Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christ is born




The Christ candle took three attempts to light tonight but then it burned brightly as a symbol of Christ born again amidst all the darkness of today's world.
May the hope, love, joy and peace of Christmas be yours.

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Monday, 24 December 2012

Come to the Manger


Early folk, late folk
punctual and stragglers
take the weight off your feet
and park yourself
just for a while.
It's too late now
if there's anything not done.
Whether you're calm
or whether your heads still buzzing
breathe deeply
of the love
that we celebrate here this night.
Get yourself
a whiff of the stable
Pin back your ears
for the sound of Heavenly Choirs
And lend your voice
tuneful or not 
to the Heavenly host
revving up
for the Party
And, if you're not in a party mood
that's OK too
because the stable
was a great leveler
Welcoming the great and the lowly
the jubilant and the downtrodden
making room for all
Everyone was - and is welcome
at the manger.


Telling the greatest story




Angels that rocked and rolled
Shepherds that danced with their sheep
Kings that seemed totally bemused
A sleep deprived innkeeper
A beautiful young mother
And a bored father
Even the adults were involved
Dusting and dancing
Trimming the tree
Moving scenery
For just like the real thing
There was a part for everyone to play
in telling the story of The Nativity
The greatest story ever told
Often we entrust the telling to infants
And that works
But we too who are older
and supposedly wiser
have a lead role
in telling the good news.
A vital role.
We are all invited,
more than that, required,
with or without
the tea towels and the robes
and crowns and wings
to live out our Advent themes
of hope and peace
and joy and love
To reveal the baby God
born in obscurity
raised in oppression
To pierce the darkness of today's world
with the dazzling light
of God's love.


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Sunday, 23 December 2012

Birthing God






What if it were today?
What if God had chosen today's world to reveal love?
Where might God find a divided land crying out for a rescuer?
Where might God find people oppressed
by a government charged with protecting them?
What out of the way place might God choose?
Would the mother of God be an unmarried teenager?
Or one of the homeless teenagers who sleeps in the railway arches?
To whom would the angels announce the good news?
To the night shift workers leaving their factories?
Or the care workers just beginning their early shift?
And those wise visitors who followed the star.
Would they use sat nav, following it slavishly
until they realised they were lost?
And then announce a check in on Facebook
informing the world of their whereabouts
and putting the child at risk.
Who would feel threatened by the arrival of the Son of God,
fearful that their power would be diminished?
And who would warn the Holy Family
to escape the evil intent?
And, as for the slaughter of the Innocents,
we can imagine that only too well
In Sudan, the Congo, Connecticut,
Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan.
The darkness of today's world
needs the light of love and hope
and joy and peace
just as much as did the world
of Mary and Joseph and Herod
and the Roman Empire.
God needs to be born today
in so many places.
We are the midwives of the birth
of good news that brings
Love, hope, joy and peace
to the world today,
birthing God wherever we are.

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Saturday, 22 December 2012

Glimpses




Bagpacking at the local grocery store
afforded a curious glimpse
into people's readiness
for Christmas.
Some shopping in joyful anticipation
of family visits
or time spent relaxing
Others weary and worn down
wishing it were all over already.
Was it any different that first Christmas?
When folk were summoned to be registered.
For everyone who was joyfully anticipating family visits
there were others who were weary with the journey.
For each one ready to be surprised
there were others whose hope has long since departed.
For everyone eager to please and do as decreed
there were others resenting the imposition
and the disturbance to normal life.
And then the unimaginable happened.
God was born.
To an unknown mother.
In an unknown location.
In an out of the way place.
And so love, hope, joy and peace
infiltrated a weary world.
What are the chances of that happening again today?
-

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Friday, 21 December 2012

Immaculate




A Wee Dose of Reality
Immaculate conception wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Inside, I could hold my head up high,
knowing I had done no wrong,
but you try telling that to the old biddies down in the market,
looking for a story to gossip,
a victim to scandalise.
It wasn’t just the dried up old widows
seething with bitterness
at their station in life,
but even the younger ones
I used to run around with.
I’d catch them, too,
blethering on the corner,
going real quiet when I appeared—
a conversation stopper, that’s me,
if ever there was one.
And who could blame them?
They saw me change from the shy bright teenager I was,
full of life,
to the sallow-skinned miserable wench,
throwing up at everyday sights and smells.
If that angel hadn’t warned me,
they would have known before I did—
the signs were all there.
They’d seen them all before:
the squeamishness, the pallor.
No blooming for me,
I turned into a ghost of myself,
folk could see right through me
and they were quick to draw their own conclusions.
They’d judged and condemned me
before I even got up to speed
and cottoned on
that what the angel said had come true,
I was pregnant.
Those serene pictures you see
of me looking calm and contented, well,
nothing could be further from the truth!
Sure I wanted to serve God
but God had no idea what it was like
to be an unmarried pregnant teenager.
It felt like I was two different people:
a willing servant of God, on the one hand,
and a sick, scared miserable pregnant teenager on the other.
What did God know
about pregnancy sickness,
or about stretch marks,
or about ankles that swell
and spill over your shoes,
or about developing breasts as big and hard as water melons
(I was never known for largesse in that department)?
Lets not forget the constant weariness,
and, as if all that wasn’t bad enough,
there was the shunning on top.
I might be carrying God’s child
but you try telling that to folk
with laws that mattered above all else,
laws that should have got me stoned.
Even the best saint
would have had a job
smiling through all that,
far less a naive teenager.
Immaculate conception?
Immaculate for whom?

