Friday, March 30, 2007

The Man Comes Around

Have you ever heard a song and, without knowing what it is, know you really like it? Then you can't find out what it is, so the song (or snippets of it) go round your head over and over?

That happened me yesterday afternoon. I was in Vital Records in Banbridge, and a song was playing. It was something about the end of the world, and contained quite a lot of Biblical references, to angels and the four beasts, and virgins trimming their wicks. I was going to ask the girl working in the shop what it was, but she was otherwise engaged.

So over the past day I've been trying to remember bits of the song to try and find out who sung it, or what CD I could find it on. I thought it might have been Bob Dylan, thinking I had heard the word hurricane... but that was just a blind alley.

So this evening, I suddenly remembered that I had heard the start of the next song on the CD, which was 'I hurt myself today.' Armed with this knowledge, it was back onto the internet, and behold, I have found the song! It's Johnny Cash, singing 'The Man Comes Around.'

Good old Youtube has supplied a video version - or rather, a sound version with a picture in the screen, which you can see and hear below. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

And here are the lyrics - will you be ready when the Man comes around?

And I heard as it were the noise of thunder
One of the four beasts saying come and see and I saw
And behold a white horse

There's a man going around taking names and he decides
Who to free and who to blame every body won't be treated
Quite the same there will be a golden ladder reaching down
When the man comes around

The hairs on your arm will stand up at the terror in each
Sip and each sup will you partake of that last offered cup
Or disappear into the potter's ground
When the man comes around

Hear the trumpets hear the pipers one hundred million angels singing
Multitudes are marching to a big kettledrum
Voices calling and voices crying
Some are born and some are dying
Its alpha and omegas kingdom come
And the whirlwind is in the thorn trees
The virgins are all trimming their wicks
The whirlwind is in the thorn trees
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks
Till Armageddon no shalam no shalom

Then the father hen will call his chicken's home
The wise man will bow down before the thorn and at his feet
They will cast the golden crowns
When the man comes around

Whoever is unjust let him be unjust still
Whoever is righteous let him be righteous still
Whoever is filthy let him be filthy still
Listen to the words long written down
When the man comes around

Hear the trumpets hear the pipers one hundred million angels singing
Multitudes are marching to a big kettledrum
Voices calling and voices crying
Some are born and some are dying
Its alpha and omegas kingdom come
And the whirlwind is in the thorn trees
The virgins are all trimming their wicks
The whirlwind is in the thorn trees
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks
In measured hundred weight and penny pound
When the man comes around

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts
And I looked and behold, a pale horse
And it's name it said on him was Death
And Hell followed with him.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

British Summer Time

Or maybe you would prefer to call it Daylight Savings Time. No matter. Tis the same thing! It's always great when the clocks go forward and we have the light for longer in the evenings. On Sunday night it was nice to be sitting in the Cathedral for the evening service, and for daylight to still be streaming through the windows. Makes a change from the dark evenings of winter where we go into church in the dark...

The other thing about BST is that it can provide a laugh for churches! On Sunday morning I was preaching in Dollingstown and Magheralin (for the sermon, see the separate posting), and we were singing the final hymn, when in walked a family arriving (as they thought) for the start of the service. Guess they forgot to put their clocks forward! Then a family were telling me they had done the same in Dromore as well! But they didn't go in, they just drove past and on back home again.

However, there's almost a professional danger in British Summer Time for those working - what if the preacher forgets to set his clock forward, or sleeps in? Especially with an 8.30am Holy Communion service...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Oh What a Night! (2007 Remix for Sweden)

I'm not long home from Windsor Park, and oh how happy I am!!! Somehow, David Healy and Northern Ireland have done it again! We've moved to the top of the Qualifying Group F by beating Sweden 2-1 tonight in Belfast. Yes, David Healy got both the goals, but it was a whole team effort - all the lads playing their hearts out; defending well when needed, and attacking with passion and some skill.

It seemed that it would be a disappointing night when Sweden took the lead, but shortly after, Healy grabbed an equaliser. And then in the second half (again from open play), Johnston went up the right wing in a counter-attack, and crossed for Healy to score the winner! While the Swedes piled on the pressure in the second half, the defence kept them out, as well as Maik Taylor, who was outstanding. There was one moment of fear, when Sweden attacked, and one of our defenders hit the ball out for a corner, only for it to bounce off the post... relief that it went away!

Oh, and the best bit of the night? I managed to get both of David Healy's goals on camera... see below for the full clip!

Green and White Army on the march again!

