Flicking through hymn books old and new, I came across a hymn from Church Hymnary Two that I loved to sing as a boy. It is called, 'When He cometh' and the first verse runs like this; 'When He cometh, when He cometh, to make up His jewels, all His jewels, precious jewels, His loved and his own..'
I remember, like most of the children in the Sunday School, we sang JOOELLS, emphasising that most precious of things, treasure.  As boys, we thought of hidden treasure, pirates and maps where 'X' marked the spot. Many messages from the then Sunday School staff and the minister warned us away from these types of hand-held treasures, for it was revealed to us that they were foolishly false.
It is not unusual, even today, for parents and grandparents to call their children or grandchildren as 'little treasures' and perhaps that is where the truth really lies. I ate lunch on Thursday with a friend and we enjoyed each other's company. I come home and John Luca is lying on his mat and his face beams when I walk in the room. I miss my cat who rubbed herself on me and purred (even although she was thinking of her stomach) and Pamela is sometimes there, ready to ask me about my day.
In Mark's Gospel today there is a reference to children and the way to the kingdom. I think I know what real treasure is. In the realm of love I don't have to search for it but just keep my eyes open.
Enjoy today's worship, may you see things in new ways, like children, and know the treasures of God around.
20th September 2009
Last year, Blythswood Care's 2008 Shoebox Appeal raised 132,000 gift boxes, bringing the total since the appeal began in 1993 to 1,122,000.  Boxes were sent to India and Sri Lanka as well as to Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Serbia and the Ukraine.  So I am absolutely delighted that both the Guild and Stepping Stones have taken this appeal to heart to make a difference to many adults and children at Christmas time this year.
If you were listening to Evelyn Graham's intimation over the past few Sundays, you will know that the Guild are looking for monetary donations in order to fill the boxes up with the appropriate goods whereas the youngsters are seeking individual gifts week-on-week to encourage them to understand the pleasure of giving to those who have less than themselves.
By giving this way, by sharing a little kindness, love and thoughtfulness for others, you are giving much more besides, for you are telling others about the greatest gift of all who entered the world so that we would know life and life to the full.
Since 1966 Blythswood Care has combined the Christian message with practical help for those in need not just with the appeal in which we are participating but through long-term projects bringing hope to thousands in Europe, Asia and Africa. They care for the body and the soul and we, by giving as the Body of Christ in Stamperland, nourish our own soul by putting the words into practice.
Take your child or grandchild, and in your weekly shopping, talk to him or her about how by thinking more widely you are making someone smile and brightening up their lives.
More information can be found in this month's Focus.
Can I commend to you, most highly, this initiative of Stepping Stones and the Guild.
Enjoy today's worship to a God, who fills heaven with laughter when he knows that by caring for our brothers and sisters, we honour him.
            13th September 2009 
I hope you have had a good summer, or at least had some time for relaxation.
Many thanks for all the postcards sent or delivered by hand to both the manse and the church. It is such a joy to see them arrive and fascinating to learn where you have been!  Some cards had a little message on it which was nice to read to the congregation, allowing us to realise that the love shared at Stamperland was spreading all over the world and was also returning from those whom you had met.  Other cards were incognito or had a little clue, sometimes I guessed right, sometimes wrong.
David Dundas apologised to me because he forgot, but he brought the Orders of Service back from the church he attended in Florida. I have read them over a few times, comparing them with our printed order and discovered, where it lists some of the who's who, the following:-
                                                                        MINISTERS                                        All the members
                                                                        PASTOR/HEAD OF STAFF              The Rev. Victoria M. Gardener ByRoade
It is such a simple Presbyterian point that it could have been overlooked - all the members are ministers, the paid minister is the head of the staff.
As oppose to the First Presbyterian church of Dunedin Florida, the Church of Scotland here is going through rapid change. There are rumours that the National Church will expect Glasgow Presbytery to cut its ministerial personnel.  Locally, we will be soon under review because the tenure is a five year one and in 2010 we will also be due a Quinquennial visitation from the Presbytery.  They will ask us questions the answers to which will ultimately be in a report that determines the Plan for Glasgow.  Like the Letter from James read this morning, the PSD Team will be asking not just about faith but how that faith has led to actions.  The answer to where we will be is determined by how we all minister. Yes, all of us!  Christianity is not a noun, it is a verb, a doing word. The opportunities are there for you to play your part - I cannot emphasise is enough that the review and the Quinquennial process is the main way how our church is assessed.  So, dear friends it is up to you.  It is not the PSD team that writes the report, you ultimately do.
My colleague Roddy Hamilton once asked his congregation what Jesus would write on his postcard.
The answer 'wishing you were here' says more theologically than the best fifteen minute sermon!
Enjoy today's worship to a God, who sometimes feels that his relationship, is all one sided.
6th September 2009
Last Tuesday night,( when Anne McKenzie was at Presbytery !!), I had an appointment with a couple wishing me to lead their wedding service. For various reasons they had been trying to tie me down but circumstances had made that difficult, so eventually they met at the manse to discuss their plans.
