The Robin

 

In Ireland the humble bird the Robin is celebrated on our Christmas cards. Images of the bright eyed bird with healthy feathers, red on his breast and brown on his body and wings are displayed on many a mantle piece.

One forgets that this bird has had to survive a busy schedule in spring and summer building nests, hatching eggs, and foraging for food to keep himself and young alive. Brendan leaves out seeds and leftover bread on the fence for the birds. One bird waits expectantly every morning. It has come into our kitchen when we leave the door open.

If I am away for a few days the Robin welcomes us back by hopping in circles around me from shrub to hedge to get my attention. I haven’t been looking out for my friend for a while. But this morning I was up early. The bird must have seen me move about the kitchen. He was looking for food.

I fetched the seed box and laid out some seeds. The Robin came along. Sadly he looked a bit disheveled. His head was bereft of healthy feathers. He had few red feathers. He must have been in a few difficult situations; fights, hungry or thirsty.

Perhaps the hungry mouths he was helping feed this summer pulled at his feathers when he was sharing his morsels. Is it time to moult his feathers? Or was he in some territorial fights? I discovered from a bird blog that robins defend their territory fiercely.

He has some nice territory to defend. He has two gardens in which to forage and get plenty of food for his offspring. He has a home owner who leaves out treats for him every morning. He isn’t going to give up easily.

Can I learn from this little bird. Jesus said look at the birds. I see this Robin as a real warrior fighting for his home and his land where he gets provision for his young. I read in Nehemiah 4 v 4 that the men prayed for their families and their homes. They built with one hand and defended their property with a sword in their hands. Like the Robin I often get a few ruffled feathers as I defend my home and children. It is my space and I want to keep it a safe place free from evil.

Jesus likens a man to a house.
““When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. “”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭12:43-45‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We can learn from this scripture Jesus warning to continue to keep our house free from evil spirits. They will always want to come back in. They will never give up. So one needs to be on guard to prevent evil coming back into ones life once we have been set free.

How does one do that. By believing in Jesus, by prayer, by reading the Word of God and by obeying what God has asked one to do.

An Appointment With Nature

 

Over the summer months I have been focusing on writing a book. I haven’t had much exercise; not even working in the garden or walking. Despite a minimum of attention tomatoes, herbs and flowers have blossomed in the sunny summer we have had. Butterflies flutter and swallows swoop overhead . They are enjoying the end of summer sunshine.

My body was telling me it needed some exercise. I feel a bit stiff after sitting at a desk for hours on end.  I needed to get away from my computer and books.  I needed to get outdoors to see life around me.

Yesterday I awoke early to a warm, bright morning and decided to go for a cycle. I prefer cycling to walking. It is not too taxing pushing my bike along the Loughshore Rd. The seashore was just to my right. I heard the sound of stones hitting one another and stopped to investigate. I counted ten turnstones, tiny seabirds, busily upturning small stones and feeding on the juicy morsels of insects exposed. The birds were well camouflaged against the brown and grey seaweed and stones. One wouldn’t know they were there except for the noise they were making. I was delighted to discover them on my trip outdoors.

Each time Brendan and I go for a walk there is always something going on in nature. On the way home I noticed a dozen teal ducks who had come ashore to drink fresh water from a brook that trickles down to the sea. They were resting and preening their feathers. They were safe, warming themselves in the morning sunshine. How beautiful? What have I been missing?

A speaker once said that Nature is the bible of creation. Jesus said “Look at the birds.” I learn a lot from watching birds.

This morning I was full of aches and pains after cycling. I was feeling sorry for myself and wanted to stay resting under the blankets. I didn’t want more pain from exercising. Brendan encouraged me to come down for breakfast. After a chat and food I was revitalised. I persevered to go cycling again. I decided to keep up the exercise. What has nature in store for me this morning?

I got my bicycle out again. I wasn’t disappointed. I stopped to rest at Ballyhenry Island. It was low tide. A flocks of seagulls were sunbathing. I heard the chugg chugg of a boat in the distance. It was setting out towards the marine station where research is taking place. I watched as it came close.

