Tuesday, May 31, 2005

IQ? Try yours!

I don't know how reliable these things are... but I took an online IQ test, and got 133!

Take some tests to see how our results compare!

To allow me to see your test results, just follow the link below. Once you sign in or register, the tests I've taken will be listed on your test results page.


Below are the scores suggested by another site with an IQ test: www.iqtest.com

Intelligence Interval Cognitive Designation
40 - 55 Severely challenged (Less than 1% of test takers)
55 - 70 Challenged (2.3% of test takers)
70 - 85 Below average
85 - 115 Average (68% of test takers)
115 - 130 Above average
130 - 145 Gifted (2.3% of test takers)
145 - 160 Genius (Less than 1% of test takers)
160+ Extraordinary genius


Stewart - 138
Lynsey - 135

John 11 - the danger of witnessing, and the prophecy of Caiaphas

John 11 tells us of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, where Jesus again showed his humanness, and his sharing in our emotions - Jesus wept. Note also that Jesus said: "Lazarus come out" when he 'called in a loud voice' into the grave... it has been suggested that had he not used Lazarus' name, all the dead in the grave would have come out!

But later in the chapter, we find two incidents of note. The first is the danger of witnessing. It was well known that Lazarus had been dead, after all, the professional mourners had been there wailing and crying for four days, until Jesus came and 'spoiled the party' by raising him! Bethany was close to Jersualem, and a lot of people had come out to mourn for him... so when they had heard that Lazarus was raised from the dead, they came out again, only this time, it was to see the proof of the miracle. Indeed, John tells us that they weren't only coming out, but also believing in Jesus!

And that's where the danger came in for Lazarus, a living witness of the power of God. Because the Sanhedrin, the elders of the nation, were becoming even more jealous of the standing and following Jesus was gaining. So do you know what they plotted to do in chapter 12? They plotted to kill him!

The second important thing that I noticed was the unknowing prophecy of Caiaphas. Caiaphas was High Priest, and as such, was the leader of the nation. They realised that if Jesus kept up his popularity, it could incite the crowd, which would lead to some sort of trouble, which would lead to the Romans coming in and establishing more complete control, which would mean the Sanhedrin would lose their own privileged position.

They plotted therefore to kill Jesus, reckoning that it would be better for the nation if he was done away with, as then, the nation would remain: ' "You do not realise that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.' (John 11:50-52).

How accurate could Caiaphas be, without understanding the implications of what he was saying! Jesus indeed died for the nation, and for the scattered children of God. But Caiaphas meant it in a narrow, nationalistic sense, whereby their own privileges and state would be kept - rather, Jesus died for our sins, bringing us back to God. He died in the place of those who, trusting in him, will then not perish.


Why oh why do people drive slow? Last night were perfect conditions for driving - bright with dry roads... and do you know what? On the main road from Ballygawley to Omagh there was a car doing 30 miles per hour. Aaaaaaaaaaaagh! Now, normally it wouldn't be too hard to get past, but what made it worse was that there was an articulated lorry behind it, so it took a considerable straight bit to get past... And then not very long after getting past, there was a police speed camera watching... I wonder if the police would stop someone for driving too slowly because there was a big long queue behind the car. It can't be safe to drive so slowly, because you then annoy the drivers behind and make them more likely to take risks to try and get past...

Monday, May 30, 2005

Bank Holiday

Hurray! Today was a Bank Holiday, and thankfully our work takes it, so I found myself getting a lie in. I think it might have been about 11am that I got up, and then we went on a wee drive to various places including the Abbeycentre, Connswater and Belfast city centre, where Neil was able to get a new phone... he seems to go through them in no time at all.

Then back home I had to dung out the car somewhat, as there was a lot of stuff gathered in it etc...

So now I'm relaxing, checking emails and blogging before I head back to Tyrone - I just hope there won't be too much traffic on the road - it might be a bit slower than my Sunday night travels!

Sunday, May 29, 2005


I'm not long in from the Crusaders 'No Turning Back Tour' in Shankill Leisure Centre, Belfast tonight. We had a group from our YF at it, and they all seemed to enjoy it. The evening started with the ironically titled 'thebandwithnoname' (who evidently do have a name...). They were fine, possibly slightly loud, but urban/rap type stuff just isn't what I'm in to.

Then Y-Friday came on, and it made it all worth it! Most of the songs were their newer ones, but I did recognise 'Holy Holy Holy' from their gig in Summer Madness 1999 (all those years ago!), and on their cd.

But one thing struck me during the concert, when the white lights were searching through the crowd... about the brightness, the intensity of one light shining in the darkness. It made me think on the holiness of God, about how he dwells in 'light inaccesible, hid from our eyes' (to quote a hymn). Imagine what it is going to be like when we meet Jesus face to face!

Jesus Christ is the light of the world. He shines in the darkest places of our hearts, shining his light, and bringing our faults to light - not to condemn us, but to seek to bring us to the point of confession and repentance, where we invite him to chine even more in us, and through us.

John chapter 1 tells us about Jesus:

'In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it... The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world' (John 1:4,5,9)

Oh Lord, shine in me and expose the dark places of my heart, that your light may shine in every part of me, and thus shine through me to those around. Bring your kingdom of light to this dark land, and so increase your glory.


Boys oh! Last night was another bit of a late night, being up until after 1am, then this morning I was wakened by the sun and the brightness at 6.45am... so I dozed over, and wakened another few times before getting up at 9am.

Church, Sunday Club and Church this morning went quite well, with the choir doing the whole Sung Responses again this morning - let's hope it isn't EVERY service!

This afternoon, we're going to watch the Orange parade in Lambeg, in which the Lisburn district walks from Lisburn, and the Derriaghy District walks from Derriaghy, before converging and going to Lambeg Parish Church... a quare walk, all in!

Tonight, then, we're going to the Shankill Leisure Centre to see Y-Friday in concert... update later on maybe...

Oh, and happy birthday to Heather - she doesn't read this, but sure...

Star Wars

This is just an initial reaction as it is getting late, but wow! The new Star Wars film is excellent! The action scenes were probably the best ever, and plenty going on. Well worth going to see, to complete the 6 films... I am a bit of a Star Wars fan now, having never seen the original 3 until after I saw Episode One (The Phantom Menace) at BB Camp when it came out. But when I say fan, it is just a fan, not an anorak!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Good Shepherd

What's the difference between a middle Eastern shepherd, and a shepherd in Ulster?

No, this isn't a horrible joke... it's a look at the different ways of working, and an insight into John 10! Maybe I'm going back a few years, but a popular programme on tv was 'One Man and His Dog', in which shepherds used their sheepdogs to round up the sheep, and drive them from behind into the pen.

But the middle Eastern shepherd walks in front of the sheep, and the sheep follow him. Or in the words of Jesus: 'The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.' (John 10: 2-4).

Jesus described himself as 'the Good Shepherd', who lays down his life for his sheep. He knows his sheep by name, and gave his life for them. The challenge is - do you know the Good Shepherd? Can you say with the Psalmist 'The Lord is my shepherd'? (Psalm 23:1) Do you know Jesus' voice, and are you following him? Because there is only blessing from doing so. As Jesus himself said: 'I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.' (John 10:10)

Friday, May 27, 2005


As you probably know by now if you have read any of the blog before, I'm heading to Dublin in September. I first knew I was going last June (2004), and to be honest, it seemed like it would never come, it was so far away. And anyway, my job was finishing in December, and I had other things to think about - either getting an extension, or looking for a new job...

