Posts tagged ‘Fota Wildlife Park’

July 3, 2014

Random Light No. 9

Here are some photos taken in the last few months…


A Worcestershire Poppy field


Colourful Kinsale


Evening Reflections at Trimpley reservoir, Worcestershire



A family of ducks makes their way home in the last light of the day…


One of Fota’s more colourful residents…


Bantry harbour boats (with “cross-process” effect)

DSC_8811_wpMwnt, Ceredigion.


May 2, 2011

You want proof?

Spider Monkeys

(Photo: Spider Monkeys at Fotataken in 2009)

Sermon from Yesterday.  Text: John 20:19-31  (Easter 2, Year A)

We’ve all heard the phrase “Seeing is believing”; if we hear some news that seems out of the ordinary we want proof, so the man coming home from work with a pay rise will want to show the new pay slip to his wife, the woman who has a winning lottery ticket will carefully guard the proof of the win until it can be handed in, the sports fan will keep the ticket stub from the match when her team won the cup to prove that she was there and the proud Father-to-be will carry around in his wallet the fuzzy black-and-white ultrasound printout as proof that he is going to have a son or daughter.

Of course when it gets to matters of faith, this can be quite confusing, it is not like we can physically see God with our own eyes, we cannot pick up the phone to Him or send an email.  Jesus is not on Facebook or Twitter and it is not possible to go and see Him onstage or even in a Church.  That is of course why many dismiss the claims of Christianity without ever really bothering to look more deeply.  But there are many things which cannot be proven which we know are real; for example love, or the beauty of music or art.  Yes there are signs and indicators that two people love each other, but how would we mathematically prove it? The look of rapture on the Opera lover’s face as he is absorbed by his favorite Aria is clear to see, but could it be quantified or reduced to its core elements in a test tube?

In our reading from John’s gospel this morning we have something to greatly help us with this whole question of proof.  Firstly the Lord Jesus proves His resurrection in a way that is beyond any doubt and then He shows that it is also possible to believe in Him without seeing the proof and how wonderful it is when that happens.  The reading starts off with the disciples huddled together in a room with the door locked because they are still in a state of shock and numbness over Jesus’ death.  Even though the risen Lord had already appeared to Mary Magdalene and she had told them as such, they were still not able to see the bigger picture.  Their master had gone, their Shepherd had left them the flock without a leader to guide them, they were sheep left alone in the hills without protection.  They were afraid of being arrested and killed because they were disciples of the One who had been arrested and killed a week before.

The door is locked, there is no other way in and suddenly there He is!  Jesus comes and stands in their midst and says “Peace be with you”.  To prove that it is He, He shows them his hands, the scars left by the nails and he shows them his side where the spear went in.  Understandably the disciples are overjoyed that their master and their friend is with them once again.  In a moment their despair had turned to joy.

No doubt, Jesus sees the state that they are all in, a mixture of utter joy, excitement and maybe a little fear so he says to them once more “Peace be with you” and then he continued:

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you”.  When he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (v.21)

Jesus was not only giving them a job to do, but also giving them the power to do that job.  What he required of them was to tell people about him, to proclaim the good news to all nations.  Jesus breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit”, as a foretaste of what would happen on the day of Pentecost, when all believers from that time on would experience the power of the Holy Spirit working in their lives.  Of course that mission to proclaim, to speak and to live out the gospel message is entrusted to us and to all believers today and is just as important as it ever was.

Then Jesus then says to them:

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.(v.23)

Of course he was not giving them the power to forgive sins, because only God can forgive sins.  Rather, Jesus gave them the privilege of telling new believers that their sins have been forgiven because they have accepted Jesus’ message.  All believers have this same privilege.  We can announce with certainty the forgiveness of our sin once we come to the place of repentance and faith.

It is easy to feel sorry for Thomas; he wasn’t there when Jesus visited the other disciples in the locked room and he wants proof.  When the other disciples told him that they had seen the Lord, he said to them:

Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe. (v.25)

Next we read that a week later the disciples were again in a locked room, though his time Thomas was with them.  As before, Jesus came and stood amidst them and said “peace be with you” and then he turned to Thomas and said:

Put your finger here and see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it in my side.  Do not doubt but believe. (v.27)

Thomas did not need to reach out and touch him, the sight of his Master induced a new depth of faith in him and he exclaimed:

My Lord and my God! (v.28)

Thomas got his proof and his response is clear, He calls Jesus God and Jesus does not object because what Thomas says is true.  Of course we might think that if we could have proof like Thomas did to show to people then many more would come to faith in Christ – maybe, but then there were many people around at the time who did not believe, despite the evidence.

