Wednesday, 30 May 2007


Summer Stars

Bend low again, night of summer stars.
So near you are, sky of summer stars,
So near, a long-arm man can pick off stars,
Pick off what he wants in the sky bowl,
So near you are, summer stars,
So near, strumming, strumming,
So lazy and hum-strumming.

Carl Sandburg



In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him. The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. And when they reached Moab, they settled there.
Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons. The two sons married Moabite women. One married a woman named Orpah, and the other a woman named Ruth. But about ten years later, both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband.
Then Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab to return to her homeland. With her two daughters-in-law she set out from the place where she had been living, and they took the road that would lead them back to Judah.
But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.” Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept.
“No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.”
But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.”
And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. “Look,” Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.”
But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.

from Book of Ruth chapter 1



A Jewish man goes into the synagogue and prays. "O Lord, you know the mess I'm in, please let me win the lottery.

"The next week, he's back again, and this time he's complaining. "O Lord, didn't you hear my prayer last week? I'll lose everything I hold dear unless I win the lottery."

The third week, he comes back to the synagogue, and this time he's desperate. "O Lord, this is the third time I've prayed to you to let me win the lottery! I ask and I plead and still you don't help me!"

Suddenly a booming voice sounds from heaven. "Benny, Benny, be reasonable. Meet me half way. Buy a lottery ticket!"

Monday, 28 May 2007



"The inner life, the story of our heart,

is the life of the deep places within us,

our passions and dreams,

our fears and our deepest wounds.

It is the unseen life, the mystery within.

It cannot be managed like a corporation.

The heart does not respond to principles and programs;

it seeks not efficiency, but passion.

Art, poetry, beauty, mystery, ecstasy:

These are what rouse the heart.

Indeed, they are the language that must be spoken if one wishes

to communicate with the heart.

It is why Jesus so often taught and related to people by telling stories and asking questions.

His desire was not just to engage their intellects

but to capture their hearts."

--The Sacred Romance


Continuing with selections from my dog-eared,sun tanned Front Porch Collection,this is a poem by the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran.Born in 1883,Gibran produced many works of poetry and philosophy writng in a dramatic Biblical-type style.His most famous work is The Prophet which became a cult classic amongst the Sixties Flower Power generation. The piece below is taken from A Treasury Of Kahlil Gibran,and is a gentle evocation of an ocean wave.


The strong shore is my beloved

And I am his sweetheart.

We are at last united by love,

And then the moon draws me from him.

I go to him in haste and depart

Reluctantly, with many little farewells.

I steal swiftly from behind the blue horizon,

To cast the silver of my foam upon the gold of his sand,

And we blend in melted brilliance.

I quench his thirst and submerge his heart;

He softens my voice and subdues my temper

. At dawn I recite the rules of love upon his ears,

And he embraces me longingly.

At eventide I sing to him the song of hope,

And then print smooth kisses upon his face;

I am swift and fearful, but he is quiet, patient, and thoughtful.

His broad bosom soothes my restlessness.

As the tide comes we caress each other,

When it withdraws, I drop to his feet in prayer.

Many times have I lifted drowning souls

And carried them tenderly to my beloved shore.

He gives them strength as he takes mine.

Many times have I stolen gems from the depths

And presented them to my beloved shore.

He takes them in silence,

But still I give for he welcomes me ever.

Alas! Sleeplessness has weakened me!

But I am a lover, and the truth of love is strong.

I may be weary, but I shall never die.


Wednesday, 23 May 2007



Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.
He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college.
He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born.
He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself...
While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat.
When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centrepiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.
I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

Dr James Allan Francis

Tuesday, 22 May 2007



This sketch was made by Joseph Severn as he watched over the dying poet at 26 Piazza di Spagna,Rome.
The inscription at the bottom is in Severn's hand, and reads (in partial shorthand):
'28 Janry 3 o'clock mng. Drawn to keep me awake - a deadly sweat was on him all this night.'
Keats passed away on Friday, 23 February 1821, around 11:00 pm. This is the last known portrait of the poet.

