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Monday, October 4, 2010

Finally Fall!


Ok...so....it seems a bit funny that every time I have a wee moment to post I find a whole month has passed...Ooops.
I do have a jolly good excuse though....Koine Greek has to be the MOST time consuming thing ever. It involves hours and hours of memorizing endings to nouns. For me, there is nothing to help me remember...no sense that I can hook it to...I just have to remember! This doesn't seem to be working too terribly well. Last week's quiz I think I only got one right.... And the word I got right was "amartia" which is "sin"...so ....I've got that going for me anyway! Which I suppose is something!

This weekend....which should have been all about parsing Greek nouns was only slightly about parsing Greek nouns because I was at Cub Camp. I did spend Saturday afternoon in the back of the van parsing nouns, etc....but the morning was spent following the guys around as they did scouty things. This is where my life gets tricky. I don't want to miss the few years left of my boys'childhood; the silliness, and newness, and foundation on which they build the rest of their life experiences. Coll is already an adolescent. My being gone all the time is annoying for him, but he can build a Tesla coil in the garage without me. He doesn't look up from his work and expect my smiling approval anymore. He might still like it, but he doesn't need it. Caoir still does. My choice this weekend was between the Theology reading and the Greek translating, or the nine year olds with their constant "Bazooka Bubblegum" song, and sniggering every time they heard the word "duty", and pretending the large acorns are grenades. Next year, they might not want me around as they travel the trails of Citta Scout Reservation as a pack of Webelos....they might have comments they don't want a middle-aged lady to hear, and not need my cheers and snap-shots from below the rope bridge as they cross on wobbly, skinny legs. That might be so "fourth grade" and babyish! This is my only chance to do this. Next year, they will be darker haired, and huskier, and tougher, and more independent...as it should be.
Thinking back over what I've just said it seems very much like I'm asking for permission to not parse....or to read less....and that's not the situation at all.
I'm just not about parsing...or reading...or writing. That is all part of what I do, but it's not what I'm about.
Those kids come first, and they have to know it. It might not always be the "first" as they think it should be, but they need to know that the bottom line is that they end up in a good place...loved and supported and enjoyed before all other things.

On that happy note. I shall go parse and translate and read and write...er....after I get out the Halloween decorations. I want them to be happy when they get home from school today! I won't see them until Wednesday! Oh well! Life just keeps getting in the way!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A new start.....HAPPY NEW YEAR! Sad New Year...love is the answer!.

Happy New Year to my Jewish sisters and brothers celebrating Rosh Hashanah!
Let me join you in assessing my spiritual highs and lows of the year and prepare a clean heart for the year to come....and eat honey apple cake! Yum!

Happy New Year....and Eid to our Muslim friends! Refreshed after Ramadan and hopefully renenergized with a new spirit! Let me join you whilst you eat a lot!

Happy New Year to the Hindus who celebrate their god Ganesh...that elephant head dude...the god of beginnings and science, and art, and creativity! I'll eat with you, too! Probably no meat....

And continuing with the new year theme.....

Both boys got on the iconic yellow school bus with smiles...sort of...that's them in their first day back at the institution! I did not embarrass them with photos and kisses at the bus-stop, but I did make small-talk with everyone present, children and parents alike, which I'm sure they didn't appreciate! Oh well.
Maybe once in this run-up to school I got a twang of remembrance for that back-to-school feeling for the teacher....the organizing the room....the bulletin boards....those tape name-tags with the alphabet on each student's desk... the surreptitious, stolen whiff of the new crayola box ...oh no...wait..that was last year! This year I'm just so happy I'm out of it!!!

On a less frivolous note, R and I woke early for the webcam funeral of Professor Alan Ervine at Glasgow Uni. It was a good celebration. Sad...which is fitting. He was young and had just retired, planning to do missionary work in East Africa. I really didn't know the guy more than to exchange pleasantries, but this last, really tragic month of his blogging has been transforming for me. His honesty, his faith, his anger......he said to his minister the other day, "When I die, I want you to take the service.....and I want you to preach the Gospel!" Well done. It was well done. Onward and upward friends! Keep working until your time's up!
For Alan's family, obviously, I pray. This isn't just a new year...it's a new life that's going to be pretty tough without him.

I know this... Monday, a beautiful day that was a little cooler, marked the 25th anniversary of my mother's death. Strangely, it both feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago.....yet were she to walk into my kitchen just now and make a cup of tea, I probably wouldn't bat an eye...at least at first. Assuming she looked...like normal....not like a zombie or something! That would be freaky. Just kidding.
Every year, on the 6th of September I am stopped in my tracks. This year it was different. Somehow, twenty-five years makes the mourning more...grown....more able to take care of itself. The hole her passing left is still there, the me maybe dances with it rather than is led by it. As I come closer to the age she was when she died, my perspective on how I live changes and that hole helps define me, and obviously makes me question how I spend my time.....which for any of us, is limited. A few months ago, Alan Ervine was planning his future, wasn't he? We need to make the most of what we have whilst we're here.

I wanted somehow to mark the day...I wrote a poem...I'll maybe spend some time today working in the moon garden...it's all a bit hollow this 25th anniversary. Not even a little silver...maybe it's a tarnished silver. I dunno.

The next anniversary coming up this week is that of 9/11.
Regardless of your personal stance on terrorism, politics, the loss of innocent life, your own friends or family lost that day, the memory of that gorgeous, picture-book September day...full of Monarch butterflies and ripening apples... and those towers being hit, and collapsing, changed you...Changed you forever. How you felt on 9/10/01 and how you felt on 9/12/01 were drastically different. This year is super-charged with emotion because of the plan to build a mosque so close to the site.....I hear both sides of this issue constantly, and in both sides I hear fear, but I also hear love.....only I don't hear enough love.
Ouch.
Start with love. Breathe out. Breathe in. Open your heart to God, and make every thing you do be with love.
Put the fear aside.
Yoda said it well, "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to sufferiiiiing." Yoda, a very wise puppet indeed.
Put love first.
...and happy new year!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hurricane Earl.....anti-climax......



Don't get me wrong.....I don't want any property or people hurt, but if we're going to have a hurricane....well....better not jinx us. There's a few more depressions out at sea just waiting to nail us. The Jersey Shore is overdue for the 100 year storm, so I really shouldn't tempt fate.....but.....it's sort of boring! It's been gray all day, a few very brief showers that steam up. Barely a breeze, but then just when one stirs up, it stops. The pool was hastily covered....as much of the garden flotsam and jetsam cleared to make way for actual flotsam and jetsam.....honestly, that's probably why I'm most annoyed at the lack of storm....at least if we had a storm everyone's back garden would be a tip...now it's just mine! No excuse other than...well....not doing a blinking thing in it all summer.

So. That's the summer done I guess. Blah. Very, very uneventful.

The children and their friends, on one of the last days of freedom, have been arguing over what dvd to watch....looks like they've decided on "Beowulf". A super-violent computer generated film from a few years back with the cartoony characters very much resembling the actors that provide the voice. Grendel's mother is hot....Now the argument is whether it's ok to see a naked, character generated Angelina Jolie, as a hideous monster that shape-shifts into a shapely babe, or not.....the friends are English boys....so I'll just tell their mum it's part of their rich, cultural history! I'm pretty sure they won't be harmed....pretty sure.

The semester has begun for me....This will be a semester of reading and writing to the n-th power...much different from last year. Feels like much more. All I can say is "ouch". The preaching bitis always with me....the images from the lectionary texts like stones in a swift river...I'm jumping from image to image not too sure of where it's taking me! I might add, too, that I'm not feeling great about the swiftness of the river.

I suppose I can't help but remind myself to just go with flow...sorry...that cliche just couldn't be helped.

Wind might be picking up a bit, actually......

I must now supervise the Beowulf.....Grendelesque behavior from the minors with NOT be tolerated!!!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

working in the space between the actual words.....

Right....so.....I've got to finish up my summer of reading James Loder.....and all the other dudes that Loder mentions....that I just had to read...because I just wanted to have to...and now I'm putting it all together in this watercolour poster type thing full of song lyrics and Shakespeare and puppy dog tails....oh yeah....and a very disjointed paper....man! I sometimes think it would be a lot easier if I was normal. Oh...wait....I always think that!

My hope is that the space between the words will help hold the words together....hmmm...

