Peter's Blog

The Christmas Spill Is Here!

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Beans Issue 25

Here we go with another issue of Spill the Beans packed with ideas for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. This continues our journey through the fourth year of the Narrative Lectionary cycle.

Issue 25 covers from the first Sunday in Advent, 3 December 2017, to Transfiguration Sunday on 11 February 2018.

As always, created by folks here in Scotland as a labour of love, this issue has lots of ideas and resources for you to inspire, adapt, use in a worship setting or for age groups in Junior Churches and youth groups. If you have not used Spill the Beans before then have a look at this sample.

If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 25 for use in your church or personally, then click the 'Buy' button below. The cost is only £12 (GBP). You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer or tablet as soon as you have downloaded it.

Please follow the instructions carefully. The Adobe pdf file is approximately 5 MB so it may take some time to download. Please be patient as your computer does so!

Spill the Beans Issue 25

Spill the Beans Issue 25 Cover

Buy Now and Download

You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans blog, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too. There is also a facebook group in which we share ideas.

Print Copies

If you would like an additional printed copy of Spill the Beans, then this can be arranged. The cost is usually around £22+P&P and these can be arranged directly with the office at Ferryhill Parish Church. Note this cost is just for printing expenses. Each issue is in full colour and comb bound for ease of use. Please note we can only send these within the United Kingdom.

If you would like to order copies (which are all printed to order so there may be a short wait before you receive yours) then you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your order details. An invoice will be issued with dispatch of your order.

 

Sending Thoughts and Prayers?

Written by Peter Johnston on .

This evening I saw some of the footage from the smartphones of those in Las Vegas who were in or around the site of the music festival that was attacked from a hotel window by Stephen Paddock. As I write this 59 people are confirmed dead, more than 500 injured. The footage was surreal, the sounds associated with a war zone: automatic gun fire. It is horrific. And sadly this is one of almost 300 mass shootings in the USA in 2017.

When safe spaces, such as a music festival or a gay nightclub (remembering Pulse nightclub in Orlando last year) become killing fields our reaction should and must be horror and, surely, a desire to take action that this kind of thing cannot happen again.

So take all that for granted, please. The person who caused the horror last night in Las Vegas was Stephen Paddock. On him lies the blame.

We live in society, we do not live in isolation from each other. We live together with responsibility for each other. And part of that responsibility is creating laws that enable our protection of each other. This is what the Ten Commandments were about for a wandering tribe millennia ago: a means to help protect one another.

Listening to Donald Trump speak about the atrocity, and thankfully restricted to reading remarks from a teleprompter so that he did not veer off, I was struck and depressed to hear how much he called on the name of God and referenced multiple times how he was praying for the people involved.

Surely this is a good thing? I would say yes in the case of any sincere person. But Trump is self-evidently not sincere, and when he tries to talk God-talk it is painfully obvious that he has no idea what he is talking about. Someone else wrote the words he spoke.

Yet I am not really going to blame Trump for the way he instantly reverted to language of prayer in response to this attack. For he is far from alone. How many times do we read politicians in response to terrible events pull out the prayer card? How many times do we read a tweet from a politician saying something like "Sending thoughts and prayers to the people of...". I think I may even have used similar language in the past, for it has become a shorthand for "I am helpless, but feel like I have to say something positive."

What was I thinking? What does that even mean? Sending prayers? Are we really thinking that prayers are like telegrams? Sending a prayer is sending a little packet of condolence across the world? Or do we thinking sending prayers is like waving a wand to make things better?

Let's be honest here, and especially when it comes to politicians, it is often lazy language. To say "I'm sending thoughts and prayers..." is a way to appear concerned and compassionate, but without any cost. Am I being too cynical? I don't think so. For so many of these politicians in the USA that are talking about sending prayers, such as Donald Trump, will do absolutely nothing to take active action that might help prevent another such atrocity from taking place. Yet it is in their power to actually change laws that would make such an event far less likely to happen. It is in their hands to save lives, to make a difference, but they don't want to admit it.

