Archive for the ‘family’ Category

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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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the great outdoors

July 30, 2008

Monday was such a beautiful day. When we set off for camping in Keswick we were hopeful that the next day would be much the same. A good day for walking was what we wanted and I was so looking forward to returning to Cat Bells. Alas, the British weather let us down and so we packed up yesterday morning in the rain and headed for a cup of tea and a scone (resisted temptation of big fat cake!) followed by a roam around the shops. Ah the excitement of it all was almost too much! But seriously, I love Keswick, it’s one of my favourite places and even in the rain I’m never disappointed.

The only downside for me was the usual onset of insomnia around midnight, the endless trips to the toilet, someone in the next tent snoring and then to top it all a particularly bad hair day which kept getting worse!!!

Can’t wait till Saturday when we’ll be going back for more of the same! Ah the great outdoors … ye cannae beat it!

Lake Derwentwater … exquisite.

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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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discussing broccoli

March 14, 2008

“I’m not really that interested in broccoli” says Jack, age 5.