I'm getting happy that summer is nearly over and feeling some guilt over that. I can hear my sainted mother saying, "You'll wish your life away!" But.....this has just been a weird summer. A summer of wrestling with angels, jumping on trampolines with demons, peering into the void, finding the face of God in the craziest of places....not bad.....just hard work. The autumn might not be easier, but for the now, I'm just going to think towards the discipline and schedules with a cleansing breath. Discipline can be a very calming force in the chaos.

In the Celtic year, this is Lughnasa...Christianized to Lammas, or Loaf Mass...the first harvest...not summer any longer even though it still feels quite summery. There is a shift. It slows, you can hear it in the cicadas and the crickets. You see the first tinge of yellow to the leaf. It might be hotter 'n blazes during the day, but there's a tension in it. At night, you might be glad of a blanket! In the old religion, the god of the sun, of craft and poetry, the god Lugh, dies in his prime....I don't really remember why or how....I think it was heroic and unexpected, but the year dies with him. Then he gets reborn at the winter solstice....which is nice....because we get Jesus doing that, too. A convenient way to all celebrate together!
I didn't really mean to talk about Christmas...see how haphazard I am!
I meant to talk of the death of the summer. The death in the prime. The slowing of the system for a new system to be initiated.....

After this project, I'll wake up Thursday and, God willing, start to get my ducks in a row for the school year....I won't rush the season though....I'll appreciate the beauty in Lugh's death throes, the abundance of the harvest....although not in my garden...which ran out of cash and water weeks ago! I'll put in place what needs to happen for the nights to start drawin' in! I'll call on whatever it is that inspires craft and poetry... I'll work in the space between the seasons to draw the seasons together! Or something to that effect.....

Friday, August 6, 2010

synchronicity and all that.....

OK....this'll be a quick blog as I'm ditching Cub Scout camp to get to an air-conditioned haven with wifi....and a latte...and that means Doylestown, Pennsylvania!
Yes, I ditched for completely selfish reasons, but considering the rocky shape I've been in since my visit to Iona....I'm cutting myself some slack!

Bizarrely, or not really, Bucks County was once my home; For nine, long months, five long, long years ago. It was here that I got a job for myself at United Friends' School in Quakertown, and Russell a job at George School in Newtown. This was the nine month stopping off point on our return from the ill fated Scottish Parent/Macaulay Institute endeavour.
We licked our wounds and received other, new wounds. It was a year of hell for me here in Bucks; Too much commuting.....too many round holes into which my square peg jammed....I was evading the inevitable and I knew it.

As I drove down through Bucks County today, I passed through the idyllic, little towns I'd spent driving through that school year...the faces of the folk I knew who lived in them, surfacing in my memory... although the names mostly did not.....a collection of souls who touched me, supported me, inspired me, or kicked me when I was down....all there....such a short time in my life yet such an important one.

It was at a "meeting" at the Friends School, about half the way through my Bucks County stay, that Coll felt moved by the Spirit to speak, and spoke so eloquently for an eight year old on his petrifying fears (mostly stemming from the Egyptian god Enubis, for some reason....the jackal dude....creepy!)....on how Jesus put an arm around him, and stayed with him until the fears passed. As a mother, I was blown away by his honesty, by his faith, by the concise way in which he laid it all on the line, by him. Following this meeting, I was met with laughter and the politically correct ridicule that is allowed to occur towards Christians in this culture. My colleagues never realized I was such a "Bible Pounder", that I was such a "fundamentalist", that I was so "Right-wing", even though I didn't look it! How I had indoctrinated my child with such an outdated belief system. Worst though, was how patronizing they were towards Coll....how sweet they thought it was that he concocted such a cute "coping mechanism".
I was speechless....for like... a micro-second! Because...this was the first time I was really demanded to claim "THIS IS MY GOD!" I stopped them. I told them. This is not a fairytale, coping mechanism, or magical superpower that I or Coll has concocted or bought into.....this is our deity. They could believe what they wanted, worship what they wanted, but it was not ok for them to poke fun at what I in that moment realized, was quite central to how we function.I knew that had my son said Buddha, or Mohammed, or Great Chief Eagle-Feather, they all would be like "Right on! Brother!" By saying Jesus, he was NOT cool.

For us, without God we are without purpose....scared, useless, bits of joined up carbon in a dusty carbon-filled universe.

I didn't quit or anything, and I have no issue with the Society of Friends on the whole, or that tiny collection of Friends/friends, but at that moment we became a little bit more simply Christian. I actually really can think fondly on everyone there....their reality is for them. I needed that nine months. I needed the confrontation. I don't need to be cool in anyone's eyes.

That story now told, as I worked that through my memory I thought on all the great kids I had the pleasure of teaching at UFS.....despite my Waldorfy/Spirit-led style that often rocked the boat. I walk into the bookshop to blog and run straight into Sadie....one of my awesome 5th graders, now a beautiful, strong, confident George School sophomore! Syncronicity......transforming moment......Spirit amongst us.....because that's the lesson in all this really. My time in Bucks was a gift, difficult as it was....and the people I had the pleasure of knowing and working with are still, very much a part of who I am now. Bless them all!

I will celebrate all the way back up Route 611 and join the cubs....who probably haven't even missed me!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A true Star of the County Down

Well....it's only been a month and three days since my last post! Quite sadly, nothing at all exciting has happened in that time...really. You see, blogging on Scotland and the General Assembly is so much more exciting than blogging from home....unless, of course, you live in Scotland, when hearing about the Jersey Shore and the crazy antics and freak-show behaviour that goes with that becomes rather interesting.

I have been reading James Loder, T.F. Torrance, and Soren Kierkegaard all summer...in my typical Attention Deficit Disorder fashion, I don't stick with one book....I jump from one to the other when they refer to each other or when I sit down with a tea and the book is beside me. Clearly, this makes for a stressful time in writing a paper on my reading and pondering....paper due on Wednesday.....and between today (a Wednesday) and the due date, I have Webelo Camp in Bucks County, practice with Nae Breeks....packing Coll for Boy Scout camp in Maryland. (He should be old enough to do this himself......but if left to his own devices he would be in big trouble!)I'm thinking I should panic.....but what would that get me? Probably not a better paper.

Yesterday, I heard the sad news that a colleague of Russell's....who I really barely know...is struggling with an inoperable tumour. Never a thing anyone wants to hear. He always seemed a nice guy. A prof at Glasgow Uni. He had a party one Christmas....must have been 1992 or so. It was fun. We had a meal with him at a conference in San Francisco....must have been 1997 or so....really, for me, he was just an acquaintance, for my husband perhaps a bit of a mentor. He is witty enough, clever and impressive enough. The few times I was with him I thought he was a nice guy. Only when we got the news, and in trying to google him to find a contact, did we come across his blog and see a bit more of what he's like. His blog was created to comment on his Bible reading. I was not aware how involved he was in his church....most Scottish folk being a bit pagan really. Well....he's actually from Northern Ireland...County Down, I think. After his recent diagnosis, the blog became both a commentary on his faith journey...and a commentary on his illness. We see clearly now what an amazing individual this bloke is. He is not only confronting the void, staring death in the face, but finding in his own weakness, the strength to encourage the faith of his readers. Simply. Concisely. Without any pretense of knowing anything but his own experience.
I sat in my sunroom of disarray... sweating... disorganized... unbalanced..par for the Jeanie course, and saw what effect a man in rainy Glasgow.....with hardly any life left in him.....young still, but ravaged with an illness that will be his earthly undoing....encouraging me in my faith. Encouraging me to put God first in my thinking and doing. I had no idea that Alan was so wise.....nor did I really think how much one person's story could reflect God's face so clearly. Yay for Alan....this situation stinks....yet he will not die... really. He died a long time ago with Christ, and his writing proves that he knows that.....beyond the pain he's in, the weakness he feels, the sorrow at leaving his wife and kid and friends.....Alan's in the best of hands. Pray for this Alan guy...this person you will probably never meet, whose research and writings, though pertinent enough, will probably never amount to anything other than effecting the circle of academics with whom he had contact, and the folk in his community that have always loved him. This is a sucky thing that's happening to him... but he is inspired. As I read his blog yesterday, I was so strengthened. We are nothing, yet in God we are everything.
For me.....more coffee....more Kierkegaard.....more Loder....more prayers for Alan. I hope that from his window in Glasgow he sees a rainbow today.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Seeking "the face".....


So....
I'm home and all the realities of the place have slithered back into position.
This is not necessarily a bad thing really....reality is what it is, and isn't what it isn't!
Poverty both sucks and forces us to think creatively. Minding children makes me both incredibly witchy, and beautifully disciplined in the way that i am normally not....well....I'm still not disciplined enough, it maybe just makes me think how fabulous discipline really is. And wouldn't it be nice to have more of it. Gosh. I'll save that for another blog.

