Five Days in Lebanon

How to distill five days of talking, walking, observing, witnessing, travelling, praying, and discerning into anything that resembles coherence?
That is the question, most exercising me right now.
Listening to the people of this place: those born here, those who have chosen to make this place their home, those who landed here with no choice and those who are just passing through.
Watching displaced children, traumatised, fearful, anxious, but still able to smile, to hope. Seeing them loved and cared for by those whose only aim in life is to bring God’s love into these trembling hearts.
Seeking to understand what is really needed, and not jump in with both feet assuming I might know better.
Walking through the bustling city, with its cosmopolitan mix of nationalities, religious affiliation, wealth and poverty side by side. The food and drink, the smells and sounds, the heat.
All combine to be a heady mix.

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Syrian children, in refugee school. Nov 2016 

 

I am not sure what I expected before I came here.
And. I am still not sure what I have received.
I think it’s the children that have had the greatest impact.
On Sunday, in church, part of the family, well fed, well cared for, secure, loved, wanted.
On Monday, in school. Refugees. Status-less. Undernourished, afraid, timid, loved, wanted.
On Tuesday, on the streets, refugees, begging, hungry, bold, desperate, unwanted, unloved, exploited.
On Wednesday, in school. Refugees. Well fed, nourished, loved, cared for.
On Thursday, older, in education, bright young people at the AUB, learning, growing, exploring, secure, loved, confident of their place in the world.

CEB Women’s Bible – a review

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CEB Women’s Bible 

I have always had mixed feelings about bibles written for specific groups. Mostly because when I glanced through in the bookshop I was left feeling inadequate or that my theology was being put into question.
So when I read about this new Women’s Bible my feelings were initially a little sceptical- would it leave me feeling those same feelings again?
I didn’t need to worry!
This is the bible I have been waiting for! It’s not like I needed any others really, but I was ready to have a new favourite go to edition to replace or go alongside my trusty NIV study bible which introduced me to the concept of studying the bible and then accompanied me through divinity and beyond into ministry. That bible is now more than 25 years old.
How do you begin reading and reviewing a bible then?
I started by going to my favourite verses to see how the translation sits, and to see what accompanying notes there are. Oh my goodness! There are really sound introductions to each book, plus comprehensive notes within the chapters. What I especially like, and have found really helpful are the snapshots of individual female characters- and I have already used them in my preaching (on Hannah) this bible will be sitting on my desk, and traveling with me to help and inform, to encourage and to enhance my personal bible reading.
I will be on a period of retreat and reflection at the start of November (staring tomorrow!), this bible is coming with me. There are some great indexes for me to investigate. As well as comprehensive reading plans, there is a discussion guide which reflects the RCL, and articles on virtually any topic you might want to look at – from abortion to social justice to gender equality and women and war…. So I will be well resourced.

I received a hardcover review copy of The CEB Women’s Bible from the publisher, and was not compensated; for me this is a preview copy it will be available in the UK from 21 November, but you can pre order it now from Amazon.

http://www.abingdonpress.com/product/9781609261894#.WBBYeet4WrV

To Praise Enthusiastically…

This has been an interesting start to the year
All because of a single word.
just one word.
see… last two years I’ve had two to ponder over; but I resolved to take one and go with it. whatever.
Hmm… me and my resolve!

The word I drew; my STARword for 2016, laughs in the face of this shy introvert.
ACCLAIM.
Acclaim…. oh what?!
to praise enthusiastically the dictionary tells me; to welcome or salute with shouts of joy… yeah, right. Like that’s going to happen!

So all week, I’ve been pondering it.
Carrying it with me.
Resisting asking for an alternative, something to go alongside… something to soften the reality.
Trying to reconcile what or how I can work with acclaim.
I am embarrassed when I receive it; I am overwhelmed if I try to give it. Quiet praise I can manage – but acclaim – well that smacks of something much stronger than I am capable of.

Today as I was out for the morning walk with my new furry best friend; I pondered again; and I wondered about praise.
Wondering if that is a way into acclaim… the Holy One guided my hand
The Holy One will equip me… well, that is what I assured my congregants as they got their words. So, I must take it for me too.

Maybe She has a new direction for me this year?
Maybe I’m to be a little more enthused; a little more upfront?
Maybe, just maybe, as the weeks go by I can find ways for it to sit better with me…
Maybe it is time to step out; be a little bold – and get enthusiastic!

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New Year – new word…

Hello 2016!

Gosh, but it feels like you were a long time coming…
this time last year I was full of hope and determination: I wrote about it here. Things did not quite work how I’d hoped though.

