Sunday, 30 September 2007

Through a glass darkly

This mirror, at the bottom of a hill near Montmartre just invites folk to photograph themselves. Is what we see in the image a true reflection? Or are there things hidden and misunderstood?
In hiddenness there is at least hope. Hope that all is not revealed. Hope that there are better things to come. Hope that, in the present, doesn't provide a lot of comfort but that at least offers a glimmer of light in the darkness that seems to stretch into infinity. What we see and what we know simply isn't enough. There has to be some recompense for pain and for suffering, some lightening of the load that many have to bear.
But the revelation will have to be pretty spectacular to make the present justifiable. Those who cry in anguish now will need some hefty inducement to balance the scales. Sometimes the promise for the future seems just too obscure to make a difference to the hellishness of the present. So we can't see the whole picture but will that whole picture ever be enough?

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Lunch in Paris

A group of us from church popped over to Paris for lunch midweek. I know its not very Carbon friendly, but the attraction of a cheap flight and the opportunity of a whole day in Paris was too much to resist.

By 10:30 we were enjoying breakfast at Port Maillot, we had lunch at Montmartre among the artists and then dinner on the Champs Elysees before heading back to Beauvais for the flight home.

What a difference a day makes!

I feel as if the whole of the week before and after the trip was spent making up for lost time but it was well worth it. Its great to live in an age where such things are possible and to have the means to just go for it. God forbid that we should ever take such luxury - and sheer decadence - for granted. But just every now and again its good to sin big style!!!

Thursday, 27 September 2007

A new local

A new store opened in the village today. Inverkip is a village with an ever expanding population and few facilities so a new super market is a welcome addition - especially a new Sainsbury's. I felt I could have spent the whole day hanging around the store, catching up with the parish. There were so many people coming and going and the sunshine contributed to brightened spirits.

I was reminded how lucky I am to serve in such a defined community where life very much revolves around church, school and pub - and now, our local supermarket.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

More simple pleasures

Autumn sunshine, a fresh breeze and laundry drying on the line. Sometimes I'm easily pleased. Its good to be able to appreciate the fresh smell of towels dried outdoors before the weather makes that impossible. Stepping from the shower, grabbing a fresh towel, inhaling that fresh air smell... OK, I know, too much information.
Church without walls next summer at the National Gathering will be exploring All you can't leave behind. What are the things that you wouldn't or couldn't ditch? What really matters? I'm looking forward, I think, to working out the essentials of "church" for me. I suspect that it doesn't even resemble anything I call "church" at the moment. I'm happy to discard loads, but what will it be replaced by? I'll keep you posted!

Monday, 24 September 2007

Where beauty exists... enjoy

There's supposed to be a path round the back of our house. But the ground keeps slipping and encroaching. It looks very green just now but through the summer it was, firstly purple, with beautiful irises and then orange with montbretia. Beautiful - but not the path its supposed to be.

How many attractive things turn up in the wrong place? Does it mean they can't be appreciated just because they're out of context? Inconvenience makes beauty all the more poignant. Life's too short and too fraught for us not to appreciate beauty wherever it shows itself.

We need to address the path situation at some point but, for now, we will enjoy the wild.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Bizzare - or what?

This giant toadstool has been growing in our jungle of a garden. In the sunshine today, I thought I could see Christ's face on the fungus. So have I been watching too much sci fi or reading too much weird and wonderful material? Or can you see it too?

Last week, I read of someone finding Christ's face on a frozen lemon slice.

So - do we create Christ in our image? Is that why his face pops up in all sorts of bizarre places on all sorts of innate objects. Have we given him one of those faces that we see everywhere? Is it an optical illusion?

Its an interesting thought - the image we have super imposed on Christ. How good would it be if Christ did appear everywhere, evidenced by us human beings loving and serving each other, just as Jesus did? Christ incarnate - wherever I am, wherever you are.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Happy birthday Jane!

My friend Jane is 40 today. We started the day at her place, with bacon rolls and buck's fizz. Tonight she's, hopefully, in Rome. On Wednesday we're meeting up for lunch - in Paris, thanks to Ryan Air's £4 flights. Its great to have girl friends and even better when the guys get along too so that they're not left out when we hatch these crazy plans. Have a good one Jane. We'd better start planning the 50th soon!
Love you loads. x

