Thursday, 30 December 2010


I applied for my university place yesterday. Officially the closing date is 15 January, but I wanted it done and dusted in plenty time. I completed most of the online form last week and was just waiting on my referee completing their section. They did so on Tuesday, so I applied.

I’ve applied to Edinburgh and St. Andrews. Edinburgh is definitely my first choice – from what I have heard and read, it has the best reputation. Also I can get a lift in with Spot, as will still be working in Edinburgh. That’ll be a cost saving – one commute cost rather than two. As I have been commuting to Edinburgh for 10 years, I’m already used to it. Taking the bus to St. Andrews, although doable, adds more expense onto Spot’s budget (as sole bread winner) and will make my commutes longer than into Edinburgh. St. Andrews is definitely my fall back position.

I really hope Edinburgh grants me a place. I have worked hard with my distance learning courses to enhance my application. I also now know there are ministry candidates studying at Edinburgh who hadn’t been in formal education for longer than I have been, but they hadn’t had to acquire 40 credits to obtain their place. It would seem rather unfair, under the circumstances, if I wasn’t granted a place. Also, I have been accepted as a ministry candidate. If I had applied last year, I would have been applying speculatively. I hope (and pray) that should also help get a place at Edinburgh.

One thing I am sure of though. I will get a university place for 2011 start. Wherever that may be (Edinburgh – please), I know I will be there as that is where God wants and needs me to be. After all, I will be studying divinity to degree level because it is required of me. That said, I have enjoyed the distance learning courses and I have said for years I would like to go back to uni. I won’t make the same mistakes I did first time round, though they were fun at the time!

I wonder if I should let Prof David Fergusson (principle of New College) know I have applied? I’m sure when I met him in August he mentioned to let him know when I had applied. I suppose there’s no harm and it may even help. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Watchnight Address

I did the address at my home church's watchnight service. I was nervous about it. Watchnight is one service where many people will attend who only come to the watchnight service. Where there are people coming for a variety of reasons. Tradition, habit, visiting relatives in the area, being a member of that church. Whatever the reason, they are all seeking God and something away from the hustle and bustle of secular Christmas.

I knew I had to hit the right tone with my address. Inclusive, without being wishy-washy. To try to say something which everyone would understand, but wouldn't patronise any regular worshiper. I think I hit that balance.

It was a privilege to be allowed to take part, to such an extent, in the watchnight service. My minister obviously trusts me! Once I delivered the address, she told me it was really good. I thought it was, but it's reassuring to have it confirmed.

It seems, I have a gift writing addresses and sermons. Or perhaps I've just been lucky so far. I pray it's the former and I continue to be guided by the holy spirit to say the words God's people need to hear, when they need to hear them.

NB A watchnight service is a service held beginning shortly before midnight on Christmas eve while waiting (watching) for Christmas in Scotland.

Home alone

Spot's off to Glasgow today to see "TRON: Legacy" in 3D at the IMAX. So, seeing as everyone I'd thought about meeting up with in the west while he's there are away visiting family (I mean, at this time of year...) and the weather was rubbish, I'm left all alone at home (boo-hoo).

I'd like to see TRON, but I don't technically see in 3D. I have a severe astigmatism in one of my eyes, which means my brain effectively ignores the signal it gets from that eye. I do have a sense of depth and distance, but not in the conventional sense. Frankly, I have no idea how the brain works it all out, but it does. The only times I have issues is on steps with no contrast or low light levels (I think the shadows help work things out). It's odd, but I suppose I see how "normal" people would see with one eye closed.

I don't know any different, so it's no big deal. That is, of course, if the film makers, in their "wisdom" exclusively make 3D films. I won't be able to see another film at the cinema again, if that was the case. Somehow, I think 3D is the "new" novelty. It's been tried before and has failed before. People get headaches and travel sick watching them. Also, film makers haven't worked out how to really use 3D. Having a ball of light floating in front of the audiences' eyes may make a great visual effect, but does it add anything to the experience of cinema or the story of the film? To my mind, it's like some CGI. When it's used well and thought out, it works. When it's just used as it's cheaper than building a set, that usually shows through big style.

Anyway, it's amazing how much I have got done with Spot away. Perhaps I should arrange this more often!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).

Become friends with Jesus. Because no one is a failure who has friends. And what better friend to have?

Have a good one!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Santa Tracker

This year, once more, you can track Santa here. A great bit of fun for the kids (and the non-kids) among us. The videos of Santa delivering in major cities as he makes his way across the world are pretty cool too!


I have just finished watching the BBC Nativity four parter. Thanks to John Orr for the heads-up on this.

It was a beautiful re-telling of the familiar tale. The acting and script were superb. One thing I really enjoyed was how the writer - Tony Jordan - made the characters more "real". The story generally followed Mary (and Joseph to a lesser extent), a shepherd and the magi.

