Thursday, 29 September 2011


I've just returned from a 24 hour consultation with the Ministries Council of the Church of Scotland which, unexpectedly, turned out to be a liberating and inspiring experience. Phil Hanlon, Professor of Public Health at Glasgow University who, among other things, leads the After Now project, led delegates in an examination of the perceived difficulties of ministry in contemporary Scottish culture. His easy yet incisive style and his attentive listening and gifted analysis were incredibly helpful in getting to the heart of what inhibits and depresses us as servants of an institution in chaos that seeks to serve a society in flux.
I'm sure everyone would take away something different to inform their own particular ministry. For me, that gift is the "permission" to recover a sense of vocation - focussing on those things to which I feel called and for which I feel gifted. That doesn't mean that I am not willing, from time to time, to be stretched and challenged to develop. But it does mean, perhaps, that I can live with the fact that I am not good at chairing committees or at producing detailed plans from the big picture dreams that I embrace. Fortunately there are others who have been gifted with those skills and I am more than happy to surrender to them those tasks that I find mind numbing and that sap the energy I might usefully invest elsewhere. Already I am feeling re-energised by that prospect!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A gift from God?

Swan pond at Culzean
Today, I am being challenged by these words:

Our Greatest Gift from God

On the spiritual journey, there is usually someone in our family, business or community whom we cannot endure, someone who has a genius for bringing out the worst in us. No matter what we do, we cannot seem to improve the relationship. They have not done anything to cause it. God simply uses them to reflect back to us what our problem is. Thus the person who gives us the most trouble may be our greatest gift from God. 
Source: Invitation to love

Saturday, 24 September 2011


We drove for a while this afternoon behind this old car along the coast. No idea what vintage it actually is but it has clearly been lovingly cared for. I couldn't believe how narrow the tires are. As we approached the village, the driver stuck her arm out of the window to indicate the direction she was turning. What a joy to drive out of sheer pleasure rather than the necessity to get from one place to another, usually in a hurry.
Tonight I am musing on whether driving something more sedate that requires TLC and nursing along might encourage slowing down and paying more attention to detail. Taking pleasure in the journey as well as the destination. Encountering God along the way.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Storm damage

During the summer, this beach was simply warm, luxurious sand, often too warm to walk barefoot on. Today, it is covered in seaweed dredged from the depths of the sea bed. Storms have rendered it a very different landscape. Still beautiful and alluring but vastly different from its summer persona. The beach continues to be moulded and changed by external factors yet maintains its intrigue and strength of character. We will never know the half of all it has endured and withstood.
Like so many lives around us, ravaged by storms, the depths of which we will never fully know, yet maintaining an integrity and a strength that promises survival. May we always tread respectfully in awe of the changes wrought by the storms affecting those we encounter in our daily lives.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Rippling light

Although we saw many cool things on holiday this year on a trip to Virginia and the Bahamas, my favourite discovery was lightning bugs - tiny creatures that flash phosphorescently in the dark. They were magical pinpricks of light that really lit up the atmosphere. It's amazing the difference such tiny bugs can make to the night air.
I've been thinking about those bugs a lot this week as I've spent time with lots of grieving young people who have lost a good friend. I'm impressed at the way they are sharing their grief lovingly and sensitively, bringing hope and comfort to their communities. They have devised their own very moving rituals for remembering and saying goodbye. They have also, in their hurt, been able to celebrate many good times and achievements. Like the friend they mourn, these young folk are making a huge difference to their communities, lighting up the darkness with their own brand of shining light. That light cannot help but penetrate the awful darkness into which they have been plunged.
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

Monday, 5 September 2011

Enthusiasm in evangelism

I recently bought some new skin care products. I knew what it was I wanted and where I wanted to buy it  - with a voucher I had been gifted. But I was impressed with the sales person who assisted me. Even though it was obvious that I was already a "convert", convinced about the product I sought, she went out of her way to explain its many benefits. And she did so with a refreshing joy and passion. I left reassured about my choice and renewed in my love of the product.
If only we who claim to love Christ could be as convincing and passionate about our faith.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Community in communion

Although I have only been here just over 3 years, I was very conscious, as we celebrated communion together this morning, of the sense of loving and being loved - not just God - but the community I've been called to serve.
As I looked around I could see familiar faces, folk whom I have grown to love and who have allowed me to be a part of their work and worship and living.
I could also see folk who challenge me to be even more loving, for that's what it takes.
And, as I noticed, too, those missing from our company, those who have gone on the be part of that great communion of saints, I was filled with compassion but also an awesome awareness of their presence sharing the sacrament that unites us in love - love that goes beyond death.
I am thankful to be part of a real community. The reality means that it is not always easy, it is not without conflict and challenge - for that is part of being in community - but reality also involves keeping on loving - in the easy times and in the difficult.
Today, there was real community in communion.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Communion for a community on the move

God calls us forward
on a journey
a journey whose destination is unknown
a journey that carries no earthly promise of reward
God calls us
whatever stage of life we are at
whatever state of faith we have
Here is food to sustain us on the journey
so, come to this banquet
in response to God’s call
And let us feast
at the table of God where ALL are welcome.

Prayer of thanksgiving and consecration
Take off your shoes, you are on holy ground
put on your sandals, it’s time to move
God, at different times, in different places,
what you require of us changes
but, wherever we are, whatever awaits us,
you provide us with what we need.
You equip us to respond
and sustain us as we journey,
Today we hear your call to us
to be a community on the move
to shake off our comfort and complacency
to follow you.
To follow you into the unknown
and to embark on a journey
that offers no assurances
and no security
but calls us to trust in you
to lead us forward.
As we gather here in community
sharing bread and wine
in memory of Christ
who left all that he knew
to become one of us
may we be inspired to follow his example.
You led the Israelites on a journey of a lifetime.
May we be excited about the journey you’re taking us on.
And may we know
that the food you supply
Christ’s body broken for us
Christ’s blood poured out for us
is sufficient to sustain us wherever you lead us.
May your spirit be present in this communion
and in our hearts as we share together.

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