Wednesday, 19 September 2007


I was asked for directions the other day. The place the guy in the big lorry wanted to get isn't actually accessible to vehicular traffic from where he was, but only by footpath. So I had to help him find a way out from where he was back onto the main road, all the while avoiding low bridges. No easy feat for someone as directionally challenged as me! I wanted to say: Well if I were you, I wouldn't start here...
Today, I have been on a course about discernment and navigating transition. Lots of stimulating stuff. But, sometimes, when I return to the nitty gritty and often pettiness of the parish, I seriously wonder what its all about. And I want to find another starting point.
Presbyterian rock
Grey and grumpy
Fixed and immovable
Could be so different.
Could be a marker, pointing the way to the light.
Demonstrating faith and solidity, not just hardness stuck fast.
Could be a point from which to leap, landing in the squishy, soft heather.
Could even be a place to rest the weary soul before tramping on over unknown ground.
Catching the last rays of light before its time to move on.
Its time, its time, its time, but I wouldn't start from here.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Personality test

I liked this assessment - I wonder why?

Sound bytes

I finally got around to watching Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce's anti-slavery campaign. A good DVD always makes short work of the mountain of ironing. I was really impressed by the film. I'm not up on history so I wouldn't have a clue how accurate it is and I have heard some criticism on that front. But it was a really good, inspiring story. Apart from Ioann Gruffudd being good eye candy, there were also some good sound bytes in the movie. Like when Wilberforce was asked: "So you've found God?" To which he replied: "No, God has found me - and its pretty inconvenient". This resonated with yesterday's gospel reading about the lost sheep. God comes and roots us out. I was also struck by the quandary he felt about having to choose between becoming a preacher or a political activist. For me, and I know for many others, they go hand in hand. The gospel imperative does not allow us to neglect either course. I'd love to use this film in a church movie night and just let it speak for itself. Maybe I'll get round to that soon too.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Lost or found?

Todays gospel - the lost sheep, lost coin parables was challenging for those of us who consider ourselves "found". Aren't we, with the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' day, guilty of subscribing to an exclusive, respectable club? Vincent Donovan, in Christianity Rediscovered recounts the wisdom imparted to him by one of the Masai elders among whom he worked. The old Masai compared our comfortable Western faith with that of a white hunter, whose involvement extends only to the eye and the finger as a target is shot from a safe distance. Real belief, however, the Masai elder likened to the committment of a lion going after its prey. His whole body is involved right to the kill. As for leaving everything to seek out God, the Masai elder knew that God is the one who takes the risks, coming after us, seeking us out. On those days when we assume the kingdom is down to us let's step back and hear the rejoicing that goes on in heaven.

Friday, 14 September 2007

And now for something completely different

Sometimes our village (and church) mirrors this British sit com - Last of the summer wine -far too closely. Each of these characters, Compo, cleggy and co has its mirror image in our community and probably in yours too.
My American friend spent a couple of evenings in the hotel with me during a recent stay and was mesmerised by the wholly unconscious sit com unfolding before her eyes.
As my profile reveals, I'm a fan of Vicar of Dibley. Many church folk find that offensive but, I believe, that's because it is too near the truth of the matter. Certainly the parish council meetings held in Dibley would fit just as well in Inverkip.
At the risk of being tarred and feathered or possibly even burnt as a witch I think we have to take ourselves a lot less seriously. Humour sees us through much in life and the ability to step back from situations and see the comedy can only lead to less tension all around.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Cold comfort

This poor wee mite flew into our window this evening and died instantly. A song we used to sing in Sunday School went: His eye is on the sparrow, so I know he watches me. Even from a young age I thought this song brought little comfort. On my daily tramp over fields to school, I would encounter dead birds often enough to doubt that God offered them much protection.

Thankfully as I grew I encountered folk who allowed me to express these doubts and who listened to my hard questions. Until now, still on that same journey of question and discovery and learning to live with mystery, I have the privelege of accompanying others as they grapple with faith and with doubt.

I give thanks every day that we don't have to be like the queen in Alice in Wonderland who had to believe in 6 impossible things every morning before breakfast. Its not just practice in believing we need but real people to stand alongside us as we refuse to settle for easy answers but keep on seeking out more and more difficult questions.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007


Not quite sure how this picture ended up black and white instead of full colour. But it seems appropriate since it was taken at a scouting centenary exhibition.
Seeing things in black and white is quite a novelty these days, photography wise - and quite stylish. Its hard to imagine that this kind of production would have once been very modern. As the philosopher says: What has happened before will happen again. What has been done before will be done again. There is nothing new in the whole world. (Ecclesiastes 1 v 9)
As I get older, less and less appears black and white. There are so many shades of grey. I wonder, is this a good sign or a sign of resignation and futility? I would contend that it is a sign of reality but also of optimism. Nothing appears in monochrome, there's always some light and shade. And, occasionally, glorious, dazzling technicolour.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

