Sunday, 28 February 2010

Passing remarks

Someone said to me this morning after worship - "You always manage to talk about love."
That might be because the gospel we preach IS a gospel of love.
Someone else said: "What a lot you got out of that simple text." Today's text was Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and wanting to gather his chicks under his wing like a mother hen. A beautiful evocative text with so many layers to be unpicked.
That gospel of love can never be fully mined but we can keep on picking at the threads and finding God at work in our world and in our lives.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

The best medicine?

How do folk survive life without a sense of humour? It's claimed that laughter relieves stress. It certainly lessens tension and, often, can be a really useful coping mechanism. Those who work in the most macabre professions - ministers and funeral directors included- often have the keenest sense of humour. It helps us through many a crisis.
This week I came across someone who didn't appear to have a sense of humour, who was really intense and precious. I was just baffled. How is it possible to do all that is asked of us, to cope with all that life throws at us without, more than occasionally, having a good old belly laugh. In this season of Lent, even if we have to reserve it for the sabbaths, may you find plenty of opportunity and occasion to laugh.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Beyond the snow

Once again, this weekend I'm off embarking on more training for the Church of Scotland's applicant assessment process. There's been lots of snow over the past few days so hoping to find a way through. I'm sure,yet again, I'll be stimulated and challenged by all the different interactions and return, as always, exhausted. But, since Sunday looms large, there's no rest for the wicked.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Baling out or stepping up?

"Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we're not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don't maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God."
2 Corinthians 4:1-4

Came across these words today right after a discussion with colleagues about the state of the institutional church and its finances. It's a time for bold responses - not for battening down the hatches. But will God's people rise to the challenge?

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

A nudge in the right direction

Pushing open doors
Allowing possibility to flood in
Scary, daunting, thrilling
Who knows what potential
is about to be realised?
Lent seems like a good time for discovery.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Guided retreat

This year's labyrinth is in the shape of a cross, simpler than last year's Chartres style. There are two optional stations or guided reflections on the journey as well as an encouragement to linger in the centre. These stations change as the weeks of Lent progress and, in Holy Week, will reflect on Christ's last days. Creation of space and time for reflection affords a whole new perspective as we journey, with Christ, to the cross. Thanks be to God.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Life giving discipline

It was a cold beach this morning but bracing and reviving. And full of inspiration. The spirit was glistening on the snow, skipping over the ridges in the sand, being carried in the freezing wind. How is it possible to allow that space so easily to slip away? When the pressure builds, it's one of the first things to slide. Wish I could keep in mind how life giving it is to carve out some thinking space.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Sit here awhile...

Wouldn't it be good just to sit here awhile and contemplate life, the world, the universe?
Maybe this Lent, I will.
It takes two and a half hours to get to this spot from where I am but I'm sure I could find a spot closer to home and recapture some of that space that's been filled up with lots of activity, not all of it particularly useful or healthy.
A good Lenten discipline, for me, would be to recreate a more measured pace and rediscover some tranquillity. Rediscover God on the beach.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Alleluia Retreat

Just 8 of us gathered this morning for prayers in the beautiful chapel at St Mary's monastery, Kinnoul. We sang Alleluias - even though Lent has started. Mainly because I said that I was putting away the Alleluias for Lent - Something we're not overly familiar with in the presbyterian tradition. But I thought it would be fun to make a ritual of that in worship tomorrow and leave behind our alleluias (not that we use very many) for the rest of Lent so that, on Easter Sunday morning, we can experience them anew and be transformed. My colleagues, with whom I was working this weekend, decided I needed to be reminded of what I would be missing - and certainly singing Alleluia in the wonderful confines of the monastery chapel was a beautiful sound. But - if we don't experience desert, we won't know the transformation of resurrection.
And so, undaunted, tomorrow we will put away the Alleluias!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Out of the mist

Involved in another wee creative project this weekend. A group of us getting together for 24 hours and hoping to produce a whole year's worth of creative worship material. It's amazing how much can be achieved in that time. Maybe the very pressure of time accelerates the creative process. Just imagine if every day of Lent was used as productively as this 24 hour slot. That whole discipline of taking time out intentionally with others was a very marked tradition in the early origins of Lenten observance. In our contemporary reduction of Lent to something for personal individual gain we've lost the whole corporate sense of journeying together for the deepening of faith for the whole community. Maybe it's time to reclaim that too.

