Thursday, 31 May 2007


It was a busy night at the church. Started off with Taize worship that we do once a month. This month I decided to try using powerpoint in the service so that we could look at icons and have the music with the words of the chants on a slide - very high tech for us! It seemed to work.
Then it was over to the hall for a silent auction. What fun. I've never managed along to one of those. And it was good to get to see members in a different setting. I had to leave before the end for our late night youth service but left my son bidding. It cost me a fortune - but all in a good cause. I feel really tired but its a happy kind of tiredness caused by a good buzz. I love those times just hanging out with folk. Isn't that at the heart of ministry for everyone?

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Another retreat?

Yes, I'm retreating again. But this time I'm leading the retreat. I'm going with 16 folk from my church to Scottish Churches House in Dunblane for a long weekend. I've been putting together what I hope will be a fun programme along with some worship. I love messing with things like that. In another life I'd like to be a retreat hostess/organiser/whatever. I'm looking forward to huddling together in the small chapel, reputed to be 13th Century. Of course its what happens outside the programme that will probably make the weekend. I found myself checking out the Wifi availability of the accommodation before convincing myself that I really could manage for a couple of days without an internet connection. It will be good to do some old fashioned face to face connecting. None of this online chat, though isn't it fun? I love the way things come across sometimes when they're written in an instant message. Not always as intended - but it adds a whole new dimension to conversations. Hoping for a new dimension at the weekend retreat but offline.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Y on earth?

We're hosting a Y course in the local cafe. It is a course that claims to explore lots of the big questions of faith, run over 8 weeks. A couple of the weeks, we've found the presenters on DVD slightly pedantic. But we have a great group of folk who are not prepared to settle for easy options and aren't afraid to wrestle with the issues. Tonight we "dealt with" other religions and why so much suffering, just a light diet. With the maturity and experience in the group, our discussions are fascinating. This group certainly has an appetite and its fun trying to satisfy the hunger. They keep coming back for seconds. Any suggestions for our next venture?

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Its a sair fecht

I was accused today (tongue in cheek) of being far too cheery for a minister. People were actually laughing out loud in worship. Tsk. Tsk.
So the accuser loaned me his wee book on Calvinism. The blurb for the book makes the promise that you will feel a lot worse after you read it. As soon as mirth threatens to bubble up, one should read a few pages of this self help book which will swiftly administer a "potent triple measure of guilt, misery and self-loathing". I can't wait. Presbyterianism is a sober affair. We need to get back to basics and convince folk again of the sin that afflicts them lest they begin to rise above themselves and actually enjoy life. Heaven forbid.
But then, that first Pentecost, didn't the irrepressible Spirit of God cause some unbridled enthusiasm too? I stand convicted.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

A century of change

We have hundreds of Scouts camping in the village this weekend, celebrating the centenary of Scouting. Their camp site is impressive. This afternoon there were all sorts of activities underway: raft building, kayaking, duck racing, detergent slides, crate climbing, sumo wrestling, as well as a whole host of other fun outdoor ventures.
As we walked home from our visit to the camp, I found myself reflecting on what massive changes there must have been in Scouting through the ages.
On the way home we decided to go to the local chip shop to pick up supper only to be advised that service would be slow since they were feeding hundreds of scouts. Changed days indeed. Whatever happened to rubbing two sticks together and cooking over an open fire?
I look forward to being involved in the centenary service next weekend. Hopefully by then, the young folks and their leaders will have managed to scrub off most of the mud they were covered in today!

Thursday, 24 May 2007

What is rather than what's not

This week has been a good week for catching up on lots of pastoral visits that have been piling up. Some visits need lots of time so can't be squeezed in just anywhere. This week, there has been the space to fit those in. But I caught myself thinking today how much there is still to do. The barrel is never empty. Fortunately I soon realised that there's no point dwelling on what's left undone for now. Better to celebrate the tasks that have been cleared from the to-do list. And hope that there are more weeks where there is room to manouvre, when more catching up can be done. The barrel is never going to be empty but it is still rolling. That will have to do for now.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Not being perfekt

One of my favourite parts in "Leaving Church" was, toward the end, when Barbara Brown Taylor quotes Jesus' words in Luke 14:26: Whoever comes to me and does not hate father, mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.

She interprets this as the get out clause, Jesus' way of discouraging folk from going on to Jerusalem with him. That wasn't where he needed them but back at their normal haunts, serving others. It would have done no good for everyone to follow him to death.

