Monday, 31 January 2011

Another Brick in the Wall

I was listening to random music on my mp3 player, tracks I had not listened to in ages. It played the song, another brick in the wall. I had not heard that song in ages but it started the wheels turning in my mind. I remembered a story I was told a long time ago of a true event, a story I want to share with you today, but first let me put it into a context.

I was finding that as I grew older I was travelling the same road as so many others. I was becoming the grumpy. Now when that happens something else happens, you begin to see all of life from your own perspective. So you no longer see the young lads having fun in the back field with their scrambler bikes, all you hear is the noise of the engines. The next thing is you begin to ask if they are insured are they old enough etc. I had to do something about that, get back to seeing the good side of things, be able to enjoy it with them. This story played its part.

A young and very successful executive named Andy was travelling down a busy neighbourhood street. He was going a bit too fast in his sleek, black, 12 cylinder Jaguar XKE, which was only two months old.

He was driving with some care, watching for kids running out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no child darted out, but a brick sailed out and with an almighty bang smashed into the Jag's shiny black side door!

He slammed on the brakes hammered the gears into reverse, and reversed the Jaguar back to the spot from where the brick had been thrown. He jumped out of the car, grabbed the kid and pushed him up against a parked car. He shouted at the kid, "What was that all about and who are you? Just what do you think you are you doing?!"

Building up a head of steam, he went on. "That's my new Jag, that brick you threw is going cost you a lot of money. Why did you throw it?"

"Please, mister, please. . . I'm sorry! I didn't know what else to do!" pleaded the young lad. "I threw the brick because no one else would stop!" Tears were dripping down the boy's chin as he pointed around the parked car. "It's my brother, mister," he said. "He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can't lift him up." Sobbing, the boy asked Andy, "Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He's hurt and he's too heavy for me, I need to get him home"

Moved beyond words, Andy tried desperately to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. Straining, he lifted the young man back into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts, checking to see that everything was going to be OK. He then watched the younger brother push him down the street towards their home.

It was a long walk back to the sleek, black, shining, 12 cylinder Jaguar XKE -a long and slow walk. Andy never did fix the dent in his Jaguar. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at him to get his attention.

Some bricks are softer than others. We need to feel for the bricks of life coming at us. For every negative there is in life, with a little thought and time we can see that there is also a positive.

This is the way of the Tao.

This blog is linked to my other.  The Wall

Friday, 28 January 2011

The Source Of Happiness

This week on out morning television programme, which I do my best to avoid, they have been running a slot on how to find happiness. This is because out new prime minister has appointed, would you believe it, a minister of happiness. The fact that they are reducing the cash available to every aspect of life may have been what inspired this thought. How do we keep people happy?

Today, while I drank my early morning cup of coffee this slot appeared. Every day the presenter has advised meditation and making a point of telling somebody something to make them happy. Every day when he mentions the meditation he very quickly points out that the meditation he means is meditation without religion. He then goes on to say that it is not religious but, “Mindfulness Meditation”.

Now just to set the record straight, Mindfulness Meditation was first put forward as a theory by Lao Tzu, it was further developed in 500BC by Buddha. At the same time in China it was being taught as the way to peace and harmony by Confucius. I watched a film about his life last night, in Chinese and dubbed, but a moving story. So far from it being non religious it has it beginnings and growth in the religions of the Far East.

I have mentioned this n this blog so many times in different ways. It is the art of training the mind to take bad thoughts and turn them into good ones. My day begins each day with just such a session.

A true event I heard about and share with you began with a phone call from a son to his mother. He called his parents from San Francisco to ask if it would be alright to bring his friend home with him. They were returning from the Vietnam war. Without thinking the mother replied, “Of course I would love to meet your friend.”

He then went on to say "There's something you should know , "he was hurt pretty badly in the fighting. He stepped on a land mind and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come live with us."

The mother telling the tale all these years later said it was the best thing that ever happened to her home. He was a man who only ever saw the best in people and situations and he changed her life. He practised mindfulness.

A friend said something to me yesterday that is still making me smile today.

Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed They lend an ear, they share a word of praise, and they always want to open their hearts to us.

They practice the ancient religious way of Mindfulness. Wow I am feeling better I have got that off my chest.