I'm thinking a lot on THE FACE. The face that comforts us. The face of God in the face of a loved one....the face of God that we seek and it doesn't go away.
This is all inspired by reading so much James Loder, in case you were wondering.

So...here's today's imaginative leap!
I, ever struggling with my lack of VonWillebrand protein and thereby thin blood, am extra conscious of anything that's going to cause me to bruise or bleed. I worry about my dad, too. He bruises like a banana due to medications....sometimes he has bruises on the back of his hand that look so grisly that my knees go weak. I digress.....anyhow, I try not to bleed. I try not to let him bleed. Stay with me here....
This, in case you are not from The Shore,is "greenhead season". Now, a greenhead (in Scotland, incidentally, it's called a clegg...not a statement on Nick Clegg...I'm prepared to give him a chance), is a horrible, evil, nasty fly that doesn't just bite, it takes a nasty hunk of flesh out of you! And you bleed! Horrible. They're bigger than a house fly, more grey, delta shaped, and rather slow...they land softly, so they can usually bite you before you realize they are on you. Like most biting insects, they have a way of thinning the blood at the site of the bite...Horrible. For most of my life I have thought of these creatures as, well, a mistake of creation....what could they possibly be doing that benefits anything?!
So, the other day, I'm sitting at the table on the porch under the crazy tiki umbrella my dad got me for my birthday... with my dad and a few others who happened by.... and I see a little, greenhead, b*****d land on my dad's elbow! I, with my famed Ninja-like reflexes, whack the little s.o.b. off his elbow, it falls to the floor, on its back. My dad thanks me. The crowd cheers. With exaggerated energy, I raise my foot (sandalled in my lovely, beaded flip-flops) to put the miserable thing out its...well... misery. It sensed my approach, flipped upright, skittered to the crack between the redwood boards. It didn't get there in time. I squished it. Nobody noticed that part but me....and the greenhead.
It's been with me ever since. I'm aware that this might make me seem rather Buddhist or Hindu, but in that micro-second when the greenhead sensed its mortal danger and attempted to save him/herself, I wondered what the Face of God looks like for a clegg. Is it a clegg face? Is the face of God for us a...well....face as we imagine a face to be. What makes a face a face? Why is a face such a comfort? It is. It is the ultimate comfort. To gaze at a loving face that gazes at us lovingly is what makes us tick. It's what makes us try to be funny or clever or industrious....do greenheads seek a face?
There's a chance that greenheads don't think that much....but who am I to say? I squished first and thought on the face after. My scientist friends would/will laugh at this.....but the thinking that went behind the greenhead's attempt to save itself felt familiar. It felt like how I am when protecting myself or my family....and how present the seeking of FACE is in the nurturing act. To nurture is, in a sense, to be nurtured. To create is to sort of be a part of creation.
To seek the face is to look for God......

Weirdly....I'd probably kill the greenhead if the situation happened again. Do I sense a sad face?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Indulge me whilst I have a wee moan.....


This is (hopefully) my only really dreadfully boring posting. The plan to blog from the General Assembly in Minneapolis has bitten the dust. They are happy to have me there blogging....but I have no money to get there. Sadly, were money to magically appear, I also have no baby-sitter...R in North Jersey, Dad in Philly at the Barbershop Convention, Wendy picking up her new camper....reading the signs tells me it's just now going to happen. As Granny might've said, "What's for you, won't go past you!" So, there you go! I'll spend some time with the live feed...but it won't be the same. There's no fire in that. Blah.

Due to my sad financial state I'm watching some of my cub scout buddies for the summer...sounds worse than it is....actually, having other boys at the house keeps my own boys a little busier. And having non-family there makes me less likely to blow my top and be really, really mean. Sad to admit, but at least I'm conscious of it! "Miss Jeanie" is a lot sweeter than "Mum"! Mum can be a right witch!

On a happy note, Hammonton is "Blueberry Central" these days...which doesn't suck!
I'll head out today with the boys to get some organic berries and get the oil changed in the van...in Hammonton you still get a free car wash with it. FREE! I love FREE!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Onward and upward....literally!

I'm sleepy, but just so happy with the time I've had! Will miss the family and friends here....and the great northern light and fresh breezes, but am looking forward to the boardwalk, waves, lightning bugs, Luath, friends, and Daddy!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Verily, verily I say unto you...there is NOTHING new under the sun...



And so it is with the beautiful, beautiful Isle of Iona.

This morning started with a dreich rain. We left the Bunessan guest house in wellies and raingear, fully prepared to freeze during the Sunday service in the Abbey. We got to Fionnphort really quite early, and stood around looking at the ferry and the water and just talking for about an hour, and in that time, the sun broke through...first, quite poetically, over the Abbey on the opposite shore...which was weird. I tried to capture it on film, but that is one of the things about Iona, and indeed the whole West of Scotland, the light...well....the light is like a spirit, or an eccentric character that is part of the community...it is thin and thick, dark and bright, moving and still......sensed and at the same time very intangible. This, as one would suspect, effects the colours, which on Iona are all the blues and greens....with splashes of pink and orange, yellow and white....it is indeed a thin, thin place between heaven and earth.
George McLeod told me that...I didn't make it up...much as I'd like to claim it.

Today was a day when the island was laughing, and the water was dancing, and the sky was singing, and the flowers were clapping their hands!
Creation was in full-on praise!

I really didn't know what to expect today. It's been 11 years since I was last on the island, 20 years since I crossed the thresh-hold of the Abbey, and thought at the time that I would never return. Ever. Ever.
But, as Eileen believes (and has been bugging me about for the last 19 years) all circles must be completed. Today I did just that.

I was warned by Iona friends that I would see so many changes.....I did see changes, but none that were upsetting or unusual. There are a few more houses on the island, but they are tasteful and in keeping with the place. The pub has another wing added to it, again...change that works. The Abbey was the same, but with much less staff than I remember....The morning worship was much the same as it ever was when I was there as the Childrens' Programme Worker. It seemed a little bizarre that it was lead completely by women. Whatever. I think it was more about staff shortage than emasculation. I think. They announced that communion would be taken by a woman who is a minister in the Reformed Church in America. I wondered if she was a graduate from NBTS. When she began the speak, she sounded young and American, then got more and more Scotchy as she went.....I understand this....it happens to me. It either means you have a good ear...or you're a phony. Or both.

I had the post-service cup of tea in the cloisters..talked to some folk...
Bought stuff in the shop and saw one of the Island girls that was a such a sweet kid back in the day! It was lovely to see her....she hadn't changed much! Lovely girl!
Went to the other shop and bought quite a lot of books...Eileen paid....yikes.
Then, I thought I should go up Dun I....that big lump of land on the North End. From Dun I, you can see the whole island, and many other islands, and way out to sea. Standing on Dun I, I think I first accepted that my mother was both very much "on the other side", and very much always with me. Thin place. A mighty thin place, the top of Dun I.
I harkened back to the days when I would run up it after tea..yes, run!..When the charges were all sent happily back to their parents, it was a way to shake the food down and have a stretch of the legs....oh boy.... were the 20 years evident here! I attempted my mountain goat ascent....but it just was nowhere near as fast and strong as it once was...not even a shadow! I couldn't even blame my shoes, because I realized I'm still wearing the same wellies I bought back in 1979! (Way to go L.L. Bean!)
No, it was me...I'm a lot older and chunkier! The view was spectacular. The thinness and the light so present. I could feel my pounding heart and my insufficient clotting factor tying me to the rock and grass and water, and my spirit away up in the thinness and the light. Quite exhilerating to straddle two realms in such a way.
I thought of my studies...my call...my future....the Iona Parish without a minister...the whole of Mull without a minister. As much as I'm not so keen on being a parish minister, maybe I am meant to come back here. Maybe I'm meant to return to the Community...after all this time, and all the pain I've gone through....When the kids are older....was this a possibility? I heard barely discernable, magical music and birdsong.....what was God saying?!

On my descent, I met a lovely couple from Devon. They told me I looked like a mountain goat running up the hill....I instantly loved them. We talked about the island and the Community. They said they were glad to meet someone so friendly...I silently hoped the Community folk were nice to them....English, Yanks, Germans....sometimes not treated so nicely.

