Monday, April 30, 2007

A day to remember...

I've been just a bit too busy over the last few days to write anything for the blog- with a wedding, Sunday's worship service, an Election Forum last night and a funeral today all taking up my time. In particular, I know I haven't yet said anything about that interesting person I met last week. I haven't forgotten.... (which is really saying something, as I forget lots of things these days.)
On Saturday, though, I discovered another little hidden jewel in central Scotland- Cromlix House - where I conducted the wedding of someone I have known since she was six years old. [This is one of the great privileges of being allowed to minister in the same congregation for almost 20 years!]
Cromlix House itself is an interesting place with its own tiny Episcopalian Chapel (as you can see above.) I don't know the full history of the place, or why the original owners decided they wanted their own chapel, but it was a beautiful setting for a wedding. (Not to mention a place where really good food is served!!)
Mind you, it could just have turned out to be something of a catastrophe.
All the guests were in place. The groom and his best man were waiting at the front of the little chapel. I walked to the front followed by the bridesmaid and turned to watch the bride enter with her father, looking radiant and beautiful [the bride that is- though the father scrubbed up pretty well, I have to say, and looked very smart in his kilt :-)]
I began the service, welcoming everyone, setting the scene with some appropriate introductory words and announcing the first hymn. At the end of the hymn there followed what I usually call the "Preamble" to the wedding ceremony, which then leads into a prayer.
I was in the middle of the prayer when it suddenly occurred to me that I had not checked if the marriage schedule was in place.
[For those of you not familiar with Scots Law I should point out that The Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977 states as one of its provisions: "If an approved celebrant solemnises a marriage without a Marriage Schedule in respect of the marriage being available to him/her at the time of the marriage, he/she will be liable to prosecution."]
Not wishing to end up in one of Her Majesty's Prisons, I surreptitiously opened my eyes during the prayer and glanced over to the table where the schedule to be signed and ... sure enough... there was no schedule there. Aaaagh!
After the prayer there was nothing for it but to announce that we couldn't proceed any further unless the missing piece of paper could be produced, whereupon the father of the bride (who, incidentally, is one of my church elders) made a very sharp exit to retrieve it.
Fortunately he did not have far to go - only to a room upstairs - and there was no further delay to proceedings.
But it reminded of one of the very first wedding receptions I ever attended as an extremely young, and inexperienced, Assistant Minister in Ayr. The wedding in the church had gone well, even though it was only the second wedding I had ever conducted. And now all the guests had arrived at the hotel where the reception was to take place. It had been agreed that before the meal was served the wedding cake would be cut and a toast proposed to the bride and groom. (Not a particularly unusual order of proceedings.)
And I was to propose the toast.
I had a short speech of sorts prepared and committed to memory. And then, just before I began I noticed that there was going to be a small complication when it came to proposing the toast.... None of the guests had been served with the drinks for the toast.
When I pointed this out to the Functions Manager his response (after the initial look of horror on his face) was "Could you just speak to them for about twenty minutes and I'll get it organised?"
His look of horror became mine. "What!! Twenty Minutes!!"
And so for the next twenty minutes, or so, I dredged my memory for every joke and humorous story I could think of to keep the crowd amused, and at the same time keep them unware of the fact that someone in the hotel had made a monumental blunder.
I'm probably still using the same jokes today!
Back to Cromlix House - I mentioned already the wonderful food - but how is this for a table setting?
What a cool way to fold a napkin!
(According to the waitress not an easy task either.)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

...and back again!

Well they did it! While I was out today some builders came and reassembled the scattered stones of our demolished gatepost, proving true the words of the preacher in Ecclesiastes that there is a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them together.

Only thing is.... they forgot to put back the gate itself!!

Hmmm.. I wonder if I should phone them up and tell them they need to come back, dismantle the post again, and do the job properly?
(Remember this all started with flickering lights!)
On second thoughts, perhaps we don't really need the gate after all. In fact it must be about 15 years since we last closed the gates over (when the children were small.)
Who needs gates anyway?