I ran over the basic structure of the wedding service: the hymns, the prayers, the vows, the preamble and I reminded them after the declaration of their marriage, I was required by the Church, during the service to 'give out words of advice' !! How do you like that -as a formally ordained professional clergyperson, I am allowed to marry people, bury, baptise and bestow my bountiful wisdom !!
In the past and hopefully in the future,  I have and will bestow good advice. Challenges. Kind words. Speaking truth to power. And yet I remember that it was the Greek philosopher Epictetus that said 'We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we can speak.'
Listen more than talk. Hear more than we speak.
If you pin me down and ask me to confess the best of my faith I'll remember when I kept my lips closed and my ears open. When I shed tears or hugged or walked next to another or joined in the laughter.
I hardly recall the words. I was blessed to be there. Listening.
In the forthcoming marriage, if the truth be told, I don't really expect the couple to remember what I said - but that they recall the feeling of blessing surrounding them, the hugs and the kisses; the celebration and the joy in coming together in this special way in God's name.
Yes, there are times when love just cannot be put into words and our language is inadequate.
Sometimes all your needing is a cuddle.
17th May 2009


Some of our own congregation had the joy of attending during Holy Week, the Seder Meal, organised by Clarkston Churches Together which took place at Williamwood church. It was a fascinating insight to the experience of Jesus and his disciples before Jesus, after the meal, broke the bread and shared the wine in that momentous occasion that has been a key element of the Christian Church down the centuries.
Of particular pleasure was the opportunity of tasting the bitter herbs, the salt water and the boiled eggs and learning, once more, of their symbolism, not just for the Jewish faith, but for our own which grew up from it.
We often take the story of the Last Supper for granted, we know it so well and sometimes familiarity does breed contempt or at least indifference.  For example, when we imagine the scene in the Upper Room, we take it for granted that the disciples were relaxing and were in a comfortable pose, reclining. However, our speaker from 'Jews for Jesus' pointed out that normally servants would remain standing, until their master instructed them to do otherwise.
But with relationship with Jesus comes freedom !!
Thus, the 'reclining position’.  No longer slaves - but free in the love of Christ.
Today is Easter Sunday, the Day of the Resurrection.  May you, through Jesus, know that freedom and know what our Lord died for.
May you experience the joy of the empty tomb, the defeat of death and the new life that beckons.
Happy Easter!!
12th April 2009
There's a story I heard about a construction worker.
At lunchtime one day, on the job, the worker opened his lunchbox and said," Oh no, chicken salad again!"
The next day he had chicken salad again and he reacted the same way. The same thing happened after the next day and the day after that.
Finally, a workmate, who had heard all these repeated complaints said,
"If you can't stand all these chicken salads, why don't you get your wife to make you something else for lunch?"
The man replied, "Oh, I'm not married. I make these lunches myself."
There's truth in the story.
We play the victim.
We live as if we are buffeted and bruised by this arbitrary world. We look outside ourselves for the source of our unhappiness, but we're looking in the wrong place.
The source is always within us.
Welcome to Lent.
Enjoy today's service.
1st March 2009
In through the letter box popped a card from my dentist reminding me of my six month check up. I don't have a fear of dentists.  My dentist is actually quite good and when you lie on the chair you can look up and see a picture on the roof of a lighthouse and waves crashing on the rocks. I am not sure if the picture is supposed to symbolise the pain you will be in if proper dental hygiene is not applied!
Anyway, the card came in and what is the next step after an appointment is made? My teeth don't just get their regular brushing but are over-brushed to compensate for the missed times and for the odd sweet I may have consumed.
There is, as always, a lesson here. Why do we all wait to the last minute to do a task that has to be done?  I loved Glasgow University but I watched, with great consternation, studying being done at the last minute rather than at a more comfortable pace. I saw late nights, coffee cups and crammed reading over badly organised notes, in the hope of success. And I have seen panic prayers at bedsides for people who realise that God is about to be a closer reality than previously thought.
Days fly by, February already, and Easter is not all that far away but we fill our lives with a lot of superficial things and nothing is done in great depth. Don't waste the opportunities that you have each day and each moment because they pass your way just once. Are there moments when you wished you had said something; expressed disappointment rather than love; and sat by and watched but wanted to serve? Nearly all the great people in life have been haunted by the sense of the shortness of time - and the uncertainty.
It was Andrew Marvell who said "But at my back I always hear, time's winged chariot hurrying near." Don't waste time. Don't waste the opportunities that lie before you. Don't put off things till tomorrow, things that should be done today.
Ask your dentist - he knows!
Enjoy today's service.
1st February 2009

I was absolutely delighted to discover that an old colleague (she'll just love the word 'old') from my last Presbytery became a chaplain to the Queen.
The Revd. Lorna Hood has been a minister of Renfrew North for a good number of years, in fact it is her only charge!  Recently, to mark the occasion, a service was held in Paisley Abbey. Now, Lorna will be one of the privileged few to wear the colour 'red'.  And you thought it was only your minister that was trendy.
