Monday, 24 December 2007

A little child shall lead them

We had a really busy family Christmas eve service tonight. Lots of families with very young children, lots of excitement around. I tried hard not to wind them up any more than they already were so that they would go home and go to bed! There were lots of new faces too. One mum told me that her daughter had been at the school end of term service last week and, ever since had been pestering her mum to take her to the Christmas eve service. How wonderful. I'm off to do the midnight service now. I love it too but somehow it doesn't have that air of "anything might happen" that accompanies the early family service. But who knows? Maybe God will surprise us! Have a blessed Christmas.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Mary, Did you know?

Today we lit the fourth candle on our advent wreath - the pink one in honour of the virgin Mary.
A reading that has spoken to me this advent is called Theotokos - Broken Dreams, by Anne Lawson.
Here is part of it:
Mary, did you say ‘yes’ to God’s angel so quickly?
Did you offer yourself to God so fast?
Was there no feeling of wanting to think?
No sense of anger, injustice even,
that God could take your body and life so easily?
Did you really understand all that was being said?
All that was being asked?
And would I have been so willing?
Sometimes it seems that God asks too much of us and its difficult to get a real perspective without minimising the cost of service. However I don't believe that obedience demands ignoring real feelings. We can own our frustration and acknowledge real loss, even of ideals and, yet with heavy hearts, still go on and say yes to God's big ask.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Blurring the edges

This city street in Dublin actually looks better in its reflection where the wintry sky is also visible. I love the way the clean lines of the buildings become a bit wobbly in the reflected image. Does that happen with people do you think? When we try to mirror others, can we go that bit further, taking good examples and portraying them even better? And blur the sharp edges? Even the colours look better reflected in the water, more vibrant somehow.
What an aspiration - to take something fine and make it even better.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Whoops a daisy!

Some sanity was restored yesterday as children brought us the Nativity story in Whoops a Daisy Angel . Who could fail to be cheered by their enthusiasm and excitement and by the simplicity of their message. God sent love to our imperfect world. Whatever our plight, that is a reason to find hope and to know that things can be different. Love can still transform our lives and our world.
Thanks to all the children at Glenburn School in Greenock for reminding us so simply of the important things in life.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Life's too short

To get bogged down in minutiae. To be the butt of everyone's complaints and petty point scoring. To be caught up in yet another pathetic power struggle. I've had it. Enough's enough. Life's too short.
If folk can't see outside the box. If they are content with limited visibility and small minded games then perhaps I have to leave them to it.
There is I still believe a parallel universe out there where God is still at work. And where love is being shared, not just talked about as an interesting concept.
How long must I waste my talent, squander God's gifts when these are questioned and twisted and maligned at every turn? Maybe its time to shake the dust off my feet. Not through defeat - oh no. But something much more positive than that - survival.
And then, even as I ask: How long, O Lord, I feel a strange kinship with the psalmists and with the prophets who were called by God to return again and again, going against the grain with their message. A voice crying in the wilderness : Prepare the way. That sense of call still haunts me. I just don't know that I have the stamina to keep on picking myself up, dusting myself down and go on - even in the strength of God.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Bubbling again

Its not just around these parts that pranksters doctor the fountains with soapy solutions. This one in Dublin had been doctored too. It is right next to a four lane road. When we returned later that evening, at rush hour, the road was jammed with peak time traffic assailed by soap suds flying everywhere.

It doesn't take much soap stuff to make a huge difference. We have numerous opportunities everyday to change the world around us using ingredients that last longer than bubbles. In this season of advent we celebrate light entering our world, a light that could not be extinguished. We can reveal that light and spread love around, making all the difference in the world.

