Wednesday, December 19, 2007

O little town of Bethlehem






















O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

More fear than hope nowadays.

The Christmas readings and carols seem very different to me this year after my summer trip. I spent two weeks in Bethlehem (Palestine) just a 5 minute walk from the place they believe that Jesus was born.

Gone is my vision of a tranquil little village encircled by angels with fluffy sheep in fields around it. Now when I read of Bethlehem I think of a place where I have seen more pain, injustice, oppression and lack of freedom and hope than anywhere else I have been.

It's people are poor and carry the bitterness of a lifetime of imprisonment, hopelessness and the death of loved ones. The refugee camps are overcrowded and lack the basic human provisions of food, water, electricity. In the distance they can see beautiful settlements protected by high walls, where the mansions of their occupiers are built on the ruins of their simple homes.

I find it very difficult even now to write of these things. People have told me that I was just trying to be controversial when I wrote about my experiences in Israel and Palestine previously. I have examined myself and what I wrote and feel that I was trying to write honestly about my experience. But I have trouble:

1. Trying to relate my amazing experience in beautiful Israel (and the stories I heard there) with what I saw with my own eyes in Palestine.

2. Trying to write honestly about the situation when I know that the majority of people reading have been brought up to support the nation of Israel (as I was). Therefore what I write will seem controversial.

3. Trying to reconcile my love for Israel and the Jews (both biblical and modern-day) with the brutal occupation that their government and their IDF are currently enforcing in Palestine. Just check out the world section on the BBC site for almost daily stories of death and destruction.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Check out a brilliant article in National Geographic here which mirrors my own experiences in Bethlehem. It is also an excellent historical account of Bethlehem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"It's easy to think of Bethlehem as the center of the world," says Mayor Batarseh. "This can't be a place where calm never exists. If the world is ever going to have peace, it has to start right here."


Also check out the Bethlehem Christmas Project which is a team of Americans, Israelis and Palestinians who are delivering gifts to children in Bethlehem.

Pray for the Christians living in Palestine. Imprisoned behind a huge wall and forgotten by the evangelical community around the world. Living where the Hope of the world was born and yet living without hope.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Love, life and loss

2007 will always be remembered by me as a year of loss. Also as a year when I saw love like I have never seen love before, pure and complete. The love of a husband for his wife and a family for their daughter and sister.

Lindsay was a friend and a gentle inspiration to me. In cell on Friday we had a beautiful night praying together and discussing the year past and the year ahead. But the over-riding emotion was the feeling that Lins should have been there. Over the confusion and questions I just miss her.

Please join us this Friday night. Check Al's blog for details.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Don't miss TRUE tomorrow night! Details here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Abstinence hurts??


Sometimes I feel like a liberal but I guess my upbringing in religious N.I. has resulted in me being quite conservative in reality.

Therefore I found the article I was reading today uncomfortable. I used to volunteer with Christian Aid. As it is World Aids Day this Saturday I wanted to read up on the current issues. I found an article on the C.A. website quite shocking.

They are basically saying that Christians should not teach abstinence as it is causing people to catch HIV. They claim that (according to their partners) the teaching of abstinence is fueling the AIDS pandemic.

Here are some quotes that Christian Aid have included in their article:

In the US, the much-publicised True Love Waits programme, under which teenagers vow to keep their virginity until marriage, has left young people vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted infections.

'Abstaining is not realistic. The church says to abstain, but it is a lie. It is better to tell the truth and use a condom.’

'I stand on the side of comprehensive programmes. Abstinence alone does not work; we have to face reality. Abstinence preaching is unrealistic, and it is not Christian.

‘Those who preach abstinence are running away from responsibility, not facing life.’

I am passionate about the world finding a way to end the spread of HIV/AIDS. I understand where they're coming from but find it really hard to accept. Firstly in the light of scripture and secondly in my own experience of 27 years, in which I have found that abstinence is difficult but definitely possible.

You can find article here.

I would love to be better informed by those with more knowledge. Any thoughts?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sheep and Goats

(from asbo Jesus)

This week Tearfund are trying to mobilise local churches into a global week of prayer for poverty.

There are 2.2 million children in the world today. One million of these (EVERY SECOND CHILD!) are living in poverty.

The statistics are head wrecking and unfortunately often mind-numbing. However in the gospel I read we aren't left with much of an option but to do something. To pray and then be ready to be the answer to our prayers.

I've been really challenged by Matthew 23 where we are basically told how God will decide who spends eternity with him. I don't need to blog about it because my brother has just done it beautifully. Check out davymull. Brilliant!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Saints and Sinners

Some of my favourite worship songs are-
- Amazing Grace
- Be Thou my Vision
- Gloria- U2
- Our God Reigns- Delirious
- Indescribable- Chris Tomlin
- 40- U2
- Anything by REEDSTAR!


I went to see Shane Claibourne speak last week. He was talking about how the world needs to see Christians as being broken, screwed-up sinners just like them. Not the pious, holier-than-thou image that is often portrayed.

I saw a song on TV today that reflected this. Unfortunately it wasn't on a Christian channel. Rather it was MTV2 and a flippin teeny-bopper goth band. A song called 'The River' by Good Charlotte.

Good Charlotte for goodness sake and yet the lyrics seem to reflect the gospel message more than many of the white-washed vacuous 'artists' that you would find in a CCM magazine. Here's the chorus, watch the video below:

They say that evil comes disguised
Like a city of angels
I'm walking towards the light

Baptized in the river
I've seen a vision of my life
And I wanna be delivered
In the city was a sinner
I've done a lot of things wrong
But I swear I'm a believer
Like the prodigal son
I was out on my own
Now I'm trying to find my way back home
Baptized in the river
I'm delivered
I'm delivered

I confess I'm a sinner
I've seen a vision of my life
And I wanna be delivered

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Na na na na na na HEY!!


I feel like a rant.....

Everyone who knows me knows I'm not the greatest fan of contemporary 'worship' music. I've been feeling particularly aggrieved recently. When you go through a hard time music can be crutch, expressing part of your soul that words can't. But it's hard to find Christian music that does this.

I find it so frustrating that when we worship the great Creator that we often sing such dreary, trite, repetitive music. Around the world we have created Christian singer superstars (check CCM magazine). Our own celebrity sub-culture to match the world's. Except ours is crap.

Big-selling albums with one decent tune and a load of fillers. The same chords and lyrics in a different order. Surely God deserves better. I seem to find the fingerprints of God far more in music that is supposed to be secular.

Its especially difficult to find any Christian songs that speak in an articulate way about a world that is seriously screwed up. If we want a song about mission we have that 'God of Justice' tune and that's about it. Or else the Delirious song 'Our God Reigns' in which we leave out the verse because it's not 'congregational'.


