Thought’s & Prayers

 

 

 1st June 2020

Dates

“That, Sire, is a question of dates.”

Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, as quoted by Duff Cooper in ‘Talleyrand’

I was quite shocked when I turned a page in my calendar yesterday to find that every date in this month was completely blank. I know that June contains important things in our family – our wedding anniversary, my wife’s birthday, our eldest daughter’s wedding anniversary, for example – and it doesn’t need a calendar to mark the significance of these. But meetings, events, plans, concerts, holidays, visits, deadlines, which would normally fill a calendar, were all absent.

April and May had things written in, from way back – regular appointments, one-off happenings, individual plans, shared events – but, one by one, these had gone by the board as our lockdown continued. But here was the first month with absolutely nothing … What a shocker!

How easy it can be to find we are constrained by dates. And, on the flip-side, how difficult it is to build flexibility into our lives. If this crisis has taught me anything, it’s that, while plans are important and organising my time still matters, when I remove all flexibility, something is very wrong. I was shocked to see all those blank dates. But there was a little niggling voice saying: “Here’s a fresh start, some spaces in your life, an empty calendar. What would you really like to fill it with, and are you going to leave enough blank dates to make sure your life is in balance?”

John Gillespie Magee, in his poem High Flight, says this:

And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Perhaps if I leave myself enough “untrespassed” space in my life, I might be more aware of the hand of God touching me!

A prayer for today

God of all of my life, give me purpose in my busyness.

Show me the wisdom of leaving spaces which can yet be sanctified.

Let me be aware of your blessing and gentle touch in the stillness.

Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

1ST June 2020

God of Love and God of Hope

Like the children of Israel we’ve travelled in the wilderness these past weeks but we have so much to be thankful for – comfortable homes. Friends, family, some of us have loving spouses. If we’ve been separated from family these past few weeks may we now appreciate their value and love even more as we reconnect. Father in You we have hope and we give thanks for Your servant Martin who gave us all such a wonderful message of hope yesterday. Give us the courage now to stride forward in that hope remembering that the Church of Scotland has left the building, going out into the world – and not looking back.

We have hope, Lord and for those who are sick we ask for the hope of Your healing power. For those who are dying we pray for the hope of an eternity with You and for the bereaved the hope of Your loving and enfolding comfort.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 

31st May 2020

Spirit

“Ah! Sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found thee. Ah! I know at last the secret of it all …”

Rida Johnson Young and Victor Herbert, Sweet Mystery of Life

These lines, from a song by Jeannette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, came to back to mind as today approached. For this is Pentecost, Whit Sunday, when the Christian Church celebrates the descent of the Spirit of God on the first disciples – a day of one of life’s sweet mysteries.

The Book of Acts suggests something new being given to the disciples – a rushing wind; tongues of fire; languages people can understand; a word of hope for all – to enable them to do special things. But didn’t the disciples already have what they needed? Hadn’t Jesus seen something in them they didn’t know they had? But they needed to open themselves to a new energy and purpose. Think of a silent radio … silent, yes, but it still has the parts needed to make it work. All that’s missing is a source of power – a battery or mains connection – so it can sound as it was designed to. This was what the disciples found on Pentecost, the ability to believe in themselves, a confidence-inspiring gift, a new power from an unfathomable source that gave them a voice.

Did they know where that Spirit came from? I suspect not, just as I can’t really grasp how mains electricity or battery-power actually works. But do I worry about that? Not at all, when all I’m concerned about is whether it makes things do what as they were made to do. The Spirit of God made the disciples burst into life – big time! It made them work as they were designed to. They had all the right parts. They just needed to believe they could be the disciples they were called to be.

Where your spirit comes from may be a “sweet mystery of life”. But, on Pentecost Sunday, might I suggest you stop trying to figure it out, and be pleased that we can see its effect on your life?

A prayer for today

“Spirit of God, unseen as the wind, gentle as is the dove;

Teach us the truth and help us believe; show us the Saviour’s love.”

Margaret V Old An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

31st May 2020

Triune God

This is the Day when the Spirit came – we will rejoice and be glad in it! The day of Pentecost is here and today the Church of Scotland unites in one service to celebrate. Rejoice!

This is the day when the Spirit came – we will rejoice and be glad in it! Our nhs staff are committed, dedicated and amazing. Our emergency services are compassionate and caring. Our supermarket workers keep us fed and watered. Rejoice!

This is the Day when the Spirit came – we will rejoice and be glad in it! People are still sick but You bring Your healing and wholeness to them. People are still dying but You walk the road with them. Many are still bereaved but You are there to comfort and sustain them. Rejoice!

This is the day when the Spirit came – we will rejoice and be glad in it! We have so much to be thankful for and to rejoice about let us all enjoy this day of Pentecost.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

This is the Day when the Spirit came – we WILL rejoice and be glad in it!

Evelyn Robertson

30th May 2020

Children

“When the voices of children are heard on the green

And laughing is heard on the hill.”

William Blake, Songs of Innocence

I’m missing the voices of children: the excited squeals sweeping across the playground when morning break begins in the local school; the noisy chatter at the end of the school day as children rush to the adults at the gate; the excitement of little ones playing games in our church hall; the gurgling of a new-born, or even the screaming of a hungry baby.

Yes, I’m missing the voices of children.

My granny would say, “Little children should be seen and not heard”. But my heart says: “Let the children have their voice”, for in them we have all our hopes and dreams.

In the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, there is this little story:

People were bringing little children to Jesus . . . but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant . . . “Let the little children come to me; don’t stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these . . .” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

How would I have reacted? Be one of the men dismissing the folk whose children might disrupt things; be someone bringing their kids along just to see what was happening; stand scratching my head at this kingdom of God stuff? I have no idea. But I’d like to think that in welcoming the voices of children, I would have felt welcomed. I’d like to think that when the children were blessed, I would have felt blessed too.

Children are our future. Let their voices be heard, voices guided and nurtured, strengthened and clarified by every single one of us who has ever given thanks for a child or felt blessed by their presence.

Oh, how I’m missing the voices of children …

***

A Prayer for today

Loving God, we are your children.

You welcome us, and bring us close.

Let us rejoice with children’s voices

as we, coming to you,

know we are blessed.

Amen.

***

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

30th May 2020

“Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall rise up on wings like eagles.”

Loving Father God

Renew our strength and let us soar like eagles as we wait with excitement and a wee bit patience for the coming of Pentecost. Let this season be a time of renewal and refreshment for all of us, a reminder of your boundless love and all You have done for us. Help us to be patient and not try to go too quickly as the lockdown restrictions are eased.

We give thanks for the work of the salvation Army this morning and that they were able to feed a 94 year-old lady in Govan who had gone 5 days without food. Lord help us all to feed the poor and vulnerable in society and help them to ask for help.

We give thanks for the gift of technology which will allow Martin’s service for Pentecost to go out to homes throughout the Kirk. May all who hear it listen and rejoice.

Healing and comforting God, heal the sick, be with the dying and comfort the bereaved.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 29th May 2020

Injustice

“In the little world in which children have their existence … there is nothing so finely perceived, and so finely felt, as injustice.”

 Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Injustice, “so finely perceived and so finely felt”, should not be confined to the “little world in which children have their existence”, but must be a focus for every civilised society and every rational individual within it

.

Oscar Joseph Slater was a victim of a miscarriage of justice in 1909, and was sentenced to death for the murder of an elderly spinster in Glasgow, though the sentence was commuted to hard labour for life. It was twenty years before he was freed, the efforts of many journalists, lawyers and writers – including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – ensuring that justice prevailed. After nineteen years in prison, Slater’s conviction was quashed on appeal in 1928. He married, and lived out his life in Ayr where he repaired and sold antiques. He died aged 76.

Some injustices have the weight of important people and public opinion behind them to put them right. But many remain uncovered, unchallenged or unpopular. It’s not for me to list such injustices, for the catalogue would be a long one indeed. But it is for all of us to highlight injustice when we find it, to put our weight behind righting such wrongs, and to encourage those in positions of authority to use their influence to ensure justice prevails. The prophet Amos (5:24), railing against the hypocrisy and double standards of his religious and civic society, said:

Let justice role on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream

.

If hypocrisy and double-standards are found to be damaging to the least of our society, let us face that injustice. If more Oscar Slaters are languishing in their own kind of imprisonment because of the injustices that have fallen on them, do they not have the right to be set free?

A prayer for today

Loving God, your Son called us to focus on justice, righteousness and love,

and to care for the poor and downtrodden. Help us to heed that call, wherever we are and whatever injustices we uncover.

 Amen

.

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

29th May 2020

Sing to the Lord with a joyful voice!

Loving Father,

Today we have many reasons to sing with a joyful voice. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the easing of lockdown begins – and the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost is nigh.

 Give us joy as we enjoy all these gifts which have come from You. As we enjoy the warmth of the sunshine let us keep ourselves protected with sunscreen. Let’s stop and listen to the birdsong and appreciate it. Let’s abide by the rules as the lockdown restrictions are eased and this year let’s feel the coming of the Spirit, the release from fear, being able to live in confidence because Your Comforter has come among just as it did over two thousand years ago to the early Followers. Father God, You are good.

 We give thanks that the virus seems to be under control the numbers being admitted to hospital are dropping, the numbers in ICU are falling and there are fewer deaths.

 But, father this means that we still ask You to lay Your mighty healing hand on the sick, comfort the dying and strengthen, sustain and enfold those who mourn. Be with all who struggle at this time in whatever way. And above all keep us singing to You with a joyful voice.

 Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

 Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 28th May 2020

Redemption

“Hail, thou ever blessèd morn!

Hail, redemption’s happy dawn.”

Edward Caswall, See, amid the winter’s snow

My granny was a regular user of a pithy phrase. As well as familiar proverbs such as Look before you leap, All’s well that ends well, A stitch in time saves nine, she had her own ready supply:

You give with one hand and you get back with the other.

It’s no loss what a friend gets.

and lots more besides. I got the significance of most of them – especially when I heard them so often. But some were puzzling to a young ear.

I discovered a discarded alarm-clock in a kitchen-table drawer. It had luminous numbers and hands. (Under the bed was the darkest spot to see it glow in the dark. Wonderful!) I was told it had a broken spring and “wouldn’t go anymore”. But my granny would always add, “but that clock is at the right time twice a day.” And, of course, despite the hands never moving, that was absolutely true. It was “right twice a day”.

My granny was one of the world’s philosophers. A broken clock was not useless. There was something in it that made it unique, worth keeping. Oh, I know she was trying to amuse, and intrigue, a small boy, but her epithet contained this truth. Nothing – indeed, no-one – is totally useless. There will be a redemptive feature somewhere, something that can be a pointer to wholeness. Even a broken clock could be restored.

An old clock: fun for a child; numbers glowing in the dark; a chance for your granny to be witty; hands that show the right time twice a day … So, what are the signs of restoration we might find in the things or people others might consider to be useless and beyond redemption?

A prayer for today

Loving God, accept me and believe in me.

Even when I’m stuck, see uniqueness in me and the possibility of restoration.

May your redeeming love point me to wholeness.

 Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

28th May 2020

Loving God

You are all powerful and when everything is in chaos and disarray we need to be still and know that You are God. Be still in the silence and feel your enfolding presence.

We give You thanks for the technology which has resulted in test, track and trace and we pray that this will allow us to move on from this pandemic.

We need to be still and know that You are god, that You are in control and You will comfort the bereaved, heal the sick and give us direction.

Be still and know that You are God and bask in the serenity and peace that You alone bring.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 

27th May 2020

Silence

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking,

but he who restrains his lips is prudent.”

Bible, Proverbs 10:19

A recent article in The Oldie magazine begins: As an enclosed Carmelite nun, I have been self-isolating for the last thirty-seven years. Now, there’s an opening sentence to catch the attention! The writer, Sister Teresa, goes on to talk about the Carmelite order, which follows the “Rule of St Albert” written for them in 1226. But I was most interested in her reflections on silence. We keep silence, she tells us, unless speech is necessary for our work, explaining that Carmelites are urged to keep silence because “sin is not wanting where there is much talk” (The Rule of St Albert, paraphrasing Proverbs 10:19).