Friday, 14 December 2007

We all need encouragement

Sometimes, encouragement is elusive and has to be sought high and low. Sometimes it comes unbidden, from the unlikeliest source. Today I was offered a gift of encouragement. It took me a while to recognise it for what it was. And, just as the penny dropped, I'm sure I could hear God's deep, rich laughter booming all around - gotcha!
Impeccable timing as always. Cheers!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Bunking off

I'm sure bunking off at this time of the year is a cardinal sin, but, yesterday, we took off for a day in Dublin. And somehow today, back at work, everything feels much better, less stressful, less frantic.
In Dublin's fair city
Where girls are so pretty
It was really weird to be in a country where folk, ostensibly, speak the same language and yet not understand a word they were saying. Ordering food and drink was hilarious but we managed.
Today, I spent some time reflecting on the language of love, coming to a partial recognition that, in this community, folk express love using a language that's different from the one I am familiar with. Does that make it any less valid? I think not but I need to listen more carefully to the different dialects and not expect everyone to speak my language.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Sleeping Warrior

A famous landmark around these parts is the sleeping warrior, a range of hills just discernible in the clouds in this pic.
I've been doing a lot of processing recently. It feels good to be able to snatch a few moments to ponder the meaning of life and the like.
Years ago, training in counselling, my supervisor suggested that I had a real strength within that I was either unaware of or in denial of. This past wee while I've become very conscious of that steely core and I've needed every ounce of it. A sleeping warrior, lying dormant within, surfacing when most needed. Its a quality I want to befriend and, though that won't please everyone, its a quality I need to survive.
Will people still love me if I release this sleeping warrior? Does it matter?

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Advent hope

On a rare night off tonight, we looked out our Nativity scene. These are pieces we have built up as time and finance allowed, so its special to assemble them each year.
So far, this advent there has been a little space for contemplation, for lighting candles, breathing in the Christmas scents and reflecting on the incarnation.
I'm really being captivated by the sense of hope and expectation of Christ's coming into the world, trying hard to capture something of that hope and let it permeate our situation here.
It might just be working.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Fiddling around

I stopped fiddling yesterday for a brief affair with classical Christmas music and had a ball playing with the New Scottish Orchestra in Glasgow. Killing time before the performance, however, found a few of us in a bar on Maryhill Road. I honestly don't know if I've ever been in a real Glasgow, once City of culture, bar, though I would think that the Blythswood Cottage where I regularly retired on Fridays with my Divinity student colleagues must have come pretty close.

The patter was brilliant, if loud. I had two firm offers of a "lumber" OK, they did have white sticks - but nonetheless - a most entertaining experience. Would it have made any difference to these guys to know they were propositioning a Vicar of Dibley wannabe? I think not. Weegies are very indiscriminate. Unique and priceless.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Amidst the ruins

Amidst the ruins of the old nunnery in Iona, there is a colourful array of flowers.
Glimpses of glory.
Those colours are present in all of life but so often we just can't see them.
Our lack of sight doesn't mean they aren't there.
So on the days we can't see, what should we do?
Perhaps all we can do is try to reassure ourselves that the flowers are there, that their colour is just as vibrant but that, for a time, they are veiled by the clouds and that it only needs a breeze to shift those clouds so that we can glimpse the glory again.
Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

Monday, 26 November 2007

When all else fails..

Its been a long week - and its only Monday. Wanted to chill with some inane TV at the end of a long day, but there's nothing that fits the bill. (We only have 4 channels)Decided instead to revisit pics of our October holiday. Couldn't fail to be restored by memories of a real break surrounded by nearest and dearest.

This job dictates that space is a precious commodity so its important to make the most of it when it comes and then revel in the memories when it seems a long way off.
Work hard and play hard? Seems like a plan.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Prickly vulnerable

Is it safe to come out?
I need the protection of these spines.
Its kinda hostile out there.
I've been attacked too many times.
Better to retreat and starve
than to risk being hurt again.
Can it really be different?
Can things change?
Can people be different?
Or is it too much to hope.
Too much to expect them to emerge from the protection their prickles afford.
And be open.
Open to love.
Open to possibility.
So we'll all just skirt around one another.
Use all our defences.
That way we can't be hurt.
Can't be healed either.
And we'll go nowhere.
But we'll be safe.
As safe as a presbyterian hedgehog.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

A way through

I'm still on the tack of wanting to start from someplace else. Its occupying my mind at the moment and creeping up in all sorts of ways. How can I unravel this journey so far and survive the road.