I can guarantee, just as in the past year since the shooting in Orlando, Florida, nothing will be done to put checks on gun ownership or reduce the sea of guns that exist in the United States. Even worse than that, while sending "thoughts and prayers" many of these same politicians will be taking money from gun companies and lobbyists and passing laws that make gun ownership more easy at home and abroad. Just last week we heard the Trump administration was wanting to free up the rules to allow more guns from domestic manufacturers to be sold abroad, and there has been talk about making the purchase of gun silencers easier. Trump earlier this year removed a change Obama had introduced to try to prevent gun sales to people with mental health issues.

So what I hear when many politicans say "Sending thoughts and prayers..." is "I want to appear compassionate but I am going to do nothing to stop this kind of thing from happening."

That really makes me sad and frustrated, and, with the more cynical politicians, angry. Because it is a fundamental misunderstanding of prayer. Indeed it is an abuse of what prayer is about. It likens prayer to a magic wand, or worse it makes it just another meaningless warm, friendly word. I believe prayer is powerful and necessary, but not in the way that is meant by the thoughtless use of the word in these statements.

What is prayer? There are whole books on the subject, so I cannot do it full justice in this blog post, but here's the crux of it for me: prayer is our active engagement with aligning ourselves to the will of God. Prayer, in all its many forms, is a way for us to come closer to God, and for God's will to become clearer to us so that we, in turn, can then do something about it. So when I pray to God about a particular situation I am doing so with some trepidation because the answer to that prayer I expect to be thrown back into my hands: 'here's what you should be doing about it, Peter!' What will God want of me? If I lift up in prayer the situation of homeless people in our country, I am not doing it to hand over the situation to God, like it is some divine game of Pass the Parcel, I do it with the expectation of conviction towards action.

Prayer does not exist in isolation, as I hope you see. For me, it exists as part of a relationship with God through Jesus. It is intimately tied up and connected with a greater knowledge of God's ways, as revealed to us in Jesus, and through the Spirit of God's nudging and guiding. We need to know more about what Jesus was doing, what he taught, how he lived, why he did what he did, in order to understand the way of God. All this then doubles back on us takign the time to pray and reflect, to bring to God our own situations and think through with God what this means for us. In that process of bringing to God situations and people that concern us what we are really doing is bringing ourselves humbly before God with our concerns about these situations and people in order that we uncover how we can best help those situations or those people. Prayer is fundamentally about changing us, it is about bringing us, our thoughts and our actions, into greater alignment with God. You see this with Jesus as he talks to his disciples about prayer and offers up his model of prayer, the Lord's Prayer. It is a prayer that brings us closer to God that we may live out God's way in our lives.

This is partly why I am confident in the insincerity of Donald Trump when he quotes scripture and talks of praying for situations: he has no clue what Jesus was about, indeed I am certain that if Jesus' life and the reason why Jesus did what he did was explained to Trump his reaction would be: "What a loser!" It is the language Trump has used about the Mayor of San Juan Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulin Cruz, as she desperately has been trying to help, actively, her own people survive the onslaught of two hurricanes by appealing to her President for assitance. He mocked her leadership by tweet on Saturday.

This is why hearing politicians use the language of prayer as a cover so that they can avoid taking action makes me so mad. What they are doing is the opposite of prayer. If they were really praying about it and thereby opening themselves up to God, I have no doubt we would see far more action to alleviate the causes of so much heartache and sorrow in the world.

 

Signing the Lord's Prayer

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Over the next couple of months we will be encouraging us all on a Sunday morning to join with Rev Mary Whittaker during the Lord's Prayer to also sign the prayer. If you would like to practise that, please use the video above!

Sovereignty's Counterbalance

Written by Peter Johnston on .

On Sunday past we were thinking in the service about the story of Abraham and his son Isaac, particularly the traumatic event of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22-23). The service can be re-watched here.

One of the themes that in the sermon I tried to draw on was the challenge we have in understanding two aspects of God. It is a challenge that Martin Luther and John Calvin also talked about in reference to interpreting this difficult story. Those two aspects of God are on the one hand the sovereignty of God, and on the other the graceful provision of God. The tale of Abraham and Isaac climbing that mountain in Moriah is a story that reveals both, and reveals the tension between them. At least from our understanding it looks like and feels like tension.

