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You Wouldn't Believe What I Discovered in a Book

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Monday, 15 July 2024, 11:59


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As a child, I read many books: Pinocchio, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Peter Rabbit and Tom Thumb, to mention a few. I read many books now. One thing every book I have read has in common is that they all have happy endings. We demand the denouement to have a just conclusion, or we feel robbed. Have you ever wondered why that is? We like happy endings. It's human to see justice prevail.

I was in Manila Airport earlier this year. I was waiting in a long, long queue to get through security. Well guess what? Someone tried to skip the queue. Many in the queue reacted and the perpetrator was sent packing (forgive the pun). As humans, we cannot accept this kind of behaviour, it triggers our ethical alarm bell, our sense of fairness.

You know this, we are led to believe we are in an aimless universe with no meaning. But If so, why fair play? If we are creatures dancing to our DNA, justice would never prevail.

Many years ago, I was searching and searching and searching for answers to this dilemma. It was then that I had one of those experiences you only read in fiction. By sheer serendipity, I opened a book about justice and found the following paragraph.

[God] has so inseparably interwoven the laws of eternal justice with the happiness of each individual, that the latter cannot be attained but by observing the former; and, if the former be punctually obeyed, it cannot but induce the latter.’

William Blackstone, an 18th century British jurist, penned this. I found the unpacking of it fascinating. Was there a universal sense of justice? I wondered. Is this gravitational pull towards goodness in my conscience that accuses and excuses me, the work of a wise architect? It made sense. Why form the moon, the stars, the earth, and mankind without a gravitational pull towards what is right and wrong?

Many choose to abuse their God-given free will, but those who respond to God's direction will find a future life in which justice will be an everlasting paradigm.

"let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."  Amos 5: 24.

Consider:

"...that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;" Acts 17:27.

If there is a God who nudges us towards goodness, why not approach him?



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A Teacher Who changed my Life

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It was 1971. I wasn’t in the mood for two periods of music.

You glanced around the class. I could see you summing up this new class. This wasn’t the career choice you envisioned. Teaching sacred classical music to Clydeside kids who were only interested in the Beatles and the Stones was not why you spent those years at university.

But here you were with your flannels with turnups and a Harris Tweed jacket thinking you better make the best of it. I’m sorry, Sir, I don’t recall your name.

You went over to the record player and removed a ’78 from its sheath.

            “Let’s go on a journey, boys,’ you said.

            “Journey?” I wondered.

“Allegretto pastoral is what this music symbolises," You said. "Absorb the sound of the countryside; the sound of the flutes as they liaise and resonate with clarinets in fluid harmony saluting the rising sun. Listen as the flute and the oboe sing like two morning birds; the bassoon as it brings morning to a close and a new day begins."

This Clydeside kid was all ears.

You stood there whilst Morning was playing and observed each one of us being caught in the moment. It was spiritual. Apart from the gentle music rising in a lazy, sustained crescendo, it was the first time I heard such silence in a classroom. 

After school that day, I scampered to the library to find books on, Norway, Peer Gynt, The Hall of the Mountain King, and Edvard Greig. You made me believe I was born in the wrong place. I’m still convinced I was.

            You, the unknown teacher with the tweed jacket, you changed my life in ways you never dreamed.

 Tusen takk from Norge 1999.


P.S. One of the greatest life changing encounters is found at Luke 24:13-35,

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2024:13-35&version=NIV



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What's So Great About This Hebrew Word?

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Friday, 12 July 2024, 04:32

The German word schadenfreude has found a place to rest in our English language. It is the spirit of the times. Some are failing to become better angels of their nature as divisions political and otherwise, fester and news and media items rejoice in other’s misfortune.


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It is refreshing to come across the nobler words in circulation such as the Hebrew word Firgun. It is the antonym of that traitIt captures the essence of rejoicing over other's happiness. It prompted me to write the following micro memoir:

Firgun (Hebrew) Taking Pleasure in Other’s Happiness

My wife asked me what was my happiest childhood memory? It was the day my two friends came and asked if I was coming with them? It was a spring morning,
and we took the ferry across to Kelvin to visit the museum.

We were there for several hours and on our return, we were rubbing our tummies with hunger. A man said, ‘Here’s a half-crown, buy yourselves ice-cream.’ We jumped up and down singing ‘Chips, glorious chips.’ Then… we stopped…went silent. The man told us to buy ice-cream.