I thought before lunch I should go and meet the Reformed woman...thank her for the lovely service, ask if we had any shared acquaintences. I was thinking that the combination of female, Reformed Church, US, Iona responsibilities would make for a great interview.
The Abbey staff said she was up at the MacLeod Centre, at the Mac, they told me she was in the kitchen....at the kitchen door, I was directed to the sinks, where she was helping with the washing up....as you do on Iona...it's all about living in community! I queried whether I should wait, and the bloke said....no, no, go on in. So I did.
Big mistake.
She was not only affronted that I introduce myself over a sudsy sink, but that I insinuate that she was American, she has lived in Scotland for 5 years. She is an ordained minister in the RCA, but is not American! I apologized for the mistake. I asked her surname...I thought I might send her a card to apologize for upsetting her. She FREAKED OUT! She said her surname was none of my business.....so, I left.

I walked out into the sheep bleating, oyster-catcher screeching, blue-green dazzle of lovely Iona, and knew that, indeed, there is nothing new under the sun! No magical music or birdsong...just the barely discernable, omnipotent's.... laughter! God does have such a fabulous sense of humour!!!!

The Reformed Church minister currently acting as Island Warden (yes, that's the title)does not!.... reformed, she believes, from American to Scot...but no sense of humour at all.

Nor was she aware that as busy as she was, the island was laughing, and the water was dancing, the sky was singing, and the flowers were clapping their hands!!! Shame really.
She was missing out on a fabulously praise-tastic day! With a giggling God enjoying the show at its edges!

Iona, it's amazing worship...so inspiring (especially the stuff by John Bell) ....
Iona, the ancient, holy, thin place...
Iona, of Druids and Columba, Benedictine monks and Augustinian nuns...
Iona, of Viking raids and the stormy winter sea taking back its own...
Iona, the inspired project of George MacLeod's to bring the worker and the clergy together...
Iona, of colours, light...many, many sheep...

Iona, the 'Parnassus Hill' of Scotland.....muse-central for artists, poets, priests....

...is ALWAYS going to draw the incredibly gifted and spiritual...

and the wannabe, freak-show, immature, sanctimonious prats who feel awesome about themselves by exiting the real world, and judging it most cruelly from atop a jewel in the sea!

Deny it they may, but there is truth in it.

Iona is what it is.
Worship God... not an island
Worship God... not a community.
I love the island and the community.....it's a large part of who I am now, and after closing the circle....I'm fine. I am really, actually, quite fine.

There is nothing new under the sun! This circle is complete!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Life....Death....The World Cup......

Well....why I keep taking photos of kirkyards is really not about being obsessed with death, but because I genuinely like kirkyards. I don't really find them creepy, although some are, I just find them....interesting. They are usually in places where there has been a lot of action.....sometimes since forever. Forever in the human occupation sense, so that's since like neolithic, or sometimes mesolithic times. In my book, that counts as forever. The oldest kirkyards are circular with a kirk in the middle. These were probably holy places way before Christianity, and the people just liked the Gospel and changed over. The conversion here was a peaceful one. So, R and I went to a few (very few) of our favourite haunts today. Tried again to get some video! The audio and video just get stupid somehow! Let me try to bore you anyway!

This trip, in many ways, has me thinking of the precarious knife-edge of life. We glide along quite happily looking at views to either side...oblivious to how precious it is. My past is evident here...the major beats of my life involve Scotland. So much has changed and yet so little has changed. I suppose this sense is magnified because it's been a year and a half since I've been back, Coll has basically gone from being a little guy to being an adult in that space of time...I have friends on both side of the "pond" who are fighting scary stuff....quite successfully, but it's still scary, and this makes me stop on the knife-edge and remember we're on a knife-edge. It just makes me really appreciate the ride we're on....and the people with whom I'm riding. How stuff twenty or so years ago has made me who I am...and how stuff now will form the us twenty years on....happy...sad....all the in between. It's just good to recognize it every now and again. I write this now at FUNWORLD Indoor Playland in Greenock...(in all honesty "Fun" world is not the name I would call it) surrounded by tutu-ed, be-pinked, three year old girls and wild, wild, freckled boys who shout! Quite a lot! I suffer for Caoir's "Scottish" birthday celebration. He is a child who kens how to work the cross-cultural span to his advantage. It's a week and a bit 'til his birthday! After this, we head home to stuff them full of sausage rolls, pizza, ice cream and cake....watch the World Cup (go France!) and then on to a concert of Metrical Psalms by the FreeKirk! So, my day has gone from mountain-top to the blinking depths of Hell, back up to mountain-top! Just kidding! FunWorld isn't that bad....it's more like....purgatory! I just got beaned in the head with a ball from the ball-pit! Toddlers!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Four hundred fifty photos later.....


I went to Aberdeenshire without my laptop.....thinking I could just blog from my friend's mac...er.... I couldn't! Hope you missed my frequent updates!

So....I went to friend Alison's and was amazed at her harp abilities....and cooking abilities... and all round awesome abilities! I was greeted by home-made scones, home-made jam, and lovely tea. At night, she made this Moroccan Lemon Chicken Tagine that was surely inspired by an angel or a genie! Aidan, her darling husband, recited funny poems and let me shoot a soda can in the garden with his .22! It was lovely to be back in her dining room, watching the mist breathe and the grass ripple and partridges! I find this part of Aberdeenshire quite a spooky place, except for the fact that Alison just goods-it-all-up! C and C made a movie on her table with the Dr. Who action figures....which explains today's title of 450 photos! It is hard not to be creative in her house...she vibrates with creativity and is a muse! And also amusing...which is always a plus! It never really changes there!

Here is the view from her dining table!

When we left their house we went straight to Syd Graham's. Now, if I can jog your memory, Syd is the current convener of the Social Care Council for the Church of Scotland....and also the one responsible for introducing me to R...and eventually marrying us in the back garden. So...he owes me big time! Just kidding!!!!! :)
He has a new puppy...well...a big puppy! Abby and Caoir entertained themselves all afternoon. Quite a few tea cups were knocked over with tails and wellie boots!
Here's a quick interview with the man and the legend....that's his wife Edna in the background...putting the ice cream away....oh... and the lovely, beautiful, warmed rhubarb sauce....(Lord knows I love this land!)
CrossReach is a social work wing of the CofS that serves a lot of folk on the margins...he can explain it better than I can!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

In the West of Scotland.......


"Tommy" is a great name to be mourned.
I know that sounds like a horrible thing to say....especially for my friends who are, indeed, named Tommy, but it just sounds so fabulously sad.
See, the vowel is voiced in a very "AW" fashion, and it rumbles somewhere between the throat and the chest. When said with sadness, or whispered...."Och, Taaaawwwwwwmy! Ah shooower will miss Taaaawwwwwwmy." It just sounds so sad... And sad is lovely at a funeral. Happy to have known him....but sad that he's gone...Sad to have to face the rest of your days without him. As names go, it's a great one for mourning. Any name with a vowel you can sing or a consonant you can hum maybe. Anyhow. It's hard not to tear up when a mourner softly growls "Tommy".....that's all I'm saying.

Eileen does a powerful funeral....and a powerful number of them!
This is the second one for a "Tommy" since I've been here, but this is the 4th in a fortnight, and the first week we were at the General Assembly! That's a lot of funerals.

Tomorrow I preach. I'm going with the Luke text from the lectionary about the faithful centurion with the sick slave. Ugh.....still thinking about it....flipping it round in my head and waiting for it to gel into something worth speaking. I sort of wander about doing aimless tasks saying the words of the text over and over.....I'm not cut out for this kind of ministry! As naturally hammy as I am, the whole preaching thing is just scary.

So....I think I shall knit! It's like the hottest day of the year....which, naturally, makes me think what it was like on the coldest day of the year.....which, naturally, makes me want to knit! I have a fab pattern for slippers that look like horses! You knit them really big and then felt them in the washer. Since I can't waste my time with the Eurovision Song Contest, I'm as well wasting my time knitting slippers for the winter....and thinking of a sermon, of course.....because....well.....tomorrow is Sunday, and I can't just stand up and sing "Loik a sattelite, Awm in owbit aww the waiy arwowd you!" Much as it is a catchy tune and all!

Do you like the "Andy Goldsworthy-esque" rock pile photo up at the top there? The boys and I are trying to create some sort of ephemeral art everywhere we go.....to have a point in that pointless kind of way... To create something beautiful that doesn't need to last very long....as you do....."Awwww.....Taaawwwwmy."

Friday, June 4, 2010

My nose in books.....my feet on hills.....


Here's the high road above Loch Lomond!