Well, someone clearly feels the need...
Since it was a very pleasant evening we went for a short walk down our road, past the first building site where the new villas are being erected, and then past the second site where some new flats/apartments are also being built. On a large billboard at the front of the building site is the architect's sketch of what the new development will look like.
Here it is:
And the description... "Situated in an exclusive, gated development of 26 luxury apartments with an enviable position in one of Carluke's most prestigious addresses...."
So whoever comes to live here wants to make sure no unwanted people enter their world.
I first saw these gated developments in the United States some years ago and they kind of made me sad. It's like going back to medieval castles: or even an admission, somehow, that community no longer exists. How many of you remember a time not so long ago when you didn't even lock your front door?
It also reminded me of these words of Edwin Markham:
He drew a circle that shut me out
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
But love and I had the wit to win;
We drew a circle that took him in.

There are far too many walls, barriers, gates and security fences in our world.
We need more bridges bringing people together

Well tonight... there is one less gate!

Today I met a very interesting man with a remarkable story to tell, but I'll have to share it with you at a later date. Right now I need to think of something to say at a High School Assembly tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


If a job is worth doing... it is worth doing well!
Don't you agree?
Following on from the recent acts of vandalism against our poor gatepost, our property convener with some assistance managed to get the post put back together again. (Wish I'd taken a photograph of it fixed again.)
However, earlier today, the workmen who came to fill in the holes in our driveway made a proper job of it - completely demolishing the pillar with their van!
I had seen the van and went out to see what was going on. I saw the two workmen trying to heave the large cap-stone over to the side of the driveway. When I asked them what was happening they described what they had done. To their complete surprise I burst out laughing.
The conversation then went something like this:
(workman) "Are you the minister here?"
(me) "Yep"
"Is that why you are taking this so well?"
"Could be. Were you expecting me to start shouting and swearing at you?"
"Well that's what usually happens. When we saw the door open we wondered 'what size is he going to be?'"
[they needn't have worried on that score as both of them were well over six feet and with well-developed muscles (no doubt built up through manhandling stones from gateposts they have demolished)]

The driver then tried to explain his actions...
"It was very narrow!"
"So you decided to make it wider? Eh? You know, I've driven a 35cwt truck through there without hitting anything."
"Aye, but you had the Lord to guide you... (pause) ... we're Satanists (not said seriously)"
"Well, whether you are Satanists or not, I hope you're better at filling in holes than you are at driving your van!"

Now another set of workmen will have to come out to re-build the gatepost.
Funny how one little piece of work snowballs into a major job-creation project.

I'll keep you POSTED on any further developments.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Signs of hope

Last night the Lanark & Carluke Choral Union, with the help of members of the Scottish Opera Orchestra and a few freelance musicians, put on a performance of two contemporary works that I know pretty well- Karl Jenkin's "The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace" and John Rutter's "Requiem".
It was held in St. Mary's R.C. Church in Lanark. Since I know the conductor, one of the soloists, and several members of the choir, I was keen to go along and I really enjoyed the evening. For an amateur choir they did really well. The orchestra, of course, was excellent.
To be honest I'm not a great fan of Jenkins' music, though it is enjoyable enough. It just seems to me to lack a bit of depth and he can be a wee bit lazy at times, padding stuff out with repeats rather than developing ideas - but who am I to say?
"The Armed Man" is certainly a very dramatic work and, in the context of the violent war-torn world we are living in just now, a very timely one. And last night there were some truly dramatic moments.
To appreciate this you have to try and picture the scene (unfortunately I didn't have a camera with me.)
St. Mary's is a beautiful cathedral-like R.C. Church with some lovely carvings and scultptures and some very attractive "Stations of the Cross." For the Easter season a large 'empty' wooden cross had been erected to one side of the altar. It was draped with a long white cloth.
This formed the backdrop against which the choir and orchestra were arranged.

