Friday, 30 April 2010



The sudden death of broadcaster Gerry Ryan has shot like a lightning bolt throughout our little island and I’m sure brought many of us face to face with the fragility of our own lives. I first heard through a text from a work colleague early this afternoon and as I overheard conversations in shops and on the street, the news spread throughout the city and indeed the nation. Gerry was a sometimes brash and often controversial radio broadcaster who was not to everyone’s taste, personally I admired his gift for plain communication although at times I felt he crossed the line of ‘decency’ and taste in some of his excursions into the sexual peccadilloes of his listeners. From the multitude of tributes which have flowed since his passing he was obviously a large warm hearted guy who was seriously devoted to his five children and his sudden departure at such a young age is terribly sad.

The most common reaction among people of my vintage ( like Gerry, I was also born in 1956)) has been ‘we know not the hour or the day’ or as a friend wittily replied when I sent him that text, ‘or the month or the year!’ Never has that stark statement from the Scripture rang more true, “ it is appointed for a person once to die and after death, the judgement ” (Hebrews 9:27) The Psalmist cried out to God, “ Lord, teach me to number my days that I may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) When a public celebrity like Gerry Ryan dies we are all confronted with thoughts of our own mortality and realise that neither wealth or fame can indemnify us against our final appointment with eternity and the Judge of all the earth, the Lord God Himself.
Once again the Psalmist pins it when he observes, “ What man can live and not see death, or save himself from the power of the grave.” (Psalm 89: 48) So am I advocating a morose preoccupation with death as the events of daily life teem about us, no far from it ! There is a quality of Life spiritually generated that commences here and transcends this one out into eternity and it is there for the taking. In fact this is the Life that Jesus offered when he stood up at the feast and uttered this memorable invitation, “ If anyone is thirsty let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7: 37-38) Jesus wraps it up in his night time chat with Nicodemus , “ For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not die but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) The gift of God is eternal life offered to us through the finished work of Jesus on the cross, His dying destroyed the power of sin and the prospect of eternal death that hung over humanity. The Life is there freely available to all who turn from their sins and receive it. I don’t know what Gerry Ryan’s future is but I do believe in common with every man woman and child who has ever left this world, there are only two possible outcomes. May God in His mercy lead us to choose Life.

Gerard O'Shea



The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Philip Larkin

Saturday, 24 April 2010


As encountered this very morning

On Encountering An Elephant
Outside the Hunt Museum

After tea and crumble
And convivial discourse

I came out of the Hunt
Not to find a horse,
But an elephant no less
To greet me in the yard
Though gaudy and ceramic
Its hide felt really hard.

And its eyes were sad
And its head bent low

So affected was I

I found it hard to go
And leave this little fellow
An exhibit out of doors
No trees or rippling ponds
Or verdurous jungle floor.

Alone outside the Hunt
With rain swift on its way
I wonder is he dripping now
Neath skies of molten grey ?
And in time he’ll remember

This Limerick wind and wet

Cause as everybody knows
An elephant can’t forget.

Gerard O'Shea

Postscript - The elephant pictured above is apparently the Irish painted entry in the International Elephant Parade to take place this summer in London. The Cork born artist, Bill Griffin prefers fingers to brushes when it comes to expressing his artistic vision in paint. So now you know !

Tuesday, 20 April 2010



A 20 year old soldier dies in an Army hospital and after nine minutes he returns to life, ‘Return from Tomorrow’ recounts what he experienced during that time and how it changed his life forever. There are a multitude of books on so called ‘near death’ experiences most of which present a largely positive outcome in the hereafter, approaching a great light etc,. This book strikes me as something different as the soldier, George G. Ritchie records the horrors as well as the blessings of a life beyond this one. There is an authentic feel to his tale not only in the matter-of-fact telling of it, but in the tangible positive change that the experience left on Ritchie for the remainder of his long life. On one level ‘Return from Tomorrow’ can be seen as a parable in the mould of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ where the miserable Ebeneezer is given a glimpse of a past, present and future that terrifies the miser into a reformation of his life, however the events of Ritchie’s story are narrated as actual events that are rooted in real time and history. Also unlike Dickens work Jesus is referred to explicitly as the young man’s guide through the realms of the next world, and the reassurance of His presence is the constant throughout the account.

George G. Ritchie chairman of the Department of Psychiatry of Towers hospital began his career after military service as a medical doctor. He frames his extraordinary story around a consultation with patient, Fred Hoyle (not his real name) who had been experiencing acute depression after childhood abuse and a variety of other ‘hard’ life experiences. After five sessions where much progress had been made in helping Fred to confront his past difficulties he is given the diagnosis of lung cancer with only four months left to live. He turns angrily to Ritchie, “ What a joke , huh Doc ? All this digging around in the past so I can do better in the future - only now I’m not going to have a future…all a waste of time now, huh ? .”
The psychiatrist told him, “ On the contrary, these things are more urgent now than they’ve ever been. Your future depends more on how swiftly you get on with the business of relationships now than ever.”
The future he has in mind is Fred’s (and ours) long term eternal future to which as a young man he had been given a unique insight. Over several more meetings he shares in stunning detail the extent of his youthful nine minute excursion through the realms of the dead, and the enduring lessons that were etched in his psyche through this memorable experience. One of the practises that helped Ritchie make sense of his otherworldly experience was a renewed interest in the systematic reading of the Bible and he observed, “ I understood at last where the certainty had come from, in His presence, that I was not condemned , in spite of my ugly actions I had committed that were paraded in plain view before us. It was His death, I came to see, that had already paid for these things, the light of His resurrection in which we stood.” That’s as good a conclusion as one could hope for when discussing such a controversial and mysterious a subject as ‘life after death’, and it this solid Biblical grounding that saves the story from descending into a morass of subjective speculation and fanciful conjecture. I raced through this book as it is truly breathtaking and I, at least, have read nothing quite like it.