Severn announced Keats's death to Charles Brown in a letter dated 27 February 1821:
Rome. 27 February 1821.

My dear Brown,
He is gone--he died with the most perfect ease--he seemed to go to sleep. On the 23rd, about 4, the approaches of death came on. "Severn-I--lift me up--I am dying--I shall die easy--don't be frightened--be firm, and thank God it has come!" I lifted him up in my arms. The phlegm seemed boiling in his throat, and increased until 11, when he gradually sunk into death--so quiet-that I still thought he slept. I cannot say now-I am broken down from four nights' watching, and no sleep since, and my poor Keats gone. Three days since, the body was opened; the lungs were completely gone. The Doctors could not conceive by what means he had lived these two months. I followed his poor body to the grave on Monday, with many English. They take such care of me here--that I must, else, have gone into a fever. I am better now--but still quite disabled.
The Police have been. The furniture, the walls, the floor, every thing must be destroyed by order of the law. But this is well looked to by Dr C.
The letters I put into the coffin with my own hand.
I must leave off.
J. S.
This goes by the first post. Some of my kind friends would have written else. I will try to write you every thing next post; or the Doctor will.
They had a mask--and hand and foot done--
I cannot get on--


When I have fears that I may cease to be

Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,

Before high-piled books, in charact’ry,

Hold like rich garners the full-ripened grain;

When I behold, upon the night’s starred face,

Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,

And think that I may never live to trace

Their shadows with the magic hand of chance;

And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,

That I shall never look upon thee more,

Never have relish in the fairy power

Of unreflecting love – then on the shore

Of the wide world I stand alone, and think

Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.



Giving Up Smoking

There's not a Shakespeare sonnet

Or a Beethoven quartet

That's easier to like than you

Or harder to forget.

You think that sounds extravagant?

I haven't finished yet --

I like you more than I would like

To have a cigarette.

Wendy Cope

Saturday, 19 May 2007



The General Election is an essential bloodless national sport, and at the moment Ireland is just a week away from D Day to decide who will govern this state for the next 5 years. The present incumbents, a Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrat coalition are fighting for their political lives against a rainbow group of Labour, Fine Gael and the Greens. Policy wise there is little to choose between the two alternatives, both offering a similar economic agenda to continue the present growth rates, and both highlighting issues like health and crime. At the end of the day most people will cast their vote on a personality basis, choosing at local level the candidate which most appeals.
I remember some years ago my interest in politics was stirred by the appearance of one Jim Kemmy on the local Limerick scene. Jim was a staunch independent socialist whose heart was firmly with the poor and dispossessed, and his voice was a breath of fresh air in the staid political scene of those days. Kemmy was a familiar sight in his early career standing outside Todds on Saturdays selling the radical Limerick Socialist magazine which he almost single handedly produced. The L.S. was a must read for an idealistic16 year old ,as it addressed real issues of real people ignored by the more established political personalities. Kemmy was fearless in those years, one article criticised the outlandish inauguration ceremony for the Catholic Bishop of Limerick, Jeremiah Newman. I remember clearly the contrast Kemmy drew between the lowly carpenter from Nazereth,and the squandering of money on the ceremonial inauguration of His Eminence!
Another issue which ran and ran in the pages of the L.S. was the pittances paid to the staff at The Danes bakery, a then popular cake shop located in Post Office lane. Perhaps the most controversial piece I can recall from the L.S. archives was Jims obituary for local building magnate Sean Hanley, known locally as The Baron Hanley. The heading for the obit read NO POCKETS IN A SHROUD !
So impressed was I by big Jim that I canvassed for him during one election round, he was elected to the local council and subsequently also won a Dail seat. Jims political philosophy was a very practical form of socialism, and never became bogged down in ideology or political theory,he was a genuine man of the people with an interest in local history and the arts. When we set about opening a Christian coffee-bar we approached Jim Kemmy for some advice as regards garnering support from the local health board. Jim an agnostic by persuasion, not only gave us the advice we needed but also put his hand in his pocket and gave us a financial donation !
Politically I reluctantly parted company with Jim because of his pro-choice position on the abortion issue in later years. Often the Believer is torn between the humane people centred policies of the left as against the conservative position of the right on issues of sexual morality. There is no easy choice when we are compelled by the gospel to look after the poor and needy while also holding on to the Biblical stand on issues like homosexuality and abortion.Solomons wisdom is required before pencilling in that x on Polling Day.
Jim died after a painful illness in October1997 and I walked with hundreds of other admirers behind his hearse, as it made its way through the Limerick he loved to his final resting place at Mount Saint Laurence Cemetery. In death as in life Jim eschewed the trappings of religion going directly from the funeral parlour at Griffins to the burial place. At Jims request a recording of the song Beautiful Dreamer was played at the graveside, the words of that lilting melody took on a strange resonance as it echoed through the silent throng gathered to pay their last respects to the man who was Big Jim Kemmy.

Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,

Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;

Sounds of the rude world, heard in the day,

Lull'd by the moonlight have all pass'd away!

Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song,

List while I woo thee with soft melody;

Gone are the cares of life's busy throng,

Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!

Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!


Monday, 14 May 2007




Like bees busy on purple heather

there are those who seldom rest,

who leap about accomplishing things,

affixing stamps, defrosting a loaf,

pulling a weed, flipping a switch,

cramming a screen with a frenzy

of words. Doers who hope

to change the world, job by job...

You can barely hear the others,

like trees, monuments with veins,

rooted, shedding a scented

shade, a spring ceiling of green,

a seasonal rug of gold.

I've always felt an affinity for rain,

its palpable relief at letting go.

The round oak table by the window

resting all afternoon under

its shifting tablecloth of sun.


Saturday, 12 May 2007


The Peasant in Heaven

Once on a time a poor pious peasant died, and arrived before the gate of heaven. At the same time a very rich, rich lord came there who also wanted to get into heaven. Then Saint Peter came with the key, and opened the door, and let the great man in, but apparently did not see the peasant, and shut the door again. And now the peasant outside, heard how the great man was received in heaven with all kinds of rejoicing, and how they were making music, and singing within. At length all became quiet again, and Saint Peter came and opened the gate of heaven, and let the peasant in. The peasant, however, expected that they would make music and sing when he went in also, but all remained quite quiet; he was received with great affection, it is true, and the angels came to meet him, but no one sang. Then the peasant asked Saint Peter how it was that they did not sing for him as they had done when the rich man went in, and said that it seemed to him that there in heaven things were done with just as much partiality as on earth. Then said Saint Peter, "By no means, thou art just as dear to us as any one else, and wilt enjoy every heavenly delight that the rich man enjoys, but poor fellows like thee come to heaven every day, but a rich man like this does not come more than once in a hundred years!"

From Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Household Tales, trans. Margaret Hunt

