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  • Nostalgia.... Kind Of

    Yesterday's visit to local Baptist churches took me to one that meets in a primary school.  This felt like a blast from my own past as I walked into the door and the smell of disinfectant-mixed-with-wax-crayon hit me.  A hotchpotch of three-quarter sized stacking chairs (tick) a (decent) lashed-up PA (tick) and projector (tick), even the lovely banners hung from the windows (well, would have been climbing frame, but 'tick').  The bits of art work and random school notices on the walls (tick).  The PE equipment stacked in a  corner (tick).  Ah yes, I remembered it well!

    The greeter at the door was friendly and pointed me in the right direction to find the hall 'just walk towards the music'.  There was a bit of a hiatus actually getting in, as several people were bunched around the table where various leflets were laid out (not unusual it happens in most churches) but the church secretary spotted me and welcomed me in.  Cover was blown quickly as I know a couple of people in this church, but even so, I was largely anonymous.

    The singing with a small, competent band, was hearty and tuneful, and mostly well-known stuff.  There was one old hymn to a new, and frankly musically quite dire, tune (why does anyone think 'To God be the Glory' needs a new tune?  Sorry Nathan Fellingham but, no). Otherwise all good stuff.  There were some intercessions which gets a big tick in my book and a reasonable chunk of Bible read (only one passage thouhg, depsite the speaker several times asserting the import of scripture (stereotypes!!).

    Visiting a church when they have a guest speaker who represents an organistation they are interested in supporting is always slightly odd.  I loved the enthusiasm and commitment of the speaker, and parts of his message were really important, such as his deep understanding of God's call as 'I can do no other' but it was overlong (40 minutes when he'd said 25-30 at the start) and meant the service had to be cut short as the hire-period ended just 15 minutes after he stopped and the hall had to be cleared...  I had some issues with some of what he said (bad science and Biblical mis-quoting in his 'children's talk') and sexism in his jokes/illustrations (every bad decision was ultimately the fault of a woman... men when driving evidently made foolish overtaking decisions because they were frustrated by women who were dirivng too slowly... really?  Grr!)

    Easy to pick holes, but this felt to be a happy church with good participation of many people.  The atmosphere was good, the tea decent (thank you!) and I happened to arrive on a day when they had homebaking (yes!).

    Icing on the cake was being invited to lunch by the folk I knew - very kind of them, and a nice way to relax as well as learning a bit more about their church.

    It was fun being back in a school, fun being back in a 'lash up' setting, because this is what I know and love, and this the tabernacling kind of church that feels good... I realise that could be misconstrued, so to reassure folk, The Gathering Place is a tabernacling church, we just camp in our own back yard, and I love it.

  • Autumnal


    Autumn comes sooner in Scotland than further south.  Somehow this year I missed the subtle change in the light that heralds its arrival - perhaps because I've been rising later or perhaps  because the weather turned substantially more dull all of a sudden at the end of an especially golden summer.

    Irrespective, the colour changes and leaf fall of autumn have a special place in my personal litany of thanks, proof, were it needed of another year lived.

    This afternoon, a stroll in nearby Victoria Park where hints of autumn abound.

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  • Another Year Down the Track

    This probably constitutes an 'oh for goodness sake not again' post, but it matters in my personal calendar.

    Three years ago today I heard the fateful words "I'm sorry, it's cancer" and embarked on an unplanned adventure that affetced me far more than I could have imagined possible.  Not only the physical changes (even now I have to look twice at photos to recongise myself) but the hidden intellectual and emotional changes, some theological tweaks and some shifted perspectives.

    I think, for me, the biggest thing I've learned is that it never quite goes away.  What do I mean by this?  Well not the fear, which, whilst I can still recall and relive it, is by and large long gone.  It is more the realisiation that there are long term, maybe even life-long, effects of the treatment, physical, intellectual and emotional.  A friend of mine described cancer as "the gift that keeps on giving" because, even without recurrence or metastasis, there always seems to be some new effect arising.  Long term side effects of surgery and drugs were something that never crossed my mind three years ago.  The tone of this is probably more negative than intended - I would always rather live with the effects than not live without them, and they don't prevent me from having an enjoyable and fulfilling life, it's just that they are always there, a permenent reminder beyond the physical scars.

    Three years ago today, I genuinely wondered if I would see Christmas 2010, this week I applied for tickets for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwelath Games.  It was a few months ago, when I registered on the Glasgow 2014 site, that I realised that I was now daring to look more than a year ahead again.  I still find it discomfitting when friends talk about ten year plans or retirement plans, but the accuteness has abated.  I have, I think, learned better to live in the 'now' but with a chastened optimism that, whilst it does not assume longeviety, allows me to dream dreams and plan for the short term.

    Later today I will be treating myself to the largeest skinny fairtrade latte I can find and a slice of something utterly unhealthy.  Life is good.


    Three years, God, that's how long we think Jesus' ministry lasted


    Three years: a lifetime, a blink of an eye,

    A journey through uncharted territory...

    Valleys dark as death

    And mountain tops where I could see eternity


    Three years that you have travelled with me

    Showing me more of myself

    Teaching me more than I could have imagined

    And still, as I step into an unknown, unknowable, tomorrow

    You are with me


    For all that is past, 'thank you'

    For what is to come, a chastened, tentative, but intentional 'yes'.

  • Pointless Knowledge...

    Yesterday I was watching Pointless (a repeat but I hadn't seen it before).  The 'head-to-head' round required the contestants to:

    • identify upper case Greek letters
    • identify British national parks from their initial and final letters
    • answer questions on the 1980s miners' strike

    At the end of the round Richard Osman said "and especially welldone to anyone at home who got all fifteen answers'.... that'd be me then!


    In 1985 I was in my final year of my engineering degree and had to write an essay on the role of power in the miner's strike... I wrote to both Arthur Scargill and Roy Lynk of the UDM so those questions were a gift.  (The letter to Mr Scargill came back to me marked 'gone away' I kept it for many years as it made me laugh)

    I have walked in most of the national parks they listed, but was secretly pleased that I reocngised Pembrokeshire Coast (the lest known answer)

    Greek letters - well any scientist or theologian really ought to know those, epseically as they were sigma, omega, delta, theta and psi.  Easy peasy!

    Just a shame I have no idea when it comes to films and sport!

  • I See the Moon..

    ... the moon sees me.

    Last night was an especially beautiful full moon, radiant, sparkly, slightly golden-glowing and, so it appeared, grazed by wisps of silver cloud in a darker than dark blue sky.  I should have taken a photo I suppose, but they never quite capture the moment.

    I don't quite know why humans are so endlessly enchanted by the moon, but it does seem to have a kind of mystical magnetism that draws us into its orbit ((deliberately) bad physics but you know what I mean!)

    I have in the past commented here about the sense of connectedness I feel when I look at the moon - that it hung in the sky when my forebears walked the earth, that it observed all the major (and minor) events of history.  That everyone who ever lived, famous, infamous or unheard-of has, at some point, glanced upwards and been struck by its presence is something that I find endlessly fascinating.

    Quite why it is the moon to which this power or mystery is attributed I don't know.  I have never heard the same said of the sun or the stars, nor yet of mountains, rivers or seas, each of which in some measure carries the same sense of permanence.


    God who made the lesser light of the moon

    The reflected glow of distant sol

    Silently embracing the earth 'below'

    Thank you for this gift of grace

    For the mystery of its beauty

    For its timeless hint of eternity

    For the secrets it keeps

    And the joy it inspires


    God who made the lesser to reflect the greater

    May we we be as moons

    In our time

    And our place