Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Spreading hope

Hogmanay is filled with reflection
with nostalgic delights and longings
with friends old and new
giving thanks
noticing growth
and acknowledging loss
all with one common theme
- hope for the future.
Causing me to ponder
the privileged life I inhabit
where all of my friends
and contacts
near and far
can enter a new year
buoyed up with optimism
however fragile
and with the confidence
that the future
is, in some measure,
in our hands
and within our sphere
of influence.
In that realisation
comes awareness
that this is not
the experience
of so many
in our world
in our nation
and in our neighbourhood.
May our hope
and our power
and our privilege
bring responsibility
to broker change
to share the love
and to create opportunity
for all those
who enter a new year
with dread
or with the expectation
that nothing good
can come their way.
Blessings shared
are blessings multiplied.
May we light a beacon of hope
for others along the way.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, 28 December 2013

The slaughter of the innocents

Matthew 2:16-18
The Massacre of the Infants
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

Survivor's Guilt
Warned in a dream
to escape the wrath of a king
who saw his evil tyranny endangered
his fragile tenure of power threatened
Gods son was bundled up
and smuggled to safety.
But as he grew
surely he and his family
must have encountered
other families
whose homes held a space
that could never be filled
whose hearts nursed a wound
that could never be healed.
Mothers glancing enviously
perhaps even resentfully
at a family complete,
not torn asunder
as was theirs.
Was that another sorrow
for the mother of God to bear?
The knowledge that the child she carried
and delivered into a hostile world
was the cause of searing loss
for others.
And did he learn, as a child,
that his infant body
should have been dashed on a rock?
And when he, too,
child of his mother's womb
endured the agony of a cross
did those families feel avenged?
Or did they know
that justice can never reign
while humans seek power
and while love is bartered
and sold for a pittance?
That the incomprehensible
wrongs of this world
can only be healed
by a divine love
beyond our imagining
Snatched from a manger
and hung on a cross.

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Thursday, 26 December 2013

Out of chaos?

Children’s voices plaguing adults
to come and see
before it is even light.
Bleary eyes and befuddled heads
trying to keep track of gifts.
Piles of crumpled wrapping paper
ready for recycling.
Mere hints of the chaos into which
God birthed new hope for the world.
We praise you, O God,
that into a dark world
you birthed glorious light.
We praise you
that you did not delay
until conditions were favourable.
But chose to enter a messy world
not to bring order
but rather to bring love.
We praise you
that still we find you
in all our mess and chaos,
bringing the promise of light and hope,
fulfilled in the birth of a child.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas Day Worship

We’ve prepared food, unwrapped presents,
pulled some crackers, checked out the TV schedule.
Our day is planned,
busy or quiet,
and now we come to worship, to slot in the Jesus bit.
Then we can get back to our fire sides
and get on with our celebrations.
So accept this our worship, O God,
and make us feel good that we’re here—
for you know what a busy time this is.
Confront us, if you must,
with the reality of our privilege
and of our riches,
but let us put off until at least tomorrow
our desire to share what we have
with the hungry and the homeless
and the grieving and the lonely.
Because today,
we want it to be simply about you.


We simply can’t avoid it, can we?
Not even for a day.
Still on Christmas Day we find you
in the hungry and the homeless
and the grieving and the lonely.
Still giving yourself
and calling us to be giving too.
Make us midwives today,
birthing your love in the world.

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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A prayer for Watchnight

Tonight, we will not find you, God,
in high and lofty places,
not even in the heavenly choir of angels,
but instead in the straw of a manger,
kept warm by the breath of cattle,
lulled to sleep by the bleating of lambs.
We will not find you
in the tinsel and stars adorning our trees,
but in the torn and discarded wrappings
that litter our streets,
sleeping in doorways,
covered over by cardboard.
For you came not for the
high and the mighty,
but for the poor and the lowly.
May we stoop down
and look you in the eye,
take your hand and raise you up
and walk beside you through our world,
attuned to what you see
and how you love,
alert to serve you
in those we meet along the way.
Vulnerable God,
be born in our hearts this Christmas,
so that we too can reach out
with vulnerability
to serve our world with love.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Call to worship

With mobile phone in hand
and contacts list at the ready
to share the good news
at the moment it happens—
come and be part
of the greatest Social Networking Revolution:
updating the Facebook status,
priming the Twitter Feed,
the text already written: “It’s a boy!”
It’s an old, old story
freshly edited for today’s world,
and you are part of the story tonight.
Upload your photos of your friends gathered here,
angels and shepherds for now.
Then break into song—
a flash mob right here—
with a message to share with the world:
“Peace on earth!
Goodwill to all.
Tidings of joy for today.
A candle of hope
to light up the dark
as we wait for a new Christmas Day.”