But now, it is hitting me that time is so short! What with the tidying of the flat earlier in the week (surprisingly though that remains for so many of my 'friends'), and then today when I came home from work was the information letter, telling me what date we start and all that... so roll on the 24th September at 1.00pm...

But before that, I have the Proclamation Trust Student's Conference in London in July, and either finding a job, or staying with West Tyrone Voice, if we can get the funding secured... But no doubt, the 24th September will come round very quickly...

Friday night

Tonight I was at the youth event in Laurelhill School, called Focus. It's my first time at the event, and it seemed to go really well. The music is (from what I can tell) done by students of the Lisburn School of Music, and was great, as was the testimony, drama, soloist and speaker.

In a very passioned and youth-relevant talk, he looked at Job, as an 'exam' where Job faced two practical tests, then an exam from God, which he passed, because he praised God, and humbled himself and repented.

Then it was back to Dromore where I watched a band parade for a while until it got too cold to stand out any longer... and then it was onto the net to type up this and see who was on msn...

Tomorrow will probably be the usual mad Saturday, heading away somewhere with mum...


Well, today I wasn't on a computer in work as I was away at a conference... and then when I called into the office, my computer wouldn't work... rage! So I'll have to have a look at it on Tuesday (being off on Monday!)

Later on I'll be going to a worship event in Laurelhill School called Focus... I'll report on it later!

Oh, and a well done to Lynsey, who passed her exams totally unexpectedly (in her words, not mine!) Well done Lyns!

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Maybe this is a just a bit of free advertising for them, but the District Policing Partnerships are currently recruiting independent members. Independents are members of the public (rather than elected politicians) who give up 15 hours per month to assist in the oversight of strategy and performance of the police in a specific District Command Unit. For more information see the website.


Ok, I know what you're thinking... He can't possibly be talking about the weather again... and I promise I won't do it too many times. I know how frustrating it can be to have constant updates on the weather - indeed, the only bad thing about my Vauxhall Corsa is that it has a temperature display. My ma, being unable to see the speedometer clearly (and maybe thankfully!), instead focusses her attention on the temperature display, reporting a change in temperature of 0.5 degrees up or down...

Sort of: 'Oh, it's 19 now, that's the warmest this week... ah, it's down again to 18... etc...'

So this blog is not going to become the official MET Office report for Newtownstewart and district! But just one comment on the weather, and I'll be done. Last night it was raining very heavily and had done all day. The very day I would have went for a nice drive somewhere. And you know what? Today is bright and clear. Rage!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Well, the tradition of going for a drive on Wednesday evening has had to be curtailed this week due to the rain... It wouldn't be nice to drive in, and I wouldn't see very far in front of me, so I only went as far as Omagh to get some groceries, and back again. So no driving tonight, except for the driving rain...


It really is amazing how much stuff can be accumulated in a short period of time. I've been in the flat for just over two years, and it's untidiness was rather legendary in our YF, or certanly among my friends...

But with moving out coming in the near future, I thought I would need to tidy it a bit, and got into it last night. I found stuff I had lost, stuff I didn't know I had, and such like.

I can now report that the bedroom is tidy! The bathroom was done on Monday night, so the kitchen might get a touch tonight...


Allow me to tell you a little story, which took place in my bathroom... I was 'busy' the other night, and for some reason, I leant over towards the sink, to get something, and the plug fell from the sink, and down towards the big skirting board panelling, behind which the pipes run. From where I was sitting, there was a big gap between it and the wall, and I thought it had went down in behind the panelling. So when I was finished, I tried to move the panelling to find the plug, but couldn't get the panelling removed. The plug was gone.

But the other night I was doing a bit of clearing, and had the brush in the bathroom, and getting it all a bit tidier (seeing I might be leaving soon...), and behold! The plug was sitting on top of the panelling, but in a place I couldn't have seen it before... right in behind where the toilet was. So then I tried to see how it could have ended up there, rather than going down behind the panelling, and when I was at the sink, looking down at the path it would have taken, I realised that the crack wasn't big enough for it to slip through from that angle - it must have hit the top of the panelling and rolled along out of sight.

Which got me thinking about perspective. How you see something is linked to how it affects you. The missing plug was a relative disaster from my first perspective, but once I saw it from a different perspective, it couldn't have been missing! In a much bigger way, things can happen to us that we don't understand or think are total disasters - at the time they are. From our perspective, they seem to be. We can't see the big picture. Imagine standing in the centre of Belfast - you can only see the small bit around you... but if you go to the top of Cave Hill, or the Pond Park Road in Lisburn and look down, you can see the whole city!

Isaiah 55:8-9 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God's perspective is different to ours - when we're going through things, it can seem as if they are going wrong, and they don't make sense. But we have the promise of God: 'And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.' (Romans 8:28)

Things can seem hard at the time, and you might not understand them, but stick in there... God knows what is happening, and works for the good of those who love him in everything that happens!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

John 7 - the words of life

Last night I was reading John chapter 7. It tells of the time when Jesus went up to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. The chief priests and Pharisees were getting cross with him, and so sent guards to arrest him.

You can imagine the scene when the guards returned to the Pharisees, without Jesus. The Pharisees were ripping! On being asked why they hadn't brought him in, the guards replied: 'No-one ever spoke the way this man does.'

You can sense the amazement the guards had, in seeing Jesus, and hearing him. It rendered them incapable of arresting him.

Do we know the wonder of hearing Jesus? He offers us words of salvation, comfort and life. Indeed, when Jesus' teaching became harder to listen, some of those who had followed him left. Jesus challenged the disciples - will you also leave me? But Peter answered: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.' (John 6:68).

Come to Christ, and hear his words of eternal life:

Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Mark 6:31 "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."

John 6:37 "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away."

John 7:37 "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink."

John 6:48 "I am the bread of life."

John 8:12 "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

John 10:9 "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture."

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

John 10:11 "I am the good shepherd"

John 11:25 "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies"

John 14:6 "I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me."

John 15:1 "I am the true vine"

Monday, May 23, 2005


It's amazing how small things can become huge things, without any expectation, and how those same things can bring pleasure.

When I started in West Tyrone Voice, my boss, Hazlett Lynch, asked me to design an Irish History class, lasting four weeks, that would explode some of the myths and help our people to understand their history a bit better. We couldn't think of a title for it, so used the general descriptive title of: 'Historical Awareness Course'. That week we were putting together a training survey, as I was new in post and trying to guage the level of interest among our members in a variety of courses and training.

So I set about designing and researching the Historical Awareness Course, which would look at four topics - The Ulster Plantation, The Williamite Wars, The 1798 Rebellion, and The Ulster Crisis. Who knew if anyone would come along...

Well, the first course finished, and even before it did, there were requests in for another course... which we complied with. But, because it was four weeks and there was such a lot of material to get through, the students asked could it be extended, with more time devoted to specific periods? So, that course was lengthened to about 7 weeks.