Anyway here's my 5 favourite and 5 least favourite worship songs:

Least favourite:
1. Come now is the time to worship
2. More love, more power (How can we ask for more....He died for us!)
3. I Love , I Loooooooooooove, I love your presence................................
4. Over the mountains and the sea (How can a river run over a sea? Also, I don't really 'feel like dancing' at 30 bpm)
5. I'll let my words be few (Becomes ironic after repeating it 12 times)
(Bonus number 6- The one that goes 'Na na na na na na Hey!')


All this cynicism has worn me out.....I'll do my top 5 next time!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

TRUE




I'm really excited about the missional community that we have kicked off in church (Big Al's vision). I believe that through TRUE we will inspire and invision eachother to live out kingdom values on the earth. It feels like this is how church should be. It feels like this is what life should be.

Stevie Mc was dying with the flu but played a blinder. Check out his words on the TRUE blog!

The video above is something I put together for the worship. Acknowledging our numbness, voicing frustration and worshipping a God who reigns.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Grace




I've felt so aware recently of the power of God's redemption and love. The need for and reality of grace.


Grace, she carries the world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stains
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace finds goodness in everything

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Summer's End



So the kids are back tomorrow. I never want to be one of those teachers who complains about starting back to work after 2 months holiday. I'm grateful for the opportunities that I have been afforded from the holidays that my job offers.

This summer has been a great adventure finished off with two weekends away with two different groups of brilliant friends, Doing Best Man for Gav last weekend in Scotland and Wiggy's stag this weekend.

I was chatting with some mates recently about what we would like our epitaphs to be. I said mine would be 'Lived Life to the Full'. I know this is cliched but here are some of the things that this means to me:

1. To daily work out my salvation for myself and follow the teachings of Jesus.
2. To care (really care) about the world and it's people, especially the poor and those struggling with injustice.
3. To the best of my ability, share in the pain of friends who are hurting.
4. To be passionate about the simple things that interest me (music, Liverpool FC, U2, The Last of the Mohicans etc).
5. To have a healthy body and mind.
6. To go the extra mile in my job even when not noticed.
7. To be the last person to go to bed at a party or night out.

I fail often in these but it's good to clarify and focus your mind at this time of year.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

All of us are stained.



Since travelling to a place of war and little hope it has been a big encouragement to reflect on how far my own little country of Northern Ireland has come in recent years. We have seen things happen that we never thought we would see. I was chatting to some of the guys about an experience I had when I was 16. We were walking home from doing a GCSE when we saw 2 IRA men shoot two policemen in the head from about 3 feet. I wrote this poem quite a few years back about the experience. Lurgan and N.I. has become a better place since I wrote it.



This is the land of black and white,
Whose God is a province and might is right.
Where babies get born in orange and green.
Red hair, left foot.
Yeah you know what I mean.
This story's found in Lurgan Town,
Where all of us are stained.

Enniskillen, Omagh, Shankill, Roselawn.
All of these days had a dawn.
On this day's dawn we lay uncovered,
Quiet and undiscovered.
But it came around in Lurgan Town,
All all of us were stained.

Sixteen years old and the futures bright,
Another milestone the world to light.
When to the left a thunder call,
Red cloud, staccato fall.
In Lurgan Town the two fell down.
And all of us are stained.

Growing up in a bubble shelter
I reached the bottom of the Helter Skelter.
Saw my innocence erode,
As I watched his head explode.
Lurgan Town will wear a frown,
And all of us are stained.

This is the land of black and white
Whose God is a province and might is right.
Over oceans and seas in many guises,
Cowboys and Indians and no surprises.
The world is found in Lurgan Town,
And all of us are stained.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

COEXIST


(more pics on flickr)

So the adventure has come to an end. i've been wanting to write some concluding thoughts and then give the blogging a rest for a while.

But how do you come to any conclusion? For a part of the world that has never seen peace. The birthplace of our Messiah has been a land of oppression and bloodshed. A meeting place, a melting pot, the centre for the clash of culture, politics and religion.

Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Islam, Britain, Jordan, Israel, Hamas.......occupation and war.

I feel God brought me there and now I'm trying to work out why. It was perfect because I wanted to see both sides and the Israel team just happened to finish the day that a group were going out to Palestine. There are not many teams that do the practical stuff and meet people like we were able to in Israel. There are literally no other groups of foreigners who are able to go to the places and meet the people that we met in Palestine (thanks to Elias).

And so I feel privileged to have been immeresed briefly in both sides and I'm seeking guidance on how to follow-up and develop in my life. I don't want the experience to drift gradually into photoalbums and memories.

I visited places of extreme beauty and extreme pain. On both sides I met hurting, inspiring, hopeful and hopeless people. I lived with human beings without freedom. I experienced the best and the worst of religion.

For now I'll leave the theology of Zionism to the hundreds of book writers who have never set foot in half of the land. The facts are that right now Israel exists as do the Occupied Palestinian Territorys...
.....and when their people are considered simply as human beings, they are not equal.

It's so complicated and there are few answers but there is one thing I'm sure about...... It could never be God's will for one people group to prosper as a direct result of the oppresion and suffering of another.

If only Jews, Muslims and Christians could see their purpose in life like Jesus saw his....

'The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.'





SHALOM SALEM PEACE

Monday, July 30, 2007

Do I look suspicious?

Please remind me never to fly with El Al again. After being up all night I arrived at the airport at 6 this morning and was subjected to the most ridiculous security check imaginable. I had to lie through my teeth about staying in Palestine or they wouldn't have let me on board. They emptied and searched both my bags five times. They interrogated me on anything resembling Arabic writing. They looked through all my photos and asked me a hundred times was I interested in Palestine. They put me in a little room for half an hour then performed a body search that left me violated. They almost had me convinced that I was a terrorist.

Security- 'Do you understand why we have to check you?'
Me- 'Eh the same reason as the last four times'
Security- 'Are you interested in Palestine?'
Me (into myself)- 'I'm interested in smashing your face into the desk so your nose is spread right round to your ears, then I'll pebble dash the back of your throat with your teeth.

To make matters worse the flight was so late I missed my connection so I'm now stuck in London, tired and emotional, with nothing better to do than have a good moan on my blog.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Only Way


(more pics here)


Marhaba Salam Shoukran

This will probably be my last blog before I leave. This week has mainly involved practical work including gardening, painting and building walls (for sitting on!) in Bethlehem and in a refugee camp. We have visited a home for people with special needs and an orphanage

We have also met some of the most inspirational Christians I have ever come into contact with. Here are two-

Jamile
This is the guy who brought us to different places to work. He was brought up as a Muslim but converted to Christianity. As a result he was disowned by his family and his wife. He is now back with his wife and praying for her. His brothers have tried to kill him. He devotes his life to serving.

He works in the house with people with special needs. He devotes all his spare time into going into Muslim homes and serving them, painting and doing manual labour. Even at weekends and days off he is serving. Through this witness and relationships he hopes to bring these people to Christ.

Philip Rizk
Philip came to speak to us on his way home from Gaza. He has been living there for two years and has a heart-breaking story of the suffering of the people there. I thought the West Bank was bad but this truly seems a place of misery.

