Day Trip in Northern Ireland Series

Hurrah. Lockdown has eased in Northern Ireland. Shops are open and people can dine out again in Belfast.

Brendan and I were going on a Mystery Tour with Our daughter, Ruth. Mary Black’s songs were seranading us as we headed north out of Belfast.

Brendan and I were singing a different song eleven years ago as we went to the hospital to have a test to check for cancer. “Because he lives I can face tomorrow”. The Cherry Blossom trees at the entrance were in full bloom.

Today eleven years on Cherry Blossom Trees are in full glory in the sunshine. They seemed to line our journey today, waving from gardens and hedgerows. Scripture says the trees of the field will clap their hands as we go out with joy. Yes I have joy after those sad days of cancer eleven years ago. I am healed by the power of the name of Jesus.

Our first stop was Ballyronan, a caravan and woodland park on the shores of Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles. Plenty of wildlife flourish here. We saw two healthy herons up ahead on the walkway. Whopper swans and ducks come here from Iceland. Chaffinches and sparrows sang overhead in the Ash tree branches. Although we didn’t see any, there is a good population of bats and owls.

Our next stop was where the River Blackwater joins the Lough Neagh. We lingered there in the stillness. A kingfisher flew over the water and disappeared in a flash.

Time for lunch. We headed towards Ardboe. At a crossroads not far away was a small building with a sign outside saying

High Cow Bagels, Drive Through. Coffee.

Brendan said “Let’s stop here. This guy has a sense of humour.” High Cow is the English translation of Ardboe. Ard means High and Bo means Cow.

I asked the Chef, “Is there any cow on the menu.” We chatted back and forth and had a good laugh. I told him I was healed of cancer. He was happy to receive some of my books.

Ruth looked at the menu.

High Cow Classic, High Cow Melt, The Cowboy Melt, High Cow Big Breakfast and much more. We enjoyed a unique tasty lunch, coffee and a High Cow Classic Bagel al fresco. The chef was a bundle of fun and the food was five star. I’d definitely go back again.

You never know what you may find when you leave the motorway and go on the roads less traveled.

Bird Watching in Northern Ireland. Guillemots

Jesus said to look at the birds. They don’t sow nor reap yet their Heavenly Father looks after them. I love bird watching. I had plenty of opportunity to study different birds when I lived along the shores of Strangford Lough.

Near where we lived in Portaferry was a favoured nesting place for three couples of Guillemots. These are small sea birds that spend their time at sea until spring. They build their nests in crevices above the water line on the stone wall. The south facing wall received the full warmth of the sun, a comfortable place to get the maximum heat for their vulnerable young. The chicks were hidden from the blast of chilly winds and out of reach from predators.

This particular group of Guillemots became quite tame. They would sit on the wall above their nests unafraid of walkers passing by. They are a feature every spring. One is sure to see these little black birds flying or swimming near their nests. I was able to photograph one couple last year close up from my car. They didn’t fly away even though I was very near them.

Their black feathers flow smoothly back from their pointed black beak. They have bright red legs and a patch of white on each wing. Their feathers look as of they are smoothed with oil. This gives the bird effective movement down underwater to feed on food at the bottom of the Lough.

During the strong winds and storms of February 2020 the shore wall a further few miles along from Portaferry was broken. The road remained closed for several months. The reason for the delay in the repair was because it is a nesting site for a colony of Guillemots. Many pairs make their nests and rear their young safely. There was even less disruption to their nesting and feeding because the road above was closed. Well done to the council who waited till the birds had reared their young before repairing the road.

Last week on a drive north along the Antrim coast we stopped at Glenarm. This village has a small, picturesque harbour with white limestone walls rising from the deep blue water. We walked close and to our delight little black birds flew out from the walls and skimmed along the water away from us. Guillemots were nesting here. It is an ideal nesting site, with crevices between the stones on the south facing walls and small fish swimming below in the water for them to feed on. We watched the birds. It was lovely to see the black and white birds below us before they ventured back to their nests. This harbour is an ideal place for the Guillemots to rear their young.

Seeing the Guillemots reminded me of God’s faithfulness to me when he tells me not to worry.
Matthew 6 v 25 to 27
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Bird Singing in the Night

Outside my hotel window

The Christmas street lights are bright

It is the dead of night

A bird is singing

The sweet tweets echo through the silence.

Is he announcing good news?

Is he calling for attention

Like the multitude of heavenly hosts praising God

When the angel announced Jesus birth to the shepherds

Singing Glory to God in the highest

And on earth good will to all men.

There is room for me in the Inn

In a soft plush bed

Because He was born in a straw lined manger.

October. 2020.

Many artists have written poetry, songs or painted scenes from October! The month of October for me brings a season of change and harvest. Situations I have been praying for seems to get answered in October. Our large family made a move from Coleraine to Co Down in Northern Ireland back in October the seventh in 1998.

