Friday, April 18, 2008

Dear Green Place

After my visit to the Orchid Fair at the weekend I was relieved to hear that Glasgow District Council had thrown out plans to allow the building of a nightclub and restaurant in the Botanic Gardens. I have nothing against nightclubs per se but I think it would have been a pity if this particular project had been allowed to go ahead, a view shared by many of the garden's neighbours.
Every city needs its oases of tranquillity and the Botanical Gardens in Kelvingrove is precisely one of those. It's also the place I often used to go to in order to eat my lunch when I was a student - although I concede that this is a less compelling argument for preventing the proposed development.
In our own individual lives too we need similar quiet places; a place that can be for us an oasis of light and shelter where we may be able to appreciate the beautiful things of life in the midst of far too much busy-ness and ugliness... or simply a place to pause and draw breath.
I wish you the gift of tranquillity in your own dear green place.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Catching up

Another of my readers pointed out that my web-clock was an hour slow!
I wondered how long it might take for someone to notice.
Actually... to be honest, I just couldn't be bothered correcting it. But now that it has been pointed out, I have made the necessary changes. Hopefully now it is showing the correct time.

Long pointy beard

One of our younger readers made the observation that the orchid pictured in the previous post looks "like a man with a long pointy beard!" I'm sure she must have been referring to the above Yosemite Sam from the Looney Tunes cartoons.
However, you may have some alternative suggestions as to the resemblance.
I'd like to hear about them. Just don't tell me that it looks like ME!

The princesses of the palace

Well, I shook the dust off my camera case and, at long last, gave my camera an outing. We headed into the city (Glasgow) to the Kibble Palace (part of the Botanic Gardens) for an "orchid fair" that was taking place there over the weekend. The Kibble Palace itself is always worth a visit, especially after its recent restoration.
It took me back more than a few years because when I was a student in Glasgow I often used to go there to eat my lunch.
However, on this occasion, the main focus of attention was the Orchid Fair that was taking place - an opportunity for orchid growers from all around the country to display their prize specimens.
There were two things that I really enjoyed about the exhibition- the first (perhaps rather obviously) was the collection of orchids themselves, in all their incredible variety; the second was the enthusiasm of the growers as they spoke to visitors about their plants and how they looked after them.
I almost always respond to enthusiasm. I know that some people who have particular interests and passions can sometimes be a real bore but most of the time the enthusiasm of people is infectious, especially when such people are not trying to show off their superior knowledge but are simply expressing their own love for whatever has grabbed their interest.
When it comes to people trying to share their faith you get both types. Sadly there are more than a few who could bore the pants off anybody when they start talking about what they believe- some can even be quite offensive and a real turn-off- but people with a genuine passion for their beliefs who are not trying to belittle others or bully them into sharing their beliefs can often discover that their enthusiasm is infectious too.
Anyway, enough of that and back to the orchids.
They come in such an astonishing variety of colours and shapes that I was mightily relieved that digital photography had been invented- otherwise I would have shot off four rolls of film in half an hour and not been able to afford the cost of developing the prints. 120 digital photographs however costs nothing to look at one the computer screen.
Of course, I have absolutely no idea what variety any of the particular orchids were, including the one pictured above, but I just marvelled at their beauty and thought to myself - no wonder people get enthusiastic about them!
All the same, I am not about to take up orchid growing myself. I know my limitations!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Hot under the collar

