The one where I visited some fairy woods…

So, it’s safe to say I’m pretty wiped out. Last week I struggled through with sore throat so I figured it was another cold  coming on care of the children of Edinburgh, but on Sunday I woke up with no voice. New self-diagnosis: laryngitis!

Suffice to say, it’s hard to do my work without a voice, so I’ve been resting it as much as possible today before I have to do some youth work stuff tonight. In an attempt to stay awake I thought I’d blog to share some photos from last weekend…

IMG_2082

For the first time in a long time, I rode in Davina. She is still green rather than blue but I’m pleased to say that I didn’t have to pray for her engine to start. Sadly though it was a grey drizzly morning at the beach…so no beam work. Luckily though, members of the church had this very luxurious RV with a canopy for everyone to shelter under. I say everyone, most of the kids wanted to climb all over Davina and run around in the rain.

IMG_2100

While people ate bacon rolls (I keep kosher) I sat in a camping chair snapping pics at strange angles in between having conversations. But this lad may have been my favourite subject to photograph. Even my friend who is an actual professional photographer saw pics and said “That is the most photogenic dog!”. He also woofs along when people sing Happy Birthday.

IMG_2111

While we were there we looked up to see a group who were galloping across the beach on horseback. I’ve only ever seen one or two horse riders at a time, and it was really cool to watch. Especially with the backdrop of Bass Rock in the background. I felt so sorry for the horse that kept lagging behind. I can empathise.

And after going back to my friends’ home to warm up and collect their lovely beagle, we ventured back outdoors to a wood where fairies live…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve also heard that some baby penguins have been born including a baby rockhopper (the Northern Rockhopper penguins are my faves…they always come to say hello through the fence, and they look like punks so what’s not to love?). It’s the first time in 8 years a baby Rockhopper has been born. Usually it’s only gentoos that hatch eggs. A visit to the zoo is on my to-do list. 🙂

 

Flashback Friday: Let’s Not Be Cookie Cutter Christians…

Originally posted on June 20th 2007

Cailin is a Gaelic word for ‘girl’. And it’s what I really struggle to be. Yes, weird I know that I say that when I am one!! When I was a teenager, I desperately wished that I was a boy – I was a bit of a tomboy at Primary School, and to this day I’m most comfortable when wearing a pair of jeans. I often find it easier to talk to guys than I do to girls, because I find that I relate better to them. My friends from Edinburgh apparently consider me as ‘an honourary guy’ (apparently this is a compliment?!). I can’t sew, my ironing skills are appalling. I hate romantic movies. I do wear make up and used to be addicted to straightening my hair. I love shoe shopping, but don’t often shop with girls because it just takes too long. I like to watch football (and for the actual football not to watch guys in shorts). I love camping. My favourite shows include Grey’s Anatomy, Without A Trace and Top Gear. I’m pretty blunt and up front too.

I think I’ve struggled more with this since I went to university and the more I’ve hung around church. In Halls, I lived with 20 other girls. Utter madness. Most girls spent their entire week planning their Saturday night outfit, and I really just didn’t care. The girls who didn’t, they were generally really good cooks, could do all those things like card making, embroidery or whatever. I just never felt like I fitted in with either ‘girl type’, and as a consequence, I would often find myself over with the guys on a different floor so I could watch football, gossip less and not have to be questioned a million times about make up, hair and tops!

When I became a Christian, I quickly realised that I REALLY didn’t fit in. There seemed to be this unwritten rule that as a girl, you were at university to find a husband. You would of course get engaged in your last year of university and marry this man (destined to be a doctor, youth pastor, engineer or minister) shortly after graduation. You would spend your first year or so working and getting to know other women in the church – doing lots of babysitting, sunday school, cooking at Alpha etc. And have people over for dinner (which you cook from scratch) and when you have kids you would then end your chosen career to become a full-time Mum. Now there is nothing wrong with any of that – but it totally isn’t me! First of all, it seemed shocking that a girl learn guitar, or be a worship leader. Second of all, it seemed to be expected that when the CU is having a bake sale to raise funds for a mission or whatever that it would be the girls that baked for it. I really don’t bake. I like football but Christian guys do not include you in this social activity – instead it seems I should be reading Jane Austen books and their seemed to be a thing with Christian girls and watching Pride and Prejudice?? Oh, and tea drinking.

For years, Christianity seemed like some secret society that I didn’t know the proper etiquette for. I didn’t mind that the girls had different gifts, likes, interests etc from me, it was more that all of them seemed to have the same interests, likes etc as each other – but none of them were characteristics that I could find common ground to build a friendship on with them. In fact, I felt a bit like a pariah whenever I found myself in a Christian activity and anything which was a ‘women only’ event filled me with great dread.

