A tribute to my sister Mary Jarvie Macfarlane (nee McKinnon)

6th June 1928 – 16th February 2023

Mary was the first child of Alex and Mary McKinnon and was born into a room and kitchen in McLellan Street in Ibrox, on the southside of Glasgow. She had five siblings, a sister Margaret and four brothers Alex, Martin, Andrew and (me) Matthew. The family lived through the years of the great depression 1929-1939, infamous for its mass unemployment, striking workers, poverty, soup kitchens and deprivation. In spite of the hardships of the day however, it was a very happy family, and our parents’ faith in God gave them strength and faith for the challenges of the day and hope for the future.

When the family moved to Shawlands in 1941 we joined Greenview Gospel Hall (now Greenview Church) and there Mary made many friends. She wrote ‘I became a Christian at 10 and was baptised at Greenview Hall aged 14.  This decision to be a Christian has shaped my life’. It certainly did, as she soon became involved in all the works of the Church, later serving in various church committees and was always at the centre of things.

Mary left school at 14 years of age and worked in a local bakery as a shop assistant for 14 years. When mum became terminally ill she left her work, which she loved, to look after her, and to become mother and housekeeper for all of the family. That sense of care for others typified the whole of her life.

Mary later started work in Rolls Royce as a clerkess after my mother’s homecall in 1957, and in due time met John Macfarlane. She had spoken to him about her Christian faith and his need of salvation. This led John to look again at what Christianity was all about, and in time came to accept the truth of the Gospel. John then became a Christian by repentance, and faith in Jesus. Soon their relationship flourished and they were married in Queen’s Park Baptist Church in 1974. They spent many happy years together, while serving the Lord in the church. Sadly John died in the early nineties from angina.

The family all loved and appreciated Mary, and whilst having no children of her own, she supported all of her siblings and their spouses, and her sixteen neices and nephews and their children too!.

For the last two decades and more, Mary was devoted to work amongst asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow, serving at Queen’s Park Baptist Church’s ‘Drop in Centre’. There she met people from many different countries and social and religious backgrounds. She at times spoke and wrote letters on their behalf, visited them in their homes and became their friend. That friendship was reciprocated as seen in recent years, as so many came to visit her with gifts of food and flowers during the pandemic. Far too many to mention by name but, the Lord knows who you are. The photos above are just a few downloaded from her iPad.

For many years Mary and her sister Margaret spent much time together after the home call of their respective husbands, and when Margaret died in 2011, Muriel and I had Mary almost every Saturday. When she was well into her eighties she surprised me one Saturday by announcing that she had decided to adapt to the 21st Century and could I please buy her one of these tablet things! So that Autumn and Winter she would arrive with her tablet and notepad, and with a load of questions. How does this work, how can I do this etc etc. She would practice all week and come back the following week to tell us how she had managed, and so it continued.

Mary was a very organised person, she seldom went to bed without knowing what her plan was for tomorrow. She meticulously wrote up her diary  every day, who phoned, who called, what food she ate, and how the birds were getting on in the nest outside her window! Her daily Bible Reading and Prayer times were a priority for Mary. In a recent blog I was sharing a quote that said ‘ We are all worshippers of someone or something‘. Mary worshipped the God of the Bible, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in singing and action. Always asking the Lord to tell her what He wanted her to do. She was great on Zoom and loved participating in Church services on Sundays, and logging on to the Women’s Prayer Fellowship on a Tuesday afternoon with her friend Lena’s group. All this right up until the weekend before she was called home.

The last words written in Mary’s diary a few weeks before she died said ‘Thanks be to God’, and when she was found in the morning after she died, it was in a kneeling position beside her bed with head resting on her hands. That just seemed so appropriate to all of us who knew and loved Mary.


  The the book of Genesis in the Bible says ‘And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.‘ Gen 5.24 – I smile at the story told of a Sunday School Teacher as she explained this text to her children. She reputedly said ‘Well you see, Enoch walked and talked with God every day. One day the time was getting late, so God said to Enoch we’ve walked a long distance together, so why don’t you just come awa’ hame wi’ me’! At Ninety four, Mary was a woman who had walked a long way with the God she loved, since that day as a ten year old when she had asked for her sins to be forgiven and had committed her life to Jesus Christ! So that’s why we can confidently say ‘She’s gone home to be with the Lord‘ just as he promised.

So much more could be said, but in the meantime I, the last of the siblings, and many others will greatly miss Mary, she has been my sister and friend for all of my life, but with others I will treasure her memory until we meet again. And Mary would want me to add ‘Have you considered walking the rest of your life with the God who loves you’?


Parks and Walks close to Home! Home?

Glasgow Botanical Gardens – Kibble’s Palace

This month I had lots of things happening in my life, so we tended to stay close to home. The weather was mostly dry, but still very cold, but we visited a number of parks for some excercise and had a special visit to the Botanical Gardens. Usually we come here later in the year when all the Spring flowers are on display, but we enjoyed this winter visit none-the-less.