Following Northern Ireland's convincing 4-1 win on Saturday night in Leichtenstein, the Green and White Army are out again tonight, as they prepare to play Sweden at Windsor Park, Belfast. As always, I'll have my camera with me, poised to take a great photo, or maybe even film another Healy goal! I'll maybe update later on...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Church Humour... forwarded!

This is taken from Rob and Dilys' blog - which had been passed on to them... enjoy!

Councils Challenge Completed!!!

It is with great joy that I can now report that the Councils Challenge has been completed! Having left Banbridge at 0800 this morning and progressing in an anti-clockwise manner around Northern Ireland, covering 327 miles, Robert and myself arrived at the Turnpike on the Hillsborough Road, Dromore, the gateway to Banbridge District Council at 1800. See the above photo, which was the culmination in our challenge! A more full report (with pictures) will follow in due course... to fill you in on our interesting and fun day! You can look forward to reports of us getting lost, and of missing signs (both us missing them, and also the signs themselves being missing)!

[Edit 28/03/07 : Photos of the entire challenge can now be seen starting here on my Flickr site.]

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Councils Challenge

We're all set for the big challenge tomorrow... Here goes!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Jesus on course: A sermon preached in Magheralin on 25th March 2007. Luke 22:1-13

As we approach Good Friday and Easter – now just two weeks away – we’re brought once again to think about the cross, and Jesus’ death. We might be tempted to think that it was all a big mistake – that Jesus wasn’t meant to die at a relatively young age, on a cross. It can all seem so pointless; so sad.

Indeed, you might be thinking that the gospels, the records of Jesus’ life would have been better if they didn’t talk about his death, or if he hadn’t been executed. Some people think that the Gospel is all about the nice things he did. You know, all those nice stories of him going on boats, and feeding people, and healing people, and saying nice things to people. Then it all turned out horribly wrong when some people got annoyed with him and crucified him.

Is that what the Gospel is all about? Was the cross just a disappointing and embarrassing end to a great life? I hope with me, that you’re saying no – that the cross was the climax to Jesus’ life and work – that it is in fact crucial (from the word crucify) to Jesus’ life. As we read from his passage at the start of Luke’s Passion story, we’ll see that the cross was the way Jesus had to go, and that he was right on course in following the Father’s will.

Jesus was on course in the Father’s will. How good are you at following plans and timetables? Whenever I’m flying, (and that’s quite a lot with Lynsey in Scotland), I always like to be on time for the check-in. But then I leave earlier than I had planned to make sure I’m definitely there on time. So I always find myself with at least a couple of hours in the airport lounges… I want to make sure I don’t miss the plane.

Already in Luke’s Gospel we’ve seen Jesus working according to his timetable. Back at the start of Lent, David was teaching on the temptation of Jesus, at the start of his ministry – Satan tried to take him off course then, by getting his goals by easier means – worshipping Satan rather than God. Then a few weeks back we heard about Jesus being warned that Herod was out to kill him – what was his reply then? ‘Go tell that fox “I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.”’ (13:32).

Jesus is on a mission. Jesus is on the mission, to save us by the cross, and nothing will divert him or stop him. We’ll see that Jesus’ plans come together just as he says, and that nothing can keep him from fulfilling them – be they the schemes of his enemies, his friends, or the demonic powers.

Next week, we’ll be hearing about the entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, when Jesus rode on the donkey, with the people cheering him and praising God. That comes in Luke 19, and as chapters 20 and 21 progress, Jesus is teaching the crowd in the temple, answering questions and debating with the Jewish officials. But the passage we’re looking at comes later in the week. By now it is Thursday in Holy Week, the day of Unleavened Bread.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread recalled the bread eaten by the Israelites on their exodus from Egypt, and was celebrated in connection with the Passover Festival, which remembered the Passover in Egypt – when the angel of death ‘passed over’ the homes of the Israelites where blood had been shed. For Jesus, it was of utmost importance – as a sign of what he would achieve by his death on the cross, as well as of beginning the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion – through which we remember the cross.

As Jesus says in verse 15, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the kingdom of God.’ But for the meal to happen, it required preparations. Here, we see that Jesus is in control; Jesus is on course.

It is Jesus that sends Peter and John to make the preparations for the meal. To us, the instructions sound like a mini-treasure hunt, with the various clues to follow. They had to enter Jerusalem and find the man carrying a jar of water; follow him to the house he entered, then say to the owner about the Teacher asking where the guest room was. Why doesn’t Jesus just tell them what street and who owns the house?

Was it to prevent Judas and Jesus’ enemies from knowing where they would eat the Passover as a small group? Was it to keep the details private? Or was it to show Jesus’ power and knowledge, inviting the disciples to take him at his word?

