Monday, 28 November 2011

The Wildman and the Carpenter

In the beginning there was nothing
In the beginning there was God:
Creator, Word and Spirit
In the beginning God created

And out of all that good creation
came much that was good and pure and beautiful
And into that good creation
came darkness, pain, wickedness and ugliness
God looked at his creation and decided to give it a new beginning
A new start
Another chance
So into that mixture of good and evil
Dark and light
Beauty and ugliness
He sent his Word –
and the Word took on flesh and dwelt with creation to show a new way

The Word dwelt exactly as one of God’s ordinary people;
created, growing, learning,
developing personality, hopes, fears, emotions,
temptations and expectations

The Word was fully human – a boy who grew into a young man,
who developed characteristics and his own idiosyncrasies

The Word was God
The Word was man – everyman;
Son of Man
Sent to teach and to inspire

He waited some 30 years or so, learning about the ways of humanity
Living and loving
And then, he went to the wilderness and met with the man of the wilds
Who baptised him with water

The wild man was the last great prophet
He knew he would herald the beginning of the end,
and the end of the beginning
He was not the Messiah,
but he pointed the way
And the Word was recognised
And the Word fulfilled his destiny

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Minister & Mum

Today I got to be Minister & Mum.
Now, of course I was a Mum long before I was a minister, and in the six years I've been a minister I didn't stop being a Mum. But today, for the first time my roles overlapped in a way they haven't before.
Today I confirmed my Son!!
And as he stood and made his promises I was a Mum with a proud tear in her eye; and as he knelt and I placed my hand on his head my voice cracked a little.
What an Amazing and Awesome experience - I love my boys greatly - as Mothers do - today my heart just swelled to bustin'!!!
I had always wondered how I would fit the two roles together, Minister and Mum: usually proud Mum is there in the backrgound, holding back the tears and smiling with joy; but keeping that all together whilst fulfilling my public role was not at all how I imagined it.
I always thought I'd want someone else to do the 'ministry' bit when my family was involved -whatever the occasion was: hadn't actually considered that it would be me.

But today I got a new insight: God our Father & Mother and the joy and pride he has in all His precious children when they too proclaim their faith; make a commitment; declare their promises:
God's Love - the Love of a Proud Parent
Minister & Mum & Proud!!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

remembering and forgetting

I am resigned to the fact that although I started off writing at least weekly, life has a way of catching up, and so long as I am able to write approximately monthly I can live with that!

We have reached that time of year when we are remembering: remembering the past and allowing it to inform the future.
I have talked about it to older people and to children; I have still to preach on it, to summarise it for a crowd and to speak to High School students.

If we view forgiveness as being coupled with forgetting - how are we able to move on as we remember?
I have thought about this often over the years, and more so again this year. Forgiveness is bitter sweet; it needs to be given, and it also needs to be received.
The specifics need to be forgotten to allow healing
What we remember is the why & the what
Why was it necessary
Why did we believe it was worth it?
What has been acheived?
What is the outlook for the future?

We in Britain, in the Western World, may be seen as meddlers in other people's problems
As arrogant dictators who think they have all the answers.
We impose our worldview on others and expect them to abandon their culture, their context, their society, for the bright shiny Western Ways - oh how arrogant we can be!!

Yet, what we fight for is what we fought for more than half a century ago - freedom to be ourselves; freedom to make our own choices; freedom to live as we wish.

To move forward we need to leave behind the accusations; forgive and forget - but remember the price that has been paid: lives laid down.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends

The ones who paid that price are ageless, timeless - forever young

We who remain remember the sacrifice and embrace the freedom

Lest we forget:

Take up your quarrel with the foe;
to you from failing hands we throw
the torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Monday, 3 October 2011


I am a little awed by the fact that, almost without me noticing, it is October.
I am not entirely sure how it happened - for not long ago (it feels!) it was August.
Time has a funny way of catching up on us and sometimes we need to take some time to store up those memories or the year will have passed us by.

I have always loved the autumn - its colour, its smell, its taste and the myriad of other things which fill our senses: smoke rising from piles of leaves - gold, red, russet, yellow, brown, ochre; the swish and crunch as we walk through them; the hours spent raking them up only to discover more falling to the ground behind you!! There is a sense of storing up; of setting things right; of tidying away and preparing for the sudden drop in temperature which will hail the start of winter.

Those wondrous days when the sun shines and we can enjoy a misty morning and a walk in the still warm air: autumn the season of bedding down.
It's the time for reflecting and planning too:
What worked well this year?
What new things will next year bring?
How will we end this year?
How best to prepare for the season to come - Winter and Christmas... ahh Christmas!! So many good things to look forward to: log fires and families gathering - the joy of the anticipation lifts the spirits and reminds us, as we know, that life can be predictable and new all at the same time.
The calendar has a comforting cycle which creates a certain security.

October comes: the leaves fall heralding that the cycle continues and all is good
We need a certain amount of stability in these uncertain and difficult days: the world is suffering, debts spiral out of control, but the seasons continue and God blesses us in ways we cannot begin to imagine... Autumn, the season of mellow fruitfulness and giving thanks: Praise God for the Harvest!!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Forgiveness is like toffee!!!

from this morning's sermon: the toffee analogy....

