Thinking ‘Outside the Box’

Most of us are creatures of habit, so we go on from day to day and week to week going through the same routines, whether it be at home or in our place of work. Seldom do we stop to consider, is there a habit, a diet, a shopping practice, a workout routine, or something else that I need to change? Would a better way of doing things enable me to achieve my goals, assuming that we have set some! With soaring prices for energy and food and with recession coming on, it is perhaps a good time to ask that question!

In industry they might say we need a ‘paradigm shift in thinking’! During my former engineering days I remember being part of a committee looking in detail at machinery we manufactured and its function, to see if we could manufacture it more efficiently or replace it all together by changing the system for which it was designed. But any ideas we had pale into insignificance when compared to the countless examples of ‘people ‘thinking outside the box’ in the fields of science, healthcare, space exploration, art and engineering, and almosy every other field of expertise that you could mention!

One example of ‘thinking outside the box, unique to Scotland and indeed the world, is the ‘Falkirk Wheel’, which we recently visited with friends from the Argentine!

The Falkiirk Wheel that links the Forth and Clyde canal with the Union canal’ (which sits 35 Metres above) allows vessels to sail through the sky thanks to an amazing piece of engineering and art! The energy to turn the wheel is said to be the equivalent of that used to boil just eight kettles of water!

We visited in summer, so the wheel was busy as many boats were passing through the canal. It’s a great place for a day out as there are loads of things to do with shops, museum, restaurant and toilets etc. You can try Archery, Mini Golf, Boating for kids or even a Canal Boat Ride that will take you up to the Union canal and back! We also took the advice on the notice above, and visited the Kelpies to feed the horses!

Admission is free to the Falkirk Wheel site and also the Kelpies, but if you travel by car there is a parking charge of £4.00.

Reflections: Thinking ‘outside the box’ can be a challenging experience in every area of life, not just in the making of things! Puting your new thinking into practice can often be life changing, and have implications for relationships and careers, and change our goals and path through life. I have recently read Prof. Neil Thomas’ book, ‘Taking Leave of Darwin‘ – A Longtime Agnostic discovers the Case for Design. In his prologue he speaks of being struck by the thought, that if a group of tenured academics and other responsible scientists could no longer support the claims of Darwinism on which the worldview of much of the West rests, then he must investigate the subject for himself. His detailed investigation which he spells out in the book is fascinating, bringing him to a conclusion which the title of his book well summarises – ‘Taking leave of Darwin‘. It’s certainly worth a read, but how will Neil Thomas’ book go down with his fellow peers and academics?

Another well known writer and agnostic David Foster Wallace, somewhat ‘rocked the boat’ by his speech in the US to the graduating class of Kenyon College in 2005 when he said, ‘You get to choose what you worship. Because here’s something that’s weird but true: in the day to day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god … to worship .. is that pretty much anything else you choose to worship will eat you alive.‘ He goes on then to speak of money, your body and beauty and sexual allure …power and intellect … ‘They are the kind of worship you just gradually slip into day after day … without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.’ (Emphasis added) His message was received with a loud round of applause. David Foster Wallace did not disclose who or what he worshipped, tho’ one might guess. And one must wonder if he had slipped into a worship he was warning others to avoid? Very sadly just three years later this talented young man committed suicide at the age of 46. It does raise the question, what god are you and I worshipping?

I think for many the day comes when we start wondering if life is passing us by, and we still have not found our true role, or meaning in life, or faced up to the fact of our mortality. Is it time for me to think outside the box? The story of Antartic Explorer – Ernest Shackleton’s advert for crew members perhaps illustrates the point.

MEN WANTED for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success. Ernest Shackleton

Five thousand men are reputed to have responded even although the terms were far from attractive, and the possibility of achieving the goals of the expedition were in doubt, with your life itself being in question. People desperate to find meaning in life?

Personally as most of my readers will know, I am a worshipper of the great Triune `God of the Bible – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You may think that sounds like something for the weak, the old and the unsophisticated, and YES you are right, for God calls everyone – rich and poor, educated and uneducated, young and old, healthy and sick, everyone to come and follow Him. The terms Jesus the Son of God laid down for His followers is set out in these words of his –  Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? The early disciples were in their day accused of turning the world upside down. God still calls such men and women today! Every morning I read a Christian Mission magazine and am constantly amazed at what God is doing through ordinary people all around the world – amazing!

