Friday, 29 January 2010

It's all in the reflection

In the enquiry and training process for the Church of Scotland, there is a lot of emphasis on reflection. It will prove to be a useful discipline for whatever ministry lies ahead.
So often it's only when we look under the surface that we can see the whole picture.
Particularly in our encounters with others, there are so many levels and layers to be explored before we can come to any semblance of understanding.
While enforced journalling might prove demanding, and seem, at times, artificial, it is a wonderful habit to foster and will help to ensure that our reflection, rather than being introspective will help us to broaden our perspective. Like seeing the snow on the hilltops, invisible until glimpsed in the reflection.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Real ministry

I was musing with colleagues this morning about offloading some of the extraneous aspects of ministry so that I can be engaged in what really matters. As I shared the things that helped me to feel fulfilled in ministry, it came down to relationships - meeting folk in their homes or in the community. Supporting folk through crises, ill health and bereavement. Celebrating worship. Being visible and accessible. Equipping and releasing others to engage in mission.
One colleague pointed out that I was, in fact, eschewing a very traditional view of ministry. So be it. Amen.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


Spending the biggest part of my weeks at the crematorium just now, it's important to catch glimpses of light:
Like the old man I visited having the audacity to tell me I need a comb - or at least a clasp to keep my hair out of my eyes.
Being missed by primary school kids when I didn't make it to their 8:30am choir practice.
The look of shock(probably followed by a bit of tut tutting)on the faces of colleagues when I turned up for a meeting listening to my ipod - they were in the corridor, I did remove them before entering the meeting room!
Being invited to go for a drink with a probationer - a good way to wind down before heading home.
Being congratulated for not wearing a dog collar.
Gaining some street cred with secondary school kids by having a facebook page.
I think I'll write a post like this every week. It's amazing the light you can glimpse if you try.:)

Monday, 25 January 2010

Not quite Burns

Burns Cottage, Alloway

The Puddock
by John M Caie

A Puddock sat by the lochan's brim,
An' he thocht there was never a puddock like him.
He sat on his hurdies, he waggled his legs,
An' cockit his heid as he glowered throu' the seggs
The bigsy wee cratur' was feelin' that prood,
He gapit his mou' an' he croakit oot lood
"Gin ye'd a' like tae see a richt puddock," quo' he,
"Ye'll never, I'll sweer, get a better nor me.
I've fem'lies an' wives an' a weel-plenished hame,
Wi' drink for my thrapple an' meat for my wame.
The lasses aye thocht me a fine strappin' chiel,
An' I ken I'm a rale bonny singer as weel.
I'm nae gaun tae blaw, but the truth I maun tell-
I believe I'm the verra MacPuddock himsel'."

A heron was hungry an' needin' tae sup,
Sae he nabbit th' puddock and gollup't him up:
Syne 'runkled his feathers: "A peer thing," quo' he,
"But - puddocks is nae fat as they eesed tae be."

I've been reflecting recently on how many guid Scots words are in common use in this part of the world. So much so that, having moved here just 18 months ago, our daughter now speaks a different language from us! When I mentioned puddock to an elderly lady this morning, she quoted me the above poem. It seemed pertinent to post it on the Bard's birthday, even though it's not one of Burns' poems.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Looking out for God

In the sun rising alongside the railway track

Filtering through the grime of the train windows

In the buzz of the city centre morning rush hour

In friends greeting each other

companions for onward journeys

or simply the day ahead

there God was

hanging around

people watching

not with malevolence

but with a twinkle in her eye

taking pleasure in all the everyday simple things

that we take for granted:

the morning breeze

the birdsong

the updraft of the pigeon’s wing as it almost brushes our faces

the impressive facades of city buildings

the smell of coffee and croissants

grinning from ear to ear at the hustle and bustle

at all the rushing and scurrying

then creasing to a frown

as she sees the news vendor grimacing in pain

as he eases himself into a comfier perch

on his stool, out in the cold and damp

or the young girl wrapped in a blanket

gently proffering her paper cup

to those who sweep past, unseeing

God was there


Wake up.

