Monday, 13 December 2021

Little Town

 a reflection on Micah 5:2 

Just a little town
Not much more than a village really
A cluster of houses,
A merchant, and a baker
Some shepherds and a wood worker
A wee synagogue where the Rabbi read the scriptures 
and the people hung on his every word 
just a little town, that no one really took notice of

A prophet wrote about it once you know
but that was generations back; 
and nothing ever came of it
it was all a bit mysterious anyway
what could it mean?

An ancient prophecy about a birth
It means nothing
It means something
Who knows? 
It’s been a long time since prophets and prophecies
And what good can come from a wee backwater anyway?

Just a little town,
One of the towns of David’s tribe
But that was long ago
And no one really remembers
And no one really believes anymore
Do they?

It’s poor and mean and lowly
Just a collection of small houses, 
with a merchant and a baker
not much room for anyone there
a tiny inn
and a small synagogue with a Rabbi
who reads the holy words
and tries his best to communicate the 
mysteries of God  

And you – O Ephrathah
you, O Bethlehem
that little town,
that noble city
you will be remembered

And you, O little one
will house the holy one of God
you will welcome, in your darkened streets,
the Light of the World 
though you will not know it
and you may deny it, 

but the little ones,
the forgotten ones
the ignored ones
they will know
they will hear
Gloria! Gloria! Glory to God! 
Sung from the heavens down to earth
To the little town
the cluster of houses,
a merchant, and a baker
some shepherds and a wood worker
The holy town
That the world will never forget 

Friday, 5 March 2021

Taking Care...

 Yesterday I recieved my first Covid vaccination.

It was pretty much painless and straightforward. Arrive, check in, wait in line, called to a booth with a nurse. answer a few health questions. Then get your injection.

The blue envelope had arrived last week, so we had a good 10 days notice, easy to make sure the diary was free; I cannot think of anything that would have prevented me from attending. 

When the envelope arrived I had tweeted a picture! It really was that big a deal; and almost immediatley I received a message from my contact in the church comms team: would I be willing to have my photo taken having my jag? Could it be used to help promote the notion of accepting the invitation to vaccination? 

Naturally I agreed; it feels like the whole church has shared my Covid journey via the Fair Question interview I had, and a whole range of contacts that sprang from then.

I have catalogued my Long Covid journey, so yesterday was really the final chapter - or at least the beginning of the final chapter, dose two comes in May.

2021 has brought better health; my energy is back, my sleep pattern restored, I feel like myself again. I still have days when my phantosmia and parosmia are high... that's things smelling strange, or smelling things that are not there! phantom smoke is the strongest and coffee tasting strange. 

So, I asked the nurse if I could take a picture of the jag? She checked with her manager, who not only thought it was a good idea, she came and took the photos for me! 

I am amazed that there are people who are not taking up the invite. This vaccine is our hope for the future: people have used thier God-given gifts and talents to develop the vaccine so that we can be protected. It makes sense. It helps us, and it will in the long term help others. 

Take care of yourself: keep safe and well. Take up the invitation for protection for you and those whom you love.

I am looking forward now to better days; to being able to see the family and our frends, to getting out and about and enjoying God's creation. 

I am looking forward to throwing open the church doors and welcoming people back so that we can join together and sing praises to God. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Healing Touch

 It is a while since I published any of my sermons here; they are now available via my YouTube Channel as part of Larbert West's weekly worship service, and I simply haven't thought about it. 

Until today. I have just finished the "sermonette" which will be posted and emailed out to those who cannot access YouTube, and somehow, I was minded to think about the sermon blog. So here I am! 

This is the sermon for Sunday 7 February (the spoken version will be fuller) 

Sermon – Healing Touch 

We are approaching the days of anniversary; it is now 12 months since the threat of this foreign virus began to really impact what we did and where we went. But even then, we really did not comprehend just what would transpire over the following months.

There are obvious things we missed; and there are some not so obvious, I don’t think it ever dawned on me that I would so miss just having the chance to sit and chat about nothing in particular.

Our lexicon has adapted; we now have words that have become part of our every day – zoom, video chat, online worship; who knew that facemasks and hand sanitiser would become such vital everyday tools?! 