Now, in 2005, we seem to have grown the historical element of the training beyond all recognition. Tonight is session 5 in the Course being run in Newtownstewart, in which we are looking at the 'green grassy slopes of the Boyne', Aughrim, and the Penal Laws. We also have been awarded funding by the Community Relations Council to publish a book based on the material of the course and my hard research - this is being read by CRC at present, and will hopefully soon be available for publication and then purchase!

Also through CRC Funding, we are pleased to announce that we will be running a shortened course of 5 weeks in Mid-Ulster. This will begin on 2nd June, for 5 Thursday nights, so watch this space for more details, and wee reports on how it is going.


The title of this posting is pronounced 'sniff', and stands for Sunday Night Youth Fellowship - the YF we have in the Cathedral parish. I've been involved with it since it began in July 1998, and am in the leadership team, along with Scott, Donna, Lorna and Dave (and Heather for this year!).

Last night we had a split programme for the first time, which was open to people to choose which room they attended. Downstairs, we had a session on teamwork/teambuilding, led by Donna, and upstairs we had a discussion on the End Times, thinking about whether there will be a Rapture, as described in the Left Behind series, which the Biblical evidence suggests won't happen; as well as what will happen when Christ returns.

There wasn't a talk as such, so I have no notes to copy and paste here, which left the session open to exploring some of the passages relating to the topic (1 Thessalonians 4:13-16, 1 Corinthians 15, Revelation 20), and dealing with issues or questions as they arose.

I think the session went quite well, with everyone getting involved and having a hard think around the topic! It is my hope that we will be able to have another such open session where people can raise questions and we can explore the Bible together, without fear of losing the younger members, who had a distinctly glazed look when we talked about the Rapture and such things in a bigger session with the whole group on the Second Coming.


So last night we had Evensong, for the first time in the Cathedral for ages. We were using settings from St Patrick's Cathedral Dublin (changing the 'O Lord guide and defend our rulers' to 'O Lord, save the Queen'), and a version of the Magnificat which combined plainchant and harmony sections.

The service seemed to go very well, with just one of the responses stumbling slightly... but we'll get better as we practice it more, and use it more... We might even get to do the Nunc Dimittus as well, which was sort of abandoned last night at the last minute cos we weren't fully up to speed on it.

I wasn't talking to anyone in the congregation after the service to hear what they thought of it, but it seemed to go well from where I was sitting.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Trinity Sunday

Today has been a busy day so far, with the prospect of it continuing in the same way! This morning we had the early Communion service, then the Celebrate at Ten family service (with Sunday Club during it), then 11.30 Morning Prayer.

This afternoon we went for a drive to Portadown, for the second flower festival of the year, in St Mark's church. So now I'm back and checking emails just before I head out to choir practice. It turns out that, while there was no practice on Thursday, it is in fact this afternoon, probably so that we can remember what we have learnt closer to the event! We're doing a Sung Evensong (well, I suppose Evensong wouldn't be said), which is something I haven't done in years and years... It used to be the tradition in Dromore diocese that on Ascension Thursday the choirs came together to do Evensong, conducted by Duncan Peel, and more recently, Stephen Timpany. It went round several places, including St Patrick's Newry, St Matthew's Scarva, Seapatrick and Dromore.

Then afterwards at YF we're having a 'split session', where some of us will look at the Rapture, the End Times and predestination (with the promise of hard questions from some people...), while the rest will look at Teambuilding. Then it is my usual drive to Newtownstewart...

Today my boss has went to Bulgaria on holiday, with a group of 18 people from West Tyrone Voice, which means he won't be in the office for a fortnight. But there's plenty of stuff to be done, including the publication of the next issue of our group newsletter, and various other stuff.

Oh, and thank you to all who read the blog, and have made comments... keep them coming!

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all, evermore. Amen.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


This is going to be another quite boring post, so feel free to avert your eyes until I come up with better inspiration for an inspiring post!

Today I had a lie-in, then went to Lisburn, Lurgan, ICM Books at Bleary, and Banbridge...

Later I'm going to a barbecue.

And that's it for today!

Oh yeah - and belated birthday greetings for yesterday to Bryan and Primrose... not quite twins, despite sharing a birthday!

Friday, May 20, 2005


Today had a great long lie-in, which was great... a lot nicer than waking at 8.45am to be in the office for 9am!

Then it was away with mum and dad to Ballynahinch, Downpatrick, and Dundonald... I also saw Ronan Keating, who was out doing a charity walk from the north coast to Cork. Sadly he was on the A1 during a busy time, which cut it down to one lane, leading to a tailback of about a mile...

Tonight I was in Banbridge, to see the band parade, and now on the net for a wee while.

Oh, and granny is doing very well!

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Well well... After my eagerness to get to choir earlier, it turned out the practice wasn't on! But it meant we were able to go to Tesco in Lisburn, and granny came too, which was good! So back to the net for a while... even though I'm not addicted.

On that topic, though, it does appear that others think I'm a part of the furniture during the day online, and one person actually texted this evening to see if I was still alive, having not been online during the day! You know who you are!


Just a quick posting... before I head out to choir practice. We got a new organist last year, David Falconer, and choir practice is so much fun (when I can get to it...). We have learnt so much in a year, and I think the choir has noticeably improved.

Some of the things we're learning at the minute include: Stanford's Te Deum in B Flat, Wesley's Blessed be the God, an evensong service from St Patrick's, and other settings of the Magnificat and Nunc, which mix plainchant and faux bourdon styles.

It really is a joy and delight to be able to sing, and to lead others in praising our God in song!

Mary Part Two

Just a quick reflection on a verse from 2 Kings 18. Hezekiah was king of Judah around the time at Israel went into exile, and was the greatest king that Judah had, before or after. Why? Because Hezekiah trusted in God fully, and sought to obey him.

He removed a lot of the high places where sacrifices had been made, and destroyed the stone idols that had been worshipped. But he also destroyed the bronze serpent that Moses had made in the wilderness, because the people were now burning incense to it. Something that had reminded the people to worship God had become something that the people worshipped.

Is it possible that Roman Catholics, and some Anglicans (involved in ARCIC and such like things) have done a similar thing with Mary? Mary, as a woman, as a sinner like the rest of us, was a servant of God - a reminder of God's faithfulness. She is an example. But she is not to be worshipped.

There is a fine line between using something to worship God, and to worshipping the idol and turning your back on God. Romanists and Anglicans should be very careful in this regard!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Wednesday evening seems to be driving evening now. I think I'm realising that I'm coming to the ebd of my time in Newtownstewart, and want to see the bits I haven't seen in the countryside around it. So, while last Wednesday was the jaunt across the border into Donegal, tonight was a bit of a journey up into the Sperrins.

I set off to Gortin, then on to Barnes' Gap (which, according to the tourist sign at the car park means 'Gap Gap' because 'Barnes' means gap in Irish... which leads to a funny story from BB Camp a few years back... in Wales, signs are bi-lingual, in Welsh and English. So when Glenn saw a sign for: 'Castell Castle', he thought it was very strange that a place called 'Castell' would have a castle at it... until we pointed out it was actually a bi-lingual sign pointing to the castle!).

Then I came back across the gap, and went to look for a wee parish church I had been in one time before, but isn't on the Ordnance Survey map. And, success! I found it, then continued out the road, cut back on myself by another road, and ended up in the hamlet of Rousky, before returning back to Gortin and home!

