Living in Harmony

Watching a wildlife program about Japan has inspired me.

The most northerly island, Hokkaido has the harshest climate of all the islands of Japan. The people who have settled there are farmers who grow cereals and flowers in the short summer. Fishermen harvest the rich sea before the cold of winter freezes it over.

In September the Pacific salmon begin to return to the rivers of Hokkaido to spawn. Black bears gather at the coast to feast on the fish that team in the river mouths. Fishermen who also collect the bounty of salmon, sit mending their nets. These men and bears live in harmony with each other. There is plenty of food for both. Often a mother bear is fiercely protective of her cubs, but there is no need to fear in Hokkaido.

The farmers have reclaimed marshland on the coastlands. They were once the feeding grounds of large, tall, white birds called the Red Crowned Cranes. To the Japanese they are symbols of beauty and long life. A century ago their numbers were reduced to thirty pairs. They were in danger of extinction. The farmers, who drained the cranes’s feeding areas, rescued the cranes by giving them grain through the winter when the ground is frozen. Their numbers have now grown to 1000. Here is another example of men and wildlife living in harmony. They co-exist in the harsh conditions.

These cranes are known most of all for their singing and dancing. When they gather in large numbers they put on a show. The enormous birds lift up their heads and raise a deep call from their throats. They pirouette, jump and flap their large wings. They don’t crash on the icy ground. Their performance reminded me of the ballet dancers I saw recently in “Giselle.” The male star leapt across the stage. The many ballerinas created an enchanting atmosphere with their movements in the second act.

The Red Crested Cranes are an example to us. They live in a cold, harsh environment. They could chose a more comfortable climate. Instead they flourish, dance and sing where they are meant to be. Their beauty, strength and endurance are to be admired. I am encouraged to lift up my voice and dance, like the cranes before the One who created me, even in the most difficult of situations. The psalmist calls us to praise Him. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” Psalm 150 like King David danced with all his might before the Lord when he brought back the Ark of the Lord.

An Invite for Eleven to Dinner

There is often a storm before the calm. I want to give you an example of how our unseen enemies can prevent us getting a blessing. I often remember that God said to Satan “You and your offspring will bruise the woman and her offspring, but they will crush your head.” Genesis 3. I have many offspring that can do some crushing to Satan and his demon’s heads.

Being a big family meant we didn’t get invited out to friends’ homes often. I remember one occasion very well when Rose and Seamus invited myself and ten children, who would have been under fourteen years old, to dinner. Brendan was away on a trip and I was looking forward to the treat of someone making dinner for us. I was determined nothing was going to stop me getting there. Very often when we would arrange family events some difficulties would arise to prevent us getting a blessing.

I encouraged the children to get ready early so we could get to Rose’s house in good time. Ruth offered to help her little sister get washed and dressed. She was very fond of her baby sister Angela, for whom she had prayed. There were six boys between Ruth and Angela. Ruth had longed for a baby sister.

She prepared the bath and put the baby into the water. The only problem was she forgot to put on the cold tap. I heard cries from Mary upstairs, “Ruth has put the baby in hot water!” I ran upstairs to rescue my baby. Angela was upset of course but I settled her all the while praying for her healing of the trauma and any harm done. The skin on her legs was red. I thought I would bring her to the clinic to get some cream to be on the safe side. I reassured Ruth that it can be easy to forget to turn on the tap. She was young and wanted to help.

Many of the other children were distressed at what happened and were angry with Ruth for her oversight. I continued to pray for my children to settle. I tried to calm them and said Angela is going to be alright. I’ll bring her to the nurse for soothing cream and she will be as right as rain. All the while I was aware that this mishap could cause me to cancel our dinner date. I trusted God’s word which says “He will be with me in trouble and deliver me out of it.” Psalm 91. God’s angels are around us to deliver us. I believe there was unseen evil going on to prevent our going out.

Because I had made sure the children got dressed in good time, we had time to go to the clinic and still get to dinner. All ten of the children climbed into our yellow minibus and I drove over to the clinic nearby. I took Angela to get attention and left the other children in the van. They were obedient children and knew to occupy themselves till I returned.