This blog is linked to my other.  The Dance Of The Fireflies

Thursday, 27 January 2011

I Am A Teacher.

As I sit here today looking back, oh no not again, it strikes me I might have problems if I ever went on a quiz programme. I watched one last night just before my evening meal. What struck me were the number of people who introduced themselves in the following way. My name is John Smith I am 69 and a retired banker. Now can somebody please tell me what does a retired banker do? What does a retired lawyer do? I suppose they do the same kind of things I do with my day. So in reality if we are all doing the same things we could be retired whatever we want to be.

As some of you know I left school at the early age of 15 to begin work in an abattoir and butchers. I did that for a few years then got my life in gear and went to university to become a minister of religion. Having done that for some time I re-entered university to become a teacher of world religions and philosophy.

So as I stood on the platform of the quiz game what would I be a retired butcher, killer, minister or teacher? Would I have the nerve to claim to be an artist.

These thoughts were brought to my mind when yesterday my friend happened to say to me he would not like to have to write my CV. Because he would also have to include things like prison chaplain, hospital and school chaplain and magistrate.

So I found myself asking just who on earth am I and what would I want remembered for. So I googled all of the things I have listed above, (yes I am guilty of wasting time) to see which looked best. During the process I found this little gem and I just had to share it with you. Especially those of you who are teachers.

1872 Instructions to Teachers

1.Teachers will fill lamps, clean chimneys and trim wicks each day.

2. Each teacher will bring a scuttle of coal and a bucket of water for the day's use.

3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs for the individual tastes of children.

4. Men teachers may take one evening a week for courting purposes or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.

5. After ten hours in the school the teacher should spend the remaining time reading the Bible and other good books.

6. Women teachers who marry or engage in other unseemly conduct will be dismissed.

7. Every teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reasons to suspect his worth, intentions, integrity and honesty.

8. The teacher who performs his labours faithfully without fault for five years will be give an increase of 25 cents a week in his pay - providing the Board of Education approves.

Now this made me realise that first and foremost I am glad I was a teacher but so happy I did not have any of the above rules.

I hope this just starts your day off with a little smile as it did for me when I found it. Two of them made me smile even more than the rest what one did you like most?

This blog is linked to my other.  Spring Will Come Again

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Building Bridges

I have a very good friend who for the past month and maybe more has been helping her grandson on a school project, building model bridges. Yesterday the bridge was completed and her grandson put it to the test. His bridge failed something wrong in the construction or was it in the design. She tells me he was very disappointed.

This reminds me of a story most of you will already have heard, but it is a good story to hear again so I make no apologies for repeating it today, if even just for the grandson.

In 1883, a creative engineer named John Roebling was inspired by an idea to build a spectacular bridge connecting New York with the Long Island. However bridge building experts throughout the world thought that this was an impossible feat and told Roebling to forget the idea. It just could not be done. It was not practical. It had never been done before.

Roebling could not ignore the vision he had in his mind of this bridge. He thought about it all the time and he knew deep in his heart that it could be done. He just had to share the dream with someone else. After much discussion and persuasion he managed to convince his son Washington, an up and coming engineer, that the bridge in fact could be built.

Working together for the first time, the father and son developed concepts of how it could be accomplished and how the obstacles could be overcome. With great excitement and inspiration, and the headiness of a wild challenge before them, they hired their crew and began to build their dream bridge.

The project started well, but when it was only a few months underway a tragic accident on the site took the life of John Roebling. Washington was injured and left with a certain amount of brain damage, which resulted in him not being able to walk or talk or even move.

"We told them so."

"Crazy men and their crazy dreams."

"It`s foolish to chase wild visions."

Everyone had a negative comment to make and felt that the project should be scrapped since the Roebling’s were the only ones who knew how the bridge could be built. In spite of his handicap Washington was never discouraged and still had a burning desire to complete the bridge and his mind was still as sharp as ever.

He tried to inspire and pass on his enthusiasm to some of his friends, but they were too daunted by the task. As he lay on his bed in his hospital room, with the sunlight streaming through the windows, a gentle breeze blew the flimsy white curtains apart and he was able to see the sky and the tops of the trees outside for just a moment.