The 19th century Scottish poet and hymn writer, James Montgomery, begins his hymn on prayer with this stanza:

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed; the motion of a hidden fire that trembles in the breast.

If prayer is, as Montgomery suggests, “the soul’s sincere desire”, why do we focus so much on the “uttered” part and struggle with “unexpressed” prayers? In Romans 8:26 Paul says: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. I’m glad that “sighs too deep for words” are also our prayers. We might do well, therefore, to “restrain our lips” as the Book of Proverbs suggests …

Sister Teresa assures us that: Carmelites do of course pray for the world, for four and a half hours every day … and we never watch television. Silent prayers in communion with God will always be enough.

A prayer for today

Listening God, today I can offer you no words. So I pray you will hear what is on my heart, and all that hides in the secret places of my silence.

Amen. An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

27th May 2020

 Loving and Healing Father

We stand in Your presence awed by Your boundless love and grace. We have so much to be thankful for and we acknowledge that everything that deserved our gratitude comes from You.

We give thanks for the work of our parish ministers and ask that You will strengthen and sustain them through this pandemic crisis. As lockdown eases and they see opportunities for face to face pastoral work help them not to become overburdened by taking on too much – and many already have. Father we don’t need burnt out ministers at this time so help them to keep the work life balance in check.

We give thanks for the Church of England vicar who was brave enough yesterday to ask about a refund of fines for those who were caught travelling trying to get childcare. May this now be considered and actioned by government.

Father heal the sick and comfort and console the bereaved and give everyone the strength to comply with the rules and regulations.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

26th May 2020

Connections

“There is a history in all men’s lives …”

William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2

In George Macleod, a biography of the founder of the Iona Community, Ron Ferguson recounts George’s oft-repeated tale of his first visit to Iona when he was nine years old. His father, George would relate, insisted he talk with a Mrs McCormack. “She’s eighty-five,” he was told, “and you are to shake hands with her.” When George had dutifully done so, his father said, “Now, I will tell you why I asked you to do that. When she was nine years old this lady shook hands with a Mrs Campbell who was then eighty-five years old, and Mrs Campbell, when she was nine years of age, stood on exactly this point on the jetty and watched the boat going down the Sound of Iona taking Bonnie Prince Charlie back to France.” And George would add with a flourish, “Now isn’t that wonderful! Two handshakes away from Bonnie Prince Charlie.”

In the mid-1980s, when George had passed eighty-five and my son, James, wasn’t yet nine, George took him with other children down to the same Iona jetty, and, with enthusiasm, told them his story. He then shook hands with the somewhat bemused children, who heard these immortal words: “Isn’t it wonderful! On exactly this point on the jetty, you are only three handshakes away from Bonnie Prince Charlie.” Three handshakes away from the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion! Now, there’s a thing!

But George was right! We should never be disconnected from what’s gone before, floating about in our present era as if we had no links with anything or anyone else. We’d like to think we know it all, that our generation have “got it all sussed”. Yet this present crisis gives the lie to that. So let’s value our connections with people and events of the past. Let’s shake hands with history and rediscover the truth that we are closer to our ancestors and their stories than we might realise.

A prayer for today

God of all time, bind me this day with my Communion of Saints,

that I might serve as they have served, love as they have loved,

and be ever strengthened by their closeness, wisdom and example.

 Amen.

 

26th May 2020

God of Justice and Compassion

You love us so much – You loved us enough to send Your only beloved Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. What a gift and what love!

We pray this morning for the Church of Scotland and specifically for the Assembly Trustees. We are grateful that they have agreed to undertake a difficult remit. Lord give them the courage, strength and wisdom to fulfil that remit with grace, compassion, justice, mercy and humility. Let their focus always be on You and the proclamation of Your gospel reaching out to the world in a missional way. Life is even more difficult for the Kirk in the present climate, ministers are struggling with all sorts of issues – personal health, increased workload, learning new skills, creating new ways of worship and feeling unable to pastor their flock properly. Father, let them all feel enfolded in Your loving arms knowing that You are with them through it all.

We give thanks that the death rate from Covid19 is still falling but one death from this virus is one too many so again we ask Your comfort on all who are bereaved.

Equally the numbers falling sick are decreasing and we give thanks for that. Heal those who are sick and let the majority continue to follow the rules laid down to prevent a second spike in the number of people contracting this virus.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 25th May 2020

Simplicity

“O sancta simplicitas.” “O holy simplicity.”

Jan Huss, Bohemian philosopher, preacher and reformer

Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland is a special piece of music for me. Written in 1944 as a ballet, Copland scored it as an orchestral suite the following year. The most evocative part comes when a solo clarinet introduces five variations on the 19th century Shaker tune, Simple Gifts.

’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free;

’tis the gift to come down where we ought to be;

and when we find ourselves in the place just right,

’twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,

to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed;

to turn, turn will be our delight,

till by turning, turning we come ’round right

.

This may, of course, be theological. “Keep it simple,” God could be saying, “Be what you ought to be. Find your place. Don’t be ashamed.” But it’s more basic than that. The words simply accompany a tune as instructions to the dancers. When the dance is done properly, each dancer will end up where they began – they’ll “come ‘round right.”

Where will you end up when all of this is over? What will be your “valley of love and delight”? No one knows. So, let’s concentrate on the “simple gifts”, especially if the dance becomes too complicated. Ask yourself, “What simple gift can I offer today as my contribution to a world that needs to come round right?” and “What are the simple gifts I can see and value in others, when I haven’t been willing to before?”

“When true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed” – today or any other day of our lives.

A prayer for today

Ever present God: as I keep things simple, help me to know that’s OK;

as I learn new steps, help me to turn and turn in the right way for you;

when I next link arms with others, help me to value the steps of their dance.

 Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

25th May 2020

Gracious and Forgiving God

We give You thanks for Your love and for Your grace and forgiveness that is freely available to all who are truly penitent. Give us the grace to accept that forgiveness and extend it to others who sin against us – and in doing so sin against You.

We give You thanks for Your love which enfolds us when we are down and uplifts us in times of happiness. You are there for us even when we wander in the wilderness.

Heal those who are sick whether of Coronavirus or something else – sick in body mind or spirit. Comfort all who walk the dark valley because they have lost a loved one.

Be a rod and staff to them on that journey. Be with the people of New Zealand as they recover from yesterday’s earthquake.

Be with all who join the discussions on the zoom call this morning and help us to make our deliberations in accordance with Your will for the greater glory of You through Your church here on earth.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 24th May 2020

Rest

“They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.”

Bible, Isaiah 40:31

Why do tennis players bounce the ball so much before they serve? (They didn’t go through all that malarkey in my young day … I hear some of you say!) Andy Murray was once asked why he did it. Somewhat prosaically he replied, “I just do it because everyone else does it.”

Some players, however, will tell you differently: it steadies the nerves; it helps get the body in the right position for the power of the serve; you need to know how high a particular ball will bounce or travel from the serve itself; it’s about muscle-memory, because doing the same thing over and over again reminds the body what to do next … Or it may just allow some players a moment to catch their breath after a long rally.

In 2006 the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that, in monitoring the heart rates of tennis players, the receiver regularly had a lower heart rate than the server. So, bouncing the ball helps reduce the server’s heart rate in a few seconds, to give the body a better chance to get things right. A few seconds rest … and the body’s in better shape.

The book of Genesis gives us the image of the Creator resting on the seventh day. Christians use their seventh day, a Sunday, as a day in which they give themselves to worship – and to rest. In some cultures and traditions, the day of rest comes with strictures: no work or socialising; engagement in prayerful activities; time to honour the day. But, one way or another, it’s about rest, standing back from the rigours of the week and finding the restoration we need so much.

Rather than going pell-mell from one thing to another, wouldn’t it be better if we took even a few seconds of rest before we serve: calming ourselves down; making time for prayer and reflection; finding some space? Goodness! It looks like the tennis players have got something to teach us after all. Game, set and match to them, don’t you think?

A prayer for today

“O rest in the Lord. Wait patiently for him” – Psalm 37:7

Lord, remind me, please, that when I am at rest, I am resting in you.

 Amen.

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

 

24th May 2020

This is the day that the Lord has made – we will rejoice and be glad in it!

This Ascension Sunday we remember that Jesus returned to You the Father. Rejoice! But we are waiting – waiting for the easing of lockdown, waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We can rejoice in hope. Rejoice!

Father keep us rejoicing in hope that You will carry us through this pandemic as You have on so many other occasions – You set the people free from slavery in Egypt, led them across the Red Sea and eventually into the Promised Land. So You will lead us. Let our Promised Land be one flowing with milk and honey and we pray You will give us the wisdom to maintain it properly. Rejoice!

Many are still sick with this virus – but the numbers are dropping. Rejoice! There are still deaths and we ask your comfort for the bereaved but again the numbers are falling. Rejoice! Keep us focused on beating this virus and prevent its return in a second wave. We can do this – rejoice!

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

This is the day that the Lord has made – we WILL rejoice and be glad in it!

 Amen

Evelyn Robertson

23rd May 2020

Loss

“Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.” Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena

“Why am I so exhausted in this lockdown?” a minister friend asked. And a chaplaincy colleague enquired: “How will we cope when things are back to normal?” Both of these questions are about dealing with loss

.

There is no “back to normal” for us. For anyone who is bereaved, grief brings a yearning for normality. But the only way that kind of normal could return is for the death not to have happened. Yet it has happened. So the journey from the “old normal” into the unknown will be stressful, uncertain, fearful and long – and, at times, completely exhausting. It’s hard work trying to do normal things in different ways.

But there’s another factor too. We know that, in one way or another, there are stages to grief. The order or intensity of these will vary from person to person. For many in the early stages of loss it’s about “tasks”; for some, it’s being manically busy; for others it’s putting a brave face on; for everyone, it’s hard work. Of course we know it’s difficult at the start, but we expect it slowly to get better as the weeks and months go by. And usually it does. So when we hit a flat spot or even a major crash, three, six, nine months on from the death, we fear it’s all gone wrong. But it hasn’t. This is simply facing reality, a necessary acceptance of the permanency of the loss, an acknowledgement that things will be fundamentally different – forever! It’s what the bereavement theorists mean when they refer to “The loss of the assumptive world.”

Two months into our very different way of living, that’s a factor in our exhaustion too, as the reality, the permanency, hits home. And, like bereavement, that may even make us feel worse than we did at the start. So be patient with yourself and others, and take care of yourself. We may not know what normal is any more. But we will adjust to the effects of the loss, even though, like all bereavements, it’s going to take a while.

A prayer for today

Still my anxious soul, Lord. Reveal a glimpse of a new normal through the mists of my pain. Help me to believe that I will find peace and blessings once more.

Amen. An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

23rd May 2020

Loving and Eternal God

We give thanks that at last we have things to look forward to – the easing of lockdown and the coming of Pentecost. It’s good to feel excited and that comes from You. This morning we can give thanks that the weather is dreich and dreadful because it will keep people from breaking the lockdown rules. Father it’s important that the rules are kept and kept by everybody because this virus affects us all. It’s tough that Scotland is behind the rest of the nation in coming out of lockdown but our fervent prayer is that this will be the best thing in the long run.

Bless our care home staff and all who work in the nhs as well as all those frontline workers who are keeping the country fed and moving. We give thanks that there is a request to stop Clap for Carers this Thursday because to continue will make it meaningless and we are too grateful to all of these people to make it so.

We pray for all affected by this virus – those isolating with symptoms, those ill in hospital and of course those who have lost loved ones. Comfort and console all of them enfolding them in Your precious love and care.

We pray for those who have lost loved ones in the plane crash in Pakistan. Be with the authorities as they investigate the cause of the crash.

