How Quickly Life can Change!

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The cold wintry weather this week brought life, as most people know it, to a sudden standstill in most parts of the UK. News bulletins continually reported transport systems grinding to a halt, school closures, hospital appointments cancelled, cars and lorries stuck fast, bread and milk in short supply, plus ‘101’ other stories of folks in difficulties. Most of us have known of friends, or experienced ourselves, some trying times this week. It has been well nicknamed ‘the beast from the east’.

It’s a reminder of how quickly life can change. All the things that seem so settled, so important quickly come to a stop and we start asking what am I to do now? One friend on Facebook said, ‘the snow, and being at home was great for a day, but now I need to get out, I want to get on with life’. It reminded me of the day I walked into my office many years ago with plans for the day, when I received a phone call from my CEO, to say he was sorry, but I was being made redundant! So after 20 years of service to this company, I found myself at home before 10am scarcely believing what had happened, and asking, what now? Others I guess have experienced similar or worse trauma when told by their doctor of some serious medical diagnosis or on hearing or experiencing some other of life’s difficult situations.

It’s then you start reflecting on the big questions of life, and asking what are the really important things I should be concentrating on? I was touched this week reading the story of South African doctor Alastair McAlpine who works with terminally ill children http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-42909326 He summed up the children’s responses to the questions of life and death with this message gleaned from the children – Be kind. Eat ice cream. Read more books. Spend time with your family. Crack jokes. Go to the beach. Hug your dog. Tell that special person you love them.

 Yes, sometimes our dreams come crashing to a halt. My Bible reading this week was from the book of Acts. I’ve been reading there about this man Paul, who had a remarkable conversion experience to Christianity, and how God sent him on some dangerous and exhilarating journeys around the then known world. He was told he would also take the news about Jesus to Rome, when all of a sudden all his plans seemed to come to a grinding halt. and he finds himself imprisoned for two years by the Roman Governor Felix at Caesarea! For me the amazing part of the story was that Paul never lost his faith in God or doubted God’s promises to him, and we should not either. Even in prison Paul takes the opportunity to explain the good news about Jesus to the Roman Governor, telling him that Jesus was the Son of God and had come to bring forgiveness and eternal life to all who would believe in Him. The Bible says that Felix on hearing the good news about Jesus said to Paul – Go your way, when I have a more convenient time I will call for you!* It would seem from history that ‘the more convenient time’ never came about.

As an older man I can look back on life and recall a good number of occasions when life came to an unexpected stop, or due to other happenings, completely and suddenly changed direction. I’m so glad that like Paul I too had a conversion experience (not quite so dramatic!) and came to know and trust in Jesus. He has guided and directed throughout life just at the Bible promised* and my faith in Him is steadfast. I’m certain he will take me to my final destination at the end of the day.

In the busyness and uncertainty of life, could I ask, when would be a convenient time for you to consider giving your life to Jesus? I remember reading a wee leaflet some time ago asking this same question. It depicted the various stages of life under these captions ‘Too Young’, ‘Too busy’, ‘Too Old’ and then Too late!’

Time perhaps to stop, and consider this life and death question, for none of us are promised tomorrow, and the Bible says ‘now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation’.*

If I can help, then email me matthewmuriel@aol.com

*Bible references – Proverbs 3.5-5, Acts 24.25, 2 Corinthians 6.2.

 

A Tribute to Martin Smith McKinnon 14 March 1932 – 18 December 2017

 

There were six siblings in the McKinnon family, two girls Mary then Margaret and four McKinnon boys, Alex, followed by Martin, Andrew and me (Matthew). Andrew and my sister Margaret passed away in 2011, and last year Alex and Martin died. We were / are all committed followers of Jesus Christ.

Martin was six years older than me, and was married to Moira for more than 60 years. It was a loving and a happy marriage that produced four children, ten grand-children and five great grand-children. Muriel (my wife) and I have shared so much of life’s experiences together with them.

To those who only came to know Martin in recent years he was just a nice old man with ‘Parkinsons’. To me however, Martin was not only a ‘big brother’ but my best and lifelong friend, mentor, encourager, prayer partner and fellow worker for the cause of Christ and his Kingdom.