The Gardens have a long history going back more than 200 years, and currently have a collection of over 9,000 different plants, with most growing in the temperate and tropical greenhouses. Entrance is free, and its lovely to go there out of the cold in the winter. Just inside the entrance to the park there is a mobile kitchen selling a variety of hot and cold food and drinks at a reasonable price. Parking meters are on the streets surrounding the park, and we have always managed to park on Great Western Road just a few hundred yards from the park entrance.

The Orchid House

We always like to start in the ‘orchid house’, which has a large variety of plants some in glass cases, others in the central and side stalls, and some hanging from the ceiling. There is also a tropical pond here. The smell of the plants in the warm humid atmosphere is something to be enjoyed.

The Cactus House

The next glasshouse couldn’t be more different with its Cactus and arid loving plants. This always brings back memories of times spent working and travelling abroad

The Tropics and Jungle House

Now we did feel as if we were in the tropics as we viewed the beautiful selection of ferns, palms and other large tropical plants. I even spotted some sugar cane, which played a major role in my working life.

The Begonia House

Then to the ‘Begonia House’ where we enjoyed the display of this amazing plant in all its varieties. I enjoy growing them in the garden as they seem to keep flowering all summer.

Kibble’s Palace

Then we went to the beautiful ‘Kibble’s Palace’ and sat in the quietness with a cup of tea and a sandwich from the mobile kitchen, and soaked in the atmosphere of the place. Here you are surrounded by amazing plants, and sculptures, mostly with a Biblical theme. We are indebted to the men and women who work behind the scenes to make this facility available to us.

A few other places and parks where we walked in February.

Reflections: When I review my photographs for the months of February and early March, I realise how blessed we are having so many beautiful places to visit so close to home, and in fact so blessed to have a home where we can find warmth and shelter, food and water, and have neighbours, family and friends around us.

This weekend Gary Lineker’s tweet has again brought to the fore the pliight of countless thousands of migrants and refugees, many ordinary people like us, who are desperately seeking just such a place to call ‘home’. Meantime governments in the wealthy nations search for ways to control the influx, so as to be able to choose who can gain entry, and how they can contribute to the economy and pay towards healthcare and social services. The figures are staggering! According to the UN 89.3 million people worldwide are displaced – 27.1 million refugees (about half under the age of 18) – 53.2 million internally displaced – 4.6 million asylum seekers. 1 in every 88 people in the world have been forced to flee. All this as a result of wars, civil unrest and violence. Since then, we have also had the earthquakes in Turkey, where an estimated 1.5 million were made homeless.

Meantime the nations of the world continue to increase their military expenditure by billions of dollars. Does that help the problem or exasperate it? Figures from the internet for 2023 are staggering. The top ten nations for military expenditure are shown here.

CountryMilitary Expenditure $ in billions
The United States778
India 72.8
United Kingdom59.2
Saudi Arabia57.5 (estimated)
Germay 52.8
South Korea45.7
Total1,481. billion
Add all the other nations military expenditure and we are talking about an annual expenditure approaching $2 trillion.
Military Expenditure 2023

I can certainly recommend Tearfund, and if you would like to give to help the displaced of the world you can log-on here: https://www.tearfund.org/get-involved/donate

For many I guess these are just some rather sad but necessary statistics, but this weekend I was reminded of one visit I made to a camp for displaced peope in Sudan, when I worked with Tearfund in Africa. Seeing children dying of malnutrition, and watching a mother’s tears as she tells how she lost two of her children on her journey to the camp, are scenes one never forgets. I’m sure many of you have heard such stories first hand.

With fellow workers we sometimes talked and dreamed of the possibilities, if military budgets around the world could be suspended for just one year, and funds re directed instead to the needs of the poor and destitute, to provide food, water, shelter, education, healthcare …. but sadly that’s still just a dream!

But in the midst of that vista of gloom and darkness we were surprised one night when a group of young people came to visit us at our tented camp. We were sitting around an open fire in the field and they had come to sing to us. They sang with such joy and enthusiasm, and the theme of their song? well, actually they were singing about their hope and trust in Jesus! That was back in the nineties, and Africa’s development has come a long way since then. However, it is still true today, that in all of life’s circumstances having a personal faith and trust in Jesus as your Saviour and friend is a life transforming experience, which can give you peace and hope no matter what life throws at you.

I’ll finish with Psalm 84, which we were reading with our church friends last night. The psalmist speaks of his longing to be in the presence of God and in His house, and finishes by saying ‘blessed is the one who trusts in you‘. Here it is presented by the Dornoch Free Church Praise band, from the North East of Scotland. Enjoy.

PS: The first plug plants are in the greenhouse, so praying the temperature will soon start to rise. Have a great Spring!


Out and about in Winter

The weather here in the Central belt of Scotland during winter is a mixture of wind and rain, snow and frost with some dreich days in between! The temperature hovers around freezing, and the days are short, but if you watch the forecast you can always spot a good day coming up, which enables you to get out and about, if the diary is free! In January we managed two days away which we really enjoyed, so here are some photos of our trips.

On the 16th January we headed for Culzean Castle on the Ayrshire Coast on a cold sunny and windy day. On reaching the park we walked in the woods rather than along the coastal path to avoid the worst of the wind. But it was a beautiful walk!

