Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Today I have a great sense of accomplishment. I have achieved something. My first essay of the course has been finished and handed in! Now I just have another two to hand in on the first day back after Christmas. Oh, and much more afterwards, but these are the immediate concerns.

However, this week has also been a week of endings, as the second Great Hebrew Revolt took place. So my best wishes to Stephen, who is going it alone in Hebrew. I was just finding that I didn't have enough time or inclination to be learning both Greek and Hebrew at the same time, with two grammars, and vocabs and all the rest. So Greek has won my vote, and is absorbing my efforts now!

On Sunday night, the Advent Carol Service, an innovation in Dromore, seemed to go very well. The choir did several anthems, including 'I know a rose tree springing', 'The angel Gabriel from heaven came' and 'Personent Hodie' - which I am convinced is a Latin medieval recipe for Christmas cake or mince pies or something.

I also had a fun weekend meeting the Wilkinson family, both on Friday night and then more fully on Saturday night... and the amazing thing is that they think I'm all right! Hehe! I must have fooled them well! But then the fun bit comes when Lynsey has to meet the McMurray clan... Dear help her!

Other than that, I haven't much more for to tell you all about... oh, except that yesterday was my thirteenth 'second birthday' - when I came to faith at the end of the week of mission in the Cathedral in the Decade of Evangelism. The missioner was Neil Steadman from Cumbria Diocese. I'm so glad I made that decision, and would urge you, reader, if you don't know Jesus, to come to faith, and be saved!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Saturday's update

Well, what a week!!!

Since my last posting, on Monday evening, I have spent several wonderful days in bed, being unable to do very much at all. As I said at the end of my last update, I had a bit of a sore throat... In chapel on Monday evening, I got worser, and ended up having to go to bed very soon afterwards.

And there I remained until Wednesday lunchtime, with my cold/flu/sore throat/sick feeling and all else... But thankfully I'm now almost better, and able to go out and about again.

There's not much else to report on at present, other than the great news that Lynsey is home in Northern Ireland again this weekend!!! I lifted her from the airport last night, and soon we're heading out for a big family meal with the Wilky's...

Oh - and tomorrow night is the Advent Carol service in Dromore Cathedral, which starts at 8pm.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Just a wee photo...

Ok... so this is a wee photo from Lynsey's 21st - as usual, she shines far brighter than I do!

[This might not last very long, as she will probably give off about it... but sure!!!]

Commitment: A Sermon preached in Dollingstown & Magheralin churches on Sunday 20th November 2005. Readings: Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25, Philippians 3:10-21

Every day, we have lots of choices to make. Can anyone think of some of the things you have to decide on? Maybe we have to choose which breakfast cereal we're going to have, or what to wear. All of us have choices to make.

This morning we're going to learn about a big choice that a group of people had to make many years ago, and see how we have that choice to make as well.

Joshua had been leading the Israelites after Moses died. In that time, he had brought them into Canaan, the land that God had promised to them. They had defeated the inhabitants of the land and were now established in their new country. But Joshua was coming to the end of his life so he called them all to come together in one place to make sure that they would continue to live according to God's way.

He was speaking to them, and told them to make a choice. Were they going to serve God, or would they choose to serve some other gods? It was almost like an election, who would they pick?

And yet, the decision was actually quite straight forward. Because why would they choose to serve some foreign god, when they could serve the true God? Joshua gave them some reasons from their history why they should serve God. It was God who had called Abraham, in the first place, which led to the nation of Israel being established; it was God who had cared for them and brought them out of the land of Egypt, where they had been slaves; and it was God who had given them the land they now lived in, where they could enjoy the fruits and all the good things the land produced.

Whereas, on the other hand, the other candidates were false gods, they were just idols, statues of wood or stone or gold, that couldn't really do anything, and shouldn't be worshipped.

Joshua was a brave leader, and said that even if everyone else would choose to serve the false gods, he would still serve the true God.

So who would they choose? God, or the false idols?

The people decided that they would serve the Lord, the true God. Yet Joshua wanted to make sure that they were genuine, that they meant what they were saying, so he challenged them, and tested them three times. So they committed themselves three times to worship God, and live for him. And they made a covenant – an agreement with God that they would serve him.

So what has this story got to teach us, who live in the 21st century? Is there anything we can learn from Joshua and the people of Israel?