We think of our Muslim sisters and brothers this weekend as they celebrate Eid the end of the fast of Ramadan. Again let them enjoy the feast without breaking lockdown.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

 Amen

Evelyn Robertson

22nd May 2020

Mistakes

“The man who makes no mistakes does not actually make anything.”

Edward John Phelps, from a speech in The Mansion House, 1889.

Winston Churchill said on one occasion: “All great men make mistakes.” He should have added that making mistakes is not confined to “great men”, because mere mortals are also inclined to make mistakes too.

I decided to make sure that, however long this lockdown lasted, I would have enough to do to stop me being bored. So, I bought some jigsaws on-line. And, sure enough, when they arrived, they more than adequately served their purpose. I found a particularly interesting one on EBay, a picture from The Magic Roundabout, a children’s TV show I loved when I was young. It only cost a few pounds, including postage. A good buy, I reckoned. The jigsaw arrived in the post a few days ago. But what I expected to be a 1000 piece jigsaw turned out to be a children’s puzzle with only 48 pieces. “Aged 4+” it said on the box, and boy, did I feel very childish when I realised my mistake?

We all make mistakes – the great men Churchill was referring to, and mere mortals who buy jigsaws from EBay. We’re all human and prone to getting things wrong. In Romans 7:19 St Paul puts it this way:

I do not do the good I want to do,

but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.

Buying the wrong jigsaw isn’t evil, and I’m only a few pounds down on the deal. But I promise you this – I won’t keep on doing it. I’ll forgive myself, laugh at myself, and even encourage you to laugh at me too. But I’ll learn. I’ll do better. I’ll try never to make the same mistake again

.

Oh, and while I’m writing, would anyone like a Magic Roundabout jigsaw; free to a good home; 48 pieces; suitable for a child aged 4+, preferably one who doesn’t make mistakes?

A prayer for today

Forgiving God … yes, you can laugh at me too because of the mistakes I make.

But I know you’ll also forgive me, and encourage me not to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Amen.

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

22nd May 2020

Loving and Healing Father

The way forward is laid out. It’s not totally clear about what will happen when but slowly and cautiously the lockdown is being eased. Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” and His is the way we should follow so let’s go with the proposed road map to ease the lockdown situation and we give thanks that if all goes well we will be able to celebrate Christmas in our church buildings together as a church family.

Another roadmap is being set out later this morning when the Webinar outlining the radical plan for the Church of Scotland takes place. Lord bless all involved in presenting it and guide Your Church in the way to go.

You are the Way – you are the way to comfort those who mourn; You are the Way to healing for all who are sick and You are the Way to follow to find eternal life.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

 Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 21st May 2020

Boats

“Dance to your daddy, my little babby,

Dance to your daddy, my little lamb;

You shall have a fishy in a little dishy,

You shall have a fishy when the boat comes in.”

 Nursery Rhyme, Vocal Harmony 1806

Why do fishing boats have numbers and letters on the side? Every vessel used for fishing has to be registered with the Marine Coastguard Agency and have a licence from a Local Fisheries Office. A unique registration number is then displayed on the hull, with letters for the “home port”: GY=Grimsby; LT =Lowestoft; PZ=Penzance; and here, LH for Leith. It began in 1786 with the “Ship Registration Act”. Coastguards could track vessels, locate missing boats and keep an eye on smuggling! Nowadays it’s about safety, with regulations governing a boat’s construction, crew accommodation, maintenance of equipment, and the like.

You’ll have heard as often as I have during this crisis something like, “We’re all in the same boat.” I’m not so sure about that. A minister colleague put it differently – and, perhaps, more accurately – recently when he said, “We’re all in the same storm, but we’re in different boats.” We’re not all the same, and we’ll not ride out this storm in the same way.

So, we have to make sure our boat is safe, properly equipped, well-crewed and capable of facing the storm. There’s no registration agency to give us a number or a license for that. So we have to get it right, as best we can, to make sure our boat isn’t overwhelmed. But we also have to be aware of the other boats, the big ones and the little ones, the full-crewed and the single-handers. If we’re in the storm together, like the different fishing boats, in our harbour, we have to help one another.

We’ll all look for our own “fishy in a little dishy” when our boat comes in.

So let’s make sure our boat is safe, and be aware that there are others trying to get safely home too through the same storm.

A prayer for today

Loving God, my boat is small, and the storm is fierce. Keep me safe; give me strength and purpose; help me to believe in my craft; and guide me safely home.

Amen.

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

21st May 2020

Everlasting Father God

Here we are weary of the lockdown. We give thanks that we can come to You when we are weary and in need of a moan and You always listen. But this is not Your fault. We look in hope to later today when the Scottish government will reveal their plans to ease the lockdown and we’ll all feel better.

We pray today for all those affected by Cyclone Amphan in India and Bangladesh. Let the relief agencies be able to go in despite this pandemic and help those made homeless by this further disaster.

Once again, we hear that there are fewer cases of Covid identified, fewer admissions to hospital and the death toll is falling. Praise and thanks to You for this news. Comfort and console those who have lost loved ones as You promised in Jesus. For those who are sick we pray for healing. Again, we pray for those ministers who are struggling – with mental health, with neurological issues and even some with the virus. Touch them with Your mighty healing hand and bring healing and wholeness to them.

As the lockdown release plans are published, we pray that they will be built on the tenets of justice and compassion. We pray that people are still prepared to follow the rules and guidelines and not throw the towel in and give up. We pray for businesses who are struggling and ask that ways will be found to keep them afloat. For those who are facing the reality of unemployment we ask Your blessing and again pray that they will find ways out of it.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 20th May 2020

Heaven

“All this and heaven too.”

Philip Henry, in ‘Life of Mr Philip Henry’ by Matthew Henry

Working in a hospice, I had many conversations about heaven. For some people, it was an unshakeable belief in eternal life; for others, a fear that they would be “judged” harshly and denied heavenly rest; for many, a vague belief but profound hope. But for one lady, it was complete denial.

Winifred had been admitted to the same floor in the hospice where her only son had died two years before. I had met her back then and had been invited to conduct her son’s funeral. So, I was anxious that she was now a patient, particularly because of the association of the hospice with her son’s death. One day, I found her distressed. She told me that her eldest daughter had been comforting her with the assurance that, when she died, she would meet up with her son again in heaven. “Well?” I responded enquiringly, only to hear her reply: “I don’t believe that!” And she elaborated on what was clearly an atheistic understanding of life in which heaven and a belief in eternity did not figure.

This was no time for a doctrinal debate, though she did ask me what I believed myself. But her belief system remained unaltered, and she was still distressed. Then I noticed a framed photograph of her son on her bedside table. Soon we were holding the picture together and she was talking warmly about the son she had lost. “Do you still love him?” I asked. “More than ever before,” she replied, “and I tell him that every day.” “Maybe that’s what really matters,” I responded. ”If you carry the depth of your relationship with your son towards the conclusion of your life, that will be enough. And, if you do, maybe that’s heaven for you here and now, and you can leave what happens after you die to take care of itself.” Winifred smiled for the first time. And as she held the photo of her son to her chest, she whispered, “That’ll do for me.”

A prayer for today

“So do not fear all that is yet to be:

Heaven is close and God is good.”

John L Bell, from “Who is there to understand?”

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

20th May 2020

This is Mental Health Awareness week with a theme of kindness. We give You thanks for all the acts of random kindness people have bestowed on us not just over the last few week but over time. Help us to continue to show kindness to others as we go about our daily lives. The statistic for mental health was once 1 in 4 but it is probably more like 1 in 2 if not 1 in 1 at the moment. Everyone is feeling the stress of lockdown. We give thanks for initiatives such as Clear Your Head as well as the government hub which folk can access if they need advice about their mental health and wellbeing. Help us all to keep our minds as well as our bodies healthy at this time and bring us closer to You to keep our spiritual health intact as well.

We pray for the Scottish government as they prepare to publish their blueprint of the plans to release lockdown tomorrow. May those plans be built on justice, compassion and Your will.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

19th May 2020

Pointing

“Safe bind, safe find.”

A mid-16th century proverb

In Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain describes this early-morning scene: Breakfast over, Aunt Polly had family worship; it began with a prayer built from the ground up with solid courses of Scriptural quotations, welded together with a thin mortar of originality; and from the summit of this she delivered a grim chapter of the Mosaic Law, as from Sinai.

To discover whether Aunt Polly’s worship had any beneficial effect on the normally recalcitrant Tom, you can read Tom Sawyer for yourself. But I’m interested in the “thin mortar” Aunt Polly used.

Any builder will tell you that mortar has to be mixed in proper proportions of sand, cement-dust and water. In my student labouring jobs, “Get the mix right” was a regular instruction, whether with a cement-mixer, or on a board or flat piece of ground. Get it wrong, and there was trouble – usually for me!

Mortar is used to bind things. If it’s too thin, it doesn’t work. And, over time, especially when exposed walls are subject to the vagaries of the weather such as we have here, mortar gets crumbly and falls away. Parts become porous. And if the wall isn’t in actual danger of collapse, there’s the problem of dampness and water penetration. The wall isn’t doing its job. That’s when “pointing” becomes important, as skilled masons carefully strip away the crumbling mortar and replace it with new material that makes the wall fit for purpose. From historic buildings to the garden wall behind my house, new pointing restores the walls.

As we build walls for the future of our church, communities and society, let’s make sure our mortar isn’t too thin! And since it’s more likely that re-pointing will be our task, let’s be bold and strip away the crumbling mortar in our walls of life and faith, and replace it with a binding that will make our future walls fit for purpose for a long while.

A prayer for today

Bind us together, Lord, with strength of purpose and clarity of resolve, that we might build cohesion and compassion into all our future.

 Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

19th May 2020

Loving and Eternal God

As we look around we see trees in bud and the green vibrancy of new life all around us. May the day come soon when we are free to go out to enjoy the wonders of Your creation, a day when we are not just suppressing this virus but have defeated it once and for all with the victory Yours.

We pray for all who are struggling at the moment – mums to be whose babies are small for dates, probably because of the stress of this current situation; people struggling with loneliness with no contact with other human beings; those who have been bereaved and need Your comfort; those who are sick who need Your healing touch and those whose family are sick and in hospital and they can’t visit. Lord we pray that the lockdown will be released and like the early Christians we will know the joy of being released not just from our homes but from fear. Come Holy Spirit come and bring us all the peace which passes all understanding.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

 Amen

Evelyn Robertson

18th May 2020

Loyalty

“The scholar does not consider gold and jade to be precious treasures,

but loyalty and good faith.”

 Confucius, The Ethics of Confucius

If you look through your purse or wallet, I’m sure you’ll find some “loyalty” and “membership” cards, things we carry with us to show we belong to something with other people of like mind: a favourite store; a national football team; a political party. Loyalty matters. But it matters most when we are committed to good relationships with each other.

Two friends got lost in a forest, and they were very scared. So they promised each other that they’d stick together, no matter what. Suddenly, a large bear appeared. As it got closer, one of the friends quickly climbed as high as he could up a big tree. His companion was no use at tree-climbing, so he threw himself on the ground, closed his eyes, held his breath and lay as motionless as possible. “Bears won’t eat dead people,” he thought. Sure enough, the bear came up to where he was lying, sniffed around his head and then trundled away. When the bear was out of sight, the man from the tree climbed down.

“Phew! That was close!” he exclaimed. “But I saw the bear whisper in your ear when you were lying down. What did he say to you?”

“Oh, nothing much,” the friend replied, “apart from warning me to make sure I avoid the company of people who leave their friends alone in times of danger.”

Loyalty is important, especially in times of danger and anxiety, such as we’re going through just now. Thank God, many of us are finding new ways to express our loyalty to people who are important to us. So, when all of this is over, let’s remember to stay loyal. Keep telling people you love them. Keep reminding people they really matter. After all, loyalty’s not just for difficult times. It’s for all the time, isn’t it?

