Peter's Blog

Flu fears

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Conceptual image of flu virus amongst cilia of lung

Here's a beautiful image (courtesy of National Geographic) of what it looks like deep down in your lungs when an influenza virus hits town. A friend of mine was around a week or two ago and was in a terrible state with nose running, and feeling miserable... he'd just had a flu injection. As an asthmatic myself, I am supposed to get a flu jab, but I've only done it once. The one winter I did get one I had the worst bout of flu I've ever had... a coincidence? Wasn't the flu jab supposed to stop that? 

You cannot be serious!

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Acquisition Document for HBOS

I had to laugh today to receive through the mail a weighty plastic-wrapped tome. It is the acquisition information for the proposed buyout of Halifax / Bank of Scotland by Lloyds TSB. What made me laugh was the first line in bold and capitalised text - so it must be really important - reading:


Okay, that is fine. Except this A4-sized document is 349 pages of dense legal language and financial tables! Why could they not send out an email with a pdf version and save a few forests so that those who really will read it can do so? I'm just annoyed that we missed our recycle bin this week! 

Partnerships: Owen and Mzee

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Rev Eleanor McMahon addressing Network Paisley meeting

On Tuesday night I made a flying visit to presbytery to hand off some papers for the Parish Development Committee (which I should have been convening, thank you to Gordon Palmer for stepping in at short notice), before heading over to Paisley where I was going to meet with the Kirk Sessions from St James's, Wallneuk North, and the Management Group of St Ninian's.

It was good to catch up with old friends, Bill & Erica Wishart and Eleanor McMahon, and indeed Bill sends his best wishes to everyone in St Andrew's. 

Onward Christian Soldiers?

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Macabre Worship Centre

I just don't know what to say... truly gobsmacked!

The artist who created it is Kris Kuksi, more about him here.

bios [bible]

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bios [bible] at work

I read today about an extraordinary art installation in Germany that has been set up using an industrial robot to scribe all 66 books of the Bible. The art projects leaders write:

The machine draws the calligraphic lines with high precision. Like a monk in the scriptorium it creates step by step the text.

Starting with the old testament and the books of Moses ‘bios [bible]’ produces within seven month continuously the whole book. All 66 books of the bible are written on rolls and then retained and presented in the library of the installation.

People power

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A banner at a rally in Florida

It's been a rather frustrating evening trying to get one of the videos working on our laptop for tomorrow's service. However, all is now well, though I will have an early start to write some notes for the sermon.

However, before heading to bed I had a quick look through some of my regular blogs and was particularly struck by the image above. 

Bubblegum and fluff goes musical

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Earlier in the day, don't ask me why, a wee ditty entered my head as I was thinking about our upcoming event "Bubblegum 'n' Fluff" that I am co-organising with the other chaplains for the local primary schools. I forgot about it but after picking up all the kids from school we were sitting in a queue at Sainsbury's for the car wash and it popped back into my head so I got all the kids singing along.

We tried working out a verse and Sophia did a great job with some lines, so when we got back I fleshed it out a bit. I'm not sure if we'll use it for the event as we already have two great songs by Ian White and Stephen Fischbacher lined up - but it is always fun creating something new. 

This little light of mine

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This Sunday our theme is going to be taken from the lectionary passage 1st Thessalonians 5: 1-11 which talks about living as Children of the Light. I thought we might sing the old favourite "This little light of mine" and found this fantastic version sung by my fave performer, Bruce Springsteen - pure dead brilliant. Turn up the volume and sing along!

A big hole in the ground

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The Grand Canyon

I've been invited to speak to Hillhouse Guild this evening. I thought I would show a video I made of a trip to the Grand Canyon way back in October 2002. We only had two children back then, and they were just 3 and 1 at the time. I watched the video again last night and was gobsmacked at how quickly time marches on.

I guess we see that writ large in the glorious shapes, colours and layers of the Grand Canyon, but also on the smaller scale in our own lives.

We'll have a wee quiz about the Grand Canyon tonight and then I'll talk through our whirlwind 2,200 mile car journey over three days.... I had looked at the map and throught Denver to the Grand Canyon didn't look that far - wow, was I ever wrong!

Still, the images from Arizona and what the girls described as "just a big hole in the ground" are unforgettable.


A New Day

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A flavour of the excitement and relief for the majority of the population in the USA (and, let's be honest, for many more of us around the world!) courtesy of


Written by Peter Johnston on .

Keyboard and tracker

I'm in a mild state of grief... my beloved trackball and keyboard had a rather unfortunate incident with a cup of tea and both are goosed. Aargh.

