Sunday, 1 September 2013

Inspiration, influence and regret

So the enquiry process has ramped up a gear. This past fortnight there has been a flurry of forms that indicate, pending approval at an initial interview, the 6 month 'period of discernment' could be imminent.

In July I was invited to be part of the Church's new process for testing the call of potential candidates for ministry. Recognising the fact guinea pigs aren't (normally) eaten in Scotland, I accepted the invite to be a guinea pig in my corner of the country. The process doesn't differ hugely to the original-it is more a 'complete package' within a defined period of time.

Part 1 involved a psychological questionnaire to determine what kind of person I am. Having encountered shorter versions in my work life, I recognised the types of questions, but have no idea what my answers indicate about me.

Then came the stuff from 121. Part 2- what makes me who I am.  Many people have an answer to the 'which person dead or alive inspires you?'-style questions. I don't. It's not that I'm uninspired nor that I don't seek inspiration. But one person, event or thing: I'm stuck. But I realised quickly (question 1) that this is the point- reflect, think and prepare for what's to come.

Each question is written, I presume, to focus the mind on what I have embarked to explore.  Reflecting on what I regret the most was possibly the most challenging. I've always lived by the principle 'learn from your mistakes' therefore to have regrets would not be looking at an event/circumstance as a learning opportunity. So what had I done that I hadn't learned from and wished I hadn't done it? Truthfully I struggled, missed it out and came back to it!  

The other questions weren't much easier but I am grateful for the opportunity to be asked allowing me to reflect not just for the purposes of enquiry but personally. 

What inspires me? What influences me? I have answered in the here and now. Ask me the same set of questions 12 months ago I'm sure things would be looked at differently. Ask in 12 months time I'm sure things will be different again. God works in mysterious ways putting us all into situations unknown. He's given me the choice to listen or ignore. People to inspire and situations to influence. I need to look out for whoever and whatever in the next 6 months as as always, it'll happen for a reason. 

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Messages in flames

It would appear summer is here. After all the sun is shining and the temperature doesn't have a '-' symbol beside it. Last summer had only a few days like we've had this week and the Met Office promises us more of the same in the days ahead.  We live in hope.

With the sun comes BBQ season. With BBQs comes the lighting of fire-something I am quite drawn by. What is the reason for my fascination? I have no idea. But deep discussion occurred the other night when sharing a BBQ and fire with a group of Christian friends. None of those present (my wife excepted) knew about my exploration of call I hope to embark on by September. However the discussion, 'sparked' by a fallen ember from the fire, made me reflect...

"Ah, the flames have stopped now it's out the fire," someone observed.

"Just like a Christian who falls from regular church attendance," said another.

We discussed that to maintain your Christian way of life you must keep up your church attendance. A further test was carried out; a baton of wood was placed over the chimney of the chimnea. Needless to say it caught fire despite not being licked by flames. So the strength of those who worship together cause others to ignite their own faith. 

Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus tells that it's not enough to go to church, pray, read the Bible or do a good deed everyday. There is a much bigger change required. Church is (or at least it should be) responding to the changing needs of those who are served by it. Where is 'church'? Church, like fire, can have many different guises and be located almost anywhere. There be huge ones.  There can be small ones in obscure places. For as long as the energy generated is maintained survival will triumph. 

Our discussion round the fire helped me consider more of my own calling. The possibilities and uncertainty of where God wants me and what He wants me to do are mind blowing. What kind of role does He want ME to play? I thought I was being used in my current situations I believed He put me in...obviously not

"Trust in Lord with all your heart, don't lean on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. He knows the plans that He has for you; plans to prosper and not to harm you plans to give you a future and hope, says The Lord.'

Reassuring words I heard just before clicking 'send' on the email application to begin the 'enquiry and assessment' process...

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Searching Questions

So the time has come. This weekend is the Church of Scotland Vocations Conference.

The process of exploring my call is just beginning but I may have been thwarted at this early stage. A questionnaire 'not designed to catch you out' was sent with my conference pack. Diligently I sat down to think about this 'personal self enquiry'.  It's no secret I'm applying to the Presbyterian church in Scotland.  Asked about my 5 skills, 5 things I like about myself, 3 strengths others note in me...what are thing things?!  I may be a little flippant; there are plenty of 'easier' questions like the skills I wished I had, things I dislike, etc. 

On a serious note, the whole sheet made me seriously consider my calling and what gifts God has given me. Despite the many blank answer spaces, I have had the opportunity to reflect and I have most certainly begun my thinking process. 

The exciting journey has begun. Supportive conversations and words of encouragement have reaffirmed the belief I wrote of before: now is the time. 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

And so the journey continues...

As a Christian, I have always believed God has a plan for me.  For a long as I can remember there has been that constant reassurance 'I'm with you'.  Like many others, probably everyone at some stage, I've had the thought of 'where are you now!' but I know He was there...isn't hindsight perfect?

As the cliché goes - life is a journey.  I've been on this journey of life with its ups and downs and the regular (metaphorical) tap on the shoulder with the voice 'remember me - I've a plan for you'.  For 13 years God has been reminding me that I have a calling to some form of ministry in the Church of Scotland.   So if, as I've already said, I'm so certain He has a plan for me, has it taken so long to respond to the call?  It's not been the right time.  

Seeds need planting and tended to.  The seed was planted by 2 people; both in the same year at different times.  I explored tentatively that year and pushed (metaphorical) doors.  The doors didn't open whilst others opened instead.  Off I went and studied Geography and Geomatics - a far cry from the Divinity courses required if those two people were right.

Young seedlings need encouragement.  A wee while passed and then came the next tap on the shoulder 'remember me - I've a plan for you'.  This time no-one spoke to me and there was no bright light.  It was a gentle reminder that one day, in His time, I would fulfil His plan.  Wee moments like this recurred every now and then until...

Seedlings need transplanted to enable them to continue growing.  Since January 2013 there has been a much more intense reminder of this plan.  Daily Bible study readings, services of worship and encounters with people have all been giving me the encouragement to 'get on with it'.  So off I embark on the next stage of my journey. 

Where will it lead?  What will I do?  Who knows?  God does, and that's all the reassurance I need.  So in a fortnight's time I'm off the the Vocations Conference to explore my call.