Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Mountain experiences - reflection on Matthew 17:1-9

As I prepare for Sunday's service at Quarry Kirk, I am focusing on Matthew 17:1-9, the Transfiguration and I was struck as I drafted a sermon how it parallels with (at least my) journey of faith. This is what I wrote towards the end:

I believe, the faith journey can be like what Peter experienced.

Sometimes being lead up a mountain, wondering why we're having to climb to high, so hard. Isn't there a better way, a path round the base of the mountain, rather than up it?

And a cloud descends on the mountain as we reach the top, so we're not even going to get the benefit of the view

But out of the cloud, in the midst of confusion and wondering where the path leads, God's voice comes from the cloud and tells us why we're there.

It might be to show who Jesus is to us – God's dear son who we are to listen to

Or it might be Jesus reassuring and comforting us because we are afraid.

But when we come down the mountain, we have experienced something of God we could not have at the bottom

Yet, it might only be after the passing of time that we really get what God was doing in our lives in that moment all along.
  Oh, yes. Now I'm wondering if it's the right sermon to deliver or if it's what I need to hear. Still, I have time to chew this over, let it 'stew down' and listen to God.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Just what I needed

This week, I have been informatively learning by visiting Plockton, Inverness, Aviemore (there, the Cairngorn Brewery) and a trip up to the car park on Cairngorm. There we saw the snow, but no ptarmigan.

One highlight of the week was a trip to Glasgow yesterday. The primary reason was to visit the Model Rail Scotland exhibition, but Spot and I also had a great time meeting up with friends and their two (adorable - I am bias, very bias) children. Their oldest was fair taken by the whole thing, which was a relief, as Hornby didn't have a stand, so very little Thomas. It was great to see our friends and have a good catch up. The wife of the couple I've known for nearly 19 (!) years and she has always been so supportive of my training for ministry - she was even one of the people who suggested it.

It's been a good week as I've had a time for long lies, walks (when not throwing it down with rain - usually pushed sideways with the wind), seeing Scotland at its best and taking time to recharge my batteries. I'm not convinced this is the purpose of innovative learning week, but it's what I have done and was just what I needed.

Tomorrow, the work restarts in ernest.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

God goes before me and is with me

Over the last week or so a bible verse has been going around in my head. It's one I first read (or was really aware of reading) when on enquiry. Since then, it pops into my head when I maybe need a bit of reassurance or am about to step out in faith, with the hope what I am doing is following God's calling.

So, what's the verse? "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deut 31:8) All through enquiry and training I've felt God's leading me. There have been things which have discouraged me, but I have kept on climbing the path I am heading along, reassured I shouldn't be afraid or discouraged. The bottom line, I think, is this verse tells me 'God's got your back and has prepared the way for you,' which is pretty awesome.

So, I sort of wondered why it was swirling around my head at the beginning of last week. As I discovered last September, there are no guarantees in the training process. Yet, on Thursday I received confirmation of where I will serve probation and since Sunday have been making plans for beginning dates and going with some members of Airside Kirk to Malawi. All without the certainty my next annual review will be okay.

It's not being arrogant. I have definitely learnt they are not plain sailing. No, I am trusting God, knowing he goes to prepare the way for me and, with that knowledge, I should not be afraid or discouraged. Now I know why that verse was in my head (and still is). God is pretty cool and is giving me exactly what I need. And I trust in him, setting aside fear and anxiety to follow.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Great oppoptunity I can't pass up

So, after weeks of waiting (or should that be months, as the process began last May) I finally received confirmation I will be serving my probation at Airside Kirk. To say I'm chuffed is an underestimate - there's loads I can get my teeth into there and I know I'll get on well with the minister there, who (obviously) will be my supervisor for probation.

The Kirk itself has a partnership with a village in Malawi (I know, doesn't everyone). And a group of them are going out at the end of June. My supervisor, Laura Roslin, asked if I'd like to join them. She called when I was knee deep in dissertation, but my gut instinct was 'yes.' There was genuinely no pressure to go, but what an opportunity. Besides, with Eve away for the beginning of July, I wouldn't be in able to begin probation till the beginning of August.

Before committing myself, I wanted to speak to Spot - whose reaction was "you're being given this opportunity for a reason - you have to go." Then I spoke to my Mum and she had almost an identical reaction. I know I sometimes need things painted in very big letters before I get the hint, but I think this was clear enough.

So, I am beginning probation in Malawi, walking alongside some from Airside Kirk and the partner church out there. What a brilliant way to begin and a chance I just couldn't miss out on. I'm even missing graduation for this, but a boring ceremony, with 2-300 other people, so I can get skelpted on the head with John Knox's breiks verses two weeks walking with fellow followers of Christ. And there's always the November/December graduations. Yes, I know, if anyone's going to do things the awkward/different way, it's me.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Work, work and work

I feel it's been a long time since I've written, but looking back I haven't this month. In my list of priorities at the moment, this is not high. I do miss the brain dump, though, as I find I do some of my best reflecting when I have to process it in writing.

So, what have I been up to? Well, mainly focusing on the dissertation, the first (and main) chapter of which I have committed to give to my dissertation supervisor on Friday. I'm really enjoying the write up and, in the main, it's coming on well and sort of writing itself. I thought I may not have done enough research, but looks like all the reading and examining of my primary evidence (the buildings themselves) is paying dividends.

The pastoral work I am doing at the Big Kirk is going well and my supervisor there is very pleased with it. It has been a mutually beneficial time, as I have gained a lot more experience, had a very supportive, sympathetic supervisor, and I have taken a bit of the work-load from her. In many ways it's a shame I hadn't thought to go there for probation, but I have no regrets and would not have had this opportunity.

Quarry Kirk. Well, it took me a while to work out if they actually liked me. Being dour Fifers, like myself, they are not necessarily the most expressive bunch! But they are warm and friendly once you get to know them. When they were told a couple of weeks ago my last Sunday is to be Easter Sunday they were genuinely sad, even when that's 3 months off.

And that's about it. Study and church work seem to be all I am doing at the moment. But Innovative Learning Week beckons, which I will be treating as a bit of a rest from study. There are no classes and, unlike almost every other ministry candidate at New College, I have chosen not to go to the Holy Land. Bliss. I know I need it, which is why I've been doing the 'big push' in terms of my uni work so I can have the week clear.

The end is nigh. Just wondering what path I will go down at the next crossroads in this ministry training path.