I was in the waiting room when Hannah came to get me. War had broke out between Mary and Ruth back at the van. I prayed again for God’s help. There was yelling, crying, screaming and upset with the younger children as they watched the melli. Mary had not got over her anger at Ruth and blamed her for hurting her wee sister. There were fists flying and pulling of hair. I ran back to the van to bring order and peace. I stopped the fight and made them forgive one another and settle down. The baby was attended to back in the clinic. She was none the worse for her experience.

Calm was restored to my children. I drove us all to our dinner date. I overcame unforeseen circumstances that could have prevented us getting there. We all enjoyed a feast. Our host Rose had made a big effort to prepare dinner for us all, not an easy task. Thank you Rose and Seamus, I  will be ever grateful for your kindness.

I was relieved we came out of the storm only with a few bruises.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/relieved/

Father of Fourteen Triumphs

Triumph is rarely instant. It often comes at the end of a period of patient endurance. This week my husband and I have joy. We saw the success of a long campaign as regards our children’s education.

We are celebrating all fourteen of our children having qualified with a degree from top universities in the United Kingdom. Our two youngest children just found out their results: Abraham got a 2: 1 degree in Chemistry from St Andrews and Angela got a 2:1 degree in Neuroscience from Edinburgh. We will be attending their graduations in June and July.

Psalm 128 says
“How joyful are those who fear the Lord — all who follow his ways!
You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be!
Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home.
Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table.
That is the Lord’s blessing for those who fear him.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭128:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I want to thank my husband. He chose to follow The Lord many years ago. Today almost forty years later I see the fruit of his choice back then. I am happy at his side and his children are successful. He has been faithful through many difficulties of family life in this generation when being a father is not honored.

Brendan chose to have as many children as God would give him. It has not been easy. One has had to be patient, endure, remain calm, pray in times of trouble and rejoice in times of joy.
An Arab taxi driver in Israel said to Brendan when he learned we had fourteen children, “You will go straight to heaven because it must be hell on earth.” A lady in Florida said “Oh your poor husband.” when I told her we had fourteen children.

I must admit I have not been as sympathetic with Brendan. But God sees Brendan’s heart and has been with him through many trials and temptations. He has strengthened him when the going got tough. But as the song says “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I would not be alive unless he believed that God would heal me. I had fourth stage cancer and I would not be here to see my children graduate.

My dad was a pioneer in his day when there wasn’t much money. He wanted his eight girls and two sons to receive an education. We all attended grammar school. My sisters qualified as teachers and nurses. I graduated from the University of Ulster.

Brendan loved books from he was young. He would spend many hours in his local library. When he visited friends with his mother he would take down the books from the shelf and read while his mum chatted. His call to be a writer was developing back then.
He encouraged his children to do well in education. There was always books in our home and a desk in each of the children’s room to do their homework. We didn’t have a TV when our children were growing up. Those children developed a love of reading books. Brendan coached his children and inspired them to be high achievers. If they failed he helped them to get going again.

We were blessed to have good schools for our children to attend, in Coleraine and Downpatrick in Northern Ireland. So a big thank you for all those teachers who encouraged and took an interest in our children.

A big thank you to each of my children who endured the difficulties and temptations that university life brings your way. You succeeded. You endured to the end. I am proud of you.

Above all God blessed us all with health and strength to achieve this success.

“O clap your hands, all you people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭47:1‬ ‭KJV‬‬

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/triumph/

The Good Weather

I notice postings on Facebook from family and friends is slow recently. Is it because the good weather back home in Northern Ireland has enticed folk to enjoy activities outdoors?
The warmth of the sun is comforting all of creation. It brings life after the cold and darkness of the winter season. It is freely given.

The Lord’s face is likened to the sun. In Numbers Aaron and his sons were to command a blessing on the people of Israel.

““ ‘ “The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ’”
‭‭Numbers‬ ‭6:24-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,
the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
Then we will not turn away from you;
revive us, and we will call on your name.
Restore us, LORD God Almighty;
make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭80:17-19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

God knows our frame. He knows we are but dust. If he takes our breathe away we would die. We need to see his goodness in the land of the living. God will not fail those who look to him for bread. This scripture has been a great comfort and brought me hope in the past when I was busy or feeling discouraged.

