Sunday, 27 September 2015


Today, in the lectionary, the Old Testament reading was from the book Esther.  So, since it was All Age Worship we had the entire narrative as the sermon; the emphasis being that God is at work even when the name of God is not actually mentioned.  The power of prayer, referred to in the James reading, is seen very clearly in the story of Esther.
As far as we could the congregation participated ... stamping feet when Haman was mentioned and cheering Mordecai.
It is a story worth reading in its entirety, not a long book and full of drama, intrigue, plots and salvation.  At one point it looks as if the entire Jewish population will be exterminated.  How often in history has that been so very true.
The hymns fitted with the theme to perfection.  O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come ... and Amazing grace ...
It was a time of encouragement and praise as we remembered how God has been our guide, even in the days when we were unaware of God's presence.
Today was also the day when Saint Nicholas' received the supplement to the Church Hymnal, Thanks and Praise.  There's some good stuff in it and we look forward to using it alongside the hymnal in the months/years to come.
Meanwhile all is quiet in the household.  Dougal is snoring ... quite a relief from last night when he was annoyed by a bluebottle ... when the pesky insect landed on the curtains and, I'm convinced sat mocking the dog, Dougal stared at it for a full ten minutes.
 Last night the moon was clear and bright ... and tonight will be the lunar eclipse ... when the moon turns red!  In practice I took a few pictures late last evening so that I'd be ready for tonight's phenomena.  Whether I'll be up at 03.11 am is quite another question!
 Before the orb had risen high enough to take picture this was what happened as the camera focussed on the tree outside the rectory rather than on the moon itself!
There are very few daisies in the lawn here ... but these three cheerful heads have popped up among the moss and clover ... there is grass too!
 And, finally, another shot of Dougal ... every day he checks through the gate and makes sure that we're safe from all intruders.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Another hat

I have the great good fortune of belonging to a group that presents a festival in Belfast every January/February.  It is the 4 Corners Festival. 

Our aim: 4 Corners Festival seeks to inspire people from across the city of Belfast, to transform it for the peace and well-being of all. It consists of innovative and imaginative events designed to entice people out of their own ‘corners’ of the city and into places where they will encounter alternative perspectives, transformative ideas and new people.

As part of the preparation for 2016 we've organised an art competition.  This is for the senior school pupils (Key Stage 4 and the Sixth Form).  Information will arrive in schools, libraries and community centres over the next week ... but ... here are the details if you know anyone who might like to enter.  They should be living in the Belfast area in order to qualify.
 Just find a way to illustrate what it is like to live where you do ... drawing or painting ... and send in the entry!  This second page gives the details of where to send it.  During the  4 Corners Festival   we plan to have as many of the entries as possible on display.
So ... pass on the information to others and get drawing (or painting) ... if you're not in ...etc.!

Friday, 25 September 2015

TFTD ... last one for this month.

This may be listened to on iPlayer just before 25 minutes into the programme and again at one hour and 25 minutes
Today, leaders from around the world will announce how they intend to meet some extra-ordinary targets in the next 15 years.
They want to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice and fix climate change.
They could fail in every target... but, even in trying, great things can be achieved.
When we look at the three areas targeted, these goals seem to be impossible. What difference can any one of us make?
The Dalai Lama XIV said, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito!”  Everyone can play a part.
Some years ago when I was a school teacher my Year Group decided to collect pennies for charity.  During the weeks leading up to Christmas we stuck them to the classroom wall … and each day some new coins were added as class by class they brought in a few pence.  A penny on its own is of little value but by the end of the term we had a considerable sum collected, as together they made a difference.
It doesn’t take much from each person to make a difference. 
That makes me think of yesterday’s porridge.  For some reason I was interrupted during the cooking process – probably to let Dougal out into the garden.  Anyhow, when it came to eating it there was clearly something wrong.  I’d forgotten to add the salt!  Just a tiny pinch of sodium chloride makes all the difference to the taste. 
Jesus told his followers that they are to be like salt in the world … we are to make the world a better place.  So, on a day when the world leaders are signing up to the United Nations targets maybe we need to set individual goals too.
What can I do to make a difference?
Even a small financial contribution will work towards ending extreme poverty and help those who have lost everything they owned.
I can speak out against inequality and injustice; and am able to challenge the government on policies that make life more difficult for the vulnerable.
My attitude to recycling, reducing waste, and to using renewable resources will work towards fixing climate change.  I can protect the environment where I live.
Desmond Tutu wrote, “Do a little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”        

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Time passes quickly

It seems no time at all since last TFTD on Friday ... and, if I'm not careful, another one will happen before the blog is updated.
What's to update?
Well ... the dog I suppose!
But nothing much changes there.  He studies the neighbours, looks for squirrels and then sleeps!