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 23 December 2013

Birthing God's son

For Mary the mother of God—
no shared moments
with other mums-to-be;
no antenatal classes,
no relaxation or breathing exercises,
no gas and air or epidural,
just the cold reality
of pushing a fragile life
into a hostile world
the way women have done through all the generations.
And what of Joseph?
Was he banished as men folk often are?
Or were his the only
helping hands available?
The only hands to catch the Son of God
as he was evacuated
from the safety of the womb
into a world unprepared for his coming?
And would it be any different today?
Or would God’s son still be born
round the back and out of the way,
visible only to those
who pause and ponder
and kneel down and worship?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Angels we have heard on high

That rustle in the air?
That's the flapping of angel's wings.
They are gathering
from North and South
and East and West.
They are gathering
to do what angels do-
Carry messages
This message is one
that will change the world
A message that will delight and scare
encourage and threaten
"Unto us a child is born
who will bring
Peace on earth
Goodwill to all"
Today, as in the past,
there are those
who long for that message
to be fulfilled.
There are those
who fear the message
because it brings change.
And there are those
who in their indifference
will not even hear the angel voices.
The angels gather nonetheless
bringing their message
of hope for the world.
How will you hear it today?

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Sunday, 22 December 2013

Joseph's song

Mary sings her Magnificat
But where is Joseph's song?
Joseph - portrayed as the quiet bystander
in so many Christmas illustrations
But to do as he did
took courage that wasn't quiet
but more like a roaring lion
protecting its cubs.
To protect Mary
from a harsh religious community
that would have watched her stoned
To protect mother and child
from a threatened regime
that would have them both slaughtered
demanded all the strength and wisdom
and obedience and faithfulness
that a man could possibly give.
A man, used to working with wood
carving out creations
functional and beautiful.
Gathering his tools
and crafting and shaping
with skill and patience
daring to make that first chisel
into raw material
and ploughing on
sure and determined
Such a man was needed by God
to provide a home and a hearth
for the Christ child.
Not a quiet bystander
But a man with a love and a passion
that would not be thwarted
Prepared to marry the mother of God
and father the Son of God.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Longest Night

The light shines in the darkness
In the darkness
when masks slip
and grief is allowed to surface
when the chill of loss
burrows its way
into fragile
and vulnerable souls
exposed and bereft
Light whispers:
Love lasts forever.

In the darkness
when memories taunt
instead of comfort
when regrets triumph
over achievements
Light whispers:
Love lasts forever

In the darkness
when confidence wanes
and hope takes flight
and faith is questioned
Light whispers:
Love lasts forever

The light of love
will carry us through
the longest night.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 20 December 2013

Getting closer

Trudging along
with wearied step
The weight of the world
balanced on her slender shoulders
Noticing those
she passes
along the way
Other weary travellers
with washed out faces.
Making eye contact
sharing a smile
Small but transforming gifts
that change a day
in an instant
Costing little
but giving much
That gift lies
within us all
is ours to freely give
to make another's day.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Babies grow up

We all know that parenthood
is about preparation
Preparing our charges
to stand on their own one day
Nurturing and encouraging
Coaching and cajoling
Directing but also leaving space
for choice or cussedness
for growth and distinction
Standing back
but all the while ready
to step in and pick up the pieces
- or not
if that's for the best
for learning comes in many guises
Discernment is tricky
but there is always a plan B
And no amount of preparation
can ever make us ready
to release our charges
into the care of others.
Mary, the mother of Jesus
had all this - and more - to contend with
All those human dimensions
But also the divine complication!
And no amount of warning
could ever guard her heart
to the life upon which
her adult son embarked.
As she gazed with wonder
at her newborn
did she dread the life
she sensed would be his
or did she know
that her son
had a huge part to play
in helping God
take on flesh
And convince the world
that love is born
And Mary, the one chosen to prepare
the Son of God
to bring light, love,hope and peace
into the world
thought every moment worthwhile.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Plumbing the depths

Black and white
is never quite as it seems
Always there are shades
blurred lines
hidden depths
Stories behind stories
Lives behind headlines
And the glare of light
picks out only a taste
of all that is hidden
beneath the surface
The dangers that lurk
The life that teems
Life rushes past
without pause
Few stop to look
beyond what is visible
to scrape away
the carefully constructed facade
Perhaps fearing what might be discovered
Perhaps already having concluded
that it is of little worth
And so jewels remain
buried deep
And we are the poorer
who fail to see
the riches
that are also
a part of
God's marvellous creation.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 17 December 2013


The angels disappear in little groups
to visit the toilets
and compare outfits
just for a change of scene.
The wise men exchanged gifts
with each other
deciding the baby wouldn't need them.
The shepherds, tired of hanging around,
find other uses for their crooks.
And the donkey-
You don't want to know
what the donkey got up to!
Joseph wandered off some time ago
while Mary sits serenely, rocking the crib.
And the twinkling stars are all twinkled out.
Just another Nativity rehearsal!

