The Word on the Week

Sensory Garden

Sensory Garden              Word on the Week                27th April 2024.

This week we finally bit the bullet!   The project had languished for a long time but this week the Men’s Shed unanimously agreed to turn our garden into a sensory one for use by the school for Autistic children.

The Kill Men’s Shed occupies a small part of the school campus.  Last year we erected a Polly Tunnel for the pupils to grow plants and vegetables.  Transforming the garden was the big one which had been put on the long finger.   It was the generous offer by a local business to deal with the site preparation that galvanized us to action!

The aim of a sensory garden is to engage with our five senses.   Plants and grasses are chosen for their abilities in the following areas.   Sight, Sound, Scent, Taste Touch.    The appropriate plants will occupy large boxes and by planting them together accentuate each of the five senses.

The garden is long and narrow.   It will have a central path winding through it.   The boxes with plants will be located on either side of the path.   They will be readily accessible to those walking along the path.   The school pupils will be encouraged to get to know the different categories.

We plan seating and a water feature.    No doubt there will be other items introduced to enhance the tranquillity of the place but these items are foundational.

Where these gardens exist they appear to live up to their reputation to bring peace and calm into the lives of those who relax in them.

The Bible has much to say about peace.  (a)Peace with God; (b)Peace with our neighbour and (c)Peace within ourselves.

(a) You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26:3/4).

(b) Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  (Colossians 3:15/6)

(c) The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4 verse 7).

And for you Reader Jesus benediction where peace is not just the absence of conflict but the Hebrew word Shalom epitomized in the hymn ‘All is well with my soul.’           Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

The Word on the Week

Peter Pan Syndrome

Peter Pan Syndrome             Word on the Week                 13th April 2024.

Peter Pan was the creation of the playwright J.M.Barrie.   It became the favourite Christmas time pantomime of yesteryear.   Peter was the little boy who, among other things, could fly.   He also had the secret of perpetual youth!

It’s the latter that is being pursued today, largely but not exclusively by women.   It manifests in the battle against ageing which can commence in the teenage years and carry on into post maturity.  

In my youth women called it a facelift.   As far as I could gather the hairdresser wrapped hot towels around the head of the client who was left to steam for some time.   More sophisticated methods developed involving cosmetic surgical operations. 

However, in the world of today tools and chemicals are employed in the task of rejuvenating faces and sundry other body parts as well.  The aim however has not changed – the desire to look one’s best (forever)!

As a result of its popularity there is a sameness emerging effectively cancelling the earlier comment, “He is the image of his father” of the infant.   Now it is beginning to look as if we are all physically related!

In the Bible Job had the same problem.    He was the victim of a wasting disease.    In the Scriptures, Job addresses God; “Thou hast filled me with wrinkles, which is a witness against me: and my leanness rising up against me beareth witness to my face” (Job 16 verse 8).

Even if there had been Botox around I doubt if Job would have used it.   Although he was reduced to skin and bone he had the believer’s true assurance.  This is how he expressed it, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.   And after my skin has been destroyed yet in my flesh will I see God.” (Job 19 verses 25 and 26).

Indeed, Job’s faith was rewarded.   His fortunes were restored.   He made a full recovery and lived to be 140 years old – seeing his children and their children to the fourth generation (Job 42).

Our body is temporary.   It was never meant to be permanent.   For those who know and love the Lord the Apostle Paul has this news.  The trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised imperishable.   Our new body ‘without spot or wrinkle’ will last forever (1Corinthians 15 verses 50 to 58).

The Peter Pan desire in us will be fulfilled through trusting in Christ our Redeemer.

The Word on the Week

A Real British Cock-up

A Real British Cock-up                 Word on the Week                       6th April 2024.

It came to be known as Mr Bates v The Post Office and involved over 900 sub-postmasters (operating as franchisees) who were accused of stealing. The shortages were revealed by the new computer system which was compulsorily introduced in the 90ies. 

The ‘Horizon’ computer was designed to provide a swipe card system for payment of pensions and other benefits.   It failed and in an effort to salvage something of the £700 million costs the post Office, against the better judgement of its IT specialists decided to move all its paper based functions onto Horizon!