A prayer for today

Loving God, your loyalty to me is unfailing; may my response be worthy of your love.

My loyalty to family and friends really matters; may it always be so.

Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

18th May 2020

Gracious and Merciful God

At the start of a new week we seem to be heading in the right direction. The number of new cases is falling, numbers in ICU are stable, deaths are all falling and the numbers being discharged from hospital are increasing. Thank You, Father. We may hear in the next couple of days how the lock-down will be eased. As thoughts turn to how to get the economy going let those plans be based on justice, mercy and Your will as opposed to the idolatry of wealth where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and more vulnerable. Let those making decisions remember it is Your economy and so their decisions need to be in accordance with Your will.

We remember our dentists today – they are unable to do any routine work for even a simple check-up could put their lives at risk. But some have gone to work in the hubs set up to provide emergency treatment and for that we give You thanks. Others have asked to be redeployed to work on help lines or assist in whatever way to help and support the front-line staff.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

17th May 2020

Emergency

“A man’s mind will very generally refuse to make itself up

until it is driven and compelled by emergency.”

Anthony Trollope, Ayala’s Angel

This past week has been our annual Christian Aid Week in the UK. Many people would have been doing door-to-door collections, running fund-raising events, joining in sponsorship challenges and accepting donations. But not this year. We’ve had to change how we normally express our commitment to Christian Aid because of the restrictions on us. The needs of the poor, however, don’t change one bit, nor does the commitment of charities to alleviate poverty and suffering. So, Christian Aid still needs our commitment, and not just for one week either.

Christian Aid has an “Emergency Coronavirus Appeal”. But all of its work stems from emergencies. And because of limitations on fund-raising, it’s facing its own emergency too. Its strap-line this year is:

Love never fails. Coronavirus impacts all of us. But love unites us all.

Expressions of that love must surely not be limited by time or circumstances. If “love never fails”, we have to ensure it never fails the people who need it the most. So, unashamedly, as Christian Aid Week comes to an end, or fades from the memory for this year, or, perhaps, hasn’t been in our thoughts at all, I urge you to think about its work. There’s a lot you can absorb from https://www.christianaid.org.uk, including reference to sending a personalised e-Envelope to family and friends to further publicise Christian Aid’s work and to encourage more people to consider donating. Please have a look. Please offer support.

Covid-19 is an emergency. Christian Aid has an emergency. Its work is “compelled by emergency”. But the poor and marginalised should always be our emergency. Some things will never change.

A prayer for today

Loving God, we thank you for the work of Christian Aid. We pray that, in our personal emergencies, we will be more aware of the constant emergencies others face, and for all those who seek to alleviate their distress and suffering.

 Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

17th May 2020

This is the day which the Lord has made – we will rejoice and be glad in it!

We have a newly installed Moderator – Rejoice!

Martin’s Christian aid Quiz last night was really good fun – and raised money for Christian Aid – Rejoice!

The death rate figures continue to drop – Rejoice!

Yet people are still dying, people are putting yellow hearts in windows as a sign of mourning. We rejoice knowing that You are there to comfort them. Hugs from family and friends may be lacking but Your arms are always there hugging us lovingly.

Some are still sick so we ask Your healing touch upon them.

This is the Sabbath day and we come to worship You – Rejoice!

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

This is the day which the Lord has made – we will rejoice and be glad in it!

 Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 16th May 2020

Young

“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24

I have such an eclectic taste in music I would be hard-pressed to list my top-ten albums or individual tracks. It would have to be a top-one-hundred, I think. But somewhere close to a Number 1 on any list for me would be the song Forever Young by the Bob Dylan. If you want the definitive performance (a personal opinion, of course) look for the version by Joan Baez. Simply wonderful … The song contains these lyrics:

May God bless and keep you always; may your wishes all come true; May you always do for others and let others do for you;

May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung; May you stay forever young.

I was in the USA just before my 40th birthday. As a personal pilgrimage, I travelled to Atlanta, Georgia, to the grave of Martin Luther King. Standing alone before the tomb in the early morning light I was shaken to the core to be reminded that Martin Luther King died when he was 39. And I wept as I asked myself what I had done with the thirty-nine years of my life, and what was I going to do with the rest. Emily Bronte died aged 30; Alexander the Great, 33; Ayrton Senna, 34; Mozart, 35; Princess Diana, 36; George Gershwin, 38.

Perhaps I should have Joan Baez singing Forever Young at the start of every day. For my prayer is that through our years we all try to stay “forever young”: young in the excitement of our faith; young as we say the words “I love you” and hear them said to us, as if for the first time; young in the hopes and dreams a new day brings; young in our rejoicing in the gift of life; young as we build our ladders to the stars. “May God bless and keep you always … and may you stay forever young.”

A prayer for today

Keep me young, loving God: that I might know you as my mother, trust you as my father; share with others as a brother; and be held by you as your child.

Amen.

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

16th May 2020

Loving God

Today we give thanks for Colin and Ruth Sinclair as they return to Palmerston Place Church after a year in the Moderator’s role and we ask Your blessing on Martin fair and his wife Elaine as they take over the role. Bless Martin’s congregation in Arbroath as they look forward in faith without Martin at the helm. Be with those involved in the media and communications team responsible for streaming the service from the Assembly rooms. Let there be no hitches or glitches and may Martin have a productive year as Moderator.

Today marks the end of Christian Aid Week and tomorrow many of us would be having a Big Breakfast or a soup lunch so despite the fact it won’t be at church let us still make a donation to the work of Christian Aid in third world countries also hit by Covid19.

We pray for the family of Joyce Lin, killed in an air crash as she was working with MAF delivering Covid 19 tests to Indonesia. Comfort all who worked with Joyce in MAF and bless the work they do in Your name.

As ever Lord we pray for all who have lost loved ones whether to Covid 19 or other causes. Comfort console and sustain them. Be with those who are sick and bring healing and wholeness into their lives.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

 Amen

Evelyn Robertson

15th May 2020

Gracious and Ever Loving God

We have so much to give You thanks for even in the dark times where we find ourselves. A test to check antibodies is now available. Help governments to negotiate an appropriate price from the manufacturer. The number of deaths is going down and the number being discharged from hospital is going up. And yet there is still darkness. We pray this morning for the Isle of Skye, a close community reeling from the outbreak of Covid19 in a care home, now under NHS management. Father comfort and be with this this community in its darkness.

Our ministers are dealing with their own challenges – how to pastor their people when they cannot do it face to face, cannot offer the hugs to those who are grieving, conducting funerals in restricted circumstances and conducting funerals which would be difficult at the best of times because someone has chosen to end their life. So much more difficult in these dark times. Father, You know who these people are – strengthen and sustain parish ministers giving them a the creativity to pastor their people in new ways and maybe not just with a phone call. Help them to look after themselves so that they are able to do what You have called them to do. We pray for all families who are bereaved at this time but today we think of those who have tragically lost a loved one because they have ended their own life. In their devastation and feelings of abandonment help them to know that You are with them as a rock and staff to comfort them. Let them see in the darkness the glory of Your light.

For all who are sick we ask for Your mighty healing touch to bring healing and wholeness into their lives.

This should be a time of excitement and anticipation in the Church of Scotland as we prepare for General Assembly- but not this year. Today we ask Your blessing on the Principal Clerk as he opens the proceedings, with Colin Sinclair and his wife Ruth as Colin’s year as Moderator draws to a close and he returns to his Edinburgh congregation and of course with Martin Fair and his wife Elaine as they take up the mantle. Be with the people of Martin’s congregation in Arbroath and give them the courage and strength to keep going forward in faith.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 14th May 2020

Colours

“By their fruits ye shall know them.”

Matthew 7:20

It’s confession time … I’ve been a supporter of Glasgow Rangers Football Club all my life. I had no choice, really. My granny’s cousin had played for Rangers in the 1930s and 40s, and the whole family were steeped in Rangers folk-lore. I’ve never been a regular at games, but, when I go, I make sure I wear my colours (mostly blue, with a bit of white and red) so no one’s in any doubt which team I’m following. It’s what you do!

My son-in-law and grandsons follow Aberdeen. So it’s mostly red for them. Sky blue? Man City. Canary yellow? It’s Norwich. In Italy, teams are often know by their colours – Bianconeri (the black-and-whites) for Juventus; La Viola (the purple team) for Fiorentina; Rossoneri (the red-and-blacks) is AC Milan. With any sport, local or national, you wear the appropriate colours so everyone knows the team or the country you’re cheering for. And I would never dream of going to a Scotland match without wearing my country’s top – with my kilt as well. It’s what you do!

What colours do we wear so that people know what principles, life-style, morals, values or faith we live by? In chapter five of his letter to the Galatians, St Paul tells us of the “fruits of the Spirit”, the colours we’re expected to wear as followers of the Christian Way: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Are these the colours we’re pleased to display? Is it what we do? Or wherever we are and whatever we’re about, do we hide them away in case anyone figures out who we follow?

Let’s be proud to wear our colours. If Jesus was around now, he may not use “fruits” to describe our discipleship. He might well say of us: “By the colours they’re wearing, you will know them well enough.”

A prayer for today

Challenging God, you call me to don your colours: the scarf of love; the top of joy;

the flag of peace; the cap of patience; the wrist-band of goodness; the rosette of faithfulness; the face-paint of gentleness; the pin-badge of self-control.

OK! Now I’m ready with all my support.

 Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

14th May 2020

Loving Father

The battle against Covid19 continues and people are weary, cracks are beginning to show when even the government is divided. Lord please keep all safe and keep the parliaments in both Westminster and Holyrood working as they are at the moment. Keep all calm and heal the divisions.

Comfort the bereaved and be with the dying. Lay Your mighty healing hand on all who are sick whether in body mind or spirit to bring Your healing and wholeness into their lives. For those suffering with the black dog of depression bring lightness into their darkness.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 

 10th May 2020

Stepping-stones

“Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see

The distant scene; one step enough for me.”

John Henry Newman, Lead, kindly Light

Some years ago, I had the responsibility of leading a pilgrimage round the historic, spiritual and community spaces on the Isla of Iona. It had been raining for several days and, as a result, the “off road” ground was very marshy indeed. However, everyone was well equipped, from cagoules and waterproofs to stout walking boots. So off we set.

Heading from Loch Straonaig to the ruins of the Marble Quarry, the ground was very wet. So we avoided the difficult areas, until we reached a part that looked impassable. The younger ones took a run at it and jumped across. Others decided they would just have to get soaked. But the older folk were struggling, until one man did something quite extraordinary. He stepped right into the middle of the bog, his left foot just visible above the surface. Then, stretching out a hand, he invited people to hold onto him as he helped them across – but they had to stand on his foot as a stepping-stone in the middle of the bog. One by one, everyone was able to cross over, each one standing on his boot.

Thank God there are people who stretch out a hand to us in our struggles, and help us to move forward – using their foot as a stepping-stone for our progress. Family members, friends, ministers or priests, healthcare staff – you’ll know who I mean … people prepared to put their foot in our bog, reassuring us that their stepping-stone will work.

And to be theological … the God I believe in sticks his foot in the bogs of my world and says, “Use this as a stepping-stone when you’re struggling.” It’s what’s called “Incarnational Theology”. But that’s too posh for me. I’d rather say God’s been standing in my bog before I got there, ready to help me across, and I’m more than happy with that!

A prayer for today

Loving God, my world is a boggy place right now. Sometimes it’s scary trying to move forward. Thank you for the feet that appear in my bog. Help me to trust the stepping-stones you provide.

 Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

10th May 2020

This is the day that the Lord has made – we will rejoice and be glad in it!

The death toll from Covid 19 has finally started to drop and for that we give You thanks and praise – but it still isn’t low enough to release lockdown so, Father, keep us patience, keep us steadfast and keep us safe.

We give thanks for the wonderful army of ministers who serve Your church, keep them strong and bring all the ministries of the church together to work as a team for Your greater glory.