Section 7 of "The Armed Man" is entitled "Charge" and represents a battle scene which culminates in a minute's total silence followed by 'The Last Post.'
It is always a very poignant moment and somehow even more so in a live performance.
But, for me, the most dramatic and moving part actually came near the beginning.
The work uses the Muslim Call to Prayer near the start and, for the occasion, the choir had invited an Imam to come and give the call to prayer.
It was strange to see him stand there chanting the call "Allahu Akbar" in front of that large empty cross, in a packed Roman Catholic church, followed by the choir singing "Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison" (Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy)
Somehow it felt to me like a sign of hope in an all-too-often hopeless world (which, of course, is exactly what Jenkins means it to be.)
John Rutter's Requiem seemed especially appropriate after that - especially the sublime "Pie Jesu" very well sung by Dorothy Low. (Well done, Dot! )
I like all kinds of music, including rock, indie folk etc. but at the moment I seem to have a thing about classical choral music.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Painted Earth

We had a rare couple of hours free this afternoon and I took a sudden notion to visit a place that I have not been to for many years-- Broughton Gallery.
The house in which the gallery is situated is not nearly as old as it appears, having been designed in 1938 by Sir Basil Spence, but it blends in beautifully with the rolling hills of the Scottish Borders around the little picturesque village of Broughton.
I think the last time we had visited the gallery was many years ago when a friend of ours was exhibiting some of her watercolours.
Today there was an exhibition of paintings, sculpture, ceramics etc. including works by the well-known John Lowrie Morrison and an impressive collection of paintings by Clifford William Blakey entitled "Painted Earth".
In fact, as we entered through the huge solid oak door, I got the impression that we may have stumbled into a private pre-exhibition viewing, although no one asked who we were or why we were there. Instead there was held out towards me a plate of warm, freshly baked cookies and some champagne. I declined the champagne, as I was driving, but gave in rather easily to the temptation of the cookies. Definitely a good move.
Unfortunately, although Blakey's paintings seemed equally 'tasty' to me, they were not free and we couldn't afford to buy one. Pity. But seeing them was enjoyable enough, and afterwards we took a short walk up the hill to look down on the gallery.
Sometimes when you turn a corner on the journey of life you meet a nasty surprise, but, equally, there are times when the surprise is a very pleasant one. As it was today.

Without the aid of a capo...

A friend of mine sent me a link to this video of an amazing piece of guitar playing.
How is it that those who are incredibly good at something, like playing a musical instrument, or a sport, or a conjuring trick, never seem rushed? It's like they are operating in a different time zone from the rest of us.
Just watch Roger Federer on a tennis court, gliding around in a seemingly effortless way, with all the time in the world to play his shots.
When I watched Manchester United demolish Roma the other week, there was one move when it seemed as if the Roma players were rooted to the spot as the United players simply passed the ball around them in a series of quick-fire, one-touch passes (no need to get the ball under control first - they had all the time in the world.)
The nearer you get to perfection in some activity the more time seems to stretch out.
Maybe if you were to perfect the art of living you would step beyond time itself and into eternity?

[before anyone jumps in to correct my theology, I do not mean this seriously]

Friday, April 20, 2007

Standing on holey ground

A couple of days ago our lights started flickering periodically and once or twice (though only for a fraction of a second each time) the power seemed to cut out completely. It was enough on occasion to make my PC network crash and restart itself which was a little bit frustrating.

So last night we reported it to the power company, suspicious that the building work next door may have been to blame. It's bound to be that (we convinced ourselves.) Some stupid worker has damaged a supply cable! blah, blah...

Well, first thing this morning an engineer arrived. It's a bit of a long story (for it took most of the day) and none of the story is particularly interesting so I won't bore you with it, but the upshot of it all is that we now have some nice new holes in the driveway (to be filled in tomorrow morning, we have been told.)

Oh... and we also have a new supply cable.

The builders, it turned out, were not to blame. It was simply the antiquated state of our electricity supply cable. I saw the bit that the engineers cut out and it is a wonder that any electricity managed to get through. The cable had virtually disintegrated!

So now we can stand on holey ground! (sorry about that one...)

And I have once again been taught two important lessons:

1. Don't jump to conclusions! - It was all too easy to blame the builders next door, even though I had no evidence to support my suspicions.