“I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭27:13-14‬ ‭KJV‬‬

God is good. He is faithful. He has compassion on all he has made.

Whale And Bird Watching

On the whale watch off Boston, I saw a hump back whale flip it’s tail and descend into the depths of the sea to catch its prey.

Before my trip to Massachusetts I noticed a couple of Swallows nesting in the eves of our barn. The Brent Geese have left but the Swallow has arrived. The Swallow is a tiny bird in comparison but it has just completed a 3000 mile trip from Africa. They have arrived in Ireland to rear their young.

I have just made a 3000 mile trip from Dublin to Boston. I have come to Boston in the springtime! The area around Boston is called New England. I wonder why? I soon found out as I travel around this area. Many people left Eurpoe over the past four hundred years in search of a new life in Northern America. The Irish came to America fleeing famine, poverty and war. It is surprising how the territory looks like The British Isles, similar lands, trees and birds, and similar seasons. The gardens around have similar plants to the ones back home. Many villages around here are called, Glouster, Dover, Portsmouth, Antrim, Manchester, Belfast.etc.

People can now fly to the New Land where many, many years ago only the birds could reach. Our hostess loves birds. She is from England. She leaves out food for them. All sorts of birds and creatures arrive to partake of the feast. Two Red Squirrels, Grey Squirrels , tiny Chipmonks, ducks, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Sparrows, to mention only a few, feed outside. I watch this little zoo at breakfast time. I look up in the sky and there are swallows here too. They fly here from warmer climates in South America.

Brendan and I were priveged to go on a whale watch off the coast of Boston. Different whales come north to feeding grounds off the east coast of New England. There are Minke, Humpback and Blue whale. We were told to look out for water spouts. This was spray released when the whale comes up for air. I was very excited when I saw a geyser of water in the distance. We were in whale territory! The boat slowed down. A mother humpback whale and her calf were swimming nearby. What big creatures! I marveled at these beautiful mammals as I followed them gliding through the water. Then the mother dived underwater as she flipped her tail. Many whales are recognized by the pattern on the tail. The people who take us for the whale watch have given a name to each new whale and keep a record of sightings. I thought of a scripture verse referring to the whale from Psalm 104

“O Lord, what a variety of things you have made!
In wisdom you have made them all.
The earth is full of your creatures.
Here is the ocean, vast and wide, teeming with life of every kind, both large and small.
See the ships sailing along, and the whale which you made to frolic in the sea.
They all depend on you to give them food as they need it.
When you supply it, they gather it.
You open your hand to feed them, and they are richly satisfied.
May the glory of the Lord continue forever! The Lord takes pleasure in all he has made!”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭104:24-28, 31‬ ‭NLT‬‬

On the whale watch on Thursday, a tiny bird landed on the boat. It wasn’t afraid to come close to people. It landed on a lady’s jumper. It was a Wilson’s Warbler, indigenous to North America. It is like our sparrow. It was on its way north to breeding grounds from the south. It had been blown off course. In the local Amsbury newspaper there was an article that said migration of birds was delayed this year to Massachusetts because of bad weather.
The Lord knows when a sparrow falls to the ground.

Outside the boat I could see one of the biggest creatures on earth and on the boat one of the smallest creatures. What a contrast and both are cared for by God.

The humpback whale dived, flipped its tail goodbye and began to descend again. Our boat turned for shore.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/descend/

Exam Weather

It is May, the time of the year that college students dread. Exam time. In Ireland there are blue skys and sunshine, typical exam weather. Instead of studying one would prefer to sit in the park and hang out with friends.

Two of my children are studying at St Andrews and Edinburgh. This is their final year and they hope to graduate in June. Abraham finished his last exam this morning. What a relief after five years. He is celebrating. No more lab research, library, exams, reports or lectures. Angela has handed in her dissertation and has three exams to sit. Only a few days to go.

Seven years ago I was suffering from Fourth stage bowel cancer. I was wondering if I would live to see all my children graduate or indeed see any more grandchildren. Nine children have been born since then and I have my outfit ready for two graduations this summer. Praise God, he has kept me alive to enjoy the goodness of God in the land of the living.