The Swan Pond – Culzean Castle

It’s great to see the ducks, swans and gannets that frequent the pond area and also to spot the many robins that also call this place home. Oh, and there was the monster!

We next made our way to the Visitors’ Centre where we enjoyed some views of the castle and a lovely lunch in the restaurant.

Culzean Castle on a winter’s afternoon

We then made our way home along the coastal road through Dunure, and were home just before dark around 4.30pm

Coastal route home via Dunure

Ten days later we managed another of our favourite trips from Glasgow to Dunoon, via Loch Lomond, the ‘Rest and be Thankful’ pass, Hell’s Glen, Strachur on Loch Fyne, and Ardentinny on Loch Long, before catching the ferry from Dunoon to Gourock. It was an amazing drive! We then had a bite to eat at Nardini’s restaurant in Largs before driving home.

At Strachur you can continue on the direct route to Dunoon or take the long route via Glendaruel. That day we chose the direct Dunoon route, but then took the detour to Ardentinny and Loch Long.

The shores of Loch Long and the Dunoon ferry

Reflection: It’s tempting as you get older to just sit at home in these cold winter days, but its better for your health and wellbeing if you can get up and walk around, and if possible get out and about. If not on a trip we sometimes go to a large shopping complex near our home and enjoy a walk up and down the mall which is nicely heated, and then have a seat in the areas provided. Of course we can also look in the shop windows at all the things we don’t need! 🙂

Sitting at the fireplace with a cup of tea and a good book on a winters night however is a great blessing. I mostly enjoy reading from my ‘Kindle App’ on my ipad as I can adjust the print size, and the brightness of my screen with a click of a button. Most of all I love the ability on Kindle to highlight passages that I find of particular interest, as these are automatically saved. This allows me at anytime to review them at will and reflect on what I’ve read, which is great. Here’s a few of the books I’ve enjoyed, which I would recommend irrespective of whether it is a hard copy or a digital version.

All being well, soon we will be into Spring, and it will be time for garden and greenhouse. I have some new ideas for this year, so lets see if they materialise!

Best wishes from Glasgow


PS: I guess my subscribers are wondering why I didn’t recommend the world’s best selling book the Bible in my ‘book recommendations’, as it is a book I truly love. However I would like to recommend that you listen to the British actor Sir David Suchet reading Mark’s Gospel. It truly is inspiring and if you are like me, it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up!

‘Let’s talk Turkey’, or Turkiye!

One of my favourite photos from our holidays in Turkey

In my thinking and readings of late, I have been reminded of our visits to this land of sunshine, friendly people, great hotels, and interesting places. Turkey also has a fascinating history, and is blessed by a beautiful coastline along the north- eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Hence this blog!

The Republic of Turkey (or Turkiye) is a land that sits astride two continents, the largest area by far being in Asia and a much smaller part being in Europe. This year, on the 29th October, the nation will celebrate its 100th Anniversary since the national declaration of the Republic of Turkey. A nation frequently in the news, and a main player in what seems like the never ending wars and conflicts besetting the Middle-East. For many ordinaray folks, however, the national name Turkey, brings to memory the name of a great place to enjoy a holiday!

If you have never been to Turkey, I guess that you will have heard stories from others who have spent a holiday or business trip there! To start with, here are a few of my favourite photographs which illustrate the attraction of Turkey as a holiday resort. Oh, and if you come home without having bought a leather jacket or handbag, or a ‘real fake’ designer ‘T shirt” you have missed a ‘bargain’! 🙂

Much to see and do and for all tastes!

Our days of holidays on the beach with the children have long gone, but we do love visiting many places of historical interest, and as I’ve said, Turkey abounds with such places. The Bible’s New Testament, records not only the historical facts surrounding the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, but the establishment and spread of the Christian Church. Initially this was throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, including Galatia – which is now very much a part of Turkey. On our last visit there, we joined a tour group, visiting the locations of seven particular churches to whom Jesus wrote, and delivered his letters by the Apostle John in the last book of the Bible. Their names? Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. You can locate them from the map shown below.

* map from the 2nd edition of IVP’s New Bible Dictionary

John the Apostle sent these letters to the seven churches around AD 95. You can read the story for yourself in Revelation Chapters 1-3. It was a fascinating trip, and brought to us an understanding of the geographical locations and also the significance of these letters. Here are some photos of the seven places we visited, home to these churches, with the briefest of descriptions.

To the Church in Ephesus – ‘I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.... but….

Ephesus our first tour stop – This city we are told dates back to 1000BC, before coming under the control of the Romans in 129BC. It features very much in the New Testament during the travels of the Apostle Paul, and in fact the NT also records another letter from Paul, written to the church here. The ruins of Ephesus are absolutely astounding, and a wonder to behold. I’ve got to say that the library building in design and ambience, is a work of art and somewhat out-classes our local library today! Rev.2:1

Smyrna – (now Izmir) is a very large city sitting on the Aegean coast of Anatolia, and an excellent shipping port. Unfortunately we did not see any ancient church ruins here, but we were able to buy a rug from this friendly lady. And on our first visit to Turkey we did attend a 21st century Church here in Izmir! Rev.2:8>

Pergamum – Travelling approximately 15 miles inland we came to what was once a rich and powerful Greek city in Mysia. It was one of the most spectacular sites we visited as you can see, with a very steep amphitheatre, and the remains of the temple of Zeus on top of the hill. Rev:2:12

To the Church in Thyatira – ‘I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance‘ …

Thyatira – Continuing on our loop around the churches we came to Thyatira. Paul the Apostle met at Phillipi a business woman from here, who was a seller of purple cloth. It has been said that perhaps she was the very first convert to Christianity in Europe! There was not a lot to see at this site now, situated in a suburb of Akhisar, but it was good to sit among the remains of this ancient church, and to consider the men and women and children who at one time worshipped here, and to contemplate the letter they received. Rev.2:18>

To the church in Sardis – ‘I know your deeds, you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.‘….