In a day when many people are looking for meaning and authenticity, Jesus offers the forgiveness of all our sins, relief from a guilty conscience, a new life in all its fulness, guidance and direction by his Spirit and through his Word. We can know an inner joy and peace, and a personal relationship with him, which will ultimately take us home to heaven – No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’. How is that possible you may ask? Because the Son of God loved each of us, and gave himself for us. At the cross the great exchange took place, your sin placed on Christ, and if you come and confess that sin and give your life to Him, His righteousness becomes ours, so that exchange becomes a reality in a new life.

In the search for meaning and purpose we as Christians have found and believe that this is only possible when we find our rest in God.

Thinking of stepping ‘outside the box’?

Best wishes – Matthew

                                                            

The Pass of Brander, St Conan’s Kirk and Kilchurn Castle

On my last blog I was writing about our day trip from Oban to the Isle of Staffa and our visit to Fingal’s Cave, but we extended our holiday by choosing on our third day to visit three very interesting stopping off places on our drive back to Glasgow.

The first stop, was at the Pass of Brander where in August 1308 Sir James Douglas and King Robert the Bruce led a successful attack on the MacDougalls, It has been said, this was the final battle of Bruce’s campaign in the North, during what is called ‘the ‘Wars of Independence’. The visit reminded me of my primary school days when ‘the Black Douglas’ and ‘King Robert the Bruce’ were our folk heroes as children. Many mock battles were enacted in the school playground with imaginary swords at our play times, after being told of their many exploits during our history lessons!

Stop two, was at Saint Conan’s Kirk, which is beautifully situated on the edge of Loch Awe, and here too there is an interesting history to consider. The Kirk is not far from the Brander battlefield referred to above. In fact inside you will find an effigy tomb of King Robert the Bruce, and one of his bones is also said to be buried here. The original Church was built in 1886 by Walter Douglas Campbell, who was one of nine children. He trained as an architect, and when his mother found the journey to the local parish church too tiring, he decided to build this church for her. By 1907 he started his Church extension to ambitious plans he had drawn up. Unfortunately he did not live to see its completion, but the Church was dedicated anew in 1930. You can read the full story on-line. Highly recommended for a visit if you are touring in the area.

Our last stop, was to visit Kilchurn Castle. A Castle we have photographed on many occasions, but never found the time to visit, but this time we did! The Castle was built in the mid 15th Century and became the home of the powerful Campbell Clan of Glen Orchy, who extended it and made it their stronghold for 150 years. It contains the oldest surviving barracks on the British mainland. Lots more info on line!

It was a rather cloudy day for our visit, but the surrounding hills and landscape, and its situation at the end of Loch Awe always gives this castle that special flavour of the dramatic! Our walk from the car park, which takes you under the railway bridge and on to the grazing land, also proved to be a bit dramatic as well! As we walked along we noticed there were some highland cattle grazing in the long grass, and to our surprise they seemed to take an interest in us, whilst others had been ignored! So it was slightly ‘off putting’ when first a large brown cow with large horns came straight towards us! I hurriedly pulled some grass and offered it as a peace gesture, but after a look and a sniff she turned away in disappointment. She was follwed by an even larger black cow, who also snubbed my peace gesture! Later we saw the farmer arriving with bags of cattle feed, so me thinks we were perhaps involved in ‘a case of mistaken identity’! 🙂

Soon after we made our way over the ‘Rest and be Thankful Pass’ and home via the the banks of Loch Lomond.

Reflection: It’s such a joy to get out of town for a few days and to enjoy the summer holidays, sunshine and fresh air. We are truly blessed here in the West of Scotland as so many places of quietness and beauty are within easy reach of the city. Our evening readings these days are in the Psalms, and thus one reflected our mood as we returned to Glasgow.

It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name, O Most High,
proclaiming your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night,
to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.
For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD;
I sing for joy at what your hands have done.
How great are your works, LORD,
how profound your thoughts!
Ps. 92:1-5

All in such contrast to the gloom and sadness of our news bulletins, so of course we do need to come down from our ‘mountain top experiences’ just as Jesus did, to face the challenges of every day life. There is much need all around us. Lord help us to play our part!

Here is the Fingal’s Cave video if you missed it!

Matthew

Catch the Joy of Summer!

Yes, here in Glasgow situated in the world’s northern hemisphere the daylight hours are extending, and today we enjoyed sunshine from its 4.40am rising until its 9.50 pm setting! What a special gift is that! The garden is slowly coming into bloom and everything is looking beautiful!

The garden tonight at 8.30pm

It is amazing to watch the budding trees and Spring flowers give way to Summer bloom, and to see and hear the excitement of the birds as the they prepare their nests and get ready for the new chicks to arrive. We have blackbirds nesting in our hedge every year and their song in the evening is enough to cheer the saddest heart.