One of those days

In contrast to yesterday, today has been pretty frustrating. Do you ever feel you're speaking a different language from everyone else?
I feel like asking in belligerent tones - what part of that do you not understand? But of course I'm much too polite - or perhaps just too much of a coward.
Communication is a huge thing in all of life. In the church, it seems to be the bane of life. Why is that when the gospel we preach is so simple? Sure the road isn't easy and disipleship means sacrifice but the underlying core of love that underpins the whole of Christian life is not rocket science - just nuclear.
It must be bad - I feel moved to write another poem.
Instead of Presbyterian heron, this is:

Presbyterian love

Does love in the church always have to be at a distance.
Full of decorum.
Not even a hint of spontaneity.
Far less emotion.
Love - is it me or the others
Am I making it too simple - or too complex
Are my eyes too rosy - or are theirs growing cataracts.
What is there to misinterpret
Well, it seems there is plenty
So I'll have to try again
Another day -
when I've topped up the reserves.
God give me love.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

The perfect day

I officiated at a wedding today in the beautiful marble chapel at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute. The journey there involved catching a ferry with lots of the other guests. By the time we arrived we were therefore on very good terms. There is nothing quite like West of Scotland patter and banter for breaking down reserves and making friendships.Carolyn and Jason had a lovely start to their married life together. And I returned armed with a few more terrible jokes. And, on the way home we listened to the end of the Scotland-Lithuania game and caught the last two Scottish goals. What more could one ask for?

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Mobile again

I've spent the day walking the parish. Something I should do much more. Unfortunately time doesn't often permit such decadence. But at least I was able to find my way easily from visit to visit.

The good news is that my Tom Tom is back up and running. One of the wonderful men in my life (the main man) went on to the website and helpfully discovered that the Tom Tom has a reset button. As a mere woman I have to say that it is very cunningly concealed in the casing! What would I be doing looking at the back of the instrument? My relationship with anything technical is on a strictly need to know basis. Any way there's no stopping me now that I can be directed once again. Oh and all that stuff about not becoming too reliant? I'll shelf that until the next time. Leah (the beetle) Darth Vadar (the Tom tom) and I are off on a mission. God is in her heaven and all is well.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Technology and the feminine

I have no sense of direction. You may have gathered that from the random meanderings of this blog. So, for me, sat nav is a wonderful blessing. Even when I have been places before, I use my trusty Darth Vadar voiced TomTom to guide me. Except, this morning, Darth Vadar expired. Having programmed him last night, all looked well for a stress free visit this morning. But, sometime during the night, my friend decided to power down and was not for reviving. A forty minute journey thus took me one hour as I drove around in circles.

I suddenly realised how utterly reliant I had become on this disembodied voice. Well, he did guide me all round the Netherlands in the summer!

Perhaps a salutory warning that, often, we become dependant on things not worthy of our trust. To be so reliant discourages us from trusting ourselves and discovering the depths within ourselves and the rich resources gifted to each of us.

A proper preacher would sum up this post by pointing out that God is the only one we can truly rely on but, at the risk of being zapped, I have to point out that the Creator was also curiously silent this morning when I was asking for road directions! That leads me to conclude that God is therefore a woman.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Nocturnal activities (2)

The premises we occupied at the weekend, primarily an indoor Guide camp facility is fairly new, only completed in the last few years and had lots of modern touches including a state of the art fire detection system linked to the local station. So, when the fire alarm roused us from our slumbers at 3am we managed to evacuate the building super quickly and had to wait patiently for the Brigade to arrive. I've always imagined the sight of 6 burly firemen, (there were no women in this crew), to be the stuff of dreams. But somehow, dressed in jammies, trying to reassure scared youngsters, there was little glamour around. And the boys, after checking out the building and declaring it safe, wouldn't even wait for hot chocolate. Maybe reality doesn't always match up to our dreams but that should never stop us dreaming.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Nocturnal activities (1)

Spent the weekend camping with Guides and Brownies. Our venue was Netherurd, a place I haven't visited for about 20 years. I was interested to see how much it had changed but somehow, feeding around 60 folk, even with loads of help, meant that there was little time to explore. One of our nocturnal outings involved sailing paper boats lit with candles down the burn - what a lovely sight and it certainly provoked an excited response from the youngsters involved. I was glad I wasn't the one having to wade into the burn to collect the spent boats at the end.
Isn't that typical of much of life? We enjoy the colour and excitement but not so much the picking up the left over pieces.
I had hoped to return to the burn the next day to check it out in the day light but the opportunity didn't arise. Maybe its no bad thing though to simply think of it as a place charged with excitement and lit with enthusiasm and togetherness. And it means I just have to return soon.

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