Sunday, 27 December 2009

INNER LIGHT

GOD'S CANDLES
.
God, light tall candles in my heart.
Make every dim-lit space
So glowing that no evil thing
Can find a hiding place.
God, light tall candles in my heart.
Lest I should fail to see
That Thy Word is the cup of strength
For all humanity.
Burn brightly, candles in my heart...
No soul has ever trod
Earth's twisted way in faith without
Deeper inner light from God.
.

Gertude Hanson

Saturday, 26 December 2009

MAKING A MERRY FEAST

The Victorians at rest after Christmas Dinner
.

MARY'S SONG

.

And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour"

.

(Luke 1:46-47)

.
Observe, this morning, the sacred joy of Mary that you may imitate it. This is a season when all men expect us to be joyous. We compliment each other with the desire that we may have a "Merry Christmas." Some Christians who are a little squeamish, do not like the word "merry." It is a right good old Saxon word, having the joy of childhood and the mirth of manhood in it, it brings before one's mind the old song of the waits, and the midnight peal of bells, the holly and the blazing log. I love it for its place in that most tender of all parables, where it is written, that, when the long-lost prodigal returned to his father safe and sound, "They began to be merry." This is the season when we are expected to be happy; and my heart's desire is, that in the highest and best sense, you who are believers may be "merry." Mary's heart was merry within her; but here was the mark of her joy, it was all holy merriment, it was every drop of it sacred mirth. It was not such merriment as world lings will revel in to-day and to-morrow, but such merriment as the angels have around the throne, where they sing, "Glory to God in the highest," while we sing "On earth peace, goodwill towards men." Such merry hearts have a continual feast. I want you, ye children of the bride-chamber, to possess to-day and to-morrow, yea, all your days, the high and consecrated bliss of Mary, that you may not only read her words, but use them for yourselves, ever experiencing their meaning: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savour."
"Now a happy Christmas to you all; and it will be a happy Christmas if you have God with you. I shall say nothing to day against festivities on this great birthday of Christ. We will to-morrow think of Christ's birthday; we shall be obliged to do it, I am sure, however sturdily we may hold to our rough Puritanism. And so, 'let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.' Do not feast as if you wished to keep the festival of Bacchus; do not live to-morrow as if you adored some heathen divinity. Feast, Christians, feast; you have a right to feast. Go to the house of feasting to-morrow, celebrate your Saviour's birth; do not be ashamed to be glad; you have a right to be happy. Solomon says,
'Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.'
"Religion never was designed to make your pleasures less."
Recollect that your Master ate butter and honey. Go your way, rejoice tomorrow, but in your feasting, think of the Man in Bethlehem; let him have a place in your hearts, give him the glory, think of the virgin who conceived him, but think most of all of the Man born, the Child given. I finish by again saying, ---"A HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL"
.

Charles Hodges Spurgeon

Thursday, 24 December 2009

THAT TIME OF YEAR

.
MY CHRISTMAS WISH
.
In these parts Christmas Eve has delivered a seasonal frost and freezing fog creating an atmosphere that Dickens himself would heartily approve of ! Its the time of year again when the calendar nudges our thoughts in the direction of that birth so long ago in Bethlehem, the beginning of a remarkable life who would profoundly impact on every generation thereafter. As the Scripture succinctly recounts the event, “ Mary brought forth her firstborn Son…and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7) Of course that was not the whole story and Jesus grew to manhood when He went about preaching the Good News of the Kingdom , gathering a few followers who recognised His uniqueness but did not always understand His mission. That mission culminated at the cross where the sinless Lamb of God offered Himself as our substitute. The helpless babe in the manger became the suffering victim of Calvary, all to rescue you and I and a world plunged into darkness. For three days and nights Jesus’ followers were themselves in a dark and confused place as they pondered the dashing of their dream of Messiah . But while Jesus finished the work of redemption on the cross , death could not hold Him and He rose again and lives today. So as I wish all readers of the Dew a Happy Christmas , let’s remember that behind all the tinsel and religious cant there is One who loves us, who is only a prayer away and longs to become a part of our everyday lives.
Many have breezed in and out of these pages over the last year , most leaving no trace of their visit, but some brave and sturdy souls have stopped and passed comment and even left a name! To you, the brave named .… Tony, Leonardo, Antoin, Noreen, Mike, Joy, Philip, Deirdre, Lucinda, Alec, Lisa, Ralph, Trevor, Cathy, Brian Mc, Elf Girl, Kevin, Jim, Martin, Peter, Chris, Beneus, Aoife, Sundas, Madusa, Siobhan, Richard, Dominic, Kay, John, Propac, Garrett, Mandy, Pete, Joe, Rachel, Tim, Sam, Bogisha, Sarah, Doug, Therese, Julian, Matthias, Hapi, Jake, Liam, Eamon, Derek, Firieth, Harry and of course my old friend (or friends ) Anonymous ! I say a special thanks and I look forward to more of your feedback in 2010.
During the year the piece that drew most comment was the account of the arrest of a Christian couple in the UK who witnessed to a Muslim lady staying at their hotel. The lady took offence at their remarks about Islam and pressed charges (Oct 23). A review of U2’s latest album (March 1) came in at number two while a visit to Limerick New Testament Church (August 31) vied with the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal (January 12) as the third most commented on blog during the last twelve months.