The anticipated grief I felt as my beloved Dad’s health deteriorated ever more rapidly; the stress and depression that resulted because of that and the wedding/ no wedding dilemma… all added together to make 2015 be a year I was glad to say goodbye to.

HOWEVER!!! When I stop and review the other things that happened, there were many bright spots; laughter and love shared; travels to sunshine and family and lots of exploring both home and away.
And, the forging of new friendships; the cementing of others; the continuing blessing of old friends who have walked alongside me. All brought brightness and light into the darkest of days.

The words for 2015 were FUN and DETERMINATION. I’m not sure that I thought about them much – the year took over; and I’m not sure if I lived them much either. But, it’s a New Year – tomorrow will bring a new word. As I was preparing the cards for worship tomorrow I kept on seeing words I would like to have; words that spoke to me in the passing – I don’t know which one will come to me.

But I do know, the Spirit’s going to guide and inspire as she moves among us!

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Starwords all ready to go…

Making time for Sabbath – a prayer for pastors….

Holy God of rest and work
of all things and all times and all places
We thank you for holy-days; holiday; time out
We praise you when we work, when we share your love
when we speak of praising you

Holy God
I may not be “working” this day
but my sisters and brothers are
be a constant, known, tangible presence with them this day – as they make their last minute preps
as they breathe in your Holy Spirit
as they calm themselves and steady shaking hands, trembling voices
so overwhelming it can be
to be your servant!

Holy God
for those of us, who do not preach this day
may we too, know your presence
feel your loving touch
sense your wondrous Spirit
and be full-filled, wherever we worship you
In a known church, or a new church, or a vast open space of your creating
may we truly know, that you are wherever we are
praying and praising and worshipping you

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Grief four months on…

It has been such a long time since I blogged… and it’s not that I haven’t thought about, planned things to share, written in my mind’s eye… It’s just that I haven’t been sure that what I write will be readable… It has been four months since Dad died. And generally I am ok. I am working hard, getting on with life and ministry. I am functioning, talking, doing the things that need to be done. I write when I must, sermons, prayers, talks, reports… But my creativity previously so apparent in the words I love to craft is not quite there. 

I have spent time when I would write doing other small projects. Projects that are simple and quick to complete, projects that do not require too much effort on my part. Sewing, decorating, making fun little thinks with clay and wood. Nothing too onerous, and nothing that requires too much brain effort.

Each week, I read random blogs and comments from all sorts of sources, and I think to myself – “Yes!!” “Right! True! I agree, I think that too…” But my head cannot bring it all together, cannot find those words to articulate my thoughts into coherence. 

Today, I write, and it is little more than a stream of consciousness – but I so wanted to write something, anything, that I felt was worthy of me. I have no idea if it will resonate with anyone… 

I guess this is all part of the grieving process. The advice I give to those whom I minister too is always, give it time. Be kind to yourself. You’ll have good days and bad days and that will take just as long as it takes. And that’s normal. 
I need to heed my own advice! The rawness of the grief is past, and it has been replaced with something other, that I can’t quite describe. 

This too will pass.

I’ve felt under a cloud. I’ve felt under attack. I’ve felt isolated. It isn’t all to do with grief. Some of it is simply to do with life, but the grief has meant I am less able to deal with it, less able to let it go. And that has been a surprise. I am blessed with my beloved, some good, close friends, and the clear blue skies and rolling green hills of the countryside where I live. 

Life goes on, all around. And I go on too. 

Life changes as those whom we love come and go.

Sometimes it is death that robs us of the person.

Other times it is circumstance, a falling out, a change of attitude, heart or situation. 

Sometimes the person is only meant for a season.

Other times it is for a life. 

I thank God for the people in my life who are so important so much a part of me, for making our paths cross, and letting us touch the very heart of the matter.

I thank God for life and love and if sometimes that also means pain, well, so be it.

I am confident that we will be reunited. That this earthly life is just a part of it all, and I thank God again, that Dad believed that too. 

And I pray, that my words will return, that my thoughts will flow, and my craft will return. 

Little by little. Phrase by phrase. In God’s time, which will be my time too. 

Friday Five – firsts…

I am the new Friday Five host; every month on the third Friday I will be coming up with ideas of five things to share, so with this being the first one, this week it’s firsts… this is what I asked over on the RevGalBlogPals blog…012a5562b3acff68d92e768b75ae94041ac035271a

I have just returned from my annual holiday, and this year’s was very much family oriented. My beloved’s older son lives in Boston, my middle son lives in North Vancouver (between us we have 7 grown up children) so we travelled all the way from Scotland to visit with them, and each was a first time visit. While in Boston we spent some quality time with our granddaughter… Our first!

Share here in the comments, or on your blog five of your firsts, here are some ideas to get you started. Don’t forget to post a link when you play!