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Thursday, 20 December 2012

Stille Nacht




The ice rink is a place of beautiful stillness
In between games
When everyone has gone
to enjoy something warming
the peace is tangible
No roars of HURRY!
No clatter of stones
hurtling up the ice
Just a hushed waiting
Like the church in between services
When everyone has left
and the tidying has been done
when there is silence
and order.
Quiet, still,peaceful.
But not purposeful.
Both places are built
to embrace and to welcome
to ring with sound
and activity
The stillness is nice - for a while
but we yearn for the hustle and bustle
and even the ritual
that belongs to the space.


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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Saying YES






Mary: Mother of God.
Trusting God
with the fear,
with the pain,
with the ridicule,
with the disgrace,
with the disappointment,
with the risk of rejection,
with the ignorance,
with the weariness,
with the unknown.
Trusting enough
to say YES.
Saying YES
to fear,
to pain,
to ridicule,
to disgrace,
to disappointment,
to the risk of rejection,
to ignorance,
to weariness,
to the unknown.
Saying YES
to the birthing of God.


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Defeat is not an option




The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.

Why then do some folk, who should know better, claim that Christ is disappearing?
When Christmas is abbreviated or renamed it does not remove Christ.
When folk seem to focus on having fun, eating and drinking too much, Jesus is not diminished.
When folk overspend and feel pressured to give exorbitant gifts, Jesus does not become cheap.
When the tinsel and the baubles outshine the manger, Jesus does not become tarnished or obsolete.
Even when you and I fail to share the good news as we are called to do, God finds a way to reveal Jesus- the light of the world.
To complain that Christ is being taken out of Christmas is to admit defeat.
And that is not an option.

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Monday, 17 December 2012

Spit and polish




Can you hear the flutter of wings?
shaking out the stiffness
unfurling the creases
getting ready
for the biggest gig in history
Polishing up those halos
and running up and down the scales
practising the Glorias
all in readiness
for the a Capella performance of a lifetime.
Imagine if you were an angel
charged with proclaiming
the best news that the world has ever heard.
Well, have I got news for you:
You are an angel!
Even if your wings have long since stopped working
and your halo's thick with rust.
Even if the only shepherds you'll ever see
are 5 year olds in the school Nativity play.
You are charged
with spreading the good news today.
Time to break out the brasso!



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Sunday, 16 December 2012

All you need is love




In worship today, we talked about our favourite love songs. Songs played by dance bands or orchestras or by DJs or listened to at home on vinyl or CD. Some brought poignant memories, some fleeting reminders. Most brought smiles.
Two tracks were running through my head as I thought on love songs that have accompanied me:
"You'd think the world would have enough of silly love songs- I look around me and I see it isn't so."
And -
Leo Sayer: "When I need you, I just close my eyes and I'm with you..."
We all went home with a love song lyric to hang on our trees, reminding us of the never ending unconditional love of God that came into the world at Christmas

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Saturday, 15 December 2012

Extreme love




Let me tell you how I love you,’ goes the song of God,
a song that never ends,
instead becoming more elaborate as time goes on.
The God of love
goes to extremes
to show us how
we are loved beyond measure.
God never tires
of finding new ways, revealing to us when least expected the height,
and depth,
and width
of love.
And, just when we think we’ve got the message,
we are stunned again
by the enormity of such love that pursues us
to the ends of the earth, stopping us in our tracks, in our daily grind compelling us
to look up and wonder, and be filled with hope and with joy
as we bask
in God’s love for us.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Look for the helpers




“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Mr Rogers

The helpers -
Folk who set out this morning
anticipating a normal day at work
but found themselves transformed
into reluctant heroes.
They could not prevent tragedy
but, when faced with unimaginable circumstance
they rallied to the call,
stepped up to the mark
and went way beyond the call of duty.
The helpers -
the folk who in the midst
of grief and pain
and tragedy
do what must be done
and keep on doing it
dropping gentle reminders
all around
of chinks of light
in the darkness
of hope
of love
reminders that not all humanity
is evil.
The helpers -
those who mirror God
in their grief
and sorrow
in their quest
to make a difference
in their willingness to cry
and their unwillingness
to be defeated.
The helpers.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Unexpected gifts






Recently, I've been spending some time getting to know the young folks in the Supported Learning Centre of a local Secondary School. It has been a joy to experience their hospitality and witness their caring. Each one unique, each with different needs and challenges. United in caring for and supporting one another. And challenging me to think about how I express faith and the things I consider important and life-giving. It is refreshing to be forced to weigh up words and concepts, to weed out ambiguity, to get to the heart of the matter. I am being encouraged to grow through these encounters, receiving so much more than giving.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Gaudete







