Thursday, January 31, 2008

Curacy News

St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald
Originally uploaded by Gary McMurray.

Just a quick post to say that I've been offered (and am accepting!) the Curacy in St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald. We got the news at about 4pm, then it was a lot of ringing and texting to tell people. After heading out for dinner, I came up the road home.

A big thank you to all those who have been praying for me - please continue to pray for those who have not yet been placed.


It's THE afternoon. Carmen and me are in College waiting to see where our Curacies will be. I'm reminded of the line from the hymn 'The Church's one foundation':

'Yet saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, "How long?"'

Hopefully we'll know soon!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Last night, even though I was working, I had a relaxed and relaxing evening. I was putting together a powerpoint presentation for our Spirituality class, using photos I had taken. The session was an exploration of the use of photography in the spiritual life, so I thought about things such as photos bringing back memories of the events; photos as seeing, capturing and appreciating the beauty of God's creation; and the communal aspects of Flickr, with friends and comments and meet-ups.

The presentation also used music, the hymn 'How great thou art', while showing pictures of nature. Hopefully I'll soon be able to show the presentation on the blog - Robert, my technical adviser is considering the best way of doing it!

Even without the additional benefits of having something to present in class, or to show on the blog, I really enjoyed making the powerpoint - seeing photos I haven't seen in a while, and thrilling at the beauty contained therein.

What is your way of relaxing?

Saturday, January 26, 2008


I haven't been posting so much over the last few days - it's because Lynsey's home at present, so we're enjoying a weekend at home! Sorting a wee bit of wedding stuff, and visiting some family - just the usual.

This week in college will be busy, with College Fellowship on Tuesday night, hearing where our Curacies will be on Thursday, and doing a presentation on our dissertations on Friday. As well as the normal lectures, chapel services and working on the dissertation and essays...

I'll write a wee bit about the dissertation in the near future - it's shaping up nicely at present.

The Cross

The Cross
Originally uploaded by Gary McMurray.

Taken in Phoenix Park, Dublin

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Plans and Hope

These people were far away from home. Taken away from the places they knew. Taken away from their friends and families. Exiles. Strangers. They even had some tears when they thought of home. And they were in this position because of their faith in God. No, I’m not writing about CITC! When the captives from Judah arrived in Babylon, they must have wondered what it was all about. Removed from the Promised Land and the Temple, they thought their days were well and truly numbered. Had God abandoned them?

Yet into this bleak situation, Jeremiah writes a letter to the exiles, telling them to seek the welfare of the city ‘for in its welfare you will find your welfare’ (Jer 29:7). Despite them being in a strange place, they are fulfilling God’s plan. God hadn’t finished with them yet. The letter to the exiles is one of hope, and you probably already know one of its verses: ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope’ (Jer 29:11).

Their time of confusion and discomfort was not without purpose. God was fulfilling his plans through them. This time of year can be a stressful time for the final year students as we seek to discern where God is leading. Yet as we move through the Curacy appointments process, we can be confident of the same faithful God, who still has plans for his people!


This article first appeared as the Senior Student's Column in the Church of Ireland Theological College Community Review, Issue 2 (January 2008).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Interviews, Check! Essays, Check!

College life at the minute seems like one big checklist of things to be completed, all by last Tuesday, if you please. Last night, I had my final interview of the Curacy List, and it seemed to go quite well. We'll see next Thursday when the preferences are brought together and the promises of offers are made.

Tonight I managed to get the final essay of the first semester finished off. Yes, I know that we're already into the second semester, but our Anglicanism essay had a nice deadline of this Friday coming. So that's the first batch of essays done.

Looking ahead, the next items on the checklist are finding out what parishes we'll be working in (Thursday week), five more essays (so far three for March and two for after the Easter holidays in April), and the Major Integrated Project - more commonly known around here as the dissertation. It's due in for the 31st March, all nicely bound and presented, but the week before a certain crowd of ordinands will be touring Pisa and Florence, so we'll need to have them finished before we jet off.

And that will be all the work needed for college, except for the 'dreaded E word' - exams. But we'll not worry about them just yet. Sure they're ages away!