Sardis – Then in the Manisa Province we came to Sardis, once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia. It is in such a beautiful location, situated in the Hermus valley with Mount Tmolus towering above it. The Gymnasium was spectacular, and the ancient ruins of temple, synagogue and church were fascinating to see and consider.

To the Church in Philadelphia – ‘I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no-one can shut ….’ Rev.3:7 >

Philadelphia – is now called Alasehir, it was here in the middle of the town we saw the ruins of what was once a very substantial church building. The letter to this Church was perhaps the most encouraging of all the seven letters. Not a lot to see here apart from the Church building ruins.

To the Church in Laodicea – ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot, I wish you were either one or the other! ……‘ Rev.3:14>

Laodicea – Last of the seven was Laodicea situated in what was once the ancient province of Phrygia, now called Denzil Province. It was another site we found of great interest. Here the Church’s assessment of themselves was – ‘we are rich, wealthy and in need of nothing‘. Jesus assessment of them was – ‘you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked’! Now that is a sobering thought!

Reflection: Of necessity this blog has been a bit of a whistle stop tour, and I realise that the seven letters to the Churches, may be quite unfamiliar to many who read my blog. The seven letters to seven specifice churches in what was then ‘Galatia’ are brief, dictated by Jesus and written by John who was at that time imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos. Some Bible scholars have seen these letters as prophetic, referring to seven eras of Church history. Most however see them as applying to Churches worldwide, at all times and in every place, including our Churches today. A reading of the letters also shows they are applicable to individual Christians, so they are of extreme importance to all who claim to be followers of Jesus.

The letters certainly speak frankly to these churches, commending the good with promised reward, and strongly condemming the poor spiritual and moral behaviour, and poor performance, within some of the Churches. Words that keep being repeated in each letter are the words “I know‘, ‘I know’. Jesus sees the Church collectively and its members individually. The New Testament refers to those who believe as God’s children whon he loves. In these letters he says ‘Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline, repent,’ (just as any good parent would do) and then follows these well known words:- ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.’ An invitation still open to all people, in all places, at this time! I love this song, which in many ways encapsulates the call of the seven letters. Have a listen

Due to unforseen circumstances this is my first blog of 2023, so I wish everyone every blessing for the rest of the year – Matthew

Note: The use of the idiom of ‘Talking Turkey‘ has a number of suggestions as to its origin, none of which refers to the nation of Turkey! It’s said to mean lets talk about something pleasant, or lets speak frankly together. It’s something I try to do in my blog, and today I’ve used the expression to write about our experience in visiting the Republc of Turkey.

TIME flies > a photographic review of 2022.

It’s always difficult to choose which photographs to include in a yearly review! Should they be included because you think of them technically better than others? or because of the subject matter being photographed? or simply because they invoke memories of a specific day or event, which was extraordinarily special for you? For my opening photograph I’ve chosen the latter. Life had been a bit hectic in Glasgow, but after a surprise phone call we arrived on the Isle of Tiree just two days later. It was late April, and the weather was still cool but beautifully sunny. The first day there, our friend took us to an isolated beach, and left us to walk in the sunshine and quietness, with a gentle but cool wind blowing! Yep, that is a day to be remembered!

The Caolas beach in Tiree

Camera wise, time flies too! The first camera I used was the family Kodak Brownie Junior which I was allowed to commandeer for my first youth camp to Whitehills in Morayshire. I still have a photo that I took with it. Unfortunately the ‘light got in’ as I opened it to remove the film 🙂 which was a common problem with the Brownie. Actually the picture of my brother Martin has been improved considerably, because it is a photo of the original photo and digitally improved! Was it really that long ago?Time > flies!

Here’s this year’s selection then, which I enjoyed puting together, so hope you enjoy them too!

January to March 2022

April to June 2022

July to September

October to December 2022

Reflection: It takes just a few minutes of time to review with photographs the year that has now almost gone. It was a year not without its cares, challenges and difficulties, for family and friends and for ourselves. I guess that will also be true for many who read this blog in countries around the world. We don’t tend to photograph these kind of episodes in life’s journey, but we remember well the reality of them!

As we look now towards 2023 and beyond I wonder what your hopes and fears are for the times ahead? for the future? Sherman Barnes* points out that ‘between 1300 and 1700 many movements arose which claimed that human reason and creative power promised progress to a better world‘!  Other questions however arose, Is there progress in knowledge but not in morality? In political life? In wealth or is there progress in human nature? By 1914 and onward such dreams of man creating a ‘heaven on earth’ have in fact faded fast, both in the secular and religious world. Recent history surely bears that out? 

