Wednesday, 31 July 2013

'our sins, like piles...'

Oh dear.
Oh.
Very.
Dear.
It is, I am beginning to learn, possibly the task that ministers love the least: the cycle of the year turning around inevitably to the task that is the 'musings from the manse', 'ministerial mutterings', or 'pastor's ponderings'.
I refer to the blurb that is the minister's slot in the parish magazine/ newsletter.  
Now, as a probationer-minister, in theory, this little task should not necessarily be my problem as yet.  Indeed, my wondrous and fab supervisor will be writing her blurb for the mag at some point this week.  However...in a bid to get me used to the whole thing, 'probationer's ponderings' will also have its own wee slot while I'm at parish-by-the-sea.
Joy abounds.

I'm reminded of the many times I've read such things, with variations on a theme as they begin:
'Friends, as I sit looking out the window of the manse study, watching the blossoming of Spring/ the first falling leaves of Autumn/ the frost-covered garden on this Winter morning...etc...I am reminded of God's...[insert divine attribute here, continue to claw about desperately for rather tortuous spiritual analogy].'  I suspect that very occasionally, what one really, really, really wants to write down is less er, 'weather-orientated'.  But how to avoid drowning in what could be the equivalent of a cheese-fondue?

Mind, I feel the potential for a competition coming on: prizes - by preferred type of cheese - for most torturous analogy?  Below, my own humble offering, as I reflect upon piles...feel free to join in.

'Dear ones, as we move towards Autumn, I find myself contemplating piles.
Countless piles.
Currently the falling leaves are covering the ground, 

and groundskeepers and gardeners everywhere are amassing piles...
of these fallen objects, now no longer displayed in all their glory but

discarded, damaged, decaying.
Friends, as I ponder piles, I am minded to think of our own fallen lives.

Each of our sins, amassing like spiritual piles, 
cluttering the interior landscapes of our lives:
ruined remnants reminding us of our formerly whole and glorious relationship with God.
But friends, be comforted: 

God can heal our piles 
if we only hand them over to Him.'
'our sins, like piles...'

Saturday, 27 July 2013

blessed and speechless

I had been planning a quite different day yesterday.  It involved a gentle and quiet morning, followed by friend Fran and I daundering off to explore the loveliness that is Seton Collegiate Church. The plan then involved heading down the road to stay at Fran's for a couple of days.  My wee bag was duly packed and friend Fran arrived.  A small change to plan: Fran was going to stay in order to take me out for a quiet birthday meal in town.  Off we went to Seton CC, initially set up as a local parish church from the 12th c and then, in the 15th c, being furnished by priests to sing masses for the souls of local nobles the Seton family - gaining collegiate status in 1492.  It has been a place I've been meaning to have a wee look at for several years now. 
The weather was gorgeous, the sun filtered through the woodland path that led to the church, and then as we passed through the old stone entrance, in the midst of beautifully tended lawns, there it was in all its pinky-brown stone glory with uncompleted spire.  Glorying in the beauty of the surroundings, we strolled about the gardens, carefully avoiding the 'burrowing bees' [shades of 'Harry Potter' anyone?] - this, at any rate, according to a sign.  We walked in and inspected the place, with no other souls in sight.  Given it was just the two of us, we put the accoustics to the test - singing a psalm, several versions of the Lord's Prayer, and a MacMillan Sanctus.  The sound bounced about the old stone wonderfully - even though neither of us are particularly wonderful singers!  A lovely way to spend the afternoon.
And then, home. 
Quick change for quiet meal in town.
I was puzzled, however, when, after having parked on George IV Bridge, we kept walking...and walking, past all the usual restaurants and headed along the way to the Mound.  Things began to get more mysterious as we passed the last two 'obvious' eateries and walked towards New College where Fran decided to pop into Musa, the wee cafe by the school, to 'just see Sue for a minute'. 
Something was not quite right, but I shrugged, and said I'd wait outside as it was a lovely evening.
No.
I was coaxed into Musa and, just as a cog in brain began to turn, the door opened to reveal a host of friends who had apparently been brilliantly discreet for weeks - lots of plotting and planning and I had not heard a whisper.
Can those eyebrows lift any higher? No. I think not.
'SUPRISE!' indeed - I had been played like a fish - it was beautifully done.  Possibly one of the most astonishing, fun, touching, and best moments of my life.  Utterly speechless and utterly humbled by how many folk had worked so hard, and so quietly, to help put the whole thing together, to turn up or send their good wishes, and to cheer me on as I marked a year which for me ends in a '0'... and special thanks to friend Fran for being inspired to organise and coordinate the whole thing.  What a wondrously eclectic mix of friends from all the various strands of my life... and such generosity.
I'm left astonished, amazed, humbled, and very very grateful. 
I am truly blessed.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

