Thank you for the laughs Terry

pudsey bearSir Terry Wogan was a genuine broadcasting legend. For many decades he brightened up the mornings with his gentle wit and charm. The media has been awash these last two days with tributes to one of the greats and rightly so.

What you may have missed on the news yesterday though, were these stories.

More than 10,000 migrant children may have disappeared after arriving in Europe over the past two years. Europol said thousands of vulnerable minors had vanished after registering with state authorities.It warned of children and young people being forced into sexual exploitation and slavery by criminal gangs.

At least 71 people have died in blasts near the Shia shrine of Sayyida Zeinab, south of Syria’s capital Damascus.

At least 50 people are reported to have been killed in north-eastern Nigeria in a gun and bomb attack by suspected Boko Haram militants.

A blond-haired Frenchman has appeared in the latest Islamic state video threatening new terrorist attacks in the west.The man, whose eyes are uncovered but whose features and hair can be seen through a pale balaclava, is then shown shooting in the head a man accused of being a spy. Four other Isis jihadis each shoot another prisoner.

Also, the following happens every day.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year in the world there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day.

5000 people die every day as a result of drinking unclean water. The amount of money invested in nuclear test could be used to finance 8,000 hand pumps, giving villages across third world access to clean water.

Yes we have lost a friend on the airwaves that made us smile but lets keep things in perspective please.

 

A spash of certainty.

Tonight some friends of mine got baptised in our church.  These friends are mature people who want to make declaration about something that has happened to them. In front of a church full of family and friends, they got wet, very wet.

I believe that baptism is for the person themselves to decide if they should do it or not. Baptism in itself will not change a person whether they are a baby or an adult. Baptism will not make you a member of the church or give you brownie points for heaven.

So what is the purpose of baptism?

Baptism is an act of witness, a testimony of a change. When a person puts their faith in Jesus, they recognise that He alone is the only way to God. With no need of a church, a priest, a minister or sacraments for salvation but only the faith of belief. Sacraments, churches, priests or ministers are only useful tools to focus our eyes on salvation not the means of it.

The eight people who got baptised tonight got no better for getting wetter.

 

As white as snow.

snow photoThis morning most people in N Ireland woke up to a layer of snow on the ground. I’m sure the kids were delighted to go outside to sleigh and throw snow balls. However those of an older generation may not see the fun value in snow that children do. It’s funny how something that looks so pure, clean and bright can cause two very different reactions. The child looks at the snow fall with laughter and delight knowing that they are going to have so much fun playing in it. The adult looks at the snow fall with dread and frustration knowing that this makes life more complicated and changes the plans that they had for the day.

Snow divides people’s opinions like the opinions of Jesus divides people.

Christians look at Jesus and see the Lord of Salvation and want to be with Him. Non-believers look at Jesus and see a man who did nice things but not worth going out of your way to follow.

Lets be clear, following Jesus has nothing to do with what church you go to, how many good deeds you do or how much money you give away. All these things are very good in their own right but they don’t make you a Christian. You are not born a Christian or go though any man performed ceremony to become a Christian. You cannot buy your way to become a Christian or hide away from the evil of the world to become a Christian.

So what is it all about then? You have just dismissed religion. Yes I have and good riddance to it. Atheist are mainly right about religion but wrong about Jesus. Jesus said *I am the way, the truth and the light, no man comes unto the Father except though me* (John 14:6).

You cannot change your ways or your destination by yourself, you need an outside power to do that or put it another way, you don’t need a sat-nav if you don’t think you are lost.

You and me are lost in sin and only Jesus can take it away, if we put our trust in Him. This is the promise of Jesus,  *though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool* (Isaiah 1:18).

Don’t be religious be white as snow.

 

 

 

 

Where there’s life there’s hope.

A ten week old human being in the palm of our hands

I have a confession to make. It is sometimes difficult for me to determine, using the scale of politics, what is to the left, centre or right when considering certain issues. When I read about the economy or the environment or healthcare, I get confused and I am one of the interested ones (I have watched the box set of “the west wing” a least four times).

There are some issues that don’t fall into any of the above categorization. These issues in British politics are broadly left to the individual elected members to vote on according to their conscience. The British parties may have an official policy on such issues but allows a free vote to its elected members when it comes to legislate.

One such issue is that of abortion.

N Ireland has a different law concerning abortion from the rest of the UK and for this reason alone some say it needs to change and be brought into line. That argument is a constitutional one and would render the Belfast Agreement, St Andrews Agreement and The Stormont Agreement null and void, if as a principle you expect all legislation in the UK to be the same. I think it is fair to recognise the regional difference that there is to abortion.