But he just smiled, and we jumped up and down again singing ‘Chips, glorious chips.’

And I would have to say, that was my happiest childhood memory; the day the kind man smiled and thought it was okay to buy chips.

*


Reflecting on that man's kindness all these decades later, I sense he found great pleasure in our happiness.

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The Non-Theist Quandary Part Three: The Ship of Theseus

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Thursday, 11 July 2024, 06:17

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in their hearts”.

                                                                                                                                       Ecclesiastes 3: 11.




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Having been brought up in a maritime city like Glasgow, one inevitably looks outward. And yet, where we travel, determines who we are inwardly.

I’m crossing over to the Island of Bute on the MV Bute. I’m reading a fascinating philosophical thought experiment named The Ship of Theseus, first proposed by Plutarch. Theseus, the mythological hero, sailed from Greece to slay the Minotaur. With job done, he returned to Athens and left the ship to decay. In the course of time, carpenters came along and gradually replaced each plank of the ship until it was renewed. It raises the question, which ship is The Ship of Theseus; the new one, or the parts rotting on the beach?

Our bodies are not dissimilar to that paradox. Red cells form, embark on an arduous journey of grand rapids, proportionally life-threatening obstacles of matter as they brave the half million nautical miles of arteries, veins, and capillaries only to sail into oblivion after their two-month voyage.

Skin cells decay, leading to weakening avalanches and shifting continental plates. They fall from their plateaus, aided by cascading water gravitationally driving them towards terminal anti-clockwise whirlpools before their second day ends.

Estimates differ, but it is suggested, that the body replaces itself every seven to ten years. Like Plutarch’s thought experiment, questions of identity and thoughts of eternity are raised as I ponder on the body’s self-renewal mechanism.

But here is the paradox: Some neurons, those cells that drive the brain, stay with us throughout life. 

Although I’m a few years from 70, there’s a young man living inside me. I can call him up at any time and visit the places he visited. And meet the people he met. And share the joys he had. This convinces me of an action that God took before I was born: The act of human consciousness. Science does not have an answer to this immaterial inner life that exists in each one of us.  

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in their hearts, yet so that man can’t find out the work that God has done from the beginning even to the end. Ecclesiastes 3: 11. 

 ---World English Bible



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The None-Theist Quandary Part 2: What Prompts Photons and Electrons to Perform Their Wonder?

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Wednesday, 10 July 2024, 11:28

When you realize that the laws of nature must be incredibly finely tuned to produce the universe we see, that conspires to plant the idea that the universe did not just happen, but that there must be a purpose behind it.”

.                                                                 John Polkinghorne, (Physicist).


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There are thoughts that shimmer in our heads and hearts in our silent moments. Arising unexpectedly like the Northern Lights. Awe-inspiring in their scope. They reach the deepest parts. 

Why are we here? Why is there something rather than nothing? Why does our solar system work? Why is the earth filled with a bountiful array of fruit and vegetation. Why do we love? Why is the earth so pretty. Who made all this? 

As a child I had an ache to know who created the wonderful planet we live on. Afterall, this didn't just happen, it all seemed so purposeful. 

One profound fact that confirmed this as I got older, was the  fine-tuning of the cosmos. Four of those  fundamental physical forces are  electromagnetism, gravity, strong nuclear force, and weak nuclear force. The minutest tweak with any of these constants would send humans into oblivion.

I would ask questions like "What prompts the electron to spin round the atom?" "What compels the photon, when you cut it down the middle,  and  put one half in Australia and the other in UK,  that it still behaves as one in this dance of molecular entanglement ?" I could only see a wise and purposeful designer behind all this?

Some may argue that with all the possible universes that exist, by the law of averages, one solar system would have accidently produced the goods for life. Really? We are dealing with figures that are infinitely unlikely and beyond the laws of averages. Besides, even if that were true, there is still the matter of where matter came from.

But that is not all. What about DNA? Look at the image above, what do you see? Would you say that these crude images just appeared on the rock by accident? No. The truth is some intelligent mind formed it on the landscape. Now look at the image below. It is far more complex than the Mount Rushmore images of former presidents of the USA. And yet, many acquiesce  to the irrationality of it all.