These Postmasters were numerate people who occupied a vital place in their community.  They were valued by their customers who knew them as honest, upright members of their town.   It was out of character to find them accused of theft, fraud and false accounting.   The Post Office decreed if they wished to retain their employment they had to replace the losses out of their own pockets.  

From 1999 to 2015 over 900 sub-posters were accused of stealing.   During that period 700 were convicted, faced disgrace in their community and were dismissed from their work.    The court cases, criminal convictions, imprisonments, loss of livelihoods and homes, debts and bankruptcies, took a heavy toll on the victims and their families, leading to stress, illness, family breakdown, and at least four suicides.

During this period a number of reports were produced but none were acted upon.  Instead the Post Office hierarchy was led by the nose by its own middle management and in-house and external legal advisors.    If they had done their job huge amounts of money, and human suffering, would have been avoided.

Out of all this human suffering Alan Bates emerged.   He first reported computer problems in 2000, was fired in 2003 and went on to launch the Justice for Sub postmasters Alliance.    The Post Office took the line that each accusation was unique and it was Bates tenacity in investigating the extent of these cases that began to reveal the true extent of the problem and create remedial action.

With the aid of a whistleblower at Horizon, makers Fugitu admitted the system could be tampered with and that daily adjustments had been made without any record of them being retained.  This brought disgrace and shame to the Japanese company. They have volunteered to assist with the astronomical compensation costs!  

Will justice ever come to the Postmasters – the weakest people in the case?  Will money compensate?   Will the public apology restore the disgraced?   What of those who died with the stigma hanging over them?

What of the lies told implying that their case was the only one?   That ‘Horizon’ could not be tampered with!    That no changes to the figures could take place during the night!    The weak management.   The ignoring of expert advice.  The case rolls on. Will anyone be brought to account?   Could it happen here?  Could I be part of it?  

 ‘If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.’ (1 John 1 verses 6 and 7).

The Word on the Week

Risen and Reigning

Risen and Reigning                   Word on the Week          30th March 2024.

Of all the expressions of Easter my least favourite would be the cartoon which adorned the front page of one of our national newspapers.    It portrayed the common man surveying a litany of disasters appearing in a news sheet and exclaiming loudly ‘Jesus Christ’.

Recognising he was blaspheming the Lord’s name the cartoonist sought to head off possible criticism by having the little bird pose the question, “Is that blasphemy?”  The worm responds by professing ignorance and claiming that the disasters listed are blasphemy.

I am sure there is a word for the recognition that what you are doing is wrong but after naively querying it, go ahead and do it anyway.   ‘Disingenuous’ comes close but in taking the Lord’s name in vain you descend to the language of the gutter.   Usually his cartoons are brilliant but even cartoonists require editorial scrutiny.   

Ironically the horrific items listed in the new sheet are similar but on a smaller scale to those listed by Jesus in the Gospels as signs of the end of the age (Matthew 24 Mark 13 Luke 21).   

The scene in Jerusalem that first Easter was set by the arrival of some Greek worshippers who were looking for Jesus.   This was a sign that the Gospel was breaking out from its Judean roots and reaching the Gentiles.   Jesus now proclaimed that the hour had come for him to be glorified by giving his life for sinners (John 12 verses 20 to 27).

The Lord’s illustration of the seed requiring to die before it could bring forth many seeds was to be applied to himself on the cross producing the seed of the Gospel.   In his death he was substituting his perfect life for the sinner making him the long awaited Saviour: –

I delivered to you, wrote the Apostle Paul, as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (I Corinthians 15 verses 3 to 4).

And on a more personal note the hymn writer Philip Bliss wrote of Jesus: –

Bearing shame and scoffing rude

In my place condemned He stood

Sealed my pardon with his blood

Hallelujah! What a Saviour.

May the real Jesus Christ be Risen and Reigning in your hearts this Easter and always.

The Word on the Week

To Be or Not to Be

To Be or Not to Be              Word on the Week                 23rd March 2024.