I’m sure that we have all wished that we could actually see Jesus and hear Him speak to us in the way that we would speak with each other.  We want to know what he looked like (Did He really have long hair and a beard for example) and so on.  Like Thomas we want Jesus’ physical presence.  But God’s plan is far greater than this would allow.  He has not limited himself to a physical body.  That is why he is present with his people at all times, He is Here now and He is just as much with others as they meet in his name all around the world.  He lives in our hearts by his Holy Spirit.  He does speak to us now, through the Bible, and as we grow and mature in our prayers, we hear God’s still small voice speaking to us.  The Lord Jesus today can be as real to us as he was to Thomas.  For Thomas and the other disciples, they believed when they saw the risen Lord Jesus for themselves, and Jesus’ response to their joy and new-found faith was this, he said:

Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. (v.29)

The days when Jesus would be visible to the physical eyes were limited because he was soon going to return to his Father in heaven.  But Jesus would still be visible to the eyes of faith.  For the benefit of all those who would believe as a result of the testimony of the apostles, including us, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”.

Some of us believe because we were brought up by our parents to believe.  Some of us believe through finding the Saviour later on in life.  No matter how or when we came to believe, God blesses us because we do.

And so we come to a rather startling conclusion:  The proof of Jesus’ resurrection today is us!

Yes, we are the one’s given the responsibility to show Christ’s love and his power to forgive to a world that is lost, broken and hurting and which desperately needs a Saviour.  It is not up to anyone else, it is our job, our responsibility and our great and awesome privilege.

I’ll finish with some famous lines from Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
      no hands but yours,
      no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
      Christ’s compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
      doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.


May 19, 2010

Follow me!

Olympus OM-1, G.Zuiko 35mm f2.8, Ilford FP4 plus, (developed in Ilfosol 3, 6 mins @ 24o)

We had great fun watching this mother duck and her ducklings (all twelve of them) make their way from a stream then across a road and finally into the lake at Fota recently.  At the first attempt the mother just hopped out and charged off and then realised that there were no little ones following her.  They were left stranded because the bank was too high for them to jump up.  So the mother duck had to go back and lead them to a place further down stream where they could climb / hop out.  Then they made their procession towards the lake as you see in the picture.  I wonder how many of these twelve cute fluffy ducklings will survive to adulthood – I expect they make a fine lunch for several different predators?

Following is not always easy but we have the perfect Leader who looks after us in ways beyond our understanding and will ultimately lead us to our final destination.  Of course we can choose to go off on our own way but that is a path where we lead ourselves to certain death.  Thankfully Jesus comes looking for us and longs to bring us back into the fold (getting into a knot of mixed metaphors here)!  But He will never force us against our will, we have to be willing to follow Him knowing that it really is the only sensible option, but more than that, it is the way to the fullness of life and love and joy and peace and forgiveness…

December 16, 2009

Nikon F100 Reflection

Nikon F100, Nikkor 28-105 D, Kodak Ultramax 400

One of the great things about being among the few strange people who still like to take pictures using 35mm film is that film cameras are now worth a fraction of what they once were. Ten years ago there is no way I could have afforded a Nikon F100, a camera used by many professionals as a back up to their F5’s. What cost around £1200 in 1999 can now be bought in mint condition for under £200! Yes, I could buy a plastic pocket-sized digital camera for that money today – but I chose instead to buy perhaps one of the very best 35mm SLR’s ever made. There’s no pocket large enough for this beast! It’s big, it’s metal, it’s heavy, it’s a serious piece of kit. The autofocus and film advance are scarily quick (it focuses and meters much more quickly and accurately than my D70s) and did I say it is a lot of fun to use?

So I took it with us when we went on a family trip to Cork last weekend. For part of the day we went to Fota wildlife park, which was very quiet on such a cold and overcast day. The above picture I took while we were waiting to get the train back into the city.