The situation there has been on the news a lot. Basically they had elections that were the most democratic the Middle East have ever seen. Hamas won them as people wanted an alternative to the corruption and lack of results from Fatah. Because Hamas are fundamentalist Islam who want to wipe Israel off the map the results were not recognised by the international community.

Hamas have now seized control of Gaza by force and as a result the world has cut off all relations with the people there. Israel does not allow trade in or out of Gaza. The people are imprisoned. 1.2 out of the 1.5 million people living in Gaza are receiving food aid. 75% of the bread winners have no job.

The western perception is that Gaza is under Palestinain control since Israel removed all the Jewish settlements from the area. This is not true. Israel controls the air, the sea and the borders of Gaza. They are not allowed an airport, fishing is rationed, and the people are not allowed to move. All of the borders around Gaza are closed. It is a prison to 1.5 million people. Philip also described it as a zoo. People are fed and watered by aid agencies, they are kept alive but not allowed to leave. Foriegners come in, take pictures of those who are suffering and then leave. There is not a single western journalist living in Gaza.

Philip's best friend in Gaza recently lost 17 of his family when the Israeli army shelled his house. They called it a technical error. People don't get a trial or imprisonment there. They get shelled.
The place is at complete deadlock and all anyone wants to do there is to get out. With the division between Hamas and Fatah and the oppression from Israel this is a place without hope.

Philip is an amazing Christian. He admits there is no hope for the area except for the church. For Christ-like people to achieve a central role. To be salt and light.

This place is a timebomb and when it explodes it will affect the world. I have been thinking loads about the situation here and in the world. It has become Fundamentalist Islam v Western Society (standing for Israel and America). I think as Christians we have to take a third way. A road less travelled. The kingdom way. Following the teachings of Jesus to love our enemies, speak out against oppression and stand against injustice.

I am now more educated than ever about other religions. All my life I've struggled with that whole question- how do we know that we're right and they're wrong? I'm now convinced that hope for our world cannot be found through Islam, Judaism or patriotism. I've never been more sure that Jesus is the truth and the only way.




(Elias' grafitti)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tent of Nations

(more pics if you click here)



Spent the past few days roughing it at the Tent of Nations. Here I saw a ray of light and inspiration surrounded by despair and hopelessness.

The Tent of Nations sounds grand but it's basically a few tents and some farm land on 100 acres of free land. The man who runs it is a Palestinian Christian who is an inspiration in these parts because he is standing up to the Israeli state who want to take his land and fighting them in Israeli courts. He has created a place of reconciliation that all people can come and meet together.

Settlements
As you may be aware Israel is building many settlements in the Occupied Palestinian territorys. These are built on Palestinian land as most Palestinians do not have papers to prove that they have lived and worked on the land for generations. In 1967 the Israelis passed a law to prevent Palestinians from registering the land. The settlements are beautiful and highly fortified. The people there live like kings and queens while the Palestinian villagers who once owned the land struggle without enough food, water or electricity.

Tent of Nations
Dawod's grandfather began cultivating this land in 1916. The land was registered and there are papers showing ownership through the Ottoman/British/Jordanian and now Israeli occupations. It is basically a hill surrounded by Israeli settlements. Despite having the papers the Israelis having been trying to take the land since 1991. Everywhere else they just take it but Dawod has been fighting against all odd in the courts to keep it. It's an unbelievable story of intimidation from settlers and soldiers, being forced to spend thousands of dollars in court, and constant postponements. Settlers come with guns and destroy water tanks, uproot hundreds of trees and block the only road to the hill. The police do nothing.

He is not allowed to build anything on his own land. Not even a well for water or a chicken shed. He is not allowed electricity or a water supply.

Despite taking it to the Israeli High Court it still hasn't been resolved. Pray for this place. It's a rare spot of hope. Dawod brings angry teenagers from the city and teaches them peace and hope and tries to help them work towards building a better, non-violent country. He is trying to teach them to create something from nothing....redemption. So they don't sit around and cry and become victims. We stayed with a crowd of teenagers from Bethlehem and had an amazing time. They are just like the lads from Lurgan except they are caged.They crave our freedom.

The Village
Dawod is also the hope for the village below the hill. The village that used to own all the land where these huge Israeli settlements are now built. They now live on 20% of the land they once owned and are not allowed to expand. The village is 100% Muslim.... so we have a Christian family fighting for the rights of the Muslim neighbours.

We walked into the village last night. Despite being Christian foreigners we were welcomed with open arms. We had a crowd of 50 odd kids following us about. The situation is critical. We met a doctor who volunteers in the only clinic there. He talked about the intimidation from the settlers. They come down and shoot people. They dump their rubbish and sewage into the village. The people here are short of everything. Water and electricity is scarce. The clinic does not even have bandages to treat wounds.




To compound all of this in 2 months time the wall is going to be built around the village. There will only be one exit and the people will be under curfew. They are not allowed to build a hospital and the nearest one is in Bethlehem. This is only 10 minutes away but because of all the checkpoints (in Palestinian land) and the wall it will take hours to get there. The doctors fear that many will die. Basically they just want the people to give up and leave.

The doctor admitted the situation is hopeless for them. I have seen hope in him, in Dawod, in Elias. These amazing Christian guys who reject the easy option of violence and decide to forgive and work towards a better future. However, they have all said the same thing to me that has been repeated by many people that I have met.....that dogs in Israel are worth more than people in Palestine.

From what I've seen I couldn't disagree and it keeps me awake at night.

Anyway, we cheered ourselves up by writing some grafitti on the wall!


Sunday, July 22, 2007

'Welcome my friend'

Marhaba Habibi

I'm feeling much better and thinking with more clarity the past couple of days. I'm having fun so Mum you can stop worrying! Got lots of pics but computers are crap so I can't post them.

For the first few days in Palestine I couldn't handle what I was seeing. After loving Israel so much I wanted to remain in that place. To reminisce in all I had done and believe everything I had heard. I just wanted to go home and not have to turn my face towards the situation here. I was resisting it because by mind couldn't handle it. But no longer.

I've thought a lot about the theology of Zionism but that's for another time. The fact is that even if it was God's plan for Israel to be formed in 1948, the way it has been implemented is simply wrong. If my love for Israel remains after this trip it will be as a father who is watching his son do wrong and is angry. I can't brush Palestine under the carpet like many seem to have done.... so I've turned my face and am embracing the situation here, soaking up as much as I can. I've always hated injustice and the denial of human rights. Never before have I seen it so blatant yet accepted and sanctioned by religion.

I love being with the people here. I've travelled a lot but never met such friendly and welcoming people as these Bethlehem folk. Everywhere you go you hear 'hello', 'marhaba', 'where you from', 'welcome', 'you are welcome'. You walk down the street and everyone wants to chat. We go on a 5 minute bus journey and get invited to people's villages and houses for food or Arabic coffee. It's a pity we're too busy to accept all these offers.