Today I spent time with a friend who has just been presented with an exciting new challenge and opportunity. Before she can launch herself in she has some tough decisions to make and some really difficult things to do. But, for her, that's OK. For her, its all just part and parcel of moving on.

How I wish I could have been as focussed and as clear of vision as she is instead of being seduced by the sense of calling. Its not that that's not important but it is a bit like love and presents a few blind spots. And now, having accepted the unacceptable for so long its difficult to find an exit. I convince myself that underpinning everything, there's still the overwhelming sense of call. But now I need to ask - Is that enough? And it feels really weird to even question that.

What I have learned, however, is that I cannot deny how it feels. I just have to sit with it for the time being and see if a way through becomes visible or if there's an alternative waiting just around the corner. I don't think that's defeatist - just pragmatic.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Ridges in the sand

I'm sure there's some highly technical scientific explanation for this pattern that formed on the beach. It felt good to walk on barefoot. The ridges stimulated the sole and the soul.
So, is it completely random or is there something much more purposeful and creative? Either way, it is fascinating.
Its not exactly barefoot sand walking weather in this part of the world right now but pondering mysteries is always in season.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

From here to there

Have you ever wished that your starting off point was different from where it is? Or learned something new and wished you hadn't been doing things the way you have for so long that now its difficult to turn around?
I spent today on a course entitled Discerning Direction and Navigating Transition that made me feel just like that. I want to start all over again. But, for various reasons, I'll have to stick with the model I'm working to and simply try to incorporate insight and wisdom gained. Its not always possible to start with a clean sheet. I feel a bit like the heron in the picture, hunched up, defensive, gazing forlornly out to sea with a longing that can't yet be quantified or satisfied. But hanging on in there knowing that flight is possible and that beauty is yet to come.
And, for now, that is enough.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Bubbling around

Some jokers recently added bubbles to a fountain nearby. It looked great. Unfortunately the local council have now switched it off and are cleaning it out. Hopefully, once it gets going again, the jokers will come back. Shoppers were being stopped in their tracks by colourful bubbles floating around.
At our all saints service this year, we blew bubbles to remind us of the ancient tradition of using incense to symbolise prayers floating heavenward. It was intriguing to think of our colourful orbs joining the prayers of countless saints through the ages.
Thanks to Jeremy of Inverclyde Now for letting me use his picture. I was too busy enjoying the bubbles to get my camera.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

What's so amazing...

Finished a 10 week course tonight looking at Philip Yancey's What's so amazing about grace? This book made an impact on me some years ago and its been great to study it along with other folk. There was much lively discussion and the local coffee shop, Cafe Melo was a great place to host the book club. The extravagance of grace is amazing. If only we could practice it more what a different place our world would be.

Planning a break from the book club for now, perhaps returning in the new year with Living the Questions. What will we do with Tuesday nights until then?

Monday, 12 November 2007

Prepare to prepare

That's it. I can't put it off any longer. Remembrance has come and gone. Now I must really get down to preparing Advent. In preparation for this preparation, I spent today clearing out the study, finding a way to my desk and uncovering the mountain of paperwork lurking there.
But the beauty is - If I can create time and space just now to get things ready, I can enjoy advent and feel a bit more ready when Christmas rolls around.
I'm tired of just wanting to fall asleep over Christmas dinner, tired of feeling that I'm too busy to do exciting things with the children in those weeks leading up and then finding its too late. This year I so want it to be different. So, a couple of weeks glued to the desk, with little interludes of imaginative walking, where I can release some creativity - that's what's in store. If I can achieve that, my hope and prayer is that advent will return to being simple, contemplative, spirit -filled and nourishing. And, what's more, this year there will be time for all those things I always promise to make space for - pampering massage, family outings and movies, nights in cosied up. Just do it!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

History repeated?