A tall black bird caught my eye in the distance. It was flapping its wings. Perhaps it was stretching after feeding. It continued to flap and stretch its wings for fifteen minutes. I was amazed at its energy.   It’s not easy to see a cormorant up close.  They keep their distance from danger.  When on the ferry one can catch a glimpse of a cormorant as it surfaces after diving for food.  Their short legs and streamlined body help them easily glid into the water.  They have been likened to penguins. Bird Island off Kircubbin is where they can safely nest and rear their young.

I thought of the following scripture,
“Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds,
kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and women, old men and children.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭148:7-12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I imagined the cormorant was praising The Lord with its outstetched wings for more that fifteen minutes. I could not keep my arms raised for fifteen minutes. I marvelled as I watched the black bird in the distance.

It was time to return home. I look forward to tomorrow morning. What will the birds be doing?

Irish Summer Weather is Unpredictable

The Summer weather in Ireland is unpredictable.  The weather forecaster may tell us there will be showers with some sunshine.  This unpredictability causes the Irish people to talk much about the weather.  You can be sure the tourists that come to Ireland don’t come to get a suntan.

We Irish have learned to make the most of our unpredictable weather.  Ireland is famous for having forty shades of green throughout the land.  We grow vegetables and crops that like rain and mature without hot sunshine.  One such crop is the potato. Another is Oates. The Irish have survived on these staple crops.

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Our unpredictable weather causes weeds to flourish as well. One such weed is the nettle.  Nettles love to grow in good soil and flourish if there is no competition.  Nettles spring up everywhere, along roadsides, in gardens, in forests and wherever it’s seeds land.  One doesn’t have to sow nettle plants.  If there is soil and water they will grow.  The seeds are so tiny they can be carried by the wind.

I went for a walk this morning.  There were plenty of nettles growing along the road.  Many other grasses, thistles and weeds were flourishing, making the road narrow at some parts.  Maybe the road will dwindle to a pathway someday if the weeds are not cut back.

As I looked at the vegetation along the Boreen, I remembered a dream I had last night.  I saw a nettle plant open up before me and many of its seeds were released into the air, just like a fire cracker that is released at Halloween.  I have been thinking about Multiplication recently.  The nettle was releasing seeds for the multiplication of new nettle plants.  God created every plant to multiply, despite the weather.

“Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.”
And it was so.
The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds.
And God saw that it was good.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:11-12‬ ‭

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I am back from holiday.  My garden needs attention like the road.  If I don’t deal with the nettles and other weeds, the flowers and vegetables will be choked.  The decking is dotted with sycamore umbrella seeds.  The back yard paving has a sprinkling of leaves.  It is constant work subduing the land.  God created man to work the land and take care of it.  Weeds find a way to grow in the tiniest of crevices, on walls or between flag stones.  I need some men around here to clear up.

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:15‬ ‭NIV‬

The trees and weeds will continue to bear seeds and multiply.  God made them to produce their own kind.  It’s man’s job to manage all the produce of new life.
It all seems an never ending battle to deal with weeds.  But I take courage.  God said he would bless the work of our hands.

“You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land.
The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.
The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands.
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭28:3-4, 8, 12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There will be order again.  The weeds will not take over.  I will enjoy the fruit of the apple and pear trees, the tomatoes and other vegetables.  There will be trailing nasturtsums, daisies and roses.  The decking will get cleared and the lawn cut.  It is good all the weeds die back for the winter.  It gives me a chance to get ahead of the growth of nettles next spring and keep them at bay.

Plants and weeds flourish here despite our unpredictable weather.

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Subdue The Land

Adam and Eve lived in a garden.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”  Genesis 1

When God delivered the people of Israel from Egypt he wanted them to go into the Promised Land.  He told them to subdue it.

