Thursday, 31 January 2008

The power of love

It worked! It really does work! Pouring oil on troubled waters has achieved a much more peaceful outcome than I could have imagined. And it wasn't too difficult. Just involved me letting go of some of my stubborness and practising grace. A win win situation where everyone felt they were heard, valued, given their place. When love comes to town.

I was there when they crucified my Lord I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword I threw the dice when they pierced his side But I've seen love conquer the great divide

When love comes to town I'm gonna catch that train When love comes to town I'm gonna catch that flame Maybe I was wrong to ever let you down But I did what I did before love came to town


Tuesday, 29 January 2008

The only way is up

January has brought a sense of marking time this year. It has seemed a long and murky month accompanied by dampness and dreariness. But I sense that clearing away. Drifting behind. Its time. Time to clear off the cobwebs and forge ahead. No more excuses. No more holding back. Onward and upward is the order of the day. And for those who don't like that? If they're not on board now they are never going to be. There's been enough time. Enough gentleness. Enough cajoling. Those who can't or won't move forward are welcome to remain exactly where they are. This coach is on the move - onwards and upwards.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Waiting for the gap

I want to go and sit at the foot of one of these trees. Feel its coolness, hear its sap flowing. I want to feel the support of the tree on my back and hear the wind whisper through its foliage.
I want the tree to hide me from the world and shelter me, just for a wee while.
I guess I'm craving space, difficult to catch at this busy time of year. These past few weeks I've been very involved caring for folk bereaved - its that time of year. I've also been involved in loads of fun stuff - but all work nonetheless. Sometimes I just need to escape the intensity that caring brings. but, until a gap appears (or until I can create one), I'll have to settle for a glass of something and some chocolate. Sunday nights are good!

Friday, 25 January 2008

To a Mouse

Wee, sleekit, cowran, tim'rous beastie,
O, what panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty, Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee, Wi' murd'ring pattle!
I'm truly sorry Man's dominion Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion, Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion, An' fellow-mortal!
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave 'S a sma' request:
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave, An' never miss't!
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin! It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane, O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin, Baith snell an' keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast, An' weary Winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast, Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past Out thro' thy cell.
That wee-bit heap o' leaves an' stibble, Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble, But house or hald.
To thole the Winter's sleety dribble, An' cranreuch cauld!
But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane, In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy!
Still, thou art blest, compar'd wi' me! The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e'e, On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear!
This is the day we Scots celebrate our national bard, Robert Burns.
For me, this poem, written when he turned over a mouse nest when ploughing, is so full of wisdom and real insight into the plight of human beings both then and now.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

The energy of love

Trying to find a way through a thorny issue at present, mediate a solution. There are those who simply want to win, digging their heels in, blind to alternatives. What energy do I want to bring to the table? Love would be good - so far overlooked. I'm hoping it will be enough and, if I can bring some humour too, perhaps there will be no losers.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Dans macabre

We came across this macabre sculpture in Dublin and couldn't find anything around to explain what it was or what it depicted. But it was fun to come up with our own suggestions. It would make a great caption competition. I'd go for something along the lines of... "After another excruciating presbytery meeting, Tom decided he could hack it no longer." What would you proffer?

Friday, 18 January 2008

Spreading the word

Typical teenage pose - mobile phone glued to the ear, keeping in touch, even miles from anywhere. Thank goodness for mobile phone networks.
I've often joked about my "pub evangelism" but, being accessible and hanging out where communities are is a vital part of spreading the word - another form of networking.
Communication is a huge thing in our busy fast paced lives. It can be a nightmare when it breaks down. When folk don't talk to each other. When folk make assumptions. When folk make decisions on behalf of others without any real thought or consultation. Most communication failures I like to think are caused by just a little carelessness or even thoughtlessness. But, sometimes they are the result of arrogance. Folk thinking that they know best or that they have the monopoly on decision making. Or that their network is the only one that matters. Because life is so busy, because things move so fast, its important to establish networks, to open up communication, to involve people and let them know that they matter. That way, when mistakes do occur, when life gets difficult, there's room for manouvre, there's space for forgiveness and there's no real harm done. Its good to talk!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Too accessible?

I like the little nook this guy has found himself. Tucked in out of the way, taking time out to consider his next move.
There are days when we all need to find those little nooks and crannies - and in an ideal world we would create that sort of space for ourselves every day.
When I do indulge my need to hide out, I just wind up feeling guilty that I've not been there for folk.
I was looking for something for a youth service this morning and I considered getting the young folks involved in a noisy version of the gospel story of Jesus calming the storm. As I read the passage though, I couldn't help but tune into the fact that, just when Jesus tried to get his head down, a storm erupted around him . Often, when reading Scripture I find myself stuck on certain phrases, ones that I need to hear and take account of. I can certainly empathise with Jesus - the words "what now?" spoken belligerently, appeal to me in that situation. An all too familiar feeling.
The truth is, the storms will always be there. We can't avoid them. But we cannot deal with them effectively unless we create some space in which to find the energy. There are times when that simply means becoming less accessible.
OK, I can preach it. But can I practise it?

Monday, 14 January 2008

Dumbing down

"With Jesus in the boat, we can smile at the storm..." So sang the children after constructing their craft. It tied in with the simplicity of a weekend's teaching that apologised for being theological.

Its often good when we are moved out of our comfort zones but we need substance to get into. When that substance is lacking and the gospel is dumbed down and worship is accompanied by loud repetitive noise though, rather than opening up to new experience, shutting down is more likely.