Imagine someone gives you a lovely piece of sweet creamy toffee... you want to save it, to savour it, to fully appreciate it. So you decide to keep for a special occasion – when you really need a lift.
So it goes into your handbag, or your pocket. And there it stays; waiting until you feel the time is right.

But toffee is a funny thing. Store it in a box or a tin away from other substances and you know it starts to get sticky.
Store it in a pocket or your bag and not only does it get sticky- it gets covered in stuff – bits of grit and dust; old hankies and whatever else is lurking down there...

Eventually you try to eat the sweet, sweet confection – but the toffee is no longer the lovely gift you received. It has become dirty, contaminated... not at all nice. Somewhere at the heart the sweetness remains... but toffee needs to be given fresh... just like forgiveness

If we hold onto forgiveness – do not give it out until we feel the time is right (feel it has been fully earned) – it too becomes contaminated – it attracts bitterness, resentment, hostility and it damages a relationship – sometimes beyond repair.

So if someone has offended you – what should you, I, we do?
What would Jesus do?

He would take the brother who caused offence, and gently, firmly bring him home
He would encourage us to forgive, forgive and forget – to taste the sweet, sweet gift of forgiveness.

Given and received!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Disturbed Thoughts

This has been an extraordinary week in Britain; I have watched with increasing horror at the devastation being wrought in our cities by a relatively small number of individuals.
That horror has been mirrored/ commented upon and generally magnified by the variety of comments posted by any number of my FaceBook Friends. Some I have heartily condoned - these have called for prayer, for love and for support. Others have disturbed me - for they contained great violence - not physical obviously - but verbal abuse: using swear words; calling for dire punishments; angry, angry words which I find I cannot support at all.
Which has led me to reflect further about how we apportion blame, and how we respond when we see injustice and conflict, especially when it is on our own doorstep.
I am not ashamed to be British; I am saddened that a few hundreds out of the 65 million inhabitants of our land have managed to tar everyone with the same brush:
it isn't every young person in England;
it isn't every minority group;
it is just a small section of the community who see no hope, no future and have grabbed an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon: there was an interview with a young man in Manchester on the news this morning, his attitude:
"well if I can get free stuff, I'm going to... I don't have a criminal record, what they going to do about it?!"

Like many I remember the 80s, and the 70s and the riots that happened then - there was unemployment, recession, fear and it led to great unrest and disturbance

This morning I once again turned to the wisdom writings and again I read:
"Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before
and God will call the past to account...
God will bring to judgement both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity
a time for every deed"
(Ecclesiastes 3)

We have seen it before; we will see it again
We will recover
We will prevail
We have seen hundreds of people resonding positively - getting organised to clear up, to work together - to bring hope to the hopeless... concentrate on that and remember the Wise Teacher!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


Gosh!! It's August already, and seems like an age since I last wrote; I think I got properly into holiday mode and relaxed into reading and walking and generally being on holiday - which is (of course) what holidays are for.
Today is Wednesday, so I've been home a week and back at work almost the week - today I finally finished unpacking and putting the suitcases away!!

I have been trying to keep hold of the refreshment of holiday relaxation by continuing to read for pleasure... and do a jigsaw... this one is called impossipuzzle - it's one of the double sided ones with a very difficult picture - sweeties!!! One side is all smarties, which really is impossibly difficult; the other side is just lots and lots of sweets: cola bottles; jelly beans; foamy marshmallows; shrimps; jelly babies; snakes; kisses; mini eggs... ah! such sweet treasures! It's difficult, but not impossible, and it got me thinking...

The sweets brought back memories of childhood, and the challenge of making them last; or gobbling them down fast; of eating so many you'd feel sick... sucking on a fruit pastille until all the sugar was gone.... or peeling back the layers of licorice allsorts... sweet memories.

Too much sugar is of course not a good thing; too much of any food group is not good for us - it will have an effect one way or another.
So I got to thinking of the things that we just can't have too much of: the love of friends and family; affirmation and encouragement; kindness and caring - not only can we not have too much - we can never give too much of it away...
take time for those sweet, sweet pleasures of telling someone they are special and that you love them...

Sunday, 17 July 2011

sand between the toes

Holiday time; I had a brief discussion with the beloved this week about why I/we holiday in July when neither one of us has small children any more.
At first I really didn't have a reply - habit or conditioning both seemed to be fairly obvious answers.
But the more I thought about it the more I wondered; I may not have small children, and I may not be a teacher who has holidays imposed. However, I do have term-time rsponsibilitites - I'd have hated to go away in June for instance and missed the end of term assemblies and concerts at "my schools"; or the end of term service and party for "my" Sunday School; May was GA and although I wasn't there, staying in the office and watching the live streaming was both fascinating and informative; April - Easter; March - various Lent/ school activities; move the clock forward and you get to September - school starts up again; and so does the round of meetings; maybe November... yes November might not be too bad (so long as it doesn't hit Remembrance of course!)

