How Great Thou Art

Praise God for the beautiful display in his creation these recent days in Co Down, Northern Ireland.

Beech trees in gardens and hedgerows are resplendent with leaves of reds, orange,  gold, yellow, and brown.  These trees hold onto their leaves despite wind and rain.

Strangford Lough is full to the brim today.
The Ferry looks imposing on the high water.

To crown a beautiful sunny day we have a full moon tonight.
It’s light is glistening on the waters.
The reflection brightens up my bedroom.

Its good to be alive!

At the end of the day I want to proclaim to God,
How great thou art!
How great thou art.
You are beautiful beyond description.

Too marvellous for words.
I love you Lord!

Water on Thirsty Ground

Today a friend took us for a drive to the mountains on the island of Zaykynthos. As we drove out we noticed heavy smoke billowing from a hill near the town of Keri. Forest fires broke out. The wildfire in progress on the island of Zakynthos has led authorities to evacuate some exposed houses on the village of Keri, in the southern part of the island, as well as 120 tourists staying at a hotel there.

The tourists were taken by bus to another hotel, in the nearby resort of Kalamaki.

The fire service said 10 of the 12 fires burning on Zakynthos are still unchecked, with high winds making it difficult to control the flames. A fire brigade commander says they have consumed mostly forests and olive groves so far.

Later we were having lunch in a small village on the coast. We watched as two aeroplanes dipped down to the sea and picked up water. Then they circled around to take the water and dump it on the fire fronts.

A short time later a helicopter arrived, hovered over the sea and filled a large container with water and flew off to fight the fire.

Before my eyes I was seeing the fulfilment of a verse I had read before my holiday.

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land,” Isaiah 44 v 3

‭‭This verse refers to the promise of God pouring out the Holy Spirit on anyone who is thirsty for the things of God.

The Happiest Elephants on Earth.

I love to watch programmes about nature when I can. There was a series recently about Earth’s Great Rivers on BBC. The film crews followed the course of three rivers The Mississippi, the Amazon and the Nile from source to sea. Each of these rivers provide water for the vegetation, crops, wild life and people that live along their banks. There is a ready supply for water and food for the inhabitants. They will never run dry, there is no famine or wilderness. The leaves of the trees and vegetation are always green.

I am reminded of Psalm 1 where I read, Blessed is the man who does not stand in the way of sinners, but his delight is in the law of God. He is like a tree planted by streams of living water, whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. In John
7 v 37 Jesus stood up and said If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink and if he believes in me out of his belly will flow rivers of living water. The Holy Spirit is described in Revelation as a river that flows from the throne of God. On every side, trees are growing and their leaves are for the healing of the nations.

I was excited as I watched these great rivers influence all the lands they flowed through. Each river reminded me of the river in Revelation that flows from the throne of God. On every side are trees and their leaves are for the healing of the nations. When one receives the Baptism in the Holy Spirit he can be a river that touches others around him giving life and encouragement from God.

The River Nile is the longest river in the world. It is 4000 miles long. At one part of its path it spreads out into vast swamplands called the Sud. There is a ready supply of vegetation and water for the wild animals that live there. It is a big contrast to the open savanna lands that dry up in the hot seasons when vegetation and water is sparse, causing the wild animals to leave to find other pastures. In the savanna lands the elephant can’t travel very far to find food. They live on sparse vegetation from the leaves of trees and scrub, while waiting for the rains to come.

But in the Sud the elephants that live there are in heaven. There is a ready supply of green vegetation and water all the year round. They can spend time swimming and wallowing in the deep waters of the Nile instead of searching for food. Their trunks act as snorkels as they play in the water. There is no danger of the young drowning. Their bodies are bouyant. One elephant was lying back in the water kicking up his legs. This family of elephants were having a fun time together frolicking about in the deep. What a wonderful sight.c

This is a picture of abundance. There is plenty of food and water for all the wild life around the River Nile in the Sud. Large animals live together; the hippo, the elephant and the crocodile. When we trust God and let the Holy Spirit move in our lives we can live in abundance without famine. God will supply all our needs. And there will be fun times too.

