May 132008

Yesterday was my second, and last. exam of the semester and for third year at uni. Not one of my better ones it has to be said, but I should have done enough for a comfortable pass. It was a bit difficult to focus on the revision after last week’s news – that’s my excuse anyway.

But now I have to turn my attention to more mundane matters, like work for the summer. Ideally I’d like to be getting more church experience and I’ve been offered bits an pieces of pulpit supply. It would be nice to get broader experience, but so few churches seem to be looking for assistants at the moment. I do have one possibility in the area but it needs to be approved by Ministries Council so I’m not holding my breath.

The other thing I could pick up on is website design. I was thinking of using (abusing?) the presbytery list to see if any churches in the area wanted a website done. I’ve recently put together a site for Falkirk High School’s trip to Malawi (which both my daughters are going on). Between my experience of WordPress and Joomla I can make the sites as complex or as simple as necessary. I was also thinking about Stewart’s post about ichurch. My hosting provider is able to give me the facilities I’d need to implement a similar scheme and there are one or two domain names available that would be useful. My concern about that though is the longer term support, especially since ichurch is a one-off fee.

Before I get embroiled in that though I have a few things to sort out like a labyrinth for Crossover.

But maybe I should behave like a real student and go and sleep on it.

Feb 192008

I’m trying to fit in some pastoral visits before I finish up at KHR. Having had a cold the other week has meant they’ve piled up somewhat so I’m doing a bit of juggling to fit in as many as I can reasonably do. Anyhoo… that’s for me to juggle and not complain about.

I’ve done two visits so far and they were both quite different yet the common theme might be the stories that the two people had to tell. More to the point, they actually had stories worth hearing. How many people are sitting in our circle of acquaintances with a story that would rival that of any best-selling page-turner? More than we know I suspect. Tales of danger (and I mean real danger), exotic travel, loyal service and all the more fascinating and exciting for being true. And generally told with such modesty too and even then only told after a fair bit of prompting. One elderly lady, who looks very ‘proper’ – ‘posh’ even – used to drive Bedford trucks and all manner of other things during service in the RAF. Other stories of wartime service are just downright scary.

It means that we often then look upon the person in a very different light. But why should we have to hear a story before that happens? And what of the ongoing story? The ups and downs of a faith journey can be every bit as exciting and it is a journey we get to share, particularly in a pastoral capacity. One of my hospital chaplaincy placement visits last week was notable in this respect. I kept being asked my story and found myself sharing my testimony with a chap. I felt I had spoken too much and not really spent enough time getting his story. But at the end the visit he told me how much he had appreciated hearing it because he takes so much strength and encouragement from hearing how God works in others.

The point, I guess, is that we all have stories to share and discover from others. Stories bind us to one another through shared experience, shared anxieties, shared enthusiasms. Stories also bring understanding and can be a source of strength, encouragement or even act as a salutary lesson in what not to do. This is especially true when it comes to faith, I would suggest. Sharing stories requires trust though. We are all concerned about whether, through our stories, we will sound ridiculous, prideful, arrogant, stupid. When we have an opportunity to receive a story it’s important, I believe, to acknowledge the gift and to treat that story with respect. Whether it’s ridiculous or exciting, the story is who that person is, their picture of themself. How else can we get to really know one another, except through our stories?

Feb 082008

I’m sure you’re all (note assumption of a readership here) familiar with the old adage, “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” or one of its variants “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach; those who can’t teach, teach gym/lecture/counsel (delete or add as appropriate)”.

For whatever reason, this phrase popped into my head earlier today and I immediately made a connection to something that happened at my last CofS assessment conference. It was a comment about how I appeared to equate my faith with being busy doing ‘God-stuff’. The reason I linked the two is that, in a sense, the adage holds a degree of ‘truth’ when I consider it in the light of the criticism of my faith life. I’m not one of these ‘in-your-face’ Christians who walks around festooned with crosses and takes every opportunity to tell you how much Jesus has changed their life (actually, I’m not sure I know anyone like that anyway, so maybe it’s not the best comparison). On a daily basis I go about life just like any other bloke. I’m not overtly religious; I don’t speak damnation and judgement over injustice or even petty unethical behaviour; I don’t praise God loudly when something works out in a good way; I have arguments with my family; I throw tantrums when something really winds me up; I’ve downloaded music from the web to listen to without paying for it.