Because I have only a flatbed scanner I cannot get the best quality from film negatives. A close inspection will show that the picture is quite grainy and lacking in detail. In other words the reflection is an imperfect one. This reminded me of how each of us are made in God’s image and yet oh how so very imperfect we are. We’ve all met people who seem to radiate God’s love … I think of a Pentecostal Pastor I once knew who seemed to glow with God’s love, an incredible man, I think of a Franciscan brother who came to my school and got us cynical teenagers interested in contemplative prayer and I can think of many people, often the quiet ones who inhabit pews Sunday by Sunday who in public are shy but behind closed doors are the real ‘prayer warriors’ of God’s Kingdom.

All of us to a greater or lesser extent reflect God’s glory. Every day my prayer is “More of You, less of me.” Though I’d be the first to admit that God has His work cut out when it comes to me :-)

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor.3:18)

May 9, 2009

Families at Fota Wildlife park

Nikon D70s, f5.3, 1/320 sec, ISO 450, 375mm equivalent
Cappebarra Family

Nikon D70s, f9, 1/320 sec, -0.33 EV, ISO 200, 450mm equivalent
Mother giving a playful nudge

Nikon D70s, f5, 1/320 sec, -0.33 EV, ISO 220, 315mm equivalent
Guinea Fowl – Here come the girls!

Nikon D70s, f5, 1/320 sec, ISO 800, 315mm equivalent
Spider Monkeys

Took these yesterday – I was tempted to include a human family or two for comparison, but didn’t want to get in any trouble!
April 9, 2009

Wild Goose Chase

Film: Fuji Neopan 400, Camera: Pentax P50, Lens: SMC Pentax-A 50mm f1.7

I now know why Geese make such excellent “Guard Dogs”. These ones in Fota Wildlife Park give the impression of being, while not friendly, just more sort of ambivalent about your presence on their territory. Get too close or get distracted by taking a photo (as I did) and you are likely to be pecked. I’m sure that the high-pitched yelp that I let out upon being pecked was very amuzing, not just for my fellow humans but for these feathery creatures too – from whom I will now keep a more respectable distance!

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:20-21)
November 2, 2008

The Pride of Humility

Panasonic FZ50, f4, 1/100 sec, ISO 100, EV 0, 88mm, (Click to enlarge)

Please pray with me:

Father, we ask that you would grant us the wisdom to understand, the courage to face things as they really are and the power to change, Amen.

Martin DeHann said: “Humility is something we should constantly pray for, yet never thank God that we have.”(i)

Saint Augustine said: “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”(ii)

Archibald Alexander said: “Humility is to the Christian what ballast is to the ship: it keeps him in his proper position and regulates all his thoughts and feelings.”(iii)

The Lord Jesus was so disappointed with the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. They had been given a really important task. They were supposed to teach and explain God’s laws and commandments and help people as much as possible to live by them. They had been entrusted with the responsibility of teaching, leading and guiding the people in the ways of God, of showing them His love, His grace, His compassion and forgiveness. The reality though was often very different. In looking at yet another encounter that Jesus had with the religious leaders (Matthew 23:1-12), we might be tempted to think that this was all a long time ago in a faraway place and in a culture very different from our own. That may be true, but the warnings and lessons learnt from this Bible passage are startlingly relevant and contemporary.

The Lord Jesus concisely and clearly lists five problems with the religious leaders, all of which could apply equally today:

First of all, they did not practise what they preached. Isaiah put this in a nutshell when he said: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah 29:13a). We need to be careful that our faith isn’t just us putting on a good performance of being a Christian, like wearing a mask or making sure that everyone knows about it when we do some act of kindness or charity. The Pharisees loved to tell people how to live but didn’t back that up by living that way themselves. Do we call ourselves a Christian? If so, then how well exactly do we know Jesus and how much does He work in us and through us?

Secondly, the religious leaders were not willing to do what they asked of others. What’s the point of encouraging people to abbey God’s laws if you don’t do it yourself? How we have seen the media revelling in the hypocrisy of famous preachers who have made stands against adultery, homosexuality etc., only to be found to be engaging in the very acts which they condemn! Or how about the religious leader who promotes keeping Sunday special who goes shopping after church or who teaches about the importance of sacrificial giving and only puts pittance into the collection themselves!