Springtime

Early Summer

The greenhouse is now catching up, with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and courgettes all coming on, and with three bags of potatoes planted and a bucket full of carrots. My two hanging baskets are now out, but the flowers for them were bought from the nursery. My tomatoes are causing me some concern as they look a bit ‘spindly’ but hopefully they will come on ok.

The greenhouse

Talking about potatoes, tonight we enjoyed some fresh buttered Ayrshire potatoes with beans, coleslaw and ‘corned beef’ for dinner. It reminded me of my mother’s love for Ayrshire potatoes when I was a small boy, and that wasn’t yesterday! 🙂

Tatties and corned beef!

And of course, this summer in the UK and Commonwealth we are celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th Jubilee, and events are being held all over the country. This week at our church we had a service and afternoon tea for senior citizens and it was a special and joyous occasion. Most of the folks there remembered her coronation all these years ago! We recalled her faithfulness and servant heart through all the ups and downs of life, and remembered her faith in God, which in her own words has sustained her, and enabled her to fulfil the vows given at her coronation! Across the political divide I think it is true to say that the vast majority of citizens in the UK are delighted to honour this lady for her commitment, grace and loyalty sometimes amid adversity.

Wherever you are, and in whatever season I hope you are well. Here is a new song we are singing in church these days, it is beautifully sung and the words I find encouraging and inspiring too, for all of life’s circumstances.

Matthew

The Isle of Tiree – positioned on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean!

Leaving a tranquil Tiree

A late night phone call, Some adjustments to our diary, and 36 hours later we were on our way to visit friends on the most westerly island in the Scottish Inner Hebrides – TIREE! What a surprise, as we had been forced to cancel a planned holiday there a year or so ago due to the pandemic, but now we were on our way, the weather forecast was excellent and we were excited at the prospect!

The Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to the island leaves from Oban, which is a 2.5 – 3 hours drive from Glasgow, depending on the traffic. It is a lovely drive, and if you are planning a visit, allow yourselves more time for stops along the way.

Oban – Gateway to the Isles

The four hour ferry trip takes you through the sound between the Isle of Mull and Ardnamurchan on the Scottish mainland, and then into the Passage of Tiree. It is quite spectacular at any time, but particularly on a beautiful sunny day!

The sun was getting low in the sky as we made the last leg of our ferry journey to Tiree, and we were blessed to see some dolphins jumping alongside the ship as we travelled.

Tiree’s history is easily researched on line, but this fertile island is a joy to visit, and in the Springtime the lambs and calves are in the fields, flowers are starting to bloom and the birds are singing. The beaches are amongst the best to behold anywhere in the world, and they attract worldclass surfers, and also runners for special competitions and events, and many tourists! My great great grandfather John McKinnon was a boat builder in Balemartine, so this was amongst the places we first visited.

Too many photos to show, but here are some showing the variety and beauty of Tiree’ >

Time passes too quickly when you are enjoying yourself, but we did manage a few last day activities, including a boat trip which you can see below. An evening walk on the beach at Balevullin, some star gazing, before getting to bed. Then an early rise to catch the ferry back to Oban. Farewell then to the quietness and serenity of Tiree.

Reflection: Living close to a motorway here in Glasgow, it was a pleasure to change the noise and bustle of the city for the peace and tranquility of Tiree. The sound of the sea, and of the birds and the joy of walking in a quiet and isolated beach was good for the soul. We never switched the television on once during our stay, and surprisingly the world seemed to carry on in it’s seemingly chaotic way without my daily watching of the news programmes. 🙂

I enjoyed popping into the Parish Church at Heylipol, its a beautiful building, and I thought of the countless number of people who have worshipped there down the centuries. It was also interesting to see that the texts above the pulpit are exactly the same as the texts we have above our pulpit in Glasgow – ‘God is Light‘ and ‘God is Love’. I wondered if some of the clansmen brought that idea to Glasgow during the migrations in the mid 19th century? Probably not, but the verses speak so powerfully of the God being worshipped. The God from whom nothing is hid, but a God who loves a broken humanity enough, to send us His Son as Saviour and Redeemer.

Oh, and here’s that boat trip, quite an excitment for a ‘land-lubber’ 🙂

If you like the blog you can subscribe to receive notifications of updates. Thanks if you have read thus far! Yes TIREE is definitely worth a visit!

God bless, Matthew

My photographic Review of 2021

Another year of travel restrictions due to Covid has resulted in us spending almost all of the year at home, so most of the photographs this year have been taken locally or on ‘day trips’ from Glasgow. However as we look back on 2021 it’s amazing to remember all the interesting places we visited, some for the very first time, and the joy and peace we had in doing that. So here’s a picture or two per month!