Sitting smoking water pipe and listening to people's stories is both entertaining and heart-wrenching. They have developed an amazing resilience and community spirit very similar to what I have seen in Africa. However, in their eyes and words they carry deep hurt. Hurt from the past and a fear that the future is worse. They crave freedom. They miss friends, family, lovers who lie on the other side of this oppresive, impregnable wall.

Despite this I have seen hope. Not in politics or religion for surely there is no hope here. But in people. I have seen Jesus in Christians and Muslims (!). This morning we went to Emmanuel Church in Bethlehem! It was an amazing time of worship. I couldn't understand a word but the music was at the same time haunting, heart-wrenching and uplifting. Elias said the words were a cry to God for help and freedom in a time of drowning and no hope. I'll get him to translate one for me.

Anyways, sorry for these long posts. I've so much more to say but everyone has probably stopped reading by now. I was thinking of this verse this morning. Jesus was born 3 minutes from where I'm currently sitting. I wonder if he weeps for the children who are born here now.

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Occupation



I still feel like a cloud of something like depression has been following me around here. It is ridiculous and hard to explain when I consider my position in comparison to the Palestinian people and some of my friends and home who are really hurting. Nevertheless it's hard to shake.





I knew the things I would see and hear here would be different but they are opposite extremes. From falling in love with Jerusalem and Israel to seeing what they are doing here. From being told to be a Christian is to be a Zionist to being told you can't be a Christian and a Zionist. I came here with a viewpoint and after much thought and processing it changed completely. Now it's changing again and it's too much to take in.


So much to say and so little time but here goes.....


Palestine

Passing the checkpoint from Israel to Palestine is moving from a Western country to a third world country. You can read the history on Wilkipedia or something and work out the theology and politics for yourself. I'll talk about what I see.

Israel has only existed since 1948 when the UN decided to set up a Jewish state. It was formerly Palestine and those who lived in villages there were forced out and their houses destroyed. Now 6 million refugees live in refugee camps in Gaza, West Bank and othe Arab nations.


The occupation has been brutal beyond words. We have heard stories that aren't propoganda or rumours but real life people who are suffering.


The Wall

This will become the centrepiece of my trip. The israelis say it is for security and point to the fact that attacks have become less since it was erected. Palestinians point to the fact that it is not built on the UN green lines that divide Israel and the West Bank but rather miles outside, stealing land and freedom from the people here. Bethlehem is basically like a large cage that Palestinians cannot travel beyond.


Elias

Elias is an amazing Palestinian Christian who is rapidly becoming a good friend. The wall was built right beside his house removing the land his family owned. He watched during the last intifada as kids threw stones and soldiers and the soldiers shot back and killed them. I'm not taking sides here but it really pissed me off yesterday as we all went to Jerusalem and he couldn't come. Palestinians are not allowed into Israel without special permission. It is only 15 minutes from his house. A crowd of random foreigners can roam this land freely but the Elias, a Christian who traces his ancestors for 500 years in this country cannot move past the wall 100 yards from his house.


Refugee Camps

We visited Camp Lajee on the first day, home to 4500 people. These people were forced to leave their villages and come here. When they came they had some land around but now the wall is built there is zero space for them to move or for kids to play. This is to create space for Jewish settlements in the area (more about these later). If the wall is just for security why not build it aroung the settlement rather and let the people in the camp keep their land?


Today we were at Dheisheh refugee camp. 11,000 people live here in an area of 500 m square. The main problems are water and electricity which are controlled by the Israeli state. In the winter they run out of electricity and are cold. In the summer they don't have enough water to supply basic needs. The people are hungry and impoverished. They go to school and university but there are no jobs because the economy here is so bad and they have no land. Unemployment in Palestine is 75 per cent.

Even in our accomadation we have to be carefull water becuase when the tank runs out it only gets filled when the Israeli state decide to fill it. This means rationing of toileting and showering for us....beautiful! It's ok for 2 weeks, this is life for those in Bethlehem.

Christians

I was told that Christians here were being persecuted but this is simply untrue. We went to Bethlehem Bible College and met the man who trains pastors in the West Bank. It is opposite a 100% muslim refugee camp and they have no problem. Elias' mother runs a Christian bookshop beside the Fatah/PLO office and there is no issue. The people live in harmony so far.

There are 600 Christian organisations or 'missions' working in Israel. That's great but in the West Bank there are only 4 including YWAM seeking to share God's love with the poor and downtrodden here. 20% of Bethlehem are Christian, mainly Greek orthodox or Catholic. There less than 1000 'evangelicals'. It is so difficult for them.



People

The people here are amazingly warm and welcoming considering what they have been through. An example is in 2002 during the Second Intifada. There was a 40 day curfew imposed on Elias and all of Bethlehem. The people had no food and water. If they came out they got shot. I spoke to one guy whose brother stepped out to play and got shot in the head and killed. Another who opened the window and got shot.


I spoke to another guy whose father was 70 year old and decided to go get some food thinking the soldiers wouldn't touch him. He got 73 bullets in his back. Can you understand why these people may be angry?

We met a guy who is not a terrorist though I'm pretty sure has fought against the Israeli army. It was uncomfortable to hear his story. I'd been told in Israel that all Palestinians wanted the Jews out and Palestine restored. This guy said all they want is one state where Muslims, Jews and Christians can live together freely and equally. He said that no-one wants to be a fighter. No-one chooses to die or to kill. But they are living in inhumane conditions. He looked at us and said he wanted to be like us- to travel, to have his own house, to have a job, to have a girlfirend. I'll never condone violence but I shed a tear as he spoke.


I have so much more to say about what I have learned on both sides. I have been given a unique opportunity to see both and feel the pain on both sides. I have to go now but hopefully will get a chance to write more. In Israel they told me I have to stand for Israel and go home and tell the people and my church about their plight. Here they tell me there's no point in being here unless I can tell people at home about the situation in Palestine. So what do I bring home? There's no middle ground and seemingly no hope.


I hope it becomes clearer, my mind is still open.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Palestine

On arriving yesterday I sat under the wall waiting for Elias and looked at a vision of oppression and struggle everywhere.

I would appreciate prayer at this point. My head is so wrecked I can't write about what I have seen here so far. I have come from 2 amazing but intense weeks. I feel like I gave everything I had there and have nothing left to give. Everything I hear and see in Bethlehem is the polar opposite of what I have heard so far. My mind can't take anymore in.

I miss having a laugh with the great friends I made on the other team. Everything was full of wonder and fun and now all I see is pain and injustice. Where before I wanted to be at the centre of everything that was going on, I'm now just following people around quietly trying to work out how I'm going to get through 2 weeks. Sorry for complaining. I know I'm in an amazing position and I'll come around but I'm just trying to be honest with myself at this point.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Jerusalem, if i forget you


Team have all gone their separate ways. I'm waiting in Jerusalem alone for a cab to the West Bank checkpoint at Bethlehem. I have had two of the best weeks of my life on so many levels. Emotional, physical, spiritual and craic!