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Monday, 16 December 2013

In the bleak mid winter

In the bleak midwinter
Syria's children flee
No warmth
No food
No shelter
No aid while under siege
And on and on wars rage
amidst the winter chill
While politicians posture
the children suffer still
King Herod slaughtered innocents
to rid his world of threat
Once more the children
pay the price
their fragile lives beset
with fear and struggle
none should know
God's kingdom not come yet.
And still the Christ Child enters
once more a refugee
crouched down among the children
in the cold and misery
and cries to God in heaven
what difference did it make
to take on flesh
and live on earth
to do this for love's sake.
But with the birth of God's own son
came hope and peace and love
and light to shine in darkness
that has to be enough.
That baby left the manger
and grew in every way
demanding that we follow
and share the love today.
Wherever children suffer
God's right there at the heart
calling all of us
to step up and play our part.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Advent longings


We built a house of dreams
and tiled its roof
with prayers and wishes
dreams and longings
hopes of our hearts
for the world.
Those hopes and dreams
and prayers and longings
join the petitions
of God's people
echoing through
the long corridors of history.
Our House of Dreams
is being transformed
into a stable.
Our prayers are overlaid
with the prayers of God's people
through the ages.
It seems an impossible burden to carry.
It seems as though darkness reigns
in the world today
as it did then.

But then a star appears
shining faintly at first
becoming stronger
dispelling darkness in its path
bringing light into the world
rekindling hope
promising peace
proclaiming that this is the place
where Love will be born.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Right at home

Wouldn't Jesus feel right at home
in our world today?
Being born into a world of darkness
Where people are made homeless
because of war
and oppression
and benefits cuts
Where people are hungry
and Food Banks multiply
Where soldiers roam city streets
Where families become refugees
fleeing violence
and corruption
and injustice
Where people long
for something different
for a miracle
that will bring light
into all the darkness
and hope
into despair
and peace
where there is none
and love
that will overcome.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 13 December 2013

Along the way...

Half way through Advent,
how much more prepared are we
to welcome the Christ child?
Is there any room
for love to be born?
Can God take on flesh
in our lives?
Or is it better to remain
a theory
kept at a safe distance
for fear of
disrupting our ordered lives?
To be sure
there is danger in the manger
best kept there
out of harms way.
It takes more than a season
to prepare
for such upheaval.
If Gods people were not ready
after centuries of prophets
what makes us think
that we can possibly
be prepared?

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Thursday, 12 December 2013


Hotfooting it from a hospital bedside
to a coach load of excited school children
on their way to the pantomime
(Oh no I wasn't - Oh yes I was!)
Singing carols sedately with seniors
then ramping up the tempo
for a Christmas jingle rock
Writing funeral services
and Nativity plays
Reflecting on the donkey and the angel
Being caught up in the mystery
and the romance
the sanitised version of the Incarnation
and the darker reality that needs a PG certification
Planning menus
and food bank donations
Bearing the grief
and spreading the joy
All in a days work
The work of Advent

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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Growing pains

For all the distress and upheaval
For all the shunning
and disgrace she incurred
When Mary pushed her son
from her womb
into the waiting arms of the world
in all its darkness
and neediness
was her heart heavy
and her throat tight
and her eyes full of unshed tears?
Especially with her sense of premonition
confirmed by wise men and women
that this boy child
was destined
for a traumatic life?
Did she smile sweetly
and let others share her joy at his birth
while her heart was breaking into pieces?
Did she know that she would travel
from the pain of stigma
through the agony of labour-
(make no mistake
God did not have that covered!)
Did she endure those pains
only to be confronted
with the trauma of a son
who left home early
to be about the business of God,
a son who did not return weekly
with his laundry
or looking for a good feed
but who took to the road
and kept on going,
because Gods business was
a business that involved
itinerant living
hanging out with those labelled losers
and upsetting the institutions of the day
and, ultimately,
involved dying on a cross.
So much more than the normal pain
that assails those who mother a son.
Would she have changed a single thing?
Or is pain and loss simply a part of mothering?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Fit for a king?

God if you chose today to send your son
where would he be born?
Would it be in the splendour of the city chambers?
The sanitised crèche set up in the square?
The boutique hotel on the corner?
Or the board room in the penthouse suite?
Where would he be born?
Would it be round the back of Gregg's the bakers
just by the refuse containers?
Or on the steps of the railway station
next to the free newspaper stand?
Where would he be born?
And who would see him first?
To whom would you proclaim the good news?
And by what means?
Would the Big Issue sellers
announce it to weary commuters?
Or would the news peal out across the city
from steeple to steeple?
Perhaps the night time revellers in the city
would hear the news whispered
as they wind their way home
and make the detour to worship?
But more than likely, today your people
would be too harassed
and insufficiently interested
to register your birth
and would simply
carry on regardless.

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Monday, 9 December 2013

A time for loss...

"Loss seems so much worse at this time of year.."
Folk often comment in that vein
But I wonder...?
In this advent season
when we long for the light
that comes gently into the world
the light that has never been put out
Isn't this a time when loss
can be accompanied
by hope and peace
and yes - even joy?
The quiet way God
entered the world in love
breathes a warmth
that wraps its way around
our hurts and longings
and reminds us
that still we can know
God with us
in all the darkness
of our world today.