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Reflection: This year started with some optimism as vaccines were being rolled out, and the slogan ‘we will beat this together’ sounded more plausible, but then along came the variants!

Thankfully the latest Omicron variant is reported to be less severe than those that have gone before, so we pray that this downward trend will continue in 2022. A visit to Glasgow city centre just before Christmas told its own story. Gone was the sound of laughter and the bustling Christmas market in George Square. No ‘big wheel’, ‘flying chairs’, ‘helter skelter’or ice rink, fun and joviality had given way to just a few families with kids who had come to see the lights and the nativity scene, plus some folks handing out food and drink to the poor and homeless.

But hold on a minute, is ‘families with kids who had come to see the lights and the nativity scene, plus some folks handing out food and drink to the poor and homeless‘ more in keeping with the Christmas story, than a ‘lets eat and drink and be merry‘ lifestyle, especially in the current circumstances? The British Prime Minister caused outrage recently when it was disclosed that last winter some government departments were partying while people were self isolating and others mourning the loss of family and friends to Covid 19.

This Christmas I was caused to stop and think again about the reason for Christmas, which this new carol, so beautfully sung, challenges us to do. Take a minute to listen!

I hope you enjoy the photographs, and like me are challenged by the new carol.

Hope to see you again in the New Year. Every blessing to you and yours.

Matthew

“The Queer Folk O’ the Shaws”

Pollokshaws Townhouse (1803) and the Memorial to James McIndoe the poet

Pollokshaws is a district on the southside of Glasgow (A Burgh in its own right until 1912) and was our home for 23 years, and is still the lifelong home of our church in Leckie Street. This blog will recall past and recent memories of life here, and the huge changes that have taken place throughout my lifetime. There is a poem on a plaque in the old part of the ‘Shaws, which always brings a smile to my face, but please don’t take the words too seriously! 🙂 The poem on the plaque reads:

The ‘Queer folk’ O’ the Shaws – “Wha’ ne’er untae the Shaws has been – Has surely missed a treat – For wonders there are to be seen – Which nothing else can beat. – The folks are green, it’s aft been said, – Of that you’ll find no trace; – There’s seasoned wood in every head – And brass in every face. – Look smart and keep your eyes about – Their tricks will make you grin; – The Barrhead bus will take you out -The folks will take you in. Thank you James McIndoe, that poem still makes me laugh!

Pollokshaws has a history going back to the 17th century, but ‘The ‘Queer Folk’ was the name first given to some Flemish weavers brought to the Shaws by the Maxwell family in the 1800’s, and over time became a ‘byeword’ for all those living in the area. (‘Queer’ in the poem had the meaning of ‘strange’ or ‘odd’) McIndoe the poet, it has been said liked making fun of folks, and it says something of Pollokshaws people that they chose to remember him by this ‘cheeky’ poem in the ‘town square’. Being able to ‘laugh at ourselves’ is surely a special virtue.

The changes that have taken place in the Pollokshaws landscape in my lifetime have been quite phenomenal! In the 40’s and 50’s it still had that close community, working class, yet small town / village atmosphere. It has to be said however, that the housing was basic, and in some parts quite deplorable and rightly described as a slum. But development was coming! (See on-line – ‘Pollokshaws – Wikipedia’ for some amazing resources)

In the 60’s Pollokshaws was designated as a redevelopment area, and in due time we were given the sum of £1.00 in exchange for our two apartment flat in Harriet Street, plus the keys to a brand new flat in the Shawholm Cresent tower block, with a rent payable to Glasgow Housing Department. Wow, were we pleased? YES we were! The up and downstairs apartment had underfloor central heating, two bedrooms, bathroom, a lounge with a verandah, a fitted kitchen, and our own lock-up garage. Pollok Park was just across the road, the neighbours were great, together we polished the communal corridor and as the proverbial saying goes ‘you could have eaten your dinner off the floor’ it was so clean.

We had many happy days at Shawholm Crescent, but life moves on, and as the family grew we too moved on. But now we look back and wonder why all those hopes and dreams that the new revitalised Pollokshaws brought, would within our lifetime come to ruin and decay? The many factories and businesses in the area also closed over that period of time.

But another revitalised Pollokshaws is arising from the ashes, so time will tell if it is more successful than the last redevelopment effort. I am surprised however that expensive new houses are being built, whilst it seems little effort is going into preserving and maintaining landmark buildings, monuments and the once attractive river bank.

Our Church at Greenview.