He said to them, “If the Gadites and Reubenites, every man armed for battle, cross over the Jordan with you before the Lord, then when the land is subdued before you, you must give them the land of Gilead as their possession.  Numbers 32 v 29

One of the meanings of “subdue” is “bring under control.”
God intends that we subdue that for which we have responsibility, whether it be work, family, property or land.  We will have the strength to do it.  God is pleased when we obey him.

I decided today I would subdue my garden after reading this scripture.

Despite our recent cold spell, when we had snow and wind, seed time is here.  I had been reluctant to work in the garden due to the bad weather.

Genesis 8 v 22. “As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

The days have more light and the earth is warming up.  Plants, whose leaves died back over the winter are putting forth shoots.  Leaves are breaking out of their wrappings on the branches.  The cycle of nature takes its course despite the windy cold blasts that would make one stay inside warm.  The daffodils broke forth a month ago giving us beauty.  Their yellow trumpets swayed in the winds and remained till their time of glory passed.

I saw some tomato plants for sale at a bargain price in a local shop.  The garden centres would charge much more.  They tempted me to start some gardening even though it felt too chilly to do any outdoor work.  I planted them out in the safety of the greenhouse.  Last years tomato plants didn’t need much attention and produced fruit well into autumn.  Just plant them and wait for the harvest.  That doesn’t seem like hard work.

There is a plot of land beside my house.  In former years the land would have been a farmer wife’s garden.  It has been neglected for years, no longer lovingly tended.  Last year it produced of itself nettles and curling weeds that stood strong and tall all summer.   I did not have the courage to invade their territory.  Thankfully the winter defeated them and the shoots withered.

I planned this year to get out early and cut back any new growth.  My son strimmed that area a few weeks ago.  The grass, nettles and weeds made a come back.  Today I determined to go to war against the weeds.  I was not put off by the cool wind.  These weeds will sprout overnight!  I used my lawn mower as my weapon of war.  I powered my way over the rough ground and all before the mower was mulched.  I subdued my land!

I will plant potatoes that will flourish in the fertile soil.  It has been left fallow for years.  Wherever nettles grow, one can be sure the soil is good.  No back breaking work for me digging up the soil.  No, I will drop each potato in a small overturned sod and let nature take its course.  I have the added benefit of having a ready supply of fertiliser for my garden.  I live beside the sea.  I have gathered seaweed that was washed up from storms in the winter time.

I will be sure of having a harvest of potatoes and tomatoes at least in the autumn and all without much effort. The garden will once more be lovingly tended and enjoyed for the food it will produce.  I will wait to see what other seedlings the local shop will offer for my garden.  For now the potatoes are busy sending out roots unseen underground.  The tomato plants are enjoying my green house.

It is amazing that each spring the plants begin to emerge out of the soil.  Isaiah 61 v 11 explains,
“The soil makes the young plant come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
Abundant life comes forth!  I rejoice to see what the scriptures describe, happen before my eyes in my garden.  I will praise Him.

Return from Slovakia

Brendan and I have returned to Ireland after a very blessed trip to Slovakia.  We got to see Aaron and his family.  Our grandchildren wanted plenty of cuddles from Granddad and Granny.

We had oppportunity to minister to many, including men and women diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Praise Almighty God for his touch.
Thank you for praying for us.  Those who stay at home share with those who go.

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We had a pleasant journey home from Dublin airport on Aircoach.  The trees along the motorway to Newry looked glorious in their autumn leaves.  Thanks to family who welcomed us back.
I took a walk out this morning to get some fresh air.  It is good to be back along the seashore.  A Baby Seal was born nearby three weeks ago.  It is still there.  The mother was swimming nearby, keeping watch.  I had researched to find that the mother has to feed the young one until it is six weeks.  The baby is lying sleeping in the rocks.  This pair have become an attraction to the people who go for walks along this road.  No one is disturbing them.

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Every time I go for a walk I see something new in nature.  Today I saw something very special.
“He leads me beside still waters to restore my soul.”

Testimony Tuesday. My Experience of How Nature Restores My Mind.

