One bead at a time…

Inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness. I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten—happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.(Brenda Ueland)

I came across this quote on my old blog while I was looking for something completely different!

I love this description of inspiration – especially the image of writing being like putting beads on a string one after another because that is how it works for me. I have a magpie mind and am always collecting and filing things away for use later. Today I was frustrated because I remembered snippets of a story I wanted for a sermon but just could not track it down – maybe I will just use what I can remember and make up the rest 🙂

I also like the assertion that we need a little solitude and idleness as a primer for writing and creativity. I know I need this but I still get twinges of guilt about time spent quietly in the garden or elsewhere. Especially as in ministry there is always something more concrete and tangible needing to be done.

Being off sick for such a long period of time has shown me that the majority of the concrete and tangible things can wait; they will still be there tomorrow and tomorrow. But we need to catch those moments of solitude and idleness as not only will our writing benefit but also they will help us to live a more balanced and fruitful life.

Picture is ‘prayer beads’ by Jonny Baker on Flickr

Body language…

“If John’s Gospel were the only one we had, this is all that we would know about Jesus’ birth: before his name was Jesus, his name was the Word, and he was with God from the very beginning of creation, bringing things into being, making things happen, shining light into the darkness.

He was God’s self, God’s soul, God’s life force in the world. He was the breath inside all living things. He was the electric spark that charged peoples’ hearts. He was the fire inside the sun. He was the space between the stars. He was the axis around which the galaxies spin.

John goes on to say that not everyone got that message. Many were blinded by this light and preferred the darkness they knew to the light which they did not know. The Word sidled up to them and hummed life into their ears, but they cleared their throats and walked away. So God decided to speak in a new way. God decided to speak body language. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us – full of grace and truth.” 

This is John’s Christmas story  in a nutshell. Like Luke, John is telling us about an encounter with the Holy One. God’s Word was translated into a human being. God’s self, soul, and life force were concentrated into one mortal life on earth, and as a result, nothing would ever be the same again. Not because everyone listened, because everyone does not, but because the eternal Word of God took human form.”

I rediscovered this quotation today on a post from my old blog. It was originally found among some sermon starters from eSermons and is well worth repeating as we prepare for the “eternal Word of God” to take human form.

Picture is ‘pickwell sunset’ by Jonny Baker on Flickr


Well… the last couple of weeks have passed in a blur. Closing a church building is much easier than dealing with the ‘fallout’. As I said to one person last week – “I am just making it up as I go along”.

Now, as you would expect, some of the fallout has been good and some of it simply dreadful. But I prefer to focus on the good, particularly on our wonderful neighbours in St Peter in Chains church, who as soon as they heard about our predicament offered their hall for our Advent services (at some inconvenience to themselves). The first service was held there this morning and all went well. We will be meeting in St Peter’s hall for all the Sundays in Advent and hopefully by the time we come to 18 December we will have more permanent arrangements in place for worship.

Also of note amid the chaos was the ordination and induction of my friend Morag Garrett to Kilwinning Mansfield Trinity last Wednesday night. There was an amazing turnout for the service, the place was packed and extra chairs had to be brought into the worship space. It was fantastic to forget about building problems, presbytery planning issues and all the other stuff which has been cluttering up my mind over the past few weeks and to enjoy this wonderful service of celebration with Morag and the congregation in Kilwinning. It was also great to see so many familiar faces from churches where Morag and I both did placements.

I was preaching and giving the charges which was a challenge – both in preparation and in the preaching of words which, although written for Morag and for the occasion, were words I needed to hear again for myself.

Here is the quotation which inspired the sermon… from Albert Schweitzer’s book ‘The Quest For The Historical Jesus’:

“He comes to us as one unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, he came to those men who did not know who he was. He says the same words, “Follow me!”, and set us to those tasks which he must fulfil in our time. He commands. And to those who harken to him, whether wise or unwise, he will reveal himself in the peace, the labours, the conflicts and the suffering that they may experience in his fellowship, and as an ineffable mystery they will learn who he is.”

I may post the sermon sometime… when I need reminded again that I am called… called to follow Christ and to fulfil the tasks he has for me … in my time.

(Picture is ‘The Beginning’ )

The impossible possibility…

For everyone preparing to preach tomorrow:

‘Sunday’s Hour’ by Arnold Kenseth,

Comes Sunday’s hour, and speech hangs itself
On God’s red tree. Preacher, word-monger, I
Defy the interdict, naming dark Yahweh, taking Him
And His fire in vain. O havoc, cry havoc! Sigh
His deep blue breath into phrases and praises.
Still, it is impossible. He will not dwell half
Or anywhere in my capture. Yet I must draw home
The net, try to catch somehow His graces.

For it is by grace we live, and all the people
Must be told. So I could wish my body more
Contained Him, that my walks more shaped, here
And there, His amble. How ill beneath a steeple
I incarnate! Despite me, then, come now,
Let His enlightening strike us row by row.

Found here (with added Barthian comment).

Picture is of the pulpit in Barony St John’s Church, Ardrossan.

… words for today

It takes two things for prayer to come to pass – a person and a word. Prayer involves right relationship between those two things. But we have lost that relationship. Involved as we are in many relationships, our relationship to words has become totally obscured. We do not think about words, although few things are as important for the life of the spirit as the right relationship to words. Words have become cliches, objects of absolute abuse.  They have ceased to be commitments.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (from inward/outward)

This quote really made me think. Is Heschel right? Almost certainly if you read the newspapers (in print or worse online where people can leave vitriolic comments on the stories of the day) or look at the ‘wealth’ of celebrity or fashion based magazines on the shelves of any newsagents.

We no longer craft letters, we rush off slipshod emails or make throw away comments on social networking sites, not worrying about grammar or spelling.

And in our personal relationships – do we actually talk to one another or are our conversations really ‘a dialogue of the deaf’?

We live in a world where words are cheap and plentiful.

Do we treat the words we speak to God – and the words we speak about God – in the same way?

Answers on a postcard!!

(The Wordle contains the most commonly used words in English proverbs :))


A lovely prayer for Saturday… for those times when we feel overwhelmed and long for things to change… for those days when we are discontented… restless… doubting or in despair.

This prayer is a reminder that it is ok -even healthy – to feel these emotions if we can also trust in God for what lies ahead…because the times when we are at our lowest ebb can also be the times of growth and change… times when God’s Spirit moves and opens a different door.

Lord, help me now to unclutter my life,
to organize myself in the direction of simplicity.
Lord, teach me to listen to my heart;
teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it.
Lord, I give You these stirrings inside me,
I give you my discontent,
I give you my restlessness,
I give you my doubt,
I give you my despair,
I give you all the longings I hold inside.
Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth;
to listen seriously and follow where they lead
through the breathtaking empty space of an open door.

(Celtic Daily Prayer)

Picture is ‘open’ by Jonny Baker on Flickr.

God and the neighbours…

This always makes me laugh. It was emailed to me by a parish minister of my acquaintance who used it as a sermon illustration. The card was sent to him by one of his parishioners who spotted it while on holiday.

There is so much I could say about this, but I won’t.

I will leave it to you to write your own sermon/caption (especially if you live in a small town).