.

Gerard O'Shea



Wednesday, 23 December 2009

LOVE CAME DOWN AT CHRISTMAS

WHEN LOVE OVERCAME POWER
.
Christmas shatters any idea that God is some kind of vengeful tyrant bent on smiting any who fail to live up to His expectations. The image of a harsh, punishing deity is contradicted when we discover that our God was incarnated in a baby in Bethlehem's manger.What we realize with the birth of Jesus is that God is a loving person who was willing to give up power in order to express His love. At Christmas we are reminded, as it says in the second chapter of Philippians, that the same God who had the power to toss the galaxies into outer space and set electrons spinning in inner space loved us enough to set aside all that power in order to show that love.
Soren Kierkegaard, the nineteenth-century theologian and philosopher, once told the story of a prince who had fallen in love with a peasant girl. This prince knew that if he presented himself to her with all of his royal trappings, she would be overawed by him. His power and majesty would render her incapable of freely choosing to love him. Knowing this, the prince took off his royal garments, set aside his crown, and dressed himself as a peasant. He became a peasant in her eyes, so that in this guise she could choose to love him or not, for his own sake.
So it was with God at that first Christmas. If He had not been willing to put His power "on hold," loving Him would be impossible. We would not have the freedom needed to choose love if our God powerfully controlled everything. If all that we thought and did was under the control of His power, then love, freely given, would not be possible.
Sociologists who have studied personal relationships have long known that power and love cannot be simultaneously expressed. In any relationship, they point out, the person who has the most power is the one expressing the least love. Consider a married couple in which the wife loves her husband intensely, but he could not care less about continuing the marriage. Which of them has the most power? He does, of course. Her love has made her vulnerable to being exploited. Love does that! That is why Fredrick Nietzsche, the father of modern atheistic existentialism, sneered at love as he exalted "the will to power."The good news is that 2,000 years ago, our God showed us His love by emptying Himself of power and coming into the world as a vulnerable infant child. The scandalous declaration of Christians is that the Bethlehem child is none other than the creator God, having become one of us. There is no greater love than this!




Sometimes it is hard to want a God who, for love, gives up His power. There are situations in which we might prefer a God with limitless power. When cancer strikes, or when evil enemies threaten, most of us, like the Psalmist, want a God who uses His power to provide deliverance and make things right. But we can't have it both ways. Either we have a God who exercises limitless power or a God who limits His power so that love might live in His heart and in ours. God is love! That love has made Him vulnerable. We see that in the life of Jesus. That vulnerability was made brilliantly clear on Calvary. The Bible says that on the cross "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself." On the cross we see how far God's love will go. He was willing to die an agonizing death rather than have those He loves endure harsh condemnation.
From Bethlehem to Calvary, we learn that God is not a condemning God, but a friend to sinners. In Scripture we read, "There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." This Christmas, be thankful for the God who comes to us in weakness because He loves; a God who annihilates any belief that He is a harsh and vindictive deity. His coming to us in Jesus is all the proof we need that in His love He wills peace on earth and good will for us all.
.
Tony Campolo

Monday, 21 December 2009

A WINTER WONDER

The road outside my house this morning
.
Snowfall may be a routine event in some parts of the world but here in Ireland it is still noteworthy news. This morning I woke up to a changed landscape , crisp underfoot and dazzling to behold ! As Deirdre observed in a comment this sudden whitening of the place has lifted spirits considerably (unless you’re planning a journey!) and so especially for her and anyone else whose heart is cheered by snow, here is a poem on the subject from Robert Frost. ~GOSh.~
.

Stopping By Woods

On A Snowy Evening

.
Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound's the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

.
Robert Frost
.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

A CHRISTMAS GARLAND


Let Christmas not become a thing
Merely of merchant's trafficking,
Of tinsel, bell and holly wreath
And surface pleasure, but beneath
The childish glamour, let us find
Nourishment for soul and mind.
Let us follow kinder ways
Through our teeming human maze,
And help the age of peace to come
From a Dreamer's martyrdom
.
Madeline Morse
.

The message of Christmas is that the visible material world
is bound to the invisible spiritual world.


I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.
.
Charles Dickens
.