And then comes the crux of the argument - I am on holiday on the North East Coast of Scotland.... it is refrshing and stimulating in November - but not exactly warm and relaxing!! I'd not get the sand between my toes, nor the opportunity to walk barefoot on the beach... taking photos of the sea and the sunshine in November is not impossible, but you wouldn't do it in your T-shirt!!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

who is without sin?

Like many others over the past few days I have looked on in horror and disgust at the depths that so called journalism has sunk to. Hacking into, and deleting voicemails and text messages - of the famous, and the infamous; and then more worryingly the innocents, the victims and the anonymous bystanders.
It seems to be a step way, way too far.
And yet, in all of this, I find I ask myself - who is really to blame?
I do not think I have ever read or looked at the News of the World; I have occasionally (some years ago now) read the Sun, as my "ex-Father-in-law" took it daily. But I do read the Times on a regular basis and that comes from the same stable.
We all are tempted by tabloid titilation - whether we admit it or not; because if no-one was, then the newspaper would not be 160 years old!!!
If so many of the advertisers had not withdrawn their support this morning would things have gone the same way? I doubt it...

But still I ask - have I contributed in any way to this?
I am sure that there is a vast section of the population who really do not care; do not know; do not want to know all of the stories of so called celebrities. But there are enough left who do - who soak it up, and who believe what they read... which is far more worrying.

This hunger for more gossip; for more sensationalisation; for more catastrophes; for the human interest angles seems to be insatiable. And as long as the demand is there, papers like the News of the World will continue to exist.

The blame is not solely with the journalists, the researchers, the snoops and the gossips... the weight of blame is shared between those who write and publish and those who buy and read.

Unless we each can honestly say we have never gossipped; we have never listened in on someone else's story; we have never read a single word that might stretch the truth - unless we can really claim a clean sheet - then who are we to cast the blame?

The writing is in the sand... let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Monday, 27 June 2011

pass the balloon

What is family?
Family is the people you are related to
Family is the people you relate to
Family is the relationships we value
Family is the relationships with people who matter in our lives
Family is all of the above and much, much more

Our Family gathered yesterday - some were related by invisible ties - and others by visible ones - some were related by association - others by neighbourliness - some had met only rarely - others live together in the same household - but All, ALL were related and part of that bigger, wider, more wondrous family - God's Family

I'm in!
Are you?

Monday, 20 June 2011


Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Trinity has been reproduced in varying forms; first created in the 15th century it is an image which has stood the test of time and stirs within the observer something often un-named, something indefinable

I have had a little copy of the icon since my student days - it was a gift from my friend Eileen, and often meditated on it; prayed about it, and studied its meaning and symbolism.

I did not know where the original was kept – although I assumed somewhere in Russia.
I did not know where it was until about six years ago.

In the summer of 2005 I was lucky enough to visit Moscow for a holiday; one of my closest friends was living there whilst her husband had been posted to the Moscow office... and she had thoroughly enjoyed having visitors to stay and showing them the sites.

She and I had visited many churches and monasteries – and everywhere we went there were copies of the icon- old and new, plain and simple or rich and gaudy; towards the end of my stay we had spent the day in the city, and had sat in Red Square drinking coffee and watching the world go by – a very surreal experience!

We then went into St Basil’s Cathedral – an iconic church instantly recognisable the world over!

St Basil’s is actually seven churches, each built around the central core church so that as you explore you spiral round from one to another, each different, each from a different era. I was telling Barbara once again about Rublev, and how much I’d love to see the original...

She was a few paces ahead of me in a narrow, winding passage when she suddenly halted
She held my arm and pushed me gently forward
And there it was
Behind glass
With a bench in front to sit and gaze
Rublev’s icon
So beautiful
Burnished Gold
About a metre square
Protected from light, and heat, and people

It moved me then
And it moves me still

One of the first things I did as I sat and took in the wonder was think of Eileen - so I sent her a text, right then! From Moscow to Aberdeen with love!

The icon shows three individuals; each face is identical
All three figures wear a blue garment – some more visible than others
Blue is the colour of heaven and of divinity
Each also wears a garment that speaks of their individual identity
We begin with the figure on the right
The Spirit
The Spirit wears a blue robe, for divinity
And a green robe representing new life
The Spirit is also touching the table, bringing to earth the divine life of God
Think about the Spirit’s touch during communion; we invite the Spirit to come; in one of the prayers are the words: “Lord you are holy indeed, fountain of all holiness, let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy”
Behind the Spirit is a mountain
Mountains have long been associated as places where people meet with God
Jesus was transfigured on a mountain – allowing Peter, James and John to glimpse God’s glory
Reflect on your own mountaintop encounter with God
The Spirit is inclined slightly to the left, drawing us to look at the central figure:
The Christ
Again we see the blue robe of divinity, this time paired with brown for the earth, confirming his humanity
He also has a gold stripe on his robe- signifying his kingship
The Christ rests two fingers on the table: showing both his divinity and humanity were present on earth; with his other hand he points to the cup, showing the cup he bore, and the price he paid...
Behind the Christ there is a tree
The tee represents the cross – the tree on which he died
The cross is the tree of death, which in turn became the tree of eternal life
The tree of life was lost to humanity when Adam and Eve disobeyed
It is restored to humanity now, because Jesus obeyed
Reflect for a moment on the paradox of the cross: where death and life collide
Death gives way to resurrection and eternal life
The Christ is inclined to the left and once again our eyes are drawn onwards, this time to the third figure
The Father
This figure is at rest within itself
There is a blue garment, but it is almost hidden by the shimmering, ethereal robe of gold – kingship
The Creator is not visible to human eyes but is known through the Son and the Spirit; the Creator clasps his staff with both hands
All authority in heaven and earth belong to the Father
Behind the Father figure we see a house
The dwelling of God
“In my Father’s house are many mansions....”
“I go there to prepare a place for you”