One son and three grandchildren have been born in this month. Another son, his Canadian wife and three young sons have just returned from Vancouver after six years away. He left with a suitcase and has returned with his arms literally full. My own birds have returned from Canada.

I watch the Brent Geese return from Canada each year in October. Seventy five per cent of the population of Brent geese in the world come to Strangford Lough for winter. Their brown necks and shoulders blend in well with the seaweed and stones. Underneath they have white feathers.

One morning I was traveling up the Ards peninsula. The sun was rising in the sky behind me. Birds were feeding along the shore of Strangford Lough, enjoying the warmth of the early morning sun’s rays. I noticed a large group of sea birds in the distance. They looked like white gulls. But to my surprise they were Brent Geese. Their white underbelly feathers reflected the low sun’s light.

My book, “The Grapes are Worth It” was completed and printed this month.

Change is reflected in nature. The full moon in the sky hails change. It is called the harvest moon. In our area the fields are emptied of rich crops of potatoes, wheat, barley and corn. The brown earth has yielded its goodness to the farmers.

The leaves of the trees have changed color from summer green to amber. I am reminded of a verse from scripture, where the Angel of the Lord is described .

I saw a figure that appeared to be a man. From what appeared to be his waist down, he looked like a burning flame. From the waist up he looked like gleaming amber. Ezekiel 8 v 2

We took a drive through the Mourne Mountains at the weekend. The trees’ leaves in the valley and hillside near Rostrevor painted a glorious picture that will stay with me. Seeing the beauty of the leaves of the trees at this season is healing to the soul. Scripture tells me “The leaves are for the healing of the nations.” It is true.

These are some of my reflections this October of 2020.

Black Guillemots Nest Nearby

The Loughshore Rd in Portaferry, Co Down is very popular with local walkers, and more so during the Covid restrictions. There is less vehicle traffic. A family of Black Guillemots have become quit celebrities to local visitors.  They have brought joy to many people during this difficult time when people have had to self isolate.  Getting out in nature among God’s creation brings healing to the soul and mind.  

The Black Guillemot is a small black sea bird with a white patch on each wing. Each has a pointed beak, smooth feathers and red feet. They feed on sea creatures and can dive very deep underwater to feed. It’s a privilege to get to see such wild life nearby.

Black Guillemots have a nest amid the rocks in the wall along the shoreline of Strangford Lough.  They  have become quite tame. Passersby stop to watch them as their family play in the water below. My daughter was driving past last evening. Two birds were sitting on the wall. I asked her to reverse the car to see if we could see them up close.

Amazingly the two birds were not disturbed as we stopped. They didn’t fly off. We were able to take photos of them close up. What a delight.

The waves from storms in February breached the shoreline wall in various places. Some were repaired before the lockdown. The road had to be closed to traffic about a mile along the shore from where we live. The wall was broken and part of the road fell into the sea. The Covid lockdown prevented workers getting to fix it.

Then in July when work was due to start to repair the road, it was discovered that another group of Black guillemots had built nests nearby. They were still feeding their young in the nests. The department of the Environment stepped in and advised work to stop. The repair didn’t go ahead. The workers are waiting till the Black Guillemots are finished reading their young.

The Old Heron Waiting


The tide is high
In Strangford Lough

No room to wade on the shoreline
The water is lapping against the wall
I’m safe here on the ledge
My favourite spot
Jutting out of the water
I’ll wait
And keep warm
With my neck
Sunk between my shoulder blades
I’ll wait
Till the water recedes
I’ll wait
To dart at some tiny fish
Lingering in the shallows
I know their hiding places
I’m too old
To fly from my perch
To find another spot
I’ll leave
Those fishing grounds
To the younger ones.
I’ll wait

Bird’s Nests

I am always encouraged when I watch birds in my garden. Jesus tells us to look at the birds. They don’t sow nor reap yet our Heavenly Father looks after them. We are more important to God than birds so we are encouraged to learn from the birds.
There are swallows nests in the eve of a barn and a swallows nest in a hedge nearby. Psalm 84 says “Even the swallow and the sparrow find a nest near your altar where she can rear her young. “. An altar speaks of a place of prayer. So if one is praying in his home be sure there will be a bird’s nest nearby in the springtime.

I’m fascinated by the energy the birds exert in rearing their young. Firstly they fly here and there to collect material to build a nest. Then the female lays her eggs and hatches her young. The male and female gather food to feed the hungry chicks. The poor parents are exhausted after the young leave the nest. I often felt like that after the summer when my children were home for the summer. I have never seen chicks in a bird’s nest before. This year I had the treat of seeing my first nest of young.