I started my treatment of chemotherapy and radiotherapy on July the first in 2010. Each day for five weeks I would attend the City Hospital Cancer Treatment unit in Belfast. I told my husband I wanted to try out a different cafe each day for lunch after my treatment. It would lift my spirits before the long journey back home. Let’s celebrate now, whether I was going to live or die! Brendan didn’t know what to think.

I had been diagnosed with cancer back in April. Since then I was given promises from God that I would be healed. People were praying for me. I was encouraged by this new hope and I began to respond to it. Students from Queen’s University, Belfast graduate In July. Placards outside restaurants advertised places for graduation dinners. I thought I will organize a meal and invite my daughters who were visiting, a step of faith. It will be my graduation from cancer dinner, even though I was just starting my treatment. I had been to a graduation dinner each year for some of my children as they finished university for the previous five years. Three of my daughters joined me for dinner a few days later. They must have thought I was crazy. They were trying to cope with my diagnosis and were hoping the best for me. I had lamb for dinner and remembered another lamb, who was sacrificed for me, Jesus.

Brendan arranged another surprise graduation for me. On the day of my last treatment my daughters Mary and Nora walked into the waiting room of the cancer department with a bunch of flowers and balloons. They presented them to me as Brendan played the song, “Pretty Woman” on his I phone. Music and joy filled the room, a light relief in the somber atmosphere. I was taken by surprise and uplifted with my loving family, another step of faith on my healing journey.

This summer I am seven years cancer free. I’m alive to celebrate my last two children out of fourteen graduate from university. I’m alive to praise God for his touch in my life.

The Brent Geese have Left.

In the last week the Brent Geese have left for Canada. Isn’t it amazing the timing in nature. These birds have been migrating since creation. How marvellous our creator is.

“Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the fifth day.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭1:20-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Many centuries ago before man has cultivated the land people living along the shores of Strangford Lough would have welcomed the arrival of the geese.  Perhaps there could have been a source of food. There are many historical Christian settlements along the Lough, Greyabbey, Nendrum and Movilla.
Nowadays the Brent geese are protected.

When the Brent arrive on the Strangford Lough shores in September, they look like ducks. They have flown across the Atlantic from Northern Canada, a journey of two thousand miles. They spend the next eight months in Ireland. They feed on eel grass, which grows on the intertidal shore especially where fresh water meets the salt water of the sea. There are two such areas on the shore near where I live. I am privileged to watch the birds close up.

For the last month groups of geese gather near my home to feed. I can hear their guttural calling when they arrive. They are fattening up for their flight across the ocean. They now look like geese. They waddle from where they are feeding to the shore and float away when they are disturbed. They conserve energy at this stage only flying off when in danger. They can be approached up close to get a picture. When they do take flight they travel very fast just above the level of the water and disappear into the distance.

The name Brent means charcoal in Norse. Their feather colours are dark on the neck and wings. Their wing tips and underbelly are white. When the sun shines the light highlights the white feathers, making the birds look regal with the black and white contrast.

I thought the same geese return in the spring. The Irish Brent Research Group tells me the parents remain with the young for fifteen months before the fledglings are strong to make the long journey to feeding grounds along the shores of Ireland. They stay home with their young. This reminds me that even the birds follow the truth in the scripture,
“He gently leads those who are with young.” Isaiah 40 v 11.

“The migrating geese leaving en mass signify a powerful force in nature.” quote from Naomi Hart, artist. They know when the time is right. Perhaps there is a strong wind blowing that helps their journey north. The desire to leave and return are part of the bird’s life cycle. I am learning from the birds.

“Look at the birds of the air, for they don’t sow, neither do thy reap.”  Matthew 6 v 26.    I have learnt so much by looking at the birds.

When I travel to Toronto, Canada the flight from Dublin is seven hours. The journey home is only five hours. Why? There was a strong tail wind behind the plane helping it along. Similarly I believe the strong winds help the birds migrate.

Perhaps by looking at the birds St Brendan was inspired to make a boat to travel north into the Atlantic on a path of discovery. Swans and Geese head north into the horizon where the human naked eye can see no land. “But there must be some place out there for the birds to land,” he may have thought?

Brendan and I often go to far off nations around May and September.  Like the birds we know when it is time to fly.