Those who know me will be aware that I am not someone who likes to get dressed up in clerical attire. Personally, I think that "dog collars" suit dogs better than people (although dogs may think differently.) The one situation where wearing the "dog collar" sometimes comes in useful is in hospital visiting. It can act as a passport to visiting someone outside of normal visiting times. However, yesterday I did visit someone in hospital, outside of visiting hours, wearing a perfectly ordinary shirt and tie (even though I have to admit that the tie is almost as absurd and useless as a dog collar.) I simply explained that I was the patient's minister and my explanation was readily accepted. (Maybe that means I look like a minister??)
The only other times I tend to wear a clerical collar are when conducting funerals or weddings (in the case of the latter it goes well with my kilt.)
My reasons for not going in much for clerical attire have nothing at all to do with fashion. (Again, anyone who knows me will realise that I know next to nothing about what is fashionable.)
It is simply that I believe in a relational, rather than a formal, style of ministry, so it is important to have as few barriers as possible between me and other people. I think God works best through our own individual personalities which, after all, are his gift to us, rather than through any kind of 'uniform' that suppresses who we are and gives us a formal status.
I realise of course that many people (including no doubt a number of my own congregation) will see things quite differently.
I respect their views.
After writing the above and while "googling" the net for a suitable picture to go with it, I came across this blog post which raises similar issues but much more eloquently. I have to say, however, that unlike Elizabeth MacFarlane I have rarely if ever suffered any kind of abuse while wearing the collar: I just think it gets in the way of real conversations.
Still on the subject of clerical attire, I am grateful to Steve Tilley for pointing me to this video that gave me such a laugh.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Quiet strength

The image above from Japan shows a famous cherry tree whose roots have split a massive granite rock in two.

Had a busy but enjoyable day yesterday preaching in my own church in the morning and in the local baptist Church in the evening.
In my morning sermon I quoted a song/hymn I had written some years ago but had forgotten all about- a reminder that there are different kinds of strength, other than brute force.

O Lord, in your weakness you were strong
As you stood on trial for love.
You wouldn't give in to fear or anger;
your heart would only forgive.

At the mocking of kings and jeering of soldiers,
your dignity was abused;
yet love was the answer you silently gave:
Let it be Your way that we choose.

O Lord in your silence you spoke boldly;
the world had nothing to say.
A whole new Creation, from your dying,
came into being that day.

While the scoffers and cynics
still have their moments,
and faithful ones are confused,
your love is the answer you silently give:
Let it be your way that we choose.

(c) Iain D. Cunningham

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I'm a bit short on inspiration these days. Just too many things that have to be done by strict deadlines. However, someone in my congregation just passed on to me last night a meditation/reflection that she wrote, although what she actually said was: "I held the pen."
If you are feeling a bit fragile, fearful or unsure of the future, think of this as God's message to you today.

The photo is of one of the beautiful beaches on Islay

I have no eyes to see what you hold in your heart,

you cannot feel me until you let go of your fear,
you will never come to harm so long as you have me.
Take my hand and feel my love,
embrace the gift I have given you,
feel the light in your heart
and know that I am always with you giving you strength.
Take time and I will give you joy.
Through me you will know yourself,
you cannot help but know me,
I am with you all of your life,
and beyond.
You know me just as I know you,
we are one.
Be still,
be quiet and I will come to you when you are ready.
Take time to hear my voice.
You will recognise me as you would yourself.
Through me you will know love as you never have before.
Take it!
There is always more.
You will never be shut off from me.
There is always more.
Bring yourself closer to me,
feel my presence with you.
This is home.

(c) Joan Hazelwood

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Who knows what goes on inside her pretty little head?

I've spoken before about our cat, Tess. She can be a strange creature sometimes - one minute very affectionate, the next fairly ferocious.
When I am working at my desk she has a habit of jumping up onto the desk and walking all over the computer keyboard (which makes for some interesting new words) before settling down usually on the pile of papers that I am working on, or else she will try to curl up on my knee which is equally distracting.
This morning she did her usual and, as often happens, her attention was drawn to the movement of the cursor on the screen. Since I wasn't going to be working with the computer at the time I decided to do something to keep her 'out of my hair' or at least off my knee. I put a DVD into the pc drive. Now, I've noticed already that Tess likes watching wildlife programmes on the telly, especially if it involves elephants, or members of the cat family. Well, this was a documentary on Mountain Lions.
It worked!
She was transfixed! She sat on the desk totally absorbed by the pictures on the screen. I'm not sure how much of the commentary she understood but I think she fancied herself prowling among the mountain regions of South America. She was definitely star-struck!
I think she could turn into a real desk potato if I let her...

[remember to click on the photo to see it full size]