The commentaries mention that it would have been unusual for a man to be carrying a water jar – only women would have been carrying water in a jar. Men, if they carried water, would do so in a leather skin. But here, Jesus tells them to look out for the man carrying a jar of water.

So Peter and John go, and there indeed is the man carrying the jar! As we read in verse 13, ‘They left and found things just as Jesus had told them.’ The Passover meal is on course – Jesus will share it with his disciples, recalling the salvation of Israel from Egypt in the past, and looking forward to the next day when he would accomplish the Passover, as the Lamb of God was slain. They found things just as Jesus had told them. His word was certain and sure, and to be trusted.

Jesus was on course to complete the will of God. Yet there were people trying to prevent him from completing God’s will – people out to try and stall him, or get rid of him. It’s a bit like getting to the airport – there will always be that driver who insists on toddling along when you need to be going a bit quicker. They hold you back, they almost prevent you from being on course. We’re going to look now at the people who were trying to keep Jesus from being on course.

As I said earlier, we are thinking of the days after Jesus entered Jerusalem on the donkey, as Jesus seems to be continuing to grow in favour with the crowds. They had greeted him with praise, and as the week went on, he appeared to be becoming more popular.

We read in 21:38 that ‘all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple’. The crowds were coming to hear Jesus teaching – no wonder the chief priests and teachers of the law were jealous. If the people were listening to him, then their popularity and authority was being undermined.

But there was more at stake here. Verse 2 tells us that ‘they were afraid of the people.’ They had already seen what Jesus had done in the temple – driving out those who were selling animals – what if Jesus led the crowds with more reforming zeal? Their power and position would be lost. What could they do about it? Their solution was to get rid of Jesus – if he was killed, then his followers and supporters would vanish, and the temple would be safe.

But how could they do it? Whenever he was in the city, there were always big crowds with him. How could they get rid of him when he was alone?

Verse 3 reveals some troubling words. It’s as if Satan saw the problem the chief priests and teachers had, and wanted to lend a hand. ‘Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.’ Jesus is on course, and then his demonic enemy steps into the fray. While he had failed to sway Jesus, he now enters one of his closest friends and disciples – Judas. We don’t know how this happened; yet it was a fearful reality.

Worse, it led to an attempt to take Jesus off course, through the betrayal of a close friend. Judas takes the initiative and goes off to see the chief priests and officers to suggest how he might betray Jesus. We don’t know what his motives were – was he frustrated with how things were going? Matthew and Mark date Judas’ going to the temple after the ‘waste’ of the perfume to anoint Jesus’ feet. Was he out for some personal gain? Was he trying to provoke Jesus to reveal himself and become the king? We don’t know.

As we read the passage, we can see the unholy delight of the chief priests as circumstances unfold. They have moved from anger and fear of the people, through puzzlement at how to get rid of Jesus, to being ‘delighted’ when Judas suggests a way through. They are more than willing to offer him a reward for his part in their wickedness.

Does this reveal some element of Judas’ priorities? Was he only out for himself, and some financial gain? Not that that would matter to either Satan or the chief priests. He was merely a pawn in the grand scheme to defeat and silence Jesus.

Now they were in a watching and waiting game. They were waiting for the time when there was no crowd, and Jesus could be handed over and arrested. So it was against this background that Jesus had made plans for the Passover – maybe this was indeed why he was so secretive about where they would eat the meal.

As we read earlier, it was Jesus’ eager desire to eat the Passover with his disciples before he suffered – so it was important that Jesus remained no schedule. Nothing would divert him from the plan – neither the actions of his enemies, or friends, or even the devil himself.

Just a few hours later, however, and Jesus would willingly surrender to the mob who came to arrest him, who would lead him off to be tried and sentenced to death. There too, Jesus was following and fulfilling the plan of God – despite what the chief priests and teachers thought they were doing.

While the disciples didn’t realise at the time, they could have found everything going on ‘just as Jesus had told them.’ (13) As we think about Jesus’ arrest, trial and death on the cross, it was just as Jesus had told his disciples several times. So we find in 9:22 ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’ Or again in 18:31 ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be turned over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.’

You see, while the chief priests thought they were stopping Jesus by having him crucified, they were actually fulfilling the plan of God. As they celebrated the Passover, they killed the true Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

As Peter declared on the day of Pentecost: ‘This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross… Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ’ (Acts 2:23, 36)

Jesus was on course to fulfil the plan of rescue and salvation. Nothing could keep him from dying to save you. Will you come to him, and find your salvation? Will you come to him, and trust his word?