Luckily, over time, I discovered that there were other sisters who shared my frustrations. I was lucky enough in my later years of student life to be surrounded by girls and guys who were each unique in our likes, dislikes, hobbies, what we wore, hair colour, hair style, career choice and how important being married and starting a family was to us. We shared one common love – Jesus – and found friendship over that a different things for each one of us.

Speaking to younger girls in church who are coming up through university I think there is enormous pressure to find that ‘perfect Christian man’. How many Christian girls have given themselves that ‘you’ve got until you’re 25 rule?’. How many times have girls gone around church or CU or been on mission or a festival/conference and eyed up what potential husband material there is in the room? How many mothers are putting pressure on their daughters by commenting on any guy they’re friends with. How many couples have the word ‘wedding’ mentioned to them when they’ve barely started dating? I’ve experienced dating in a ‘goldfish bowl’ myself where as a Christian couple you seem to be hot topic of conversation in all Christian gatherings…’do you think they’ll get married?’ ‘when do you think he’ll ask her?’

Singleness is a gift from God. And we all need to use it and cherish it like we should have done our childhood. Most likely, if we are to be married, that guy will turn up when we’re least expecting it. And to be honest, I truly believe that if we can’t handle life on our own, the less likely a relationship will be successful. Because relationships are hard without being self-reliant on a human being who is imperfect as opposed to being reliant on God.

It’s also ok to be yourself. God made each one of us different. You can have a different hair colour, it can be long or short, if you pierce your ears more than once you’re still a Christian. You can be sporty, or into reading, a worship leader, or be tone deaf. You might be amazing with kids and a fantastic children’s church leader. Kids might terrify you or just not be your thing. Some guys love chick flicks, some girls hate them – and vice versa. Every marriage and family is different and that’s ok too. And being a Mum is definitely one of the most difficult jobs in the world. If you can do it without another job on top – amazing. If you can do it while working full-time or part-time – also amazing! Let’s also remember that some people may get married, but not have children, and that’s ok too.

Diversity is good. It speaks of God’s creativity in this world. Don’t be tempted to change your colours (so to speak) just to blend in with those around you.

Comments from original posting:

Paul: wow this is a great post, thank you! We are all so diverse that it really isn’t good to compare ourselves to each other, infact I think St Paul goes as far as commanding that we don’t…

“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.” Gal 5:25-26

So in this you and St Paul hold a common and vey inspiring view:)

Being single in the church…

IMG_6309

I’m still getting used to not working on Sundays and realising that church services are something I really have to push myself to go to. Although this has been the case for pretty much 90% of the time I’ve lived in Edinburgh I’m still not used to the loneliness of going to and from church. I think because when I first started going in Aberdeen I hated missing church, it was a community affair and Sunday was my favourite day of the week because of it.

I’ve had a few chats that have got me thinking about religious practice lately. Chat number one was about the concern over prophetic words being spoken over children by people in positions of authority. My friend and I feel lucky that when we became Christians we were part of a church that taught us to weigh these kind of things up – never to just take someone’s “Word from God” as fact or definitely being from God. We were taught to discern and pray  and ask God about it. Sadly, this is often NOT the case, and as a result children are sometimes burdened by words spoken over them they believe must be true.

Chat number two was about singleness and relationships. I grow increasingly concerned about the culture in the church where kids (and adults!) are taught to ‘pray for THE ONE’ and marriage and children are things that must be on your life to-do list. I’ve watched a few friends now who have rushed into engagements and marriage – I believe driven by fear of being alone or feeling like a failure. I’m thankful that some of those friends had courage to realise that and break off engagements. Others have had to go through painful divorces. It has been awful to watch. The simple fact is church ministries tend to be designed around families that look like a husband, wife and kids. I will confess it’s an alien idea to me, as my family always included members that weren’t blood related. My family holidays were with my Mum and her three single friends or her best friend (another single parent) and son. My birthday parties tended to have those friends at them – sometimes helping my Mum make party bags and serve sandwiches, jelly and ice cream. Often as single people we listen to sermons that make constant references to parenting and marriage. We are led by married people. We are treated like children. Young people get sermons to pray for their future spouses and make wish lists to sleep with under their pillows. And I’m glad that it’s been several months since the last woman in church came up to me to say “Oh Laurie, I’m praying that you find a good husband one day, I really believe that he could be just around the corner“.

Truth is, I would love to marry and spend my life with a guy if we were compatible for such a thing. I consider myself lucky to have made some good friends in Aberdeen and in Edinburgh that have lived out healthy marriage to me. And taught me that if I did get married I don’t have to become a stay at home mum if I don’t want to. However, I also believe that being single gives so much opportunity to live life and serve God and others.