There are other deeper things too. Missing the touch of loved ones - feeling outside of everything. Not going to concerts – live music – theatre. I know that you too will have things to add to the list.

This year has made us realise the value of love and friendship more than ever – bringing truth to the old adage “you’ll miss me when I’m gone!”

Jesus lived in a time when it was considered unwise to touch anyone who was unwell or diseased. There was no sanitation, no reliable antibiotics, no doctors and nurses with the skills and tools for healing and care. But Jesus knew also, that the power of a gentle touch could not be underestimated. Jesus took the time to care. To touch. To heal. 

 Jesus brought a new way of caring to the people (and love, and hope, and connection and value…) and the people responded. The need they had to be known and valued was quite probably unknown even to themselves. Until that moment when it was offered, and they suddenly realised what they had been missing. 

Jesus gave of himself in both word and action. It was physically, emotionally and spiritually draining. Jesus knew also the importance of taking time for refreshment; time with God; time to set up for the day ahead.

And so we hear in today’s reading, “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed…”

We then hear that the disciples came and disturbed him, blustering in, where have you been? People are looking for you! In my mind I imagine Jesus stifling a sigh, offering a silent goodbye to his Father, and smiling to his friends. Maybe even knowing that before long they would observe that prayer seemed important to him, and then finally asking him to teach them how to pray. 

But for now, Jesus knows that it is time to move again, time to reach out to the next town, the next crowd, to share with them, something special, something beautiful, something precious. Love, acceptance and hope through time and prayer and a healing touch. So that everywhere he went, people would know that God’s love was there for everyone. Everyone included, without exception. 

Monday, 19 October 2020

Self Care in the Year of Covid

 Many of you who read my reflections, or listen in when I share thoughts know that I have Long Covid.

For the uninitiated this the the long-lasting after effect of the virus. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; post viral fatigue - call it what you like, Long Covid is utterly debilitating. For the past several months I have been trying to manage my time more carefully; working out what the triggers are, trying to predict when a wave of exhaustion will hit, finding ways to protect myself and conserve what energy Have.

For short amounts of time I can act like a "normal" person; I can deliver a sermon, smile and chatter, maintain conversations, go about like life is normal. But I have discovered that the payback comes in a wave of overwhelming fatigue that will wash over me, threatening to drown me. As a result I may go to bed; or I may just sit, and basically do nothing. Not a thing. At its worst I struggle to climb the stairs to even get to my bed. 

Dogs exercising selfcare
Dogs exercising selfcare...
Last week, in a checking in appointment my doctor extended the "Reduced Hours Note" to the end of the year. The End of the Year. He suggested it will be at least this long before I really get well - but, and here's the rub, he also admitted they have no clue. They are going on similar post viral illnesses, and for now simply collecting data from each person who is displaying these symptoms to work out exactly what Long Covid really does. 

This morning I am beyond tired; yesterday we were in person for worship; it was great to see a few folks; the phones didn't record so well, so I did not have anything I could cut together to share more widely; I thought I might do a wee live reflection later - but an hour or so in bed, and preparing dinner was actually all I did yesterday afternoon. Today I am still tired. So I have decided it is time to exercise some self-care.

I am supposed to be reducing my hours, so I am going to do that - intentionally now, not just piecemeal. I will block out days, and on a "work" day, be very strict about not more than two things - two is my absolute limit, when I go over I have discovered I lose another day in recovery. People are kind, and ask how I'm doing, am I getting better? My answer varies, some days I feel well, other days dreadful. truthfully, I don't know if I am improving, I am just keeping moving, looking after myself, trying to guard my time. 

The bonus is time for quiet reflection; time to talk with God; time to pause and simply be. I have discovered God is never far, I am aware of the Holy in everyday things, I am aware of God's presence, alongside me... waiting for me to regroup, no pressure, just love and presence. for me, for my time, this is my self care, God with me. 

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Early in the Morning

 It is early on a Saturday morning in October.

Last night I attending the General Assembly, which is running later than usual, over two days instead of seven, and online rather than in-person.

Except I got to be there in person! 

As a committee convener in fact, I was expected to be there in person. It was eery; the Assembly Hall is usually packed with around 800 bodies; seats are at a premium; to get your preferred space you need to arrive early.  Yet, last night, I arrived early in order to be briefed on how to use the building. Seats were allocated; There were 21 people in the hall, including the behind the scenes tech team. 