Christianity however in contrast to the gloom and doom of our news bulletins is a great message full of hope, whether in life or in death! It clains that time itself will in fact be brought to a summation by the God of history at the return of Jesus Christ, the appointed judge of all the earth. Meantime as Christians we are daily invited to walk with Him and wait expectantly for His coming! At what time, you ask? I’ll quote the supreme authority on the subject – Jesus said, You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” It’s good to be ready!

Paul the Apostle also says, ‘according to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

A prayer for 2023: ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’


  • *A Lion Handbook – The History of Christianity

It is Summertime, in My Heart!

When I looked out our bedroom window this morning my phone was registering a temperature of minus 7 degrees centigrade, so it was tempting to stay in bed. The resident robin however was looking in the window, just to remind me that the seed box needed topping up! It was certainly a Christmas Card setting, lovely to look at, but how thankful we were that the central heating is still fuctioning well. And the garden looks somewhat different too in winter, take a look!

The weather changes so quickly here in Scotland and it has often been said ‘that here you can have all four seasons of weather in one day’. Just shortly before this cold snap set in, we had spent a lovely weekend with family at Skelmorlie on the Clyde Coast. It’s winter, so the days are short, but one advantage is that the place is quiet and it’s easy to find a place to park. We visited the Isle of Cumbrae on the Saturday, and it seemed as if we had the island to ourselves.

By 3.30pm we were headed back for the ferry just before dark, after stopping off at the Ritz cafe for something to eat and a hot drink and to play the Juke Box! 🙂

Soon we were back home to the family’s place at Skelmorlie. There is nothing quite like sitting toasting your feet at a warm fire on a winter’s night, after your evening meal, and enjoying some good conversation. Then its off to bed!

Reflection: You’ll have noticed the strange heading of this blog ‘It’s summertime in my heart‘? I know summertime is not actually reflected very much in the story or photographs. These however were the words of an old song that came to mind as I looked out of the window this morning. We sang them at our Youth Camps many years ago and still they come to mind.

Summertime In My Heart
It is summertime, in my heart
It is summertime, in my heart
Since Jesus saved me
New Life He gave me
Ev’n in wintertime, it’s summer in my heart.

I wonder what your reflections are when you think back to summer days in your childhood? For me I remember sunny days and going out to play with my pals in the ‘bluebell woods’ just a couple of hundred yards from where we stayed. Time was spent having our picnic, building dens, playing cops and robbers, and best at falling, and climbing the trees. Then there were family holidays by the seaside ….

Winter of course was different, foggy days, ice and snow, wind and rain, scurvy legs and Snowfire, a hot salt sock round your neck for a sore throat, cod liver oil and malt, and your chest rubbed with Vick! 🙂 Games nights at home, table tennis, Ludo, Halma and Snakes and ladders, and push-h’apenny!

Two very different seasons!

Life of course has its changing seasons too! I think in the good times we could say ‘its summer in my heart’, and in times of difficulty ‘it is winter in my heart’. The childhood song above tells how Jesus makes a difference even in the winter times, which come to us all throughout life. At Christmas time we remember His Name was Jesus because he came to be a Saviour, and still is. He gives new life to all who will open their hearts to Him. He saves from our sin and its consequences, He stays beside us as our comforter and guide, and leads us safely home.

Jesus calls, ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.’

I’m so glad I opened the door of my heart to Him, he has been the light of summer and of winter in my journey thus far through life. JESUS is God’s unspeakable gift at Christmas!

Happy Christmas to all my followers and fellow bloggers!


A Tribute to Daddy!

Well, not many children today use the term ‘daddy’, but back in the nineteen thirties and forties me and my siblings, and all my pals called their Mother – ‘mammy’, and their Father, ‘daddy’. Today is the anniversary of his death in 1978, so I was looking at some old photos, and recalling many happy childhood and life memories.

Dad was born at Wolesley Street in Glasgow in 1895; these were the days of horse drawn trams, and stage coaches, and when ‘horse and carts’ were the main means of transporting goods as the photo below illustrates. The family moved to the Ibrox area of Glasgow when he was still a child, and there he attended the ‘Band of Hope’, a child’s club at the local church. One night they taught the children a new song, ‘Jesus wants me for a sunbeam’. On arriving back home he found the house empty as his mammy was at a neighbour’s house and daddy was out. So he tells how he knelt at the black fire grate and prayed “Jesus if you want me for a sunbeam, I’ll be a sunbeam for you‘. You might think that a bit crazy, childish and simplistic, but Jesus loves the children as the Gospels tell us, and the truth is my daddy spent the rest of his 83 years as an ardent follower of Jesus, and always put that down to his early childhood prayer!

