Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Amidst the ruins

Amidst the ruins of the old nunnery in Iona, there is a colourful array of flowers.
Glimpses of glory.
Those colours are present in all of life but so often we just can't see them.
Our lack of sight doesn't mean they aren't there.
So on the days we can't see, what should we do?
Perhaps all we can do is try to reassure ourselves that the flowers are there, that their colour is just as vibrant but that, for a time, they are veiled by the clouds and that it only needs a breeze to shift those clouds so that we can glimpse the glory again.
Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

Monday, 26 November 2007

When all else fails..

Its been a long week - and its only Monday. Wanted to chill with some inane TV at the end of a long day, but there's nothing that fits the bill. (We only have 4 channels)Decided instead to revisit pics of our October holiday. Couldn't fail to be restored by memories of a real break surrounded by nearest and dearest.

This job dictates that space is a precious commodity so its important to make the most of it when it comes and then revel in the memories when it seems a long way off.
Work hard and play hard? Seems like a plan.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Prickly vulnerable

Is it safe to come out?
I need the protection of these spines.
Its kinda hostile out there.
I've been attacked too many times.
Better to retreat and starve
than to risk being hurt again.
Can it really be different?
Can things change?
Can people be different?
Or is it too much to hope.
Too much to expect them to emerge from the protection their prickles afford.
And be open.
Open to love.
Open to possibility.
So we'll all just skirt around one another.
Use all our defences.
That way we can't be hurt.
Can't be healed either.
And we'll go nowhere.
But we'll be safe.
As safe as a presbyterian hedgehog.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

A way through

I'm still on the tack of wanting to start from someplace else. Its occupying my mind at the moment and creeping up in all sorts of ways. How can I unravel this journey so far and survive the road.

Today I spent time with a friend who has just been presented with an exciting new challenge and opportunity. Before she can launch herself in she has some tough decisions to make and some really difficult things to do. But, for her, that's OK. For her, its all just part and parcel of moving on.

How I wish I could have been as focussed and as clear of vision as she is instead of being seduced by the sense of calling. Its not that that's not important but it is a bit like love and presents a few blind spots. And now, having accepted the unacceptable for so long its difficult to find an exit. I convince myself that underpinning everything, there's still the overwhelming sense of call. But now I need to ask - Is that enough? And it feels really weird to even question that.

What I have learned, however, is that I cannot deny how it feels. I just have to sit with it for the time being and see if a way through becomes visible or if there's an alternative waiting just around the corner. I don't think that's defeatist - just pragmatic.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Ridges in the sand

I'm sure there's some highly technical scientific explanation for this pattern that formed on the beach. It felt good to walk on barefoot. The ridges stimulated the sole and the soul.
So, is it completely random or is there something much more purposeful and creative? Either way, it is fascinating.
Its not exactly barefoot sand walking weather in this part of the world right now but pondering mysteries is always in season.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

From here to there

Have you ever wished that your starting off point was different from where it is? Or learned something new and wished you hadn't been doing things the way you have for so long that now its difficult to turn around?
I spent today on a course entitled Discerning Direction and Navigating Transition that made me feel just like that. I want to start all over again. But, for various reasons, I'll have to stick with the model I'm working to and simply try to incorporate insight and wisdom gained. Its not always possible to start with a clean sheet. I feel a bit like the heron in the picture, hunched up, defensive, gazing forlornly out to sea with a longing that can't yet be quantified or satisfied. But hanging on in there knowing that flight is possible and that beauty is yet to come.
And, for now, that is enough.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Bubbling around

Some jokers recently added bubbles to a fountain nearby. It looked great. Unfortunately the local council have now switched it off and are cleaning it out. Hopefully, once it gets going again, the jokers will come back. Shoppers were being stopped in their tracks by colourful bubbles floating around.
At our all saints service this year, we blew bubbles to remind us of the ancient tradition of using incense to symbolise prayers floating heavenward. It was intriguing to think of our colourful orbs joining the prayers of countless saints through the ages.
Thanks to Jeremy of Inverclyde Now for letting me use his picture. I was too busy enjoying the bubbles to get my camera.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

What's so amazing...

Finished a 10 week course tonight looking at Philip Yancey's What's so amazing about grace? This book made an impact on me some years ago and its been great to study it along with other folk. There was much lively discussion and the local coffee shop, Cafe Melo was a great place to host the book club. The extravagance of grace is amazing. If only we could practice it more what a different place our world would be.

Planning a break from the book club for now, perhaps returning in the new year with Living the Questions. What will we do with Tuesday nights until then?

Monday, 12 November 2007

Prepare to prepare

That's it. I can't put it off any longer. Remembrance has come and gone. Now I must really get down to preparing Advent. In preparation for this preparation, I spent today clearing out the study, finding a way to my desk and uncovering the mountain of paperwork lurking there.
But the beauty is - If I can create time and space just now to get things ready, I can enjoy advent and feel a bit more ready when Christmas rolls around.
I'm tired of just wanting to fall asleep over Christmas dinner, tired of feeling that I'm too busy to do exciting things with the children in those weeks leading up and then finding its too late. This year I so want it to be different. So, a couple of weeks glued to the desk, with little interludes of imaginative walking, where I can release some creativity - that's what's in store. If I can achieve that, my hope and prayer is that advent will return to being simple, contemplative, spirit -filled and nourishing. And, what's more, this year there will be time for all those things I always promise to make space for - pampering massage, family outings and movies, nights in cosied up. Just do it!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

History repeated?