This new role will put many obligations upon her and make demands on her time as she seeks to serve her Majesty, but in many ways this is nothing new both to Lorna who has been at Renfrew North since 1979, a remarkable 30 years, and to many who, in their own ways, have sought how best to give back to God.
As Lorna is well aware, ultimately, it is 'His Service' she seeks; it is to the Lord of Lords, to the King of Kings.  In our daily living, we all mix with Royalty, as we spend time doing God's work or in times of reflection and prayer.
Just think, what a name to drop into the conversation !
May you walk with he who walks with you.
Sunday, 18th January 2009

This morning, after the service, the Stepping Stones and Quest children have organised Coffee Time and Fair Trade demonstration. Please support them as they teach us what they see about the world we inhabit. Your time after the service will be appreciated more than you realise, as the following little reflection shows.
"When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately wanted to paint another one. When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make my favourite cake for me, and I learned that the little things can be the special things in life.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I heard you say a prayer, and I knew there was a God I could always talk to, and trust.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend that was sick, and I learned that we all have to help to take care of each other.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you give of your time and money to people who had nothing, and I learned that those who have something should give to those who don't.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn't feel good, and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw tears come from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it's all right to cry.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I looked at you and wanted to say, 'Thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn't looking.' "
Sunday, 16th November 2008


The doorbell rings.

She heads along the hall and opens the door to find someone masked by an enormous bouquet. Inside is a card which reads: 'I'm sorry sweetheart.' The guilty husband has said it with flowers. He has said in his own way, without words, 'I apologise for my mood and my lack of appreciation of all that you do.'
The buzzer sounds.
'Who is it ?' asks the frail voice inside. 'It is flowers from the church' and with that delivery much is said. 'These flowers added beauty to the sanctuary in God's house, may they bring beauty to yours and may you know God's loving presence in your abode. With love and prayers from the congregation.'
It's Mother's Day - and in a trip to the maternal home the sons, with the same rushed-purchase of flowers with the petrol station label still adorned, arrive. What does these flowers say ? 'I didn't remember. I lack thoughtfulness. They show the value that I place on this relationship.'
It is true - flowers do say many things. Today in particular and, hopefully, for the days after our service, we all will wear a poppy. Both young and old; the fit and able and those more infirm; those who watch the news and shake their head and those who have watched in a more graphic way, remembering the loss of friends and comrades. It is 90 years since the First World War and still we wear the blood-red poppy which reminds us of sacrifice, short-lived beauty, and hope through all this despair.
In the silence during our worship and in the silence afterwards of man's inhumanity to man 'consider the poppy of the fields' to paraphrase the words of Jesus.
Wear it - remember and reflect on it - and ask yourself what that flower says to you.
9th November 2008


Technology is fine - when it works!
Many of us use mobile phones and are in contact with each other more than we really need to be. The children play their X Boxes and don't communicate at all and many houses have at least one computer which isolates the individual and fails to establish good social interactions. Often on the train I see commuters using lap-tops and, even at a meeting I attended last Tuesday night, one of my colleagues brought no notepaper or pen but added the information given to a file and a document already set up for the purpose.
My computer in the study often irritates me. It shuts down with very little warning and warns me of this that and the other aware that I have a limited knowledge and it entices me to make a decision on whether a button should or should not be pressed. The computer also underlines what it thinks are spelling mistakes. For example, it accepts some Scottish names but not others and objects strongly to the word 'Stamperland.' If I don't re-read what I've typed, the computer changes 'Stamperland' to 'Timberland.'
The last time I changed it back, I thought momentarily to the mistake the computer was making. Perhaps the computer was right, for Timberland sells boots and shoes. Our feet, whether they are comfortable or corned, bouncy or bunioned are the point of contact between you and God's created world. We are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and we walk alongside other people, just as Jesus did.
This morning three new communicants will be professing their faith during worship: Fiona, Paul and Ross. In their own lives they have journeyed in different ways to get to this point. They know from today onwards that the journey also continues because becoming a full communicant member is a starting point and not an end in itself. And though they stand alone, they know they are not alone because we have all stood there before them and we all promise to walk with them.
Our feet anchor us in time and space. It reminds us of the immediacy and relevance of the Gospel now - for Fiona, Paul and Ross - and for us all.
Stamperland – Timberland - perhaps there is no difference, for both should lead you on, guide you, direct you as you walk with God.
26th October 2008
            'A SUNDAY CAPPUCCINO !'
A man's car broke down as he was driving past a beautiful old monastery. He walked up the drive and knocked on the front door. A monk answered, listened to the man's story and graciously invited him to spend the night. The monks fed the man and led him to a tiny chamber to sleep. The man thanked the monks and slept serenely until he was awakened by a strange and beautiful sound. The next morning, as the monks repaired his car, he asked about the sound that woke him.
The monks said, "We are sorry. We cannot tell you about the sound. You're not a monk."
The man was disappointed but eager to be gone, so he thanked the monks for their kindness and went on his way.
