Featured

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

As Christmas approaches again we are all, it seems, inevitably caught up in the hype and hysteria as our ‘inboxes’ are bombarded by ‘Black Friday’ special offers from a multitude of retailers, plus the advertisements on TV, in newspapers and bill-boards. Then follows the rush to buy a ‘unique’ present for the lengthening list of recipients, not to mention Christmas cards, Christmas tree, Christmas lights and decorations. And of course there is the turkey, frozen or fresh?  The vegetables, brussel sprouts or cauliflower? The sweet, profiteroles or black forest gateau? fresh cream or ice cream? and on and on ….. 

My ‘man’ approach to all this is, set a budget, make a list of ‘who’ and ‘what’ for cards and presents, then decide what decorations, food, and drinks are required, drive to the nearest shopping centre and buy them! But, I’m married, so my better half thinks we must first go around the shops to see what they have, and then choose! Guess who wins? 😉 The late Derick Bingham in his excellent little book ‘When the Storks Flew South’ starts by stating that ‘a recent study concluded that all of us face between 300 – 17,000 decisions every day’, and I think that in our house we are approaching the top end of the scale right now!

Bingham in his book looks at some of the major decisions made by men and women down through the centuries that changed the course of history! And here in the UK we are being told that as a nation we are facing such a choice as we approach the 12 December election. So what will the nation decide? Who should lead the nation? and in what direction? Should we have Brexit or no Brexit? a ‘Hard’ or a ‘Soft’ Brexit?  Then there is the ‘trust’ question, who can we believe as we are promised an end to austerity and a huge surge in spending in everything from the NHS to police, from education to infrastructure, and from wages to pensions? Not to mention questions on Global warming, Scottish and Welsh Independence and the intractable question of the Irish border and Stormont? 

If you are like me, I confess that I am not impressed with the options when it comes to proposed leaders, and I have some serious questions about some of their proposals, so for the first time ever I find myself in the ‘undecided’ camp!

But are any of these questions of ultimate importance? I video recorded my friend Andy Hunter giving a different slant on Christmas recently, and you can click on the link below to hear what he says, when it comes to ultimate questions.  

Meantime I wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas, and God’s blessing in the New Year, whatever the nation may decide on December 12th!

Matthew

Featured

The Bookcase – it’s dangerous to go there!

I confess that looking in my bookcase is not something I do very often these days, as I now find it easier reading from my ‘Kindle’ due to print size, back lighting, and the ability to carry your whole library around with you. However I was searching in my bookcase yesterday for a particular book, and in the process was distracted by two other books that caught my eye! Books have power 🙂

One of the books I picked up and browsed was Tom Lennie’s ‘Land of Many Revivals’ – Scotland’s extraordinary Legacy of Christian revivals over four centuries 1527 – 1857, published in 2015.  What an amazing amount of research has gone into this book.  Many people will know, and have read of the Lewis Revival (1949-52) and perhaps have heard people speak about it at an event or on TV or You Tube.  But I guess most Scots are oblivious to the fact that this whole phenomena of Christian revival goes a long way back in Scottish history. 

Being a Glasgow boy I looked for ‘Glasgow’ in the index, and read with interest of George Whitefield’s visit in 1741 and of his subsequent visits. Even by 1751 Whitefield recorded that he was speaking to ten thousand souls every day, with people leaving their homes early in the morning to walk into the city to hear him. Countless numbers of people came to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, claiming Him to be their Saviour and Lord.

Pictures of Tiree

Since my ancestors came from the Isle of Tiree, that was where I next looked. I was interested to read that revival commenced there in the Congregational Church at the end of 1839, and spread to the Baptist Church. In the late 1830’s the Baptist pastor there, a Duncan MacDougal lamented – ‘sunk too much into formality, and we almost despair of prosperity’. By the end of 1840 MacDougal was exclaiming ’Our winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the time of the singing of birds has come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land’! There were frequent baptisms, one in April 1840 records 300-400 people on the edge of the loch witnessing the baptism of another six candidates. As I read that I wondered, was one of my ancestors among them? 

The other book that ‘caught my eye’ was ‘Covenanting Pilgrimages and Studies ‘ by A B Todd published in 1911. It was a kind of ‘Eureka’ moment when I put my hands on it. I had forgotten that I had it, and in recent months we have been visiting some of the many Covenanter monuments that are scattered around this area of East Renfrewshire, and throughout the South West of Scotland.  In fact I recently made a short video on this subject, (see below).         As an aside, the book is special because it originally was given to James Wands as a Bible Class prize in Glasgow. Jim Wands was one of my leaders as a teenager at our Christian Youth Centre, and later became my friend. I received the book from his library on his death.