A nice wee evening of driving, but it would have been even nicer if the rain had stayed away. It wasn't very heavy, but it just meant that I couldn't take photos, and also that I had to take it easy on the roads...


Earlier in the week, a report was launched by the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), which seems to be working towards an agenda of very close ecumenism, and eventual unity with Rome. The subject of this report was 'Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ', looking at how the two bodies view Mary.

For some background reading, check out the BBC News report and the Anglican Communion website. I haven't been able to download the report anywhere, and am thus depending on what the two sites mentioned have said about it.

It seems to me that the report was meant to look at the Biblical evidence on Mary, and to see how the Roman dogmas of her immcaulate conception and assumption fit with this evidence. Traditionally, Anglicans, along with other Protestants, have rejected the dogmas. But it appears from this report that the Anglicans on the committee have listened to the propoganda of the Romanists, who, it appears, have admitted they can't be proven from the Bible, and then said... 'well, it seems like this would be a good idea, or it seems like what should have happened' and have agreed to it.

Below are the two main affirmations agreed by the two sides:

“In view of her vocation to be the mother of the Holy One (Luke 1:35), we can affirm together that Christ's redeeming work reached 'back in Mary to the depths of her being, and to her earliest beginnings. This is not contrary to the teaching of Scripture, and can only be understood in the light of Scripture. Roman Catholics can recognize in this what is affirmed by the dogma - namely 'preserved from all stain of original sin' and 'from the first moment of her conception.'”

“we can affirm together the teaching that God has taken the Blessed Virgin Mary in the fullness of her person into his glory as consonant with Scripture and that it can, indeed, only be understood in the light of Scripture. Roman Catholics can recognize that this teaching about Mary is contained in the dogma” (paragraph 58).

How can Mary be without sin? There is only one who was holy, and that was Jesus! Romans 3 tells us very clearly, in a catalogue of verses from the Old Testament that 'all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God'. Indeed, in the Magnificat, the song of Mary, she said: 'My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour'. How could God be her Saviour if she didn't need to be saved?

It is sheer presumption, and an elevation of a servant of God into the 'mother of God', to presume that she was assumed into heaven. Scripture records only that Enoch and Elijah were taken into heaven, and that Jesus ascended bodily. It doesn't tell us of any others.

It seems that the Anglicans on the committee have bent over backwards to accommodate the unbiblical dogmas of the Roman church. How long must we continue with this situation of failed ecumenism? Will we end up with the Anglican church returning 'to the fold' and acknowedging the pope as the head of the church? Perish the thought!


Where has the sun gone? This morning it is damp and overcast in Newtown... so much for the summer!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Just a quick posting on granny. She is home again from hospital, and says she can notice some improvement in her vision, which is great! Praise God!

However, she also says she can see the dirt in her house better... (which I personally doubt, as the house is always spotless... but sure!)

Thank you to those who were praying for her and left comments and such like.

Weddings and the best man

Have you ever had a moment, where you read a passage and think... 'I didn't know that was there...' I had one of those moments last night. My New Testament reading was John chapter 3. Yes, everyone knows verse 16 - probably one of the most famous verses in the Bible. But what I hadn't noticed before, or else had noticed, but didn't know I knew, was that the chapter ends with John the Baptist's testimony about Jesus.

Maybe it's because it had more resonance, about the bridegroom and the friend who attends him. I have only been to one wedding in my time, that of my cousin Adrian and his wife Rhonda. But next June, I'm going to be best man for Scott Mackey, when he marries Donna Wallace [the plans for the speech are already underway, with the maximum embarrassment for Scott... while the chief bridesmaid, Kirsty is dreading when we dance together]

Anyway... more about that wedding some other time... Back to John 3! John the Baptist describes himself as the friend who attends the bridegroom, who 'waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice'. In the culture and custo of the time, it appears that the bridegroom arrived at the bride's house for the wedding, and that the 'best man' waited on him. This custom also appears to be suggested in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25).

The best man's joy was complete when he heard the voice of the bridegroom. It meant the wedding was about to happen, and that it was a happy day. Similarly, John the Baptist was the fore-runner of Jesus, the voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way for the Lord. Jesus had arrived, and so John was full of joy. Jesus would become greater, John would become less.

Jesus himself said that the coming of his kingdom would be like a wedding feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb. Have you got an invite? Are you going to the supper?


Well, it appears that I might be 'slightly' addicted to the internet, obviously only for work, of course... This morning, we couldn't get connected for ages, and it was like something was missing...

But it meant I was able to get on with other things that were needed, and as you can tell, we're back online again now!

Monday, May 16, 2005


Just a quick one, to stop Lynsey from complaining...

The posting isn't about the theatre you're thinking about though -in fact, I can't remember how long it is since I was last at the theatre... could it be 'Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme' in the Lyric two years ago? - but rather granny, who is currently in theatre, having an operation. Hopefully all will go well, and she'll be out and about again in no time...

Pray for her, please!

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Today is Pentecost Sunday, when the Spirit was given to the Church, poured out on all the saints!

The Jewish people had gathered in Jerusalem for the Pentecost festival, the firstfruits of the harvest. The disciples and those with them were in the upper room, praying and waiting for the promised Spirit.

The Holy Spirit came on them, empowering them to speak in other languages (that they didn't previously know) to tell the glorious Gospel to those gathered in the city. The separation of people through languages (at the Tower of Babel) was being reversed!

So now, the Holy Spirit continues to work in us today, and seeks to grow his fruit in us - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

But some people can be too interested in the Holy Spirit, running after gifts, particularly that of speaking in tongues, as if it is the be-all and end-all of the faith. The Holy Spirit is best described as a best man, who is there to assist and point towards the Bridegroom, who is Jesus. As we focus on Jesus, the Spirit works through us.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Summer sunshine

Well well! Today has been another great day of sunshine, so I was out enjoying it, seeing I took ma to Ballymena. But we came back over the mountain by Dundrod, which was class, up and down those big hills at 60mph or so...

Now we're going to Scott's for a bbq - well, the weather's right, so why not?! I'll maybe update more later, tomorrow or else Monday, depending on time and stuff..

Friday, May 13, 2005

Telling Others

A couple of verses in 2 Kings caught my attention last night. They're in different passages, but both relate to telling others about what we know, the goodnews we have.

Scene 1: A young Israelite girl is taken captive by the Aramean army, and she ends up working in the house of Naaman, the commander of the army of the King of Aram. All seems to be going well for Naaman; he is highly honoured; apart from one thing. Naaman has leprosy. And despite her youthfulness, and being away in a foreign country as a slave, the little servant girl tells her mastr how he could be cleansed: 'If only my master would see the prohpet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.' (2 Kings 5:2).

Scene 2. Samaria is being besieged by the Aramean army. Conditions are very bad in the city, so that a donkey's head was selling for 80 shekels of silver! Four lepers are lying at the city gate, considering their options. If they go into the city, they'll die of the famine and disease inside. If they stay where they are, they'll die of hunger. But if they go to the Aramean camp and surrender, there's a possibility they could live, or else they could be killed. So, of the three options, they take the one with the only chance of staying alive, and walk towards the camp. But when they get there, there's no one about... it's like a ghost town - all the equipment, tents and animals are there, but no people. [God had made the Arameans hear an advancing army, and they got frightened and ran away]. Suddenly, the lepers realise they are saved! There is food aplenty here in the camp, so they go and hide some of the silver, and clothes etc.

