Here are some previous thoughts on the subject of Growth. When you have finished on this page, click Back to look at other topics.

Russia's cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov and US astronaut Leroy Chiao last week found 50 snails in the regular cargo sent up to the International Space Station they are currently manning. The snails will help in the investigation into the effects of weightlessness on human vestibular apparatus.

They’re valuable in another way too. "The cosmonauts themselves said that even an experiment of growing beans on the station was a serious psychological support for them, and experiments with living creatures could prove an even better one," the Roskosmos space agency said.

Surrounded for weeks on end by the inanimate objects which ensure their safety, the astronauts feel the need for signs of life, of things which grow and change, even if some of that growth takes place behind a shell. Having living things around us contributes to our well-being too and seeing change and growth in other people is a stimulating part of what keeps our lives interesting.

As Jesus developed his relationship with his disciples, he must have longed for them to grow into that awareness of what he was about that would enable them to continue his work. The gospels imply that in fact they understood very little at the time but afterwards their conduct suggests much change must have been going on under the surface.

Let’s be grateful today for changes that are taking place in our lives and in the lives of those we are close to. Many will be very gradual and others so deep they’re not immediately obvious. Christians will want those changes to be the result of their attempt to grapple with what Jesus’ ministry was all about. But for everyone, such change is a sign of life that will be an encouragement for them and for those around them.


In Northumberland, they’re good at inventing excuses. Motorists trying to avoid speeding fines after being caught on camera have suggested among other things that a strong following wind pushed their car over the limit, a violent sneeze triggered an involuntary stamp on the accelerator and rapid acceleration was the only way to demonstrate a faulty clutch to a mechanic.

Most people are quick to think of ways of excusing their mistakes. We may be less inventive than the motorists but when we feel at fault, we’re soon able to come up with some explanation. Being in the wrong, we may feel, would diminish us in the eyes of others but our defensiveness is also designed to maintain our own self respect.

Such self-justification sometimes has the unfortunate effect of closing down what was a possibility for our growth. We can be so busy excusing ourselves that we fail to notice those possibilities for change and development which would be created in our lives by simple acknowledgment of the mistake.

Perhaps today, if we feel rightly accused of something, we might divert our energy from dreaming up often implausible excuses to asking ourselves what the situation can teach us.


The TV Licensing Authority this week published their annual list of the worst excuses for not buying a licence. One man told inspectors: "My wife has her hair done twice a week and so we find it difficult to pay." Another said he had not renewed his licence because his wife had flushed the old one down the lavatory - along with his wallet. A woman told investigators: "I couldn't make my last payment as my baby was sick on my shoulder and I didn't want to go to the shop smelling of sick because a guy I fancy works there." And perhaps the most brazen excuse came from a viewer who said: "That's not a TV. That's an ornament. My mother gave it to me. What's that showing on the ornament? It's EastEnders."

Most people are quick to think of ways of excusing their mistakes. We may be less inventive than the licence dodgers but when we feel at fault, we’re soon able to come up with some explanation. Being in the wrong, we may feel, would diminish us in the eyes of others but our defensiveness is also designed to maintain our own self respect.

Such self-justification sometimes has the unfortunate effect of closing down what was a possibility for our growth. We can be so busy excusing ourselves that we fail to notice those possibilities for change and development which would be created in our lives by simple acknowledgment of the mistake.

Perhaps today, if we feel rightly accused of something, we might divert our energy from dreaming up often implausible excuses to asking ourselves what the situation can teach us.


Apparently there’s more to mice than meets the eye. If disturbed in their foraging, they will quickly create a landmark, a leaf, a twig, something that will enable them to return later to where they left off. How very human?

Well, not quite. When some crisis comes along to disturb our equilibrium and deflect us from our ordinary routine, we can never quite come back to the same place. What happens to us and how we respond, changes us. And we can, if we choose, learn from our experiences, both painful and delightful.

This is a human ability to treasure and use. Perhaps there’s something happening in your life at the moment from which reflection will bring learning. Then perhaps when it’s over, it’ll be a different and wiser person returning to normality.


Today the BBC Proms Young Composers Competitioon reaches its climax with ‘INSPIRE’, a day of creative music-making, where all the entrants are invited to the Royal Albert Hall where they will work with musicians and composers, hear the winning pieces and go to this evening’s BBC Proms concert.

Among the judges’ comments was one on the limitations of composing for a computer. The music that computers can produce these days sounds orchestral but, if given to human musicians, is sometimes unplayable and bears no comparison to a live performance. “Write for the forces you have available” was the advice of the judges. “If your school just has two flutes and a ukelele, use them in your composing”. The result may not have classical beauty but often does have an interest and fascination which music using the standard combination of instruments can’t match.

It is good when our lives feel harmonious, when their different facets - work, leisure, relationships - all fuse into one satisfying whole. But more often than not, there are jarring notes, or possibly major players, whose contribution threatens the harmony of the piece. Classically beautiful compositions seem unlikely. But the creation of lives which have their own balance and melodiousness is perfectly possible, if only we can orchestrate the different elements so that each contributes as best it can to the harmony of the whole.

Let's take time to reflect today on the different aspects of our lives, and then to respond willingly and positively to the challenge of incorporating constructively anything which, at first sight, appears to be discordant. The result may well be harmonious only in parts, but at least it will be real and live.