Today it seems that in society at large, much of Scotland’s Christian heritage is ignored and set aside.  But it’s also encouraging to read of the many exciting things happening within churches of various denominations up and down the land, and the impact many are making in their communities.   My own Church is always packed out on a Sunday, and every day throughout the week a busy programme is in operation. 

Perhaps it is time to start praying again for ‘Revival’, as our nation and world seem in such chaos, and many individual lives are broken and in despair! May God again bless the people of Scotland!

And yes, I eventually found the book I was looking for!

Featured

Autumn’s Coming On!

It’s been another enjoyable year in the garden, but yes, ‘Autumn is Coming On’. The heather is out, and is still looking absolutely beautiful. The main apple tree has produced a very much reduced harvest this year, and the small apple tree produced no apples at all. I notice that my neighbour’s apple tree which is usually loaded with apples has none at all this year! Anyone know why? Maybe I need to get the ladder out and do some prunning! On the positive side our main tree has produced enough apples for some apple cakes, as the smell from the kitchen was telling me this afternoon. (See photo above)

Tomatoes plants on the other hand gave one of my best years ever. I picked the first tomatoes on 16 July and we have been picking them every week since. Photos above shows some still on the plants and others that I picked a couple of days ago. If the weather holds out we may get another few pounds yet, if not the chutney option will be implemented by my good wife.

Other things we do at this time of year is pick some local brambles, for our favourite bramble and apple jelly. This years crop gave us 8 lbs of jelly. It was quite difficult picking, as the wet weather had destroyed a lot of the brambles.

The flowers are now fading, apart from the dear old ‘Cosmos’ that are still attracting the bees, and I have started emptying the pots and refilling them with daffodil and tulip bulbs, but still have a long way to go on that. Soon the leaves will be falling and they will need to be vacuumed up. The grass will be given its last cut of the season, after which, I like to put down some ‘feed and weed’ before the winter, as it helps keep the moss at bay. In the greenhouse the hydrangea cuttings are ready for the Spring. And so ends another summer season, and the last of my garden reports for 2019.

At Church we always like to celebrate Harvest – and remind ourselves of the goodness of God. Paul says ‘He (God) has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their season; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy’ Acts 14.17 How true!

To all my fellow gardeners I hope you have had a great year, and are now studying the gardening catalogues, all being well, for Spring and Summer 2020 🙂

Featured

Magnificent Lake Maggiore – Italy

Earlier this month we embarked on a holiday to Lake Maggiore in Italy, along with our friends Dorothy and Iain. It was a part of Italy that we had never visited, and having read mixed reviews, we were excited to see how it would all turn out. We flew from Edinburgh to Milan, and as some comedian had remarked ‘it was sunny all the way’! We had some great views of the Alps, and their snow capped peaks as we approached Milan. On arrival there we were met by our tour guide and were driven by coach to our hotel at Baveno on the edge of the lake, passing many interesting towns and villages on the way. This would be our home for the next seven nights. We were pleased that the room we were allocated had a beautoful view out across the lake.

The itinerary that the tour company had arranged was excellent, in that it showed us a wide variety of places, and scenery, and we travelled by boat, rail and coach. We spent a day on the lake visiting the Barromean Islands with their variety of botanical gardens, palaces, exotic birds and flowers, and open air restaurants at the edge of the water. We had a visit to Lake Orta, and Orta ‘the Venice of the North’ the one time home of Francis of Assisi, we also had a visit to the island ‘Isola San Giulio’ home to an ancient chapel and convent. Our next official tour took us into the Alps at Macugnaga. The weather was favourable to us and the mountains with their snow capped peaks were absolutely amazing. The last official tour was to Locarno in Switzerland by means of coach and narrow gauge railway. It was incredible to think that we were still on the edge of Lake Maggiore when we arrived there, which highlighted the huge size of this lake.

Holidays like this give us an opportunity to meet people of different cultures and languages, to smile together and share in our common humanity. We might enjoy different foods, and dress styles, and have different colours of skin, but we share the same joys and sorrows, and the same hopes and fears for ourselves and our families. As a Christian I also like to think that we have a common need for a Saviour and friend, and that in Jesus Christ we have one who bridges all cultural and social barriers. There is a verse in the Bible that speaks of a day to come in heaven when we shall worship God together, it says ‘And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

On our free days we went exploring on our own, and if you would like to see more you can watch the video of the holiday by clicking on the link below.