Comfort and sustain al who have lost loved ones over this period whether from Coronavirus or other causes. Welcome those who have died into Your eternal kingdom.

For those who are sick we ask the healing touch of Your hand upon them bringing that special healing and wholeness which comes from You into their lives.

As we enter a new week in lockdown we do not know what rials may await us but keep us certain that You will strengthen and sustain us by the right hand of Your power.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

This is the day that the Lord has made – we WILL rejoice and be glad in it!

 Amen

Evelyn Robertson

9th May 2020

Gone?

“Both of them speak of something that is gone:

The pansy at my feet

Doth the same tale repeat:

Whither is fled the visionary gleam?

Where is it now, the glory and the dream?”

William Wordsworth, Imitations of Immortality

A few years ago my wife and I spent a week in Oregon with our good friends, Susan and Michael, in a village right on the Pacific Coast. Their house had an amazing view. We could look down over a rocky cove, with a beautiful beach of yellow sand. Out in the bay there was an island, with flocks of pelicans coming and going. There were Dorey Boats on the Pacific; wonderful breakers on the shore; and, with binoculars, you could see a school of whales out to sea. And there were glorious sunsets, out to the West, over the Pacific Ocean, the island, the rocky cove, the beautiful beach … It was simply idyllic, and for three nights we marvelled, we photographed, we talked, we drank wine, and we gave thanks to God.

Then, one morning when we came down for breakfast, it had all disappeared. A mist had rolled in from the Pacific, and there was no cove, no beach, no island, no pelicans, no whales … Gone! I was staring out at nothingness, and bemoaning the obscuring of all that we had grown to love, when Michael came to join us. There was no panic, no sadness for him. He’d seen this before, and he became our prophet of hope. “Don’t worry,” he said, reassuringly. “It’s still there. And even though you can’t see it for now, it’s not gone away. Don’t worry. It’ll be back soon.“ And so it was. Later that morning when the mist had moved away, it was back again, in all its glory and wonder, for us to enjoy.

That, for me, and I hope for all of us in this time of uncertainty, was the message of truth and hope. Gone? Not at all! Don’t worry. It’s still there. You’ll see it again soon. It’s the hope and reassurance we all need.

A prayer for today

Loving God, when the mist hides the joy and pleasures of life,

remind me your love is still there, just waiting for the mist to blow away.

 Amen.

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

9th May 2020

Loving Caring Father

We’ve commemorated VE Day and today in the Channel Islands they remember Liberation Day. We give You thanks for the freedom we have to worship, to vote and to live. But we too are living through a crisis and we need Your help to keep going with shielding, isolating, staying home, washing hands.

This morning we think of our parish ministers working tirelessly to deliver food parcels, offer pastoral support and deal with funerals under horrendous restrictions. And not only that the funerals are not just parish funerals they are of members and elders. Our ministers are grieving too but they don’t have time for their own grief. Father comfort them as You comfort all who mourn.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

7th May 2020

Consequences

“In nature there are neither rewards or punishments –

there are consequences.”

Robert G Ingersoll, Some Reasons Why

I don’t suppose I’m allowed to tell you this – but I haven’t signed The Official Secrets Act, so it’s probably OK. But … when I worked as a hospice chaplain, two of the patients got themselves drunk. Familiar with “a wee dram” in the lounge of an evening – for “medicinal purposes”, you understand – two of the older men had a visitor smuggle in a bottle of Single Malt, and what the nurses thought were the small whiskies they were sipping slowly as they watched Match of the Day, had been filled and emptied several times – till the whole bottle of Scotch was finished.

There were consequences, of course. The up-side? The two old guys had the best night’s sleep they’d had in weeks – no additional sedation required. The down-side? The two of them were still asleep when the morning Ward Round commenced, and they had terrible hangovers for the rest of the day. The empty bottle was discovered behind one of the cushions in the lounge. So, the other consequence was – all the staff, chaplain included, had a great story to tell.

Every action has its consequences, some good and some bad, some expected and some unforeseen. So, perhaps it’s a good idea to think about the consequences before we set out on a course of action.

What the consequences will be for us after this crisis is over will depend on what careful consideration we give to things before we blunder into ill-thought-through courses of action. Good things might come. So let’s make sure they’re planned for and don’t happen by accident. But bad things might result too – and wouldn’t be a shame if we were left with a massive hangover that took us ages to recover from.

After all, like the staff and the chaplain in the hospice, we all want to have a good story to tell

A prayer for today

Caring God, help me to look before I leap, and if I do happen to leap before looking, help me to deal with the consequences – and to learn from them too.

Amen.

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

Many thanks to Tom Gordon and Evelyn Robertson for sending us their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

7th May 2020

Almighty God

Hosanna! For the first time the numbers dying from Covid 19 have fallen. We give You thanks and praise but still we pray for Your comfort and sustaining for those who have lost loved ones. Hosanna! The Louisa Jordan hospital facility is standing empty, unused. We offer You thanks and praise and pray that this will continue. But many are still ill and we ask for the power of Your mighty healing hand upon them to bring Your healing and wholeness into their lives.

So much to thank You for, Father, but there’s still a way to go so keep us steadfast in the lockdown and when it is gently eased help us not to go too far in desperation. We earnestly pray that all decisions will be made wisely and fairly with justice and in accordance with Your will.

We pray for the vulnerable this morning – people with additional support needs and their families for whom this has been a stressful period. We pray for our Chinese communities who are suffering from Covid19 related abuse. Lord, we want to know all about this virus and what causes it but not by a spurious blame model. Forgive us when we blame people in our frustration.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 6th May 2020

Stay

“I am a kind of burr; I shall stick.”

William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I’ve never been a soldier, but I’m proud of the Gordon Highlanders, the Scottish regiment which bears my clan’s name. Their motto, and the clan’s, is Bydand Forever. The Gordons originate from Huntley in Aberdeenshire, so “Bydand” comes from the Doric language familiar in that part of the country. The original motto was “Byde (bide) and Fecht” (Stay and Fight), but over time “fecht” was dropped, as it was assumed if you stayed you would be fighting anyway! The discipline and bravery of the Gordon Highlanders inspired no less a man than Winston Churchill to call them “the finest regiment in the world.” High praise indeed!

Whether I am sufficiently disciplined or brave to be a proper Gordon is for others to judge. But I do like the “bydand” tag, for it speaks to me of an important attribute, no matter what my clan. Stay! Stick with it! Hang in there! Don’t give up! Over the years, these injunctions, and others like them, have been recurrent themes in my ministry, counselling, parenting, friendships, and now in my work in bereavement support.

Some tasks we choose to take on. Some are forced on us. Some are responsibilities we’re given. Some we would be happier to do without. But, the question is, will we stay at each task as we’re expected to, or will we give up at the slightest hint of pressure or difficulty?

What good is an infantry regiment if they retreat when the going is tough? What good are we if we back off when things are hard?

There’s a song sung by a young woman who is very taken with the Gordon Highlanders on parade: A Gordon for me, a Gordon for me, if you’re no’ a Gordon, you’re nae use to me. I’m not sure I’d go that far. But if you’re prepared to live by “Bydand, and “stay at it” no matter what, then I’d be happy for you to become an honorary Gordon any time!

A prayer for today

Loving God, you stay at your task of loving me, no matter what.

Help me to stick to my promise to be grateful,

to hang-in-there with my service, to stay at it, even when things are tough.

Amen.

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

6th May 2020

We stop for a few moments in the day to spend time with You. We know that You are our hope and our anchor in this time of crisis but You are our hope and our anchor in the good times too.

We think of our frail and elderly in care homes throughout the country but especially we think this morning of the people of Skye where Covid19 has ravaged a care home in Portree. Comfort and console those who have lost loved ones and sustain and strengthen those who carry on the fight against this virus there. Bring Your healing to all who are ill with the virus. Keep the islanders strong in their faith for it will carry them through.

We ask you blessing on the governments at Holyrood and Westminster as they make plans to release the lockdown. Help them to focus on the economy and getting things moving again while still keeping this scourge of a virus under control. May all their decisions be in accordance with Your will.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 5th May 2020

Death

“In the midst of life we are in death.”

The Book of Common Prayer, The Burial of the Dead

I’ve wanted to share something on death since this Covid-19 crisis descended. So I’ve gone to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer for this truism: In the midst of life we are in death. From the day we are born, death is inevitable. Benjamin Franklin was right when he wrote in a letter to friend in 1789, In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. Right now, the reality of death takes prominence. But, though we would like to believe otherwise, it was ever thus …

So, if death is inevitable, why do we seek to build permanence into our lives so much? Life is transient. We are given the gift of life, not the years we assume. If that is true, might we learn to live with impermanence, make good use of every precious moment and not leave things off to the days, weeks or years which may not be available to us?

John Donne, the writer of “No man is an island …” wrote in 1662, Death comes equally to us all, and makes us all equal when it comes. In my hospice, two men were in the same ward, one an Advocate, the other a Servitor who lit the fires in the Advocate’s Library. These two men shared a journey to death in a deeper way than they would have shared anything in life. Death made them equal as it came for them both.

Zam Walker, a remarkable woman with whom I shared membership of the Iona Community, led a week with me in Iona Abbey for cancer sufferers when she herself was undergoing treatment for cancer. She often quoted a mantra associated with the Native American cultures but which she made her own: Today is a good day to die. Zam is no longer with us, but her mantra remains with me as a vital message as to how I might live, facing the reality of my own death.

Death, the powerful teacher. Death, the inevitable leveller. Death, the great equaliser. Death, the lesson for every day well lived.

A prayer for today

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil …”

Lord, give me your peace and blessing when that valley becomes my pathway.

Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

5th May 2020

Almighty Father

Before whom all of us are children, grant us Your blessing on all that we shall do this day. As plans to loosen lockdown are put into place let us learn lessons from it. Let all the care and compassion and acts of kindness continue. Let us continue walking and cycling – it’s better for us and causes less pollution to the air we breathe. The sound of birdsong is so much more melodic than the roar of cars, buses and aeroplanes.

Father, we give You thanks for the good that has come out of this crisis yet there have also been downsides – the rate of online gambling has gone up and alcohol consumption has soared. Help those who have issues in these areas and when the crisis is over help them to find ways out of the problems created. Equally we think of those who are in financial difficulty because they have lost their jobs. For businesses which have gone under we pray that ways will be found to resurrect them.

As we begin to find a new normal we pray that we will find it with You for in this time of crisis many have turned to You for Your Steadfastness. When normality resumes let them stay with You.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 4th May 2020

Listening

“It is the province of knowledge to speak,

and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Poet at the Breakfast Table

When my second daughter, Kathryn, was four years old, I collected her one day from the local Nursery, part of the Primary school where I was chaplain. She was excited to show me a painting she’d finished. It was a jumble of colours, and it was still wet! “What’s that?” I asked, for the painting made no sense to me at all. Just then, one of the Nursery assistants, a lady I knew well, appeared, put an arm round my shoulders, took me to one side and whispered: “A word, Mr Gordon …” Dutifully, I listened to a lesson I will always remember.

“Never ask a child, ‘What’s that?’” she said. “It’s a judgement, a put-down. It’s far better to ask: ‘What’s happening in your picture?’ or to say, ‘Tell me about your painting,’ and then see what happens.”

So I did as I was instructed, and asked, “What’s happening in your painting?” Sure enough, I got the whole story – about animals, flowers, hills and trees – from an excited child, all because I was ready to listen.

I was once about to give Communion to a patient in my hospice before she was discharged, when I was dismayed to discover I had the wrong book with me. “I’ll do it from memory,” I thought. I got lost half way through, only to realise that the patient was saying the words for me, because she’d remembered them from many Communion services she’d attended. She’d listened and had learned from what she’d heard.

Because I’d encouraged a child to speak, I had the privilege of listening to a great story. Because a faithful Christian lady had listened, she was able to pass on her wisdom to a floundering minister.