Day 9
Went to the Mount of Olives this morning and walked the Palm Sunday Path. Visited the Garden of Gethsemane. Lots of the places they show you here from the bible are where they 'traditionally believe' Jesus was. They are sure however that this is the garden.

We then went to the place that they traditionally believe is Golgotha and the tomb of Jesus. The guide had some convincing arguments but you could never be sure. Nevertheless it was first century place of crucifixion and burial and so again provides the visual aspect to the bible. We took communion there and it was special.

Hit the town at night with some of the great friends I've found here. It was the opening night of an Irish pub called 'Dublin'. So I took the plaudits like a true Irishman and drank Guinness with a Canadian, 2 Norwegians and a German. Surreal.

Day 10
I helped out this morning at a Shook Carmel Ha'lr soup kitchen. This is a place run by some Jews for the poor and hungry of the Old City of Jerusalem. The key is dignity and giving people a hand up. It looks like a nice restaurant and they come and sit and eat like normal human beings. Rich people come and eat and pay what they want and the poor eat for free. They then follow up on the children and adults that come and help them find a place in life. Awesome.

I sat chopping onions with a Jewish guy with a long beard and we talked about the political situations in Ireland and Israel. Because of my cynical nature I find it hard to accept everything I've been told from people from outside of Israel but this guy gave the troubles here a face.

He was a gentle, peaceful man who talked about his experiences of terror attacks on crowded streets and the day that Arabs shot his best friend as he sat beside him in the car. Chatting with him made me realise that we are not getting the full picture at home. Yes the Israelis have made mistakes but it is obvious that the average person in Jerusalem is living with a great deal of pain from the past and fear for the future.

The most important place was kept to the end. We went up onto the Temple Mount. This is where the temple was originally built, where the 'holy of holys' resided. Now the 'Dome of the Rock' (the Islamic mosque) is built there. As I stood and listened it is clear that this is the most controversial place in the world. The second Intifada started when Ariel Sharon visited it. The Jews pray at the Wailing Wall because it's the closest place they can get to their most holy place. This is occurring in their country. They can excavate around but not under the temple mount. If they did it would be WW3 between Islam and the West and that's not exaggerating. So the Israeli state maintains the status quo.

Everything I originally thought has been turned on its head here. I'm open to it changing again in Palestine. I still find it hard to say I support Israels leaders and its IDF but I have fallen in love with this land.

My mother used to make me pray for peace in Israel before every meal and once again this is my prayer.



Psalm 122 (The Message)
When they said, "Let's go to the house of God," my heart leaped for joy.

And now we're here, O Jerusalem, inside Jerusalem's walls!
Jerusalem, well-built city, built as a place for worship!
The city to which the tribes ascend, all God's tribes go up to worship,
To give thanks to the name of God, this is what it means to be Israel.
Thrones for righteous judgment are set there, famous David-thrones.


Pray for Jerusalem's peace!
Prosperity to all you Jerusalem-lovers!
Friendly insiders, get along!
Hostile outsiders, keep your distance!
For the sake of my family and friends,
I say it again: live in peace!
For the sake of the house of our God, God,
I'll do my very best for you.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Day 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,8

Shalom Shabbat

Excuse my lack of writing. The itinerary for this team is unreal. Every day we are doing things that is the stuff of dreams. We have little free time and when there is some I want to be out exploring and soaking it all in. This is a country like no other. Everything is so rich and diverse and wonderful.

Israel is like God- the more I learn about it the less I understand.
My head is fried trying to process it all but here goes.



Day 3 and 4

Our first project at a Hadassah Neurim Youth Village on the Mediterranean Coast. It's a village where many young people from Israel, Ethiopia, Ghana and and Arab nations live together. The common factor is that they come from abusive or poverty-stricken backgrounds.



I spent two days on the garden team swinging the hoe in temperatures over 35 degrees C! Nothing in Africa compared me for the fatigue of this. However, at night it felt amazing to sit by pool or a fire, cleaned bucked, just hanging out with folk. The team are amazing.



Day 5

One of those rare days that you experience in life that will live with you forever. Left the coast for the Dead Sea. This is the lowest point on earth with temperatures hitting 40 degrees C. Swimming in the Dead Sea is an incredibly surreal experience. The 'sand' is just a layer of salt. It's packed thick with salt and minerals. You couldn't sink even if you wanted to. You feel the stinging of cuts in places that you didn't know you had places!



Left the Dead Sea for the Judean Desert and spent the night sleeping in tents with the Bedouin. This was sweet for me cos I been teaching my kids about them this year. Bedoiun means 'Desert People'. They're also known as nomads.



It was my first chance to experience Arab hospitality and it was fascinating. They welcome friend and enemy to their tent because they say 'one day visitor, another day host'. They give the visitor 3 little cups of coffee;

1 to show respect

2 to offer protection

3 for fun!



If a criminal or known thief comes to visit they give them a full cup of coffee. This means that the criminal should leave without losing face. If the criminal; drinks the coffee the host is still obligated to feed and water the criminal. In this way they show respect to all and avoid ego giving way to conflict.



Ate an amazing Bedouin meal, went for a camel ride into the sunset, and stayed up most of the night staring at the stars. There are no obstructions in the desert, just stars all around, like a planetarium. I've rarely felt more insignificant and so in awe of God in one moment.



Day 6

Today was mainly travel to Jerusalem and lectures. Have just arrived in a pretty plush hotel after sleeping on the ground the last few nights. I'm bursting to get out and explore the city.
Will chat write later about lectures because everything is blurry.

Day 7
Woke up this morning and thought, 'My God, I'm in the centre of the universe'. We went into the Old City of Jerusalem this morning through the Jaffa Gate. We walked around the walls of the city in prayer and wonder. Pictures don't do it justice. All around tou are looking at; David's City, the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, Gehenna, and all these places that you have heard about Jesus walking and doing miracles.

We spent the day doing clean-up in the Arabic quarter of the Old City. It is full of narrow bustling streets, people of all shapes and creeds, shops, noise, colour, the smell of spices and leather. It is a place like no other.

In the afternoon we did a kid's club for some arabic kids which was pretty much like kids clubs in N.I. or Africa. Kid's are the same wherever. It's when they grow up that shit happens in the world. Right beside where we did the club these were houses were young men were being indoctrined and trained as terrorists.

In the evening we had a bbq beside Mount Zion (where Jesus will return someday). Later a few of us went back into the Old City to soak it up. We got lost in the maze of streets and eventually made our way to the Western/Wailing Wall. I think we can us the word 'epiphany' too easily but this was definately a moment of emotion and wonder. At night it is beautifully lit with hundreds of Jews worshipping with their body and soul. I said some prayers for friends at home.