Greenview Church, was established by some men in the Shaws away back in 1873, as they were keen to introduce to people a simple form of Christian worship. They met to pray, study the Bible, have fellowship with one another as believers and hold communion. They were also keen to share the good news about Jesus with their fellow citizens in Pollokshaws. First they met in a rented hall off the Main Street, then built a wooden hall in Wodrow Street, (Wodrow Street ran from Cogan Street past what is now Pollokshaws Parish Church – The tree now standing in the ground near the Parish Church was in the grounds of the Hall) before moving to Greenbank Street and finally to Leckie Street, where they have been since 1933. The building there has been changed and extended on umpteen occasions.

The Church from its beginnings had a strong missionary interest, and Norman MacRae one of the founding fathers, went out in 1876 to Narsapur in the Godaveri Delta, India. Up until today a long line of men and women from Greenview Church have followed Jesus’ command to ‘go into all the world to preach the gospel’ both by word and deed. I remember as a youngster the Pollokshaws Burgh Hall being packed to the door for ‘Farewell Meetings’ followed by trips to the Central Station where we waved off our friends as they made their way to Tilbury Dock in London, before sailing to Africa and South America. Many country names come to mind – Northern Rhodesia, Argentina, Brazil, East Pakistan, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania and other nations in the Middle East. Alex Simpson of Pollokshaws died in Brazil, and an orphanage there is called after him. Men and women with a wide variety of skills from the Shaws have left our shores and used their gifts and skills to help folks around the world, and to build, plant and support the Church.

No space here to expand on all the activities of the Church over the years – suffice to say they have been exhaustive. Not including the main Sunday morning and evening services, there has been Bible studies and weekly prayer meetings, Summer ‘Tent’ Campaigns, Choirs singing at Churches around Scotland’s Central belt, Christian conferences, Sunday Schools (Pollokshaws and Thornliebank) with summer trips and children’s prizegivings, Childrens meetings galore, Christian Youth Centre during and after the war, with 2 week summer camps around Scotland and winter craft making and games nights, Youth Bible Classes and special weekends away, Womens tea meetings, Sewing classes, mens meetings, a football team, white water rafting, golf outings, and much more. Some Greenview pics from the ancient past, and from more recent times follow.

During the pandemic the church services were on-line with the help of Zoom, but that gave the opportuniy to upgrade the church building and its fittings. Now services are back in church, and whilst we practice social distancing and wear masks, it’s great having the live band for our singing, and to see friends old and new in person.

Life has changed dramatically in Pollokshaws in my lifetime, and our church too has had to deal with many changes. But thankfully God does not change and the good news of Jesus does not change. In fact the Bible says of Jesus, that He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. An anchor to our souls in our increasingly chaotic world. Our community cafe has started again on Wednesday and Friday mornings, and many have already come to enjoy the friendly welcome and excellent food and coffee. Tot’s and Co. on Tuesday and Thursday mornings are seeing lots of local mums making friends and finding support there, and our ‘Christians Against Poverty’ Centre is up and running, helping folks escape the debt trap. We also have a programme in partnership with ‘Hope for Glasgow’ that deals with those who have destroying addictions. Sunday School runs in parallel with our morning service at 11am, and there is a thriving Youth Group.

If you are coming to Glasgow we would love to see you, and of course if you stay in Pollokshaws there is always a welcome awaiting you!

We look forward to following the ongoing development of Pollokshaws and its Churches, so with this picture of the Burgh Hall, I wish all my fellow bloggers and my Pollokshaws friends at home and abroad a ‘Happy Christmas and God’s blessing in the New Year!’

Pollokshaws Burgh Hall

Matthew

The Trossachs and Argyleshire – and the sound of Silence!

The ‘Trossachs nature reserve’ in Scotland is an area east of Loch Lomond, famous for it’s lochs, rugged hills, forests and glens, and is sometimes referred to as ‘Scotland in Minature.’ It lies within the ‘Queen Elizabeth National Park’ and is a 30 mile, one hour drive from Glasgow. We normally like to visit in August when the heather is in full bloom, but this year it was an October’s day-trip. Aberfoyle is a little town within the Trossachs where there is a ‘Scottish Woollen Mill’ shop, and we often stop there to view their wide range of clothing and enjoy a coffee. Within a mile of Aberfoyle is the ‘James Marshall Lodge’ sitting on the hill at the entrance to the ‘Duke’s Pass’, and this offers magnificent views, easy and challenging walks, and there is a ‘Go Ape’ high wire adventure to be tackled if you are fit!

Half-way across The Duke’s Pass you can access a ‘Forest Drive’ by paying a few pounds, and moving onto a dirt road, which winds its way through the forest. It passes three lochs on the route – Loch Reoidhte, Drunkie and Achray.