American poet, George Santayana said: Those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it.
Today was a day for remembering the horror and the pity of war.
Our village war memorial sits in a beautiful setting, right out on the point, on the shores of the Firth of Clyde. After morning worship, where we had a job shoe horning all our youth organisations into the church, we processed along the main street and out to the point to do some more remembering. On a calm and peaceful sunny morning, war seemed far removed from our shores. And perhaps that's just one of the difficulties. Today, we wage war on other soils, far from home. It is other communities that are decimated, other civilians that are casualties of our aggression.
Even more important then that today we remember and try and change the future rather than repeat history.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Going with the passion

"its only an impossible workload if its not where your passion is"
Not quite sure where I read these words but they have been haunting me this past wee while.
When we're involved in lots of energy sapping stuff, it does seem pretty impossible. But, given the chance to indulge in things that captivate the imagination, things that re-energise rather than drain, that's a different story.
For me, just now, that's the creative elements of worship. They take loads of time and energy to put together, but they nurture my soul like few other things in my full week. What is that telling me?

Friday, 9 November 2007

Glasgow 2014

Just been announced that Glasgow will hold the 2014 Commonwealth Games - the friendly games. 7 years seems a long way away but, clearly there is much to be done. Being only 30 miles from Glasgow, boasting superb scenery and leisure facilities, we are sure to be more than a little involved. Already wondering what impact this 800 year old church in the community can have on those who visit the "dear green place" that is Glasgow.

Spirit power

Unrelenting fury
Pounding majestic power
Sweeping away obstacles
Dragging debris in its path
Rendering the efforts of mere humans worthless
Putting on a display of real might
Who will stand against it?
Try to change its course ?
Only the foolish
Or the tired of living
Such purity and splendour
Is to be revered for its beauty
Admired from a safe distance
It is useless to fight it
Better to contemplate and be at one with it
Part of all that it stirs,
Carried along by its energy.
Calmed by its fury
Knowing in the bubbling, seething melee
The still small voice.

I wax lyrical about the tidal surges pounding Britain today and find, in them, a living reminder of the Spirit, surging its path through our lives with such energy that surrender seems the best course.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


Walked into our local fish and chip shop the other day (Bongio's) and was greeted with " Hi, Geraldine". For those of you not familiar with Vicar of Dibley, Dawn French plays the village vicar, Geraldine Granger. I've always wanted to mirror her antics, fun loving, chocoholic, caring vicar who takes herself and parish life far from seriously and with a huge dose of humour. So I took this greeting as an accolade.
Inverkip certainly has all the Dibley characters at large - for a small fee I'll tell you who's who - and now, it seems, we have the vicar of dibley too.
Last Easter, when we took communion onto the streets, we set up in front of Bongio's and the juxtaposition of fast food and soul food really grabbed me. Ministry is about being on the streets, sharing the good news, caring through thick and thin, but surviving with a robust sense of humour that mirrors God's tears and belly laughs. God is on the streets of our villages and towns inviting us to share in the work that the Spirit is about. That takes a lot of tears but also a lot of laughter.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Seeing potential

As I've mentioned before, I am "spatially challenged"- I have difficulty understanding plans presented as line drawings. Even maps prove a challenge for me.
I do, however, have the ability to see potential. One of the things I've been cultivating recently is using that gift, acting on instinct and exploring "what might be".
I'm discovering a creativity that previously I would never own. And the more that creativity is indulged, the more it seems to emerge and grow in surprising ways.
I'm sure all of us have gifts lying dormant or positive characteristics that have been stifled. Allowing these hidden things to emerge opens up all sorts of possibilities and creates a whole new form of energy and potential. Of course, it also involves risk - but what worthwhile endeavour doesn't?

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Light in the darkness

Just returned from a fireworks party in honour of Guy Fawkes,
On our way there, we saw some youngsters still indulging in guising - the Scottish equivalent of Halloween trick or treating. While we were heading off to celebrate the next winter festival, they were still celebrating the previous one.
Winter is a bit like that. We find all the excuses we can to get together with friends and chase away the dark nights. And if those get togethers involve gathering around warming fires, so much the better.
Its great when friends bring some light into each others lives and its my hope that we'll keep on finding excuses to do just that.
I think the next major fest for us Scots is St Andrew's night, 30th November, but I'm sure we'll find something else before then.

Friday, 2 November 2007

In the shadows

In our everyday we are dogged by events of the past - for good or ill. Our past plays a big role in where we are today. We are here either because of or in spite of our past - or maybe even a bit of both. Awareness of the shadows surrounding us is no bad thing. We can guard against their negative influences and be grateful for their positive contribution to our present.
Just as we can't escape the shadows cast by the low sun on an autumn day, neither can we outrun the past that has shaped us. But we can move on. And as the sun sets to rise again on a brand new day, so we can leave the shadows behind and emerge into the light.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

All the saints

This pet cemetery I encountered recently at Ormidale House reminded me of that Vicar of Dibley episode where there was a pet blessing service in church - hilarious. Its good when folk remember faithful friends, of whatever hue.
In the church today, we celebrate all the saints. In my younger days, that was always eclipsed by the scary nonsense of halloween and I could never really understand all saints.
Today, however, it brings me almost as much excitement as Halloween, because its a good excuse to bring all those catholic elements into presbyterian worship, lighting candles, praying for souls and, tonight we will be offering bubble prayers - a modern version of using incense to float our prayers heavenward. Its obviously a sign of getting older but I love to think of being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses - all those who have travelled faith's road before us -and to be comforted by their presence. One of these days we'll have the pets in for a service too, but maybe tonight, we will celebrate their souls!

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