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

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Forgiven Much, Loves Much.

 

Today I experienced a little of what it is like to be forgiven much and to love much.

Abraham returned to Scotland today.  I was leaving him to the ferry at the Port of Belfast.  Hannah warned me that 1000 cyclists were out somewhere in the Ards Peninsula today, Sunday.  To avoid hold ups or upsetting cyclists because I try to overtake them, I decided to take the ferry to Strangford.  After farewells to family at home, Abraham and I set off.

We boarded the nine forty five ferry from Portaferry to Strangford.  There were about eighteen cars on board.  The ticket master came to check my card.  One can buy a card for twenty journeys for half the price.  He said “Your journey have been paid for.”  I looked around to see if there was someone who knew me and kindly paid for my fare.  But no.  The ticket collector told me someone has paid for everyone on the ferry.  A gentleman had bought a card and would not be using it again.

Abraham and I looked at each other.  Whoa!  That was an unlooked for blessing.  It felt unusual to receive this kindness from a complete stranger.  Abraham commented that anyone on board who has to pay the full fare will benefit the most from this man’s generosity.

For a moment I felt the love and presence of God.  I thought this is what it feels like for someone to pay the price for something I was responsible for.  I was able to go free.  I experienced a little bit of what Jesus paid for on the cross when he died to forgive my sins, heal my diseases and give me  eternal life in heaven.  He paid the price for me to go free instead of having to suffer for my wrongdoings and go to hell.

Here is a reading from scripture which tells us about Jesus forgiveness.

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.
A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.
As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender.
One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,”
Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house.
You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.
You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.
Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.””

I did not argue with the ticketmaster and say, “I don’t want to accept this man’s offer.  I insist on paying for my own passage.”  Perhaps one can feel as if one doesn’t deserve this kindness.  One has to learn to receive.  Sometimes we say something like that to Jesus when we don’t accept his sacrifice on the cross to pay for one’s sins and go free.  Let us be like the woman who washed Jesus feet.  She received Jesus forgiveness. Having been forgiven much let us love much.
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