Rejoice!
Just as the steps begin to weary
on a journey that began
with so much promise and hope
there comes a brief respite
while we pause in our journey to Bethlehem.
That pause is filled with expectation,
of rest and renewal
of joy and anticipation.
We salute Mary the mother of God
and take a moment
to ponder, with her
how far we have come
and the journey that we continue
and resolve, as we light the pink candle
to say yes!
to an awesome journey
with the God who loves
to take us on a journey
we would never have imagined
and who gives us the courage
to go along
on a bumpy ride
of discovery.
Rejoice!


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Wonderful love





‘Let me tell you how I love you,’ goes the song of God,
a song that never ends,
instead becoming more elaborate as time goes on.
The God of love
goes to extremes
to show us how
we are loved beyond measure.
God never tires
of finding new ways, revealing to us when least expected the height,
and depth,
and width
of love.
And, just when we think we’ve got the message,
we are stunned again
by the enormity of such love that pursues us
to the ends of the earth, stopping us in our tracks, in our daily grind compelling us
to look up and wonder, and be filled with hope and with joy
as we bask
in God’s love for us.

Liz Crumlish 2012


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Monday, 10 December 2012

Seeing Christ in others




I've always been a bit of a soft touch when it comes to folk looking for handouts from the church. And I've been scammed a few times. So while, perhaps that makes me slightly more cautious, I still feel instinctively that, for folk to come to "the church" whom I represent, asking for help, takes a lot and betrays a real need at some level.
Recently, the number of requests has steadily increased. I'm not sure that this is due to word getting around. I think, rather, it is more an indication of how the recession is deepening and affecting more folk.
There has also been a growth in the number of food banks emerging. This is good and, indeed, our congregation regularly contribute to one of these. However, there does seem to be a disproportionate amount of red tape to be negotiated before relief is given. And that concerns me. Of course there will always be those who abuse any system but there also has to be a way to trust that folk are as desperate as they claim to be and to provide immediate relief until other services can be accessed.
I wish I knew how to draw up a robust policy in helping the hungry and the homeless and I am also aware of my own vulnerability in some situations but there is the very real danger that turning away "the least of these" would be to turn away Christ, the one who "took on flesh and moved into the neighbourhood."

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Sunday, 9 December 2012

Refining




The past is always brighter when viewed from the depths of the present.
Memories take on a rose tinted hue when they are explored
from the safety of distance.
We have an amazing capacity
to filter out the dross
and capitalize on the glitz,
the ability to find glimmers of gold in the muck and glaur.
And our God is way ahead of us already sifting,
testing,
cleansing,
scrubbing up the old and tired,
restoring to glory all that’s worth keeping, bringing joy when least expected, transforming all the familiar landscapes with love,
and laughter,
and a baby’s cry.
Settling into the world
and upending everything making it real
with the pangs of labour, birthing new life and new hope in the mess of the world.
(Liz Crumlish 2012)

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Saturday, 8 December 2012

Cradling God




Our Quiet Christmas Service is an attempt to acknowledge that this season is not one of hope and joy for everyone. We light candles and hang memorials on the tree and think of those we miss. And, somehow, there is an honesty in that service where no one is required or expected to be cheerful, where folk are encouraged to be real. And, always, the plight of an unmarried teenage mother, far from home, struggling to make sense of all that is happening comes into focus and the Nativity, stripped bare speaks into the silence. The silence of love lost and dreams abandoned, the silence in which the anguished sigh of God is heard. And God's presence is felt in the starkness of the manger unadorned by fairy lights, in the rawness of grief and loss, breathing warmth that thaws bodies numbed by pain,embracing hearts laid bare in sorrow, cradling fragile souls as fiercely and lovingly as God's son was cradled in his mother's arms.
Into such a world, God comes.
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Friday, 7 December 2012

Seasonal variations




Ministers are never together very long before the conversation invariably turns to funerals. There is no doubt that this time of year brings an increase in the number of funeral services ministers are asked to conduct. A combination of the cold weather and winter viruses. One of the privileges of being a "parish" minister, involved in a "territorial" ministry such as the Church of Scotland values is that anyone in the surrounding area can expect to have the ordinances of religion fulfilled by their local parish church. That includes weddings and funerals.
But the fact that I'm spending more time with bereaved families at this time of year does not diminish other aspects of ministry or call into question the essence of parish ministry. It is simply one of the many facets to which we are called, requiring to be embraced along with all the rest, in all its seasonal variations.
Believing that God gets alongside people in every season, in joy and sorrow sets the agenda for us to do so too.


