As I imagine was the way of it in Stornoway, an ecumenical service was recently held in one of the Inverness churches to mark the week of prayer for Christian unity.
Several local denominations were represented, and this year it was particularly pleasing to see a female included in the seven-strong platform party.
Presumably clergy and congregations from all denominations in Inverness had been invited, in which case it would seem that more than a few declined.
The church that afternoon should have been filled to overflowing with Christian people, but in fact only about about 40 made the effort to be there. So how sad was that.
The sung praise was excellent, as were the readings, the responses, and the address, and as for those who declined the invitation it’s my belief they deprived themselves of a very special togetherness that brought joy to the Father’s heart.
Rest and Peace
With all the presents now unwrapped, and the Christmas tree stored away for another year, it seems people’s lives are as empty as ever with charity shops, across the country, inundated with unwanted Christmas gifts. January, they claim, is one of the busiest months of the year!
Despite the extravagance and indulgence behind all the festive holiday giving and receiving, the human heart craves for something greater and grander than this world, even at Christmas, can give.
True and lasting happiness is certainly not to be found in any of the gifts that are bought and sold on the markets of time. Not even the best gift, under the deluxe Christmas tree, is able to fill the empty vacuum and restlessness that is deep within. It never has and it never will.
The answer to our greatest, and deepest, need is to be found at the forgotten tree of Calvary, where Jesus Christ gave the greatest, also forgotten, gift of all.
While He is remembered, the world over, once a year as the Baby born in Bethlehem He is woefully ignored as the Christ who died on the ‘old rugged cross’ for sinners: and that is the tragedy. The tragedy of all tragedies is to live and die without God.
People’s lives are empty and hopeless because they do not turn to Him and receive the forgiveness He offers for sin, when they repent and believe the gospel. Through His death the Bible reminds us that He “bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes (wounds) ye are healed.”
Only Jesus Christ can heal the unending brokenness, and fill the emptiness, when we come, by faith alone, to trust in Him as our Lord and Saviour.
The ‘amazing grace’ of God then transforms the whole person and everything becomes new: ‘the old is gone and all things becomes new.’ Yes, everything. Brokenness is exchanged for wholeness, restlessness for restfulness and emptiness for a full, complete and real life in Christ ‘the Prince of peace.’
Listen to His own testimony and invitation: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly…Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
Yes, He is the answer for our sin, and His sacrifice at Calvary is the greatest gift man will ever know, and the most enduring gift we will ever receive: but to receive it we must, like every gift, accept it.
All the treasures and pleasures of life combined cannot be compared with this ‘unspeakable’ gift: “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The good news for everyone, including all who are suicidal, depressed, crushed, stressed, lonely and downhearted is that the missing link is to be found at the forgotten tree, and in forgotten gift, of Calvary. It is there our ‘rest’ is to be found. St Augustine of Hippo sums it up well when he said: ‘Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.’
Our sincere hope and heart-felt prayer is that readers, across the Highlands and Islands, will find their ‘rest and peace’ in Christ during 2016.
Mr Donald J Morrison
Inverness, IV2 3HT
Surviving the torpedoes
Some thirteen years ago I wrote to the Stornoway Gazette regarding the ill-fated ship the ‘Arandorra Star; that was torpedoed and sunk on the 2nd of July 1940.
The information I received back that Finlay Mackay from Benbecula was one of the survivors.
After meeting up with Donald John, Finlay’s son in Oban, who kindly gave me a copy of his father’s discharge book it transpired that Finlay was not on the ‘Arandorra Star’ but on her sister ship the ‘Avelonia Star’ torpedoed on the 30th of June 1940.
The survivors were picked up by a ship called the ‘Beignon’ only to be torpedoed and sunk the following day 1st of July 1940. Finlay again survived but was wounded.
I have very fond memories of working alongside Finlay after I left school in the mid-fifties.
Finlay’s father, himself called Finlay, was from Eochdar, South Uist and was killed in action at the Battle of Ypres during the Great War.
East Kilbride G75 8NG
The question is what to cut from the local authority budget I read in the Gazette (21.1.16).
The options must be very limited when they have to target the library cafe and the bus station, these are supposed to be assets not liabilities.
If these cuts go ahead Stornoway town centre will become a ghost town according to Donald Morrison.
We often say never a door closes but another opens. In this case should the library cafe close somebody will be quickly jumping in to keep it going - mark my words - the council will earn some rent on the facility without the overall responsibility of the overheads.
As for the running of the bus station they could leave it open on a voluntary basis for those who want to pay something back into the community.
The remark that the council have no word in cutting back on their own expenses, but that may devalue the moral and work of the council, but I suppose they could also look into that.
Where there is a will there is a way - it’s called Stornoway and its entrepreneurial spirit.
More than 121,000 people in Scotland are currently living with the devastating effects of stroke. It happens in an instant, yet this overwhelming condition can affect people physically and emotionally for the rest of their lives. The long-term effects can often take a huge toll on partners, carers and families too.
We are calling on people who have had a stroke, their carers and family members across Scotland to take part in a UK survey and tell us about their experiences of stroke. Resources for stroke care are increasingly stretched. We want stroke treatment, therapy and care to remain a priority.
If any of your readers has had a stroke or cares for someone who has had a stroke, we want to hear their views.
The closing date for our survey is 31 March 2016. It can be completed online at campaign questionnaire or you can contact the Scotland office on 0131 455 7244 to obtain a paper copy.
The Stroke Association
EDITORIAL - FEARS OF ISLAND JOB LOSSES
A fragile economy with little help in the form of public or private money to shore up its vulnerability seems to be the worrying future for the Western Isles.
Only last week we had the news of better employment figures across the UK and locally, however this was quickly followed by the threat to jobs at Marine Harvest in the Western Isles, and news of the struggles at the Carloway Mill to remain open.
Fortunately the Carloway Mill’s future looks brighter this week due to refinancing at the company (see page 3 story).
However, the threat of job losses across the region looms larger than ever as the council admitted this week that up to 84 jobs may have to go in order to comply with budgetary demands.
The local authority has already had to make tough choices over the last five years with constrained finances meaning that 290 jobs have been lost.
The loss of jobs along with decreased services and facilities does not bode well for the future.
Many good points and arguments have been made about which services are the most important and should be retained, yet as the Council leader says this week, there are no easy decisions left to take.
The austerity faced locally is by no means unique with local authorities around the country struggling to eek out budgets to provide the services expected by residents.
It’s time for Holyrood to take a look again at how local Government is funded, and with an election looming, perhaps MSPs will be more aware of how local issues can impact on the national political scene.
Our picture of the week (above) comes from reader Ronnie MacAlpine, who said: “On a recent walk up Gallows Hill, I was fortunate to be there as the sun was coming up over Arnish and as I had my camera with me, I snapped this picture.”
(Taken on Nikon D3200, 55-300 lens, @55,M exp., 1/50th @ f16, I S O 200).