During quiet moments afterwards, the man pondered the source of the alluring sound.Several years later, the man was driving in the same area.He stopped at the monastery on a whim and asked for admittance. He explained to the monks that he had so enjoyed his previous stay, he wondered if he might be permitted to spend another night under their peaceful roof. The monks agreed and the man stayed. Later that night, he heard the sound again. The next morning, he begged the monks to explain the sound.
The monks said, "We're sorry. We cannot tell you about the sound. You're not a monk."
By now, the man's curiosity had turned to obsession. He decided to give up everything and become a monk if that was the only way to learn about the sound. He informed the monks of his decision and began the long arduous task of becoming a monk. Seventeen years later, the man was finally established as a true member of the order. When the celebration ended, he humbly went to the leader of the order and asked to be told the source of the sound. Silently, the old monk led the new monk to a huge wooden door. He opened the door with a golden key. The door swung open to reveal a second door of silver, then a third of gold and so on until they had passed through twelve doors, each more magnificent than the last. The new monk's face was awash with tears of joy as he finally beheld the wondrous source of the mysterious sound he had heard so many years before.
However, I’m sorry I cannot tell you the wondrous source of that mysterious sound - because you are not a monk.
Oh how much better the world would be if we shared the beautiful sounds of the Gospel! Enjoy today's worship.
5th October 2008

Did I tell you about my injured leg?
Sitting in the backroom of the manse the other night, I was doing what all men do and looking for sympathy.  'Look at my leg Pam,' I said, 'do you think it's any better?'  'It's fine', she said, without lifting her eyes from the magazine she was glancing at.  'I mean,' I continued, 'what will the team do without me?  What happens if I can't play again?  What happens if something else goes?'  She looked up.  'You know you have strange feet.  Your big toe is supposed to be the biggest but in your feet it's not !'
I looked down, as you will do at some point today to check your own, and sure enough she was right!  How odd!
It reminded me of the five-fingered prayer.  Your thumb is closest to you, so when praying to God you should pray firstly for those nearest to your heart.  They are the easiest to remember. As C Lewis once wrote ' To pray for our loved ones is a sweet duty.'   The second finger is the pointing finger, so we should pray for teachers and leaders who guide us and heal us.  They need support and wisdom in pointing people in the right direction.  The third finger is the tallest.  We should pray for those who make decisions in a grander scale that affect other people's lives - those in government for example.  The fourth finger is the ring finger, a finger which is rumoured to be the weakest, as most piano teachers will testify.  It should remind us to pray for the weak and those in trouble or in pain.  They need your prayers day or night.  The last finger is the pinkie, the smallest finger of all.  It should remind us where we should place ourselves in relation to others.  By the time you have prayed for all the others it should put you in your proper perspective.
So when you roll up your trousers to look at your bruises, have a look at your hands and reflect in the Biblical principle of where we should put ourselves.  Try it with your feet - unless you have feet like mine!!
Enjoy today's worship.
7th September 2008
When the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams set about the task of editing the English Hymnal, he wrote a tune for the hymn, "Come Down, O Love Divine." He called the tune "Down Ampney."
It was in the village of Down Ampney, in Gloucestershire, that Vaughan Williams was born in 1872. The peace of the English countryside and the pastoral scenes of his early childhood are reflected in this setting of the hymn which has remained a great favourite with choirs and congregations.
We sing the hymn today in celebration of the Day of Pentecost: the movement of wind and fire and the coming of the Holy Spirit. We sing it because in our liturgy we have moved through from what Christ has done for us to what the Church, his body, can do for that self same world that Williams reflected on with these wonderful words. We have to recognise that the Holy Spirit works through not just the verdant pastures of England and the rolling hills and mountains of Scotland but in places where no apparent beauty can be seen.
The Holy Spirit comes to shake all the disciples, old and new, with the wind of change and directs them away from the closed comfort zones of an upper room into the world to shake God's creation up.  So think of the words this Pentecost and pray wholeheartedly that that the 'Love Divine' truly comes and may you all be warmed by the burning Pentecostal fire to change your world and your neighbours.
Enjoy today's worship.
  11th May 2008
The Session Clerk and I would like to thank Edna and Colin Campbell for taking us out last Thursday to Robin House in Balloch. For those of you who don't know what Robin House is, it's a Children's Hospice, a place which cares for children and their families who have life-limiting illnesses.
The building is quite an unusual shape, on ground given freely by the farmer who owns the land and looks on to the Dumbarton hills and beyond when the view is clear.  Despite the mixed weather on Thursday we were fortunate to see the countryside in all its splendour and also had the opportunity of being given a tour.  Inside, the building is full of colour, shapes, art work - a place where there is safety, comfort and security.  Both Norrie and I were fascinated with the roof which looked like waves and the various windows which added to the brightness and openness of the rooms. I am not a great fan of architects but what they have created is truly amazing - and the work the staff do and the love that they show is amazing too.
Unfortunately all the work is done through donations. There is no government funding and, if I heard the guide correctly, between Robin House and Rachel House it takes 5 million pounds to run.
