Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Singing Christmas Carols

'Stop playing traditional Christmas carols in public. Santa songs are fine but not carols. They may cause offence. We want Happy Holidays but we don't want Christ to feature in them at all.' Ever heard people express sentiments like these? I have but I want to emphasize that I love some of the great old carols and delight to hear them in public. On Saturday in Rushmere shopping centre it was really lovely to hear an orchestra play some of the traditional Christmas carols and songs. One that particularly took my notice was 'The First Nowell.' Another night I had heard it being sung and those wonderful words "Born is the King of Israel" rang through the shopping centre.

I grew up with Christmas carol singing being part of Christmas. We learnt them in school and we sang them in church. I even went carol singing a few times too! Older people always did seem to appreciate the carols....whatever about our ability to sing lol. I remember an old family friend to whom we brought a Christmas present every year asking us to sing a verse of a carol as she received her gift. As I have matured a bit since then, 🤣 I have come to value Christmas carols even more and I do appreciate their beauty in a carol service.

May I suggest that you take time to listen to the words of carols and see just how filled with Biblical teaching about Christ that they really are. Here are just a few things sung about Christ:

Glory to the newborn King
Jesus our Immanuel
Begotten, not created
He is God and Lord of all
True God of True God
Word of the Father in flesh appearing
Offspring of a virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the Incarnate  Deity
Born that man no more may die
Born to give us second birth 
He rules the world with grace and truth 
He made heaven and earth of nought and with His blood mankind hath bought
God and sinners reconciled
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today 
Redeeming love
Redeeming grace 
Set at God's right hand on high

Need I go on? Is it any wonder that they are being objected to? This month on Facebook I am taking some carols and giving Bible references to show where carols are so Biblical. Please follow along these short little studies each day. They are not in depth studies and certainly not exhaustive on the subject. It has been a challenge and a blessing to myself to think of Bible verses for them. If you are blessed by them, please like and feel free to share them.

Search the Word Facebook Christmas Carols album

I also encourage you to share your favourite Christmas carols on Facebook in the 2 weeks leading up to Christmas. Why not fill Facebook with these beautiful songs about our Saviour?

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Look out your window and pray

I don't know about you but I like to do things with the help of visual aids and believe it or not I use them in prayer too! Yes the Lord Jesus told us to go into our room and shut the door and pray (Matthew 6v6). In the morning I go to my room to be alone with God. And yes there's times of intense pleading with God when no visual aid can help but when I shut the door and close the window I worship the Lord for who He is!

It's often then that the visual aids kick in for me to help me pray. As I look at things they prompt my thoughts of things to pray about. I look at the bed and thank Him for a bed to sleep on and all His daily provisions for me. I look at the map of the world on the wall and pray for people and needs around the world, not forgetting the little country Israel in the centre of the world. But when I look out my window.... what a host of things I see to pray about!

Now the view from my bedroom window is so much better than that photo gives and I can see so much more. Here's just some examples of what I see to pray about:
I see the fields, the trees and the cattle on the hills and on a clear day I can see the mountains of Mourne. I praise the Lord for His creation.
When I look at the many houses in full view from my window I cannot help but be reminded that I am in a little mission field in Dungannon at this moment in time. So many different nationalities and how few know my Lord. I must pray for them.
A bus passes on the road below. I picture the bus going round the town on a Friday night to collect the kids for children's hour and pray for the children by name who get on at each stop on the route.
I can see Lough Neagh and think of the children near the lough shore that I taught earlier this year.
I watched the wind turbine in the distance turning slowly this morning to make energy. My mind went out to a family near the area where it stands, to pray for strength and energy and comfort for them in their bereavement.
Then, there's the things nearby. The trampoline and play house in the garden across the road prompt me to pray for the little girl who plays with them. The neighbour's car pulls up....pray for my neighbours. Perhaps someone who walks by. The bin...pray for the bin men. And so the list of visual aids for prayer goes on.

Now I do have to say that this is not the only way I pray nor are these things the only things I pray for but I think you get the idea of my visual aids for prayer.

