if it fitted my themes.
Ongoing jokes between contributors started and were perpetuated each time I posted a request. My ex-Quaker sister became known, quite improbably, for heavy metal, and a church leader in London for hilarious cheesy videos of kids’ songs! I laughed out loud at some suggestions – and the interactions between contributors – and was moved to tears by others.
If I didn’t post a request for a while I started to get messages asking if I was ok and when the next music challenge was due. A whole glorious and uplifting world of music opened up, along with a side project of creating a music resource to accompany the course. When I was too ill to do anything else, I lay in bed, listened to the suggestions, whittled down the list (heavy metal and cheesy kids songs didn’t make the final cut!), and thought and prayed about the course, inspired by the music.
After Christmas I have only one session left to complete: I am the resurrection and the life. I reckon on finishing in two weeks, then reviewing and editing. I am exhausted after travelling and a fortnight away, but after a few days rest I slowly start putting it together despite being dosed up to the eyeballs on opioids and migraine meds.
At the start of the following week, just when I thought I was improving, I collapse. Literally. Twice in less than 24 hours I find myself lying on my living room floor unable to get up. I am writing a session about the resurrection power and life of Christ within us, and how that can transform our lives and circumstances, and my body is doing its best to prove the opposite.
For well over a week I am totally kiboshed, feeling as if all life and strength has been sucked from within me, unable to do basic things for myself, lying in bed crying. This may be partly payback from Christmas but I have no doubt that it is also spiritual attack. I play the music playlist I have created for ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ loudly and repeatedly. (You can listen to it here) My physical body may be refusing to live this truth but I will still declare it regardless. From my bed and despite my tears. There is a truth greater than what my body is telling me: a promise of hope and healing, new life and resurrection, and a world beyond this one where pain, suffering, tears, and death will be no more.
The next week I defiantly offer the (still unfinished) course to a friend who is looking for material for her home group. For a fortnight later. If this is spiritual warfare I am taking a stand and going on the attack. I advertise it to all the other home groups in the church for good measure.
I stop thinking in terms of trying to manage thirty minutes in one go and steal five or ten minutes whenever I can briefly escape the screaming pain in my head and the crushing exhaustion that pins me to the bed, struggling even to sit up, hold a glass, or a conversation, look at a screen, or open my eyes. I manage one and a half hours work across the week.
My friend tells me apologetically that they need it a week earlier than she had thought. ‘Yes’, I say. ‘It will be ready.’
4 thoughts on “Writing a Lent Course”
Wow Alison. You’ve finished the Lent course well before the start of Lent. Well done !
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Amazing as always! Shall miss my chats with the ‘Music Facebook Group”. Keep dancing …….
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I find your account of this latest stage of your journey deeply moving, inspiring and shaming, in almost equal measure, and full of humanity and humour. My admiration for what you achieve is immense. God bless you.
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Thank you for the energy required to write this course and the painful honesty about the cost and sacrifice. Totally identify and , with you, proclaim that He is the resurrection and the life!
Sent from my iPad
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