With countless others he lived through two world wars and the great depresssion. He had trained and worked as an engineer, but during ‘the great depression’ he managed to get some work as a welding company van driver. These were the days of community ‘soup kitchens’ and great hardship, but somehow by the grace of God, there was always food on the table. He was an inspector at Rolls Royce during much of my lifetime and worked long hours Monday to Saturday in aid ot the war effort during WWII. He had met Mary Smiith at the Bethel Mission in Kinning Park and they married in 1927. They had a family of six children. The youngest one in the pram, is not named ‘Boris’ but Matthew 🙂

Most of my earliest memories were after we moved from Ibrox to a new council flat in Shawlands. There we were enrolled in due time at the local schools and at Church Sunday school. The boys also joined the local Boys Brigade, and were regulars at our own church in Pollokshaws, who held a weekly Children’s hour packed to the door with kids. No TV in these days!! History in someways repeated itself, as just after one such children’s hour, where they were serialising the story of John Bunyon’s best selling book ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ accompanied by ‘Lantern Slides’, we arrived back home and our daddy was asked, how can you be sure you will go to heaven when you die? He explaianed to us in childlike terms, the amazing story of God’s love for us, and how Jesus died in our place, and rose from the dead, so we can be forgiven. Then me and my three brothers prayed the ‘Sorry’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Please’ prayer to Jesus. Sorry for my sin, thank you for dying in my place, please come into my life and be my Saviour and friend. So that’s when and how our life as Christians began.

We were a family with a love for the great outdoors, and before the days of cars, we walked for miles on Saturday afternoons after daddy came home from work. Our parents always managed to take us on holiday at the ‘Glasgow Fair’ each year, usually to a place on the Clyde Coast but occasionally further afield. Here are some photos.

My Father gave us all lots of good advice throughout life, and led by example in key areas of honesty, integrity, consistency and commitment to his word. He was a man of sincere faith and prayer, with many down to earth examples on practical living in the home and workplace, and also in love and faithfulness within marriage. One piece of advice he gave me that stands out above the rest, and has stood the test of time, was from the book of Proverbs chapter 3:5,6. It reads

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

I know of course that not everyone has good memories of their father, which is very sad. Of course no earthly father is perfect, and neither was mine, but we do have a Heavenly Father who is, and who loves us beyond measure, and we can come to Him in complete confidence and trust. He already knows all about us, our mistakes, our troubles, joys and sorrows, so we can speak openly and honestly to Him in the Name of Jesus. Perhaps a simple Sorry, Please, and Thankyou prayer to start with?

‘Mammy and Daddy’

Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam – Children’s hymn lyrics

  1. Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, To shine for him each day; In ev’ry way try to please him, At home, at school, at play.
  2. Chorus: A sunbeam, a sunbeam, Jesus wants me for a sunbeam. A sunbeam, a sunbeam, I’ll be a sunbeam for him.
  3. Jesus wants me to be loving, And kind to all I see, Showing how pleasant and happy His little one can be.

Blessings as you prepare to celebrate Christmas.


Stop! Look up, and stand in awe!

A view through our bedroom window

People have been looking to the night skies for millennia, eager to understand the wonders of our universe, and our place amidst the myriad of stars. The book of Job, written somewhere between 6000 – 4000 BC speaks of God in reference to the stars and constellations, familiar in our world of today. Quote –

He alone stretches out the heavens
and treads on the waves of the sea.
He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.
Job 9:8,9

Countless books and charts have been made by astronomers and astrologers, and now with the right app you can just point your ipad at the night sky and identify the stars and planets as they make their regular circuits in the silence of the night.

An example of my night photographs

As I look through my library of photographs I’m amazed at how many photos I have of the moon and night sky, in spite of my limited knowledge and equipment. Above are just a few taken recently on the edge of the city with all of its light pollution, so I think it’s time we made another trip to the ‘dark sky park’ in Ayrshire, or alternatively perhaps we could visit the planetarium? Yes, that’s exactly what we did!

Glasgow Science Centre including Planetarium and IMAX theatre

This is the Science Centre on the banks of the river Clyde, which runs through the heart of Glasgow. Among many other wonders at the Science Centre is the Planetarium

The Planetarium, plus the planet Information board

It’s amazing just to lie back and be guided around the sky by an expert, and although the quality of the sound was unfortunately not too great from the hand held microphone, somehow it didn’t seem to matter too much. Lying there just trying to grasp the size and scale of our galaxy with its billions of stars, and considering the countless other galaxies, that was in itself enough to keep this old mind of mine fully occupied. Unfortunately photography was not allowed, but the above charts of the planets (in order, from the nearest to the sun first) were in public display. It should be said however that ‘Pluto’ has now been down graded from a planet to a ‘mini planet’.

Photos from ‘Our beautiful planet’ 3D film at the Imax theatre.

A few weeks later we heard that the IMAX theatre were showing a 3D film entitled ‘Our Beautiful Planet’ so we made plans to see it. Above are some shots taken during the show, plus a couple of photos from our earlier visit to the Planetarium display area. The 3D experience makes you feel as if you are right there in the International Space Station, looking out of the windows – absolutely amazing! The Earth shines like a jewel in the canopy of space, and in spite of much searching no other inhabitants in space have as yet been found. Scientists however say they have located a planet similar to earth, but it is said to be 500 light years away. To reach it would take approximately 18 million years! Sometimes you feel it is beyond comprehension. So many statistics to blow your mind! Here’s another one I came across recently – If the sun was a hollow sphere how many ‘Earth size’ planets would it take to fill it? Well, it is said to be 1.3 million earths, and our star the Sun, is a dwarf sompared to other stars in our galaxy. Whew!