On 20 March 2024, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Assisted Dying recommended the introduction of legalisation regulating assisted suicide and euthanasia in its majority report.   The spirit of our age, so fond of death, commended we follow Holland, Belgium and Canada on the downward path.

Once introduced, it expands like a business opportunity, removing limitations such as age or competency in its way.   Assisted suicide as a concept elevates ordinary suicide to the position of a worthwhile goal, fostering despair and banishing hope.

The very notion of euthanasia plays into the near universal feeling of the elderly that they become a burden to others.   It is a pernicious thing which feeds on the evil idea that if you were removed others would be happier.   It also diverts attention from the excellent palliative care provided by the hospice movement and others.

Co-incidentally I visited the St Bridgit’s Hospice in the Curragh on Thursday.  I was able to spend an hour with my friend who recently went there.   The experience was entirely positive.   The love and care shown by the staff as they went about their duties made the occasion a very pleasant experience for us both.

Jesus famously waited till his friend was dead before demonstrating indelibly that He was the resurrection and the life beyond the grave.   Lazarus had an experience of life on both sides of the grave proving the reality of Jesus’ power over death.  

He challenged Martha with the words; “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.   Do you believe this?” (John 11 verses 25/26).

Do you believe this?   Then tell someone.   Do not keep it to yourself!

Isaac Watt the hymn writer certainly believed it when he wrote “I’ll Praise my maker while I’ve breath” the last verse of which is; –

I’ll praise Him while He lends me breath; 

And when my voice is lost in death,

Praise shall employ my nobler powers: 

My days of praise shall ne’er be past, 

While life, and thought, and being last, 

Or immortality endures.              

The Word on the Week

St Patrick

St Patrick                         Word on the Week                     16th March 2024.

It’s tomorrow that St Patrick kisses the stone!   His kiss transforms the land from its winter hibernation to the green fertility that makes Ireland the Emerald Isle.   After this Winter’s deluges of rain, he may need to blow his warm breath over it to dry up the saturation caused, they say, by global warming.

Tradition has it that 17th March is the date to bury your seed potatoes in the ground so the warm darkness can work its magic.    Only those with access to the inside of a poly tunnel would dare to tackle planting in March this year!

But it’s not only for the potatoes that we would wish St Patrick had died during a warmer month.   Thousands of flimsy dressed marchers in the multitude of Patricks Day Parades would dream of Summer sunshine as they fight off hypothermia in the East wind.

It appears, like many of the participants who come from the US, the parades themselves are an import from the cities of the East coast of America.   We are told they originated in Boston and New York, brought there by Northern Irish immigrants in the 18th Century.   The marching, normally associated with army drills, has found its ‘raison d’etre’ on the streets of 5th Avenue!   The NYPD are out in force with bands, singers and dancers making our Parade in O’Connell Street seem like a scaled down version with many crossing the Atlantic to join in it!  

Every Parade has to have a Grand Marshal.   This year we have the new presenter of the Late Late Show, Patrick Kielty.   He assumes the responsibility of upholding the traditions and values that define our Parade.  It appears that both have been eroded in favour of a Maida Gras type of event popular in Latin America.

We know three things about St Patrick.   His written Confession, his Hymn to Jesus (Breastplate) and his letter to Coroticus, the latter’s soldiers having murdered some of Patrick’s newly baptised converts on the beach.  Apparently the soldiers came from Scotland and were seeking to capture slaves when they attacked the baptism, killed and carried off a number of the converts by boat.

In his letter Patrick quoted John’s Gospel, “Whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (verse 18).  

He concludes his letter by recommending it be read in front of ‘the whole body of the people’, concealed from no one and in the presence of Coroticus himself.   He states his desire that the murderers may repent and they may set free the baptised women, that they themselves may live before God and be made well, both here and in eternity.

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From the River to the Sea

From the River to the Sea         Word on the Week          9th March 2024.

It’s the slogan, chanted by Palestine/Hamas supporters, seeking the total destruction of Israel who inhabit the land from the river Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea.   It is matched by the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s intent to annihilate Hamas!   The conquest of Gaza ensued.