The Church does not superstitiously observe days, merely as days, but as memorials of important facts. Christmas might be kept as well upon one day of the year as another; but there should be a stated day for commemorating the birth of our Saviour, because there is danger that what may be done on any day, will be neglected
.
Samuel Johnson
.
.
I stopped believing in Santa Claus when my mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph.
...
Shirley Temple
.
.
In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukkah' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukkah!' or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!'
.
Dave Barry
.
.
Fail not to call to mind, in the course of the twenty-fifth of this month, that the Divinest Heart that ever walked the earth was born on that day; and then smile and enjoy yourselves for the rest of it; for mirth is also of Heaven's making.
..
Leigh Hunt
..
Whatever else be lost among the years, Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing: Whatever doubts assail us, or what fears, Let us hold close one day, remembering Its poignant meaning for the hearts of men. Let us get back our childlike faith again.
.
Grace Noll Crowell
....
.
There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.
.
Erma Bombeck



Saturday, 19 December 2009

A MEAGRE CHRISTMAS

A young Lewis posing with
bearded seasonal visitor on donkey !

.
COLD NORTHERN CHEER
.
Our earliest description of Christmas from writer C.S. Lewis is a bitter one. The year was 1922. As usual, C.S. Lewis and his brother Warren spent the holidays with their widowed father in his big house outside Belfast.
"It was a dark morning with a gale blowing and some very cold rain," Lewis reported in his diary. Their father Albert awakened his two sons, both in their mid twenties, to go to early Communion service. As they walked to church in the dawn light, they started discussing the time of sunrise. Albert irritated his sons by insisting that the sun had already risen or else they would not have any light. He was an illogical and argumentative man.
Saint Mark's church was intensely cold. Warren wanted to keep his coat on during the service, and his father disapproved. "Well, at least you won't keep it on when you go up to the Table," Albert warned. Warren asked why not and was told that taking Communion with a coat on was "most disrespectful." Warren took his coat off to avoid an argument. Not one of the three Lewis men had any interest in the meaning of Communion. The two sons hadn't believed in Christianity for years.
"Christmas dinner, a rather deplorable ceremony, at quarter to four", Lewis continued in his diary. After dinner the rain had stopped at last, and Albert urged his two sons to take a walk. They were delighted to get out into the fresh air and head for a pub where they could get a drink. Before they came to the pub, however, some relatives drove by on the way to their house for a visit and gave them an unwelcome ride right back home.
After too much sitting and talking and eating and smoking all day in the stuffy house, Lewis went to bed early, dead tired and headachy. He felt like a flabby, lazy teenager again. ...

.

from 'Christianity Today'



Friday, 18 December 2009

FREE TO SPEAK

The Volgelenzangs Walk Free
.
COUPLE VINDICATED
.
Last July I brought the case of Christian couple, Benjamin and Sharon Vogelenzang to the attention of Dew readers. They were accused of insulting a Muslim guest at their hotel, Ericka Tazi. During the two day hearing at Liverpool Magistrates Court , Mrs. Tazi had alleged that they had insulted the 'Prophet' Mohammad by calling him a warlord and they had also made disparaging comments on her distinctive Muslim dress. District Judge Richard Clancy suggested that Mrs Tazi’s version of events could not be relied upon and that she was not the religious person she presented herself as in the witness box. The couple were cleared of a religiously aggravated public order offence of insulting a Muslim guest because of her faith.
The charge had been hanging over the couple for the last 9 months and they have experienced an 80% drop in business at the hotel which they run as a result of the accusation. After the case Mrs. Volgelenzang said, “We’ve been found innocent of any crime. It has been a very difficult nine months and we are looking forward to rebuilding our business and getting on with our lives.
‘We would like to thank all those who have supported us, our family, our friends, our church and Christians all around the world, and non-Christians. And as Christmas approaches we wish everybody peace and goodwill.”
I know many who had been praying for this outcome and who will be relieved that the case was seen for the opportunistic attempt it was, to stifle the right of freedom of thought and speech which are the bedrock of an open and healthy society. We need continued vigilance wherever we live to ensure that insidious legislation is not enacted which seeks to curtail the freedom of Christians to openly proclaim the Gospel. Incidentally the original report in the Dew drew the most comments of any single blog entry over the last year, you can find it at
http://dewofhermon.blogspot.com/2009/10/freedom-of-speech.html
.
Gerard O'Shea

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

FORGETTING SOMETHING ?