Friday, March 23, 2007


Sometimes I think I would forget my head if it wasn't attached... Today ma and da decided that they wanted to go somewhere seeing as ma was off and da had finished his working week this morning. So off we went to Bangor. Culchie day out. Or something like that. Why Bangor? I don't know... we seem to go there quite a lot, but the parentals like it, and there's a decent bookshop called Bookends so I can handle it. Oh, and quite a few charity shops for books too!

The M1 citybound was hectic today... really busy... so much that we were queued back to beyond the Stockman's Lane bridge. But we got through anyway, and as we were going along the Sydenham bypass, suddenly it dawned on me that I had forgotten my mobile phone. Quick check - no, it isn't on the dashboard, and it isn't in my pocket. So in my getting ready I had forgotten to lift it off the bedside table. No problem, sure I'll text Lynsey from ma's phone when we get to Bangor to let her know I'm ok and just a bit ditsy. [I wasn't really expecting anyone else to text, and if you had, I'm sure it would have waited until I got home again]

Except when we got to Bangor, I completely forgot about texting, and ma and da were away off before I remembered... Oops!

It seems that the forgetfulness was spreading though. Being an Ulster lad, I quite like a bowl of champ. So I went into a cafe chain which does a good bowl of champ for about £2, and went downstairs to await my lunch. Ten minutes later it still hadn't arrived, and I got a bit concerned... were they planting and harvesting the spuds for me? Just then one of the workers arrived down bringing someone else's lunch, and she was very apologetic for them forgetting about me!

So anyway, back to my being beyond contact. It led me on to think that God is never out of range - he can always hear out prayers, if we will but call on him!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Councils Challenge Day Set

Our Councils Challenge is set for Tuesday 27th March 2007. Robert and myself will set off from Banbridge at approximately 8am in our attempt to visit all twenty-six local district council areas in Northern Ireland. I think we're going to go in an anti-clockwise direction... but the exact route has yet to be finalised... maybe we'll make it up as we go along!

After the day, there will be full coverage of the event with photos and video footage!

So, do you think we can make it???

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Confessing for the nation

Finally, I'm blogging again about Nehemiah. In our last look at Nehemiah, we found that he was a man of prayer. He prayed, not only on his own, but also in that moment when he was asked by the King what he wanted to do about Jerusalem. But that prayerfulness was cultivated by his private prayer life. What you are behind the scenes and in private is what you truly are. We'll see that overflow in Nehemiah now, as we think of his prayer of confession.

Why was Nehemiah praying? Hanani his brother had returned from Jersualem and told Nehemiah what state the city was in. This was even after the return of earlier exiles to Jerusalem. The walls of the city were broken down, and the gates not erected.

On hearing the news, Nehemiah was upset, and 'sat down and wept and mourned for days, and [he] continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven' (Neh 1:4). We're then ushered into his chamber for an insight into his prayers. Here's his prayer, then we'll think about what he did:

And I said, "O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father's house have sinned. 7We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. 8Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your dispersed be under the farthest skies, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.' 10They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man."

God's Character

First, Nehemiah addresses God - and reminds both God and himself of the character of God. This is surely the right place to begin our prayers, as we recall the character of God, the one we pray to. While the thinking of the ancients was that deities were restricted to local areas, and only over one place, Nehemiah boldly declares the truth that God is the 'Lord God of heaven' - ruling and reigning over all. But more than that, God is 'the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments.' (5)

If Nehemiah had doubts about whether God could do anything for him, or answer prayers, they are quickly dispelled by the reflection of God's character. The 'great and awesome God' will surely hear and answer him! How much can we be quickened to pray by remembering the attributes, the love and faithfulness of our God?

He next appeals to the great and awesome God to be attentive to his prayers, both by listening and watching him as he prays. In this section, he also tells God what he's going to pray for.


The reminder of God's character leads into the main section of the prayer. God is the one who 'keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments.' Oh how that exposes the fault of the Israelites! The very reason Nehemiah is in exile is because Israel had not loved and obeyed God. So he doesn't beat about the bush. He doesn't hmm and ha about social conditioning or peer pressure to sin. He goes straight to the problem - as he confesses 'the sons of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you.' (6) It might be easy to confess the sins of other people - and say how society around him had gone to pieces because of sin; but he goes further: 'Even I and my father's house have sinned.' (6)

How quick are we to confess our sins, and our corporate sins? Are there occasions when we need to confess the sins of our nation?

How had they sinned? 'We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.' (7) The Law that God had given to Moses had been disregarded! What could be done? The mention of Moses led Nehemiah on to recall the promise of God to Moses:

God's Promises

Nehemiah had recalled who it was he was praying to - the awesome and great God. He then recalled the failure of the people to keep the covenant, and so confessed his people's sin. He then goes into another stage of recalling - as he remembers God's covenant promises to his people. The promise of God to Moses had been that if the people had been unfaithful, he would scatter them - that had already happened. But it went on to say that if the people returned to him, God would bring them back to the promised land. And this would happen, even if they were under the 'farthest skies' (9).

