revelate good times, come on…

Tonight was Rev changeover dinner. I’m pretty glad not to be President anymore. But it’s made me look back on the Rev times over the four years I’ve been around (can it really be four years? I still feel 18.), and think about all that Rev has been to me.

Freshers’ Fair, 2006. I was thinking of perhaps auditioning for Sinfonia. But instead, I ended up at Freshers’ rehearsal, playing ridiculous games, singing ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Lord Reign in Me’, and eating party rings. Quickly, I was hooked- because uni was turning out to not be anything I’d expected- I had no real friends, my course hugely disappointed me, and I got ill. I was utterly miserable, and found myself living for Tuesday evenings. I was shy at first, but by the 1st concert I knew that this was really where I belonged… and these were the people with whom I belonged. They made me feel like I mattered from the very beginning, and quite apart from that, they made me laugh when times were very dark.

And since then, I’ve grabbed the opportunities I’ve been offered, to organise weekend away, to be on concert committee to conduct and teach and sing solos, to play in the band, to do the dance (which was a debacle and a half), to be vice president and ultimately President. But Rev has given me more than things I can put on my cv.

It has given me songs for every occasion.
It has provided some incredibly surreal moments.
It has made me laugh until I cry, repeatedly.
It has given me someone I love more than anyone.
It has taught me how to do tequila shots.
It has made me feel worthwhile.
It has shown me new things about God.
It has broadened my musical horizons.
It has helped me develop (some) patience.
It has shown me the bad and the good in myself.
It has kept me at uni.
It has been the key ingredient of some of the best days of my life.

It has given me friends who are for life. And the ‘it’ above really means them. The people I’ve met from around the world who have touched my life in so many ways and without whom I cannot imagine life these days.

And no, it hasn’t all been perfect. I’ve been frustrated and sad and angry at times. But that’s not what I’ll remember about Rev when my time comes to disappear. I’ll remember the hysterical laughter, the acceptance, and the love. I’ll also remember several parts to ‘rejoice rejoice’. And I’ll keep the people, of that much I’m sure. I can’t wait to come back to Rev’s 25th birthday party in a decade’s time, with my rev-peers. Because I am pretty sure it’ll last that long, and certain none of us will ever forget it.

So here’s to the future of Edinburgh Revelation… and to all who sail in her ūüôā

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It’s 2010, and so far it feels like a bit of a non-event.

I don’t know what I was expecting. I’m a new-year skeptic. I don’t like hogmanay parties, I don’t really do resolutions. And yet there’s some expectation isn’t there? Some sense every hideous cold depressing January that actually this won’t be the same as the other years. That it’ll be different. That they’ll be different. That I’ll be different.

And yet.

2010 feels much like 2009.

Perhaps resolutions would have been a good idea. Perhaps I need to stop hoping for change and start bringing it about.
Change in politics, in church, in economics, in academia, in relationships…
and perhaps above all change in me.

It’s just that I feel small.
It’s just that I feel scared of failing.
It’s just that I feel inadequate.
That, perhaps, is the change I need most of all.

For until I believe in my ability to change things, my calling to do so, I won’t. I won’t exercise more or work for reform in the church or for peace in the Holy land. Not properly, or not to the extent I could.

So maybe for 2010 the first change to make is to believe in change.

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hearing the angels sing

Or straining extra-hard to hear.

Good news? A child is born to us- a son is given to us.
God with us.
God incarnate.
God for us.

Doing my revision for Conversing with Barth, I had a moment where I had to just sit and consider that.

Stopped short by the good news of God for us.

And Christmas, far from being a pleasant story to entertain the children, is a moment of truth for humanity. The truth is that our ideas about God are all messed up. THIS is our God- the God about whom the angels sing. Wrapped in swaddling bands and lying in a manger, having opted for all eternity to be so. Was it really a virgin birth? I don’t know. Did the baby Jesus really ‘no crying make’? I doubt it. But it was a real birth. A birth into the bustle of the real world, unnoticed by many. Noisy and messy and by many accounts nothing special.

And perhaps we’ve heard it so many times that it has become nothing special… a story for the children or a pleasant tradition or just something recited, passed over by so many cliches that the absolutely astounding, time-stopping, world-changing significance is missed.

I’m not going to go off on a rant about commercialised Christmas or about Santa or about nativity plays. I like all those things. I just wonder if maybe we’d all benefit from stopping for a minute and hearing the angels sing and realising that this really is good news- so good it’s almost unbelievable.

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the long now

In a moment of quiet after what seems like (and perhaps in fact has been) months of noise and business, working and missioning and examming and travelling and greenbelting, I’m listening to music, reflecting, relaxing… and feeling a strange sense of nervousness. More than nervousness, fear. For I’m aware that I’m on the brink of yet more change and challenge. Lots of things in life seem to be in upheaval, to be uncertain.