Well, we all have a choice to make – who are we going to serve? What are we going to put first in our lives?

What sort of things are there that people can worship? Any ideas? Some people worship popstars, or footballers, and want to be like them, and think about them a lot. Other people worship money, and put it first in their life, by working long hours to get as much as they can.

But, just as Joshua called on the people to worship God, the true God, so I call on you today, and encourage you to serve God. Why would we want to do that?

Well, just as Joshua could give a series of reasons why the Israelites would worship God, so there are also reasons why we should put God first in our lives. The first is because God has created each of us, and knows us better than we know ourselves, and so he is worthy to be worshipped. Further, God has provided salvation for us, by sending Jesus to die for us on the cross, to pay for our sins, and to bring us to heaven with him. And just as Joshua looked back on how God had provided in the past, we can see how God has been faithful in the past. He has given us faithful Christians who have taught us about God, [D: and provided us with a growing church, as we look forward to a new building for meeting in] [M: and provided us with these organisations where we can learn about God while having fun with our friends].

[M: Today, as you are enrolled in the Boys Brigade and the Girls Friendly Society, you will make some promises. You will make a commitment to attend each week, and to be a good member by doing your best, in the activities.]

But the choice remains for each one of us today – choose this day who you will serve! If you have never made the decision to follow Jesus, never made a commitment to him, then make it today! Maybe you have been coming to church all your life, and have always heard about Jesus. Maybe you know all about him, but you don't know him. That was me – I grew up through church, and was in the Boys Brigade and most times won the Scripture Exam, because I knew a good bit of the Bible. I knew about Jesus, but I didn't know him.

And thirteen years ago this month, I came to know Jesus, and made a commitment to him, to follow him, and to come to know him more through reading my Bible and praying to him. And, do you know what? It was the best decision I ever made! I have never looked back!

But the decision isn't just a one-off – something you make once and that's it finished with. Following Jesus is a life-long commitment. It is a commitment to serve God for the rest of your life. And it isn't just for the boys and girls, it is for every person in church. You have to keep going, because while things aren't always easy, it is the best way.

In our Second Reading today, we heard from the apostle Paul, who was writing to the church in Philippi. In the reading we discover how we should be committed, and the reason for that commitment. He says that the reason for being committed to God is that we're looking forward into the future, towards 'the prize for which God has called' us. There is the reward waiting for us, if we're faithful.

So how should we be committed? How should we live? 'Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the prize'. All your thoughts, words and actions should be lived out looking forward to the last times, and the reward waiting for us. So when you have a decision to make, make it remembering forward to the reward. As the bracelets that some of the young people might be wearing say: WWJD – What Would Jesus Do?

So what can we learn today; what can you take away with you? How will you respond to the challenge that Joshua first put to God's people all those years ago: 'Choose this day who you will serve.'

Make that commitment today, come to Jesus, and continue in it, as you grow and develop.

Monday, November 21, 2005

A more proper update, perhaps

Ok, so here goes. I have roughly half an hour before the evening service in chapel, in which to tell you all that I have been up to since last Monday, which was my last fuller posting.

Last Tuesday we had the pleasure of not having Greek in the afternoon as the tutor was in London, so I made the most of it and spent the afternoon wandering round the main shopping parts of the city centre, just looking in the shops and spending very little money!

then on Wednesday at the Communion service I was cantoring the Psalm - the way we did it was me plainsong chanting it, with the congregation singing a four-part antiphon after every second verse... Thankfully it seemed to go ok. Then after the reception and dinner, there was a seminar by Colin Corebridge, of CMSI, who was speaking on the church's mission to the post-modern world... Spike, as he is more commonly known was also the preacher at Communion - the best we've had so far this year.

Thursday was the day of just one class, which worked out well, as it gave me time to work on the sermon for Sunday in Magheralin (which will follow in due time, when I get it onto my flash drive for copying to here).

Thursday morning also made for an interesting time in chapel. The last time I read was a few weeks back, and it was Nehemiah 8. Now, within that wonderful chapter, there are two long lists of people's names which are virtually unpronounceable... and I struggled through them. On Thursday, the appointed reading was Nehemiah 9, and guess what... not only was it very long (and took me ages), there were two more wonderful lists of unpronounceables!!! Afterwards, the staff of the college were saying they think that the compiler of the rotas, none other than my good friend Adrian, actually has it in for me, cos my readings are always harder than anyone else's! So thank you very much Adrian!!!

