Monthly Archives: June 2010

Soaring Ideas Sell!

T21Having a look at my Flickr photo sharing statistics recently had a few surprises for me. Because the pictures that have a great audience early on often fade into obscurity. Instead, its the slow seller with a few looks a week that seems to build and build into an evergreen product. And when you analyse their appeal, usually the are an ordinary photo of an object that interests people or that they have a reason for looking at; an old glider (sailplane to our American cousins), a quiet village street or even a vintage cider farm’s cart for example. In the end, they all sell!

This is also true of ideas – religious ones as well as secular thoughts. If an idea has appeal and is needed by someone to get through a problem then they will be used. Maybe not by many but they will sell in the end.

Now there is a thought for those who say thinking is dead. After all, in this age of austerity why not treat yourself today to a new idea. Actually they don’t sell well because they are free!


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Time for the Journey

Have you noticed how quickly time is passing these days. It seems that our Christmas presents were only being unwrapped yesterday. Even the interminable days of winter seems a thing of the past. And so, the weeks rotate at an almost breath-taking pace.

Well they say its a sign of old age. But there may be more true in this cliché than most. For, we judge the length of our journeys in life by the number and quality of landmarks we pass. In youth, everything is new and fresh and exciting. Can’t you recall the first date … the first important exam result.. the first… And so the weeks passed through a landscape of highs and lows which remember for all the right and wrong reasons. But when we get older, few events are new or challenging or refreshing. In fact,  as the years pass, we become like a ship at sea. For when we look back we see only a rapidly fading wake and a bland horizon.

What’s to be done? Time for finding a new challenge, a new venture and new discovery. Time to really look at the landscape around and then start to landscape the future. For then, life’s journey returns from sea voyage to alpine walk even of it is a bit of a hike!


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The Gift of Hopeful Revelation

John 14.1-7

Colossians 1.15 – 20

It is a strange story – it is a moving story – it is a story that hits you between the eyes and stops you in your tracks. It is a story that has so much to ask us today.

Because, just recently I was told of a middle aged German who visited Auschwitz a couple of years back. He was looking at the various photographs when became very agitated. When they eventually got him calmed down, he managed to explain that he was looking at a picture of the unloading ramp at the concentration camp. It was there that a SS officer decided who was to live and who was to die. Behind him in the photo was a SS guard taking down the decisions. That man was his father. Now, the visitor went on to explain, that his father would never say what he had done in the war and taken his secret to the grave. They then asked him – what had his father done after the war……….

To read the full sermon please click on:


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Posted by on 25/06/2010 in Uncategorized


Ghost on Royal Deeside


There can be no more beautiful stretch of country in Scotland than Deeside. And there, presiding over its eastern end, is the ancient fortified tower of Castle Crathes. With its estates almost ‘check and jowl’ with those of Balmoral and one of its rooms still displaying the splendid  bone horn given to the family by King Robert the Bruce after the Battle of Bannockburn., this is indeed a ‘royal’ district.

Yet despite its ‘bonny surrounds’ the mightily built fort holds a dark secret. For high in its bower, is a small room with roof beams adorned with quotations from Proverbs and Bible scenes.  And it was this chamber that once was occupied by a lady who had a child  by a servant. The servant was banished and the woman and the baby vanished to an unknown fate.

Many years later, the Castle was occupied by a Laird had a ‘boodie fear’ – a mortal terror of ghosts. Well, you’ve guessed it, he was the first to the see the ‘Green Lady’. Apparently, she has walked the castle ever since.

Here then is proof of more than every old house has its ghost story and even that in beauty there is ugliness.  Instead maybe we should pick carefully what we fear – for it might just bring it about!

As to the legend, is there any truth in it? Well, when the National Trust for Scotland ,who now manage the building, was restoring the infamous Green Room, they made gruesome discovery. Because under its flag-stoned floor the builders found the remains of a small and unknown child. The lady however has vanished!

