Saturday, 25 June 2016

Path or Rollercoaster?

Matthew 10:1
Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields. He gave them power to kick out the evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives.

A year ago today, I was offered the post of Path of Renewal Coordinator in the Church of Scotland, a pilot project that is being undertaken as just one of the experiments happening around the edges of the institution, attempting to discover how to be church in today's ever changing landscape and culture.
From the moment I said Yes, I embarked on the most exciting, fearful, spine tingling, heart-plummeting, soaring, diving, explosive adventure in faith.
I knew it would be vastly different from parish ministry but I totally underestimated the impact of demission from a charge which was the only route available to take up the appointment. On top of the act of demission, there was also the separation from a community I had grown to know and to love and the moving out of that space to make way for another: leaving home, leaving neighbourhood, leaving church. I struggled with my sense of identity until, through the Easter season, I was reminded of my identity in Christ - a reminder to which I've often had cause to return when I have succumbed to allowing others to define who I am.
The work itself terrifies and enthrals, stretches me from any comfort zone I have ever inhabited, brings out my insecurity and fear of messing up, but also provides a generous affirmation of call and a tremendous knowledge of the grace and the presence of God.
This has been a year filled with the hard work of transition but also filled with inspiring colleagues, lighting the way ahead, colleagues who have been open and vulnerable, encouraging and affirming - and fun, so much fun.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Something in the air

Last week, I spent a few days away at a conference. When I returned, as soon as I stepped out of the car, I could smell the sea and knew I was home. The next few days proved busy with little time to process all that had taken place at Going for Growth, the conference I attended. And so, tonight, it was to the smell of the sea that I returned, to walk the beach, to listen to waves lapping on the shore and gulls crying overhead and to allow my jumbled thoughts to find a measure of order.
And I find myself more able to begin to name some of the blessings that I experienced in community with others who are exploring together how to be part of God's Missional communities in our neighbourhoods today.
One of those blessings was that I was surrounded by folk who don't have all the answers but who, together, are asking important questions.
I was surrounded by folk who don't have it all sorted but who, in their brokenness are seeking healing and renewal of spirit.
I was surrounded by folk who didn't take themselves too seriously but who, with humour are facing hard truths.
I was surrounded by folk with the courage to say: "This isn't working", but who are discovering resilience to try other ways and walk unfamiliar paths.
I was surrounded by folk willing to share their stories, willing to share their vulnerability, willing to listen, willing to recognise and commit to the journey we make together.   
And I am encouraged that God is doing a new thing and invites us to take part.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Daily examen


I was called out today
Called out for being a peacemaker
Called out for owning a wrong 
that wasn't mine to own
in order to make someone else feel better
And I would do it again in a heartbeat
for the sake of the kingdom.

I was enabled to grow today
To push beyond the barrier 
I wouldn't normally cross
To step up from default mode
to push and learn and grow

In many ways, 
it is easy to be a peacemaker
The cost can be painlessly borne
But growth takes energy
Stepping up
calls for courage
and for risk.
It feels good to reach a new edge
But the effort required
leaves weariness and elation
in equal measure.

It's been a good day
learning and growing in God.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Disarmed

Jesus asked them: What were you speaking of as you walked along....?
(Luke 24:17)
On the train this morning, I was doing my usual - catching up on emails, facebooking, tweeting...
The guy opposite propositioned me: Do you fancy... (I wondered what was coming next.)
He said: "Do you fancy putting down your tablet and having a conversation?"
I immediately complied - because I've been well brought up 😇.
And so ensued a fascinating conversation.
He is Nepalese, married to a Scot, living in Edinburgh while his son finishes school, when he hopes to return to Nepal and help to rebuild community there.
He is a dancer - and, having noticed that I placed my violin on the overhead rack, we had a wonderful conversation about music and movement and rhythm.