There can be few of us who have read the Bible and not cringed at the conquest of Canaan.   Especially because it was ordained by our God one of whose qualities is peace (Deuteronomy 1 verse 8).  God was preparing a place on earth for his chosen people because he loved them (Psalm 44 v’s 2/3).

It was to Abraham that God promised global mission (Genesis 12 verse 4).   This was to come through his descendants.   There was to be an interlude in Egypt and afterwards when the sin of the Amorites reached judgement time, they along with the other Canaanite tribes, who embraced evil practices, would be judged (Genesis 15 verse 16).   Hence the conquest of Canaan terminating in Joshua’s day (Joshua 24 verses 25/6)’

There would be many battles fought culminating with God’s people, through their disobedience, being removed from their land (2 Kings 25 verse 22b).   After the exile the people of God seldom had full possession of their land and it is only in 1948 that the State of Israel was formed.

And so the battles continue between the offspring of the Son of Abraham by faith – Isaac, Jews and the offspring of the Son of Abraham after the flesh – Ishmael, Arabs (Genesis 21 verses 8 to 10).    The battles have been fought over the Land, both claiming it as sacred!

The Apostle Paul, himself a Jew, longed for the day when his brethren would realise that the expected Messiah has come (Romans 9 verses 1 to 5).   Paul’s heart’s desire and prayer to God for his people, the Israelites, is that they may be saved (Romans 10 verse 1).

At present their minds are hardened.   It is as if a veil is over their face.  It remains to this day and will only be lifted when they turn to Christ (2 Corinthians 3 verses 12 to 17). 

And what of us who believe?

 ‘We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.’ – Verse 18.  

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Counterfeit Relief

Counterfeit Relief            Word on the Week                     2nd March 2024.

Life in this life can be hard.   It can offend our desire for fairness.  Things happen that should never have been allowed.   The apparent randomness of illness and accidents.    Then, in some cases, the premature-ness of death.

To combat these thoughts many turn to the drug culture which has come into being in my lifetime.   In my youth you may have heard of a chemist taking drugs.   (Only doctors and chemists had access to drugs.)   The contrast with today could not be more stark!

Popular today are Cocaine, Ecstasy, Cannabis and Heroin.   We read of shiploads of new drugs of increased potency and reduced price being apprehended by the authorities.   Users try to mix drugs to achieve a longer lasting effect at the same time minimising the negative effects.

It’s a murky business.   When we sought permission at Grace Church to build on our old site in Pease Street the Drug Rehabilitation Centre next door required us to block all windows looking towards their premises.    Apparently drugs are no respecter of persons and the wealthier clients would not wish to be seen attending the Centre!

The craving for more drugs ensures continuity of employment for ‘pushers’.   They act as a conduit for the flow of drugs in their area.   The drug users pay dearly and the debt incurred by them ensures loyalty of custom! 

The other common form of escape is through alcohol.   It is having a hard time competing with coffee!   Pubs are closing down as traffic laws enforcing sobriety for the driver are imposed.  

One friend who suffered from alcoholism had long periods off the drink but it eventually ended his life.   He lived in the flats beside the church.   He didn’t leave much behind but this poem is something of himself he expressed: –  

May, June, July and August gone again but not memorable;

Save that I saw them go past the empty quays the rivers flow.

Look at the old house, outmoded, dignified, dark and untended;

With grass growing instead of the footsteps of life, the friendliness, the strife

In its beds have lain youth, love, age and pain.

I am something like that – lonely?

But not on my own.

Tony Curtis.

No one should underestimate the pulling power of an addiction.   At the same time, it should not be overestimated.   Tony knew he was not alone.  He had Jesus.   “I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day (2 Timothy 1 verse 12).

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To God be the Glory

To God be the Glory            Word on the Week                24th February 2024.

Seeing God’s hand on a work is not always apparent until time filters out the incidental from the important.   So it has been with Jon and Sandra Blackwell’s search for God’s mission field for them.   The initial decisions came slowly.  First the Bible Translation work with Wycliffe and second the field; Cameroon.