READY FOR CHRISTMAS

.
"Ready for Christmas," she said with a sigh,
As she gave a last touch to the gifts piled high.
Then wearily she sat for a moment and read,
Till soon, very soon, she was nodding her head.
Then quietly spoke a voice in her dream!
"Ready for Christmas! What do you mean?
I seem to remember that only last week,
You wouldn't acknowledge your friend on the street.
.
"Ready for Christmas, while holding a grudge?
Perhaps you'd better let God be the judge.
Why, how can the Christ child come and abide
In a heart that is selfish and still filled with pride?
Ready for Christmas, when only today
A beggar lad came and you turned him away
Without even a smile to show that you cared?
So little he asked, which you could have spared.
.
"Ready for Christmas! You've worked, it is true,
But just doing the things that you wanted to do.
Ready for Christmas! Your circle's too small.
Why, you are not ready for Christmas at all!
"She awoke with a start, and a cry of despair,
"There's so little time, and I've still to prepare!
Oh, Father, forgive me. I see what you mean:
To be ready means more than a house swept clean.
.
"Yes, more than the giving of gifts and a tree.
It's the heart swept clean that He wants to see
,A heart that is free from bitterness, sin-
-Ready for Christmas means ready for Him!"
.

Author Unknown

KEEPING CHRISTMAS REAL - 2

SAME OLD STORY
.
Sadly the old story of there being no room at the Inn for Joseph and his pregnant wife has taken on a new relevance for some families this Christmas, whose homes have been re-possessed by the banks for payment arrears of mortgages. As property prices tumble from the artificial highs created in ‘boom’ economy times, many on shrinking incomes or faced with job loss are unable to continue hefty repayments to the banks. Thankfully the number of home re-possessions is still small here but each day this recession continues, the threat of foreclosure increases. Later in His life Jesus would tell the disciples , " Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." (Matthew 8:20) indicating that we are not to get entangled in mere earthly habitations but live our lives with an eye to eternity. As the materialistic rug is being pulled from under our feet we are realising how flimsy our security is apart from a relationship with the eternal God who loves us and gave His Son to die for our sins. While we assist our neighbours and friends during these difficult days, let’s not forget to share the life-changing message of the gospel with them and pray by God’s grace for the power to live by it ourselves.
.

Gerard O'Shea


IRISH CHRISTMAS POEM


A CRADLE SONG

.
O men from the fields,

Come gently within.

Tread softly, softly

O men coming in!

.

Mavourneen is going

From me and from you,

Where Mary will fold him

With mantle of blue!

.

From reek of the smoke

And cold of the floor

And the peering of things

Across the half-door.

.

O men of the fields,

Soft, softly come thro'

Mary puts round him

Her mantle of blue.

.

Padraic Colum

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

AN ADVENT PRAYER



For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government will be upon his shoulder,
and his name will be called
“Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.”
.
Isaiah 9:6
.
LET MEN BE MOVED
.
Lord our God, you have sent light to shine on earth
and have revealed your heavenly power in Jesus
Christ, so that in spite of all the darkness and evil
we may rejoice because we have a Savior. Reveal
your power in our day. Let something be done anew
toward the building of your kingdom on earth. Let
something draw men’s hearts to you to give them
light so that they may thank and praise you for all
you have done and are still doing to bring the whole
world into your hands. O Lord God, let men be
moved by the opening of the heavens. May their
hearts awaken and their sadness give way to joy in
Jesus Christ the Savior. We are your children who
are allowed to wait in expectation for you to set
everything right. We can know that even in our
troubled times your hand is at work to reveal your
will, to make your will plain to all generations on
earth, as you promised through Abraham. May your
name be glorified, O Lord God. May your name be
honoured, your kingdom come, and your will be done
on earth as in heaven. Amen
.
Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt
.

Blumhardt was a 19th century German Lutheran theologian who practised a radical message based on Jesus sermon on the mount and the Kingdom of God. As the First World War broke out, he declared his belief in a coming Kingdom of God, declaring "we live in the time before a massive change in the world. This darkness will be vanquished through the Lord Jesus Christ." He is regarded as one of the fathers of Christian socialism but also believed and worked in the area of the miraculous and the supernatural. He was a significant influence on the theologians Karl Barth, Hermann Kutter and Leonhard Ragaz ~GOSh.~


Saturday, 12 December 2009

KEEPING CHRISTMAS REAL -1


.
GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENTS
.
This cartoon humorously illustrates what will be a reality for many families this year as belts are tightened in a global economic recession. I remember growing up in the sixties when money was tight and marching my beleaguered mother into Woolworth's Store to show her exactly the electric guitar that I wanted Santa to bring. Well despite this and a detailed letter sent to the North Pole via our chimney, Santa delivered a guitar on Christmas morning alright but it was an acoustic and not one you could plug in, I was furious and sulked for the day spreading anything but Christmas cheer ! ~GOSh.~

Friday, 11 December 2009

A DICKINSON CHRISTMAS !