2. How fortunate we are in this country. - Almost immediately someone appeared to repair our broken cable. (I know how different it is in developing countries where power shortages and failures of supply - assuming there is a supply in the first place - can take days, weeks or even months to be dealt with.)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lights glowing in the dark

The recent events in Virginia Tech were so horrific that I find there is nothing that I am able to say about them. It is desperately sad when a person's own inner life gets so messed up that he becomes capable of wreaking such devastation and causing so much pain to so many others.
That there is a despairing darkness in the world cannot be denied any more than it can be understood.

But there is also light.
And while light can take away darkness, darkness cannot actually destroy light- except perhaps the absolute darkness of a 'black hole.'

Anyway, in this often ugly world there is also beauty, and I am enjoying some of it at the moment.
I've started reading Niall Williams' latest novel "Boy In The World" which was one of the birthday gifts I received last week. I haven't read all that much of it yet but I can tell you already that it is beautifully written.

For example, how is this for a description?

"The small timid figure of Father Paul came out; to hide his terror of the bishop, he wore a curve of smile freshly glued.
The bishop was a large man who loved himself completely. His fine black helmet of hair he considered magnificent, his nose straight, his teeth blanched and fearsome, his great girth symbolic. There was more of him than of most people."
[Niall Williams: Boy In The World, Harper Collins, 2007 p16]

Isn't that last sentence just delicious??

And what about this later passage describing the scene aboard the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead:

"There were people too of every description, from happy teasing tourists already drinking beer to women with worn-out looks, as if their faces had been used up, and only one expression was left."
[Niall Williams: Boy In The World, Harper Collins, 2007 p75]


There is a dull kind of truth/reality that can be measured in facts and figures, formulae and statistics: but there is another kind of truth that is much more elusive, because it is infinitely more energetic. It is sometimes (temporarily) captured by the artist, the musician, the poet or the film-maker. Don't ask them to explain their vision and don't try to explain it yourself, just let is settle on your shoulder like a passing butterfly or a fleck of light on rippling water.
God knows... we need those lights in a dark place.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Well, what do you know...

OK - here it is! The mystery object revealed.

But I imagine some of you will still have no idea what it is or what it is for.
A few of you may recognise it, because you have used one yourself.
Some of you may feel cheated, because you realise that you would never have guessed it and it was unfair of me to tease you with the hope that you might have known.
Some of you may even feel disappointed that it wasn't something more exotic, more beautiful, more interesting even.
Oh - and for those of you who still don't know... it is a capo - a simple device for quickly changing the pitch of a guitar.
Here's another picture to show how it works.

Sorry for causing some of you to lose sleep over it! :-) But, you know, it is worth stopping now and then to remind ourselves of how little we actually do know.

If there is a heaven then, whatever it is like, I am sure it will be full of surprises. There'll be things we thought we knew which will turn out to be completely different, and we'll realise that we didn't know it at all. (People too, of course.)

There will be things we did know but couldn't quite make sense of at the time, because we only had a little bit of the picture, or we saw it only as a dim reflection in a mirror.

We will also realise that we never really knew ourselves (the way God knows us) so there should be plenty to keep us occupied for a while...and even eternity. So if, unlike me, you are not interested in learning new things heaven is going to be a pretty scary "place"!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Keep it under your hat...

Not everyone who reads my blog bothers to read the comments that sometimes appear from other readers. That is a real pity because often the comments are more interesting, and more insightful, than the original post. In particular, you should read the comment on the last post from Cherie.
I especially like the bit where she said: "And then I realized that what I was doing with this little whatever-it-is is similar to how truth is often handled, which is your point. I plucked out just the tad that I think I recognize, and am trying to make it fit somewhere so I can have an answer, closure. How many times do we pluck a bit of truth out of a larger context, create a false context around it which is 'understandable' to us, leave it there, apply it incorrectly, and soon call it doctrine? Scary."
Of course, that is exactly what I meant! Couldn't have put it better myself. In fact I didn't!

Anyway, all of this talk about reality and perception, truth and perspective, reminded me of one of my most favourite "children's" stories: Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Hence the picture above.
I was going to quote the opening section of the story which deals with the 'hat' but, better than that, you can read the whole story (with illustrations here.)

