May 13, 2016

Meditation: Jesus calms the storm

 

 

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Glendalough, Co. Wicklow (April 2016)

As part of our school’s “Mental Health Week”, I did a meditation in the morning Chapel Service. It’s based on the wonderful account written in Mark 4:35-41.

 

It’s been a really long and tiring day, a day where so many thousands of people were surrounding Jesus. It was wonderful to see Him heal so many of them, and in between to teach such beautiful parables. But everyone is really tired. Jesus knows this and he calls out: “Come on let’s go down to the beach, let’s get into the boat and cross over to the other side of the Lake”. As he leads, you walk along with the group behind him … he walks down the hill towards the shore, the dustiness of the bare earth turns to sandy gravel, which crunches beneath your feet. You notice the sun getting low in the sky, casting an orange glow across the water. As you walk along the shoreline, the cool water washes against your sore feet. Peter is there by the boat, holding onto the rope, as one by one, the disciples get in … and now you get in. As you put a hand down on the side of the boat you notice the smoothness of the well-worn wood under your palm. Jesus climbs in just behind you. Peter casts off the rope and the boat drifts away from the shore. Peter skillfully spins the boat around and you head out into the deeper water. In the gathering gloom you can just about make out a few dim lights and some smoke from fires far away along the shore. But ahead is just too dark to see.

Everyone is settled into the boat, there’s not much conversation as you and the others are just so tired. As night falls, you notice the breeze getting stronger and the boat starting to rock a little as you continue to head towards the centre of the lake… You drift into a daydream remembering the faces of all the people who came to Jesus today. There’s just something about Him…

Suddenly, shockingly, things become scary. The waves are huge and the boat is being swamped. Peter, James and John are desperately trying to tie up the sail as it flaps about uncontrollably. Before anyone has realised what is happening you are suddenly in the middle of a violent, lethal storm. The water is filling the boat and you join in with the others trying to bail, but it’s no use. The wind is so loud but you just about hear Peter shouting to hold on tight to the ropes around the edge of the boat. But even as he shouts you see the fear in the eyes of this experienced fisherman. But it’s not just Peter, everyone is terrified. No one has ever seen a storm like this before, there is something primeval, something supernatural about its ferocity. Suddenly you remember Jesus, you don’t know why you didn’t think of Him before. You look about and you can’t believe what you are seeing. Everyone is terrified and thinks they are about to be thrown into the chaos of the deep and there is Jesus, asleep! His head resting on a cushion with a serenity that seems totally misplaced. Stunned, you shout out from the depths of your being, “Jesus, Jesus, wake up, don’t you care about us, we’re going to drown!” The others look at you and then at Jesus, you think maybe You said too much, but this is serious. Jesus slowly wakes up and looks around him and he seems surprised by our fear. He stands up in a way that he seems to hardly notice the boat rocking violently about. He looks at you and says in a voice that although quiet, can be heard easily and says “Why are you afraid, when are you going to get some faith?” Then he looks about at the others too, none of us can look Him in the eye, we all know that we doubted Him. Then in a way that seems so normal, so natural he shouts out, his voice has a power, a resonance that is at once the most beautiful and most terrifying voice you have ever heard. “Peace, … Be still!”… Like someone closing a door the wind immediately stops. The waves take a few moments longer, but soon you notice a peace and tranquility that would have seemed impossible just a few moments before.

You become aware that this is more than just a physical stillness, it is a peace that is beyond the natural. It is not just the water and the air that are now still. You feel a deep-down stillness within yourself also… As Jesus looks at you, you know that His peace will remain, so that no matter what will ever happen in your life, no matter what storms lie ahead, you will always be able to remember that peace you feel inside right now, the day that Jesus calmed the storm. In the very depth of your being, you know that His peace will carry you through anything because you now know that Jesus will always, always be there … Amen.

 

April 1, 2016

Newgrange 

Newgrange  
It is a remarkable place. Five thousand years ago the mysterious people who lived in the Boyne Valley created one of the marvels of the ancient world. They assembled an immense and sophisticated structure to try and make sense of the conundrum of life and death and to fill the blackest of all voids with some semblance of meaning. 

Breathtaking. Imagine standing deep inside the womb-like darkness at the centre of the tomb just before 9.00 am on the 21st December, the Winter Solstice. From the East, as the Sun emerges over the hills beyond comes a shard of warm morning light, it slowly makes its way along the floor of the passageway, finally alighting on a special stone upon which human ashes were once carefully placed. The gap between life and death, light and dark, this world and the Other must have seemed gossamer thin…

But the moment didn’t last, it was just an illusion, frustrating in its brevity, a tantalising mirage of what seemed forever beyond reach…

Some words of Jesus kept coming to my mind as we walked around:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

And Isaiah:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 

In Christ the light is not infrequent, obscure or hidden away for the chosen few, but for all people everywhere…

In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. (John 1:4)

August 13, 2015

“Imprints of Light” Exhibition

Soon we will be leaving Cork to move to Dublin, where I will take on a new role as a school chaplain (more on that another day). We have greatly enjoyed our twelve years in this wonderful part of Ireland and God-willing we will return for holidays and other adventures in the future.

One of the things I have been asked to do before we go is to have an exhibition of photographs for the Timoleague Festival. I feel very honoured to have been asked and a little daunted by the whole undertaking. Thankfully I have some excellent help from a parishioner who is also a very accomplished and gifted photographer and who knows a good deal about this sort of thing. The photos will go up later today and the display will be open to the public from Saturday for a week.

Here is a gallery of the photos that have been printed for the exhibition; some of them have appeared on this blog before and others are new:

August 3, 2015

An evening drive 

With excitement and eager anticipation we took an evening drive towards the sea, headlong into the boisterous weather. Angry waves, blustering wind and sideways rain and it’s thirteen degrees, it does not feel like August! I got out of the car on the road overlooking Ownahincha to take this photo (with the ‘Snapseed’ app my phone), fighting against the car door as the wind tried to push it closed. A perfect day for chip shop chips, steaming out of a brown paper bag, followed (of course) by ice cream…

July 23, 2015

Up to Down (and Antrim)

At the end of June, we took a week off to go camping up at Castle Ward in Co. Down. Actually it was more like ‘Glamping’, as we stayed in a wooden camping pod, which compared to a tent is the height of luxury! Highlights of the week including climbing Slieve Donard, visiting the Giant’s Causeway and the traversing the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Below are some of the many photos we came back with…

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Slieve Donard – looking back towards Newcastle, Co. Down.

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On the way down…

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A beautiful Beach tree avenue, popularly known as “The Dark Hedges”, Stranocum, Co. Antrim.

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Ballintoy, Co. Antrim

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An Inquisitive local…

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Giant’s Causeway panorama, including the “Chimney Stacks”.

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Castle Ward, Co. Down.

(All Photos taken using a Nikon D7000 and 18-55mm lens.)

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)