I loved the way Mary's pregnancy was dealt with. Joesph being very hurt and unaccepted (won't you!); Mary's parents shock and anger; the reaction of the people in the market in Nazareth towards Mary; Joseph's cousin rejecting Joseph because of Mary. Although none of this features in the biblical references to the nativity, it seems right those scenarios would have been exactly what Mary and Joseph faced.

If you haven't seen it, watch in on iplayer. You will not fail to be moved.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

My last Advent

Today was my home church's nativity play. Before the play, Spot and I had been asked if we'd like to be animals. We politely declined.

I wanted (and did) to sit at the back and enjoy the play. The first time I have done for years. Being a young church leader, I was always involved one way or another.

Just before the service started, I nipped to the loo. One of the costume designers (they are amazing!) asked why I wasn't taking part. My minister suggested I was being all "bah-humbug", to which I responded "no, I just want to sit at the back with the ordinary people and watch". "That'll be the last time, ever", she retorted.

"Precisely!" was my answer.

I know all to well, I will never again be able to fully take the back seat during advent and Christmas. It's been good, so far this advent, to do so. I have really enjoyed it and will cherish it, as it is also the last Christmas I will have at my home church.

Though at the watchnight service, I won't be taking a backseat. I am doing the address! No big deal, just one of the biggest events in the Christian calendar and the one service the year where anyone can be there. God wants me to be there. And I am humbled and honoured to obey.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Being "someone else"

I'm finding work - my current paid employment, rather - frustrating at the moment. It's not what I'm called to do. I've never especially liked it (though I have been there 10 years!) and it's never really engaged or challenged me.

Now I am, officially, a candidate in training for ministry, the feeling of frustration is greater than it's ever been. While I have accepted my office's voluntary severance scheme, my colleagues do not know why I am leaving. I haven't revealed this as I have been bullied in the past for my faith and I know there are many very critical people I have to work with everyday who, if they knew I was going to be a minister, would knit pit everything I said and did - "you doing/saying that and you're going to be a minister." Yes, it's tough.

Being there, I can't be who I am. I know my colleagues see me as tight fisted, weird and boring. Yet, those who know me outwith work don't. They see me as a very loving, caring, interesting person. How can this be? Because where people see me as caring I am being me and I am respected for being so. I am not at work.

I don't fit into their "norms". I don't especially like shopping and don't own a TV, so can't talk about X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing. When I used to be asked what I was up to at the weekend - youth club, young church, church coffee morning, bird watching - it didn't go down well. Now, I'm not asked and, pointedly, my nearby colleagues are asked how their weekends were. I'm not.

I was telling Spot this on the way home from work on Friday and he says he finds it frustrating too. "Look at it from my perspective. 'What were you up to at the weekend, Spot?' Oh, I went with Mrs Gerbil as she preached at our church yesterday and she was bloody good. Until you go, I can't do that." He's dead proud of me.

There are a handful of my colleagues who know I am not just leaving  on  a whim. They know I will have a plan. These colleagues have asked me and I have confirmed I do have one and explained I have a very good reason for keeping it quiet at the moment. They have respected this and will, genuinely, be interested when I do reveal myself.

It's not long until I leave, thankfully. My official leaving date is 31 March next year, but I have holidays to use, so it will be before that I actually go. It'll be odd not being there, given the time I have been there. But I know it will be a great release. No having to be someone else. Of being me and the person God created and calls.

Saturday, 11 December 2010


Last week, Spot and I could have done with one of these...

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Snow, snow, go away.

I'm getting pretty bored of the snow.

Of having to dig the car out of the snow

Of the icicles hanging from houses.

Of people moaning about the snow.

Of people panicking they may not get bread and milk, so buying so much no one else can get any.

Of having to wear numerous layers to venture outside, only to have to remove them all when I get indoors again.

But then I remember the fun.

Of Snow angels

Of falling over in the snow and it not hurting, just being really funny. As I laughed, it made getting up even harder, which only made me laugh more!

Of the community spirit of helping others dig their cars out of the snow, checking on elderly neighbours and, in some cases, even getting together to dig the village out of the snow.

Of the snow plough drivers who valiantly did go to work when I couldn't.

Of the care workers, nurses and doctors who still brave the weather so they can look after the ill, elderly and most vulnerable in our society. I salute them (and am dead proud of my Mum for being one of them!).

Even, the funeral directors, who found a way to give my friend's husband a dignified send off on the day the snow was so bad the Forth Road Bridge was closed.

It's amazing what can be achieved when a community works together. I think, generally, the snow has shown the general public do care about friend and stranger. And are willing to help others without credit or reward just for the sake of doing the right thing. Of putting others before ourselves and loving our neighbours.