The third problem was that the teachers of the law and the Pharisees loved to show off. They wore little leather boxes on their foreheads, which contained verses of scripture – a little strange we might think, but nevertheless a practical way of trying to be constantly reminded of God’s word. However the problem Jesus saw was that they were wearing the Phylacteries to get attention “Oh look how holy and devout I am” they might as well have been saying. I can remember when I was a new Christian and going to Bible studies with my shiny new Bible I used to feel a bit unholy because I would look at some of the other Bibles and marvel at how worn-out they were; the paper covers would be torn, the pages (even the Old Testament) would be all dog-eared and generally they would have a battle-scarred look, like they had come though a few hedges backwards! Wow, I thought, these people must have read their Bibles hundreds of times and probably know the whole thing off by heart by now! Call me cynical, but looking back I can’t help but think that some of those Bibles were deliberately roughed up a bit and were carried proudly around like badges of honour. Nowadays of course my Bible too looks like it’s a hundred years old and been owned by a succession of devout monks, not because I am super-holy, but because as well as reading it, I have dropped it, spilt tea on it, left it on the roof of the car whilst driving off and with the help of two small boys it has been much written on and rummaged through…

The fourth problem was that they revelled in grand titles and they loved to be given much honour at banquets and in the synagogues. This is like the clergy person today who loved to be called “Reverend”, or the medical practitioner who glows when called “Doctor”, or the academic who delights in being called “professor”. What is Jesus’ response to this attitude?

You must not be called ‘Teacher’, because you are all members of one family and have only one Teacher. And you must not call anyone here on earth ‘Father’, because you have only the one Father in heaven. Nor should you be called ‘Leader’, because your one and only leader is the Messiah. The greatest one among you must be your servant. Whoever makes himself great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be made great. (Matthew 23:8-12 GNB)

The Lord is making it clear that He is in charge. He is our teacher and we are his students – we go to church, we go to Bible studies, home groups etc., to learn from Him. His life is our model, our pattern and our example for the way to live. The Lord is not saying that we should do away with all earthly titles and positions of authority, He is warning against the yearning for rank, of putting ourselves or letting others put us on a pedestal. The attention of Jesus’ followers must not be on human titles and distinctions but on God in Christ, who alone is worthy of all praise, reverence and honour.

There was once a church that realised the importance of humility, so it formed a committee to find the most humble person in the church. Many names were submitted and numerous candidates evaluated. Finally, the committee came to a unanimous decision. They selected a quiet little man who always lived in the background and had never taken credit for his years of devoted service. They awarded him the “Most Humble” badge for his faithful service. However, the next day they had to take the badge away from him because he had pinned it on and was wearing it with pride!(iv)

The fifth problem was that the religious leaders misunderstood the purpose of ministry and service. One of the things that so clearly makes the follower of Jesus different from the norm is the way that greatness is achieved. Rather than putting ourselves first, rather than racing to be at the head of the pack or the top of the pile, we are encouraged to humble ourselves and to seek greatness through service. Success therefore is not measured in terms of wealth, academic achievements, business victories or any other quantifiable asset; it is measured in terms of submission to Christ and of service. The greatest Christian is the one who has learned to be a servant, to have the heart of a servant, the attitude of a servant and the actions of a servant(v). Of course Jesus Himself is the perfect example – He practices what He preaches, he doesn’t ask of us anything that He Himself has not already undertaken and He wants us above all to know, understand and believe that He loves us so much that He humbled Himself upon the cross that we might receive forgiveness, eternal life and freedom, freedom to love and freedom to serve…


(ii) The Complete Gathered Gold, John Blanchard, Evangelical Press, 2006, p.319
(iii) Ibid.
(iv) (adapted)

Helpful Books:
Michael Green, Matthew for Today, Hodder & Stoughton, 1989.
William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary – Matthew, Banner of Truth, 1989.

September 18, 2008

Lazy Cheetahs at Fota Wildlife park

Nikon D70s, 1/320, f11, 300mm (Click to enlarge)

One of the many highlights of the Wildlife Park are the Cheetahs. If you go at feeding time you get them running around and being fast, scary, impressive and intimidating. If you get them early in the morning however they seem little more than lazy, harmless and cuddly kitties!