The final online briefing was introduced, live, from the hall about an hour before proceedings began, and immediately I realised I hadn't't muted my phones because they started pining as friends sent "I see you!" messages! Thank goodness it was just the final instructions!

I have blogged about General Assembly a number of times over the years, and I love it. I love the ceremony; the opportunities to catch up with friends I haven't seen for a while; I love the worship; and, strange to say, I love the business - the reports and the discussion about policy going forward. 

Last night was very different. In the hall, I felt detached. Because of the way things were set, I was unable to see who was online; though the technology allowed for pep to be "brought forward" to speak. It was fascinating. It was a very long evening. Scheduled to run from 7 - 9 pm, it soon became clear that it would take longer. Every point that would normally have gone through on a stamping of feet, had to be voted on.  And voting took a few minutes each time. I was scheduled to speak last, no escaping for me! 

It was a long night.

But it was also a privilege to be there, to reflect on our church; to witness our church getting to grips not just with the technology, but also with the need for the church to adapt to today, to be fit for life in the times of Covid, to respond to the needs of the people of God today. 

I will not be there today, either online, or in-person. I have given my report, and I will not be needed today. I may not be there. But I will be praying. For the church. For those reporting. For those who see the need for change, and for those who will challenge that change. 

It is early on an October morning.

The church is gathering, and the church is reflecting, the church is responding to the needs of all God's People, for today, and for the future. I pray that God will guide and bless every person for today and for our future. 

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Happy Ordiversary to me!

 Today I have been ordained for 15 years. A statement I find pretty impossible to be fair.

Where did those 15 years go?

And, if I were to give some advice to my younger self - I wonder what that would be?

First: nothing is really as bad as you think it is. Be true to yourself, accept each day as it comes. There will be pain along the way - but so much more joy and pleasure that those painful days will fade into insignificance.

Second: don't be afraid to speak your mind! Being quiet when you see things that are wrong or unjust may feel safe, but you will regret not speaking up for the right. 

Third: the places you will go, and the people you will meet through your ministry are beyond your imagining; you will find support in the most unexpected places; you will make friends across the world; and you will have more opportunities through your ministries than you can ever imagine.

Fourth: spend time with the people you love. Make the effort to see them, talk to them, share experiences together. Because life is short and you never know what is waiting round the next corner. You will lose friends, your heart will break for them. Knowing you had lunch, shared a fun experience, said what was on your heart, will ease the sorrow and bring hope into the darkest days.

Fifth: you are not alone. In everything, in every difficulty, in every celebration, in every heartbreak, in every joy-filled moment: God is. And God will be with you every step of the way. God called you to this, God is with you through every step, breath, moment. God is. 

Sunday, 27 September 2020

1958 - 62 Years Ago...

 Today is my parent's wedding anniversary. 

Neither is still alive, but that doesn't stop the date being significant and triggering memories. It's the same for my siblings, my brother sent a message to our family chat this morning, wishing them a Happy Anniversary.

I am minded of special celebrations we had for them over the years; for their Silver Wedding, they had a renewal of vows service and a big party. They loved big parties in those days. 

For the Pearl - 30 years, I was about to relocate to Scotland, and it seemed to be such a distance. We bought them flowers and gifts; the next big party was 10 years later, their Ruby wedding, they had another party, and another blessing, I wasn't able to get to that one (don't remember why now) and 10 years after that, their Golden Wedding we had a family get together, lovely big meal, and cake in the garden at my sister's home.

That was 12 years ago, and so much changed in those intervening years - not just their deaths, but marriage ended, marriages begun, babies born, new homes, new jobs - so much history, so many more chapters in our lives.

Now that they are not in the little house by the sea, I do not visit so often, do not see my brother and sister as often as I used to. This year of course, none of us has travelled like we normally would, the hopes of gatherings this summer for wedding were dashed by lockdowns, and restriction on numbers who could gather. Life goes on. life is different.

One thing remains constant. Love abounds. We may not see each other often, but love ties us together, unites us even when we are apart.

Happy Anniversary mum and dad - united again in eternity. 

The whole family, gathered for Dad's 80th Birthday 2012