On the one hand, with the sovereignty of God we have that assertation of God as the one to be worshipped without question for God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. God is all powerful, all knowing and always present. This is a God in which the language of "the fear of God" is well warranted.

Yet on the other hand we also have a God who provides for us out of gracious love. This is the God who forgives and offers new starts. This is the God of the rainbow promise. God's sovereignty and God's gracious blessing.

It is challenging to grasp this, and hence the tension between the two. What the story of Abraham and Isaac does is to walk a line between them, trying in this graphical storytelling form to understand what this all means. How much it works as such I leave up to you.

This past week I saw something which illustrated beyond a question of a doubt for me the danger, however, in not having this tension between the two: when one aspect dominates over the other.

The illustration came in the form of President Donald Trump's extraordinary speech before representatives of the world's nations at the United Nations on 19 September 2017.

This speech in its condemnatory and dark fearful tone reminded me of only two other similar speeches at the UN: one being President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela  in 2006 calling President Bush the "devil" and Muammar Gadaffi of Libya in 2009 railing against the West. Hallowed company for a President who aspires to the despot.

In his speech, Trump repeatedly referred to the sovereignty of the United States and to the sovereignty of other nations. Of course, it is language of which we are familiar here in the UK too following the Brexit referendum and reclaiming our sovereignty from the EU. Trump repeatedly used the term "sovereignty" in order to clearly distinguish the rights of the United States and to distance them from any shared sense of responsibility as nations together. The message was clear: every nation for itself, the powerful will dominate smaller nations, and intervene only when it is good for one's own nation. This message was given in the heart of the organisation that, warts 'n' all, exists to do the opposite and was founded as the antidote to worldwide war. All this under "sovereignty". This is when power runs amok without the balancing of grace and blessing and provision.

Having read quite a bit of Donald Trump's story over the last couple of years, none of this is a surprise. His whole life story is one of taking for yourself at the expense of others. His modus operandii has always been one of taking advantage of the little guy from the scam operation of Trump University to how he treats contractors working on his projects. His world view is a zero-sum world view where there is only so much wealth in the world and he is out to take as much of it as he can, whoever gets in his way, whatever he has to say to get it. It is desperately and pitifully sad. It also has real repercussions for millions of us.

One example that really struck me was when Trump talked about the refugee crisis facing the world. He attempted to argue that it was the humane thing to do to keep refugees as close to their home countries as possible. Now there is an argument to be had about migration and the impact it has on both sending and receiving countries, and this argument he alludes to in his words "We have learned that over the long term, uncontrolled migration is deeply unfair to both the sending and the receiving countries..." but here he is deliberately compounding two different things: economic migrants and refugees fleeing war/drought/starvation/ethnic cleansing. It was a nice ruse which panders to the worst of the white nationalist voices within the United States who love Trump's anti-refugee rhetoric. Think about it. The humane thing to do, Trump argued, was to refuse to open our doors to those fleeing terror.

But most damaging of all was the assumption behind everything that Trump said, and again reflecting his view of sovereignty, that countries should only work together when they themselves will get something out of it. And that something, in Trump's mind, must be a something "extra". For Trump, and this you see throughout his business practices, simply paying for a contractor for the work they have done is not a good deal. His idea of a good deal is then to rip off that contractor in order get that something "extra" - that is a good deal. So when it comes to discussions between nations Trump cannot understand much of what constitutes good diplomacy because in his mind there is no extra something. Hence pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord - what was in it for the United States and only for the United States? The idea of a shared responsibility and a shared benefit is anathema.

Or, for instance, take his sabre rattling against North Korea and their ever more desperate nuclear programme. Trump is being hyper-aggresive in a provocative and alarming way here, the two leaders like playground bullies throwing taunts at each other. Yet, through careful diplomacy over many years the United States and other nations came to an agreement with Iran over their own nascent nuclear programme. Trump hates it because he doesn't see what the United States get as that something "extra". What the world gets is one less nation working towards nuclear weapons. But that kind of internationalism means nothing to Trump and his view of the omnipotent United States. Where is the "win" for the USA? Without that, it is of no worth to Trump. That and it was an agreement reached under Trump's historical nemesis, Barack Obama, whose legacy Trump is determined to wipe off the face of the earth.