Do we pray God's promises? If God has promised in his word that he is with us, then we can hold him to that! If God has promised that he is faithful to forgive our sins when we confess, then we can hold him to it!

Nehemiah then urges God to act on his prayer - by reminding him that the people he is praying for are God's people - 'they are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand.' (10)

Nehemiah then concludes his prayer by asking again for God to listen to him; to grant him success as he prepares to approach the king. 'Grant him (that is, Nehemiah) mercy in the sight of this man (that is, the king).

So what can we learn from Nehemiah's praying? First, that as we approach God in prayer, it is important to adore God for who he is - remembering his attributes and his awesome character. Secondly, confessing our sins and faults as we come into the presence of the holy God. Thirdly, we should pray God's promises, claiming the things he has already promised to give us. And fourthly, we should be persistent praying people - the time between him hearing the news of Jersualem, and him telling the king was over 100 days (according to my commentary). Keep going in prayer!!!

Cranmer Remembered

Behold, on this day 451 years ago, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was martyred by Queen Mary for his reformed position. Cranmer was the man behind the Book of Common Prayer of 1549, and also the 1552 revision, and was Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII, Edward VII and Mary.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116:15)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Surfing without wires

It is with great delight that I report that we're now wirelessly connected at home. For almost a year, I had been on broadband at home - connected through a USB cable, and it was fine. But then Neil got a laptop for his birthday last week, and he wanted in on the action too. And so we had to upgrade our Orange broadband to the Unlimited wireless one.

It had arrived last week, but without anyone to sign for it and me in Scotland, it was only today that we got the Livebox. So from 12 noon until now, I've been trying to get it set up... Part of the problem was that the installation CD wouldn't work on my laptop, then Neil's new laptop was Vista, then we had signal but no connection, then we had connection but no pages coming up.

But eventually, and thankfully, we have both signal and connection and internet! I'm now able to enjoy freedom in the house when it comes to the internet... no wires - except the power cable as my battery has been run down so much! Neil's so far only on the ethernet cable, but hopefully I'll get his wireless set up soon!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Wallace still without the School's Cup

It is with great sadness that I report on the rugby game at Ravenhill this afternoon. The Schools Cup Final of 2007. Wallace out for their first win, and RBAI out for their 29th victory. It was a wild and stormy day, with some rain showers... and very cold on the terraces!

In the first half, Inst got a try in the 13th minute, and that was the scoring done. Wallace's defence holding them well. Sadly, not so much forward movement for Wallace.

In the second half, Wallace put together some good moves, but the passing failed them... and when they ran forward, they always ran into the brick wall of Inst's defence. There was simply no way through for Wallace, yet the valiantly kept trying. However, Inst piled on the pressure, getting a penalty, and towards the end converted a try to bring the 15-0 scoreline.

So, from a blustery Ravenhill, it was disappointment for Wallace High School, and victory (yet again) for the Royal Belfast Academical Institution.

Whenever you see a rainbow, remember God is love.

Originally uploaded by Gary McMurray.

Mr Noah built an ark, the people thought it such a lark.
Mr Noah pleaded so, but into the ark they would not go.
Down came the rain in torrents. Down came the rain in torrents.
Whenever you see a rainbow, remember God is love.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Cranmer's Blog

As we approach the 451st anniversary of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer's martyrdom at the hands of Queen Mary, it may be slightly disconcerting to see that he is maintaining a presence on the blogosphere. However, whoever is behind it is very good at his writing on political and religious issues in the UK. So have a look at Archbishop Cranmer's Blog.

The Councils Challenge

Northern Ireland is probably over-governed... After all, we elect MPs to Westminster, we have the Assembly (which we recently elected), and we also have local councils. Twenty-six of them, to be exact, as you can see on the right hand side.
Back in August, I did the Six Counties Challenge with mum and dad. We managed to pass through all six counties of Northern Ireland in one day.

At the time, I wondered if it were possible to do the twenty-six councils in one day. This has taken on a greater importance, given that in just two years time, we will lose our 26 councils, and instead have the seven so-called 'super councils'.

I'm still not sure if it's possible to do the 26, but Robert and me are going to give it a go. One day in the next two weeks, we are going to set off and do it. As proof of our accomplishment, we're going to get a photograph of every boundary sign - you know the 'Welcome to Banbridge District Council' type that greets you on the road. Over the next few days I'm going to try and plan the best route... And then hope that there are boundary signs on the roads we choose - just this afternoon, I noticed that the Banbridge council sign is missing from the Ballynahinch Road on Dromore - which is probably the route I had planned as my grand finale...