We also had a 'new' version of the Lord's Prayer, where due to an unfortunate typo, the service sheet led us to pray 'Lead us into temptation'...

Then at the weekend, I was in Rostrevor, at the Kilbroney Centre, for the Reload Weekend. Reload is an event organised by the diocesan Youth Council, and has been going for about 6 years now? I've been at most of them (I think I missed the first one ever), and always enjoy them. This year we had a speaker who had travelled from Ipswich for it, none other than Magheralin's Martin Montgomery, who looked at the book of Esther, to see how it applies to our lives today.

[As an aside, did you know that in Ipswich, those young men who are called 'spides' or 'steeks' in Northern Ireland, are called 'Gary-boys'!!!]

On Saturday afternoon we had a very funny game of 'Hunt the Leader', except we were dressed as fantasy fiction characters, such as Aslan, Gandalf, Hagrid, Harry Potter, and myself as an Orc! The groups also filmed their own version of certain music videos - the best of which was the version of Coldplay's video for 'The Scientist', in which everything happens backwards.

Yesterday morning I was preaching at the family service in Dollingstown, and the BB&GFS Enrollment in Magheralin churches, and it seemed to go well. The churches are both friendly places, although I think Dollingstown was marginally better, simply because it was less formal, as they currently meet in a mobile building in the grounds of the Orange Hall, until their new building is opened on 10th December. My impression might have been boosted by the fact that I knew more of the people in Dollingstown as well.

I really enjoyed being in the parish, and working with Gareth again, seeing he had been our Curate in Dromore from 1998 - 2002. He definitely hasn't changed, and is as funny (or strange) as ever he was! But Gareth, I know you will be reading this, that is a good thing!

And that's really about all I have to talk about, apart from the bad sore throat I have had since last night... which made me sleep even less than normal! I'm now on various types of sweets and medication and a never-ending stream of tissues...

Sunday, November 20, 2005


It seems like absolutely ages since my last update, and so much has been going on!!!

I'm now in the house for a couple of hours before I head off to church, Yf and Dublin again... with this weekend being spent in Rostrevor, at the Down and Dromore Reload Weekend, and then this morning preaching in Dollingstown and Magheralin.

I don't have time for to write all that I would like today, but I will indeed at some point in the very near future... although I've an essay due in for Friday, and a lot of other stuff on this week too... so keep checking back until you hear all that has been going on with me!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Weekend update and Monday

So here I am back in Dublin again after the busy (but thoroughly enjoyable) weekend in Dundee. My last update was Saturday morning, so I have a couple of days to write about.

Saturday saw us going to St Andrews, where Prince William went to university. It was a nice enough place, with just a wee touch of rain when we were walking about. It seems to have been a major centre of population and importance, as there is an ancient huge Cathedral in ruins, and a castle. There also seems to be, as only the Scottish can do, a large number of Church of Scotland churches.

Then we went back to Dundee and had a wander about some of the shopping centre type places, and went looking for the second hand bookshop, but alas, it was closed, due to flood damage!

In the evening we were back to St Andrews for the birthday meal, then back to Dundee and up to the Law - a high hill the Dundee seems to be built around, with a sort of monument on the top. So we drove up it, and had a look out at the size of the city - amazingly big, and well lit at night, and across the Tay Bridge towards Newport and Tayport.

Sunday was Remembrance Day, and we were at the Steeple again, where there was good teaching again, on John 6 - the feeding of the 5000 and Jesus being the Bread of Life. Then we had lunch, and then back to the flat to prepare to leave... then the leaving and the driving back to Glasgow airport, and the flying - rather smooth!

Then back to Dromore and on to Dublin, and so ended my little break... and Lynsey's birthday.

Today has gone well so far, and I think I actually made a tiny bit of progress in Hebrew, if only I could get motivated to learn the vocab... although I was very close to giving it up today. I'm going to stick at it for at least another few weeks - possibly as far as Christmas and see how we go.

So now I have a busy week, with an essay due next Friday, and also preparations to be made for the weekend, in terms of the DDYC Reload weekend, and a couple of preachings next Sunday morning. So this is the time I ask myself, why am I wasting time online writing a blog when I should be working? Well, I suppose it is easier to write about what has happened over the past few days, it isn't being marked (although this will probably start a flurry of comments with some grading system being passed), and also because a certain young lady is on msn talking as I write this!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bonnie Scotland

So here we are, Saturday morning and in Scotland again! Time seems to have flown since my last visit, but it is great to be back again!