This is the concept of sovereignty of one nation spinning out of control. That it is the most powerful nation on the planet which is doing so is even more alarming.

So what do we do about it? Well, it goes back to the story of Abraham and Isaac. If the sovereignty of God in that story had no counterbalance then Isaac would have been sacrificed and Abraham would forever have gone down in history as a maniac. But grace and compassion balance the story. This is where we in the church come in to live out and provide that counterbalance to the discussions of unbridled sovereignty that are running rampant across our political discourse at present.

This is the counterbalance that reaches out to smaller nations to help them step up. It is the counterbalance that acknowledges that the world is collectively better off when we work together. It is the counterbalance that recognises the longer term future of our world relies on opening ourselves vulnerably to each other acknowledging we do not have all the answers invidividually. It is the counterbalance that not only seeks to protect the vulnerable and the refugee, but also seeks to understand and correct what led to their predicament. It is the counterbalance that lays aside a claim to all the riches of the world. It is the counterbalance that recognises the humanity in all of our world's citizens. It is the counterbalance that strives for a world that can maintain itself and renew itself. It is the counterbalance that seeks good stewards of God's creation rather than warriors bent on destruction.

Time is ticking.

Spill the Beans Issue 24 is a Go!

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Beans Issue 24

We start the fourth year of the Narrative Lectionary cycle, the final year which has John's gospel as its focus, and the Spill the Beans Resource Team has got the next issue for the autumn ready. I've finished putting it all together today and so it is out as I need a holiday!

Issue 24 covers the second half of the Pentecost season from Pentecost 14 to the end of the church calendar on Reign of Christ Sunday, from 10 September to 26 November 2017. As we journey with the Hebrew people through the autumn we do so under the thematic signpost marked "Go!"

As always, created by folks here in Scotland as a labour of love, this issue has lots of ideas and resources for you to inspire, adapt, use in a worship setting or for age groups in Junior Churches and youth groups. If you have not used Spill the Beans before then have a look at this sample.

If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 24 for use in your church or personally, then click the 'Buy' button below. The cost is only £12 (GBP). You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer or tablet.

Please follow the instructions carefully. The Adobe pdf file is approximately 4 MB so it may take some time to download.

Spill the Beans Issue 24

Spill the Beans Issue 24 Cover

Buy Now and Download

You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans blog, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too. There is also a facebook group in which we share ideas.

Print Copies

If you would like an additional printed copy of Spill the Beans, then this can be arranged. The cost is usually around £22+P&P and these can be arranged directly with the office at Ferryhill Parish Church. Note this cost is just for printing expenses. Each issue is in full colour and comb bound for ease of use. Please note we can only send these within the United Kingdom.

If you would like to order copies (which are all printed to order so there may be a short wait before you receive yours) then you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your order details. An invoice will be issued with dispatch of your order.

 

Faith In Politics

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Faith In Politics

The Joint Public Issues Team (which has representation from the Church of Scotland, Baptist Union, Methodist Church and United Reformed Church) has produced a helpful paper for approaching the 2017 General Election exploring many of the key issues which we all face in a rapidly changing political landscape.

It opens saying:

Does the prospect of the upcoming election fill you with excitement, or apathy? Or something in-between?

Every General Election presents an opportunity for citizens to participate critically and constructively in the democratic process. It may be a cliché to suggest that there has “never been so much at stake”, but there is an element of truth to this saying. We are living in an unprecedented political moment. There are many things that are uncertain about the future of our country, and this is an important opportunity for you to challenge and scrutinise the policies and rhetoric of politicians.

The briefing paper tries to be as straightforward as possible in laying out the key facts to help us make our own decisions.

You can download a copy here.

Spill the Beans for Summer 2017

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Beans Issue 23

While many of us are just starting to enjoy Spring, others are already planning for Summer services. The Spill the Beans team has also been busy for this summer and just off my desk is Issue 23. This covers from Trinity Sunday to Pentecost 13, from 11 June to 3 September 2017. There is a short series on psalms, a series through Ephesians and then four weeks looking at the sacraments of baptism and communion. An interesting spread. Of course, while these are laid out in the book with specific dates, you could just use these small series at any time.