Sorry the postings have been a bit few and far between. I've been catching up on my reading, walking in hills and thinking, and hanging out with the lads.

If you make a comment on my blog...I shall buy you sweets! i mean it! :)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Daft day in Kilcreggan!

Here I am at the end of a fine day looking out my window at this! That other shore was where we ventured today to picnic....and play on the rocks...and have a cup of tea. Anything involving a ferry is exciting I always say! The funniest thing about the village of Kilcreggan, which is the place right on the edge of the water and the edge of our fantastic view of the Highlands, is how much it features in all of our fantasies.....the grass is not just greener, but from the Gourock side of the River Clyde, it is quieter, gentler, saner, wilder, snowier, sunnier, rainier....the grass is just greener! What can I say....we watch the remote simplicity of Kilcreggan and always think how very bonnie it is! Perhaps....we covet....I know sometimes I do. It's worth it to take the ten minute ferry over every now and again. It is quiet! It is Argyll! Which is different somehow...gentler, yet wilder, more exciting, more boring....it just is Argyll! So, as the video shows, Eileen, old pal Anne, Coll, Caoir, and Alex accompanied me over to "the other side" for hi-jinx and pondering.
As we are fans of artist Andy Goldworthy, we channeled him to create this lovely red stone wreathe-type-thing!


Right....so, we picnic, and play on the rocks, and skip stones, and look for the playpark we remember from the olden days, but never find it, have tea in the pub....sit at the water's edge looking over to Renfrewshire for our house and think "Wow. It's nice here....but the view isn't as lovely as ours.....if you miss the ferry you need to wait ages to get anywhere....the wind from the sea is a bit harsher here isn't it? And then you realize....wherever you go, it's the same....your mind fantasizes about the possibilities of what could be...if only you were on the beautiful side. Deep, eh?!
So....we bought an ice cream to pass the time and wait for the ferry...and came home, refreshed after our picnic at Kilcreggan!

(Twister is the best ice-lolly on the planet!)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rainy Mornings, Stolen Identity, MIDGES it must be June first!


Amazing, isn't it?! This is my view as I run to the Cloch Light and back...although today I only ran to it, and conveniently got picked up. It might be the most beautiful run, albeit flat, in the world! What it lacks in elevational diversity it gains in varying wind speed velocity. It smells very fresh and salty....less fishy than Brigantine, but more creasotey. So there you go.
First, I saved a little dog that had somehow gotten to the sand next to the sea wall and the tide was coming in! Yea me! So, that was exciting. Got some footage from before the actual rescue....still you could see the cuteness of the dog. My bloggie....R's in Amsterdam, so there won't be any video until he gets back! I'm done! Two more hours today with the online support. You might see the Bloggie bobbing down the Clyde soon.
Funny, but in the morning in the West of Scotland it is frequently quite wet...pelting with rain all morning, then around 1 or 2 starts to brighten up, then the evenings and nights are really nice. That's what we had today.
Planted the hanging baskets, read a bunch whilst the weather was miserable, ran to the Cloch and went to the Greenock and Paisley Presbytery BBQ when the weather was lovely. It helps that it's daylight for like 18 hours!
Went with E to the BBQ...at a very damp Findlaystone Estate...funny....we were just talking about how the midges hadn't shown up....I gulped....realizing it was, in, fact, the 1st of June! Honestly, the little beasts always appear on the first of June....like the swallows to Capistrano, the Midges (nasty, evil, nearly invisible black flies...like a biting gnat) return to Argyll....but we were in Renfrewshire...still, it didn't stop me from being scared! The BBQ started OK, but by the end, it was all presbyters for themselves. E is polka dotted from the bites. I met some awesome folk at the BBQ. I always like the really old, retired ministers. I like how they talk of all the places they've been and they are always so hopeful about the future....like everything's going to be ok. They're always so quiet and calm. Even when they are being attacked by midges.
Attack by a million midges is too good for the people who STOLE MY IDENTITY AGAIN! And this totally rots as I'm in, duh, another country and can't get a new card! This time someone spent a whole lot of my money at a Payless Shoes...in Kansaas! Yeah!
I'm giving up banks! This is silly twice in one month!
I do have awesome video! You just won't see it until tomorrow or Thursday. Bummer.
Believe me though....it's nice!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Everything's better when viewed from underneath rhododendrons....




See....told you. This morning was spent running about daft in the Secret Forest around Kelburn Country Park with C, C, A, J, and E....although for the action packed run about the woods, E had tea in the courtyard garden. The Secret Garden is a maze with little houses and scary bits tucked round corners all up and down the side of a hill....and it is very low tech and awesome. The maze is all paths amongst the rhodies and undergrowth.....it's like middle-earth or something! There's high up climby bits, too! Perfect for adventurers!


We raced back from Kelburn to visit a housebound parishioner of E's who wished a home communion. It was really moving. It never really dawned on me how much folk lean on E, and how much she brings to them. She carries quite an authority without being authoritarian. I suppose this is about being a representative of God....I know that sounds corny....but that's what is expected....a person to help folk see where God is in the moment.

Moments fly past on giggles whilst playing hide and seek under rhododendrons....
They don't go by so swiftly when housebound and silent.....

Sunday, May 30, 2010

In one sentence Coll summed it up by saying.....

"The way to God is Faith not behaviour."
Excellent. That was really all I wanted to say!
The congregation looked a bit like deer in the head-lights when I was up there....but it could have been a lot worse....
It could have been ME looking like a deer in the head-lights!

So, after 3 hours of "online chat" with one "Oliver" from Sony Online Help, it seems I can access my pictures again. Hmmmm....the settings either changed themselves, or were changed by someone messing about. Someone between the ages of 6 and 13 perhaps?! In my father's house there are many Mansons! If it were not so I would not have told you!!!!!! I'll need to get CSI Greenock up here to dust for fingerprints!
Enjoy the lovely Gourock weather in the long lost photies:


That would be my laundry on the rinse cycle!

Which of these wild things do you think messed about with the Bloggie?!

Imagine an imaginitive leap!

Well....
This is a bit of a rushed blog....I think I'm meant to preach my first sermon in like an hour....I think....if that indeed is what it is.
I'm trying to think of it like this: we preach all the time. Yeah, right. I'm not really enjoying this feeling at all. Ugh.

It's all Romans 5:1-5, General Assembly, Trinity, Grace and Hope type.....Pray for me that I do a pleasing interpretation. Ugh.

Abrupt subject change.

Don't buy a Bloggie....it's total *excrement*. I got such great shots of my clothes getting their fourth rinse on the line yesterday and the blinking camera is chanked!
Even R can't help me and he's a clever person! Ugh.

Abrupt subject change.

Spent yesterday reading James Loder The Transforming Moment....which involves me going off somewhere and taking notes....sure sign that I'm engrossed because I generally think taking notes is a bit over the top and only to be done when there's a possibility you might one day consult them...and I believe I will. There's a beauty in the accepting mystery that so speaks to my condition....as you've maybe gathered by now. Or not. Whatever.

After a bit of reading, I was forced to accompany small boys(just kidding) to the "Waterfront" in Greenock where they went down the flumes and Wee J and I just swam about and talked.

Then.....when I needed to seriously think about this sermon and study some more....THE EUROVISION SONG CONTEST came on. Ooops. Couldn't miss that! It's so horrible it's awesome....I feel the same way about Miss America. Wouldn't want to miss that either! My fave was Germany, but I really thought Denmark or France would take it. UK was hopeless. Oh well....anyhow! Germany won! The first time my first pick took it! And the lyrics are spot on! I know it's true love when I buy new underwear and paint my toenails, too! I do! Enjoy the daftness....sometimes it's all we've got.

Friday, May 28, 2010

I'm not sure it is possible to fake a transformational experience....


I'm still shattered. I attempted to run my usual Gourock run from the Gourock Pool (I believe the oldest salt-water pool still in Scotland....contested by Stonehaven) to the Cloch Light. I only made it to the Western Ferry and called to get picked up....and taken to the Garden Centre for my lunch! Just too wiped out still! I had a tuna panini.