It seemed that there was a message for him not to give up. Suddenly an idea hit him. All he could do was move one finger and he decided to make the best use of it. By moving this, he slowly developed a code of communication with his wife.

He touched his wife's arm with that finger, indicating to her that he wanted her to call the engineers again. Then he used the same method of tapping her arm to tell the engineers what to do. It seemed foolish but the project was under way again.

For 13 years Washington tapped out his instructions with his finger on his wife's arm, until the bridge was finally completed. Today the spectacular Brooklyn Bridge stands in all its glory as a tribute to the triumph of one man's indomitable spirit and his determination not to be defeated by circumstances. It is also a tribute to the engineers and their team work, and to their faith in a man who was considered mad by half the world. It stands too as a tangible monument to the love and devotion of his wife who for 13 long years patiently decoded the messages of her husband and told the engineers what to do.

Perhaps this is one of the best examples of a never-say-die attitude that overcomes a terrible physical handicap and achieves an impossible goal.

Often when we face obstacles in our day-to-day life, our hurdles seem very small in comparison to what many others have to face. The Brooklyn Bridge shows us that dreams that seem impossible can be realised with determination and persistence, no matter what the odds are.

I think of this story often as I run under Scotlands most famous bridge "The Forth Rail Bridge." and impressive building that even Jerry would have been proud to be a part of.

This blog is linked to my other  I Am All At Sea

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

We All Need Something.

Like all towns and villages, where I live has its number of people who are out of work , out of homes and to be honest out of life. There are a number I know well and when I see them, if I can I will give them a little something. I do not ask if it will be used for soup or beer. I used to, until I decided that if I was homeless and jobless I would not want to be told what to do with the little bit of dignity I might have left. I have got to know some of these fellows and have heard some of what brought them to the point they are at and I have no right to judge them.

I was walking along the main street with a painting under my arm. A painting I had hung, had sold, and I was about to collect the payment and hang another of my works. I was feeling good, in fact sad to say I was feeling rather proud. Right in front of the place I was going there is a park bench. On this day there sat a man who could be decribed as a tramp, very easily. His clothes were shabby, his hair was unkempt and his beard looked as if it could do with a clean and trim. I did notice he was neither smoking or drinking, as most of the homeless I know do.

As I approached i was ready for the begging words. “Could you spare some loose change?” or words to that effect. I have to be honest and admit that it fleeting crossed my mind to try and avoid making eye contact with him. I did not know him and he did not know me, so no need for me to acknowledge his presence.

As I approached I waited, but it never came. I was wearing my painting top and the picture under my arm was obvious. As I drew near he spoke. At first I wondered what his line was going to be. He spoke about the abstract I was carrying, it seemed he liked abstract art. We spoke about the painting and some others he had liked. All the time I was waiting for his request, but it never came. I was about to leave and found myself asking, “Do you need any help?”.

His reply caught me off guard completely, “Dont we all mate, dont we all.”

I was feeling high and mighty, successful and important, above atramp

in the street, until those three words hit me like a sledge hammer.

Don't we all?

I needed help. Maybe not for bus fare or a place to sleep, but I

needed help. I reached into my pocket and gave him a portion of the money I was about to collect. I was not sure what he would spend it on and it mattered not.

Those three little words still ring true. No matter how much you have, no matter how much you have accomplished, you need help too. No matter how little you have, no matter how loaded you are with problems, even without money or a place to sleep, you can give help.

Even if it's just a compliment, you can give that. You never know when you may see someone that appears to have it all.

They just might be waiting on you to give them what they don't have. A different perspective on life, a glimpse at something beautiful, a respite from daily chaos, that only you through a torn world can see.

Maybe the man was just a homeless stranger wanderingth streets.

Maybe, just maybe, he was a bit more than that.

This blog is linked to my other. Dont Look Back

Monday, 24 January 2011

Blessing in Strangest Places

Before I get into this blog today I want to give a thousand apologies to those who take the time to read my blogs and make comment and even go so far as to email me. I have had, to say the least a terrible week since my last post. Firstly I was out walking and was feeling terrible, I could not move and struggled to get home. Not at a pleasant experience. I was told I had a virus, not that this information was much comfort.