So ... that's Dougal!  Very happy, very active, very affectionate!  And he gets me out of the house for long walks.
What else has happened since last Friday ... well ... there's been church ... and now we are beginning preparations for Harvest at the beginning of October.
This banner will be on the church railings over the next ten days ... maybe folk will see it and feel welcome to come in.  The evening service will be readings and music ... no sermon!
And now, today ... the big clear up from the Mothers' Union/Ladies' Guild sale ... all that remains unsold is to be packed away for another year!  We made £336 ... a good sum for two Saturday mornings.
Now ... to write this week's TFTD and get going with all the other stuff that needs to be done!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Thought For The Day (again)

Today's Thought For The Day at 23 minutes 3 seconds

The New Dog
Officially his name is Dougal.  But frequently hes called anything from Spud to Doodlebug or simply Pup.  It doesnt seem to matter.  My new dog pricks up his ears whenever I speak.

Dougal is a six year old rescue dog from Assisi. Members of his fan club have been asking when hes going to get a Thought for the Day.  So here it is.

He arrived in June and has settled quickly into rectory life.  Within a short time he realized that going to bed in the breakfast room means his owner will be away for a while but will certainly return. 

Inevitably, life for Dougal is now centred around church activities.  Hes a regular member of the Bible Study Group, attends all Parish lunches and other functions.  It is a case of, wherever I am he is happy to tag along.

Very quickly he has learned the sound of my voice and the routines of the week.  Most mornings he comes downstairs and just curls up in a chair to sleep some more but the day off morning sees him up and ready for a run at the seaside before Ive even had a coffee.  How does he know?

For his benefit the back garden has become an agility course with hoops and hurdles.  That was inspired by a visit to Castlewellan agricultural show in July hes learning new tricks so he can participate next year.

In all of this hes alert for my voice and watching every move that I make. He will react to the softest whisper; I'm beginning to think that he can read my mind.

If only we humans were as in tune with God as Dougal is to me

My regular walks with the dog provide daily examples of God communicating with us through the gentle whispers, and the drama, of the natural world. 

David, in one of the Psalms, captures this sense of God speaking:  The heavens are telling the glory of God; 3 There is no speech, nor are there words;   … 4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth, …. (Psalm 19)

This also reminds me of a line in a very old action song that we learned as children in Sunday School.  The chorus is: Whenever you see a rainbow, whenever you see a rainbow, whenever you see a rainbow  remember God is love.

All around us, as well as in the scriptures, God is speaking. 

Our part is to be attentive all the time ... to prick up our ears so we can hear what God is saying.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Thought for the Day

The programme may be heard on iPlayer for the next few days. at 24 minutes and 48 seconds into the broadcast

My sisters and I have been chatting about a story we heard our parents tell.
The year was 1943.  Thomas and Emily (our parents) had just got married.  He had been stationed in Oxford where there was married accommodation in nearby Woodstock.  Then his company of Royal Engineers was moved to Rotherham.  This meant that the new bride had to be left behind.  Soon arrangements were made for her to follow.  He was given a day's leave and the agreed meeting  place was to be underneath the clock in Sheffield Railway Station. 
Thomas waited
Emily waited
After a couple of hours Emily decided to make her way to the army camp in Rotherham where she was given a place to rest in the guardroom.
Thomas eventually gave up waiting and returned to barracks.  There he was told to go and check on a new inmate in the cells!  And so, the young couple were reunited. 
If only theyd had a phone.  It wouldnt have taken long to discover that he was in Sheffield Victoria while she was sitting in Sheffield Midland!
This got me thinking about all the things for which I feel thankful
Ill start with the mobile phone that keeps me in touch with people and stops me from waiting for someone in the wrong place!
Then, before coming to the studio this morning I was able to put on a load of washing Im grateful that I dont have to stand at the sink to wash, rinse and then put clothes through the mangle as my mother did.
I could go on and on about all the things for which Im thankful maybe even adding in my new rescue dog, Dougal;  but he probably deserves a Thought For The Day to himself. 
In these days when there is so much that can create negative thinking and hopelessness it is a good thing to take a few minutes each day to think about what might be going right rather than wrong. To look for hope rather than give in to despair.
Its often  the small things that can be the most beautiful; we must make an effort to cultivate a positive attitude of thanksgiving.

The writer in the book of Psalms went to the heart of the matter when he thought about God and said: I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;  I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Is there anything ...