I tagged along to Eileen's service today. A funeral. Funerals are different here from in the States. This one was huge! It sounds like the deceased was such an awesome guy...very funny....and kind of young...in his fifties. Quite sad, but he seemed like a hilariously fun guy. The stories about him were excellent. He chose Bob Marley songs for the start, and the funeral ended with "This Little Light of Mine" but it was sung accompanied by the Bruce Springsteen CD....very gospel and rockin' with many repeated "Everyday!" and all these mourning, white, non-groovable folk were trying to keep up with the "Everydays!" and trying to sway...it was hopeless, but in a good way...including E up in the pulpit! It was so absolutely dopey that I did laugh, and then the organist did....and I had such a loving feeling towards the deceased when the sniffles were joined with giggles all 'round.
Prayers for his mum, his lovely sweet wife, and his 23 year old son. It's gonna *expletive* for them for a good long while. Bless.

E is especially gifted at funerals.....can't put my finger on why. It might be her voice...or how she moves....or the fact that the dimples and giggle that are her trademark are still very much there for folk, but are beneath the surface....like the lines under the ice of a hockey rink.
In Scotland I should say curling rink.

As I was waiting by the car outside the "crem", a magpie landed on the bank beside me....a bank covered in forget-me-nots! How's that for bizarre? In Scotland you count magpie birds...I think in the Southern US they count crows: 1 for sorrow, 2 for joy, etc......it goes up to 7 I think....7 for a secret never to be told. ANYHOW! Do you think it's a trained funeral magpie! Such great mourning imagery! A sorrowful, solitary magpie on a bank of forget-me-nots after a funeral.....Honestly! I'm not making this stuff up!

I have to help E preach on Sunday. Am trying not to think about it until like 9:45 pm tomorrow night. Just kidding. I'm thinking about it.....just haven't written anything down yet. It seems too soon. What if something earth shattering happens tomorrow? I'd spend all that time writing a sermon and then have to throw it out!

This....is why I shouldn't promise!


Once again, what seems like it would be straight-forward ends up being rather....well....not.

Yesterday, I had a great visit with Angus Mathieson, a minister who now serves the Church of Scotland as a Ministries Support Officer. When I first met him...on Iona a long time ago, he worked in Ayr as a Youth Worker....and no doubt occasionally had a rare tare at the fair! The following clip, which incidentally, works just fine on my camera and laptop and doesn't seem to upload properly somehow, is Angus explaining what he does.

I had a nice long blether with him and his sound byte, although very professional (almost exactly one minute!), doesn't really do justice to the guy, who is very much in ministry even though he's not in a parish job.

He's also a cool guy...I don't think he drives a Harley, but he does use a fountain pen....which is very cool!



Now...proof of my exhaustion, I'm not writing anything else tonight!
Ciao bambinoes!
J

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A quick photo to mark Sonic's return to wee Christian....


This photo says it all. Christian's daddy is home!

Drum roll, please............

No more promises! The long awaited video clips are here!! Prepare the microwave popcorn!
First up: The Very Reverend Andrew McLellan (in two acts as his mobile rang)





And now for something completely different......
Why it's the Head of Media and Communications for The Church of Scotland! Stuart Wilson.
AND....he rides a Harley!
I managed to cut off the bit where I sound more daft than I normal do....which is pretty daft. I did ask him if he saw himself as part of "The God Squad", and was happy to hear that he did. I don't think the Church will be raised in the eyes of the media or of the Nation....or the World, for that matter, without our hard work
but the Holy Spirit doing a lot of it ....and Stuart agreed.
So.... without further ado....




Ah! I hope you feel better now! And realize that I am good for my word....if not always swift with coming through! Be patient, young Padawans.

So....I am home in Gourock! It feels good to be home, but...well.....it's a bit like trying to fall asleep after Halloween.
As I left the Assembly Hall with E and R tonight, I just felt sort of *blah*
Neither sad nor happy...the other two were walking ahead and I was staring at the shadow of me walking. It was breezy and crisp and I had on my very large raincoat which was blowing out behind me. In my shadow, I looked like a cowboy, or a spy, or a super-hero. Now, normally, I would quite like the drama of watching that shadow, but I was just watching it without any real emotion and thinking, "Wow. I don't feel any emotion." I'm good with this because, well, sometimes you don't and that's ok...it just doesn't happen that frequently to me so it was a little worth noting. I looked up to find I'm a ways down the Royal Mile, and my family is...nowhere to be seen. It's like a three ring circus on the cobblestones at this part of the street with a juggler, and this lady in big, floofy skirts with beads on her face and the busker with the guitar, who is sitting on the pavement beside where I stood starts playing DelAmitri's "Nothing Ever Happens". Totally surreal. A great, depressing, existential-crisis-type song. So, of course, I had to laugh 'cause it was like something in a film! R and E found me standing there laughing. We went to World's End to debrief before the drive back to Gourock. As you do. This story is random, isn't it?

In the car, I read a bit of the William Barclay book I bought today. (Saint Andrew Press). Hmmm.

When the road curved and the sun was skimming over the top of Dumbarton Rock, I thought I might have heard the angels sing.

O maybe it was the DelAmitri in my head...either way it was lovely.

A long week that will take a fair amount of un-packing... :)
I need some sleep!
Respectfully submitted,
Jeanie Roy Collins Manson with a fabulous coat that flaps in the wind!

ps Thanks for the great visit Angus! Your video appears tomorrow! :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mysterious.......


Even though I am completely exhausted, and the blog film of myself makes me look about 80, I am shocked that tomorrow is the last day of the General Assembly. I don't know why that is.....mysterious......
Perhaps the biggest jolt for me has been how much I loved the experience. I didn't expect to....nor did I expect to hate it....I think I must have expected to say to myself, "This is an interesting thing to get to do.", but that would be the end of it...and there would be a sort of carefree freedom in that. Experience it, go on about my business....Instead, I have this great fondness for the Church of Scotland; its history, its future, its ministers, its congregations. I'm really proud of the work E does.... and I cannot even begin to (as a certain Church History prof I know might say) "Un-pack that."
Unusual for me, I won't try to give it wings with words at this point. It might be fakey and forced if I did. I just know that I care more than I planned to... which is full of danger, and magic, and listening to silence....mysterious.....

Speaking of danger....this morning's first report was the Committee on Chaplains to Her Majesty's Forces...an area that totally interests me because of my brother, and my interest in the 177th Fighter Wing, Galloway NJ, and, of course, my buddy SONIC! Er...DUCKY! (Welcome home!)...

The average age of a soldier being about 20, really makes a person, especially one that's a parent maybe, think of how important good spiritual leaders are for these men and women (kids) serving in such danger. Wherever a minister stands on the issues of war, we can't deny that this is a place where Christ needs to be represented. Now, I don't want to make light of the need for good Padres (or Madres?), nor do I wish to make light of war in any way, but how awesome was that Admiral Tibbotson guy that spoke?????!!!!!!!!

OK, so, they announce the special speaker, this Admiral, and he's like a champion karate expert, kayaker, footballer, navy hero....like a real live Action Man! DANG!BABY! He was sitting up in the Lord High Commisioner's Gallery and I honestly thought he was going to rappell over the side, and swing over to the lectern to give his speech! (See! I really am still American!) It would have been so cool! And made a brilliant entrance! And lent an air of.... mystery....which is a plus! Usually.

Back to seriousness...I didn't hear him say it, but I heard someone say that The Very Reverend Bill Hewitt described Army Chaplaincy as a "truly incarnational ministry"...and that really defines it. That is a place where the world is turned up-side down. Christ needs to be there in it. Bless those who hear that call.

The Social Care Council and the Safeguarding Committee turned out to be really interesting, too, although it was dealing with a delicate and scary topic: sexual abuse. I was glad that I'm not the only one who thinks that, although it might be good to know you have no one working with kids or adults-at-risk that has a criminal record of abuse, we need to always remember that the really talented abusers....the ones that are masterful at the abuse... won't have records....they won't get caught! They could secretly be wreaking havoc on lives for years without anyone being any the wiser. I'm not saying be scared, I'm saying be smart! Two deep leadership! Always have at least two adults present at any event with kids. Teach kids from the start what is appropriate language and actions and touch, and what isn't. Keep doors open and activities in view. This is "preach-worthy"! Jesus did! Don't let it be a topic that's in the closet...not for churches, schools, Brigade, Guides, Scouts, or homes! This is where there is no room for mystery! Ever! That's the bad kind of mystery.

After this I ate wonderful quiche, drank tea, and had this lovely raspberry and custard tart thing that was almost too pretty to eat. So, I admired it for a minute appreciating its ephemeral beauty, then just skarffed it down! It was as lovely to taste as it was to look at! I then went to the Brass Rubbing place down this close off the Royal Mile, and finally made the Robert the Bruce rubbing for Coll's amazing Quaker-Fairy-Godmother, Kathy!