During the few days I was feeling unwell I kept getting emails telling me that my virus subscriptions for my computer were not up to date. I found that somewhat funny. Anyway I updated the subscription and the company told me to download the latest version of the software, which I did. Sadly it ws not working correctly. I contacted the company and was told it would not be a problem they would take control of my computr and put it right. Before I knew where I was my computer was more ill than I was. IN fact it had died. The only way to solve it was to reinstall the operating system, which of course lost me all my existing software, my favourites list, all my passwords, pictures that I had as yet not backed up and a grea tmany documents.  So this morning I am still in the stage of trying to rebuild it. As yet no access to any artwork so I apologise. 

I am sure that out of all of this something good will come. It is so often the way that good comes when you least expect it and in the strangest of ways. Like in the following short story.

A young man was getting ready to graduate college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealer's showroom, and knowing his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted.

As Graduation Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the morning of his graduation his father called him into his private study. His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son, and told him how much he loved him. He handed his son
a beautiful wrapped gift box.

Curious, but somewhat disappointed the young man opened the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible. Angrily, he raised his voice at his father and said, "With all your money you give me a Bible?" and stormed out of the house, leaving the holy book.

Many years passed and the young man was very successful in business. He had a beautiful home and wonderful family, but realized his father was very old, and thought perhaps he should go to him. He had not seen him since that graduation day. Before he could make arrangements, he received a telegram telling him his father had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to his son. He needed to come home immediately and take care things.

When he arrived at his father's house, sudden sadness and regret filled his heart. He began to search his father's important papers and saw the still new Bible, just as he had left it years ago. With tears, he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages. As he read those words, a car key dropped from an envelope taped behind the Bible. It had a tag with the dealer's name, the same dealer who had the
sports car he had desired. On the tag was the date of his graduation, and the words...PAID IN FULL.

It is true that often surprises come in the least expected of packages.

This blog is linked to my other. Friends at Heart are Worth Having

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Man With No Ears.

I have been overwhelmed as ever with the support and kind words of fellow bloggers, words I do not deserve. To put some minds at rest I think I have solved the problem I was facing in how to respond to the person who let us down so badly.

I will say no more about the matter other than to share with you a lovely story that I do not think I have told you before. I have twice had the joy of meeting new members to my family. The birth of my daughter and my son. Neither of them were born to perfection. My daughter was inflicted with my bent little fingers. When I was a young boy they wanted to break them and reset them but I still have them to this day and they have not got in my way. My son was born with a birthmark that early in his life resulted in the loss of an eye. Both of them in their imperfections are the absolute joy and love of my life. To me they are all that any father could ever ask for.

So to the story.

"Can I see my baby?" the happy new mother asked. When the bundle was nestled in her arms and she moved the fold of cloth to look upon his tiny face, she gasped. The baby had been born without ears. Time proved that the baby's hearing was perfect. It was only his appearance that was marred.

When he rushed home from school one day and flung himself into his mother's arms, she sighed, knowing that his life was to be a succession of heartbreaks.

He blurted out the tragedy. "A boy, a big boy ... called me a freak."

He grew up, handsome for his misfortune. He developed a gift, a talent for literature and music. "But you might mingle with other young people," his mother reproved him, but felt a kindness in her heart.

The boy's father had a session with the family physician. Could nothing be done? "I believe I could graft on a pair of outer ears, if they could be procured," the doctor decided.

Whereupon the search began for a person who would make such a sacrifice for a young man. Two years went by.

Then, "You are going to the hospital, Son. Mother and I have someone who will donate the ears you need. But it's a secret," said the father. The operation was a brilliant success, and a new person emerged. His talents blossomed into genius, and school and college became a series of triumphs. Later he married and entered the diplomatic service. "But I must know!" He urged his father, "Who gave so much for me? I

could never do enough for him." "I do not believe you could," said the father, "but the agreement was that you are not to know, not yet."

The years kept their profound secret, but the day did come ... one of the darkest days that a son must endure. He stood with his father over his mother's casket. Slowly, tenderly, the father stretched forth a hand and raised the thick, reddish-brown hair to reveal that the mother had no outer ears.

"Mother said she was glad she never let her hair be cut," he whispered gently, "and nobody ever thought Mother less beautiful, did they?"