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Sunday, 8 December 2013

The peaceable kingdom

Isaiah 11:6,9
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them...
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

This kind of kingdom just seems like an impossible dream in today's world. But this is the season of miracles. Of believing in the impossible.
If we can promote the notion of Santa Claus, why can't we believe in the notion of God's peacable kingdom?
Many have found their own way to make Advent hope and dreams come to fruition - there are encouraging stories of folk using the season to perform miracles of love for one another, to make dreams come true. Peace will come in the same way, when we all bring moments of peace into homes, neighbourhoods and communities.
One of my favourite seasonal films is Polar Express - and these lyrics from its soundtrack:

Children, sleeping.
Snow is softly falling.
Dreams are calling,
Like bells in the distance.
We were dreamers,
Not so long ago.
But one by one, we
All had to grow up.

When it seems the magic slipped away...
We find it all again on Christmas Day.

Believe in what your heart is saying,
Hear the melody that's playing.
There's no time to waste,
There so much to celebrate.
Believe in what you feel inside,
Give your dreams the wings to fly.
You have everything you need, if you just believe.

Trains move quickly
To their journey's end.
Are where we begin again.
Ships go sailing,
Far across the sea.
Trusting starlight,
To get where they need to be.

When it seems that we have lost our way...
We find ourselves again on Christmas Day.

Believe in what your heart is saying,
Hear the melody that's playing
There's no time to waste,
There so much to celebrate.
Believe in what you feel inside,
And give your dreams the wings to fly.
You have everything you need, if you just Believe.

If you just believe.
If you just believe.
If you just believe...just believe...just believe.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Telling the story

Donkeys, camels, shepherds,sheep
Wise men, inn keepers, angels, stars
All the pieces we've gathered together
to tell the story
It's a story that needs
little embellishment
Amazing as it is
But, somehow, we feel the need
to disguise the starkness,
to dress up the poverty
For the reality
is too much to handle
To see the Christ child born
among the poor
and the oppressed
hidden in the hovels
of today
demands that we confront the reality
that in 2000 years
little has changed.
Today's world needs
God with us
more than ever
And so we continue
however we can
to tell the story
of God born
among us today.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 6 December 2013


How quickly we rewrite the stories
How completely we "clean up" the memories
Is it a case of not speaking ill of the dead?
Or is it that good deeds and influence
cancel out other misguided actions?
Perhaps it's even forgiveness prompting forgetfulness
Whatever underlies our cleaning up of memories
or our revision of history
we have an amazing ability
to focus on the feel-good
and gloss over
all that is less comfortable.
How often history is rewritten
during Advent
when we glamourise the starkness
of a child born into a dark
and menacing world
When we ignore how difficult
the pressures of the season
become for many estranged families
and isolated people
When we turn a blind eye
to the unreasonable demands
that ensuring Christmas is Merry
places on those grieving
or journeying through unfamiliar
and frightening landscapes.
Whether it be the story of a world leader
or the story of the Incarnation
neither need cleaning up
For both bear testament to Redemption -
The ability of God
to confront the murkiest reality
with the power of love
bringing goodness out of evil
Lighting up the dark
with incredible hope.
Bringing peace against all the odds.
Advent is a time for revision.

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Thursday, 5 December 2013

Messy advent

Creativity is not wrought
in well ordered surroundings
or in regimented tidiness
but in chaos
and upset
and mess.
God does not wait
until we have tidied the study
or cleaned up the house
ready for the decorations.
God comes
into the midst
of our upset
and disarray.
And if we dare to imagine
that we can achieve the right conditions
and stop and wait expectantly
Still God will surprise us.
An unmarried mother
A little known town
An out of the way stable
Don't those things teach us anything?
God likes surprises!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Black and white and grey

The landscape of loss looms starkly
draining colour from everything around
Leaching the very soil
Mirrored in sea and sky
It brings a weariness
that is hard to shake off
but burrows in
like a parasite
sapping energy
feeding on melancholy
choking life
out of the brief intervals
of forgetfulness
or distraction
It gathers like a mist
weaving its tendrils
in and around
a city street
Building, building
until obscurity reigns
For a time
For a long time
vision is restricted
to a very narrow horizon
But, eventually, the view is expanded
and, as other shapes hove into view
the landscape begins to take on colour
slowly, gradually,
slightly out of focus.
And a creeping warmth
dispels the chill of loss
like the sun shining softly on the ocean.
The penetration is not complete
but it does make a difference
on the surface
loosening the grip
and softening the blow
until pain recedes
enough to imagine
seeing in colour again.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The journey

Looking back
into the distance
glimpsing in the wake
the detritus of the ocean.
Imagining in the turmoil
the depths only hinted at
in the churning froth.
Every journey
is filled with discovery -
treasure yet to be uncovered.
lying in wait
for the one who takes the time
to dredge beneath the surface.
to sift the visible
and unearth what is hidden.
The wise leave early
allowing time
to savour the journey
arriving better prepared
at their destination.
But even those of us
who are by nature
last minute voyeurs
are still afforded brief insights
that linger long after
journeys end.