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Thursday, 6 December 2012

Messy Nativity

This Advent, with some others in church, I've been watching again the BBC's production of The Nativity. Tony Jordan, the producer brought lots of thought provoking nuances to this version, portraying Mary being treated as a whore, Joseph and her parents struggling to believe her story of an immaculate conception and the Wise Men as wily astrology enthusiasts led by Balthasar who recognises the import of this once in a life time opportunity.
It is a very earthy portrayal and speaks much more realistically into the politics and the culture of God's timing of the Incarnation and accentuates how much we in the church have sanitised what must have been a pretty scary series of events for all concerned.
What is clear is that it is not a sentimental drama for re-enactment by children as we have allowed it to become but, rather, a messy, risky affair. God living on the edge.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Missing the obvious





Enjoyed listening to authors Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch today, talking about The Shape of things to come - in Scotland.
They are both wonderful communicators, combining prophetic insight with scriptural exegesis.
One of the most glaring omissions of the church, they claim, is our theology of the incarnation. Not giving the incarnation enough weight results in really skewed practice. When we emphasise a theology centred on the cross or on resurrection or even salvation we diminish our portrayal of the God who took on flesh and who "moved into the neighbourhood". And getting that image wrong means that we get the image of God wrong since Jesus displays the Father. Somehow we've lost that bodily connection, lost the flesh element and substituted something much more cerebral that doesn't get down and dirty enough.
The church, faced with its current identity crisis would benefit from returning to our founder, mirroring the life of Jesus who majored on access for all.
Is there any better time than this season of Advent to start putting some flesh back on out theology?
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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Pregnancy blues




In the early stages of my second pregnancy, my gran died. It wasn't entirely unexpected - she was well into her eighties and had been ill for some time. My main concern was that I wasn't sure if I'd make it to her funeral service - because I was being so sick in that first trimester. Whoever called it morning sickness must have been male! It lasted all day and then into the night.
Kate Middleton has been hospitalised because of pregnancy sickness and it is front page news in many parts of the world. It IS a horrible thing and I would not want in any way to trivialise it. However it does seem a bit bizarre that it has claimed such media attention.
When every day there are women and babies who do not survive pregnancy or who are delivered in unsanitary conditions.
And, as the church prepares to celebrate the birth of the baby God once more, conceived, delivered and brought up amidst great risk for all concerned, perhaps we can make room to consider the plight of those women and children who will never become headline news but who survive against all odds, as well as those who do not make it. Perhaps we can resolve to work towards proper health care and sanitary conditions for all women and their children through all hazards that pregnancy brings.

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Monday, 3 December 2012

Into the cold...

 
A video for the beginning of Advent.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Beginnings...and endings





As we embarked on another year in church life today,this first Sunday in Advent, we also said farewell to our ministry student who has journeyed with us over the last year. The gestation period is over and it is time for a new birth. We are sustained by the hope of the season and the expectation of another adventure just beginning. Advent heralds growth and change that we embrace with confidence, experiencing Emmanuel - God with us through all of life.
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Saturday, 1 December 2012

Ready?




The Advent candles are waiting to be lit. The Chrismon tree is ready for the children to hang the decorations they have made. The signs are all around the Sanctuary that we await something special. While some folk are eager for the season to begin, others need a little more time. But that is not an option. Christmas is coming, ready or not. Its a bit like the game of Hide and Seek we play as children, where the Seeker cries: Here I come, ready or not! God breaks into our messy lives bringing all the signs of hope and peace and joy - bidden or unbidden. The light shines in the darkness. Thank God we cannot hold that back by our reluctance to begin the Advent journey. It begins and God is with us.
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Friday, 23 November 2012

Dinosaur alert





I constantly encounter people who struggle, not so much with faith, though that's not easy but more with the ordinances and institution of religion. Countless folk who claim to be Spiritual rather than Religious. I have always been able to empathise with such people. Lets face it - the institutional church does not acquit itself well when given the opportunity to be open and affirming, contemporary or relevant. Indeed it seems pretty populated at present by defenders of the institution who would claim that it has no business being any of those things! It is difficult to maintain a sense of vocation to such an institution. And even more difficult when my call and the way I live out that call is dismissed not just by the institutional hierarchy (patriarchy) but by those embracing the next bright new shiny wave of trendy ministry. If it were not for that sense of vocation and the conviction that God is far removed from the restrictive narrow minded ness that seems to inhabit the institution at present I would be taking to the hills.
Thankfully the liberating, many hued, unfettered Spirit of God cannot be confined or boxed in by the pronouncements of institutions. That Spirit is still offered freely and graciously by a God surely swithering about whether to laugh or cry right now at the antics of "church". "Behold I freely give", proclaims God. Regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, rules and regulations.
Of course each vocation demands rigorous discernment and testing. But the life giving Spirit of God shows up in surprising ways and rarely within a closed and fettered institution, and the Spirit conferred in baptism is not a gift to be snatched back by an institution when it dreams up another set of rules that seek to confine and control.
Thankfully that whimsical, life giving Spirit keeps on showing up to provide encouragement and affirmation that the institution seeks to destroy.
In spite of the dinosaurs!
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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Twilight Zone




