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

The Shadow of The Lord

 

The house is quiet after the hustle and bustle of family staying for Christmas. I am awake early. I walk into the room across the way. The curtains are open. The sky is dark. No moon. The only light in my view is a flashing green light on a buoy out in the middle of Strangford Lough. It will be a few more hours before the sun rises.

On the lawn below I see my shadow cast by the light in the room. My outline is magnified and covers a large area of the lawn.

I am reminded of verses from scripture that tell me about other shadows.

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,

If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.

He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”
Psalm 91

God is speaking to me through the image of my shadow on the lawn. He is telling me that even though he is God Almighty his shadow is covering me and I can rest secure under his protection. Even though it may be dark in life circumstances all around, he is with me.

There is a story about Peter in the Acts 5.

“And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people;
Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭5:12, 15-16‬ ‭KJV‬‬

The power of God was with Peter in those days soon after Jesus died and arose from the dead, that even his shadow healed people. Jesus wants us to believe in him in these days so that signs and wonders will follow us so we can help others.

And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.
Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭5:12, 15-16‬ ‭KJV‬‬

One may feel that other dark shadows cover us, for example fear may overwhelm one and leave one unable to move. The pain of death, grief, betrayal, sickness, and other shadows may come to disable us but take heart. God will help. The word of God tells us 365 times not to be afraid. When God Almighty is with us all the darkness has to flee from the shadow of his wings covering us. Alleluia. We need not fear. Only believe in God, his son Jesus and the Holy Spirit who is hereto help us.

At the airport the bookshop is full of people browsing deciding what book to take down and read on their journey.  There are many books on “How to”, get rich quick, loose weight or meet the right one in your life.  I recommend the simple book of the Bible.  It is full of power, truth, success and life.

God bless you this morning and may this word from The Lord break you free from your darkness today.

Don’t Be Despondent

Strangford Lough waters were like a mirror early today.  The boats, newly parked in the bay below, are still. This morning I read these words from the Bible.
Proverbs 15 v 15
For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.

These words shook me out of feeling heavy laden and down. I looked up the meaning of despondent in the dictionary.  Dejected, sad, depressed, disheartened, lacking hope or courage.
One can be despondent because of unhappiness due to difficulties that you think will not be able to overcome.
I was prone to despondency and despair before I had cancer. I definitely got depressed and it deepened. Situations in my life seemed insurmountable. But God saw me and had mercy on me. He healed me from cancer.
I can’t afford to let myself get down or despondent. This word this morning shook me. I want to have a merry heart and a feast instead. I have so much to be thankful for.
Another scripture says ,
“Do not be downcast. Hope in God for I will yet praise him.”  I began to thank God for all his blessings.  I got washed and dressed. I decided to go out in the beautiful morning and let the cobwebs blow away. The warmth of spring is here. I praise God for life.

The Sandwich Tern Arrive.

I was excited to see Sandwich terns today on Swan Island. It is rock outcrop a few yards from Strangford harbour. They are on time! Cold winds are easing and the days are warmer and have longer hours of daylight. Isn’t it wonderful that these birds fly thousands of miles from southern parts of Europe and America to rear their young. We are privileged to have them visit. Thousands of travelers on the Strangford ferry will get to see these terns up close. The birds are safe on the island out of reach from any enemies, but near enough for us to enjoy them.

There are many pairs in the colony that will nest and rear their young on the small island. They are very noisy. They rise up into the air together, screech and fly off to feed. They catch small fish on the surface of the water. Perhaps the same flock of terns return year after year.

The Strangford ferry is a vantage point to see the terns. Some of the birds stand on the end of the gangway on the ferry as it crosses the Lough. They aren’t shy of humans.

When I arrived home I heard Bird Song as the evening sun was setting. I recognized the blackbird’s, robin’s and starling’s call in the chorus. Only a few come to the bird table in the morning. They must be off looking for mates and making their nests in preparation to rear their young. It is safe now to start building. A week ago there was snow on the ground and many birds were feeding at the bird table.

The daffodils are sprouting yellow trumpets at last. They were held back by cold temperatures. What a welcome sight of new green shoots and yellow flowers swaying in the breeze, another sign that spring has sprung.

God’s glory is seen in his creation. Who tells the tern to leave the warm climes to come north to the best conditions to rear their young? Who causes the grass, flowers and trees to bud and blossom? Who causes the lambs to be born just when it is warm enough for them to survive.

“For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭61:11‬. NIV

A Thin Place in Ireland

Beni Johnson wife of Bill Johnson, head pastor of Bethel in Redding in the USA, has written a book on intercession. It is her story of how God led her to be an intercessor. She has taken many groups all over the USA and the world to pray.