But then they come to their senses: 'Then they said to each other, "We're not doing right. This is a day of good news, and we are keeping it to ourselves."' (2 Kings 7:9) So they went into the city and told them about the fleeing army, and the abundance of food available to relieve the famine.

Similarly, we who are Christians have good news - in fact, the best news - and have the task of sharing it with others; telling them what God has done in our life, and how he can do the same for those around us. Yet, a lot of times, we can be like the lepers before they came to their senses - rejoicing in the good news, but not sharing it. God have mercy on us!

Instead, we need to realise that it is our task to share the good news, to tell others, and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus. Perhaps the Israelite servant girl is a good example for us - she told what she knew that could help those around her.

Are you telling others? In this day of good news, are you keeping it to yourself?

Thursday, May 12, 2005


Once again, Thursday night finds me in the computer suite of Grange Court, in Newtownstewart, in the ECDL class through work. We’re now on spreadsheets, which seems to be not too bad, but I’m a wee bit ahead of the class, so have time to write a wee posting for the blog.

And, without wishing to jump the gun, so far there haven’t been any mishaps with the computers breaking down tonight yet. But then, we’ve only been here for an hour, and there isn’t the pressure of exams tonight. I just hope that when I next have to do a test, the computer doesn’t break down again, like the last time…

Nights like these are not nights you want to be sitting in a computer suite – tonight is even nicer than last night, with bright sun, and quite warm. Having said that, though, it’s cool enough with a bit of wind. Let’s hope that it continues to the weekend, with various things happening – Saturday is an Antiques and Collectibles Fair in the Cathedral Hall in Dromore, as well as the May Fair in Dromore Square (the first time this has happened), and the Mayor’s Parade in Lisburn. Then on Sunday, there’s a big day of prayer happening at the Stormont estate, although not everyone has been entirely happy about it. Last week there was a letter in the Newsletter from a Presbyterian minister in Moy who said he couldn’t endorse it, given that the participants have different understandings of prayer. Also this weekend there is a flower festival in St John’s Church, Dromara. No doubt I’ll end up going to that on Sunday – mum and granny like looking at the flowers, and I’m a bit nosy to see what other churches are like, and how they are laid out (e.g. sound systems and such like). This will be the first flower festival I’ve been to this year, but I’m sure there’ll be other ones before the end of the summer.


How do you see yourself?

Identity is a big thing here in Northern Ireland - are we British, or Irish, unionist or nationalist and so on... But that's not what I'm going to talk about.

I'm thinking of those who are saved. How do you see yourself?
Some people have described themselves as 'a sinner saved by grace'. It is right and proper to ascribe the glory of salvation to God, who by his grace has saved us. But is this even a proper term? Does the Bible speak of people who are saved as 'sinners saved by grace'?

No! Instead, the Bible speaks of 'saints'. But if we think of the saints, we probably think of dead people, maybe the writers of the Gospels, churches names after them, or stained glass windows or plaster models. Therefore, our undersatnding is slightly askew! Paul wrote to the 'saints in Ephesus' Philippi, and he obviously wasn't writing Epistles to dead people... so who was it he was writing to?

The saints were Christians in these various places. Easton's Bible Dictionary states that a saint is: 'one separated from the world and consecrated to God; one holy by profession and by covenant; a believer in Christ.'

But surely these saints are really sinners? Is it possible to be both? I would suggest that 2 Corinthians 5:17 holds our answer: 'Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come!' We are a creation in Christ - no longer sinners, but rather saints who sometimes sin.

It can be very easy to be caught by Satan's lies and accusations, and even our self-image can assist Satan. If we think that we are sinners, then we will sin... However, if we understand that we are saints, new creations in Christ, then perhaps we won't be as likely to sin. Sin will still happen, but we don't condemn ourselves to the same cycle of sin - confess - sin - confess that we could find ourselves in by thinking of ourselves as sinners.

How do you see yourself? As a sinner, or a saint?

Journeyings in Donegal

Last night, with the weather being good, I went for a wee journey to places new. So, for the first time I found myself in Raphoe and Convoy. Raphoe is a small town / big village, which also contains the Cathedral of St Eunan, for the diocese of Raphoe. A big sprawling graveyard surrounds it, heading down towards an old ruined castle, which I think, was the Bishop’s palace. The cathedral seems to be an odd shape (check out the photos on my photo album site, in the collection ‘Donegal’).

From there, it was on to Convoy, which is a tiny village, with the Church of Ireland church in the middle of the village. The grounds of this one are well kept, with the caretaker seeming to live in the grounds in a wee bungalow. But round the back of the church there is what appears to be the old church, just a small square building with walls only about chest high.

From there, I went on to Letterkenny, which seems to be a big bustling town with a long and prosperous lain street lined with shops, and several shopping centres. Maybe worth a visit one day when the shops are open!

Then I went out towards Manorcunningham, where there is a viewpoint that looks out over what would be Letterkenny Bay, towards Lough Swilly. Despite it being slightly hazy, there was still a nice view. And then from there, I came back towards Lifford, getting the cheaper petrol, before returning again to the flat.
All in all, a nice evening. Today the weather is even better, but there’ll be no gallivanting tonight, as I’ve got my ECDL computer class…

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Costly sacrifice

Back to 1 Kings again, and Elijah! Elijah had been told by God to go and call Elisha to be his servant. Elijah found Elisha ploughing fields with his oxen - 12 pairs with Elisha driving the twelfth pair. This means that Elisha was right and well off - having twelve pair ploughing.

So Elijah went up to him, and put his cloak on his shoulders - this was the symbolic way of issuing the call. Elisha immediately sacrificed the twelve pair of oxen, said goodbye to his folks, and went off with Elijah.

There was 'no turning back' in this act of sacrifice and thanksgiving. Elisha was turning his back on his occupation and his livelihood by offering the animals and the tools of ploughing to God. This was commitment, but it was also a costly sacrifice.

There's an incident at the end of 2 Samuel, where David is incited to take a census of the fighting men of Israel. Counting the men wasn't a sin itself (we still have a census today in our nations, for planning and statistics). But counting them to see how strong his army was, was a sin - he would then be tempted to put his trust in the strength of his army, rather than in God. So God sent a plague on the people to punish David - but David repented, and the plague stopped at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. In thankfulness, and in repentance, David asked him to sell him the land so he could build an altar there to God. But Araunah wanted to give it to him for nothing.

David refused, however, and insisted on paying the full price for it: 'I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing' (2 Samuel 24:24). This threshing-floor became the site of the Temple that Solomon built.

In both incidents, costly sacrifice was involved. And for us, too, costly sacrifice is needed for our salvation. Yet salvation is free to us! How is this possible? Because Jesus has paid the price, in giving himself for our sins, and therefore we can benefit freely! Someone once said that this is the heart of God's grace:


Have you come to know Jesus as your Saviour? He offers the riches of heaven, and eternal life with him at no charge to you. Do you know the joy of having your sins forgiven, paid for by the blood of Christ?

