Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Are you serious?

Spot's made a suggestion of how I could use some of my time before training. I suppose this is what I get for commenting on having no plans, no uni classes (by mid May) and no (as yet) pulpit supply lined up.

He thinks I should right a book. Yes, you did read that correctly. A book. Me, who failed her higher English (though I am quite proud of that). Me, who has dyslexic tendencies.

This is Spot's suggestion. Write about my experiences from actually acknowledging God's call, through placements, injury and selection conference up to beginning training this September. He thinks this could be useful for those in the future wondering how it all works, though I did point out all our experiences will be different.

He thinks I'd be good at it and some of the ground work has been done here. I read it, he does proof reading and arranges for it to be published in an ebook format. My details around this are vague, as he started using words from the English language in a combination I didn't understand.

Mmmh, I suppose they do say everyone has a book in them. I suppose, if it helped one person through there journey with God discerning their call, it would have done its job. I suppose I've nothing to loose.

I never said I would do it. Not yet!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Watching the sun rise

Each Easter Sunday, my home church has a sunrise service. Usually, it's timed so the service is almost ending as the sun is staring to come over the horizon. This year, as Easter was so late, the service started at sunrise.

Easter sunrise 2011
Wow - watching the sunrise as our act of worship remembered and celebrated Jesus resurrection.

We were mainly women - but then it's very biblical, isn't it.

There weren't many of us.

But we knew, we know, Jesus died and was raised.


The bacon rolls after the service were pretty good too!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Seasonal Joke

If you do not appreciate Easter humour, especially when the joke is as old as the hills, look away now...

What do you get when you pour boiling water down a rabbit warren?
Hot cross bunnies!

Thank you, I'm here all week.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Finding beauty close to home

Since finishing paid employment (for now), I have taken to going for a walk up the hill near my house. It's not very high, especially as I am definitely not starting from sea level, but it's a pleasant walk and, on a clear day, the views are well worth the effort.

It's 8 years since I moved to the town I live in. I have been up the hill a only couple of times (quite literally) since then. I don't think I'd really appreciated the area around the hill until yesterday. At the bottom of the hill is a local nature reserve and site of special scientific interest (SSSI). It's a former quarry, which has flooded and nature has taken back.

Trees reflected in disused quarry
And hasn't mother nature done a great job? There's reeds, brambles, wild raspberries, birch, sycamore, swans, heron and coots that I have seen during my walks. I've also heard blue tits, robins, blackbird and the occasional buzzard. There must also be toads, too. Yesterday the heron had caught one - a big one at that. Apparently, early in the morning roe deer can sometimes be spotted. All in all, not bad for a disused quarry next to a former mining town.

I haven't noticed this before as I hadn't opened my eyes to what was there, right in front of them. I hadn't walked by there. I'm glad I do now. I could sit in this little oasis of calm for hours, just listening to the birdsong and watching the goings on of the various animals which inhabit the area.

It also makes me think how often do we not visit areas, as we do not expect to see beauty in them? Or, we go somewhere else to experience beauty, calm and peace, rather than finding it close to home. Finding it with and in God. God who in in nature and in each and every one of us. God, who sent Jesus to die for us, so we may have life in all its fullness. Just as life has burst forth in this disused quarry.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Indulging my passions

Over the weekend, Spot and I were away in the Abernethy Forest area for our anniversary. Okay, our anniversary was last month, but that's neither here nor there! I love visiting this area. There's so much to see and do - if you're patient and have an eye and ear open to nature.

The trigger for heading up this weekend was us wanting to go to the Caper-watch at the RSPB osprey centre at Loch Garten. It did involve a very early start (getting up at 5am!), but it was well worth it to see these beautiful, yet illusive birds. While there, we saw at least 3 male Capercailles and 4 females. The females are exceedingly well camouflaged, but once seen, they are absolutely beautiful birds.

While we were there, we also saw the male and female ospreys change over incubating the egg (only one had been lain while we were there).

Osprey change over Loch Garten
 The photo isn't amazing, but those are big birds, only far away! This creature, though, is small, nearby and very fast.

Vernon the vole

Vernon (or could it be Victoria) is a bank vole who nips out to take seed dropped by the small birds from the feeders next to the osprey hide. I couldn't believe (actually, I could!) how excited I was seeing him. I think it took me back to my 11 year old self, but that's a story for another time.

Being the Abernethy Forrest, there's one thing I have to point to.

Red Squirrel
SQUIRREL! (If you've seen Up!, you'll understand the significance. If you haven't, really, watch it. It's a beautiful film.).

There was also loads of other small birds about and I could have watched them all for hours. Actually, come to think about it, I did!

So, the title of this post was indulging my passions. So, we watched wildlife, particular birds, walked in the beautiful landscape which is Abernethy and the Cairngorms. We even saw a pair of male ptarmigans at the car park for the funicular railway on Cairngorm. They were too far away to even think about getting a photo. If fact, they were easier to hear than see, but in my experience, that's usually the was with wildlife.

