May 23, 2015

A lesson from an old Willow tree.

Last week I was invited to a retreat day in Coolkelure church, near Dunmanway. Bishop Richard Henderson spoke to us about the prophet Jonah and, as always, what he had to say was inspired and truly excellent. With great skill and infectious enthusiasm, he brought the ancient text to life and it was a joy to be there, to listen and to learn.

One of the things he mentioned in an offhand way was the old Willow tree in the north-west corner of the churchyard. It had sustained quite a lot of damage in a storm, (perhaps during the gale on February 12th last year). In the photo (taken with my phone) above, you can just about see the split in the upper part of the trunk.

Yet since and even because of this catastrophe, recovery and new growth has begun.

We too might suffer something so catastrophic and life changing that we are tempted to lose all hope. Yet as the tree continues to draw water and nutrients from the soil and absorb light from the Sun, so we can continue to receive from the Lord. He will relentlessly work to reshape, rebuild and restore every broken heart and every shattered life of all who will come to Him.

April 29, 2015

London

We were in London recently for a wedding. It’s a long time since we were last there and it was great to catch up with my cousin (Thank you Louise, you looked after us wonderfully during our stay), and to do some sightseeing.

With a population of 8.3 million, it is the largest city in Europe and the twenty-first largest in the world. It receives 15 million visitors a year. It is a city where over 300 languages are spoken. (Nicky Gumbel)

It’s a big place and coming from West Cork, the bigness is all the bigger! Here’s a small selection of the many photos we took… DSC_3145_wp Perhaps the most famous house in Britain…

DSC_3201_wp The Natural History Museum – one of the favourite venues of my childhood…

DSC_3247_wp The Great Court at the British Museum.

DSC_3249_wp Columns at the British Museum

DSC_3251_wp Wonderful Lion detail on the entrance door to the British Museum

DSC_3287_wpView over the houses of Parliament from the ‘London Eye’.

DSC_3151_wpUh oh, been spotted!

April 15, 2015

Good soil

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Earlier this morning while taking the dog for a walk, something about the field behind our house made me want to go and have a closer look. The sun, still at a low angle was shining across the soil, highlighting the long furrows created by the ploughing that took place yesterday.

There was an almost palpable sense of expectation coming from the ground, a sense of readiness and anticipation. Soon the crop will be planted and growth will begin.

Jesus’ story about a sower sowing seeds provides a wonderful description of those who allow his words to take root in the fertile and receptive soil of their minds:

“… And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

Mark 4:8

How good and receptive is our soil? Perhaps a bit of weeding is needed, perhaps there are some rocks to be cleared away!

April 10, 2015

Camden Quay

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Strolling across a bridge over the river Lee yesterday evening, the reflection of the buildings along Camden Quay looked remarkable. I only had my phone to take the picture – how I wish I carried my ‘proper’ camera around more often!

Here’s a picture of the same location from 1955 (the night of the Opera House Fire) on the Cork City Council website.

April 5, 2015

Easter Day

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Risen from the Dead

After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn’t move.

The angel spoke to the women: “There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.

“Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ That’s the message.”

The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples. Then Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. “Good morning!” he said. They fell to their knees, embraced his feet, and worshiped him. Jesus said, “You’re holding on to me for dear life! Don’t be frightened like that. Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, and that I’ll meet them there.”

Matthew 28:1-10 (The Message)

April 3, 2015

Good Friday

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(Photo of the recent Solar Eclipse)

The Death of Jesus

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

Luke 23:44-49 (ESV)


March 10, 2015

A hint of Eden

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I love walking around the garden at this time of year, enjoying the spring sunshine and looking at all the new growth taking place. The Crocuses (top) seem to be one of the earliest to make a move, not afraid of a night or two of frost. The beautiful bright red Anemone, meaning ‘daughter of the wind’, is the middle photo, then last but not least comes the much-loved Daffodil, that inspired Wordsworth to pen:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze

There is a deep stirring of the soul that takes place upon encountering all the new colour bursting forth from the greys and browns of Winter. The subdued silvery light of cold short days gives way to the yellowy warmth of the Spring light and the anticipation of the Summer to come. Perhaps it is a hint of Eden, of new life and new beginnings, the old is passing away, the new has come…

February 16, 2015

Contentment

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We have some new neighbours in the field opposite us. One evening we went over to say ‘hello’ and we came across them looking towards the horizon where the sun was setting. Soon the lambs will arrive and all will be joyful chaos, but in the meantime there is peace and contentment…

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.

(Psalm 23:1-3a)

February 5, 2015

Earth’s shadow

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At the moment I am reading Timothy Keller’s “Prayer, Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God” and I am finding it a great read. A quote quite early on in the book from Flannery O’Connor, beautifully describes the sense of the struggle and frustration that so many of us have with putting God first above all:

Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon … what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing. I do not know You God because I am in the way.

The implication is that a major aspect of learning to pray (and therefore growing  in our relationship with God) is to not to let ourselves, or rather our ego get in the way. As John the Baptist said of the Lord Jesus:

“… He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Of course this is easier said than done!

December 16, 2014

When God comes near

I came across this painting in the Chapel of one of the local nursing homes. As I saw it from a distance, at first I thought the foreground was the rolling waves of a tumultuous sea at night. I felt drawn in to the scene and as I got closer I saw the snowy landscape and that what I had originally thought to be the moon, was of course a star, and not just any old star, but The Star of Christmas.  The star is small and right on the edge of the picture but nevertheless it casts significant light on the mid and far distance, even if the way immediately in front of us (as we look at the scene) is still in darkness.

There is much here to meditate upon (whoever decided to hang this painting in the chapel knew what they were up to). In this season of Advent we are reminded that God comes near, very near and yet He is hidden also. We are called to seek Him and to find Him in unexpected places and in the lives of unexpected people. This is the season where darkness gives way to Light, where sin gives way to the Saviour and where death is overcomes by New Birth. Come O come Emmanuel, God is with us!

Postscript:
We have been greatly enjoying the Advent series of videos produced by 24-7 Prayer called “When God comes near” (the inspiration for the title of this blog post). Here is the link, they really are well worth watching.

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