Archive for the ‘attitudes’ Category

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Parliamo Glasgow

December 17, 2008

Got an email from my brother in Alburquerque today about being Scottish.  I’m guessing it’s unlikely he’ll be hearing anything like this in New Mexico.

Learn the ‘patter’ in Stanley Baxter’s Parliamo Glasgow.  Genius.

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The lives they left behind …

September 14, 2008

When the Willard Psychiatric Center, New York, closed in 1995 workers discovered hundreds of suitcases in an attic and uncovered lives long forgotten. Unfortunately living outside the US I won’t be able to see The Willard Suitcase Exhibition but have found the online exhibit The Lives They Left Behind which provides a deeply moving account of people whose lives, once filled with hope and promise and aspirations, were never to be the same again.

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seeing God in one another

September 13, 2008

It was my intention to use a particular story last weekend at youth assembly and I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t because it is perfect. In all the hustle and bustle and recreating it went out of my head.

Like others, I have continued to reflect on the weekend and there were times when we didn’t get it right but that happens, we learn and move on. It’s a new format and there were always going to be teething problems.

In a couple of the sessions we desperately wanted to encourage people to look beyond the labels and stereotypes to see people as they are in their particular circumstances. We wanted to explore the impact of those circumstances on their relationships but also the perceptions that people hold. We wanted to challenge and, to a degree, that’s what we did. But I’m left feeling dissatisfied. I wish we’d done so many things differently that would have allowed a flow of conversation from one session to the other. We lost sight of that when deliverances became our focus.

This story says what we may not have achieved in saying last weekend. It’s about relationships, seeing God in one another and finding God in unexpected places. It’s a beautiful story which I hope you enjoy even if you’ve heard it before.

There was once an old monastery which had lost its inspiration. The same routines were performed as they had always been, but there were no new novices and little enthusiasm for the rites of prayer.

The Abbot saw all this and he grieved. At a loss as to how to change things, he paid a visit to an old hermit who lived in the woods. The hermit welcomed him in and spread the table with bread and cheese and wine. After they had eaten together the recluse addressed the Abbot.

You and your brothers have lost the fire of God. You come seeking wisdom from me. I will tell you a secret, but you can only repeat it once. After that no one must say it aloud again. The hermit then looked deep into the eyes of the Abbot and said, ‘The Messiah lives among you.’

They were both silent as the Abbot considered the import of this saying. ‘Now you must leave’ the hermit said.

Returning to the monastery, the Abbot called all the monks together and told them that he had a teaching which he had been given by God. He added that the teaching was never to be repeated out loud again. Then the Abbot looked at each of his brothers and said, ‘The Hermit says that one of us is the Messiah.’

The monks were startled. ‘What could this mean?’ they wondered silently. ‘Is John with the big nose the Messiah? Or Father Matthew who keeps falling asleep at prayer? Am I the Messiah? But puzzled as they were they never repeated the saying again

As time went by, the monks began to treat one another with a special love and reverence. There was a gentle, whole-hearted, human quality about them now which was hard to describe but easy to see. They lived with each other as those who had finally found something of significance. Their words were careful, considered and gentle. Who could tell when they might be speaking to the Messiah?

Before long, the vitality of the monastery attracted many visitors and young men began asking to join the community. The old hermit died without revealing any more and the Abbot sometimes wondered if he had understood correctly.

From ‘alt.spirit@metro.m3’ by Mike Riddell

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NYA2008 – my experience

September 11, 2008

I’m not a great fan of reflection but understand its importance. It’s about putting things into perspective, learning and developing. So with that in mind I’ll try to articulate my thoughts about the weekend.

When I was first asked to be part of this year’s assembly I agreed without much hesitation because I value NYA and its role. I also reckoned my job would be in the background because, let’s face it, one Cutler is enough for any event! It wasn’t until afterwards and finding that my remit was slightly more than I thought that I began to wonder if I’d done the right thing. Reasons for this are plenty but the stories are too long and too dull and would be too wrong to mention. I guess my feelings have been mixed from the start because I never thought I’d be back doing some work for the church again. God obviously had other plans and I’m glad about that.

Not surprisingly, it was really enjoyable and there were many, many positives. It was fantastic to see people I hadn’t seen in such a long time and the memories came flooding back and I smiled lots.

I enjoyed listening to Mark speak and remembered my past and times at Youth Assembly when his dad was guest speaker and that made me smile lots too. Mark had much to say and I found him engaging and, although he didn’t know me, he seemed to know me so very well. I’ll be trying to take his advice about space and rest and time out.

I’ll never forget the Burns Supper and how fantastic the speeches were and I’m certain it’s unlikely that Tam O’Shanter could ever be performed quite so wonderfully. The Unknown Magician made me laugh so much my sides hurt and I’m sure that’s why I ended up with a sore throat on Monday morning!

Staff worship was wonderful and I was so sorry I didn’t get to them all. I really wanted time at the human library too but didn’t and I desperately wanted to hear other people speak but didn’t manage that either. I guess more than anything I felt rushed. It wasn’t that we weren’t organised, we were, but we had technical problems or setting up problems or clearing the room of debris including banana skin problems. Yuck!

If I’m honest there were times when I found it all a bit too much for me. It turned into quite a surreal experience and one I was struggling to understand. I don’t do surreal very well, I’m pretty grounded and like things to feel real so it didn’t sit very right with me. I felt distracted and not connected to what was going on around me. I’m not even sure that I was fully present at times.