Election Results Part Three

The election results are now in for the councils, and it has been an interesting time. Again, the trend has seen huge swings towards the DUP, and to a lesser extent, to Sinn Fein. For the DUP to gain an extra 51 seats in the councils (particularly their performance in Lisburn) was a tremendous achievement, and, I think, gives a more accurate picture of the opinion in Northern Ireland than the Westminster election, which can be skewed by tactical voting.

Closer to home, in Banbridge Council, the DUP has become the largest party. However, Sinn Fein have now taken their first seat in the council, despite targetting two seats. Obviously, despite their agitation by Paul Butler in recent years, the good people of Dromore have shunned Sinn Fein.

So where do we go from here? The indications are that we won't ever again elect 582 councillors, as the next elections will be to a smaller number of councils, taking in a wider area. Therefore, the big issue could be the boundaries of these new local authorities. Will Banbridge council be consumed by Newry, or by Armagh (or both together), or by Craigavon? Could Dromore be separated from Banbridge and be consumed by Lisburn? We await the decision of the review body with interest...

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

No half measures: Elijah on Mount Carmel

Last night in my Bible reading, I was going through the story of Elijah. This is a particular favourite of mine, probably because of the oratorio by Mendelssohn, also called Elijah. The oratorio takes us through the Biblical text of 1 Kings 17-19, with some gems of choruses. It is a marvellous piece of work, and very inspiring.

But anyway, enough about the music - back to the Bible! The title of this posting is what I want to think about for a moment. Sometimes we can give half measures, or we strive for moderation. You know, we want to be involved in church, certainly to go along, but never get too involved - what would our non-Christian friends think of us? We don't want to appear fanatical, or obsessive about the church thing.

Or maybe we can be torn between two competing things, both vying for our attention and devotion. There's a fear among young people that if they become a Christian, then they'll have to give up on the 'good times', that somehow they'll lose out by committing to one thing.

And yet, this is such a common theme through the Bible. In the Old Testament, the people wavered between the LORD God, and whichever other gods were worshipped by the people around them. Sometimes, they even thought they were worshipping God, when in fact it was an idol (see Exodus 32:1-6, where the people asked Aaron to make them a god, because Moses was gone so long up the mountain, meeting with God. He made them a golden calf, saying that it was this calf that had brought them out of Egypt!).

And so, into the kingdom of Israel, Elijah bursts on the scene. Having spoken the word of God, commanding there to be no rain for three years, he certainly had the attention of all the people. He was accused of being a troublemaker in Israel by Ahab the King, but Elijah told Ahab that it was him who was the troublemaker by tolerating and worshipping the false god, Baal.

Elijah summoned the people together on Mount Carmel, where there would be a competition of sorts between Baal and his prophets, and God and Elijah. The challenge was straight and to the point: 'Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." ' (1 Kings 18:21).

Stop your moderation, and be whole-hearted in your devotion. Pick one, and go with it the whole way. Stop riding two horses! This is also what Jesus was meaning when he confronted the church at Laodicea, in his letter to that church in Revelation 3: 'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth' (Revelation 3:15,16).

So what happened on Mount Carmel? The prophets of Baal set up their sacrifice, and called on Baal to answer with fire, and prove himself as the true god. And so they danced, sang, shouted from early morning til noon. And? Nothing. No answer. So Elijah taunted them, urging them to call louder, and even cut themselves, as they did in their sacrifices.

From noon til the time of the evening sacrifice, they danced, sang, shouted, cut themselves. And? Nothing. No answer.

Elijah then set about restoring the altar to God, and prepared the sacrifice. Just to prove there were no tricks, he got water poured on the sacrifice several times. Then he humbly called on the Lord. And? 'The fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench' (1 Kings 18:38).

Suddenly, there was no moderation in the people! They had seen with their own eyes which one was the true God - the one who had answered with fire! 'When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD - he is God! The LORD - he is God!" ' (1 Kings 18:39).

Oh that we would heed the words of the Jubilate (Psalm 100): 'Be ye sure that the LORD, he is God' and stick with him! So if you're caught between two devotions at the moment, my prayer is that you will come to see that the LORD, he is God, and that anything else won't satisfy, and that anything else is idolatry and sin.

So, Lord, in my life, be number one, and grant, by your Spirit, that I would worship and serve you all the days of my life.

Night time again...

I think O2 have it in for me this week... last night some messages didn't come through until 1.25am, again when I was pleasantly sleeping... However, having been wakened by them, I, for some reason, turned on the light and lay awake for a while, thinking it was about 7.30am, and I would be getting up soon. So after a wee while of lying awake, I looked at the clock, and realised that, in fact, it was only after 1.30am, and that I would be as well getting back to sleep!

However, I had a bit of an interrupted night, and was definitely awake at 4am and about 5.30am. Yet still, I didn't get up until about 8.45am, leading to a rush to be in the office at a decent time!

Anyone got any tips or suggestions for getting a good night's sleep?

Monday, May 09, 2005

Night time...

Oh yeah, just another quick one. And no, don't worry, it isn't a report on my sleepwalking for a change. But possibly something a wee bit more annoying, and strange! Newtownstewart sometimes doesn't have great phone reception with O2, which can lead to problems [for example, the night that I arrived and couldn't make my customary phone call & text home to let mum and gran know I had arrived, which led to tremendous panic on their part, leading mum to ring Strabane PSNI station to see if there had been any accidents along the road...].

But last night, I hadn't received any messages after I arrived in Newtownstewart. For a wee while I thought that it must be because no one wanted to text, but there is normally at least one that comes in... So that was ok - I was tired, and went to sleep, and managed to sleep well. until O2 decided to deliver my texts, one after the other, at 2.05am... The messages had been sent in the period 23.00 - 23.30 or so, but didn't come through until I was asleep. Aaaaaagh!

The strange thing, though, is that I have developed a way of texting in my sleep - I can wake up enough to read the message and form a (hopefully) intelligent reply, but when I waken the next day, I have to check my sent message folder to see if I did actually send texts, and my inbox to see if I remember rightly that there were messages came in...

So if you ever send me a message late at night, and the reply is a bit unusual, it could be a 'sleep-text'!

The Restaurant Challenge!

Just a quick post - read Dave Parkinson's posting on 5th May about the restaurant challenge! The summary is that he sits in restaurants until closing time (or after), in a bid to see who long he can stay.

For some reason, Bryan Kee is always very keen on this as well, leading to late nights and dirty looks in a variety of places, including the Royal Hotel in Cookstown, Harry Ramsden's in Yorkgate and the Halfway House near Dromore... I suppose it means it gives us plenty of time to chat about various things, but just think of the poor staff in the place, who have to stand about until we leave, who have probably worked hard for the night, and not being able to get home...

I suppose 11.15pm on Saturday night wasn't too bad, but there was the lone wee girl standing at the desk looking rather bored and forlorn until we left... and then the lights went off very quickly and the doors were locked to the restaurant!

The weekend

Well, just another busy weekend, with not being home on Saturday nght until just afer midnight... the meal was good as ever, and the craic great!

Then yesterday was the usual busy Sunday, with 8.30am Holy Communion, 10am Celebrate at Ten, 11.30am Morning Prayer and 6pm Evening Prayer. At YF we had 27 people, and looked at the Second Coming of Jesus, given that Thursday past was Ascension Day, and that Jesus is coming back again, having gone to heaven.