Day 8
Like I have said this trip is incedibly diverse. They told us about the flood of Sudanese refugees that have been flooding into Israel from Darfur and from the south of Sudan. They are escaping the government sponsored genocide there. Thousands of Christians and non-Arabs (black moslims) have been killed and millions displaced by the Sudanese government. They are flooding into Egypt and surrounding areas and often being persecuted there too. Hundreds have ended up in Israel and the Christian Embassy (which is what I am here with) are trying to look after them.

Anyways I persuaded a couple of people to take me to see a family that they are looking after. It is a Muslim family that walked barefoot through the Sinai Desert, through Egypt and into Israel. The wife was pregnant and just gave birth yesterday. I spent this morning talking brokenly with the father and playing with their beautiful kids.

This afternoon we went into the city of David and walked around walls that where built by David, Nehemiah and Hezekiah. We went underground into Hezekiah's Tunnels. This is a incredible maze of tunnels built by Hezekiah 1000 odd years BC to supply Jerusalem with water. It is a 45 minute claustopbobic walk through knee deep water by torch light....awesome!

Well that's me up to date. So much more has happened but I have to head off again now. I think I'm having the time of my life.


Israel/Palestine thoughts at present

My head is offically completely fried trying to get around the situation here. In my small group I kicked off a debate by saying the lectures we were going to were one-sided and not showing the full picture. Since then people keep giving me stuff to read and trying to get me to their way off thinking. The team are amazing though and do it with a heart of compassion for Israel and the Jews. And to be honest they are gettng through. One of the lads just said to me I'm the voice for the Palestinians on this tour. This is stupid cos I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, I just want to find some truth.


The more I listen to people the more I appreciate the plight of the Jews. From the time when Christians were murdering millions of them in the name of God while singing hymns, through the Spanish Inquisition, to the Holocaust where the church was only conspicuous by it's abscence in speaking out.



The Jews and have a victim mentality but then most of the time they seem to be the victims so they have a right. We have heard much about the nuclear threat of Iran and the surrounding Arab nations. As much as I have asked for balance the truth is that fanatical groups and governments of surrounding muslim countries have openly said that they want to wipe Israel off the map. Some of them refuse to give aid to Palestine or accept Palestinian refugees because they want to 'use Palestine as a baseball bat against the Arab nations'.



I came out here thinking that the media coverage at home was biased in favour of Israel and now and I'm not so sure. We are told constantly here that the world is against Israel, and some of the reasons they give ring true. The Israelis live in constant fear of terrorist attacks from home or abroad, and especially of a nuclear strike from Iran which is building the capabilities to strike a holocaust with one bomb. One of the lecturers said that world opinion has never been more against the Jews since the the time of the Holocaust and I find this hard to disagee with.

I haven't admitted this here and still find myself arguing for the Arabs but....
....as much as the Israelis have screwed up I find it hard to argue that they are a threat the leaders of some of the surrounding Arab countries.

I have so much more written down but no time to write it here.

It's clear to me that geographically (it borders Europe, Asia and Africa), religiously and politically, Israel is the centre of the world. I feel like a tit for thinking I had any idea about the Israelis and their role in this conflict before I came here.


Either way, as I walk the streets that Yeshua walked, I am sure that this is a Holy land.



Pics on flickr. Click on link right.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Day 2


Nazareth is interesting in that it is home to 35,000 Jews, 35,000 Christian Arabs and 35,000 Muslims and they all co-exist peacefully.






Today we went;
-for a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.
-to the place where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
-the church where he turned water into wine.
-where he had his last meal with the disciples.
-the place where he asked Peter did he love him.


Some people seemed affected but I didn't have any warm, fuzzy, spiritual experiences in any of these except in the beautiful scenery and landscape. However, it does provide a visual idea of the gospel stories. Standing at the Sea of Galilee it was easy to imagine Jesus standing with his mate Peter and asking him did he really love him.










We visited all these old sights and had 3 lectures today. Despite this my epiphany came from a conversation with an old Jewish lady. She had visited Belfast so we had common ground. She told me about the suicide bombs and murders of men, women and children before her eyes. Her stories gave me a feeling for the first time for the hurt that has been caused to the Jews by Palestinians. I know I will see the other side too.


Lectures are very pro-Israel Zionist. The guy tonight asked every one to put up their hands if they were a Christian Zionist and I was the only one that didn't. My heads is wrecked trying to sift through all the words and find find some black and white in the grey. Actually colour would be better, it gets depressing. I try to explain to people that I could take them to either side in Ireland and tell them of atrocities by the other side and convince them those they are with are in the right. As far as I can see in two days there is much evil and much good in the actions of Christians, Jew and Muslim in this region.

I'm going to find some colour.



Sea of Galilee










Where Jesus asked Peter did he love him (allegedly).








Church of the Beatitudes (Where Srmon on the Mount took place (allegedly!))

Day 1

Shalom

Journey over was smooth enough. Got singled out by El Al for interrogation at Heathrow. I'd been told that they could stop me entering Israel if they thought I was going to Palestine so I told a mixture of economical truths and lies.

Spent all 5 hours of the flight chatting with the Jewish Rabbai next to me. He got all his textbooks and stuff out and made it his mission to educate me. Jews do not convert so he didn't try to evangelise me....so I didn't evangelise him either. Topics of conversation included:
-Heaven and hell
-Being a Jewish Christian
-Jesus
-Islam
-Secular v Orthodox
-Monotheism

Taxi from airport took us through the valley of Armageddon (I wondered if I would return here someday!) and through to Nazareth. For 2 days we're staying in a hotel overlooking Nazareth and the Valley of Armageddon. It's an incredibly beautiful place. As our taxi driver said:

'Your Jesus for sure know where to live eh?'



Valley of Armageddon and Nazareth from our hotel

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Thoughts on departure

Had a great weekend for Gav's stag in Galway. It involved fishing, cross-dressing, eating, drinking and being merry with friends. Check out pics here!

Off to Israel tomorrow. Itinerary looks pretty good. For the first couple of days I'll visit all the places I've been reading about since I was a kid. The rest of the time is doing practical work in community centres/hospital and working with Jewish and Arab Kids.

However, it's the last two weeks of July I'm really looking forward. The West Bank adventure!

Despite obvious excitement about the trip, part of me doesn't want to be going away for a month. I'm leaving friends here who are hurting badly. It's impossible to make it any better for those struggling with the loss of a loved one, but at least you can be there.

This time last year I was helping Al and Lins to lead a team to Uganda. As I stood with Al at her grave today it hit me how different the world seems. Lins' passing has left a massive hole. Nothing makes sense, nothing seems to fit. As I travel the Middle East I'll be thinking of her in Africa, in cell, at Summer Madness, and I'll be thinking of those who were closest to her in Ireland.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

War

With Palestine approaching (and in the headlines!) I've been thinking a lot about war.

Now I've never been a big Linkin Park fan (except for their dalliance with Jay Z) mainly because I don't like the nu-metal genre.

