I've always seen my desire to be creative as an energising force. I felt really stifled when I went through a long spell of suppressing it. But, occasionally, I wonder why I can't take an easier route. Why does everything have to be created pretty much from scratch when there is so much good off the peg material. I guess it's just a part of who I am as a beloved child of God. I've just never grown out of that bit that toddlers go through - the I can do it myself phase. But, mostly I have fun, mostly I am nourished by creativity and, the difference is that I don't do it by myself but that God works through me. How creative and amazing is that?! And, if it takes a bit more passion and energy to do things the hard way, our constant, creating God supplies those too.
I'm excited! I'm even tempted to break out the Alleluias early. But I'll contain myself. I've just been putting the finishing touches to the order for our Easter service and I can't wait. It's a bit different but, maybe because I'm disappearing for two weeks immediately afterwards, I'm being brave.
I've also completed most of my Holy Week reflections - only two more to write. Hopefully taking time with those - for Good Friday, will slow me down and remind me that death comes before resurrection. This is a great time to be responsible for creating worship. I love it.
We've travelled through Lent at a fairly leisurely pace. Now, it's full steam ahead for our journey through Holy Week. The triumphal entry of Palm Sunday is already overshadowed by the gathering clouds. I love the opportunity to mark the unfolding events of the week and follow Jesus as he makes his way to the cross. This is the one time of the year I'd hate to be outside church.
Our Easter Bunny hunt today took place in incredibly spring like woods. Although there were a few showers, there were also good sunny spells during which lots of signs of spring were evident. After tracking down all those lost bunnies, adults and children alike enjoyed breakfast rolls and drinks. The helpers had their work cut out but it was great to see the place buzzing with families. With the frivolity over, it's now time to tackle the Passion.
I met a friend today who only recently met my sister for the first time. She said she could barely pay attention to what my sister was saying because she was so distracted by her mannerisms being so like mine. In particular, the way she inclines her head when she is listening to someone.
There is much to be said for active and affirmative listening. The kind of listening practiced by Mary when she listened to God's messenger outlining God's plan that she should carry the Son of God and her immediate response: Your will be done.
On this day of Annunciation, what might we hear God saying to us and to what might we say yes?
I've been involved in quite a few collaborative writing projects recently. One of them appeared in print today. Very exciting. It's a Scottish slant lectionary- based all age worship resource. We're piloting the 6 weeks after Easter, reviewing feedback and then hoping, having learned from that, to write some more material that will be available at the start of the new curriculum around September time.
Well done to Peter for all his presentation and publishing skills - and to the rest of the team for contributing ideas. Looking forward to seeing how useful it is.
One of our local parks is just carpeted with crocuses just now. It was a real treat to grab five minutes to walk through and admire today. Refreshment can be found in the shortest of breaks aided and abetted by the beauty of nature.
I've always wanted to be in the Timbrels. I love to see the Salvation Army play their timbrels so joyfully. Friends at the Ayr Citadel treated us to an enthusiastic display of praise today. I hadn't appreciated that this instrument goes away back to Miriam (sister of Moses). It is still considered a women's instrument - though the Captains' youngest son was making a good display today! One of these days...
The week ahead is looking scary right now. Mornings, afternoons and evenings are fully scheduled. So much for work-life balance. Christian seasons tend to mess that up for clergy. So, I'm going to use this bench as a virtual place of escape until I can get there for real. Virtually, I'll appreciate the view down the Kyles of Bute. Virtually, I'll watch the gannets dive. Virtually, I'll admire the whisky cruiser as she plies her trade. Virtually I'll enjoy the lapping tide and the flapping of riggings as the Kyle fills up again with yachts. Virtually, all that will keep me sane and give me perspective. I give thanks that I can go there virtually.
The fog, I think, has eased to a gentle mist. Not a menacing one but a mischievous, playful spirit. Beguiling and filled with hope. Bringing odd colours and mystery. I love the glimpses of clarity but also the swirling confusion. Each carries potential. Each enhances the other. And for my friends empathising with the fog earlier in the week, my prayer is that you too will know growth and possibility and find a way home through the haar.
In Edinburgh again today, undertaking some more training. A train cancellation this morning meant I was running slightly late but I still had to stop and admire these crocuses in the morning sun.
It's the last time we will be together as a training group - the rest of our training is "on the job". So, if we want to get together, we will have to be intentional in that. I think some of us will be. "Being intentional" takes effort but is always worthwhile. It involves choice and discipline. Intentionality, if there is such a word, is one of life's treats in which we should indulge ourselves often.
One of the things I struggle with in ministry is constantly asking folks to do things. I'm happy to be an energiser and facilitator, enabling folk to be the body of Christ but, when it comes to persuading folk to take on specific tasks, that always feels like really hard work. So, it's a bonus when folk are enthusiastic and motivated.
Tonight we were planning this year's summer holiday club. The response was wonderful, with lots of ideas and creativity. Looking forward to it already.
Usually after the Lenten midweek service, folk take the opportunity to walk round the labyrinth. Each week, the stations change and folk are encouraged to reflect in different ways about their journey with Jesus. In the centre, there's usually something for folk to take away and ponder during the week. Tonight, the activity in the centre was blowing bubbles. There was great mirth as adults became like children. Next week, as we approach the passion of Christ, things will become more sombre again, so it was good to see folk responding with laughter tonight.
I'm encouraged that, even with this small space and small scale installation, we can be creative on our Lenten journey.
I wrote the last post with others in mind - folk who'd just heard news that wasn't particularly welcome. But today, I had to follow my own advice as things around me shifted. And the alternatives aren't all bad - there's always scope for negotiating and moving forward in a new way. That's just life. Our God shifts gear and negotiates the changing landscape with us.