During the summer I "discovered" Twilight and loved reading the books and watching the DVDs. So I'm delighted at the release of Breaking Dawn part 2.
This morning, reflecting on ministry, it occurred to me that a lot of ministry happens in liminal space or what might be termed "the twilight zone". And that can often be a scary place to be with no clear sense of direction or of outcome but, rather, the tenacity to hang in there with the uncertainty. Not only does this aptly describe the place of most ministry encounters but it might also be a metaphor for the Church of Scotland at present. Although that in between space or threshold does hold an element of fear, it is also a place that invites novelty and creativity and that stimulates excitement and potential. It is not a place or a time to long for the past but to hope for the future and celebrate the opportunity of the present. Looking forward to being immersed in all things Twilight!
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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Holding in tension




When I was training for ministry and subsequently at various National and local gatherings aimed to equip and refresh, there was a perception abroad that, if one wasn't involved in ministry in a Priority Area, then one wasn't involved in real ministry. I and other colleagues went home to our middle class or affluent parishes feeling guilty and discouraged.
Now I appreciate that that was a perception rather than any agreed agenda driven by the institution but I have reflected on this with others and was not alone in that perception.
My fear for the church (one of my fears) is that, today, Emerging Ministry is becoming the new stick with which to beat an army of conscientious, community involved parish ministers - ministers who are effectively providing the ordinances of religion in their parish and doing that well, responding to the needs and desires of their community and without which many of our communities would be bereft.
While I am very creative in devising worship and in providing opportunities for people to come together in community to explore discipleship, none of the things I do can be considered "Emerging".
I am anxious that traditional ministries, where they are still working and, indeed, being sought, are not undervalued.
The Church of Scotland does not seem to do "mixed economy" terribly well so that we can affirm and support each other in the mission that is God's.
My hope and prayer is that the Emerging Church in all its different hues will embrace all varieties of ministry that engages with community.
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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Receiving graciously




I've been reflecting recently on Creativity, a gift from God. What must it feel like for God when we stifle or underplay a gift. It's probably something, especially in our Scottish culture to which we are all prone to a greater or lesser extent.
Hard on the heels of trying to process this, I find myself at an Emerging Ministries Conference. I'm here, not because I'm working at the coal face as many of the practitioners here are but because I'm on a working group set up to support and resource Emerging Ministries. But over dinner,where all the real learning happens at conferences, someone helpfully and encouragingly spoke of Fresh Expression of church consisting not only in new things or the edgy things but in the forming of communities that allow folk who otherwise wouldn't have opportunity to meet together, even if what they do together seems pretty traditional. It's not new versus old. Or edgy versus trad but relationships being nurtured. I think I've discovered another gift that I've overlooked.
Just as well God doesn't snatch back the gifts that we fail to appreciate. Still,it might be an idea to be more grateful and more gracious at God's abundance.

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Saturday, 10 November 2012

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas




With our church Christmas Fayre this morning and a wedding this afternoon- where the bridesmaid (and the father of the bride in yeomanry uniform) was in a rich scarlet colour, there are signs of Christmas all around.
But what is really exciting is that the latest issue of Spill the Beans has been released. This is an all age lectionary based worship resource with a distinctly Scottish flavour. It is full to bursting with ideas for Advent, Christmas, Epiphany,right through to Transfiguration, just before Lent begins. As one of the contributors, it is great to see the fruits of some sleepless nights in print.
We're already working on the Lent and Easter edition. But I'm looking forward to angels, shepherds, stables and and kings inhabiting the pews over the next wee while.
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Thursday, 1 November 2012

All Saints


For all saints 
Really, God? 
We're all in that communion of saints? 
All belonging to that unbroken line? 
All bound together? 
Seriously? 
So, my great grandfather, with his collarless shirts 
and starched collars that he wore on a Sunday 
and my great Uncle Charlie with the brylcreamed hair  
who wore braces on his trousers 
and my great aunt Nancy with the brown lace ups 
who always smelled of mothballs 
and wee auntie Annie who always wore a pinny 
with a duster in the pocket 
and a hairnet over her curlers 
except on a Sunday 
they're all saints 
along with old Mrs Brown 
who sits at the back now 
always with a wee sweetie  
to keep the wee ones quiet 
and young Kylie who takes the youth group 
and is the height of fashion 
and even old grumpy Bob who's always complaining 
and that wee devil Ross 
who winds up all the other kids 
you're telling me that they 
are all saints? 
How can we ever worship you 
when this sanctuary must be filled  
with such a babble 
of voices 
all worshipping you through the ages 
And even more scary 
you're telling me 
that I have to love them 
because they're all part 
of your one, big, happy family? 
Come on, God - give us break. 
Please! 