Does the N Ireland law on abortion break the European Convention on Human Rights? The attorney general has lodged an appeal to a High Court ruling, that found Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation to be “incompatible” with the human rights law and the Stormont’s justice minister is lodging an appeal to a High Court ruling also. When our top legal experts are divided on the interpretation of human rights, there does not seem to be a clear argument here ether to extend the Abortion Act 1967 to N Ireland.

For me abortion is just wrong.

It is wrong to purposely end the life of a human being, whether it be war, euthanasia, capital punishment, suicide or abortion. No man, woman, child or government has a right to end life.

What is a viable life?

Any life taken from its life support environment, will die at what ever stage it is at, inside or outside the womb. From the first heartbeat, sciences, legislations and faiths acknowledge that a human being has formed with its own DNA, totally different from its mother.

The only exception to all of the above, to ending the life of a human being would be this. If there is a real and present threat to another persons life. This principle could be used to favour a just war position. It could be used to permit self-defence or if the life of a mother is threatened by her unborn child.

Undoubtedly there are mothers who find themselves in very difficult circumstances. We need to provide everything we can to support the life of the mother and child and treat both the same.

Do we end the life of a perfectly formed human being because of sexual violence? Not unless there is an immediate threat to the life of the mother, whether it be mental or physical.

Do we medically end the life of a deformed human being before its natural time to die?  Not unless there is an immediate threat to the life of the mother, whether it be mental or physical.

These are hard, hard, situations for any woman to go though and more money needs to go into support units and parenting education.

All expectant lives are lives of great expectations.

 

 

 

 

Beauty and the beast

The other night my eldest daughter Hannah was home from University in Belfast. With her studies and a part-time job she does not get home as often as she (or I) would like. She spent the night with her little sister watching the Disney film Beauty and the beast.

The main theme of the film is that appearances are not always what they seem. First impressions play a big role in our daily lives and often determine how we treat individuals from the first point of contact. The change of circumstances for the prince who was cursed to be a beast, also changed his character to be angry and secluded. But then along comes Belle and after a while she starts to see though the beastly appearance and attitude of the prince. When the beast gets the sympathy and care from Belle, there is a change that happens for both of them, from the first impressions of disgust and fear to that of kindness and safety.

Over the past year we have been watching the horrendous situation of refugees fleeing the war-torn counties of Syria and Iraq. These people through no fault of their own, find themselves having to leave their homes and communities to find safety in another land. The response from us has been a mixed reaction of kindness or fear.

I am glad that this country is bringing in refugees from the camps outside Syria but is it enough? Should we not be giving up more of ourselves to help those that are in need? We need to be giving aid and finance to countries like Italy and Greece who are bearing the brunt of the crisis. We need to be pressing our MPs and government to do more in the name of humanity and compassion.

These fellow human beings can add so much to our cultures, our communities, our lives and our work places, if we only look past their appearances and our fears.

 

 

 

 

“puzzles the will”

Benjamin Franklin give us this famous quote “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.

Death is something we all must deal with, the death of friends and family and then our own. It is perhaps one of those subjects that for many is hard to fathom. There is a fear about death, a mystery about it, a uncertainly because no one that you and I know has come back from it.

“Puzzles the will” is from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Prince Hamlet contemplates death in his soliloquy that starts with the line “to be or not to be”. The following lines can be found halfway though.

“The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
No Traveller returns, Puzzles the will”,

Death is the undiscovered Country, whose borders no one has returned from. “Puzzles the will” is the uncertainty whether life is better than death or death better than life.

For Christians, Hamlet’s question of “to be or not to be” should not be an issue. In Christ there is the hope and assurance of  an eternal life of peace and joy after death. I think people think that the Gospel message is about bringing health and wealth to our lives on earth. The blessings of a Christian are of an eternal nature and not just of this world. If any television evangelist tells you that becoming a Christian will make your life here better, it is a lie, switch them off.

The real question is matter of trust, do I trust man or God? Trust comes from evidence. Two people look at the earth, one marvels at the process of evolution, the other of creation, yet the evidence they see before them remains the same with two different conclusions. What has made the difference? Faith and the grace of God.

God gives the answer to the problem of death, Hamlet cannot.

The political Will is not a puzzled Will.

 

Your numbers up!!!!

