Friday, 30 January 2009

Making money hand over fist.

I found another interesting article on the BBC today - here. I know there's a desperate shortage of sperm and egg donors and many many people desperate for children, so I can understand why NHS Grampian has gone down this route.

But, the first thing that came in to my mind wasn't how altruistic the gesture is or how important donated sperm and eggs are for research, but how men could get cash per my blog title!!!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Of Otters and Minis

I'm a sucker for a cute animal story. I read this on the BBC newsite. Very cute, especially the photos!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Sad, Sad, Sad

My husband and I don't watch TV, but there are some programs we miss. Thank God for DVDs and the BBC iplayer!

Last week we finished watching Doctor Who series 4. I love the Doctor. Who else could save the universe with a tardis, sonic screw driver and psychic paper???

David Tennant's made the role his own. For many of us who remember it first time round, Tom Baker was the definitive Doctor. I don't know, in many ways I think David Tennant eclipses him.

I have a friend who is friends with David Tennant's Dad and I keep trying to get her to get me his signature. No joy; she won't ask for her kids! She does remember Sandy MacDonald talking about his struggling actor son. Well, he may be famous now, but the struggle goes on.

The thing that makes me sad, other than realising I cry at the end of series 2 and 4 and can quote verbatim some of the scenes, is on the night we finished the 4th series, I dreamt a sermon, based on the adventures of the Doctor. This is disturbing for many reasons, including:

1. Only children are supposed to dream about TV.
2. I've never preached a sermon in my life.
3. A Doctor Who based sermon!!!
4. I can remember it vividly - I never remember dreams.

Strangely, though, I remember when I was a kid my then minister doing a Doctor Who children's address. I can't remember what the message was, but I remember how cool I thought my minister was for that.

Well, on the back of the dream, I started writing a sermon. All I have to do is find a time when it would be appropriate and bible readings which would tie in with the message of the sermon.

I really need to get out more!!!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Supervisory Blues (2)

I've now had a reply from my presbytery rep. I thought the rep was to help out if you had issues. Okay, so it may be I have had issues with my supervisor's style, but I know that isn't something I need to bother the rep with, as it's all part of the learning process. I would have thought my supervisor being off-sick for at least 2 weeks is something the rep should be helping me with.

She didn't seemed too worried. I was supposed to be meeting with her and my supervisor tomorrow and suggested to her we could possibly meet without him. She thought I didn't need to meet with both pf them at the same time, but thought best if my supervisor was there as he knows my progress.

I also asked what would happen if my supervisor were to be off longer term. The way his Dad was talking, that may be the case. She just said something about she was sure my supervisor would keep 121 informed and they would arrange something.

So, if the rep doesn't know what happens in this situation and defaults responsibility to 121, what is the point of the presbytery rep? From all the paperwork I have from 121, the impression I had was this was exactly the situation where I needed them.

I really hope my supervisor isn't off any longer, but I contacted my rep to tentatively set up a vague "what if" back up. Looks like that isn't happening. I think I'll speak to my friend who is (or used to be) on the ministries council and knows the set up of the CFA. Maybe she can help. I know the people at 121 are lovely, but a little slow to put things in place. I'm worried this may delay the whole process and the opportunity for selection conference this year will be gone.

An I making a mountain out of a mole hill? Possibly. And, if everything is delayed, I'm sure it will be for a reason.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Supervisory Blues

My supervisor has been signed off sick for at least 2 weeks. I was speaking to his Dad this morning (who was doing the service). Apparently he's been doing too much and it was all getting on top of him. Not good news and I, of course, passed on my best.

I must admit, when I discovered my supervisor was also training a reader, I did wonder how he could have enough time for us both, never mind performing his day to day ministerial duties. I did bring that up during my extending enquiry and at the beginning of the CFA.

Now, from a purely selfish point of view, I'm concerned how this leaves me. I currently have no supervisor. I have e-mailed my presbytery rep to let them know the situation and get some guidance. Hopefully they will be able to give me some guidance/help in the meantime.

That all said, I pray my supervisor has a speedy recovery and God will help him and his family through this time.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Hospital Chaplain

Yesterday I spend the day shadowing my local hospital chaplain. He showed me around the various departments of the hospital and introduced me some staff and patients.