'lifelong learning' and the marking of a decade

Today marks another decade.
Where did it go?  Well, mostly it went at uni.
Ten years ago the seeds planted in my mind by a pal, who suggested that I 'might just like uni.' began to grow into the rather madcap idea that, well, maybe I just might indeed, and that...perhaps I might even be accepted as a stoodent. Encouraged by friends, I never imagined that sending off the form would lead to spending most of the following decade doing my B.D., followed by an accidental Masters, followed by a 'goodness, how did that happen' PhD. As I await my viva for the PhuD, continue to enjoy my probationary ministry placement, and mark this particular birthday, well... gosh...what an adventure this decade has been. :D
The pic above is me, aged 4, heading off to nursery school [an alarmingly 'Midwitch Cuckoos' feel to it!]
Who'dathunk that it would take quite so long to leave school...?
'Lifelong learning' indeed.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

[not quite] born to be wild...or/ an afternoon with Dr Spot


Last Saturday morning - conducted a rather big funeral, and then off to the reception afterwards.  An utter privilege to have been able to 'be there' for the family, and a further affirmation of calling. 
But what to do with all that emotional/ psychological energy and suchlike that comes with these sorts of events?  It is one of those perennial 'how to do care of self after caring for others in extremis' questions.  
Well, in this case, it involved a friend *waves to Spot*, his bike, and burling down the road - initially clinging on for dear life.  Once I got my head around being on said bike, I found myself relaxing into the whole experience.  On the way out, Spot very cleverly had relaxation-style music - most calming.  On the way back... we were overtaking cars while 'Bat out of Hell' played through the helmets.
In my usual way, I found myself mentally standing outside the scene, analysing quietly.  I noted the transition from terror, to relaxation, to exhilaration....
Pity we didn't have 'born to be wild' on the cd *grin*
Quite the experience for this middle-aged minister-historian - I may yet ditch the rocking chair.
Great therapy, with many thanks to Dr Spot!  :D      

Friday, 12 July 2013

very big grin!

I have been grinning like a loon since 3pm yesterday afternoon.
Finally, several months after my self-imposed deadline...
THE THESIS HAS BEEN SUBMITTED!!!!!!
*ahem*
*continues grinning*
*dances a very happy dance*

Golly. 
Finished the final proofing on Wednesday evening at 9.30pm, emailed illustrious and esteemed supervisor with the news.
After parish visit in the morning, daundered into town to the printers, where in under an hour 3 copies [1 for me, and 2 for the examiners] of a thesis, printed and bound, were handed back to me.  Trogged across to the College office carrying the dead weight of Knox and arrived somewhat pink and 'glowing'.  Happily submitted the thing, then called lovely pal Penny and 10 minutes later we were in Peckham's having a wee celebration.  Amidst massive hugs and generous helpings of cheesecake and root beer, the thesis submission was duly marked. 
Then caught up with pal Nic... more happy celebrations...and then with Frannie and Eliz.  The celebration of submission was, if nothing else, beautifully trinitarian!
Onwards to the viva at some point.
I am beyond delighted to have finally got the thing in.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

'it started with a kiss'...'the journey, the journey is long'



'It started with a kiss, never thought it'd come to this'
Lyrics from an ancient, ancient song by Hot Chocolate on a school-yard crush that didn't manage to stand the test of time...

For no discernable reason, it's the song that has popped into my head as I reflect on blogging, beginnings, ministry, and about community and connectedness.  This particular blog space did not, alas, start with a kiss, but with a conference in April 2009; the second of five conferences in my initial training for ministry.  All of which feel a little lost in the mists of time given the slow boat to China route I've taken due to the accidental PhD.

It seems somehow apt to note that first wee blogpost, as I dipped both a hesitant toe into the bubbling blogosphere and dived headlong into training.  Here I stand, now in the first week of full-time probation, and the next part of the ministry journey, with a new set of conferences beginning in Sept.  The PhD - is off with my proof-reader, and will be submitted once I've made the corrections...I suspect there will be a celebratory blog-post to mark that!  After the viva and requisite corrections are corrected and re-submitted, I shall finally wave goodbye to academia, having started in New College way back in 2004.
Odd.
But also time.
New things beckon.
So, beginnings, endings, beginning again.

And what of community and connectedness?
Alongside friends in the non-virtual realm, I have found a 'home', a sanctuary and space in realms virtual, whose inhabitants form a part of a brilliantly supportive and encouraging community - the wonderful RevGals.  It's an online group of bloggers who are women in ministry/ training for ministry/ supportive of women in ministry/ and supportive men - a most affirming and inclusive place of support of folk dotted all around the globe. 

I find myself rich indeed, to have in both realms companions and kindred spirits and have been delighted when the boundaries between both have blurred: it has been great to meet virtual pals in 'real' life, and it has been fun to see a growing Scottish contingent - we have now had two W.E.E. meets [Wee Event Ecosse!!].  It has been a fab thing, watching as different folk pondered, and journeyed, and made life-changing decisions, or ranted, or laughed and just spent time 'shooting the breeze'.  They don't know it, but they all keep me sane and vaguely grounded, and I am most grateful :)   

While there's so much more I could say, I have the matter of a funeral to go and conduct - the doing of which also helps keep me grounded.
As per that very first blog post, 'the journey, the journey, the journey is long' - but it is good, and there have been, and continue to be, a community of most amiable and encouraging companions to travel with.
Friendship and Galship :)