'Field of Yellow Corn' ~ Van Gogh
.
’Twas just this time, last year, I died.
I know I heard the Corn,
When I was carried by the Farms —
It had the Tassels on —

I thought how yellow it would look —
When Richard went to mill —
And then, I wanted to get out,
But something held my will.

I thought just how Red — Apples wedged
The Stubble’s joints between —
And the Carts stooping round the fields
To take the Pumpkins in —

I wondered which would miss me, least,
And when Thanksgiving, came,
If Father’d multiply the plates —
To make an even Sum —

And would it blur the Christmas glee
My Stocking hang too high
For any Santa Claus to reach
The Altitude of me —

But this sort, grieved myself,
And so, I thought the other way,
How just this time, some perfect year
Themself, should come to me —

.
Emily Dickinson

Sunday, 6 December 2009

FROGS KNOW THINGS

GOLFING LESSON
.
Ladies, Read Only The First Part Men, The Rest
A Woman was out golfing one day when she hit the ball into the woods. She went into the woods to look for it and found a frog in a trap. The frog said to her, “If you release me from this trap, I will grant you three wishes.”
The woman freed the frog, and the frog said, “Thank you, but I failed to mention that there was a condition to your wishes. Whatever you wish for, your husband will get times ten!”
The woman said, “That’s okay.” For her first wish, she wanted to be the most beautiful woman in the world.
The frog warned her, “You do realize that this wish will also make your husband the most handsome man in the world, an Adonis to whom women will flock.”
The woman replied, “That’s okay, because I will be the most beautiful Woman and he will have eyes only for me.”
So, KAZAM-she’s the most beautiful Woman in the world!
For her second wish, she wanted to be the richest woman in the world. The frog said, “That will make your husband the richest man in the world. And he will be ten times richer than you.”
The woman said, “That’s okay, because what’s mine is his and what’s his is mine.”
So, KAZAM-she’s the richest woman in the world!
The frog then inquired about her third wish, and she answered, “I’d like a mild heart attack.”
Moral of the story: Women are clever. Don’t mess with them.
Attention female readers : This is the end of the joke for you. Stop here and continue feeling good.
Male readers, continue reading….
The man had a heart attack ten times milder than his wife
Moral of the story: Women think they’re so smart. Let them continue to think that way and just enjoy the show.
PS: If you are a woman and are still reading this; it only goes to show that women never listen!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

CATHOLIC CHURCH ABUSE

A POOR RESPONSE
.
Another damning report on the scale of child sexual abuse by the Roman Catholic clergy in this country has been published this week. In the report of the commission on child abuse within the Dublin diocese several Bishops are named as having not acted honourably when alerted to the activities of their clergy, most of them did nothing and many just moved the offending cleric on to another parish where the abuse continued on more children. I have been listening through this week to many ‘good’ Catholics venting their frustration at the lack of response of their church to these atrocities in any meaningful way. All the Church officials can muster to date are verbal apologies (they have never been at a loss for words, both inside and outside the pulpit ! ) and paltry sums of compensation offered to some of the victims. It is heart rending to hear fair minded members of that Church tearfully baffled as to the stony response of their spiritual leaders in the light of these awful happenings, as many have asked over the last few days, where has basic Christianity gone ?



A Bishop lies, a Cardinal lies, even a child preparing for Communion knows from their Catechism that it is a ‘sin’ to tell an untruth. But there seems to be one code of morality for the man or woman in the pew and an entirely opposite code for the Church hierarchy. Of course I am looking at these events from the outside having long ago substituted dead religious practise for a living faith in Jesus Christ. I could never understand how anyone with even a basic knowledge of the Gospels could confuse that heartless monolith which is the Roman Catholic Church with the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. While much good has been done by individual clergy and laity within the Church the structure of it, headed or lorded over by a Pope who lives in palatial grandeur, runs so counter to the way Jesus admonished His disciples to behave that it beggars belief. Jesus model of church leadership was that of a servant in fact He said that the greatest in His Kingdom would be the servant of all. ( Matthew 18: 1-4). As the Roman church strengthened its power base over the centuries it lost its spiritual clout and diluted the early teachings of Jesus with clever sounding theologies and doctrines that owed more to human ingenuity than to a revelation from God.

When I first opened the pages of the New Testament to read it for myself I was so surprised that much of what I had been taught to believe as a Catholic was no where to be found within its covers. Staples of my childhood like Confession, Mass, Praying for the Dead, worship of Mary and the reverential place of the Priest were all absent from the Four Gospels and did not appear in the early written works of the first Christian communities. Sadly, to people of my parent’s generation, reading the Bible had been deliberately discouraged by the Church , her ministers alone would explain and interpret the Book in line with its own peculiar belief system. The result of this rigorous authoritarianism was to allow generations of Irish people to have a dread of the Scriptures and thereby deny them the possibility of nurturing a vibrant personal faith in the Jesus of the New Testament. Compounded to this spiritual theft as we now know, was the scandalous behaviour of large numbers of the Churches clergy in the sexual abuse of thousands of children. Over the last few years as details of the awfulness of those crimes have been exposed, the once intimate relationship between the Irish and the Catholic Church has been altered beyond recognition. To the religiously sceptic these revelations of clerical wrongdoing have confirmed their disdain of any type of a faith based approach to life, to those who refused to live under any personal moral code it has shown how hollow that code was in the first place and to the majority of ordinary church going Catholics it has been a massive act of betrayal inflicted on them by the Church they loved.