Another of our passions indulged was steam trains. After walking from Boat of Garten to Aviemore, then bumping into Spot's Mum's next door neighbours (it's a small world), we took the Strathspey Railway back to Boat of Garten. It was a lovely trip through beautiful countryside, though we prefer to see the working end.

Strathspey steam train leaving Aviemore
Yesterday, we took a trip up to Aberlour, where we enjoyed worshiping with Rev Shuna's congregation. They are so welcoming and very good at recommending somewhere to see/do in the area. Yesterday, the suggestion was a walk to the Linn Falls, just up from the Aberlour distillery. It was a lovely walk and well worth seeing the falls.

Linn Falls Aberlour
I wonder what the falls are like when at their normal level? All the waterways in the area were quite low as there has been a dry spell. Even with quite low water levels, they were pretty falls. The smell walking past the distillery was lovely too!

Unfortunately, we had to head home. Spot has work and I have university classes. We will be back soon enough, though. These areas are definitely ones in which Spot and I could live. Just need to wait and see where God leads us, though.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Written for me?

This Lent, I have been using as my daily devotional reading "Lent for everyone, Matthew, Year A" by Tom Wright. Each day has a bible reading for that day in Lent, followed by a commentary and short prayer. It's easy to read, in terms of language and explanation, so I would agree with the "For Everyone" tag.

I know there's a couple of weeks still to go. Of course, there's Holy week next week, but the book continues on beyond Easter Sunday for a week.

I am enjoying the style of the book and the discipline of having daily devotional reading for Lent. In some ways, I feel I am following those first disciples to the cross. Wondering what Jesus is going to do next and how his Messianic purpose fits into the prophesies.

Of course, unlike the first followers, I know what happens. I wonder what it really must have been like for them. Watching Jesus - the Messiah - act so un-Messiah-like (so far as some would, then, have believed). Then, once Jesus was taken by the authorities, fear for my life as they would be looking for me next, so they could truly put this seditious uprising down. No wonder they hid and denied they had even known Jesus.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. I began posting about this Lenten reading, not as a book review, but the readings/reflections from yesterday (Matthew 24:45-51) and today (Matthew 25:14-30) really resonated with me. In both both cases the master trusts his servants while away. In the first, to have things ready for his return; in the second, to invest their talents wisely.

In  the reflection of these readings, Tom Wright argues church leaders should look at them as warnings. Firstly, to actually follow Jesus' teaching and prepare for his return. Secondly, to use the skills they have been given wisely and for God's greater glory. Err, as a (God willing) future Church of Scotland minister, that means me!

Whether I like it or not, I will be a leader. Of a congregation - of a worshiping body of God's people. Through that leadership I need to do what Jesus taught his disciples and encourage the congregation to do likewise. By so doing, prepare for his return. So, not pressure at all. Nothing major...

I suppose, though, I have also been trusted with talents. Skills and gifts God has given me to do what he needs me to do. I need to invest and nurture them wisely. As I have already discovered, God has given me talents I wasn't even aware I possessed, only following by his call have I actually started to discover them. Perhaps that is where the good investment comes in? By investing my talents who knows how many more I will give back to God when he asks me to give an account of myself? I pray I am worthy of his trust.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Going over time

I think I broke the cardinal rule of a Church of Scotland service today - it didn't finish until 12:13! Is it not the eleventh commandment which states "Thou shalt not participate in worship after 12pm on a Sunday"?

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Getting to sound boring

Looking back at my posts, especially latterly, they are very introspective. This, in itself, is not necessarily bad. In fact, this navel gazing is quiet cathartic I never thought it would be - not really my thing - but I have found it useful to actually articulate things.. Lets face it, this blog was only set up as I needed to keep a reflective journal as part of the Church of Scotland's selection process.

However, it really makes me sound dour. Really dour. A la Rev I. M. Jolly.

The problem is, though I have a wicked sense of humour (honest!), when I try to be funny, it doesn't work.

Once in a manse (God willing), I do fancy getting a chair for the front room like Rev Jolly. Taking one look at a chair like that would crack up those who know me best. Hopefully anyone who doesn't know me visiting would get the joke. Besides, those type of chairs fit me perfectly.

Between that, the wine/beer making kit being set out and the motorbike, Spot and I will get a reputation. Nothing unusual in that. Our reputation can proceed us. So long as the reputation shows we're just a normal couple. No, normal isn't the right way of putting it. I'd hate to be normal. So long as our reputation is we're people. Just people. People who seem to always have a lot of beer and wine kicking about. Oh, better be careful, there, that may give us an entirely different reputation!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Waiting to cross

I can't quite work out of this is a self-portrait or a photo of a bridge, where I just happen to be in silhouette.Either way, it could say a lot about me.