I suppose, in reflection, what I simply want to say is that the robin is quite a territorial little bird, a bird that we associate with Christmas time.  If there is anything to be learned from these areas of care, surely it is the truth that Christ was born into our world died and rose again to show us that the one thing love cannot be is territorial.  To love, is an opening out for others, a sharing, a spreading of wings.
That is his commandment - may you touch someone new by your love this day.   Enjoy today's worship.
27th April 2008
For more information about Robin Houser and the work of the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland, click on this link:
A priest was kneeling at a roadside shrine just outside the town, saying his prayers. A young woman passed very close to the shrine, and distracted the priest.
'You insolent girl,' the priest shouted out. 'Can't you see I'm saying my prayers?  Why do you have to disturb me when I'm praying?'
' I'm very sorry, Father,' the young woman said, 'I didn't notice you. I'm on my way to see my young man, and I was thinking about him.'
'I was thinking about God,' the priest said piously.
An elderly man who was also travelling along the road heard this exchange.
'The young woman was thinking about her man, ' the elderly man said to the priest, 'and didn't notice you. You were thinking about God and noticed her. If you loved God with the same devotion as she loves her man, you could share this road of peace.'
('Celtic Parables' by Robert Van De Weyer)
There are a few ways to consider the story. To love God so much that you are not distracted from his plans and thoughts and presence and that he fills every moment of your thinking, may be admirable but some might argue impractical. Certainly there is a point to be made in who is your priority and first love. On the other hand, there could be a bit of sympathy for the priest by thinking spiritual thoughts he noticed the girl and was aware with what was happening around him. The Good Samaritan story comes to mind.
We are all distracted at times. The phone rings, the door is chapped, the E Mails pile up, the man or woman stops you in the street. Which are distractions from the priorities of your life and which are the distractions in which you find God?
In recent times, Educational Authorities have made the bold step of setting the Easter holiday dates. For those of you with children or grandchildren at school, you'll be aware that the schools stop on the 4th of April and re-open on the 21st of April.  In other words,the children have their Easter holidays after Easter which falls this year on the 23rd of March !!
I am always asked why this is so, so let me explain.  Easter is always on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the 21 March. The earliest possible date is the 22nd of March so this year Easter Day is almost as early as it can be.  There are 35 possible dates but Easter has not fallen on the earliest date since 1818 and will not do so again until 2285.  It will not fall again on the 23rd of March until 2160.
The latest possible date is April 25th, which last happened in 1943 and will next fall on that date in 2038. However, it will fall on April 24th, just one day before the latest possible date, in 2011.  Someone has worked out the cycle of Easter dates repeats after exactly 5,700,000 years, with April 19th being the most common date, happening 220,400 times.
I hope that it is clear now !!
Easter is not only linked by the Passover in the Jewish faith and by the calendar but of course by the symbolic actions of Jesus at the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday.  I like the idea that Easter is not restricted by the civil calendars but is influenced by the liturgical ones. I like the idea that Easter is moveable, suggesting that you can experience the Risen Christ in high days and low.
May you know Him this day and walk with Him, this Lenten time.
22nd February 2008

I was particularly delighted this week, to attend the Service of Thanksgiving in Netherlee church to mark the 25th Anniversary of Williamwood House. Williamwood House opened in January 1983 following recognition by the then Church of Scotland Board of Social Responsibility that there was a need for a specialist resource to meet the needs of older people with dementia. Indeed, it was the first specialist home of this kind in Scotland.  In 2007 Crossreach completed a £1.3 million refurbishment to raise the standard of the accommodation to meet the National Standards set by the Scottish Executive.
Interestingly, the extension, which houses the bedrooms, is designed in the shape of a square horseshoe. The bedrooms are built on the outside of the horseshoe overlooking the gardens and the service areas are on the inside. The horseshoe shape encourages residents to walk around the house without fear of getting lost. This was the very point the Rev.David Court, the Convener of Crossreach was making in his Address. Reflecting on a passage from James (read well by Olive Buchanan, the daughter of our own Agnes and John Buchanan) Mr Court spoke of the necessity of faith that inspires action. The standards in Crossreach are high because, like the horseshoe shape, everything that is done leads back to where we should all begin - that of Jesus Christ.
It was a wonderful service and a most splendid buffet and what added to my enjoyment of the day besides hearing the Williamwood Choir sing and meeting old colleagues, was to see Stamperland church so well represented both in the care and in the support.
Can I thank you, you who constantly reach out towards the community at homes and hospitals, understanding the ethic that James writes about - that to be a Christian means to think of others and to care for the vulnerable in our society.
And may the God who cares for you, lift up your hearts this day !
2nd February 2008
For the week of prayer for Christian Unity 2008, Clarkston Churches Together invited Doris Rabba, the Director of Al Shurooq for Blind Children from Bethlehem, to come and tell her story about her work at the school and about her life as a Christian in Palestine at the moment.