Our favourite part of the drive is the approach to Loch Achray. Passing the old homestead, you can view Ben A’an across the loch, only 451 m high but a spectacular little hill to climb with a rugged top and a splendid view down Loch Katrine. Then on the near side of the loch you have a view of Ben Venue at 729 m, another easy but magnificient climb.

And just before the month of October ran out, we enjoyed a couple of nights break at the Park Hotel in Dunoon, Argyleshire. We left Glasgow in the rain, headed for Loch Lomond and reached Arrochar at the top of Loch Long just before lunch time. Then over the ‘Rest and be Thankful’ pass where we turned down ‘Hells Glen’ before following the road to Strachur. From there it’s an easy trip down to Dunoon on the banks of the Firth of Clyde, but we chose to divert through Ardentinny also on Loch Long, then around the Holy Loch and on to Dunoon just as the rain decided to stop!

Dunoon was once a favourite holiday destination for Scottish holiday makers prior to the arrival of ‘the package holiday’. But it is still a beautiful place with lots to see and do.

The following day we made a visit to Glen Masson for the first time, and also a trip back to Benmore Botanical gardens to see them in their autumn colours.

Benmore Botanical Gardens

The drive back to Glasgow was via Tighnabruaich, Portavadie, Otter `Ferry, Strachur, Loch Lomond and Glasgow. That is quite a drive.

Reflection -The beauty of silence!

The photographs displayed show something of the wonder of our planet, and were mostly taken in the beauty of silence. Sometimes it’s so hard just to find a quiet spot to sit quietly and meditate, in this very noisy world. As COP26 proceeds in Glasgow with thousands gathered to address the climate change crisis, there have been many speeches, proposals and demonstrations and lots of noise. Since we have evidently messed up, perhaps we should also confess and seek the help of the Creator don’t you think? Two thoughts come to mind, the words of the prophet Habakkuk, and the beautiful words of John Greenleaf Whittier’s hymn (1807 – 1892).

“The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him.”
– Habakkuk 2:20

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways:
reclothe us in our rightful mind;
in purer lives your service find,
in deeper reverence praise,

With that deep hush subduing all
our words and works, that drown
the tender whisper of your call,
as noiseless let your blessing fall
as fell your manna down,

Drop your still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of your peace,

Video – Loch Fyne – The sound of silence

The video above has been posted in full volume and lasts for just 10 seconds, but I stood there for quite a time taking in the wonders of God and His creation. Enjoy the silence and take time to call upon God.

Matthew

Bondage, Bond and a Bridge

When I was a wee boy of five years, I spent the best part of a year in an infectious diseases hospital in Glasgow, having contracted diphtheria, followed by scarlet fever and a mastoid. No visitors were allowed so I was separated from my siblings and parents even at Christmas and New Year.  This year, for the first time since, my wife and I were on our own at Christmas and New Year due to Covid-19 restrictions. But we did have a nice time, and spoke with family and friends by phone, and on ‘what’s app’ or ‘Zoom’. One of our grandsons with his wife and family even came and sung carols to us outside our front door with the gift of a freshly baked cake! And of course we did manage a few photographs at home and in the garden and when driving to a quiet spot in our local area!

Oh, and we watched a few films, which is a bit unusual for us, as we are not really much into that. Perhaps it was because we have had to buy a TV licence again! 🙂 Yes, we did watch, (feel free to laugh) ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘The Bridge on the river Kwai‘! The latter inspired the heading of this months blog ‘Bondage, Bond and a Bridge’.

Bondage. When I arrived in Thailand to work on an engineering contract back in the 80’s, I found myself within 10 days walking on the Burma (Death) Railroad. We had gone to Church on the Sunday I arrived, and I was told the following weekend there would be a church trip to the bridge on the river Kwai, and that we were invited. Walking on the railroad and visiting a commonwealth war memorial was a sobering experience, as anyone who has read anything of the history of that infamous railroad can imagine. Thousands upon thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers and Asian civilians lost their lives, due to starvation, disease and cruel bondage. There was a subdued atmosphere amongst our group as later that day we rode downstream in a number of motorboats to catch a view of the bridge and it’s surroundings.

Bridge on the River Kwai and Commonwealth War Graves

Some months later we visited the refugee camps along the Cambodian border, where we witnessed the devastation in human lives caused by Pol Pot and his regime. They murdered at least 2 million of their own people and sent countless thousands more scattering for refuge to Thailand and elsewhere. Children in bondage, what a blot on the human race! Stories here too gruesome to tell or contemplate!

Cambodian refugees on the Thailand border – consider the disturbed look on some of those children’s faces.