The Occam's Razor concept proposes that we go for the simplest explanation 

"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men are without excuse." Romans 1:20 (BSB).


DNA  image by https://unsplash.com/@3dparadise

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The None-Theist Quandary : Part One, The Petit Pois

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Tuesday, 9 July 2024, 08:35

“Be careful when a naked man offers you a shirt.”

African proverb


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“Be careful when a naked man offers you a shirt.”

African proverb

 

Let us take this universe with all its stars, galaxies, and dark matter. Now condense it into a ball the size of our solar system.

Let us take this giant ball of 4.5 billion kilometres and condense it to the size of our sun. Now, with this 4.3 million Kilometres, keep going until we reach the diameter of the earth, then a watermelon, then an apple, then a petit pois, then an atom. Be careful now, you have quite a mass.

Now the trick is to convert it to nothing. Absolutely nothing. No space, no time, just nothing. What is nothing? How can you get something from nothing in the physical sense. How can we get our heads round nothing. It is like infinity, our mind has walls. 

Can you explain this paradox? There is no theory in science where you get something from nothing. So be careful when a naked man offers you a shirt.

An intelligent mind outside space and time brought the universe into being. The universe has all the hallmarks of purposeful designer which will be dealt with in the next episode. 

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth — Genesis 1:1


Quandary: a difficult situation; a practical dilemma.




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Have You Been Traumatised By Gossip?

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Friday, 5 July 2024, 19:30


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As a child, I recall a strange ornament an old lady had on her mantle. It was three monkeys. One with his hands over his mouth, the other with his hands over his eyes, the other with his hands over his ears.

It wasn’t the fact that they were monkey I thought strange. It was the puzzling gestures; I couldn’t understand what it all meant despite the caption being “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.”

It was some years later that I discovered the wisdom intended. Now, more than ever, there is a desperate need for young and old to counteract the tendency to gossip or slander. Many have taken their lives or fallen into depression because of spread rumours. In my case, I left the religious organisation I was affiliated with for this very reason. Not only because I found it hurtful, but because I found it a toxic environment.

Now why do people gossip? Sometimes it’s innocent, it may be curiosity. Some gossip to raise their self-esteem. After all, by putting others down, you raise yourself due to pride. Some gossip to be accepted by the group. Some gossip because of hatred or malicious intent.

James 1:26 reads, “If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, his religious is useless, and he deceives himself.” (CSB see footnote).

If you find yourself in such a toxic environment, turn around and walk away. It’s not so easy if it’s the family, the congregation or the workplace, friends or the internet, but make every effort to avoid being drawn in or being hurt by such ones. Additionally, search yourself and ask, “Have I hurt my neighbour by gossiping?” If so, correct it. James showed that your relationship with God is otherwise hindered.



(Scripture quotations marked CSB have been taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.)




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What Will We Do With Our Fleeting Moment on Earth?

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We are reminded that, in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame but rather how well we have loved and what part we have played in making the lives of other people better. — Barack Obama.



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This is what I do: when I am approached by a Christian evangeliser, I ask them to stroke their mobile and read Acts 2: 44,45. Then I ask, what does your religious organisation do about this Biblical principle? Let me explain why. Truth is, most overlook this fundamental principle. 

Let me take you through the streets of London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and wherever. This is what you will see, countless young and old, male, and female sleeping in cardboard boxes, under Asda canopies, in shop doorways and under bridges. Shivering for compassion and empathy.

We have a new government, but I am not holding my breath. Homelessness is pandemic since the days Ralph McTell sung The Streets of London with his message of empathy and compassion.

I see rich religious organisations amassing wealth and proselytising, but where is the spirit of true Christianity and humanity? True, I see some out there, but not all.

All the believers got together, and everything they owned was for the use of all. They sold their possessions and distributed the money among the believers. They gave each person what he needed. — Acts 2: 44,45.


















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On the death of a child

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Thursday, 4 July 2024, 20:29

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The 18th century Japanese poet, Fukuda Chiyo-ni wrote the following haiku

My Dragonfly catcher,

How far have you wandered

Have you gone

From time to time, some humans are placed in a dark place. The loss of a loved one, especially a child, can be unimaginably painful. I just cannot conceive how dark that place must be. The poet who wrote the haiku  became a nun. Perhaps in search for some meaning. Death is so unnatural; we cannot get our heads around it. We spend the rest of our lives wondering, hoping, seeking, and praying.