"Excuse me, you're sitting in my seat!"

I'm working on my Anglicanism essay on the 1870 Preamble and Declaration of the General Convention of the Church of Ireland. To help in this, I've been reading through the Journal of the General Convention, and came across this wonderful motion, taken on the first day of the session:

That the Rule of the House of Commons, that any gentleman taking a seat at prayer time is entitled to retain it for the day, be observed in this Convention.

There's a couple of comments you could make on this - one that it's a bit like being concerned with the deck chairs on the Titanic as the Church of Ireland was moving into disestablishment, and could yet sink; or alternatively, that it just goes to show that Church of Ireland folk really are into their 'traditional seats'...

Either way, the journal notes that the motion failed to be passed!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Leader Follows the Flickr Fashion

If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you'll know how much I like Flickr (when it works). It's a great website for sharing photos, and see the attempts of others. Over the year or so that I've been using it, I hope that my photos are getting better as I gain inspiration from other photographers!

Now it seems that the local newspapers are getting into the Flickr frenzy as well. Recently I got an email from John Hooks, from the Banbridge Leader, asking could they use some of my shots in the paper. Well, of course I said yes! They're starting a new weekly feature where they highlight the best local shots by local photographers, and I'm going to be featured!

I noticed that it started this week, with a shot of the old Down Shoes factory by someone else. Hopefully mine will be there soon. Sadly, though, they don't seem to be running the feature on their website, so there'll be nothing to link through to.

Nice to see the 'Leader' following the Flickr fashion!

Friday, January 18, 2008


I've had four interviews over the past two days in the Curacy List. Tough questions, and enjoyable chats with rectors I didn't know beforehand. In some senses it's strange having interviews for parishes I hadn't looked at or been interested in. A bit like having a job interview for a job you don't want? But it's all part of the process, and will provide us with some more places to think about when we come to make our one-two-three preferences next week. For now though, there's one more interview on Monday - until then I intend to have a relaxing weekend!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The LORD, he is God! (1 Kings 18)

My Explore Bible reading notes have been working through 1 Kings this year. Today we reach 1 Kings 18, where we read of the contest between the prophets of Baal and Elijah, the prophet of the Lord. Or, to be more accurate, between Baal and the Living God. I've previously blogged about the musical setting of these chapters by Mendelssohn, and it is good to revisit them.

The wider context of the contest on Mount Carmel was Israel's apostasy, led by King Ahab. You see, Ahab had married the daughter of the king of the Sidonians, Jezebel. Jezebel was a worshipper of Baal, and had led the people astray. High places, shrines, and prophets on the civil service. The country was in a mess.

Into this situation, Elijah had spoken God's word, declaring that there would be no rain for some time. Three years into the drought, Elijah appears (having ironically hidden in Jezebel's own land with a widow of Zarephath). When Ahab calls him the troubler of Israel, Elijah turns it around and says that it is actually Ahab who has caused the devastation.

Elijah announces the contest on Mount Carmel, and tells the king to summon the people to attend. On arriving, there are two bulls, one for the multitude of the priests of Baal (and Baal's wife Asherah), and one for Elijah. The one who answers by fire must be God. It is striking to see how Elijah addresses the people:

How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.

It's as if Elijah is saying that it is better to make up your mind, rather than sitting on the fence! It's also a challenge to put your money where your mouth is. If you know God is God, then acknowledge it, and serve him with all that you have. And if you think he isn't, then don't be half-hearted about it! Either God is worth our all, or he isn't worth anything.

Due to the greater numbers, the prophets of Baal and Asherah go first. From morning til noon they pray and sing and dance, calling on Baal to answer, to set the sacrifice on fire. Verse 26 says 'But there was no voice, and no one answered.' What a disappointment. Their god doesn't answer them. Elijah is one of my favourite prophets of all time - I can't wait to see him in heaven. And he shows one of the reasons why I like him so much. Nothing happens, and he gets a bit sarcastic. He urges them to keep up their worship of Baal, to keep crying and calling on him - after all, if he's a god, he should be able to answer. In fact, maybe he's sleeping, on a journey,
or even at the loo. After the afternoon of shouting, and even drawing blood, they draw faint. Once more we read - 'but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.' (1 Kings 18:29). What a damning indictment of the false religion in Israel. The one they looked to, the one they called upon, the one they depended upon for health and fertility and crops. No answer.