Although there isn't much more in terms of what I did all day to report, I still found the day insightful. A hospital chaplain's job is very different from a parish minister. A chaplain may meet several people who wish to speak to them while out and about, while a minister walking their parish may not meet anyone who wishes to speak to them. Also, they will not be able to build as long term a relationship as a parish minister may. That said, I see it is a very important part of ministry.

One main thing I came away with yesterday, The NHS and Scottish government very much give importance to looking after patients' spiritual welfare as well as their bodily needs. Basically, a holistic approach. I know when I'm happy I don't get unwell as often and find I can fight infection better, so their policy makes sence. I found that encouraging and sensible.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Is it just me...

Or I am the only person who wasn't that bothered about America getting a new president?

Yes, he's the first black president. There always had to be a first.

Yes, he's a great orator. As much as it pains me to point this out, so is Nick Griffin. In my book, actions speak louder than words. I shall reserve judgement.

Yes, it's a great day for America. I AM NOT AMERICAN AND DO NOT LIVE IN AMERICA. Sorry, for "shouting" but it really annoys me - I don't really care that much. Why does everything that goes on in America have such an important part to play in the rest of the world? I know, I know, it's the most powerful country in the world, but with great power comes great responsibility. They haven't been acting very responsibly of late. I know George W Bush led them, but they did vote for him. They first term may not have went his way, but he did get a second term...

All in all, despite my cynicism and apathy, in the coverage I saw yesterday, there was something that seems to have been missing from America (and potentially the world) for a long time - hope.

Hope rest on Obama's shoulders. I only pray he is strong enough.

Monday, 19 January 2009

In the driving seat

I'm just home from Bible study at my home church. For the first time, I led the study. I say led, but as it's a good group, it's just a good chat/discussion of the bible passage and associated thoughts.

I enjoyed leading it. It may seem a little strange, but I felt a little awkward leading it (although I had offered - the minister was at a parents' evening). I know the member of the group really well and one was my Sunday School teacher, so it seems wrong leading them, when they have led me for so long.

I know that is one reason why I must do my CFA at another church. Knowing a congregation for so long is a double edged sword. I get to know myself and my calling better elsewhere. But, it's always good to visit home.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Restoring my soul

With the events and soul searching of the last couple of weeks, I felt I needed a little time to do something I enjoy. I love bird watching. Always have done. I can watch them for hours. I'm no expert, though I have picked up a reasonable knowledge of some species.

I went to Vane Farm today. It's an RSPB reserve near Kinross. This time of year, it's teeming with geese over-wintering there. I was only there for an hour or so. It was exceptionally windy and it started to rain very heavily as I was leaving, so the birds were keeping their heads down. I just had to look more carefully.

Just sitting in the silence. Watching. Waiting. Observing. Letting the thoughts of the past few days drift away and concentrating on watching the birds go about their business.

I also took a few photos of the surrounding hills steeped in snow with rain clouds all around. It was spectacular watching God's creation and letting it restore my soul.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos of the birds today. They were to hunkered down and far away. So, I've posted one I took last year of a blue tit attending it's young.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Feeling Better

I've just returned from a meeting with my supervisor. I can safely say it was one of the best (if briefest) meetings we've had. The meeting was instigated by me on the back of last Wednesday's meeting and my feelings as a result of it.

We discussed my feelings before, immediately after and since the meeting. I explained how I'd become very annoyed and disapointed with myself. I felt I'd let myself, his church and God down. He reasured me by telling me no-one's perfect - we all make mistakes.

I hoped I'd learnt more about myself. My need to listen and not be wound up, whether it is intentional or not. My supervisor thought this was a good way of looking at it, as the CFA is about learning yourself.

I now feel so much more positive about my call, myself and my placement church. I saw God's grace tonight.

Putting my money where my mouth is.

I'm very much anti the proposed third new runway at Heathrow. Not only for environmental reasons, though they do come into it, but social too.

A whole village, several schools and a cemetery are to be obliterated to make way for the runway and the associated infrastructure it will need. All this for the benefit of whom?

Apparently, there is a business case for it. I'm sure BAA have a business case - if they didn't they wouldn't want a third runway. As I read yesterday, business travellers want good links to China, India and USA. They don't need 20 flights per day to Paris!