Keep posting suggestions as to the mystery object.
I will let you into one secret, though. It is not a boa constrictor!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sweet little mystery...

OK - this time I am not going to tell you what this is a picture of: you will have to GUESS! *
(Answers in comments please - although I'm afraid there is no prize for the correct answer.)
A few helpful hints:
First of all I have doctored the photograph a little bit to disguise the object.
Secondly it is a close-up.
Thirdly it is an object that just happened to be lying on my desk this afternoon.
Doesn't help? No, I suppose not.
But I didn't say it was going to be easy.
Have a guess anyway!
Maybe there will be a prize for the most original suggestion?
[* Remember you can click on the photo to zoom in]
The thing is when you look at something from a different angle, or in a different context, or in a different light, or even just from a different viewpoint, even the most familiar of objects can appear strange and mysterious.

Truth can be like that too.

That's why it is sometimes dangerous to be too dogmatic about something you believe to be true. It may be that you haven't got the whole truth: or perhaps there is simply more than one way to look at it.

Yesterday I came across a little poem by Yehuda Amichai that warns of such dangers.

The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plough.

And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

and if you want it in Hebrew...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Break in... break out

Last Sunday, being Easter Sunday, we had an All Age Worship service.
At one point in the service we had the whole congregation playing the old hand game - Rock, Paper, Scissors. I haven't time this morning to explain why to those who weren't there. But I think the congregation were as surprised as I was (when preparing the service) to discover there is a World Rock, Paper, Scissors Society!
I hope everyone knows how to play it.
If not you might like to look at this. Or, to see how not to play it...

There is even an annual world championship - though I suspect not every country in the world sends representatives to it, and the cost of staging it is unlikely to rival that of the Olympics.
As the picture above shows, we also had our own representation of the curtain in the Temple, torn symbolically in two at the death of Jesus. Members of the congregation, of all ages and stages, came out to pin onto the torn curtain little strips of red ribbon, or little pink hearts, to represent all those things in our own lives that may be barriers between us and God, and the congregation were reminded that the grace of God shown in the death and resurrection of Jesus can tear down all these barriers.
It was very moving to see people joining in as enthusiastically with this as they did with the Rock, Paper, Scissors game.
Today, however, is sometimes known as Low Sunday - which for our congregation means they'll just have to listen to me preaching a sermon instead. Definitely an anti-climax.
Much more importantly, the 98-year old lady I mentioned in my last post died yesterday. She was a woman with a very strong faith. We will miss her very much.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Consider the lilies...