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Monday, 2 December 2013


In quiet, subdued anticipation
God is
In frenzied impatience
God is
In joyful, building excitement
God is
And in sinking dragging worry
God is
The agony of waiting
- be it joyful or dreadful
Demands the presence
of the God of infinite wisdom and patience
Who waits beside us
and accompanies us through
every moment
matching our steps
carrying us through
with joyful swoop
or careful compassion.
In every waiting
God is.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Finding light

The deeper the darkness
the brighter the light shines.
For love refuses
to be extinguished
by despair.
Resilience and hope
cannot be quenched
while the light of love
burns steadily,
fuelled by courage
and by compassion.
Look for the light
and there you will find love.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Weegie Theology

I was enjoying a coffee with friends in George Square in Glasgow yesterday. Seeing that we were trying to avoid the pigeons, a friendly Glaswegian approached and proceeded to give us his theological treatise on feeding the birds.
He began to tell us of St Francis and why he is often depicted surrounded by birds and then went on to speak of Jesus and the approaching Nativity celebrations, concluding that there is no better time to make room for and care for the birds.
Then, having said his piece and, satisfied that he had furthered our education, he moved on and left us to our lunch.
Only in Glasgow!
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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Wise men wondering...

On the way...

By now the wise men are asking:
Are we nearly there yet?
A long, arduous journey.
A mystery tour
with no end in sight
and no promise of fulfilment
The shine has gone
and the star is proving an elusive guide
Are they regretting that rashness
to pack up and set off
on the adventure of a lifetime?
Is the reality falling short
of their expectations?
Are they already longing
to settle down
to enjoy home cooking
to slip back into that routine
from which their restlessness took them
on this crazy departure from reality?
And what of those gifts
nestled safely at the bottom of their packs?
Do they now seem rash and foolish?
Based on a whim?
Tired, weary, doubting,
do they question their wisdom?
Or is their resolve as strong as ever,
their purpose unwavering?
Do they still sense that
history in the making
and their role in it?

(Liz Crumlish November 2013)

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Thursday, 21 November 2013

Morning commute

Heads lolling in sleep
Or huddled over an amusing text message
Or buried in a kindle
Eyes closed listening to music
- not all of it contained by headphones
As another train speeds past
there is a brief glimpse
into another world
of morning commuters.
For how many will this be
the only respite of the day
Eagerly snatched peace
from a day that promises
to be frenetic
How many are anxious
to already be at their destination
To see a task accomplished
To meet a loved one
To reach a hospital
To begin something new
A whole world of life
and love and emotions
speeding past
And whatever the destination
whatever awaits these particular commuters
Life is lived
and love is won and lost
in the journey
a part of life itself

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Sunday, 17 November 2013

House of dreams

In response to Isaiah's vision of God's world - where there is justice and peace, where folk enjoy the fruits of their labours, living long and prosperous lives( not just the privileged few), we built a house of dreams this morning and tiled the roof with our prayers for others.
It was fun. The harder part is fulfilling those dreams by becoming the instruments by which Gods Kingdom becomes reality.
The house of dreams and these prayers will accompany us into Advent and the Christmas season as we prepare to be transformed by the love of God taking on flesh.

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Monday, 11 November 2013

The humble poppy?

In this season of Remembrance, we are again in the midst of the "poppy wars". Politically correct folk of every hue are questioning the mass wearing of the poppy as a symbol of Remembrance for the pity of war.
Was Earl Haig, whose wife suggested setting up a poppy factory in England after WW1 to provide employment and raise funds for ex service personnel, a war hero or a butcher?
Is the poem written by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John MacCrae and oft repeated in Acts of Remembrance glorifying war and calling for more sacrifice?("Take up our quarrel with the foe...)
Should we wear red or white poppies or both?
This year, I feel a bit like the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, crying " It means whatever I want it to mean"
I wear a poppy as a symbol that, though I believe war can never be justified, still I respect those who served their country and paid with their lives, as well as those who still bear the scars of war, service men and women as well as the countless civilians who simply got in the way of war.
I will continue to wear a poppy to show that respect and to symbolise my commitment to working toward peace, to bringing about the day when talking will happen before fighting, when those who have served are properly cared for and when joining our armed forces will not seem an attractive alternative to long term unemployment for our nation's young people.

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Sunday, 10 November 2013

News that changed the world

Can you recall hearing Neville Chamberlain proclaiming on the radio: Britain is now at war?
Do you remember where you were when JFK was assassinated?
What about the summer that Elvis died?
Or the invasion of the Falklands?
Or waking up one morning to learn that the UK was involved in the Gulf war?
Where were you when the news came of a shooting in a primary school in Dunblane?
Or the death of Diana?
How did you hear about 9/11?
And the invasion of Iraq?
Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Thailand or the earthquake in Japan?
All news that changed the world.
News that brought people together to care and to help each other.
News that saw folk respond with love.
To make the worst that had already happened tolerable in the sharing of anguish and bitterness and grief and worry.
And what about our worlds?
The look on the doctors face before she said the words you dreaded but just knew were coming?
Or the sight of the police officer coming up the path?
Or the look on a loved ones face that said it all?
News changes the world and shapes community.
We cannot shield ourselves or those we love from the pain of living.
But the force of love offers strength that makes a difference.
We have the power, not to change the news but to change the world with the power of love.
Love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love that never ends.
To turn news that changed the world into love that changed the world.
So be it.