So, your comments are invited - do you think it possible to do The Councils Challenge???

[PS - My regards for the map are due to CAIN - the Conflict Archive on the Internet - based at the University of Ulster]

Return home

I'm now back home again from my latest travelling - having got in shortly after midnight last night. There was some fierce winds on the motorway on the way up, but I got home all the same.

Yesterday I was travelling via the bus and then the plane... so I saw the first 60 minutes of the Ireland game and nothing after that. So imagine my puzzlement when I got to the security area at Edinburgh Airport, and the security guy starts a whole big chat about the rugby, and saying how disappointing it had been for us with the controversial late try... [I must point out that I was wearing my Ireland rugby shirt at the time... he wasn't just randomly talking to strangers]. I hadn't heard about the France game at all - other than they had won and took the Championship. So the guy had to explain the whole thing, and told me he didn't think it was a try at all!

The flight was quite rough, both in taking off, and in landing due to the heavy rain and winds about last night... so I was glad to be touching down at Dublin.

It being Mothering Sunday, we're heading out for dinner later on... yum yum!

Later on - if I remember - I'll write up the 26 Councils Challenge...

Visual DNA...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Adventures in Scotland

How quickly the time seems to go when away from home... I'm fast approaching my last night in Scotland (for another while), and can only remember the week that has gone. So what have I been up to while here?

Lynsey hasn't been well... so aside from looking after her, I've managed to get away for a wee while each day. Tuesday, I just went down into Dundee for the usual round of bookshops etc... although I may already have told you about that.

Wednesday I went to Broughty Ferry. I've been there before - it's a wee village up the coast from Dundee, which is very nice. It also has a castle, and a (windy) path along the shore from the village to the castle. When I was there, a family of swans had encamped on the roadside and seemed to be having a meeting! I also managed to get a special parcel posted - so Kosova, be ready!

Yesterday I was in pastures new, visiting the city of Perth. Got a lift with Louise, which was nice - and no scary moments this time! My first stop was the Black Watch Regiment's Museum, where I did the full tour. It's kind of similar to Enniskillen Castle or the regimental museum in Armagh (can't remember which regiment at this moment in time). I then stumbled into the Scottish Episcopal Cathedral, and had a look round it... but the lights weren't on, and there was only a cleaning lady in it who didn't talk...

Today I've been over to St. Andrew's (where Prince William attended university). As is my custom, I found a wee bookshop, and wandered about the main streets. I didn't go down to the ruined cathedral and castle this time as it was very windy! Then I came back on the bus, and did the last wee bit of picking up stuff from Dundee - some discount music books in the Wesley Owen bargain basement and another wee book in the bookshop.

So after watching the Ireland game tomorrow it's back on the bus to Edinburgh, the plane to Dublin, and the car home to Dromore!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Schools Cup Final!

Just a quick posting because I had forgotten to blog about it a few days ago. I'm glad to hear that my old school, The Wallace High School are through to the (rugby) Schools Cup Final again! Having seen off Portora last week, they're now gearing up for a final appearance against RBAI (more commonly known as Belfast Inst) on Monday. The final, as always, will be played at Ravenhill, the home of Ulster Rugby, and I think starts at 3pm on Monday.

Let's hope they can do it this time - from what I can remember, they made it to the final the year before I started Wallace, but they lost; and then lost again in the Semi-Final in my last year at school. They were also in the final about four years ago (I was living in Newtownstewart that year), and lost that time too.

So come on Wallace, and win!!!


Scotland the Brave

And so I find myself in Scotland again, for the first week of my 'Easter' holidays (even though we'll be back in College by the time Easter comes round). Due to the prices of flights, and me being on the old student finances, I was flying from Dublin. So it was a very early start on Monday morning (when really, it was still Sunday night), and down in the car on that familiar M1 road. I thought it would be plain-sailing the whole way with little traffic... and so it was - until we got to the Ravensdale complex... While I had already started Monday, a huge crowd of teens and twenties were just finishing their Sunday night out, pouring out on the kerb and road looking for lifts and cars. The press was so bad that the traffic was stopped! After I got through, it was again not very busy and good clear roads - the sooner we have the dual carriageway/ motorway the whole way, the better!

While waiting to get booked onto the flight at the airport, I got talking to three students from Alaska, who are spending their spring break doing some travelling. Wait til you hear this for a schedule... Saturday past, fly from Alaska to Dublin. Monday, fly to Edinburgh. Wednesday, fly back to Dublin, then on to Galway. Friday, fly back to Dublin. Sunday, fly home to Alaska. Boys oh... I don't know how they'll manage it!