Those of you who have already used Spill the Beans know what a super resource this is, created by folks here in Scotland. If you have not yet then have a look at this sample.

If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 23 for use in your church or personally, then click the button below. The cost is only £12. You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer or tablet.

Please follow the instructions carefully. The Adobe pdf file is approximately 6 MB so it will take some time to download.

Spill the Beans Issue 23

Spill the Beans Issue 23 Cover

Buy Now and Download

You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans blog, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too. There is also a facebook group in which we share ideas.

Print Copies

If you would like an additional printed copy of Spill the Beans, then this can be arranged. The cost is usually around £22+P&P and these can be arranged directly with the office at Ferryhill Parish Church. Note this cost is just for printing expenses. Each issue is in full colour and comb bound for ease of use. Please note we can only send these within the United Kingdom.

If you would like to order copies (which are all printed to order so there may be a short wait before you receive yours) then you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your order details. An invoice will be issued with dispatch of your order.

 

The stoning of St Stephen

A hymn for St Stephen

Written by Peter Johnston on .

We are thinking about the story of St Stephen (Acts 6-7), famously known as the first Christian martyr, this Sunday but when planning the service I could not find a hymn that specifically spoke about Stephen's story.

Here is my contribution for others to use if they wish. We will be singing it, appropriately enough, to the tune St Stephen.

The Seven Men, Respected All
Words: Peter Johnston
Tune: St Stephen (Newington) CH 686
CM

1.  The seven men, respected all,
     were sent to serve the Lord;
     with blessing and the Spirit’s power
     their ministry outpoured.

2.  Amongst these men and strong of faith
    came Stephen, filled with grace.
    His love and care was known to them
    who saw in him God’s face.

3.  Through miracles and signs he worked         WOMEN
    to spread Good News to all;
    but questioned and maligned by some
    he faced his highest call.

4.  In Temple’s courts the high priest asked:    MEN
    “Is what they say the truth?”
    But Stephen’s face shone bright with light,
    his voice was raised anew.

5. “Listen to me!” he called aloud,
    and preached with holy fire.
    From Abraham to Moses he
    proclaimed God’s righteous ire:

6. “You stubborn people, deaf to truth.        WOMEN
    Why do you resist me?”
    And Stephen joined the ranks of those
    whose voices stilled must be.

7. “I see the Son of Man!” he cried,        MEN
    his eyes gazed heavenwards.
    The mob descended, stones flew down,
    yet grace was their reward.

8. Did Stephen know the price he’d pay,
    for living Jesus’ way?
    May we know Stephen’s courage strong:
    witness for God each day.

©2017 Sleepless Nights Productions

Living in other's shoes

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Another vlog today thinking about empathy and its role in politics.

Humility and Tolerance

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Fourth video in my wee series on faith and politics, thinking about the role of humility.

Who Is My Neighbour?

Written by Peter Johnston on .

The difficult question of "Who is my neighbour?" as it applies in our current highly charged atmosphere of fear about immigration and of talk about border walls addressed in this third episode of my Faith and Politics vlog.

What is truth?

Written by Peter Johnston on .

The title is Pilate's famous line to Jesus as Jesus stands before him: "What is truth?" In the light of "post-truth" and "alternative facts", I take a few moments to think about "truth" in the second of my vlog series on Faith and Politics.

Faith and Politics Vlog

Written by Peter Johnston on .

I'm toying with starting a new video blog (vlog) series on YouTube in addition to my series on life with an electric car. With this one I am going to explore some of the nagging issues that have been on my mind over the last couple of years with relation to politics and what part faith might play in informing or giving some perspective on some of these issues.

In the first episode I talk about the language of "winning".

Spill the Beans, Issue 22

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Beans Issue 22

The new year is zipping past and that means a new issue of Spill the Beans has escaped from my computer. Issue 22 covers the season of Lent, Easter all the way to Pentecost Sunday, 5 March 2017 to 4 June 2017 with ideas for Holy Week included.

A huge thank you to all the creative team who added their contributions for this issue. We are already working away writing material for the summer issue at the moment.

For current Beanies you alread know what a fabulous resource this is, created by folks here in Scotland. If you have not yet, but are intrigued, have a look at this sample.

If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 22 for use in your church or personally, then click the button below. The cost is only £12. You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer or tablet.