Now it's Elijah's turn. In contrast to the noise and blood and extravagance of the prophets of Baal, Elijah moves in quiet simplicity, restoring true worship to Israel, bringing the people back to Yahweh.The altar of the Lord, previously threw down is built up again, with twelve stones for the twelve sons of Jacob. Even this simple move is a telling statement, reminding the people of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

Then, a trench is dug around the altar, and four water jars are filled three times each and poured on the sacrifice, altar and flowing into the trench. Humanly speaking, it would be impossible to light the sacrifice. But remember, this was during a time of drought - it hadn't rained for three years, so where did they get the water? It must have been a lengthy process to go down the mountain, fill the jars and pour them out; then again; then again. Don't miss the symbolism again of the twelve jars of water, matching the twelve stones.

Elijah then prays to the LORD. He reminds God who God is, claiming his name, and prays that God will reveal himself to be God again in Israel. There's an interesting phrase at the end of his prayer, and I'll think about it more - 'Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.' What does Elijah mean by 'that you have turned their hearts back'? Has God already turned their hearts back, and it's just up to the people to recognise it? Thoughts welcome.

Anyway - what happens next? Behold the mighty power of God!

Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

Not just the bull. Not just the bull and the wood. That would be enough! Yet even the stones and the dust is burnt up and consumed in the fire of the Lord. And all the water is removed as well. What an awesome God we have!

Notice the reaction of the people. No longer do they limp between opinions. Gone is the wavering and doubting and compromising. Instead, they cry aloud, faces in the dust:

The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.

How do we learn from this passage? What can we take with us today and tomorrow? Do we waver between opinions? Are we Christians only when it suits us? Are we believers in church on Sunday, but then become like our colleagues, friends and neighbours the rest of the time? We need to stand up for God, having witnessed his power and his glory.

While we may not see wet sacrifices being consumed, we have a much stronger demonstration of God's power, wisdom and love in the cross of Christ. How can we reflect on the death of Christ and then act as if the Lord is not God? Are we concerned with God's glory, as Elijah was?

One day, all opposition to God's rule will be removed. Every knee will bow, willingly or not, and every created being will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. What about you?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Preparation and Protestants

It never really stops in college. It's the night before the first of the interview in the Curacy appointments process, and I've been sitting researching an essay, for the most part. The essay is for Anglicanism, and I'm looking at the Preamble and Declaration of 1870. It was the Church of Ireland preparing for disestablishment (that is, freedom from state control, and being seen as a wing of the civil service), and defining itself.

Stating clearly what it was, and was not. An interesting document, and one of the few places in the Church of Ireland's formularies (maybe even the formularies of the entire Anglican Communion) where the Church is question is defined as 'a reformed and Protestant Church.' Elsewhere, the phrasing would be 'catholic and reformed' but here, they went full kilter for the declaration that the Church of Ireland was protestant.

While the declaration talks about a lot more, I think I'm going to focus in on the self-identity of the Church, looking at the background to this statement, and also what relevance it has for the Church of Ireland of today.

Prayers, as always, greatly appreciated for the interviews tomorrow, Friday and Monday. Oh, and by the way, my darling has summarised our last few months in great style at her blog in a post entitled 'The road less travelled.'

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Flickr-ing out?

For the second time in two days, Flickr is down. I'm not quite sure what the problem is, and the error message is suitably vague. Rather disappointing, given that most people are paying for the service...Hopefully it will be up again in the near future.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Piecing It Together

Just a very quick post. Since my last updates on the Curacy List etc, there have been some exciting developments. We're now less than a week away until the interviews. I'm having four interviews - two on Thursday, one on Friday, and one on Monday, and am looking forward to them.

However, the most exciting news is that Lynsey is coming home. Yes, that's right, she has been accepted for a job in Northern Ireland! Now we she has to rank the available possibilities and hope that the hospitals and parishes are near each other. But it's great that she has got into Northern Ireland - as someone said, the pieces of the jigsaw are all coming together well!