However their recent video for 'What I've done' really caught my eye. It contains shots of racism, war, addiction and environmental concerns and a hook that says:
So let mercy come,
And wash away...
what I've done.

So I got the album. They have got the legendary Rick Rubin into produce it and I found much of it full of power, desperation and soul. I know my musical friends will slag me for this but just forget it is Linkin Park you are listening to and I defy you not to get sucked in.

Here's a track from the album called 'Hands Held High' It's a moving anti-war rally cry combining a floaty keyboard, arpeggiated guitar, choral vocals, and a military snare-beat.

Listen below with the lyrics from youtube. Keep listening to the end!




Saturday, June 23, 2007

An open mind

A glance at the news will see that the situation in Palestine is fragile. Hamas, the militant Islamic group, have taken control of Gaza. I'll be in Bethlehem which is in the West Bank. This part is controlled by Fatah who are secular nationalist group that want to make peace with Israel so should be safer.

I been reading up on the history of Palestine through the Crusdaer rule, Ottoman rule, British rule and now Israeli settlement and occupation. It's hard not to be opinionated in the light of some facts. However, I have always hated when people from other countries come to Northern Ireland thinking they know it all when there's no way of understanding the complications unless you were brought up here.

Check out Elias' myspace. He has an amazing story of coming from a place of hatred of Israel to a place of forgiveness and reconciliation. He watched from his house as little boys threw stones at tanks and the Israeli army shot back and killed them. Israel also took his families land away that they had owned for hundreds of years. He met and danced with some Jewish people and God worked in him. Now he lives to build bridges between Palestinian and Israeli.


(Allegedly this boy was shot by the Israeli army shortly after this picture was taken)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

To the Middle East!


This summer I'm heading to Israel and Palestine.

Week 1 and 2:
I'm flying out by myself and meeting up with a team of people in Jerusalem to do some hands-on stuff. This will include work with Jewish kids, working in a hospital and street work as well as a couple of days touring around.

The ethos of the team seems quite pro-Israel/Zionist and I wanted to see both sides of the story so.....

Week 3 and 4:
When the first team leave I will travel to Bethlehem which is in Palestine (West Bank). I will meet up with some other people and work alongside Elias and other Palestinian Christians. We'll be meeting people involved in reconciliation work and spending time in orphanages and refugee camps.

I'm reading up on the history and current status of Israel/Palestine. I'm trying to maintain an open mind and will try and keep the blog updated as I process what I see there.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Dream it all up again


On December 30, 1989, U2 were closing the Joshua Tree tour. During the opening strains of 'Love Rescue Me', Bono said:
"It's no big deal, it's just -- we have to go away and ... and dream it all up again."
They went away for a few years and wrote my favourite album of all time- Achtung Baby.

Well I'm making a similar annoncement on behalf of NEBO. We have our last gig in Lavery's on Monday night before we have a 4 month break. In this time we'll be doing our own stuff (including world travel, producing offspring and side projects).


So come along Monday night and get a fix before we go away and dream it all up again.


(ok the scale is slightly smaller....)


Friday, June 08, 2007

Poisonwood

Have returned from outdoor pursuits. It's the best part of my job, going away and having great craic with the kids rather than just being their teacher.

The time spent sitting in the corridor trying to get them to go to sleep enabled me to finish 'The Poisonwood Bible'- probably the best novel I have ever read (Douglas Coupland notwithstanding).

It is the story of an firebrand evangelical Baptist minister's who takes his family to the Congo in the late 1950s, entwining their fate with that of the country during three turbulent decades. His determination to convert the natives of the Congo to Christianity is doomed by his self-righteousness and lack of cultural understanding.

It is a fictional account set during actual events in the Congo. The language is evocative and beautiful. Every page contains something you could meditate on.

A constant theme seems to be the relationship between America and Africa. America who has taken the African people as slaves, drained her of her riches, taken control of her diamond and copper mines and used ‘aid’ money to bribe her dictators. It educated and angered me to a much greater level.

“If chained is where you have been, your arms will always bear the marks of the shackles. What you have to lose is your own story, your own slant. You’ll look at the scars on your arms and see mere ugliness or you’ll take great care to look away from them and see nothing. Either way, you have no words for the story of where you came from…we are our injuries as much as we are our successes.”


I should have written more about Africa on this blog. I feel a soul-tie with the place and find it hard to write about it without getting angry and ranting and boring everyone.

My younger wiser brother, Davymull, has just started blogging. Check out his thoughts on Somalia.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Our Shadow Self


Some great thoughts thanks. The arrival of internet social networking seems to have a generation addicted to myspace/bebo/facebook/blogs. People can present themselves to the world, revealing (or making up) another dimension to their character.

Douglas Coupland is my hero. In an interview about his new book 'jPod' he said:
'In the future everybody will have their real selves and their shadow self that exists purely inside computers'
Do you think this is the case?


Anyway, I'm off to England for a school trip tomorrow for some absailing, raft building, quad bike racing, shooting, zip-lining, and trying to bring the same 30 kids home again. Click here for last year's update...... that means I've had this blog for a year now.....I'm still unsure of the point!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

To blog or not to blog

I've been wondering about the point of blogging since a discussion in Brian Heasley's a few weeks back.

My own blog began because I like writing and thought blogging would be a good outlet for it. After a while I kept getting religious nuts coming on and twisting what I was saying so I stopped writing about real issues and just stuck some pics up and talked about music.

Al's blog has provided him with support and catharsis but....
.....as I look at most other people's blogs it seems that whenever they write something new, interesting or profound nobody comments. But if they write something for a bit of craic then they get a load of people commenting.

Maybe the people who read blogs do so for escapism? The same reason that people watch soaps, big brother and read those crappy celebrity magazines where they compare how awful they look compared to the fit celebrities and how great they look compared to the fat cellulity ones.......maybe it's escapism from real life which is just too damn hard to be thinking about.

I also find it strange how friends, partners etc go on eachother's blogs and declare their love. Why not just tell them or send a text? Why does the WWW need to know??

Any thoughts on.....

Why we write blogs? Why we read blogs?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Hallelujah Avenue

This song by Foy Vance has moved me so much since I first heard it in Dundalk's Spirit Store. This is a powerful unofficial video I spotted on youtube. Have a Jeff Duke.

She never was a fighter
Til he lay beside her.
And gently whispered hope

Friday, May 04, 2007

Jesus of the Scars


Yesterday the mini-rugby team I coach won the Gilpin Cup- the most prestigious sports competition for local primary schools. Great reward for the hard work through the winter months.

Last night was a special gig with Julie Feeney, Foy Special, and Duke Special and the amazing Ulster Orchestra. Very different than Foy's and Duke's normal gigs but a feast for the senses never-the-less.

Normally I would have loads to say about these things but last night didn't feel normal. Though the past week has been eventful, I find it hard to do normal things, be normal places, read normal books/blogs etc when my mind is consumed with reminiscing about Lins and the pain that her passing has left on those closest to her. A pain that I can't come close to understanding. The grieving period, especially for them, is ongoing.

