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  • In Memory of Her... Spending my Inheritance!

    It's not a great photo, the auto-set colour isn't quite right and reflections in the mirror make it a little odd.  But none of that matters.  This is how I spent my inheritance - the £250 that was my share of the money left over after after we settled Mum's affairs.

    Storm Callum (almost named after one of my brothers) showed me that my ten year old waterproof jacket was waterproof no longer, and, having re-proofed it a couple of times already, I decided maybe it was time for something new.

    The new coat is almost knee-length, a deliberate choice, since nowadays I don't have a car and need something to keep me dry when walking - wet drip lines across skirts or trousers are not good!  It is also the most amazing deep azure-cum-turquoise colour, which I absolutely love.  And the design is such that it has a lightweight quilted inner that can be worn separately if desired.

    The clincher though, was the name!  This is the 'Dunoon 3-in-1 Jacket' and the colour is 'Loch Blue'.

    Among my precious and happy memories from childhood is a day trip to Dunoon when I would have been about 10.  I can remember getting the train from Glasgow Central Station and the ferry over to Dunoon.  I remember a children's ride in the form of ladybirds.  Somewhere, buried in a box, there may still be a surviving back-and-white photo of that day.  But even if the photo is lost, the memory survives.

    So, I hope my ludicrously expensive coat lasts as long as the one it replaces (in which case it will be good value for money).  And when I pull it on, at least sometimes, I will remember and be glad.

    Whenever this story is told, it will be done in memory of her...


  • Manse Life...

    I've always felt that a manse should be a welcoming place for whoever drops in - which I don't quite succeed with, as having cats inevitably excludes some folk - as well as being home (and at present a workplace) for me.

    In the last few days, it has felt good to have a steady stream of people passing through, reflecting so much of church life.  I seem to have cooked an awful lot of chicken for meat-eaters (though the kitties aren't complaining about the leftovers) the dishwasher has earned its keep, and overall it has been fun.

    In the last week I have welcomed...

    • Couple preparing for marriage, to talk through ceremony
    • Bible study group (seven plus me) on Saturday
    • Lunchtime meeting (seven plus me) on Sunday
    • Manse Meal (eight plus me) last night
    • Trustees meeting (six plus me) preceded by meal for some, tonight

    This may explain partly why I am tired this morning (though the joys of relentless hot flushes and night sweats are a major factor).  However, it is 'good tired' the tired that comes from 'things well done'. 

    It's been lovely to share with folk in so many different ways, some serious and some social, in the context of 'home'.

    Having now completed three 'manse meals' and with the next one in the planning phase, I feel content that this was a 'good thing' to introduce, and hope it continues to be as much fun going forward.

    Manse life feels good just now, and I am grateful for eveyone who makes it so.

  • What can I render unto the LORD? (Psalm 116)

    It seems that Psalm 116, one of the Hallel psalms, in which we hear of 'lifting up the cup of salvation' and make mental links to the cup of wine that Jesus shared with his followers (a legitimate link, since the psalm probably would have been sung/chanted during the Passover Seder) may well have originally been composed as part of a purification ritual, possibly following illness or other 'uncleanliness'.

    In our reflection yesterday, we noted that the trajectory of the psalm, which is one of gratitude though not celebration, is roughly thus:

    • Life was really awful and in desperation I cried out to God 'save me'
    • Life got better/I recovered and now I give thanks to God (in the presence of others, maybe in a ritual)
    • Because God has been good to me, I rededicate myself to God and ask myself 'what now can I do for God?'

    How we hear such a psalm will of course depend how life is for us.

    If life is [expletive deleted] then the permission it gives us to cry or shout at God is important - 'for goodness sake, God, do something!'

    If we have come out of the other side of a difficult time, it reminds us of the importance of gratitude.  The ritualised re-integration of formerly 'unclean' persons is something that thankfully we don't do.  But even so, at a personal level, saying 'thank you' to those who have 'been there' in whatever way, and to the God who is always there (even if seemingly silent or asleep), is important for our own well-being and humanity.

    And now what?  What difference does it make to have come through this?  What will we 'do' as a result of experiencing God's goodness, directly, or in and through others?  Perhaps it is something overtly spiritual.  Perhaps it's something practical.  Perhaps it is to re-evaluate our priorities.  Perhaps it is to be kinder to ourselves or to others.  There is no 'one size fits all', no single 'right' answer. 

    God has 'saved' me (from xyz), I am grateful and so I will rededicate myself to God's service by doing/being abc.

    At a personal level, the last few months have been difficult.  Since my Mum's death in May, another four people who, to some measure, were important to me, have also died.  There has been a lot of death, a lot of practical stuff to get done, and a lot of private/personal stuff to work through. I am glad that I made the choice to seek professional help from a counsellor who has suggested strategies and techniques that have proved effective (if a times very hard work!).  I am content that I have been open about this, at least to those who read this stuff.  Now that I feel as if I am beginning to come out of the other side of a painful and lonely place, comes the 'so what?'  If God has 'saved me from' - I prefer, travelled with me through, but the intent is broadly the same - whatever aspect(s) of grief it has been; if I am grateful and if I rededicate myself to God's service, what then does it mean?  On this occasion, I am clear that the answer lies in self-care - not more stuff to do for others, not more study, not more reflection even, just being kinder to me... and trust me, that's a big commitment!! :-)

  • Snuggling with God

    Yesterday we thought about 'psalms for special occasions' with a focus on the Ascent Psalms (121 - 134) and Hallel Psalms (113 - 118).  From these we focused on Psalms 131 and 116, in that order.

    Psalm 131 is a very short psalm at the heart of which is a beautiful image - a weaned child (so somewhere between six months and five years of age) snuggled up with their mother.  This is how the psalmist imagines himself (almost certainly a 'he') in the presence of God.

    The language of the psalm merits careful reflection.

    It is the psalmist who has done the stilling and quieting, not the mother who has comforted him... the 'be still' or 'desist' of Psalm 46 is possibly more familiar, with God saying, 'stop what you are doing this instant'.  Snuggling up to mother-God, the psalmist stops wriggling, stops worrying, stops doing or thinking, and just enjoys the moment.  'I have stilled and quieted myself' he says... I have chosen this state of being.

    For sure, that this is so means that God is snuggle-up-to-able, safe, welcoming, accepting - you wouldn't do this (or not more than once or twice) with someone who might push you away or shout at you for disturbing their peace.  But it is about the writer consciously choosing and acting in order to enjoy that safe embrace.

    As someone with a tendency to be busy, it was/is helpful to reflect on this image/metaphor and to remind myself that mother-God is waiting for this weaned child (i.e. not a baby, but someone growing in autonomy and self) to decide to come and snuggle up, not necessarily to say anything, but simply to enjoy the moment.

  • What God starts, God finishes...

    This afternoon was our first Bible Study Group meeting of the term - and it felt very positive. Iranian, Cuban and British participants, aged 6 to 90-something (the two children mostly enjoyed some Bible-based colouring).  We had some good conversations and opened up some ideas around discipleship, joy and God's faithfulness.  The image of God,  as a parent who never lets go of us, even if we withdraw our hand, stumble, rebel or anything else, was powerful and helpful.

    Looking forward to the next meeting in a fortnight and possibly a few other folk able to join us.

    Thank you to W and G for your support in getting this group up and running.