That was 20 years ago!   Today there is a New Testament in a new language.   The latter being written down for the first time.   This has opened the door for reading materials and adult literacy work to teach the people to read their own language.   The latter is being developed by a local translator, Pastor Edward.

Taking advantage of modern technology, LCD projectors show scripture films dubbed in the newly available language permitting 40,000 people access to The Word of God in their mother tongue.   The spread of smartphones, powered by solar energy, presents the option of a digital New Testament rather than in book form.

Among the many people from Grace Church in Dublin who visited the Blackwell’s was Mick Toolan.   He was struck by dirty water in everyday use. He discovered that the pumps which operated the few existing wells often mal-functioned.   From the realisation that something could be done the charity Water for Cameroon was formed.

This has succeeded by having local ownership of new wells and by using simple pumps which could be maintained locally.   Mick was able to employ reliable work people and gain acceptance from the local community leaders.

The work spilled out to the making of water filters which are made locally and installed in schools, hospitals and homes.   They run on sand and gravity.  The water being poured into the top and its cleansing is complete by the time the water reaches the tap at its base.  

Allied to these filters is improved hygiene in schools with simple plastic devices for hand washing.    Various other efforts have been made in land irrigation and more recently the building of a small school to reach a remote people.

There is also Cameroon Medical where limited financial aid is dispensed to assist in helping to meet the bills as there is no health service available.

Water for Cameroon is ongoing and Mick, having come back from retirement is now looking for a successor, possibly from Grace church.   In this, as with all the projects, we seek the Lord’s guidance.  

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me (Matthew 25 verse 40).  

The Word on the Week

Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny                      Word on the Week               17th February 2024.

Alexei Navalny died this week.   He is the most recent and perhaps the best known of Putin’s political enemies.   He loved Russia and held to a vision of a future time when his beloved Russia would be free.   

The 47-year-old blogger had survived poisoning attempts and years in some of Russia’s most notorious jails.  His group had exposed corruption at almost every level of the Russian state – frequently targeting President Putin himself.  

From prison, by various means, Alexei was able to access the internet where he maintained his criticism of Putin.   His last postings earlier this week showed that even interment in Kharp Penal Colony in the Arctic circle could not break his spirit.   He leaves behind a loyal wife and family. Also his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK).  No doubt it will continue to expose Putin.

Apparently Alexei had become a thorn in the flesh to Putin.   His courage was amazing.   His following were difficult to control.   There was also the fact of his surviving an attempt to kill him with the deadly Novichok poison.   This had only increased his status both at home and abroad.

It was in 2020 on an internal Russian flight that the poison was applied.  He took ill immediately and the plane landed in Omsk. That emergency landing saved his life. A German-based charity persuaded Russian officials to allow him to be airlifted to Berlin for treatment.

Sometime later the German government revealed that tests carried out by the military found Alexei had been contaminated with “a chemical nerve warfare agent of the Novichok group”. The Kremlin denied any involvement and rejected the Novichok findings.  

This denial came despite the fact that Putin had twice used the substance to kill people in the UK.  These were the days when he wished to prove to his enemies that he could reach them wherever they took refuge.

Lord Acton first coined the phrase in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.   Proof of its accuracy is being played out before our eyes.   What are we to make Vladimir Putin?   A person who appears to have many options when it comes to killing critics!

Scripture records a time when his enemies were trying to kill Jesus.   His accusers claimed Abraham for their parentage and cast doubt on Jesus’ legitimacy.  Then Jesus made the case for their father to be the devil.   In trying to kill him they were doing the devil’s work.   The devil had been a murderer from the beginning (the devil incited Cain to murder Abel: Genesis 4) and there is no truth in him (John 8 verses 39 to 44).    Murderers and liars are doing the devil’s work.

The Apostle John returns to this theme in his letter.   This time he claims that sinning is of the devil.   But adds the good news that the reason the Son of God came was to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3 verse 8).

Look to Jesus and believe, even Putin, or you and me and have eternal life ((John 6:40).