American poet, George Santayana said: Those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it.
Today was a day for remembering the horror and the pity of war.
Our village war memorial sits in a beautiful setting, right out on the point, on the shores of the Firth of Clyde. After morning worship, where we had a job shoe horning all our youth organisations into the church, we processed along the main street and out to the point to do some more remembering. On a calm and peaceful sunny morning, war seemed far removed from our shores. And perhaps that's just one of the difficulties. Today, we wage war on other soils, far from home. It is other communities that are decimated, other civilians that are casualties of our aggression.
Even more important then that today we remember and try and change the future rather than repeat history.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Going with the passion

"its only an impossible workload if its not where your passion is"
Not quite sure where I read these words but they have been haunting me this past wee while.
When we're involved in lots of energy sapping stuff, it does seem pretty impossible. But, given the chance to indulge in things that captivate the imagination, things that re-energise rather than drain, that's a different story.
For me, just now, that's the creative elements of worship. They take loads of time and energy to put together, but they nurture my soul like few other things in my full week. What is that telling me?

Friday, 9 November 2007

Glasgow 2014

Just been announced that Glasgow will hold the 2014 Commonwealth Games - the friendly games. 7 years seems a long way away but, clearly there is much to be done. Being only 30 miles from Glasgow, boasting superb scenery and leisure facilities, we are sure to be more than a little involved. Already wondering what impact this 800 year old church in the community can have on those who visit the "dear green place" that is Glasgow.

Spirit power

Unrelenting fury
Pounding majestic power
Sweeping away obstacles
Dragging debris in its path
Rendering the efforts of mere humans worthless
Putting on a display of real might
Who will stand against it?
Try to change its course ?
Only the foolish
Or the tired of living
Such purity and splendour
Is to be revered for its beauty
Admired from a safe distance
It is useless to fight it
Better to contemplate and be at one with it
Part of all that it stirs,
Carried along by its energy.
Calmed by its fury
Knowing in the bubbling, seething melee
The still small voice.

I wax lyrical about the tidal surges pounding Britain today and find, in them, a living reminder of the Spirit, surging its path through our lives with such energy that surrender seems the best course.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


Walked into our local fish and chip shop the other day (Bongio's) and was greeted with " Hi, Geraldine". For those of you not familiar with Vicar of Dibley, Dawn French plays the village vicar, Geraldine Granger. I've always wanted to mirror her antics, fun loving, chocoholic, caring vicar who takes herself and parish life far from seriously and with a huge dose of humour. So I took this greeting as an accolade.
Inverkip certainly has all the Dibley characters at large - for a small fee I'll tell you who's who - and now, it seems, we have the vicar of dibley too.
Last Easter, when we took communion onto the streets, we set up in front of Bongio's and the juxtaposition of fast food and soul food really grabbed me. Ministry is about being on the streets, sharing the good news, caring through thick and thin, but surviving with a robust sense of humour that mirrors God's tears and belly laughs. God is on the streets of our villages and towns inviting us to share in the work that the Spirit is about. That takes a lot of tears but also a lot of laughter.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Seeing potential

As I've mentioned before, I am "spatially challenged"- I have difficulty understanding plans presented as line drawings. Even maps prove a challenge for me.
I do, however, have the ability to see potential. One of the things I've been cultivating recently is using that gift, acting on instinct and exploring "what might be".
I'm discovering a creativity that previously I would never own. And the more that creativity is indulged, the more it seems to emerge and grow in surprising ways.
I'm sure all of us have gifts lying dormant or positive characteristics that have been stifled. Allowing these hidden things to emerge opens up all sorts of possibilities and creates a whole new form of energy and potential. Of course, it also involves risk - but what worthwhile endeavour doesn't?

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Light in the darkness

Just returned from a fireworks party in honour of Guy Fawkes,
On our way there, we saw some youngsters still indulging in guising - the Scottish equivalent of Halloween trick or treating. While we were heading off to celebrate the next winter festival, they were still celebrating the previous one.
Winter is a bit like that. We find all the excuses we can to get together with friends and chase away the dark nights. And if those get togethers involve gathering around warming fires, so much the better.
Its great when friends bring some light into each others lives and its my hope that we'll keep on finding excuses to do just that.
I think the next major fest for us Scots is St Andrew's night, 30th November, but I'm sure we'll find something else before then.