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Tuesday, 5 November 2013


Drinking cinnamon flavoured coffee and eating cinnamon doughnuts as I am right now, immediately transports me to America (USA) and brings to mind the wonderful people I have met there. Those I have worked with, those who have ministered to me, those with whom I have shared joys and sorrows and adventures. And I am grateful for all the sharing. Some of those friends I connect with regularly, virtually and face to face, others I see or hear from infrequently, while still others I probably won't have the privilege of meeting again in this life. But all have been a part of my journey and, for that, I give thanks.
I wonder what tastes or smells evoke, for them, memories of Scotland?

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Friday, 1 November 2013

For all the saints...

Tendrils stretching through the years
Continuing to shape and influence the present
Reaching in with the sustenance of love
Reaching out with the buoyancy of hope
For all those who have shaped us into who we are today
Those who have been a good influence
And encouraged us to grow
And those who left a negative impact
but yet taught us how to be resilient and forgiving
For the discovery that no learning, however painful
is ever wasted
And for all who surround us today
Continuing to exert their influence
for good or ill
Encouraging us to learn toughness or tenderness
Still moulding, still shaping
the individuals that we are.
All saints together.
Some who's halos have become a tad tarnished
But still with the potential to gleam again
This day for all the saints
we pause, reflect, give thanks
we celebrate the saints of the past,
the saints of the present
and take our place in that vast continuum
that cloud visible and invisible
whose subscription never runs out
whose membership never expires
whose capacity stretches to infinity.
Thanks be to God.

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Friday, 25 October 2013

Autumn vortex

I was about to delete this picture from my camera when I realised how apt it is as a description of life right now. With autumn well established in this part of the world, church life and ministry moves on at a pace. Often it feels out of control. Sometimes it's like a bumpy ride, hanging on for dear life to the coat tails of the Spirit as she sweeps through, rattling the windows and shaking up the complacent. Occasionally, there's a brief settling and the comfort of scrunching through a carpet of dried leaves. But, always, it's a blurry, unpredictable swirling of energy and emotion that beckons and entices and prompts a grateful response of abandonment knowing, in the midst of the chaos, the steadying breath of God.

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Sunday, 6 October 2013

Convenience Food?

Come ye thankful people come
Raise the song of harvest home
All is safely gathered in ere the winter storms begin

Preparing the church for Harvest Festival this weekend, someone remarked: " Well...at least when we sing our harvest hymn this year, it will be true. All is safely gathered in this year."
The fields around here are now empty, the great hay bales have been taken away for storage. Some of the fields have even been ploughed for winter planting.
But that comment made me think about how often we "manipulate" times and seasons to fit in with our worship - or how, when we can't manipulate timings (Christmas and Easter, for example) we feel inconvenienced.

Harvest Festival, in particular, is an acknowledgement that God has it covered:
Genesis 8:22
As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.’

As we give thanks for the gift of Harvest today, we give thanks, too, for a God who will not be manipulated, who will not conform to our expectations or fit into our tidy, ordered lives, even our liturgical lives! We give thanks for a God who calls us out on our organisational skills and reminds us:
"If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you." Luke 17:6
Giving thanks for the Harvest today, God calls us far beyond our sanctuaries, physical and metaphorical, to engage with messier lives until all God's children know the blessing of God's Harvest that does not fit in to our planning schedules but brings abundance for all God's people.

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Saturday, 28 September 2013


A reflection on the gospel: Luke 16:19-31

Only God can judge.
In our heads we know this to be true,
but most of us will have a go nonetheless.
So, in our harshness
are we prepared to ask ourselves:
Have we done all we could?
Did we set out the stall properly?
Did we challenge or cajole?
Did we love and love and love again?
When our neighbour falls
is our first question:
What more could I have done?
Or are we too busy condemning to admit culpability?
Can we share the riches of our table
with those who are used to the dregs
and keep the channels of grace
open to all
in the knowledge that God comes
in the strangest of garbs
and dines with the sinner
and with the saint,
inviting both to find a home
in the incredible welcoming arms of God?

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Saturday, 21 September 2013

Skilful sharing

A reflection on the Parable of the dishonest manager (Luke 16:1-13)

The end justifies the means?
Well... not quite.
But we do not have to hang back, we do not have to reject what works,
we can redeem sharp practice
for the sake of the kingdom.
God requires our transferable skills and our cheek:
the things we use in our everyday to see us through.
It is not about rolling over but about stepping up
to clinch a deal for God.
And when folk see
that we are not so heavenly minded to be of earthly use,
when they understand
that we speak a common language then can we all
gather around the one table.