All three figures show us God, united, yet distinct

each: Father, Son and Spirit touch us, move us, change us - and through them our blessings multiply - what a blessing!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Death and Dying #2

Last night as I watched TV I experienced huge emotions:
The programme was Terry Pratchett - Choosing to Die

Much publicity was given last year when this very talented author let it be known that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He set out to make this documentary to investigate assisted suicide (not of course legal in this country) and options available to UK residents

Now, I somewhat naively assumed that those who chose this end would be close to their end, in constant pain or suffering hugely from thier disability.
The young man interviewed was only 42; he had MS and was certainly suffering; but he was also totally cognisant; he talked very calmly about how he didn't want to get worse, how he had reached what he considred to be his limit.

The interview with the doctor from Dignitas I found more alarming - the person being 'assisted' must be capable of administering the drug themsleves - if they left instructions, but had reached a point were they were incapable of speech, or of holding a glass to the lips then the drugs would not be given.

Terry and his assistant visited two men at home in England, and then in Switzerland. One they stayed with right to the end - filming the drugs being taken, and the cameras staying on while he died - off camera.
I found it incredibly disturbing - and hopeless - and so wrong!!!

The very fact that the phrase 'helped to die' is used gives a softer light to somthing that is not at all soft - it is hard, hard truth. Suicide is not an easy answer, and suicide in this manner - clincalised somehow did not feel right.
To my mind euthanasia is for those whose life is beyond any treatment, any help - not just because if it's not done now - while I have strength, while I can speak, then it won't be an option.
One of the other, horrifying statistics quoted was that not everyone who passes through that door is ill - terminally or otherwise - just 'weary of life'

I am appalled
I was revolted by the programme
But I also recognise that this is an issue which is not going to go away; is not going to die a natural death
When I wrote about euthanasia in January it was after much heart searching as I took the decision to let my dog die - that decision took me months to come to

Human life is precious - our life is a God-given gift.
Having witnessed the assisted death of a man who was still vital, who still had life in him I cannot see that it was a good decision

I wonder how many others watched?
And how many are filled with questions today?

Monday, 13 June 2011


As so many people have observed time is a peculiar thing: when we are anxiously awaiting an event time drags... oh so slowly
and when we need more time to fit in everything we hope to acheive it seems to fly through
Of course - all of that is nonsense! Time is constant... it is measured, unassailable... it is only our own perceptions that change.
this is my excuse for not blogging for two weeks!!
I've been busy working!!

Now - yesterday was Pentecost - birthday of the church... the day we remember the day that yet another of God's wondrous promises was fulfilled - the Holy Spirit came... the Holy Spirit touched and transformed lives... and the Holy Spirit remains from generation to generation inspiring, empowering and bringing life and love to bear

One of the questions I pondered last week was where is the Spirit in my life? where has the Spirit been? and where is the Spirit now?

I asked myself - in order to be reminded of the amazing and astonishing things I have done - not through my own strength but because I have allowed the Spirit in. It's a blessing!!

One of the challenges I issued during worship yesterday was to contagion - the Spirit's effect can be to make us contagious!! I remembered the way I caught it - from my parents and grandmother - they influenced me more than I knew at the time... but now decades later I can look back and know that they have given me an awesome legacy - faith!

The Spirit’s coming was a once and for all event
The Spirit came
And the Spirit is still here
What we need do now is what so many generations have done, and continue to do: spread the word; become contagious Christians -
You sons and daughters prophesy,
You young men see visions,
You old men dream dreams…
And pass on the legacy

Thank you Mum and Dad for teaching me to love God and passing the legacy on!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Sunday Morning

It is early; well - it is actually not that early for I have been up for some time now! However, for many this hour on a Sunday will be early.

I love the early hours of the day - the quiet before the rest of the world wakes. It is a time for reflecting, a time for me & God to catch up.

This morning as I woke I had a wee moment of confusion- what day is it?!
It didn't really feel like it could be Sunday already!
Such a busy week it has been; not that I actually went anywhere - far from it, mostly I spent hours in my study glued to the computer.
And why?
Because I was transfixed by the General Assembly. It was a good week for the church: the Assembly was everything it should have been: real debates; real respsones; real people sharing thier all with each other.
On Monday the media were there in force; searching for scandal, for dissent, for something sensational - an I think they thought they had it too! But for me, the whole week was sensational - our peers truly entered into the week - challenging, reacting, listening to one another, and making decisions that did not necessarily go as some had hoped or predicted.
This is good - for our church is Presbyterian; our decisions are shared, and reflect the will of all - not just the committees and councils that represent our membership. And certainly not just the will of a leader, or single small group. This is something to be celebrated, and applauded.
I was exhausted just being a remote observer - I wonder how my peers are feeling this morning as they return to their parishes - blessings on each of them, and us as we move forward embracing the decisions and putting all these things into action.