Prayer is a battle but as I read my Bible I find precious promises and my faith is strengthened to gain the victory through Christ and His precious shed blood.

As I finish, I do not know if you have a view like me from your window or if you would benefit from praying this way. But just remember: Don't forget to pray!

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Treasures in Heaven

There has been much discussion this week after the BBC published the salaries of their big stars. Opinions vary and questions have been raised as the public consider how their TV licence money is spent. Is it right that the big stars of the BBC should be paid so highly? Should they have to take a pay cut? Is it fair that doctors, nurses, paramedics, teachers, police, soldiers, fire service workers are paid a fraction of those salaries? What will the BBC do to close the gender gap for the big pay? etc. etc. However the reality is that most people would neither complain about nor refuse the offer of such big salaries.

I am not a regular listener to Stephen Nolan's radio show but last night I actually took time to look up and listen to Jim Allister interview Stephen Nolan in relation to his big salary. To be honest I did not learn much from it, other than to come away thinking the BBC did not allow Stephen Nolan to answer many questions regarding a breakdown of all the income he gets from them. Also, I may be wrong but he did not present to me as being really contented with his life. And so, this all got me thinking: how that, apart from the fact that I wouldn't be able to do their jobs, I would not change places with any of them for all the money in the world! The Bible verses about laying up treasures in heaven came to my mind.

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6v19-21)

How can I lay up treasures in heaven? I simply invest time and effort for the extension of God's kingdom on earth and ultimately glorifying God, not self. I seek to live with eternity's value in view. There is deep peace and real contentment in doing so. I do want to hear the Lord say to me one day, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Another Bible passage that came to mind is 1Corinthians 3v11-15. I want my work to endure the fire of God's judgement like the gold, silver and precious stones, rather than be destroyed like wood, hay and stubble. God has called me to be His child and to live for Him. I will receive my reward one day. How so, so much better that will be than anything I can imagine. Why would I want to stoop to being a BBC employee with a big fat salary? God loves me and He is worth living for!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Joyful Memories 2016

'Joy to the world' is the vein of thought I was trying to present during December 2016 in my Search the Word Facebook page. There was so much joy surrounding the first coming of Jesus into this world when He was born as a Baby in Bethlehem....Mary, angels, shepherds, wise men, and many others rejoiced and praised God. One night in particular after meditating on the joy and praise to God, I went to bed and fell asleep just naming out so many things before the Lord for which I am thankful and praising Him for them. Some of these are just ordinary everyday things that I so often take for granted. I do encourage Christians to take time to rejoice and thank the Lord for all the good things we have, despite the fact that there are so many terrible and fearful things happening in the world.

As I look back over 2016 there is so much I can be joyful about and praise God for: big things, little things, physical and spiritual blessings, temporal and eternal things, family, friends, help in children's work, and so, so much more. They are far too numerous to even list here. So, I wish to highlight just three special joyful occasions for which I praise God.

Our Pearl wedding anniversary
The first was my pearl wedding anniversary in March. Adrian and I celebrated 30 years of married life. Yes, he really has put up with me for 30 years! But for me, it's been 30 years married to my best friend, the man I love. Over these years we've had times to laugh and times to cry. seen good times and bad times, experienced struggles and trials as well as blessings. We've moved house five times in our journey from Cork to Dungannon to Kerry to Dungannon....and the Lord knows where next. Adopting and raising Isaac and Jemima has been such a privilege for us and such a special part of our lives. We praise God for them and for all the love we have shared together as a family. To mark the occasion, Isaac and Jemima treated us to a lovely meal.

Adrian and I in Crete

The second was our holiday to Crete in May. It had been a long time since we had a holiday abroad but being married for 30 years was a good reason for Adrian and I to enjoy a week in Crete. We stayed in a lovely hotel, relaxed in the sunshine, enjoyed the food, visited the nearby towns each day, and soaked up the atmosphere of this beautiful island. I, even, had my first ride on a quad: Adrian driving as we traveled up to a mountain village on it!

