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December 2019 Letter

  • 6 December 2019
  • nanda.groenewald

Dear Congregations

Although a WHITE Christmas is something I’ve only ever seen on the telly and on Christmas cards before I moved to Scotland, I knew very well it existed; but BLACK ice is something I have never heard of before settling down here! And if I can be completely honest, I don’t like driving when the temperatures plummet, because I’m always so scared my car will skid on the ice.

But children look at things through completely different eyes… When we had our first wee cold spell of the winter a couple of weeks ago, our paving was completely covered in black ice. I heard my boys giggling outside and I thought I should better go tell them to be careful they don’t slip and fall, but when I went out to see what they were doing, I couldn’t help but smile. They were “ice skating” on the paving, having the time of their lives as they entertained each other and tried to stay on their feet.

And while I was standing there, looking at them, I thought that we grown-ups should look at life through children’s eyes more. Because we always try to do the right thing, I think it can happen that sometimes we only focus on the dangers of something, and in this way miss out on the fun altogether.

So let’s go into Advent and Christmas and the New Year like children: filled with anticipation, hope, and excitement. Because God wants us to see the beauty and experience the magic of his Son’s birth, and the start of another new year.

And when the “roads of life” get icy, let’s try not to skid, but rather to skate. Let’s make the most of every situation we find ourselves in!

I hope to see you all at the Christmas Eve Family Service on the 24th of December, at Polbeth Hardwood, 6:30pm; and/or at the Watchnight Service at the West Kirk on the same night at 11:30pm.

May you all have a happy Christmas and a blessed 2020!

God bless,

Nanda

 

November 2019 Letter

  • 30 October 2019
  • nanda.groenewald

November, a month which offers us a season of Remembrance.it also starts with two holy days. On the first day of the month we celebrate All Saints Day. The day we remember all of the famous saints whose names are recorded in the annals of history. it is quickly followed by All Souls day on 2 November. this date provides an opportunity to give thanks for those who have enriched our lives through their compassionate love and kindly deeds. Both of these holy days offer us an opportunity to prepare for another date in the church calendar - Remembrance Sunday: the date on which we acknowledge with sadness that wars continue to rage in parts of our world, and we commit ourselves to pray and work towards peace.

As Remembrance Sunday approaches, I find myself reflecting on the word 'peace' and am drawn to St Francis of Assisi's famous prayer which has been translated in a hymn 'Make me a channel of your peace.'

Born of noble birth, Francis had ambitions of being a knight and warrior. he had fought in a battle between his home town of Assisi and neighbouring Perugia. He was imprisoned, tortured and released to continue his journey to fight in the Crusades. Like many soldiers today, he experienced the horrors of war and this had a profound and lasting effect upon him. although his body was weakened by the physical injuries he suffered; the mental and emotional scars took their toll upon him, leaving him a shadow of his former self.

By joining the Crusades, Francis might have wanted to prove he was a worthy soldier, but on his ride there, he received a divine message and came to realise that his aspirations as a knight were not to be accomplished by the sword. he turned around and headed back to his hometown of Assisi.

the rigors experienced by today's military may far exceed those of the medieval soldier. The 'glory of war' that once impelled Francis to military service is now a distant myth. Those who have served in the military and those who work in the mental health profession have great concern for the impact of conflict on the modern soldier. In America there is a veterans programme at the Franciscan Renewal Centre in Arizona.

The Franciscan community work with discharged soldiers offering them a therapeutic space to heal body, mind and soul.They are loved back to wholeness and health. As part of their recovery process some of the soldiers take up the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to Assisi. Together, they share their experiences and learn about the life and struggles of St Francis, who himself was a professional soldier.

it is believed that St Francis' life of quiet, ascetic values amongst nature is a direct result, not only of God's calling, but also of his need to withdraw to tend to his soul. Learning of St Francis' struggles to come to terms with his brokenness offers hope to ex-soldiers, as they recuperate from their own emotional scars.

the picture shown above is a statue of St Francis as a soldier, riding his horse with his head hung low revealing the emotional pain and the wounded-ness he was experiencing. This sculpture of the saint on horseback is a far cry from the saint we associate with peace today! Yet, for those suffering from combat stress and Post Traumatic Stress symptoms, it offers hope and an acknowledgment of their pain.

As Remembrance Sunday draws nearer we are invited to remember those today who live with the horrors of war imprinted in their minds, hearts and souls. For some, these horrors never leave them; others will frequently experience a delayed effect of survivor guilt. We pray for all who struggle with the effects of war and we commit ourselves to working towards peace.

In the words of the prayer by St Francis - 

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy."

Shalom, Alison

October 2019 Letter

  • 30 September 2019
  • nanda.groenewald

Dear Congregations

Alison, Suzanne and I recently went to a “minister’s retreat” arranged by West Lothian Presbytery. It was held at The Bield at Blackruthven. There I’ve learned that the word “bield” is an old Scottish word which means “shelter” or “refuge”.

We were reminded of the importance to regularly take some time out of our normal routine, not only to reload our batteries, but also to refocus our lives on God. And that is something that is not only important in the life of a minister, it’s important for all of us to do.

Have a wee look at this passage from Romans 12 (The Message): So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out…Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fuelled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.

Every now and again we need to “retreat” from the world, in order to return to the world with renewed energy. And one of the best places a Christian can do this is on a Sunday at church. To me our church is my “bield”, my safe place, where for one hour a week I get to realign my life with God in order to face the week ahead.

So let’s all look after ourselves in the way God wants us to. We all try to eat the right things and do enough exercise to keep our bodies fit and healthy – let’s do the same for our souls…

May God bless you all,

Nanda

 

 

 

Sep[tember 2019 Letter

  • 1 September 2019
  • nanda.groenewald

Dear Congregations

And just like that the summer holidays are over.....i hope you've all had a lovely time and that your batteries are recharged for the year ahead!

we had a very special time in South Africa with family and friends. This year we decided to take my dad and brother to the South Coast of Kwazulu Natal. My brother hadn't been near a beach for 10 years. He said if he could just put his feet in the water, that would be like a dream come true for him. Unfortunately, the downside to the beautiful big sandy beaches in South Africa is that it is impossible to push someone in a wheelchair all the way to the water> So... one day we drove to a beach with easy access, and with one arm around Andre's shoulders and his other arm around my shoulders, we dragged my brother to the shallow water. You should have seen his face when the first wave splashed over his feet! Unforgettable.

Although Emuel was absolutely exhausted after his adventure, those few minutes of standing on the beach in the water were the highlight of his holiday.

Poor Andre had a bruised arm afterwards! When we showed the picture of the two of them to a dear friend of ours, she said: "He ain't heavy, he's my brother..." And you know, that is so true. in Africa, when you get married to someone, your in-laws become your family. Emuel is not only my brother, he's Andre's brother now too. And I think that is exactly what Jesus meant when he said that all who believe in him are brothers and sisters in faith. We are all family.

 And when it comes to family, we need to always be there for each other. So whether it is physical or emotional burdens - if our brothers or sisters are suffering under the load they have to bear, we need to help them carry. Because, who knows, you helping someone else might just turn out not only to be the best day of their lives, but the best day of your life too!

May God bless you all, Nanda

 

 

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