Those of us looking on from outside the Roman fold do not have reason for any smugness or quiet satisfaction ,as the Catholic Church crumbles before our eyes. For most people here the terms Catholic and Christian are interchangeable, however misguided that opinion might be. So as the R. C Church looses ground, so too in common perception does the message of the Gospel. The opportunity must now be grasped to present the plain teachings of Jesus without the ecclesiastical razzmatazz or clerical sleight of hand. As Paul recalled his first encounter with the people at Corinth, “ My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.” ( 1 Corinthians 2: 4,5 ) All religious life is littered with the dead ash of human wisdom and persuasive oratory, what the disillusioned ‘faithful’ of the Catholic Church in Ireland now deserve to hear is a message of power and purity that emanates from the very heart of God. My hope is that the baby wont be tossed out with the bathwater as the distinction between the glorious message of Jesus and the moribund works of failed religion are muddled in the public mind. The challenge is for those of us who have tasted the goodness and mercy of God to pass it on as urgently and gently as we can, our fellow citizens deserve nothing less in the present trying circumstances.
.


Gerard O'Shea

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Christmas Bible Study

Did this artist get it right, is this
the way it might have looked ?
.
.

READY FOR THE CHRISTMAS ?


.
We are approaching that time of year dreaded and loved in different measure by one and all - Christmas. For some it is one big party and a social whirl of activity, for many it is all about making ends meet to ensure that Santa doesn't disappoint and for some Christmas can be the loneliest time of the year where difficult circumstances become accentuated. In all of these various reactions to Advent it is too easy to loose the original focus for the whole big shebang - the coming of Jesus to this earth. While church attendance declines and our attitude to an authoritarian structure that has let us down so badly in the past wavers, never has it been more important to distinguish Jesus message from his flawed messengers. In other words we need to get back to the man Jesus, that one who came among us as a man, and embodied in himself the very nature of God. The New Testament is our primary source where we can discover the real Jesus and make sense of His incarnation through those mysterious beginnings in Bethlehem and beyond. With this in mind I would like to recommend a 4 week Bible study on the Incarnation by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson of Joyful Heart Ministries that you can get through your e mail for free. The lessons arrive once a week and you study at your own pace, there are no 'catches' or hidden obligations and Dr, Wilson has a light style of teaching that make the lessons relevant and dynamic. To enrol simply click on the link below and fill out a short registration form, these few lessons will truly focus your attention on the reason for the Season - Jesus Christ. ~GOSh.~


.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

COMATOSED

AWAKENING
.
The story emerged during the week of the Belgian man who spent 23 years diagnosed as a comatose, and who now with the help of ultra modern therapy has described how he was conscious all the while. Rom Houben appeared to be in a vegetative state after being involved in a car crash, according to the expert diagnostics of the 1980’s. Now however with the aid of a specialised brain scan and computer technology he is able to communicate by pointing to letters on a screen using his little finger. He has described the loneliness and isolation of the last two decades as he lay there fully aware of his surroundings but unable to communicate. He wrote of his ordeal, “Just imagine. You hear, see, feel, and think but no one can see that. You undergo things. You cannot participate in life”. He went on to describe his new found ability to interact as being reborn. The doctor who discovered that Mr Houben had been wrongly diagnosed is now re-examining dozens of other cases. His studies have revealed that 40 pc of patients with consciousness disorders are wrongly given a diagnosis of a vegetative state.


When my uncle Frank had a stroke last year he spent several days just lying in the bed apparently oblivious to his surroundings. The medical staff essentially told us that his chances of any further recovery were negligible and they wanted to withdraw his naso-gastric feed and hydration. At the time we strenuously protested and he did recover limited mobility and full mental recognition within a week or two. One doctor was gracious enough to admit that they had got it wrong and he described Frank’s progress as nothing short of miraculous. Sadly Frank died after an unfortunate circumstance that I wont go into here. My point is that when medical professionals play God with human life they sometimes get it wrong.