Wednesday, 9 May 2007


The site 7 miles from Jerusalem
which archaeologists say is King Herod's tomb


It is quipped that the Bible is the worlds best-selling, least read book. And even when read it is probably little believed, its stories being consigned to the fable and myth department ! What’s not generally known is how over the last several decades this ancient book has been quietly and consistently vindicated by archaeological finds. Probably the Dead Sea Scrolls have had the greatest Biblical impact. They have provided Old Testament manuscripts approximately 1,000 years older than our previous oldest manuscript. The Dead Sea Scrolls have demonstrated that the Old Testament was accurately transmitted during this interval. In addition, they provide a wealth of information on the times leading up to, and during, the life of Christ. These scrolls were uncovered back in 1945 when a young goatherd discovered caves overlooking the Dead Sea, and throwing a stone inside the mouth of one, heard the sound of breaking pottery. Inside the caves were several clay jars filled with ancient manuscripts, these were the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Also several man-made monuments mentioned in the Bible have been unearthed over the years, often the archaeologists using the Biblical text to help locate these treasures. Some of the more notable are the palace at Jericho(Judges3:15-30), the East gate of Shechem(Judges9:4;46-49),the Pool of Gibeon(2Samuel2:12-32),the Pool of Heshbon(Song of Songs7:4),Hezekiahs water tunnel beneath Jerusalem(2Kings20:20),the house of Peter at Capernaum(Matthew8:14-16)…
And now Professor Ehud Netzer from the Hebrew University at Jerusalem has dug up the final resting place of Herod the Great. Herod of course is infamously remembered by Christians as the despot who ordered the slaughter of the Innocents in his frenzied efforts to kill the infant Jesus. Historians had believed that the King was buried somewhere in the vicinity of the hill called Herodium,but despite years of excavation nothing had been discovered up to this. The sarcophagus when found was broken into pieces probably by Jews rebelling against Rome in A.D.66,who would have regarded Herod as the Empires puppet King. So another historical piece is slotted in to confirm the accuracy and veracity of the Bible, encouraging those of us who have this book on our shelves to read it afresh and take it as seriously as it deserves.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt just before his arrest and trial, he was greeted by crowds of people shouting and praising God: “God bless the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory to God!” The religious leaders, the Pharisees became disturbed by the tumult and admonished Jesus to command his followers to be quiet. Jesus answered, “I tell you that if they keep quiet, the stones themselves will start shouting.” Today it seems the stones are still shouting, reminding a deaf world of the immutable and irrepressible Word of God.

Gerard O'Shea

Tuesday, 8 May 2007



I'm staring at a spider outside my window hanging on to his (or her) silky web, and I was just thinking, God knows where that exact spider is right now. He knows everything there is to know about that one single spider. God, who can sit in the heavens and watch 50 sunsets at the same time, is also as small as that tiny spider. Don't you think then that he would care even greater for a creature He made in his likeness?
We are pictures of God.
All of us.
Not just what the world defines as "pretty" or "hot", but every single one of us. Even down to someone who thinks their existence is as small as the spider sitting outside my window, He has a plan for them to.
He has a plan for you, but he wants your attention.
How do you get the attention of someone who thinks they've got it all figured out? Remind them that they don't. Thats where tragic things can happen, God can't get our attention by means of blessings when we don't see the biggest blessing we could have ever gotten--
How do you get the attention of someone who thinks, "I'm okay, everyone has their 'religions', how am I supposed to know which is true." Well, did you know that the Bible is the only book out of every religion that archaeologists have found evidence for? Did you know that evolution doesn't even come remotely close to being fact? Did you know that The Bible is the only book that God provided miracles in to back up His promises? Did you know that the many people who go out to try and prove the bible wrong, actually come out Christ followers? Josh McDowell, or Lee Strobel etc is a great example of a hardcore person wanting to prove the bible wrong.... he came out a believer. He didn't go in to find truth, he went in to try to prove truth wrong. You can't prove truth wrong.
Gods promise to you: "You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart"
Evolution is not proven, other religious books can not be traced back very far and do not have miracles to back up what they say, so what do you have? Nothing.I'm going to heaven one day, and I absolutely cant wait. I am seriously so excited. No matter what happens here, Heaven is waiting for me, and its never leaving. Its not enough for me though to just go there myself-- I want to take as many people with me as I can. Who would be foolish enough to refuse something better than paradise?
My best advice; Love God, Love Jesus, with you're whole heart, mind, and soul. No other decision with affect your life as this one does.
Love. We cannot see love, but we know its there. We take a chance when we love, and once we do we know its real.
God is love. We cannot see God, but we know he's there. We take a chance when we truly live for God, but once we do, we know he's there. See any parallels? It did not happen that way by chance !


Saturday, 5 May 2007


This is a longer than usual blog but the subject matter I believe warrants this. I am indebted to a good friend for spotting this piece recently in The Examiner newspaper,it is a timely and challenging article.