Do we speak too much because we think we have ‘the province of knowledge to speak’? Perhaps if we learned to listen more, we might find that we have wisdom still to learn from the stories and insights of others.

A prayer for today

Speak Lord … but not till I’ve finished.

Oh, sorry … speak Lord, for I’ve decided it’s time I started listening.

 Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

4th May 2020

Loving Father God

We give You thanks that hospital admissions continue to fall, that numbers in ICU have fallen below 100 but people are still dying from Covid 19 and we ask that You comfort and sustain their loved ones by the right hand of Your power. As decisions are made about easing lockdown and restarting the economy may they be made with wisdom, justice, fairness and compassion and in accordance with Your will. Let the people comply as they have done this far.

In just under two weeks the General Assembly would have been taking place. We give thanks for the year Colin Sinclair has had as Moderator and the work he has done ably supported by his wife, Ruth. Continue to guard them both in the way ahead. As Martin Fair prepares to take over as Moderator we pray for Your blessing on Martin, his wife, Elaine and chaplains Gregor McIntyre and Catherine Beattie for the year ahead.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 

 3rd May 2020

Obvious

“I make it a rule never to stare at people

when they are in obvious distress.”

Arthur James Balfour, on being asked what he thought of the behaviour of some attending the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 at the end of World War I

My father told me that he learned three lessons in his basic training for service in the RAF in 1940: 1: Never volunteer; 2: If it moves, you shoot at it; 3: If it doesn’t move, you have to paint it. I’ll maybe touch on lessons 1 & 2 another time. But I’ve really taken my dad’s lesson 3 to heart.

To keep me busy, I’ve been doing all the painting jobs I’ve been promising to get round to for ages. I was painting the back-garden gate the other day – because it doesn’t move – and I lost count of the number of people who stated the obvious. Neighbours, passers-by, delivery-men, refuse collectors – observing social-distancing guidelines, of course – all saying, “I see you’re painting the gate.” Of course! Isn’t it obvious?

I recalled a Barry Appleby Gambols cartoon from the Daily Express from years ago when the long-suffering George was so fed up with people stating the obvious that he took the garden gate he was painting off its hinges to finish it in his kitchen, only to be faced with his wife, Gaye, announcing, “Hello, George. I see you’re painting the gate!” Doh!

There is much that’s obvious in this current crisis: distress, loss, isolation, and a lot more. But one of the most obvious is that we don’t know when it will end or what the lasting effects will be. We’ve heard the obvious stated over and over again, and we’ll have joined in too.

Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, said: When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. So, instead of stating the obvious, perhaps we can change how we think and what we’re doing. Stating the obvious can be tiresome. So why not “adjust the action steps” and let the obvious wait for a while.

That’s enough for now. There’s still painting to do.

 Isn’t it obvious?

A prayer for today

God of all time, make it obvious what needs to change,

in my life, in my loves, in my faith and in my future. Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

3rd May 2020

This is the day that the Lord has made – we will rejoice and be glad in it!

We’ve passed the peak of the virus thanks be but let’s not become complacent as we hear how lockdown will be released. Keep social distancing and keep washing hands.

This is the day that the Lord has made – we will rejoice and be glad in it!

We give thanks for the safe arrival of Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson and for all other babies born and yet to be born at this time. We give thanks for all life and especially the new life we see all around us.

This is the day that the Lord has made – we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Be with us at 7pm tonight as we light our candles in response to the national call to prayer. You are our good shepherd.

This is the day that the Lord has made – we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Lord for all who have been healed we give you thanks, for all who are recovering from this virus we give you thanks. Be with those still ill with it and comfort and console all who are bereaved as result of it.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing, loving and gracious presence.

This is the day that the Lord has made – we WILL rejoice and be glad in it.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

2nd May 2020

Gracious Father

We give thanks that the levels of testing for Covid19 have exceeded the target level. In the coming days we pray that the uptake of these tests, especially here in Scotland where the uptake has been slow will increase. We give thanks for all the scientists working together to find a vaccine and treatments for this virus. We also give thanks for those who have volunteered to trial these treatments.

As we wish Princess Charlotte a happy fifth birthday this weekend we give thanks for her efforts in delivery food parcels. All of our young folk are also setting the example of caring for others and loving our neighbours.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 30th April 2020

History

“If history records good things …

the thoughtful hearer is encouraged to imitate what is good.”

The Venerable Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People

When I was a young minister in the 1970s, full of enthusiasm and energy, I did things at a million miles an hour. Visiting? Spending time with people? Too tedious for me! Thankfully, I worked with an experienced Deaconess who knew better. Maureen Hutchison taught me to slow down and listen. “It’s not just the person you visit who benefits from your time,” she said. “If you listen to them, you’ll get a lot of benefit too.”

The next day I was visiting an elderly lady who was housebound. She was an inveterate knitter, and, to the click-clack of her knitting-pins, I asked who’d taught her to knit. “Ma auld granny,” she said, “born in 1837.” 1837, I thought. That’s … quite a few years ago! But before I was focussed enough to enquire further, she continued, “She taught me to knit socks for the soldiers coming back from the Boer War in 1901.”

1837 … Boer War … 1901 … My head was spinning. But I was then treated to stories stretching back 140 years. Living history, in a ninety-year-old’s home – and she never dropped a single stitch as I listened.

I’m recording my own early memories just now in which my own granny, my mother’s mother, figures regularly. She died when she was ninety-five. I can recall many of her tales, but I regret that I didn’t ask her about more things. I should have listened more and written things down. There was living history in her home, but so much of it died with her.

In this time of reflection, aren’t there so many stories to be told, questions asked, memories recorded before they’re lost? Maureen Hutchison was right. What benefit we get from living history!

And if I’d listened to more elderly ladies, I might have learned how to knit socks too! Now, that would be a story to tell, wouldn’t it?

A prayer for today

God of the past, help me to learn from the people of old.

God of the present, help me be an example to the people of now.

God of the future, may I be one of those whose story will be worth the telling.

 Amen.

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

30th April 2020

Evelyn Robertson’s Prayer for today

Folks I will still post tomorrow which is Dad’s funeral. Can I ask for your prayers for myself and all the family and especially my mum please?

Eternal Loving Father

We give You thanks and praise for the safe arrival of the Prime Minister’s new baby son. We give You thanks and praise for all new life – babies, wee lambs still frolicking in the fields, the beautiful smile of daffodils and the green buds sprouting on trees. All of these things bring us hope but even more hope is there in the new life we experience with Jesus, our rock, our Saviour and our Redeemer.

We pray for all those who feel a sense of loss at this time – loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of liberty, loss of dignity. Be with them, Father God and touch them with Your peace, the peace that passes all understanding.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing loving and gracious presence.

 Amen

 29th April 2020

Time

“A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.”

William Henry Davies, Leisure

When I was a hospice chaplain, I participated in a “efficacy study”. Management wanted to know how team members used their time, and while it raised “big brother” issues for some, it was essentially an information-gathering exercise, to ensure the hospice was working well.

Over a two-week period, the study necessitated recording my working day in fifteen-minute segments. The “types” of work had been listed and numbered. No 1: direct patient contact; No 2: family support; No 3: interaction with the team; No 4: record-keeping; and so on, down to No 15: consultation with external agencies. Unused to such detailed scrutiny of my time, I found this process exacting – and time consuming! Time taken to fill-in the study at the end of each day wasn’t on the list!

So, on the one hand, it was a chore, but, on the other, it was a revealing exercise. The “chore” part I’ll leave for now. But what I recall of the “revealing” part is not the descriptions for the fifteen-minute segments, but which categories weren’t on the list. Where was “thinking” time? Where was “self-care”, debriefing from a difficult situation? Where was the space, the “in-between” bits, the prayer, all integral to my day?

Management was interested in “doing”, with everything being categorised and measurable. And while I can understand that, it lost sight of the “being” and the “unmeasurable” which were still important.

Many of you will be too busy, even in this time of social isolation and restrictions. I know I am. So, make sure you have “being” time as well as “doing”; allow yourself space to think, reflect and pray; be kind to yourself; take time to “stand and stare”; give yourself room for things that have no measurement, other than the restoration of your own soul. And you’ll not pin that down to fifteen-minute segments either!

A prayer for today

God for whom a thousand years is but a day, take these few moments, and make them into a thousand years of restoration and renewal for my busy life.

 Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

29th April 2020

Vulnerable Father God

You are our loving Father. Enfold us in Your arms. Spare us from complacency. Keep us following the lockdown rules and especially keep the handwashing going.

Be with all who are hurting at this time whether because a loved one is ill or has died – no matter the cause.

Bless everyone in the frontline caring and working to beat this virus and protect their families. So many have stood up to the plate both as workers and volunteers we see our nation for the most part working as a team together and for that we give You thanks.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing loving and gracious presence.

 Amen Evelyn Robertson

 28th April 2020

Foresight

“May I ask whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are they the result of previous study?”

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

In 1963 and 1965, Dr Richard Beeching, chairman of British Railways, produced reports on the restructuring of the rail network in the UK. The Reshaping of British Railways and The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes, known collectively and colloquially as the “Beeching Report”, identified 2,363 stations and 5,000 miles of line for closure.

Foresight for Beeching would have been wonderful! If he could have anticipated the demand for the expansion of the rail network which many clamour for now, then, of course, the cuts would never have been made. But the prevailing political climate and the information at hand at the time was all he could work with. How different it could have been …

It would be great to have foresight right now. As we discuss what will happen when this crisis is over, phrases such as “when the dust settles”; “how the cards might fall”; “lessons to be learned”; “the shape of things to come”; “a new normal” … are commonplace. But the truth is, we don’t know. We can speculate and have our ideas. If we had foresight, we could work it out now and all would be well. But, like Dr Beeching, we don’t have that tool at our disposal. So let’s make sure we base our decisions on what we know and what we’ve learned, and have solid principles from which good and right conclusions can be drawn: justice; equity; inclusiveness; sharing; worth; value; openness; honesty. I could go on, but I think you’ll know what I mean. Let’s make sure the society we create isn’t based on Jane Austen’s “impulse of the moment” but is the result of well thought-through and carefully processed “previous study”.

There will be changes. When all this is over, some familiar stations and branch lines will have gone. But whether these changes are for the good of everyone or just a few will be for all of us to work out together.

A prayer for today

Loving God, with hindsight I know what you have done for me.

With no foresight, I have to trust that I’ll do what’s right for you.

 Amen.

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

28th April 2020

Vulnerable Father God

Here we are Your children coming before You in the silence to offer our praise and our confession of things done, things not done, things said and things not said. We offer praise and thanks for all You have done for us and the forgiveness that is available through Jesus.

Today we remember the forgotten people – those folk who set off on a holiday of a lifetime which has now become the holiday of a nightmare stranded on board cruise ships which cannot dock allowing them to disembark. It brings a whole new perspective to praying for those in peril on the sea. Make them sure and steadfast in the situation in which they find themselves.

We pray for frontline workers and we remember those who have paid the final sacrifice of their lives in the battle against Covid19. Comfort and sustain their loved ones left behind.

As lockdown continues, we pray for our children who don’t really understand and who are frightened by what they hear on the news. Keep them safe especially the ones with additional support needs and keep us all focussed on the fact that more survive than die – including the man from Ayrshire who has beaten cancer twice and has now beaten Covid19. For those who have been healed we offer our heartfelt thanks and praise for Your loving mercy.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing loving and gracious presence.

 Amen

Evelyn Robertson

27th April 2020

Environment

There is pleasure in the pathless woods,

There is rapture on the lonely shore,

There is society, where none intrudes,

By the deep sea, and music in its roar;

I love not man the less, but nature more.”

Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

The John Muir Way is one of Scotland’s greatest trails. 134 miles long, it crosses the country from Helensburgh in the west to Dunbar in the east – the birthplace of John Muir, after whom it is named. And a section of it runs along the shores of the Forth on the north side of our village.

