It’s funny how sights and smells can summon sharp memories! Waterside has horse chestnut trees heaving with ‘conkers’, which hang heavy in their spiky green capsules. And yesterday I had a pleasant walk with my dear 90 year old Maw past the burn crossing, where (Way back, when I were a lad in Largs) many autumn afternoons, after school, I’d cross Noddle Burn to Netherhall in search of those brown beauties ‘conkers’, launching sticks to knock them from their high shy. 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 end, where thinner branches guarded the ‘green protected gold’. Suddenly Graeme lost balance and found himself hanging by one hand 40-50 feet up. I’d never prayed so intensely as I did that day, unashamedly out loud crying for God’s help as I reached out to catch my mate’s hand and help him back onto the main branch. All while Alan below gutted himself with laughter.
This was one of at least five occasions I’ve shaved with death or grievous injury, the others involved electricity, bikes and cars. It’s sobering to see how fragile life and living is, something the present pandemic has heightened awareness of. In my role as pastor I’m almost constantly aware of beloved brothers and sisters plodding through the valley of death’s shadow. Then there is the tragic trauma of fellow Christians in countries like Nigeria (Where I was born), where families, farmsteads and villages are being massacred, kidnapped and enslaved by Fulani militants. In view of other people’s experiences my ‘accidental’ shaves with death pale.
Walking peaceably to Worship at Connexions yesterday, I was grateful for our freedom in Scotland, and the UK, to meet without fear of bomb or gun. Ok, there are lockdown restrictions, which dictate that most worshippers are tuning in via internet, but we are still so much freer to worship than in some lands! Let’s pray for those, for whom being or becoming a Christian reduces your life expectancy. Let’s remember them in their tightrope walk of faith, praying courage and protection for them, and grateful for God’s safety net, ready to catch and carry us to a haven and heaven beyond harm, when the time comes.
My conker story was kept from my mum (who will read this blog!), indeed it’s just as well we don’t hear the half of what our kids get up to! Alas, my ‘hard sought after’ conkers did pretty poorly 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) Did I hear you say, “More than ‘bonkers’ Neil!” Yes, that too. Keep on keeping on my friend!