As a child Martin taught me to ride a bicycle, later, to drive a car, and he gave advice on everything from buying our first house and car, to home DIY. He had a hugely generous nature and in our younger days would freely lend you, with a smile, anything you had need of, from his bicycle to his car, and from his camera to his extending ladder! In later years he and Moira cared for our family, our finances, and our house as we travelled and worked abroad. He was great company, a good conversationalist, an ‘unconscious comedian’ and always a joy to be with. We went on caravan holidays together, swam together, hill walked together, doing the Aonach Eagach Ridge in Glen Coe and bagging not a few ‘Munroes’ in the process. He was a lover of the great outdoors. After retirement he and Moira travelled to Argentine, the USA, Norway and Russia, Spain and Portugal, sometimes visiting friends and sometimes with family and friends.

Martin left school at 14 years of age to become a message boy in a fruit shop, he then did his two years National Service in the Royal Army Ordinance Corp in Germany and finished his working life as Systems Analyst Manager in Rolls Royce.

As a Christian Martin lived a life of service to others. Too many stories to tell, but he served as a Sunday School teacher and Children’s superintendent, a driver of the church’s coach, and with Moira cared and helped all who were ill or in trouble. He and I served as elders together for many years during which time, (and after I had left) he was secretary, treasurer, missionary correspondent etc.etc…

Martin to me, was a truly loving brother. I can never remember ever having an angry word with him. He was the man with whom I confided in times of trouble, his advice was always sound and balanced, he not only prayed with you, but you knew he would stand alongside and support you in every way possible.

It’s taken me a few weeks, but now feel able to write this. I know we will all meet again one day around the throne of Christ our Lord. I woke the other morning singing a song Martin and I were taught as children!

“A robe of white, a crown of gold
A harp, a home, a mansion fair
A victor’s palm a joy untold
Are mine when I get there

For Jesus is my Saviour
He washed my sin away
He paid my debt on Calvary’s mountain
 I’m happy in his dying love, I’m singing all the way
I’m living, yes I’m living at the fountain”

 

The first picnic 0f 2018!

Today we awoke to a beautiful sunny winters morning, with snow on the ground and just a light wind, so with a break in the weather forecast we decided to revise our regular picnic habit, suspended since the beginning of December, so this would be the first of 2018.

It’s something we have tried to do since we retired many moons ago. You know that when you retire you no longer can look forward to getting five weeks holidays, the Easter and Autumn weekends, the Queen’s birthday or two days at Christmas or New Year! I hear all who are still working shouting back at me, ‘everyday is a holiday for you’!  Well, yes and no. The dangers to be avoided when you retire, I think, are two-fold. One,  you get into the habit of just letting one day run into another with little planned, and Two,  you are so busy doing all these voluntary jobs and things you dreamed of that you find you have no time for yourself.

All this just so I can say that we find it’s good to plan regular days out, and for us that mostly means picnics! 🙂

Today the weather changed between bright sunshine to heavy clouds and sleety rain. Still the drive to Loch Lomond and back was enjoyable, the scenery dramatic,  and we had a good chat in the car. The sandwiches and coffee were great and we did get a few pictures so here they are.

 

It’s a good thing to plan ahead, but like the weather you have to be prepared for every eventuality!

Time for Reflection at the start of 2018

This has been a good first weekend of a new year for me. I’ve not been painting the town red, nor was I even involved in some of my favourite hobbies, or going on one of our many jaunts in the car to one of Scotland’s beauty spots. No, in fact I was in Church most of the day yesterday at our annual day of prayer, and was there again today for our morning communion service, singing hymns, listening to the sermon and meeting with family and friends, but mostly to worship God.