When you think you are headed in one direction and then discover that events conspire to direct somewhere else entirely, it's tempting to complain about the fog. A more constructive alternative might be to check the view from a different perspective. And to give thanks for the opportunity to explore uncharted territory. Who knows? It may even be possible to find an alternative that simply would not have been considered if things had proceeded as anticipated. New horizons are a distinct possibility, even in the fog.
We celebrated well this morning - baptism and Mothering Sunday, acknowledging both the joy and the sorrow that such relationship or its lack brings. Above all, we celebrated the place we all have in the family of God. With so many children present it was a noisy, messy service but who says worship has to be tidy? And for those who didn't like it? There's always next week.
There's something too comfortable about worship today. We gather in (mostly) warm buildings and greet friends, catch up on news, share stories and, in amongst all that, we offer worship to God. What if it were much harder, a bit rough, if we were exposed to the elements. Would we still be game? Our ancestors went a lot further for faith, perhaps so that we no longer need to go to such lengths but how far would we be willing to stretch ourselves? An interesting question at this midpoint in Lent.
I read an article in Collide Magazine this week that I shared with some young folks at a secondary school assembly today. I was encouraging them to value the things that come free in our everyday, be it music downloads, sunny days, love of family and friends, education. It seems that when things don't cost us, we don't value them.
That presents a real problem for the church as we try to spread the gospel of the love of God given freely for us.
What a day! This has been one of those days that makes me so thankful to be a minister, a day that reminds me why I do it. A day spent going from home to home, sharing in people's lives. I've met folk with stories - each of them incredible and made even more special by how ordinary they see themselves. I've been privy to joy and sorrow, to heartache and anguish, shared confidences, offered no more than an attentive presence and been moved beyond words. It's the sort of day when I feel fulfilled in ministry and confirmed in call. A day to remember when church politics and posturing and games crowd out the joy of simply being with people.
I spent today at an in-service for ministers who are supervising students. The best part was catching up with colleagues I haven't seen in a long time. One guy, I was at college with and we used to giggle our way through classes and even services. There was always something to get tickled at. Today was no different. We quickly dissolved into old patterns. It was great to discover that he hasn't changed a bit - except he's slightly more cuddly than I remember - could be middle age spread:) And a huge bonus - for once I felt like an equal with colleagues, even though the men outnumbered the women 6 to 1!
Spring Fever was the song I heard 9 different primary school choirs sing, with lots of energy, this morning at the Ayrshire Music Festival. I'm frightened to speak too soon but there are definite signs of spring around - I even saw some new lambs last week. But the best signs of spring have been in the people I've encountered this week. There's a real upbeat. That's been assuring and affirming. Now if I could just remember all those positive vibes when the lingering tendrils of winter creep back in as they inevitably will.
I've always loved herons. They are often elusive. I have so many pics of them in flight, taking off as soon as I got close. I'm thankful for digital memory now that can be so easily erased rather than wasting whole rolls of film.
As I was reflecting by the river this morning, it occurred to me how like presbyterians herons are - Often, they stand proud and lonely. At other times, they appear all hunched up, sometimes downright miserable looking. If you get too close and force them to move, they move just a little bit at a time and then eventually find their way back to their comfort zone.
But, like Presbyterians, I can't help loving them!
Surfing channels tonight, looking for something mindless after a long day. I came across Bruce Almighty, a film I love. I tuned in just at the point Bruce asks God: "How do you make someone love you without affecting free will."
God's reply? "Welcome to my world."
Bruce Almighty and its sequel Evan Almighty are both hilarious but provide lots of food for thought and amazing insights into possibilities of God at work in our world.
As I prepare for preaching tomorrow, I'm wishing there was more time to simply sit with the word. It's not about re-prioritising but, rather, about perspective. Reading a text for the purposes of preaching it somehow changes it. But the opportunity to just enjoy the richness and mystery in the text is too often compressed as the preaching deadline approaches. Time to allow images to penetrate and take root because all that needs to be said is already there. Somehow, though, I don't think folks would settle for that. Shame.
Finally found my way to Ayr River Gorge today. These are the covenanter steps at Peden's cove where, it is claimed, the Scottish covenanter, Alexander Peden preached to people across the river. As I walked the rest of the Gorge, I found myself wondering - Would I be so persistent in preaching the word as an outlaw? Of course not - although there has to be some attraction in not having to navigate church courts and traditions and sensitivities. But I know without a doubt that I am a fair weather preacher. No living rough for me!
Sometimes you meet someone and you just know this is someone you can work with. Whether short term or long term, the signals are all there. The chemistry is just right. Today I was sharing with a bunch of young folk the story of Jesus calling the disciples from their fishing and it struck me - is that how it was for them? They just knew this would work? Did they look at him in action and think - "I'd like to tag along for awhile, learn from him, hone some skills."? Being around such folk brings colour into life and spirit (or The Spirit) into work.
It's amazing the things you hear at Presbytery. This evening we were being encouraged to think in Einsteinian terms rather than Newtonian. That is, to see change as the only constant and respond to the fact that life does not always proceed in an orderly fashion. In the words of a contemporary philosopher - "D'oh!" (Bart Simpson). Faith is surely all about the entirely unpredictable nature of life. It's that irrationality to which the church responds and on which it thrives. I'll stick with the gospel according to the Simpsons, thanks.
I spent a few hours at the end of last week rescheduling things this week so that I could be at a friend's memorial service. Tonight, in about 10 minutes, snow fell so fast and so furiously that it looks as if all those plans might be up in the air again. Of course by morning it could all look quite different. But I see God's wicked grin in the snowy clouds gently reminding me that life is only fun if it is entirely unpredictable. And, just when we think we've got things under control, a wee lob from left field can always bring us to our senses. Isn't part of the fun of Lent looking for God to jump out and catch us unawares? - because she can!