Keep praying for us, as we make important choices in the coming weeks.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Spiral Staircase

Last night we had Baden Stanley preaching in the College Chapel. Baden is the Rector of Bray, and used a very useful illustration for the decline in society, and the growing wickedness. He likened it to being on a spiral staircase.

If we were on a normal staircase, and could see the bottom, the end consequences of where we are headed, we wouldn't go there. We would get off the stairs. But society is more like a spiral staircase - we can't see the bottom, just the next step down. It's so easy to go down one step - it doesn't seem like very much, not much different to where we were. But we are progressing down and down.

The only answer is to repent - to turn, and to seek to climb the stairs again, one step at a time, through God's grace.

This was by no means the whole sermon, just a useful illustration I thought I would blog, share and remember!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

2007 Reading

Well it seems that my last post about reading struck a chord with some people. Primarily as regards posting book reviews, with comments received both on and off the blog. It also prompted Bryan to post a list of his reading from last year. It struck me as an eminently good idea, seeing as I have a poorly-updated list of my recently read books on the side-bar.

So here, for no one's interest but my own, is the list of 2007 reading:

When The Time Was Right - Stephen Rand

Angela’s Ashes - Frank McCourt

Tithing - R. T Kendall

Robert Murray M’Cheyne - JC Smith

Heal Not Lightly - Harry Smith

Great is Your Faithfulness - Richard Brooks

If Tomorrow Never Comes - Audrey Dunlop

A Closer Look at His Dark Materials - John Houghton

The Jesus Gospel - Liam Goligher

Round Ireland With a Fridge - Tony Hawks

Elijah - Lance Pierson

Facing Your Giants - Max Lucado

Jesus Driven Ministry - Ajith Fernando

The Case for Faith - Lee Strobel

The Message of 2 Timothy - John Stott

Starter For Ten - David Nicholls

Spiritual Fitness - Graham Tomlin

The Hand of God - Fred Leahy

Prodigal World - Phillip Jensen

The World According To - Jeremy Clarkson

God is Closer Than You Think - John Ortberg

Sorry to Bother You Doctor - Andrew Hamilton

Mary - Wendy Virgo

The Other Side of the Good News - Larry Dixon

Practising the Presence of God - Brother Lawrence

Five Leading Reformers - Christopher Catherwood

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - JK Rowling

The Heart of the Cross – James Montgomery Boice + Philip Ryken

Battles Christians Face - Vaughan Roberts

Jesus and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ – Author unknown

How Green was my Curate - Fred Secombe

Join Me - Danny Wallace

The Message of Nehemiah - Raymond Brown

Charles Simeon - Handley Moule

Motorworld - Jeremy Clarkson

Grace Choices - Jeff Lucas

The Lost message of Jesus - Steve Chalke

Eats, Shoots and Leaves - Lynne Truss

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals - John Piper

The Power of a Praying Husband - Stormie Omartian

Body Beautiful - Melvin Tinker

The Remnant: Left Behind 10 - Tim LaHaye

The Height of Nonsense - Paul Clements

The 'I AM' Sayings of Jesus - Frank Lyall

Church next - Eddie Gibbs and Ian Coffey

I Am Jeremiah - Alan Pain

The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins

The Dawkins Letters - David Robertson

On the Anvil - Max Lucado

Henry Cooke - Finlay Holmes

Communicating for a Change - Andy Stanley

The Seven Churches of Asia - Robert Murray M'Cheyne

I Know You Got Soul - Jeremy Clarkson

The Marian Conspiracy - Graham Phillips

The Truth About Jesus - Paul Barnett

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J K Rowling

The Radical Reformission - Mark Driscoll

I Am Moses - Alan Pain

The Last Testament - Sam Bourne

A Price for a People - Tom Wells

Satan Cast Out - Fred Leahy

Robert Murray M'Cheyne - Andrew Bonar

The Romance of Redemption - Edward Boone

Red Moon Rising - Pete Greig

The Blind Watchmaker - Richard Dawkins

Worship By the Book - Don Carson

Grace Abounding - John Bunyan

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - JK Rowling

Standing for God: Elijah - Roger Ellsworth

The Testament of Gideon Mack - James Robertson

Hurt - Chap Clark

Nothing in My hand I Bring - Ray Galea

All Things for Good - Thomas Watson

Confessions of a Reformission Rev - Mark Driscoll

Married for God - Christopher Ash

And Another Thing - Jeremy Clarkson

After Death - Alec Motyer