Friday, 2 November 2007

In the shadows

In our everyday we are dogged by events of the past - for good or ill. Our past plays a big role in where we are today. We are here either because of or in spite of our past - or maybe even a bit of both. Awareness of the shadows surrounding us is no bad thing. We can guard against their negative influences and be grateful for their positive contribution to our present.
Just as we can't escape the shadows cast by the low sun on an autumn day, neither can we outrun the past that has shaped us. But we can move on. And as the sun sets to rise again on a brand new day, so we can leave the shadows behind and emerge into the light.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

All the saints

This pet cemetery I encountered recently at Ormidale House reminded me of that Vicar of Dibley episode where there was a pet blessing service in church - hilarious. Its good when folk remember faithful friends, of whatever hue.
In the church today, we celebrate all the saints. In my younger days, that was always eclipsed by the scary nonsense of halloween and I could never really understand all saints.
Today, however, it brings me almost as much excitement as Halloween, because its a good excuse to bring all those catholic elements into presbyterian worship, lighting candles, praying for souls and, tonight we will be offering bubble prayers - a modern version of using incense to float our prayers heavenward. Its obviously a sign of getting older but I love to think of being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses - all those who have travelled faith's road before us -and to be comforted by their presence. One of these days we'll have the pets in for a service too, but maybe tonight, we will celebrate their souls!

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Going where we'd rather not be

Been struggling for some time with discernment - or imagining that I was. But its slowly beginning to dawn on me that I know God's will - the problem is I don't particulalrly like it because its so difficult - a hard path to follow. So, all this time when I've been imploring God - give me a sign- the signs have been all around. They are just not the ones I want to follow. Remember that bit in Bruce Almighty , where Bruce cries - OK - you're in charge - give me a sign? The roadside sign flashes: caution ahead - and then a huge lorry drives past him carrying a shed load of road direction signs. He either can't or won't see them. I can see the signs, I just don't want to obey them. So, what now? Will acceptance or resignation makes things different?

I'll keep you posted!

Monday, 29 October 2007

Prayer floating

Hosted our first Cre:ate event last night, an opportunity for folks to explore spirituality. Its amazing what some soft lighting and music can do to create atmosphere in an otherwise bleak and dingy church hall. Creatively, we explored prayer, setting the scene by relaxing with music and some beautiful projected images of creation. We made prayer chains from old buttons and created prayer groups out of clay. But my favourite bit was the creation of these prayer flowers. Most adults like to colour in, so they were quite happy putting some silent thoughts and prayers and reflections into their colouring. We then folded all the petals into the centre of the flower and, as part of our closing meditation, floated these folded petals onto water. They all opened out and floated serenely around, jostling each other. Thanks to Tune in, chill out by Baker and Ratnayake and Proost for this simple but effective idea.

Its always good to get the first of something out of the way, so last night ended with a sense of relief. But also with the desire for more. More opportunity to engage in this gentle interactive way with things of the Spirit, and the affirmation that deep within all of us lies a creativity that's struggling to escape from the place to which we have banished it in favour of more cerebral pursuits. Already looking forward to putting together the next Cre:ate.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Striding out

9 years old - walking off into the sunset. Determination in every step.
Oblivious to cold, enjoying the ocean lapping at her feet.
Can we ever regain that sense of abandonment?
That confidence that life won't overwhelm us.
That sense of playfulness that makes us tear off our shoes and socks and feel sand between our toes - simply because we can.
All of that - and more - is ours for the taking.
If we will only stop being adult, stop carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders.
Let go, live, love and laugh.
Then life becomes a joy instead of the chore that we have made it.
And the whole world becomes an adventure to reach into.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Taking a leap

Tree-lined avenue,
inviting gate,
prompting a journey of discovery.
Each journey begins with one little step
and a heartbeat of courage.
Dare we risk the unknown?
Dare we abandon the safe and familiar?

