About Me

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Mullavilly, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
A child of the early 60's. Married with three children, two of which are at Uni. I have been the rector of Mullavilly Parish since 1993. I enjoy travel and animals, and I look after three dogs, four cats, and a snake.

Saturday, 26 November 2011


Cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.

there are times when decisions have to be made. Perhaps its the pressing of the final button on your computer when making a purchase or booking a holiday. The finger hovers and you think, maybe there's still a better deal, have I accidentally bought 10 of these, is it the right date?
Or which way will I drive into town today – Mahon Road or Tandragee Road – and you need to decide before you get to the junction.
Life needs decisions and commitments. We can't always get through by hedging our bets, maybe, what if, lets wait and see, it can wait. We must have the courage to push the button.

Today's collect – a summary or collecting up of our prayers – for Advent is a prayer of decision on our part. It is a prayer asking for change but that, of course, implies a willingness, a desire to change:
Almighty God, Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility; that on the last day when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

This is a prayer for the present – the clue lies in one little word – NOW!
This is a prayer about what has already happened. Note the Old Testament reading – “O that you would rend the heavens and come down!” Sadly,I think many people are still praying that prayer – not just the Jewish people who have decided theologically that the Messiah has not yet arrived, but Christian people and agnostics who behave and pray as if the Messiah had never arrived.
We hear the pleas – if only God would intervene, if only God would do something, if only God would show himself, if only God were one of us, he might understand better. Of course, you've guessed what I'm about to say! He has done all these things – your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility.
This means we are no longer waiting for this to happen, no longer waiting to hear the starting pistol. We are not sitting in the darkness waiting for the light to come – the light has come into the world and we must put on the armour of light and cast away the darkness. Its a powerful picture and a life-changing decisive prayer! The works of darkness are all those things you might associate with godlessness – too numerous to mention but the obvious ones are hatred, malice, pride, deceit, envy, selfishness, unholiness, all of which work out their own symptoms in each of us personally. The armour of light, on the other hand, shines brightly. We choose to become knights in shining armour! It is holiness and love; it is faith and commitment. Its not a weak crutch – it denotes strength and courage. And its NOW. It has an impact NOW in this life.

Its a decision to be taken NOW so that we are not taken unawares later. This is the teaching in Mark, that we be always alert and awake to welcome the King in his glorious majesty and rise with him in glory. This future event impacts on our lives now. We are not a product of our past – that is fatalistic negative psychology. We are the product of what we shall become. That realisation is perhaps part of the grace given to us – it the hope, the purpose – which enables us to cast away the works of darkness NOW in the time of this mortal life.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

It would seem that the rain is determined to follow us around. Although warm and dry yesterday, it is once again wet. We are now in Bloomington Indiana at the home of the Thomas family. We drove down yesterday from Chicago and the trip was really the dawning of Spring in a day. Chicago is still in winter mode but as we left the city, we began to see some green on the trees, then a little blossom on the black cherries. As we travelled, the green became greener and  the trees burst into life. We stopped twice on the journey - once for a quick lunch at Wendy's which was uneventful, but prior to that we stopped at a rest area. The story of the rest area cannot be told within the confines of a blog but it involves President Obama, lots of African-American laughter, and the greatest paper chase of all time!
Tiffany ceiling in Macy's
Thursday and Friday in Chicago were good days. On Thursday, the temperature plummetted so we wrapped up and took an open-top bus tour with our guide, Claudette. By lunchtime we were frozen solid and deboarded at Navy Pier. Most of this was indoors so we had the chance to thaw out and walk to the end of the pier where there were some beautiful views of the city.Neither Heather nor I had any interest in lunch as the deep crust pizza from the night before was stilll clinging gelatinously to the walls of the stomach. We returned by the Tour Bus (staying inside) to State Street and explored a few of the shops. The most impressive was Marchall and Field (now Macy's) The architecture and design of this store was a amazing. At least 13 stories high with a variety of spaces open from roof to floor, including a walnut restaurant and glass-tiled Tiffany ceiling. Thursday evenings are free at the Art Institute so we called in there for some wonderful culture. By 7:30pm , we were finally ready to eat and enjoyed the faithful reliability of the largest McDonalds restaurant in the world.
a geocahe hiding in a tree in Lincoln Park
Friday was a beautiful sunny day. We spent most of the day in Lincoln Park, walking, geocaching and visiting the zoo (admission free). Here, we saw the usual famliar exhibits but a few that were totally new, including the beautiful sand cat, the strange Sichuan Takin (giant goat) and the white-lipped dear. The beaver were active and it was fascinating to watch them swimming.
the Sichuan Takin (google it)
We finished the day with another visit to Millenium Park (in the sun this time) and then returned to our hotel, enjoying a beautiful meal in a Turkish restaurant.

