Rubbed Out!

My very first experience of school was being shouted at. I was a late starter, and joined my class a third of the way through the year. Then, 40 minutes into my very first day, the teacher shouted at me.

How do I know it was 40 minutes? I remember my big sister and her friend accompanying me to the classroom door, and the teacher saying “come in”, and telling me to sit down at a desk. So I went in and sat down and waited, not sure what I was supposed to be doing, until the teacher looked up from her desk and began shouting at me!

“John Young,” she bellowed, “that’s 40 minutes you’ve been sitting there without asking me what you are supposed to be doing!” I remember how the whole class stopped and stared at me, and I can remember thinking, “I don’t think I like school very much!”

As the term progressed I realized that this particular teacher was very good at shouting, and, in fact, she shouted at everybody. She also hated rubbers (erasers), and she had a general ban on pupils using them, especially when they had made a silly mistake with their sums.

This meant that you couldn’t change the silly mistakes you made, and if you tried to use a rubber she would shout at you. Then, when you brought your sums out to the front to show her, she would shout at you some more for the silly mistakes you had made. (I used to try and rub my mistakes out with my thumb, but it only made a big dark smudge on the paper, and then she would shout at me anyway, for making a mess.)

I often say that, if someone says they don’t believe in God, it’s good to ask them to describe the god they don’t believe in. I wonder how many would describe a god who is a bit like my P1 teacher. A god who takes delight in highlighting our mistakes and then shouting at us about them. And so we try and smudge them out, and it just makes more and more of a mess.

Maybe that’s what you think God is like? If so, the good news is that you couldn’t have got Him more wrong. The God made known to us by Jesus is someone you can go to with your mistakes, knowing that he will not only NOT shout at you, but he will take all your mistakes off your hands and rub them out himself.

Happily, our next school teacher didn’t shout at us at all, and she didn’t mind things being rubbed out either! What a joy it was to us all when we moved up a class. And what a joy to discover, in her, a glimpse of what God was really like.

Much love


The Year of Young People

Last May, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland designated 2018 as ‘The Year of Young People’ (YoYP). Throughout Scotland churches are being challenged to engage with a number of pressing issues which are effecting us all, such as how to encourage young people to engage more with their faith, and how to make sure that they know they are an important part of the church.

Here at Liberton we have been trying to address these questions for a number of years now, particularly with our Forward Together campaign in 2001 to raise money for the appointment of our first full time youth worker, and, more recently, in the various ways we have been trying to include and involve younger people in our worship and in our communion services.

There is one important area, however, in which we still have some way to go. In March 2017, I wrote of the image in the Bible of church as the ‘Family of God’ and the need for us to be more ‘intergenerational’. I had been challenged by the words of Andy Chittick, spoken two years before, who had said…
Statistics show that, unless each one of our young people feel known, loved and accepted by at least five other church members who are not in their
immediate family, then, when they grow older, they will be unlikely to want to remain part of our church.

A year has now passed since I wrote this article, but the challenge still remains, and so, to make it more real, here is an exercise for us all to do. Please write the names of five school-age children known to you personally, who you are not directly related to, and who are part of our church family here at Liberton.

Much love

February – Focus Day Feedback

I’ve just got back from our congregational ‘Focus Day’ (morning, actually, and finishing with a lovely bread and soup lunch), when we spent some time together reflecting on this year’s theme – “We have this treasure in jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4.7).

Our guest speaker was Rev Maggie Lane, who, in the early ‘noughties’ spent six months with us as she explored her own calling to ministry. This was something she eventually and reluctantly accepted, and for a number of years now she has been the leader of one of the churches at Kirkliston.

Maggie talked of her own feelings of inadequacy before taking on the role of minister, and this led us all to reflect on how God uses even us, broken as we are, to help others know that there is hope in Jesus, and that a new life is possible. While we need to acknowledge that there may well be suffering along the way, it is often when we go through hard times that we can look back and see how Jesus has helped us, and we can then support others going through similar struggles.

Maggie also spoke of the need for honesty and humility in our relationship with God, and especially in our prayer life. She centred on the need for God’s transforming presence in the life of our church, quoting the well-known promise he gives us in 2 Chronicles 7.14 –
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray
and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Towards the end of the morning we spent some time sharing what we felt God had been saying to us as a church. The main themes that emerged in common were
• the importance of meeting together in prayer
• our need for humility in the presence of God
• our need to accept our brokenness before God’s light can shine through

Much love

Going deeper with God

The following lines from a book by Peter Scazzero have really challenged me because I recognised their truth –

“Many Christians are stuck. Some are lost at this very moment, trying to find their way. Others are afraid they will go astray if they remain stuck for much longer. More than a few are lost without knowing it”*

There are lots of good words that could be used to describe Liberton Kirk, but one of the not so good ones is ‘busy’. Liberton Kirk is a ‘busy’ church. When you add up all the things that are going on and divide them by the number of people in the church, you would think that everyone had a fairly balanced spiritual life. Sadly, this is not the case. Some of us are doing far too much and thereby risking spiritual burn-out, while others are involved in so little that they run the serious risk of spiritual drift. In both cases there is the sense that we have got ourselves ‘stuck’.

To be ‘stuck’ is to have lost your ‘first love’. Whether it is through doing too much or doing too little, the fires that first burned so brightly have grown dimmer. The joy has gone. Jesus is no longer the dominant force in your life. You are either too distracted to develop your relationship with him, or too tired to enjoy it.

How do we get our spiritual life moving again? The answer is to get our balance right – not in terms of what we do and don’t do for him, but in terms of how much time we are actually spending with him in the first place. We need to give ourselves permission to go deeper with God.

And so, on Saturday 21st January, 2017, you are invited to our next Congregational Focus Day, when the focus will be on getting our spiritual balance right. The purpose of this day is NOT just to learn one or two interesting new things about our faith. Rather, it is to set aside some quality time to be with God and with each other, so that together we can re-evaluate our priorities as a church. While parts of the morning will be led by Scott and Faith Brennan, our guest speakers, there will also be opportunities to sit in silence and opportunities to talk through what we have learned.

Whether you are new to the church, or whether you have been around for a long time, this invitation is for you. Sign-up sheets are available at the West Door. Hope to see you soon.

*Peter Scazzero – ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’

For more information contact John Young – 0131 664 3067 /