Holiday in Crete

Thirdly, Jemima was 21 years old in June. Although, we did not get to meet and adopt Jemima until she was 10 months old, we are very proud she is our daughter. She has grown up to be a very pretty young woman. We love her and rejoice for all the joy that she and Isaac have brought us. To celebrate her 21st we had a lovely Chinese meal in Cookstown.

Jemima's 21st birthday
The Lord has been so good to us. In writing this I am not suggesting for one minute that we have never had a trial, problem, pain or heartache during 2016....but I am saying that I praise Him for all His goodness and rejoice for what He has done for us in 2016.
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4v4)
Wishing you blessing throughout 2017 as you obey His Word and rejoice in Him.

Friday, 7 October 2016

My heart cries

Have the problems of life ever pressed so heavily upon you that you cry from the depths of your heart? There are many, many things that drive us to cry from the heart. Father, maybe it's the financial problems and the pressure of providing for your family that drives you to tears. Mother, maybe it's that wayward child that breaks your heart. Young person, maybe it's peer pressure or a broken relationship. Or maybe it's something else that breaks your heart: the pain of suffering ill-health or injury; the anxiety from losing a loved one in death; the heartache experienced through regrets; the hurt from a marriage breakup; the feeling of failure when you cannot achieve your grades or goal; the stress of life; or the despair from being disrespected or bullied, etc. etc.

Image result for crying eye

I do not know what you are going through but whatever it is, perhaps you are saying, 'My heart cries.' Like the psalmist, you can say, 'My heart is wounded within me' (109v22). 'I cried with my whole heart' (119v145), and 'I water my bed with tears' (6v6). Yes, you know what it is like to cry yourself to sleep on a pillow wet with tears. No one sees those silent tears or hears those sobs (or so you think). You try to hide the tear-stained face from those around you.

Where do you go? What do you do? There just seems to be no peace for your broken heart. Like the psalmist David you could say, 'My heart is sore pained within me' (55v4). This is no mere physical pain. It is the pain of a broken heart. You know the verses: "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart" (34v18) and "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee" (55v22) but they just don't seem to help to heal the heartache. You have prayed and cried to the LORD but you cannot find the comfort you need. Some well-meaning people may tell you that you don't have enough faith or that you haven't left your burdens with the LORD.....you've taken your burdens to Him and, then, you've taken them away with you again. Ah, there may be truth in that but it's easier said than done. The problems are not solved and the heartache remains.

Perhaps I have just been describing something of how you are feeling. Your heart is overwhelmed. It is breaking under the load of your problems. You have no answer. Perhaps you even question why God won't help you. Well, I would just like to share a little thought with you. It is precious to me.
"From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I." (Psalm 61v2)
I refer particularly to those last words, "Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I." In everyday life you sometimes hear people saying that he or she is my rock. Of course, they are not meaning a physical rock like some big rock cave. They are referring to some person that they could depend on to stand with them through their troubles and who they could lean on for strength and encouragement. The Bible calls Christ the Rock. It is to Christ that we need to go when our heart is broken.

But notice it says: the rock that is HIGHER than I. Imagine standing before a massively high, immovable rock and looking up at it. You would be so small beside it. It would not shift when you leaned against it and it could even bring you shelter. Christ our Rock is far higher than us. Focus on HIM....not yourself, not your problems, not your heartache! Worship Him for who He is. Praise Him for what He has done and what He will do. Literally look up to the sky and think about how All-powerful He is; how strong and mighty He is to lean on for strength to face your trials. He is the One you can trust above everyone else. He will not forsake you. He will not fail you. You can depend upon Him to help you and shelter you in all the storms of life. He sees those tears. He hears those sobs. He understands your broken heart. Focusing on Him may not stop the storms in your life but it will change your perspective and hopefully inspire your devotion to Him as you find your strength in Him.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

My 2015 review

It's come to that time of year when I think about what 2015 was like for me and what I hope for 2016. What did I do? What did I achieve? Where's the photos to prove it? I'm not the best at taking photos but here are some of my highlights in 2015....nothing extremely exciting but then I'm just a very ordinary woman happy with life.