After visiting a friend before lockdown, Jean sent me a picture of a robin’s nest. She had been furloughed from work and was enjoying her garden. The parent birds had found a safe spot under a plastic covering in a shed. Jean wanted to use a table she had stored there. To her delight she found the nest with three chicks in it. She didn’t unsettle the nest but checked it every day till the chicks fledged three weeks later.

She inspected the nest more closely and found small purple pellets at the bottom of the nest. She did some research and it was suggested they acted as insulation and absorbed waste. How clever the robins are. They even know what can be used as good material for their rearing of their young.

My son is home during lockdown. Back in March we had some logs that needed chopped. Each day my son enjoyed a bit of exercise chopping the wood. His dad and he cleared a space in the yard to store the wood for next winter.
One morning in May I noticed a Wagtail flitting in and out of the wood pile. Was he building a nest in the
midst of the newly stacked logs? I never got to check where the nest was.

But I was social distancing at a friend’s farm recently. He said come here I have something to show you. At the back of his modern tractor in between the gear for lifting heavy weights was a nest with three baby wagtails. He told us the parents feed the young when the tractor is not in use. When the tractor is in use the parents follow it to feed the young when the farmer stops. How special is the lengths the birds go to rear their young and overcome obstacles.

I heard a cuckoo recently. It had a clear crisp,call. I was cheered to hear it’s call. They fly in from Africa in April. The female lays her eggs in a wagtails nest or other convenient nest in the meadow. She is lazy. She leaves the rearing of her young to poor little birds that feed one hungry Cuckoo chick after it has pushed the other young out of the nest. The Cuckoos don’t stay too long they fly away in May.

My daughter lives in a street in Belfast . Blackbirds have built a nest in a bush in the hedgerow. She sent me a photo of the nest with young in it. The parent birds fly in and out to feed them. Ruth is keeping her cat in lock down in case she disturbs the birds.

All these three stories of birds has comforted us during this season of isolation. We are looking to the birds as Jesus taught us. They don’t wear masks or are restricted in rearing their young. They continue to survive.


Abortion

Here in Ireland, the beauty of creation is all around me. The sun is high in the sky during the day giving warmth and brightness, inviting us to enjoy outdoors. The odd shower of rain brings a colourful rainbow between the rain clouds and the light. There is a big moon in the sky at night. It’s draw causes Strangford Lough to fill up at high tide. The light from the moon reflects off the still water.

I am reading in Psalm 139 this morning.
“Oh Lord you have examined my heart and know everything about me.
To you the night shines as bright as day,
Darkness ad light are both alike to you.” V 1 and 12
Our creator God keeps all of nature going by his power. The sun or moon are not falling out of the sky. God is faithful. This same God promises me in Psalm 68 v 19 that he loads us with benefits every morning. Just imagine his kindness and care and things working out in our lives daily. His mercies are new every morning. God is speaking to me through the birds that are beginning their song on this the longest day of the year in Ireland. He cares for the birds will he not care for us.

The mighty God who created the sun and the moon created us in our mother’s womb. I read further in Psalm 139 v 13, 15 and 16.
“You made all my delicate inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.”

Someone sent me an article from rightoflife.org that 10 pregnancies over twenty weeks are terminated in the mothers’ wombs per week in England. A child can live outside the womb at twenty weeks! The baby in the womb is killed with an lethal injection into the heart.

The Word of God clearly states in Psalm 139 that God knits the baby together in its mother’s womb. He creates life. There is a thief who comes to rob, kill and destroy, John 10 v 10 says. The thief is the devil who is behind the destruction of the unborn in these days. When war broke out earlier this century men gave their lives to defeat the evil that was rising to take over Europe. Six million Jews were exterminated in the holocaust. Today there is a silent holocaust of babies across the world.

Perhaps the young woman doesn’t know the seriousness of having an abortion because her boyfriend says it’s okay, her family says it’s okay, the doctors say it’s okay and one’s government says it’s okay. She doesn’t know the truth that God created the baby in the womb and it’s against God’s laws to take life.

The same God provided a Saviour to forgive us when we break the law and sin. Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Forgive him for he knows not what he is doing.”
Northern Ireland is one of the safest places on the earth for the unborn. Northern Ireland was a safe place for Brendan and I to have the fourteen children God gave us. When I was expecting my 11th child the consultant suggested I may have a Down’s Syndrome child. He would have offered me a termination if I was frightened. I declared to him that God gave me this baby and He will bring him forth safely. I changed consultants.

Brendan and I had fourteen children because we believe God gives life and children are a blessing from God.

From Ireland missionaries went all over the world to bring the gospel including the new world which is the USA and Canada. Sadly now Ireland’s government is giving money to to nations to promote abortion.