One of the concepts which was focussed on at Greenbelt this year was living in the ‘long now’. My understanding of this is that it’s not living for the moment- but it’s not living in the past, either. It’s about knowing that now is all we have- but trying to look at ‘now’ in a bigger sense. Accepting that we must live now, do what we can now, even if we don’t know or won’t see results. About not demanding immediacy, trying to take a ‘God’s eye view’, to whatever extent such a view is possible. Moses never set foot in the promised land- but still he continued. Maybe our generation won’t see peace in that land- but still we must work for it tirelessly. Just because things don’t happen as we want them to instantly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, shouldn’t give the best, should put things off til later, later, later.

So what is MY story in the long now? It’s a story touched by the people of the Holy Land and of Scotland, a story drawn to church, drawn back again and again to a sense of call. It’s a story tinged by sadness, and painted in laughter. It’s a story whose ending is yet unknown- but in this now, with which I have been given, I must give everything I can to do what I must. Change is part of the now, hard though that is to deal with. Change, shift, perhaps even breaking. But in the long now there will be healing, too. And discovery, and transformation. And even if I only look upon the promised land, that ought to be enough.

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time to go home?

(I am sure I posted this on Tuesday. Oops.)

On Thursday, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will meet. There’s plenty to say about the issues to be faced, and much of it already has been said. Doubtless, I’ll come back and blog about things as the week progresses, as my church, my people, grapple with issues of forgiveness, of law, of sexuality, of spirituality… Issues of calling, of diversity, of war and peace, of finance… All these things and more have much to offer in the way of debate and of interest- and as we’re all aware, some more than others have already attracted and will continue to be the focus of the world of the media, and, if we’re honest, many of us, too. It’s easy to get caught up in an exciting controversy (and I’m not, here, denying the importance of any issue) and forget that the church still has to go about its business and be church, even when the things we do or say seem dull, or attract no attention. It’s easy, too, to get so impassioned about something that you forget to listen, you forget to think, forget to pray, forget to love. I’m praying for commissioners to this year’s assembly to have time to think, willingness to listen, hearts full of love and to be constantly guided by prayer and hemmed in by the Word.
But as I said, right now I don’t have anything specific to say regarding the individual issues to be debated, fascinating though they undeniably are. My thoughts, perhaps rather selfishly, are at this precise moment reflecting on the fact that I won’t be there. For the first time in three years I’m not a youth rep, and this fact is hurting me more than I thought possible, even though it’s totally my own choice. And why? Not (entirely) because I’m a geek of the highest order. Not because I want to hang out with my COSY friends (though I do). Not even for a touch of mod-stalking. No, the reason I feel so bereft is that General Assembly is, for me, a safe space. Amidst the controversy and the passion, the laughter and the tears, the learning, the anger, the new-found friends, I have over the last few years encountered something special- somewhere to belong and to be accepted, somewhere where I’ve made surprising discoveries about myself and where my love for God and for the church has been nurtured and nourished. I really hope that the Assembly, and indeed the Kirk as a whole, can continue to be (and where it has failed, grow to be), a safe space for other people too- for all people, in fact. There’s something in the sharing of stories, gracious debate, daily worship and conversations over terrible coffee which really captures, for me, what’s important about church. Although to some, GA may seem ridiculously inefficient, archaic, pretentious, stuffy, out-of-touch, I don’t think it is- and I think we’ve got to keep talking, keep disagreeing amicably, keep eating and drinking together and above all keep worshipping our God together, because it’s in those activities that we can discover who we are and who we’re meant to be- as individuals, and together.
I don’t know if this blog makes any sense. It appears to be something of a ridiculous mishmash of the personal and the ecclesial… but it’s something. I’ll doubtless say something more about GA very soon, and perhaps touch more specifically on the issues at hand. For now, though, I wish I could go home.

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sometimes you can’t make it on your own…

I wonder why it is that people (myself included) are often so eager to make it on their own.
Why are we afraid to ask for help? Why can’t we be vulnerable even with those we love the most?
I was talking to a pal yesterday and he was talking about how he reckons being loved is more important than loving. I’m not sure that that’s the case; but often it seems to me that it is much, much more difficult to be loved than to love. Accepting the love of friends, family, even God, means a certain level of acceptance of who I am… which is scary. I wonder, though… is it possible to really love if you can’t BE loved? And by that, i don’t mean love must always be reciprocated or that the popular people are also the people who love the most. What I mean, I think, is that our calling is not only to love God, but to BE loved by Him- it’s in accepting that astounding divine love that we can learn what it is to love on a human level. And we’re called to love our neighbour as ourselves- which necessarily entails a love of the self. Not in an arrogant, self-aggrandising way but in an acceptance of ourselves as beloved children of the Father-and as beloved friend, daughter, sister…

I don’t as such know where I’m going with this.

I’m just very aware of a general reluctance to open the self to the other- whether that other be friend or “enemy”, and I wonder what the world, our relationships, our politics even, might look like if we as individuals and as the church were more open- more willing to be loved and to love, more willing to be vulnerable and to live as community rather than in isolation.

Tell me stories.

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made in scotland from stories.

