Bird Watching Again.

I’m telling my children who are returning for Christmas to make sure they bring warm hats and gloves. No we are not going skiing. I’m planning to go Bird Watching instead of Christmas shopping. I have plenty of binoculars to share and I am blessed to live by the an inland sea Lough which invites many birds to stop a while. I will not have to organize a long journey. There is a variety of bird life nearby.

I am being restored in my mind and body as I take time beside still waters as Psalm 23 says.

He leads me beside still waters to restore my soul.

I discovered a group of birds I had not encountered before yesterday. They were a delight to watch. I was happy to look at these birds for a while. God too is taking pleasure in his creation.
I was reading today from Revelation 4 v 8 to 11

8 Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—
the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”
9 Whenever the living beings give glory and honor and thanks to the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever), 10 the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say,

11 “You are worthy, O Lord our God,
to receive glory and honor and power.
For you created everything,
And it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.

When I returned home I got out my bird books. Brendan has bought me quite a few over the years. I looked up my favorite one. It gives pictures and descriptions of the most common birds found on our shores. There were all kinds of birds, ducks, geese, swans, sea gulls, oystercatchers, and waders but there was no sign of my discovery. I looked through another. It must have been bought in America. No luck here either.

At last I picked up a hard backed book with a picture on the front. At last. There on the front cover was my new discovery, a bird with a few feathers sticking up from its crown, a Lapwing.

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According to the book the lapwing has green feathers on his back and wings. I was not close enough to see the green colour of the back wings. His underbody is white. The lapwing gather is flocks. When one takes flight they all do. Their black under feathers make up a full wing span and aides it to spin, twist and dive in flight.
This bird is distinctive because of the tuft of feathers on his head.

Yesterday this group of lapwings were resting along the shore. They were within easy sight as the full tide allowed the water to come up near the bank. They were well camouflaged amid the stones and seaweed on the shore.

I didn’t have my binoculars or note book with me. I will make sure we are fully equipped for our nature study day at Christmas time. Who knows what other residents or visitors to our Irish shores I will find when I next go bird watching.
It will not cost us money. There will be no temptation to overspend or visit coffee shops. Just a flask and a few nibbles will help the bird watchers to endure. They will enjoy it so much; a welcome change from work and study. Time to breathe fresh air, slow down and hang out together like the birds. Time to heal and be restored. A time for peace.

I am Celebrating Easter

I was looking back at photographs on my iPhone taken in the last six months.  Some photos capture the beauty and colors of the sky and sea from where I live on Strangford Lough in Ireland.  The beauty all around me revives my body and soul.  I am being restored.

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The heavens declare the Glory of God.
The skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech,
Night after night they reveal knowledge.  Psalm 19 v 1

I am happy to enjoy the changes in the heavens all around, knowing the Creator holds me in his arms.

Tonight the time changes in Ireland.  The clocks move forward one hour.  It is Eastertime 2016.  I am thankful to God to be alive, six years on from being diagnosed with fourth stage colon cancer.

This Easter weekend we celebrate a world changing event that happened about 2000 years ago.  Jesus died a cruel death and was buried in the grave.  But he didn’t stay there.  He arose from the grave.  He now lives at the Father’s right hand interceding for us.

By his death he conquered the power of sin and death, and power of the devil over mankind and made a way for us to go to heaven.  He is the way, the truth and the life.

I know the power of his death on the cross.  Isaiah 53 says “By his stripes we are healed.”  I received my healing six years ago.

Are you weighed down by misfortune, misery and ill health? Look up. Ask the Creator of the universe for help. His son Jesus paid for your freedom from oppression and sickness by the shedding of his Blood. Have faith in God.

Celebrating St Patrick along the Ancient Pathway

I returned to Co Down sixteen years ago.  I was born and lived in Co Down till I was eighteen.  I went to university in Coleraine eighty miles away from home and remained there to get married and rear my children.  In those days I might as well have been moving to another country.  God led us to live return to Co Down.  This scripture spoke to us,

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭6‬:‭16‬ NIV)

Today, St Patrick’s Day, I am savoimageuring the blessing of living along the shore of Strangford Lough.  There is a small bay below our house where gulls play about on the water.  The water is still. A lone heron stands on a stone for long periods of time looking out for food.  A flock of Brent Geese fly in low over the water.  They come to get some fresh water from a stream nearby that flows into the lough.  My soul is at rest.

