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  • Ancient Artefacts.. well, sort of!

    One of my tasks over the coming weeks is to sort through the drawers and cupboards, shelves, stacks and stashes in my office at work, deciding what should be kept, what should be passed on and what should be binned/recycled.

    As I sifted through the drawers of the filing cabinet that has served as my stationery stash/store for the last 20 years or so (eek!) I found a huge quantity of unused OHP slides - both the sort designed to go through printers and the sort that you used to write on.  I do have a few ideas for uses as crafts - but not enough to use them all up, and possibly not things that will ever actually come to pass.  So these will go into the 'rehome' or 'recycle' piles rather than 'retain'.

    I also came across these:


    It still only feels like yesterday that Woolworth's closed, and that I felt like some kind of low-life stocking up on bargain priced A4 pads, pens and pencils that (as you can see) I am still working my way through all these years later.  In the week that the final few BHS shops closed their doors, and another long-lived company went the way of all flesh, it's a reminder, were one needed, of the endless and relentless change that goes on around us all the time.

    Decluttering will take a good while yet - and I am uncovering many good things as well as fair quantity of utter rubbish.  There will be some passing on of stuff to others, that's for sure, and then I can embark once more on a slightly more minimalist existence (stop rolling on the floor laughing...).

    In between times, normal service continues!!

  • Hmmmm.... Matthew 25 and Matthew 6.... and God's wisdom

    I've spent the last couple of days doing something which is a great privilege and responsibility, meeting with the Baptist Union of Scotland's Board of Ministry, to explore with three people their call to accredited Baptist ministry.  It was a good experience - at least for me - and I hope they left enoucouraged (if exhausted).

    But none of that is the stuff of "hmmm"

    The opening act of worship used the wonderful painting "Our Last Supper" (shown above) alongside Matthew 25 "I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink, naked and you fed me" and we were reminded that whatever we do or say to others, we do or say to Christ... wise and salutary words at the start of the process.

    Last night, I had the privilege of leading evening prayers, and within that context had chosen part of Matthew 6: "Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?”  Cue spooky music!  Food... water... clothing... we shouldn't worry about these things because God will supply them...  And I couldn't help thinking that as these are supplied to us, so they are given to the Christ-in-us...

    This morning, totally independently, the person leading prayers had also chosen Matthew 25, and offered some reflection from a book by David Adam called "The Cry of the Deer" from which some stories we told to illustrate this giving to Christ as we give to others... St Ninian (I think) and St Francis... and a man in a queue in a small post office store who paid for a bag of frozen chips.

    So, good reminders of the profound mystery that not only does every human bear the image of Christ, they are in some measure, Christ to us... just as we are to others.

    Thank you A and S for your prayers/devotions, and thank you for allowing me to offer something a little different by way of night prayer.

  • Endless variety - and common factors

    It's roughly 10:30 on a Saturday morning, and I've been gainfully employed doing church-related stuff for three hours.  There's no great virtue in this, it's just the way I choose to work, so that I can hopefully get everything done and then take some time out.  And, to be fair, it's not that often that I have significant or substantial amounts of work to do on a Saturday, just that life has been pretty busy of late and a lot of deadlines have arrived all at once!!

    So, what have I been doing with this time?

    First of all I prepared a draft sermon for the wedding I'll be conducting a week today.  I don't especially like the term 'sermon' for this, but in a Scottish context where, so I am told, the 'address to the couple' is usually a bit of a pep talk, maybe sermon is a better word.  I love writing these short pieces, each taylored to the unique context, each trying to reflect and capture something of what the couple want to say to each other.  Around the 800 words mark this time, so short and (hopefully) sweet.  Two lovely reading to work with, and I'm looking forward to sharing in a lovely couple of days in Aberdeen.

    Then it was downloading some video for the 'all together' part of tomorrow's morning service... and being conscious of the context in which it will be shared and the potential misunderstandings or objections that might arise.  Nothing unique or even unusual here, it's a constant and important check that needs to be made... who is included/exlcuded, how are my words heard...  People are gracious and generous, which makes it feel even more important to think and prepare carefully.

    The task I finished just before starting this blog, was writing intercessions for evening prayers at a residential meeting to be held on Monday/Tuesday of next week.  Yet again, context is everything.  People will have travelled, some of them long distances; they will have been involved in deep conversations and be weighing significant decisions.  Fatigue and emotion and best behaviour and supressed furstration will all be evident (at least in me!) so it's a genuine challenge.  I am told that I am good at this kind of prayer-leading - which is affirming and encouraging, and challenging and unnerving, in equal measure.  It is certainly a complex blend of privilege and responsibility.

    So, three very different activities, for three very different contexts, and at least some pretty clear common factors!

    Recently, it struck me that in just over a year (in December 2017) it will be 20 years since I heard the clear and unambigious call to ordained ministry.  Back then, I hadn't a clue what that really meant - and to be brutally honest, I'm still only beginning to work it out - but one thing that's certainly true is that ministry continues to be endless varied... and the common factors don't change over time or between contexts!

  • Treasure

    The photo is the "up to 1960" Roll Book of our church, one of many precious and wonderful items that lie unseen in a dusty cupboard off of my office.  On Wednesday evening, ahead of a Deacons' meeting I was rooting around for a specific file and paused to enjoy a little time with this, and other, treasures.

    This, the first page of the roll book lists the names of the founders of our church, the people who covenanted together to form a congregation on what was, then, the outskirts of the city.  The faded, but still indelible, black ink; the strike through of those who had died (later entries would include striking through of those who left or moved away), the identification of churches from which people came, and to which they moved... utterly fascinating and endlessly precious.

    Leafing through, I found entries for some of our "more mature" folk... I don't have access to records from 1960 onwards, and suspect that the numbering system has long fallen into disuse, but it's good to set myself, and others, in the context of something so much greater and more enduring than our own, finite experience.

    There are many other such items in the cupboard - so I'll have to restrain myself from disappearing in there and not emerging for some considerable time!!

  • Now I Are Six...

    This post is written in advance and scheduled to appear exactly six years from the date of the appointment at the breast clinic that started my cancer journey in 2010.

    This year, for a variety of reasons, I've made a conscious effort not to draw attention to the anniversary ahead of time, or even too much today. 

    Nevertheless, it remains, for me at least, an important milestone - an opportunity to reflect and rejoice; to give thanks for my own continuing life and health, and to remember the, all too many, friends I have made and lost in these years.

    I had contemplated posting some stuff that was fairly frank, but I know that among my readers are gentle folk who would find that distressing.  Suffice to say, I seem to be lucky/blessed enough thus far as to remain in the good part of the statistics.

    So this year, no social gatherings, no personal fundraisers for cancer charities, just a bit of utter doggerel, with apologies to AA Milne.


    When I was one
    Active treatment was done

    When I was two
    Up Ben Nevis I flew...
    Well, actually I staggered, but that doesn't rhyme.

    When I was three
    Reconstruction was finished - yippee!

    When I was four
    I'd been to New Zealand on tour...
    Well, actually to present a paper at a conference but doesn't sound so much fun!!

    When I was five
    I celebrated life!

    And now I am six
    I'm still in remission:
    NED seems a good status
    for ever and ever!


    In these six years I have heped to raise thousands of pounds for cancer charities, met some amazing and inspiring people, done things I'd never have imagined and learned just how precious life is.  Sometimes I need to remind myself of this... and sometimes I need to allow myself the indulgence of speaking of it.