Considering it was promised when he was born.....er....13.5 years ago, it was excusable that I ditch the start of the next session....not the WHOLE afternoon of the Assembly, just a wee bit. My little art break was really very theological actually, because as I was on my second piece....(yeah....I just felt called to do another after "The Bruce") I thought on James Loder and the transformation of the Spirit, and how clearness sometimes comes out of situations when it seems anything but clear.... and how this magic rises from the paper at what seems like nothingness....colors blending over negative space, coming together to make an image, a message.....mysterious.....

When I got back to the Hall, a debate over The Saint Andrews Press was just heating up. Ditch it because it's losing money? Keep it because it's historic and scholarly? I was very glad I wasn't expected to cast a vote on that one. OUCH. What a tough decision....they....ah.....curtains.....

...but it didn't end there! Like with a fabulous mystery thriller....more to come....
discourse on the chucking or adhering to the Westminster Confession! Double Predestination! Eternal Torment! Are ya kidding me?! Then, thankfully, a decision was made that now is not the time! Another year! Hooray! Well done, Dave! (A new friend from Broughty Ferry) You get a special mention for speaking because you were kind enough to comment on my blog!

OK....this is now far too long and I'm blethering! Tomorrow night I'll be home in Gourock! And most likely far too sleepy to blog! This is like a double one! We shall see, though! Tomorrow might be so amazing that I'll have to tell you all about it! It's just another mystery, eh?!

All good things to youse!

J

Monday, May 24, 2010

The best laid schemes o' mice and men gang aft.....

11pm...the video is edited (still quite abysmal....my skills are....let's just keep positive and say there's room for improvement!), I pop it up to YouTube, there's no button for blogger!, I call my IT man....R....home in Gourock....SOUND ASLEEP!
So, I tried!

One of the funniest Church of Scotland ministers I know......


Another fabulous day of report and debate and some actual interviews! I'm really enjoying it...there is a bit of a lot of sitting, but it's balanced somewhat by much stair-climbing. You see, the Assembly Hall is near the top of a narrowish hill and it sort of wraps round the side.....so it is a kind of a split-level place. You can see by the photo! HA!

The big news is that The Reverend Eileen Manson spoke at General Assembly!!!! Yes she did! She was AWESOME! There is a video of it....from behind the scenes! Will try to snatch a copy from the press room of her as she looked on the big screens! SO fab! She encouraged the General Assembly to extend congratulations to the Guides.....which used to be the Girl Guides, but now is just "The Guides"....although you still have to be a girl to be a member.




Today started with a service, followed by some members of the Children's Assembly commenting, singing, and answering questions. They were cute and thought provoking....One little girl asked why the ministers never come into the Sunday School class. This is a big one in my mind because I actually like my kids in the service...the whole service! How else will they learn to worship with the community if they don't....er....worship with the community. AND if the service is too uninspiring to keep the attention of an inquisitive child, could it be that your services are......uninspiring?!....*GASP* I'm not saying they are....I'm just saying.....

OK....now that I've offended people.....you can hear what a clown I am!

I interviewed Stuart Wilson today! He talked about his job, and the role of the media in the Church. He does a great interview as you will see....I, on the other hand, am a stuttering idiot of an interviewer! What was with my word retrieval skills this morning?! Dang! Och well! It takes all kinds! I just sound like a crazy person! This'll get posted tonight after I a) get this blog done b) eat something c) figure how to post it.....cross your fingers!

The report on the HIV/AIDS Project was very hopeful and well presented as was the Guild presentation. The Guild is what was once what I always knew to be The Woman's Guild, but now it's just The Guild...I guess that means you don't have to be a woman to be on it....so it's a bit different from the Guides....I think.

The day's marathon session was the report on the Church and Society Council. This somehow seemed to me like a council that was made up of so many various topics it could be it's own assembly! The Church sort of being society and all....
So, from bio-ethics, mental health, education, environmental issues, military issues, responses to poverty, The Girl Guides....I mean The Guides! It just covers such a broad, broad range of issues. Society. Big. It got exciting....in a quiet kind of way. What spoke to me most was a young person's witness of her mental health issues and her fear of making it known....whilst in the hospital, it was a chaplain that helped her towards healing by listening and repeating to her the Gospel message, but she later has thought on how she might have been less traumatized had she felt comfortable bringing the situation to her own parish minister. This was presented well, and she called out to ministers to be aware of how much pastoral care can fill the gap in wait times for the National Health Service, or prevent a problem from escalating. She was really brave. Bless her. My own experience with Scottish culture has led me to understand there is a distinct embarrassment about admitting mental illness. This is not a judgement. Some Americans get therapy for everything! But, there certainly are times when the best thing to do is get counselling, or medication, or both! For this young person to get up and speak so eloquently on such a tender topic showed bravery and maturity.....and common sense. Ministers need not only some basic pastoral care tactics, but close contacts within their parish or community with professionals who actually know what they're doing. HA! That was a joke....but sort of true. Ministers can be a first line of defense and an advocate, but they need to be able to send suffering folk on to a professional if the illness demands.

Also interviewed was the effervescent Very Reverend Andrew McLellan, check out that video!

And The Reverend Syd Graham, Convener of the Social Care Council (his video will be done later though!) Both wish to be in the running for "The Funniest Person I Know"....we'll change it to "The Funniest Church of Scotland Minister I Know", and let them prove their hilarity by their comments on the blog! To the starting blocks boys! I'm holding my sides already!

PAX! I'm away to eat some soup....weather becoming more typically Scottish by the minute!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ecclesia Reformata Semper Reformanda!


OK! I'm thinking that might be my new T-shirt slogan! I am a bit higher than a kite as I'm just out of the service to commemorate the Scottish Reformation 450th Anniversary....it was wonderful!
It had it all: a wind band, a children's choir, a great actor, John Shedden, as John Knox "voicing the past", professor of history, Professor Jane Dawson, lecturing on the Scottish reformation, a lecture on how Knox's reformed view on church and society created the model for education that the world has followed, and how all this led to the Scottish Enlightenment....and the modern world. This is a legacy of which the Church of Scotland should be very proud. To dwell on any violence that wrought that change, is to view history from a post-modern understanding....which is silly. Our collective pasts as well as our individual pasts are chock full of events that we maybe would not play out the same way, but at the end of the day, they have formed who we are now....and what we are now is, for the most part, very good! For the most part!
BEST of the evening though....and I mean BEST.... was the spirit moving in the accapella singing of the metrical psalms, the well chosen scripture, and the absolutely timely and inspiring words of The Right Reverend John Christie's sermon. Asking how we make the Reformation relevant 450 years on, The Moderator referred back to both the favorite text of Knox's: John 17:13-26..."I have given them your word, and the world has hated them for it,they are not of the world any more than I am of the world" and the words of Haggai that John Knox quoted at the first Assembly...."Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your panelled houses, whilst this house remains a ruin?" Extrapolate meaning for yourself....for me...it spoke volumes, both culturally to Scotland and the US, and personally.

The words of Christ....the words of a prophet.....the words of Knox...repeated by John Christie; inspiring folk to not look ahead and fear, but to look ahead and know they are understood, yet expected to instigate change. Fifty years from now, the young people that were present at the service will be faced with different challenges, but will remember how we brought it forward....and certainly remember the words of tonight.

Now....

Back to me! (me-me-me-me-it's all about me-me-me-me) I got to sing in the "Assembly Choir"!Thanks, again, to Eileen asking Ian McCrorie....a man of remarkable talents....both with music and knowledge of Clyde Steamers! So, cheers for that Ian!
I am so totally into the Metrical Psalms just now....both the original settings and the newer ones. Heads up, NBTS! When I get back, I'm going to be championing some traditional REFORMED worship! Frozen Chosen my.....eyebrow!
Peace out!
Must eat and hydrate as I actually got dehydrated in the tropical Edinburgh weather today! (No, wisen-heimer-cynics out there! It had nothing to do with Palace wine or Highland Park!)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hours and hours of discourse on finances followed by a trip to the palace....life can be surreal sometimes!



Look at us! Just after the reception at the Palace with the Lord High Commissioner, Baron Wilson....a lovely man....not that I spoke with him. Holyrood Palace was gorgeous, the flowers were stunning,the view of Arthur's Seat from the court-yard with the fountain, quite breath-taking, the guards very handsome and amazingly tall, there was wine and little nibbly foods; the most remarkable being a little tiny sausage....."Chipolatta in Quince Sauce" yet strangely reminiscent of hot-dog on a tooth-pick....much more glamorous when served in a Palace, though!