Gerard O'Shea

You can purchase 'Return from Tomorrow' post free at

Saturday, 17 April 2010


Your blogger...fencing !


As regular Hermonites will know, I make an annual foray into the garden here at Ardhu in a blaze of Spring induced enthusiasm and leave the earthscape altered in some respect.. Yesterday aided and abetted by my friend Tony Ryan and my brother Tony I replaced a crumbling roadside wooden fence with a spanking new one. The day for this engineering exercise dawned gloriously and we completed the job bathed in golden sunshine necessitating copious amounts of sunscreen and Nash’s red lemonade to respectively stop the burn and quench our thirst. We worked well as a team and had to negotiate several obstacles as we progressed. Large stones embedded deep in the earth prevented the easy sinking of the fence posts and had to be dug and rooted out. Tony Ryan took over ownership of the sledge hammer for the job and wielded it with an enthusiasm and ferocity that was a sight to behold. My brother insisted on cutting down any offending trees in our path and set to work like a ravenous beaver on the saw.

The finished job

My role was a jack-of-all-trades assisting when required at all the little tasks that eventually led us to the completion of the new fence. The days enterprise reminded me again of the benefits of teamwork and the blessing of having family and friend to lend a hand for what would have been an impossible task on ones own. So the garden is now enclosed by a new fence and it now remains to plan and sow the earth for the new season. Whether to fill it with vegetables or festoon with flowers is the question, as soon as I have it resolved I’ll let you all know

Gerard O'Shea

Thursday, 15 April 2010



When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

Friday, 9 April 2010



Two stories of intense human interest are dominating the headlines in this part of the world at present, the one concerns the fate of two baby boys who were born conjoined at the hip and the other , the fatal stabbing of a 15 year old Nigerian boy in Dublin..The twins Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf from Cork underwent 14 hours of surgery at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, and it seems so far that the delicate operation has been a success. “ The sun is shining today for our two little fighters, who have won the battle for their lives .Words cannot express the relief and love we feel for our two boys. “, the boys’ parents Angie and Azzidene Benhaffaf said in a statement this afternoon. Meanwhile at Newcastle cemetery in County Dublin the mortal remains of Toyosi Shitta-bey was laid to rest after a funeral conducted according to Islamic rites . In accordance with Islamic practise the parents were not present at the internment.
Could these two events be more starkly different leaving in their wake equal measures of joy and sadness for those involved. Two little lives nurtured and carefully preserved at he hands of skillful surgeons and another young life snuffed out at the hands of a cold blooded killer. Surely this is the best of times and the worst of times in the sea-saw roll of life, for some the dawn of a new and bright day and for others the cold cry of loss at the midnight hour. The ancient words from the book of Ecclesiastes seem so appropriate here

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)

As well as emphasising the variable nature of our shared experience these two stories also show the noblest and the basest elements of human nature. Hands that heal and hands that kill, out of the same well springs both sweet and bitter water. What is it in the heart of a man or woman that can inspire such heights of inspiration or incite to such gross depths of evil ? The Bible says that while were made in the Divine image and purposed for greatness, when sin and moral disobedience crept in our eternal destiny took a nose-dive. So we are left in this schizophrenic state of aspiring to greatness while constantly falling short even of our own ‘standards’ never mind the law of God. Paul the great Apostle of the Christian gospel knew that dilemma well and expressed it thus “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (Romans 7:18-19 )
His problem is ours, how can such warring desires and emotions rage within appearing to make us powerless against our lower instincts ? The healing skills that have given a new life to the Benhaffaf twins and the violent attack that took the life of 15 year old Toyosi represent both the ability and the inability of the human spirit to live in accordance with its higher calling. In truth many of us to a lesser degree like Paul have these inner conflicts day in, day out with no end in sight. Paul's experience causes him to call out “ Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? ” ( Romans 7:24 ) and he straight away answers his own question “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. ” (Romans 7:25 ) Jesus allowed himself to be scape-goated for our sins when He died on the cross, and as we confess our wrongdoing to Him He alone can set us free.
The parents of Hassan and Hussien acknowledged the influence of both the human endeavour and the Divine grace in their statement after the surgery, “Words cannot express the relief and love we feel for our two boys. We thank God, we thank the surgeons and the gifted team at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and we thank from the bottom of our hearts the Irish nation and everyone who prayed for our beloved twins," In these troubling times we need the best of human endeavour and the goodness of God’s grace to steer us through our own personal storms and enable us to know Him as Saviour and Lord.

Gerard O'Shea

Tuesday, 6 April 2010



A linguistics professor was lecturing to his class one day. "In English," he said, "a double negative forms a positive.
In some languages though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative."
"However," he pointed out, "there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative."
A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah. Right."

Saturday, 3 April 2010


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living
hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
1 Peter 1:3


“ A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

C S Lewis

Thursday, 1 April 2010



I went to see where Jesus

once touched the earth

but the Catholics

had got there before me

and obscured His footprints

with arches, buttresses,

gold and incense..

I went to see where Jesus

once touched the earth.I couldn't see for

concrete and collection boxes,

for postcards and guide books.

So I looked further down.

I looked to the ground.

But the ground was thirty feet

higher than back in A.D.3.

This is not where Jesus walked.

I looked down, down to my feet,

my legs,arms,chest.

I looked down to where Jesus

touches the earth.
Steve Turner (Jerusalem)