I never want to marry someone because I’ve settled for someone just because they seem interested in me and it seems like a better idea than living alone.

Which brings me to my point. Marital status shouldn’t ever mean being alone no matter what it is.

I’m lucky that I have two families in particular that I get to be a part of. We exchange gifts for Christmas and birthdays. I’ve made cupcakes for their parties and been on road trips with them. I’ve wiped poo off their kids’ bottoms and sponged puke out their hair. We’ve gone to music gigs, we’ve celebrated New Year, they’ve taken home bags of rubbish when our wheelie bin got too full after my birthday party, we’ve gone on holiday together, we’ve shared books, ideas and tried to put the world to rights. I’ve prayed with them, I’ve read their kids stories. And the nicest part is that they don’t make me feel like a leper or avoid certain conversations just because I’m not married or a parent. They’ve text me when they’re exhausted from their kid not going to sleep for months on end. I’ve text them when some random guy on a bus has asked me out on a date and I’m not sure how to respond to that.

But I hate how on a Sunday we seem to get segregated into families, married couples, students, 25+ singles, widows, high school students… it doesn’t feel like community to me. It feels isolating.

Sundays are the only time I wish I was married with kids.

The rest of the time? I’m content with the life I’ve been given, and happy to see where it ends up…married eventually or single forever. Because in my world, singleness doesn’t mean aloneness.

At least I hope not.

And I know I’m not the only person that feels this way in church.

How can we make church more of an inclusive community?

Why youth culture shouldn’t involve discarding older generations…

Screen shot 2014-12-28 at 22.30.23

This post appeared on my facebook feed on Christmas week, and it struck a chord in me. This year, I officially no longer became a young person. I fell through the cracks as an unemployed ‘mature’ student. With the entering of a new decade, there are privileges that are taken away from you.

The other side is that part of the reason I left a church a few years ago, was that I felt totally redundant. There were ministries I’d been a part of since arriving in Edinburgh, and with people coming up from university I was pushed out of them to let the younger ones in. In one sense, as a person who has been a youth worker in some form or other for half my life now I totally agree with the encouragement of young people into roles of leadership. What I don’t like is that it can’t be intergenerational – that it has to be one generation or another at the helm.

I remember at 22, encouraging my friend to join a smallgroup. His mother turned to me during a conversation about studying the bible and learning more about God and said “well, when you get to my age there’s nothing new to learn about God”.

I found that so depressing. If I get to my 50s and find there’s nothing new to learn about God, then quite frankly I don’t see how there could be a God at all. What makes my God, Yahweh, God is the fact that He/She is so mysterious and ways are beyond our comprehension. As a mere human, there is much I’m able to do and understand and learn…but I’ll never know everything. That’s part of the journey of faith.

Then there are our mothers. Our ageing mothers. Aunts. Co-workers. Who bemoan the wrinkles from months, years and decades worth of laughter and smiles. Scars from children grown and birthed (and meals with friends & family enjoyed…!). Who feel they are too old to offer anything. Who are increasingly often written off, complained about and write themselves off as having nothing more to contribute…

Well, quite frankly….BOLLOCKS to that.

And I know it can be done.

Because there’s a lady who I won’t name  who has proven that I’m right. This lady was like the Mum/Gran to all at my church in Aberdeen. She made quilts for every baby and many of the students. She was one of the first people I met the first day I went there, and on introduction encouraged me to stay for student lunch in the hall downstairs (I’d forgotten I’d agreed to go to my friends’ church and so when they came to my door to drag me to the bus I was still in my pyjamas. I’d pulled my big baggy skater jeans over them and was still wearing the pants from the day before..so gross and embarrassing! so I felt very self-conscious and worried I was gatecrashing). She enticed me with her homemade chocolate cake and made me feel welcome. And over the years, I came to admire her. This lady was nearing 60 and jumped and bounced, she did children’s church as she loved kids. She came to steward at the youth festival, and rather than complain about the loudness of the music would stand at the back with earplugs in, dancing and singing away. She learned how to use poi from our student friend. And when she retired, she started learning how to play the guitar. I never heard her complaining she ‘looked old’ or moaning about diets and weight – something I hear all too often from so many women aged 25 and above. It is refreshing…and it’s how I want to be.

So Annie Lennox…and my retired friend who made me a quilt I still treasure many years later…thank you. I agree. No matter what age, we have something to contribute. And we have so much to learn from those with more life experience, and I so appreciate that, want to absorb all I can from you.

I want to keep encouraging young people…but I will fight for this not to be at the cost of discarding older generations.