Why are our politicians so blind ?
20th April 2007
By Patrick Kenny Irish Examiner20th April 2007

William Wilberforce, a British MP in the 18th and 19th centuries, was the stuff of legend. He waged a twenty year long campaign to close down the British slave trade, facing the almost universal opposition of the powerful of his day. The film “Amazing Grace”, which is close to ending its month-long run in Irish cinemas and was released to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Wilberforce's parliamentary victory, powerfully recounts his struggle against the perverse notion that African slaves were less than human.
It's a shocking tale for those of us who today recognise the universality of human rights. The complete denial of human rights on the arbitrary basis of a person's colour or land of origin is now rightly seen as a grotesque relic of the past.
Of course, the arbitrary denial of universal human rights did not end with the slave trade. In most countries any human who is not yet born depends on the wishes of others for the vindication of their rights. In our closest neighbour Britain, unborn humans have only a 75% chance of surviving pregnancy without being aborted, and in former Soviet countries like Russia those who escape alive from pregnancy are the lucky ones – the number of abortions outstrips that of live births.
Of course, one's perspective on this issue depends on the value one places on the life of the unborn. The interesting thing about this, however, is that the more science develops, the clearer the humanity of the unborn becomes. Quite apart from basic biological and genetic facts, the latest 4D ultrasound technology vividly shows the startling humanity of the baby in utero…
But horror at abortion must in no way blind us to the plight of women who face the trauma of an unwanted pregnancy. Women do not choose abortion lightly, especially those Irish women who travel to abortion clinics abroad. .. Those who label themselves as pro-life must recognise that there are two lives involved, and both deserve equal respect.
This respect is all the more needed for those who have had abortions. The evidence of the damage abortion causes is mounting. Just last year, New Zealand medical researcher Professor David Fergusson, himself pro-choice, was forced to confront the reality that his data did not support his own position. His research, which cannot be accused of bias, indicated a link between abortion and subsequent emotional problems. Of course, not all women are affected in this way, but too many are to ignore the phenomenon. A society that silences them or that pretends that abortion is a risk-free activity does them little service.
These developments are having an impact around the world. Earlier this week the British media reported that Britain was facing what they called an “abortion crisis” as more and more doctors were opting out of performing the procedure. Doctors and nurses are refusing to perform abortions with increasing regularity because of personal ethical objections to the practice…
Just this week in the United States the Supreme Court upheld a ban on partial-birth abortion. This procedure, which is performed in very late pregnancy around the 8th and 9th month, is infanticide in all but name and is too gruesome to describe. This court decision represents the first real crack in what was for three decades an all but impenetrable legal edifice of support for abortion on demand in the United States…
Ireland is in a different position, never having had abortion available here. Without abortion, and despite the perceived shambles of our health system in general, we are one of the safest countries in the world for pregnant women precisely because Irish doctors recognise that they are treating two patients in pregnancy…
Instead, political parties like Labour and Sinn Féin, who could potentially form part of a coalition government, have official policy positions in favour of allowing abortion in Ireland …
The Government parties haven't covered themselves with glory on this issue either…
We have growing evidence of both the humanity of the unborn and the damaging effects of abortion on women. It is increasingly clear that any policy allowing abortion in Ireland would damage women and children. Most Irish people are opposed to abortion, yet they remain a constituency of voters ignored by the political parties. The blindness of politicians on this issue is astounding.
Where is our William Wilberforce?

Friday, 4 May 2007


Breaking Free

I have been thinking about routines. Seems like life runs on them. Its funny how I get ready the same way every morning: I brush my teeth, then put my contacts in, then blow dry my hair...hardly wavering from that sequence. I laughed at that this morning as I watched the foamy toothpaste I just spit out of my mouth go down the sink. I wondered - "Hmm, why do I do that? Why this particular order?" while reaching for my contact solution. I guess we truly are creatures of habit.Maybe that's why its so hard for people to change - we are so programmed into our routines that it can be hard for us to try a new one. "Blow dry my hair first then brush teeth?" That would throw my entire day off....ha ha ok maybe not.But seriously, I wonder what would happen if we stepped out of our normal groove and did things differently. And I'm not saying change up your morning routine - although you could. I mean - what if we take a moment and see beyond our daily routines. If we notice the people around us or if we just stop for a moment and enjoy the scenery laid out before us. God's beauty is everywhere and He's always wanting to engage with us. I like my routines - they help me function, but I don't ever want to become bound or blinded by them.
Lather, rinse, repeat-