I don’t know about you, but I need times of quietness and reflection amidst the hubbub of life’s activity, and the constant stream of ‘bad’ news that make up our daily news bulletins! Have you ever noticed how we are continually bombarded with news of ‘doom and gloom’, much of which is about things that may or may not happen? Why are we surrounded by such negativity? All this too, on top of the many problems that ordinary people are dealing with, problems of broken and strained relationships, family problems, health problems and financial, housing and employment issues. (And I haven’t mentioned politicians, ‘Brexit’ or International affairs!) It’s not surprising that prescriptions for antidepressants is now running at an all time high here in the UK.

I don’t know about you, but I need times of quietness and reflection a midst the hubbub of life’s activity, and the constant stream of ‘bad’ news that make up our daily news bulletins!

Bertrand Russell the famous British philosopher and atheist of the last century perhaps best summarised this negativity when he said “No fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought or feeling, can preserve a life beyond the grave …. All the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system; and the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins”.

 BUT – the good news of Christmas says, that there is HOPE!

If you missed it, the good news of Christmas is that there is HOPE and it is grounded in the facts of history. God loves YOU, God cares about YOU amongst the 7.6 billion members of the human family, and YOU are special to Him, yes YOU and thankfully me too! One notorious Christian hater and killer when he came to meet with Jesus, was so overwhelmed, by this truth he exclaimed – ‘the Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me – and that fact changed his life forever. John Newton’s famous hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ expresses the same sentiments.

 Jesus you see came to be a Saviour (that’s what his name means!) to save us from our sin and its consequences, which is death and hell! For if we are to know God as our Father, then we need the sin question dealt with, because God is perfect in Holiness and sinners cannot stand in His presence.

How is it possible you might ask, for the slate to be wiped clean and my sins to be forgiven? We are forgiven on the basis of God’s Justice, and God’s Mercy and Grace. God’s justice requires sin be dealt with, Jesus on the cross took our punishment as a sinless sacrifice, and now in Mercy, God offers us what we don’t deserve – Grace, a free pardon to all who come believing, confessing their sin and seeking His forgiveness.

So new life in Jesus is just a prayer away! It could be like this …

Oh God my Father, I am truly sorry for my sin, and am amazed at your love in sending Jesus to die in my place on that cross on Calvary. I ask you to please forgive me, and I thank you that you are willing to receive a child like me. Please come into my life now and take control and I promise to live for you and serve you as my Lord and my Saviour for the rest of my life. In Jesus name I pray.

 During 2017 it was my privilege to film people whose lives have been changed in this way – you can see and hear their stories here https://youtu.be/tbGdfPVM6A0

Saint Andrew’s Day in Scotland

It’s a bank holiday here in Scotland to celebrate Saint Andrew the nation’s patron saint. The Scottish saltire proudly displays the St Andrew’s cross, on which this disciple of Jesus was crucified around AD60. But how many Scots know or care anything about this man Andrew who was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples?

I guess for most the name ‘St Andrew’ simply recalls memories of that beautiful place on the East Coast of Scotland, in the Royal Kingdom of Fife, which has long been recognised as the home of Golf. It’s a place with beautiful beaches and harbour, and some ancient cathedral and castle ruins, and of course a prestigious university, to name but some of its attractions.

Personally I just love St Andrew’s, and Fife in general. Perhaps due to the fact my mother was brought up in Flisk a small village not far from there. Every time we are in the area we try to visit the wee school that she attended at the beginning of the last century. I love to recall all the stories she told us of her country life; The long walk to school on a snowy morning, the breaking of ice in the river to get water, the summer fun running through the woods to swim in the Tay, and the special trips with her dad in horse and trap to the town of Coupar to fetch errands for the farmer.

But I love too the saint Andrew of the Bible. Not that the Bible says very much about him, but the passages that do speak about him describe a man fully committed to following Jesus, and always keen to bring others to meet Him. As a follower of Jesus myself, I can relate to that same enthusiasm, for once you get to know Jesus and appreciate who he is and what he has done for ordinary people like me, you just want to tell others about Him – he really is Jesus Christ – Superstar!

So on St Andrew’s Day can I invite you to check out this Jesus that Andrew and countless thousands down through the centuries have come to know, love and follow? Why not read John’s account of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection in the Gospel he wrote? It could change your life forever!