The economy needs it. Well, I may be naive, but surely improving public transport throughout the UK would bring a greater benefit. People could use the improved public transport to get to better jobs and training opportunities. That, in turn, would boast the economy and, more importantly, the lives and prospects of some of the most disadvantaged in the UK. Just a thought.

Anyway, in order to put my money where my mouth is (so to speak) on this matter, I've signed up to be one of the benefited parties of the piece of land Greenpeace has bought right in the middle of the proposed development. The scheme's called airplot and more information can be found be clicking here.

It might not stop the development or hold it up, as Greenpeace hopes. But if enough people sign up to the airplot scheme, it will send a clear signal to the government and BAA that the general public sees through their reasons and does not want this expansion.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Wrong End of the Stick

The past week has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me. Last Wednesday's meeting left me angry, frustrated and unvalued - in some ways I lost respect for the minister and congregation of my placement church. Since my conversation with my supervisor on Sunday I see the members of the fellowship group had the same feelings towards me as I had to them. I really can't blame them.

I've also been reading "Called or Collared" by Francis Dewar. One part I read shortly after Sunday's conversation was about self-awareness and analysis. Dewar wrote to think of the traits you find most annoying and difficult to deal with in others. He claimed often those traits we most dislike in others we show ourselves.

It is painful to think about, but I know I need to. Okay, we all have rough edges (and I'll be the first to admit some of mine are particularly rough), but I need to be aware of them and how others perceive me as a result of them. I also have to learn how to grow and change in God, so the roughness becomes smoother.

As much as it pains me to write this, Dewar is right. I think most of the traits I dislike in others manifested themselves in me at Wednesday's meeting - appearing opinionated; not listening to others views; cutting across people; dominating the discussion etc, etc. Now I am aware of my flaws in a way I hadn't really thought about before or realised. I'd perhaps intellectually known my flaws, but not fully taken then to heart.

Strangely, though, when I first went to the minister at my home church to let her know I was going to the enquirers' conference as I feel called to ministry, one thing I said to her was I can think of 101 reasons why I shouldn't be one. The way I reacted at the fellowship meeting epitomised those very reasons.

The more I reflect on my flaws/bad traits, the more I think maybe I've got my calling completely wrong. How can I minister to people when I don't appear to listen? A congregation will not trust me if they don't think I'll listen to their views.

Bizarrely, I believe (and this is in no way justification for "losing it") part of my problem is I've been concentrating on the flaws as I perceive them in both my supervisor and placement church. It's almost like a self-fulfilling prophesy. The more I see "flaws", the more flaws I see. You know the thing - someone tells you a colleague is lazy. They turn up late once. You don't ask why and see that as proof of their laziness. Perhaps the congregation which have seen me in "action" at meetings now think that. I've cut across them and not listened, so even if I don't do those things, but they perceive me to be doing them, they will think less and less of me. I trust I can redeem myself.

Until the dressing down from my supervisor, I had been going at this process with the wrong state of mind, in many respects. I saw the extended enquiry and co-ordinated field assessment as a means to an end (i.e to get to the selection conference). The CFA isn't about my placement church, it is about me. Now I see it is an opportunity for me to grow, learn, be challenged and listen to what others and God say to me. I hope and pray my gifts for ministry will be demonstrated.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Looking through the mist

I'm writing this with a heavy heart. I have been thinking about Wednesday's meeting a lot. Also, my supervisor pulled me up for the way I reacted at the time.

I think - no, I know - I didn't handle the situation well. I didn't listen as well as I should have. I cut across people and didn't make it clear I had listened to their opinion. I know other people cut across me first and that is why I reacted badly. I should have let it go or found a better way to deal with it.

I know my supervisor feels one thing I am not showing him is my ability to take part in a group discussion. I also know I can take part in a group discussion very well, but he is writing my report and needs to see I can do it.

I feel I don't know what I need to do to make it better and to show my supervisor I can listen well in groups and get my opinion over without alienating the entire group. At the moment, I feel I'm on a loch in the mist. I can roughly see where land is, but I can't see the way round the obstacles on the route to safety.

I pray for guidance and strength to understand myself. I also pray for help in dealing with a group discussion in a mature, caring and respectful manner.