This followed a day of the Ministry Council report...most of which centered around money....or the lack thereof. I, honestly, do know that money talks .... all it says to me is "Buh-bye!" *ba-doomp-CHA*...and from today's talks I think that might be all it's saying to the Church of Scotland. Times are tough.
To go a little theological on you: What Would Jesus Do? Funny, I know, and I don't mean to be cheeky, but I'm thinking he would get out there and ask for it.
A long time ago, on an island not so very far away, I was hanging out with George McLeod during Community Week (shameless name-dropping, but it is pertinent, stay with me!)He turned to me and said, "Jeanie! Look around you! Do you know....do you know.....what it takes to build a place like this?! (imagine large arm gestures from a very old man) I, being young, American, and wanting to seem clever, was at a bit of a loss, but managed to come up with a rather shy, "Er.....the Holy Spirit?" George bellowed back, "No! No! Money!!!! Money, I tell you! Without money behind you to support you, cannot accomplish something like this!" I was, and still am, rather stunned by the conversation. He was a cool guy. I liked him. He had a vision. He made it happen.

I still do think though, that the Holy Spirit had to have wanted it to happen, too.

If the Holy Spirit wants you to want to accomplish it....then you will do it!
Asking might be a start. Be confident Church of Scotland. Ask.

I'll personally interview Syd Graham for the Blog! He's the Convener of the Social Care Council,and one of the funniest people I've ever met! (more shameless name-dropping) I missed his report because of the Reception at Holyrood.... I needed to dress up...I got new shoes from Marks for my birthday....they have wee leather flowers on them! Hopefully, he will forgive my vanity. Check out the CofS website to see his report!

Did I look fancy or what?!
Tomorrow is the Service at St. Giles. Will post it all soon!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Climate-change, jet-lag, single-malt, the responsibility of being Reformed

All right! It is rather late, but here I am....listening to the rolicking fun of the French tourists as I swealter high above the Royal Mile....wide awake....finishing a glass of Talisker and thinking about today's debates.

Ah...life is good....at least right this second.

As an American, "The church informing the government" can raise hackles. Our persistently reminding each other of the division of Church and State...or the craziness that results in denominations on either "wing" lobbying for issues, adds to the three-ring circus that is American politics. Love it, or hate it, it is what it is.
The separation of Church and State is sort of misunderstood....it was really meant to mean that we didn't have one church or denomination that was favoured or required by the government....not that church (or churches) couldn't inform or make itself involved in civic affairs. Without the Presbyterians, the United States might not have ever happened. This isn't news, but I guess I just say this because the situation in America is quite different than in Scotland when it comes to defining our role as Christians in the political world.

Scotland does have a National Church....not "the" National Church...there is a difference. Folk have a choice of denominations and religions, but The Church of Scotland has shaped the culture not just by preaching the Gospel, which, of course, is an amazing thing to do, but by making education possible for everyone, by raising the standards, by encouraging creativity and ingenuity. John Knox intended for the Church on two levels to be served in Scotland. That's everyone! The country benefits when we see through the eyes of Christ and be involved! As The Very Reverend Andrew McLellan said today when he spoke on the floor, "We are called to be the people of God for the people of God, but we are also called to be the people of God for the people who choose not to be the people of God."

In this sense,(and many others) Scotland is a very blest place (cue GaelForce Orchestra) People expect the Church of Scotland to inform the civic affairs, care for the marginalized, defend the down-trodden...it's historic! Go for it!
Keep up the good work!

Talisker....finished, jet-lag....wearing off, climate change.....I'll deal with that tomorrow! Thankfully, this hotel has AC!

The opening of General Assembly 2010



Thanks to Stuart for helping me out with the photies! :)

How cool is this......quite, as I'm in front of a fan!


OK...this is sort of a long story, but now I have some access to some awesome, professional pictures....and hopefully video before too long!
Am sitting in front of the fan, which is fabulous as Edinburgh is very hot just now, (Take that! Smug New Jerseyites who told me to pack exclusively for rain! HA!)
in the PRESS OFFICE for the GA. Thanks, of course, to Eileen.

Right! Today has been really amazing. This morning was mostly about a debate that very much spoke to the whole condition of BEING REFORMED....in that it was about defining the role of the Church of Scotland in...well....Scotland. Is it the role of the kirk to inform the government? The society? The people who don't attend?

Some great speeches. I'll try to get some up for you....this is becoming my mantra, I know, but I will....eventually....

This is a question I'd like to pose to anyone who is in the reformed tradition though......as reformed people surely we need to take seriously how we impact the civil government...more ponderings later.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I think I might have the best seat in the house!


What a great day!

Was a little frightened to take footage....the day opened with the whole Assembly singing Psalm 95....it was AMAZING! Never quite heard anything so good! I didn't tape it, for fear of "the boot", but now realize I'm allowed.....will attempt it at tomorrow's service so you can hear it!

The Lord High Commissioner is Lord Wilson....he came in escorted by Heralds. I'll try to catch them tomorrow, too!

Bill Hewitt was fabulous in his farewell speech....as was the new Moderator John Christie.

There's a lot to read.....I want to make sure I've read the reports before tomorrow....and hopefully get a bit better at the video and slideshow! :/

Cheery-bye!

Floating with the haar above the Royal Mile....


Morning!
After a very quiet night I have woken to haar....an East Coast term in Scotland for mist....I think. I do think it might be Norse for.....er....mist.

The Church bells are now going, which makes me think I might be late for something. Amn't sure wheather I'll be permitted to bring any electronics in to the Assembly Hall after all....and actually am scared about getting the boot. So, will be a good girl for the now and not be sneaky. Will play it by ear.
Will bring the Bloggie anyway. R has figured how to embed the video....he's in Gourock, or course, but will try to get some better stuff up during my lunch break!
This is my hotel....right on the Royal Mile....at Blackfriars Street...awesome, eh?!
Will report on the opening in a few hours.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

So......did those feet, in ancient times, walk upon England's mountains green?

Whoo hoo! Have not only landed in London, spent pretty much the whole day sitting on luggage in Kings' Cross Station because it was 8 quid a bag to leave the luggage in the lockers.....8 quid....that's 16 dollars! Per bag! Flight was uneventful. Everyone slept like babies...babies on Benadryl.
So anyhow....am now on the EastCoast train headed up to Edinburgh....there's wireless service! Very civilised! :) Cuppa tea and my laptop! Who could ask for anything more?!

So..(cue boy's choir...channel spirit of William Blake....) ..did those feet in ancient times walk upon England's mountains green?.....and was the Holy Lamb of God on England's pleasant pastures seen??? Oh wait! There HE is?! Oh...no....that's just a regular lamb. Wow...that was freaky.

Houses and pastures and yellow fields of rapeseed....which I think is what canola oil is made from. All very beautiful and English. This is a lovely smooth, fast train. It has clearly been a while since I took it. I think the last time Reagan was still president and Thatcher was still PM.

Am still, obviously, hopeless at the video upload! I think I had the setting at too whatever for the upload. So I've knocked the quality down a bit....hope it works now. It's already showing me that it loads incredibly slowly....I might have to upload to YouTube first. I wish I wasn't such a dolt with this stuff.....I want it all to be easy and professional looking! Is that asking too much??????

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Yea! I found the video option!

Enjoy my first video interview! :)

Rain...Dust...the Crook runs away....sing for joy anyway!

Here we are in the final push to get ready for Scotland. This won't be a long discussion as it's 6:30 am....and I'm already behind!
The crook in New Delhi got away with the cash.I don't actually know what that means....do we ever get the money back? I'm seriously considering giving up using debit cards. In 1971, before 24 hour computer banking nobody in India had access to my money.....well....I was seven....so it was only like, 75 cents .(I just realized my keyboard doesn't have a symbol for cents!)
The volcanic dust cloud seems to be dispersing from over the Atlantic...and has settled inside my house.
We are mostly packed, but the house is a wreck! The dog sitter will be here in the afternoon, so time's a tickin'! I have finally accepted the fact that it can't actually clean itself.
The flight does seem to be leaving on time.
So enough of the moaning!
Let the raindrops dance! The rivers clap their hands! The mountains sing for joy!
And there's always time to play a little harp! Yes, there is.
Breathe in peace, breathe out peace!
I'll report about the flight when I'm settled in Edinburgh...I can guarantee there'll be few laughs in it! :)
Enjoy my practice interview with my little pal, Christian!