Real beauty lies not in the physical appearance, but in the heart. Real treasure lies not in what that can be seen, but what that cannot be seen. Real love lies not in what is done and known, but in what that is done but not known.

This blog is linked to my other. My Paintings Seem To Be Like Buses

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Who I Am Says More Than Anything I Ever Say.

Before I being today I have to say thanks to all who offered advice yesterday. What I failed to say though was that this friend was violent towards the wife of a very close friend. This adds a dimension that makes things difficult. It will come out right.

When I decided to give up being a parish minister and enter the world of education I was also a prison chaplain. When I left the ministry the prison asked me if I would stay on as chaplain for as long as I could. It gave them time to find the right person for the post. (They did not want to make the same mistake twice. Ha Ha). I was happy to do it, it meant fitting it into a tight schedule and a longer drive to get to and from the prison.

As each class entered my room I began every lesson with the same words. I waited until they were all seated and quiet, I looked at each of them and smiled, and asked them how their day was going. One day a young lad in the class said he was having a bad day, he then went on to ask how it was I never seemed to have bad days. “How come you are always smiling and laughing?” he asked me. I replied, “Because I choose to be happy.”

I noticed the class looking at me so I offered to explain. I told them of the day I was driving to the prison. Two prisoners had asked to see me that night and it seemed important that I made the effort to answer the request. As I drove to the prison my car refused to go any further. I was able to park it on the grass verge by pushing it, and I made my way to the prison on foot. When I arrived I explained to the officer on gate duty what had happened. I told him it was my lucky day, and asked if he could call a friend whom I was sure would be able to repair my car for me where it was.

The officer said he would but then commented, “How the hell can this be your lucky day? Your car broke down you had to walk, now you need to hope it can be fixed.” I said to him, “But it broke down within walking distance, I was able to leave it in a safe place and I do have a friend who may well get it going, things could have been a great deal worse when you consider it.” He looked at me and said, “Well I would not be calling it my lucky day.”

I was able to visit with the two prisoners, and was so glad I had made the effort because they seemed glad I had, and their problems seemed less worrying when I left.

I looked at the faces of my students. Some were puzzled, others were smiling but they were all listening. Somehow the story had touched them, or maybe it was nothing to do with the story. A wise man once said, “Who you are speaks louder to me than anything you can say.” Maybe that is the way of Tao.

This blog is linked to my other where I discuss the artwork used here. Fractured Worlds

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

A Foot Has No Nose

I am in the midst of a terrible dilemma, one that I do not think I can come out other than feeling a loser. I had a friend, one I considered a very close friend and together with two other friends we had a great quartet who met regularly and laughed and socialised. One day there was a difference of opinion and he left, but not before he had caused a considerable amount of grief and trouble to my dear friends. I could hardly believe how vindictive a person could be. He got married and for sometime we heard nothing.

Now I have had a call from him. His wife has left him and he has had a leg amputated. He wants me to go and see him. I have thought and thought and am in the horns of a dilemma. I am sure that if I go and see him the knock on will be to make my already ill friend even more stressed and that in turn may exacerbate his illness.

This reminded me of the old African wisdom story, and I spent a lot of time yesterday going over and over the story seeking a way out of my dilemma. Let me share It with you, in the hope that you find it as interesting as I do. You may even find it a story to hold onto as helpful.

The story tells of an occasion where a mother sent her son to the main road, about twenty yards away from the homestead, to invite a passing group of seasonal work-seekers home for a meal. She instructed him to take a container along and collect dry cow dung for making a fire. He was then to prepare the meal for the group of work-seekers.

The thought of making an open fire outside at midday, cooking in a large three-legged pot in that intense heat, was sufficient to upset even an angel. The son did not manage to conceal his feelings from his mother and, after serving the group, she called him to the veranda where she usually sat sewing and knitting.

Looking straight into the eyes of her son she said "Tsholofelo, why did you sulk when I requested you to prepare a meal for those poor destitute people?"

Despite his attempt to deny her allegation, and using the heat of the fire and the sun as an excuse for his alleged behaviour,his mother, gave him a firm look, and said ""Lonao ga lo na nko" - "A foot has no nose". It means: you cannot detect what trouble may lie ahead of you.