Look around you

Look at your world

Look at each other

Look into each others eyes

See me

Liz Crumlish January 2010

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Terms of endearment

After conducting a funeral service today with what I thought was warmth, dignity and, dare I say it, authority, I held the door open for one of the mourners as I left the crematorium. "Thanks doll", was his response. My bubble was well and truly burst!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Pray,Listen,Respond in love

A video for Haiti from

A fragile creation

Thankfully today saw many areas being freed of their icy conditions. I was able to travel to Clydebank to join with colleagues. We're embarking on some work to hopefully produce Scottish resources for worship. As always, the prelude - all that talk around what and how and why- was very stimulating. Lots of buzz and it wasn't just the very strong coffee. And then it was down to work, work that we shall all continue on our own between meetings. I love collaboration and this year promises to provide lots of opportunity for shared creativity.
Now it's time to get creative for worship this Sunday. Given the awful events in Haiti, the sermon is taking a completely different direction from that envisaged earlier in the week when folk were safe and going about their normal daily lives. How fragile our earth and our lives.

Thursday, 14 January 2010


River Ayr 14th January 2010

Everyone I've met this morning is tired of the snow. Even the enthusiasm of schoolchildren has waned because their school playgrounds are deemed too dangerous to play in and they are spending a lot of time indoors. It seems we've had enough. It was fine as a backdrop to our Christmas festivities but now the chaos and disruption are not welcome. The freshness has worn off.
This story has been in my mind today:
"Tell me the weight of a snowflake," a coalmouse asked a wild dove.

"Nothing more than nothing," the dove answered."In that case I must tell you a marvelous story," the coalmouse said. "I sat on a fir branch close to the trunk when it began to snow. Not heavily, not in a raging blizzard. No, just like in a dream, without any violence at all. Since I didn't have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,471,952. When the next snowflake dropped onto the branch-nothing more than nothing-as you say-the branch broke off."

Having said that, the coalmouse ran away.

The dove, since Noah's time an authority on peace, thought about the story for a while. Finally, she said to herself, "Perhaps there is only one person's voice lacking for peace to come to the world."

-Source unknown

I'm wondering - do we react to peacemaking in the same way we've reacted to the snow? With enthusiasm for a while, but finding the effort and sheer hard work tedious after a while.

World governments are not giving a lead and that makes it all the harder to believe that peace can ever be realised. There's more than one voice lacking but don't let it be ours.

Saturday, 9 January 2010


Yet more snow overnight. Our arctic conditions have been greeted with very different reactions: glee from many children, trepidation from senior citizens, frustration from those trying to do business. As with all adversity though, positive signs have emerged. The TV news has been full of heart warming stories of people looking out for their neighbours. Of pubs and department stores opening their doors to provide hospitality for folk stranded by blocked access roads.
Communities proving that they can still operate as supportive units.
At a funeral service this morning, a grieving relative remarked how, in his bereavement, he had been comforted by a community responding as it should and by the church in particular being there even for strangers. That was so reassuring to hear and pretty much sums up my philosophy on what the church aspires to be: a community that serves strangers. Always ready to respond to any who are in need.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

End of life conversations

Years of hospital and hospice chaplaincy have persuaded me to go against instinct and always be prepared to listen to those who want to talk about "when the end comes". Be that funeral planning or messages to be passed on or discussions of what next. There may not be another opportunity for all sorts of reasons to reschedule a conversation of such import.
But what if we gave the same attention to all our conversations? What if we saw them all as unique, as opportunities to practice divine listening and attentiveness? How would that change our relationships and even our encounters with strangers who just might be angels in disguise?
One thing I do know is that many of those conversations have been full of grace and humour - life-enhancing rather than life-limiting.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Epiphany - making it real

Epiphany is sometimes described as the culmination to the season of advent and christmas. But I like to think of it more as a grounding. Coming to the point where we bed the experience and the mystery into real life. Having been touched by the wonder, it's time to live out the reality of the love and the life to which we are called. In. our. everyday. Time to take the light of God's love and let it spill over into all of life. A gift that only makes sense in the sharing. That will be a true Epiphany.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Snow fun

All in a day's work.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Winter retreat

Mooring buoys lit up by the eery winter moon
The Kyles, teeming with life in the summer
idles patiently, enjoying the lull
taking time to recover
from the excesses
Still the beauty is palpable
only enhanced by the winter chill
Still there is space and air
and healing wind
blowing away the clutter
heralding in a freshness
Inspiring, enticing, challenging,
never letting up
continuing to rattle the cages
of conformity and mediocrity
In every season
a welcome retreat
A gift
for which to be ever thankful.

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