Friday, 26 October 2012

Autumn morning




Crunching through leaves
Seeing, through the gloom
breath whipped away on the wind
as it mists in the morning frost
Anticipating in the darkness
shapes looming out of the shadows
of fellow travellers
on the journey
Are they coming or going?
Arriving or leaving?
Starting the day?
Or finishing the night?
There is evidence all around
of those whose work is done for now -
The steam emerging from the bakers
carrying the enticing aroma
of freshly baked bread;
Breakfast rolls ready for those just newly wakened.
The smell of polish in offices
that hints at night time cleaning
ready for a new days mess.
Freshly stocked shelves in the supermarket
prepared all through the night
so that daytime shoppers might find
all that their hearts desire.
We pass each other on our journey to work-
those whose shift is done
and those who are just beginning
unaware of how
we rely on each other
each providing a part
of a whole
that is not complete
until both have performed
their allotted task,
their part in the vast, complex jigsaw
that comprises daily life.
In the early morning light, each is wrapped up
in their own cocoon
filled with thoughts
and plans
and anxieties,
unthinking, unseeing
barely noticing
life teeming around us
far less being mindful
of other lives
In our community
whose days are bereft of purpose
who long to be going about
the mindlessness
of everyday routine.
The unemployed
the grieving
those sick
in body, mind or soul,
those who feel rejected
unloved and unwanted.
Those who have spent the hours of darkness
longing for the day
and who will spend the day
longing for the night
when they can once more retreat
into the shadows
out of the glare
and put in their shift of suffering.
The riot of autumn colours
does not impinge
on their unremitting
shades of grey.
The miracle of frost patterns
fails to distract them
from the bleakness
that fashions their landscape.
The creeping in of dawn
fails to charm them
with its hues of pink and mauve and purple
for colours are silenced
by the power of the darkness
that inhabits their world.
And so we journey on
caring not how we affect each other,
unaware of the dreams lost
or trampled underfoot
like autumn leaves
or not even begun,
whisked away like breath
in the early morning frost.
We journey on absorbed and consumed
by all the demands
of our own day.
And all around us nature calls
to us and tries to beguile us
with its beauty and colour,
the colour of caring and hope and promise.
We journey on
In a strange kind of blindness,
inconvenienced
by swirling leaves
and frosty breath
and unimpressed
by the colour of hope.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Multiple personality




I had an interesting day yesterday playing the part of an interviewee being assessed as a potential candidate for full time ministry in the Church of Scotland - (for the purposes of assessor training). Both interview teams asked very different questions and I left feeling that I had portrayed two quite different people!
That struck me as quite congruent in ministry when we are called to be so many different things to different people at different times and in a wide variety of situations. These are often brief encounters and might leave folk with little snapshots, pieces of a very complex jigsaw.
Few will ever see the bigger picture or even a sizeable part of it but all will be affected, for good or ill, by the sense they make of what they do see. Striving to reflect the image of God in every encounter becomes much more vital when seen from that perspective. It is less important that folk get to know us than that they get to see God in us.
I'm not sure that either account I gave of myself yesterday merited acceptance as a candidate for training. But that's another story!
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Eavesdropping





Yet another wonderful thing about train travel is that you are forced to listen in to people's conversations. OK - that can be really irritating when it's a tedious, banal, unnecessary, stating the obvious, phone convo. And that's not just because it's one-sided. It would be double torture to have to listen to the other side of those conversations. On my journey this morning i was fascinated by a conversation that ranged from the sadness of Stalin to the desirability of Machiavelli, with Terry Pratchett thrown in along the way. it might have been pretentious if the folk involved hadn't been so earnest. I certainly learned a few things that I'm sure will come in handy at some point. Maybe when there are political history questions in the next pub quiz!
So- what have you learned as you've journeyed today. And, perhaps more salutary, what have others learned from your conversations?
Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Benediction


Pronouncing blessing
on the freshness of the breeze
that snatches away
all those gnawing thoughts
and clamouring ideas
that will keep
until another time
Pronouncing blessing
on the salty tang
that cleanses the palate
of the bitter taste
of judgment and criticism
unwelcome companions
on the journey
Pronouncing blessing
on the biting cold
that numbs the wounded spirit
damaged beyond repair
from too many searing remarks
cast thoughtlessly over the shoulder
by those considered friends
Pronouncing blessing
on a moments peace
an at-one-ness with nature
and all its healing balm
Pronouncing blessing
on the God of creation
who meets us
in that moment
Thanks be to God

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Living water

Straiton Falls
The recent rainfall ensured that these waterfalls were flowing well today. The water spilled fast and furious and the noise was deafening - a cacophony that spoke of energy and life. The autumn sunshine completed the uplifting effect of walking beside not still but roaring water. The God who leads us by still waters also walks beside us in the far from tranquil moments, bringing peace and calm in every turbulence.