Monday, 23 May 2011

A Day of Unity

Yesterday- Sunday May 22nd - what a day!
Worship at home followed by joining with members from a neighbouring church to bus up to the capital for the church's big gathering: Roll Away the Stone - and what an event it was!
Friends old & new
Worship from home and away
Going from the sanctuary of St Cuthbert's and the Gaelic Choir out to the Ross Stand for the Massed African Choir - each element touching me in different ways
bumping into various members of my congregation - all somehow taken up by the spirit of the occasion
Was it worth the effort? Without a doubt!!
Rather than a formal afternoon at Holyrood for invited guests only the church truly threw down its barriers/ walls and opened its arms wide - welcome to one and all this is our church - this is our God!
Up and down the park people were interviewed sharing thier faith; sharing thier love; sharing our Lord with all who could hear
I left a stone marked "Earlston Parish Church" I collected a stone marked "Appin Guild" - they had clearly been better prepared that me!
The day was a wonderful witness - and a restorative for the soul - I pray it is the first of many, and that the sense of unity and togetherness will continue through the days of the Assembly

Thursday, 19 May 2011

soul food

Having just returned from a conference where I was privileged to be chaplain to my peers I am tired but still energised (a strange feeling indeed)
during our three days together, as well as reflecting on sharing, mentoring, and time we spent much time talking about our own experiences.
Ministers hold a unique position in the community they serve: we can enter most homes with ease; we are invited to share in the most profound of experiences: life and death and everything between.
And so often, these encounters are reciprocal. We learn of bravery and stoicism; of grace and love; of faith and the spirit.
As ministers we know this and when ministers gather we inevitably turn to sharing our experiences: the hilarity and the tragedy
and in that sharing we recognise godliness - God in Action - what a blessing new friends and thier stories are!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

After the Holiday

Trying to get motivated after a week off seems inordinately hard this week!
Yet, this morning I have given myself a little shake: having looked at the material for the Christian Aid Week Service I am planning, I realise I am so lucky.
My education was a given; my freedom, to work, to play, to rest, to have the security of a warm home and safe sleep, are all there without me ever having to fight for the right.
And here I am, bemoaning my lack of motivation because my head is still on holiday!

The Christian Aid Week Prayer
For laughter where there were tears;
For resilient communities more able to withstand disasters;
For voices speaking out against injustice
which were previoulsy silenced;
For feasting where there was hunger;
For all the ways that Christian Aid is helping to transform communities
enabling our sisters and brothers to have fuller lives,
Thanks be to God
We are part of that,
Thanks be to God!

We are part of that - it's the theme through the service; we, in our homes, in our towns and villages, in our churches, in our comfort - even we are part of that!
When we pray; when we give; when we share the vision; and when we continue to remind others that it is possible to make a difference - we are part of that!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

from Hosanna to crucify...

Palm Sunday is done for another year - and so we begin this Holy Week
This morning we reflected on how quickly we can fall from grace
how quickly things can change
...and how to some eyes Jesus went from Hero to Zero in no time at all... and to some eyes it all went horribly wrong

This evening we filled the church with fragrance - and asked "Who is this man?" below is the reflection:
Who does he think he is?

Now look here!
Just who do you think you are?
You come and challenge everything we stood for, everything we knew
You call God, YAHWEH, your father –
How can you do that?!

Just who do you think you are?
Do you want me to think you are the
Chosen One?
Should I? Dare I?
What am I supposed to think?

Just who do you think you are?
The teachers, the upholders of the law, why do they fear you?
They are the clever ones – aren’t they?
They know the laws of God – don’t they?

Just who do you think you are?

Who do I think you are?

If I say it...
if I commit,
then what?

Who do I think you are?

You are a man – that’s for sure
but you’re more than that, aren’t you?

You have power, authority – where does that come from?
You wouldn’t answer them, but they knew...
didn’t they?

Who do I think you are?

You are the chosen one
You are the Messiah
The Son of Man
The Son of God

Who do I think I am?

I am one who put my trust in a man
I am one who joined crowds and cheered and waved
I am one who hid in dark corners when things got tough
I am one, known by the One,
My name is written on his hand

Who do I think I am?
I am one who waits
who fears
who hopes

What do you think of that?

who is He?
He is our Saviour!!