I was sharing this encounter with friends, one of whom asked: "So, what happened when he discovered that you're a minister?" I was almost embarrassed to confess that we didn't get to that. It simply didn't arise.
We talked about the Spirituality of music, how it offers wholeness and healing. He told me of his work using dance to aid expression in children with special needs, among other projects. I shared with him the experience of playing sacred music with an orchestra in a cathedral last night. He shared the hope that a few short term contracts in Scotland would help to resource his longing to heal his community back in Nepal.
It felt like an intense encounter with someone whom I'm unlikely to meet again.
So, did I miss an opportunity to share faith?
Or is it enough to listen and affirm. Enough to put down my tablet and engage?

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Where is the love?

Christians should be revolutionaries. Our entire faith starts with a change of mind and a change of path to a new direction. We are new creations; old things have passed away and new things have come (2 Cor. 5: 17). The gospel itself is all about transformation—change. We should be the ones bringing a revolution of heart to the world. Instead, we spend our time debating theological stances, moral codes, and political issues.(Neil Cole: One Thing: A Revolution to Change the World with Love)

Recently, at a conference on Re-imagining the Reformation, I felt shallow when asked to define the most important element for reformation in the church today. Most folk made profound theological statements while I said, simply, that reformation arose out of love - when we love folk enough to want to change, beginning with ourselves.
Today, as I listened to a debate on future patterns of ministry in the Church of Scotland, I was again struck by the necessity and vitality of love. Until we love one another we cannot grow together. Love is what will see us through the difficult work of changing patterns and mindsets that are no longer serving God's kingdom
Yes, it calls for radical action.
Yes it calls for a review of education and ministry formation.
Yes it calls for new ways of working together, with God in God's mission.
But if we do not first learn to love one another, we cannot move forward with whatever new ways God reveals.
Often the most wounding encounters in ministry are with colleagues.
If stating the obvious and stripping things down to basics makes me shallow or makes me sound like a hippy, then those are charges I will gladly accept.
We've also heard a lot about getting back to basics and rediscovering ancient paths.
Form Jesus' command to love one another to Paul's pronouncement that the greatest of these is love, we have a gospel imperative and an apostolic encouragement to seek out love - in all things. Even in reshaping church for today.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

God on the beach


In a wee deserted corner of the beach
nestled among rocks 
that are drying out 
in the setting sun, 
with the tide on its way out
the waves lapping in their comforting rhythm
disturbed only by the cry of gulls
and the sound of clubs hitting golf balls 
on the course just above the beach
I hunker down and wait for God
And God is there -
Already awaiting my invitation 
to sit by me 
and help me unjumble 
the crazy mess of emotions 
jumping around in my head 
and the medal worthy acrobatics 
tugging at my heart
Your kingdom come
Your will be done, O Lord
Just tell me where I fit in,
where I belong
What is your call 
and your gift to me in this moment?
As the sun sinks behind the hills
I wander back the way I came
not with an answer
but with a peace
and renewed affirmation
I am where I need to be right now
and the rest will be revealed
in God's own time.
Your kingdom come
Your will be done, O Lord.


Thursday, 5 May 2016

Ascension

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” (Like 21:12)
It's not often these days that I get to consecrate bread and wine and serve communion to others - so that makes it all the more special (for me) when I do. I celebrated with colleagues this morning.
It was only after the service that I realised that today is the day we celebrate Ascension.
I'm still in Easter - and I want to stay there.
I want to linger with Jesus on the beach in all his post resurrection woundedness and vulnerability.
I want to hear more of his teaching, more of his affirmation. I want to share food with him, physically and spiritually. I want to hear him call me, knowing all my weaknesses. I just want to sit awhile at his feet, hang out, soaking up his wisdom.
But today is a day to step up and to step into the role to which Jesus calls and commissions. To step out, not alone, but in all the companionship he offers, surrounded by the Spirit that he leaves to empower and equip.
Acts 1:8-11
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Ascension is a day to leave the beach behind and walk the road in the wake of Christ, called, equipped, sent.

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