Please follow the instructions carefully. The Adobe pdf file is approximately 5 MB so it will take some time to download.

Spill the Beans Issue 22

Spill the Beans Issue 22Cover

Buy Now and Download

You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans blog, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too. There is also a facebook group in which we share ideas.

Print Copies

If you would like an additional printed copy of Spill the Beans, then this can be arranged. The cost is usually around £22+P&P and these can be arranged directly with the office at Ferryhill Parish Church. Note this cost is just for printing expenses. Each issue is in full colour and comb bound for ease of use. Please note we can only send these within the United Kingdom.

If you would like to order copies (which are all printed to order so there may be a short wait before you receive yours) then you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your order details. An invoice will be issued with dispatch of your order.

 

Memory Bridges

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Our Friendship Team has been exploring ways in which we might be able to minister more effectively to people with dementia. They have been looking at the work of the Living Well Project Cafés in Bridge of Don and Bucksburn which have been developing ways of helping people with dementia and their families and carers to find a safe and friendly space.

With this in mind, a friend happened to post on facebook the video above today. I had seen it before, but it powerfully reminded me why supporting people with dementia is such a valuable act of love.

In this profound video, Naomi Feil, a Jewish woman and founder of Validation Therapy, sings Christian hymns for Gladys Wilson, who has had Alzheimer's since 2000 and was unable to speak. Watch what happens at the end, when Mrs. Feil opens her heart and gives Gladys what she needs so deeply.

Spill the Beans, Issue 18

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Beans Issue 18

Christmas is just past and already eyes turn towards the next big festival in the church. Certainly my mind has been on it a lot over the last few weeks as the next issue of Spill the Beans has been coming together into its final form. Issue 18 covers the season of Lent, Easter all the way to Pentecost Sunday, 14 February 2016 to 15 May 2016 with ideas for Holy Week included in that.

A huge thank you to all the creative team who added their contributions for this issue. We are already working away on the summer issue at the moment, which is going to be packed!

For current Beanies you alread know what a fabulous resource this is, created by folks here in Scotland. If you have not yet, but are intrigued, have a look at this sample.

If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 18 for use in your church or personally, then click the button below. The cost is only £12. You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer (or share to your book library or Adobe Reader if you are using an iPad).

Please follow the instructions carefully. The Adobe pdf file is approximately 4 MB so it will take some time to download.

Spill the Beans Issue 18

Spill the Beans Issue 18 Cover

Buy Now and Download

You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans blog, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too. There is also a facebook group in which we share ideas.

Print Copies

If you would like a print copy of Spill the Beans, then this can be arranged. The cost is usually around £22+P&P and these can be arranged directly with the office at Ferryhill Parish Church. Each issue is in full colour and comb bound for ease of use.

If you would like to order copies (which are all printed to order so there may be a few days to wait before you receive yours) then you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your order details. An invoice will be issued with dispatch of your order.

 

Renault Zoe on Cairn o' Mount

EV Trekking

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Today I got a little ahead of my usual pattern and managed to get Sunday all organised. Tonight is the final presbytery meeting of the year, and I am hoping that it is not too long a meeting as I need to get an early night, for once!

It will be a very early start, hoping to leave around 6 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday 2 December) for a bit of a trek. I am heading back down to St Columba's Church of Scotland in London where I grew up, a place with many happy memories for me. They are having a special service on Thursday 3 December to mark the 60th Anniversary of the building. It was rebuilt after the Second World War, the original red brick building having been hit by incendiary bombs during the Blitz.

All very nice... but I have decided on a big experiment and I am going to drive down in my Renault Zoe electric car. As some of you will know, I am regularly down to the central belt of Scotland and that poses few problems. This is a bigger test and I am fascinated to see how it works. I am just about ready for the trip which will be a total of around 1,150 miles and will involve numerous stops along the way for me to recharge (hello caffeine!) and for Zoe to recharge (hello electrons!).

There are two reasons for wanting to do this. I am fascinated to see how well the charging network is operating across the whole length of the country to enable this kind of journey. I am also wanting to do this to show that this is entirely possible and getting easier all the time, knocking one of the big naysayer reasons for the adoption of much more efficient EVs: that they are only suitable as city cars.