This week looks to be the usual busy week in work, but I'll not complain. I think I'll miss Newtownstewart a bit when I finally finish here - my colleagues in the office, the nice scenery (and view from my desk), and my contacts with the members of the group. But no doubt I will soon settle in to my next place of abode!

Saturday, May 07, 2005


Just a very short post, in between travelling... well, not travelling so much as doing a lot of driving. I always do an awful lot, with about 1000 miles every fortnight. This is to some extent, not due to me working in County Tyrone, but actually because I do so many miles at the weekends...

Today already, I have been to Larne, Carrickfergus, the Abbeycentre, and stopped in Lisburn briefly to look in the Faith Mission shop, as some vouchers are burning a hole in my pocket. But I didn't see anything I wanted to buy today, so they'll keep for another day.

Then tonight I'm for Cookstown to meet up with some friends for a meal. No doubt it will be another late night, as one of them persists in seeing if we can stay on until the people in the restaurant ask us to leave...

So that's been my day. No huge excitement, really, except for the big heavy showers of rain which I seemed to get caught in every time...

Oh, one more thing before I go... it amazes me to see how some people come in contact with this site. Using the counter stats from Bravenet, you can see the 'referrers', that is, the site that had a link to this one... Some interesting google and other internet searches have brought people to here - e.g. 'Ballymena'; 'Lyrics: Lord have your way'; 'Prophecies for 05-05-05' among others... I wonder what the strangest combination of words could be... or how or why people would be looking for such things...

Friday, May 06, 2005

Election Results Part Two

Just a quick posting, now that all the results are in for the Westminster election. All in all, not a bad day for the Democratic Unionist Party - as Gregory Campbell said, the unionist people are off their knees - so it's up to the governments to listen and respond.

Still, however, it is disappointing to think that there could have been another two unionist seats, had the parties worked together, as in Fermanagh&South Tyrone, and South Belfast. Come on people, work together for the union!

Part three will follow when we have the council results in. Will there be such a wipeout again? I'm thinking there probably won't be, due to the nature of the electoral system, where voters can be more savvy, and choose personalities as well as parties. Perhaps the council election will show a truer picture of the state of the parties.

For more information on the election results, check out the BBC coverage by clicking here.

Election Results Part One

As I’m writing, not all the results are in, but it appears that the DUP have succeeded in their election campaign, and the Ulster Unionists have been wiped out. In our constituency, Jeffrey Donaldson has retained his seat in a new party, and the seats of East Antrim, South Antrim and Upper Bann have been taken.

However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. I am a unionist, and believe that the union with the United Kingdom is the best option for Northern Ireland, on economic grounds, as well as social and political grounds. Yet it appears that the competition within unionism has led to losses for unionism. In particular, the constituencies of South Belfast and Fermanagh & South Tyrone. In South Belfast, a former UUP seat, the split in unionist votes led to the SDLP taking the seat. Similarly in Fermanagh & South Tyrone, the unionist votes were sufficient to elect a candidate, yet the two main parties couldn’t agree. Why will we fight among ourselves when the battle is being lost? Unionism seems to become weaker, as concessions have been given to Sinn Fein time and again. Hopefully we will see a revival of unionism in the near future.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Count

No, it's not a posting about Dracula... Polls have now closed, and while the count begins on the mainland now, ours doesn't start until tomorrow morning at 9am. First results should be in by about 3pm or so - so I'll maybe start commenting properly on the elections tomorrow night when I'm back online. What more can I say now???

Ascension Day!

Today, as well as being the Election Day, is also the Ascension Day - 40 days after Easter Sunday, when we recall that Jesus was ascended into heaven.

Acts 1:1-11 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach [2] until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. [3] After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. [4] On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. [5] For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit." [6] So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" [7] He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. [8] But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." [9] After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. [10] They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. [11] "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

The cross meant Jesus had defeated our sin (by paying the price for them), his resurrection meant that he defeated death (by rising to new life), but his ascension means that Jesus has taken his seat at the right hand of the Father, waiting until the judgement. He intercedes for us in heaven, as our Great High Priest, who knows our weakness, because he was tempted as we are in every point (except without sin).

Perhaps in this more scientific age, some people might say, 'where is Jesus' - if his body went up, then where is it? This is not the easiest question to answer, but we believe that his body is in heaven, just as we will one day rise to be with him.

The important point for us is to remember that Jesus is coming back! He won't come back as a baby in a manger, but as the King and the Judge, who will judge each person according to their deeds - the most important of which is belief in him. Are you ready?

Election Day!

So here it is! Election Day 2005. The highlight of the year in terms of popular opinion being gathered, and the next milestone in the political and electoral history of our nation. As some of you may know, I am a politics graduate, which, although meaning short days in class while at university, also means that I'm very interested in the elections. Not in a party political way, as some of my fellow students would have been - who have been out canvassing for various parties - no, I take a more academic interest in the trends and results.

So, as polling has now begun, what will happen today and as the results roll in over the next few days? Will the DUP and Sinn Fein become the two bigest parties by a bigger margin? Will the Ulster Unionists be wiped out completely? We'll have to wait and see.

The best election site I know of is Nicholas Whyte's site, through the Archive relating to the conflict. They had an election prediction competition, which you can view through this link. And while you're there, if you're interested in the previous election results, Nicholas Whyte's site is the one to use!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Something has hit me this past few days in my Bible reading, and has remained with me. So I feel like I should share it. [Members of our YF might like to read it and forget, in case I use it as the basis of a talk in the next few weeks...]

As you probably know, I work for a victims' support group, and we have a magazine we send out to our members every two or three months. On the front cover, there is always a 'quotable quote', a short, snappy memorable statement. To see more examples, click here. But anyway, one from a while back was: 'commitment is doing something long after the feeling in which you agreed to do it has passed.'

Then I read 1 Kings 8, where Solomon dedicated the new temple he had built. He addressed an important comment to the people at the end of the ceremony:

1 Kings 8:56-61 "Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. [57] May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us nor forsake us. [58] May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep the commands, decrees and regulations he gave our fathers. [59] And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day's need, [60] so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. [61] But your hearts must be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time."

Obviously the people were caught up in the moment of worshipping God, and were fervent in their worship. They intended, in that instant, to be fully committed to God, and not to wander off to serve other gods. But Solomon warned them that to continue to live in the land, and obtain the blessing of God that they had begun to receive, they had to remain faithful to God, that their hearts 'must be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time'. If they were fervent then, they had to continue to be.

Yet, as we read on in 1 Kings, we find that the speaker of those words of warning, Solomon, himself fell foul of them. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines (imagine having to put up with all them, and having 700 mothers-in-law!), who led him astray to the worship of false gods. His sin even led to the division of the kingdom into two - Israel and Judah, after his death.

So if Solomon failed in his task, how can we? Events like Summer Madness can be a 'high' in our faith... I heard someone describe their faith as like an electricty cable, held high at the poles, but sagging in the middle - that the events and weekends are like the poles, the high points, and then 'normal' church is the sagging bit...

If we can jump through to Hebrews 10, we might just find some answer.

