Monday, December 28, 2009


From a distance, it looked promising. Nestled on a rocky and weathered outcrop, buttressed against the Atlantic waves by craggy cliffs it warranted further investigation. However there was disappointment ahead. Some property 'developer' had constructed perhaps some of the most ugly and out-of-character-with-the-landscape block of flats that I had ever seen. I had to check the map to make sure we were not in Soviet era Stalingrad. I wanted to be sick.

Perhaps one of the blessings of post Celtic-Tiger Ireland is that these brown paper envelope developments will at least temporarily come to a halt.

What is it about us humans that we have to ruin God's beautiful Creation? Of course there are many examples of buildings that fit the character of the landscape in which they exist. Natural and local materials (rather than reinforced concrete) put together in a way that is sensitive to the surroundings can actually enhance a landscape. God made us to be co-creators, to make things that reflect the great skill and talent He has given to so many builders and architects. But how many of us do things for God's pleasure and glory above the desire for short-term satisfaction and profit?

Before I get too carried away I'll stop right there!

Happy New Year to everyone (hopefully more than one) reading this and may you know the fullness of God's love, life and blessing in 2010...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Sunrise

Nikon D70s, f4.5, 1/30 sec, ISO 220, 105mm equivalent (click to enlarge)

It was icy. Very icy. So I left with plenty of time to travel from the Rectory to Kilmalooda church for the 9.00 am service on Christmas morning - in second gear. When I got there it was still fairly dark. I parked the car without managing to slide into the wall and got out (without managing to slip on a frozen puddle). It's a quiet area at any time, but there was a very special hush this Christmas morning. I appreciated the moment of stillness to gather my thoughts about the busyness of the day ahead. Then I noticed a special steak of light in the East as the sun gingerly poked its head above the horizon. The day had begun.

Monday, December 21, 2009

In the bleak midwinter

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood
Hard as iron,
Water like a stone:
Snow had fallen,
Snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.

Our God,
Heaven cannot hold him,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and Earth
Shall flee away
When he comes to reign:
In the bleak midwinter
A stable place sufficed
The lord God almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But his mother only
In her maiden bliss
Worshiped the beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man,
I would do my part;
What I can I give him,
Give my heart.

Christina Rossetti (1830-93)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nikon F100 Reflection

Nikon F100, Nikkor 28-105 D, Kodak Ultramax 400

One of the great things about being among the few strange people who still like to take pictures using 35mm film is that film cameras are now worth a fraction of what they once were. Ten years ago there is no way I could have afforded a Nikon F100, a camera used by many professionals as a back up to their F5's. What cost around £1200 in 1999 can now be bought in mint condition for under £200! Yes, I could buy a plastic pocket-sized digital camera for that money today - but I chose instead to buy perhaps one of the very best 35mm SLR's ever made. There's no pocket large enough for this beast! It's big, it's metal, it's heavy, it's a serious piece of kit. The autofocus and film advance are scarily quick (it focuses and meters much more quickly and accurately than my D70s) and did I say it is a lot of fun to use?

So I took it with us when we went on a family trip to Cork last weekend. For part of the day we went to Fota wildlife park, which was very quiet on such a cold and overcast day. The above picture I took while we were waiting to get the train back into the city.

Because I have only a flatbed scanner I cannot get the best quality from film negatives. A close inspection will show that the picture is quite grainy and lacking in detail. In other words the reflection is an imperfect one. This reminded me of how each of us are made in God's image and yet oh how so very imperfect we are. We've all met people who seem to radiate God's love ... I think of a Pentecostal Pastor I once knew who seemed to glow with God's love, an incredible man, I think of a Franciscan brother who came to my school and got us cynical teenagers interested in contemplative prayer and I can think of many people, often the quiet ones who inhabit pews Sunday by Sunday who in public are shy but behind closed doors are the real 'prayer warriors' of God's Kingdom.

All of us to a greater or lesser extent reflect God's glory. Every day my prayer is "More of You, less of me." Though I'd be the first to admit that God has His work cut out when it comes to me :-)
"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Cor.3:18)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Budgetary Greek Tragedy?

Nikon D70s, f5.6, 1/125 sec, ISO 200, 105mm equivalent (click to enlarge)

This is the view taken from our back garden this morning. I was hoping for something very bleak to illustrate the Budgetary fallout, but there was more light than I was expecting...

Perhaps the government did a very good PR job preparing us beforehand but the fear that we would be in some post-Budget economic Armageddon today does not appear to be the case.

I did spectacularly badly in my economics A-level so I will not even try to pick over the bones of the budgetary casualties this morning; such as those who work in the Public Sector, the unemployed, and just about everybody wondering how they will afford Christmas. Perhaps the most bizarre thing is that in an attempt to stop people travelling up to Northern Ireland to do their shopping, the tax on alcoholic drinks has been cut! So a pint of beer will have 12c less duty on it and a bottle of wine 60c - I fear though that this will not make any difference at all. The traffic-jam between Dublin and Newry is not going away just yet.

And then even more bizarrely, I heard on the radio that because we are one of the economic 'bad boys', we are linked in with the economically renegade Greeks as far the ECB is concerned. So in some ways we are dependent upon the Greeks sorting their economy out in order to be on firmer financial footing ourselves. It's like two mountaineers roped together - if the Greeks fall, they drag us down with them. Imagine if the €400 million that the government are borrowing every week came to an end - now that really would be a Greek Tragedy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Getting Lost

Panasonic LX1, f4.9, 1/80 sec, ISO 80, 28mm equiv., Blue 'Duotone' effect in Photoshop Elements 6, (click to enlarge)

I'm finding my way around the parish the hard way! Occasionally I kid myself that I know which road to take to get home again after being out visiting. The result is often that I end up in the middle of nowhere (see picture). It wasn't always this way - when I was a curate in East Belfast it was possible to do nearly all my visits by parking the car at one end of the street and then working my way along from door to door. The contrast with rural ministry is considerable.

Coincidentally I was reading (in the Message Bible) about Jesus being "The Road":

I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life.
(John 14:6)

In life there are so many roads to take yet Jesus tells us there is only one Road that leads to God and eternal life and that is found in Him...