Featured

NHS – Greater Glasgow and Clyde – Thank you!

My experience by Matthew McKinnon

 I had to wait nine and a half months, but just over two weeks ago I had my hernia operation. It was a day surgery job. I arrived at the hospital just before 8am, and exactly on time a nurse came to the waiting area and called out the names of four men, but not mine. I thought I was in for a wait, but no, a few minutes later another nurse called for another four, including me. We were quickly taken to the ward, given a bed, and I was told I would be second to go to theatre.

I then became part of what seemed like an amazing ‘conveyor belt’ system.  I found the day incredibly impressive, as at all times I was treated with professional efficiency, kindness, empathy and discretion. My nurse Graeme introduced himself and told me he would be looking after me. He asked lots of questions to enable him to complete a composite form re past medical history, medicines etc. Then along the line came a visit from the anaesthetist doctor herself, more questions and a word of reassurance, followed by a visit from Mr Welsh the surgeon, who confirmed the procedure, what he planned and finally what the risks were. A signature on the consent form and I was all set. Now I could sit in the chair and read. I hadn’t bothered to bring a book, but since I had the Bible on my ‘iphone’ I read and reflected on psalm 103, which seemed appropriate.

At around 10 o’clock I was issued with my ‘paper outfit’ for theatre, which I wore under my dressing gown, and a porter wheeled my bed along to the theatre to be ready. Just before 10.30 two of the anaesthetist’s assistants arrived, they asked a few more questions and then walked with me to a small anti-room outside the theatre and there was my bed. I was ‘wired up’ for various safety instruments, and then the anaesthetist told me she was about to put me to sleep.  I woke in the ward just after 1pm, felt a bit ‘woozy’ for a few minutes and then my head started to clear. I was told by my nurse to lie still and rest for a little while, but felt no pain whatsoever.

Sometime later I was invited to sit up and was issued with a jug of water and asked to drink as much as I could. (Using the toilet being a requirement for getting discharged, I believe!) I was then able to choose sandwiches from the ‘trolley lady’ and given tea.  I was also told that when I felt like it, I could get dressed, and if I needed any assistance just to shout. After dressing myself, I was given some painkillers, wound dressings and general instructions, and told that the surgeon had indicated that ‘there was no need for any further consultation’. The nurse then telephoned my wife to say I was ready to be discharged, and I was back home by 4pm!

I am hugely thankful to ‘the day surgery team at the New Victoria’ for a highly efficient demonstration of professionalism, coupled with exemplary patient care, which I’m sure requires great patience at times. I am also very grateful to friends in my church house group for their prayers and support, and ultimately to God Himself who holds all of our lives in His hands.

I am under doctor’s orders to take things easy, and these ‘rules’ are being strictly enforced by my wife, but I still manage to look after the greenhouse, read, walk a bit, and work at my computer! 🙂

Sometimes ‘thank you’ seems quite inadequate, but a big THANK YOU to one and all, and let me present to you this bouquet of flowers from our garden! Matthew

Featured

How Green Grows our Garden

How does YOUR garden grow?

Well ours started with great promise in the Spring, but like most years it has had it successes and disappointments as the year has progressed. Never-the-less it always gives us great pleasure, and overall is looking very pleasing to the eye. Of course it also gives you a sore back and shoulders at times 🙂

First of this years tomatoes – picked 18 July

I was a bit late in getting started in the greenhouse this year, as I was trying to cut down on the heating costs. For my tomatoes I tried using some more expensive seeds that I had stored from last year, when they were a great success. They seemed to grow well initially but are currently looking not so good. It may be down to the watering system that I am re-using, which I had tried once before without a great amount of success. It supposedly allows the plants to draw water when / and what, they need, but I wonder if it draws too much water in the colder days and not enough when the plants are growing? I would appreciate comments from fellow gardeners.

I have also grown flowers for planting out. Nothing too exotic – Antirrhinums, Cosmos, Aubrietta, Narsturtiums, sun flower and geraniums, and as always had more seedlings than I knew what to do with!

One of the borders next to the hedge I’ve covered with cloth and stone chips, and re-arranged it with flower pots. I always felt that my plants there did not do too well because of the hedge, but I also am trying to reduce my garden maintenance now that I’m an octogeranian!