Had he denied this group of people a meal, it may have happened that, in his future travels , he may have found himself at the mercy of those very individuals. As if that was not enough to shame him, his mother continued: "Motho ke motho ka motho yo mongwe". The literal meaning: "A person is a person because of another person".

We are all what we are and whom we are because of how we treat other people.

This blog is linked to my other.  The Conspiritors (11)

Monday, 17 January 2011

I Am The Invisible Man.

I remember when I was a young lad how I looked to my father as a super hero. I remember the Saturday evenings when he took to the cinema. On the way home he would race me, from the cinema all the way home. Seemed like a mighty long way at the time, I now know it was about a mile and a half. I was probably about 7 or 8 which would make my father about 47 or 48. I cannot ever remember beating him home. Every time I would think this time I will make it, then just at the last minute he would sweep past me. He was a very fit and very proud man and I thought he was a wonder. He was in fact a fairly ordinary man, who painted navel boats in the dockyard.

Some years later when we were out walking together, I challenged him to lift a log. I managed it, he struggled, age was beginning to take its toll. The years of hard work were showing on him. A few days later I saw him in the back garden of our home lifting weights, determined not to give in. He worked till he was 70 years old then had a stroke and could no longer talk or walk without difficulty. It was sad to see.

So why am I telling you this? Well I am more aware of what was happening to him as I become the invisible man. It started some time ago, my becoming invisible. I would go into shops and the young assistant would notice the young people and serve them before me as I was not there. My having a damaged voice also means that in company it is very easy to become the invisible guest. Yesterday I was at a ruby wedding celebration, music playing loads of people chatting and I felt like the invisible man. When you cannot speak above the noise it is easy to be ignored and invisible.

I think had I not taken up painting and began to get noticed around the place as the artist, I might have gone the way of so many, slipped into oblivion. The invisible man.

Now before I become too emotional or depressive let me tell you what made me think about this. I was looking at the bride of 40years and then I saw her daughter and then her sons. In them I could see that she had been quietly building a beautiful future and contribution to tomorrow. I thought of the year I has spent working on the building of the beautiful Abbey of Iona. Like many others I played my part and years from now it will still be there. I will, like many others, not be listed among the builders but I my little part will be in there playing its part in the wonder.

I also hope that just some of the things I hold important will live on in my family, that I have been quietly building and nourishing. Maybe also, just maybe, one of my paintings will last and make me less invisible.

We are surrounded by invisible people and today I am off to unmask a few. I bet I will learn from their wisdom.

This blog is linked to my other    The sands Of Time Move Ever Onward

Friday, 14 January 2011

Shipwrecked Lost and Found

It has indeed been a very memorable week. It started just like the ones before until I ran on Monday morning. I managed to knock minutes off my fastest time for that particular run, and something even then told me it was going to be a good week. In the course of the week I knocked a further three minutes of that distance. I also managed to paint two paintings that I felt fairly happy with, and there is still today. Who knows I just might manage another one today.

I also managed to sell four paintings in the course of the week, three that I had almost given up on ever selling.

But more importantly last week had ended with some of my fellow bloggers emailing me. Those emails lifted my spirits no end. Made me look again at the last blog I had written only to find a whole host of messages had been left for me.

It is no wonder that sitting here today admitting I am a year older I am still feeling very good about life. Remind me of the story of the man who was shipwrecked and all alone on a small island.

Every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions. But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost, even his one or two personal items that had become so important to him, were gone.

He was stung with grief and anger. "Why oh why is this happening to me?" he cried. He had what I call a bout of the, “poor me’s.”

Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. "How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man of his rescuers. "We saw your smoke signal," they replied.

It is easy to get discouraged when things are going bad. But we shouldn't lose heart, because with the help of friends the truth is, it can only get better when you are down.

Remember next time your little hut is burning to the ground- - it just may be a smoke signal that summons the love of friends.

Today will be a great day, even if I paint nothing but bin fodder.

I have added one of the paintings that sold to this blog and will show it and the other three on my other blog.   Four Sales

Thursday, 13 January 2011


I was remembering some of the events in life that made me laugh the simple little things that meant much to me and something else to others. One such incident was when my son began to learn reading and writing. The first word he learned was the word, “Look”. This word began appearing on every bit of spare paper. Then one Sunday morning I arrived home from conducting an early morning service at the prison. As I drove up the drive towards the church there on the front of the wall in large very visible letters were two words, emblazoned in chalk, “Look, God.”

