S is for Syria, Sadness and Solomon

I’ve been desperately trying to avoid writing this one. But really – what else could ‘S’ be for but Syria.

My avoidance has not been apathy, it’s been helplessness. What can I say that has not already been said? And even if I did come up with something new, what would it be worth in the great scheme of what is happening across the Middle East and Europe?

The statues in the image below are part of the Irish Famine Memorial; a haunting depiction of the helpless, hopeless Irish people who had no option but to emigrate or die of starvation. The gaunt faces remind me of images of Live Aid in 1985. To think that hunger and death was once so close to home is still shocking to me.  It’s said that through death and emigration, Ireland lost about 4 million people.

irish famine syrian


I’m not sure who first made and posted the ‘photoshopped’ image above. I’ve seen it a few times on social media and grabbed this copy from the Irish Times website. But I have to say, it stopped me in my tracks when I saw it. I was all for helping Syrian refugees, “Let them in by all means – and fast. But hang on… what about the numbers, and what about the ones who are going to make trouble and what if there isn’t enough room for us all (to live undisturbed I mean…)?”

Then I saw that merged photo and I was moved to tears; because I knew, if they were Irish people I wouldn’t be asking any questions other than – ‘what are you going to do to help?”

I remember that scene in the Titanic movie, when they wouldn’t let more people on the lifeboats for fear they would buckle or topple over. Fear, grief and more than a little self-preservation put a limit on who could be rescued. I’m not judging, I’d have been the same, I’m sure.

So what is to be done? What is the answer? I believe the wisdom of Solomon is needed for this crisis. A whole nation of displaced, terrified, people are on the move looking for a chance to raise their families in peace and safety. Who am I to say they should be denied that? And as for the talk of those whose intentions are not for peace, but for getting their terrorist agenda in under the radar…? Well I doubt every Irish person who emigrated had the purist of intentions; but America and Australia and the other countries they fled to still stand.

Who decides who is worthy of a chance to live anyway – good or bad? It isn’t me. The instructions I read in my Bible are clear about mercy and love, about welcoming the alien and feeding the poor – it doesn’t say… “but only the nice ones.”

And still I confess there is a nagging feeling in my gut. One that scares me about a massive influx of displaced people – into my place. What will my world be like when the dust settles and the unsettled have settled?

You see…? I told you my words would not be worth much!

R is for Rampart

15488800365_a96b029ab1_nThis is a word that is easy to pass by in the Bible. It’s only mentioned a few times. Rampart.
Definition of Rampart on dictionary.com says this:
1. Fortification.
a broad elevation or mound of earth raised as a fortification around a place and usually capped with a stone or earth parapet. 2. anything serving as a bulwark or defense.

One of the few uses of this word in the NIV is found in the Book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk, one of the ‘minor’ prophets, has complained to God and received God’s response. God’s answer to Habakkuk’s first complaint is not a pleasant one. He declares the people of Israel will be defeated in battle and taken into captivity by the Babylonians, ‘that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own.’ Habakkuk goes on to make a second complaint and says, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.”

Ramparts were used as a watch tower, a place to see what enemy might be coming. Habakkuk declares he will wait for God’s second answer on the very place that would stop, or at least warn of, an invasion. Here the rampart may or may not be a construction, where Habakkuk intends to actually stand and wait. Whether there is a tangible rampart or not, there is definitely a figurative significance.

The rebel in me wonders if Habakkuk was getting all ‘whateverrrrr’ with God. Was he off to the ramparts to stand there all, “Eh like hello? look where I’m standing, a rampart! DUH!”  OK, so maybe the ‘whatever’ thing hadn’t arrived in Israel at that stage, but it’s clear that Habakkuk is not happy with God’s first answer and, with a bit of attitude, demands a second one.

The problems experienced by God’s people came from the fact that they constantly disobeyed God. In chapter 1 v 4, Habakkuk says ‘the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.’

Despite Habakkuk’s complaining, the invasion did come; no rampart could stop God’s plan from coming to pass.

I suppose it’s a lesson in making sure that we don’t rely on our old faithful defences. I’m alright cos I pray, I’m alright cos I read my Bible, I’m alright cos I go to church, I’m alright cos I give. These are things we should be doing – but they are a response to the relationship we have with God – not things we do to earn his favour. Using our prayer life or church attendance as a rampart just won’t do. Our only rampart is Jesus.