A special success was the planting out an acer tree, which had been in a pot for years, and I had to cut the root to get it out of the pot. I did not give it much chance of success, but amazingly it seems to be thriving now that it has been set free.

I trust your garden is giving you pleasure too, and if you don’t have one there are plenty of wonderfull gardens around to enjoy. We recently visited Kellie Castle Garden in Fife – wonderful!

Today I received ‘J Parkers Autumn’ catalogue encouraging me to plan for Spring! HaHa, oh well it is good to keep planning ahead!

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

Featured

Who would you rather be: the one who eats the dinner or the one who serves the dinner?

You’d rather eat and be served, right?

I was in Ethiopia in August 1992.

I was there as Tearfund’s Manager for East African Affairs to represent them at a major Christian Conference, which was being held in the auditorium of Addis Ababa University; a major teaching centre for communism in the recent past!

The country was just recovering from seventeen years of what was known as ‘the red terror’ when an estimated 500,000 died under the communist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam. Thousands more were imprisoned and tortured. But the communist regime in Ethiopia was to go the way of so many other communist regimes back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Mengistu had lost the support of Russia and the civil war was going against him, so in 1991 he fled to Zimbabwe.  It is not surprising then, that his departure was greeted with great joy by the people, and no more so than by the Christian Church, as many believers and Church leaders had been gravely persecuted during that time.

So why am I telling you all this? Just because today the memories of it came flooding back when I met with my friend this morning to read a section of John’s gospel together. We were reading the gracious story that John tells, of how the Lord Jesus gets up from the table after the meal, puts on an apron and starts to wash the disciples’ feet.

You see, at the conference I attended, Ethiopian Pastor Alemu spoke from this very same passage. The auditorium was packed, everyone’s eyes were fixed on him as he addressed the audience. As he came to the end of his talk he went through the names of the twelve disciples – Jesus washed Peter’s feet, James’ feet, John’s feet, Matthew’s feet, … and then he concluded by saying, and Jesus washed J-u-d-a-s the betrayer’s feet. He then asked all those gathered, who would wash Mengistu’s feet? When he had finished he asked all those who would like to become involved in ‘feet washing ministry’ to stand, and the whole auditorium it seemed, stood as one person! I found that such a moving experience and the memory has stayed with me over the years!

The whole idea of Jesus the creator of all things bending to wash his disciples’ feet, is frankly amazing, absolutely extraordinary, and humbling, and has always inspired Christians to serve! And watching countless numbers of African brothers and sisters who had endured 17 years of ‘the red terror’ standing as they did when invited, I also found to be hugely challenging. But the Christian message has a very personal aspect to it, so when I think that Jesus came to wash me, not just my feet, but wash me from my guilt and sin, by his substitutionary death on the cross, I am often deeply moved in my heart and challenged with the words he spoke after this incident.  

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  John 13.14-15

I can still hear pastor Alemu say ‘please stand all those who are willing to be involved in ‘feet washing ministry’. So shall we stand?

Notes: 

  • Ethiopia ranks no.28 amongst the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution
  • You can download an e-copy of my life story ‘Matthew’s Memoirs’ -Mechanical Engineering to World Mission– 184 pages for £2.99 at Blurb.co.uk: All money raised goes to charity https://www.blurb.co.uk/ebooks/114019-mxatthew-s-memoirs
Featured

Welcome to my blog!

This is the post excerpt.

Other people shape our lives and thinking, and it has been a privilege to meet a wide range of people in my world travels over the years, from different social, cultural, racial and ethnic backgrounds. Those closest to us however perhaps shape us most, so I’m particularly thankfulI to my dear wife Muriel, brother Martin and sister Mary with whom I have shared many of life’s joys and sorrows. Also friends and leaders in my own Church with whom I have served for more years now than I care to remember. There is one book that has altered the course of my life more than anyone or anything else, and that is The Bible. My Father introduced me to it at a young age and encouraged me to heed the instruction given in Proverbs chapter 3, verses 5-6. This advice surpassed all other advice he gave me, and I have proved the veracity of it over many years. 

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight’

Many of you will be familiar with my my engineering and ‘Christian relief and development’ activities throughout life, and also my hobbies and interests, but if not, you can read, if interested,  a synopsis on this blog in the ‘about’ section.

This is a picture of my wife Muriel and I at Pittenweem in Fife, where we got engaged in 1957