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Thursday, 19 September 2013

I know you're busy...

A long, long, time ago, when I was training for ministry, an older minister advised us that we should never let folk know how busy we are. His concern was that if folk perceived us as being very busy, they wouldn't want to bother us with important pastoral issues and our relationship with our communities would be diminished. He maintained that we should be worried if folk approached us, saying:"I know you're busy, but..." That seemed like sound advice and I have tried always to play down the volume and scale of my work. But still, folk approach me saying"I know you're busy..."
And, all this time later, I have come to be suspicious of that advice. Firstly, because it never seems to stop folk lobbing more work my way, no matter how busy or otherwise they perceive me to be. Secondly, because it is more often than not, simply a turn of phrase that folk use as a means of respectful approach. And, thirdly, because it just is. I am busy. Bigger workloads are being placed on fewer people. That's the way it is. Me pretending that it is otherwise serves no good purpose. And I believe that folk often discern that there can be a competence in busyness (though not always). Of course, there is always the danger of becoming too busy. But the fact that others see that we are busy does not diminish our ability to offer effective pastoral support when invited to do so. Nor, in my experience, does it dissuade them form requesting the support that they desire.
So I am going to stop feeling bad when folk approach me, saying:"I know you're busy, but..." Their perception does not make me a bad pastor!

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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Arise and dance

As the sun creeps over the hill
the mist dances
unfurling its tendrils
lazily coming to life
Yawning and stretching
then rising up
to magically disappear
making way for the new day
to begin
creating space
for energy to awaken
and join in the dance.
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Sunday, 15 September 2013

Make a joyful noise

What a happy sanctuary this morning as we celebrated Jacob's baptism. It was filled with the buzz of children, young and old, at play. Jacob and his older brother, Jackson, were particularly interested in the water in the font. Grace was demonstrated in the playful, splashing water becoming a sacramental element. The love of God made real as promises were made and journeys honoured.
Even the preaching of the word was accompanied by a happy,gurgling, baby who brought a smile to this preacher's face. Reflections on the gospel, from Luke 15, challenged us to retrace our steps to find those elements of our faith that had been mislaid somewhere along the way.
Hopefully, many lost things were found this morning in worship, not least a warm welcome into the family of God, encouragement to continue the journey and the invitation to all to make a joyful noise to the Lord!
For of such is the kingdom of God...

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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Chain of events

12 years ago, I'd just left the photocopy room at the hospital where I was serving as whole time chaplain. I was clutching in my hand copies of the order of service for a Presbytery Communion Celebration that I was conducting that evening as Moderator of the Presbytery. A white faced staff member stopped me in the corridor and asked: "Have you seen the news?"
For the next few hours, folk wandered from office to office, checking out the latest updates, not saying much, not doing much except seeking out companionship, unable to grasp the enormity of the events we witnessed in New York.
The Hospital Chapel was just a few doors down and people trickled in and out as the afternoon wore on looking for space to reflect and connect. It was the next day before we got some written prayers organised to help folk in their reflections.
The service so carefully planned for that evening went out of my head until the organist called and asked what changes I'd like to make to the choice of hymns in the light of the day's news. In particular, he was concerned about the first item of praise: Singing we gladly worship the Lord together. It seemed altogether too bright to sing in the light of carnage and death. I was about to agree. But then I looked at the words again:
Singing we gladly worship the Lord together
Singing we gladly worship the Lord
Those who are travelling the road of life
Sow seeds of peace and love

Come, bringing hope into a world of fear,
a world which is burdened down with dread,
a world which is yearning for a greater love
but needs to be shown the true way.

Come bringing joyfully in both your hands
some kindling to light the path to peace,
some hope that there is a more human world
where justice and truth will be born.

Whenever hatefulness and violence
are banished for ever from our hearts,
then will the world believe the day is near
when sadness and pain shall find their rest

Those words have been in my heart more than ever recently as we light candles and take time to reflect on the effects of chemical warfare in Syria. And, as once again, our collective breaths are held while we await the outcome of retaliation by nations that know first hand the devastating ripple effects of violent resolve.
Incidentally, the second song we sang that night was Bernadette Farrell'sChrist be our light
Longing for light, we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
light for the world to see.

Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

Longing for peace, our world is troubled.
Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has pow’r to save us.
Make us your living voice.

Longing for food, many are hungry.
Longing for water, many still thirst.
Make us your bread, broken for others,
shared until all are fed.

Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stone.

Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.

Two hymns, chosen before horrific events unfolded, with words that, to our shame, continue to be the words that we need to pray today. When will we deign to be involved alongside God in the work of answering our prayers for peace?