You want to stop the wrath of God from coming crashing down on your life – then stand on the Rampart, the Rock, that is Jesus Christ.

photo credit: Wall @ Qila Rohtas (Rohtas Fort) via photopin (license)

Q is for Quickening

My dad was a big fan of westerns. He was an avid watcher of The High Chaparral and Bonanza. He talked about Little Joe and Hoss, like they were mates he drank with in his local. He’d watch all the films too, from The Dirty Dozen and The Outlaw Josey Wales to more fun musicals like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Calamity Jane.

I spotted a ‘modern’ western in the TV Guide one time and suggested he watch it. “The Quick and the Dead, Da” I said. “Not sure what that means, but it’s supposed to be a good one.”

“It means you’re either dead or alive,” he replied, without even looking up from his newspaper.

“So to be quick means to be alive? How’s that?”

“Well, when them fellas point their guns at you, you better move quick or you’ll be dead!” 15672703048_23e89a5a14_n

That conversation is the only reason I understood that line from the epic hymn ‘And Can it Be’

I love those old hymns, with big tunes and deep theology. The language is not always accessible and lines like – ‘Thine eye diffused a quickening ray…’ can, at first, mean little to the hearer. I knew what it meant tho, cos my da told me that to be quick is to be alive. :)

Even though the meaning is the same, the context is a bit different from the movie to the hymn. To be quick is to live, but to me quickened, is to be made alive. pastorhistorian.com has a whole blog post devoted to the hymn and says, ‘The language of quickening or “making alive” is present in the Authorized Version of Ephesians 2:1 and 4. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; . . . Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.”  The quickening of the sinner resulted in a dungeon now inflamed with light, chains being broken, and a free heart.”

Being quickened is not just living – it’s living free, living full, living fast – but not loose! ;)

photo credit: Stetson On The Rocks via photopin (license)

P is for Perfection

girl 2Ah yes, now here is a subject I know a LOT about. Only because I’ve been searching for it for a long long time – no sign yet. (Although the little one to the left there thinks I’m doing ok…)

During the sermon last Sunday morning, in Colossians 3, the preacher said that Paul’s teaching was encouraging the readers to let the peace, love and purity of Christ permeate the world around them, rather than what was happening in Colossi; the pluralistic culture permeating the church.

In the course of the sermon, when talking about the characteristics and behaviour of “the new self”, he said something along the lines of, ‘if you are in Christ, you have the Spirit of the Lord; by grace, you can do these things…’ These things being, patience, compassion, kindness, forgiveness and love, and the context is within the church – Christian to Christian.

So why don’t we do it all the time? Why aren’t we perfect? If we have the Spirit of Christ to do these things, why aren’t we doing them?

The IVP New Dictionary of Theology, when describing perfection, says – “At all times Christians have been faced with the tension between this calling to reflect in their lives and conduct the perfect holiness of God, and the fact, all too evident to experience, of the continuing presence within the personality of the sinful tendencies of their former lives.”

Now if you’re like me, you had to read that a few times, then read it again, stopping at every comma – and eventually are quizzically looking at your own right eye, getting the gist of it.

I think what it means is – we’re supposed to be perfect, or at least WANT to be perfect, but we are incapable of being so. Or maybe the Apostle Paul, puts it better in Romans 7… “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

This is the dilemma we are living with, the tension of the now and not yet. We have this ‘new self’, the old person we used to be is gone.  Yet we still don’t have it sussed. No more or less than the Colossian Christians, to whom Paul had to write to teach them how they should treat each other.

So if you’re like them (and me), struggling to get it right, mostly getting it wrong; tripping up a lot of the time – often over the same stumbling blocks – well, be don’t despair…
nobody’s perfect*

photo credit: Good Job! via photopin (license)

* except Jesus :)

O is for Omni

Continuing with my April AtoZ (4 months later, but however) today’s word is ‘Omni’

The Oxford English Dictionary says that ‘omni’ means ‘of all things, in all ways or places.’ The all concept is attributed to God in a number of ways. It’s most often seen in these three characteristics: Omnipotent – all powerful, Omnipresent – ever everywhere, and Omniscient –  all knowing.