But there’s no doubting the people. People and their stories. I love listening to real people telling real stories. I heard stories that made me question who I am, what my role is and how I can demonstrate God’s presence in my own life. I admired the challenging minds I came into contact with and was in awe of their courage to speak out for what they believe to be right. I was left speechless by their passion for God and the commitment to the event that is YA. Perhaps it was here I caught a glimpse of God all over again and realised how far away I was.

My presence may have been intermittent but God’s presence was constant.

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connected

August 24, 2008

In two weeks time I’ll be in the midst of discussion as the Church of Scotland’s National Youth Assembly delegates consider the enormity of what relationships are all about.

When I was asked to co-ordinate this particular topic it seemed like a good idea but, as is so often the case, now I’m not so sure I can do it justice (it’s a self-belief thing and I’m working on it!). Alternatively, when I consider some the preparation to date and the discussions I’ve had with my team, I believe we can.

For me relationships are about connection. Not only with those we love and who love us but with the wider community, the people on the fringes of our society, the ones we sometimes choose to ignore. Sadly the truth is that because we’re flawed individuals we do make choices based on our values and beliefs whether we’re conscious of that or not. Is loving one another really so difficult? It would appear so. It’s not easy to say that as Christians we’re not always so tolerant.

What are the characteristics of an assembly of people who care?

Jesus led by example when he mixed with the ignored, stigmatised, diseased, misunderstood, judged and condemned? Was it ok for Jesus but too hard for us? The truth, again, is yes it is sometimes.

Seeing others with a compassionate heart will mean stepping outside our comfort zones and stepping into a world of uncertainty and doubt. Demonstrating God’s Grace by showing commitment, empathy and a willingness to see beyond the divisions that separate may leave us feeling vulnerable, uncomfortable and not in control. But maybe that is what’s needed to create a community based on honesty and caring without any conditions attached?

So who’s entitled to a meaningful and worthwhile life – a life of hope and opportunity where relationships play an integral part? A selected few or everyone without exception? How can we dare to play a part in that?

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Darkness Visible

July 3, 2008

A few weeks ago I was in the library searching for something or other and in my travels came across this wee gem of a book which I’d recommend to anyone interested in mental illness, especially depression.

In the eighty four pages of Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, William Styron describes his descent into depression through reflection on melancholia, despair, physical ailments, social phobia, alcohol, therapy, hospitalisation and eventual recovery. He gives an extremely moving account of his preparation for suicide, feeling like an observer to an oncoming disaster in an almost theatrical fashion. His attempts to write a farewell note seemed too ridiculous for they sounded either pompous or comical so he tore up all his efforts and resolved to “go out in silence”.

“Late one bitterly cold night, when I knew that I could not possibly get myself through the following day, I sat in the living room of the house bundled up against the chill; something happened to the furnace. My wife had gone to bed and I have forced myself to watch the tape of a movie in which a young actress, who had been in a play of mine, was cast in a small part. At one point in the film … the characters moved down the hallway of a music conservatory, beyond the walls of which, from unseen musicians, came a contralto voice, a sudden soaring passage from the Brahms Alto Rapsody.

This sound which, like all music – indeed, like all pleasure – I had been numbly unresponsive to for months, pierced my heart like a dagger, and in a flood of swift recollection I thought of all the joys the house had known: the children who had rushed through its rooms, the festivals, the love and work, the honestly earned slumber, the voices and the nimble commotion, the perennial tribe of cats and dogs and birds … all this I realised was more than I could ever abandon, even as what had set out so deliberately to do was more than I could inflict on those memories and upon those, so close to me, with whom the memories were bound. And just as powerfully I realised I could not commit this desecration on myself. I drew upon some last gleam of sanity … “

Eloquent and straightforward. Enjoy.

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Monday’s Bingo

July 1, 2008

Yippee! I’ve passed and second year is still almost over!

I find it a little strange sometimes that I can get such good results. I’m sure someone is going to contact me to say there’s been a blunder, a huge mistake, a bit of a mix-up but so far it appears not so I smile. Now those who know me know that I hate boasting and am more inclined to understate my achievements than to shout about them from the rooftops. This is my way even though I wish I was different sometimes. Maybe it’s the result of a Presbyterian upbringing and the fact that praise was always hard to come by in our household or maybe it’s just a personality thing. Who knows and it’s not important. What’s important is I felt really good about myself and am pleased that the hard work is continuing to pay off. I’m sure family and friends believe that I’m taking the phrase ‘if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well’ to the extreme. No? Thanks for your help and support anyway x

Then I had an odd afternoon when I dropped in on a drop-in group specifically for people recovering from mental ill-health. Nothing odd in that you might say, especially for a student nurse specialising in mental health and you’d be right. In essence it’s not odd at all. But when the bingo started I was transported to a certain scene in a certain film. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry quite frankly and left feeling a bit deflated by the whole experience even though the participants were very nice, staff extremely welcoming and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Nothing wrong with bingo you might think and, again, you’d be right. What am I getting at? I’m not really sure. I spoke to my mentor about it today and questioned the appropriateness of my reaction in a conscientious reflective student kind-of-a-way. Contrary to my thinking she understood what I meant, asking if I saw it as a step backwards instead of forwards. I’m sure that’s what I saw – something from the past – a stereotypical collection of people doing a stereotypical type thing in a stark hall absent of any warmth and I guess that shocked me slightly in 2008. I wondered if this is the best we can do?  I’m not sure what I think.

What I know is they enjoy it, it’s not about me is it, it’s about those that turn up week after week because it’s bingo. Good for them.

Enough said. Move on.