Reflection: This week I was talking on line to my great grandson who goes to school in Africa, and was asking ‘What were you learning at school today? He said ‘GG’ (Great Grandpa) ‘we are doing a project on the planets, and I was asked to introduce it to the other classes‘. Not bad for a wee guy about to turn six years of age. A day or so later I received a newsletter from a Christan friend also working in Africa and he sent me this photo of their ‘Kids Club’, He said, the children are memorising Psalm 8. Psalm 8?

‘When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him’.

600+ children at the kids club!

They did not know I was reading ‘The Planets’ a best seller by Andrew Cohen with Professor Brian Cox, plus re-reading Lee Strobel’s book, written as an investigative journalist, ‘The Case for a Creator’. All facinating stuff which certainly gives one a reality check, if we are getting too carried away with our own importance!

The advances made in the study and exploration of the universe during the last 30+ years have been quite staggering to say the least. Much has been said and written about the fine tuning of the universe. Strobel says, ‘Just about everything about the basic structure of the universe is balanced on a razor’s edge for life to exist. The coincidences are far too fantastic to attribute this to mere chance … the dials are set too precisely to have been a random accident. Somebody, as Fred Hoyle quipped, has been monkeying with the physics’. A number of examples are given to illustrate the point, but you had best read it for your self. All this of course points to an intelligent design and to what the Bible has always claimed. Let one quote suffice:
‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. Jeremiah 32:17

It reminds me of Robert Jastrow’s quote: ‘For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.’

i’m not too sure about all theologians, but I am constantly impressed with the Bible and the God of whom it speaks. The God of the universe – the infinite, and the God of the human cell – the finite, with its amazing DNA code. The God who has made himself known in creation, through his written word, and finally through His Son Jesus Christ. And although He is often described as the creator, the maker and upholder of all things, yet when he speaks of Himself he says ‘Come to me …. for I am gentle and lowly of heart and you will find rest for your soul’ Infinite love, infinite grace, infinite mercy …….. Graham Kendrick’s song ‘The Sevant King’ expresses it so well:

From Heaven, You came helpless babe, Entered our world, your glory veiled Not to be served but to serve, And give Your life that we might live

Come see His hands and His feet, The scars that speak of sacrifice, Hands that flung stars into space, To cruel nails surrendered

This is our God, The Servant King He calls us now to follow Him. To bring our lives as a daily offering Of worship to The Servant King

How amazing that God not only knows us, but everything about us. That can be comforting, and that can be a bit scary too, considering we must all stand before Him one day! You can listen to Graham Kendrick’s lovely song here

Thanks for reading thus far, and yes I would recommend a visit to the Planetarium and Imax theatre complex in Glasgow, or one close to where you are.

God bless


How many miles have you travelled?

Now that’s what I call a Steam Engine – Ah!

Some great journeys have been undertaken on foot! George Meegan left the southern tip of South America in 1977 and walked 19,019 miles to the Northernmost tip of Alaska. All this at a time when so many different means of transport were available! Looking back to my childhood in the 1940’s I remember that walking was a way of life for us as children, both as a necessity and as a pleasure, but who can guess how many miles we walked? But for all of us things have now dramatically changed!

Recently we spent an afternoon at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow where we saw on display the huge range of transport used and developed in the last century. Everything from giant locomotives to motorcycles and even horse drawn carriages! It portrays the expertise of the Industrial Revolution and reminds us why Glasgow was once called ‘the second city of the Empire’. Here are some of the items on this amazing display!

The Riverside Museum – Entrance is free.

At the quayside next to the Museum itself, is moored the sailing ship the ‘Glenlee’, which is a museum in itself. There are also models of the many famous ships built on the river Clyde, during its heyday as a world leader in shipbuilding. One notable, and perhaps most important exception at the museum, was the lack of any ‘aircraft.’ So here now is a glimpse of some of the items on display.

The locomotives on display, are to say the least, hugely impressive, and the one shown above looks in excellent shape, having been exported to South Africa and returned to Glasgow after 43 years of service!

The Scottish car industry was small in comparison with other nations, but the Galloway Coupe built in 1924 led the way, when the woman owner Dorothee Pullinger designed a car especially for women drivers! (read the full interesting story online) In the early 60’s Roots (Scotland) Ltd started the production of the Hillman Imp in competition to the new Morris Mini. My brother was one of the first to take up employment with them and soon was the proud owner of one of their cars.

Glasgow’s public transport system was all electric for 66 years, but trams and trolley buses were discarded in 1967 in preference to ‘the advanced’ diesel buses, which were said to be more versatile and economic. 🙂 How times and thinking change!

Many more vehicles – cars, vans and lorries are on display, just too many to share here, but the exhibit does finish on a modern note with the new Tesla electric car.

One last thing, I found was the ‘film style set’ of an old Glasgow street, complete with shops, billboards, cars and horsedrawn hearse, absolutely fascinating.

Reflection: Since then my mind has pictured all the cars, vans and buses I’ve driven over the years, and wondered how many miles I’ve covered? Above are photos of my first and current motor car. Which one do you think I have the most affinity with?

