Saturday, September 26, 2009

Student again?

I know I had laid the blog to rest but.....

This week I became a student again at QUB for another 3 years, studying a Doctorate in Educational, Child and Adolescent Psychology. If I finish then from the ages of 18-31 I'll have spent 5 years working and 8 studying!

I've had the same comments loads recently:
Why are you leaving teaching? you are an eternal student! I thought you loved your job? ye need to grow up and accept responsibilities! ye just want the easy life, better money? etc....

Over the past years through travels in Africa and the Middle East I have become increasingly angered, frustrated and impassioned by the plight of people, especially children, trying to make a life in a background of conflict, trauma and strife. The frustration stems from a feeling that I've talked a lot about these things but been unable and unwilling to actually do something about it. dream is to work with children who have been bereaved, traumatised or in other ways affected by war or conflict, with specific regard to how schools and communities could be engaged in such situations. This may be with former child soldiers in Africa, innocent victims in Palestine or troubled young people in Norn Iron. In this I feel a vocation or calling for the first time in my life. The reason for doing the course therefore is to provide the skills, contacts and direction to hopefully be used in this area.

I've been listening recently to Emmanuel Jah, a former child soldier from Sudan turned hip-hop artist. This song is a tribute to the lady that rescued him from his former life...inspiring!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Goodbye Mr McMullen!

Blogging seems to have had its day. Been a long time since the heady days of the 50 comment posts. Probably a mixture of not blogging much, others not posting anymore, boring posts, facebook and twitter. Anyway, everything has it's season.

Today was the end of a season for me so I thought I'd mark it with a final blog post. Today was my last in Bocombra P.S. I was totally gutted leaving. Driving out of the gates for the last time was worse than any break-up. I have loved the past 4 years there and will miss the buzz, the fun, the achievement and the relationships of daily school life. I've been completely overwhelmed by kindness in the past couple of weeks through speeches, presents (inc a sweet north face jacket!) but mainly by letters of thanks and encouragement from kids past and present, staff members and parents. I've never felt more fulfilled and rewarded than I do today.

I hope/trust I've made the right decision. Not much time to dwell on it now though cos off to Africaaaaa at 5.30am tomorrow!

Thanks for reading this blog,
I'll leave you with the apt words of our P7 leavers song:

One more step along the world I go,
One more step along the world I go;
From the old things to the new
Keep me travelling along with you.

And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me travelling along with you,

You are older than the world can be,
You are younger than the life in me;
Ever old and ever new,
Keep me travelling along with you.

Acrobat is out for now.....

Friday, May 08, 2009

"Love left a window in the skies..."

The shackles are undone
The bullets quit the gun
The heat that's in the sun
Will keep us when there's none

The rule has been disproved
The stone it has been moved
The grave is now a groove
All debts are removed

Friday, April 10, 2009


Nothing makes me laugh like Billy Connolly. I saw him last year in the Waterfront. He came out with no warm-up and had the audiences in stitches for nearly 3 hours without a break. This is his best..

Apologies for the quality (and language!)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009


"There is... increasing callousness," she said. "There is a perception that the Palestinian is not a person, a human being entitled to basic rights and therefore anything may be done to him."

Here are a few recent reports that give a idea of what happened in Gaza. A 'just' war???

1,434 people in Gaza - 960 of them civilians - were killed in the fighting.
431 were children and 114 women.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Nemanja Vidic tries to kiss the feet of the world's greatest striker......


Saturday, February 28, 2009

No Line on the Horizon

It feels like my birthday today. I'm about to drive over the border to pick up the new U2 album. I remember their previous album releases clearly... the nervous anticipation, the expectancy, the following weeks in which the lyrics and melodies impact your soul.

Anyone that knows me will know I have had something of an obsession with this band since I was a boy. Since Lurgan Junior High when my mate Scott gave me a bootleg of their concert in Sarajevo and Bono said: 'To be united is a great thing, but to respect difference is the greatest thing' before launching into 'One'. After that I began collecting devouring every album, single and U2 book I could find.

I remember being with Procs in Lurgan College lecture theatre trying to learn U2 songs on the guitar. Also being with him for a U2 weekend culminating in the Croke Park gig. Slane Castle in 2001 was the best night of my life (So good they even released a dvd of it!) The saddest thing was building a music room at my parents house and completely plastering all four walls with U2 posters and lyrics. It still remains though nowadays serves as more of a shrine than a practice room!

Through those teenage years as I struggled with faith, love and finding truth I had a U2 song to identify with. I tried to fit in with church and with my mates who just partied and lived for the weekend, but didn't feel like I fitted into either camp. U2 didn't provide answers but they mirrored the struggle and opened my eyes to see that God wasn't necessarily how the religious folk had painted him. Sometimes finding people that are asking the same questions is of greater comfort than answers.
I'd join the movement,
If there was one I could believe in,
I'd break bread and wine,
If there was a church I could receive in,
Cos I need it now,
To take the cup,
To fill it up,
To drink it slow,
I can't let you go.