We see them attributed to God throughout Scripture – but I always remember the first time I realised that these three ‘omnis’ are packaged nice and neat together in one Psalm. It became my favourite Psalm that day. (Although, I have few favourites :) )

Psalm 139:1-6… YOU KNOW EVERYTHING, and that sort of knowledge is absolutely out of my league
Psalm 139:6-12… YOU ARE EVERYWHERE, I cannot get away from you, no matter how hard I try
Psalm 139:13-18… YOU SEE EVERYTHING, from the moment I was made, every day since and all the days to come

The psalmist doesn’t stop there. He can’t get his head around the fact that there are people who still hate God – especially in the light of these amazing attributes. Describing God’s character in this way leads to a sudden outburst of defence of God, and frustration that He won’t just wipe away anyone who doesn’t worship Him. But then, the writer immediately moves to contrition.

Why the sudden jump? I reckon it’s cos you can’t (or your shouldn’t be able to) understand God’s fabulousness and at the same time let your heart be filled with hatred. As well as raising indignation in the writer, an understanding these ‘super-God’ qualities gives him an understanding of his own imperfection.

It’s a challenge isn’t it?! Other people’s non-interest or abject hatred of God can raise our heckles, but our knowledge of who He is should keep us in check. After the psalmist’s outburst about the sins of God’s enemies, he looks upon his own imperfect heart and asks God to cleanse him.

Psalm 139:23-24 
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

#thatisALL :)

A x


Back to busy-ness…

You’d have to wonder what gives a blogger the audacity, nay.. the temerity to wander off the reservation, leave her blog languishing for the want of a post; and then to saunter back and pick up where she left off – all the while expecting her readers to swoon and sigh with relief that she deigned to notice them again.

I reckon it’s my heightened sense of self-importance and a list of dazzlingly weak excuses :) And the knowledge that there’s a lot of love and grace in you lot *imagine here a picture of me with an innocent smile – I don’t have one to post at present…*

For weeks now I’ve said… “as soon as I get settled,” or “as soon as that’s over,” or “as soon as I don’t have to think about that anymore… I’ll start writing again.” I’ve no idea where I got this crazy notion that I can only write when there is nothing else going on in my brain. I don’t normally have a taste for such luxuries. I realise that ‘the quieter day’ isn’t coming. In fact I heard an old lady once say, with great solemnity, “ah sure if it isn’t something, it’s something else.” Dagnabbit the woman was right!

I’ve been complaining to God about how little time and energy I have to write, as well as a lack of ideas, inspiration and you know… words. But instead of things quietening down, God has put me on a path that will make life a whole lot busier (and more exciting). I can’t tell you about it at the mo, but if what I believe is about to happen, actually happens… well I’ll be giving up all hopes of a quieter day, setting the alarm clock at least an hour earlier each day and, I trust, will be busier and more fulfilled than I have ever been. :)

Anyway, sorry for disappearing… again. While I wait to tell you about the thing I can’t tell you about yet… I’ll continue with the AtoZ – thanks for letting me know you liked it so far.

Next up is the ‘Omni’s 

A x


Is it safe to come out now?

Hello all :)

Sorry for my absence. Halfway through the A to Z Challenge we moved and it took 2 weeks to get the internet sorted. I felt like my right arm had been cut off.

The busyness of unpacking all the boxes kept me away from the keyboard for far too long. Thanks to those who were kind enough to get in touch and say you missed me. :)

I must admit that the build up to the Marriage Equality referendum in Ireland also contributed to my radio silence.

In the end, the vote was about 2:1 – yes to no. So why did it feel like 200:1 everywhere I went? I’ve no problem with people disagreeing with my convictions. I’m well used to it. But the amount of disdain towards people on opposite sides was awful. Hurtful. Painful.

It’s over now. The people have spoken. The changes will be made.
I’m just not sure how long it will take for me to recover from realising how much many people I know, respect and love, don’t just disagree with me, but hate the things I believe. And hate the people who believe them.

Anyway… I’m back. Back on social media, back here on my blog. And hoping to continue, albeit a month late, the A to Z.

ttfn folks xx