With the winds yesterday, the plane was just a wee bit rough, especially when coming in to land in Glasgow... it was like being no a boat, all up and down and from side to side, but we landed safely enough, so no harm done! And there, waiting on me was Lynsey!

So we got the hire car, and actually, a rather fancy Seat Toledo in black, which I'm really enjoying driving. And we set off, following about 3 or 4 different sets of directions, and managing to find East Kilbride, where the reception was. But we were well early, and needed something to eat, so we found a big shopping centre place, and I though, great stuff, we'll be able to get something to eat here, and then even have a wander round the shops to kill some time before going to the reception. But alas, no! It seems, for some strange reason, that shops in Scotland shut at 6pm on a Friday evening, even the big shopping centres, so we didn't stay long, and didn't get anything to eat.

Then we went out, and saw an ice rink place just round the corner. Surely there would be something to eat in it? Well, it too was getting ready to close... and the eating places were all getting tidied up, but we managed to get stuff in a Chinese type establishment.

Oh - but before all that, in the first centre's car par we had an interesting time as I tried to find reverse... In the Corsa, you lift the gearstick up and move it to the position for first. But on the Seat, you do something different... and we were almost into a parking space and I wanted to reverse to straighten up coming in to it... and I kept trying what I thought was reverse, and we edged forward just a wee bit more, and again, and a bit closer to the wall... and again! So then I had to consult the manual, which was hidden away in the boot, to discover how to do it. So now I can reverse and all!!!

So the wedding party. The party was great! We had a great time, during the ceilidh. There were some of the dances I could actually do, assisted by the fact of the band playing the same dance twice in a row. And it was great seeing people I hadn't seen in a long time - Christopher himself, and his whole family, and Gordon Bingham, and Esther Somerville, and Simon Thompson.

But then it was a long-ish drive back north up to Dundee. So now we have Saturday stretching out in front of us, and I think we're heading towards St Andrew's for a wander about, then Lynsey's birthday dinner later on!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The weekend starts here...

And so the weekend starts here, well, in two hours time! And why is your weekend starting at noon on a Thursday, I hear you ask... I'm not going to class tomorrow as I'll be in Northern Ireland, heading towards my plane to Scotland, and after mid-day I have no more classes, so I'm heading home!!! Thankfully James has volunteered to cover my late evening service tonight, so I can get away early.

So what has happened in this week? The aftermath of the Great Hebrew Revolt continues, with the two of us who remain still going to stick with it for another while - although, I can't really get motivated to learn the vocab... Greek is so much better, it seems. And after all, didn't Jesus say 'no man can serve two masters' - and I think Greek will become my favoured master in terms of Biblical languages... But I'm still going to the class and trying to see what I can do in Hebrew.

Last night the choir was back in operation for the College Communion service, with a couple of harmony pieces unaccompanied, and we had an absolute blast in 'We Are Marching in the light of God', where Tom, the Pastoral Studies Director (who also oversees our choir-ing for the Communions) was encouraging us to stamp our feet and move about and all that... Craig, who was doing the dismissal afterwards could hardly get the words out for laughing!

I shall pass on my greetings now, in case I'm not back on the computer beforehand, but a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Lynsey, who will turn 21 on Sunday. May God continue to bless you richly as you get older in his service. Love you lots!

And also congratulations to Christopher and Jennifer, who, DV, will be married tomorrow in Strathaven, in Scotland.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Normal service resumes

Apologies if you saw the last post, which was actually no post - just a title. I can assure whoever the eagle-eyed anonymous reader that I had included a full posting, but that it disappeared somehow in the publishing. I'm not sure that there was much of interest in it though, so it may have been providential that it was deleted.

Today, however, is much more exciting, and will go down in the annals of history as the day of the Great Hebrew Revolt. Half of our Hebrew class has resigned today, leaving just two brave (foolish) souls to continue trying to make sense of the series of squiggles, dots and dashes which is Hebrew... I am now tempted myself to give up too, simply because I'm not making any progress in it myself - as homework we had to try to start to read Psalm 23, and I cannot get any of the words!