I have been awarded a 'Thinking Blogger Award' by one of my regular readers, Cherie.
I'm not yet sure what this means, although I think I am meant to find five other bloggers to whom I should give the award. Sounds a bit like pyramid selling, doesn't it? so in no time at all every blogger should get one. However, I am happy to get mine before they become ubiquitous. (Great word that isn't it?)
It just means it is something pops up everywhere... like weeds, in fact.
The picture above is from my wonderful garden -which is full of plants that promise me they will look after themselves. Other people call them weeds - but a weed is just a plant growing where you don't want it to grow. And, since I have decided I want these plants just where they are ... they are no longer weeds - they are self-seeding flowers, which require minimal (i.e. NO) maintenance.
When Jesus talked about "considering the lilies" I am pretty sure he didn't mean those giant white flowers that are often associated with Easter: he meant common, wild flowers of the field. And he meant us to do what I did here and get down on our knees and take a close look. You see, when you look closely at what some people still call a weed, you can see they are really spectacularly beautiful flowers. Not showy or self-conscious, so that you notice them from far off, but understated and modest, requiring you to stop and look closely.
[you will need to click on the photo to zoom in closely]
I know lots of people like that too. Actually, they are the best kind of people to get to know. There is so much more to them than what appears on the surface, but you have to look closely. They never try to draw attention to themselves, because they know that they can't compete with the show-offs that have carefully cultivated their public image. They are just content to be what they are and tuck themselves into a quiet corner of the world's garden.
I visited one such person a couple of days ago - she is 98 years old and she can remember the outbreak of World War One, and exactly what she was doing the moment war was declared! Amazing.
Now, back to that Thinking Blogger award...
First of all, I have to give Thinking Blogger Awards to five blogs which get me thinking. I'm not sure if I am allowed to nominate those who have already received the award from someone else, but I'm going to do it anyway.
So. here's my five:
1. Steve Tilley always thought-provoking, often very witty, but never dull. 'Mustard Seed Shavings' is one of the first blogs I ever read.
2. Kerron Cross (The Voice of the Delectable Left) well-known among political bloggers and the guy who got me writing a blog in the first place - not that he actually suggested I should- but reading his blog, which gives all sorts of sideways-looks at life in the Westminster Parliament, got me wondering if I might have something to share with other people from my ordinary life-experiences.
3. Emma (Onwards and Sideways) doesn't blog often enough as far as I'm concerned, but I am always interested in what she has to say because she has just moved to Canada and is putting her skills in linguistics to good use with Wycliffe Bible Translators.
4. Liz (Journalling) has chosen a very unimaginative title for her blog, but that is only to conceal the fact that she shows lots of creative imagination in her writing and photographs. She always has something interesting to share. This is a blog definitely worth visiting.
5. Stuart (Retired Cheeky Wee Monkey) is a case of 'now for something completely different.' Always funny, often very perceptive, occasionally asking really searching philosophical questions like "What if penguins had knees? Would they look really stupid?"
Probably you need to have been brought up in central Scotland in the 60's to appreciate everything he writes - but he will certainly cheer you up.
Now I'm supposed to list the Participation Rules. Here goes:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged [which means your blog has been named on one of these lists of 5], write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (silver or gold version).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Blue Sky thinking

I took this photo from my garden this afternoon to prove that even in Scotland we sometimes have days with cloudless blue skies. (Not often, mind you. So we learn to appreciate them.)
I guess most people nowadays will have heard about 'blue sky thinking.' It's about dreaming of new possibilities, thinking outside of the box, finding new ways of looking at problems etc.
Following on from yesterday's post, I believe some scientists have been trying to do a bit of this 'blue sky thinking' in relation to global warming (this metaphor seems to me to be particularly appropriate in relation to environmental concerns.)
In most areas of life, of course, there are times when such 'blue sky thinking' is not just a good idea but a necessity. However, sometimes we also have to learn to appreciate the clouds. And for this purpose there exists... the Cloud Appreciation Society.
Actually, it is often the clouds in the sky and the obstacles in the way and the difficult challenges of living and relating to others that make our journey through life interesting. So on this cloudless blue-sky day - let's hear it for the clouds!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

I've just finished watching "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore's documentary on the issue of Global Warming. I never expected it to be such gripping viewing. I mean it is a documentary for a start! And at the heart of it is a powerpoint slideshow/lecture given by an American politician (Al Gore) who, if he hadn't lost the US presidential election because of some dodgy hanging chads in the state of Florida, might possibly have lost it by simply boring the electorate to death - but not here.
Al Gore's undoubted expertise is matched (or maybe even superseded) by his passion. This is a man with a mission and a message- and he definitely gets the message across.
If you haven't seen this film yet, it's time you did.
By the way, I didn't mean to be quite so dismissive of documentaries. "Touching the Void" is another one that has you sitting on the edge of your seat.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


For those of you who haven't found it yet the new Carluke Community website is at
There's also the article about Carluke in wikipedia.
Neither, however, is quite as entertaining as the Carluke Guide that appeared on the Net a couple of years back and talked about Carluke's financial district and international airport etc. not to mention the fact that it is a likely resting place for the Holy Grail!! This new site, however, is considerably more accurate than that spoof website, which now ( sadly) seems to have disappeared. All that remains of the Carluke Guide is the home page.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The last laugh...