Thursday, 27 September 2012

With arms open wide

Looking ahead to this Sunday's gospel: Jesus said: "Whoever is not against us is for us."(Mark 9:40)  He was confronted with the disciples guarding their territory, complaining about someone using Jesus' name to cast out demons.
Sadly, this is a scenario played out again and again in congregations and communities. We're not good at making room for others. Sure we'll welcome people, especially new people, but once they start straying into our territory, treading on our toes, maybe even having the audacity to do some things better than us, it is then that we close ranks and hang on to our places and our traditions and our way of doing things. Change would signal weakness and may deposit us on a slippery slope. Our welcome grows cold when we feel ourselves threatened. Making room for others might diminish our sphere of influence or compromise our high standards. Jesus makes it clear that positions are not important. And, as Mark's gospel unfolds, so does the message that there is room for all in the Kingdom of God. And, what's more, we need to move over, give up some of our space, learn to serve with humility. God sees beyond the outward appearance, beyond the boundaries. In God's embrace there is room for all.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Shades of autumn

A walk in the park this morning held lots of reminders that autumn is here. As I reflected on the change evident in the heavy morning dew, in the changing colours of the trees, and the presence of autumn berries, I was also reflecting on the seasonal changes that affect the lives of those we love and serve in ministry: Those adjusting to empty nests as young people go off to work or study. Those making provision for increasing frailty in loved ones as age takes its toll. Those living with partners affected by life changing conditions that have already dulled minds and imprisoned spirits. As well as grief and mourning though, I was thankful for all the resilience I have witnessed and the wonder and inspiration I have experienced as, time after time, folk plumb the depths and emerge with hope and fortitude. I am left with a new awareness of the capacity for growth and the potential for joy in all things. Even in the darkness it is possible to believe in the relentless inevitability of light.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Full steam ahead

Cass Railroad, West Virginia
I work best under pressure - which might be another way of saying that I leave everything until the last minute. But, I believe that the pressure of a deadline enhances creativity!
This past year or so, working on Spill the Beans, an all age worship curriculum, has forced some discipline into seasonal worship preparation. Advent is done and dusted and we're currently working on Epiphany. It feels really strange to be writing reflections about stars and shepherds and stables and angels when summer is barely over. And I do know that other liturgical publications are much more demanding, requiring submissions well in advance of editing.
The exciting thing is that, as the weeks unfold, when I get around to preparing to lead worship Sunday by Sunday, the ideas crafted months ago still have the capacity to challenge and surprise. Our is not a stagnant text that we can interpret or discern once and for all. It is a moving target that beckons us to follow in its wake, to try to keep up, to be assaulted by joy and beguiled by wisdom. A living word, sufficient for each day.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

No horizons

Looking ahead to this Sunday's gospel in which Jesus, seemingly grudgingly, heals the daughter of a foreign woman who is persistent in her demands.
Set against the back drop of the Paralympics drawing to a close in London right now, there is a sense of barriers not just being dismantled but smashed. Of new, unparalleled horizons hoving into view. Of dreams emerging from the mist and being born with determined clarity.
In the gospel story in Mark 7, it seems as if the gospel is given its imperative - to share the grace of God universally, irrespective of race, gender, or any other defining and limiting characteristics.
The power of the love of God knows no limits and respects no boundaries. It is contained only by our flawed perceptions.
We are called to re-imagine a world beyond our meagre expectations, a world in which the love and grace of God collide to enable men and women to live in their abundant giftedness. Freed to soar.

Friday, 31 August 2012

50 shades

I have a confession: I have read and, wait for it, enjoyed the 50 shades trilogy. I read them before I was aware of all the controversy and publicity that has surrounded them and contributed to their popularity and escalating sales.
Deflecting good natured criticism from colleagues, I suggested, tongue in cheek, that I would write a theological exposition on the books finding in the books, as I did, themes of healing and forgiveness, of redemption and the transforming power of love. As well as movement from darkness into light.
Today, on a leadership course, I was reminded of another useful concept from 50 shades - the efficacy of solutions focussed coaching rather than problem focussed. The vulnerable Christian Grey in 50 shades while undergoing therapy begins to experience healing when he is encouraged by his latest in a whole string of therapists to move from concentrating on how he has become so damaged and turn his attention to how he wants life to be, seeking a solution rather than dwelling on the problem. Working that premise through today with a colleague in a training session opened up real possibilities and gave cause for optimism. Another positive from 50 shades!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Sharing the gift

I have long admired street artists - especially the musicians. I rarely pass without giving them something for their effort. Of course there are the usual frauds, folk who have picked up a cheap instrument and can barely hold a tune - like the squeeze box player in Ayr High Street who has one snatch of a tune that she plays over and over again. There is also, in the street artist population as in any other subset of society, those with mental health issues, forced onto the street by their inability to conform to societal norms or who refuse to wear the strait jacket that might enable them to "fit in".
But in my rose-tinted romanticised view I see street artists as free agents, liberated to indulge their gifts and to share those gifts to lighten others' days by providing bright spots in otherwise gloomy landscapes.
In street artists I see the calling fulfilled that belongs to us all - to share our gifts for the benefit of others, creating a world in which our mutual sharing lightens the load and makes each day that bit brighter. We are all called to practice our street artistry.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Practicing Resurrection