The Japanese concept of natural decay (wabi-sabi) and the transience of nature presents its paradoxes. When reading Kobayaashi Issa’s haiku, one feels his existential angst at the loss of his daughter.

This world of dew

is a world of dew,

and yet, and yet.


The line, “and yet, and yet” gives the idea of wabi-sabi not holding up to his instinct. He desires to see his daughter one day. It's my hope they will.

"Truly, truly, I tell you, the hour is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the son of God, and those who hear will live "            John 5:25 (BSB).

 






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What Do the Extra Terrestrials Think of Us?

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Ever since antiquity, man has searched for extra-terrestrial life. To what end, I wonder?

If there was extra-terrestrial life, what would they think of humans? Consider: we have a planet producing food in abundance, and yet, we see images of emaciated figures in other continents malnourished with flies around their eyes. 19,000 children a year in sub-Saharan Africa develop cataracts from birth. Many children on that continent die before they become five-years-old. People are dying for the want of antibiotics. Our streets are strewn with homeless people despite an abundance of land for building. Drugs are destroying societies. Poverty is rising in developed countries whilst the top ten per-cent amas more wealth. An unprecedented number of resources go towards arms and war. Resources that could be channelled towards mankind’s good. We see families crossing mighty seas in small crafts to find peace and security.

And what would we think of the extra-terrestrials? What if they asked us to love our neighbours as ourselves? To be loyal; not looking at another with desire? To be honest in word and deed? To consider the poor, the window, the aged and the fatherless boy. What if they asked us to respect life, to treat animals humanely? To lend without interest and not exploit employees. To resist the temptation to be jealous, greedy, gossip, slander or bear false testimony? Would we buy into that? Apparently not.

What if these extra-terrestrials were observing us now and assessing us?

For the eyes of the LORD roam to and fro over all the earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are fully devoted to Him” — 2 Chronicles 16: 9 (BSB).

“God’s will is that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, although He is not far from each one of us.” — Acts 17: 27 (BSB).



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This broken and heart-breaking world

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Monday, 1 July 2024, 09:56


'He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.'

Proverbs 22:9 (WEB).




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I've just returned from the shops. I was in M&S getting some coffee and milk. There was a young disabled lad sitting outside and  shivering in the rain in 10%. He slept under a shop doorway last night. I had no money, just a credit card.

I returned to the car. My eyes welled up in tears.  The only thing I could think of was to pop in to McDonalds and buy a breakfast and return to him and give him the ticket with the order no.

I tell the world this, but not to blow my own trumpet, but to stir in the reader to think about helping the homeless in your little corner in this broken world. Don't judge by saying things like "Go and get a job." 

We don't know what conditions brought them into the situation. Perhaps drugs, alcoholism, broken marriages, bankruptcy, depression and many other situations that are beyond their control.  


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Unusual Inspirational Prompts

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Saturday, 29 June 2024, 14:19

A Good Piece of writing is like a beautiful image; it invites you in.



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Come now, stop stroking your phone and sign out of Instagram and Facebook and get something eternal down in writing.

Do you need an inspiring prompt? What's happening in this pretty Japanese town?

How about ‘The Light Streams In’ By Tomas Tranströmer, the Swedish poet/psychologist?

https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poem/light-streams/

Do you ever walk through a graveyard and form a story in your head regarding a few details on the burial stone? Come on, we’ve all did it, right? Well what's the story her with these “Hanging coffins” ?

Mysterious Ancient Tradition Of 'Hanging Coffins' - MessageToEagle.com

 Too hard? What about captured nature in a Haiku? The West Wind Whispered by R.M.Hansard.

10 Incredible Haiku Poems You Have To Read - Poem Analysis

Okay, not inspired. What about a children’s story? What do you imagine here?

How Gyo Fujikawa Drew Freedom in Children’s Books | The New Yorker

So, get something down. I would love to read what you came up with: 

Happy writing

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Does God Answer Prayers? (Personal experience)

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Saturday, 29 June 2024, 14:19



When I take a walk in the park, the beach, or a star filled sky in a winter’s evening, I see God all around. This planet has the footprint of a wise, benevolent architect.