I know that that everyday service is hard enough without heaping on more sacrifice. The thought that this was Jesus' way of telling us it's OK to be human makes a huge difference to all the guilt I carry for things undone or not done so well. Its good to know I don't have to be perfect all the time!!!

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

leaving church

Just finished reading Leaving Church, a memoir of faith by Barbara Brown Taylor. I've had it for some time but put off reading it because, from the reviews I'd seen, I knew that much of it would strike a chord and in some pretty raw places. Its an honest, well articulated account of the cost of a single pastor call, as well as all the benefits. In the end, Barbara Brown Taylor chose to leave her charge and, in the so called secular arena, teaching theology and religion, she finds herself still very much an integral part of the body of Christ, but with some space to develop her own spirituality and grow closer to God away from the demands and the the confinement of always being Christ for others. What was so good for me was to be able to read this book in quite a different place from this time last year so that the chords it struck weren't too brittle. It helped me to see where there has been growth and a moving on. And, for now, my place is very much in the church.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

onwards and upwards

We've had a great weekend. Lots of time to be a family and hang out with friends. And the evenings are light until around 10 o'clock - a bonus. Its been good to shed some of the heaviness of the last couple of weeks. Now, as another week looms with its unpredictability as well as with some of the load that I know is headed my way, its time to get back on to the treadmill. But its always easier to start the climb when there has been the opportunity to shed excess baggage. This weekend, there has certainly been an opportunity for sabbath - resting and recharging. Its quite some time since I felt almost ready for the week ahead. We all need to build more sabbath into our schedules.
God blessed the seventh day and set it apart as a special day because by that day he had completed his creation and stopped working. Gen 2 v 3

Friday, 18 May 2007

Have I the right?

Today, I am preparing for a service for people affected by the death of a baby. Its something I have been involved in for the last ten years, since I was hospital chaplain. I count it a great privelege but in all my encounters with bereaved parents I have always been so conscious that their's is a club to which I do not belong. God knows I am thankful for that. I also feel so ill equipped to travel alongside them. Yet they, in their love and graciousness allow me to tread with them and be involved as they journey through grief and as they teach me how to take hold of life and journey on. And so, as in so many areas of ministry, I receive so much more than I can give.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Getting deeper

Another "mystery pic". This is, in fact, simply a shot of the linoleum laid in the hallway of an old plantation house in North Carolina. It fascinated me how it took on a 3-D appearance.

I love looking at those "magic eye" picture books, trying to see the 3-D images through all the squiggles. Its a fact of life that some folk breeze through life on the surface and rarely see the depths. Depths that, with a little bit of effort are there to be plumbed by all of us. Depths that bring meaning and colour.

So go on, stick your tongue out, cross your eyes, and see what image appears!

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

More tea, vicar?

Today has been a beautiful, sunny day. Unfortunately I found myself submerged in preparing funeral services. Its been a busy week on that front. But then someone sent me an email, reminding me what a lovely day we had and exhorting me to go and smell the flowers. So I brewed some coffee and took it into the garden and found that the whole world didn't grind to a halt just because I took a break. A humbling discovery!

This thing that looks like an instrument of torture is actually a sugar cutter, used in past times when sugar came in blocks. How civilised were those days when people really did stop and enjoy afternoon tea.

Monday, 14 May 2007

When its hard to see

Some days, the sun doesn't quite make it through the clouds. But we know its up there somewhere. And there are signs...
Some days, it seems we can't get close to God but, again, there are signs. And soon, the clouds will move on and the view will be dazzling. Its about hanging on in there until then.
In the words of Duran Duran:
At the end of the rainbow
Found each other there
Strange, we never thought the colours would fade
Be easy to walk
But it's much harder to stay
Why, oh why, are we reckless today?
You and I
Got to hold on together
Because in this life
Maybe the sun doesn't shine forever

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Torn to shreds

Thought this video might amuse. Doesn't remind me at all of working in Inverkip!
Although we did plant a CAT today - a Christian Aid Tree. Enjoyed using the Christian Aid week worship resources this year.

Caring for hearts

The spire of First Presbyterian church in Charlotte, NC fits in well with the towers around it in one of the major financial centres in the USA. "For Christ in the heart of Charlotte" is the byline on their notice board.

