Henderson Lightbody, of Overton, Greenock,
a life spanning three score and four years I
have been involved in many happenings, some bad,
some sad, some glad. For me life has been a
journey with highs and lows, twists and turns as
I travel this way.
Every journey has a beginning and an end or
destination. In certain circles this destination
is sometimes referred to as life after death.
Many religions support this hope, such as
Buddhists who believe in their Nirvana and the
American Indians in their "happy hunting
major happening in my life was to find comfort
and purpose in the Christian religion, and where
the destination of this life is clearly defined.
So I now understand that through my religion I
have something positive to gain, a new life
beyond the grave.
This helps me to smile, and that is otherwise
not easy in our "age of anxiety", where we see
constant economic changes, environmental changes
and ethics given a wide berth by the populace.
According to the medical people, when we smile
we use 140 muscles, when we do not smile we are
using only 40 muscles.
was walking down the street where I lived on a
bright and sunny day when I was stopped by a
fine elderly clergyman who remarked: "My, that's
a wonderful smile you have." Little did he know
I had left my wife behind at home.
late aunt lifted my spirit with this story. One
day her women's guild were on their annual
outing, when the coach was passing a field of
donkeys. One of their number was heard to say:
"They must be Christians." Another asked her why
she said that and she replied: "Look at their
smile doesn't cost us anything. I cannot borrow
it or steal it. I can not even buy it, but I
believe it enriches the one who receives it.
From my personal experience I know a smile
creates happiness in the home, fosters goodwill
in the work place, and is the countersign for
The real value of a smile is in the giving it
away. The sad and bad happenings in my life have
been eased a bit by someone's smile. A smile
doesn't cure the pain but it sure gives a
measure of comfort.
For a long time now I can see that politics and
religion are treated as "taboo" subjects by the
increasing masses. "Do not speak to me about
politics or religion," is the peewee cry.
young mother said to me, like a bolt out of the
blue: "I would never talk about religion to my
But why not? The posters will! Neighbours will!
Dangerous cults will! Others will! May we be
forgiven if we neglect our parental
responsibilities? But then the "death of daddy"
in this age of enlightenment means the death of
can stand in a dissecting room and observe that
scattered limbs do not constitute a man. I can
pass a building site and observe that scattered
bricks and mortar do not constitute a house.
The individual not exercising his/her spiritual
dimension in life does not constitute a whole
being. My own mother on her dying bed kept
repeating: "I am so happy," only a spiritual
awareness can give this kind of assurance.
The way of spiritual progress is that way which
takes us deeper down-rootedness. If my religion
has any meaning it has to do with rootedness. A
happening taking place between me and the
There is not a hint here that we became so
heavenly minded that we are of no earthly use. I
find it a right turn off to be confronted by
narrow-minded people with a wide mouth who make
as much noise as an empty vessel. When will we
ever learn that it is no use pulling the bung if
the tank is empty.
our so-called enlightened society,
permissiveness reigns, it is the rule of the
day. As a consequence morals, principals and
standards are ethics of a bygone age, the dim
and distant past. Received worldly wisdom labels
me a prude or a square if I adhere to these
Ethic is that part of religion, which deals with
behaviour. The in-word from today's
philanthropists is tolerance. Even politicians
seek for popularity rather than piety while this
is all happening, politicians are promising the
earth but consistently fail to deliver.
Their promises seem to enter a cul-de-sac of
dead ends, there to be strangled and we are left
with questions, questions, questions.
The atheist has no worries at all about the part
after death, he boats there is no God. Yet when
there is a crisis or catastrophe, he is in the
front of the queue to blame God. Insurers even
have a policy described as an "Act of God".
overheard two fishermen on the river bank - one
had just arrived for a spot of fishing - he
called to the other," Is anything happening?"
meaning were the fish rising to the bait. What
is the bait we rise to?
sad happening in my life was watching my father
dying from lung cancer, which lasted for months
before the final end. He was a heavy cigarette
smoker and though he tried to give up the habit
did not have the will power. I had just returned
from army service in Malaya, which was traumatic
enough and had just turned 21 years of age when
soon after Father passed away.
The noise of silence
The empty chair
That reassuring smile
This happening of course was many years ago now
see a lot of greed and selfishness in our modern
society that makes me cringe, everyone is on the
bandwagon for compensation. At the least excuse
we put in for claims of finance, some justified
others gross greed and utter selfishness.
live in a "Fat Cats" era and yet there still is
in this so-called affluent society stark staring
poverty. To be self-centred is to be an immense
distance from God. I was on a training course
some years ago and was asked what do I look for
in my work, I replied: "Satisfaction". Others
replied money, plenty of holidays and good
conditions. There are far too many in work who
are miserable, but can do little about it under
When I was asked to write a character reference
for someone, it pleased me when I could write
this sentence: "This person combines sincerity
with a sense of humour."
These two ingredients have helped me along this
journey. I think these are vital ingredients for
a vibrant life, and also to help in turning this
life's stumbling blocks into stepping-stones.
The most poignant happening I see today is that
there is a dense mist rolling faster by the day
towards us, and it is bringing the horizon of
obscenity, vulgarity, perversion and mockery
right to our front door.
Whilst this is happening the noise of silence
from our pulpits is deafening. Another thing
that has happened in my life is that there are
some churches that are dead and they know it and
some churches are dead and they don't know it.
What has happened over my lifetime is that many
would-be religious "devotees" only frequent a
church three times in their life and on each
occasion it is on wheels - baptism, wedding, and
live in a society that finds their way easy to
ignore warnings. Are warnings just ink on paper,
paint on board?
used to be indecisive, but now l am not sure.