As someone who uses the computer a lot I bought both of these many years ago knowing they were ergonomically sound and I have got very used to them over the past ten years or so. True enough I have never had any aches or pains when using them - reverting back to a normal keyboard brings on aches within an hour or so. I've switched from Microsoft to Logitech for the new keyboard and mouse. Here's hoping they last as long - and do not drown in tea...

Remembrance Day

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Act of Remembrance at High Blantyre

As is the usual tradition, in the afternoon of Remembrance Sunday we had two services at the local war memorials in High Blantyre and further up the hill at Auchentibber.

Rev Jim Hunter and I led the short service in High Blantyre this year (thanks to Steve Younger for producing the booklets) and the turnout was great especially considering the atrocious weather. As I led one of the readings hail started coming down!  

Moderator visits Blantyre

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Moderator visits David Livingstone Centre

Today the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev David Lunan and his wife Maggie, visited Blantyre to take a tour of the David Livingstone Centre - a museum built to commemorate Blantyre's most famous son, the medic, explorer and missionary Dr David Livingstone.

Pictured above from left to right: Richard Wilson, Rev Fiona Wilson (soon to be ordained and inducted to Livingstone Memorial Parish Church), David Watt (Moderator of Hamilton Presbytery), Rt Rev David Lunan, Nora Izett (Livingstone Memorial Parish Church), Maggie Lunan, Rev Norman McKee (Depute Clerk of Presbytery), David Barrie (trustee of David Livingstone Centre), myself and Ian Proudfoot (Blantyre Old Parish Church). 

How and what do we remember?

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Jonathan Bartley has a challenging piece on Ekklesia about Remembrance and the notion of Just War - which has been on exceedingly thin ice as an idea in recent years following the debacle of Iraq. Here's part of the article below the jump.

The world is but a stage...

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Puppet Staging

I wrote some time ago about a great new Christmas event that the local school chaplains (or, to give us our proper title, the Calderside Learning Community Chaplaincy Team, la di da!) are working on for Christmas: Bubblegum & Fluff. The plans are now really coming together and this event for P6 children in all the feeder primary schools to Calderside Academy is going to be a lot of fun as we explore the Christmas Story and why the Incarnation of God in Jesus is important to us all today.

When we worked out the budget on Monday of this week we realised it was going to add up pretty fast when you are talking about more than 300 children and providing crafts and all kinds of other things for them. I applied for a grant from the Church of Scotland to cover some of the costs and we were given a generous amount to cover the costs over what we were going to contribute locally. Thanks to the Mission & Discipleship Council!

A repudiation of violence?

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Tree of Life

The picture above is of a sculpture called the Tree of Life that was made a few years ago in Mozambique out of weapons that had been given up by the people in exchange for tools like shovels, ploughs, sewing machines and bicycles making the Micah prophecy a reality in that country.

They shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks.
(Micah 4:3)

The Christian Council of Mozambique have been supporting this work following the terrible civil war that lasted seventeen years. Although it ended in 1992 the country is still awash with weapons. It can take a long time to transition from a culture of violence to a culture of peace. 

Oooh! Aaah!

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Comet between fireworks and lightning

I just about managed to take a day off today, the first in quite a while. Come to think about it I did spend an hour or so answering emails and phone messages, so perhaps not so good after all.

The kids spent a good deal of the early evening staring out of the windows at all the fireworks going off (and no, not for Obama! It is Guy Fawke's Night here in the UK which is always celebrated with fireworks) with the universal response to fireworks: "Oooh!", "Aaah!" 

History Maker

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Carolyn and I have broken out the champagne as Barack Obama has just been "called" as the president-elect of the United States. It is truly a transformative moment for the United States and, I hope, for the world.

We're watching hundreds of thousands of people gathered together in Chicago to celebrate what the people have done. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to be an African-American tonight. Many thought this moment would never come.

Obama has described himself as a part of the Joshua generation refering to Moses' march to the Promised Land, which Moses never completed himself, leaving it to Joshua to bring God's people to the end of the journey. Martin Luther King Jnr on the day before he was assassinated in a speech said:

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop.

And I don't mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

Martin Luther King Jnr did not make it. But I have the feeling that in some way, particularly for African-Americans but perhaps for all of us, we've taken a step closer to a better world tonight.

Now my prayers are with Barack Obama as he prepares for the biggest challenge of his life.


Moderator visits Presbytery

Written by Peter Johnston on .


Instead of a regular business meeting of presbytery tonight we mark the start of a two week long visit to Hamilton Presbytery by Rt Rev David Lunan, the current Moderator of the Church of Scotland, with a service at New Wellwynd church in Airdrie. I'm looking forward to hearing what David has to say.

If you missed it, David has been in the press this week raising some controversy after what I suspect has been a rather selective quote from David on China's birth policy.

After the service I am heading straight for an Indian takeout before settling in for the night with the TV and laptop to watch the results from the US come in...