Despite the holocaust and bad news there is hope. The same Jesus who died and rose from the dead is still willing to forgive sin and deliver one from the power of the devil. Ask for his forgiveness and he will freely pardon and renew hope for this life and the life hereafter. Remember Jesus said to the thief on the cross, today you will be with me in Paradise.

A Bird’s Eye View

I’m looking out from an apartment on the third level of an hotel in Greece. I have a bird’s eye view of the sea in the distance, trees, mountains, clouds, tourists and birds. Just above me two sparrows are making a home under the roof tiles. I look down the row of apartments and notice other sparrows flitting in and out from under roof tiles. In this hotel, not only do you get an apartment to stay in, you also get the company of a couple of sparrows rearing their young above your balcony.

It is May in Greece. The weather hasn’t settled yet to be sure of uninterrupted sunshine for the tourist. One takes a risk to take a holiday at this time. We have had rain, sunshine, west winds and east winds blowing. I have my winter coat with me just to be sure to be warm if the temperatures drop.

The swallows are making their nests as well. They build where a wall meets an overhanging roof. They can be a bit messy and visiting tourists may not take kindly to a bird making his nest on their balcony. As a couple of swallows start to build the owners come along and remove the offending mud shelter. The next day the swallows start over again. So it goes till the birds are defeated and it’s too late to have their young.

Today I was able to continue my bird watching when we were out for a meal. I saw how one man has come to terms with the visiting swallows and his visiting tourists. He has built boxes around the nests and a platform below to catch any bird droppings. So no mess for the tourists to see. There is a welcome for the tourists and the swallows. Some swallows have come back to the same nest for years. They flew in and out while we had our meal . This owner has learned to be eco friendly. I looked up as one of the swallows sat proudly on the nest to hatch her young knowing she was secure in the shelter provided by the human owner. Man and birds are living in harmony.

“How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭84:1-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

God knows the sparrow and the swallow. I am blessed when they are around.

Spring Visitors

Here in Ireland, a few weeks ago on Easter Sunday the sun was shining and many families and their granny’s and dogs were out for a drive. The two ferry boats between Portaferry and Strangford were racing across The Narrows to help the travellers on their day out; perhaps to visit the festivities at Castle ward, Castlewellan or Newcastle. Others from Strangford come to visit the Aquarium in Portaferry or take a tour of the Ards Peninsula.

We had taken a drive a few days before to pick up our daughter who returned for Easter. The water had filled Strangford Lough as far up as Newtownards. It reached up to the wall that separated the the road from the sea. I looked down through the clear water as we drove along the shore. I marvelled. Where else is there a place where one can drive for miles so close to the shore? I was enjoying the Lord’s provision of leading me beside still waters to restore my soul. We continued to enjoy the Easter weekend of rest.

Easter Monday is memorable for me. Nine years ago I went to the Accident and Emergency in the local town. I was later diagnosed with fourth stage cancer. Praise God I am staying alive after my experience with cancer. I celebrated the victory over the weekend with my family.

On Tuesday the weather changed. Grey clouds rolled in on stormy winds from the east. There was a chill in the air. Warm coats were picked up again. All the visitors had gone. They returned home revived and refreshed from having time out in the country.

I noticed different visitors outside my window. The swallows have arrived for the summer. They nest under the eaves and rear their young. There was no time wasted. A couple of them inspected the nest used last year and began mending it, flying in and out with mud in their beaks.

All the ways of nature have a purpose. The swallows have travelled thousands of miles from Africa. The strong south east winds helped them on their way. The same winds carried the Brent Geese north on their return journey to Canada. I miss their calls as they gathered beneath our garden to drink from the fresh water stream. They have been feeding on the eel grass along Strangford Lough since September. When the Brent Geese arrive they look like ducks. When they leave they have grown fat and look like geese.

I will enjoy the company of the swallows over the summer along with the resident forest and sea birds. The blackbirds, robins, pigeons, pheasants, doves, thrush, starlings and sparrows are busy making nests for their young. The call of the doves in the morning replace the Brent Geese. The other birds join the chorus as the sun begins to rise in the east.

The time of singing of birds has come. Sap is rising through the tree trunks. The leaves burst open and discard their shells. The sticky pollen of the sycamore tree in front of the house is falling all around. Another thing the wind carries to other trees to pollenate them. The pear and apple blossoms are in full bloom waiting for the bees from a neighbor’s hive to collect their nectar. All nature is busy increasing and multiplying.

Yet more visitors arrived below on the Lough. A beautiful tall yacht drew up within my view below. The owners are getting it ready for sailing events over the summer. I watched as it was secured to a buoy. It is the season for yachtsmen to put their vessels back in the water. A crane lifts the boats, which look like big birds, and settle them on the water.

It’s good to be alive and see life abundant all around.  Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly.  He has done that for me.  It’s the devil who comes to rob, steal, kill and destroy.  John 10 v 10