I'm looking forward to the weekend too, as I'm jetting back to Scotland again, for the wedding of Chris Somerville, who I went to school with. I'm assuming it's going to be a ceilhe (or however you spell a mad Scottish dance night), so should be good craic. Then it's off up to Dundee again to stay in Lynsey's flat again for her birthday weekend - it all worked out rather well that I would be in Scotland that weekend! And I know it's just a week since I last saw her, but I can't wait to see her again!

But for now, it's back to the reading of Hebrew in an attempt to prepare for the two hours of a nearly empty classroom - we will have nowhere to hide now!

Friday, November 04, 2005

The weekend is here again!

Time seems to be flying so quickly. It doesn't seem like a week since I was in Glasgow en route to Dundee... but here I find myself back home again on another Friday night, having now done 6 weeks at college. Where is the time going?

But this weekend will bring a nice easy time, with not much doing! I'm looking forward to the Ripple Effect - a youth event in Stewartstown tomorrow night, but we'll see how it goes.

Nothing else much to report on... so I'll finish!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Final day in Scotland

I know it's not actually my last day in Scotland, but I just realised I hadn't talked about Monday and all the bizarre things that happened to me on the way from Dundee to Dromore to Dublin. So here goes... and by the way, all these things genuinely happened!!!

We got on the train in Dundee, and who should be sitting sort of behind us, only a girl who was at Queens doing politics the same time I was there - only she didn't like me, so I didn't say hello to her - I don't think she recognised me, but I knowed her!

So we got to Glasgow, and I was quite lost for the first wee bit as I tried to figure out the station in relation to the Buchanan Galleries shopping centre - it's a good job Lynsey was there, or I might have been lost without her! We dumped our bags into the bus station and took a walk down Sauchiehall Street, and we went into TK Maxx and down the escalator. At the bottom, I felt someone pulling at my shoulder, and I turned around to see this strange woman smiling and staring at me, and before I could speak, she just walked off up the escalator... so very strange! Unless she maybe thought I was someone else and when I turned round she realised she had made a mistake, but you would think she would have spoken!

Then a bit further up the street I went in to Sainsbury's to top up my phone, and silly, silly me - I handed over the Nectar card and the money and asked her to put £20 on it please... and she just stared and asked me for the phone top-up card! Doh! How stupid could I be?!

After that, Glasgow seemed to go reasonably well, having a bit of a wander along, and getting lunch and all, then off to the airport. And then, behold, we had to sit on the plane an extra hour as there was a broken part, but thankfully they had a spare in the stores, and we were able eventually to get on our way to Aldergrove again.

So after having left Lynsey home, I dumped off some clothes and packed others and set off for Dublin. It being Hallowe'en night, there were lots of fireworks about - actually, flying over Belfast was amazing to see all the different fireworks and the colours and all that. But there were two dodgy moments at Newry.

First off, the police were out diverting traffic at the first roundabout on the bypass, not letting anyone down into the city on the Belfast Road. So that was ok, cars had to go along the bypass. But about 200 yards past where the police were standing, at the Cloghanramer Road, there were wee rips standing at the side of the road throwing lit fireworks out into the middle of the road and under cars etc... Great to see the police keeping them under control.

Then second, as you climb the big hill from the Five Ways Roundabout up towards Altnaveigh, right at the side of the road, there was a huge bonfire and a big crowd standing watching it. [I thought it was the Eleventh night!] I certainly wasn't expecting to see anything like it.

Well, that concludes my update on Monday! It's amazing how many strange things can happen in the one day - and there was me thinking that strange things only happen when I was out and about with David McCarthy!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

In the midst of life we are in death

This is going to be a very downbeat posting, after the positiveness of the weekend ones. Death seems to be all around at present, with way too many people dying in recent days. My sympathies to Joanne and Stephen, after their dad died on Sunday - I didn't know Robert very well, but I can remember one Twelfth standing in Newry in the rain under trees waiting on our busses coming, and he let me have a go on his trumpet...

Then this morning in Chapel, I heard that one of our third year students lost his baby daughter yesterday. She was just a month old, and the news has hit the whole college community hard. After the long weekend break, things just aren't the same - from talking to people, it seems that we all had a good weekend off but it pales into insignificance after the news of this morning. So please hold John and Jane in your prayers as they face this difficult time.

I have lots more to write about, but today just isn't the time to do it... Normal service will resume at some stage soon.