Where my faith becomes more obvious is if someone asks about theology or religion or church or any one of a number of areas where I put my faith to ‘work’. So, in one sense I fit the adage – I’m not very good at ‘doing’ and so I ‘teach’. And, in a sense, the criticism of the assessment report is justified.

But, it’s also very wrong. My faith comes to the fore in my busyness – it’s through my busyness that I live out my faith. When I’m not ‘doing’, that doesn’t mean I have no faith. It simply means that the outlets for my faith are not there. And that’s simply who I am and why, to an extent, I like to keep busy. I like working out my faith because that’s where I find satisfaction. It’s part of the reason I feel called to ministry – it’s a life of ‘doing’. And it’s also why I do feel a slight sense of disconnection from God when I’m not busy – because I know it’s not what I’m called to. I’d never be a good witness left to sit in a pew Sunday by Sunday. My natural reticence would mean that, in a secular job, I simply couldn’t be the sort of person who could witness effectively.

So that’s why I don’t ‘do’ and why I ‘teach’. Not sure what would happen if I had to consider the third option – maybe I’m there already.

Jan 192008

It’s been a pretty diverse week just past.

On Thursday I was at the ordination and induction of a friend. It was a lovely service, full of humour and joy tempered by the serious business of taking on responsibility for a parish. If taking on her first charge wasn’t enough, Louise also has to cope with it being a new linkage as well. That said, I’m sure she’ll do well. I remember meeting her just a few days after she had been called to the charge. Up until then I had always seen a ‘minister-in-training’ but on that day there was an air about her that said ‘minister’. It was more, I think, than simply being happy at being called to a charge. It was a real sense of ‘rightness’ and affirmation of God’s calling.

This morning (Saturday), I was at the funeral of a local minister who died very suddenly. That service too had joy and humour and not just a little seriousness as Geoff Smart was remembered, as husband, father and dearly-loved minister and friend to many. The church was packed out, a real tribute to the esteem in which he was held. I was there as part of Presbytery and I only really knew Geoff in passing. That said, he was the Presbytery person who ‘looked after’ ministry candidates and enquirers and I knew him in that regard. I found the service deeply moving and, like me, Geoff was a relative latecomer in his calling to the ministry. On hearing the tributes delivered today, one could do worse than look to his ministry as an inspiration.

I also had news that one of the church members in my district had died, so that’s a funeral visit I’ll need to do as soon as possible. Archie was a retired teacher and, whenever I visited, was always keen to hear how my studies were going and how my family were doing. His wife Pat is a lovely person and they were always a great joy to visit.

Archie spent his last days in Strathcarron Hospice and, I understand, had plenty of time to say his goodbyes. Not so Geoff, who died very suddenly. Both families will have to deal with deaths but with a very different set of circumstances. Both families have a faith and it is in that I pray they will find their comfort and strength.

Nov 242007

Today has been a bit of an odd day. For the last couple of days I’ve been putting my uni notes in order and giving some thought to the specific areas I’ll concentrate on for revision. But today we had some visitors so the place has had a bit of a tidy-up and I haven’t been doing a lot of uni work (we’ve got our 6-year-old nephew staying overnight).

But the really odd thing about today is that I’ve had the strongest feeling that there’s something I ought to have been doing and haven’t done it. Then earlier this evening I realised what it was – I’m not participating directly in worship tomorrow. And that feels really odd. It’s like something’s ‘missing’ or I’m not doing what I’m supposed to. Maybe it’s just the relative novelty of not ‘doing’ on a Sunday morning but maybe it’s a feeling worth exploring further. ‘Why’ do I feel like this? Is it simply a feeling of wanting to be involved or is it symptomatic of a more questionable ‘need’ for purpose? I guess there is the potential for both the good and the bad in feeling this way. There’s a risk that ‘value’ is only sensed when ‘doing’. But then there’s also the outlook that this is an effect of a sense of call, a desire to serve.

Hmmm… a bit deep and meaningful for a Saturday night. Off to read some 5th century Christian history. That’ll put things back in perspective, I’m sure.

Nov 212007

Someone of my recent acquaintance had asked if they might include me in their prayer ministry – a small group of friends who passed prayer requests to others in the group.