Friday, 8 April 2011


The trouble with blogging is that it is so often a bit reflective - which can come over as sad, or negative - or lonely
But actually for the most part it is happy - even if it doesn't always read like that

How do we define happiness? the things that cheer us? Bring us joy?
Being alone is not the same as being lonely
Reflecting is not the same as being miserable

Taking joy in springtime - in all the signals of new life and rebirth; the green shoots; buds appearing swelling growing
the mystery that is the turning of seasons - that brings a smile to the face and warms the spirit just as much as it warms the earth

Lent brings reflection almost automatically for some; it is a time of preparation; a time to get ready, to take stock and look forward
It is also important though to travel the path through the pain: for Lent is painful too.
The lectionary takes us on a journey, and if, like me, over the past weeks you have been concentrating on the Gospel Passages then there has been a symbolic journey through some very deep events: being born again; living water; spiritual sight; and finally this week returning from death itself.
I wonder how Lazarus felt?
Where he was for those 4 days?
Coming back to life
Leaving behind darkness, nothingness, returning to his beloved sisters and friends

Was he cheered?
Was he sad to be torn away from eternity?
Did he know it was not yet his time, that his death was a necessity to enable God's glory to shine?
As his sisters' tears turned from bitter sorrow to sweet joy - did he taste it too? Did he share in those tears?

Could he cheer?
Raise a glass to his own return?

As we feel the warmth of Spring Sunshine and the sprinkling of April Showers
As we walk through the season of new life and regrowth
Raise your glass - filled with the Water of Life - to refreshing and renewing our walk with the One who makes it all possible

Friday, 18 March 2011

Excuses are not reasons....

I am busy
I like being busy
A friend once observed - 'you need to be needed'
I am not good at letting go, slowing down, taking time out
and I am terrible at just stopping...

Confession- is good for the soul
now.... a few years ago I let the busyness and the need for control- and the desire to be needed and loved and wanted - I let all of these take over.
I was unable to stop
I was unable to let go

Those were dark days
but light came... slowly, gradually
the absence of dark; the lifting of weight;
Light came
and it came from within
I discovered that actually I can stop- and the world will keep going
I can not do something - put it off - delay it - let someone else do it - and actually things do not fall apart

I discovered, that a long lie with a girly novel; and fresh coffee, and eggs for breakfast, taste so much better, when you sit and take time and relish the day

Today, is one of those days
Lay in bed and read my book
put coffee on to brew whilst doing my ablutions - the smell of the beans drifting up the stairs was exceedingly tantalising!
sipped at said coffee whilst cooking beautiful big egg with rich golden yolk....
opened the garden door - took in the spring sunshine

and now- I write for a little while, before going in search of almonds and lemons to make cake!!

If the sun continues to shine - then some time in my garden later- after taking a leisurely lunch with a good friend

no excuses for work today - excuses to go back to the office are not reasons to avoid a day off!

I am a work-aholic I confess!! But today- I will enjoy the sun, smell the coffee, and give thanks to the God who blesses my life!!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Dust to dust....

Ash Wednesday
As a girl and indeed as a young woman Ash Wednesday was a day of denial
In the Catholic tradition it's a day of fasting and abstinence - meaning that you eat less, and you abstain from eating meat.
In my home as I grew up this meant that we had the egg without the bacon for breakfast; and we had fish for dinner and no pudding. We would also all go as a family to church, to receive the ashes and hear the words intoned by the priest:
Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return; repent and believe the gospel

As I reached my teens and entered the 'rebellious' teenager stage I decided my mother knew nothing (!) and that I should really fast, so on Ash Wednesday I'd refuse to eat at all until tea time.... that didn't last terribly long, but later in my young adult years I began reflecting on the what, how and especially the why of self denial.
Lent is a preiod of 40 days; and of course many who look at the span of days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday will soon work out that it adds up to 46 days -
as a reward for your good adherence through the week you are allowed a little relaxation on each Sunday - which should never be treated as a fast day - because Sunday is the day we remember the resurrection. Denial is inappropriate when we remember something so truly wonderous and celebratory!

So this year I, and it seems a few of my friends and peers in Facebook world are giving up wine.
I do not know yet if this is going to be hard or very hard; I do enjoy wine, and I do drink it often. I must remember giving wine up, but substituting a G&T or a glass of beer instead is not denial!

For me taking time, when I really feel that a glass of wine is required, to reflect and to consider what it is that Lent is preparing me for.
It is a season of preparation; a journey from the wandering teaching and communicating season to the culmination:
Jesus set his heart and his feet on the road to Jerusalem.
To his final mission
To the finale
To his earthly destiny
Lent is not meant to be easy
it is meant to be a testing time
Lent is not for the faint hearted
It is for us to discover just how strong our hearts really are
Lent is not just about denial
it is about acceptance as well
in Lent I'll give up wine and I'll miss it
but in that missing I'll take up another - to open up my mind to new things and accept this short time of denial and I'll raise my empty glass to those who join me
we do it
In His Love
when we are tempted remember:
"Scripture says, 'humanity cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks'" (Matt 4:4)