Hebrews 10:19-25 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, [20] by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, [21] and since we have a great priest over the house of God, [22] let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. [23] Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. [24] And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. [25] Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The secret to some measure of dedication and commitment is through having support structures to keep us going. God provided us with the main support structure in the church - there are no 'lone rangers' in the Christian faith (and even the Lone Ranger had Tonto with him!) - so we have the family, the community built around us.

So therefore, LET US:
- hold unswervingly to the hope we profess
- consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds
- not give up meeting together
- encourage one another

There's an old song going through my head 'We're in this together' - I don't even know who sings it, but it expresses what I'm trying to say. Dedication and commitment is easier when you have a good group of friends around you, and someone keeping you accountable. Thank you, to all my friends who support and encourage me!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


I'm just back from Londonderry, where I was in the audience for a recording of UTV's Insight programme. I say recording- even though it is advertised as 'live' in the tv listings, it is in fact recorded a few hours beforehand, so it means I will get a chance to see it on tv...

Mitchell McLaughlin got a good grilling on the role of the IRA, and the criminality debate (relating to Robert McCartney and Jean McConville), and the other panel members were David McClarty (UUP), Mark Durkan (SDLP) and Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP).

It might seem like I have the 'telly bug', having been on both BBC and UTV in the audience of political debates in recent weeks - it was certainly interesting to be involved, but I wouldn't want to be on tv too much... the studio tonight was roasting!

I think the BBC do a better show, with slightly better catering, and at least there are no breaks, so once you start, that's it until it finishes, whereas with UTV, it was very bitsy.


Some of you may already know, but I seem to have a bit of a problem around the whole area of sleepwalking. I didn’t know I had a problem until dad asked what I was doing at night in my room – him having heard me shouting or wandering about through the night.

And then the more famous incidents happened when I went on youth weekends, camps and holidays. Here I share them, for your amusement (and fear if you have to share a room with me in future!).

A few years ago, at BB Camp in the Isle of Wight, we had problems getting the camp beds set up during the day, fully awake. They were particularly difficult to assemble, and seemed to be even harder to disassemble. But, not for me! That first night, I managed to take down my camp bed, and fold it up neatly…while asleep! Then later in the week, my watch went missing – eventually to have been found in someone else’s bag… the only explanation being I had put it there while asleep.

At a YF weekend a few years back, Scott was on the top bunk, and I was in the bottom bunk, and he awoke, to find me staring at him (while sleeping), with the lights in the room on. The same weekend, my duvet went missing through a night, and it appears that I had put it in the wardrobe while sleepwalking.

Then last year, we went over to England for a few days, and on the first night, Scott woke up to find that I had put my pillow over his face (but hadn’t pressed down!). He was a bit more cautious after that, for some reason!

Not long after, I was in England with work, and sharing a room with my boss… but the worst that happened was three conversations in my sleep, which got increasingly agitated. Hazlett was a bit worried, I think!

Recently, there, I was in Brussels with Hazlett again, and he heard me talking in my sleep in an English accent – where that came from, I have no notion!
I think that’s all the occasions, but no doubt others will come to mind, or people will remind me of horrific occasions!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Bank Holiday Monday

Not much to report on today... I was off work, which led to a nice lie-in, and then went on a family outing towards Newtownards, down the ards peninsula, and back up to Groomsport for lunch, then a stop in Bangor. Then came home, packed, and drove to Newtownstewart...

What a slightly boring existence today. Sorry for subjecting you to reading this...!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A blessed Sunday

So here we are the end of a busy, but blessed Sunday. The day started with the Celebrate at Ten service, which is our modern informal service, and despite there maybe not being as big a crowd as normal (with the Bank Holiday Weekend), it went well. We were thinking about the theme of God's call to Abram, to go to a place he didn't know in advance, and the promise that he would be the father of many nations. There was even the usual appearance of Zach, the puppet who 'lives' in the pulpit, who thought he was going to be on Stars in Their Eyes...

Then we had the more traditional service, which this morning was Holy Communion. Sadly, the organist's son isn't well (our prayers are with baby James), so we had Stephen (the rector) playing the keyboard. The sound system also played a few tricks, but by the end of the service it was all sorted!

This afternoon I went out for a drive, which was nice - with the sun shining... and went past the new church being built in Dollingstown by Magheralin Parish - they're coming on well with it - that's good to see.

Then tonight we had a combined Confirmation service for Dromore and Magheradroll (Ballynahinch) parishes, with 11 candidates. The service went really well, led both by the organ, and the praise group, and Bishop Harold's sermon was excellent. He retold the story of Paul on 'Mars' hill, from Acts 17, working in the titles of a number of chocolate bars. I doubt if anyone would forget the sermon in a hurry!

Then at YF we had a special night, with catering by my ma. We had the Youth Fellowship from Stewartstown, Albany and Brigh Presbyterian Churches (in County Tyrone), and also as a guest speaker, we had Primrose Leahy, who works with ECMI, and is a missionary in Kosova. After the obligatory 'getting to know you' game - Name Bingo - we had some praise led by Dave Lowry (ably assisted on PowerPoint by Glenn). Then Primrose had a quiz on Kosova, before giving us a presentation on her work, and the situation in Kosova.

We would like to thank Primrose for giving up a small part of her holiday to come north to Dromore (she lives in Kildare) to speak to us, and also to the County Tyrone folk for coming along. (And I've just realised that this seems to be turning into a Yf report, which it isn't going to be...).

Victory in the jaws of embarrassment

I'm just in through the door, and feel compelled to let you all know how the evening went. And given the title I've given this posting, you may be wondering what all went on...

The evening started quiet enough at the Ice Bowl in Dundonald, with all sorts of idle threats about strippers and them getting me later on... and then the 'Extreme Bowling' started at 8pm. This is where you are bowling in a sort of disco environment, with the lights down, the UV lights on, and loud disco music blaring, and smoke machines. A completely different experience of bowling. Especially when you have DJ Glen Pavis from Cool FM wandering about with a radio mike doing prize giveaways and requests etc...

He started off by asking for requests, and several culprits from the group disappeared off to see him... so very soon afterwards, he came down to our lane, and made the group sing happy birthday to me (which was sung very well - even Glen noticed!)... giving me my first reddener of the evening.

Then later, he asked for volunteers to dance to the Cha Cha Slide. There was a group of wee girls who were doing it, when I was rugby tackled in a scrum down to the line... and forced to remain and dance. What made it slightly better, though, was that Glen then forced David, Pamela and Heather to also dance. Fair play to David - I hadn't seen him dancing before, but he did rightly well!

And through all these distractions, there was a game of 10-pin bowling going on! Now, some of the group aren't the most competitive, but some of the rest of us are always playing for pride, notably David, Jordan, Bryan, Stewart and myself.

The good news to report is that I was victorious! I won with 124, which isn't a bad score, but certainly not near my best... Heather came second with 117, and Mark was third with 113.

We then went on to Harry Ramsdens, where we managed to eventually get a table for 14, and enjoyed more craic and banter during the meal. Only for one more bit of embarrassment to be unleashed at virtually the end of the night... when a cake with a candle was brought out for me. Thank you to the culprits behind it, Stewart and Bryan...

All in all, we had an excellent night, and I'm glad it went well. Now I think it's time for bed, with a busy day in front of me!