For what?
If we knew the answers,
we could make an informed choice - to pass through the gate or not.
But then we'd lose the sense of mystery,
the notion of possibility and a whole lot else besides.
To get from here to there
involves an element of abandonment,
of giving up one thing to reach for the other.
So will we put one foot in front of the other
to reach the gate,
open it and pass through
or will we remain trapped and frozen
in the comfort and safety that we know.
There are lots of reasons to remain on this side of the gate
and even more to take a running leap at it
and discover
the other side.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Reflected glory

I blogged some time ago about a double rainbow. There were quite a few of those where we were last week. But a friend helpfully pointed out that we're not actually seeing two rainbows. We're seeing one rainbow and its reflection. Sure enough, if you look at the pic you'll see that the colours go in opposite directions. One rainbow is a mirror image of the other. While I was taken with the idea of a double rainbow symbolising double the hope and double the blessing, I quite like the idea of the beauty being reflected too. Take your pick - science or imagination? Both have much to offer.

Rainbows through the rain

Tarbert, Loch Fyne in Argyllshire on the west coast of Scotland was dazzling last week. A short ferry trip took us to this wee fishing village. A day of beautiful sunshine and heavy showers also brought a few rainbows, fair compensation. We saw many rainbows last week and, luckily, we always had time to stop and marvel. Creation deserves our awe for all its distractions. Its the days that we fail to be distracted by the wonder of the world around us that we need to wake up to ourselves and recognise our need to slow down and take in the scenery.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Sight for sore eyes

How about this for an outlook? This was the scene that greeted me every morning last week. Autumn in all its glory. And glorious it was. Surrounded by nature's beauty, by good friends, by good food and fine wine, how could a girl do anything other than heal? The week was everything I'd hoped for - and more.
From the shabby chic of the grand house we had rented to the therapy of cooking on a placid aga to the side splitting laughter at the antics of seniors who should know better playing on the huge trampoline, rest and relaxation seem far too calm to describe the essence of a week in the wilderness. Finding the space to engage with the wild was effortless despite the buzz. Iain pointed out that there is a whole universe in each wild flower and fallen leaf. I was able to engage with countless universes and, hopefully, the spirit breath I indulged on will keep on blowing refreshment, keep on inspiring, keep on wreaking havoc.
As the fallen leaves sink back into the ground
from whence they came
nourishing the soil that birthed them
may the laughing, dancing wind
whip up a stooshie
teasing here
tearing there
until all is displaced
and nothing is left unmoved.
Then, may a gentle settling begin
with jostling and shoogling.
And may love be in that settling
as it was in the stirring.
And may the autumn ochre and bronze and gold
seep into the soul
balm and beauty
blessing and binding
curing the sores
caressing and healing
swaddling with love.

Saturday, 13 October 2007


This week has been even more frenetic than usual. And emotionally, its been a real roller coaster ride. Professional detachment? What's that? No chance of downtime this week. However, the good news is that Sabbath is just around the corner. Schools are closed for a week, so we're off to the wilderness. To wide open space. Very few people. Come hell or high water, this will be a week of R and R. And while I don't want to sound alarmist (or defeatist) the return to work will see the beginning of the great slide and then the headlong rush into Christmas. So this sabbath time is vital. I'm hoping for a release of much of the tension that tightens my gut just now. For a freeing of the emotions that still hold me in their grip - even if that means a bucket load of tears. And I'm hoping to be bathed in love - love of family and friends, a soothing balm. I know I'm asking a lot. And expecting too much perhaps invites disappointment. But there is too much at stake for this wilderness time not to weave its magic caress around the chafing of the last few weeks. Returning less than restored is unthinkable. Running on pretty much empty just now so refuelling is essential.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Death no longer taboo?

Participated in an interesting discussion today about death rituals and customs. The seminar was presented by a palliative care doctor, from a very out of date Roman Catholic position. I think he was trying to maintain that death has gone from being visible in community to being invisible, very much a private affair. And he seemed to suggest that where death does become public as, for instance, in the death of Diana, Princess of Wales that the mourning and the rituals surrounding it have become sentimental. I wanted to suggest that he look at the coverage of the last Pope's funeral to see that that is not the case but that what we are witnessing is the liberation of emotions where folk are free to express grief and participate in mourning rituals. Our experience in this community over the last few weeks bears that out. It wasn't thick, sugary sentiment that led teenagers to congregating on street corners shedding tears. Or to posting tributes on a web site set up to honour their school friend. This was a healthy display of grief and of participating in the tasks of mourning rather than burying their grief deep inside and not being allowed or enabled to confront it. I see this as a healthy state of affairs from whatever religious or denominational stance or, indeed non religious stance one comes. Supporting one another through joys and sorrows is a healthy sign of any community.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Never a complete failure

Inverkip Power Station is one of the biggest white elephants of its time. It never reached its full capacity because, by the time construction was completed, the cost of oil was too prohbitive to make it a viable proposition. It was useful, briefly, during the coal miners strike in the 80s but has spent most of its career mothballed. However, it continues to prove a useful landmark for navigation purposes.