Doris arrived at Greenbank Manse last Friday and one hour later she was in Williamwood High School where she was warmly greeted by the Head Teacher and given a tour of the school. Doris was astonished at the extent of the facilities and told the pupils how privileged they were to have such a school. She had a question and answer time with the Head boy and girl and some prefects and they were so interested in what she had to say that most of them also came to hear her speak to the 6th year modern studies class.
On the Friday night a 'Scottish Welcome Ceilidh' was held in Clarkston Halls where folk from all churches in the CCT family came to welcome Doris and her daughter Dina. On the Saturday morning over 400 people came to the coffee morning at Greenbank and Doris had the opportunity to meet new friends but also old friends from as far afield as Arran and Invergowrie. On the Saturday afternoon she was given a quick tour of Glasgow starting at the City Chambers and ending at the Burrell. There was just time for a quick cup of tea before dinner at Netherlee. Over 120 folk attended and councillors from East Renfrewshire and Glasgow, the Lord Provost of East Renfrewshire and the Moderator of Glasgow Presbytery, heard Doris' story.
On Sunday morning Doris attended worship at St. Aidan's and St. Joseph's. After a relaxing afternoon Doris spoke at the Prayer for Christian Unity Service on the Sunday night about the political situation in Palestine, about her life as a Christian there and about the school. Many Christians were leaving Palestine and they had considered that too because they knew what the opportunities for their children were elsewhere. They had however made their decision to stay in Palestine in the hope of maintaining a Christian presence in Bethlehem the city where it all began.
When she left, Doris was given a cheque for £3,600 which will be used to equip the Director's Room and a plaque will be put up there saying that it was a gift from Clarkston Churches Together.
Many thanks to those who supported this venture in any way.
27th January 2008
A Church of Scotland minister walked into a Glasgow antique shop. After looking around for a while, he noticed a very life-like bronze statue of a rat. It had no price tag, but it was so striking that he decided to buy it anyway.
He took it to the owner and said: 'How much is this bronze rat ?'
The owner replied: 'It's £12 for the rat and £100 for the story.'
The minister gave the owner the £12 and said, 'I'll just take the rat, you can keep the story !'
As he walked off down the street, he noticed that a few real rats had crawled out of the drains and begun following him. This was a little disconcerting, so he started to walk a little faster, but within a couple of blocks the swarm of rats had grown to hundreds and they were all squealing and screeching in a menacing way.
He increased his speed and ran towards the River Clyde and as he ran, he looked behind him and saw that the rats now numbered in their millions, and they were running faster and faster. By now very concerned, he ran down to the water's edge and threw the bronze rat as far out into the water as he could. Amazingly, the millions of real rats jumped into the water after it and were all drowned.
The man walked back up the hill towards the better shops of Sauchiehall Street to relate all this to the shop owner.
'Ah,' he said, 'you've come back for the story then?'
'Oh no !' said the out-of-puff cleric, ' I came back to see if you've got a bronze Baptist, a couple of Methodists, an Anglican and anything Roman Catholic.'                                         
This politically incorrect story has relevance for this Sunday, the Sunday that marks the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The names could be changed to suit but it emphasises the divisions that lie within the Christian Church. Unfortunately, it is often the divisions that are emphasised, even though there are many common factor and fundamental things that are believed by all. However, here in Clarkston, the local churches work tremendously well together and break down many barriers and false conceptions about what we are all about. If there is anything to be highlighted from such a Sunday, and such a week, it is what can be learned from each other. Within the Christian Church there is much variety and within the Church of Scotland there is quite a wide spectrum of how worship should be experienced. So many needs are met - surely that must be a good thing ?
Like last year, when Clarkston Churches together worshipped together in St Joseph's, this evening CCT worship again in Greenbank Parish Church. Doris Rabba has come from Bethlehem to be with us and she will preach tonight. All the way from Bethlehem to the south-side of Glasgow, now there is a Church that is as wide as the oceans and as high as the heaven's above.
Enjoy today's worship - and may you be one in praising God.
20th January 2007

“Whistling in the wind”
One of the responsibilities of being the minister of Stamperland Parish Church is the need to be seen at various events and offering support, when at all possible.  On Thursday past I (reluctantly) left the warmth of the manse to attend the Cathkin District Dinner as chaplain to our Boys' Brigade. Such are the demands - sitting through a three course meal and shouting abuse at the guest speakers!  This was the second time I had been able to attend the event; the last time, the guest speaker was Walter Smith and he failed to show up.
It was a pleasure and a privilege, especially so because our boys were participating in their own inimitable fashion.  Lance Corporal Callum Turner introduced Mr Craig Cathcart, a Trading Standards Officer.  Warrant Officer Kenneth Sinclair (who has spoken in the church) did the vote of thanks and Warrant Officer Bryan Sinclair played the pipes and enthralled the gathered assembly - an assembly well represented by the 231st.  Besides Craig Cathcart, Grade One referee William Young spoke.  Using with visual aids and much humour he had the audience in the palm of his hand - probably in the same way he was used to on a Saturday afternoon, except there was no whistling, no booing and no songs about the man in black. I can honestly say that this was the first time I have ever applauded a match official!