Friday, 9 January 2009


I've been reflecting on my recent posts (here and here) and the comments that have been left you some of you (thank you again for the advice/encouragement). I've realised I'm being slightly blinkered by the "faults" and issues I have with my placement church and supervisor. I need to focus on why I am there - to learn, be challenged, reflect and be guided in my calling.

So, I've been thinking about things in relation to the co-ordinated field assessment and my call. How I've reacted to them and what I have been able to glean from them - specifically in relation too my calling to ministry.

I enjoy participating in worship. I have done readings many times in my home church and, to a lesser degree, prayers too (written and led them). But it's different in an unfamiliar church. I don't know how the new congregation are going to react to my style; whether they will enjoy my prayer and gain something from them. They aren't the congregation I've know for years. In any respects, I felt that influenced my performance initially as I wasn't looking out at familiar faces. Also, I'm being examined and tested to a much greater degree than in my home church. That had made me nervous initially, but I've now accepted it as part of the process.

Now I have got used to performing (bad choice of word, but I can't think of anything better) under very different circumstances - different church, sound system, people etc. I am enjoying that part of the process.

When I'm asked to led prayers I really enjoy it. I get a lot from the preparation and writing of the prayer. Once I set my theme for the prayer it generally flows from me quite well. In many ways, although they are prayers for everyone, they are my prayers. I think I've been a little harsh on my supervisor in terms of feedback. I am pleased members of the congregation have told both him and me how much they enjoy my prayers. I'm glad they touch others.

I am looking forward to preaching in March. I know it will be challenging and very different to anything I've done before. Although being allowed to preach may only have arisen as a result of my initial PDI report, I know my supervisor doesn't have to let me do it. The guidelines are "if appropriate". I assume as he is giving me this chance he does think I am capable. I only hope I do well. Not necessarily in terms of most profound message or perfect delivery, but I don't have the sudden realisation I can't write sermons or stand in front of a congregation and deliver one. I am quietly confident within myself. But, all my confidence comes from the Lord.

Thursday, 8 January 2009


There were a few things I heard at my placement church's fellowship group meeting last night which I really couldn't believe. To be frank, I was quiet shocked and, believe me, that takes a lot of doing.

The theme of the meeting was "Your hopes for the year". Of course, peace in the world was high on the list. This led us onto a little discussion about the current bombardment of the Gazza Strip by the Israelis. I didn't want to be political in this blog, but I firmly believe what's going on there has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with human suffering.

My personal take on the current conflict, which stated just under a fortnight ago, is innocent civilian Palestinians are being killed by the Israeli army. Yes, Hamas is firing rockets into Israeli held territory and may even be using schools as shields, but that still doesn't detract from the amount of force the Israeli army are using.

Now, I do not condone terrorism and it could be argued Hamas firing rockets over the wall into Israeli territory is an act of terror. However, there is little food, water and basic medical supplies in the Strip. Only the most seriously injured and ill can receive medical treatment and, even then, it is much less than the doctors would like to do. In that situation, if your child was killed and another was dying from lack of food or medicine, what would you do? I know I wouldn't resort to violence, but I know of many people who would. I can't blame them - their children are suffering.

I tried to express this at the meeting and wasn't listened to. I was told about the rockets from Hamas and how they've killed Israelis. Yes, they may have but no Israeli civilian had been killed since the end of the ceasefire. As of yesterday, there were reports of at least 500 civilians killed in the Gazza Strip. It's not defence - isn't defence supposed to be proportionate?

Now okay, they didn’t agree with me, but they weren't prepared to acknowledge my opinion at all. I am quiet happy to have an intelligent discussion where there is a difference of opinion, but only in an environment of mutual respect. In last night meeting I felt I was being treated with the attitude of your young and your opinion doesn't really matter.

The other part of hope we got onto was (brought up by me again) about how can we give hope to those with none? Especially young people - 1 in 10 don't think life is worth living. I was asked how do we give hope? I suggested by giving encouragement. That was talked down as other people in the meeting could give examples of people they knew who'd been given no encouragement in their early years but had still been successful. That's brilliant, but not the norm. I suggested giving encouragement is like helping someone up who's fallen down (hope being giving them a reason to get up). This was the reply that really got to me:

"That's fine, Mrs Gerbil, but there in Glasgow and Edinburgh, if you there was someone who'd fallen at the edge of the road, they'd probably be part of an ambush. Once you got out of the car, they'd steal it."