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Saturday, 31 August 2013

Space saving communion

A communion liturgy based on the gospel: Luke 14:1,7-14
where Jesus rearranges the table.
Come, honoured guest
Jesus invites you to this table
For each and all
Jesus saves a space
Meet Christ here
And prepare to be challenged, rebuked or cajoled
Prepare to be comforted, embraced and held high
The Christ who makes room for you
Knows your story
And makes room for you in love
( communion hymn For everyone born)
We gather around this table today
as Jesus did with his disciples in the Upper room
the night before he died.
Sharing fellowship with them,
knowing their stories,
He took bread, broke it and passed it among them saying:
This is my body broken for you
Do this to remember me.
He took the cup and shared it with them, saying:
A new relationship with God is possible because of my death
Drink this all of you to remember me.
And so we take bread and a cup today to remember him and to celebrate the new relationship that we have with God and with one another.
We share this sacrament in a place filled with stories, some shared, some held tight within.
Stories of our lives and of those who have shared in this space in years gone by.
This sacrament unites us all, past, present and future, in the one who holds all our stories and invites us all to places of honour at the table.
So let us give thanks for the feast.
Let us pray
God we thank you for inviting us to your table today
making space for each of us
treating us as honoured guests.
We thank you that you hold each of our stories gently
beaming at our joys
frowning at our concerns
full of compassion
and overflowing with love.
May we know your comfort stealing into the hurts that we carry
May we know your healing, soothing those pains that catch us unawares
And may we know your smile, lingering to light up all our dark corners.
Held so gently by you may we hold gently all whom you welcome to your table today.
God the way you make room for all is so at odds with the world in which we live.
Where we make distinctions-
Worthy or unworthy
Mighty or lowly
Valued or worthless
Prominent or invisible.
Forgive us for the distinctions we make and for the restrictions we place on your love and on your hospitality.
Help us to re- set the table, time and again until there truly is space for all.
We pray for our world in turmoil.
For Syria.
For all your children there whose sufferings become platforms from which Politicians can posture.
God of peace, when will we ever learn that violence will not bring resolution but only more suffering and death?
We pray too for all those places that have dropped out of the media spotlight because the circus has moved on.
For Egypt, for Iran and Iraq, for Zimbabwe and Afghanistan, for Haiti and Japan - and countless other places where your children continue to be affected by poverty, by war, by the ravages of nature, where loss is simply a fact of life in a world desensitised to suffering on such a scale.
God grant us perspective.
To know that we never have to compete for your love and acceptance.
And so we can afford to share your infinite love with those in our daily lives and with those we may never meet, all part of your family and so part of us too.
Renew our sense of connectedness and increase our resolve to widen our horizons globally and locally until all are truly welcome, until all are raised up and fed and until you are known in our sharing of bread.
Space making God may we make space for others.
Table setting God may we always be prepared to revise our table plans
Feast loving God may we feast with you and with all your saints in heaven and on earth.
For the sake of your Kingdom
So may we know your Spirit here transforming this bread and wine and transforming us this day.
Among friends, gathered round a table,
Jesus took bread, he broke it and shared it saying:
This is my body broken for you
Eat this bread to remember me
He took the cup, saying:
This is my blood shed for you
Drink this cup to remember me.
We remember Christ as honoured guests invited to a feast.
Gods gifts for all.
God as we have shared table fellowship with you and with each other, may we be careful of the honour you give us, not in a way that holds it close but in a way that opens up your gifts and spreads your love throughout the world.
As we have feasted in joy with your saints in heaven may we dine in sorrow with your children on earth until we come to share in your kingdom of peace and justice and love.
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Friday, 23 August 2013

Stooping God

A reflection on this week's gospel about the woman who couldn't stand up straight. (Luke 13:10-17)

Shuffling along always looking down
unable to stand up straight
Noticing all the traffic on the street:
Feet striding past
shod in boots and shoes and sandals
stepping out briskly or dragging along
skipping or tripping
disturbing the litter strewn on the ground
lifted and laid by the breeze
avoiding the cracks in the stone slabs
and the gum ground in by other feet
Observing the cigarette ends -
those with lipstick
those smoked down to the very last gasp
and those tossed down still reeking
their rancid fumes.
Looking down
but catching, in all the greyness
the vibrancy and colour
that rushes past
The reflections in the shiny surfaces
the clouds and rainbows in the puddles.
Flashes of glory in eyes cast down.
Glimpses of God in the detritus of the street.
Healing becomes possible when God stoops down
and looks into the eyes
of a woman weighed down by life.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Risky Gospel

Delegates at the National Youth Assembly this morning had the opportunity to meet with the Moderator of the Church of Scotland who helped them explore the theme of the Assembly - Identity.
The past few days have contained lots of discussion and not a little input from the institution about what constitutes the identity of the Kirk at present.
But the nature, or at least a huge concern of an institution is self perpetuation.
It was refreshing this morning to step away from the rules and roles imposed by the institution of the kirk to imagine what might be if, following the example of Jesus, we allowed that inherent divine spark within each of us to have more of an influence on our identity.
We were reminded that Jesus antagonised the religious institutions of his day, not for the sake of it but because he could do no other.
Following Jesus is not safe, cannot be prescribed by dogma, but is bound up in love and risk and listening to and acting on that still small voice at the core of our being.
Who am I?
A risk taking, rule breaking, beloved child of God. Woohoo!

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