Some things I got to do for the first time in my life....not that they were on my bucket list of things to do. I got to visit Rathlin Island for the first time....beautiful place. I climbed up to Scrabo Tower for the first time. I got to sit in Henry Forde memorial car at Ballinascarthy, Co.Cork....LOL. We discovered Harrisons restaurant outside Greyabbey was a lovely place to eat...and for Adrian to relax over a latte! Of course, we enjoyed going to Cork, Kerry and Ayr too.

Isaac and his friend John had the privilege of visiting Sri Lanka. This brought me great joy, especially as we adopted him and brought him to Ireland when he was a baby and so he had no memories of the country where he was born.

My Mum and Dad's diamond wedding anniversary was on 13th April. It was great to see them reach this milestone of 60 years married.

Then, I was so delighted for Jemima graduating with a distinction in a foundation degree in computing,

Believe or not, this year I tried my hand at crocheting again.....something I hadn't done for years. Developed my own patterns as I went along but don't ask me to tell you them for I couldn't remember them.

Also, I had the privilege of  organizing and teaching at Lifeboat Holiday Bible School in July, the theme being 'Little hands in a big world.' Sorry but I have no photos of it.
That's the highlights from my year....perhaps not as outstanding as yours.

Now I do not know what 2015 has been like for you but as 2016 dawns I would encourage you to keep your eyes upon the LORD. Perhaps people have hurt you and let you down and blocked you out of their lives. Remember Christ will never leave you or forsake you, if you are His child. He is the Friend that sticks closer than a brother. Maybe you have been maligned or misrepresented. There's just no one who understands that like Christ. To those who have become discouraged because of the way, and perhaps even lost their way in life, I would say 'Hope thou in God. He will guide you with His eye showing you the path to take.' For those who have suffered great heartache (maybe not able to share it with others), sickness, bereavement....cast all your care (worries, anxiety) upon the Lord for He cares for you. He is the One who stood by the tomb of Lazarus and wept. Maybe you have experienced great temptations or trials. Christ is able to make a way of escape from temptation and to bring you out of trials stronger than before.

The verse that I take with me into 2016 is Isaiah 26v3:
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee."
I do wish you a very Happy New Year and trust that you will get to know God better in 2016.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

My Granny taught me

I feel I just have to tell you about a wonderful lady in my life...my Granny Armstrong. She was the midwife who 'brought me into this world' and I had the joy of knowing her for 14 years. She died 40 years ago (22nd Nov 1975) but the legacy of what she taught me lingers with me right to this day. My memories of her are precious to me and I would like to share a few with you. (Please bear in mind that these are MY memories of her, not some things related to me. I do not remember her before she retired from work, so I won't be giving you a history lesson of her life).

She taught me by example. I sat by her side and watched her crochet....saw how she did it and when she gave me hook and wool I just practised what she showed me. I remember her crocheting a green lace table mat....and after that I wanted to crochet with thread. Oh yes, and...believe or not....she showed me how to darn those wool socks she had knit for Granda!

She taught me to work conscientiously. I went to help her with housework on Saturday mornings. I had to dust, polish her table, scrub the hall and mop her floors...and yes hoover the carpets with a big noisy hoover that I was scared of at first! I guess I was about 8 years old when I started doing this for her but she trusted me to do it to the best of my ability. At 'spring-cleaning time' it was a treat for me to be allowed into her old attic room that wasn't used any more, to mop and clean it.

She taught me that work well done deserves pay. When I finished my work she always gave me some money....50p at first and then I got a pay rise to £1. I remember one Saturday morning....I must have slept in for I arrived late for work. She told me to go home for she had the work done. Lesson to me....don't be late for work, you don't get paid for work undone!

She taught me that working together can be fun. We made jam together. We peeled spuds together using those old-fashioned knives. My brother Leslie, sister Laura and I worked together with her in her garden....mowing grass, weeding and hedge-clipping. We chatted and laughed while we worked and learned.
Granny and I (Back); Leslie and Laura (front)
She taught me to recycle. Every so often she wanted to clear out all the empty lemonade glass bottles. So, she got Leslie and I to gather them all together and take them to the shop in Benburb. We were delighted for in those days you got a couple of pence for each glass bottle returned to a shop....and of course we got to keep and share the money!