All three guests were full of encouragement for the boys and the Brigade as a whole. The Rev. Stuart McQuarrie spoke of the teamwork of both Church and Boy's Brigade; Craig Cathcart on the community and William Young on sport. The influence on what was taught through these Friday evenings was emphasised by the speakers and Mr Young, recognising his limited footballing talent, pointed out how important it was to work hard to allow you to achieve that which often seems to be out of reach. Speaking about the need to be ready for the big day, William re-iterated what he was told, 'Fail to prepare or prepare to fail.' It was a message, I'm sure, that sunk in for the boys at the higher stage of schooling, at university and beyond, and hit a nerve with the adults in attendance too.  Much can be gained and won by hard work, by perspiration, by long hours and by the recognition that much in life does not fall into your lap. Those who are professional in what they do and make it look easy are either genuinely gifted or have put in the major effort.
It was a great night with excellent participation from the youth and the more mature. And what a clever message for our faith and as we settle down for public worship. On the same night as the Cathkin Dinner, Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mount Everest, died.
Mountains are there to be climbed. Or moved by faith. How prepared are we to hear God's word today? Are you ready?
Remember the words, 'Fail to prepare or prepare to fail', what a challenge for the month of January!!
13th January 2008
And it came to pass that in those days a decree went out from the Department for Trade and Industry, and the Chamber of Commerce, that all people should go shopping. This was when the leading economic indicators dipped to their lowest point. And all went out to shop, each to his own Mall.
And a man went up from his suburban home to the city with its many shopping centres because he wanted to prove he was from the household of prosperity. And with him was his wife who was great with economic worry. And so it was that while they were there they found many expensive presents. And the woman wrote cheques for those they could afford and charged the rest on many kinds of plastic cards. She wrapped the presents in bright paper and laid them in the garage, for there was no room for them in the closet.
And in that region there were children keeping watch over their stockings by night. And lo, Santa Claus came upon them, and said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy, which will come to all the people who can afford this holiday. For to you is given this day, in your suburban home, many presents. And this will be a sign for you: you will find the presents, wrapped in bright paper, lying beneath the green tree adorned with tinsel, coloured balls and lights."
And suddenly there was with Santa a multitude of relatives and friends, praising one another saying, "Glory to you for getting me this
gift ! It's just what I wanted !"
And it came to pass, when the friends and relatives were gone away into their own homes, the parents said to one another," I'm sure glad that's over." And they wondered at those things that were sold to them by the storekeepers. But the children treasured all their things in their hearts, hoarding their toys from each other. And the parents went to bed, glorifying and praising each other for all the bargains they had found in the stores.
30th December 2007

A story of a woman's perseverance.
Helen Shehadeh, an elder of St. Andrew's Church of Scotland in Jerusalem, overcame the challenge of losing her sight at the age of two to become a devoted teacher and director of one of Bethlehem's powerful social work institutions. It is Christians like Helen who are keeping the Gospel story alive in the Holy Land today.
Al Shurooq School for the Blind was founded by Helen in 1981 with the aim of enabling blind people in Palestine to become self-sufficient and productive members of their society. In a rented building there is space to work with 25 children but ambitious plans are in hand and a new building is now under construction. Children live in the school and have a normal schedule of learning with classes in maths, geography, history and the like. In addition they learn Braille, both in Arabic and in English and are taught daily living skills and helped with their mobility. Extra curricular activities such as music and art feature prominently as do computer classes using synthesizers. When the child returns home, the school keeps in touch and actively helps them integrate, providing many of the essential tools they will need including Braille textbooks and typewriters, Braille paper, magnifiers, canes and tape recorders.
Specialized social workers visit the children in their villages and offer them, their parents and teachers, support where often there is great ignorance. There are still many people who believe that blindness is not altogether respectable and this is a prime prejudice that Helen and her staff seek to change. Helen strives to instil confidence in the children to do things for themselves and by themselves and not to be pitied victims people expect them to be.
Blindness and Bethlehem: - over 2,000 years ago, the light of mankind was born into the world and a jealous king failed to see and here in the south-side of Glasgow, Bethlehem can be experienced once more, if you have the eyes to look for him in the unexpected places. Follow the star then follow the Lord - may you know the child born in a manger this Christmas time.
23rd December 2007

When the £2 coins first made an entrance into the coinage we would use in a day and daily basis, I thought it quite attractive, with the gold and silver colour. The design of wavy lines and circles did nothing for me but I noticed that something was written round the rim, and I read it, 'Standing on the shoulders of giants.' Seemingly, the quotation comes from Sir Isaac Newton, who said about his scientific discoveries, 'If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.'
Standing on the shoulders of giants. It is a tribute to tradition, to the people who have gone before. Last Sunday at our Remembrance Sunday Service we did this very thing, marking in prayer and in praise those who served for the good of humankind to make this world a better place.  We do the same in our faith, recognising those who have served so well and building on the good work that has been done before. Above all, Jesus stands for honesty and love, and he is the giant on whose shoulders we must stand if we, and our nation, are to see our way in the years to come.