Thursday, 18 February 2010


"Turn from evil and go and live out the gospel". These were the words spoken on Ash Wednesday as we donned ashes.
What does it mean to live out the gospel?
It means putting one foot in front of the other, taking a step at a time, following the path, led by Christ's example - even when it's an uphill struggle as it so often is.
It also means giving thanks when the path is a bit less steep and when we find a spring in our step.
In the dryness of the arid desert and in the refreshment of the windswept beach, following Christ's footsteps in the sand. That is living out the gospel.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Reclaiming the traditions

Have had fun over the past two days, setting up this year's Lenten Labyrinth. (The pic is of last year. Will post up to date pic later). I always like to take time over this, praying it into existence - a labour of love. It felt good, too, to start Lent with a reflective Ash Wednesday service with the imposition of ashes for those who wished. It's so good to use ancient spiritual practices and ground them in our fast paced contemporary lives. Lent has certainly started in the fast lane. Let's hope it slows down enough to allow for preparation and contemplation.

Friday, 12 February 2010

The ferocity of love

When I was expecting my second child, just one of the (many) concerns that I had was whether I would have enough love for another member of the family. Simply because I already loved my firstborn so fiercely. Of course as soon as our daughter was born, I realised that there would always be enough if I was willing to just keep on sharing love.
It was also about that time that I began to recognise the lengths that some parents would go for their children. Love isn't often rational or measured and certainly not contained. And love can drive us to contemplate the sorts of things that we might not otherwise entertain.
Even now, maybe especially now, as my children grow, I am occasionally overwhelmed by the intensity of my love for them. I so want to protect them from harm, from hurt and disappointment but of course they have to grow and discover their own way of coping in a world that holds all sorts of terror and injustice. And I have to let them go into that world, armed with all the protection I can give but still so open and vulnerable, especially to those who would exploit their trust or inflict hurt. For that, too is a vital element of love - letting go, allowing growth. Hoping against hope that they will always know where to turn when the affirmation they need is unconditional love. I am so thankful that love is not a limited commodity and that I can continue to love my children infinitely and with ferocity.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Curse or blessing

Do I really want to know about Ms Z who lives at a certain address, (I'll guard the details) who had defaulted on her loan and is about to be evicted? Would you expect your broker/landlord/whatever to be discussing your confidential business on the Glasgow Edinburgh commute? So often on these journeys, even with my ipod blasting in my ears, I’m privy to much more information than I’d like to be

What did I do?

I stopped to offer a prayer for that person and the professional discussing her so blithely

In some small way trying to dredge up something positive from business that is none of mine.

It seems that firms and contracts can offer you all the privacy protection they like but cannot guard against casual mobile phone conversations in public spaces.

Once I'd managed to shift that from my mind, I managed to write a couple of meditations for Holy Week.

I like to use journey time creatively, not for invading privacy.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Surplus to requirement

These great tankers have been laid up, lacking a commission.
There is no such status in the church.
All of us are called and commissioned to GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES.
The tankers do have a pretty tranquil resting place and, sometimes, our congregations provide beauty and peace - sanctuary, as they should. But only for a time.
There is work to do and challenges to be met and "no rest for the wicked".
The tranquillity serves to build up and equip, but, once recharged, it's all hands on deck.
No one is surplus to requirement.

Monday, 1 February 2010


Another topic in vogue in the church at present is conflict resolution. In many ways it's good to bring into the open issues that have long plagued the institution. However, there is always the danger when things become "trendy" that those who opt out or who fail to engage with current perceived wisdom are seen as lacking.
There are times when confrontation will not, in fact, do much good other than to highlight bad behaviour and make one feel courageous for having named the elephant in the room. The actual behaviour may not change but, rather, become more entrenched in response to challenge. Energy expended may not produce the desired effect. Sometimes there is a way of circumnavigating problems that might be more effective and mean that folk are not alienated or become defensive. Of course those who can name the conflict will often be disappointed if it is not confronted and resolved, if perpetrators are not called out to change. I am learning to live with being a disappointment. The Kingdom is full of them. How often did Jesus disappoint the folk around him, not because he was afraid of conflict, far from it, but because he found another way, the way of love?

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