That phrase caught my eye this morning, on a Museum poster. Made in Scotland, from stories. How true of all of us that is. That, and, from another ad campaign, ‘i am who i am, because of everyone.’ I’ve been thinking all day about what it is that makes me me… and it is stories. It’s reality, it’s life lived, people loved, relationships built up and broken down.

I am who I am because I went to primary school in a bubble and because of the shock I got at Firrhill, because i was awful at CDT and because i couldn’t play hockey to save myself. I am who I am because I got a B in higher maths. I am who I am because of Barnesy, and Mr T. I am who I am because so many people gave up their time so I could make movies, or go to New York, or paint, or talk, or study the Bible. I am who i am because I was valued and trusted. I am who I am because people at school believed in me. I am who I am because people threw food at me and shouted abuse, and I am who I am because of incredible friends.

I am who I am because of Colinton Parish Church, because I hated Sunday school, because Angela taught me to sing, because of the times i cried, because Jo opened crazy doors in my mind, because of headbanging to The Darkness at Sanctuary, toasties in the swing, weddings and funerals, thousands of cans of irn bru, doughnuts on the communion table, trips abroad, crazy children and old folk, because of burns’ supper and ‘take your daughter (neice) to work day’, because of being shouted at, because of being cared for and hugged, because of Santa hats and candles, profound experience, laughter, acceptance and learning.

I am who I am because of hard times at uni and finding where I fit. I am who I am because i’m scared of my calling. I am who i am because i’m also very excited. I am who I am because of soup and a roll, trying to find books in the stacks and crying over yet another essay. I am who I am because i hiccup through tutorial and because i can talk to my NT lecturer about boys.

¬†I am who I am because of Rev, because of being scared of Lucy and finding actually I could cry. I am who I am because of the aims and values, rambles on weekend away, hloholonofatsa¬†and crying when Claire drove away from the wedding. I am who I am because of busking in my bedroom. I am who I am because of the absolute joy of a concert, and because of the fear of conducting. I’m me, because I wanted desperately to be on committee, and because of who i’m on committee with. I am who I am because of long chats in the pub, and that time Morven made me do tequila shots. I am who i am because of soprano dancing and errrrrrrrrrrythema chat.

¬†I am who I am because my heart was broken and because it’s mending. I am who I am someone likes me for me.

I am who I am because of that summer that i watched my gran fade away, because of the years before that when she taught me what it is to be a Christian and an independent woman, when she cooked me awful food but always, always had a sweetie in the box for me. I am who i am because of Granda’s drawings and putting ¬£1 away every week.¬† I am who I am because he knew which of us came in despite being blind.

I am who I am because my big cousins treated me like a boy, and because my wee cousin looks up to me.

I am who I am because of hundreds, no thousands of books, and because of my English teachers nurturing my love of them. I am who I am because of music- because of the feeling of making a peice soar, because of lyrics that speak into your heart, because of scary teachers who make you want to quit.

I am who I am because of new pyjamas on Christmas eve, because KJ knows my thoughts without me saying a word, because of the thousands of times i’ve laughed til it hurt. I am who i am because when i was in 2nd year an amazing circle of friends was formed. I am who I am because of staying up all night drinking pink wine with emma, because of lying hugging and talking, because Margaret completes some part of me. I am who i am because of scrubbing graffiti in Paisley and because of eating pancakes in montrose. I am who I am because Pauline asked me to be her bridesmaid.

I am who i am because of the times i’ve been made to feel worthless, the times i’ve wanted just not to BE at all. I am who I am because I still am.

I am who I am because of General Assembly and Youth Assembly- because they feel like home. I am who i am because of Marjory, and because of a long line of moderators. I am who I am because of youth reps, and because of the people who work themselves too hard to give us chances. I am who I am because these people show me who i wish to be. I am who I am because of times in Sweden, teaching me about my own identity and playing crazy games. I am who I am because of healing services, congas to LCGC and whistling choirs. I am who I am because I’m constantly challenged about my theology. I am who I am because i’ve journeyed with people through hard times and happiness.

I am who I am because of working with children, because of coming of age alongside Lynsey, because of crinkle-cut pancakes and sack-races and¬†banter in the paddock at Barmyhill. I am who I am because of chatting about God in the sea in Spain with Sarah, because of that beautiful champagne, curry and sunsetty day in April, because of my inability to focus, because i’m a perfectionist who can’t be perfect.

I am who I am because of Eurocamping and because of sunny days and barbeques, family fall-outs and trips to castle after castle after castle. I am who I am because mum ALWAYS made us read the signs. I am who I am because Dad wrote songs about us, and because of watching newsnight whilst mum snores.  I am who I am because of guide camp and midgies, singing campfire songs and bivouacing, meeting friends who were so close for a week and never seen again, climbing harnesses and camp blankets and making up my bedding roll. I am who I am because of primary school history lessons, and really, really hoping Scotland would win each battle.

I am who I am because I could type forever about the past, and because I could dream forever about the future.

I am who I am because of discovering God in all of this and more. I am who I am because sometimes I feel like I’ve lost him. I am who I am because he made me.

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