“The father of national parks” in America, John Muir was one of the 20th-century’s greatest environmentalists. Born in Dunbar in 1838, he died in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve of 1914, his hospital bed covered with pages of a book he was preparing. It’s said he understood his mission to be “saving the American soul from total surrender to materialism”. John Muir – conservationist, political spokesperson, prophet, mountaineer, geologist, inventor and glaciologist, whose writings became an environmental guide for many – said of himself:

“I could have become a millionaire but chose instead to become a tramp”.

As a walk my dog or go for a run today along the Way that bears John Muir’s name, I ponder his words. If he saw himself as a tramp, I’ll take that any day, if people like him can see that environmental credentials mean more than money, and that tramping the good earth you care for so passionately is better by far than worldly wealth.

We need people who can save our souls from total surrender to materialism – never mind America’s! John Muir, I salute you!

A prayer for today

Creator God, thank you for the wonderful world I live in.

Please make me a wonderful carer of my little part of it,

to work with other little carers to do wonderful things for our world.

 Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

27th April 2020

Forgiving God

We give You thanks for all that You have forgiven us for with no strings and boundless grace

We pray that the Prime Minister has not returned to work too early having been struck down badly with Covid 19.

As report come in of deaths of prisoners and prison officers we pray for them, their families but also for prison chaplains of all denominations as they go about their work with care and compassion.

Tensions are mounting and again we think of families living under the scourge of domestic abuse. We pray forgiveness for the abusers and we plead for Your intervention for the abused. It’s not easy to pick up the phone at the best of times but even more so now living in such close proximity to a controlling individual.

Father, heal the sick, comfort those who mourn and let all know Your loving presence.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing loving and gracious presence.

 Amen

Evelyn Robertson

26th April 2020

It’s Sunday again – enjoy and observe the Sabbath – and watch Shuna on Reflections at the Quay!

This is the day that the Lord has made – we will rejoice and be glad in it.

The sun is shining and we’ve heard there are plans to start to ease lockdown. This is the day that the Lord has made – we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Our Muslim brothers and sisters are now on day three of the holy fast of Ramadan. Give them strength to hold the fast and enjoy breaking it when the sun goes down. This is the day that the Lord has made – we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Testing kits are becoming more readily available, numbers in hospital are reducing and fewer are in ICU. But people are still dying and loved ones are mourning. Bring them Your comfort. This is the day that the Lord has made – we will rejoice and be glad in it.

The pace of life has slowed and people are finding ways to love their neighbours. Father forgive those who continue in their selfish ways holding parties, over-indulging in alcohol and buying too much food. This is the day that the Lord has made – we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Loving Father, You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing loving and gracious presence.

This is the day that the Lord has made – we WILL rejoice and be glad in it.

 Amen

Evelyn Robertson

25th April 2020

Priorities

“This so-called affluent society is an ugly society still …

It is a society in which priorities have gone all wrong.”

Aneurin Bevan, from a speech in Blackpool, 1959

Many years ago a minister friend officiated at the Sacrament of Holy Communion in his church for the first time – in a collar and tie! The traditionalists were up in arms. Where was the Clerical Collar, the robes, the academic hood, the preaching stole? Why was this whippersnapper diminishing the Sacrament like this? There were rumours of complaints, and discipline. Entrenched positions were taken up. Factions, power-groups, allies and enemies emerged.

My friend now says it wasn’t worth the energy. There were more important things to be concerned with: struggles for justice and equity; the plight of those in poverty; issues of the environment and ecology; tensions in the Middle East; a society “gone all wrong”. Wearing a collar and tie at Communion? It wasn’t a battle that mattered.

In Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, the eponymous hero sees thirty or forty windmills in the distance. Mistaking them for giants, he sets off to attack them. But his sidekick, Sancho Panza, with wisdom and constraint, sees it differently.

‘Take care, sir,’ cried Sancho. ‘Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone.’

For many of us, enforced isolation is giving us time to think, to ponder what really matters. Perhaps we might emerge with redefined priorities. Maybe, the battles we thought were important won’t matter so much, as other issues in an “ugly society” become much more important than what we wear at Communion.

A prayer for today

Loving God, in this time of readjustment, let your priorities become mine;

let your passion for equity and inclusiveness redefine my commitments.

 Amen.

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

 24th April 2020

Failings

“Forsake me not when my strength faileth me.”

Psalm 71:8

Built into the altar in the Chapel of the Holy Cross at Buckfast Abbey in Devon is a Hair Shirt worn by Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England and respected counsellor to Henry VIII. Thomas More opposed the king’s separation from the Catholic Church, refusing to acknowledge Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England and the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. After declining to take the Oath of Supremacy, he was convicted of treason and executed in 1535. Pope Pius XI canonised him as a martyr. And Thomas More wore a Hair Shirt …

A Hair Shirt is a garment of rough cloth made from goats’ hair and worn next to the skin as a penance for past sins, to encourage self-control, and as an act of devotion to Christ. How Thomas More’s Hair Shirt found its way to Buckfast Abbey is too long a tale to tell here. But I’m more intrigued as to why such a good man – and now a Saint – should have felt the need to wear a Hair Shirt in the first place.

At his execution, Thomas More famously said: “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” It was his faith in his God which made him acutely aware of his own failings. No matter how good he was or how righteous his cause, he knew, in the face of God, he wasn’t perfect.

Do we need to wear a Hair Shirt to remind us of our failings? I hope not. You can wear one if you like, but I’m certainly not going to try. But I am going to take an example from St Thomas More and know that the more faith I have, the more I have to acknowledge my failings, and the more I do that, the more of the Grace of God I can know.

A prayer for today

Gracious God, as I acknowledge my faith, make me aware of my failings;

as I acknowledge my failings, further strengthen my faith.

 Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

 23rd April 2020

Restoration

“America’s present need is not heroics, but healing;

not nostrums, but normalcy;

not revolution, but restoration.”

Warren G Harding, from a speech in Boston, 1920

Back in 1989, I spent the summer in Washington DC on Sabbatical Leave. It was a much-needed period of study, reflection, self-analysis and restoration for me, and helped me clarify issues in my ministry and personal life. One evening I went to Washington Cathedral to hear the amazing Desmond Tutu, then Archbishop of Cape Town. This impish, passionate, focussed and inspiring man made an important contribution to my time of restoration.

I was delighted, therefore, to find that a chaplaincy colleague had a picture of Desmond Tutu in his home. But this was no ordinary piece of art-work. It had been commissioned by my friend for personal use and was created by a patient, with the help of a staff member, in the Recovery Room of a long-stay psychiatric hospital. And it’s made from hundreds and hundreds of little pieces of paper from glossy magazines.

Just as Desmond Tutu helped restore me, a psychiatric patient had taken discarded magazines and, in an act of careful and therapeutic restoration, had created an amazing and powerful image. And the whole process had helped a broken patient begin to find healing and restoration for his own life.

When Warren G Harding campaigned for the US Presidency after the horrors of World War I, he pleaded for healing, normalcy and restoration for the United States. But his words are about everyone who recognises the importance of restoration, personally and corporately. We need to be put together again, to make a new picture for ourselves and our society, that’s as powerful and distinctive, beautiful and inspiring, as the amazing Desmond Tutu.

A prayer for today

“You have made me see my troubles, many and bitter … restore my life again;

from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.” [Psalm 71:20 NIV]

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

23rd April 2020

Eternal and Loving God

We give You thanks that yesterday there were fewer admissions to hospital with Covid 19 and fewer patients in ICU. May the day come soon when the death rate will also fall.

We pray for our prison service after the death of the first prison officer in Scotland. Comfort his family and friends as You comfort all who mourn at this time. We pray for all prison staff as they continue to work in powder keg circumstances. For those prisoners about to be released early to relieve the pressure on the prison system we pray that the necessary support will be put in place to prevent them from re-offending on release. For prison chaplains who continue to go about their work with those prisoners still serving sentences we ask Your blessing and strength.

Help all of us to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we will be able eventually to go about our daily lives albeit not quite the same as before,

Loving Father You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

22nd April 2020

Mourning

“A widow bird sat mourning for her love upon a wintry bough.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley, Charles the First

When both my mother and father died, we had big funerals for them, not extravagant or over-the-top, but not simple either. They deserved something special – as a fitting tribute to them and appropriate for our mourning. So, my heart breaks when I hear stories today of people who can’t attend a funeral, or are one of only half-a-dozen mourners standing at a grave. No church; no packed crem; no play-list; no wake. Not extravagant, yet seeming far too simple to make much sense. What can I say in this awfulness, other than remind you there will still be folk around after this is over to love you and offer support in your mourning?

At the end of Act 1 of his opera Madama Butterfly, Puccini has Cio-Cio San (Butterfly) sing these tender words to her love, Lt B F Pinkerton:

Love me with a little love,

a child-like love, the kind that suits me. Love me, please …

We are a people used to small, modest, quiet things, to a tenderness gently caressing,

yet vast as the sky and as the waves of the sea.

It’s hard having to make do with “small, modest, quiet things” when we would like to offer what we might consider more fitting to our mourning. But as we find ourselves gently caressing our grief with our tears, can we be aware that our “child-like love” still points to a tribute “vast as the sky and as the waves of the sea”; that our “little love” is still part of something much, much bigger, and spread over years and years?

Maybe the love we offer in its simplicity can be special enough, so that it actually becomes for us “the kind that suits”.

A prayer for today

Jesus said: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Dear God, please make that true.

Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

22nd April 2020

Loving, Healing Father

You are our Father and You love and care for us. We give You thanks and praise that the youngest coronavirus patient went home yesterday with her Mum and Dad and is just waiting for those first special cuddles with her grandparents. We give thanks for all those NHS staff who helped to make this possible.

We give thanks and praise that an RAF plane has brought PPE supplies in to the country. This will keep our hospital and care staff safe for another wee while. Be with leaders in government both here and throughout the world and help them to make wise decisions that are in accordance with Your will.

Loving Father You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 21st April 2020

Justice

Di tibi, si qua pios respectant numina, si quid usquam iustitia est et mens sibi conscia recti, praemia digna ferant.”

“If the divine powers take note of the dutiful in any way,

if there is any justice anywhere and a mind recognising in itself what is right, may the gods bring you your earned rewards.”

Virgil, Aeneid Book 1

My Latin teacher in Lochaber High School would be proud of me! So I could just stop there and let Mr McGregor’s “blessed” Virgil’s words speak for themselves. But it’s worthwhile making a couple of comments.

It’s been said during this crisis that, if there is any justice, those who work so hard on our behalf should be appreciated more than they have been. For too long there has been wide a divergence in the way our society rewards people for their contribution to our welfare. Those in our health-service and elsewhere, across the board, do not earn what they deserve. Some say they should get a medal. I say more: readjust our pay structures; redistribute our wealth; give greater value to those who keep us safe and well. If there is any justice anywhere and a mind recognising in itself what is right … may the gods bring them their earned rewards. Clapping and cheering on our doorstep once a week just isn’t enough.

But we also know that the Covid-19 crisis adversely affects those in the poorer echelons of our society. It serves to highlight the injustices of poverty and inequality: the burgeoning use of foodbanks; the debacle that has been the launch of Universal Credit; the number of children who live below the poverty line. If this crisis brings such issues into sharper focus, should they return to the shadows once normality returns?

Let the “new normal” everyone is talking about have justice as its watchword – justice that makes us take note of the dutiful and rewards them appropriately; and justice for the impoverished so that we build an equitable society. Is this not simply recognising in itself what is right?

A prayer for today

God who yearns for equity, let “justice flow like a mighty stream”,

and let us be part of the transformation it brings.

 Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

21st April 2020

Gracious Father God

We give You thanks that from the safety of our own homes we can enjoy the beauty of Your creation. The sun is shining and that raises our spirits. The air is so clear and fresh with reduced travel and no aeroplanes. The pace of life is generally slower and we pray that out of all of these lessons will be learned.