BOND: Fortunately we were also able to visit other beautiful places in Thailand during that year’s contract, which brought some relief from the busyness of our hectic lives at that time. So look no further than the island and area immortalised by a certain Mr Bond, James Bond! in his legendary film ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. Sailing among the mangroves and the amazing rock formations was certainly a fascinating experience, and visiting the village where they cultivated pearls, was financially perilous! Ever think that if only in real life we could find someone to save humanity from its madness and folly?

In and around ‘James Bond’ island

BRIDGE: The strange thing about the bridge on the River Kwai episode was that soldiers, on the same side in this deadly conflict, were working against each other. Some working to build a bridge and others working to destroy a bridge. There was good reason for that in this instance, but I’ll leave you to read the story for yourself. That fact however has been true in other international conflicts and disagreements, where selfish national interests take precedence over what might have been a better and more sensible outcome. And if we are honest we see that happening in almost every level of human society. Having your cake and eating it too, is now heralded as a great outcome in any negotiation!

Makeshift Church in Refugee Camp

We noticed that in the camp we visited on the Thai / Cambodia border there was a large church, open at the sides and back, which we were told was packed to capacity whenever a service was held, with people standing around outside. The message they were hearing was new to their ears and truly revolutionary. It’s the story of another bridge, one prepared by God Himself, that allows weary and worn sinners in a self destructive world to find peace and rest.

As I write, this new strain of Covid-19 is running rampant in Scotland and throughout the UK, with more than 1000 daily deaths and gloomy forecasts for the coming months, in spite of vaccination hopes. We are daily reminded of this virus’ impact around the world, and are being told we will defeat this virus together, so life can return to normal. But defeating Covid-19 will do nothing to help the reported 12 million children in danger from war, disease and famine in Yemen, or solve the countless wars, acts of terrorism and troubles and injustices perpetuated around the globe, which only get a brief mention at present. Today the USA, recognised as the world’s chief promoter of democracy was demonstrating how it should not be done, by a mob invading the White House! The Bible diagnoses humankind’s most serious problem and calls it sin. If we are honest we know we have all been infected.

So there is no Mr Bond who is going to save us, but Christmas is about a greater Saviour, who brings help from outside our world, coming to save us by becoming one of us. ‘Emmanuel’ God with us, Jesus the Saviour of the world. He provides the bridge for all who are seeking forgiveness, peace and rest. For our present and eternal safety and wellbeing we really need to step across. The last photo of a bridge spells it out so well. Take a look!

Jesus THE bridge!

Here’s the story of one young woman who crossed that bridge!

Wishing you all a very happy new year, and God’s peace, care and protection throughout 2021.

Matthew

Missed Destinations!

Since as long as I can remember I have gone somewhere on holiday every year during summer. As a child I was brought up in a working class family living in Glasgow, but my mother and father always managed to save enough money to take the children to the ‘seaside’ every year. And what happy memories I have of these holidays. Even after I got married it was always the talk around the table at the turn of each New Year ‘where will we go on holiday’? 

This year we planned a holiday in Oban and Tiree, made all the arrangements, booked hotels and ferry, only for it all to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic. So like countless thousands of others we were disappointed. The Isle of Tiree on the West Coast of Scotland was our ancestral home, so we were particularly keen to revisit the island after many years. I’ve been reading T C Smout’s book ‘A Century of the Scottish People – 1830 – 1950′ in which he describes the potato famine of 1846 which devastated and decimated the people of the Western Isles and Ireland, and which brought our branch of the McKinnon clan over to Glasgow in search of work. Potato was the staple diet of the people, and Smout records the story of the little boy being asked, what he had to eat for his three meals each day? to which he replied ‘mashed potatoes, mashed potatoes, mashed potatoes’, when pressed further by the enquirer, and with what else? He replied with great artlessness and surprise – ‘a spoon’. We were hoping to get something more with the potatoes when we revisited, but it looks like we will have to forego this destination in 2020, and will just need to hope for another opportunity to arise!

One other destination in life that I missed, which I always look back on with some disappointment was a visit to Machu Picchu in Peru. I was a Sugar Engineer, and back in 1980 I was asked by my company to spend some months in Peru assessing the equipment needs of the nationalised sugar factories in Peru. Since I was going to be there for sometime I had set my heart on visiting this famous world heritage site. 