Well, this afternoon I decided it was time to remove the graffiti from our window. It was hard work but all it needed was some warm water and washing up liquid, a scouring pad, and a lot of hard scrubbing.
Half way through the process, though, I toyed with the idea of leaving it as you see above. Part of me thought that it would be a neat irony, and certainly not what the vandals intended, to advertise the name of Jesus beside the empty cross. However, I reckoned the longer I left the paint on the window to dry and harden the harder it would be to remove it, so the next best thing was simply to photograph it.
Given that it is Easter Monday I was actually laughing to myself while I scrubbed. For the last laugh in the end belongs to Jesus and a little bit of graffiti is hardly going to defeat him or his cause when all the powers of death itself could not hold him back.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Saturday, April 07, 2007

"Everybody needs good neighbours!"

On a cheerier note, it looks like it won't be too long before we have some new neighbours!

OK - it's only the timber frame for the first level of one house so far but once things get to this stage progress is usually pretty visible.

Yep - there are changes ahead.

The writing's on.... the window

Following on from the story of our 'moving' gatepost, we got something of a surprise this morning to discover that someone last night decided that one of our living room windows just wasn't colourful enough.
It really was a bit of a shock.
All the more so because last night at the Good Friday service I had been preaching about those who mocked Jesus.
At one point I had said something like this:
"He who had given so much love, who was giving so much love, was subjected to mindless hate.
The story of Christ’s passion is not just a story about physical or spiritual suffering: it’s a story of a man’s humiliation. Christ was mocked and ridiculed and humiliated by just about everyone....

If he had called upon Elijah to come to his rescue (as some thought he was doing) then the crowds (in amazement and wonder) would have carefully lifted the crown of thorns from his brow and replaced them with a crown of kingship, and they would have bowed at his feet, but at that very moment Jesus would have ceased to be the true King.
You see if at any moment Jesus had given in to the temptation to prove to the mocking crowds who he really was, (as Judas wanted him to) he would have become someone else, and no more able to save others than you or I.
This is why it was so easy to mock him, and why he could give no answer back.
Jesus knew that the mockery and ridicule were part of the pain he had to bear if he was to be what God had called him to be and to do what God had called him to do.
He also knew and warned his disciples that they too would face ridicule and derision from a hostile world.
And so it has proved to be down through the centuries. It almost goes without saying that if we would follow Christ at all, it is almost inevitable that we will face mockery and scorn from a sceptical world."

Maybe someone who had been at the service wanted to test my reaction?
Seriously, though, isn't it strange how Christ is still mocked by those who have no idea of who he was or what he has done for them?
Still, it will soon be Easter morning. And I know who will have the last "Laugh Out Loud."*

[* in case you can't read it, the graffiti says 'LOL at Jesus' - i.e. laugh out loud...]

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Water, water everywhere...

This photo, also taken on Monday, is especially for Cherie as she apparently has a thing about water (see comment on yesterday's post.)
It is the River Clyde - though it could be almost any river. To me, it was simply an abstract picture of reflections in water with subtle moving shapes and tones.
Like Cherie, I find water fascinating.
In a deep pool, when the surface is still and the reflections are sharp, it can be very soothing and comforting. Gentle wavelets lapping on a stony beach can be equally calming and peaceful. And, if you are used to living by the seashore, even the regular pounding of waves on rocks can be reassuringly relaxing.
The house (i.e. tenement slum) in which I was born was right next to a high waterfall and the stream ran beside our house (although I think a lot of it also ran through the foundations of our building which was always damp: a dampness which gave me rheumatism in my knees when I was a child.) Whatever the drawbacks of living right next to that waterfall, I always found the sound of it reassuring.
I even like it when the sea gets angry and batters the coast with elemental force- though I certainly would not want to be sailing on it in stormy weather and I admire those who do.
When I lived in Ayr for a couple of years, at the start of my ministry, I used to head down to the quiet beach at Seafield on a Monday morning, whatever the weather, and just let the sea speak to me.
For all these reasons I find the description in the Book of Revelation about the new heaven and the new earth very strange (Rev. 21:1) because it says "there was no longer any sea."
There is no place for the sea in the Hebrew idea of heaven because the sea represents primordial chaos. (Actually I think it may just be that the Hebrew people have never been great sailors, but what do I know about these things?)
At any rate, while I am still on this earth, I am grateful to all those who do go down to the sea in ships. (Psalm 107:23-24)
I am also very thankful today that the British sailors and marines who were being held hostage in Iran have been released unharmed, though I am deeply saddened by those who have lost their lives or their homes in the most recent tsunami.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Still point in the turning world