I wonder how often we find ourselves diverted from the path we set out on, but manage to prove ourselves useful in a completely different way.

One of my favourite sayings is: You are never a complete failure. You can always serve as a bad example. Each of us has a value well beyond our own calculation and a purpose we can only dream of.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Some kind of overview

Looking at the big picture is important. Often, I'm caught up in the clouds. Or sometimes, but not often enough, basking in the blue skies. At times I'm surrounded by people. Other times, in splendid isolation. From the top of a steep climb its not easy to see the bottom. And in the gold of autumn its easy to forget the green of summer. Its good to stand apart for a while and just survey the landscape. Trying to gain a different measure, a new perspective. Something more healthy than the glimpse from the thick of things. It doesn't make the slog any easier but it does give it more meaning and its easier to understand the place that I'm at when I can look around and see where it all fits. And holding it all together? Is love. Love in the gaps. Love in the graft. Love in the raw. Love providing the links and the spaces. Love encircling the whole. Never too much love. I just pray for enough.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Words, words, words

After a day of meetings my brain is weary. So many words to-ing and fro-ing. My throat is parched because lots of the words were mine. Perhaps it would be better to drown in the sea of apathy that seems to be the alternative to trying to motivate. It would certainly be less exhausting.

"Mortal man, can these bones come back to life?"

I often feel like Ezekiel in the valley of the dry bones, knowing that the breath of life is not mine to give. But God breathed into those bones, brought them to life - and what life. What keeps me from drowning is the hope that God will breathe into our situation and create the kind of havoc that only God's spirit can wreak. Then we'll be able to see signs of new life, not just the starkness of death.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The compassion of the young

The past few months have seen tragic loss of the lives of several young folk in this community and in our neighbouring community. The ripple effect for each of these deaths has been immense. It affects all parts of the community, the schools, the churches, the neighbourhood.

But what has touched me more than anything else is the compassion of these lads' contemporaries. These young people have demonstrated grief in a way unprecedented when I was at school. I can recall at least two of my peer group dying and their deaths were hushed up, not for public mourning. However, these past weeks, young folk have gotten together to grieve. They have supported one another. Schools and communities have allowed them space and time to reflect and to mourn. And they have greatly supported the bereaved families by their tributes and their love and their concern. In an age when young folk get such a bad press, these young folk have love in their hearts and are not afraid to show it.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Through a glass darkly

This mirror, at the bottom of a hill near Montmartre just invites folk to photograph themselves. Is what we see in the image a true reflection? Or are there things hidden and misunderstood?
In hiddenness there is at least hope. Hope that all is not revealed. Hope that there are better things to come. Hope that, in the present, doesn't provide a lot of comfort but that at least offers a glimmer of light in the darkness that seems to stretch into infinity. What we see and what we know simply isn't enough. There has to be some recompense for pain and for suffering, some lightening of the load that many have to bear.
But the revelation will have to be pretty spectacular to make the present justifiable. Those who cry in anguish now will need some hefty inducement to balance the scales. Sometimes the promise for the future seems just too obscure to make a difference to the hellishness of the present. So we can't see the whole picture but will that whole picture ever be enough?

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Lunch in Paris

A group of us from church popped over to Paris for lunch midweek. I know its not very Carbon friendly, but the attraction of a cheap flight and the opportunity of a whole day in Paris was too much to resist.

By 10:30 we were enjoying breakfast at Port Maillot, we had lunch at Montmartre among the artists and then dinner on the Champs Elysees before heading back to Beauvais for the flight home.