The flight was good - very few people on board, so that we were only allowed to sit after row 6 - and it was good and sunny. The view was brilliant, although we didn't follow the M1 as closely this time, but I could still see the Boyne Bridge and Drogheda, and Dundalk. We then flew over the Mournes, but a bit of cloud was obstructing the view of Belfast and Lisburn and out into the country. I got some good photos though - in due course they'll appear on Flickr and here.

On arriving in Edinburgh (slightly late, as we didn't take off on time), I left off my bag at the station (left luggage is so handy!), and set off. I did my usual round of bookshops etc, and discovered one street where it is charity shop after charity shop. Yet even with all those books on offer, I didn't see any I wanted or needed at all!!! So sad!

With the threatened train strike on Friday and Saturday, I had booked myself onto the Citylink busses to make sure I can get home again. However, with that system, you have to book on the exact bus you want. It meant I arrived an hour early (my feet slightly sore) for the bus I was booked on. Two would leave before then, and I asked about getting on an earlier one - thinking I would be doing them a favour. But oh no, they would charge me well for the privilege of earlier travel, so I settled down to read and to people watch in the station for the hour. Oh, and to fend off the Attack of the Pigeons! The pigeons freely walked and flew about the inside of the bus station, on the look out for some crumbs.

The time of my bus came, and off we set for Dundee - without stopping or changing busses, which was handy - saved me from getting lost! The weather was really good, and I got a few pictures of the Forth railway bridge; and one of a brilliant rainbow! Plus, I managed to get two books read during the day, and have another couple for the rest of the week!

I've been in Dundee for about a day now and enjoying it. Here's to the rest of the week!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The World According to...

Jeremy Clarkson. Love him or hate him, you can't deny he's a good writer. I recently finished reading 'The World According to' by him. It's a collection of his Sunday Times columns - although I didn't realise it at the time I bought the book in a Dublin charity shop.

While I don't always agree with his analysis of the world, he does make some valid points. But more than that, he is a compelling writer - using his skill to round off a short article by linking it back in to the whole. There's normally a sting in the tale. Or a humorous remark at the very end.

How I wish I could write like that! Let's hope that I develop my writing skills as time goes on... maybe some day this blog will be worth reading!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Albany Suffragan joins Akinola

I've just came across this news on a blog from Albany, the sister diocese of Down and Dromore in New York State. Their Suffragan Bishop, David Bena, is leaving The Episcopal Church to help lead the Nigerian Province (of alternative episcopal oversight) in America.

I've no opinion on this - to be honest, I don't know enough about what's happening now. But I thought it would be interesting to report on.

You can read more on it here.

Unusual Ebaying

It's amazing the things that people will sell, and it's amazing the things people will buy. I think Ebay proves that... thousands of items are sold on a daily basis, with one person's junk being another person's treasure.

Just check out some of the things I've noticed on offer right now. Fancy having your own pulpit? Now you can - there are several for sale. Click here for the best one (in my humble opinion).

Or how about your own Orange banner? This one from the 1930's is currently on sale for £299!

Holidays are here!

Hurray, hurray! I'm now on my eagerly awaited holidays from College. Three weeks are now stretching out in front of me, in which I intend to take it easy... Scotland on Monday for a while, and then a couple of weeks at home.

Remember I talked about the local councils challenge? Robert has signed up for it... so over the holidays, we're going to do it some day. But more information in another posting coming soon!

Another thing to be doing over these few weeks is to finalise my diary for the summer... between holiday cover in some parishes, and Summer Madness (hopefully), to sorting my overseas placement and the wedding of this year in Scotland. It's shaping up to be a busy time, but also a really good time!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Hand of God - a book review

You may remember me writing that my chosen reading for the retreat day was going to be Fred Leahy's final book, 'The Hand of God.' Sadly there wasn't much time to read, so it was momentarily delayed until essays were under way. I recently finished reading it, eventually, and thought I should write a little something on it.

Fred (if I may be so bold as to call him by his first name), has again provided us with a work of immense value. Taking as his subject the hand of God, he looks at God's sovereignty through a number of areas - the hand that creates; governs; provides; redeems; keeps; guides; chastens; blesses; enables and judges. It is a thoughtful and though-provoking book, which time and again leads the reader to sheer amazement and wonder at the glory of God, and at the grace of God in His dealings with sinners like us.

I had previously read his three books on the cross - The Cross He Bore; The Victory of the Lamb; and Is It Nothing To You? Those books were brilliant, and so is this new one. If you've never read anything by Leahy before, now is the time to start.