(Some references to Andrew in the Bible – John 1.41-42, John 6.8-9, John 12.22.23)

Have a great St Andrew’s Day!

A Tribute to Adi Harris

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This week we lost our dear friend Adi Harris, and we mourn with my niece Ruth, and their two sons Daniel and Johnny and their daughter Ashley, and with Johnny and Ashley’s spouses, and with the grandchildren. He had just passed his 58 birthday.

Adi was a lovely guy, with a great love for his wife and family, and all things beautiful in life, including the great outdoors. He had been battling cancer for over ten years, but never wanted to talk much about it. He was an outstanding example of courage, faith and tenacity through many years of cancer treatment, and was determined to keep working, and did, throughout most of that time.

Adi was a Christian, an ardent follower of Jesus Christ, and it would take too long to recount all he packed into a lifetime of Christian service in Church and in the wider community. He had a particular interest in World Mission and for many years organised teams of young people to go on short-term mission around the world, often travelling with them. He had a particular love for the people of France and had a desire to move there. Now he is home, with his Lord he loved and served.

Sometimes we ask why God allows such a productive life to come to an end, at what we see as a relatively young age. The truth is we don’t know the answer to that question. This poem by Corrie Ten Boom was read to me as a young man after my mother’s death at exactly this age, and I found it a great help and comfort. I share it in the hope that it will bring comfort and hope to others in similar circumstances.

 

My life is but a weaving

Between my God and me.

I cannot choose the colors

He weaveth steadily.

 

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;

And I in foolish pride

Forget He sees the upper

And I the underside.

 

Not ’til the loom is silent

And the shuttles cease to fly

Will God unroll the canvas

And reveal the reason why.

 

The dark threads are as needful

In the weaver’s skillful hand

as the threads of gold and silver

In the pattern He has planned

 

He knows, He loves, He cares;

Nothing this truth can dim.

He gives the very best to those

Who leave the choice to Him.

Darwin’s House of Cards

Darwin’s House of CardsA Journalists Odyssey through the Darwin Debates by Tom Bethell

I’ve just finished reading this book, which I found extremely fascinating, although I confess I was glad to have read it on my Kindle, as it enabled me to quickly find the meaning to some of the technical terms and obscure words that are sometimes used.

Scientific progress from the time of Darwin is shown to put huge strain on the whole idea of natural selection, and Darwin’s ‘tree of life’.

I was particularly struck by quotes from C S Lewis, who in 1949, wrote to a friend saying ‘Evolution, etc.’ was the ‘assumed background’ of modern thought. Later he continued by saying, that as history unfolds; later generations are likely to look for a new model, or worldview. In short, the ‘model’ of a particular time, ‘reflects the psychology of an age almost as much as it reflects the state of that age’s knowledge’

The writer suggests that we are in such a transition period now and cites three or four changes worth noting.

  1. The loss of the idea of progress. In Darwin’s day progress seemed like an ‘all embracing’ fact. Darwin said ‘man in the distant future will be a far more perfect creature than he is now’. Few believe anything like that today; in fact mankind today is seen as the ruination of the planet. Climate change, extinction of species etc.
  2. Fertility rates have fallen below replacement levels right across the Western world. Food production out paces population growth and obesity exceeds hunger as a health risk.
  3. Faith in evolutionism has declined along with the new hostility to ‘Progress’. Philosopher and mathematician William A Dembski of the ‘Intelligent Design’ movement reports that the idea has grown internationally, and pressed western intellectuals to take seriously the claim that life and the cosmos are the products of intelligence.
  4. The digital revolution and the Internet are bringing change comparable to that of the printing press, in the fifteenth century. Information flow is being democratised, so criticism of Darwin’s theory of evolution now reaches many more people than it once did.

Whilst many scientists still reject this claim, Tom Bethell argues that their need to confront and refute it, suggests our mental environment is no longer stagnating in atheistic materialism that for so long has dominated Western intellectual life … with atheistic materialism now itself in question; Christianity is again on the table for discussion.

The book is available as a hardcopy or as a Kindle download. I would recommend it to all those interested in this important subject.