I am very excited after reading this paragraph in her book.

“A thin place is where heaven and earth are close. It is easier to experience the spiritual realm in these places. A lot of times you can tell if you are in a thin place, because there are a lot of spiritual and creative people who are gathered there. Examples of this include many parts of Ireland, which is known for its thin places.”

An example of a thin place is at Bethel in Israel where Jacob had a dream and he saw angels ascending and descending to heaven. Here is the reference from Genesis.

“He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.
and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house.
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭28:12-13, 16-19, 22‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In 2015 Brendan and I visited Israel. I had a desire to visit Bethel, the place where Jacob had a dream. It was not on the usual visitor’s sites in Israel. We had to get a local taxi driver to take us there. He brought us to a viewing point at Bethel where Abraham once stood and God showed him all the land before him and promised to give it to him.
Genesis 12 v 7.
7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

It was a privilege to stand on that viewing point, where Abraham once stood, and look out to the north, the south, the east and the west and see the land of Israel stretching before me. God’s promise to Abraham is being fulfilled today as God is bringing the people of Israel back to their homeland.

Quite near by was a small building. “There is where It is traditionally thought that Jacob had his dream,” the taxi man advised us. When we went over to the building we entered into a small room.  The picture included in this blog shows a view to the east from the landmark.  In the middle distance is the house where Jacob is said to have had a dream.   We prayed and remembered Jacob’s dream. Again I felt blessed to be where Jacob of old rested. We took some photographs. A picture of my husband revealed just his turso. His legs and arms did not show up in the picture. Something supernatural happened in that place. It is still a place where the Angels ascend and descend, I believe, a thin place.

I’m privileged to live on the Ards Peninsula in Ireland. The local council haves named it the Ceeative Peninsula.  All along the shores of Strangford Lough are the ruins of Christian settlements. Many people lived in the thriving communities living off the produce of the land and sea. Prayers and praise to God would have been offered in these places. They are Thin Places, I believe. Ireland is known as the Land of saints and scholars. Many missionaries have gone out from Ireland to other nations, and still do today. There is a book written telling How the Irish Saved Civilization, By Thomas Cahill.  We have a wonderful inheritance in Ireland, yet to be mined.

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.

image imageimage

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.

A Cruise Ship is Anchored Offshore

Portaferry was a busy port many years ago when fuel and goods were transported by ships.  It has a natural, sheltered harbour and had easy access to England across the Irish Sea. There were not the road networks we enjoy today, when many goods  are transported in lorries.  Many ships would have been docked at the port waiting to unload and then restock with local wheat or potatoes.

But the big ships do not visit any more.  There are some yachts parked in the Marina. The Portaferry Strangford ferry is the biggest vehicle in these parts.

I was pleasantly surprised one evening back in July.  Brendan and I had just returned from visiting our daughter and her husband in Scotland.  I had the pleasure of seeing a luxury liner enter the waters of Strangford Lough and put down anchor in the bay in front of our home.  No it was not the Queen Mary or the Queen Elizabeth.  It was the Hebridean Princess, a small ship but never the less a luxury one.   It caters for fifty people in sheer luxury, according to its website.  Out there on the lough the customers will be settling down to fine dining.  The ship was visiting Irish waters to let their customers see our green land.

It was Gala Week on the lough.  Many yachts with their colourful sails were messing about on the water.  I looked out and saw many yachts with their sails catching the evening wind.  Red, blue, white, small and tall sails.  In the middle of the flotilla the Hebridean Princess appears.

IMG_2726

I wanted to find some information about this ship.  Where did it come from? Was it from Scotland, maybe the Hebrides off Scotland. To my delight I discovered the vessel was originally a ferry that traveled between the Scotland mainland and a Scottish Island.  It had been bought in 1989 and was restructured to become a cruise ship.

MV Hebridean Princess is a cruise ship operated by Hebridean Island Cruises. She started life as the MacBrayne car ferry and Royal Mail Ship, initially RMS then MV Columba, based in Oban for the first 25 years of her life, carrying up to 600 passengers, and 50 cars, between the Scottish islands.

My son in law’s father was the manager of the Caledonian Mac Brayne fleet.  He was instrumental in putting into service ferries that would connect the Scottish Islands to the mainland.  He did a great job. I appreciate the service our local ferry provides, connecting Portaferry to Strangford.

The Caledonian MacBrayne fleet is the largest fleet of car and passenger ferries in the United Kingdom. With 30 units in operation, the company provides lifeline services to 22 islands off the west coast of Scotland, as well as operating routes across the River Clyde.

I was touched that I am connected to the history of the cruise ship that came to visit Strangford Lough that day.

This post is dedicated to Stuart.  Happy Birthday!