Stefan quoted from this poem (by Edward Shillito) in his prayer at Lindsay's funeral. Beautiful words.

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;

We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow,
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.

Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.

If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear,
Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God's wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Grief observed

I'm finding it difficult to think with any clarity these days. Nothing seems important beyond the loss of Lins and the grief of those closest to her (click here). I heard a song on the radio recently that summed up my feelings and prayers for them. It's called 'Revival' by Soulsavers. I'm not sure of their spiritual leaning (have sent off for the album so will let you know). It is beautiful. Check out the audio here.

Why am I so blind with my eyes wide open?
Now I need someone
Let this dark night be done
I need you so
Put an end to my suffering
I wanna see a revival tonight Lord
There needs to be a revival.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Lins


There are many tributes and pictures on the blogs to the right. This is a girl who touched so many souls in a gentle and ethereal way. For me she was a pal who helped me lead cell, got me involved in Christian Aid and issues of justice and the poor (her the educated and wise one and me the mouthpiece) and a sister and wife to two amazing friends.

Tonight I'm praying and believing this for them:

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted,
saving those who are crushed in spirit.
Ps 34.18

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Please pray


I'm aware that most people that come here already read Al's blog but nothing else seems important to write except to ask you click here and pray for Lindsay, Al and family.


Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.
Romans 8:26 (The Message)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

All over money, money, money, money, money.

Blogging can be a terribly self-indulgent thing. However recently I have found it of great benefit on my journey. The 'rich' thing is not just a conversation of words for me. I'm really trying (and struggling) to work out practically how to live as a follower of Jesus in this area.

Some of the comments on the posts about 'counter-culture' and 'rich Christians' have both inspired me and wrecked my head.

Here are some thoughts/questions.
1. Poverty isn't the alternative to being rich. Just having enough is.
2. As Ivonne said, we need to reach wealthy people as well as the poor. How do we do this if there are no wealthy Christians?
3. Ricky and Brian speak of how God uses affluent Christians to bless others. I know that I and many of our young people would never have been able to go on the mission trips we have without the help of such people.
4. Nina eloquently points out that all of us in the west are rich. The solution is to be FREE (from the constraints of poverty and riches).
5. Gav contrasts Jesus' stories of the 'talents' and the 'sheep and goats'. Does God want us to prosper simply to help the poor?
6. Stefan wrote about the Hebrew understanding of justice, repentance, and redistribution in the Old Testament. This still confuses me somewhat as prosperity does seem to be a gift from God in the OT.

BUT
7. As my younger (wiser) brother Dave said, much of what Jesus says is "you have heard this (in the OT) but i now say this (as a New Testament)":

"How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God."
"Do not store up riches on the earth"
"No-one can serve two masters -God & money"




I feel a lot more informed on the issue but still seem to have more questions than answers. I love this verse....

'Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I may have too much and disown you and say ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.' (vv 7-9).
Proverbs 30


Any tips on how to make this practical?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Malia



I found this old photo when I was moving house. It's one of my favourites for sentimental reasons. It captures a moment. We were fresh-faced 18 year olds, just finished school, on a coming of age holiday in Crete.

Shortly after this picture was taken we went our separate ways. Gav has been in Glasgow and Ross in Edinburgh and Dublin since then. 8 years later the bonds are still strong. I'm doing best man for Gav this summer and Ross is groomsman.


"A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked."
Bernard Meltzer.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Crumbs from your table

Just moved past 10,000 visitors! To mark the occasion I have a simple question (following on from what I've been reading about redistribution and from a great comment by Ralf on my last post).

Does God want Christians to be rich?/Is God happy when Christians are rich?


Monday, March 19, 2007

Counter-culture

I guess that's why God created highlighters, so we can highlight the parts of the bible we like and ignore the rest.

Returned from a great weekend at NUA. I have come home with a deep sense of dissatisfaction and anticipation.

Kind of started when I finished one of the best books I have ever read by Fergal Keane, 'All of These People'. An amazing journey into the human psyche by an Irish war reporter (his reflections of Africa will reduce any grown man to tears)

I'm currently reading Shane Claibornes 'Irresistible Revolution' (where the quote above came from). It's quite simple stuff but it scares the crap out of you. Like the story about the rich young ruler. We 'contextualise' this by explaining that Jesus is talking about love of money or making idols of our things. But what if he actually means it when he says 'sell all you have and give it to the poor'???
Another quote:
' I have come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that Christians do not care about the poor but that Christians do not know the poor.'
In my head I'm thinking we need to find a balance here, just take some parts of what he's saying and relate it to real life. BUT THAT'S EXACTLY THE POINT!. Either we do it or we don't. I don't really have many answers here and would appreciate comments (leave your name!).

What I have taken from NUA is that we are not called to be part of our culture, or to be a Christian sub-culture. We are called to be counter-culture. Jesus was. This has to affect our everyday choices in relation to our consumer driven world.

I'm not really sure what it means yet but it feels like it's getting dangerous.
Love and Peace

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Amazing Grace

Freedom day is coming up on Sunday 25th.

I was reading about it when I collided with one of my favourite quotes. The collision takes place in the person of John Newton. Newton, famous for penning 'Amazing Grace', seems something of a dichotomous character. Perhaps a Bono of the 18th century!

He was a slaveship master making his fortune off the coast of Sierra Leone. After a storm one night he converted to Christianity and gave up swearing, drinking and gambling but continued to trade slaves. Let's not be too hard on him. It was very normal in his day to support the slave trade. There's plenty of Christians about now who don't drink or curse but aren't too concerned about the poor either!

Anyway later in his life he realised his folly and fell into deep regret. He joined William Wilberforce in the abolitionist movement. Wilberforce was his protege. When he was going to leave parliament to become a missionary Newton told him that he should, "serve God where he was". Wilberforce heeded his advice and spent the next five decades successfully working for the abolition of slavery.

Newton said this:
I am not what I ought to be.
I am not what I want to be.
I am not what I hope to be.
But still, I am not what I used to be.
And by the grace of God,
I am what I am.
Love it!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

To vote or not to vote.....

...is the question on people's lips here.
I don't think you have a right to comment on issues in your country if you don't utilise your vote but at the same time it's damn hard to work out which of these muppets to vote for.

-I lived in a 'prod' bubble until I went to Uni but was always aware of the Celtic blood in my veins.
-I'd quite like a united Ireland but don't want former terrorists in government.
-I'd like more money for education.
-And a more of a focus on the developing world in norn irish politics.
but
-I would settle for a party who encourage people to love their neighbours... or at least coexist with them.

So who gets the vote? You decide...but let Wiggy help you....click here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Shoulder to Shoulder!!!

It's a bit late but what a day. The English and their anthem was fully respected before they were slaughtered on the pitch. Makes you proud to be Irish eh?