1. Can you remember the first time you travelled a long way to meet someone special?
The very first long haul flight I took was to Seattle in 1999 – to visit a dear friend; and the one thing I remember more than anything else, is the drive in from Tacoma – everything seemed so BIG!!! But it introduced me also to big mountains, and big seas, and an amazing country. I have been back many times, to many different places in the USA, but probably Seattle is still my favourite city visited… so far!

2. Share a memory of a first visit to a new country, state or place that was unexpected or unusual.
Another long trip I made was in 2005… I was just preparing for my first call, it was August and a friend was living in Moscow! What an amazing trip that was… a city of contrasts – astonishing wealth and excess set again abjext poverty – it gave me much to ponder over…

3. What is the first thing you do on waking each day? Is it always the same?
Coffee….

012707150940a701cb0ecb4f9808909465275a740b4. Have you met up with other RevGals? Maybe at an event?
YES!!!! Up until this year, it had all been with other Scottish gals; then I went on BE8; helped to host BEE… and just a couple weeks ago in Boston I met up with Rev Gal Pam McGrath!

5. Is this your first Friday Five? If not, can you remember the first time you played?
Oh… not the first; I don’t play every week; but I do think about it most weeks! I loved the random ones; the tell a story using these words ones… the ones that involve stories and pictures… watch this space!

On the Beach

It was a holiday scene
A small boy, a beach, gentle waves lapping
A perfect holiday, right?

Not this time,
For this beach held no sound of laughter ringing
No shouts of excitement in the waves splashing
Only the heart rending wail of a grieving father

And suddenly
The truth of the word refugee became stark reality
Fear! Fear!
Such fear, that would drive a family into unseaworthy craft
Hopes surging with each mile travelled
Hopes dashed with each crashing wave
Hopes lost as the boat flips…

The small boy lies still now
No more fun and laughter
Innocence gone
Forever.

God – did you create us for this?
Is this what your creation was for?
What can we do now?
Time to act; time to speak; time to make a difference
However small; however trivial it may be
We must do
Something

For if we do not. Who will?

Written in response to the tragedy of Syrian refugees, to encourage action.

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beach photo, taken by JMW

Hello – Goodbye

Over on the RevGals blog Jan is saying goodbye – it is her final Friday Five, so she asks:
Our lives entail many beginnings and endings of periods or chapters. We can look back and see where we said “Hello” and “Goodbye.” Today please look at those times in your life. Be original or play along with these five suggestions:

I am saying “Hello” and/or “Goodbye” to:
1. book
2. habit or practice
3. idea
4. food
5. person

Hmmm…. well.
BOOK: I have a huge pile of books I want to say hello to; some have been there for some time’ some I have maybe managed a chapter or two, but most I’ve seen, bought, and then never got round to reading. I love books. I’m just not very good at the follow through – so next week when my holiday begins, I really want to say hello to a few of those!
PRACTICE: many of you know me as the Monday Prayer girl – from next month you will get to know me under a new guise as I become the new 3rd Friday, Friday Five Gal! So I’m looking forward to saying hello and trembling at the thought of filling those amazing shoes! Jan has done such a wonderful job over the years! Hope some of you will pop along and say hello!
IDEA: I’m good at ideas, and terrible at follow through – so maybe this is simply a say goodbye to procrastinating, and hello to productivity?!
FOOD: Once I get back from my holidays I am saying goodbye to bad eating. I have several food intolerances and over this year, when I’ve been dealing with lots of emotional stuff, I’ve let it all slip. I gained a huge amount of weight, and I feel rubbish! So I’m reclaiming the healthy eating, and saying goodbye to all those unhealthy snack attacks!
PERSON: this year I had to say goodbye to my Dad; it broke my heart. I am coming out from under a very black cloud and beginning to see light and colour again. AND! Joy of joys – and new grandchild is on the way so I am looking forward to saying hello to a brand new little person in January!

holiday reading

books for reading and for colouring on holiday!

Today I Wept

Today I wept

Today, I wept in church
It was a silly thing
The music group – practising
Singing a song of call and response
But as the chords hit me
The resonance washed over me…

The last time I sang this
I was burying my father…
The music washed over and through
And so I wept in church
My church
The church where I am leader
Where I’m the in charge person…
Yet still I wept.

It’s summer you see,
And in summer, different people lead and choose
I did not choose the hymn
Too soon, to raw, to close to the surface
when I approved the list,
It didn’t register
I didn’t notice, realise, take note
I didn’t remember
Until I heard the music washing over and through me
By then it was too late…

And so today I wept in church

Summer flowers - Lindisfarne 2014

Summer flowers – Lindisfarne 2014