Would God make all these provisions and not make himself available to his intelligent creatures?

There is a reassuring promise made in Acts 17: 26-28,

“This God made us in all our diversity from one original person, allowing each culture to have its own time to develop, giving each its own place to live and thrive in its distinct ways. His purpose in all this was that people of every culture and religion would search for this ultimate God, grope for Him in the darkness, as it were, hoping to find Him. Yet, in truth, God is not far from any of us. For you know the saying, “We live in God; we move in God; we exist in God.” And still another said, “We are indeed God’s children.”

Think about that last phrase that reads God is never that far from any of us.” Think of the other expressions such as “Grope for him,” “His purpose……that people of every culture and religion would search.”

These expressions highlight the need to seek God with an element of effort on our part. There is a level of commitment to seeking God. It means reading his word, making every effort to harmonise our lives with God’s requirements. Remember, “... in truth, God is not far from any of us.”

Scripture taken from The Voice™. Copyright © 2012 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 



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The Fundamentals of a good story

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Saturday, 29 June 2024, 14:20

I believe it was John Gardner who said something like there being two plots to every story, Someone goes on a journey, and a stranger comes to town. Now let us see.


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Once upon a time, there was this bloke who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was travelling with a bundle of cash along this quiet road. It is not very clear, but suddenly a mugger or muggers jumped out and gave him a good work over and took his bankroll and left him for dead.

Well, someone came along and saw him lying and groaning. But despite the passer-by being religious, he wasn’t keen to get involved. He took a beeline across the road pretending he never saw him. This happened a few times whilst the man’s life was slowly slipping away.

After a few hours had passed, another man came along a stranger. He was a foreigner, and he quickly responded. He did the paramedic thing and then booked him into a local hotel and paid the bill in advance.

Do you recognise the story? It’s the Parable of the Good Samaritan, with a bit of a modern take. But it illustrates John Gardner's plot principle, someone leaves town and someone comes to town.

Luke 10:25-37 NIV - The Parable of the Good Samaritan - On - Bible Gateway


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Six Degrees of Separation

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Saturday, 29 June 2024, 14:20

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My wife and I were in Edinburgh last weekend. The Edinburgh International Festival is taking place. I looked around at the mass of faces as we walked around The Royal Mile.

"It's strange, we are connected in some way or another to every person here." I said to my wife. I was talking about the six degrees of separation idea. The theory that we are six or less social connections from one another. The idea came to the public ear when Frigyes Karinthy wrote of it in a short story in 1929.

We may be connected. Does that surprise you? I don’t mean your great, great, great grandfather was a Celt from the Braveheart country. No, it’s something else.

The theory stipulates that we know a friend of a friend of a friend or business partner or neighbour to a maximum of six steps before we discover we are connected. Fascinating! Let me illustrate.

2008: Auspicious Coincidence

It was the depths of the British recession. I flew to Krakow to visit Auschwitz. I had never been to Poland before.

One evening, I was having a meal with some friends in the square in Krakow. A man around 22-years old kept staring at me from a nearby table.

 Eventually, he put on his jacket and stood up. But before he left, he approached me and asked if I gave a lecture in the UK about young people in crisis? I said, yes, and asked how he knew. He said he had a copy of the lecture on a CD that he received from someone un the UK.

 “It's your voice I recognised,” he said.




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Is There a Possibility of Everlasting Life?

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Saturday, 29 June 2024, 14:20

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Friday afternoons were the most depressing part of the school week. Two periods of maths with Mr … was like a day spent with spondylitis. So, Sam, Tam, and I would take the short ferry ride across the River Clyde from Govan to Kelvin and after a short walk, we were in the grand Kelvingrove Museum.

Whilst Sammy and Tam would head off to look at the Dutch Masters-odd characters in them paintings. I on the other hand, would always gravitate to a seven-century old tree stump in the Natural History section. I would run my fingers across its historical rings and feel its secrets like the voices concealed in the grooves of a ’78 vinyl record.

Nowadays, my Glasgow stump is considered an infant in dendrology circles. In Europe, a Bosnian Pine took root in A.D 941 when Vikings were pillaging islands and small settlement along Scotland’s West Coast. It has lived through the Reformation, the Renaissance, Hiroshima, the march of the Third Reich, and Brexit.