Walking the dog, I am always amazed by her eagerness to walk at least 4 times as far as I do - running on ahead, tracking back, foraging off at tangents. Always anticipating an adventure. Reminding me of a line from Wendell Berry's poem Manifesto. "Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary some in the wrong direction. Practice resurrection"
How transformative would it be if we were so careless with our energy, so easily distracted, so relentlessly hopeful.
What if, even in the midst of clouds, we retained the awareness that the sun is only temporarily obscured and let that knowledge affect how we expend our energy - unafraid of the extra trails but ever hopeful. Knowing that death is already defeated and that every new trail brings life-filled adventure. Daring to practice resurrection.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The best bits

Folk often ask me: What do you like most about ministry? In a week when it seems easy to name those bits I don't much like, it's a good counter balance to reflect on some of my favourite things:

  • When I return home awash with coffee because I've gone from home to home, admiring people's family pictures, hearing people's stories, enjoying the luxury of pastoral visits.
  • Driving or walking around the parish and being greeted by name by school children and, often, being introduced to their parents.
  • Having the opportunity to share and articulate a family's memories as they pay tribute and say goodbye to a loved one.
  • The sense of "ownership" of parish and the responsibility of loving and caring for souls.
  • The knowledge of God present in every chance encounter.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Summer nights

One of the best things about summer, for me, is that there are very few evening meetings. That allows time for leisurely meals after a days work, long walks, time to read and, this summer, time to catch up on Twilight DVDs! I've also spent lots of time sitting in the garden until gone dark, something that could conceivably be done after an evening meeting but usually, by the time I get home, my head is too full to switch off and relax. This week sees the return to a fuller schedule and the loss of relaxed evening hours. The theory is that evening work time should be recouped during the day but that simply doesn't work - in theory or in practice. However, before I get too maudlin - I give thanks for the space I've enjoyed, for the opportunity for rest and renewal and I look forward to a time of transition - a time of easing back in gently to all the opportunities that abound as evenings become again filled with work.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Glass Ceiling

Following on from my last post... I discovered this reflection I wrote back in January 2010. Not sure why I didn't post it at the time...


The glass ceiling

They say it’s no longer an issue
But that’s just the men
We women know the truth
that they refuse to acknowledge-
That they are the esteemed,
the honoured members of the exclusive club
the ones who make decisions
who hold our future in their hands
In a church that claims to value
the gifts of all God’s people
those who are in reality acceptable
have to have the correct anatomy
and those of us missing that significant little feature
can run around in circles
loving, caring, making a difference
but not to the institution.
We can get close to the people
live out the incarnation
but be rejected and despised
by colleagues whose positions we threaten
Our warmth and sensitivity,
 our caring and compassion
are looked on with suspicion at best,
contempt at worst..
They bury their heads in the sand
and deny the truth
gush about being open and affirming
while firmly closing ranks.
We are not interested in competing,
but a leveling of the field would be good.
or at least the honesty to own
that the ceiling has not disappeared
not even been lowered
but is still firmly in place and being reinforced daily.
Liz Crumlish January 2010

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Old but still going strong

I was painfully reminded recently of how accustomed I've grown to gender discrimination in the church. While mostly my response after years of building up a degree of immunity is a roll of the eyes, I felt the acute pain of younger women whose hopes and expectations have not become dulled like mine. And my hope for them is that they will never become "used" to it like I have but will keep on hoping for better, for the recognition of their calling and of their gifts and of their inclusion  - created, called and gifted, as we all are, in the image of God. My prayer is that those who refuse to be inclusive as God is inclusive will know the ostracism that they seek to create and find themselves on the margins. Or, as someone much greater than I said: "Do unto others...."

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The bridge

One of the images I used during Youth Assembly was the Forth Road Bridge - providing a link between communities.
At the end of NYA yesterday it was tempting to clear up and rush back home to pick up on all that had been left behind.
However, an extra night spent with new friends made on the journey, reflecting on all the opportunities that the event had provided is a much better place from which to return, ready to hit the ground running again, bridging the gap between the euphoria of the National Youth Assembly experience and whatever awaits us in the communities to which we return.The bonds forged by those sharing a common task are strengthened by taking time out to laugh and learn together before we move on.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Things I have learned at NYA

Here are just some of the things I have learned this weekend at Church of Scotland National Youth Assembly

  • I don't have the stamina I had 20 years ago
  • I can't party all night and function productively the next day
  • Many young people have impeccable manners
  • Sometimes I have wisdom to offer - BUT
  • More often, there is SO much to learn and so many teachers around.
  • While, for me, young people are simply an integral part of the church, they still need their own forum - just like, for example, the Guild.
  • and finally, but most painfully - I am no longer a young person :(

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Grumpy God

Darren, who played God in worship this morning was wearing a Grumpy T shirt.
Lots of folk think of God as pretty Grumpy - and certainly, the God portrayed in the Hebrew Scriptures does seem to have good days and bad days and is pretty fickle at times as well as blood thirsty and vengeful and generally not the sort of God you'd want to know.
Another barrier that Jesus came to break through - to reveal the God of love who created the world, who lives in the heart of all creation, in whose image we are created, the God who loves us back to faith and to life in all its fulness.

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