She taught me self-esteem. She believed in me and trusted me to do errands for her. I remember going with her to buy wallpaper one day and she asked me to choose. I was just a young girl but my opinion mattered and she was willing to display my choice on her walls for people to see!

She taught me to enjoy time with family and friends. It didn't matter what time of the day or night I would go to Granny's, she always made me feel welcome and loved. We ate together at her table that sloped with the floor. We listened to stories, laughed and enjoyed the craic together. She took me to visit Aunt Doreen and other relatives and family friends. I watched her interact with others and saw how her genuine concern for them made her a joy to be around. I remember being at a wedding with her. She was so busy chatting to the other guests at the table that she never noticed the waitress was shovelling peas unto her plate, expecting Granny to say when she'd enough. Yes, she was loving and kind and caring towards others but she didn't like to feel that she was a burden on other people.

She taught me to enjoy holidays....they didn't have to be expensive foreign holidays. She would go to stay at friends' homes and have them to stay with her. I even packed my suitcase and went a few hundred yards down the road for a holiday at her house! LOL However, there was one special holiday that I had with her. It was outside Millisle in Co.Down. The beach was literally across the road and we went various places too. But while I was there I gave my life to the Lord.

Aunt Alma, me and Granny on holiday outside Millisle
She taught me about giving. She never forgot Christmas and birthdays. I still have my first watch which she gave me. She genuinely seemed to love to give. She used to do some of her grocery shopping in Benburb and on her way down home she would stop by our house with some sweets. I remember her spinning the wheels as she took off (and it wasn't with speed or anger lol). Then, there was the glass jar she collected her pennies in. When it was full she gave them away to someone. She was selfless in her giving....doing it quietly and never for glory.

She taught me that actions have consequences but there's forgiveness when we do wrong. I remember once getting my brother to mess up or do something to some books on her bookcase. She wasn't amused so we were sent packing off home...and we knew not to return in a hurry! But a few days later, maybe a week, we were allowed back and all was forgiven. Her and I sat at the table and strung beads together to make necklaces. Our misdemeanors were not remembered against us,

She taught me to pray. I'd been told how she prayed a little prayer before each baby she delivered. But she showed me that it was important to pray for the little things in life too. I remember her praying in the car before leaving home and asking God for a safe journey....and she was only going 3 miles down the road to Moy! Yes her faith in God was real.

She taught me to take time alone with God. There was a little bedroom off her living room and she used to go in there to be alone to read. She loved to read People's Friend and other women's magazines and medical journals of her day....but she went in there to be alone to read her Bible. I still have her Bible and I do know that one of her favourite Bible verses was Job 19v25:
"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another."

She taught me to be resilient. I saw her cry. She was a soft-hearted woman. When people upset her and drove her to tears, or perhaps she just needed some time alone to tearfully reflect and reminisce on life's hurts....she went to that little room. I realize now that rather than cry on someone's shoulder, she went in there to lay her heartache at the feet of her Good Shepherd. Then, later when I'd see her again she would have bounced back, ready to face the world with a loving smile! Life had dealt her some deep wounds....her first husband murdered by the IRA, her son Norman drowned in Australia. But she found her solace in the Lord and valued her family and friends around her. I don't know but perhaps this all contributed to making her the strong, respected lady that she was.

In conclusion, let me tell you about the last time I saw her alive. I'd been down at her house to do my usual piano practice. Before I left she asked me to sweep the floor which I did. I wasn't for staying long for I was going shopping or somewhere that evening. But as I stepped into the scullery a little voice inside me said 'You'll never see your granny alive again'. I brushed it aside and went on outside into the dark and home. Later that evening she took ill, was taken into hospital and then passed on to be with her Redeemer. That little voice was right....I didn't see her alive again. I visited her grave on one or two anniversaries of her death before the reality really dawned on me....she's not in the grave, she's gone to her eternal home! Praise God I'll meet her one day again because I too know her Redeemer as my Saviour.