Monday, 28 February 2011

The View From Here

This is my new church; of course it isn't really new... and it isn't really mine! It is just new to me and I have care of it for a time.
I walked along to it from my new home this morning.
I took photographs as I approached and then I went in, and wandered around. Not the first time I have been there of course, but this was a bit special - today for the first time I was there as the minister of that church, minister in this village - Earlston.
I wandered around the building, up the stairs, in and out of the cupboards, looking, reflecting on yesterday - my first Sunday, and praying for the people I have seen, and the people I have yet to meet.
There is something very special about being alone in a church; the stillness, the quiet, being part of a place that goes back over generations... generations of the faithful who have served the community and called that place home; the sense of timelessness, of being 'out of time' and yet paradoxically being planted very firmly in the present, in the here and now.
There is history in this place, some of the memorials I looked at in the graveyard go back to the 17th century, each telling a story of thier own yet to be discovered by me.
Looking across the valley from the front door I see the High School - it is a big, new building state-of-the-art, full of young people whose lives are being moulded... from my ancient building to that modern building, each focal points for the village, each making a contribution to the community
So much potential!
So much to do!
So many new opportunities beckon...

"I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in" (Rev 3:20)

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Today is Tuesday - one week since the removers left me with a pile of boxes
I still have boxes unopened; but the majority are done
I have a kind of surreal feeling, like:
how can it only be a week?
and where do I start?
and how will I get to know everything/ everyone/ everywhere?

Then I give myself a little shake and remember that the job gets done whether or not I know it all; and you don't get to know it or do it until you know it and do it...

Think about it: life goes on; we learn through experience; we discover through encounter; we grow through relating to others.

If I wasn't feeling a little surreal it would be more of a problem.

I have introduced my blogging to my Mum; she has known me for a long long time - all my life; and yet she discovered things about me she did not know! That's a little surreal too!

We insist on counting out our lives: the days and weeks; the months and years; even the minutes and hours. And sometimes yes, we need appointment times, we need to coordinate meeting up and doing things together.

But sometimes we just need to take off the watch; turn round the clock; and live life without worrying about the time of day.
Is it light? Get up
Are you thirsty? have a drink
Are you hungry? eat something
Are you lonely? speak to someone

Life, time, faith
live, love, grow

We do not know the number of our days
We cannot
and it is good to be so
For knowing the future would prevent us from valuing the present
Look forward in faith
All time is in God's hand
Walk humbly with Him
and trust his future plan....

and do not worry - it doesn't make anything change!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

the box man cometh....

My life is currently taken over by boxes
boxes of things to keep
boxes of things to give away
boxes of things to throw away

in amongst it all I have found things I forgot I had
things which filled me with memories - both good and bad
and things which I looked at and thought - "What on earth possessed you?!!!"

I was minded of a poem I wrote a couple of years ago when a colleague lost vast amounts of possessions after being flooded out...

The things of life
It’s only things you know
The detritus accumulated through years of scavenging
Decades of possessions for sure
But paper and cloth are transient anyway

It’s only the things we hold on to
The things we do not need
And yet the things we cannot discard
Until some circumstance forces our hand

They are only bits and pieces
Symbols of a lifetime
But not the Life
Triggers for memory
But not the Memories

Things do not make the home
Walls and ceilings and doors and carpets
Do not make the home
Our people
These make the home
The place

My heart is home
My home is love
To love and to be loved
Wherever my heart is
That is home
With or without the things of life

meantime - my life is beng packed into boxes; and the box man will come tomorrow and take them all away to my new place - the place that will become home - my new home...

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Slave to the machines....

Yesterday I spent a fabulous day with my nieces as we chose dresses for them to wear when they are my bridesmaids later this year - it was fun!!
However, this morning as I was driving them back to the airport to fly home I began to reflect on one or two things we did:

In the shop, we all took out our phones to take pictures of the different dresses
In the coffee shop where we retired to discuss our options for colours we used the phones to search the web for shoes
Once home again, we logged on in order to browse through several shop we knew, and to seek the sources we didn't - again seeking shoe options, and hair styles, hair accessories - it was, as it was intended to be a truly girly shopping fest - but from the comfort of home
This morning after breakfast we again logged on, so that we could check them in to their flights

And that is why I pondered as I drove them to the airport
It would not have been impossible to manage without the technology; but it did widen the scope for us
Every day the first thing I do after brewing coffee is turn on the computer, check my mail and log in to facebook to see what is going on in the world; if for some reason I am unable to do this I feel that there is something missing

Have I become a slave to the machines designed to make my life easier?
Has my dependance on instant electronic communication actually stopped me from engaging in real time, real life, real encouters?

I know that the world will not stop if I do not reply immediately; or if I do not know what is happening.
I suspect that if I spent more time away from my desk - the world would actually carry on regardless!

"Provide purse for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will nto be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moths destroy. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be"

My heart may need to spend less time at the desktop!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

the things which motivate us

Yesterday, whilst sitting on a train or two for around five hours, I read a book that has been sitting, waiting to be tackled for several months - "The Reluctant Fundamentalist"
It has left me with some questions... regarding the things that motivate us, and indeed the things which provoke a response or supress our inclinations.
The book itself I disliked intently - the style was heavy and overly wordy (in my opinion!) I wasn't sure at the end what had happened nor indeed who the mysterious stranger was; it left me dissatisfied and uncomfortable.
The main character, Changez, had grown up, he had experienced unrequited love, he had had to face the contrast between the decadent West and the crumbling of his own Eastern world. And none of these are light subjects, unworthy of observation. If as a result of his experiences he had become a "terrorist" it would have been understandable in the context of the story - but he asserted that he had not; that his aim was to stop America's march over the world by means of education.
But to my mind, he never did answer his own questions; and all was so vague, so insubstantial that I was just irritated at the end.