I am amazed that these Brent Geese’ only winter habitat is along the shores of Strangford Lough.  Thousands land here after a long journey from Northern Canada in September.  Most are to be seen along the sunny side of the Lough.  They feed on Eel Grass and return in April to the tundra to have their young.  The Brent Geese link me to the past.  For generations  they migrated here.  Their generations back would have been here when St Patrick arrived as a migrant.

In the fifth century St Patrick came to these shores.  The main means of transport in those days was by boat.  A boat could access inland by river.  He came to Ireland answering the call of God to go as a missionary.  He would have sailed up the entrance to Strangford Lough and up the Quoile river.  It is recorded that he settled in Saul near the river.

The tourist board of Northern Ireland has mapped out the St Patrick’s trail which helps visitors travel to areas where early Christians settled.  I have lived in three sites that are along this trail.  I lived in. Saul St,  Downpatrick for sixteen years,  one year in Bright, and now in Portaferry.  I can imagine those early Christians coming ashore like the Brent Geese to get some fresh water after their sea journey.  They could have built a shelter and fished from the sea that was teeming with fish in those early days.  No pollution or over fishing then.  They may have even built a settlement on this land where we now live.

St Patrick’s writings mention scriptures, dreams, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  It is interesting that the Christian denominations, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Catholic all look to St Patrick as their patron in Ireland.  At least we are united in the heritage St Patrick left us.

In Ireland we are blessed to have a Christian heritage for 1500 years.  Ireland is known as the Land of Saints and Scholars.  Many missionarys travelled from these shores into Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas.  God is calling the Irish men and women to remember the God of their forefathers. I celebrate St Patrick today, not with green beer, leprechauns, or parades, but by being quiet on this ancient site remembering the God of St Patrick.  He is the same God I worship, 1500 years later.  Praise Him.

It Is Well With My Soul

It is well with my soul.

I wanted to relax earlier so I looked to see if there was anything interesting on TV.
I flicked from channel to channel.  A game show, a food programme and a dance show.  
My eyes, ears and mind were bombarded with advertisements, bodies gyrating and loud music.  
No definitely not relaxing.
I turned the machine off.
Then I got a call on my mobile.  I was talking for some time.
I began to get a headache.
Is this mobile frying my brain?
I wonder what neuroscientists think of that.
If I take a call again it will have to be on my house phone.
How could I relax?
I retreated to my room. 
The room lit up.
The sun shone in the living room window giving warmth and brightness.
The sheep grazed in the field across the way, enjoying the warmth on their backs before sunset.
There was stillness in the air.
Be still and know that I am God.
I began to relax.
My eyes soaked up the light and beauty of the green trees and pastures.
My ears are enjoyed the stillness and my mind did not have to work.
This was better than any TV programme, beauty massage, or therapy session.
The trumpet flowers turn towards the evening light.
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It was such a beautiful evening Brendan and I went out to the local beach.
The sun was going down.
The sea was calm with a gentle ripple lapping the shore. 
A bird called in the distance.
A heron stood motionless on the water’s edge, eyes concentrating.
Seals froliced in the shallow water, a little exercise before bedtime.
Children’s voices echoed across the water from the nearby caravan site.
Making memories before holidays are over and school days loom on the horizon.
There is time for everything under heaven.
We returned home.
We looked up into the moonless sky.
There was an extravaganza of stars and the mist of the Milky Way.
The Lord put on a show for me this evening.
I will magnify my creator and my God.
God made all these things for us to enjoy.
I cannot but praise him.

What is man that thou art mindful of him?
The son of man that you care for him?  Psalm 8 v 4

I see the Stars, 
I hear the rolling thunder, 
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul my saviour God to thee.
How great thou art, How great thou art.

Lyrics from Hymn How Great thou art.

It is well with my soul.