Minister's blog

Family we never knew

"Let the little children come to me..." Matthew 19.14 Proof reading the church newsletter, I was shocked to read about the lives of three schoolchildren who are sponsored to attend Hope & Faith School in Lusaka. All are orphans, dependent on relatives who, themselves, have barely enough to live on, and vulnerable to the scourge of drugs and cheap alcohol. Covid 19 has been like the final straw, breaking the back of flawed and fragile domestic structures and driving many former bread-winners to despair. The tragic consequences are played out in the lives of their dependents. For us, school was somewhere to escape from. For our sponsored children it is an oasis - of care, of hope and of basic

Getting it right

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward." Matthew 10.42 I do it every time! Straight back into the fray with no time to catch up and a heavy day of commitments. This time it was our annual Presbytery Conference. As Clerk, I am responsible for taking the minutes, so I have to be present and I have to pay attention. Fortunately the second half of the day was given over to a reflective exercise led by Steve Aisthorpe, who has just authored a new book entitled 'Re-wilding the Church'. That's serendipity... just when going back to work might have felt like stepping onto that t

Back in harness!

"... I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Philippians 4.11 It's good to be back. Holidays are essential, often fun, sometimes frustrating, usually too busy and invariably expensive. Yet they should not be avoided. They compel us to depart from our usual routines, devote time to those we love and too often take for granted (in terms of the time we give them) and ... relax. That last bit does not always come easily. If we are used to rushing around and struggling to keep up, then changing pace and gear will not come naturally. But the fact is that living frenetically is not good for us or for those around us, so getting off the treadmill is a good thing. Even better if, du

Day of the girl

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29.11 It was news to me but today has been designated 'International Day of the Girl'. As father of two girls and brother to two sisters, with a wife and mother and numerous nieces and god-daughters, it is nevertheless of interest. But that comes with a tinge of alarm; the very fact that such days are designated at all indicates that here is an issue requiring our attention. According to one of my prayer diaries, 15 million girls will never receive an education and so are condemned to a life of servitude, while 12 million girls will be married of

Raised in glory

"The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body." 1 Corinthians 15. 42-44 Yesterday we buried my father's earthly remains. It was a glorious day and everyone was there. My brother delivered the finest of tributes, while my sisters read beautifully from the scriptures. One of the grand-children regaled us with a polished rendition of MacLeod of Raasay's Salute and then 8 of the 12 family pipers joined in a final flourish of Highland Cathedral. The occasion was set in

Where to from here?

"Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken..." Ecclesiastes 4.12 Here we go again! More restrictions, more frustration, more uncertainty, more redundancy, less education, less socialising, less comforting - fewer deaths? We hope so and, through gritted teeth, responsible citizens will comply. But for how much longer will trust in the Scottish government hold out? Meanwhile the citizens of North Carolina have erected a new statue by the artist Kehinde Wiley entitled 'Rumours of War'. Designed as a riposte to the nearby statue of Confederate General JEB Stuart astride a horse, this new piece features a black man striking the same po

Who cares?

"Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered." Proverbs 21.13 While the media obsesses about President Trump's antics, the people of France and Italy are grappling with the ravages of Storm Alex. Over the weekend you would have thought that the only newsworthy event in the world was the bizarre attempt by the Whitehouse to make a virtue out of a medical emergency. Meanwhile the colossal damage and risk to life being suffered by our neighbours in France and Italy never made the headlines. This distasteful juxtaposition - of what gets reported and what doesn't - is a reminder of the influence of the media. We react to what we see and hear. When it come

Toxic

"If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea." Mark 9.42 Over the weekend I watched a documentary called 'The Social Dilemma', in which a galaxy of Silicon Valley techies shared their concerns about the monster they had helped create. It sounds smug but it confirmed me in my avoidance of social media (apart from email). With commendable candour they explained how the system is designed to get inside the head of users, without us realising, so that they can groom us to reveal our preferences which are built into a profile and the data is sold to ad

World Animal Day

"Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name." Genesis 2.19 The account of creation in Genesis confirms the intimate relationship between humankind and animals. As humans name our children when they are born, so God afforded us the privilege of naming the animals with which we share planet earth. Furthermore, in books like Psalms and Job all creatures great and small join the chorus of praise offered up to our creator. Prophets and the teacher in Proverbs appeal to animals for the lessons we can learn from them, wh

A word for today?

"In that day I will restore David's fallen shelter, I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins, and will rebuild it as it used to be" Amos 9.11 It's not that I have discovered how to be in two places at one time but through the wonders of technology that I am writing this in Skye, while attending the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh. The latter should have been "done and dusted" back in May but coronavirus put paid to that and so we are catching-up with a truncated version via Zoom. You can imagine the mile-wide margin for technical error in gathering several hundred people in this way. Credit where it's due, the tech team are doing an amazing job, as are tho

Where there is no vision...

"... the people perish" Proverbs 29.18 Earlier in the week we witnessed the most unedifying "debate" between the two presidential hopefuls, Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Today we wake to the news that one of them has coronavirus. While praying for Donald Trump and first lady Melania a full and swift recovery, one despairs for the future of the world's leading democracy. Rather than a competition of ideas, the rivalry going into perhaps the most important election of recent times, has sunk to the depths of personal animosity. Is this the best the mighty USA can offer: two old men in a verbal slanging match? The political scene closer to home is not much more impressive. While our senior politic

Divine Communion

"... they saw God, and they ate and drank." Exodus 24.11 A university friend gave me a precious gift yesterday: Exodus 24. 9-11. It's a passage of scripture I had not noticed before - imagine! To be fair, it is so fleeting, one's eye could skip over it without realising the extraordinary event it describes: Moses and his brother Aaron, with Aaron's two sons, Nadab and Abihu, and 70 of the elders of Israel are invited to a picnic with God. So daunting is the prospect that the narrator has to comment: "God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites". But I bet they were on their best behaviour! The fact is that we are constantly guests in God's presence - in the person of t

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