Through a mixture of coincidence and inspiration my passions of recent years have seemed to echo those of Bono's. Firstly with African poverty and the AIDS pandemic and most recently with the Middle East and a prayer for co-existence.

Unlike many reviewers I don't compare to the Joshua Tree or expect another Achtung Baby on every release. Those albums will never be equalled. I'm content and amazed by the fact that after 30 years they are still producing music that is relevant, important and good. No other band has such a back catalogue and no other celebrity has used his fame for so much good. I still think they have a lot to say and I can't wait to hear it!

Grace finds beauty in everything

Sunday, February 15, 2009

(Prayer from funeral)
Gareth was a loyal, thoughtful, wonderful friend. In his company you felt relaxed and uplifted. I have known him all of my life and we never shared an angry word.

In conversation, he had a quality that is very rare…. he thought before he spoke. He was not careless with his words. Consequently his advice was wise and words were true. His humility was an inspiration. Though talented, he preferred the background to the front of the stage. Though knowledagble and of greater intellect, he preferred to ask your opinion than to give his own. Many of our conversations and his words of encouragement resonate with me today.

The last words I spoke to Procs on Saturday were, ‘I’ll see you soon bro’.
And I know I will. Because this life is just a vapour when compared to eternity and Procs has gone ahead to join with those great crowd of witnesses. No longer chained to this body but free to laugh and run and dance and sing… I don’t know what heaven’s like but I know if there’s a worship band there, it’s just got it’s new bass player.

Let’s pray-
Father of all mystery, whose ways are beyond comprehension.
Our minds are too small to understand,
Our words are ineffective to convey the groaning of our hearts.
Yet we are here…
To give you thanks for the life of Gareth.
We thank you for his laughter, for that streak of mischief, for his strength and for his loyalty to family and friend.
We thank you for the privilege it was to know him and the blessing and inspiration that he brought to all of us.

Father, Give comfort to Gayle and Joseph, to Joy and Robert, Timmy and Leah, Trevor and Valerie, Philip and Emma and all in this amazing family circle. We thank you so much for their immense faithfulness, unending love, and endless care for Gareth.

Holy Spirit, who speaks for us in groans when we have no words. Come alongside them. Be their refuge and strength, O Lord, and reassure them of your everlasting love.

Lord Jesus,
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.

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.

Father we thank you again for the life of our friend. Be with us now. In Jesus name, Amen.

Friday, February 06, 2009

TOP 10

Haven't done a music post in a while which is a shame because it's my first love. I was asked recently for a list of my top 10 bands/artists. It's an impossible task but I had a go anyway and this was the result:

1. U2
2. Bruce Springsteen
3. Incubus
4. Sigur Ros
5. Biffy Clyro
6. The Arcade Fire
7. Rage Against the Machine
8. Dave Matthews Band
9. Romantica
10. Kanye West

Others loves that didn't quite make the cut (I'm sure they're devastated!) are: Radiohead, Sting, Foy Vance, Coldplay, The Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins, Sufjan Stevens.

Here is my favourite ever moment of the greatest band to ever grace Ireland and the earth. From the Zoo TV concert in Sydney. Watch how a drug addict suffers the needle chill then sees the light through cold and broken 'hallelujahs' and is lifted into the rapture of a place where the streets have no name, where everyone is equal under the eyes of God....a glimpse of heaven. Magical!

Any suggestions for the list?

Saturday, January 17, 2009


What has been accomplished from this 'war'/massacre?

- More than 1000 Palestinian civilians dead, one third of which are children.
- More than 5000 people injured.
- The entire infrastructure of Gaza destroyed. Mosques, Christian churches, hospitals, schools, houses were all targets.
- Shameless crimes against humanity.
- Hamas support has grown exponentially
- Hatred for Israel has grown exponentially in the Arab nations.

Nothing can be achieved until Israel and Hamas lay down their guns and talk to each other. Really I can't see any hope without Jesus and the kingdom values of love, peace, justice and equality.

"Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity. By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power."
Martin Luther King

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A just war?

More than 1000 Palestinians have died in Gaza in the past 19 days, 90% civilians.

More than 300 of the dead are said to be children.
4,700 people in Gaza have been injured.

Israelis have been killed, including three civilians and 10 soldiers.

In the past week among Israels crimes against humanity are:
- Destroying a Christian Aid medical clinic.
- Shelling a house where they had told 100 women and children to move to.
- For 4 days preventing medics from reaching starving, traumatised children who were standing over the bodies of their dead mothers.

Olmert wants to show Israel's 'iron fist' in order to provide security for the Israeli people. I seriously doubt that he has made his people more secure by orchestrating this bloodbath.

