This morning's Thought  the Day on Good Morning Ulster... Well do you feel your sap rising, with today being the Spring equinox… the day in the northern hemisphere when there is as much light as dark… hopefully heralding marginally warmer weather in the weeks ahead?  Today is also the International Day of Happiness, established in 2011 as a United Nations Initiative devised by social entrepreneur and UN advisor Jayme Illien to inspire, mobilize, and advance the idea of happiness as a fundamental human right. And as pat of that , today as in previous years, the World Happiness Report comes out with a league table measuring the happiness of different countries via some arcane statistics. Despite the economic doldrums of the past decade and the political rancor of recent years, the UK has remained fairly steady at around 18th out of about 150 countries… With central African countries generally rating very low and Scandinavians topping the league every year… The USA has moved up and dow…


Again, it's been a while again... and I didn't get a chance to post last week's Thought for the Day, but here is this morning's effort... you can get the audio version online later if you so desire...
In Greek mythology King Aeolus ruled an island kingdom and the gods granted him control of the winds. According to the poet Homer, Odysseus and his crew arrived on Aeolus’ island after nearly being eaten by a one-eyed giant. Aeolus by contrast allowed them to rest and relax for a month, and as they prepared to leave he provided Odysseus with the gift of a west wind to carry them home. But he also gave him a large sack, warning him to keep it stowed safely away until they got to their destination. Thanks to the favourable wind they were within sight of home after a few days, but when Odysseus fell asleep exhausted by the whole ordeal, his crew, curious to see what treasures Aeolus had given their captain, untied the sack. Unwittingly they unleashed all the other winds tha…

The Work of Christmas - Continued...

I had never before come across a piece entitled "The Work of Christmas" or "When the Song of the angels is stilled" by African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader, Howard Thurman, until a few days ago, when I chased up the origins of a facebook meme, which turned out to be a reworking of this poem by Michael Dougherty, co-chair of the Social Justice Committee at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Whitehorse, Yukon. The original has been used as the basis for a choral carol which seems to be popular in Amrica, but which, despite it's subject and sentiment, leaves me cold. But given that it has been reworked at least once and that I barely have an original thought in my head, I thought I would us both as the building blocks for a 2 verse poem of my own: 
When the angel choir has gone home to heaven When the last notes of their song has faded away When the shepherds are back to watching their sheep When Bethlehem is no longer so busy When…

Bethl'em Road Revisited

Another Christmas in a new congregation, another outing for this oldie and another reblog. The tune is "Raglan Road..."
I chose it mindful of the thousands of people on the move this Christmas, seeking safety and prosperity for their families and of the journey which we as a church are on at present. But Jesus' life from before his birth was a story of journey... Why should ours be any different if we are seeking to follow him?
Down Bethl’em road from Nazareth, Came Joseph and his wife
Within her womb God’s promise bloomed
His Word, the Light of Life.
He came to take on flesh and blood
To show us all the way
And through the night a star so bright
Hailed the dawning of His day.
And on the hills round Bethlehem,
Some shepherds heard the song,
The angels sing of a new born King
Awaited for so long.
They find him midst the filth and grime
In a bed of straw and hay,
Ignored by the earth that he brought to birth
The Lord Almighty lay.
And from the east to Bethlehem
Come men who saw the sign.

We Were First!

Another old favourite that got another outing this year. This started out as part of New Irish Arts' "I Witness" show in the Waterfront, many years ago, but it has been delivered by a number of different "shepherds" in a variety of contexts since then, most recently at the Grosvenor Hall "Toy Service" at the culmination of their 2018 Christmas Gift Appeal last Sunday. Surprisingly I don't seem to have blogged it before... But even if I have, here it is again...
It was damn near freezing out on that hillside… What’s wrong!? My language a bit strong? Or is it the smell of the sheep… Ah, you’re all the same you holy joes… Aye, you’re glad of the wool from our sheep for your prayer shawls and our best lambs for your feasts, but us… we’re unclean… You may sing about God as your shepherd… but if one of your daughters wanted to marry one of us… You’d  have a hairy fit! Admit it! But just remember… God sent his angel to us… not you and your like…On the hil…

Incarnation – Reflections of an Older Mary

A monologue used as part of today's service for the 4th Sunday in Advent in Grosvenor Hall. Not sure whether I have blogged it before, but whether I have or not, here it is...
He who was there when the universe was formed… took form inside my womb… He who is the source of all good gifts suckled at my breast… He who walked in the Garden of Eden… I taught to walk as a toddler… He who carved the commandments on tablets of stone with his finger, learned them from me at the kitchen table… He who inspired the psalmists learned their songs on my knee… It was amazing… I saw the son of God grow into a man… I know every mother thinks that their child is perfect… Particularly their first… But my son was… Why me? I was little more than a child myself when the angel came to me… Yet he said: “Mary you have been singled out by God. You are going to have a child!” “But that's not possible,” I said “I'm a virgin!” "Nothing is impossible with God!" He said... “Just ask your cousi…


And we're off... After much plotting and planning behind the scenes the theme for next year's 4 Corners Festival has been announced... Scandalous Forgiveness. Some, who know me better and have experienced/suffered under my ministry might well say "Oh, are you off on that old hobby horse of yours again!?" I have reflected, spoken and written a lot about this subject and particularly how it applies to this wounded little part of God's world, but I consistently suggest that it isn't my hobby horse but Jesus' hobby horse... he consistently pointed to this as a key teaching, and if we are authentically trying to follow him then we need to take this seriously... 
Well, not always too seriously... My friends and colleagues Steve Stockman and Jim Deeds have already shared their reflections on this in different forms... Here's my starter for ten... I've posted it before and it owes something to both John Bell and Graham Maule and Riding Lights... but most …