I’m always reminded of the historical march of time when objects and creatures have triumphed over man’s short seventy or eighty years.

We were reminded a decade ago about the death of Lonesome George, a Galapagos tortoise who lived for a century, but at the same time, aware that creatures such as whales and turtles with 160 birthdays, and jellyfish, that are gifted with immortality.

Perhaps it was with this thought in mind that Job, the ‘greatest of the Orientals’, asked the creator a rhetorical question and then answered it in his next breath: ‘If a man dies, will he live again? All the days I will wait until my renewal comes Job14:14.

We've all asked that question: right? No one wants to die, and when we do, we want to know if we will live again.

Mortality is never far away from my thoughts as I enter my sixth stage of life. I am still a youth in my heart who desires 5000 years like a giant sequoia. A renewal as Job put it.

Copywrite 2024 © by Jim McCrory


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The Good Thing About the MA Creative Writing

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Saturday, 29 June 2024, 14:20

"Like a camel on the road to Kathmandu, the personal essay can take the load."



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One of the blessings of the MA Creative Writing is that we are introduced to the personal essay. That was a gave changer for me.

There is a beautiful piece of cinematography in Nikita Mikhalkov’s movie Urga, where one is presented with a vast panoramic field of emerald grass. There’s movement in the distance. The image gets closer and closer and slowly coming into focus. It’s accompanied by the sound of rumbling hooves and snorting. Wafts of agitated dust float in a state of suspended animation which hastens the suspense. The camera eventually centres on the focal point, Gombo,  a vigorous Mongolian equestrian shepherd mounted on his stocky steed fill the screen.

The scene acts as an apt metaphor for the personal essay. One begins with something out of focus. A word like ‘nostalgia.’ A sentence like ‘It happened like this.’ A quote like Soderberg’s ‘People want to be loved, failing that admired…our soul seeks connection at any price.’ An image like Avril Paten’s painting, Windows in the West. 

Then, my journey begins. I have no maps. I have no coordinates. Just the loose excursions of my mind. My reader joins me on this pilgrimage or saunter; a description that’s dependant on the subject. It’s often a highway to seemingly nowhere, but the scenery is interesting, occasionally captivating.  It’s worth the effort.

It’s an image of what’s going on in my head, albeit a glass darkly. But the process of pen to paper sparks a chemistry that is leading to a place. The place appears and disappears in a literary eclipse. We appear lost, but in the large vat of editing, the destination emerges.

Like a camel on the road to Kathmandu, the personal essay can take the load I have to pack on. My memoirs, musings, my angst, the wanderings of my mind, my peculiarities and fears, my worldview, and philosophies. The introduction to the personal essay was like bursting out of prison and finding a voice for all I have to say.



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Good Morning Ireland! I Like That Phrase, Cothrom na Féinne

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Saturday, 29 June 2024, 14:48


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 “There cannot be a God, there’s too much evil,” I’ve often heard say. But doesn’t that statement provide evidence of God? “How so,” you may ask.

Well, for starters, you are calling on an objective standard of justice. That standard of justice comes from a higher source outside man. A sense of justice that says stealing, murder, anger, and the like are wrong. A sense of fairness that legislates for what we determine as evil. And no matter where you go in the world, we observe a universal standard of fair play on the basic morals that make us human. If you doubt that, try skipping the queue in a supermarket in France, Germany, India, or the Philippines. You will receive the same reaction. We have this inner sense of fairness that comes from an outer source.

Also, whilst we say there is too much evil, how to we come to terms with the fact there is too much goodness? If we are creatures dancing to our DNA in a dark aimless universe where survival of the fittest is the order of the day, then why is there kindness, gentleness, altruism, empathy, love, affection and people who are willing to sacrifice their lives for people they do not know? Ponder. Evil exists because some humans ignore the inner sense of fair play. God gave us free will.

He has told you, O man what is good

And what does the LORD require of you

But to act justly, to love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8 (BSB).


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Brief Thoughts On Studying Children's Literature (EA300)

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Friday, 28 June 2024, 09:14


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I must have been around ten-years old when I was browsing in the bookshop one day. My eyes caught the colourful image of a marionette on the front cover of a book. I opened the page to the first chapter and read the following epigraph:

"Now it happened that Mr Cherry, the carpenter, found a piece of wood that laughed and cried like a child."