Stay in His Presence

God’s word tells us where two or three are gathered in my name there he is in the midst of us.

Just meditate on that. Welcome his presence. Enjoy his presence. Take time to stay in his presence and enjoy being with God as you acknowledge him. Don’t run away to the busyness of work, shopping, demands of others. You will soon run out of energy and feel empty. Stop and and breath in God’s presence. Acknowledge what Jesus has done for you and thank him. He is our saviour, he is the Messiah, He died in our place. He forgives our sins and heals our anxieties and worries. He gives us peace. There is no other God.

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have helped me in my life. The power of the Holy Spirit has given me the strength to live and rear fourteen children. He has given me the strength to be healed and remain healed of cancer. I live and move and have my being in God. He gives me authority over all the power of the devil and nothing will harm me.
He gives me power to forgive those who hurt me. He gives me love to love myself and others. I don’t have to strive to receive his goodness. I learn to receive and let him change the things I can’t change in me or in those who are near to me.

The heavens declare the Glory of the risen Lord.  Photo by James Kennedy.

He fights for me. Just like God did for kings of Israel when their enemies came up against them, God sent angels to fight against those that were gathered up against them and spoke against them.

Things may be falling around us in the world. Don’t worry. Open up, look up and ask God to help. If one draws near to God he will draw near to us. Don’t stand afar because of guilt or condemnation. God doesn’t judge, he forgives and remembers your sins no more. It’s the devil who brings to mind your sins and makes you feel condemned. Jesus is the light of the world he is shining brighter than the sun. He wants you to receive him today and stay in his presence forever from this day and into the life after death.

He puts you in family. You are not alone. Join with others who believe. Remember where two or three are gathered in his name God is present.

The Stairway to Heaven.

Two weeks ago I read this scripture.
“Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth. ””
‭‭John‬ ‭1:51‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I had never noticed this reading before. I remember another story from the Old Testament where Jacob had a dream.

 

Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway. At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac.” But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!””‭‭Genesis‬ ‭28:11-13, 17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

On holiday in Greece recently I visited a Craft shop. The Artists make their pieces from reclaimed items they find on the beach. I too work with stuff from the shore where I live in Northern Ireland. Small sticks, driftwood, pottery, Seaglass and bits of rope are some of things I find. The man of the shop made ships and boats. On each one was a ladder that went from the deck of the ship up the mast. Ladders also figured on the lady’s work. Here is an image of a ladder reaching up from the earth to the clouds above. It is from a piece of art I bought form a craft shop in Greece.

I was excited to see the image of the ladder. I was thinking back to the scripture about Jesus being a stairway or a ladder. I told the couple what the image of the ladder can mean. They were very happy to hear what I had to say.

The theme of the ladder came to me again today. I was reading Merlin Carothers’s book Proson to Praise. In it Merlin recalls a vision he had.

“I saw a bright summer day. Up above was a solid heavy black cloud. A ladder extended from the ground into the dark cloud. At the base of the ladder were lots of people who wanted to get a chance to climb the ladder. They had heard that beyond the cloud was something beautiful. Some people tried to climb. As soon as they got to the dark cloud they came sliding down again. Merlin climbed the ladder. He kept going through the dark cloud even though it was difficult. He came into intense brightness.”

The Lord explained to Merlin that the ladder represents praising God. Some people start out praising God but give up when times get difficult. They lose faith and go sliding back. When one continues to praise God he comes to a place where he can walk on difficulties no matter how dark they seem as long as he keeps his eyes off the problem and looks to the Lord.

I’m encouraged today after reading about Praise. I will believe that God can work all things together for good as we praise him and thank him no matter how difficult the situation gets. He is in control. Keep clinging to the ladder of praise and keep going up. Keep clinging onto Jesus who is the stairway to heaven. He takes us from the earth to heaven, just as Jacob saw in his dream.

 

 

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