Next Sunday we invite many of the families who have experienced loss this year. They, too, are trying to look into the future that has changed so much for them. Perhaps our task next Sunday, is to help them lean on us, be carried if need be and be lifted up by that same Jesus Christ who teaches us to live a faith that also looks forward. Can I encourage you heartily to support all those who are our visitors and strangers next week, and every week, that when the road is hard to see, the church here in Stamperland will walk with those who need company.
Enjoy today's time of worship.                 
18th November 2007

Well, did you remember? Have you been here an hour longer than you should have? The clocks have gone back an hour and there will be many people (those without children especially) who will have enjoyed that extra hour in bed (or an extra hour in the Kirk)!! Try telling a youngster that it is not seven o'clock but really six and it will go in one ear and out the other.
If you were to get an extra hour every so often - what would you do with it? Would you fill it with all the things that you didn't have time to do?  Or would the hour be frittered away?
I wonder if you have ever wished for the clock to go back, if you could turn back time?  Many people might repair damage that had been done through outspoken words, or time that was not spent. On the other hand, many happy moments could be re-lived once more, a special day could be experienced, when we were younger, fitter and more energetic. I know when I 'accidentally' pull an opposing player down on the football field because he is too fast, do I remember the time when he wouldn't have been good enough to lace my boots!  And when the game ends, and my bones ache, and my body tells me to remember my age - I ponder what might have been!
This morning we have three children being baptised: Lauren, Robbie and Amy, and by using water in this sacrament we ARE turning back time, for in their baptisms we are reminded of our own and the promises our parents made on our behalf. We also are turning back time to Jesus at the River Jordan, where he is blessed by water and the Holy Spirit.
A turning back of time - to help us move forward in new and special ways.
Enjoy today's worship with the God and remember and rejoice in the promises made.
28th October 2007

Far away in the tropical waters of the Caribbean, two prawns were swimming around in the sea - one called Justin and the other called Christian.  The prawns were constantly being harassed and threatened by sharks that patrolled the area.  Finally, one day during a tropical storm, Justin said to Christian, "I'm bored and frustrated being a prawn, I wish I was a shark - then I wouldn't have any worries about being eaten."  As Justin had his mind firmly on becoming a predator, a flash of lightning hit the water and, lo and behold, Justin turned into a shark. Horrified, Christian immediately swam away, afraid of being eaten by his old mate.
Time went on (as it invariably does...) and Justin found himself becoming bored and lonely as a shark.  All his old mates simply swam away whenever he came close to them.  Justin didn't realise that his new menacing appearance was the cause of his sad plight.  During the next tropical storm, Justin figured that the same lightning force would change him back to a prawn.  Lightning never strikes twice except in stories like these but, while he was thinking of being a prawn again, a flash of lightning struck the water next to Justin and, lo and behold, he turned back into a prawn.
With tears of joy in his tiny little eyes, Justin swam back to his friends and bought them all a cocktail. Looking around the gathering at the reef, he searched for his old pal.  "Where's Christian ?" he asked. "He's at home, distraught that his best friend changed sides to the enemy and became a shark", came the reply.  Eager to put things right again and end the mutual pain and torture, he set off to Christian's house.  As he opened the coral gate, memories came flooding back. He banged on the door and shouted, "It's me, Justin, your old friend. Come out and see me again." Christian replied, "No way, man. You'll eat me. You're a shark, the enemy. I will not be tricked."  Justin cried back, "No, I'm not. That was the old me.  I've changed... ...I'm a prawn again Christian!!"
We all change each and every day - be careful what you change into! Enjoy today's worship with the God who changes not.
21st October 2007

Out of bed one Saturday morning, Pamela drew back the curtains in the back room and stood at the window to look at our recently newly organised back garden - that place where according to the poem, one is nearer God's heart than anywhere else - and she let out a scream.
There at the side of our back steps, sat a fox with a dead squirrel at its feet. Gardens are strange places: one minute you can admire the beauty of the smaller birds, the bumble bees at the flowers, the territorial robin and the next minute the usual slumberous cat with a sudden burst of energy can be seen galloping across the lawn towards his unsuspecting prey or the fox, perhaps nice to look at but a predator just the same, brought in closer to our living areas by humankind's destruction of the environment.
Are you really nearer to God's heart in a garden that harbours not only affectionate blue tits, but ruthless cats and flea-carrying foxes as well?  Put like that, a garden seems to reflect the larger world outside, where, similarly, acts of love and acts of violence breed side by side. It makes me wonder if the key to the mystery deep in the heart of God might be found just at that point where the light and dark sides of human nature meet.
Why else has one man's cruel crucifixion had so much to say to Christians about the meaning of life and love?  How else will good triumph unless it meets evil face to face?  If only we had the faith to see that in, through and beyond life's conflicts the gradual fulfilment of God's purposes is a certainty, then we might also find the courage and determination to attempt the overcoming of evil with good.
George Mackay
16th September 2007