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Posted by on 23/06/2010 in britain, history, psychology, scotland, UK


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The scale of the problem

P5241432a On Saturday, I watched a Vulcan bomber zoom around the sky performing some pretty impressive aerobatics. Not I admit, the full sized bat winged warrior from the Cold War. Instead it was hugely impressive model. I say impressive as this replica of an iconic British aircraft had the wing span of a light aircraft and guzzled fuel at a more gluttonous rate.

However, as the model looped and spun about overhead, it was very easy to mistake it for the real thing. In particular, when high in the sky with nothing to give it scale you were sure that this off-stage spectre of the Cuban Missile Crisis drama had come to life literally with a roar.

But the point is anything without a sense of size – an indication of scale – grows to fill the mind’s open space. Certainly that’s true of our daily problems. Now that is not to trivialise the mountains people we constantly meet are labouring over. Yet most of have our normal niggles are genuinely set to nought, say,  against the scale of the drought in Niger; a looming catastrophe likely to cause the deaths of 400,000 children under age 5 alone.

The old adage then that you only solve your problems by looking at those of others is trite and doesn’t always work but, for many of us, it surely helps.


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Courage to Sing

Well it’s that time of year again. Time that is for this year’s Gareth Malone documentary on teaching the world to sing. Well, not the world but some of the most deprived areas of Britain and some of the most disinterested individuals in singing. Yet with   his ventures, he has changed lives and brightened communities forever.

He started with a school outside london and got them as far as a global Choir Competition in China. He got singers from a boy’s school that prided itself on its sporting excellence to the Albert Hall and he took a community choir from dysfunctional ‘new town’ to the Barbican.

Yet despite past successes, each series starts with his dispiriting tour of youth clubs, pubs and schools trying to drum up volunteers who want to sing. This not only takes the fortitude of an evangelical Jehovah’s Witness but also the courage of British Tommies going over the top at the Somme. For example, who can forget him singing a Handel solo to the morning school assembly full of cynical and street-wise kids?

But as each programme unfolds, Gareth is not the only one displaying unadulterated courage, so do the would-be singers that he invariably finds in the least likely places. Many do not make it through. But for those who do we see them changing before our eyes. because, maybe for the first time in their lives, they have found something inspiring, something they want to do and something that is their own. Few will become the Alfie’s & Brin’s of tomorrow, but each will have a better tomorrow.

Nevertheless, the current series – taking teenagers through to singing an opera at Glynebourne – calls for courage from some other people. Since many who attend opera at this expensive venue, will have preconceived ideas of youth. They too will need to have the courage to to be challenged and changed as they are invited into the youngsters’ better tomorrow. For as Oliver Wendell Homes said -‘Man’s mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions’ .


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An education you can’t refuse

The problem with education these days is that it costs so much. Or so I thought until a few days ago. It was then I came across a free online resource from the Open University.  Now, since its foundation in the 60’s, the OU has been one of the jewels in the British higher education. Because, established as it was to serve the era of  ‘the white heat of technology’, its real success was in  attracting mature students when to be an undergraduate over age 30 was definitely – as they say in current parlance – not cool.

But the OU did more than recreating ‘maturies’ as students.  For it took the rather seedy world of distance learning, then given the unattractive heading of correspondence courses, and shook it to its foundations. For, arguably, it blazed the trail for the modern multimedia education and online training we can all benefit from today. After all, if you wanted people to enjoy learning after a hard days work, you had to grab their attention with materials that were worth opening up.

However, as I said earlier ‘all singing – all dancing’ courses are expensive.  That’s why the OU is offering such an irresistable bargain.  Because  it makes available online a whole raft of their courses ranging from basic studies skill through to complex computer networking taking in the humanities and the law on the way. There are even student forums and a video conference facility thrown in for good measure.

So if you have fancied dipping your toes into latin, wondered about human consciousness or felt that the Enlightenment is your forte, then put ‘open learning’ into your search engine and enjoy opening your mind to the light of knowledge. What is more, it won’t cost you a bean!


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