If there was ever an invitation to read a book, that epigraph was an open-armed welcome.

In 2018, my wife and I were visiting St Andrews on Scotland’s east coast. In the upstairs of the museum, there was a large room with a large dining table. It was all prepared with cutlery and other utensils. It was the Mad Hatters’ tea party. On the walls of the room were wonderful quotes from various children’s books; it was magical.

"You're mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I will tell you a secret. All the best people are." Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

So, on a whim, I decided to add Children’s Literature (EA300) to my Open Degree. The module was fascinating, and it took me through a cross section of the most wonderful books written for children and young adults. For example, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D Taylor. Set in the 1930s Mississippi, it tells the story of Cassie Logan, a nine-year-old negotiating racism during the period. It is one of those books that every child should read as it teaches empathy.

Voices in the Park, a picture book where text and image complement each other to tell the story. It juxtaposed two children living different lives, but negotiating the nurture nature challenges in diverse ways. Once again, a clever piece of writing as it teaches children the wisdom of having a positive outlook in life.

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

But the course burst my bubble. There are very few children’s book. Adults write the majority, and for good or bad, adults have agendas.

I was also torn by what we feed children. Should children be exposed and limited to the wonder of innocence like Anne of Green Gables and Peter Rabbit or is there a place for books that deal with broken families, an alcoholic parent, aggressive adults, and the like? Such books have merit if they instruct children in these situations where they can orchestrate life’s problems in wisdom. What say you? I am curious.

 


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Good morning, China, America, Brazil and the four corners of the earth. I have a confession

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Saturday, 29 June 2024, 14:49


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I suppose it must have been a decade ago. I was walking through Glasgow—Sauchiehall street to be precise. A man smiled at me; just a simple smile with no other motive than to acknowledge human connection.

I will be honest; it was one of those days I woke up in Camazotz and needed some kind of lift. I often pray on such occasions.

Anyway, that smile, I never forgot it. The connection to a kind stranger had considerable impact that day. John Koenig, in his book, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows coined the phrase Xeno to crystallise such an emotion. That momentary interaction of human connection that relieves one of feeling lonesome in this busy world.


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Good morning Punjab! I like that word Fikar (ਫਿਕਰ)

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Thursday, 13 June 2024, 10:21




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The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty if we are strong—. Psalm 90:10 (BSB)

There will come a time when I have to depart this earthly existence. It’s not a problem for me, but I would worry about my wife I would leave behind. But, in recent months, God has built a wall around her; protecting he. I feel blessed.

***

At the close of 2023, I went through some medical examinations. On the day I had an appointment to see the consultant for the results, my wife and I read a scripture that morning as we do every morning. It was Psalm 91: 1,2:

‘He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.’

I will say to the Lord, “You are my refuge and my fortress,

My God, in whom I trust.’

I said to my wife, ‘we are going to get bad news today.’ She agreed. God had often given us messages through the scriptures that were specific. God continues to speak as he has always spoken, but at times, the right verse miraculously lands in our lap when needed.

And sure enough, cells in the prostate that served me faithfully, turned hostile and have created a rebellion in the pancreas and liver and who knows where else.

The consultant who revealed this, looked at me and said, ‘You are very bravado about this.’

I replied in all confidence, ‘There’s a young man inside me. He has followed me around all his life. His age, I do not know, but he is always there. He comforts me and his presence convinces me God has eternity in view for me,’ I replied.

The truth is, God has ‘set eternity in our hearts.’

We came home that day and read the whole of Psalm 91 and felt a great sense of comfort. I have no sensation of what the Germans call torschlusspanik, that awareness that the doors are closing in on me. No, I wake with a miraculous feeling of peace that only comes from God and Christ.

Wise Words of Enlightenment – Spirituality, Bible, God, Morality (wiseprose.uk)


 

Fikar (ਫਿਕਰ): Though it translates to "worry" or "concern," it implies a deeper sense of care and responsibility, often used in a context of emotional attachment.

 

 


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Good Morning , Slovenia! I like the word, doživljaj

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My wife and I had a short break in the Scottish West Highlands one recent weekend. We took a walk through a little village that eventually led to a graveyard. We enjoy walking through such places; it draws attention to the wisdom found in Ecclesiastes 7:2, where we read that “It is better to go to the house of mourning,” KJV.