So now we're on the road. Our car was so easy to collect and, with automatic gears and cruise control, a very comfortable vehicle. This morning, we're off to church and then doing a geocaching tour of Bloomington. Tomorrow we head for the horse country of Lexington.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

I'm afraid our weather experience in Chicago pales into insignificance with the tornadoes that have ripped across the South-East - almost 200 killed. The pictures on television are horrendous.
The flight from Dublin to Philadelphia was long and uneventful with rubbish movies. However, Philly airport was a beautiful building, which was just as well, as we had a bit of a delay in clearance due to thunder storms and wind in Chicago. The 2-hour flight certainly had its moments. There was constant light turbulence and an event I had never seen before when the stewardess shouted out "Is there a doctor on-board?" a young girl a few rows in front of us had a seizure. thankfully, there were about 5 doctors and a plethora of nurses willing to help. The descent was very turbulent but the highlight was when the stewardess screamed from the back of the plane and began a sprint to the front. a little old lady had decided to leave her seat in an emergency totter to the loo. The crew managed to rugby tackle her, get her sandwiched securely between themselves and shoved her into the bathroom. A few minutes later, they used the same procedure to get her back into her seat before hastily strapping themselves into their seats on the point of landing.
We exited Chicago airport in about 5 minutes and into a taxi. The driver was one of the most honest, pleasant and helpful taxi drivers I have ever encountered. Our hotel is beautiful - great breakfast and cookies in the afternoon. Our room was "upgraded" to one with a computer/TV which isn't a lot of use as I've got my lap top with me!

a wet Wrigley Field

Yesterday morning, in the rain, we took our travel passes and headed to Water Tower mall - a 7 storey upmarket mall downtown. The "El" is a very efficient transport system and its great to see the amazing buildings. Chicago has an architecture all of its own. We then wandered round Millennium Park for an hour before heading to Wrigley Field. The El was solidly packed with Cubs fans who were in for a disappointment. after an hour and a hot-dog later, it was announced that the game was posptoned until June 27th. :(  Much as everyone was disappointed, their was still a good atmosphere as people gathered up their coats and went home. 

As for us, we went back downtown and shopped - Filene's Basement, American Eagle, Aeropostal. It was late when we went to find something to eat and we finished up in Chicago's top Pizza restaurant - giordianas. As expected, the standard of the service was outstanding and us Brits could learn  a lot. However, the food didn't really match up. the starer was delicious - mushrooms, zucchini and mozarella - all deep-fried in breadcrumbs. It was tasty but why deep fry good food? The pizza was a traditional Chicago stuffed. We ordered one small between the two of us and only ate half" basically, it was a loaf of bread (not cooked through) with bacon on the base, a large slab of tasteless cheese, a slither of tomato sauce and herbs scattered with tinned pineapple chunks. One slice would have been tasty but two was a killer. Most customers left with a doggie bag, as did we - leaving it where we hoped someone homeless might find it!
deep stuffed pizza - small portion
deep-fried everything
Today, the temperature will not rise above 50F but it should be quite dry. the plan is to head into town and take a trolley-bus tour, hopping on and off as the day proceeds. 

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Brian and Heather's Big Adventure

The proposed route from Chicago through Kentucky and St Louis

There are now only two sleeps left until Heather and myself head to USA to explore Chicago, Indiana, Kentucky and a bit of Missourri. We might even be able to add Tennessee to the list. The plan is to stay 4 days in Chicago, taking in a baseball game at Wrigley Field. We will then hire a car and drive to Bloomington, Indiana where we will meet our friends James and Amy (we have actually never met them before!). After that, its a free-running, unplanned road trip which might include Kentucky Horse Park, the homestead of Daniel Boone, the KFC museum (finger lickin good), a quaker village, and most likely a shopping outlet. This trip will finish in St Louis and from there we will drive Route 66 back to Chicago. The bags are in the process of being packed, the satnav has been uploaded, and there are just a few parish duties left to complete. Do check in here to see how much, or how little, we actually achieve.