Machu Picchu is the remains of an Incan citadel set high in the Andes Mountains above the Urubamba river valley at a height of 2430 metres. At the last minute my trip was cancelled, and I was sent to another destination in the opposite side of the world. But last year my great nephew Joe Mackinnon set off from Scotland on a tour of Central and South America, and, yes you guessed it, he got to visit Machu Picchu! He arrived by train from Ollantaytambo, and then followed part of a traditional trade walking route between Cuzco and Machu Picchu, before visiting the village of Zurite near Ancascocha. He got some really interesting angles of the site and surrounding area. With his permission you can see some of them below. Well I guess this is a destination that I will now need to write out of my ‘bucket list,’ but how good to see it tho’, through the eyes of a family member – Thanks Joe, great pics!

There are many routes to the worlds destinations, and its great if we have time and opportunity to explore them. When it comes to our final destination it’s a different story. We are told there are over 2300 religions in the world and 2500 gods to go with them, not to mention the faith of the new atheists and humanists, so humanity is treading many different roads, some like to think they all reach the same destination.

One Destination NOT to be missed: As a Christian I am ultimately looking forward to a heavenly destination. Jesus said to His followers ‘I go to prepare a place for you‘ and He also said that He alone is the Way to heaven! Now that reduces the options! But why else would God send His Son to die for our sins if there were many other ways?

So to finish, may all your dreams of travel and visits around this amazing world come true, and be sure not to miss the way to the final heavenly destination, as alternative routes Jesus warns will lead to eternal disaster!  (The Gospel of John – Chapter 14 verses 1-6)

If you know this Jesus, we surely will get the opportunity one day to review the way He led us to our heavenly home – it’s going to be an ‘out of this world’ destination, with the ultimate host!

Matthew

It’s the Glasgow Fair!

In Glasgow the last two weeks in July have been traditionally known as ‘the Glasgow Fair fortnight.’ In the past shipyards, engineering works, factories and businesses all over the city closed for the annual holiday, with only a few ‘skeleton staff’ being kept on to deal with any urgent phone calls or business. It was ‘lockdown time’ while the populace at large went off on holiday, mostly to venues along the Firth of Clyde coast. That tradition has changed over the last thirty years with the introduction of the ‘package holiday.’ Holidays at Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, have given way to venues in Spain and around Europe, where people fly off in search of sun and adventure. And so holiday times now have become much more flexible.

But for most of us, holidays overseas have been put ‘on hold’ this year, so many are returning to nearer home destinations. For us, the ‘Glasgow fair’ holds many memories of happy holidays all around Scotland, and in fact my wife and I met at a Christian Youth Camp (CYC) during ‘the Fair’, and we got engaged to be married on ‘Fair Monday’!

So this past weekend we celebrated with a couple of special day trips, to some of our old haunts on the Clyde Coast. Our first trip was on Saturday, when we visited Cove, a little village on the edge of Loch Long, just where it reaches the Clyde estuary. We drove from Glasgow, crossed the river Clyde at the Erskine bridge, and down through Dumbarton and Helensburgh to Gareloch (home to the UK’s nuclear submarine base). Then we turned along the southside of Gareloch and over the hill to Cove. About and hour and fifteen minutes from Glasgow depending on road conditions. It was a warm day with a fresh breeze and intermittent showers. You never tire of the beauty of the Scottish scenery and when we reached Cove the place was, …. quiet! We came home via Glen Fruin and Loch Lomond.

‘Fair Monday’ was another showery day, but armed with the proverbial picnic lunch we headed in the other direction, keeping on the southside of the Clyde Estuary and headed for the small village of Dunure. The council there had recently upgraded the toilet block and park entrance, but had not bargained for the onset of the Corona virus! Park entrance fee and entrance to the toilets called for cash, with no facility for paying by card. Since few people had cash we were graciously allowed entrance without paying, enough to warm a Scotsman’s heart! 🙂 Dunure is beautifully situated with a pretty harbour and spectacular castle, home to the Kennedy clan.

From there we drove on to Maidens, passing the ‘electric brae’ and Culzean Castle on the way. The weather was continuing to improve as we moved along the coast, and at Maidens we had a lovely stroll to the end of the long pier.

Maidens village and harbour!

Lastly, we continued south west to the town of Girvan, passing on the way Turnberry lighthouse and Mr Trump’s famous golf course and hotel. The sun was now shining bright and the place was displayed in all it’s splendour, just as I remembered it as a child. Girvan has an amazing beach against the backdrop of the Byne Hill. Here the beach was again, …. very quiet!

After finishing the remains of our picnic, we had a lovely walk on the beach, then drove the 60 miles home, hugging the coastline for the first 21 miles, with spectacular views across the firth. It was a great way to finish the day as we celebrated 63 years since our engagement, and praised God for his faithfulness throughout the years!

Looking towards the isle of Arran from the Girvan to Ayr coastal route

I trust you are all keeping safe, and can find a quiet place to enjoy the beauties of God’s amazing creation. Matthew