We pray for the continued courage and strength of our NHS staff and social carers and ask the PPE crisis will be addressed. Similarly, we pray for supermarket staff and all who are keeping the nation’s food supply going. Keep them safe and free from abuse.

In these difficult days keep us loving You as You keep loving us.

Loving Father You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing loving and gracious presence.

 Amen

Evelyn Robertson

20th April 2020

Direction

“The true genius is a mind of large general powersaccidentally determined to some particular direction.”Samuel Johnson, Lives of the English Poets

On top of the steeple of Chalmers Memorial Church in Port Seton where I live, there’s a weather-vane in the form of a sailing ship. The church, opened in 1905, serves a fishing village, so a ship is an appropriate symbol. I don’t know if the fishermen use the weather-vane as a guide or landmark, but I know what it means to me. North, South, East and West, the pointers at the base of the weather-vane, never change. But the ship on the top moves with the wind and can spin round in any direction. The Chalmers weather-vane tells me what’s constant and what changes.

When my wife and I are walking the dog, we know well enough when there’s a bitter north wind whistling across the Forth, or a belter of an east wind blowing us home along the sea-front. But the Chalmers weather-vane is always there to help. Some things change, the way the wind shifts the ship on the top of the church steeple. But, thankfully, some things don’t – North, South, East and West are always fixed.

Facing so many changes just now, our ships may be spinning in all directions. Indeed, I heard someone say today that they are bewildered with things at the moment. Such a lot is changing, perhaps too rapidly, perhaps not quickly enough. But change is the name of the game for us all. So, if that’s true, let’s give thought to what’s constant, the fixed points in our lives – the people who’re important to us; the faith that’s still there, no matter what; the integrity we and others live by; the principles that we’ll always hold to. Perhaps then we’ll have a better grasp of what never changes, and remember the things we can rely on, no matter what.

What will you still depend on when all of this is over – no matter which way the wind is blowing?

A prayer for today

“Change and decay in all around I see;

O thou who changest not, abide with me.”

Henry Francis Lyte

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

20th April 2020

Gracious Loving Father

You are our refuge and our strength. We lift our eyes to the hills and there we find our aid. And so we offer You our thanks and praise.

We thank You for the work of Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians both in hospitals and in the community. The work they are doing at the moment is invaluable so we ask Your blessing upon them to strengthen and sustain them at this time. Lord keep them safe.

Social distancing and lockdown seem to be working and the curve is flattening. Help us to resist the temptation of going out until the time is right for there is a time for everything, and a season for every purpose under heaven.

Father our prayer is healing for the sick, Your presence with the dying and comfort those who mourn.

Loving Father You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing loving and gracious presence. This is the day that the Lord has made.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 19th April 2020

Plans

“I have a cunning plan.”

Richard Curtis and Ben Elton

Baldrick’s habitual overoptimistic promise in Blackadder II

In the corner of our garden, there’s a little clump of bluebells that isn’t supposed to be there. The bluebells have grown through the gravel beside our garden bench. It’s not what we had planned at all.

They’ve appeared at the foot of the down-pipe from the guttering above. If you follow the pipe upwards, it goes through the overhanging eaves before it connects to the gutter. At the back of the pipe, under the eaves, there’s a starlings’ nest. We heard the birds chirping outside our bedroom window after we moved in. They come back every Spring. But a starlings’ nest in our eaves wasn’t in our plan either.

In his book, Six Crises, Dwight D Eisenhower, US President from 1953 to 1961, attributes this line to Richard Nixon: In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

Many of us in the current battle with Covid-19 have had plans that have gone awry: holidays cancelled; selling a house put on hold; planned surgery postponed indefinitely; celebrations in church and community deferred. And there will also be things will have happened that weren’t planned for – like a blackbirds’ nest and bluebells in unexpected places.

We’re now realising that plans change. Some of them will turn out to be quite useless. That’s hard to bear when we’ve come to expect things to go just as we want. But let’s keep planning for what happens when all this is over. Let’s not put our lives on hold. Planning is still indispensable, for we all need something to look forward to, don’t we?

A prayer for today

Living God, you give us time, but not years; hopes and dreams, but not certainties. Help us with our planning, and give us patience when our plans are useless. Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

19th April 2020

This is the day that the Lord has made – we WILL rejoice and be glad in it!

The sun is shining and our spirits are lifted even though we have to stay indoors. This is the day that the Lord has made we will rejoice and be glad in it.

The Covid 19 spread seems to be flattening. For that we give You thanks. This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

We give thanks that in this period so many people have demonstrated that they care – about others, about the world. This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

We give thanks for women who are pregnant and safe. We pray for the safety of their babies too. This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

We pray for all who are sick today and pray that they will know Your healing and wholeness. We pray for the bereaved, whatever the circumstances that they will know Your comfort and peace.

Despite the misery and death that Corona virus has wreaked throughout the world You have given us many blessings to count so let us remember that this is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Loving Father You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing loving and gracious presence. This is the day that the Lord has made. We WILL rejoice and be glad in it.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 18th April 2020

Equality

“Tom and his younger brothers as they grew up went on playing

with the village boys without the idea of equality or inequality …

ever entering their heads.”

Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown’s Schooldays

Born in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Robert Recorde entered Oxford University about 1525 and was elected a Fellow of All Souls in 1531. Having adopted medicine as a profession, he then took an MD degree at Cambridge. If that had been the sum-total of his life, he would have remained largely anonymous. But Robert Recorde’s influence is with us even now, without most of us ever knowing it, for, in 1557, he invented the “equals sign”, the mathematical symbol still used to indicate equality.

In any equation, such as 2+2 = 4, the “equals sign” is crucial. What’s on one side of the equation is the same as what’s on the other. Robert Recorde gave us that. There’s a tablet in his memory in St Mary’s Church, Tenby – and quite rightly so. I was excited when I discovered it. It’s the failed mathematician in me, I suppose …

When someone’s come to the wrong conclusion, we say “You’re making two plus two equal five”. So “equals” really matters. What’s on one side of an equation needs to balance what’s on the other, or else the equation is simply wrong.

In Chapter 2 of Paul’s letter to the Romans there’s this little gem: There will be … glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good … For God does not show favouritism. In God’s eyes, what’s on one side equals what’s on the other. Equality is fundamental. So, if everyone is created equal, would it not be better if we treated each other equally?

A prayer for today

Thank you God, for creating us equally. Thank you for showing no favouritism.

We’re so sorry when we get the equation wrong.

 Amen

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

18th April 

Father God

We give You thanks that the number of ICU cases announced yesterday had reduced by 7. We pray that we are reaching the peak of this virus but at the same time we ask that You will grant us the patience to stick with the lockdown regulations.

Bless our farmers as they work lambing, calving and planting crops while keeping the food chain going to keep the nation fed.

It is said we are running out of scrubs and there is still an issue with PPE. Lord help everyone not to panic and help us to find a solution to this.

Loving Father You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing loving and gracious presence.

 Amen

Evelyn Robertson

 17th April 2020

Launched

Oak was round his breast, and triple bronze,who first launched his frail boat on the rough sea.”

Horace, Odes Book 1

Having reflected yesterday on the beauty of my local harbour, I turn today to a boat familiar to our fishing village. Boatie Blest is a Fair Isle Skiff built and crewed by local people. With its sister craft, Boatie Rows, she takes part in regattas and competitions throughout Scotland as part of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project, encouraging the sharing of traditional skills, focussing on healthy exercise, making use of the wonderful coastline we live beside and bringing communities together.

Taking photographs at a recent Port Seton Regatta, I was struck by how many parallels there were between Boatie Blest and the purposes and ethos of our local church, Chalmers Memorial. The little boat was being launched on a beautifully calm day. But what if the seas outside the safety of the harbour walls had been rough? How would the crew cope then? Would the Cox be able to steer them safely? Would the rowers be strong enough to fight the tide and the winds?

Not surprisingly, I was drawn to the account in Mark’s Gospel of Jesus stilling the storm to find metaphors of the blessedness we look for in the little boat that is our own church. We, too, wait by the shoreline; launch our boat; trust the people who’ve build her; take our place at our oar or rudder; recognise the fearfulness that our boat is so small compared to the size of the ocean; believe in our own strength, and the peace that comes from outwith ourselves. The metaphors are all there.

Boatie Blest does its job. We trust this little craft, its purpose and people. Our boat will sail well. We’ll make sure it rides out the storm, and we’ll do it with more blessings and peace than we shall ever know.

A prayer for today

Dear Lord, be good to me today.

The sea is so wide and my boat is so small. Amen.

An Irish Fisherman’s Prayer

An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

17th April

 Loving Father God

As we face another three weeks of lockdown we give You thanks that it would appear that the lockdown measures are working. But, Father we pray for the mental health of our nation – for wee ones not wanting to go out, frightened by what they have heard and seen on the news; for older people frustrated and depressed by a day that is made up of eating and sleeping and for all who are suffering the scourge of loneliness. We pray for families where they are living twenty-four hours a day in a confined space. Let us know Your presence.

We pray for our armed forces, for those whose leave is about to end and they are preparing to return to their bases and again for forces chaplains and the work they are doing at the moment.

Be with all in the emergency services and especially ambulance technicians who have made the decision to isolate from their families and ewe give thanks for hotel chains who have opened their doors to NHS staff doing this.

As the church bells rang out last night in support of all carers may the day come soon when we can ring the bells to celebrate the end of lockdown.

Loving Father You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing loving and gracious presence.

Amen

Evelyn Robertson

Tom’s thought’s for today:

15th April 2020

Heroes
“The daring feats worked by those heroes are well known to us.”
Anonymous (Old English), Beowulf


My bike hasn’t been out of my garage for ages, and yet I have been a lover of cycling all my life. Cyclists Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish, Miguel Indurain, Julian Alaphilippe, and many more, are all heroes of mine.
The Tour de France at the beginning of July is a must for me (though Covid-19 has damaged that for this year.) This annual, multi-stage race is the most prestigious, and arguably the most difficult, bike race in the world. When the winner stands on the Champs-Élysées podium on the final day, bedecked in the famous yellow jersey – the Maillot Jaune – I’ve been known to shed a tear. There can be only one winner, of course. Yet the race isn’t just individual riders racing each other. It’s about teams competing with teams, so that each lead rider has a chance of winning. The team is made up of domestiques, good cyclists in their own right, but whose job is to ride for the team principal. They’ll work at the head of the peleton to protect their leader; distribute food bags from the team car; wait behind to pace someone back to the pack if there’s been a crash; sacrifice themselves to bring their man home. Domestiques, riding for someone else, taking little or no glory for themselves.


When I stand on my doorstep to clap and cheer for our NHS and Care staff, I pray I’ll never forget those whose sacrifices ensure all of us get good care. Our country is massively indebted to all the unsung heroes, the domestiques, who look for no glory and get little reward, save that of knowing that they do it all – every day – for other people.


A prayer for today
For leaders and supporters, for team-principals and domestiques,
and for the many back-up staff … thank God for them all. Amen
An original reflection by © Tom Gordon

Evelyn’s Prayer for today:

15th April

Gracious and Loving Father

We give thanks that You are our Father and You care for all of us. We give thanks for all the caring that has taken place in these difficult times and we ask Your forgiveness where selfishness has prevailed.

Father at this time we think of a group that is often forgotten, our parish ministers the length and breadth of the nation. Many of them are frustrated at not being able to pastor their flock properly, many are finding the situation with funerals difficult to cope with because they care as You do. We also pray for those who carry the extra burden of being an Interim Moderator at this time. Father as our clergy (of all denominations) minister to the people so we ask that You will minister to them.

Loving Father You are our hope, our strength and our shield. You are Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper and our Light in the Darkness.

Loving and Healing God draw close to us all in this pandemic crisis and let us feel your healing loving and gracious presence.

Amen