There is a clamour in some quarters for so called ‘mercy’ killing to be made lawful in extreme cases where someone is terminally ill or whose quality of life is deemed to be very poor. The problem with this is who will adjudicate on the length or the quality of a human life. Traditionally God has been seen as the giver and the taker of life, but in our post-faith age rational humanism has opened up the pandoras box of mercy-killing at the latter stages of a life, having already established the right to abortion at the very beginning of life. I recall listening to the late Philosopher and Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer back in the 1980’s predicting that after the abortion battle, euthanasia would be next and then infanticide.At the time these words seemed somewhat dramatic now however they are chillingly true. Life is God’s gift (1Corinthians 3: 16 and Genesis 1: 26) and we are not the arbiters of when it is extinguished, even Job in his distress declared, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1: 21). The recent story of Rom Houben reminds us powerfully of how sacred and mysterious the gift of life is and even with our expertise we can sometimes read the signs incorrectly, pointing us towards a course of action that could be catastrophic.
.

Gerard O'Shea

Monday, 23 November 2009

DYLAN'S HEARTFELT CHRISTMAS

TIMES ARE A CHANGIN'
.
Already the air is beginning to fill with sounds seasonal as stores belt out their well worn Christmas soundtracks and even some of the local radio stations have dared to spin the occasional Yuletide ditty. Gone are the days when Christmas music belonged exclusively to the festivity itself, now the jingle jangle of reindeers, sleigh-bells and gathering angels are used to extend the shopping extravaganza way beyond even the month of December.


I must admit that I am a sucker for Christmas carols and there are a few Christmas cracker songs that also rock my sledge, like John and Yoko’s 'Happy Christmas, War Is Over’ and Jona Lewie’s ‘Don’t Stop The Cavalry’ and of course Jackson Browne’s ‘The Rebel Jesus’. ‘Oh Holy Night’, ’ Adeste Fideles and ‘The Coventry Carol’ would be my top three carols whose musical light burst through the morass of woolly thinking and mulled-wine-filled days that are part and parcel of this ambiguous festival. As an avid collector of Christmas albums from the Muppets to Mario Lanza I was excited to hear that my venerable musical icon Bob Dylan has this year ,surprise, surprise ,released his very own addition to this musical genre, ‘Christmas In The Heart’.


As I write I am listening to Dylan’s seasonal offering and a very upbeat, Pogueish version of ‘Must Be Santa’. Already I have heard a jaunty Dylanesque rendition of ‘Here Comes Santa Clause’ and a scratchy sky stretching ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’. Now he is singing ‘The First Noel’ as no one else can, punctuating the powerful lyrics of the old hymn in that distinctive drawl “ The first Noel the angel did say / Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay; / In fields as they lay, keeping their sheep, / On a cold winter's night that was so deep. / Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel. “ Such is the potency of that voice that old favourites like ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ and ‘Silver Bells’ lose their familiar banality and are endued with a freshness and immediacy that present those ancient and hallowed themes in an arresting and different way. Anyway Bob could sing the telephone directory and attach a gravitas to it with the awesome quality of his singing that has droned and sometimes hollered over the last five decades. The album is very much a traditional package with a Victorian painting of a lady and driver being pulled through the snow on a sledge with two horses on the cover, and a night scene of the Magi following the star on the back. Inside there is the slightly mischievous picture of a smiling brunette beauty posing in a Santa suit ! Whatever about the red suit with the fur trimmed collar this album should have pride of place in any stocking hung over the yuletide hearth this year.

Gerard O'Shea

Saturday, 21 November 2009

THE ISLAND

The Grand Parade in Cork resembling Venice ,
in the flooding of the last few days.

ANOTHER DELUGE
.

The water rushed in
Set free from the broken banks,
Submerging domestic life
In it’s swaddling ooze.

.
Stranded upstairs
Land dwellers look out to sea
Where lately lawns were trimmed,
And streams of murky brown
Torrent through the garden swing.

.
Dogs and cattle call
Alarmed at this fluid pasture
While experts crow again
Of changing climate
And further plans of action.

.
Meanwhile the island sinks
Beneath swamped hopes
And tidal waves of disappointment.

.
What Ark will now save us
From these foolish habitations
Built on the shifting sands
Of our heart-wrenched plains.
.
Gerard O'Shea

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

JUST ONE WISH

.
A GOOD MAN - WHO CAN FIND HIM ?


A woman rubbed a bottle and out popped a genie
The amazed woman asked if she got three wishes.
The genie said, "Nope, sorry, three-wish genies are a storybook myth.
I'm a one-wish genie. So... what'll it be?"
The woman did not hesitate.
She said, "I want peace in the Middle East.
"See this map? I want these countries to stop fighting with each other
and I want all the Arabs to love the Jews and Americans and vice-versa."
"It will bring about world peace and harmony."
The genie looked at the map and exclaimed, "Lady, be reasonable. These
countries have been at war for thousands of years. I'm out of shape
after being in a bottle for five hundred years.. I'm good but not THAT
good! I don't think it can be done. Make another wish and please be
reasonable."
The woman thought for a minute and said, "Well, I've never been able to
find the right man. You know - one that's considerate and fun, romantic,
likes to cook and help with the house cleaning, is good in bed, and gets
along with my family, doesn't watch sports all the time, and is
faithful. That is what I wish for...a good man."
The genie let out a sigh and said, "Let me see the map again."