I hate getting my photo taken. Always have done, always will do. I much, much prefer to be behind the camera. (Probably wasn't a good idea marrying a photographer...). I don't entirely recall when I developed my dislike for getting my photo taken, but being a bespectacled child (where no-one else my age wore them) with a weight problem didn't help.

I started wearing glasses when 3 years old. Even now, that's pretty young. Then, it was extremely unusual. It was great, suddenly I didn't need to read with the text almost at the point of my nose (yes, I could read before I got glasses!) and see things in a way I'd never done before. Being so small meant I don't appreciate just how unusual me wearing glasses was.

Until I went to school. At nursery, no one had bothered, but school was different. I recall being forced to remove my glasses for my primary 1 photo by my teacher. The photographer said I should, I said "But I can't see without them". My teacher took them off me. Consequently, everyone else in my primary 1 photo is looking at the camera, except me. Yes, my eyesight was that bad. That happened in primary 2 and 3 also. It was only when I got to primary 4 I had a teacher which respected my need for glasses and told the photographer where to go. So, early experiences of having my photo taken weren't exactly what I could call positive.

So, imagine my horror when last week a member of my church was talking about photos her and her husband have of me taken almost 30 years ago. I was aware they had taken them, vaguely. They know what they looked like in too well for my liking, as though they had been looking through them. Call me paranoid, but I hope my home church isn't going to try a photo-montage "good-bye" thingy. I know it would be because they care, but I really don't think they could possibly imagine how much I really, really, really wouldn't want to see those photos, especially in a public display. But, as I said, I'm probably just being paranoid.

Anyway, moving onto the photo being of a bridge...

I've always had a fascination with bridges, of all ages, sizes and construction types. I think I must have taken hundreds of photos of bridges over the years.

I could be all deep and meaningful here and say something about bridges overcoming both man-made and natural barriers, but I won't. Yes, they can serve that purpose, but I just like them. Besides, in this case, the need for the bridge isn't there anymore as the railway it once went over was lost following the Beeching report. I don't analyse why I like them, I just do.

Looking at this photo, though, makes me think here I am waiting. Waiting to start university. Waiting to start ministry training. Waiting to follow where God would lead me. I've had to do a lot of waiting these last (almost) 3 years. Waiting to begin my first placement. Waiting to begin my second placement. Waiting to go to national assessment conference. Waiting to obtain my university place.

But, it's all good. I am waiting for the Lord and he is giving me strength. Bridges. They have strength to cross barriers. Sometimes, depending on the type of bridge, it's even necessary to wait to cross the bridge. I am waiting to step onto the bridge I need to cross to get where God needs me to be. If I analysed this photo, I suppose that is what it would say.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Reflection on today's service

As I was away for a few days this week, I had prepared all of today's service bar the sermon before I went away. I had a rough idea for the sermon and had done most of my reading prior to my break.

It didn't really take me that long to write the sermon on Friday night, probably due to the leg work already done. Although I knew where I was starting, I was surprised where the sermon led me. It's amazing what the holy spirit will do.

Anyway, I hadn't looked again at other elements of the service - prayers, children's address and hymns - until today. I just couldn't believe who well it all tied in with the theme.

There are some in my home church who think I am really good at this and very impressed at how I bring it all together. I wonder if they realise there's probably no one more surprised than I am!

Prior to the service beginning at the second of my home churches, a member of the congregation said he hoped I would include, in the prayers of intercession, a prayer for Ronan Kerr a police officer killed by a bomb in Northern Ireland. I don't like doing this, as I immediately thought of the people killed in Afghanistan following the Koran burning, among other things. The prayers remanded unchanged, but there was a silence included which would have allowed this person to remember Ronan Kerr

There was an issue with the microphone at the second service this morning. There was a lot of static coming through, so I took off my jacket as that may have been causing it. No, that still didn't work, so I had to change to another mic. And all this was during the sermon. I knew I had to stop to deal with it as it was a really annoying noise. I was glad I don't have a hearing aid, as it must have been horrific for those who do. It was bad enough for those without.. Ne'er mind, these things happen. I must admit, underneath I was going "I don't need this, I don't need this", but outwardly I kept calm and carried on, but there was nothing else for it.

After the service, I received positive feedback for many in the congregation. They all appreciate being able to hear. I must admit, I have a voice which carries and it has got me into trouble in the past. Never thought it would come in handy, though. Also, I have very good hearing. but sometimes I can't hear my minister very well as they sometimes mumble or talk too quickly. There's no point delivering an amazing message if no one can hear.

One member of the congregation told me she loves the way I explain things so well. She also said "You know, we're all very proud of you, Mrs Gerbil?". This is so humbling, though I think I turned as red as the top I am now wearing and it takes a lot to embarrass me! Actually, I get embarrassed when praised or people try to make me the centre of attention. I try to avoid both!

Overall, the service seemed to go really well. I know I am only saying what God is guiding me to say. I pray those who heard the service will be guided by the holy spirit in the way God needs them to go.