Total Church - Tim Chester and Steve Timmis


Of the 78, I think the best ones were, in no particular order, The Jesus Gospel (Liam Goligher), Jesus Driven Ministry (Ajith Fernando), The Hand of God (Fred Leahy), The Radical Reformission (Mark Driscoll), Worship by the Book (Don Carson) and Total Church (Tim Chester and Steve Timmis).

I've provided links to those books, to Christian online stores where possible, or to Amazon for the others, but remember, the best place to get reduced price books is still ICM at Bleary! And you can order online!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Reading and Readers

I like to think of myself as a decent reader. Normally I have at least one book on the go - one I have in my backpack, another in the car for those moments when I'm doing the unpaid taxi-driver routine for family, and maybe one beside the bed in each of Dublin and home.

Throughout the year, I manage to get about 80 - 90 books read. This is roughly about three every two weeks, and would cover a range of theology, novels, fictions, Christian biography, travel, commentaries, and my personal weak spot - Jeremy Clarkson collections! Last year I got in 78 books, which I was fairly pleased with. Yes, I'm sad. Yes, I record the books I read - so that I can remember which ones I have read. Not sure how last year's figure compares with previous years as I don't have my filofax with me, but I think it may be slightly down.

Anyway, what prompted me to write about my reading was a blog I recently read which stunned me. Rosemary was home in Belfast for Christmas, and in the space of a couple of days seems to have read seven or eight books! Phenomenal!

Another reason I'm blogging is that I have been inspired (by Erik at Irish Calvinist) to review the books that I'm reading, or at least share wee bits I find interesting from them. And that will start in the very near future - or at least it would need to as I've already two books read!!!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Back to Porridge

I'm back in Dublin once again, and the regular routine begins tomorrow, with a 9 o'clock lecture in Trinity. Ouch! I've said this before, but where did those four weeks of holidays go?

Was up early this morning taking Lynsey back to Aldergrove for her flight to Edinburgh, then visited a church on the curacy list. This afternoon I took mum and dad to a funeral at mum's home church - while they were at it I went for a wee drive and then sat reading - finished off Alistair McGrath's response to Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, which is appropriately titled The Dawkins Delusion.

The journey down to Dublin was rough enough - and not just because of the company (only joking Robert!). There was heavy rain the whole way from Banbridge to south of the Boyne, but it isn't too bad here.

So where do we go from here? Tomorrow starts the Hillary Term (or is it Hilary Term?), which runs until the first week of March and our next holidays. All in all, there are just thirteen weeks of term time left in college (with three weeks of holiday in the middle), three weeks revision, and two weeks exams, and I will be finished. Scary when you put it like that!

Most of the formal interviews on the Curacy List are next week, and then D-Day is the 31st January. So, as ever, we need your prayers! Continue to pray for us students and the rectors as we seek to discern God's call for where we should be labouring in the next three years. And pray that we will keep at the studies, with a 10,000 word dissertation due for the end of March and about 5 or 6 essays also to be written. I can see that it would be so easy to get distracted by curacies and weddings and jobs and houses and wiis and you name it!

Anyways, time for another bowl of that porridge!

Friday, January 04, 2008

2007: The Year In My Pictures

I had intended doing this at the end of last year, but didn't get around to it. Being in bed because of the snow means that I have the excuse to do it today! According to my Flickr stats, I took 2587 photos in 2007. I've now sifted through them, to bring you the best, and my favourite images from the year - one from each month. I was going to include honourable mentions, or pictures I couldn't decide between, but that would have been far too many! Pick your favourite at the bottom!

So here, for you, is my year in pictures:

The Spike, Dublin was taken on 30th January. I liked this one because of the intense winter sun and the shadow of the Spire on Dublin's O'Connell Street.