It makes me sick that any Christian could attempt to justify or condone the actions of the Israeli military. It makes me not want to call myself a Christian. I continually have to remind myself of the teachings of Jesus and the values of the kingdom which seem to be lost in the churches blindness and indifference.

To anyone who seeks to use theology or prophecy to in someway excuse or 'be balanced' in their arguments I would recommend 2 books-

'Light Force' by Brother Andrew
'Zion's Christian Soldiers' by Stephen Sizer

Sizer's conclusion is-

…the choice is between two theologies: one based primarily on the shadows of the old covenant; the other on the reality of the new covenant. In identifying with the former, Christian Zionism is an exclusive theology that focuses on the Jews in the land rather than an inclusive theology that centres on Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. It consequently provides a theological endorsement for racial segregation, apartheid and war. This is diametrically opposed to the inclusive theology of justice, peace and reconciliation which lie at the heart of the new covenant. (p.260).

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Taking sides??

In answer to anonymous-

There is nowhere safe in Gaza. Israel drop bombs on houses killing families. They flee to take shelter in schools, mosques, UN buildings and Israel bomb them.

The 'human shields' argument is ridiculous. They are dropping tonnes and tonnes of the biggest explosives on the one of the most densely populated area in the world. The UN said there was no fire from their building and it was clearly marked. They drop a bomb on a house where they suspect someone involved with Hamas is sleeping, killing his extended family then accuse him of hiding behind civilians. If this was happening to Israelis the world would explode.

No other country could get away with the crimes against humanity that Israel do, because they can, so they don't care....might is right.

I repeat there have been 45 people killed in the West Bank this year without a single rocket being fired.

Yes I have emotional ties to Palestine but I also met some great people in Israel. I am saddened for them also. Do you really think this is going to improve life for them? Even if Hamas were wiped out (which they won't be) another more extreme group will take their place. There will be more rockets and more hatred. Imagine a bomb has landed on your house killing your wife and children. Combine this with a life of poverty and a denial of your human rights. What would you do? Violence breeds violence, evil breeds evil.

Love is the only force capable of overcoming hatred.

I find it hard to believe some Christians attitudes over this. It's not a case of taking sides. There only is one side...the occupier, the military force, the oppressor. I can't fathom how any human being never mind follower of Jesus can see pictures of kids blown to pieces and say they are in support of this evil government. The world is so screwed up.

Was great to walk and pray for peace in Belfast last night. Gave me some hope in the human race.

Some websites to check out and support-

Sunday, January 04, 2009


When I was in the West Bank in 2007 I met a guy who had just come from Gaza. He described the situation and said it was a time bomb waiting to explode (here). Now it has.
In the past couple of years I've checked the news everyday from Gaza and written a few times about the brutal occupation and collective punishment that Israel were enforcing on the civilian population there (eg here, here, here, here, here).

(Picture: Me with some palestinian kids in a refugee camp much like those that are currently being bombed in Gaza)

In the last 8 days Israel has killed over 460 Palestinians and the UN estimates that at least a third are civilians or regular street policemen. We don't know the full extent of the carnage because Israel (again defying international law) won't allow any journalists into Gaza to report on what they are doing.

The disproportionate scale of Israel's assault and the reaction of the US and EU would be laughable where it not for the fact that women and children are being blown to pieces everyday.

George Bush says the Israelis are defending themselves against rocket fire. The facts are that Israel haven't just started killing people this week. During the last seven years, 18 Israelis have been killed by homemade rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, while more than 5,000 Palestinians were killed by Israel with some of the most advanced US-supplied armaments in the world. And while no rockets are fired from the West Bank, 45 Palestinians have died there at Israel's hands this year alone.

This occurs against the backdrop of Israel slowly suffocating both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with more than 50% of Gazans living below the poverty line and all imports (including UN and Red Cross humanitarian aid) being restricted and controlled by Israel. There have been no exports from Gaza allowed for 2 years.

The western governments are 'monitoring' the situation. I wonder what their response would be to an assault on Israel, or the US or Britain which left nearly 500 people dead in a couple of days.

The reason it sickens and angers me so much is that the traumatised, grieving faces I see aren't just random arabs but they remind me of the most hospitable, friendly people I've ever met. People who are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, mates just like we have here.

The fact of the matter is that an Arab life isn't worth as much as a Jewish, American or European life. But I believe in the Palestinian people. They have a strength and a hope that I pray will sustain them in these dark days.

"The Israelis have the power, the Palestinian people have dignity and despite all odds, still have hope. The Israelis have the airplanes from which they drop bombs in Gaza, they have bulldozers made here in the United States, not far from my home, they can do all those things, but despite this imbalance of power, the Israelis will never be able to destroy Palestinians' hope and dignity."
Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein

(Picture: A great night's craic we had with some Palestinian families. The human face to the statistics)