Sky News online carried this story today:

An Australian man who stopped countless people from jumping to their deaths at a notorious Sydney beauty spot called ‘The Gap’ has died…
Mr Ritchie would simply walk up to people standing close to the edge and ask gently: “Is there something I could do to help you?” which would often be enough to make people rethink their actions…
He told his daughter an offer of help “was all that was often needed to turn people around, and he would say not to underestimate the power of a kind word and a smile”

The Gap is an ocean cliff in eastern Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Photo by Adam J.W.C (wikipedia)

Hundreds of people have been saved from a needless death by the kindness of this man. He was on the alert for those in need. He didn’t leave the responsibility to others. He acted with kindness and a smile.

I may never know the undercurrents of hurt, anguish, fear and torment that flow in the lives of those I meet. But maybe a word of kindness and a smile can lift them a little. I have noticed that miserable looking check out assistants, for example, often brighten up and become lively and engaging, when I smile and say something pleasant to them.

Don Ritchie has been a challenge to me to maintain a caring attitude and not be shy to ask: “Is there something I can do to help you?”

You can read the news story and view the video here.


Costorphine Hill behind Murrayfield from wikipedia

Costorphine Hill in daylight - the beacons are just visible!

A few nights ago I was travelling homeward in the car. As I approached Edinburgh, ahead of me I could see the city lights.

Two in particlular are very familiar to me. They are the red lights that top off two masts high on Corstorphine Hill. This land mark I can see from my home, and at night it is usually the first one I identify as I draw near the city, from whatever direction I aspproach.

Though there was no fog this time, there was no moon either, so even with its massive bulk, the Hill was invisible. Nevertheless, there, proud and bright, were the two red beacons.

Even massive things may pass beyond our vision. The sun goes behind a cloud; a great ocean liner sails over the horizon. But there is no reason for us to suppose that they no longer exist,  simply because we cannot perceive them with our senses. Corstorphine Hill had not crumbled once darkness fell! I could tell that much, because the beacons marked it’s height.

Of course, while it is easier to experience the closeness of God when we are praying or reading the Bible, there are times when God may seem very far away; days when we appear to see nothing of him. But he is still there. We just need to look for the beacons, the events that mark his presence and care.

  • The phone call from friend that came as you were feeling a bit lonely
  • The lost item that turned up just in time
  • The book mark you “just happened” to find in an old volume, and which quoted a Bible verse or motto which helped you see things straight
  • The kind thoughtfulness of a neighbour
  • The simple faith of your child
  • The inspiration of another life
  • The glory of a sunset
  • A safe journey, without incident or harm
  • And so I could go on…

In so many ways, some obvious and some subtle, God indicates his love and care for us. When I realized that knowing God was with me was not necessarily the same as feeling his presence, I began to make an effort to detect God’s beacons every day. There is always something that marks his presence.

Now I don’t need to see the beacons to know he is there. But it’s become a habit and it certainly turns my thoughts Godward in awe and gratitude.

When did you last see a beacon of his presence with you?

Will you join me in looking for at least one, every day, and thanking God for it, however small?

This modern interpretation of the old carol brings it alive for a new generation. Andy Gridley’s new-tech, layered performance intrigues me.
But through it all you can hear the cry of a sad, captive people that long for release – “O come, O come, Emmanuel! Let your Kingdom Come!”

And then, in faith, the affirmation rises: “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

What a message for the world today! It is only through Emmanuel, Christ who is with us, that we can truly know freedom.

Christmas can be the saddest time when loved ones are not with you.

Image by Matt Gruber - used by permission

There is no red, green or gold in this Christmas image. Not everyone will have a happy time on the 25th, with friends and family around them. There will be many for whom it will be a miserable time. As soon as I saw Matt’s picture I heard the song running through my brain:

I’ll have a blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me.

Blue Christmas – Words and music by Jay Johnson and Billy Hayes

So at this festive time, spare a thought for those who are missing someone.  The single parents, struggling without a partner to make Christmas a great time for their children. Or those who have lost a loved one this year, or many years ago, and for whom the pain is so raw at Christmas.

I was very touched to read a blog post by Kim Anderson, whose father died from cancer nine years ago. Kim says:

The holiday season makes the empty chair around the family table even more noticeable to those of us who have lost a loved one. Holidays can be a difficult time for those experiencing grief. Children notice the empty space, too, and it’s important to include them in remembering a loved one.

Kim gives some very practical suggestions to help you and your family honour and remember a loved one during this season. I heartily recommend her whole post. In addition to ideas for some very practical and helpful activities, she also points us to Christ, the source of comfort. You can read “Facing the Empty Chair at the Holidays” here.

I had not long finished posting Are we listening to the Signals? when I visited one of my favourite design sites, There I saw a beautiful piece of art work made by Sandy Lee. The image, and the sentiments expressed by Sandy echoed my own today, that I just had to quote her.

“Downcast Hearts”, Acrylic, Tempera, & Paper on Canvas, painted on 11/23/10. I have been inspired by the thought of comforting people lately.

People have different ways of expressing sadness… some shut down, some get mean, and some are depressed or upset. As Christians, we are to love our neighbor, and I think many people are caught up in the moment and don’t realize what is really happening when a person is expressing hurt in their heart. Many times, we take meanness or upsetness personally and say something nasty back, or simply ignore the people who are depressed or shut down.

This painting is meant as a message to Christians: downcast hearts are meant to be loved and nurtured and cherished, not rejected or ignored. Let us love our neighbor! ?

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SLICES OF MY LIFE are little slivers of my experiences. I have many interests and this blog is my way of keeping track of what I see and learn. Some of it brings a smile to my face, uplifts and encourages me, or makes me think deeply. I hope you enjoy what you read here as much as I enjoy writing it!