Although many churches in Scotland are now splendidly isolated because communities have chosen to re-locate, still there are plenty in a unique position at the heart of the community they serve. The community of Inverkip has grown phenomenally in the last few years but the church is still wonderfully placed in the centre of the "village". This is an enviable position that brings myriad opportunity and potential. And, since the church is in the business of caring for hearts, what better place from which to operate than at the heart of the community.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Uphill rafting

One of those perks of ministry is you get to try all sorts of fun things. This week I got to visit with local school children who are on an outdoor activities week in Nethy Bridge. When I arrived, they were raft building. It was very interesting to observe how both teams operated. One team built a more cumbersome, probably slower raft than the other team. But, because they worked well together and worked hard, they won the raft race. Victory aside, all the young folks had loads of fun especially at the end of the race when they pushed each other off the rafts. And loads of valuable lessons on team working have hopefully penetrated and will be a resource in times to come.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Realising potential

On study leave last year, I spent some time in Charlotte, North Carolina, looking at team ministry. Our wonderful hosts were from Sardis Presbyterian church. This sign greeted us when we visited and I vowed it would become a part of my home church philosophy. We Scots are good at putting each other down and of finding reasons why we can't do things rather than ways around perceived obstacles. Some nine months further on there is a glimmer that Inverkip church might be ready to move on, to stop resting on its 800 year history and look to the future with an air of excitement and expectation. If we expect little of God, our prophecies are self fulfilling. If, however we see endless possibility, we can achieve anything. Here's to a future filled with possibilities.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Moving on

The young - and some not so young creators of these masterpieces are finished for the day. They have downed tools and gone off to have fun elsewhere. Come the next tide, their efforts will be washed away.
I think I am learning, albeit slowly, that some things in life would benefit from the same kind of treatment. Enjoyment for a time but moving on with no regrets.
There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven..
Ecclesiastes 3
Even in the small every day things of life, wouldn't it be good to be able to read the signs, discern what is important and worth hanging on to and be able to discard the rest with abandonment? The abandonment of knowing that there is another day, another beach, another work worth throwing ourselves into.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Life's a beach

This is how I believe Sunday afternoons should be spent - on a beach in splendid isolation.

More usually, Sunday afternoons find me hospital visiting, ironing or napping. But there have been enough of these totally decadent Sundays to convince me that this is how it should be and to provide me with good memories when its not possible.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Perfection or potential?

We have a new bubble "thingy" to play with. It makes huge, tunnel like bubbles that are great fun. Weather conditions were great for bubble play today - not too much sun, a little breeze. I discovered a short time ago that bubbles involve lots of science. Some folk have studied long and hard to get just the right mix and they also insist on the right environmental factors. I'm happy to leave all that science to others and simply have fun. I've always seen great potential in a splash of soapy mix, a puff of wind and a little imagination. There are those who create and perfect and those who simply enjoy. When it comes to bubbles, I'll be one of the enjoyers.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Left out

This little fellow didn't look too happy - all on his own, different from the rest of the herd.
Tonight I was visiting in the village. I happened to look out of the window of the home I was visiting just as two of my good buddies passed. I thought they were off to our favourite hostelry without me.
I decided I could either wonder why they hadn't asked me to go with them or - I could go and find out. So, when I had finished work, I rushed home for something to eat and then joined them. It turned out that when I saw them pass they were in fact just on their way to the local primary school to cast their vote. (We're having a local election) They hadn't intended stopping off at the hotel but, on the way back, they did succumb. So I hadn't been left out after all. Tonight reminded me that you can't get away with anything in our village!
But things aren't always as they appear.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

A kind of clearing

Early morning light trickles through the densely packed trees. There's a bit of a clearing. Enough for the light to gain a hold - a place to dapple and reflect. A place to view the sky.
In a tightly packed life, where perspective becomes narrowed, we need those places of clearing. Places where light can be filtered and examined, admired for its dappling and its reflection. Then, having taken our bearings, we can re- engage with the intensity, knowing that there is relief near at hand, possibilities to be explored, different views to behold. We can leave the safety of the clearing and submerge ourselves for a little bit longer, until the trees thin out and we can see our way again.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Cool waters

As they pass through the dry valley it becomes a place of springs... Psalm 84
I tried to trace the source of this spring - mainly because it looked so inviting - so cool and refreshing. But I just couldn't figure out where all this water originated that poured out of the rock. I was wary that it might not be as good as it looked or that it might be contaminated by its passage through the land.
Sometimes its right to be wary, not to dive in. But other times call for trust and a certain amount of abandonment. Risking reward.
When the valley is dry maybe we have to seek out the springs and simply enjoy - recognising gifts of refreshment.

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