So, now I try to find some parallels in MY world, that will inform my own reaction.
We observe the world; we witness various things that make us react - whether we acknowledge it or not.

Last night watching the news I observed the wife of a certain politician who has just begun a jail term say that he was in prison beacuse he had stood up for justice! Yet, he was sent to prison for perjury - the politics of the trial, the verdict, the whole ludicrous circus has done a disservice to real justice and has increasingly irked.

I observe the political party I have supported my entire adult life compromising and loosing its heart, all because of the lure of leadership - and instead of sticking to its values, it has sold out - no, it is not worth it!

I witness people in my parish, in my congregations, facing an uncertain future, their jobs are disappearing, and the future looks bleak. The recession is hard to bear for everyone.

I am saying goodbye; I am winding things up; I am preparing to move on, and to start over. So the "navel-gazing" is fairly deep just now! Maybe, it is just bad timing? Maybe if I had read this book at a different time it would have engendered a different reaction?

But, and for me this is the point: life is not predictable, and we all experience good and bad; positive and negative; to quote the Teacher "There is nothing new under the sun" it is not the experience that matters so much as what we do with it. We can allow the injustices of the world to knock us down and leave us flattened, or fire us up seeking vengeance; or we can remember that the Teacher observed all of the vagaries of the world and reached this conclusion:
"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God, and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.
For God will bring every deed into judgement,
including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil"

(Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

It is not for us to take revenge, or retaliation into our own hands; we follow God, we answer his call, we serve Him, and only Him. Revering God is our foundation it is the root of wisdom and our fulfillment.

Friday, 14 January 2011

getting ready to take leave...

The Church has many good things about it!!
But somtimes our structures seem utterly unweildy and convoluted...
Last Sunday, January 9th, more than 3 months discussions and prayerful reflection culminated in the invitation to preach as sole nominee - and the lovely people of Earlston voted overwhelmingly in favour of electing me to be their new minister

This for me is the end of one chapter and the start of another; it is also the fruit of almost a year of praying and discerning. Along the way I have met members of five different nominating committees; I have spoken to a dozen or so Interim Moderators; I have driven hundreds of miles to visit different areas; and I have prayed!!
Oh how I have prayed!

When we as ministers sense change is on the horizon; when we feel that the call is changing, that God is moving us out of the current situation and leading on to a new place, a new call - it needs testing... it is like no other job search. You can read a profile and on paper it is exactly what you think you are looking for; but then you arrive in a place and - nothing.
Another may seem on paper to be far away from what you are thinking about - but we work for God!! And God sends us to new adventures - within both the current place and further afield.
I never thought I'd leave the North East; it has been my home for almost 22 years; but here I am now planning to pack up my life and start afresh 200 miles south.

and how did I know?
because in serving God we are never alone, and when things are right everything is right
calm and peace descend when you are in the right place
and that is how I felt... such peace about the choice!

From the outside I suspect it may not seem so - and those I leave behind I will miss; I have made such good friends and been well supported in my time - but now is time to visit new pastures - never alone - for God is always with me!!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

On death and dying

What a way to start the New Year - between Christmas and Hogmanay we seemed to be plagued by the passing of loved ones - not my own - but those of the parish
My first funeral of 2011 was Wednesday - first day back for the grave diggers - the family had been offered Hogmanay but didn't want to have that day coinciding with that anniversary... for me it was a personally sad day too - time to say goodbye to my companion of the past 13 years and more - Bracken, beloved, faithful friend and companion on many an early morning walk.
Bracken was a Border Collie - in her prime full of life and energy - no walk too long, nor indeed too frequent. Over the past few years she has had progressive spondilitis - the fusing together of the bones of her spinal column - by slow degrees getting slower and stiffer. She had drugs to ease her joints and her pain, but - ah! the drugs helped the disease but gradually caused her organs to begin to fail, and ate away at the lining of her guts. Not fair!
With a human you can explain, consult and encourage but how do you explain to your faithful friend? How do you ask her what she'd prefer?
Now lifting her into the car to go for walks...
watching her in the evenings chewing at her sore joints...
She still loved people; loved to be fussed and petted - but take away the stimulus of visitors and she'd simply curl up and sleep.

My dilemma: give her the release and let her go gently; or wait until the organ failure was so severe she went into a 'natural' collapse?
I loved her enough to be able to accept that it was not fair to keep her going to spare me.
So we sat and cuddled by the fire
the vet came to our home, and she slipped away in my arms... we pray that God grants us a peaceful end... and I wondered if I were that ill - would I want to choose to slip away peacefully in the arms of the one I loved?

I do not have an answer to that question - and I pray it is not one I need consider personally for many years to come

Rest in Peace my wee friend... chasing squirrels in God's big forest