I was reading and article on the internet, from the New York Times, written by Gretchen Reynolds.  It is entitled “How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain.”  I will quote some of the article,

“A walk in the park may soothe the mind and, in the process, change the workings of our brains in ways that improve our mental health, according to an interesting new study of the physical effects on the brain of visiting nature.

City dwellers also have a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban centers, studies show.

Volunteers who had strolled along the quiet, tree-lined paths showed slight but meaningful improvements in their mental health, according to their scores on a questionnaire. They were not dwelling on the negative aspects of their lives as much as they had been before the walk.  They were allowed to walk at their own pace.  As might have been expected, walking along the highway had not soothed people’s minds.

Most of us today live in cities and spend far less time outside in green, natural spaces than people did several generations ago.”

Thank you Gretchen Reynolds for this article.  I agree with this article.

In Psalm 23 I read,

The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful waters.  (‭Psalms‬ ‭23‬:‭1-2‬ NLT)

I lived in a town house when our children were small.  I grew up in the country and I longed to live again in the country.  I dreamed of my children putting on their Wellington boots and going out to play in nature in all kinds of weather, as I did when I was growing up.

Being in the town had more benefits for our family at that stage.  The schools, post office, shops, library, swimming pool, dentist, medical centre and friends lived nearby.  Driving my children to school, or to the shops would have added stress to our already busy lives.  I was at peace and realised living in the town was the best thing for us then.

Before we had a car Brendan and I always took our children on walks along the river or into a forest, nearby.  When our family increased we went for drives to the beach or other beauty sites a little further away.  Everyone piled into our minibus and headed out for a drive after tea or on a Saturday to enjoy nature.  We returned tired, refreshed and had a good night’s sleep.

Being in the middle of nature did lift any stress we or our children were under.  Any bad feelings or attitudes were forgotten as the children played together.  Brendan knew what would do us all good.  No need for headache tablets or Prozac for us.

Brendan and I now live in the country, beside a forest and the sea.  We have a double portion of nature.  Each time Brendan and I would take a walk for a mile along the foreshore we see something new.   One evening we saw six large storks that rose up from their feeding places as we walked along.   Their big wings flapped like skirts and they screeched, because they were unsettled from their feeding positions.  Never mind we had a wonderful display.

Another time I noticed something stir in the shallow water off the shore.  Air bubbled to the surface.  Was there a whale or dolphin out there.  No, three divers came to the surface.  It is a popular spot to explore wrecks of ships out in the bay.   A seal swam in the water along side as we walked by another time.  Every evening  there is a beautiful sky as the sun shines through the clouds at sunset.

We went for a walk along Barhill Rd, a National Trust property one Saturday evening.  Not many people know about it.  A lane took us to open ground beside a near a newly sown corn field.  We saw six hares play together in the evening sun.  The path continued down to the sea.  We walked along a bar made from stones throw up by decades of sea waves.  Across from us on an island lay many fat seals, safe from an intrusion.  We rested a while, amazed.  “How Great Thou Art”

Brendan and I are certainly enjoying nature and our minds and moods are being changed by the healing environment where we live.  Our souls are being restored.

Yes I recommend old and young getting out in nature for a walk.  You will be surprised by the show God puts on for you.   You can listen to the music of birds, leaves, wind and waves.  Your eyes will see life around you.

Nature declares the Glory of God!

Enjoying the Waves on the Irish Shoreline

I went down to the sea this week. There is a full moon in the sky. The tide is higher than normal. The sea is covering the beach where we usually walk.

The Irish people who have settled in other parts of the world always dream of coming back home. We have had visitors who just love the simplicity of our land. I hope you enjoy this scene and taste the seaweed and the salt on your lips.

I have often dreamt of walking along the sea shore on my own away from everyone and the hustle and bustle of life.  I now am able to enter into my dream.

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The picture reminds me of this verse,
Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord. “Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it. (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭5‬:‭22‬ NIV)

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