Another photograph from yesterday's visit to the Falls of Clyde - part of the Corra Linn.
I used the old trick of a slow exposure to show the movement of the water over the stones. It reminds me of the passage of time which, as the years roll on, seems to get faster and faster. When so much around us is changing so fast, we all look for something firm and solid to hang on to - what T. S. Eliot called "the still point in the turning world"*
I find that still point through my faith in God. Not that my faith itself is any more stable or secure than anything else in my life - but I believe God is. He is the still point. The Rock. He is bigger, stronger, 'older' than anything else in the Universe. And, unlike the rocks that form the gorge through which the Clyde makes it way towards New Lanark, He is not eroded or diminished by the passage of time, or the events of history.

(* see Burnt Norton by T.S. Eliot)

By the way, I've just been given a sneak preview of a new Carluke Community website. Once it is officially online, I'll post the link.

All change?

Well, you may see one or two changes in the appearance of my blog.

I didn't actually mean all of this to happen. I was making a simple change and must have hit a wrong key and ended up losing many of the customisations I had put in place before.

So I decided to start again.

Sometimes a fresh start is a good thing, as long as we don't throw away everything from the past. As any visit to New Lanark will show you- there are always things we can learn from the past.

One of the things you can now do is perform a Google search direct from this blog (see bottom of page) and you can search the Web, my blog or our church site. Try it and see.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Pain and pleasure

Just in case anyone gets the wrong idea here, let me say right away that I am not in any way a masochist. I certainly do not enjoy experiencing pain at any level.
However, today, on a rare "day off," I had two experiences which combined both pain and pleasure.
One was a pain that led to pleasure: the other a pleasure that led to pain - although in both cases I am actually exaggerating and overstating the case (something we preachers are prone to do.)
In the first place, this morning I had the stitches removed from the post-op wound on my back. Not a particularly pleasant experience and yet one that I was really looking forward to quite eagerly (not in anticipation of the pain, of course, but in the expectation that it would mark another important step to full recovery.)

The other was a very pleasant walk this afternoon from New Lanark to Bonnington Linn. The views along the River Clyde are quite spectacular, even though there is far less water in the river than there would normally be at this time of year. The pain comes at the end of the walk when you have to climb back up the steep hill to the car park at New Lanark!

A few years back it was reported on the BBC that some scientists had established that pain and pleasure were more closely linked than it had generally been realised before. (although the Dutch religious philosopher Spinoza- regarded at the time as a heretic- had been making similar claims away back in the 17th Century.)
Recently I started reading a book by Antonio Damasio entitled "Looking for Spinoza." I didn't get very far into the book before I had to lay it aside. It is a pretty busy time of year with not much free time for reading, but I think I'll have another go over the summer.

* the top photograph shows the bell tower at New Lanark, and the lower photograph is of Corra Linn.

Off with his head...

Last night our church was full as we hosted the annual Carluke Churches' "Palm Sunday Praise" service.
We had, as our special guest, the amazing Steve Price, who describes himself as a "Gospel Illusionist."
As well as being a highly-skilled conjuror, he is also a very witty entertainer, so we all had a real fun-filled evening. The singing wasn't bad either and, as usual, I got a lot of enjoyment out of playing in the band.
Steve uses his 'magical' skills to convey a Christian message and he does it very professionally, with a great sense of comic timing.
I'm sure there are some people who think that Jesus was really just some kind of illusionist when it came to performing miracles, like walking on water, or turning water into wine etc. For such sceptics the Easter story must seem like the ultimate conjuring trick. But for those of us who believe there is no illusion about it: it is instead the ultimate reality.
PS. In case, you are wondering... although the guillotine chopped the carrots clean through, the young man's head stayed firmly on his shoulders.