What a difference a day makes!

I feel as if the whole of the week before and after the trip was spent making up for lost time but it was well worth it. Its great to live in an age where such things are possible and to have the means to just go for it. God forbid that we should ever take such luxury - and sheer decadence - for granted. But just every now and again its good to sin big style!!!

Thursday, 27 September 2007

A new local

A new store opened in the village today. Inverkip is a village with an ever expanding population and few facilities so a new super market is a welcome addition - especially a new Sainsbury's. I felt I could have spent the whole day hanging around the store, catching up with the parish. There were so many people coming and going and the sunshine contributed to brightened spirits.

I was reminded how lucky I am to serve in such a defined community where life very much revolves around church, school and pub - and now, our local supermarket.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

More simple pleasures

Autumn sunshine, a fresh breeze and laundry drying on the line. Sometimes I'm easily pleased. Its good to be able to appreciate the fresh smell of towels dried outdoors before the weather makes that impossible. Stepping from the shower, grabbing a fresh towel, inhaling that fresh air smell... OK, I know, too much information.
Church without walls next summer at the National Gathering will be exploring All you can't leave behind. What are the things that you wouldn't or couldn't ditch? What really matters? I'm looking forward, I think, to working out the essentials of "church" for me. I suspect that it doesn't even resemble anything I call "church" at the moment. I'm happy to discard loads, but what will it be replaced by? I'll keep you posted!

Monday, 24 September 2007

Where beauty exists... enjoy

There's supposed to be a path round the back of our house. But the ground keeps slipping and encroaching. It looks very green just now but through the summer it was, firstly purple, with beautiful irises and then orange with montbretia. Beautiful - but not the path its supposed to be.

How many attractive things turn up in the wrong place? Does it mean they can't be appreciated just because they're out of context? Inconvenience makes beauty all the more poignant. Life's too short and too fraught for us not to appreciate beauty wherever it shows itself.

We need to address the path situation at some point but, for now, we will enjoy the wild.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Bizzare - or what?

This giant toadstool has been growing in our jungle of a garden. In the sunshine today, I thought I could see Christ's face on the fungus. So have I been watching too much sci fi or reading too much weird and wonderful material? Or can you see it too?

Last week, I read of someone finding Christ's face on a frozen lemon slice.

So - do we create Christ in our image? Is that why his face pops up in all sorts of bizarre places on all sorts of innate objects. Have we given him one of those faces that we see everywhere? Is it an optical illusion?

Its an interesting thought - the image we have super imposed on Christ. How good would it be if Christ did appear everywhere, evidenced by us human beings loving and serving each other, just as Jesus did? Christ incarnate - wherever I am, wherever you are.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Happy birthday Jane!

My friend Jane is 40 today. We started the day at her place, with bacon rolls and buck's fizz. Tonight she's, hopefully, in Rome. On Wednesday we're meeting up for lunch - in Paris, thanks to Ryan Air's £4 flights. Its great to have girl friends and even better when the guys get along too so that they're not left out when we hatch these crazy plans. Have a good one Jane. We'd better start planning the 50th soon!
Love you loads. x

Wednesday, 19 September 2007


I was asked for directions the other day. The place the guy in the big lorry wanted to get isn't actually accessible to vehicular traffic from where he was, but only by footpath. So I had to help him find a way out from where he was back onto the main road, all the while avoiding low bridges. No easy feat for someone as directionally challenged as me! I wanted to say: Well if I were you, I wouldn't start here...
Today, I have been on a course about discernment and navigating transition. Lots of stimulating stuff. But, sometimes, when I return to the nitty gritty and often pettiness of the parish, I seriously wonder what its all about. And I want to find another starting point.
Presbyterian rock
Grey and grumpy
Fixed and immovable
Could be so different.
Could be a marker, pointing the way to the light.
Demonstrating faith and solidity, not just hardness stuck fast.
Could be a point from which to leap, landing in the squishy, soft heather.
Could even be a place to rest the weary soul before tramping on over unknown ground.
Catching the last rays of light before its time to move on.
Its time, its time, its time, but I wouldn't start from here.

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