Pastor’s Pen

‘God of Surprises’

Dear Friends,

Do you ever wake up thinking of a friend you’ve not seen for a while? That’s what happened to me this morning. His name is Inderpal Chopra Singh, he lives in Colorado Springs. We first met in Edinburgh when he was studying computer science, and I was working at the Edinburgh University Sport Centre. After Inder returned to North India, I had the opportunity to visit him on my return home from seeing family in New Zealand. That was quite a trip. My cousins in New Zealand were dairy farmers and it was good to meet another part of the family and to experience the indigenous Māori culture. After this trip, I returned home exhausted from my travels with many memories to last a lifetime. However, on hearing he had moved to Colorado Springs and got married, I had to visit him again.


Every journey has highlights and this one was no less spectacular. We went to see a college American football game between the US Air Force Academy and Rice University on a scorching spring day in March. On one evening, we went to a French restaurant called ‘Chez Pierre’. It was essential to eat there because its founder also had a restaurant in Falkirk where I lived at the time. But even more memorable was a concert performed by the Flying Wranglers. What made the experience so special was that we did not expect them to be a gospel band. The event was billed as a Campfire Experience; a simple meal of beans and other campfire fayre, and the music was a wonderful surprise.


I believe it was Francis Bacon who said, “Travel broadens the mind”. But we must be open-minded and humble to receive the wisdom and enlightenment that other cultures and travelling experiences offer.


We did not know what to expect from our campfire evening, but it was the element of surprise that made it the best memory of all.


Gerard Hughes wrote a book called ‘God of Surprises’ and when we open hearts and minds to God, we will find our potential to be transformed in exciting and challenging ways. Perhaps this will be a book for our Book Group’s future attention one day.

Pastor Cliff

Storytime

Dear Friends,

Once the children are in their pajamas and the teeth have been brushed, we settle down on the floor for the bedtime stories. Each one can choose a book and provided I am not too tired, we read until all are done. Sometimes, I may begin to nod off during the reading and I will be nudged back to consciousness. This is my favorite time of day, after all the running around is over, we sit down and share these tales. Often the simplest and the oldest ones are still the best. One of our family favorites is ‘Goodnight Moon’ by Margaret Wise Brown. Its comforting words and rhythms gently rock us into a peaceful place, just as if we were sitting in that rocking chair occupied by the old woman saying, “Hush”.

 

Another favorite is ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ which I had learned in primary school as a song. The book, however, delivers a much more poignant message and a tear often comes to my eye as poor puff is left alone when his friend grows up and stops coming to visit. But the great thing is that that same friend tells his daughter about Puff and the story ends on a high note again with a new friend who comes to play.

My third and final favorite story is the ‘Velveteen Rabbit’. This is about a cuddly toy that is so loved it becomes real. It’s also a tear-jerker, so keep your tissues handy. If you miss these stories, there’s nothing to stop you treating yourself from the library or your bookstore. Or, better still come on over to my place and you can fill in for me at story time. I promise they’ll love it!

 

Increasingly, our kids opt for ‘The Children’s Bible’ and they ask for a story about Jesus, Noah’s Ark or Jonah and the Whale. It is interesting that all three characters are featured in stories that feature remarkable weather events. Let’s hope the brook across the road doesn’t flood again or I’ll be asked if I know how to build an ark. When that day comes, we will get serious about teaching them about the power of prayer.

Pastor Cliff

Brief Encounters

Dear Friends,
It began in the school car park!


I was dropping our daughter off at pre-school and got
talking with one of the other dads about getting our children
signed up for his recreational basketball sessions. Well, one
thing led to another, and after I let it slip that I had played a
little in high school and done a coaches’ course at college,
we agreed that I might be able to help him coach next winter
when they start up again.


While we were still talking, one of the mums arrived and she
heard me asking about when to sign up our kids for spring
soccer. Her husband coaches that, so it looks like we’ve got
the soccer covered now as well.


Isn’t it amazing how while we are standing around chatting,
that opportunities arise to make connections or learn about
something we need or can do to help other people?


I wonder if you have noticed that these chances are
becoming fewer because of all those times we shut out the
world with headphones, blue tooth earpieces or go to our
mobile phones when we are in waiting rooms and lines.


During this season of Epiphany as we learn what it means to
be a disciple of Christ, let us remember that as we are
discipled by Jesus, we are called to reach out to other people
as we point the way to Him. It is the human connection
through brief encounters at the crossroads and way points
in life that God uses us to share the good news of the gospel
of Jesus Christ. Now, that is exciting, for suddenly a whole
world of opportunity opens up when we put our phones
away to realize the needs of the people around us.

Pastor Cliff

Awake, O Sleeper, Arise

Dear Friends,

“5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.”

1 Thessalonians 5:5-6

 

When searching for inspiration, I often turn to the letters of St. Paul. This week I turned up 1 Thessalonians chapter 5.

 

You may have heard in the news media about ‘woke’ and ‘wokeness’. And recently, it has come under attack from the far right. And until last year, I had never heard of it. But this phenomenon of awareness has its roots in the scripture of the Old and New Testament. The concept of being asleep to our suffering and that of the masses of downtrodden and abused in our society is as sinful as the perpetrators of such crimes against humanity of which the litany is far too long.

 

“And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”” Matthew 8:25

 

As I grew up in and around , Scotland I was oblivious to suffering caused by humanity. But my child’s consciousness of man’s inhumanity to man was brought to the fore through church campaigns for hunger and famine relief and the plight of refugees. When I was 5 years old, our new neighbors were an Indian family who had fled the Idi Amin regime in Uganda. By the age of 12 we were allowed to watch historical footage and dramas about the Holocaust and World Wars. At High school, we learned about the Black Civil Rights Movement and the life and murder of Dr Martin Luther King jr.

 

We were no strangers to war stories from my mother and her family because every family had experienced the tragedy of war. But nothing could have prepared me for the shock that I experienced on witnessing the horrors of slavery as portrayed in the TV series Roots. About the same time, we were learning about Apartheid in South Africa and the awareness of this racial injustice was equally eye-opening and a cause of outrage to realize that it was still happening in our own lifetime.

 

Mine was a growing awareness of social and geo-political injustice across the globe and not least by my own small country which had once called itself Great and inflicted the British Empire on the world.

 

And so, ‘woke’ and ‘wokeness’ for me is about awareness of preventable suffering and injustice in our society and in the world. It is what the Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire described as ‘conscientization’. And what gave rise to Liberation Theology in South America from the mid 20th Century onwards with people like the Peruvian priest, Gustavo Gutierrez.

 

So, let us all continue to wake up and stay awake, for it is our Christian duty. And encourage each other in acts of prayer and protest for the good of all God’s children.

 

Pastor Cliff