WHAT!!! Is there something I'm missing here? You see someone needing help but don't offer any as it might be a set up. I can think of at least one occasion recently where I have helped someone out. It never even entered my head not to. The most shocking thing in relation to the statement was it came from my supervisor. Now I see what kind of man and, by that token, minister he is.

Finally (it is okay, I am nearly finished!!!), my placement church is 40 years old this year. The session clerk's hope, which everyone else appeared to agree with, was the anniversary would help my placement church focus inwards. What more can I say…?

Wednesday, 7 January 2009


I had my latest meeting with my supervisor last night; brought forward from next week following my PDI. Some of the things he was asking felt as though I'd already been asked about them before, as they were concentrating on my sense of call. I wasn't entirely sure if he was asking the questions to get the "right" answers (I wouldn't have thought there would be any) or to prepare me for those questions at some point in the future. If the latter is true, why doesn't he at least hint at that? I know it's a slightly sneaky way of seeing my reaction and putting me on the back-foot (which, I also know, will happen a lot during this process), but some encouragement could be useful...

I'm still finding his discussion of my "performance" during worship is almost throw-away and not very in depth. Yes, he's been positive, but in phrases such as "Several people mentioned to me that they really enjoyed your prayers". I understand, to many of the congregation, I am a student rather than an enquirer, but I need proper feedback from my supervisor. More than just a one-liner with little substance (and in a form of hearsay!). Okay, people are enjoying them, but what about my delivery and style. What could I change or improve? How could I do it better. I know I perhaps should bring these things up, but with everything we are trying to discuss during our meetings, it's really difficult. Hopefully fortnightly meeting will improve matters.

In terms of my call, I was asked how sure I was I am called to full-time ordained ministry. At the moment, I am very sure. In many respects it feels like the most logical outlet for my gifts. Besides, I've been ignoring it for 20 years, it's not a new thing. I've had plenty of time to think about it. That said, I did liken the various stages of this process, from Enquirers' conference to (God willing) selection conference, as a series of paths. At the end of each path there is a series of gates. I see the start of the path beyond each gate, though it dips out of sight. So far, when I've come to the gates, I've chosen the one marked "full-time ordained ministry" as I really feel that's what God is calling me to do. Having said that, there may come a time where I no longer decide to go through that gate, but take a slightly different path. So, I suppose, I'm open to the call developing and changing overtime. In many respects, I see the path as shrouded in fog but, as I go along the path, the fog's lifting and I can see I've chosen the right path. All on all, I know that going through this process is definitely what God wants me to do and I trust Him completely.

In other news, I'm being allowed to preach at my placement church on the second Sunday in Lent (only once I asked and blamed my PDI interviewer!). I'll start panicking nearer the time. I tend to either do things straight away or wait until the last minute. I won't get away with the latter as I'm to take a copy of my sermon to my supervisor the Monday before I deliver it. Okay, so it can't be the night before...blast!!!

Sunday, 4 January 2009


I'm a bit of a Doctor Who nerd (I'm just old enough to remember Tom Baker). Looks like the children of my supervisor have realised that too. They let me pick a sticker from their Doctor Who sticker sheets. How cool is that?! They hadn't taken any off themselves yet, so it looked as though I had first dibs. It was really sweet of them too. I must be an okay grown-up then. I don't know, I always appreciate children making small gestures like that. They're completely sincere.

Of course, I couldn't get the sticker to actually stick to anything - typical, eh! I'm going to make it into a bookmark, so I can keep it. Yeah, I'm a little sentimental like that.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

New Year

New Year, new dawn.

I'm not a big fan of New Year. I love Christmas, but don't especially enjoy New Year. It makes me really anti-social. Besides, as I get up very early for work on Hogmanay, if I make it to 10:30pm at night I'm doing well!!!

The last year for me has been strange and somewhat exciting. This time last year I would never have thought I'd be writing a blog about my call to ministry. That said, it was the second best decision I've ever made (exploring my call, of course, not writing the blog!). The first was getting married!

I'm looking forward to the New Year and all the challenges and opportunities I will face during it. I know God is with me through them all.

May you have a healthy and happy New Year and know God is with you too.