Over the last two years I have been documenting my experiences of living with an electric vehicle through my YouTube channel here. This has been a record of what has been, and I will no doubt add to it after my journey. I have a wee following now who will demand this! But this time I will also be posting updates as I go. So... if you follow twitter you can follow my progress using #ALAevtrek. On facebook, you can do the same: #ALAevtrek.

My intention is to make it down to High Wycombe on Wednesday, then into London on Thursday and back to Aberdeen Thursday/Friday.

Wish me well...

 

Trump and Mussollini

Separated At Birth?

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Why do I do it to myself? Every four years I get sucked into the American election coverage. This year is no different, I am engaged with what is going on over in the States and yet we are a whole year away from the actual election, in which I cannot vote anyway! Though, we do have five American citizens in the house, which gives more substance to my fascination, even if I am the only person who is not a US citizen.

At the moment we are just at the early stages of selecting who will be the candidates in the election for each party. Early stages, pah! This has already been going on since before the summer.

As a relatively seasoned observer of US politics - and someone who watched in stunned amazement as George W Bush won a second term - this election cycle seems to be something altogether more desperate, fact-free, personal and, when you come right down to it, deeply repugnant.

Each new week and each new day we have seen new depths of political depravity trawled.

Spill the Beans, Issue 17, Incarnated

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Beans Issue 17

Not that many sleeps until Christmas... just saying! It also means a new issue of Spill the Beans has just been incarnated covering the season of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany up to Transfiguration Sunday, 29 November 2015 to 7 February 2016.

Note that issue 16 is still available (see the sidebar on the right) if you are wanting something to take you up to the end of this liturgical year, 22 November 2016.

In Issue 17 you will find the usual rich assortment of ideas and resources for worship and age groups. Have a particular look, if you are doing worship planning, at the ideas for a Blue Christmas service with a particular focus on helping people who have suffered recent loss to worship in this season.

A huge thank you to all the creative team who added their contributions for this issue. And, believe it or not, we have already had our two planning meetings to look ahead to Lent and Easter... that material is now being written.

For current Beanies you alread know what a fabulous resource this is, created by folks here in Scotland. If you have not yet, but are intrigued, have a look at this sample.

If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 17 for use in your church or personally, then click the button below. The cost is only £12. You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer (or share to your book library or Adobe Reader if you are using an iPad).

Please follow the instructions carefully. The Adobe pdf file is approximately 4 MB so it will take some time to download.

Spill the Beans Issue 17

Spill the Beans Issue 16 Cover

Buy Now and Download

You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans blog, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too. There is also a facebook group in which we share ideas.

Print Copies

If you would like a print copy of Spill the Beans, then this can be arranged. The cost is usually around £22+P&P and these can be arranged directly with the office at Lanark Greyfriars Church. Each issue is in full colour and comb bound for ease of use. We have had to raise the costs of the print copy from our initial issues as we have found the original costs were not covering the costs of producing the copies.

If you would like to order copies (which are all printed to order so there may be a few days to wait before you receive yours) then you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your order details. An invoice will be issued after dispatch of your order. If you prefer you can contact Greyfriars Church Office on 01555 661510 and place your order over the phone.

 

As Reliable As A Volkswagen

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Periodically this week I have been trying to work out why the church website had reverted to what is known as WSOD, aka the dreaded White Screen Of Death. You may not know how this website works, but it is based on what is called a content management system (CMS) comprising a large database containing all the information the website needs to create the content of the website plus thousands and thousands of support files that provide the framework for the content. Which is a complicated way of saying that it is not as simple as creating a Word document!

However, finally this evening with some friendly help from an online community I traced the problem to a particular part of the website. A swift payment to access their latest file updates and an update to our own site and hey presto it is back in business. The frustrating part of this was that all the while we could access the "behind the scenes" part of the website, it is just that the "front of house" bit that you all get to see was not accessible.

It has meant that a number of things I wanted to blog about have been passing me by over the past week or so. However, one of the subjects is not going to go away soon. I mentioned on Sunday morning when we were thinking about the power of names, that names can very easily become tainted by bad associations and in that light happened to touch on Volkswagen.