He had been at it again, showing off his writing skills. Some of the members of the congregation were more concerned about how the words were to be removed than thinking about what my son was maybe trying to tell them. I acted all serious but inwardly I had to smile.

Some weeks later my study was being decorated. New wallpaper was being hung to brighten the place up. When I arrived home from some visits I was met at the door by my daughter. “Dad you are not going to like what Ross has done now.” When I asked what he had been up to she informed me he had written on the study wallpaper. No, I was not going to like what he had done now. In anger I stormed up the stairs to the study. I opened the door. True enough the walls were written on in crayon. The words read, “I love my dad.”

The words were still there on the wall when I left that church to move to another parish. Every time I sat down to prepare for a meeting or to prepare myself for conducting Sunday worship I saw them. They were words that touched my inner being like few words could.

It is wonderful when somebody whom you hold dear takes the time to let you know that you also hold a special place in their life.

I often wonder if I do it often enough.

This blog is linked to my other. Friends At Heart

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Who Packs Your Parachute.

I had a strange and thought provoking moment yesterday, apart from the wonderful experience of throwing paint about. I was feeling good, having painted something I liked so I headed off to share it with my old pal Archie. Now when I think of it that was not the best thing to do, abstract art flies over his head, he much prefers paintings like the squirrel that he knows what they are.

Anyway, as we stood, I overheard somebody say, “What is he going on about running for; silly old git needs a stick to walk.” I could feel the hair at the back of my neck rise. I had to count to ten, before going over and quietly telling them that he had ever right to talk about running. I pointed out he was now in his eighties, and still walking everyday, even if it was with the aid of a stick. I also told them that he had once run ten miles to work and ten miles home every day. My last parting words were, “Think about that the next time you light up a cigarette, and ask yourself if you will.”

This incident reminded me of the story of the war fighter air pilot, Charles Plumb.

He was a US Naval jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy lands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lives happily with his wife.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, "You're Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!"

"How in the world did you know that?" asked Plumb. "I packed your parachute," the man replied.

Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, "I guess it worked!" Plumb assured him, "It sure did. If your chute hadn't worked, I wouldn't be here today."

Plumb couldn't sleep that night, thinking about that man. He still says, "I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform: A white hat, a bib in the back, and bell bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said good morning,

how are you or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot, and he was just a sailor."

Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn't know.

This story reminds me to remember each day that what ever it is I manage to accomplish it is because there are others in the background encouraging me and giving me support. Packing my parachute!

They are the ones who help me physically and emotionally as well as mentally, some of you are reading this blog right now. Thank you for packing my parachute. Now today ask yourself, who is packing yours?

The artwork here is discussed on my other blog:  Soaring Thoughts and Musical Moments

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

I Am Overwhelmed.

I have to begin this blog today by repeating the header I have given it, “I am Overwhelmed,” that so many have been in touch asking me where I am and how I am. I can only give my heartfelt thanks to you all for your kind words.
Life here has been difficult; we have had a tremendous amount of snow. This has meant that a great deal of time is spent trying to keep access to our street open. I live at the top of a very steep hill with a very narrow road leading up. This means that we get no help with snow movers or gritting machines. So much of my time has been taken up helping neighbours move snow, making sure everybody is well and have all that they need.

I have been managing to run, much to the amazement of many. I had thought that the blogging was one of the things that I could lay aside. I was so sure that it had run its course, but it seems that maybe I was wrong on this. I will therefore start thinking again about putting up a few new entries.

I have not had much time for painting, so again I felt a bit of a fraud contributing to blogs on the topic of art. Today I have been working on a small abstract, if I feel it is worthy I will get back to sharing some of these with you.

This week I will hit the ripe old age of 67, rather frightening, I do not feel a day over 25. I have set myself a challenge for this year, to run up and down Scotland’s highest mountain in under three hours. It normally takes people five hours to reach the summit.

I have added a small pastel at the top of today’s blog, it has an interesting little story behind it which I will share on my other blog.

The artwork on this blog is discussed at my other blog. The Squirrel