There’s a reason the verse imparts this advice. A walk through a graveyard reminds us we are mortal creatures and one day the garment that we wear will wear out.

I observed individuals embedded in their plots. Men, women, children who were the heroes of their own journey in life. Who had deep inner lives that were cut short? I say, cut short because you may think in what way is an 86-year-old cut short?

We are built to last with no sell-by date. God created man to live forever. Philosophically speaking, we do not need to look far to realise it. Think of our minds, I’m in my sixties and yet, I’m still a youth in my inner world. My brain has the potential to take in knowledge eternal. That we have a “mind” is one of science’s great puzzles.

However, what about you and I? John 3:16 shows that faith and life connect inexorably. It’s good to take a moment and read that verse and ask, “What does this mean for me?”

The Slovenian language has a word, an untranslatable word doživljajwhich embraces a rich encounter with someone or something. A walk through a graveyard embraces both the encounter with the graves that remind us of the short breath we take on this earth and also that by turning to God in our solitary walk and experiencing the rich encounter that leads to life.


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Good morning, Brazil! I like that long word, Saudade

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Friday, 28 June 2024, 09:21


   “Truly I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.”


 

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I have a deep secret. I am happy to tell you what it is so long as you do not tell anyone. Is that a deal? This is my secret. I love children’s books; at my age I should know better, but it is an addiction. I love them so much that I did a Children’s Literature module at university.

Gyo Fujikawa is the most addictive for me. Children in paradise, in tree houses, gentle fairies and children no bigger than polka-dot toadstool.

https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/how-gyo-fujikawa-drew-freedom-in-childrens-books

Then there’s Astrid Lindgren’s The Children of Noisy Village. I am a Swedophile who can speak a bit of Swedish and I am in awe of the beauty and setting where the tale is filmed. An age of innocence. Swedish village life that will never return. 

https://tv.apple.com/no/movie/the-children-of-noisy-village/umc.cmc.13bmjs0xgg1sv8sju2tv3za5j

There is the Portuguese word that best explains my longing to enter a world that these stories encapsulate, Saudade, a longing or nostalgia for something that cannot be realised.

I guess the reason such stories appeal is the desire to escape mentally from this broken world. C.S. Lewis wrote:

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Interesting, but what world did C.S Lewis mean? Did he mean the world of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? No, he was a Christian and academic. He wrote children’s books and books on Christian apologetics as well as academic books. 

The world he was thinking of was the world recorded in Luke 23:43

  “Truly I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.”


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Good Evening Cambodia! I like your word, Kâmtéa (កំទេរ)

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Friday, 28 June 2024, 09:23

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The first time I felt the concept of Kâmtéa  was back when I was twelve years old. I spent the summer on The Island of Bute, we had a cabin on Bogany Farm. There were around sixty cabins, and families would visit on two-week vacations.

The year in question I met new friends whom we shared many hours with. We made a tree swing in the woods, and we would talk for hours on end. Bonds would form, but when you are twelve years old, such bonds are so easily broken when we are under the authority of our guardians.

You see, my friends would have to return home, and I would be left as lonely as an empty pocket with only the moon and stars for company.

The song, Cottonfields by Creedence Clearwater Revival played frequently on the radio that year and every time I hear it now, I still feel that sense of Kâmtéa welling up.

 

Kâmtéa in the Khmer language captures a deep emotional state, often associated with sadness, mourning, or the experience of loss.

 


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Good Morning Sweden! I Like The Word, Gökotta

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Edited by Jim McCrory, Saturday, 29 June 2024, 12:29


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‘How simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea...'  —Nikos Kazantzakis

 

Last month, my wife and I camped on Milarrochy Bay on the banks of Loch Lomond. Our pitch was touching the beach. We would wake to catch the sun rise to the sound of a symphony rich in bird song as the world slept. We had fresh brewed coffee and smoked bacon in Greek flatbread warmed on the griddle. And I thought, how simple, happiness  can be. The rich can take the high road, but as for me, I will take the low road free from stress, anxiety, or pain.

Give me neither poverty nor riches

Proverbs 30:8

Gökotta: Rising early to savour the stillness of dawn and absorb the beauty of nature.


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