I knew I wasn't entirely comfortable with my weekend experience but it takes me a while to process these things and its only today that I've been able to articulate the problem for me. I don't buy into that idea of saying something often enough so that it becomes truth or with leaving intellect out of faith. There was a time when I did. But not any more. I need more than that. It was great to network and, in the spaces to get down to some nitty gritty with friends and colleagues. That in itself would be good enough. But I have to admit that much of the rest made me squirm and, for that, I am not going to apologise. I give thanks for the love and sharing I encountered and refuse to feel inadequate about not being able to get into a state of rapture that was beyond me. Worship can't always be quiet and reflective but, for me, it must always have substance and challenge. The God to whom we offer our worship is a God of unfathomable mystery. I'd rather flounder in plumbing that depth than wade in the shallows.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

All work and no play

I was working hard this weekend at a church without walls reenergise conference in Aviemore in the Highlands of Scotland. The focus was on the family, so my family went with me. While I was engrossed in stimulating seminars they were... sledging. We see so little real snow in Scotland these days that, when it comes, we have to make the most of it. My kids would never have forgiven me if I'd come back from the weekend and told them of all the snow there was in Aviemore, so it was great to have them there too, sharing in the fun. Knowing that they were close by and having a ball meant that I could relax and soak up the experience.

A huge auditorium at the conference centre became church for the weekend, with loud, lively worship. My kids want to do church like that every week. I'll have to see what I can do!

Friday, 11 January 2008


There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3
Its always hard to say farewell to something you have loved, even when that love has become painful. But there comes a time, a time that is right.
At New Year I bade farewell to a long cherished dream. The island I love and whose soil has nourished my soul time and again needs a minister. For many years it has been my dream to live and work there. Now, when the opportunity is at last an option, I realise that still, it is not right. It is not my calling. My gifting is for something other than that. That's not where I am being directed. It feels strange not to have that aspiration tucked away in the recesses of my mind any longer but it is time to let it go. And, as I set that notion free, its time also to look at other dreams, to bring them to life or to liberate them too.
January seems a good time of year to do that. Dreaming on....

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Glimpses of God

A friend and colleague gave me a book of daily meditations of Frederick Beuchner. What a gift! I had only vaguely heard of Beuchner until I encountered fellow blogger Frederick Beuchner's lovechild who often shares wisdom from Buechner. Yesterday's reading alluded to the "elusiveness" yet pervasiveness of God. Great stuff.
Our days are simply peppered with glimpses of God all around. The trick is to catch those flashes, to wallow in the present and soak them up so that on those grey days when life is more like a game of hide and seek, our souls can receive balm from the memories of God echoing around us. Seeing God in everything today will help provide sustenance on those days when we refuse to be distracted by God's playfulness.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

After the storm...

The morning after the storm, the sun rose gently, lazily spreading its tendrils bringing light and colour wherever it touched. Such a contrast to the day - and night- before. Hard to believe that just a few hours had passed and the scene was one of amazing transformation. One of life's mysteries and beauties - change is possible and is often just around the corner, waiting for us to catch on and catch up.
But what about the damage caused by the turmoil?
It too, it too can be transformed.
Healing and restoration await those who dare to keep on hoping.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Brewing storms

Its great to watch storms from the safety of the shore. These crashing waves we could track for miles out to sea, making their relentless way to the beach. There's an excitement, a suspense, an awe inspiring, breath catching chasm in witnessing their unspent fury. And it was never ending. As one wave smashed onto the sand, others followed on, gathering momentum, boiling up a heady brew. Where did their journey begin? What havoc did they wreak on their way? What devastation did they leave behind?
This epiphany - tide, I can't help but see a parallel with those "wise men" who showed up to worship the baby born in Bethlehem's stable and who left such a trail of destruction. We like to remember the wise men but, too often, gloss over the massacre of the innocents and the flight into Egypt that their blunderings precipitated. We don't know where their journey began and we know only a little of the havoc they wreaked on the way. We also know, to our discomfort that some of our best intentions bring about chaos. And yet to never ever cause a ripple is surely a much greater catastrophe than riding out the storms.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Light on the way

Living in a manse ( a church house), as soon as you step over the threshhold, you're back at work. And so, within a very short space of time I find myself home, unpacking, rearranging, responding to calls and, generally, picking up the threads of life again. I've learned that breaks have to be exploited for every inch of potential because there is no such thing as gently easing back in - its back to work with a vengeance.

But this picture of the setting sun on Crossapol Bay on Tiree was just one of the majestic moments that we enjoyed on our New Year's break. The light dancing rainbow colours on the wet sand accompanied by the symphony of the crashing waves on a beach made for surfing are images held deep within, imprinted on the soul, images that have soothed and healed and brought love and forgiveness. As well as a renewed sense of hope, that there are other ways of being, ways that bring wholeness, not pain, fulfillment and not frustration. The spirit feels liberated, the heart is brimming over with love and gratitude and the mind is filled with determination not to fall into the old ways, not to be stifled and submerged. Love, the gravity that first drew me here and continues to hold me, is an overpowering force, one that will work its way in, dancing with the light and creating miracles.

These words come from Josh Groban's Believe - used in The Polar Express:

Believe in what you feel inside and give your dreams the wings to fly

You have everything you need .... if you just believe.

Its time to give our dreams those wings.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

A guid new year

Seeing the new year in on the wild and beautiful Isle of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides. Letting the peace and the space - and the sand - soak in, washing away the winter debris. Experiencing four seasons in one day and enjoying the comfort of Millhouse Hostel and the wonderful hospitality of friends. Hopefully this revitalising launch into the new year will bode well for all that is to come - opportunities, challenges, tough decisions, moving on, resting, healing, loving, forgiving. What lies ahead we do not know but we give thanks for the present and make the most of this place of mystery, majesty and the omnipotent Spirit of God. Wishing you a good new year.

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