Sadly for us, but joyfully, I am sure he is with the Lord, having passed on to glory. While we remain, we should enjoy and learn from his legacy.

If my people...

On Monday night, we had our usual Late Praise service in the College Chapel. This week it fell to me to organise. Having cast my vote over the weekend (using my postal vote), the elections were in my mind. So I thought we would read, think and pray about our position as God's people in the world.

One of the readings we used was 2 Chronicles 7:14 - 'if my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.'

We were praying for revival to come, to see the increase of the kingdom in our land - north and south - but then someone prayed a prayer, and it blew me away... Revival starts with us. It's up to the people of God (called by his name) to be humble, and pray, and seek God and repent as the key to see God acting.

What are we doing to constantly seek God's face and walk in his ways? Are we ready to be totally transformed by the Spirit so that others see the transformation and ask what it's all about (1 Peter 3:15)

Send revival Lord, and start with me!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

How the mighty are fallen!

It is with great delight that I can report to you, my readers, that all my essays have been completed for this year!!! As I entered this week, there were two outstanding* - the Church History sources one, and the Soteriology one on hope. Last night, the Church History one was done and dusted, and dutifully handed in this morning. And tonight, after a lot of work, I completed the Soteriology essay! I can now relax tomorrow and enjoy the evening off!!!

*It is with a certain irony that I've used the word outstanding in connection with my essays - they are never outstanding!!!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Quick Prayer Request

Just a quick prayer request - please pray for the mission which is currently happening in Dollingstown, centring on St Saviour's Church in the village. Meetings are at 8pm each night for the next fortnight (except Saturdays), and door to door visits are being conducted as well.

Pray for the evangelists - Gary McKitterick, Paul Acheson, and Gareth Harron, and for all who will contribute by singing or testimony. Pray that many unbelievers will attend, and will be convicted of their state. And above all, pray that God's name will be glorified in that corner of County Down!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Election Predictions

If you're particularly interested in the Assembly Election on Wednesday, then why not have a go at predicting the outcome? Nicholas Whyte, on his excellent election website is again running his predictions competition. You can find it here. If you want, you can even leave your (officially entered) predictions in a comment here, and the 'winning' candidate in my commenters (according to Nicholas' own results) may even received a special prize! Entries close at the close of polling 2200 on Wednesday night.

Paving repair

Paving repair
Originally uploaded by Gary McMurray.

The other week when I was wandering in the free time between classes, I was passing through Temple Bar, and came across this section of paving stone repairs. Each tiny paving stone allotted its own place, and together forming the road.

'You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.' (1 Peter 2:5)

The passing of an hour

Why does time seem relative so much of the time? For example, when you're trying to get to sleep, it seems to pass slowly... or even more so when you're waiting on something good to happen. Whereas, at other times, it seems to go really quickly.

So yesterday morning, I woke up, and it was about 9.30am. Not a bad time to get up, and have a good Saturday stretching out in front of me for travels with my ma, and whatever else is happening... And I closed my eyes for a wee minute... and opened them again, only to discover it was 10.45am! Dear me! Where did the time go?

It sort of reminds me about the closing bit of 2 Peter - where Peter is answering the sceptics who are asking if the time is running slow, or if Jesus isn't coming back? The answer, of course, is that God isn't slow - his delay provides the opportunity to repent and come to faith.

'But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that can should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.' (2 Peter 3:8-10).

Friday, March 02, 2007

Pick n mix religion

I've previously mentioned the Slacktivist writings - in particular his Left Behind comments. But the other day he has blogged an interesting article called 'McFaith'. For me, it seems to document the pick-n-mix approach to religion we see in today's society, where everything is relative, and there's no such thing as capital T Truth.

Here's the start of it, click here for the rest!

PAT: Ugh. This is Coke.

MIKE: What's wrong with Coke?

PAT: It's got caffeine in it. I can't have caffeine. I'm Jewish.

MIKE: You're what?

PAT: Jewish. We're not allowed to have caffeine.

MIKE: Dude, you're not Jewish. And even if you were that wouldn't mean you couldn't have caffeine.

PAT: Hey this is America, I can be whatever I want to be.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The essays keep tumbling!

Behold, I bring great tidings of good news - I got my Old Testament essay done yesterday - some in the morning, and the rest typed up in the evening. So only two to go. Hopefully at least one will be started over the weekend, and maybe even completed, but let's not be too optimistic!

It's crazy to think we're into March already... where is the time going? The third years are saying they have about 18 sleeps left in this place, then they're out of here... then in a year's time that will be us!

Right... time to go get the Luas into the city centre for seminars in Old Testament and Hermeneutics before coming back out for Counselling Psychology then home!