From the end of last year I have been on call as a first responder in the village of Sixmilecross. Over a year ago I was asked if I would be a part of the Termon Community Responders team. Over the past 12 months I have been trained on how to use a defibrillator, give CPR and how to deal with choking.

The Termon Community Responders covers the parish of Termonmaguirk , but may also on occasion be capable of responding to calls close to Mountfield, and  Pomeroy.

There are five such responder units in N Ireland. Their aim is to be able to respond to 999 calls to the ambulance service and start CPR until the ambulance arrives. This could increase a patients survival chances by 50%. All community responders are volunteers and give up of their time to train and be on call.

An issue that lies heavily with the group is the lack of house numbers on road side dwellings or at the end of lanes leading to a dwelling house.

When a responder receives a call out message from the ambulance service, they do not get a name but only the address and condition of the patient. For the local responder this can become difficult finding the house quickly if house numbers are not displayed or easily seen.

We would urge therefore, that your house number is clearly displayed from the road to assist ambulance service and community responders to get to your house quickly.

It would be ironic if “your number was up” because your did not put up your number.

Cogito, ergo, sum.

There is a people group in Namibia called the Himba tribe. They have an interesting approach to birthdays, they don’t celebrate the day you were born but when you were first thought of in the mother’s mind. When a woman in this tribe wants to have a child, she will go to a quiet place and find the song of the child to come. This song will accompany the baby though every stage of its life, though adolescence, marriage, triumphs and disasters until death as it’s song is sung to them by the tribe.

The bible tells us that before we are born God thought of us (Psalm 139). As God has no beginning, so the thought of us has no beginning. If you take the theme of the Himba Tribe, we have no beginning if we exist as long someone (God) has thought of us.

To day our visiting pastor is Trevor Watson, he is a good friend of mine from childhood. In fact his family roots are from Sixmilecross. During his message today he took out a length of rope of about 10 meters. One end of it was taped off, about 6 inches long. He used it to illustrate the length of our time on earth compared to our time in eternity. The short 6 inches (or time on earth) looks very little compare to rest of the 10 meters (eternity) of rope.

The question then must be, what is the purpose of our existence? The early church fathers answered the question like this.

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

To find joy on earth is to find eternal peace with God.

Cogito, ergo sum is a Latin philosophical proposition, meaning “I think, therefore I am”   The reality is, Deus est , ergo sum, meaning “God is, therefore I am”

 

 

 

 

Highwaymen, they haven’t gone away you know

bernish glen

The above photo is of Bernish glen, outside Sixmilecross.  It is named after the notorious highway man Shane Bernagh Donnelly. He used these hills to launch daring raids on carriages travelling between Dublin and Derry during the 17th century. He was adored by the poor as he would generally only steal from the rich and often give to the needy, our very own Robin Hood. He was eventually captured by the English red coats and executed.

This week In Stormont a budget was brought before the assembly, supported only by the DUP/SF alliance. Within it is the allocation of £229 million earmarked for the A5WTC. I will not go into details what the advantages and disadvantages of this project are here but here are some questions I think we should be asking the Executive.

1.Where does this money come from and is the maintenance budget of existing roads affected?

2. What is the current and projected volume of traffic for the A5 compared to other schemes in the UK that have been given a dual carriageway upgrade?

3. What is the accident rate on this road compared to others in N Ireland?

4. What is the predicted time saved on travel that this money will gives us?

5. What are the environmental costs?

6. Have any other types of upgrades been considered for the A5.

My fear is that the A5WTC is more to do with politics than what is needed.

It seems that four centuries later the tables have turned. The establishment of DUP/SF, just like the red coats were, have become the highway men but not in a Robin Hood way.

Friends

To day I felt like a Carrie Bradshaw type figure.

I met up with some of my friends for lunch in our village. We ate our food, setting the world to right while being continually interrupted by one of the toddlers. We talked of life with the kids (the football marks on the windows, when apparently no one was playing in that part of the house). We talked about the diets that we are on (as we munch on a biscuit, saying we will be good for the rest of the day). We talked of fresh starts, a new business perhaps (do you sell door to door or on-line?). We promise ourselves that this is the year, we are not going to sit back any longer!

This year we will be thinner, heather, fitter and mentally stronger than we have ever been before (we shall see!).

It’s great to have friends that you can share the highs and lows of life with. Friends who are there when you are in need and care for you. Friends who don’t necessarily share your faith or politics but love you all the same.

So as I looked at my friends today, I thought how blessed I am and how would Carrie write about it.

It’s easy to  love friends. loving your enemy takes a bit more effort.