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

AN OLD ANTHOLOGY



A BOOK MUCH TRAVELLED
.
I have neglected of late to bring you gems from the window-sill of my front porch, so to rectify this oversight I have plucked a tattered yellow copy of The Penguin Poets Contemporary Verse edited by Kenneth Allott. This volume first saw the light of day in 1950 and the price of two shillings and sixpence marked on the front cover is a bit of a giveaway. I picked it up in a second hand bookshop along the way being a firm believer that a well thumbed yellow-edged book of poetry holds a special atmosphere that allows the works within to live and breathe. It’s a good feeling to thumb through an old edition where eyes and thumbs have strayed before, there’s a distinct feeling that you are not travelling alone. The poem I’ve selected from this book is one by Irish poet Louis Macneice (left} which though seasonally a little premature, is a work rich in atmosphere and mystery. In his introduction Allott says of Macneice’s writing, “ his best work was unequalled in the Thirties for its gaiety, grace and a lightness which was never silly or ostrich-like.”
.
Gerard O'Shea
.
SNOW
.'
The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.
......
World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.
.
And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes -
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one's hands -

There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.
.
Louis Macneice

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

SOUNDS GOOD !

EXOTIC EMPLOYMENTS
.
Continuing our occasional series on curious signs, I spotted this one while awaiting a hospital appointment recently. The aim of the poster is laudable in encouraging people to quit the noxious habit, but what took my eye was the grand sounding title of the lady entrusted with the task of stamping out the practise ,a SMOKING CESSATION FACILITATOR . What a mouthful ! Reminds me of a summer job that I once had in Roches Stores, a large (now departed) store in the middle of Limerick where amongst my duties was the task of keeping the main door free of obstructing prams! The daily brigade of women with prams queuing up to park in the restricted area became the bane of my workday life. To alleviate the monotony of my task I invented a fancy title for my occupation - A PERAMBULATOR EXTINGUISHER ! In my defence my exotic job description was a bit of fun while I think the notice in the hospital was meant to be taken seriously !
.
Gerard O'Shea

Sunday, 8 November 2009

THE FALLEN SOLDIERS

REMEMBERING THE HORROR
.
Today is Remembrance Sunday, the anniversary of the cessation of hostilities in the First World War at 11 a.m.on November 11 th. in 1918 and when the dead of all wars are remembered. The Day is chiefly commemorated in the U.K. but as over 200,000 Irish served with the British army and an estimated 35,000 + died in the war ,there are also services of remembrance in this country. The Royal British Legion who look after the interests of war veterans and their families sell the ‘poppy’ badge at this time and this has been a bone of contention here going back over the years ,as for some the ‘poppy’ represents British Imperialism and is anathema to full blooded Republicans. The counter argument is that the Remembrance activities are not glorifying the conflict but honouring and remembering those who died in this most bloody war. My own grand-uncle ,Jack Kelly died in the war and is listed on the roll of honour at Flanders Field in Belgium. Like many other young men at the time, he enlisted in the Dublin Fusiliers and left his home at Shanakyle near Larkin’s Cross in Limerick, to fight in the ‘ war that was to end all wars’. He fell in battle at the age of 37 leaving behind his wife and two children, Alice and Mary. He was one of many Irish who joined the British Army for several reasons. Some joined spurred on by Home Rule campaigner John Redmond, in the hope (vain as it turned out) that after the war Britain would reward Irish involvement by granting home rule to Ireland. Some, I’m sure joined for the adventure and romance of army life (as it was then perceived!) and many joined to get a job in a depressed economic climate. 8,556,315 troops from all countries died in the war while the total number of people killed during WW1 (including civilians) is 16.5 million, making it one of the bloodiest conflicts in history. Many of the men who survived action at the front witnessed all the horrors of war and some were permanently scarred emotionally as a consequence, one such soldier was Wilfred Owen who suffering from ’shell shock’, was confined to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh. While there, in October of 1917 Owen began to reflect on all he had seen and experienced at the front and wrote this poem as a lament for the huge wastage of young lives cut down in the conflict.
.

Gerard O'Shea

.

ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH
.
What passing bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choir,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
.
Wilfred Owen
.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

BORN AGAIN ?

AFTER DARK
.
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Jesus replied,
“I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”



“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.


“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”

.
Gospel of John, chapter 3, verses 1 - 21