Well certainly the Ford saloon, simply because I bought a 22 year old car and it needed constant attention. I got to know the car inside out, and at the roadside over the years, it was serviced, exhaust changed, engine stripped, new piston and valves and head gasket fitted, brakes relined, and constantly washed and polished! 🙂 The Toyota Yaris with all its magic electronics and gadgetry? I just enjoy driving it! The truth is however, the Yaris too will one day end up in the scrap heap or in a museum somewhere! Even our solar system has a limited life span we are told.

So, how many miles have you travelled? Walking, running, riding, driving, sailing, or by bicycle, train or plane! Like me, I suppose if we took the time we could hazard a guess. And all for what purpose, business or pleasure? and to which destinations?

It’s good to remind ourselves that our life travels too will come to an end, and there will be a final destination! Jesus it has been calculated walked more that 21,000 miles in his life time, but he always had a final destination in mind! It was death on a cross! Why? Because he was born to die for the pupose of saving humankind from the consequences of our sin and rebellion against God. That is the message of the angels, which we will soon celebrate at Christmas. Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord. His substitutionary death, resurrection and ascension makes it possible for people like you and me to be forgiven by a Holy God and to know His peace, and be welcomed into His family and heavenly home. So how much does it cost? It is free to receive if we confess our sin and ask Him for forgiveness, but the new life we receive which Jesus referred to as being ‘born again’ by His Spirit, will change us and equip us for service for earth and heaven.

So, have we planned our final journey? or are we crossing our fingers and hoping for the best? I like this hymn by a bunch of guys singing of their guide and leader!

Matthew, always happy to talk if you wish.

Portencross, and Portencross Castle on the Firth of Clyde

Portencross Castle

Portencross village and the castle are well off the ‘beaten track’ so it is perhaps amongst one of the less well known castles in Scotland. Suffice to say, that having lived within 30 miles of it for more than half a century, I only visited it for the first time within the last two years. It is situated between Seamill and the Hunterston peninsula. The narrow ‘no through road’ which leads down to it is easily missed unless you are on the alert and look out for the junction, which sits at a busy bend in the road. Having found it, we have now made a number of visits, as it is beautifully situated with a coastal path in either direction, and lovely views across the Firth to Arran and the Cumbraes.

In the 1980’s, land and buildings that had been bought by the government with a view to expanding the Hunterston Power Station complex, was returned to private ownership. By 2005 the charity ‘Friends of Portencross Castle‘ (FOPC) had been formed locally to conserve and repair the castle for present and future generations. And what a great job they have done with the help of volunteers and external funding from organisations and individuals.

The Castle will be closed for the winter, but I was fortunate enough on my last visit to gain access, (which is free, but a donation is requested) and very much enjoyed seeing the restoration work, and also appreciated the information boards and leaflets which were freely available. Here are some photos.

Here is a sample of the information boards and literature that are available, some of which are presented as a teaching resource for teachers and children.

Finally, a short video combining two visits to the castle, one on a sunny day and the other on a stormy day. I hope you catch the atmosphere of the place! On both occasions the situation of the castle against the backdrop of the sea looked stunning! I would strongly recommend a visit.

Reflection: I find it fascinating visiting historical sites of interest, and have had the priviledge of doing that in many ‘far flung places’. Scotland of course has a plethora of such sites away and above one’s expectation for such a small nation. I like to think of the person(s) who first had a vision of building a ‘hall-house’ here at Portencross away back in the 1300’s AD. It’s good then to read of all the changes that have taken place down the centuries, both in the structure itself and the people who lived and worked in and around this castle. Did any of them ever imagine it would last all these centuries and undergo all these changes? Probably not!

And of course when we look back on our own lives, it is astounding to have witnessed the changes that have taken place in our world in the last century, things my own mother and father would never have dreamed of. The pace of change has brought so much blessing to humankind, and yet conversely, so much danger from new and deadlier weapons, pollution of air, land, rivers and seas, and loss of habitat for animals birds, fish and insects. It would seem mankind is now capable of destroying the very planet itself!

I am so thankful that God and His Word never change, and there we can find an anchor to our soul. I sometimes smile as I listen to our leaders in the fields of politics, science, philosophy and theology and …. telling us that the eternal God and His Word are a bit out of date, and suggest that perhaps God needs to ‘get up to speed’! Then I listen to our news bulletins and hear of disaster and carnage on a multitude of levels, and remember God’s word ‘the heart of man is deceitful above all else, who can know it’. That apparently does not change.

This morning I was reading a letter written away back in the first century AD by a man named Paul. Since he became a follower of Jesus Christ he had suffered it would seem one calamity after another,* and now he was in prison in Rome awaiting execution for proclaiming the good news of Jesus, ascerting there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ God’s Son. In his letter to his young protege he writes “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.“** In an ever changing world, and our ever changing circumstances, it’s good to entrust ourselves to Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and as our friend, for of him it is written ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever, and of course for all of us there is ‘that day‘!

*2 Corinthians 11:21-33, ** 2 Timothy 1:10-12

A famous hymn written around Paul’s words you can listen to here!

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