The view from my breakfast table was February's favourite. It was taken in a cafe in Edinburgh, when I was on my way to see Lynsey in Dundee! The view of Edinburgh Castle was amazing!

In March, I was exploring the Legacy of the Past: Belfast Shipyard. The black and white rendering added to the sense of dereliction.

This photo of the Spelga Dam was taken in April when I was out for a photography drive. I loved the blue of the water against the surroundings, and it received a few comments on the lead in using the big rock in the foreground.

Downshire Sundown was my favourite capture in May. The silhouette of the monument and the trees against the backdrop of the setting sun made this a special one.

Scotland makes another appearance in June's selection. The Ladybird was wandering about on a leaf in St Andrews when I was there.

If you have been following my blog at all over the past while, you'll probably know this image well. Craigmore and Beyond was taken in July, from the top of the village of Bessbrook, looking towards the Mournes. The Craigmore in the title is Craigmore viaduct, on the Belfast - Dublin railway line. This image was used in an exhibition in Glasgow's 'The Lighthouse.'
In August, I got this photo of a Grasshopper in Milltown Cemetery in Belfast. An ugly brute, if I may say so!

In September, just before I started back to college, I went off on a roadtrip with Stewart to Sligo. On the way home, we stopped at Glencar Waterfall.

October was the month of Hallowe'en, and some of us from college went down into Dublin to see fireworks. This amazing photo of a wee man spinning in a fireball caught my eye.

For Lynsey's birthday weekend I was flying over to Scotland on the dawn flight from Dublin. One of the shots I took was the Plane Sunrise. Thought the colours were magnificent!

My final image of the year is from Belfast, and is titled It's Wheely, Wheely Big By Night. The lights in the trees, the Belfast Wheel lit up, the City Hall lit up, it's all looking very festive.

So now it's over to you. Out of my choice of the twelve, which is your favourite image of the year? Answers in a comment.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Pure, White Snow

Pure, White Snow
Originally uploaded by Gary McMurray.

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

- Isaiah 1:18

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

- Psalm 51:7

Snow Joke!

Snowy Tree
Originally uploaded by Gary McMurray.

Dear me! What a bit of snow has fallen in Dromore this evening! This morning when we were heading down to Lisburn, there was a skift of snow falling, but we didn't think it would come to much.

By the time we were coming out of Lisburn at 7pm, it was heavy progress - the A1 dual carriageway was practically down to one lane (escept for some eejits, including a CIE Tours bus who flew up the outside lane), with really deep snow in Dromore.

After dinner I wandered out for a walk to get some photos of the snow, and this was one of the best ones. You can see them all by clicking on this photo, or by visiting my Flickr - the button is to the right hand side!.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Today I enjoyed a bit of golfing, without a club in sight! It was my soon-to-be parents-in-law's last day off, and they wanted to do something a bit different, so we went on a trip to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra. The added bonus was that I got to drive their Volkswagen Golf TDI!

Wow! Their car has so much more power, and was very enjoyable to drive! They also seemed to enjoy the chauffeur service, so no one was complaining. But anyways, enough about the car.

Even though I've been many times before, the museum was still interesting, with some new exhibits since my last visit. Among the new highlights are the Presbyterian Meeting House from Omagh, with a great display in the back corner of items associated with Presbyterian worship, and some pre-recorded samples of Psalm singing. As far as I can remember, this was the first time I have been in a Presbyterian pulpit, but hopefully not the last!

The Gilford Picture House was also new to me - showing a Charlie Chaplin film; and the next door Photographer's Studio where an 80-year old camera was being demonstrated. Some extra shops have also been added to the town section, but the best moment was going into the sweetie shop for a quarter of sweets!

The transport section seemed to be mostly the same as the last time I was there, but the huge trains were still impressive!

Reflecting on the day, it has struck me that in some ways, Ulster has moved on so much in the last hundred years. While most of the houses were small and poky (including the houses from Meeting Street in Dromore, where my great aunt lived, as far as I know) with only an open fire and no running water or inside toilet; nowadays we live in comparative luxury. We would think we were inconvenienced if one room in our houses now was the size of the entire floor plan of one of those terraced houses. The abundance of possessions knows no end, as our houses fill up with stuff.