Of course I didn’t mind and one evening after church the person spoke to me about a ‘message’ they had felt come to them during the service. They had seen me travelling a road and I was coming to a fork in the road where I would need to make a decision. One fork had a massive arrow pointing out the correct direction and the person felt that the message was that a time of decision was coming (or had happened recently) and that the ‘answer’ was glaringly obvious (but the choice would still be there). A scripture verse (that had been part of the lesson) that they felt was ‘for me’ was Hebrews 11:8 “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”

This does indeed resonate with me in many ways. I sense a strong call to ministry but have often questioned whether this is into parish ministry. The church don’t really make this distinction. The only question from them is whether it is ‘Word and Sacrament’ or some other form of ministry. I have no doubt in my mind that it is to ‘Word and Sacrament’ but still remain unclear whether this’ll end up as parish ministry or not. Maybe that element of ‘doubt’ is a hint that I’ll end up being called to somewhere or something that I hadn’t considered.

Whatever it is, and whether I do end up knowing or not, I pray that, like Abraham, I can follow this calling in faith and not seek to impose my own desires.

Nov 212007

A momentary lull has been found but looking ahead in the calendar, it’ll be short-lived.

At uni, there is one more teaching class and 3 revision classes to go before exam panic sets in. The exam timetable hasn’t been especially kind – the 6th, 10th and 11th of December – so it’ll need a bit of juggling to work out an optimum revision timetable.

Add to that elder’s district visits, presbytery and a Crossover management meeting that’ll need a bit of thought beforehand and you’ll see that the lull is very momentary indeed.

Ho humm! Suppose I’d better blog on something substantial while I’ve got the chance.

Nov 102007


Spare a thought and a prayer for those who gave their life in wars past and present.

Pray too for those affected by war.

Many ask why God doesn’t answer prayers for peace.

He has answered.

He gave us His Son Jesus.

He told us to love one another.

Why aren’t we listening?

Oct 242007

I’m trying not to fall out of the habit of blogging but life’s been a little busy. It seems to me that whenever I think I’ve got a bit of spare time, something crops up to fill it, which generally means that the thing that I’ve just put off, thinking that I’ve some extra time, has no time to do. I’m sure there’s a lesson about hay and sunshine that I should have learnt when I was younger but it seems to have passed me by.

About two weeks ago I had 3 Sunday services to prepare (2 mornings, 1 evening) and one of my lectures got cancelled. Great, I thought, there’s the extra time I need to do service prep. And so that’s what happened. (And on a side note, Lanark Greyfriars, where the first Sunday morning service was being done, now make their services available online, mine included – the 14th). So, back to ‘normal’ time available and guess what! One of my pc’s threw a wobbly – Corrupted its main drive and wouldn’t boot, corrupted its partition table (that’s serious) and couldn’t be accessed from the secondary drive (which could boot). Ended up spending all my ‘slack time’ playing with data recovery tools, getting what could be salvaged. In actual fact, it wasn’t too drastic because I also run a small, separate server, so all the main documents and files live on that. The only thing at risk was my wife’s most recent email. Now this was ‘critical’ – she had two emails from Amazon which were gift vouchers for our younger daughter who was 13 at the beginning of the week. But, the data recovery software worked its techno-magic and the emails were duly recovered.

So far, so frantic(ish). More deadlines looming though and things were looking ropey. One 10 minute presentation (with handouts), one 3000 word essay and one 1000 word tutorial submission were all to be due on Monday. The cancelled lecture meant that my presentation slips back a week and I was able to opt for a different tutorial assignment, also slipping that back a week. So (can you see where this is going yet), I thought, that eases the pressure a bit this week and I can concentrate on the essay. Nooooo! That would be much too simple! Several phone calls on Monday evening ensured that one evening got written off chasing Presbytery stuff and a chunk of my morning today got taken care of (I don’t begrudge this one as it was a favour for a friend). And to cap it all, my parents announced they’d ‘just pop in on Friday on their way to St. Andrews’ (family wedding).

Ach well! I always say I work better under a bit of pressure. I need a (looming) deadline to focus my mind.

As for blogging, I have a wee list building up, so I might as well note them here to keep them in my mind:

  • A ‘word’ from God, through a new friend.
  • Virtual church – the numbers game.
  • Pastoral Care course placement – hospice or hospital?
  • More theology

And, no doubt, plenty more when I can remember them.

Sep 232007



My wife is outside gardening (and I’m stuck inside studying – honest) but insisted that I come and see some wildlife. So, some piccies to prove a student does see the light of day sometimes:

There are a few more on my Picasa site.