... that Dougal won't eat?  Oh yes, bananas!
Apart from that he has a prodigious appetite ... For example, today (so far) he has enjoyed goats' cheese, mashed potato, scrambled egg, toast, Moroccan chunky houmous ... as well as some dog food and a few gravy bones!  Now, granted that the quantities of the human food were small-ish, the fact that he gobbles up anything that he's given is quite amazing.  Maybe I ought to add that he's not too keen on blackcurrant jam although the skin of freshwater trout is a treat!
The cheese was particularly tasty.  Grilled on fresh tomatoes this was an excellent starter for lunch.

Earlier in the day we enjoyed a car wash at the local Fire Station ... eight very energetic and fun officers all pitching in to raise funds for childhood cancer.  
Dougal loves to play ... earlier today it was with one of the toys at home ... a sort of ball with tugging ropes on the two ends.  Play was a bit rough, over-excited maybe ... anyhow ... I don't think the blue and red ball is long for this world!  For such a small hole there was an awful lot of white stuffing and a considerable pile of red and blue fibres!
He is very fond of this particular toy, carrying it around to where he sleeps ... often bringing it to me when I return after being out for a while ... but I suspect the end is in sight and he'll just have to find another plaything.  
Then after a spell outside chasing his tennis ball Dougal lay back for a well-earned rest!  What a life the poor dog has!  Doing the assault course will be for later in the day when he's had a good sleep.
 Last night he had an uninterrupted rest while I was attending the Studio Symphony Orchestra Quintet concert in Saint Nicholas'.  That was a great evening ... one of my sisters and brother in law were among the audience ... a beautiful and restful way to spend a couple of hours.
 The view from the gallery is often the best one for a camera shot.
 But after the concert I had the quintet pose for a "proper picture" ... getting a good image during the performance would have been just too disruptive.
I managed a few from a long distance away ... but the posed ones are definitely better.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Thought for the Day

This will be available on BBC iPlayer for seven days at 1 hour 26 minutes into the programme.

Young People Nowadays

The phrase, Young People Nowadays is followed frequently with a negative assessment or criticism.  There seems to be an assumption that previous generations were perfection personified and that Young People Nowadays are thoughtless, selfish and just downright untidy.

Id like to challenge these assumptions because, in my experience, the vast majority of young people are hardworking and thoughtful.  They are passionate about any number of good causes; often giving time and energy to work for other people.  Young people want to make the world a better place.  They care about the environment; they worry about refugees; theyre frustrated by government policies and they want to do something to stand up to the complacency and indifference that they find in the adult world.

Just this week I was on a bus.  It was fairly full.  In front of me two boys were sitting, totally engrossed in their conversation about rugby!  Id guess they were Year 10 or thereabouts. 

As we drew near to a bus stop I noticed, among the half dozen folk waiting, that there were two ladies who each had a young child in a pushchair.  In spite of their chat, the teenagers clearly saw them as well. 

Before the vehicle had even stopped, the pair of lads had jumped up, retreated to the back of the bus, and continued to stand for the remainder of the journey.  Clearly this small act of thoughtfulness was so much part of their natural behaviour that they didnt even have to think about it nor did someone need to give them a dirty look or make the suggestion to them.  And they certainly didnt do it for any praise or glory.

Its doubtful if the two ladies realized what had happened but you could see the relief on their faces as they found seats at the front of the bus. 

This very small incident reminded me of a story that Jesus told he said that acts of kindness such as : giving food to the hungry, providing clothes to the needy, showing care for the vulnerable  all of these are interpreted as if they were being done to Jesus himself. 

In the words of an older translation of the Bible: Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Perhaps today we might look for a chance to do some act of kindness to another person.  

Thursday, 3 September 2015

I do like to be beside the seaside!

I'd forgotten just how far it is to the beach ... the board walk makes it easy though it isn't half as much fun as clambering over the sand dunes.
Anyhow ... day off ... and we arrived eventually.
Inevitably there was a photo shoot.
 Dougal posed very patiently for a while ... but the lure of the ocean ... well ... the Irish Sea ... became too much and off he shot for a long paddle.  It is a delight to watch him running along the shoreline ...
The beach was practically deserted ... just one lad with a spaniel, a couple with two small yappy dogs and another couple walking along without any dog!

You can see that it was hard to select just one or two images ... there were over a hundred from which to choose!
Then we travelled on to Kilkeel ... inspected the apples ... doing well but still far from ripe.

The grapes, however, are definitely not doing well ... my fault entirely as the spring pruning was neglected.
And, finally, the Joseph Rock Rowan tree is covered with berries.  They mustn't be ripe yet or the birds would have it stripped.  It must be over twenty years old now ... a fine tree.
I do love the yellow berries ... but it will need to be pruned ... the greenhouse lies in its shadow.
So ... that was today ... just a relaxing and doing very little kind of day!