Sights and smells can summon sharp memories! Waterside’s horse chestnut trees are almost bare again, having shed another heavy harvest of ‘conkers’. Back, when I were a lad in Largs, many autumn afternoons, after school, I crossed Noddle Burn to Netherhall in search of these brown nuggets, launching sticks high to knock them from their branch shies. Such was our determination to bag the best booty that we sometimes climbed to shake the biggest conkers to the ground. One day a friend and I pulled our lithe teenage frames across a thick branch to its perilous end, where thinner branches hung their rounded ‘Desperate Dan’ spikey green faces, brown conker lips pouting from their cracked smiles. Suddenly Graeme slipped and clung for dear life by one hand, dangling 50 feet up. I’d never prayed so desperately as I did at that moment, unashamedly crying for God’s help as I stretched to catch my mate’s other hand and help him back onto the main branch. All while Alan below gutted himself with laughter, securely rooted on terra firma.

This was one of at least five times when I’ve diced with death or serious injury, the others involving electricity, a bike and cars. It is sobering to see how fragile life and living can be, but I can’t imagine the trauma of fellow Christians in some Muslim lands where to convert to Christianity can mean a death sentence. Likewise, with refugees fleeing violence around the world. My shaves with death are ‘accidental’, but for these fellow humans they have others intentionally out to get them.

As I walked peaceably to Worship yesterday I was grateful for our freedom in Scotland, and the UK, to meet without fear of bomb or gun. We prayed for those, for whom being or becoming a Christian can seriously reduce your life expectancy. Indeed, let’s remember them in their tightrope walk of faith, praying courage, protection, justice, and trust in God’s ‘safety net’, ready to catch and carry us to a haven and heaven beyond harm.


My mum wasn’t informed about my ‘near-death’ chestnut story, indeed it’s as well we don’t know the half of what our kids get up to! Alas, my ‘hard fought for’ conkers flopped in battle at school, summarily smashed to smithereens. But did St Paul not say, “We are more than ‘conkers’ through Christ who loved us!”?  (Romans 8:37) Keep on keeping on my friends!