Yet in the acquiring of all this, we have lost something as well. In virtually every house we visited in the Museum, we noticed a framed picture of some sort. And on the picture, there was a Bible text. Perhaps 'cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you' or 'God so loved the world...' Or in some houses, the simple phrase 'bear the cross to wear the crown'.

Money has become the idol, the false god, of our society. I can remember a poem from GCSE English Lit. It goes something like this - 'The world is too much with us, getting and spending we lay waste our powers.' (A google search reminds me it is by Wordsworth).

Oh that we would rekindle and rediscover the faith of our fathers - not in its excesses and errors, for there were some of those too - the simple faith of the apostles, declaring that 'Jesus is Lord' - Lord, King, Ruler over all that we are, and all that we have.

In the simplicity of the hovels of the past, the age-old good news is still proclaimed, for those who have eyes to see, and ears to hear.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Alleluia! What a Saviour!

I don't do pain. Even the thought of it makes me shudder uncomfortably. The other day, Lyns was removing blackheads from my nose - the things she does in love! - by squeezing them. I can tell you, it was mighty painful! Lots and lots of them, and it was sore!

I remember one other time when I had an unfortunate accident with a knife when I lived up in County Tyrone. I was trying to cut up a pineapple (getting the five a day of fruit and vegetables), when the knife slipped and lopped a chunk off my thumb. The blood came, but I was able to hold the wee bit on (it was still hanging), and it stayed. but the pain was bad for the first while!

Pain and me don't go. What I have told you are just minor wee things - I don't know what would happen if I was in real pain. Or more so, I don't know what would happen if I was to suffer for someone else.

It got me thinking about a song by the band Petra, called If I had to die for someone. Here are the words to think about:

I wear my seatbelt in the car, I buckle up for safety
I run for cover from the storm, I wear a band aid on my knee
I look both ways when crossing and I flee any danger I can see
And if I try each day to save my life in every way I can
How could I understand the way
You died for me

'Cause I don't know if I could even if I think I would
If I had to die for someone
If I had to die for someone else
How could I ever give my life to set the guilty free
When I cannot imagine
If I had to die for someone else like me
Someone else like me

I keep away from falling rocks and I don't play with matches
I lock the door I don't know why
It seems to me I'm much too old to wear a scarf out in the cold
But I want to live until I die
I guess I love my life a little more than I should love it
And if I had to I don't know if I could
Lay it down

'Cause I don't know if I could even if I think I would
If I had to die for someone
If I had to die for someone else
How could I ever give my life to set the guilty free
When I cannot imagine
If I had to die for someone else like me
Someone else like me

And I am glad that You are not at all like me
'Cause You laid down Your life and did it willingly
It still amazes me to know
It's me that You were thinking of
No One else could have a greater love

All praise be to Jesus, who was came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). He did not shirk from the burden to be carried, or the pains to be endured to save his elect. In the Garden, he sweat drop of blood in his anguish, yet determined to follow the plan and purpose of his Father.

For me it was in the garden
He prayed: “Not My will, but Thine.”
He had no tears for His own griefs,
But sweat drops of blood for mine.

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!

As the title of this posting suggests, I've also been thinking about the hymn 'Man of Sorrows'. One of the verses speaks of what Jesus endured for us:

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

In my place condemned he stood,
Sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!

Truly we can say again, Hallelujah, what a Saviour! I am so glad that Jesus was not like me, or like the guy in the Petra song. He didn't hold back from the suffering that was needed to rescue us. He embraced the pain, trusting the Father's purpose, and rose triumphantly from death, never more to die.

All this is seen in Hebrews 12:1-2:

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

What a theme for 2008 - running with endurance, looking to Jesus, who is the glorious and wonderful Saviour.

Lord God, grant me your grace to cast off the things that hold me back, and to run wholly for you, looking to Jesus, my Saviour in this new year. Thank you that he endured the shame and pain of the cross so that I can be free, and that he has completely won my salvation. Empower me to glorify you in all that I do. Amen.


Just a very quick posting to wish you a very blessed new year. May you know the joy of knowing Christ in 2008, and growing to love him more and more.